Field Trip: {Dewey Short Visitor Center}

My family makes several visits a year to Branson, MO.  We’ve seen the shows, tried the most talked about restaurants and enjoyed the atmosphere.  However we’ve never once visited the Dewey Short Visitor Center on Table Rock Lake.

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We drove down to see the dam and decided to stop and visit.  Boy, am I glad we did!
We arrived only 40 minutes before closing, but we now know that this is somewhere to stop, when we have more time to explore.

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We spent the most time in the kids area.  We walked in and the clothesline filled with real animal furs sent the kids into a frenzy.  They pet them, compared them, and then pet them some more.  The fashion show they put on was quite a hit! They even convinced Daddy that he needed some fur!

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I hurried them along, so we could enjoy other activities, but I’m quite sure they would’ve spent hours playing with the furs!

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There were so many fun activities! We laughed as we tried to match the poop to the animal.

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There was a table of turtle shells and deer antlers that we could play with and study.  Bear loved this table!  He kept “trying on” the antlers.

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 The window seat reading corner was fun, but we instantly spotted a book that was misguided {We just read that bears do not truly hibernate, although they are widely believed to.}

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There was an area to figure out which tracks belonged to which animal and a case of skulls and bones we could admire.

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The stuffed animals that were hung all around the kids room were a hit, as well.

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I finally convinced everyone that we needed to head downstairs to check out the rest of the place, before closing.

We breezed through the information and displays on the first people in the Ozarks but I will definitely be spending more time down here on our next visit.

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There was tons of information about water safety and animals native to Missouri.  It was very comparable to Bass Pro Shops, but with more information provided.

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The kids had fun seeing how long it took them to get into their life jackets.  Trust me, it takes longer than you’d think.

Our last stop was on the observation deck overlooking Table Rock Lake.  We were there just in time to see the Branson Belle floating away.

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We were out of time but we decided to end our day by checking out the dam from the other side of the bridge.

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This was an awesome learning experience and there was so much more that we didn’t have time to explore.  Our next trip will include hiking, the tour and the 22 minute film explaining why the dam was built.

If you’re looking to enjoy a free and fun day, make sure you add Dewey Short Visitor Center to your list of “must see” activities in Branson!

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Lost Creek Water Festival

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Last week we had the chance to go to Lost Creek Water Festival.  It was a first time event and was so much fun.  Held at the Eastern Shawnee Tribe of Oklahoma’s Pow Wow Grounds, they had booths set up with stream life demonstrations, education and information, microinverterbrate collections and more!
Since all the area public schools had already started school, I was a bit worried that it would be full of visiting classes. But it wasn’t! There was only 2 classes there and as we were leaving, one other homeschool family showed up.  It was very nice to be able to enjoy the event at our own pace.  I expect that this event will grow at rapid speeds and quickly become crowded.

The first booth had several activities.  They provided us with bead kits to make bracelets to remind us of the water cycles.

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Then we made imprints of fish, frogs and other water creatures, using intricate molds and markers.

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After coloring the molds, we spritzed our papers with water ten pressed the molds to the paper. The kids had a ball with this!

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The next station was a great visual, for not just the kids, but all of us.

We began with a clean slate. The lady filled the creeks, rivers and streams with water, which all drained into the lake. Then she added some nonpoint source pollutants.  We talked about the different types of pollutants, from trash to cow manure, to construction site debris to oil.  She sprinkled different seasonings, herbs and candy sprinkles on the land, to represent which kinds of pollutants we might find in the area. Then she spritzed the area with water, to demonstrate how it all flowed into the creeks, streams and rivers and in turn end up in the lakes and other large bodies of water. The lake was a murky brown color, which sadly looked way too much like the lakes in our area.

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Next, she added some wetlands (the green felt-type material) to the demonstration and spritzed it again.  This time, the wetlands stopped much of the pollution from reaching the water.

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It was awesome to see how nature works together to protect our great Earth.

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The next station was about water cycles.  We talked about how the water that we drink is the same water that the dinosaurs drank.  The girls later made the statement that the water that runs through our pipes, also ran through the Minoan’s pipes.
Knowing that we will never have more water, we better understand how important it is to keep our water clean.

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This same station had a very informative poster on Nonpoint Source Pollution.  The poster was drawn by a student and really helped us understand what Nonpoint Source Pollution is.

