Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Starting School Smoothly: Tuesday Review {Aug 30}

Starting School Off Right ~ Science Tips, Strategies and Resources

By now, most of you are back in the classroom, either preparing for the arrival of students, or greeting them during their first week. Starting school off right is a goal for all of us, whether teaching at home or in a school building. So, here are some helpful posts on starting school on the right foot.

It's Back to School Week! Starting school smoothly is easy with these tips. {Photo via Creative Commons}

Back to School with Science

First, its important to remember that Back to School week can be stressful for children -- and adults! In "Back to School: Are YOU Ready?" I shared tips from psychologists on how to make the transition from summer to school year smooth and peaceful.

Next, we need to get our students hooked into the school year. Being a science lover, I always liked to use science as a Back to School hook. In "Get Started Teaching Science: You, Too, Can Be a Science Teacher!" I offer ten easy ways to choose science topics that will engage your students and start school off on a science note.

Then, we check our materials. Teachers often start school off with the earth sciences. Check out "Earth Science Strategies, Pt I: Using Models" for suggestions on classroom supplies every early childhood classroom should have when teaching geology and geography.

Now, it's time to plan. I love organizational tools, and know you do, too. So, download my FREE Science Unit Planner to help you organize your science lessons. Or, if you like to study apples in September, here is my botany e-book, "A is for Apples" (13 pages, $1.95).

I am constantly adding science posts to the Simple Science Strategies on Pinterest board ~ check it out, and start pinning! Or, subscribe directly to my Simple Science Strategies blog for updates right in your inbox.

Teach land and water features using outdoor walks and models. {Photo credit (c) Kim M. Bennett, 2015}

Ministry News

We know that starting school can be stressful for families who can't afford school clothes for their children. In order to help ease this stress, our Christian Kindness in Action Ministry recently sponsored two events. These events helped families find low-cost or no-cost solutions to the school clothes dilemma.

~ Our first event was our Annual Upper Room Christian Center Community Tag Sale, where families could find school and church clothing for infants through adults. Families could fill a bag of baby clothes for $5 or purchase a backpack for $0.25. Grown-ups could go home with a $5 pair of jeans, or a men's suit for $10. {Proceeds went to our Christian Education Department, for purchasing desks and chairs for our new Education Building}. In addition to helping families start school with the right gear, this event allowed community members to showcase their own businesses by renting a booth.

~ Next, we gave. Twice a year, we sponsor a Clothing Give-away.  We gave away strollers, shoes, fall jackets... even soccer cleats! See for yourself!

science strategies back to school
Pin this image to your Science board!
You can also follow our other ministry news on Pinterest (Winning 1,000,000 Souls).

Finally, I would be wrong to not thank you for being a loyal follower of A Child's Garden! Here's a freebie, just for being you!

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Homeschool Curriculum: What are YOU Using This Fall?

Homeschool Curriculum ~ Make it Work for You!


Over the seven years we have homeschooled, we have used many different curricula. Sometimes it was Ambleside, sometimes Well-Trained mind, sometimes I made it myself. You can see our choices, by grade, in our "Homeschool Schedules." Usually, we started with one idea, and ended up with another one. We've gone to the library, used free materials, and purchased many items. It always changes.

This year, we are going totally boxed. This is the first year we have purchased an entire grade-level homeschool curriculum kit. We're excited, but also a little apprehensive. homeschool curriculum
Un-boxing our Grade 8 homeschool curriculum: Sonlight 100. Exciting! {Photo credit, (c) Kim M. Bennett, 2016}

For me, it was the fact that all my homeschool curriculum was conveniently in one box - the student materials, the teacher materials, the books... And, although I love writing my own lessons, it takes time. Since my small business takes me out of the house a few days a week, I need more time in the day, not less time. So, we paid more and purchased Sonlight Level 100 as our Grade 8 homeschool curriculum for Fall 2016.

What Did We Get in Our Homeschool Curriculum?

