3 Ways to Use Smilebox in Your Homeschool

I am a grandma. All eight of my grandchildren live at least a day’s drive from me. I don’t get to see all of their accomplishments and milestones. My daughter-in-law has found a fun way to keep all the long distance relatives up to date on the kids’ activities.  I regularly get emails from her containing Smilebox photo collages.  She does them for birthdays, new skills like riding a bike, vacations and even encounters with the tooth fairy.

Recently when we visited our Florida family we got excited about their tadpole adventure. A neighbor gave them some frog eggs which they  put into a fish bowl and added pond water and plants. We watched the eggs for a couple of days but had to return home before the babies arrived. We were disappointed that we couldn’t participate in the experiment but that disappointment dissolved quickly as we started getting regular updates about the tadpole population explosion.  There were pictures and video on almost a daily basis. One day I received this Tadpole Smilebox in my email. As I watched the videos and looked at the pictures I realized that this would be a wonderful way to share what goes on in our homeschool adventures.

Perhaps you don’t know what Smilebox is all about. Smilebox is a photo sharing service you can subscribe to that allows you to use your own photos and videos to make birthday cards, announcements, and many other personalized creations. You can add clip art and music too. It works like an online scrapbook that you can either keep for yourself or share with anyone who has an email address.  Over the past several years, my daughter-in-law has sent out over 300 Smilebox creations to share the activities and celebrations of her children.

Sharing with friends and family

Smilebox is a great way to share what you are doing  in your homeschool with family. It certainly is a wonderful surprise to be included in the lives of my grandchildren but it might also be a good way to convince the critics. We all have those who might think our homeschooling efforts are not so wonderful. Perhaps sending a Smilebox would soften their opinion a bit. You never know!

Family keepsakes that don’t take up physical space 

The longer you homeschool, the more “stuff” you seem to accumulate. It’s hard to part with all those projects and the memories that go with them. Creating a Smilebox is a great way to preserve the memories without taking up shelves of space in the basement. Younger students can contribute  to a Smilebox that mom is designing while older ones can easily learn to create their own Smileboxes.

Student designed projects

Once students learn the techniques to creating a Smilebox, the possibilities are endless. They can use them to document unit studies and book reports. If they include video, it gives them a chance to work on their narration skills as they describe what is happening. They can learn about design and layout for the best visual effect. It’s like creating a documentary all their own.

To get started making your own Smilebox creations go to Smilebox.com. There is a free version but for $3.99 a month you can access the full selection of designs. I would recommend subscribing to get the most out of the service.  To subscribe to Club Smilebox go here.

4-H: A Great Addition to Your Homeschool

This time of year I am alwa521924_10201304132179014_1214365667_nys reminded of our years in 4-H.  When my boys were young we had a 4-H club that met in our home for nine years. We started with about eight members and when we moved to Iowa the club had grown to over sixty.  This week our club back in Ohio is experiencing the exciting culmination of a year’s worth of hard work. The county fair is just winding down and well-deserved ribbons are being proudly displayed. It’s such a special time. I remember watching my boys putting on the finishing touches to all their projects, some details coming together much too close to the deadline for me! And now my grandchildren are getting old enough to experience 4-H too. They have actually joined the club we started so many years ago.

I believe that my boys are strong leaders today because of their participation in 4-H. It was in 4-H that they learned leadership skills but there was much more to it than that. They also learned something useful with each new project they took on. They learned to follow through and put in their very best effort. They learned to work in cooperation with others. They also learned to cook and take care of animals and to build with their own hands. 4-H was an important part of our homeschool experience. We incorporated the projects into our regular school day and learned things we might not otherwise have gotten around to.

The 4-H program begins with a group called Cloverbuds which is aimed at early elementary students. At age nine a child can become an official  4-H member and even run for an office. From there, students can remain members until they turn nineteen. There are dozens of project areas to explore. You can choose published projects that include all the instructions you need  or design your own projects.   The projects all easily work as unit studies that can be as simple or as in depth as you desire. The opportunities available through 4-H are so extensive I can’t cover all of them here. You will find all the details at the National 4-H website.

4-H is available in all fifty states and many countries around the world. To find your local 4-H community check out the Find 4-H page. 4-H is way more than shearing sheep and growing crops. If you think it’s just for farm kids, look again. You’ll be glad you did.

50 States Notebook

notebookingIf you are familiar with the concept of notebooking, you will enjoy this website full of ideas for creating a notebook of the 50 states.  If you have never considered doing notebooks with your students, this topic lends itself very well to learning the ropes.

