Essentials for a Homeschooler’s Day Outside

Essentials for a Homeschooler’s Day Outside

Although homeschooling enables personalized learning wherein parents adapt to their children’s abilities, it does leave much to be desired in terms of outdoor experiences. Homeschool children need to spend time outside. Outdoor environments promote healthy emotional, physical, and social development. In a study on the importance of outdoor activities, Janet Loebach suggests that being outdoors creates diverse opportunities for unstructured play as well, which stimulates a kid’s creativity and problem-solving skills.

Outdoor environments encourage exploration and independence in children. From equipment for park strolls to museum dates, here are essentials you should pack for your homeschooler’s day outside:

1. Spare clothes

Indoors, you don’t have to worry as much about soiled clothes, especially not when your child’s closet is only a few steps away. However, unforeseen weather conditions or accidents can result in messy clothing when you’re taking your homeschooler outside. Before heading out, pack a change of clothes with you. We also recommend checking the weather forecast for rain later in the day. This way, you can come prepared and bring a raincoat or a warmer jacket to prevent your kid from getting sick. After all, catching a cold can put a damper on your fun learning trip outside.

2. Stroller

With young homeschoolers, carrying a stroller is best if you plan on taking them to sprawling places such as parks or planetariums. As the iCandy strollers prove, they allow you to stay mobile for a day of play and learning. If you’re worried about transporting the stroller, don’t be. Today, strollers come with car seat adaptors and seamlessly convert to a complete travel system, allowing you to use them with your car seat rig. If you have a packed itinerary that entails flitting from one museum to another, rest assured a stroller’s your best bet in ensuring a smooth trip.

3. Picnic Necessities

Taking your kids out for a picnic is a novel experience, especially when their lunch breaks are regularly taken inside the house. Eating outdoors can provide a much-needed break and change of scenery to your homeschool day. We recommend making an event out of the picnic, even if you only head out to your backyard or nearby park. Pack paper plates and plastic utensils, paper towels, and a picnic blanket alongside an insulated picnic bag and your kid’s favorite snacks. You can get all these from REI, a brand that offers an assortment of picnic tools, such as lightweight blankets that are resistant to the elements. All that’s left is to relax with your curious student as you help them identify different cloud formations in the sky.

4. Art Supplies

In our previous post ‘Summer Activities Your Kids Will Love’, we shared how kids enjoy using paint brushes to create different shapes on the sidewalk (yes, even with just water). Although art activities are easy to implement into your homeschool day, being outdoors exposes your children to new sights. To nurture their creativity, equip them with a small sketchbook and a set of colored pencils the next time you visit a park. It’ll be interesting to see them sketch several bird species or various colored flowers on paper. While these are objects you can show through books or on a screen, nothing beats seeing and capturing them in the flesh.

5. Game Equipment

A day out can be an opportunity for active play. When you take your kids outside, bring game equipment, such as jump ropes, hula hoops, or balls, with you. Ball play, for example, would entail bouncing, catching, dribbling, and throwing items. In an article on motor performance, Bouwien Smits-Engelsman explains how ball skills help build balance, problem-solving skills, and spatial awareness skills in children. To maximize your homeschooler’s day out, have exciting and educational game equipment on hand. This way, they can stretch their limbs as they learn a thing or two about hand-eye coordination.

Homeschool Preschool Essentials

Homeschool Preschool Essentials

I am here to share with you what I consider to be homeschool preschool essentials. The pressure to buy all the things is strong when your kids are young, and they are just beginning their homeschool journey. I am a former preschool teacher, and I also operate within a real life budget.

My youngest child was in a Mother’s Day out preschool when we decided to start homeschooling. We decided to keep him enrolled, even though I would be teaching my older children at home. However, this year he will be home full time with us. I am so excited! He will be in pre-k, which is the last year of preschool. Because he is my last child, I do not want to spend a lot of money on things we will only use for a short time. So, I am sharing with you what I consider to be homeschool preschool essentials.

