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(Giveaway) Our Favorite Homeschool Writing Curriculum

There was a time period many years ago where both of our girls hated writing. All the joy, fun, and creativity had been sucked out of that subject thanks to me and the belief that writing could only be done one way (thank.you.very.much), and there was no wiggle room allowed.

(I was desperately wrong, in case you were wondering).

Many of us get caught up in the ‘right way’ to teach something (or maybe that’s just me), and in the process we often forget that learning should be fun and something our kids desire to do. When the creativity literally shriveled up in our girls, it was a moment when I realized we needed to stop and bring the life back into a subject that was dry, dry, dry – and make it fun!

Enter WriteShop…

We picked up a set of holiday StoryBuilder cards from WriteShop before one Christmas break and suddenly, based on three little prompts, the writing floodgates opened and stories began to pour out of our girls. Notebooks were filled (and kept going and going) in just a short timeframe. The love for writing returned.

Ironically, we already had one level of WriteShop on our shelf, but I had put it aside for something else (hello, shiny). We pulled that book back off the shelf, ordered additional levels, and haven’t looked back since! WriteShop has become the writing program of choice for our children, and one that I wholeheartedly recommend to other families.

A Solid Writing Base

writeshop-features-1and2-b

This year, Laurianna (11th grade) has been taking dual credit English classes at our community college that require a lot of detailed writing assignments. I’ll admit that at first I was nervous – would she be able to handle the requirements? 

In her sixth and seventh grade years, she completed both WriteShop I and WriteShop II and went on to work through three years of a high school literature program in which I based the writing rubrics off our time with WriteShop – and you all, she has been SO prepared! The foundation those two years gave her were truly the core of her writing.

Not only did the WriteShop I and II programs prepare her, they prepared me as a teacher to truly instruct her in the writing process (from essays to research papers), evaluate her work, and offer constructive feedback. As I mentioned before, the grading rubrics were highly instrumental in our high school literature program as well and helped in various co-op classes when needing to provide instruction and guidance to those students.

Really truly, the one thing that I keep repeating to my high school lit classes – being able to write a strong paper is one of the most important things in education. Choosing words carefully, writing a persuasive argument, proper spelling – writing is a part of almost every facet of our lives!

A few words written poorly can make all the difference, and I want our kids to have a strong writing background, which I know they will thanks to WriteShop.

I’ll also admit that the teacher’s guides in the WriteShop 1 and WriteShop 2 levels have greatly spoiled me. The grading rubrics and instructions are very clear – such a huge help to a busy homeschool mom, and the step-by-step program is easy to follow for both students and teachers.

Something for EVERY Grade Level

While I’ve shared much of our love for the WriteShop I & II programs, they truly have a writing program or tool for every grade level, and it’s never too late to jump in and start. Our younger children are also using their programs (Junior and now WriteShop I), and we have worked through all the levels of their programs in recent years. We really love it that much!

From grades K through high school, there is truly something for each of the children in your home to use. 

WriteShop Birthday Sale & GIVEAWAY

WriteShop

This month, WriteShop is celebrating their 17th birthday! To celebrate they have some great deals AND a giveaway for you!! Here are the ways you can save and enter to win: 

  1. SALESave 17% on all digital sets and bundles the entire month of January! (WriteShop video courses are excluded from this offer.)
  2. FREE BONUS: Buy ANY digital or print set during their Birthday Event in January 2018, and you can choose any one product from the Writing Extras category. Use the code 17years at checkout During the 17th Birthday Event, when you buy any set (digital or print) you may choose any one product from the Writing Extras category for free by using code 17years at checkout. 
  3. GIVEAWAY: 5 winners may select their choice of curriculum set. WOOT!!!

Enter the giveaway here:

 

FREE Writing Prompts

WriteShop

Don’t miss their FREE writing prompts either! These are a fantastic way to get a peek into the WriteShop programs – and get hooked as our family did! From elementary through high school, there are mini-lessons, story prompts, word prompts, and programs to encourage and help even the most reluctant writers! Here are a few reviews that’s I’ve written in the past:

Writing doesn’t have to be another chore you add to your homeschool day. It can be fun and productive – and inspire your family to creative writing for years to come.

Fun Hands-on Learning with Tinker Crate

It’s officially summer. And for our home that means that we’re spending a lot of time outside, at the pool, and have scaled back a bit from the lesson plans. 

However, that doesn’t mean that the homeschool learning stops during the summer. In fact, it’s the time that I especially try to provide hands-on learning opportunities to ward off the summer slump. 

