Tuesday, March 23, 2021

WWII Part 3: D-Day and Resistance Fighters

We continued our study of World War 2 using MasterBooks America’s Story 3 as our backbone. Even though our focus this year is on American History, I still felt that it was important to expand upon this subject and understand what was going on in other countries as well. I decided that while we were learning about D-Day we would also read some historical fiction that focused on the French resistance.

The Magic Treehouse books are enjoyed by all our kids. They are quick reads and spark curiosity. The World At War Magic Treehouse Super Edition was the perfect introduction to tie in D-Day and the French Resistance. The front cover shows Jack and Annie parachuting into France. So on one rainy afternoon we decided that we were going to explore paratroopers of WW2 a little bit more. We watched the US Army Paratrooper training video. 

We made paratroopers out of army men and coffee filters. And all week long the kids played on their jungle gym and jumped off pretending to be paratroopers. 

CREATIVE WRITING PROMPT: You just parachuted behind enemy lines... finish the story. 

We then watched several YouTube videos of D-Day. On one of the videos the soldier talked about low crawling to safety once he hit the ground. We watched an Army training video on low crawling, and then the girls set up a low crawling training course in our bedroom.

We discussed couriers of the French Resistance and how sometimes you would have to quickly hide or camouflage yourself or your bike to stay hidden from Nazi soldiers. Our kids were riding their bikes in the back yard pretending to be couriers when a member of the French resistance approached them with the V is for Victory sign and warned them that Nazi soldiers were coming down the road. They quickly had to ditch their bikes and hurry into my house to hide.

We discussed air raids and the sounds of World War 2

We read Twenty and Ten, another heart warming story of bravery and courage during the French Resistance. Learn for your Life has an activity guide with some engaging activities and questions, which we used to help study the book. 

Our boys are also huge Curious George fans, so we read The Journey that Saved Curious George and followed their travels on our globe.

I hope your little learners enjoyed these activities as much as our children did! Be sure to Follow us on Instagram @Pocketful_of_treasures and tag us in your photos! Check out the Homeschool Tab for more learning inspiration.

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Friday, March 12, 2021

Learning through Journaling - A Homeschool Science Study on Trees

 We have used Apologia science curriculum for 7 years now and absolutely love it. However, a few years into our homeschooling journey we ditched the notebooks and started journaling. Please know that just because this is what is working for us, it does not make this method better or right for everyone. If you are new to homeschooling like we were 7 years ago, you may need the structure of the notebooks. You may want to do the notebooks and a nature journal. That was simply too much for me to us to keep up with and I found that less structure leads our crew to more learning. Or perhaps you use a different science textbook. The concept of journaling can be applied to other curriculums and even other subjects. So, here is what that looks like in our homeschool. This year we are studying botany, which included a study on trees.

Our kids are awesome at identifying trees by their leaves. They have done leaf rubbings in their nature journal since 2015 when were roadschooling and started keeping nature journals. And while they have certainly noticed different types of barks on our nature hikes, we had never formally discussed identifying trees by their barks, which since we are in the middle of winter can be quite useful.

They did several bark rubbings, taped them into their nature journals, and labelled the trees. 

We keep science vocabulary and definitions in our journals, so they drew a cutout of a tree and labelled the layers.

Did you know that you can measure tree growth not only by its rings, but also by measuring the distance between the terminal bud scars? We did not know that before reading it in Apologia's Exploring Creation with Botany. We headed to the yard and measured some trees. All experiments and activities are recorded in the journals. This time we chose to graph the growth.

When it was clear that the trees grew the most in 2018, we headed to the internet to do some research to find out what happened in 2018. It turns out it was one of the wettest years on record!

When we read about phototropism, we went on a nature hike to try to look for examples. Guess where we drew the examples we found? That's right! In our journals!

I then had our little learners brainstorm some ideas about what happened to the tree that caused it grow like that. I like to tie in life lessons whenever possible, so we discussed how resilient God made trees. Sometimes when we are trying things one way and it's not working, we just need to find another way. They wrote a creative story from a trees perspective about the day another tree fell on top of it.

We also read about the great sequoia trees. Our oldest remembered that I had been there years ago and wanted to look through my scrapbook of the trip. They were fascinated, so I kept that learning spark going and we headed to YouTube to watch more videos on the giant sequoias and even found a drawing video for their journals. 

We tie in other books with the little ones. After reading The Giving Tree they journaled some of the ways trees benefit us.

The children have a journal for every year of science and love looking back through them; reliving their learning adventures again.

