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Spelling Success with All About Spelling

spelling success with all about spelling
AAS dictation pic PIN

Our Personal Story Regarding Reading and Spelling

We are all interested in something. Some of you may even be gifted in some areas. Maybe you can sew beautifully or cook better than your grandma. Maybe you have a green thumb. (If so, I’m jealous!) One of my kids has great aim with a slingshot or a bow and arrow. Another is a very talented artist. One enjoys science. The youngest loves anything with a motor!

My interests are reading and writing. I love school and I desperately want my kids to love it as much as I do! Regarding reading and writing, my four kids range all the way from “not at all interested” to “Why, yes! Let’s look up the word of the day and use it in a sentence just for fun, shall we?!”

AAS dictation pic PIN

When my third child showed an early interest in learning, I thought I had it made. I was wrong! He enjoyed listening as his older siblings did their school work and sometimes called out the answer to a random multiplication fact as they studied. He liked being read to. He asked good questions. When it came time to begin his “formal” education, though, I was surprised to find that he had a very difficult time learning to read and write.

He was often frustrated. He seemed to forget everything he had learned the day before. He gazed off into space and guessed instead of sounding out words. His handwriting was terrible. His spelling ability was nonexistent (even for sight words that could be simply memorized). I felt like a failure.

A Dyslexia Diagnosis

After two years of trying to teach him to read and write with very little success, I had him screened for dyslexia. To make a long story short, he was eventually fully tested, and we found that he is indeed dyslexic. He has difficulty sounding out (decoding) words, trouble recognizing sight words, challenges with word recall, and much more. Once I understood what he needed, we worked for three years to help him learn to read with fluency. Part of our strategy included using a program called All About Reading. Click here to read my All About Reading review.

Improvement in Reading (with AAR) but Not in Spelling, Handwriting, or Typing Ability

He may always have some degree of difficulty with reading and word recall, but by using All About Reading (AAR), his skills became close to those of his peers. One area in which his skills continued to remain poor, though, was spelling!

I knew he disliked handwriting, but I always attributed this to dysgraphia. It’s not uncommon for dysgraphia to go along with dyslexia.

When he began working on his typing, I once again attributed his reluctance to fine-motor difficulties related to dysgraphia.

Finally, in a moment of extreme frustration, he was able to explain that his main problem with writing and typing was not fine motor-related at all. It was spelling! Both typing and writing took a very long time and were very labor-intensive for him due to looking back and forth so much (from his source text to his paper) because he was unable to spell the words. Thankfully, I knew where to turn once I understood the root of the problem!

How We Chose All About Spelling

After having such great success with All About Reading, I had great confidence that All About Spelling (AAS) would help my son improve his spelling. I did research other programs, but I kept coming back to All About Spelling. I determined that this was the program I had the most confidence in and moved on to the next step – administering the placement test.

I administered the All About Spelling placement test to determine the best level for my son. It was very straightforward, quick and easy to administer, and definitely helpful. My son remembered many of the reading rules he had learned in All About Reading and was able to use those to begin at Level 2. I highly recommend that you begin at Level 1, however, if both you and your student have not yet used a thorough, systematic reading or spelling curriculum that included both reading and/or spelling rules.

The reason for beginning with level 1 is that there are many rules and hints that are introduced in the first level that will be very useful as you move on through the levels. Since they build on each other, I don’t suggest skipping any levels. Even though we began with Level 2, I purchased the flashcards from Level 1 and reviewed them with my son before beginning Level 2. These cards contain information to help your student learn words, sounds, phonograms, and spelling rules that will be needed to spell successfully.

Preparing to Use All About Spelling

To give you some practical information about the program, I’ll share my experience with preparing to use All About Spelling.

Spelling Review Box

It took just under an hour to separate the flashcards and organize them in the Spelling Review box. It would be easy to reduce this amount of time with the help of an older student or friend who can help fold the cards at the perforated lines and tear them apart.

Getting Familiar with All About Spelling

I spent about 30 minutes reading through the introductory information on how to use the program. I suggest making a cup of coffee (or tea) and settling down and enjoying it.

Phonogram Sounds App

The introductory material has a QR code to download the phonogram sounds app, which I love! This app teaches you, the parent, exactly how to pronounce each letter sound. Don’t be tempted to skip this part!

I highly advise getting familiar with the letter sounds yourself so you don’t accidentally make common mistakes when helping your student with letter sounds. (Your familiarity with phonogram sounds will help you to remember to make the “c” “a” “t” sounds correctly, for example, rather than “cuh” “aah” “tuh.”) And yes, this is important even for kids who read well.

Letter Tiles App

You may choose to use physical letter tiles or use the Letter Tiles App. My son didn’t have a strong preference, so I chose to use the app. I wanted the convenience of having the tiles all in one place with no risk of loss, but either method will work just fine.

