Sunday, December 28, 2008

99 Things To Do Meme

I rarely do these meme things (I don't even remember how to pronounce them anymore), but I thought this was fun. An interesting way to end the year is looking back at the past 40 (ahem) -ish ones:

Feel free to cut and paste to your own blog and complete and leave me a comment so I can come over and read yours. :)

Items I have completed are in bold.

1. Started your own blog.
2. Slept under the stars

3. Played in a band (does middle school orchestera count?)
4. Visited Hawaii
5. Watched a meteor shower
6. Given more than you can afford to charity
7. Been to Disneyland/world
8. Climbed a mountain

9. Held a praying mantis
10. Sang a solo
11. Bungee jumped (not even for a million dollars)
12. Visited Paris
13. Watched a lightning storm at sea
14. Taught yourself an art from scratch (more like crafty art projects)
15. Adopted a child
16. Had food poisoning (pasta sauce when I was in college, but thankfully nothing serious enough for an ER visit)
17. Walked to the top of the Statue of Liberty (line was too long)
18. Grown your own vegetables
19. Seen the Mona Lisa in France
20. Slept on an overnight train (in Soviet Union)
21. Had a pillow fight
22. Hitch hiked
23. Taken a sick day when you’re not ill
24. Built a snow fort (I grew up in Illinois; I'm sure I must've done this at some point.....)
25. Held a lamb
26. Gone skinny dipping
27. Run a Marathon (5K not marathon)
28. Ridden in a gondola in Venice
29. Seen a total eclipse
30. Watched a sunrise or sunset
31. Hit a home run Does playing baseball in the backyard with the kids count?)
32. Been on a cruise
33. Seen Niagara Falls in person
34. Visited the birthplace of your ancestors
35. Seen an Amish community
36. Taught yourself a new language
37. Had enough money to be truly satisfied
38. Seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person
39. Gone rock climbing
40. Seen Michelangelo’s David
41. Sung karaoke
42. Seen Old Faithful geyser erupt
43. Bought a stranger a meal at a restaurant
44. Visited Africa
45. Walked on a beach by moonlight
46. Been transported in an ambulance
47. Had your portrait painted
48. Gone deep sea fishing (and gotten terribly sea sick)
49. Seen the Sistine Chapel in person
50. Been to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris
51. Gone scuba diving or snorkeling
52. Kissed in the rain
53. Played in the mud
54. Gone to a drive-in theater

55. Been in a movie
56. Visited the Great Wall of China
57. Started a business
58. Taken a martial arts class
59. Visited Russia
60. Served at a soup kitchen
61. Sold Girl Scout Cookies
62. Gone whale watching
63. Got flowers for no reason (Dave said he did, so I'll have to believe him)
64. Donated blood, platelets or plasma

65. Gone sky diving
66. Visited a Nazi Concentration Camp
67. Bounced a check
68. Flown in a helicopter
69. Saved a favorite childhood toy
70. Visited the Lincoln Memorial
71. Eaten Caviar
72. Pieced a quilt

73. Stood in Times Square
74. Toured the Everglades
75. Been fired from a job
76. Seen the Changing of the Guards in London
77. Broken a bone
78. Been on a speeding motorcycle

79. Seen the Grand Canyon in person
80. Published a book (Does my master's thesis count? It had to be bound, and is in the UT Austin library)

81. Visited the Vatican
82. Bought a brand new car
83. Walked in Jerusalem
84. Had your picture in the newspaper
85. Read the entire Bible (hoping to do this in 2009)
86. Visited the White House (at a time when it was still open to the public)
87. Killed and prepared an animal for eating (does catching and gutting a fish as a Girl Scout count?)
88. Had chickenpox
89. Saved someone’s life
90. Sat on a jury
91. Met someone famous
92. Joined a book club
93. Lost a loved one
94. Had a baby
95. Seen the Alamo in person

96. Swam in the Great Salt Lake (been there, didn't swim)
97. Been involved in a law suit (I actually had to file a lawsuit against my mom. But, I did it with her and my dad's permission, to keep active a motor vehicle accident claim with the insurance company)
98. Owned a cell phone
99. Been stung by a bee

Friday, December 19, 2008

Curriculum and Resources Update -- the remainder of 2008-09

US History 1850 through early 1900s -- We will use TOG year 3, units 3 and 4 to focus primarily on US history. As we move into year 4, we'll take a broader view of the world again.

Geography -- mapping according to TOG; puzzle maps; Scrambled States; learn capitals of all the states; Seterra free computer game

Language Arts:

  • Spelling -- All About Spelling 3 and 4
  • Writing -- I will use Writing Aids from TOG. I have to figure out where to start.
  • Grammar -- Growing with Grammar 4. Also use Editor in Chief A1 scheduled weekly for 33 weeks
  • Reading -- Reading Detective (we haven't used this yet) -- I might save this until the summer.
Math -- Singapore Math 3b and 4A. We progress at Ben's pace. We'll also use CWP (still have CWP 2 to work through), IP and perhaps EP books. I have some Keys to Fractions to use when we get to that point.

Foreign Language: Continue with Lively Latin

Bible -- Daily Bible reading/ devotional

Science: Physics -- Real Science for Kids: Level 1- Physics

Fine Arts:

  • Visual Arts: We have some "how to draw.." books that I'll encourage the boys to use. I'd like to get them into an art class after ski lessons are over.
  • Performance Arts: continue piano lessons; Stories of the Great Composers I; go to a concert & play

Critical Thinking Skills -- Finish book A2 of Mind Benders, then work through. Building Thinking Skills 2

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

We Did It!

