Deuteronomy 16:15

Deuteronomy 16:15
For the LORD your God will bless you in all your harvest and in all the work of your hands, and your joy will be complete.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Naomi's Kindergarten Year: 2012/2013

The weather is warming up, the days are longer, and we are spending more and more time outside. That means that we are wrapping up Naomi's 2012/2013 Kindergarten year! With moving from West Virginia back to Alberta, Canada, me being pregnant, sick, and then having a new baby, this has been an insane year for our family. Looking back now though, I am so pleased with what we accomplished. God's timing is always perfect, and maybe if our year hadn't been so crazy I would have tried to do too much! As it stands, I think what we did was perfect. Naomi made excellent progress, and most importantly, feels proud of her accomplishments and confident in her abilities.

So, what exactly did we do?

For phonics/reading we did the first two books in the "Explode the Code" series. I LOVE these books and can't say enough about them. There are so many expensive, complicated reading programs out there and it can be hard to choose. For me, I like simple, cheap, to the point, something that doesn't take much (or any!) prep on my part, and best utilizes our schooling time. This series is exactly that! The books focus on sounding words out, while also utilizing some basic sight words. By the end of the first lesson Naomi was able to read a simple book using 3 letter words that had the short "a" sound. She was thrilled!!

I often have Naomi read to Nathan for extra practice.

Your child is ready for "Explode the Code" if:
  • they know all their letters
  • they know all their letter sounds
  • have an interest in beginning to read
  • show the ability to start blending sounds together (this point is key!!!!)
If your child isn't quite ready yet, there is a series of 3 books that are a primer for the "Explode the Code" series. Thy are called "Get Ready for the Code" and focus on introducing the letters and their sounds. They are a perfect first workbook if your child has never done one before. I did the first book and a half with Naomi when she was 4 and they were great!

I just want to say that either the "Get Ready for the Code" OR "Explode the Code" are perfectly great options for Kindergarten or 1st grade depending on where you child is at. The developmental range for learning how to read is anywhere from 5 to 8 years old, and the worst thing you can do is push your child to do something they aren't ready for. I equate it to a toddler learning how to walk. You can push them to practice walking all you want, but until they are developmentally ready, it just isn't going to happen! It is the same with reading. That's not to say you shouldn't provide them with learning opportunities, but you need to meet them where they are.

I started "Explode the Code: Book 1" in the spring of 2012 when Naomi was 4, turning 5 that fall. Although she knew all her letters and letter sounds, she just wasn't ready yet to blend the sounds together and quickly became frustrated. I immediately shelved the book, and took the summer off. I almost fell over in surprise that fall when we pulled the book back out and she was easily able to blend the sounds together. That my friends is the benefit of a summer spent swimming, playing outside, and being read to!

Working in her "Explode the Code" workbook.

There are no official readers to go along with the "Explode the Code" series. We used the level 1 readers of the "Now I'm Reading!" series by Nora Gaydos and it was like they were made to go with it. I can't say how much I love these readers! In level 1 each book focuses on words with the same short vowel. The text is repetitive and builds on itself, which is perfect for beginning readers. The illustrations are super cute and the stories are funny. I had both the "Playful Pals" and the "Clever Critters" sets. There are 10 books in each set. Books 6 - 10 also introduce some simple letter blends. We also used the level 1 books of the "Bible Stories for Early Readers" series once Naomi had finished the first book of "Explode the Code". These are excellent as well.

You can find the "Get Ready for the Code", "Explode the Code", and all the Nora Gaydos books on,, and Chapters online. I recommend looking at Amazon and Chapters (or Barnes and Nobel for you Americans!) to compare prices and shipping as it seems to change.

For practice printing letters and numbers I used several of the "Kumon Workbooks". Some of these are very nice and Naomi enjoyed working through them a little at a time. These can be easily found at Chapters or Barnes and Nobel. We also did a lot of copy work. Naomi would dictate something such as a thank you note etc, I would write it, and then Naomi would copy it. We used the printing paper that has the two solid lines, and the dotted line in the middle to help with letter size.

Writing a letter!
Here Naomi was learning space vocabulary words using the "Read! Build! Write!" mats from the Homeschool Creations blog.
 For math we did "Singapore Math" books A and B. For Kindergarten I feel practical math, learning to count real things, measuring in the kitchen while cooking with mom or Mimi, skip counting in the car, etc, is far more important than "workbook" math. I like Singapore Math and will continue to use it in grade one. In all honesty though, 98% of what was in the book was stuff that Naomi knew from our practical math activities, or playing on the iPad. The book was just reinforcement.

