Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Utilizing the Visual Thesaurus

This post may contain affiliate links.  Every time you click the link or purchase something from a link, a percentage goes towards our homeschooling budget.  Thank you for supporting our homeschool.


Have you introduced your homeschool to the Thesaurus?  We just recently had a lesson using a Thesaurus along with our introduction to the Encyclopedia.

I am all about using traditional books as this is important, but it's nice to be able to utilize tools online as well.

I recently found the Virtual Thesaurus and thought I would share it with you.  You basically just type in a word to look it up and Presto!  The Visual Thesaurus allows you to discover connections between words with a visual display!

When you subscribe to the Visual Thesaurus, you also get access to their Spelling Bee, VocabGrabber, and Online Magazine.

I look forward to utilizing something such as this visual Thesaurus in our homeschool.  I am doing something different this year in our curriculum.  It ranges from online, to text, and Kindle.  This is an excellent tool, especially when on the go.

Visual Thesaurus will give you a 14 day trial to give it a shot.  After that it is $2.95 a month or $19.95 per year!  Not too shabby and is definitely worth it.

Would you utilize Visual Thesaurus for your homeschool?  Would love to read your thoughts.

MOMMY TIME: I just had my 4 year old try to say Thesaurus.  It was the funniest and cutest thing ever.  It came out as: Seth-ar-us.  Gotta love that.

Monday, July 29, 2013

{Guest Post} Encouraging Young Learners to Write


I'm excited to share with you a guest post by Nikolas Baron regarding the importance of writing for young learners.  Enjoy!
Encouraging young learners to write
One of the huge drawbacks of the public school system is the requirement for students to work at the same pace as their classmates. While this can cause frustration and impede progress in all subjects, it becomes especially problematic when it comes to written work. What if my oldest child was drawn to print, and fell in love with reading and writing at a young age, yet my youngest shows no interest in the written word and prefers listening to stories or talking about pictures?
Make it personal
Homeschooling is wonderfully flexible. You can introduce writing in whatever way most interests your child and leave out the methods that don’t get good results.
Some little ones will love tracing and coloring letters on worksheets, and there’s no shortage of great online resources for those! Twisty Noodle and Enchanted Learning are two popular sites offering more worksheets than you could ever need.
Other kids will learn better if you give their writing a purpose. Lapbooking is a great technique for this. A lapbook is a large project book on a particular subject, containing lots of smaller booklets inside. Each booklet explores a different area or category within the main subject. For example, a lapbook about food could contain booklets on fruits, vegetables, meat, health and nutrition, farms, fast food... the possibilities are endless! Children can experiment and include pull-out sections, photos, magazine cuttings, drawings, and so on, to create a unique piece of work that reflect their abilities and interests. Even the most reluctant writers will proudly label their carefully drawn pictures, and write sentences to explain concepts that excite them.
Make it fun!
How about starting a diary? Use a hands-off approach so that writing in it doesn’t become a chore but employ lots of subtle techniques to encourage the kids to write in their diaries. For example:
- Read stories in which the main character keeps a diary. These really capture the imagination and get children excited about following in the footsteps of Adrian Mole or the Wimpy Kid!
- Pay attention to the materials you provide. A variety of sparkly gel pens or twisty pencils can make all the difference!
- Let your child pick out a really nice notebook or diary to write in. Better yet, buy a plain one and help them to design their own cover for it.
- Remind them about the diary when they’re talking excitedly about something, and suggest that they write it down so they can remember it all.
- After a special event or trip, give them a little memento to glue into the diary. Ticket stubs, receipts, photos, a shell picked up on the beach... anything that will help illustrate their story.
- Don’t worry too much about correcting their spelling or grammar. This diary should be for them to feel safe and free to express themselves, and to become comfortable and happy with writing as a fun project rather than a chore.
- Keep your own diary! Nothing will encourage your children to write more than seeing Mom or Dad doing the same.
Use technology
Banish the idea that grammar is difficult and boring by using technology to make it fun. There are lots of online games designed to teach and practice spelling, grammar, and punctuation. Use them! There are lots of online games designed to teach and practice spelling, grammar, and punctuation. Use them!
Encourage your child to take responsibility for their work by showing them how to proofread and correct their own mistakes. You can do this by reading over it with them and prompting them to think about what might be wrong. Eventually, you can let them try it by themselves before you read what they’ve written. Teach them how to use a grammar check program like Grammarly, where they can submit their writing and have their mistakes explained and corrected rather than just underlined or autocorrected. This is a particularly useful tool for those who really enjoy writing, as it can help them to develop their vocabulary, improve their writing skills, and learn from their mistakes.
However you choose to incorporate writing into homeschooling, you can make it fit with your child’s needs, skills, and interests. Writing can be fun - spread the word!
By Nikolas Baron

Friday, July 19, 2013

Homeschool Summer Vacation Break

We are on vacation this next week so I will not be posting on the blog until the last week of July!  I hope you are all having a wonderful and blessed summer.  Talk to you soon!

