Friday, August 17, 2018

God Schooling by Julie Polanco: A Book Review

Julie Polanco Books
As human beings, we all walk around with a load of preconceived expectations and assumptions that just get added to as we go.  If we're growing the way we should, they eventually get whittled down to a healthier dose of reality.  The homeschooling lifestyle comes with a double and sometimes triple portion of expectations because everyone has an opinion AND choosing to homeschool will likely be different than a lot of those around you.  Sifting through all of the ideas and standards society - and even ourselves - put out there can be really hard.   Julie Polanco has written a book that looks at what God expects of us in educating our children, called  God Schooling: How God Intended Children to Learn.
God Schooling book

Julie Polanco is a homeschooling mom of four from the Chicago area whose work has appeared iOld Schoolhouse Magazine, Home Education Magazine, many trade publications, and has developed a high school botany course for www.schoolhouseteachers.com.  She has a wide spectrum view into homeschooling since she graduated her oldest in 2016 and continues in the trenches with her other children.  In this book she challenges a lot of educational standards, even common ones in the homeschooling community.  Does math have to be obligatory? Should we teach things kids don't want to learn? Should I bother with a curriculum? Is there enough play in their lives? Is college worth it? 

If you are a regular reader of mine, you know I don't like extremes very much.  When the word unschooling or even the notion gets brought up around my husband, it's pretty much a dead in the water idea.  So, if you can relate to that, some of the ideas in this book might turn you off right away simply because they seem to favor unschooling and bucking the norm so much.  The reality is I agree and implement the spirit of what she has to say.  Even in high school, I was toying around with the idea that everyone is different and shouldn't be expected to be the same.  To this day I blame the industrial revolution for this cookie cutter society we keep wanting to produce.  Still, I don't consider myself and unschooler at all.

I think, perhaps, she and I started off in vastly different places.  I'm a type B and struggle with schedules and NOT going with whatever we feel like is interesting that day.  From the first chapter or so, I would guess she began more like a Type A person who fulfills all things to the curriculum, despite what the child might be inclined to.  So, about half of the conclusions she has come to I agree with and started out with in my homeschool approach.  My husband is a voracious learner and even if we didn't homeschool, my kids would be exposed to new things all. the. time. just by being around him.  He loves to play and tinker with things and gladly brings them along.  That is a natural learning, something she advocates throughout.

The interesting thing though is that much of her challenging ideas are biblically based or produced from a mountain of research.  After reading the book, I agree that many of our expectations and standards are NOT those placed on us by God, but by social norms.  The area we may disagree on is when is it problematic enough to resist those social norms?  I have a child who resists math sometimes because he says it's hard.  I also know that his mother rocked a lot of things in school until they got 'hard' and then she liked to quit out of impatience.  Some of Polanco's ideas might suggest that we just put math on the shelf until a better time.  I know, as a parent and from personal experience, that it is a character issue rather than about the math.  Still, she advocates understanding the needs of each child, recognizing they will likely be different than their siblings so we would probably agree on a lot.
Julie Polanco Books

My advice to you - especially fellow homeschoolers - is to hear her out.  Read the book and see what you think.  Depending on your personal expectations and concerns about education, this book might challenge you in a huge way or it might solidify a lot of what you have been thinking, but might feel guilty about.  That was my experience.  I love a fluidity to our learning and have to work at maintaining structure, which makes me feel like a bad mom/teacher/homemaker.  But as I have suspected for a long time, there is a lot being done right there, despite what a traditional view might say.




Follow Julie Polanco on Social Media: 

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/juliepolancobooks/ @juliepolancobooks
Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/jpolancobooks/



This book discusses a lot of controversial concepts which means there will be a lot of different reactions to it.  Be sure to check out what some of the other Crew Members had to say about it!

