Tag Archives: Homeschooling

Supplementing Your Homeschool Curriculum with Digital Downloads

Sounds of Worship (3)

We are mostly set on the core curriculum that we use from year-to-year with each of our children (see above ‘Homeschooling’ menu for each Grade). But we have left room to fill some gaps with additional unit studies, delight-direct learning, projects, additional copywork and audiobooks, and anything else along the way that we like the look of.

As their teacher, I can never know in advance what is going to ‘click’ with each of my children, but when something does, I like to make sure I embrace their interests and natural talents with additional opportunities to develop their strengths and keep learning fun.

I’m a strong believer in allowing room to be flexible with learning, and if something isn’t working after a good trial period, it’s time to change it or to find ways of freshening things up. I have one child in particular that tires easily of the same thing, so supplementing with other things really helps things around here!

I’ve spent literally hundreds of hours researching curriculum and looking for free downloads. What I’ve discovered is that it’s worth just purchasing the right resources to save the time and also because quality resources are simply worth the investment.

Why use Digital Downloads

As much as I love the feel of a printed book in my hands, like a devotional book for myself, when it comes to curriculum though, there are a number of benefits to having downloaded files stored on your computer or tablet to use.

You can print multiple copies easily, use with all your children, only print what you use, save on shipping costs, and also pick up great curriculum for lower prices. It’s more economical, and frequently also more affordable.

I use our notebooking pages every day in our homeschool, plus numerous lapbooks, unit studies, copywork, audios and more, most days. It’s a bit of a change of mindset, as we are so used to the way we’ve always done things, but the change in technology is truly a gift if we learn to embrace the good from it and utilize it to our advantage.

Ways to Supplement

  • Add in unit studies to your history for the year, whether you are doing a theme for the entire year and you want to supplement (like Ancient History), or take a break from your existing curriculum for a couple of weeks to freshen things up. We do both.
  • Print off reading log pages for your child to record books read (including those from the library).
  • Listen to audiobooks in the car, during learning ‘breaks’, or while you are teaching another child. We love Jim Weiss audiobooks, and are also using The Mystery of History this year too.
  • Print copywork pages when there is a topic that you have enjoyed in your usual studies (eg. a more focused topic during Middle Ages History, or a country study that grabs your child’s interest from a read-aloud).
  • Add in attractive notebooking pages to accompany your regular curriculum, instead of just buying regular lined paper. We use IEW (Fix-it Grammar and Theme studies) which still need additional pages, as does our history and other subjects. It just makes the finished work more appealing to the eye, your child will feel more satisfied with what they’ve produced, and we are all about increasing their enjoyment of things like grammar!
  • Jump into the colouring book trend that is popular right now, and find some resources that have a colouring and learning component. We have just gotten Fine Linen and Purple for our eldest daughter, and it’s absolutely gorgeous!
  • Use ebooks on your tablet when you are travelling or away from home, and save on that much needed space in the car.
  • Take your schooling with you when you are at a child’s extra curricular activities, and get in some extra learning time with your other children.

I hope that gives you some ideas on how you can add in these things to keep your homeschool fresh, learning fun and flexible, and doing it in a way that is affordable and economical.

~ Victoria

Nature Study: Out and About

Nature Study Out and About

There are so many different encounters awaiting you in nature, no matter where you live and what you have access to.

One of the things you might like to do, is plan out a year-long schedule, and spread out some of the bigger trips further afield, with the smaller and more accessible in between.  Planning ahead also makes it more likely to happen amidst all the other commitments that homeschoolers have.  You’ll also want to consider the different seasons, and what might make a fun nature study during those months.

Here are just a few ideas and topics for your nature studies which can be easily adapted for all ages:

  • Nature scavenger hunts – especially great to do with younger ones, compile a list of small things to collect of different colour and texture.
  • Beach walks – study the tides and currents, sand and stones, shells, tide pool life, plant life, erosion, things that wash up including driftwood, and birds.
  • Cloud study – observe and record cloud types on different days.  Note the seasonal differences.
  • Gardening – teach your children about planting and managing a garden of their own, and sustainable practices for pest control, soil health, harvesting, and seed saving.
  • Leaf study – collect leaves and bark to do leaf rubbings or sketch.  Look up in your identity guide and record what tree they come from.
  • River or stream study – observe and record animal life, erosion and soil, plant life, animal life in and around the water, habitats, and see what you can scoop up in your net.  Collects stones and rocks to draw or photograph.
  • Weather and climate – this is great to do all year around.  Record the weather every day over a month, and note the differences in temperature, clouds, rain or sun, and wind.
  • Erosion – find an area where erosion is prominent, such as by the beach, and record the different soil types in the layers, the effect on its surroundings, and the speed at which it is occurring (you’ll need to do this over regular intervals, every 3-6 months).
  • Backyard birds – set up a birdfeeder and birdbath in your backyard to encourage birds.  Identity your backyard birds using a field guide.
  • Wildflowers – observe and record wildflowers and their growing conditions.  Where permitted, dry and press, or simply sketch in your journal, noting how and where they grow, what the soil is like, and use a guide to find their identity.
  • Tree – Choose a particular tree and record its changes through the four seasons.  Note the changes in its bark, leaves, soil and whether there are blossoms or fruit.

