Incorporating Ebooks Into Your School

I’ve always loved to read. I used to love going to the library twice a month when my children were little and getting books for our studies and for pleasure. As the years rolled by, our personal homeschool library grew and we made fewer trips to the library. The Internet didn’t help, either, with it’s ability to bring just about anything we wanted to learn about right into our living room. Then, a couple years ago, my husband bought a Kindle Fire.

I don’t recall why I picked it up one day, but I did. I did a search for ‘Dunaway,’ a family name on my husband’s side, and came up with “Reminiscences of a Rebel” by Wayland Fuller Dunaway. We just happened to be studying the Civil War at the time, so I was thrilled to find this memoir written by a distant relative of my husband’s. Then I started thinking … What else could I find for free? Sticking with the Civil War theme, I found many things dealing with Lincoln, Lee, Gettysburg, slaves, soldiers, and more–all free through Amazon!

Recently, I remembered that our public library also loans ebooks. A quick search found two different apps: Freading (available for Android and Apple) and OverDrive. Just download the apps, plug in your library info, and start borrowing books. I am in heaven!

(Please remember to use discretion when searching for books. There are many free ebooks that have covers that are not appropriate for young eyes to view.)

Benefits of Ebooks

  • Most ebooks take up very little space because they are stored “in the Cloud” until you are ready to read them. If you are purchasing free ebooks, your reader (Kindle, Nook, etc) will hold a large number. Everyone in your family can have their favorites on-hand to read when the mood strikes them.
  • If you have to travel, it’s easier to take one ereader than a stack of hardcover and paperback books.
  • You can read the books across various devices (computer, ereader, tablet, phone, etc) and never lose your place.

Disadvantages of Ebooks

  • You cannot highlight, make notes, or print from a “borrowed” ebook.
  • You won’t have that ‘book smell’ with an ebook.

Other Places to Get Ebooks

If your ereader allows you to search the Internet to find ebooks, you can search these two sites as well:

Internet Archive

Project Gutenberg

If you know of other places to find ebooks, please feel free to leave a comment!

It Looks Good on Paper!

I stopped in at the local used homeschool book store today to drop off some books I no longer need and to see if there was anything I felt I might need for our schooling this year. The owner, Sue, asked how I was. I replied, “I’m good and ready! We start school on Monday. I have our day all planned out and it looks good on paper.” We both laughed, and then she introduced me to a new homeschooling mom who was also shopping. Sue and I are both veteran homeschoolers, so we did our best to put this new mom’s mind and heart at ease.

Some of our tips:

  • Use pencil when you plan. Ink is hard to change. ;-)
  • Don’t plan details too far in advance. Figure out where you want to be in your math program when you break at Christmas and if you’re there, great. If not, work even problems only and do two lessons a day until you’re caught up. Same for other subjects, too: figure out where the halfway point is and work toward it. If you fall short, find a way to catch up, or change your goals (this is where the pencil comes in). I mentioned how I block out weeks for the units in Weaver — I know approximately where I should be at any time of the year, but nothing is set in stone.
  • Relax and have fun. Relationships are more important than academics. As I tell my Weaver moms: Put God first, and everything else will fall into place.

How about you? Are you ready for the new school year?

The A to Z of Using Weaver (part 4)

Over the past few days we’ve covered letters A-S. Today, we’ll complete the series.

Teacher’s Binder — Unless you purchase Teacher’s Friend (or talk to another Weaving mom), you won’t know about this little gem. Designed as a “quick start guide” for those new to using Weaver, the Teacher’s Friend will walk you through how to set up your own teacher’s binder. This will become your lifeline for using Weaver. Instead of working from those huge binders each day, you’ll have everything you need in one smaller binder — it will, literally, become the most valuable school supply you own; and it will go with you, year after year after year, through this adventure called homeschooling.

Units — This is what Weaver is all about: separate units that are all focused on one thing — the Bible. The Weaver Curriculum is a unit study approach to learning. That means each section starts with the topic being studied (found in the Bible chapter you are studying at the time) and weaves in history, science, art, etc. Everything you’ll study in all the subjects will point back to what’s being studied in the Bible lessons. And that’s really how it should be! Everything we do in life should be a direct result of what we are studying in our Bible. Remember: if you start with the Word of God, everything else falls into place!

