Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Wordless Wednesday

"Me School, Mommy."
The other thing Levi likes to do with maps is roll himself up in one.

He absolutely loves doing his "bits and pieces" and making me necklaces.

God Spotting - Generosity

Note to any readers besides me: I'm not tryin to brag on my kids or puff them up in anyway. I just have a terrible memory. One of these days I want to make a spiritual heritage scrapbook for myself and they boys that will show them how God's been working in their lives and how he's been planting the fruits of the spirit into their beings. So, that is the purpose of this post -- a post it note for a future project.

We went to P.M.'s birthday party yesterday. PM has been an adored friend of Ben's since Ben was about 4 years old. I "blame" PM for Ben's love of Bionicles, something which is beyond my comprehension. Yesterday we stopped at Wal Mart to pick up a new Bionicle for PM; I'd gotten an idea from his older brother what he might like and Ben had another thing he wanted to get PM; it was, however, over the budget I'd set with Daddy for a gift. "If you've got money in your bank, you can use it."

Ben grabbed a pile of change from his bank (the spending side of it, not the saving or church side), and found exactly what he wanted. It was about $1 more than he thought it would be, but he didn't flinch when we counted out the change for the cashier. On our way out, he asked if he could get one of those "balls" for Peter, too. After a few more questions, I understood he wanted to buy him a jaw breaker from one of those candy dispensers. "Sure." He grabs another quarter from his much lighter baggie and gets him a red one. It is huge.

Ben, who doesn't get an allowance yet, just collects the spare change from Daddy when he gets home from work, is smiling and so happy. Ben was so incredibly generous and so full of joy to be able to buy this for his friend....it just made me so happy to see him willingly giving his money for his friend and not grumbling about having to use his own money for this.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Week 24 Report - Blahs

I think I've hit the winter blahs. I'm just too blah right now to even write about our week. Sad, really, as this is my wonderful little diary-for-all-the-world-to-see. We had a good week. Luke is learning to blend sounds to begin to read BOB books. He is writing his number "8s" much better ("just write and 's' with a line back up to the top.") and is asking me to read Winnie the Pooh to him (the novel).

Ben is doing great. We did a great science experiment this week to learn about oxygen. History was a little slow this week, but that is OK. Math is just rockin' right now; he worked a whole week ahead one afternoon, so now next week we'll begin working on learning x6 facts. I am loving Lively Latin -- the vocabulary is 12 items, more than in Prima Latina, but he is really learning them, and with some fun Quia games to help him, it has been nearly painless this week.

Levi asked to do school this week. So, we counted bugs (math counters, not real ones), sorted Lauri shapes, read stories and he "wrote" his name, which consisted of these adorable little circle-y doodads that I should've photographed for posterity.

I even took pictures this week for a Wordless Wednesday, but was too blah to load them. Oh, an I still have to fix our draft post of the boys' memorizing the books of the OT.

I'm hoping this week will be better.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Mental Note on Evening Eclipses

I told the boys they could fall asleep in our bed tonight, and we'd wake them at 10 for the eclipse. 10:01 on the nose, Dave and I walk upstairs to get the boys (who had been excited to see an "orange moon).

"Ben, Ben" I said, gently rubbing his shoulder. "Do you want to see the eclipse?"

He stares at me -- no, through me -- as if he is still asleep.

He saids, "No, thanks."

At least he was polite about it all, I guess.

We did carry him downstairs and propped him up at the window to see it. I think he saw it for .345 seconds before closing his eyes again.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Family Challenge Results

Two Sundays ago, I challenged my husband and Ben to an Old Testament book memorization contest -- winner got an ice cream sandwich. On Tuesday, Ben was one book away from beating us; Wednesday, he won fair and square:

Ice cream was happily purchased and eaten. Later that night, Daddy met the challenge & today, I finally got my chance to show my memorization prowess. Luke also got into the spirit of things, and he's his nearly perfect attempt:

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Week 23 Report

Happy Valentine's Day!! Here's a picture of the kid's Valentine bags and cards for the kids in our gym class; we're having a little Valentine party tomorrow after gym. Aren't they cute? Oh, sorry, can't say cute with the boys around. Aren't they, uh, umm, great?
And happy end of the week. Ben didn't have ski lessons this week (it was a planned off week because of the winter breaks here in New England), and I enjoyed the taste of "normal" homeschooling without him being gone for a whole day. I know I've said this ad nauseum, but I am just amazed at what we can accomplish with our new homeschooling plan. I am really enjoying Core 3. We finished Pedro's Journal, which was a great historical fiction account of what it might have been like on Columbus' first voyage. I was one of those who grew up in the protective shell of the midwest and we just thought Columbus must've been great -- not ever really learning much about his relations with the natives beyond catchin' a bad cold or something.

