5 Days of Tips for Homeschoolers: How to Have a Great Homeschool Day

How to have a great homeschool day!
Coffee Break Smooth Day

Every family has a different flow to their homeschool.  These things are driven by our family and educational philosophies, our priorities, and the various stages of life we all live through (do you have teens or littles.. or BOTH for example).  I do think there are some pretty universal strategies to making a homeschool day generally run well… or at least give you the best shot at a well run day.

  1. Make your expectations clear with your children.  It may seem that your children should know exactly what you expect of them.  If you are anything like me you probably feel like you are telling them what you expect 100% a day.  I have found though that in my family we need occassional meetings where I layout what I see happening and what I feel should be happening.  I even write things down and display them some place common.  Then, if need be we’ll review that list daily.  A mantra in our home is… Maximum Effort ALWAYS!  We’ve discussed this idea nearly to death and I’m sure they are rolling their little eyeballs at me when I shout it out as they run off to do whatever task I’ve given them.  It does work though! Just three little words can make all of the difference in our home.
  2. Lay out their work ahead of time.  My kids LOVE to know what they will have to do for the day before they even tackle their sit down school work.  We use Homeschool Planet from Homeschool Buyers Coop for scheduling assignments.  I can enter assignments in days, weeks, or months at a time (and them bump them ahead if we don’t get to something).  Each morning they log on and check things off as they go along.  Having that daily list available seems to be the difference between having children with good and willing attitudes and children with unwilling attitudes.
  3. Let the Wiggle! In our home I allow my children to work in whatever position they deem most comfortable.  Often this includes standing.  They even pace while reading or writing out math facts.  If I see a child having trouble concentrating I ask them if they want to “hit the stairs.”  Sometimes running up and down a flight of stairs a few times gives them the kind of brain and body break they need.  Or I simply toss them outside for a little air.
  4. Be Flexible! There will be days when sit down schoolwork just isn’t worth it.  Maybe someone isn’t feeling well or the weather is extra good or the moon is full.  Who knows.  But know that it can be a very good thing to put the work aside from time to time and snuggle up for a movie on the couch or pile into the van for a trip to the park.
  5. Follow Your Instincts! From time to time you may get the feeling that something about your school plan, curriculum, or routine just isn’t working.  When this happens know that it is okay to make changes.  Trial and error may be necessary!  Just remember, you are uniquely suited to raise and educate your own child.  You are the expert on your child.  Move forward boldly.


The members of the Schoolhouse Review Crew are participating in a 5 day series… Tips for homeschool parents.  I encourage you to visit their blogs and read up on their best tips too!

5 Days of Tips for Homeschool Parents

5 Days of Tips for Homeschool Parents

Coffee Break Why

Day 1: Create your “Why!”

The time has come, you’ve decided homeschool your children.  Right now it feels like one of the biggest decisions of your life.  Perhaps you are having issues with your children’s school and the feather that broke the camel’s back has fallen so you’ve pulled them out.  Maybe you’ve been dreaming of homeschooling since they were tiny but the first days of kindergarten are looming and you are realizing you’ve got to commit to create to this crazy idea.  Maybe you’ve been at this homeschooling thing for years and you are feeling tired and weary and wondering if you should continue on.

No matter your life circumstances of the moment know WHY you are homeschooling will help you make the big and the small decisions about your family’s homeschool.  Let’s talk about some common reasons to homeschool.

  1. You are concerned about the environment of the schools.  Perhaps your child was a victim of a bully.  Maybe they have learned some inappropriate things from friends. Perhaps you are worried about some of the violence we often see displayed on the nightly news.  What ever it is about schools that have you concerned you feel like you can provide a better learning environment at home.
  2. You’d like to provide your children with an education centered on a religious world view. It is no secret that God has been removed from the public school classroom.  Even if you are blessed to live in a community with many Christian teachers these teachers are expressly forbidden from teaching from a place of faith.
  3. Dissatisfaction with academic instruction. In the home setting any parent can structure their child’s education to the individual child’s learning style and interests.  Chances are the outcome will be a better educated child.
  4. Child has special needs.  Whether those needs be academic, medical, behavioral, some combination, or something completely different… parents have the unique ability to structure the child’s environment for greatest success.

There are so many other reasons to homeschool that I have not listed here.  These four comprise just the top 4 that are often listed by many homeschooling researchers.  They are enough to get you thinking about this super important subject.

