Home Education, Reviews

How Unit Studies Changed Our Homeschool

As homeschooling evolves, there are more and more methods and styles surfacing. One of the newest methods is known as the Unit Study Method, and a lot of homeschooling families are loving it! The biggest reason is they practically fit any learning style. 

What are unit studies?

Unit studies are what they sound like… You are basically using the study of a particular topics or concept to teach across several (if not all) subject areas. Unit studies have changed the way I homeschool and I can’t say I’m ever going back. Plus, I want to tell you about one of the coolest resources you should check out for summer fun learning!

4 Reasons to Give Unit Studies a Try

Unit Studies give my kids a variety of ways to learn.

Whether we are studying butterflies, the ocean, or a certain culture, my kiddos get a variety of ways to learn about the chosen topic. Through books (especially living books), field trips, videos, and hands-on activities, they never get bored.

Not to mention, a variety of ways to learn is super important when you’re homeschooling multiples.

Unit Studies have the ability to cover any and every subject.

At first I wasn’t sure how I was going to get those “tough subjects” in. As I started researching and finding resources, I quickly realized that it would be easy.

For example, we are currently doing a Butterfly Nature Study using a resource from Holistic Homeschooler. In this resource, she provides over 20 pages of printables that touch science, handwriting skills through copywork, reading, and geography. When you come across a resource like this, it’s like hitting jackpot!

Unit Studies open the door to deeper understanding.

With almost every unit study we did last homeschool year, my kiddos have been intrigued to want to learn more about the subject or was led to want to discover something else.

Best part about this is it shows that their minds are hard at work, and they are eager to learn more or learn something new. With Holistic Homeschooler’s Butterfly Nature Study Packet, my kiddos learned how to identify butterflies. Now when we go outside, they are on the lookout for butterflies and get super excited to be able to identify them!

Unit Studies make education flexible.

Going back to the Butterfly Nature Study… the flexibility of this resource is amazing. I am homeschooling three kiddos (at the time) with a six-month-old baby in tow so it’s important for me to score resources that meet various levels of learning.

The ability to have printables on hand for my toddler, preschooler, and fourth grader has made learning about butterflies and their nature smooth. When we can group learning together, it makes it so much more fun!

A Unit Study You Should Try

As you can probably already tell, the resource I want to tell you about is Holistic Homeschooler’s Butterfly Nature Study Packet. Upon receiving this resource I knew it was going to be a perfect fit for our homeschool because I’m homeschooling multiples from toddler to fourth grade.

Anytime a resource offers printables that all the kids can use, I’m all for it. The Butterfly Nature Study Packet comes with beautifully made printables, two of which I decided to print and laminate {the butterfly anatomy and life cycle pages} so the kids could practice identification with what is now a reusable resource.

The fact that this resource aligns with the Charlotte Mason method means that my kiddos are seeing real life pictures of butterflies and the life cycle process. There is also a list of living books that can be found at the public library to incorporate.

This really brings learning to life and helps my children learn about the nature of a butterfly in a realistic way. This resource also fit perfectly with some other resources I used for our unit study of butterflies. Its a win-win and that’s why I recommend that you check out Holistic Homeschooler’s Butterfly Nature Study Packet. You’re welcome. 🙂

Psst… if you’re looking for ways to incorporate unit studies into your homeschool, I recommend checking out my free unit study lesson plans page. It is chocked full with {free} resources you can use from printables to videos!

CHIME IN: do you use Unit Studies as part of your homeschooling? If so, what are some of your subjects/topics to study?

Home Education, Reviews

Two Books to Add to Your Children’s Library NOW!

Update: GIVEAWAY IS CLOSED – but these are still two must-have books that make perfect Mother’s & Father’s Day gifts!

If you’ve followed me for any length of time, then you’ll know I’m an advocate for building a children’s library. I have always been a lover of books and my husband and I are both hard copy kind of folks – especially in the day and age of all things digital.

There’s nothing like going to the bookshelf and pulling off a physical book.

Recently, I came across an amazing opportunity to review two books from Children’s Book Author, Glenys Nellist. I cannot say enough good things about her two most recent writings – God Made Mommy Special and God Made Daddy Specialtwo books that I highly recommend that you add to your children’s library NOW.