Volumes — There are five official volumes that make up The Weaver Curriculum. Each one is color-coded the same way (white for everyone, or teacher papers; goldenrod for Kindergarten; dark pink for first grade; light pink for second grade; blue for third grade; yellow for fourth grade; green for fifth grade; and salmon for sixth grade) and broken up into nine units covering anywhere from 180 to 220+ days for teaching. If you follow the Day by Day, and take breaks for the usual holidays, you will finish the first three volumes in one year each. Volumes four and five will each take a year and a half on the same schedule. That means you will get through all five volumes in a six year period. After that, you start over using the 7-12th Grade Supplement that corresponds with each volume. As you can see, this is a very cost-efficient curriculum!

Wisdom Words — This is the grammar program written by the author of The Weaver Curriculum. It is designed with the idea that you have already taught your children how to speak properly, so now you want to show them what proper speech looks like on paper. You are encouraged to have your student write for 5-10 minutes each day. From that writing, you will pull examples of nouns, sentence fragments, predicates and more. Wisdom Words is color-coded the same way the volumes are, plus it contains all the manipulatives you’ll need to teach the concepts. The suggested course of study for Wisdom Words is included in the Day by Day for each volume.

X-tra Help — Homeschooling is not always easy. Support from other homeschooling moms is important! That’s why there is a huge network of extra help out there for those using the Weaver curriculum. If you desire to purchase new materials, you can shop at The Unofficial Weaver. If you’d rather buy used, you can find items listed at the Buy/Sell Board — or, you can see if anyone has posted anything for sale in the Facebook group or …

Yahoo Lists — Before there was Facebook, before there was a Buy/Sell Board, before there was a store, there was a single Yahoo list. Over the years, that list has grown into multiple lists, and this blog was developed. The goal of these various helps has always been to glorify God by helping other homeschool families. If you have a question about Weaver, please don’t hesitate to ask!

Zulu Time / Zoo — Weaver can be done anytime, anywhere! Whether you live in the USA or in Australia (or anywhere in between) you can use Weaver. You may have to find a different history program to suit the needs of your country, but it can be done! Weaver can also be done at the kitchen table, on the couch, on a blanket in the back yard, in the car or at the zoo! Weaver will open your eyes to the world around you, and every opportunity will become a teaching opportunity.

I hope this list has given you a better understanding of The Weaver Curriculum. I cannot stress enough that this curriculum is a tool, not your master. You are the teacher. You decide how, where and what will be taught. You want what’s best for your children, and nothing compares to the goodness of God’s Word. With Weaver, that’s exactly what you’ll be giving them. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: If you start with the Word of God, everything else falls into place!

The A to Z of Using Weaver (part 3)

We’ve covered the first half of the alphabet — now onto the next section!

New Year/Volume —  One of the best features of the Weaver Curriculum is how versatile it is. If you don’t finish a volume in one year, you just mark where you are and pick up in that same spot the next year, moving each child up a grade. If you finish a volume mid-year, you start the next one, keeping your children in the same grades. The first three volumes are designed to be completed in one year each (they’re all around 180 days). Volumes 4 & 5 are designed to take a little longer, and between the two of them you have three years’ worth of work.

Overviews — Each chapter starts with an overview, or outline, of what will be studied. Some of the volumes contain complete overviews at the beginning, and you can find overviews for each volume at The Unofficial Weaver. An alphabetical listing of the topics covered can be found in The Master’s Loom. With Weaver, you will never be surprised unless you want to be!

Penmanship to Praise — Each chapter contains verses for penmanship or memorizing. Many moms use them for both. If you have the Penmanship to Praise program, you will never be without a penmanship assignment — a complete set of assigned verses for each volume can be found within all of the levels. Your child will practice the verse for four days, and on the fifth day they will choose a ‘border page’ and write it in their best handwriting. They can then color it for display on your frig, or on a relative’s frig.

Questions — So often, family and friends will ask how your child is doing in your homeschool. While it’s perfectly fine to teach your children to politely answer any oral quiz someone gives them, it’s also easy to pick up a copy of the Review Questions for the corresponding volume in which you are working. These mini-quizzes make it easy to “show” what your child is learning in each unit.