If you choose to use the app, I suggest that you do the app tutorials (this will only take a few minutes) and practice using the app before you begin with your student. You’ll want to be familiar with how to select and use the tiles, how to clear the screen, and how to select the proper level and lesson.

AAS box

Some of My Favorite Features of All About Spelling

I really loved the preparation section!

It contains all of the information you need to successfully set up your materials. Additionally, it includes useful information on how the program works, how to get familiar with the material before you begin teaching your student, and some extras and strategies for handling rule breakers (the words…not the kids!).

I found that I enjoy the scripted lessons. 

I am a free spirit, and I love to do my own thing in just about every area of life – including teaching my kids. I did not think I would love scripted lesson plans, but I really do!

I have found that my son simply does not learn in the same way that I do. Having a script to follow not only relieves me of the pressure of finding the right way to present a concept, but it also gives me the security of knowing that I didn’t leave anything out or accidentally say it in a confusing way.

Additionally, I know they were scripted by an expert who knows exactly how to get the point across. The scripted lessons were a huge hit with both of us.

Lesson length is flexible, which makes the curriculum easier to adapt for your child. 

The amount of time you spend using the program each day is up to you. You may choose to complete an entire lesson (Lessons in AAS are called steps.) at once, or you may choose to break it up into shorter sessions as we did.

My son learns well for short periods of time and then becomes restless when he is struggling with difficult concepts. It was easy to find a natural stopping point within each step (lesson) and to simply continue from that point the next time.

AAS covers information thoroughly and logically.

I have confidence that my son is learning what he needs to learn. I don’t worry that there will be gaps in his spelling instruction that may cause confusion later.

I love that AAS is multi-sensory.

When teaching a dyslexic child to read or spell, including multi-sensory activities is a must! In fact, I believe that ALL kids can benefit from a multi-sensory method of learning.

It is known that kids with learning disabilities benefit from different methods of input, and it is suggested that this would be a great way to teach all subjects to all students. We use movement and multi-sensory input for every subject, so the fact that it was already included in this program really made the program even easier to use.

AAS Jail

Bad guys (words that don’t follow the expected spelling rules) go to jail in All About Spelling!

A Few Additional Things I Love

The materials are sturdy and durable. The card box is thick, the lid fits well, the materials fit inside nicely, and the dividers are strong and easy to see above the cards. It even comes with little foam blocks to use if you don’t have a full set of cards. (The foam blocks take up the extra space to keep your cards from falling down. They thought of everything!)

The paper quality is great, and the teacher’s guide is bound well. Even with daily use, the materials and teacher’s guide hold up well and are easy to use!

I enjoyed the clean, uncluttered look of the material. Visual clutter can be overwhelming, so I found the simple but enjoyable look of the materials to be pleasant.

The font of the materials is easy for my dyslexic student to read. 

Daily review is built into the program, which helps with long-term retention.AAS letter tiles

Final Thoughts and End Results

All About Spelling is a fantastic program for kids of any age or ability level.

My son has dyslexia, but the Orton-Gillingham approach that is used in this curriculum is equally great for all students.

Using All About Spelling with my son has been enjoyable for me and so helpful for him!

His confidence in his spelling ability has increased tremendously in a short period of time.

As homeschoolers, we have the option to continue to work with our students until they achieve mastery of many subjects. Spelling is one subject that he and I both felt is worth working hard to master since it will affect his ability to write well for the rest of his life, whether that includes writing papers for school or writing emails for work one day.

He has really enjoyed his increased ability to write without the stress and without the time-draining need to constantly look back and forth at how to spell so many words. He feels much freer to consider what he wants to say and how to say it since he is not nearly as exhausted with the mechanics of spelling each word.

We saw quick improvement and lots more progress over time.

When we first began using All About Spelling, my son had difficulty spelling most words, even the simplest ones. (His reading ability was very good, but producing the words through spelling was not a good skill for him at all.) Before we finished Step 1 of Level 1, I could already see that he was getting comfortable with spelling and that the methods laid out in All About Spelling were working for him. The dictations at the ends of each step are becoming easier and much less intimidating as he progresses through the program.

In fact, he came to me and expressed a desire to write about his journey with dyslexia and learning to read, write, and spell. Whether he ever actually achieves that goal or not, the fact that he has expressed such a desire tells me that he now feels equipped to do so and as his teacher and his mom, I know he is.

All About Learning Press Giveaway!

