Category Archives: Learning at Home

The Imagination Station Book Review

Imagination Station number 13

Imagination Station number 13

Yesterday morning before church, my friend who happens to also be the church librarian pressed two small chapter books into my hands and said, “I really think Buggy would enjoy these. I ordered them to have some more books that might appeal to the little boys, and they look like a lot of fun…” So I checked them out and brought them home. One was about a knight, the other about a dragon.

I didn’t pay too much attention to the title, aside from the colorful artwork on the cover.

Travis picked them up off the counter once we got home and turned one over. “Oh! These are from Adventures in Odyssey!” And indeed they are!*

Odyssey

How many of you grew up listening to the Christian radio show for children, “Adventures in Odyssey”? I did! My great aunt bought me a whole set of Odyssey tapes one year for my birthday, and I burned through all of them. If you recall, the stories revolved around a kookie inventor named Mr. Whittaker, affectionately known as “Whit” by the children in the neighborhood who hung around his shop. Some stories focused mainly on the children, and taught moral lessons about lying, stealing, cheating on tests, or keeping secrets, while other stories were just plain fun and revolved around the adventures Whit would take the kids on. {Like the Cat in the Hat, sometimes I wondered where the parents of these children were, but oh well}.

The Imagination Station series reminds me of the AIO radio shows, and each book leads to the next, much like the tapes I grew up loving. We happened to grab two books out of order {one is the 4th installment, the other is the 11th}, but I will be calling our librarian later to ask if she’s purchased the entire series.

Book 4, Revenge of the Red Knight

Book 4, Revenge of the Red Knight

{All pictures above contain links to purchase the books through Amazon, and you can catch up with everyone at Whit’s End by clicking on the AIO logo above.}

These books take you on trips through time and different countries via the time machine created by Whit. In this book, the children find themselves helping an injured knight and rescuing an important ring in the Middle Ages. Fencing, duels, knights, and ancient caves are just some of the fun things we’ve discovered in book number four.

Buggy and I sat down to read it this morning and ended up reading together for over an hour! We quickly breezed through nearly half the book. They are about as long as the Junie B. Jones series, or {if you remember them} the Choose Your Own Adventure books.

These books are aimed at children six to ten, and a child who is able to read at about a second grade level can easily enjoy these books, although they made need a bit of help understanding new vocabulary words specific to the time, such as “quill” and “chain mail.” Although I can see how the adventure aspects of the book appeal particularly to little boys {and might be a great series to spark a desire for reading in reluctant male readers}, I have to say, this book is just as appealing to little girls. There’s plenty of adventure, mystery, suspense, and historical information to draw in the attention of any child.

Although you know my love of children’s books, I do not write many reviews. However, I just could not wait to share this series with you! Not only is this series just plain fun, it sparks imagination in children and teaches about world history and time periods that you might otherwise not know about.

I will say, they kind of need to be read in order. Although the prologue quickly caught us up from the first three books, there are still references to the past stories in the book that are a bit confusing. For instance, Patrick states that the “giant eagles attacked the red knight,” and I just kind of went with it, although I have not read the first three books to fully grasp what happened there. We will definitely be backing up to read the first three books after we finish this one.

If you’re looking for a good read with strong morals and lots of adventure for your elementary aged kiddos, I would highly recommend this book. I would also recommend it as a supplement to any history program. It’s great for read-aloud time or independent reading material, and it comes from a company that I feel nostalgic and sentimental about.

So, what are you or your kiddos reading these days? Have you read the Imagination Station books, and if so, what are your thoughts?

Happy Reading!

Kat

*This book contains no affiliate links, and I am not affiliated in anyway with Focus on the Family, Adventures in Odyssey, or the Imagination Station Series. Just an avid reader excited to share a great find! 

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Curriculum Choices for 2015 and a Personal Update

Hi everyone! It’s been a long time, hasn’t it?

Life. Got. CRAZY. Between trying to wrap up the adoption of our younger two sweeties and finishing graduate school, and adding on internship hours to that graduate school experience, my blog had to take a backseat. I can’t tell you how many times I logged on in the past….however many months, only to fall asleep with the laptop open on my lap, and half a post written.