These books are well thought out, well written, and super engaging (even for the most youngest child). I especially enjoy the durability of these books because I’ve got some little hands that can wear a book out (LOL)!

I had the privilege of speaking with Author Glenys personally and pick her mind to find out her vision behind writing God Made Mommy (and Daddy) Special. Watch the exclusive interview below, and afterward, scroll down to read my interview with the Illustrator, Estelle Corke!

UPDATE: GIVEAWAY IS CLOSED!

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*DISCLAIMER: With the Huddlestons does not endorse the celebration of Christmas and Easter (or any other mainstream holidays); however, we DO endorse the observance of Biblical Celebrations (Feast Days) as commanded by YHVH. If you’re interested in learning about these, CLICK HERE.

It was also an honor to catch the vision and thoughts behind the beautiful illustrations of Glenys’ books. Below you’ll read the question and answer interview from the Illustrator of God Made Mommy (and Daddy) Special – Estelle Corke.

  1. How long did it take you to come up with the illustrated characters?
    I usually take anything from 30 minutes to 2 hours to come up with each character. Some are easier than others! I always look at photographs of each animal on Google images or in books to see the physical and personality characteristics in real life. I then do rough pencil sketches in my sketch book to get a feel to how the animal might move as I animate the drawing into the position I want. I then modify the drawings to make them look younger, softer and “children book “ friendly.
  2. What do you do with concepts that don’t make it to the final project?
    They stay in the back of my head and sketch book.
  3. Do you ever reuse them in a later piece of work?
    Sometimes they’re useful for a different project; even if they are just a basic idea to be then developed later.
  4. Do you often refer to other things for inspiration? (Where do you find your inspiration?) If so, do you mind to share?
    Whether the characters are animals or children, I refer back to my relationship with my daughter and family. Also, my visual memories of films, television programs or events in my life are my inspiration. Animals consequently become ‘anthropomorphic’ in that I illustrate them with having recognisable human traits; that makes them very cute.
  5. Do you ever go with your first mind and go from there?
    I try not to put pressure on myself, and think, “this may not work out, I’ll just do some more until it does” that usually relaxes me and I don’t have to do loads and loads ‘til I get the right one. Sometimes, the first thing that comes into my head is the best; otherwise characters can become “overworked”.
  6. Do you find it challenging to not use a character you’ve previously used, or is it something you are not concerned about?
    Common characters happen in books because they are popular, for instance, bears, and a publisher might particularly ask me to illustrate a book because they’ve seen something I’ve done before and they’ve chosen my particular style- so some of my characters may look familiar. I do try and vary them slightly, and the stories are different, so that changes the look of the book instantly. I’ve never illustrated a mother and baby snail and octopus before though!
  7. What would you like readers to take away from your illustrations in these books?
    I would hope readers will like the way my characters interact with each other, truly reflecting Glenys’s lovely words, and they find them fun and cute! My favourites are the baby monkey swinging in the tree with the banana and the hamsters cuddling in bed asleep.

 

If you would like to connect with Author Glenys Nellist, find her across most social media @GlenysNellist and visit her website. Connect with the Illustrator, Estelle Corke on Facebook and see her portfolio here.

CHIME IN: What are some children’s books that are must-haves for you? Share in the comments below!

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Family: Marriage & Parenting, Reviews

3 Ways to Help Your Children Manage Their Emotions

Think back to when you were a child. Were you taught how to properly manage your emotions? Most adults, me included, would probably say no, at least in a way that was healthy.

I remember being taught how to hold in my emotions. There were times when all I wanted to do was cry, but couldn’t. Other times I wanted to be expressive, and I couldn’t be.

Now that I have children of my own, I see the importance of teaching them how to identify their emotions, process their feelings, and problem solve through it all.

There are times when just a word will do. Then there are times when a little something extra is needed. And even then, you can rest assured that what is modeled for children will also speak loudly. Overall, it’s all about social skills.

A Word

There are certain situations and circumstances where you can talk through something. An instance happens and quick, “Hey it’s okay.” or a “Calm down.” will suffice.

But what about those meltdowns where a simple redirection using a quick word doesn’t work – or even possibly makes it worse?

Before going into panic mode, which can sometimes lead to a yelling frenzy, consider the learning moment that is on the brink. Keep in mind your child’s inability to properly express what is going on within themselves.

