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While every home educator plans the school year in their own unique way that fits their family’s style. I’d like to share how I quickly map out our school year with a little structure and opened ended time for learning opportunities that come up through-out the year. I’m not sure how your school year goes, but we always end up studying and exploring a subject in depth that was not planned out in the beginning of the year. Since I know this is how it goes for my family, I plan to allow these learning opportunities time to flourish in their natural way. Before you stress about the many layers of information that you need to cover, let’s break them down into manageable pieces.

Evaluate Last Year

Before you jump into the upcoming year, it’s always a great idea to take a look back at last year. Start by asking yourself a few questions about the previous year and write down your responses. If this is your first year adjust this questions accordingly.

Here are a few questions to get you started:

  •  Did you change that plan throughout the year?
  •  Did you over-schedule or under-schedule?
  •  Did you build in enough breaks, vacations, or fun family activities throughout the year?
  •  What could be improved this year?
Plan your yearly Calendar

The reason that we’re taking on the calendar before curriculum needs is simple: momentum. Planning an entire school year requires your energy to be focused in one smooth direction. If you can keep racking up easy victories in your planning process, it creates more energy and enthusiasm for the next phase.

Starting with curriculum research and lesson plans is necessary but can create a huge distraction at this phase of planning. It’s easy to get sidelined by dreams of fun projects or lesson ideas, so I begin by blocking off important dates on my calendar. Once I have the timing of the school year in place, it’s a lot easier for me to calculate the number of instruction days I need, know how to lay out the lesson plans and schedule all of the fun field trips that make homeschooling a real-world experience.

Decide on the dates of your school year

I usually divide the school year into two semesters: before Christmas and after Christmas. Once I’ve determined the start and finish dates of those blocks of time, I start counting days of instruction to make sure I’ve met the required number. There are usually a lot of excess days, but I always calculate them to make sure I’m leaving enough room for all the ambitious plans I have for the entire year.

Block off big dates

One of the things our family has loved about homeschooling is the incredible amount of flexibility we have. When you’re not constrained by a school district’s schedule, you can take a trip whenever you want.

I make sure to block out the days we’re planning to be gone as soon as I know them. That way I can I can avoid scheduling conflicts through-out the year. I block off the electronic calendar and a paper calendar so everyone in the family has this essential information.

Add your regular activities & classes

Music lessons, enrichment classes, library days and sports always give structure and energy to our school year. Marking that time on the daily calendar not only helps me troubleshoot potential scheduling conflicts, but it also gives me a sense of when to schedule longer and shorter instruction days on our calendar.

When I can see the pattern of the whole week, it becomes much easier to see how I can start planning lessons to fit my children’s temperaments, available time and learning styles.

Keep It Simple

When it comes to using a planner some people do better with different types of calendars. I will use paper planners for a weekly view of what our week will look like. However, the online calendar I use for the entire school year is where all the information goes at once. This is because it’s easy to read, to share with others and can be stored in the cloud.

Start Lesson Planning

If you are using a boxed curriculum this step can go much faster as many of them have lesson plans already created for you. However, if you like to combine curriculum or create your own, you may need to set aside a good bit of time planning out how to structure your courses for the year. It’s okay to take your time, this step is important and can be exciting! Get the input of your child, what are they interested in? Is there a subject they would like to learn more about? How about a field trip that they would like to do in the school year? I find this part of lesson planning fun and exciting for the entire family!

How do you plan your homeschool year?

Do you have any tips that you have learned throughout your homeschooling journey? Let us know in the comments or fill out the form below to submit your tips! Remember by completing this step you are possibly helping out tons of families with their homeschooling journey. Submissions will be updated on the post.

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About the Park

Point State Park is locally known as The Point at the confluence of the Allegheny and Monongahela rivers, forming the Ohio River. There are 36 acres to this beautiful park and it is operated by the Pennsylvania Bureau of State Parks.

Uses for the Park

The park acts as the site for major cultural events in the city, including the Venture Outdoors Festival, Three Rivers Arts Festival, The Great Race and Marathon and Three Rivers Regatta. We like to spend time at the point and enjoy the iconic fountain which sprays water 150 feet up into the air.  The views are gorgeous and on hot days the breeze will create a cool mist that you will be thankful for!

Playing in the mist from the iconic fountain
Places to visit at the Park

Point State Park is a National Historic Landmark known for the French and Indian War (1754-1763). It houses one of the oldest architectural landmark in Pittsburgh, the Fort Pitt Block House. The Block House is the nation’s only authenticated pre-Revolutionary War structure west of the Allegheny Mountains. Another great area to visit within the park is the Fort Pitt Museum. It is a 12,000 square-foot museum that showcases  Pennsylvania’s role during the French and Indian War, American Revolution and the birth of Pittsburgh. They also offer educational tours and you can find out all about them on their website. You will also see monuments, plaques and markers throughout Point State Park.

