Fun Educational Spring Activities

Educational Activities to Welcome the Spring

Spring is literally around the corner!

Whether you’re a homeschool family like us, or your kids are home on spring break, I bet you’re looking for ideas on how to enjoy the warmer weather we’ve all been desperately waiting for.

Or, maybe that I’ve been desperately waiting for?

I mean, if you’ve read my recent post, you’re well aware that for me, and many other homeschoolers, winter is burnout season. But we’ve powered through it and kindly welcome the chirping birds (let’s hope they don’t bully us this year and that they make their nests in a location other than our front porch), the budding flowers, the milder days, and the sound of children enjoying the great outdoors.

Enter, springtime! How, oh how, shall we celebrate?

Of course, spending more time playing outdoors, taking bike rides, and basking in the sunshine are obvious ways to welcome the spring months. I, however, wanted to recommend some of the educational activities we’ve done in the past that our boys especially enjoyed. All the activities I’m about to mention are family friendly and age-adaptable. Most importantly, they are super fun!

So, let’s get into it, shall we?


 

7 Educational Activities to Welcome the Spring



1. Learn about bees and pollination.

Bees and Pollination Spring Activities

Where did we learn about bees and pollination? During a spring field trip to our local farm. We learned how bees make honey and how humans harvest it, the differences between male and female bees, and the important role bees play in pollination. We also got to taste some local honey harvested right there on the farm!

You don’t have to venture far to learn about bees, though. There are a ton of YouTube videos and library books on the subject that can be taught right from the comfort of your back porch on a beautiful spring day. But, of course, a lesson on a beautiful farm takes things up a notch.

And while you’re at it, invest in some local honey if the spring season aggravates your child’s allergies. Local honey is a great natural way to combat allergy season. Just a spoonful will do for children over one-year-old. And as a friendly reminder; never give honey to an infant.

 

2. Plant something green.

Planting and Botany Spring Activities

After covering our lesson on plant science, which included an awesome plant-cycle activity in our interactive science notebooks, we decided to get hands on. Planting grass is such an easy, no-nonsense experiment for children because it easily grows in many different environments. My boys loved taking care of their indoor plant and watching it change over time.

We got our seeds for free at a local farm, but you can pretty much purchase these seeds at any Lowes, home depot, Walmart, and even Target. In fact, Target has some pretty cool starter grow kits for tomatoes, carrots, and other veggies if you’re feeling adventurous.

 

3. Pick some strawberries.

Strawberry Picking Spring Activities

Did you know strawberries are the first fruit to ripen each spring? That makes them the perfect fruit to welcome the spring months. So, pack up the kids, head to your local orchard, and get ready to pick some juicy strawberries!

But don’t stop there. Check if your local orchard offers guided tours, classes, or other educational opportunities to maximize your learning experience. Our local orchard taught our homeschool group a lesson on the life-cycle of strawberries and how to properly pick them before we ventured off to pick our own. We also ate some delicious homemade strawberry ice-cream, compliments of the farm.

 

4. Visit a butterfly garden.

Butterfly Garden Spring Activities

Most butterfly gardens are open to the public. Visit one and learn about the many species of butterflies and their native habitats. The butterflies in the garden are typically friendly and will interact with you and your children. My boys even fed them nectar, which was the closest they’ve ever been to the beautiful creatures they tend to chase in our backyard.

Don’t have a local butterfly garden? Invest in a butterfly kit and grow your own butterflies. You can find them just about anywhere, but Amazon is probably your best bet. The kit comes with live caterpillars that turn into adult butterflies. Be sure to set them free after you’ve finished marveling at their transformation.

 

5. Camp out while doing your lessons.

Camping and Spring Activities

Got a tent taking up space in your garage? Pitch it in your backyard and turn it into your spring classroom. Pack your laptop, sleeping bags, and yummy treats to cozy up and watch a documentary together. Or, pack some clipboards for easy writing and do your normal lessons in the fun cozy setting of your backyard tent.

You can also go on a real camping adventure. Just search for popular campsites in your area. Many parks and other recreational areas offer great camping grounds complete with beautiful scenery and the necessary facilities to make the most of your camping trip. Your kids will love solving math problems by the lake or underneath a tunnel of trees in the forest.

 

6. Do some spring-themed brainteasers.

Spring Themed Worksheets & Brain Teasers

Who can resist the plethora of cute spring-themed worksheets on the good ol’ internet? They’re especially handy “boredom-busters” for those rainy spring days when everyone is stuck at home. Education.com has got you covered! Not only does this resource offer an abundance of spring-themed worksheets, but also brain-teasers, games, and lesson plans for just about every topic I mentioned in this blog post.

Check out the brain-teaser below for a fun way to challenge your child’s cognitive thought processes, and improve their concentration, memory, and brain strength. Download it here for FREE!

Spring Maze Brain Teaser

Spring Maze
To celebrate the beginning of spring, these friendly flowers are here to help you through this maze! Be sure to check out Education.com for more learning fun.

7. Learn about local birds and make a birdhouse.

Building a Birdhouse Spring Activities

Making a birdhouse is not only fun, but is also incredibly easy to find in kit-form. We purchased our wooden birdhouse kits from Lowes and my boys had a great time building and painting them. All we needed was a kiddie hammer, some paint supplies, a back porch, and a beautiful spring day.

If you have a local nature center, it is the perfect place to learn about local birds and other wildlife. During our visit, we learned most of the wildlife at our nature center have been nursed back to health after being found injured or orphaned. Our boys got to see owls, eagles, and many other beautiful birds up close and personal. There’s something magical that happens when kids interact with animals!


 

Well, that completes my list. I hope you try out some of these activities this spring. A big thanks to Education.com for another great partnership to bring you awesome educational resources for your children and students. As you know, Education.com is one of my favorite resources so it’s always a pleasure to work with them.

Need more ideas? Click here for other spring-friendly field-trip ideas and join me on Instagram to see what activities we do this coming spring!

Be sure to let me know in the comments what your family’s favorite springtime activities are.

Until next time, friends…

Frugal Homeschool Field Trips to Take This Year

Frugal Homeschool Field Trips to Take This Year

Hi!

If you’re new here, my name is Nike (nee-kay) Anderson and I am a fourth-year homeschooler of two boys, ages five and nine. Welcome to the family!

The field trip conversation emerges quite often in homeschool communities. I’ve noticed most moms would love to do more with their family but they just don’t know where to begin. So, I figured I’d make a post about some of the awesome field trips we’ve taken that are kid and wallet approved! Some of these field trips were hosted by our homeschool group while others were family adventures. I highly suggest joining a homeschool group or co-op if you haven’t already. Having a community takes care of the burden that often comes with planning field trips. It also ensures you’d get to take advantage of discounted group rates and free tours.

Here are Other Reasons to Take Group Field Trips:

  • To expose your children to different experiences that inspire learning beyond the textbooks.
  • To give your children the opportunity to fellowship with their peers.
  • To create pleasant memories of your homeschool experience.
  • To give your children the opportunity to learn from other people (tour guides, teachers, volunteers, etc).
  • To get out of the house!
  • To expose your children to possible new interests of study.
  • To encourage your family to do things you wouldn’t normally do on your own.

What are some personal benefits we’ve experienced with group field trips?

  • I’ve met awesome people whom I’ve had the pleasure of developing friendships with, and suddenly homeschool doesn’t seem so lonely.
  • My boys are more confident in building friendships because they know they will see the same faces.
  • Meeting a couple times a month breaks up the monotony of homeschool life, and takes the pressure off of me to provide my boys with social opportunities.
  • My boys are more aware that they are not the only homeschool kids in the world, and now feel a sense of community.
  • We get to integrate, and form connections with, people who don’t look like us as well a people from different walks of life.

So, without further ado, let’s get into it, shall we?


27 Frugal Homeschool Field Trips to Take This Year


 

1. Tour your local creamery and learn how they make their ice cream.

Coldstone Creamery Tour | Homeschool Field Trips

Be sure to check out your local creamery to inquire about group tours. Our homeschool group has been able to arrange a tour with our local Coldstone Creamery for the past couple years. The field trip typically takes place in the morning during low-traffic hours. Our host gives us a brief history of how the creamery started and an in-depth tour of how their ice-cream is imported, stored, and made. She even shows us how they make their famous waffle cones. Of course, there are yummy samples to taste during this tour. The creamery is also kind enough to offer us a group discount on ice cream. It is the one time our kids get to have ice cream after breakfast and they love it!

