Friday, September 26, 2014

American Football Unit w/ Free Printables

This post may contain affiliate links.

It was my intention to do this unit two weeks ago, however our house has been plagued with sickness for 10 days, and we're all just finally feeling better.  Fall is one of my favorite seasons.  However, there's only so many apple, pumpkin, and leaf themed activities I can take before losing my mind.  In our syllabus for the year, you'll notice I don't even have a fall themed unit, just because we've studied apples, pumpkins and leaves twice already.  We were supposed to learn about our bodies and doctors this month.  Sadly, we started the month out behind, and then had a party, got sick, and are now finally getting our lives back in order.  The unit planned for the month of September will happen later on in the year.  (Thank goodness I've learned to plan for make up time.)  I'm digressing.

When I think of Fall, I think of apples, pumpkins, squirrels, and FOOTBALL!!!  Okay, so I'm not as much of a fan as I could be, or even used to be, but that's because we don't have cable, and I don't get to watch the games.  I do have a favorite team, the Denver Broncos, which has remained the same since the year 2000, when I moved to CO and really started to get into the game.  The Broncos had their summer training camp at the university I attended.  We all worked out in the same gym.  The family I lived with in CO for part of my time there, were BIG football fans, and didn't miss a game.  Needless to say, I became quite educated on the subject, or so I thought...  Then I met my husband.  He may not play sports, but he could win pretty much any sports trivia game around.  He's just a "little" obsessed.  It's one of those situations where I try to get one question right before he wins the game.  Thank goodness I'm not competitive.  There's not a day that goes by that he's not up to date on what's happening with basketball, baseball, soccer, and/or  football.  (I'm the hockey fan in the family.)  If you are a sports fan, and want to understand just how into sports Jason is, one of his roommates and friends in college was Zack Lowe, who writes for  Zack doesn't write about football, but it does explain just how into sports Jason is.  We're talking heavy analysis.  

Dinomite has started to show an interest in sports.  Jason is eating this up, and for the first time, I've been tempted to get cable, just so we can watch the games together as a family.  (Sad and pathetic I know.)  We have not done that yet, but we did add Dinomite to our fantasy football league this year, which he seems to be enjoying.

I need to thank Jason for putting A LOT of time and effort into helping me put this unit together.  There is no way I could have done it without him.  He spent so much time finding the perfect images, defining terms, and creating activities that the kiddos would enjoy and understand.

Here's what we came up with:

Football Spelling Activity
The kiddos will use the stamps and ink pad to spell their new spelling words on small slips of paper provided.

Source:  Jason and I created the printable for this activity as part of the American Football Unit Language Printable Pack 1.  For your free copy, click on the link located at the bottom of this post.

Football Compound Words
The kiddos will create compound words, using the matching strips provided.

Source: Jason and I created the printable for this activity as part of the American Football Unit Language Printable Pack 1.  For your free copy, click on the link located at the bottom of this post.

Football Sentence Diagramming
Using the control provided, the kiddos will put the words of each sentence in order, and then place the corresponding grammar symbols above the correct words.

Source:  Jason and I created the printable for this activity as part of the American Football Unit Language Printable Pack 1.  For your free copy, click on the link located at the bottom of this post.

Football Addition
The kiddos will answer the problems on each card, using the brown glass beads as markers, and the helmets as counters.

Source:  Jason and I created the printable for this activity as part of the American Football Unit Math Printable Pack 1.  For your free copy, click on the link located at the bottom of this post.

Greater Than/Less Than Football Cards
The kiddos will use the glass green beads as markers to answer the greater than/less than problems on each of the cards provided.

Source:  Jason and I created the printable for this activity as part of the American Football Unit Math Printable Pack 1.  For your free copy, click on the link located at the bottom of this post.

Football Points Skip Counting
The kiddos will practice skip counting by 3's (field goals), and 6's (touchdowns).  I've provided Montessori Beads as a control.  Princess is very excited to have pink and purple beads as part of a football unit.  Lol.

Source:  Jason and I created the printable for this activity as part of the American Football Unit Math Printable Pack 1.  For your free copy, click on the link located at the bottom of this post.

