Free Current Events Worksheet for Star Tribune on September 20, 2015

By on Sep 21, 2015 in Current Events | 0 comments

Do you teach children and do you get the Star Tribune‘s Sunday paper? Here’s a free current events worksheet with simple questions about content found in the September 20, 2015 paper. Educators might enjoy printing off these five pages (one for each day). Three of the five pages discuss a single article found in separate sections of the paper, one page has questions over multiple articles in one section of the paper, and the fifth page allows the student to find any article they are interested in and write on it. This was made for my fourth and fifth grader.

Let me know if you have any questions or corrections. :)

Overview of 2015’s Learning Lab

By on Jan 2, 2015 in Lesson Plans and Overviews, Other Things | 2 comments

On Monday we begin our structured learning program for 2015. Our official education year runs from the first January Monday after New Year’s Day until the day before Thanksgiving. This year we completed some more lesson plans after Thanksgiving because we got a little behind after I had an emergency c-section with my fourth child. There were a few reasons I selected this particular schedule: (1) the holiday season between Thanksgiving and New Years Day is packed full of many different holiday celebrations and visitors, (2) we need a lengthier break at some point and this corresponds with holidays that my husband gets off, so we can spend more time together as a family, and (3) we are able to “give the gift of education” at Christmas with all the different components for the next year wrapped up under the tree after purchasing them at a discount on Cyber Monday or other holiday sales.

Unwrapping the “gift of education” this year was so fun. I had a great time selecting different items for us to explore this year in our learning lab. Both the kids and I are very excited about the next ten months! I found some new programs to try with the kids that seemed more catered to their particular learning styles; we try to hit the three main different sensory learning styles by including auditory, visual, and kinesthetic components to each lesson plan. We also tackle the same concept through multiple media until we are all sure that we understand. In this sense, I definitely focus on mastery of concepts, which the kids say they enjoy.

Every time I pull out my lesson plans and/or my teacher’s manual, I get so very excited, and today I’m going over the upcoming weeks plans, so of course I’m completely stoked!

Structured Plans for 2015


These structured plans are just for the Bigs (10 and 8). My Littles (2 and 9 months) play while we are doing our lesson plans, and I find complementary activities for them so that they feel included.

Language Arts

Time: ten hours per week


This year, for the first time, we are using a curriculum by Mosdos Press: Opal. There is a student text, student workbook, and teacher’s guide. The program combines literature and language arts education through reading selections, lessons, and discussion points with selections of twenty-two short stories, one novella, three biographies, one long narrative poem, seventeen poetry selections, one drama piece, and two nonfiction essays. There are also vocabulary sections and author biographies. The workbook has word games, puzzles, skills activities, and writing activities. Each selection has six workbook pages.


We are continuing to use resources from Sequential Spelling by AVKO, but supplementing with All About Spelling. AVKO has worked well for one of my children, but the other has been struggling. We are trying AAS to see how it works for that particular child. All About Spelling uses a multi-sensory approach with manipulatives.


We are trying out Michael Clay Thompson’s Grammar Island program this year. We are using the components Building Language, Grammar Island, Practice Island, and Music of the Hemispheres. We are not using the literature or writing components of the program. The kids thought that the program we used last year (Easy Grammar) was very boring. It was perfectly fine as a program, but they just weren’t interested. We’ll see how MCT goes this year. I also wanted to add some sort of diagramming component, although MCT uses a different diagramming style than the traditional.


We are continuing to use IEW’s excellent program: Student Writing Intensive Level A. We have had an amazing level of success using this program. The kids went from crying every time we talked about writing (right out of public school), to looking forward to this segment of our day. They’ve put together some really neat compositions. I can’t praise this program enough.


My daughter has been begging to learn cursive, so I picked up some Zaner-Bloser workbooks that include the transition to cursive.


Time: one hour per day per kid

We use RightStart Math’s programs and the kids will be completing their applicable levels and playing the suggested math-related card games. The curriculum comes complete with worksheets, manipulatives, and suggested activities for furthering their learning.

Once a week we will also be doing a combined math lesson from Life of Fred Apples. This is a trial to see what we think of the program.

Fine Arts, Other, & Secondary Languages

Music. Time: varies.

We do not have a specific music program at this time, although we do leave the piano out and plugged in so that the kids can noodle away whenever they want (which is often). We also continue to expose them to all different kinds of music and have the entire Classical Kids collection. Next year I would like to tackle a more specific music curriculum or lessons.

Art. Time: three hours per week

We are finishing up Drawing with Children with this year. The kids have really enjoyed exploring art in this way. We also use and practice our art skills in a variety of media in our science and history lessons and do weekly nature journal entries with writing and sketches. Lastly, the kids participate in an art course that explores art through the lens of history at the Northfield Arts Guild.

Latin. Time: two-and-a-half hours per week

This year we are trying a new program from Classical Academic Press: Latin for Children Level AThis program comes with a student text that has written lesson plans with explanations and mnemonic aids such as charts and songs, a student workbook with exercises and tests, an answer key for the teacher, a three-DVD lesson plan set, two CDs with chants on them, an activity book with games and puzzles, a history reader that allows students to translate Latin stories about Ancient Greece and Rome to English, and a subscription to the HeadventureLand website that has games, stories, and animated videos full of Latin!

Physical Education. Time: minimum of two-and-a-half hours per week

We do a lot of different activities for physical education, but also have Family Time Fitness Core 1 for when we aren’t feeling inspired.

Logic. Time: thirty minutes per week

We are using Building Critical Thinking Skills Level 1 this year in preparation for eventually studying formal logic.


Earth Science and Astronomy. Time: five hours per week

This year we are using several resources to cover this topic and I also sourced, on top of the activities and demonstrations included in the below curricula, a telescope, rock polishing kit, geodes to break open, and astronaut food. I stumbled across The Elements: A Visual Exploration of Every Atom in the Known Universe and had to get it as well.

