Thursday, April 30, 2009

Field trip down to the Twin Cities

I saw this mural on a building and had to take a picture.

Driving into St. Paul. My kids were awestruck at the big city. The largest town they are used to is 12,000 and has no sky scrapers.

The reason for our visit- Little Bird needed a checkup at the hospital here.

Our hotel was right by the state capital. Sweet Pea was very impressed that people get to work in a castle like this. :)

Some of the marble inside- it was really neat to show the kids.

These flags are actually from the Dakota and Civil Wars. What an awesome piece of history!

Inside the Governor's office.

View from the steps over the downtown.

This is the Catholic Cathedral downtown- it was amazing and beautiful.

The view on the way home. When they say north woods, it's accurate.

Leech Lake is one of the biggest lakes and is one our way up north.

This is Paul Bunyan and Babe. This is a big deal up here- these were built early in the last century and then repaired.

We had a really good trip, despite why we had to go- and the kids got to see a lot of neat things that are different then what they see day to day.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Magic Schoolbus

We're on a major Ms. Frizzle kick. Sweet Pea can't get enough of the books. Fortunately we got quite a few of them as a birthday gift from her grandparents, so we always have them on hand.
I think it's the perfect amount of science in each- with good jumping off points for more study if we are interested.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Wild Rice fields, miquon, and the bug saga continues

For Miquon I'm really, really glad we picked cuisenaire rods with the line marked. Really glad.

Mr. Bug in his fatal embrace with a poor goldfish.

OK, this is what a road through a wild rice field looks like. See how narrow? See how close to the water? We were driving through to see the swans as they migrate back up north. We missed most of them though. Poor timing!

And in places I was worried that the road would give out. This isn't dirt, it's sand.

Finally, some swans!

And a better view of more rice fields. They're all perfectly measured and cut into rectangles- it's really neat.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

We're already a quarter of the way through 1st grade Hooked on Phonics. The books are longer (and sometimes weirder) but Sweet Pea is still making rapid progress. Her favorite activity is spelling the words with letter cards- she doesn't have to slow down and concentrate on letter formation. Strangely she's also enjoying the flash cards. We're chugging through the dolch sights words and it's interesting to see how that opens up more reading opportunities.
Sweet Pea originally hoped that there was a reading magic bullet- some quick and effortless way to go from not reading to reading real books. Alas, we've discovered that it does take some work.
We're not spending a whole lot of time every day on her reading- between 10 to 30 minutes daily, and her stamina is the deciding factor. When she says that she wants to be done, we're done.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Sweet Pea's vision of spring, complete with a hard to see but happy kitty on the hill.

Some of her handwriting. We've recently begun cursive with Cursive First. Sweet Pea writes manuscript pretty well and is enjoying cursive.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Mr. Bug's first meal

That white thing in between Mr. Bug's front arms? That's a goldfish. He ate it!

Mr. Bug's new home

He has some nice pink sand and some stones. Tonight some friends are delivering a small fish for him to eat- he's beginning to charge anything that comes near the tank. I think he's hungry.
We also did some pattern blocks and a lot of nature walking today, but Mr. Bug's new house has been the highlight.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

