Category Archives: Homeschool Resources

A Home Full of Life

Educating the WholeHearted Child: Chapter 3

As I started to read through Chapter 3 (“Home Nurture: Shepherding Your Child’s Spirit to Long for God”), one word stood out to me: life.  Here are a few of the quotes I highlighted on the first page:

“A home can be filled with praiseworthy Christian things and activities and yet still seem lifeless.  It just doesn’t seem as though the Spirit of Christ is alive there.”

“…your first responsibility as a parent is to lead your children to the life-giving presence and reality of Christ in your heart and home.”

“You are to be the primary life-giving presence of Christ to your children, through his Spirit living and working in your life as a Christian parent and through his Word, just as Christ imparted life to those who came in contact with him…”

“Children who grow up in a home that is alive with the Spirit of God and whose spirits are nurtures and fed will be coming life-living and life-giving adults.”

When I finished page 45 I realized that every passage I had highlighted contained the word “life.”  I’ve shared over the past few weeks that I find “home nurture” more challenging than “home discipleship” and “home education” (the Clarksons three “biblical priorities” that define a Christian home) (page 20).  However, as I read through these first few pages of Chapter 3 I felt a sense of relief.  (As in, I’m not screwing up my kids quite so much as I thought!)

I do think our home is full of life.  There are a lot of Christian “things and activities,” but there is definitely more than that.  The Clarksons look at Ephesians 6 and talk about Paul’s instructions to bring children up in the training and instruction of the Lord. (To “bring them up” could also be translated as “to nourish” or “to nurture” them).  As I read through their descriptions of what that nurturing looks like, I realized that there is a lot of that going on in our home.

We try to address things on a heart level.  We practice grace.  We talk to our kids and speak life-giving words into them.  We pray with them.  We ask for forgiveness when we’re wrong.  We regularly have other families over for times of fellowship, prayer, worship, encouraging one another, etc.  We are trying to walk out a life of faith in front of them.

I’m not saying we’re perfect or we’ve got it all together, but I’m not beating myself up quite so much either.  I think reading through this book is helping me to take more notice of what I do and how I do it.  It’s showing me not only my weaknesses but also my strengths, and I can see more clearly things I want to work on and areas in which I need to pray that God will help me to grow.  For instance, I loved the Clarksons encouragement about the Word of God: “When you read the Bible, let them know it is God speaking to you as a family” (page 47).  It would be easy to bring this into conversation, but sometimes I forget and Bible time just becomes part of our routine.  I want to make sure my children know that I believe God’s Word is “living and active” (Hebrews 4:12).

I love that we never stop learning and growing.  I am so thankful for God’s grace in my life.  I look back at the growth He has brought about in me over the years that I have followed Him, and I know that He is going to continue to help me become the parent He wants me to be.  And when I mess up, at least I know my children have a Savior they can turn to.  After all, if they had a perfect mother who could make all things right in their life, why would they need Him?  All I can do is turn to Him to fill me with His life, and then let that life pour out of me into my children.  And someday they will learn to go right to the source of true life because they have tasted and seen that the Lord is good (Psalm 34:8).

Each Mentoring Monday I share my reflections on what I’ve been learning from my “paper mentors.”  I am currently joining in a book discussion of Educating the WholeHearted Child by Clay Clarkson (with Sally Clarkson).  If you want to join in, visit our Facebook discussion group page.

 

coming soon… the Ultimate Homemaking Bundle!

I love how e-books have made it so easy to tap into other people’s wisdom without taking up any of the precious space on my already overflowing bookshelves.  Over the past few years I have been so encouraged by reading what other moms have learned and taken the time to write about so others can benefit from their experiences.  Sometimes I turn to women who are further on in their journey, cheering me on, letting me know I can make it through these years when all my children are so young.  Other times I look for comfort in the camaraderie found with other moms of littles who are still in the trenches.  I’ve also found many helpful e-books that teach me more about creating the kind of home I want to provide for my family.