If your family is like mine then your “WHY” will probably encompass a few of the above or perhaps even all of them.  When I feel the need to revisit our why I will sit down with a paper and pencil and a prayer to God to remind me of His calling.  Then I just start writing a long, often discombobulated, crazy list.

Here are some questions to ask yourself while you are making your list….

  • What are our our family’s spiritual goals?
  • Why does homeschooling provide the better environment or way of life for our family?
  • What life skills do we want our kids to have?
  • What non-academic goals do we have for our family?
  • What are our our family’s educational goals?  What do we want learn? Why?

If you are a veteran homeschooling family you may also want to make a list of the good things that have come about since you started homeschooling.

Now post that list somewhere where you will see it often.  Or… if you are bit more structured you can turn your list into some statement…type it off, print it out, and maybe even frame it.

Here is an example of one great “Why” statement.

Why we homeschool… We homeschool in order to create an environment where we can develop a strong relationship with our Lord God and with each other.  We homeschool in order to learn through a Christian worldview.  We homeschool in order to become life long learners. We homeschool in order to develop positive character traits like diligence and perseverance int he face of academic and life struggles.  We homeschool to help us discover God’s plan for all of our lives.

When creating your ‘Why’ statement be purposeful and prayerful.  Revisit it from time to time as your WHY may grow or change and that is OK.  Use your WHY statement in moments when you need support and encouragement.

The members of the Schoolhouse Review Crew are participating in a 5 day series… Tips for homeschool parents.  I encourage you to visit their blogs and read up on their best tips too!

Annette @ A Net In Time
Brandy @ Kingdom Academy Homeschool
Brenda @ Counting Pinecones
Carol @ Home Sweet Life
Cassandra @ A Glimpse of Normal
Chareen @ Every Bed of Roses
Cristi @ Through the Calm and Through the Storm
DaLynn @ Biblical Womanhood
Danielle @ Sensible Whimsy

5 Days of Tips for Homeschool Parents

Review! Superbook: A Giant Adventure DVD from FishFlix.com

My family recently had the opportunity to review a really fun video called Superbook: A Giant Adventure DVD from FishFlix.com.  Reviewing Christian movies is a fantastic treat for us.  I’m always hunting down new resources to reinforce our Biblical values.

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About FishFlix.com

FishFlix.com is a video store for Christians.  This is a website that offers the sort of family friendly content that is often hard to find.  Their collection is pretty spectacular.  They  have thousands of  Christian Movies at good prices.  What a treasure trove!  This is a one stop shop for the kind of family friendly entertainment that we adore.  But they don’t stop there.  FishFlix.com is also full of educational DVD’s that teach from a Christian world view.

You may remember that we had the opportunity to review a Tourchlighter DVD of the John Wesley Story.  That makes two animated stories that we’ve been blessed with.  However you should know that FishFlix.com offers other Christian movies like The Passion of the Christ, War Room, Woodlawn, and even documentaries on apologetics.  I’ve got my eye on a couple of DVD’s about how the world was created from the creationist view point. They have such a wide variety of choices there is something for everyone.  They offer both Blue-Rays and DVDs available for purchase.  If you’d like to buy a gift for someone but you aren’t sure what they would like, gift cards are available.  They also offer free shipping with a purchase of $40 or more.


About the Movie

Superbook: A Giant Adventure DVD is an animated Christian movie about David and Goliath. We follow Chris, Joy, and Gizmo the Robot as they travel back to the time of David and his brave battle with Goliath.

Chris is a young guitarist who is interested in auditioning for the school band.  However some taunting from his classmates gives him a terrible case of stage fright. As he travels back to biblical times Chris learns about bravery and courage from David himself.  He also learns that anything is possible with God’s help. When the crew arrives back to this day and age Chris finds the courage to audition for the school band.  He gives a rockin’ performance and puts his nemesis in his place.

I loved how they integrated something relate-able to today’s children into the story line.  My children will never face a giant they David did but they do have their own obstacles to overcome… just like Chris.  In the days since we viewed the video together I’ve used it as a conversational jumping off point a few times.  For example, one of my boys has a very big Karate Belt test coming up in a few days.  He is quite nervous.  It is the last test he’ll have to pass before he formally moves into Black Belt Training.  How like young Chris he is.  This video couldn’t have come at a better time for us.

