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For growing bookworms and movie aficionados, a library card can save oodles in the family budget. Add homeschooling to the equation and a library card becomes a lifeline, and quite possibly a rite of passage. As soon as each of our children was old enough to write his/her name (and responsible enough with books), I gave them a bookbag and took them to receive a library card. Childhood is full of such simple pleasures. 

In their early years, we relished our local library’s Storytime, pretend play, and puppet theater. In the preschool and grammar school years, we often brought along snacks and lingered a full morning a week while each of us browsed shelves and ideas, from fiction and graphic novels to biographies and recipe books. In more recent years, the library has become a place for us to discover new writers and learn more formal styles of research, especially in science and history. The elder ones are now learning how to build arguments, connect ideas from multiple sources, and construct bibliographies on different topics. The library has an ever-evolving role in our home, a treasured one at that, yet ironically, as the years of speedy reading and academic research have arrived in our home––giving us more reason to be at the library––it is becoming more difficult to consistently get there.

I was recently introduced to hoopla digital, a service that partners with thousands of libraries across North America to offer free digital content to library patrons. When hoopla offered our family the opportunity to try out their services, clearly, I was interested in how it might serve our home’s diverse learning needs. I quickly learned that with hoopla, patrons have access to thousands of e-books, audiobooks, comics, music, and movies via their computer, tablet, or phone. For more tech-savvy homes, the app can even connect with Alexa and smart TVs. And did you catch that it is free?

Like the library itself, we have used the hoopla app and website to borrow books for a limited time, yet unlike the library, hoopla will automatically return the content on the appointed due date, meaning no late fees or lost books! I also particularly love the “kids mode” option in the account settings for my younger children to browse books and audiobooks that are appropriate for their ages and curiosities.

Over the last few weeks, we have enjoyed the simplicity of having hoopla in our routine. It is as though the library has come to us! Earlier this week, Olive found a caterpillar among the leaves and, as most children do, suddenly had the utmost interest in learning about it. By typing moth or butterfly or caterpillar into the hoopla search bar on my phone, she and her cousin instantly borrowed science books and began flipping through them, learning about the moth caterpillar in their hand. There have been dozens of moments like that over the years, and although we have a wonderful home library collected, I was keen on them having more independence in their young research.

Blythe, on the other hand, who has been recently frustrated with using a drawing compass, was inspired to use one to draw a Fibonacci spiral after flipping through a STEAM project book for kids on the hoopla app. Although her work did not turn out quite as she hoped, I loved her playful willingness to respond with a pencil and paper right at that moment. The boys have appreciated the large inventory of STEAM content for their science research just as much as they have relished access to an assortment of comics. Wink.  That said, not every activity with hoopla has been strictly academic. We have also borrowed movies and audiobooks.

Although hoopla will not replace the library experience for us, it has been a gift of time for our busy household and homeschool. In years where I am bridging many learning interests and topics, it could be the learning tool I need most to help me keep up with it all. To see if your own local library partners with hoopla digital, you can check this map here. You only need an email address and your library card number to register. Some libraries may offer you a pin to use as well. If you do not notice hoopla services in your local library, reach out to you librarians to request hoopla. I already have in our own library.

 


This post is sponsored by hoopla digital. All thoughts and images are my own. To learn more about hoopla, visit their Facebook and Twitter pages. Thank you for supporting the businesses that help keep this space afloat. 

 

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Rivers know this: there is no hurry. We shall get there some day.
― A.A. Milne, Winnie the Pooh

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spring herbs + tales of Benjamin Bunny

a small lesson about finding God in the ordinariness

the medicinal properties of garlic and honey

Burke, bathed in light on his 11th birthday

a brief study in early sports medicine, illustration and copywork

busy hands, doodling and practicing cursive

Olive, at sunset on her 7th birthday

 The Martian and a welcome break from Latin

endless amounts of time scraping paint

afternoon read-a-loud, led by Burke

focused, independent math work

an owlet resting just over our shoulders during dinner

Olive’s introduction to Jenny Wren and The Burgess Bird Book for Children

practicing compound probability

sleepy morning reading practice

regular fires in the backyard again

more images #cloisteredaway_homeschooling

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The quietness of this space and the fact that I am writing about March in mid-April speaks loudly to the busyness here the last several weeks. March is rarely quiet in our home, as Spring’s arrival brings much energy and many TO DOs. We celebrated our two March babies at the beginning of the month with simple family dinners, desserts, and balloons. On a whim, we opted to stay home for spring break this year and re-paint the house instead. With combined efforts, we estimated the scraping, repairing, and painting to take an upwards of two or three weeks–ha! Four weeks later, we’re still in the scraping phase. The lesson? Don’t underestimate the time it takes to scrape paint. The children are helping with the work (when appropriate), and since this project stretches beyond their typical responsibilities, we decided to pay them for a bit of it, offering them a different sort of education in business, budget, and economy. We hope to empower each of them with entrepreneurial spirit and also the wisdom how to manage such things.