About preschool

We did preschool at home last year with a combination of materials. My main goals and focus was on building confidence and general skill groups.
I chose Rod and Staff's Preschool A-B-C series as our spine and later added in Earlybird Mathematics 1A and 1B as well as Hooked on Phonics Kindergarden.
I plan to use a similar sequence with Little Bird, as well. The Rod and Staff books provide a lot of fine motor exercises- cutting, pasting, coloring and were in general relaxed and fun. They introduced all 26 letters and numerals 1-10 over the course of the year. I think it's well laid out and was wonderful for when Sweet Pea wanted to sit and "do school". There's no preplanning needed which worked well, too.
There are things I really like about the Earlybird and somethings that I don't like. It's gentle and still moves at a good pace. It's solely workbook based, though, and any hands on moments need to be planned out. None of the concepts were really difficult so it let Sweet Pea feel like she was mastering things quickly.
Reading was a huge area of obsession for me. I felt in many ways going into homeschooling that whether or not I could teach my children to read, and read well, that that was the barometer for how the rest of homeschooling would go. I'm not saying that's the whole case, but it was a huge make or break for me, mentally. I spent a lot of time researching different reading methods- sight words, phonics, whole language. And then all the curriculum choices! It seemed like everyone had a system that was the one true way. There's all the debate about ages to start and readiness signs.
I think that the learning to read area of homeschooling is close to a mine field. We initially tried Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy lessons, or the DISTAR program. Sweet Pea hated it. I hated it. I felt like I was using operant conditioning on my child. She didn't like the rhyming exercises. It was a flop. She couldn't understand the way they explained blending and digraphs and we took a break.
Shortly after Christmas we started Hooked on Phonics and while I was predisposed to it being hokey Sweet Pea loved it. She got to start reading books right away. It's slow and steady and introduces sounds methodically. We completed the Kindergarden level in just over three months and have now moved into the First Grade level.
One criticism I do have is that it doesn't introduced long vowels and vowel combinations until the Second Grade level. I've started just telling Sweet Pea some of those phonics rules so she can read words with the silent -e ending and double os, for example.

Overall, I'm really pleased with what we accomplished in "preschool". I plan to reuse many of the same materials and methods. And I'm excited to keep moving forward.
And so is Sweet Pea- and really, that's the best part in my eyes.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Today's daily work

Sweet Pea worked through more of her pattern blocks.

Little Bird played with her new sorting beads.

More pattern blocks.

Sweet Pea also did another page of Miquon and this afternoon I think she's going to do another page from Cursive First.
Our plans of going outside to collect leaves and bugs has been foiled by more snowing mixed with raining.
Tomorrow, hopefully!

Saturday, April 18, 2009

A new bug friend and other nature study

This is our new prize specimen. He's a Lethocerus americanus and he's roughly 3 inches long. It's currently under hot debate what his fate will be- will we feed him and keep him? Will we let him die and send him in to 4H? We'll see!

It's hard to see, but that green sign says, "Mississippi River" and the picture to the right is the Mighty Mississippi. This is just north of the headwaters and south of where we live. It's still amazing to me how small the river starts and how large and powerful it becomes.

River marshes like this will be teaming with wild rice- if it ever heats up.

Also- one of my dear friends requested the Sweet and Sour recipe, so here it is:
Mix 1/2 cup of brown sugar and 1 TB of cornstarch in a sauce pan. Add juice from drained can of crushed pineapple combined with enough water that it equals 1/2 total. Set aside pineapple. Stir in with 1/3 cup white vinegar and 1 TB of soy sauce.
Heat to boiling over medium heat stirring constantly. Stir in pineapple and sliced green pepper.

Monday, April 13, 2009

I'm not sure exactly what this is, but Sweet Pea loves the pattern blocks/ tangrams.

The kids and I made what very well may be the best sweet and sour sauce I've ever had.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

How I chose Classical homeschooling

The first family that I really talked to in depth about homeschooling was my pastor from high school and his wife. They have three children that they have homeschooled from Kindergarten on- two boys (one high school aged) and a sweet daughter. Their kids were everything that I wanted my kids to be- well read, eloquent, able to not only recite facts but logically work through a position.

I then looked at how those kids had arrived where they were. I knew that some of that was inborn temperment but I also knew that the careful, methodical, deep education that their children were receiving was also a factor.

I then set out about reading everything that I could about homeschooling- general arguements for and against, different types of homeschooling, about legal issues, about the big S- socialization, and I tried to find things on both sides, not just homeschool apologetics. The more I read the more intrigued I became, and the more homeschooling began to feel not just comfortable but something that might be a good choice for our children and our family.

At this time my oldest was in preschool in a classroom and utterly miserable. That helped push me to more seriously consider home education. We moved to a new area and made the choice to not enroll Sweet Pea in preschool and try it at home. At that point I was considering Classical Education with a strong Latin focus after reading The Latin Centered Curriculum by Andrew A. Campbell.

