Homeschool Room Tour

Should I Have a Homeschool Room? Updated Classroom Tour

We’re fast approaching the end of the school year here in Middle Georgia. In fact, next month’s To-Do List includes a kindergarten graduation for my six-year-old and state exams for my third-grader.

Sometimes, it’s hard to believe we’ve been on this homeschool journey for four years. Yet, here we are. So much has changed. We went from doing school at home to adopting an eclectic homeschool approach with whole-child education as our foundation.

With that being said, I often wonder if it’s necessary to keep the homeschool room going. I mean, I love our classroom, but I must admit—at this point in our journey—it’s just for looks.

Which leads me to this blog post. Many homeschool newbies wonder if having a homeschool room is necessary.

The quick answer is no.

There are many unconventional places we’ve enjoyed learning outside our designated homeschool room. Here are a few:

Homeschool Room Alternatives

1. The living room: The couches in the formal living room are the perfect place to get cozy with a book.

Homeschooling in the Living Room

2. The family room: Whether it’s making ourselves comfortable on the couch, rocking chair, or carpet, the family room has seen more learning than our classroom this year.

Homeschooling in the Family Room

3. The dining room table: Multi-level learning is much easier sitting around the dining room table. We can all see each other’s faces, have plenty of workspace, and I can easily work with both my boys at once.

Homeschooling at the dining room table

4. The kitchen: We’ve had many science lessons in the kitchen, from building volcanoes and robots at the breakfast table to using hands-on kitchen science to bake goodies. It’s also a great place for my boys to read-aloud to me while I prepare meals.

Homeschool Science at the kitchen table

5. The porch: Our back porch has been the perfect place for us to get messy with arts, crafts, and science experiments.

Homeschooling on the back porch

6. The world: The world is literally the best classroom! Whether we’re hanging out at the library, touring the nation’s capital, or going on a field trip, these experiences give our children the opportunity to put their learning into practice. Click here to read about our field trip adventures. Click here for ideas on providing homeschool children with social opportunities.

The World is our Classroom

So, no, we haven’t been making much use of our classroom. If you don’t have one, don’t feel like you’re missing out. Many homeschoolers I know don’t have a designated workspace either. I will say that there have been some pros and cons to having a homeschool room. Here are a few:

Pros to Having a Homeschool Room:

  • Contains Homeschool Mess: All schoolwork and homeschool supplies have a designated space that is contained and can be closed off at the end of the school day. This keeps other areas of your house from becoming a homeschool landfill.
  • Fewer Distractions: Having a homeschool room automatically sets the atmosphere for learning. Children know they’re in this room to learn and are more likely to stay focused.
  • Personalization: Decorating your homeschool room can be fun! Especially when you get the kiddos involved. You can really create a space that is unique to your family and makes your children excited to learn.
  • More Visuals: Typically, your homeschool room will include hanging charts of colors, shapes, numbers, the alphabet, nouns, verbs, maps, etc. Daily exposure to these visuals may help stimulate your child’s brain and facilitate learning—especially if your child is a visual learner.
  • Keeps Things from Getting Lost: Having a child do schoolwork wherever they please is an invitation for items to get lost. You may find yourself spending unnecessary time looking for pencils, scissors, and other school supplies. Your children may also lose their textbooks and other learning materials. Having a designated classroom ensures everything stays put in one room, cutting down on the likelihood of lost items.

Cons to Having a Homeschool Room:

  • It’s Not Ideal: Many homeschoolers discover that learning is actually best when it takes place outside the home. Field trips, library visits, nature walks, etc., are all opportunities for children to set the workbooks aside and put their education into practice.
  • It Segregates Learning: Having a designated classroom may reinforce the idea that learning and life are separate entities when the two are very much intertwined. Being able to learn anywhere may help children understand that learning is accessible anywhere and doesn’t only take place in a classroom setting.
  • It Encourages Overspending: “This will look cute in our classroom” is a phrase I used often. In actuality—even with being a homeschool minimalist—I admit to purchasing things I didn’t need just to “fill-up” our homeschool space.
  • It’s Less Organic: Cuddling up in the oversized rocking chair while I read to my boys about skyscrapers was much more authentic than having them sitting at their desks as I stood at the whiteboard lecturing. Many children I know—including my own—prefer a more organic approach to learning that allows them to better relax and learn at their own pace.
  • It Can Aggravate Cabin Fever: One thing I’ve noticed was that by winter none of us wanted to be in the classroom. Spending most of our mornings in the same confined space started to get old quickly. We wanted to be downstairs where the floorplan was open and the windows were plenty.

