What I’m Using to Homeschool My Kindergartener

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My 5-year-old is doing kindergarten, and has been since August, since she was 4 when I started, we wrapped up some of the unfinished preschool curriculum. After a long winter break, we’re looking forward to getting back to it. Here’s what we’re using right now (note: we don’t do all subjects all days, and the total time sitting – not counting science experiments, reading books together, art projects, music stuff, etc. is only about an hour and a half. The majority of her days are still spent playing.):

Reading:

We were using The Ordinary Parent’s Guide to Teaching Reading by Jessie Wise and Sara Buffington. However, the curriculum really didn’t suit my gal, and I’d been really curious about what All About Reading had to offer. So, I switched it up. We’re now using level 1, and we love it. It’s hands-on, has reinforcing activities, and most importantly really works well with my gal’s learning style. They just came out with a color version, and it’s gorgeous. I’ll be talking more about that next week.

Penmanship/Writing:

For writing, we’re doing a lot of tracing of words and letters, but we’re also reinforcing proper letter formation using Zaner-Bloser Handwriting Grade K. We do a page or two each day. She loves this.

Spelling: MCP Spelling Workout A

I started with MCP Spelling Workout A before I switched to All About Reading. I’m on the fence about continuing with it or changing to All About Spelling Level 1 once we finish All About Reading Level 1 and begin Level 2 as recommended.

Literature:

For literature, I’m working on making sure she’s familiar with classics and contemporary picture books. We’re using a variety of resources as well as the book, fairy tales, poetry, nursery rhymes, etc. lists from What Your Kindergartener Needs to Know.

Math:

We’re using Singapore Math Essential Math Kindergarten A and B. We’re about halfway through book B, so we’ll be starting the “first grade” book probably in March if we keep moving at the pace she’s setting. She loves math.

Thinking Skills:

I’m using Kumon’s Kindergarten Thinking Skills Workbooks. We’ve almost finished the Logic book.

Science:

Science is kind of a hodge-podge, like literature. It’s partially interest-based, partially driven by what’s in What Your Kindergartener Needs to Know, and partially based on various science kits we have and fun experiment ideas I come across that fit the season/interests. I just got 180 Days of Science to add to the mix just to make sure we’re hitting all the standards and building a solid foundation for 1st grade. Science is another favorite subject, so we also read a lot of books on topics and watch YouTube videos.

Social Studies:

We’re reading a variety of picture books about historical events and biographies of great figures. We also read selections from What Your Kindergartener Needs to Know and discuss what we read. For geography, we’re using DK Geography, KindergartenWe also have a daily calendar we do, and we’re using My Book of Easy Telling Time. We also do a lot of talking about community roles and safety and other things.

Art:

We do a lot of art projects, drawing, coloring, etc. around here. She also has a class she does with her grandparents and loves.

Music:

We’re taking a break from violin at the moment. We listen to a variety of music, and I point out the different styles and talk about instruments and famous musicians.

Misc./Social Activities/P.E.

We’re doing Girl Scouts this year, and a dance class. She wants to do a running group for kids this spring. We also go to the local zoo’s classes as we can.

Happy New Year!

2018 was kind of an odd year around here. I’d hoped to have the blog more populated than it currently is, but life happens. That said, happy new year! It’s 2019 now, and we’re finishing out our winter break (It’s futile to attempt to homeschool while my 20-year-old is home visiting from college. It’s just too much excitement for my kindergartener and preschooler.) That said, I think they are as ready as I am to get back into our routine.

We have some new activities for the new year – Girl Scouts, basketball, hip hop dancing, and even Little Miss Ladybug will be taking a tot dance class. I’m really looking forward to all the fun opportunities this year. We managed to catch Paw Patrol Live over this past weekend, and the kids got a big kick out of it. I was impressed with it, I’d never seen a kids show live before, and was quite taken with the detail on the props and storyline.

What are your goals for 2019? For me, I want to make sure I’m adding in fun science and art projects. I’ll need to put them on the calendar to make sure that they get done. It’s not that I don’t enjoy doing them – I really do, and the kids love them. It’s just that when things get busy, those are often the first things that get set aside in the name of “saving time” and I’m tired of doing that.