Football Word Problems
The kiddos will mark the answer to each word problem using a glass bead.  The beads can also be used as counters when needed.

Source:  Jason and I created the printable for this activity as part of the American Football Unit Math Printable Pack 1.  For your free copy, click on the link located at the bottom of this post.

Who's Who in Football?
Jason did a fabulous job creating cards with different players, their number, position, and team.  The kiddos should have a lot of fun matching up all of the info.

Source:  Source:  Jason and I created the printable for this activity as part of the American Football Unit Culture Printable Pack 1.  For your free copy, click on the link located at the bottom of this post.

Football Position Match Up
Dinomite is trying to understand all of the different positions in football, and what each player does.  Jason created these fabulous cards to help him learn everything.  The kiddos can use the cards to play memory, or they can simply match up the player position cards with definition cards.  A football formation diagram has been included to help the kiddos understand where each play may stand.  There are several different formations, football players could use.  This is only one of them.

Source:  Source:  Jason and I created the printable for this activity as part of the American Football Unit Culture Printable Pack 1.  For your free copy, click on the link located at the bottom of this post.

Puzzle of the USA
The kiddos will use the puzzle to help them practice remembering where each state is located in the USA, and where their favorite football teams are located.

Football Invitation to Play
I am so excited about this activity, and am pleased to say I came up with it all by myself.  The kiddos can use green play dough to create a football field.  A control has been provided.  Different sized lollipop sticks can be used as lines on the field.  Yard lines can be marked using the number stamps.  Wooden player figures can be placed on the field to set up any play they choose.  Footballs have been provided for obvious reasons.  If the kiddos would prefer to make something else, chocolate scented play dough has been provided to make footballs etc.  The white lollipop sticks can be used to make the laces.  I'm sure they kiddos will come up several other ideas as well using a variety of the materials provided.

Visual Arts:
The kiddos continue to draw in their journals.  I'm so impressed with how much detail they include.

The kiddos continue to learn new songs and practice the piano.

Physical Education:
We continue to exercise as a family.  We're also playing a lot of football this week in the backyard!

Football Sensory Bin
While others wait for the invitation to play, I felt it only fair to provide a football sensory bin.

Contents include:
Dried Split Peas
Dried Red Kidney Beans
Fabric Leaves
Wooden Footballs
Plastic NFL Helmets

Next week we'll be learning all about North America, with our continent unit.  My goal is also to share some General Conference Activity Ideas with you this upcoming week, however, I can't promise that.

If you notice any corrections that need to be made to printables, please let me know.  Jason and I lookeed them over several times, but we can always miss something. :)

For those interested in the printable packs:

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Homeschooling Question & Answer Session with Renae

This post contains affiliate links.

Many of you have had questions about our homeschooling journey, how we do things, materials, we use, etc.  I have attempted to write this post to answer your questions at least three times, and even as I sit down to write a forth time, I'm still uncertain if what I'm going to say will make any sense.  The truth is, I still feel so little and inexperienced at all of this.  Perhaps that feeling never goes away?  I guess I'll have to wait another three years to find out.  Until then, here are the answers to your questions. If you have any other questions, please write them in the comments section, and I will do my best to answer them.

1. How did your homeschooling journey start?

Our homeschooling journey started as a result of my Dinomite's behaviors after preschool.  I hadn't planned to homeschool at that point.  One day in January, I had a meeting with teachers and administration about the behaviors, which did not go well. The next day I decided to keep Dinomite home.  Someone had said to me, I couldn't know for certain that the behaviors were being caused by school.  They could be caused by something going on at home.   I put this theory to the test.  Within three days, Dinomite's behaviors disappeared.  They had been caused by school.

Bulldozer attended the same school as Dinomite at the time.  He was a in a special education classroom.  It didn't make sense to send one and not the other, especially since Bulldozer cried every day in protest when it came time to go to preschool.  I ended up pulling both out of school in January of 2012, with the plan to homeschool them.  At that point, I didn't know how. I didn't have resources.  In all honesty, I had no clue what I was doing.  Fortunately, the kiddos didn't know what we were doing either, so we learned together.

