Ways to Review Hands-On

So, we are working on American this year in our education: artists, geography, history sentences. We work with a group called Classical Conversations (more about CC another time) and we are working on Cycle 3: American. It is great to have a collective topic to learn and this is our second time through it, so we are adding in more and more background.

My boys learn best using kinesthetic methods (a fancy word for hands-on), so I tried to think of some things we could do to help them learn better. I came up with salt dough maps.

The recipe is easy: 1/2-3/4 cup water, 1 cup salt, 1 cup flour. (I used the cheapest flour & salt the store had since we won’t be eating it.) Mix in a big bowl–tada! It is done. 🙂

Following along with our American theme, we have been learning US geography. Our boys have learned the states and capitals as well as the major rivers, mountains, and prominent features. Go ahead, ask me where Mt. Mitchell is or where Pamlico Sound is. I am learning right along with them this year! The last time we went through this cycle was our first CC year, and I was a bit overwhelmed with three little ones and #4 on the way. This time I am taking advantage of their learning to learn it for myself. 🙂

So, yesterday we made the United States from salt dough. Each boy used a batch for themselves and then a batch split for the mountains. Cowboy made little balls and connected them, but Engineer just made “hot dogs” on top. They decided this time they would not draw the states with a toothpick. I was hoping at least someone would, but I did say that they could do it how they liked: adding states, mountains, rivers, trails, Great Lakes, and other features. We were able to talk about each state as we talked about the placement of the mountains. (Note to Moms: you must draw in the States, if you choose to or add the mountains BEFORE the dough dries unless you want to just paint them.)  My Engineer starting by drawing a map & the others soon followed his lead.

salt dough maps 3

salt dough maps 5salt dough maps 8

The boys found working adding dough around the edges & then working inward toward the center worked best. Maine was hardest!

We will add those features we have not yet covered as we do cover them in class. This has been a good review for us and we will get to review again as we add trails and deserts, prominent features and canals. We will use colors to differentiate locations/features as well as sticking on labels the boys make.

Here the Farmer is adding the space between Florida and Texas. I hope all those states will forgive us for recreating their borders!

Children learn in different ways. My four boys all seem to like to do things with their hands, so this is one way we can do that. We have a ways to go before these are completed but I thought I would share what we are doing to review and create a more hands-on way to learn.

Here the Engineer slowly adds states and the Farmer and Cowboy use toothpicks to get the edges “right.” We also used flat cups for rolling pins. Be sure your dough is not too thin as it will crack apart.

Here are our finished products for today:

We will paint and add to our maps but I thought this was a pretty good start! 🙂

Love Your Boys (no matter how they learn)! Blessings as we all continue to grow.

P.S. I know that sometimes we like to do review weeks (other than at the 6 week breaks) so I am adding this to the Halfahundredacrewood link-up page so others might use the idea. Enjoy!

Our Choice for our Boys: home education

The boys

I have often heard of others who talk of how they want their children to return to school after a break, how they cannot wait to have “their homes back” when their children get on the bus after a snow day (or several), how they could never do what I do and don’t have the patience or the education or the time…the list goes on… to be with their children more than they already are now.


Before you comment with mean things about why you think it is okay that you send your children to school, let me say it: it is okay that you send your children to school. But, may I also say, it is okay that I keep my children at home to educate them because it is NOT about me.  It is also not through my own power that I do it.  The boys miss each other and enjoy each other during the day. The Dancer could get used to the boys being gone, only seeing them for a bit after school (and homework and lessons) before bed. But why?  We want the boys to be friends with one another and love one another first, after God.

Let me say it though for all to hear read:

I do not have enough patience.

I am not educated enough: though I have a Bachelor of Arts in high school and middle school English Education and reading (read former high school and middle school English teacher), I do not know so many things the boys ask about daily.  My boys were the first I ever taught to read or count or add.  I feel I have a lack of knowledge on a regular basis.

I do not have time to myself  to read or go potty without interruption (Yes, this is an issue for me. Yes, it is a big deal. And yes, I know I mentioned it before), or write when I want, or even pray when I want to most days.

My days are currently dictated by others.  But, in many ways, is that not the definition of motherhood? We lay down our lives for our children every day. Moms whose children are educated outside the home do this too, but home educating moms do it to a greater extent because they are always WITH their children.  We give up our freedom, so that we can love these little men that the Lord has blessed us with for such a short season.  It is a blessing and a responsibility, and it truly is for such a short season.  The Lord will bless this time that I give to my sons to train, support, teach, and lead them.  But I know that it is not really me but Him. He is the trainer, support system, teacher, and leader they need. And, I need Him, too. He gives me the patience, the knowledge, the desire to learn, everything.  I can only educate my children at home because He gives me the strength to do it.

The Farmer and I chose to home educate our boys for academic reasons as well as other reasons. While we do not feel mandated by God to home educate our children, we do believe that He will bless this time we spend with them teaching and instructing them. This week alone we have been able to read the gospel accounts to the boys about Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection.  Their handwriting work has been passages that we read from those gospels.  We have also been able to work with them on memory work which included the three characteristics of light, the list of coordinating conjunctions, the commutative laws of addition & multiplication, and the geography of Central and south Central Americas. (Did I mention my oldest isn’t ten yet?! I never learned some of the things they are learning until I started teaching them.)  That isn’t even all of it that we did with Classical Conversations! (But that will have to be another post.)  We are choosing to classically educate our children at home, with the Lord’s help, because we believe it is the right thing to do.  It is our choice for our boys.  And, it is okay if it is not your choice for your boys.  Let me say it again, it is our choice, but it does not have to be your choice.

Not all families choose to home educate their children, but as parents, we have to stick together and not judge one another.  We have to respect the choices of others for the sake of our boys. When home educating parents see a family dropping off children at school or putting children on the bus, the home educating mom does not pull over to a stop and ask the other mom why she is doing so.  She does not ask a mom in the store where her children are and what they are learning at school that day.  She does not think poorly about the family that sends their children to school. Could the courtesy go both ways? Could a mom who sees a home educating family at Sam’s Club NOT ask why the children are there? Could she NOT ask what they are learning today? Could she NOT question them about the presidents or their math facts? We love all love our boys and are working to give them the best lives possible, in a school outside our home or in our living room. Let’s pray for one another and build one another up; we will all be stronger for the decision.

So the next time you see a passel of boys out while you are getting lunch in the middle of the day, it just might be us on a field trip. Instead of thinking, “Why are those boys out of school?”  Could you think instead, “I wonder what those boys are learning today?  I wonder what great things the Lord is teaching them through that mom right there (who does look a bit tired and sometimes a bit frazzled)?  Let me pray for her and her job of educating those men of tomorrow.”

I am taking time to pray for you and your family today. Please take a minute and pray for that mom and those boys or that family hanging out with the monsters.  😉  We all need it!

What do you think, could you do it?  Mikeandthefamily

Love your boys.