The Best 2020 Holiday Gift Guide for Kids 8 and Under

Here are my top picks for gifts that are not only budget friendly, but will also grow with your kids. This post contains some affiliate links, which helps support this space with no added cost to you. Happy shopping and happy holiday!

These blocks are so great and can be used by any age to make simple or complicated structures.

This customizable stuffed animal was such a favorite with each of my kids when they were young toddlers.

The perfect gift for your emerging authors and illustrators. Have your kids write and illustrate their own book, then send it off to be professionally made into a real hardcover book!

 

Have your little mermaid snuggle up in this cozy blanket all winter long.

Put on a show with this fun set of puppets.

Bilibos are an open-ended toy that can be used in so many fun ways. We also use our as “wiggle seats” during homeschooling.

 

These On the Go Craft Kits are perfect stocking stuffers! They are perfect for screen free entertainment in the car, if you’re traveling this holiday season.

My 6 year old received this face painting kit for her birthday, and it has been a favorite for all 3 of my kids. I love it because it washes off SO easily and doesn’t stain.

I cannot tell you enough how much my kids love these books. They are cute and sweet stories that actually teach our kids about the scientific method in a fun and engaging way.

This fun toddler scooter will be under the tree for my 3 year old this year! I love how it has two wheels in the front to help with balance. 

 

Slime, slime, and more slime. Need I say more? Seriously, though, I like how this kit contains ready made magnetic slime, which was showcased on Emily’s Wonder Lab.

Did you know triangle crayons help teach proper grip? These Jumbo Triangle Crayons are great for little hands.

Do you have a fashionista like I do? My 6 year old received this jewelry making kit last year, and she still plays with it at least once a week. 

 

My 8 year old has become very interested in origami over the last several months. I plan on getting her this set. I really like how the paper is double-sided. 

 

This fairy garden is growing in my kitchen this very moment. The kids had such a fun time creating it, and now we are watching the grass grow. They can hardly wait to string the included lights for a special and unique night light. 

 

There’s a reason Tinker Toys are such a classic.

 

I’m not the crafty mom, and that is why I love all in one craft kits. Look at how stinkin’ cute this robot craft kit is!

Get your kids outside and moving without the clean up of Nerf guns with this Laser X laser tagging game.

Who doesn’t want to cuddle up with Baby Yoda from Mandalorian on Disney +. This 8″ plush Yoda is perfect for your little Star Wars fan.

Harry Potter is as popular now as it was ever. This Room of Requirement LEGO Set is so fun but not overly complicated to assemble.

There you go! I hope you found some fun things your kids will love. A special thanks to my dear friend, Meredith, for her contribution to this gift guide.

Hate Teaching Math? I got you.

Hate Teaching Math? I got you.

Being an enneagram one, it shouldn’t be a huge surprise that I like math. I always have. It’s completely black and white. There’s no gray area with math. You’re either right or you’re wrong. My mother was even a math teacher, so it runs in the family. But I can appreciate that lots of people find math difficult. Just like poetry makes zero sense to me (seriously, I cannot interpret symbolism for the life of me!), I understand how math can be difficult for others.

Now, this isn’t really something that effects a typical person in every day life. We have our calculators on our phone, and that works just fine. But what if your a homeschooling parent, and you’re now the one that has to teach all the math to your kids? What then? Well, my best advise? Fake it ’til you make it. I’m serious! Fake that enthusiasm for your least favorite subject, so it’s not your kids’ least favorite subject. My second piece of advise is delegate the hard parts to someone else. From such an early age, kids are duped into believing that they are bad a math, especially girls (which is a whole other can of worms that I’m not going to get into here and now). But in reality, kids just haven’t been taught in a way that they understand.

In our family, we use a few different approaches. You can read about our main curriculum here: https://intentionallywell.org/2020/08/19/math-love-it-or-hate-it/ . We do take a pretty traditional approach to math, and that seems to be working for now. However, I was recently approached by a company who has put together a really great online math curriculum. A+ Interactive Math by A+ Tutorsoft Inc. has been a really great addition to what we were already doing. And my kids look at doing math on the computer as a fun treat.

