Homeschool Hardware: 10 Basic Must Haves

  Whenever I read questions from parents about homeschool, someone always asks what items you can’t live without.  So I thought we would talk about must have classroom equipment or as I like to call it “The Homeschool Hardware”.  Today we will talk about 10 of my favorite must have items you need for your classroom to run efficiently and smoothly.  Keep in mind, these are my “must haves”.  So if you wouldn’t use them, don’t.  You do you.   1. Three Hole Punch It’s amazing how something as simple as this, is so necessary.  I use mine weekly.  Make sure to get a simple, easy to use three hole punch.  I like ones with adjustable guides and an easy disposal bin like this one.  It also requires less weight to push, making it easier for kids to use.  If you are limited on space, go for a compact model.   2. Paper trimmer or cutter If you have the space for a full size paper cutter, I would definitely invest in a big one.  I don’t have the room for it so I use a small paper trimmer.  It still works great, but you can only cut one or two pieces of paper at a time, not twenty.  Make sure it has an extendable ruler for odd sizes of paper.  You also want to have one that has an easy to swap out replacement blade option, as paper tends to dull them out rather quickly.  I’ve tried quite a few and my favorite is this Cricut paper trimmer. 3. The Whiteboard I have several sizes of whiteboards.  If your classroom is big enough get a wall mounted white board for everyday use.  But, I always like to keep a small portable whiteboard around 8.5×11 inches.  This makes it easy to take on the go.  Sometimes we like to work outside when the weather is nice.  Make sure to get one that is magnetic.  It makes it easy to keep things attached to them.  You will also need it for curriculums that use magnetic pieces such as All About Spelling. Don’t forget your dry erase markers.  I only use Expo brand.  I have tried many others, but they just don’t erase as well.  Honestly, not all the colors are as erasable either.  I find that the standard colors are the best.   4. Boogie boards If you are not a fan of whiteboards or you just want something a little more techie, I love our boogie board.  If you haven’t seen these, they are awesome.  It’s like a writeable etch-a-sketch.  You can write, erase and write again thousands of times, without needing a new one.  Ours is a couple of years old and still going strong.  These are great for school, car rides, the doctor’s office and church.  It keeps the kids busy and isn’t distracting. 5. Pencil Sharpener I tried going my first year with just a little handheld pencil sharpener. Nope, it just doesn’t cut it.  Every five minutes I was attempting to hand sharpen a pencil.  So now, I keep two models in the classroom, an old school classroom pencil sharpener like this one below.  Kids just enjoy using it and find it fun.  Plus, it gives their fine motor skills a workout.  But if that’s not your style, I also use a fully electric pencil sharpener.  Get one with different size holes so you can sharpen colored pencils and odd sizes.  I also recommend one that has a large disposal bin so you don’t have to change it every three seconds.  You will want one that plugs into the wall, not a battery operated only model.  They don’t have enough power and you will be changing batteries all the time. Speaking of pencils, Ticonderoga’s are my favorite.  They are the best, hands down.  They work better, sharpen better, and they don’t lose chunks when you sharpen them, making them last longer.  For a few pennies more, they are totally worth it.   6. Tape Dispenser I used to buy tape in the little portable handheld dispensers.  But honestly, we go through a lot of tape during the year.   Not only that, I hate waste and excess packaging.  A tape dispenser is more economical and less wasteful in the long run.  The initial investment is worth the long term savings.  You don’t need anything fancy here.  Just get the basic one. 7. The Stapler A stapler is another must have in my opinion.  My advice is don’t buy the cheapest one.  Nothing is as annoying as a stapler that jams every time you use it.  So go with a decent quality one and don’t forget the staples.  If you are low on space, they make these mini versions which actually work very well.  You can also get a full size vertical model that saves space as well. 8. Pencil/Pen Caddy I’m a big fan of desk caddy’s.  Every classroom should have one.  I prefer a desk caddy that spins like a Lazy Susan.  They make it easier to access what you need quickly.  It also makes it easier for kids to put their things away.  Keeping your classroom tidy is a full time job if you don’t keep on top of it.  The easier the clean up, the happier you will be. 9. Hot Glue Gun Glue sticks are great.  But when I need more I reach for the hot glue gun.  It works for art projects, history, and science.  It’s also cheap and effective.  If you are saving space, get the smaller models that come with smaller hot glue sticks.  Otherwise, I like the sturdiness of larger hot glue guns.  When looking for a glue gun, make sure to get one that stands up on its own.  Otherwise you will have a hot mess.  Another feature to look for is a high/low temp switch.  That way you can adjust the temperature based on who’s using it.  A nice feature when working with little ones. 10.

