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

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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…

 

 

 

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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What I Got My Boys for Christmas

What I Got My Boys for Christmas for Under $100 | Non-Toy Ideas

I have two boys, ages five and nine. Since our very first family Christmas, my hubs and I have thought diligently about how to balance enjoying this time of year without overshadowing its true meaning. 

One thing that has really helped me over the years is becoming an early shopper. I seldom wait until December, or even Black Friday, to start my Christmas shopping. Being prepared in this manner ensures I won’t be stressed during the holidays, which means I can focus on what Christmas is really about. 

I wasn’t going to write a post like this, but I felt inspired to for two reasons:

First, I know for many families the lack of finances can be a stressor that inhibits them from truly enjoying the holiday season. Of course, Christmas is not about “things,” but there’s nothing wrong with desiring to give good gifts to people you love in remembrance of the divine gift God gave to us. 

Listen, you don’t have to go broke this Christmas season. This year, we’ve spent $99.25 (plus tax, of course) on 24 Christmas gifts. At twelve gifts each that rounds out to be about $50 per child, which is way below our usual budget! And, yes, we bought them awesome things they actually wanted! 

Perhaps even $99 is something you can’t afford, but most of our gifts were on sale as low as $2.50. That means if you have four children and wanted to get them each two things, it is possible to spend just $20! 

The second reason I’m writing this post is to help those of you who need alternative ideas on what to get their boys (or girls!) for Christmas. Perhaps you’re tired of purchasing toys your kids never play with. Perhaps gift-shopping just isn’t your forte. Whatever the case, I can at least help you with gift-shopping for children under the age of ten. 

Here are our gift-giving guidelines:

  • Give gifts they’ll actually use. 
  • Give gifts that foster creativity and learning. 
  • Give gifts you can do together as a family.
  • Give gifts that are mostly consumable.
  • Give gifts they specifically asked for.

For our family, art and science projects are great gift options because they follow the aforementioned guidelines. As a homeschool family, we will actually use these gifts, they will inspire creativity, we will do them together as a family, they are (mostly) consumable, and we made sure to get specific gifts our boys asked for. 

So without further ado, keep reading to find out what we got our boys for Christmas. 

Note: This is not a sponsored post. I purchased all of these products at my local Dollar General with my own money. Affiliate links are included for those of you don’t have access to a Dollar General. Please see my disclaimer for information. 


What I Got My Boys for Christmas for Under $100

 

1. Volcano Projects

Amazing Volcano Gift for Kids

This set includes everything needed to make a model volcano. We’ve made one before, but volcanic eruptions NEVER get old for my children! My sister-in-law purchased something similar from Michaels and it did not include the baking soda or vinegar, so the fact that this set includes everything is great! Get it on Amazon

2. Sketch Wizard Kits

Sketch Wizard Gift for Kids

My boys love to draw, so I knew this sketch wizard would be greatly received. This sketch wizard allows children to draw any flat image or three-dimensional figure of their choice. All the child must do is place the object in front of the lens and it will create a traceable image. Along with the unit, this set comes with a graphite pencil, colored pencils, 5 scenes, and 5 blank sheets so kids can get started on their sketches right away! Get it on Amazon

3. Metal Art Kits

Metal Art Gift for Kids

It doesn’t get any cooler than creating designs in copper, aluminum, and brass! My oldest son enjoyed when he did something similar to this in his STEM class, so I know he’ll appreciate this kit. It comes with everything needed to create cool metal projects!

4. Velvet Art Kits

Velvet Art Gift for Kids

My boys are huge into coloring. I figured coloring on velvet would take the fun up a notch. I love that this set comes with markers and 8 different designs to choose from. It would be a great idea to frame and hang them in the bedroom as wall art when they’re finished!

5. Slime Lab Projects

GooZooka Slime Lab Gifts for Kids

Slime is all the rage these days. I know it can be messy, but my boys love it, so I’m willing to bend a few rules for the sake of a fun family project. This lab includes everything we’ll need to create slime. It’s even color changing slime, which makes it a bit cooler!

6. Spin Art Projects

Spin Art Gift for Kids

Notice a theme here? Mostly everything is art related. I could not pass up this cool spin art kit, though. Mostly because it’s a painting project and my kids love to paint!

7. Neon Doodle Kits

Neon Doodle Designs Gift for Kids

I bought this set because it includes neon gel pens and my oldest son has been asking me about purchasing gel pens. It also includes neon markers, a coloring book, and giant coloring pages. I’m sure this will create hours of fun in our home!