 

2. Tour your local orchard and learn about the fruits in season—and pick some of your own!

Strawberry Patch | Homeschool Field Trips

We typically visit the orchard during strawberry season. Not all orchards are created equal, so be sure to choose one that specializes in field trips if you can. It makes a huge difference! Orchards that specialize in field trips typically have awesome learning centers, tour guides, thorough instructions on proper strawberry picking, group discounts on strawberries, and maybe even some complimentary fresh strawberry ice cream! We were able to learn about the plant life cycle, plant our own seeds (which we were allowed to take home), learn about bees and their significance in pollination, taste some yummy local honey, learn about the life cycle of strawberries, and of course pick our own very own strawberries to take home and enjoy.

 

3. Tour your local pizza shop and learn how they make their classic pizza.

Who doesn’t want to know how to make pizza? Take advantage of group discount rates and arrange to have a tour and lunch at your local pizza parlor. Our homeschool group arranged this field trip last year and it was great to not have to worry about packing lunch. There’s just something about eating together that solidifies bonds. Our children not only learned a new recipe, but they also learned the importance of safety and hygienic precautions when handling food in the kitchen.

 

4. Tour your local aviation museum and learn about historical events.

Museum of Aviation | Homeschool Field Trips

If you’re fortunate enough to live in an area that has free admission museums, take full advantage! Some museums also host free events or days when admission is free. I remember traveling to Washington, DC and all the museums were free to explore! Here, in my small town, we’re fortunate enough to have an aviation museum full of history and awesome aircraft exhibits. We’ve visited there many times and it’s a great place for kids to learn about historical events like the Vietnam War, the Korean War, and WWII. Not to mention all there is to learn about the many different aircraft, military vehicles, and notable service men and women.

 

5. Tour your local news station and learn the ins and out of news production.

News Station | Homeschool Field Trips

You may find favor at your local news station, so call around and arrange a tour! Our local news station was gracious enough to give our older children a tour of the facility. Our host was a meteorologist from the weather team. This was perfect because he was able to show us some really cool behind-the-scenes adventures. One of those adventures included some interactive green screen fun! I’d say that was the highlight of the field trip.

 

6. Tour your local police department and learn what officers do when they’re not out patrolling.

Of course, learning how they catch criminals is exciting, but there’s much more that goes into being a police officer. Our homeschool group took a field trip to our local police station, where we received a tour of the building—even where the criminals go when they first arrive. The most exciting part of the trip, aside from getting a tour of the police car and seeing how the siren works, was getting a peek inside the forensic department. The forensic department showed us how their latest technology can accurately analyze collected evidence from crime scenes. Oh, how the kids loved the magic of the blue light, which made invisible things visible!

 

7. Visit the aquarium and learn about aquatic life.

Aquarium | Homeschool Field Trips

We’d have to travel over an hour to visit the huge Georgia aquarium and pay over $100 for the experience. Luckily, we have a local aquatic center for just a fraction of the cost. The kids can see freshwater aquariums, underwater habitats, and learn about native aquatic wildlife. The 200,000-gallon outdoor aquarium houses over 50 species that include trout, alligators, and more. Our group even got to watch the divers clean the tanks and feed the fish.

 

8. Tour your local post office and learn how mail is handled and transported.

Post Office | Homeschool Field Trips

Ever wonder what happens to a letter after you slip it into the mailbox and bid it farewell? Taking a field trip to the post office is a must! Our kids were quite surprised to learn just how much behind-the-scenes it takes for a letter to “magically” end up in our mailbox every afternoon. Our tour guide showed us the entire process of a letter from the time it enters the post office to its departure for delivery. The kiddos even got to check out the mail truck, pictured above, which was a huge hit. The wonder of children always amazes me; they’re impressed by the simplest things we often take for granted.

 

9. Get fishing lessons from your local education center.

Fishing. | Homeschool Field Trips

This is one idea you don’t see on the field trip list very often, but fishing is a beautiful skill worth acquiring. This field trip has been on our list for the past three years. We aren’t a fishing type of family, but we were happy to learn the basics at our local education center. Since it’s a catch and release system, we don’t get to keep the fish we catch (not that we’ve ever caught any, haha), but it’s fun practice and a great pastime for kids. Afterward, we washed our hands and ate our packed lunches with our homeschool group at nearby picnic tables.

 

10. Tour your local fire department and learn about fire safety.

This is a pretty standard field trip, but if you haven’t visited the fire department yet, I highly suggest it. Parents and children alike will learn proper fire safety precautions as well as what firemen do at the fire station. At the very least, you’ll be convicted to change those batteries in your smoke detectors and implement a safe procedure for your family in the event of a house fire. Our children also learned about the safety equipment firemen must wear and their different functions. And since their masks can be pretty scary, the firemen made sure to let our children know that if they’re ever stuck in a fire and see someone wearing a mask, that person is there to help so never hide from them. But, of course, the highlight of this field trip was getting a tour of the fire engine!

 

11. Tour your local farm and learn how to care for farm animals.

Farm | Homeschool Field Trips

One of the perks of living in Middle Georgia is that there are farms everywhere. We’ve visited quite a few farms and have petted our fair share of cute furry pals. Something special happens when children connect with animals. They learn so much just by observing; the gentleness of a sheep eating from your hand, the way horses stand when they’re asleep, how content a pig looks wallowing in the mud. It’s also important for children to understand how important it is to treat animals kindly, and to be shown an example of what taking proper care of animals looks like.

 

12. Arrange a hike and discover nature.

Hiking | Homeschool Field Trips

We love trails! Thankfully, there are plenty to choose from in our neck of the woods, so we’ve hiked quite a few. Taking a nice hike along your city’s most gorgeous trail is such an easy and low-cost field trip that everyone can enjoy. The kids get to explore and burn some energy, and the parents get their exercise in for the day. Everyone wins! If your trail has a welcome center, grab a brochure of the native flora and see how many you can find along the way. Pack a lunch to eat later with your group and bring plenty of water.

 

13. Visit a nature center and learn about native wildlife.

Nature Trail and Center | Homeschool Field Trips

Zoos are pretty popular, but have you ever visited a nature center? Our local nature center was originally a rehabilitation center for injured and orphaned native wildlife that couldn’t be released back into the wild due to the severity of their injuries. We’ve seen a variety of owls, eagles, cougars, aquatic animals, and more. These beautiful creatures are now used to teach children (and adults!) the significance of each species and the role they play in our big world. It’s a beautiful depiction of the interdependent relationship between humans and animals.

 

14. Attend seasonal events together and bond.

Solar Eclipse | Homeschool Field Trip

Arrange to meet up and fellowship at your local fall festival, Thanksgiving parade, Christmas lights show, spring break carnival, Independence Day celebration, etc. In fact, we’ve actually run into a few of our homeschool friends at these events and arranged to enjoy the experience together. Pictured above is our children at the 2017 solar eclipse experience hosted by our local museum. It was our very first field trip of the school year and was very much impromptu. The museum provided education pamphlets, maps, telescopes, and delicious food trucks. How wonderful was it for us to experience this rare occasion with our homeschool friends? It’s an event we can all remember and talk about for years to come.

 

15. Tour your state capital or local government building and meet some of the nation’s leaders.

State Capital | Homeschool Field Trip

Does your state have a Homeschool Day at the Capitol event? If so, arrange a field trip with your homeschool buddies and go! Homeschool Day at the Capitol is when homeschoolers across the state gather to meet and thank legislators. It’s a full day of learning and activities from classes to tours and fellowship with other homeschoolers in your state. But you don’t have to wait for this annual event to schedule a field trip, most capital buildings are open to the public during normal business hours. Pictured above is our trip to the nation’s capital, where we toured the grounds of the Capitol Building and learned its purpose and history.

 

16. Organize a Field Day and work on sportsmanship and team-building skills.

Field Day | Homeschool Field Trips

Field day is probably our most popular annual homeschool event. We find a nice park to host it, ensure proper booking, and then meet and coordinate the events of the day. We accommodate all age groups from preschool through high school, and it’s typically an all morning and afternoon affair, so definitely more like a day trip. Best of all, our children get to bond with their friends while practicing important skills like sportsmanship and team-building.

 

17. Tour your local library and learn how to search for books on your favorite topics.

Library Tour | Homeschool Field Trips

Do you visit the library often? A guided tour might be just the thing to help your children become more familiar with the space, services, and resources the library has to offer. Guided tours offer lessons on how to search for books by author, keyword, or topic, how to identify and search for call numbers, how to request a book through Inter-library loan, and how to access ebooks, periodicals, etc. Our tour even included an interactive call number search game, where students were given a sheet of paper with a list of books that they had to search for and check-off as they found them. It was so much fun!

