August 28, 2015

Language the Natural Way

This post was sponsored by Dawn Sign company.  I was given product in exchange for an honest review and compensation.  All opinions are my own.

Language is nearly the first thing we start to teach our babies--'say mama...say dada.' Teaching them how to speak comes naturally.  We speak, they learn it.  But when my oldest refused to speak until he was three, we chose to teach him a whole pile of signs to help us figure out what he needed--or even manners like please and thank you.  Now in hindsight, I'm wondering if the sign language helped him to silently continue in his suborn ways, but that's ok.  He eventually started talking, but the signs also stuck. 

I cannot speak a foreign language, but it is high on my bucket list.  Having this opportunity to learn at home with my kids gives be the perfect chance to knock that off my list sooner rather than later.  The problem for me though is, having your child sit down with a workbook and some formal curriculum feels very forced and unnatural.  Sort of like the opposite of the saying that if you want to learn a language you need to move to that country.

When Dawn Sign asked me to review their Once Upon a Sign DVD series, this just made sense to me.  My kids are super receptive to learning through video, so I knew this would be beneficial for us.  My kids started watching (and signing) right away.  Some of those signs we taught Noah so long ago have never left our family vocabulary and the way that the signs in these videos are presented is really natural--like you're just having a conversation opposed to memorizing a list of words.

Dawn Sign offers a series of updated classic fairy tales and you can see a sneak peek here.

We complicate learning languages

Like so many things, we tend to complicate learning language--even something like grammar can be complicated by overinvolved curriculum or great products that take up half of our day.  I'm all about the simple, the easy stuff that my kids will be receptive too, but not frustrated when they grow tired or their attention span runs out.

I really appreciated that with Dawn Sign, my kids could just pop it in the DVD player and watch a quick video while I did other things nearby. 

The signs introduced in these videos were also to relevant to my kids that they were able to incorporate and use them right away--sad, happy, tired, etc.

Language variety for an array of learners

With such a wide array of ages in our family, it's always nice to be able to include the little one.  She watches and listens along with the big kids and uses her little brain in ways she doesn't normally use it.  I love that.

This year, besides American Sign Language, we are also continuing to learn German this year.  My kids love the DuoLingo app and we'll also be using Rosetta Stone.  My kids love things that can be completed on their own--also anything involving technology. 

Incorporating resources into our language regime that hits on all the different learning styles of my kids is something I'm always looking for.  All three of the resources we're using hit different learning styles: the technical kid, the visual learner, the audio learner.  Dawn Sign Press also offers a series for babies and one for a little older children or adults too that we'll be checking out as well.

What about you? Are you teaching foreign language in your homeschool this year? What resources are you using?

August 26, 2015


Last weekend, my wildest fantasy came true--I had planned on taking the afternoon while Jarrod took the kids to the zoo to take some time to spread out new curriculum and get a good chunk of school planning finished.  He surprised me Saturday morning with an email for a hotel confirmation--yes, a WHOLE night alone to do nothing but rest, relax, and plan my little heart out. 

It was amazing. 

I  am forever indebted for that gift, but I got a ton of school planning done!  I sketched out our school year calendar, read over new curriculum, scheduled out our history and art units, and read...a lot. 

I've been trying to focus on habits and goals this month--trying to break some bad ones that I feel like set in when we moved.  Still in the survival mode of moving, even though the boxes are long gone.  I started thinking about things that interfered with us having a successful school day and I realized that in order for us to meet our homeschooling goals, there was several more things I needed to plan for than just what curriculum we were using.