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Bad Handwriting-Why The Paper Matters

  So, you have a child with bad handwriting.  Maybe it’s sloppy or maybe it’s huge.  What do you do?  How do you help them?  Today we will be discussing how to improve handwriting. One way to really help a child with poor handwriting is paper. Yes really!  The paper you use matters and today we are going to talk about why. Paper is something no one really thinks about.  We use it constantly.  But we never really stop to consider its value.  Having the right kind of paper can make the difference between illegible handwriting and beautiful, clean writing for years to come. Why the Paper Matters My child has always had trouble writing neatly.  In kindergarten they gave the kids special lined paper, but the next thing you know, they are moving them to standard, wide ruled paper.  Smaller handwriting allows a child to write more without tiring the hand as much.  However, what I found was that it is extremely hard for a child to go from writing really big to really small.  I found myself just allowing the use of two lines on college ruled paper as one line and making dashes in the middle.  This actually works quite well if you are on a budget.  But it causes a whole other problem.  The handwriting, while neater, is now bigger than before.  So how do we make it smaller?     Primary Composition Books Some companies make what are called primary composition notebooks.  These have dashed lines for making clean letters.  They are also very reasonably priced, and you can find them HERE.  The downside to these type of notebooks is that they only come in one size.  Roaring Springs In my search for another option, I stumbled upon Roaring Springs Composition Books by accident.  Can I just say that I’m so excited by these!  These composition books are organized by grade. You can select grades 1, 2 or 3.  Each grade is ruled with horizontal lines and a dashed line in between.  This helps train handwriting skills in print and in cursive.  The best part is, that as the grade goes up, the lines get closer and closer together.  This ensures that a smooth transition can be made to standard wide ruled paper. Roaring Springs Grade 1 has a 1” lines, with ½” center lines & can be found HERE. Roaring Springs Grade 2 has ¾” lines, with ⅜” center lines & can be found HERE. Roaring Springs Grade 3 has ⅜” lines, with 3/16” center lines & can be found HERE. Final Thoughts These composition books make it easy to teach proper letter formation and control the size and structure of both cursive and print.  They also teach boundaries and proper control when forming letters.  After using these it’s easy to move on to wide ruled paper and then eventually, college ruled.  Don’t forget my nifty trick for smaller hands, golf pencils.  By using smaller golf pencils and composition notebooks, you will ensure neater and cleaner writing skills. Try these out and let me know what you think.  Hopefully, they will help your child smoothly transition to smaller, cleaner and more beautiful handwriting.  If you have any other amazing paper or handwriting finds, let me know.  For more tips on better handwriting, you can check out my post Writing Challenges-When Your Child Hates Writing If you enjoyed this post, check out these others: How to Choose a Cursive Curriculum 10 Ways to Make History Come to Life Unboxing All About Spelling Level 4

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Historical Re-Enactments: Making History Come to Life Part 3