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A wealth of information was available for us to take home, to study more about pollution and water care.

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Next up was the Wildcat Glades Conservation and Audubon Center station.  They had a few water animals for us to pet and the kids especially liked the lizard.

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We talked about birds and the unsuspecting things that are a hazard to birds.  Glass doors, cell phone towers and fishing line are all very dangerous to birds.

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We talked about how a bird relies on its waterproof feathers. My kids (annoying homeschoolers that they are) corrected the lady who said that all birds have waterproof feathers.  They informed her that the cormorant doesn’t have waterproof feathers.  In fact, the Chinese have long used cormorants to do their fishing, since they dive below the surface to catch fish. 🙂

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Next they showed us a feather that is dipped in water and one that was dipped in oil.  The feather with oil was so heavy that a bird couldn’t possibly fly.  We then used Dawn dish soap to remove the oil.  It was neat to see the amount of soap it takes to clean a feather.  Trust me, it takes a LOT more soap to clean 1 feather than it does to clean a whole sink of dishes.

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Our next station was about the importance of wetlands.  The worker instructed the girls to pretend like they are ducks and the tiles are wetlands.  He threw the tiles into the grass and they both flapped to a “wetland.”  From there, he removed one of the wetlands and threw the other one.  Again, they headed towards the “wetland.”  This time, there was only room for one “duck.” The other had to keep flying until she finds another wetland.

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We discussed how a duck would be exhausted and hungry, while searching for the next wetland.  The chances of the duck dying before finding another wetland increases greatly.  This makes migration more and more dangerous for ducks.

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The next station was all about fish.  We looked at several different types of fish.  We talked about the differences and how we can identify each fish.

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Next up, we talked about erosion and the importance of trees near water.  We saw how trees can slow the water down, keep it a cooler temperature, and create a stable environment for the fish and animals living in it.

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We also saw how water changes the shape of a creek, depending on how high or low it is and how swiftly it is moving.

We talked about the importance of bridge design and how each bridge works differently.  A low-water bridge, with culverts directing the flow of water, can often get congested with debris after a heavy rain.  Another down-fall of low water bridges is that they often flood, and the water then breaks the concrete.

Tall bridges are typically a much better option.

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When the worker sat up the demonstration, both bridges were crossing the water.  In just a few short hours, the water had completely moved the bank.  This is a good demonstration on just how powerful water is.

Our last stop was definitely the girls’ favorite.  I’m fairly certain they would’ve stayed there all day, if we’d allowed them to.
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We ventured down to Lost Creek where the ladies from Blue Thumb Education were waiting for us.  They were so knowledgeable and friendly!

This station was right up Emersyn’s alley!
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The ladies cast a large net into the creek and let it collect wildlife for a few minutes.  Then, they carried the net to the bank, where the kids were eagerly awaiting.

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The ladies worked with the kids and sifted through the contents of the net to find all kinds of invertebrates.

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We found crawdads, mayflies, water pennies and more!

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The ladies told the girls to grab a large rock and notice how many living creatures are attached to it.  They were surprised to find several creatures had made just one rock their home.

They had been keeping a few of their favorite finds in a bucket.  The ladies explained how important it is to place a rock in the bucket to make sure the animals are comfortable.  They compared a bucket with no rock to the kids coming home to find that their beds and dressers had been removed from their bedrooms. It would be hard to feel “at home” when missing some of the most important things in your environment.

They added a rock and immediately several creatures clung to the rock.  It was awesome to see just how much it put the animals at ease.

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All in all, it was an amazing day at the Lost Creek Water Festival.  I hope they continue to put the festival on for years to come.

I know all 3 of my kids loved it.  The proof was in their smiles!

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Blessings in a Box

I was pleasantly surprised last week when my brother and sister-in-law called to discuss how our homeschooling was going.  They wanted to know how they could help us out.  Ironically, I had just written this post, with ideas of how to support the homeschoolers in your life, so I shared it with them.

They decided to purchase several items off of our Amazon Wishlist.

When we got home on Friday and saw a huge box waiting on our porch, we were thrilled! Christmas in August!  The box was addressed to the girls, which is always exciting to kids.

They immediately dove right into the box.

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First up, we found the owl pellets we will be dissecting using our Apologia curriculum.

