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9 Fun Extras (Under $25) That Will Give Your Spring Homeschool a Boost

Add a little oomph to your sunny days homeschool with these spring extras, designed to make learning (almost!) as much fun as the prospect of playing outside.

Monday Pep Talk No. 38

home|school|life magazine's Monday Pep Talk has lots of fun ideas for planning your homeschool week. photo by death to stock photos

Just FYI: We’re going to be moving the Monday Pep Talk over to a newsletter soon, so if you’re a Monday Pep Talk fan, keep an eye out for details. 

 

3 FUN THINGS TO DO THIS WEEK

The summer Olympics start on Friday! Here are some fun ideas for Olympics projects you can work on together while watching the events.

Use your science skills to make your own ice cream for Ice Cream Sandwich Day (Tuesday).

Make a a batch of fizzing sidewalk chalk and decorate your driveway.

 

3 IDEAS FOR THIS WEEK’S DINNERS

Ready in the time it takes to cook spaghetti: spaghetti with tomatoes, bacon, and eggs

This vegetarian take on the classic gyro is a great base for whatever summer veggies you have lying around.

Miso corn soup may just be my new favorite summer soup.

 

ONE GREAT READALOUD

The Secret Garden
By Frances Hodgson Burnett
 

Celebrate Yorkshire Day (Monday) by reading the book that puts your Yorkshire accent skills to the test: Frances Hodgson Burnett’s classic The Secret Garden.

 

ONE THOUGHT TO PONDER

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.
— Wendell Berry

 

 

IN CASE OF EMERGENCY (BECAUSE SOMETIMES YOU NEED SOMETHING STRONGER THAN INSPIRATION)

blackberry-green tea cocktail


Stuff We Like :: 7.15.16

home|school|life's Friday roundup of the best homeschool links, reads, tools, and other fun stuff has lots of ideas and resources.

This week's edition of Stuff We Like comes from Shelli, who always likes such cool stuff!

Homeschool

We haven’t used it for very long yet, but so far my nine-year-old has been enjoying the science curriculum by Elemental Science we picked out for him. It was his first choice when it came to our summer homeschooling plans!

I also love that I stumbled on Carla Sonheim’s art website because it’s just what I needed to get my Art Fridays started again. She has a lot of cool online classes and a few free tutorials too. My boys and I especially enjoyed her Crazy Birds Tutorial

 

Links

around the web: How do artists make a living? – I think this article is spot on because I’ve had a similar experience. Anyone pursuing a career in the creative arts should read it.

on the blog: We have a few years to go before we enter the high school stage, but I’m sure glad Amy is paving the way for me.

in the archives: I keep looking back at Rebecca’s review of a critical thinking curriculum because I really really want to buy it. 

 

On my Wishlist

I’m also eyeing these awesome bird posters that I would love to buy for my bird-loving six-year-old. This one? Or this one?

 

Books

The nine-year-old and I finished reading The Long Winter (he loved it!), which is part of the Little House series. We’ve just started Little Town on the Prairie. We’re also reading Old Yeller, and I’m still getting my daily dose of Calvin and Hobbes.

For myself, I just finished reading I Am of Irelaunde: A Novel of Patrick and Osian. The author combined some of the known facts of St. Patrick and combined it with the folklore of Ireland to create a fictional account of St. Patrick’s life, and there are many beautiful stories within the larger story. It inspired me to read a little about the real St. Patrick and what is known of him.

 

T.V.

Our most current beloved documentaries: BBC’s series The Human Planet (Netflix) – Wow. Just wow. Perfect for social studies! (Parents with sensitive children may want to preview first.) AND  Nature’s Jungle Animal Hospital (PBS) (Parents with sensitive children may want to preview first.)

Just for me: I finally finished the final season of Downton Abbey. If you like happy endings, you’ll like this show. (Sometimes, you just need a happy ending.)


July Pep Talk

home|school|life magazine's Monday Pep Talk has lots of fun ideas for planning your homeschool week.

