Thursday, December 30, 2010

Mastery vs Spiral vs Incremental Approach to Homeschooling

I admit to having never heard these terms before we started homeschooling. I figured all curriculums were pretty much the same at the core. I was wrong. They are very different approaches. I hope that this post gives you some insight as to which approach might be more appropriate for your child(ren). Both of these approaches can be found in all subjects, but are more likely to be brought up in the context of math(although can apply to language arts as well) so that is where I will focus when writing this blog post.

What is the Mastery Approach?

The idea behind the mastery approach is simply, that in order for a child to have a firm grasp on a concept in order to be able to do more advanced concepts. Therefore, specific topic (ie...adding single digit numbers) is taught until that skill is mastered. You might also see this labeled as sequential learning.

What is the Spiral Approach?

The spiral approach is what we most commonly see used in "brick and mortar" schools. This style of curricula is based on the idea that the student will learn through repetition. Topics are taught once and then you move on. The next lesson will review the previous concept(s) while also introducing the new one, thus, building on to each lesson. Generally, a wider variety of concepts can be covered when using this method over a mastery approach.

What about Incremental Curriculums?

These curriculums are basically in the middle. They present new material, but still give plenty of time to master the material before moving on to the next topic.

Which is better?

Like most topics regarding children, the short answer is, whatever works for your child. Some children are able to pick up on topics and are ready to move on quickly. Spiral curriculums allow for a faster pace and will definitely keep your child from getting bored with topics they have already mastered. Some children require more time and do better when they are able to focus on one topic at a time. Some need a bit of both. I suspect most benefit from a mixture of more than one approach. For example in our house we use a mastery approach to math and a spiral approach with language arts. It's what works for us.

What are Some Mastery Curriculums?

Math U See


What are Some Spiral Curriculums?


Analytical Grammar

Rod and Staff

What are Some Incremental Curriculums?



I have only used a few of these curriculums. We settled on Math U See for our math and Abeka for our language arts. There are reviews to just about every curriculum available on Homeschool Review, so be sure to check it out before you buy!

TLC's Extreme Couponing

Picture credit: Discovery Press Web

TLC debuted a new show called Extreme Couponing last night. I didn't see the show but wow it was the buzz on my facebook today. And I get it. I am a couponer. I understand the high from saving 95%. I understand the pride that comes from knowing you are saving your family money, but these shoppers take it way too far. Anything that becomes a obsession becomes a god in your life and we all know how GOD feels about that one. Save yourself some money by couponing. I think we are called to be good stewards of our money, but don't do it at the expense of your family and remember when you take 60 coupons into a store for a single item, that other families are struggling too and need that free shampoo just as much, if not more, than you do. In the mean time check out my friend Stephanie's site over at and learn how to coupon shop with self-control and integrity!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Great Deal on Pampers Diapers from

There is a hot Pampers diapers deal on Plumdistrict! Get $40 worth of diapers for just $20! Plus if you spend just $9 more you get free shipping!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Toy Story 3 Deal on Amazon!

Get Toy Story 3 for just $9.99 with free Amazon Prime shipping!!

Toy Story 3 Deal on Amazon!

Toy Story 3 Deal on Amazon!

Our 1st and 2nd Grade Curriculum Choices

This year is different for us. We are moving out of the more "unschoolish" type schooling and moving more towards structured school (though it is still a far cry from "school at home"). Both of my children enjoy worksheets and sit down school time so this works well for us now that they are reaching a maturity level that allows for it. Since we are doing more this year I have taken the time to carefully plan things out, with the understanding that life happens and we may get bumped off course a bit. In a perfect world, however, this is how our week would look:

Monday and Wednesday:

Math U See Beta for Brianna

I decided Brianna could benefit from more review over certain blends so she is going to do 1st grade as well. I have her moving through it quite a bit faster than her sister though so that we can get through what she already has a good grasp on and as soon as I feel she is ready we will move on to 2nd grade. I think she will be ready come May.

Cursive practice with made up sheets

Tues and Thurs are the same as Monday and Wednesday except we add:


Same as Monday and Wednesday except we do Science and don't do the Community Helpers.

