My Family

My Family

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Cubs Under the Sea - A Cub Scout Blue and Gold Banquet

      You probably don't know it, but I am the cubmaster for my grandson's Cub Scout pack. One of my responsibilities is taking care of awards ceremonies and another is our yearly Blue and Gold Banquet. Each year, several of the people who attend tell me I should share how I create some or all the decorations used for the banquet. So, I thought I would try to do that, starting with some of the decorations used this year for our Cubs Under the Sea themed banquet. Let me start by explaining that we have decided to just create decorations for four banquets. Instead of creating new decorations for a different theme each year, this will allow us to store a majority of the decorations and reuse them, spending less funds in the long run over time. Since our Cubs are only in Cub Scouts for three years and we invite boys who are coming into our pack in the coming year, four themes will work although if a boy has an older or younger sibling, they will end up seeing some of the decorations more than once unfortunately. I really don't think most of the boys will mind much, since they seem to enjoy our banquet each year so far.
     So, what are our four themes going to be? This year, it was "Cubs Under the Sea" (Ocean) Next year, it will be "Baloo and Gold" (Jungle Book). The following year, it will be "Blue and AU" (Science, AU is the abbreviation for Gold) and the last year will be "Cubs in Shining Armor" (Knights). I've found ideas for Blue and Gold Banquets all over the internet and heard about many others at the monthly round table meetings. You could easily pick whatever three or four thems you want, stick with them, and simply rotate them each year so the boys in your pack will enjoy a different theme as they go through their ranks. Of course, if you also have Tigers, which we don't or have a two year Webelos program, which we also don't, you may need more themes to rotate than we do.
     Since I took photos as I made several of the decorations this year or still have a few materials left over from making decorations this year, I can start by sharing how I made many of the decorations we had for our banquet this year. I hope you will enjoy the decorations and that I can explain how I made them easy enough that you will understand easily enough how I made them that you will be able to make many of them, if you want. I will warn you, I did get many of the ideas off Pintrest, but unfortunately many of the ideas were just photos with no link to a site to explain how the decorations were actually made! Some of the ideas were linked, but the explanations to make them were n't very explicit, so I still had to figure a lot out. When possible, I will include a link to the original idea, in case my directions aren't that great.
     I want to explain up front that I had planned to make an "island" or "hill" to attach the decorations to, but the stuff we had that I thought I could use to make the islands were ruined by the weather, so I had to come up with a different way to make my bases at the last minute. Maybe it turned out better in the long run but I plan to do it differently in four years, if I'm still decorating for our Blue and Gold Banquets then.
     So, let's start with a photo of an area of the finished decorations, then I'll explain how I made each of those decorations.
    Let's start with some easy and pretty cheap decorations. This photo is basically paper fish and party streamer seaweed. We actually found two colors of green party streamers to make the seaweed with. I picked up one at my local dollar store for a buck and the other at my local Wal Mart for a few cents less. You just tape a piece at the bottom of the wall. Cut or tear it the length you want the seaweed to be, then simply twist it and tape it at the top of the piece. You can make seaweed in groups, as you see in the photo or simply several pieces going straight up and down in a grouping. You can see one single strand on the left side of the photo with two groups starting from the same place. For the groups, to save time, we actually did pieces in a "V" shape several times, together, in different lengths.
     As far as the paper fish go, we actually used them in several areas. Along this wall, they are sprinkled among the seaweed and to "fill in" where it looked a little blank. We cut them from just about every color we had in the pack of construction paper, except black, brown, and white. I made two sizes of stencils I'll share later. I actually got this idea from someone on Pintrest, but made my own stencils. Since we only have six boys in our pack at the time of the banquet. A couple of the moms are really busy between work and a couple teenagers, but I was able to ask the rest of my moms if they would be willing to help cut out fish. I don't think they realized I was asking so many moms to do this or how many fish I was getting cut out, but we used almost every single one while we decorated! I mostly wanted the larger fish with a few of the smaller to fill in. This is just one area we used the fish. You can see small areas of one long wall we actually created a large "school" of fish. Unfortunately, somehow I didn't get a photo of the school and I'm asking if anyone else may have taken one. We didn't just make a three foot wide straight line of fish, we actually made more of a wave several times. It looked amazing and worked perfectly on the accordian pleat wall. It's always a hassle to decorate this wall in our gym. Not much will tape and stay attached to it. This worked absolutely perfectly! We also worked on just this wall two days, a couple hours or so each day and I had some wonderful help doing it too! Thanks to the daughter, Maddie, of a dear friend of mine and a couple other people I don't think this would have been done as well as it was. I even had some help from my 2 and 4 year old grand daughters to make it. Of course, since they are about three feet tall or so, many of the fish they taped to the wall had to be moved to make the wall I had envisioned.
     This is one of the areas I was talking about earlier, a "hill or island" of decorations. I had planned on using a large chunk of foam insulation someone had given my husband a couple years ago. I had thought he had stored some under a tarp, to save it from the weather but either he didn't or it had gotten blown off and the foam was in horrible shape. By the time I found out about it, it was too late to try to replace it with foam or styrafoam. They idea I found on Pentrest led me to a website where the person explained how she had done it with medium sized cardboard boxes. Believe it or not, we ended up using stacking chairs with fabric covered seats and personally, I think it worked wonderfully. We made several stacks of different heights and covered them with burlap, instead of the brown paper she used. I only wish we had just a couple, three more pieces of burlap, to take care of a couple spots that weren't covered quite right. You can see one spot at the bottom, in the middle. This section of decorations actually has quite a few different plants and animals I created. I'll start with the easiest pieces and go from there with directions on how to make as many as I can. Some of the decorations were also used in another area and are better seen in a photo of that area, so I'll probably explain how to make those after a photo of that area.