Essentials You’ll Use for Years

Table top easels are great because they take up less space and can easily be stored. I love easel work because it hits so many learning points for preschoolers. For example, did you know that easel work teaches pre-writing skills by encouraging top/down hand motions?

This marble run kit is a favorite for all three of my kids! However, I plan to utilize it most for our preschool. So much STEAM activity is involved in planning and building these structures. And preschoolers LOVE it when they finally get to release the marbles down their creations. 

This set of gears provides another opportunity for planning and creating with a big reward of action at the end. We work on building gears on the flat surface first, then we start working on vertical structures. 

I love this dinosaur balancing game. This kit works on proprioception skills as well as fine motor movements. Start with the animals on a flat surface, then work up to using the included curved base. My preschooler also really enjoys doing pretend play with this toy.

I love these blocks so much. I had them in my classroom when I taught preschool. Every piece is the exact same size and weight. That might sound boring, but it actually fuels creativity. Because all the blocks are equal, it makes it easy to build amazing structures that are stable and don’t fall over easily. 

Essentials for Arts and Crafts

I’ve said it before, and I will say it again. I am not a crafty mom. When I taught preschool, my co-teacher did all the arts and crafts, because I just didn’t enjoy it. However, they are SO important for preschoolers. Crafts provide opportunities for so much exploration and learning, so of course I will be doing all the crafting with my preschooler this year. Below are a few things I consider to be important to always have on hand, but might not be obvious. Additionally, most of these products can be used in other subjects as well, such as math and science.

These Dot Markers were a last minute addition to my homeschool preschool essentials, but I am so glad I bought them. They are easy to hold for kids who might not have a great pincer grip yet, and they practice the handwriting skill of using appropriate pressure. Use these to create artwork, or you can use them to learn all about patterns in math.

Everyone knows about construction paper, but using cardstock paper is really great for preschoolers. Cardstock is, of course, thicker than construction paper. This means when your child uses 10x the amount of glue necessary, the paper won’t tear as easily. The same is also true when your little one colors with markers in the same spot a little too much. Cardstock is also great to build on established hand strengthening skills like folding, tearing, and cutting.

If your preschooler is still struggling with their pincer grip, triangle crayons are awesome. They encourage proper grip, which means you’re having to correct your child less. Added bonus is these crayons won’t roll off the table. 

Essentials for Sensory Play

Finally, we need to talk about the importance of sensory play. My preschooler has ADHD, and he needs sensory input throughout the day. Even if your child is not neurodivergent, sensory play is essential for early learning. It fuels learning and curiosity for preschoolers (and all children, honestly). Below are things that I have on hand for sensory play at all times.

Last year I added a fidget station to our homeschool, and it was such a huge hit. Every child has their own preferences with fidgets, so this kit provides a little bit of everything.

Any time I am talking about sensory needs and children, I share this vibrating cushion. It is probably what gets the most use, in our home, out of all our sensory tools. A child can sit on it, and it will automatically start vibrating. This provides LOADS of proprioception input. My preschooler likes to use this cushion during meal times, as well as when he is upset and needs help calming down. 

This Ikea Trofast storage bin is what I am using for a sensory box. It is big enough to provide enough room to play, but small enough to be practical. I also like how it can be used for water play. I switch up what is in here every week for my preschooler. For our first week of school, I put soapy water in it along with his little construction builder trucks. His activity was to wash and dry them. He loved it!

And there you have it! I wanted to keep this list sparse, containing only what I consider to be homeschool preschool essentials. You can always add more once you begin schooling and notice gaps. But this list will get you a great start to your homeschool journey! I would love to know what you think is a must have for homeschooling preschoolers. Also, make sure to share this post with your friends!

Open and Go Language Arts with Common Sense Press

Open and Go Language Arts with Common Sense Press

If you are looking for an open and go language arts curriculum, you HAVE to check out Common Sense Press. Common Sense Press is a Christian based curriculum that’s been providing homeschool materials since 1989. It all started with their Learning Language Arts Through Literature book, and I am SO happy to be able to share the LLATL Yellow Book with you today. The Yellow Book is designed for third grade.

Disclaimer: I received this product for free and was compensated for my time. My opinions are honest and true to my personal experience with this product.

