Monday, October 28, 2013

Thanksgiving Co-op & Kindle Giveaway!

Today's the day! The Thanksgiving Co-op is beginning on the USAB Facebook page  and our huge Holiday Giveaway #1 kicks off!

And today is the beginning of our first Holiday Giveaway, and this one is a whopper! Check this out - with a package value of $660, it's a fantastic prize:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, October 25, 2013

Thanksgiving Co-op on Facebook Begins Monday, October 28!

We are so excited - our annual Thanksgiving Co-op on Facebook begins in just a few days! For those of you that want to know more about the Co-op, go here.

We've got two lists of things for Week 1 of the Co-op. One list has the craft things that you'll need if you want to join in our craft projects, and one list has the ingredients that you'll need if you want to join in our food fun. It's all completely up to you, we're just trying to give you a heads-up.

Here’s the craft supply list for Week 1:
·      Roll of brown kraft paper
·      Craft glue
·      Paper (construction or printer paper)
·      4 pieces of 12 x 12 decorative scrapbook paper in varying patterns
·      4 pieces of 12 x 12 brown (or orange) scrapbook paper
·      Tall chipboard letters to spell THANKFUL, available at craft stores 

           like Hobby Lobby or Michaels
·      Colored glitter
·      Spool of thin ribbon
·      Hole punch
·      Leaves from outdoors
·      Canvas drop cloth big enough to cover your table (canvas drop cloth like 

            this one from Lowes, about 5’ x 4’)
·      Sharpie Markers
·      Newspaper
·      Acrylic paints in fall colors
·      Foam paint brushes
·      Pine Cones
·      Peanut Butter
·      Birdseed
·      String or yarn
·      White twin-size bed sheet, washed – for our tablecloth project

Here’s the food ingredient list for Week1:
•    Popcorn
•    Sugar
•    Brown sugar
•    Light corn syrup
•    Butter
•    Salt
•    Baking soda
•    Vanilla
•    Dried cranberries
•    Chocolate chips
•    Honey roasted peanuts
•    Chocolate wafer cookies
•    1 tube orange frosting with piping tips
•    Small peanut butter cups


Monday, October 21, 2013

Coffee Talk: Created To Be Creative!

Children come into this world with insatiable curiosity, a magnificent imagination, and creativity as unique as their fingerprints. Creativity is one of those gifts that I believe God has given us, since He created us “in His image.” It can open the door to all of the treasures and abilities that He placed within us. 

Some children will be more interested in the great outdoors, while others will want to read any book within reach. Others will struggle with handwriting, while taking your breath away with their pencil sketches along the margins of their journal.

There are many kinds of interests that can help reveal gifts and talents. You may follow some interests around the world and back again, only to discover that what they were most interested in at the age of five (fireman) is exactly what they will pursue as they reach adulthood.

As I look back at some of my favorite homeschooling mementos from over the years, I am stunned at how creative our children were in such unique ways. I learned so much right along with them, and the importance of letting them be creative was one of my most important lessons. Relax and encourage their creativity. You’ve got room to roam with them, and plenty to explore!

Amanda B.

Coffee Talk: Enjoying the Harvest - Part 4

This season of harvest is bright and fruitful, both in our lives as parents and as we approach the season of Thanksgiving. Not only have I learned to see the harvest moments in our lives, but I've also learned to count our blessings, naming them one by one in my journal. The list is growing, right along with my faith.

This "enjoying the harvest" does not just apply to our children's growth and education, by the way. Try to take time to take a walk -- really walking, not just speeding through another task. Notice the color of the sky, and the birds that you see -- can you identify them? And when you are making that apple butter in a slow cooker this year, don't forget to add some savory spices and then enjoy the taste on hot buttered biscuits. Put on some classical music and really listen to how lifting Mozart can be with your morning coffee...a much better way to start the day than listening to the morning news. In other words, YOU have got to slow down and "smell the roses" too. As they say around my house, "when mama ain't happy, ain't NOBODY happy!" And I'm trying to remedy that, working on it on a daily basis.

It is my prayer that these Enjoying the Harvest posts have helped you see that the fruits of our labors are ongoing and lifelong. The harvest is never-ending, and we need to enjoy the harvest moments, right in the midst of the chores and labors of love in teaching and learning and sharing in our family lives. Live, really live, each day that God gives you.

May you have a bountiful and joyous harvest season, and may you find peace in the quiet moments that you can catch in the mayhem and noise of family life!

Amanda B.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Unit Study Adventure Countdown Contest

What a fantastic week we've had, celebrating the Unit Study Adventure series birthday, and now it's time for more fun! 

