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Strew to Learn | Five Days of Inspiration and Support For Strewing In Your Homeschool

strew to learn five days of inspiration and support for strewing in your homeschool

What is strewing and how can it help you homeschool? We strew to learn in our day to day and it has made all the difference. This is all about how strewing works and everything you need to get started.

I love to sleep in, snuggled deep into my covers, all cozy warm while the world gets started without me.

It’s a little piece of Heaven.

Two of my children are just like me in that regard, and for that, they’ll always be my favorites. Shhhhh… don’t tell the other two. ::wink::

The other two are the type of morning people night owls like me love to hate. They wake up talking. Ready to tackle the adventures of the day. And they want to drag non-morning people like me along with them, not understanding why we can’t form coherent sentences right off the bat.

And so I thought I was doomed to be a homeschool failure from the start.

But I wasn’t.

Strewing saved my mornings, and taught me that learning really does happen all the time.

Our homeschool has evolved over the years as I’ve gotten out of the way, and let my kids drive their own learning. I fill our home with fun and educational games, open-ended toys, amazing books, engaging documentaries, and give the kids rich experiences, and then watch what they get excited about and give them more of it.

I strew to inspire learning, creativity, and a love of exploration.

People ask all the time about the things I strew and how to do it because I share about it on Instagram and during my weekly Facebook Live chats.

And to answer them — and you! — I’m bringing you a quick and easy, no-fuss, chock-full of inspiration and ideas, five day series to encourage others to incorporate more strewing into the day.

Strew to Learn - Five Day Series of Support and Inspiration for Strewing Success

The Strew To Learn In Your Homeschool Series

I hope this series inspires you to enjoy your kids and their learning more and more. You have amazing kiddos with great ideas, and those kids know what they love when they find it. When we act as facilitators of learning, rather than impart-ers of knowledge, we give our kids ownership of their own learning, and we make it more fun for them. And, truthfully, more fun for us as well.

 

What You’ll Get

  • One email a day for five days focusing on the benefits and practice of strewing
  • My best tips and inspiration for using strewing to create a more delight-directed and child-led approach to your homeschool
  • Access to a growing library of subscriber-only resources, discounts, monthly giveaways, AND my favorite resources for strewing, gaming, reading, and learning
  • Support and encouragement via weekly newsletters and in a brand-new private Facebook Community for Raising Lifelong Learners (coming soon!) readers and listeners
  • And, for those of you following the series during its inaugural weeks (before February 9th, 2018), a chance to win a rock and gem collection to strew — curated just for you by my kiddos as an example of one of their favorite things for me to strew (details below)

How to Join: Strew to Learn | Five Days of Inspiration and Support

Strew to Learn - Five Day Series of Support and Inspiration for Strewing Success

Do you want to see strewing in action?

Be sure to follow Raising Lifelong Learners on social media because we share the things we’re doing to encourage a love of learning and cultivate creativity every day — and you’ll be the first to hear about new challenges, posts, and podcast episodes! Can’t wait to get to know you!

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AlexaSchooling | Using the Amazon Echo for Homeschooling

alexaschooling using the amazon echo for homeschooling

“Alexa, how do you spell instrument? i-n-s-t-r- Alexa! Spell instrument. u-m-e-n-t,” my eight year old lays sprawled out on the floor surrounded by colored pencils, Calico Critters and their teeny-tiny musical instruments, and a blank book in which she’s writing a story about those to critters and the concert they’re putting on tonight. Our Amazon Echo Dot is by her side.

“Alexa, how do you spell auditorium?”

I smile and leave the room, knowing that we’ll all be treated to a read-aloud soon.

And a read-aloud from this particular kiddo is extra special. My third child — the 8yo — is a struggling reader. We suspect either dyslexia or a processing disability, but haven’t gone through formal testing at this point. She has been assessed and diagnosed with anxiety and sensory processing disorder.

