Monday, May 26, 2014

The Story About Ping

I am continuing to follow Kendall's Planning Schedule from the Five in a Row Forums.  I am at step 9 which is filling my folders with ideas.  Well, I don't want to print out every great blog post I find with ideas and I don't want to lose those great posts on my FIAR Pinterest board.  I decided that I will make a blog post for each story and add links to it as I find things that I like.  Once I am ready to actually plan that unit, I can type up and print out the things that have too many photos (like the ones of blogger's kiddos enjoying the projects) and just print the ones that don't.

Social Studies:
China flag and map
China wordsearch
Video about China

Experiment:  Why ducks don't get wet.  
Sink and float
Ducks hatching video
Life cycle of ducks

Duck dot to dot
Counting Ducks

Health and Safety:
Video about water safety
Water safety printable
Video about stranger danger

Don't forget about the FREE Fold n Learn that goes along with this story.  To get those, you just need to sign up for the FIAR newsletters.

Note:  The link in the Fold n Learn is no longer available.  We found this link to be helpful in providing simple facts about ducks.

This post will be updated as I continue planning this unit.  My lesson plan will be available along with the printables and activity instructions for the things that we will be doing.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Getting Started Planning for 2014-2015 School Year

   A few years ago I saw this great book called Using Caldecotts Across the Curriculum  and loved the idea of using these picture books in a unit.  I later learned of Five in a Row and again, fell in love.  Last summer I was introduced to Hands of a Child, which took our love of lapbooks and hands-on learning to a new level.  It took a while  to actually decide that this was what I wanted to use with my kids though because I was too busy trying every other mind-boggling homeschool method that just didn't work for us.  Well, with 3 kids doing school this fall, a toddler with special needs and a new-born on the way, I had to make some drastic changes.  What we were doing already wasn't working for us and with the new addition, it wasn't going to get any easier.  

   I get excited about planning for the new year and I find myself reading EVERYTHING I can get my hands on.  There are some great ideas on Pinterest and even more on the Five in a Row Forums.  I just couldn't figure out where to start though.  I posted a thread on the FIAR Forums and was given this great POST.  It's a great place to get started when you get ready to begin planning your year using children's picture books as your unit starter.  

   To get started, I needed a school calendar.  We don't have any need to go by the public school calendar so I decided that for next year we will start the first week of August and go through the end of May.  This is longer than our typical year but with the new baby coming, I want plenty of lead-way.  I didn't plan for specific weeks but I did plan 2 books per month, for a total of 20.  This allows us time to delve deeper into some topics that we really enjoy, take field trips and take time off for doctors appointments and other things that come up when you have a house full of children.  I decided to use a random sampling of stories from Before FIAR, FIAR, Using Caldecotts and Hands of a Child.  I tried to base these on books that we already have, books that we've borrowed from the library before and enjoyed or books that we've wanted to read and just haven't.    

   Following along with Kendall's schedule from the forum, the next step would be to obtain planning pages for the entire school year.  I think this should be pushed down a few but I will share what I did.  I found a lesson planning sheet on Just Finding My Niche that I liked for the detailed lesson plans and one on Whispered Abundance that was perfect for the overall planning and preparation for the week.  I am aware the Five in a Row puts out a yearly planner with these sheets in it each year but the 14-15 version isn't available yet.  I'm too impatient to wait!   There are many great resources in that pack that I look forward to having once the new year is available.  It is not only for homeschool planning but family organization and planning as well.  

   So now for the FUN part!  Step 4 on that list is is selecting 18-20 titles for the year and the next step is putting them in the order you will use them.  I combined these two steps.  I decided to do 2 a month for 10 months so we have 20.  I choose some from each volume of FIAR, Before FIAR, Using Caldecotts and Hands of a Child.  Only a few from Hands of a Child do not focus on just one book, the others do.  Several of the books were in FIAR, Using Caldecotts and Hands of a Child too.  We will most likely make long rabbit trails with those and do several weeks using activities from each source.  

   You can see our schedule here.  Be sure to check back in the coming weeks as I work farther along Kendall's planning schedule and get each unit planned in detail for the coming year.  