Why Common Sense Press?

First, let me tell you more about Common Sense Press. There are so many open and go language arts curriculums on the market. It can be completely overwhelming trying to decide which one to use. What makes Common Sense Press special is its focus on classic literature. The Yellow Book is full of rich stories including Alice in Wonderland, The Jungle Book, The Tale of Benjamin Bunny, and more! There is such value in learning these stories that have been around for generations.

Additionally, Common Sense Press materials are:

  • Complete and require minimal planning on your part
  • Designed for students to work independently
  • Intentional and not reliant on busy work
  • Affordable
  • Easy to use, even for a first time homeschooler
  • Helpful and responsive customer service

 

The Yellow Book

Learning Literature Through Language Arts with Common Sense Press is an open and go curriculum designed for first grade through high school. Each grade is differentiated by color. The Yellow Book is meant for third grade. However, we all know sometimes a homeschool student’s age based grade and academic grade can be different. I really like how Common Sense Press uses the color method, because it takes away the pressure of “being on grade level”.

The Yellow Book includes 36 lessons divided into five days, to cover a full school year. You will cover literature, grammar, spelling, reading, critical thinking, cursive writing, and creative writing in this open and go language arts curriculum. Day one of each week introduces a literature passage, which will be the central theme. Furthermore, each week ends with a review activity. I really appreciate this, because it enables us parents to track how well our child is retaining the material. Assessments are also interwoven throughout the year. I know I always like to see the inside of curriculum books, so I’ve included pictures of a typical week below. Check out Lesson 20 from the Teacher Book!

Next, let’s look at the corresponding lesson in the Student Activity Book. Everything your student will work on for the week is in this workbook. Three cheers for less materials to keep track of!

Lesson 20

Final Thoughts

I really enjoyed exploring Common Sense Press and The Yellow Book. It is a great fit for third grade because it involves enough work to be challenging without becoming overwhelming. I love the focus on classic literature throughout the year. There is something so special about uniting generations old and new with stories. Common Sense Press provided an excellent and thorough education. Check out this open and go language arts curriculum today! Also, don’t forget to enter the GIVEAWAY in this post! And enjoy 15% off with code SUMMER2022, valid until 8/31/22.

TEACH: Creating Independently Responsible Learners by Dennis Dinoia

TEACH: Creating Independently Responsible Learners by Dennis Dinoia

I am so excited to share with you Dennis Dinoia’s new book, Teach: Creating Independently Responsible Learners. This book is THE great new resource for all homeschooling parents! We live in a world where any and all information is literally at our fingertips. It can be difficult to steer our children towards valuable information and teach them critical thinking skills. The topics and strategies discussed in this new book take on these challenges in a new and refreshing way.

Disclaimer: I received this product for free and was compensated for my time. My opinions are honest and true to my personal experience with this product.

Teach: Creating Independently Responsible Learners is available NOW!

The Inspiration for Teach

Teach: Creating Independently Responsible Learners begins with the author, Dennis Dinoia, sharing his background as a classroom educator. He shares the struggle he experienced getting his students to fully engage and care about their education. He often felt the information he taught went in one ear and out the other. We can definitely relate to this feeling as homeschooling parents! I know I can!!

Frustrated by this challenge, Dennis sought a solution. He realized if he had his students correct their own assignments, their grades actually improved. They retained information more effectively if they had more ownership of their work. Students also became more excited about learning. Of course, this is a goal for all parents and teachers.

When Dennis made the transition to the homeschool sector, he was able to apply the same techniques. He inspired parents to create learning environments where the child has a sense of ownership over their education. He terms this the independently responsible learner.

Practical Tips to Encourage Learning

Throughout the book, Dennis shares techniques and strategies you can apply to your homeschool to encourage independently responsible learning. One technique I really liked (and will be implementing) was in regard to vocabulary. The parent gives a list of words and has the student to discover the meanings for themselves. Then the student comes back and explains each word to the parent, essentially teaching the parent the vocabulary. What a great way to encourage independence and creativity!