2.  When you first started homeschooling, what did you do, and how did you do it?

The first few months of homeschooling are a complete blur to me.  I do remember that learning time took place during nap time.  I created a weekly planning template, and used it to plan out each week of lessons and activities.  I also used a workbook for each of the kiddos.  Workbooks were supplemental to all the other activities we did.  They were not my primary focus.

We continue to use workbooks as supplemental materials on a daily basis.  The kiddos each have one School Zone workbook.  They complete one page a day.  I feel this is important because, it's a short activity that helps their writing skills of numbers and letters.   The process teaches them how to read directions and solve problems in workbook form, which is something they need to learn how to do for state testing, and for all that pesky paperwork we have to fill out as adults on a regular basis.  In essence it's a life skill they need to learn.  The workbooks themselves help me teach and review material with the kiddos they need to know, in a different form than what's on the shelves, which is important.  I'm teaching them how to generalize what they know.  I often use the contents page of the workbooks to help make my yearly syllabuses for the kiddos.  Note: I always use the workbook one grade level above the grade they're "technically," in to keep them on pace with state regulations.

3.  How did you know what you were supposed to do when you started homeschooling?

I contacted our school district right away.  They sent me a packet of information, which included everything I would need to know to meet their requirements.  However, in that packet, I learned that I would not be accountable for homeschooling until the kiddos were 6 years of age, and/or were in 1st grade.  Nothing was required of me or them, until that point.

I felt very strongly that my kiddos needed an education before first grade, so I created a simple syllabus for them.  Each month I chose one theme, and then broke it down into four parts, for a four week study.  For example:

November: Music
     Week 1:  Percussion
          X is for Xylophone
          Number of the Week:  12
     Week 2:  Brass
          T is for Trumpet
          Number of the Week:  13
     Week 3:  Strings
          V is for Violin
          Number of the Week:  14
     Week 4:  Woodwinds
          O is for Oboe
          Number of the Week:  15

I would use the weekly planning template further break down my plans.  Each of my kiddos are different. The goals I set for them for the school year, are based on their individual abilities.

4.  How and when did you decide to teach using the Montessori Method or in a Montessori-Inspired manner?

Each kiddo responded differently to lessons, activities, crafts, etc.  Over time, I noticed that all three kiddos responded very well to activities I found at Counting Coconuts.  I learned these were Montessori activities.  The only problem was, I didn't know what Montessori was.  Thankfully, Counting Coconuts has a fabulous Montessori Resources & Recommendations page I could go to.  I checked out every book our local library exchange had, that was on the recommendation list and started reading.  The process of reading and studying all of the books took about 3 months.  I then spent time in our local Montessori preschool, observing, asking questions, and learning more about the materials.  By the end of the 3 months, I was hooked.  Then I started looking at the prices of Montessori materials.  That's when I cried.  How in the world could I ever afford to use the Montessori Method with my children?  We were very poor at the time.

5.  How did you go about implementing the Montessori Method into your learning time?

I was determined to find a way to use the Montessori Method in our home, but knew I couldn't implement it all at once.  So, I chose to focus on one thing our first year-the set up and presentation of activities.  The first step was finding a set of shelves.  After rearranging some things in our home, I utilized a set we already had adn then repainted another set that was up in our attic.  The next step was finding trays for activities.  Again, I tried to utilize what we had at home.  My kiddos had received a lot of Melissa and Doug activity sets for Christmas.  They all came in wooden boxes of varying sizes.  I also had just been given a plastic drawer system for organizing papers.  These are the items we had on hand, so this is what we used.  Since, I have developed a deep appreciation for Melissa and Doug boxes and those plastic drawers.  Both types of trays work perfect for activities of varying sizes. The presentation is beautiful.  You can see the specific types of trays we have and use weekly below.  Overtime I have gone to the local thrift shop and added baskets and other trays, when I can find them.