Sonlight Core 3 is done! We finished the history reading on Tuesday and our last read=aloud tonight. The readers have been done since before Thanksgiving! We actually celebrated on Tuesday by going ice skating after volunteering at our churches MOPPETS program. I am off to make a certificate for Ben now for all his good work!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Week ?? Report

I don't know where I am in my weekly report. My Teacher's Binder is in the other room, and I am too cold to move from under my blanket to get it, so I'll figure it out later. We had a good week and are making progress in many areas. Yet, we are stalled in some, and I need to figure out why.

Ben has finished all of the readers for Sonlight Core 3. We have one lesson left to do in The Story of the USA and we'll be done. That will be finished on Monday. Our project for the next month or so is to learn about our state. I've download Hand of a Child's Template Book and am referencing a free, generic state study lapbook template here to create a lapbook about our state. I've also collected some titles of historical fiction books that take place in our state to provide some read alouds/ readers during this mini-unit. I am planning on working on this through January or mid-February as my Ben and Luke will be taking ski lessons for 6 weeks in the new year. This means we officially have only 3 1/2 days of typical school.

We will finish our read aloud, Swift River, this week as well. After that, I'm not sure what I'll read to the boys. We might take a break from a story and read devotional type books for a break. Maybe poetry. I'm not sure. I'm trying to remember to have fun during the advent season, yet not set my expectations so low that our schooling grinds to a halt.

Math is going fabulous, and we're working through the first workbook of Key to Fractions to supplement Singapore Math.

We do have a couple problem areas that I haven't addressed or dealt with at all this semester: art expression, art appreciation, music appreciation and science. We are about 4 chapters behind in science and one of the books I purchased, I've not even really used. While I appreciate several things about Real Science 4 Kids-Physics I (written to the child; explains concepts very well; experiments are well thought out; review is appropriate), it is not as exciting as the science has been that we've been using. Science is getting pushed to the end of the day, where it is often ignored. I feel like I'm cheating my sons of something they love. At least they are playing with the Lego mechanical kit I purchased, but I haven't made the time to watch the instructional CD that came with it, so I am not really using it as a teaching tool.

I need to figure out what to do at this point with science --- bag RS4K, persevere through it (the most fiscally responsible thing to do ...... ), or --- what, I don't know. What I'd really like to do for art is sign the boys up for an art class somewhere. Maybe after ski lessons are over, before baseball starts..... As far as music appreciation, I have a resource to use, I just need to hold myself accountable to use it.

Luke is doing well with his reading and math. We'll be doing some catch-up next week and will try to complete two math lessons a day. I'm not sure how we got behind, but there is about a week's worth of math that didn't get done earlier in the year. He is counting by 5s now and is getting better at reading the teens numbers better (13 vs. 31). He's even using a Math U See trick and calling the teens "onety-three," etc. When he does this, I provide encouraging feedback and rephrase it with the correct name. He is also getting better at reading Bob type books. He is easily reading Book 5 in set 1 with less need to sound out every word. We've really backed off on our science reading, and honestly I don't have the heart right now to continue with the Pond People. I don't know what to do about that either. I'm considering selling off the lot and just reading "Let's Read and Find Out" science books, as well as other miscellaneous science books I have here. That would make him very happy.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Wordless Wednesday -- I got nothin'

We had a lovely Thanksgiving celebration with my parents, my brother, his three kids, my SIL and her husband and twin Kers, and my MIL. Lots of food, friends for dessert (they came to visit, we didn't eat them), and laughter. A good time. And, I have not one. single. picture. to document the great weekend. No pictures of Ben and Jack IV playing broom hockey in the backyard. No picture of my lovely centerpiece of gourds, faux fall leaves, Indian corn and a pretty 6-candle tea light set. You can't even see my beeea-utiful table cloth that I got at Kohls for only $12!!!! Or my perfectly browned turkey that was brined with Stonewall Kitche's Farmhouse Brine and was too. die. for.

Even my mom, the take-a-picture-of-everything-and-everyone documentarian forgot her digital camera and had disposable cameras for the entire weekend, so I'm a little doubtful that the quality of those will be post-worthy.

Meanwhile, on the homeschooling front -- about which I haven't written in a couple weeks -- Ben won his grade level in our local homeschool Young Inventor's Program judging! He will go to the state competition in April. I was soooo excited for him! He has also accomplished our goal of knowing his math facts using the FlashMaster drilling machine. Our goal was to complete each of the four operations with 90% accuracy or better at 4 seconds per fact. Just before Thanksgiving he met this goal with division. Now, he is in a 'maintenance' phase and completes one fact per day, Monday through Thursday. He has to get 86% or better accuracy, which so far has not been hard for him. I'm so proud of the hard work he's done with his facts. He really had to push through some rough spots.

I've actually sold our Core 3 Instructor's Guide as we are days away from finishing the history readings and read alouds. Ben has read all the readers except Sarah, Plain and Tall (I'm going to rent the DVD instead). We are about half way finished with Swift River. We should be finished with all this by next week. For our history studies we'll be working on our State History lapbook project, which will last through most of January. In January, we'll only school 3.5 days per week because homeschool ski lessons take up a whole day and we have our co-op gym class on Friday afternooons. So, this is a perfect time to lighten up on history studies and work through the lapbook.

