Friday, June 22, 2012

"Chicka Chicka Boom Boom" Playgroup

In our homeschool, story-based lessons are some of our favorites.  We love reading books and doing activities related to the story!

Recently, my girls and I have started hosting a weekly storytime playgroup to share our love of reading.  Each week, a group of toddlers and preschoolers comes to our house for a story, art project, and snack.  This week, our playgroup focused on Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin Jr.

We started our playgroup by singing the alphabet.

Then, we read the story and sang that alphabet again.

Next, we made our own alphabet trees using toilet tissue rolls and alphabet stickers.  All of the children in the playgroup love stickers, so this activity was a real hit!

We concluded our playgroup with a little snack.  I made bread in the shape of each child's first initial.  

The girls and I enjoyed sharing a lesson with their friends.  As much as we love our daily lessons, just the three of us, sharing a weekly storytime with friends is wonderful!

Marla is a former special education teacher, PhD student, and stay-at-home, homeschooling mom of two little girls (ages 1 and 3).  She blogs about homeschooling at Marla's Motherhood Musings and her family's experiences living in Zambia at Our Life in Lusaka.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Why We Love Handwriting Without Tears

We began homeschooling when my oldest son was going into third grade.  He couldn't wait to learn cursive handwriting.  I did a little bit of research into handwriting, but it was low on my list of things to worry about when we began  homeschooling.  I had heard Handwriting Without Tears (HWT) mentioned many times, so when I stumbled cross a workbook for third grade cursive at a used curriculum sale, I snapped it up.

HWT is simple, fun, and compatible with all learning styles.  It can be taught with as little or  as much parental involvement as a child desires (in my house that means one child who wants ZERO help and another who wants 100% of Mom's help).  HWT is especially good for children with motor delays or learning differences because it is simple, fun, and incorporates a broad, multi-sensory approach.  It does not have include an overwhelming amount of drilling.

I especially love the simple, fun and easy lessons.  They required little (if any) preparation on my part.  Handwriting is completed in 15 minutes or less and the children enjoy the lessons.  Frequently they ask for and complete more than a single lesson in a day.

My oldest son completed fifth grade this year, and finished the HWT program.  I was very pleased with his fifth grade HWT book - it was humorous, helpful and interesting for him.  He has very nice handwriting and has never complained about his time mastering it.  I am also very pleased with his neat, legible handwriting.

I also like HWT because it can be very inexpensive.  Many of their additional items can be replaced with items you may have at home, and I've had a great deal of luck finding many of them at used curriculum sales.  For three years, I purchased only the student workbook for my oldest child.  If I used them at all, I found teacher's books at different sales or bought them used online.  I enjoyed having the teachers manual especially for my youngest child in her first level of print and again in the first level of cursive.

The program is very well-rounded and is a fun, creative way to teach your child handwriting.  My daughter enjoys it so much, she has asked to continue handwriting lessons during summer break.  Of course, I said "yes."

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Continuous Learning

We do not homeschool year-round.  My children came from an institutional school environment and we still follow a schedule that allows for a flexible summer break.

We don't follow a curriculum during our summer break, but I do make sure our children are still learning. Here are some things we are doing this summer:

1) Puzzles

We especially like geography-oriented puzzles, which are a great learning tool and helps to cement some of the map skills we have worked on.

2)  Library Programs

Most public libraries have fun summer reading programs where kids can earn prizes and participate in activities.  My oldest is looking forward to being one of the volunteer summer helpers in a couple of years.

3)  Accidental Learning

I am a big fan of leaving things lying around for children to stumble upon.  We have summer magazines and interesting reading material scattered about the house where I frequently find a small face behind the pages when it gets hot outside.

4)  Unassigned Reading

I let my children choose books at a used curriculum sale (they chose the Narnia series and several of the first Magic Treehouse books).  They are having so much fun reading through them on their own.

5)  Reading Together

One of the cornerstones of our family's educational style is reading out loud together.  We do this continuously during the school year from our curriculum, and we enjoy it so much we keep going during the summer.  Often we revisit favorite books from previous school years.

6)  Summer Classes

Summer Recreation Programs offer lots of fun, short-term classes for kids.  My children chose not to take classes this year - my older two instead asked to learn touch-typing and my youngest wants to begin cursive handwriting.  I'm going to "let" them do these things. (wink, wink)

7)  Healthy Television

I think TV can have a great place in family routine.  Like anything else, it can also be used to excess.  During the summer my children are most susceptible to wasting their time watching junk-food-for-the-brain.  I work hard to stick to PBS, nature shows, documentaries or age-appropriate (and family-friendly) movies.  I like allowing them extra screen time in the summer, but I want to feel good about what they are watching.

