Minecraft Themed Addition Pages

My daughter absolutely loves Minecraft so earlier this summer I spent some time doodling on the computer and made a few characters she would enjoy!  I thought I’d share these addition pages with you today. As always, they are free to download, just click on the link or picture below:

Minecraft Addition Pages

If you use these, ED would love to hear from you (over at our Homeschool Den Facebook Page)!! She always asks if other kids are using “her” math sheets and stuff! Okay and so I admit it, I also like hear from you! :) ~Liesl

You might be interested in some of the other “themed” math worksheets I’ve made for the kids.  For example, here are some Pokemon Multiplication Pages.

But this post here as a LONG list of our free math worksheets: Math Worksheets, Game Boards, Lapbooks and More (all free).

See you again soon here or at our Homeschool Den Facebook Page!

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What About the Social Aspects of Homeschooling?

For so many of us who grew up attending public schools and being educated among same-age peers, there are real questions about the socialization of homeschooled kids. We remember sitting in classrooms packed with other children and truly wonder how homeschoolers will fill in that “void” of being with other children so many hours of the day.  As a homeschooling family, though, I was quick to realize that socialization is not an issue. Let me explain why…

Are homeschoolers isolated?

You would be surprised how many homeschoolers there are. The number is estimated as somewhere between 1.9 and 2.5 million according to Dr. Brian D. Ray, head of the nonprofit National Home Education Research Institute. To put that in perspective, that is the same number of kids as attend charter schools in the U.S.  Because of this, there are lots of homeschool opportunities:

We may be “home” schoolers but some of the best learning opportunities take place outside of the home!

Be sure to check out Homeschool Days at your local museum, historic sites, aquariums, zoos and elsewhere. For example, there are homeschool days at Mt. Vernon, Valley Forge, Gettysburg,. Biltmore. Williamsburg has two weeks of homeschool activities in September. There are outdoor homeschool programs at nature centers and environmental centers.  And though not necessarily educational, places like Disney World, Legoland, Silver Dollar City and Sea World have special homeschool days.

To be honest, we have to try to keep our schedule clear enough that we can get our academic work done!

How do homeschoolers learn to listen to a teacher or authority figure if they aren’t in (public) school?

Another underlying concern that comes from the “socialization” question is, if kids are not listening to a teacher all day, will they still have the same skills (listening to adults/authority, following directions and things like that).  If you think about a large classroom of kids, teachers definitely have their hands full keeping everyone on task.  In a homeschool setting, it is glaringly apparent when the kids are off-task, distracting a sibling or being disrespectful. In the homeschooling families I know, the parents are very involved and emphasize the social skills of good listening, being polite, using their manners, respecting and listening to others (adults or kids). We are able to address behaviors that are inappropriate simply because we are around them and monitoring them more. Does that mean my kids are perfect angels?  Absolutely not! But Hubby and I have helped them learn to be polite and respectful. Homeschooled kids are around adults during the course of a normal day and usually have coaches, teachers, adult friends and other adult mentors they interact with regularly.

I like this quote I found from Fine Homeschooling:

Dr. Raymond Moore, author of over 60 books and articles on human development has done extensive research on homeschooling and socialization. “The idea that children need to be around other youngsters in order to be socialized is perhaps the most dangerous and extravagant myth in education and child rearing today.” Children often do not respond well to large groups. They become nervous and over excited by noise and too many people. Learning becomes difficult. Behavioral problems develop.

After analyzing more than 8,000 early childhood studies, Dr. Moore concluded that, contrary to popular belief, children are best socialized by parents — not other children.

How do homeschoolers learn the skills of working together so that the skills necessary for collaborative work?  

This is definitely something to think about. There is no doubt that teamwork is important in the workplace and elsewhere. So how do you find opportunities for homeschooled kids to build these skills (especially if you have an only child?)  Basically, you have to seek out opportunities for your children.  Certainly there are team sports, scouts and other groups, but there are other collaborative opportunities for homeschoolers such as homeschool robotics clubs, homeschool science odyssey comptetition teams and even odyssey of the mind teams for homeschoolers.  If there isn’t a team around, you could always form one! As always, it takes time and energy as the parent/educator/fascilitator to make sure kids build the skills you feel are important.

Do homeschooled kids learn to deal with bullies and other “realities” of school?

I actually get this question from time to time… In fact, sometimes the tone is more like “how will your children cope if they haven’t experienced this?” It’s important for every parent to address the issue of bullying… and to emphasize being respectful and kind to other kids.  In a study measuring communication, daily living skills, socialization and maturity homeschooled kids outscored public school students.  Studies show that homeschooled kids are often more self-confident and self-assured than their public school peers. This inner strength is what I believe will help the kids deal with difficult situations and any of the different kinds of people they will meet in life.