I am really liking the way this looks. It spreads everything out that we don't have to do every day and the other things have just enough that we won't go nuts trying to get it all done. Total I anticipate it taking us between 2-2.5 hours to finish school each day. Of course this remains to be seen!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Campfire Cookout at Grandpa and Grandmas

My parents are doing a total remodel of their house and have a lot of scrap wood. Because they live well outside the city they burn a lot of the trash so we thought it might be fun to use the wood and do a cookout over an open fire.

I was recently asked to try some all natural chicken from a company called Zaycon foods. They sell chicken in bulk at a reduced price. I will be writing a post all about them soon, as well as giving away a box of their chicken, which was some of the best I have tasted in a while. Anyways, I digress. Back to the cookout.

My dad set up a make-shift outdoor grill and we grilled chicken; he also cooked potatoes under the hot coals. In hind site I wish we would have done corn too, but ah well.

What bonfire is complete without, you guessed it smores! We had campfire sized marshmallows and we could only handle one with all of the sweetness but it sure was fun!

After eating smores grandma set up the telescope and we all looked at "button moon" as Luke calls it.
We had so much fun and I am already planning our next bonfire for the spring!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Homeschooling in Kindergarten

Kindergarten is scary. Well, it was for me. That was the beginning. That was where the rubber met the road and we decided if I had what was required to be my children's teacher. I put a lot of pressure on myself. Too much. Now that I have made it through that year with both of my daughters I am going to share what did and didn't work for us and a few things I will do differently with my son. Remember, this is what worked for OUR family and may not be what works for yours. It took 2 years of tweaking and I had to learn how to teach them before we settled in. I am still learning.

So here is what worked for us:

1 hour TOPS of formal school per day. For my husband's benefit I did do some formal sit down school with the girls during their K-5 year. However, we would only do 15 minute sessions for only a total of 1 hour per day. This could include some workbook type activity, cooking, a field trip or even time on

Here are the workbooks that I liked for Kindergarten. Keep in mind that this is AFTER I went through nearly a year of agonizing about whether I was ruining my kids for life if I didn't replicate a public school environment:

Explode the Code Primers- We LOVE these books. We are actually still working in the upper level books. In K-5 this was comprehensive enough to work as the only language arts we used.

Horizons Math K SET of 2 Student Workbooks K-1 and K-2- This is a spiral approach. We have since decided to change to a mastery approach but this did work for us the first year. It is colorful and the girls really enjoyed that.

Unit Studies by Currclick- We really enjoy short unit studies. You can get them for anything from studies on a specific child's book to studies about a specific country your child might be interested in. The best thing is that because they are down -loadable you can reuse them with your other children.

Besides this little bit of formal curriculum, we also did a lot of art. I mean tons of art. I let my girls get out the scissors and glue out any time they ask, as long as they clean up the mess. This has not only helped to develop motor skills, but has resulted in lots of creative art.

That's what worked for us. Now here are a few things I would have done a bit differently:

Firstly, I would have relaxed. Like most new homeschooling mom's I thought I had to meet a public school standard when it came to hours spent learning, curriculum, extra-curricular activities and so on. No matter how hard I tried I just couldn't manage 6 hours a day with school. In the beginning I felt like I was some how failing my children. Then I did what I suggest every new homeschooling mom do, I found a support group of women who had been doing it longer than me. These women helped me to realize that I didn't need to replicate school at home.

Which brings me to my next point. I would have spent less time replicating school at home. Or attempting to anyways. I would have bought less curriculum an spent more time letting my children learn organically through play and other natural opportunities.

And lastly, I would have defended my choice less. I would have spent less time trying to convince others that I was secure in my choice and just well, been secure. I don't mind answering questions for those genuinely curious, but for the most part I now don't mention we are homeschoolers anymore. Not because I am not proud of that choice, but because it is just simply less hassle.

I hope this is a bit of help for any of you just starting your journey homeschooling. The first year is chaotic, but you will find your stride and the rewards are well worth the initial chaos! And by the way, even with the chaos, my children still test at grade level or above.

