Using Legos to Teach Homeschool History

Using LEGOs to Teach Homeschool History

Do you have young children?  Do you have LEGO fanatics?  In my house one seems to follow the other, so I have a lot of LEGO blocks.  A lot.

A few years ago I was teaching the kids about the Battles of Lexington and Concord. An exciting topic, but their eyes were starting to glaze over.

We’ve all seen the look, the “I can’t hear you because I’ve been sitting still too long look.”

You’re about to wipe that look off their face!

Tell your kids to get LEGOs for history today

And not just a few but a lot.  In particular get minifigures.  Now locate a flat working area. Your kitchen table will do, or if you have a big map that’s even better.

Have them act out history with the LEGO minifigures.  It doesn’t have to be too complicated.  The figures don’t even have to make sense for the story.

My kids are still retelling the time we used a taun-taun for a horse.  The more absurd, the more they will remember their story.

As you read through your lessons, think of ways you can represent them with LEGOs.

Can your kids build the monument with their LEGOs?

Most great battles or wars have monuments built in honor of them.  Try to make a LEGO model of that monument.

Recreate famous scenes with your Legos.  Maybe sign that peace treaty at Versailles with LEGOs.

We attempted to build the Hanging Gardens of Babylon.  We ran out of LEGO plants, and the kids improvised. But they remember it.

Recreate famous journeys with your LEGOs

This year as we go through The Mystery of History Volume II, there are a lot of journeys.  Patrick traveled all over Europe. The barbarians raided up and down the southern parts of Europe, and the Vikings traveled over to America.  All of this happened in LEGO re-enactment at our house.  We dug up a rowboat from the pirate set for the Vikings.  Another Viking ship was just a flat LEGO with several figures on it.  These minifigs discovered America and built homes.  Actually they first discovered Iceland.

I’m eagerly looking forward to Marco Polo because I can imagine the epic LEGO builds we will have with the trade routes!

Enact famous battles with LEGOs

The taun-taun I mentioned above is from the Punic wars and our lessons about small arms combat.  It’s one thing to be told the Greeks fought in a phalanx, and a completely different thing to see it acted out with your toys.

In the story at the beginning of the post,  I cleared off our train table, and using index cards as labels, our LEGO minifigures were busy acting out the Battle of Lexington and Concord for everyone to see.  It was epic and glorious, and the sound effects my boys made were loud and many.

Four years later they can still tell you about the battle, so it stuck.

That is the key question with these role play lessons — did the lesson stick?  And with our LEGO history it has.

This post may contain affiliate links. For more information, please refer to the disclosure policy

Exploring Classical Music with Elementary Ages

Exploring Classical Music with Elementary Ages

There are many benefits to introducing children to classical music. It has been shown to aid memory recall and spatial-temporal reasoning. But it is also fun, beautiful, and a wonderful way to explore emotions and humanity. So what are some easy ways to incorporate classical music into your homeschool?

Of course, Bright Ideas Press publishes A Young Scholar’s Guide to Composers which provides everything you need for a year-long composer study for elementary grades. Use that as a spine or foundation, and then add in some of these additional resources and ideas as you like.

Seamlessly Adding Classical Music into Your Homeschool

One of our favorite resources for including classical music in our days are musical CDs.

Classical Music ListeningMaestro Classics use classical music to tell stories that have been loved by children for decades! The boys love Mike Mulligan and Casey at the Bat the best. I am a fan of My Name is Handel. Maestro Classics also offers curricula on their site that you can use with their CDs.

We also use classical collections we have found in discount bins, been gifted over the years, and have inherited. Just adding in a few minutes here and there as part of our day to day routine allows for gradual inclusion. It also allows the boys time to quiet, to listen, and to let their minds wander with the music. Sometimes it really does soothe a savage beast!

Music is a moral law. It gives soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and charm and gaiety to life and to everything. – Plato

Fun Ways to Make Music Tactile

There are several things you can do to make listening more interactive and thus interesting for younger learners.

  • Interpretive dance. Let your young scholars move around to the music and enjoy it. Encourage them to reflect the tempo, volume, etc. in their motions.
  • Get out the instruments and make a band! Somewhere around your house, you probably have some band in a box type instruments, and even if you don’t, boxes, pots, pans, etc. can make wonderful sounds. Let your children play along with the music as you are listening, and then see if they can come up with their own piece afterward.
  • Get out the art supplies! Let your children paint or draw what they hear as the music plays. Aside from letting their creativity flow, this exercise can produce fascinating results. You will be surprised at all the nuances little ears can pick up!

