Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Science4Us.com Review

Science4Us Review

Science has never been my strong point.  I find it fascinating, but I tend to get overwhelmed with the abundance of information on any given subject area within the confines of science.  Our Science4Us.com Online Subscription has eased what once was a heavy burden for me.  The age gap between the children in our home can make some things a bit challenging.  Although this is intended for elementary age children, it totally fascinates my preschoolers.  I give the assignments to the resident eight-year-old, but inevitably it attracts the attention of the three and four-year-old.

I love the ease of integrating this into our homeschool.  Everything is at your fingertips.  I simply access the course material, assign it to the student, and give her time to work.  She logs on to her personal student dashboard, locates the assignments in her lab, and sets to work.  The process is super simple, she gets to work independently, and she has fun learning.  Science4Us.com is Harmony's first choice when given the opportunity what to do first among a group of daily assignments.

Science4Us Review

The variety of lessons within each subject provides an appeal to all learning types.  The lessons are fun and engaging making learning about science an enjoyable experience.  This is a program that Harmony requests to do, and at her own pace completes an entire group of assignments in one setting.  It easily keeps her attention for an hour or more as she explores the day's subject matter.  She enjoys showing me the things she creates when the lessons involved some free expression and creativity based activity.  I like that I can review her saved work and even comment on it through my own, private log-on.  Also, the fact that it stores all of the completed work makes record keeping a breeze.  Everything I could possibly need is tracked for me with zero effort on my part.  Bonus!

Science4Us Review
My favorite thing for me personally as a home educator is the ease at which I can assign a day's work and keep track of my student's progress.  Everything is laid out for me including the subject matter covered, the time I need to allot, and any prerequisites that should have been covered before giving the assignment.  I can easily track the progress of each of my students, give support and feedback, and incorporate hands on activities if desired.  There is plenty of teacher support within the site. 

Science4Us Review

The Science4Us.com Online Subscription is an affordable resource at $7.95 per month, per student, that we are thoroughly enjoying; even those of us outside of the target age group. .  There have been several times that Bella, our resident three-year-old, has climbed on Harmony’s lap to join in the lesson. It is a fun approach to science that provides a comprehensive scientific foundation but allows room for easily expanding on the subject matter.  It is a simple approach for both learning and instructing that gives me the freedom to simply adapt it to what we are currently studying. 

For further information and support please explore Science4Us.com via:

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Science4UsSays
Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/science4us/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Science4Us
G+: https://plus.google.com/u/0/b/112259351657747584252/

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Growing in Parenting - My New Favorite Book

Sometimes it feels like I am using my life to get a PhD in parenting and child psychology.  Too bad life experience isn't enough to officially grant you the doctorate.  I could use the income that could generate; unlike my unsolicited and uncompensated book review you are about to read.

Recently, I finished reading a very insightful book by Dr. Laura Markham.  I don't remember how I learned of it, but the subtitle was the attention grabber for me.  'How to Stop Yelling and Start Connecting'.  I knew there had to be something within the pages of this book that I needed.

I have a confession to make.  I struggle with yelling.  It's shameful, I know, but I am working on it and making good progress, too.  Yelling was a challenge for me when my older group was young.  Every time I get any bit emotional, positive or negative, my voice rises.  Honestly, I thought I had this problem behavior beat for good.  Alas, I was wrong.

It only took a heap of stress to bring it back full circle for me, but I was ready this time around.  I noticed it right away and set out to do something about it.  Yelling is not communicating.  It is not connecting.  It serves no good purpose unless you are trying to warn of imminent danger or get someone's attention from a great distance.  The root of my yelling is frustration and lack of planning on my part.  I don't think it fits into either of those categories, and I know it's destructive.  My yelling does nothing to foster relationship, communication, self-esteem, cooperation, or any other desired aspect of family life.

Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids; How to Stop Yelling and Start Communicating  by Dr. Laura Markham is the first non-textbook book that I have allowed myself to hi-light.  I have this aversion to marking in my books.  I don't know why.  It's just me.  However, I wasn't too far into this book before I knew I had a treasure trove of useful information in my grasp, and it would be to my benefit to get out my trusty hi-lighter.  I color matched with the book, of course.  Now, I can flip through and easily spot my vibrant, orange markings for quick reference.

Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids is the first book I've read on parenting that lays everything out simply, in an easy to read format.  There was no tripping through this book.  I couldn't wait to read it, and I am sure I will read it cover to cover at least one more time.  This is an excellent book for those thinking about becoming parents, new parents, and those of us that are in over our heads with child rearing.

