Thursday, December 31, 2009

School vs. Homeschool

One of the questions I get asked the most and see frequently other people wrestle with is how much to compare homeschooling with out of the home schooling. Or institutional schooling as I see a lot of homeschoolers call it.
How much do you hold yourself to the standards, scope and sequences, and expectations of a group school experience?

It's hard to answer, and even harder if you are trying to answer it in a situation where homeschooling is in question or outside the norm.
I don't follow the plan of our local school district at all. I look at state standards loosely because my state requires standardized testing, but otherwise I'd disregard that, as well.
If I wanted my kids to learn what the schools taught I'd have them in school.
This doesn't mean that there isn't a lot of crossover and relevant education happening in the classrooms, it just means that our goals and expectations are different. And so are the time lines.

We're year 'round schoolers which muddies things to begin with. When does one grade start and one end? By age? By ability?
Sweet Pea chronologically is a kindergartner this year. Academically she's working in 1st and 2nd grade materials. Emotionally and socially she's completely 5. So what should I call her? What standards should I seek to meet?

I think the easiest way to do this and what most homeschoolers default to is the end goal- where does a child need to be to be finished with pre-collegiate studies? What do they need to know to be a functioning, productive adult? What values and virtues does someone need to grow out from needing parental guidance for most decisions?

Schooling isn't just about reading, writing, math, and all of the other skills and knowledge groups that we seek to teach our kids. It's also about forming an adult- someone who hopefully is capable, balanced, and content.

That's why I'm vaguely interested in what Sweet Pea's schooled peers are up to, but totally unconcerned. I know that she's academically thriving, and I think that the whole picture is bright and just where it should be.

At least for today. :)

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

A Formidable List of Attainments for a Child of Six

I got this list from Ambleside Online, year 0.

"A Formidable List of Attainments for a Child of Six"

A reprint of a curriculum outline from a CM school in the 1890's. from Summer 93 Parents Review pub by Karen Andreola

1. To recite, beautifully, 6 easy poems and hymns

So far Sweet Pea knows: The Caterpillar, Work, Hearts are Like Doors, Days of the Week, Lord- Keep us Steadfast in Your Love, Away in a Manger, and Silent Night.

2. to recite, perfectly and beautifully, a parable and a psalm

We need to work on this- now that Advent is over we should be able to.

3. to add and subtract numbers up to 10, with dominoes or counters


4. to read--what and how much, will depend on what we are told of the child

Check! Sweet Pea is now working through the first Magic Treehouse book. :)

5. to copy in print-hand from a book

We're doing cursive, but Sweet Pea's handwriting and copying are doing really well.

6. to know the points of the compass with relation to their own home, where the sun rises and sets, and the way the wind blows

Sweet Pea knows where the sun sets and rises, but I don't think off a map she knows the compass points.

7. to describe the boundries of their own home


8. to describe any lake, river, pond, island etc. within easy reach

Check- we have one lake in sight from my home, and lots of woods. Do woods count?

9. to tell quite accurately (however shortly) 3 stories from Bible history, 3 from early English, and 3 from early Roman history (my note here, we may want to substitute early American for early English!)

From the Bible- check, early English- nope, early Roman one.

3 from10. to be able to describe 3 walks and 3 views


11. to mount in a scrap book a dozen common wildflowers, with leaves (one every week); to name these, describe them in their own words, and say where they found them.

She has a leaf collection, but flower collecting is on hiatus until the world thaws out.

12. to do the same with leaves and flowers of 6 forest trees

We're working on this through our science program this year.

13. to know 6 birds by song, colour and shape

Also part of our science plans.

14. to send in certain Kindergarten or other handiwork, as directed

Nothing to send in to, but we're going to start crochet with Sweet Pea soon.

15. to tell three stories about their own "pets"--rabbit, dog or cat.

Sweet Pea has lots of stories she likes to recount about Ursa, our puppy.

16. to name 20 common objects in French, and say a dozen little sentences

We're just starting to compile and figure out how we're doing French, but soon hopefully we can begin checking this off the list.

17. to sing one hymn, one French song, and one English song

Check- if Alouette counts. :)

18. to keep a caterpillar and tell the life-story of a butterfly from his own observations.

Hopefully this summer!

I feel like we're in a good plae with this list- especially since Sweet Pea is 5 until April.

Monday, December 28, 2009

New pretend play toy

This is the changing table that my girls got for Christmas- before they filled it with the huge amount of baby doll related clothing and accessories they have. It still needs a curtain for the front, but that's it otherwise.
It also has really cute tiny hangers for the dresses and sweaters and whatnot.
The girls still really love it- it's definitely the hit of the season!

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas!

We opened our presents last night, and the girls played with them all day. The biggest win was a play diaper changing table with storage underneath that their father made for them. I'll have to get pictures up of it- it's really cute.
They loved all their other presents, and had a really good Christmas.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

New semester changes

I had thought that I had the perfect plan for the year back when I set it all out initially. After 18 weeks of using the materials and seeing what works, doesn't work, and plain never makes it into the rotation I'm revising.

In math: At the beginning of the year we were using Sinapore Earlybird Mathematics in conjunction with Miquon. I'd read so many glowing online reviews of this combo and so many people seemed to adore both of them. We had already used Singapore's Earlybird program last year, so I was pretty comfortable with that choice, and I was willing to give Miquon an honest go. Unfortunately, we are Miquon failures. I love the idea behind the program, and I think with all the explanatory materials it's easy to implement and add into a homeschool program. Sweet Pea was initially a fan and even was known to refer to it as math games. She quickly changed her mind, though, and didn't want anything to do with it. In retrospect I think she just liked playing with the cuisenaire rods and the rest was a wash. So we jettisoned that and spent most of the semester finishing the Earlybird series, using an abacus, working on skip counting, and basic arithmetic. I then added in Math Mammoth's blue addition series, and that seems to be going well. Sweet Pea appears to just be a traditional worksheet kit. And that's fine!