I did decide that the best way to begin was a generalized introduction to the basics to both assess where Sweet Pea was, get my own feet wet with planning and scheduling, and focus on age appropriate skills including fine motor activities. The books we started with were Rod and Staff's Preschool A-B-C series. Sweet Pea had a lot of fun and I saw that overall she was at age level. She knew her ABCs. She could color and cut and paste. She was also beginning to slowly enjoy learning and work again.
After a few months we added in Earlybird Mathematics or Singapore as it is commonly called. I think that this is where I really found her strong suit- and something that she really enjoyed.
Taking a year of doing general education also gave me time to go back and look again at where we were and where I hoped to have my children end up. I read The Well Trained Mind by Susan Wise Bauer and Jessie Wise. And it appealed to me more then any homeschool material I had read before. It seemed to pull everything I liked about the Classical Education and also reintroduced some things that I felt were missing- great books being an easy example.
That brings us to where we are now.

Saturday, April 11, 2009


The girls planted tomato plants a few weeks ago and they are finally beginning to really come up. I can't wait until they can plant them outside- and I really can't wait to be able to pick tomatos!

I know it's too early to really get my hopes up that we've had our last snow, but today was sunny and warm. We cleaned up all the trash that had been embeded in the snow over the winter and I began mapping out where I'd like to expand our garden.

I'd like to share this picture of a house across the street- look at how much snow we still have!

Friday, April 10, 2009

Math and science

We baked chocolate chip banana bread. Sweet Pea is getting good at measuring and mixing. And the results are delicious.

While the bread cooked we spent time playing with Miquon this morning. Sweet Pea and Little Bird love Miquon- it's more akin to playing then a math curriculum for them right now.

Thursday, April 9, 2009


I always feel silly writing these things, but it's always one of the first things that I look for in someone else's blog.
As of the beginning of April, 2009, M, or Sweet Pea, is five years old. She's a big fan of the Magic Schoolbus, drawing, reading books about dragons and outer space, and pretending she's a princess. Her favorite subjects are math and science and in her free time she can often be found making crafts or caught up in an elaborate game of make believe.
G or Little Bird turns two in early May, 2009. She's not doing any formal education yet. She loves building with Duplos, playing with her sister, and puzzles. She's an easy going, happy toddler and is currently battling seizures.
I'm the mama of the family. I'm a bibliophile and slightly obsessed with reading about everything that strikes my fancy. When I'm not playing with the kids, cleaning up from our latest project or struggling to find time for everything I love to curl up with a book and daydream.
The papa doesn't do much with the homeschooling since his job has him very busy and working an unpredictable schedule. He's a pastor and it seems like he's always coming and going- and we have lots of fun when he's around.

A brief explanation about how we landed where we are in regards to homeschooling- we know a lot of families that homeschool but until I had children it was never something I really thought that I'd end up doing. Sweet Pea went to a year of private preschool and she was miserable. She came home crying more days then not some weeks and had a hard time socially. She's a very intense child and very sensitive as well. She also was overwhelmed and didn't learn well in a group setting- she was too busy processing everything that was going on and what she did know she was unwilling to demonstrate to the teacher.
We moved to a new house in a new state for the third time in as many years and made the decision to keep Sweet Pea home and let her regroup. Because she was interested in continuing the things she'd been learning in preschool I started thinking more about homeschooling and researching some fun, gentle things we could do at home. We began Rod and Staff's preschool curriculum and she loved it. We added in Singapore's Earlybird Mathematics and she loved that even more.
At this time I began reading heavily about homeschooling and different methods. A book that really spoke to me was the Latin Centerred Curriculum- and then I read the Well Trained Mind. I knew at that point that Classical Education was the fit for our family.
Sweet Pea has finished all her preschool stuff and is working on some Kindergarten stuff and some First Grade materials. And she's happy and learning. And our family is happy.
We've arrived.


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