Engaging and insightful, Teach is the a must read this summer!

Furthermore, Dennis provides so many real life examples and strategies. These are geared not only to the homeschooling parent but also the student. For example the chapters include:

  • Present yourself
  • Learning how to think
  • Do what you love to do
  • The parent is the coach
  • Goal setting (you know I love goal setting, mama)
Pin it!

My Thoughts on Teach: Creating Independently Responsible Learners

I have to be honest. I do not read a lot of advice giving nonfiction books. To me, they are often preachy or set too high a standard. I prefer to garner advice from others who have been there and done that to whatever I am seeking to learn about. But the beauty of this book is Dennis has BTDT! He is entrenched in the homeschooling community and passionate about supporting parents. Additionally, he has over 30 years of educational experience!

I knew I would love this book because I am such a fan of Dennis’s. Those of us familiar with his online homeschool classes and podcast affectionately call him Mr. D. And I was NOT disappointed. The practical and actionable tips in this book are sure to add value to your homeschool as you encourage independent learning. Get your Kindle copy of Teach for only $0.99!

Is Homeschool Science Lab Even Possible? Yes!

Is Homeschool Science Lab Even Possible? Yes!

Disclaimer: I was compensated for my time for this post. My opinions are honest and true to my personal experience with this product.

Science lab might be one of the most intimidating subjects to teach for a homeschool mom. Unless you were homeschooled yourself, your experience with science labs is the classroom model. How are you supposed to replicate that at home? The thought of all the equipment alone is enough to make you throw up your hands in defeat. And oh, the mess! I am not the “let’s get messy all over the kitchen” type of mom (and that is okay!).

Have no fear, friend. I am thrilled to introduce you to College Prep Science by Greg Landry. Greg is a former college professor and homeschool dad who has a deep love for science. He created College Prep Science to meet homeschool learners where they’re at and instill a love for science. A key feature of this platform is its virtual homeschool science lab. Also, stay tuned because I have a list full of freebies for you to take advantage of.

Middle and High School Science Labs

Even though my kids are still in elementary school, I get asked quite often how will I teach the upper grades. Some times I wonder myself! However, I am so glad that I now have this resource in my back pocket. College Prep Science offers a virtual homeschool science lab for biology/anatomy and physiology, chemistry, and physics. I really like how all of your middle and high schooler’s science labs can be done on one platform. Once your student learns how the virtual lab operates, they can then concentrate on the material at hand. Greg Landry also teaches note taking skills, which is very important if your student has higher education goals.

Your student will learn note taking along with other key skills.

How the Homeschool Science Lab Works

There are two ways to participate in this homeschool science lab. The first option is to enroll in a one week intensive taught by Greg Landry. This is a live 20-30 minute class where your student will complete a total of ten experiments. I love that the courses include so many experiments! Some state have requirements on what counts as a science lab class, and this intensive exceeds the typical requirement of six experiments. There are no prerequisites either, so you have flexibility as to when you want to complete the course based on your own homeschool calendar.

This is the virtual lab.
Everything you need for you lab is just a click away.

If the live intensive isn’t for you, your student has the option to enroll in a self-paced nine month family subscription. As a parent of two neurodivergent children, I love this option. If you know, you know. Our neurodivergent kids work at their own pace. So, it is a huge plus for me that there is this type of variability.

You, of course, have access to all the same subjects as if you were in the live intensive. However, instead of live classes, students will watch a video by Greg Landry, then head to the homeschool science lab and complete each experiment. Parents do not need to purchase any equipment. None, as in no mess! Just print the provided notes and you’re all set to begin the course. Furthermore, both of these options include information for transcripts.

My Final Thoughts

I think one of the hardest things about being a new(ish) homeschooling family is the overwhelm of all the resources available. It is maddening to sort through. Using tools created by people who are passionate about their products is really important to me. I think College Prep Science is a great option if you are looking for a no mess, user friendly, and highly educational homeschool science lab. And, Greg Landry is so passionate about equipping homeschooling families with great science education, that he has provided these freebies for you to take advantage of. I hope you enjoy them!