Reading Lists — Each chapter contains a list of recommended books. These books can be used as resources (visual aids while you teach), as read-a-louds, or as reading assignments for your students. There are recommended grades next to many of the books, but you can choose the books that are appropriate for your child’s reading level. Unfortunately, some of the recommended books are no longer in print and are hard to find at most public libraries. If you don’t have the space or the funds to buy used books, you can still use your local library. Even if they don’t have the exact book, they will have similar books. Just pick up a few of those and use them as alternatives. The idea is to teach the concept–the topic–not the exact book.

Success in Spelling — The author of The Weaver Curriculum desired to have a complete curriculum for her own children. Besides creating Penmanship to Praise and 1-2-3 Read!, she also created Success in Spelling. Designed to be started after the student is reading fluently (about 3rd grade), the six levels of Success in Spelling will take your child from simple two- and three-letter words (cap) to college vocabulary (capitulate). Each level comes complete with spelling, diacritical markings and syllabication rules used, as well as instructions for using the program.

Tomorrow, we’ll finish up with the last few letters of the alphabet!

The A to Z of Using Weaver (part 2)

Yesterday we discussed A-F when it comes to Weaver. Today, we’ll tackle G-M.

Grade Levels — The main volumes each contain grades K-6, while the Supplements contain grades 7-12 (more on those in a bit). This allows you to teach all of your children at the same time, from the same curriculum. No more sending each child to a different room to study on their own (unless you–or they–want to). Coloring pages pertaining to most of the topics can be found online. Your younger elementary students can be coloring while you read and discuss info with your upper elementary and high school students. Older children can even help teach younger children! This is “one-room school house” in your home.

Highway to English Grammar — This two-year course is designed to be used for 9th & 10th grade English. The first year is an in-depth diagramming course, and the second year is spent diagramming the book of Romans. Your student will come away with a better understanding of why we speak the way we do, and better writing skills.

Investigation — Who doesn’t love a good mystery? Your child will love learning little facts and tidbits of info as they study weather patterns, migration routes, and more. If you find something that really intrigues your student, you can take an extra hour (or day, or week) to study it further. Affectionately called “rabbit trails,” these are some of the best learning experiences of the year. Need an example of a rabbit trail? Say you’re in V2/Ch4 and you’re studying inventions. As you discuss how various inventions, such as cars, have affected our lifestyles, your child asks, “What kind of car did your parents have when you were little?” This could lead to a trip to visit Grandma and Grandpa to talk about the vehicles they remember their parents having, too. By the time you’re finished, your child could have a great timeline of your family car history, including pictures printed from the Internet!

Jr & Sr High School — While the main volumes cover grades K-6, Weaver isn’t just for the younger children. The 7-12th Grade Supplements allow you to expand on the topics for older students. The Supps include history and science. You will still need the main volume for Bible lessons, vocabulary, field trip ideas, health/safety, and memory verses (which can still be used for penmanship–you’re never too old to practice your penmanship). You won’t need the Day by Day once your students are in the Supps, unless you just want to see how the topics are laid out in connection to the Bible lessons or  for creative writing ideas.

Kid-friendly — This curriculum will take you from hands-on activities to research papers and your students will never notice the change. The author understood the importance of young children to move and do things. She also incorporates writing assignments in more and more detail as the children get older, allowing for a gradual change in the way they learn. Doing is still a big part of the older grades as well! And, since the curriculum is your tool, you are free to change the way you teach the concept. Instead of a research paper, have them create a diorama. Instead of an essay, have them write a fictional story. As you move through the chapters, you’ll get ideas for what works best for your child(ren).

Learning to Love Literature — This is a high school level introduction to literature. Using Veith’s book, Reading Between the Lines, your child will gain a better understanding of how literature has changed over the years, and how our Christian worldview should affect what we read. A written report is suggest to complete this program.

