All parents are united by the driving need to give our kids the best start we can. That’s why I love Evan-Moor’s Smart Start Series. In the past, I reviewed Smart Start STEM, because I absolutely loved it.
Today, I am going to be reviewing Smart Start Read and Write Kindergarten. This resource is definitely not a complete reading or writing curriculum. It is more geared toward kids that need a bit of extra help.
Cayden is 5, and like many boys, he is learning to read pretty slowly. AJ, my almost 4-year-old girl, has picked up almost as much as Cayden when it comes to reading just by being included in Cayden’s lessons.
But, after just a few exercises in Smart Start Read and Write he has made some leaps in writing and phonological awareness, a crucial skill for reading and writing.
There are 5 units that focus on 3 letters each, so the book doesn’t cover the whole alphabet. Each unit includes a story, exercises for identifying the letter in the beginning and end of a word, practice for writing the letter, and review, for each individual letter. At the end of the unit is a review for the entire unit.
One neat feature is that Evan-Moor has provided audio of the stories via Sound Cloud. I like this because I can let Cayden practice following along with his finger without being right on top of him. This helps with directionality.
At the end of the book is a paper matching game. The pupil matches beginning sounds with end sounds. All my kids love to play this matching game, and it has really helped Cayden to learn to listen for the different sounds in a word.
The pages are brightly colored with engaging illustrations. The short exercises don’t demand more attention than littles can give. The exercises are all very similar which helps kids learn since they are predictable.
Each exercise includes short, simple sentences so the kids can practice some sight words and decoding CVC words.
Also, there is a place in each unit for the kids to practice ordering the included story, an important skill for comprehension.
The included stickers are a great motivator for many kids, but alas, my got them and turned them into earrings instead!
Something that may not be obvious is the fact that each group of 3 letters is chosen very strategically. The letters all make their sound in the same part of the mouth so it may be very difficult for kids to discern the difference. For example, the one unit is D, N, and T. All those letters are made by moving your tongue against your teeth. Studying these letters together will help kids learn to tell the difference based on feel and not just the sound.
The best part of the resource is that each type of skill (writing, phonological awareness, ordering) are all presented in such a way that they reinforce each other instead of being segmented into separate pages.
My only complaint is that the book does not cover all the letters so this is really for students that just need extra practice.
None of the letters of focus are vowels. I suspect they left out the vowels because they didn’t fit well into the sound groups, but that also means there is not practice in this book for listening to middle sounds. If your child needs help listening for the middle of words, this book is not for you.
Overall, Smart Start Read and Write is another fantastic, well thought out and thorough resource from Evan-Moor. This series is perfect for those kids who just need a little bit of extra help without being overwhelmed.
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Science teaching resources are hit and miss online. I sometimes find myself cringing because the content isn’t quite up to par.
The main problem with the most curriculum is that it is either outdated or shallow. It’s read and recall exercises.
It doesn’t encourage a lot of creative thought or encourage students to synthesize information into thoughtful conclusions.
Evan-Moore Educational Publishers did a great job of ensuring the content is accurate and engaging in the Giant Science Resource Book.
I chose to review the Giant Science Resource Book because it spans a huge age range and the graphic organizers it contains.
I have to admit that when I first looked at the Giant Science Resource Book because it looked just like a lot of busy work.
But the content blew me away.
First, it is on point with evolution.
On page 86, the activity includes comparing a human skeleton with a whale’s. Comparative thinking is a needed skill for math and science.
The best part is the whale skeleton has some great homologous structured compared to a human’s.
On page 111, the content poses the question of whether dinosaurs evolved into birds, and encourages the kids to compare the skeletons and find out. This was a hotly debated topic in paleontology up until the last decade.
Another comparative thinking exercise! These resources will set up our kids for strong reasoning skills, promoting math and science skills.
Second, some sections have sorting cards, matching cards, and other cut and paste activities.
The cards can be adapted into lots of other types of games.
The body section even includes a large size build a body activity my kids had a lot of fun doing.
Third, I loved the graphic organizers!
I particularly loved the “Research Notetaker” on page 300, because outlines the annotation process, needed for serious science notebook skills. This organizer also provides places for a summary and practice for synthesizing information.
First, this book is a bit unorganized.
It is divided into sections based on topic. The Life Science section is subdivided into more specific topics, like amphibians or prehistoric animals.
After that, it is just random enrichment pages. I would have really appreciated the content organized further by grade level, ie activities progress from simple to complicated.
Second, many of the activities are just reading activities. It makes them seem like very passive activities. I would have like to see more sorting, matching, puzzle activities.
But these activities do have accurate content and are great ways to gauge comprehension so they are beneficial.
Third, most of this material is aimed at older kids. Those who have strong reading abilities. Only a few sections like simple machines have text geared toward beginning readers.
The Evan-Moor Educational Publisher’s Giant Science Resource Book is a great resource for anyone who wants to keep science reproducibles on hand.
It will benefit kids who like to read or cut the most.
Those with older kids, about 8 or over, will be able to use the most resources from the book.
This book is also great for homeschool moms who want to keep a few activities in their bag for keeping kids quiet and occupied in public places like waiting for an appointment.
Click here to use my affiliate link to get your copy!
As a parent, I recognize that money equals security.
Well, people with even a little bit of money don’t go hungry.
I agree that money doesn’t equal happiness.
But reducing any source of stress is a win, especially when it means we can feel confident about our basic needs.
So what are you teaching your kids about money?
Here are the worst money habits you can teach your kids!
Budgeting without Kids
I really believe in having a strong budget, but if you aren’t sharing the process of budgeting with your kids, you are doing them a great disservice.
Great money management isn’t taught in school.
Strong money skills are comprised of everyday habits. They are simple, but you must be consistent in them.
Include them as they get older so they can see how much things really cost.
Skipping a budget is tempting, especially if you are comfortable financially.
But this is a huge mistake because your kids will not be learning the habit of keeping aware of how much money they have at any given time. This is dangerous because it is very easy to live above your means!
They also won’t learn how to track their spending. This is a valuable skill used for setting a realistic budget!
When you set the example of creating and following a budget, you are also teaching your kids how to discern between want and need. This ability is key to making good choices!
Creating an Unrealistic Budget
I know I am guilty of creating a budget that was unrealistic from the start so it was no surprise it always failed.
Good budgets have several key factors:
Need help creating a great budget? Join my Facebook Group for free printables, guidance and support!
When your budget is weak, you are teaching your kids to lack financial fortitude. You are teaching them it is normal to live with financial anxiety, that emergencies are devastating.
And let me be the first to admit:
When I have financial worries, it’s so much harder to connect with my kids. It’s really hard for me to laugh with them. That’s not the mom I want to be.
Having a strong budget allows you to save for emergencies. It allows you to save for celebrations.
When your budget is strong, it shows that while financial hardships are unavoidable, financial fortitude can keep them from being devastating.
Not Teaching About Passive Income vs Active Income
Passive income is any income you don’t have to put much effort into on a daily basis. This can range from investments and savings accounts to real estate or owning a carwash or laundromat.
Active income is any income from employment or skills and services.
Passive income is an essential element to building a secure financial future because it creates revenue streams that require very little effort.
No Emergency Account
Creating a savings net to keep for emergencies is a huge mistake.
Not only does an emergency account allow you to prevent stress in knowing that you are protected in case the worst should happen, but it also teaches kids that we can just sit on money.
That we can have money that we have no particular use for other than it makes us more secure to have it.
Having the Wrong Mindset
Most people simply see money as a way to acquire things. That’s an oversimplification.
We really need to teach our kids to see money as security.
We need to teach them that money is a representation of your time and effort.
Money takes on much different importance when we see it as a part of ourselves that we toiled for. And double for when you see it as a protection, instead of an xBox or whatever.
Are you making these mistakes in your homeschool?
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I have never met a homeschool mom or dad that takes their responsibility to their children lightly.
You get up at the crack of dawn to have alone time because you won’t get any during the day.
You meticulously plan activities to keep everyone engaged.
You skip makeup, wear the easiest clothes to throw on, and drink cold coffee because you have bigger priorities than that.
And somewhere between planning, teaching, and bonding with kids, you have to find time to do laundry, clean, and cook.
It gets tiring fast, especially when you have friends and family who whispering “you are making a mistake” in our ears every chance they get.
And you will make mistakes, but homeschooling probably won’t be one of them.
And before I begin, just let me be honest for a second. I have made all 3 of these mistakes. 1 and 3 are still a struggle for me 7 years into my homeschooling journey.
Here I offer you a list of the top 3 mistakes I see homeschool parents make.
1.)Chasing it ALL.
There is never enough time for us to have it all. There just isn’t. You don’t have to have a perfectly clean and tidy house. You don’t have to do every exercise in your curriculum. You don’t have to sign up your kids for every enrichment lesson or sleepover.
And the best part is that you don’t have to apologize for that either.
Find a routine/schedule that works for you. Check your priorities and sign up for one or two (or no) activities per week. And for the love of yourself, focus on the things you do get done and be proud of your accomplishments.
You are a mom, striving to do the best for your family, and rocking it. Don’t forget that.
2.) Trying to plow through.
The beautiful thing about homeschooling is that you have 2x as long to get through one grade. You have evenings and weekends to get work done.
Remember that the main factor in the efficacy of homeschool is the fact that you can move at your own pace.
So if your child had a bad night’s sleep, you did, there’s a major change happening, you need a mental health day, or even a day to catch up on housework or planning, take a break.
Let yourself and your children breathe and relax. Come back refreshed and ready to work.
Not sure what I mean? Check out this post I wrote about all the ways you can use a break to come back stronger.
3.) Not letting their kids struggle
Learning isn’t a linear process, and it isn’t an easy process either.
Let them struggle, especially as they get older. Don’t swoop in and rescue them. Don’t stand over their shoulder and correct mistakes before they even realize it.
Give them a chance to stretch their mental muscles. Give them a chance to fail.
Then you come in and give them the tools to fix their own mistakes.
For young kids, you may want to walk them through the mistake. For older kids, use scaffolding questions to get their wheels turning and help them find their own mistakes.
For example, if your child is working on calculating the area of circles. You immediately notice they used the formula for circumference. Instead of pointing out the mistake, ask them why the answer isn’t squared or ask them what the difference is between the circumference formula and the area formula is.
Homeschooling looks different for every family. You can embrace that, and embrace making mistakes of your own. In the words of the immortal Miss Frizzle, “Take Chances, Make Mistakes, and Get Messy!” because that is how you learn. And that is the ultimate goal of homeschooling, right?
What are some mistakes you have made in your homeschooling journey?
All homeschool moms (and to be honest, all moms) feel like they are failing themselves and their families at some point.
Add that into the fact that we choose to be completely responsible for our children's physical, mental, academic, emotional, and social needs, plus the mundane responsibilities of running a house and family, and you have a recipe for feeling worthless.
But you aren't worthless, and odds are, you are rocking being a mom.
Below, sign up for my email list and receive a free printable of some of my favorite quotes to remind you that you don't have to do it all. You don't have to be perfect. You are good enough as you are.
P.S. If you are here from Life in the Nerdom, welcome! I am glad to have you.
If you have followed me for any length of time, you probably know I live in the South. I love this place. It’s gorgeous, and we have a lot of natural space to do fun stuff. But I have to admit that I don’t like it very much.
Mainly because many people here are openly hostile to innovation. My subculture romanticizes the “good ole days” without a full understanding of what those days were like. Most people seem to think the fiction of Andy Griffith was a universal experience for all Americans. They see each technological or medical invention as a way to make money with no real value to the human experience.
I just want to clear something up.
There is nothing to be hostile about, and our lives are vastly better than the “good ole days” because of the rapid change in technology and communication. We are all better off because of it. On top of that, good innovators share some of the great character qualities our society deems as most desired.
What are these most desired traits?
A good leader encompasses all these traits. A good innovator embraces these traits as strength.
So how does this affect your homeschool?
Not every child is going to grow to be an innovator, so what does this matter?