 

18. Visit a science museum and take a STEAM class.

STEM Class | Homeschool Field Trips

Science museums have much to offer, but did you know some of them also offer extracurricular classes? It’s worth looking into! Our recent trip to the Museum of Arts and Sciences included an interactive lesson on states of matter followed by a craft. The craft required students to make a piece of artwork using a liquid (melted wax), solid  (crayons), and a gas (colorful air bubbles). They also enjoyed a lesson on different habitats, which featured live animals. So, if you’re dreading teaching science lessons to your children, make it easy on yourself and gather a few friends to take advantage of low-cost classes in your area. Be sure to note your museum’s minimum student requirement to ensure you have enough participants.

 

19. Visit the planetarium and learn how to identify constellations.

Planetarium | Homeschool Field Trips

Turns out our local science museum also has a planetarium, which is an awesome field trip idea for astronomy lovers. If you have a planetarium in your area, this is an experience you won’t want to miss. A planetarium is a large room with a dome ceiling that allows you to see what the night sky looks like. It also serves as a theater that presents educational shows right inside the dome. You’ll have to recline for this experience! We couldn’t take pictures while inside the planetarium, so pictured above is the Science on a Sphere exhibit right outside the entrance. Inside the planetarium, we learned how to identify planets and constellations in the night sky. We also watched a 3-D presentation exploring galaxies.

 

20. Visit your local ranch and learn how to make corn flour.

Ranch Corn Flour | Homeschool Field Trips

Not only did we learn how to make corn flour by hand at our local ranch, but we also got to take a dive into the corn bin, among other things. Maybe your local ranch doesn’t offer this service, but I’m sure there are other great services they might offer, like seasonal field trips or guided tours. One seasonal field trip we took advantage of at our ranch was the guided program, Pilgrim to Pioneer Days, which taught the history of Thanksgiving. It included interactive lessons, a tractor wagon ride tour of the 1,500-acre farm, and access to the farm’s attractions. Prices may vary depending on the facility, but for our family of four, this trip averaged $36 for a full day’s experience.

 

21. Visit one of the tallest skyscrapers in your city and learn about its history.

Atlanta Skyscraper | Homeschool Field Trip

Our boys love architecture, especially skyscrapers. Last year, we decided to take a trip into the city and go inside one of the tallest skyscrapers of Atlanta—The Westin Peachtree Plaza, also known as the Sun Dial. Of course, we wanted to visit the tallest one, but we had to settle for the skyscraper that offered open viewing to the public. For a small fee, we rode an elevator up 72 flights of the 723-foot building, the fifth tallest in the city. We read about its history, had a 360-degree view of the Atlanta skyline, gazed through the complimentary telescopes, and pointed out famed landmarks. It was an amazing experience. Even more so through the wide eyes of children. Afterward, we ate lunch and walked the Northside trail (I told you we love trails!).

 

22. Visit your local pumpkin patch during the Fall and enjoy seasonal activities and a hayride.

Pumpkin Patch | Homeschool Field Trip

It shouldn’t be hard to find a local pumpkin patch that offers hayrides and other seasonal activities. Where we live, there’s much to choose from. The patch we like visiting offers face painting, story time, unstructured play activities, a fun hayride, and an array of different types of pumpkins available for purchase. Like most of the field trips I’ve mentioned, this was an organized field trip by our homeschool group and it was completely free!

 

23. Attend a Saturday workshop at Michaels or Home Depot and pack a lunch to eat at a nearby park afterward.

Workshop Class | Homeschool Field Trips

Did you know that Home Depot and Michaels hosts Saturday workshops for kids? If you didn’t, now you know! We used to take advantage of Lowes’ Build and Grow Kids’ workshops in the past but they’ve been discontinued. Thankfully, Home Depot hosts similar workshops where kids can learn how to make different objects out of wood. These workshops take place on scheduled Saturdays each month at participating Home Depots nationwide. Best if all? It’s FREE! And if that wasn’t awesome enough, the kids receive a free kit, apron, pin, and certificate of achievement. Michaels also hosts a $2 Kids’ Club craft project on scheduled Saturday mornings. This is a great, budget-friendly, field trip idea for your family or homeschool group.

 

24. Watch an outdoor movie hosted by your local park.

Outdoor Movie | Homeschool Field Trips

Another awesomely free field trip idea is to enjoy an outdoor movie at your local park. All you have to do is follow their social media pages to stay up-to-date on these types of events. Pictured above, we enjoyed a beautiful day at the lake that ended with an outdoor viewing of the movie, Moana. We enjoyed complimentary popcorn and hot cocoa, and we packed our own picnic. If you want to make this experience more “educational,” read or watch videos about the history and/or making of the movie. My boys loved learning how CGI movies are created. They also followed tutorials on how to draw some of the Moana characters and attempted to learn how to play “How Far I’ll Go” on the keyboard (bless my ears! Haha!).

 

25. Visit a Butterfly Garden and learn about different butterfly species.

Butterfly Garden | Homeschool Field Trips

Ever visit a butterfly garden before? There’s no time like the present to give it a go. I don’t want to assume everyone knows what a butterfly garden is, so I’ll offer a brief definition. A butterfly garden is where live butterflies are in an enclosure and you can walk through their habitat. They are also called butterfly houses and/or farms. It’s an absolutely beautiful observatory, where people can learn about the many species of butterflies and their native habitats. As you can see from the picture above, the butterflies are typically friendly and will interact with you and your children. We even fed them nectar. Most gardens are open to the public, so research your area for the nearest butterfly exhibit.

 

26. Organize a “Lunch & Lesson” and learn something new together over a tasty meal.

Lunch and Lesson | Homeschool Field Trips

Is it weird to take a field trip to someone’s home? We don’t think so! Lunch & Lesson is something my friend and I arranged this month for our children to learn Black History together. The event took place at my home, where I prepared a lesson, craft, and lunch for the kiddos. Pictured above is last week’s Lunch & Lesson. We ate hot dogs and french fries, and learned about Bessie Coleman. Since Bessie Coleman was the first black woman to earn a pilot license, we built and painted wooden airplanes while listening to Newsboys. It was awesome! If this is something your speed, you could arrange something similar and invite people over. It doesn’t have to be Black history, you could cover any subject of interest or simply get together to craft.

 

27. Go to the skating rink, burn some energy, fellowship——and perhaps learn a new skill if you’re new to skating.

Skating | Homeschool Field Trips

Our monthly skating events are not only fun, but an opportunity for my boys to hone their skating skills. In a world where “book smarts” is glorified, sometimes we forget our children also learn through developing gross motor skills. Roller skating works all parts of the body and is especially good for the heart. Like most physical activity, skating is also a great way for children to relieve stress. Our local skating rink is kind enough to open its facility to us during non-conventional hours, so long as we continue to have enough people participate. If your local skating rink doesn’t already offer something similar, you could gather enough homeschoolers and petition for it. It’s worth the group discount rate, and your children will have a place they can regularly fellowship each month.


 

That concludes my list of frugal homeschool field trips that we’ve enjoyed over the years. This list is not at all-comprehensive, but it does include the field trips I can remember off-hand—and also the ones I remembered to document on camera. If this is your first homeschool year and you’re feeling a way about not taking enough field trips, please know this wasn’t our reality our first year either. It took time for us to find a homeschool community we could feel a part of. However, not being plugged in didn’t stop us from enjoying family adventures of our own. I do hope this list inspires you to make the most of your homeschool experience.

Until next time, friends…

 

Homeschool Dilemma How Do I Socialize My Children?

Homeschool Dilemma | How Do I Socialize My Children?

Socialization seems to be a top concern for prospective homeschool parents. It also seems to be a concern for homeschool critics. In fact, whenever the subject of homeschool emerges, I can almost guarantee the person on the other end of the conversation will mention something about socialization.

Before I go any further, I want to mention that it’s a common misconception that homeschool and poor social skills are directly correlated. They are not. There are many children who attend public school that lack proper socialization skills, but we’d never attribute this deficiency to them being “public-schooled,” right? Instead, we’d just chalk it up to their personality. After all, many people are introverted and socially awkward.

When it comes to homeschool, like public school, I’ve met children who are super extroverted and outgoing, and I’ve met children who are super shy and introverted. It just depends. I’m a member of three homeschool groups and teach homeschool classes, so I’ve been exposed to tons of homeschooled children on the regular basis and they are all different.