Our boys are especially excited when they have things to build. Me, I’m excited when the lesson plans are already put together and I don’t have to do any prep. Tinker Crate offers the perfect fit for our family – a kit that includes everything we need (no shopping for me), detailed direction, and the chance for our kids to work on STEM projects and keep the learning going. 

Homeschool Learning with the Infinity Mirror 

Kaleb and I recently worked on the Infinity Mirror crate and had a fun learning about double sided mirrors and illusions. Overall, the project took us about 20 minutes to put together (I did have to help him a little bit). 

Tinker Crates are recommended for ages 9-16+ (Kaleb is 10), but even though he was on the lower end of the age range, he was easily able to follow along with the directions. 

What’s Included in the Tinker Crate

  • The full project – and all the materials you need to create
  • Your blueprint – how to put your project together
  • The Tinker Zine – more activities and learning opportunities
  • Links to video tutorials of all Tinker Crate projects

As a mom, I have to say that having EVERYTHING in the box is a huge help for me. There is nothing to cut out, trim, make “just right” – it is something we can literally pull out and start building. (This makes me happy!) I also love the terms they use to help kids get in the mode of tinkering – blueprints are still instructions, but they are setting the stage for the science and engineering that will happen!

Creating the Iris 

The first step in creating our infinity mirror was putting together the iris. This was one of the areas I had to help a little because it involved double sided sticky dots (and peeling the right layer off can be a little tricky at times). 

At first glance the iris doesn’t seem anything special – just a round circle, but it’s importance is shown once the second step of building the mirror is put into play. Basically, the iris will open/shut with a simple twist. 

Our completed iris took us about 10 minutes to put together – not too bad. All of the templates were included and Kaleb was able to follow the directions easily (both picture and written directions). 

Building the Lens

Once the lens was put together, we worked on the mirror component – and it was really interesting. One of the mirrors was a double-sided piece (allowing you to see through) and the bottom mirror (seen on top above) was a single sided mirror. 

Inside we had a component that we hooked up to a 9v battery and provided light inside when connected and the lens can be opened/closed by twisting the bottom section. With the lights lit, the two mirrors give the illusion that the inside of the lens is bottomless. 

When the light is off, the double sided mirror doesn’t allow any light through so you only see your reflection and nothing else, but when the light is on, the light is allowed through and the illusion begins. 

To give you a little peek, here is a 2 minute clip where we share our infinity mirror (feed readers can click here to see). 

 

A Little More About Tinker Crate (& Thoughts From Me)

Tinker Crate is one of the hands-on learning crates from KiwiCo and targeted toward ages 9-16+. They also offer crates for preschool age (Koala Crate), the Kiwi Crate (ages 5-8), and a Doodle Crate (ages 9-16+). Each of the various crates also focus on different aspects of learning: playing, art & design, science, and engineering.

The projects have all been reviewed by child development experts and are kid-approved. Crates come with free shipping and subscribers receive additional benefits, including bonus online content to extend the learning.

Learn more about the monthly subscription plans here.

Save 30% using code SHARE30 during checkout! 

A Beanbag Your Family Will LOVE!

In our home I’m not much for clutter, knick-knacks, or items that do not have a specific purpose (or dual purpose). If it’s something that will just take up space, it’s likely that item will find another home quickly.

More recently something was introduced into our home, and while it takes up a little more space, it has become so very well loved – dare I even say, coveted. Every time I turn around, it has moved because one of the kids has claimed it for the day or week. 

We have been thrilled to have a CordaRoy’s convertible bean bag in our house the last two months. Not only has it provided much comfort all over (it’s been dragged from the basement to the schoolroom and everywhere in between), but it serves a dual purpose – a queen-sized guest bed! It may also hold a special place in my heart since it is the perfect place for a certain 10 year old and me to curl up and read together. 

You all – the people who put this beanbag together are genius. It has been such a wonderful addition to our house and I have been telling everyone how much I love it, especially because you can use it in multiple ways. 

Before we received our CordaRoy’s bean bag, we had purchased a trundle bed to slide under our boys bed when friends came over. Let’s just say, the next morning I found the kiddo sleeping on the floor because the trundle was so uncomfortable. To be fair, we invited this same boy over again to test out our convertible bean bag – he was thrilled to test it out and LOVED it. :) 

Needless to say, that trundle bed is now considered taking up unneeded space and is leaving the house. We have a much better alternative with our bean bag! 