It matters because these character traits, paired with basic logic and reasoning skills, are the foundation for a lifetime of easy problem solving, of being able to make important decisions as an adult, of being free of undue influence for your life, so you can do the things that are truly right whether it’s the popular decision or not.
The person I described above is hard working and thoughtful, willing to see their own mistakes but also able to stand strong when they know they are right.
You want to equip your child to LEAD, not follow. You want to teach your child power comes from respect and not force.
I want my children to grow up to do great things then turn around and use their accomplishments to benefit mankind, like Dr. Jonas Salk. He invented the first polio vaccine and did not patent it himself in an effort to make it readily available to everyone despite their ability to pay.
I want my children to be as dedicated to knowledge as Marie Curie, who worked and was miserable her early years. No traditional universities would accept her because she was a woman, so she took up with Flying University, an illegal Pro-Polish organization when Poland was occupied by Russia.
I want my children to go on to break down barriers, like Wang Zhenyi, a Chinese woman born in 1768, a particularly trying time for women in China. She was a self taught scientist, who eventually taught male students (GASP!) and writer who is still applauded for her accuracy in complex mathematical calculations today. She wrote educational material in language that made the information accessible to all the people of China.
I want my children to be as excited about knowledge as Edward Alexander Bouchet, who was the first African American to be admitted to Yell (1870). When racism kept him from getting a job as a researcher (despite his doctorate), he began teaching, He dedicated his life to inspiring others to blaze a path to knowledge and strength.
I want my children to have the grit of Granville T Woods, who started his own company when he couldn’t find a job. He eventually went on to create the telegraph.
How can you build these characteristics in your kids, even if they don’t plan on going on to careers in science?
How can we equip our children to be leaders who can stick with a problem until it is solved?
Sign up below to join my free 5 day email Challenge that will show you how!
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I want you to imagine being the first person to understand how to draw a buffalo on a cave wall.
What would drive you to do that?
First, you would have to understand how to take mud, or whatever, make marks on the wall.
Then you would have to understand the animal you’re drawing enough to recreate it’s body parts.
Then you would have to understand how to use your hands to make the marks the right size and shape.
Art really takes some thought, planning, and reasoning. And because of that, art needs to be a priority supplement to our science education.
As I have said before, our current education system does a real disservice to our kids because science curricula often focus on memorization and completely leaves out exploration, how to perform a well-controlled experiment, and logic and reasoning.
It also leaves out art which, as I demonstrated above, is an integral part of science.
Science is about exploring new things, studying them in detail to gain a complete understanding of something, and using it to create something useful like cars, antibiotics, robots for microsurgery, etc.
Even when creation was not the driving process of science, art has been an integral part of the process. For example, early botantists and paleontologists did not have a camera to take a picture of their specimens. They studied art so that they could draw accurate representations of their data.
Art is essential for teaching critical thinking skills, too. According to this study, first graders who were behind in math and reading, either caught up or surpassed their peers after 7 months of arts and music training.
This press release from Mississippi State University (via Science Daily) reports on a 2013 study that found “when teachers reinforce academic concepts with the arts, students learn more and score higher on standardized tests.”
This study looked at the results of several tests across grade levels and several subjects like math, reading, writing, and science, of schools that are participating in the arts integration program to that of schools not participating. They found that test scores in all subjects were significantly higher in schools that participated in the arts integration program.
How to Teach Art
Homeschoolers have a lot of options on how to teach art. First of all, I let my kids draw all they want. My current 4-year-old is obsessed with drawing dinosaurs so guess what I am finding all over my house? Construction paper full to bursting of dinosaurs.
Then you could have your kids take music lessons, community theater, or art classes.
You could use Youtube for how to videos. Or you could buy an expensive curriculum.
Your choice is going to be dependent on many things like how interested your child is in any particular field of art, their age, and how you want the art to support other areas of learning.
The great thing about art (and science) is that older kids can lead their own learning. If you are looking for some great foundational support for teaching visual art to younger kids, I am reviewing a great resource for you! Evan-Moor Educational Publisher’s How to Teach Art to Children, grade 1-6.
When you purchase this book, you actually get 2 books in one. You get the How to Teach Art to Children and a free ebook of featured artists’ work to really round out the experience and to add some fun stuff for the kids to try to recreate. Instructions for claiming for your free ebook are found on the front cover of How to Teach Art to Children.
The Set Up
This book is for grades 1-6 because each activity is customizable, except for a few, to fit the child’s ability.
It begins with a short list of supplies you will need. You will not need everything on the list for each project. This master list is more of a guide for the things you need for the entire book.
Opposite the list is a short glossary. The lessons lack a vocabulary list, so mark the glossary for easy access as you teach each lesson.
It is divided into 2 parts - Learning the 7 elements of visual art and using them.
Learning the 7 Elements of Art is the first part. Before the first lesson, on lines, there is a short Resource Page with tips on enrichment activities and examples on how to talk about art in a meaningful way with kids.
Each lesson is broken up into several art projects. Each project includes a small paragraph on the point of the lesson, a materials list, step by step instructions and reproducibles as needed.
Using the Elements of Art is part two. This part also starts off with a Resource page outlining how to use each of the following lessons.
Each lesson in this part revolves around an artist or type of art. There is a short background reference for each lesson, some example discussion topics, then step by step instructions to help kids recreate the art.
I love how this book is about teaching the kids the basics of art and giving them the tools to talk about art in a meaningful way.
This is important because it is these skills that encourage scientific and critical thinking. We are asking them to take their basic knowledge from completing the project and use it to analyze another work. It is this ability to apply their knowledge that makes great science student.s
I really cannot stress the importance of getting kids to look at something, and decide what is important, speculate about cause and effect, and support their conclusions. This ability is the very basis of analysis and argument.
Some of the lessons have hints to make it easier or for other modifications that may help with cross-curricular activities like adding descriptive words to rubbings while exploring texture.
Some are quite hands-on, like the color mixing activity. Kids mix food coloring to see the effects themselves, and a reproducible encourages kids to explore mixing with 3 colors. No rules! A hint is printed on the page to use small pieces of playdough for a sensory experience.
The projects are quite varied in materials, including projects centered around paper, clay, oil and chalk pastels, paint, making stamps and simple books! It really provides a nice, rounded experience.
The second part, Using the Elements of Art introduces kids to specific artists and types of art from other cultures. This section uses the accompanying ebook that I talked about before. Each section of part 2 has a partner page in the ebook that you can print and hang up or project on the wall, smart board, etc.
Each lesson is spread over 2 pages with a list of elements of art that it reinforces at the top.
I really appreciate the small paragraph with background information about the artist or type of art at the beginning of each lesson. There is also a short list of suggestions for further reading and a small section titled “Talk about” that gives some short facts and conversation starters for your class.
This makes setting up each lesson pretty easy. Read one of the short suggestions, look at some of the extra work from the ebook, demonstrate the project, then talk about it while the children are working on it.
My biggest problem with this book is that some of the projects seem a little much for younger kids so you can’t do the harder projects in a group of kids with a lot of littles. I may let my oldest do the harder projects, like drawing a skyline to scale, while I let my younger kids do something more hands-on, like color mixing.
Also, the projects don’t have suggested ages/grade levels on them so some are hard to tell which ages are best for them. I feel strongly that with a little creativity most projects will work for most ages, but that means it will probably take a bit of prep. For example, there is one project about contrasting colors where you simply glue a shape onto a square with the shapes’ color in high contrast. It’s colorful and easy, but younger kids will either need the pieces precut or very simple shapes to cut out.
Last, all of the projects in the second section, Using the Elements of Art, seem to fit older kids better than younger ones. So I feel like you really need to complete part , The Elements of Art, before trying to do anything with part 2.
To learn more about How to Teach Art to Children,click here.
Would you like to see some of our creations? Leave me a comment and let me know!
Science and biology are by far my favorite subjects. I love how neatly every lines up in science. It just sorta clicks for me, especially when I am intrigued. However, I feel like our schools and homeschool curricula, in general, are doing our kids a grave injustice when it comes to scientific education.
With the development of the concept of STEM and STEAM, I have hope. People are starting to realize that kids can learn quite a bit from tinkering with cheap and small objects when they are working to meet a challenge.
You can theme these STEAM challenges, kids have a blast, and the activities are easy and effective at home or at school. I have several Pinterest boards for holiday-themed STEAM activities and by subject activities in my homeschool boards. Check me out!
I was also recently featured on Aurelius Cabrini talking about this same subject. Find thathere.
How we perceive science
Our culture sees science as a stagnant thing. Most of our experience with science is in the form of reading it from a textbook, maybe watching a few exciting demonstrations, and a lucky few of us have actually performed an experiment.
I don’t want my kids to view science as a fixed list of facts to be memorized because that couldn’t be further from the truth. I wish what schools and curricula call science would be termed “observations of the natural world” because that’s what it is. It is a collection of observations about the natural world that we have so thoroughly investigated that we don’t need to repeat the original experiments to believe them ourselves.
What is Science?
I teach my kids that science is a verb. Science is a method of asking questions, reducing complications, and observing the reaction.
This is where the scientific method comes in. This is the blueprint for the first half of science, the initial experiment. Once a scientist has completed their investigation via the scientific method, the science is NOT done. We do not accept their results as fact.
They must publish. There is a rich culture sprung up around publishing in scientific journals. If you have no experience with scientific journals, praise the era of the internet, because there are several that have sprung up as free to read. Plos One is probably the best-known one. Here is a directory of open access journals.
So why do scientists publish and why is there an entire sub-culture propped up around these publications? Because the second half of science is debate. Scientists read each other’s work, evaluate it, and rebut. Some of these arguments last decades. Scientists take sides. It can really be quite thrilling to read these chains of communication.
Let me give you an example. Today, it is a well-accepted fact that birds are descended from dinsoaurs. But, just 20 years ago, this was a hotly contested debate. This conflict actually dates back as far as 1869, when Thomas Henry Huxley, a celebrated naturalist, noted the similarities in skeletal anatomy between some dinosaurs and birds. His idea was dismissed as preposterous. Fast forward to the early 2000s, and paleontologists in China find a treasure trove of fossils, preserved in amazingly fine detail, of dinosaurs with feathers.
To review: Science is not a collection of facts. Science is an investigation method followed by a self-correcting debate process that separates logical conclusions from weak ones.
How To Approach
This post is going to focus on science skills. I wrote briefly about an important missing piece of the math education here.
I want to get the homeschool community talking about some important misunderstandings about science. We have chosen to accept the responsibility to give our kids the best education possible. In order to do that, we must focus on giving them exceptional math, reading, and science skills.
A 3 Pronged Approach
Parents need to view science as having 3 categories: Fields of Study, Experimental, Logic.
Fields of Study
Remember when you had biology, chemistry, and physics? Maybe at a younger age, you took classes called things like “Life Science” or “Physical Science”. These are like genres of science. And these different fields of study are all jumbled up in younger kids’ textbooks that are titled generic Science.
You can pursue curricula like textbooks in each individual field of study, and some people use only living books as their curriculum. A lot of people supplement with fun demonstrations and models.
But one important thing to understand is that for younger kids, it is completely fine to put this on the back burner for more instruction in critical thinking and logic.
The scientific method is a meticulous thing, and kids need to learn to run thorough experiments from a young age. Older kids need to understand that recording and analyzing data is the cornerstone of science and have ample opportunity to practice both.
Running simple experiments and watching simple demonstrations, keeping a journal, and STEM challenges are easy ways to introduce the heart of science to your kids.
What is the difference between a demonstration and an experiment? Many people use them interchangeably (or just use experiment), but they are not the same thing!
An experiment answers a question and compares two different outcomes.
A demonstration usually has a set of directions and you are pursuing a single outcome.
Last, many people overlook the importance of recording data in science. I would encourage you to always make your kids record results in some sort of format like tables, tally marks, dot plots, etc. If you are unsure how you should be recording results, hop over to your math curriculum in the Data and Graphs chapter.