That’s why I’m so thrilled about this year’s Ultimate Homemaking Bundle, which will be released soon!  I’ll be sharing more about some of the fabulous books and other resources in the days to come.  I am so excited about diving in to this wealth of wisdom (especially since I can even get them in Kindle format!)

My Reputation With God

Educating the WholeHearted Child: Chapter 2 (part 2)

Here’s the truth: You will never be able to live up to either the real or imagined expectations you place on yourself and your children.  Don’t even try!  Make it your goal to please God in your homeschool, not other people.  If you are truly seeking to please God in all that you do at home, that is the reputation that matters to him and the one that should matter most to you” (page 42).

When I was eleven, my sixth grade teacher sat me down for a conversation that has stuck in my mind ever since.  I was upset over a grade I had received (probably an A-, but for a perfectionist that was just painful), and she felt the need to offer some wisdom.  She told me that someday my perfectionism was going to catch up on me and cause me a lot of heartache if I didn’t learn relax and have a little grace for myself and others.  As I said, her words have stuck with me, and I’m so thankful she took the time to share them, because they have indeed saved me a lot of heartache over the years.  The older I got, the more I learned that I was never going to be perfect, and being able to accept that has been important.  Even more important was learning that God’s expectations for me are sometimes very different than those I set for myself.

Still, I need reminding of this truth every once in a while, especially when it comes to home education.  Not only do I set standards high for myself, but I tend to impose them upon my children as well.  Now I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with setting the bar high.  It’s just that my tendency is to overlook the things that are truly important as I strive to reach that bar.  I get frustrated by Ian’s lack of perfectionism (for instance, wondering why it doesn’t bother him when carelessness costs him a perfect score in an online lesson).  Then my own perfectionism starts to kick in and our relationship suffers.

I am thankful for the Clarksons’ reminder that there will always be a temptation to judge myself by standards other than God’s.  It is easy to worry about our reputation in other people’s eyes.  How do our kids measure up against the neighbor in public school?  Why can’t we get our act together the way that other homeschooling family does?  We can beat ourselves up over which curriculum we should be using or which subjects we should be covering.  There is no end to the standards we can impose upon ourselves, forgetting that the only one we really need to consider belongs to our Lord.

What do I want to be known for?  Not for my children’s test scores or their breadth of knowledge on the vast array of subjects I hope we’ll be able to cover over the course of our homeschool journey.  I want to known in this way: “Let your reputation be that you are faithful to God, known for ‘good deeds.’ (1 Timothy 5:10), ‘full of the Spirit and of wisdom’ (Acts 6:3), and that you ‘seek first his kingdom and his righteousness’ (Matthew 6:33)” (page 42). 

Each Mentoring Monday I share my reflections on what I’ve been learning from my “paper mentors.”  I am currently joining in a book discussion of Educating the WholeHearted Child by Clay Clarkson (with Sally Clarkson).  If you want to join in, visit our Facebook discussion group page.

The Confident Homeschooler

Each Mentoring Monday I share my reflections on what I’ve been learning from my “paper mentors.”  I am currently joining in a book discussion of Educating the WholeHearted Child by Clay Clarkson (with Sally Clarkson).  If you want to join in, visit our Facebook discussion group page.

Educating the WholeHearted Child: Chapter 2

Since our group will still be discussing Chapter 2, “The Christian Homeschool,” into next week, I may take two Mondays to write about some of what I’ve been thinking about as I read through it.  This chapter is essentially an encouragement to parents who have chosen to educate their children at home, helping them to confidently address the common questions critics often raise about homeschooling.

At first I considered just skimming this chapter, because I face very little criticism or opposition regarding homeschooling.  In my everyday life I am surrounded by other families who homeschool.  At church, we probably know more people who educate their kids at home than send them to school.  We spend time each week just hanging out with families from our homeschool support group.  Even when we go to activities like library story time or gymnastics, there are lots of families in our area who homeschool.  So I’ve never felt the pressure of making an “odd” choice.

