Homeschooling with Kindle Unlimited

If you’re a subscriber to Kindle Unlimited, you can read my books, Elderberries: The Beginner’s Guide to Foraging, Preserving and Using Elderberries for Health Remedies, Recipes, Drinks and More (with over 60 recipes for health remedies, desserts, jellies, wines, liqueurs and more), and A Magical Homeschool: Nature Studies (52 Wonderful Ways to Use Nature Studies in Every Season to Teach Science, Math, Art and More) for free!

Homeschooling with Kindle Unlimited

I’m enrolled in KDP on Amazon, which means these books are only available through Amazon and if you subscribe to Kindle Unlimited you can read them (and over a million other titles) for free.

We’ve been subscribed to KU for a few months and I’ve found a lot of great books for myself and the kids.  I started a Facebook group, Homeschooling with Kindle Unlimited to share good homeschooling books available through KU if you’re looking for new titles, too.

Homeschooling with Kindle Unlimited

I have found and shared lots of great books on the Facebook page so far, from Harry Potter to classic literature to math and science joke books to secular Charlotte Mason homeschool books to books about Vikings and parts of speech and woodworking projects…

Authors subscribed to the KDP program get paid a tiny payment per page read when their books are read through Kindle Unlimited, so if you are enrolled in KU this is a great free way to support your favorite authors too.  🙂

You can find out more about Kindle Unlimited here, and also sign up for a free 30 day trial (which is what we initially did to see if it was a good fit and then we decided to keep it).

Please leave comments about good books you know of in the program or subjects you’re interested in!

(This page contains affiliate links)

 

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10 Ways We’ve Learned and Played Lately

We’re 2 weeks into 2017 and hanging in there.  I had a birthday a week ago and Rhia has a birthday next week.  She’s turning 17 (how did that happen?) and I won’t tell you what age I turned.  😉

birthdayselfie

(Yes, our kitchen ceiling is completely covered with the children’s art!)

We had some more sadness, as my grandmother died right before the new year.  She was 93 and impatient to move on to her next adventure, but that doesn’t make it easier.  I am very glad that we made so many trips to Ohio for the kids to really get to know her, especially this year (3 trips in 6 months).

That doesn’t mean homeschooling was happening, though.  Or magical moments.  Here’s a bit of what we’ve been up to lately.

  1. Daryl has been doing “Teach Your Monster to Read” with Fiona just about every day.  She is beginning to get the hang of how phonics and words work, and she enjoys it.
  2. I got out an old science kit that I found at a thrift store years back, dusted it off, and started doing science experiments with Alex.  It contains a hand-held scope and lots of gadgets and chemicals.  We did things like examined different cloths under the scope, compared types of salt under magnification (black lava salt just looks dirty!) and did some simple experiments.  We’re going to try to finally start putting it to regular use.
  3. Daryl is acting in a winter play.  He has the lead in a community theater production in Worthington.  It’s a comedy and he plays a detective.  Rhia goes with him to rehearsals and all of the kids help him run his lines.
  4. Toria is working on getting our family Etsy store running.  She has some beautiful glass fox pendants that I got her for her birthday as a start to her own business (I purchased a large assortment wholesale for her to sell).  We are planning to sell a variety of things out of a family store.  Rhia creates elaborate zentangle-like artwork that she’d like to list and I have been creating magical homeschool sort of printables (such as colorful cards of hands-on ways to do all different subjects).  It has been a fun learning experience for all of us so far. Toria is taking pictures this week and then we should be able to finish creating the storefront.
  5. Rhia has been writing songs.  She is very talented on the guitar and writes amazing songs.  She wrote one last week that is quite feminist, and wrote another for a friend who needed cheering up.  She also has been learning how to cover other songs on the guitar.  Daryl and I heard a song I really liked during “Listen to Your Folks” on campus radio last week (Painting Houses) and she and Daryl learned to play it and performed it for me.
  6. I wrote a Kindle book.  I decided that it was time to start writing about the things that I am passionate about again, and that I finally needed to learn how to write Kindle books and give it a try.  There’s a steep learning curve but I got my first book written.  It is part of a series I’d like to write under the umbrella of “A Magical Homeschool.”  This one is A Magical Homeschool:  Nature Studies (52 Wonderful ways to use nature studies for science, math, art and more).  I am working on the cover today.
  7. Rhia is learning Spanish.  She has started doing Duolingo and has progressed quite far already.  Toria has been using Duolingo to master German for years, and Daryl does the free language app daily in German, French, Spanish, Norwegian and Swedish.
  8. Jack has been running D&D games for Alex.  This role playing game involves creating a world, drawing out maps, storytelling and running the game to create the adventure as the players go along.  Players roll dice to determine the outcome of decisions, battles, etc. and use miniatures to represent the players and the world.
  9. Alex, Fiona and I played a US states geography board game.  It involves drawing cards of states that you need to travel to and then answering questions about the states to move across the board and try to reach your state.  Once you visit all four of the states you’ve drawn (driving across the country in your car token), you win. A friend lent it to us and Alex really enjoys it.  Fiona doesn’t have to answer the questions.  We just let her roll the dice and travel across the country, and she is still picking up geography from the states she “visits.”
  10. Daryl and the kids have been shooting winter footage for a movie.  Daryl has a friend making a movie down south and she needs to incorporate footage of winter memories for the characters, who are supposed to be in Montana.  They have been shooting footage of snowy scenes and of the kids running in the snow and so on.  Daryl, Toria, Jack and Rhia have all shot footage, and Alex and Rhia have been in some of the scenes.

