Create a Quiet Homework Station

We have six kiddos in school this year who are required to do homework after school and, in some cases, even on the weekend. I have to admit that it is pretty difficult for all of them to find a quiet place to work, if they are not completing their assignments at the same time (which hardly ever happens!). Latin, algebra and geometry, art history, and biology are subjects that call for a special atmosphere to encourage concentration. Add 20 minutes of reading aloud for each of my third graders and we could have ourselves a mess of confusion!

But, no matter how many kiddos you have, homework time can be difficult. It’s important to create a quiet space, with everything needed to complete assignments available at your fingertips. To help create this quiet space for my kids, we have dedicated a corner of our loft as our Homework Station.

Homework Station at Home

What makes a great Homework Station?

A Desk
My kids go to a classical school, so most research is done using old documents and books, and a majority of work is to be hand-written. Hand-written papers needs to be done neatly, so sitting at a desk makes this easier and tends to help create superior and more well-thought out work. Occasionally one of my older kids will have to do some online research or type up an essay, so the laptop is brought to the desk, so as to create a working environment free of distractions. The Mainstays writing desk, available at Walmart, is a great option for a small space.

Comfy Chairs
My kiddos have a lot of reading assignments. In fact, Zach read more than half of Homer’s Odyssey over this last weekend. He moved from his bed in his room to the porch out front to our beanbag chair in the loft, but he got it all done and was ready for his test today. Being comfortable while doing schoolwork makes a huge difference. (It helped that he enjoyed what he was reading!)

Big Joe comfy beanbag chair

Plenty of Extra Supplies
It’s smart to have lined paper, extra pens, and even extra binders on hand, just in case. You never know when a project or homework assignment will require something more than what is currently being used, or kept in backpacks and lockers. Now is a great time to stock up, since everything from crayons and glue sticks to those notebooks are on sale at Walmart.

Cubbies or Shelves
And, of course, you need an organized way to keep everything handy. These storage crates I found at my local Walmart (only available in stores) are perfect for organizing all of your extra supplies, books, and learning aids. A 3-drawer cart (on sale for only $16.86!) to store extra goodies would be a great idea, as well.

Storage Crates keeps supplies organized

Creating a quiet homework station has solved a lot of concentration problems for us. Let me know if you create one similar!

As a participant in the Walmart Moms Program, I’ve received compensation for my time and efforts in creating this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Kindergarten Learning at Home

As I gear up for Timmy’s first year of school, I am reminded of all of the fun activities I did with my older kids when they were his age. I am taking my own advice from years ago not to stress, but to enjoy this time. After all, it’s his last year home with me and the great thing about having a preschooler or kindergartner at home is all of the fun activities you get to do in the name of learning! I look forward to this precious time of playing and learning together, without an expensive curriculum!

With my little guy I plan to focus on the basic learning of letters and numbers. I have chosen one of each to focus on each day. This is something that can easily be done by printing out templates and allowing your little guy to color in the outlines of each, saying the sound of the letter, or counting to that number, as he colors. You can even incorporate the teaching of basic colors into this activity by choosing a specific color, as well. If you’d like to be really aggressive, throw a shape in there, too.

Like Sesame Street you will have a letter, number, and color of the day. Point out these letters, numbers, colors and shapes as you go about your day. You’ll be surprised at how many teachable moments you will discover, even after just a short time “studying”.

Here are some additional fun activities that encourages learning at this age ::

Make a batch of Sugar Cookies and let your kindergartner find the measurements (whole numbers only, at this age… you don’t want to confuse him) and help you measure the ingredients. This will enhance his number recognition. I’m sure your little guy loves to play with the dough, like mine do, right? Pick up some letter-shaped cookie cutters, or just roll out the dough and shape each letter.

photo via panitanjohn
photo via panitanjohn

Work on only a few letters at a time, maybe the letters in his first name, to start, and then the letters in your last name. Move on to two and three-letter words next. (You can use these same concepts with pretzel dough and roll the dough out in to the letter shapes. Heck, you can even get into the numbers and shapes here, too!)

If your little guy is already reading simple words, use these activities to practice what you’ve already learned. For example, ask him to grab the C cookie cutter, then the A, and finally the T. Cut out your dough and ask him what the letters spell when put together on the cookie sheet to bake.

When you need a bit of a break, set your budding student up with JumpStart or Mia computer games, instead of in front of the TV. These games are great for reinforcing simple reading, counting, and recognition skills. Sit back and take a breather!

Science could simply be planting seeds, watering them, waiting and watching for them to grow. Take advantage of the time waiting to talk about what happens when a seed turns into a flower. You can even incorporate your Bible lesson into this time by reading, reciting and even memorizing related Bible verses (Genesis 1:11 KJV “And God said , Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself, upon the earth: and it was so.”)

photo via Elnur
photo via Elnur

Another thought would be to incorporate Bible, Science and History lessons together by going through the Creation Story. Spend a bit of time talking about the first day :: talk about how darkness is the absence of light and can be scary, but we can rely on God to keep us safe. Talk about the differences between day and night. Then go on to the second day and talk about land and sea. On the third day he created the vegetation, so perhaps here you can incorporate the planting of seeds “experiment.” And, of course, when you reach the sixth day you can talk about how God made each of us special, discussing the characteristics of each individual.

Whatever you decide to do with your preschooler or kindergartner, know that he is soaking everything up just by observing and interacting with you. This is an important time in his life, but the realization that he is a child of God, who is loved greatly, is the most important lesson of all!

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.