Here are the top 9 bestselling Unit Study Adventures over the past year:

1.   ???
2.   Oceans
3.   Digital Photography
4.   Thanksgiving
5.   Horses
6.   Easter

7.   Gardens
8.   American Government
9.   Space
10. Dogs

The first person to post the correct answer as a comment here on the blog to the following question wins their choice of three of our studies:

Which study has been our #1 bestselling Unit Study Adventure over the past year? 

The answer is Christmas! Thanks to all that participated!

Coffee Talk: Enjoying the Harvest - Part 3

Given some time to think about it, you can probably "see" back through this past year and remember some prime "harvest moments", both educational as well as emotional and spiritual. 

There are also some moments or events that strengthened and united your family, as well. I've made myself keep a small journal of these kinds of harvest insights, both for encouragement and so that I really realize the progress being made for our efforts. I know it is hard to find time to write down these kinds of things, and I am one of the worst when it comes to finding time for extra efforts like this. BUT, I have MADE myself do this with a journal -- for all of us. 

Here are some ideas in each harvest moment category that I mentioned above, to help you "see" what I record:

Breakthroughs in their education: 

  • First word read all by themselves
  • First book read independently
  • First time they read a book with interest "without" having it assigned
  • Breakthrough on long division
  • Moments of realization when they really "understand" a gravity!
  • They begin to connect the things that they are learning with the world around us.
Breakthroughs in their emotional development:
  • They slow down to help younger siblings voluntarily 
  • Refusal to "follow the crowd" based on principle or belief
  • Doing the "right" thing even when you are not around!
  • Helping others without being asked
  • Appreciating grandparents and other family members 
  • Welcoming guests wholeheartedly and caring for their needs 
  • Asking if you can "all" go do something together...amazing!
And last, but not least -- moments that strengthen and unite your family:
  • When one parent is ill or injured, and they all work together to share the burden 
  • A death in the family or extended family, where they learn the real value of love and family, as well as the role of faith in assurance 
  • When times are financially strained, everyone comes together to conserve, plan, and help ease the struggle.
  • Projects for the family tend to provide long memories as well -- working together to add a room to the house, helping a neighbor, etc.
These kinds of things are all what I call those "harvest moments". Golden, reflective and rewarding of our efforts. They may be brief, like a shooting star, but they are just as joyous when we take time from our hectic schedules and plans to see them and realize that progress is being made and our efforts are bringing on a "good" harvest.

Until next time,
Amanda B.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Coffee Talk: Enjoying the Harvest - Part 2

Let's take a look at the definition of harvest from the Merriam Webster's Collegiate Dictionary: harvest -- to gather in (a crop).

A farmer plans for his crop all through the winter, then prepares (cultivates) the soil in spring, and finally plants the seeds of a new crop as the spring ends. Throughout the summer, he works on maintaining and protecting his crop, from drought, insects, and weeds. And then at the end of the summer, he finally begins his harvest, gathering in this precious crop that he has worked so hard to grow.

Can you see the similarities to our efforts as parents? We plan, plant, grow, nurture, and somewhere along the way, the "harvest" concept can get lost in the search for both shoes, the car keys, the "right" curriculum, and on and on.

Just like raising a stand of fruit trees (or maple trees, pecan trees, etc.), so goes the way of raising a child:
  • A season to prune and maintain the plants themselves (the physical needs as well as the emotional needs).
  • A season to fertilize to invigorate the plant's production of fruit (talking, reading, sharing, putting information and caring into their lives).
  • A season to tend the fruits as they develop (keeping an eye on their interests, activities, etc.).
  • A season of harvest, when the fruit is enjoyed and preserved, keeping an eye towards the future for the next season of growth (protecting them from harm during tough times and planning the next season of growth).
  • And then, of course, the cycle begins anew, as the cycle of life thankfully continues.
Many times over the years, I've had to force myself to back away from the worry and frustrations that the days can bring. Backing up, I make myself find the good - the place where we are in the season of each child's life. It is easy to get so over-focused on the things that aren't done exactly right, that we lose focus on the progress that has been made.

See you next time, coffee in hand, when we'll be talking about keeping a harvest journal to help keep perspective and count it all joy…

Amanda B.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Coffee Talk: Enjoying the Harvest - Part 1

Harvest... the end of the growing season... clearly signaled by bright orange pumpkins piled high at roadside stands, the spicy tart smell of apple butter cooking at local orchards, and the excitement of local fall harvest festivals. It is a season of reflection, gathering in, enjoying the fruits of your labor.

One of the most valuable lessons I've learned over the years of homeschooling is the importance of enjoying each moment of harvest in our lives, whether it is the accomplishment of a child finally learning to tie their own shoes, the excitement of reading their first book all by themselves, the time "they" point out how pretty the trees look, and many other times where the end product slowly but surely peeks out in the midst of daily life.

