Time to Plant a Garden

I’ve been wanting to plant a garden for a few years now, but never quite got past the talking about it phase. We’ve had gardens in the past, but they were always planned, planted and cared for by Cameron (Dad). He hasn’t had the time lately, so it’s up to me! I talked about wanting to do this with another homeschooled family. They are renting their house, and putting in a garden would take a LOT of work as they would have to clear out a grassy area to do it. Cyndy (mom of their family) has a lot more knowledge of gardening than I do as well. We decided that they would come over to our house and we would plant one together.

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Wally insisted on wearing a pair of gardening gloves, then used them to slap Abbe in the face.

About 3 years ago Cameron cut down and burned a huge pile of branches. The mound has been sitting in the yard ever since collecting debris, worms, bugs and all sort of natural material. About 6-8 months ago he covered this pile in a layer of mulch and then a layer of cardboard. The dirt in this pile is now rich, black, and perfect for a garden! We didn’t’ want to interfere with the natural ecosystem that has formed on this hill, so we just planted right into it.

Plant a garden | SmithSquad.com | Homeschooling math and science | Family Work | Square Foot gradening
One thing I love about homeschooling is the opportunity for older and younger children to work together and build relationships. Jack just ADORES his Gillian!

Cyndy and I both really like the principles taught in the book “Square Foot Gardening“. With such an irregular shaped plot of land to plant on, however, it wasn’t really doable to measure out precise squares. We used many of the principles of how to plant things, but did it in a more freeform layout.

Plant a garden | SmithSquad.com | Homeschooling math and science | Family Work | Square Foot gradening
Boris will be losing one of his favorite sunning spots. Sorry buddy.

In case you were wondering 36 weeks pregnant is NOT a great time to be squatting and planting, especially on a hill with slightly precarious footing. Cyndy took charge of most of the educating and planting while I hovered and took pictures.

Plant a garden | SmithSquad.com | Homeschooling math and science | Family Work | Square Foot gradening
Discussing the purpose of mulch

First Cyndy talked to all the kids about mulch and what it did for the ground. We told them how we were going to clear away just enough to get to the dirt, then once we saw sprouts coming up we would put the mulch back down around them. This would help to keep moisture in the ground and stop weeds from growing in the soil around the plant.

Plant a garden | SmithSquad.com | Homeschooling math and science | Family Work | Square Foot gradening
Reading a seed packet

She then taught them how to read the seed packets and figure out how close together seeds should be as well as how deep to plant them. They then each measured their fingers so they could learn to feel how deep 1″ or 2″ was.

Plant a garden | SmithSquad.com | Homeschooling math and science | Family Work | Square Foot gradening
Leah chose to plant carrots

Now it was time to get planting! Each child had chosen a packet of seeds from the stash I’ve had in the freezer for a few years now. The plan was that each of them would plant their selection. It didn’t quite work out that way as many of the smaller ones had reached their attention span limit and wandered off. This was ok, learning is fun and if they were bored they weren’t learning anyway. Plus it was a bit easier to work with less little feet climbing all over the hill.

Plant a garden | SmithSquad.com | Homeschooling math and science | Family Work | Square Foot gradening
Is this a good rock?

The kids and Cyndy worked together to carefully scrape away the mulch and plant the seeds. We planted corn, squash, melons, carrots, lettuces and more. We had a few seeds that needed to be started indoors, then transplanted. We cleared away spots for each of those plants and had the kids find some medium-sized rocks to place in them. This way we know exactly where they go in our plan and we wouldn’t accidentally over plant and not leave room.

Plant a garden | SmithSquad.com | Homeschooling math and science | Family Work | Square Foot gradening
Our broken blind plant markers written by Maddy

Maddy (8) took charge of making the markers for each plant. We used the slats from a set of broken blinds. They should stand up to the weather great and are nice and visible.

Plant a garden | SmithSquad.com | Homeschooling math and science | Family Work | Square Foot gradening
We found a worm!

I’m excited to see how our garden turns out! If nothing else I’m sure we’ll learn things that we can apply to net year when the area that has been mulched and covered in cardboard is even larger!

Plant a garden | SmithSquad.com | Homeschooling math and science | Family Work | Square Foot gradening
Rachel decided she needed to take a break and just supervise, what better place to do so than Sam’s lap?