Can you homeschool successfully without a designated classroom? Of course you can! But if you must have a classroom and are looking for some inspiration, here is a tour of our updated homeschool space. I figured I’d go ahead and post it should we decide to change or get rid of it altogether next school year.

Homeschool Room Tour

  • Minimalism was the name of the game this year. I wanted to keep the decor simple and only house supplies we’ll actually use. The map is from Dollar Tree, the crayon decals are from Target, and the organizing carts are from Michaels. The bins on top of the carts were gifted from my mother-in-law. 

Homeschool Room Tour

  • This is how I originally had the classroom set up. We got rid of the lamp, which was from Target. I ordered the office chairs from Amazon, which are specifically designed for children. The valences are a Big Lots’ purchase. Lastly, the corner shelf was gifted by my mother-in-law. 

Homeschool Room Tour

  • This is what the space looks like with children working in it! The positive affirmations posters are from Target. The LED calendar and red caddy are also from Target. You can find pencil holders like the one in the picture at Dollar Tree and the table lamp is a Walmart purchase. 

Homeschool Room Tour

  • No homeschool room is complete without a whiteboard. This whiteboard was purchased on Amazon. On the right-hand side of the board, I have my boys’ homeschool schedule and morning checklist laminated for durability and dry-erase use. The affirmation underneath the board says “You are a creator” and I thought it was fitting to place it above the art supplies. The art supplies are sitting on a stand by Melissa and Doug. 

Homeschool Room Tour

  • My favorite space in this room is the reading corner. The letter decals,  lamp, and chair are from Target. I used the shelves on the floor-lamp to house some of our books, which are sitting in organizer bins from Dollar Tree. The pillow and crochet blanket were made by my lovely momma. Lastly, the Minecraft pickaxe and sword were purchased from a local circus, they light up at night!

Homeschool Room Tour

If you’d like to see what the classroom looked like before, click here. Not much has changed, but I love the flow and simplicity of our designated learning space this year.

In closing, if you decide not to have a homeschool room, I hope this post gave you peace of mind. If you’ve decided that a designated homeschool room would be best for your family, I hope you’ve gotten some ideas to help you get started decorating!

Do you have a homeschool room? Why or why not? Let me know in the comments! 

Until next time, friends…

Homeschool Burnout | 5 Things to Consider

Homeschool Burnout? 5 Things to Remember

Welcome to March—home of the spring month!

For me, the month of March is a lot like Wednesdays; if you can survive it, the end of your journey will be here before you know it. 

It’s that time of year when many of us are just about halfway through the second semester of homeschooling. January and February came and went, and April and May will soon follow suit. With that said, some of us are feeling the middle-of-the-semester blues—also known as homeschool burnout.

The discussion of homeschool burnout is alive and brewing all over homeschool communities. And for good reason—it can wear a sistah down! I’m talking about dreading the day so much that you don’t want to leave your bed in the morning, neglecting homeschool responsibilities because you’re overwhelmed, and having an intense desire to enroll your kids in public school—any school—as long as it doesn’t take place in your house!

I’m here to tell you, it’s okay.

Just breathe.

Homeschool is a calling. And like most callings, there will good days and bad ones. We’ve got a tough job! But these trials are supposed to help us grow in character, perseverance, and faith. They are not meant to break us.

Here are five things to remember when you’re experiencing the infamous “homeschool burnout.”

1.    With God all things are possible. 

Challenging, yes—but still possible. The truth is, homeschooling our children is not supposed to be easy. We’re taking on the full responsibility of our children’s education. That’s a big deal! But know that with Christ we can overcome these challenges and persevere. I want you to say this aloud right now:

“With Christ’s help, I can successfully homeschool my child/ren.”

Write down that declaration and put it in a place in your home where you’ll always see it.

Verses to study:

>    Mathew 19:26—With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.