  History was never a favorite subject growing up.  Sure, I had some fantastic teachers growing up.  I had one teacher in particular who taught a lesson on debate.  The subject was  “Which is better, ketchup or mustard on a hotdog?”  Doesn’t sound like much, does it?  But he went so far as to call the Vienna Sausage company and get them to come to the debate and provide food.  Then he convinced a news crew to come as well.  I can’t tell you anything about that debate, or even who won.  But I remember how interesting and fun it was.  This taught me a valuable lesson.  Kids remember valuable moments way more than facts they read.  This is why I love Historical Re-Enactments. Many people don’t realize that historical re-enactments exist.  Depending on where you live, you may have a lot of them available or just a few.  I found out by accident from a random stranger when we were discussing homeschooling.  If you have never been to one it’s really quite fun.   What It’s Like There are actually Historical groups that plan out these events.  Everyone dresses up in the time period.  This isn’t a typical Renaissance Festival (although that’s fun too). They are extremely strict about wearing and eating only what would have been available at the time.  We did both a Civil War reenactment and the Revolutionary War.  If multiple ones are available to you, I would encourage you to do more than one.  If was amazing to see the difference in periods.  We were able to learn how the time periods changed and how even the food and weapons changed.   In our case, they allowed you to walk around the camps, showed you how they ate and even the games they played at the time.  They really immersed you in the time period.  While we were their they taught us an authentic game from the time period called Shut The Box.  It’s a classic wooden math, strategy game.  My child loved it so much we ended up going online and purchasing it.  If you’re interested in it, you can get it HERE.   In addition to this, we were able to see actual printing presses making newspapers.  We got to see surgeons tools and medicines.  They had authentic furniture and timepieces.  There was even a woman who showed us how spies created ciphers and encrypted messages.  Battle Re-Enactments The best part was the actual battle re-enactments.  It’s one thing to read about cannon fire and another entirely to stand next to one as it is being fired.  It’s also fascinating to discuss how long it took to fire each weapon, reload, then fire a weapon again.  That’s something you can’t really get from a book.   Planning Ahead To really get into the spirit I highly encourage you to plan ahead.  After each one we went home and made recipes that would have been available during that time period.  We made hard tack, and bison stew.  We made hard boiled eggs, apples and bread to take with us as our snacks to really get into the day.  If you aren’t sure what to bring you can always look up recipes on the internet.  We had been doing our lessons from the Time Travelers Series from Homeschool in the Woods.  Their lesson plans include recipes and crafts from the time period you are studying which makes things so much easier. If you have time for it, wear a costume (at least the kids).  Pretending to be a part of it makes history come to life even more.  You’ll be amazed at the excitement.   Finding One Near You There are many different types of historical re-enactments all over the world.  Here is a just a small list of some of the most well known and famous places for re-enactments in the US.  If your in one of these areas or are planning a visit nearby you may just want to stop at one of these places: Arizona- The American Heritage Festival is the largest re-enactment in the Western United States and is held annually in the Southwest US. Indiana-Mississinewa 1812 is considered by some to be the largest living history event in the country.  It’s all about the war of 1812. Minnesota- Wilder’s Pageant which is a living re-enactment of Little House on the Prairie. New York-National Silver Ball Tournament which celebrates vintage Baseball New Hampshire-Muster in the Mountains is a three day colonial experience. Pennsylvania-WW2 Weekend & Gettysburg Civil War Battle Re-Enactment If you would like to find one in your area just Google “Historical Reenactments near me.”  Please feel free to share additional re-enactment websites in the comments below and I will try to update the post as I get them.   Final Thoughts Historical re-enactments are a wonderful way to make the most out of your history lessons.  They allow your children to immerse themselves in the true feeling, spirit and world of that time period.  This immersion is what really makes history come to life for kids.  It takes a moment that may otherwise be lost on a child and makes it meaningful and memorable.  I hope this series helps you to bring life into your homeschool history lessons.  Happy Homeschooling! Don’t forget to check out the rest of this three part series: Making History Come to Life Part 1: How to do it! Making History Come to Life Part 2:  The Sword Casting Guy Please feel free to share additional re-enactment websites in the comments below and I will try to update the post as I get them.  