Monday, May 5, 2014

Cleaning your child's room

If you're like me, there are way too many toys in your children's bedrooms.  I've done a great job pairing this down some, cleaning out the classroom and just getting rid of clutter but I've got a long way to go in the kids' rooms.  I joined a Facebook group called 40 Bags in 40 Days and someone posted about this very problem this morning.  Another member posted a link that I think is WONDERFUL!  I thought I'd share with you.

I will mention that it talks about limiting how much you spend on toys, we already do this!  We buy one thing for birthdays and only 2-3 for Christmas.  The problem is that 2 kids have December birthdays, 1 has a February birthday and the other has a March birthday.  There's no middle of the year clean and replace for us.  It all comes in at once!  Grandparents in an effort to make up for what they feel we are depriving our children of, buy lots of toys for gifts.  Some are cheap things that get broken pretty fast.  These used to bug me because they would upset my children.  Now I kinda like these because they get thrown away faster and my kids have started to recognize quality and understand when they break.  My parents were divorced so we have 3 sets of parents to visit for Christmas.  Two of our kids are foster children so they have their own families buying them gifts as well.  It's all too much!  Grandparents don't listen either!  Oh, and don't forget the trip to my own grandparents Christmas where my 6 aunts and uncles all give the kids a little something just so that they have something to open.  It's all clutter!  We don't need it!  The kids recognize that it's too much but they still want to hang on to the toys for a little while.

Anyways, we're about to go declutter their room for the 3rd time since Christmas.  We aren't adding anything to it, we're removing each time.  Some things are going put away to rotate, some are getting donated.  Their room is still getting messy!!!!  I don't know the answer and I don't have a cure-all solution.  I do like the tips offered in this article though.  Read it for yourself and see what you think!

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Summer Reading Goals

   Each summer my older two boys set themselves a reading goal.  Elijah reads on his own and Levi does shared reading with me.  If they meet their goal, they get to pick a toy around the $30 mark.  They both have December birthdays so this is the only big item they get throughout the year.  Last summer Elijah set a goal of 100 books and met that in just 1 month!!!!!  Levi's goal was 30, which he also met in one month.  They both chose super soakers which happened to be on sale BOGO FREE at Toys R Us the week we went shopping!!!!  This year the boys have set the same goal BUT, Elijah's are all chapter books now and he will be testing on  Levi will also have 30 books to read but I'm going to be testing him on books that I read to him and hopefully by the end of the summer he will be reading some Bob books to list as well.  Each summer we read 1-2 chapter books aloud and those count towards their goal.  I feel this gives them a great example of fluency and allows us to spend some special quality time together.  The younger two join us for story time but we don't yet keep up with books read to them.

Summer Reading Record

Feel free to use this file however you may like.  I made it pretty quickly and realized that it wouldn't all print on one sheet in portrait so I swapped to landscape.  I did not readjust the spreadsheet so that it would be centered on the sheet.  If you want to use it as is, please do.  If you want to use this as a guide to make your own, that's fine too.  I just wanted to share this idea and record keeping sheet with you in case you would like to do this with your kiddos this summer.  Be sure to leave a comment to let me know how you use it and how it works for your family this summer.

Random Notes from My Desk

Our school year is over and I'm cleaning out the classroom so that we can paint and begin rearranging bedrooms to make room for the baby.  I've got random notes and things on my desk that need filing or tossing.  Some of the notes I want to hold on to for later reference but not necessarily keep the paper.  I figured I'd share those with you so that you might use them too!  I'll update this list as I go through this pile.  It may take me a few days as I'm only working in spare time.

199 Fun Family Activities-  A great book of fun family activities!  I got this book as a free book from the christian bookstore when I purchased other books from the clearance table.  I know it's easy to come up with fun stuff for the family but I thought that this book may have some things I hadn't thought of.  IT DOES!!!!  From outside activities to fun ideas for getting everyone involved with household chores, this book is a great little find.  
An Email from a friend with websites and info for helping my kids with speech problems-  

      For instruction to make specific sounds, try these:

      There are also some excellent YouTube videos...  You can type in "how to make the s and z sound" and all kinds of things will pop up.  There are lots of ways to make the sound, so you might have to try a few before he gets it.  There are also developmental ages for each sound and that is easy to access also.
      The site that speech therapists love the most to purchase all kinds of wonderful things is  They have so much neat stuff and wonderful games for learning vocabulary and enhancing reading skills.

