There are many different styles of homeschooling, thousands of opinions on what is best, and a myriad of curriculum programs and educational tools available. This can be a blessing because it makes it possible to find something that suits nearly any child's learning style and parent's preferences, but it can be an overwhelming challenge for some families to wade through it all and find the best fit for their family. To complicate matters, what works for one family or one child, might not work for another. So while someone might say they love a certain curriculum or homeschooling style, another person might say they hated it, or just couldn't make it work well for their situation. Nonetheless, it is quite natural to want to know works for other people and what they would recommend. Finding out what others use can be a good starting point for those new to homeschooling and yet also be interesting to experienced homeschool families that are just wondering what else is out there that they might enjoy.
For our family, homeschooling is an ever evolving and dynamic experience. We have tried a variety of methods, but have settled into an eclectic approach - using what works for our kids from different sources, styles, and curriculum. Sometimes we even throw in a period of unschooling or some project-based homeschooling as well! We try to keep things flexible, have an open mind, and go with the flow. (Which is easier said than done for this plan-ahead, prep, and research-loving mama!)
Here are some of the primary curriculum materials and educational tools that we are using this school year. It might seem like a lot, but we don't use all of it each day. Some things are supplemental, others were requested by our kids, and some are for specific projects or times of interest.
1) Our kindergartener currently uses RightStart Mathematics by Activities for Learning, Inc. She started Level A, Second Edition, and the associated RS2 math set (the manipulatives and games) in January. We are loving it! Her sister even joins in just for fun. One of my favorite things about the program is how little it requires Lil' Sis to complete worksheets, yet there is still a lot of learning happening. Of all the different math programs we've looked into or tried over the years, this one is certainly among the most - if not the most - hands on. We also enjoy the variety, the way it approaches a concept from more than one way of thinking/seeing, and the math games! While my oldest uses McRuffy right now, we will very likely be switching her over to RightStart next!
2) Our 3rd grader is finishing up McGruffy Color Math. This is another great program, but it does have it's flaws. Just today, we found that the teacher's manual had yet another editing error where the answer shown was incorrect. This is not the first time we found an error. We find typos and mistakes on the answer keys rather frequently. Luckily, the math is easy enough that I recognize the problem and know the right answer, but it's still frustrating to pay for a program and see it has so many details out of place. We do like the attractive, simple, quick, color worksheet pages.
3) Dreambox Learning is a useful online math software that we use as a supplement. It is also perfect to use in place of our normal math programs on rough days (such as when someone is sick), vacation, or when they need a different perspective or additional math practice. I am particularly fond of how it adapts to the child's skill level and tracks which standards have been met as they go.
4) Both kids had fun playing the Prodigy Math Game, but haven't been doing it as much lately. It's good mainly for extra practice. It really doesn't teach math, but simply provides a fun way to get in some repetition and review. It is somewhat similar to a Pokemon game, wherein the student collects critters and uses them to battle others, all the while answering math questions along the way in order to successfully strike their opponent.
5) Khan Academy is a favorite supplement that my husband does with the kids when they are struggling with a math concept or when they just want a challenge. We love that it's free!
1) Our kindergartener (Lil Sis) is going through level 1 of First Language Lessons. We have the older version of the book, which combines levels 1 & 2 (linked above), but they have a newer edition that has the levels in separate books too. She's done this with big sister awhile ago, but now we do it just for her to reinforce what she's learned in the past just by hanging around when Big Sis did it.
2) All About Reading is Lil' Sis' main reading program and we love it! The All About Learning Press company has been fantastic, in our experience. The books/curriculum are well written, beautifully illustrated, and quite clear and professional. It's simple, straight-forward, and takes things one step at a time. I did not care as much for the Pre-Reading program, but my kids had fun with the crafts and other families may love it for their preschooler. I think, for us, we were already a little past that which is taught in the majority of the Pre-Reading level, which is why it wasn't a good fit.
3) Big Sis uses All About Spelling and it works well for her. It's her least favorite subject, but it's effective, as long as we are consistent. If we fail to keep up with spelling regularly (a few times a week), we have to go back and review prior steps [lessons] and she back slides in her progress. However, as mentioned above, I think All About Learning Press is a great company with well-made products.
4) Reading Eggs is a supplemental reading tool we have on the iPad that the girls both ask to use/play on their own. It's great for extra practice. We didn't like it much on our first try a couple of years ago, but came back around to trying it again and it stuck this time. Reading Eggspress is the next level up and includes comprehension questions as well.
5) We also occasionally use Achieve3000 as a supplement. It's not a favorite of mine or my 3rd grader, but we do find it useful in preparation for the standardized test that she is required to take this year, in accordance with Hawaii homeschooling law.