Sign up for my newsletter below to get some great science resources including a logical fallacy cheat sheet (more about that below) and scientific method printables!
Clear thinking, reasoning, and problem-solving are skills that can be learned. We need to spend time exploring how to think and weigh possibilities with our kids. Understanding cause and effect, how to spot logical fallacies and work against cognitive biases are integral for exceptional science education!
Preschool and elementary kids can learn so many critical thinking skills from STEM and STEAM challenges, math, and reading. Older kids can work through logical fallacy and debate curricula.
This part of the approach is dedicated to teaching our kids to think. Where it goes a step further than most other curricula and conventional advice is that it goes a step further and teaches them to recognize faulty or deceptive patterns of thinking and make an informed decision without employing them.
Stay tuned over the next few months while I dig really deep into science, logic, and how to teach it for all ages! If you have any concerns or questions for me to tackle in my upcoming science and logic series, please leave a comment below or send me an email using the social icons at the top.
Science is my jam, y’all. Little known fact: I went to a high school for gifted kids where we had to “focus” (like a major) on either science or math. I was privileged to learn from as a teen what science really is and got to skip the boring “memorize this” style of teaching methods so many kids have pushed down their throat.
My high school did a much better job of teaching what science is really is than either of the colleges I attended, immersing me in the methods of investigation, reasoning, and debate that is the most important parts of science.
Do you what what I am talking about?
If you don’t, I am here to clear some things about science up so we can raise a generation of kids who can apply science to take our society to bigger and better things.
To keep reading click here because I am pleased to share with you my guest post on Aurelius Cabrini's Homeschool Resource Center! Aurelius Cabrini is a former public school teacher and now a homeschool mom who creates jaw dropping content and resources. Check her out and follow her on social media!
The Importance of Math Fluency and How to Build it with Evan-Moor Educational Publishers Building Math Fluency Grade 4-6
This post contains affiliate links. I make a small commission on any purchase you make through my link at no extra cost to you. I use these profits to make This Addictive Mess better and to support my family. I appreciate your patronage.
When I was in school, math was my weak point. I did my best because it helped in my science. In 7th grade, a teacher told my class something that really discouraged me and negatively impacted my relationship with math for a long time. She told us that we didn’t have to understand math; we just had to follow the steps.
Well, I did well, but without understanding that was not close to my best.
Today, I credit homeschooling with saving my relationship with math. As I have walked Connor through arithmetic and a bit of basic algebra, I have filled some of my own learning gaps and have increased my understanding of higher math concepts, too.
At the beginning, I was terrified that my weak points would be passed down to Connor, so I worked extra hard to try to prevent it. That was when I learned the importance of math fluency.
What is math fluency?
Fluency is the ability to understand and apply something effectively. We talk about fluent readers who can look at a word, instantaneously know what it says, and understand whether there is a deeper meaning in the context of the whole. Math fluency is a very similar concept.
Math fluency is the ability to use different computational strategies to reach solutions quickly and effectively. This means that kids can assess a problem and predict which method would be the easiest to calculate the answer.
Many people drill their kids with flashcards, driving their kids to memorize the facts. While this gives the same quick response as fluency, it lacks the diverse and flexible thinking skills that define fluency.
Why is math fluency important?
I am a bit bitter about my subpar math education from elementary through junior high school. I, like many parents who are struggling with Common Core Math, lack fluency. While we may be able to quickly fire off with the sum of 19 and 23, this is a hollow shell of fluency. We simply lack the flexibility in computational strategies that is the hallmark of fluency.
This study found that fluency was an accurate predictor of mathematics success in the long term. This study is not unique. Researchers and teachers alike have noticed a strong correlation between fluency and success in math and related areas for decade. Researchers have even noticed that the brain changes in response to fluency. Which makes sense because researchers have noticed that those who are fluent pull information from a completely different area of the brain than non-fluent people. During the high school years, activity during calculations in the area of the brain linked to insufficient math fluency was also linked to lower PSAT scores.
Fluency is about understanding numbers in a deep way allows you to work the same problem many different ways. This flexibility is the key to being confident in problem-solving. When a child is not intimidated by simple calculations, they have more mental labor available for wrestling the deeper part of the problem.
Imagine how a child learns to read. At first, all their focus must be aimed at sounding out the words, and it is difficult for them to understand the meaning of a complete sentence. As they grow older, they are able to immediately recognize more and more words, allowing them to consider the meaning of the whole sentence, then a paragraph, and eventually they are reading, comprehending the shallow meaning and later deeper symbolism and other literary elements.
Mathematical fluency is much the same. We must teach our kids many different computational strategies so that we can give them the tools to face each and every problem with a fresh and appropriate strategy.
Math concepts build upon one another just like reading. Multiplication is just repeated addition. Exponents are just special types of multiplication. Algebra is basically realizing that math is a puzzle, with pieces that directly relate to each other. Understanding each of these basic concepts makes it easier to understand the more complicated ones.
If we spend our time focusing on making kids just memorize facts, we are not giving them the tools on how to really use numbers and their relationships to each other. This will leave them high and dry when they come to a problem where they need to understand addition in the realm of a division problem, like in remainders. For example, 28/5 = 5 R 3, right because 5*5=25 and you must add the remainder of 3 to get 28. A fluent way to write this would be 28/5=5R3 = 5*5+3 (see how I used addition?).
How to Build Fluency
I briefly mentioned earlier that some people focus on memorizing the math facts as a way to gain mastery, help free up mental labor, and help kids gain confidence. However, rote memorization does not mean a child or adult is fluent in mathematics. Memorization alone does not provide the flexibility in calculations that set a student up for success in higher mathematics.
This is where I start defending Common Core. So many people hate Common Core because they don’t understand why CC places so much emphasis on making kids use so many methods to solve problems and explaining mathematical reasoning. Can you imagine a reading program that stopped teaching reading when the kids could just sound out words? Because that is what the old style math taught. Parents have a hard time understanding so many CC concepts simply because parents are NOT fluent in math.
So if rote memorization isn’t the way to build fluency, what is?
Teach your kids different computational methods. Teach them to use addition to solve a subtraction problem. Do this make absolutely no sense to you? Well, I bet you do this without realizing it. Let’s say you get a coffee and the total is $1.23. Do you think about the problem like this: .23 + .02 = .25. Then .75 + .25 = 1. So your change should be .75 + .02 or $.77. To put it in other other words, I am using easy addition problems to solve a subtraction problem. You may have seen a meme like this:
This comparison is meant to show the simplicity of the place value based subtraction ("The Old Way"). "The New Way" is meant to look complicated. But "The New Way" makes mental computation much easier and demonstrates the mental flexibility characteristic of math fluency. "The New Way" simply uses easy addition problems to find the difference.
This meme is used to make people think that CC is unnecessarily complicated, but the CC way is only complicated if you don’t truly understand the relationship between addition and subtraction.
Teaching Fluency if you aren’t Fluent
If you are realizing that you are not fluent, all hope is not lost if you want to raise kids who are fluent in mathematics. You also don’t need to enroll them in school, either. It is all about your resources. Now, I am going to review one of the best resources for promoting fluency I have ever seen.
`Evan-Moor Educational Publishers have a Building Math Fluency series, and I am reviewing the 4th-6th-grade level.
The Set Up
This book is set up into 8 major sections:
A teacher section: a short introduction to the book, how to use it, some reproducible tools, and a glossary of math terms.
1 each of Addition, Subtraction, Multiplication, Division (total of 4 sections): Each section includes computational strategies and practice. A double-sided cheat sheet starts each section. One side is a simple explanation of each strategy, and the other is simple examples. Then there are labeled practice pages for each strategy.
Test Your Knowledge: Short exercises or tests if you prefer to evaluate progress. These exercises can be timed to judge fluency.
Flash Cards: 269 flashcards are included
First, Building Math Fluency recognizes the value of the diversity of learning styles and includes a page that helps kids think about how they best understand things: in pictures, words, or in actions. Then each section has resources aimed at each of the 3 ways so that kids can practice in the way that is most valuable to them.
Second, these strategies are gold!
They are simple, easily understandable, and once you see them, you are going to wonder why you didn’t think of these yourself. For example, two addition strategies that I think everyone uses is the “See 8, Think 10” and the “See 9, Think 10”. These teach your to add 10 then subtract 2 or add 10 then subtract 1, easy.
Some of these strategies reinforce algebraic skills, too. Like subtraction strategy “Think Addition”. I have already talked about using addition to complete subtraction problems. So instead of 29 - 13 = ? You would think 13 + x = 29. One could easily solve this problem by thinking 13 + 7 = 20, 20 + 9 = 29, so 7 + 9 = 16. This strategy shows the inherent relationship between addition and subtraction, a foundation of Algebra. It makes so much more sense learning to balance equations when you understand that addition and subtraction balance each other. Same for multiplication and division.
There are little bubbles above each problem on some exercises, and these are for you to write the strategy best for that problem. I just feel like this is a really nice way of getting kids to think about the different strategies and keep them from becoming too dependent on one.
This book is also chock a little lizard character that adds some fun, but also asks some great scaffolding questions to get kids (and parents) thinking about the best way to solve calculations. The best part is that there is no right or wrong answers. I would encourage you to really dig deep into these scaffolding questions. Your kid’s answers will probably surprise you. If they don’t have an answer, you probably can assume you should work on those strategies more.
The Test Your Knowledge section has both long exercises and short exercises that you can time to evaluate fluency. Each exercise has a little section at the bottom where you can record accuracy and time for each exercise to track progress.
Towards the end are 269 flash cards in case your child needs to practice and 2 pages explaining how to use the flashcards and the best ways to practice. You are also encouraged to write down the strategy used to solve the problem on each of the printed cards to teach your child to recognize when to use each strategy. These flashcards include a set to write down summaries of the strategies to practice recalling them, too.
You also get a code to download an additional 5 practice pages to print or project via smartboard in a classroom setting.
Of course, an answer section is at the end of the book in case you need it.
I really wish that this book skipped the accuracy and time recordings in the Test Your Knowledge section. While these are important for judging fluency, I would just jot a quick note somewhere else so that my kid doesn’t feel that much pressure. Connor (11) tends to panic when anything is timed, although that is an integral part of his mathematics curriculum. I guess I really just don’t like kids knowing they are being timed.
The flashcards are small, thin strips of paper, and I wish they were bigger and sturdier so I could put them on a ring. These are definitely not a set that I would take with us in the car or to an appointment. I would not take them outside to the park either.
Some of the practice exercises are fairly long, up to 48 or problems. I would probably divide these up into 2 different days just to reduce pressure and anxiety.
I have seen plenty of other programs that promise fluency but are really aimed at just making kids memorize math facts without actually teaching them multiple strategies to solve problems so Building Math Fluency by Evan-Moor Educational Publishers is really stands out from the crowd.
Despite the things I don’t like about this book, there are clear and useful strategies to build math fluency. I highly recommend this book if you are looking to teach a child to understand math and not just imitate it.
To get your copy, click on my affiliate link and use the code “NEWYEARS20” at checkout to get 20% off! Check out their homeschool bundles when you are there.
This post may contain affiliate links. I make a small commission on any purchases you make through my link at no additional cost to you. These earnings go to making This Addictive Mess better and to support my family.
All activity books seem pretty much the same, right? Mostly coloring pages, a few crosswords, a few word searches, maybe a dot to dot puzzle. Their saving grace is that they usually are very cheap and come in characters that our kids love. We shy away from buying activity books for just this reason and find that board games are a much better use of our money.
Quite honestly, that is what I expected when I ordered The Never-Bored Kid’s Book for Connor.
Let me ask you a question:
When you are disappointed that something will be disappointing, is that like a when a double negative creates a positive? Because that’s what it felt like when I started looking at this book.
The Set Up
First, this book is huge! It is divided into about 20 or so sections, of varying lengths depending on what activities are included for each section. You will need scissors, glue, and other art and craft supplies.