>    Philippians 4:13—I can do all this through Him who gives me strength.

>    Mathew 6:33—But seek first His kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

2.    Teaching God’s word should be the first priority. 

It’s in the word of God, so don’t shoot the messenger.

Let’s look at the bigger picture:

One day our children will be adults. It’d be a shame to realize only then that we’d been so focused on academics and social opportunities that we’ve put God’s word on the backburner. Teaching God’s word to our children goes beyond memorizing verses. It’s an intentional training! Meaning, we are to help our children apply those verses to their everyday lives.

Sometimes, our burnout is God’s way of telling us to slow down, drop the extra-curricular activities, close the textbooks, and intentionally teach our children how to live a holy life the best way we know how.

Verses to study:

>    Proverbs 22:6—Start children off in the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.

>   Ephesians 6:4—Do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.

> Deuteronomy 11:19—Teach my word to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.

3.    You need God’s help. 

Listen, we are trying to carry a weight that it takes multiple teachers, staff, and administration to carry. It’s no wonder we sometimes feel like we’re sinking! But if we are truly called to homeschool, God will make provisions for us. The only requirement? Submitting to God and trusting Him to help us.

Verses to study:

>    Psalm 121:1-2—Where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.

>    Mathew 11:28—Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.

>    Psalm 146:5—Blessed are those whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord their God.

4.    There’s a season for everything. 

Homeschool for every family looks different. Some of us will have seasons of public school—or even perhaps seasons of other types of schooling. You may be called to homeschool for one year or eighteen years. Whatever God’s plan is for your family, remember to enjoy your season of homeschool while it’s still here.

Verses to study:

>    Ecclesiastes 3:1—There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.

>    Jeremiah 8:7—Even the stork in the sky knows her appointed seasons.

>    Titus 1:3—Now at his appointed season he has brought to light through the preaching entrusted to me.

5.    God gives us everything we need to homeschool. 

How many times have we asked God to give us more patience? Wisdom? Faith? Money?

In this crazy homeschool life, we have everything we need: love, faith, patience, knowledge, wisdom, resources, and more! All of these components grow not by asking God for MORE, but by asking God to help us steward the measure He’s already given us. These virtues don’t magically fall out of the sky. We have to WORK to mature in these areas. They are like muscles—the more we train, the stronger we’ll be.

Verses to study:

>    2 Peter 1:3—His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.

>    Philippians 4:19—And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.

>    Matthew 6:8—For your father knows what you need before you ask Him.


 

If you are experiencing burnout, I pray that God gives you rest. If you have any tips on how to address/avoid burnout, please leave your comment down below for your fellow homeschool mom/parent!

Be sure to read my other post on burnout: Homeschool Burnout | One Mistake I Didn’t Know I Was Making

Are You Showing Up for Your Homeschool

Are You Showing Up for Your Homeschool?

Chances are you’re thinking about your kids’ future and what you need to do to prepare them for it.

College.

Career.

Business.

Funds.

Talents.

Whatever your goal is for your children, it may weigh heavy on you daily. So much so that you forget to show up for the moments. You know, those little moments that make up your homeschool journey?

The truth is, this isn’t just a homeschool thing. This is a mom thing. A parent thing. It’s natural to want the best for our children and to do whatever it takes to secure their future. That’s why we invest so much time, money, and prayers into our homeschool, isn’t it?

But, unfortunately, there’s no such thing as a secure future. Even children raised by the best parents can become adults who completely defy everything their parents worked hard to achieve for their sake. Home education. Private school education. College tuition savings. Children are their own person and have free will just as we do. Sometimes, they can—and will—use that free will to make poor choices, just as we can expect them to use that same free will to make good choices.

I think deep down we know this, which is why we fail to show up for those little moments. We’re too busy desperately searching for clues—proof—that what we’re doing will be worth it in the end. Which is why we lose it when our child still hasn’t grasped long-division or those tricky grammar rules. Good academic performance gives us the instant gratification of feeling like our sacrifice isn’t in vain. We praise our children and we praise ourselves for a job well done. We are convinced that these moments somehow foreshadow our children’s future and our success as their parents.

