The {new} Bennettar Academy: a homeschool blog within a blog

I'm really excited about moving all my posts back to one place; a clean, simple site. I do like to occasionally write homeschooling-themed posts and updates, but in an effort to keep them separate and streamlined, I've decided to have them set apart from the rest of my posts. 

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Don't worry, nothing changes for you if you are a subscriber (assuming I've set it all up correctly). ;) If you'd like to see the archives or peek into our homeschool room, you'll see those options in the drop down menu called "Learning & Lit" on my blog page. Any new posts will be published under "The Bennettar Academy."

If you haven't subscribed yet to get homeschool updates, you can do so by subscribing here

Thanks for reading!

Book Minute: The Radical Book for Kids

radical book for kids Looking for a beautiful book that teaches about the Bible and christianity in a compelling and attractive way?

The Radical Book for Kids: Exploring the Roots and Shoots of Faith by Champ Thornton is just that. I definitely plan to start incorporating this book into our homeschool, because it teaches foundational aspects of the faith and about the Bible that I deeply desire to for my kids' worldview, (and let's be honest, my own as well-- flipping through it, I'm realizing how much I still want to learn).

When I received this book in the mail to review (Thank you, Litfuse!), Gigi immediately was drawn to it and snatched it up to start reading the first chapter. Things I look forward to going through with my kids are the glimpses at the lives of famous Christians like St. Augustine and Martin Luther, language tidbits and what things mean, basic apologetics, and why we do the things we do as Christians.

The goal of this book is to help children "grow deep roots of faith," and I can't think of anything I want more deeply for my kids than this, to know and love and experience the great love of "the radical Rescuer of rebels."

This book is going to be a great companion to our catechism study, devotional, and our memory work. (And it would make a great gift book, too, as it is really a visually pleasing book for adults and children alike).

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(click to make a bit bigger)

A bit more about The Radical Book for Kids, a kid-sized explorer's guide to faith and life

The Radical Book for Kids is a fun-filled explorer's guide to the Bible, church history, and life for boys and girls (about age 8 and up). Along with examining some of the most exciting realities in the universe, the handbook is vibrantly illustrated and chock-full of fun facts and ideas. Deep truths are communicated to elementary and middle-school aged kids while stimulating their curiosity and sense of adventure within a gospel-centered framework.

This power-packed book is "radical" in more ways than you might think! It is "radical" in the sense of the original meaning of the word, "going to the root or origin." The RadicalBook for Kids will take children on a fascinating journey into the ancient roots of the Christian faith. But it's also "radical" in the more modern sense of being revolutionary. Kids read about men and women who learned to trust Jesus and stand for him---displaying radical faith---even when everything seemed against them.

But The Radical Book for Kids is also "radical"---meaning fun or cool---in the eyes of a child. Kids read about ancient weapons (and how to make one), learn about jewels, create pottery, discover ancient languages, use secret codes, locate stars, tell time using the sun, play a board game that's 3,000 years old---and more.

Check out the table of contents, skip around, or read straight through. However a child chooses to explore it, The Radical Book for Kids will open new vistas for their imagination and help to make straight paths for their feet.

This post contains affiliate links. Thank you to Litfuse for the review copy (see more reviews here). 

Our plans for 2016-2017: Morning time and memory Work

bennettar academy learning team Today is our first homeschool day. I'm in complete denial that we are at the end of summer break. I know that summer still has a few weeks left, but I'm lamenting its fleetingness. In recent years, I have developed a real love for fall though, so I'm hoping that as we get into a rhythm that love is rekindled and that I embrace this new season wholeheartedly.

One thing I'm really excited about, and I will share more soon about our plans, schedule, and curriculum for the year for those who are interested, is having consistent morning time on our homeschool days (something we were not able to have last semester).