My favorite part of this book is that it is not gendered. It is not all blue robots or pink princesses. Every child can do every page out of this book without being subjected to silly rules about where their interests are supposed to lie, and I just love that.
Each section has different activities that include old-fashioned coloring. However, coloring is a minority in this book.
There are plenty of word searches and other word puzzles, origami, how to draw instructions and practice paper, poems, riddles, things to cut and paste like finger puppets, pop up cards, jigsaws and tangram puzzles, and more!
The Never-Bored Kid’s Book is not like other activity books that seem to just be thrown together as cheaply as possible. Its pages are brightly colored, patterned where appropriate, and are bright-white and smooth instead of the dingy brown, rough recycled paper we are all used to in kid’s activity books.
Other activities books seem to be a passive entity. The kids color, draw through some mazes, maybe play some word games, and that’s it. In this book, so many of the activities expand into imaginative play like the origami animals. Connor played with them like paper dolls for days. There are also finger puppets, jokes, and “magic” tricks that take the activities from paper to interactive fun. I really cannot brag on this point enough. This activity book goes from book to toy, and that just leads to unlimited hours of fun.
The puzzles are definitely challenging for the age group targeted and will get kids thinking and support critical thinking and things like spatial understanding, math, ordering, and fine motor skills. This is a huge plus since generic activity books don’t seem to put much thought into cross-curricular benefits.
Well, I don’t have much to write here.
Mainly, I wish the origami came with multiple sheets of origami paper that were perforated and separate from the instructions. As it is, the origami paper must be cut out and shares a page with the instructions which means in most cases your child gets one chance at folding with the pretty patterned paper.
Below is a promotional video from Evan-Moor Educational Publishers.
I would have liked to see more creativity in the types of word puzzles included. They are mainly crosswords and word searches with a few scrambles mixed in. I would have loved to see some cryptogram or coded games included.
Last, this is not a super portable activity book. It is not a book I would throw in my bag to keep him occupied while we waited in the doctor’s office or the bank. Scissors are needed for many of the activities.
I highly recommend this series of books if you are looking for something that is more engaging than the mediocre games available in most kids activities. I can’t say enough about how many of these activities go from a flat page to a paper toy, doll, or puppet and I LOVE that because it means that the fun isn’t done once the book is full.
The quality of the paper and print is above and beyond what I have seen every other activity book I have ever bought my kids or that I remember from my childhood. The wide variety of activities will keep all kids busy for hours without getting repetitive.
Get yours here! (affiliate link)
This post contains affiliate links. I make a small commission from any purchases you may make through my links with no extra cost to you. I sincerely appreciate your patronage and use the profits to make This Addictive Mess better and to support my family.
Christmas is a busy and stressful time for everyone. Expenses add up. Toys, wrapping paper, bows, name tags, food, gas, I could go on. If you are like me, and you take a long break from formal school during December to balance that, you know that it is prime time for other other lessons.
I have already talked about how we don’t lie about Santa. We also use this time to talk about the need for budgets, and the power to see taxes as a gift to our society.
This year we are giving our kids a present that lasts a lifetime. We are going to give our kids some toys they can’t play with. They can’t even open them. And we are going to place them in a spot where they can see them each and every day. Then every so often, we will look up their value and chart its progress.
Surprisingly frugal, surprisingly valuable
These toys are just going to be Hot Wheels cars, but what we are hoping to teach our kids will be much more valuable than the $1 we spend on each car. You see we are wanting to teach them the value of investments, of self-control, and of delayed gratification.
Hot Wheels are a popular collector’s item with a rich community and lots to learn. Certain cars called “Treasure Hunts” are loaded into each box of cars that are rare, and, when left in the packaging, are worth a pretty penny. (But we are not expecting to find Treasure Hunt cars for each of our children so we will use some that are not.)
We have already done this with Connor, in hopes to teach him self-control and delayed gratification. He started off with 10 Hot Wheels. After a very frustrating tangle with some toddlers, his current Hot Wheel collection is down to 2. Since it was technically my fault that my toddlers got to his cars, I feel I must replace them.
Why teach delayed gratification and self-control?
Self-control and delayed gratification have both been strongly linked to later life success in almost every measurable metric.
Luckily for parents, we definitely have the ability to encourage our children to develope self-control. According to this article from Psychology Today, children learn self-control when they have the opportunity to practice with responsive parents who set empathetic limits. It also points out that when children are not dealt with empathetically, their negative emotions (like anxiety) slow down the process.
There is plenty of other evidence that links self-control in childhood to success as an adult.
This quick article talks about 2 different studies that both support self-control as a predictor of academic and general success. The first study showed a correlation between stronger self-control and higher test scores, grades, more time spent studying, and even fewer absences. The second study found correlations between self-control and financial success, physical and mental health, and even drug use or criminal convictions later in life.
According to this article from Psychcentral, a study published in Frontiers In Psychology, delaying gratification was the 4th predictor of future financial success after education, location, and gender. This study was designed and used machine learning to analyze the results of other studies to actually rank the order of common predictors of financial success.
This article, published in the Journal of Pediatrics, shows a strong correlation between delayed gratification and body mass index (BMI) later in life. For each minute a preschooler could delay gratification showed a .2 point reduction in BMI as an adult.
A study conducted on Taiwanese 7th graders showed that academic success was a much better predictor of academic success over a long period of time which IQ only accurately predicted success over a short term.
These studies are only a short sampling of the scientific literature that is out there. I didn’t even talk about the famous “Marshmallow Test” that started this line of scientific pursuit.
What does this have to do with investing?
Collecting Hot Wheels is probably not going to make you into a millionaire. But it will teach your kids to wait for things to acquire value which is the definition of investing. This is also a great time to teach your kids some investing lingo.
Asset -- Something that is valuable. This is the car.
Capital -- the initial investment, usually money but can be labor. The capital for your Hot Wheel Collection will be the $1 you pay for the car.
Appreciation -- The increase in the value of an asset over time. This is calculated by Worth of the car on the collector’s market - $1 you paid. The opposite is Depreciation, and that is when a value loses value.
Return on Investment (ROI) -- Simply put (and maybe a bit oversimplified), ROI is a measurement of how well your asset is appreciating. It is calculated by (worth - capital paid)/capital paid. So if you own a car worth $5, and you paid $2 it would be (5-2)/2=1.5*100=150% Sorry to spoil it for you, but real world, stock market, real estate, almost no investment is going to have that kind of ROI. But for the purposes of teaching our kids to have self-control and understand how investments work.
I have included a few worksheets to use in your homeschool to teach your kids how investing works. Sign up for my email list below to get access. I have included a glossary cheat sheet of the terms defined above and a small graph to plot your collection's worth.
Teaching our kids this mindset isn’t going to happen overnight. Their brains must be fully mature before they can practice self-control like an adult. So don’t expect a 4-year-old to be able to show self-control for long periods or when faced with an especially tempting treat. But we can do little things, like start a Hot Wheels collection, to help them along and to give them an opportunity to practice, make sure they know some important terms, and show them how value changes first hand.
This post contains affiliate links. I make a small commission on any products you buy through my links, at no additional cost to you. These profits go to improving This Addictive Mess and to support my family.
Quick Note: Evan-Moor Educational Publishers are having a Cyber Monday sale! 30% off site wide with code "Cyber30" at checkout! My affiliate link is here!
Christmas is a time of unending generosity. Don’t you agree?
Because of that, it is the perfect time to talk about taxes.
Why should we talk about taxes in homeschool during the holidays? Isn’t it a better time to talk about Santa? Candy Canes? Reindeer? Talk about all those things, too. Let’s face it. Kids do almost nothing but talk. Even when they play (that’s normal development).
But during school and math, talk about taxes, too. Kids don’t realize that we have to pay part of our income, part of every sale, to the government to support things like roads, parks, schools, and much more to keep our country working.
I see taxes as a gift we give to our society. We are paying to make our society better, to build and maintain things that make our lives easier and more joyful, and to help those who are less fortunate than us. Isn’t that what Christmas is all about?
So what should we teach our kids about taxes?
Given that most of us have learned about taxes through the act of paying them, it can be confusing and overwhelming to talk to our kids about taxes because we don’t really have a cohesive idea of what taxes actually are. Below is sort of a primer on taxes to guide you in teaching your kids about taxes.
Most of what I have outlined below is common knowledge and can be taught through example (showing sales tax on grocery receipts or past tax returns) or discussion. I have also made a quick worksheet for those who want to check understanding. Use the form below to sign up and receive your free worksheet by email.
Why Should We Pay Taxes
Taxes are our way of caring for shared things in our society like roads and parks. Like I mentioned before, I also see taxes as a gift we give those in our society who cannot completely care for themselves.
Paying your taxes are a mark of good character, meeting your responsibility to yourself and those less fortunate. It means you are honest and takes generosity to pay without resentment.
They benefit you and those around you.
First, our taxes go to pay for the things and people that we need and use every day.
Public school teachers are paid with taxes. While this doesn’t directly benefit homeschoolers, our entire society benefits from public schools.
Police officers, emergency phone operators, and firefighters are paid with taxes.
Public parks are built and maintained with taxes.
Roads are built and maintained by taxes.
The government also distributes tax revenue to support things like hospitals and medical research, programs that protect the environment, small business support programs, and agricultural programs.
The state and federal governments use tax revenue to fund programs that guarantees health insurance and funds to buy food for low-income families and the elderly. Some places also have programs that run housing and utility assistance programs to help people pay for a place for a decent place to live and to make sure they get heat in the winter.
Each person who works is also required to pay into a Social Security fund. This “tax” actually doesn’t go into an account that is shared into a group. Each individual’s social security is recorded and goes to paying their own Social Security retirement.
The only caveat to this is for individuals who are especially sick or have disabilities, who get benefits because they cannot work.
I have taken the liberty to compile some resources for you to learn about Social Security.
To download a free toolkit for teaching Social Security to high schoolers, click here.
To learn more about how Social Security works, click here.
To create a free account to estimate your future benefits based on your actual earnings, click here.
Each level of government taxes you.
Your local government charges taxes, in purchases/sales tax, property taxes, and real estate taxes. These funds are used to run local government and pay for local parks, city maintence, and to pay local government officials. At this level, citizens often have the right to vote in new taxes. For example, local governments may let the citizens vote to raise sale taxes to benefits schools.
Your state government collects payroll taxes, income taxes, and sales taxes to pay for state level programs and officials.
The federal government taxes us to pay for national programs, our legislators and other goverment officials, and things like national parks.
What Kind of Taxes Exist
The most common tax is the sales tax. Local and state governments levy these are purchases made within their state. Actual taxes vary buy location. For instance, my municpality charges a “fresh meat” tax on any sales of meat or food that contains meat, like a McDonald’s burger. Check with your City Hall to find out which taxes are collected in your town.
Not all sales are subject to sales tax. Second hand clothing and events like yard sales don’t ususally collect sales tax.
Property taxes are taxes collected on real estate and property worth a certain amount (varies by location) that the local/state governments collect.
Income taxes are collected by states and federal governments once a year.
When Do You Pay Taxes
Sales taxes are included in the price of every transaction you make. You can look at your reciept and find a separate tabulation for the amount of taxes you pay for that transaction.
Income and property taxes are due once a year, the year following the earnings. So you would pay 2018 income taxes in 2019. In America, income taxes for the previous year are due by April 15th. Property tax due dates vary by location. Check with your local county assessor for due dates.
How Do You Pay Taxes
Businesses are responsible for calculating and charging you sales tax at the time of the purchase. Large purchases, for things like vehicles or homes, have their own rules. Where I live you have 30 days after the purchase of a vehicle to pay sales tax at the DMV when you register your vehicle.
Income taxes are complicated. First, most jobs will have you fill out a W-4 form on the first day of your job. It will detail how much the employer will withhold to pay your taxes throughout the year. This means that a small amount will be withheld from each check you are paid. Some of this will go to pay your Social Security, too.
At the end of the year, each employ is issued an 1040 form, which states exactly how much you made that year.
