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Mid-Year Homeschool Curriculum Review for 6th Grade

Our 2016-2017 6th grade homeschool curriculum reviews
Our 2016-2017 6th grade mid-year homeschool curriculum reviews

So how are things going this year in our homeschool? Which homeschool curriculum are we still using and why? Which curriculum did we ditch and why? What’s been added? What’s changed? Below is our subject by subject 6th grade homeschool curriculum review and changes. Click here to read what we started with at the beginning of the year: Our 6th Grade Homeschool Curriculum.

Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links that I have provided for your convenience. Click here to read my full disclosure policy.

Homeschool Curriculum Review of Our Essential Subjects

Math

We have been using Math-U-See for 4 years now and so far it is great. Are my children in love with math as I am? No, but they are mastering all the concepts presented in this curriculum. Read my post, How to Effectively Implement Math-U-See to get an idea of how we use this curriculum in our homeschool.

English

We have been using BJU Press for 4 years for our language arts and writing. When it comes to learning grammar, I think this curriculum is great. However, after 4 years of their writing component, the boys and I are bored to death of it. It is really turning us all off to writing.

With that, I started the new year by omitting the writing chapters. Instead, I am allowing the boys to work on research papers of their choosing. They are to choose a historical person, event, or scientific concept on which to do their papers. I can’t begin to tell you the difference in their attitudes towards writing assignments now. What took days to draft a single paper now takes about a couple of hours.

So what does this look like in our homeschool? We take on a writing assignment every other week. This gives them time to decide on their topic or person, do a little research, and order books from the library. We also use our membership with NotebookingPages to make our reports look good.

Here is what that week of writing looks like:

  • Monday: planning (usually an outline of their paper based on their research)
  • Tuesday: drafting
  • Wednesday: revising and proofreading
  • Thursday: bibliography and images added
  • Friday: formatting and publishing the final paper

Literature

So far this year, we have read Shakespeare’s ‘Much Ado About Nothing’ and will end the year with ‘As You Like It’.  Josh really likes it and gets into character when his speaking part comes up. Jack, not so much. He really hates reading the parts. However, he does pay attention and enjoys watching the movie clips for each part we read.

We continue to read the Harry Potter series for independent reading and are enjoying the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series for school reading time. Next month, we will be covering short stories.

This is a list of all that we have read and will cover soon:

World History/Geography

We are still using Susan Wise Bauer’s Story of the World Curriculum. I like this curriculum because it doesn’t just cover the typical European/American history I encountered throughout my elementary years. This curriculum covers the Far East, Africa, and even Australia.

I pair this curriculum with writing now (see above) allowing the boys to do a one-page research paper on a historical person or event of their choice. We also watch parts of the History Channel’s DVDs: Mankind, The Story of All of Usand America, The Story of Us. The boys love watching these DVDs. These really bring out history for them.

U.S. Geography

This has not changed from last year. We take 6 days to cover each state and use NotebookingPages‘ individual state study sheets. I also pair this with Scholastic Highlight’s Which Way, USA subscription. While I do not like the mazes and crossword puzzle activities in the book, they do have other fun activities that require fact checking and mapping skills. We are almost done with this curriculum having covered this over the last two and half years. 50 states are a lot!!

U.S. Government

This year we read Presidential Elections and Other Cool Factsby Syl Sobel around the time of the election. On election day, I printed out a blank U.S. map where the kids could color in each state red or blue depending on the candidate who won that state. We also tallied the electoral college votes on our white board until we reached the winning number.  I still can’t believe how excited the boys got on election day. They really took to their activities. It was fun watching them cheer on the candidate of their choice.

Science

This year, I changed things up and purchased Dr. Bernard J. Nebel’s Scientific Understanding and Elementary Science Education books. Both these books cover K to 5th grade but can be used for any grade with some modifications. These are not textbooks or workbooks for kids. These books are guides for parents to use in order to teach different science concepts.

I really loved these books. Dr. Nebel explains each concept in simple terms and best of all, his experiment suggestions are doable. That is, most of the materials can be found in the home. The few items I have had to buy were things that I found easily at Walmart or on Amazon. You don’t have to worry about trying to find crazy electronic parts or chemicals.

I am also pairing this subject with writing as well. The boys can research either a topic or scientist of their choice. We will be working on creating a periodic table (coming to a post soon) where we will cover each element on a report sheet from NotebookingPages (this site has everything, can you tell?).

Homeschool Curriculum Review of Our Electives

Technology

We are currently using Homeschool Programming Inc.’s Digital Savvy for learning simple computer skills. The boys can’t wait to learn programming but I believe that they should learn the basics first. I am so glad I decided to do it this way. What they are learning now, they are applying to their research reports such as word processing, using images, and search engines. This program even teaches about spreadsheets, social media, and how to be safe online.