My next task was finding tiny containers for holding manipulatives etc.  We happened to have some little plastic square cups, used at Dinomite's last birthday party that were red, green, yellow, and blue.  I had found them at the local dollar store.  These worked and continue to work well, adding color to our trays.  Knowing I still wouldn't have enough tiny containers, I went through my home once again, to find other household items that might work.  That's when I discovered that my small sized, glass, Pyrex containers for left overs, worked great to hold counters, beads, etc.   (They're perfect for holding and sealing a batch of play dough needed for an activity.)  I love using them because they match any and every theme I choose and come in all sorts of shapes and sizes.  I could go out and purchase cute little them related containers for every unit, but my storage is limited.  Clear glass Pyrex containers and my primary colored square containers work great!

My second year of homeschooling, I decided to implement the Montessori Curriculum.  The head teacher at the Montessori Preschool I observed at, gave me a packet outlining everything in the preschool curriculum.  This was great, except I didn't know what half of the words meant in the packet.  If you would like a similar packet, one can be found at Montessori Print Shop for a small fee.  I found myself using a dictionary and looking up topics online for quite some time.  It was worth it though, because the curriculum is truly amazing!

Once I understood everything I was supposed to teach my children, I set to work making a syllabus for the year.  Knowing the Montessori Preschool Curriculum didn't cover everything our state required our kiddos to know, I used our workbook contents pages to fill in any gaps I saw in different subject areas.  I also decided upon subject content I needed to, and wanted to cover in the areas of science, botany, and zoology.

In order to follow the curriculum, I found it important to either have Montessori Materials or to learn how to make my own.  The preschool I observed at, allowed me to borrow some materials, one at a time.  This gave me an opportunity to learn how my children would respond to them, and if it would be worth the money to actually purchase the items.  In the end, in almost every situation, I've found or created my own alternatives.  I am still holding out for the real movable alphabet sets in cursive though!

Creating a monthly syllabus, for every month of the year, (which was required by our school district), was the best thing I ever did.  I continue to do this each year.  It took a lot of time, in fact, I'm usually working on the syllabus for the next year, as we progress through the current year, but I've found it the best way to keep my sanity and to make sure the kiddos are learning everything they need to know. For a sample of my monthly syllabus, click HERE.

This year, I'm trying to implement the uninterrupted 3 hour working period in the morning, suggested by Maria Montessori.  I'm learning a lot as we go through this process.  It hasn't been the easiest thing to do.  I'm learning to really pay attention to the developmental ages of my children, not just their age by birth date when following the Montessori Curriculum and Methods.  It's a good thing we have a whole year to work on things.

I encourage you to progress slowly in your adaptation to whatever method you choose.  Not only do you need time to learn and grow, but your kiddos do too.  You can't pull off everything at one time, unless you've received professional training, and even then, you still have to move at a pace that's comfortable for everyone.

6. How did you go about finding Montessori printables to use?

When I started my Montessori journey, I spent A LOT of time searching for free printables.  We did not have money to purchase any.  I found three major go to resources among many others:

1.  Living Montessori Now
2.  Montessori Print Shop
3.  Montessori for Everyone

I enjoyed reading Living Montessori Now best (and still do), because Deb shows pictures of activities set up on trays, along with providing links to free printables for activities, with a huge variety of themes to choose from.  I really needed that visual help when I first started.  She also provides a lot of training on her site, which I did, and always will need, not having been officially trained in the Montessori Method.  As time passed, I felt more and more comfortable developing my own Montessori-Inspired printables.  This process is almost always enjoyable, and allows me to design the printables very specific to my kiddos' needs.  At this point 90% of all printables in my posts are my own and available to you for free.

7.  What other materials have you found helpful to use in your classroom?

A little tidbit about me-I am a minimalist.  When we started our homeschooling journey, it drove me crazy that I was going through so much paper and ink, just for the kiddos to complete a worksheet or make a craft one time.  It drove me even more crazy when the pile of completed work and crafts kept growing and I had no where to put it all.  I had to find a way to make the process work, without so much "stuff."  And I did!

