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Using Reading Eggs to Supplement Reading Practice

Disclaimer: I received these products for free in exchange for my review. I was not obligated to write a positive review. All opinions are mine.

We’re relaxed homeschoolers. We don’t follow a daily schedule or have checklists that need to be done every day. Instead, we read aloud, explore together, and chase our interests.

In things like reading and math, so much of what we do is based on context, and while that’s good, sometimes we need extra practice. As a former English teacher, I’m rather picky about what materials we use. This year, Reading Eggs came out with some great workbooks which were just what I was looking for, especially for my twins, who are almost five and starting kindergarten this year.

Why We Chose Reading Eggs

As I started thinking about my girls’ kindergarten year this year, I knew I wanted them to feel like they were discovering language and reading themselves, not overwhelming them with repetitive worksheets. We’ve been talking about sounds and words since they could talk, and they’re figuring it out, slowly but surely.

Since I have twins, and they both have different strengths, I was looking for something that could individualize practice without making them feel singled out. The app and online portion of Reading Eggs does just that. It’s fun, moves at their speed, has different options for activities, and doesn’t feel like repetitive worksheets.

The pages in the books are similar. I appreciate how clearly Reading Eggs has broken down reading into individual skills, so it’s easy to find which one to practice.

How We Use Reading Eggs Workbooks

My girls have most of their sounds and some sight words figured out already, so we don’t need to work through the books sequentially. Instead, as I notice that one of them is working on a particular skill but needs extra practice, we turn to the book. It’s well-organized, easily accessible, and I don’t have to scroll through pages of PDFs looking for the content I want. Who has time for that?!? (I don’t)

Beginning phonics
Kindergarten phonics practice

Using Reading Eggs and Mathseeds Online

We’re a family that limits our technology time – to less than 1/2 hour per day. It’s a personal choice, not a judgment, but when we do let our kids get on the computer or tablet, we want to know that what they’re doing is safe and meaningful.

I was impressed with the Parent Portal for Reading Eggs and Mathseeds for a few reasons.

  • It let me easily have an overview of all 3 of my children, what they’ve been doing and what progress they had made.
  • When my son (7) intentionally got questions wrong on a placement test, I was able to manually go in and override his placement. This is amazing. Or if my daughter has passed a level but a couple weeks later seems to be struggling again, I can manually take her back to that place and let her redo it.
  • While they earn points, it’s not overly “gamified”. Last year, my son tried another online math program, and he basically skipped the content to play the games. This one, the content is meaningful enough and presented in a way that he wants to try it. I was particularly impressed with how thorough their presentation of symmetry was. Kids have to get 7/10 correct to move on, but they push towards 100% mastery, which I think is great.

Overall, I know there are lots of great resources out there. It’s hard to know which one is best for your family. Reading Eggs is a solid program with both online and paper materials which correlate well together and are easy for a parent to navigate…. and the skills the kids are practicing are logical, thoughtful, and not tedious.

As a special bonus, Reading Eggs and Math Seeds are offering a free trial (4 weeks!) on their online learning platform, which can be accessed both on the computer and via the app store, interchangeably.

Discount offer: click here for a four week FREE TRIAL, which offers access to everything in the Reading Eggs Suite

  • Reading Eggs Junior: 2 – 4 years
  • Reading Eggs: 4 – 7 years
  • Reading Eggspress: 7 – 13 years
  • Mathseeds: 3 – 9 years

If you’re interested in the workbooks, use Promo Code WK105KZU7TE for 10% off both the Reading Eggs and Mathseeds Essential Skills Workbooks.

 

Get Out of Those Desks! Learning Can Happen Anywhere!

As a classroom teacher for 10 years, let me let you in on a little secret: classrooms are organized for the benefit of the teacher, not the students. When I taught a group of 35 10th graders, I needed to be able to move quickly through the space, have every student in my line of sight, and distribute papers and materials in a quick and organized fashion.

Because teaching high school English in 50 minute blocks required efficiency and organization, we sat in rows. I even created seating charts with the students’ faces on them to help substitutes know the kids weren’t playing tricks on them.

Homeschool, although still called school, should NOT seek to emulate a classroom designed for challenges that home environments simply do not share.

