Wednesday, August 31, 2011


I've been using an online schedule/grade book for home school this year (Homeschool Skedtrack). It lets me put in the activities we're doing, keep track of grades (optional, as we are independent homeschoolers and not required to do so by the state, but it is something I chose to do should we ever opt to go under an umbrella and need those little letters!), and even has a spot to record field trips, and print transcripts and report cards.

As I am filling in all the information, it alerts me to what day of school we are on. Yesterday was day 18, which doesn't sound very far in, but it is 10% of the way through our 180 day year, which seems crazy!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

R & R and ice cream

We went to visit my parents this past weekend. Speaking of traveling, am I the only person who feels that all the laundry must be done (including the sheets and towels), all hose keeping must be caught up, and everything put away before I can leave town? Friday night my parents kept the littles while we went to dinner without ordering for anyone else, cutting up food, running children to the restroom, or cleaning up spilled drinks.

We had considered a movie, but we didn't find anything we were really interested in, so we went to a bookstore where we wandered aimlessly looking at all sorts of books. We hadn't done that in a very long time! Afterwards we headed to my parent's cabin. We watched a little TV before heading to bed, where we stayed until after eight in the morning. If you have little children who rise fairly early, you know that is a major event.

We got to be back with the munchkins less than 24 hours later, but it was nice to have that break. We got to visit with my parents, my sister, and even briefly with my mom's cousin who was passing though town.

Then we headed off to the annual ice cream social at the church I grew up in. Burgers, hotdogs, lots of potato salads, cakes, cookies, and of course ice cream. We got to visit with some of the girls I knew when I was the age of my girls. The kiddos played in a couple of inflatables as well.

Kate made some lady's day. The woman, who I was told is in her 80's, was standing near the inflatable, so Kate asked her, "Are you in line?" so as not to cut. Everyone thought it was nice of her to try to include her, but she told Kate she was, in fact, not in the line.

I forgot my camera, but it was a nice weekend!

Monday, August 29, 2011


We're studying biology this year. I've been planning our course since midway through last year. All the sudden it hit me though--the outline I had read (and loved), from The Well Trained Mind, left out a few topics I wanted to cover. Some of it can be easily worked in, other things not so much. Kate isn't as gaa gaa over animals as some children are, so it isn't difficult to shorten that study (which is supposed to last 20 weeks) by a couple of weeks to add in some other biology topics. We are starting with a unit study on habitats. I plan to teach various habitats now and then she will relate that to those animals later when we get to them.

Our unit study is in depth and costly...just kidding. I have several books I picked up at the library (The Usborne Book of Wild Places, EyeWitness Science: Ecology, The World Wildlife Fund: Living Planet, and Animal Habitats [by Judy Press]). Just about any book on habitats for children would probably work. The World Wildlife one isn't for kids, but is mostly pictures.

We read about a habitat, looked at pictures, and I tortured the child by making her draw her answer.

She loves to draw, plus I get to see that she gets it. She was facinated by the carnivorous is a pitcher plant eating a bug on the right (on the left is a parrot). And in case you didn't know this about rainforests, she tells us, "They are really wet."

I have her draw a picture of the habitat, write one sentence to describe it, and then draw a picture of one animal and one plant that she could find there. She describes wetlands with the sentence, "They have lots of water," and she illustrates a snake and cattails.

I even had her draw a picture of her habitat (our house). Excuse the blocked out portions, but I didn't really want the whole internet to have our home address! There are steps, a flower bed and a lot of windows above the door.

I then bound her pages together to make a book of habitats to have on hand that she can look at as she goes through the animals later.

The Animal Habitats book is the book I've leaned on most heavily. I have really enjoyed the art activities. We haven't done anywhere near all of them (not by my daughter's choice!), but they have been fun and fit right in with the lesson. I would recommend seeking it out if you can.

Friday, August 26, 2011


Nate opened a book, gave it to Justin, and Justin tells me he said, "Read to me, buddy."

Another bookworm?

Thursday, August 25, 2011

All Alone

When you have more than one child, you have to be intentional to spend time with just one at a time. Let's face it, hanging out on the couch with them is nice, but is likely to be interrupted by the siblings. We try to take individual children on errands when it is feasible too, but sometimes it is great to do something special just with one of the kiddos.