All About Reading and All About Spelling

melissa softened

Melissa Overland is a full-time wife and homeschooling mom. (She also happens to be the identical twin sister of Wendy Hilton who is co-owner of Hip Homeschool Moms.) She loves all things nerdy and creative and is quite unable to keep a clean house. She finds solace, however, in training her children to put God first, to be not only educated but also happy and content, and in aiming to learn to be better at the housekeeping thing as a family! She lives in the South with one husband, two children, and one cat, all of whom must be tough enough to survive life with no grains or gluten, very little sugar, and lots and lots of sloppy kisses.

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Take the Stress Out of Math for All Ages and Grade Levels

take the stress out of math for all ages and grade levels

Math. Most people either love it or…well…don’t love it. 😉 But it’s a necessary subject, and it’s one most students can learn to love if you find the right curriculum. Math was my best subject in school, and it’s been very difficult teaching it to my teenage daughter since it’s a subject she doesn’t love and that doesn’t come easily to her. I’ve always had trouble figuring out how to explain math concepts to her in a way she can understand. And, to be honest, it’s very hard to be patient with her since it’s often necessary to go over lessons multiple times.

student working on computer

In an attempt to find what would work best for her, we’ve gone through quite a few math curriculums in the last few years. Nothing clicked. Nothing worked well. And nothing helped her enjoy math or feel successful at it. That’s why I’m so excited (and relieved!) to have finally found CTCMath!

Take the Stress Out of Math for All Ages and Grade Levels!

At first, I was leery to try CTCMath because my daughter doesn’t generally enjoy online learning. She typically likes physical/print materials that are very hands-on. I’m thrilled to say that she loves this curriculum!

Top 3 Reasons My Daughter Loves CTCMath

  1. First, with her full schedule, it’s easy to fit math into her day whenever she has time. If she were taking a live online class, she would have to attend class at a certain time and on certain days. She very much prefers having the ability to do a lesson at whatever time works best for her schedule on any certain day.
  2. She likes the fact that the videos that are used to teach lessons are short. For students who aren’t great at math, a long video with lots of information can be overwhelming.
  3. She enjoys being able to review and re-watch videos when needed. If she has trouble with a new concept, all she has to do is watch the video again until she understands it. She loves the fact that the teacher never loses his patience or gets frustrated no matter how many times she needs to review a lesson. 🙂

CTCMath banner

The 5 Top Reasons I Love CTCMath

  1. Learning to use CTCMath was so simple! My daughter did not need any help from me besides setting up her username. Also, there are several helpful videos showing users how to get started and explaining how to use the various tools.
  2. Instead of a regular placement test, CTCMath uses diagnostic tests. This simply means that, instead of doing a placement test, the student jumps in and does a lesson at whatever grade level the parent thinks is appropriate. If that level is too difficult or too easy, the student can then move backward or forward to a different level as needed. Once your child is working at a level that is challenging but not too difficult, you know he or she is at the proper grade level.
  3. CTCMath includes all grade levels. Being able to work at any grade level gives both my daughter and me the confidence that she is learning what she needs to know before she moves on.
  4. It is not Common Core aligned. I don’t like Common Core-aligned curriculum. It’s confusing and often seems to make math concepts more difficult to learn and understand rather than making them understandable and doable.
  5. Parents get emails with progress updates. I love the email reports that tell me how my daughter is doing! They tell me when she logged on, what she finished that day, the grade she made, and even how long it took her to complete the lesson.

I’ve already listed the 5 top reasons I love CTCMath, but there are lots more reasons you might love it! 

  • CTCMath includes math curriculum for students from kindergarten through high school. This means everything from kindergarten math all the way through high school algebra (I & II), geometry, trigonometry, pre-calculus, and calculus is included!
  • If you choose a family membership, up to 5 students (at any ages/grade levels) can use this curriculum! This makes CTCMath affordable for almost any family.
  • The Question Bank allows parents to assign extra practice if they feel like their students need it.
  • If your child enjoys or would benefit from having a printed lesson to review, you can print out the lesson summary at the end of a lesson.
  • There are optional worksheets that can be completed without an internet connection. When you do have internet access, your child can enter the answers and see the solutions.
  • The parent can choose the passing grade for each student.

The video below gives a great overview of this curriculum. It’s worth taking a few minutes to watch! 

We love this curriculum. We don’t have to keep searching. This is the one that will get her through to graduation. CTC Math is helping her to stop saying, “I’m not good at math.” It’s boosting her confidence in her ability to do math and helping her enjoy math so much more than she ever has before! Below you’ll find more information about how to try a free trial of CTCMath, how to use a discount code to get a huge discount, and how to enter for a chance to win a FREE family subscription!

Get a FREE Trial or a Huge Discount on a Subscription!

Click here to get a FREE TRIAL of CTCMath.

And you can get 50% off your CTCMath subscription by clicking this 1/2 Price for Homeschoolers link!