God Schooling: How God Intended Children to Learn {Julie Polanco Reviews}

Crew Disclaimer

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Paddington Bear: A Branch Out World Review

Branch Out World
My son (age 7) always gets extra chatty at bedtime.  So much so that I had to limit him to 2 or 3 questions so good night didn't last 30 minutes.  Lately, his questions have been a lot of 'How is this made?' or "What makes that work?' and honestly I don't know the answers without googling it or asking their dad.  The result is we both learn a lot together.  As they state on their website, my latest review, Paddington Bear from Branch Out World is designed For Families That Love Learning Together.  It is so easy to get caught up in the typical school paradigm where a teacher teaches the information they have already learned, but sooner or later real homeschooling involves learning with each other and from each other.  Curiosity breeds new questions and new questions bring new perspectives to consider and before you know it your adventure is quite different than you expected.  I am not an expert in all subjects that my children will learn so some days we will all learn who invented baseball or what a hydrapult is together. 

Picture Book Explorers - Paddington


Branch Out World is a company based in the UK that was started by a homeschool family looking to share great literature with other families.  Not having any experience with a UK company, this curriculum was enjoyable and educational.  There were a few differences in the language that I had to explain, but nothing hindered us in any way.  Paddington Bear is a literature-based unit study from the Picture Book Explorers series that Branch Out World puts out.   It comes in digital format and includes instructions for over 30 activities, with 45 pages of printables like notebook pages, flags, maps, and minibooks.   There are also extra resources listed that could complement the study like various books on Peru and Paddington videos.  With so many possible activities, the study includes a lot of different subjects, including:

  • History & Geography
  • Creative Writing
  • Art
  • Science (Migration!)
  • Grammar & Vocabulary
  • Architecture & Design
  • Math




The significant thing about reading stories together is that often there are multiple layers and several details that go unnoticed at first.  Upon the first reading of Paddington, no one remembered that the country of Peru was even mentioned!  This was a great opportunity to dive into places (England & Peru) we weren't very familiar with.  The study is divided into 5 sections:

  • Day 1 – Exploring the Setting (History and Geography)
  • Day 2 – Exploring the Words (Grammar & Writing) 
  • Day 3 – Exploring the Pictures 
  • Day 4 – Exploring Science (Animals & Experiments)
  • Day 5 – Exploring Maths, Crafts and More


All activities are left open to exploring further if you choose and also stand alone for when you want to pick and choose certain ones and not others.  You are encouraged to record notes on your adventure in some way, like making a lap book or keeping a journal. It's a very flexible plan with multiple variations possible.  The intended age for this study is 5-10 years old.

When everything a child is learning reinforces or connects back together in some way, it really does stick with them much longer.  Branch Out World has done for us what many of us dream about doing, but don't get around to - beautifully weave subjects and lessons together where everyone is learning.  One of my favorite topics brought out in this study was migration and push/pull factors.  It was a subject we hadn't discussed together yet and taught me a few things I had never considered before.


Branch Out World did a great job with this study and we found it to be a perfect change of pace that proved to be very fruitful!  Check out all they have to offer by following them on social media.
Follow Branch Out World: 

Facebook: www.facebook.com/BranchOutWorld    @BranchOutWorld
Pinterest: www.pinterest.com/belzibow   @belzibow
Instagram: www.instagram.com/belzibow   @belzibow
Twitter: www.twitter.com/belzibow  @belzibow


Paddington Bear {Branch Out World Reviews}
Crew Disclaimer

Monday, August 13, 2018

The Slow Journey to Health: A Weight-loss Update

I have always been insecure about my weight and size - even when I had ZERO reasons to be. Still, when you're thin, young and healthy it is so easy to judge other people who gain weight and don't ever get rid of it.  I know, I know - YOU would never think that way, but let's face it, we all judge secretly from time to time, especially about the things that seem simple or easy to us.  That is until we have to deal with it ourselves.  Age, disease, stress and, well, having children can certainly catch up to you in the body department.  I'm at 16 months postpartum and I don't have any impressive stats to brag about.  I'm sure to the moms of 4+ kids, I sound naive, but keeping up with 3 kids is hard, man.  It takes up all the time and energy and space that you started with and explodes feelings, stains and chaos all over it.  Even if losing weight was a no-brainer for me at one kid (which it's not), at 3 kids and 38 years old, it's going to be a lot tougher.