Online Summer Classes for Kids

This post may contain affiliate links.  If you click on a link or purchase something from that link, a percentage goes towards our homeschool budget.  Thank you for supporting our homeschool. Read full disclaimer here.


If you have ever heard of Craftsy, you know that they offer some pretty awesome classes for anyone interested.  Because I have two precious girls expressing interest in knitting, cooking, baking, etc., I have been searching for classes that would benefit them. The Craftsy Kids Course Gallery is having a summer sale up to 75% off online classes.  Some of the classes are actually free! Check out the line-up with prices:
  • The Costume Box-Simple Designs and Techniques to create costumes for free play any day of the year. $9.99
  • Paper Arts-Professional Gift Wrapping Tips. $9.99
  • Crochet Lab-Basic Crochet techniques. $19.99
  • Perfect Pizza at Home-Learn how to make pizza in this mini-class! FREE
  • Bag-Making Basics: Drawstring Bag and Bucket Bag. Create two fun projects! FREE
  • Bag-Making Basics:Reversible Pouch and Zipper Pouch.  Learn how to make two cute bags! FREE
  • Knit Lab-Class teaches knitting basics. $19.99 $9.99
  • Cake Topper Techniques: Fondant Animals-Learn about fondant birds, bees, etc. and make adorable cake toppers. $39.99 $29.99
  • Beading with Wire, Chain, and Leather. $29.99 $19.99
Sounds like so much fun doesn't it?  Kelly wants to try drawstring bag class as well as the knitting class and Lyssa would like to try the Perfect Pizza at Home Class and Cake Topper Techniques.  You can kind of tell what their interests are based on their choices.  Love it!

When we return from vacation I will be signing them up with their choices.  Summer learning is definitely a lot of fun!  What are you doing with your homeschool this summer?

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Facts about College Testing

This post may contain affiliate links.  When you click on a link or purchase a product or service from a link, a percentage goes toward our homeschool budget. Please read full disclaimer here.  Thank you for supporting our homeschool.

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For students planning on going to college, junior year is ridden with college apps and tests, namely the ACTs and SATs. The rule of thumb has been “the east and west coast schools value SAT scores more, while the mid-west wants an ACT score.” While this generally proves to be true, here’s a fast break down on the similarities, differences, and whether it’s worth taking both tests.

SUBJECTS TESTED. As a student, your first concern may be “What’s on the test?” The ACT and SAT differ slightly in content included. The SAT includes only three subjects: Reading, Math, and Writing. All three of these portions of the test are absolutely mandatory. The ACT, on the other hand, tests Math, English, Reading, Science, and Writing (if you so choose). WRITING: “Wait, the ACT tests writing only if I choose to do so?” That’s right. As a student, you decide whether or not you want to take the writing portion of this test. However, beware! Some colleges require the writing portion, some suggest it (and will look at it as an additive part of your score), and some do not care about the writing score. As a rule of thumb, if you aren’t sure where you’re applying yet, taking the writing portion is your best option. Cover all of your bases.

COST: Each of these tests costs money, which is one reason why it is important to figure out whether or not it’s necessary to complete both. If you are only applying to schools that want the ACT, then don’t take the SAT. If you’re still unsure, as many college students are, take both of them, and then send your records only to schools that want that particular test score (as sending scores can be an additional cost). The actual cost of each test is: SAT - $50 ($17 late fee), ACT - $35 ($50.50 with the writing portion). So, financially speaking, there’s no benefit to choosing one test over the other.

STYLE: Possibly the biggest difference between these two tests is the style of testing used. The ACT measures what you have learned in school (knowledge), whereas the SAT measures your verbal abilities and reasoning (aptitude) without solely relying on what you’ve learned in school. This means that, on the ACT, you’ll only see questions pertaining to what you have (or should have) previously studied. On the SAT, you may see articles, charts, and graphs related to something you’ve never heard of before -- but you will be given enough information that, combined with your critical thinking skills, you will be able to deduce an answer from what’s given to you.

PENALTIES: That probably sounds like the SAT is way easier, right? Not necessarily. The SAT test makers take off quarter of a point for every question you answer incorrectly; however, questions you leave blank do not count against you. Therefore, if you were to answer one question correctly, and the next four incorrectly, you’d have a score of 0.