Learning about measuring weight.

Using our counting bears to help learn about place value.

Unit studies are great at any age, but are especially important for young children. This is the age where children are working on making connections, and seeing how everything fits together in their world. Picking a topic, learning about it, and doing a range of science, art, history, math, and writing activities is a great way to help children make those connections. Therefore, we did unit studies to cover all the other subjects, and also incorporated them into our reading and math.

Space was one of the big units we did this year. One of our projects was to make a poster to show how the planets orbit around the sun, and the order they are in. Here Naomi was pointing to each planet and singing the song we learned about them. In one project we covered science, art and music!
Both kids wanted to learn about dinosaurs this year. Here they are doing an art project showing different types of dinosaur tracks.
Of course, life is about a lot more than just school work! One of the big reasons we moved to Alberta is because of the large homeschooling community and all the opportunities that provides. Naomi went to plays, did gymnastics, gym classes, nature classes, a tea party, girl's beauty day, swimming lessons, snowmobiling, skiing, skating, and so much more!
Naomi did amazing for a first time skater! It was so fun to watch her confidence grow.

She also got to particpate in homeschool ski days. I was so proud of how well she did! Here she is going up the t-bar all by herself.

We couldn't move to Canada without learning about hockey! The kids got to go watch Pa play hockey and were very impressed.

We also did a comparative weather study between West Virginia and Alberta for geography. The conclusion? Alberta gets a lot more snow! haha

Naomi's first time bowling was at the Valentine's Day bowling party. I used to go to the homeschool Valentine's Day party every year when I was a little girl!
Having a new baby sister is a big deal! Naomi is so good with Nicole, and such a wonderful help to me. I would never get a shower without her entertaining her two younger siblings!
As I said, what a year!! I can't believe my little girl has already finished kindergarten. I am so proud of her! I am looking forward to a fun summer relaxing, playing outside, bike riding and more, although I admit I am already making plans for her fist grade year and can't wait for that too!
Until next time!


Monday, September 3, 2012

My Favorite Online Resources

I can't believe it is already September! Where did the summer go?? We had a crazy, but fantastic summer, and I'm getting excited to jump back into a school routine again. Now that we will be starting "school" again soon, I want to also get back into blogging occasionally. The first thing I want to share is some of my favorite websites. These are sites I go to all the time, and have been a huge inspiration to me. I use ideas and free printables from these sites constantly, and I thought others may enjoy checking them out too. These sites will be most applicable to people who have children in the 2 to 7 year old range. So in no particular order, here are some of my favs!

No Time for Flashcards
I LOVE LOVE LOVE this site! There are tons and tons of crafts, ideas for hands on play, and great book suggestions. They are organized by topic or theme and are often the perfect compliment to any unit study we are doing. I am not a crafty person, so to have a resource of hundreds of simple crafts to do with kids is a huge help to me. All the crafts are simple, and use materials that are easy to find, and often readily available in your home. The crafts are also adaptable to many ages, which is a huge help for any homeschooling family.

Carissa, the mom who is the author of this site is amazing. She homeschools her three children, and has an overwhelming number of printables that are free, or bundle packages you can buy for a very low cost. There are great ideas for what she calls "Tot School", which is hands on learning activities for young children. She has a whole program she developed called Raising Rockstars Preschool that is fantastic! It is simple program where you focus on one letter a week, learn a Bible verse, and song. This would be a great introduction to children just learning their letters. There so many ideas and things to print out that you will just have to check it out for yourself.

Homeschool Creations
Here is another great Christian, homeschooling mom, with tons of ideas. I particularly like all her themed printable packs. If you are doing any books from "Before 5 In A Row" you have to check out her free packets and ideas to accompany the stories!

Confessionsof a Homeschooler
Yet another wonderful site! Erica, the homeschooling mom who is the author of this blog, also has developed her own preschool curriculum and early kindergarten curriculum. While I haven't used the whole curriculum, I've used many of her letter printables and ideas when Naomi was learning her letters. I also really like some of her math pages that you can print off for free. There are some wonderful kindergarten printables too, all free! Erica has ideas and some printables for older children as well. For moms there are lots of practical tips about organization, meal planning, ect!