Places to Visit

Your local town or region might have some of the following (some of these are indoors):

  • Zoo or animal park visit
  • Aquarium
  • Quarry park
  • Beach
  • Trails
  • Wetlands
  • Caves
  • Tide pools
  • Desert
  • Botanical gardens
  • Inner city community gardens
  • Planetarium
  • Observation decks
  • Orchards
  • Farms
  • Mangroves or swamp
  • Garden centre or nursery
  • Forest
  • Historic sites
  • Science museum

Getting Equipped

You’ll probably find there’s very little you’ll need most of the time besides your paper and pencils, but here are some things that might come in handy depending on your nature walk:

  • Nature Journal
  • Compass
  • Binoculars
  • Magnifying glass
  • Containers
  • Paper bags
  • Camera
  • Field guides
  • Pencil, eraser and coloured pencils
  • Bucket and spade
  • Butterfly net

Through the Seasons

In the course of doing our nature studies, I’ve found there are some things that are best studied at different times of the year.  Below I’ve put some suggestions, based partly on what is in abundance through that season or where interesting and notable changes are taking place.  It might vary in your area, so feel free to use this as a starting place, and adapt accordingly.

As a suggestion, you might like ensure you have spread different topics within life science and earth science over the course of the year.

Summer

  • Birds
  • Insects
  • Ocean life
  • Trees

Autumn

  • Harvest and crops
  • Rocks and minerals
  • Mammals
  • Leaves

Winter

  • Stars, planets, constellations
  • Weather/climate
  • Invertebrates
  • Landscapes

Spring

  • Wild plants and spring flowers
  • Amphibians and reptiles
  • Garden plants and soil
  • Seeds and seedlings

So far I’ve shared on the ‘why’ of nature study, and some ideas for how to go about it.  Next time I’ll write more specifically on keeping a nature journal.

{Shared at Hip Homeschool Mom, Teaching What is Good}

WinterPromise: “Ready to Learn: On the Farm” {A Review}

Ready to Learn 'On the Farm'

‘WinterPromise’ encompasses the best of a number of approaches and methods to homeschooling that will especially appeal to the Charlotte Mason or Classical-leaning homeschool family: living books, notebooking, mapping, hands-on learning, unit studies, journaling, a literature approach, and use of multi-media and downloadable e-books for our modern homeschools.

Last year WinterPromise launched a sister site, ‘Spirited Autumn Hope’, making available smaller, downloadable studies with an emphasis on the ‘joy of learning and discovery’.

The product I have had the privilege of reviewing is called ‘Ready to Learn – On the Farm’, and is one of four modules that make up the ‘Ready to Learn’ themed program for 3-5 year olds.  It is soon to be released as a separate downloadable study (with some differences to the themed program).

What It Contains

‘On the Farm’ is a 9 week program of discovery of basic readiness skills.  It takes a ‘guided learning approach’, which means you have to do this with your child.  If you’re looking for a workbook approach where you sit your child down and they work through the material themselves, this is NOT it!  These are skills that they will mostly be learning for the first time, and you will be guiding them as they complete activities.  I personally much prefer this approach to this early stage of teaching my budding learners.

The downloadable study contains:

  • Guide Pages
  • Alphabet, Phonics, & Reading Activities
  • Art & Creative Activities
  • Counting & Math Activities
  • Student Worksheets
  • Letter-by-Letter Book

The ‘Make-a-Letter Hands-on Phonics Pack’ is recommended (sold by WinterPromise) and looks like it would be a wonderful addition to the program in teaching letter recognition and letter formation. But we decided, since my 4 ½ year old daughter has already learned these well, we could do without this.

The pages contain a good balance of activity ideas for language arts, maths, and art/creative, as well as pre-printed activity pages, although probably with more emphasis on the activity ideas that you will put together yourself and guide your child through.

 

Ready to Learn

How We Used It

We loosely followed the schedules pages, choosing to just do all the week’s activities inside that week rather than follow the day-by-day layout (but please note, I’m not big on schedules!).  There was very little preparation involved, as most things you will already have in your craft cupboard or around the house.

