magic treehouse

Stuff We Like :: 10.2.15

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

Shawne took a little break from working on the fall issue—her feature on post-high school alternatives for homeschool grads is one of my favorite things in the magazine!—to share some of the things that are inspiring her homeschool life right now.

around the web

As someone who loves learning and loves movies, I’m really enjoying reading through the Teach with Movies website. It’s giving me lots of ideas for a homeschool class I’d like to offer in the future.

We’re trying out Mission Explore with our six-year-old. So far, it’s a lot of fun to choose missions and earn badges. And the site is engaging and easy to navigate.

This simple blog post on raising mindful children, from one of my favorite writers, Karen Maezen Miller, is perfect for all parents. Though, as a homeschooler, I’m finding it especially helpful.

 

at home/school/life

I’ve been rereading the summer issue, and am finally planning to take some of the MacGyver challenges (listed on page 23), just in time for the 30th anniversary of the show’s premiere. Fun for the whole family!

The What Now? article by Amy and Shelli in the summer issue, is totally worth a second (and third) read, especially as I’m still trying to get into a rhythm with my 1st grader, now that I’m teaching so many homeschool classes outside the home.

Amy’s Monday Pep Talk #8 on the blog is one of my favorites. I like every single thing that she listed on this one – fun things, recipes, book, and quote, though making the Sweet and Salty Truffle Pie is still on my must-do list.

 

reading list

I’m loving Reality is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the Worldby Jane McGonigal. Yes, it’s a topic close to my heart. But it’s also well written and full of science-based information on why games (of all kinds!) are really good for us.

Once I’m finished with that one, I’m moving on to McGonigal’s latest release, SuperBetter: A Revolutionary Approach to Getting Stronger, Happier, Braver, and More Resilient – Powered by the Science of Games, which takes everything she’s learned about games and teaches us how to apply it to our real lives.

This Tales of the Odyssey series by Mary Pope Osborne (yes, the Magic Treehouse author) was a big hit with my teen when he was younger, and now I’m happy to be rereading it with my six-year-old, as we spend some time diving into Greek history and myths. We have the original set of six individual books, but it looks like all of the stories have now been repackaged into just two, which is a much better deal.

 

at home

The new Nintendo Super Mario Maker game on WiiU is a huge hit at our house, as we all get to take turns making, and then playing, our own Mario levels.

My new favorite card game is Sushi Go. It’s fun, portable, and fast-paced, and the illustrations are so cute.

Paleo or not, this slow-cooker pulled pork recipe from Nom Nom Paleo is the very best there is. It’s easy to make, the bacon adds umami, and the finished product can be used in so many ways. It’s a staple for us in fall and winter.


At Home with the Editors: Amy’s Homeschool (1st Grade)

At Home with the Editors: Amy's 1st Grade Homeschool

Shelli and I both passionately believe that our magazine should be inclusive of lots of different homeschool motivations and methods. 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!

dots.jpg

Because there’s a pretty significant age gap between my kids (six years), I decided to do two separate posts to make things easy for myself. Today, I’m sharing some of the resources I use with my 1st grader.

The spine of our curriculum is Oak Meadow’s first grade program, which we use for language arts, social studies, art, and science. For these early grades, I really wanted something that would encourage him to try different things without worrying about whether there was a right answer. I like the way Oak Meadow emphasizes observation and imagination, and I love flipping back through his main lesson books (we have one for science and one for everything else) as the year progresses.

For history, we use Story of the World, which we do as a readaloud. While I read, he’ll draw a picture in his main lesson book related to the topic at hand — the Vikings and samurai were his favorites this year. We spend a little time discussing previous chapters at the beginning of every lesson, but I don’t expect him to remember everything. At this age, for me, it’s really about introducing him to important names and events. (My daughter often joins us for the readaloud — she still loves Story of the World.)

We use Miquon Math, which my son adores, for his math. We usually do a few pages in his book every day together, and he may keep going and do several more pages on his own. I let him set his own pace, though every once in a while, if I notice that he’s making a lot of simple mistakes, I encourage him to slow down. It took me a little while to get the hang of Miquon’s method — this is definitely a program where you will want to read the teacher’s manual in advance — but it’s proven to be a great fit for us. I wish the program continued through high school!

Oak Meadow’s science emphasizes nature study, but we also use The Nature Connection workbook and keep a daily nature journal. Usually, we stick to our backyard for journaling, but every once in a while, we’ll hike along the river or hit a nature center for a change of pace.

We started the year with BOB books, and now we’re powering through the Magic Treehouse series. My son was a pretty reluctant reader — maybe partly because he has a big sister who will pretty much always read him anything he wants — and it was really hard for me not to push him to read because books have always been such a big part of my own life. But I learned with his sister that pushing anything is the fastest way to make a kid avoid it, so I bit my tongue, and this year, he did start reading on his own. (I think it was mainly because he wanted to be able to play Pokemon without assistance, but I’ll take it!)