We'd love for you to follow us on our homeschool journey on Instagram. Check out the homeschool tab for more learning fun.

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Friday, March 5, 2021

WWII Part 2: Spy School

 Last week we studied Pearl Harbor, so we continued our study of WWII in the Pacific Theater. We started the week by reading Masterbook's America's Story 3, Chapter 11. We learned that breaking the Japanese code was essential in America defeating the Japanese navy at Midway. Our kids remembered learning about the Navajo Code Talkers when we visited Window Rock and talked to a Navajo guide at Canyon de Chelly a few years ago, but they did not realize that there were many different codes used by different countries during WWII. We read The Unbreakable Code to revisit the Code Talkers.

CREATIVE WRITING PROMPT: You just broke a code that could change the course of history. What did you discover? Who did you tell? What happened?

We then did a fun Growth Mindset Escape Room from Think Tank on TPT to introduce other codes. She also has a Pearl Harbor activity, but I did not know about it when I did my lesson planning. This activity was a huge hit with our three older children (2nd, 5th, and 6th grade), and really encouraged teamwork.

Throughout the week we read Spies, Code Breakers, and Secret Agents: A World War II Book for Kids

By the end of the week, all of my kids have decided that they want to be spies. They even made up their own secret code.

The International Spy Museum offers free lesson plans and activities. After watching many of the videos and completing the worksheets, the kids dressed up in their disguises, made some spy gadgets, and were sent to the woods on a mission. 

They even made a DIY Spy Gadget video for their young recruits.

Meanwhile, I left clues throughout the woods and yard alerting them to the fact that the mission they were chasing was not the real mission, and that there was a much more important, time-sensitive mission that they had to complete. The clues led them back inside the house where the final clue was written on the white board in code. 

They recognized the code as pigpen from their escape room activity that we did earlier in the week, and were able to crack the code just in time. "If you can read this bake cookies." 

We also learned that spies need to have an excellent memory and ability to filter out whether information could be relevant or not. To test our little learners I gave them a spy entrance exam. I filled a box with random items, including some WWII Replica Memorabilia

I marched the children into the room and told them that they were in a meeting with a high ranking military officer. The officer received a telegram and had to leave the room momentarily. They would have only minutes to check out the contents of the box. I left the room and walked back in a few minutes later. I then tested their ability to think quickly and speak smoothly when I accused them of touching the contents of the box. 

We went on with our lessons and later in the day I asked them to report in with their spy agency and relay what items were in the box and what information they had gathered. 

Spies, Code Breakers, and Secret Agents: A World War II Book for Kids has an entire chapter on some WWII secret agents, but I also wanted us to study Dietrich Bonhoeffer. We listened to Dietrich Bonhoeffer: In The Midst of Wickedness on Audible, and our 6th grader started reading independently The Faithful Spy.

Our boys took quite an interest in WWII planes last week, so I purchased a Step-by-Step drawing book. They turned several of their 2D drawings into 3D cardboard planes and had their own battles. 

We also watched videos from the Naval Aviation Museum on WWII aircraft.

I hope your little learners enjoy these activities as much as our children did! Share you pictures with us on Instagram @pocketful_of_treasures. Check out the Homeschool tab for more inspiration for your homeschool.

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Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Teaching your Child to Read

 One of the most daunting tasks as a homeschooler is teaching your child to read. I was very fortunate that our oldest child learned to read very quickly and easily. We read lots of books together and we did some cute crafts with the letters, but she pretty much just started reading on her own. Easy peasy I thought. Why was there so much fear surrounding our capabilities of teaching someone to read? Well, I soon learned that she was the exception. None of our other children have taught themselves to read or have naturally picked up on it. A few of them have dyslexia, working memory dysfunction, and dysgraphia. All of them are what I would call reluctant readers. I was going to need a very systematic approach and get creative in teaching them to read. For a while, we called on the help of someone trained in the science of reading. Their teacher was absolutely fantastic and used a very structured, systematic, multisensory approach to help our next two children start to read. If you have a struggling learner and live in Central AR, I highly recommend checking out Bridge to Hope Academic Therapy. Our children were doing wonderful and making excellent progress. And then the pandemic hit and everything came to a halt. On the upside, instead of spending our days running from one activity or therapy to the next, we were home and I finally had time to dig in and do some research myself. I knew I could provide the multisensory experience, I just needed the structure and system. We had tried several programs in the past with little success (I won't list them by name, because while they did not work for us they may work for others and I don't want to discredit them). 

