How We Use Exploring Creation with General Science

General ScienceI promised several readers I would share a post about how we’ve made Apologia’s Exploring Creation with General Science by Dr. Jay Wile work as a mostly independent course for my 7th grader Makayla.  This post will share our experience so far, having completed more than half the course.

What We Bought

IMG_4856We purchased the textbook and the solutions and test manual for the 2nd edition from  These are essential for the course in my opinion.  I have used the solutions and test manual a lot.  I was not taught science this way, with in depth reasoning and worldview studies woven in, and to be honest my middle school science was sadly lacking in depth.

We purchased the General Science Lab Kit by Nature’s Workshop Plus through  While you can gather materials on your own I knew that I needed every advantage I could get.  Makayla was set to begin this course right after I gave birth to my eighth newborn.  The kit comes with bags of materials for the experiments divided by module.

IMG_4863It also includes a master list of materials you will need to provide for each module – things like water, pans, red cabbage, or live worms.  This master list went right in Makayla’s binder.  Each time she finishes a module she checks this list and lets me know anything she’ll need for the next module. It is her responsibility.  I add these to my grocery list, I won’t make a special trip to the store if she discovers one morning that she forgot to get her list to me.

Companion CDrom – We did purchase this but Makayla really hasn’t used it.  It is an optional multimedia resource with videos and animations to go with each module of the textbook.  I expect some of my more visual learners will use this when it is their turn to do General Science.

There are many more optional things you can pick up for the General Science course. Here are a few:

The Independent Plan

Makayla planned to do this course independently.  She asked for a schedule to help keep her moving through at a steady pace.  There are options to purchase schedules but we found a free schedule that incorporated a notebook of sorts.  You’ll find it on this page of  It is in a little box with a blue arrow pointing to the title, “A Detailed Lesson Plan by Becca”.

This schedule gave Makayla enough structure to move through the course in the beginning when she was learning how to do a textbook based course.  It gave her the flexibility to take 2 days to cover material when she really needed to.  Now, months into the course, Makayla has found her rhythm and adjusted to the workload.  This week she’s in Module 12: Energy and Life.  There are 16 modules in the course.

Not Totally Independent

In the beginning our plan was to simply have Makayla narrate to me about what she was learning.  She would complete all On Your Own questions, experiments, study guide sections, and the test could be completed in a written or oral format.  We quickly discovered that sometimes Makayla really needs to talk through the material.  She does well with most of the reading and experiments.  Where she needs a sounding board is for some of the On Your Own questions.  These are not multiple choice or fill in the blank questions where you look back through the text and copy word for word from a paragraph.  These often are application questions that draw on what you’ve learned in past modules and the current one to understand a situation or puzzle presented.  The answers to One Your Own questions are in the textbook at the end of each module if needed.  One thing I really like is that they also explain why the answer is what it is.

The Experiments

IMG_4864The lab portion of General Science has a wide range of experiments and purchasing the lab kit has been worth the cost for us.  When Makayla comes across an experiment in the text she simply pulls out the bag labeled for that Module, grabs the materials for the experiment she is on, and gets to work.  At my house science experiments are usually done with an audience. Most of the experiments have been successful.  There have been a few failures, one of which was due to not reading through the entire experiment beforehand, a learning experience for my daughter.

There have also been a few we couldn’t do because of the time of year.  For example, fruit flies don’t hatch well in the middle of winter.  And the erosion experiment that requires digging in the dirt and such came at a time when the ground was covered in 7 inches of snow and frozen solid.  The textbook is helpful because after the experiment it explains what results you should have seen and what they mean, so in these instances Makayla was able to keep going without finding a way to complete the experiment.

Checking for Understanding

Exploring Creation with General Science has several opportunities for a student to check their understanding in a module.

  • On Your Own questions – appear in yellow boxes throughout the module.  The answers to these are found at the end of the module.
  • Study Guide – Each module has a study guide with vocabulary to define and questions to answer related to the entire module.  This page is at the end of each module.  Answers to the study guide questions are found in the separate Solutions and Tests manual.
  • Module Summary – Appendix B has fill in the blank pages called Module Summaries for each chapter.  This is an optional way to review the module.  Each paragraph contains multiple blanks and many are for more than one word.  If the student is doing these they are encouraged to write out the entire paragraph instead of just writing the answers to fill in the blanks, which is, in effect, taking notes.
  • Module Test – These are found in the separate Solutions and Tests manual to copy for your student.  Answers are also found in the same book.  Each test is set up similarly to the Study Guide and has vocabulary to define as well as questions to answer.