Of course, we’re doing all the usual homeschool stuff too — reading books, playing games, texting, blogging, using educational apps and shows, nature studies, cooking, chores, math pages and so on.

And now, I’m off to work on that cover and pretend I’m going to get housework done.

Okay, really try to at least get a little housework done….

Have a magical week!

Pre-reading Fun

Fiona has asked me to help her learn to read and since she’ll be turning 5 in the fall, I know that it will all start clicking for her in the next year or so.  We don’t use a formal reading curriculum to teach the kids to read.  With all of the older four, we just did lots of reading readiness in the form of reading together, playing letter games, having fun with phonics, doing early writing, and so on.

I found a fish puppet in the broom closet the other day as I was trying to reorganize.  Of course, there was a fish puppet in our broom closet!  🙂  I had also picked up a bag of assorted decks of kids’ games at a thrift store that week, and there happened to be a deck of letter cards in there.  Voila!  A pre-reading game came together!

I posted a pic online and on the Magical Homeschool page, if you want to peek.

Today's reading practice. Fiona has asked me to do more all day. I just made a game of feeding letter cards to a fish puppet I found to help him spell words. We also are spelling words with the cards and she wanted to write the words.

Today’s reading practice. Fiona has asked me to do more all day. I just made a game of feeding letter cards to a fish puppet I found to help him spell words. We also are spelling words with the cards and she wanted to write the words.

I explained:

Here’s how we play games to help learn reading. This particular one involved a puppet I happened to find in a closet as I was cleaning. I had some letter flash cards so I made a game with Fiona where the fish puppet would ask in a silly voice for her to feed him things that started with each letter. She’d have to find the letter and then he’d gobble it. Then we moved on to spelling words for him, such as HI. She ran and got her colored pencils and paper and wanted to copy the words, so she wrote simple words such as HI, MOON and CAT that we “fed” to the fish. We also used the cards to change words, such as changing MOON to SOON by moving one letter.

I was going to post more, but my noisy crowd (well, those who aren’t off at the ocean) just got back from pageant rehearsal and mayhem has once again ensued.

I have promised Fiona that we will continue to do some sort of reading fun together just about every day.  I’ll keep updating here with a peek at what we do.

 

 

Nature Studies Last Week

A big part of our “curriculum” this time of year is nature. We spend as much time as possible outside and much of our life in general is dictated by nature. We are harvesting in the garden, “putting up” produce like non-GMO corn from a nearby farm and homemade pickles with farmers’ market cukes, cooking like crazy with extra zucchini gifted by others, watching wildlife, spending days at the lake, foraging, climbing trees, playing and eating nearly every dinner outside in the back yard at our new farmhouse table.

(Daryl and Victoria built it for me.  Isn’t it marvelous?!)

This week was a pretty great week for nature studies. Here’s some of what we did….