In terms of our studies, I have felt the need for more focus and steadfastness in light of all the chaos of our environment, part of the other reason for quietness here. These sort of large home projects tend to distract me, diverting my attention and sending our school days spinning in disorder. For now, I’m learning how not to chase rabbits. March is a climatic point in our academic year. Enthusiasm begins to wane and the lessons somehow become more concentrated with newness and complexity. It’s easy to look for distractions, whether in home projects or online work. Instead, I have sensed this clear need to nurture order and routine with the kids, holding firmer boundaries of time. Looking back, I’m grateful for the levels of peace and focus it brought to our home, even in so much undone-ness.

The kids and I have been reading journey narratives aloud together: Pilgrim’s Progressfirst thing in the morning with poems just after breakfast, and The Wingfeather Saga, at the end of the day just before bedtime. Although this wasn’t initially intentional, I love that we are experiencing the journey of an individual in one and the journey of a family in the other. They’ve offered such great fodder and rhetoric for our daily living about choosing the difficult and straight path, about individual and family identity, about purpose. I highly recommend both for older children (and adults). Although these beginning/closing reading periods do require a discipline of sorts, they are so grounding for our routine, a soft beginning and end to the day together. On a side-note, when my children seem more quarrelsome or nit-picky with one another, reading aloud can also be a balm of sorts, a practical way of calming and bonding them. So can play time outdoors.

As for specific studies in March, Olive and I still mostly focused on her reading fluency. Each week, she had one practice story or nursery rhyme, which we used for spelling and reading often taken from Reading Lessons Through Literature. She also practiced a bit of math daily, which seems almost intuitive for her, and she’s quickly moved ahead. She loves numbers. We also began The Burgess Bird Book together at the end of the month, aiming to read a chapter a few times a week. She copies a sentence from it or from another picture book we’ve read aloud 2-3 times a week. The rest of the time she plays, mostly pretend and often outdoors in a fort she a Blythe made in our bamboo.

Blythe and Burke finished their study of Galen (a physician to four Roman emperors) and the beginnings of Western medicine this month, and we loved learning so many new things about the origins of medicine, from how travel and education impacted Galen’s learning, to how he studied the body in an era before autopsies were permissible, and so much more. We’ve been loosely using Beautiful Feet’s History of Science study for their science/history this year, and although we’re moving slowly through it, we love it! They’re also both practicing grammar and writing with their independent reading three-four time a week (My Side of the Mountain and Heidi for Burke in March; The Secret Garden for Blythe in March and April), which I feel more disciplined about for them as I’m walking through Latin studies with Liam now. As a short encouragement, a firmer grasp of language early on opens so many more doors to understanding language later.

Liam, Burke, and Blythe are both closing another level in math, and I’m beginning to take a bit of time for quick review a couple of times a week, feeling out for soft spots or holes in concepts. We use Saxon books, which although admittedly a bit boring, thoroughly spiral through concepts again and again to build a stronger foundation. Math is an area in which I feel the least intuitive and I wanted to make sure they really know it well.  At the back of levels 5/4 and up is a “supplemental practice” which is great for the purpose of review. On a side note, unless you have a child who loves worksheets, I recommend a different curriculum for the little years (grade 3 and younger), something more playful and artistic like Waldorf or Montessori methods. By levels 5/4 (4th grade math), my children have been ready to transition and learn more discipline about book work.

Liam moved into a weekly Challenge A class with Classical Conversations in January, an unplanned move for our family, one which merits a blog post all of its own. This spring he’s been working through sketching and memorizing systems of the body, memorizing and sketching the geography of the Eastern hemisphere, learning logical fallacies, writing persuasive papers, translating Latin verbs and nouns, and beginning pre-Algebra. It’s a lot of work, but he loves it–even though sometimes he doesn’t want to do it. He is still twelve after all. Wink.

