Mind Maps

I have become a Mind Mapping fool! This program is so easy to use and has helped me to organize and plan out every part of my life, especially our homeschool. I originally heard about this program through another homeschooling friend of mine, but I had dismissed its value for a long time. You see, I am very linear and just the thought of mind mapping seems very…well, flowery. I took one look at her mind map, and thought, “No way! That’s not for me!” But a voice in my head (thank you, God) told me to try it out. I did and I’m hooked! My maps are not as flowery and pretty as her maps. I have naturally given mine a linear look and feel.

Here are a few ways that I have mapped out our homeschooling journey so far:

  1. Our Fall Schedule

Fall 2015

This map is printed and pinned to my bulletin board for quick reference during the day.

2. Addition and Subtraction Games

These games are from Right Start’s Math Card Games book. This fall, we are memorizing our addition and subtraction math facts. Drills and timed tests can get pretty boring, so I have organized the games in the book for easy reference.

+ and - Games

3. Roman Empire Unit Study

For this unit we are studying Italy, then moving backwards in time to study the Roman Empire while we read Detectives in Toga. I have created 4 different maps for our Roman Empire Unit Study.

In this map, I have organized the Passport to Italy Unit Study by Amanda Bennet. It was taking us entirely too long to go through this study, so now I can use this map as a quick reference to pick and choose the topics I want the kids to cover. This map is huge and does not fit on my screen, so I have taken 2 snapshots of it.

Here is the bottom half of the map:

Bottom half of passport Italy

And here is the top half:

Top Half of passport

The next map I created is based on a Roman Empires lapbook that I purchased from CurrClick. We will be making this lapbook after we finish the Italy study. We will need to complete some of these topics before we begin our literature book, Detectives in Toga, so those topics are marked with a green flag. This map will help me quickly reference the topics and their page numbers in the study guide.

Roman Empire Workbook

The last map is a work in progress. I am only planning our Detectives in Toga journal entries one chapter at a time.

Detectives in Toga map

Notice the little arrow next to the Roman Empire sibling topic that is linked to the Setting subtopic. That arrow is a link to a website that we will use to do more research about the Roman Empire as we read the story.

Besides homeschooling, I am also using a shared mind map to organize our Vacation Bible School.

See! Even this left brained dominate, linear thinker has been able to organize all her marbles using mind maps.

1 Corinthians 14:40 But all things should be done decently and in order.

Happy Homeschooling!

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Our Holiday Schedule

Grandmama has arrived! The cheetah broke his arm. The twins had their sixth birthday party, and the video games have invaded the minds of the vulnerable. Who can do school at a time like this?

Twins birthday

And what’s to come… Christmas tree decorating, Christmas shopping, and our 20th anniversary cruise. Sure doesn’t look like school will be anyones priority in these upcoming weeks.

We generally take time off during the holiday season, so I am not too concerned about scaling back. What I can’t stand is idle time, when the kids proceed to turn their minds to mush by playing video games and watching movies. We generally limit computer games to about an hour a week, allow the kids to watch one movie on Friday evenings, and hide the video game consoles in the basement, until…well…until Grandmama comes. This year Grandmama has generously supplied the kids with the Marvel Infinity game set. The kids were able to play for one full day, on the twin’s birthday, but now I am determined, at least until we leave for the cruise, to get in some higher level, critical thinking skills.

So this is the plan:

We wake up in the morning and do our usual family devotional, then eat breakfast. After breakfast, the twins practice some quick cursive by writing their names and numbers, while the older kids either practice their lines for the Christmas play, or practice typing. I am not as concerned about the twins getting in scheduled reading time right now, because lately they have been sounding out almost everything they see. This will be enough until regular instruction picks up again after the holidays.

Then we continue our extremely slow journey through the novel, “The Twenty-One Balloons.” We only read about 2 to 3 pages a day, because we are analyzing it do death. The kids copy notes from the white board into their journals and we stop and discuss a lot. Today’s reading led to watching 2 YouTube videos, one on how to sail a boat, and another on hydraulic trucks. Here are a couple of pages from one of their notebooks:

21 Ballons Notebook page 1

21 ballons notebook p. 2

Next we play a family math game. Our favorites right now are Slower Speed with even and odd numbers and Concentration with multiples. All of our games come from the funnest math program in the world, Right Start Math.