One of the issues raised in this chapter was a concern about whether parents are “qualified” to teach their children.  I have a teaching credential and a Master of Education degree.  I get a lot of comments about, “Well, of course you’re more than capable of teaching your kids.”  And although I know my paper qualifications are not really that relevant, I don’t really want to get into that with people who think such things are important.  My background shields me from criticism so I usually just nod and smile.

However, as I considered this I realized that my confidence only goes so far.  It usually starts to wobble when people ask, “How long do you plan to homeschool?”  People tend to look rather shocked when I express an intention to educate my children all the way through high school.  My insecurity starts to creep up as I wonder what they’re thinking.  Are they surprised because, after all, my teaching credential is only for elementary school?  Do they think I’m some sort of over-protective nut trying to keep my children in a bubble until they’re old enough to get married?

I realized that when it comes to homeschooling beyond the elementary years, I’m left just as exposed as every other homeschool parent.  And so as I read through the Clarksons’ thoughtful responses to the questions that tend to come up, I realized that I am equally in need of a firm grasp on why homeschooling is the best choice for our family.  I want to be just as confident about being qualified to educate my children through high school as I have been about preschool and the next few years.

There is no biblical argument for putting your children under the shaping influence of other authorities during the most formative and impressionable years of their lives.  American cultural norms notwithstanding, doing so runs counter to the biblical concept of the family… If family is God’s design for raising children, then a spiritually sensitive parent should not be surprised to feel conflict when faced with the choice to allow others to raise them for half or more of their childhood waking hours” (page 30).

God chose Eric and me to be the primary guiding influences in our children’s lives.  We have been blessed with the responsibility of nurturing, discipling, and educating these precious souls with whom He has entrusted us.  He will give us what we need to faithfully complete the task He has set before us.

As a loving, committed parent, you are already certified by God to teach your children.  You do not need the state to tell you whether or not you are qualified to train and instruct your children.  You are” (page 38).

I’m looking forward to finishing this chapter, mulling over some of the ideas in it, and hearing what the others in our group have to say about it all.

 

Spelling You See (TOS Crew Review)

Spelling You See Review

Spelling is a subject we’ve avoided addressing formally up until now because I wanted Ian to pick up spelling patterns instinctively through the context of reading and copywork rather than through memorizing lists and rules.  That’s why I was so excited when I heard about the new Spelling You See program produced by Demme Learning, the makers of Math-U-See.  I was even more excited get a chance to review Spelling You See: Jack and Jill (Level B).  This program approaches spelling exactly as I hoped to, only in a more strategic, purposeful way than I ever could have come up with on my own without a lot of time and effort.

Spelling You See Review

Spelling You See is geared toward elementary age students (or older ones who could benefit from going back and building a stronger foundation).  It consists of five levels, labeled A-E rather than by grade level so you can place your child exactly where they need to be based on what spelling skills they have already learned.  The website has lots of helpful information to guide you toward the proper placement, as well as sample lessons so you’ll know exactly what is expected of a child at each level.

I looked carefully through this material before selecting which level to use with Ian.  He could easily read the passages from Wild Tales (Level C), but since we haven’t worked on spelling at all up to this point, and because Spelling You See emphasizes that each skill must be learned progressively and that it important not to skip stages, we decided to go with Jack and Jill (Level B) to make sure he developed a solid foundation.

It was definitely the right decision, and I was so thankful for the guidance Spelling You See provided so we could find the right fit.  The first few weeks of the program were a bit too easy, so I just had Ian do a page from each week until I found a place that challenged him just enough to make it interesting while still being easy enough that he could take pride in his success and become confident about his ability to spell words correctly.  Once we settled in, he just took off.  He loves knowing what is expected of him, being challenged, and experiencing the joy of work done well.

What are the different components of Spelling You See?

