Saturday, May 29, 2010

Cabinet organization and our homeschool room

This room is also our dining room, so the decor is a little dual purpose.
Here's the view of the room from the kitchen. This is the whole room.

We do most of our schooling at the table. It allows us enough room for Sweet Pea to do her work, me to record what we're doing and help, and Little Bird to do Play-Doh or color. I like that we can all be together at the same time.
I have two cabinets that close that I put all the messy and weird shaped stuff in.

They allow me to close away the chaos and not worry about how the kids put away the art stuff. I also keep some homeschooling stuff that we use occasionally, or that I plan to use but am not currently in the cabinets.

See that mess? Unless the cabinets are open, you can't!

I have a book shelf that I keep our current, in use, stuff in. That whole top shelf is just religious ed. stuff right now! Since I'm involved in putting things away, this stays reasonably well ordered. Usually.

Last but not least we have our huge maps. It's pretty classy having these up when I'm entertaining, but they are very useful for geography and history, so they stay.

And now you can picture where all of our fabulous learning happens!

Friday, May 28, 2010

Honesty, accountability, and my two cents

This isn't from just one place, but something I've seen in numerous places recently.
First issue I have is with standardized tests. I know that their mere existence is a rather hot button issue, and I'm not here to argue for or against them. Or even if they measure well or address anything important. That's another post for another day and probably one for someone more well versed in that topic then I.
My issue is with people who live in an area that requires standardized testing as part of homeschooling and who administer it in knowingly wrong ways. This includes ignoring time limits. Part of what the test measures is how children can do on that amount of questions in a given topic in that time period! Even if your child gets them all right when you give them more time, it's not fair. Extra time is allowed in certain circumstances- learning disabilites, ect. And I'm not talking about that- I'm talking about the parents who decide on their own that someone doesn't do well with being timed and to ignore the instructions.
My concern (besides the inflated scores) is that if too many people ignore and disregard the rules that people who follow the rules will be punished, too. There are enough people out there who dislike homeschooling and homeschoolers that I think we should strive to be above the board. And if lying on tests becomes a known big issue- we may lose the ability to administer them at home. We may end up with MORE regulation- and is that what anyone wants?
It's not just about you, your family, and that moment in time. It's about everyone that actions can impact.
I also have a big beef with people who lie on transcripts. If you choose to devote time on something that isn't required or doesn't count in your area- don't then lie about the subject to make it count. Counting on a transcript isn't the only reason a subject is valuable!
Why lie? And why do something that seems a whole lot like dishonesty and try to talk around it?

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Summer fun while Galloping the Globe

We started something very different then our normal routine this week- we're giving unit studies a try. I've been skeptical about the idea, but I hope to give this a fair effort and evaluation!
We're trying Galloping the Globe. So far, everyone seems to like it.
For LA right now I'm having Sweet Pea write little reports on the books we're reading.
For example, we read this today:

And then Sweet Pea summarized it well, "Katy was a beautiful tractor. Katy plowed the snow. She plowed the snow because people needed to get out."

And then we worked together to map our house:

And then we talked about various terms that were unfamiliar from this really neat book:

See the illustrations? They are really great and about the perfect length. I really recommend it to go along with any history and geography program.

We did math and phonics as usual, but this was a big change for the rest of the day. I think it'll carry us through summer as something different enough to feel like a break without it actually being a total break.

Monday, May 24, 2010

What a productive day looks like

Well, the parts that I can provide pictures for, anyway.

We did 5 lessons from the Ordinary Parent's Guide- Sweet Pea is really eager to just finish it up!

Then, we did Lesson 7 from Rod and Staff's English. The sentences are very Bible heavy- but they are also very writing and grammar heavy. Sweet Pea seems to have a better grasp on the process already, so I'm very glad. She's also getting better at producing what I think is a more realistic output level, as well. Soon I'm going to start assigning writing from science and history, as well. So that's great news!

Next was the part of the day I'm pretty sure the girls enjoyed the most- glitter painting. On the bottom of one you'll notice my feet- I left them in for scale. :) Sweet Pea made the one with hand prints, the other is Little Bird's.

After the Sweet Pea did more math. Today we worked on subtraction and word problems.

Sweet Pea finished a spelling lesson.

After that we reviewed lessons 1-4 from Story of the World.

We ended the evening with the day's entry from Treasury of Daily Prayer.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

We're here

But we're enjoying the warm weather. Primary schooling right is is reading, writing, and math- and the rest is play. I'm having a hard time describing that in an interesting, witty way- so sorry!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

In case you were wondering...

