This year, when looking for new Christmas books to read with my kids, I decided to keep other countries and cultures in mind, since we're studying world geography. I found a bunch of great books at the library, but these eight are my favorite.
1. Jotham's Journey. I loved the suspense of this advent book. My kids looked forward to reading it each day. Some themes throughout the book were a bit more mature than I had expected though. I had to skip some parts when reading it with my five-year-old and seven-year-old. We will probably read it again when they are a little older. I'd say nine and up would be a good age range for this book.
2. Cobweb Christmas. A cute German Christmas folktale.
3. An Amish Christmas. Who doesn't enjoy reading about the Amish way of life?
4. The Legend of Old Befana. In Italy an old witch named la Befana travels to each child's home on Epiphany Eve (Jan. 5th) in search of baby Jesus, and leaves good boys and girls gifts and treats.
5. Saint Nicholas: The Real Story of the Christmas Legend. We read this every Christmas. It's my favorite Christmas book because it explains that Saint Nicholas was a real Christian man who gave generously, often in secret. You see, Santa is real.
6. Las Posadas: An Hispanic Christmas Celebration. This book has so much information about the Spanish tradition of Las Posadas. What a great way to keep the focus on Christ!
7. Reindeer: A New True Book. Although it's not necessarily a Christmas book, it begins with a bit of history behind Santa Claus and his reindeer. Did you know that Santa's sleigh-pulling reindeer are based on the Lapp people of northern Scandinavia? This book offers a lot of great info about reindeer!
8. An Ellis Island Christmas. This is about a girl's voyage with her family from Poland to America. She finally arrives on Ellis Island on Christmas Eve. The illustrations are beautiful.
What are some of your favorite Christmas books? Let me know in the comments below! I need some suggestions for next year!
We’re six weeks into the school year and here is a look at some things we did our first month.
For science we completed chapter one of Apologia Anatomy & Physiology, which is about cells, microscopes, and what ancient cultures knew about the human body. I recommend purchasing the notebooking journal that goes along with the textbook because it has a lot of activities to help the kids remember what was discussed. In addition to the activities in the notebooking journal we looked at pictures of cells and other microscopic things on these websites:
And we watched a lot of neat YouTube videos of cells under the microscope. The kids' favorite video, though, was this animation of the cell's immune system:
We also did an experiment to determine which preserving agent did the best job of preserving an apple (the apple represents an Egyptian mummy). Then we made a chart to record our findings.
We learned that salt is a good preserving agent.
And baking soda is not.
The highlight of this chapter was making an edible cell with different fruits, and Better Bowls Strawberry Gelatin.
For geography we started off by reading Me on the Map, and creating a map flipbook to develop a better understanding of the relationship between continents, countries, states, and cities. Then we labeled the continents and oceans on a world map, and put together a world puzzle. I like GeoPuzzle because many of the puzzle pieces are shaped like the country.
Then we began our unit on Kenya. I knew nothing about Kenya before this study, but now I feel like a Kenya expert! Before teaching the kids anything, I read Enchantment of the World: Kenya. This taught me all about the country’s history, geography, wildlife, culture, and more. Some books I read to the children were Uncommon Traveler, Koi and the Kola Nuts, and Where Are You Going Manyoni? These were books about Africa, but weren’t necessarily specific to Kenya. We also watched Globe Trekker: Kenya. I would suggest watching this before showing it to your kids because there is one potentially troubling part that we ended up skipping. While they were watching that I had them color the country’s flag and do a map activity, labeling the country's major cities, mountains, and rivers. The kids also looked through books on wild animals in Kenya, and completed a notebooking page listing different facts about the animals and drawing pictures of them. They used a Draw Write Now book to see how to draw these animals.
They also painted some paper plate necklaces to resemble those worn by many tribal people in Kenya.
And then they learned an African dance from this video:
But the best part of this unit was the Irio, which is a dish made in Kenya that includes spinach, peas, corn, and potatoes. I really had no idea if the kids would like it or not. I figured they wouldn’t. It didn’t sound all that appetizing. But they loved it! They were asking for seconds and even thirds! I meant to take pictures before we ate almost all of it!
There's not much to show for language arts and math, because we use workbooks for those subjects. But I'll give you a little review of the curriculum so far.
BJU English is very open-and-go, which is great for me since science, geography, and Bible require a lot of prep work. The lessons take just the right amount of time to complete and provide an adequate amount of guided and independent practice. I take breaks from the curriculum here and there if I feel like we need to focus on other English topics for a while.
I like BJU Spelling too, because of the way each week's words are grouped together by spelling patterns. For example, week four had words that made the "oo" sound, but were spelled with different vowel pairs (cougar, soothe, steward). I also appreciate the variety of activities in the workbook. It includes word sorts, analogies, dictionary skills, and more.
So far I like Christian Light math, which I’m using for my nieces, who are eight and ten. It covers all of the necessary topics and incorporates review into each lesson. It’s a pretty solid curriculum, and you can’t beat the price! For my kids, who are five and seven, I use Harcourt, and it’s doing a nice job of explaining addition and subtraction concepts because it shows several different ways to solve the problems (pictures, dominoes, number lines, etc.). Now that they understand those concepts we have begun using the Medieval Math Battle app on my phone to work on memorizing math facts.
For Bible I'm using the Easy Peasy All in One Homeschool New Testament reading plan. That's basically all it is- a reading plan with a couple of discussion questions. I have to read the passage ahead of time to make sure I understand it before teaching it to the kids. Many times I end up pulling out some commentaries, and sometimes I'm doing a full-blown Bible study for a few days to make sure I understand it well enough to teach to the kids. And then once I have a firm grasp on it I have to figure out how to explain it in kid terms. It's probably good for me, but sometimes I wish I had a Bible curriculum that was geared toward little kids.