In February, hopefully we'll be using Tapestry of Grace's Year 3, unit 3 to study the Civil War period of time. I am planning on purchasing the digital edition, which will fit into our homeschool space much better than 4 binders per year plan.

Luke is doing great with Explode the Code online. He finished Book 1, and we're taking a break before we start Book 2. We're still working through All About Spelling, and I want to introduce blends to him before I sit him down in front of the computer to do the ETC lessons online. I am planning on looking at to fill in for now.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

A Christmas Strategy

Something to read
Something to wear
Something to do
Something to share

In the past, we've tried to do 3 gifts, like Jesus received from the Wise Men. That hasn't always been so successful. This year, I'm going to try to use this as a guide. I already have ideas for each of the boys. It will help me to be intentional with our gift giving this year.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

My mantra tonight: I love them, I love them, I love them

Wednesday 12:45 am. In preparation for hosting Thanksgiving here, I have begun cooking, dicing and pureeing. Dave, on the other hand, is getting ready for his running club's 5K race on Thanksgiving; he is the race director for this charity event. He's also finishing tiling our downstairs bathroom and prepping for installation of a new toilet.

Amongst all these projects, I discover tonight that Liquid Plumbr does not work on the slow clog in my kitchen sink. at all. Hmm. Could it have been some of the dirty water dumped into it during the mortaring and grouting? Na, he says, and decides there must be something more. He removes the PVC drain screw at the bottom of the p-trap. Rubber bands start falling out. He feels something else in there and then starts getting queezy. He has hit his limit and starts getting grossed out. He and I are a good pair -- he can sop up water remaining in the toilet before we move it outside and I can stick my finger in the p-trap to clean my drain. I need my drain. I'll do whatever it takes.

(mantra: I love them I love them I love them)

I begin to pull out: two popsicle sticks, a black plastic handled paintbrush, several rubber bands, a couple twisty ties, a piece of green Easter basket grass, and (I love them I love them I love them) two straws. And several small rocks of hardened mortar (I love them I love them I love them).

Boys. All of them.

I love them I love them I love them....

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Week 12 Report

I have a cold right now, and don't have the energy to review our entire week, so I'll just write about a couple of things:

  • Math -- This is going fine. Ben is making great strides on this math facts. He is able to use the FlashMaster (F.M.) to drill addition, subtraction and multiplication (0-12) with 90% or better accuracy with 4 sec. per question in addition/subtraction and 7 sec. per question with multiplication; he's working on the 4 sec. threshold this week. He's at level 8 (of 9) with division, and I suspect he'll have division wrapped up by Christmas.
  • Sonlight Core 3 - We're almost done! We have history readings that will take us 2 1/2 weeks to complete, and just one more Read Aloud: Swift River. Ben is reading a book about Robert Fulton
  • Tapestry of Grace -- This is where we will go in January. We're not going to use the entire Unit 3, just the weeks leading up to and including the Civil War. We'll also be finishin up a lapbook unit study for our state. State history is typically covered in 4th grade, so we'll do a unit on it in Dec./January.
  • Science- We finished our unit on force, energy and work. I like that they introduced the concept of a physics formula (work = force x distance) and through experimentation, we acutally got to see this in action. We used fruits to see how thier force (weight) would do the work of stretching out a slinky (distance). It worked out well.
  • YIP - In my state, there is a program called the Young Inventors Program, which encourages creative thinking and problem solving skills in the solution to everyday problems. Ben has been participating in this program since October with a bunch of other homeschoolers, and this week, he and his dad worked on fabricating his model. He is very excited for next week's final judging (similar to a science fair) and celebration.
  • Luke -- Luke has nearly completed the Explode the Code Online book 1! He is doing fantastic with it. He is able to write and spell CVC words with short vowels. He is doing well reading Bob books, too. We're beginning to work on place value as well -- which I think will help him alot to understand the numbers 11-20 and to understand the difference between numbers like 12 and 21. He is getting confused with these.
This coming week, our homeschool group is having Math Day. Divided into age categories, the kids will use math manipulatives to explore mathematical concepts and critical thinking skiills. It should be fun!

Sorry there are no pictures...I just don't have the energy to plug the camera in and download it.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Wordless Wednesday

I miss summer already.....

This is Levi and I at a lake this summer. He discovered fishin' with a plastic fishie at the end of his line. Occupied him for HOURS.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Developing Our Math Strategy

The groundwork: really and truly, I like math. I did well in high school math classes (offered in my school was algebra, geometry, algebra 3/trigonometry, analytical geometry/algebra 4 for those on the "regular" track). It clicked for me there.

When I chose a math program for Ben -- who was at the wee age of 3.5 -- I wanted one that would give him good math reasoning skills. I wanted him to have an uncanny ability to do math in his head (something I'd hoped was passed on to him from his dad). We used Singapore Math Earlybird's 4 book series. I did not like the Earlybird books that I used with Ben (they seemed haphazard in their topics and there was little teacher help). Not sure of my choice (something that I still deal with today -- did I make the right curriculum choice for my children?), we dabbled in Scott Foreman's Exploring Mathematics (not at all to be confused with the arguably horrible Everyday Mathematics) and Math U See during the later part of Kindergarten into 1st grade.