8. Sand Art Projects

Sand Art Gift for Kids

As if this set wasn’t cool enough, it also glows-in-the-dark! This set boasts hours of fun sand art projects. I think my youngest son will be most excited about this, as he’s into kinetic sand. But I must admit, this looks like fun for the whole family! Get it on Amazon

9. Marker Maker Kits

Crayola Marker Maker Gifts for Kids

This set allows kids to create their own custom marker colors. It even comes with wacky marker tips. I mean, how fun is that? I can’t wait to do this project with them! Get it on Amazon

10. LEGO Sets

Lego Classic and Lego City Gifts for Kids

I know this is a non-toy post but let me plead my case if I may. My boys spend hours at a time making LEGO creations, so I’m more than happy to contribute to their collection. Besides, LEGO is something they specifically asked for. And, yes, these sets were also included in my $99 total! They were just a bit cheaper than other stores, but not majorly on sale. In fact, Amazon has a cheaper rate than even Dollar General at the moment. I purchased the LEGO Classic Bricks and Gears for some fun STEM-related projects.  

Get LEGO Classic Bricks and Gears on Amazon

Get LEGO Classic Blue Creativity Box on Amazon

Get LEGO Classic Green Creativity Box on Amazon

Get LEGO City Airshow Jet on Amazon

Get LEGO City Arctic Exploration Team on Amazon

11. Foam Dart Blasters

X Shot Toy Foam Bullet Shooter

This gift is for both boys since it includes two blasters. Again, this is something they’ve specifically asked for. At our co-op, most of the boys have foam blasters so, of course, my boys asked for one. I know this is a toy item, but I’m including this blaster set so you can get a visual of everything I purchased for just $99. Get it on Amazon

12. Emoji Pillows

Emoji Pillows Gifts for Kids

What kid doesn’t love emojis? My boys are no different. I know seeing these pillows on Christmas day will bring a smile to their face. My youngest son especially loves plush things at the moment so he will love cuddling up with these pillows at night! Get it on Amazon


How did I get 24 items for under $100? All the art and science projects were half off. I paid as low as $2.50 for some of them. For everything else, I received 20% off! Although the sale I took advantage of is over, Dollar General is still having an amazing BOGO sale on toys—including LEGO! The secret is to look through the top shelves for heavily discounted items! You may need a ladder. I borrowed one from the store. 

Here is a look at my long receipt of 24 items for a subtotal of $99.25. It’s a little worn, but you can see that after I got hit with Georgia tax, I ended up paying $106.20 for all 24 items. If you compare these prices to Amazon, I got a pretty decent deal paying a fraction of the cost at Dollar General. 

Christmas Gifts Under $100

For fun, I totaled up how much these items would cost if I purchased them on Amazon for the best value (minus the 4 items not available on Amazon) and the grand total is $172.07! And this grand total is still missing four items (actually 8 because I purchased double of those particular items). Wow! What a saving!

I want to end this post by saying that each year is different for us. For instance, last Christmas our boys received new bikes and helmets and we went outside and rode around the neighborhood. It was so much fun and they were extremely grateful even though they didn’t get a lot of “things.” 

And while every Christmas looks different for us, a couple things that remain constant are not waiting until Christmas season to shop, sticking to our budget, and being intentional about teaching our children what’s truly valuable. 


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How to Homeschool

10 Things You Should Know Before You Homeschool

Thinking about homeschooling your children, or know someone who is? As a newbie homeschooler, I would have been lost if it weren’t for the homeschool veterans that helped me put everything into perspective. So, here I am paying it forward. Not that I consider myself a veteran, but I’ve learned a thing or two. Here are my top ten things every prospective homeschooler should know and/or consider before their first year of homeschool. And if you’re already in the homeschooling game, perhaps you may still find some of these tips useful.   


10 Things You Should Know Before You Homeschool


1. The Law

In the United States, you have the right to provide your child with a home-based education. Homeschool is a legal practice in all fifty U.S. states and has been since 1993. However, there are legal requirements you should know regarding homeschool. Requirements differ depending on where you live, so it’s best to research the requirements for your state. I can offer you a summary here, but be sure to do the research for yourself for up-to-date legal requirements.

Homeschool Law Breakdown

There are four types of states regarding homeschool laws: The first type is a No Regulation State. A no regulation state has no requirements for homeschool parents. The second type is a Low Regulation State. A low regulation state only requires parents to send notification of their intent to homeschool. The third type is a Moderate Regulation State. A moderate regulation state requires parents to send notification of their intent to homeschool, as well as test scores and/ or professional evaluation of student progress. Finally, the fourth type is a High Regulation State. A high regulation state may require notification, test scores, curriculum approval by the state, teacher qualification of parents, or home visits by state officials, among other things. Click here to get a snapshot of the category your residing state falls into.

I can’t stress enough to do your own research. Laws change all the time and there are always details to consider. To help structure your research, seek to answer the following questions:

  • Is there a compulsory attendance?
  • Are there required subjects?
  • Is there a deadline?
  • Do you have to keep records?
  • Can you teach other kids?
  • Can you hire a tutor?
  • Do you need a college degree?
  • Are there required standardized tests?
  • What are your other rights?
  • Did any laws change?

I know. It all seems so scary. If you need any legal help, the Homeschool Defense Legal Association will point you in the right direction.

2. Your Vision

So, what’s a vision, anyway?