There is a Better Way

Schools have been recognizing that kids need to move, to use different muscle groups and to help them focus. They’ve been experimenting and innovating with flexible seating options, and while this is a great start, they still have the responsibility of keeping those kids confined to that room for the designated period of time.

Research has shown that students taking tests do better when they fidget, and even more recently, that the ADHD brain tells the body to move because it learns better when moving.

Desks or Tables only when Beneficial

Now, there are times that sitting at a desk or table can be helpful. Formal writing assignments, messy projects, certain art materials or games work better on a raised surface. Any kind of work with a toddler around …. needs to be out of said toddler’s reach.

Desks are convenient because they provide a clearly defined space, but they are not necessary. And we choose not to use them because we want our learning to be as natural as everything else we do, rather than compartmentalized into a specific space that separates it from the rest of life.

We learn in the car. In bed.

On a swing car in the gap between the kitchen and living room.

On the kitchen floor.

At the science center, the nature center, and wherever else our adventures may lead.

On the back deck, even with jackets on.

Our favorite spot is probably this couch.

We learn wherever we are, because learning is a natural, organic outgrowth of waking up in the morning, and we choose to celebrate that beautiful, often messy, truth.

A Lifestyle of Discovery: 3rd Grade Unschooling “Curriculum”

First, a definition:

Unschooling is, for our purposes, an educational philosophy of providing rich, engaging resources and support but allowing the child to set the pace and have significant control over what he wants to learn and how he chooses to pursue this learning.

All analogies fall apart eventually, but it’s like providing a rich buffet including some “make your own” stations instead of cafeteria-style menus with pre-prescribed options and portion sizes.

If you want to read more, Fearless Homeschool has a great write-up here.

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This year, I will have a 3rd grader and two preschool/kindergarteners in the house.

We live in New York State, which requires that we submit a curriculum plan (IHIP) before the start of the year.

The problem is: boxed, do-the-next-page curricula don’t work for us. Based on our kids, their learning styles, and our family rhythms we have chosen an eclectic, unschool-y approach. So far, it’s working pretty well.

My kids wake up ready to learn. They’re reading or exploring before breakfast. They’re asking questions in the car and at bedtime. We don’t have school hours as much as we have an ebb and flow of active and focused time.

It’s what works now. If (when) things change, we will adjust.

What we love:

Read-alouds

I love our library.

LOVE our library.

They’re amazing, and they make this homeschooling journey possible and affordable.

Instead of using a prescribed list, I’m constantly on the hunt for good literature. My son, J, has a very low tolerance for anything suspenseful, sad, or mean. He loves humorous, gentle stories.

We use Give Your Child the World and Read Aloud Revival for inspiration, and I’m constantly on the lookout for good, engaging, gentle stories.

Some of our most recent favorites have included

The Littles

Gooney Bird Greene (Kindle Edition currently free with Amazon Prime)

Curious McCarthy

Zoey & Sassafrass

Math

For the last couple of years, we’ve been using Life of Fred as a math resource. My son loves the books and devours them, but this summer we changed things up and tried Beast Academy.

With Life of Fred, J never wanted to stop and do the “Your Turn to Play” practice questions. With Beast Academy, he seems to enjoy the workbooks and want to complete the puzzles, so when he finishes his current book, he will “earn” the next series.

Gameschooling

We practice lots of skills using games. The kids go through phases about what they want to play, and we have learned not to push it. When they’re ready, they’re ready.

We love single player logic games like Kanoodle and Laser Maze.

We love the Gamewright card games like Sleeping Queens and Too Many Monkeys.

We love geography games like The Scrambled States of America and math games like Prime Climb.

We love language games like Scrabble, Apples to Apples (Kids), and Boggle.

Everything Else

Beyond that, we usually pick one skill to develop (typing, cursive, etc), while periodically remembering to practice the others. One of my hopes this year is to introduce piano and music reading. We tried last year, and he wasn’t ready, so we will try again.

We participate in German school, Sunday school, sports, play dates and field trips.

We have a small homeschool coop where we practice public speaking and collaboration/teamwork in a supportive environment.

We follow rabbit trails and dive deep into areas of interest (like chemistry).

We take care of the house, run errands, and practice kindness in our environment.

Because we don’t have a strict schedule, nice days are filled with beaches, parks, and watercolors on the back deck.

