Homeschool Theme Days: Star Wars themes for every subject

star wars learning ideas | homeschool theme days | hands-on learning

What could be more fun than a Star Wars homeschool theme day! We are nearing the end of our school year, but as press toward the finish line, we need a little added fun to our days. So let your kids dress up as their favorite Star Wars character and add a little force to your homeschool theme day with some of these fun Star Wars activities for each subject.

Homeschooling Schedule for preschool, third, and fifth grades

homeschooling schedule preschool, third, and fifth grades | homeschooling multiples | homeschooling routine

Homeschooling is, like parenting, all about making adjustments. What works at one stage in life with one child, is not going to work two weeks from now. There is no perfect schedule, and there most certainly isn’t a permanent homeschooling schedule; it’s simply what works best for one point in time.

This year, we’ve kept a very fluid homeschooling schedule or routine. I’ve mentioned our casual Monday routine, with a mix of art and games and easing into the week. We tackle a lot of our whole-family learning on Mondays. Read-alouds, history projects, and science experiments are usually part of the Monday routine. As for the rest of the week, we’ve got a pretty flexible schedule.

To set the stage for you, here’s what I’ve learned about my different kids that has influenced our final routine.

  1. My oldest does best with as little involvement from me as possible. If a subject must be taught by me with regular meetings each day, we both struggle. He prefers an assignment and a list of expectations, which I do mostly when I meet with him on Mondays.
  2. That same approach would paralyze my third grader. She’s fine doing the things she loves on her own: art, reading, journaling, anything creative. But math, grammar—anything that involves structure and discipline—she has to have me right by her side. She wants, at the very least, companionship.
  3. My littlest is a mix of these two approaches. He likes time with Mom, but he prefers to merely impress me during this time. The actual learning he wants to experiment with on his own.
  4. I also factor my needs into the equation. Just how long can I endure the intense, hand-holding type of homeschool before I need a break? How much time can I devote to each child and their unique needs? With all that in mind, our homeschooling schedule has morphed into what is currently working well for us.

Our Homeschooling Schedule for Preschool, Third, and Fifth grades

Our schedule has two variations, depending on the extra-curriculars for the day. Monday is our only day with no obligations. Otherwise, we usually have something going every day, either in the morning or afternoon. On the days with afternoon activities, we use our morning homeschooling schedule. On the days with morning activities, we default to our afternoon schedule.

Morning Homeschooling Schedule

We are not morning people. A houseful of ADHD and insomniacs just doesn’t lend itself well to strict morning routines. Still, we manage to get up and at ’em by 7 or 8 in the morning. One child takes the dog out, the other starts breakfast. I will usually homeschool my preschooler either during this time while breakfast is being prepped or immediately after breakfast. I’ll drink my coffee and read my scripted Logic of English Foundations A. My preschooler will act out his various parts, complete his worksheets and play his games. We’ll break for his breakfast, and then finish with some learning apps (Montessori Numbers, Cursive Writing Wizard, and Logic of English Phonograms are our favorites.) His reward for doing school with me is time on Starfall.com. I’ve used this free website with each of my kids as they were learning to read, and we all absolutely love it.

homeschooling schedule | homeschooling preschool | starfall.com

This preschool time takes about half an hour to 45 minutes max. But keep in mind, I’m also parenting during this session. Reminding older kids to get dressed, brush their teeth, stop playing, stop fighting, do the dishes, etc. By the time I’ve wrapped up with the preschooler, my older two are usually fairly well on their way to starting the day. My oldest begins his independent work (I usually check in with him about once a week unless he needs assistance). And my third grader brings her clipboard, pencil, and Math Mammoth lessons. While my preschooler is playing his ipad apps and Starfall.com, I read and explain the overall math concept we are working on to my third grader, then she reads the directions out loud and proceeds to work through a section at a time. We work between 2-3 pages depending on how long it’s taking her and on whether it’s a good day or a moody/anxious struggling day. Once we wrap up Math Mammoth, we work through a short grammar lesson in First Language Lessons level 3. On a good day, this should be about 45 minutes to an hour’s worth of work. But some days, it takes us MUCH longer. It largely depends on her mood. Once she finishes up with me, she has some independent time with some computer programs (ReflexMath.com, Keyboarding without Tears, and Simplex Spelling ipad app), piano practice, and then her funschooling journal and reading books.

homeschooling schedule | homeschooling third grade | math mammoth

We break for lunch around noon, depending on what activity is schedule for the day. And that’s it!

