Thursday, September 11, 2014

Home Schooling and Lap Books!

This year I have decided to break away from my norm in the way I home-school. My norm has been to use the same curriculum. Yes, the same curriculum each year, for the past ten years. I now know the teacher's guides very well, the student books, the projects and all book reports required. And honestly, that makes me feel comfortable and safe. For instance, when I don't feel well or life throws me a curve ball, my home-school life does not go down the winding path with it. My children and I can keep going because we know what is expected. (Remember, I can't call in sick and hire a substitute teacher when I'm too sick to make it in to work. School life must go on). I have used the curriculum for each of my six children and have little to complain about, but this year I finally decided to find out what was really in my heart to teach my children and just go for it.

Back in January, I sat back and thought about what I loved to teach, that is, when I taught in the New York City Public Schools. Yes, I loved being an elementary school teacher and teaching all the basics, but what I spent hours upon hours creating were my Centers. I would come up with a theme, or subject, that they needed to learn about or what I thought would interest my students and then begin to create math, science, reading, art, and listening centers around that theme. I created butterfly and Dinosaur units. Seasonal units like, Thanksgiving and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. units. Nursery Rhymes unit to Dental Care units. I loved taking something the children needed to learn and making it fun.

As a homeschooling mom of six, I have never created Centers for my own kids. It was hard enough to grasp five different grades, make lesson plans and teach each day. My heart fluttered a little too wildly at the thought of adding Centers into the mix. But for years I couldn't deny the ache in my heart to do what made my heart soar so many years ago. Then I came across the, Prairie Primer. I wanted to use the "Prairie Primer" or "Little House" Book series as the backbone to teach my children not only great literature, but history, geography, science, handwriting, vocabulary, faith, and art, but was too afraid of the change it would bring to our home-school life. Each year before ordering the curriculum, I'd ponder, "Is this the year?" and inevitably I would decide, "No."  (I don't jump into major change easily). But I spent this past year researching ways to teach the Little House series as a curriculum that would be challenging to my young and older children and have found I am not the only one who thinks the book series is a great venue for learning.

 I could not abandon my orginial curriculum completely. We are still using the Language and Math curriculum appropriate for each of their age levels, but the other subjects will be covered through the Prairie Primer. I have gathered so many wonderful books to help me in this new venture of teaching. One fantastic idea I came across was using Lapbooks. (A wonderful resource is, Homeschool Share).

Each child will create their very own lap book on, The Little House in the Big Woods, by Laura Ingals Wilder. We will read one chapter a week and in that week add the lessons learned to our Lap Books. At the end of the week they can present their Lap book or lessons to the family at dinner time, giving them an opportunity to express what they have learned in a public speaking forum.

Here we are working hard on our lapbooks.

On the first day we learned how Pa hunted deer, smoked it in the smoke house, and preserved it for the winter. So, I surprised them with the closest thing I could find...beef jerky! They loved snack time!

The next day we learned how Pa slaughtered their pig and how Ma made, "Cracklings." I had to do something, right? I bought Pork Rinds! They thought snack was a hit!

Pa had given Laura and Mary the pig's bladder to play with...ummm I mean, Pa blew up the pig's bladder like a balloon, tied a string around the top to seal it closed and then allowed the girls to play with it. I, on the other hand, did not want to deal with a pig's bladder, so, we made origami balloons instead!

"Pa caught a fish a big as Laura!"
My two youngest drew, and painted a fish as big as my daughter.

Here is one of the Lapbooks that we are working on.

Here is the smoke-house that Pa used to smoke the venison.
We used, as Pa did, real leather for the hinges.

And cut pieces of leather, to resemble the meat, 
and 'hung' it in the smoke house.

Mary had a doll named Nettie and Laura a corn-cob doll named Susan. My older children wrote a reflection about it and my younger ones drew pictures of the two dolls.

We added more animals to the animal flap book we found on-line. We added: muskrat, otter and mink.

Here we made a collection of leaves as our Vocabulary center, a pocket for our 'pig's bladder' balloon, and log house using pop sickle sticks. (The house was painted gray because Laura said that the log house looked gray after they coated all the logs with mud. Also, we cut the roof opened and placed pictures of all the harvest foods that were stored in the attic).

And lastly, a map of the United States of America. We found where we live and where Laura lives. I hope to color in more states as we read about all the places Laura traveled to.

Each of my oldest three children chose a topic to research. One studied different types of traps Pa used and how they worked. One studied how to catch fish with a net and finally one child studied harvest season. They each had to write a report on their findings and present it to the family.

Our first week done! We learned A-LOT! 
My older children have a reflection writing time, research reports, vocabulary lists to study, and crafts to work on. My younger children are learning right along side the older ones. And we are all studying the Word of God together. This week we looked up Scriptures on family and the Ten Commandments. I am feeling at peace and excited about this year of learning!

I am hoping to complete one book a semester and possibly opening my home up for friend's to join us! I'll add more photos as we create new things! 

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