Finally, we found Treasure Hunt Reading by Prenda. I could not believe that this amazing program is FREE. All of the videos for each lesson are on their website and then you can either print off the workbook for free or buy it. We started three of our children at the same time. They are going through it at their own paces, but all of them are learning to read and making excellent progress. Using the Orton-Gillingham approach, Treasure Hunt Reading was just the backbone that we needed! 

Our sons (yes, our boys that never sit still) were so captivated by the program that they even dress up in costumes when they are watching. We do this program to mastery, meaning that we do not move on to lesson 2 until we have mastered lesson 1. For some of the lessons, completing the worksheet and watching the video is enough. Most of the time I add some multisensory activities to it. Here is what that looks like:

Writing letters or words on a tray of sand, rice, or beads.

Writing letters/words in shaving cream.

Writing letters/words with finger paints.

Writing letters/words on a dry erase board and then wiping them off with your finger. 

Writing letters/words with window crayons or dry erase markers on the windows/glass.

Writing letters/words in the mud.

Writing letters/words with sidewalk chalk.

Tracing sandpaper letters.

Letter crafts.

Crafts grouping CVC words.

Using sticks and other nature materials to make letters/words.

Using Boggle Jr. to sound out words.

Signing sight words (American sign language)

Making up silly songs and rhymes.

Using a letter flip made out of a book of index cards.

Using moveable letters on cookie sheets.

Using letter stamps.

Using alphabet blocks or tiles.

Activities like Swat! Smack the Sight Word or CVC Treehouse Climb.

Games like Sequence Letters.

Going on scavenger hunts to find items that being with the letter you are working on.

Touch Type Read and Spell (TTRS), which teaches typing while reinforcing reading and spelling (you can customize this too to make typing lists of your sight words or the CVC word family you are working on).

There are endless possibilities. Be creative and have fun! 

Read more on Teaching our Tribe!

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Friday, February 26, 2021

WWII Part 1: Pearl Harbor - A Homeschool Study

Unlike other unit studies that we have done, there is an overabundance of books and information on World War II. The problem was not finding resources, but rather narrowing it down. I also planned this unit study during the great Arkansas Snowpocalypse, so I had some extra time to search the web and click through Amazon. It will take us a while to get through everything, so I will be breaking the posts up into smaller topics.

We began this week with Pearl Harbor. As with almost all of our history studies, we began with reading a chapter from America's Story, our history curriculum from Masterbooks. We discussed Roosevelt and the tough decisions he was faced in the months leading up to the attack on Pearl Harbor. 


Critical Thinking: What role do you think the government should have in world affairs? When is it our duty to intervene in injustices around the world? Do you think FDR should have entered the war sooner?

Creative Writing: Pretend you were a short-tailed albatross flying across the Pacific. You spotted the approaching enemy ships and caught wind of their plan. You try to warn the sailors at Pearl Harbor but they just won't listen to you.

This Roosevelt Rap from the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum was a fun, rhythmic bridging point between the Great Depression and World War II. Had I found this resource earlier I probably would have first introduced it when we studied the Great Depression and then revisited it throughout WWII to reinforce it. Lots of facts hidden in this rap. You can print the lyrics to follow along and watch the video with historical footage. Alternatively, you could assign it at the end of your study of Roosevelt's reign and ask your little learners to write a song about Roosevelt and then play this rap.

We also read What Was Pearl Harbor and Chapter 23 from Great Events in American History. The latter book contains FDR's Declaration of War.  In it, FDR lists other sites the Japanese forces attacked.

Because our focus for the last few years has been mainly on American History, we took out the globe to reacquaint ourselves with the location of these attacks as well as some of the key countries involved in World War II. The kids then drew a map in their notebooks of Japan, the Hawaiian Islands, and North America. I used to shy away from drawing maps because map making is not one of my strengths, but the children enjoy doing them and learn much more by drawing them than they do just by printing one out.

We added a page to our notebook of some of the key leaders in Japan at the time. We will be adding a page for each of the major countries involved in the war as we study them.

The Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum is full of educational resources! We watched "The Attack on Pearl Harbor Webinar Part 1" together and then each of the girls were assigned a video to watch independently and then share what they learned with the family. They were so interested in the videos that I caught them listening to more of the videos while they were cleaning their room. 

We had actually visited the site of the Gordon Hirabayaski Japanese Internment Camp in 2018, and some of the older children remembered learning about Japanese Internment Camps then. PBS has an awesome interactive learning experience called "Prisoner in my Homeland" that our 5th and 6th graders did independently.