But how do we actually keep our children socialized? The simple answer is, by socializing with them. After all, “socialization” defined means to mix socially with others. Every family has members with different personalities, values, and conflicts. Therefore, by definition, learning to interact and peacefully resolve conflicts with parents and siblings is socialization enough for a child.

I suppose when some people think of homeschool, they imagine a family living in the middle of nowhere on a farm with very little interaction with the “outside” world. There’s nothing wrong with these types of families, I know a few and most of their children are social butterflies, but I’m here to tell you the homeschool demographic has shifted. I spoke with a retired educator this past summer who was floored by all the social opportunities that are now available for homeschoolers.

Here are a few that we take advantage of:

 

1. Co-ops.

Homeschool coops and socialization
It’s relay race time for the kindergarten co-op class.

My children meet weekly and learn elective subjects with their peers. All classes are taught by a skilled parent (some of which are former educators). Classes my boys have taken include physical education, group reading, math games, building and engineering, music, theater, geography, cooking, and more! There are over one-hundred families signed up for co-op each semester, so there are loads of kids. We host spirit days, picnics, and even theater nights.

Pictured above is one of the kindergarten classes I teach at my local co-op. We were trying to help them get their wiggles out before their next class, so we held an impromptu relay race in the hallway. I typically don’t get to take pictures of my kids in their classes because I’m teaching. This year, however, my kindergartner is in my first-hour class, so I’m happy to get at least one picture in!

It’s important to mention that all co-ops differ. Some co-ops offer organized sports. Some co-ops offer playdates. Some co-ops are even community service based. If you’re new to homeschool or just looking to meet new friends, be sure to search the types of co-ops your city has to offer.

 

2. Homeschool Groups

Homeschool group and socialization
A picnic lunch after exploring the Go-Fish Education Center.

My children attend fieldtrips, playdates, picnics, holiday parties, and other fun events with their homeschool “squad” (that’s what we call it). We meet at least a couple times a month to enjoy the day together. What’s great about the homeschool group and co-op is that they provide an opportunity to build longevity in friendships. My boys met their best friends through our homeschool group and I think it’s awesome that they get to grow up and experience homeschool together.

Pictured above are my boys’ best friends all in one photo! We ventured out to the Go-Fish Education Center and learned all about aquatic life. We even got to go fishing! When the exploring was over, some of the group decided to stick around and have a picnic lunch. We feel so blessed to have these experiences.

How do you find a homeschool group or co-op in your area? Facebook is your best bet! Just type in “homeschool groups near me” in the Facebook search-box and request to join the group that best suits your family. An additional application process may be required.

 

3. Library Events

geography class library Homeschool and socialization
Our public library hosts awesome classes for homeschoolers.

The library is always hosting events for children. Our local library even offers bi-monthly homeschool STEM classes. I make a habit of downloading the library events calendar from their website and marking off events we’d like to attend. Such events include read-alouds, craft activities, Lego clubs, STEM classes, reading books to shelter animals, and more!

Pictured above is a homeschool geography class hosted by our public library. This was a great series! The class learned about different countries and did hands-on activities. They hosted an exhibit day where students could bring in currency from countries they’ve traveled to. The students also did an oral presentation on a country of their choice (my son chose Nigeria, of course.) And my absolute favorite class was when they hosted a feast where the students brought a cultural dish related to a specific country.

Visit your local library’s website and search their “events” or “calendar” tabs to find out what they have to offer. I like to print out my local library’s calendar and highlight the events we’re interested in attending. I will say, though, that nothing beats visiting the library and speaking with a knowledgeable librarian about opportunities for homeschoolers.

 

4. Homeschool Days

homeschool skate day
Enjoying our monthly homeschool skate day.

Our local skating rink, trampoline park, bowling alley, museums, and other venues offer what we call “homeschool days” where they open the facility to homeschool families usually at a discounted rate. This is a great opportunity for my boys to meet children who are not a part of our homeschool group. It’s also a lot of fun!

Pictured above is our monthly Homeschool Skate Day. This day is open for all homeschoolers to come out and socialize. They can skate together, play at the indoor playground, or hang out at the cafeteria over some fries and a coke. This is an all-ages affair and a super lax environment.

Check with your local recreational businesses to see what they have to offer homeschoolers. Zoos and aquariums may also offer extracurricular classes. Sometimes, these venues will agree to start incorporating homeschool days if the demand is there. Therefore, you can always round-up homeschoolers in your area to petition for such services if they’re not offered.

 

5. Extracurricular Classes

44f6b50d-bc73-4903-85ee-f1f3f9b04677
A lesson on states of matter at the Museum of Arts & Sciences.

So, I’ve talked about co-op classes and library classes for homeschoolers, but that’s just the beginning. There are many places that offer extracurricular classes that benefit homeschoolers. Some of our local museums offer STEM courses at a decent price. Our local education center offers low-cost classes on fishing, aquatic animals, and natural resources.

Pictured above is a lesson on states of matter during our group trip to the Museum of Arts & Sciences. Students were able to do a fun art project using a liquid, solid, and gas. They even learned about plasma. This lesson was followed by a lecture on birds, reptiles, and mammals with live animals included! To cap off our trip, we visited the planetarium and watched an awesome presentation on galaxies and constellations.

Art and music studios have also reached out to homeschoolers in our area, offering discounted group rates. Even our state capital offers legislation classes every year for homeschoolers, along with a free tour of the capital building and an opportunity to meet legislators. Local churches have also been kind to homeschoolers. One of them just started offering science classes to homeschool students this year!

Now, I can only speak for my city, but I’m sure there are similar opportunities in yours. You’d be surprised which establishments offer opportunities to homeschoolers. As previously stated, if you find absolutely nothing, you can always petition if you show them you have enough homeschoolers who are interested in their services.

 

6. Organized Sports

Homeschool socialization sports
It’s game-day for our Upward Sports 2018 soccer team!

My boys took taekwondo classes in the past. This year, they’re trying their hand at soccer. Organized sports are great because it means my boys have teammates who are most likely not homeschooled. Exposure to non-homeschooled children is a great way to eradicate untrue stereotypes about homeschoolers.

I’ve read that public schools in some states allow homeschooled students to partake in their organized sports programs. That’s not the case where I live, but we do take advantage of the Upward Sports program. Upward Sports is statewide and offers basketball, soccer, football, cheerleading, and more! So, if you’re a homeschool family looking for organized sports opportunities, check to see if there is an Upward Sports program in your area. Your local recreation center is also a good place to check out.

Pictured above is my oldest son’s Upward Sports soccer team. As you can see, the teams are unisex and generally separated by age group. Here, the coaches are handing out Game Day Stars. The stars represent a virtue that the athlete exhibited well, like good sportsmanship, humility, etc. The program prides itself on not just focusing on performance but also the character of each athlete.

 

7. Church

Homeschool and Socialization
Excited for Salvation Day at our home church.

We are a family of Believers so attending church is another opportunity for our children to interact with their peers. Our church has a dynamic children’s ministry for each age group and my boys look forward to seeing their friends every Sunday.

Like co-ops and homeschool groups, attending church is yet another way my boys have the opportunity to form long-term friendships since they’re exposed to the same group of kids on the regular basis. And it’s not just during service that they get to see each other, but they look forward to running into their friends at all the family events hosted by our church.

Pictured above is my oldest son with some of his classmates on Salvation Day at our home church. It was a special day because he accepted Jesus Christ into his life! Since my husband and I attend the adult service, we rarely get to take pictures of our kids at church. I’m so glad that our church hosts a Facebook page just for the children’s ministry so that we can see our boys in action. So, a huge thank you to our church for this beautiful image.

 

8. Travel

Capitol Building Washington DC
Spending the day in DC was a blast!

As Georgians who have family that lives in Nigeria, Maryland, Rhode Island and Tennessee, travel is something we love to do. The great thing about traveling with kids is that it really does open their eyes to the diversity that exists in the world. They understand the concept of culture and accents, and that not everyone looks, speaks, or even believes as they do.

Pictured above is our spring trip to the nation’s capital. People from all around the globe flock to DC every year! Not only is it home to the White House and Capitol building, but it’s also home to seventeen museums, all of which are free! Some museums include the African American Civil War Museum, the National Geographic Museum, and the International Spy Museum to name a few. It was great to surround our children with such culture and diversity.

