Learning and Loving Together

Welcome to our homeschool. We believe in family coming first and in sharing our lives learning, loving, and growing together every day. Here I plan to share tips that have worked for us, learning ideas, and thoughts relating to homeschooling and mothering.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Baa Baa Black Sheep

Homeschooling with a toddler can be....interesting to say the least.  ;)  The challenge is to be able to teach the older ones while keeping the baby happy, occupied, and stimulated without your house being torn apart. There are many ways to actually involve them in what the older children are learning, and we do this quite a bit and I will share on future posts a few examples.  But for this post I wanted to share a few specific activities I planned just for Ashley, (our 2 year old) today having to do with Baa Baa Black Sheep. While toddlers don't have a need for formal academics they still definitely need one on one time with mommy and various experiences and stimulation.  I always plan for a fer a few fun activities for Ashley and I to do together each morning during learning time.  Often it's just simply pleasures like reading books, playdough, doing fingerplay songs, building a block house, fingerpainting, or playing baby dolls together.  If I have the other two girls working on something, I'll grab Ashley and we'll play together.  Often we'll all end up playing together as soon as they are finished with their task.  ;)  I also try to plan a few different activities that are educationally appropriate for a 2 year old to give her different experiences.  I love nursery rhymes and this week I made a few activities for Baa Baa Black Sheep.  First I read her the rhyme from our Mother Goose book.  She's heard it many times before, but she doesn't mind hearing it again.  Then we held hands and danced around in a circle as we sang the rhyme.  She loved this and we repeated it several times.  Then I showed her four pictures I printed off online that showed the progression of the rhyme.  I repeated it again and showed her the pictures.  Then I mixed them up and said, "Oh no!  They're all mixed up!  Can you help me fix them?"  I then said the rhyme while she put them in order and she also recited it with me.  Another activity I had made was printing off 4 black sheep and 4 white sheep.  I then drew a simple black barn and white barn.  I added some real hay just for fun and laminated everything.  Then I told her the black sheep live in the black barn and the white sheep live in the white barn.  She understood right away and began sorting them.  Then when she was finished she said, "Night Night sheep!"  :)  Another activity I did was a simple arts and crafts.  I traced her hand on a sheet of paper and had her color it and a printout of a sheep's head and body black.  Then she glued black yarn to the sheep's body and then I cut it out and glued it together. It turned out pretty cute. 

Thursday, January 13, 2011

How I Teach Reading

Reading is one of my favorite things to teach.  I love watching them read on their own for the first time.  It's one of the best feelings in the world to me.  I use lots of different games and activities throughout the process and I'll share specific activities with you in later posts.  For this one I just want to share the basic method I use.  I always start out with a stuffed duck we call Mr. Duck.  He helps them figure out blending sounds through various games.  What happens is I teach them how to blend 2 or 3 letters together and then they practice and Mr. Duck tries to blend with them and he is just can't figure it out.  ;)  So they have to teach him.  It reinforces the concept really well and they enjoy playing with him.  After they get the concept of blending, I start them out in the book, "The Reading Lesson". 

Each lesson starts with 3 new sounds. Then a page to practice those sounds.
Then there are a couple of pages of sound practice, words, and phrases/sentences.
Then there are a few more pages of sentences and stories using the new sounds combined with the old sounds they have already learned.  In fact the very first lesson has them reading little stories. (It's the only lesson that starts with 5 new sounds.)

Both of my girls old enough have loved this book.  It's simple, each lesson builds upon the last, and they love reading stories so soon.  Another fun thing I add to this book is characters to play with.  Both of my older girls have loved playing make believe, so I've always added a lot of make believe and play to our learning.  We've used stuffed animals, dolls, and imaginary friends to play and learn along with them.  Our latest friends are pictured below and participate in my little 6 year old Emily's reading lessons.  One of the lessons had a penguin, a lion, and an eagle on each page.  Emily loved these three so much I photocopied them, colored them in, and laminated them so they can follow her throughout the book.  I have them talk to Emily as she does the lesson.  The eagle is named Ethan Eagle and he's very serious and intelligent.  He keeps her focused on her lesson.  ;)  The penguin is named Patty Penguin and she is a sweet 6 year old girl Penguin who will take turns reading with Emily every now and then and when she can't figure out a word, Emily will help her.  The lion is named Leo Lion and he's a bit mischievous, but is a good little lion.  He's not as far into the book as Emily so everyday she reads an older story to him she's already read and then listens to him read it back and helps him with any words he does not know.  This provides great review and reinforcement and most importantly she loves it.  :)