We’re taking a break from our weekly pep talks this summer, so for June and July, we’re hooking you up with an over-stuffed monthly pep talk instead. We’ll be back in August with our regular weekly pep talks.

 

10 FUN THINGS TO DO THIS MONTH

July 4 is Independence Day, sure, but it’s also Sidewalk Egg Frying Day.

Celebrate Yellow Pig Day on July 17. I don’t totally understand this mathematician’s holiday (devised by two students studying the number 17), but any day that celebrates math, has its own songbook of Yellow Pig carols, and ends with a Yellow Pig cake is okay in my book.

What better way to celebrate Ice Cream Month than by making your own ice cream? Bonus: It’s a legitimate science experiment.

Video Games Day is July 8, and Suzanne’s got us all excited about checking out the Uncharted series, starring rakish adventurer Nathan Drake. (Add him to the list of people Nathan Fillion should be playing in a film adaptation.)

The easiest summer art project: Make sun prints.

Make a set of rock dominoes to play all summer. (River rocks are ideal for this, so collecting them is a great excuse to take a little river field trip.)

July is Picnic Month! I love the idea of painting a chess/checkers board on your picnic blanket for picnic gaming.

Make your own wooden stilts to get into the spirit of Walk on Stilts Day (July 27).

Celebrate Uncommon Instrument Awareness Day by making your own vuvuzela (a South African horn) out of recycled materials.

Get crafty on Thread the Needle Day (July 25) by making some easy-to-sew and completely adorable bean bags.

 

10 IDEAS FOR THIS MONTH’S DINNERS

I love how versatile these (gluten-free!) farinata are. Think of them as chickpea pancakes, and top them generously with whatever looks good at the farmers market.

You don’t really need a recipe to make a rainbow cauliflower rice bowl, so experiment with whatever veg you have on hand.

Put a summertime twist on Taco Tuesday with chipotle quinoa sweet potato tacos.

Make a batch of freezer-ready mini pizzas on a quiet day, and you’ll have an emergency dinner/lunch/snack whenever you need it.

I want to make a batch of this pickle-brined fried chicken for our next family picnic.

Break out of your grilling rut with grilled sweet potatoes.

This Big Green Cobbler with leeks, gruyere, and split peas is like a vegetarian take on the best chicken pot pie you ever had.

Summer is all about salad for dinner—and this Thai grilled corn and peach quinoa salad looks like a great addition to your summer salad lineup.

Another dose of inspiration for your grilling menu: Soy-based chicken kebabs with sesame-citrus sprinkle.

Summer squash pizza with goat cheese and walnuts puts a seasonal spin on pizza night.

 

 

FOUR GREAT READALOUDS

Seven Daughters and Seven Sons is a retelling of an Iranian folk tale, in which the fourth of seven daughters sets off to make her family’s fortune, disguised as a boy. I’m a sucker for a girl-powered fairy tale, so it’s no surprise I love this one.

Speaking of spunky girls, The Wolves of Willoughby Chase is as fun to read aloud as the Lemony Snicket books: plenty of nefarious villains, dramatic plot twists, and, yes, two plucky heroines who must save themselves from an evil governess’s plot.

 

If you’re looking for laughs, get yourself a copy of Daniel Pinkwater’s Yobgorgle, Mystery Monster of Lake Ontario. I like to think of Pinkwater as the elementary school set’s Douglas Adams, and this zany tale of a boy who takes up monster hunting is a delightful example of why.

New York City’s pushcarts declare war on the trucks in The Pushcart War, creating hilarious city-wide chaos.