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The Sword Casting Guy-Making History Come to Life Part 2

  History is one of those subjects that many feel is difficult not only to learn, but to teach.  Textbooks can be dry, bland and boring.  This is why when I come across a really amazing live and in person way to teach history, I am instantly excited!   This is how I came to meet the Sword Casting Guy.  If you haven’t heard of him, his name is Greg Wenderski.  He’s a former school teacher turned sword casting instructor.  I heard about him on one of my mom boards.  The minute I heard he was coming to town to teach a sword casting class for a few days, I literally booked it as fast as I could.  Boy, am I glad I did!  Every class was sold out in a few hours. The Class The class was taught outside which was great for many reasons.  He first starts by teaching you the history of the swords you are going to cast.  So you get a mini history lesson at the beginning.  We were personally studying Babylon in our homeschool lessons and he had an Egyptian Khopesh sword which was eventually used by the Babylonians for us to choose from.  So clearly, that was the sword we had to make.  But he had other options.  Some of these were Greek, Egyptian, Japanese and more!  Depending on the lesson you are teaching, he has a sword to go with it.  If he doesn’t have a sword from the history lesson you are teaching, you can request to make your own.  He will send you the dimensions and you can design it yourself.   Making The Sword Once your mini history lesson is over, your child gets to make a sand casting of their chosen design.  Gary handles all the hot metal used to cast the swords.  So, don’t worry that your child will do that.  He also made sure that everyone was a safe distance away and gave very good safety instructions before he began.  Once that’s done, he removes the swords while your child watches.  If you think your going to be bored watching someone pour hot molten metal, think again!  I had as much fun watching as the children.   After the metal cools, parents get to help by sanding the swords and grinding them down to a shiny finish.  I’m not gonna lie, this was a serious arm workout for me.  But again, don’t worry that these swords are going to be sharp.  The swords won’t have a blade put on them.  Make sure you teach good safety with these because while they are not bladed, they aren’t childproof.  I’m not going to say your kids couldn’t smack someone with these pretty good, because they could.  But they are about as safe as you can make a handcrafted sword.   Once these are ground and polished, your child will get to put a leather bound strap on them for additional hand safety and authenticity.  One of the things I appreciated most is that all of his materials are made from recycled materials.  He uses old couches for the leather and recycled scrap metal for the swords.  It’s a brilliant use of upcycling. When You’re Finished When you’re all done, your child gets this beautifully designed work of art to put up and show all their friends.  There’s not a lot of kids who wouldn’t think that’s cool.  We ordered a sword mount to put it up on the wall.  If you need one, you can purchase it HERE.  But even better than the sword, they have a memory that will last a lifetime. Who Can Take The Class The nice thing about this class is that children of all ages can take it.  I saw very young kids (around the age of 5) all the way to high schoolers in the same class.  It brought together kids of all ages in a way that you don’t often see. I also noticed that it had the effect of teaching independence in the younger kids.  I saw a younger child struggling with his sand casting and so I offered to help.  He said, “No thank you, I’ve got it.”  This is something I think children pick up simply from being in groups of multi-aged children.  They want to be successful like the big kids are.   Cost One of the most amazing things about this class is the cost.  The Sword Casting Guy only charged $100 for this all day experience.  We spent at least 8 hours in this class.  I honestly think for an experience that the entire family could go to and enjoy, it was way beyond my expectations.  Most small workshops charge more than this for an hour or two.  After spending the day with him, it’s very clear why he does this.  He is extremely passionate about what he does.  He clearly loves history, swords and working with children.  Even after the class was over and everyone else had left, he took the time to teach us and answer more of our questions.   Where to Book If your looking for a way to make history fun, exciting and engaging… this is it!  There is no better way to make history come to life, than a hands on experience.  To find out how to take his classes near you go to www.swordcastingguy.com.  If he isn’t having a class near you, you can request a class HERE.  Make sure to book quickly.   Final Thoughts When making history come to life for your children, remember that there is no better way than a hands on experience.  Even if they don’t remember all the names, dates and places you discuss…they will always remember the moments.  Don’t forget to share the ways you make your homeschool experience come to life in the comments below.  Happy Homeschooling! Don’t forget to check out the rest of this three part series:   Making History Come to Life Part 1: How to do it! Making History Come to