1040 forms are most commonly used by a tax professional to calculate how much you owe to the government. These are people who have been to school to learn about the legal language used in to tax forms, what things qualify for dedcutions, and what exactly we need to pay based on our income and the Tax Code. The Tax Code is the official rulebook that states and the federal government uses to calculate how much each individual owes in taxes.
The professional will input the information into another form on the computer, ask you about deductions, and the calculate what you owe. Many people especially with children, actually get a refund, meaning they paid in too much over the course of the year through their checks.
It works differently for self employed people. Contact a tax professional for questions because each business it quite different, and it can get complicated.
What Kinds of Things Qualify for Deductions
This varies based on what the business is, but often everything from business food and travel expenses to child care to education expenses to medical bills can be deducted. The Tax Code is so complicated, and differs in every state, so contact a tax professional to answer specific questions.
Taxes are often seen as a way the government steals from the common man, but we need to think of taxes as a great gift we give to society and ourselves, and a great way to serve our fellow man in the meantime. Let’s teach our kids to be responsible citizens who are eager to do their part.
This post may contain affiliate links. If you make a purchase through my link, I make a small commission at no cost to you. These profits help support my family and help make This Addictive Mess better. Thank you for your patronage.
Quick holiday note! Evan-Moor Educational Publishers are having a Cyber Monday sale! 30% off site wide with code "Cyber30" at check out. My affiliate link is here!
Prekindergarten is a time of mixed feelings for most parents. Our kids are getting big enough to start yearning for (and sloppily achieving) some degree of independence. This is kind of double-edged sword. We can see our lives drifting back toward our pre-infant/toddler fun. But at the same time, we spend many more minutes waiting for them to be willing to accept our help.
It is also the time when homeschoolers start introducing the idea of school. I know how hard intimidating it can be to look at this little person who needs to learn to read, write, calculate, and you are left wondering, “Where do I even start?!”
There are TONS of resources for starting our kids off in writing, reading, and math but what about (my personal favorite) science?
How do you know what your child is capable of understanding? What things should you start introducing now so logic (the most important and overlooked aspect of science) will be easier later? How do we teach our kids to actually think critically instead of just respond?
Also, how much is too much? It would be so easy to try to do all. the. things. and end up doing too much and burning everyone out. So how can we teach our kids to be thinkers from the very start while still giving them an appropriate amount and fun lessons. Seems impossible.
That is why I reviewed the Evan-Moor Educational Publishers PreK Smart Start STEM workbook. Cayden, 4, is definitely deep in the “why?” stage and is begging to do more school work every day so I thought it would be a good time to see how he did with a workbook.
This book is perfect for starting your preschoolers off with simple worksheets that are on their level and that are fun and engaging without adding too much sitdown work. Smart STEM PreK has been designed to teach our kids how to follow the process of logic and reasoning in a way other resources just have not.
Video provided by Evan-Moor via YouTube
The Set Up
This book is set up perfectly for young learners. There are several units, plants, animals, earth science, weather, etc, and in those units are pages that balance reading (or being read to, lol) with activity. Some exercises are only reading, some are a bit of reading then some reasoning and circling or matching, some even have the kids try to draw pictures or trace words. At the end of each unit is a hands-on challenge, complete with a STEM journal for (mom, dad, or teacher) to fill out with results or notes. It encourages everyone to modify their invention until it does what it is supposed to do, an integral part of the engineering process (which is different than the scientific process).
This section also includes a list of guiding questions for you to ask your child to help them reason and logically move from problem to solution. This encourages critical thinking and helps build up our kids' ability to stick with a problem even after they feel they has exhausted their options.
This is the first time I have seen a journal like this in a book for kids that are so young, and I love it. A quick tangent on why I love this so much, y’all. The difference between good science and bad science is the journal of the researcher. Every researcher keeps a notebook where they record their reading/notes, their goals, hypothesis, any changes that need to be made to those things, their planned procedure and notes of modifications made to it, and of course raw data. Good researchers are meticulous record keepers, and I love that Evan-Moor recognizes that.
Back to the book, at the bottom of many pages are little boxes with ideas about how you can take the learning further if your child would like. For example, the rock section encourages you to talk about the texture and colors seen rocks. This could easily be turned into a rock hunt where you gather a handful of diverse rocks, talk about them, and proudly display them in your “collection”. It’s a great way of adding vocabulary to the lesson, getting some exercise in, your kid outside and doing some critical thinking along the way.
Yep, that’s basically it. Of course, there is an answer key and some teacher resources but not comparable to what is in their books for older kids. It’s this way because the material is simple, on PreK level.
First, the topics are definitely things my kids want and need to learn about! Parts of an animal, how weather is related to clothes we wear. This keeps engagement high! Like I said before, he begs to do “just one page” each time we work on it. He climbs up on to our counter to pull out the book several times a day to ask to work in it. I know a lot of parents fear doing too much book work in homeschool but this book is just plain fun. No work involved.
Second, Cayden has already learned several new words from this workbook and can communicate thoughts related to these topics clearer so I know he thinks about these things on his own after we are done. His language and thinking have also improved in terms of deductive reasoning. It’s easier to make him wear his rainboots when its raining because he understands that if its raining, he will get wet, so we wear rainboots to keep dry.
Third, the lessons are short. So short in fact, Cayden insists on doing every page in the unit during ONE sitting. That’s not a big deal, though. It amounts to about 30 minutes worth of work. He doesn’t get tired and want to quit, and often follows me around like sad puppy while I gather the supplies to do the STEM Challenge at the end. Heaven help me if we have to wait to do the challenge at the end, too. He feels so confident and excited about what he knows that he is chomping at the bit to put his knowledge to good work.
Our efforts to make a spider umbrella. We didn't have a toy spider so we used the Pictionary pencils instead. Here AJ, 2, is trying to get the tinfoil umbrella to stand up. We ended up make a pavilion instead, but hey, creativity is the key to problem solving, right? (Excuse my messy house. Sometimes, we don't have time for everything and have to prioritize!)
Fourth, the book is colorful and includes several reading passages in each section. Besides using them for their intended purposes, I have used these passages as part of our alphabet knowledge work, too. The letters are big enough that I can use the old ones for letter hunts (have Cayden circle all the As for example). I also have gone through and underlined the same word several times so that Cayden can see that word is has the same letters in the same order every time. We have even practiced decoding (sounding out) several words during the readings with him. I love having resources that do double duty because that means I get two subjects done at once.
Fifth, comparing and contrasting are a major theme in this book. This is great because preschoolers need to start thinking about how things are the same and different. This is a foundation in science, math, and reading. Personally, I don’t know of another skill that is as important. Other PreK science resources I have seen do not put as much emphasis on this type of reasoning, and it is something our kids need to be doing from the start.
First, I would have liked to see more hands-on activities other than the STEM challenges. I would have been happy if they would have left out the circling, matching, and tracing words, and used cut/paste exercises instead. So many resources have our kids tracing and whatnot. Cutting and pasting are definitely more engaging for kids and work the hands in different ways leading to stronger hands that in turn make better writers.
Second, I would like to see more pictures of actual kids in this book. Cartoons are great, but kids get more excited when it’s a picture of a real kid. Maybe that’s just my own personal preference since Cayden didn’t seem to mind.
On this thought, I would have also liked to see some tidbits about how some of these topics impact our everyday life just to make it more personal for the kids. For example, I would have liked to see the animal unit talk about animals that we use as food or the plant unit talk about plants that we can or can’t eat. The weather unit does a great job of this because it places a great emphasis on how the weather impacts the way we dress.
Third, I found some of the STEM challenges to be less science and more craft, like making a rock mandala. Building the mandala was fun, and we did get to stretch some math muscles (comparing size, shape and color), but I really felt like that particular exercise could have been replaced with another more interesting one like building a structure to balance a ball on instead.
This book is perfect for parents who want to get their preschoolers thinking without adding too much book work.
Evan-Moor Smart STEM PreK encourages our youngest students to think critically from the very beginning of their education. If you do it like it’s designed, one or two pages a day, it will probably only add 10 minutes max (except for the STEM challenges) to school while being deep in value.
If you are serious about teaching your pupils science, overall, this is a great resource.
This post may contain affiliate links. I make a small commission on any purchases you make through my link at no additional cost to you. Any profits made go to making This Addictive Mess better and to support my family.
Quick holiday note! Evan-Moor Educational Publishers are having a Cyber Monday sale! 30% off site wide with code "Cyber30" at check out. My affiliate link is here!
This is the best time of year to teach our kids about budgets. While they are going crazy over the latest trend they just must have, we are going over our bank accounts to get an idea of a realistic vision of Christmas. Don’t worry if you can’t buy everything on their lists. No one can. This is why we don’t lie to our kids about Santa. Read more about that.
It’s time to sit down with your kids and explain what a budget is, why we use them and do some fun activities about budgeting together!
How to Explain a Budget
This depends on how old your child is. For our youngest, I just explain it as a plan for where to use our money. For our oldest, I explain it as deciding down to the penny, including tax, how much money I am going to spend on each child, wrapping paper, bows, stockings, and stuffers so that when I go to the store, I know exactly how much I need and don’t overspend.
Why We Need a Budget
This is the part that it is hard for children to understand. They get swept away in the festive and generous aspects of the season and don’t see a reason to worry about tomorrow. I always explain that even during Christmas we must show self-control and spend our money wisely. This teaches them to decide priority on their lists quite strictly and is a good way to teach want vs need.
Energy, Contentment, and Priorities
Kids don’t really understand how we earn money. Sure, they realize that most parents have to work. They understand that we have to trade money for things, but I doubt most kids realize that parents trade their time and effort for a few dollars an hour. And they definitely don’t realize that our paychecks are for limited funds.
We teach our kids to (and ourselves) to view money as a symbol of energy. This is a habit we learned from Your Money or Your Life (read my review here). A gallon of milk isn’t $3. It’s 7 minutes of work. A $100 toy isn’t $100 its almost 8 hours worth of work. When you put it in terms of “I have to work an entire day to afford this” everyone can view money in a way that better represents what money really is.
Use this as an opportunity to teach your children about priorities and contentment. Teach them to evaluate their priorities You can encourage them to think about what toys they want the most. Get them asking questions like:
Which toys will I have the most fun with?
Which toys will I play with the most?
Which toys can I share with my friends?
Get them to figure out what things are most important to them and select toys with those qualities in mind.
To teach contentment, remind them that they can’t have everything they want, but they can definitely have some things that make them happy. Explain how priorities can help make sure their choices are ones that can keep them having fun for a long time.
Evaluating priorities and contentment are both skills that take some practice, and failure, to master. Don’t expect kids to get them right off the bat, but start working now so they learn them by adulthood.
Contentment and evaluating priorities are integral parts of strong character. I recommend taking character education seriously even if you don’t choose to use a curriculum. If you would like me to make a list of free resources for education, please leave me a comment. I have already composed a short explanation on how I teach character using books, movies, and stories.
To facilitate your endeavors, I have created 2 worksheets that will help you teach your kids about budgets and why we need them. Sign up for my newsletter below to get your free printables.
The first one for kids in Second Grade or below is set up using candy canes instead of dollars so they can see how to set a budget.
The second one is for older kids. It’s a wishlist, complete with a price column so they can see how fast things add up and practice prioritizing their spending. I have even added a section for tax if you wish to fill it out with your kids.
If you haven’t started teaching your kids about money or character, it’s never too late to start! If you have no clue where to start, here are some resources that I use to teach my own kids!
Money Bags is a quick money counting game. This is how we taught Connor to count money and make change.
We have been using Cash Flow for Kids to teach Connor more about income and passive income, starting businesses, and how to invest time and money to create wealth. Watch us play below!
Use toy money to let kids explore the roles of customer and cashier. You can also play all kinds of games like putting many coins in a cloth bag, picking one out, naming it, and the one with the most coins at the end wins! If you would like me to make a list of all the ways you can use play money in your homeschool, please let me know in a comment.