I think I've finally gotten into a groove with our language arts -- FLL 3 is going very smoothly right now, and I can see that Ben has learned a great deal about diagramming sentences. I still have to cue him about adjectives and adverbs, but that isn't really a big deal; FLL has you walk the child through each step of diagramming, so that the teacher is still providing alot of support to the child with parts of speech. We're in the mid 40s for lessons, and are about half way through.

All About Spelling is just great. Marie has added a new feature to analyze a word or two at the beginning of each lesson; this analysis helps to integrate the phonograms and key card "spelling rules" the children have been quizzed. I think this is a fanastic way to review the concepts in a practical situation and I can see that Ben's internalized the rules much more by going through his process.

Math is also progressing swimmingly. He's easily adding and subtracting 4-digit numbers, and the speed at which he's completing his computations really shows great improvements. We're working on speed and accuracy with x5 facts, and he's doing amazing with it. We'll soon be moving into mastering the rest of the multiplication facts, and I'm going to begin to have him do some copywork of these facts to get prepared.
We're also trying out a one-month free subscription to ALEKS, which Ben has really enjoyed. I look at it as a supplement for all those math skills that don't fall into the Singapore Math scope and sequence at this stage. There was one thing that Ben knew how to do, but SM doesn't use the same terminology as seen on ALEKS. For example, it asked him to use expanded notation for 9,347. Ben was clueless as to what expanded notation was, but once he saw an example of it, he recalled just using that a couple weeks or so ago in our math program (9,000 + 300 + 40 + 7).

I just really feel on top of all his skill subjects right now-- praise God. Life is calm in nearly all other areas of my life, and I feel like I've got time to prepare for school, teach the necessary skills, and really maintain a pretty good flow for our days.

Kindergarten: Luke's kindergarten skill subjects are moving along. I've decided to bag Sonlight K LA program. Even for Luke it is too slow. I guess I could speed it up, but instead I'm going to use one of my phonics programs with him. I'm trying Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons right now, and I've also got Ordinary Parent's Guide to Teaching Reading to pull out if need be. I'm not totally sold on either of them, because I think Luke might need something more hands-on, but I'll give what I have a try for a little while.
For "social studies," I've decided to fuse What Your Kindergartener Needs to Know & Galloping the Globe. WYKNTK will be our guide, and I'll use some of GTG's material to flesh out 1 or 2 country studies for each continent that is introduced. Since my mom was on an Asian cruise in the fall, we'll do both China and Japan for Asia. And, I'll pick a couple of animals to study from the lists in GTG to flesh out some science, too I think that and our spring/ summer garden and lots of library books will work out great for him. Plus he'll be learning American History by osmosis with Ben's Core 3 studies.

We're also using his Singapore Math 1B book, which is going well now that I've reaquainted myself with the S and S of it. (Can't say enough about teacher prep!) And, we're just working through on additional workbook program at a time -- right now it is Visual Perceptual Skill Building book 1. When we finish that, I'd like to return to the Developing the Early Learner books to continue to develop Luke's perceptual skills. I certainly have enough to work on with him for the next year and a half!
Off to cuddle with my Valentine.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Wordless Wednesday

This is my baby boy, Levi. I have yet to let Daddy at him with the clippers for the traditional buzz cut that our boys loves (no need to comb the hair!). He's now 2+ years, and I suspect that this is the year that he'll get his first buzz. Sigh.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Planning the Grammar Stage for our Family

I so admire hsing moms like Jessica at Trivium Academy who can sit down and write out a beautiful grid which fleshes out their desired curriculum plath for their child's K-4th grade years. The number of times I've tried to do that -- I can't even begin to count. I've done it on paper, graph paper (I love graph paper), Excel spreadsheets, napkins, you name it.

My most recent Excel spreadsheet is called "Long Range Planning," in which I attemtped to plot out how the Neo-Classical/WTM history rotations would look with my four boys, who are each 3+ years apart chronologically and roughly 4 years apart academically. It's obvious to me that I haven't really looked at this grid in a while, since it doesn't take into account that we're now using Sonlight Core 3 for the 2nd half of 3rd grade and into 4th as well.