When we study history and science, all of our kiddos from K through 6th study the same topic, but I try to find some age appropriate activities. Again, there is no lack of resources for World War II. I printed out an Aircraft Carrier Coloring Page for our preschooler and kindergartener, and this Connect-the-Dots of Famous Aircraft for out other boys.

One of the things I have noticed over the years is that when I interest myself in something, some of the kids will get curious and interested as well. A few of our kids love to draw and I have been working on improving my drawing skills. I sat down to try to draw a Japanese "Zero" and several of the children wanted to draw one too. They have been asking what other aircraft we can learn to draw, so I will be included more military drawings in our assignments next week.

While not originally planned, one of our boys asked about torpedoes and how they work. We found an interesting video of a man crawling down a torpedo tube. The video did a wonderful job of explaining how the torpedoes are loaded and launched.

Stay tuned... lots more on World War II to come!

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Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Top 5 Books to Refresh your Homeschool

 I have always wanted to homeschool my children. I grew up going to public school, but one of my best friends was homeschooled, as were my cousins. I loved how they spent so much time with their family. They were also able to explore their own interests. I was one of those "smart" kids that never had to pay attention in class or study to get straight As, but I was bored out of my mind in school. I wanted to give my children a childhood of wonder, excitement, and learning without boundaries. I realize that not everyone has that same excitement about getting started. For some, the thought of homeschooling is completely overwhelming. I can't even tell you how many times I have heard, "I could never homeschool my kids!" And then 2020 hit and most of my friends that said they could never do it, found themselves doing it whether they wanted to or not. But even though I have always wanted to homeschool, I have still gone through seasons when homeschooling has been weary, difficult, and seemingly impossible. I have doubted, questioned, and threated to send my kids to school. So whether you are just trying to get started (and struggling with diving in), or are a seasoned homeschool mom looking for some encouragement, here are some of my favorite books:


This book covers just about everything about homeschooling and would be a great resource for someone just starting out. At 336 pages, it is not a quick read. In fact, I gave up on trying to read it and listened to it on Audible. The book is split into four main sections: The Mission, The Myth, The Manner, and The Method. She covers all the various forms of home education, so if you have heard terms thrown about like Classical, Charlotte Mason, Waldorf, etc., and you have no idea what those are or what kind you are, then this is the book for you. However, I listened to this book after seven years of homeschooling and still found very practical advice and a lot of encouragement. 


This book is a quick read, and highly recommended for the weary mom or for someone going through a season when they are questioning whether they are able to homeschool. I first read this book years ago when I was battling Lyme and had a bunch of little ones, and have read it many times since. We had not been homeschooling for long and already my mind was filling with fear and anxiety. I was trying to force "school" but was too tired to put any kind of energy or enthusiasm into it. In attempting to do too much, we were accomplishing nothing at all. When you feel like you are suffocating and drowning in all of life, take a deep breath and read this book.


Written by the same author as Teaching From Rest, Sarah Mackenzie, this book gives practical how-to advice and will make you fall in love with books. This book and her podcast (Read-Aloud Revival) is why I add so many books to every unit we do in our homeschool. Even in seasons when we are not accomplishing very much book work, we can read together, which leads to lasting connections, meaning conversations, and ultimately learning.


This book is not as "pep-talky" as some of the other books, as she does take a bold approach in calling her readers to homeschool bravely, but it is thought-provoking, convicting, and helped get this weary momma back on track. It is all about examining why you homeschool and remembering your calling. She calls us to lean on God and stop comparing ourselves to others on Social Media.


Our homeschool used to be full of lots of travel, field trips, play dates, and adventures, but when the shutdowns happened in 2020, we started to fall into a dull, monotonous routine. Sure, we accomplished a ton of book work, but I began to see the spark and love of learning leave our children. (It also probably did not help that we had a newborn and I was exhuasted). This book reignited the spark and gave us practical ways to find everyday magic in our homeschool (even without leaving the home). It encourages you to say "yes" more, to pick up new hobbies, try new things, and break from the "mold". This book is great for anyone who has found their homeschool to be someone dull. I also believe this would be a great book for parents whose kids are home doing virtual school (or who have decided to pull their kids from school this year and are homeschool for the first time), to add some adventure, curiosity, and excitement to learning. This book is a little bit longer than the some of the others (320 pages), so if you are a busy momma like me you may prefer to listen on Audible.

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