You don’t have to spend big bucks to travel. Every so often, we like to take day-trips to Atlanta or other surrounding cities and states and explore what they have to offer. All you need is a good running car and some gas! Parks are everywhere and they are generally free. You could also arrange a day-trip on a day you know certain museums offer free admission. Many children’s museums have FREE admission days!

 

9. Playdates

playdate
An intimate pool party at their best friend’s house.

While our homeschool group hosts playdates, I also take the liberty of arranging personal playdates outside the group. Personal playdates are great because they create a more intimate setting, allowing for the parents and children to bond more. These playdates can take place in your home or a mutual place like the park.

Pictured above is an intimate pool party we were invited to by good friends of ours. It was just my boys and her boys splashing around and bonding on a beautiful late August day. We try to be intentional about getting our kids together in-between homeschool group events so that they can strengthen that bond.

I must mention, you don’t have to be best friends with the parents to make this happen. In fact, our first playdates with other families were arranged solely based on the fact that our children hit it off and we wanted them to see more of each other. The more we got together, the more my friendships grew with each parent. So, don’t be afraid to take initiative and exchange contact info with the parents of your child’s new friend.

 

10. Community Events

Homeschool and Socialization
Making new friends at the Spring Fest!

We don’t just rely on our homeschool group to provide the fun, we go out searching for the fun, too! There’s an amazing Facebook page I frequent when I want to know about upcoming events in the community. Perhaps your community also hosts a local events page on Facebook? It’s worth checking out.

We’ve attended everything from parades to festivals, holiday celebrations, and more. Pictured above is our boys enjoying their time at the Spring Fest. I love that they can make friends literally anywhere! They’d just met this brother/sister duo and you’d never know it by how well they played together.

 

11. Fieldtrips

Homeschool fieldtrips and socialization
We got to meet some lovely animals during our field trip to the Rock Ranch.

I made this a separate point because you don’t necessarily have to belong to a homeschool group to go on fieldtrips. In fact, our family has been on quite a few self-planned fieldtrips, which is great because we could explore at our own leisure. Nevertheless, planning a group fieldtrip with other homeschoolers means you can get awesome discount rates. Additionally, your child gets to learn and experience new things with their peers.

Pictured above is our group fieldtrip to Rock Ranch. Our boys learned how to make corn flour by hand, met beautiful farm animals, played in the corn pit, bounced on a giant inflatable pillow, toured the grounds on a hayride, and much more. What makes these fieldtrips even more special is that they are creating memories with their friends.

If you need some fieldtrip ideas, visit my Instagram to check out some of the fun fieldtrips we’ve taken.

 

12. Camps

Homeschool Kids and Socialization
Vacation Bible School shenanigans.

During the summer, my boys enjoy attending reading camps, sports camps, and VBS camps. Not only do they get to see some of their friends, but they also get to meet new people and experience new things. These programs are typically free or low cost and are usually hosted by local libraries, churches, and/or recreation centers. Be sure to check out the venues in your area to discover similar summer programs.

Pictured above is my oldest son at one of the Vacation Bible Schools we’ve attended. This particular VBS is their favorite and they look forward to it every year. I do want to mention that, in most cases, you don’t have to be a member of a church for your kids to be able to attend their VBS. Vacation Bible Schools are typically outreach programs and are open to the community. We attend VBS’s at churches we’re not members of all the time!

Lastly, your local museums, zoos, entertainment complexes, universities, etc, are great places to check for camp programs. Our local museum hosts STEM camps year-round. One of our local universities hosts summer camps that allow children to take science, writing, and history classes. Even our entertainment complex got in on the fun and started offering summer day camps. All you have to do is call the venue and ask or simply check out their social media pages for information.


 

I’ll close by saying this is not a comprehensive list. There are many other ways my boys have the opportunity to socialize. They visit their cousins, they volunteer, they play with the neighborhood kids, and so much more. We are blessed to be surrounded by so many opportunities.

Finally, this is not an attempt to prove that my homeschooled children are “socialized,” but rather a way to give my homeschool peers some ideas on what social opportunities they can seek out in their area. I hope this post was helpful!

Until next time, friends…

 

 

 

Black History | Martin Luther King Activities

Free Martin Luther King Coloring Page and More!

Martin Luther King Jr. Day is approaching! Teachers are you ready? Don’t worry, I got you. Enjoy this FREE MLK coloring page on me. This FREE download consists of palatable fun facts suitable for preschool and early elementary students. All you need is an application that supports PDF files.

Download this freebie, here.MLK FREE Coloring Page

Why honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr? The MLK holiday celebrates the birthday and legacy of a man who fought for, and helped establish, freedom and equality for all. Dr. King played an integral role in the Civil Rights Movement by leading peaceful protests to help end legal segregation and discrimination in the United States.

Dr. King’s famous speech, “I Have a Dream,” was delivered at the 1963 March on Washington. The speech, which called for freedom, equality, and harmony for all mankind, marked a pivotal moment in the Civil Rights Movement. Read the full text of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s speech, I Have a Dream, here.

I do hope that you take full advantage if this MLK freebie. If you’re looking for more resources on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., I highly recommend you check out the full MLK packet at my online store. Click here to view Martin Luther King Jr. Activities and Fun Facts.

Martin Luther King Jr Activities and Fun Facts

The full packet includes the following activities for preschool and early elementary:

  1. Coloring activity
  2. Reading comprehension activity
  3. Cut and paste activity
  4. Handwriting activity
  5. Reflection activity
  6. Key terms word search
  7. Key terms definition sheet
  8. Kinesthetic Activity Game
  9. Answer keys

This packet aims to develop and strengthen the following skills:

  1. Reading comprehension
  2. Critical thinking
  3. Analyzing
  4. Creativity
  5. Fine motor
  6. Sequencing
  7. Vocabulary
  8. Reasoning
  9. Spelling
  10. Handwriting

Be sure to visit Nike Anderson’s Classroom for more quality resources like this one! Don’t forget to follow my store to be the first to know when I upload new freebies.

Nike Anderson's Classroom Free & Affordable Educational Resources

How We Pulled Off an Entire Year of Homeschool for FREE

How We Pulled Off an Entire Year of FREE Curriculum

Hi there! Join me this month for the My Journey to Homeschool series. In this series, I’ll be sharing the why behind our homeschool and the process it took to get there.

If you missed last week’s post Why We REALLY Homeschool |The Honest Truth, read it here.

This week, I’ll be sharing how we pulled off an entire year of free curriculum during our first penny-pinching homeschool years.

If you’re new here, welcome! My name is Nike and I’m entering my fourth homeschool year with a new kindergartner and third grader.

Nike Anderson

 

Can you believe I’ve never written a proper curriculum review? Well, you’re in for a treat because I’ll be reviewing our entire year of free curriculum for devotional, language arts, reading, math, science, and geography!

Basically, the first two years of our homeschool journey was a free curriculum frenzy. Before I invested money in a box curriculum, I first wanted to see what resources were available for FREE. I was shocked to find awesome quality resources for kindergarten through second-grade—and beyond! I’ve even made a few resources myself. Visit my FREEBIES page to check some of them out!

I was in resource heaven putting together a comprehensive curriculum for my then first-grader, but I admit it was so much work! Maybe I can help alleviate some of the workload for you by giving you the links to everything we used in one blog post? Of course, this is only helpful if you have a first or second-grader (or an advanced kindergartner). However, some of these resources have curricula available for grades up through high-school.

To make things even better, I’ll give you a brief description of each resource, as well as the pros and cons of each. Are you ready?

Here’s What We Used:

 

1. Devotional—180 Days of Memory Verses

About:

This resource is my collective 180-day Bible series for kids that covers 36 scriptures or one memory verse each week! I created this resource because we needed fun activities to accompany our memory verses. It includes 180 fun activities that are designed to improve cognitive skills by helping children to think, reason, and write for themselves. The activities also encourage children to strengthen fine motor skills, encourage creativity, and strengthen handwriting skills. The following topics are covered:

Obviously, this resource was free for me because I created it. However, I do offer the series “God Thinks I’m Awesome” for FREE, here!

Pros:

First, the activities for this resource are great for helping children learn edifying scripture. There’s an activity for each weekday, Monday thru Friday, that requires children to do the following for each memory verse:

  • Activity 1—Draw what the verse means to you.
  • Activity 2—Write a sentence about the verse.
  • Activity 3—Arrange the verse (cut-and-paste activity).
  • Activity 4—Trace the verse.
  • Activity 5—Color the picture.
180 Days of Memory Verse Activities for Kids
180 Days of Memory Verse Activities for Kids | Drawing what the verse means to them was one of their favorite activities!