I guess it sounds like I'm gearing up for a big excuse party and learn to love yourself kind of post.  That's important to have some days, because we are just so cruel to ourselves behind the scenes.  But, that's not why I'm writing today.  I'm writing today to say that the journey to health - from disease, weight-gain or whatever - is often longer than we feel it should be.  I can't claim an awesome number of pounds lost over the summer or anything, which to some might be incredibly discouraging.  16 months! Let's do this already, right?  Well, the thing is, I AM doing it.  All of my clothes are looser, certain areas (where I may have carried a 10 lb baby around in) have tightened up, I have more brain power and more energy.  It's working! It's not revolutionary or mind-blowing, but it's another confirmation that - in my life anyway - a balanced, slow and steady approach wins every time!

I can't speak for everyone else's body or journey in and out of health, but for me weight-loss means detoxing.  Those fat cells hold on to all kinds of junk and getting rid of fat cells requires getting rid of the junk too.   Every 4-7 days, especially when I'm exercising well, I develop detoxing symptoms  (like mild nausea, headaches, body aches, fatigue, etc.).  They aren't pleasant for sure, but they tell me I'm doing something right! Clean eating, exercising and some great herbs that support cleansing and detoxing are where the magic happens around here.  I say magic, but it's more like exhausting uphill battle that takes much longer than you feel like it should

When it comes to your health, it is never worthwhile to give up.  The process of healing and recovery - no matter what we're talking about - takes time.  And that can be so frustrating.  Still, I want to encourage you to know that it is worth it.  Do you feel overwhelmed and defeated because of your health?  Did you try a little bit and it was so hard that you gave up?  Maybe it is blood pressure or blood sugar issues.  Or trauma and anxiety? I have had to deal with a lot of those in my life and my family.  You're not alone and if you need a friend to encourage you, I would be honored.  Either way, I'll keep you posted on my progress.  It IS hard, but it's not impossible.  

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

A Purpose of Parenting: To Balance Your Kids

Over the course of about a week, the Race Car has taken up baseball.  This 1 year old kid is now running around with a foam bat (though he gravitates to the metal, heavy ones whenever he can) and ball looking for someone to pitch to him.  He moves the bat onto the left shoulder, hands gripped in good form and then crouches his whole body down (sometimes so low he falls over) ready for the pitch.  It's adorable and a little mind-blowing how fast he's picked it up, but incredibly consistent with his personality.  Just like his father, when he sets his sights on something he goes after it and sees nothing else.



As I was reading to him before bed (something that is a struggle because he just wants to go, do and resist being still), I tried to work with him saying a couple of words.  As a typical third child, he's taking a little longer to get those words flowing.  It's especially hard with an extra talkative older sister who wants to be in the middle of everything.  The book was about tails so we worked on the T sound and then tried to get him to repeat the word.  Once I got the other two kids to quit interrupting, he gladly pushed out the T sounds and then grinned like crazy when I insisted at the whole word.  We finished and then he jumped up, turning around for a hug.  It occurred to me that I really needed to do that more often - work with him without the other two hanging all over him.  He does mama, dada, ball, go, and just recently mastered uh-oh, but he's capable of so much more if he would only slow down and try it.

And then the entire purpose of parenting came into focus.  We get hung up on different learning styles, disciplining methods and personality types, but the big picture is balance.  With each child God has entrusted to me, it has been my job to know them.  Knowing them means that I learn their weaknesses which should inform my parenting of them - show me where they need balancing.  I have 3 children and a husband who would rather go and do than just about anything.  In my relationships with them, I am learning to help them slow down.  The child that is afraid of hard things (even though highly capable of them) does better when they are forced to learn every aspect of that hard thing in order to master it with patience.  The child with all the words needs help respecting other people's need for silence.  This baby of mine is an amazing accomplisher and I'm learning it is my job to open up his awareness to other great things to accomplish, not just the ones on his radar.

