Finding Florida, Homeschooling

State Park Family Pass for the Win!

florida, homeschool, annual pass, passport

My fellow Floridians…are you aware of the sheer number of State Parks in this state?? My mind is seriously blown! They  are everywhere!! Not only are they everywhere…but they are amazing! Whether you are looking for a place to go biking, birding, snorkeling, camping, shelling, hiking, tubing, or just relaxing…Florida State Parks have you covered! The amount of educational opportunities at each park is mind-blowing…Florida is so full of nature and history it is a homeschoolers wonderland!

My family moved to the Sunshine State in January. We relocated from New Hampshire…cold and snowy New Hampshire. When we arrived, it was sunny and beautiful. One of our very first stops was to Honeymoon Island State Park in Dunedin. It is one of the most beautiful spots I have ever visited in my entire life. If I didn’t know I was in Florida I would have thought that I was on a tropical island. White sandy beaches, turquoise blue water, and dolphins…there were actual dolphins swimming off the shore. Postcard quality gorgeousness! We decided that day that we would be needing an annual pass to the state parks…even if just to go to Honeymoon Island. While at Honeymoon Island you can also enjoy a nature center, walking trails, and an osprey trail!

honeymoon island, state park, annual pass, passport

We purchased a family pass for $120…for the whole year! The family pass allows us to enter the parks with up to 8 people, with the exception of Homosassa Springs and Weeki Wachee Springs which allows 2 people.  This is an amazing value…even if we only went to Honeymoon Island 15 times the pass would pay for itself.

It wasn’t until I began exploring the State Park website that I realized just how many places there are to visit. My homeschooling mind got extremely excited. There are so many historic sites to visit, nature preserves, archaeological sites, beaches to study sea life…and so much more! SO, we set up a little challenge for ourselves. We want to visit ALL of the Florida state parks…yes, all! I love a challenge, and this is most definitely a doozy. To make things even more exciting…the Florida State parks offer a passport program where you purchase a book and travel to each of the parks collecting stamps. If you collect all of the stamps you earn a free family membership for a year in addition to a $120 Florida State Park gift card good toward camping or cabin stays! What?!?! This is music to my ears! For more info on the passport book click here.

Challenge accepted!!! Our Passport just arrived in the mail and it is FABULOUS!

I hope you will join us on our adventures and learn a little more about the Sunshine State! If you aren’t from Florida, consider checking out the State Park website for your state!! I am sure they will be full of great resources. I guarantee the parks will be full of awesome adventures and learning opportunities for you and your kiddos!

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Homeschooling

My Why…

homeschool, beach, florida, secular

This picture? THIS, is my why. Those 3 little beach bums right there. Getting to watch them learn and explore has made for a pretty amazing year. Is it always easy? Heck NO! Are there days where I want to hide? You betcha! Those hard days are worth it if it means I get to have days like this.

When we first started our homeschool journey I had no idea what to expect. You will notice that I tend to refer to homeschooling as “a journey”…that is because it is always changing. One day can look entirely different from another. We are always growing and learning and changing. So to, are our reasons for homeschooling.

Our reasons for deciding to homeschool and our reasons for continuing to homeschool are different. We began this journey as a way to get away from a new administration and terrible school board that were sending our school in a direction that didn’t fit what we wanted for our kids. We loved our school, but didn’t love some of the changes that were happening. This wasn’t an easy decision and it was most definitely not a popular decision among friends and family. But ultimately it was our decision to make and I am so glad that we did. It has been a perfect fit for our family.

So, Why? Why do we homeschool?

1.) Flexibility– We are a happier family now that we are the ones in control of our schedule. Mornings used to be a nightmare. The kids would wake up and we would race around to get everyone ready and out the door. It would be a miracle morning if we didn’t have at least one kid yelling and another one in tears. Our mornings are so relaxing now. We can all take our time to get ready for the day. The kids can have time to play together before we begin school. Sure we have mornings where we have commitments and have to get out the door, but we are in charge of when those happen. We also have the flexibility to have class when we want. If we want to take a Tuesday and go to Disney, we DO! If we have family from out of town come to visit we have the flexibility to take a week off and enjoy them and know that we can make up the work at another time. This has been a huge gift to our family!