Teacher Personal Days When you hear people talking about needing time to themselves to refresh, it's really true--we really need it.  If we are depleted, how can we possibly pour into our children?  I realized a couple things about myself:
- I need daily time in the morning to myself--to journal/drink coffee/exercise and or get ready for the day (I have always known this, but I've gotten way lazy this summer.  I'm getting back on track.)
- I need to plan in special things for just me.  Without kids.  All by myself.
Here's some ideas I'm planning on using this year:
  •   Scheduling in "Write Nights" so I can get out in the evenings to write and just chill. (I've done this every Tuesday in August and it's been really good.)
  • Get haircuts.  I know this sounds so simple, but to just get out and get a hair cut with no little ones sounds amazing and I don't do it enough.  Going six months between cuts is too much for me.  I need to put my Fiscars away and get a real hair cut more often.
  • Hire a daytime sitter more.  Noah is great with the kids but I don't want to depend on him to babysit very much.  Currently I have a gal that's available during the day if I need (or want) to get something done during the day.
  • Be more strict about afternoon quiet time.  I need this hour.  Really need this hour.  A lot of times there really is no quiet time in our house--the toddler goes down and everyone else is needing me still.  Must. Enforce. Quiet time.
Margin Days  The times we start to serve off track or lose steam in school is when our schedule is too packed.  I need to remember to plan in "off days" or "catch up" days so that we can just chill out.  If every day is packed to the gills, there's no room to get off track, and that happens inevitably--because homeschooling is real life.

School Year Activities  Sometimes I forget that certain days of the week are busier than others--I need to remember to plan accordingly.  If Tuesdays are really full, I can't schedule a history project, poetry, and an artist study on Tuesdays.  When I wrote out our schedule for the week, I made sure to check the activity schedule too--I don't like it packed too tightly!

Daily Rhythms  We've gotten way off course with some of what have always been our natural family rhythms.  We're sleeping late, eating late--it's a vicious cycle.  I need to allow for us to return to our rhythm--and to help sway it in the right direction.

Major Slump Times (November + February)  It seems like every homeschooler I know has major slumps in November and then even worse in February.  We can plan ahead for these by stashing away some of that new, fun curriculum or save a fun unit study for those times.  You could also stash some cash away for a cloudy February day too!

Planning for a new school year is a lot more than just new curriculum.  There's a lot to think over and consider.  The key to making this all happen is the plan it.  Write those days off on the calendar and stick to it.  Don't fill them with stuff.  Hire that sitter and schedule your hair appointment.  Schedule something for yourself for the next three months if you have to.  

It's gonna be a great school year!

August 24, 2015


Aside from my husband and Sophia, we are not a very math-y family.  Some people love math and I get that.  I can see where having a concrete, black and white answer would appeal to some.  Certain people's brains are just made to compute things--other people's brains don't want to do that so much, so it takes us a little longer to spew out the answers. 

That said, I loved Algebra in high school.  I got straight A's.  It could have been because we had a fabulous teacher.  One of those teachers that really wanted everybody to get it and would come early to school and stay late after school to help you.  He was awesome.  I'm sure there were a lot of A's in his class because you had to try pretty hard to not get help and make sense of what he was teaching. 

Memories of those Algebra classes are coming back to me this summer as I page through math curriculum to put together my almost 8th-graders math regime.  This kid is no dummy, but he does not like math.  At all.  We're inching closer to high school algebra and part of me is getting excited for that--I mean I totally aced that class!  But in the case that Noah doesn't share my enthusiasm for Algebra, I've decided to pull in a few other strands of math, besides Algebra to give his brain a break and to also learn some other avenues of math that we feel are really important to grasp.

Our Main Math Program

Saxon math has always been our go-to for math.  We've tried different programs, but we've always come back to Saxon.  I love the way they present the information in small bites and how the repetition really helps to make skills stick.  This year we'll be using the CD-roms for the boys to follow with their lessons every day.  I feel like this will help a lot with me having to be in three places at once.  The boys can just pop in their CD-rom and follow the lesson and do their lessons.  I'll check it for them daily to make sure they're getting it down.  This is what Noah will be using for 8th grade most days.

Consumer Math

This year we are introducing Noah to the world of bank accounts and managing his own money.  He's had a savings account since he was born, but he's never been able to use it.  We mostly just stick money in for him here and there and he birthday money also goes into his savings account.  This year we are going to open a checking account for him and use that as part of his math curriculum--consumer math.  I also found this book, Checkbook Math, to practice the skills of debits and credits and balancing your checkbook before he starts on his own.  This workbook is super straightforward and simple to work on.  There is real-life scenarios on how to use your checkbook and enter transactions.  It looks perfect for our time allotment, which is not much.  I for-see us working on this for a few minutes every week.