Afternoon Homeschooling Schedule

Our default afternoon schedule is very similar to our morning schedule, except it gets started after we’ve made it home from our karate lesson or nursing home ministry and had lunch. I will not always do a preschool lesson with my youngest, depending on how he’s holding up. Sometimes, he just needs the play time. And I’m a firm believer in the importance of play time at this age. All in all, I work with him about three times a week, and that’s been plenty.

My third grader rounds up her clipboard and Math Mammoth, and we launch into our routine together. Hopefully wrapping up by 2:30 or 3 for the day. And I check in with my fifth grader to see what all he’s gotten done. Sometimes, he’ll surprise me by getting up early and finishing before breakfast; other days, he works through the afternoon, finishing up pretty closely to the same time as his sister. Occasionally, on rough days, homeschooling doesn’t wrap up until 5, when I have to start getting dinner. I hate that, and I try VERY hard to not let that happen often.

homeschooling schedule | homeschooling fifth grade

Our homeschooling schedule has not always gone this smoothly (even this year), but it’s worked well for the last couple of months. And next year, we’ll probably have to readjust everything again as I homeschool a kindergartner, fourth grader, and sixth grader (oh, my!!). It’s part of the package when your homeschool, and honestly, I’m so thankful to have the opportunity to make those adjustments.

Classically Homeschooling with Funschooling Journals

classically homeschooling with funschooling journals | homeschooling ADHD & dyslexia | homeschool curriculum for ADHD, dyslexia

I’ve been a fan of Thinking Tree curriculum, particularly Dyslexia Games, for awhile. The thinking skills, right-brained approach, and creativity of the curriculum and dyslexia therapy has made a world of difference for my daughter. So when I was looking for a way to help my daughter connect to our classical, literature-rich style of learning, I went back to the company that really seemed to understand her best, and I took a good long look at the funschooling journals.

There are so many funschooling journals, all with slight variations, that choosing one took me a long time. In the end, it was the bright pink cover with the kitty that ultimately sold us on the Homeschooling Journal for Creative Girls (though the YouTube reviews were also very helpful). The books are intended to be used with unschooling or delight-directed homeschoolers. The children are supposed to select up to 8 books that they want to learn from and work through 5-8 pages a day in the workbook. The pages cycle through similar activities that include drawing and narrating from the reading, copywork, nature study, some art and creative pages, recipe pages (to write a recipe), listening pages for audiobooks and DVD material, nature study pages, and more. There’s plenty of space for coloring, doodling, drawing, and other creative expression.

classically homeschooling with funschooling journals | homeschooling curriculum for ADHD, dyslexia

We obviously are putting our own unique spin on the funschooling journals. Because we use Tapestry of Grace as our main curriculum, I already had a shelf of books that I wanted her to read. But rather than assign particular books for each week as I had been doing, I gave her the new funschooling journal and allowed her to work through the books on the shelf at her own pace. Instead of 5-8 pages a day, she was assigned 5-8 pages for the week to work through at her leisure. 

The result: what would have taken her weeks to read (with tons of nagging and frustration on my part) took her a little over one week. She flew through her reading and loved journaling in her book about the parts of her reading that she loved best. She loved drawing the pictures, copying her own selections, filling out the listening sheet for her audiobook and science DVD, and the other various activities. She’s done much less coloring than I expected, but I could care less. I’m just counting my blessings that she loves this so much! 

classically homeschooling with funschooling journals | homeschool curriculum for ADHD, dyslexia

I absolutely intend to use these next year as well and have a couple more in mind to get (although I think she’d be perfectly happy to continue with another of the exact same journal). My intention is to continue using it as a means to supplement and motivate her to engage with our classical curriculum. While I do have books from our Tapestry of Grace that I want to be on her reading list, I also allow her freedom to add a few titles of her own. It’s a perfect blend of classically creative curriculum for my active, right-brained non-traditional learner.

And, of course, because these are such a hit with sister, my creative fifth grader thinks he really needs one, too. I may just relent. After all, this Minecraft Funschooling Journal looks way too cool. (Perhaps I’ll use it as a subtle way to add some summer learning.)

Educational Games and Resources by subject

educational games by subject | learning fun | gameschooling

My active kids love to learn (or show what they’ve learned) with games. Educational games have been an important part of our unit celebrations for years, and this year, I’ve included more in our daily routine to help us get through our Monday struggles. While we don’t use those educational games as our primary curriculum, I definitely want to incorporate more of them into our regular curriculum next year.