[Which reminds me, at our last support group meeting, I came clean and confessed that we were not only homeschooling year round but also had just started Core 3 in January and would finish it around Thanksgiving. I know this makes me a nut within my local hsing community, but I think I'm comfortable now being kinda freakish.]

Inspired as I was by Jessica, I tried to flesh out what I'd used for Ben & plan to use for 4th grade -- his last official "grammar" year [*sniff*] -- and began to write out what we had already used and planned to use for Luke. This made me realize that for my family, this type of long-range planning is just not going to work for us. Mind you, I'd love for it to work. Here's some reasons why I have a hard time completing something like this:
  1. I have no idea what type of learner Luke will turn out to be. Ben and Luke have different personalities, and trying to flesh out curriculums like math & language arts for him seems like a waste of time. My first choice will be using curriculums I already have that I enjoyed using with Ben. But will these be effective for Luke? Will they capture his learning styles? Will he connect with them? And, will I enjoy using them a second time?
  2. I love the idea of the deep and wide study of science in the grammar stage, but I'm not sure I'll continue with this in practice next year. Biology had nice segments to it: animals, plants, human physiology. Physics has some nice segments, too: energy, forces, light, motion, etc. This helps to break up the course into fun and exciting chunks. Chemistry has been great, but there haven't been than many natural breaks in our studies (yet) to keep interest high. [Mental note: add more optional experiments.]
  3. I'm just not sure how Luke's grammar level program will line up with Ben's logic level skills in 5th-8th grade. I can plan for them to line up and I can plan for them to not line up, but I do also like to consider the boys' interests (most noteably in science) when deciding what to do with them.

Now, our side-track back to SL has been a welcome change to our homeschooling, and I am really, really enjoying the freedome it is giving us to spend time on other assignments, work on extra math practice, explore some interesting websites, and just not spend all day until 4pm doing paper-pencil school work. I hadn't really planned for this to happen -- for me to like it so much -- and as the next year and a half plays out, that will determine the direction for Luke's 1-4th grade years for history/ geography.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Recipes We'll All Eat

I'm going through all my recipes with my family to assess whether or not to keep them on our family meal rotation; here's where we are at so far:

Ground beef/ turkey recipes: hamburgers, tacos, chili, Body for Life's meatloaf

Pork: Body for Life's Caribbean Pork Tenderloin with mango salsa

Seafood/ Fish: baked taliapa, haddock & salmon; Body for Life's Shrimp Scampi

Beef: Pioneer Woman's pot roast; Body for Life's flank steak,

Poultry: Body for Life's Green Chili Chicken Enchiladas; BfL's baked chicken strips; Eating Light's Chicken Corn Chowder; Turkey or Chicken Tetrazinni;

Things to never-ever make again in my life (because of the unrest it caused amongst the troops): Grilled Veggie Lasagna (quite yummy for the adults in the family, though), Linguini with garlic toasted bread crumbs ("where's the sauce, Mommy?")

Menu Planning, Chores and Re-organizing

I love creating forms to use. I love checking things off lists. When I've had time in my life, I've made up lists of "Things To Do" -- which included recently completed things I did -- and checked them off so I could see what I had accomplished and what still needed work. These days, I don't have much time to revel in what I've already done, so I just keep pushing forward on what is still undone.

Last year or so, I made up a great menu planning/ shopping list/ cleaning schedule to organize the home management component of my life. It looks so cool; I had three of them, because we had certainly recipes that I had selected to use and I just rotated them through -- brainless menu planning. It is my cup of tea.

Life has changed and I haven't really been using the pre-planned menu rotation in about 2 or 3 months, and it is stressing me out to plan well balanced, varied meals through the week. So in the next week or so, I'm going to re-collect our favorite recipes -- some new ones we've discovered that everyone from 2 yo on up likes --and plug them into our grid to balance out our red meat, poultry, pork and fish intake. I even discovered that the boys like --gasp! -- red beans and rice. Who knew?

Here's the form I use for weekly and monthly cleaning and menu planning. I used to print the shopping list on the reverse side, but I've stopped doing that.

What I like about this is that I can start it at any point in the week; I don't have to think about what the kids can eat for lunch or breakfast, and there is built in variety. For example, this week we're going to have baked chicken fingers for dinner, so we won't have frozen chicken nuggets for lunch -- we've got turkey sandwiches instead.

I haven't been consistent in enforcing the weekly cleaning plan, but all those chores usually seem to get done weekly -- or so.

