Creating My Own Curriculum for U.S. History | Early Elementary

It became apparent to me that following the heels of the presidential election, and listening to stories of American History on Your Story Hour, my six year old was very interested in American History. I also remember reading that the early elementary years are a great time to delve into this topic, so I began looking for a great way to study U.S. History.

Of course, in typical style, nothing seemed to match what I was looking for perfectly, so this is how I came up with our curriculum for American History.

I’ve had a couple people ask, and so I’m happy to just share the link for the document I’m using to plan our curriculum here.  Just as a warning, it’s not finished, and I’m adding and updating as we go, so don’t be surprised if things change on it. I will let you know when it’s all done and share a PDF file that won’t change. 🙂 In the meantime, feel free to check this out if you think it will be helpful: U.S. History Lesson Plans.

I would love to hear from you! What are some of your favorite U.S. History resources for early elementary ages?

Here are all the links mentioned in the video:

Beautiful Feet Books:
The Early American History program fro Beautiful Feet books became my jumping off point and spine. Basically this program put everything into context for me, making the prospect of making my own curriculum doable and not ridiculously overwhelming.

A look inside Beautiful Feet Curriculum

The Mystery of History:
I really like the Mystery of History, and it’s likely to be the bones for most of our history over the next few years. In this case, I’m simply using the activities and some of the information as a supplement to what we are studying in American History.

Your Story Hour:
My son loves theses audio dramatizations, and he has learned so much about history though them. He would seriously listen to them for HOURS every day if I let him (let’s be real, sometimes I do.) How awesome is it that we can incorporate these great stories that he loves into our history?!?

Heroes of History for Young Readers:
I have loved the corresponding set of missionary stories for our family. The boys both love the books and we read them over and over again. I also love all of the additional activities and songs that go along with it. I can’t wait to incorporate some of these books into our history.

My Review of Heroes for Young Readers

Drive Thru History American History:
Although these are intended for a bit older kids, we have watched a few clips of these online. My littlest (3 years old) just LOVES all the cars, and my oldest (6) is such a visual learner and LOVES seeing all the places and things he has heard and read about. I can’t wait to dive into these!

Rainbow Resource:
There isn’t a whole lot to say about Rainbow Resource except that it is one of my favorite homeschool resources, and one of my first stops when I am looking for homeschooling ideas and curriculum.

Scholastic 3-D Interactive Maps:
This is such a fun mapping resource that really brings the geography of the times to life. While I will likely be doing most of the work of making the maps for the kids at this age, there is so much they can do with them, and when we go back and study these things in later years, they can have a turn making the maps themselves. I absolutely love the breadth of topics covered in this resource as well!

Hana’s channel, Pepper and Pine:
Hana’s channel and blog is another one of my all time favorite resources for finding homeschool materials and supplies. Her reviews are fantastic and I love seeing what she is doing with her kids. If you prefer blogs over YouTube videos, check out her blog here.

Homeschool Organization | Relaxed Homeschooling

Boy howdy, it’s been a while since I’ve posted over here. As I was making a video for my YouTube channel though, I felt it was about time to dust off this blog and get it going. There are a tone of resources I mentioned in my video today, so I thought I would plant it here and share some links with you.

Basically today I’m talking about organization. I LOVE unschooling and the style of truly getting the most out of the things my kids enjoy, but I was finding it was really wearing me down. I was constantly on alert and in planning and prepping mode. Everything felt intense, and I found myself burning out fairly often. I realized something had to change.

As I looked around from curriculum to curriculum, I felt most were so intense and structured that I would struggle with finding the freedom to still follow my kid’s leads. I also realized that I needed something that was so simple and ready-to-go that I wasn’t in constant prep mode. Ideally it would just have the very basics and those would be grab-and-go, that way if I fell behind with planning, the thought of figuring out what we needed to do each day wouldn’t be overwhelming. Yet, it needed to be simple enough that we could easily grow and expand and follow our learning wherever it went.

This is the system I came up with, and so far it’s been working really well. 🙂

 

Here are some of the resources I talked about in the video. Feel free to let me know if I left anything out. (None of these are affiliate links.)

Evan-Moor Daily Phonicshttp://www.evan-moor.com/p/18756/Dail…
Evan-Moor Daily Geography: http://www.evan-moor.com/p/824/Daily-…
I love Evan-Moor daily workbooks. They have turned out to work really well for our family on many occasions. I also like their theme pockets books and generally find these to be great resources.