I admittedly made many mistakes in our early homeschooling journey, and pushing MUS on Ben when he was too young was one of the biggest mistakes I made; I started him with the old primary book and bypassed the primer-level introductory course for him. This set Ben up for failure in that he was not at the maturity level to handle what I was asking of him. So, we dropped MUS, Exploring Mathematics and -- having seen that the grass was no greener on the other side -- we returned to Singapore Math.

Recently, I have begun to notice that Ben needs a lot of review in math. This was more pronounced in the fall when I discovered that Ben had forgotten practically every math fact he knew. Instead of making steady progress with our math lessons this summer, we didn't even crack open a book for the entire month of July through August 25. In that time, he forgot all but the most basic fact. Since August we've been very diligent to work on the Flashmaster and the MUS drill website and Ben has achieved sucess in addition, multiplication and division up through all the levels and we're almost there in division (yea, Ben!)

So, I though about switching Ben over to Horizons for the remainder of his elementary math program. Why Horizons? I am using the K program with Luke this year and rally like how some practically life math is folded into learning. He's learning to tell time by the hour as he is learning to print his numbers; he is learning about the value of coins as he is learning to count by 10s. There is a spiral of skills that is appealing. Ben took the grade 4 placement test. Outside of missing all the fraction problems (we haven't studied anything past the concepts of 1/2 and 1/4 and maybe 1/3), he would've been appropriate for that grade level placement. I also borrowed Horizons 3 IG so I could see how math concepts are developed and the guidance given instructors in teaching children.

I am SO glad I did borrow this, because after 5 years using Singapore, I now so appreciate of the education I've received in teaching math to my son. I have regained a new respect for SM's concrete -> pictorial -> abstract teaching continuum (something that I didn't always use when teaching ds#1 but will be more diligent with when I instruct ds #2 and #3). I appreciate that hand-holding that is available in the HIG to teach concepts that Ben might be having trouble with. I like the variety of angles that are given for tackling math problems (especially for mental math techniques). And, while I don't have to have the HIGs to teach SM, I do like it for the amount of additional helps that it gives to me. I feel armed when I have the HIG on my desk.

To Ben's delight, I've thrown away his placement test for Horizons. We are sticking with Singapore math.

I just returned from CBD with the extra practice book for 3B and the textbook for 4A (something I didn't have yet) and the HIG for 5A and 5B. I will be pulling out the Challenging Word Problems 2 book and assigning assorted problems periodically for the rest of the year. I'll be looking through the extra practice book for supplementary lessons to fill in areas of weakness that Ben still has.

I am hoping that this is the last "Math Freak Out" that I have with Singapore (I've been known by a local homeschooling friend to have at least 1 or 2 every year since 2nd grade). I know that it is and excellent tool to teach mathematicall reasoning and problem solving to my sons. It is up to me to use these tools to their fullest.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Week 11 Report

We have had a busy, but fun week. Monday we visited Lowell National Park (links to the educational programs offered at Lowell NP) which was a fantastic introduction to the mid 1800s and the industrial revolution, which we are only glossing over in our history studies right now.

Monday was also my homeschool support group's monthly meeting, and we talked about writing. I'm using -- not consistently, to my chagrin -- Writing With Ease and the Level 2 workbook. Actually, what I'm finding it most helpful in is getting Ben to succinctly summarize information, certainly a helpful life skill and thinking skill. I'm also trying to get him to do more writing in school, and this week, he was challenged to write a summary of our field trip, which I'll re-type below:

We went to the Lowell mills where girls would go to weave and make cotton. This happened during the Industrial Revolution. This is a period of time when new machines came to America. Before the industrial revloution Lowell was a farming town, but when the machines came Lowell became a city
He did this all by himself! I did ask him to tell me what happened when to Lowell when the machines came, but other then that, it is all his. I thought he did an excellent job!

I also had him summaraze Naya Nuki a wonderful adventure story of --- well, I'll retype what Ben wrote and he can tell you himself:

Naya Nuki means the girl who ran. Naya Nuki was a Shoshoni Indian. Once she and her best friend Sacajawea were captures by a enemy tribe. If they tried to escape they would be killed. Finally Naya Nuki had the chance to escape. She once encountered a grizzly bear. She had to climb up a tree for a couple hours. Luckily grizzly bears can't climb trees. Finally she found her tribe. I liked this book because it was exciting. I recommend this for other kids.
He also wrote this all on his own. I asked him for the "review" of the book, and he added that. He actually created a second draft on his own that resulted in this final piece. Now, if I'm going to be real here, I will tell you that Ben knocked my socks off when he rewrote his piece on his own and when he churned out this great piece of work (if I do say so myself). I'm chalking it all up to God and counting my blessings.

The rest of school went well, but it sure was hard to get into the groove after such an exhausting day on Monday with our field trip. We're making very slow progress in science, and will do the rest of our reading and our experiment tomorrow. Spelling is going very well, and we're 4 chapters away from finishing AAS-3. We have had some hurdles to straddle with math, and I'll leave that up to another post. However, we worked on learning about English capacity measurements and -- after a year of waiting to get to this topic -- finally made Gallon Guy:

These Gallon Guys are on three walls in our dining room. It was a little weird having them as an audience during dinner tonight, but everyone enjoyed working on them.

We're slow and steady in Latin, though we are about 4 weeks behind what I'd planned. Ben is understanding conjugations now and it is very encouraging to see this knowledge become a part of what he knows.