I love that the research is current, the information is useful and applicable, and we aren't left guessing in any regard.  Learning the 'whys' behind the behavior of my children gives me even more strength and patience when helping my wee ones through their stages of development.  We have a variety of backgrounds within our household.  The information within this book is the perfect tool for me to learn to use empathy in gauging my responses to my children for the ultimate benefit in my goal of raising self-disciplined children.

Raising this batch of children is an entirely different journey with much more clearly defined goals.  Due to our more advanced ages it is imperative in my thinking for us to raise independent, motivated children that are free-thinking, driven, and self-disciplined.  When they are in their 20's and 30's their life will look at lot different than that of my older children, and even that of my husband and myself.  I come from a young family with both of my maternal grandparents still very much a part of my life.  When my youngest children are my age they will be lucky if my husband and myself are even still walking this earth, let alone have involved grandparents.  It is essential for them to have the skills necessary to succeed independently at life.  I take this charge very seriously.

"Loving guidance gives children the support they need to understand and regulate their own emotions, so they can behave as their best self without being pulled off-track by the pressure of deep feelings.  He learns that actions are to be limited, but he is okay, complete with all his complicated emotions.  That feeling of "goodness" is what helps all of us make progress toward our good intentions."

The above quote from the book pretty much sums up what I love about the information Dr. Laura Markham teaches us to utilize in effectively raising self-disciplined children.  Deep feelings are a STRONG driving force in our home due to the complexities of our family dynamics.  That is why I chose to hi-light the part of the sentence in orange above.  Over time we have learned how to implement what I am learning through Peaceful Parents, Happy Kids and the loving guidance of Dr. Laura Markham.  I highly recommend this book to all parents interested in connecting on a much deeper level with their children and truly understanding them in a way that facilitates gentle guidance toward self-discipline.  I know I will be giving this book as gifts for years to come.

For more helpful parenting resources and information click here.

Monday, February 24, 2014

KinderBach Review

Kinderbach Review

We have really been enjoying The KinderBach Online Piano Lesson Membership with Teacher Corner in our homeschool.  The lessons are enjoyable and engaging for the whole family.  Harmony, our resident eight-year-old, has been the primary student learning through the KinderBach Online Piano Lessons.  It is simple enough for her that she actually does an entire week's lesson plan in one sitting.  Then, throughout the week she practices what she learned in the lesson.

Kinderbach Review

The fact that the lessons are broken down into such manageable pieces makes it a perfect fit for Avery and Bella, my resident three and four-year-old.  They eagerly join in the lessons with Harmony and even enjoy the worksheets.  They love learning about Dodi and her house.  It is such a simple and understandable concept for them to begin the process of getting familiar with the piano keyboard.  The simple concepts, fun approach, and short segments within each weekly lesson plan make this an enjoyable and engaging program for the whole family.

As a home educator I appreciate having the corresponding books in PDF format.  I easily download the current workbook which makes it accessible to me without having to access the website or even go online.  This makes planning and preparing for the week's lesson a breeze.  I print out the sheets all at once for the week, and we're ready to go.

Kinderbach Review

I love having this resource for my family.  It has always been part of the plan to introduce music by first using the piano.  When we moved I was very sad that we were unable to bring our piano to our new home.  It was difficult to leave behind.  Getting the kids a keyboard for Christmas this year was made even more exciting by having The KinderBach Piano Lesson Membership with Teacher Corner available to us, and with the learning curve it is nice to be able to plug in headphones. (Of course this program works with a piano or a keyboard, but I am learning to love the portability and flexibility of a keyboard.  I think I'll get over the loss of our piano.)  Actually learning how to play the piano as opposed to just having the keyboard available for playing around has really increased the enjoyment level for my family.

Kinderbach Review

KinderBach Online Piano Lessons are an economical option.  With the 30 Day Money Back Guarantee there is nothing to loose.  There is even a Free Online Trial.  Lesson packages start at just $7.99 per month with options for all family sizes.  We've done music lessons in our home before.  The price of the online lessons is substantially more affordable, plus there is no need to leave home which involves more expense, inconvenience, and limits the ability of the student to progress at their own pace.