Enter for a Chance to Win a FREE Family Subscription!

CTCMath 12-month Family Membership

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How to Use Julia Rothman’s Nature Anatomy in Your Homeschool

how to use julia rothmans nature anatomy in your homeschool
This Companion Notebook Series makes it fun and easy to use the Julia Rothman series of nature study books in your homeschool with no prep!
This Companion Notebook Series makes it fun and easy to use the Julia Rothman series of nature study books in your homeschool with no prep!
This Companion Notebook Series makes it fun and easy to use the Julia Rothman series of nature study books in your homeschool with no prep!
This Companion Notebook Series makes it fun and easy to use the Julia Rothman series of nature study books in your homeschool with no prep!
How to Use Julia Rothmans Nature Anatomy in Your Homeschool
How to use Julia Rothmans Nature Anatomy in your homeschool pin

Most of us love finding ways to encourage our kids to get outside and enjoy nature! I’ve always looked for ways to help my children learn and explore outdoors whether we lived in a big city, an apartment complex, or in the woods in the country. While free observation and exploration are educational and enjoyable, my children and I benefit from having a guide to help our free spirits get more organized. And I, as a homeschool mom, value resources that encourage my homeschooler to develop a love of nature and a desire to learn more about it.

How to use Julia Rothmans Nature Anatomy in your homeschool ig

Be sure to read all the way to the bottom of this article! There, you’ll find a giveaway AND a discount code for 15% off your purchase of the Julia Rothman Companion Notebook Series.  

The Julia Rothman Companion Notebook Series, a digital/downloadable series from Daily Skill Building, is designed to accompany the Julia Rothman Collection. (The Julia Rothman Collection is a series of nature study books. You can find them on Amazon.)  These notebooks are my new favorite way to accomplish my science and nature study goals! They are for children in grades 3-8 and, in my opinion, turn interesting books into truly educational resources!

Julia Rothman Companion Notebook Series

When I was given the opportunity to use and review the Nature Notebook and the other companion notebooks that go along with the anatomy book series, I was excited! I’m always open to new science- and nature-related resources. Since these resources are new to me, though, I had no idea what to expect. I have to start by saying I was NOT disappointed by what I found!

On the first few pages of the Nature Notebook, I found that there were many free printables and links to a wide variety of resources for further learning. The notebook includes links to fun crafts and activities, convenient printables for nature walks and studies, and handy copywork pages all centered around the nature theme. Additionally, each chapter of the notebook begins with an overview of the focus, extra printables, and links to even more resources such as unit studies and other activities.

What You Need to Know About the Companion Notebooks

You may choose to print the entire notebook or just the pages you need.

These downloadable companion notebooks are quite long. The Nature Notebook (which accompanies the Nature Anatomy book) is 172 pages long, so you may choose to print only the pages you need if you’d rather not print the entire document. (Some print shops give discounts to homeschool support groups and organizations. Be sure to check!)

They’re easy to correlate with the related book.

Each companion notebook relates to a particular book. Each chapter in the notebook begins by suggesting which pages of the related book correlate to that chapter. This is a wonderful time-saver and stress-reliever!

They include questions that are easily adapted for both younger and older students.

For younger students, the journals include questions designed to encourage students to think about and repeat what they’re learning. These questions are great for younger students who can answer fact-based questions relating to information that was clearly stated in the text.

For older students, there are questions designed to encourage the students to think more deeply and critically about what they’re learning. For example, older students can answer questions not only about factual information from the text but also questions requiring them to explain what causes a thing to occur or to explain why a certain thing happened.

They include space for drawing/artwork.

There are places for children to draw pictures based on what they’re observing and learning. Older students can create artwork (Some chapters even include links with guided drawing activities.) that details what they’re learning. If your student, like mine, does not enjoy drawing, you may choose to skip the drawing pages. Or you may want to encourage those students to stretch their skills by practicing a few drawings.

If you’d like to use these pages in different ways (other than drawing) you could print pictures from some of the suggested online sources and have them cut and paste them into the notebook. Or, if you have a child who enjoys photography, you can include photos he or she has taken. This article includes a few of our favorite photos taken with a cell phone! (If you have a fancy camera, that’s great! If not, that’s ok too.) You can print out your pictures on your own printer, or you can send them to a local store and have them printed more professionally. It’s up to you!

spider web

Most journal chapters for the Nature Notebook include links to additional resources.

Most of the chapters in the companion notebooks include links to resources and information to go along with the topic. This is super important because this additional information added tremendously to my son’s interest level and to the amount of information he understood and retained from each lesson.