We also included the subscription based EEME as part of their tech curriculum. Read my review of EEME to find out more about it.

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Spanish

So far I have been winging this without curriculum. I have not found anything that goes beyond simple labeling and maybe a few common phrases. I did start touching upon the basics of verb conjugations in order to get the boys creating simple sentences but I am running into a little trouble finding resources to further their grasp of the language. Would love to hear from anyone who has a great resource.

Typing

We are using Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing Family Edition that we purchased as a download off of Amazon. Scheduling this every day, the boys ended up finishing the tutorial part before Christmas. I think it did a good job of teaching the boys how to type. Josh has really taken to using his skills whenever he is on a keyboard; Jack, not so much.

Right now, the boys are working on the typing tests available at the end of the tutorial. As far as scheduling goes, I only require typing practice on those days that they are not working on research papers since this gives them an opportunity to practice their typing skills already.

Health

We have not done health yet. We will be starting after U.S. Geography is finished which will be some time in March. I’ll update this post with that review once we finish it.

And this is it folks, our mid-year homeschool curriculum review. I hope you found it helpful and if you have any suggestions for curriculum, I’d love to hear from you. If you would like more information on a particular curriculum, don’t hesitate to contact me or leave a comment below. Also, don’t forget to sign up below to receive my newsletter alerts. I am in the habit of making lots of freebies so don’t miss out!

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How to Effectively Implement Math-U-See for Homeschool

Image of Math-U-See Zeta Textbook for 6th grade homeschool curriculum review

Are you feeling frustrated with scheduling and using Math-U-See in your homeschool? I have seen comments across many homeschooling communities from parents who are having trouble scheduling and implementing this curriculum. The result: kids crying and sometimes, parents crying. But it doesn’t have to be this way.

Pinterest Pic 1 for Math-U-See post

Math-U-See: 215 Days of Work!

Math-U-See Zeta Textbook

For every level workbook in Math-U-See, there are 215 sheets, a combination of worksheets and tests. Each workbook has 30 chapters:

  • 3 lesson practice sheets (worksheets A, B, C)
  • 3 systematic review sheets (worksheets D, E, F)
  • 1 application & enrichment activity (worksheet G)
  • 30 lesson tests
  • 4 unit tests
  • 1 final

It seems like a lot, but I find this to be just the right amount of practice sheets and tests to confidently measure my children’s mastery.

How I Schedule Math and Still Enjoy Summers Off

If you already familiar with Math-U-See, you know that it comes with a DVD where students and parents can watch Mr. Demme explain a new concept and then demonstrate ways of solving them. These lessons are short and sweet, averaging about 5-10 minutes. Not too bad. Listed below is how I schedule a particular chapter.

Pinterest Pic 2 for Math-U-See Post
  • Day 1: we watch the video clip for that lesson/work on sheets A & B. (Sheet A usually has the first two problems already done, so assigning both sheets isn’t a big deal. Plus, it gives them enough practice to learn that new concept.)
  • Day 2: we work on practice sheet C
  • Day 3: we work on practice sheet D
  • Day 4: we work on practice sheet E
  • Day 5: we work on practice sheet F
  • Day 6: I use practice sheet G as a bell ringer and give them their lesson test

In this way, I am able to fit 8 of those sheets into 6 days….except when practice sheet F lands on a Friday. I am reluctant to giving kids a math test on a Monday after a weekend. In this case, I have the kids do their sheet G on that particular Friday and save sheet F for Monday. Then I give them their test on that following Tuesday. Below is what our math schedule looks like for a typical month.

Example of Math-U-See Schedule in Google Sheets

This cuts down that 215-day year into a reasonable school year. If giving them two sheets the first day seems excessive to you then skip A and give them B for more practice. Click here: Our Math Schedule if you would like to copy and edit it in your Google Drive for your own homeschool.

Go as Fast or Slow as You Want

Math-U-See is not assigned or designed to a particular grade level. This means that you don’t have to finish an entire math book in a year. You can do 20-25 chapters then resume the rest the following year.

Math-U-See levels are not assigned a particular grade so you don't have to finish an entire level in 1 year.Click To Tweet

If you would like to see how we fit our math schedule along with other subjects, check out our 6th grade schedule and 6th grade  curriculum picks.

Quick Tip #1: The Goal is Mastery

In math, the goal is mastery, not memorization. Practice is key because it provides different ‘scenarios’ to apply what they have learned. My children’s mastery of math has made learning new concepts easier and less frustrating. So try not to skip practice sheets.

Quick Tip#2: Don’t Hate Math

For those of you who ‘hate’ math: instead, embrace it. And above all, don’t convey your hate of math to your children. They will see it as this evil thing and follow your behavior. If you really, really hate math, then perhaps have someone take over that part for you. Have your spouse, an older child, a friend, or maybe a next door neighbor work with your child.

