New York and Boston

Josh and Caroline recently took a special father-daughter trip up to New York and Boston.  They stayed with an Aunt, Uncle, and Cousins who live in New Jersey and with another Aunt who lives in Boston.  What a blessing it is to have family that live in interesting places!

 

A Day at the Shore

image

 

image

Cousins

image

American Girl Store in NYC

image

 

image

 

image

 

image

 

image

 

image

 

image

 

image

 

Boston

image

 

image

 

image

 

image

 

image

 

image

 

image

Simplifying Allowance

We recently changed how we do allowance and it’s been so helpful that I thought I’d share the idea.  For years we’ve been getting stacks of one dollar bills to keep in an envelop for weekly allowance money.  Sooner or later though, my stash would run out and I’d forget to get more and I rarely have enough ones in my wallet, and so I’d “owe” a child some and it would just became a major pain to keep up with it all.  The kids were less motivated to do their chores because they only really got paid the agreed amount part of the time, so their quality of work was slipping. And then there’s the issue of kids keeping track of those one dollar bills.  Half the time the money would get misplaced, which would lead to big disappointment. Another thing I discovered was that when my kids have cash physically in their possession, they have more of a desire to spend it.  For all these reasons I’ve mentioned, they weren’t able to save larger amounts of money.  We really want our kids to learn the value and satisfaction of saving long term for something bigger.  We decided we wanted to give them more of the real world experience of having an account they can deposit and spend from (without having to constantly go to the bank to deposit into their savings accounts, which they do have), so we set up little account books in simple notepads for each of them where we can keep track of what they earn and spend. Their money is now all on paper.  If they earn their allowance, I simply add it as a deposit to their “account”. If they make a purchase, I buy the item but then deduct the amount from their current balance. It’s so simple and has been working out so well!  No more trips to the bank to load up on ones that are just going to get lost or spend on junk.  And best of all, they forget that they even have money because it’s “out of sight and out of mind” so they are saving so much more than they used to.

image

She’s normally my little spender, but she has not spent any of her money since we started doing it this way.

image

My Top Online Educational Tools

I was just thinking the other day about how many helpful websites/apps I’ve come across over the years that we now use on a regular basis. They’ve truly enriched our homeschooling experience and I’m sure they could be useful to others too.  So here’s a quick list of our faves that have a permanent home as a bookmark on my iPad or computer:

1: Spelling City

Make your own spelling lists and it will generate games with those words for your child to practice. They can even take their spelling test on here.  You can use the free version which has fewer games, or buy the premium version (which we have done for a few years now) which has several more options. You can create over 100 separate lists.  I always load up all my lists from our spelling curriculum for the entire school year ahead of time so they’re ready for when my child reaches that lesson.  I’ve got several grades worth of lists created by this point, which is handy as my younger child is now coming up on spelling lessons I’ve already created lists for.

 

2. Quizlet

This is great for studying vocabulary words or anything else you would create flash cards for.  You make sets of words and their definitions and then your child can play games and test themselves. You can also print out flash cards or quizzes if you prefer to do it that way.  Additionally, you can browse and save other people’s sets, so if you’re looking for vocabulary words to go with, for instance, a novel you’re reading, you might get lucky and find that someone else has already created a great set. You can use it both on the computer or on the iPad app.

 

3. XtraMath

This is the perfect solution for drilling the math facts. You set the level/operation for each of your students and they work on the math facts until they’ve mastered them. You even get reports emailed to you, detailing how your child is coming along.

 

4. Khan Academy

We’ve used this a few times when needing to hear certain math concepts explained differently, but I have plans to incorporate their great videos into our history studies next year and beyond.  There is so much on there it’s almost overwhelming. Most of the ones I’ve previewed look like they are probably best for middle school age and up.