For example, in the chapter about weather, there are links to printable charts, guided drawing activities, terminology-related copywork, and more! In studying the pages related to clouds, my son and I found that looking at the types of clouds was interesting, but drawing them really added to our understanding of them (even though he doesn’t normally love to draw). When my son put pencil to paper to actually draw some of the clouds, he automatically thought more deeply about why the types of clouds looked so different and began asking me questions about them. This led to a very cool discussion of how clouds “work,” and we both came away with a lot more knowledge than we had previously.

Some Things I Love About the Companion Notebooks

They encourage new investigation of familiar material.

I love that each journal asks questions that encourage a new look at familiar material. For example, the Nature Notebook shares information about bird feathers, beaks, and eggs–which many children have seen before. Most children enjoy encountering information they already have some knowledge of because it gives them a sense of accomplishment and familiarity. Then notebook goes on to share new and interesting information that will encourage the children to think about previously-known information in a new way and to think about both previous and new information in ways they might not have otherwise investigated.

These companion notebooks also encourage children (and parents!) to take a closer look at nature in general. Even if the notebooks don’t specifically mention, for example, a butterfly or a pinecone, you’ll probably naturally be inclined to take a closer look at these while you’re taking a closer look at whatever it is you’re specifically studying. Simply put, you’ll pay more attention to everything you see in nature even while you’re looking for specific things.

Nature Notebook Butterfly

They bring new ideas to life.

I found that working in the companion notebooks helped bring alive some ideas from the correlating books that might have otherwise been glossed over. For example, my son and I very much enjoyed the book chapter related to birds. When he began working in that chapter of the notebook, he was able to slow down and really consider the different types of bird calls, feathers, and reasons why birds have variously shaped and sized beaks. He was also given a place to draw various kinds of bird eggs.

The next time we took a walk outside in the woods, we were much more interested in stopping to listen for bird calls so we could identify the birds we heard. We didn’t have complete success, but we had a great time laughing as we listened to their calls and read the suggestions for what it sounds like the birds are saying. In other words, we both learned something (Did you know that birds living in different areas have different dialects?!) and had a great time!

They make a great ongoing resource and keepsake for the future.

Whether you choose to print the entire notebook or just the pages you need for writing, drawing, etc., the pages you print will make a beautiful keepsake that your student can add to over the years. For example, your elementary student could complete some of the questions and drawings and return to the book and notebook in junior high and again in high school to add additional information. In this way, the notebook could even be a little like a time capsule for you and your student!

The series is secular but Christian-friendly.

I will explain this in more detail below in the “Final Notes” section.

There is no prep-work needed! 

If you choose to print the notebook pages (or have them printed), I supposed you could consider that to be prep-work. Other than that, though, all you have to do each day is grab your book and companion notebook and get started! As a busy homeschool mom, I so much appreciate the fact that these resources are that easy to use! And I feel like the information included and the things my son is learning are just as thorough and just as much fun as they would be with any other curriculum that requires a lot of time and effort ahead of time.

You can get an entire set of companion notebooks!

As mentioned previously, there is an entire series of companion notebooks for the Julia Rothman series (plus bonuses!). In other words, in addition to the Nature Notebook (which goes with the Nature Anatomy book), there are also the Farm Notebook (to go with Farm Anatomy), the Food Notebook (to go with Food Anatomy), or the Ocean Notebook (to go with Ocean Anatomy). There is also a Birding Notebook (to go with Audubon Birding Adventures for Kids) for those who are especially interested in taking a closer look at birds. (The Birding Notebook is a free bonus when you purchase the set of notebooks. You’ll find more information below in the section called “Companion Notebook Bundle with Free Bonus.”)

If you’re like me, it may be impossible to choose just one!

Nature Notebook Pinecone

naturenotebook flat

The Nature Notebook is a great resource for all ages. There are so many links and so much information that it would make a great science/biology curriculum for kids from kindergarten up to high school. Any parent who is on a budget is seeking to provide a well-rounded science or biology course could easily adapt this resource to create a year-long (or more) study for their student. One of the great things about it is that it could easily be used for a “one-room schoolhouse,” because of the variety of questions and information included.

Who Would Love the Nature Notebook

  • Students who already enjoy nature but want to more fully appreciate and learn more about it would find this Notebook to be an excellent framework for a great curriculum.
  • Those who don’t know much about nature would definitely benefit from this Notebook. The information and links are so varied and numerous that you are certain to find something that sparks interest in your child.
  • Families who feel like they can’t study nature because they live in the city or other areas that don’t seem to lend themselves to the study of nature will find that this Notebook gives you the resources you need to make it happen.  The questions and links in this Notebook will bring your awareness of nature to life so that you can see the nature that is all around you. From the mayfly on your windshield to the pigeon in the parking lot, you will begin to notice more about nature and hopefully begin to seek it out in a meaningful way through the use of this Notebook.

food notebook flat

The Food Notebook was created to accompany the Food Anatomy book, which digs into the study of social studies in a way that is both novel and fascinating. While the Food Notebook does not include links to other resources, it does include many places for illustrations, writing definitions, explaining concepts, and more.