To learn more about Math-U-See, visit their website at: http://www.mathusee.com/ They have plenty of videos demonstrating their products.

So how do you schedule Math-U-See into your homeschool? Let me know below in the comment section. I am curious to see what you do.

Take care,

Post Signature for Implementing Math-U-See

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Goal Setting Worksheets to Help Make Your New Year Successful

Featured Post Goal Setting
Pin Goal Setting

Another year has come and gone and this is when many people begin making resolutions for the coming year. And like most resolutions, they will be broken before February comes along. Instead, I like creating doable goals that have a few benchmark steps so that I can monitor my success and growth as I reach my final goal. I have created goal setting worksheets that help me work towards achieving my goals and thought I’d share them with you.

Before Setting Goals

Before I begin setting goals, I like to look back on the goals that I had set the year before. I like seeing the goals I accomplished, the goals that I almost achieved, and the ones that fell flat.

Last year, I created 10 goals and only fully completed 3 of them; 1 was cancelled because of a death in the family; I made small dents in 4 of the goals; and I made no progress on 2 of the goals.

For the goals I almost achieved, I ask myself what can I do to get it done in the coming year. What stopped me from reaching this goal: was it money? time?

For the goals that I listed but did not work on, I ask myself whether it is a goal I really want to work on. Why didn’t I follow through? Should this goal make it onto my new year’s goal list?

How to Use the Goal Setting Worksheets

There are two worksheets. Make a copy of the first sheet. Then make copies of the second sheet front and back to save paper. That is one sheet for every two goals you listed. For the first page just brain dump all the goals you would like to work on for this coming year. Some examples can include losing a certain amount of weight, taking classes, reading a certain amount of books, get some home improvements done, and maybe do some traveling. I only listed spaces for 10 goals but feel free to list more on the back. Then, for each goal, fill out the second sheet. Check out my personal examples below.

Vacation Goal Setting
Our Family Vacay Goal Sheet

For our yearly family vacation. I listed reasons for this goal and a deadline. I also listed my steps for completing this goal. You may need to do some research for this part. In my case, I had to set a budget to see what was financially reasonable. I also listed ways I can save for this trip such as using discounts or member rewards. In the notes, I just listed the phone number and website address for this vacation spot.

Mortgage Goal Setting Sheet
This is my Paying Off Mortgage Worksheet

Monitor your Successes

After filling out all the worksheets, I recommend putting them somewhere where they will be visible. I keep mine on my wall organizer. On the first of every month I evaluate each goal for growth/success then fill out the goal achievement circles on the bottom of each sheet. Here is an example:

Monthy goal setting circles

If necessary, make changes to help you reach that ultimate goal. If you’ve completed a goal, then remove the goal worksheet and file it away. At the end of the year, gather up these worksheets and marvel at your successes and rethink your other goals for the coming new year.

So are you ready for 2017? Click here for your goal setting worksheets to get started on a successful year to come.

Happy New Year!!!!

Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links that I have provided for your convenience. Click here to read my full disclosure policy.

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2017 Calendar and Pretty Cover for Mini Planners

2017 Calendar Feature Picture
Pin 2017 Calendar

It’s here and it’s free! I have just finished creating the 2017 Calendar (Year-at-a-Glance) and planner cover to go with my customizable daily planner pages. I’ve also created mini binder bookmarks that displays months of the year. Scroll to the end of the post to get your free cover, year at a glance, and dividers for your mini planner.

2017 Calendar and Cover Page

This year I have taken classes learning all about Adobe Illustrator. My goal: to make prettier products for my subscribers including my planner pages. These free printables are my first attempt at Adobe Illustrator so I really hope that you like them. Stay tune in the coming year for more free printables as I try to get better and improve my skills and products.

Changes This Year

Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links that I have provided for your convenience. Click here to read my full disclosure policy.

For those who are currently using my planner pages, you will find that I did not include the monthly cover sheets. After using my planner, I realized that those covers weren’t so planner-friendly as I thought. Instead, I am using my bookmarks (with months printed on them) to mark special days along with my Avery color coding labels. I find this more planner-friendly and hope you do too. I use green labels for birthdays, pink for holidays, yellow for special events, and orange for vacations.

Bookmark with Avery color coding labels for 2017 Calendar
This was the prototype bookmark. See below for the one you will receive.
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Putting your Bookmarks Together

To put your 2017 Calendar bookmarks together, first cut on the dotted line and then fold on the solid ones.