Through conversations and maybe even some ad on Facebook, I've heard a lot of opinions about letting children decide for themselves about how they will be disciplined or what they will do or eat.  It seems to be a trend of some sort that suggests if a child doesn't prefer it then the decree has been set.  And I understand, to a point, because I want my kids to be happy.  I don't want them to resent me or have anxiety over something forced upon them.  However, I am seeing in all of my children the value of filling in the gaps between where they prefer to be and where they could be.

If I let her, my daughter would eat fruit non-stop and rarely have protein - if ever!  Do you know what kind of emotional wreck that girl would be if she didn't get enough protein in the day?  Seriously, she would be on her way to diet-induced diabetes.  As her parent, I see her weaknesses (emotionally and physically) and educate her preferences.  Last month we had some particularly stressful meltdowns regarding J and his math studies.  For that period of time, if I had let him decide he would never mess with math again.  It was hard (he thought) and didn't want to do it.  3 weeks later he's excitedly speeding through multiplication tables to impress his dad.  He just needed a little more patience than he felt like having that week.

Of course, there are always varying techniques on how to parent and carry out rules and consequences, but don't ever believe the lie that a child must like, prefer or be in love with everything they do.  It is our job to balance, equip and build up.  All of those things requires growth and that means change.  If your family never sets out to grow, then you are all likely to miss the mark.  Our relationship with our kids is meant for us to provide balance - a balance that keeps them rooted to the things that matter and that helps them choose wisely even when it isn't comfortable.

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Learning About Science Collection: A WriteBonnieRose Review

Write Bonnie Rose
Contrary to popular thought, you don't have to be a scholar in every subject to effectively educate your children!  That means, if you're like me, you'll have weaker subjects that you tend to shy away from due to your lack of confidence.  Science is one of those for me.  Knowing that, I was excited to try out the Learning About Science Collection, Level 2 from WriteBonnieRose in order to give myself  more tools to bolster my confidence.
WriteBonnieRose is a website full of homeschooling helps and resources of all kinds.  Bonnie Rose, its creator, has been contributing to the homeschooling community since 2012.  She has a heart for children and sharing God's love with them through her writing.
 Learning about Science Collection Level 2
What We Received:

Learning About Science Collection, Level 2 is a digital downloadable product that included a set of 8 pdf files.  The titles included are:
  • Understanding Food Chains
  • Why Do Animals Hibernate?
  • Plants: How They Grow and How They Help Us
  • A Closer Look at Body Systems
  • The Cycle of Water and Types of Clouds
  • The Solar Systems, Planets, Earths Moon and Constellations 
  • Forces and Simple Machines
  • Scientists and the Scientific Method
Each topic has 15 to 25 pages that define key terms, encourages coloring and reading comprehension, provides handwriting practice, drawing activities and review questions at the end, all with pictures to color as possible answers. 




How We Used It:

We started with Understanding Food Chains and each page covered a different type of ecosystem. My son could read the page, follow the directions for the activity and then he would usually ask questions.  Depending on the subject matter, it often left it wide open to continue the study with some YouTube videos.  When my son came into my bedroom one day asking me how gravity worked again, it was a great opportunity to look at a different topic, Forces and Simple Machines.

What We Thought:

The text of this curriculum is very simple and clear.  I found it easy to understand, but more importantly easy for me to explain and answer questions about.  We found it to be the right kind of involvement to include handwriting and coloring on every page.  It certainly kept my son engaged.  At his age (7), this curriculum provides a great introduction to all of the elements and allows us to go deeper when his interest or need requires.

Whether you are a bit afraid of science like I was or you just need an effective resource, consider WriteBonnieRose and all three levels of Learning About Science.  If you purchase between now and August 15th with the code REVIEWCREW50, you'll receive 50% off your order!  That's $6 a set!