I keep a daily journal of what we’ve accomplished, and it continues to convince me that we’re on the right path. My kids love learning. They don’t dread “doing school”, any more than I regret going to a Thanksgiving dinner. Learning is an amazing feast, and our kids deserve a rich variety of high-quality fare.

Want to read about other experienced homeschoolers’ curriculum choices for this coming year? Check it out here!

IHN Linkup Image

5 Days of Asynchrony

About 2 years ago, I first stumbled across the term asynchronous, and in many ways, it felt like I had just stumbled upon a user’s manual for my son, who was five at the time.

Later this week, I’ll share some of my favorite links to other bloggers, educators, and researchers who gave helped to shape my understanding of asynchrony, but today, I get to tell my story.

Asynchrony is, in a nutshell, development outside of the expected developmental window. It’s usually a combination of really early and really late at the same time.

It means, in our case,

  • early reading but late collaborative play
  • early math but late physical coordination
  • early awareness of people’s emotions but late development of the maturity to deal with said emotions
  • early interest in and understanding of the world coupled with late development of the social skills that ease peer interactions

It’s not easy.

I’m not complaining. I’m grateful for J and who he is, and I’m especially grateful that I can homeschool him. Public school can be rough for asynchronous kids.

We tried it. He went to public school for kindergarten & first grade. It wasn’t an entirely negative experience, and we worked with some talented and dedicated educators along the way, but look at this:

A side-by-side comparison of what they did at school and what he was naturally drawn to at home.

There’s no judgement for the teachers intended in this picture. Their responsibility is to teach all the students, so of course they choose work that is accessible for most students, but my kid… he gets to twiddle his thumbs.

Meanwhile, he needs to spend time in small groups, interacting, playing, learning to trust his peers, but that’s not what the school had time for.

So we homeschool.

Here, we can spend 5 minutes on the multiplication tables and half an hour on shoe tying.

Here, we can set up play dates and small group interactions in a supported environment where he can practice those very important “soft” skills.

Here, he’s free to spend hours a day reading and learning about chemistry, rather than being told he can’t balance a chemical equation until 10th grade.

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And most importantly, here he isn’t constantly being told that there’s something wrong with him. He isn’t being compared to “normal” and being made (unintentionally) to feel like an outsider, just because his brain and body happen to be on a different timeline.

He’s celebrated for who he is, and we can always focus the next thing, regardless of what the developmental charts say we should be doing.

Come back tomorrow and the rest of the week for 4 more days of Asynchrony, how it plays out in our family, links to other resources, and maybe some helpful tips for you as well, if you’re in a similar boat.

And read more from other bloggers at the iHomeschool Network through the graphic below!

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Lessons in Adulting – Self Regulation

Self-regulation starts with self-awareness.

Have you ever thought about it?

We can’t ask ourselves or our kids to control that which they do not see, any more than we can ask a colorblind person to match the colors or someone listening to loud music to respond to verbal commands. It doesn’t work.

And yet, I have been guilty of expecting my kids to do just that. This last couple years, as we’ve come to understand more about our kids and how they tick, our approach has changed.

I am CRAZY proud of my sensory kids and how much more comfortable they’ve become with various sensory triggers. In the last year, we have learned to handle vacuum noises, air hand dryers, and blenders. We have been able to take our kids to the fireworks for the first time, and last month we actually took them to a live show — and had a great experience!

The secret?

Earmuffs. (aff. link on pic)

Crazy, right?

We went from full-on meltdowns to offers to help.

They ask to use the vacuum and to push buttons on the blender.

My kids now ask to use the hand dryers (one of the three still wants me to cover her ears, but she does it).

You know what changed? We started acknowledging our kids’ reactions as valid and giving them tools to self-regulate. We didn’t force them to stay next to the really loud sounds until they got over it – we gave them the earmuffs and space, and they approached us when we were ready.

A couple weeks ago, we went to a family acrobatics/juggling show. I had selected our seats carefully, and I packed the kids’ earmuffs. J, who is 7, didn’t use them. A & E both wore theirs part of the time, adjusting for themselves when they thought they needed it.

It gives them a modicum of control.

This year, a large part of our focus has been those Executive Functioning skills. the ability to plan, regulate, organize yourself in the day-to-day activities of life.