Dividers or bookmarks for 2017 Calendar

I suggest laminating your bookmarks so they will last the whole year. With a dry erase marker, mark the placement for your punch holes. Don’t forget that you want the bookmark to stick out on the top a bit, so adjust accordingly. After hole punching your bookmark, snip from the edge of the bookmark (side with the punch holes) to the punch hole. This will allow you to easily move the bookmark. Also, I cut the top inner corner of all my pages and bookmark leaving room for ring tab on the top.

For First Timers to My Site

For those who are here for the first time, scroll down to the end of this post to access my customizable perpetual daily mini planner pages. Also, visit my planner pages post to learn how best to put these pages together. For the printables in this post, I highly suggest laminating them so that they don’t fall apart before the year is over. Another option is to insert your cover/year-at-a-glance calendar sheet into a mini planner page protector. If you’re unable to do either, I suggest purchasing reinforcement labels to protect your paper punch holes from tearing.

Planner cover and 2017 Calendar

Ready to Print Your Freebie?

[content_upgrade id=6037]Click here to receive your free mini planner cover, year at a glance, and dividers.[/content_upgrade]

I hope you enjoy these mini planner pages. Don’t forget: I have the mini binder menu planner and mini binder finances pages that you can access here. I am currently working on a goals worksheet for the upcoming year.

Subscribe to my newsletter and never miss out on any upcoming freebies. You can find the forms at the end of this post or in my sidebar to the right.

Have any suggestions for planner inserts that you would like to see made? Let me know in the comments below and I’ll try to create one for all my readers.

Pinterest image for 2017 Calendar and Cover




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10 Easy and Fun Ways to Make Christmas Magical for Kids

christmas magical

10 Easy and Fun Ways to Make Christmas Magical for Kids

Pin Christmas Magical

Below are 10 ways that I have personally made Christmas magical and fun for my kids year after year. They are older now but I thought I’d share all the different ways we tried to make that Christmas morning memorable. Also, check out my last post on creating Pinecone Christmas trees if you are looking for a fun activity to do with kids.

Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links that I have provided for your convenience. Click here to read my full disclosure policy.

1. Hide the Gifts

We all know how the story goes: Santa is responsible for all our gifts. With that, I hid every gift including those sent by relatives. Nothing is ever put under the tree until after the boys go to bed Christmas Eve. The next day, expect your child(ren)’s eyes and expressions to light up. Gifts labeled from relatives can be easily explained away as gifts from those relatives who asked Santa to deliver them. I was lucky to have family that played along and wrote “from Santa” on their gift labels.

2. Watch Lots of Santa Movies

This is fun. I especially enjoy the Claymation ones of my days but anything that will touch upon the spirit of Christmas is great. For older kids on the verge of losing that Christmas magic, Elf and The Polar Express, may give you one last year of magic for your kids.
elf christmas magical
polar express christmas magical

3. Talk to Santa

If you tend to go to malls or other special events that have a Santa on hand, take advantage and go. For some kids, this can be scary. I wanted to avoid crowds and lines so I opted for the kids to receive a video call from the big guy. You can do this by registering your kid(s) at www.portablenorthpole.com. This site allows you to add your child’s name, upload pictures for more personalization, and provides several options for messages. And the best part, it is all for FREE!! When all is done, the site sends you a link via email that your child can access in order to view their message from Santa. If your child is on the younger side, expect them to talk back to Santa even though it is a recorded message.

4. Make Reindeer Food

Google ‘reindeer food’ on the internet and you will find different ways of making it. I usually used about a cup of oatmeal and some sugar. I mixed these together and put it in a mason jar. For a more bird friendly recipe, check out this site that has an accompanying poem that you can adhere to the side of your jar. If you have some time to be creative, decorate your jar as a reindeer. You can paint it brown, use pipe cleaners as antlers, adhere eyes (you can get these from any craft store) and a red pompom for the nose. On Christmas Eve, have the kids sprinkle the food on the lawn.

reindeer food jar christmas magical
reindeer food jar

5. Keep Track of Santa’s Movements

Check out NORAD‘s site where the military men and women of the North American Aerospace Defense Command track Santa’s every move. Here, you get to watch Santa visit various countries throughout the world all day starting on Christmas Eve. I kept my laptop open to this site the whole day until it is time for the kids to go to sleep.

6. Create a Ribbon Path

Measure the path from the kid(s)’ room(s) to the Christmas tree cut some ribbon or piece together some garland to that size. Then, after the kids are asleep, place the ribbon close to their beds or even on their door knobs. The next morning, the kids will wonder where the ribbon will lead to, which, of course, is to their presents. This is great for presents that can’t be wrapped such as a bicycle. You can even hide a much prized present in a closet so that they have to follow the ribbon to get it. We have a two-floor home and my boys were so intrigued by this ribbon that was just strewn about the floor and banister until they got to their bicycles. It was pretty exciting for them.