However, when our children don’t meet our expectations and/or fail to demonstrate that love for learning we all want to foster, their future somehow flashes before our eyes. Suddenly, we fear they may not get admitted into college, build a successful career, or become that groundbreaking businessman or woman.

And then our own future flashes before our eyes. We imagine the judgmental glances from our peers, the whispers behind our backs, the “I told you homeschool was a bad idea” phrases from disapproving family members. We bring that false future into our present life and lose our ever-loving minds over something that hasn’t happened yet—and probably never will.

So, we bring on the punishment, the guilt-trips, the threats, the bribes. Whatever it takes to improve their performance! Silent tears soak through our pillowcases at night, and we’re tempted to give up.

Maybe it’s a sign,” we say, “A sign we aren’t qualified to homeschool.”

And because we fear this false future we’ve created for our children, some of us give up. The rest of us continue to teach from fear rather than from a place of peace, love, and understanding. In our own twisted minds, we believe that somehow, if we teach from fear, we’re in control. So, we allow fear to keep us from showing up for our homeschool. Instead, we show up for a false future and the idea that it is somehow greater than the journey itself.

What is a false future? It’s where the what-ifs live. What if my kid doesn’t learn enough? What if my kid doesn’t get into college? What if my kid resents me? I think you catch my drift. We think up the worst-case scenarios and live our lives trying to stop them from happening. But the big question is: are we doing what we do for the what-ifs or for the journey? If the answer is yes, we are failing to show up for the beauty that is homeschool.

You may be reading this post and think, this isn’t me. Congratulations, you’ve probably already mastered showing up for your homeschool. But if you’re reading this and it resonates with you, you’re not alone and it’s never too late to start showing up!

So, how does one show up for their homeschool?

 

1. Relinquish control.

This was the very first step I had to take when I made a conscious effort to show up for my homeschool; recognize and accept that I’m not in control—but God is! Author and blogger, Sarah Mackenzie, would call this concept teaching from rest. That is, trusting that God’s got your children’s education and future in His hands—even when you’re a wreck! Even when they’re a wreck! In that, we can guide our children’s education from a loving and trusting place, rather than from anxiety.

 

2. Change your audience.

The revolutionary question I had to ask myself was:

Who am I trying to impress? God or man?

I like how Mackenzie put it: “Whose ‘well done’ are you working for?” Although she posed this question in her book, Teaching from Rest, this wasn’t the first time this inquiry resonated with me. In fact, this question surfaced several times throughout my homeschool journey. Each time, it humbled me and reminded me that the only opinion that matters is God’s. My children don’t have to be little prodigies. And I certainly don’t have to be Mary Poppins.

 

3. Embrace failure.

Fear of failure will rob us of teachable moments that can enhance our homeschool journey. Failure isn’t a bad thing. In fact, any successful person will tell you they’ve learned more from their failures than their successes. Failure is a teacher, not a conqueror. When we embrace this truth, we’re more likely to discern what went wrong and how we can improve something, rather than become defeated by setbacks. Even more, we’re more likely to make braver decisions that lead to greater successes because we’re not afraid to fail.

 

4. Redefine success.

If success is defined by high test scores and perfectly written papers, we’re all in for a huge disappointment. It’s not wrong to want your child to perform well, however, you cannot control how they perform. But do you know what you can control? How you perform. Therefore, let success be determined by how well we demonstrate our love for our children. Did we teach them from a place of patience? Kindness? Gentleness? Joy? Goodness? Peace? Even when things don’t go as expected? Remember, love never fails. It always leads to success! Therefore, there’s a greater chance our children will develop a love for learning if we teach them from a place of love.

 

5. Reflect often.

Maybe it’s just me, but when I reflect on our past homeschool years, I can’t help but realize how quickly time passes. My boys are no longer the toddler and Kindergartner I started homeschooling nearly four years ago. It makes me happy for the times I showed up and lived in the moment, but sad for the times I didn’t. I don’t view this sadness as a negative thing, but a humble reminder to embrace the moment and show up for my homeschool each and every day.

Read any blog post with the title, “What I Would Do Differently in My Homeschool,” and these veterans will tell you in so many words, they’d embrace the moment and not be so anxious about tomorrow. May we take heed to their words and do our best to show up even for the smallest moments in our homeschool journey.