Here’s Why We Love Our CordaRoy’s

It can be used multiple ways – beanbag or bed. I mentioned that I’m not one for clutter. The fact that the bean bag is easy to move around the house and be used as a bean bag some days or opened up to make into a bed, makes it so worth it to us. Our kids are getting bigger, so having the queen-sized option is great, especially for visiting guests. We were able to use a standard set of queen sheets without any issue (bed side is 60 x 80 x 10”). Check out their size comparison chart for a visual: youth, full, queen, and king.

Additionally, there are multiple cover options. We have the charcoal chenille queen sleeper and the color blends in all over the house and is also a soft, plush fabric. Corduroy, velour, faux cowhide and other cover choices are also available. 

It is super comfortable.  Our kids don’t quite fight over the bean bag (other than they each want it in their own room), but this is a bean bag you just sink into and don’t want to get out of. Don’t worry adults – I promise you will be able to get up. Trust me. I’ve done it.

Packed full of memory foam, it envelops you and you will love it. We’ve recently switched to memory foam pillows and the comfort of both together is fabulous. There’s also another member of our house who loves it and won’t stay out – our pup, Addie. She’s rather hilarious in it, curling up whenever she has the chance.

It will LAST. We’ve had other beanbags in the past and hands-down this one feels different and doesn’t compact after a lot of sitting, jumping, or sleeping. Besides that, it has a LIFETIME Guarantee. This may seem insignificant, but after many a flat bean bag, this is a big deal for us. 

Setup is super-easy. When you want to convert the beanbag to a bed or vice versa, it will take only a few minutes (we may have timed ourselves at just over two minutes). One of the kids and I were easily able to do it together (their demo on folding it like a taco is very helpful). Take a quick 30 second peek at the video below to see how easy it is. 

A Special Discount for You!!

CordaRoy’s has offered my readers a 10% discount on any purchase they make. Use the code PXQU during checkout and you’ll save. 

Right now bean bags start at just $99 (youth size), so it’s the perfect time to shop. Additionally, any order over $250 receives free shipping – so double savings for you!

Truly you all – this is something your family (and friends) will use and enjoy for years and something our entire family recommends to yours. I am beyond thrilled with this beanbag and know you will be as well! 

Click HERE to learn more. 

Helping Children Build a Christian Worldview

One of the things that we want for each of our kids is to have a strong foundation and understanding of the Christian faith. Several years ago we were introduced to Apologia’s What We Believe series, and it was a perfect fit for our girls then and has been a great fit for Zachary this year as well, prompting some great talks along the way. The curriculum has quickly become a favorite and earned a permanent spot on our homeschool shelves.

Biblical Worldview Curriculum

What We Believe Apologia

There are four volumes in this worldview series, each one covering a different topic. 

  • Who is God (And Can I Really Know Him?) introduces the concept of worldview while laying the foundational truths upon which the evangelical Christian worldview is built.
  • Who Am I (And What Am I Doing Here?) focuses on having a Biblical (and healthy!!) self-image and understanding how God sees them *Laurianna’s favorite
  • Who is My Neighbor (And Why Does He Need Me?) encourages kids to be a blessing to those around them – at home, in their community – and understand how they have gifts that can be used to help others.
  • What On Earth Can I Do helps children understand what it means to be stewards of all the blessings we have from God and how we can put him first in all that we do.

Each of the books in the series has a hardcover textbook, notebooking journal (or junior version), coloring book, and an audio CD available and can be purchased individually. The textbook is non-consumable, so you only need to purchase additional notebooking journals for the next child to use the book (samples of the books are available from the Apologia website).

The hardcover textbooks – they are STURDY. In the video below you can see ours, and it’s been through three of our kids and another family also borrowed it one year when we weren’t using it.

How We’ve Used the Series

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The books in the What We Believe series are written in a style that our kids enjoy. Each includes fun stories, go-along activities, and notebooking pages to work on with each lesson. Because the books are written at a fifth to sixth grade level, we waited until our kids were in the fifth grade so they could work more independently on each level.

We have chosen to work through three lessons each week using the notebooking journal. When we have our weekly meeting, we review the lessons and talk about the topics covered over the past week. In addition to the main text, we also work through the go-along notebooking journal and complete the questions and activities. The journals are something that I am holding on to, because I love re-reading the kids thoughts and answers and seeing their hearts (just makes me smile).

The main textbook does have a lesson plan guide in it, so if you have a kiddo like ours that isn’t keen on writing, you may want to skip the journal. This past year we still used the journal as a guide for Zachary and he did “complete” the assignments, but typically it was verbally with me during his 1:1 time. 