I decided to set a schedule for the year for some of our memory work, and I'm hopeful that it will help us accomplish more as a learning team. Here's what our morning time will look like when we come to the table to start our days (I'm thinking it'll be about a 45 minutes to an hour):

Prayer Devotional (working through Exploring Grace Together) Memory work: 1. Catechism (we use the New City Catechism) 2. Scripture/Hymn (see below) 3. Poetry (see below; mostly from Favorite Poems of Childhood) 4. Shakespeare (passages taken from How To Teach Your Children Shakespeare) 5. Social Studies/Science Facts (states & capitals, presidents, preamble, taxonomy, solar system- many of these linked to on my Learning board on Pinterest)

Read-aloud literature (right now we are finishing up On the Banks of Plum Creek and The Miserable Mill)

meadow in Yosemite

Scripture/Hymn/Poetry Schedule

Many of the poems are planned to fit in seasonally, and I chose hymns which we sing in our church that I want my kids to grow up being familiar with.

September • Philippians 4: 8 • The DoxologyHearts are Like Doors by Anon.

October • Philippians 4:4-5 • Be Thou My VisionTrees by Sara Coloridge

November • Philippians 4:6-7 • Jesus Paid it AllNovember Night by Adelaide Crapsey

December • Review Phil. 4:4-8 • Christmas Hymns

January • Galatians 6:9 • ‘Tis So SweetThe Purple Cow by Gelett Burgess

February • 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 • Come Thou FountWho Has Seen the Wind? by Christina Rosetti

March • Psalm 71:5 • All Creatures of our God and KingThe Eagle by Alfred, Lord Tennyson

April • Psalm 133:1 • Rock of Ages • Review poems

May • Review Jan-April • Review Hymns • Swimming by Clinton Scollard

June • Review Phil. 4:4-8 • Review Hymns • Tomorrow’s the Fair by Anon.

Here's to a great year! I hope that we are successful in hiding God's word in our hearts and dwelling on many other lovely excellent bits of literature and music and knowledge. May these words impress on our hearts in similar ways to the beauty of granite and pines that spoke to us this summer in Yosemite. xo

memory work

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Wild + Free conference inspiration

wild + free conference I had such an amazing time at the Wild + Free conference. Inspiration, learning, feeling connected, and basically just that feeling of "these are my people."

If you haven't discovered the Wild + Free community yet, take a sec to peek at their website and see what this homeschool community is all about. 

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(I fell in love with the melodic harmonies of the band Branches, who admittedly were playing their first gig at a homeschool conference and thought we were probably the "nicest" crowed (being moms) that they'd ever played for.) :)

I had never been to the Queen Mary after all these years (even after going to school and working in Long Beach for three years), and stepping onto the ship was a bit of a step back into time. There was lots of wood, beautiful ornate design, and nautical details that in a modern setting might seem kitsch-y but that here nostalgically represented a by-gone era.  The conference went by in a flash, and I only wish I'd had more time to explore the setting.

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As for the conference itself, it was really unlike anything I'd every experienced in my homeschooling career. I felt encouraged, and my vision was renewed in a way that gave me strength to finish the school year strong, and get excited for the year(s) to come.

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By and large, I took two main takeaways from the conference. As I looked at my notes from the various sessions, I realized I wrote down the same things multiple times, as I listened to speakers Lynsey Kramer, Sarah Mackenzie, Bethany Douglass, Jodi Mockabee, Emily Waechtler and Toni Weber, and Stephanie Beaty.

First, I was reminded to know why I'm doing this {strange, counter-cultural, crazy} way of education for my kids. Having a vision and a purpose behind what we're doing will help me push through the hard days and take risks.

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And secondly, I was encouraged to get back the heart, literally. To focus on relationship-building in our family, and on character, and not let the curriculum and the checklist whip me into a frenzy. This is where being part of a charter school can actually be a bit of a hindrance, because I have standards, lessons, and a calendar laid out for me. While those can be a help and a blessing at times (and there is certainly blessing in the two school days my kids get to go to each week #praise hands), it does mean I have to fight to little harder to maintain that peaceful, "wild and free" atmosphere that I want so much for my kids in our home.