Did you plant a garden this year? What did you plant? What methods do you use? Do your kids help? I’d love to hear all about it. If you have a blog about it please share in the comments so we can read and follow your journey too!


Fred and Kingie Giveaway

Life of Fred is probably my favorite curriculum resource ever. His daily adventures int he world of math keep the kids entertained and engaged and they learn a TON! Now Fred and Kingie can be a real part of your family! Let them sit at the kitchen table while you count how many grapes you have on your plate, take them to the store to help measure the produce. why not ask fred to help you calculate your miles per gallon at the gas station? Your kids will absolutely love having their stuffed pal along to help them out as they figure out their own real world math.

Fred is eight inches tall and ready to tackle math concepts big and small!

Life of Fred Doll - Educents

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But wait… that’s not all of the exciting news! Kingie is ready for an adventure too!!

Life of Fred Kingie Doll

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Kingie loves to keep his best friend, Fred, company on all those silly math adventures!  Your learners will love to have Fred and Kingie live and in person as they learn with Life of Fred!

One more exciting bit of news. I am giving away one set of Fred and Kingie dolls right now on my Facebook page! Head on over to this post to enter!

Life of Fred doll Giveaway|homeschool math curriculum|Unschool

Can’t wait until a winner in announced to get yours or need more than one to stuff in a stocking?

You can find both Fred & Kingie on Educents for $13.99 (retail price is $15). For limited time, Educents is offering 10% off and free shipping on your entire order. That means you can get any Fred books at an extra discount right now too. Have a very Merry Life of Fred Christmas!!  Use discount code GIVETHANKS at checkout.

Want to learn more about Life of Fred? Check out my Life of Fred Math Curriculum Review.

Life of Fred- Math Curriculum Review

**This post contains affiliate links. To read more about our affiliate links click here**

After reading a bunch of glowing statements and the Life of Fred Math Curriculum by Stanley Schmidt I decided to give it a try. About 1 year ago we purchased the first 3 books in the elementary set; Apples, Butterflies, and Cats. They were everything we hoped so we are working on adding a few books at a time to our collection. Maddy (age 7) has read the first five and has been begging to get the next one. We get ours from Educents, they have the best prices I have found.

**update Oct 27, 2015- We got the final 5 books and Maddy devoured them. She is now starting the entire ten book set again.**


Who is Stanley Schmidt?

Dr. Schmidt graduated college at age 21 and began his work as a High School math teacher at age 22. Over the next 2.5 years, while full time teaching, he achieved his Masters degree and then began teaching College classes.  After 11 years of teaching Stanley “retired himself” and soon after began writing the Life of Fred books.

Who is Fred?

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Fred first appeared as a chalkboard drawing when Dr. Schmidt was teaching. Dr. Schmidt used Fred to show real world examples of when his students would use the math that he was teaching. The longer he taught the more Fred appeared. Dr. Schmidt would tell his daughter about Fred’s adventures as they drove together. She told him that he had to write down these stories.

Fred is a 5 year old who teaches math. On each page of the Life of Fred book she encounters different real life scenarios where he must use math to solve his every day problems. Fred is fun, full of energy, and always thinking about new ways to use math.

How does Life of Fred work as a curriculum?

Life of Fred is a Math Curriculum that can take a student from basic elementary math all the way through College level Linear Algebra, Statistics, and Calculus. Life of Fred is not your typical curriculum with boring explanations, pages of practice problems and little to no real world application. Life of Fred is written as an adventurous story. Children are engaged and excited to see what Fred’s next adventure will be. Life of Fred does not stress the basic math facts, instead it teaches how to use these facts in real world scenarios. The books ARE a complete curriculum, but some students will need additional help in memorizing the basic math facts. A parent or educator will need to teach these students the basic facts with fun games or flash cards in addition to using these books.

One of my favorite things about these books is that higher level terms and ideas are introduced throughout the lower level books. Because the students are introduced to higher level terminology in a fun way early in their mathematical education they are better prepared to understand and execute these concepts as they reach them in the higher levels.

Where do I start?