A+ Interactive Math operates in the traditional lane of homeschooling. They actually line up their lessons with public school, so it is a great resource for keeping your kids on track if you are only planning on homeschooling for a short time (hello 2020 pandemic). We have the Family Math Package, and it allows my kids to work mostly independently at their own pace. They can work from anywhere as long as we have internet connection. I can view their progress from the parent account as well. This helps me to see where they might be struggling, and what we need to spend our time on. The Family Math Package includes up to 10 students accounts, which is perfect for Pandemic Pods or an entire family. It includes 7 different grade levels (1st-6th, Pre-Algebra) which gives you an option to place each child in a desired grade level and even change the grade level when ready. This curriculum includes video lessons, interactive review, practice worksheets, chapter tests, step-by-step solution to each problem, easy to read progress reports, automatic grading & tracking, eBooks (lessons, worksheets, chapter tests, solution guides) and much more.

I hope enjoy this program as much as my kids and I do! It has been a great addition (ha! get it?) to our weekly math routine. It fits in seamlessly to what were already doing, and my kids as to do this program literally every day. You can check it out for yourself and try one month free at https://www.aplustutorsoft.com/freestuff/family-math-package . USE MY CODE: EMILY20 AT CHECK OUT FOR 20% OFF THE FAMILY MATH PACKAGE

Help! My Kids Don’t Like Books

Help! My Kids Don’t Like Books

Sometimes you have a child who just loves and loves to look at books. But what if your child doesn’t want to be read to or read a story before bed time? How can we as parents cultivate a love for books? The stress on parents to get their kids reading and reading early is strong. So often we here about little Susie who is reading beginning chapter books by age 4, but we never really hear about little Janie who can build an elaborate block city, or little Stevie who is unbelievably kind and empathic with his friends. All of these things are equally important for child development, but somewhere along the way reading got put on this pedestal. What I’m getting at is this, it is okay if your child doesn’t naturally love books. The best part is that there are things you can do to actually encourage a love of reading.

Spoiler alert, I’m writing this post as a parent who has a reluctant reader. Learning to read is just harder for her than other subjects. It’s not a bad thing; it just is what it is. But I want her to LOVE reading. I grew up seeing my parents devour books, so reading as a hobby was never a foreign concept for me. So that is step one. If we want our kids to enjoy reading, then they need to see us enjoying reading. Mama, when was the last time you read a book for pleasure? Probably quite some time, especially if you’re in the early baby and toddler years. But, this is an important thing we can model for our children.

The second step for encouraging a love for reading in our kids is audiobooks. Seriously, listening to audiobooks in the car is what sparked my child’s interest is even listening to stories. I can’t thank Junie B. Jones enough! (These are good books for the car because there is a lot of funny dialogue) Another wonderful resource for audiobooks is Epic! (Read the best books for early readers on Epic!). Epic! is an app used in homes and schools all over. You’ve probably heard of it. I like that I can tailor each of my kid’s profiles to their interest and reading level. For example, my pre-readers have all read-a-loud books to choose from, and my early reader has a mix of read-a-louds and age level books. We have independent reading time as part of our homeschool, and Epic! is always a popular choice. I feel like audiobooks has been such a great jump start to their love of stories, and it’s not something I see talked about very much.

Lastly, it is so important to set appropriate expectations. I’ve seen conversations in the homeschool community especially, saying that we need to be reading these long classic books to our young elementary school aged kids. And yes, I totally get it. I want to read Little House and Charlotte’s Web too. But, also, it’s fine if your kid isn’t ready for that just yet. Meet them where they are at first, then slowly build. For us, that meant reading some Shimmer and Shine books that basically retold a TV episode they’d seen. So, what? It was a book they were excited about, and excitement was my goal. They’ve since built up their reading stamina, and now ask for more complex storylines.

Developing a love of reading a books takes time. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. We did audiobooks for probably a year before my kids started showing an interest in hard copy books at home. And that is a-okay by me, because now I’m seeing them consistently excited when we sit down and read together. They shout “more! more!” when I tell them that’s all for today. So, turn off the noise and pressure you might be feeling from seeing what other kids are doing. Turn your attention to your sweet little ones and meet them right where they’re at.