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Next up was a Solar Powered Rover.  Emersyn is dying to get started on this one.  It does look like fun but we have to get a soda pop can before we can build it.

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Next we opened a book called “Kitchen Science Lab for Kids.”  The girls are both thrilled with this gift.  They have looked through every experiment in the book, noting which ones they want to start first.  And I must admit, some of these do look pretty awesome.

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I normally wouldn’t put books like this on my Wishlist.  I am a certified cheapskate, and I know that we could find plenty of experiments online for free. However, I decided to add this one, after spending hours searching for a good experiment, only to find we couldn’t agree on one, after seeing the thousands of options.  With this book, the girls can quickly and easily decide which experiment they want to do.  It is definitely worth the money, to save all the time and hassle of combing through the more complex, “out of our league” experiments that we found.  Simply open and go!

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Next up was a set of microscope slides.  This is a really awesome set of 25 slides that include mushrooms, plants, animals and human blood.

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The girls have loved loved loved looking at these on our brand new microscope!

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Thank you so much Freddie and Anita!

While we love the blessing of having all of these awesome resources for our homeschool that we otherwise wouldn’t have, the greatest part of receiving this gift was simply knowing that there are others out there who truly care about our children’s future.

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From the bottom of our hearts, thank you to everyone who has supported us on our crazy homeschool journey!

What Homeschoolers REALLY Want

It’s that time of year again.  Organizations all over my town are having their annual school supply giveaway.

 This is an amazing idea that many churches and communities do every August, just before school starts. Simply show up and the church will provide you with all of the supplies on your list, as well as shoes, backpacks, clothes and haircuts.
What a blessing these events are!
Can you imagine the hundreds of parents who don’t have to scrimp and save to buy all of those overpriced supplies? It really is the greatest thing to see a child’s eyes light up at the sight of a new pair of tennis shoes.

Last week, our church had a massive giveaway, with over 1,000 backpacks given away in just 3 hours.

Later, I was asked if there is a similar type of program to help homeschoolers. Wouldn’t it be amazing if there was? I can just imagine pulling up and being handed a box full of printer ink, copy paper and art supplies.

Since there isn’t this type of service in my area (and if there is one in your area, let me know. I’m not opposed to moving!) I have been thinking about ways someone could help homeschool families get ready for the year ahead.

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  • Pay for lessons: Dance, violin, karate, gymnastics, etc. Lesson costs add up fast, especially if you have more than one child. Offering to pay for a few months would be a huge blessing to any homeschool family  and may even allow the child to have a chance to learn something new that they otherwise wouldn’t be able to experience.
  • Art: It’s no secret that art classes can be pricey.  There are tons of places to take art classes, whether locally or online.  You could even sign up for classes at a local pottery house. What kid wouldn’t enjoy that!?!  Art is one of those things that may get skipped over in homeschools, so purchasing lessons is one way to ensure they get a good dose of art.
  • Buy something useful.  Homeschooling can be expensive.  The cost of supplies seems to be never ending. This year, I plan on buying a good microscope.  Our cheapy has been fine so far, but my kids are really starting to enjoy it, so I’d like to buy one that is a better quality.

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The list of learning tools that I wish I had is a mile long and growing every day.  By buying an educational item, you are showing homeschoolers that you really care about their education.

  • Field Trip: Whether you can join along or not, paying for a field trip is a great way to help out.  Homeschoolers tend to find a learning opportunity wherever they go.  Whether it’s to a cave, historical site, aquarium or national park, the kids would love a day out.  Even better would be a membership to a local attraction.

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  • Check out their Amazon Wish List: I don’t know about the rest of you, but I have a specific wish list just for our homeschool.  It is ever-changing, depending on what we are studying.  I have all kinds of stuff on my list, from $5 to $200! Amazon Wish Lists are the perfect way to keep track of all the products in one spot, instead of bookmarking hundreds of different websites. Can you even imagine how exciting it would be to have the UPS man deliver a box of goodies that someone ordered for you off of your Wish List?
  • Local Festivities: There are tons of events always going on, within driving distance from our home. Right now, I have a rodeo, Slide the City and a hot air balloon festival on my radar.  I’m excited about it but all of these events add up fast.  Offering to take the kids (or just pay for the parents to take them) would be an awesome gesture.
  • Help with extra expenses: I just signed my girls up for Girl Scouts for the first time.  When I originally incurred about it, I was told that the membership would be $15 per child, per year. You can’t beat that price for a weekly activity! But, when I went to sign my girls up, I was told they needed books, vests and other random stuff. I don’t have to buy it all at once and it’s only $120 for both of my girls, but it’s just the point. There are unexpected (or even expected) costs in nearly everything our kids participate in. By buying a pair of cleats for your soccer player, some tap shoes for your budding dancer or a new helmet for your baseball star, your contribution is sure to be appreciated.

