Sunday, December 23, 2007

Europe picture books part 1

Believe it or not, we continued doing school periodically up until last Thursday. I tried to tie study of geography into the holiday season, but I was too late trying to get the Christmas traditions from around the world books at our local library. We read books about countries in Europe and some did have a Christmas theme. Here are some books we enjoyed:

Popcorn at the Palace

The Leprechaun's Gold
An Irish Halloween
Jamie O'Rourke and the Big Potato
Market Day

Per and The Dala Horse
Who's that Knocking on Christmas Eve?
Hanna's Christmas ( yes, our local library has Melissa's book)
Welcome Back Sun

The Christmas Witch
Jingle the Christmas Clown
The Legend of Old Befana

I did find one picture book about Christmas traditions around the world called Jingle Bells by Trapani. We didn't make it through all the books I checked out. We have several more about Italy and a whole stack of books about France. Luckily, I can renew them and keep them to use after our Christmas Break. If I don't blog again before Tuesday, have a Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

I need some advice

As a follow up to my last post, how do you get rid of excess toys and kid stuff? I am good at getting rid of broken stuff and most McDonald's toys, but we still have tons of toys. I have 3 girls and generous relatives, so we have A LOT of toys and I can't seem to get rid of the toys that are in good condition. The trouble is the girls do play with most of it. I hate to get rid of something and then have them ask for it a week later. I try to get them involved and they claim to love it all. We have sorted through their toys twice since the summer and I feel like we haven't even made a dent.

The only really good idea I have, I got from a friend of mine. When you want to get rid of something, put it in a box for 6 months. If no one asks for it, then you can get rid of it without worrying that you are getting rid of something the kids really like. Anyone else have any other good ideas for dealing with the mounds of toys that somehow come into our worlds?

Saturday, December 8, 2007

What Homeschoolers get for Christmas?

I always love reading about what other people are getting their kids for Christmas. Especially homeschoolers. Because they always know the coolest educational stuff to sneak into any gift giving occasion. Here is what my girls are getting this year:

Stain Glass Coloring Books
Jim Weiss CD's - King Arthur, Shakespeare, and Famously Funny tales
Madlibs - regular for Sierra, junior for Kali
Dot to Dot Book for Arwen
a Calendar for each
Stomp Rocket

So far so good. A little bit educational, a little bit fun. Here, I start leaning more towards educational:

Ant farm
Zeus on the Loose
Snap Circuit Set

Then I fully go off the deep end with these, but I actually think they might like them, at least the art cards...

Composers Cards
Scientist Cards
Renaissance Art Cards

I also like to wrap up some art supplies that I would replenish anyway, so we can have more presents under the tree.

Fuse Beads

Then I went to an Usborne Party and decided to save the cool stuff I got for Christmas presents.

an Origami Kit for Sierra
and Fairy Things to Make and Do Kid Kit for Kali
I didn't find anything for Arwen, so I went to Michael's and got her Spin Art ( with the 40% off coupon, of course)

Then I hosted an Usborne Book Party and the girls, especially Sierra, fell in love with some books, so I used my hostess credit to get:

The Princess Treasury
Fairy Things to Make and Sew
How to Draw Fairies and Mermaids
See Inside Fairyland
Art Skills

Since most of these are for Sierra, I got Arwen a Seek and Find Book and Kali a book from the easy chapter book fairy series, Holly the Christmas Fairy

I am still a gift short for Arwen. She's 5 she may not notice, right? I grew up in a family of 2 kids, so everything was always pretty even. Does everyone try to even out the number of gift or a I just weird?

OK, have you noticed that there are no toys so far? The thing is, we have too many toys already and sometimes it seems like we have every toy in the girl's section of the toy store ( except Barbie, Bratz, and toys that make noise, which are all banned) But every year the girls are allowed to pick one thing that they definitely want Santa to bring them for Christmas - within reason - the girls have be informed that parents have veto right when it comes to what gift he will bring. So this year the girls picked:

Sweet Secrets Slumber Party - Sierra
Sweet Secrets Mall - Kali
Only Hearts Club Doll - Arwen

Now, some of my hippy homeschool friends have been giving me crap about the Sweet Secret Dolls. My girls have a few already since the dolls by themselves are only $4 and since they only get a $1 a week allowance after a month of savings they are chomping at the bit to buy something. Anyway, my friends have accused the dolls of being a bit trampy and they are a bit scantily clad, but they are tiny, so their boobs are the size of a pinhead and their clothes are painted on so you will never find them lying around naked, ala barbie, with their teeny tiny boobies hanging out...

Anyway, that's about it. One last cool idea I got this year. I recently ordered a bunch of books from the Read It Again Books Yahoo group. Since I didn't pick out any of the books for any girl in particular, I decided to just lay them all out on the coffee table with a note from Santa telling the girls that he know how much they love reading and hopes they enjoy these books. Here are the books I got ( from the yahoo group and also a few from my Usborne hostess credit):

All of a Kind Family
The Borrowers
Half Magic
Caddie Woodlawn
Catherine Called Birdy
The Phantom Tollbooth
The Witch of Blackbird Pond
A Giraffe and a Half
Poetry for young People Emily Dickinson
Phoebe the Spy
How Do Dinosaurs Say Good Night?
A Tree is Nice
Have You Seen My Duckling?
Twenty One Balloons
The Door in the Wall
Adam of the Road
The Usborne Book of Art
Usborne Story of Music
See Inside My Body

What's your favorite gift idea for a homeschooler?

Thursday, December 6, 2007

You know you're a homeschooler when...

...your 5 year old says " Oh, good Greeks!" instead of "oh, good grief!"

* add your own "your know your a homeschooler whens..." to the comments

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

In praise of Story of the World

We have finally gotten around to starting Story of the World 2. Despite the fact that some of us are suffering from the stomach flu AGAIN, we decided to do a bit of school today. Laying around on the couch does lend itself to reading aloud. My oldest was excited as she enjoyed SOTW 1. They love doing the coloring pages from the Activity Guide while I read the chapter. I also like to get some of the extra books from the Activity Guide's list at the library.

The really fun part is that I have the girls put their coloring pages in a sketch book for an easy time line. so after reading chapter 1 and doing the coloring pages, we got out the sketch book time line. The girls were so cute looking through last year's pages.

"Oh, look Gilgamesh!'

"Your King Tut looks like a girl."

"Here is where I did China writing."

This is definitely the fun part of homeschooling. Story of the World is written in a very interesting way and I am even learning stuff, too.

Thanks to Mrs. T for her words of encouragement after my last post. It is nice to hear from homeschoolers with older children that things like spelling and writing so work themselves out.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Is homeschooling to blame?

A recent comment from my mother about my 9 year old's spelling sent me into a tail spin. Am I doing a disservice to my child by not making her take weekly spelling tests? Am I completely messing her up by homeschooling?

I was chatting with a friend about this and she pointed out that my daughter's weaknesses are not necessarily because she is homeschooled. Who is to say that she would not have the same or more weaknesses if she went to school?

My oldest has always been "slow to warm" ie. shy. For the past couple of years, my family has hinted that her shyness towards adults may be because she is homeschooled. She occasionally still makes backwards letters and numbers. And her spelling is still more phonetic, perhaps, than her schooled counterparts. School would beat these bad habits out of her, right? Ugh!

And homeschooling never gets the credit for her good traits. She is polite (most of the time). She shares with her sisters generously. She is a 9 year old kid who still plays with toys and not a 9 year old going on 16. She loves to read.

Our kids are who they are whether they go to school or not. It is comforting to know that even when they struggle with academics, personality traits or whatever, that these are areas that they would struggle with even if they went to school. And as homeschool parents, we can take time and work on the weak areas with each child individually...after we get out of the tailspin...

Saturday, December 1, 2007

My poor neglected blog

I had to take a break from the world of internet for a while. Between going to Kansas City, Thanksgiving, Christmas preparations and my youngest's birthday, it was all I could do to keep my head above water the last 2 weeks. Oh and I also taught a make-over class for the teenage girls at my church.and hosted an Usborne book party - whew!

I do have some posts rolling around in my head. One on why people blame everything they perceive to be negative about your children on homeschooling and one on Christmas gift ideas.

Perhaps I will have some time tomorrow afternoon. Today I am off to do some Christmas shopping and to a birthday party. See you then :)

Friday, November 16, 2007

Schooling on the road?