Mathematical Reasoning

I am SO excited about using this book with Noah this year.  What I love about Mathability in the Real World is that it is what it is.  No teacher book, no preparing.  Just the workbook and your sweet kid.  I've read through most of the problems in this book and they are so great.  Each week your child can read about a new real-life scenario and solve the problems that arise with that scenario.  For instance, two people are starting a business and your child needs to figure out how many employees they can hire based on their budget or what they should price their products at according to what amount of profit they want to make.

I am really happy to be using this with Noah this year because I feel like it beautifully melds logic, real-life thinking, and math into one simple curriculum.  I plan on having Noah work on this a little bit 2-3 times a week.


Product Details

I wrote last week about the book Noah will be using for 8th grade logic.  We are really excited about using The Fallacy Detective this year. I feel like this is a really important subject to make sure we fit in, as logic isn't really covered in very many other subjects.  You can read about why we chose this book on this post.
I really want to focus on doing math well this year.  I feel like last year, with our crazy year, living in three different states during one school year, really took a toll on our school year--even the basics.  We've got a little catching up to do.  But I want to go in strong and really hit the books in a few weeks.  I've got some nice breaks planned in too, so I'm hoping the reward for all the hard work will be a good break too--let's hope that's adequate incentive for doing a lot of math! 

August 21, 2015


While we were on our massive road trip, we started a travel journal.  I gathered the items ahead of time and kept it all in a big baggie in the back of the car with the kids.  Having a little memento like this to hold all of our ticket stubs, brochures, and photos was such a great way to create something to look at over and over and to keep little hands busy--and quiet.

Things to gather:

This little camera was awesome to have along.  The kids all took turns taking photos and they loved the instant gratification of having the picture pop out right away.  I've had mine for several years now, but it's been a great little gadget to take along on fun days and vacations.

I folded some scrapbook paper together to create some little envelopes for tiny memorabilia.

Sophia mostly worked on it in hotels at night and a little bit in the car.  Keeping it all super accessible was the best way to help them remember to work on it.  We've got a couple pages to fill in but it looks so sweet so far.  I love that she added a feather from a bird we had flying around at our lodge in Big Sky, Montana.  She's always been my nature girl. 
Some of the inside pages:

Next time you're going to take a little trip--either a long one or even just a weekend, consider making one of these little travel journals.  It was super easy and kept the kids busy.  Wins all around!

PS: Don't forget to sign up for my back to school gift basket! The giveaway ends at midnight tonight!!

August 20, 2015


For the last few years in our homeschool, incorporating logic has been really important.  After doing some research and reading some great blog posts on logic, I realized that there's not a lot of critical thinking tied into our then current subjects and it's kind of hard to get that aspect of learning unless you make it a priority.  These days, we try to tie in logic about once per week, usually in place of a math lesson.  We will do four math lessons per week and then logic once per week.  It's really worked well these last couple of years and we plan to do the same this year.
Today I wanted to share with you that there is great books out there for all ranges in ages, not just older kids, and show you what we're using with Noah (8th grade) and Sophia (2nd grade).  
For Noah we are using The Fallacy Detective.  I love this book and here's a few reasons why:
  • all you need is one book...that's it
  • covers many reasons for bad logic, which in turn,
  • opens the floor for many discussions and great conversations with your middle schooler
  • teaches so terrific life lessons
  • the lessons are short--about 15 minutes per day
  • this book is reusable for years to come
  • the lessons cover more than just puzzles, but really require your child (and yourself!) to think about real life situations
  • includes lots of comic strips incorporated into the lessons
Here's a peek at a couple of the inside pages:

This next one is what we are using for Sophia this year.  We used Lollipop Logic from Prufrock Press last year too and love it, so we're using it again.
What we love about Lollipop Logic:
  • Lessons are short and sweet--and fun!
  • Sophia almost always does more than I ask her to do
  • All you need is this one book--love that
  • Daily puzzles are challenging, but not frustrating for you child
  • Sophia can do these on her own without very much help from me--independent work for a mom teaching three grade levels is perfect!
Every day presents a different puzzle to solve.  I like this with this level because I feel like they just aren't ready for long, drawn out processes yet.  With this logic curriculum, you are starting your child out at the base of the pyramid, and gradually working up to more complex thinking skills.  It's perfect for early elementary.  

How about you? Do you do logic in your homeschool? What's your favorite resource?

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