Last week I took Kate to a science museum nearby, just the two of us. We got to spend time on things that are hard to do with the little ones. She got to 'fly' in the moon walk

and we went geocaching indoors and out.

This week I took Gabriella to see a movie.

We saw The Smurfs. It was her very first movie. Not one I would really recommend as a great work of cinematography, but it had some funny lines and was reminiscent of my childhood--I loved the Smurfs. Plus it was a great afternoon with you youngest gal.

Meanwhile, Justin took Nate for a nap...

Next month we'll switch and the girls can go on 'dates' with their Daddy.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

A First Word

I write a lot about Kate's school, since that is much of what we spend our days doing. The littles join us here and there as they want or as things apply to them. Gabby has been asking to read for a little while, so I've been teaching her with Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons. Kate and I brute forced our way through a McGuffey Reader, but being as Gabby younger than Kate was, I thought we needed to start a little slower.

We got to read her first word yesterday. It was 'me.' I was so happy for her...she was happy for the sticker that I give when they read with me!

Another happy little bookworm in the making!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011


Those blueberries don't make my tongue all comfy cozy in my mouth.

* * * * *

As the girls were 'hunting,' using their stick horses as rifles (We've been reading Little House in the Big Woods.)...

I shoot [sic] a rubber chicken over dere [sic].

Monday, August 22, 2011

Curriculum: First Grade

I love books. Maybe you can home school without a love of books, but it sure adds to the fun if you like them! I get excited about new curricula and reading all the books.

Here's what we're up to this year...

We are using Primary Mathematics (it's the U.S. version of Singapore Math). Some places I have read recommend 1A & 1B for second grade, but after reviewing the books, I'm confident that Kate has a firm enough grasp of basic math to handle them this year. It is a pretty rigorous program, I've heard, but I haven't looked at other books to compare them, just read reviews. I also picked up a math drill card. I'm hoping that she will be able to learn her math facts this year without having to count each time.

This is our language arts curriculum. We have spelling from Evan Moor. I wasn't interested in anything in particular this year and this one seemed to fit the bill as an inexpensive program that had daily assignments.

I picked up Writing with Ease for, well, writing. You can get companion workbooks, but with this book you can teach 4 years of writing, if you are up for finding your own writing samples. I am using this 4 days a week and it is our writing and handwriting at the moment, as she has told me that she dislikes writing. So long as she uses her best penmanship for this, we'll skip the handwriting for handwriting's sake. I plan to have her copy verses from the Bible for the fifth day of the week.

Next up, for grammar, we are borrowing books from the library. In our library system we don't have the entire set (Words are Categorical), so I'm hoping to get the rest through inter-library loan to teach the parts of speech this year. I also plan to cover punctuation this year for grammar. This book is a hoot though (A Mink, a Fink, a Skating Rink). Even Gabby call tell you about nouns now.

Then we'll be reading...McGuffey, library books, books off our shelves, signs, where ever we can find words!

We'll be reading more from The Story of the World in history (we've done some activities already, like here). I also picked up Real Science 4 Kids Biology (Pre-Level 1) book. I'm planning to follow the basic idea from The Well Trained Mind for biology (studying animals of her choosing, anatomy, and botany), but I really wanted to also introduce the concepts of cells, habitats, and classification, since we won't cover biology again until 5th grade. This book will complement that study well.

For art and music, I picked up these based on recommendations that I read last year. She will also be able to participate in activities at the art museum here from time to time. We opted to teach some basic piano here to see if she enjoys it. If she likes it, she can continue it more formally later and if not, then she learned a touch of music theory that can be helpful in any instrument she might choose to study later.

These are some odds and ends that don't fit the most basic curriculum requirements, but are things we wanted our children to learn. The girls will both be completing the etiquette book (it is very feminine, so I won't be saving this one back for Nate). We also plan to teach logic, so we're starting with this basic thinking skills book for this year. The girls are both learning to memorize scripture verses this year. I got this little book to get us started.

This book is for Gabby. She has been asking to learn how to read. I taught Kate last year and while we got it, it wasn't an easy task! I thought this might be a good way to start, especially since Gabby is younger than Kate was. So far, so good. We're on lesson 5 and she seems to enjoy it, though she did leave before we finished the last lesson we were working on.

And this is my extremely high tech record system...