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10 Ways to Make History Come to Life

  When I was a kid I always thought history was boring.  Turns out, it was.  Everything I learned from history was from a school textbook.  In fact, before teaching the Civil War to my own child, the only thing I could tell you about it was from the movie Glory.  Seriously nothing else.  It wasn’t until I was an adult that I began to find history interesting.  So when I decided to homeschool I knew I wanted to make sure to make history come to life for my child.  So in this three part series we are going to start by discussing 10 ways to make history come to life for your child. 1. Seeing History Nothing is better than seeing history in person.  Going to a historical site and seeing it, especially after reading about it, can really bring life to the subject.  I realize that not everyone can do this.  However, it may be easier and more economical than you think.  Where we live there are a surprising amount of ruins, Native American cliff dwellings, archaeological sites, dinosaur excavations, meteor craters, historical buildings and landmarks.  Most of them are less than a 3 hour drive and cost less than a cup of coffee to get into.   One of the best investments we have made is to purchase the America the Beautiful Annual Pass.  The pass costs $80 for the year.  It allows four adults and all kids under 15 to get into any national park for free.  The pass includes access over 2,000 sites in the U.S.  To check it out go to the America the Beautiful Pass Website. It literally pays for itself if you only use it once or twice depending on the landmark.  So look around your neck of the woods, history is waiting! If you have a fourth grader you can apply for the Every Kid Outdoors pass.  This pass allows all kids under 16 (including your fourth grader), as well as 3 adults over 16 to get into over 2,000 national parks for free.  This includes homeschoolers.  You can also apply if you are an educator of 4th graders.  To apply go to Every Kid Outdoors. Junior Rangers Before you go, don’t forget to set your kids up with their very own junior ranger accounts HERE.  This will allow them to find parks online with interactive and printable activities. You can view special places within the parks from your living room. You can also watch wildlife, geysers, and other activities in real time. They can also download junior ranger books HERE.  In addition to this, when you visit local parks, your junior rangers will receive badges each time they go to one of the national parks (as long as they are available).  They can collect stamps and badges along their journey.   All of these interactive activities make these trips more enjoyable and fun. 2. Audio Books Sometimes school is more fun when you don’t call it school.  I started using audio books for history as bedtime stories.  Instead of calling it history or school, I named it storytime.  My absolute favorite is the Story of the World Series read by Jim Weiss (review coming soon).  These are so well received that my child will excitedly ask for them.  Another great series on audio is the I Survived Book Series (also in paperback).   A great audiobook can make history come to life.  For children, it’s like having a fantastic book read out loud by a great storyteller.  If you think bedtime might be too scary for history (history is violent after all), then just do it during the day.  I don’t give tests on this and I don’t ask questions.  We just let it be enjoyed.  Remember, if you don’t call it history or school, they will love it.  If they love it, they’ll remember it. 3. Educational Television That’s right, I’m not opposed to using television as a tool.  There is nothing wrong with high quality videos to teach kids great things.  Amazing videos keep kids engaged and can explain things in a way I am not always able to. But, I use this sparingly and with care.  One of my favorite educational video sites is Curiosity Stream.  It has hundreds of streaming high quality educational videos.  All of them are available for the price of a couple of cups of coffee per year.  What’s not to love?  If you want to read more about them, you can check out my post Where I Find Educational Videos.   4. Lap Books and Hands On Programs It’s a proven fact that connections are made in the brain when you “see, say and do” things together.  Hands-on activities are a great way to solidify what has already been learned.  My favorite is by a company called Homeschool in the Woods.  This family run company produces fantastic world and US history unit studies, lap books and timelines.   Each program focuses on a specific time period and then has hands-on activities that you can do with them.  They include everything from recipes from the time period to miniature reproductions of things.  I have used many of their units and we are never disappointed.  (Full review coming soon!). They are not the only company producing these hands-on products.  However, they produce high quality at an affordable price.   5. Museum Tours-In Person The day I set foot into The Met in New York was mind blowing.  I had no idea what a true museum was like until then.  What most people don’t know is that larger museums like The Met and The Getty have actual tours of the museum.  Different companies will tour you around the museum explaining artifacts and giving historical facts and stories.   These tours will typically have themes.  They take looking at a tiny statue that seems like nothing, and turn it into an entire experience.  It is absolutely worth looking into.  To find a tour group just google “in person tours +