We are heading off to Kansas City this weekend to get the car I inherited from my grandfather and to eat lots of barbecue! To ease my guilty over the lack of "school" we have done lately (stomach flu, busy time of year...), I am calling our road trip US Geography :)

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Math Play

We are officially "done" with school for today, but right now the girls are playing store using unit cubes as money. There doesn't seem to be any rhyme or reason to each cube's denomination, but I keep hearing comments, such as

"I have ten of these and they are worth $10, so I have $100."

"You gave me $20 and this costs $6, so I need to give you change."

"I have a 5 and a 1 so I have enough to buy this $6 item."

There has been much laughing and fun. Pretty funny considering one out the 3 claims to hate math. Oh, and this is a continuation of a game they were playing yesterday.

Matter, Molecules ,and Magic School Bus

Continuing our mini chemistry unit today, we read:

The chemistry section in What Your Fourth Grader Needs to Know
What Is the World Made Of?
What's Smaller Than a Pygmy Shrew? (I found this book at the NOEO Science website. I can't afford the curriculum, but I have not problem, um... borrowing the book ideas from the website. This book is really good.)

The girls were eating lunch while reading these books and we got into a good discussion of matter changing state - the frozen gogurt changing from solid to liquid and the scrambled eggs changing from liquid to solid. I couldn't explain why the heat changed the eggs from liquid to slid, but changed the gogurt from solid to liquid. I will have to ask our resident science expert (dh) when he gets home. I am sure he will know.

We also watch several Magic School bus episodes that related to our current topic.

The Water Cycle
Makes a Stink
In a Pickle
Meets Molly Cule

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

A Blessing or a Curse?

Why does it always seem that when one's children get a stomach virus, they space it out 2 days apart and the mama has to spend a week dealing with vomit? I can't decide if this is a blessing or a curse. In some ways it would be easier to just have one whole vomit filled day, but then again dealing with one sicko kid at a time may be the way nature intended for a reason.

Just asking. No reason. Just keep your fingers crossed that my oldest child doesn't follow in her sisters footsteps and need to run quickly to the bathroom 2 days from now...

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Halloween Candy and Math

In true homeschool fashion we graphed our Halloween candy this year. The girls enjoyed sorted the candy, but got bored counting and graphing after about the 4th type of candy.

I have discovered, however, an even better way to use Halloween candy to learn math. Actually it was my older daughter's idea and if you have been reading this blog for a while, you know that she hates math. She is not particularly bad at it, she just finds it extremely boring. Anyway, the day after Halloween, she was doing her math after lunch and eating some Halloween candy when she decided to eat a bite of candy every time she got a problem right. She did so well and had such a good attitude, I have decided never to to do math with her again without candy. A week later and math is still going well. I haven't heard a complaint, yet. Yeah, for Halloween candy!

Solids, Liquids and Gases, Oh My!

We started our brief foray into chemistry with the basics: solids, liquids and gases. We read Air is all Around and A Drop of Water. We also read the the section on matter in What Your First Grader Needs to Know.

The girls enjoyed the following experiments:

1. Putting a cup with a paper towel upside down in a bowl of water. It doesn't get wet because there is air inside the cup.
2. Making a gas from a solid and a liquid. Baking soda + Vinegar = Carbon Dioxide We did this in a pop bottle with a balloon on top, so the balloon would blow up with the gas.
3. We made it rain inside by holding a cold spoon over a boiling pot of water.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

How I Love "Fall Back"...

Let me count the ways:

1. Getting an extra hour of sleep
2. Having to get up at 7am and it feeling like 8 am
3. Did I mention the extra sleep!

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Africa Picture Books Part 2

We are finally back in school mode after being gone for a week and having fun with all the Halloween festivities.

Here are the books we enjoyed this week:

Honey, Honey, Lion
Rain by Stojic
How Snake Got His Hiss
The Hunter by Geraghty
Nanta's Lion
water Hole Waiting
The Lonely Lioness
Lake of the Big Snake
In the Time of the Drums
Chidi Only likes Blue
Big Boy

I have really enjoyed how these picture books teach us about different parts of the world. And not only do they give us incite about different cultures, most of them present wonderful morals and values that I want to impart to my children.

Next week we will divert from geography and play around with Chemistry. I will keep you posted - literally :) I may wait until December to get back to geography. I am thinking it would be fun to explore the different Christmas customs of the areas as we learn about Europe.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Charlotte Mason Blog Carnival : Living books

Hello, I'm back. The girls and I went to visit my family last week and I am just getting back to our regularly scheduled life. As I have been catching up on emails, blogs and bookmarks, I noticed that there is a CM blog carnival this Tuesday at Dewey's Treehouse . The topic is open and at first I could think of nothing to blog about. Maybe I am not that Charlotte Masony after all... Then I was reading Thrifty Homeschoolers' posts about CM and it dawned on me - living books - I could post about living books.

Living books are such and obvious concept to me that I almost forget that it is a Charlotte Mason idea. We have been immersed in living books since officially starting our school year on September 10th. Since then we have been devouring picture books about different areas of the world. We have covered Australia, South and Central America and will finish Africa this week. After that we will take a break from our geography studies (sometimes ya need to mix things up, ya know) and spend some time with the chemistry set that has been gather dust for the last year and a half since I bought it at a consignment store. In conjunction with the experiments we will also read, you guessed it... living books. My list of chemistry related books is sitting on my desk right now waiting for me to check our library's online catalog.

It seems like no matter what the subject, living books are available to make the topic come alive. Even if we use a curriculum for a certain subject, I like to find books from the library to add to our learning. Here are a few examples of books we love in the different subject areas.

Math - Math Start readers, Books by Greg Tang
Grammar - books by Ruth Heller, Brain Cleary and Lynn Truss
History - too many to mention taken from Sonlight, The Well Trained Mind and many online lists
Science - We don't even use a curriculum for science. We pick our topics from What your __ Grader Needs to Know and then get books from the library on each topic.
Geography - Geography Song Kit and pictures books. See my lists here.
Music - World's Greatest Composers by Mike Venezia
Art - World's Greatest Artists by Mike Venezia

I truly cannot get enough of living books. If we could just sit on the couch reading books for school, life would be great. So much for the pesky math and writing skills...

I will continue to post the books we are reading as we use living books to learn about different topics throughout the year, so come back and check out my lists. Someone besides me should take advantage of the hours I have spent sorting through books lists and checking the library catalog :)

Monday, October 15, 2007

Africa Picture Books Part 1

We're still enjoying our trip around the world via picture books. I found A LOT of picture books about Africa. We're about 2/3 of the way through them and are leaving for a trip to visit my parents for a week, so I thought I would post what we have read so far. I am thinking of taking a break from our "trip around the world" when we finish Africa and spend some time with a chemistry set that has been sitting around for literally years waiting for me to get motivated to use it with the girls. the girls are perfectly happy to spend most of their "school day" cozy on the couch with a bunch of picture books, but I am ready for a chance of pace.

Anyway, here are the picture book about Africa that we have enjoyed, so far.

When Africa Was Home
The Village of Round and Square Houses
Pulling the Lion's Tail
Somewhere in Africa
Boundless Grace
Over the Green Hills
Bringing Rain to the Kapiti Plains
Juma and the Honey Guide
The Hatseller and the Monkeys
Not So Fast Songololo
Faraway Drums
Jamela's Dress
My Painted House, My Friendly Chicken, and Me
One Child, One Seed
For You are a Kenyan Child
Masai and I
The Day Gogo went to Vote
A South African Night
Abiyoyo Returns

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Customer Service?

Last week,it seemed like everywhere I went I got bad customer service. It started at Target when I took my middle daughter shopping with her birthday money. I found one item that I wanted and so when I paid, I used the birthday cash for the toys and I put the item I wanted on the credit card. As I turn to go, I look at the receipt and notice that I was double charged for one of the toys. Well, I should have gone to the customer service desk right away, but instead I turn around and say, "You charged me for 2 of these and I only bought one." To fix the problem, the cashier voids my original transaction and rings it up again without the extra item and tells me to put my credit card in the reader. I do it, but mention that I paid part of the order in cash. When the charge comes up it says $81, $70 of which I had paid in cash. I explain the problem, but the cashier instructs me to sign the pen pad. I am getting suspicious, but I do it. Then he says he will void the transaction again, but refuses to give me the voided receipt?? I try to explain that he just charged me for the whole amount and that I had paid cash for part, so he gives me $14 back (the cost of the doubled item) and still won't give me a copy of the voided receipt. At this point, I give up and go to the customer service desk. After about a half an hour, they figure it out and I give them the $14 and they give me back the $70 since my card was charged for the whole total. I tried to be patient, but a half an hour to figure out what the stupid cashier did - ugh! As I am leaving the store after the problem was finally solved, the customer service person runs up to me and gives me two $3 coupons. Woo hoo my time is worth $6!