SYS3There are two things to purchase:

  • Instructor’s Handbook ($16)
  • Student Pack, which for this level contains two consumable workbooks, a handwriting guide, and a pack of erasable colored pencils ($30)

These prices are for Spelling You See: Jack and Jill (Level B) and are current at the time of posting.  Other levels may have different prices.

Please note: some of the pictures I’ve included here show us using a printout from a pdf file that was provided for the purpose of this review.  The program is only available for purchase in book forms and the workbooks are consumable.

 So what’s the program like?

Jack and Jill (Level B) contains 36 five-part lessons, designed to be used every day through the entire school year.  Each day the child completes 2 pages in the Student Workbook.  The first page focuses on a reading passage.  (Jack and Jill uses a different nursery rhyme each week.)  The daily work follows a consistent routine:

  1. SYS2First you read through the passage with your student, clapping along with the words.  (Because these are nursery rhymes and can be said with a distinct rhythm I wasn’t sure at first whether we were supposed to clap the beat or each individual syllable.  The practice book pages say “clap in rhythm,” and the Instructor’s Handbook also referred to “clapping in rhythm,” which to my musical mind meant clapping beats, but then a little further in it said, “When you clap the words together, each syllable should be represented by one clap,” which made more sense to me so I was glad to get that cleared up.)
  2. Then the student reads the passage with you, pointing to each word.
  3. The next step always has the student examine the words in the passage looking for something specific.  One day it may be capital letters.  The next day they’re looking for a particular suffix, vowel patterns, words that rhyme, words that are opposites, etc.  Sometimes they can just circle what they’re looking for; other days they’ll want to use colored pencils (included in the Student Pack) or highlighters.
  4. Finally, the student copies a portion of the passage, helping them pay even closer attention to the text.

The second page for each day focuses on dictation, with the student writing down words or passages as you read them aloud.  This is the part of the program where I really saw the progression of skill development.  (The list of words can be found in the “Resources” section at the back of the Instructor’s Handbook, though I wish it were also included in the instructions for each lesson.)

For the first 6 weeks the top half of the page is just letter copying practice, followed by 6 words for dictation.

  • In the first 2 weeks, they give the student 3 words to trace, and then they write the same 3 words on their own.
  • In Weeks 3-5 there are 6 words, all following a Consonant-Vowel-Consonant pattern with the same vowel used all week.
  • In Week 6 all the vowels are used each day, requiring the student to listen carefully to the words as you say them.  The student says each sound as they write the letters and reads back the words after they have completed each one (an important step for learning how to both encode and decode words).

Starting in Week 7, the entire second page is used for dictation (12 words).

  • At first they are still C-V-C words
  • In Week 8 beginning blends are introduced (e.g. frog, slip, this).  In the first few lessons, the position of the vowel is given, helping the student to visualize where to put letters for the other sounds.
  • Weeks 14-16 focus on ending blends (e.g. dust, hand, rush).
  • Finally, Weeks 17 and 18 move to 5-letter words with blends at both the beginning and the end (e.g. twist, cloth, clang).

In the Student Workbook Part 2 the dictation section consists of phrases from the week’s passage rather than word lists.

My Thoughts on Spelling You See

I REALLY like this program.  There are a only a few minor things that I’m not wild about.  The first is the style of handwriting.  Most letters were formed the same I have taught Ian, but others were slightly different.  I just had him write those the way he already knew how if he got confused.  He had no trouble with this style of “y”, but the curls at the bottom of letters like “t” and “l” seemed to throw him off so he went back to using straight lines.

SYS4

I also didn’t care for the way the lines were given for the students to write on for their copywork. I prefer using a 3-line guide that helps the student know where both capital and lowercase letters should be started, and Spelling You See only uses 2 lines, so Ian was never quite sure how tall to make his letters.  I was consistently having to ask him to make his “d’s” taller because they looked like “a’s”.  (This was especially noticeable on the dictation pages, where there were no lines at all, only boxes.  The longer we used the program, the shorter his lines started getting, to the point that even he had a hard time reading back the words because he couldn’t tell if it was a “d” or an “a.”)