Multiples concentration

Slow Speed

Finally, we are reading the best book written about Thanksgiving, “Thanksgiving: A Time to Remember,” by Barbara Rainey. Yes, I realize that Thanksgiving has passed, but we didn’t have time to read it before Thanksgiving, so we are doing it now. This book has made Thanksgiving my absolutely favorite holiday. During Thanksgiving, we can celebrate God’s providence without being choked by materialism.

thanksgiving book

I have the kids draw pictures about the Thanksgiving story as we read this book. Here is a sample:

Thanksgiving journal page

Next year, I am determined to make Thanksgiving even more meaningful for the kids. I want the kids to write “Thank You” cards and keep a “Thankful Journal” for the month of November. Maybe we will still get to that before the year is over.

Well, that’s it! After that torture, the kids run upstairs to play…

disney infinity avengers figures

After the new year, we will tuck the Xbox away, not to rear it’s ugly head again, until spring break.

How does your homeschool schedule change over the holidays?

Merry Christmas to All!

Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. Luke 2:10

Schedule Changes

Well, four weeks into it and I have had to make some serious changes to our packed out looping schedule. Click here to read my post regarding my original  looping schedule, or just continue reading to see the changes that I have made.

This is what my original schedule looked like:

original schedule 2014

And here is the new schedule:

updated schedule 2014

The Kindergarten Loop has stayed the same, but in all actuality, I could have changed the time. The last few weeks, we have been able to begin this loop at 9:30 and easily make it through all of the activities by 11am. Leaving the start time, however, makes me feel really successful when starting early and right on time when we don’t start until 10. 😉

The next thing you may notice is that I anchored Math RS C (Right Start Math Level C) in the 3-4th Grade Loop time slot. I just couldn’t stand not teaching math every day. Yes, the kids still practice the math facts during independent practice time, but the Right Start curriculum is just too good, and, according to the kids, too much fun, to not do every day. Can’t argue with kids who want to do math, so I anchored it. I didn’t give it a specific time frame, but we generally work on a lesson for about 30 minutes before we move on to the looping activities.

Here is a closer look at the original 3-4th Grade Looping section:

3-4 loop before

And this is a close-up of the new schedule:

3-4th grade loop

I am head over heals for this:

grammar notebook

Kids creating their own textbooks! What a phenomenal idea! Our notebooks will be a topic of a future post, so suffice it enough to say that the interactive notebook has trumped Easy Grammar and Sonlight for now.

Another thing I have added to my schedule is a column to keep track of the lesson that we are working on and a column to mark when that lesson is completed. This addition helps me to keep track of where I am in the loop. I generally continue an activity until the lesson is complete, so if we haven’t finished the lesson within the time frame allotted, I know to continue with it the next time we meet for that looping period.

Literature has also become a larger part of our day. Originally, I was planning on a more casual read aloud time while finishing up our lunch, but this book…

21BalloonsCover

required much more attention than a casual read, as I am sure all of the others will as well. What was I thinking?? The kids love literature time. Even the twins want to know how Professor Sherman managed to get from one balloon over the Pacific Ocean to the 20 in the Atlantic. From a balloon house basket to a volcanic island, inquiring minds want to know.

Here is a close-up of our original lunch schedule:

lunch before

And the new:

Lunch after

We usually start our story at about 12:45, but again, I’m not changing the time. I like feeling great about starting early. 🙂

The Family Loop is the section that underwent the most surgery. My original schedule was just too full…

Family loop before

First, I had to drop this…

hero tales pict

Boooo! I really didn’t completely drop it however. I am adding it to our read aloud list, so Hero Tales will get its full time of glory when we finish The Twenty-One Balloons.

Next, I moved Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace Jr. to Thursdays. This is a perfect fit for our shopping day and has also become the kids payday. We only have one more lesson in this curriculum, but I am planning to keep this time to practice our money counting and spending habits. So much problem solving happens here and they see the relativity of their math lessons.

So here is a close-up of the new Family Loop schedule:

Family Loop

The kids love the Bible Answers curriculum, as well as science, so allowing longer periods for both makes everyone happier.

Finally, I am so incredibly happy with The Homeschool Piano curriculum from Jazz Edge, that this also begged for more scheduled time. Originally I planned to continue with the Family Loop during this time slot, but the kids actually wanted to watch more Willie, the piano instructor, so I couldn’t argue.

Here is the original:

Music schedule before

And here is the dedicated time slot:

Music after

At about 3pm, I review the kids remaining independent practice work and head out for my jog with my dog and my much needed alone time with my Lord. He is the One who gives me daily strength and patience.

But You, O Lord, are a God full of compassion, and gracious, longsuffering and abundant in mercy and truth. Psalm 86:15

The Point System

In keeping with the theme of grace in my disciplining methods, I have implemented a points system inspired by the leader of Titus Ladies, Mrs. Margie Harryman. The idea, as explained in her book, “Letters to Krista,” is that each child 4 years old and up is freely given 25 points a day. “They cannot earn bonus points for good behavior, but they can lose points by bad behavior. The points are lost in 5 point increments, so it takes five episodes to lose all 25 points.” (Letters…pg 55) I have given this system a hands on approach and it is working quite well for us.