Language Arts: At first I thought there would be huge upheaval and changes here. I detested Writing with Ease at first. We stuck with it, and it's a good fit and we will be keeping this. Our current grammar program is First Language Lessons for the Well Trained Mind. I'm a little more mixed here. It's got a lot of repetition built in. When I say a lot, I mean a colossal amount. Really. Sweet Pea seems to be learning and retaining with it, and the poetry included for memorization is nice. I had intended to at least use this through second grade (which is in the same book) but now am less sure. I do think that we'll finish the year with it, and then possibly try something else like Growing with Grammar. I do think that grammar is vital and whatever we use we'll continue regular lessons and diagramming. Spelling is being done with Spelling Workout. I don't know if it's just the level A book or something that I'm missing, but I don't feel like the exercises are actually teaching spelling. Rather I feel like this is busy work that isn't accomplishing anything other then wasting time. I have McGuffey's Eclectic Speller and may just start using that to go through and make up my own practice sessions. I'm unsure. Reading began with Hooked on Phonics and is now firmly in the Ordinary Parent's Guide to Teaching Reading. McGuffey's has come and gone in intervals throughout the semester and I see that trend continuing.

Language: I really, really wanted to be that homeschool family- the ones who use Latin from the beginning and succeed wildly. It wasn't happening. Prima Latina didn't fit us. And so we never got around to it. Instead we are switching to a modern foreign language- specifically French. I still don't know exactly what we are using, but hopefully in a few weeks that'll be resolved.

Science: I had this great plan for science. I was going to do it as laid out in the Well Trained Mind- and pull it all together myself from different encyclopedias and resources. Once again- it just didn't happen. We recently ordered and have begun Rod and Staff's grade 2 science program. It's open and go and all contained. So science is actually happening. We will not be using Rod and Staff long term for science, but at this level I don't see anything objectionable in it.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Daily report and advent crafting

I'm considering not rewriting things in cursive anymore soon- and seeing how Sweet Pea does just doing the cursive on her own.

We're really enjoying Math Mammoth at the moment. That's good because we are almost out of lessons in the Earlybird and the new level of Singapore that I've ordered hasn't arrived. I plan to order the subtraction and some of the other light blue files soon.

These are salt dough ornaments. This isn't all of them, just a sampling of the best of the bunch. :) This is a really easy project that was enjoyed greatly by the 5.5 year old, the 2.5 year old, and by me. The recipe that I used was very simple and I plan to use it next year as well. It was 1/2 cup warm water, 1/2 cup salt and 1 cup flour. We rolled them out to about 1/4 inc thick, cut them with cookie cutters, and used a chop stick to make the holes at the top. I baked them at 250F for 2 hours, and then we painted them. Easy!

Monday, December 14, 2009

More French thoughts

Specifically about curriculum choices and panic because everything seems either really expensive or really cheap, or both.
Right now the most feasible choice seems to be something in the lines of the Hooked on Phonic's Hooked on French which looks short, but reasonably cheap. Also similar is the Berlitz Kids French Language Pack.
I like the look of the Power-Glide Elementary French kids stuff- but ouch. Ditto for Le Francais Facile and Rosetta Stone French.
And I'm really confused about the differences between homeschool French Rosetta stone and the personal ones. They're the same price.
I prefer homeschooling when I have everything picked out and set.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

McGuffey's revisited

We had put these away for quite a while while we focused on the Ordinary Parent's Guide to Teaching Reading and Hooked on Phonics. And free reading.
I wasn't quite getting what I was looking for- fluid reading of passages instead of disjointed sentences with focus on text, not pictures with what we were doing. When it's a colorful book with a lot of pictures, Sweet Pea gets sidetracked and wants to spend more time looking at the pictures and even with the picture clues she won't guess on words she doesn't know.
So we brought out the McGuffey's. Right now we're just going through the review sections to see where to pick up, and it seems to be a good fit.
Still no ideas on context clues, though.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Language musings

Not Language Arts for once, either!
I'm thinking of dropping Latin and starting French. There's a few reasons for this and it's been stewing for a while.
Latin isn't going so well here. I know a lot of people really love it and really get into it, but it's a pretty obvious flop here right now. I'm not getting into it, the kids aren't getting into it, so it doesn't get done. Then I feel guilty because we are behind, but we don't want to do it so it STILL doesn't come out.
I don't know Latin. I'm not learning ahead of the kids, so I can't answer questions past the current lesson. We don't use it during the day.
I do know French, and it's something that I can speak to the kids. It's also still a widely used language in the world.
I think that this is the right choice for us for now, and it doesn't mean that we won't come back to Latin in the future. Just that the time isn't right for us here and now.
So we will be tabling Prima Latina for now.
I'm pretty set that we will be using Le Francais Facile to begin. Unless I find something better. So that's where we are for now.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Advent preparations

This is our Advent wreath. It's not terribly wreath like, but it's something that works. For the Christ candle in the middle I have another votive. At some point in the future we may get a more traditional set- or we may all be attached to it. We'll see. I'm currently looking at a few of the sets that Autum sells.

This is our Advent calendar. The goal is to move one item per day to the top in the evening along with family devotions.

This is our new, kid friendly nativity set from a very generous Grammy. Thanks! It spans the top of both homeschool cabinets. If you look closely the little baby Jesus is missing- he's waiting for Christmas to make his appearance.

I also included two pictures of my homeschool cabinets. The bulk of what we currently use is in these cabinets for ease of use and general neatness. This first cabinet is mainly intended for schooly type stuff- the binders and texts we use, my organizational stuff, the pencils and art supplies we use for notebooking, and the reading we are currently working on.

This cabinet is more craft and art supplies. The kids have free access to all of the paper and crayons. They are supposed to ask before using the scissors and glue. There are also pipe cleaners, pom poms, math manipulatives, paper bags, and stickers. There are also some coloring books that Little Bird prefers to use right now instead of the more open ended mess creation that Sweet Pea likes. :)

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Winter is here!