Math Lessons for a Living Educationhttp://www.rainbowresource.com/produc…
I did a full review on this math curriculum. You can check it out here.

Betty Lukins Felts: http://www.bettylukens.com/collection…
I cannot say enough good things about this felt set. I had to save my pennies for a long time for this purchase, but it was TOTALLY worth it! My kids love it. Especially my three-year old. We share our story for the week and then I leave those felts out for him to play with. Sometimes he asks for a few more to add to his collection (he always wants to have Jesus), and he has loads of fun making up and retelling many stories.  I did a full review on this felt set here. (They have recently released a few more overlays too!)

Church Quarterlyhttp://www.gracelink.net
I’m going to be honest. I’m not really crazy about our Church’s quarterly. I am was really struggling with finding a Bible curriculum I liked in general. I even thought of making one going through the Bible chronologically with customs and hands on projects and all sorts of things, but then I realized how much time that would take, and I just can’t do it right now. (Maybe in the future though. I still think it would be awesome to make).

I finally decided that since we go to church every week my boys would really appreciate having connected with the story all week, so I went with it. I’m doing a TON of adapting, and mostly just using the same main Bible passage, and going from there. Some weeks we are doing the same memory verse, other weeks we are doing a different one, but we are always digging deeper. 🙂

Amanda Bennet China Studyhttp://unitstudy.com/specials/expedit…
Amanda Bennet has all kinds of great unit studies. They are very much based on a Charlotte Mason methodology, and are intended to be completed independently. There are so many things I don’t use in these unit studies, but they are a HUGE time saver when it comes to recreating my own. If nothing else, they give me a great framework, and that goes a LONG way!

Missionary Stories and Resources: http://www.ywampublishing.com/c-71-he…
The main resources I’m referring to here are the Heroes for Young Readers series from YWAM publishing. Can I just say LOVE?!?! I don’t think I’ve ever found a resource I’ve been so excited about. My boys absolutely love them too. The stories are so well written and engaging, and the CDs take things the extra mile. I did a few review here.

We also use the Little Lights missionary stories whenever there is one that corresponds (which is often). These books are more appealing to Timothy (3) because they are shorter. They also help him understand what’s going on better. Here is the link to my review on these.

Magic School Bus Secrets of Space Kit:http://www.theyoungscientistsclub.com…
Samuel LOVES these kits! I LOVE these kits. They are so fantastic because pretty much everything you need is already included in the kit. You don’t have to run out and buy new materials. The experiments are perfect for a six year old, and I love how they encourage the scientific process. Each activity encourages the child to make a hypothesis. AND, these are great even if your child has never seen the Magic school bus and has no clue what it is. If on the other hand your child loves the magic school bus, there is always at least one episode you can watch along with the kit.

Beautiful Feet Early American Literature Unit: http://bfbooks.com/Early-American-His…
I have looked at this program before. I don’t remember when or why I didn’t go with it at the time, but for now, it’s perfect. I am also very interested in their science literature pack as I have a little scientist in my home. Who knows, I may use even more of their programs over the years. I guess we will find out. In the meantime I’m just excited to get this in the mail and give it a go!

How about you? How do you keep your homeschool organized? Do you like more structure or do you prefer to go with the flow? I’d love to hear in the comments below!

Miquon Math | A First Glance

MIQUON MathFirst Reaction

My son loves math. He loves to figure things out and is always doing mathematical analysis. He doesn’t even realize it. Oh yeah, he’s five. He isn’t doing algebra, but I’m shocked when I realize he is using skills like multiplication in everyday life. However, hand him a math worksheet – blank stare. You can see a weight just plop on his shoulders.

I have been looking for a math program to help him continue to develop his love for numbers without crushing his enthusiasm. I found a program a few years back called Math on the Level. It shows ways to incorporate math into everyday life. This appeals to me greatly because I truly feel like math is a tool to help us understand the world around us. While overall, I am so excited about this program and I do hope to save up and implement it at some point, it just didn’t seem right for now, and I need to really have time to save up for such a large purchase.

