We have a new post up on the homeschooling blog!
We reviewed the Circuit Maze from ThinkFun – finally! Mama had a hard time wrapping her brain around electricity at first, but I finally got the hang of it! I learned something new along with the kids!
Are you a homeschooling family? Did you know I have a blog dedicated entirely to homeschooling?
One of the latest posts I created there was a review of Marie's Words vocabulary cards. Head over there for great homeschooling information and to see some video clips of our homeschool!
One thing I have been wanting to spend more time on in our homeschool is helping the kids to work on thinking skills.
I have one child in particular who will give up as soon as they have to think too hard about something.
I needed to figure out how to stretch this child's “thinking muscles” in a way that would not be a battle of the wills between us. I needed to help this child want to exercise those muscles.
When we had the opportunity to review the Laser Maze Jr. from Timberdoodle, I knew it was the perfect thing!
Disclosure: we received a free game from Timberdoodle. As always, all opinions are 100% my own.
Laser Maze Jr. is a fun game, but you can't win it unless you put in a little brain power!
What I love:
What I disliked:
I can't think of any reason to dislike this game! It is affordably priced, and it has been a really good solution to one of my biggest homeschooling frustrations.
How it works:
The game board comes with a slot where you slide in a grid. The grid shows through the bottom of the board and tells where the different elements need to go for that level.
In the picture above, my daughter is doing the very easiest level. She has one rocket ship which must be placed where the card says, and she has one mirror that she must use to direct the laser beam onto the rocket to “launch” it. (She was supposed to predict where the beam would go before she turned it on. You can see in the picture that she did not get it right.)
As the levels get more difficult, more rockets are added, as well as additional mirrors and even rocks to block the path of the laser beam from reaching the rocket.
My husband pulled out the hardest level (Level 40) just to see how hard it would really be. It wasn't super challenging for a grown man who has a very strategic brain, but it did take him a few minutes of thinking to come up with the right solution. It will definitely take lots of practice for the kids to work their way up to that level, so I know we'll get a ton of use out of the game.
Handwriting is an essential part of what our children need to learn. They'll be writing every single day of their lives, and it's up to us to help them develop handwriting skills to make this essential life skill easier for them!
Many times I have seen homeschooled children struggle with handwriting. I have seen a lot of homeschoolers with very messy handwriting. There are plenty of children in “regular” schools with messy handwriting too, but here are some of the mistakes that seem to be specific to homeschooling families when it comes to teaching handwriting:
1. They don't make it a priority. It's easy to get overwhelmed with all that must be done as a homeschooling family. I get it. There is not only schoolwork to be done, but housework, supper, running errands, and soccer practice and piano lessons. The need to simplify and streamline is always there.
I think many times a dedicated handwriting class is one of the first things to go because we think, “My children are writing all day while they do their various assignments. Why should I eat up more time with a handwriting class when we can just combine handwriting with their other subjects?”
That's a valid question, and as a homeschooling mom, I've thought the same thing.
But here's why I think it's important to have a specific time designated for practicing handwriting skills, even if it's just for a few minutes a day:
2. Their child is so ahead that they're behind. This is what happened with my second child. She has always been very observant while I taught her older brother, and she just couldn't wait to get started. Before I even realized what was happening, she was reading, writing, and doing arithmetic problems without my having formally taught her any of it!
While it has been amazing and fun to watch her soar academically with no help or prompting, there are some places where I am having to back up and re-do some things because she learned them the wrong way. This is especially true when it comes to her handwriting. Reading and spelling aren't much of a problem because she has been able to observe the correct way to make sounds and spell words. But with writing, she has only been able to observe the finished product of the letters rather than the actual process of writing them. She forms the letters the best way she can figure out, writes them too large or too small, and doesn't put any spaces between her words.
I could either be excited that she has figured all of this out on her own and let things continue to roll, or I can back up and teach her how to do it right. If I let things continue as they are, she will only continue to engrain in her muscle memory the wrong formations of the letters. We need to go back and allow her some focused practice on doing things the right way. Skipping it will result in a lowered quality of handwriting from here on out.
3. They don't know how to model good handwriting themselves. I can remember watching some of the education majors where I went to college practicing their handwriting. They had worksheets just like we had in elementary school, and they had to work on them over and over and over until they were perfect. I would assume that most teachers with an education degree had this type of class in college. Homeschooling parents don't usually have that type of training behind them. We don't always have the neatest handwriting ourselves, and we don't always know what to look for when it comes to correcting our children's handwriting.
But if we're going to be able to equip our children with good handwriting skills, we'll have to do something about that!
I think the most important thing we can do is to invest in a good handwriting curriculum. A good homeschool handwriting curriculum will not only provide the practice your child needs, it will also equip you, the parent, to teach them properly.
I've been reviewing a handwriting curriculum called BestEver Handwriting, and I am very happy with how well it helps the parent in teaching their child. Lately I am adopting more and more of a Charlotte Mason philosophy in our homeschool, which includes mainly copywork for handwriting, but I also believe it is important to incorporate something more than that.
Most homeschooling parents are not trained to teach their child all they need through copywork alone. If you are not specifically trained in teaching handwriting, I think a guided curriculum is important. (Handwriting is more complicated than it might seem!)