Some final thoughts on homeschooling and socialization:

At the end of the day, Hubby and I are trying to raise polite, respectful, articulate, friendly people who treat others (regardless of their age) with respect. Some of the true skills of socialization are

  • character
  • honesty
  • morality
  • generosity of spirit
  • citizenship
  • listening skills
  • manners
  • respect for others
  • fairness
  • sympathy/empathy
  • kindness
Whether at school, at home or out in the world, these are skills that all parents are trying to foster in their kids.

This seems  to be the perfect time to share a graphic with you. I was contacted by Peter a couple of years ago and he said I was welcome to share the graphic he and his team developed with all of you.  It celebrates many of the positives of homeschooling.  Anyway, I have WAY too many friends whose (brilliant, wonderful, motivated, amazing) kids attend public school to agree that mine will “dominate” or “take them down” but I do like how this graphic presents many of the statistics about the successes of homeschooling:

Homeschool vs. Public School
Created by: CollegeAtHome.com

If you are interested in seeing some of the educational statistics about homeschoolers for yourself you might want to visit this National Center for Educational Statistics: Digest of Educational Statistics about homeschooled students which is where I suspect he and his team got a lot of the statistics they use in the graphic above. Another source of homeschool statistical information is the National Home Education Research Institute and you can read some Research Facts on Homeschooling by Brian Ray, PhD.

I get questions about socialization fairly regularly… and have tackled it in other ways from time to time. You may be interested in a previous post I wrote: Homeschool Questions Answered: What About Socialization?

You Might Be Interested in These Related Posts:

See you next time or at our Homeschool Den Facebook Page.

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What Are We Covering for Grade 4 and Grade 6 in our Homeschool This Fall?

We’re way overdue for a general post about what we are/will  be covering this fall.   Some things we cover together and other subjects the kids work on their own, at their own pace. I put the kids “grade level” in the title of the post, but remember that as homeschoolers that doesn’t mean terribly much. We work at whatever level and at whatever pace the kids need it. Sometimes that means slowing down and spending more time on one subject or another. Sometimes we fly through things.

We consider ourselves “eclectic” homeschoolers. That is, we use a smattering of curriculums, books and other resources and borrow from different philosophies of education. And I’m terribly guilty of buying lots of different curriculums and picking and choosing bits from each (you’ll see that especially in math below!!).  Luckily we have an amazing local library and borrow heavily from there! :)

History and Science: We tend to do these units together (including my youngest who is now Grade 1)

We have started with two units:

*Civics/Geography — By civics I mean how our government works and some basic information about our national and state governments. I may even throw some basics about economics in there.

*Native Americans — We are going to spend time on at least a half-dozen different tribes and their histories.  We have started with some of the tribes of the Northeast and will move on to the Southeast, Midwest and western regions.

Then we’ll slowly move on to other units:

*Earth Science — It has been a number of years since we covered Earth Science. ED definitely needs to cover this material as she was 2 when we covered it last time!  LD and DD said they both feel like they need to review the material (and go into more depth, says Mom!!). So this will be another unit we do together.

*Cells (Animals vs. Plants), tissues, organs and more study of the human body systems.

We also have some engineering units I’d like to get to from Engineering is Elemental (see this post about some of their free engineering units). I’d also like to go over the biomes/habitats with ED (and maybe the others as well). We’ll see when/if that fits in!!

This will most likely bring us to the end of the semester, but if it doesn’t we’ll be starting an in-depth unit on the Middle Ages for history and also need to go into more depth with astronomy (we have the Astronomy book from Real Science 4 Kids that I’d like to cover with the older two).


Grade 4: DD is currently polishing up basic arithmetic facts and will be moving on to fractions.  We still use Spectrum Math (she is using the Grade 5 workbook) and she started Math Reasoning (Level F by the Critical Thinking Company) this year.  She’s also using Challenge Math for the Primary Grades with me.  These are some of the math books we are using (gosh, that’s a lot!!)… but we obviously don’t use all the books every day. In fact, we still just keep the Beast Academy comic-style books lying around to be read whenever it appeals.

 Since I mentioned Beast Academy…. Here’s what I wrote about those books last year:

DD really is enjoying the problems from this book. She is also reading through Beast Academy (3A). (It has just been lying around on the kitchen table and they pick it up to read whenever they want. The kids enjoy the comic style.) I asked DD if she would recommend it to other kids.  She said, “Well, yeah… and then she launched into a five minute explanation about the comic books… whenever this blue guy pops up… he’s a evil bad guy and you have to figure out these math problems to try and stop him…”  So, there you go!