I also have a personal goal of reading at least 12 books this year. I’m going to be started with Margaret Atwood’s A Handmaid’s Tale. I know, I know, I’m a little late to the game, but I binge-watched the show on Hulu while I was sick (I really don’t suggest doing that unless you’re a glutton for punishment), and now I feel the need to read the book.

I also want to make better use of our local secular homeschooling group and try to make meetings at least once a month. It can be hard when running a business from home and with no car, but I think it’s necessary to make a stronger effort.

What are your 2019 goals? Feel free to share them in the comments!

Resource Review: National Geographic’s Field Guide to Birds

One of my favorite activities to undertake with my kids is heading out into nature and taking a look at what different forms of flora and fauna we see. I’ve been meaning to build a collection of field guides so I can help my kids to identify the different things we see. When I was offered the chance to review National Geographic’s Field Guide to the Birds of North America, I was happy to do so.

This volume is a really great reference to have on hand – both for any nature studies and just for watching outside of your windows. I wish I’d had it on hand months ago when we had a large bird of some sort hanging out on one of our trees (I think it was a hawk). There are greatly detailed illustrations of the different birds, depicting adult birds and their young. Each entry has a map showing where the bird is commonly found – to help with identification – and a little summary of the bird. I’m sure it will come in useful many times in the coming years, and I would argue that good field guides are must-haves for anyone teaching biology and ecology at home.

About Field Guide To The Birds Of North America

• Paperback: 592 pages
• Publisher: National Geographic; 7 edition (September 12, 2017)

This fully revised and updated edition of the best-selling North American bird field guide is the most up-to-date guide on the market.

Perfect for beginning to advanced birders, it is the only book organized to match the latest American Ornithologists’ Union taxonomy. With more than 2.75 million copies in print, this perennial bestseller is the most frequently updated of all North American bird field guides. Filled with hand-painted illustrations from top nature artists, this latest edition is poised to become an instant must-have for every serious birder in the United States and Canada.

The 7th edition includes 37 new species for a total of 1,023 species. Sixteen new pages allow for 250 fresh illustrations, 80 new maps, and 350 map revisions. With taxonomy updated to recent significant scientific rearrangement, the addition of standardized banding codes, and text completely vetted by birding experts, this new edition will stand at the top of the list of birding field guides for years to come.

Social Media

Please use the hashtag #fieldguidetothebirdsofnorthamerica and tag @tlcbooktours.

Purchase Links

National Geographic | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Resource Review: The Splendor of Birds

I have a confession: I don’t like birds. I mean, I think they’re absolutely beautiful creatures, but for some reason, they terrify me. That said, every one of my kids has been fascinated with birds – and with good reason. They fly, they’re beautiful, and they’re covered in feathers. National Geographic’s The Splendor of Birds is the first of two resources on learning about birds that I had the opportunity to review  (the second resource will be reviewed later this week).

This volume goes through the history of art and photographs depicting birds in National Geographic. This is a visually stunning volume. In addition to the imagery in the book, there are excerpts from National Geographic covering birds. My kids enjoyed looking through the book and seeing the vast variety of birds that there are in the world. This is a great volume ot have in your homeschool library for artistic reference (for kids wanting to draw birds), biology reference, and just for kids who are curious about birds to look through.

About The Splendor of Birds

• Hardcover: 512 pages
• Publisher: National Geographic (October 23, 2018)

An elegant collection of the best artwork and photography from the National Geographic archives depicting the magnificence of birds.

Bird, nature, and art lovers alike will treasure this sumptuous visual celebration of the colors, forms, and behaviors of the winged wonders who share our world as they have been explored, displayed, and revealed throughout the years by National Geographic. The book moves chronologically so readers witness the tremendous growth in our knowledge of birds over the last 130 years, as well as the new frontiers in technology and observation–from luminous vintage paintings and classic black and white photographs to state-of-the art high-speed and telephoto camera shots that reveal moments rarely seen and sights invisible to the human eye. The wide diversity of pictures captures beloved songbirds outside the kitchen window, theatrical courtship dance of birds of paradise, tender moments inside a tern’s nest, or the vivid flash of a hummingbird’s flight. Readers will delight in seeing iconic species from around the world through the eyes of acclaimed National Geographic wildlife photographers such as Chris Johns, Frans Lanting, Joel Sartore, and Tim Laman and reading excerpted passages from Arthur A. Allen, Roger Tory Peterson, Douglas Chadwick, Jane Goodall, and other great explorers. Exquisitely produced and expertly curated, this visual treasury displays as never before the irresistible beauty, grace, and intelligence of our feathered friends.