During this season, I would like to take a few moments to share an exciting series to which I am contributing. 30 Days of Gratitude in the Homeschool is hosted by Minnesota Country Girl. And she is featuring some up and coming bloggers who share what they are most thankful for.
I am most thankful for the flexibility of homeschooling. From being able to study your favorite subject for weeks at a time or focusing on the learning method that best suits your child, there are many overlooked benefits to homeschooling so join me on Minnesota Country Girl. Check out some of the other posts in the series and some of MCG’s fabulous printables while you’re there.
Don't forget to sign up for my newsletter!
Check out my guest post on Raising Human Beans! I want to thank Sarah for featuring my short collection of Halloween themed science experiments.
These are not demonstrations! Demonstrations are things that kids watch. I took the liberty of explaining how to take what are essentially demonstrations and turn them into experiments with variables and data to catalog, perfect for our older kids who need some in depth experience. Check out my post here!
This post contains affiliate links. Please be aware that I make a commission on any purchases you make when you follow my link at no additional cost to you. This profit goes into making This Addictive Mess better and to support my family.
Math. It can be a dirty word. People either love it or hate. It is the subject that keeps many people from taking the plunge and diving into homeschooling. Those of us who brave the frozen tundra that is homeschool math have a very narrow view of what it is.
But what if I were to tell you everything you think you know about math is wrong? That the homeschool community unfairly maligns Common Core Math?
That is exactly what I am here to tell you.
This popular meme makes Common Core seem unnecessarily complicated. Neither of these calculations are complicated. But only one of these shows a deep understanding of decomposing numbers and the relationship between addition and subtraction, an understanding that will prove invaluable in higher level maths and sciences.
We all know long division, but have you ever heard of short division? Did you realize that not all triangles have angles that add up to 180 degrees? These are just two of my favorite examples of the depth of math that most of us miss in our educations.
Most people have begun to see math a strict set of steps from A to B. As homeschoolers, we need to lead the charge that math is so much more than algorithms. Math is like a maze with more that one path to the exit.
What I mean
We all know the standard form of 2 digit addition that looks like this:
This is probably the form most people are comfortable with. But we can also break down 14 into “10+4” and 19 into “10+9” and add 10+10+4+9 or we could even break those numbers down differently into 5*4 (which is equal 10 + 10) and add that product to 4+9 and get the same answer.
Does this flexibility scare you? It’s ok if it does. But I promise this flexibility is what makes math beautiful, and it sets the scene for creative problem solving.
There are many ways to do this calculation without using the add the ones place, carry the one, add the tens place algorithm we are all used to.
The same is true of every single math problem. And homeschoolers need to celebrate that beauty.
Why This Matters
What’s the big deal? The path you take from problem to answer doesn’t really matter. Its like asking whether you should wash your dishes in the dishwasher or by hand. You will get the same result either way, but one is easier than the other. Now, let me ask you this: Which person has the advantage: the one who can wash them both ways or the one who can only use the dishwasher?
What matters is the ability to follow different paths through the maze.
Problem solving is an important part of math, and it is hard, y’all. It’s hard because it means we need to recognize patterns, examine problems, and then try different methods to get the final answer.
As our kids get into higher level maths, they need to real understanding of how numbers work. Memorizing an algorithm doesn’t teach them that. Working problems multiple ways does. Seeing math as a maze or puzzle where you need to fit patterns and pieces together does.
When we get stuck in thinking “There is this one way to do this” our reasoning cannot escape that cage to be more creative in solving problems. When we work hard to model and come up with different ways to work the same problem, we avoid getting stuck in that cage. We need to explore the maze.
This ability to think outside of our comfort zone is also extremely important in higher level sciences.
Engineers make careers out of solving problems. They must be able to approach situations many different ways and try different approaches to find one that works well.
Einstein is credited with saying “It’s not that I am so smart; I just stick with problems longer.” Encouraging our kids to approach problem solving creatively is based in teaching them to approach math creatively. And it starts with leaving the idea of algorithms behind.
Honestly, we as homeschoolers are kind failing our kids if they don’t develop an appreciation (notice I didn’t say love) for the beauty of math. We have the ability to incorporate games, living books, experiences, puzzles, and anything else you can think of to really make math come alive for our kids.
This subtraction problem is pretty straight forward. And it does require regrouping, which is fine if you have paper and a pen handy or a calculator. Both methods will lead to a correct answer.
However, the Common Core Method is better because it ends up being quicker (for children and adults), requires regrouping only after the numbers are under 20, and is just plain easier for mental calculations.
This form of calculation is also is a great example of the power of decomposing in math. Learning how numbers actually work gives you the power to break them down into calculations that are easy for you.
Second, Common Core Math wants to teach our kids to be able to explain math instead of just doing it. While this seems useless, this is an important check on understanding.
I can just you that I put dishes in the dishwasher and they come out clean. But if I can tell you that dishes are washed with very hot water and an abrasive detergent in the dishwaher, I stand a much better chance of being able to figure out how to handwash dishes on my own if my dishwasher stops working, right?
This understanding is the crux of problem-solving in math. If you can’t explain how numbers fit into their respective roles in a math problem, you probably can’t get anywhere. Again, I believe it was Einstein that said, “If you can’t explain it to a 6 year old, you don’t understand it yourself.”
I don’t know about your homeschool, but in mine, my inability to explain some concepts are definitely where some our problems come from. I must seek out many other resources to explain it in unique terms so my kids can hear different perspectives. And it is this practice that causes me to learn more about the world around me as I explore my role as educational facilitator.
Third, being able to change how we work problems challenges our brains. This challenge, apart from being just plain fun, also keeps our brains healthy, lowering our risk for mental health problems like memory loss.
Mathematical puzzles in particular encourage our brain hemispheres to communicate with each other ,and, even more importantly different regions in you brain to communicate with each other. When your brain is able to communicate quickly and effectly within itself, you go from the beginning to the end of solving a problem quicker and easier.
This post contains affiliate links. I make a small commission on any purchases you make through my link.
Math. I said it.
This seems to be everyone’s most feared homeschool subject. I hear it all the time, “How I am going to teach math that I don’t remember and didn’t do well in the first time?!”
And I get it. Math was always my weakness, too. Every other subject was a breeze. I slept through my 9th grade physical science class. My best friend and I still joke about it. Math, though, we would work on for hours together and still just get average marks.
However, there is a secret about homeschool that I am going to tell you.
This experience isn’t about teaching math. This will be the best experience when you learn it together! I promise it will stick in both your mind and your child’s mind when you guys realize that you are learning the maths together!
So how do you go about this? It’s all about the resources!
I have a great link of math resources for you today! The Math Fundamentals by Evan-Moor Publishers. This book is more aimed at school teachers as opposed to homeschoolers so it aligned with the Common Core Standards; however, that does not detract from the quality of the materials.
Honestly, I like the standards because I feel that they transfer the focus from memorizing algorithms to solve problems back to understanding the way numbers function as a whole. I think that many people can’t think about math using language and that turns them away from the idea of recognizing their are many ways to solve the same problems. Sorry for the tangent. I have written an more in depth view of the Common Core State Standards that is here.
Back to the review!
These books are marketed as supplements because they tackle some of the hardest skills to learn. Early in the book, it explains that this book was written to complement the Math Daily Practice book.
This book is divided to several sections focusing on things like ratios, fractions, decimals, and data displays. These sections cover many of the math areas that overlap with science and provide a solid foundation for both understanding the functional use of numbers for drawing conclusions and the applied use of numbers to solving problems.
Each section begins with a teacher’s page that outlines exactly which standards it teaches and lists the concepts.
Next is a few pages for the students. The first is a models page, which includes examples and their solutions with all the work organized into easy steps. This includes some art with characters that explain how to approach the problem and provide a model for explaining the math using language.
Guys, I know this explanation stage is a big reason why many people don’t like Common Core, but I really feel like this is an important stage that has been neglected in American education. If you don’t understand how or why you are applying a skill, often you cannot recognize when you should apply that skill in a real world situation. So really, I am in love with this section that give students an example of math in language.
Third, you have a skills page that gives a short example, some computational practice, and then word problems. This build up is a good way to get student comfortable before stretching their minds with word problems.
I love how the word problems are sprinkled throughout the workbook, instead of shoved on the end of the chapter like some other resources I have used. It is just a better way of introducing them without overwhelming the child.
Fourth is a page with a more challenging multi-step problem. This is where you check understanding and integration of concepts. These problems were designed to put the child through their intellectual paces, but the book also provides a problem solving template that makes sure the child understand the exact question ask on each challenge page, that they can pick out the important information, and a check for whether their answer is reasonable.
I think this is a perfect addition because so many children see a challenging problem and just shut down because they don’t know where to start.
Last, the book does provide an answer guide if you get stuck!
First, this book is very thorough. It breaks each concept down into small parts and builds to a deep level of understanding.
Second, the characters and illustrations are engaging. They provide a different explanation that puts the concepts in easily understood language for you kids. This is a feature I love. I have already mentioned my belief that we need to focus more on understanding math and less on imitating math so I really appreciate this feature.
Third, I love the problem solving template, and the steps it teaches are printed throughout the book to reinforce them. The important thing is these steps are not confined to the maths. These are important skills in the sciences, too. Teaching these to our kids from a young age will sharpen and refine their critical thinking skills.
Last, I feel like this book would be great for kids that have math anxiety or seem overly reluctant to do math. All the examples are explained twice so the child can see it two different ways. The assignments are short and easily broken up into a Day 1, Day 2, Day 3 format so you can get a bit of extra practice in without it being overwhelming. Each section starts off with computational practice then moves up to word problems and multistep problems so it is a natural progression through the harder skills. The answer guide provides a point so the student can work backwards if needed.
In my review of Evan-Moor Publisher’s Writing Fabulous Sentences and Paragraphs and Daily Science Practice both for Grade 6, I thought the books were highly engaging. The exercises did a good job of holding Connor’s attention, but this book did not. He is pretty good at math and just found these problems to be easy. This book is marketed as being for those who need extra practice, though.
This is a wonderful supplement that gives students that extra bit of practice while promoting understanding instead of imitation. Although this is based on Common Core, I feel like the features that have the kids write out the math in narrative form are a great check for understanding the concepts. And if you really hate it, just skip that section.
Get your copy of Math Fundamentals (affiliate link). You can also browse Evan-Moor Educational Publishers' line of Skill Sharpeners, short exercises meant for kids who need extra practice.
Before we get started, please drop me a comment and let me know what your biggest homeschool challenge is, please? I am trying to figure how to give my readers more value from my blog! Thanks.
Today, I am reviewing another Evan-Moor Publishers product. I am working with Evan-Moor Publishers so this contains affiliate links.
I am reviewing the Daily Science Grade 6 workbook today. I was provided with a physical book for this review so this is not another ebook. I have a ton to say about this book so let’s just jump right in.
Who is this book best for?
This book is definitely aimed at people who want to get a solid science resource in their curriculum but don't want to spend much time in prep, work, or clean up of the experiments.
The Set Up
This book is divided into 6 “big ideas”, units of of study that build upon each other. These include genetics, environment, earth science, chemistry, and energy. These ideas are not broad topics in these fields but important foundations. For example, the chemistry section is about the anatomy of an atom, the organization of the periodic table, etc.
At the beginning of each big idea is a teacher primer. This 2 page spread gives you all the basic facts you will need to assist students or answer questions they have about the reading.
Third, each big idea is then divided into 5 weeks worth of work, 4 weeks of new material and 1 of review. Each week is divided up into a few vocabulary words, a daily short reading section and less than 5 questions. Some lessons include puzzles, making tables, reading graphs, diagrams, or maps.
Next, each big idea also includes a hands-on lab, a must have for any significant science resources. Many people don’t understand that science is a thing you must do so it’s nice to see well organized work book like this include easy experiments to round out the experience.
Last, an answer key is included at the back of the book so if science isn’t your strong suit, no need to worry.