We have used a mix of all four of these throughout the course.  Makayla always does the On Your Own questions and Study Guide.  In a module where she feels she needs the extra review she also does the Module Summary.  Then she does her test.  I allow Makayla to complete every other module’s study guide orally, with the others being written.  If she has no missed answers on the study guide she also has the option to skip the test, which is basically the same thing as the study guide.

A Few More Notes

I have found that people often fall into two scheduling camps when it comes to using Exploring Creation with General Science. The 1 year camp sets out to complete the course in 1 year, usually 7th or 8th grade.  They expect the student to dive in and adjust to what may be the first heavy textbook course they’ve attempted.  They may be less flexible on allowing the student to take their time to find a rhythm, pushing ahead for fear of getting ‘behind’.

The 2 year camp often sets out on their General Science adventure in the 1 year camp and after pushing and dragging their student through the first two modules on a time-driven schedule they decide the course is too difficult and choose to slow down and take 2 years to complete it.

Neither camp is wrong but I think there are things to watch for in either camp.  In the 1 year camp there is a risk of burning out your child from pushing them along with the schedule as the taskmaster, stuffing the knowledge in short term but not giving them time to truly understand it.  In the 2 year camp there is the risk of never challenging the student.  Instead of encouraging them to step up to a new workload 2 year campers just make it easier and KEEP it easier the whole way through.

My solution for each camp is the same.  Follow your student’s lead in the beginning.  Slow down and let them wade into the water.  It is okay to take longer on the first few modules while they get used to the course but don’t stay at that speed!  Slowly increase the difficulty, expecting them to read and complete just a bit more each day, until they are working through the modules at a reasonable pace.

What is a reasonable pace?  That’s up to you and your student.  Our goal was to finish Exploring Creation with General Science in 1 calendar year.  Not a 9 month school year, a full 52 week year.  I knew Makayla would become more efficient as the year progressed if she was working toward a goal.  I also knew that at this age making the course too easy by spreading it out over 2 years was not our family’s goal.  She’s in 7th grade and now is the time to begin challenging her to step up in difficulty and workload.  I believed she was ready.  It has proven to be true over the last 7 months.

What’s Next for Makayla?

She will move into Exploring Creation with Physical Science this fall.  I bought the Lab kit again.  Makayla also chose to try the Student Notebook.  Our family plans to use Apologia into high school with some flexibility for each child.  Makayla, for example, currently plans to do Biology and Marine Biology in 9th and 10th grades.  She is then hoping to spend a hands on year breeding animals.  She’s also mentioned interest in doing a year of ornithology.  Neither of those are courses Apologia offers.  At this stage we are keeping her options open but she will be the one to choose her high school courses in the end.  She may add in Chemistry but she assures me that she has no interest in Physics.  ;)

What About Apologia’s Elementary Series?

I have had several people ask how we use Apologia’s Elementary book series by Jeannie Fulbright. This post is getting entirely too long so I think I will share about that in a new post.  You may be surprised how we use it – and what we’re using next year for my elementary and under crowd. (Hint: It’s not Apologia, and yet it is Apologia too.)  Come back soon to find out!

Do you have any science questions for me?
Was this post helpful?  Leave a comment and let me know!

One Homeschool Day – April Edition

apple pieSomehow April has flown by and my days have been full of joy.  I only used my camera a little bit for One Homeschool Day this month.  Oh well.  This is from Tuesday April 15th.  While our Ohio weather was 80F two days before and poured rain one day before, on this morning it snowed.  Sopping wet mud turned to icy wet mud and my children and I were not amused.  I was up at 6:00am to start oatmeal in the rice cooker and spend some time reading my scriptures, checking email, and the like.  I woke any sleeping children at 7:00am and we had breakfast, did chores, and got started right away on school work.

4.191The goal was to finish as much school work as possible before Makayla’s orthodontist appointment at 9:45am.  I had children reading scriptures, doing math pages, and working on unit studies (Lego, Snakes, or Praying Mantises).  While the older 4 children did their work independently I got the younger 4 boys cleaned up, pulled out Playdoh to keep some of them busy, packed the diaper bag, fed the baby, and even worked on a blog post. Did you read it already?  Lego Learning: Four Links and Ways to Take it Further.

grip of the shadow plagueSoon enough I corralled eight children in the confines of the 12 passenger van and we drove to the orthodontist.  After more than a year we’ve worked out a system.  Our orthodontist’s office is NOT child friendly.  It has no door between the waiting room and the large work area with four dental chairs, nurses, and equipment.  It is the weirdest setup I’ve ever seen.  These days Makayla goes in alone while I hang out in the van with the rest of the children.  We bring along an audio book to listen to.  Today it was Grip of the Shadow Plague, the third book in the Fablehaven series by Brandon Mull.  30 minutes into our wait I pull out a bag of pretzels for snacktime.  If everyone gets antsy we pause the story and play Eye Spy, which is much more interesting when there is not a layer of snow covering everything.  After all, ‘I spy something white’ gets old really fast and with little ones that was said about 2/3 of the time.