I like the way leadership expert, Jessie Lyn Stoner, defines vision: “Vision is knowing who you are, where you’re going, and what will guide your journey.” It is made up of your purpose, picture of the future, and your values. Now let’s apply that to your homeschool. Ask yourself these questions:

  • What is your purpose for homeschooling and what value will it provide to your family?
  • What will your picture look like at the end of your homeschool journey when your purpose of fulfilled?
  • What are your core values and how will they support your purpose?

Make sure you write your vision down! Here’s an example from my vision and mission statement for the upcoming school year.

Nike Anderson's Homeschool Vision Statement

3. The Benefits

Understanding the benefits of your decision to homeschool will keep you going when things get tough. Be sure to do thorough research on all of the benefits you’ll be providing for your children (and yourself!) during your homeschool experience. Write them down or print them out. Here are a few statistics from the National Home Education Research Institute:

  • Homeschool students score above average on achievement tests regardless of their parents’ level of formal education or their family’s household income.
  • The home-educated typically score 15 to 30 percentile points above public-school students on standardized academic achievement tests.
  • Homeschool students are increasingly being actively recruited by colleges
  • The home-educated are doing well, typically above average, on measures of social, emotional, and psychological development. Research measures include peer interaction, self-concept, leadership skills, family cohesion, participation in community service, and self-esteem.

It’s important to understand that some statistics in favor of homeschool, and those against homeschool, can be biased. Instead, make it a habit to write down your personal list of benefits that you’ve experienced as a result of homeschool. Here’s mine. Perhaps I’ll explain these in depth in another blog post.

  • Improved Focus. We’re able to modify our learning environment to ensure the best possible focus.
  • Close-knit Family. We have the opportunity to strengthen our relationship with one another.
  • Tailored Education. We can choose a curriculum that best suits our family and make necessary modifications if needed.
  • Tailored Pace. We can speed up or slow down our lessons depending on the level of mastery. 
  • Lifestyle Learning. There’s very little separation between real-life and “school.” Everything’s a lesson!
  • Lifestyle Freedom. Our schedule is super flexible. We can vacation off-season and visit attractions during low-traffic hours.

4. Discounts & Free Resources

Homeschool has the potential to get costly, especially for beginners who are tempted to purchase everything that veterans recommend. Research free resources in your area. You might be amazed by all your community has to offer for little to no cost. The local library is a great place to start, as they are typically connected to many resources that offer free admission to the museum, zoo, aquarium, and much more. You can even find free or low-cost classes at your local museum, zoo, aquarium, capital building, and education center.

Of course, there are many free resources on the Web. Youtube has great educational channels for all ages, and there are websites galore that are full of access to free educational resources. Websites I’ve used frequently for free printables and curricula are:

  • Education.comFree printables for core and elective subjects for grades pre-k thru high school. Also provides games, activities, lesson plans, and more.
  • KidzoneFree worksheets for pre-k thru grade 5.
  • Teachers pay TeachersFree lesson plans, worksheets, games, and resources from experienced educators around the world.
  • AllinOneHomeschoolA free online curriculum for core and elective subjects for grades pre-k thru high school.
  • Khan AcademyFree online courses, classes, and practice.
  • ScholasticFree resources and tools, printables, and more.
  • Hoffman AcademyFree music lessons.
  • Nike Anderson’s Classroom(Shameless plug, hehe!) Free printable worksheets for pre-k thru grade 2 designed for kinesthetic learners.

This list doesn’t even make a dent so please do your own research. New resources I haven’t tried but am just learning about are:

  • CrayolaFree lesson plans and resources for language arts, math, STEM, social studies, art, and more.
  • Homeschool Buyers CoopFree virtual field trip lesson plans, resources, tips, and more.

Read FREE Homeschool DEALS Your Wallet Will LOVE for more resources.

*******You May Also Qualify for Teacher Discounts******

Don’t forget you are a teacher, too! I mean, I know this should be a given, but it took me a while to accept that title. So make sure you attend teacher drives in your area and take advantage of the free school supplies they give out at the start of the school year.

Even more? You can receive a teacher’s discount at participating supercenters, bookstores, and office supply stores. I’ve personally received discounts at my local bookstore, but am now learning there are so many stores that may offer homeschoolers a teacher’s discount. Keep in mind that you may have to show your declaration of intent, homeschool membership card, or HSLDA membership card. Here are some stores you might want to try according to the HSLDA.

·         Adobe.com

·         A.C. Moore Arts and Crafts

·         Ann Taylor Loft

·         Apple Store

·         Barnes & Noble

·         Big Lots

·         The Book Barn

·         Books-a-Million

·         Colonial Williamsburg

·         The Container Store

·         Creation Museum

·         Dell

·         Generation Joshua

·         Goodwill

·         Half Price Books

·         HSLDA Online Academy

·         J. Crew

·         Joann Fabrics

·         Legoland

·         Michaels

·         Mount Vernon

·         New York and Co.