 

5. Audible

I wrote a blog post about Audible not long ago, and we’ve continued to LOVE it.  It’s not cheap, but in my opinion it’s money well spent. In the four months we’ve been using it, we’ve listened to 14 books together.  That adds up to a lot more “reading” than we would ordinarily do.  I’ve also found a lot of great stuff that I’m excited to use to enhance our history studies in school, such as this series called Weird World of Wonders as well as lots of historical fiction that would tie in well to the different time periods we’ll study.

 

6. Book Adventure

I just recently came across this and I’m excited to use it this school year.  While I’m certainly not into imitating public schools by overdoing it with tests, especially when it comes to reading, I’ve been looking for a tool that can help me assess how much of what my kids read “sticks”, so when I came across this website that has comprehension quizzes on thousands of books, I was pretty thrilled. After setting up their account, kids can earn points by scoring well on each short ten-question quiz and eventually buy prizes (albeit, they’re not the greatest prizes), or you can set up your own incentive plan with rewards you’ll give when a certain number of points is reached. My kids and I have tried out a few quizzes on books we’ve read together and they seemed to think it was more like a game than a test, which is exactly what I was going for.

 

7. Duolingo

My kids have been using this iPad app to learn more Spanish.  There are around 18 different languages and several more in development. You won’t become fluent by using it, but it definitely can increase your vocabulary if you use it regularly.

 

Summer Book Club

We’ve had the privilege in being a part of our friends’ Summer book club (that got started a bit early) and have been reading some of the books together as an entire family.  Josh has really enjoyed being a part of this with us and he even got to lead one of the book discussions on The Green Ember. It was definitely more of a “dad book” (in fact, it was written by a dad who told this story to his own children). It was not exactly my cup of tea, but I was glad to be a part of it with my family.

image

 

image

For the Love of Poetry

Poetry has been a love of ours for a long time now.  This is the third year that we’ve consistently worked on memorizing poems throughout the school year and my kids have really enjoyed that and they always amaze me with their ability to memorize longer works really quickly.  My friend and I came across the idea from a Read Aloud Revival podcast of having a “Poetry Tea Time” and we organized one for our kiddos.  What could be more fun than sharing scones, tea, and hilarious poems?

image

One book in particular that we’ve been enjoying lately is Joyful Noise: Poems for Two Voices. These Poems are so clever and are great fun to try to read together. There is the added challenge of working together and often having different lines at the same time and when they’ve been practiced and done well, they sound really cool! We plan to also get the other book by the same author, I am Phoenix: Poems for Two Voices.

image

I’m also really loving a series of poetry books called “Poetry for Young People”.  Most of these are collections from one particular writer, though a few are from several. In each book, you’ll find a nice introduction about the writer.  The poems often include some background information and define words that might be more challenging.  The illustrations are nice, yet don’t give you the feeling you’re reading a book for very young children. I think my kids will happily enjoys them for years to come without feeling “too old” for these picture books.

image

image

image

 

An Evening with Sarah Mackenzie

Sarah Mackenzie from the Read Aloud Revival was in Fort Worth this past weekend, speaking at the Great Homeschool Convention. A friend of mine had tickets for a separate meet-up with Sarah on Saturday night and asked me if I’d like to go with her. I was so thrilled, because I’ve been obsessively listening to the RAR podcasts and reading the blog, soaking up all I can about children’s literature and, as Sarah says, “building your family culture around books”. She was such a sweet and charming host to all of us who came to glean more from her.

image

The One Good Story

“We want our children to know and believe the one good story. Every other story is a copy or shadow of this one. Some copies of it are quite good and shout the Truth. Others see only the faintest whispers of it, or, in its absence remind us of the Truth. We want our kids to know the one good story so well that when they see Luke Skywalker, Harry Potter, Frodo, Anne of Green Gables, Ariel, or Sleeping Beauty, they can recognize the strands of Truth and deception in them. Saturating our children in the one good story will enable them to discern truth and error as it comes to them from the world.”  – Elyse M. Fitspatrick