My favorite page in this notebook is the one for the creation of a fishmonger’s visual lexicon. My son’s favorite page in the notebook was the one in which he got to illustrate and label the Scoville scale. I allowed much freedom of expression (and many laughs!), and I think we’ll both remember a lot from this one! Take a look below to see the Scoville scale and our illustration of it. 🙂

Food Journal

Nature Notebook Scoville scale illustration

This notebook and the book it was created to accompany may be better suited to students who are in the upper elementary grades and above. They are definitely enjoyable and interesting but require an understanding of more complex concepts and more difficult terminology regarding foods, kitchen equipment and utensils, and food-related traditions from around the world. They have fun (and even funny) facts but might be difficult for younger students to fully grasp due to unfamiliar terminology related to other nationalities.

Also, I have to say I never would have thought a study of food-related information could be so much fun. 🙂

Who Would Love the Food Notebook

  • Young foodies would enjoy having a world of international foods opened up to them. My son has always been fascinated with food and its history, and we thoroughly enjoyed working through many pages in this notebook.
  • This is an excellent non-traditional way to study the world and so many of its various cultures.
  • This would also be perfect for a student who needs additional social studies education.

farmnotebook flat

The Farm Notebook includes pages for answering questions, creating illustrations, and demonstrating understanding of information learned. One of my son’s personal favorite pages in this Notebook is the one in which he got to illustrate the development of a chicken embryo. Similar to the Nature Notebook, there are links to activities, worksheets, printable fact cards, and guided drawings. Others go even further and include links to resources for long-term projects such as composting with kids, birdfeeder crafts (that don’t require expertise in woodworking!), and canning with kids, to name a few.

Who Would Love the Farm Notebook

  • This notebook would be great for students of all ages.
  • Older students could work through the notebook as well as many of the accompanying links independently.
  • Younger students would definitely need much more adult guidance but could definitely enjoy and learn from this resource.
  • Whether or not your students know anything about farming, this resource would be another great educational resource and keepsake to enjoy for years to come.

oceannotebook flat

The Ocean Notebook, as with most of the other notebooks, does include some links to printables, unit studies, life cycle activities, matching games, and more. The extra links in this notebook are found on one page at the beginning of the notebook. Interestingly, this notebook includes questions about topics covered in the book all the way from the ocean floor to the waves and birds above and many of the fascinating large and small creatures that live on its shore.

As is the case in the other notebooks, there are places for illustrations, recording of facts, simple questions based on facts, and questions designed to generate thoughtful consideration of more complex ideas. For example, a younger child may answer the question, “What is a group of dolphins called?” while an older child may want to discuss some of the creative ways in which dolphins behave. At my house, questions such as this often lead to more research and further discussion, which my student thrives on.

Who Would Love the Ocean Notebook

  • Most kids, teens, and even adults enjoy learning about the ocean and the beach. The Ocean Notebook helps the ocean come to life and made my family want to take a “field trip” to the beach!
  • This notebook, much like most of the others, would make a great resource for students of all ages.

Notebook Series

If you’d like to buy the set of four companion notebooks, you’ll receive the Birding Notebook for free! (The Birding Notebook accompanies Audubon Birding Adventures for Kids, which is sold separately). It includes information about 25 birds as well as their habitats, beaks, feathers, and more! It also includes space to document your birding activities and journal pages for documenting a birdwalk.

Final Notes:

This series is secular. There is no faith-based content, but it is Christian-friendly. Any mentions of evolution and/or the age of the earth from the book(s) are noted at the beginning of the notebook(s) and have been left out of the companion guides.

The Ocean Anatomy book does include some information related to evolution, environmental issues, and sex/reproduction. There are NO questions or activities related to these topics in the associated notebook.

The Food Anatomy book contains references to beer and wine and one image which I would suggest that parents consider for appropriateness. References to these have been left out of the notebook as much as possible.

In both the Ocean Anatomy notebook and the Food Anatomy notebook, book pages that may be of concern are conveniently listed at the beginning of the notebook so that parents may preview the pages in the book before sharing them with their students. I personally chose to include and discuss these topics with my student (with the exception of the picture of a wooden nutcracker which is carved in the image of a naked woman which I marked out with a permanent marker).

I highly recommend the series of anatomy notebooks along with the books that they were created to go along with. My son is learning so much from including the notebooks as he reads through the books. I am enjoying the addition of questions and activities that truly turn these books into a thorough educational resource for learners of all ages and learning styles.