It is amazing to think that we are almost done with Core 3! Switching from the 5 day schedule done in 4 days to the 4 days schedule was a huge help for us! We will not be reading one book -- the Eli Whitney one -- but I will assign it to Ben (or we'll read it aloud together) over Christmas break.

I'll write about math later.

Advances in Boyhood 101

I'll write our weekly report later today, but I just had to report on the big advances Ben has made in boyhood this year....he's learned to make himself burp, he can whistle, and just this morning while we were doing our read-aloud, he learned how to make --- umm--- flatulence noises with his armpit.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Wordless Wednesday

This is a weird picture, I know, but do you see that blob in the lower left corner. Does it vaugely resemble a duck? Can you see the feathers on the back of it, the head and the teeny, tiney beak? My 3 year old drew it! All on his own. With no prompting or help. "Levi," I said, "What is that?" "Dut, Mommy!" Then he explained to Ben and I all the parts of the duck. Then he drew water for the duck to swim in. Huh.

Luke getting ready to carve our pumpkin.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Weekly Report: #9 -- End of 1st Quarter

Kindergarten: What a fantastic week for Luke. Not only did my middle baby turn SIX this week, I am loving using All About Spelling for our phonics program. It is meshing with Explode the Code online perfectly. Luke knows the basic 26 phonograms; he knows what vowels and consonants are; he is able to segment up to a three- phoneme (sound) word and isolate initial and final sounds. He is able to listen to a word "pen" and change it to "pan" when the word is dictated to him. Oh, and he can write the letters (still working on correct formation) when given the phonogram's sounds. All that in two weeks, and his scores on Explode the Code have gone up dramatically. I even noticed that he is reading the little sentences with greater ease this week. If you are curious about All About Spelling, click the label on the right sidebar (I do get commissions on any orders placed through that link).

Ben: A little rough on the attitude/ effort this week. But, Daddy and Ben went out for dinner on Thursday, and Daddy's straight talk with him about school really helped us on Friday.

  • Math: we're working on adding/subtracting pounds and ounces. Also, he is continuing with Flashmaster, a great hand-held computer to practice math facts. After a couple week lull in the multiplication and division practice, Ben had a breakthrough this week. After asking around on The Well Trained Mind boards, I'm going to give Ben a times table to fill out for practice on Monday. Then, if he needs it this week, he can use it to help himself. Each week I'll have him do a times table. I'm also going to give him a 100 problem simple addition drill. Since Monday is the beginning of our 2nd quarter, I thought I'd do it periodically to show progress in his skills. He is using the Flashmaster to review addition/subtraction facts twice weekly.
  • Language Arts: working on nouns this week in GWG. Spelling is going well with AAS level 3; we're on step 21 of 28 steps. We were lax on WWE this week. I'm having doubts on whether to continue to use this in January when we switch to Tapestry of Grace.
  • Science: We finally finished Chapter 1 of RS4K Physics. We talked about what physics is and how to use observation to discover Newton's First Law of Motion.
  • History: We're in the middle of SL week 31, reading a missionary story about Adoniram and Ann Judson who went to Burma (Myanmar). We love missionary stories. There is nothing better than having my son's chant "read more, read more" especially about a missionary. We skipped Calico Bush, but Ben is reading Naya Nuki (week 30). We're basically 1-2 weeks ahead of where I planned for us to be. I think we'll start "The Journeyman" next week, too.
  • Bible: Ben is reading 2 chapters a day from his Bible and is now in Joshua! He's also continuing on in his study about prayer.
  • Latin: Latin was light this week but we are finishing up Chapter 4.
  • Piano: Ben had a challenging song this week, which soured his attitude for at least a day. However, he is now playing it beautifully! He still puzzles me: for the last two days he's been playing a song he "wrote" willingly and joyfully upon request. This from a kid who "hates" piano.
  • We are watching a Leonard Bernstein DVD from Netflix about music appreciation. I turned it on briefly on Friday before gym class and the kids LOVED it. We'll finish this up on Monday.
I've started pulling out my TOG-3 units to plan what we're going to study in January. January starts our 3rd quarter and there are 9 weeks to plan out. However, the boys will also have ski lessons for a whole day for 5 weeks. They will be toast the morning after, so for part of the 3rd quarter, school will really be only 3 days/week. We are going to study about the civil war only during that 3rd quarter. There are about 6 weeks of material in TOG. I think we'll do a lapbook. Because the way TOG is written, I'll look for some library books at his level on these topics as well. I'm very excited about!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Finding Our Rhythm

For years I have made up hour-by-hour schedules for the flow of our days. They never really worked out, because it was all based on what I wanted out of a day. This year, I toyed with pretty Excel MOTH (Managers of Their Home) schedules, but never got beyond the "playing with it" stage.

We're now 2 1/2 months into our school and I can see a flow to our day that has evolved throughout this process. Ben has a segment of school that he is largely responsible for on his own. Luke has a small number of things that constitute his education that require me to be him the entire time while Levi hangs on every word I say to Luke. We've found a nice rhythm to our day -- usually.

It is nice to be at the place, though I need to remind myself not to get uptight when we start a little late or something else comes up. It is OK. I am teaching my kids to be flexible and trust in God that His plan is better than mine.

Wordless Wednesday catch-up

It has been a long time since I posted WW here are a couple, with words. I can't help myself....

Here's Levi from our third apple picking trip. There is nothin' like fresh picked apples. Well, except apple pie made from fresh picked apples.