And I missed the very beginning. We are still south of home in Nebraska enjoying the (relative) warmth, and tomorrow we begin the long trek home.
I figured out that we need 16 more days to have the semester done- that's exciting! Half way through is in sight! It's also a little daunting, as well. Mostly exciting, though.
One of the main things I want to work on this next semester is Sweet Pea's reading stamina. Her ability to read has far outpaced her ability to sit and focus on sentences and paragraphs- she's looking at a block of words and getting frustrated instead of focusing just on where she is. So things that she wants to read and can read in theory are not getting read unless I read them. I'm not sure if we should keep moving forward in phonics while working on that, or just focus on confidence and getting through multiple sentences without getting freaked out.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

On vacation- again!

I promise that we don't normally travel this much. And ironically, both times that we've journeyed in the last few weeks have to Nebraska- first to Omaha and now to the more rural western side.
Nebraska seems to be quite a nice place. And I am very, very pleased with how well my kids have been travelling. We don't have DVD players or video game systems for the kids- they look at books, look out the window, or sings songs and play games together. And they can do that for quite a large amount of time- this trip was about 16 hours by car to get here.
Sweet Pea has FINALLY finished the myriad lessons on the "oo" type sounds in Ordinary Parent's Guide. I still can't fully wrap my head around how many slightly different but importantly different- and even regionally determined- sounds there are. Yipes. I'm glad that that's done!
I have also cheated the last couple of grammar lessons- I look at what she needs to know and instead of reading through the whole lesson I just ask her a few questions about the points and if she can answer them then we are finished with it for the day. I may end up condensing the rest of the noun lessons because I am pretty sure that she thouroughly grasps the difference between common and proper nouns and what to capitalize.

I seem to have a hang- up about skipping things, and that's something that I need to get better about. My desire to not miss anything leads to us doing redundant work and at this point Sweet Pea is very tolerant and patient with me.

The biggest drawback I see about homeschooling isn't socialization, or cost, or any of the usual concerns I read about- it's that the responsibility rests all on the parents. That's true in a school setting ultimately as well, but it feels so much more pronounced at home. If my children are behind or lacking I feel like it's all me- and that's daunting! And slightly irrational to worry about because at this point Sweet Pea is anything but behind. I don't suspect that Little Bird will move at the same pace (although I don't know that for sure) but I don't see any reason she'd be behind either.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Belated Happy Thanksgiving

We made some really cute turkey themed crafts this year, ate a ton of turkey, and are on holiday from school work.
This season is our most spotty for consistency- after this week Advent starts, then Christmas, and then it seems like Lent is there almost instantly, as well!
I'll update as we accomplish more then phonics and playing. :)

Monday, November 23, 2009

Daily Report

As much fun as last week was, I'm glad to be back home and back to the regularly scheduled program.

Grammar- we combined two lessons today. We are still a few weeks behind where I thought we'd be by this point in the semester, but some of that is that we came in slightly behind in our phonics program, so we have been taking it easy. It's going really well, and I hope that we are almost done with family nouns.

Cursive- we are on the second go through of Cursive First, and almost finished again. Sweet Pea's handwriting has greatly improved from the first round, and it's not even comparable to how it was before we started the program. It does leave me with a dilemma, though. What do I do when we finish it this time? Do I repeat the program again, look for something else, or just correct mistakes as they occur in her writing in other programs? I'm not sure.

Writing- I'm glad I stuck with Writing with Ease. I wish I could buy it with the examples written in cursive, but it's otherwise a great fit.

Math- We did more from the Earlybird books today. They've recently introduced subtraction and Sweet Pea seems to get it easily. It helps that there's pictures and the numbers are under 10, but I gave her some on paper and she did them without pictures, as well. Yay, Sweet Pea!

Science- we started a book based natural world study, since my idealistic Charlotte Mason outdoor nature studies doesn't mesh well with the reality of living in northern Minnesota. So we're using Rod and Staff's second grade Patterns in Nature book. So far (we've done one lesson) it looks good. It's gentle, has coloring, and general facts about the seasons, plants and animals. Not for a secular family- it's not even adaptable.

Also today we made fun snacks- eggs baked into the middle of a piece of bread, in a star shape. We also made homemade play dough and the kids spent over an hour mashing and creating with it. A big plus with dough like that this time of the year- all the oil is great for their skin. :)

Friday, November 20, 2009

Trip schooling

This last week we had a pretty nontraditional week, especially for us. We took a quick trip down south to Omaha (nine + hours south of us) to see some family.
While there we visited the Henry Doorly Zoo. I have to say- I've been to a lot of zoos but this really blew me away. It's clean, well organized- and almost all the exhibits were indoors! What a neat treat for those of us in colder, northern areas. The indoor desert was awesome- it took well over ninety minutes to get through and that was with us rushing at the end. The kids loved the huge aquarium, especially the jelly fish. I highly suggest this zoo if you are ever in the Omaha region. I don't think you will be disappointed if there is a zoo lover with you.
We also made it to the Omaha Children's Museum. In my experience with children's museums there are two main types- older elementary ones with complicated experiments, lots of information, and lots of stuff to see; and the second- the younger geared ones with tons of hands on activities, things to climb on, and experimental play opportunities. The Omaha Children's Museum is of the second set. This made it perfect for both the five year old and the two year old, and the parents and grandparents seemed to have a pretty good time, too. Highlights were a room full of plastic balls that you put through different machines and then they would rain from the ceiling and a large water table. Also of interest in this flu season for the germ-concious among us- lots of sinks and hand sanitizer stations. Perfect!
I make the choice that when there is something else big going on like a trip to let most bookwork go to the side. I know some people are really good at still doing school in a hotel room and that may be necessary at some (hopefully distant) future point. We did practice skip counting in the car- it's the first time that I've really gone over that with Sweet Pea so I was pleasantly surprised to see that she's really good with 10s and 2s, and after some work with her father seemed to also get 5s pretty well. So that's good to know!
Today we also took it pretty easy. Sweet Pea did a phonics review and then a lesson. We also read a Little Bear book together.
She also did a lesson in Earlybird 2B. It was the first one on subtraction, and after a brief explanation she was able to complete all the pages by herself. Also good!
We've had a great week and had fun things that we don't normally- now back to the grind this next week!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Reading Instruction and Reviews

Pretty formal title, right?