Personal update part:

On September 4th, 2015, in front of our loving family and dear friends, we adopted our youngest two children! How long have we waited for this day? Four years, my friends. Having had these two cuties in our home for over two years as our foster children, I honestly didn’t think September 4th would make anything feel different, but let me tell you: Everything in the world feels different. It IS different. We are a forever family. We are no longer in limbo. We are official, united, crafted by God, and it is done. Praise the Lord! It feels freeing, it feels real, it feels final, and it feels like the biggest relief in the world. You think the last month of pregnancy is long? Try waiting four years, four months, and twenty-three days to finalize the adoption of the children God put on your heart. Whew. Labor. Seriously.

On a much less exciting, but nevertheless important note, on September 11th, 2015, I took the comprehensive exam required to earn my Masters of Arts in Counseling degree, which brings me one step closer to becoming a licensed counselor. The experiences I had in my internship were, in a word, irreplaceable. I also hope to share some of those experiences with you.

PROMISE an adoption-centered post is in the works, complete with pictures of my dear ones, but today’s post is dedicated to my amazing friend Sarah, who first encouraged me to start this blog. She has been asking me for weeks “What curriculum are you using this year?” And while the adoption post I’m working on is highly emotionally charged and sentimental, this topic felt a lot less intense and thus provided an easier vessel to encapsulate my return to the writing world.

In short: it’s been too long, a lot has happened, and I’ve missed you all. 

Onto the Curriculum fun!

I am still homeschooling Buggy, my biggest little. He is six now {can it be?}, and in first grade this year.

Let me say: First grade is So. Much. Fun. You learn to read books, you learn to tell time, you learn the states, and if you’re lucky, you get a creative and imaginative teacher who lets you explore all the wonderful weirdness of being six or seven. Love it!

I began planning out our year in May. I absolutely did NOT want to fall into the madness of scrambling in July to craft a year’s worth of curriculum in a few short weeks. Our public school started on August 24th this year, and I was determined to also start our homeschool on that same day.

Facing Struggles, Admitting Failures

For Buggy’s Kindergarten year, I wanted the entire year to be loose. Frankly, I needed it to be loose. You can ask my friends in our homeschooling group how many times last year I asked, “Do you think he’ll be okay this year?” Hint: It was often. And they were always gracious in encouraging me that I was not “breaking” him.

I was a mama swamped in my own schooling, facing inflexible deadlines, single-parenting a lot of the year with a dual-career husband, parenting kiddos with unique and special needs, wrapping up an endlessly long adoption process, and facing personal tragedy the likes of which I’d never seen. It was a HARD year. 

Honestly, I don’t know how we did anything last year.

Did we do anything?…

We played a lot. A subscription to ABC Mouse from my sister-in-law was a life saver. {Buggy knew more than I did about the Grand Canyon from that program just in time for our summer vacation to the incredible geological wonder}. We started a phonics program, but ultimately did not finish it. Started a lot of things, in fact, that I did not get to finish. I felt like a failure. Like I had failed him. And I felt like eyes were on me as my son was not advancing at the same rate as his publicly-schooled peers.

But our life is simply constructed differently, and that’s the path we chose when we decided to homeschool, so I chose to accept that right now, no, he’s not where they are. But that doesn’t make him less bright or less intelligent or creative. He colored, took field trips, learned a lot about grace as we blindly felt our way through a tough diagnosis for my youngest son… And in the midst of it all, I saw him grow as a person. His Sunday School teachers commented on the positive changes they saw in him as well. Friends commented on it. Family saw it too. He grew in other ways last year, ways that illustrate God’s grace even when we feel distracted and consumed in our other children or our other pursuits.

This year though, I wanted different. I was determined to have a successful, progressive year. After many hard-fought interventions, I had peace that my youngest child was taken care of. We spent the past year building up a fantastic team around him to give him the support, structure, and nurturing love that he needs to thrive. I knew with him taken care of, I could then focus on Buggy again. By May, my boys finally started bonding, our home was feeling more harmonious again, and I was feeling less depressed and anxious. I was ready to tackle first grade.