Grade 6: LD is polishing up his work on fractions, decimals and percents again using Spectrum Math and a PreAlgebra workbook by Kelly Wingate. LD  is using Math Reasoning (Level G) for daily practice.  And, he and I spend time together working through the Art of Problem Solving PreAlgebra.  He also is using the free Khan Academy’s PreAlgebra videos.  Here are some of his books this year (I couldn’t get the Math Reasoning picture into my collage, though):

Language Arts:

Grammar: At the moment we’re using Editor in Chief.  In these books, the kids have to read through a paragraph, find the errors and correct them. I’ll be making some new worksheets for them soon… For example, we really need another refresher on there, their, they’re worksheet (click here for the previous one). You can view all of our free grammar worksheets by clicking on the language arts category (or this link).

We are also going over basic grammar terms because of we need it for German this year. We’ve been reviewing all the basic terms — noun, verb, subject, predicate, pronouns, prepositions, direct object, indirect object and so forth. That usually happens without a formal book (actually, just on an index card where I’ve written out a sentence and ask them to identify the… object of the preposition… or whatever).

Reading: This year the kids have both independent reading, 30+ mins (their choice, but it has to be Mom-approved)   and literature reading – 45 mins (their choice from pre-selected books I’ve recommended). Science and/or history reading, 30 mins.  We read a lot in our family so these are more guidelines than strict rules.

Spelling: We are going to go through the lessons in All About Spelling books 5 and 6 at some point, but this fall we started using spelling lists. We got a subscription to Spelling City (because the kids like some of the games and options in their membership area) and the kids are working independently on the lists I’ve uploaded for them.  We’re using the Grade 4 and Grade 6 spelling lists put together by HomeSpelling. I needed spelling to be something the kids could work on independently this fall, so this is working well for us. (This doesn’t work as well for ED, though, who is working with me using All About Spelling).

Writing: We started back with a formal writing workshop this year.  We love it!! I plan to write up several posts about the books we’ve read together and some of the lessons we’ve done.  If you are curious about how and why we started using a homeschool writing workshop approach, you might be interested in our series of posts… Creating a Homeschool Writing Workshop… or you might be interested in these posts…

Practical Pointers for Working with a Reluctant Writer (or any writer!) – The writing workshop model has been working well for us — especially for my reluctant writer. I wanted to share some things we’ve learned about making writing time a success (actually for all of us, not just for my reluctant writer!)

How Do I Help the Kids Start Writing? 5 Lesson Ideas:

        1. What makes a good book or story?
        2. Make your story come alive with details and description.
        3. Creating Interesting Characters
        4. Story Openings: Set the mood or feeling of your story
        5. Gathering story ideas from your own life: Exploring Memories

  At any rate, I’ll be writing much more about the writing portion of our day in the near future!!

German: The kids do German twice a day. They do some conversation practice with me and at a different point they have been working on vocabulary and grammar using Practice Makes Perfect Complete German Grammar. We are going through it very, very slowly, but it is working well for LD and DD.  (ED is still using some free German grammar worksheets and some worksheet packets that I made up for her.) We’ll also start using Bobo Siebenschläfer  again (we bought the book and CD) and another book, Floppy Das Monster Ist Fast Auf Immer Verloren. (Just so you know, the price is 3x more than it was this summer. You might check to see if your local library has it.)

The other subjects the kids do most days include

  • typing practice
  • piano practice
  • handwriting practice (we needed to bring this back because the kids have gotten into some sloppy writing habits)
  • chore for the family (that’s also on their daily to-do list!)
  • LD cooks dinner for us one night each week (with detailed written instructions and times from me)

And one last comment before I go… what I *want* us to cover on a daily (weekly, monthly and yearly) basis and what *really* gets covered are two different things… but that’s the topic for another post!!! :)

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What? A Safari in Ohio to see Rhino, Giraffe, and More? It’s True!

Would you believe there is a 10,000 acre safari in Ohio?  We took the kids there on our vacation and they were absolutely THRILLED!!  We went on the open-air safari, not the private one you see in the picture below, but we still got up close and personal with a number of animals!

The Wilds is located about an hour west of Columbus and is an affiliate of the Columbus Zoo.

Here’s how up-close and personal we got with a camel!

The Wilds is one of the largest conservation centers in North America. It is located on nearly 10,000 acres of reclaimed lands. (Years ago, the region was strip-mined. The land has been reclaimed and has about 6 inches of top-soil. They have planted grasses and bushes. In some areas, they haven’t been able to plant trees, so they’ve built shade structures for the animals.)