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Moroccan Preserved Lemons w/ Only 2 Ingredients

Have you ever wanted to make a recipe, only to realize it requires a special ingredient?  You drive to three stores across town and no one has it.  Then you go home, look it up on Google, and it’s ridiculously simple to make.  Yep, that’s Moroccan Preserved Lemons.  So hard to find, yet so easy to make.  It only requires a little bit of prep work and time.   Salt Typically, I don’t count salt as an ingredient.  Every home has it.  But in this case, I felt it was only right to count it because this recipe requires a truckload of the stuff.  I typically use kosher salt as it dissolves really well in this recipe.  You can also use sea salt.  If you’re not sure which salt to use, be sure to read my post on Types of Salt. Why So Much Salt? So you may have noticed this recipe calls for an insane amount of salt right?  Well, that’s because we are preserving the lemons, not fermenting them.  We are using the salt to stop any harmful microbes from growing, while preserving the lemons.  So yes, you really do need that much salt.  It keeps those nasty microbes away. What Can I Use Preserved Lemons For? Preserved lemons have been used for hundreds of years in North Africa.  They then spread through the Mediterranean and Middle East.  Moroccan Preserved Lemons originated out of a need to have the taste of fresh lemons all year long.  Shakshuka is one of the most popular dishes that use Preserved Lemons.  This dish is a personal favorite of mine.  But really they can be used in a multitude of dishes.  They have the ability to transform stews, tomato sauce dishes, pizzas, and more!  It’s like lemon’s funky cousin on steroids.  A little goes a long way.  So start with a little and then add more if you like.   What Kind of Lemons Should I Use? Ideally you would use a thin skinned lemon.  The closest variety in the US would be the Meyer Lemon.  However, not only are these hard to find where I live, I have a lemon tree.  It produces more lemons than I can possibly eat.  They are a thicker skinned variety and they work just fine.  So use what you have.  Once you get the hang of it, search out the thin skinned varieties.  See which you like better. Steps First put two tablespoons of kosher salt in the bottom of your jar. Then, cut one lemon to remove the stem end.  The side that would have been connected to the tree.   Once this is done you will need to cut the lemon lengthwise into fourths.  You want to try not to cut the lemon all the way through.  I have attached a picture for easy viewing.  The lemon should end up having an X or + shape pattern lengthwise.   Open the lemon where you made the cuts and put one teaspoon of kosher salt inside the lemons. Give the lemon a bit of a shimmy to move the salt around.  It’s gonna make a mess and that’s fine.  You want as much of the salt inside as possible. Turn the lemon cut side down and place in your mason jar or canning jar.  Give the lemon a firm squeeze to release a lot of the juices.  Try to release as much as you can without breaking the lemon apart. Repeat these steps with each of the lemons.  Place each lemon in the jar making sure to pack them tightly.  Fill almost to the top of the jar leaving about an inch of space.   Once filled, add two tablespoons of kosher salt to the top of jar and close the lid.  If the lemon juice does not go all the way to the top of jar, use additional lemon juice until it covers them. Give the jar a shake and leave it on your counter to rest.  Each day, for seven days, give it a shake.  After seven days, stash it in the fridge.  They won’t be fully cured for 4-6 weeks in the refrigerator.  You can use them earlier but they won’t have the same flavor. How to Use It’s important to realize that when you go to use these, you will need to first rinse the salt off.  Nobody wants that much in a dish.  Second, you will be removing the insides of the lemons.  Third, you are only going to use the peel.  So, once the skin is removed you will chop the peel very fine and add it to your dish.  Super easy! Storage Once everything is in the jar, you will need to shake these once a day for 7 days.  Then they are done.  You will notice the jar goes from clear to cloudy.  That’s totally normal.  Stash in the fridge.  These will last anywhere from 6 months to 1 year in the fridge in an airtight container.  The salt will eventually degrade the lemons and they will get very soft.  At which point I make a new batch. Morrocan Preserved Lemons are great in everything from soups to pilafs. It only needs two ingredients and time to make this umami packed flavor bomb. This recipe is so easy to make you won’t believe you didn’t do it sooner!  