When we practice writing, the kiddos use a lined white board with erasable crayons, markers etc.  The kiddos also have writing journals, that they write in each day.   They write answers to questions, (I write in their journal,) on a daily basis, about the subject content we're covering.  This is how I document their writing progress and understanding of content over the year.  The writing journals have a space for a picture on every page.  When the kiddos finish writing, they love to draw a picture related to the question and answer (or sentence for Bulldozer).  This is how I document their art/drawing abilities over the year.  Other than their workbooks, the journals are the only things I save over the course of the year.

You will notice that most printables I create do not require writing.  There are two reasons for this.  My kiddos do not enjoy writing (except Princess).  If activities involve writing, they won't choose them.  If activities don't require writing, I don't have to print out multiple copies, which saves ink, paper, $, etc.  When I design an activity that does require writing or coloring, I usually laminate it so it becomes reusable.

Though rare, we do a few arts and crafts projects over the year.  Usually they are related to helping the kiddos master a skill in a fun way, or a way I can evaluate where their skill level is at.  I try to choose arts and crafts projects that have purpose or meaning, and those I'm okay with the kiddos keeping when they're finished.  I don't have storage for multiple arts and crafts projects.

I do however, love to put an emphasis on learning how to draw.  This is my kiddos' go to art activity.  When I do this, I use individual white erase boards and erasable crayons.  If the picture is particularly fabulous, I'll take a picture of it, before the next person moves on to the activity.  This has become the easiest and most efficient way for me, to keep their drawings.  My blog is a picture log and documentation of all of the activities my kiddos do during learning time through out the year.

Other materials we use on a daily basis include our math fact and sight word cards. I rotate a set out each week. The kiddos can choose to answer them for tiny treats, if they'd like.  This is a guaranteed way to get all of my kiddos to do a little review on a daily basis.

8.  What materials do you use to teach your kiddos how to read?

I am a HUGE fan of BOB Books!  All of my kiddos have learned to read using these books.  I start out with Level 1 and have the kiddos progress all the way through Level 5.  Each day, (in the evening before bed), the kiddos read their latest BOB book to either Jason or myself.  They continue to read the same book every night until they get all the words right.  Then, they move on to the next one.  Whether they learn to sound out the words, like Princess does, or memorize the words, like Dinomite and Bulldozer (due to their autism), by the time they've finished Level 5, they know how to read extremely well.

When they've graduated from the BOB Books, they start choosing their own books to read to us at night, from their own collection, or from the library.  This has become a nightly tradition that we all enjoy.  They read to us, and then we read to them.

9.  When, what, where, and how do you find books to read to your children?

Due to finances, early on in our homeschooling experience, I could not purchase books.  Instead I learned to take advantage of our inter-library exchange program.  Whatever our local library doesn't have, usually a library within the program does.  As long as I order the books a week in advance, most often I have everything I need for a unit.  We are regulars at the library, usually checking out between 20-40 books at a time between the kiddos' choices, what we use for learning time, and for studying ourselves.  As time has passed, and our finances are more secure, I have still found this system to be the best for our family, especially when it comes to storage.  I love not having to worry about housing rows and rows of books.

I also read to my kiddos while they're eating their lunch.  In all honesty, I started this because I was sick and tired of listening to the kiddos fight during meal time.  But they LOVE it, and so we've continued the practice.  The kiddos are older now, so we read chapter books, but the process is still the same.  I do still check out board books related to Sunshine's themes and keep them in the living room.

At night time before bed, we also read a story to the kiddos.  This is a story of their choice, not ours.  Dinomite and Bulldozer usually choose some type of animal or weather encyclopedia.  Princess almost always chooses a Disney Princess Story.  Sunshine loves any kind of book she can get her hands on.

10.  How do you create a weekly unit?

Using my monthly syllabus, I map out what topics I want to cover each week.  I know that my weekly shelf set up includes 3-4 language activities, 3-4 math activities, 3-4 science experiments/activities, 3-4 culture/geography activities, 2-3 practical life activities, 2-3 sensorial activities, and 2-3 art and music activities.  Remember I have 3 kiddos I work with, and rotate activities out on a weekly basis.  You may not need this many activities for each subject, or you may decide to leave them on the shelf for a longer period of time.  The set up above, does not include six activities for Sunshine each week.