Which means I’ve been scouting, keeping an eye out for top-notch educational games to add to our collection. I’ve got a pretty good list going with lots of great educational game ideas for the different subject areas. Not all are necessarily on my wish list, but they make it onto yours. So I’m including all of my scouting work here for you. 

Educational Games for Math
  1. Sector 18 (formerly Number Rings)*
  2. Fraction Matchin’
  3. Smathor Mobi Max
  4. Even Steven’s Odd
  5. Incan Gold (division)
  6. Pizza Fraction Fun
  7. Race to the Treasure (grid coordinates)
  8. Number Ninjas

* We own these games, and I absolutely love them!

Educational Games for Science
  1. Into the Forest (natural food chain relationships)
  2. Hit the Habitat Trail (animals & habitats)—on my wish list!
  3. Sci or Fi Files
  4. Some Body Human Anatomy game—on my wish list, too!
Educational Games for Social Studies/History

My list here is pretty short, but there are a ton of free games you can find online. A couple of my favorite websites to search are Tina’s Dynamic Homeschool and Ellen McHenry. We’ve also gotten a number of favorites through our notebooking activity packs from Homeschool in the Woods. We also own a pack of Professor Noggin ancient history cards that we used for history Headbandz game at our last unit celebration.

  1. Passport to Culture
  2. Professor Noggin cards series
  3. Classical Historian history card games
Educational Games for Language Arts
  1. Pharaoh’s Phonics
  2. Rhyme Out
  3. Story Cubes
  4. Alphabet Island
  5. Word Pirates (spelling)*
  6. Bananagrams (own it, and love it!)
  7. Stepping Stones: the Expository Writing Game*
  8. The Storymatic Kids
  9. Tell Tale Pocket Game
  10. Cooking up Sentences: parts of speech game *
  11. Comprehension Blast Off game (reading comprehension skills) *
  12. Create-a-Story Board Game

*These games are on my wish list as well!

Another great resource to look for hands-on learning resources and educational games is TeacherspayTeachers.com. What other resources, websites, and educational games do you recommend? Feel free to add your own suggestions in the comments as well. I’d love to know what your favorites are.

Surviving Homeschool Mondays (and even liking it)

surviving homeschool mondays | homeschooling on the hard days | ideas for a casual learning routine

All year I have fought the battle of “Monday”—coerced, threatened, plotted, and plodded through the toughest day of the week for us. I know Mondays are tough for most of mankind, but being a pastor’s family, Mondays seem to be that much more daunting. We come into the week empty

Though I did know enough about our family and our routine to keep our Monday calendar empty, I caught myself demanding that much more from our homeschool because it was one of our few days spent entirely at home. I mean, just think of what we can get done! Except that we weren’t. I cracked the whip, but everyone else dragged their feet, and the day seemed endless. It seriously took my kids three times as long to do the same assignments on Monday as it did any other day of the week. A twenty minute math lesson any other day was going to take over an hour on Monday. Surviving homeschool Mondays became such a drudgery, and we all ended the day so out of sorts and cranky, that I finally decided to revamp our Mondays entirely. 

Introducing our new routine for…

Surviving Homeschool Mondays

Our new Monday schedule consists of three parts: meetings, projects, and games.

Monday Meetings: Okay, this is actually the only part of our typical Monday I kept. We’ve been doing this all year. Monday Meeting is when I meet with each kid, look over the previous week’s assignments, hand over their new assignment sheet and week’s work, and discuss the week with them (events, extra-curriculars, projects, etc.) For my fifth grader, this is my primary contact with him, nearly the only time all week we are together. The rest of the week, he works independently. For my third grader, this gives her the scope of the week and the expectations, but I will still meet with her each day for math and grammar. 

Projects: The bulk of the day is spent on projects. Sometimes, this includes notebooking projects and a read-aloud. Other times, this is our major art project time where we sculpt and paint and create. This is also our primary science experiment day. It’s our day to make the big messes and do those projects that take lots of time. I’ve loved this part of the routine. Because I have very little planned on Mondays now, I feel like I can relax with the messes and allow them the time to really enjoy their projects, rather than rushing through so that we “get to everything” before dinner. And trust me, Relaxed Mommy is a whole lot more fun than Stressed Mommy.

homeschooling on hard days | projects, games, & casual learning

Gameschooling: I’m embracing some “Gameschooling” on Mondays, as well, particularly for math. Our new favorite right now is Number Rings. All my kids can play and be challenged at each of their learning levels. I love it! So instead of the workbook math, we play games and embrace hands-on math lessons. Next year, I want to develop this even more, expand our games collection, and include some other subject areas.

