Learning Table has a new home.
Come visit us at learningtablehomeschool.com!
This blog uses affiliate links. Please read my disclosure policy.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

May the Force Be With You...

   All of my boys' experience with park day light saber battles has led to something new--homeschool fencing lessons.  All ages and sizes in one class together, and the sword is the equalizer.  (They all took to it like they were naturals.)  This is the first season that nobody is playing baseball or football, so when looking into alternatives, I discovered this fencing class, and the boys had their first lesson this week.  It seemed so graceful, almost like ballet at first when the instructor was teaching them the footwork and the parry positions.  When the protective gear was strapped on, and the first blades sliced together, I knew they were hooked.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Curriculum Fair: Life Science

Curriculum Fair is a place for me to share the curriculum we use. If you check out my other posts in this series,
 you'll see how much we modify and revamp as we go along. Our homeschooling journey is always changing!

Science is all around us, and we definitely take advantage of that. There are all sorts of opportunities to incorporate science learning into our days...

We go on field trips, many of them free, to places like fish hatcheries, wildlife parks, state parks, power plants, rock and gem stores, farms, recycling centers, museums, lakes, nature centers, beaches, lakes, historical sites, etc., etc., etc.

We explore our neighborhood nature trail. We have found evidence of beavers, animal tracks, interesting wildflowers, and even a big snake.

We open our back door...

and are amazed at who comes to visit,

then we search through our field guides to give them a name.

We watch the sky.

We peek inside the hidden places.

We see amazing things in our own backyard.

We garden.

Our garden attracts wondrous creatures.

We look up at the moon.

We marvel at mushrooms.

We learn new things online, like electronics and soldering.

We play and build with Legos.

We collect books and field guides.

We have pets. We watch our lizards like they are television, and we keep nature journals (in the basket.)

We play with magnets.

We read about God's creation.

We babysit our microbe biosphere, which is almost a year old.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Curriculum Fair: Science Basics

{Read my disclosure policy}
Curriculum Fair is a place for me to share the curriculum we use. If you check out my other posts in this series,
 you'll see how much we modify and revamp as we go along. Our homeschooling journey is always changing!

Apologia science
For science, we have always followed Sonlight's programs and added in a bunch of nature study.

Middle School Ages

This year, my 8th grader is using Apologia's Exploring Creation with General Science, text and companion multimedia CD, and Sonlight's schedule and science supply kit. The great thing about Sonlight's supply kits is that everything you need for experiments is included, except for basic household supplies. 

The schedule lists what you will need each week and what you need to gather for the following week, as well as sectioning daily reading assignments. I can pretty much give my son the schedule sheet, and he can work independently from the book. 

I help my son with experiments and studying for quizzes, but other than that, he is able to do most of it on his own. He's keeping a lab notebook, which he journals in as he does experiments and the "On your own" sections in the book. 

Sonlight science: Electricity, Magnetism, and Astronomy
Elementary Ages

My younger two boys are both using Sonlight's Electricity, Magnetism, and Astronomy program, which features several books and a DVD showing how to do the experiments. They have the supply kit as well, which is a real time saver. They especially loved reading Diary of an Early American Boy by Eric Sloane and getting a microscope this year to use with the Usborne Microscope book
My First Lab Microscope
These programs make up the base of our science studies, but we add in many extras and try to incorporate science concepts into our everyday learning experiences. 

What are you using for science? I'd love to hear what has worked/hasn't worked for you!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Creative Writing Activity: Chopped

My son is a writer, and now my niece has caught the bug as well. They love to go on Skype together and collaborate on stories and scripts. When we visited my brother's family over Christmas, the two of them sat side-by-side with their laptops almost the whole time, working on a book and a script together.


A big fan of Food Network, my brother came up with an idea for a writing activity, chopped-style, with three ingredients. Pick three random things and don't explain what they are. The writer must incorporate all three of them into their story within a time limit. We sat the kids down and gave them 30 minutes to write. Their "ingredients" were:

1.  Nalgene bottle

2.  The President

3.  Slot Machine

I thought this was a great idea for stretching creative muscles. Here's what my son came up with (it's unfinished because they had to stop at the end of 30 minutes--he's going to finish it up later):

David sat on the park bench, reading a text on his phone when he felt a tap on the back of his neck.

He turned around, trying not to move his neck, which was still sore from last week.

No one was there, and on the ground sat a water bottle—Nalgene, made of slightly tinted plastic—with something inside. After last Wednesday, David’s eyesight hadn’t been the same, so he couldn’t tell what the thing inside was.

He reached down and retrieved it. It didn’t look like it could be dangerous—he knew what something like that would look like. There seemed to be some kind of bronze box inside—small, rectangular, like some kind of jewelry box.

He shook the contents around inside for a second, and after finding he was unable to tell exactly what the thing inside it was, he unscrewed the cap.

He shook the box out of the bottle, into his hand. He held it close to his nose, and panicked at first glance.

It looked like a circuit board of some kind. David’s first thought was the worst possible scenario: a bomb.

Maybe they didn’t catch him, David thought, thinking back to the terrorist he’d had to deal with last Wednesday. Guarding the President was never an easy job, generally always harder than anyone knew, but the terrorist had given him even more trouble.

For one, the man had actually gotten past the security guards, unlike the others. The President was giving a public speech that day, and was standing on a stage surrounded by guards.

The man climbed on stage, and before David had a chance to react, the man held up his hand. In his clenched fist was a jumble of wires.