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Practical things I want to implement in the coming year:

-prioritizing our time around the table and helpers in the kitchen more

-speaking blessings over my children --Bethany Douglass was a big inspiration in this and the whole 'life-around-the-table' realm

-teaching and singing The Doxology with my kids-- Sarah Mackenzie led us all in singing this a capella and it was beautiful

-chuck it all and have occasional "Just Because We Can Days"

-incorporate letters of affirmation between siblings into our discipline and reconciliation (building up what was lost in conflict)-- this was an idea shared by Jodi Mockabee

-making home a priority and establishing a good rhythm

-nurturing the kids in what they love

-Treasuring the "doing" more than the "getting it done" -- this was based on a quote by Anna Quindlen as shared by Stephanie Beatty

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As with the blog conferences I have been to in the past, there was lots of joy here in connecting Instagram avatars to real faces and sharing hugs with mamas with whom I had already connected  and been inspired by online, and mixing that with quality time with real-life friends (some of whom thought this whole meeting-people-from-the-internet was a bit funny) was a wonderful blend.

And now that I have connected with a local Wild + Free group, I am excited to continue the mutual encouragement and inspiration as we explore the outdoors with our kids together, geek out over school stuff, and grow closer together as mama friends. Contact me if you are a local mama who is interested in joining us!

Thank you, Ainsley and the W+F crew for such an amazing time of respite and rejuvenation. <3

 

 

Adventure packs for my Wild Explorers

adventure packs for wild explorers (This photo is by my brother. Oh, and Hallee eventually took the tag of her pack. ;) )

Last year for Christmas, as we struggled through the age-old debate of what can we give them that won't clutter up our house or be broken or forgotten in no time, we decided to go uber-practical. The bonus, was it ended up also being super fun.

David's parents prefer to give our kids experiences rather than stuff (which we love), so we decided to partner with them. They gave our kids a year-long membership to the Wild Explorers Club, and we gave them the adventure packs that kicked off the first club "assignment" and would give them the gear they could use for exploring.

inside the adventure pack

We are way behind on club assignments-- getting back into it is one of my goals for this summer-- but in the meantime we have all loved receiving the club magazine each month. The have been read and flipped-through multiple times, and will be a collection worth saving.

We had a ton of fun putting these packs together, and over the last six months, they have loved them and the independence that their little adventure pack gives them (it's amazing how special carrying one's own snack can feel :) ).

exploring botanical gardens

From our local botanical gardens, to the hill behind my parents' house, to taking a jaunt on the Pacific Crest Trail, these packs have given my kids what they need as we've ventured out into the wild.

Now that they've been enjoying them for a while, I wanted to share what our kids' adventure packs include in case you're interested in putting together a similar one. I'm sharing my Amazon affiliate links here because that's where I bought everything-- talk about easy. When the boxes started arriving at Christmastime I had the best time ever putting these together.

elements of an adventure pack

  1. Fjallraven Kanken Mini Daypack. The best (and cutest) pack for adventuring, which I first saw on Instagram and feel in love with. Amazon has great deals on some colors. Look online for videos on using the straps if you need help adjusting them.
  2. Eco-friendly collapsible water bottles. Normally my kids use stainless steel, but I wanted something light. They think these are super awesome.
  3. Pocket folding magnifying glass. These are like magic to my kids.
  4. Sketch pad for nature journaling on the go, or back at home. Gigi and I have watercolor pages but my littles tend to do lots of rough sketches of things they see so they just have regular sketch pads for now.
  5. Carson AdventurePak. This was a great find and makes up the bulk of their exploring tools. This fairly inexpensive kit comes with decent binoculars + case, compass, flashlight (not pictured), and whistle/thermometer.
  6. We add to all this snacks, a pack of kleenex, a pencil or two, chapstick, and whatever else they want to bring along.

For summer, we're reworking the adventure packs for toting their own beach gear (praise hands for the mama who is retiring from carrying all the stuff), and keeping the tools we don't need for the beach handy to put back in for day hikes or camping trips.