The Wilds is home to rare and endangered species from around the world.  It has two types of rhino: the Greater one-horned Asian Rhino (from Bhutan, India and Nepal) which you see in the photo below and the Southern White Rhino (from South Africa).

The Wilds is home to three deer species and five different antelope species. What made the safari spectacular was our fabulous guide/driver who told is amazing stories about these animals.  For example, the Père David was a French missionary working in China and sent some carcasses of these deer to Paris. The species was named after him.  A few of the animals had been sent to wildlife parks in Europe. Meanwhile, in China the only herd was kept by the Emperor of China. In 1895 a flood destroyed the garden and many of the animals perished or were eaten. Then five years later in the Boxer Rebellion the remaining animals were shot and eaten by soldiers.  The only remaining animals were in Europe. A hundred years later, the Père David’s Deer were finally reintroduced in parts of China.

Some animals we got to see up closer than others (is the case of any safari). The safari was 2 hours long. They did a good job of stopping so people (like me!!) could take photos. The guide will tell us stories and inform us about the animals we were looking at. The kids were completely engaged because they had a checklist of all the animals they would see along the way.  We were also allowed to get out (like when we were able to feed the budgerigar)

The Wilds,  Homeschool Program:

The Wilds also has a homeschool program that they have just gotten off the ground. We were made arrangements to do the safari in the morning and then did their homeschool program in the afternoon. It was FABULOUS!! If we didn’t live quite so far away we would definitely return regularly.  The day we were there, they did a program on the native habitats in Ohio.  They took us to the forest, wetlands, stream and butterfly habitats where the kids were fully engaged. They had four or five educators there and divided us all into three small groups. I really can’t say enough about their homeschool program!  I know they have another program coming up in November; the topic will be adaptations.

In the picture below, the kids were trying to find various creatures.  Depending on what they found would determine how healthy or polluted the water was.  In the end, we determined that the stream was pretty healthy. Good news!

They also took us on a hike through the forest where we came upon deer skulls, snake skins and learned about some of the local plants.   I didn’t get any photos on the forest hike.  The wetlands region was quite fascinating. Our guide told us that the cattails have a lot of uses from food to building materials, chair seats to filler for flotation devices!

The kids all loved when the ranger showed us the beaver skull. He explained that the beaver had to gnaw on things to keep their teeth from growing longer… and longer… and longer. As he did this he pulled out the front teeth on the skull to be quite long (see the picture below)!!

Our last stop was the Butterfly Habitat where they told us all about the Monarch Butterfly.  They gave the kids butterfly nets and let us have a go at catching (and releasing) the butterflies.  No one caught anything, but the kids enjoyed that!

Camping at Blue Rock State Park:

After our 4 1/2 hours homeschool program it was time to head out.  We were camping in a nearby state park (Blue Rock State Park):

COSI, Hands-On Science Center in Columbus, Ohio: 

One more thing before I go… We also drove to Columbus, Ohio to go to COSI, the science and industry museum.  It was absolutely phenomenal. It is truly one of  the best in the nation! We’d definitely recommend a visit.  It was hands-on and loads of fun for the kids. They were able to play with water, drive an underwater vehicle, make goop, attend a chemistry show, explore the human body and learn about their own, lift a car with a lever, and on and on!!   The kids really loved hunting down the clues in the special exhibit,  Adventure in the Valley of the Unknown. It truly was a fabulous day.  (My only recommendation is to arrive early to get tickets.).

Also in Ohio: Tecumseh! An extraordinary Outdoor Drama complete with horses, a stream and dozens of actors. Be sure to check out our post!

Are you interested in finding other fun things to do with your kids? Click here to see all the Trips We’ve Taken: From New York to California and places in between (Branson, MissouriColorado Rockies, Colorado Springs)! Or click here to see what it was like living in the Outback of Australia (where the kids were born. We lived there for 12 years).

See you soon here or at our Homeschool Den Facebook Page!


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Free Daily Calendar Page (Ages 4-7)

Last week ED I printed out the daily calendar page I made for her last fall. She filled one out each morning as she needs some review on some of the spellings on the days of the week and we needed to review how to read a thermometer. I printed it out on the back of her daily checklist (something new I’m doing with the kids–and I’ll talk about why were using that and how it’s going later.)  I thought I’d share the printable again on the blog for anyone else who might find it useful.

If you are interested, you can download Today’s Calendar Page for free!


If you found this helpful, I’d love to hear from you over on our Homeschool Den Facebook page.

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