Below, you will find a list of books my kids have loved:

Owl Diaries https://amzn.to/3iPPtnC

Zoey and Sassafras: Dragons and Marshmallows https://amzn.to/3jUDwOF

Greetings from Somewhere https://amzn.to/373Nlq9

Tum Tum and Nutmeg: Adventures Beyond Nutmouse Hall https://amzn.to/36WyxJN

Junie B. Jones Books 1-4 https://amzn.to/3nK03Ac

Living in Zones

Living in Zones

Do you ever feel like there are people and things all over your house all the time? I think this is so common, especially when you have kids. It’s exasperated when you are homeschooling, therefore actually using your house each and every day. Toys migrate from the play room to the living room to the bedroom to even the bath tub. By the end of summer, I’d had enough of this mess, literally and figuratively. I decided to create zones for my kids and myself in our home.

I forget where I first heard of turning your space into zones, but I was re-inspired when Erin from Cotton Stem (@cottonstem) made a little book corner in her kids’ bedroom. I thought, “Wow, I can do that!”. And I did. I went around my house and grabbed my son’s Anywhere Chair, a cozy blanket my kids love, an extra end table we randomly had, the basket of books which was not getting read in our playroom, and voila! We had our own reading corner in the upstairs loft. We named it the Book Nook, and it is now where my big kids do their independent reading each day. They LOVE it, and they are actually reading the forgotten books formerly in the playroom.

With the success of the Book Nook, I started looking for other ways to implement zones to bring some order and use spaces more effectively. We have a large loft area upstairs that wasn’t really being utilized. I decided to take this space that now had the book corner and divide it into more zones. I moved a desk that was in my daughter’s room (it was only storing doll clothes) to the loft. I found a lamp and a globe. BOOM! A zone for school work during the day, when someone needs to move to a quiet space. I moved our keyboard to the same wall as the desk to be included in the “school zone,” since the kids take online piano lessons.

Next, I placed the TV and foam cushion couch together to create a “lounging zone”. The TV cabinet now stores our LEGOs, so these are out of the kid’s bedrooms. The TV actually doesn’t get watched much, but the foam cushion couch is used a lot in the next zone. It is this cool thing that comes in multiple pieces. You can have it together as a couch, or you can take it apart and create all kids of things. Forts and obstacle courses are favorites for my kids (nuggetcomfort.com).

That leads me to the last zone I created in our loft. The “gross motor” zone. This is the biggest zone. I have a toddler trampoline in a corner that I was able to get secondhand. I bought a sensory swing to hang from the ceiling, and then the Nugget couch is right there to be pulled over and turned into something new. I also added the little toddler slide from the backyard. It was important to have a gross motor zone where the kids can play rough and get their wiggles out. We live in the Midwest, and the days are coming when it will be too cold to play outside. Our typical indoor playgrounds are closed because of the pandemic. Having this play space is essential, and it’s already getting used.

I know not everyone has a large unused loft in their home. But the idea behind creating zones is to use the little corners and nooks you do have, and turn them into a special place for your kids to go. Maybe it’s setting aside the end of your kitchen table and leaving out crafting supplies, or trays and tubs of playdough the kids can access on their own. Maybe it’s taking that kids table that isn’t really getting used anymore and turning it into a board game table. Maybe you need a “mom zone” to keep your calendar, file mail, and meal plan. I created my “mom zone” in our kitchen, and it is so nice to have all my things in one place. Assess what’s not working or take a space that isn’t being used efficiently and let your imagination flourish. Take a look around and share what you come up with!

Below are links to some things that we have in our zones, but don’t feel like you have to buy a bunch of stuff. Shop your house first, then see where you need to fill in the blanks.

Toddler Slide: https://amzn.to/308IO1h

Indoor Sensory Swing: https://amzn.to/3mX3jaT

Toddler Trampoline: https://amzn.to/2G88owz

Toddler Chair: https://amzn.to/30gEcX0

Counter/Desk Organizer: https://amzn.to/3cyXN9M

Intentional Days

Intentional Days

Hey there mama, how are you? The seasons are changing. Can you feel it? Fall and pumpkin spice are in the air. Crunching leaves are beneath your feet. I love fall so much, but any change of seasons is a special time. It’s a time to reflect on the months previous and be grateful for lessons learned. Now, I realize those lessons might have been taught through hard and stressful days, but lessons they were none the less. For example, I learned that I need to include things that I want for lunches during the week into my grocery shopping. I mean, I can only eat a PB&J so many times, unlike my children who are content to relish it daily.