Kinderbach Review

I do have a basic education in regard to the piano, and I do know how to read music.  However, none of that matters with KinderBach.  There is no previous knowledge necessary on the part of the educator.  In fact it is the perfect way for anyone to learn.  Isn't that one of the perks of homeschooling?  To learn right along with your child is such a pleasure.  KinderBach is not only a great tool for music lessons, it is also a great tool for family bonding.  Learning to play the piano is a fun activity for the whole family to enjoy together.  It also provides opportunity for the older children to teach the younger children which is excellent for their own mastery as well as building confidence in their ability.  Thanks to KinderBach, playing the piano is a fun activity that family we all are enjoying at our own pace and learning level.

Additional support and information can be found at:

Facebook:  www.facebook.com/kinderbach
Facebook for Teachers:  www.facebook.com/classroomkinderbach
Twitter: @KinderBach
Pinterest: https://pinterest.com/KinderBach/
YouTube: KinderBach Preschool Piano

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Sunday, February 16, 2014

Freedom in Definition

Recently I learned that I fit into a category.  Typically I am not one for labels, but I did find this a bit interesting; even a little freeing to a certain extent.  Never in a million years could I have ever imagined all the drastic twists and turns I would travel through traversing the road of my life.  I especially could have never begun to guess that there would even be a few corkscrews along the way.  Who knew, right?

Years ago I looked forward to this stage of my life with great anticipation.  It was going to be a time to reclaim my childhood.  I would explore what it truly meant to be me.  Maybe I would volunteer full-time for a local organization I wholeheartedly believed in.  Maybe I would continue my education.  I've always wanted to learn photography "for real".  Surely I would have plenty of time to really invest in my relationship with each of my grandchildren.

The first hairpin turn was our decision to adopt.  Okay. So we're raising one kid all on his own.  So what?   We raised seven already.  What's one?  It was like a vacation those first couple years; a breath of fresh air.  Then, the best fur buddy I ever had died, we moved, and we started becoming aware that things were going to dramatically change again.

Suddenly the track shot up, the cars turned upside down, and we pulled out the other side with two more children in our car.  This meant lots of changes, big emotions, and slow adjustments for everyone.  Our slow acclimation to becoming a homeschooling family again quickly turned into a quick dive into the deep waters head first.  The water was cold and shocking, but you know the story.  We adjusted.

I have never been a traditional homeschooler.  For a while I considered myself very much an unschooler.  This time around it seemed smartest to implement a full curriculum.  We started our fully anticipating using this curriculum through graduation.  It's perfect, covers everything important to us, and takes a huge load off of my shoulders in the planning department.  As the completion of this first year started to come into view on the horizon I prepared to purchase the next level.  Well, I hesitated.  I read what was next, and I just wasn't so sure we really needed to do it that way anymore.  You see, my favorite aspect of homeschooling is FREEDOM.  I LOVE IT!!!

Spring is coming.  There is so much for us to learn together.  We will be starting seeds, planning a garden, preparing to raise animals, building structures, manicuring our woods more, landscaping, camping, and I have a TON of educational supplies already (like any good homeschooling veteran would).  So, why not use what I have?

Enter me learning exactly who I am educationally speaking.  I had to take a brief demographic survey that required me to choose specifically what type of homeschooling family we are.  I had no clue.  Like I said, I don't concern myself with labels and categories when it comes to this type of thing.  Because, in all honesty, does it really matter?  I don't think so.  However, as soon as I looked up "eclectic" and read this:

"An Eclectic Homeschooler is one who looks at the different approaches and methods of homeschooling and takes from each forming his own unique philosophy."

...I knew it defined my style exactly.  Slowly, I have determined that it is now okay to ease back into our more relaxed approach to education.  Our resident elementary student is still warming to the idea that grade level is irrelevant, and grades are arbitrary, but she's getting there.  Taking what I consider a more "whole-life" approach to education will help her to lose some more of her guard and open up to becoming a more relaxed learner.  It is exciting to me!

Yes, being eclectic means a little more work on my part, but I really think I'm ready for it now.  I have the materials at my fingertips.  I need to purchase nothing.  So, why not?  This next year is looking much more inviting to me and even a little more easy.  I have been lamenting the fact that I have two preschoolers and an elementary student; not an easy mix.  With my new found freedom it will be much easier to cater to the individual needs and interests of each child.  I like preschool.  Now, I will be able to enjoy it more.  Therefor the kids will certainly have much more fun.