First of all, since this was the first year we used Sonlight, we used Sonlight's built-in "SmoothCourse" tools when selecting the proper homeschool curriculum. The tool bases your box on the history course you select  for your child. In our case, it recommended American History. Curriculum selection was quick and easy, and gave us the following selections for our Grade 8 box:

  • History/Geography and Bible Study: American History, Bible 
  • English Language Arts:  American Historical Literature (including grammar, spelling, writing and vocabulary work)
  • Math: Algebra I
  • Science: Physics *
  • Humanities Elective: Dating with Integrity
To these, we will add homeschool gym, swimming lessons and swim team for PE, and, perhaps, some cooking and/or technology classes at the local community college. We may opt to postpone Physics until our son's junior year, when it comes up again. This is for two reasons. 1) I want him to be more confident in math before we hit physics. 2) We have Exploring Creation materials that we haven't used from the elementary years (Zoology 2, 3 and Botany).

Don't feel obligated to a particular homeschool curriculum ~ feel free to modify as you go! {Photo credit (c) Kim M. Bennett, 2016}

Need Help with Homeschool Curriculum?

One thing I love about the homeschool community is how collaborative we are. It's nice to be able to "get by with a little help from my friends." If you're still thinking about creating your own homeschool curriculum for your kiddo, take a peek at the following posts:

  • If you are using Apologia's Exploring Creation with Zoology 1: Flying Creatures of the Fifth Day, here is a daily homeschool schedule we developed (instead of the provided twice weekly schedule).
  • I love the book, One Small Square: Backyard. Here are some tips on using living books to teach about biomes.
  • In fourth grade, we built a theme basket based on the classic tale, Swiss Family Robinson.
  • My son loves to write, but hates to be given the assignment. To calm myself, I created a list of 10 things all kids should know how to write. We cycle through the list each year, adding elements as age-appropriate.

For More Homeschool Help...

Katia Hornor offers an online course on organizing your homeschool curriculum at Paradise Praises. For tips on dealing with back to school nerves, see my post, "Back to School Time: Are YOU Ready?" And, as always, keep up with all of our homeschool posts on the "Homeschool" tab at the top of this page.

Notebooking Pages Free Membership

What Homeschool Curriculum Will YOU Use This Year?

Leave a note in the comments, below, and share how you chose your homeschool curriculum this year. Have an awesome week, friends!

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Welcome to "A Child's Garden!"

Hello, friend! My name is Kim, and I am so glad you stopped in at "The Garden."

What You'll Find in "A Child's Garden..."
"Ants, Termites and Ant Lions"
Here on my blog, I will share a lot about me, my family, and the things that make my heart glad!
  • ideas and plans for homeschoolers, including sample schedules
  • tips on balancing homeschool, home life and a home-based business
  • celebrations of our spiritual life as missionaries
  • helpful hints and articles for being a better science teacher, including a list of nature study ideas
  • posts on ways to teach history through a hobby (in our case, geneology)
  • free stuff, stuff for sale, and so much more!
"Hummingbird (Sphinx) Moths"

 On occasion, your journey might take you temporarily out of the "Garden," onto one of my other websites. Fear not! You can use your back button to get back to the "Garden" from the other website.{This is only a temporary situation as I reorganize my posts from my blogs ~ thank you for your patience!}

Keep scrolling through this welcome page to see what examples of what you can find on my website! {Don't forget to check out the sidebars for some other great content and links, too!}

Popular Posts 


To get you started, there are links to some of my most popular posts next to the images on this page ... just click on the caption...
"Experiments in Flight"
"Dandelions: A Bilingual Lesson"
"Citronella Ants Go Marching"
"Teaching Science Through Literature"
"Nature Study"
"Scheduling Zoology 1: Flying Creatures"


You Don't Want to Miss New Posts!


Use the Subscribe Here! Box in the Sidebar to have new posts delivered right to your inbox!

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Snowballs, Snowflakes and Snowmen: Winter-Themed Lesson Plans

"That Grand Old Poem called 'Winter'..."  Henry David Thoreau. Photo credit (c) Kim M. Bennett, 2015.

Building a Snowman: Engineering and So Much More!

I'm not sure what your weather is like lately, but it appears that it is finally winter here in New England. On Saturday, we enjoyed about 7" of packy snow, and delightful winter temperatures in the 30's -- great for outdoor play.