To this book I also have a few favorites I add.  We use Bob books, which are wonderful to get them reading stories right away.  We also use "Happy Phonics" which is a great method of teaching reading that uses all games.  I also love McGuffey Readers and so we will read out of those, as well.  Once they are reading well, we start reading the series called "Reading to Learn".  It is WONDERFUL.  Every story has a values based lesson that involves God and choosing the right.  They have books all the way through 8th Grade.  I highly recommend these as they are so interesting and have brought many great discussions into our home.  I have always felt that the most important thing for children to learn when they are old enough for academics is reading.  Once they can read well, they can learn about anything and there's no greater pleasure than to find your child curled up with a good classic book reading for pleasure.

Spelling Scramble

We use All About Spelling in our home.  We tried a couple of different methods before this one, but unfortunately they didn't seem to have what I was looking for and my eldest daughter, who is 8, wasn't retaining the words she had learned.  She learns very quickly in everything else, but for some reason spelling is a challenge for her.  So I did some research and prayed about it and I was led to this method.  We prayed about it and felt it was the right one and so we began using it.  It worked wonderfully.  Alexis is doing so well with it.  Spelling is still her challenge in learning, but she's progressing well, now.   Each lesson takes us somewhere between 2 and 5 days depending on how quickly she learns the words and how easy it is.

It always starts with a short review and then it teaches the new concept.  I love that each concept builds upon each other and that it presents clear rules for each new concept.  I've even learned rules I never knew existed!
It uses magnetic tiles to teach the words and allow the child to practice with. 
Then at the end there are phrases and sentences you dictate for the child to write down.  I love this part because it only uses words the child should have already learned and it's a wonderful review of past words and helps increase the child's listening skills since you are only supposed to say the sentence once.  For Alexis I say it once and she repeats it.  Then if she writes it correctly with no mistakes I draw a big smiley face next to the sentence.  If she misses something silly like a punctuation mark or capital letter I tickle her.  :)  And anything else I have her fix and then when she fixes it correctly I put a star next to her sentence.
Along with the lessons I always try to throw in my own spelling games I make up or find online for each lesson.  For this particular lesson we did spelling scramble, which is one of her favorites.  I write out a few of her words from that particular lesson, (especially any she's having trouble with.)  Then I cut them apart by letter.  Then I take the word and spread out its letters all over a particular room.  For example I might choose the living room and then cut each letter from the word "mailbox" and then, using tape, put the 'm' on the wall, the 'a' on the window, he 'i' on the rocking horse, etc...  Then she hunts through the room for all the letters and then puts them together to make the word, (and she does not know which word it is, so that increases the challenge).  I usually do 8 words at a time and using several rooms and hallways I put a different word in each one. She thinks this is so much fun and it helps reinforce the various spelling rules, as well.

Can you spot the letters?  :)

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Why We Homeschool

We have been blessed so far with three, precious little girls.  They are 8 1/2, 6, and 2 1/2.  When I think about why we homeschool, the reasons have changed slightly over the years.  Before I was even married I decided I wanted to homeschool.  At the time I was in college working on a degree in Elementary Education.  When I started student teaching I was so excited.  I was in a second grade class that was a reduced sized class. There were only 13 children and I remember thinking how wonderful that was to be able to give them more individual attention.  I remember I was teaching the first section of their Language Arts book which was a review of short vowel sounds.  I came up with all kinds of fun games and ideas for teaching it and they loved it.  Then when the test came I noticed that two children did not get it.  So my instinct was to keep reviewing it so they could learn it.  The teacher I was with, who was one of the kindest ladies I've had the pleasure of working with, gently said, "I'm afraid we need to move on."  I pointed out that these two little ones didn't get it, yet, and if we moved on they would get further behind.  She said she knew that and that the reading specialist could work with them but that it wasn't fair to the other children to keep going over something they already knew.  She was right.  It wasn't fair to the others.  In fact when I thought about it, many of the children already knew this concept before we even began the review.  I struggled in my heart the whole time student teaching, knowing that some kids already knew what I was teaching, some were learning, and some needed extra practice/help.  I did all I could, but there simply wasn't the time or resources to individualize it for them all.  It didn't used to be that way.  When you study education in the pioneer days, children worked at their own pace.  They were in levels with what they knew, not how old they were.  They started at the Primer level and worked their way up at their own pace.  They could graduate when they were finished learning the books, be that at 15 or 21.  The teacher acted as more of a guide.  I'm not saying it was perfect by any means.  Just more individualized.  I realized then that for my own future children to have an individualized education that was for them, attending public school wasn't an option. 