Then, I found Miquon Math Labs. Here is a little video that shares more about it far better than I could:

I feel like this program is really perfect for where we are at. And the price fits our budget nicely. 🙂 Needless to say, I ordered book one. Here is a peek inside and my first reactions when I finally got the books in hand:


When I first received the package, I felt a bit overwhelmed at where to start and what to do. I e-mailed support at Rainbow Resource (where I purchased the program) and they recommended I start with the Annotations guide – simply read through the first section on counting to get a feel for how everything works.  Super great suggestion.

I love how there are so many ways to use the Lab sheets and that between all of the guides there are games, every-day applications, and so many ideas for ways to be using math with children.

Samuel has had a lot of fun just playing with the Cuisinaire Rods. And I feel like this math will be so fun for him. We aren’t into it very far, but I feel like it’s only part of the math puzzle for him. It’s a very important piece, but it dawned on me that he either likes to learn 100% on his own, with his own ideas and experimentation or he likes to learn through stories. If I can find a way to bridge the gap and add stories to math while he plays and explores- this kid will be in heaven. I have a few ideas, so stay tuned, and I’m eager to share what we end up doing. 🙂

Real Science 4 Kids | Curriculum Review

RealScience-4-Kids

I mentioned Real Science-4-Kids in one of my recent blog posts, but I failed to realize that I haven’t shared much with you about it. I couldn’t believe it! So now, I’m sharing with you one of my favorite science resources hands down.

Real Science-4-Kids was written by Rebecca Keller (Ph.D in molecular biology)  in an effort to set a solid scientific foundation in an easy to understand way for her kids. She noticed that often the very basics of science, chemistry and physics, aren’t taught at all until high school. By that point, there is so much new language that it becomes confusing and burdensome for students. Dr. Keller believes that it’s best to begin understanding physics and chemistry as the basis for science (biology, astronomy, and geology) at the very beginning.

We started with the chemistry book in our home when Samuel was about four and even then, he understood it. The illustrations and simple explanations even had me understanding more of chemistry than I think I ever have. As a visual learner, Samuel finds the catchy comic book-like drawings both amusing and key aids to help him grasp the concepts.
IMG_3022
Each section in the book is really short. This is perfect for those tiny attention spans, and it also prevents the danger of being overwhelmed with too much information at a time.

One of my favorite things about Real Science-4-Kids is that the accompanying science experiments are actual science experiments. They aren’t activities the kids are doing to prove a scientific point, rather the student is expected to make a hypothesis, test it out and really engage in the actual scientific method. Here is a video of one of the science experiments in action:

Since the time I purchased our books, the leveling has changed a bit, and they have restructured things a bit, but there is still the same great content in all of these fabulous books. There are also tons of supplemental materials I haven’t explored yet.

There are two main tracks when you are ordering Real Science-4-Kids. The first is the Focus On series. In this track, each subject is taken one at a time and can be taught over the course of a semester or a year. While you can teach the subjects in any order, it is recommended that you do Chemistry first, followed by Biology, Physics, Geology, and finally Astronomy.

The Building Blocks series is a leveled series that is intended to last over the course of a year. It will have concepts from all of the branches of science and will provide more content than the Focus On series.

All in all we have really loved this series and I highly recommend it either as a staple or a supplament for the young scientist in your home! If you’re interested in a peek inside, check out my video below.

 

Science in the Beginning | Elementary Science Curriculum Review

IMG_2329

In general I have been happy with Real Science for Kids, as our primary science curriculum. Both the kids and I really enjoy the books and we have learned a lot about what are typically considered hard and difficult science concepts. I look forward to continuing to use the books through the years and they will have a special space on our bookshelf. However, I feel like something is missing.  Real Science for kids seems like a great supplement, or great for small units, but not a whole package.

I’ve hunted and searched. I have explored high and low, near and far to find the perfect science curriculum for our family. There are lots of good programs out there.  I like how one uses a lot of great books, how another has plenty of  hands-on science experiments. I like how that one has a great Christian base, and this one is grounded is solid science. Nothing seemed to have all the pieces I wanted and I was about ready to give up until I found Science in the Beginning by Dr. Jay Wile.

I think I’m in love!

What I love:

This is the first in a series of science texts written for elementary students. The text goes through science chronologically, starting with creation, and exploring science as we track through history of great scientific discoveries, thoughts, and ideas.  I particularly LOVE this format for my history-loving little boy. It’s also great to keep in step with our chronological history curriculum. I really like being able to teach science and math in the context of real life, keeping it practical. This format makes that really easy to do.