6) Thanks to the kind folks at The Old Schoolhouse and the Schoolhouse Review Crew, we've been enjoying a membership to SchoolhouseTeachers.com. As part of that, we've been using the Daily Writing prompts from Sharon Watson a few days a week and my daughter really enjoys writing in her daily journal as a result. Of course, this is a supplement, but it helps us squeeze in a little more writing!
Keep an eye out for my next post about our curriculum choices and find out what else we use in our homeschool!
Hey Windward friends (and those that are willing to drive to the beautiful Windward side of the island for classes), looks like there are some new ballet and creative movement classes available in your area! RammDance is a new, non-profit professional performing company and dance school that also hosts community dance events. They are holding classes at a new studio/facility (San Bao Center) in Kailua on Hamakua Drive, with new offerings in Creative Movement for ages 3-7, Mommy & Me for ages 18-months to 3 years, Wear-Your-Baby Ballet for mamas wearing baby in a sling/carrier, and even Creative Dance for children with special needs. See below for some fliers and links to get more information.
Their website: www.rammdance.org
A video on a new class: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x-gIk-oZJTw
Their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/RammDance/
Phone: 646-709-5373 (9am-7pm Mon-Fri)
Please note that I am NOT associated or affiliated with RammDance, the San Bao Center, or the owners or teachers of these programs. We have not taken classes/lessons through these companies and I have not visited their facility yet. This is NOT a sponsored ad or review. I have been provided the information and flyers, but have not been compensated in any way for this post. I am sharing simply for informational purposes in hopes that it will benefit my readers by providing them options to look into. Please direct any questions to RammDance. Thank you!
Open Cockpit Day at the Pacific Aviation Museum is coming up on March 5th, 2016, from 10 am – 4 pm in Hangar 79!
The Museum’s popular family aviation adventure returns. Climb into the cockpit of one of several of their historic aircraft and talk story with pilots. Flight suits, helmets, and fun provided. Bring your camera. Open aircraft will include: F-5, RC-3 Seabee, F-111, SH-60, CH-53, and the OH-58. Event is free with Museum admission and free to Museum Members!
Prior to this, we had never done any kind of lap book. We'd been curious about what they entailed, having heard about them from homeschooling friends, so we were happy to give this U.S. Elections Lap-pak a shot. We received the downloadable version of HISTORY Through the Ages Hands-on History Lap-Pak: U.S. Elections. (You can also order this product on CD.) This included:
The lap-pak is loaded with well-written information that my daughter, Big Sis, found absolutely intriguing. She was passionately interested and the study spurred many more questions and lots of productive discussions about the U.S. government and elections. While this lap book study could take several weeks or even a few months to get through, Big Sis asked to work on our "elections pak" every day, which put us well ahead of our planned schedule and we have nearly completed the project in just over a month. Nonetheless, because of the density of information in this product, we plan to continue studying the U.S. election process over the next several months, along with this year's presidential elections, continuing to review and return to the lap book as a reference throughout.
To be honest, it's a lot of work in terms of preparation and assembly. We spent about two hours total, added up over time, printing and cutting out the pieces, and I'd estimate another three or four (added up, over time) in assembling the projects - things like gluing, taping, gathering materials, punching holes, adding glitter, and coloring. Luckily, however, when you spread out the material over many weeks, the time per day and per project is usually minor: possibly as low as 5 or as much as 20 minutes per project (depending on how much coloring one desires to do). But those estimates do not include time spent on the learning aspects such as reading, listening to the audio, researching, or writing. This could, therefore, be an issue for someone looking for everything to be ready-made and already put together, or for those that don't enjoy crafting, coloring, cutting, gluing, and assembling small projects. For others, that will be part of the fun! There is never a homeschool material or curriculum that is perfect for every family. But if you or your child enjoy lap books, projects, and/or crafts, then this could be right up your alley!
My daughter was one of those that love the prep and assembly. I felt it was worth it and am glad we spent the time on it. All our effort resulted in a finished product that was something my daughter could be - and very much is - proud of. She now has something substantial to showcase what she has learned and can reference in the months to come, leading up to the presidential elections this fall, whenever she has questions or needs to refresh her memory. This was nothing like filling out a worksheet that will soon be forgotten or taking notes that all look the same and she likely would never look at again. Instead, this was- especially for my daughter- an enjoyable process that piqued her curiosity and interest in elections, our government, and politics in a way that left her hungry for more, yet with a good initial foundation and overall view of things that gives her the framework she needs for further research and digging deeper into the topic.