These packs make my kids feel super "official" and adventure-ish and getting their packs ready to go is a fun part of getting ready to go out and explore.

Be sure to check out the Wild Explorers Club (and #wildexplorersclub on IG) for more inspiration for getting kids out exploring. (This isn't a sponsored post or anything, just sharing a tip about something we love.)

kids exploring pacific crest trail

To the wild!

Book Minute: This is My Home, This is My School

this is my home, this is my school Just taking a quick minute to tell you guys about a good book, This is My Home, This is My School by Jonathan Bean.

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I found this book at the library and it's such a sweet look at the author's childhood in a homeschooling family. The artwork is unique and really nicely done as well.  It even includes some photographs at the end of his family's homeschooling life. I just loved it!

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I like it when my kids get to hear about grownups' or other kids' experience homeschooling-- it feels validating and reminds them why this journey is so special.

Check your library for this book or you can grab it on Amazon.

I might try to make this into a little ongoing series, Book Minute, where I share a quick look at a book we like. :)

Affiliate links included; thanks for reading and for your support.

February: our homeschool in pictures, books, and a few thoughts

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*****

lots of school on the go (coffee shops and the library are my fave)

a new school for Gigi and feeling challenged to get into a new routine

Hallee (4) decided to pick up reading lessons again and is loving it

handmade valentines for friends

dogsitting for my parents

exploring a new park (with trails!) and working on Bobcat level of Wild Explorers Club

reading lessons (and running free) at the beach

sewing class for Gigi where she made a felt teddy bear

lots of fights over schoolwork, and hopefully even more grace and reconciliation

a new softball season (baseball starts this week!) means the best kind of P.E.

*****

This month, we started Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, which has been super fun, and we just finished Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone which completely enchanted our kids. The littles got new handwriting books this month finally, and Brody is on the verge of finishing Math U See's Primer and beginning Alpha.

Brody has discovered graphic novels -- Pokemon and Geronimo Stilton (these come in funky little novel-form and entertaining audiobooks, too) are faves.

Hallee and I have less one-on-one time together but we are still slowly working through the cheeky Stuart Little's adventures.

Gigi seems to have rekindled her love of American Girl books, discovering Maryellen Larkin's books (who she shares a birthday with!), and also a newly found series about Liberty Porter, First Daughter (about the 9-year old daughter of the president, which seems like a timely read in an election year). Gigi asked me if I'd like to read the first Libery book, which I thought was cute, so I just started it. :)

We did a unit on the Revolutionary War, which included reading a book we enjoyed called Liberty!: How the Revolutionary War began. Since the kids had already seen most of Liberty's Kids, they were familiar with many of the names and events.

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It hasn't been an easy transition, having two kids and two different charter schools. We are struggling to adjust and I find myself with my eyes set on the hope of having a more regular schedule next year. My hope is to have all three in class on the same two full days (please, Lord, may it be!) so that we have three full days at home to enjoy homeschooling and feel like we are running less ragged. But in the meantime, a little more driving does have its benefits, namely more time for podcasts and listening to my Bible reading plan, and accidental naps for the littles. ;)

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This post was inspired by Bethany at Cloistered Away, (and includes affiliate links).

 

Realities must trump ideals

recognize reality I have a lot of ideals about homeschooling. But as it turns out, we don't live in an ideal world. We live in reality. So this year, I've made a few changes that while maybe not ideal in my own eyes, have made our homeschool a bit more realistic for where we are right now.

I'm still keeping those ideals tucked away in my heart-- they are not abandoned-- but I'm not letting them weigh me down and tell me our homeschool is a failure because we aren't living up to them. 

I'll apply aspects of them to areas where I can, and I'll let them influence my decisions and function as more of a filter in my homeschool planning than a game plan.

girls at the coffee shop

What this looks like right now

As second semester began at the beginning of this month, Gigi began attending classes at a new charter school. There were a lot of reasons for this change, but the biggest result of this change is that now we are loosely following lesson plans that are given by the charter school for our at-home time.