I try to keep my activities similar to the weekly and monthly theme, although sometimes that's not always possible.  When it comes to coming up with ideas, I use Pinterest a lot, and then do a lot of browsing around each week for ideas at craft stores and dollar stores.  Most often, my husband and I sit down together, and work through ideas we have individually.  I love that he's such a part of learning time.

11.  What does your homeschooling budget look like?
My biggest expense is ink for my printer.  This costs me $35 each month.  I buy a package of cardstock and sometimes printer paper each month.  This costs me $6.   Then I spend $50-$100 a month on other supplies such as manipulatives, arts and crafts materials, sensory bin contents etc.  I am a regular at our local craft store and dollar store.  When I'm shopping I have one rule for myself.   I have to be able to think of an activity in detail, that I can create, using whatever cute manipulative I have found, and am holding in my hand, at that very moment.  If I can't think of an activity, I don't buy it!  This rule saves me a A LOT of money!  I know if I think of something later, I can always go back to the store and get the item if I truly need it.

I do have one time a year expenses, such as laminating paper, writing journals, and workbooks, but that doesn't cost me more than $100 all at once.  I also have one time expenses such as my laminator and materials I've mentioned earlier in this post, like BOB books, white boards etc.

All of our reading materials and other items used in learning time (such as videos) are borrowed from our local library.

12.  What do you do on days when you aren't fully prepared or sick?

When a new unit isn't ready, or something else is going on, we usually do a random field trip or write in our journals, do a workbook page, practice math facts/sight words and writing, and read together. It is very rare that we don't do anything during the course of a day.  If I'm really sick, we may just cuddle up on the couch and read or watch educational videos all day.  In my yearly syllabus, I try to plan for about a month to 6 weeks of make up time, to make sure I cover everything I need to.  Whether it be vacations, holidays, sickness, or whatever, you will have times when you aren't able to do homeschooling with your kiddos.  As long as you plan for make up time, you'll be okay!

Thank you for all of your support, love, and kindness to me, as I share our homeschooling journey with you.  I still can't believe we've been at this for three years.  One of my readers, (who is also a friend), was asking me questions the other night.  I reminded her to take things slow, so she didn't become too overwhelmed. She expressed her excitement to get started right away, and then said,

"Besides I already have a resource for lesson plans and free printables."  I replied casually, asking her about her source, stating that I assumed it was Living Montessori Now.

"No!  It's YOU silly!"  She was being completely honest. I blushed and said thank you.

Thank you for making this journey so incredible!  When I started, I never anticipated sharing it with my readers in the way I do today.

Friday, September 19, 2014

75+ Weather Activities & Free Printables (KLP Linky Party)

It's no secret that Bulldozer is obsessed with weather.  Due to his obsession, we've incorporated a lot of weather activities and units into our learning time.  Just this week, we finished reading yet another weather book.  As we were reading, I kept thinking about all of the different activities we've done and thought to myself, wouldn't it be nice to have all of my weather activities and printables in one place?  And well, I decided to just do that.  I hope you enjoy!  The activities are grouped together by weather topic.

This post may contain affiliate links.

The books recommended below are some of our VERY favorites.  Bulldozer owns all of them! They are fabulous!

Welcome to the Kids Learning Printables Linky Party!

co-host Montessori Nature

1. Farm Do-a-Dot Printables from Gift of Curiosity

2. Fall Themed Activities for Toddlers from Welcome to Mommyhood

Here's how this works!

1.  Link up to 3 educational printables for kiddos.  Free, paid, and giveaway printables are welcome.
2.  Add our Kids Learning Printables Linky Party Button to your post or blog.
3.  Support your fellow educators by commenting, pinning, and/or sharing the post published before yours.
4.  If you're not already doing so, follow me on FacebookPinterest, Twitter, and/or through my blog.
5.  You give me permission to use and repost images from your blog.

1.  Visit all posts.
2.  Share and pin as many links as possible throughout the week.
2.  Feature my favorite posts in next week's link up.
3.  Get to know you, your blog, and your printables for future use.

Let's get this party started!
Every Star Is Different
Comments and questions are always welcome!