Makayla returned to the van and we drove home to finish up the last bits of school before lunch.  Lunch was quick and easy – polish sausage soup.  We have several food allergies that complicate cooking (eggs, soy, and artificial food dye) so I only have a few meals that are mostly ready-to-go from a can.  This happens to be one we’ve managed to keep and while it’s not the healthiest it is warm, quick, and yummy.  Want the non-recipe?

  • Cut and fry some polish sausage in bite-size pieces.
  • Open two or three LARGE cans of bean with bacon soup.  Add to the pan of sausage with some water.
  • Stir and simmer until you’re ready to eat.

If I’m feeling especially energetic I make some bread to go with the soup.  If I’m not, I open a box of crackers.  Today was a crackers day.  ;)

During lunch I read aloud part of a chapter in The Saturdays, our current book club pick.  It’s a great one and all the children enjoy it.  A few minutes of clean up and we had made it to quiet time.

I spent my quiet time researching Trail Guide to World Geography.  It looks like it will be a great component to our family’s World Geography and Cultures study for next school year.  I’ll share more on that another day!  I also read some more in my scriptures and simply enjoyed the silence.

4.192:20pm rolled around and with the mud and snow combination we skipped outside time.  Instead my children did some projects, including the ever-popular Rainbow Looms.  Makayla made a Terrible Terror dragon and Joseph made a Minecraft Zombie.  Emma stenciled a birthday card for Daddy, little boys planned an adventure.  I don’t know what happened on the adventure but here is a picture of Daniel midway through:

Collages1I caught Makayla and Joseph working together on her computer.  It turns out they’re co-authoring a story.  They got three chapters written on this day.  Short chapters.  I cooked dinner and then fed everyone.  Don’t ask me what I made, for some reason I didn’t manage to write that down and now I’m typing this up four days later.

After dinner I had to do Mason’s enema early because I was going to be gone that evening.  He and I hung out watching Curious George during the messy process.  Makayla took care of Samuel.  Daddy was still at work.  He got home just a few minutes before I needed to head out with the oldest 3 children.

Joseph had Cub Scouts, Emma had Activity Day Girls, and Makayla’s youth activity was doing Family History using Family Search and each teen was to bring along a family member to work with.  Makayla and I had fun adding some family stories to the files for a grandmother several generations back born in 1888.  There were a few hiccups using Family Search, but we got some help from others with more experience, which was one of the great things about the activity!

Joseph came home from Cub Scouts with a pair of rope handcuffs.  Sometimes I wonder how I’ll survive all these sons…. they were learning to tie different knots at Scouts.  Joseph quite enjoyed himself!

Daddy was home with the 5 little boys and by the time I returned with the three oldest children everyone was in pajamas and ready for bed.  Of course it still took a while for all the children to actually fall asleep!

apple pieNow it’s YOUR turn!  Write your own One Homeschool Day post sharing a real, unedited peek into your day, then come back here to link up.  The linky will be open for 2 weeks so you have plenty of time!  Won’t it be wonderful to look back at these posts at the end of the year and see a snapshot of our families’ lives each month? (If you’re reading this post via email you’ll need to click over to the blog to see the linky.)


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Cinquain Poems and A Freebie

Today was poetry day for my children currently working on unit studies.  These will go in their lapbooks at the end of their study.  It was a perfect day to pull out the Cinquain Challenge I created last year.  For today’s activity I challenged Joseph, Emma, and Daniel to make one cinquain about their focus topic.  They then illustrated their poem.  Here are their results:

rattle      tongue
scales     fangs     snap
slither on the sand

turn   heads
wings     camouflage     quick
grabs its prey fast

build     fun
Star Wars ship
stepping on bricks hurts

As you can see, cinquains are simple to do.  I have a free printable with rules for three different styles ranging from word count to counting syllables.  Would you like to try it?  Simply click on the picture or link to download it today!

Cinquain Challenge

Cinquain Challenge PDF

Do you have a favorite poetry form or child-friendly resource you love?  Have you ever written poetry with your children?