Amazon Leapster Deals

There are some great deals on Leap Frog Leapster products right now. There are tons of games marked down to $10 and even the system itself is marked down. Amazon has 2 day shipping so you still have time to get it for Christmas!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Laminator Deal!!!

Homeschooling mom's everywhere, it has arrived!! Here is a great deal on a laminator that is normally $80.99 and is now just $19.99!!

Friday, December 17, 2010

More Great Science Projects

These are good for all ages, but are really great for younger homeschooled children.

Insect Lore Ladybug Land - raise your own lady bugs in this miniature lady bug habitat regularly $19.99 on sale for just $8.99

Insect Lore Live Butterfly Garden - We did this one year and it was amazing! Watch the caterpillars grow from tiny to huge and then transform into crysalis' and then come out as beautiful butterflies. Release day is sure to thrill!!!

Science Project Christmas Gift Ideas

This is the end of the school year for us since we go Jan-Dec so during this time I am busy browsing the Christmas deals for fun school projects we can do. Here are a few of the great deals I found:

Alternative Energy and Environmental Science Original

From the Manufacturer
Power House: Sustainable Living in the 21st Century. Power House provides an engaging and thorough introduction to renewable energy sources and sustainable living, while teaching basic concepts in physical science. Through building a model house and 20 other energy related devices, you will learn about energy from the sun, wind, plants, and electrochemical reactions. you will find out how to transform, store, and use these forms of energy. This kit creatively integrates physical science lessons with the story of a group of young adults learning to live sustainably on a remote island. To survive, they must learn how to harness the power of the sun and the wind, and other natural resources. As you read their story, you work on the same projects along side them. Construct and experiment with a greenhouse. Collect the sun's rays to heat water. Make a solar cooker to heat food while learning about the principles of light. Desalinate water, plant cress, and make dried fruit. Learn how heat of evaporation provides cooling, conduct experiments about air humidity, and build a hygrometer, air conditioner, and refrigerator. Press sunflower seeds to extract oil and assemble an oil lamp. Generate electric current from sunlight, magnetic fields, and metals in acid. Galvanize a nail and split water into hydrogen and oxygen. Build a current indicator, electric and solar motors, a transfer switch, and a crane. Lift pencils with the sun and learn about levers. Build an electric car and a sail car, and learn how wings and sails transform energy. The full-color, 96-page manual guides your experiments.

Thames and Kosmos Physics Solar Workshop

From the Manufacturer
Physics Solar Workshop: Solar Power Technology in Action. In one way or another, almost every form of energy we use originates as energy from the sun. Solar energy directly powers photovoltaic cells and thermal collectors. Indirectly, we get power from plants grown by the sun, oceans heated by the sun, and Earth's weather systems sustained by the sun. Even the energy stored in fossil fuels originated as energy from the sun, captured by plants and animals millions of years ago. Physics Solar Workshop explores the topic of solar energy, focusing on photovoltaic cells. By building 12 models and conducting 30 experiments, you will learn how solar cells transform light into electrical energy, and how motors and mechanical devices can optimize the work done by this energy. You will build different types of vehicles and machines to demonstrate how gears can convert and transform power for different needs. There are 320 parts, which are also compatible with the other kits in our Physics line. The 64-page book offers illustrated instructions for the projects. Developed with Greenpeace in Germany.

Thames and Kosmos Little Labs Intro To Engineering

From the Manufacturer
Intro to Engineering: The twelfth kit in the Little Labs line, Intro to engineering welcomes young children to the field of engineering with 25 experiments and building projects in five sections. By engaging in hands-on activities, children will learn how engineers apply their scientific and technical knowledge to design machines and devices. Start by learning some engineering basics with experiments on levers, forces, and pulleys. Build simple devices using these basic components. Move on to explore engineering on land by building vehicles with wheels, such as a race car and a wind-up car. Next, investigate engineering with air (and in the air) by building a helicopter, a pinwheel, a parachute, a glider, a balloon rocket, and an air=powered carousel. Then, build a diving bell, a sailboat, and a paddle boat to experiment with engineering in water. Finally, find engineering in your own home with experiments modeling the telephone and television. With a 48-page guidebook, Intro to Engineering teaches engineering fundamentals with step-by-step, hands-on experiments and building projects.