Here’s the books we read in March. I included a list of our favorite picture books (mostly Blythe and Olive) we read aloud too.

MARCH BOOKS

Liam| Crispin: The Cross of Lead | The Wingfeather Saga: The Warden and the Wolf King | The Martian | The Fallacy Detective 

Burke | My Side of the Mountain | Galen | Heidi | Calvin and Hobbes

Blythe Galen | The Secret Garden | Ivy and Bean #6Aesop’s Fables | The Picture History of Great Inventors

Olive | Little Bear stories | Burgess Bird Book for Children (RA) | various beginning readers  

Picture Books We Loved | Ike’s Incredible Ink | Sorry! | Good dog, Carl | The Curious Garden | Miss Rumphius | Island Boy 

Family Read-a-loud | Prince Caspian (audiobook) | The Wingfeather Saga: On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness | Pilgrim’s Progress 

Myself | All the Light We Cannot See | Teaching From Rest | New and Selected Poems, Vol. 2 | Simple Matters

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We’ve never used a formal science curriculum over here. Instead, we’ve learned more through reading about and observing the natural world. My children will tell you it is one of their favorite parts of our days. This year, we have primarily focused on anatomy, and each has created their own body book (an idea inspired by my friend Kirsten).  We took a break from anatomy for much of March and April, as we spent more time preparing for our garden and working in the yard. As my children grow older, I’m more aware of how our school work ebbs and flows with our life work and seasons. I’m noticing patterns, more of which I hope to plan around better for next year–but that’s a different topic. Thus far, we have read about the circulatory, nervous, and digestive systems. As we are turning back to our books this week, we’ll aim to complete the respiratory, skeletal, muscular, reproductive, and endocrine systems. (Yikes–that’s a lot.) We’ve taken more unanticipated breaks through this study, but the nice part of homeschooling is not being in a hurry, or limited to a particular schedule, to complete a project. And so, we gather our resources and begin again.

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reference books | During our study, we’ve used many books from our local library in addition to the books we own. We’ve referenced everything from science encyclopedias to early readers, adapting as we go. I’ll usually browse several books ahead of time, to choose the ones that might work the best for us. We take turns reading and usually have several books open at once for visuals. Some of our favorite references this year have been The Kingfisher Science Encyclopedia, a neatly organized and detailed reference, and The Way We Work, by David Macauley, a robust and cleverly illustrated reference. We’ve also used simple readers we’ve collected over the years at used book stores or during our library trip, such as Usborne books, Let’s Read and Find Out Science series, The Magic School Bus series, and sight word readers.

projects | When possible I try to include a few projects or experiments since, like most kids, my own children love making or playing with ideas. This year we’ve done a few projects, such as taking our pulse/heart rate, identifying our senses by using a blindfold, or crafting a brain replica with clay.

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body books | This year, we’ve used the simple primary composition notebooks found in office supply stores to create our body books. The primary one is set up with partially ruled/un-ruled pages as shown. Next year, I’ll move to using the Strathmore notebooks, as they’re a little larger. Each lesson, my children sketch and color an image pertaining to the day’s reading. They then illustrate, label, and write a bit about what we’ve read together. The boys enjoy creating their own sentences, so after they’re finished, we look for spelling and grammar corrections. They record their misspelled words in their spelling notebooks, which become a part of a future spelling lesson. For the girls, I still rely on the narration/dictation/copywork model. We talk about what we’ve read. They give me a sentence or two, which I write and they copy. It’s a little advanced for Olive yet, but like most youngest children, she wants to do what everyone else is doing.

making mistakes | You’ll notice Liam still struggles with spelling, but he understands the concepts and how to create clear, concise sentences, as does my left-handed Burke who still struggles with letter reversals and capitalizing mid-sentence. In earlier years, I tended to correct them along the way, often seeing their mistakes as a reflection of my poor teaching–especially if it’s something someone else might see. I’m sharing the imperfections here so you see, no one is perfect, especially not this mother. Be patient with yourself and your children and try not to control the learning process, combing for results. I’m learning to move them forward in certain areas, while returning to basic skills in other areas over and over until they master them. That means Burke still does simple handwriting exercises and Liam is still in earlier spelling years, even though they both read voraciously far above his years. We repeat again and again, knowing it will catch one day. These mistakes are a part of life, a part of our body. They do not make any of us failures.