Learning at Home :: Beyond the Books

My older kids are off at school all day, as most of you know, leaving me with my three youngest for seven wonderful hours each day. I definitely miss Ethan, Zach, Julia, and Josh all day, but I am really enjoying the time I have with only my younger kiddos at home.

Each morning I work with Ben and Noah, plugging away in all things kindergarten and 1st grade, until lunch time. Timmy sits with us for a while, but grows antsy pretty easily. As is to be expected, his two-year old little body just wants to run and jump and play.

Actually, Ben and Noah’s little bodies can’t sit still for long either. They can only handle “book work” in short spurts. Which is why we incorporate quite a few different ways of learning.

  • We get up and move. With the warm weather deciding to stick around, we like to “move it, move it” around here in the house. We dance and sing to The Music Machine and Bullfrogs and Butterflies. We also play The Skip Count Kids and have made up fun little dances to each song. These songs teach Bible stories and multiplication facts (respectively) and make learning about the world around us lots of fun.
  • We watch LeapFrog episodes often. When my twins were little, we would play The Letter Factory every single day. They loved that video! (Yes, this was way back when we played the good old-fashioned VHS tapes!) Now, there are five different episodes from which to choose – all available on Netflix – The Amazing Alphabet Amusement Park, Numbers Ahoy, Numberland, and Phonics Farm.
  • There is always something to be learned from George, the curious little monkey. In fact, Timmy is obsessed with Curious George episodes, which can be quite educational at times. Cultural diversity, creativity, love of adventure, and how things work are only some of the lessons learned through George’s escapades.
  • We love to play games and search for information using apps on our Samsung Smart TV. With access to loads of ebooks, and the ability to browse the internet, I’ve made our Smart TV a virtual white board. But more than that, we keep learning fun with all of the educational games available. I am very pleased that I can include my kiddos screen time as school time.

How do you incorporate modern technology and social platforms into the education of your kids, whether you teach at home or not?

This is post 3 of 8 Samsung Smart TV with Motion Control sponsored posts. All opinions are mine

A New Chapter

My parents lovingly devoted much time and attention to my education, sacrificing much to teach me at home. From second grade through my high school graduation, I never once wished it any other way.

All through my childhood I believed that I would home school my own kids. With each new school year came much prayer and discussion regarding our children’s schooling. Never was there any doubt that I would teach them at home.

This year, as I began a mental inventory of our school books, made lists of all the things we needed, and began to plan for a new school year, I felt the Lord guiding our family down a different path. Doors opened, things fell in to place, and my oldest four kiddos – the twins ready to begin 5th grade, Julz going in to 4th, and Josh eager to start 2nd – will each soon be introduced to a new and different experience – a classroom full of children their own age.

As excited as my kiddos are, they will be the first to admit that they are also nervous to start a new school year away from home. I know that they will flourish in this new school of theirs. They will learn many new things, make new friends, and gain a sense of freedom and identity.

But, I am nervous, too. Nervous about how each of them will manage sitting still for hours at a time. Nervous knowing that they may struggle to catch up in math. Nervous about them fitting in and not alienating others with their passion. Nervous about whether or not we have given them the foundation they need to stand up against worldly pressures and the temptation to be catty and trite.

This nervousness, mind you, is not based on doubting our decision to place them in a local school away from home. This year, just as each year in the past, I am at peace with the decision we are making for our kids’ schooling. This year it just looks different than before.

The school we have enrolled them in is fabulous. It is everything we could hope for in a school away from home. I have met Julia’s teacher, both of the 5th grade teachers (although we’re not yet sure which one Ethan and Zach will have), and are looking forward to meeting Joshua’s teacher. The curriculum is similar to that which my parents used to educate my siblings and me. And, my children will be surrounded by children raised in homes much like ours.

Even in the midst of nervousness, I am at peace – a peace that only comes from Christ – about our decision to release our kiddos to kind and dedicated teachers. Even encompassed in peace, I can’t help but be a bit sad. Sad to see my children so excited for this new adventure away from me. Sad to think of how much I will miss them each and every school day. Sad to think that I might have failed them somehow. Sad to have another chapter in homeschooling behind us.

September 6th will be the beginning of a new chapter in our lives. It’ll be exciting. But, as with all good stories, there are bound to be some tears shed.

Learning During Playtime With @WordWorld

As a homeschooler and a mom, I am very diligent to incorporate activities into our playtime that encourage learning. One of the ways I do this is by giving my kids the tools to practice a specific concept, while sparking their creativity at the same time. Every activity becomes a lesson, incognito.

This is pretty easy to do, and I’m sure you do this, too, without even realizing you are. I’m sure, like me, you’ve pulled out alphabet cookie cutters and challenged your kiddos to cut out their names in the colorful dough, right? Or, perhaps you’ve walked through the produce section of the supermarket discussing the wide variety of colors you see and spelling out the names of the fruits and vegetables.

In addition to these little games, we use various forms of media as tools for learning, as well. All of my kiddos are quite adept at navigating the iPad, iPhone, the computer. Ray and I encourage the use of these tools on a very limited basis, but we keep our digital devices loaded with several educational apps and storybooks.

One of Ben and Noah’s favorite apps is the WordWorld Let’s Build a Word app. It was the best 99 cents we’ve spent on an app for Noah, although there is a free version, as well! They both love to see their own words come alive, just as they do on the show, which also happens to be a favorite.