Occasionally, I may also throw a DVD into our Monday mix of learning; my kids love “Bill Nye the Science Guy” DVDs from our library. Typically, we’ll have our meetings and game time in the morning, eat lunch, then start on our projects after lunch. 

I hesitated for so long to make this switch in our routine, worrying about falling behind in our work or ruining my kids’ character and work ethic. But the opposite has been true. Mondays are now paced to allow us to rest and recharge from Sundays, and we are better prepared for the rest of our week. And the kids have worked hard those other four days to get assignments done. It’s been a win-win all around, and I’m so glad I finally gave it a try. Not only are we surviving Homeschool Mondays, we are actually enjoying them.

 

Allergy-Friendly Bread Machine Recipe

The kitchen is the absolute best place for hands-on homeschooling. So many lessons take place in the kitchen: math, chemistry, confidence and experimentation, following a process—not to mention those heart-to-heart talks that food and a warm oven inspire.

Because we live the “food allergy lifestyle,” the kitchen is an even more natural place for our homeschool. I’m always there.

Over the last few years, we have seen huge improvements both physically and mentally through diet changes and keeping a food journal, including significant improvement with ADHD and emotional/sensory issues. It’s been a long journey, and each family member (including my husband and myself) has slightly different needs, which creates quite a long list of eliminations for me. In addition to avoiding all artificial (petroleum-based) dyes and preservatives, we are also gluten, dairy, corn, and largely egg-free. That means I cook—ALL THE TIME. My allergy-friendly kitchen is constantly whirring. But I don’t do it all by myself. That’s nearly impossible. Instead, I’ve recruited some helpers to share the load. I’m teaching my oldest to make bake: bread, rolls, muffins, hamburger/hot dog buns, etc. That’s right. I’ve got a gluten/dairy/corn/egg-free allergy-friendly bread machine recipe that is simple enough my fifth grader can make it.hands-on learning in the kitchen | allergy friendly kitchen

I’m not a gourmet chef, by a long shot. I’m an allergy-mom who’s just trying to keep food on the table. Much of this has been trial and error for me. The kids have watched me try, and they have graciously eaten my failures. I’d like to think that’s given them the courage to try cooking and baking without the pressure of everything turning out perfectly. (And if you are just starting on this path, keep your chin up. You’ll find your groove again. You’ll get comfortable with baking and cooking flops. And eventually, you’ll find something that works, too. There will be a new normal.)

I’ve loved sharing this recipe with my son and teaching him what I’ve been learning, the chemistry of baking and the logic behind substitutions. “What does the egg do in this recipe? What substitute will do that for us?” “Follow the recipe, sort of, but always keep an eye on your texture; that’s most important.” It’s been a great help and a fun bonding time. I think this summer, I may promote him to part-time cook.

 

Allergy-Friendly Bread Machine Recipe

Ingredients
  • 3 cups gluten-free flour with xanthum gum included (I use Namaste, not totally corn-free, but it’s worked for us.)
  • 1/4 cup of sugar
  • 1 package of Red Star active dry yeast
  • 1 tsp. salt (I use sea salt.)
  • 4 tsp. baking powder (I use Hains baking powder.)
  • 2 tsp. lemon juice (Apple cider vinegar works, too, if you have a safe-for-you vinegar.)
  • 3 tsp. arrowroot powder, mixed in about 1/4 cup of water (just enough to dissolve the powder)
  • 1/4 cup of melted coconut oil
  • 1 1/2 to 1 3/4 cups warm water
Directions

Mix flour, sugar, and yeast in a large bowl.

Add the salt and baking powder, then pour the lemon juice over the baking powder. Next, pour the arrowroot mixture over the baking powder. There should be a fair amount of bubbling and fizzing. Add the melted oil.

Mix the ingredients well. Mixture will be dry and crumbly. Slowly add the warm water, mixing thoroughly before adding more. The amount of liquid needed will often vary. Mixture should be sticky and no longer dry, but be careful not to get the dough too wet or it will sink in the middle after it’s done baking.

Place mixture into the bread machine and follow bread machine settings for gluten free bread. Often this will mean a shorter rise time (My bread machine setting is 1 hr. 55 min. rapid rise setting).

*Some bread machines have a yeast dispenser, but I’ve personally never had success with that feature. I’ve also never had success with dumping ingredients in and letting my bread machine do the work; I’m assuming it’s all those substitute ingredients for an allergy friendly dough.*

**Disclaimer: As always, be sure to use safe-for-you ingredients to be sure that any recipe is truly safe for your allergies. **