The DVD comes with a Study Guide to aide you in talking with your children about the movie.  It covers three topics:

  1. A Special Gift
  2. A Fierce Battle
  3. An Amazing Victory

You’ll find special Bible verses you can read together and great prayers to pray as a family.


The DVD also comes with bonus features!  You’ll find a video on How to Draw Jesus and a Follow Jesus music video.

If you sign up for the FishFlix.com newletter you will recieve a 10% discount coupon on your next purchase.  


FishFlix.com is a fantastic resource for your Christian DVD and Blue-Ray needs.  Superbook: A Giant Adventure is a great Christian movie that will give you and your children much to talk about.

Schoolhouse SamplesThey are Sponsoring a Giveaway

You can enter to win a 5-Movie prize pack – including War RoomThe Ultimate GiftSuperbook: A Great AdventureMy Son, My Savior and Owlegories 2.  Over $80 in DVDs!

To enter the drawing  simply must the FishFlix.com email list at this link here: https://www.fishflix.com/schoolhouse.


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FishFlix.com Review
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Homeschooling Multiple Ages

There was once a time when I couldn’t conceive of how any person with more than one child could homeschool well. How can one teach multiple levels at the same time? Can you teach 6th grade math while teaching 4th grade math? I assumed someone would be neglected. This made homeschooling terrifying to me but I figured there are so many parents out there doing it there must be way.

I am the homeschooling mom to four children ages 10, 8, 5 and 18 months. I juggle 6th grade math, 4th grade math, kindergarten math, all right next to nursery rhymes. Plus every other subject I deem worthy of our time. Many days I feel like a circus act juggling balls with my hands while spinning plates on top of my head. While no day is ever perfect there are ways to make it work without making yourself crazy.


I recently had the opportunity to guest post on the Homeschooling with Heart Blog.  Please click through to read the rest of the article.

Review: Math-U-See Delta Digital Pack from Demme Learning

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We love Demme Learning’s Math-U-See !  My boys, who are now as high as the Delta and Gamma levels have been using the program since the very beginning.  Even my 5 year old is using the Primer level now.  They have added Digital Packs to their math product offerings and recently Ezra and I have had the chance to review the Delta level.

Math-U-See is something of a unique program in the world of math curriculum.  This is a mastery type program.  This means children are to understand completely (or master) one concept before they even think about beginning the next one.

This is a program that also puts to use a fantastic assortment of useful manipulatives.  I emphasize useful here because we’ve tried a few programs (math and other subjects) where the manipulatives sounded nice in theory but really only provided an unnecessary distraction that didn’t really aide in the learning process.  In this case I think the Math-U-See manipulatives absolutely enhance understanding and are essential to all levels of the program.   This, however is a review of the digital program so I’ll save my longer review of manipulatives for another day.  Math U See Building Understanding_zps65k2otme

Finally, this program is not built upon the idea of grades but on levels.  Can I tell you how the LOVE this! Children feel more free to progress at their own pace! In fact my older son is working at the Gamma level while his younger brother is working one book higher at the Delta level.  Of course they realize one is ahead of the other but they know that it doesn’t really matter.  One of my sons zooms ahead in math and the other needs more time.  Books without GRADE 4 (or 5 or 6 or whatever) splashed across them makes all of this much more comfortable for everyone.

Delta_zpsuozoaaonWhat is the Math-U-See Digital Pack?

As I mentioned before, Math-U-See has a few different pieces to it.  There are the manipulatives, the Student Pack which includes a workbook and a test book, and an Instructor’s Pack that has the teacher’s manual and a DVD.  Math-U-See also offers several online (or E-Learning) resources for you like the Worksheet Generator and the Online Drill Page.  The digital packs gather the Instructor’s Pack (including streaming the instructional DVD’s) and the online resources together in one place that you can access easily from your computer.  



With the Delta Digital Pack you will 12 months access to the following:

  • The Delta Instructional videos streaming for any internet connected device or computer
  • The Teacher’s Instruction Manual in PDF format
  • Lesson Solutions
  • The Skip Counting Songs as Mp3s as well as the songbook in PDF format
  • Access to digital manipulatives.

Important Note: In order to use this program you will have to purchase the physical Delta Student Pack. 

