YouTube: An Educational Tool?

Yep. Youtube is an excellent tool when it comes to homeschooling (or really just learning with your kids or enhancing what they learn at a traditional school). Here are some of my favorite Youtube educational channels and videos:



This one is my favorites. KidsTV123 has a TON of really great videos that my kids love. Counting, ABC’s, shapes, and more all taught through fun songs. We have a lot of fun on this channel.



This also has ABC’s, but I think it’s more helpful for it’s situational teaching. For instance, there is a video about respecting people, a video about the first day of school, a video about sharing, etc. SesemeStreet also has videos for explaining things like what “sturdy” means.

Hoopla Kids


We haven’t used this one a lot, but I like the videos about rhyming. They have lots of videos I haven’t sifted through yet.

Wee Bee World 


Wee Bee World has some great math videos for toddlers and young children. My son loves their counting videos more than other channels’. There are some great videos for introducing addition as well.

El Perro y El Gato

elgato1 elgato2

El Perro y El Gato are really cute and sometimes hilarious videos for introducing spanish to little kiddos. It’s easier to find them if you just search YouTube for “El Perro y El Gato”. They speak in both English and Spanish and have a few vocab words for each video that pop up. I really like these, but I haven’t watched all of them yet. I would suggest watching them first, taking notes, writing down vocab words, and watching the same video with your kids several times so they can really get the most of the conversation in Spanish.

So, those are some of the most helpful YouTube sites I’ve come across. They are a great supplement to our regular homeschool curriculum! Do you use YouTube or know of any great educational channels not listed?


Ah, Priorities.

So, it turns out I have some kind of major infection. I have to take some pretty strong anti-biotics. (Note: When the bottle says don’t eat dairy or whatever with the medication, be meticulous! I ate some toast this morning with a tiny bit of butter and had stomach cramps for two hours. The bottle also says no direct sunlight…not sure about that one…) I’m feeling better tonight than I have in about a week, but I have fallen a bit behind on my blog post planning. I guess this is one of those times I have to prioritize. Blogging is important to me, but I have to complete my school assignments through Liberty online and homeschool my kids and take care of my family. Ah, priorities. I’m finding that setting priorities is easier said than done, and it’s a constant battle to remember what is most important (read all about that struggle here).

Anyway, I will be back on the blogging bandwagon by Thursday. I hope to have a post about what we’ve been doing in our Homeschooling for Social Studies. Also, I’m super excited about a conference I will be attending this weekend, ORAcon 2013 Annual Fiction Writer’s Conference in Springfield, MO! I will definitely have posts concerning the material I pick up at this conference. They are covering backwords plotting, world-building, and self-publishing, among many other topics.


Language Arts Curriculum for Pre-K/K-4

Homeschooling has been great! It’s really been a lot more fun than I thought it would be, and the kids are learning so much! Language Arts probably takes up the most time in our routine. My four-year-old is focusing on four sub-categories in Language Arts: Reading & Phonics, Handwriting, Spelling, and Poetry.

I did a lot of research and looked at a lot of options before deciding to go with the Now I’m Reading! program. There are two pre-readers that I purchased. The first one is Word Play, and it comes with flash cards and 8 simple books. The Now I’m Reading! program is a leveled program, so it starts off with books with simple (mostly) one syllable words and then gets more complicated as you go up to level 1, 2, etc.







I also purchased this pre-reader, which comes with a more detailed parents guide and more books. Each set of books comes in a sturdy hard back cover with plastic inserts for each book:






Then there is a book called Phonics Wheels. It’s an interactive book that focuses on word families (-at, -ug, -an, etc):






Go Fish Stories! focuses on reading comprehension. The child listens (or reads) the stories in What Happens Next? and then they play a Go Fish like game that tests their reading comprehension. There are three cards in the deck that represent each story, and the child has to group the cards together by story.




The last thing in the Now I’m Reading! program that we are using is this nifty flash card set called Flashcards: Slide, See & Say.





Besides the Now I Can Read! program we are also focusing on one letter a week for my daughter to learn to write. We use dry erase boards and she just practices while I help her, sometimes drawing connect-the-dot letters until she can draw them on her own.

