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Monday, January 13, 2014

Tips for Homeschooling With Littles

So often I hear the question, "How do you do it?" Some people elaborate further and say something like, "How do you homeschool with so many children?" or "How do you focus on school when you have little ones around?"

Our days are not always perfect (not by a long shot!), and we don't always get everything done, but there are some things that I do to with the younger kids that help me get our homeschooling done with the older kids. I thought I would post a list now, so you could be thinking about implementing some of these ideas later.

  • School in a room where littles can play. We used to do school on the dining room table, but inevitably I would end up bringing toys into the kitchen and dining room so the baby could be near us. We got tired of tripping over toys, (and now I have more kids!) so a few years ago we moved our school into the living room/play room. We had a table, some desks, and the piano in half the room, and toys in the other half of the room. When we were all working in the same room, it is easier to keep an eye on everyone (and keep the mess somewhat contained!).
  • School at the dining room table.  Life changes, and now we are back to doing the big girls' core work at the table.  When the littles want to join us, I will take out paint with water sheets or watercolors, Color Wonder markers or fingerpaint, playdoh, WikkiStix, or good ol' crayons to keep them busy while I read aloud.
  • Give them some focused time. Get the older kids started on a subject, then sit on the floor and do a few puzzles, stack blocks, read books, or play a game with the littles. If you give them 10 minutes of your attention, often they will be okay for the next 10 minutes while you help someone else.
  • Give preschoolers and toddlers "school work". I don't do regimented "school" with preschoolers, but often the younger siblings don't want to be left out of the homeschool fun! When they are excited about learning, you want to encourage that. Some printables, a coloring book, or a workbook from the dollar store go a long way in making preschoolers feel like the big kids. My preschoolers also love, which they call their "homework".
  • Make activity bags or bins to rotate. Put some time upfront into filling bags or bins with blocks, felt boards, foam shapes, things to stack or fill, or other activities. Rotate these items to keep your toddler's interest. Consider having them play with the items only on a blanket on the floor, to make it a more focused activity.
  • Do more intense or hands-on subjects during nap time. Do things that need your focused time and attention, like science experiments, when the littles are down for nap.
  • Do your read-alouds while nursing the baby. You are already sitting on the couch, why not invite the kids to join you and use that time?
  • Give older kids a break. My older girls sometimes get a break in between subjects when they can play with the little girls. This teaches them responsibility and helps build their relationships while freeing me up to focus on one child if needed.
One key ingredient to homeschooling with littles around is flexibility. We've tried staying on a schedule, but things happen and then we just get flustered with being off schedule. It's easier for everyone involved if we just try to stay on task with short breaks in between, while allowing time for life to happen! :-)

What other tips do you have?
I am always open to more ideas, so please leave a comment!

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Book Recommendations for ages 6-9+

I know how it is when you are trying to get your kids interested in reading.  Sometimes you need to try a few different series of books before you find one that clicks.  Here are several series that my kids have really enjoyed reading.

I have done a few other posts in the past with books we have read and recommend, and you can see those here, here and here.  I won't repeat those recommendations again here, so be sure to check out those links for other great book choices.

Series for Ages 6-9 (or as read-alouds)

Patricia St. John (author) books

Product Details Meghan Rose series

Product Details

LarryBoy Chapter books

Product Details 
A to Z Mysteries

  Calendar Mysteries
 Calendar Mysteries by Ron Roy

Capital Mysteries by Ron Roy

Cul-De-Sac Kids by Beverly Lewis

 Product Details
American Girl Short Stories

Product Details
Martha Speaks Chapter books

Product Details    
Cam Jansen or Young Cam Jansen books by David Adler

Nate the Great books

Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle
Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle books by Betty MacDonald

Product Details
The Boxcar Children series (over 150 books!)

There's more to come!  I am working on another post with longer chapter books for ages 8-10+!

Do you have any recommendations to share?  
I'd love to hear them!  

Friday, January 10, 2014

And Another Makes Six!

During my long absence from the blog, we have added another family member! We welcomed baby L to the family in June, and she has been a delight.  Yes, you read that right, we now have SIX girls--an even half-dozen!  She is now six months old, and is learning to sit up and roll over.

Life as a family of 8 has been as busy as ever!  I am still homeschooling, and we have a 5th grader, 3rd grader, 2nd grader, kindergartener, preschooler, and a baby. It has required some adjustment for all of us, but we are in a groove now, though that "groove" also requires some flexibility!

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Powerocks Magicstick Review

I received a Powerocks Magicstick to review right before Christmas, a fun time to get a new toy in the mail! The Magicstick is a portable charging device, and is small enough to take on-the-go.  It arrived just in time for our trip out of town for Christmas, and it was really nice to be able to plug in my phone to get a charge when I wasn't near a convenient charging source.

The Magicstick is a 2800mAh rechargeable battery.  It comes in a cute carrying pouch with a micro-USB-to-USB cable so you can plug it into your computer or laptop to charge its battery.  There is a button on the top that, when pushed, indicates with an LED light how much charge is available.  Blue light = 70% - 100% full, Green light = 30% - 70% full, Red light = 1% - 30% full.  
The Powerocks Magicstick is able to recharge any device that plugs into a USB or micro-USB, and it comes in a variety of fun colors!  It is really easy to use, and has a sleek, lightweight design that only weighs 2.6 ounces!  

I used it to charge my iPhone with my USB charging cable.  After I plugged in my phone for the first time, I was a little worried because the light went from green to red immediately, but it still had plenty of juice left to charge up my phone.  I have used it several times since then, and it seems the light automatically goes down a step when you use it to charge (from blue to green or from green to red), but it has never gone dead on me before I've been able to charge it up again.  

Sometimes near the end of the day my iPhone's battery will be down to 10%, but I still want to use it and don't want to be "plugged in" and tethered to the computer or wall outlet.  With the Powerocks Magicstick, I have been able to plug in my phone and settle on the couch, and even while I am using it, my phone will end up with a better charge than when I sat down. 
2800mAh rechargeable battery
2800mAh rechargeable battery
2800mAh rechargeable battery handy
2800mAh rechargeable battery handy

Interested in buying one?
Here is a 20% off promo code, and shipping is always FREE!

You can also buy the Magicstick on Amazon, but with the 20% off code above and free shipping, it might be a better bet to buy it from the Powerocks website. They have a variety of rechargeable battery styles available. 

*I received a Magicstick to review, but all opinions are my own.

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