SYS5

My only other issue was not knowing what to say when Ian ran into pesky spelling problems, particularly words with the /k/ sound.   By week 7 the only words he had missed were “doc” and “yak” (chose the wrong ending both times).  Later when we came across “skid” and “skip,” I saw him starting to write a “c” on the first word so I just told him to make it a “k” and then think about how that looked when he wrote the second.  Then when we got to “scum,” he missed it 2 days in a row and finally took to asking me whenever we encountered the /k/ sound because he never knew what it should be.  I would have liked a little more guidance about how to help him through situations like these.

Overall, however, the program as is excellent.  As I said before, it’s the way I always wanted to teach spelling, but with the hard part done for me.  There is no preparation required, and everything is completed quickly.  Ian enjoys the work, almost like it’s a game to figure out how to spell the words I give him, and I love that he finds the lessons so satisfying. I’ve already got Wild Tales (Level C) ready for when Ian finishes this level, and I’m looking forward to starting Elijah as soon as I feel like he’s ready for more formal schoolwork.

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What Makes a Christian Home?

Each Mentoring Monday I share my reflections on what I’ve been learning from my “paper mentors.”  I am currently joining in a book discussion of Educating the WholeHearted Child by Clay Clarkson (with Sally Clarkson).  If you want to join in, visit our Facebook discussion group page.

Educating the WholeHearted Child: Chapter 1

I was really convicted and challenged by the first part of this chapter, which is entitled “The Christian Home”.

A Christian home is never defined by what the children are doing; it is defined by what the parents are doing.  Your child could study the Bible every day, listen only to Christian music, watch only Christian videos, read missionary biographies, know a zillion memory verses, and never miss Sunday School or Bible Club, yet still not live in a Christian home” (page 20).

It is easy to put on those external trappings and consider our job done.  Obviously none of these things are bad.  It’s just that real faith is the result of a Christ-centered heart.  We must always remember that our “doing” flows out of our “being,” and not the other way around.  If we want to raise Christian children, our focus needs to be on their hearts, rather than on “Christian” activities.

So, what makes a Christian home?  The Clarksons say, “A Christian home is one in which the parents purposefully keep Jesus Christ at the center of every area of family life” (page 20).  They break this down into three biblical priorities:

  • home nurture (“Shepherding Your Child’s Spirit to Long for God”)
  • home discipleship (“Shaping Your Child’s Heart to Live for God”)
  • home education (“Strengthening Your Child’s Mind to Learn for God”).

Of these three, I think the first is the one I find most challenging.  “The heart of home nurture is bringing the living Christ into all that you do through the life of the Holy Spirit and through the living and active Word of God” (page 20).

Why do I find it so hard to expose my children to the living God?  He has done so much for me.  My own faith burns fiercely in my heart.  Surely some of that must overflow into my life.  I pray my children can see it.  Yet I feel like I am sorely lacking in this area.  I feel like I get so caught up in the day to day business of running a home and accomplishing everything that needs to be done when there are four little ones in the house that my children don’t really catch more than a tiny glimpse of who I really am, of who God really is, of how He moves in my life and directs my steps.

More than anything, I want my children to long for God.  As I read what the Clarksons have said about home nurture, I feel a deficit that I pray the Lord will help to fill.  I love this quote by Rev. Andrew Murray in the sidebar on page 20:

To take charge of an immortal soul, to train a will for God and eternity, surely we ought to shrink from it.  But we cannot.  If we are parents, the duty is laid upon us.  But, thank God!  Sufficient grace is prepared and promised, too.

Sufficient grace.  I will trust in You, Lord.