Well, that’s all I have for now.

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…

 

Big Homeschool Mistake

Homeschool Burnout | One Mistake I Didn’t Know I Was Making

Free Yourself

Here’s my account of our third homeschool year. As of date, we’re approaching the second semester of our fourth year as a homeschool family. I wrote these sentiments months ago when I was in the thick of my feelings and a light bulb went off. Today, I’m finally posting what has been lying dormant in my Word documents since April 2018.

I share these real mom moments in hope that it can help free some of you from the unnecessary burden you’ve placed on yourself to raise the perfect homeschool prodigy. For some of us, this burden stems from the need to prove to outsiders that our children are meeting the mark. Don’t allow yourself to enter into the New Year still burdened and carrying the weight of everyone else’s expectations for your child.

Feeling Inadequate

I was one of those anxious moms, so to speak. I just sort of lived with it and attributed it to the stresses of homeschool. After all, stress is normal.

Or should it be?

I didn’t jump out of bed eager to start the day. I found myself tired even after a full night’s rest. I was constantly worried about my children’s progress. If they were on target with their peers—if they measured up.

If I measured up as a home educator.

Homeschool Quotes by Nike Anderson

I teeter-tottered with the idea of “traditional school,” thinking to myself perhaps my boys would be better off. After all, who was I to think that I could supply all their educational needs? This was the weight of other people’s words that I carried for a long time.

Abandoning My Homeschool Room

This year, I’ve noticed we’ve been gravitating toward a more relaxed learning environment. The whiteboard in our classroom has not met the stroke of an Expo marker in months. Our workbox drawers have not been pulled open in months. My boys have not sat at their desks in months. I have not stood at the top of the class teaching lessons in months. In fact, I kept telling my husband, “One day we’re going to go back into that classroom and actually use it.”

One day.

I felt guilty. Like I’ve somehow failed as a homeschool teacher. I feared my boys would never learn how to sit still in the classroom. I feared they’d never learn how to raise their hand and wait to be called on to speak. And even though they were still learning, I feared I wasn’t teaching enough.

Doing enough.

Yet, I was exhausted—burned all the way out. Some of the exhaustion stemmed from the war going on in my thoughts.

Mental exhaustion.

Some of the exhaustion stemmed from doing the absolute most.

Physical exhaustion.

Homeschool Quotes by Nike Anderson

I grew tired of force-feeding information to my children. Things that held very little value to them. Things they’d learn just enough to ace a test and then forget the next month. It all felt counterproductive. We weren’t having fun anymore. They went from “YAY, school!!!!!” to “Oh no! It’s a school day?”

They Hated School

I could laugh every time I think about my second-grader “spacing out” while I’m teaching him a new concept. His little eyes just glazed over with a blank stare. His default nod to convince me he’s paying attention. His sigh of relief when I’m finished explaining everything (I tend to be long-winded, haha).

Laughter escapes me whenever I think of my preschooler actually running from me whenever I pulled out his reading curriculum. All the excuses he’d make, like, “I’ve got to draw some pictures, first.” He was the one who initiated his reading journey, yet I sucked ALL the fun out of it by using a traditional teaching approach unsuitable for his learning style. The daily battles to get him to “do his school work” put a strain on our relationship. I’d say things like, “You’re the one who wanted to learn to read.” Yea, I’m sure this is a great way to ensure he shares his interests with me in the future.

My “Aha” Moment

A few months ago, I shared Three Things It Takes to Homeschool. But there was a piece missing; something only revealed to me very recently, after watching a video by Shelly Sangrey.

In that video, Shelly, a homeschool veteran, said something like this, “If you’re still holding onto the standards of public education, you’re missing out on the freedom homeschool has to offer.” The freedom of not being bound by age, grade-levels, and “what your child should know” propaganda. The freedom of not being bound by one teaching method that caters to one learning style. The freedom of not being bound by a classroom. Chairs. Desks. Whiteboards. These things work for some people. But for our family, they just don’t.

Homeschool quotes by Shelly Sangrey

So, if I were to add a fourth point to the post Three Things It Takes to Homeschool, I’d say unschool yourself.

