Saturday, October 1, 2011

Our Curriculum: Science

Well, I thought I would start with telling you about our science curriculum because that seems to be everyone's favorite right now.  With Mason in 2nd grade and Addie in kindergarten I really wanted to use a curriculum that that taught them together.  This keeps Mommy from doing double the work and it allows them to learn alongside each other which is a major benefit from homeschooling.  Science is a big deal to me.  My goal isn't that they learn all there is to learn about everything but that they are equipped to observe and investigate the world for themselves.  But we feel strongly that they are taught how to observe the world from a Creationist view.  That is why I love, love, love the Apologia Young Explorers science curriculum.

Model of Stonehenge

This isn't our first year with it.  Last year we used Flying Creatures of the Fifth Day.  We spent the entire year learning about birds, insects, and bats.  I learned just as much as the kids did.  I was amazed at how much we learned about God's design in nature by studying birds and insects.  The more we learned about creation, the more we learned about the Creator.  Science time often became a Bible study!  This year we chose Astronomy.  I asked the kids what they were most interested in learning and astronomy was their pick.  We are currently three chapters in and have already learned a ton.  Once again, I'm learning with them all the things I either wasn't taught in public school or that I was taught and didn't retain.  The more I learn about our universe the smaller I feel and the mightier God seems.

Building a pinhole viewing box (we needed a longer box!)

My favorite components of the curriculum:

Experiments:  The Young Explorers curriculum is full of hands-on experiments and activities.  So far, we have made a model of Stonehenge, studied the rotation of earth by tracking shadows during the day, created our own solar eclipse, compounded light with a magnifying glass to burn a chocolate bar (their favorite!!), and created a pinhole viewing box to observe the sun and look for sunspots.  I also love that the curriculum uses narration activities to allow the kids to explain what they have learned. 

Burning chocolate with compounded light

Notebooking and Lapbooking:  The curriculum encourages notebooking as a way to organize what is learned in each lesson.  We also purchased an accompanying lapbook CD-ROM and are using it to follow along with the lessons.  This has been very helpful to provide some visual organization to all the information they are taking in.  The lessons do cover a lot of material and they are too young to take notes so the lapbooking is a great way to help them record key pieces of information.  Plus they can go back and look through their lapbook pages as a way to review. 

Websites:  Each book includes a password that grants access to extras online.  We are given links to pictures of the planets provided by NASA, watch animations of the solar system, and much more.  This was also very helpful last year.  We were able to watch video of life cycles of butterflies and watch a live webcam of an eagle's nest to see the eggs hatch.  These links have helped make much of the concepts more concrete for the kids.

One additional activity that I created has been very, very helpful to the kids.  Since they are 7 and 5 years old, I knew much of the material would be over their heads.  The books are written with a wide age range in mind so there is information presented on many levels to involve the younger and older students.  I realized last year that many of the terms we were learning were quickly forgotten.  So this year I made a list of all the boldface words and printed them on sticker labels.  In their notebooks, the kids each have a list of the definitions of each of the words.  As I read the text aloud, they peel off the sticker of a word when we come to it and stick it by the definition.  Since kids love stickers they have really enjoyed this.  It keeps them engaged as they listen for the next word that prompts them to pull off another sticker.  They really love it.  They still forget some of the terms but that is to be expected at their age.  I have been able, though, to refer them back to their stickers to review a definition.  These sticker sheets added with the lapbooking are allowing us to build astronomy notebooks that serve as a learning tool that they can use for years to come.

I could go on about the Junior notebooks full of additional activities and the copywork that includes beautiful Scripture reveling the amazing universe God created.  I have been so thankful to have found this curriculum and ever amazed at how much my 7 and 5 year old comprehend and retain.  It has been a blessing in our home and I recommend it to anyone desiring a creation-based science curriculum. 
Creating a solar eclipse

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Home+Schooling: Embracing the Madness

Mason working on an addition folder game.

Well, school is going pretty well.  Pretty well considering I'm not getting out of bed at a decent time in the morning because I'm up a lot at night and we stop about a bagillion different times during the day to change a diaper or two, feed a baby, clean up one of Annabelle's destructive whims, or just take a break because Mama needs to collect her sanity.  Sound like chaos?  It is!  But actually it is good chaos.  I'm learning not to fight it. We are HOMEschooling.  It's school and life all mixed together and that's okay!  Actually, that's ideal it just takes perspective to remember it.  I'm such a type A, schedule-oriented person that it can feel like we are failing when we are actually succeeding.  God has nudged me more than once this week to show me how much the kids are learning despite the un-foiling of my so-called plans.  Those are cool moments!