Fall not only brings about a change in the weather, it almost always brings a change to schedules and routines. Kids are returning to school (however new and odd that looks this year #2020). Even if you homeschool, days are able to be filled with more time outside and seasonal experiences. Last week, I shared about how to plan and live intentionally with the big things in life, whatever that is for you. You can read about that here: https://intentionallywell.org/2020/09/07/living-intentionally-well/ But today, I want to talk about how to plan for and have intentional days with the little mundane things.

Now, I’m not saying I am perfect by any means, but when I intentionally make a plan for my week, my day to day life is much less stressful. I’m not talking about big abstract things, I am talking about things like menu planning, lesson planning, and schedule planning. Yep, it seems simple, right? It is. But this is something I have found takes a real discipline to stay committed to. It’s easy to fall into the cycle of waking up Monday morning and thinking, “Oh, shoot! What do I have going on this week?”. Then having to quickly spend rushed mental energy trying to remember all.the.things. It is much easier to take some time on Friday afternoon and peacefully make a game plan (plan of attack) for the following week. Warm up that left over cup of coffee you never finished and stick the kids in front of the tv (no shame!) and let’s make a plan!

Here’s a random fact about me. I love office supplies. Put me in an Office Depot, and I will be content for hours. However, as much as I love paper planners and stickers and pretty pens, don’t fall into the trap of feeling like you have to have the perfect tools to plan your week well. You don’t. Also, don’t think the way you plan for your family has to look like the way I plan for my family. We all have different needs and focuses. This year, I have been using a daily planner. It has been okay, but I really miss having a weekly set up. So, I’ll be switching back to that next year. You might prefer to use a monthly calendar. Or just recycle the back of that mile long CVS receipt. What ever works for you!

So, what does the process look like for me? Well, when I am really on top of my game, hubby and I have a “calendar meeting,” where we take fifteen minutes to discuss any appointments we having coming up and who is taking who to various sports activities. Then, I write out any other commitments I have with the kids. Do we have a play date this week? Are we going to have a movie night? Write it down. All of it. Next comes menu planning. This is best done at home, before you are actually at the the grocery store, ha. Typically, I will look over our nights and decide which nights I need to prepare dinner early (sports’ practice night), which nights need to be a quick and easy dinner (nights when I’m working), and which nights I can cook a full meal. Next, I will go to the pantry and freezer and see what we already have on hand, and I will try to form my weekly dinner menu around that. This helps our grocery budget as well. I do all of this on Fridays. That is what is working for us now in this season.

So, at this point, I have schedules, activities, and meals planned. The only thing left for me to do is make our homeschool lesson plans. If I am being transparent, this is something I am still trying to hone in on. Because this is our first full semester homeschooling, I still feel like our lessons are a lot of trial and error. And that is ok! It took time for me to develop a weekly planning method that worked well for schedules, activities, and meals. It takes practice, and it’s okay if it takes you time as well. But the reward is so great. Six days a week, I don’t have to spend mental energy deciding what we are going to have for dinner. It’s not a surprise when I get a reminder text about an upcoming appointment, and my kids feel valued because I didn’t forget that I told them they could stay up late one night and watch a movie. Totally worth it.

What about you? Do you have a method for planning your days? Tell me about it in the comments below.

Living Intentionally Well

Living Intentionally Well

I’ve spent the last two weeks thinking some deep thoughts. Thoughts about expectations I’ve placed on myself and making adjustments. You see, about three week ago, I found myself stretched to the max. We were still trying to find our rhythm with homeschooling, my husband’s work schedule shifted (again), my two oldest children started [separate] sports, and apparently there is a lot to growing a blog from the ground up. My brain was fried. I felt like I was juggling 15,000 balls in the air. It was all too much. I had to take a beat and remind myself on what was important. Now granted, when looking at that list, these things are ALL important. But, I needed to take some time to plan, focus, and reevaluate where I was spending my mental energy. You see, my little corner of the internet here is called Intentionally Well because I believe it is of the upmost importance that we live our days on purpose with a purpose. Our days are numbered. They are limited. I want to spend mine well.