I have balked at this type of system since we began homeschooling three and a half years ago, but the truth is, while it does not fall into the category of ideal for me, there are a lot of benefits to it, especially for Gigi.

For example, being more accountable to the school, and less to only me is something that relieves a little of the tension between the two of us. And we can still add in whatever extra stuff we want like memory work, nature study, cursive, etc. It still lets us function as an eclectic mostly-classical, Charlotte Mason-inspired homeschool.

reading charlie and the chocolate factory

And I do still have the ability to substitute my own curriculum where desired (we are doing most of our own math still for example), but as it turns out, I'm actually loving the school's literature unit that we are doing that's based around reading Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (and so are the kids, which is the best part).

Thinking ahead to next year, while I would ideally like my younger kids to stay where Brody is (the charter school where we've been since we started homeschooling), for at least the primary grades, reality tells me that having all my kids at the same school, would be better for my sanity and our family's functioning.

We'll see how it all shakes out, but for now I'm feeling at peace about recognizing our reality instead of being frustrated that we're not living up to my ideals. 

This post includes affiliate links. Thank you for reading and for your support!

#NaturePalExchange

Something fun that we did in the fall was take part in a swap called Nature Pal Exchange. Through Instagram I discovered this fun way to see and experience a bit of nature in another part of the country. nature pal exchange goodies

We were paired with a family in Alabama who sent us some amazing treasures that they collected and made for us-- things quite different from what we sent them (mostly beach-themed).

watercolors

We had a lot of fun adding some watercolor artwork and a map of a local nature preserve to our collection for them.

thanksgiving table with preserved leaves

Some items that were unique for us SoCal-ers were the cotton ("It's just like a cotton ball, mama, but on a plant!"), various preserved leaves (which made lovely table decor for our Thanksgiving dinner with our Community Group), a magnolia seed pod, and cicada carcasses.

nature pal exchange

They also sent us a bunch of handmade bookmarks which have come in handy, watercolor art, and maps/postcards. It was so fun! Thank you, Ness family, for all the treasures!

And here's a look at some of what we sent:

CA nature finds

crab bodies

Pre-K & Kinder in 2015-2016: Curriculum

our simple kindergarten curriculum (pre-k friendly) Brody is thrilled to be starting kindergarten, and at just fourteen months behind him, Hallee is officially a pre-k-er this year! After watching Brody and Hallee interact, observe and participate in the homeschooling we've done to this point, I've decided to begin teaching both of them the same material this year.

I'm primarily focusing on reading, writing, and math with them (I've heard this referred to as "reading, writing, & 'rithmetic, which is kind of cute), for their specialized kindergarten work.

letters and numbers for me

For reading lessons/phonics, we are using The Ordinary Parent's Guide to Teaching Reading (and Bob books eventually); for handwriting we are using Letters and Numbers for Me, by Handwriting Without Tears, and for math we are starting with Math-u-See Primer. It's pretty basic, but I like that they enjoy it and are breezing through it. I'm hoping that make math seem super fun for them and not a burden.

The fun thing about having an older student in the family is that B & H get exposed to a lot of what Gigi is learning. So even though I'm not "requiring" in-depth history work for them (Susan Wise Bauer recommends starting Story of the World in first grade), they are learning right along side us and joining in with lessons activities whenever they can. They love getting their own copy of the mapwork and trying to follow along for example.

On regular homeschool days, they are also taking part in a lot of what Gigi does-- in memory work and other morning time activities, enjoying our family read-alouds, games, and also learning some Spanish and a bit of Latin (but that one I'm gearing towards Gigi primarily).

brody off to kinder classes

At our charter school's learning center Brody has language arts and a bit of math enrichment, drama, chess, Spanish and health/wellness (basically a P.E. class).

Hallee gets the special blessing of having her own little "school day" outside of the home, too -- a dear friend of ours who used to be a preschool teacher and has a daughter the same age as Hallee decided to invite a few friends to join them for a little preschool morning on an almost-weekly basis. Hallee had her first class last week and loved it!

Affliate links included; thank you for reading and supporting!