 

 

ONE THOUGHT TO PONDER

Education is a choice. We don’t become educated by watching television, and we don’t learn a whole lot having similar conversations with the same, safe people day after day. Our education comes from pushing up against boundaries, from taking risks that may seem at first to be overwhelming, and by persevering past the first disappointments or shortfalls until we reach a point at which actual learning takes place. Determination and perseverance are absolutely vital to developing a true education—rarely, if ever, do we learn the most valuable lessons in the first few steps of the journey.
— Tom Walsh

 

IN CASE OF EMERGENCY (BECAUSE SOMETIMES YOU NEED SOMETHING STRONGER THAN INSPIRATION)

strawberry negroni popsicles


Outdoor Art for Summer: Making Sun Prints

How to make sun prints, a great outdoor art project for homeschoolers

Here in New England, after a long, cold winter, we just want to get outside when summer comes. Along with nature exploration, bike riding, beach trips, and good ol’ running around, we make art outside, too. Art doesn’t have to be saved as a rainy-day activity—in fact, for some of these activities, you need the sun. Keep your art habit going strong with this made-for-summer project.

Photo by: Amy Hood

Photo by: Amy Hood

MAKING SUN PRINTS

Sun paper, which is treated to react to sunlight, seems magical. Anything placed on the surface of the paper blocks sunlight—thus, the reaction. The paper comes with directions and is simple to use. However, you don’t want to expose it before your items are arranged, so you need to arrange in a darker area and then carry it out to the sunlight—another great use for drawing boards! If you have a piece of glass or Plexiglas, layering that on top of your paper and items will prevent anything from blowing away while still allowing the sunlight to reach the paper. 

Once the paper pales, the reaction is complete. To “develop” the prints, you merely need to rinse them in water. Make sure the kids are involved with every part of this process, because it’s very cool to watch. When the paper is dry, you can leave your prints as complete compositions or use them in collage.

Variation: A product called Inkodye can be used to make fabric sun-sensitive. We haven’t played with it yet, but it’s on our summer list.

 

This project originally appeared in the summer 2014 issue of home | school | life, along with a handful of other outdoor projects created by our wonderful art columnist Amy Hood. (You can pick up a copy in the store if you missed this issue.)


June Pep Talk

home|school|life magazine's Monday Pep Talk has lots of fun ideas for planning your homeschool week.

We’re taking a break from our weekly pep talks this summer, so for June and July, we’re hooking you up with an over-stuffed monthly pep talk instead.

 

10 FUN THINGS TO DO THIS MONTH

Set up your telescope on June 3 to see Saturn at its brightest—with a decent telescope, you should be able to see some of the planet’s rings and moons.

June is Camping Month, so pitch a tent in your backyard for an outdoor sleepover. Make s’mores on the grill, put on a flashlight shadow puppet play, and do a little star-gazing. 

Take advantage of the sunshine and turn your nature walk into art by making sun prints.

Make sponge balls and have a backyard water battle.

Celebrate Maurice Sendak’s birthday on June 10 by watching Where the Wild Things Are and reading your favorite Sendak books. (I vote for the creepy, Labyrinth-ish Outside Over There.

Turn making lemonade into a fun science project.

Celebrate Drive-In Movie Day (June 6) by seeing a movie at a drive-in theater near you.

The Magna Carta was signed on June 15, 1215. Learn more about why this 13th century document still matters today by watching this video lecture from the James Otis Video Lecture collection.

I think we all know the best way to celebrate World Juggling Day (June 18). This video is a great tutorial for newbie jugglers.

To mark Log Cabin Day (on June 26), watch the documentary Alone in the Wilderness, a really fascinating account of a man who left the plugged-in world for the wilderness, building a log cabin and living off the land.

 

10 IDEAS FOR THIS Month’S DINNERS

When you want to grill but are feeling a little burned out by the same-old dishes, try this linguine with grilled clams and bacon. It’s unexpected and delicious.

If you bought more eggplant than you know what to do with, serve these falafel-stuffed eggplants with tahini sauce and tomato relish.

When the thought of cooking is just too much but everybody is insisting on eating dinner anyway, this chicken and peaches platter requires assembly only.

Mix and match whatever’s in your fridge to make this leftover salads Nicoise.

Anything you serve for dinner will taste better with this arugula, potato, and green bean salad.