On this quest of intentionality, I’ve learned something. You have to be intentional about being intentional. It seems redundant, doesn’t it? I know, I know, but go with me here. Our lives are not static. Things change (hello 2020!). Schedules, routines, seasons, etc., it’s always shifting. I find that my brain can handle some minor shifting and take it in stride. But after a while, I feel like I’m swimming in a deep sea while just trying to stay afloat. And that, sweet friend, is not a place that I like to be. Do you? Therefore, it makes sense that we need to be consistently evaluating our circumstances to know where we need to put our time and energy. Notice I said constantly, not continually. When you do this well, it won’t need need to be something that you have to dwell on daily. You’ll already know what’s important and where you need to spend your time. You’ll be able to focus on what really matters, and let everything else fade to the background.

So, how exactly do we do this? I like to take myself on a little date with my planner and calendar at the end of each month. I go to lunch or a coffee shop alone and spend time taking inventory of what is happening in my family and what we have coming up. I consider how things are going and what needs tweaking. If my schedule doesn’t have room for my little date, then I’ll spend some time planning after the kids are in bed. But, friend, there is something so relaxing about getting out of your every day environment. It is SO much easier to focus when that pile of laundry isn’t staring at you in your peripheral vision. I find that monthly planning is what works best for me, but you might find weekly or quarterly is better for you. The frequency isn’t as important as the consistency, which then develops into a habit. Now, I am not talking about a daily to do list or things like my homeschooling lesson plans. I am talking about planning things like family time, how I am going to grow in my relationship with the Lord, what needs focus in my marriage, what needs changing so I am living my life from a place of rest. Big things. Important things that if we aren’t intentional about will slowly disintegrate if left unattended.

I have been doing intentional planning like this for about two years. I know it works and is beneficial. But I’ll be honest, it’s been harder this year. 2020….there really aren’t enough or adequate words to brush the surface of what this year has been like for all of us. Putting it lightly, it’s been hard. Some months, I have been on it. Like planning and intentionality to the tee. Then other months, like last month, I’ve rushed it. I always pay for it. But that’s ok. Remember, it’s the consistency that matters. We don’t have to do life perfectly to do life well. So, I’m pausing and evaluating what and where to spend my time. And you can to!

Do you plan out the big things in life? How do you live intentionally in the season you’re in? Let me know in the comments below.

Phonics: Teaching My Kids to Read

Phonics: Teaching My Kids to Read

Abeka. It’s one of the most widely known curricula. It’s used extensively in the homeschool community as well as traditional schools. When we decided to homeschool, I knew Abeka was going to be one of our resources. Teaching our kids to read can be one of the most overwhelming this about homeschooling. It was to me at least. This was heightened by the fact that one of my children was struggling with their phonics, but I was told over and over again how great Abeka would be for that.

And it’s true. Abeka has a strong phonics based Language Arts approach. So, I bought some of the workbooks and flash cards. I chose not to buy the complete Language Arts bundle, because I didn’t think we needed it all and it overwhelmed me. I definitely wouldn’t put them in the “budget friendly” category, but every product is bright, colorful, and has excellent quality. Because Abeka has such a traditional approach, I knew I didn’t want to use it for every subject all the things. We are in the eclectic lane of homeschooling, but I do try to limit the amount of worksheets my kids have to do.

First the pros. My kids are learning. My struggling reader has learned confidence in herself. She’s gained patience to sound out words, and she has already progressed to the next reading level. I am so thrilled with her progress, especially since we had to start from the beginning (she was previously being taught a whole language approach in public school). Also, my new reader is actively and steadily learning her phonics. She has just started reading level A books, which is so fun. And, her favorite thing in our homeschool is her letter sound book.

Ok, now the cons. Despite all the progress my kids have made, I just don’t love it. It’s repetitive and boring, especially for my oldest. She basically has to complete the same worksheet every day, just with new information switched out. There is a lot of testing. Like weekly. We don’t even do the tests, because I already know how my kids are preforming. Also, it’s important to know that Abeka is basically a grade level ahead of public school. Because my oldest came right out of public school, she is having to do first grade work in Abeka, even though she is in second grade. She doesn’t really have an issue with this because I explained to her why, but I know things like that can be upsetting for some children. Abeka also moves through material very quickly. Our math curriculum is very traditional as well, and two traditionally taught subjects seems to be too many worksheets for our family.