Lego Learning: Four Links and Ways to Take it Further

LEGO LearningIt’s been a bit since I’ve shared some Lego resources we’re using in Joseph’s unit study and I wouldn’t want to leave you in need of some Lego goodness.  Here are four things Joseph’s checked out this week along with ways to take each one further for a bit of learning:

  • 10 Lego Facts from National Geographic Kids UK - Learn random facts like how many minifigures were made in one year and the tallest Lego tower in the world. Of course there is an easy math opportunity to convert the measurement from meters to feet and then actually measuring out how big that really is.  Be sure to challenge your child to make his own Lego tower – how tall can they build?
  • Video of a Lego Model Master Competition – This four minute clip shares one unique job application process – building with Legos!  One way to take it further: scoop up a small bin full of Legos pieces and have your child create some new Lego builds before the timer beeps.
  • Blocumentary The Lego Master Builders: Steve Gerling – Learn about one artistic man who started out as a carver and now works with Lego.  There are several more Blocumentaries on YouTube to check out if your child is interested.  This one gives a great opportunity to discuss computer aided designing, building on a large scale, and applying skills from other fields to Lego building.
  • Megafactories: Lego – National Geographic AU gives us an inside peek into the Lego production and quality control process.  Talk about robot-driven production lines, packaging in your home, or explore measurement and accuracy.  Grab a favorite item and challenge your child to design packaging for it!

What Lego topic would YOU like to know more about?  Have you tried any Lego building challenges with your children?  I will be sharing a whole post of Lego challenges later this month, be sure to check back later!

Where Courage Calls – Bethany House Review

Where Courage CallsSometimes I am wary about reading a new book.  The back cover sounds good enough but these days you never know just what you’ll read between the covers.  When I was offered Where Courage Calls to review I had no such reservations because one of the authors is Janette Oke.  She’s written award winning Christian fiction for decades.  Her daughter Laurel Oke Logan joins her as co-author for Where Courage Calls, the story of Beth Thatcher, a society girl who leaves everything behind to teach in Coal Valley, a rugged mining town.

Beth makes her journey to Coal Valley, overcoming challenges along the way, only to discover a town full of grieving widows and children, many of whom lost fathers and sons in a mining accident.  Beth’s first teaching assignment may very well be her last!

I enjoyed reading Where Courage Calls!  I found myself wondering how Beth would wade through the challenges and if she would give up and return home after her first year was up.  Add in two Mounties, one a longtime friend and the other a quiet, kind rescuer, and there is a sweet and funny element of romance in the story as well.

{Disclaimer: I received this book free from Bethany House in exchange for an honest review.  All opinions presented herein are my own.}

Week in Review Zoo

IMG_4378-001It has been a great week and the highlight for everyone was a perfect spring day with a family trip to the zoo accompanied by dear friends.  It was our first trip to the zoo in quite a while and the very first with Mason using his wheelchair. I took more than 300 pictures so I’ll share some of them throughout this post.  Enjoy!

4.102We saw many beautiful and amazing creatures God created.  We saw very large animals like these bears and smaller ones like these flying fox bats.  My children were thrilled to see “Sven” the reindeer.  (Can anyone name that movie?) After close to 4 1/2 hours we headed home with still a third or more of the zoo to explore.  We’ll be going back soon!

4.101In homeschool the week went pretty much as planned.  I shared our plans here and won’t bore you by going over the details again. Children made progress in math, read lovely books, studied the gospel, explored their focus areas, and got it done.  There was more or less enthusiasm depending on the child and the day. ;)

4.10It hit me yesterday that two big events are coming up in the next two weeks.  Next week Mason has Myelo Clinic at the hospital.  It is a full team appointment where we meet with each of his specialists for checkups and set up any appointments they decide we need.  I expect a few, including one that will lead to more surgeries, to be added to my planner.

4.103The second big event is that I head to the Great Homeschool Convention in Cincinnati a few days before my birthday!  I have not been able to attend a homeschool convention since before I got pregnant with Mason.  I’m going with my sister, who is driving up from out of state.  It’s an amazing opportunity with hundreds of workshops and hundreds of vendors in the curriculum hall.  I can’t wait to have some focused teacher development time!

To go along with that I’m trying to wrap my head around planning for next year AND for high school.  Can you believe it?  Makayla will be an 8th grader this fall.  High school is just around the corner and she’ll be doing her very first high school course this fall.  No, it’s not math. ;)  Next fall I will officially have these grades at my house: 8th, 4th, 3rd, 1st, K, PreK, plus two little ones.  We will do some multilevel teaching for the 4th grade and under crowd but there will be plenty of one on one learning to go around as well.  I love my one room schoolhouse family!  The life that having all these ages breathes into learning is something hard to describe.