The next day, I go to pick up my husband's dry cleaning and they send me home with with someone else shirt. And to top it off, Good Times gives me a regular Mountain dew when I specifically asked for Mountain Dew CODE RED! - sheesh!

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Wearing of the Green

It is not St. Patrick's Day, but I am wearing green today. My grandfather died last week and today is his memorial service. I can't be there because I already have plane tickets to visit my family next week. My grandfather was very proud of his Irish heritage and so everyone who comes to the memorial service today was asked to wear green. "I can't be there today, Gramps, but I am thinking of you and wearing green."

My grandpa was a good hardworking man. He was married to my grandmother for over 50 years. She died 9 years ago. He lived in the same small town in Ohio most of his life. Everyone in town knew him and loved him. He often worked 2 jobs to support my grandmother and their 2 daughters. He loved to play chess and the bass drum. He desperately wanted to serve his country in WWII, but couldn't because his eyesight was bad in one eye. He felt like he didn't accomplish much in his life, but when he recently typed out the things he had done in his life, it was several pages long. He was afraid to die because he felt he wasn't worthy to go to heaven. He made peace with this shortly before his death. He would always say, God knows the day and hour and minute that each of us will die and there is nothing we can do about it. For him that was Wednesday, September 26th. He suffered and was in pain a lot of the last few years. My aunt and mother became his full time care givers. Although it is sad that he is gone, it is comforting to believe that he is out of pain and in a better place. I truly believe that I will see him again.

"I will miss you, Gramps, and look forward to seeing you on the other side. You were so hard on yourself, but I know that you were a good man who accomplish a lot in your 85 years here on earth."

Thursday, October 4, 2007

South of the Border

We are having a lot of fun reading books about different places around the world. This week we have spent much time snuggled on the couch reading picture books about Mexico. Here is a list of these books. So far all the books we have read have been really good. I have about 30 books about Africa waiting for us to get to next week.

Day of the Dead by Winter
A Christmas Surprise for Chabelita
Josephina by Winter
Today is the Day
In Rosa's Mexico
Look What Came From Mexico
Erandi's Braids
Calavera Abecedario
Going Home
The Hummingbird's Gift

These 2 are about the Mayans who lived in Mexico and Central America
The Bravest Flute
Rain Player

Thursday, September 27, 2007

In the Middle

Central America. Once again I got some factual books about each country (El Salvador, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Belize,Nicaragua, Panama, and Honduras.) The A True Book series is good and also the Enchantment of the World books by Marion Morrison. We mostly just looked at photographs from each country. I did not find as many picture books from these countries, but the ones I did were very good.

El Salvador - A Bear for Miguel
Guatemala - Abuela's Weave
Sawdust Carpets
Mama and Papa Have a Store
Costa Rica - When the Monkeys Came Back

*hint - While I have huge book lists for a variety of topics, I found these books by typing each country in the subject search of my library's online catalog and refined the search to include only picture books.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Traveling on to...South America

Today we moved on to South America in our geography unit study. If I was really cool, I would have activities and food for each country, but alas, all I have to offer you is our book list. Enjoy.

We got books from each country (Argentina, Brazil, Peru, Chile, Bolivia, Venezuela) from the A True Book series and the following picture books: (I must admitted that we have only been looking at the pictures from the True Books and then reading the corresponding picture books, which by the way have been fabulous stories with wonderful morals and ideas.)


Chaska and the Golden Doll
Tonight is Carnaval

Also, we looked at Children of the Ecuadorean Highlands and Children of Bolivia and listen to our tape of Magic Treehouse - Afternoon on the Amazon.

Next up - Central America

Sunday, September 23, 2007


Recently a friend asked me how I keep my house relatively clean and do everything else. I think it might be pegging. Melissa Wiley describes the concept of in this post

Checking my email is pegged to eating breakfast

Doing a quick straighten up of the downstairs and kitchen is pegged to starting school

Unloading the dishwasher is pegged to fixing lunch

Checking email(again)is pegged to our lunch break

Cleaning up the kitchen and downstairs from morning activities is pegged to after lunch

Cleaning up the kitchen and downstairs (again!) is pegged to after dinner.

Cleaning up the girls rooms is pegged to their bedtime routine

The other stuff isn't so much pegged, but scheduled. Right now (and this sometimes changes depending on classes and activities)

I do laundry on Mondays and Thursdays

I do my grocery shopping on Tuesdays while the big girls are at OPTIONS

I have the girls put away their laundry on Tuesday and Friday as part of their morning routine. I try to put dh's and mine away some time on Tues and Friday.

Monday afternoon is house cleaning time. It would probably only take an hour if I did it myself and didn't take breaks. Usually it takes about 1 1/2 - 2 hours. It is pegged to coming home from piano lessons.

Besides the kitchen and putting stuff away, I don't clean except on Tuesdays. If someone gets crumbs all over the floor I vacuum, if the bathroom sink gets messy because the kids have been playing in dirt, I wipe it down, etc, but other than that I let it go. I sweep the kitchen floor everyday after dinner and mop it about once a week when it starts looking really gross. And I do wipe the girls sink as part of the bedtime routine since they tend to get toothpaste everywhere. But, by Monday my mirrors are all fingerprinty and toothpasty, the carpet is a bit crumby, the furniture is dusty, but then it is extra satisfying when it is clean.

When we am not doing school and therefore not on a schedule, the pegs slip and I end up with a very messy house by the end of the day, but for the most part it works and keeps my house in a perpetual state of organized mess.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Watching and Learning

We like TV in our house. There are mamas in our local homeschool group that avoid TV, some that don't even have a TV, some that use the TV for DVDs only, and others that restrict their children's viewing choices considerably. There are shows that I discourage my children from watching - Sponge Bob, Ed, Edd, and Eddie, That's So Raven to name a few. But we like TV and watch it regularly in our house.

Adding to my list of "things I didn't know would be advantages to homeschooling" is the fact that my 9 year old doesn't think she is too old to watch Nick Jr, Playhouse Disney, and PBS kids shows. She doesn't know that most school kids her age have out grown those shows. She doesn't know about many of the popular (and annoying) shows that school kids her age are watching. I do see her tastes changing. She is not so interested in watching Blue Clues anymore. But she will sit and watch Sesame Street with her little sister.

One new "big" kid she recently discovered is Time Warp Trio on Discovery Kids. How excited I am that she found a show about history to be excited about instead of one about high school kids that play pranks on each other...

We also love Little Einsteins. It warms a mam's heart to hear her little girls running around the house singing classical music tunes. And Sierra understood several math concepts on the 3rd grade test thanks to Cyberchase. The Magic School Bus is another favorite. We have recorded every episode and love to watch them when we learn about each science topic.

We are not radical unschoolers. I do limit television viewing, but when we do watch it brings a smile to my face when they are watching and learning.

*See sidebar for a list of our favorite educational shows.

Friday, September 21, 2007

The Land Down Under

To begin our geography unit we learned about Australia by reading the following books. Most of them are picture books which meant they all 3 girls could enjoy them. Many of the stories were really sweet and taught us interesting things about Australia.

The Biggest Frog in Australia
Bright Start
Flood Fish
Koala Lou
The old man who loved to sing
Possum Magic
Toad Overload
Where the forest meets the sea
Wombat Stew
My grandma lived in Gooligulch
The old woman who loved to read
One Woolly Wombat
The Pumpkin Runner
Dial a Croc
Look what Came From Australia
Australia a true book
Dingoes at Dinnertime
A Platypus, probably
Whose Furry Nose?

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Around the World

We are starting our school year with Geography as our topic. We started with Australia and moved on to South and Central America and are now backtracking to Australia because I found a bunch more books at the library. Here are some general books about geography that we enjoyed. I will post the books about each continent as we finish.

