How I Do Our Homeschool Daily Lesson Planning – Part 1

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As I’ve progressed through homeschooling, I’ve learned that there are several types of planning that need to take place:  lesson planning, school year planning, curricula planning, etc.

Some take longer than others, but they’re all integral to the success of your homeschool year.

I am by no means an expert, and am still in that “we’re trying different things to see what works” phase, but I’ve given my current method a try for almost three months before coming forward with it.  It seems to be working better than any other method I’ve tried, by leaps and bounds, so I wanted to share.

WHY NOTHING ELSE HAS WORKED

I am a gatherer of information.  That’s always been my knack.  While this skill has many benefits, it also has a few drawbacks.

One of those drawbacks is the ability to be swayed by eye-candy.

By this I mean that it’s easy to see what others are doing or using and then want to try it myself.

Sure, this works well for the most part, especially when it comes to homeschool planning.  It does, however, take me out of the equation.

I hadn’t ever really sat down and thought about how I might do our lesson planning.  I “ooooed” and “ahhhhed” over everyone else’s methods, but nothing stuck.

They weren’t me.

STAYING TRUE TO WHO I AM

One day I was talking with a fellow homeschooler about something completely unrelated.  She was sharing something in Dropbox with me, so I signed up for an account.

I quickly fell in love.  I’m a huge tech nerd and just fell in love with the concept.

Dropbox is essentially file sharing.  What I put into a folder in Dropbox can be accessed by those whom I share it with.

Plus, Dropbox has wicked cool artwork:

Photo Credit

Babydoll has a computer, and I’m pretty much always on my computer {or tethered to my phone}.

The light bulb came on:  Why couldn’t I use this for daily lesson planning for school days?

Stay tuned for the second part of this series {on Monday} to find out how I use Dropbox to accomplish this task.

TOS Sweet Critique: Creek Edge Press

PhotobucketWhat:  Creek Edge Press Geography & Culture Task Cards

Cost:  $18

Recommended Ages:  K-8

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What are Creek Edge Press Geography & Culture Task Cards

I think the Creek Edge Press site best says what exactly these cards are:

Our goal is to provide a simple tool that pulls together the best of Classical, Charlotte Mason, and Montessori education. We do this with affordable, topic based Task Card Sets that facilitate discovery based, research oriented, independent learning.

Each card has a theme {Maps, Maps and Globes, Climate and Habitat} and a number of tasks to be completed related to that theme.

For instance, on the Maps card, some of the tasks are:

  • Define cartography.
  • Read about maps in an atlas.
  • Find a map legend.

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Students use a variety of resources such as encyclopedias, books, maps, etc., to complete the cards.

Our Thoughts

Overall I love the concept of these cards.  Babydoll did similar work when she was at a Montessori school, and she loved it then, too.

I enjoy the breadth of topic covered, and like that they utilize a variety of resources, methods, and activities.  Anything that involves food is good in my book!

One thing I wasn’t prepared for was the enormity of preparing for these cards.  Maybe I’m just a bad homeschooler, but I didn’t have a lot of the books listed such as encyclopedias or a variety of atlases.

Then again, maybe this is just my issue, since I know all of this can be used at the library.  I just like having our own stuff!

Thankfully the publisher gives you a great list of resources needed.  It is broken down into specific types, which I really like.  It helps those of us that are list people to go through and mark off what we do have and purchase/borrow what we don’t have.

I was surprised and happy to see that the Instructor’s Guide also listed subjects/concepts covered by each card.  Great if you just want to grab one card to enrich a study.

I also love that they go into great detail about how to set up an area for these if you will really be delving into them for the year.

I think it was a little daunting for me, at first, to see all of this and try to incorporate it midyear {I’m just weird like that}, but I think going into next year these would be an awesome resource to include in our studies.

They cover a crazy amount of stuff for a very small price.

One thing I just have to note, and I’m probably one of the only people that noticed something like this {because I’m OCD and crazy}, but I’d like the comb binding to be a bit wider.  I had a little trouble turning pages in the Instructor’s Guide and some of my page edges got a little wrinkly which drives me crazy.

Creek Edge Press has cards related to other areas like science, art, grammar, and music; win!

What Others Thought

Be sure to check out what other members of the Crew thought!

True Confessions:  I received this set of cards in exchange for my honest review.

Sweet Critique: Homeschooling Gifted and Advanced Learners

I firmly believe everyone is gifted in some way.  All it takes is someone showing a little attention and believing in their abilities, and they can do great things.

When many of us think of a gifted child, our mind automatically focuses on academic talent.  Gifted children can also be gifted artists, dancers, athletes, etc.

For this reason, I absolutely love Homeschooling Gifted and Advanced Learners by Cindy West.

West gives a good overview of homeschooling, curriculum, and styles, but she spends most of the book giving the reader actionable and practical information to help them adjust their teaching to their children.

Tables, Charts, and Resources

West, a veteran homeschooler, knows how much time homeschooling takes.  Her book is not full of a bunch of irrelevant and useless information.

By including tables, charts, and lists of resources, West has made it easy to search through the book and find exactly what you need.

Interested in a classical approach to education?  West provides a list of curriculum resources specifically for that approach.

Have a child that enjoys logic puzzles?  West gives you a list of logic puzzles, grouped by age/ability.

In addition to listing these resources throughout the book, she has placed them all in the back if you’re really just looking for that information.

Those Who Excel and Those Who Struggle

This is perhaps my favorite aspect of the book.  The bulk of the material is designed to take a subject/interest {history, science, spelling} and provide the parent with information to enhance that subject if their child excels or resources and ideas to help those who struggle.