Are you homeschooling a middle or high schooler?  Do you have little ones in the mix too?  Have you made any curriculum decisions or plans for next year?  I hope to share more about ours in the coming month.  Would anyone be interested in a link up to share plans?  Let me know and I’ll host one!

Linked to Collage Friday.

Reading Aloud to Multiple Ages: What to do with little ones in the mix

Reading Aloud to Multiple AgesReading aloud is one of the most important things we do in our homeschool but it isn’t always easy to accomplish in a real-life family.  From finding time to finding books to getting everyone to sit quietly there are many potential challenges to read aloud time.  One challenge is reading to multiple ages, especially when you have little ones in the mix.  A reader sent me this question:

Tristan, I would love a new post on what you do with your little boys while you read aloud to your older kids. Reading aloud is a challenge since the book we are reading is way over their heads!  (They are almost 3 and almost 5…we are reading Journey to the Center of the Earth.)  I have tried Legos and other things like that during Mommy Reading Time…maybe I just need to get more organized about having something different every day!  Anyway, I would love an update on what works for you!  Thanks! ~Carrine

What do I do with my younger 4 boys, ages 5, 3, 2, 9mos, during read alouds?  I read aloud to them!  Reading aloud is a family event and even the younger ones participate. I don’t remember many times I’ve tried to read different chapter books aloud to different age groups, mostly because I’m lazy!  I know there are moms who read different chapter books aloud to each child but it just never worked for me.  I read one story to everyone and each takes what they can from the read aloud experience.  I DO believe in reading aloud books on all levels and I DO believe in reading aloud from multiple books at once.

With that as a frame of reference, here are my read aloud tips.  These have all worked well in family at various times.  Your mileage may vary! :

  1. Give them something to do with their hands -  I have done paper dolls, coloring materials, playdoh, Legos, Lauri puzzles, and much more.  Some people can’t listen without something for their hands to do and will be disruptive if you ask them to simply sit and listen.  However, give them something for their hands and you will have a completely different creature on your hands! It helps to teach a child to play on a towel so they stay in one spot, or at the table.
  2. Feed them – When you are first starting out a new book it helps to sit everyone down at the table to lunch or a snack and dive in reading to them while they chew.  Let’s face it, sometimes we’re not sure we want to get into a new story, it might just be boring.  However, if we’re busy eating we’ll listen for a little while, and that little while may be all the time it takes to get us hooked.
  3. Shut them in a room with you – I haven’t done this in a while but with little ones it can be great.  Move the read aloud to a bedroom, put up most of the toys, and everyone can sit where they wish or play quietly while mommy reads aloud.  A baby gate on the doorway keeps everyone in the same room.
  4. Practice and Praise them – Like anything, getting your children to the point where they will sit relatively quietly while you read aloud for a half hour or more takes time.  Start small, with 5 or 10 minutes.  Praise children profusely for playing quietly, and gently remind them when they get too loud or rowdy.
  5. Vary the length and difficulty of books you read.  Depending on your children’s ages choose a wide variety of books to read aloud.  We read picture books, children’s chapter books, classics, and everything in between.  Some days I send to each child to choose a book from the shelves.  We then sit together and read them all.  We may have board books, picture books, nonfiction books, and a chapter book in the pile.
  6. Start with a picture book.  Settle everyone for read aloud time and read a book on the younger boy’s level FIRST.  Then pass out the activity for their hands and start reading the chapter book for the big kids.
  7. Choose a theme.  Instead of getting into one big chapter book, (though I highly recommend them!), grab a handful of books about Ancient Egypt or penguins or trains.  Choose a handful of Franklin the Turtle books, or Magic School Bus books, or any other series to read for the day. Get books from the library with the children choosing the topics.  That week each child’s topic gets one day as the read aloud focus.
  8. Read from several chapter books in a day.  If you really want to be reading something aimed at your older children, do so.  Do you feel mommy guilt that your younger or middle children aren’t getting anything out of that book?  Then by all means start a second chapter book aimed toward their ages. But don’t exclude the little ones from the older read aloud and be sure to include the older children in the younger kids read aloud.  They may enjoy visiting old favorites or taking a turn doing the reading aloud while you play quietly with the little ones.
  9. Break it up.  Lately our read aloud is happening in a few shorter bursts during the day.  I’m almost always reading a few pages to a chapter during lunch but at other random times during the day we drop everything, snuggle up, and read.  You can give it some little kid friendly name to call out, like “Freeze and Read”.  The idea being the kids freeze what they’re doing and you read for a few minutes.  Maybe “Snack Attack” works better, prepare a small snack and then call the kids over to munch while you read.  ;)

Another thing I want to mention is that audio books can be a wonderful addition to your read aloud time.  We listen to audio books every day.  I remember that once upon a time I just wasn’t up for reading aloud.  I was in the depths of morning sickness, had a baby, a toddler, and several more young children.  By using an audio book for the story I was freed up to play quietly with the little ones, lay on the couch trying not to throw up, or even feed the baby while we all enjoyed wonderful literature.