·         Office Depot

·         Office Max

·         Patrick Henry College

·         Ripley’s Attractions, Gatlinburg, TN

5. The Types of Homeschool Groups

Basically, there are different types of homeschool groups that cater to the needs of different families. The best way I found out about the homeschool groups in my area was through a Facebook search. I simply searched “homeschool groups near me” and requested to join the groups I was interested in. Please note that there is an additional process to be an official member of the homeschool group of your choice. Joining a Facebook group may give you access to information about that group, but many groups require an application, a membership fee, references, a background check, mandatory volunteering, and more. Be sure to seek out the group administrator for additional requirements. Here are some examples of homeschool groups to consider:

  • Christian Homeschool Groups—A group that provides homeschool families with information, fellowship, and learning opportunities centered around Christian beliefs.
  • Secular Homeschool Groups—A homeschool group that provides non-religious families with information, fellowship, and learning opportunities.
  • African American/ Ethnic Homeschool Groups—A homeschool group that connects African Americans and/or various ethnic groups with one another.
  • STEAM Homeschool Groups—A homeschool group that helps families provide their children with an education in the areas of science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics.
  • Homeschool Playgroups—A laid back homeschool group focused on providing children with fellowship opportunities in the form of open-ended play.
  • Classical Education Homeschool Groups—Connects homeschool families who follow the classical education method. This group usually offers classes by parents who specialize in teaching classical education.
  • Tutorial Co-op—A co-op for children of any age in need of specialized tutoring in a particular subject. Usually, taught by qualified parents and/or teachers.
  • Parent-support Co-op—A co-op for homeschool parents to gather, fellowship, and minister to one another.
  • Traditional Homeschool Co-op—A co-op that’s usually parent-led designed to provide homeschool children with elective classes, field-trips, socialization, and more.

6. How Your Children Learn.

If you plan to use a curriculum, make sure it suits the way your child learns best. There are different types of learning styles. Here’s a list of six different ways your child may prefer to learn.

  • Visual, or learning using pictures, images, and spatial understanding.
  • Aural, or learning using sound and music.
  • Verbal, or learning using words, both in speech and writing.
  • Physical, or learning using your body, hands, and sense of touch.
  • Logical, or learning using logic, reasoning, and systems.
  • Social, or learning in groups.
  • Solitary, or preferring to work alone and use self-study.

Scholastic offers a simple “Learning Style Quiz” you can do with your child to point you in the right direction. When I sought out a curriculum for my children, who are visual and physical learners, I made sure to implement a curriculum that involves games, physical movement, and stimulating visual prompts and videos. But even in doing so, we’re not limited to the curriculum. I’ve created many resources, learning games, and projects along the way to enhance classroom learning. You can, too! Pinterest is your best friend. So is your imagination!

7.  You Don’t Need an Extensive Curriculum

Well, maybe you do if you live in a high regulation state that must approve your curriculum choice. However, for the rest of us, an extensive curriculum with all the bells and whistles isn’t necessary. Trust me when I say, “What will always matter most is how much you put into a curriculum. Not what you get out of it.” When a parent places a great deal of effort into their child’s education they will never come up short—regardless of the curriculum choice. I am living proof. Due to financial hardship in the past, I’ve had to get super creative. I relied heavily on free curricula, library resources, and my creative juices. If you’ve been following me since Day One, you know this. These days, I am blessed to purchase curricula that suit my family, but I still take advantage of free resources.

Please know there are parents who’ve spent a fortune, yet get frustrated by a curriculum because the child is disinterested and/or not thriving. Usually, this is because the curriculum doesn’t fit the child’s preferred learning style. Read the forums! You’ll read all sorts of horror stories regarding the most recommended of curricula. And while these particular materials may work for some children, they do not work for all.

I don’t care who wrote the curriculum, what the author’s credentials are, and how many awards they’ve earned, there is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all curriculum. And just because it costs a fortune doesn’t mean it’s the best fit for your family. I personally know parents who are using free online homeschool curricula and their children are thriving because the parents are involved, innovative, and dedicated. I say this not to steer you away from a boxed curriculum, but to inspire those who cannot afford it. You can do it!

8. Different Types of Homeschoolers

There are all kinds of homeschool families. Some of which are underrepresented on the Web. You don’t have to homeschool the way you see other families on social media do it. Take a look at these alternative methods to homeschool.

  • Eclectic homeschool, or homeschooling that mixes several different learning styles.
  • Classical education, or teaching according to the phases of a child’s cognitive development.
  • Charlotte Mason, or a method that uses real-life experiences to teach a child.
  • Unit studies, or a specific interest that is studied from different angles.
  • Unschooled, or child-led learning that is void of curricula and lesson plans.

I know there’s a stigma against implementing traditional schooling into your homeschool classroom, but hear me out: If this method works for your family, use it! You don’t have to forgo the traditional method just because you’re a homeschool family. In fact, if you have children who are being pulled out of public or private school, they may be most receptive to traditional learning because it’s what they know. That’s okay.