7. Put out Cookies and Milk

This is a no-brainer. Just don’t forget to take an exaggerated bite out of those cookies so the kids can see that Santa was there. And you get to have a little treat for all these things you are doing.

8. Make Some Santa and Elf Tracks

Once the kids are asleep on Christmas Eve, create Santa and Elf tracks. For this, I used my husband’s boots and traced an outline onto cardstock. You can also freehand it as well. The elf feet should just be a small version of tear drops. Cut out the traced lines and lay the stencil on the floor. Using baby powder, lightly sprinkle it onto the cut out feet. If these seems like a lot of work, then you are in luck because I have created the stencil for you for free. Just click here to access these printables. This was a huge hit the first time we did it. In fact, it got more attention then the presents. By the way, if the kids ask you why doesn’t this “snow” melt, just say it is magical North Pole snow and that it never melts.

9. Leave Some Evidence that the Elves Were There

I am a huge fan of Prep and Landing and that is why I later added elfin feet to #8 above. Because we have a dog, I also sprinkle a little glitter on the floor near the tree. Like the cartoon short, we wanted the boys to think that the elves had to put “Sammie” asleep while they prepped the house for Santa. If you have never seen Prep and Landing, I believe they show it on one of the major networks every year. Check it out and you will understand this particular activity. In case you do not have a dog, then you can use #8 for tracks and perhaps modify #7 by making small notches around one of the cookies.
prep and landing christmas magical

10. Polar Express Tickets

Every year, we watch the Polar Express on Christmas Eve. We do this so that it is the last thing on their minds before heading to bed. Once asleep, I place Polar Express tickets under their pillow. I hole punched them in the middle (in the shape of a heart). In their stocking I put a single jingle bell. The next day when they find their tickets, I tell them that they must have went on the train overnight. The jingle bell is the best part because they check to see if it makes a sound. Priceless! Anyway, if you are looking to find Polar Express tickets, look no further. I have created these for you too. Click here to access your free printable. To make them really look as good as the ones from the movie check your local Arts & Crafts store paper craft aisle. There you should find gold colored paper.

Polar express ticket christmas magical
ticket printed on regular paper
Polar express ticket finished christmas magical
ticket on gold foil

So I hope you enjoy these 10 different ways to making Christmas magical for your kids. I know that my children loved them and yours will too. Merry Christmas!!

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Pinecone Christmas Trees

pinecone christmas trees feature

Pinecone Christmas Trees

pin pinecone christmas trees

My son loves collecting rocks, leaves, and also pinecones. Every year, he comes from the park with an armload of pinecones and I try to find ways to fit it in my décor. This year, he picked a few large and very pretty pinecones. When we came home, many of the pinecones were missing their stems giving them a flat top. When I set them on a table, they looked liked miniature ‘Christmas’ trees. So, I decided to get crafty and created miniature pinecone Christmas trees.

Materials Used

Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links that I have provided for your convenience. Click here to read my full disclosure policy.

I created three different pinecone Christmas trees. For all three trees you will need a can of snow spray, the kind you get for making window displays during this time of year.

pinecone christmas trees snow sprayAs for the other materials, these will be up to you. I purchased all these items at Michaels.

In searching for tree decorations, I found some green/red/gold ribbon trim.

pinecone christmas trees ribbonI also purchased two ornaments: one filled with miniature colored Styrofoam balls and

pinecone christmas trees ornament 1the other filled with glitter confetti;

pinecone christmas trees ornament 2

a set of miniature Christmas lights;

pinecone christmas trees lightsand a silver star charm.

pinecone christmas trees charm If you’d like to create a Christmas scene you may want to buy a snow roll.

pinecone christmas trees snow rollThe snow roll also helps to straighten some leaning trees.

pinecone christmas trees spray glue

To create the glitter tree I recommend a spray glue.

You will also need a glue gun.

Prepping the Trees

The first thing you may want to do is check the tops of the pinecones and remove any stems.

pinecone christmas trees stemThen, set them on a table (top part on bottom) and check for leaning.

pinecone christmas trees leaningTo fix any leaning, remove some of the bottom scales until it is balanced.

pinecone christmas trees straighteningNext, using a thin paint brush, clean off any debris on the pinecones. I had dust, seeds, webs, and even a dead spider in one.

Place your trees on newspapers, and spray them with the snow spray.

pinecone christmas trees frosted 2pinecone christmas trees frostedYou can spray lightly or coat it heavily. This is up to you and how you want your tree to look. I coated mine heavily. As you decorate your trees take into consideration that you may lose some of your snow coating due to handling. Let your trees dry for at least 24 hours.