Geography from A to Z
How to make an Apple Pie and See the World
Ben's Dream
Somewhere in the World Right Now
Reader's Digest Children's Atlas of the World
Geography Song Kit*

* We are loving these songs and I photocopied the pages of the book for each of my girls to color and cut out and add to pages with their own drawings to make and around the world book.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

2 down 1 to go

Yeah! We have a second reader in the house. Over the summer my middle daughter moved from the painstaking sounding out stage to the fluency stage. She is flying through piles of easy readers that we get from the library. Her comprehension can use some work because she sometimes makes incorrect guesses when she tries to read without sounding out. It is so exciting when they really start to enjoy reading. My youngest has asked to start learning to read. We are about 20 lessons into Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Lessons and are working through some Bob Books. I am getting Sing, Spell, Read, Write from OPTIONS (did I mention I get to borrow curriculum with this program?), but I am not sure I will need to use it. 100 lessons has worked well with 2 kids and is easy to use.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

We opted for OPTIONS

My dh recently decided that it would be in our best interest for him to take an additional year to finish his PhD. The original plan for for him to be done at the end of this school year, so now he will finish Spring 2009. I am really OK with it. We live in a nice house. We love Colorado. We have friends here. Yes, our dying stuff (computer, dryer, car, couch, etc.) will have to last one more year, but overall we are happy to stay another year.

Because of this news, my perspective has changed on many things. We have a program in our area where homeschooled kids can go to classes one day a week and it is (mostly) paid for by the local school district. It seemed like a great opportunity, but we already have a co-op that we go to one day a week and Arwen is too young to go this year. With this in mind and thinking that we would be moving before Arwen would be old enough to go, I decided to stick with our co-op and hope we could find a program like this wherever we moved. THEN we find out we're staying another year. At this point I thought it was too late to sign up, but just a few days after finding out about our change in plans, a friend emails me to tell me that she signed up at the last minute and that it was still not too late to sign up.

I had one day to decide. Thoughts whirled through my head. In the end I decided that the advantages for my older girls would be worth possibly having to entertain my lonely youngest one day a week.

This is week 2 and I am so happy that Sierra and Kali are able to go to this program. My motivation for signing them up was for them to have the social experience of going to classes with other kids, learning to be more independent by being away from mommy (and each other), and for me to have one day to myself each week (well, next year when Arwen can go...) What I didn't consider was how much they would learn in the classes. Sierra is taking Ameritowne, Music, Drama, Art, PE, and Geography. Every class seems to be teaching new things that we haven't learned at home and things that compliment what we are learning at home. Kali is taking Science, Math, Drama, Language Arts, Art and PE.

It is such I wonderful feeling to not have to teach EVERYTHING. This program seems to be a great compromise. They get the learning experiences of going to school one day a week and get to be homeschooled the rest of the week. I get a day to myself one day a week, but don't have to send my kids away 7 hours a day 5 days a week.

Even with Arwen home, I am getting a lot done during this one day a week. Arwen has mostly been happy to play on her own. I am also taking time to "do school" with her while her sisters are away. It is really nice to be able to teach her to read and do simple math activities without having to fit it in on the same days that I am working with the older girls.

Now I just have to decide what to do about our co-op. I am already committed to teach Poetry to the older group and Picture Books to the youngers in the Fall. Luckily, it is only a 7 week session. There are a couple of other moms doing OPTIONS and co-op and we are going to push for a shorter spring session, maybe 10 weeks. For previous sessions, I have taught drama and put on a short play. I would like to do one more play in the spring. For next year I am definitely up in the air. I think I will want to quit the co-op and just do OPTIONS. Three days a week may be not enough time to "do school" at home and we like to go to Park Day on Friday afternoons. Who knew there would be so many homeschool "options"???

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Nature Study; formal or not

In my eclectic homeschool, I feel a strong leaning towards a Charlotte Mason philosophy. One of Charlotte's famous ideas is that children should be out in nature every day. In fact, that is the first thing I every heard about CM. I thought, so this women wants us to run around outside and never do any academics? Of course, that turned out to not be true. And once I got a hold of Karen Andreola's A Charlotte Mason Companion, I was hooked. But how to incorporate nature study into our already busy homeschool schedule?

I had grand plans to go on nature walks once a week. I bought sketch books and good colored pencils. I was set, but then things kept coming up on our nature walk afternoons and when we did find ourselves in nature, like taking a hike with daddy on the weekend, I would forget to bring the sketchbooks...

I was discouraged, but then I realized that we spend lots of time in nature, but it is not always scheduled and formal. Summers find us on frequent hikes and camping weekends. Fridays bring Park Day by the lake or creek. Afternoons lure the kids to our back yard. The sketchbooks are empty, but pictures drawn from our backyard and hikes can be found strewn about the house. There is always room for improvement, but for us for now our nature studies happen by chance and most often without our sketchbooks. To me the purpose of nature study is to instill in our children a love of the great outdoors. We may not be learning the Latin name so every flower and fauna, but we are enjoying ourselves in nature. Isn't that what it's all about?

* You can read more about how others apply Charlotte Mason's ideas on nature studies at the first CM blog carnival at The Educational Life.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Curriculum Purchases

I got the last of the curriculum that I ordered on Friday just in time for the first day of school today. I spent way too much of my hubby's grad school stipend, but I did get some really good deals on some used stuff.

Bought to use this year:

Reader's Digest Children's Atlas of the World

Rod and Staff English 4

Ruth Beechick's the 3R's and You CAN Teach Your Child Successfully

Story of the World Vol 2 and Activity Guide

Right Start Math (I intended to just get Level E, but found the rest of the levels used and ended up buying Levels B - E, which is good because I think I am going to need to start a level lower for each child)

Singapore Earlybird 1b for Arwen and Primary 1B for Kali who loves workbooks for math

What Your Fourth Grader Needs to Know

Art Basics for Children

Basic not Boring Spelling grades 2-3 and 4 - 5

Geography Songs kit (We are listening to it right now. It is pretty good.)

Fonts for Teachers

Plan to use later:

Latin's not so tough level 3

Total spent $355 - school stuff sold ($23) = $332. I still have about $50 worth of science stuff I plan to get to use after Christmas, but I suppose that is not too bad for 3 kids especially since I got 4 level of math that will hopefully be used for several years by multiple kids.

First day of School

We started back with school work today and so far it has been great. I was so worried last night because our first day back after Christmas break last year was disastrous. We are taking a break for lunch and then need to do math. Sierra has a piano lesson later this afternoon. So far so good.

Oh and guess what they are doing during their break - Playing school !?!

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Art in Chicago

As much fun as I had being kid free in Chicago, going to the Art Institute and seeing all the art around the city made me with I had the kids with me, especially my 9 yo who loves art.

Here is some of the artwork I enjoyed at the museum.

And here is some street art that I thought was cool.


I recently got to go to Chicago with my honey... kid free!!! My in laws came to town the same week that my dh had a conference in Chicago and so we arranged for me to go to Chicago too. It was so much fun! The food we ate was fabulous. The weather was wonderful. It was so great for me to just wander around the city by myself while dh was at his conference and the time I got to spend with him made it like a 4 day long date.

I love homeschooling, but some times I just need to get away and be a regular adult with no kids to deal with. The trip came at a good time, too. I now feel (mostly) ready to start "school" on Monday.

Here are some pics from the trip.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

A funny

At the dentist's office today, the dentist asked my 4 year old if she went to school. She said,

"No, we homeschool because we miss the bus."

Saturday, August 25, 2007

More pictures at last

This is my attempt at being artistic. Here are my sweeties on a hike we took this summer:

Here is my other sweetie hiking with his parasol :)

Here are just some cute pictures of my girls. The big girls,

And my baby, who is not so much of a baby anymore :(

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Flower Power

I told the girls we were going to "do school" in the summer because we take so many breaks during the school year. And we did - kind of... I really wanted us to learn about insects and plants, but ran out of time during the "school year." So while the rest of our academic stuff went by the wayside by mid June, we did enjoy getting books from the library and doing activities relating to insects and plants through June and July. I misplaced my insects book list, but here are some books about plants that we enjoyed this summer:

Dancers in the Garden by Ryder
How do Apples grow by Maestro
The Mountain that Loved a bird by McLerran
The Rose in My garden by Lobel
The Seasons of Arnold's Apple Tree by Gibbons
Sunflower house by Bunting
A Tree is Nice by Udry
ABCedar by Lyon
The Legend of the Blue Bonnet by DePaola
The Legend of the Indian Paintbrush by De Paola
The Red Poppy by Lucht

It was really interesting to learn about plants and insects back to back since the 2 topics related to each other so well. We are now very familiar with how insects help in plant fertilization :)

Friday, August 17, 2007

My Topic Plan

In my schedule post I explained how I don't try an do every subject every day. We have co-op one day a week. I plan to do math and copywork or free writing 4 days a week and spelling and grammar 2 days a week. The rest I consider "topics". Here is my topic plan for the coming school year:

I am using What Your Fourth Grader Needs to Know as my guide plus a few things from the K - 2 books that Kali missed. This is the order I plan to do these topics. They might take only one day or a week or a month. This way I don't feel like we are not "on schedule". I just want to try and finish the list by next summer. And even if we don't we can just do the rest the following fall.