Some of our favorite projects included a pop up that showed presidential candidates in a debate and an audience listening, a project that has a fabric curtain (we used felt, which was a bit thick but worked well enough), and the one that shows the steps that lead to an election with a man that slides from one side to the other. Generally, my daughter's top choices were those that were more unique in appearance or design. A few of the projects were more simple, such as a folded page with an image or words inside or a little booklet that was folded and stapled together. Overall, the projects were varied enough from one to the next, providing contrast, visual interest, and hands-on depth. For my visual and hands-on learner, this was a huge plus!
The accompanying written text was concise and to the point. It is not highly in-depth or full of details, but from my understanding, it was not designed to be so. I'd say that it's goal seemed to be to give an overall tour of the U.S. election system and government structure, allowing for a solid understanding of the major points and most important or helpful-to-know facts. Of course, they also offer a list of resources for further reading and study. This is helpful and can really expand on the information presented in the Lap-Pak itself. I found it to be a perfect start for my daughter and she found the text easy to understand and was not at all overwhelmed with too many particulars. We also utilized the provided audio narration of the text, maximizing our homeschool and home life time by studying and reviewing what we had read while folding and sorting laundry. So we got some education and some housework done! Win-win!
All in all, Home School in the Woods' "HISTORY Through the Ages Hands-on History Lap-Pak: U.S. Elections" was a product that we quite enjoyed working on (as evidenced by the fact that we blazed though much of it because my daughter just couldn't get enough)! If you are interested in learning more about this lap-pak or want to know what other products Home School in the Woods offers, you can find them at their website, on Facebook, at Google+, on Pinterest, or follow them on Twitter. And if you'd like to read others' opinions about the U.S. Elections Lap-Pak, click on the banner below for more!
The Pacific Aviation Museum Pearl Harbor's will have a couple of Explorers Club “Eyes on the Sky” four-day STEM programs for students in grades 3-5, coming up in March and July!
Their next "Eyes on the Sky" program will be March 21st – March 24th, 2016. Join them for 4 days of fun exploring Aerospace and Astrophotography through hands-on STEM activities, including:
Program fee is $240, which includes all lunches and snacks, program materials, and program t-shirt. Member price is $216. Registration is now open for Explorers Club Grades 3-5, March 21st-24th from 9:00 a.m. to 3:45 p.m.
Reserve your spot today before registration is full. Register today at http://www.pacificaviationmuseum.org/machform/view.php?id=24404
(Note: This is NOT a sponsored post or ad. I am NOT affiliated or associated with the Pacific Aviation Museum Pearl Harbor and do not receive any benefit or compensation for sharing this information here. This post is being shared for informational purposes only, that my readers might find helpful. Please contact the museum directly with any questions. Enjoy!)
You can also download the program info flyer below.
Oooh, look! CHOH is having a kind of "curriculum show & tell" at their conference this year!
I have run a few similar curriculum shares in the past and have there are a few groups that do small events such as this as well... it always seems to get good feedback. I think this is the first time CHOH has done this and I hope it goes well for them.
Here's an excerpt from their announcement page:
"The 2016 CHOH Conference is having a 'Curriculum Show and Tell' in the Exhibit Hall. If you're a registered attendee at the conference and have a curriculum/program (that is not being exhibited by a vendor), you can help other homeschoolers by showing and telling about your curriculum.
For more information on how you can participate, contact CHOH at email@example.com, subject line 'show and tell'. As a token of [their] appreciation, you will receive a partial refund after the conference."
See more at: http://myemail.constantcontact.com/News-from-Christian-Homeschoolers-Of-Hawaii--Show-and-Tell-at-CHOH-Conference.html?soid=1102552213795&aid=YXtHu30EU9I
AYSO (UK International) Soccer *summer camps* will be available in various regions of Hawaii (and on various dates) again this year. Here's a link to local options: http://www.uksocca.com/Online/A302.php?SSID=HI
My girls have participated in a few of them over the past four years and liked them every time. The coaches have always been great at the ones they've attended. The camps can get hot ('cause, ya know... it's Hawaiian summer sun and no beach!) - so be sure to bring lots of cool water and sunscreen, and possibly a hat as well.
Mililani usually hosts one of these camps as well, but I don't see them listed as I'm posting here. That might mean that not all camps have been scheduled yet, so if that's the case and you don't see one you'd like, perhaps check back again in a couple of weeks.
NOTE: I'm not associated or affiliated with AYSO or the UK International Soccer camps or programs. I'm just sharing this for informational purposes only, in hopes it will be useful to some of my readers. Please contact them directly with questions.