We are finishing up The Sassafras Science Adventures Volume One Zoology from our animal studies in 2014. This program studies animals by biome/habitat, which relates well to our earth science units. This is a fictional novel about two twins who hate science until their science-loving uncle invites zip lines that allow the twins to travel all over the world learning about scientific topics as they go. They write down information in their SCIDAT Logbook and that keys the zip line in to whether or not they’re finished with any one area, and then they move on. As the twins are learning about scientific topics, the readers are as well, and the readers also note things in their SCIDAT Logbook along with the twins. Additional hands-on activities, science demonstrations, book suggestions, poster design suggestions, copywork and dictation assignments, memory work assignments, and several possible lesson plan structures are included in the Sassafras Guide to Zoology Teacher’s Manual. The main spines and resources are:

We are also using Earth Science & Astronomy for the Grammar Stage by Elemental Science (the company that produces the Sassafras twins adventure novels). This is a thirty-six week long lesson plan intended for classical home school programs with a teacher’s manual, student workbook, and quizzes. The curriculum includes scientific demonstrations, science-oriented book suggestions, notebooking, multi-week projects and activities that help children to cement together related information, memorization, and several possible lesson plans. Lapbooking plans are available, but I don’t use those (too time consuming!). Information covered includes: planet earth; oceans, rivers, and lakes; biomes; earthquakes and volcanoes; mountains, islands, and glaciers; caring for Earth; weather; sun and atmosphere; seasons and climates; weather and wind; water cycle and clouds; storms and rain; extreme weather; rocks, minerals, and caves; types of rock; weathering; fossils; the sun; planets in our solar system – including dwarf planets; asteroids, meteoroids, and comets; stars; constellations; telescopes and satellites; trips to space; scientist biographies. The main spines and resources (for our age group) are:

The third resource we are using is R.E.A.L. Science Odyssey Earth & Space. We are moving away from R.E.A.L. Science Odyssey in favor of Elemental Science, but already had purchased this curriculum. Each unit of RSO has an overview, scientific definitions, labs, and lab sheets. We will use some of the labs and “Big Ideas” from RSO. Units include: weather changes; the water cycle; air surrounds the Earth; Earth’s surface is changing; what is inside the earth?; rocks are made of minerals; the Earth recycles rock; weathering; soil and dirt; moon; sun; planets; space.

History and Geography

Medieval Ages. Time: five hours per week

We are using Pandia Press’ History Odyssey: Medieval Ages (500 CE to 1600 CE) as our main guide to exploring this time period from the fall of Rome to Shakespeare. This study guide with detailed lesson plans should take approximately one year (a suggested thirty-six week schedule) to complete and includes blackline history maps, hands-on activity suggestions, and lists of applicable books to check out from the library. As the children express interest in particular topics, I add more related activities either from the resources or things I find on the Internet and we use the internet-linked encyclopedia to find websites that showcase ruins, museums, and interactive information about the topic. We also watch related videos through Netflix or Amazon Prime. The main spines and resources are:

ISIS and Iraq are just fighting over a pickle!

By on Sep 11, 2014 in Current Events | 0 comments

We start out with our CNN Student News clip for the day, then progress to watching the full 14-minute clip of President Obama’s speech on ISIS via the Times. Then, we read Fox News’ take and a New York Times article on the video. As we are discussing the issue, Nate looks at the graphic available on the Times article and says that it would be “easy” to take out ISIS in Rutba, Iraq, since it is so far from the other ISIS-controlled areas. This gives me an introduction to discussing the costs of war and morality issues about killing others – including innocent civilians. It’s an ongoing talk we have as we learn about historical wars and conquests and current events as well. We discuss risking American lives for affairs in another country that may or may not be our business including the long term effects of action or inaction.

Nate responds that we should do something to “protect innocent people and save their lives.”

I replied to him that “it certainly is a pickle” and one discussed and debated ad nauseam in our society.

“What is a pickle?” Sammi piped up.

I explained that its a tricky situation or dilemma.

She responded, “Oh! It’s like there’s a pickle and two people are fighting over it and its really hard to see who should have the pickle. It’s like ISIS and Iraq are fighting over the same thing – the pickle – and we don’t know who deserves the pickle!” Pickles are actually something fought over in our house quite often. Everyone, except Aaron, wants the pickle.

The things they come up with and the connections they make always blow my mind. :)

Breakfast Discussion

By on Aug 28, 2014 in Etiquette & Manners | 1 comment

Our breakfast discussion today: 365 Manners Kids Should Know: Games, Activities, and Other Fun Ways to Help Children Learn Etiquette



Someone needs some heavy hints, I type in a droll tone of fingers.


Tip: National Geographic Publications Index

By on Aug 27, 2014 in Education Tips | 0 comments

If you are a National Geographic fan and don’t know about the publications index, you’re missing out! Combine this with a subscription to the magazine(s) and their electronic back issues for way too much fun – or don’t, because you might end up sucked into the black hole of reading old articles.

What did parents do before YouTube?

By on Aug 24, 2014 in Personal Hygiene | 0 comments

Every morning I remind my daughter to brush her hair. Almost every morning she rolls her eyes, huffs, or otherwise lets me know that she doesn’t want to brush her hair. I tell her about the importance of washing your hair and brushing it for hair health, and how if she takes care of her hair daily, it wouldn’t get so tangled. She tells me she doesn’t know how to brush it. I remind her of how to brush it. I demonstrate. I have her practice.

I swear she doesn’t listen. Sometimes I feel like my kids think that I don’t know anything, but if it comes from someone else, it must be true.

I queued up YouTube.

Suddenly, my daughter knows how to brush her hair.