  • We watched a cicada emerge from his alien-like skin with his new green wings.
  • We watched a monarch butterfly emerge from its chrysalis right by our back door, pump its new wings until they were dry, and fly away.
  • We swam at the lake many times and played with sand, water, driftwood and water bugs.
  • Victoria found some neat rocks and an arrowhead artifact at the lake, and was with Daryl when he found another fossilized shark tooth.
  • Alex and Jack helped Daryl forage for acorns, walnuts, apples and crab apples.  The boys always excitedly gather any acorns or walnuts they come across to bring home to process, which tickles me since 99.9% of the world considers them nuisances for the lawnmower.
  • Daryl and the kids “foraged” for apples and crab apples by getting permission from various owners who said they would not be harvesting them and who gave us permission to pick them.  These were all organic apples since the owners didn’t plan to harvest them and therefore didn’t spray them.
  • Alex helped Daryl made applesauce from the apples and crab apples and we canned many pints and quarts of it for the winter.  We talked about why our new pressure canner can safely preserve low-acid foods.
  • Victoria helped Daryl process the acorns and turn them into acorn flour(Here’s how our family does that.)
  • I made gluten-free apple cake with acorn flour (and other gluten free flours) we made from acorns Daryl and Alex gathered at our UU church, then we brought the flour for everyone to see and smell (it smells divine).  We’ll be bringing them baked good samples and printed instructions on how to do it themselves, too.  (Here’s the recipe I used for the apple cake, substituting acorn flour for the soy flour.) The apples were also foraged ones, and the eggs were from a homeschooling family down the highway (we buy 5-10 dozen eggs from them at a time from their free-roaming chickens at $1 a dozen), so a lot of the ingredients were locally sourced.
  • Jack and Alex helped Daryl husk walnuts and put them in big mesh onion bags in the garage to dry.
  • The kids helped husk non-GMO corn from a nearby farm to blanch and freeze it for winter.  We buy enormous boxes of ears for $6 each and spend a day at a time putting it up.  It’s a lot of work but it’s well worth it for many reasons!  (Here’s how Daryl and the kids process it.)
  • We watered and tended our gardens.  I use wine bottles for drip irrigation, and Jack helped me fill the bottles.
  • We made gluten-free zucchini breads and cakes like crazy, and froze extra shredded zucchini for use in recipes later in the year.  (These are our favorite recipe so far to use extra zucchini — Easy triple chocolate zucchini mini donuts and Chocolate zucchini bread, which tastes like chocolate cake to us.) We also made lots of grilled zucchini and zucchini everything else!  🙂
  • We saw hundreds of dead carp by Talcot Dam, littering the shore.  We believe the combination of hot weather and low water just killed them off.  It led to more talk about weather and climate change.
  • We saw great blue herons, vultures, sandpipers, cranes, pelicans and other beautiful birds at the lake and in the wetlands that we pass when we head out of town for groceries.
  • Toria, Alex and Fiona found a frog after church and played with him before letting him go.
  • We talked about our funny sunflowers that don’t usually turn to face the sun at all the way they’re supposed to, but rather stick their faces in all directions.  Incidentally, if you want to know why they turn to follow the sun, ask.com says, “Sunflowers face the sun due to their ability of ‘heliotropism’ or sun-tracking. Sunflowers have a hydraulic system in the stem which enables them to turn in the direction of the sun. Water builds up on the shady side of the stem, leading to pressure which causes the head to arc toward the light.”
  • We read from One Minute Mysteries: 65 Short Mysteries You Solve With Science! and the kids used their biology knowledge to try to solve the mysteries in the life science section.
  • I made the mistake of wandering into the Nature Bats Last blog and following rabbit trails there until I was left an utter basket case in the middle of the night and had to email a friend whose wife is an environmental science professor to talk me off the ledge.  If you want to feel despondent pretty quickly, google “near term extinction” sometime and take a look at the amazingly short number of years some scientists are giving humanity and pretty much all life on earth.  (Note:  I had Nature Bats Last hyperlinked for you but I really consider it a public service announcement not to send any poor unsuspecting souls there.  I prefer hope.  Yes, climate change and climate chaos is real and getting really bad really fast, but paralyzing us with fear isn’t going to inspire the kind of change that’s needed to save ourselves and our world.  For goodness sake, we all need to get serious about making real changes, though.)
  • We are starting an in-depth family study of ways to convert our house to more sustainable energy, along with various tools we use (for instance, we bought a push reel mower a couple of years ago to use instead of the gas powered one).  We are also going to see how far we can lower our utility bill from September of last year and talk to our minister about starting a community garden at our UU church next year (the church is already wind powered, which is pretty awesome and shows their commitment to sustainable living).
  • I made up a batch of elderberry honey syrup to beat a bad summer cold.
  • Jack, Alex and Fiona took part in the Think! challenge to make mandalas from natural objects.  The boys made fantastic ones (Fiona just played) and they were posted on the Think! blog.  Unfortunately, the blog owner posted Alex’s twice and didn’t post Jack’s at all and she apparently doesn’t read her comments, so you can’t see Jack’s!  It was awesome and I’m going to try to contact her again to see if she’ll put his up because I know he’ll be proud to see it online.
  • We have been taking walks, climbing trees, visiting with friends in the back yard, eating outside, grilling out (mostly produce and veggies… stuffed portabello mushrooms are our all-time favorite but they’re about 1000 calories apiece!), making refrigerator pickles and scrap apple juice and peach pie and a hundred other things to use up excess fruits and veggies, trimming trees and bushes, loving on pets, talking about the jet stream and weather, photographing bugs, pulling weeds, checking on wild edibles (grapes, elderberries and plums are ripening soon, among others… here’s what’s in season in September in the midwest)…