In my seemingly never ending quest to be the perfect homeschooling mother I tend to over-research and over think nearly everything. Reading has been no different.
Fortunately for the sanity of everyone around me and the ease of use for myself and Sweet Pea we were able to work together to weed through the options and settle on things that worked for us, and things that in general just seemed silly.

First on phonics vs. whole language vs. sight words vs. whatever else is out there- I am a firm and staunch supporter of phonics with a few, select sight words thrown in. I do not like "pure" phonics that waits to introduce every single word until you have discussed the applicable rules and the child can sound it out. It's not a horrible idea, but it really limits the available reading material for the child and keeps them only in the phonics program, and in my experience it gets exasperating for the child. Who wants to be limited to, "A rat sat" longer then needed?

Whole language and the thankfully no longer widely used sight word only methods are too far in the other direction. Some children DO learn to read just by being immersed in a language and print rich environment and pick up the rules rather instinctively. Some of these children learn to read very early and without their parents knowing exactly how it happened, and some learn later. For these children as long as they don't run into future problems a spelling program when appropriate seems to be enough.

Most kids need methodical reading instruction in my experience, and in the experience of most moms I know. So if you don't have a self taught reader and you are facing down the scary prospect of welcoming your child into the wonderful world of literacy- this is for you.

Sweet Pea learned to read simple words at 4.5 and now at 5.5 is between a late 2nd and early 3rd grade reading level. For a free and simple reading test I really like : which is by no means exhaustive, but provides an excellent starting place- especially if you click the samples at the bottom when your child is at the top level to see if they can read the page as well as the list of words. Words in a vacuum is not the same as comprehending a sentence!

How did we get there? Did my hair go white in the process? (It did not.)

The very first, earliest foray into reading in this home was through Starfall, and I really like it. It's phonics based, mildly interactive and keeps the attention of older toddlers and young preschoolers. We used it mostly to pique Sweet Pea's interest and to cement the names of letters in her mind. There's a big jump between knowing letters, knowing letter sounds, and being able to blend letters together. For us this was perfect way to learn letter names and letter sounds. It does not really help with letter order since the alphabet is so often taken one letter at a time on the site. And that was fine with me.

After we were solid and Sweet Pea was showing readiness to being the blending journey we introduced new things and left Starfall behind. First thing that I tried with her was How to Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons by Siegfried Engelmann. I had read a lot of reviews on reading programs- pages and pages and talked to many mothers online and in real life. I heard some really great things about this book, and I was fully prepared to love it.

We HATED it. Sweet Pea cried when it would come out. I disliked the special markings around the text. I found it condescending, too scripted, and loathed that it included writing as an important part. Sweet Pea was ready to read, but not to write. It was a really poor fit, and after we realised that I came across a swarm of other people that had the same complaints. I know some people have great luck with it, and it's not an unsound approach- it just didn't work for a child not ready to write and who didn't like all the extra markings. And I was a poor teacher of it.

I cast my net around a little desperately, feeling mostly like a failure. Reading is so basic, so needed- so intergal to schooling that I had to teach it well or I'd feel like a failure and despair. See the drama?

I came across the Hooked on Phonics kits by chance at this point, and latched on. The exact kits we used are the ones linked- I believe that they have retooled and I am not familiar with what is in the new packages. I had no experience with the program outside the commercials I had seen on TV, but I was willing to try. And it was a perfect fit. Relief. It blended sounds, introduced short stories for interest right away, and had some flash cards with sight words that really opened up our available options. We didn't use the computer program, and didn't use the audio CD. Some pages we rushed through and some we were stuck on for quite a while. We completed the whole Kindergarten package and then the 1st grade package, and although we also had the 2nd grade kit I began tentatively looking around for other options.

It was becoming a little tedious- Sweet Pea was ready to move forward at a more brisque pace and I was looking for something that didn't just introduce sounds but also told the rules- and explained them.

At this point I tried the Ordinary Parent's Guide to Teaching Reading by Jessie Wise and Sara Buffington. Jessie Wise is the co-author of the Well Trained Mind, along with her daughter Susan Wise Bauer. It was exactly what I was looking for at that point. It would have been too dry and to the point when Sweet Pea was just starting, but at the point where she could get her fun from easy readers, it was perfect. It was pretty easy to figure out where in the book we needed to start and surprising there wasn't too much we'd missed.

This book is what we are currently meandering through. Our daily intense phonics instruction has fallen a little since Sweet Pea is reading so well, but we're still addressing the lessons and will probably until we dnish the book. It goes through about a 4th grade level from what I've read.

So that's what I know at this point. I have successfully taken one child from pre-reading to reading confidently and happily, and will soon begin gently introducing the pieces to a second. My way works for my family- we have enough programs that I think we can address differently learning styles, but it doesn't mean it would be exactly the right way with your family. My point is more that with reading programs- don't feel tied at all to one program or approach. If it's not working or you are spending a lot of time tweaking and changing and altering, it may be the sign that it's time to switch. Throw it overboard and cast the net on for the right fit.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Daily report

We did another page in Math Mammoth today- working on addition up to 5 and zeros. It continues to be easy but good practice- the only time that Sweet Pea misses a question is when she's being silly and makes a mistake, not a comprehension problem. So that's good.

Grammar- Today we talked about the proper/common names for states, and where we live. Sweet Pea practiced writing Indiana, Texas, Minnesota, and her name.

We are having good luck going through Cursive first- we're up to page 31 again, and I've seen a lot of improvement in her handwriting.

Writing is going well- Sweet Pea really enjoys when it's her turn to dictate and then copy her thoughts- and I really see why doing it this way is a good idea.

