Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Social Studies for 6th grade... on and on we go...

I'm working on my daughter's social studies for this year.  I've found several resources on the way.  I often ask myself, "Why am I doing this?  Why am I not buying a premade curriculum?"  I've read several books about homeschooling on a shoestring and lots of blog posts about it and realize that the money you save by not buying books, you spend in time.  So, there has to be some other reason...

I've come to the conclusion that I enjoy the search.  I enjoy thinking through a topic and getting on top of it before my children study it.  I enjoy developing a big picture of the topic.

Last year, Autumn studied the 1700s of American History.  This year, my goal is to cover the 1800s and 1900s.  So far, I have compiled up to 1850 and am working on the Civil War.  Here's a list of free resources I've found that I've liked.  I'm using a very brief book titled Kids' Guide to American History to give my daughter a brief (very brief) idea of the outline of American History and then we're going to dig into more specific events.

Oregon Trail Unit
Oregon Trail Game

Civil War Unit
I'm using pages from the middle school curriculum.  I don't have Microsoft Office anymore so I can't view the powerpoint presentations, but I still found some great activities and worksheets to use.
These are the pages I printed from the middle school curriculum:
from the elementary curriculum: 22-23,96-98

Additional Civil War Resources I'm using:
Slang of the Civil War:

For Reconstruction and Industrial Revolution, I'm using a book titled Everyday Life: Reconstruction to 1900 by Walter Hazen.
Bio of Jane Addams:
I'm asking my daughter to write an outline and one paragraph summary including birthdate/death, significant life events and significant achievements of Jane Addams.

Women's Rights Unit:
I like this unit because it uses primary sources.
Printed Letter from Phyllis Shafly:
Pro-ERA Points:
To end this unit, I am going to ask my daughter to write her own persuasive paper either pro or con-the ERA.

World War I has a list of activities for WWI.

The Great Depression

World War II
Great Readings on World War II!:

Civil Rights has some great readings.
Civil Rights Unit from the Homeschool Den.  There are several different and great packets on this site for elementary age.

John F Kennedy

Cold War
Types of Government:
Good selection of readings on

20th Century Summaries   I like these because they use key terms in short and easy to read summaries. They covered a lot of topics I wanted to address, but couldn't find printable readings on the web for.

Some Useful Maps

Great Timeline Worksheets
Scholastic has one online, but I like the ones on this page better:

Great Timeline Site

Stamp Activity
I printed pages 8 and 32 and some of the information from the first few pages to explain why we use stamps.  Then, I looked up and printed page 1 from here:
I am going to ask my daughter to circle which of the twelve guidelines she thinks she should follow in completing this assignment and then discuss it with me prior to designing a stamp for each decade from 1800-Present (the period she's going to be studying this year).  There's a lot of information on the art of design in this packet and it would be a great cross-curriculum art lesson from the postal museum!
I used this worksheet:, cut out two of the strips, made a new copy of this page on my printer, and then wrote the number above for each decade from our history we're covering.

Assessment Ideas  In putting together my materials, I found myself at a loss for some fun assessments and activities.  The lessons on this page gave me some great ideas that I could modify.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Starting School

New routines... New books...

The End of Summer.

I am actually thankful for this summer to end.  We frequent the community pool and I have so many different conversations over the course of the summer with many moms.  I've often heard as the summer comes to a close that the moms are ready for their kids to go back to school.  I never thought I'd say this, but I am saying it this summer...

This summer, I've heard it from myself and a few other homeschool moms.  We've shared with each other about how too much free time leads to bickering and less enjoyed play time for their kids.  The structure of the homeschool day can be a good thing.  There is a satisfaction for adults and children alike of having gotten something done.

But, is that all?  Not in my case.

Why am I glad?  Honestly, I had a horrible summer.  It was a very difficult one emotionally.  Grappling with my mom's illness and its impact on her, my family, and me became the catalyst for a very difficult time.  She's still adjusting and so are we.