We also use for poetry, reading, spelling, comprehension, word families, and handwriting worksheets. I have found to be a great resource for both of my kids. They have educational games and worksheets and my kids always want to learn using their website.

What do you do for Language Arts in pre-k/k-4? Does anyone have good suggestions for curriculum for Kindergarten or 1st grade?


Post-it Note Story Planning

I attended a little get together on Saturday at Liz Shulte’s home. She’s a successful self-published author and I’m glad to have her as a friend. At this get together, she imparted the awesome organizational powers of Post-it Notes. I’ve decided to try to implement her suggestions in the plotting of the second novel in the series I am writing. I’m kind of excited! Although it is a lot more work upfront, I definitely see this being a big help in the editing stages.

Basically, you have a crap ton of Post-it Notes in all different colors. Each color represents a different thing in your story (as I will explain below). You draw blocks on a big piece of grid paper, and each block represents a chapter (or for a short story, they could represent scenes). The system is very flexible. You can change it up however you’d like. Change the colors. Instead of a grid paper, use a notebook and each page represents a chapter (hmm…I kind of like that idea…). Here are the colors I’ve assigned to my story planning based on the session at Liz’s:

  • Orange: Plot points
  • Blue: Main Character #1 Point of View
  • Purple: M.C. #2 POV
  • Pink: M.C. #3 POV
  • Red: M.C. #4 POV
  • Yellow: World-Building
  • Heart-shaped: Relationship Building/Emotions
  • Green: Setting

For now, these are the colors I’m working with, but Liz had more colors she had assigned to things like: villain, character backstory, word count, etc. I may add these in, but I’m tailoring to what works best for me. For instance, I have characters that are opposing my main characters for sure, but the main “villain” is the harsh culture in which they live.

I’m hoping to map out the next story by December in order for me to do a NaNoWriMo-ish thing in between my school semesters. Thank you Liz! Wish me luck people!

Do you use Post-it Notes? What are your methods for planning out your work?

Created in the Image of a Creative God

A couple days ago, I was on my way to Hy-Vee to get ahead on homework, but I couldn’t stop thinking about how badly I wanted to write a literary short story. I had this urge to write something- anything literary- since reading a few short stories in the Glimmer Train. Literary work is something I have to be in the mood to produce, and I was, but there was one little problem: I had NO ideas, whatsoever. None that wouldn’t turn fantasy or sci-fi pretty quickly, anyway. So, (and this might sound strange to some of you) I asked God to give me a really great idea, to open up the floodgates of creativity in my mind; and while I was praying, an idea began to form, and it took off. I had a rare five hour burst of creative writing magic.

This got me thinking about all of the really great stories I’ve produced, and I realized that most of them began as an idea while I was in prayer. Now, very little of my work could be considered “Christian fiction”, but all of it does come out my own worldview, which is very influenced by Scripture and Christian culture. That means my work often times depicts the depravity of man and the power of hope. And this morning I couldn’t help but smile as I thought about why I believe my best comes out when I’m in prayer: I (just like you) am created in the image of a creative God.

I believe with all my heart that God loves creativity (just look at the sky at night or wildflowers or the complexities of the human race), and that everyone has a little bit of creativity somewhere inside them (whether that manifests in paintings or stories or architecture or even creative game play). I also believe that only with His grace can I reach my full potential. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I know without a shadow of a doubt that if I wasn’t a Christian I would be doing whatever it takes to remain comfortable. ¬†Because comfort is valuable to me. Because sometimes comfort is more important to me than almost anything else. Being a writer is not comfortable. Being a stay at home, for me, is not comfortable. Going back to school is not comfortable. Eating a salad instead of a delicious cheeseburger is close to downright torture. Right now, very little about my life is comfortable.

But, oh, is it worth it, and I would never have taken any of these uncomfortable steps without the encouraging, loving, sovereign, hand of God gently pushing me out of my comfort zone. So thank you, God, for being who You are, and please don’t ever give up on this comfort loving stubborn woman.