I've been trying to find online how long each Math Mammoth pack is supposed to last. Not because I'm tied to the schedule- more out of curiosity. If there are 64 pages and in just over a week we have completed page 18- I don't think it will last too long. Are they meant to just be short, quick reviews? Do people use them as a full curriculum? I don't know- but I'm interested in looking to find out.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Report- and why year 'round school works for us

We school all year. It seemed like a good logical choice when we were talking about what education means to us, for us, and what we want it to look like for our family. I have a few teachers in the family and I'm used to the complaints (the very valid complaints) that kids forget a lot of material over the summer and the first weeks of school and spent in review and reteaching. I think that seems like a waste of time and effort- why teach things and let them fall away? Why get into a schedule and then let it drop?
Now, we do take it easy at different points. I think that we are pretty structured and that Sweet Pea has some pretty high expectations on her for a five year old. Over the summer we went very easy on most things- just kept up with math and really focused on phonics. This ended up being a really wonderful choice for us. Lessons were still short, but we covered a lot of ground and it brought Sweet Pea's reading abilities up to the point where she can confidently handle the daily assignments we are working on.
I don't follow a specific period of off and on times. Some of it is built around seasons, and some is built around family activity. I'm expecting a baby a little while after Christmas and I expect that school will slide for a little while. And that's OK- because we have all the time in the world to pick back up.

Latin: We did the first page of questions on the lesson today. Sweet Pea needed some help spelling things like, "consonants" but did really well!

Math: I have been annoying recently in my belief that Sweet Pea does not know her math facts (whatever that means for someone her age) and that it will hold her back. Today she did 4 worksheets of math- and knew them fine. Truly, math is going well!

Grammar- I am fast approaching the point that many people start to reach in First Language Lessons- the point of, yes, we do know nouns! Let's move on! And then skipping and consolidating lessons. We'll see.

Writing went well today- except an annoying issue with the connector off the letter o. I'm not sure what the issue was, but it's been resolved.

Phonics: I confess that I am astounded by how many ways there are to make the vowel sound, "oo". Sweet Pea is assimilating them well, and I added Hooked on Phonics back in just to break the monotony and cement ideas.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Why blog?

After reading a blog post about why homeschoolers should blog I've been thinking about why I blog.
Initially it was a simple way to keep the grandparents (hi, guys!) updated on what schooly stuff and our plans. I didn't really think that it would be of any interest to anyone else, or that I would have that much to say. After all- how much is there to write about on a homeschool blog?
Apparently a lot. And apparently quite varied material ends up mixed in.
I do tend to mostly post daily report or weekly report type posts. I like to talk about what we do in our days for school- the meat and potatoes of homeschooling, as it were. How interesting is that? I guess that depends. I love looking at blogs like that- where people talk about what they do and what works, and what flops. I really love seeing how much people manage to squeeze into a day and compare. I'm big on measuring myself against others, even though I know that's a poor measuring stick and likely a sign of some deficit on my part. I digress.

Most of my record keeping is on paper still. I have a binder that I mark in daily. I track attendance and what we actually do daily, as well as all of my planning worksheets. I also have schedules. The records that I have on my blog are much more cursory and incomplete.

I like to talk about the various types of curricula that I'm using. When I'm deciding on a new program or thinking about switching it's far more useful to read other people's reviews then look at the publisher's little blurb. Especially helpful is pictures of kids' work in the books and programs, and if it needs supplementing. I've talked a lot about our phonics meandering through this year- and a huge percent of people who arrive here via google are coming looking for phonics advice! I'm not the only one. And I hope that my musing and trial and errors have helped someone as much as other people's reviews have helped me.

Something that I can do on a blog that I can't do in my color coded binder is link list. I also have a blogroll that I only somewhat understand how to use, but I do know that it shows me when someone updates a blog so I don't have to obsessively check.

Is blogging a social exercize? I don't know. I don't think that I have a lot of dialogue going on here with my readers. I'd love to start more, but first I need to post things that are more discussion points, less hasty lists of things done. Mea culpa.

Musing/ranting is something that I do have a tab for, but I tend not to do. I try to focus on the good, not the hairy bad days. It's unrealistic. It's not helpful. A prospective homeschooler needs to be aware that it's not all rainbows and good days with compliant children and lessons that come together perfectly. I tend to save that fun for my husband, though.

So why do I blog? There's the part of me that is looking for (and loves to get) validation. I blog for that. I blog to keep connected with family that spans the country. I blog to put my experience out there in case it helps someone else (isn't that vain?). Why do you blog?

Monday, November 2, 2009

Week 11

Hard to believe that it's already week 11! Although, I then look back and what we've accomplished and what Sweet Pea has learned, and it seems more reasonable.

Latin: Continued review of Chapter 1 vocab. I think that Sweet Pea has all the vocab down, so perhaps tomorrow we will work on the questions in the workbook. I'm very glad for now that we decided to do lessons over two weeks. It's very low key this way and allows my continued focus to be on the core subjects.

Math: Today we did a page from Earlybird 2B (Lesson 4) and then two pages from Math Mammoth: Addition 1. I had picked this up months ago from CurrClick, and then did nothing with it. Sweet Pea is continuing her rapid pace through our Earlybird books, and I'm wrestling with whether or not we should be jumping right into Primary Mathematics 1A. So, on the suggestions of a few homeschoolers with older kids I brought Math Mammoth back out to solidify math facts and give myself time to figure out how to proceed. So far, Sweet Pea really likes it. She told me this morning that, "I love math. It's fun!" Obviously this should be a sign to me that I'm doing something right and to settle down, but that's easier said then done for me.

Grammar: More proper nouns. Sweet Pea did a great job writing the enrichment activity- but no picture today- it includes her first, middle, and last name- as well as our town and state!

Writing: Week 11 in this. Today was copywork which is something that I'm now having her do independantly and then I check it. She also did review in Cursive First today- the letters h and k, both lower case.

Later today will be another phonics lesson, then catechism and memory work.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Daily Report

Latin: We reviewed the vocabulary yesterday and today. I think we're going to do two weeks per lesson for now that way we have time to do the vocab well as well as the workbook work. Faster then that would be pushing it, I think.