1. Geography
2. Animal Habitats (like the Arctic, Desert, Grasslands, etc. I may combine this with geography)
3. SOTW - Story of the World 2 (about 7 chapters at a time)
4. Music (learn about a composer or something else related to music)
5. Chemistry (states of matter, atoms, solutions and using the chemistry set that I bought at a consignment store 2 years ago that the girls have been begging me to use with them!)
7. Art (learn about an artist and/or art technic)
8. Electricty
10. Music
11. Geology
12. SOTW
13. Art
14. Weather
15. SOTW
16. Music
17. Magnets
18. SOTW
19. Art

I get my books from the library one topic at a time. I may also squeeze in a few days here and there to get math readers and the Grammar books by Ruth Heller and Brain Clearly. Or just plan to get them by topic (like money, measuring, multiplication, etc.) when one of the girls is learning about them in their math or grammar books. I also would like to include poetry somewhere, maybe as bedtime reading or pick a poet or 2 and do a mini unit on each one. We get our literature in with bedtime reading and CD's in the car.

I am feeling really good about the coming year. Dh and I are going to Chicago at the end of the month while his parents are here to watch the kids. We get back around Labor day and plan to start back with our school schedule either that week or the following Monday. I am guessing it will be more likely that we start on the 10th of September. It is so nice to be able to set our own "first day of school!"

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Homeschool Summer Camp

This year our homeschool co-op group decided to have our own week long summer camp. We ended up with 8 moms and 22 kids. We each planned a morning of camp activities (some of us doubled up)and left the afternoon open for free play. It has been an exhausting, but fun week. Activities included ice cream and butter making, pet rocks, shirt painting, beading, clay, tie dyeing, nature walk, games, and campfires songs. I am too tired to share more. Maybe next week after I have recovered...

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Our Fall Schedule or How I Plan to Fit it All In

*I had just published this post when I found out about the Homeschool Open House. I couldn't resist joining in the fun. To add your homeschool schedule to the list go to

A new homeschooling mom asked me at park day last week how we fit everything in our homeschool day, the answer was, "we don't."

Here is my plan for the coming "school" year:

8:00 - 8:30 Get up!
note: I am a night owl, so this is sometimes hard for me. The girls get usually get up around this time. Sometimes they are up earlier, sometimes later. They are pretty self sufficient in the mornings, so I don't have to get up with them anymore :)

8:30 - 9 Exercise
Remind girls to do morning chores: "Have you made your beds, yet?"

9 - 9:30 Shower
Remind again:"Did you brush your teach?"

9:30 - 10 Breakfast and computer time for me
Final reminder: "Are you dressed? Did you eat breakfast?"

10:00 School Time (about 1 hour)
Each day we will start with one of the following: learn a word from English From the Roots Up, do a Mindbender, learn a spelling rule, read a scripture story, learn a saying from the Core Knowledge Series, etc.

Then we will read books and do projects based on our current "topic". Topics include areas of interest from Science, History, Art, and Music. We do one topic at a time. When we are done, we move onto another topic. This works so much better than trying to fit everything into a day or even a week. By the end of the "school" year we seem to have covered a balance of each subject.

Copywork 3x a week / free writing 1x/week (5 - 10 minutes)

Break until lunch

Lunch around noon

After Lunch, More School (30 - 60 minutes)
Math - every day
Spelling/Grammar on alternating days
Phonics for 4 year old.

Afternoons - free play

In an effort to encourage independent learning and responsibility for my 9 year old, I plan to make a chart for her to mark when she has done the following: Practice piano 5x a week, typing CD rom 3x a week, and Rosetta Stone Spanish 3x a week, Math computer game 1x a week.

I plan to take a nature walk or have a poetry tea time at least once a month during the afternoon.

We listen to books on CD in the car and I read bedtime stories, sometimes picture books and sometime chapter books.

Dinner around 6pm

Free Play

Clean up Rooms starting around 7:30 or 8pm depending on if it is bath night.

8:30pm Bedtime Stories

Bed time 9pm

Younger girls can read in bed until 9:30
Oldest can read until 10pm.

I usually go to sleep around midnight and then we get up and start all over again...

Note: We are involved in a co-op that meets on Wednesdays, so this is our M, T, Th, F schedule. Also, we have a Park Day on Fridays, so we will need to get any school work done by noon on Fridays if we want to go to Park Day.

I am planning to post our curriculum choices after I get my stuff ordered. It's like Christmas in August!

Friday, July 27, 2007

Why no pictures?

I am sure you have all been laying awake at night wondering why I have no pictures in my blog posts. Well, here's why. For the past 2 years I have not been able to download pictures to my computer. I didn't know if it was my computer's fault or my camera's fault... I need a new camera and computer... (and dryer and couch and kitchen table...) Thanks goodness my hubby is almost done with grad school!

Anyway, I finally realized that I was not going to be getting a new camera or computer, etc. for a while, so I did some searching and figured out why it wasn't working. Something about needing to reinstall a driver. I did that and now I can download pictures onto my computer again - yeah!

Now I just need to get around to doing it. Until then, here is a picture of my brave 4 year old holding a Hissing Cockroach during our field trip to the Butterfly Pavilion. Her older sisters were hiding in the hall way...

Monday, July 16, 2007

If I had unlimited homeschooling funds

I would buy:

a microscope
a telescope?
Primary Challenge Math
Real Science 4 Kids - Chem, Bio, and Physics
Holling C Holling books
Geneveive Foster books
Jeanne Bendick books
Joy Hakim books

Wow it's really not that much. Maybe there would be more. These things are from my list of stuff that I plan to buy eventually, which has been narrowed down to keep me from overspending. I guess if I had unlimited funds I might consider Sonlight, but then again I don't really want something that tells me exactly how to schedule everything, but I suppose I would be more tempted to buy many of the books from the Sonlight.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Oh the choices!

So, now that I have my gigantic books lists, I need to narrow them down to the best choices. In the past (before massive book lists), I would get an armful of books about each topic we were learning about and lots of times we would read the information more than once. For example, if I had several books about butterflies we would read many times about the proboscis and the metamorphosis process. Often times I would skip a lot and just look at the pictures of the subsequent books, but I never checked to make sure the first book I read was the best. For early elementary it really didn't matter they were short books and very similar. But now in late elementary and looking forward to early middle school, the books are longer and it would be overwhelming to get repetitive books. So, now I am trying to find the "best" books from my lists.

Here is my current dilemma: For our second round of history (yes, I know that is at least 3 years away), I am looking at supplementing SOTW with either the Genevieve Foster books, The Story of Rome/Greece, or Famous Men of Rome/Greece. All of these books are on several lists. Right now I am leaning towards the Genevieve Foster books. They are on the Ambleside and Sonlight lists and Melissa Wiley's 12 yo is reading the Augustus Caesar's World. I may save the others for high school.

To sum up, I have now decided that less is more. Of course, this is after spending hours making massive book lists... The time was well used, however, because seeing certain titles on many lists helped me to see which books are well liked by many people.

My ebay addiction

I have always been afraid of ebay. It just seemed too dubious, but a week ago someone mentioned seeing Right Start Mathematics used on ebay, so I went to check it out. Two hours later, I had bid on 11 items... So far I have won 5. I haven't won Right Start, yet, but I did get a bunch of stuff from my list and a few things not on my list. It is so addictive. I have been trying hard not to be tempted to buy things that I was not already planning to buy. It took me a while to figure it all out. I am now "watching" a bunch of stuff to see if they go out of my price range before I decide to bid. Here is what I have gotten, so far.