For more Great Deals on Science Projects for Homeschoolersvisit Amazon!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Zanzoon Animap - Interactive Talking Animals of the World Map Deal!

I did think this one was worthy of it's own post. Amazon has the Zanzoon Animap - Interactive Talking Animals of the World Map marked down from $44.99 to just $8.99!!!

Today's Amazon Deals

The deals have been changed up. I won't flood my blog with several posts again since that gets pretty old, but here are a few of my favorites!

Melissa and Doug Lacing Beads marked down from $12.99 to $4.99

Pixos Micros Intro Set marked from $14.99 to just $3.99

Pretend and Play Doctor set regularly $36.99 marked to $14.99

Educational Insights Design and Drill Take-Along Tool Kit marked down from $29.99 to just $9.99!

Of course there is much more on sale that I haven't posted so go have a look and get your last minute shopping done! Orders on Amazon ship free with Amazon Prime or with orders over $25!

Amazon Deals

For anyone who is still shopping through the Amazon deals, sometimes they change the prices. Sometimes it's a few days later sometimes it's a few hours later. If you see something that is a really good deal chances are it won't be there the next time you look so best to snatch it up when you see it!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Deals on Melissa and Doug

I know I have done this one before but I wanted to point out a few more deals on Melissa and Doug. This stuff never goes on sale so you have to grab it while you can!

This cutting set is down from $19.99 to $11.99.

This fun pizza set is down from $19.99 to just $12.99

Wooden fruit for lots of healthy play marked down from $19.99 to just $10.99.

This transportation Stamp set is down from $9.99 to just $4.99!

We have one of these and we love it! This magnetic chore chart is normally $19.99 but is now just $9.99!

Great Deals on Playdoh on Amazon

Here is another great set of deals. This time it's all Playdoh! I know if your kids are anything like mine they love to sit and play for hours with Playdoh!

This Icecream Shoppe is marked down from $16.99 to $6.99!

This 24 refil pack is normally $15.99 and is now just $7.99.

Sing around the campfire with this set normally $16.99 and now just $5.99!

This cute backpack set is normally $17.99 but is now $5.49!

The Play-Doh Fun Factory Set is just $7.99 marked down from $19.99!!!

Check out my other blog posts for more great Amazon deals!

More Amazon Toy Deals

There is still time to grab some last minute deals from Here are a few more of the great deals I found on Amazon.

The Pixos Micros is normally $29.99 and is marked down to just $7.99!

This Aqua Sand is marked down from $24.99 to just $6.99!

Try out Paperoni marked down from $21.99 to $5.79.

This playdoh set normally runs $14.99 but is marked down to just $4.49!

Several Moon Dough sets are on sale. This Pizza Shop is marked down from $14.99 to $5.99!

Make a mermaid island with this Aqua Sand marked down from $19.99 to $4.99.

There are tons more great deals and don't forget that most of these items ship 2 days FREE with Amazon Prime. Be sure to check out the great Crayola Deals I have listed!

Crayola Deals on Amazon!

Amazon is running some great deals on Crayola products plus there is a REBATE and they qualify for free Amazon Prime Shipping!

This Sound Studio is marked down from $34.99 to just $9.99 and has a $3 rebate.

The Crayola Glow Explosion is marked down from $29.99 to just $5.99 and has a $2.00 Rebate.

Model Magic Presto Dots are marked down from $29.99 to just $7.99 and have a $2.00 Rebate

This Crayola Glow Station is marked down from $39.99 to just $12.99 and has a $3.00 Rebate.

And this Crayon Maker is marked down from $34.99 to just $19.99 and has a $3.00 Rebate.

Monday, December 13, 2010

I wish I had all that free time they talk about

Actually, if I had all that free time I would go crazy with boredom. I really don't want it. I love my crazy hectic life. I do hope that all of my readers know that my long blog breaks during this month are not because I am dropping my blog. I have not had a moment to sit down and write. Between wrapping up school, piano, violin, church, and just the general chaos of Christmas, I have simply not had a moment to browse my ever growing to-do list, only to add to it!