9. You Have Support

Say farewell to the stigma that was once associated with homeschool. Welcome, the days where homeschool has increasingly gained both popularity and respect. The U.S. homeschool population continues to grow each year at a rate anywhere between 2-8 percent. As the population grows, so do social support groups, legal support groups, and resources. The Homeschool Legal Defense Association is probably amongst the most popular support groups. They provide homeschool families with pertinent information regarding homeschool laws, legal services, and may offer peace of mind.

Many public libraries also support homeschoolers. Check out your local library to see what they have to offer. Our local library offers STEM classes, STEM kits, free admissions passes to parks and museums, and much more. Local businesses may also offer “homeschool days” where admission is free or discounted. Our local Skyzone, skating, and bowling center offer homeschool days for a discounted admission. Our state capital building also offers a homeschool day where they give a free tour and low-cost legal classes. Taking advantage of these opportunities is a great way to meet and connect with other homeschool families in your area. So get plugged in!

10. Inevitable Bad Days

If you have a Mary Poppins expectation of what your homeschool days will look like, allow me to bring in a bit of reality—some days will not go so well.  Just as with traditional school, where you’d expect days when your child hates it, expect the same for homeschool. Prepare in advance for how you’d like to handle your uncooperative child (or your uncooperative self!). Here’s what worked for us:

  • Everyone take ten deep breaths—Deep breathing reduces muscle tension, improves mental concentration, and increases the sense of well-being.
  • Let the child talk about it—Sometimes they need to let it all out. Give them a window of opportunity to let their voice be heard.
  • Take a break—Whether it’s just for ten minutes or for the rest of the day. Sometimes we forget that our children need breaks from the monotony of homeschool.
  • Push through—Helping your child to push through something challenging, even when they want to give up, will teach them the value of perseverance.

So, there you have it! Keep in mind that there’s so much pertinent information out there. These are just some of the tips that I’ve found quite useful as a newbie homeschooler, along with other tips I’ve learned along the way. It goes without saying that every homeschool journey is different. So when seeking advice, always consider that you know what works best for your family better than anyone else.

Your Turn!

Let us know in the comments where you are in your homeschool journey and what you’ve learned so far. 

Toddlers and Toys

Toddler Boredom | 10 Ways to Resurrect Old Toys

 

Okay, so let me get this out of the way. The average attention span for a toddler is only 3-5 minutes. By age five, this span increases to a whopping 10-15 minutes. Not very long, huh? I know! It’s no wonder kids seem to run out of things to do so quickly. Nevertheless, I incorporated the following methods to maximize the attention span of my dear children. My boys are now ages 4 and 7, but these straightforward tips have worked for me since their toddlerhood. This week for Toddler Talk Tuesday, I will share simple things you can do to help curb toddler boredom. I hope you find these tips helpful. Enjoy!


 

Toddler Boredom | 10 Ways to Resurrect Old Toys

 

1. Don’t hold onto them. 

Those toys that your children have outgrown or don’t care for? Donate them! Sometimes when the toybox or playroom is overflowing with toys it can be overwhelming for kids, especially the younger ones. Purging toys not only lessens the load and makes playtime more attractive, but helps your children discover those long-lost items they’ve forgotten how much they love. Be sure to involve your little ones in the donation process. Let them know they are making room for new toys in the future. And don’t forget to let your toddler choose a brand-new toy to purchase and include in your donation!

 

2. Keep them in rotation. 

Limiting your child’s toy options may help hold their attention for longer periods—especially when those options are in rotation. Leave your child 1-2 toys to play with and put the rest away for a while. You may find that your child can play for longer periods with just one or two toys. This is because there aren’t a dozen other toys competing for their attention, so your child isn’t rushing to move on to the next best thing. Decide how long you want your rotation to last (every week? every month?) and reintroduce your child to some of the toys you’ve been hiding away. Be sure to keep the cycle going. 

 

3. Organize them. 

Yes! Keep the blocks with the blocks, the dolls with the dolls, the play kitchenware with the play kitchenware—you get the point! Avoid dumping all your children’s toys into one giant toy bin. Instead, get some inexpensive bins (the Dollar Tree is a good place to start) and teach your children how to keep their toys organized and accessible. You’ll be amazed at what a difference this can make during playtime. I recall several meltdowns because certain parts of a playset had gotten lost in the crowded toybox. Organizing toys keeps all those “parts” together, which limits frustration and tantrums. 

 

4. Play with them. 

Sometimes you just have to get on the floor and play with your kids. Doing so is not only great for bonding and building self-esteem, but also gives your child new ideas about how to play with their toys. Show them how to build an amazing tower with their Lego set, how to create an awesome storyline for their toy soldiers or dolls, or how to play a new tune with their pretend (or real) instruments. You may find that your child takes ideas and builds upon them, sparking a new excitement for their toys. 