Does this mean we will never use curriculum again?  I certainly have my doubts.  However, it does mean we have found our niche.  We are grabbing life by the reigns and fully embracing the family we have become.  We know who we are, and we are running with it.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Sometimes He Does Things

I know a guy.  His name is John, and sometimes he really does do things; big things.  He's a young guy with a big heart and wisdom beyond his years.  We could all stand to learn a thing or two from the real, as in living real lives, young people that are involved in the communities around us.  John is one of those people.  He's not afraid to try new things, face challenges head on, and help a fellow man out.  I'm quite sure he's given at least one person in this world the shirt off of his back.

John is preparing to give a little more of himself this time around.  He's actually cutting away part of who he is; stepping outside of his comfort zone.  When something touches John's heart or gets his attention in a big way he typically does a little more than just take note.  At some point John acts.  This time around he's sacrificing part of him that has been part of his identity for years.  Of course he's a little nervous, but you remember what I said about this guy, right?  He is stepping outside of his comfort zone and putting the interest of his fellow man, in this case children, before his own temporary anxious feelings.

A while ago John met a girl.  Her name is Danielle, and once she figured out he is the all around good guy he is a friendship was formed, and St. Baldrick's Foundation was the topic of conversation.  Danielle was still walking around sporting evidence of her sacrifice for this foundation investing in the interest of young children.  It got his attention.  With people of all varieties and ages being the calling of John's heart he readily committed part of himself to the cause.

So, what is this guy John going to do, you ask?

At a volunteer-organized local event John will be taking a turn in the barber chair.  His efforts of fundraising and public awareness on the topic of childhood cancer will culminate with the shaving off of his SIX INCH mohawk.  That's right.  John has been raising money over the past year to support the efforts of St. Baldwick's Foundation and will take a seat in the barber chair this March to have his crowning glory shaved clean off for a cause he believes in.

Taking note of John's example, now is a good time to reflect on your beliefs and what you stand for.  Is there something you feel passionate about?  Have you thought about it lately?  Where is your energy focused?  Are you honoring your passions, pursuing your dreams, living life with gusto, and taking action on matters important to you?  If not, maybe now is a good time for a reevaluation.  We could all use to do just that from time to time.

John Hoffman is an entrepreneur, giver of time and self, and all around good guy.  His day jobs as a Brand Developer at Project Dignity Outreach, an on-air personality at The Corner with K-Hubb, and Project Manager at Fusion Marketing Michigan keep him busy, but they don't slow him down.

Saturday, February 01, 2014

Cooking with Kids

I love to cook, and I love to cook with kids.  There is a small, in stature and number, audience watching me almost anytime I do anything in the kitchen, especially cook.  My oldest granddaughter was parked on the kitchen counter beside the stove just as soon as she could sit upright.  Everyone thought I was crazy, but she loved it.  She could stir a pot.  They understand so much more than we generally give them credit for, and she never did burn herself.

Harmony at 3 years in her rightful spot on the counter.

Now that she and her sister live with us, and we reentered the homeschooling circle, there is plenty of time spent in the kitchen together.  Recently she learned how to make her own egg over medium just like Papa likes it.  She is very proud!  Her younger sister is a constant presence and has no fear of anything cooking related.  I do have to watch her a little more closely, though.  She is much more bold and is the type of person that cannot just take your word for something, like a hot stove; she has to find out for herself.  So, I cannot say that she's never been burned, but she has survived just fine.

This is where you find Annabella when I'm cooking now.

I love the layout of the kitchen in our new home.  The open counter with the built-in oven allows for me to be on one side of the counter or stove with the kids on the other.  It's like our own little hands on cooking school.  It really works well for including them in all aspects of the process without interfering with my cooking space.

So much can be learned in the kitchen.  A lot happens in cooking.  Math is the most obvious, but there is science, art, history, and creativity as well as character building aspects like self-confidence and hospitality.  Then, there's the opportunity to learn good health, preparedness, and self-sufficiency.  Not to mention meal planning and learning what is and is not a good deal in the grocery store.

Over the next year we will be doing a lot of learning in the kitchen.  There's the whole wheat free adventure we're stepping out on, and we plan to add learning to exist without sugar in our cooking as well.  Then there's the gardening we will be doing which will hopefully produce enough produce for opportunities in drying, freezing, and canning.

Harmony in the kitchen today.

I'm great one on one in the kitchen.  My new goal is to learn how to work with three kids in the kitchen at once since that's my new audience participation number.  I lack experience in that department despite the fact that we are currently raising kids number 8, 9, and 10.  I managed to potty train two at once this time around, so one would think I could figure out how to cook with three at once.

Avery gets in the kitchen now and then as well.


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