Ready to Buy AND Get a Discount?

If you’d like to buy one (or the whole set!) of these companion notebooks, we have a discount code for you. Use the code HHM15 to get 15% off your order! This code is good through 6/30/21, so don’t wait to order! You’ll find links to each notebook and the whole set of notebooks by clicking this link.

Homeschool Giveaways

melissa softenedMelissa Overland is a full-time wife and homeschooling mom. (She also happens to be the identical twin sister of Wendy Hilton who is co-owner of Hip Homeschool Moms.) She loves all things nerdy and creative and is quite unable to keep a clean house. She finds solace, however, in training her children to put God first, to be not only educated but also happy and content, and in aiming to learn to be better at the housekeeping thing as a family! She lives in the South with one husband, two children, and one cat, all of whom must be tough enough to survive life with no grains or gluten, very little sugar, and lots and lots of sloppy kisses.

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Christmas Science Experiment: Borax Crystal Snowflakes

christmas science experiment borax crystal snowflakes
HHM Christmas Science Experiment PIN

Even if you take a break from formal homeschooling during the holidays, it’s still easy to help your kids keep learning! How about this fun science project/experiment?

Important Note: At the bottom of this article, you’ll find a Christmas Giveaway! We are happy to be participating in a giveaway of $500 in PayPal cash for TWO families this Christmas! After you read all about how to make Borax crystal snowflakes, we hope you’ll enter the giveaway. 

Have you ever heard of making snowflakes out of Borax and pipe cleaners? If not (or even if you have!), keep reading to find out how. It’s lots of fun, and it’s a great way to spend some time being creative with your kiddos and learning something fun at the same time!

HHM Christmas Science Experiment FB

This Christmas science experiment takes a little while, but it’s worth it to wow your kids with how Borax makes crystals out of pipe cleaner ornaments. It’s a little like how the Word of God makes us more sparkly—if we stick with it!

HHM Borax Crystal Snowflakes Pinnable Image



  1. Shape various Christmas ornaments using pipe cleaners. For example, shape pipe cleaners into a stocking, star, or cross. Note: The shapes must fit into the jars.
  2. Tie a string to the top of the ornament.
  3. Fill jars with hot water.
  4. Add three tablespoons of Borax per cup of water that you added to each jar. Mix it well. (For example, if you use 3 cups of hot water in your jar, you’ll need 9 tablespoons of Borax for that jar.)
  5. Lower the string so that the ornament is completely covered. Then tie the string around the top of the open jar to keep it in place. Note: You’ll want to be sure the ornament isn’t touching the edges of the jar.
  6. Leave the ornaments in the water overnight.
  7. The next day, the Borax will have crystallized in the water and become attached to the pipe cleaner ornaments.


Borax is an example of a crystal. Salt, sugar, and Epsom salts are other examples. Hot water molecules move away from each other. When you add Borax, the molecules make room for borax crystals to dissolve. But a point of saturation can be reached, meaning there will be some remaining crystals. As this water cools, the water molecules move closer together again. Crystals begin to form and build around another item in the water, such as the pipe cleaner. This is especially true as the water evaporates.


The Borax crystals are a little like God’s Word. We can read the Bible, and it doesn’t seem to make much difference in our lives—not right away. But the Word of God sinks in slowly. We have to have patience. Our walk with the Lord is life-long. Philippians 1:6 says you should be “confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Someday we can be assured of being complete–like beautiful snowflakes–if we read God’s Word regularly. Even though we might look like plain old pipe cleaners while we’re reading at first!

Christmas Giveaway


2020 has been quite a year! It’s definitely a year we won’t forget! But I’m thankful we’ve made it to the holiday season, and my prayer is that we can take some time for gratitude, togetherness, and celebration. To celebrate the holiday season (and the fact that 2020 is coming to an end!), we’ve teamed up with some of our favorite bloggers for the 7th annual Christmas Blessings Giveaway with hopes of making this holiday season memorable (in a good way) by giving two families $500 in PayPal cash.

While we wish we could bless many more families, we were able to come up with a big prize for TWO families – $500 each (delivered via Paypal) – that we pray will make a big difference in their lives this Christmas season – whether it’s to fulfill their kids’ Christmas wishes, pay off some bills, or to help build some savings, our prayer is that it helps to lessen any financial burden and/or fills a specific need, or simply brightens the winners’ day.

There are lots of entry options in the Rafflecopter form below – the more you enter, the better your chance of winning!  I know it can seem tedious and time consuming to go through all the entries, but isn’t a chance at $500 worth it? I think it is!  Plus, all of these amazing bloggers donated their own money toward the cash prizes, so this giveaway wouldn’t be possible without them.  I hope you’ll take the time to check out each one. Who knows, maybe you will find some new blogs to follow.