At the same time I also taught a sweet class in church.  They were all so innocent and loving towards each other.  Then I remember around October I started seeing a change in some of them.  They were still VERY sweet and wonderful children, but I noticed that for no apparent reason they began at times forming, for lack of better words, "clicks."  There would be 2 or 3 of them that would sit together and when another one them tried to sit down, they would say, "We don't want you to sit with us."  Or I would hear them teasing each other.  Of course I corrected these situations immediately and explained how wrong it was to treat others that way.  But I couldn't figure out what had caused the change.  I even prayed about it and then, suddenly, the thought entered my head as clear as day, "They started Kindergarten."  Suddenly they were being exposed to a lot more kids with a lot different values than before and they were being influenced. 

It was after these two situations that I decided homeschooling was what I wanted for my family.  Certainly I did not expect to keep my children from all bad influences, but I did want the majority of their time to spent in an environment where the Spirit was welcomed and present and where we had the chance to train and guide them in choosing the right throughout the day on a daily basis. 

As the years have progressed, my reasons for homeschooling have become less about individualizing their education and more about their character and spirituality.  I still love individualizing their learning, but I love more that we can and do weave the gospel into our studies. Scripture study is our most important and first subject we do every day.  Questions about the gospel come up frequently throughout our day and I'm so thankful for the opportunity to be able to answer them and that they don't have to be in a place where God is forbidden.  Being able to immerse my children in the gospel throughout the day is such a blessing and one of the top reasons I homeschool. 
"Whatever you do, be careful in the selection of teachers. We don't want infidels to mold the minds of our children. They are a precious charge bestowed upon us by the Lord, and we cannot be too careful in rearing and training them. I would rather have my child taught the simple rudiments of a common education by men of God, and have them under their influence, than have them taught in the most abstruse sciences by men who have not the fear of God in their hearts."  John Taylor
(If you find this quote interesting and would like to hear more about the early leaders views on schooling, feel free to e-mail me and I'll get you some fascinating info.  I hesitate sharing too much because I don't want to offend.)  ;)

Another reason I love homeschooling is being able to be there for my children's new experiences.  I get to teach them to read and watch the light in their eyes as they get it.  I get to take them to the fire station for the first time.  I get to teach them who George Washington was and tell them how the Constitution was inspired by God.  I love being a part of their learning.

I am also so grateful for the amount of time we have as a family together.  We are so incredibly close and have so many opportunities to play, work, and serve together.  I know many people worry that homeschooled children will be socially isolated, but I've found the opposite to be true.  We are able to interact with people of all ages throughout the community and various homeschooling groups and get togethers.  I love our little homeschooling group where all the kids of all different ages play together.  Does that mean all of my children are social butterflies?  Nope.  :)  My oldest LOVES being around other people and visiting with all sorts of people.  My second child, who was raised the same environment is very shy and hates big noisy crowds, new situations, and getting up in front of people.  She prefers small get togethers and familiar faces and situations.  (But I'm exactly like her, so I totally understand.)  :)  My third is still pretty little but seems to be taking more after my oldest, (as long as I'm within sight, LOL.)  :) 

Well, hopefully I've provided some insight on why we've chosen homeschooling for our family.  I truly believe it is a personal decision that must be prayerfully made.  It's not right for every family, but I do know that this is a blessing that God has given us in our lives. I'm so grateful for the opportunity to teach my children and I also know that this is God's will for our family.

Saturday, January 8, 2011


A few weeks ago the thought occured to me that I use the internet quite a bit for the education of my children.  I use it to look up lesson ideas, book reviews, and recieve inspiration from other homeschooling mothers.  What a blessing it is to have a means to share what we do in our homes so that others may be inspired with ideas on how to teach their children.  The thought came to me that while I was using these resources, it might be nice to give back in return.  So, I'm starting this blog as a means to share things that we do in our homeschool.  I also want to be able to share various articles and thoughts I have on education and mothering.  I hope you enjoy reading about what we do and hopefully you'll gain maybe a few new ideas to use in your journey of educating your children, whether you homeschool or not.