I painted 4 closets (3 large, 1 small), 2 bedrooms (1 large, 1 medium), and my kitchen ceiling.  I injured my right arm which drew out the painting process.  I still have 1 coat left to do on my kitchen ceiling and the girls' room ceiling.

I started off the summer with several play dates on the calendar, but lost steam as the summer wore on.

And then...the bickering.  I watched as my kids bickered more than they do during the school year because they had more idle time.  The words "There's nothing to do and There's nothing I want to do." entered our home in a way they had never before.  It is my goal to banish these words from our family's vocabulary this school year!

What I learned in the process...

1.  When you enter a conversation with anyone that portends to be a difficult one, think ahead about (if possible) what your goal is.  Realize that the other person may or may not come to see your point of view.  Be ready for the best and worst case scenarios.  Be willing to walk away if the conversation is not a wise one to have.

2.  Realize that when stressful events are going on, SIMPLIFY!  Don't complicate.  I was sharing with my friend's mother on Saturday that when military families are getting ready for a deployment, stress is high in families.  They know to expect this.  So, many wives and husbands try to simplify those days and make sure to make phone calls to extended family several days before rather than the night before.  One friend shared with me how upsetting to me the phone calls her husband was required to make to his family the night prior to one of his deployments were.  She had no time with him.  

I have found that a similar sensitivity is needed with medical procedures.  It is wise to allow extra time and not squeeze things in the days and hours before unless they are needed.

3.  Do not expect people to be understanding of the stress in your life.  Do not expect grace.  It is a wonderful thing to receive, but often people are unable to give it because they are focused on their own perspective and unable to see what you are going through or how what they have done affects you.

4.  Keeping my kids busy is a good, GOOD thing!  I have given them many more chores this summer than I have in the past.  I have worked, but so have they!  Summer is a good time for me to teach them things like changing batteries and more cooking.  I have more time and patience than I often do during the school year.

5.  Be realistic with myself.  Next summer, I'm going to plan on piano lessons every other week.  To aim for every week is simply unrealistic.  We don't get enough practice in weekly to justify weekly lessons during the summer.

6.  Get outside whenever possible.

7.  Make adjustments.  Look to others and consider what their needs may be.  The phyical changes for my mom have required big adjustments for her.  My girls are now rotating every other week cleaning her apartment because it is difficult for her.  It is good for them to help and it is good for my mom because it helps her.

Well, it is 7:30 am and that means it is time to get all my children up and going!

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Unit Study Database Website

My big project that needs to be done this week is to compile the worksheets for Autumn's American History this year.  I've found several great sites along the way and today I found this one:

It's a database of lots of unit studies on the web. Yay!  I love anything that makes my searching simpler.  Some of the links aren't active, but many are.  1 of the 3 I tried didn't work.  But, it is a place to start!

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Scientific Method Worksheets

I was very excited to find these tonight!

I am compiling my 6th grade daughter's chemistry curriculum.  I couldn't bring myself to spend $140 on Noeo's Chemistry 2 curriculum, so I'm compiling my own.  (The books I bought cost $39 altogether.)  It's a little bit of work to plan it out, but I'm enjoying the research as I discover what makes up the study of chemistry.

Last year, I tried to use Christian Kids Explore Earth and Space with my children, but they disliked it.  I found myself filling in the blanks and the big jumps the authors made between topics.  I have struggled with science for several years.

As a Christian, I feel that I need to help my kids develop a Christian worldview of creation and science.  But, the curriculum I've loved most is HSP Science from Harcourt.  My eldest daughter did Singapore's kindergarten science, then HSP science for 1st-3rd, Considering God's Creation for 4th and then HSP science for 5th.  My second daughter did HSP science for 1st and 3rd.  She is going to use HSP science for 4th and 5th grades.  At this point, my plan is for my son is going to do HSP science for 1st -5th grades.  I've looked at many other curriculums, but I like it.  In Middle School, I want to bring in a Christian perspective in a much more deliberate way on science and I have been pondering what that is going to look like this next year with my oldest daughter.