The giveaway will run from Monday, November 16th through Wednesday, November 25th (ends at 11:59pm EST). The winner will be notified by email shortly after the giveaway ends and will have 48 hours to respond to claim the prize or another winner will be drawn. You must have a Paypal account to win.  By entering this giveaway, you agree to be added to the email lists of the participating bloggers.  Please be sure to read the Rafflecopter terms and conditions upon entering.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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EASY ART CLASS: Pumpkin Pointillism

easy art class pumpkin pointillism
Art Lesson in Primary Colors on pointillism. Children will explore color by using the pointillism technique to achieve secondary colors using only primary ones.
Pin EASY ART CLASS Pumpkin Pointillism 4
Art Lesson in Primary Colors on pointillism. Children will explore color by using the pointillism technique to achieve secondary colors using only primary ones.
Art Lesson in Primary Colors on pointillism. Children will explore color by using the pointillism technique to achieve secondary colors using only primary ones.
Art Lesson in Primary Colors on pointillism. Children will explore color by using the pointillism technique to achieve secondary colors using only primary ones.
pumpkin pointillism pin 1

How do you make a pumpkin still life using only red, yellow and blue paint? Pumpkin Pointillism, that’s how! (Just think how impressed your children will be to solve this riddle.) It’s an art lesson in primary colors. In doing this lesson, your children will gain an understanding of the primary and secondary colors, not just because they were told about them, but because they used them.

pumpkin pointillism fb

What you will need for this pumpkin project:

  1. a pumpkin and some grapes (or any purple fruit- in my example I used cabbage) as the objects for your still life
  2. red, blue, and yellow tempera paint and a paper plate palate
  3. 8 1/2 x 11 white card stock or  multimedia paper
  4. Q-tips
  5. a pencil

Pumpkin Pointillism Tutorial | Hip Homeschool MomsFollow this simple Pumpkin Pointillism Tutorial.

First introduce the primary colors: red, yellow, and blue, and explain how they make the secondary colors when mixed. But stress that we won’t be mixing the colors to get the color we want. This is the trick to this project. There will be no mixing, only overlapping the colors to get the effect and shades you desire. (Any mixing that occurs happens on the paper by overlapping your dots.)

Next discuss pointillism, a technique in which dots are used to create an image. You may want to introduce the artist Georges Seurat before beginning. He perfected the technique and had many interesting theories about color and how to use them. His most famous work was A Sunday Afternoon on La Grande Jatte.

Follow these easy steps for a fail-proof project:

  1. Begin by sketching the pumpkin and grapes (or other purple fruit) very lightly. Keep it light and just a sketch so that your paint will cover it.
  2. Next, paint the green stem of your pumpkin. Be sure your child begins with the lightest color (yellow). Since our stem is green, we first paint yellow dots and then (on top of the yellow dots) add blue dots. Discourage your child from making lines with the Q tip. Instead, encourage him or her to paint by using the Q tip to make dots of paint (since we’re studying pointillism). Suggest making a line by placing dots close together one after another. If you accidentally add too much blue, simply add yellow on top of the blue until you reach the desired color of green.  If you’ve used too much yellow, simply add more blue on top of the yellow so that you get a green effect. As long as your child is making only dots, the project will remain a pointillism technique.
  3. Now work on the pumpkin using yellow and then red to create the secondary color orange.
  4. Finally do the same with blue and red to paint your purple fruit.

This project emphasizes technique and color. There should be less focus on creating a perfect image of the pumpkin. Keep the project fun and stress free with success being measured by obtaining the color desired. For older children, more emphasis can be given to placement of the dots to achieve line, contour, and desired shading. For older children, using a smaller tool for the dots may also be in order.

Pumpkin Pointillism | Hip Homeschool Moms

Do this Pumpkin Pointillism Project as part of a Pumpkin Unit Study.

I hope that you will find these books, lessons, recipes, and resources helpful for putting together a perfect unit study for pumpkins.

Adapt this pointillism lesson for another season or project.

You can use this project for any season or subject! The key is using the primary colors; red, blue, and yellow, to make to a painting of something that is solely the secondary colors; orange, green, and purple. This makes the project best for the fall and harvest season, but you are definitely not limited to it. If you solely want to focus on teaching about pointillism, then any object and colors will do! You can make winter snowflakes, Easter eggs, or summer ice cream cones! (For paintings on dark colored paper, experiment to see if the colored paper changes the outcome.)

Go deeper.

Are you loving this lesson on pointillism? Want to go deeper? Here is a series of videos about this style of painting that might spark some great discussion about pointillism and maybe even some beautifully detailed artwork!

Part 2:
Part 3:
Part 4:
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