Relaxing After Exploring the Park

There’s so much history with this park, which makes it a good choice to explore for your homeschool day in Pittsburgh. Once you have explored the park, you can relax under the shaded areas that the trees provide. It’s a good idea to pack a lunch and blanket to enjoy on the great lawn of the park. The great lawn is also the location of Fort Duquesne which is marked by a granite outline. You and the kids can discuss all the things you saw and learned throughout the day while enjoying a beautiful view of the city, rivers and iconic fountain.

Curious about homeschooling in Pennsylvania? or just homeschooling in general? Feel free to to contact me about specific questions you might have.

The post Interactive and Fun History Field Trip at Point State Park Pittsburgh, PA appeared first on .

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If you’re like me you have come across beautiful plants and wildlife to only realize that you have no idea what you’re looking at one too many times. As much as I would like to think that I would remember to look it up when I get up and try to actively describe it while typing it into google… Let’s face it after getting home from spending time in nature we are all either tired, hungry or both! Then that idea of wanting to look it up in my free time gets lost and sadly forgotten. So when I discovered the Seek App by iNaturalist I couldn’t have been more excited! It has completely changed how we explore and discover nature all while incorporating it into our homeschool!

It’s an easy way to identify the plants and animals we encounter, whether we’re in the park, on a hike, or in our backyard.

How The App Works

By using the power of image recognition technology, it can identify the plants and animals all around you while you’re out exploring! You can earn badges for seeing different types of birds, amphibians, plants, and fungi, how fun is that?! You also have the option to participate in the monthly observation challenges with Our Planet on Netflix. Exploring and learning fun facts about organisms that you find while enjoying the outdoors couldn’t be more easier to do.

All you have to do is upload or snap a photo of a plant or animal to the app, and Seek will try to match it to one of 30,000 species in its database. If there’s a match, Seek will add the photo to your collection. As your collection grows, you will earn badges and work your way up from beginner “Tadpole” to expert “Explorer.”

Seek by iNaturalist
Seek by iNaturalist - Vimeo
Get outside, explore, and learn about the nature all around you! How We Use It

There are so many ways to incorporate this app into your homeschooling day for younger and older kids! My preschooler likes to dig around in the dirt with a stick while looking for worms and the like while my 8th grader enjoys walking to search for interesting plants or wildlife to take a photo of. Once each of them find something we upload it to the app and read about it. Once we have time to go over it at home we do a little more research on what we found! It’s a really fun and interactive way to get the kids outdoors to learn about the nature around them!

Seek is currently available on the App Store and is in beta testing for Android.


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THE DETAILS

School is almost over and your teen might be looking for something to keep them busy this summer. Planet Fitness is running their teen summer challenge through May 15th – September 1st 2019. While you might be thinking of the expense a gym membership brings, have no fear it is completely free!

To take advantage of this fantastic offer, teenagers must first come to any Planet Fitness location during regular business hours with their parent/legal guardian to sign a Planet Fitness Gym Waiver.

The “Teen Summer Challenge” program will be offered in all 1,700+ Planet Fitness locations in the United States and Canada.

WHY SHOULD YOU ENCOURAGE YOUR STUDENTS TO PARTICIPATE?

Not only will it help keep your teens healthy and busy throughout the summer, all teens who sign up are entered into Planet Fitness’ Scholarship Sweepstakes! 51 lucky teens across 50 states and Washington, D.C. will be randomly selected to receive a scholarship toward academic or athletics, including a $5,000 grand prize** Additionally, teens will have the chance to win exciting prizes on Planet Fitness’ Facebook and Instagram channels throughout the summer such as PF swag, movie tickets, and wireless headphones. ** For additional sweepstakes details, visit PlanetFitness.com/sweepstakes-rules

Download and print these documents or share them digitally

CLICK HERE TO FIND THE CLOSEST PLANET FITNESS LOCATION NEAR YOU

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The rapid growth of employment in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) occupations is undeniable. According to the U.S. Census Bureau since 1990 the growth rate has climb from 9.7 million to 17.3 million, outpacing overall U.S. job growth. The importance of play for children has long been recognized. Free play time helps develop the logic centers of the brain. Having a variety of toys and games around to stimulate your child’s brain is a crucial factor of your child’s development, from infancy into their teen years. Searching high and low for the best and newest educational toys for our kids can be quite a task. It can be discouraging to find great toys that focus on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) for older kids. Thankfully the Amazon STEM Club Subscription Program solves this problem for you!

What are STEM toys?

STEM stands for Science, Engineering, Technology, and Math – core subjects that give kids the building blocks for future success in the fields like robotics, computers and natural sciences. STEM toys are hands-on and engineered for fun to get kids excited about exploring scientific wonders at any age.

What is STEM Club?

STEM Club is a program that delivers handpicked Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math toys to your door at a great price. Every one, two or three months depending on the option you select, Amazon STEM toy experts send a box containing high-quality, age-appropriate STEM toy that encourages your child to learn through play.

A STEM Toy Subscription costs $19.99/box with free shipping. Cancel at any time by visiting “Your Memberships & Subscriptions” within your Amazon account.