There is a science activity with every single lesson. This makes my heart happy. Some people don’t like all the prep, but I find the activities super easy, and not much of a big deal. There are also lists of every single supply you will need in the front of the book, which is super helpful for planning ahead. I find these activities give us a way to see science in action and keep our hands busy while we talk about the lessons.

This is a Creation-based curriculum, but it doesn’t have weak science. That’s been one of my biggest struggles. With many of the curriculums out there I feel I’ve had to pick between grounded scientific ideas, principles, and reasoning or a Biblical worldview. It has been frustrating to say the least. With this curriculum I get both. I don’t have to chose! It’s wonderful!

Sometimes science can be dull, dry, and boring. While, this still has a bit of a text-book feel to it, it is very user friendly and easy to follow and understand. I love that Dr. Wile actually talks to us through the text as that makes it feel more alive.

I like unit studies . . . a lot! I love being able to take ideas that the kids are excited about and expand on them. This curriculum is very adaptable. We started in on day three instead of day one as it goes perfectly with our gardening unit. It’s been going great. We also did a mini unit study on rocks when we hit that section in the text book. I love using the book as a springboard for all sorts of scientific discoveries.

The last thing I want to mention about this curriculum is that it’s family friendly. Dr. Wile believes in doing science together as a family. All of the lessons are written to do together with multiple ages.  There are leveled questions and assignments at the end of each lesson for independent work.

What I Would Change

For the most part I really love this curriculum. There is really only one thing I would change, and it’s not actually a change, just an addition. I would add a resource section. I think this is so important for almost any curriculum. If we are studying about color and prisms, and my kids want to know more, I would love to have a list of books and resources right there at my fingertips to get me started. I think a lot of this might stem from my love of unit studies, but as a homeschooling parent, I would much rather spend my time “doing learning” with my boys than tracking down tools and resources.

Overall, I really LOVE this curriculum. We are having so much fun with it and I see all four texts from this series in our future with many, many hours of science fun.

Have you tried Science in the Beginning? What did you think of it?

To see the book inside, check out my video review.

Summer Homeschool Unit Studies Resources

Dinosaurs, Garden Critters and More

Did you see my last post about planning my summer homeschool block? Well, here is a bit more information about what we are doing, along with some of the additional tools and resources we are using.

Mystery of History

For History, I’m highly adapting The Mystery of History. I lined up the number of lessons we would need to do with our science lessons to stay on track for the two timelines to work together. For this block, we will work on 7 lessons in Mystery of History Vol 1 and 12 lessons in our science. I usually read these lessons ahead and then use felts or just tell the stories to the kids. I find the actual text is a bit too textbook for them, but we still love using it as a spine. We also sometimes combine or skip lessons depending on what’s appropriate for the boys.

When I plan little unit studies, my goal is to plan enough to get my kids really interested, but not to plan so much that we can’t dig in deep and follow their own questions and curiosities as we study.

Lesson 1: Creation – make a creation mobile with the days of creation

Lesson 2: Adam and Eve and the garden of Eden – talk about what the garden of Eden might have looked like. Use play doh to make new animals and name them.

Lesson 3: Jubal and Tubal-Cain – Read Genesis 4:21-22 and talk about how God made people with creative and thinking brains. God must be even more amazing. Watch two YouTube videos about how to make things with iron: here and here. Make musical instruments and make music with some of the instruments we have.

Lesson 4: Noah’s Ark – Play animal concentration or other animal games.

Lesson 5: Ice Age – UNIT STUDY

Lesson 6: Dinosaurs – UNIT STUDY

To see a review of some of these products and what we did with them, check out this video: https://youtu.be/qvgAj-RKfcU

Lesson 7: The Sumerians – Make a cuneiform tablet, and read various books from the library – look at some ziggurat pictures

Science in the Beginning

We are working out of the Science in the Beginning book, which I love. We are mostly doing the units just as they are listed, but we will spend more time on the lessons the boys are really interested in. We will be doing day 3 of creation (it matches with the garden unit study the boys really want to do).