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  • Babysit: Believe it or not, most homeschooling moms don’t get a lot of time alone. I’m sure you probably know this, since the internet is full of stories about moms who just want to pee in peace. Buuuut…that usually just ain’t happening. I love having date nights with the Hubs but sometimes I just want to sit in my house, alone, in silence. Offer to keep the kiddos for an entire day and you will make some mama’s day! Just trust me on this one.
  • Cleaning Service: Yes, this (along with the previous suggestion) are more for the parents than the kids but I had to include this one. Everyone deserves to have some help around the house.  Sometimes we’re just exhausted and chores starts to pile up. In case you have never tried to clean with a house full of kids, it’s almost as easy as brushing your teeth while eating Oreos.

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If you know a homeschooling family, help start their year off on the right foot with one of these gestures of kindness, no matter how small.

Who Knew That Feeding the Hungry Can Be This Much Fun?

I’ve mentioned before that I am not a stickler for spelling or vocabulary programs. I have high expectations that my kids will develop a love of reading and in turn they will pick up on these subjects naturally, without having to be “force fed” them. (Crossing my fingers that this theory works.) 😉
However, I recently introduced my girls to Free Rice.  It is an interactive, fun and simple website that helps build vocab skills, while helping supply food for those in need. For each correct answer, sponsors will donate 10 grains of rice to people in less fortunate countries. Some of the countries include Cambodia, Haiti, Uganda and Nepal.

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The great part about this site is that you can do as many or few questions as you’d like. There is no penalty for wrong answers. If you get an incorrect answer, the words get slightly easier.  If you get it correct, they get a little bit harder.

  You can also watch the “plate” fill up with rice, as you complete more words.  In our first day of using the site, my girls supplied over 700 grains of rice in about 10 minutes.  It isn’t a lot but every little bit helps.

There are other subjects besides vocab, too. Need to review your math facts? No problem. Geography, History and Test Prep are all options, as well as others.

This site is perfect for keeping them busy in waiting rooms, in the car or any other time they need a distraction.

I plan on using this site weekly to build a better vocabulary and enjoy helping others, all at the same time.

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Our Homeschool Curriculum for 2015-2016

 It’s hard to believe that we officially have our first year of homeschooling under our belt and am already chipping away at year #2.

We started our school year on Monday and have been working on getting back into the groove of things.  We have most of the same curriculum as last year because, well, it just worked for us. So, here is a round up of what we have planned for the 2015-2016 school year.

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Just a reminder, Natali is in 6th grade (11 years old) and Emersyn is in 2nd (7 years old.)

    • Math: Teaching Textbooks
      • Natali will be finishing up a few lessons from last year’s Teaching Textbooks 7 and then move onto Pre-Algebra.
      • Emersyn started Teaching Textbooks 3 towards the beginning of the summer, because she was excited about it. She completed 11 lessons randomly throughout our break. I’m glad she likes it enough to grab the computer and dive into her math on her own.

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  • Language ArtsEasy Grammar & Daily Grams
    • Natali is using Easy Grammar 6 and completes 3 pages per day. However, on Tuesday, she was “on a roll,” as she said, so she did about 8 pages. I love the simplicity of this curriculum.  The kids can work through it quickly and don’t get burnt out. Natali also does Daily Grams, along with Just Write occasionally.
    • Emersyn is using Easy Grammar 2. We actually haven’t received her book yet, but it will be here tomorrow. I will update soon and let you know how she likes it.

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  • Reading: A little of this and a little of that 😉
    • I picked up this book at a local curriculum sale that I thought Emersyn would love. She doesn’t like to read and we struggled with it last year. I finally decided to just find something on her level that she would actually enjoy. Since she is a science-kinda gal, this is the perfect fit. She reads a lesson a day and has yet to complain. In fact, she actually started reading this book to herself as soon as we got it. And for only $2, how could I pass it up!