Has it been snowy where you live? Instead of staying cooped up inside, why not get everyone outside for some fresh air and winter fun? The natural excitement of fresh snow can be an instant hook for any homeschool or classroom lessons.

And it's not just kid stuff, either: fun, familiar winter activities, such as snowman building, can teach important engineering ideas, and offer great opportunities for developing mathematical language.

January 2015 OHC Blog Carnival

Snowmen, Snowman Stories and Fake Snow: Winter Weather in the Elementary Classroom

Building Snowmen and the Engineering Design Process

Our recent snowstorm was a great opportunity to practice the Engineering Design Process in our homeschool classroom (on a SATURDAY, yet!). Although our youngest homeschooler is a sixth grader, the engineering design process can be used with even preschoolers. Any time we solve human problems using science, we are using the engineering design process. Here are the steps:

  • Ask: Our question was, "How can we make a bigger, better snowman than last time?"
  • Imagine: We surveyed the area, and visualized how the snowman would look from the window, and from the street. Ultimately, we chose to position the snowman facing the sidewalk, for passersby to view.
  • Plan: We quickly divided the tasks among ourselves (snowball rollers {Mom and son}, materials gatherers {ditto}, photojournalist {Mom}, cheerleader and evaluator {Dad}).
  • Create: The fun part...
  • Improve: Repairing design flaws is always a part of snowman building: an unstable base that needs reinforcement; a wobbly neck that needs support.

Check out our engineering design process in photos! (c) Kim M. Bennett, 2015

Connecting Snowman Building with Literature

Snowman building fun doesn't have to end once the snowman is built. There are many classroom connections to literacy, social studies, health and mathematics that can be used both before the snowman engineering and as follow-up extensions of the outdoor activities.

Interested in building upon the snowman experience? See "Building a Snowman: Lessons for Preschool and Kindergarten" for cross-curricular connections that can be used for young snowman engineers and other winter enthusiasts.

Enjoying Snow, Any Day of the Year

We were fortunate enough to have a warm, wonderful snow-play day, which included our dog wearing his doggy sweater (which he loves) and a sneak-snowball-attack on Dad, who was shoveling. However, some winter days just are not hospitable for outdoor play, or your snow isn't packy enough for snowballs and snowmen.

If you find your winter weather just a little too wintry for comfort, check out Isaac Saul's "12 Most Fun Activities You Can Do With Children," including winter-theme treasures as "Magic Dough Snowmen," "Rainbow Ice Towers" and "Magic Puffing Snow" - great sensory table ideas for homeschool and classroom. Try these, and other, ideas, when the weather outside is frightful, or you are thinking wintery thoughts in June!

Photo credit: (c) Microsoft, 2010

Add Sparkle to Your Winter Lesson Plans – Get Out in the Snow!

A sudden change in weather can be an exciting way to add pizzazz to your lessons in your homeschool or classroom. With a little advanced preparation, you can create powerful learning from familiar, fun outdoor winter activities. Why not plan some for your winter instruction?

Need to build a thematic library for your snowman studies? Here are some great picture books to include in your snowman activities:

More Winter Learning...

If you have toddlers in your home, Erica Loop has a great list of 10 Winter-Themed Books for Toddlers. They include some of my favorites!

Deb Chitwood has a raft of Montessori-Inspired Winter Math Activities, to use as an indoor extension to your snowman-building. 

Miss Kindergarten connects the seasonal weather to some lovely winter activities for literacy and math activities. Very cute downloadables!

Mrs. M. has amazing, creative Winter Writing Display ideas on her kindergarten blog, The Daily Cupcake. More inspiration for reflecting on our snowman engineering project!

Looking at the Weather...
"This, from the Channel 3 Weather Center: Tuesday: Periods of snow with heavy snow at times.  Windy with near-blizzard conditions possible.  Low: 22.  High: 27 inland, 29 shore."
  1. Groceries? – Check
  2. Snowblower ready? – Check
  3. Lesson plans? – Yes, indeed…

How do YOU use the winter weather in your homeschool or classroom lessons? Leave a comment below, and share your favorite winter ideas.