Gardening Unit Study

This is something the boys really want to do. They are not only interested in the process of growing plants, but also about all the critters in the garden. I’m using the book Wildlife Gardening as my guide and will be pulling ideas and activities from there as we go along. Basically, I have come up with several lesson ideas. We don’t have to do them all and I will let the boys pick what we do each time we finish with one lesson. I will use the library as a great source and really follow the boy’s leads on this one.

Lesson 1 – What a plant needs to grow

Lesson 2 – Pick what you want to grow in your garden

Lesson 3 – Prep the beds and plant our seeds/plants

Lesson 4 – Talk about bugs and garden critters

Lesson 5 – Start a compost pile – decide what kind we want to do

Lesson 6 – Make a butterfly house (maybe order caterpillars and watch them grow into butterflies). Pull out all our butterfly books.

Lesson 7 – Learn about Bees

Lesson 8 – Learn about Ladybugs – make a ladybug sanctuary from Wildlife Gardening.

Lesson 9 – Learn about spiders and make a spiderweb catcher from Wildlife Gardening.

Lesson 10 – Learn about frogs and toads and make a toad home from Wildlife Gardening.

Lesson 11 – Learn about worms and find some.

Lesson 12 – Learn about birds and make a bird feeder and a bird bath.

Lesson 13 – Learn about animal tracks and animals at night.

So, that’s pretty much it for now. The boys have already been enjoying some of these lessons. They are also very excited about some of the ones that are coming up too. If you want to see some of the tools and resources we are using up close, check out the video below. I’d love to hear about any unit studies or activities you have planned for the summer!

*I am an Usborne Books & More Independent Consultant and make a commission on books purchased from these links.

Plan with Me | Summer Homeschool Block

IMG_0005

When It comes to homeschool planning, I like to tackle it in big chunks. My oldest is 5 1/2 and my youngest just turned three.  We are pretty laid back around here, but we have a block of time every afternoon for our homeschool projects.  This block of time ensures that I’m providing them an opportunity to do fun things that require a bit more prep, and it gives me focused time with the boys. It’s time that I truly cherish.

Right now I’m working on planning for our big summer unit study – Gardening with an emphasis on bugs, and our history and science units. I don’t worry about working through the lessons at a certain pace, and I try to leave plenty of room to expand or shorten activities and lessons.

Currently I’m using Mystery of History to guide my history lesson plans and Science in the Beginning for Science. I’m  finding Wildlife Gardening to be a great spine for our Gardening studies as well.

I find that showing my planning process is much better than telling you about it, so here is a video showing you how I planned four our upcoming unit studies, science, and history lessons.  Please let me know if you have any questions or want to know more about anything I mentioned. Also, please feel free to share with me how you plan ahead in your homeschool.

Astronauts | K-4 Unit Study

Astronaut Unit Study

Spine Book: Living in Space by Katie Daynes*

Related Topics: Jobs People Do, Space

Get ready to blast off as you explore astronauts on earth and in space.  Train like an astronaut, explore the International Space Station, find out how astronauts brush their teeth in space, and more!

You can simply have fun with the activities below, or here’s a complete, day-by-day six week unit study for your children grades K-4. Don’t forget to check out the booklist, and additional links and resources at the bottom of this post.

*Each section below is based on a section in Living in Space by Katie Danes.  You can check this book out at your local library or purchase it for $4.99 from my online store here. This book is not REQUIRED to do the unit study, but is highly recommended.  

Earth and Space

  • Look at pictures from space using Google Earth, or look at a globe and talk about what astronauts would see. Identify the continents. Talk about what you see. What are the white parts? Blue? Green? Brown? What else do you see?
  • Make an earth craft.  You can simply set out craft supplies and let your child create her own artistic interpretation of earth or you can do one of these crafts:

Space School

  • Do some gravity experiments
    • Try dropping things of different weights. Talk about how fast they fall.
    • Crater marble drop: Cover the bottom of a shallow pan with flour. Drop a marble from different distances. Look at the craters they make. Are they different? What’s happening?
    • Gravity jump:Gravity is what keeps us from floating away. Jump as far as you can. Measure your jump. Try to jump farther and farther. How far can you go? Young children can use non-standard measurements like a stick. For more advanced children, have them figure out the difference between the lengths of their jumps.
  • Take a field trip to a pool. Swim around to try to find out what it fells like in space.
  • Take a field trip to a playground.  Notice all the ways and places you experience gravity.
  • Read about how to become an astronaut and look at current space schools.
  • Physical exercise is a big part of astronaut training. Get active and train like an astronaut.