Studying Math

Studying Math

Choosing Curriculum

The first thing I wanted to do was check my local state standards {I’m in Texas, so I reviewed the TEKS, our state’s local educational standards} to see what other first graders were learning this year. Based on that information, I crafted a list of my own educational priorities for my son, and determined the subjects we would study this year:

  • Reading/Phonics/Writing
  • Math
  • Life Science
  • Music/Piano
  • Bible
  • Art History/Art
  • Social Studies/ Intro to U.S. History
This year also includes fun journal prompts for Buggy every morning to spark his imagination.

This year also includes fun journal prompts for Buggy every morning to spark his imagination.

I know, it seems like a lot. 

But hear me out:

We don’t tackle all of these subjects every single day. Art, for instance, is a once-a-week thing. Bible as well. Our science curriculum is structured to be done two-to-three days a week. The only things we do every single day no matter what {even if we have to play make up on Saturday as we did this weekend} are math and phonics.

So, after I determined what I wanted to teach, I had to determine how to teach it. That was harder. That took a LOT of research, question asking, and prayer.

I knew that regarding math, I wanted something that was based on repetition and review. I wanted a math curriculum that focused on mastery and integration, a curriculum that would connect one concept to the next in order to solidify the previous concept. I knew that I wanted a science curriculum that was secular-based. Many homeschooling science curricula are based on ultra-conservative views that never speak of the theory of evolution or the big bang theory, and I know that while we believe  in creationism, my son needs to at least know of these theories in order to make it most public high school classrooms. Lastly, I knew I wanted a reading program that relied heavily on phonics and writing.

After summer’s worth of research, here is what we’re using this year. After being in school for three weeks, I can say with confidence that we made all the right choices for us {links included}:

All of our school supplies, journals, and text books, and our geography corner.

All of our school supplies, journals, and text books, and our geography corner.

Buying it ALL

If you clicked on the links above, you might be thinking, “How in the WORLD did she buy all of that!?”

Well, no, we aren’t rich, so scratch that off the list.

I spent about $100 on all of this curriculum because I shopped wisely. I would say at least 50% of it was purchased through my local homeschooling co-op trading and buying site on Facebook. Ask around in your area to see if such a site exists for local homeschoolers near you. In most cases, I simply posted on our local Facebook site, “I’m looking for ____,” and a homeschooler would respond within a few days saying they had it! In one case {regarding the science curriculum}, a mom popped up saying she had it, but it was only via download, and due to copyright laws, she couldn’t sell it. However, she shared with me that the first nine lessons in the curriculum were available for free download if I was interested {a “try-before-you-buy” system}, so that’s what we’re doing until we have saved up the money to buy the rest of the curriculum for the year! If my fellow homeschoolers did not have the curricula I was searching for, I looked on Amazon and Ebay. Although many of the links I shared send you straight to the publishing source, I would encourage you mom to mom to simply shop around.

Also- keep in mind- with the internet at our disposal, so many things can be accessed easily that weren’t so easy before. Later this week, I’ll be sharing some of my money-saving ideas for homeschool that might spark some creativity in you as well.

Are you pleased with your curriculum choices this year? Have any great finds or resources to share? Let me know in the comments!

Blessings,

Kat

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Halloween Candy Venn Diagram FREE Printable

Do you have a ridiculous amount of Halloween candy at your house? I sure do! While I’m not sneaking bits of chocolate goodness, I’m trying to think of creative ways to incorporate this candy into a lesson. Thus, I created the Halloween Candy Venn Diagram. And now I’m sharing it with everyone as a FREEBIE!

 

Venn Diagram.jpg

Basically, you grab two similar-yet-different candies and you compare and contrast the two. This teaches sorting skills, language skills, comparison, similarities, differences. This activity introduces new descriptive vocabulary, description, scientific investigation, and mathematical sorting skills to your elementary age student.