Although the books are recommended for ages 6 to 14, we personally like the 5th to 7th grade range for starting the series (if working independently). For our girls that meant that they took more time to answer the questions (rather than coming up with simple answers) and really ‘dig in’ to the study – which is exactly what we want! As Zachary has gone through the series, he and I discuss thing without as much writing on his part (since he isn’t as keen on writing by hand). 

Here’s a little look into the first book in the series. 

There are junior journaling notebooks for younger children as well if you choose to work through the series as a family and have children younger than 5th grade. This would be a great family Bible study and one that you could revisit and ‘cycle’ through since there are four books in the series. 

What I Love About the Series

What We Believe series from Apologia - Biblical worldview curriculum

The books in this series are so much more than a quick read – they delve deep into topics and will grow with our kids. The topics are things that we WANT our kids to be learning about – things like serving others, and at times I honestly struggle with how to adequately teach our kids these topics. There are other times when the kids hear something I’ve been saying for a long time, but from another perspective, and it “clicks” with them. 

This series provides a biblical wordview – or perspective – and provides parents with a framework to teach their children in a conversational style. Whether you read the books outloud or get together a few times a week to discuss the topics, your kids will learn and explore topics in depth with you. 

The journals are full-color and a fabulous hands-on tool. I mentioned that some of our children loved them and for others we’ve used them as a guide. Either way they are a great resource as well. For families that use the notebooking approach, these will be a perfect fit!

Find Out More

Visit Apologia.com to learn more about the What We Believe series. Recommended ages for the series are 6 to 14 (younger ages may require more adult assistance).

Be sure to visit Apologia’s Serving Others Pinterest board as well for go-along ideas. 

Are You a Ladybug – Ivy Kids Kit

A little friend and I have been having some fun with the recent Ivy Kids kit for April based on the book Are You a Ladybug. (Can I tell you how much I really miss this kindergarten/first grade age?? Don’t get me wrong – I love the ages my kids are now, but there’s just something about picture books and the simple painting and creating that I absolutely adore. 

Literature-based learning is really one of my favorite things to do with kids. Over the years we have read so many books together and extended the learning between the covers of the books with so many hands-on activities. Ivy Kids puts all of that wonderful-ness into a box, gathers all the supplies you will need, writes the lesson plans for the activities, and you and your children do the fun stuff together. What’s not to love about that? 

Unboxing Our Ivy Kids Literature Kit


For those of you who aren’t familiar, the above video gives you a peek into what is in an Ivy Kids box and how they are put together. 

Our Ladybug Fun

Katelyn was more than excited to see the box of goodies I brought over to use with her, and over the next few weeks we are going to explore the rest of the box together, but I wanted to give you a quick look at some of the fun things we did together already. 

We worked on number identification and covered the numbers we turned over until all the spots were on the ladybug. The number cards that come with the kit – all perforated for easy take-apart (win!). 


Our favorite activity so far has been recreating the life cycle stages of the ladybug. We used modeling clay to create our own bugs (these were all made by Katelyn, age 6). 

We also read the book together and worked on odd and even number identification. Overall, reading the book and completing three activities today took us about 50 minutes – working on those teeny, tiny eggs from the ladybug took some concentration and time!  There are still ten more activities for us to work on together, and we’ll spend time doing that later this week. 

Here’s what the contents of the entire box hold: 

  • The book Are your a Ladybug by Judy Allen and Tudor Humphries
  • Read along Bookmark: Use to assist with reading comprehension.
  • Realistic Life Cycle Figures: Learn more about the 4 stages of a ladybug’s life by exploring the realistic figures.
  • Ladybug Life Cycle: Match each figure to the corresponding stage of the life cycle. Use the realistic life cycle figures as models for an observational drawing. 
  • Clay Model of the Ladybug Life Cycle: Use the colorful clay to make models of each of the 4 stages of the life cycle: eggs, larva, pupa, and adult ladybug. 
  • Ladybug box: Use paints to decorate a cute and functional ladybug box.
  • Ladybug Painted Rocks: Use paints to create beautiful ladybug rocks.These adorable rocks can be used as paper weights, shelf decorations, or additions to your garden.
  • My Ladybug Garden: Grow your own garden and attract ladybugs with easy to grow forget-me-not seeds. Decorate your planter with ladybugs and painted rocks.
  • Ladybug Spots: Roll and Cover: Roll the dice, find the number on the ladybug board, and cover it with a black pom-pom.  
  • Ladybug Paper Plate Craft: Create your own ladybug by placing the stickers onto the plate. Then find a nice spot to hang your ladybug.
  • Ways to Make 5 : Place different numbers of pom-poms on each side of the ladybug to make a total of 5 spots on the ladybug. How many many ways can you make 5 spots on the ladybug? 
  • Ways to Make 10: Place different numbers of pom-poms on each side of the ladybug to make a total of 10 spots on the ladybug. How many many ways can you make 10 spots on the ladybug? 
  • Catch the Aphids: Catch as many aphids as you can with the ladybug racers! Name the letter and letter sound on each aphid you catch! How many can you get?
  • Ladybug Race: Pull-back the ladybugs and then watch them go! Use the number cards to measure the distance that each ladybug traveled.
  • Odd or Even Spots on a Ladybug: Investigate whether a number is odd or even by dividing it equally between the two sides of a ladybug.
  • Ladybug Frame: Add your favorite photo to this ladybug frame and decorate. 