The Moffatt Girls - Ready2Read
This is not a blog I have followed closely, however I think the Ready2Read program Annie Moffatt has developed is excellent. If your child knows all their letters and corresponding sounds, this might just be the program for you! I really like that it combines using word families (phonics) with sight words. Each unit covers two word families (hat, bat, cat, rat, ect) and a list of sight words (the, see, and to, ect). If your child is ready to start blending letters into words this may be a great place to start. With each little unit there are two mini books you can print off, so your child is reading a book on their own right away! This could be a complete program on its own, or perfectly supplemented with the "Explode the Code" series. There is a cost for the program, but it is minimal, especially considering the many more expensive options out there. The only thing that some families might not love is that the graphics are a little feminine. This might not be any concern if you opted out on some of the coloring activities.

Homeschool Share
This site is for you if you have all ages of children, and not just young ones like me! There are book unit study ideas, resources to go with the "Before Five In A Row" series, and my favorite, lots and lots of lapbook ideas and printables!

What IS Pinterest? Pinterest is a virtual pinboard (think coark board) where you can store and organize links to the sites you find online. As I started surfing the web more and more, I found wonderful ideas, but didn't have a way of keeping track of all the links, and often forgot where I had found things. This was especially true for ideas I wanted to do in the future. Pinterest changed all that for me! I organize my "boards" by theme unit category, so as I am surfing the web, and stumble across something I'd like to do for Easter I "pin" or save the link to my Easter board on Pinterest. That way, when Easter comes around, I have tons of great ideas that I would have forgotten about otherwise! You can also follow people on Pinterest, see what types of things they are pinning to their boards, and copy it to yours if it's something you like! I follow all of the bloggers I mentioned above, and have come across zillions of great finds that way. To see the main Pinterest page, click above. To see my personal page, and some of my finds, click here. Beware, I found this very addicting when I first started!!! :-)

FLY Lady
This site has nothing to do with homeschooling, but is all about organizing your home, your time, routines, cleaning tips, and meal planning ideas. When I first stopped teaching to be a stay at home mom, I went to this site daily. It really is the basis of how I organize my day, clean my house, and plan our family meals. Of course I adapted it to work for me, but it really does have some great ideas. Check it out if you want to be inspired to finally organize that overflowing closet, or dig through the piles that have accumulated on the steps in your foyer!

There you have some of my favorite sites! My husband Jim has really inspired me throughout our marriage to use the Internet as a tool, and not just a time waster. Now I find so many great ideas, and have been completely inspired by some of these amazing bloggers. Hopefully you can find some of that inspiration too!

As a side note, don't be overwhelmed by all you see out there. I was at first. Don't waste time comparing what you're doing to what others are doing. Find just one idea that you think you would enjoy doing with your children and go from there. Ideas tend to build on each other, so start with something small and enjoy the ride.

Happy hunting!



Thursday, May 31, 2012


Remember our tadpoles? If not, you can see my last post about them here. We lovingly fed and cared for them for months.

Well they grew,

and grew,

and grew! Until finally....

one morning when we went to feed the tadpoles, we found a froglet sitting on a rock!

One transformation was enough for us! There were a couple other tadpoles that had legs, and were probably close to metamorphosing, but we all agreed it was time to set them free. With Daddy's help, we headed to a small stream nearby.

The kids  had fun scooping up our tadpoles and froglets in order to release them.

Naomi had the honor of releasing the froglet that had metamorphosed the most.

They were so excited to set them free!

Nathan needed help so he didn't fall in.

Our biggest froglet, happy and free in his natural habitat. Don't let this close up photo fool you as to his actual size! He was no bigger than the nail on my pinky finger.

I am so glad we persevered through slow changing tadpoles, and stinky water changes (thank you Jim!). What an amazing thing for our kids to observe!


Farm Unit

This spring we did a big Farm Theme Unit. As I began to plan this unit, I realized that I needed to narrow down exactly what I wanted to do because "farm" covers such a wide range of things. I broke it down to:

The Life Cycle of a Chicken
Products That Come From Cows (and briefly pigs, sheep, goats and chickens)
Crops: what they are, different types, and how they are planted
The Grain Chain (how grain is grown, harvested, turned into flour, and then bread, ect)
Jobs and Life on a Farm
Tractors, Tractors! (for Nathan)

Unfortunately I wasn't consistent at pulling out the camera this time, especially as the unit wore on, but I will share what I have!