If you take a summer break, what are the things your family incorporates for continuous learning?

Friday, June 8, 2012

Summer Reading - Programs

With the end of the traditional school year schedule, my children look forward to a lighter summer school schedule with more time for free reading.

Numerous reading programs exist.  We know of reading programs run by minor league baseball teams with free game tickets as a reward, amusement parks with free admission upon completion, and pizza places with free pizza as a prize.

However, our family's favorite reading program is run by our local public library.  It started as a way to encourage one struggling reader, but the library reading program has now become a family favorite. 

It is the one reading program my children always want to participate in. 

The library offers small tokens during each weekly library visit, a book after ten hours of reading, and a book bag after thirty hours of reading.  There are additional weekly prizes awarded from a drawing as well. 

And, though my children enjoy these rewards, I do believe their love for the program results more from the children's library staff who interact with the children by ooohing and aaahing over each child's reading accomplishments every time we visit the library.  It has been our experience that the staff of volunteers and paid workers encourage each and every child that participates tin the program, telling each child they are doing well.

This month, our family signed up for another summer of the library reading program.  I look forward to this season of reading and encouragement for each of my children.

What reading programs do your children enjoy?


Dorie enjoys being outside, photography, art, writing, a strong cup of coffee, and good conversations seasoned with much laughter. She and her drummer husband, Jerry, share a life built on faith in Jesus, love, and grace. They have been blessed with four active children. Each day, whether easy or trying, is a wondrous part of this grace filled journey, and Dorie blogs about them all at These Grace Filled Days. Their homeschooling adventures can be found at Homeschooling Just Next Door.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Summer School

"What?  School over the summer?"  Perhaps this is your child's response.  Maybe it is even your response.  I understand.  It is exactly what my children and I said the first time we pondered schooling over the summer months. 

Our summer vacation is a time of rest from the hectic school year, and we envisioned summer school as enslavement to a hectic school schedule.  But, schooling over the summer doesn't have to be like that.  It can be fun, low-key, relaxing, and quite beneficial.

Though we do not do school year round, for the past five years we have done school over the summer.  Some summers we work through a unit study about a particular country or time in history.  Other summers, we do minimal work strictly to maintain the children's abilities in math and language arts.  One time, we tried a different approach to homeschooling.  And, during one summer break, we did some remedial work.  

Summer school may not be the choice for all families.  If you hold near and dear to your summer break, then schooling through the summer may not be an option for you.  However, there are some good reasons to consider using those warm vacation months for school. 

Reasons to consider schooling over the summer months:
  • Your child needs tutoring in a specific subject.  The summer months can be a great time for concentrated tutoring in one subject while not teaching other subjects. 
  • You want your child to retain a working knowledge of what they learned during the school year.  (i.e.  you don't want their brains to go to mush while they soak in the sun rays and play in the pool)  If this is your motivation for summer school, then about half hour or so of math and reading a few days a week are probably enough to maintain the learning over summer vacation. 
  • You want to maintain some type of organized schedule or organization to your week days.  Schooling throughout the summer months will help you stay organized and in your school routine.
  • You want to finish the curriculum, or books, you started during the school year.
  • You want to do some special activities or projects, that you weren't able to squeeze into the past school year.
  • You want to experiment with a new teaching or learning style.  The summer months can be a great time to explore different homeschooling methods and approaches.
  • You want to teach one or two subjects over the summer instead of during the school year.  This can work well for subjects like typing, art, music, and creative writing.


Dorie enjoys being outside, photography, art, writing, a strong cup of coffee, and good conversations seasoned with much laughter. She and her drummer husband, Jerry, share a life built on faith in Jesus, love, and grace. They have been blessed with four active children. Each day, whether easy or trying, is a wondrous part of this grace filled journey, and Dorie blogs about them all at These Grace Filled Days. Their homeschooling adventures can be found at Homeschooling Just Next Door.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Welcome Summertime!

It isn't officially summer in the northern hemisphere, but it sure seems that way.  With Memorial Day celebrated and traditional school years ending, summer might as well be here. 

For our family, we say, "Welcome summertime! Welcome sunshine, relaxing days spent by the water, time to rest, time to play, and time to just enjoy life at a slightly less hectic pace!"

Here at Growing Your Homeschool we are welcoming summer as well. 

Have you noticed things have been a bit quieter around here?  We are taking a more relaxed approach to posting for the summer months. 

What can you expect during the months of June, July, and August?  You can look forward to reading updates and interacting with our regular writers about twice a week.  We have also taken the time to invite a few others to share their wisdom in guest posts throughout the summer. 

Just as we are all looking forward to a relaxing summer filled with refreshing times, we sincerely hope your summer months are just as refreshing!

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