Check Out Ivy Kids Kits for Your Family

New subscribers to Ivy Kids can save 20% using the code IVY20. Free shipping is always available for orders over $60. Don’t forget that the kits are personalized for your child, so if you have more than one child to work on the kit with, you can add on a sibling kit for $5 more! 

Have you used Ivy Kids before? I’d love to hear your favorite book! 

 

Learning the U.S. Presidents – Brainbox Memory Game

How much information do you think you could remember in just 10 seconds? 

Hint: If you brain is 43 years old and living with four children, the answer may be less than you think. 

Recently (when I was pulled into the abyss that is Amazon), I came across Brainbox’s U. S. Presidents game, a memory challenge game for kids (and parents) to learn about the U. S. Presidents and also work on memory and observation skills. It quickly made its way into our Amazon cart and then home. Since making its debut, the kids have been pulling out the cards and learning fun tidbits and facts about our country’s leaders (a definite win!). 

Playing the U.S. Presidents Game

The game is SUPER simple – pretty much three steps: study, remember, and answer a question to win. 

Pick a card from the box, flip over the ten-second timer, and take 10 seconds to review the facts and images on the front of the card.

TRY TO REMEMBER IT ALL! You will be tested…good luck parents.

Roll the die and have someone ask you a question from the six on the back of the card, based on the number you roll. Questions range from years served in office, political party, state born in, nicknames, vice-presidents, to questions about the graphics on the card. 

Collect your cards – the first one to ten wins. If you miss a question, your card goes back in the box for someone else to grab later. 

All of the cards are printed on heavy-duty cards (thicker than typical cardstock and near impossible to bend). There are 44 presidents included in the deck (Trump hasn’t been included yet since the game was published prior to his term). Each card does have little details that will help you as you try to remember (color coding based on presidential party, etc.). 

The set also includes 10 additional cards that cover the presidential parties as well as various landmarks and items specific to US History. A 10 second egg timer and die are also in the box. 

Skills Brainbox US Presidents Works On: 

There are a few things that U. S. Presidents has been great in working on with the kids (and me too!)

  • Thinking strategically – while we do want to learn the facts, you need to figure out picture clues and other strategies (like the color coding) to help you ‘scan’ faster.
  • Memory recall – kids have only a short amount of time to read over the card and commit things to memory. Sometimes something seems like it might be insignificant, but flip the card over and you may be asked how many birds were on the front. You never know what will be asked! 

Recommended Ages:

The game is recommended for ages 8+, but some of that may depend on your child’s reading ability and may result in adjustments. Our youngest isn’t a strong reader and he would not be able to gather enough info in the 10 seconds, so we either allow him additional time to look at the card or someone reads the card to him to help out. 

We haven’t kept a running score of our  games, but the kids have been pulling out cards at the breakfast table in the morning and going over facts in addition to the time the boys and I sit down together and play a few times a week. All of our kids (ages 10 to 16) have enjoyed playing this together and the 10 year old is the most competitive in the bunch! It’s been great seeing them each work on their recall and figure out different ways to remember things.

This game may be new to you (as it was to us), but I love hearing about different games, especially when there is an added learning twist in the game.

Have you ever played U. S. Presidents before?

Do you have a game recommendation for our family to try next?

 

Honestly, we LOVE the game and the kids have asked if we can get a few of the other ones in the set. Here are the ones that will be joining our home over the next few months: 


 

A few freebies to go along with President learning…

If you like these resources, you may also enjoy the president’s day handwriting pages, a free download! They are not specific to president’s day and include quotes from several presidents to use as copywork. 

The U.S. President Fact Files are another FREE printable that feature coloring images of all 45 U.S. Presidents along with room to write down important facts about each president.