The Delta Level of Math-U-See focuses on division.  It is at this level that children learn to divide single and multi-digit numbers as well as other math topics.  They use converting measures (such as ounces to pounds) to practice the division skills as an example.  Each lesson begins with a video lesson and now that we have the Delta Digital Pack my son watches these online via his computer.  I usually watch them to so that I can understand how he is being taught so that I can assist him if he needs it.  These videos are pretty basic.  You’ll find Mr. Demme in front of a white-board very clearly teaching whatever the concept of the moment is.  His explanations are incredibly easy to follow.  He makes math seem so easy.  I personally appreciate the lack of crazy graphics or gimmicks.  It takes just a few moments (5-10 minutes at most) to to watch him do a lesson and we are done.  After that my son does a page or two from his Student Workbook a day until one lesson is complete (there are 7 worksheets plus a test page in the test book).  Most days math is over in 15-20 minutes MAX.  If I find he needs more practice I just hop onto the Online Worksheet Generator and create him more practice programs.

Accessing the Digital Packs

Getting to the Digital Packs is a little bit of head scratcher.  I was completely confused for a while.  I think I was trying to access it before my morning coffee.  I had expected a simple log-in from Math-U-See’s main webpage but there are more steps involved than that.  First you’ll need to go to http://www.mathusee.com/ and click on “Store.”  Then you’ll need click Log-In and do just that.  Next you’ll need to click on “My Digital Packs.”  Finally you’ll need to click on a drop down box to reveal the Digital Pack you’ve purchased.  Oh wait!  There is one more step!  There is another drop down box that needs you to choose the lesson number you are on.  Once you’ve completed these steps your steaming video will appear.  I’d love it if there were fewer steps.  One basic page to go to, a quick log in.  Maybe each level I’ve purchased displayed as buttons where I just click on it and poof! I’m at the next lesson with maybe some arrows to go back and forth between lessons if need be.

Once you are all logged in and have chosen a lesson your screen will look like this.

Once you are all logged in and have chosen a lesson your screen will look like this.


This screen that I’ve shown you is key because it has the links to absolutely everything you need in this digital pack (minus the student workbook and test book).  Get yourself here and navigating is easy.

The digital manipulatives are fun and handy.  There is a video explaining to you just exactly how they work.  The first time you use them there is also a description screen. They are exactly the same a the plastic blocks that you can purchase.  The digital version uses all of the same colors and contain the overlays that you’ll use at various levels.  You can write problems out right within the program too.  If you’d like you can purchase the app separately for your iPad in the Apple App Store.


A small snapshot of what the digital manipulative app looks like.


Why We Like the Digital Pack

Recently we have found ourselves taking our homeschooling on the road from time to time.  We’ve been known to homeschool in doctor’s waiting rooms, while tailgating in parking-lots while waiting on someone, and even in places like Starbucks and Panera.  We can keep chugging along with our math lessons easily!  I just make sure my kids have their student workbooks, a pencil, and our iPad.  I do not have the haul the big bulky box of manipulatives (and most likely loose a few while we are out) or even any of my teacher’s books.  How convenient.

In addition to the convenience we no longer have to keep track of the DVDs!  One of my sons scratched the daylights out of one of our Math-U-See DVDs (but of course he claims he didn’t do it).  No more DVDs solves that problem.

The Cons of the Digital Pack

If you have a child who really needs to touch and feel the manipulatives then you’ll want to get yourself a set (or two in the higher levels) of those anyway.  My only other real concern is that you are only given access for one year!  I can certainly see life happening and a family needing more than year to get through a level of Math-U-See.  Simply expecting a baby and then giving birth can be enough to slow things down considerably.  The year long expiration date also means you will have to pay for it all again if your younger children want to use it in the future.  I’d love to see a “lifetime” option… even if it did cost considerably more.


I think I will be a permanent subscriber to the Digital Packs.  They are just that convenient.  We already own the physical manipulates so when those are easier for my children to understand they will always be there.  I’ve always appreciated Math-U-See.  Because of the reviews I write we’ve tried other programs… FANTASTIC programs.  Some that we still use regularly… but Math-U-See is our core math program that we always seem to come back to.  It works that well for us.

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Demme Learning's Math-U-See Review

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Review: The Dragon and the Raven Audio Adventure from Heirloom Audio Productions

Henty TheDragon and the Raven Album Art_zpsgmx7xdnzI don’t keep it a secret! My children LOVE to listen to audios!  Audio books and audio dramas are a staple in our homeschooling.  Every time we get a chance to review something new we JUMP at the chance.  As is the case with The Dragon and the Raven from Heirloom Audio Productions.  We’ve reviewed other audio adventures from Heirloom Audio Productions in the past.  The expectation is that of a high quality experience and they never disappoint.

