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At this time of year, a favourite activity for many families is visiting the pumpkin path, going on hayrides, and picking out the perfect pumpkin. If you are visiting or have visited the pumpkin patch this fall, here are some fun activities you can do at home with your pumpkins:

Science:

PredictWill your pumpkin sink or float?  Test your prediction in the bathtub!

Math:

Have your children estimate the circumference of the pumpkin by cutting a piece of string the length they think is correct, and measuring how long it is. Then, actually measure the circumference, and see how close (or far!) their prediction was, and why

How much does your pumpkin weigh?  Again, have the kids make a prediction, and then compare their prediction to the actual weight.  You could also have your kids create a graph showing their prediction and actual heights and weights.

Open your pumpkin up, and take a look at how many seeds are inside. If your are feeling very ambitious, you could predict how many seeds there are, and then count them! (For younger students, this is a good chance to practice tally marks, or grouping and counting by ten)

After counting and washing those seeds, try roasting them, and eating them.  And of course, the pumpkin can make a wonderful pie! (These are great activities to practice measuring for younger ones.)

Language Arts:

Journal about the trip to the pumpkin patch, or create a photo booklet that tells the story of their trip….

Create an acrostic poem, using the letters from the word PUMPKIN to start each line of the poem.

Art

Paint a beautiful pumpkin patch picture. One of my favourite art websites, art projects for kids, has a great activity for this. You can check it out here.

Most of all, have fun, and enjoy schooling with your kids!

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I get butterflies in my stomach each first day of school. Each one. Did when I was a kid. Did when I was a teacher in a real classroom. Do now in my own small dining room table classroom.

When I was a kid, it was the butterflies of wondering who would be in my class. Who would be my teacher. Would I like him or her? (Would that teacher like me?)

When I taught in a classroom, it was meeting a whole new crop of kids. Wondering what this year would hold. Did I prepare enough for the first day? What kind of kids would they be? What kind of class?

Now, I’m not meeting anyone new. It’s my kids, and we’ve done this routine, four times already. But the butterflies still come. I think because I know I’m jumping into the deep end again. And the shore, it’s still distant. And I know that in the middle of it lies February. The dark days when the sun doesn’t shine enough and we’re all a bit tired and the ending is still hard to see.

So, I get butterflies. Will I really be able to teach my kids all they need to know, each and every day? Will I be enough? And will I be content knowing that I won’t? That there will be gaps (there always is)?

It’s a nervous feeling. It’s also an excited feeling. I’ve got books, great ones, that I can’t wait to dive into with my kids. I’m looking forward to those curled up on the couch reading together days.

And some of those February days? We’ll ditch the books and curriculum and  bake a batch of cookies. Make some hot chocolate. Do something different, just for a day. And February will pass, and before I know it, I’ll be shaking my head and wondering how June got here so soon.

So, I’m looking forward to the year. I’m looking forward to brand new notebooks, clean, with endless possibilities, sharpened pencils, and new books and curriculum. This year…. it will be a good year.

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Spring break is coming to an end… so sad. Spring break really has to be one of my favourite holidays.

We get rain in the winter. Lots of rain. Days and days of rain. January and February can be really dull, and homeschooling can have its slow moments. Moments when you feel you’re really not creative at all – and you really don’t feel like getting up and cracking the books anymore than the kids do. And you really just want to curl up in bed when the alarm goes off at six o’clock instead of getting up for your morning walk….

And then spring break comes. And yes, the rain doesn’t miraculously disappear, but there are sunny days. And those days are longer. And the trees outside your front window are starting to blossom. And you feel like getting things done.

Truthfully I had a very long to do list that I was going to tackle spring break. Very long. And honestly, I really didn’t get many things done on it. At all. (I did, however, clean off my office desk. I really was planning to have it stay that way too – for at least more than a couple of hours. However… the best laid plans, and all that…)

Here’s what I did do, though. I went hiking with my family.  We went across a suspension bridge, and hiked down to the bottom. We splashed around in the river, and managed to come home with a couple of soaked feet. We went to the ocean together with our family. We checked out the starfishes clinging to the pier, listened to the barnacles on the seashore (they really do make noise!) and turned over rocks and found tiny little crabs. We wrote messages in the wet sand. We had ice cream at one of the little shops on the beach. (As a side note: you know you have a big family when the grandfatherly man ringing up your ice cream tells you the total and then says, “Ouch.  That hurts, doesn’t it?!”) We introduced our kids to sushi.  My girls and I went Value Village shopping. Cute clothes, without breaking the bank. My kind of shopping!

And all those things were so much better than my original plans. My to do list can wait. Spring break was fun, and life is good.