One of the benefits of living in a tiny town is that it's often pretty. We have a big chunk of woods that runs right through town, complete with marshes and a river. My girls really like the flowers that grow in the woods.

So far I'm really happy with our new Language Arts choices- the Rod and Staff is very thorough and quite a bit more writing then our previous choice. This does lead to some resistance from Sweet Pea since it's quite a transition, but once she's going she likes it and more importantly is learning.
I also brought back out my Galloping the Globe book and I think we may use that this summer as a change of pace. I dismissed it well over a year ago as not something we were interested in, but after doing the standard textbook approach I think it might be a nice change.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

New Language Arts

I cracked out the new book we got- the Preparing to Build book. It's more writing the the previous program we used- the Writing with Ease book 1. I think that's good- Sweet Pea needs more actual pencil to paper time and this seems like it will provide it.
This first lesson was right on her level, as well, so that's great! The biggest obstacle we're facing right now is her attention span. She's easily distracted and ansty, so we're going to spend some time working on that.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

End of the year curricula reviews!

The exclamation point makes it much more exciting, don't you think?

Now that we've either finished or are nearly finished with the year, I thought I'd start reviewing the choices.

Cursive First: I really liked this program. It's very economical and you are allowed to reproduce the sheets for use in family- so one book will work for all of my children! It's got a good multi-sensory approach that I think would appeal to most kids. It's easy to implement, and takes a very minimal amount of time. Despite the small time commitment, it yields some pretty great results. I liked this a lot, and I plan to use it again for Little Bird when her turn comes up.

First Language Lessons for the Well Trained Mind: When I first started using this, I gave it a pretty good review. It's all laid out for you, so it's easy to use. It's meant to work together with the writing and phonics we used, so that seemed like a great plus. There's no pre-planning needed, other then figuring out about how quickly you want to chug through it. That being said, we didn't stick with it, and we didn't love it. It was very, very slow moving. It seemed a little redundant at points. I think that teaching grammar at a young age is a good goal, but if the child needs things this slow and piecemeal, perhaps it's better to wait and focus on something else.

Math Mammoth: We aren't using this as our primary program, rather as a supplement. I do know that there are people who use it exclusively, and in a program with a child who doesn't love math and ask for the amounts Sweet Pea does I think that it's probably plenty. It's very easy to use and you can make copies as needed. This is nice because you can reuse pages as many times as needed. Parent involvement with a child who is a good reader and reasonably mathy is minimal. I like Math Mammoth. I think it's a great value and we plan to continue to use it in conjunction with a more traditional book math program.

Ordinary Parent's Guide to Teaching Reading: This is a very traditional phonics program. There aren't colorful illustrations. There aren't cute leveled readers with it. There are optional flashcards (which I didn't buy). It is, however, really easy to use, as implied by the name. It's completely scripted, and you can read the script as closely or loosely as possible. It's decently quick moving and covers phonics through 4th grade from what I understand. We haven't yet finished it, but I hope to by the end of the summer. I really like it and what it's done for Sweet Pea's reading abilities and her confidence. It's been great to have the rules laid out explicitly and condensed into a short lesson. We'll use this again for Little Bird.

Primary Mathematics: This is a really great math program. I really think that the Home Instructor's Guides make it, so if you are considering using it, buy them. Please. It really takes the program to the next level and makes so much sense and lets you know what to focus on.

Rod and Staff Science: Gentle, focused on nature, lots of coloring? Check! It covers plants and animals and other things that are easy for little kids to relate to and understand, because they can see them. There's no experiments in the book we have, and although I did buy the teacher's book I don't think that you'd need it.

Spelling Workout:
I may be missing something, but this didn't really grab us. It didn't really teach the spelling words, and the activities were something that Sweet Pea just kind of whipped through. It didn't seem to increase her comprehension of the wonderful world of spelling rules, though, so we'll be trying something else.

Writing with Ease: I was SO on board with this and SO prepared to love this. I really, really wanted to. And I really tried to. And I just... didn't. It wasn't enough meat for Sweet Pea, although we did like the books chosen enough to pick some to read in their entirety. Sorry, WWE!

Story of the World: I don't know if I can fully review this yet. It was going a little over Sweet Pea's head, so we set it aside after a few lessons. Lessons she really enjoyed, but didn't seem to retain much from. So we'll be picking it back up and giving it another chance. I like what I've seen so far, but I can't fully say how it'll work for us until we try again.

That's my summation- any questions? Comments? Hints about what I missed with WWE and SW? ;)


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