Master’s Loom — Ever wonder when a certain subject will be taught in The Weaver Curriculum? Do you need to know when you’ll be learning about something again? Curious about how much of the Bible you’ll be covering during this journey? Then you will love The Master’s Loom! The first half is a complete index of Volumes 1-5 (Interlock to be added soon), telling in which volume/chapter you’ll study each concept/topic. The second half shows where each Bible lesson is covered in the curriculum. Created by a Weaver mom, for Weaver moms, just like the curriculum!

Check back tomorrow for part 3 of this list!

The A to Z of Using Weaver (part 1)

This had to be the easiest list I’ve ever created. After working with this program for 20 years, the list was automatic–it’s all I talk about when people ask for curriculum suggestions! Due to the length, I’ll be splitting it up over four parts. I hope you find this list encouraging and informative!

Activities — The activities and objectives are the meat of this curriculum. You can do them all or you can do only the ones needed to teach the concept being covered. You can do them exactly as written, skim over them as a review, or dig into them deeply. You are the teacher, so you decide. Activities are age-appropriate with the younger grades being introduced to them and the older grades digging deeper into the topic.

Bible-based – If you start with the Word of God, everything else falls into place. The majority of families who choose Weaver do so because it starts with the Bible. Each history, science and language arts lesson stems from whatever is being studied in the Bible lessons for that chapter. What better way to learn about God’s creation than by looking at it through His Word?

Creative Writing — When you choose to use the Day by Day you are given a bonus: daily writing prompts. If you don’t use the Day by Day, you still have a creative source: the Volume itself! For example, let’s say you’re in Volume 2, chapter 8. The first social studies objective for 2nd grade talks about the foods Adam would have eaten in the Garden of Eden. Your creative writing for the day could be a menu for Adam’s new restaurant. Or maybe you’re in Volume 5, chapter 3, and you’re discussing families. The language arts section suggests students write letters to family members–that can be very creative! One of the perks of using Weaver is teaching your child to think creatively and communicate those thoughts effectively on paper and verbally.

Day by Day — These are your lesson plans for each day. If you follow them daily, for all the volumes, you’ll get through the 5 volumes in 6 years. At the beginning of each chapter, and each day, you’ll be given a “Thought for Today.” Each day has a list of resources and supplies you’ll need for teaching; a place to write-in math, reading, spelling and penmanship assignments; and creative writing prompts. Social studies, science, and language arts objectives are organized to correspond to the Bible lessons for each day. Field trips, art and health topics are suggested. Even Wisdom Words is laid out in the Day by Day for you!

Educational — From agriculture to zoology; constellations to cell structure; world capitals to world religions — you’ll find it all in The Weaver. And Mom will learn right along with her children! So much of what I learned in school didn’t stick with me, but going over it a second time with my children, in a much more hands-on way, has helped to cement the knowledge in my brain. And I know Weaver children around the world are learning from this program — I’ve heard countless stories of high ACT scores and good colleges accepting Weaver graduates. Weaver will teach your children how to think, not just fill in a blank.

Flexible — Need to take a day off for some doctor appointments? Taking an unplanned vacation? Or maybe you prefer to school four days a week and also year-round. With Weaver, you can! Weaver is designed to be a tool, not your master. Whether you prefer lots of books or lots of hands-on, you can adapt Weaver to match your teaching style.

That’s just a taste of this program. Tomorrow we’ll tackle more of the list. (Feel free to share this post with a friend who is curious about Weaver!)

Teaching the Hard Stuff

Death is a fact of life. As Christians, we know it is not the end, but the beginning of our time with Jesus. As much as we look forward to being in heaven, it’s hard to think about those left behind. Children don’t always understand about death–it scares them, and rightly so–it is the “unknown.”

Volume 1, Chapter 12, tackles the subject of death. Using plenty of Bible to reinforce God’s plan for life, you’ll spend a couple days talking about death, burial, and heaven. For very young children, you may wish to get the book, Someone I Love Died, by Christine Tangvald. Older children will need time to talk and grieve. Often, sorting through photos and remembering the fun times will help them as they process their feelings.

The Bible doesn’t gloss over death. From patriarchs dying of old age, to young children being murdered, to liars falling dead at the feet of the Apostles–it’s all in there! If you’re in a different volume and the subject of death comes up and your child starts asking questions, pull your Volume 1 off the shelf and turn to Chapter 12. You’ll find everything you need to teach the subject from a biblical point of view.