So next week, reality is going to set in. I’m going to have to get up at the crack of dawn (sort of) for my walks. My days will feel like a whirlwind again as I teach, keep my house clean, make meals, do laundry, work…

But I’m ready for it. I really didn’t get the planning done that I thought I would, but that’s okay. Learning will happen and we’ll all be ready to go again. We may even be able to do some schooling outdoors in the sunshine. Really, does it get any better than that?

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Life has gotten very busy around here the last while. My kids have felt like I’ve been living in my office.  And to be honest, I’ve felt that way some days too. But the good news is, it’s for a short time – and I’m  getting to the end. In my job, I have busy times, and slower times… and this happens to be a busy time.

I love my job. I really love my job. I am a curriculum consultant and support teacher for other homeschool families. So not only do I get to homeschool my own kids, I get  to work with other families who are travelling down this same path. How great is that?!  I get to work from home. I get to spend time with my kids. I get to spend time with other homeschooling moms talking about homeschooling.  But one of the greatest benefits is that I get to see so many different styles of homeschooling, and I get to see lots of great ideas in action. There really are  many different ways of homeschooling, and it is fun to see what other people are doing.  March is one of the busy times, when  I do home visits, look at portfolios, and write report cards, but I’m almost done them now – and I’ve got some great new ideas!

What else has kept me busy? After being inspired by Moneysavingmom, I decided to really get an idea of where my  grocery money was going, decided to work on using coupons more effectively, and created a price list of all the best prices I’ve found for items in my area. I never thought I’d say this, but it’s been fun! I always thought I was careful with my grocery money,  but I’ve been able to shave a significant amount off my monthly bill. It’s been a great contribution to our budget too.

We’ve also had an international student from Japan living with us for the last couple of weeks. The kids have really enjoyed it, and it’s been fun for them to learn a bit more about Japan. And  I’m quite sure we got the best student  – he’s so eager to learn about Canada, so polite, and so friendly… and so interested in hockey! That of course makes him a hit with my boys! They’ve had fun introducing him to road hockey, watching the Canucks together, playing video hockey…  It’s been interesting for me as well… Besides learning about Japan, I’ve learned: fifteen year old Japanese boys are the same as Canadian boys; they eat a lot! Also, driving back and forth to school across town each day takes a lot of time (making me appreciate that my kids are home schooled). And, I learned I’m not such a big fan of making lunches! Really though, it has been a neat experience. My kids have been learning about other cultures around the world this year, but nothing beats seeing someone else’s culture up close and personal.

Next week we’re taking a week (mostly) off school. I’m really looking forward to getting organized for the last term of the year, and I’m also planning to spend some time organizing and decluttering at least a few rooms in my house. I am a big fan of living simply – but somehow with five kids, even living simply takes time and effort! In between, I’m hoping to be able to get outdoors with my kids, and just enjoy being a mom. Here’s hoping for some sunny days!

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We began homeschooling 4 years ago… We knew very little about homeschooling, and only a few homeschoolers.  Although we thought homeschooling was a great option, we didn’t consider it for our family.  But when our 2nd daughter was part way through grade four, we decided to take her home.  I had been spending a lot of time at night helping her with homework.  And when there were tests, I often needed to make sure that the work she was studying was actually completed.  She was in a noisy class, and had difficulty paying attention and getting her work done.  I was sure that I could quite easily get done everything she was doing in school in a couple of hours…

This decision we made when she was in grade four was a long time coming.  She didn’t like school from the beginning.  When she started grade three, I would drop her off crying.  One day as I was driving out of the parking lot, I felt a pounding on our vehicle – and there she was at the back running after me.  I wasn’t sure what to do. There’s nothing harder for  a mom than seeing your child in distress, so we did think about homeschooling. After a week or so though, she seemed to have resigned herself to going to school and we continued with it.  Although she still didn’t enjoy school, she was okay when we dropped her off, and she enjoyed the time with her friends.  So at the end of the year, we decided to enrol her  for grade four.  Again, she disliked school, and seemed to have difficulty working in a classroom situation, so we finally made the decision to take her home, and  began homeschooling.

I  have a tough time with change; it’s hard for me.  I like having a routine that I can count on, and I don’t like unknowns. But we really felt this was the best option. We said we would homeschool for the rest of the year, and that was as far into the future as we looked.

I still remember that first morning of homeschooling.  I dropped three of my children off at school, and returned home with a grade four student and a toddler.  I wondered if I had made the right choice.  But we sat down at the kitchen table and worked together, and that became my new routine.

I quickly found out that homeschooling really is a lifestyle.  It isn’t something that you can “do” for a few hours in the morning, and then go on with your regular routine. Homeschooling becomes your regular routine, and all the other parts of your life need to be fit in around it.

During that half year, I read everything that I could get my hands on about homeschooling. If someone mentioned a type of curriculum or learning style, I looked it up.  And through the process of homeschooling, I began to see so many more benefits to it, besides the academic ones that had first led us to this path.