Math: More tangrams, (something that is encouraging me to scour around for more books) and number play. Sweet Pea has a set of addition flashcards that she is using of her own volition and on her own time.

Grammar: Sweet Pea has the second poem down well. She also has the definition of nouns down VERY well. She can recite and understand it and apply it.

Writing: She told me today that she likes writing now. Good thing, because we are slowly ramping up to more and more.

Sweet Pea and Little Bird had fun making scarecrows to add to our fall decorations. Sweet Pea's is on the left, Little Bird's the right. Obviously there was some parental involvement in the making of these, but the kids had a great time.

And more of Sweet Pea's favorite drawing topic- space.

Monday, October 26, 2009


Latin: We started Prima Latina today. We listened to the pronunciation guide and the first lesson. I initially thought that it could be adapted to a secular homeschool but now that's I'm reading more and actually using it I think it would be difficult. There is a big emphasis on Christian Latin. That makes it well suited to our family, though and everyone seemed to enjoy it. Even Little Bird was echoing the words!

Math: We started- and subsequantly finished- Lesson 3 in Singapore today. It was more basic addition and grouping. Sweet Pea seems to grasp it well, but it's not mental math at this point, it's counting objects. She's accurate and quick and satisfied, though.
Doing pattern blocks or tangrams is a great addition- I'm so glad we brought them back out!

Grammar: First Language Lessons continues to go well. Sweet Pea is working on her second poem memorization and has nouns down cold.

Writing: This went smoothly today. We seem to be over the slump there. Handwriting is continuing to improve, as is Sweet Pea's ability to properly copy sentences.

Phonics: We're on lesson 108 of Ordinary Parent's Guide. There's really no good reason that we aren't doing this faster. Sweet Pea is capable, it's quick, it's easy. Most days we just prefer to read out of books and talk about new sounds as they come up. We'll continue working, but I am not going to worry if we don't hit goals for where I thought we'd be.

Memorization: I'm coming to realize that we do more then most Well Trained Mind followers. We do all of it in First Language Lessons and we also do a fair chunk of memorization for family and church. I think this is a good thing, though. I think the earlier that you practice and hone the skill the more you can use it as you age.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Weekly Report

No daily reports this week- we were busy! Instead I have a lump weekly one. Sorry!

Language Arts: We did the ninth week of Writing with Ease. Sweet Pea is doing well with copy work and narration. The story of the week was E.B. White's classic Charlotte's Web.
This worked really well because both of my children absolutely adore Charlotte's Web. I'm using the student pages included with Writing With Ease- I've seen a lot of complaints that the lines are huge for this age, and I agree that they are larger then those we use for handwriting. It doesn't seem to bother Sweet Pea, though, and she loves the little graphics on the pages. So I just write the sentence in cursive for her to copy. It's been good for my handwriting, as well, having to make such a careful example.
We completed Chapter 9 of Spelling Power. I don't know how I'm feeling about this program. I keep having these thoughts about language arts. I'm not sure why. Sweet Pea can do it, and it's at her level. But I don't know if it's really teaching her spelling, or if she retaining it, or if I even need to expect that at this level. Who knows! Not this mama.
First Language Lessons is going well. Grammar seems pretty basic and simple at this point, and Sweet Pea is starting to be able to accurately pick nouns out of both verbal and written sentences, and can usually differentiate between common and proper nouns. There is a LOT of review built into this, which is good in that I don't have to think of any examples and bad because I'm one of those people who doesn't like to skip things. Chug along!
We didn't do a lot of bookwork for phonics this week, instead Sweet Pea and I just read together. It was nice to see where she was outside of the workbook, and I think will make the next round of digraphs more appealing.
Handwriting is going well now that we've resumed Cursive First. I really do love this program- it's so easy and so perfect to tailor. No doubts about this subject!

Math: Singapore Earlybird 2b is going just as well as 2a and it's predecessors. We also brought back out the tangrams and both Sweet Pea and Little Bird had a great time forming pictures with the shapes.

Tomorrow will be the big science and history day. Monday we spent the day with a delightful gaggle of children (and their mothers). Storytime was unfortunately canceled this week, so we did our own stories at home.
Next week is week 10- the first week of the new quarter! It will be pretty similar to this quarter, except I'm planning on introducing Prima Latina. Yay!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Sumer and Egypt

We read about the early writing methods today. Sweet Pea was interested in the differences between hieroglyphics and cuneiform and why each of the early surfaces had problems. We talked about how heavy stone was, how much room you needed for clay tablets, and how paper didn't last very long. Sweet Pea's solution was that they should have just taken pictures of important things. ;)
We also finished the eighth chapter of Spelling Workout- perfect because this was our eighth week of school! We also finished the eighth week of Writing with Ease.
Sweet Pea is doing well with the new Earlybird book. I think I'm going to start having her do more tangrams practice and games during math time to make the lessons last longer.
Other then that, all is well!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Daily reporting continued + pie!

Not pictured but also done today was Spelling First. I'd like to do some extra lessons in spelling, phonics and grammar to get to where I thought we'd be in my preplanning. If we don't we don't, but it's a nice goal, isn't it?

I restarted the phonograms from Cursive First. I had been just correcting Sweet Pea's handwriting as we went, but I'm seeing now that what she really needed was just a few minutes at a time of practicing individual letters and sound combinations again. I was really inspired by Hunt Classical Academy and how great her son's handwriting is. So here we are again. Good news is that sheets that 6 months ago met a lot of resistance and whining now are easy and quick and joyfully done.

We finished Earlybird 2A yesterday so today we began Earlybird 2B! Sweet Pea was very excited to have a new book.

Today we finished Chapter 2 of Story of the World. Obviously about Egyptian mythology. I saw some interesting parallels with the Cain and Abel story we talked about last week. I'm pretty sure this is NOT a traditional Egyptian coloring scheme.

We are eight weeks in! That means we're almost one quarter finished with our school year! I can't believe how fast it's whizzing by.