Lesson Planning: How I Do It

There is no “one right way” to prepare for teaching with Weaver. Each family will use a slightly different approach, be it through the planning pages they use, or the amount of preparation they do, or both. While I’ve been using my current system (outlined below) for over five years now, it may not work for your family. But I encourage you to try it! With each system you try, you’ll find bits and pieces you like — pull them all together and you’ll have created your own lesson planning system!

For me, it all starts at my desk. I am blessed to have three desks in my office: one for my computer, one for paying bills, and one for school. Here’s my school desk:

My Desk

The open binder at the front left of the desk is my Teacher’s Binder. It holds just the unit we’re currently working on. Since my children are grades 7 & 9 (the 12th grader is working independently) I only use the following sections in my binder: Weaver (intro, Bible, vocab & penmanship–basically all the white/multi-grade pages from the unit); Supplement (7-8 section, then a clear page protector followed by the 9-10 section); Student Texts (any pages I’ve copied that they’ll need for the unit); and Resources (the Resource pages from the main volume). The unused tabs are: Teacher Papers (it still holds blank journal pages, blank Romans 12 lists, field trip forms, and any other notes); Language Arts (still has notes on special days throughout the year for creative writing prompts, and copies of pages from Wisdom Words that talk about teaching reading… wow, I need to clean out my binder!); Spelling (holds the current spelling lists for each child); and two blank tabs (one has miscellaneous notes on high school transcripts and the other has all my Ready Reference charts behind it).

The place at the front right is where my children put things that need to be corrected. It’s also where I put my papers for the next day. The back right holds “future papers” as I like to call them. Starting at the bottom, there is my yearly calendar, future weeks pages, logic pages for the next week, blank Week-at-a-Glance pages, and this week’s logic pages (and math test pages).  Center back has the current volume I’m working on and any other books I may need for the unit. You’ll see essentials, like Post-it notes at the back left, and colored pens on the desk — besides those key items, there are two more things I find quite useful:

Essential tools for planning

Colored paperclips — the large kind — and these really cool sticky-tab things I recently found at the store. You’ll notice they are see-through. These are fantastic for marking pages in books because you can keep reading right through them without having to stop and remove the marker!  These are also plastic, so they’re much more durable than regular paper sticky-notes, and they’re reusable, which means I’ll have these for a long time!

The first thing I do when I plan is list all the subjects I need to cover. I don’t remember when I started using graph paper for this, but I always do.

Rough Overview

I list the number of weeks I’ve set aside for the unit, then the actual days. This unit will take us through 8 weeks, and there are three weeks with only four days in them, so that’s 37 days. It’s important to keep track of days off during the week, otherwise you’ll find yourself doubling-up just to squeeze five days into four. As I look over the lessons for the unit, I’ll note how many there are and if I want to teach any over two days instead of one. I’ll split up the vocabulary words, note any field trips ideas, and decide on Bible verses for penmanship.

All our “school days” are based on the yearly calendar I created at the beginning of the year, which marks out what days we’ll have school and what days we’ll have off:

The Big Picture

The calendar on the left is for next year, so it’s still blank except for the days my husband will have off of work. The calendar on the right shows our current year. I first mark down our start day and our end day, then any days off, such as Spring Break, Labor Day, Christmas, etc. Since I have a child taking classes at a local Tech school, we tend to follow the same schedule as the public school system. If any of the children are using LIFEPACs for anything, I jot down when each booklet will be due so they are all finished by the last day of school. I then fill in where they should be in their math books so they get finished as well. We usually finish before the end of the year, so it’s okay to miss a day or two — except it makes my calendar look a bit messier as I rewrite the lessons to push them back a day or two. The left margin shows the unit we’re working on; the right margin shows the number of days we’ll have school that week.