THE MYTH: “The ACT is easier” Many students that take both the SAT and the ACT claim that the ACT is easier, and/or students score better on the ACT. This is likely due to the fact that the ACT only includes questions regarding things you have (or should have) learned. Therefore, you’re more at ease in answering the questions, because it’s familiar to you. The SAT is not the same; it will likely give you unfamiliar information and ask you to use it to solve a problem, which uses your critical thinking and reasoning skills. Although many students possess and are capable of answering these questions, they are often nervous about taking the test that will get them into college, and therefore do worse on the SAT than the ACT, purely due to lack of familiarity. Search WyzAnt ACT Tutors and SAT tutors in your area.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

An Online Gift Registry for Educational Savings

As a homeschooling mom of three small girls, it can be very easy to overlook their future. I mean college is so far off yet they grow so fast.  Should I save for education?  My husband and I started talking about college and the costs and what their goals should be when they hit their highschool years.
When Kelly was just an itty bitty thing, we jumped on board a college savings program and have added Lyssa and Bethany since then.  Wondering if this will be enough, I have researched other options and found an online gift registry for educational savings.  Awesome right?  Have you ever heard of Gift of Education?  It is an "online gift registry for educational savings."
I just started using it so I am anxious to see how well it will add up, even if it's just in the beginning.  Here is how the website works:
  • Sign up for a free account.
  • Spread the word to family and friends with a link they provide you with.
  • Track your gifts and watch it grow.
How cool is that?  I was so excited about this that I just had to share it with all my fellow homeschooling families!
Happy Saving!


Monday, July 15, 2013

Summer Festivals Around the World

One of the best parts of summer is the excitement and fun of spending time with family—this year, why not take an adventurous trip across the seas and spend time at one of these interesting summer festivals?

White Nights Festival- Do you love art, music, or theater? How about festivals in Russia? Why not do both and go to the White Nights Festival! This annual arts festival takes place in St. Petersburg, and the name—White Nights—is derived from the fact that the sun doesn’t set during the time of the festival (and the whole city is naturally lit up 24 hours a day). From late May until the end of July, enjoy theater performances, costumes and carnivals, fireworks, live shows, and even a pirate battle on a gigantic ship to cap it all off. This year, the White Nights Festival will take place between the 24th of May until the 28th of July.


Madrid Water Fight- In the second week of July, the people of Madrid prepare themselves for a gigantic party in the streets of Vallecas, where everyone is invited to join the fun. The best part? It’s a water fight! People take water balloons, water guns, and buckets full of water to splash each other. The 2013 celebration will take place on July 16th, and crowds are estimated to be around 10,000 people.

Pflasterspektakel- This “pavement spectacle” is a street festival that takes place in Linz, Austria. Over 200,000 people gather to watch acrobats, plays, musical performances, magic tricks, and parades—there’s even a special segment just for kids. This year, it’ll run for three days on July 18,19, and 20.


Boryeong Mud Festival- Mud has traditionally been used in makeup products to purify and detox the skin. One beauty company took it a little further, however, and started the Boryeong Mud Festival. This celebration takes place in Daecheon Beach, South Korea, and has over 2.2 million people attending each year. The festival includes mud slides, mud wrestling, mud throwing, and even mud sculptures! After sunset, the beach comes alive with music, parades, and even fireworks. This year, the festival is from July 19 to July 28.

So whether its watching daring pirates battle it out in a “sea”-worthy battle or slinging mud at your closest friends, there’s plenty of things to do and see out there this summer!


Okay, so this may be a little far fetched for your homeschooling family at this time.  I know that it is for mine.  How about taking pretend adventures around the world?  Little Passports allows you to do just that.  It's a great way to get those creative juices flowing, especially when summer boredom strikes!

Saturday, July 13, 2013

The Robot Garage Summer Camps-Birmingham, MI

I was invited to a Summer Media Moms Event at The Robot Garage and received a 1 year Family Drop-In Pass in exchange for this post and promotion.  Any opinions expressed here are honest and my own.

This past Thursday, my girls and I got to attend a Summer Media Moms Event at The Robot Garage in Birmingham, Michigan!  It was a blast.  I highly recommend The Robot Garage to all homeschooling families and beyond.  My girls loved the experience.  We look forward to going back and bringing daddy next time.  Daddy loves robotics and Lego's!

If you have never heard of Robot Garage, it is an awesome place for kids to "Imagine, Design, and Build!"  Whether it's through robotics or LEGO® kids of all ages can take part in a variety of activities such as the drop-in room, summer camps, birthday parties, and more! They also have a store where you can purchase related toy items and expand your child's creativity!

I was surprised to learn that Kelly was intrigued by the Robotics part of our tour.  I am hoping to sign her up for a robotics homeschool class as I think she will thoroughly enjoy it.  I already signed her up for a LEGO® class so I am curious to see how far her creativity goes in these areas.

Exploring Robotics!