Purchase Links

National Geographic | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Resource Review: National Geographic’s Space Atlas

My kids love space and all things planets and astronauts. I suspect a lot of kids feel the same (I know I did as a kid). When I was offered the opportunity to review National Geographic’s Space Atlas, I was thrilled to do so. This volume is nothing less than stellar. The illustrations are vivid and informative. Who knew there was so much of the surface of Mercury mapped? As I flipped through it with my nearly-three year old looking over my shoulder, I appreciated how the book provides a nice visual aid in teaching about our solar system on a very basic level, but then it also provides a nice reference resource for middle schoolers and high school students.

In addition to mapping out the universe, National Geographic’s Space Atlas also has information about the history of astronomy, the origins of the universe (The Big Bang), and the history of space travel. It makes for an outstanding reference resource for all homeschooling families.

About Space Atlas

• Hardcover: 352 pages
• Publisher: National Geographic; 2 edition (October 23, 2018)

Space Atlas combines updated maps, lavish photographs, and elegant illustrations to chart the solar system, the universe, and beyond. For space enthusiasts, science lovers, and star gazers, here is the newly revised edition of National Geographic’s enduring guide to space, with a new introduction by American hero Buzz Aldrin.

In this guided tour of our planetary neighborhood, the Milky Way and other galaxies, and beyond, detailed maps and fascinating imagery from recent space missions partner with clear, authoritative scientific information. Starting with the sun and moving outward into space, acclaimed science writer and physicist James Trefil illuminates each planet, the most important moons, significant asteroids, and other objects in our solar system. Looking beyond, he explains what we know about the Milky Way and other galaxies–and how we know it, with clear explanations of the basics of astrophysics, including dark matter and gravitational waves. For this new edition, and to celebrate the 50th anniversary of his moonwalk, astronaut and American hero Buzz Aldrin offers a new special section on Earth’s moon and its essential role in space exploration past and future.

Purchase Links

National Geographic | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Resource Review: Visual Atlas of the World

Every household should have an up-to-date-atlas, especially if that household is a homeschooling household. Recently, I received National Geographic’s Visual Atlas of the World to review on this blog. The book is rather large (as an atlas should be) and it comes with a slip box to help keep it looking nice. In addition to containing many maps, the atlas has sections on how to use an atlas and geographical features.

The illustrations and photographs are gorgeous, of course, one expects nothing less when it comes to National Geographic. What really impressed me, however, is that the educational value of this volume goes much deeper than just looking to see where things are. My preschooler poured over the pages while I was flipping through, pointing at different landmarks and asking what they were. It’s going to be an invaluable resource, both as we learn geography and as we learn about history and current events through the years.

About Visual Atlas of the World

• Hardcover: 416 pages
• Publisher: National Geographic; 2 edition (September 19, 2017)

Uniting National Geographic’s incomparable photography with state-of-the-art cartographic technology, this is the most compelling, authoritative, and up-to-the-moment visual atlas on the market.

Reimagined and completely updated for the first time since 2008, National Geographic’s visual atlas of the world will delight and inspire. From spectacular space imagery to UNESCO World Heritage Sites, this stunning book showcases the diverse natural and cultural treasures of the world in glorious color. Featuring more than 200 fascinating maps, more than 350 new photos, and state-of-the-art cartography and satellite imagery, this is a must-have reference for families, travelers, students, librarians, and scholars. Each page was created in collaboration with the world’s premier scientists, geographers, and cartographers and is populated with the most up-to-date information available, making this book the most beautiful and authoritative visual atlas available today.