It is a bound book where I make notes of what I want to teach (I have stuff from k-12 in there all mixed up, sure to make many people cry) and I little notebook to record grades. I will likely set up an Excel program at some point, but I wanted a place to record on the spot as we do questions aloud and the like. I also have a calendar. I write our topics each day in the blocks, so I can look back and see what we did and when.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Other Days

There are days that go off without a hitch...and then there are those other days...

Days that start with your husband puking at 3 AM. So you're running for crackers and rags and water and glucose monitors (maybe that last one is just me!). Days that as soon as you drift off to sleep after he's finally sleeping peacefully again you hear your daughter screaming. You run in expecting to be up the rest of the night with her, only to find out that she is screaming because she wants her 'widdle wamb.' The same one she said she didn't want when you tucked her in last night. Thankful that she's fine, you still grumble that she got you up.

Morning time for coffee. Stumble through lessons with Kate crying she doesn't know how to read the word afraid though she had no trouble with between or workbasket, Gabby is crying that Nate took a toy, and Nate crying that he can't have all the school supplies.

Make it through to lunch. I'll splurge and make the processed cheese mac--no one will complain about that at least. Cook it all up, go to shake down the powder in the packet that vaguely resembles cheese, and the package tears open and flies across the kitchen, covering the floor in powdered cheese. Sigh, mix up what was left in the package to make something resembling macaroni and cheese. Sweep up the floor, shake out the rug.

Be grateful that it isn't any worse, that everyone made it through fine, and that it is rest time. Hope for good rest time and a better afternoon!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The Tooth Fairy

There aren't any loose teeth in the house, but the tooth fairy is back.

* * * * *

Kate: I can't fly today.

Me: Really, why?

Kate: Its a rule. If tooth fairies fly during the day, then they can't fly for 11 weeks!

* * * * *

Kate: I used to live in Pennsylvania.

Me: Oh?

Kate: Yeah. I had to go there as a tooth fairy, and it was really far away, so I spent the night, like, eleven times.

Monday, August 15, 2011

What Kind of Home Schooler?

Did you know that there are different types of home schoolers? There are those who practice unschooling (I'm much too type A to pull that one off, but I try to take a few of their ideas in child led learning), proponants of classical education (which follows a pattern for teaching through a child's development and linking subjects together), educators that utilize unit studies (which is just as it sounds, they pick a topic and learn about it perhaps integrating all the subjects into, something like dinosaurs or ancient Babylon, then move on to the next), the eclectic home schoolers (who take what works for their family from this approach and that approach and mixes them until they are a good fit), and many other schools of thought too.

Last fall when we fell into homeschooling I raided my public library. I pulled out a very thick book called A Well Trained Mind. I was so thrilled by what a read. It outlined a rigorous and well planned course of study. I needed a plan, but it was also so clear that I didn't need a set text. I could work with library books--an inexpensive method, though time consuming. (I've settled in to some more texts this year, to reduce my planning time.)

I especially loved the way that social studies was taught sequentially and in connection with art and literature (what a grand idea--linking it all together, so the history of art and literature fall in to place naturally) and the ordering of science, so that rather than repeating each topic every year and slightly expounding on it, it is taught on a rotation like high school or college.

So, if you wondered what kind of home schoolers we are...there you have it. We are basically Classical Home Schoolers.

I liked the book so much, I even bought my own copy, though quite a few years newer it's as great as I remembered it. It's sure to be filled with sticky notes in no time! The only downside to it, if it is even a downside, is that in the new edition it does frequently recommend other books that the author published. I happen to like those books, but it might be off putting to some.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Making it Fun

I try to be a practical person for the most part. Why buy a new car, when a used one does just as well without the sticker shock? The same applies to name brand products for the most part. Sure there are certain things that really are better and I'm all for purchasing, say name brand tub cleaner if you find it works better than the generic, but who cares if my t-shirt says 'Hanes' on the label, so long as it fits and lasts as well.

Kate hasn't been thrilled with the idea of back to school. She tells me, "It cuts in to my play time." Ha! Mine too girlie! I'm trying to find out what parts of it are the most distasteful and work around them where I can. She tells me that she doesn't like to write because it hurts her hand. Of course, then she spent much of the time with my in-laws scribbling out rules for her own classroom (she's really strict by the way), holding a pen much longer than I ever require, but anyway! Since writing is a pretty necessary skill, I'm trying to find ways to make it less like work and more like fun.