Daddy came home early last week so I could go see Beth Moore speak. I caught he and Levi working on a puzzle. Levi is in a puzzle phase right now....

Ben is working on his Webelo's Handyman activity badge. He had to change a light bulb....

This is actually from yesterday. Levi helped me make cookies, Luke was working on a craft from Adventureland (Sunday School), and Ben was practicing writing with a quill and ink that he made....

Monday, October 20, 2008

A Final Farewell to 100EZ Lessons

Back when I first started homeschooling, I heard about Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons. Reading being one of my top priorities, I decided to give it a try because (1) I liked the title (2) I liked that it was an all-in-one resource (3) I was scared that I'd scar my children and relegate them to illiteracy if I didn't use something so obviously helpful.

Well, Ben showed the desire to read early (3.5) and not wanting to stifle his learning and chances for full-tuition scholarships to Harvard, I began to gently introduce him to this book and the future of learning. It worked well for a little while, then when Ben began to cry when I brought it out, ("I don't like that book, Mommy!") it sat on a shelf for a bit while we did other stuff. I'd bring it out periodically, we'd make progress, then Ben would freak out and I'd put it away.

At some point in his kindergarten year, Ben and I came to an understanding that this was school and it would not bite him, scare him nor scar him. He settled into "doing" 100EZ well. But at that point, I started to dislike the program. It began to remind me of the Dick and Jane sight word reading programs that were used when I was in school. I noticed that the unique orthography (print type) was not teaching the child why we had a silent "e" at the end of some English words and what it's affect was on the vowel before it (My "ah-ha" moment with that phonics rule was gratis Between the Lions at some point in my son's 3rd year of life). I was also noticing that Ben was doing well with guessing words, but not so well when confronting new words. He seemed to have few strategies for sounding out words.

We switched to The Ordinary Parents Guide to Teaching Reading -- it was a great resource. But, I'm just not excited about using it again. My sit-on-the-couch-and-cuddle-while-doing-school days are over. Too many boys, too many things going on, too little time.

So, here comes Luke, ready and eager to read. We've completed 40 lessons in 100EZ and he is doing well. But, I got that niggling feeling in the back of my mind about the need for strategies to decode words. I spent this weekend comparing Ramalda Spaulding's Writing Road to Spelling (3rd edition) and the accompanying homeschool guide and My All About Spelling-Level 1 (AAS) book that I began using with Ben in 3rd grade to improve his spelling abilities. Given I'm already ahead on the AAS learning curve and like it, I'm going to follow AAS to teach Luke to read. There is a huge FAQs section at the AAS website if you'd like a comparison between it and Spaulding.

So far (2 days), Luke has learned nearly all the beginning phonograms (step 1), he is getting better at alphabetizing the ABCs and has learned the difference between a vowel and consonant (step 2), and by Wednesday we'll likely be ready to begin segmenting words into phonemes (sounds) and picking out beginning/ middle/ end sounds. I've also been able to spend a few minutes at the end of our lessons helping Luke make 3-letter words out of the tiles (pan to pin to tin to tan, etc.) which is complementing the lessons we're doing on Explode the Code Online. Each level of AAS has a progress chart, and we just printed off Luke's today.... I suspect we'll begin putting stickers on his mastered levels this week! He will love this for visual reinforcement of his progress.

In all, I'm really happy with this change. And totally at peace with it, too, which is really a good, good sign. I'll be adding 100EZ to the For Sale pile in the basement.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Beth Moore was in the house today..

....Beth Moore came to New England this week, and it was an awesome blessing to be able to go see her and hear what God had to say. It has been four or so years since I did one of her studies.

I really felt God speaking to me about His role in my life, my day, our homeschool. In the interest of laying in all out and being real, I think some streamlining in is order.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

God Spotting -- Praying

Ben is completing a Bible study about being a prayer warrior. He had to take a spiritual inventory of his prayer life. In it I discovered that Ben LOVES to pray! I never would've known that, but I am encouraged by it. He is an enigma, my Ben. You might never guess that he likes to pray by his actions. Who knew!

Week 8 Report

Not a horrible lot that is exciting to post. Last week, my parents were here for a couple days. We had a combined birthday party for Luke and Levi on the 4th, so the were able to get a couple quick flights out here for that. The blessed us with a kid-free evening - took the kids to a hotel for swimming and sleepover. Dave and I hopped in the car and went to see Fireproof. It was fantastic. Not all the acting was good (Caleb's mom was not convincing), but the message was great.

We have been faithfully trekking the Lewis and Clark expedition in our history studies. Ben completed a notebooking page. I'm going to join Netflix so we can borrow a DVD about the Lewis and Clark trail. Personally, it was great fun for me to read about this, as I had spent 3 months in Lewiston, Idaho and was mostly oblivious to anything but skiing while out there. I'm thankful to have revisited the area through our reading and remember the time there fondly.

We have been progressing in math -- still Singapore -- and I have slowed down in my thinking about switching math programs. I have been mulling the idea of moving Ben to Horizons. There is a difference in the scope and sequence between the two programs, and for that reason I'm hesitant to make the switch. I know our math fact bobble-in-the-road is temporary (indeed, Ben is doing very well with re-learning his multiplication facts and is making steady progress with division as well).

We are finishing up Lesson 4 in Lively Latin. This week (and some from week 7) we reviewed the differences between declensions (for nouns) and conjugations (for verbs). Ben is doing better understanding that the verb endings take the place of pronouns and indicate who did what in a sentence. This coming week we will be learning new vocabulary and completing our Roman history and art appreciation.