Learning about Musicians

We are fans of the Famous Children series by Ann Rachlin as well as the Getting to Know the World’s Greatest Composers series by Mike Venezia. Both cover a multitude of classic, romantic, and modern composers and the pieces that made them famous. These books are very friendly to younger learners and not so musically inclined instructors. Adding in a bit of composer study allows you to add in copy work, history, geography, and music grammar and theory if you so choose. So you can sneak in lots of other subjects while learning more about the world’s composers and their beautiful music.

Classical Composers for Young Students

This post may contain affiliate links. For more information, please refer to the disclosure policy

4 Reasons You Need to Attend a Homeschool Conference

4 Reasons to Attend a Homeschool ConventionHave you ever gone to a homeschooling conference?  My first year of homeschooling I went to two!  I was scared and unsure, but it ended up being a wonderful experience!  I really believe homeschooling moms need to experience a convention at least once.  If you can go every year, even better!

Fellowship with like minded people

When you go to a conference, you are socializing with people who do what you do: they are homeschoolers!  They love curriculum and manipulatives just as much as you.  You will have a great sense of camaraderie because most anyone you talk to will share your excitement over homeschooling.

Vendors

My favorite part of the conference is shopping.  I love seeing the booths of shiny books and getting my hands on a book I’ve only seen online or in a catalog.  I’ve made major changes to curriculum after seeing something in person or speaking directly to the author/publisher.  I have found that vendors usually have extensive knowledge of their curriculum and can help you to make it work for your child by modifying it or adding supplemental resources that work well in tandem with their product.

Sales!

Vendors offer discounts and special bundles at convention; some even offer free shipping directly to your home so you don’t have to deal with carrying your purchases.  The offers are usually a nice savings, and it makes it worth stopping by your favorite vendor’s booth. Be sure to ask what the conference special is.

Speakers

The speakers are usually seasoned homeschoolers who share a wealth of information.  They have kids that have graduated, learned to read, and even dissected frogs!  The sessions are geared toward specific topics, but often there is a time to ask specific questions, too.  Last year I listened to every session one woman gave about high school, and it left me with a confidence I didn’t have before the convention.

See Bright Ideas Press at these 2015 homeschool conventions.

This post may contain affiliate links. For more information, please refer to the disclosure policy

Finishing your Homeschool Year Strong When You Don’t Want To

Finishing Your Homeschool Year Strong Even When You Don't Want To

I love the start of a new school year. Hopes are high, energy is overflowing, and you can’t wait to tackle your classes! Who knows? Maybe you’ll actually tackle every experiment in the science book with your kids this year. You have it all planned out, the schedule is on paper, and you are feeling refreshed!

Then the holidays come rolling in, and you prepare for Thanksgiving. Then Christmas. New Year’s comes, and before you know it, it’s a brand new year! January is slow, and you’re struggling to pick up pace. You want to grab hold of that momentum you had in August, but you can’t seem to get grip on it.

You wonder: “Will I be able to finish this year strong?”

How to finish strong when you don’t feel like it

1. Stop and rest.

When we are exhausted. our brain doesn’t process information the same way. It sees simple problems as big issues. Take time to rest, pray, and balance yourself again.

2. Once you’re refreshed, go over your homeschool lesson plans.

Are you where you had planned on being at this time of the school year? I like to take note of how many lessons are left in each subject compared to how many teaching days remain.

3. Take a look at your calendar.

Take a look at your calendar to determine what you can realistically do by the end of the school year (in the traditional sense). Most families plan their school year to end in May or early June; others school year round. Decide which of these will work best for your sanity.

Don’t push yourself to do something that will end up burning you out. Schooling year-round may not be the best choice for you even if you feel like you need to push through to catch up on missed lesson.

There is always next school year. Who cares if you’re doing work from this year the first couple of weeks of the new school year? Your kids are still learning valuable information.

If for some reason you absolutely cannot wait until the next school year to complete the lessons, but absolutely dread the idea of schooling through the summer, plan on doing school lessons once a week during the summer.

We need to play a little catch-up, but I can’t handle schooling through this summer. I need the time off and any school we do needs to be uncomplicated. So we’re going to do things like math and language arts (if we don’t finish by the end of May).

4. Evaluate your curriculum.

Are you finding that you’re unable to juggle the curriculum you’re using? Maybe it’s just not working for your family. If you find yourself constantly struggling with finishing, it may be time to choose another gentler or more flexible curriculum.

What are some of your tips for finishing the homeschool year strong?