We're also doing a hymn study. We learn one hymn per month and perform it at the end of the month in front of family members. The kids really enjoy this, and it's especially good for my two kids who tend to dislike the spotlight.
In a couple of weeks we’ll be finished with our second month of school and I’ll let you know how that went too! If you have any questions or comments please leave them below. I'd love to know how your school year is going too!
I’m happy to share our curriculum picks for 2015-16 with you today! This year, in addition to homeschooling my five-year-old and seven-year-old, I will also be teaching my nieces, who are 8 and 10!
I’ll start with my kiddos. They are 21 months apart but are basically on the same level. For them I will be using:
Math- Harcourt Grade 1 Math. I found this at a thrift store for $3.99! We used Harcourt kindergarten last year and they enjoyed it.
Reading- The Ordinary Parent’s Guide to Teaching Reading, and Explode the Code. My son is a kinesthetic learner so he does great with Explode the Code!
Handwriting- Draw. Write. Now. My kids LOOOOVE to draw, so I thought they’d enjoy this program.
For my nieces we will be using:
Math- Christian Light. The straightforward, no-frills approach was appealing to me.
Grammar and Writing- BJU English. I like that the chapters alternate between grammar and writing, and build upon each other.
Spelling- BJU. I looked at a bajillion spelling programs and this one impressed me most.
Reading- Christian Light
The subjects that I will be teaching to all of the kids together are:
Bible- Easy Peasy All-in-One Homeschool (New Testament). I wanted something simple, and Lee over at allinonehomeschool.com offers a daily reading with some discussion questions. I also like that her Bible teaching philosophy is similar to mine, which is to read the Bible with the students, help them to see the big picture, and teach them to study the Word to develop their own understanding of topics that are often debated among Christians.
Science- Exploring Creation with Anatomy and Physiology. I don’t necessarily agree with Apologia’s young earth stance, but this particular course doesn’t include any references to the age of the earth/universe. It looks like an awesome curriculum!
Geography- Galloping the Globe and some other mapping/atlas books. This is my favorite subject so I’m looking forward to it!
The only other item I need to find is a good beginning cursive workbook. Anyone have any suggestions? I’m looking for one that includes a lot of practice.
We begin school September 1st. We were supposed to start this month, but my family caught a stomach virus. I'll let you know how the curriculum is working out for us. I know it will be a challenge- especially with a cute, cuddly, curious six-month-old who’s almost crawling! But I know it will be fun too! I love learning along with my kids!
Our curriculum for next year (next year is just a month away!) has arrived and I'm super excited to share that with you. I plan to take lots of pictures of our daily lessons and activities! But before I share my curriculum picks for next year, I want to review what we used this past year.
My kids were four and six this year so we stuck with the two most important subjects at that age: phonics and math. With bookcases full of quality books and videos in our home, I know they are learning plenty about science and social studies, so I didn't purchase any sort of curriculum for those subjects. For phonics, I have been using The Ordinary Parent's Guide to Teaching Reading as my guide.
This book is as simple as reading instruction gets. It contains 231 scripted daily lessons that take about 10-15 minutes each day. I don't actually follow the script, and I don't do any of the recommended activities either. I simply use it as a reference guide, so that I know which types of words to introduce next, and so I don't forget to teach any irregular spellings. I also have to change many of the practice sentences because they are weird and make little sense. Take this story, for example:
The van ran in the mist.
It got stuck fast in the mud.
The van had rust on the fan.
A dent is in the tan van.
The van cost a lot.
Fix the van.
It will not just sit in the mud.
Some of the practice sentences are like tongue twisters: "Brent did not drop and drag his big drum on the fast drill up the hill." My kids read these sentences and then look up at me like, Did I read that right? Because I have no idea what I just said. So I write my own sentences on the Magna Doodle for them to read. They like that much better.
There are a few other resources I use in addition to The Ordinary Parent's Guide. One of them is Christian Liberty Press's Adventures in Phonics. I love this book, and it can actually be used as a complete phonics curriculum. For only about $10 I really can't understand why more people don't use this. It's a solid, sequential program. I just prefer the phonetic sequence in The Ordinary Parent's Guide, so I pick and choose worksheets from Adventures in Phonics that correspond to the lesson we are working on in The Ordinary Parent's Guide. One thing I love about Adventures in Phonics is all of the handwriting practice. It has really helped my kids to develop neat handwriting. I also purchased the Christian Liberty Press readers. These are nice little stories that my kids are able to read on their own. And they make sense. :-)
We also use Explode the Code workbooks and Explode the Code Online for extra practice. If you're going to buy Explode the Code Online, buy it through the Homeschool Buyers Co-op because it's almost 50% cheaper than buying it directly from the publisher. What I like about Explode the Code Online is that it tailors assignments to the student, making adjustments to move ahead or review a lesson. I also give credit to Explode the Code Online for helping my kids dissect the different sounds in words, through activities like this one:
For math, I found a couple of kindergarten Harcourt workbooks at a thrift store for just $4 each! They are decent, but most of our math lessons don't come from a workbook. We use an abacus and hundred chart to practice counting and number sense, a clock for telling time, flashcards for number identification, and I have them go to the bank (the coin jar) and get money to buy their food from my restaurant (the kitchen). Oh how I love teaching math at this age...I'm sure I won't be saying that ten years from now!
Well, the 2014-15 school year is over. It's been a good year. I've seen a lot of progress and learned so much about my kids' learning styles. I can't wait to tell you guys about our plans for next year!
How did your homeschool year go? What worked and what didn't?