This tomato chèvre tart is delicious just out of the oven, but I’ve also been known to eat a cold slice right out of the fridge for breakfast.

If it’s sunny, cook these Thai peanut chicken thighs on the grill; if it’s not, pop them in the oven instead.

Feeling adventurous?  This chilled crab and shrimp ramen salad is a staple on restaurant menus all summer long in Japan.

This summer minestrone is easy to adapt—and a delicious way to stretch those first tiny garden harvests.

Also a great way to use that late spring produce: spring vegetable bibimbap.

 

FOUR GREAT READALOUDS

I feel like book series and summer just go together, so for this list, I’m highlighting the first books in series I think make great readalouds—whether you stop after book one or keep going until the end.

Redwall (Redwall, Book 1)
By Brian Jacques
The Borrowers
By Mary Norton

Brian Jacques’ birthday is June 15, and Redwall makes the perfect summer series readaloud: epic adventure, talking animals, and plenty of irresistible characters.

Arietty, Pod, and Homily are just trying to live their lives in a way-too-big-for-them world in The Borrowers. I love the way this book blends matter-of-fact details (like peeling potatoes!) into a fantastic world.

You’ll be captivated by the adventures of Assistant Pig-Keeper Taran and his friends (an enchantress, a bard, a dwarf, and a, um, Gurgi) in The Book of Three, the first book in Lloyd Alexander’s Chronicles of Prydain.

Cara discovers a magical world full of dragons, dwarves, nightmares, and more when she heads Into the Land of the Unicorns.

 

ONE THOUGHT TO PONDER

Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under the trees on a summer’s day, listening to the murmur of water, or watching the clouds float across the blue sky, is by no means waste of time.
— John Lubbock

 

IN CASE OF EMERGENCY (BECAUSE SOMETIMES YOU NEED SOMETHING STRONGER THAN INSPIRATION)

bluenerry lavender vodka spritzer


Monday Pep Talk No. 37

home|school|life magazine's Monday Pep Talk has lots of fun ideas for planning your homeschool week.

3 FUN THINGS TO DO THIS WEEK

Get outside and make a mess with paint Alka Seltzer rockets. It’s the perfect art project to kick off summer.

Don’t forget your towel and your copy of The Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy—Wednesday is Towel Day.

Celebrate Learn about Composting Day (on Sunday) by starting your own compost heap. Start it now, and it should start giving back by fall.

 

3 IDEAS FOR THIS WEEK’S DINNERS

This grilled chicken with grapefruit glaze comes together in a snap and tastes terrific—the perfect combo for a weeknight cookout.

Update your regular pasta dinner with 20-minute chicken parmesan bolognese.

Why did I never think of this before? Spring roll salad takes all the yumminess inside a spring roll and turns it into an irresistible salad.

 

ONE GREAT READALOUD

Space pioneer Sally Ride was born on May 26, 1951. Celebrate her birth with a readaloud of Sally Ride: A Photobiography of America's Pioneering Woman in Space, a book that tries to capture some of Ride’s exuberance and brilliance written by her partner Tam O’Shaughnessy.

 

ONE THOUGHT TO PONDER

I give you this to take with you:
Nothing remains as it was. If you know this, you can
begin again, with pure joy in the uprooting.
— Judith Minty

 

IN CASE OF EMERGENCY (BECAUSE SOMETIMES YOU NEED SOMETHING STRONGER THAN INSPIRATION)

no-bake nutella cheesecake


Monday Pep Talk No. 34

home|school|life magazine's Monday Pep Talk has lots of fun ideas for planning your homeschool week.

3 FUN THINGS TO DO THIS WEEK

May the Fourth be with you! Shelli has a great roundup of fun ways to celebrate Star Wars Day on Wednesday with your family.

Saturday is Free Comic Book Day. Find a participating shop near you, and score a shiny new comic book for free.

Get hands-on with a simple art project, and paint your own version of budding spring trees with this cake tempera paint tutorial.