At this point, it’s not giving in when you decide to give your child a moment to calm down. It’s also smart for us parents to take a moment to calm down as well, am I right?

After a few moments have passed, re-approach the situation with calm words and dialogue. This not only teaches your child how to use meaningful words, but they are also processing a healthy way to communicate through their emotions.

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A Little Something Extra

Let’s say words are simply not helping at all. This is where I would recommend something like Soothing Sammy from JDEducational. Early Childhood Development Specialist, Jeana, has over 15 years of experience working with children birth to age six. While obtaining her Masters degree she “became fascinated learning about brain development and the maturity that happens within the first five years of a child’s life.”

Through her experiences in this field, she was able to create a product that teaches different calm down strategies. In her Soothing Sammy there is a stuffed animal (dog), a beautifully written book, and a parent guide (optional).

We actually own a Soothing Sammy set and enjoy snuggling up to read the story, especially in those much needed moments. For a few days straight, my daughter wouldn’t let little Sammy out of her sight.

The point of a resource like this is to help teach children how to manage their emotions in a way they will understand, remember and implement. It’s awesome when our children know they can grab a book, a plush dog, and feel calmer. Another perk for this mama is when my kiddos go grab the book just because.

What they don’t realize are the concepts and reinforcement of appropriate behavior being communicated every time I read the story. They are seeing beautifully illustrated pictures they can understand while hearing words that connect the dots in their mind. What I see are opportunities to continually teach sensory strategies that help them calm down in overstimulated moments.

It’s a win-win! Special thanks to Jeana for creating such an amazing resource! Click here to see my video review of Soothing Sammy!

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Modeled Behavior

Using the appropriate verbiage and even having a little something extra like Soothing Sammy is fantastic, but the icing on the cake is the behavior we as parents are modeling for our children.

I used to be that mom. You know, the one who would flip her lid, lose control, and go just a little crazy yelling and occasionally throwing a thing or two? Yeah, that was me.

How could I be surprised when my kids would yell, throw toys, or mock any other behavior modeled for them? I couldn’t be! Thing is, I have to work on myself just as much as I want to work with them on processing their emotions properly.

When Mommy (and Daddy) are cool, calm, and collective, typically our children will be as well. Because every moment isn’t perfect, there are times when I overreact. So, what do I do in those moments? Take a moment, calm down, and come back to my children with an apology. This is something that is not normally expected of parents, but I beg to differ.

Showing our children how to handle their emotions through meaningful words, extra helpers, and appropriate behavior is one of the best ways we can set them up for what I like to call emotional success!

CHIME IN: What are some emotion-coping strategies that you teach your children? Share in the comments below!

Home Education, Reviews

Tips for Homeschooling an Advanced Child

Families homeschool for various reasons, and meeting their child’s true academic abilities is among the top. You may hear a lot about special needs homeschooling when it comes to developmental delays, disorders, or other seemingly negative diagnosis. But what about the other end of the spectrum? The children who seem to be advanced.

I knew we had an advanced child on our hands before we decided to homeschool. While in public school, our oldest son thrived. I’m thankful for his preschool and kindergarten teachers who saw that and allowed him to participate in accelerated learning. That is not always the case for most students, hence, why homeschooling becomes a valid option.

Now that your advanced child is home, the question becomes – How in the world am I going to teach him/her… and what?

What I’m going to share with you in this post are two main ways to encourage the advanced child, tips on how to do, and the curriculum resources I highly recommend. I also offer a product review* for a curriculum we recently started using (and love)! Oh, and there’s a YouTube video + GIVEAWAY (scroll to the bottom if you want to see and enter that first *wink*)!

When it comes to being advanced, there are two main categories: subject-specific advancement and superior level of mental processing. I am more experienced with subject-specific advancement as that is the category our son falls into. He is “up to par” in certain subjects, while in others, he is grade levels ahead.

Having identified the appropriate category for your child, it’s time to consider ways to encourage them. Keep in mind that every child is different, so no single option will work for every situation. Not allowing flexibility for change is a sure way to reach stressed and overwhelmed with the quickness!

Accelerated Learning

Accelerated learning is usually a homeschooling parent’s first thought to consider when teaching and advanced child. This method says, “I’ll just keep jumping up grade levels until I find one that challenges you.” That is totally fine; however, there is the concern of age-appropriate concepts.