 

Purchase Links

National Geographic | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

How to Get Started Planning Your Homeschooling Year

Plan Your Homeschooling Year

I’m a big fan of lesson planning. I know, I know, there are many people out there who do not enjoy the planning process, and many balk at it. I find that planning is a key component of having a successful year and combating that malaise we get when the excitement of new curriculum wears off. It helps to ensure that your child is having all of her or his educational needs met. The best part of planning: You can always change things if they’re not working out. After a couple of years, you’ll have a good idea of what works for your family and what does not work for your family. Here is how I plan my homeschooling year.

1. I look up state standards, Common Core standards, and Core Knowledge standards

Every state varies a little bit in what they expect for each grade level. I know, it’s super-annoying to me, too. It’s one of the reasons I think a standardized list of standards is important (say that five times fast). The reason I start my planning by looking at and noting standards is I want to guard against holes in my kids’ knowledge. It’s also important to know where children “should” be at for their grade level – just in case anything happens and I have to send my kids into a traditional school setting.

I live in Kansas, and a lot of the standards are a little more behind other state standards, so I also pull up California, Pennsylvania, and New York.  I know. It seems like a lot of work. A lot of the standards overlap. But some standards do not, and some topics in science and history, in particular, have radically different state standards in Kansas from the standards in Pennsylvania and New York.

I also look up the Common Core standards. I know a lot of people thumb their nose at them, but it’s still important to be aware of what the actual language is and what the “Common Core” actually says. Finally, I look up the Core Knowledge standards.

2. I enter those standards into my record-keeping software.

I use Homeschool Tracker. I do have some qualms about using it, but I’ve also found that it’s the best for what I want to track and for how my mind works. I’ll do a post soon about different types of homeschool planning programs.

This is such a tedious step, but if you use a program that allows you to enter standards in, you’ll be able to create assignments and pull in the standards. When the assignment is completed, it marks that that skill has been worked on. That’s super useful in putting together an end-of-year report and portfolio. Yes, I live in a state that doesn’t require any of this stuff. I want to know where my kids are at and what they’ve learned. I like being able to print off a report on that.

3. I review my curriculum and make note of how it aligns to standards

By the time I’m sitting down to plan, I’ve already purchased my curriculum. BUT! When I’m entering in standards, I’ll sometimes find holes that I need to fill. I make a note to find resources for these things so they don’t get skipped. I then search my local library, the Internet, and Amazon to see if I can find resources to make sure that I don’t have significant gaps in the education my kids are receiving. Oh, and sometimes, I find that a field trip or an outside class will do just what I need it to do.

4. I have a composition book for my records for each kid

I don’t want to be glued to my computer while teaching. It’s too tempting to go into Facebook world or trying-to-get-things-done land. So, I created a notebook for each child. At the front, I have a list of the courses we’re studying, then a list of resources with abbreviations I’ll use. At the back, I paper clip off some pages so I can write down the titles of any books we read so I can add those to the record-keeping software. Each day, I’ll write what I want to accomplish & any extra we do.

When I’m planning the next year, I have a more realistic picture of what my child does in a single day and a single week. This helps me to better plan for that child. I highlight what was planned ahead and leave the extra that was done alone. If we don’t finish what was planned, I put a small dot next to it and carry it into the next day.

5. I sort my resources by course

This goes without saying. Sort resources by course.

6. I figure out what our homeschool schedule will be

Kansas asks for 186 days and not less than 6 hours per day for grades 1-11. Since we’re doing Kindergarten and Preschool this year, I don’t need to worry about so much, but I do try to schedule out at least 186 days just so we’re in the habit.

7. I outline each course by topic

I select one course resource to be the main resource by which I outline the entire course. Other resources then become the supplemental resources. I go through and ensure that everything matches up. This means some jumping around in some resource materials, but it also makes for much easier scheduling. I put this outline into a Word document.

8. I create my lesson plans

I enter in my lesson plans into Homeschool Tracker. I used to plan out the whole year at once. Now I only do that if I’m absolutely certain that a curriculum works for us. Otherwise, I enter the lesson plans for the next month. That way, if something’s not working for our family, I didn’t spend a lot of time entering stuff from a resource we won’t continue to use. Also, a month’s time gives me a good idea of how fast/slow we’re going to move through the material I have planned, so I can make adjustments for the next month.

How do you plan out your homeschooling year?

Share your thoughts in the comments. I’m always looking for ways to tweak my system!