I’ve been working through

Smart but Scattered (aff)

And reading everything The OT Toolbox puts out about executive function, self-regulation.

We’ve been playing lots of board games, card games, and movement games (like Mother May I).

We’ve been talking about possible reactions to different scenarios, modeling having a choice of how we respond.

We’ve been strengthening pathways to the prefrontal cortex (the part of the brain where reason and logic lie).

And we’ve been listening to our kids – asking them to pay attention to their bodies and the signals they’re getting.

Just like awareness of toileting needs precedes toilet training, awareness of hunger precedes appropriate food portioning, awareness of time precedes activity planning, and more.

There’s a really good post by the Child & Nature Alliance of Canada that’s been going around about the phrase “be careful”. The thing is – so often, kids don’t know what we’re actually telling them to be careful of. They probably would be careful if they saw the danger as we do. We need to point out what in particular they should be aware of.

When I started Driver’s Ed, the teacher projected a slide. In it were various road hazards, cars on the road, cars waiting to turn, etc. He started calling us up, one by one, to point out what we thought we should be paying attention to. The answers were all over the place.

The exercise, though more than 20 years ago, made an impression on me, as I realized how we can only react to that of which we are aware.

That’s a gift we can give our kids, as well. We can recognize that they don’t see the world through our lenses (which is not necessarily a bad thing!), and that in order to make wise choices they first need to be able to see their options, and process them, in an environment that is safe, supportive, and not overwhelming.

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This post is the 2nd in a series I’m calling “Lessons in Adulting”. Click here to read the first installment!

 

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Stealth Spelling – Games to work on those crucial skills

Spelling. It’s important. Your entire life (until everything is voice to text automated), people will be judging you based on how well you can spell.

Some people excel at spelling. For others, it’s harder. But spelling lists are boring and drudgerous. Is there a better way?

The cool thing is that, in the early years especially, if we do activities with our kids that encourage them to look closely at letters and how they work together, especially in a non-threatening game format, we’ll be sharpening their spelling muscles and causing them to pay more attention to how words are spelled as they progress educationally.

Some of our favorite activities are

Crossword puzzles

Word searches

Scrabble (and Scrabble Junior)

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Bananagrams

Boggle (and Boggle Junior)

Spelling puzzles

Hangman

Jumbles

Apps: Endless Alphabet, Endless Reader

Websites: Spelling City, PBS Kids

This isn’t to say that spelling lists need to be banished. There can be a time and place for them too, but the more we train our kids to be aware of how things are spelled, the easier they will find the skills needed to learn and spell words correctly.

Your turn: how do you incorporate spelling into your routines in a fun and collaborative way?

 

THIS POST CONTAINS AFFILIATE LINKS. ANY LINKS TO RESOURCES ON THE AMAZON WEBSITE ARE PART OF THE AFFILIATE PROGRAM. WE ARE A PARTICIPANT IN THE AMAZON SERVICES LLC ASSOCIATES PROGRAM, AN AFFILIATE ADVERTISING PROGRAM DESIGNED TO PROVIDE A MEANS FOR US TO EARN FEES BY LINKING TO AMAZON.COM AND AFFILIATED SITES.

 

Homeschooling – 2 week update

We’re traveling a bunch in September, so I started counting and documenting our 180 days a couple weeks ago, just so we wouldn’t fall behind.

We haven’t actually cracked open a textbook, though. In fact, my kids have barely noticed a difference in their routines, because the reality is

When you engage your kids, every day is a homeschooling day.

I started sitting down in the afternoon and documenting what we’ve done that fits in various subject categories.


We’ve been busy. This creation led to a discussion of area, perimeter, patterns, and multiplication facts.. 

We’ve had lots of domino runs, towers, and chain reactions. These are so good for practicing find motor control, patience & resilience (when things accidentally fall).

We’ve been to the beach. A few times. Today we got to experience the tide coming in and filling the tidal pools, investigate the sea life, and watch the boats, as well as playground time too. Here, E declared that the birds were copying her.


We’ve done a few simple chemistry experiments, testing our hypotheses and asking follow-up questions. 


We’ve read. Lots of books. And created lots of mediocre artwork. And played games. 

We’ve been learning. Once our month of travel is over, we’ll settle into a regular routine and open those books, but this is good too.