We compared and contrasted Milk Duds and Dots. It was a hit. Both come in boxes, both are chewy, one is chocolate, the other fruity. Lots of fun ways to compare and contrast. {Plus you get to eat it, so that’s cool too.} Buggy loved it so much, he asked if we could do another one as soon as we finished our first compare/contrast worksheet. I told him maybe tomorrow. Ha.

You could compare: M&M’s and Skittles. 3 Musketeers and Milky Ways. Nerds and Gum Drops. Have fun with it. Use what you have. 🙂

Get your FREE Halloween Candy Venn Diagram right here {or just click on the image- I like to make things simple}.

Enjoy!

Kat

Image is copywritten exclusively by mommyponders.com. Copies may be made for personal use, but please do not distribute the PDF as your own work, use it for profit, for public use, or link directly to it on your site. You may link to this webpage to share the worksheet with others. Thanks! 

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Kindergarten Space Unit: Day 1

We began Kindergarten a couple of weeks ago and things are rolling along nicely. For the first week, I focused mostly on just letters, numbers, Bible studies, and getting back into the routine of things. This week, however, I asked Buggy what he wanted to study and he immediately shouted, “SPACE!” So we’re studying about space.

Day 1

What We Read: 


I took the moon for a walk book 

   I Took the Moon for a Walk by Carolyn Curtis, illustrated by Alison Jay .

We both loved this book and read it several times. This lyrical rhyming book is perfect for little ones and the illustrations {which I tend to obsess over} are  whimsical and fun. Buggy asked to read it over and over, and I was happy to oblige. An excerpt from the book:  “I took the moon for a walk last night, it followed behind like a still Summer kite, though there wasn’t a tail or a string in sight, when I took the moon for a walk.”  Beautiful imagery.

The moon over star book

 The Moon Over Star by Dianna Hutts Aston, illustrated by Jerry Pinkney.

I grabbed this book at our library because the illustrations are beautiful. I have to admit, I choose books from the library based on the illustrations and then decide whether to read them or not to my kids later. I always read them before I share with my kids, and this one was not a disappointment. This is the story of a young girl who experiences the excitement of the 1969 original moon landing while watching her grandfather struggle with the changes happening in his country. She aspires to be an astronaut herself and hopes one day that an African American girl as an astronaut is not such a rare or unusual thing. The pictures and the story in this book are beautiful. It’s also quite an informative book, because it offers the details of the story of the moon landing in a narrative, first-hand-observational setting. My 5 year old enjoyed it and had a lot of questions after reading this, but it may not capture the interest of younger kids.

What We Made:

Moon

You take 1/2 cup of Elmer’s glue {or the cheaper off-brand like I did} and 1 1/2 cups of shaving cream {the kind you find for $1 at the dollar store, if you’re me} and mix them in a bowl. I used a plastic bowl that could be parted with just in case this craft experiment was a huge fail. Draw a decent moon-sized circle on a sheet of craft paper or a paper bag {what we used} and let your kiddo go to town with the gloopy stuff. Buggy LOVED it! He enjoyed squishing it and smearing it. He kept saying, “It smells like shaving cream, but it doesn’t feel like shaving cream!” When they’re done, let it dry. Then cut out your circle and admire your moon!

I found this craft on Pinterest, from No Time for Flashcards. I love her blog. I’ve found SO many neat ideas for activities and crafts on there, and this one was definitely a winner.

How We Played: 

I think sensory play is SO important at this age. I also have a two year old that I’m trying to keep entertained while I’m educating my five year old, so I look for activities that will capture both of their attentions.

Two words: Moon. Sand.

We bought ours pre-made from a children’s museum, but you can find recipes for it Here, Here, and Here. These recipes call for flour, but I prefer the moon sand that actually uses play sand so it gives it a sandy yet mold-able texture, and you can find such a recipe Here.

I let my boys explore this fun concoction with their hands first, then I brought in cookie cutters, Lego blocks, and army men to allow them to experiment and play. Buggy loved pretending that Batman was landing on the moon for the first time and had fun cutting out shapes in the sand with various cookie cutters. Little Bear (2) just enjoyed feeling the sand between his fingers and repeatedly said, “Mama look!” while he showed me his fistfuls of sand.