Home Education is not School at Home (Mentoring Monday)

Educating the WholeHearted Child: Preface and Introduction

Each Mentoring Monday I share my reflections on what I’ve been learning from my “paper mentors.”  Over the next few months, I’m going to be joining a book discussion of Educating the WholeHearted Child by Clay Clarkson (with Sally Clarkson).  If you want to join in, visit our Facebook discussion group page.

Our first reading assignment is the Preface and Introduction, and even just these few pages have whet my appetite for the feast that is to come as we make our way through this rich book.  In them, Clay and Sally describe what homeschooling looks like to them: “In a time when you are faced with a confusing and often frustrating array of educational choices for how to homeschool, we simply want to share our vision of WholeHearted Learning–a biblical, commonsense, discipleship-based lifestyle of home education using real books, real life, and real relationships” (p.x).

I love this.  It describes everything I want our homeschool experience to be.  And yet it is so easy for me to get caught up in the “school” part of homeschooling.  Maybe part of that stems from not only growing up in traditional schools but also being born into a family of teachers (my mom, my aunt, their cousins, my brother, his wife… me).  I only spent 3 years in the classroom myself, but even that short amount of time shaped me as a teacher in a ways that aren’t necessarily compatible with this ideal.

I want our homeschooling to be a lifestyle.  Maybe I need to be more intentional about focusing on “home education” rather than “home school.” I want to “declare [my] independence from conventional schooling and establish a new outpost of spiritual, personal, and academic freedom within the walls of [my] home” (p.13). We’re not trying to do school at home.  While I try to stay away from traditional textbooks, mentally I still tend to get stuck in a school rut.  I’ve caught the vision for what the Clarkson describe, but I need to be constantly reminded in order to actually walk that out.  I’m hoping that reading through this book will help to lay down new grooves to help me break out of those old patterns and start falling into a different kind of lifestyle for our family.

Home education is not our primary goal–home nurture and discipleship are, and home education is simply the natural extension of those biblical principles” (p.14).  In some ways I think we’ve gotten off to a pretty good start for this and are headed in the right direction, but I want to keep this vision in the forefront of my mind. “Your role as a home-educating parent, then, is to provide a rich and lively living and learning environment in which your children can exercise their God-given drive to learn and then to biblically train and instruct your children within the natural context of your home and family life” (p.15).

Yes.  God, help me to make it so.

 

Egglo Entertainment (TOS Crew Review)

Egglo Review

Egglo Review
Trying to find a way to include Jesus in your Easter celebration?  We recently had the chance to review a line of products from Egglo Entertainment that are designed to bring the message that Jesus is the Light of the World into Easter Egg hunts.  I received The Egg-cellent Easter Adventure, a book about three children who go on an adventure and discover the true meaning of Easter, and Glow in the Dark Egglo Eggs, and even though we were using them before the Easter season, they were a big hit in our house.  After all, hunting for glow-in-the-dark eggs is fun no matter when you do it!  (And since our family usually try to keep egg-related activities separate from Resurrection Sunday, it worked especially well for us to use these now.)

There are several products available for purchase on the website to help you make your egg hunt a meaningful activity, so let me tell you about the ones we used.  (All prices are current at time of publishing.) Obviously the most important thing is the Glow in the Dark Egglo Eggs ($9.99).  The Egglo Treasures Scripture Scrolls ($4.29) are great for putting inside them to make it clear that this isn’t just another hunt for candy-filled eggs, glow-in-the-dark or not.  If you want to use the story, The Egg-cellent Easter Adventure, the print form of the book is available for $9.99, and there’s also an audiobook in mp4 format you can download for $2.99.

The Egg-cellent Easter Adventure Program Guide Curriculum ($14.99)is full of suggestions for a church-hosted event.  (Many of the ideas can also be adapted for family use).  It has printable invitations, decorations, coloring pages, themed snack suggestions (like torches made from pretzels and marshmallows), devotions, Easter party games and activities, and lots of tips for helping you plan a successful event for children and their families.  The website has a lot of ideas to check out as well.  I especially liked the page titled Egglo All-Year Round, which was full of suggestions to use the eggs in ways other than an Easter egg hunt.