You’ll notice there are multiple colors on the calendar. Anything that is child-specific is marked in that child’s color. (It was really colorful when I had all five children in school!) I use pencil on the yearly calendar for things that affect everyone, but on the Weekly Sheets I use black or blue pen:

Week-at-a-Glance page

Originally, these sheets were designed to be filled out and given to the children so they could see what was expected of them each day of the week. I used a two-sided Weekly Sheet, and a Daily Sheet, for myself. When I was teaching four or five children, I needed more room to write out our weekly plans. Yet, I didn’t want to get distracted with the other days, so I used Daily Sheets to keep myself focused. Now, with only two, I can squish everything onto this one-sided page (shown above) thanks to colored pens. The subjects down the left side will change some years, depending on what classes we do. I’ve started leaving some sections blank for the children to write in, to teach them about planning their own time. The children will get a sheet similar to the one on the right, except it will contain just the stuff that pertains to them.

Bible lessons will always be filled in first. Then I fill in the History and Science lessons on the Weekly Sheets. Here is an example of the sheets for the current unit we’re doing:

The unit planned out

You’ll notice that each sheet has a paperclip. As I plan, I’ll put papers behind the week where they’ll be used. Two of the above sheets already have the vocabulary word searches behind them, and some have grammar and logic pages.

On Sunday afternoons, I pull out the following week’s papers and copy the plans onto sheets for the children. I set aside anything not needed on Monday, and place just Monday’s papers on the clipboard:

Daily Clipboard

In the above photo, you’ll see the Bible lesson, logic sheets, my Weekly Sheet and the children’s Weekly Sheets, along with the paperclip that held them together and the clipboard they will be placed on. At the end of the school day, I’ll only have the Bible lesson and my Weekly sheet on the clipboard, and the children will have put their completed logic sheets on the front right corner of my desk to be corrected. I usually correct everything on Friday nights.

After my teaching time is over, I’ll put away the Bible lesson from this day and pull out the Science papers needed for the next day, as well as the logic puzzles. Wednesday’s papers will include math tests (they don’t usually fall on the same day, but this week they do).

As I look at the above picture and at the actual Weekly Sheet in front of me, I see that I’ve forgotten to include the grammar sheets. They’re still clipped to the group of papers I’ll need this week and sitting on top of the stack at the back right of my desk. (A place for everything, and everything in its place!)

I hope this has given you a good overview of one way to plan Weaver lessons.  Other moms have uploaded their planning pages to the U-Weaver group on Yahoo. If you’re a member of the list you can view and download them to see if they work for your style of planning. Feel free to leave a comment or drop me an email if you have any questions!

New Year, New Ideas

There are two times of year that I think about overhauling the way I do things for our homeschool: Summer break and Christmas break. Soon my Christmas break will be over and it’ll be back to teaching for me, so I’m taking advantage of my last few days by getting some links organized. How am I organizing them, you may ask? I’m using Pinterest! I’ve created a Board called “Homeschool Ideas” and I pin sites there that I want to use for research or teaching. In the description field I write the Volume/Chapter they go with. For example, I’m currently in Volume 4 / Chapter 2, so the pins are labeled “V4/Ch2.” If, after reading through the sites, I discover they don’t meet my needs, I’ll just delete them. Simple as that! The thing I like most about Pinterest is that I can “see” what I’ve pinned. That’s important for me, as I’m more of a visual person—the links are nice, but having a picture to jog my memory is just what I need.

I’m also making sure any files I’ve downloaded are saved to either a thumb drive or a disk. Computers are notorious for crashing (right after the warranty expires!) and there’s no excuse for not having your data backed-up!

Keeping things organized is one of my favorite parts of homeschooling. What have you found to help organize your Weaver lessons? Leave a comment here, on Facebook, or on the Yahoo email list. I’d love to hear from you!

Amy Carmichael

As we make our way through the beginning chapter of Volume 4 — 6 weeks, altogether — we are studying a different continent each week. To highlight our studies, we’re reading about Christian missionaries who made an impact on the continent being studied. One such missionary was Amy Carmichael. I’ve had a book on my shelf for years, but never had the opportunity to read it–so I brought it down for this study: Amy Carmichael: Rescuer of Precious Gems (Christian Heroes: Then & Now).

What a wonderful story! I have never been so encouraged and challenged in my faith as I am while I read this book! As a follow-up, we’ll be reading one of the books Amy wrote: Things as They Are Mission Work in Southern India.

If you have a favorite book you’d like to share, feel free to leave a comment. Or, stop by the Facebook group to leave a comment.