Ben and Noah just recently had the opportunity to try out the Terrific Duck WordWorld storybook. Noah sat and followed along through the entire “book” in one sitting. If you know anything about Noah, you know this is a big deal and that he must have really been mesmerized! So much so, in fact, that I’ll be purchasing the rest of the WordWorld eBooks as soon as he grows tired of this one, as only Noah can.

For those of you who don’t know about WordWorld, it teaches four skill sets critical for young children’s emergent literacy: print awareness, phonological sensitivity and letter knowledge, comprehension (including vocabulary development) and socio-emotional skills.

As supplements to their shows you can download free printables, read the WordWorld FREE online eBooks, and download WordWorld iPhone apps.

Win it!

I don’t know about you, but I am thrilled that my kids can play games or watch shows without even realizing that they are actually learning!

WordWorld has agreed to gift one of you with the DVD “Get Up & Move” which was just released in February. All of my friends in the U.S. may leave me a comment here, by April 30th, telling me about the ways you encourage learning at home. I’d love to hear about the sneaky ways you can get that lesson in with your kids!

For extra entries you may tweet the link to this giveaway, up to once a day, and leave a separate comment with the link to each tweet.

Happy learning!

I have been compensated by WordWorld to create this post and host this giveaway. All opinions, of course, are 100% mine, as always.

Read to Succeed {Earn FREE Tickets to Six Flags}

Reading is a huge part of each school day, but the kiddos love to read on their own, too. Once the twins become a part of the story they are reading they can’t put it down. And, Julia? Well, she can devour a book in one afternoon, just like her mama! Josh isn’t quite reading chapter books yet, but he reads everything in sight and loves to sit and read short stories to his younger brothers.

Read to Succeed is a free educational program sponsored by Six Flags to inspire kids in grades K through 6 to engage in recreational reading. Children who complete six hours of recreational, nonschool-related reading are eligible to earn a free admission ticket to a participating Six Flags theme park. Even homeschooled kids are eligible! You can even earn a 20% discount in the Discovery Education Store through June 30, 2011.

To build your kiddos” enthusiasm for reading throughout the program, you can visit discoveryeducation.com for resources, family activities and more.

Happy Reading!

This is NOT a sponsored post. It is my goal here at From Dates to Diapers to bring all of my valuable information… I know my homeschooling friends will especially appreciate this one!

Play and Learn

I have many fond memories of this time of the year, growing up…. With so many family gatherings and school group activities, we were much busier than usual. Because of the hustle and bustle, it seemed we took many days off of school between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Sure, we were still learning, but they were days spent baking, visiting family and friends, shopping and preparing for these special days of celebration.

This is just a fact I now have to embrace as I struggle with trying to get everything done this month – December is a busy month. And just as my Mom made up for our lack of full bookwork-laden school days, I am trying to make up for them with my kids, guilt-free.

I’m happy to say that I’ve been introduced to some great resources for helping to keep my children’s minds active when I may be busy addressing Christmas cards or we’re waiting for the cookies to bake. Instead of making myself feel guilty for the many days in December when the book learning gets pushed aside, I set my kids (yes, even the younger ones) up at the computer, or with some great books, when we’re not busy with Christmas festivities.

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Here are some great sites and book series in my arsenal for such days ::

DreamBox.com :: DreamBox Learning K-2 Math is a solid math curriculum wrapped in fun web-based adventures that my kids love. With individually-tailored instructions, my kiddos are learning without even realizing it! Sign your kiddos up for a free trial now and you’ll see what I mean!

OneMoreStory.com :: One More Story is an online library of some fun classic and contemporary children’s literature. The site doesn’t replace “real” books, but it is perfect for times when I’m busy. The great thing about One More Story is that it can be utilized by both pre-readers and early readers, which means it’s perfect for most of my kiddos. Josh and Ben can choose a book, see the illustrations and have the book read to them, while the I Can Read It mode allows Julia to mute the sound, but lets her click on an unfamiliar word to hear that word spoken by the narrator. This site provides a great way for my kiddos to independently explore literature.

BigIQKids.com :: My oldest three kiddos are big fans of Big IQ Kids, as am I. What I like about it is that it supplements our regular lessons perfectly. We happen to be learning about the geography of the United States and at Time 4 Learning they can brush up on their knowledge of the states. In addition to U.S. Geography, Math, and Vocabulary, I can add their spelling words (or use the words already included) for extra practice, so they’re ready for their test at the end of the week. They get in some study time and I get time to get some presents wrapped – Now that’s a win-win!

First Encyclopedia of the Human Body :: The human body is most certainly a fascinating study, and one in which all of my children are quite captivated by. The simple text, stunning photographs, detailed illustrations and fun activities are perfect for my kiddos to explore all on their own, although I’ve also used this book as part of our formal lessons, as well. My kiddos never tire of learning about the wonders of the human body, but the First Encyclopedia of the Human Body certainly adds to their enjoyment.

Junior’s Adventures Books, by Dave Ramsey :: These books are so much fun and all of my kids enjoy them, especially Josh. Just yesterday I found him all snuggled up on the couch, with one book in his hands and the rest of the set scattered around him… so cute! Anyway, my older three have learned a few valuable lessons from Junior’s Adventures; lessons they have actually begun to put in to practice. Lessons about saving money, giving to others, and budgeting – all on a level they understand fully.

Are there any sites or books that you think I should check out? What do you do to keep your kiddos’ brains busy while you are?

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