This post may contain affiliate links. For more information, please refer to the disclosure policy

How the Arts Benefit Our Children

How the Arts Benefit Our ChildrenThe arts are an important part of a child’s education. In addition to higher SAT scores, the arts provide practical skills children will need for the rest of their lives.

The Arts Empower Children to Communicate

Words are important, but no all things can be communicated through words.

Take a look at your home. Can we tell something about you from the way it’s decorated? What about your hairstyle, makeup, or clothing? Are they not expressions of yourself?

Have you ever been so upset, angry, or sad that you had no words to express yourself? Have you ever been that happy? Sometimes a person has a complicated compilation of feelings, built over time.

Takeaway point: We all express ourselves differently. Allowing children to express themselves through music, drawing, sculpture, and other art forms allows them to communicate their thoughts and complex feelings.

The Arts Teach Acceptance

Through studying the arts, children explore different cultures and time periods. When they learn about the lives of individual artists and composers, they get a picture of that era from history. They learn about how an artist’s circumstances impacted his art. This increased understanding of the world builds stronger skills of understanding, sympathy, and empathy, leading to a greater ability to accept people for who they are.

Takeaway point: By allowing our children to study the arts, we are allowing them to strengthen their social skills.

The Arts Teach Flexibility in Thinking

In art, there is no one right answer. The ways we can combine musical notes to create a song is limitless. The color combinations for a painting are only limited by our own imaginations. If you can think it, you can express it.

Vincent van Gogh created paintings, using the most unrealistic colors imaginable. Monet used natural light in his outdoor paintings when everyone else painted indoors. Beethoven broke away from many of the rules of music, leading to the Romantic Period and paving the way for artists such as Franz List. Arnold Schoenberg threw tonality out the window completely.

Takeaway point: The arts teach our kids to be flexible thinkers. This skill is important not only for learning but also for building strong business and social skills.

The Arts Teach Children to Search for Understanding

In art, there is always something new to be learned. One can never be finished learning all there is to know. When a child studies the arts, he realizes this. As homeschoolers, we strive to raise lifelong learners. When our children study art, they develop the realization that learning never ends.

Takeaway point: Realizing we can’t know everything keeps us teachable, a skill needed for all aspects of our personal and business lives.

The arts are important in developing a well-rounded person. It provides children with skills they will use for the rest of their lives.

Do you include the arts in your homeschool?

This post may contain affiliate links. For more information, please refer to the disclosure policy

Homeschooling: Blessing Not Bane

Homeschooling: Blessing Not Bane

Homeschoolers are not the bane of the earth; neither are we the saviors of it.

Have you ever felt baned upon?  Hmmm, that’s not proper grammar, but I fear the distraction of the thesaurus this morning, so let’s run with it, ok?

Since I won’t be looking up a real word to replace the phrase, here’s what I mean by “baned upon:”  To have been looked upon as the bane, the problem, the trouble with the world today.

Over the course of twenty-plus years in the homeschooling world, I’ve seen growth in acceptance of home education as a viable instructional option.

However, there are still a few hold outs that give us trouble on occasion. They make me wonder …

What’s the Trouble with Homeschooling?

Why is the desire to instruct a generation of children in …

  • The art of thinking
  • The wisdom of the ages
  • The value of independence
  • The charge of personal responsibility
  • The joy of learning
  • The setting of a fairly stable home

… a troublesome pursuit? A bane, even?

The World’s Bane, Our Blessing

I have some thoughts about why the world’s system would want to stifle thinking, wisdom, independence, responsibility, joy, and stability, but let’s look at this from the positive side of the coin.

  • If the world sees critical thinking as a bane, how can we use thinking to promote blessing?
  • If the world sees wisdom as a problem – or as a non-issue to be ignored, as I’ve heard most recently – how can we impart the value of wisdom?
  • If independence is contrary to the mainstream world view (except when it refers to independence from God), how can we influence our children to act independently, remaining dependent on God?
  • If surrendering personal responsibility (deceptively) invites the relinquishing of power to another, how can we guide our children to wield personal responsibility as a tool of individual potency?
  • If learning is presented at best as a drudgery, how can we delight in discovery of knowledge and application with our children, and with our culture?
  • If a stable home life offers not only challenge in the creation, but is often portrayed as a challenge not worth striving for, how can we fight for peace and stability in a way that honors God?

Thinking, Wisdom, Independence, Responsibility, Learning, and Stability

Have you, homeschoolers, ever felt accused of being the bane of, the trouble with the world at large – or at small?

If educating a generation in critical thinking, wisdom, independence, responsibility, learning and stability is being a bane, then God bless you in it.

This post may contain affiliate links. For more information, please refer to the disclosure policy