2.) Time– We have so much more time to enjoy each other as a family. Our evenings used to be hectic and crazy. We didn’t have much quality time together. We had so many tears in the evenings because the kids were SO tired from a full day at school.  Now we spend our evenings together, happily! Some days we will drive my  husband to work so that we can pack a picnic dinner and head to the beach when he is finished with work. We have time to do puzzles, play games, watch a movie. We truly enjoy spending time with our kids, and I am so glad that we can do more of it!

3.) Curriculum Choice– We are absolutely loving planning our own curriculum. I love involving the kids in what we are going to learn for the year. We have enjoyed a very creative school year. My kids are so artistic and LOVE showing their learning through art. I am not a huge fan of tests…and I love that I don’t have to use tests to gauge my kids knowledge for something. When you are at the beach and your 6 year old picks up a seashell and says, “Mama, look, its a bi-valve”, you KNOW that he is learning. He is learning, he is remembering, and he is putting that knowledge to use! It is just the best feeling. I love that I can focus time each day on each child. If I see that one is struggling with a math concept, we can take time to work on it to make sure she gets it before we move on. If we get engrossed in a topic we can take as much time as we want to study it in greater detail.

4.) Happy Kids– See those kids in the picture…they are HAPPY. They tell me all the time how much they love homeschool. They are enjoying a more relaxed lifestyle where they get lots of input in what we learn. If at any time they told me they were ready to go back to public school I would honor that decision. I don’t anticipate that happening anytime soon, thankfully 🙂

So, why do YOU homeschool? What is your WHY?

 

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All Things Art!, Books!

Amazing Artists Week 2- Becoming Jackson Pollock

Art Unit, Pollock, homeschool

Much like Pablo Picasso, my kids were so intrigued by the works of Jackson Pollock! They absolutely love seeing his artwork…it is so full of splatters, splashes, and drips of paint! We couldn’t wait to jump right in and get started!! This week I was so excited to have found an amazing YouTube video! This video serves as an awesome look into the life of Pollock…complete with a tour through his NY home. My kids were so excited that we could see the floor of the barn that he once worked on…it is still covered in splashes and blobs of paint. It is like a work of art itself! So, lets begin Week 2!

Here’s what you’ll need:

The Usborne Art Treasury

Getting to Know the World’s Greatest Artists– Jackson Pollock by Mike Venezia

-Paper, brushes of various sizes, paint (we used watercolors and tempera), yarn, marbles, and a box or tin pan to roll marbles in!

Like all of our artist units, we begin by reading the book by Mike Venezia. I just adore these books. The kids love seeing the pictures and learning about the artists in a way they can understand.

We then jumped right in to this amazing video…watch straight through the end for an amazing art project  the kids on the video complete…and also a smaller scale project you can do right at home!! This video was seriously impressive…the creator even gives a lesson on paint viscosity! We LOVED it! We had a blast playing with different thicknesses of paint!!

 

For our next project we watched another YouTube video!! We were SO excited to try this next project…because it involved paint and MARBLES! This was a blast and we absolutely LOVE how our pieces turned out! Thought Pollock didn’t work with marbles himself, we were able to create very Jackson-esque paintings this way!

Here is the marble painting YouTube video:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our next project was also done after watching a YouTube video, SURPRISE! 😉 We watched the following video and created our own masterpieces by using YARN dipped in  paint! Again, not a medium that Pollock used, but was such a fun way to create some interesting lines and dribbles that were very “Pollock-esque”

Our final project came directly from The Usborne Art Treasury! This was a super fun lesson on splattering…we made a MESS! I highly recommend newspapers and smocks for this part! Thank goodness for washable tempera paint! Usborne Art Treasury, Pollock, Paint

Some of our finished pieces…:)

Homeschool art, pollock, gallery

 

Stay tuned for our next amazing artist…Paul Klee! Have fun and happy painting!!!