Like my previous, review of Writing Fabulous Paragraphs and Sentences, this supplement is engaging. The reading sections are a bit dry, but they are short, and the pictures more than make up for it. For instance, this picture of DNA from nucleus into a base pair to gives a beautiful view of what it looks like and rivals what I remember from my college textbooks.
Also, the ideas build beautiful upon each other. This text is different from many other supplements we have tried because it assumes the student starts out with no knowledge of the subject (left side). Each day builds up the knowledge base so that by the end of the unit, the child is well versed in this bid idea (right side).
Also, important vocabulary is listed right on the page, in the margin, so Connor doesn’t have to flip around to look up a word. Each word is written out phonetically, too, so no seconding guessing on pronunciation.
This book is set up so that you can skip around the units to follow what interests you child or to work on their weak points. This book would be perfect for an older child who needs help in science.
This can even be used as a reading supplement for those needing to work on comprehension and recall in nonfiction. All the answers to the questions can be found in the text, but the student must pay close attention and practice synthesizing information to do it. Both of which are essential study skills for those wishing to go into science.
Strong readers can work on this book alone with minimal help. Connor will often work on this while I am doing something like working with Cayden, cooking, or even putting my toddlers down for a nap. This is a huge boon to our schedule!
I have found that Connor tends to fade out while doing the reading portion, because it is a like a textbook. Honestly, that’s ok but I would have been happier if this information had been presented in a more narrative way, like a living book.
This book does not include a glossary, and I would have loved to see one. Simply put, this is a skill that may be fading from importance, but I still feel like using glossaries, dictionaries, and thesauruses are good ways to reinforce alphabetical order. Maybe it’s my need for easily accessible information, but I just hate to flip pages looking for a single definition.
The perforations tear very easily. We have accidentally torn out a couple of pages out, which is frustrating. I also don’t feel like there is a lot of room to punch holes for notebooks.
A few of the exercises require you to label parts based on reading. I don’t like this practice because this can be hard for many readers. I would have like to see them label some parts of the diagrams and let the child fill in the rest.
Overall, I feel like this is a great resource, and I would even use this as my main science curriculum. I would supplement it with documentaries, more experiments, and more interesting readings to really fill it out.
This is a great resource for those who want to use a strong science resource in their homeschool without breaking the bank or having to dedicate hours a day to do it.
Last, I want to bring your attention to a great injustice we are doing our kids when it comes to science education. Find out what it is here!
Evan-Moor Educational Publishers sell their Daily Practice Workbooks here (affiliate link). You should also check out their amazing homeschool bundles.
Also, it’s the last few days to buy tickets to the virtual Back to School Summitt! Get your tickets now because the price goes up after September 4th! Over several days, career educators are going to teach you how to make this year your best school year ever!
Last, don’t forget to follow me on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Youtube.
This contains contains affiliate links. I make a small commission on all purchases made through my link.
As our homeschool matures, so do our needs. Connor is a tween, ya’ll. Unfortunately this means that he is pulling away from that time when watching videos and looking at books can induce that
He needs experience. He needs to get his hands dirty. He needs to get out there and live the lessons I am trying to teach him.
It’s hard for me to take my littles to things like museums or to co-ops where kids are expected to sit like in a classroom like setting.
How can we balance Connor’s need to get out in the world and participate in experience based learning with my need for frugality and activities geared toward our whole family?
The answer is simpler than you think.
We live in Arkansas. Our state is teeming with National Parks, State Parks, and historical places of interest.
These parks and places are my secret to finding field trips that essentially free!
State and National Parks
First, these National and State Parks often do free demonstrations for groups of all ages. Everything from what place bugs have in the ecosystem and eating chocolate covered crickets, shooting blow darts and learning about native fowl species, dressing in camouflage and a wicked hide and seek to participating in pretend archeological digs and learning about the Native Peoples that inhabited this area.
Those are just a few free field trips within an hour from my house.
How do you find these awesome opportunities? I picked up a free copy of my state’s tourist books that outlined each park, its amenities, its schedule, and what costs money. These books also detailed local history museums in my state and their admission fees.
Game and Fish Commission
You can also contact your state’s Game and Fish Commission (or wildlife organization). This is the organization that oversees hunting, fishing, and other outdoor sports. Here we have Game Wardens that patrol like police.
They provide programs that get kids into the outdoors. They also maintain several free museums dedicated to the native fauna and flora of Arkansas. These are free to enter, and let you go on self guided tours and do things like scavenger hunts that teach the kids about zoology. Some have movie theaters, do arts and crafts, and a variety of other activities geared to kids of all ages. Of course, They also happen to do free cooking classes for adults.
State Funded Historical Museums
Arkansas has several museums throughout the state dedicated to native flora and fauna that have free admission and conduct all sorts of programs like free fishing weekends, tours of fish hatcheries, and nature centers where you can do activities like scavenger hunts.
Colleges and Universities
Last, seek out colleges and universities near you. They often have public nights to showcase their work in science and theater.
I am lucky to live in a town with 3 colleges. One is very involved in the community with free children’s plays, astronomy nights where you can look through the large telescope, free planetarium shows, and free cooking classes for kids. That’s in addition to the regular community/adult greared classes and language, coding, and engineering classes for kids for small fees.
There are several fun celestial events like the Perseids meteor shower (just missed it this year, mid August) that happen regularly. Even for those spread out quit a bit like the 2017 eclipse, there is usually plenty of press beforehand, especially if follow NASA, or another astronomy resource like Skytalk.
We have driven just outside of town to look through our telescope several times. We have stayed up late to catch meteors while making space inspired art and reading books about space or set in space.
How do you guys save money on field trips? Leave me a comment below.
As parents who have chosen to go against the grain, we often feel like we have to present this image of complete control and serenity. But we are rarely that.
People don’t understand the weight of choosing to be responsible for our child’s education in addition to all the regular pressures of being a parent, especially of a large family.
As a homeschool coach, I strive share my insights and experience to help more homeschooling families go from chaos to order, to help you feel confident in your abilities, to turn your doubters into supporters.
Please check out this page to learn more about my coaching sessions. I am only opening services up to 3 clients a week right now. I just can’t plan for more.
I am going to drop some affiliate links now.
My readers can enjoy 10% off sitewide at Evan-Moor Publishers using the code “SUMMER10”.
I know how it feels to spend weeks researching curricula and receive box set that you hate. Adding some games to the mix can really take the sting out of the slump from buying a curriculum that you don’t like.
I am also attending the Back to School Summit. This is an intense 3 day conference where you will get advice from career educators on how to start off this year on a good note and keep the enthusiasm going all year long. This program is only for those parents that want to give their kids their best year ever.
If you would like to me to compile an index of these resources for each state, write on my Facebook wall. Like my page while you’re there.
Follow me on Instagram to keep with the messes my kids make! You get get a behind the scenes look at our best of the mess!
Add some whimsy to your Twitter feed.
This post contains affiliate links. I make a small commission on any purchases you make through my link at no extra cost to you. I use these funds to make TAM better and to support my family.
Connor is raring to get on social media! And who can blame him? It’s a huge part of our culture today.
I remember when I joined Facebook. I missed the MySpace frenzy because I grew up out in the boondocks (I remember when the county paved my road, too, ya’ll). But Connor has never known a day without social media, cell phones, or the internet.
I know many people in the homeschool community avoid technology. We don’t. We all enjoy video games, movies, and feel like this without internet:
Connor is also getting to the point where he is literate and needs to start learning some geography, civics, history, logic,focus more on writing, and go through the sciences in a more systematic way.
Well, I think I have found a way to meld the two.
All of our research projects are going to start on social media this year! Social media is a great way to create situational interest in Connor. Educators use situational interest to teach a skill. For example, teaching a child their letters through bingo. Kids love games and will practice just about any skill to do
And people talk about just about everything on social media. It’s a great place to get in touch with experts.
It’s easy to search hashtags about the subject and find all sorts of things to explore.
Don’t get me wrong. This is not going to be the only resource we use. There is a lot of misinformation out there. People are sarcastic with hashtags, too, so I will have to be careful with the hashtags we use.
Let me give you an example. If we are studying China, the first hashtags I would search would be #chinesefood. This screenshot is from Instagram.
You can see the video squid being boiled and moving. This is a rich photo for learning, besides just being interesting. You just have to ask yourself the elementary school w/h critical thinking questions we all learned.
Critical Thinking Questions
What dishes use squid? What other cultures eat squid?
Why do they eat squid? This leads you into the social studies lesson on geography and diet.
Is it considered a Chinese delicacy or just something people near the coasts enjoy?
Are there special holidays where people traditionally make it? Is it considered breakfast lunch dinner?
Is there a famous chef who specializes in cooking squid? Is this available at street vendors, in home cooking, and nice restaurants?
What cooking methods do they use? This is the point where I would look up recipes.
After finding questions to answer, how do you actually answer them?
Summarize and Move on to More Credible Sources
Well, this is the point that I would leave social media and go to google. Think carefully about the keywords you use to search because these will affect the accuracy of the results.
To find the perfect search phrase:
Go back to your list and ask yourself to summarize the list in one sentence.
My summary would be: “What role does the squid play in food in Chinese culture?”
The next step in this home learning adventure would be to hop on Google. Take your summary and remove all the filler words like articles, prepositions, etc. Then type those keywords into the search bar.
This screenshot is what came up for me when I searched “squid Chinese food culture”. You better bet that I am going to tap on that Wikipedia article. This is a good starting place. You can then scroll to the bottom and go through their sources for more reading.
This article has a link to a page about Chinese cuisine with its own information on Chinese food that gives a fuller picture of Chinese food beyond squid.
After looking at all this, you can then go back to your original Google search (“squid chinese food culture”) and look at everything that came up.
Twitter and Contacting Experts
So that is a simple explanation on how to start learning on Instagram. But what about Twitter? The same process we used on Instagram can be used on Twitter, but Twitter is important for another reason. Contacting experts directly.
Continuing our example of cooking squid. I searched for “chinese chefs” and several different websites came up with lists of famous chefs. Look through the lists, find one on Twitter, and ask them questions! See if they have book or show recommendations! Ask for easy recipes you can cook with your kids at home! They may or may not answer you. Being ignored is always a risk.
It’s August and back to school time. This is also the time of year my family starts the new grade level. We all want our kids to experience school as this fun, enriching part of their day. Not a chore, but after while, we get tired and so do our kids.
That’s why I am excited to attend the Back to School Summit where we will be talking about the best ways to start of on the right foot and keep the fun going all year long. Find more information through my link. This virtual summit is happening Sept 4-6, 2018, so reserve your place now!
I am also currently working with Evan-Moor Publishers who make educational materials for PreK -Grade 8. Read my review of their Writing Fabulous Sentences and Paragraphs. You can also get 10% off sitewide through September 30, 2018, using this link and the code: “SUMMER10”!
Homeschooling is lonely and heart wrenching at times. It’s crucial to have someone cheering you on and showing you hacks to make your life easier, your relationship with your kids better, and your doubters jealous (petty, I know). Check this out to find the support you need to show yourself and your haters that you got this, whether they think you do or not!
Follow me on Twitter, Instagram, Youtube, and Facebook to keep up with This Addictive Mess.
Even if they do, scroll through their feed. There will be lots of links and ideas you can look into using the W/H questions (seriously, do these questions have a name? Let me know if the comments if they do!) we talked about earlier.
Now, you can use social media as a starting point for research. It’s fun. It adds a personal element. If you liked this idea, I have a free thought organizer and research planner for you to download and follow during your own adventures, when you sign up for my email newsletter.
Review of Evan-Moor Publishers "Writing Fabulous Sentences and Paragraphs" Lower Middle School Grades
This is a review of the Evan-Moor Publishers workbook, Writing Fabulous Sentences and Paragraphs. I received this product in exchange for free for my honest review. This post contains affiliate links that I will make a small commission on if you make any purchases.
As my kids get older, I start segueing from less organized work into a more structured view of school. This can be hard because we go from doing a lot of conversations to doing more a formal calendar of assignments, especially in writing.