Right now, my plan is for us to complete the Abeka materials I’ve already purchased. However, I will to switch to another phonics based Language Arts program once we are finished with it. All in all, I don’t regret reaching for and trying out Abeka for our Language Arts. It’s helped my kids learn and progress. It was so nice having an “open and go” option when we were first making the switch to homeschooling from public school. But, it’s not something that will work for my kids long term, and I am happy there are so many other options out there.

Tell me, that are you using for Language Arts this year? Have you ever started a curriculum, then decided it wasn’t the best fit? Tell me about it in the comments below.

Helpful Links:

Our Favorite Early Readers: https://amzn.to/3aSXntY

Read About Our Math Curriculum here: https://intentionallywell.org/2020/08/19/math-love-it-or-hate-it/

Math: Love It or Hate It?

Math: Love It or Hate It?

Either way, we have to teach it. Hopefully, we can teach our kids not to hate it. I actually really enjoyed math in school. It was my favorite subject. Side note: I’m a child of a math teacher…so maybe it’s genetics? Math made sense to me. It was like solving puzzles, and my Type A personality savored the fact that there is always a right answer. I’d probably still do Algebra problems for fun. Joking, not joking!

When it came time to choose a math curriculum for my early elementary aged kids, I was here for it! However, I became quickly overwhelmed. There are a LOT of choices out there, and there are a lot of different methods for teaching math to kids. I googled, I polled Facebook groups, I asked friends what they were using, and so on. A few curricula were mentioned over and over again, so I did a deep dive.

I was all set to spend a bunch of money on a super trendy program. It looked so fun, but I hesitated. It was a really expensive curriculum, and I was having to make a choice with never seeing the books in person. I decided to poll my homeschool mommy friends one more time. See, I already learned math. I am good at it, and I one hundred percent did not want to have to learn new methods for myself. I wanted a curriculum that taught to “carry the one” in addition. Did you know that’s not taught in public schools anymore?? At least it’s not in our’s. So, come to find out, the curriculum I was about to buy did not teach the 90’s way of math I was looking for.

When I told my homeschool community exactly what I was looking for in a math curriculum, I had one sweet mama recommend Christian Light Education. It is definitely in the Traditional category of homeschooling. You can tell parent book is made for a teacher in the classroom setting. But for math, I feel like that is okay. We don’t need a lot of fluff. Best of all, my kids are learning to carry the one! Added bonus: this curriculum is pretty budget friendly, which is so nice when having to buy for multiple grades.

I can only speak to their math program, but Christian Light Education is simple and straight forward and has a spiral approach. This means that the child learns a new skill with the parent, then reviews previously learned skills independently each day. There are ten units per grade level, and each unit includes quizzes and a test. We use these just as an indicator as to what we need to continue to work on. There isn’t a dedicated Kindergarten math level with this company. It starts in grade one, so your child has to have a basic knowledge of numbers and counting. My kindergartener learned a lot of basics in preschool, so I felt comfortable starting her in grade one for math. She has done really well with it. My second grader is right on schedule with grade two, and she tells me that math is her favorite subject. She especially loves the Speed Drills. Child after my own heart!

Helpful Links:

Christian Light Education Website: https://www.clp.org/store/browse/31_curriculum

Math materials we use:

Unifix Cubes: https://amzn.to/2Q6pYlP

Unit Books Organizer: https://amzn.to/2EjXouz

Learning Clock: https://amzn.to/3hcjhuv

Play Money: https://amzn.to/3iWWCTz

Rulers: https://amzn.to/31cPMU1 and https://amzn.to/34dhbXE

**Some links are affiliates which helps to support my little passion blog here at Intentionally Well. Thank you for your support**

Having a World View

Having a World View

When we first decided to homeschool back in January of 2020, I did what any mom would do. I joined as many local homeschool Facebook groups as I could, so that I could learn all the things from other moms who were actually doing the things. It was in one of these groups where I first heard about the curriculum I want to talk to you about today. It’s called Torchlight, and it is our social studies and geography curriculum. Guys, I love this thing so much. It’s my favorite thing we do, and I am learning just as much as the kids are some weeks. What’s that? You’ve never heard of Torchlight? I’m not surprised. It seems to be a newer curriculum, that is also secular. Let me tell you about it.