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Children up to 4th grade:

The first set of ten books is designed to cover everything a child would learn in elementary school. Before starting your child should be able to count, add, and subtract up to the number ten. Dr. Schmidt recommends that any child 4th grade or below starts with the first book and reads through the entire 10 book elementary series. If the series is finished and the student is not old enough or ready to move on then simply have them read through again. Since concepts are taught through story and mixed throughout the books rather than taught linearly with worksheets each time a child reads through they have a better understanding of the concepts taught. Once a student completes the first ten books with confidence then they are ready for the intermediate books (Kidneys, Liver, and Mineshaft). These books are a bridge from elementary to fractions. Children ages 10 and older who have a solid grasp on the concepts taught in the first 13 books (addition, subtraction, multiplication, long division)  should start with Life of Fred Fractions, and decimals and percents. These books teach far more than just your basic fractions, decimals, and percents so even older students who have learned fractions should still start here.

Children 5th Grade and older:

Students who do not have a complete grasp on fractions, decimals, and percents, don’t like math, or have used any program up to 7th grade level should start with Life of Fred Fractions, and decimals and percents. Some students who have struggled in math may also benefit from going through the last few books of the elementary series as well first. They will then move into the Pre-Algebra set which includes Life of Fred PreAlgebra 0 with Physics, PreAlgebra 1 with Biology, and PreAlgebra 2 with Economics.

If your child has completed the Life of Fred Pre-Algebra course, or any other curriculum through Algebra then you should start with Life of Fred Beginning Algebra and Advanced Algebra. The Life of Fred books cover more Algebra than almost any other curriculum as well as teach it in a different order. It is recommended that your child start with the beginning book even if they have taken some Algebra classes in the past.

After Algebra a student takes Geometry. Once Algebra and Geometry are completed they are ready for Trigonometry. Trigonometry is a Pre-Calculus course. Next is Calculus, which covers 2 years worth of college level Calculus. If your student is aiming to pass a CLEP test this course will be sufficient to prepare them. Statistics and Linear Algebra are also college level courses.

In addition Dr. Schmidt has written Life of Fred Five Days. This book is full of puzzles using math that a student would encounter as a math major in college. Rather than being a curriculum this book is simply a fun sampler of puzzles for students who love higher level math.

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Life of Fred is so well loved in our home that the first 5 books have been read twice.

I hope this overview has helped you understand this curriculum a little. It is definitely not your standard math curriculum, and that is exactly why I love it so much! It is fun and engaging and my kids can’t wait to hear what Fred’s next adventure will be. They are already able to do simple math with me in every day situations, such as at the grocery store, thanks to Fred’s example. It may be a little scary to trust a curriculum without worksheets and hours of practice problems, but it’s working for us and I know it can work for you too! Even if you don’t feel comfortable using it as your one and only curriculum it is a great fun resource for extra supplementation on real world application of basic math principles.

Did you know that Dr. Stanley Schmidt has recently released language arts and beginning reader books? The Life if Fred beginning readers are next on my curriculum purchase list so stay tuned for another review once they arrive!

Building a Dam- Unschool Physics and Geometry

A few days ago the kids were helping Dad was a friends truck. While dad was doing the final details and rinsing the kids were having a blast playing in the water run-off.  Ben, our 6 year old engineer, noticed that the water flow patterns changed when they were standing in the “river”. He decided that a dam was required. First he made one with his feet. Realizing that this meant he had to stand still he began the search for alternate damming methods.

First he tried a small stick. It kept washing away. He thought for a minute then decided that if he put the stick in the crack of the sidewalk to anchor it then it wouldn’t wash away. That worked, but it didn’t really dam very much water. “I need a lake!”

He then began experimenting with other materials.

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First he tried using the lid to a treasure chest. It was curved, the sidewalk was not. The water went right under, and that idea was quickly discarded. He discovered that fatter sticks held back more water, but then the water quickly built up and went around. After trying a few different sticks that were not flat he finally hit on the perfect solution. He lined up several fat sticks to make a nice long dam that held plenty of water.

This was a great opportunity for an unschool physics lesson. We were able to talk about why the water flowed the direction it did, why the force of the water moved the little stick, and even a little bit about how real dams provide us with energy. We also mixed in a little geometry talking about curved vs. flat shapes, size comparisons, as well as explaining that a stick was a cylinder.

There are plenty of opportunities to learn all around you. You just have to look for them!

What opportunities did you take to teach your kids something new today?