 

3 IDEAS FOR THIS WEEK’S DINNERS

I have been craving these smushed lamb meatball burgers since I discovered them.

Shakshuka is one of my favorite quick dinners, and this smoky white bean version looks terrific. Think of it as an outside-of-the-box take on breakfast for dinner.

Shrimp curry with chickpeas and cauliflower tastes like you spent all day cooking it but comes together fast enough for an it’s-so-nice-we-stayed-too-long-at-park-day dinner.

 

ONE GREAT READALOUD

Celebrate Leo Lionni’s birthday on on May 5 by reading Alexander and the Wind-Up Mouse, a whimsical story about a real mouse who years for the affection given to a mechanical mouse toy.

 

ONE THOUGHT TO PONDER

People say nothing is impossible, but I do nothing every day.
— A.A. Milne

 

IN CASE OF EMERGENCY (BECAUSE SOMETIMES YOU NEED SOMETHING STRONGER THAN INSPIRATION)

salted chocolate matzo toffee


Stuff We Like :: 2.19.16

home|school|life's Friday roundup of the best homeschool links, reads, tools, and other fun stuff has lots of ideas and resources.

I think winter is probably one of my favorite times to be a homeschooler. By February, we’ve hit our groove, we’ve usually got a few awesome projects going, and it’s still cold enough so that cuddling on the couch is a featured morning activity.

around the web

It’s like Patricia is living inside my brain with this post about her son’s professed disinterest in reading. (This is one of those times where just knowing that I am not alone helps SO MUCH.)

Wait, scientists printed a human ear?

Another you-read-my-mind post: What’s up with sites creating situations where kids have to lie about their age?

The history of the world, in puns.

The In Search of Lost Time graphic novel is at the very top of my I-want-this list, y’all.

 

at home/school/life

in the magazine: We’re working on a piece about experiences every homeschool family should have. What’s on your homeschool bucket list?

on the blog: Rebecca discovers a groovy curriculum for deep thinkers.

in the archives: When I need a little jolt of inspiration, I find myself turning back to Tracy’s post on the three words every homeschool parent should know.

 

reading list

I love starting a new readaloud, and Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library has all the makings of a new favorite.

I may have preordered the Doctor Who coloring book.

I will read anything about the Tudors, but even if you don't share my obsession, I can wholeheartedly recommend The Lost Tudor Princess: The Life of Lady Margaret Douglas, Alison Weir’s new biography of one of family’s lesser-known members.

 

at home

Pretty much all we talk about at dinner these days is Undertale. (Are your kids obsessed, too?)

Jason and I are on the last season of Smallville. I am all over the place about this show—I am glad we watched it because some of it has been really interesting (and I really love Ollie and Lois), but it is so uneven.

We are finally easing back into meal planning (after months of kitchen exile), and I love getting to make actual food again. (The bolognese from Ruth Reichl’s My Kitchen Year is my favorite cooking project so far, no question!)

 

homeschooling highlights

We’ve started watching an episode of Good Eats together most afternoons (a lot of episodes are free on Netflix now), and it’s become one of the most fun parts of our day. I love all the random information that sends us off on tangents together.

My friend’s daughter had so much fun in this Expressive Picture Book Characters Craftsy drawing class that I signed my daughter up, too.

We have been gearing up for Leap Day with some of these activities. The calendar math puzzling has been a surprise hit. Are you doing anything special for Leap Day?


Unit Study: The Harlem Renaissance

Unit Study: The Harlem Renaissance

The Harlem Renaissance was an explosion of creative energy fueled by Black Americans, and it’s a rich topic for your homeschool high school.

Stuff We Like :: 12.11.15

home|school|life's Friday roundup of the best homeschool links, reads, tools, and other fun stuff has lots of ideas and resources.

around the web

I am always seeking ways to help my children learn how to persevere, so I loved finding this article How creativity is helped by failure on BBC News. I even read the first four paragraphs to my son who happens to take pottery classes.