The Dragon and the Raven is based on the novel by G. A. Henty.  This is a story that takes place during the days of King Alfred well before England was country.  This is the time of the Saxons and the Vikings.  The story is fictional but it is based on true events.  The main hero of the story is a young man named Edmund.  This story touches on his amazing Christian faith.  It is a great adventure of war against the Vikings.  Such a wonderful history lesson come alive.


As soon as this CD arrived in our home my children ripped it open and popped straight into our stereo system.  I had the idea that we’d listen in our van the way to and from different activities but they wanted none of that.  They wanted to listen to it IMMEDIATELY.  I enjoy the Heirloom Audio Productions as much as they do so who was I to argue?  We ended up listening to whole thing over a couple of sittings in just two days.


The Dragon and the Raven is a production that is full of amazing high quality and suspensful sound, music, and acting.  Some of the actors that provide the voices are well known from such movies as The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit.  These are amazing professionals that know how to put together an outstanding performance.  The sound affects are just a breath taking with professional orchestras, musicians, and everything else that goes into such a creation as this.

Along with the two CD audio set we also received a study guide that gives you a bit of a biography of G.A. Henty and King Alfred the Great.  There are questions to invoke discussion and thought for each of the tracks on the disk.  The questions are broken into three categories: listening well, thinking further, and defining words.  I stopped the CD often to review the questions.  I liked them a great deal.  They provided a great jumping off point for discussion with my children.  It did sort of drive everyone nuts though because no one liked Mommy interrupted such an exciting audio for questions.  Toward the end I stopped with the interrupting and just waited until we were wrapping up for these questions.  Also included in the study guide is a section on vocabulary, and Bible studies to encourage scripture study and character building.

In addition to the study guide we also received other bonus materials such as Mp3s of the soundtrack from the CD.  This music is so dramatic and entertaining that my children will blast it around the house just because they came.  We were able to watch a behind the scenes movie where the children could see the actors at work and learn a bit of who productions like this are made.  They love that! So do I!  There was a scripture poster, a story poster, and a pdf of the book that we can read on iPad.  There is also the Live Adventure Newsletter with great craft ideas, puzzles, articles, and recipes related to the story.

The audio dramas from Heirloom Audio Productions have created a great love the novels by G. A. Henty.  The language is so rich.  The characters are so enticing.  We’ve branched away and started doing our own literature studies based on his works.  We are making plans to go back read The Dragon and the Raven the novel.  I think we may get more from the study guide at that time as the act of reading will slow us down enough to make discussion a more welcome part of the experience.

We are excitedly waiting to see what Henty novel Heirloom Audio Productions creates next!  They are just that amazing!

The Dragon and the Raven {Heirloom Audio Productions Review}

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Adding Project Time to your Homeschool

ProjectTimeWhat is your vision for what your children’s homeschooling will look like?  I’ll be the first to tell you my vision for what I’d like it to look like is in many ways pretty far from reality. Darn it I guess I could even say my vision is just about unrealistic! In my mind’s eye I see something that is a cross between Unschooling (completely child led and super unstructured method of education) and Classical Education (super structered and pretty distant in definition from Unschooling) with a dash of Charlotte Mason (lots of high quality books and nature walks) tossed in.  I seriously over simplified those definitions I know… just go with it!  Clearly those three styles of homeschool are pretty far apart so to say integrating them together is a challenge is a huge understatement.  In fact a pure Unschooler would likely tell you you really CAN’T integrate Unschooling with anything!

Despite how incompatible it all is I do think I’ve got something of a good mix happening in our homeschool.  Let me tell you about our day.  To begin, my boys have a checklist of homeschooling assignments that they have to complete mostly on their own each and every day.  I’m right there if anyone gets stuck of course but over the years my 8 and 10 year olds have become pretty independent in some subjects.  They are able to complete subjects like math, spelling, typing, poetry memorization, and history without too much supervision on my part.  While they work through those subjects I am free to work with my five year old and tend to my toddler.  We come together to study the Bible, science, writing, civics and things of that nature.  (Just a note… we don’t do all of these subjects every day!)  Once all of these things are completed comes the glorious part of our day… PROJECT TIME!