I saw these for sale at Target and I had to buy a couple. They are black on one side and white on the other. The gray at the edges keeps the boards from sliding on the table.

They come with the *washable* dry erase crayons and the cleaning cloth.

Sure, paper is less expensive, but sometimes you need a little something fun to mix in with the tedious. They remind me of old fashioned slates without the chalk dust, and of course with the fun of the bright crayons.

Instead of practicing her spelling on paper, she gets to do it on the board. The novelty may wear off, but her only complaint so far was when I asked her to rewrite a misformed letter.

Gabby got to practice some letter writing too and Nate threw crayons in the floor for me to pick up...several times.

** Not an advertisement, just a fun find. **

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

I'm free!

Okay, I guess that could be taken the wrong way if you knew my in-laws just left, but that's not what I meant (We had a nice little visit.). I've been seeing an ophthalmologist since March because eye that wasn't taking treatment well from my regular GP. I know, lame, but at least it wasn't the amoeba I was referred for fear of! Anyway. He tells me that the inflammation that the little infection left me with has finally all subsided, and he is releasing me on my own recognizance to an optometrist. Great news.

The only real down part is that he recommends that I only use glasses or daily wear (wear one day and then toss them) lenses. Those my well be out of my price range, even with our vision insurance, so we'll see. He said that I could also do surgery, but I'm not really up for that one, nor is it in the budget either. At the very least, I can get myself a pair of back up glasses for the day when this pair gets broken. And I no longer have to put drops in my eye. Free!

Monday, August 8, 2011


We had the occassion to eat out with my in-laws over the weekend. We headed to Red Lobster. After seeing the lobsters in the tank before heading to our seats, where our food came from was fresh in Kate's mind. She told us, "If I cook a lobster, I'll put it to sleep first, so it doesn't hurt. Putting it into a pot of boiling water? Ouch!!"

On a proud Mama note...we had two different people make a point to stop by our table to compliment us on our children's behavior.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Back to school!

Kate and I have worked a little on her social studies in the past two weeks. I found that our book has more chapters than our school year has weeks, so it made sense to get a little ahead--we had worked some last spring, but still hadn't gotten to where I hoped to be to start our year. Plus mummifying a chicken takes some time! Welcome to a hands on teaching of ancient Egypt, ala The Story of the World. I also have been going over habitats with her, mostly in a preview of the animals we're going to be studying this year in biology.

But, yesterday was our first full day of classes. We will likely just do a few days this week and next, but start more in to full weeks after that! I'm looking forward to seeing how our new curriculum goes this year.

We also have plans to join a co-op, attend classes at the art museum again, and add in classes at the zoo and dance or gymnastics. I should keep pretty busy with the running! I love all the oppurtunities being closer to town affords us. While our nearby library (literally we could walk there, if it weren't 100 degrees and there were sidewalks the whole way) doesn't offer a lot of the books I'm interested in, but there are a number of other libraries in the area that will send the books I request there for me to pick up. I don't even have to go hunt for them--they put all of my books together for me to pick up. Awesome!

It was a laid back day. The first lessons in math and spelling, some extra reading about cat mummies, and we studied mountain habitats. We read a Middle Eastern tale of Cinderella and some other books too.

I have plans of a weekly schedule, though we'll see how that goes once our weeks start taking shape...I know that days and weeks can take on a life of their own, so I'm not sure if we will actually follow this plan or opt for something totally different!

Here's the idea, for now:

Bible verse memory
English: Reading, Writing, Spelling, Grammar

Ancient History

Art (in addition to that incorporated with other lessons)
Dance or Gymnastics class

I'm opting to do science and social studies bi-weekly, so we can get more immersed in what we're working on and not switch gears so often. We will have one day a week (likely Friday) to catch up on anything in those lessons that we haven't finished for the week.

We're much more focused this year in first grade than all the different skill sets we were working on last year with workbooks for cutting, and dot to dot, and adding, and letters, in addition to this that and the other thing in unit studies. I think she learned a lot, but I'm hoping this will be a better use of time (mine in gathering materials and hers in less repetition where it isn't needed, since I was pulling from several different kindergarten and 1st grade workbooks that had a lot of overlap). I'm also hoping that she will find it fun and interesting! The mummy made an impression for sure. I'm grateful to have such a bright pupil to work with too.