Another article that came to my attention lately was How do you raise a prodigy. I have never actually met a genius before, so I guess that’s why I found it so fascinating, but I also felt the article had some good advice for all parents.

 

at home/school/life

on the blog: I loved Shawne’s Mindful Homeschool: What Are You Afraid of?

the magazine: Hooray for our Curriculum Junkie’s latest review of EEME’s STEM-at-home Genius Light Kit. (Fall 2015 issue.) What a great resource for STEM-loving kids!

 

documentaries

As you probably know by now, I have a documentary-loving family! This past week, we enjoyed re-watching Wildest Indo China (on Netflix) because it’s one of our favorites. And then we found a fun 2-part series on PBS titled Wild at Heart: Pets. My boys were giggling up a storm at the hamsters! (See Episode 1 and Episode 2.)

Right now we’re being blown away by the 3-part series Making North America! Geology lovers will especially love the first episode.

For fun we’ve been watching the The Next Food Network Star on Netflix. I think it’s actually teaching my son not only how difficult it is to work on television but the importance of being able to speak clearly and get your point across.

 

good reads

I’ve had the pleasure of reading one of my old favorites, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, to my nine-year-old, and he loves it. I have to explain a lot to him, especially since “causing mischief” is totally foreign to my “serious” child, but I think that’s also why he’s enjoying it so much.

As for adult fiction, I found buried on my shelf a book from one of my long-time favorite authors, Louise Erdrich. I first discovered her in my college Native American literature class, and I loved her early work. Some of her later work can be difficult for me to read, but I’m finding The Antelope Wife to be fascinating, if sometimes heartbreaking. I wouldn’t recommend it, if it’s the first book you’ve ever read by Erdrich though.

 

art

My six-year-old loves to draw. Sometimes he’ll produce stacks of artwork, and I’m left trying to find a place to put it all, but sometimes he’ll go awhile without producing anything.  Then something will spur him on again, and lately that’s been our art apps. (And I appreciate the savings on paper!) I love both of these apps, and both my boys like to use them: Art Set on iPad ($1.99) or the Pro Edition looks pretty cool for $6.99 and Sketchbook Express on Google Play (free).


Monday Pep Talk No. 15

home|school|life magazine's Monday Pep Talk has lots of fun ideas for planning your homeschool week.

November’s here, and we've got a little homeschool inspiration to help you start the month off right.

3 fun things to do this week

Election Day is Nov. 3, and just because the Presidential election isn’t until 2016 doesn't mean the local, state, and national elections this year aren’t worth following. Ballotpedia is a quick resource to help you catch up on big state elections worth tracking as the exit polls come in.

Celebrate Jellyfish Day (on Tuesday) by watching the documentary Vicious Beauties: The Secret World of the Jellyfish. (It’s free!)

Get into the autumnal spirit by making Kandinsky-inspired fall tree art.

 

3 ideas for this week’s dinners

Braised chicken with dates and Moroccan spices is one of our favorite comfort food dinners. Serve it over a big pile of couscous or rice.

If you’re looking for something to do with that spaghetti squash you picked up at the market, you’ll want to try this spaghetti squash noodle bowl with lime-peanut sauce.

This chicken parmesan bake uses leftover chicken and can be assembled any time and then heated up when you're ready to eat—win-win.

 

one great readaloud

Mark Marie Curie’s birthday (on Nov. 7) by reading A Thousand Bonds: Marie Curie and the Discovery of Radium, a collection of narrative poems about Curie’s life and scientific achievements by poet Eleanor Swanson.

 

one thought to ponder

 

in case of emergency {because sometimes you need something stronger than inspiration} 

Adam and Eve (apple pie moonshine + salted caramel vodka)


Unit Study Idea: Mushrooms

Resources for an elementary level unit study about mushrooms. Love that it includes living books as well as more traditional resources. #homeschool

Like strange flowers or magical dwellings, mushrooms are endlessly enchanting — and an ideal subject for nature study since you can delve as deep as you’re inspired. Even better: 2015 has been a bumper year for ’shrooms in some parts of the country, so there's never been a better time to add mushrooms to your curriculum.