Second, my boys loved learning their verses while doing these activities! The memory verses were a terrific addition to our family devotional time. They inspired my boys to ask questions and encouraged great conversation. The memory verses are also designed to be palatable for young children, as my youngest son was three-years-old when we utilized this resource. Therefore, the verses are kept short and sweet, and the activities provide lots of repetition for mastery.

Third, this is a top-selling resource at Nike Anderson’s Classroom. By the looks of the reviews, other teachers, parents, and students have been loving this resource, too! All the scriptures included in this resource are available for patrons to view before downloading the product, so it’s clear exactly what verses are covered and how they are worded in each series.

Cons:

The activities are designed for younger children from pre-k through third-grade, which means some of the verses in the activities have been re-phrased for palatability and understanding. You’ll mainly find this to be true for the “Our God the Creator” series, which summarizes some of the Genesis verses to “God created light on the first day,” “God created the sky on the second day,” and so forth. This hasn’t been a problem for us since we always read and review the verses straight from the Bible before completing the activities.

 

2. Language Arts—All-In-One Homeschool (Level 1)

About:

If you’re not familiar with the All-In-One Homeschool, it’s an online comprehensive Christian-based curriculum that is free to use!  While I’m going to talk about their level one language arts curriculum, this resource offers curricula for all core subjects for grades pre-k through high school. It even offers electives like Bible, Art, Computer, Foreign Languages, and more! As I mentioned, it’s free, but you’ll need access to the internet, computer, and basic school supplies to take advantage of this resource.

My first-grader enjoyed the Language Arts 1 curriculum. This curriculum offers a basic review of phonics before delving into the following concepts for first and/or second graders:

  • Nouns
  • Pronouns
  • Synonyms
  • Plurals
  • Punctuation
  • Digraphs
  • Literature (Poetry from Abroad, Crane)
  • Story sequencing
  • Writing
  • Spelling
  • And more!
All-In-One Homeschool Language Arts 1 | Cut & paste story sequencing was a huge hit!
All-In-One Homeschool Language Arts 1 | Cut & paste story sequencing was a huge hit!

Pros:

First, let me say that this curriculum was well organized and easy to follow. The author did a phenomenal job arranging virtual worksheets, games, quizzes, and activity ideas for each subject. It is no-prep and no-nonsense!

Second, I loved that this curriculum was comprehensive and covered all the key concepts for first and second grade. I felt pretty confident that my child was getting a solid foundation in literature.

Third, I loved that this curriculum sets students up to work independently. Provided your child has great fluency in reading, they can totally work independently on this curriculum.

Lastly, incorporating levels rather than grades is another great concept. If a level is too easy or difficult for a child, they can be moved up or down to fit their academic need. Since all the levels are available at your fingertips, you can actually skim through them and extract from each one. For instance, your child may be ready to move up to level two for grammar but may have to stay on level one for spelling. The flexibility is awesome!

Cons:

I had to supplement this curriculum to incorporate more repetition and practice for mastery with certain concepts. I also ended up using another curriculum for spelling, as I did not like AIO’s setup for learning spelling words. I want to stress that every curriculum has different standards and will cover different concepts and topics. It’s up to you to decipher which topics outside the curriculum you’d like to cover. For me, using extra worksheets and free printables wasn’t much of a problem. But it does mean you have to search them out, making it an extra thing to add to your to-do list.

 

3. Reading—All-In-One Homeschool (Level 1)

About:

This online Christian-based reading curriculum by All-In-One Homeschool is designed to introduce readers to full-length novels, practice narration and summarizing, and improve vocabulary and comprehension. The curriculum uses the following literature:

  • The Tale of Jolly Robin by Bailey
  • The Tale of Solomon Owl by Bailey
  • The Tale of Reddy Woodpecker by Bailey
  • The Adventures of Danny Meadow Mouse by Burgess
  • Buster Bear by Burgess
  • McGuffey’s Second Eclectic Reader
  • Beatrix Potter stories
  • A variety of other short stories and poems

This resource can be used primarily online or you can purchase the materials in book form for just $15.

Pros:

First, the curriculum had a great choice of literature with advanced vocabulary. The vocabulary is challenging, yet appropriate, and not too overwhelming.

Second, I loved the fact that the curriculum introduced my first-grader to chapter books. He really enjoyed reading the novels authored by Bailey.

Lastly, this curriculum was no fuss and easy-to-follow. There’s also an audio option available, which is great because children can listen and follow along with the hardcopy at the same time—giving them an ear for what proper reading fluency sounds like.

All-In-One Homeschool Reading 1
All-In-One Homeschool Reading 1 | Inference practice on the whiteboard to accompany our reading lesson!

Cons:

The major con was that this curriculum is online. If you do not want your child to read entire chapters on the computer, you must print out the chapters, which can cost you ink and paper. Otherwise, purchasing the materials in book form is the better bet, but that defeats the whole purpose of the curriculum being free. Still, I think it’s a wise investment if you want your child to hold a physical book while reading.

Another con was that there were very few follow-up questions for each chapter, which means if you’re keeping a reading journal you’ll have to think of clever entry questions yourself. Children are just encouraged to “tell someone about the chapter,” which is fine, but not very thought-provoking.

My son was also disinterred in most of the literature selections and struggled to relate to the reading material. All-in-all, this was not our favorite curriculum.

 

4. Math—All-In-One Homeschool (Level 2)

About:

This is another curriculum from the free online Christian-based resource All-In-One Homeschool. This comprehensive math curriculum covers the following concepts for first and second graders:

  • Grids
  • Number lines
  • Graphs
  • Pie charts
  • Place value
  • Word problems
  • Money
  • Time
  • Measurement
  • Fractions
  • Fact families
  • Regrouping
  • Memorizing addition and subtraction facts

This curriculum comprises levels rather than grades, so it’s advisable to ensure the material is appropriate for your child’s mastery level before you begin. This curriculum is also set up for independent learning, so strong reading skills are required unless the child is accompanied by an adult.

Pros:

First, I loved the access to other free resources. There were a ton of free awesome math games for fluency practice! My son enjoyed playing most of the games and they really did help him understand and master the material.

Second, I loved that the first half of the curriculum focused on practicing mental math for sums up to 20, which is essential for advancing to a third-grade math level.

Lastly, I loved that this curriculum encouraged hands-on learning with manipulatives you can find in your home. Hands-on learning is so important at this age!

All-In-One Homeschool Math 2 | Hands-on practice with our lesson on money!
All-In-One Homeschool Math 2 | Hands-on practice with our lesson on money!

Cons:

This math curriculum did not cover multiplication. At least not to the degree that it should, considering it’s recommended that second-graders know how to multiply fluently by 2’s, 3’s and 5’s by the end of the school year. There’s some coverage on skip counting but not necessarily multiplication factors and products, so if this is important to you be sure to give your child more practice using supplementary materials.  There is not much material on adding or regrouping three-digit numbers, either. Again, I recommend supplementary materials if you wish to learn and practice advanced regrouping.

 

5. Science—The Magic School Bus (K-2)

About:

This is a comprehensive science curriculum that includes videos, lesson plans, experiments, and activity pages for pre-K thru second-grade. There are twelve units and topics covered:

  • Space
  • Forces
  • Weather
  • Energy
  • In the home
  • The human body
  • Animals
  • Reptiles
  • Birds
  • Dinosaurs
  • Fossils
  • Archaeology
  • Bugs
  • Water
  • Sealife
  • Rocks
  • Volcanoes
  • Habitats

All twelve units encompass a 180-day curriculum with corresponding episodes from The Magic School Bus. That means there’s something to do for every weekday of the school year!

Pros:

First, the experiments were easy to do and most of the materials needed could be found right in my home. I recommend printing out all the experiments for the week and making a checklist to ensure you have everything you need.

Second, I loved that the curriculum was no-prep. The lessons provided notations for the instructor explaining what students should learn, key terms, and what questions to ask the students, among other things. There was no additional research required unless my boys wished to advance in a topic.

The third thing I loved about this free curriculum was that it was pretty adaptable and I did not have to cover all the topics in sequence. There were many weeks where we jumped to other topics that were more relevant to my children’s current interests.

Lastly, I loved that this curriculum included a list of recommended books for each unit. That made reserving library books and planning ahead much easier. It also meant I didn’t have to struggle to find supplementary materials!

The Magic School Bus Science Curriculum
The Magic School Bus Science Curriculum | A fun lesson on constellations included making telescopes that looked like we were looking at the Big Dipper!