Curriculum and resources are typically written with a child’s developmental stage in mind. What that means is what a tenth grader can handle, a ten-year-old may not be mature enough for. Of course this is all at the discretion of the parents, but totally worth noting.

We have chosen to incorporate accelerated learning in the subject of ELA (English-Language Arts). He uses a High School-level spelling list and recently started a writing curriculum geared toward 6th-10th grade-levels. In other subjects such as Science and Social Studies, he averages at a mid to high middle school range… so we make appropriate accommodations for that too (keep reading for my list of go-to resources).

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Deepened Learning

Deepening the advanced child’s learning experience can seem difficult to do, but in actuality it isn’t. This is where finding a flexible curriculum, incorporating extra resources, considering a multi-disciplinary approach, and maybe even doing project-based learning comes into play.

Flexible Curriculum

This type of curriculum allows you to have your child work at a different grade level in a single subject. It also helps to keep them engaged and challenged.

Incorporating Extra Resources

This method keeps the child within the grade level, but allows you to deepen their learning by providing additional resources to expand on. This typically results in a more complete understanding of material.

Multi-disciplinary Approach

This method incorporates several subject, which is quite easy to do. Take the study of Thomas Edison, for example. Instead of just learning a bit about who he is or what he did, the advanced child may dive into what life was like in his time. They may write a report on how lives were changed. Perhaps they will to an ancestry research to see who in their family was alive during that time. They could add in math by calculating additional hours worked because of electricity. And so on…

Project-based Learning

This method allows children to explore a subject from many different areas. It’s where experiential learning meets practical knowledge combined with academic study. There are a number of ways to make this happen. From community service to 4-H related activities, this is can sometimes be an advanced child’s favorite way to learn.

Resources to Consider

Over the years I’ve built up quite a stash when it comes to keeping my son challenged. Below is a quick-list of resources we actively use and that I highly recommend (watch video to see them):

When it comes to my last suggestion, Write Shop I & II, I want to expand a bit. You see, I’m one of those homeschooling mamas that hears, “WARNING! WARNING! WARNING!” when I think about using a pre-made, detailed curriculum. So, when I was approached to try Write Shop, I was a little reluctant.

I wasn’t sure what I would be getting my son and I into, but I told myself – either it will work, or it won’t. Well, I’m happy to tell you that it is working! With this subject being one of our son’s advanced areas, I am actually quite impressed that it is offering him a challenge, but not too much to make him cry. A motto I’ve adopted when it comes to homeschooling is – no tears, ALL CHEERS! And this couldn’t be more true when choosing a curriculum to use for teaching your advanced child.

I chose to use Write Shop I & II because it helps with developing a strong writing foundation. As a writer myself, this is super important concept that I want my children to learn and know. This writing program is:

  • clear
  • concise
  • focuses on developing a strong paragraph
  • has a wide-range of writing activities
  • focuses on teaching how to refine work (A++)
  • helps parents know exactly what to teach and to evaluate their child’s work

These are key things I want to teach my children and they are all wrapped up in Write Shop I & II. Something else worth noting is the flexibility this program offers. I mention in the video that I like knowing what to do, but not being tied down to having to do it on certain days. There is a mapped out plan for parents who do like to have it laid out, however, we have found ourselves completing several exercises in one day, or taking a day or two longer with others.

Regardless of what we choose, we can stay on track because the student assignments are organized in the student workbook by lesson number. The teacher’s manual lines up with that as well. I also love the fact that the set comes with a teacher’s manual, a student workbook, AND a copying and dictation exercise booklet PLUS The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation!

I’m actually glad that I took the leap of faith and said, “Sure I’ll try it!” because now I can tell you that if you’re reluctant to purchasing a curriculum or aren’t sure where to start – when it comes to ELA, I highly recommend Write Shop! If you’re not sure where to start, I recommend checking our their samples. You can click and download immediately to see what you’d be getting before you buy.

If you’d like a chance to WIN a set or bundle of your choice, then hop in the TIME-SENSITIVE GIVEAWAY (below)! After April 17th it will disappear!

In the meantime, tell me in the comments below if you’ve ever tried Write Shop (any level). Did you like it? Why or why not? If you’ve never hear of them, will you check them out??