And that’s why we don’t start “doing school” in late August just because the local schools have started up again.  🙂  Not that we ever do school anyway, but this is just not a sit-down and study kind of season for us.  We do homeschooling through the seasons and I love this season.

In other news…

Here’s some free science notebooking pages you can download.

Here’s some articles I’ve published lately…

Daryl read somewhere years ago that September is the month of winds and magic.  Since it is the month of his birthday and our anniversary, it is a special month for us.  Happy September!

 

A Quick Little Learning-to-Read Game

read Here’s an example of how we play with words to help our kids learn to read.

This is a game Alex and I played yesterday.  I’ve done something similar with all of the kids and it always works well and is fun.

I wrote and illustrated 15 sets of words (drawings on blue, words on yellow) and then I just spread them all out and have him look for pairs.

Our words (short and easy to draw) were hand, sun, moon, egg, ball, flag, fish, owl, boot, door, cup, car, leaf, bug, hat and tree.

Owl ended up being a fail. My owl looked like a buddha.  😉

Later on, the game can be played concentration style (flipped over, try to remember where matches are) but when kids are newly learning to read, just spread them out facing up.

Have the child look for matches.  Try not to help much, other than when asked for help remembering how to sound out letters.

Alex (5) was able to figure them all out with occasional reminders about letter sounds.

He can read MUCH easier in this sort of way than just sitting and sounding words out. As a matter of fact, when I just flipped through the cards afterwards, he got very frustrated trying to read the same words he had just matched up.

The pictures give just the right amount of help to let kids see themselves as successful readers.

He really enjoyed it and was very proud of his stack of accomplished words.

When our kids learned to read:

Victoria sounded her first word out (boo) at three and was reading fluently at four. 

Anna was nearly six when it really clicked. 

Jack was five. 

Alex is five now and I think he will be six before it really clicks.

We did not use a phonics curriculum, How to Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons, Bob books or any of that.

We read to our kids a lot, we played phonics games, we talked about letter sounds and we let it happen naturally.  (See the articles below for more examples.)

It’s important to note that all of our older kids are voracious readers now (at 9, 13 and 14).

Remember that when a child learns to read has no bearing on how well the child will eventually read. Children walk, talk, read and learn to use the potty at their own paces.

If you do “walking lessons” with a baby who is not ready to walk, I sure hope you make it fun.  It will not help the baby walk much sooner and is completely unnecessary.

Reading lessons are the same.  If you’re going to use phonics curricula and reading lessons with a young child, do be sure to make it fantastically fun.  🙂

 

 

 

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On Writing in Books

“Writing notes in the margins of books is fine if it’s done neatly and beautifully–books should be handled with respect. Numbers, letters and underlining can be used to help spot points and to save the needless work of writing out notes. Let the student write out a half dozen questions about the passage studied. He doesn’t even need to write out the answers if he understands that the mind can only truly know whatever it can rephrase as an answer to a question that it asks itself.” ~Charlotte Mason

I thought this was food for thought.  I know that I am helped immensely by highlighting, underlying and writing in my books.  I think that my book-loving Victoria would be horrified at the thought, though!

Do your kids write in their books?  Do you find that it helps?  What helps your kids retain what they read?

 

 

Book List Progress

The new school year hasn’t started yet, but Victoria has already read two of the books on her 9th grade reading list and she loved them both.

Read so far…

  • Farenheit 451
  • Lord of the Flies

Recommended reading for 9th graders is so chipper, isn’t it?  😉

She’s also been reading a ton of regular YA books for fun, but I think it’s cool that she’s so gung-ho to read from her list so often.  She tends to read these books very quickly (getting caught up in them for hours at a time) and really likes them so far too, which is a great testament to books that stand the test of time.

P.S.  Don’t let your kids read the introductions to classic literature!  Our library copy of Lord of the Flies told about the biggest events of the book (in the last chapter) in the introduction.  They quoted the very end before the book starts.  Pfft!