It’s a Family Affair

One of the really beautiful parts of homeschooling is how close we become as a family.  We have the luxury of time that few people ever get to have.  We get the best hours of the day with our children, not just the left-overs when they are tired and stressed.  We can do activities like music lessons and swim lessons in the morning and early afternoon when other kids are stuck in school. We also no longer feel like we have to “squeeze in” family time in the evenings and weekends.

Even my husband is able to work most days from his home office and gets to jump into the fun when he can, or at least check in from time to time to see what we are doing. I also get to have an extra helper in the afternoon since my son who is a senior only goes part time.

Sometimes that extra help is really needed.  When Samurai guy needed to do an experiment that included iodine I was able to ask his brother to help.  I am highly allergic to iodine and stayed as far away as possible!  It was nice to see them working together and they managed to complete everything with a minimum of arguments and insults.  Yesterday when I was busy with car repairs, my older son stepped in to help again and very sweetly read and discussed science with Little Yoda.

Of course, there are times when all of this togetherness gets to be a bit much, but I am really glad that we are able to spend so much time with our children while they are still young.  One thing I learned from my older children is how fast their childhood goes.  One day you are playing with a toddler and the next you are teaching them to drive.  For now I plan to continue enjoying all of the fun and silly things my kids do every day and count my blessings that I have been given this opportunity.

Dude, where’s my science?

If you’ve ever seen the movie “Dude, where’s my car?” then you have seen the part where they go through the drive through for Chinese food and the lady keeps asking them…”and then?”.  This is what it is like to teach science to Little Yoda. We finish the science lesson for the day and he turns to me and says, “more”.  I just can’t do enough to appease this science loving little dude.

I started off this year with a science program that I thought would take us through the year and would be more than enough for a first grader to learn.  But as Robert Burns said, “the best laid plans of mice and mean often go astray.”   My intention was that we would do science for two or maybe three days a week.  I should have conferred with the student before I made this decision!  He believes that we should have his beloved science every day and any day without it is a tragedy.

So now I have combined two programs:  Noeo level one biology and Real Science Odyssey Life level one.  I am also supplementing with videos (like Magic School bus) and books.  We are having a lot of fun learning about the human body and he finally seems to be getting enough.

But how much science does a first grader really need to learn?  Part of the problem in the US is that our students spend their time memorizing science facts instead of developing a real understanding of the topics.  Studies that have been done to figure out why we are lagging so far behind have shown that American students memorize the facts while students in other nations learn the foundational concepts that make complicated processes understandable later on. So I do not require him to do worksheets or memorize concepts.  I have found that he absorbs the most knowledge when we do the readings, demonstrations, etc. and then discuss it together.  I have often found that days later he will come to me and want to talk about something we read or saw more in-depth.  He is actually processing the information as opposed to just remembering something long enough to spit it back out on a test.

It is extremely important to foster our children’s interest and love of science and math.  If we make it dry and boring they will not want to continue learning these most important subjects.  It is sad that so few of our students choose the STEM fields.  By the time U.S. students get to college, interest in science is scant. In 2006, only 29.3 percent of first-year male college students intended to study a STEM field and just 15.1 percent of first-year females did. And even fewer actually complete these fields of study: out of over 1.5 million bachelor degrees awarded in 2007, only 16 percent were in STEM subjects.

So even though I might grumble a bit (or sometimes a lot) about the extra time it takes to do science every day and to pull together the supplies I need, I know that the best thing I can do for my child is to continue to encourage his love of all things science.

And then?????

First grade babies?

First grade – babies
Second grade – tots
Third grade – angels
Fourth grade – snots
Fifth grade – peaches
Sixth grade – plums
And all the rest are
Dirty Bums!

That is how the chant went when I was a kid.  When I was in first grade I really hated that we were the “babies”.  I so badly wanted to be a big kid.  (At least third grade because I thought being an angel would be cool).

But Little Yoda doesn’t seem to mind at all being the baby. He absolutely refuses to give up his “niño” (that is what he calls his blanket), and couldn’t care less when his brothers call him a baby for sucking his thumb!

I am torn between loving that I still have a little one who will cuddle with me and loves to be hugged and kissed, and worrying about whether or not he is doing permanent damage to his teeth or if we should be encouraging him to be a little more grown up.

He doesn’t do it all the time, but at night when he is tired he wants his soft niño and the thumb goes right in the mouth.  The funny thing is, he also sucks his thumb when he pets the cat!  When I ask him why he tells me that he can’t help it because the kitty is just so soft.

What does this have to do with homeschool you ask?  Well, sometimes I wonder if he was in public school if the other kids would shame him into stopping this habit.  Then I realize how glad I am that he isn’t getting picked on at school and if he feels like he needs that comfort or security that he can still find it at home.  We don’t need to be in such a hurry for our kids to grow up.  When he is ready he will throw away the blanket and the thumb will stay out of his mouth.

If you read this when you are older Little Yoda, don’t be mad at your mother for outing you as a thumb sucker.  After all, if Diddy can admit that he was a bed-wetter as kid, than you shouldn’t be embarrassed about the thumb sucking!


Count de Money!

Little Yoda is learning how to count coins this week, and I can’t stop myself from walking around saying, “count de money!”.

If you have ever seen Mel Brook’s History of the World Part 1 you will know exactly what I am referring to.  If you are not sure, or have never seen the movie, than you can check this out.  It’s not my favorite clip since it jumps around a little, but you get the idea.


Obviously I can’t show this movie to my young boys.  But I can try to come up with some fun ways to help him learn the basics of identifying and counting with coins.

Here are two free games from  They have ads but they are easy to ignore.  What I really like about these is that you can customize them to your child’s level.

abcya learning coins

abcya money bingo


Here is a website with all kinds of math games and a worksheet generator.  There are several money games from easy to advanced.  There is even a game to teach how to make change.  (a dying art!)


And here are a couple of apps:

Counting coins by K12 is for the ipad/iphone.

iPhone Screenshot 1


Learn to Count Money is for android devices.

Learn To Count Money

While there is nothing wrong with worksheets and play money, kids love games and they are a great way to reinforce concepts.

Time to count de money!