Coffee Filter Coral
      Coral made out of coffee filters was probably one of the easiest decorations we made this year. There were a few other decorations that were easy too and we'll get to them, but I wanted to start with something easy and pretty too.

     One set of directions I found through Pintrest was to use water based markers and color six filters with the same set of colors and roughly the same pattern. Once you are done coloring, you lightly spray the filters with water
and let them dry (I used a couple trays from my dehydrator), then staple them together. This isn't a bad way to do the coral, if you need an activity for a group of children and have them color the filters, but if it's just a couple adults making all the decorations, I found a much faster and easier way to color the filters.
     I found that using Walton gel icing dye, warm water in a jar, and pie plates, I was able to dye several sets of coral at a time. It was much easier and a LOT faster than the marker method. You could probably lay wax paper on a table or even the floor and do even more sets of coral at a time, I just didn't have the space when I was doing most of these. I bought an entire package of coffee filters and used old mayonnaise jars with their lids. I put about an inch to an inch and a half of warm water in four or five of the jars. After I added the icing gel, I would simply put the lid on the jar and shake well to mix. Depending on how many colors you want to work with at a time will decide how many jars you use. I think I used four jars and played with the color in one of the jars, eventually mixing the original yellow dye I had made with red color and coming up with a nice orange color. Remember, you are going to add a BUNCH of dye to the water! You'll be worried you are adding too much, when it's probably going to be just enough. My suggestion is to either dye just one filter, to test your dye or enough filters to make one coral (6) and see if you have added enough dye. You really won't know how strong the color of your dye is until you look at your dried test filters.
     I started with yellow and blue dyes, the Cub Scout colors and also basic colors too. I was never able to get a true red dye color, but it came out as a beautiful rose color instead.  Eventually, I also made purple dye too. The purple was fun and interesting! Remember, it's a secondary color and for me, the colors separated after I dipped the coffee filters into the dye and set them aside to dry.    Although I was able to dip the filters into the dye in the mayonnaise jars, it's easier if you pour the dye into a small bowl. You don't have to dip the filter halfway to the middle of the filter if you are planning on using more than one color of dye on the filters, but only about an inch or so. Remember, the filter is made of paper designed to absorb liquid! Once you set the filter aside to dry, the dye will continue working it's way toward the other end of the filter. Also, you don't want to leave the filters in the dye for long. Basically, quickly dip and set aside. The longer you leave the filters in the dye, no matter how far you dip them into the dye, the higher up the filters the dye will absorb.
     So, if you have your dye ready, your coffee filters, and your drying area prepared, you are ready to start dying your filters. Take one or two filters and put your finger in the middle. Taking the filter from the middle, you'll gather the edge together. (look at photo) Now, you can dip either the point or the edge into your dye and set aside to dry. Keep an eye on your first few (enough for one coral), to make sure you have dipped the filters down into the dye far enough. If you feel you haven't dipped your filters into the dye far enough, you can always dip them again or just dip the filters further into the other dye you are going to use on the filters. No one but you will know the filters weren't dipped into the dye far enough! Once your filters are dry, you can dip the other end of the filters into a second color of dye or leave them the original white. If you dip them into another color of dye, remember how much the dye continues to color your filters once they are set aside to dry. If you dip correctly, you will actually end up with three colors on your filters. The two colors you dipped them into and a third color in the middle, mixed from the two primary colors.
Pool Noodle Decorations

Friday, May 13, 2016

FANTASTIC Homeschool Product Sale Coming Soon!

