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Byzantine Catholic convert, wife, mother of seven.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

5 Educational Tools To Save Your Sanity

When I started homeschooling my older children I had fine dreams of an old-fashioned, perfectly ordered, one room school house. I even sacrificed an entire room of our home to the noble cause of education by
painting it bright red like an old school building, complete with table, chairs,cute posters and a bell.I would spend a nice morning in our little room working with my Kindergartner and Pre-schooler while the other two (toddlers at the time) played happily away....at least that is how I choose to remember that time of my life. Incidentally, that room is now painted pink and lodging three girls. The exterior of my home is painted in that lovely red color instead. The symbolic significance of that fact just struck me and it speaks volumes about how the whole house, and really the whole of life, is now our classroom.

Amazingly, I was able to hold on to my delusional home school fantasies(at least some of them) until my fifth child was born. Enter kid #5, John Michael. By the time Johnny was 14 months old I could no longer contain him in crib or pen. By the time he was 15 months old he had discovered multiple ways to escape the house. He would grab my keys (knowing exactly which one started the ignition to the Suburban)and run out the door yelling,"I want to drive". Two years and nine months after John was born his female counterpart, Kathleen, came along. The two of them have dedicated their existence to making sure I never have a boring moment ever again. So far they are doing an awesome job. Now, after seven years of homeschooling, with a total of seven children, I have become very thankful for online programs and various products that do some of the drill work for me, and help to take just a little bit of the "crazy" out of my day. The following list of  items are both fun and educational and some of them are worth their weight in gold to me.

Headsprout Reading Program:   

This one is a little expensive, but I've found that it is well worth the price, and they do offer a 50% discount on successive children using the program. I use it as a big part of my Kindergarten, 1st, or even occasionally 2nd grade curriculum. It takes care of a lot of the drill work I used to do freeing up my time to work with the kids in other areas. At the end of each lesson I spend a few minutes using the Sprout Stories and Flash Cards online with them to make sure they are truly understanding the new concepts before they move on. They also have a reading comprehension program available for older kids that I have not tried out yet. Maybe when that child tax credit rolls in I'll give it a go.

Timez Attack:  

Once again this program does a lot of the drill work with the kids in a fun video game format. This has radically transformed multiplication study time from that of total dread to a sought after privilege. Big Brainz actually gives you the basic package for free, but you only get one of the "worlds" which can get a little boring by the time you get to the 4x's. It is however, a great way to sample the program before you buy to see if your child does well with it. Purchasing the full package is well worth the money, especially since you can use it with multiple (no pun intended) children. You can also get a division attack add on for $20 more, and they are currently working on addition and subtraction versions as well.

Oregon Scientific Smart Globe: 
This is one of our new Christmas toys. I grabbed the last box at Costco on Christmas Eve for about $70.00. This interactive globe has a ton of facts and games that make learning geography a blast. You are able to select levels from Kindergarten to adult, making it a fun tool for the whole family. Last year CBS reported that 6 in 10 young Americans can't even find Iraq on a map. In this age of information there really is no excuse for that.This globe has already increased our family's knowledge of history and geography. I"m just itching for that category to pop up on Jeopardy now!

Gospel Champions: 

Gospel Champions is a video game that helps kids learn Bible stories and prayers. They have both a Catholic (Gospel Champions) and a Non-Catholic (Bible Champions) version as it was developed by a Catholic and a Baptist working together. How cool is that? We've found that it is a fun way to supplement our home catechism lessons. This is one game that I have been known to be caught playing from time to time as well.

Starfall:

This internet freebie is a reading program for K-2nd grade. They just added a version you can pay a modest yearly fee for that has more games including basic low level math. It is nice to let the kids play with this when you need to give them a fun and productive break from the routine.

Well, this is obviously not an extensive list, but each one of these has been a blessing to our educational life.
What learning product gems have you discovered? Which ones have been the most useful to your family?

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