Egglo Review

Our Experience with Egglo Entertainment 

The first thing we did read The Egg-cellent Easter Adventure.  The illustrations are colorful and fun, and while the story is a bit fantastic, the boys enjoyed the many different parts of the adventure as the characters visited Ancient Egypt, a sunken pirate ship, and an erupting volcano before ending up at a shining cross in a beautiful garden full of gentle animals living in harmony with one another.

Egglo1Later on we did an egg hunt in the dark.  I filled the eggs with the Egglo Treasures Scripture Scrolls and a couple small candies and then hid them in places where their glow would be sure to show once I turned out the lights and set the boys loose.  They loved seeing the light of the eggs around our living room and collecting them!   (I wish I knew more about photography so I could have done a better job capturing some of the fun moments.)  My kids especially loved the tiny scrolls, both because they’re such cute miniatures and because they’re like the scrolls in the book.  Different Bible verses pertaining to the gospel message, especially verses about Jesus as the Light of the World, are paraphrased on the scrolls.

Kids wanted to do the egg hunt over and over, but as the eggs lost their glow we had to wait until dark the next night.  (The eggs charge best in sunlight, taking about 20 minutes in direct exposure, but we found they really needed total darkness to glow well, which meant waiting until after the sun had gone down, which of course meant they lost some of their intensity.  We found it best to just charge them in our kitchen’s fluorescent lights instead for about 40 minutes and then turn out all the lights in the house, even covering up LED lights that interfered with the searching).  We did this every night for a week!  The three older kids delighted in taking turns hiding the eggs and then seeking them out, especially when my husband and I were the appointed “seekers.” (This program is ideal for roughly ages 4-13, but certainly it can be adapted to include other ages.  Arianna (2) was too little to get much out of the book and the scrolls, but she loved joining in with her brothers when it came to playing with the eggs and admiring the glow.)

Egglo3

We ended first egg hunt with a more solemn time of teaching as we read through the Bible verse on their scrolls and talked about what they mean.  Since my kids love listening to audiobooks as they go to sleep, the mp3 of the book was a great way to keep emphasizing the teaching about Jesus.  I also let the boys each take an egg into bed with them to enjoy its glow as they fell asleep (an idea I got from the Egglo All-Year Round page).

My favorite thing about the Egglo products is the message.  In world darkened by sin, we want to look for the light. Just as our children hunt for the glowing eggs in the dark, we hope they will seek out Jesus, the Light of the world.  Our family really enjoyed reading the story and playing with the eggs, but my prayer is that the message will stick in my children’s hearts so that whenever they remember the fun times we had, they will also remember the Truth that was represented by those glowing eggs.

Egglo Review

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Introducing Mentoring Monday

Tonight I had the pleasure of watching a webinar with Sally Clarkson as she shared about her heart for homeschooling.  Some of the moms watching were chatting and decided to start up a group to go through Clay Clarkson’s book Educating the WholeHearted Child, which I read a few years ago but have been meaning to go through again.  I have been so encouraged and challenged by the Clarksons, both through their MomHeart conferences and their books, and I consider them mentors even though they have no idea who I am.  I decided that in addition to reading through the book with the other moms in the Facebook discussion group, I want to jot down some of my thoughts about each chapter here to help keep myself accountable for actually sticking to the schedule we come up with!  I may or may not write every week, but I want to try to share somewhat regularly what I am learning from the “paper mentors” in my life.

Science4Us.com (TOS Crew Review)

Science4Us Review

I want to love science.  It teaches us about God’s world and leaves me in awe of His infinite creativity and remarkably complex design.  Yet when it comes to homeschooling, the word “science” starts to fill me with dread.  I want to find a way to teach my children about the wonderful world God has created in a way that doesn’t seem dreary and dull (as I remember my science lessons being when I was a child).  Science4Us.com is something I probably would never have sought out on my own, but when I was given a Science4Us.com Online Subscription to review I was pleasantly surprised by this wonderful program designed specifically for Kindergarten through second grade.

