Sunday, January 31, 2010

French planning- goals and overview

I have been ruminating on how to teach a foreign language to a 5.5 year old and 2.5 year old, simultaneously, and for free until I order curriculum for next year. I didn't want to have to buy anything right now, and since one of the children is non yet reading it needs to be oral. I did a lot of searching around the internet, and I either found that I will need a curriculum or I'll never do it right, or to just start speaking. Neither was working currently- while I am fully capable linguistically of interjecting French randomly it just didn't seem to be happening.
So! More planning. I think that this way I have a method that will work for me, and hopefully the children. Maybe someday it'll be my super best selling homeschool curriculum of my own... but I don't think so.
I spent time looking at most commonly used words by adults, preschoolers, and toddlers. Lists online abound. There is a lot of cross-over. I like this idea because I get a set number of words, with a sampling of nouns and verbs. It doesn't require reading or writing for my little one, but I can incorporate both for the elder- if I want. I'll also be doing a few verb tenses- mostly present, future, and one past tense.
That's the current plan. If anyone is interested- I can share links for word lists and whatnot.

Thursday, January 28, 2010


I think that's what we're going to switch to for a little bit. I've reached the point in my pregnancy where I would like a little break.
So- we're going to shift focus from what we've been doing to some independent math work, lots of reading, and some handwriting.
We didn't take a holiday break, partially in anticipation of this, so I don't feel badly. We're ahead of schedule, and we won't quit work altogether- just take a slow down until I am ready to come at school full force again.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Daily reporting

We started the day with more writing. At this point we're doing all the pages, but I feel like I'm ticking down time until we've finished it and we can try something else.

I'm thinking of pulling back out a few pages of Cursive First- mainly for a few, select capital letters. All of her lower case ones are formed properly, in the proper order, but a few capitals keep throwing her for a loop.

Earlybird math is going well- and almost finished! Sweet Pea did lesson 14 today. She had a case of the wiggles that initially interfered with her doing work I knew that she was fully capable of, but once she settled down she did a great job.

Today in science we learned all about two different groups of trees- needle leaf trees and broadloaf trees. I have been having Sweet Pea read the lesson, then we talk about it together, and then she works through the questions at the end semi-independently. Some of it she needs more help with- which makes sense considering we jumped right into second grade science.
Part of her work today was drawing six things made from wood- she drew a ruler, a pencil, a door, a china cabinet, a chair and something that I can't make out. I'm sure it's wooden, though. ;)
We have started listening to movies in French, with English subtitles. I still haven't gotten a French program, so we're cruising solo on that for right now. I need to sit down and pick 100 or so words to start with and begin working them into our daily repetoire. I don't know if I'll focus on writing right away, or not, but I would like to introduce phrases and nouns.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Little Bird

I feel like this blog is almost all about Sweet Pea. My poor Little Bird! Sweet Pea is the only one school aged right now, and somehow the preschool type stuff seems a little less interesting for me to blog about.
I know that there's a lot of people homeschooling and still with toddlers, though, so that does seem a little silly.
So! Here's some musings and what we do for late 2/almost 3 year old preschooling right now.

Literacy/phonics: We're going easy here. Right now we sing the ABC song and when she wants to she listens in on Sweet Pea's structured phonics lessons. She watches the videos on Starfall. We read to her a lot- she's in the lucky position of having three readers in the family now. Sweet Pea helps when mom and dad are busy- it's really sweet to see the two girls snuggle together while enjoying a story.

Math: I have this set of books from when I was little- they are from Discovery Toys. I'm not sure if they are still in print or available, but I love them. They are simple, cute, and focus on 1-10 by telling stories about the same little monster. Little Bird is already familiar with the basic shape groups and colors, in large part from playing with our pattern blocks.

History/cultural awareness: lots of nursery rhymes and hymns. We read books about different holidays and liturgical seasons. Right now we are ending Epiphany and getting ready to start pre-Lent.

Otherwise my focus is on writing readiness through working on fine motor control. This means lots of playing with modeling dough, lacing beads, coloring, and working on buttons, zippers, and other little manipulations. She sits through a lot of lessons with her sister and I.

My goals are to start our handwriting program and our math around age four. Around that time we'll also start adding in systematic phonics. And then we'll roll into what we're doing this year with Sweet Pea when she's ready.