Preparing to Go

Lift Off

  • Find out all about NASA’s space shuttles on their interactive web site.
  • Did you know NASA is building a new space shuttle for a journey to Mars? Read the latest news on shuttle Orion.
  • Build and launch a simple baking soda rocket
  • Watch a live launch. Spaceflight Now broadcasts many live rocket launches.  When rockets aren’t launching they may be streaming a live Q&A session with astronauts currently in space.  This is a website you don’t want to miss out on.

In Orbit

  • Take a video tour inside space shuttle Discovery.
  • Watch a timelapse of an orbit around the earth.
  • Do an experiment and learn how satellites orbit.
  • Do the math. If the circumference of the earth is 24,901 miles, and it takes 90 minutes to orbit the earth, how fast is the space shuttle moving?

A Home in Space

The Space Station

  • Take a video tour of the International Space Station with astronaut Suni Williams.
  • Did you know that you can actually see the space station from Earth? Check to see the next time you should be able to spot the space station from your area.
  • Watch live streaming from the ISS. You could even watch the live stream when the space station is passing over your area and view your area from the sky.

Eating and Drinking

Keeping Clean

  • Check out this youtube playlist to watch videos on how to shower, shave, brush your teeth and wash your hands in space.
  • Think about some other things that might be difficult to use in space.  When do you use water? What about other liquids? Talk about all the things that would be different. If you like to write, write a story about waking up one day and finding your whole house in space.  How would you do basic, everyday things? If you are an artist, illustrate your story.

A Day In Space

  • Read about a day in space with astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti.
  • Astronaut Garrett Reisman filmed a video series about his day aboard the ISS. Feel free to watch all seven clips or just watch a bit here and there to see a day in the life of an astronaut.
  • Astronauts eat, sleep and make videos in space, but what else do they do all day? Read about all the different things astronauts do in space.
  • Did you know that there are lots of experiments going on all the time on the ISS? You can read an overview of them here.
  • Watch a video to see how astronauts sleep in space.

Space Suits

Going Outside

Back to Earth

Space Trips

Additional Resources

Quicklinks

Check out the Usborne quicklinks that go with “Living in Space” which include how to draw an astronaut, a printable book, videos and more.

Websites

Vocabulary/Spelling List

You can go here to make handwriting sheets for your word list.

astronaut, shuttle, international, planet, gravity, fuel, orbit, payload, laboratory, airlock, mission, training

Book List

Printable Book List

*Denotes books that I have personally reviewed
Usborne books link directly to my Usborne shop website. I earn a commission on sales. No other earnings are associated with other links.

 

Activities, Toys, and Extras

None of these items are required to do this unit study, however, if you have a child who is particularly interested in a topic, this is a great list to expand learning opportunities.  It also might be something to hold on to for Christmas and birthdays. Some of these things can also be helpful to encourage a sibling who is learning along side of all your other kids, but may not be as interested in the topic.

Activity Books

Toys

Games

 

Worksheets for Early Learners | How We Manage Seat Work

Worksheets can be tough for wiggly little worms.  Some children are still working hard at developing fine motor skills and trying to complete one worksheet can be overwhelming.  For others, sitting still long enough to complete one page is like torture.  While, on the other end of the spectrum, some children beg for worksheets and workbooks.

I have one of each in my home.  Both of them are drawn to the page, but for one, the interest is fleeting while the other begs to do his “project” book.  While I wasn’t able to get an in-depth post written this week, I did make a video about how we manage worksheets, workbooks, and “desk” work. Take a peek and let me know how you manage worksheets in your home. Do your little ones love it? Hate it? Do you make them do it anyway or do you skip it? I can’t wait to hear your feedback!

 

{Giveaway Closed} Bible for Our Little Learners

When it comes to homeschool, it’s easy to think of Bible or devotional time as just another subject or something else to cross off our to-do list.  Yet, teaching our children about the Bible and who Jesus is is so much more.

Check out my  blog post over at SDA Homeschool Families to find out ways to teach Bible to your preschool, kindergarten or early elementary child. Then, watch the video below to see the felt set we use in our family. If it’s something that you could use with your kids, enter the giveaway over on my YouTube channel.