Decorating Pinecone Christmas Trees

Glitter Tree

To create my glitter tree, I sprayed glue all over it, and immediately sprinkled the glitter confetti I got from one of the Christmas ornament. This took less than two minutes to make.

pinecone christmas trees glitter

Christmas Tree with Lights, Trim, and Star

Wrap the tree with the lights first. Since these lights were 9 feet long, I wrapped this tree a few times. Next, I removed the extra pieces off the star charm and glued it to the top of the tree. After, I wrapped some gold/green/red trim. This helped to hide the glue gun blob holding the star in place. This took about 30 minutes to put together.

pinecone christmas trees lighted

Christmas Tree with Ball Ornaments

This tree took the most time to make. Depending on the size of your pinecone, expect to spend an hour putting everything together. To make this tree, I laid a strip of glue (using the glue gun) on the width of each pinecone scale. Then I added two miniature Styrofoam balls on each scale. When this is complete allow the glue to dry for about an hour. Finally, go back and carefully remove those little hairs or tails that the glue gun makes as you complete your tree.

 

pinecone christmas trees with balls 2

Optional Ideas

I set my pinecone Christmas trees on a piece of wood that I painted white and laid out a layer of snow roll. This helped with some of the trees that had a slight lean. I also purchased miniature gifts to finish the scenepinecone christmas trees giftsand placed a Happy Holidays wooden sign that I got from Michaels and painted red.

While I was at Michaels, they had a whole section dedicated to creating miniature Christmas scenes. I wanted to buy them all but that would have been really costly. Instead, I think I am going to buy one miniature a year and just build up my scene that way. They had things like lampposts, benches, and animals. Again, the decorating is all up to you.

pinecone christmas trees lighted 2

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How to Get Kids to Write to Their Deployed Parent More Often

image of a boy writing deployment newsletter

Have a reluctant writer? Want to get your child to write to their deployed parent often? With today’s technology, it is much easier for families in the military to stay in touch through email, cell phone, and even better, with FaceTime and Skype. I won’t complain having had no cell phone or email technology when my husband first deployed many moons ago.

Deployment Newsletter Pinterest Pic

Last year, my husband deployed again. As a homeschool mom of two very reluctant writers, I saw this deployment as an opportunity for them to practice their writing skills. I wanted them to stay connected with their dad between long stretches of time when communications are down. This can last weeks sometimes.

So, I came up with a deployment newsletter in an effort to make it fun and engaging for the boys. I created a template where they could fill in information (some requiring full sentences and others not) for different sections like ones you find in a newspaper. This worked so well for us that I thought I’d share it with my freebie subscribers.

pin deployment newsletter activity

What’s in the Deployment Newsletter?

The newsletter has several boxes that I assigned certain topics. The first box is for “news from home”. This is where my boys wrote about things such as losing a tooth, watching a movie, or visiting family. I placed an oval section so that one can cut and paste a ‘best’ picture of the week.  This is where the boys would place a picture of themselves or the dog. No good pictures? My boys would also cut out interesting pictures from a newspaper to put there.

image of boy writing in deployment newsletter
Jack writing to his dad using the deployment newsletter template

The next set of boxes is a comic strip panel. My boys love telling stories so this part allowed them to do that with pictures. A few times, they cut a very funny panel from the comics section of the newspaper and pasted it there. The Stats box is for scores and updates on favorite teams. My boys kept my husband updated on his favorite hockey team. Don’t follow sports? One can fill the box with the days until homecoming.

Click here to let others know that they can receive a free printable to get their kids to write to their deployed parent more often.Click To Tweet

The school news box is just that, a recount of things they learned and did in school or in our case, homeschool. The boys would share book titles they were reading or science experiments that they put together. The next box has dashes like a coupon where one can write things like 20% more hugs when he/she returns. Finally, the last box is for a personal message.

Choosing your Deployment Newsletter

I made three types of newsletters. The first one is completely blank allowing you to name your newsletter and each section of the layout items provided. The second one has some of the sections named and the third one has all the sections named. Click the pink box below to get your free templates.

[fancy_box id=2 linked_cu=6229 background=”#f5897f” align=”justify”]Click here to subscribe to my freebie alerts and receive your free deployment newsletter templates.[/fancy_box]

I really hope you enjoy doing this activity with your children. Check out my posts: Coping with Another Deployment and How to Create a Deployment Wall for more activities that kids can do during a deployment.

Let me know how this activity worked for your family. Ideas that I can add to the template? Let me know below in the comments section. Lastly, for military families enduring a deployment now, I wish for a quick and safe return of your loved ones.

Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links that I have provided for your convenience. Click here to read my full disclosure policy.

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EEME Review

boys working on EEME project 3 EEME review

EEME Review as Part of Our Homeschool Curriculum

Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links that I have provided for your convenience. Click here to read my full disclosure policy.

pin pic of EEME review

What does EEME Stand For?