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Fix It! Grammar Overview-Video Post

    Hey Guys!  I thought you might like to see the newest homeschool curriculum we are using.  It’s Fix It! Grammar by IEW.  Fix it! Grammar is an incredibly easy program that can be done in just 15 minutes a day.  The program is incredibly simple for both parents and students.  It only requires the teachers manual, student manual, a dictionary and a notebook or journal.  If you don’t have a dictionary available you can download one for free from Merriam-Webster for either Apple or Android HERE.   One of the things I like most about this program is that it incorporates vocabulary, writing skills and grammar into a simple 15 minute a day program. I also use it to build on penmanship.  So it’s a great multi-tasking curriculum. I have been extremely impressed by the simplicity of this program as well as its effectiveness.  We have had no trouble using it.  The program is good for multiple students of several different age ranges.  You only need one teachers manual, but you will need multiple student manuals.  You could also make copies of the student manual.  However, the program is reasonably priced.  So, purchasing additional manuals would be much easier and less time consuming. Here are some samples from the books. Parent’s Note This series is based on (for the most part) old fairytales and contain elements of magic.  I realize that some parents (including myself) take issue with some types of thematic elements in books and writing, so I wanted to make you aware of this.  I personally use these as a teaching element unto itself.  However, if this is not something you would want your children reading you will want to select a different curriculum. Fix It! Levels Fix It! Grammar has 6 levels.  The first level is The Nose Tree. Level 1 Nose Tree presumes no prior grammar knowledge and introduces basic parts of speech, end-mark punctuation, phrases, clauses, homophones, and more.  Level 1 is rated for grades 3-5.  The cost for the combo teacher/student editions is $29.  Each additional student is $19. Try Before You Buy You can try up to 4 weeks of this program free by going to this link HERE: If you like this video, be sure to check out these others: Unboxing All About Spelling Level 4 Unboxing Talkbox.mom Language Subscription Kits Using Spice Subscription Kits For Homeschool (Unboxing)

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Kiwico Eureka Crates Subscription Kits Overview

    Hey guys!  I thought it would be great to show you an overview of KiwiCo Eureka Crates.  We have been using the KiwiCo Subscription Kits for a long time and have a great selection of their products.  This overview will give you a large look at not only the KiwiCo Eureka Crates boxes, but also give you an idea of their entire line.  You will get to see how well made they are as well as the quality and craftsmanship involved. The KiwiCo Eureka Crates line is rated for ages 12+, but I have found younger kids can do it with assistance.  These kits start at $26.95.  However a lot of their other lines start at $18.50 and begin at ages 0+.  Also, they give great discounts on multi-month subscriptions.  The longer the subscription, the more you save.   I am such a huge fan of KiwiCo as a company.  Not only are their products great, their customer support is even better.  They make fabulous gifts for kids.  So check out this video to see a vast array of their products.  Make sure to share with me your own KiwiCo Experience.  I’d love to hear how you like some of their other lines. If you like this video be sure to check out these others: Unboxing All About Spelling Unboxing Talkbox.mom Language Subscription Kits Unboxing Barnabas Robotics Part 1

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Writing Challenges-When Your Child Hates Writing