When we first started homeschooling, we were keeping our eye on the "finished product" goal, completely overlooking the daily accomplishments or "moments of harvest." It is these moments of harvest that I wanted to make you aware of -- that they should be recognized, savored, and remembered.

Our "harvest" is not seasonal like a farmer's crop -- our harvest is lifelong, as we love, nurture and encourage our family each and every day. And yes, there are days when this is a TALL order, and it is those days that we can recall the good "harvest moments", days when goals were reached, or thanks was given, or smiles and laughter rippled around the dinner table.

In the next Coffee Talk, we'll talk about harvest moments in homeschooling. Enjoy these days, and savor the moments. You are getting there! There are days that feel like you are riding in bumper cars instead of walking a smooth and level trail, you know - the one that you were expecting when you started homeschooling. ;) Stop for a minute, catch your breath, and thank Him for having the ultimate plan!

Amanda B.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Building Traditions While They Learn

The first holiday season of our homeschooling years was such a game changer at our house. In previous years, we had stayed busy, rushing from school plays and events to church activities, and the holidays went by in a blur. As a new homeschooling mom, I was determined that we were going to learn about the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays, the history and meaning of each one, as well as spend time together as a family, building traditions, finding ways to help others, and making memories.

You can do the same thing with your family! Spend time investigating all the wonders of autumn and then get ready for our third annual Thanksgiving Facebook Co-op. Learn more about this co-op here, and then make plans to join us! Connect with other families as we explore this traditional holiday - the history, geography, Pilgrims, and Native Americans! You'll be inspired by the insights and practical ideas of other homeschoolers just like you!

Amanda B.

PS: The Thanksgiving and Christmas unit studies are on sale for only $5 right now (sale ends 10/19), and they each have 4 weeks of lessons for grades K-12. That's 8 weeks of learning adventures and memory-making moments for just $10! Enjoy!

Monday, October 14, 2013

Combining Download N Go, Unit Study Adventures, and Passport Geography in Your Homeschool

We often hear from homeschool moms who love Download N Go (DNG) and love Unit Study Adventures (USA), and are crazy about our Passport Geography titles, and are trying to find ways to combine them all. Perhaps you are homeschooling several children of all ages. You want to use DNG with your younger children, but they're not age-appropriate for your 8th-grader. Yet, you desire to keep the subject matter of your homeschool similar for all of your children. 

I thought it would help if I put together some ideas for you to use, to make this process easier. Each subject category will list one or more 4-week USA studies with a few DNG units that mesh well with them. I’ve also matched up the Passport titles with the topics. Hope this helps!

Subject:  Oceans
USA: Oceans, Sailing Ships, Lighthouses
DNG: Whale Tales, Dolphin Days, Sunny Seashells, Summer Sensations, Sensational Sharks

Subject: US History
USA: Patriotic Holidays, Trains, Lighthouses, Sailing Ships
DNG: George Washington, Davy Crockett, Prairie Pioneers, Lewis & Clark

Subject:  US Government
USA: American Government, Patriotic Holidays
DNG: Constitution Celebration, Ben Franklin, George Washington, Independence Day, Flag Day

Subject: Space
USA:  Space
DNG: Magnificent Moon

Subject: Flight

USA: Flight
DNG: Amelia Earhart, Kite Capers, Magnificent Moon

Subject: Thanksgiving
USA: Thanksgiving
DNG: Autumn Treasures, Prairie Pioneers, Hoppin' Popcorn

Subject: Christmas
USA: Christmas
DNG: Expedition Israel, Crunchy Cookies, Winter Wonders, Bountiful Bread

Subject: Easter

USA: Easter
DNG: Easter Promise, Expedition Israel, Spring Surprises, Bountiful Bread

Subject: Animals
USA: Horses, Dogs, Oceans
DNG: Handsome Horses, Astonishing Animals, Terrific Tigers, Creation Camouflage, Sensational Sharks, Incredible Insects, Goofy Gecko, Dynamic Ducks
Passport: PP France, PP Germany, PP Italy, PP United Kingdom

Subject: Art & Creativity
USA:  Scrapbooking
DNG:  Crazy Cartoons, Creative Composers
Passport: PP France (Louvre, Monet), PP Germany (Mozart, Beethoven), PP Italy (Michelangelo, da Vinci), PP United Kingdom (Beatrix Potter, C.S. Lewis)

Subject: Sports
USA:  Baseball, Olympics 2014
DNG: Simply Soccer, Football Frenzy, Discover the Brain, Discover the Senses

Subject: Food
USA: Gardens
DNG: Pizza Party, Chocolate Challenge, Hoppin' Popcorn, Bountiful Bread, Crunchy Cookies

Subject: Outdoors
USA: Gardens, Pioneers
DNG: Roller Coasters, Cavernous Caves, Twisting Tornadoes, Volatile Volcanoes

Subject: Technology
USA: Digital Photography, Auto Racing
DNG: Rocking Robots, Roller Coasters, Creative Composers

I hope this helps get you started imagining how you can use both Unit Study Adventures, Download N Go®, and Passport Geography™ titles together in your homeschool--creating exciting days and making things easier on you, the homeschool teacher!