EEME stands for Electrical Engineering/Mechanical Engineering. I added EEME to our 6th grade curriculum this year after searching for an elective that the boys would love (and stick to). This is my EEME review.

Why EEME?

After homeschooling for three years, I’ve tried to get them interested in art. The boys just don’t care for it. They have my tone-deafness, so playing an instrument is off the curriculum. They love their Legos and building things. However, when I require they build something for school, their motivation and creativity shut down.

One thing they do love: video games!! and Legos, of course. So, I decided to add computer science to the curriculum. Right now, they are learning the basics of computers and programs and will graduate into creating gaming programs and coding in the next few years.

They like their new course but learning the basics is not really exciting. I felt that something was lacking. The curriculum needed a hands-on creative outlet that ties in with electronics. This is when I found EEME. EEME provides project-based activities where kids put together various electronic and mechanical components. The results are thrilling as my boys light up a bulb, display different numbers on a LED, and recently, sound an alarm.

josh showing off EEME light project

What is EEME?

EEME is not your typical textbook/exam curriculum. The company sends a different project every month and provides video instructions online at their website. So far, each project has 20-30+ modules that consist of activities (putting together pieces), and review questions before they progress to the next activity. This monthly subscription is $18.95.

boys working on EEME project 2

I have to say that the boys really like EEME and truly cannot wait until their next shipment. I am beyond happy that I was able to find something that the boys are sticking to (unlike karate.) It doesn’t hurt that it is educational too. Now, the boys are realizing that their computers are not just a screen and keyboard (or console) but a set of electronics put together and programmed to make it work the way it does. They truly are learning the bare-bone basics of all things electrical and mechanical.

boys working on EEME Project 1

Fitting EEME into Our Curriculum

As for fitting this into our curriculum, I have designated it an elective so there is no one special day we work on our EEME. I check out our work load and if there is time, they will do a handful of modules (usually one activity followed up with review). This allows the boys to work on their projects once or twice a week without too much down time between shipments.

EEME also offers other projects on their site that include robotics. I am thinking about saving that for the summer. So take a look at what they have to offer and consider this as an elective for your son(s) or daughter(s) whether you homeschool or not.

This post may contain affiliate links.

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Bubble Frames for Bathroom Decor

bubble frames on display

Bubble Frames for Bathroom Decor

bubble frames printerest pic

Over a year ago, I wanted to fill my empty bathroom walls with some décor. For my master bathroom I thought it would be cute to put up pictures of my husband and I as children during bath time. God knows my parents took so many of me when I was an infant. I thought it would look even better if I formatted the pictures into black and whites. As a special touch, I wanted to put them in round frames of varying sizes to emulate bubbles. However, when I tried to find circular frames I could not find any. So I got crafty and put these bubble frames together to create our bubble wall décor. I liked it so much, I did the same for the boys’ bathroom.

Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links that I have provided for your convenience. Click here to read my full disclosure policy.

What you will need:

embroidery hoops for bubble frames

You will only use the inner ring of the embroidery hoops as your bubble frames. Save your outer ring for other craft projects. Lay the rings onto some newspaper and paint them, making sure to coat the outer, top, and inside part of the rings. Allow some time to dry.

embroidery hoop inner rings for bubble frames

 

Preparing the photos:

While the rings are drying, work on your photos. You don’t want to use actual photos in the bathroom where it is can ruin easily from the constant moisture. I suggest just printing them out onto copier paper. Also, because my baby photos are in color, I chose to scan the photos and use the edit tool to turn them into black and white photos. You may also want to use the edit tool to crop or retouch any photos that may be just a bit revealing.

After printing them out, recheck the size of each photo by placing the ring on top of the photo. If all looks good, simply laminate each one. This will protect them from moisture exposure. If they appear not to fit the frame, resize them again on your computer again and reprint.

lamination of bubble frame photo

Putting it together:

Lay the rings on each photo and with a pencil, mark the photos by tracing around the outside of the rings. Cut each photo on the lines.

tracing around bubble frames

cut out of photos for bubble frame

 

Next, carefully dab glue on the backside of each frame and place the ring on its assigned photo. Allow these dry thoroughly.

applying glue to bubble frames

When they are dry, carefully use an Xacto knife to trim any edges of the photos that show on the outside of the rings.

using xacto knife to trim excess on bubble frames

Place a few Scotch mounting squares or dots on the backside of each photo then gently place the on the wall pressing down on the photo part.

applying sticky dots to bubble frames

applying bubble frames to wall

bubble frames on display

So there you have it, homemade circular frames. I hope you find this fun to do as well as nostalgic. I know I did. And save those outer rings. I’m planning to make cute wreaths. More on that soon.