  So if your child is anything like mine, writing is a challenge.  Sure there are those kids who were born to write, but most find it challenging.  This post isn’t going to make them great at writing, but hopefully, it will help you find out the reasons why they are struggling.  Once you find out why, it’s easier to help your child with writing challenges. Most people think that writing is simply the act of putting something down on paper.  I did.  In fact when my child started to struggle with it, I asked a trusted friend (who also happens to be an ex Montessori teacher) what she thought I should do.  She asked me which part of writing was difficult.  This was a new idea to me. Turns out writing is a multi-step process.  It involves the brain which needs to come up with ideas and thoughts.  Then that must be translated into a muscular function of the arm and the hands.  So the first challenge a parent faces is deciding which part of the process is causing difficulty.  Is it the brain struggling to come up with the ideas and thoughts, or is it the actual act of writing that is the problem?  Or both? Thoughts and Ideas The struggle to come up with your own ideas and thoughts is real.  Especially when you’re young and have had limited life experiences.  So for kids this is a real challenge.  Especially, young children. Starter Stories One of the things you can do to initiate good writing is to have starter stories, writing starters or writing prompts.  These can be found for free online by googling “story starters” or “writing prompts for kids”.  You can also purchase them online easily.  They come in books many times.  You can find some of them HERE. If your child is very visual you may want to try picture story starters or picture writing prompt books.  These books start with a drawing or picture and allow the child’s imagination to come up with a story.  It’s simple and effective and it works very well for many children.  You can find some of these HERE. Muscle Strength Muscle Strength is a real problem. Not just for kids but for adults as well.  Think of it this way.  You spend your whole life as a couch potato and one day you say, “I’m going to the gym.”  How does your body feel the day after?  Fantastic right?  When we ask children to start writing for the first time, it’s the same.  It takes many muscles in the body all working together to complete the act of writing.  If those muscles aren’t strong, the physical act can literally be exhausting.   Fine Motor Skills While Muscle Strength is a problem, for many children the real issue lies with fine motor skills.  These tiny muscles in the body that control minute movements can be very weak or underdeveloped.  Boys in particular tend to struggle with this due to the vast majority of things they play with as children.  Girls are often taught to color and do things with their hands.  Boys often play with trucks and action figures.  Different muscles get stronger by doing these things.  So in a sense some children literally have “writing atrophy”. It’s extremely important to develop these fine motor skills because they control functions such as writing, holding pencils, buttoning your clothes and more.  By working on fine motor skills you will improve not only dexterity but also the quality of your child’s writing. Hand Strengthening Exercises If writing is a problem due to muscle weakness, you will want to focus on hand strengthening exercises.  Montessori techniques are wonderful.  Montessori focuses on pincer grasp development.  Pincer grasp is the ability to hold something between the thumb and the first finger.  These movements particularly strengthen the muscles used for writing.  If you don’t know where to begin, just google “pincer grasp activities”.  Many of these simple and free techniques can help children become proficient writers.  You can also purchase toys specifically designed for strengthening these muscles HERE.   A great technique if your children are younger is to literally break all their crayons in half.  Yes, your kids will find it weird and so will your friends.  Especially when you go to a restaurant and start breaking crayons on the table.  But so what?  Think of it as a great conversation starter.  You can do this with pencils as well, although I found buying golf pencils worked much better.  Using these mini writing devices forces the hands to work in the desired way.  It requires more use of the pincer muscles, which will help strengthen the hands. Final Thoughts It can seem very frustrating when you feel that your child is not as successful at doing something other children the same age are doing.  Try to keep in mind that all children develop different skills at different times.  However, you can definitely create a more positive, successful environment by first determining what the real issue is behind the problem and then coming up with the appropriate solution.  This will make it much easier to help your child with writing challenges. The worst mistake we can make as educators is to force a child to complete a task they aren’t ready for.  They will end up in tears, hating what they are doing.  Sometimes it’s better to wait until they are ready.  So it may be that you need to put the pencils down and play with some legos, or teach your child beading.  Improve those fine motor skills, then go grab a pencil.  You will be amazed at the difference it can make.   If you have enjoyed reading this post be sure to check out some of these others: Why You Should Create a Homeschool Budget 7 Things I Wish I Would Have Known About Homeschooling While Working How to choose a Homeschool Schedule

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