Learning about Science Collection Level 1
Follow WriteBonnieRose on Social Media:
 
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/WriteBonnieRose/  @WriteBonnieRose
Twitter: https://twitter.com/WriteBonnieRose  @WriteBonnieRose
Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/writebonnierose/  @WriteBonnieRose


Check out what other people had to say about the Learning About Science Collection:

Learning About Science collections {WriteBonnieRose Reviews}
Crew Disclaimer

Monday, July 30, 2018

Hard is NOT Impossible

The two big kids have are taking swim lessons at the local YMCA right now.  Throughout their lessons, there are water aerobic type classes going on at the other side of the pool.  I have never seen so many active people over the age of 80 in one place.  It has been so encouraging to me. 

See, I have a good amount of weight to lose since the Race Car, but my weight-loss hasn't progressed the same as with my other two.  My last pregnancy was so hard on me physically that the past 3 months of exercise has resulted in better fitting clothes, but no huge changes on the scale.  It's very frustrating if you're a slave to that scale.  Thankfully, I'm not.  And every morning I'm witness to a large population that stereo-typically finds it too big of a challenge to stay very active, sometimes a slave to their age.  Thankfully, they aren't.

I met a wonderful woman who was just now learning to swim at 70+.  Talk about a mountain that could easily be dismissed.  One of my biggest fears after the Race Car was born was not ever returning to my healthier weight, but to just adjust to a new normal.  15 months later, I understand how easy it is to accept limitations.  I have a Ferris wheel full of responsibilities that makes it difficult to prioritize my health.

The baby woke up to eat at 5:30, as usual.  I really, REALLY wanted to go back to bed afterwards, but I didn't.  Instead, I did a little work and got my workout started.  It was hard, but not impossible.  Sometimes we (I) forget that hard and impossible are not synonymous.  So, thank you to everyone who does hard things.  You are an encouragement to me.


Friday, July 27, 2018

Smart Kidz Radio: An Educational Radio Station Review

Smart Kidz Radio

As a parent of small children, I am in the fire of trying to properly filter the world for my children.  There are so many negative messages, many of which we can't completely get away from.  So the latest review from the Homeschool Review Crew certainly speaks to a concern I have as a parent.  Smart Kidz Radio from Smart Kidz Media is an educational radio station just for kids!

Smart Kidz Radio


With a free account set up, you can access their streaming content through a browser or the Smart Kidz Radio App (soon to be available for download).  The content that we heard included new songs we had never heard before that focused on constructive and educational topics like managing emotions, getting along with others, character traits, hygiene, healthy habits and all kinds of positive messages for kids.  After most songs a DJ/announcer would advertise the Smart Kidz Bookstore or announce the next song.

Smart Kidz Radio
In the Podcast area there are several fairy tales and other classic stories that my kids really enjoyed. From what I understand soon they will be offering On Demand content like this (only new and regularly updated) available with a paid subscription.

What We Thought:

I really liked the concept of having safe, educational and productive media for my kids.  There just isn't enough of that in our society right now so I fully support ideas like this! When we listened (on our laptop in the living area), my kids were curious about what it was and enjoyed having something new to listen to for a while.  Since it was ALL new, it became background music for the most part after the third or fourth song.  That being said, it was background music that I didn't have to worry about negative messages seeping in unnoticed.  I think if a few familiar songs - even if they were redone in a unique style - would keep my kids a interested a little longer.

The topics and messages of the music were very positive, but like all media parents have to pay attention to make sure what their children are consuming aligns with the values of their family.  I never heard anything I disagreed with, but there were a few ideas that I felt would need more discussion to make sure it wasn't taken the wrong way.  Self-image is an important topic, but depending on the needs of the child, it might cause someone to focus too much on self, for example.

I will be very interested in the On Demand section to see just how much more content - especially stories and audio book type of material - becomes available.  My kids LOVE to listen to stories.

If you think this might be something your family is interested in, check out Smart Kidz Media on Social Media and read what other reviewers had to say!

Smart Kidz Radio




Social Media Links:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/smartkidzmediainc/   @smartkidzmediainc
Twitter: https://twitter.com/smartkidzmedia   @SmartKidzMedia

Smart Kidz Radio Homeschool Reviews
Crew Disclaimer