 

 

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Homeschooling

My Top 10 Homeschool Must-Haves!!

homeschool, supplies, must haves

1.) Coffee…yes, I am totally serious! My kiddos know that before we can start anything, Mama needs to have her coffee…with a side of quiet. I am not a morning person…at all. Coffee is the only thing that makes me feel like a human in the A.M.  My children take after their Dad…early birds…3 very perky early birds. Coffee is the start to our homeschool day…every day! No coffee…no teachee…

2.) Computer –  What did we do before computers? I cant even remember. I use our computer for everything! I search for lesson plans and unit plans (any Pinterest addicts out there?), I use it for getting our weekly spelling lists, I find supplemental math worksheets for my kiddos, the kids have several learning sites that they love, we use it for research, learning to type, and of course, YouTube…more on that later! With a computer and a good printer you are golden 😉 Which leads me to number 3…

3.) Printer – You guys…I LOVE my printer. LOVE! This is seriously the best printer. It prints, scans, faxes, copies…Its fab! It is just your standard all-in-one wireless printer from Brother…but I love it. The best part…I can get the ink for crazy cheap on Amazon. The ink for our last printer cost about eleventy-billion dollars…it was cheaper to buy an entirely new printer. We just bought a brand new pack of ink on Amazon…a 14 pack (5 black, 3 magenta, 3 cyan, and 3 yellow) for $13.49! Here’s what we use…it has worked amazingly so far! https://amzn.to/2t0H2ia

4.) BOOKS! – For anyone who knows me, you will know that books are my favorite thing on the planet. I love everything about them. The sound they make the first time you open them, the way they feel in your hands, the smell…ahhhh! I LOVE books! We use books all day every day. I am lucky enough to be a consultant with Usborne Books & More, so over the last 2 years our home library has grown to insane proportions. We also read aloud every single day…it is one of my favorites parts of homeschooling. I also plan a great deal of our curriculum from books! I would be lost without them!

5.) Art supplies – We are art junkies. My kids are always doodling, drawing, cutting, pasting, painting…you name it, they make it. Art is integrated into nearly every subject we do. We like experimenting with new mediums, trying new brands, and finding out what works best for us. I will have a post coming up about our favorite art supplies and where we get them! Stay tuned!

6.) Laminator – Holy pickles do I love my laminator. Do you have a laminator? I love laminating anything and everything. Laminating is a great way to save things from year to year…for example, if you laminate a particular worksheet for one child, you can use it again the following year with someone else. Again, this is not a top of the line laminator. I ordered a Scotch laminator on Amazon for $20…works great! Whenever I see the laminating sheets go on sale I will be sure to order some…we wouldn’t want a lack of laminating sheet related emergency.

7.) YouTube – Now, I know I could have put YouTube in with the computer…but I feel like it deserves its own category. We LOVE YouTube! You can find a video, tutorial, lesson on just about anything…actually I am fairy certain you can find anything on there. We have watched videos on the blob fish from the midnight zone in the ocean. art lessons on how to paint like Picasso, learn how to finger knit lessons, sight word songs, geography lesson, videos on Osprey catching fish from the water…I would be lost without access to YouTube. It opens up an entire world of learning for my kids. My knowledge base only goes so far…with YouTube I am able to expand our lessons so much further! What are your favorite YouTube channels? I am always looking for new material!

8.) Whiteboard – This might sound like a basic item…but I use the whiteboard all the time! I seriously loathe chalk and chalkboards…I hate the way it feels on my hands…and the sound? Oh my gravy the sound sends a chill up my spine! Whiteboards are a thing of beauty! They are easy to write on, you can get a bazillion different marker colors, and they are easy to clean. I love having mini whiteboards for my kids too…they are perfect for working on math equations!

9.) Sticker Books – Confession? I am a briber. I bribe. My kids LOVE sticker books…especially the Sticker Dolly Dressing books from Usborne. These books keep them busy for hours…even my 6 year old. So, we devised a plan. They do their chores, they earn sticker books. Everyone wins! They will work on the while I read aloud, they will work on them in the car, they work on them at 9 pm when they are supposed to be sleeping (ahem…Max!)…they are so awesome.  Oh, and did I mention that many of them are educational? Shh…don’t tell my kids! #momwin

10.) Patience – Ah yes, patience. This is key. There are days (oh boy are there days) when patience seems to elude me. You know those days…everyone is cranky, no one wants to work, she stole my pencil, I had the rocking-chair first, but Moooooom, I don’t wanna do sight words…those days. Sometimes the only way for me to regain my patience is to call it quits on school for that day. That is one of the beauties of homeschool…if I sense that everyone has had enough, we just stop…give everyone a brain break and start again fresh the next day!

So there it is…my Top 10 Homeschool Must-Haves! What is on your list? Is there anything you just can’t homeschool without? I would love to hear your ideas!