Cons:

While the Magic School Bus curriculum is great, especially for those moms who aren’t well versed in science, I do forewarn that older children (closer to second grade) may become bored or unimpressed by some of the experiments. This is definitely a curriculum for the younger ones who are new to science. My then seven-year-old, who took STEM classes at the time, started to lose interest in the curriculum by the second semester. However, he loved watching the corresponding episodes!

 

6. Geography—50 States of the USA

About:

I created this 50 States of the USA resource as a gentle introduction to geography for anyone looking to go through the US map state-by-state.  Each activity covers all 50 states, including the state capital, and aims to build and strengthen the following skills for grades pre-k thru first-grade:

  • Trace it—Penmanship.
  • Find it—Critical thinking and problem-solving.
  • Color it—Creativity and fine motor skills.

These activities not only help familiarize children with the US map, but helps children learn how to recognize and spell state names and recognize state flags.

Pros:

First, this product is wallet friendly. This product was only free for me because I created it, but I do have a freebie available, here, for those interested in trying it out. The freebie includes three states, Alaska, Rhode Island, and DC. If you’re interested in the full set, it is available at Nike Anderson’s Classroom and is extremely affordable. It is also currently my Best Seller.

Second, the activities in this resource not only helped familiarize my children with the US map, but also helped them learn how to recognize and spell state names and recognize state flags. It also covered state abbreviations and regions. My boys learned so much and enjoyed coloring the flags for each state.

Third, this resource is very buildable. I maximized this resource by supplementing it with other free resources. I checked-out books from the local library, I utilized the political maps in our classroom, and we watched National Geographic Kids’ YouTube channel that has awesome educational videos for almost every US state.

Lastly, this resource is no-nonsense and easy to use. It doesn’t bombard children with a bunch of facts and is a very gentle introduction to US geography.

See what other teachers and parents had to say about this best-selling resource at Nike Anderson’s Classroom!

 

50 States of the USA Geography | A fun activity to accompany our lesson on Illinois!
50 States of the USA Geography | A fun activity to accompany our lesson on Illinois!

Cons:

This resource is not a comprehensive curriculum, so you will need to supplement it. For a more comprehensive curriculum that covers regions, capitals, fun facts, and more, I created the All About the 50 States of the USA mega bundle.


Would I recommend these resources to a friend? I have actually recommended all of them to any friend that asks for curriculum advice. You’ll hear me mention often that it’s not the curriculum itself, but what you put into the curriculum that makes it effective. Where I felt a curriculum lacked, I simply supplemented. However, I’ve even had to supplement some of the boxed curriculum I purchased. Which goes to show that every curriculum will have “holes.” There’s no such thing as a perfect curriculum. If you don’t believe me, read the forums for some of the most recommended award-winning curricula and you’ll see not everyone is impressed by them.

I want to hear from you: Have you ever tried any of these freebies? What are your thoughts? Let me know in the comments!  


DOWNLOAD YOUR 50 States of the USA FREEBIE!

Geography 50 States of the USA FREE Download Activity

 

DOWNLOAD YOUR 180 Days of Memory Verses FREEBIE!

180 Days of Memory Verses for KIDS Free Download

 

GET FULL COPY of 50 States of the USA!

50 States of the USA Geography Activities for Kids

 

GET FULL COPY of 180 Days of Memory Verses

180 Days of Memory Verses for Kids

Day in the Life of homeschool Preschool and Kindergarten

A Homeschool Day-in-the-Life of My 4-Year-Old | Teaching Preschool

One of the common challenges in homeschool families is finding the time to teach younger children when so much time is dedicated to helping their older siblings with assignments.

I have a four-year-old and a second-grader and, let me tell you, it’s tough! Even tougher for my friends with four children or more. Preschoolers often like to fight for your attention when they see you giving so much of it to their siblings. I’m here to tell you, that’s not such a bad thing and you can use this attention-seeking to your advantage.

When your preschooler sees that learning seems to get and keep your attention, they’re more likely to want to be included in whatever learning their older siblings have going on. At least this was the case for me. I know it’s tempting to let younger children go off and do their own thing, but try adding small assignments to their routine that help them feel like a “big kid.” You may find you have a little more peace during your homeschool hours.

So, here is my day in the life of my four-year-old on any given homeschool day. This glimpse into our world illustrates how I manage to balance time between my two boys. As a side note, you may notice on my blog that I refer to my four-year-old as a preschooler and kindergartner interchangeably. That’s because according to his age he is technically in preschool, but he’s acquiring many skills that meet kindergarten requirements in our state.


A Homeschool Day-in-the-Life of My 4-Year-Old


8:30 am: Devotional

Let’s start with devotional. We’re currently using Our Daily Bread for kids, which we love. The daily devotionals are short, sweet, and to the point. They also are a great inspiration to delve into the Word of God. Both kids enjoy me reading aloud and will sit quietly and attentively while I do so. In previous years, I made activities for my boys to do while I read the Bible aloud. Some days, my preschooler is just not into sitting still so he goes off and plays with his toys, which is totally allowed.  That leads us to…

Tip One: Let your little ones have off days. We all have days when we’re just not feeling something. Allowing them to choose something else to do instead shows that you understand and respect their feelings. It also reduces the likelihood of your little one making a scene which can cause disruption and set the tone for the rest of the day, making it difficult for you to maintain the patience needed to work with your older children.

Our Daily Bread Devotional for Children
My children love Our Daily Bread Devotional for Kids.

9:00 am: Basic Skills Fluency Practice

This is my second-grader’s designated reading time. Since I have him read aloud to me, I need this time to be pretty quiet. This is when I break out my preschooler’s favorite activities. We use the Hooked-on Phonics Fundamentals workbook, which is full of educational cut and paste activities that keep my preschooler busy and happy. During this time, my little one practices fluency with basic skills like letters, phonics, numbers, counting, shapes, and more. He is also engaging those fine motor skills necessary for handwriting. So…

Tip Two: Have independent activities on hand. Give your little ones activities you know they can do on their own to help build confidence, independence, and fluency while you take time to work with older children.

Preschool and kindergarten basic skills fluency practice.
Preschool and kindergarten basic skills fluency practice.

9:30 am: Reading Fluency Practice

My preschooler and I practice reading fluency while my second-grader works independently on to his spelling curriculum. We are using the Hooked-on Phonics curriculum and are supplementing with Bob Books. Hooked on Phonics has its own set of starter books, but he seems to like the Bob Books more. We borrowed our Bob Books from the local library and are allowed to have them for 6 weeks at a time. We spend no more than 15 minutes practicing reading. Another 15 minutes is dedicated to storybook read-alouds.

Tip Three: Schedule one-on-one learning time with your little one when older kids have independent work. 

Hooked on Phonics Reading Curriculum for Preschool
Hooked on Phonics is our curriculum of choice for preschool and kindergarten.

10:00 am: Handwriting Practice 

My preschooler practices handwriting while my second-grader and I delve into his language arts lesson.  I love dry-erase books for handwriting practice because children can practice as much as they’d like without accumulating paper waste. The books we love for handwriting practice are the Kindergarten dry-erase workbook and the Sight Word workbook. I taught my preschooler how to follow the arrows, and to always write from left to right to ensure he’s writing letters, numbers, and words properly. Now, he can pretty much work on his own. Therefore…

Tip Four: Train your little one to work independently during homeschool off-hours. On weekends or when all your older children have completed their homeschool assignments, take just a little time to train your younger children to work more independently on key skills. This may take time and patience but is well worth the investment when you find yourself running from kid to kid during busy homeschool hours.

Handwriting Practice for preschool and kindergarten.
Independent handwriting practice for preschool and kindergarten.

10:30 am:  Everyone takes a snack break at this point.

11:00 am: Geography

My boys do geography together. We use a curriculum base called Beginning Geography and supplement with YouTube videos, library books, hands-on-learning, and kinesthetic activities. This is a great time of day because my preschooler really looks forward to it. He may not understand everything we learn about, but he enjoys doing the corresponding activities.

If you’re wondering how I teach two grade-levels one subject, here’s an example:

This week we’re learning about reading directions on a map using a compass rose. My main objective is for my preschooler to understand that north is up, south is down, east is to his right and west is to his left. Aside from looking at real maps I had on hand, we watched a Youtube video that explained what compasses were used for and how to use them.  To challenge my oldest son, he watched a documentary on the history of the compass rose. Later, we made our own compasses using supplies I had on hand. Then we played a kinesthetic activity where the boys had to jump toward the direction I shouted out. It was so much fun and something both grade-levels could enjoy.