As a special promotion just for you, The Robot Garage would like to offer a discount on July Summer Camps.  Just use promo code: "mediamoms" and save $50 on regularly priced July Camps.  The offer is subject to availability and only while seats remain available. No cash value.  Not redeemable for other goods or services.  Register online at www.TheRobotGarage.com or call 248-723-9100.

These summer camps are geared for grades 1-3, 4-5, and 6-8.  Regular price $375/Promo Price $325.  9:00 am to 3:00 pm Monday-Friday.

STEM based LEGO and Robotics Camps. Programs aligned with new national science standards (NGSS) and the Michigan Architectural Foundation K-12 Curriculum.

July Camps Remaining
Superhero Robot City 7/15-7/19 (There may still be seats available)
Robot Theme Park 7/29-8/2.

Discounted Education Products

As a homeschooler, I am always researching products that are inexpensive or even free.  Because "FREE" isn't always feasible, it pays to look out for deals that could benefit your homeschool, especially ones that align with your family budget.
I recently stumbled across a pretty awesome site that I think you  may consider utilizing for your homeschool.  It's called; Educents!  Ever heard of it?  This site is pretty awesome in my opinion and I was excited to find some products that are slightly cheaper than other sites.  It keeps track of daily deals, so it pays to go on the website daily after you have created a free account.  Here is today's daily deals:
  • Math Bingo Game: $21
  • Intro to Architecture Course: $99
  • Math Fractions Playing Cards Set: $25
  • Parent Involvement Kits: $24.50
  • Garden Books and Playing Cards: $20
  • Human Body Systems eBook: PDF: Human Body Detectives: $2.99
  • Award Winning Learning DVD's: The Kiddly Company: $46.40
  • Travel Peel and Play Set: $15.00
  • Blanko Creativity Set: $25.50
  • 23 Back to School Products: $30
  • Get Ready for Pre-K-1st grade books: $22.57
  • Amazing Science Pack: $34.93
  • Going Green Science Bundle: $60

The unique thing about these specials is it shows you how many days until the special ends with the original price.  Every day may be different. Pretty cool!  I am actually excited about the Back to School Products.  Would you believe that the original price for this is: $153.75 and you can get it right now for $30?  This deal ends in 5 days!  What an awesome price!  It's ideal for Pre-K to 1st graders.  Since Bethany will be starting Pre-K this fall, this will be a great supplement for her.

Have you ever used a site like Educents?  What was your experience?  Would love to hear from you!

Monday, July 8, 2013

Classical Conversations Prescripts Words and Drawing Review

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Are you a fan of Classical Conversations?  I recently was given the opportunity of reviewing the PreScripts Cursive Words and Drawing for 5-10 year olds.  I must say that I love this cursive curriculum and so does my 6.5 year old.  Surprisingly enough, she looked forward to going through the pages and learning to write in cursive like her big sister.  Such as joy to see children light up and eager to learn.

What is PreScripts Cursive Words and Drawing?  It basically introduces cursive to children.  It starts out with letters, words, then eventually simple sentences.  I love how they included a couple of the books of the Bible to focus on.  In this case Proverbs and James was introduced along with drawing lessons just using basic every day shapes.

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How much does PreScripts Cursive Words and Drawing cost? $12.99.  This is definitely worth the price which in my opinion is not too shabby. 

We used this curriculum 3-4 days a week and will continue to do so.  I look forward to utilizing it with my youngest daughter when she is old enough to do the lessons.

I highly recommend this cursive curriculum by Classical Conversations.  It's pretty self-exclamatory which is nice.  If you make sure your child is using a pencil through the book, you can easily erase and have them practice more if needed.

What other PreScripts Cursive programs are available through Classical Conversations? 

PreScripts Cursive Letters and Coloring (Ages 3-7)
PreScripts Cursive Sentences and Art Lessons (Ages 7-12)
PreScripts Cursive Passages and Illuminations (Ages 9-High School)

When Lyssa first started with the curriculum, I must say it took some patience for her the first page of letters.  She is a little perfectionist and was disappointed every time it didn't look exactly like the sample letters.  When we got over that hump, it was smooth sailing.  Like I said at the beginning of this post, she just loves it now and feels so accomplished and proud of her work.  She looks forward to writing in cursive at every chance she gets, especially when it comes to writing her name in cursive.  It's so cute.

Have you ever used PreScripts Cursive from Classical Conversations?  If so, which one?  Did your child enjoy it and not become so frustrated with cursive writing?  I think this is the ultimate goal off Classical Conversations as typically, cursive can be a major drag.  Not with this program.  We love it!

If interested, feel free to read more reviews by the Schoohouse Review Crew.  There are a variety of reviews ranging from this curriculum to the others mentioned above.

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