My next several posts will be about teaching writing. I am making Connor really go through and examine his writing by asking himself questions like:
Does this have all 5 parts of a sentence?
Does this make sense?
Do I get my point across?
Who is my audience?
Is it interesting?
Is it repetitive?
Do I use correct grammar?
And of course, I make him read it out loud to check for style and fluency.
So we have started doing two things. First, we have been using the free online program Quill. It’s an interactive program that is very similar to Khan Academy. Please leave me a comment if you would like to hear more about it.
The other resource I am using is Writing Fabulous Sentences and Paragraphs, Enhanced eBook. This book is great for reluctant writers or those who need remedial help in writing. It breaks down writing by focusing on both how to organize your writing and how to get your point across effectively and concisely. If you child produces work that rambles or doesn't have a strong thesis, this is a great resource for you.
Why an eBook?
I could have requested a print copy of this book but choose the eBook for a few different reasons.
First, I had instant access to it! We used it that first day.
Second, I saved paper and postage. Both are wins in my book.
Third, I can digitally mark and adapt the pages to be exactly what I want. So if I think Connor (11 years old) only needs to do half of a page or can skip part of an assignment, I can mark it out. I can transfer the work to his tablet or bring my computer with us to appointments or for easy work in the car. I don’t have to worry about losing the book or making copies to save for my other kids.
About the Book
This book focuses on trait based writing. If you haven’t heard of it, it is writing instruction focused on teaching kids to focus on 6 or 7 areas (depending on who is teaching the traits) to craft a strong piece of work. These include organization, ideas, voice, conventions, sentence fluency, word choice, and presentation.
These points sound complicated, but really they’re not. All can be checked with the questions I mentioned earlier. The traits are important aspects of writing whether you are in grade school or grad school.
The book is organized into several sections. Each section has an instruction page for the teacher. These are quick tips and tricks to make sure you understand the purpose of each section and can communicate it concisely and clearly to your students through an easy activity like making a chart.
Checklists are included that you can print and keep on the wall or in your child’s writing notebook so both of you can quickly and easily check each piece of writing for all 6 traits. There are some for educators to use that go pretty in depth and some simplified ones that are created for the kdis.
Honestly, these are my favorite part of this book. I find Connor really benefits from lists like these that he can use while he writes. It helps him adapt his writing as he goes so he doesn’t get overwhelmed by a lot of revision later. These are also perfect sheets to study for remedial writers. You can use these as posters, as things for the kids to memorize, as mid-writing checklists, you can put them in binders, etc.
The book focuses on creating strong sentences first, then moves on into paragraphs. The sentence-focused portion does a great job of lining up how to take basic sentences and expanding on them to make descriptive sentences.
It also hits on some important aspects of writing like the main idea and figurative language that will reinforce things your kids are learning in reading lessons. Writing these will help your kids recognize them more while reading.
The paragraph section includes some graphic organizers, note taking instructions, and shows how to take these from rough ideas to polished paragraphs without seeming overwhelming or too abstract for kids to grasp.
Last, they include an outline section. I love the way they did this section. They are partially filled out already so the kids don’t feel like they have to start from nothing. Remedial and reluctant writers will benefit immensely from the jumping point because they have a guidance and aren't just staring at a blank page.
The main drawback to Writing Fabulous Sentences and Paragraphs is that this is not a complete curriculum. It doesn’t really have enough instruction to last a full year, but it is not advertised to be that anyway. This is definitely a supplement.
I would have loved to see more graphic organizers and note taking strategies. These basic ones they outline are great, don’t get me wrong, but these forms don’t work great for all kids or all types of writing. I feel like some of the beginning exercises could be skipped in favor of adding more graphic organizers to help the kids synthesize the information.
I would have also like to see an place on their outline for the kids to craft an introduction/main idea sentence and a conclusion sentence because I like to teach mine to write both of those first while the main idea is fresh in their head. They can construct the main idea and conclusion to be complementary to each other and provide a really strong ending to the paragraph, which can be hard for kids. Also, they can check their supporting details for relevance as they write.
I highly recommend this book for those who are wanting to focus on writing with older kids who are remedial or need help getting their ideas on paper more clearly.. It is fun and engaging with short exercises that hit all the important aspects of trait based writing. Writing Fabulous Sentences and Paragraphs makes a valuable addition to just about every writing program I have seen for the upper grades without piling on a lot of unnecessary work.
Use my affiliate link to check out more of Evan-Moor Educational Publishers' writing practice books. While you are there, check out their homeschool bundles, too.
This is part 4 in my Preschool Series. Read Part 1, Part 2, or Part 3.
Before I start explaining why I don’t feel guilty including TV as an integral part of my homeschool, let me explain that in no way is TV the most important part of our learning environment. The value of a good conversation or board game adds to the learning process cannot be underestimated.
We are bombarded from all sides with the dangers of too much screen time, from shortened attention spans to reduced capacity for understanding language to displaying symptoms of mood disorders. These dangers should not be underestimated, either.
Moderation is Key
But let’s be real, too. Screens, in the form of educational games and TV, can add great value into our school for several reasons. The key to using them responsibly is simply moderation.
First, these programs can be a reliable and fun way to get kids to be independent. This means that parents can work with another child, get some chores done, or grab a quick shower.
While TV surely doesn’t provide the same mental workout as reading or whatnot, there is evidence that quality educational programming like Sesame Street, written by education experts for decades, has been shown to help prepare kids for school in an effective way. According to a 2016 meta-analysis (a definition), children who watched Sesame Street had significantly better outcomes in literacy and numeracy, social attitudes, and health/safety knowledge. These results were consistent across 15 different countries, with representatives from all socioeconomic statuses and research methods. This meta study reviewed 24 studies and the 10,000 children.
It is important to recognize that our kids can learn from TV because homeschool parents are often under much more pressure than parents of traditionally schooled children. Of course, all parents are under pressure of some kind, but homeschool parents are directly doubted as to our abilities to teach our kids. The truth is that our abilities are much less important than our dedication to present our kids with learning opportunities at every possible time. TV can be a positive supplement to a play-based preschool program that includes whimsy and magic.
Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, an reimagination of Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood, has been shown to be beneficial in teaching our kids social lessons and in promoting emotional intelligence. According to a study released by University of Texas, preschoolers who watched the show, and discussed the happenings with parents, were better able to understand the emotions of others and were able to respond more appropriately. They had higher empathy scores.
In this study, kids who were engaged in conversation about the material did the best on the tests, suggesting that parental reinforcement of these ideals was still a major factor in the benefits. Parents can engage in these shows with our kids and make sure they reap the benefits. Of course, I am still going to turn on Daniel Tiger and slip away to change the laundry or change a diaper, because we are not perfect.
We read plenty of books in my house. I am a bibliophile and have spent hours online researching my the names of my favorite childhood stories. What I mean is that stories stuck with me much longer than the title or authors of the book actually did. For instance, I spent days looking for the title to story that followed a poor, black girl through the bayou as she tossed magic eggs over her shoulder so they would break and reveal treasures. I found the book, The Talking Eggs. I would never give up this opportunity to pass on stories that I loved to my kids.
So often in the homeschool world, we forget the power of the moving picture story. Kids can glean many of the benefits of sharing our favorite childhood shows, in terms of bonding through shared experience.
They can also learn the importance and sequence of narrative story through movies and TV shows. Of course, as I have stated before, the importance of books shouldn’t be underestimated either, but I am not above using Fern Gully to talk about important parts or the sequence of a story. Getting to re-live part of my childhood and sing some favorite songs with my kids is just a perk.
You had better believe I am going to include educational video games, too. According to this 2002 study by a researcher who focuses on gambling addiction studies, his review of the literature showed that those who were negatively affected by video games where almost always those who played video games too much. This study of video games designed for educational use showed that games improved student learning and motivation to learn in the classroom. So while the science is clear that too many games can certainly be detrimental to our kids, playing games in moderation with a clear academic goal in mind can be beneficial, too.
The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) takes the position that video games, when used appropriately and within reasonable time limits, can make meaningful additions for the experiences and learning outcomes of young children. Here is their in depth position paper.
Last, teaching kids to use technology from an early age is a good thing. Our society has come to rely on technology for even the simplest daily tasks like keeping a schedule. I know plenty of people who keep their calendar on their phone, using their Alexa or Dot to schedule things hands free. My doctor’s office has done away with paper records all together, replacing forms with a tablet. Computers and their uses will be an integral part of my homeschool for years to come. My kids will learn to type and to code.
I would like to conclude that while I am definitely not going to base all of my preschool curriculum around TV, games, or computers, I do not pretend they are nothing but bad. I am going to use them to my advantage, both as a legitimate way to teach and reinforce skills, a way to bond, and as a way to keep my kids entertained so I can shower or load the dishwasher without guilt or fear that my kids resort to tearing out each other’s hair in my absence.
This is part of my series on preschool. Preliteracy is part one. Prewriting ispart 2.
Kids don’t have math anxiety so focus on making it fun and upbeat.
I start with counting. All throughout their childhood, I make sure to count for them. Just a quick, “Wow, you have 2 shoes,” while you put on their shoes. Count items at the grocery store while you shop. Switch between telling them the total and counting out loud. I ask them “How much?” and “How many?” and supply the answers as needed (and by that I mean all the time). Get them used to thinking about numbers. Again, don’t worry if they don’t seem to get it. You have plenty of time. Thinking numerically is a bit step in your child’s language development. These skills and their responses are intertwined. You must wait for them to become proficient in both skills.
My kids learn colors around 2 or 3. Connor learned his when he still attended preschool. Cayden taught himself colors by watching YouTube Videos. Get my free printable with a list of dinosaur themed preschool videos he watched. AJ at 2.5 is very interested in colors, but just can’t quite seem to get some. She’s got black and white down pat. Everything else is blue.
She is also not as interested in the youtube videos so I have been pointing out colors everywhere and letting her guess. Subscribe to our Youtube Channel to catch some fun color activity videos.
Below is a video of a simple preschool lesson I did with Cayden winter 2017. He was 3.5! I was just a few months postpartum here so it was really relaxed and low energy.
Shapes are the basis of geometry, of course. I blend these with writing to get as much worth for my time as possible. My younger kids ask me to draw stuff all the time. Usually write their names or a t rex. I oblige with whatever they want me to do. However, when they want me to draw, I sometimes will do it out of shapes. I may draw a rough t rex with a circle for a body, 2 medium ovals for a head, and ovals for the legs, arms, and tail. I always say something like, “This ovalis is head; this one is his neck, here’s a circle for his belly,” etc. This way they also get to see how you can break things down into smaller shapes, too. I will draw a it out of squares or rectangles. I point out how we draw sharp teeth with triangles. It’s a show process to be sure. And, by the way, we are planning some videos with some fun shape activities on our YouTube channel, too.
Match & Sorting is another important math skill. Once they learn their colors around age 2 or 3, I start grouping things by color. I would point out when their sevel green cars in a row or the like. When your kid understands the concept of a group and uses the word appropriately, sit out some manipulatives (like my free dinosaur matching cards), and matching them. Talk to you child in terms like “These two are the same color. These are also facing the right way.” Explain your reasoning out loud. Let your child try. Let them struggle. It’s hard to watch but don’t help until they ask. This fosters self motivation and perseverance.
Turn the cards over and make it a memory match game! This strengthening memory and critical thinking skills. Again, take turns, and on your turn, think out loud. Say things like “I remember this one was in the corner” or “the other one was on the bottom row.” Show them how to use landmarks to remember things. Demonstrate positional terms (left, right, bottom, top, above, below, on top of, first, second, third).
Hi! I am Ali, a homeschool mom who is passionate about science, managing my money and time well. Unfortunately, with an army of tiny faces, I am always still kind of a mess.
I was tired of not having a judgement free place to talk about money troubles with other moms. So I created one!
Click on the picture above to join my Facebook Group, Money Savvy Mommas.