     I've tried to not post about homeschool products in my blog, because frankly I'm pretty fed up with reading about all these great products people write about in their blogs. After all, a majority of them are only writing about the products because they probably contacted a company and offered to write about their product in exchange for getting something from the company. So, in a way they are getting paid for writing about the product if you think about it. Instead of getting money for writing about a product, they get the product from the company for free, which is a way for paying for it. Some of these products can cost over a hundred dollars, but the products I've looked into are usually between twenty and forty dollars, unless the blogger is getting an entire set or program in exchange for writing about the product, but that doesn't happen very often. I think I'm making sense about this, but maybe I'm not and I'm sorry about that!
     Whenever I've written in my blog about a product, it's usually after I've paid for it, tried it with our son, and been really happy about that product. I don't want to feel that I need to tell people about a product because it was given to me. I also don't want to go begging to companies and making arrangements in exchange for getting these products either. I'm just not that type of person. I do want to share about a sale coming up next week, called the Build a Bundle Sale. Why is it called this you might be asking? It's because the products are being sold in bundles although you can purchase the products individually. The thing is, you can either purchase bundles that have already been put together or you can build your own bundle of the products that are being offered in the sale. Last year, we bought several products in the sale and were extremely happy with a very large majority of what we bought. I've checked out some of the products they say are being offered this year and from what I can see, none of the products are the same from last year although I could be wrong. In a way, this is a little disappointing, since we couldn't get everything we wanted to get last year. At the same time, it's pretty exciting too, because that means there will be so many other products to check out. Since the products are being offered from 86%-96% off plus, if you sign up for the sale now, you get an additional 10% discount, you have got to admit it sounds like a pretty good sale for homeschoolers!
     Another really great opportunity that is being offered is a giveaway. Yes, a giveaway, four to be exact if I understand it correctly. The grand prize is one of everything that is being offered and three premium bundles to the runners up. Since the prize goes to the person who is able to have other people use their reference code to sign up for the sale and discount, I know there are a LOT of other people who know quite a few more people than I do who homeschool, I have already figured out that I probably won't win the grand prize, but it would be really great if I could win one of the runner up prizes. The thing is, people who use the reference code to sign up for the sale don't have to actually purchase anything to count toward helping someone with the giveaway, they just have to sign up for the sale. So, I'm asking everyone who reads my blog to help me out, use my reference code and sign up for the sale. If you homeschool, you may find something in the sale that will be worthwhile for you to purchase and I'm glad I could point you in the direction of a really great sale. If you don't homeschool and sign up, I appreciate the help. Pass on the reference code to anyone you know, who homeschools or even doesn't, but is willing to help out. I'd really appreciate it, more than you could possibly know.
     So, are you ready for the reference code for the sale and the additional discount? Here it is: 
Thanks for taking the time to read my blog and about this sale. I hope it'll help you out and I know if you sign up, it'll help me out.
     Want to know some more about the sale? Last year, there were bundles for homeschoolers from preschool to high school, special needs to gifted and talented. Bundles for girls, boys, and moms too. There was even a special bundle that was to help teach the arts! Our son and grandson especially loved the products by Warfare by Duct Tape, which we've used in our study of ancient history. There were audios, lapbooks, notebooking, and unit studies too. Basically, something for everyone who homeschools. 
     I'm excitedly waiting and have been looking forward to this sale for the last few months! If it's as great of a sale this year as it was last year, we won't have to worry about products to teach next year and the best thing about it is the great discounted prices. 

Here is just a little peek into the incredible products that are being offered this year:

  • 4 Cathy Duffy Top Pick science curricula
  • 4 Ellen McHenry science curricula
  • Lots of math curriculum and resources
  • Complete reading and early learning curriculum
  • Loads of copywork, notebooking, and lapbooks
  • Full language arts curriculum
  • 2 full literature curricula
  • Complete writing curriculum and several writing resources
  • Handwriting curriculum
  • Full history and geography curriculum
  • 3 full Bible curricula and several Bible studies
  • Complete character curriculum
  • Living history resources
  • 10 awesome art curricula & resources (2 Cathy Duffy Top Picks!)
  • 3 complete curriculum sets from Master Books
  • Tons of homemaking and homeschool helps resources
  • 5 student planners & several planners and organizers for moms
  • Over 25 unit studies
 There are 86 publishers and authors participating. Here is a sample of a few of them:
  • Master Books
  • WriteShop
  • Amanda Bennett Unit Studies
  • Ellen McHenry - Basement Workshop
  • How Great Thou Art
  • BiblioPlan
  • Picture Smart Bible
  • Brookdale House
  • Character Concepts
  • Media Angels
  • A Journey Through Learning
  • Homeschool Legacy
  • Writing With Sharon Watson
  • Bright Ideas Press
  • Math Essentials
  • Notebooking Pages
  • Joyce Herzog
  • Trivium Pursuit
  • National Center for Biblical Parenting
  • Home School Adventure Co.
  • Knowledge Quest
  • Barefoot Ragamuffin Curricula
  • Enrichment Studies
  • Live and Learn Press
  • Intoxicated on Life
  • Grapevine Studies
      Once again, in case you need the code to sign up for the sale:

Monday, November 2, 2015

Homeschooling a Kinetic Learner

     Just the word kinetic will possibly have quite a few people wondering what it means, then you add in the words kinetic learner and that might have even more people scratching their heads, then I've added homeschooling a kinetic learner and that will add even more people wondering what I'm talking about! So, let's take a look at each term one at a time and hopefully that will help people out I hope.
      First off, what does kinetic mean for me? Well, the dictionary says kinetic means "1. pertaining to motion. 2. caused by motion. 3. characterized by movement: Running and dancing are kinetic activities." For me, it means hands-on activities, actually doing activities and not reading about them. How does that pertain to kinetic learning? It means doing activities, like making a salt dough or sugar cookie map in 3-D format instead of drawing a map on a piece of paper or making hard tack and other foods of the American Revolution and camping outside in cold weather to better help our son understand what it was like at Valley Forge. Add in the term Homeschooling a kinetic learner for me is really special for some children. Those are the children who really have problems learning in school. These are the group of children who have a lot of problems sitting for long periods of time and comprehending information from what they read. They don't learn from just reading, but need to do activities that help teach what they are learning about.
     Our twelve year old son is diagnosed with autism and we've been homeschooling him since the age of four. We started homeschooling him just after learning his diagnosis and tried doing many of the techniques my husband and I were taught in school with. The only problem was, those very same techniques didn't work very well with our son for some reason! It took us a while and a lot of research, trying different teaching techniques. Over time, we figured out our son was a kinetic learner. If you try reading a chapter of history about any topic, then ask our son questions about what was read, he will have a totally blank look on his face. Now, change up the techniques by having him draw pictures while a chapter is read. Go outside and act out some of the activities or use plastic toys and act out the activities with them on the floor or with a container of sand like Paul Revere's ride or use several wood stakes and string to better understand the size of the Mayflower or a pioneer cabin for instance and you'll be doing activities to help teach a kinetic learner.
     One thing we've done a lot of has been unit studies. There are actually companies which create unit studies and we've purchased products from two of them, Amanda Bennett Unit Studies and Intellego Unit Studies. One problem I've come across Amanda Bennett Unit Studies over the last year is that some of her unit studies are available from one website while some of her other unit studies are available from another website! It's really confusing and frustrating when one of the websites offers one sale for certain products and the other website offers a sale on other products, especially when only one of the websites offers a really fantastic sale website wide that isn't available on the other website. As far as Intellego Unit studies goes, when we first started using the studies I found out the products were actually designed by the parent of a special needs child and are designed with these types of children in mind. The only problem with many of their products is that many of the links in the products are no longer available to access. Once that happens, the company tries to find other websites that are close to the ones originally written into the studies, but in my opinion many of them really don't mesh as well as they should. Another problem when this has happened, the company will depend on the same substitute website too many times within the same chapter, which ruins the flow of learning for our son a lot of the time.
     Since we've been doing unit studies quite a lot over the years, we've decided to try our hand at creating our own unit studies this year. So, what are some of the activities we do while studying? Here's an example of some of the activities we'll be doing while studying Ancient History, Ancient Egypt to be exact:
  1. Create and paint a 3D map of Egypt
  2. Print and complete “My Book About Egypt” by Bonnie Rose
  3. Download and put together a paper model of a pyramid
  4. Download and put together a paper model of a sphinx
  5. Make our own “papyrus”
  6. Write name using hieroglyphics on a cartouche
  7. Make a mummy mask
  8. Make a mummy case
  9. Watch videos about ancient Egypt, including Horrible History
  10. Download and make paper dolls wearing Ancient Egyptian clothing
  11. Make own Ancient Egypt clothing outfit
  12. Play the Ancient Egyptian game of Senet
  13. Have an Egyptian Banquet
  14. Create page for time travel scrapbook
     Many of these activities could be done for any ancient civilization and many more can be done with a little change here and there, while only a few are specific to ancient Egypt. For instance, you can make a 3D map of any country and you could write your name using cuneiform while studying Mesopotamia, hieroglyphics for Egypt, and many other specific languages to different civilizations. Each and every civilization has clothing and foods specific to their cultures, so with a little research you can easily create clothing and a banquet to end your study with. While you might and might not be able to find a paper model of something specific to every ancient civilization you will want to study, you should be able to find quite a few paper models for many famous buildings specific to many ancient civilizations. For instance, I've already found paper models of The Hanging Gardens, the Great Wall of China, the Parthenon, the Pantheon, and several other famous buildings from ancient civilizations.
    I know that many of us just don't have the time to first do the research about an ancient civilization, then further research for activities that teach about the same ancient civilization. Next, to purchase supplies you don't already have for those activities and time to plan to actually do those activities. If you don't have the time, but do have the funds to purchase ready made kits, there are many companies that have created kits for schools and homeschoolers, so children can try their hand at making so many different activities. The only problem is, many of these activities will probably cost quite a few dollars. One company is called History Unboxed and another is Art in History. While History Unboxed offers a wide range of activities and crafts, Art in History only offers ceramic products. Both offer products one civilization at a time products although History Unboxed offers an entire year long special program at the beginning of each school year. We bought a subscription to the year long program from History Unboxed a month ago and have already received our first two boxes, but we have only started using the first box recently. I'll post about their program in a couple months, once we've really had a chance to try the program further. I also plan to try a couple of Art in History's products soon and I'll post about those too.
     Between the problem of being able to afford ready-made products and finding the time to do research to teach our children, for many of us is a very difficult balancing act. I know there are many bloggers who have had the time to research and create, it's just a matter of finding the right blog or two, to help us find the right activities for our children to learn about ancient civilizations. I spent most of the summer reading many of them. Unfortunately, many of the same activities are duplicated on the blogs although you will find some absolutely fantastic and creative activities from time to time and blog to blog. Once you find a few blogs with different activities perfect for your children, you might consider searching those blogs for different ancient civilizations and activities. After all, if one blogger has just the right activities to fit your needs, there's an excellent chance the same blogger will have some perfect activities to help with the entire ancient history timeline you choose to teach your children about.
     As far as websites to help with teaching your children, I would like to suggest a few gems I have found over the years and have already found quite useful to teach about ancient civilizations:
  • is a fantastic website with free digital books you can download to your hearts content! The only drawback is that each and every one of the books offered on the website has expired copyrights, so you already know all the books offered are pretty old. Ancient Civilizations have been around for a while, so many of the books you will find will probably still be very helpful to you.
  • is another fantastic website I love visiting often, especially when the site is having a sale! The site has a bargain bin with a really great price on books. While from time to time I have bought a book somewhere else on the site, most of the time I've purchased our books from this area of the site. I personally prefer library binding on my books, which seem to be a better quality of binding and last longer. Also, most of them have dust covers, which help the books stay in better condition over time, especially with little fingers using them a lot. Better still, the site doesn't do shipping charges so shipping is absolutely FREE!
  • will take you to the Canon Creative Park. This website I've used for history, geography, and science. They are wonderful free color paper models you can download and print, although many of them have really tiny pieces you'll have to cut out and glue together. These paper models are wonderful for older children to put together or if you're like me, have an adult print and put them together, then use them to help your children better understand what the buildings or vehicles looked like when they were built.
  • is another website where you will find a wide range of paper models. While a majority of them are black and white, some of them are in color. The models are a little tough to download and are pretty small, they are still very educational and most of them easier for older children to build.
  • is actually a homeschooler's blog, but her and her daughter have created some really amazing paper dolls and paper men from many historical periods and civilizations including ancient history, medieval history, Edwardian, Victorian, and many others. Although there are a couple other websites I'm planning on using from time to time, this is the best one in my opinion. The other websites have dolls that aren't as close to true human anatomy as this one is although the others are in color, I still think this site is the best. It also gives you more options to choose from for clothing too. You are welcome to search for another website if this one doesn't suit your needs.
  • has a wide range of craft ideas, along with printables, coloring pages and puzzles. Don't go to this site JUST for history though! It's a great site for just about any subject you can name with a wide range of activities to help teach your child(ren).
Hopefully, this will help with teaching your children, especially kinetic children. While just about any child will benefit with their education by doing hands-on activities, not all children will benefit from not doing them. You really don't have to be crafty to do these activities with your children! I've heard from many parents who are concerned that they can't even draw a straight line, so how can they do hands-on creative activities with their children? I've got news, it's not the parent who needs to worry about being good at doing an activity. It's whether or not it's the way their children will benefit from learning. After all, you won't need to draw that many straight lines while using this style of learning to teach your children. Having the time to do the activities and understanding your children's needs is all you really need to worry about. Pass on a love of learning and have fun with your children while you can.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Writing about Kinetic Learning