And, I like that I've included the few lines for outings/ trips/ appointments, because when I fully use this form to its potential it helps to remind me of what is going to happen this week, and writing it down helps to reinforce it for me in my feeble memory.

My next plan is to list off the recipes that we've nearly all agreed to eat without too much whining. Then, I'll plugg these into the form, and hopefully we have 3+ weeks of menus to eat from.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Week 22 Report

Praise God! I am just loving Sonlight's Core 3 -- we just finished Walk the World's Rim read-aloud, and I'm just so appreciative of these cuddles we're enjoying. Sonlight is giving me a clear framework upon which I can add other "little" supplements -- like notebooking and illustrating -- without feeling bogged down with just one subject, as I often did when we were working through SOTW 1 & 2 and the Activity Guide. History Scribe is offering a big 50% sale for the month of February (coupon word is sweetheart), so I used some Paypal money to purchase several of their products to supplement our notebooking. I'm excited to encorporate them into our lessons!

Math: I'm really pleased with all Ben is doing in math right now. We're working on 4-digit addition with regrouping, memorizing x2, x3, and x4 math facts with copywork, Flashmaster and MUS online drill. Ben is often quite competitive and tries to best is online drill time. For x3, his fastest time was 33.5 sec for 20 problems (I only accept 100% accuracy); x4 best is now 36.8 sec. Next week, we're going to finish off our review/ mastery of x5 using the same tools as this week.

Latin: This week, Ben picked out a Latin name. The author of Lively Latin admits this is her sneaky way of getting kids to practice pronunciation. Ben chose Marcus and he practiced his ecclesiastical pronunciation [which is what we learned in Prima Latina]. Next week, I'm going to have him listen to the audio download 3 times each week to continue to practice pronunication.

Language Arts: We started All About Spelling level 3 this week, and I'm pleased to say Ben's really remembered a lot of the key card spelling rules -- even more pleased that in lesson 1 he had the opportunity to review them through word analysis, which has now been incorporated into all the lessons at this level. We are also continuing on with grammar in FLL3 -- he diagrammed sentences like, "The heavy loader plows the white snow often." I know I learned how to diagram sentences in 8th grade (I can picture the location of my English classroom, even where I sat in the room), but until this "redo" of 3rd grade, I wouldn't have been able to tell you what a complete predicate was, nor a predicate nominative.* We're also reviewing poems right now, but continuing on in our memorization of Bible verses. He presented to daddy this week, "For the eyes of the Lord move to and fro, throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong in behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward Him." 2 Chronicles 16:9 and is now working on "There is therefore no condemnation for thos who are in Christ, who walk not after the flesh, but after the spirit" Romans 8:1.

Science: We're studying about oxygen this week, and replicated an experiment similar to the one used by Joseph Priestly and Antoine Lavoisier in their discovery of oxygen. We added yeast to hydrogen peroxide and allowed bubbles to rise (oxygen). Then, we lit a paint stirer on fire, burnt it out, and quickly put it in the jar of bubbles -- it re-ignited into a small flame! How cool is that. "Mom lets me make fire!" lol!

Ben's ski lesson was cancelled this week because of poor road conditions, but (thank you, God!) both missed lessons will be made up in March. Yipee!

Just today Luke finally got his new Flexon glasses (also known as "Levi-proof"). Next week, we can return to our kindergarten lessons. I've gone ahead and borrowed a friends MUS Primer to decide if I'd rather use this with Luke right now or not. I'm now remembering that I didn't totally like Singapore's Earlybird mathematics program. We're also almost done with Dr. Doolittle, which has been a great read aloud. Jessica at Trivium Academy reminded me that I have Galloping the Globe and had wanted to use that at some point with the boys; I'm going to pull it out and see if I should use that Luke's K year. I think it would make much more sense than SL's K program, which has some great books, but since we're following a classical rotation, we don't really need disjointed studies of Egypt, Rome and Greece.

*In case you want to know, a complete predicate is the verb and all the words that tell us about the subject. A predicate nominative is a noun or pronoun in the complete predicate that renames the subject.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

How We Use Pizza Hut's Book It Program

This is the third year we've requested materials from Pizza Hut's Book It program, a program that encourages kids to read. But, we've never used it. Once, I filed to materials only to forget where I filed them; last year we moved in Nov., and I just never got back into some of the extras of our homeschool. This year, I developed a plan, but Ben has only now taken me up on it. We're using it a bit differently than its intention, so I thought I'd write about it.