[embedyt] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MnMXFHxYCoI[/embedyt]

HERE TO HELP!

If you need help with finding curriculum and resources to fit your child’s unique academic needs, I have a few limited (and time sensitive) spots for personal homeschool consulting. Fill out this form to get started!

Review Disclosure: We received a free copy of the Write Shop I & II set in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are our own and were not persuaded in any way.

Home Education, Reviews

The Power of Teaching Sight Words

I’ve talked about it in the past, but with a new homeschool year in full swing, I just gotta re-emphasize the power of teaching sight words. This is something that homeschooling parents either love or hate. I am more on the loving end because it offers me the ability to enhance my daughter (and younger kiddos) vocabulary.

I have spent a lot of time Googling the various lists of sight words, and even came up with my own resource that models after my IR3 method… but I have recently gotten the amazing opportunity to try one of the newest Sight Word Curriculas out there and I am amazed.

With a history involving almost ten years in the Early Childhood Development & Education field, I know a good resource when I see one. And not to be rude, there are a lot of not-so-good ones floating around, causing folks to spend (and lose) a lot of money. This is NOT the case with Grasshopper Academics’ Sight Word Curriculum.

What’s so good about it?

The Content Creator and Author, Natalie Cottrell, created a system based on the old-school method of teaching and learning sight words first. This system of 17 sight words:

  • incorporates every letter of the alphabet
  • includes three nouns that are not sight words but enable students to make sentences
  • allows children as young as 3 years old to EASILY master skills learned in kindergarten

Not only that, your child will be well on their way to identifying and printing all lowercase letters, recognizing common sight words, learning basic punctuation, and understanding basic sentence structure. From the parent-teacher perspective, introductory lessons for this curriculum are only ONE MINUTE long! (Yay!) They are so simple that anyone can conduct the lessons after reading the detailed steps in the complimentary curriculum guide.

Following Natalie’s guide has lead my daughter to not only sounding out and reading the sight words, but now writing them.

What do you get with this curriculum?

I have to be honest and admit that I wasn’t sure what to expect. Once the box came in the mail, I was shocked and excited! This curriculum came with:

  • 2 sets of flashcards with clear box
  • a writing board, dry erase marker and eraser
  • Lego labels
  • curriculum guide
  • carrying case (which is now used as my library book bag)
  • sight word book “The Fox Who Had to Have Jam” (shipped at later date but yours will come with it)

Simply put, this curriculum is making it easier to teach my preschooler (soon-to-be 4-year old daughter) and toddler (soon-to-be 2 ½ year-old son) how to read. Speaking of my littles, everything in this set is durable. The flashcards are nice and thick. The carrying case is the perfect size. The dry-erase board, marker, and eraser are great for little (and big) hands. And, I love the versatility of the carrying case (a big score for recycling mama).

Our Testimony

We started this curriculum just a few days after getting it in mail. As instructed by the Curriculum Guide, we started with the first set of four sight words. I am happy to say that my daughter is spelling and reading the first set after just a week and a half of doing the daily activity (which literally takes less than 5 minutes).

Our son is picking up on them too (you can hear him in the background of the video below, LOL)! Although I use a different set of flashcards with him to build his vocabulary, he still wants to do the sight words. He also now does his flashcards like his big sister – spell the word, say the word.

I am looking forward to incorporating the other steps to this curriculum:

  • more challenging concepts by building sentences with Legos
  • writing sentences on the writing board
  • reading a book that utilizes all 17 sight words

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What sets this curriculum apart?

If you have been skeptical about teaching sight words, confused on where to start, unsure of what words to begin with – then I highly recommend Grasshopper Academics Sight Word Curriculum. It takes the guesswork out of the who, what, where, when, how and gives you a peace of mind.

There is power behind teaching sight words to your kiddos! Using this curriculum eases the transition into levels that require reading (especially independently). It also minimizes common educational struggles. I promise that you will be empowered by the ability to teach your child to read, and your child will be confident with their newfound skills.

Check out more about this curriculum and order your set TODAY! You’ll be glad you did!

CHIME IN: Do you teach your kiddos sight words? If so, share some ways that you do it! I’d love to hear from you, so post your response in the comments. This also helps other readers know what others are doing.

Psst… check out our daughter using Grasshopper Academics’ Sight Word Curriculum!