Reader's Digest Children's Atlas $4.94
Rod and Staff Grammar Reg $19.44 ebay $10.19
The 3r's and You Can Teach Your Child Successfully Reg $19.25 ebay $13.25
SOTW2 Activity Guide Reg $19.77 ebay $15.80
Latin's not So Tough Level 3 Reg $18.95 ebay $8.00

So far, I have saved. $19.62 on stuff I was already planning to buy. I wasn't planning on buying Latin's not so tough until after we finished Minimus, but it was too good a deal to pass up.

Right now, I am watching a Right Start Level B, some Genevieve Foster books, a Holling C. Holling book set, some Singapore books, and a History of US 10 book set that is at $30 right now.

Update: Almost everything I was watching went out of my price range :( I am still watching the Singapore Math books. But I did find Right Start levels B (for Arwen) C (for Kali) and E (for Sierra) on some used curriculum websites really cheap!

Sunday, July 1, 2007

the cost of homeschooling

So, in my extreme guilt over how much money I have spent this year on homeschooling stuff and over how much I plan to spend this year, I decided to look at how much I have spent each year since Sierra was in Kindergarten. My guess was K -$50, 1st -$100, 2nd - $200, 3rd - $300. I thought this pattern wasn't too bad. Yes, I will probably end up spending $400 next year, etc., but I started out schooling one, then two, and soon three kids, plus each year they should be learning more, so it makes sense that learning supplies will cost more, right?

Here is what I found out. (Amazon has a nifty feature where you can look up you past purchases!). When Sierra was in Kindergarten I spent $45. I bought Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Lessons, 2 levels of Now I am Reading and the Comprehensive Curriculum K. First grade, I spent $50. I bought What your 1st grader and What Your Kindergartner Need to Know, 2 easy readers and Comprehensive Curriculum 1st. Nice and simple. Then I joined our local homeschooling group and found out about the wide world of available and interesting homeschool curriculum...

For Sierra's 2nd Grade and Kali's K year, I spent $175! Purchases included What your 2nd Grader Needs to Know, Comprehensive Curriculum 2nd and K, Story of the World Activity book and CD, The Well Trained Mind, Discovering Great Artists, Usborne Science and History Encyclopedia, and Handwriting without Tears. Still not too bad. Other than the Science Encyclopedia, they were useful and used purchases.

This year is apparently when I go nuts. Although not all at once, I ended up spending $328. I think I started to get nervous. I bought some useful stuff, but, because I was freaking out about Sierra's bad attitude toward math, I also bought 7 math products that I have not really used. And I bought a 2nd reading curriculum and a spelling/phonics reference book that I don't think I really need. I really should just sell some of this stuff, but I wonder if they might be useful for Arwen, so I will wait.

You would think I would have learned from this year and not need to spend as much, but I have $350 worth of stuff on my list already. And that is my pared down list. I have thoroughly analyzed each item and feel they will be useful. I guess it's not so bad if I consider that I could be buying Sonlight curriculum. PreK for Arwen $308. Core 2 for Kali $645 and Core 4 for Sierra $643. And that doesn't include Math...

OK, I guess I don't feel, so bad now. $350 doesn't seem, so bad compared to almost $2000 that some people might spend.

Coming up... My new ebay addiction.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Homeschooling according to Michelle

or What Works for Us...

Reading - Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Lessons, I found this on Amazon by typing in "teach your child to read". It had good reviews and it wasn't very expensive. It was my very first curriculum purchase :) It has worked out well so far. Sierra is reading on or above grade level and Kali is gaining fluency very quickly. Side note: Sierra only made it to lesson 50 before wanting to quit and just read books with my help. Kali made it to lesson 75. I have just started with Arwen and we are maybe on lesson 7. We also used Bob books and the Now I am Reading series. I think any inexpensive phonics curriculum would work fine. I have not found any need to spend a lot of money teaching phonics.

Handwriting - We have used Handwriting without Tears with moderate success. Sierra was queen of backwards letters and numbers. She is getting better, but still occasionally make backwards p's. We will probably use copywork for handwriting practice from now on. I am also interested to see if copywork is as helpful for spelling and grammar as I have heard. I bought the Startwrite CD that has different handwriting fonts, but it doesn't work on my computer, so I ended up returning it. I may try Fonts for Teachers. Then I can type up sentences in print and cursive and put them in a jar for the girls to pick one out of each day. I don't know if I will use HWT for Arwen. She has the Kindergarten book and actually asked for it yesterday. I also have the first grade book, so if she is interested we will use it. I also may get the third grade cursive books for Kali and Arwen when the time comes.

Composition - I haven't done anything formal, yet. Sierra writes her own stories sometimes, but I haven't given her any assignments. I plan to buy The Writer's Jungle next year when Sierra would be in the 5th grade. I would buy it sooner, but it is $97 - yikes.

Spelling - We borrowed Spelling Power and Sierra didn't like it, so I decided not to spend $65 on it... I spent $15 on Natural Speller instead. It is really just a bunch of word lists. I haven't found a really good way to do spelling. I don't think memorizing word lists works very well. We didn't do much spelling in 1st and 2nd grade. We used the Comprehensive Curriculum workbooks and they had a spelling section, but I am not sure how much they helped. In 2nd grade I also had Sierra use a website called Look Cover Write Check. A friend found an interesting spelling program called All about Spelling. It looks very interesting, but it is $30 a year and has 6 books. This year I am going to try Basic/Not Boring Spelling workbooks. I might also consider the Spelling Workout books. I didn't look too much into them for this past year because Sierra was sick to death of workbooks after 3 years of the Comprehensive Curriculum books. *** after looking at Spelling Workout, I decided to stick with the Basic/Not Boring workbooks.

Grammar - I like First Language Lessons for 1st and 2nd grade. Yes, it is repetitive, but it is a very gentle introduction to grammar. I think early grammar is a good idea, but I don't think it needs to be addressed in a formal textbook/workbook kind of way. The 3rd grade book by Jessie Wise comes out this summer. It looks really good and I plan to buy it for Kali when she reaches 3rd grade. Rod and Staff grammar worked really well for Sierra this year. After about week 3 we began doing the practice exercises out loud and it worked great. Sierra learned a lot and we didn't do a lot of written work, which she hates. Rod and Staff is very thorough and covers things not in other grammar curriculum, like homonyms, synonyms and antonyms, and letter writing. Since it is written for schools, it does repeat things, so I plan to buy the 4th, 6th and 8th grade books and use them each for 2 years. If I wanted something secular, I would use first Language Lessons for 1st - 3rd and then skip to Hake grammar's 5th grade level.

Math - Ah, Math. For 1st and 2nd grade with Sierra I used the math section of the Comprehensive Curriculum workbooks. We also did some hands on math activities and read math readers from the library. Then when 3rd grade came, I got nervous about the BIG test(testing is required in 3rd, 5th, 7th, etc. in CO) and thought I needed a "real" math curriculum. I didn't want to spend $100 on a math curriculum, so I bought Abeka. It is an organized colorful workbook and I knew from WTM that it has too much drill, so I would only make Sierra do a few problems in each section. Still, she was burned out on it in 2 months. Just seeing all the problems on the page overwhelmed her. So, after researching all the math curriculum I could find. I decided on Right Start. It's very hands on, lots of games and not a lot of worksheets and the lesson book was easy for me to understand how to teach each concept. Kali did not enjoy Right Start B that I borrowed from a friend, so I am going to try Singapore with her next year. Originally, I didn't like Singapore because I didn't understand the mental math, but Kali likes workbooks and Singapore is highly recommended, so I am going to try it. Who knows what will work for Arwen? I am also going to try a program called Systematic Math. It has a download for 1st -3rd grade for $15 that suggests games and activities instead of a formal curriculum.

History - I like Story of the World. We also get a lot of the recommended books from the library to go along with it. The only thing about Story of the World is that since it goes in order from the beginning, you don't get to American History until 3rd grade. Starting out with Sierra, I knew nothing about Ancient History. I didn't know anything about Story of the World at the time, so I used the What Your ____ Grader Needs to Know. It does both World History starting from the beginning and American History at each grade level. I let dh teach the Ancient History and I did the American History. I thought it was important that my child learn American History just like schooled kids, so they could join in the " great conversation". Of course, now I realize that there is no "great conversation" among elementary school kids, but still there are lots of times when colonial times, the American Revolution, Civil war or Pioneers do come up in books and television shows. But right now Story of the World is working really well for us, so we are going to stick with it and go in depth into American History when we get there.