We are two weeks into our school year with a second grade ping pong ball, kindergarten jitterbug, nearly two-year old hurricane, and an eight-week old sweet pea that doesn't like to be put down... ever.  I want to take the opportunity here to thank Fisher Price for their wonderful Ocean Wonders Aquarium Cradle Swing that has swung now three of my children and a couple of baby cousins.  It has been such a blessing for a baby with pretty irritating reflux.  Some of our best schooling is done with the repetitive swinging noise in the background.  Anyway, the past two weeks have been busy and hectic but so much fun!  I'll be posting soon about the curriculum we are using this year but as a teaser let me just say we are LOVING science!  Until then, enjoy some pictures!

It's hard to tell but that creation is Stonehenge.
We are using our dining table more this year and it has been a good switch.
"The Hurricane"
"Sweet Pea" and don't let this photo fool you.  She didn't stay there.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

First Day of School 2011-12

First Day of School 2011-12

We had a fun first day of school.  We began on Labor Day since Daddy could be home with us on that day.  We spent the day doing some traditional things and then did a light day of school work.  Then we ended the day with a yummy cookout at my parent's house.  If only every school day could end that way! 
We began with an "All About Me" sheet that we used to record their height, weight, favorite things, things they learned to do over the summer, aspirations for the school year, etc.  It was funny listening to their responses. I also included an 8x10 collage of pictures from the summer for each of their binders.  My plan is to do the same at the end of the school year and compare the two.

Daddy measuring them for their "All About Me" page.
I have created "Meeting Book" binders for Mason and Addie.  I'll have to do a post about that soon but basically it has our calendar, weather graphs, their daily schedules and any other daily routine sheets we use.  We let them decorate the front of their binders.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Back to School, Finally!

We are at it again!!!  We are headed back to school.  Homeschool, that is.  I am so excited about this school year!  I've been preparing every minute I can steal between feeding a baby every two to three hours, chasing a toddler and taking care of the two older children.  It's a juggling act to say the least!  That's kind of where I get the name for this blog, Full Hands Academy.  But more on that later... This year Mason begins the 2nd grade and Addie is a big-time kindergartner.  We are using an exciting new history curriculum and exploring astronomy in science.  Add a heaping portion of math and sprinkle in some language arts and we might just have a recipe for learning. (Cheesy, I know.)

Anyway, after a long break from blogging I've decided to pick it back up.  I mainly want to share about our homeschool days with friends and family who are interested.  I also spend a lot of time looking for homeschool ideas or creating my own and would like to use this space as a place to share those ideas with others.  I'm so often amazed by the online network of homeschooling families who share their resources to benefit other families and hope I can contribute to that in some way.  So, if you are a relative, friend, fellow homeschooler, or random lurker here...welcome!!!

I make no promises to post very often or apologies if my posts are sporatic at times.  We've got a lot going on and I do occasionally like to sleep.  But I love to write and I especially love to write about my four wonderful kiddos that keep me wonderfully busy.  So I'll be here as often as I can to keep you updated about the happenings in our home.  To make things easier, please hit the subscribe button on the sidebar so you will be notified when I submit a new post.  Leave a comment and let me know you are a subscriber!  I would love to get to know you and if you have a blog of your own, leave a link so I can visit you too!

Our first official day of school will be Labor Day.  We have taken the past few months off while I sat around hot and pregnant and more recently have been pretty involved with a newborn.  With that in mind, I don't feel bad making the kids have school on a holiday.  Besides, Daddy will be home that day and we have some fun things in mind to celebrate the first day of the school year.  I figure that's how we trick them into being excited about school. :-)

I'm trying my best to keep from overestimating what we can accomplish this year.  I tend to bite off more than we can chew and end up disappointed and frustrated.  I'm pouring a lot of prayer into this school year, prayer that I set realistic expectations and that I remain flexible when some days don't go as planned. There is no denying this is a demanding season of life for us!  It seems I barely step foot out of my house with the kids in tow and someone is telling me that I've got my hands full.  It's true and it's great but I would be amiss if I didn't also share the merciful ways the Lord proves His faithfulness and grace to achieve far beyond what we ourselves are capable of achieving.  He is showing me on a daily basis that although my hands may be full, it is His hands that strengthen me and equip me for every good work!  In short, He provides what we need when we need it.  He really does. So hit the subscribe button and check back in when you can.  We would love to have you join us on our full hands journey!

Upcoming posts...

Our Curriculum

Meet the Kids!