For My Little Ones on School Days {Stubby Pencil Studio giveaway}

Somehow we mostly ended up taking this summer off from homeschooling, despite the fact that we usually school year round.  As we prepare to start up again next month, I am focusing on what I will be doing with all my school-aged kids, but even more so, what I will keep my two little boys busy with while I work on lessons with the others.  They are wild and crazy and very much into everything, so I need a plan!  I like to find activities that they can do alongside their siblings, and as far as homeschooling goes, I often have younger children working at the kitchen table alongside the older kids.  Art is my go-to activity.  We’ve recently made some bedroom changes, and now Silas has a little spot for art in his bedroom too.  He loves to draw and write, more so than any of my other children, and certainly more so than they did at his age.  And Job usually likes to do whatever Silas is doing.

I teamed up with my longtime favorite, eco-friendly school and art supply shop, Stubby Pencil Studio, to stock up on supplies so that we will be ready for school days.  Silas loves colored pencils, and watercolor pencils are always fun.  We love these jumbo ones.  I buy blank notecards for him to draw and paint on as a sturdier option than plain paper, without being as expensive as watercolor paper.  Silas is also very interested in practicing his letters (not something my girls were really into at this age-every kid is different!) and he likes using the Laddie intermediate sized pencils.

I don’t typically give my younger children regular sized crayons because they break so easily, but Silas is at a place now where he can use them a bit more carefully, and lately he has really been enjoying getting to use these soy crayons.  We have been using these for many years, and I keep a stash of them in my art supply drawer.  I prefer crayon rocks for Job.

I haven’t purchased modeling clay in ages, but decided to give Plastilina clay a try with the boys.  It held their attention for longer than I expected, and it will be an activity that I pull out when I am nearby to supervise.  Scented markers are another new favorite of both Silas and my girls.  They have spent hours drawing food-themed pictures with them!

If you are looking to stock up on art or school supplies yourself, Kate from Stubby Pencil Studio is offering one Small Things reader a $75 gift certificate!  In addition save 15% off all orders through August 31 using the discount code GINNY15 at checkout.  For your chances to win:  leave a comment on this post and then enter via the Rafflecopter widget below.  The winner is Lisa C.!
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Homeschooling: The Early Years

Realizing that I needed one, I have been taking an extended break from homeschooling Larkspur and Beatrix, and over these weeks, making my plans for our next school year.  I promised that I would write about this a couple of weeks ago, and I think I am finally ready!

The three “Rs” are my primary academic focus during the early years, and there are years during which that is all I am able to accomplish with my younger children.  In our upcoming school year, the girls will be learning religion, history, science, music, writing, and more at the once weekly co-op that we will be participating in.  (This will only be our second year in a homeschooling co-op.)  Were we not participating in the co-op, I would use Mater Amabilis for these subjects.  We also focus on plenty of unstructured time spent outdoors, reading aloud together, and on creative (ahem, messy) pursuits.

To make it simple, I’m just going to talk a little about the three programs I plan to use, and why:

Math:  When I was only homeschooling a couple of kids, I used Rightstart Math.  As our family grew, and I became aware of the different ways that each of my children learn, I began to phase in some different programs.  Currently I have two children using Saxon math, one using Life of Fred, and for my little girls I am using Math Mammoth.  While I did like Rightstart Math for the early years, it is very mom-intensive and I don’t have time for it anymore.  I have been using Math Mammoth as an alternative for a couple of years now thanks to the recommendation of a friend, and I am finding that it works for us.  It is easy to implement, and it is economical too (printable ebooks).  This curriculum does not rely on manipulatives, though it is easy to pull them out to illustrate a concept when desired.  If I am able to, I would love to supplement with Life of Fred.  (Seth is a huge fan of that program, and is using it exclusively for his high school math.)

Reading:  For the past few years I have been using All About Reading for phonics instruction.  I really love this program and recommend it again and again.  I used to be far more spontaneous and creative in teaching reading, but really appreciate this scripted program as it serves us well.  I don’t have to plan lessons, and I don’t have to worry about missing something.  My girls seem to enjoy it as well.  This year Beatrix will be continuing Level 1, and Larkspur, Level 3.  I highly recommend All About Reading for both busy (overwhelmed) homeschooling moms and those who have it all together.

Handwriting:  This is where I am changing gears.  My children do not have nice handwriting!  I have used Handwriting Without Tears from the start, and must not be doing a great job implementing the program.  I also have some children who just generally struggle with handwriting.  I read this article last week, and decided that I am going to work with both of my girls on cursive handwriting this year.  (My boys are going to have a cursive review, though I haven’t broken the news to them yet!)  A friend recently shared the Queen Homeschool Pictures in Cursive program, and I fell in love with the concept and the beautiful artwork.  I ordered workbooks for the first three levels for my girls, and plan to work through them over the next school year.  Dare I say that I am excited about handwriting for possibly the first time ever?

Please ask me any questions you might have in the comments, and feel free to jump into the discussion and answer each others’ questions as well! 

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