Torchlight is in the Charlotte Mason lane. You learn through books. The author (a homeschooling mom!) grew up reading with a flashlight (torchlight) under the covers every night after she was supposed to be asleep. Her heart is for kids to love books. This is what first peeked my interest. I want my kids to love reading. Up until earlier this year, books have kind of been take it or leave it for them. That broke my heart, because I love reading, and I want my kids to also love reading. The next thing that got me really excited about this curriculum was that it covered everything except math and language arts. That meant I could use the same level for both of my children, even though they are two grades apart. Torchlight covers literature, science, geography, cultural studies, and art. We are nine weeks into using the curriculum and have decided to not use the science aspect, but that is only because my kids had some specific unit studies they wanted to do (more on that later).

Let’s talk about the geography and cultural studies aspect of this curriculum, because that is what sealed the deal for me. When looking at other curricula, I honestly found a lot of them to be very ethnocentric and white washed. I don’t mean that to sound harsh, but it is just a fact. And let me be clear, I do not judge anyone for choosing a different program for their kids. Seriously. We all have our own priorities, and different things are important to different people. This is something that is important to our family. It is important to us that our kids realize that we live in a great big world with billions of people who all live and believe differently. For example, when we learned about the formation of Central Park in New York, we also learned about Seneca Village. Have you ever heard of it? I definitely hadn’t. When we learned about Nepal and Bangladesh, we read a story about a little girl who worked and saved all her money to buy an oil lamp for her home, because her family didn’t have electricity.

I chose to do Level K with my kindergartener and second grader. Torchlight tends to run older in its themes and books, so this is a really great fit. I can scale things up and down as needed for each child very easily. For Level K, we learn about a different country or small group of countries each week. Last week, we learned about Congo (DRC), Zimbabwe, and Zambia. We read various books about the country and its people. We also do an art project and read a piece of literature, usually an early chapter book. It has been so.much.fun.! Next year we will start learning ancient history with Level 1. I really like the idea of teaching to have a world view, then diving into the actual history of the world.

The fact that Torchlight is a secular curriculum is a nonissue for us. Before homeschooling, our kids were enrolled in public school where they were receiving a secular education. We are also doing our own Bible routine, which you can read about here: https://intentionallywell.org/2020/08/12/our-bible-curriculum/

If you are interested in Torchlight, you can check it out here: https://torchlightcurriculum.com/torchlight/

Here in the inflatable globe (aka space saving and cost effective globe) we are using: https://amzn.to/2DYHZjF

**Some links are affiliates which helps to support my little passion blog here at Intentionally Well. Thank you for your support**

Our Bible Curriculum

Our Bible Curriculum

I use the word curriculum loosely here. The word routine might be more appropriate. However you phrase it, I want to share what we are doing for our Bible lessons in our homeschool this year. Our faith is part of our daily life. We are a Christian family, and my husband is actually in vocational ministry. We talk about God and the Good News in our daily life often. With that said, I have chosen to do some intentional instruction on the Bible this year. My school aged kids are still young, being only in second grade and kindergarten, so I really wanted to take that into consideration when deciding what our goals would be. I decided that rather than focus on scripture memorization, I wanted my kids to learn the narrative of the Bible. I wanted them to learn and have a better understanding of the people and stories of the Bible, and how they reveal God’s love for us.

I am using a children’s Bible as our main source to accomplish this. About 3 mornings a week, we read a selection out of The Big Picture Storybook Bible (linked here: https://amzn.to/31wJgpK ). Guys, I love this children’s bible so much. Each story is so beautifully and clearly written on a child’s level without sounding babyish. The corresponding chapter and verses are always given if you want to go even deep with your learner. At the end of each story, there is a section called Christ Connection, and this is where the story (whether taken from the Old or New Testament) is brought back to Jesus and the gospel. Lastly, the passage ends with a comprehension question for the learner. This bible isn’t particularly meant for schooling, but it so beautifully serves that purpose for our family.

This set up has worked really nicely with my girls. The “lessons” are short and engaging but also very meaningful. We are focusing on the New Testament for this fall semester. We are going to learn all about the life and work of Jesus, which will culminate with celebrating His birthday at Christmas.

Also, can I just say how much I miss in person church?! Man….anyone else? Okay, thanks. I just needed to put that somewhere.

**Links are affiliates which helps to support my little passion blog here at Intentionally Well. Thank you for your support**