I really don't have a problem getting Ben to read books on his own. He'll read and read and read. What I do have a little trouble with is encouraging him to broaden his horizons and read a variety of different types of literature. This is what I'm using the pizza incentive for -- he must read at least one book from different genres per month in order to earn a pizza:
  • mystery
  • fiction
  • biography
  • myth, fable, fairy tale
  • art or poetry
  • science/nature
  • sports

I'm really pleased with that he's come to realize that he can earn a pizza for lunch, and can't wait to present him with his coupon and set a date to order it and eat it!

Monday, February 4, 2008

Back to Normal

For the past month (since ski lessons started), Dave's work schedule has been changed to 4 10-hour days. What a bust this was for us. We are just not 5:00 am-type people. And, to some extent, our evening family time was suffering. Dave would come home at 5:30, we'd eat dinner and before we knew it, it was time for Levi's bedtime routine (he goes to sleep at 7:00, the older boys are in bed at 8:00). I'm very thankful Dave's boss was willing to let Dave try this schedule -- and even more thankful that his boss is letting him go back to a regular 5-day-a-week schedule.

So this morning, after our disappointing Super Bowl evening, it was such a welcome to not hear the alarm going off so early in the morning and to savor that extra hour of warmth, snuggled next to my best friend in the whole world. [I guess I've taken some artistic license with the truth, because actually Levi was between us; he seemed to be having nightmares at 1am, so Dave suggested he sleep between us so we could all sleep. But, I did manage to keep my cold toes warmed against his legs despite Levi being between us.]

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Weeks 20 and 21 Reports

I have honestly been too cold (we turn the heat down in the evenings to save on heating oil) and too frazzled lately to post an update, so for those two people out there reading (Hi Mom and Dad), I apologize. We've been making steady progress in our studies.

Bible: This past week, we didn't attend our CBS because Nana came to visit -- yeah!!! The week before, we almost attended CBS...then I had this niggling thought in the back of my mind that I'd left the toaster oven on. I knew I just couldn't drive the 20 miles down there and not know for sure if my house was going to burn down, so we turned around to come home -- where I received peace of mind to know that, indeed, the toaster oven was off. Despite our poor attendance, Ben has been very good at keeping up with his lesson (better than his mom, that is for sure).

History: We're reading Pedro's Journal right now, which is an historical fiction book about a boy on Christopher Columbus' Santa Maria. We're enjoying it and combining it with an activity book I bought this summer at a Tall Ship regata here. He's learning about signal flags, will make a model tall ship boat, and made hardtack this past week. Daddy actually liked it, and would like us to experiment by adding various spices to it to make it taste more cracker-y.

Ben is also reading Vostaas, a book about Plains' indian life. This week I asked him to narrate about tipis, which he then copied in cursive and illustrated. We're also reading Walk the World's Rim about the explorer Esteban (great link to Enchanted Learning's pages about him) and the Spanish explorers of the southwest. I have timeline figures for Core 3 that were passed down to me, and I can't find them right now -- erggg! So we haven't been faithful with that component of our history studies.

Language Arts: We haven't started AAS evel 3 yet, but are reviewing in anticipation of starting this coming week. We finished our 7 lessons about dictionary use and have returned to our grammar lessons without forgetting too much.

Math: I'm really pleased with Ben's progress as we begin SM 3A. He is doing well, aside from careless copying mistakes, learning about two-step word problems. He's also finally mastered his x3 tables!! We've been drilling and drilling and drilling with Flashmaster and the Math U See website, and he's done well but not with mastery recall...until this week after completing some copywork of these facts. Now, he knows them down cold. Guess what we'll be including on a regular basis from now on?

Other stuff: Because of ski lessons, science has been slow and mostly steady for the past three weeks. We've been learning about carbon and have a little bit left next week, then we'll move on to oxygen. Ben completed our carbon experiment all by himself, and did a great job writing out his lab sheet by himself. It is wonderful to see him take some responsibility with more of the writing projects, and I think I am seeing glimmers of how the writing recommendations made by Susan Wise Bauer and her mom in TWTM will bear fruit for Ben.

Luke's been progressing slow and steady with his kindergarten, despite having his glasses broken by Levi. They should be in next week, so until then, we're just doing read alouds and crafts. His vision is so poor (20/70 uncorrected) that I will not do any math, handwriting or phonics with him until we get his "army" glasses (I told him that the green Flexon glasses were army glasses so we wouldn't have to argue about not getting his batman glasses replaced with Superman or Spiderman glasses).