     I'm happy to pass on some good news, well I think it's good news! lol I've written about our son being a kinetic learner and I was talking to someone about how I've had to create a few things while homeschooling our son because of his learning style. The woman I talked to about it is associated with "The Old Schoolhouse Magazine" and she's asked me to write a column on their website that is associated with the magazine. The column is being called Kinetic Connections, I had wanted it to be
called Kinetic Konnections but with it being associated with homeschooling she felt it wouldn't be appropriate to have one of the words in the title spelled wrong. I guess I see her point so it really doesn't bother me too much. I'm also excited and nervous at the same time. Excited about being asked to write a column but nervous about being able to come up with a theme for an article and write it on a weekly basis! It actually isn't as bad as I thought it was going to be because I guess I write so much that they have broken up my first two articles into installments for this month and next so I guess my only big concern is to come up with ideas for each article.
     So far, I've been writing a couple articles for each subject we've been working on with our son. That will only work for so long though. There aren't that many different subjects you can teach a child, at least until they get to high school. We won't be working on high school subjects for a while though. I've covered math and geography in my column so far and I'm working on an article about early learning next. Probably teaching a child their alphabet and numbers.
     I think I'll also post my articles here in my blog, unless the magazine has a problem with my doing it. Who knows, maybe some of my ideas will not only help other homeschoolers who are teaching a kinetic learner, but also children who have other learning styles. If anyone who reads my blog also homeschools a child who is a kinetic learner, I would love to hear from you if you have anything I can make any suggestions about. I like to help people if I can and I've always been pretty creative too.
If you subscribe to The Old Schoolhouse Magazine, here's a link about my articles:

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Help for New Homeschoolers

     Looking back, I really wish I had been able to connect with someone who would have been willing to give me a few tips, suggestions, and help getting started homeschooling. When we started, I had never heard of lapbooking, notebooking, unit studies, or had any clue about sites where I could find curriculum to homeschool our son.That was about six years ago and I have made connections, found homeschooling groups, and wonderful websites to help with homeschooling him.

     If I were to give advice to someone who is starting to homeschool their child(ren) now, I would tell them that homeschooling is totally different from public school. For one, you aren't teaching a whole class of children so you don't have to spend an hour teaching each subject, making sure each of those students understand what is being taught. Instead, you can teach until your children "get" what you are teaching, let them do a few problems, half a page, or all of a page of of whatever you are working on. Go at your own pace instead of what some school district or department of education tells you to. You can teach the basics of the three "Rs" or teach your child what he or she wants to know about a certain subject, like dinosaurs, robots, or princesses for example. Above all, you can have fun with your children while they learn too. That's probably the most important thing about homeschooling I think, finding fun in learning!

I think it would be really hard to say that I have one specific site I love to use while homeschooling. However, I think I could say I have two favorites with several taking a close second to them. One favorite site It's really great for free and low cost curriculum but it also has some wonderful free downloads that really helped me to learn a few things about homeschooling, like lapbooks, notebooks, and unit studies along with some really great tips for getting started homeschooling too. I finally found the site in our second or third year of homeschooling and probably visit the site on at least a weekly basis. My other favorite is which is a site where you can download an unlimited number of absolutely free books. The only thing is, the books are so old that their copyrights have expired. Even with that stipulation, I have found numerous books we have used through the years while homeschooling. I've downloaded curriculum like the entire set of McGuffey Readers, books about classical composers, and also inventors to name a few. Also, I've downloaded several books just for reading too. Our son really liked Tom Sawyer but didn't like Alice in Wonderland as well.

     I've mentioned lapbooks a couple times and you may be wondering what they are. I've used them two ways that I can think of while homeschooling although I'm sure there are probably other ways they could be used too. There are some wonderful companies out there that sell premade lapbooks but there are also many people who put them together for their children, then offer them for free download for others to use to their hearts desire too. Here's a list of sites where you can find lapbooks. I would strongly suggest trying one from a company that sells them before trying one by someone who is sharing because they usually give really good directions on how to put them together. Then, you could either look around to see what you can find that someone has posted or even give it a try making one of your own. Of course, that's my suggestion which you don't really have to follow if you don't want to. Here's my list:
Hands of a Child ( a company that sells them.
A Journey Through Learning ( a company that sells them.
Knowledge Box Central ( a company that sells them at great prices.
All three of these companies have some kind of free lapbook. Either a free lapbook every quarter or one if you sign up for their newlsetter. a site for free lapbooks people share they have created. a site where someone shares the lapbooks they have created, mostly religious but beautiful. a site where two ladies share the lapbooks they have made with their children. One of my favorites! a site where people have posted lapbooks they have created to download for free.

     Notebooks are also good to use with children while homeschooling although personally, they are better with older children who are able to write to an extent. After all, if you think about it the name implies to me that there is writing expected to get them done. Again, there are quite a few sites out there. Our son isn't much of a writer so I don't have much of a list yet. I'll probably find more once our son is older and can be expected to write more.
Hands of a Child ( a company that sells them. a site where two ladies share the notebooks they have made with their children. someone who makes her own notebooks for her children and shares them to download for free.