 

5. Change surroundings. 

Take that play kitchen or workbench station out of the playroom and put it into the family room for a few days. On a sunny day, take a large blanket and place it in the backyard with a few of your child’s beloved toys for a fun toy picnic. During the winter, bring your child’s water table into the kitchen or garage and let them enjoy playing with a “summer toy” during a different season. Sometimes, a different setting can make old toys just as exciting as brand new ones.

 

6. Wrap them!

Yes, you heard it right. Get some fun wrapping paper and wrap some of your child’s toys. Toddlers won’t care that the toy isn’t new. They just love the idea of unwrapping a present! Even better? Give them some extra wrapping paper to wrap the toys themselves. My boys loved wrapping their toys and giving them to me as “gifts.”

 

7. Become a “toy fairy.”

I still love doing this! When my oldest was a toddler, I would sneak into his bedroom while he was asleep and set up his toys in an elaborate display. Trust me, this will buy you some time in the morning! Or even post-naptime! My son would wake up and be so excited to play. These days, since I have my children’s toys on rotation, I simply switch out their toys in the middle of the night for other toys they haven’t played with in a while. It’s like Christmas morning! They never know what toys they’ll wake up to.

 

8. Wash them.

Get a large container, fill it with water and bath bubbles, give your child a toddler-friendly scrubber, and let them “wash” their toys. Make sure the toys are not plush, battery operated, or electronic. They can wash their toys while sitting on the kitchen floor as you cook dinner (place a towel underneath them). Or, like my boys do, they can wash their toys outside in the backyard while you sit on the porch with your favorite book scrolling through Instagram.

 

9. Make them educational.

Place alphabet letters or numbers onto blocks, Legos, mini figures, or dolls and have your toddler arrange them in order. You can simply print out a number or alphabet template, cut them into squares, and tape them onto the toys. If you don’t mind things being permanent, you can even write on blocks and Legos with a permanent marker. You can also have your child group the toys by color; for example, place the red blocks with other toys that are red. Or, try arranging the toys by size. There are so many possibilities and your toddler will love having a little task to do!

 

10. Take them apart.

This is a recent tip I read about in one of my Facebook STEM groups. Whether you have a curious child or a future engineer, old toys that can’t be donated can be safely taken apart for further exploring. Let your child explore what’s inside a stuffed animal, a remote-control car, or that musical toy that plays the same annoying songs over and over. I do not recommend this tip for younger toddlers who still put things in their mouths, as there may be small parts involved. Always remember to provide close supervision.


 

As a disclaimer, I am not an expert. These are just tips that have worked for me and my family. I hope you found at least one of these tips useful. Join me next week for my final post on the Toddler Talk Tuesday series!

Let us know in the comments what you do to help curb toddler boredom!

 

 

Easy Space Experiments for Kids

Easy Fun Space Experiments for Kids

This year we are trying out the Magic School Bus curriculum. This science curriculum boasts 180 days of units on space, forces and weather, energy, animals, habitats, archaeology and more!  I want to give a shout out to Cornerstone Confessions for offering this free curriculum on their awesome website.

This curriculum is appropriate for kindergarten, 1st, and 2nd-grade students. As I’ve mentioned, it’s free, but you will need to purchase certain supplies for the experiments. You will also need access to The Magic School Bus episodes via Netflix, YouTube, or the library. While it’s too early to provide a comprehensive review, I will say that this curriculum is full of fun activities and experiments for kids. We are definitely enjoying this no-nonsense approach to science.

So, let’s get right into some of the experiments and activities we’ve been doing this month!

1. Experiment One: Name Those Planets

Objective: Identifying planets by size and distance to the sun.

Corresponding Video: The Magic School Bus Gets Lost in Space

What You’ll Need:
•    Balls of every size (1 basketball, 1 soccer ball, 2 soft balls, 2 ping pong balls, 1 jack ball, 1 marble). *Note: We didn’t have all these balls on hand, so we just used what we had!
•    Stick on labels
•    Markers
•    This worksheet

What to Do:
1.    Hide the balls around your classroom or backyard and ask students to find all 8. (I added this fun activity to the experiment to get them moving!)
2.    Ask students to label all of the planets according to size.
3.    Ask students to line the planets up according to the distance from the sun. (Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Venus, Uranus, Neptune.)

4.    Ask students to complete the follow-up worksheet activity.

Get more ideas for this experiment here!

2. Experiment Two: Stargazing

Objective: Finding out what happens to stars when the sun rises.

Corresponding Video: The Magic School Bus Sees Stars.

What You’ll Need:
•    A late curfew (for stargazing)
•    Pencil or pen

•    Scissors
•    Bright flashlight
•    This worksheet

What to Do:
1.    Go outside on a clear night and observe real stars. Have students record what they see. (If you don’t homeschool, tell your students to stargaze with their parents for homework).
2.    The next day, go outside and ask the students if they can see any stars.
3.    Ask students why they think it’s difficult to see stars during the day and record their answer. (Stars are veiled by gases, dust, and water vapor in the atmosphere.)
4.    Print out this template and punch out the Astro-Liz constellation using a pen or pencil. Make sure your students know the holes represent “stars,” and the cover flap represents the “atmosphere.”