Ian caught glimpses of the website before I found out I was going to get to review it and was intrigued.  So by the time I was able to access the site he was very excited.  When the student signs on, they see a screen like this :

Science4Us Review

Once I showed Ian how to choose a “book” of science (physical science, inquiry, life science, or earth/space science) he had no problem taking off on his own and exploring the site, which contains over 350 lessons! He was immediately drawn to the section on “force and motion” and then chose the module on simple machines and the proceeded to go through the entire lesson in one sitting.  I kept telling him he didn’t have to do it all, that he could save some for the next day, but he insisted that he wanted to finish the lesson.  I think it took him about an hour.  (The next morning he immediately went to the computer and finished two complete modules on motion and space.)

My first impression was very positive, and it only get better over the course of the time we were reviewing it.  The activities were full of information but short enough to not be boring.  There were several activities where it was helpful to know how to read, but not necessary because they provided an option to have it read aloud with a simple click.  He really liked the “Syllables with Silly Bulls” activity, which provides spelling and reading practice for the student as he puts together the words.  Ian also got his first experience putting words in alphabetical order, something he probably would have dragged his feet at if I just sat him down to do it, but which was “fun” because it was on the computer.

Science4Us.com is built upon the “5E Inquiry-Based Instruction Module”:

  • Engage
  • Explore
  • Explain
  • Elaborate
  • Evaluate

Each lesson has a series of activities that take the student through these five stages of learning.  The program is web-based, but there is more to it than just the online activities.  If you sign in as a teacher you can find a teacher guide and offline materials to go along with each lesson.

Science4Us Review

If Ian were older I would have spent more time utilizing those resources, but as a Kindergarten science curriculum I found the online activities alone to be plenty.  He really enjoyed working through lessons on all sorts of subjects, and since he was excited about science, I decided to really follow his lead and stick with just the online portion of the program.

Things we loved

  • There is lots of teacher support.  You can assign certain lessons, view the student’s notebook, and watch training videos to help you get the most out of the program.
  • There is SO much integration of literacy and math skills.
  • I especially liked how it helped Ian put together on online “notebook” where he created pages about what he was learning.
  • I love the connection to everyday life.  As Ian was going through a lesson on heat, he came across a picture of a scientist using a thermometer just like one we happen to have at home.  He came racing out to find it and was so excited that what he was learning about was “real.”

science4us1

Things we would have liked a little different:

Science4Us.com is an excellent program, and there’s not really anything I didn’t like about the way it is presented to the students.  However, as a homeschool parent there were a couple things I would have changed.

  • The cost of the program is $7.95 per child per month.  As a homeschooler, a family price would have been more beneficial.  My 4-year old saw what Ian was doing and wanted to copy him.  I was generously given a subscription for both boys, so he was able to sign on himself to do some lessons.  However, some of the work was beyond him, and I wouldn’t have chosen to pay for a subscription for him as he used it a lot less than Ian.  While it makes sense for a school to pay a cost per student for all the students in a certain grade, families have a different dynamic since there are students at different levels who might not be able to utilize the full program but would still benefit from being able to use it.
  • The way of viewing the records of what has been accomplished seems geared more toward a school setting.  As a classroom teacher I can see wanting to view what every student has done on a particular subject.  However, as a homeschool teacher, I would have liked a way to see all the things a single student has done in the entire program on one page, but I could only find a way to look at one subject at a time.  (I am told they are working on adding this.)

Overall I would say Science4Us.com is a great Kindergarten science curriculum for students who enjoy spending time on the computer.  Whether you have your student go through it systematically, assigning specific lessons and working through each book of science one at a time, or just let them explore and follow their own interests, they will learn a lot, have fun, and develop a love for science that will carry them on to more in depth study as they get older.

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