We supplemented with books from our library plus ones we already had, consisting of a mix of picture books about farms, and illustrated read-alouds.  I found titles that had beautiful illustrations and stories that fitted the style of books we enjoy in our family.

Ready to Learn collage

In the course of doing this module with my daughter, I learned just how much she is a hands-on learner, and needs to get her hands involved in different interactive activities.  She cannot sit for long, unlike her older sister at this age who would happily sit at the table for a good length of time.  That alone was well worth undertaking this mini-study to discover just how much I’ll need to take into consideration her learning style in future.

Our Experience

WinterPromise does a great job in this study of covering an age span where not all children are at the same stage of development.  This study is easily customisable for your child’s level and you can leave out the parts that you’ve already covered or don’t want to concentrate on (which we did).

What we also enjoyed was that it was a springboard to further learning, and we have continued to build on the things we learned.  The hands-on aspect was especially good, as it including a good variety of activities (for kinaesthetic, auditory, and visual children), they didn’t require lots of preparation, and they were handy to have compiled in a single resource.

The use of ‘Farmer Boy’ as the only recommended book title seemed a slightly unusual choice for a preschool program.  Although it’s part of the ‘Little House’ series which we love, the language expression was just too advanced for my 4 year old.  We read segments of it, but she was more interested in the picture books we had, and shorter stories with bright illustrations.  I think reading chapter books as read-alouds will be something we grow into.

There were also minor aspects in the Study Guide with schedules that I found a little too cumbersome, as there was lots of flicking between sections.  If I used this study again, I would move everything related to the particular week (including student pages) into one section, and although they are lovely, I would not photocopy all the full-colour divider pages which added to the cost of getting it printed.

Overall we enjoyed this study and would use this again, and look forward to using other WinterPromise/Spirited Autumn Hope products with our children in future.

Ready to Learn

Final Thoughts

This study is a solid starting place for covering the essential skills with your preschooler, but not a comprehensive preschool program.  It teaches the basic skills, but you will most likely find that you’ll want to supplement with some read-alouds and other living books to make the most out your learning times.

WinterPromise have an accompanying program called ‘Journeys of Imagination that is designed to complement the four ‘Ready to Learn’ modules.  It includes a Guidebook and a full set of fantastic titles in its picture book library to see you through the whole year. I encourage you to look into this program as a companion to your Ready to Learn modules.

Further Information

I hope you’ll take a look at Spirited Autumn Hope and look at some of the samples for these studies.  I’m really looking forward to trying some others.

 ~ Victoria

Disclaimer

I received a downloadable copy of Ready to Learn in exchange for my honest review.  I was not obligated to write a positive review.  This review was on the content and how we used it in our homeschool, and I did not undertake any research on comparative products or evaluate ‘value-for-money’.


Charlotte Mason Homeschool

Charlotte Mason Homeschool

Charlotte Mason was a British educator who lived in the late 1800s and early 1900s. She didn’t have children of her own but instructed others on how to educate.  She published a number of books and was sought after to speak on the subject of education.  Her principles were a groundbreaking change to the Victorian period style of education.

The Charlotte Mason method of education has become popular in the homeschooling community (which Wikipedia attributes to the 1987 publication of Susan Schaeffer Macaulay’s book For the Children’s Sake: Foundations of Education for Home and School).  The Method centres around the idea that education is to be an atmosphere, a discipline, and a life, and shouldn’t just be to train for a particular job or pass an exam.

In practical terms, it usually includes these components:

  • Knowledge of God: as found in the bible and to be of primary importance.  The bible is to be read every day.
  • Living books: favoured over textbooks as a means of introducing children to topics written in a way that brings the subject matter alive
  • Nature study: observing and recording things in nature
  • Narration: the practice of telling back a story
  • Copywork: copying well-written literature for handwriting practice
  • Outdoor time: some form of daily physical exercise
  • Habit and character training: teaching children to behave in the right manner
  • Memorisation of scripture and poetry: to meditate on quality material, not to simply memorise facts
  • Language learning: learning a second language
  • History: learned through reading quality history books. Children also keep a timeline book.
  • Fine Arts: exposing children to art, music and poetry, and studying composers and artists.

We follow some of the principles of the Charlotte Mason method to a degree in our homeschool, although some Charlotte Mason purists would say that there is no middle ground!  We also do unit studies, notebooking, and some of our resources fit more into the Classical method (which is more systematic).  We’ve simply gleaned the best of a number of different ‘streams’ and found what works for us.

Charlotte_MasonHere are some of my favourite Charlotte Mason homeschooling websites:

I would love to hear how others have incorporated Charlotte Mason principles into your homeschooling.

{You might also be interested in my book lists for some great titles to add to your homeschool library, and this post on ’what is a living book’}.

{Some of the information in this post was sourced from this article on Wikipedia}
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