Now that I'm looking at it- it is a little exciting, and it's a lot fun on a daily basis.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010


Today felt like a really productive day. Do you ever have those? When the sun shines through the windows, the kids want to sit and learn, meals turn out well, and the world just seems cheery? Yeah, one of those days.

We did writing first. We're just starting week 23 out of 36, so we're chugging along nicely. I have noticed that Sweet Pea prefers the days where all she has to do for this is copy sentences- even though I usually make her do a little diagramming. She's less fond of narration, still. I'm toying with the idea of some simple dictation once a week or so. By simple I mean really, really simple- along the lines of, "The rat sat and slept." We'll see.

After that we did math. We finally finished lesson 12 in Earlybird- days of the week. It should not have taken a full week to do this, but for whatever reason it did. I'm not going to say too much more about that because it will interfere with the sunshine and roses I'm trying to spread here today. We also did another page in Math Mammoth. This was Sweet Pea's first foray into word/story problems, and I think she did really well! I really liked it because it's a chance to read and do math simultaneously. She was more interested in the little puzzle squares at the bottom. Oh, well.

After math, we took a long break- a really long one! We had playtime, lunch, afternoon quiet time, and more playtime before school resumed.

We did the next section in spelling from our McGuffey's book. I still haven't thought of any genius exercises to go along with the word lists, but it doesn't seem to be too big a deal yet.

We wrapped it all up with another lesson in phonics and then taking turns reading some Winnie-the-Pooh to Little Bird.
And we were done. :)

And on the planning front I think I've narrowed down that next year we'll try Rod and Staff's English and Spelling. Relief!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Weeds, wildflowers, and muffins

We're talking about the days of the week in math. Sweet Pea knows the names, but the order in places still throws her off.

Today we finished the chapter in science on wildflowers and weeds. Sweet Pea found it very interesting that flowers can be weeds, depending on if they are wanted or not. We also discussed some of the farming terms used, like cultivation, since those aren't part of our daily vernacular.

These may be our new favorite muffins- banana and apple! It's also a good exercise in patience and measuring. MMMM.

I'm also still hashing out plans for this summer and next fall. Right now I think I'm set on math and phonics. And handwriting. I had thought that I was set on science, but apparently not. I'm pretty set on history. The rest is in the air.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

A good reason NOT to teach your child to read

Is that they can then read the words written in bathroom stalls. Maybe limiting them to a preset list of sight words is the correct thing- hearing your five your old sounding out delightful messages is overrated!

On more positive news, we did the first lesson in McGuffey's Eclectic Speller. I've had it since I bought all of the readers, but never used it. I like the layout of the lists, but I need to find a way to think up some exercises myself.

Otherwise, all is good!

Another question, answered!

"How do you accomplish so much with a two year old always around? Does Little Bird go to preschool or daycare?"

First- I must say to any kind souls who read my blog an think that I accomplish a lot in regards to homeschooling- sincere thanks! I often feel like we don't do enough, or that we are slackers.
In regards to the actual question- no, Little Bird doesn't go to preschool or daycare. Yes, it can be complicated to have things happen with an active toddler around. There are some ways that people handle the toddler years with homeschooling from what I've seen.

Some people do utilize preschools and daycares. I don't think that there is anything inherently wrong with that. If there's a good, affordable play based preschool or daycare in the area I can see how that's a really useful thing. That's a family choice, and a wonderful thing about that is it's not a permanent decision. You can enroll and stop at any time. Why don't we do it?

First, we did try the preschool thing with Sweet Pea. It wasn't a good fit for her or our family. Driving to pick her up was a bigger distraction then actually having her somewhere. Second- Little Bird has some medical issues that make me paranoid about having her in the care of others. I have the constant worry about her having a seizure while in care and the provider not knowing what to do, or knowing what to do and panicking. Paying for regular care would also be a pretty tough thing financially for us.

So what do we do?

Anything that works, it seems like some days. I have a stack of coloring books and art supplies that Little Bird only has access to when we are doing table work. Keeping them special means that she'll spend a little more time with them. I also make huge batches of home made modeling dough, and she'll create with that. I have games that she can play, I let her eat snacks. I let her sit on my lap and look at books. Some days it goes better then others, but the consistency of our routine lets her know that when we're at the table working, it's time to be reasonably quiet and calm.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Week 22!