Although our local library is generally a disappointment, they had a huge selection of farm books, which was a nice change! I love these shelves from Ikea that allow me to display books facing out. The kids always read more when I have books displayed this way.

These were the books we narrowed it down to as we learned about the life cycle of a chicken.

We talked about a chicken's nest, and how they sit on the eggs to keep them warm. Here we were making a nest for our poster.

This part of our poster was Naomi's idea! I was just going to print off a picture of an egg cracking, but she shot that idea down quickly. She said we had to SHOW the baby chick coming out of the egg. Not only that, but she was impressed by the fact that chicks have a lump on their beaks called an egg tooth, and she wanted to show that as well. So here is our pompom chick, chipping its way out of the egg with its egg tooth!

We made a foam chick as a craft, and to use on our poster. We talked about how the chick is born with down, and how the down changes into feathers as the chick grows.

Using Naomi's handprint we made a full grown hen.

This was the finished poster we made to show what we learned about chickens! Naomi did many presentations about the life cycle of a chicken using her poster. I think presentation skills are so important, so she presented to everyone we could find!

Here Naomi is using sequence cards I printed off of All the printables I used for this unit are from KidSoup. You do have to buy a membership for this site, but they have some great printables, divided by theme, for Pre-K and Kindergarten level skills.

The sequence cards in order.

A worksheet that Naomi also did.

To cover the topics of jobs on the farm, and life on a farm, we read lots of books, both fiction and non-fiction. I had a couple little worksheets that we did, but for the most part we read, and then acted out what we had just read about.

Both kids love imaginative play, so this was such a fun way to apply what we were learning. The fun thing is, they didn't even realize they were learning! After we read a story about caring for animals, we would go play, and I would just work into our play what we had read about. We milked cows, sheared sheep, and even turned the pig into a ham for Christmas dinner! Nathan plowed, planted, and harvested crops for hours on end. They learned tons of new vocabulary words, and it was all through reading, and most importantly, PLAY! Not only was this great for them, but it was more fun for me, as I felt like I was accomplishing goals, and had a purpose.

Nathan got a ride-on tractor for his birthday and is in LOVE with tractors. I got piles of books about tractors from the library. We read some, and  he also spent tons of time just looking at them with me and by himself. He would get a book, run over, and tell me who in our family got to drive that tractor and what we were going to do with it. Nathan is good at identifying and naming animals, but we practiced this some more, along with what sounds the different animals make. I pulled out this LeapFrog magnet barn toy, and we had fun playing and talking about the different animals. It was a great way to keep him busy when I need a moment to help Naomi with something too. I also printed off some different sized tractors for Nathan, and we practiced putting them in order from biggest to smallest.

Doing some farm pages together. I printed off a mini book for Nathan to practice coloring farm animals.

To kick off learning about cows products, Naomi traced this cow.

We read and talked about the different products that come from cows, and how they are processed. We also made the cow in the middle of this poster together as a craft.

The kids worked together to glue down all these products that come from cows. Naomi cut them out by herself ahead of time.

Nathan working on a farm puzzle.

Here Naomi was doing a farm maze. As it turns out, we have a ton of farm themed toys. It was fun to pull them all out and tie them into our unit.

Here is where I dropped the ball on taking pictures. We read and talked about what crops were, that there are different types of crops, the difference between straw and hay, some of the things we get from crops, and the all the steps involved in planting wheat to baking bread. We read the book "From Grain to Bread" (A Start to Finish Book) which was excellent! It explained everything from planting the wheat, harvesting it, milling the wheat into flour, and baking the bread. We also read "The Little Red Hen" which tied into this perfectly! After reading the book, we watched several different versions of "The Little Red Hen" on YouTube. The kids enjoyed this, and it really solidified the grain to bread process. For fun, we acted out the story of The Little Red Hen. Naomi was the hen (of course!) and Nathan and I were the dog and cat. The kids LOVED this and I don't think Naomi will ever forget the process of grain to bread, after acting out the story again, and again! We also did some pages related to this from KidsSoup.

We really enjoyed this unit! This is the last big unit we will do this school year. I have some fun pirate things planned that we may do in June, but otherwise we are wrapping up for summer break. When the weather is nice, we spend most of our time playing outside. To check out the links to where I got many of my ideas for this unit, and other farm ideas that we didn't get to, check out my farm page on Pinterest!