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Homeschooling

Year-round Homeschooling…say whaaat?

year round homeschool

With summer right around the corner (or perhaps already here for those of us who live on the sun…er…Florida) I have noticed a lot more discussions on whether or not to homeschool year round. Just like every other homeschool related topic, there are some very strong opinions both for and against year-round schooling. My stance on pretty much every topic will always be to do what is best for your family! Education is definitely not “one size fits all”! What works perfectly well for my family might be a terrible fit for yours! So, how do you decide what to do?

For my husband and I, this was one topic that we didn’t have to think too much about. We both agreed from the beginning that we wanted to homeschool year-round. Most of our reasoning behind this was that we wanted flexibility! We wanted to be in control of our schedule. This was part of the reason we decided to homeschool…we wanted to be in control of our life. We wanted time to do the things that interested us! Homeschooling year round is allowing us to do that! If we want to spend a beautiful day at the beach…we can do that! If we get involved in learning about a specific subject we can devote extra time to it and not worry about missing out on our math lesson for that day! If we feel the need to go to Disney on a Tuesday…we absolutely go! If we, oh I dont know, decide to pack up our entire life in NH and move to FL we can take a few weeks off of school to do so!

Another big reason for this decision was the desire to avoid the dreaded “summer slide”. I wanted to keep our learning momentum going. When we started school last September we had a lot of re-learning to do.  I am sure part of that was because it was our first year homeschooling and we had a whole different dynamic to get used to, but I also think that after 2 months of not practicing the skills they learned, they forgot a lot.

I know that a lot of people who are against year round schooling will say that the kids need a break to enjoy the summer. I absolutely agree! We will not be in school 8 hours a day 5 days a week…we don’t do that during the year! Our schedule will be very relaxed. We will have lots of beach days and pool days and pajama days! We aren’t burnt out from the year…I think that is in part due to our relaxed schedule! The kids are ready to keep going! We have loved our first year of homeschooling and are so excited to keep learning!

What are your thoughts? Do you homeschool year-round or do you take a summer break? What is your schedule like? How do your kiddos feel about school during the summer?

 

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All Things Art!, Homeschooling

Discount School Supply for your Artsy Needs!

art, supplies, homeschool, review

As a homeschool Mom, I always love hearing about tips, tricks, favorite supplies, and deals from other homeschoolers! I have found some of my favorite things based on the recommendations of others. So, I want to share with YOU my go-to online supplier of all things artsy!

When I was planning my first year of homeschooling I discovered Discount School Supply. I was busily ordering catalogs from any and every source I could get my hands on. When the catalog from Discount School Supply arrived I was excited to see what a wide variety of art supplies they had! Great selection and all different sizes to choose from. So I decided to place a small order to check them out! I ordered several liquid watercolors and some watercolor paper. They shipped extremely fast! Unfortunately when I opened my package, one of the bottles of liquid watercolor had leaked and gotten all over that bottle and seeped into the top several pieces of watercolor paper. I sent out a quick email just to let them know and to see if I could get the watercolor paper replaced. I received an immediate response asking which color leaked and which paper I had purchased. They were extremely apologetic and I had a brand new package of paper and a new bottle of watercolor within just a few days. That is A+ service in my book!

They carry very high quality products at really good prices! I just placed another order and was able to find a coupon code to save $10. You can even earn free shipping on all orders of $99 or more! Who doesn’t love free shipping?!?!

I am so excited for my new order to come in…they carry my favorite liquid watercolors, Colorations (stay tuned for another post about these!). I wasn’t able to find these paints on Amazon…which is my go-to for most things…I am an Amazon Prime addict. I was so happy to see that Discount School Supply not only had them, but at a really great price. So many sizes and SO many colors!

I will absolutely continue to use this company in the future…great products and wonderful customer service…that’s a winning combination in my book!

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All Things Art!

Amazing Artists Week 1- Becoming Picasso!

art, homeschool, secular

(The following links go to my personal Usborne Books & More website, as a consultant I do receive commission on purchases)

Welcome to the first installment of our Amazing Artists unit!! I am so excited to get started! Like many of the other projects we do in our homeschool, I let the kids vote on the first artist  we would study. It was unanimous…which almost NEVER happens in my house! All 3 kiddos voted for Pablo Picasso. There is just something about his brightly colored artwork with its distorted faces that intrigues them! We had the best time studying his artwork and discussing what we saw in his paintings…lots of room for interpretation! So let’s jump right in!