“Writing is an exploration. You start from nothing and learn as you go.” ~ E. L. Doctorow📝 . I don’t teach writing. There… I said it. I’m a writer and reader who adores the written word above most things. But I don’t teach my kids writing. ✍️ . Despite the fact that I don’t teach writing, most of my kids are writers. They see themselves as people with things to share. They write stories and plays and lists and schedules and reports. They write all day long, and they share their writing with anyone who will listen. ✏️ . They’re funny, clever, and full of cool ideas. And all I do is leave blank books, spiral notebooks, pens, colored pencils, and markers all around and spell an occasional word. 🗒 . And I listen. 👂🏻 . Writers want to share their stories and know that what they have to share is valid and worth it. Don’t stress about the nouns and verbs and conjugations, mamas. Revel in read alouds and shared stories and scribbled on a blank page. You’re raising writers. 💕 . Share your little writers too & join in with the #raisinglifelonglearners January photo challenge. 📝💕📝💕

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And Alexa is helping her gain confidence.

I was hesitant to order an Amazon Echo at first. Honestly… the idea of a device waiting for the “wake up word” and listening all the time? It’s just creepy. But, we’ve gotten into listening to audible books more and more as a family, and I was planning to buy a bluetooth speaker to play the books from my library. I decided to get an Echo instead.

And I’m so glad I did.

The truth is, actually, that I ordered the Amazon Echo Dot on Black Friday and handed it to my husband when it came in the mail and told him he could give it to me for my birthday the next week. Cheating perhaps… but it’s a way to make sure I get something I can use instead of more fuzzy sleepy socks and another candle. This is marriage after 20 years…

AlexaSchooling | 10 Ways We Use Alexa for Learning

It’s funny, really, that I didn’t order the Echo Dot to be used in our homeschool. It was a totally selfish purchase. I wanted to be able to listen to a favorite podcast while doing the dishes or making a(nother!) meal, and I wanted to be able to say, “Alexa, play Wonder from our Audible library” from across the room. SO much easier than handing over my phone and connecting it to a bluetooth speaker.

But I didn’t count on all the great ways my kids would find to use it IN their homeschooling. And, isn’t that the way of it? If we get out of our own way (and theirs) they’ll find amazing ways to learn about everything.

They’re using Alexa for:

  • Spelling: All the kids have taken turns asking Alexa to spell words, though if I’m honest, none of them melt my heart as much as that 8yo struggling reader does when she uses it.
  • Probability: The kids found that they can ask Alexa to “roll a die” or “pick a card” and have been found charting the results and comparing them over several sessions to see what numbers and cards come up most often. What?! Who says math has to be taught with a text book?
  • Weather: I was tired of reminding the kids what the weather would be like each day to help them figure out what they should wear — and they fought me on the clothing choices anyway — so now I send them to Alexa and she reports the weather and they choose their clothes accordingly. It’s kind of fun to hear them ask about weather in other parts of the country, too, and sigh over places they’d rather be.
  • Timer: We need timers set many times during the day — when one is on the computer and another one wants to use it, when we need to be loading up the van to go somewhere, to know when to take the cookies out of the oven, to help a certain child know when to end the conversation so mommy can take a break… Alexa makes it easy.
  • Math: My younger two use Alexa to help them practice skip counting and to compute simple calculations.
  • Dictionary/Thesaurus: Did you know that you can ask Alexa to define words and give you synonyms for them too? My kids use this feature when they’re writing or trying to use new challenge words in sentences throughout the day.
  • Music: We use Alexa extensively for music. The kids can ask her to play a sampling of a composer’s work if we’re doing music appreciation. They can play songs they love for an impromptu dance party — It’s Raining Tacos, anyone?
  • Research: My kids ask a lot of questions. About everything. And I don’t always know the answers to their questions, much to their frustration. They now have a go-to resource they can sit by and ask all the things they’re dying to know right this minute. The cool thing about that, though, is I’ve seen the kids using those blank books we love so much to write nonfiction books about the animals or topics they’re “researching” through Alexa. When a kiddo is voluntarily writing a report, I call it a win.
  • Audio Books: This was my initial reason for getting the Amazon Echo Dot in the first place. We love our Audible subscription. I use the credits each month to buy expensive audio books that I want to have in my library, like the Harry Potter books, and then watch for discounts on other books to add for a few dollars here and there. We all listen, doodle, craft, play a game, etc. each day. It’s relaxing and saves my voice.
  • Podcasts: This is a newer addition to our homeschool. I’ve listened to podcasts for awhile, my husband is a huge fan of audio content, and my kids are loving several shows right now. We can ask Alexa to pull up podcasts we love and listen over lunch or snacks.