By doing one state at a time, you can easily get into a rhythm of working on it a little at a time. Here are some possible plans.

              • You can work as fast or as slow as you want. You could do one state every couple of days for the entire school year and get a simple overview of each state.
              • You could stretch it out and do one state a week and cover  everything in two years. Perhaps pulling in a little history in the process.
              • You could also allot several weeks to each state and use it for geography and regional studies for all of your middle school years.
              • If you wanted to work with several students who are in different grades you could start the oldest one and when the next one is ready, have them work on each new state together until the oldest one is done and then complete the states the younger ones haven’t done yet. You could probably work with students from grades 5-9 at the same time, just requiring a little more effort from the older ones.

There are many subjects that work quite well for notebooking. Try the 50 states and then go on to other topics. Soon your students will have a collection of their learning adventures to share with others.

What I’ve Been Reading

You would think with the busyness of the holidays that I wouldn’t have time to read. Wrong! I always have time to read. It is definitely my sanity safety net.  This month I have been reading a variety of things. Sometimes whole books, sometimes just portions of a book. Either way, I have found some interesting reading lately.

One book I have been enjoying is Food Journeys of a Lifetime: 500 Extraordinary Places to Eat Around the Globe. This is a fascinating culinary tour of the world that highlights a vast collection of foods and places. From the cherries of northern Michigan, to vanilla from Madagascar, to the mushrooms of central France, you are treated to delicacies that will intrigue you. And the book is published by National Geographic so the photos are amazing. This book reminds me of the Peter Menzel books that I reviewed in an earlier post. You can find that review here.  Books like these allow you to experience the world from the comfort of your home. I know it isn’t quite like being there, but for large families like ours, on one income, the opportunity to actually travel the world is not really an option. This is one way to bring some of the worlds diversity to your family in a very satisfying way.

Another book I’ve been reading is called Homeschool Your Child For Free by LauraMaery Gold and Joan M. Zielinski. This book contains more than 1,400 resources that you can take advantage of for free.  The book is divided into subject areas and then further grouped in smaller subtopics. Every entry has a brief summary of what is available and then the web address. Most are totally free. Some do have subscription options that give you access to more of the website’s resources should you choose to pay the fee. I have found some great websites that I will be using with my boys.

Finally, a book that has given me much to think about is Living With Confidence in a Chaotic World by Dr. David Jeremiah. This book is sort of a follow-up to a previous book he wrote called What in the World is Going On? Last winter we listened to a series of Dr. Jeremiah’s messages (on the prophecies from the book of Revelation) that became the book What in the World is Going On? We were fascinated by the information he shared. Now I am reading this lastest book and find that his suggestions about how we are to live, in light of the end times message, are very helpful. His focus is on what we can do that is positive in an increasingly negative world. It has really helped me to redirect my energy to something more productive than living in fear of the future. I highly recommend any of Dr. Jeremiah’s books. He seems to have a very realistic view of how we can face the future with anticipation instead of apprehension.

Well, that’s all I have for now. I’ll have a new list in a couple of weeks when I finish these books and start on the pile I have waiting for me!

Happy reading!

–Sheryl

Creation Science Resources

creationThis year marked the 100th birthday of Charles Darwin. With that fact drawing attention again to his work, there has been a renewed interest in the age old conflict  – Evolution vs. Creationism.  My older boys have shown an interest in this topic and have read several books about the subject. We have had an opportunity to discuss what a Christian world view is and how it is  in conflict with the other popular worldviews of the current era.

We have found several resources that have been particularly helpful in our studies of Creation and of the ongoing controversy surrounding it. I have listed some of the best that we have examined so far. We are certainly not finished with this subject and will probably find many more reference materials being published in the near future. Therefore, consider this a list in progress, subject to change as more information becomes available.

Probably THE best source of information concerning the study of Creation comes from Creation Ministries International. They have the most up to date information and the greatest presentation that I have seen so far. You could spend days on their website and still not see everything.

Another great resource is Answers In Genesis. Founded by Ken Ham, this organization has spent 30 years sharing information on topics such as the age of the earth, the flood and the significance of archaeological discoveries. There are many answers to the questions that people have been asking for decades.

Some excellent books on Creation can be found on both of the websites previously mentioned. There are also several other titles that we have found helpful so I will list them here.

In the Beginning by Walt Brown – This book is available to read online on the Center for Creation Science website.

Unlocking The Mysteries of Creation by Dennis R Petersen – This book is a wonderfully illustrated volume of information concerning Creation. It is available on the Creation Resource Foundation website.