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      • Natali will continue to read whatever she chooses.  I have no complaints with her reading, except that she reads too much, if there is such a thing. She will still read and write a report on one book of my choice each month.  I tend to pick older books, which she wouldn’t generally pick on her own. Last year, she read “Indian in the Cupboard,” “Trumpet of the Swan,” “Jacob’s Rescue,” “Because of Winn Dixie” and others.
  • Phonics:  Emersyn will continue to use Explode the Code.  She isn’t crazy about it, but I feel like it helps build necessary skills for reading. We use the workbooks instead of the online version.  We will not be renewing our subscription to Reading Eggs since we haven’t used it in about 5 months but I do think it’s a great resource. Emersyn is just more of a “hands on learner” and sitting in front of the computer wasn’t cutting it for her.

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  • History: The plan was to do the second book of Mystery of History.  However, my kids are not crazy about it. They didn’t like it last year and it doesn’t look like this year is going to be much better. It’s really hard for me to give up on it though because I feel like it’s such a useful curriculum and is full of all kinds of information.  We may just take a break from history this year and try again next year. Another option would be “winging it.” I’m still up in the air as to what would be best for us but I’m going to continue it until I make a decision.

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  • Geography: We will be finishing up “Road Trip USA.” I’m sure everyone knows by now that this is my kids’ favorite curriculum.  It will be fun to jump back in and have some delicious food from all over the country.

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  • Cursive: I picked up a few random cursive workbooks at a local homeschool store when they were having a 60% off sale.  We will be working in the a few times per week.  I would like for my kids to be able to write in cursive fluently by the end of this year.
  • Latin: I spent a lot of time researching Latin and whether or not it was something that would be beneficial to our family. I finally decided to give it a shot with “Getting Started with Latin.”  I found a used copy and a CD with the pronunciations at the local homeschool curriculum sale for just $10. We’ve done 3 lessons and they literally take less than 5 minutes. In fact, lesson 2 only took about 10 seconds.

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  •  Bible: We have never done a Bible study as part of school.  I view Mystery of History as our Bible study, since so much of it studying Biblical characters and events. This year, I wanted more Bible in our day.  I was planning on doing a 9 week Discover4Yourself study but at the last minute decided to switch to Grapevine Bible Studies. We chose to start with Esther and so far, we love it!  We did our first lesson on Monday and Emersyn woke me up on Tuesday asking when we were doing Bible again.

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  • Spelling:  We will be using spellings  lists printed from GradeSpelling again this year. I like that this site has a few different activities that you can complete if you are struggling with a set of words. I am not a big “spelling” pusher because I think that people who read a lot tend to pick up on the correct spelling of words, without having it drilled into their heads. And my goal is to aim a couple of girls who love to read.
  • Art: I plan on doing a lot more art this year. We tend to do a lot of crafting but we never really learn any art skills, so that is another goal for this year. I have debated whether we should sign up for an art class through Pineapple Paintbrush, but I think for now we will be using the countless free resources that can be found online. Some of my favorites include Art Projects for Kids, Artful Parent, Deep Space Sparkle and That Artist Woman.

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I’m excited about the changes and the “tried and true” in our school!

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What are you most excited about in your homeschool this year?

Summer Slackin’

Hey ya’ll!
Can you believe that summer is almost halfway over? Wowza. That went fast.

I’ve been MIA lately but I just wanted to drop you a line and let you know why.

My summer has been full of 4-wheeling, camping, mini-vacations, family time and fun days at home. On top of that, I’ve been prepping for the next school year, which we will be starting {hopefully} next week.

This summer, I aimed to live in the moment. I wanted to not miss a single moment because I was on my phone, tablet or computer. I think I’ve done pretty well.

I have been posting on Facebook more than here, but I can upload a picture in just a few seconds.
I have about 15 blog posts, that I’ve started writing while the kids were still asleep, but they wake up, mid-post and I snap my computer shut. I am aiming to finish them as soon as possible, so sorry in advance for the crap-ton of posts you’ll be seeing around here. Better late than never, right?

I hope everyone is having a great summer and making the most of your “down time.”