And just because this turned out really well and a lot of other blogs I read have been talking about pie lately- this is a panless apple pie. It was SO good and very easy to make.

Saturday, October 10, 2009


Today we talked about Tigers. We read the entry from Sweet Pea's Kingfisher First Animal Encyclopedia and then we read about extinction and animal social behavior from her Kingfisher Science Encyclopedia.
Later I plan to have her either draw a picture of a tiger or color one, depending on what she wants to do.
We also completed the long u sound in the Ordinary Parent's Guide, so now we move onto more vowel combinations. I'm still a little surprised at how many there are- and how instinctive they are as a mature reader. I have a lot more respect for what a complicated process reading is!

Friday, October 9, 2009

First attempt at home lamination

And it went OK. A little wavy, but it'll do the job. These are the review cards for Story of the World. This way I can keep reminding Sweet Pea of the important history she's learned so far. ;)

This is a map of Egypt. We spent our time today talking about the Upper Kingdom and Lower Kingdom, how they were united, why it was important for the Nile to flood, and exactly where in the world Egypt is located.

We also finished Lesson 7 of Spelling Workout. Sweet Pea seems to be an OK speller as long as she takes the time to listen to the sounds that the words make.
And just for fun- we've started putting out all of our fall decorations. Good choice since it snowed today!

Thursday, October 8, 2009


Today we did SIX lessons in Writing With Ease. That means we are completely caught up! It's starting to combine narration with her then recopying what she dictated.
Tomorrow the plan is math, spelling, grammar, and either history or science.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

daily reporting

Today was another day of Writing With Ease catch-up. We did three lessons. I'll spare the gory details, but after this week we should be exactly where we'd have been if I hadn't begun hating WWE so much and not doing it as written. Future of the program is still to be determined.

For everyone who praises Sweet Pea's handwriting- we are still working on some issues with it! Those lines are to help explain and remind her to slant everything the same way. She keeps doing something weird with her little "n"s.
We read Rikki Tikki Tavi today and Sweet Pea LOVED it. The idea of the mongoose and the snakes was so exciting to her. Little Bird is less impressed with sitting for that long of a reading. It'll come in time. I hope.
Other then that, we baked Peanut butter and oatmeal and chocolate chip cookies. Good idea and something the kids enjoyed thouroughly.
Tomorrow I think we'll finish the Earlybird 2A book and then later this week or next week begin our next math book!

This is what Meow Meow looks like when sad. Why is she sad? It's because she can't lay eggs, of course. And yes, Sweet Pea knows that cats don't lay eggs. Just this one, apparently.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Real post- updates!

I've been semi-neglecting this- and I'm sorry. I should be back to more regular posting!
It has been brought to my attention that quickly jotting lessons and abbreviations in daily reports gets confusing, so I'll make more of a specific effort to talk about what we learned, not just what lesson we did.
Sweet Pea still produces lots of pictures of her favorite imaginary kitty (with a really, really long tail) Meow-Meow. When she's ready to share the written story of Meow-Meow I will post that as well.
First- our big read a loud this week was "How the Whale Got His Throat" by Rudyard Kipling. Sweet Pea and Little Bird laid on blankets and listened to the story. Sweet Pea was particularly impressed that at the end, the whale could no longer devour people.

In math we are still working on number bonds- different ways to break apart groupings. Because we are using Singapore the focus is on breaking it into a group of 10 and then ones left over- for example 16 is one group of ten with six ones. Twenty is two groups of ten with zero ones. We also practiced reading and writing the written words for the numbers 11-20.

We had the story of the mouse and the lion in grammar- and after Sweet Pea copied the moral. She's getting much better at pulling the details out of a story and condensing it. She remembered why the lion didn't eat the mouse, how the mouse saved the lion, and then we talked about ways that little creatures can help big ones in other ways. Looking back at what she wrote I can see that we still need to work on controlling the loops that come off the letter o.

We are still chugging along in our writing program. It is still the same rotation of copywork, narrating back a story, and repeating and repeating... yes, I am still finding this to be a drag.
In history we talked about ancient farming practices in the Fertile Crescent. I think Sweet Pea was most excited to color the picture and imagine crocodiles in the water. I'm biased, but I think she did an excellent job of coloring this in.
I'll leave you with one more illustration- what I presume is a panda. I think.

Monday, September 28, 2009

On schedules

Inspired by a conversation I had earlier.
I am a big fan of schedules- not just for homeschooling, but for sleeping and eating for children.
There are a few reasons.
First- I think it's very important with multiple kids to have sleeping and waking times together. This means that most of the time it's quiet when one child wants to sleep and it's OK to be noisy when they want to. They are usually into playing at the same times, as well.
Second- kid free time is very important to me. I love my little ones dearly, I do. But I very much value that after bedtime I can count of doing grown up things- chores that are more time consuming or dangerous with running toddlers around, quiet mama reading, knitting, and other decadent activities. I also value time with my husband where we don't have to focus on being parents, we can instead focus on being each other together. Enough said on that.
Third- I like knowing when to expect them to be rested. I can commit to activities and projects out of the home with a reasonable expectation of them being well rested, well fed, and ready to play or focus, whatever the situation warrants.

In other news- we FINALLY finished lesson 100 of the Ordinary Parent's Guide! It took so long due mainly to all the just plain reading we've been doing, but I am determined that we will finish phonics this year. Sweet Pea is doing an awesome job reading- tonight we started a Magic Schoolbus book together and she managed most of the words by herself, becoming mainly tripped up by names. Yay, Sweet Pea!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Daily reporting continued

We are enjoying First Language Lessons. Sweet Pea did Lesson 10 today- very exciting to write and discuss her own special name. :)
Earlybird Mathematics is going well as well. She's half way through lesson 18 and was very disappointed to see that the book is almost over- until I told her we had another one to do next.
Writing with Ease- what can I say. Sweet Pea doesn't hate it, but I'm beginning to. It just moves so slowly, and seems overly simple. We'll continue slogging through for now- but it's seeming less and less enticing day by day for me.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Spelling test #1

And I'm pleased to announce that Sweet Pea got all the words right!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Daily Report

This week is going well. Sweet Pea had her first spelling lesson with real words as opposed to sounds.