That was my mistake. I was still bound by traditional education and all the stress that came with it. The emphasis on performance and looking good on paper over quality learning.

Unschooling Myself 

I’ve realized that, while we’re concluding our third year of homeschool, I’ve never officially “unschooled” myself. Each time I tried to break away from the traditional model of education, I found myself being lured back in, fixating on grade-levels, assessments, and teacher’s manuals. Why? Because that’s all I knew, and that structure worked for me as an “A” student growing up.

But it doesn’t work for my boys.

What is unschooling exactly? This quote by the late George Bernard Shaw sums it up nicely:

“What we want to see is the child in pursuit of knowledge, not knowledge in pursuit of the child.”

Child in Pursuit of Knowledge by George Bernard Shaw

Slowly, my new motto became, “if education isn’t organic, I want no part of it.” Each of my children have subjects they gravitate to. They burst at the seams with questions about all kinds of things, and I miss teaching moments because I’m busy trying to get them to remember the difference between mass and matter.

My boys retained more information about random questions they’ve asked during fifteen-minute car rides than information they’ve studied for two to three weeks. They don’t mind spending an hour listening to me read a book about architecture because that’s what they’re into. But it’s a struggle getting them to follow along on a book about medieval history.

Revisiting the Root of Education

I get it. There are just some things that children should know and learning won’t always be “fun.” But the heart of education comes from the Latin word “educare” which means “to draw out” and “lead”—yet, I spent more time putting information “into” my children rather than encouraging them to discover learning for themselves.

And, truthfully, children don’t need help learning. They’re natural learners. But they do need guidance; someone to help them develop their ideas and concepts, answer pressing questions, provide the right resources, and demonstrate the lifestyle of learning.

So, instead of “doing school” or “going to school,” we’ve made a point to ask God how to help our children learn to live intentionally with vision and purpose. If we do this, they’ll always seek the knowledge they need to pursue that calling. In that, we can help them develop the habit of “being in pursuit of knowledge.”

Until next time, friends…

Tag, You’re It!

What would you say was your biggest homeschool mistake? Write a comment below!

 

10 Top-Rated Educational Gifts Under $10 That Your Kids Will Want

Good news! It’s not too late to place online orders for this upcoming Christmas!

Many of you enjoyed my post last week detailing what I got my boys for Christmas with a $100 budget. I thought I’d share a similar post this week giving you my recommendations for awesome educational gifts for just under ten bucks each!

Although I’ve finished Christmas shopping, I’m always on the hunt for STEM-related projects to use in our homeschool, gift to my boys and their friends, or to simply recommend to parents and teachers who dislike searching for online deals.

With that being said, this post is meant to be a gift guide scenario for those of you who are interested in educational gift options for your children and/or resources for your classroom. All the items listed below are priced below $10 (as of date) and have high customer ratings on Amazon. They are also appropriate for introducing children to the wonders of STEM.

As you can see, we’re fans of all things STEM. It suits the learning style of my kinesthetic learners. If you’re new to STEM (or STEAM), it’s an acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering, and (Art) Math. STEM stimulates a child’s natural intellectual curiosity and helps develop problem-solving, creativity, decision-making, and concentration, among other skills.

Why include STEM in your home and/or classroom? Because STEM permeates the modern world, yet research shows many students are not graduating from high school with the knowledge and capacities they will need to pursue the STEM careers steadily rising across the nation.

If you don’t get anything else from this post, know that you don’t have to rely on schools or administrations to teach your children (or students!) these wonderful concepts that are imperative for their future success.

What’s great about the following gift guide is that children will have so much fun they won’t even realize they’re learning and developing skills! Since I have two children under the age of ten, these gifts are most suitable for younger children (should be at least six-years-old) but can be challenging enough for preteens who are new to STEM.

So, without further ado, let’s get into it!

This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclaimer for more information.