A lot of our literature comes from readalouds still, which we do a chapter or two at a time each day. We usually start the day cuddled up with a book. I keep a little notebook for each kid with a running list of what we read each year. This year, we’ve averaged about two and a half books a month, including Detectives in Togas, Henry Reed, Inc., The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, Fablehaven, and The Island of the Aunts.

At Home with the Editors: Inside Amy's 1st grade

We use Oak Meadow’s crafts book and art lessons. I am not a naturally artsy person, so having the projects be both open-ended and spelled-out for me is great. (I highly recommend Oak Meadow's art and craft materials for non-crafty parents.) My son has really enjoyed finger-knitting, sewing, soap-carving, and making pinch pots. We are always done with lessons by lunch, so we take a few hours in the early afternoon for project-making.

On Thursdays, he takes a Philosophy for Kids class at our homeschool group, where he works on logic puzzles and discusses things like “Should you get everything you want?” and “What assumptions do you have about candy?” He really enjoys the class — this is the second year he’s taken it.

We also memorize a poem every week (or two, if it’s a tricky or longish poem) for Friday recitations. My son has been using the 20th Century Children’s Poetry Anthology (edited by Jack Prelutsky) for most of his poems this year. I think memorizing and reciting poetry is a highly underrated activity, and I frequently annoy my children by loudly and dramatically reciting poems when we are stuck in traffic.

We’ve also been cooking and reading our way through Jewish Fairy Tale Feasts by Jane Yolen. Every chapter has a Jewish folktale and traditional recipe, so we get in a little culture and cooking practice.

Writing it all down, this seems like a lot, but we’re pretty relaxed about all of it. If my son complains that he doesn’t want to do anything school-y one day, I don’t push. He’s always free to take the day off to do something else, but he usually opts to do a little work every day. (In fact, on days when I am running late, he’ll often come into my office with a stack of books, asking me when I will be ready for school.) I don’t want him to feel like learning is something you only do when you’re “doing school.”


What We Read: July Edition

Homeschool readalouds and independent reading

Summer reading is in full swing over here, which means I have a deliciously gluttonous stack of books to report on. Here's what we're reading by the pool, while we're stirring pots of tomato sauce to can, on the hammock, on the deck, in the car, and pretty much everywhere else.

On Our Own

The Professor and the Madman by Simon Winchester ::  I am a little obsessed with the creation of the Oxford English Dictionary. (So much so that I have been known to joke that if we ever have another son, we will have to name him Oedipus so that we can call him OED.) So I relished this book about a little-known piece of its history, a man who contributed more than 10,000 definitions to the dictionary's creation and who also happened to be living in an asylum for the criminally insane.

Little, Big by John Crowley ::  Not everybody likes rereading books, but I do—as a kid, I would often flip from the last page of a book I loved right back to the front page so that I could start the whole thing over immediately. I think there's something sort of illuminating about going back to a literary world, and Little, Big is one of those books I can read over and over, finding something new to love every time. It's one of my perfect summer books.

Mimesis: The Representations of Reality in Western Literature by Erich Auerbach :: I read this for a pop culture in philosophy class I'm co-teaching at our homeschool group this fall. (Now watching Doctor Who and Buffy the Vampire Slayer counts as legitimate academic research!) It's an impressively comprehensive look at the history and evolution of Western literature, and each of the essays stands alone pretty well, so it's great for bits-and-pieces reading, which I do a lot of during the summer.

The Magic Treehouse: Dinosaurs Before Dark by Mary Pope Osborne :: I'm feeling super-sentimental watching my son dive into the Magic Treehouse series, just as his sister did before him.

My daughter's been on a feminist biography kick. (I'm not complaining!) I think she was inspired by Girls Think of Everything: Stories of Ingenious Inventions by Women, which we read together last year, and which, if you haven't read it, definitely deserves a spot on your library list. (I love that in addition to giving the histories of some very cool women and girl inventors, it includes resources to get readers started with their own inventions.) She's breezed through Invincible Louisa (about Louisa May Alcott), The Daring Nelly Bly (from our spring issue!), and Rooftop Astronomer: A Story about Maria Mitchell. With biographies (and honestly with most books), I don't worry much about reading level—I just let her grab whatever appeals to her.

Together

The kids were fascinated by the mystery of the princes in the Tower, who vanished somewhere between Richard III and Henry VII's reign, so I thought The Daughter of Time, a mystery novel by Josephine Tey that tackles the topic with modern-day researching detectives, would be a hit. My 12-year-old is captivated—I don't think it had occurred to her that modern-day historians could try to solve historic mysteries.

Continuing my tradition of forcing my children to listen to readalouds of books I loved as a child, we're reading Honestly, Katie John by Mary Calhoun. Happily, this one has proven to be popular with the kids, too, and we've enjoyed reading about tomboy Katie's adventures.

We keep a running list of readaloud books, and everyone adds books to it as they strike our fancies. My daughter read Lloyd Alexander's Vesper Holly adventure series last fall, and we're finally getting around to The Illyrian Adventure for our bedtime readaloud. It's pure fun reading about 19th century American orphan Vesper, her prim-and-proper guardian Brinnie, and their adventures in an invented Adriatic nation.

So that's what we've been reading. What about you?