We're preparing for mental math in Singapore. Sweet Pea was initially unsure of why I wanted her to do it this way, but now it's clicked.

And we did Alice in Wonderland. Sweet Pea was intrigued by the Caterpillar.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Daily Report

Singapore Earlybird 2 A Lesson 15- complete! We stretched this one over two sessions to allow for some hands on modeling of the concepts.
First Language Lessons Lesson 8 complete! Sweet Pea still perfectly remembers the poem she learned.
Writing with Ease- we doubled up lessons today because we didn't finish last week's lesson, so we did week 3 day 4 (Rumpelstiltskin) and then week 4 day 1 (Alice in Wonderland) today.
Sweet Pea wrapped all this up with some cursive practice. Since we're using the workbook pages with Writing With Ease and those are in print I've decided to start giving her regular, short practice sessions on cursive again.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Note to self:

A new puppy throws the best laid plans to the winds. Housebreaking + homeschooling= this should be interesting!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Daily Report

We skipped Miquon today to instead work more on Singapore. Lesson 15 is now 1/2 way done. We could have done it all today but I'd rather give it a little more time to sink in.
Spelling Workout- we did the first part of Lesson 6. Sweet Pea has her first 6 spelling words! Let's hope that this goes well.
Writing With Ease- day 3 of week 3 done. Story this time was about Rumpelstiltskin.
History and science tomorrow or this afternoon? We'll see.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Daily report

Today we finished Spelling Workout Lesson 5.
We did First Language Lessons lesson (that looks weird) 7.
We finished Singapore Lesson 15- Sweet Pea was very excited to color in the areas- coloring lessons are her favorite.
We did Writing With Ease Week three day 2.
The gist of all this is we were behind after our trip last week and Labor day, but we are now caught up!
I'm planning extra science and history this week or weekend to get caught up there as well.
I'm so happy with how this year has begun and I can't wait to go through all my plans with my darlings!

Monday, September 7, 2009

Art work!

This is the inside of Sweet Pea's mouth. Or so she says.

Our new car.

I saw this and pointed out that it's inaccurate as a clock- and Sweet Pea informed me that's how clocks in Strawberry Land look. Backwards numbers and all. I stand corrected.

I just liked this one.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Labor day

Will be a normal school day for us. Dad has to work, so we'll make up for some of the missed time last week.
I have a bunch of new drawings from Sweet Pea that I will post, probably tomorrow.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Curricula review time!

Now that we're getting a feel for what we're using, how it fits, and what we like.

For Math
: we're continuing with our tangrams- still a win! Singapore- still a win. Miquon- Sweet Pea is enjoying this a little less right now, although I'm not sure why. Some of it the way that they are introducing addition- sliding the blocks and then sliding numbers. We'll see.
For Reading: I have to admit that we are in a McGuffey slump. We are doing the Ordinary Parent's Guide regularly, and while I can't say that Sweet Pea really LIKES it, it's short and effective. We are not using Hooked on Phonics any longer, unless I feel like Sweet Pea needs reinforcing or if she wants to read one of the stories.
For Language Arts: I like Spelling Power. It's pretty independent and so far all review. Sweet Pea enjoys it and is working steadily. Writing With Ease- this one is tougher. I like it, and I like it a lot. Sweet Pea on the other hand does not enjoy it quite so much, mostly because it's work. It's probably one of the more academically challenging things she's doing right now. We will continue to do it, and be grateful that it's short. First Language Lessons is a much bigger hit, on all sides.
For History: Story of the World is a hit. The activity guide is a bigger hit. I'm not sure how much is being retained- and that's the big benefit is the history rotation. There's no pressure to pund all the finer points of ancient history into my little one's head- it's just an introduction.
Latin and all others: I must confess that we are not yet doing any extras. So far we are doing our core, and regularly. Once we're more settled we'll add in the electives.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Week 2

Week 2 is going very well.
We are on Lesson 2 of Writing with Ease, Lesson 14 of Singapore 2A (Earlybird), Lesson 95 of the Ordinary Parent's Guide to Teaching Reading, and lesson 4 in Spelling Workout. Today we began the first chapter in Story of the world- we learned about nomads.
Tomorrow we are going on a field trip all the way down to the Twin Cities, so we may do some car-schooling.
I'll try to post some pics of Sweet Pea's work later!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Daily updates continued

Today we had a royally awful morning, with behavior that was so bad it was amazing. So we didn't get any school done. By the time that Sweet Pea was ready I had a raging headache and I just wanted to sit with a hot cup of tea- so I did.
We did our school work in the afternoon.
We started with Spelling Workout- lesson three complete! Then Singapore Earlybird 2A- lesson 13 complete! Lesson 13 focused on the introduction of the written numbers and how they correlate to numerals.
After that we did Writing with Ease- which is now done for the week. I love the illustrations on the workbook pages for Writing with Ease- kudos to whoever put them in. Our assignment today was a short narration from a passage from, "Little House in the Big Woods". Sweet Pea's choice of sentences inadvertently perfectly complemented the picture!
I'm throwing this in, out of order. This is Sweet Pea's illustration to go with the poem, "The Caterpillar" by Christina Rossetti, from First Language Lessons.
I'm also posting the first part of my weekly schedule sheet now that it's filled out. It goes across the top to include Friday and Saturday, but there's nothing interesting there yet. Over on the far left is where I keep track of the weeks dates. For each day I then enter in what we actually accomplish vs. what I had planned on my planning sheets. I have another page that I've worked out all the acronyms, since the boxes are tiny. For example, under Thursday I have: SW- Spelling Workout, S2A- Sinagpore 2A (lesson 13), WWE- Writing with Ease (lesson 1), SOTW- Story of the World (intro), and the Ordinary Parent's Guide (lesson 93). I really enjoy keeping track like this- being able to know exactly what we did on a given day has been very useful.


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