I heard about a new gymnastics facility opening in Aiea (Halawa, near the Aloha Stadium) and was quite excited... I'm always seeking out new opportunities for extra-curricular activities that might be of interest to local homeschoolers! Gymnastics is usually near the top of many families' extra-curricular list, so it's great to have another option. My kids have taken trial lessons at most of the gymnastics schools on the leeward side of Oahu - and participated longer term at one of them - but they are not currently taking lessons so we jumped at the chance to do a trial at Manakoa Gym... especially because the coaches generously accommodated our availability and allowed us to bring several friends along to try it out as well!
Manakoa Gym & Keiki Learning Center is located in an industrial area of Aiea. We spotted the gym by it's red & white shade canopy alongside the building. Parking was mostly limited to the street, but since our trial was on Saturday morning, we were able to easily find a spot close by. [[UPDATE: They now have an arrangement that allows for more parking availability - yay!]] Upon arrival, we noticed that the facility was rather small, but the closer I looked, the more impressed I was by the careful use of space and consideration of detail put into the design. At first, it didn't look like it had a lot to offer in terms of equipment, but they fit a lot into the room they have, including a small foam pit, a trampoline, rings, a rope, bars, balance beams, and lots of pads of all kinds. I think it lends itself well to their mission of recreational gymnastics and a learning center. While they cater to most ages (from walking toddlers all the way to adults), this space will likely appeal particularly well to the younger set (I know our kids liked it). They have a type of "loft" as a second level, with some seating and tables for parents to use while waiting, a small store with gear and snacks, and a desk with office space. It appears that there are a few toys to occupy younger siblings as well. Everything was clean, new, and ready for students!
The staff seemed friendly, kind, and welcoming. Our group had kids from age 2 through age 11, so the coaches wisely divided them into three groups to accommodate their different ages and developmental stages. Each group rotated throughout the gym to give them all a chance at the various activities and available equipment. It appeared that all the kids enjoyed themselves and left happy.
One of the unique things about Manakoa Gym is the "Keiki Learning Center" aspect. The staff incorporates math, language, and science learning into the gymnastics lessons! Prior to this trial, I'd never heard of anything similar, but they seemed to do it really well. They kept the kids moving and only stopped for brief moments to discuss something. Sometimes they used flash cards with letters or pictures for the younger kids, that they would point to, pick up, grab, or put down in between rolls, tumbles, or balancing tasks. They didn't lecture and didn't seem to linger too long - particularly important for the young kids. Beyond the gymnastics classes, I also noticed that they offer academic only tutoring too!
I spoke briefly with the Director of the facility and was impressed with what they're establishing, all they've put into the facility, their apparent heart for what they do, and what they are offering the community. While I've only had short and limited interactions with them, they seem like genuine people that really want to help and teach kids.
I asked about daytime classes for homeschoolers, and they have a lot of options to choose from! You can see their class schedule and rates on their website. As of the date of this post, they offer classes as early as 10am and as late as 6pm (depending on the day), even for older children! And they even offer classes on Sunday! (No classes on Tuesday.) I also asked if they would accept MBTA funds (an allotment that some local charter school students receive) and they seemed very open to the possibility. Anyone interested in this should definitely ask and get the details from the staff directly.
So would I recommend it? Yes... or at least that anyone interested takes a trial lesson. Would I recommend this to absolutely everyone? No.. but only because nothing suits all families. Manakoa gym seemed lower key and I'm not sure what they offer, if anything, to those looking for a competitive gymnastics program. At the time of my original review, parking could be limited during the weekdays (apparently before about 3pm) and that could bother some people, while others will consider it par for the course here in Hawaii. [[UPDATE: They now have an arrangement that allows for more parking availability - yay!]] The location could be ideal for some and not for others. You get the point. :-) It is definitely worth checking out - especially if your child has an interest in gymnastics (and you want them to learn something extra along the way)! What homechooling parent doesn't want that?
If you are interested in seeing their facility and finding out more, you might want to join them for their Open House this Saturday, February 6th, from 1-4pm. According to their website, they will have activities, games, exhibitions, open gym, food, music, prizes, and more!
This post is for informational purposes only; a chance for me to share our experience. It was NOT sponsored, nor is it an advertisement. I am NOT affiliated or associated with Manakoa Gym. I have NOT received any compensation, perk, or benefit in return for this informational/review blog post. The post was made because I wanted to share about a new extra-curricular option. All of the opinions herein are that of my own or my family. Because I am not associated with the gym, the details I share here could very well change at any time without notice or my knowledge of such. Any questions should be directed to Manakoa Gym staff.
I'm a homeschooling mom of three, enjoying our time in Hawaii and hoping to share some of that experience with you, including ideas, reviews, resources, and information.