Reading List

Mushroom in the Rain by Mirra Ginsburg A little ant shares his mushroom umbrella with other forest creatures during a rainstorm.

The Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet by Eleanor Cameron Two boys use their science skills to build a spaceship that takes them to a mushroom-filled planet, where they must help the inhabitants solve an environmental crisis.

Mushrooms of the World with Pictures to Color by Jeannette Bowers Learn to recognize more than one hundred different types of mushroom with this coloring book.

Katya’s Book of Mushrooms by Katya Arnold Gorgeous illustrations make this book by a Russian mushroom enthusiast worth seeking out.

Our Living World: Fungi by Jenny E. Tesar A practical, information-rich book, this volume is a nice introduction to mycology.

World Treasury of Mushrooms in Color by Bernard Dupre Just flipping through this book makes you aware of the impressive variety of mushrooms.

Mushrooms by Sylvia Plath This simple poem paints a vivid picture of fungi life.

 

Activity Ideas

Grow a Mushroom Garden: Grow your own edible garden of mushrooms with an easy-to-set-up kit. One to try: The Back to the Roots Organic Mushroom Farm

Make a Spore Print: Mushroom spores make beautiful prints. Mature mushrooms make the best prints, but it’s not always easy — even for pros — to tell which mushrooms are at their peak, so collect plenty of specimens and hope for the best. Martha Stewart has a handy tutorial for making spore prints on her website.

Practice Your Identification Skills: Identifying mushrooms is surprisingly challenging — there are so many varieties of fungi, and sometimes you need to know whether a mushroom is fully developed or just starting out to identify it correctly. But the challenge is part of the fun, and kids will learn as much trying to make an identification as they will successfully I.D.-ing a mushroom.

Learn from the Experts: Join the North American Mycological Association, and you’ll have access to all kinds of mushroom-focused learning materials, events, and publications. A family membership is just $30.


Monday Pep Talk No. 4

home|school|life magazine's Monday Pep Talk has lots of fun ideas for planning your homeschool week.

It's that time again! Seize this week by the horns with a little start-your-Monday-off right inspiration.  

3 fun things to do this week

Make s’mores on the grill to celebrate National S’mores Day — it’s officially Monday, but we think this is one of those holidays that can justify a week-long celebration.

Take a trip to your nearest beach on Tuesday to celebrate Play in the Sand Day. (Try one of these beach science experiments to prep for your trip.)

Spread out an old sheet as a canvas, and make a giant painting in the backyard.

 

3 ideas for this week’s dinners

Take advantage of all the eggplant at the market, and make grilled eggplant with fresh hot sauce and crispy eggs.

This cool soba noodle salad topped with crispy pan-fried tofu comes together in minutes.

Mix up your standard summer burger night by making coffee-rubbed cheeseburgers with barbecue sauce.

 

one fun readaloud

The Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet by Eleanor Cameron is a fun introduction to the pleasures of science-fiction.

 

one thought to ponder

in case of emergency {because sometimes you need something stronger than inspiration} 

one-step, no-churn coffee ice cream


At Home with the Editors: Shelli's Homeschool

Inside Shelli's Homeschool: At Home with the Editors

When Amy approached me about working on home / school / life, we both agreed that we wanted a magazine and website that would welcome all homeschoolers no matter what their style or reasons for homeschooling. We continue to strive to bring you a variety of resources that will inspire you as you consider what is best for your family. Because we know most homeschoolers enjoy sharing the resources and insights they have learned through homeschooling, we thought we would start a series on our blog about our own homeschools. If nothing else, you will get a behind-the-scenes look in the homes of the editors of home / school / life, but if something here helps you, all the better!

This year, I’m homeschooling my eight- and five-year-old sons….or, 2nd grader and pre-kindergartner. But those grade levels are mainly for the sake of family members and my planning purposes. I don’t worry too much about grade level because I want my boys to learn at their own pace. So, while they may be at grade level in most subjects, they may be above or lower in other subjects. None of it matters to me as long as I see that they are progressing, and more importantly, becoming life-long learners, which I know they are!