Do you have any tips for read aloud time when
you have little ones and older children?

Do you have any more read aloud questions for ME? 

Learning This Week – Planned and Unplanned

The week is off to a good start so I thought I would take a moment to write up what learning is planned, share some unplanned learning, and tell our upcoming learning adventure.

Focus Area

As we are winding down our school year each child has chosen a focus area. Makayla is focusing on finishing Exploring Creation with General Science.  She’s in Module 11 and today she has an experiment with raw chicken bones.  She was not excited to learn she has to get the raw meat off herself.  ;)

IMG_4289Joseph is enjoying his Lego study.  He has been learning about Lego design, made a Lego mosaic, and found a new book at the library called Beautiful Lego that is really amazing.  I think the most unusual creation in that book is the frog dissection made out of Legos!

Emma and snakes are getting along just fine.  She’s learned quite a bit and I think she enjoys lapbooking enough that I wouldn’t be surprised if she requested another lapbook to do when this study is over.

Daniel is working along with the praying mantis information.  Yesterday he learned about praying mantis sizes and measured out the smallest, the largest, and the average sizes.  It was totally creepy to realize one species of mantis grows to 10 inches long.


Much to my children’s dismay we never really get away from math.  Daniel is on lesson 18 in Math U See Alpha which is the beginning of subtraction.  As always he took the new lesson in stride.  Emma is on lesson 25 in Math U See Gamma where she has multiple digit multiplication with carrying.  This week she’s doing her math twice a day, doing the front of the worksheet first thing and the back of the worksheet after her other subjects are done.  She just really needed a break between all that math.  Joseph is on lesson 26 of the same math book and working on factors this week, such as listing all the factors of 16 (1, 2, 4, 8, 16).  Makayla is doing expanded notation and exponential notation in Math U See Pre-Algebra lesson 6.

Reading and Reading Aloud

Our current read aloud book is The Saturdays and my children are loving it.  So am I!  Then each child has an assigned reading book:

Scriptures and Family Devotional

The older three are in the Book of Mormon, Daniel is in the New Testament.  Some are using Discover the Scriptures guides to go along with their study.  I read to the younger four boys.

In family devotional we have been reading about Elijah and Elisha.  Our new song we are learning is The Family is of God.  We are learning the Articles of Faith as a family too.  The goal is for every child over age 3 to be able to say them.  When that happens we’re taking and ice cream picnic up to the picnic area beside the Columbus Ohio Temple and then we will walk the grounds as a family.

Makayla has a few other things she is working on, being four grades above my 3rd grade and under crowd.  She is writing and creating art daily.  The Tinkersketch challenge is going well and each day she creates art inspired by the prompt.  (And yes, I’m still doing it right along side her.  She has been playing around with Mango Languages, which we have free access to through our library.  She is practicing piano too.

Unplanned Lessons

IMG_4294Of course there are always the unplanned lessons happening.  Today, for instance, the city street department showed up to address the sinkhole on the edge of the street between our house and the neighbors’.  We talked to the men before they started, asking about the project.  They expect to be working on and off all week as they figure out what is going on and hopefully fix it.

IMG_4295The children watched as they used a saw to cut the asphalt road about 15 feet from our front door, broke up and shoveled away debris, and moved heavy equipment in, unloaded large pipes, and ultimately covered everything with a large metal plate to await their return tomorrow.

A great movie is another way for some unplanned learning.  Makayla turned on Fiddler on the Roof Monday evening and the first thing the kids did this morning was turn it back on to watch the rest.  Have you seen Fiddler on the Roof?  There are many good discussions that arise from movies like this.  Some of ours this time revolved around the following:

  • Arranged marriages versus having some say in who you marry.
  • Authority – parents to children, husband to wife, and government police to the governed.
  • Racism and people forced to leave their homes by the governing authority.
  • Traditions of different religions.

Learning Adventures

We even have a learning adventure on the calendar this week.  Thursday will be our first trip to the zoo since last fall.  There are new animals, babies recently born, and lots to see and explore.  Even better, we are going with dear homeschool friends of ours!  They have children close in age to four of ours and excitement abounds to go to the zoo with ‘best friends’.