Science - I have just been following the What Your___Grader Needs to Know recommendations. I do the same topics with both Sierra and Kali. The topics repeat, so I can cover the K and 1st grade stuff with Kali while adding in the 3rd grade stuff for Sierra. We get books from the library on each topic, do experiments occasionally, and get kits that go with topics if I can find good ones at a reasonable price. I am looking into get the Real Science 4 Kids series starting when Sierra is in the 6th grade. The have Biology, Chemistry, and Physics. From what I have heard they cover very advanced topics on a kids level. By that time Arwen will be 7 and the 3 girls could all learn together, each at their own level. Oh, and I would like to take regularly nature walks. Weekly would be great, but monthly is more realistic.

Music - We try to cover a few composers a year. We get books from the library like World's Greatest Composers by Venezia and CDs to listen to.

Art - We do the same thing that we do with composers. We try to learn about a few artists every year, gotta love the Venezia books and I also use Discovering Great Composers to get idea of how to do art like each of the artists we are studying. I am planning to buy Art Basics for Children this year to help the girls learn more art techniques. We are having art classes at our co-op in the Fall which is going to be nice, too, since I am totally clueless when is comes to technique.

Poetry - We usually spend one or two weeks per school year reading poems from a specific poet or learning about types of poetry and writing our own poetry. I also like to sneak poetry into our bedtime reading. I am hoping to start doing a regular(again, ideally weekly, but more likely monthly) teatime in which we read poetry.

Literature - We read most nights at bedtime. Sometimes picture books and sometimes chapter books. Our best literature times are in the car. When I read chapter books aloud at home, Arwen still interrupts too much to make it very enjoyable. This year we listened to Mary Poppins, The whole City of Ember series, A Cricket in Times Square, Tuck Everlasting, and we are now working on The Witch of Blackbird Pond.

Foreign Languages - We have very casually been working on Spanish and Sign Language by getting videos from the library occasionally. I would like to continue Sign Language with more videos and a co-op class. I plan to try out Rosetta Stone this year for Spanish through the Chattanooga Library. You can use their online services for $30 a year.

Latin - when I first read WTM, I thought the idea of teaching Latin was crazy, especially for elementary kids, but I have slowly come around to the idea of at least exposing my kids to Latin. Both Melissa Wiley and Julie Brennan (of Living Math) have their kids learn Latin. I have learned a lot from both of them and they both have very unschooly tendencies, so I figure if they think it is worth teaching, I should give it some consideration. I recently bought Minimus. It is a cartoon type book about a family in Britain during the Roman Empire. We did a few chapters in May when we were learning about the Roman Empire, but haven't looked at it since we have been in summer mode. I plan to pick it back up when we get more structured in the Fall. Once we finish Minimus, I am looking into getting either Latin is Not So Tough or Elementary Latin or both.
Even if we don't formally study Latin, I would like to spend some time learning about words that get their roots from Latin and Greek. I picked up English From the Roots up and Rummy Roots both used this year and hope to be able to squeeze it into our schedule. I plan to be pretty relaxed about it and use them at our own pace with no rush to get through them

Coming up: how I plan to fit this all in a reasonable schedule...

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

My comparison of The Well Trained Mind and Charlotte Mason

A friend asked me to compare the WTM and CM here was my response:

////How WTM is like CM... Well, they both use narration and copywork.

Differences... WTM puts very little focus on the arts. CM puts a lot of emphasis on art appreciation, music, poetry, and Shakespeare and of course Nature Study. WTM has Shakespeare in the resource list and has Biology as part of the science rotation, but it seems more technical. WTM also has a literature list similar to CM, but then describes notetaking and outlining, where as CM is more about enjoying books with occasional oral and sometimes written narration. Here I just got an email from another Yahoo group with this explanation of CM:

"A Charlotte Mason education is an Atmosphere, a Discipline, a Life." It is actually a classical approach, but I believe it is more wholistic. That is to say, spirit, mind & body.////

I read The Well Trained Mind first and thought it was a bit overwhelming, but loved the resource lists. Recently, I have found myself loving the Charlotte Mason approach. I want to provide my children with ideas. I want them to love learning. I want time for structure and time for play and free exploration. CM seems to provide that. It feel like this homeschooling puzzle is coming together... at least for now :)

Monday, June 11, 2007

Holy cow, I have a 9 year old!

My oldest turned 9 today, half way to 18 as both my parents pointed out. That thought makes me both excited and sad. My baby, halfway to adulthood...

To my oldest on your 9th birthday,

You are 9 today. I remember being 9, still a child, but ready to start taking on that big world out there. I can see you starting to come out from under my wing. You are not my bravest child, but after you have time to get used to things, you are ready to join the fun. You are kind to your little sisters and your friends. You do your best to make sure others around you are happy. You always try to do what is right even if those around you are not. You are stubborn. You are a messy eater, like me. Have fun growing up. Enjoy being a kid. Remember, you will always be my baby.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Trouble in the Water

My girls started swimming lessons last week. My oldest had her lesson first and then the younger 2 had their lessons. We were, of course, late, so we run in looking around for Sierra's class. We find it and I notice that she has a male teacher - uh oh! She has had male swim teachers before and she has never liked it. She seemed to be doing OK during the lesson, but when it was over, she began crying, "it was awful", " I couldn't do what the teach wanted me to do." "I don't want to go to 7 more lessons." She cried the entire 30 minutes that her sisters were having their lessons. I sat there calmly and listened, explaining that if the class was easy she wouldn't learn anything. I even considered moving her down a class, but then realized that would be her 6 year old sister's class. She thought it was a good idea. I wasn't so sure.

This attitude has been common for her and I am just starting to see the pattern. She doesn't not like to do things that are hard for her or that she has to work at it. She didn't start swimming on her own until she was 7 and she is still not comfortable in deep water. She still hasn't learned to ride a bike. We haven't practice much, but every time we do she is easily frustrated.

I think this temperament also relates to her being "slow to warm " (ie shy) with people and animals. Once she gets to know people, she is gregarious, but it takes a while especially with adults. She screams when she sees a dog, but if she has time to gets to know a dog she will eventually get comfortable enough to pet it.

This "personality trait" can be seen in her school work, too. She could read, but didn't want to read chapter books until she just before her 8th birthday when met a girl a year younger than her that was reading them. She liked math until the middle of 2nd grade when it started to require more time and effort.

Back to swimming lessons day, I was not sure how to proceed. Should I let her move to the lower class or should I push her to stay in the class? When we got home, I consulted my dh. He immediately said she needs to stay in the class and threatened no birthday presents if she didn't try and have a good attitude in the class. It seemed kind of harsh to me, but she easily agreed and has done fine ever since and now says she can't remember why she got so upset. She did sleep in the next day until 10 am, so maybe she was really tired...

My dh, whose idea it was to homeschool in the first place, has suggested that because of this attitude, she may need to go to school, but I am not so sure. He says that in school she will have to work hard at things she is not good at. And it is probably true that I don't push her as hard as I could. In some homeschooling circles, however, I seem to push too hard. I feel like I push her harder than the younger 2 and they seem to be progressing faster educationally... I guess there is a balance and I need to find it. Now that I realize her need to approach things slowly and to sometimes be pushed past her comfort zone, hopefully it will be easier to find that balance.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

My first Meme!

I'm in the blogging world now! Thanks Brit!
Each player lists 8 facts/habits about themselves. The rules of the game are posted at the beginning before those facts/habits are listed. At the end of the post, the player then tags 8 people and posts their names, then goes to their blogs and leaves them a comment, letting them know that they have been tagged and asking them to read your blog.

1. I hate to have my collarbone touched.
2. If it were just me, I couldn't call my blog an organized mess. I am a total neat freak.
3. Actually, I could call it an organized mess, if I were referring to my mental state.
4. I LOVE ice cream. I had to give up my evening snack of ice cream with peanuts and chocolate when I turn 30 so as not to have to increase my clothing size.
5. My mom nicknamed my junior high best friend and I "ding" and "bat" because we were so spacey, a trait I take pride in to this day. It only gets me in trouble every once and a while.
6. Acting is one of my life passions. I gave it up to raise my kiddos, but hope to be able to continue when they are older.
7. I have been to 49 states. Now if I could only find a reason to go to North Dakota...
8. I am learning more by homeschooling my kids than I did in school.