Alexaschooling - Using the Amazon Echo for Homeschooling

Pssst! You can grab a cheat sheet with all these ideas ready for you to print and post near your Echo. Just enter your email below and I’ll send it over to you!

AlexaSchooling | Fun Alexa Skills for Kids

I have to admit that the Amazon Echo can do a bunch of cool things through the add-on Alexa Skills users can activate either through the app or just by telling her to open them. Some of our favorites include:

  • The Magic Door: This is a choose your own adventure story skill that kids can follow along with. I haven’t loved all the stories, and they definitely need to add more, but it was fun for awhile.
  • Spelling Bee: Alexa can challenge kids to a spelling bee and adjust it to their age-level. Super cool — and way better than a spelling book!
  • Hangman: Another great way to practice spelling skills without a spelling program.
  • Jokes: Alexa tells jokes. You can ask her to tell you a joke, or specify that you’d like a knock knock joke. My kids love this, and it’s great for a little brain break when we need one.
  • Cat/Dinosaur/Dog Facts: Alexa has a skill for each of these topics and literally has thousands of different facts related to one of those three animals. “Alexa, enable Dog Facts Skill. Alexa, tell me a dog fact.” And on and on and on… Go! Drink that cup of coffee while the kids are being peppered with facts by Alexa!
  • Twenty Questions: Now they can play the game with someone who won’t become numb with the monotony.
  • Simon Says: This is another great brain break skill. Break up activities with this classic game.

These are just some of the Alexa Skills we’ve discovered and use during our day. I’m sure there are more and that I’ll add to this list regularly.

As for that super sweet struggling reader? Pop on over one afternoon and you’ll probably find her working on her next story — with her co-writer, Alexa.

I got the Amazon Echo Dot for myself... but I didn't count on all the great ways my kids would find to use it IN their homeschooling. And, isn't that the way of it? If we get out of our own way (and theirs) they'll find amazing ways to learn about everything...

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Stocking Stuffers for Gifted Kids

stocking stuffers for gifted kids

Stocking stuffers can be so frustrating. It can be difficult to find quality gifts to include in the stockings hung by the fire with care, with such limited space and already over-stretched budgets. It’s tempting to just buy a bag of candy and toss in some socks (which I would love for myself), but when you’ve got gifted kids they’re not always so easily pleased. If a trinket doesn’t hold their attention or challenge them, they’ll toss it aside and you’ll have wasted your money. Gifted kids don’t just need novelty, they crave it. I’m sharing a handful of novel stocking stuffers that will not only delight your gifted kids, but put their brilliant brains to work!

 stocking stuffer

Stocking Stuffers to Inspire Creativity

I believe that some of the best toys are open-ended items that allow all the room possible for a kiddo to stretch their imagination. My kids don’t exactly appreciate receiving an empty box as a gift, so I’ve found these tried-and-true stocking stuffers that allow for creative play with few instructions. If you’ve had a gifted child in your life for any amount of time, you’ve likely discovered the obsession and absolute passion that they have for tape. Seriously. They go through so much tape that I finally decided to lean into it and put rolls in their stockings, and every year they’re thrilled to get it! My fidgety son loves these mini magnetic balls and will spend tons of quiet time making creations with them, just as all of my kids do with their Plus Plus neon set and the packages of Wikki Stix I keep in my purse. This More Origami pack is compact and packed with creative tasks. This set of dual tip markers is fantastic for creating art, practicing calligraphy, or anything else a creative kiddo might want to try with both brush and precision tips!