First- some new art. Sweet Pea made me a pretty snowflake. We're seeing a lot of snow lately, so it's a pretty unsurprising topic.

I'm really liking this one- this is a picture of me made by Little Bird. It's also the first pciture she's made that's really recognizable as a face!

Last week was mostly vacation, except the previously mentioned accomplishment of finishing McGuffey's Primer. It was a needed little break, though, since we schooled straight through Christmas.
This week is back to normal, I think, though.
We started the day with writing. I think it's safe to say that Sweet Pea is a copywork expert. I don't think she's quite ready to move onto dictation, though, so we're chugging along with copywork.
I am beginning to debate about continuing both First Language Lessons (our grammar) and Writing With Ease (our writing) next year or switching. I've been reading quite a few threads on the WTM board recently about WWE and while I think that Susan Wise Bauer makes a lot of sense in laying out the whys of the program I'm just not certain that it's going to put us where we need to be, when we need to be there. If that makes sense. I'm not sure exactly what we'd move to, but I'm considering a move. I know a lot of people use Rod and Staff's program, and I've heard quite a bit about CLE's stuff, too. I'm not sure at all, though. Good thing that there's still quite a bit of time to figure it out before next year arrives!

We did Math Mammoth today. Sweet Pea did a great job with the clock pages I gave her- we'd already covered hours in Singapore, so it was review. Things fell apart a bit when we did the number line pages though. Sweet Pea adds really, really well in her head, but the number line really seemed to confuse her. She didn't like it. She was making silly mistakes. She got through the pages, but it was funny to see how relieved she was at the end to have a bunch of mental math problems!
While the two of us worked through the unexpectedly difficult pages, Little Bird played with our Judy clock. I'm really glad we got one- it's impossible to break, and it holds up to two year old abuse beautifully while still being useful for Sweet Pea.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Mcguffey progress

We have the final lesson left in the primer, then we have completed it! So glad that we picked these back up. I really like how they have cursive to read and copy, and the stories are so sweet.

We had another great homeschool benefit tonight- keeping the kids up late to make and eat impromptu cookies.

I'm starting to look at planning and preparing and goal setting for February- I'm due with #3 at the end of the month and I think the idea of taking a chunk of time off sounds nice- but I worry that the lack of routine will lead to boredom, chaos, and behavior problems. I'm trying to set up some daily independent activities for both girls, but I'm having a tough time figuring out what NEEDS to happen everyday.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Your questions, answered!

In no super particular order.

Laura asked if the lexile site helped- yes, it did, thanks!

Jana mentioned the reading suggestions on the Sonlight site- I've seen those and we're getting them in order from the library. They've been great, I was just looking for some other books, and less at individual books then series type things.

Kash mentioned Cam Jenson- I've seen this around a few times, but I have no knowledge of them- we'll request from the library. Thanks! And Boxcar children- that's a great idea but I think a smidge too hard. I think we'll be there soon, though.

Ewe asked what we use for science. We've just started a new program- the Rod and Staff science, grade 2. This is a summary of general nature topics- how seeds grow, how the seasons change as the Earth moves, constellations. It's workbook based and also has an optional teacher's manual. Each lesson has a page to color, a section for the parent to read, and then comprehension activites like fill in the blank, crosswords, ect. It's not super in depth, but it's open and go, cheap, and about nature, so it fits our needs pretty well right now. Sweet Pea also enjoys the sweet illustrations of Mennonite children and families featured in the book.

That's all for now- feel free to keep asking! It helps jostle thoughts out.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010


I had been experiencing a little confusion about how to get Sweet Pea to the next level with reading- reading more then a few sentences at a time and context clues, mainly.
It seems like most things with reading, though, that it just kind of happens. She's now happily working her way through the first Magic Treehouse book. I've read raving reviews of them, and scathing criticisms, but we decided to give them a shot. It's not a Great Book- but it's engaging and just enough of a stretch that it boots her out of her comfort zone and encourages her to move forward.
She still loves reading the Frog and Toad books and Amelia Bedelia books, but those are definitely on the level/ easy side for her. And she was pretty happy to remain there, so I'm relieved that she's edging forward now.
Any ideas for other books on a similar level to the Magic Treehouse books?


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