What learning do you have planned this week?

Social Media in My Home

Social-MediaAn anonymous reader asked me several great questions related to social media, so I’m answering with an entire post!

1) How do you have time for social media? I have half the babies you do and I homeschool too, but I do not have time for social media.  The answer to this one is simple, though it may not be what you expect.  You make time for what you want to do.  When I get online to check email, blog, or be online I have a series of tabs that automatically load. One is Facebook. I can quickly look at it and interact.  Or I can ignore it.  For some people Facebook becomes a time warp – they lose track of time wandering in it’s vortex.  Reading blogs, cruising Pinterest, checking in on homeschool forums, doing family history work - everything online can be come a time-wasting vortex.  Too much of anything is still too much.

I have to practice self-control with ANY online activity and so far that has translated well into time spent on Facebook. My goal is to keep it under 5 minutes each time.  It helps that I don’t have a smart phone so I actually have to go sit at my computer or turn the internet on for the Kindle Fire to get to Facebook.  These are measures I put in place on purpose, checkpoints where I can ask myself “Is there something else I should be doing right now?”  Often the answer is yes and I go do that thing instead.

2) Have you always had social media? No, I’m a relative newcomer.  Last year my daughter turned 12 and her youth leaders at church use a private Facebook group to communicate with parents and youth about weekly activities, lessons, assignments, and more.  At the same time the women’s group at church began a private Facebook group to connect the sisters, share needs, and uplifting messages.  I learned how to use my husband’s Facebook account to check the private groups regularly.  I would also browse the recent items in his stream to see what our extended family was up to.  We have extended family living in 8 other states and 2 other countries.  It was really nice to be able to interact with these family members around what was going on in their life currently unlike by email where I had no clue what was happening unless they brought it up.

It did get annoying wading through the other people/company entries my husband ‘Liked’.  He is a fan of technical and political sites while I would rather be a fan of homeschool sites.  ;) I had to make sure any time I commented that I mentioned it was me and not my husband.  Still, it was doable.

Then I became an Independent Lilla Rose Consultant and I needed my own Facebook account.  I am part of a group of consultants and we have a large private FB group to do online training.  There is a lot of information passed through the group.  I got my own FB account last November for this.  It’s worked out better than I had hoped.

The only other social media I have is Instagram, which is new to me this month.  I joined so Makayla could participate in the TinkerLab Tinkersketch challenge.  Art is one of her passions and as a homeschooling mom I try to support that.  This challenge encourages her to try new things, stretching her artistic wings in new directions on a daily basis.  She wanted me to sketch with her, so I do.  She likes to share her work and Instagram makes it easy to share.  It will pop it over on Facebook for us too at the same time if we check that box.  She loves seeing others’ work for the same prompt.

Wait, is Pinterest social media?  I don’t think of it that way, I think of it as a visual way to organize information for homeschooling, gospel learning, and home.  However you look at it, I am on Pinterest.  Again, I didn’t join until after I had a FB account, so I’ve been on there about 5 months.  My Pinterest time is usually the middle of the night holding a baby who should be sleeping.  I search for whatever is currently on my mind for school and pin anything useful.

3) How do you justify your time on social media? I feel like it’s not benefial to our family, but you just tied it in to homeschool so maybe it is. I really lump all my online time together so I could turn the question around – how do YOU justify your time online visiting my blog and other places?  How is it beneficial to your family?  For me, Facebook has become a way to connect with family members across the miles on a regular, almost daily basis.  When my cousin from Canada who lives in the states now announced her pregnancy I got to see the video.  When my nephews competed in their first archery event I saw pictures as it was happening.  My children’s grandparents, great grandparents, aunts, uncles, and more see regular peeks into our life here in Ohio because of social media.

It has also been a real help during Mason’s hospitalizations, a fast way to keep everyone updated on how surgery and recovery are going.  Blogging isn’t something I can do easily while at the hospital without a computer but posting updates to Facebook takes 30 seconds.

It gives me a quick way to keep current on homeschool blogs I enjoy (many have a FB page and will share their posts).  It gives me notice on freebies for homeschooling too.

4) Is your husband on social media? Your oldest child? My husband has been on social media for years.  He’s a tech lover and while we don’t always agree on how much technology becomes too much, he’s an amazing man who does his best to navigate the online waters just like the rest of us.  My children do NOT have social media accounts.  The minimum age requirement for Facebook is 13, which none of my children have reached.  I know that doesn’t stop others from giving their child an account but we’ll stick with it.  Makayla is content with email.  She regularly emails friends from church, family, homeschool friends, and even reaches out to authors of books she’s loved (and has received responses!).