IMG_3175

First, each child decorated a yogurt container which would hold 25 popsicle sticks bundled in groups of 5.

IMG_3176

When the child misbehaves, he or she puts a bundle on my desk. This very act of going to his desk and taking out a bundle of sticks gives the child time to process his behavior and is usually all that is needed to correct the behavior. So far, no child has ever lost all of his sticks in one day. Turns out that this is also a great math reinforcer. My 5 year olds are great at counting by fives.

As Margie also suggests, each stick is worth 1 cent, so they can earn 25 cents a day just by having good behavior. In order to keep track of their earnings, I use an excel spreadsheet and at the end of each night, I quickly enter in the amount of points each child has earned that day. The sticks on my desk remind me to log their earnings and if they don’t loose points that day, I don’t log. My spread sheet has 16 columns, so I just back log their earnings once I see sticks on my desk. It’s obvious that if I haven’t logged in a while, that means they haven’t lost points in a while, so I know they have earned their full reward for the days that I have not recorded.

At the end of 16 days, we get together for Pay Day. The kids have calculated that in 16 days, they should have earned 4 dollars. I calculate each child’s earnings using the sums function in the Excel program. I do not have the kids calculate their own total earnings yet. I’m sure the process will evolve, but for now I want them to focus on counting money and figuring out how much money they have lost. This turns out to be a great lesson in counting change, since their earnings are usually amounts such as $3.95, $3.65, etc. Here is 5 day example of my Excel spreadsheet.

Date 9/17/14 9/18/14 9/19/14 9/20/14 9/21/14
11 yo 0.25 0.25 0.25 0.25 0.25
8 yo 0.25 0.2 0.2 0.25 0.25
5 yo 0.25 0.2 0.2 0.15 0.25
5 yo 0.25 0.2 0.15 0.2 0.25

We have been using this system for over 2 months now and the kids absolutely hate to loose points. Loosing points means loosing free money, and as we are going through the Financial Peace JR curriculum, they each have something special they are saving up for.

Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. Col. 3:23-24

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. Eph 2:8-9

Christian Heritage Conference

This weekend, my husband and I left the kids with Grandma and went on a retreat to the Christian Heritage Conference with key note speaker Ken Ham. It was not technically a retreat. It was actually a homeschool and family discipleship conference; but, since we stayed in a hotel room without the kids, I’ll call it a retreat. Our family supports Answers in Genesis and the outreach this ministry provides through conferences, curriculum, and the Creation Museum, so we were tremendously exciting to have a chance to listen to Mr. Ham speak in person.

I took away several encouragements during this conference, but want to share 3 of the big ones here with you.
1) It is of the utmost importance that we teach our kids how to defend their faith Biblically in this Greekified culture. Mr. Ham explained the difference between an Acts 2 evangelism, which is spreading the gospel to a society that already has the foundation of God as creator and understands sin with death as it’s consequence, and Acts 17 evangelism when one is evangelizing to a culture in which there are many gods and death is believed to be a natural process of life. America has become an Acts 17 culture. Most have become Greekified, and therefore we, the evangelizing Christians, must be sure to define our terms. By started with Genesis, we can define God as The Creator and sin as the cause of death. We must teach our children that the Bible is the authority and that science proves God’s word is true.

2) The second point I got out of this conference was from a workshop hosted by Jennifer Bliesner about the effects of technology on brain development. Research has shown that technology changes the size and texture of the brain by keeping kids at lower level thinking patterns. Computers only teach through patterns and do not require interaction with language; therefore, higher levels of conceptual thought do not develop when a child is learning at a computer. Bliesner encouraged us to promote empathy in our children by labeling emotions with meaningful words and fostering meaningful discussions within our schoolwork, rather than sitting them at a computer where language rich interactions with a subject do not occur.  Computers and TV are a primary reason for language and information processing disorders in today’s culture.

3) This workshop also confirmed and encouraged my conviction to homeschool for the glory of God. Dr. R.C. Sproul Jr. explained the fact that our children are made in God’s image; therefore, since we are to render to Ceaser what is Ceaser’s, that is a coin with his image on it, we are also to render to God what is God’s, that is our children made in His image. My goal is to educate my children so that they will understand God’s world: how He created it, and how He saved it. God’s Word will equip them for every good work. His Word will be the main text in our homeschooling and our life learning.

All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. 2 Tim 3:16-17