My Experience with Amazon’s STEM CLUB

A big advantage of this STEM subscription service is that you won’t just be sitting at the kitchen table playing science games. The toys are engaging, interactive and experiential. And they may even inspire your child to dig deeper into the world of STEM! 

Amazon makes it simple to check and view the upcoming month kit. If you don’t want that kit for the month just simple cancel for that month. It’s super easy to check since you can do it within your already existing Amazon account!  

Amazon’s STEM Club Subscription Program is a great way to provide your kids with quality STEM toys on a regular basis without having to do any of the work. The money savings and the educational benefit to my children is a gift that will keep on giving for years to come!

You can learn more about STEM Club HERE


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As a homeschooling mom I’m always on the look out for discount programs! We love going to Barnes & Nobles story times on Saturday mornings at our local store down the road. It’s a nice supplement of activities for my preschooler and gives my teenager an opportunity to discover new books! I was speaking with one of the employees about their discount programs and they told me about their Educator Program. The good news is that homeschoolers are eligible!

Julianna really loves picking books out at the store before story time and having them next to her. You can see her here organizing her stack of books getting ready to sit down for story time. 

We love that they have a craft activity after story time and it’s usually one that goes along with the story! All the kids are excited when the employees bring out the crafts and provides them a snack as they work on their little projects.

The book selection that Barnes & Nobel carriers is great for homeschoolers! As many have children at different reading stages, you can be sure to find a book for your child regardless of their age or grade level.

Thanks to the Educators Discount Program I get to buy at discount, the kids get to pick out a special book! I like to think that this will be a special memory that they each have as they grow older and will always remember their weekend outings at the bookstore!

Educator Discount Program

The Barnes & Noble Educator Program is open to homeschool families.

  • You will get 20% discount off the publisher’s list price on select items that Barnes & Noble considers suitable for use in the classroom or with the student population, including most hardcover and paperback books, toys, and games. Discount can be used at Barnes & Noble, B. Dalton, Bookstar retail stores and online at bn.com
  • The periodic special promotions, such as Educator Appreciation Days during which you receive 25% off the list price for both classroom and personal purchases plus 10% off music and movies
  • You will also receive valuable email offers and information on special Educator events
Enrollment is free!

The Barnes & Noble Educator Program is open to homeschool families and enrollment is free.

According to the Terms and Conditions, you must enroll at a Barnes & Noble or Bookstar retail store. Enrollment is not available online or at B &N College Bookstore.

“At Enrollment and renewal homeschooling parents must provide photo ID and a letter with the following information: family name and address; name of homeschooling parent(s); grade level of each child being homeschooled.”

Note: Not all employees of all stores are aware that the Educator Program welcomes homeschool families, so United Homeschoolers recommend that you also print the first page of the Educator Program Terms and Conditions from their website and bring it along.

For more information, visit bn.com/educator.

You can find your Barns & Noble location on their website at https://mstores.barnesandnoble.com/stores.

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Sensory play offers so many wonderful learning opportunities such us imaginative play, language exploration, fine motor development and so much more! Fine motor activities are important for strengthen hand muscles and hand-eye coordination. Both of which are needed for handwriting down the road.

What you need:

All I used in this activity was a plastic container, small toy objects (ones that wouldn’t break when hit), a tool to hit the ice with and water!

How to make the ice block:

You want to add a portion of the objects first and then add a little bit of water. Then once that freezes add more toy objects and so on until you are satisfied with it.

Julianna helped me with making this ice block and she was so excited! She patiently waited for the water to freeze. So if you are teaching your child patience is a virtue this activity can help with that as well!

Julianna’s first hit was direct contact as you can see she shattered a good portion of the block! She kept talking about how she was going to whack the ice block once it was ready, but I had no idea she would demolish it like this her first hit!

Each time she would make contact with the ice block she would cheer yay!!! Then each time she would misdirect the hammer she would start a chant “I can do this” before her next attempt! This activity was so much fun and so educational and motivating on so many levels!

Here you can see Julianna reaching for the objects that she released from the ice. Each time she would get an object unstuck from the ice she would get really excited!

This activity was a lot of fun and I noticed a few good things from trying this out.

  • Julianna’s ability to wait patiently and eagerly for the water to freeze.
  • She was able to  touch the ice and felt the water changing form.
  • The explorations of freezing and melting is a great way to introduce the concept of molecules and atoms to her.
  • The freezing and melting activities demonstrate the first law of thermodynamics.

I hope you enjoyed reading about this sensory play activity and will give it a try with your own children! I’m sure they will have just as much fun as Julianna did!

 Here we went with an Ocean theme ice block and she loved it just as much! I made this ice block thicker than the first one.  I felt the first one was a little too easier for her so I wanted to make it a little more challenging for her. 

She really enjoyed picking up the objects each time she got them unstuck from the ice block!

She was very eager to show me the treasures that she found in the ice block!

This was such a fun activity to do and it kept her busy with delight! I really hope you give it a try and let me know how you and your kiddos liked the activity!

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