What we Watched:

I am a HUGE supporter of Reading Rainbow. Remember that show? I loved that show. Still do. When we were driving to Tennessee this summer to visit family, we took about four Reading Rainbow DVDs with us to keep our kiddos entertained on the trip. I was worried it wouldn’t capture the attention of my two year old, but it did! My five and four year old were entranced as well. All three were in love with LeVar Burton and the magical way books come to life on this special show.

Since I knew my kids were entertained by this series, I checked out a Reading Rainbow episode on DVD from my library. Good news: Even if your library doesn’t carry Reading Rainbow DVDs, you can find them online! Yay for internet! 

We watched Reading Rainbow, “Space Case” {1986} and my kiddos loved it! Lucky for you, I’ve pinned it on my Pinterest page, so you can find it HERE

Stay tuned in for the rest of our out-of-this-world space week, and don’t forget to check in on my Space Unit page on Pinterest for more great ideas on a space unit for little ones! 

Blessings,

Kat

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Filed under Activities, Books We Love, Creative Ideas and Crafts, Kitchen Table Classroom, Learning at Home

Thankful Tree

The Thankful Tree

The Thankful Tree

“Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good. His love endures forever.” Psalm 145:7

I just LOVE this Bible verse. And I LOVE Thanksgiving. I’m not gonna lie, part of what I love about Thanksgiving is the delicious carbs I scarf down. But I also love seeing my family, cooking for them, serving them, laughing and spending time with them. And I love taking the opportunity to think about the things that I’m most thankful for. This time of year also provides an opportunity to teach my son how to be thankful and what kind of things we should be thankful for {rather than taking things like health and food for granted}.

This verse IS Thanksgiving. The Lord deserves all of our thanks, and His great love endures forever. Praise God!

I found this activity on Pinterest from someone {sorry, don’t remember who otherwise I’d give due credit} and I just had to do this last year with Buggy. We do it a bit differently from the people who add leaves to their tree.

I paint a tree like the one above on a long sheet of butcher paper and tape it up in a prominent place in our home.

I then trace out Buggy’s hand every day and cut it out on a leaf-colored sheet of construction paper.

Buggy tells me one thing he’s thankful for, just one or two words, and I write it on the palm of his hand. I put a date on it and tape it to the tree. His sweet hands are the leaves! By the time Thanksgiving rolls around, our tree and our hearts are full and I get adorable gems like this from last year:

“I’m thankful for…”

  • Rocketships
  • Mommy and daddy
  • Lightning McQueen
  • Snow
  • M&M’s
  • Larry and Bob

-3 year old Buggy, 2012 🙂

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Filed under Activities, Creative Ideas and Crafts, Holidays, Learning at Home, Thanksgiving

Friday Freebie: Philippians 4:13 Memory Verse Printable

Every week, I introduce a new memory verse for Little and we sing songs about this verse, I usually make up motions to help him memorize it, and I’ll often scour the internet for any kind of printable to go along with it. Sometimes I’m lucky and I find a cute printable to help him remember it, but this time I couldn’t find anything so I just made one myself.

I thought you might enjoy collecting different memory verse helpers to hang around your own home to help you as your write the word of the Lord on your child’s heart. So for a Friday treat, here’s a free Philippians 4:13 printable with cute images to help your little ones remember the key aspects of the verse! Clink the link below for the pdf. Enjoy!

Philippians 4 13cPhilippians 4 13 pdf

Blessings,

Kat

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Filed under Kitchen Table Classroom, Learning at Home

Kitchen Table Classroom: The Rainbow Fish Lesson

I’ve already mentioned that we’re working on an ocean unit right now, and a great book to go along with ocean studies is The Rainbow Fish by Marcus Pfister.

mms_picture-001 Continue reading

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Filed under Activities, Books We Love, Creative Ideas and Crafts, Kitchen Table Classroom, Learning at Home