     Personally, I think unit studies are FANTASTIC! I really love them and our son seems to like them too. Basically, you can pick a topic and teach or learn with your child all kinds of information about that topic. Many times, you can incorporate many different subjects while teaching or learning about that subject too. For instance, a short time ago our son and I did a unit study to introduce our son to classical composers. During that time, not only did he learn about the composers and some of their music but he also learned about musical instruments, the orchestra, some geography, and history. It was great because while we did our study, our son went from not being interested in classical music to actually liking it. Right now, we're doing a unit about the seasons and US geography at the same time so you can actually do more than one unit at the same time or you can just focus on one unit at a time. You can also either purchase a unit study that someone else has already put together or do one on your own. Here's a list of sites I have gotten unit studies from although I'm sure there are others out there: You can find units created by several different publishers. Some of them are really great but some could be better too. Many are offered for a really great price though.
Intellego Unit Studies ( a company created by a mom of a special needs child. The units cover the basic subjects like science, government, and history. Many of their products are also offered at, some of them in bundles where you can get a discount for purchasing more than one study. Our son loves several of the studies we have done so far but there has been one or two he didn't like. We have used these unit studies for several years.
Amanda Bennett Unit Studies ( a company created by a homeschool mom. Our son has enjoyed most of the unit studies we have tried so far but we have only done them for a few months. Check out the weekly specials!

Hopefully after you have read this article, you have found something useful to help you homeschool. I know I would have appreciated reading someone's blog years ago when we started but I don't think I even knew what a blog was then and even if I did, I didn't know how to go about finding one specific to homeschooling. Although I know our son has learned quite a bit over the years since we first started homeschooling, I have too. I've learned how to find materials I need to teach our son a subject, how to search for sites with downloads that are helpful too, also I've learned to be patient with our son more too. Lastly, I've learned not to worry the big things because they will fall into line most of the time while we deal with each day, learning together as it goes along.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Learning About Composers