Growing with Grammar is fantastic. Ben has completed the first section, and scored a 93% on the review lesson. For the next three weeks he'll be working on noun/pronouns.

We took last week off from spelling, but will start on Step 19 (of 28) this week. We also did not to science last week, however, I will be starting with the introductory material this week, and will be picking up the Critical Thinking Co. science material this week. I'm looking forward to using the Real Science 4 Kids (RS4K) material with Ben.

Luke: Luke is beginning to do some basic addition. I need to get the math fact audio CD going for him to listen to. He is doing well with handwriting and Explode the Code online. He does tend to have some trouble on a specific type of exercise in EtC, but I think he'll work it through fine. We started reading some of the Bob books last week. He is so proud of himself!

Books About Boys

I've asked at TheWell Trained Mind boards for book recommendations about educating boys. Here's what I've compiled so far:

  1. The Trouble With Boys
  2. Raising Cain
  3. The War Against Boys (gotta love the subtitle: how misguided feminism is harming our young men)
  4. Boys Adrift* (Leonard Sax)
  5. The Last Child in the Woods* (about "nature-science deprived kids)
  6. Michael Gurian's books -- "The Wonder of Boys," "The Minds of Boys," "What Stories Does My Son Need? : A Guide to Books and Movies That Build Character in Boys*".
  7. Leonard Sax's Why gender matters : what parents and teachers need to know about the emerging science of sex differences

The italic titles are ones my local public library has (yea). *-ed books I'll interlibrary loan.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

God Spotting - Answered Prayers

We've been praying for my cousin, Kyle, who had a short stint in Iraq since about April or so. We found out this weekend that he is back in the states. Safe and sound. Yea! An answer to our prayers.

He says he hates piano lessons

but he is teaching himself the next song in his book. Today it is Kum-Ba-Ya. We accidently forgot our piano lesson on Monday, so Ben is stuck continuing to practice his song from last week. When he is "bored" like this, he teaches himself the next song. That's what you get when your mean mommy says you have to practice 15 minutes every day.

I tend to think he doesn't hate it as much as he says....

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Wordless Wednesday

Daisy is such a good, gentle dog. She could care less if Levi wants to crawl all over her.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Weeks 3, 4 & 5 Report, and a little from this week, too!

(I started this post last Friday, at the end of week 5. But, life is just a ton busier now, and it was hard to get back to documenting our week. Honestly, I am trying to be more intentional about not being on the computer so much, and being available to the kids, playing with them more, pushing them on the swings more, feeding them more -- I think they are all having growth spurts right now -- so I have tried to cut back on my computer time and thus my blogging time.)

Oh, my. I am not doing good on this weekly report thing, am I? Honestly, homeschooling two is a lot more work. Even though Luke's schedule is really quite light (compared with the overkill I made Ben endure in Kindergarten), it still takes a lot of coordination and time to get all that we are doing done. Oh, and don't forget the "baby" -- my almost three-year-old is bound and determined to be like the big boys. Here's highlights from the past 3+ weeks....

  • Levi discovered Duplo blocks this past week -- and his older brothers have re-discovered them as well. All three have spend free time constructing multi-storied hotels/police headquarters/apartment buildings with covered parking. He's also been using our Kumon Let's Sticker and Paste. I need to get a few more of these types books for him for his "school". Oh, I did become brilliant for a brief moment this past week -- Luke finished two of the three pre-Explode the Code books. I decided he wasn't going to do the third, because it was far too easy for him from a phonics standpoint. I gave the used books to Levi to color. Now, I might have regrets about this later, since I'll have very messy books for Luke's permanent record. However, it is keeping the peace and kindergarten is not mandatory where we live, so keeping a pristine portfolio for Luke is more for my own benefit than his.

  • Luke is getting this whole reading thing! We are using Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons (100EZ); He's on lesson 40. He is blending sounds together so much better now -- and I am not needing to restrain myself from pulling my hair out. He is even reading short words "the fast way" without having to sound them out phonogram by phonogram. I am trying to decide what to do when we hit the lessons in the 60s. When Ben arrived at that point in 100EZ, I switched to another phonics program entirely -- The Ordinary Parents Guide to Teaching Reading (OPG). I am considering this switch for Luke as well, and trying to decide how to use All About Spelling for Luke as well. I would like for his understanding and knowledge of the phonograms to begin at the beginning of his education. Ben didn't learn this concept until 3rd grade, when we started AAS. I am also loving Horizon's math. I love how it teaches kids to read the clock and count pennies right from the beginning, not as separate units. I love how organized it is. And, I love having an instructor's guide (even though I haven't needed it) -- it gives me confidence in my teaching.
  • Luke's science deserves it's own bullet point. We are working our way through the Pond People book. Great stories. In the past two weeks (weeks 4 & 5), we decided to draw a picture of the pond habitat and find photos online of all the animals we've read about. I even found directions for drawing frogs. Luke glued the pictures to the background and we were able to review the animals we'd read about so far. It was a great project and he is very proud of his hard work: We'll continue with this project until we finish the book. I do need to be more mindful to not forget this fun part of Luke's education.
  • Ben is still working hard at getting his multiplication and division facts back into his brain. It is coming! We have moved ahead, however, with math. Right now we're talking about metrics and standard measurements. He has a good sense of estimating in metrics and standard measurements, which I'm thankful for. I am loving Growing with Grammar 4. By the end of GWG4, we will be a the point in diagramming that we were in with FLL3, though that was "directed" diagramming (I provided questions, prompts and cues to help him diagram all the parts of speech). I am thankful for the thorough review and the way it is weaning Ben from the support I provided last year. What do I miss from FLL? The poetry memorization that was automatic in the program. I must admit I haven't been diligent in this area so far this year. Latin is swimming along -- We started Lesson 4 this week (week 6). We're back in grove with All About Spelling 3 (finished step 17 today and will move on to 18 of 28 tomorrow). Ben has forgotten how to write a few capital letters in cursive, so I've backed off of my requirement that he do all 4th grade work in cursive. We'll do occasional copywork practice and make it a 'rule' in 5th. Oh! We finally started Writing With Ease. I'm pleased that we're concentrating on good, concise summaries of narrative stories (Ben has always been good at narration, but not necessarily at conciseness) and dictation.