5.    Pretend it’s nighttime and hold Astro-Liz up to a bright window with the white flap facing them. (Ask students if they see any “stars” through the “atmosphere.”)
6.    Pretend it’s daytime and hold Astro-Liz up to a bright window. This time, shine the flashlight (sun) on the cover flap.

(Ask students if they can still see the “stars” through the “atmosphere” when the “sun” is shining.)

7.    Ask students to complete the follow-up worksheet activity.

 Get more ideas for this experiment here!

3. Experiment Three: Constellation Viewers

Objective: Learning about different constellations.

Corresponding Video: The Magic School Bus Sees Stars

What You’ll Need:
•    Empty paper towel tubes
•    Dark blue construction paper
•    Scissors
•    Glue
•    Pin, pen, or pencil
•    Rubber bands
•    A coffee mug (or any round-top cup)
•    This template
•    Markers, crayons, stickers, etc. to decorate (optional)

What to Do:
1.    Decorate the tube. (We decorated color construction paper and glued it over the paper towel tube.)
2.    Choose your constellation from the template and cut it out.
3.    Place a coffee mug upside-down onto dark blue construction paper and trace around it.
4.    Cut out the circle you traced on the dark blue construction paper.
5.    Glue your constellation directly onto the center of the dark blue circle.
6.    Punch out the holes on the constellation using a pin, pen, or pencil.
7.    Fold the circle onto the end of the tube so that the constellation is centered. Fasten with a rubber band.
8.    Look through the tube to view your constellation!

 *Note: You can also place a flashlight into the tube and turn off the lights to see the constellations.

 

4. Experiment Four: Making Craters!

Objective: What happens when asteroids of different weight and sizes hit the earth?

Corresponding Video: The Magic School Bus Out of This World

What You’ll Need:
•    Cinnamon
•    Flour
•    Salt

•    Shoe boxes
•    Marbles of all sizes
•    Aluminum foil balls
•    Ping-pong balls
•    Spoon
•    This Worksheet

What to Do:
1.    Mix flour and salt together in shoe boxes and smooth over. Cover with a layer of cinnamon.
2.    Ask students to predict what might happen if they dropped each of the balls into the shoe boxes.
3.    From a crouching position, drop each of the balls into the shoe boxes and carefully remove them. Ask students what they see. (Craters should be of different sizes and depths.)
4.    Ask students to record their observations on the worksheet.
5.    From a standing position, drop each ball into the shoe boxes and carefully remove them. Ask students what they see. (Craters should be bigger and deeper.)
6.    Ask students to record their observations.
7.    Discuss why the holes were bigger and deeper when the balls were dropped from standing position. (A further distance gives the balls time to pick up speed, which results in bigger craters.)

 Get more ideas for this experiment here!

Stay tuned for more posts on easy, fun science experiments for kids! I wish I could write about them all, but I’d rather you head on over to Cornerstone Confessions and Scholastic to discover the ones we didn’t mention for yourself. A full review on this curriculum will be available at the end of the school year. Stay tuned!

Have you tried this curriculum? Let us know down below!

Frugal Resources for Homeschool

12 Frugal Supplements I Used For Preschool & Kindergarten

During my homeschool research, I came across several blog posts recommending high-priced curricula and supplement materials. But for homeschool parents on a budget, like us, you don’t have to fork over your entire homeschool savings on curricula alone. Take the frugal road and save most of that money for enriching activities and experiences outside the classroom.

Most of you know that I created my own curriculum this year. Partly because I was on a budget and partly because I didn’t want to spend top dollar on something that may not work for us. I needed to spend time with my children to assess their learning style and abilities so that I could determine which curriculum fit best for our household. I’m glad I did this. Not only did I save money, but I’m now able to help other homeschool parents who are looking to save money, too.

Most of the worksheets and activities my boys did this year were created by me. However, there were some resources that helped me fill in those gaps. Not all of these resources were free, but they fit into my budget nicely. Here they are!


12 Great Resources That Helped Me Supplement My Homeschool Curriculum for Pre-K and Kindergarten. 

1Scholastic Early Learners workbook..    Scholastic Early Learners workbook.

This workbook was used more so toward the beginning of the year, although we still like to use it for handwriting practice. Among other things, this workbook covers practice in the alphabet and phonics, counting, shapes and 3-D shapes, sequencing, telling time, and standard kindergarten vocabulary practice.

Trend Enterprises Ready to Read workbook

2.    Trend Enterprises Ready to Read workbook.

This workbook covers beginning reading skills, upper and lowercase letters, letter and word puzzles, basic reading vocabulary, and reading and following directions. This is a wipe – off book used primarily by my 3-year-old, even though it’s designed for kindergarten. However, my kindergartner has gotten some great use out of it, too.

School Zone Big Workbook3.    School Zone Big Workbook.