     I recently contacted the people at Amanda Bennett Unit Studies to see if they knew whether children diagnosed with autism were successful with their studies, especially children my son's age. He was diagnosed with autism at the age of four so we have dealt with a LOT of ups and downs for the last six years. I've learned that certain ways of teaching him works really well and certain ways works really poorly. I've also learned that certain techniques designed for all children do not necessarily work either! I don't recall the company telling me whether or not they knew that children with autism were successful using their studies but they did offer to let me try two of their products of my choice with our son. In exchange, I would write my opinion and experiences with them. I decided that I would write two different articles, one for each because I choose to try one of their Download N Go products and one of their Unit Study Adventures. Since the Download N Go is only supposed to be a one week study and the Unit Study Adventures is designed to be a four week study, I choose the one week study and let our son choose the four week study. One reason for this is because I have been wanting to introduce our son to composers of classical music along with their music and I thought that if I let my son choose the longer study, that he would want to learn the materials more than something I would possibly choose. So, we have completed the one week study during a break of the longer study and it's time for me to write about the experience. Here goes:
     Creative Composers is a one week study about five composers and their works with some information about the orchestra and the instruments included in it. There is SO much information included that you could easily make it into a two week study as long as you don't do all the the materials that are suggested or possibly longer if you really want to study JUST those five composers intently using ALL The suggestions included in the study believe it or not! 
     When we first started our study, our son didn't like the music he was being introduced to although I had played classical music a lot in the past while he was working on his schoolwork. The study depends on a lot of internet use so since some of the information is You Tube videos, since our internet is not exactly the fastest thing on the planet, I found a site called that allowed me to download the videos to my computer so we could watch them without the long hesitations that kept happening when we tried to watch them. This meant that I had to download the next days videos I would be using during the night before because they did take quite some time for each download. Each day had several videos so although I didn't mind doing it, it did become a slight inconvenience over time.
     The lapbook that is included with the study is really nice but I also had to download it before starting so it could be cut out and put together in preparation to starting our study too. Some people may be able to just print it out and let their children do the cutting and putting together but since our son doesn't like to do much cutting, I usually do it when we are doing a lapbook and have him help me put them together as we make the lapbook. This time, I decided that since I wanted the lapbook put together in the order that the activities happen, that I would go ahead and put it together and let our son add some decorations to it as we went along if he wanted to. The different parts of the lapbook don't require a lot of writing like so many other lapbooks we've put together in the past. In fact, some of the information our son wrote only required the name of the composer to be written down. Other parts needed a little more information but not that much per day. Once that part is completed, it a nice little booklet with some wonderful information about each composer. I wish the lapbook had included blank pages that you could fill in about other composers so you could use it if you continue learning about other composers once you have completed the study. I think I may be able to make it on my own down the line though. 
     A game is also included with the study. I kind of wish there was a pocket included so we could store it in our lapbook. Since one isn't included, I plan on making one since our son and grandson enjoy playing the game. One problem we had is that there are so many pieces, the boys won't play the entire game. I actually split the game into parts that have composers on them and parts that have instruments on them so we really have two games instead of one which actually works better. That way, each boy can play a game on their own if they want.
     When we started our study, our son didn't like the music AT ALL! He thought the music was boring and he told me he wanted to go to sleep. I was really disappointed because I really enjoy this kind of music. In fact, my plan when we started the study is to keep on learning about different composers one day a week using this study as a sample. I was sweating bullets at this point! As each day went on though, our son started liking the music more and more. Even our grandson would come sit on my lap and watch the videos that are included that show fireworks while you listen to the music. Sometimes, some of the others too. I think it's safe to say those were both boys favorite parts of the study in fact, fireworks to music.
     There are some really great sites that are included with the study. My favorite site that is included with the Amanda Bennett study about classical composers is Not only does it include information about the composers included in the study, it also includes information about a lot of other composers I would like to continue studying. It also offers some really nice downloads, like word searches, pictures to color, and an employment application. I know, I know, an employment application? My son and I would pretend to fill it out for the composer in question, as if he were applying for a job with an orchestra here in the US today. 
     Ages ago, when I first started thinking about teaching our son about classical music and their composers, I got a membership to you can also find them on Facebook here: Every month, the people who created the site pick a composer of their choice. When you get an email from their site, letting you know a new composer page has been created for the month, you simply click and log in, then you are taken to a page with a picture of a painting or drawing of the composer and the years the composer was alive with a brief biography of the composer below that. Then, lower down are links to other sites, short videos, and music downloads. Short but sweet with a lot of valuable information. A very valuable source if you are studying this topic in my opinion! If you would like to get an idea of
what the site offers, they have several freebies about different people, a Handel composer resource, a Monet artist resource, and a free sample of Fine Art Pages. Just go to the site I mentioned a couple sentences ago. I used a bunch of the material I've collected from the site and already had downloaded since becoming a member of the site that saved me a whole lot of time downloading some of the other videos. Especially because some of the videos that are included with the unit study by Amanda Bennett aren't able to download with the KeepVid site that I use for some reason. Most of them are simply the same music they suggested, just done by someone else. So I really only substituted the person performing, not the piece they suggest you listen to. The rest of the composers they have done in the past will be a wonderful starting point to studying more composers. Course Classical Composers has also included links to the other site Amanda Bennett mentioned so I guess it really is a good site for someone who is teaching about composers to use.
     So, what is my opinion of a child with autism doing a Download N Go study by Amanda Bennett? Well.... The studies are short and sweet so if your child gets bored learning about a topic he's not targeted on, like my son is with dinosaurs, it's a good way to encourage your child to learn about something new. You could always do one lesson in the study a week instead of doing the entire study in a week I suppose! They cover a wide range of material while also targeting one subject. We learned some geography and history that our son didn't notice he was learning, which I loved! If your child is targeted on one of the topics of the Unit Study Adventures, then one of those may be great for your child to do instead. I wonder if I could get them to do one on dinosaurs? Hmmmm, something to think about. lol

Friday, April 19, 2013

Teaching Government in a New Way!

There's a giveaway going on RIGHT now that might teach your children Government and even a little American History in a slightly new way. I really like it and I think it would even FINALLY catch our 10 year old's attention finally! I'm hoping we'll win a set because I'm not sure I would be able to afford it myself but who knows, if we don't win it I may see if we could swing picking up a set some way. If I have your attention, I guess it's time I tell you about the set and give you a link to take a look yourself.
The set is about Dubs, a golden retriever who loses his tennis ball and visits Washington, D. C. while looking for it in the first book. While there, he visits the country's great memorial sites--Lincoln, Jefferson, FDR, Reagan, Martin Luther King Jr., Air and Space, etc.--and learns something new about America and its greatness.
In the second book, Dubs actually runs for President against Felix the Cat. lol A fun, charming story  presents a cute, non-partisan look at how party politics and presidential elections work in America--and lets kids hunt for the missing ball along the way.
In the last book, Dubs and his friend Daisy go to Philadelphia to see the birthplace of the nation's Constitution. They visit the Liberty Bell, Ben Franklin's home, Congress Hall and other fun places where our great nation wrote its charter and built the foundations of freedom for all. As usual, they also play with their tennis ball along the way.
All three books also come with  a plush Dubs in the giveaway. Are you ready to find out where it is
now? Well, here's the link:
The set is actually designed for children ages 4-8 but I think our autistic son would enjoy reading them and may even interest him to learn more about each topic although I'm pretty sure he won't be interested in the plush. Yes, he's older than the target range but sometimes children with autism tend to like things designed for children younger than they are. Besides, I'm pretty sure our grand daughter would love the plush! lol