Sunday, April 22, 2012

Frog Unit

This spring we are doing several mini units. One of the first I wanted to do was frogs, and I had even bought the books I wanted so we could get started. What I hadn't planned on was my dear friend Michelle dropping off over a hundred tadpoles, and making our fun unit fabulous!

Here is a close up of what our tadpoles looked like when we first got them back on March 25th. They had just hatched from their eggs the day before this picture.

Here is what they look like today (April 22,) almost a month later! They have grown a ton but no little legs yet!

Right now they eat lettuce that we washed, cut up, and froze. Here Naomi is chopping them up some fresh lettuce to freeze.

I'm not big on having pets, so both kids have been particularly thrilled and fascinated by the tadpoles. They love to feed them and then watch them eat.

Here both kids are doing their "work". If you check out my Frogs Page on Pinterest, you will see links to some great YouTube videos, and frog learning sites and printables.

Here is a close up of the site Naomi was on about frogs. It taught all about a frog's life cycle, and then had some games to reinforce the concepts. It was great!

I found a template online I used to make the pieces of a felt frog.  The purpose was to illustrate the stages of a frog's life cycle. It went from egg, to tadpole, to froglet, and finally frog. I had NO IDEA how much Naomi would LOVE this! She had so much fun telling the story of "A Life of A Frog" and did it over and over again. What great storytelling practice, and reinforcement of the concept and vocabulary terms!


The picture on the left is the froglet since it still has it's tail, and the one on the right is the mature frog. The piece of blue felt is supposed to be the pond. ;)

Here Naomi is doing the felt frog again. This picture of her was too cute not to post! For some reason I can't get videos to upload on here or I would have posted her telling her frog story! Check my wall on Facebook as I will try to upload it there instead.

This was another simple thing that we ended up doing over and over again. It was mostly for Nathan but Naomi had fun with it too. I just printed off 5 frogs, and had the kids pretend that our pocket chart was a log, and the the hamper a pool. Then we sang "5 Green and Speckled Frogs" and practiced counting forwards and backwards to 5, by having the frogs jump from the log into the pool. Simple, but they LOVED it!

Nathan also had fun putting the "pool" on his head and running around in circles. hehehe

We used the same frogs and pocket chart for Naomi to practice her ordinal numbers.

Here is a peek at some of the frog themed pages we did.

We watched several videos on YouTube of frogs eating bugs. The kids were fascinated by their long, quick tongues. Here they got to try eating like a frog! I put a Velcro dot on the end of this party blower, and then cut up some little bits of felt to make "flies".

They thought this was hilarious!!! They both took turns "eating" flies until the blower finally broke. It was fun, and I don't think either of them will forget anytime soon how a frog catches its food!

 The average frog can jump 20 times its body length in a single hop. Using the frogs we made for a craft, we counted 20 lengths of the frogs body, and then measured it. Naomi was very impressed with a frogs jumping ability!

 Then I got out two of our carpet squares, and we pretended they were lily pads. We started off with them right beside each other, and then jumped from lily pad to lily pad.With each jump we moved them a little bit farther apart, and measured the distance. All was good, and we were having fun, until....

Naomi realized she couldn't jump as far as a frog. Then she cried. My daughter isn't competitive, nope, not at all, especially not with a paper plate frog.... What can I say, she comes by it honestly! ;) She got over it fairly quickly and we moved on to something else. That was the end of jumping like a frog though. *grins*

Here are the paper plate frogs the kids made. I think they turned out so cute! They are from DLTK and you can find the link to them, and everything else on my Frog Page on Pinterest.

Here is a peek at our tadpoles new home. We moved them to this bigger bin with rocks, so they would have something to climb up on to once their legs grow. I will try to post pictures when they turn into frogs!

We really enjoyed our week on frogs, and I felt like we all learned a lot! In addition to the things I showed, we read a lot of stories about frogs. We read "The Frog Prince" and many of the books from the "Froggy" series that we have. There were also many stories about frogs that Naomi listened to on the "Tales 2 Go" app I have on my phone. We LOVE that app and we all enjoyed the variety of frog stories. This was a fun mini unit and I'm pleased with the large number of subjects were were able to include in it. Until the next time!