With the BestEver Handwriting Curriculum, we received all of their workbooks as well as the Writing Journal and Phonics Packet. These materials are everything I need for teaching handwriting for the first several years of homeschooling. (After that, daily practice through copywork should be sufficient.)
Each book has instructions for the teacher on helping the student with proper pencil position, posture, and paper placement. As you proceed through the lessons, there are additional notes to help with proper letter formation. I love that everything the teacher needs as well as everything for the student are all included in the same book. There are no lesson plans to prepare; I simply need to work page by page through the book with my child.
The Level 1 Book starts off with pre-writing practice, which is very helpful for children as they gain coordination.
When it comes to my appreciation for the Charlotte Mason method of education, I was happy to see that there is a good bit of integration with other aspects of language, like punctuation and capitalization as well as story prompts and a drawing/journaling notebook. I really feel that this curriculum is offering the best of both worlds – formal, focused practice on the letter formation, and then integrating handwriting with other subjects once letter formation skills have been sufficiently developed.
We have a two-fold goal in our homeschool:
First, to teach our children Godly character and second, to equip them with the academic skills they need for life.
Using studies of great missionaries is a great way to help meet both of those goals!
When we read missionary biographies and do more in-depth studies on those missionaries, there are 5 (at least) things that are happening with our children:
I have moved all of my homeschooling posts to christianhomeschoolfamily.com.
You can go here to read this post at the new site.
Now I want to give you my reasons for choosing to go this route and how a video curriculum benefits our homeschool.
When it's time to start our school day, I usually need just a few minutes to get a load of laundry started, make my bed, and deal with small emergencies (toddler wet the bed, baby needs a diaper change, etc.) It is so helpful to me when the older children can go ahead and start their day independently. They just have to turn on their video and watch their class. That gives me enough time to be able to start my day as homeschool mom without feeling frazzled or having the kids create a big mess in the school room while they were waiting for me.
(Small con here: I do wish the lessons were a little longer. Sometimes they're really short and I have to tell them to do a second one because I'm still in the middle of bathing a toddler.)
It's good for my children to be given an assignment by the teacher on the video and to be expected to complete it without mom hanging over their shoulder. They learn to listen and follow instructions better when they know I'm not there to repeat myself or help them with something they shouldn't have needed help with.
Note: Most lessons have a small assignment in a workbook, and the teacher on the video gives all the instructions for it.
My kids have come home from church several times saying things like, “I was tempted to snitch the animal crackers out of the Sunday School classroom today, but I didn't do it. Know why? My teacher taught us that God always see us and that we need to do right whether anyone is watching or not.” The first couple times that happened I thought, “How many times have I taught you that at home and it hasn't seemed to click with you?” But I eventually realized that hearing things from multiple people with multiple teaching styles is very good for my children. The more people who teach them the same things, the more they realize there is something to it after all. It's not something mom and dad are just making up.
Preparing lessons as a homeschool mom is time-consuming, so it is very refreshing to have a subject where I don't have to do anything other than watch my children learn.
Note: There are instructions at the beginning of each lesson outlining what materials will be needed. Occasionally there is a supplemental page that I have to print out, but usually it just tells which worksheet they will complete that day, in which case my kids find the correct page themselves.
The system automatically keeps track of where we left off while still giving us the freedom to move around if we need to. We got behind at the beginning of the year due to some sickness, so we skipped to the Christmas section and then picked up where we left off once Christmas was over.
Singing is an important part of Bible class in my opinion. Singing songs full of truth reinforces the Biblical concepts they are learning and gives my children an opportunity to praise the Lord through song.
Note: The songs on the videos are recordings sung by children, and my children just love singing along.
Small con: I wish there were a longer singing time. Most lessons only have one song and my kids are always disappointed that there is not more. This would help create longer lesson times too (see #1).
My kids hear me teaching them all day long; it's nice for them to experience someone besides mom.
The teacher teaches with illustrations and visuals that I simply would not have the time to prepare and use if I were teaching the class myself. The videos from BJU Press also occasionally include people dressed up as Bible characters from the lesson to make it come alive even more.
You can see that video schooling has a lot of benefits that my children would not experience otherwise.
We have done all of our subjects by video in the past, but have moved away from a full video curriculum for several reasons which I will explain in a future post.
But I am so thankful that BJU Press Distance Learning respects the fact that all parents don't want an all-or-nothing approach to video schooling. I was thrilled to find out that I could purchase single subjects through their distance learning. Other video curriculum that I have looked at does not have that as an option, but instead the subjects are always combined.
One of my children is in 3rd grade and one is in 2nd grade. We chose the 3rd grade course and both children watch Bible class together. (My preschooler sits in too if he is not getting a bath. 🙂 )
Of course, with any Bible curriculum my first criteria would be that it is doctrinally sound. BJU Press Bible is right in line with what our family believes so I know that I don't have to worry about my children being taught error.
You can view all Distance Learning Bible classes by grade at this link. (You can also choose DVD's as opposed to streaming video.)
Or if you want to explore the possibility of purchasing your entire homeschool curriculum through BJU Press Distance Learning, you can do that here.