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Top Homeschool Resources for First Timers

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My Top Homeschool Resources for First Timers

top homeschool resources pin pic of pencils

We are in our fourth year of homeschooling and so I have here my top homeschool resources for first timers and those who are still on the fence about it.

When I made the decision to homeschool I thought it would come easy to me since I was a teacher. However, I was wrong. Yes, I could teach but I had no idea how to choose the right curriculum or what subjects I would have to teach at certain levels. I also did not know any of the state or city laws that pertained to homeschooling and forget about the requirements for ‘proving’ your children’s mastery. It was July of 2013 and I had a month to learn everything I could before handing in my Notice of Intent to the city’s school division and preparing the boys for their first year of homeschooling.

After so much research, most of it online, I found the following resources that I still use on a regular basis.

Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links that I have provided for your convenience. Click here to read my full disclosure policy.

Top Homeschool Resources for Those Who are Unsure About Homeschooling

Before I handed in my Notice of Intent that first year, I stumbled upon Erica Arndt’s website: http://www.confessionsofahomeschooler.com. This mother of four is amazing. She has been homeschooling her children from the top homeschooling resources 101 start. With her experience, she has created the book: Homeschooling 101, A Guide to Getting Started. In it, she describes every facet of homeschooling and provides step by step instructions to help prepare one’s family for this new adventure. She also provides exercises that I found helpful in solidifying my decision to homeschool.

The second resource I recommend is your state’s department of education website. Here you can find the legalities associated with homeschooling and check whether you are able to comply with them. Also, some states may provide a ‘virtual academy’ where the students are taught and tested according to the state’s standards. The only difference is that the child is learning from home via a computer. This may be a good option for parents who want to homeschool but don’t feel comfortable doing the actual teaching.

And finally, the third resource is your state’s homeschool association. You can find your state’s homeschool association by visiting the Homeschool Legal Defense Association at www.hslda.org. These organizations have a wealth of information about all aspects of homeschooling within your state. You can find the legalities of homeschooling in your state and/or city district as well as other resources to help get you started. My state’s homeschool association sends me newsletters when a law has changed, dates and places to homeschooling conventions as well as family picnics for getting together with other homeschool parents. I especially like receiving my monthly field trip suggestions newsletter. This is where they provide me with a list of places that cater to homeschoolers and even provide discounts. Also, for many associations, if you join up (this usually comes with a yearly fee) they will provide you with legal support for homeschool issues.

Ok, I’m In, Now What? My Top Homeschool Resource for Choosing Curriculum

After visiting the sites above, the next thing you are probably wondering about is curriculum. If you don’t know where to start, I recommend cathyduffyreviews.com. You can find almost every subject here with reviews and prices. I actually purchased her book,top homeschool resources cathy duffy 101 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum when I first started and I was glad I did. It is still my go-to book when I am looking for curriculum. For first timers, I suggest getting the book. In it, she outlines all the different teaching styles and matches the curriculum to that type. This is how I learned about the Charlotte Mason style. She also provides religious affiliations associated with a given curriculum. She recently came out with an update version, 102 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum.

My Top Homeschool Resources for the Charlotte Mason Style

If you have chosen this style or parts of it like I have, then you will want to visit: simplycharlottemason.com. Here, the Shafer and Smith family explain in great detail this method of teaching. You can even catch them on YouTube showing step by step how to implement this method to different subjects. You can also purchase their curriculum at this site as well. What I love is their CM book finder. They have gathered every available ‘living book’ and listed them here by subject and grade.

Another site to check out is notebookingpages.com. Here, Debra Reed provides assorted pages for implementing the Charlotte Mason approach for almost every subject. I purchased her lifetime membership four years ago and have to sayFree Notebooking Pages Sampler that it was worth it. With your membership you’ll receive free samples of curriculum from other vendors to try out as well a year free to her web app that allows one to create their own notebooking pages. After that, it is only $2.49 a month to keep. Since my boys were too young at the time, I opted out of the web app, but have recently added it since the boys are becoming more and more computer savvy.

Other Top Homeschool Resources that I Recommend

If you have a young child, I would recommend confessionsofahomeschooler. Here, you can find Erica Arndt’s assorted curriculum from kindergarten to middle school. She also provides reviews for other curriculum.

For homeschool freebies, visit: homeschoolgiveaways. I get a ton of free printables that range from homeschool subjects to schedules and planners.

Try your local library’s website. I use my library’s site to put books on hold for the coming week, listen to audiobooks, and register the boys in upcoming educational events that take place there.

Well, I hope you find this helpful. I will continue to add and update this post when I find other useful resources. And if you have a fifth or sixth grader, check out my reviews of the curriculum we used. You can find this on my homepage under the tab ‘homeschool’.

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