      

Stocking Stuffers to Stretch the Brain

My engineer-minded kiddos have most of these items and have gotten years of play out of them. These stocking stuffers are more than toys, they’re challenges, games, or in the case of my son and the speed cubes, obsessions. Kanoodle is a fantastic item to keep for on the go entertainment, and one of the items I always suggest for gifted kiddo gifts. The Cat Stax and Dog Pile bundle is a fun twist on tanagrams and has the added bonus of being a game! This Domino Cube is novel enough to draw your kiddos in, and challenging enough to keep them hooked. A puzzle book like The Best Brain Teasers is always a great stocking stuffer, perfect to keep in the car or a backpack. Did you know that there is more than one kind of Rubik’s cube? This set of 5 speed cubes is a good start to collecting all of the variations, each with their own unique algorithms. Another fun and compact challenge to is this Foldology pack, requiring kids to really wrinkle their brains and use creativity. 

      

STEM Stocking Stuffers

These stocking stuffers come with a little more instruction, but they’re easy and educational for kids. This balloon helicopter doubles as a fun party favor while teaching a bit of physics. Don’t let the age rage on these bath pipes fool you, they’re fun for all ages! Grab a few sets of them and see how much more fun bath time can become, or just use them to trick your kiddos into the bath! Tenzi is a fun gift that the whole family can enjoy, like these fraction and decimal dominoes. I can’t tell you how much I would have loved one of these digital bookmarks when I was growing up, but it may be a good thing I didn’t have a lock picking set, which is a surprisingly well-loved gift among the engineer-minded kiddos! 

      

Don’t fill those stocking with cheap knick knacks and filler candy this year, make them just as exciting as what waits beneath the tree. These stocking stuffers do double duty as both fun gifts and educational tools, so you’ll feel just as good about giving them as your kids will about receiving them. Be sure to share some of your favorite stocking stuffers in the comments, and happy shopping!

stocking stuffers for gifted kids

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Great Geography Games to Czech Out

great geography games to czech out

Geography, quite frankly, is where it’s at. *pause for laughter*  In all seriousness, geography is a cornerstone of learning about the world around us, but isn’t always something fun to study. Simply memorizing where places are and an interesting geological feature about each place just really isn’t that engaging. Gameschooling is a long-time family favorite it our homeschool, and it’s a perfect fit for studying geography! Check out some of these great geography games that help make learning a little more fun, and the world a little smaller. 

 geography games

US Geography Games

A classic game (and the much-loved book) The Scrambled States of America Game is as educational as it is fun! 10 Days in the USA challenges players to plan trips from state to state, and United States Geography Bingo is pretty self-explanatory but plenty of fun. You could take the United States Memory Matching Card Game on the road with you, or take a pretend road trip with Race Across the USA. To get the whole family in on the fun, plan a few nights with the American Trivia Family Edition!

      

World Geography Games 

The whole world opens up when we learn about the world around us, and games like The World Game are perfect for those competitive learners who can’t quite travel the globe. Mapominoes Africa is part of a great series of dominoes that teach the geography of all the continents, just as Ticket to Ride: Asia is part of an enormously fun and beloved game series that explores the countries through various games and expansion packs. Explore the World, Continent Race, and Globe Runner are all wonderful games that add the element of competitiveness and excitement as players learn about the world in a race to win the game. 

      

Games for Young Learners

Geography isn’t just for big kids! With games like Little Passports Where To? and Wild Kratts Race Around the World Game, planning trips around the world is more fun than overwhelming. Tools like the United States magnetic puzzle, an Our World jumbo puzzle, or this Seek and Find Around the World book are perfect for younger siblings or little learners to begin familiarizing themselves with the great wide world. And as part of the great Ticket to Ride series, there’s a fantastic version for younger players, Ticket to Ride: First Journey.