SUPPLY LIST

We began our Picasso unit by reading Getting to Know the World’s Greatest Artists- Pablo Picasso. We stopped at each section and talked about the paintings and let each kiddo point out different things. After finishing our reading we jumped straight into our first YouTube Video! We made Picasso dogs!! I will note that the artist in the video used paints. My paints were on order so we used crayons! Still turned out so adorable!!

We then moved on to a really fun “Game” that I found on Pinterest! It was called “Roll-A-Picasso”…it will link you to Pinterest, from there it will link to the Facebook page of ArtekSF. Here you can go through their images and find and print the paper. This was SO much fun!

Https://www.pinterest.com/pin/424112489881712582/

 

Our last project came directly from The Usborne Art Treasury. We read about Picasso from the book and then made our own versions of his Punchinello with a Guitar. This was so much fun…I love how different all of the pieces came out! We enjoyed the mixed media aspect to this piece…adding cut paper to our painting gave a very cool collage effect!

Our final project was to assemble our very own Art Gallery at home! We mounted some of our masterpieces on card stock to add a little extra pizzazz! The kids were so proud of their artwork and couldn’t wait for Daddy to get home!

I hope you enjoyed our Picasso lessons! Please join us again when we discover the genius of Jackson Pollock!

 

 

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Books!, Homeschooling

My Top 10 Usborne Books for Homeschooling- Part 2

usborne, books, homeschool, secular

(The following links go to my personal Usborne Books & More website, as a consultant I do receive commission on purchases)

It is time for the continuation of my Top 10 Favorite Usborne Book for Homeschooling! These 5 are equally as fabulous as the first 5…and I could have added so many more into this mix! So, here they are:

6.) 365 Science Activities– This book is so much fun! This is a great way to add hands on science experiments into your homeschool. This books is recommended for ages 6 and up so it works perfectly for all 3 of my kids. We are having a blast! We are going to be featuring many of our science projects in upcoming blog posts! So much fun!

7.) Illustrated Grammar and Punctuation– So, I bought this book for me. I absolutely LOVE writing…but my grasp of grammar and punctuation is seriously lacking!! I didn’t know the difference between a noun or a verb until I was in 10th grade…and I remember this because I was placed in an advanced English class and was LOST when it came to grammar and punctuation. Sure I was a great reader and creative writer, but what in the heck is an adverb? I was determined to teach my kids all about grammar and punctuation as early as possible…this book has been amazing!

8.) Beginners Non-Fiction – Ok, this is a total cheat on my part. We have over 40 books in this amazing series! I adore these books. They are the most economical powerhouse books! They are only $4.99, but they are packed with information. They have wonderful photos and illustrations, the picture to text ratio is perfect for children, and these books are internet linked! Best of all, we have almost any subject you can think of! If you have a child that loves elephants, castles, bugs, dinosaurs, weather, horses, cats…we have you covered! We have a wonderful box set now, our Beginners Animals Box Set is a a great way to start your collection!

9.) Usborne World of Animals– If you plan to learn about animals at any point during your homeschool years then I highly recommend this book. It is GORGEOUS! Amazing photographs of animals and tons of information. We adore this book. Like most of our other non-fiction books, this one is internet linked.

10.) See Inside series- again, I’m cheating…forgive me 😉 I just LOVE all of these books. If you know anything about Usborne Books & More you will know that we are known for our Lift the Flap books! Kids.Love.Flaps! We have lift the flap titles for all ages, but for the sake of this list, I will narrow it down to our See Inside series. These books are phenomenal. They are recommended for ages 7 and up, but my 6 year old loves them too. I use this as a supplement to many of our units. See Under the Sea was an amazing addition to our ocean unit, See Inside Weather in Climate was perfect for our weather unit, See Inside How Things Work was a gift to my 40 year old engineer husband…he loved it! These books are loaded with flaps…and kids retain information so much better when they are actively engaged in lifting a flap. SO much wonderful information. Love these books.

So there you have it…my Top 10 Favorite Usborne Books for Homeschooling! Trust me when I tell you that this list could have been SO much longer! Usborne Books & More are some of the most fun AND educational books I have ever had the pleasure of owning!! If you are ever looking for a recommendation, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me! I could talk about books all day…in case that wasn’t obvious 😉

 

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