I purchased this workbook at the First Grade level to challenge my kindergartner. We used this book very often, as it allowed for practice in many areas. The book covers critical thinking, phonics and spelling, vocabulary, reading comprehension, basic math, and math word problems, among other things. We were able to cover a lot of ground with this workbook, so we found it super helpful.

4.    Learning Resources flashcards.

We used the United States flashcards as a part of our geography lesson. These flash cards also came with fun facts. My preschooler used the Alphabet and Numbers flash cards to practice phonics and fluency in counting up to 30. We also purchased “thumbs up” stickers from the Dollar Tree and placed a sticker on each flash card they mastered. This allowed us to practice more on the facts they hadn’t mastered yet. I know flash cards are frowned upon in the homeschool community, but my kids love flash cards!

5.    Trend Enterprises Sight Word flashcards.

Playing fun games with these flash cards really helped my kindergartner to master his sight words. These flashcards have all sorts of levels for sight word practice. Once again, we used the
sticker method to keep track of the words he needed more practice with. By the end of the year, my kindergartner’s fluency at recalling sight words greatly increased.

Teachers pay Teachers.

6.    Teachers pay Teachers.

This is where I downloaded and printed many of my worksheets. This resource carries everything from science activities to reading comprehension practice, and so much more! Some of the resources are free, others are fairly priced. The great thing about this resource was that I can print out exactly what I need, rather than flipping through a published workbook filled with fluff. I have a store listed on Teachers Pay Teachers where I offer free printables. Find it, here.

National Geographic Kids7.    National Geographic Kids.

National Geographic Kids is a fun resource for learning about plants, animals, and habitats all around the world. They also have a fun “How Things Are Made” series, where kids can learn how their favorite things are made from pizza to crayons, and even LEGOs! The National Geographic Kids website includes a wealth of resources from videos to books, and fun learning games and quizzes. Also, check out the Dollar Tree for National Geographic books to add to your science curriculum.

1464117973397-18.    YouTube.

There are so many YouTube learning channels for Kids. Videos are great for reinforcing facts, ideas, and concepts. National Geographic Kids has a great YouTube Channel. Other favorites are Animal Atlas and The Kids Picture Show, which covers advanced shapes, colors, and the solar system, among other things. I love these channels for those hectic mornings where I need my boys to stay in one place while I make breakfast or put in a load of laundry. These channels are also great compliments to curriculum lessons. My kids can learn all about the solar system and then watch a fun video about it.

61j76ft19zl-_sx258_bo1204203200_9.    The Everything Kids’ Science Experiments Book.

This book covers the human body, physics, biology, chemistry, and nature. We liked this book because most of the experiments called for everyday items you’d use in your home. We got more into science experiments towards the end of the year, and this book had tons of fun ones to do that were pre-k and kindergarten friendly. The book also provides key terms as well as gives explanations of what’s happening during the experiment, which is great for lesson planning.

146411915598611.    I Can Read books.

These books include a ton of series from Amelia Bedelia to Frog and Toad, which are my childhood favorites. The great thing about “I Can Read” books is that they have different levels from emerging readers to advanced readers. We started off at Level 1, but there’s a level before that called “Shared Reading.” Shared reading is great because it divides the books with sentences for parents to read and sentences for emerging readers. I don’t think kids should be pushed to read early, but my kindergartner showed all the signs of reading readiness. His favorite “I Can Read” series are from Charlie the Ranch Dog.

12.    The library.nola_brantley_memorial_library

I know I mention this resource all the time, but the library is certainly underrated. Not only do they hold classes and activities for homeschoolers, they also have a ton of resources, discount codes for education materials, and so much more. We checked out a ton of books every week for the entire school year. Books on astronomy, geography, the human body, and, of course, books to read just for fun. The library also has STEM activities for budding engineers and a great selection of audiobooks for kids. Be careful to look at the copyright date on the books to ensure the resource isn’t outdated.

the_macon_museum_of_arts__sciences_172177613.    The Museum.

Our local museum is completely free. Other museums like the Children’s or Science museums usually have free admission days. Take advantage of your local museum! They typically hold great classes for homeschool families. Our local museum holds regular STEM Classes. If you’re unfamiliar with STEM, it’s an acronym for all things Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics—sometimes Art (STEAM). Museums are great for a learning day outside the home. Pack a lunch and have a fun picnic in the designated picnic areas!


I’m sure I forgot some amazing resources we used. If I did, you’ll surely hear about it in the future. These resources, however, are ones that we used often and made excellent supplements to my curriculum lesson plans. If you are on a tight budget this year, I urge you to try out some of these resources. For a list of free curricula, click here.

Lastly, I just want to say, don’t be afraid of not using the same pricey curriculum as everyone else. It’s not what you have, but how you use what you have. There are kids using those materials who are struggling, read the forums! And I want to note that even though we didn’t use a top-notch curriculum, my kindergartner still tested above grade-level for both reading and math. It’s not necessary to keep score in homeschool, but I needed to test him to prepare for next year’s curriculum.

Will you be creating your own curriculum next school year? Let us know down below!