Project time is a special time of day set aside for my children to pursue learning or creating anything their imaginations can dream up.  They have full access to a cabinet full of art supplies.  They understand how to get onto our library’s website where they can look up and request books to be placed on hold so they can pick them up during our next library visit.  With supervision they can look up things on the internet too.  In many ways the sky is the limit for them at this time.  Periodically I meet with each child and we brainstorm a list of things they’d like to do or learn during project time.  I’m pretty free with allowing them to make their own choices but I do get the final veto if need be.

What do my kids work on during project time?  It depends! They go through phases where different projects hold their attention while others fade away and that is totally fine with me.  I do try to get them to finish what they’ve started if I can.  These days my boys like to get into the arts and crafts materials in order to create scenery for their model railway.  They enjoy making Minecraft mods or creating custom games in Skrafty (something like computer programming).  They’ve gone outside with safety goggles, a hammer, nails, and some scrap wood in order to just see what they could bang together.  Ezra was into the Erie Canal for a time and he was trying to make a canal lock with Legos, gears and some of my Tupperware (and real water).  Noah will spend hours watching various how to draw videos as he perfects his drawing skills.  Sometimes they read great books.  Often times the great books lead them into creating great crafts so they can have awesome props to reenact those books.   My eight year old has a great pottery wheel and he loves to get messy and create me lots of pen holders.  Some days I find them simply kicking back listening to a great audio-book.

I can’t forget Joyanna!  She’s my 5 year old daughter.  She also enjoys a turn at the pottery wheel.  Her big passion is painting and she’ll do that every chance she gets.  She also enjoys how to draw videos and will saddle up to the computer next her big brother to give her hand a try.  She too loves audio books, especially those related to American Girl dolls.  Project time is just as precious to here as it is her big brothers.

Is it messy?  Yes!  Does that drive me crazy?  You bet! Nothing like trying to get meal on the table only to realize it is covered in pottery clay and modeling glue! Did it/does it always go smoothly? Absolutely not! We got here deliberately. When I begin this experiment called project time a few years ago it just didn’t pan out very well at first.  My boys weren’t quite as self driven then as they are now and the messes would often be just about out of control.  Back then I ended up having to limit the choices.  It was this or that or nothing at all! Sometimes I’d even have to tell them a certain choice wasn’t going to be available for a while because they clearly weren’t able to handle it.  With guidance and time (years I’m talking probably 3 years here) we now have a pretty self-directed and open ended time for projects that everyone loves.

With the time and space to drive their own learning my children have surpassed their mother in my areas.  They have skills I don’t

In my mind if my children aren’t given the opportunity to pursue their interests, problem solve, create, and enjoy learning than why homeschool?  This time of our day is everything that you can’t find in 99% of the traditional schools in this world.  Yet we also spend time every day with structured learning.  It is a great blend over all.  It is a careful balancing act that has taken years to come to fruition.

5 Free Fun Online Sources for Learning to Code

Free Online Learn to Code Games

I have a certain little boy, well really two little boys, who are falling head over heals for learning to code.  As the wife of a husband who works in technology and uses coding every day for part of his job I can’t help but encourage this passion.  Being budget minded I saught out the most inexpensive… Ok downright FREE… resources I could find.


Hour of Code:  This website features video tutorials and the tools to code in things like Javascript so that students can create their own games.  There is a whole tutorial around the latest Star Wars film that absolutely enthralled my boys.

Scratch – This website uses the ever popular coding language of Scratch to teach children how to create games.  My children have been using this website for several weeks.  I love the problem solving Scratch requires as well as the creativity.  A friend of ours made a pretty sophisticated Donkey Cong type game using this website.  It was impressive!

Snapsource – This website is something Berkeley has put together and is incredibly open ended meaning any budding programmer has the framework to for endless possibilities.  On the other hand, there aren’t any directions or tutorials that I can find.  This would be great for the child whose had some practice with coding.

Code Combat – This website is just fun!  Children learn to code not by watching video tutorials or completing some kind of assignment or challenge.  They learn by advancing through the levels of a game.  A very fun and somewhat addictive game.  Watch out parents!

Code Studio – This website is full of coding courses separated by age level. Even early readers ages 4-6 can get in on the action.

Do you know of any free coding resources?  If you do share them in the comments!