      There is a book you can get from Amazon called "The Road to the Land of S"...  It's a drillbook to help you learn to make good S and Z sounds.  I personally don't teach in drill, because we don't talk in drill.  I would rather teach the sound while teaching a learning skill.  It gives the need to produce the sound more importance.  

      These are some websites that I love, love, love:
    (This website was developed in England where their incidence of autism is much higher than ours).  This site was developed by mothers of autistic children, but I use it with all of my students.  They love it and so do their parents.  Once it pulls up, they can get on it without messing up your desktop or getting to your settings.  You hit Ctl-L to get back to your normal desktop.  Down at the bottom you will see a row of icons... a tv, aquarium, soccer ball, and stuff like that.  It takes you to different activities.  The movie selection and tv section have a lot of phonics clips that are wonderful.  There is a game section with a huge selection and the kids never get tired of it.  There is a stories section where actors read the stories out loud, LOVE IT!!!   There is a music section and a section for writing, which even includes a cute little squirt bottle to clean the board.  My grandkids love this site so much, they fight over the computer to get to it.

   accesses a wealth of sites and has tons of activities also, but I am partial to zacbrowser.  When X#X#X# was homeschooling C$C$C$C$, she preferred zoodles.

    A ton of stuff on there for every grade and level.

    Love this site and use it often.  Just taught a wonderful unit on Letter Writing that went along with the book Santa Calls.

    This is a British site that is a lot like our  It is wonderful and my students absolutely love it.  I screen some of the activities, because some of the British stuff can be a little "cheeky".

    I access this through the Bossier Public Library website (also available in Caddo Parish and many other public libraries across the US).  It is an awesome resource.  They have books on all levels and it will read them out loud (good for modeling those target sounds and building vocabulary) or you can read them manually.  There is an amazing amount of books on this site and you will love it.

      I hope you like some of these.  I know the list is a little overwhelming, but I absolutely love using technology to teach and it is nice that I can access things that the parents use at home.  There is so much more to access now than there was when I homeschooled my children briefly.  All my homeschooling friends had was the library and educational supply stores that we couldn't afford.  

Home Educating Family- a great magazine that an unknown friend gifted me with a subscription.  You can find more info at


Home Organization 101: A 14 Week program to get your home organized- this is a great tool that I found on  It goes through each room of your house, one a week, for 14 weeks.  You clear away clutter and work on organization.  There's a checklist for each week, instructions for cleaning that space and also a Cleaning Schedule with daily/weekly/monthly/semi-annually and annually chores.  I have a stack of about 6 different charts that I printed along with this.  There are no websites listed but I believe that I got them all from the same site.

      I have been working on getting our house in order but needed it done much more quickly than 14 weeks.  I joined a group on Facebook called 40 Bags in 40 Days that has been a great motivation for me to clear my clutter and organize my home.  I've been working for about 3 weeks and have made great progress.  Now I've got to maintain it and keep pressing forward to finish the house.  We have way too much stuff and need to clear out about half of it!!!

_________________________________________________________________________________ This is one I've gone back and forth with for years.  It worked great before kids, decent after kids, I haven't found a way to make it work with homeschooling though.  It's been a few years since I've tried so once I have gotten our house settled from moving rooms around, I may give it another go.

      She has detailed cleaning lists for each room of your house and sends daily emails (this part drives me crazy) to encourage you to do the chore for that day.  She starts out with BabySteps to help you set up a routine and make it a habit.  It really is a great site and she has some really good tips.  It just seems hard to keep up with when you homeschool.  I find myself having to make the decision each day as to what needs more attention that day, school or house.  Her plan doesn't allow for skipping days though she does say just jump in right where you are that you are not behind.

      Like I said, I do want to try it again once we've finished our massive decluttering projects and moving the rooms around to accomodate the baby.


Alright, that's it!  The desk is cleaned off.  Everything is filed away where it belongs.  I can see the surface again!!!  I hope that you are able to use some of the things that I have shared.  If you find great resources, please share them!!!