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."