Amanda B.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Modeling Clay & Thanksgiving Adventures?

While we were studying the Thanksgiving unit study when the children were younger, we would take packages of inexpensive modeling clay and everyone would sit around the kitchen table, night after night, slowly but surely creating our own version of Plymouth Plantation. The children created tiny figures, houses, stockade walls, a lake, and even a few fishing poles! The conversations and sharing were unforgettable, and I treasure those days and memories. ;)

We assembled the village on a large piece of freezer paper centered on the table, and eventually this became our Thanksgiving centerpiece. You can do the same thing with a cookie sheet covered with foil or freezer paper, and it will be easier to move their creation from one location to another.

So, pick up a few packages of nontoxic inexpensive modeling clay at your local dollar store, and get ready for some fun! Some of our best homeschooling memories have been made with projects just like this, gathered round the kitchen table, laughing and talking and sharing.

Amanda B.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Getting Ready For Thanksgiving Adventures

With the weather turning cooler and the leaves starting to turn beautiful colors, it's time to look ahead to Thanksgiving learning adventures! Here are a few tips to help get ready:
  1. In the Thanksgiving Unit Study, go through the book resource lists and choose a few that sound interesting and match with the reading levels of your children. Don't forget to choose one or two for family reading - it's a wonderful time to read together, with cups of hot apple cider and bowls of popcorn.
  2. Go through the Family Project Ideas in the study, and choose one or two that "fit" your family.
  3. On your nature walks, begin gathering things like pine cones, acorns, and other things that you can use on Thanksgiving projects.
  4. Pick up things like construction paper, glue sticks, and modeling clay at a local dollar store - it's always good to have a ready supply in this season.
In just a few weeks, we'll be starting our free Thanksgiving Co-op on our Facebook page. Make sure to sign up here, and mark it on your calendar - October 28th, the fun begins!

Amanda B.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Homeschooling Through the Holidays

Best homeschooling memories ever? That is always such a tough question for me! Over the years, we have made so many fun and memorable discoveries together, and the holidays are at the heart of some of our favorite memories. Here at the Bennett house, the holidays are anticipated and enjoyed with family and friends and were a part of our homeschooling days every year.

My first holiday unit study was for Thanksgiving, and it was written just for our children many years ago. I was planning to take the month of November off to dive into the meaning of this holiday with them, as well as take some time to get ready for a big family gathering for the holiday itself.

Let’s just say that the whole idea was a huge hit, and we celebrated and studied Thanksgiving the same way every year after that. I will never forget the looks on their faces when I pulled out those packs of modeling clay from the local dollar store and told them to build a model of Plymouth Plantation for the kitchen table centerpiece. It became a huge endeavor that we all enjoyed, and we learned so much from that activity. Who knew fishing poles could be made from modeling clay? :)

So we have gathered together over the years to study the Pilgrims, the Wampanoag, Miles Standish, William Bradford, and many others. We learned about the hardships the Pilgrims they faced that first winter and their willingness to share what they had. So many dinner table conversations were touched with what they learned, and our holidays have been so much more meaningful because of the lessons.

Enjoy the holidays, and use them as a time for learning, loving, and building your own family traditions and foundation. It is time you won’t regret spending—time that you can’t get back again once it has passed.

Exploring your faith, growing as a family, and building the future - that's what you can do when homeschooling the holidays. Join the Thanksgiving Co-op on our Facebook page - it begins October 28th and lasts for four weeks! You can learn more about it here. Hope you'll join us as we gather together to share ideas, encouragement, and plenty of fun!

Amanda B.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Top 10 DNG Bestsellers for 2013 (so far!)

What a fantastic week we've had, celebrating Download N Go's 4th birthday! I thought you might enjoy seeing the top 10 DNG bestselling titles for DNG (so far), as we wrap up our birthday celebration. Here are the top 9 bestsellers, and the first person to post the #1 DNG bestseller this year wins their choice of one Download N Go individual study!

Top 10 Download N Go Bestsellers in 2013:
10.    Creative Composers
9.    Roller Coasters
8.    Creation Camouflage
7.     Sensational Sharks
6.     Discover the Senses
5.     Rocking Robots
4.     Dolphin Days
3.     Chocolate Challenge
2.     Discover the Brain

Which of the 55 Download N Go titles do YOU think is our #1 bestseller so far this year? Put your guess in the comments below - first correct answer wins the Download N Go title of their choice!