So that fall, we decided to homeschool all of our children.  Once again, I was scared.  Was I making the right choice?  Would my kids make friends?  Would they learn what they needed to?

Looking back, four years down the road, I can answer “yes” to all of those questions. Homeschooling is a busy lifestyle.  Often I feel like I’m pulled in a dozen different directions, between kids who need help, laundry that’s piling up, housework that needs to be done, and meals that need to be made. Despite all this, I’m very happy with the choice I’ve made.  I’ve often thought that no matter what I choose, I’m going to be busy with something. And what better to be busy with?  I get to spend the best part of each day with my kids.  I get to be the one who has the satisfaction of teaching them to read.  I get to be the one they come to with their big questions – questions I don’t even always have the answers to.  And I get to share my life with them, and my faith.

There are a lot of benefits to homeschooling.  Academically, nothing quite beats working one on one with your kids. Sure, when you have five kids like we have, (or even if you don’t!) as a mom you really feel pulled in a lot of directions. And you wonder if you are doing enough.  You hear about some other homeschool family who seems to do everything, and you compare. As a parent you are taking a lot of responsibility for your kids education.  And there is no one else that you can pass the buck too – you are the teacher.

But is it worth it?  Absolutely.  There are days when you wonder how you can possibly get it all done.  And then you realize that you absolutely cannot, and that’s okay.  It isn’t easy, but nothing worth doing is.

If I’ve done my job well, I’ve ignited a passion for learning.  I’ve introduced them to some great authors and books.  I’ve spent quality time learning with them each day. And most importantly, I’ve taught them about God, his plan for their lives, and showed them that walking the path that God gives us is not always easy, but is so worth it.

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In our family, we try to work on math every day.  Over the years, we’ve used the Saxon Math Program, and I really like the way it spirals, builds on previous knowledge little by little, and gives continued practice with previous skills.  I’ve found that it’s worked great with my kids.

Sometimes, though, we like to leave the workbooks and texts, and play games or do some hands on math. As all of my boys were working on graphing in their math books, I decided it would be fun to do some real life graphing.  We decided that we would use smarties for our graph.  (Nothing makes kids want to start school in the morning more than doing math with smarties!)  Fun, educational… and edible!  A great combination!

First, we had the kids look at the smartie box, and guess how many smarties were in it.  Next, they emptied out the box, looked at what they saw, and estimated how many there were.  After that, they sorted the smarties by colour.  We found out that no one had the same amounts of any colour, and that not everyone had the same amount of smarties in their box.  That was a surprise!

Although this activity is very suited for primary students, when you pull out smarties, everyone wants to participate!  So, we did this activity on a few levels.  My youngest son sorted out his smarties by colour, and then coloured in a pre made graph.  My middle son took the information from the pre made graph, and then made his own bar graph, with the bars facing the other way.  This gave him practice with labelling and naming a graph as well as planning out the size and scale of the graph.  My two oldest took the information, and displayed it in a circle graph.

After sorting by colour, they counted up how many they had of each colour, and proceeded to fill in their graphs. For my youngest two, colouring in and making a new bar graph was easy; they’ve had quite a bit of practice with graphing.  The older two had to figure out how many degrees each smartie was worth in a circle graph, and then multiply that number by the number they had of each colour.  The tricky part with that was making sure that they measured accurately, or the last section wouldn’t be the right size.

We had a great time doing smartie math – and it made me want to think of more fun activities to incorporate into our math learning.  If you’d like to try this activity with your family, you can download the graphing form for free from my Teachers Pay Teachers store. 

Do you have any fun math activities or games that you’ve used?  If you do, please link to them in the comments box; I’d love to hear them. Enjoy your schooling!

 


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January is always a fun month to focus on the seasons.  When you get snow, you can plan some fun activities with it, and it’s great to take a day off and enjoy  the snow.  Whether you get snow or not, here are  a few fun school related activities that you could do as you enjoy this season:

1. Grow your own snowflakes: This is a fun science and art activity for January.  Using borax, water, and pipe cleaners, you can make your own snowflakes.  These are fun to make!  Here’s a link with step by step directions: http://www.enchantedlearning.com/crafts/winter/crystalsnowflake/

2. Winter Art Projects: This is a great time of year to add a little more art into your homeschool. Art Projects for Kids is a great website with many excellent art ideas that don’t need a lot of materials and are fun to do. Surprise your kids one morning by starting with art – they will love the change in routine. :) Here’s a link to some winter art projects: http://www.artprojectsforkids.org/search/label/winter

3. Winter Acrostic Poem: Write the word WINTER down the side of your page, and describe it with words or phrases starting with each of those letters.

4. Write step by step directions for how to build a snowman, or how to build a snow fort (and then, if there is snow, try to follow those directions and build it!)

5. Find a good read aloud and curl up on the couch together and read.

If you get snowy days, enjoy them, and be sure to take some time to play outside in the snow with your kids!

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