I was keenly interested in what she had to say about spelling.  I’ve noticed that Babydoll is excellent at spelling.  Never has a problem with it.

But because it is a school subject, I felt like we had to set time aside to do it.  Still, there was this nagging feeling that we were wasting our time as she always aced it.

West says what others are afraid to:  if you have a child that excels at spelling, ditch it.  Spend time building vocabulary instead.

Use the time you would have spent doing spelling and provide your child with something useful, such as the ability to understand what those words mean.

Technology, Record Keeping, Socialization, and College

West touches on each of these areas as well, and does it well.

I am a firm believer in using technology in your homeschool, so I appreciated all the ideas and resources she provided in this section.

Record keeping is something that many of us struggle with each year, and West provides yet a few more pearls of wisdom.  She shares the way she keeps track of everything, and it’s not complicated!

Socialization is never far behind when discussing homeschooling, so West gives this area appropriate attention.

Despite the fact that your child might be in elementary school, time flies and college will be a reality sooner than you think.  West provides solid resources and information about what to consider when you get to this point as well.

Final Thoughts

I really enjoyed this book and would recommend it to any homeschool parent, new or old.

The fact that the book is full of links and resources makes it a winner in my book.  I can’t stress enough how wonderful this book is at providing you with solid, specific, practical ideas that you can implement right now.

Definitely give it a try.  I think this is something I’ll be referencing for the rest of our homeschooling days.

TOS Sweet Critique: Reading Eggs

Reading Eggs

Reading Eggspress

What: Reading Eggs and Reading Eggspress

Cost:  $9.95/month, $49.95 for six months, $75.00 for 12 months

Recommended Ages:  3 to 13 and older

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What is Reading Eggs?

 

Reading Eggs is an online program that uses interactive stories and games to help children learn to read.  By focusing on sight words and phonics, Reading Eggs takes children through 100 lessons helping them building their spelling, reading, and reading comprehension skills.

What is Reading Eggspress?

 

Reading Eggspress is similar to Reading Eggs, but it is designed for an older group of children, namely ones in grades 2-7.  In addition to the methods used in Reading Eggs, Reading Eggspress utilizes ebooks, learning resources, and competitive games to help children build their reading and comprehension skills.  It uses both fictional and factual texts.

Our Thoughts

 

OK, I’m not going to lie.  When this came up for review, I wasn’t all that interested.  Then I found out they had a component for older kids, and I thought maybe it could  be alright.  But Babydoll already reads well, and has done so for quite some time.

So, so wrong was I.  She absolutely loved Reading Eggspress, and despite the fact that she can read well, she can always use some practice in comprehension.  In addition, the knowledge she has gained from reading the factual texts is priceless.

We’re fans of Reading Eggspress!  It’s fun, it’s colorful, it’s educational, what’s not to like?

Parents can access tracking reports so they know what their child has been doing and can monitor the results of the program.  Kids can earn rewards as they progress through the program, which Babydoll loves.

Babydoll’s favorite game was the “Quote Quest”, a game which involved searching for orbs throughout the world {with the aid of hints} that build the quote for you.  The quotes were from various books.

I definitely recommend Reading Eggspress {or Reading Eggs, if you have a younger child}.  If you have a struggling reader, the colorful fun world might be just what they need to push forward, and if you have a seasoned one, the knowledge they’ll gain is still worth every penny!

You can try the program for free, so why not give it a shot?

Here are a few screenshots from the game:

What Did Others Think?

 

Check out this page to find out what other members of the Crew thought about the program!

True Confessions:  We were provided with free access to Reading Eggs in order to facilitate our review.  All opinions are my own.

TOS Sweet Critique: ALEKS

ALEKS

What:  Assessment and LEarning in Knowledge Spaces {ALEKS}

Cost:  1 Student – $19.95/month, $99.95/six months, $179.95/12 months OR the Family Discount Program for multiple students

Recommended Ages:  Grades 3-12 and up

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What is ALEKS?

 

ALEKS, in a nutshell, is a browser-based math learning and assessment tool.  After administering a quiz to assess the student’s math knowledge, ALEKS teaches lessons that the student still needs to master, while reinforcing what has already been learned.  The goal is to move toward mastery of each topic.

What makes ALEKS stand out is it’s use of “adaptive questioning”, which means it quickly determines what a student does and does not know to tailor lessons to that student.  This helps avoid repetitive learning {which can bore a student} while also ensuring topics are being mastered.

Our Thoughts

 

I’m not going to lie, I was intimidated about ALEKS at first…  It’s not like other browser-based math lessons you generally find, which have colorful characters, music, etc.  That doesn’t mean that it isn’t just as good, though.

After I sat down and went through the master account, I understood how to use the program more and quickly discerned it was easy to use and rather spot-on with determining what Babydoll needed to learn.

ALEKS Master Account

When your student first enters ALEKS, they are asked to take an assessment {not multiple choice} that helps the system determine “where they are” in math.  They can type in their answer or choose an option that states the current question is something they haven’t learned yet.

I went through an assessment and answered some and skipped some saying I hadn’t learned the stuff yet and I saw the assessment quickly change to accommodate that.  I think this is very helpful for self-conscious students who might feel bad after selecting “I didn’t learn this” so many times.

Once the assessment is finished, the student is presented with their “pie”, a graphical representation of what they know well and what they will be learning.

ALEKS

From here, the student can click on lessons and start learning!  Once you get over the fear of how “official” looking ALEKS is, I think it is a really good and comprehensive program to teach math.  I really like how it adapts to the student; that’s a total win!

What Do Others Think?

 

See what other members of the TOS crew think about ALEKS by clicking here.

 

True Confessions:  I was provided with access to ALEKS in order to facilitate my review.  All opinions are my own.