The guards went for the man. Rookie mistake, David knew. Instead, he, one of the more seasoned guards, went for the President.

David knocked him out of the way just before the man had let the circuitry in his hand drop.

A few didn’t survive—others were seriously injured.

All except for David and the President. Even then, sitting on the par bench, David didn’t know how they’d done it. Maybe being behind the stage had blocked some of the force.

After that David had been given some time off. He’s been burned slightly by smoking debris that flied in all directions after the blast, and was also suffering from post-traumatic stress.

But back to now, David thought, coming back to reality. He probably should have reacted, but something was telling him to stay. For one, the piece of circuitry didn’t look like a bomb—he’d been trained to know what it should look like.

The turned the thing over in his hand. On the other side was a three-inch screen with a red button under it.

He reached for the button cautiously, not sure if he should push it. He had gone through years of training—he should know not to do this.

Before he decided on what to do, his phone rang. He closed out of the text message, and answered.

Before he could say anything, a gruff masculine voice on the other side spoke: “David Stein?”


“We need you for something.”

“Who is this?”

A slight pause, then:

“No one you know. I see you have the bottle.”

“Yeah, I—” David glanced around himself, looking for someone who could be watching him. No one was there—the park was eerily desolate.

“Press the button.”

“Who is this?”

“That doesn’t matter right now. Press it.”


“We’ve got a sniper watching you right now. His scope is set—any time now.”

The man sounded dead-serious, so David wasn’t sure if he was telling the truth or a very good actor.

David didn’t know what made him do it, but he pressed the button, anyway.

At first, nothing happened. Then a single word appeared on the screen: spin.

The man on the other end didn’t say anything. Not exactly sure what to do, David pushed the red button again.

Three columns of letters appeared on the screen, and spun around vertically like some kind of virtual slot machine.

The letters slowed and finally came to a stop. It said:


“Go there,” the man on the other end said.


“Thirty-Second Street.”

David spotted the sign outside the gates of the park. He stood, and walked to it, the Nalgene bottle under his arm, slot machine and phone in each hand.

He stopped at the street sign.

“Okay, Thirty-Second Street. I’m there,” David said.

“All right. Listen, because we don’t have time for me to repeat anything.”

“Got it,” David said.

“A bus is going to pass in exactly thirty seconds. I want to you toss the bottle into the road with the machine inside it.”

“What will happen?”

“No time,” the man said.

The bus was now visible in the distance. David had to react fast.

“Do it, David. Everything depends on you.”

What to do, what to do...

It was an early Sunday morning, and there weren’t many people around. Hardly any cars.

Don't you want to read more? What fun ways to you motivate your kids to write?

Friday, January 6, 2012

Animalogy: Animal Analogies

 {Read my disclosure policy}
Teaching critical thinking skills begins early, and Animalogy: Animal Analogies by Marianne Berkes, illustrated by Cathy Morrison, is a fun way to introduce analogies to young kids. 

Sylvan-Dell publishes some of the finest books on the market for both classroom and home reading. Animalogy keeps kids interested and intrigued as they study the beautifully detailed illustrations of animals, insects, fish, birds, and reptiles in their natural habitats. Learning analogies will help teach them to think critically, compare and contrast, and classify.

The back section of the book "For Creative Minds" explores analogies further and provides more practice working with them as well as more activities doing animal classification. Kids learn about many animal features such as body parts, size, sounds, actions, and skin coverings. 

This book cleverly incorporates language arts, science, and nature study flawlessly. Lots of new vocabulary is introduced as well.

One fun part of this book is that it is written in rhyme, which my youngest children really enjoy. Rhyming helps them memorize text, and this book would be great for dictation or recitation:
"Robin is to wing, as goldfish is to fin.  Beaver is to build as spider is to spin."
To top it all off, Sylvan Dell offers free online activities at sylvandellpublishing.com to accompany this book and others (a home educator's favorite thing = freebies!) 

Sylvan Dell books pack in so much learning, that you will find yourself revisiting them again and again (we do.) I would have loved to have them for my classroom when I was teaching outside the home.

Animalogy will be read many times in our homeschool.  A+

{The publisher provided me with a copy of this book for my honest review.}

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Who, me?

La-La's Home Daycare graciously bestowed this honor upon me--what a cool surprise! 

Now on to the blog award rules...

1. Thank the person that nominated you with a link back to them. (Thanks Lori)

2. Tell 7 things about yourself. (see below)

3. Pass this award on to 15 newly discovered blogs and let them know that they’ve received an award!

Seven Things About Myself

1.  I love to scrapbook, but I don't get to it often enough.
2.  I could live without television.
3.  My son has two pet lizards and a tree frog, but they are really my pets.
4.  I am afraid of cockroaches, but no other bugs or spiders freak me out at all.
5.  I hardly ever change out of my pajamas until lunchtime, unless I have to be somewhere.
6.  I put my pajamas back on before I cook supper (does that make me a total slacker?)
7.  My greatest accomplishments:  I have been married for 25 years and I have three awesome sons.

Amazing blogs I love:

Confessions of a Fraidy Cat

An Oregon Cottage

Collecting the Moments

Easy Meals for Moms

Mama Pea Pod

River Girl

Paint on the Ceiling

Let's Go Fly a Kite

Jump Into a Book

Greening Sam and Avery

Adventurez in Child Rearing

Homeschool Creations

The Princess and the Tot


Uncommon Grace