      

Geography can be a lot of fun to study, especially when including games. Try adding in international snacks, history, music, and all the culture you can gather to really help build deeper connections to the places you learn about in your homeschool. There are so many ways to learn, why not have a little fun while you’re at it?

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Not Knowing Everything Makes Me a Better Homeschool Parent

not knowing everything makes me a better homeschool parent

You’ve heard of the 80/20 rule, I’m sure. Usually it means that 20% of the people in an organization do 80% of the work, but it means something different to a homeschool mom. To homeschool parents it may represent the 80% of people who declare they could never homeschool compared to the 20% of people […]

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Fun Language Arts Additions

fun language arts additions

As a writer, I don’t hate language arts. While I didn’t always know this was what I’d do, I was always engaged during language arts class and had a deep love for reading, writing, and, to my friends’ dismay, correcting grammar. But having always been so comfortable with language and writing, it can sometimes slip my mind that not all of my kiddos are naturally strong or drawn to it. In fact, some of my kiddos are bored by it.

Maybe you’ve got a bookworm whose love of words bleeds over into a comfort with language arts. Maybe you’ve got a reluctant writer or a kiddo who is in such a hurry to get their thoughts out that they can’t be bothered to worry about spelling. Maybe you’ve got a twice-exceptional kiddo working through a language-based learning difference. Whoever you have in your homeschool, language arts doesn’t have to be a chore, a bore, or a battle. Check out these fun resources and tools I’ve found to help add some smiles while studying similes! 

 language arts

Fun to Write

Writing seems to be one of those love-it-or-hate-it subjects with school-aged kiddos. Sadly, many more of them seem to lean more towards the “hate it” camp. Some of these resources are so fun that they could be seen as downright tricking your kiddo into writing, but we’ll keep that between us. Revolting Writing, while full of potty humor and gross-out writing prompts, keeps kids engaged by teaching vocabulary words that make them giggle and providing scenarios they’ll want to write, if for nothing else than the humor. Once Upon a Pancake and Finish This Book are like beefed-up Mad Libs, providing a structure and encouraging the child to create a fleshed-out story on their own. Of course, Mad Libs themselves are a fun way to play with language and review the parts of speech. Encourage your kiddos to get creative with their descriptions and story-telling with blank comic book strips, too! Equal parts writing and keepsake, the Q&A a Day Journal is a fantastic way to start every day with writing that’s meaningful. 

      

Fun to Play

We’re big fans of gameschooling in our homeschool. Adding in an element of fun or competition always seems to draw in the most reluctant learner! Boggle is a classic game to help practice and build spelling skills, and reading comprehension dice are an active and engaging way to discuss the books you read together. Metaphors, similes, adjectives, prepositions… the Figurative Language in a Jar and Grammar in a Jar games are easy and travel-friendly ways to practice elements of language arts that don’t always show up in fun ways. No homeschool is complete without Story Cubes, which are fantastic for creative writing prompts and imaginative story telling. One of my favorite aspects of language arts is learning synonyms, which can be practiced with games like Don’t Say It!, where players must think of alternative words… or else! 

      

Fun to Read

Explore and understand punctuation with books like Eats, Shoots, & Leaves, Semicolons, Cupcakes, and Cucumbers, or Twenty-Odd Ducks, that take black and white grammar rules and turn them into colorful, memorable stories. If you’re diving into classic literature, check out Guinea Pig Classics for a fun synopsis, like this version of Pride and Prejudice told with captivating cavies! Language arts is about so much more than just memorizing rules, it’s about learning to enjoy words and stories. Ella Minnow Pea is one of those stories, using brilliant language and techniques to enthrall readers and deepen a love for what can be done with language. If You Were an Antonym is another fun story, using pictures and examples to explain just what an opposite word is!

      

Language arts may seem dull, what with all the rules and red lines, but at the heart of it all is creativity – the ability to rearrange a finite number of characters into infinite words and stories. I know not everyone will join me in my natural enthusiasm for it, but these resources are sure to sway more than a few reluctant kiddos. 

language arts

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