I tag:
Terrible Speller
The Life of Tracy
The Butchko Dynasty
Mudpies and Paint
Lighting the Fires
Higher up and further in
Madcap Haven

Ok I know that's only 7, but I have been trying to cut back on my blog reading in an effort to live life instead of reading about other people's lives. Oh, and I didn't tag the blogs that I read that get bunches of comments on every post. They have enough to do just reading all their comments without getting tagged for a meme by lil ol me.

Saturday, May 26, 2007


Why is it that even though I homeschool my kids and they are home with me all week, my house gets way messier on the weekend? I'm sure it has nothing to do with the fact that I am lazy on the weekend and spend way too much time on the computer and do not keep any kind of schedule - "Oh, small children, you want lunch? I guess it is almost 3pm..."

The spinning is slowing

I started homeschooling four years ago when my oldest was kindergarten age. It was my husband's idea, but I figured I couldn't mess up kindergarten too much. I bought Teach Your Child to Read in 100 lessons and Comprehensive Curriculum K workbook. I had been a preschooler teacher in a previous life, so I had unit style lesson plans that would work for kindergarten. We met another family at church that was also homeschooling a kindergartener and had younger kids similiar in age to my younger two that we hung out with. Except for the fact that I was babysitting a baby full time and had a baby of my own, it was a lovely year. First grade rolled around and I bought the 1st grade workbook. I stopped babysitting in December and found out about the What You ___ Grader Needs to Know series. I bought the kindergarten and 1st grade books and zipped through them by June. The following fall(oldest would now be in 2nd grade) now that I wasn't babysitting and stuck at home full time, I decided to join the local homeschool group. Boy, did my life get crazy - park days, field trips, and finding out about the many, many curriculum resources out there. My head has been spinning every since. That was almost 2 years ago.

I just had no idea all the resources out there. I did not know there were different style of homeschoolers. I have spent the last 2 years reading books and searching out stuff on the internet. I discovered Yahoo groups, Blogs, and more curriculum choices than I could ever dream of. Finally, finally, I feel like my spinning head is slowing down.

I have discovered that I lean towards a Charlotte Mason style of homeschooling. I have at least a plan of what curriculum resource I plan to use (more on this in an upcoming post) and a schedule that is working most of the time (I will post about this later, too).

Sometimes I miss the easier days of homeschooling before I knew what was out there. I didn't spend hours on the computer reading blogs and yahoo post or stress out over the best math curriculum and how much money I am spending on school stuff that I didn't even know existed before. But now that I know what's out there and what works for me... at least for right now, I feel like I can move on with our homeschooling life with a little more knowledge and little less head spinning.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

I need more time

Sheesh, I just can't seem to find the time to blog regularly. I suppose if I didn't spend so much time reading other people's blogs, I might have time to mantain my own :) I have also been working on a project of complying book lists from a variety of sources. It started a year or so ago when I got Rebecca Rupp's Complete Home Learning Source Book. I took notes by making a lists of books for each topic. I have added to these lists as I have come across books on each topic. Recently, I decided to go through lists I had bookmarked, so that all of the books on each topic would be together when we wanted to learn about a specific topic. It has been a major undertaking. I am almost finished. Maybe when I am done with this I can devote more time to blogging...I am a little old school right now and have all the lists hand written. I hope to type them up and put them on this blog at some point.

Friday, April 27, 2007

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

As I reviewed how this "school" year has gone and plan for next year, I started thinking about what curriculum and other things I bought for school purposes were well used and which ones were not.

Useful things I bought this year:
China Treasure Chest
Egypt Treasure Chest
Fraction Set
How Children Lived
Handwriting Without Tears
First Language Lessons
Natural Speller
Adventures in Science Light experiment kit

Sort of useful things:
Abeka (after I decided to just use it as a guide)
Startwrite if it would work...

Not very useful:
Ordinary Parents guide to Teaching Reading
Abc's and all their Tricks
Mia's Math CD rom

Didn't get to this year, but will hopefull be useful later:
Games for Math by Peggy Kaye
Domino Math book
Geoboard book (used a little this year)

Sunday, April 22, 2007

A 4 year old funny

The other night after I had put my children to bed, I was straightening up upstairs when my 4 year old came out of her bedroom with a book in her hand.

AE: Mommy, will you tell me what it says on this page?

Me: Honey, it is bedtime. I am not reading books right now.

AE: No, Mommy. I'm going to read it by myself. I just need you to tell me what it says.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Earth day

I like to take a break from our regular studies to read books that make us think about taking care of our Earth each year during the week of April 22nd Here are some we enjoyed this year:

The Lorax
Wump World
Trash, Trash, Trash
The Wartville Wizard
When the Earth wakes
One World
The Earth and I
And the Turtle Still Watched

Recycle by Gibbons
Where Does the Garbage Go?
Earth Day: A True Book

Monday, April 9, 2007

Ah, Math

It's 12:30am and I am up with a sore throat. I drank caffeinated pop at 9:30 because it was cold and made my throat feel better, so that doesn't help either. I guess that makes this a good time to blog.

Math, in our homeschool, is kind of a bugaboo. Math is not my favorite subject, although I did get A's in high school. My oldest understands it well, but finds it pretty boring. I am torn between trying to make math more interesting for her and just telling her to do it because it is part of school.

I bought Abeka Math 3 for her this year after using the Comprehensive Curriculum workbooks for K - 2. This year is a testing year for Colorado homeschoolers and figured I had better use a "real" curriculm to get her ready for it. I picked Abeka because TWTM recommends it and it was cheap. Mostly, because it was cheap. I didn't buy the Teacher's Manual and spent $20 on the workbook and speed drills.

SK hated it after about two months. I knew Abeka had too much drill and so I only made her do a couple of problems in each section. She still hated it. Finally, I bought an addition and subtraction book, a multiplication book and a fractions book and I use Abeka as a guide for what else to teach. She still doesn't love math, but doesn't hate it as much.

So, on to what I really wanted to blog about. The other day, SK was making multiplication flash cards (her dad's idea. She doesn't hate it and seems to be learning the facts...) I had mentioned to her about books I had seen that have stories to go with the facts like this website and this book and this book I gave her the example " Door times Door is Sick Queen. She thought is was pretty cool and has now decided to make up her our rhyme/stories. Here are some examples:

mix and hive is birdie
6 x 5 = 30

door and gate is birdie shoe
4 x 8 = 32

She is planning to make a book with pictures and has already made a list of words to go with other numbers. Yeah, a math success!

Another math success has been the introduction of games. I borrowed a friend's Right Start Math Games book (I really want to buy the 4th grade curriculum, but I am not sure I can afford it on a grad student salary...) Anyway, the girls have been ASKING to play double memory and go fish. Friday, I introduced Addition War and SK and KE had great fun playing it. So we shall see, perhaps math wil no longer be our bugaboo subject.

Friday, April 6, 2007

Nature Studies revisited

As I have become more interested in using a Charlotte Mason style of homeschooling, I have reintroduced nature walks into our schedule. We have taken many nature walks in the past, especially when we were studing the seasons. But I recently realized that we hadn't gone on any walks since we moved into our new house last May - yikes! As an excuse, I will say that we have been going to park days regularly with our local homeschool group.

So the motivation is back and I decided that Monday afternoons would be a good time to go on our nature walks. I also purchased sketch books for all four of us and put them in a bag with colored pencils and field guides - yeah me!

The good news is our first nature walk in our new neighborhood was lovely. The weather was great and we stopped several times to draw in our nature journals. The bad news is that was 3 weeks ago and we haven't gone since... The weather cooled off and we had a dentist appointment. Oh well, we will keep trying.

A friend of mine said she won't consider herself a Charlotte Masoner because she won't go out when it is below 50 degrees. I say ba humbug - it's the effort that counts.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

My genius child !?!

We were sitting in Church on Sunday and my 4 year old turns to me and says, "Why does it say exit above all the doors?" Huh? what? I have done NO school with her. She joins us for school sometimes and I occasionally ask her what the names of the latters are. She does play a lot on the computer when the older girsl adn I are doing school. Go!

Today she was playing on the Sesame Street website (which she had found herself in the bookmarks!) and kept coming in the kitchen to tell me all about the different part of her body - "My heart pumps the blood through my body," etc. ah, my unschooled child.