I am concerned that I have tried to cover too much content and have sacrificed the enjoyment of studying science.  So, I am hoping to do more of that will all of my children this year.  I'm adjusting my expectations of how much to cover so that we will have the wiggle room and space that we need to do experiments.  I haven't liked the lab sheets from the workbook, so instead I am excited to have found some great worksheets here:
There's one worksheet that has all the steps of the scientific method on it and there's another set of sheets with one sheet for each step.  I'm going to laminate the main sheet with all the steps together and post it on the wall.

These are the books that I'm pulling from for Autumn's science:
1.  Christian Kids Explore Chemistry:
This will give the big umbrella that I'll branch off from.
2.  Super Science Concoctions (a Williamson Kids Can Book)
Experiments with stuff already in my house that Sami and Eli can observe and join in with.
3.  Fizz, Bubble, & Flash! Element Explorations & Atom Adventures (a Williamson Kids Can Book)
I will focus on the elements for one quarter.
4.  Chemistry for Every Kid by Janice Van Cleave
5.  Teaching the Fun of Science by Janice Van Cleave

I like Janice Van Cleave's books and the Williamson Kids Can books because they use materials that are around the house already.  This makes the experiments in these books much more affordable.  Last year, I read from the CKE book I used.  This year I am going to have Autumn read from it and record her answers to the questions in a notebook.  We will highlight the main points in the passage together and then I will teach her to write down the key vocabulary in her notebook from the text.  The problem with CKE is that it is a teacher text, but I think it will work well as a student text for 6th grade instead.  I just ordered the CKE book tonight and will get it in a week or so.  When it arrives, I'm going to sit down and evaluate how much we can really tackle from the book and how many experiments I can pull in from book #2, #4, and #5.  By no means do I plan to do all of the experiments in all of the books! ;)

So, that's my plan.  It's a work in progress right now...

Friday, August 8, 2014

Handling Tough Questions

My kids started soccer practice this week.  It has been interesting in so many ways.  I have been reminded to be thankful that I have the opportunity to homeschool.  One mom explained to me that two parents have to work today unless one parent makes an insane amount of money.  I could tell how much she loves her kids and cherishes her time with them.  

I watched another set of parents juggle their kids and split duties as they adjust to changes in their family.  I saw this last year, too, when two parents had separated and had to juggle work and their kids' practices.  

I walk around and meet all the parents.  I ask lots of questions and get to know them.  Last year, I was the new parent to soccer.  My older daughter's team had all played together for several years and then my middle daughter's team was over half returning kids who knew each other.  This year my daughters' team is half returning, half new.  My son's team is almost entirely new.  

Last night one of the few returning kids came for the first time to practice and started messing with my son.  I called my son on his behavior and we talked.  I came home and realized how thankful I am to be homeschooling my son.  I've always been thankful that my girls were homeschooled for their first school years because they didn't get picked on for being small and bullied.  Now they are older and stronger...and able to stand up for themselves without being scarred by the other kids.  Last night I realized that my son has growing to do before he will be strong enough to stand consistently against peer pressure and behave when the kids around him aren't.  

This week what Walt Wangerin Jr. said about kids has been ever present on my mind--that as parents we are to protect our children and prepare them for the future.  Part of preparing them is helping them learn how to act and behave and cope with all the different social situations they will face in life.  Some of those situations will be knowing how to deal with bullies.  Other situations will involve knowing how to tackle the pain of life and the sin they will encounter.

I think that we as adults can struggle with processing the pain as much as our kids do.  How do we think about and understand death?  Natural disasters?  Satan?  Divorce?  Adultery? But beyond that, how do we talk with our children about these things and explain to them why things happen?  I talk with my husband and friends.  I pray and read the Bible.  These topics are tough to tackle.  

I did come across a book recently that was sent to me for review that tackles a few of these questions.  The book is titled Answering Your Kids' Toughest Questions: Helping Them Understand Loss, Sin, Tragedies, and Other
Hard Topics
by Elyse Fitzpatrick and Jessica Thompson (Elyse's daughter).  This book tackles the questions I mention in the previous chapter.  This book is not a how to filled with scripts of what to say to your children.  It includes short essays or paragraphs on the topics so that parents can have ideas of verses to share from the Word and ideas of how and what to explain.