10 Top-Rated Educational Gifts Under $10 That Your Kids Will Want

 

 

1. National Geographic Dino Dig Kit

Fossil Kit.jpg

National Geographic has a great series of dig kits available for the little scientist in your life. In addition to the Dino Dig Kit pictured above, this brand also offers shark tooth, real bug, and gemstone dig kits, among others. Kids will get to discover real dinosaur fossils that include a bone, mosasaur tooth, and dino stool for their rock collection. This hands-on exploration also boasts prehistoric fun facts in the full-color learning guide. A magnifying glass is also included to heighten the fun! Get it on Amazon

 

2. Magnetic Mini Tile Art by 4M

Magnetic-Mini-Tile-Art.jpg

This amazing set challenges children to create unique works of art that can be attached to magnetic tiles that will hang on any metal surface. The set includes tiles, magnets, a paint-strip of four colors, and a paintbrush. Kids can make beautiful gifts for friends and family or simply display their impressive creations on the refrigerator door. A perfect gift for the little artist in your family! Get it on Amazon

 

3. Illusion Science by 4M

Illusion Science.jpg

This science kit boasts 20 classic optical illusions from trick cards to 3D picture cards and glasses. There’s also an instruction booklet included that explains the science of optical illusions and how to create illusionary effects. Even if you don’t have a child who’s into optics, this is a gentle introductory kit that can be fun—and educational—for the entire family! Get it on Amazon

 

4. Metal Model 3-D Building Sets

Metal Models 2

This building set is great for helping children increase their logical thinking and problem-solving skills. The set includes metal material made from good quality stainless steel, a screwdriver, and a spanner. Perfect for the little engineers in your life and also suitable for young teens! Get it on Amazon

 

5. Be Amazing Insta Snow 

Insta Snow.jpg

If you’re looking for snow this Christmas, this kit is the next best thing! Insta-snow powder turns plain water into a fluffy snow-like substance in just seconds.  There is absolutely no stirring or mixing involved. This kit boasts that the powder can absorb up to 100 times its weight in water and is completely safe and non-toxic. A test tube and snow powder are included. You just provide the water for this fun STEM activity! Get it on Amazon 

 

6. Lemon Powered Clock

Lemon Clock

Engage your child in a fun lesson on battery science using this lemon-powered clock! This STEM kit includes copper and zinc plates, wire, and a clock. All materials are safe and high quality. The kit does require that lemons be provided to make the most of the amazing experience. However, this kit is a fun unique way to explore science with your kids at home! Kidz Labs also has a potato clock STEM kit available. Get it on Amazon

 

7. Green Science Enviro Battery

enviro battery.jpg

Explore the wonders of green energy sources using this Enviro Battery kit. Complete with instructions, this kit also includes wires, zinc and copper plates, plastic cups, an LED lamp and more. Children can use potato, salt, water, and mud to light up an LED bulb and sound a buzzer, among other things! This kit is a wonderful introduction to the importance of leaving a smaller carbon footprint on the earth. Get it on Amazon

 

8. Melissa & Doug Stained Glass Window Art Kit

Stained Glass Art Kit.jpg

Develop concentration, creativity, and fine-motor skills with this stained-glass window art kit by Melissa and Doug. Your child will use a number key system to place glitter stickers over the template. The kit comes with a ready-to-hang wooden frame that allows your child to display their gorgeous project. Hang it in the window and watch the light shine through the glittering stickers! Get it on Amazon

 

9. Tara Toys STEM Projects Robotic Hand

Robotic Hand.jpg

This robotic hand project is a fun way to learn about tension and compression. This project is user-friendly and easy to assemble. Once built, the robotic hand can reach and grab objects! Also includes a fun learning card detailing the science behind tension and compression. The STEM Projects brand also offers walking dinosaur and fish generator project kits, also under ten bucks! Get it on Amazon

 

10. The STEMpreneur Mini STEM Racer

Stem Rally Racer.jpg

This STEM racer kit helps children develop spatial recognition, problem-solving, critical thinking, and fine and gross motor skills. The Rally Cross Racer is one of four racer models sold separately. Get one for each of your kids and have a family fun night building the racers and engaging in a friendly race competition! Get it on Amazon


Well, that concludes my list of ten educational gift ideas under ten dollars. I hope this post helped you. I want to reiterate these gift options are suitable for children between the ages of six and ten. But don’t let my age recommendations stop you if you know your child or classroom would enjoy these amazing STEM projects!

Until next time, friends…


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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!  


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50 States of the USA Geography Activities for Kids

 

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