5) If so, what are your rules? for them and for you?  Our social media rules are simple:

  • Don’t post anything online that you wouldn’t say in front of the bishop at church.  :)
  • Jason and I have full access to one another’s accounts.  We are able and welcome to log in at any time to browse what’s there.  This will be true for our children’s accounts as well.

6) Basically, what benefits do you see from social media? I can see the benefit from having a blog (a written record), but somehow I don’t understand the wisdom in social media (facebook especially). I think I’ve pretty much covered this in the other questions.  Social media, specifically Facebook, is a quick way to reach out to family living far away, to share our life with them more regularly than I post on the blog, to be aware of their day to day life, to keep aware of youth activities, lessons, and assignments for church, to give updates when Mason is hospitalized, and to keep up with some homeschool favorites and freebies.  It is also a major resource for my continuing training work as an Independent Lilla Rose Consultant. Speaking of which, have you visited my store lately? :)

To my anonymous questioner – thank you for asking all your questions!  Asking questions is a great way to learn and see new possibilities outside our own experience.

To everyone else – do YOU have any questions for me?  Leave a comment or use the Contact Me tab at the top of the page.  You can also use the search bar to see if I’ve blogged about a topic before.  I’ve been writing for more than 7 years and have blogged about a little bit of everything, from homeschooling to food allergies to large family parenting. 

Many Ages, Many Needs

This week I have really felt the pull of all the demands of mothering this brood of eight lovely children.  Not so much the cooking and cleaning, though there is a lot of that to go around, but the needs of each child as an individual.  I have an almost teenager clear down to a baby with just about every age and stage in between.  Except they don’t stay in their ages and stages, they are constantly growing up! Case in point – Exhibit S (for Samuel):

4.3Samuel was introduced to table time this week, a practice that truly saves my sanity.  At nearly 9 months old he is crawling everywhere and loves being right where the action is.  Mason, being a good big brother, was showing Samuel the ropes.  “This is how you use washable markers little brother.  And if you smile really cute then mom will laugh and take pictures.  But don’t grab a sharpie or she is a lot less amused.  Stick with the washable markers.” Need more encouragement for homeschooling with little ones around?  Here are more of my thoughts on the subject.

IMG_4170-001Caleb and Oliver are my preschoolers.  They were consumed by playdoh for two days.  Caleb even multitasks – singing songs from the movie Frozen while he squishes and creates.  I have learned a secret to containing the playdoh mess.  Okay, two secrets.

  1. Don’t use old playdoh.  When it starts to dry out a bit and get firm it begins to crumble.  Crumbling = a huge mess.  I try to only hand my little ones soft, squishy playdoh.
  2. Only pass out small cans of playdoh until they can be trusted with it.  Caleb can only be trusted to keep the playdoh at the table 75% of the time.  So on days when I know I will be distracted I have him use the seatbelt on his booster seat.  He’s stuck in one place and I don’t find playdoh stuck to the bedroom wall, in the bathroom sink, or in the refrigerator (all places I’ve found it before).

The other big hit with my younger boys this week has been Duplos.  We have quite a lot of them and when not in use they live in the attic.  Well, Daddy brought the tubs down Wednesday night and for much of the each day my living room looks like this:

IMG_4232We just pick up before quiet time and bed time.  The rest of the day the Duplos migrate onto the floor, the piano, and just about everywhere else.  You know the saying about shoveling during a snowstorm?  It applies to Duplos!

CollagesPersonalities abound in this home – strong personalities and quiet ones.  The strong ones need guidance as much as the quiet ones need support so they do not fall through the cracks. Some need extra cuddles and others need extra quiet space.  Some need mom nearby while they work and others can plop down anywhere and get school accomplished.  It has been a week of slogging through math battles with Emma.  I remember similar days with Makayla.  She gets frustrated, I get frustrated, and sometimes we just have to take a break for a bit of fun before going back at it.

IMG_4219I keep forgetting to give an update on Oliver’s time with All About Reading.  We really are using it at HIS pace.  He asks to do it most school days and I keep our time short and our lesson varied and active.  He is blending 3 letter words about half of the time now which means we are inching ahead.  We are in lesson 2 and the most important thing is that Oliver still LOVES it.

Here are the blog posts from earlier this week in case you missed one:

I will be sharing some book and dvd reviews in the near future, so keep an eye out for those.

One More Thing:

This weekend my family will be listening to living prophets speak.  Will you join us?

I’m linking to Collage Friday.