My children learned what divorce was a few years ago, but I didn't explain to them the "why" at the time.  This past spring I explained to them the "why" when the parents of a friend of theirs got divorced.  They're older now and we felt they needed to know.  I did explain that divorce comes because of sin--either on one person's part or both in the marriage.  

I read what this book said on several topics.  On the topic of homosexuality, the authors break it down between preschool, ages 5-10 and 11 and up.  I appreciated what the authors said for the oldest and youngest groups, but felt a little different about the 5-10 group.  The authors didn't explicitly say it is a sin and honestly, this is the age when kids are in school and they are being told today that it is right and even good by our culture and their school lessons.  My husband pointed out to me that it's important to us the word sin so that our kids understand what's a sin.

I once talked with our kids about selfishness, but didn't directly call it a sin at first.  I softened it.  I wanted to make it easier somehow for them.  But, I realized that I shouldn't.  That's where I think this book can be helpful.  The first topic is "What is Sin?"  I do like how the authors tackle this and discuss it.  It's good food for thought.  That's the thing about this book. I realize that I don't have to say or agree with everything in this book or how the authors would address a topic.  It's a book of ideas.  A place to start.

There has been a difficult topic on my mind this week and I am troubled about how I will explain it to my children when they become aware of a particular situation.  It has deeply troubled my own heart.  I am going to pray about it and ask God to give me wisdom to know what to say when my children bring it up or when I feel Him impress upon my heart that I need to talk with them about it.  As their parent, it is my job to protect them and prepare them for the future.  Parenting babies and toddlers is tough.  Parenting children as they grow up is tough, too--in a very different way...

Please note that I received a complimentary copy of this book for review from Bethany House Publishing.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

The Series Continues On...

A few years ago, my girls came upon Adventures in Odyssey's Imagination Station series of books.  This series is similar to the Magic Treehouse Books.   I haven't read one in quite some time.  A month or two ago, the most recent addition to the series arrived, Captured on the High Seas.  My girls quickly read it and seemed to enjoy it.

Amidst the busyness, I did not get a review posted of this book.  Now that the kids' bedrooms are painted I realize that the time has come to catch up!  So, I'm starting with this book.

The Imagination Station series focuses on cousins Patrick and Beth.  Captured on the High Seas is the second of a 3 adventure series set in the American Revolutionary War.  The first book, The Red Coats are Coming, found them at the battle of Concord.  This book finds Patrick and Beth on an American Ship that is captured by the British.  They become friends with a boy named James.  He helps them and they help him.  It is very dangerous for him to be on the British ship because he will likely be sold as a slave.  The story is all about their attempt to escape.

On the positive side, there's nothing to be concerned about in this book.  It's wholesome and safe.  On the other hand, it's written, well...  As adults we often read books that we can blaze through and are easy to read.  There is no challenge in them or complex description.  These are the books that I describe as "made for tv movies".  That would be a good description for this book.  It is a "made for tv cartoon".  There's simple sentence structure and description.  As I was reading, I often felt like there were jumps that the readers have to make as they read in this book.  

After reading this book, I went to my girls' bedroom and picked up a Magic Treehouse book, a book by Dick King-Smith, and A Capital Mystery by Ron Roy.  I have to admit that of this group of books, the one by Dick King-Smith stands heads above the rest.  As I read excerpts from each of them, I was glad that there are ten Dick King-Smith books on their bookshelves.  I was glad that there are so many good classics on their shelves.  I'm okay with my kids reading the books in their series, but I wouldn't want this series or the Magic Treehouse Books or Ron Roy's books to be all their literary diet consisted of.  It would be like only drinking chocolate milk for food all day.  They need some meat so they can grow strong.  

If your kids have been reading this series of books, I'm sure they'll enjoy this one as they did the others.

Please note that I received a complimentary copy of this book for review from Tyndale Publishing.