8 Practical Questions to Ask Yourself Before You Start a Cooperative!

8 Practical Questions to Ask Yourself Before You Start a Cooperative!

You are thinking about running a homeschool cooperative (co-op)!  Congratulations, this might just turn out to be one of the most fun things you ever do in your homeschool mom career.  It could also be one of the toughest.  Before you embark on this journey stop and take the time to consider these sometimes practical and other times zany questions.


I am a guest writing at the Schoolhouse Review Crew today.  To read the rest of this article please visit me there!

Review: Tap My Trees Maple Sugaring Starter Kit

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Living in Southern New England affords us something I think is pretty special.  Readily available in this area (particularly in early spring) is fresh local maple syrup from local trees.  In just a few weeks we will start to see maple sugaring buckets hanging from maple trees all along the road side.  My family often takes a field trip to local farms that make sugaring an event each year.  We’ve always loved the process and now for the first time this year we’ll be able to participate.  Our family has been blessed to review the  Starter Kit with Aluminum Buckets from Tap My Trees.  It is the complete kit to get started maple sugaring all on your own. 

This is sort of revolutionary to me.  Learning collect your own sap to turn into maple sugar or syrup has always seemed a rather large and daunting task.  Of the people that I have me that do this they all seem to have a long family history where their parents, grandparents, and even great grandparents all were experts at the craft and they passed down the tools and knowledge to do this just right.  So while my children have asked me to do this on our own I just never really saw it as a possibility.  Then this big heavy box with THREE Aluminum buckets and everything I need landed on my doorstep and my mind has been radically changed.

What Comes in the Kit?

The kit literally comes with everything you need to get started… everything except the tree and I do suppose I’ll need a drill.

The Guide

Tap My Trees Maple Sugaring at Home A Guide by Joe McHale_zpsaowxuxutThe first item that is probably the most important to me is the step-by-step guide to sugaring.  Can I tell you I love this little book.  It is so clearly written and perfectly detailed yet not overwhelming.  After reading it I am completely convinced that this project is not the big overwhelming task I once viewed it as but something totally doable and ultimately FUN!

This guide will tell you how to find the right trees to tap, how to tap the trees, how to collect and store the sap, and to keep your supplies clean and sanitized, how to make maple syrup (uh yes! that’s what we want!), what other things we can use the sap for, and how to finish up the sugaring season.  All of that is just 44 pages!

I have collected other books on the subject from the library but that speaks more to my need to research a topic to death than it does to the quality of this guide.  Nothing else is needed.  I’m just a nerd.

The Other Supplies

The guide, while essential, is just the beginning.  Check out the other times that come with the kit:

  • Three 2-gallon aluminum buckets that you collect the sap in.  They look and feel just like the ones I’ve always seen in the woods my entire life.  It feels sort of authentic to own the real thing.  Ha!
  • Three metal lids to keep the elements out of the buckets
  • Three stainless steel spiles (these are the spigot thingies as I like to call them that you insert into the tree that the sap comes through
  • Three hooks!  Yes when I saw the hooks I scratched my head for a moment and then I said… duh I have to hang buckets don’t I?
  • One 7/16 drill bit with 3/8 shank that you’ll use to drill the holes to tap your trees.
  • One piece of cheesecloth.  Somehow I never knew cheesecloth was a part of this process but you use it filter out any junk that got into your sap.  Who knew!  And can I say I’m so glad it is included.  I don’t have to hunt some down.  EVERYTHING is included!Tap My Trees Aliminium Starter Kit_zpsgv2bmumb

I can’t say enough about this kit.  The guide is fantastic and the quality of the materials are wonderful.  This is the real deal.  I now own the exact same stuff that the huge maple sugar farm just up the road owns.  While it is still too early in the season for tapping trees here in Connecticut my children did take the guide up to my parent’s house.  We live on land the size of a postage stamp and neither of our own two trees are the right kind. My parents, however have a patch of woods just behind their house. They went on a walkabout (their affection term for a walk in the woods that they use with their grandfather) to find some trees for tapping in a few weeks.  They reported back to me that they found more than a few.  In fact they found some spiles still stuck in a few trees from some other maple sugarer from who knows when.

I’m not sure who is more excited about this project, my kids or my parents.  Either way it’ll be a neat project for the late winter/early spring.  If you’ve always wanted to try maple sugaring on your own this is the way to get started.  Visit Tap My Trees to get your own Starter Kit with Aluminum Buckets.

Tap My Trees Review

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