Several other big homeschool develops have occurred in the past three weeks:

  1. We dumped Physics II from Noeo. We are just not ready for it. Since we haven't studied physics yet, I felt we needed a foundation to start with, and Noeo just seemed too advanced for our needs right now. I finally settled on Real Science 4 Kids Physics 1. I loved that it starts with "What is Physics?" and then moves into talking about the laws of physics. The downside is that it is only 10 lessons long. However, there is an experiment for each lesson, and I've purchased a Critical Thinking Skills book that has additional physics-type experiments that we'll do as well. My plan is that we'll make it last approximately 20 weeks, completing the RS4K lessons one week, then using the Critical Thinking book the next. When we finish with this, we'll have a computers unit, and I will teach Ben about using computer applications and we'll investigate computer programming as well (I did suggest to him that he could start a blog and write stories on it; this would help him to learn some basic html and css).
  2. Next, I changed our SL plan from the 5 day a week schedule to the 4 day a week schedule. I felt like I was killing the joy of homeschooling by doing the 5 day schedule in only 4 days a week. It only cuts out a few books at this point, but we'll still read about Eli Whitney another time. By doing his, I am convinced we'll finish by Christmas and be able to move on to Tapestry of Grace. I'll order the Redesigned units 3 and 4 for Year 2. Then (change #3)...
  3. We will continue with TOG for Year Plan 4, instead of my original plan to return to Ancients (year 1). Ben asked to study about World War 1 and 2. I appreciate his helpful comments about school, and want to honor this request for him.

Other than this, Webelos (WEBS) has been keeping us busy. Ben never went on his den camping trip because it was cancelled twice in September due to heavy rain. I'll be taking him on an overnight in October to a nature center because Dave has a road race he must do some marketing at. It will be good to have just some "us" time without school.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Wordless Wednesday

This is a picture from the beginning of the summer, when we started our state's summer park program. It's been a while since I posted a family picture.

God Spotting -- Math

Because all good things come from God -- including, I am convinced, remembering a summer's worth of forgotten math facts -- I'm shouting up a hallelujah to the Lord. Ben's math facts are resurfacing and this period of patience and endurance (on both our parts) is paying off. Thank you, Lord!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

A Day at the Fair

Confession time: I've lived in this town/area for 7 years and this is the first year we went to our local fair. Really, we are not that lame; it just comes at a time in the school year that has been inconvenient. Well, despite inconvenience, I decided this year to take the kiddos to the fair. Oh, and we didn't spend a day there, just a couple hours. While it is a much talked about event here in my little neck of the woods, it is quite small in the grand scheme of County Fairs. Besides, I'm not a fan of spending an "easy" $40 for hot dogs, drinks, fries and dessert at these places.

Anyway, Here's what we saw:

A 500-650 pound pig. Oh. my. goodness. Of course, this isn't the pig. I forgot my camera, so I'm using pics I pulled off the web.

Alpacas, Llamas and a real live Zebus (anyone breaking out in a Larry Boy "Cebu" silly song?). Couldn't find a good Zebu picture on the web. Shoulda had my camera.

Fried dough. My friend Heidi met us to swap God's World News issues for a read aloud book I needed, and they shared their absolutely giganormous slab of fried dough. Lukie's eyes got big when he saw it, and enjoyed about 10 bites before he passed the solid cholesterol-laden dough to me.

It was dollar day for the kiddie rides, so I bought them all a ticket for one ride. Sadly, only SIX rides were eligible for the reduced ticket and they were all for 3-4 year olds. When they said kiddie rides, they meant kiddie rides. Ben and Luke went down the "super" slide and Levi wasted his ticket on the car ride, which he asked to be removed from because the bumps on the ride down scared him. Oh well.

We also found the 4-H barn, and enjoyed looking at the projects the kids completed. Then, we found the Cub Scout/ Boy Scout project area and Ben decided to submit something he will make this year for the fair next year. As we searched out these exhibit halls, we found walls of great photos from the photo contest. The boys really enjoyed looking at those, too.

And, who couldn't help but notice all the cool carnival games! The boys did lots of rubber neckin' as we passed these activities. I think I'll have to loosen my grip on their spending habits (now that they have allowances) and next year let them decide if they'd like to use their hard earned allowance spending money on the shoot 'em up games. If they want to use up their money, fine. It will be a lesson learned, I'm sure, in making wise financial decisions. It is best to start young.