Tip Five: Don’t be afraid to include your little ones in on the lessons. This is especially true if the age gap isn’t that wide between older siblings. In my case, I can use a curriculum base designed for grades k-2 and it’ll work for both of my boys. Last year, we used a science curriculum designed for first and second graders and my preschooler was able to do all of the lessons and experiments with us. Children are sponges at this age. You’ll be surprised by what they pick up on.

Geography for preschool and early elementary
A kinesthetic game for learning directions: Jump to your North, South, East, and West.

12:00 pm: Science

Both my boys also learn science together. This year, we are really loving interactive science notebooks. This is actually my preschooler’s favorite part of the day because he loves cut-and-paste activities. Whenever we finish a lesson, he often asks if we can do another one. I use the same supplemental method for science that I do for geography. We read books, do fun activities, and include hands-on learning and experiments whenever possible. That points us to…

Tip Six: Interactive notebooks are a win for everybody. You can find free or low-cost interactive notebook lessons just about anywhere, for any grade, and any subject! This works especially if you have children with larger age gaps. Everyone can sit around the table with all their supplies and work on their interactive notebooks. Works for us!

Interactive science notebooks for preschool and kindergarten.
Interactive science notebooks are great for preschool and kindergarten.

1:00 pm: Lunch and Recess

2:00 pm: Math

I save math for the end of the day because it’s my boys’ strongest subject. Plus, it’s also a subject that my second-grader can do on his own unless he’s learning a new concept. I like to work one-on-one with my preschooler on the days when my second-grader isn’t learning a new concept. We use math link cubes to practice addition and subtraction. We also practice number sequencing and counting to 20, 30, and beyond. Every now and then we’ll go over basic and 3-dimensional shapes, but he pretty much has that information stored in his brain.

Additionally, I try a variety of hands-on activities that I just make up myself. Matching number quantity to the numerical value is one of the activities we do often, and we can use just about anything we have on hand to do it. I also make use of our addition and subtraction flashcards and have my preschooler use cubes to determine the sum or difference. So…

Tip Seven: Save your little one’s strongest subject for the end of the school day to cut down on frustration. If you happen to need to sneak away to teach your older children new concepts, you can start the younger ones off and they can hold their own until you return.

Math practice ideas for preschool and kindergarten.
Math practice ideas for preschool and kindergarten.

 

Our school day typically ends around three in the afternoon. This is not an everyday schedule as we have fieldtrip days, co-op days, and playdate days pretty regularly. This is, however, the schedule we fall back on to keep us on track.

I’d like to end this post by saying there will be a day when none of this advice works. Take heart, it happens to the best of us. I will say that each semester gets easier. Before our winter break, it was much harder to keep my preschooler engaged and occupied. After winter break, things seemed more manageable. Your family will live if you do away with curricula for a moment to meet the physical, educational, emotional and social needs of your younger children. A break from monotony is always a great idea!

Now it’s your turn: How do you balance homeschool with your children? Give us some ideas that have worked for your family in the comments below!


Need more ideas for preschool? Check out these posts:

Toddler Genius | YouTube Channels That Made My Toddler Smarter

Tot-School Tuesdays | Preschool Addition Facts

Tot-School Tuesdays | Number Matching & Sequencing

Tot-School Tuesdays | “I Can Count” Busy Box

Free Resources for Preschool

What Your Reading Curriculum Is Probably Missing

What Your Reading Curriculum Is Probably Missing | Pre-Reading Skills

Last year, my then three-year-old decided he wanted to start his reading journey. I admit I was a bit hesitant considering all the research I’ve read making a compelling case against early reading. In fact, I’ve had success waiting until my oldest son was six-years-old before starting formal reading lessons. Although some of his peers learned to read as early as three-years-old, my oldest son went from being an emergent reader to reading chapter books in a matter of a few short months. That alone was enough to sell me on waiting with my youngest son.

But things didn’t quite work like that. One day my little Jam was watching a phonics video on YouTube (Hooked on Phonics to be exact) and he said “I want to do that. I want to read.” I wasn’t surprised as he’d frequently asked me how to pronounce words in books and how to spell certain words. He was ready, for sure. So, I bought the Hooked on Phonics curriculum and things went so well for us. Following Jam’s pace, we moved through the preschool curriculum rather quickly and started the kindergarten curriculum a few weeks later. Jam read his first primer book and appeared to have mastered sounding out words.

And then it happened. Regression.

Suddenly, Jam became sloppy at pronouncing sounds. Words he once knew without a second thought, he seemed to struggle with. It made me question whether our reading curriculum had a strong enough base for teaching pre-reading skills.

Has this ever happened to you?

One day, while researching ways to help my preschooler read more fluently, I stumbled across a website shared by my local homeschool group. While reading through the wealth of free information shared, I discovered it may be a good idea to go back to square one. You see, our reading curriculum begins with phonics, but there’s a prereading skill all children should master before moving on to phonics. That skill is called phonological awareness.

What is phonological awareness and how is it different from phonics? Phonological awareness is the sounds in language that help children distinguish sounds in words. This is different from phonics, which involves the relationship between sounds and written symbols. Unlike phonics, phonological awareness refers to sounds only and most tasks require a student to rely solely on listening.

Phonological awareness is the building block for phonics because it helps children identify the sound components of spoken words, making it easier to master the alphabetic code. Children with high phonological awareness can identify oral rhymes, clap out syllables in a word, and identify words with the same beginning sounds. Research shows that without this foundation, learning to read and spell can prove difficult for children.

When we teach phonological awareness, we’re simply helping a child train their ear to distinguish sounds, particularly in words. I can’t talk about phonological awareness without mentioning it’s subset, phonemic awareness, because people often confuse the two. Phonemic awareness is the ability to distinguish individual sounds in spoken words. It is the next phase, after phonological awareness, to mastering pre-reading skills. The difference? Phonological awareness focuses on spoken language as a whole, whereas phonemic awareness focuses on spoken words.

Helping a child heighten their phonological awareness can be done in just a few simple exercises. According to educational professionals, teaching a child to pay close attention to familiar environmental sounds is a great introduction to phonological awareness for preschool and kindergarten. A child will then learn to master dividing sentences, whole words, and syllables before phonemic awareness training.

Here’s how it’s done! Below, I included our three favorite exercises for increasing phonological awareness (and following instructions!). These exercises can be modified to challenge your little learners. For the complete curriculum, click here.


Introduction to Phonological Awareness

Strengthen Those Listening Skills for Pre-Reading


 

1. Name that sound.

My preschooler loved this exercise. All we did was play this YouTube video to see if he could identify each sound. I asked him to keep his eyes closed and focus on his listening skills. If he recognized the sound, I asked him to tell me its name. If your child has already learned phonics, like mine, this is also a great activity for identifying letter sounds and phonemes to further strengthen their phonological skills. Remember, these are oral activities and they are using their ears only. No flashcards or written symbols are needed for these exercises.

What Your Reading Curriculum May Be Missing
Phonological Awareness Exercise | Name That Sound | Big Brother Joined in for Moral Support

2. First Sound, Last Sound.

This exercise helps children develop memory and attention as they recall two sounds and their order.  We used these sounds to complete this exercise. Before beginning the exercise, I chose two sounds to play aloud and made sure my little one understood the name of each sound. I then played each sound one at a time. After playing both sounds, I asked Jam to tell me the name of the first sound and the name of the last sound. Again, this activity can be amended for children who already started learning phonics. Just use letter sounds and blends instead. Like I’ve said, we are sort of backtracking to get more phonological awareness training.

What Your Reading Curriculum May Be Missing
Phonological Awareness Exercise | Use Your Listening Skills to Name the First and Last Sound

 

3. Start and Stop.

This is a simple exercise that helps children practice following directions and strengthen their listening skills. I made a sound by snapping my fingers and told my preschooler the name of the sound. I then asked him to raise his right hand when he heard the sound, and to place his hand at his side when the sound stops. This is one of the first exercises we started doing and by the second day, my preschooler raised and lowered his hand with great accuracy.

Phonological Awareness Game
Phonological Awareness Exercise | Start and Stop | Raise Your Hand When The Sound Starts
What Your Reading Curriculum May Be Missing
Phonological Awareness Exercise| Start and Stop | Lower Your Hands When The Sound Stops

 

It’s important to note that high phonological awareness is not necessarily correlated with high intelligence. A child may struggle with phonological awareness but excel in many other areas. Remember, there are many types of intelligence. Linguistic intelligence is just one of many.