When I started homeschooling, I felt strongly about a few things. First, I wanted my boys to be able to move around, play, and use their imaginations frequently. I felt young children learned through play more than through sit-down lessons, but there were things I thought they should be exposed to, and I still feel that way. Back then (which wasn’t very long ago), my focus was to immerse them in literature and storytelling and explore the world together, especially the natural world. We still do that, but as my boys get older, we are adding more to their curriculum, and we are also following their interests.

I let my children’s interests, abilities, and learning styles guide me when I’m picking out resources to teach them with or finding extracurricular activities. When it comes to my own teaching goals, I let my sons’ abilities lead me on what to stick with and what to wait on. But I especially want my children to have significant input in their education. I explain to them why we have to learn some things, and then we discuss what they want to learn, and we put a lot of time into their ideas and projects. I use project-based learning techniques to help myself in this area, and I’ll write about that in another post.

Having said all that, what do I use for their formal lessons? Here’s a list of what I’m using for my eight-year-old right now and also a few resources we have used in the past and that I plan to try again with my five-year-old when he’s ready.

Reading & Language Arts

The closest thing to a curriculum I have used for my eldest son was Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons, but we’ve used various resources over the past few years. One of his favorites was Starfall.com, and my five-year-old has enjoyed that too.

Now we use Brainquest’s Star Wars Workbooks because both my boys love Star Wars. He is currently using 2nd Grade Reading.

I can’t begin to list the books we’ve read together, or write about all the storytelling, or the puppet shows we did when he was little. Let’s just say our homeschool is rich in language arts. (But you can read my article, What’s in a Story?, in the Spring 2014 issue of home / school / life to learn how to start a storytelling ritual in your homeschool.)

In order to teach writing, I’m using some methods that I learned about on Patricia Zaballos’s blog, and I’m happy that my son has recently started dictating a book to me.

Photo by Shelli Bond Pabis

Photo by Shelli Bond Pabis

Math

My son loves the Life of Fred series. We are currently at Dogs, but we’re taking a break from it. I love Life of Fred too, but I find it lacking in teaching a strategy for adding and subtracting easily and helping him memorize the facts. Because of that, I have recently started both my boys on the Singapore Math curriculum, and I like it. Though it’s still too early to say if we’ll stick with Singapore, I think with both Singapore and Life of Fred, they’ll have a strong math foundation. I am taking my time with teaching math to both of them because I want to make sure they are solid on every concept before we move forward.

 

Science

There has been no need to do any formal science lessons yet. Our daily lives are rich with science because it has been my son’s biggest interest. We have learned a tremendous amount together through various resources. Together as a family, we watch nature and science documentaries everyday – yes, everyday! We also attend the monthly homeschool science classes at our local nature center. My son has also attended programs and camps at the local botanical garden. (You can read my Hands On Science column in the magazine for more details about our science activities.)

 

Social Studies

I have not felt the need to do anything formal here either. Through the documentaries, conversations with his parents, visiting places of interest, and celebrating the major holidays, we’ve got this covered. It also doesn’t hurt that daddy is a history professor. I am planning, however, to use the Story of the World books at some point. My husband skimmed the first volume and gave it a thumbs up!

 

When do I teach?

I do formal lessons with my boys Monday thru Thursdays for no more than 1 to 2 hours each morning after breakfast. Fridays are art days. (I get most of my art lesson ideas from home / school / life’s art columnist, Amy Hood.) I spend the rest of the mornings, and sometimes the afternoons, helping my son on his own projects, or we might go visit our friends, go on a hike, or do any other number of things that although my boys don’t consider “school,” I do. Most of all, they have plenty of time to move, play, and use their imaginations, which is what I always wanted for them.

 

Questions? Ask away! And please feel free to share what has worked for your family too.