Thursday, September 27, 2007

Week 7: Busy, busy, busy...

Overall, we managed to get the majority of our work done this week. Benny was running a fever the second half of the week. Jessie and Violet, I think, are just having a hard time concentrating. All they really want to do is go to the beach. (They have both made lists of what they want to take and ask daily if they can start packing yet.) Unfortunately, we still have another whole week of school before we leave. Here's our week:


Not much to say here. Almost everything is still chugging along fine. We didn't do much handwriting this week. That's partly my fault for forgetting to write something down in their notebooks to be copied. Violet and I are both struggling with FLL. It's not too hard just overly redundant for her. For me, I'm just not a scripted text person. I may take it with us to the beach and outline some ideas to make it more hands on. I think this will ultimately help with retention. (Jessie remembers none of the FLL definitions from first and second grade. I attribute this to a lack of built in review of the definitions and a lack of hands on work.) I also got Jessie's first request for a Christmas present. She wants her own copy of Little Pilgrims Progress. We decided to go ahead and finish reading the book now. We'll hold off on our next book until our second week in Jamestown.


Jessie has finished up multiplying and dividing by eight and is working on a few review exercises before tackling the nines next week. She still loves the multiplication part and hates the division mainly because she can't consistently work the latter problems mentally. We've reintroduced the multiplication flashcards from last year to start working on the facts that she isn't remembering with practice alone. I think memorizing the facts will ultimately help her ability to do the division in her head (thus making math a favorite subject again).
Violet has been breezing through the introductory section on division. I could probably pick up the pace , but I decided instead to use this time to continue drilling addition facts in preparation for the unit with adding and subtracting within 100. Mainly I just want to make sure that she feels confident about adding and subtracting before we get to larger numbers.


Still in contention for favorite school subject of the year, our US geography project is going great. We completed California and started on Colorado this week. I decided to give the girls an impromptu quiz on the 5 states we have learn so far. The results were mixed. Jessie has been building and rebuilding our North America puzzle in her free time and still remembers where all of the states are located. Violet isn't retaining the information, so I'll have to come up with a fun way to review with her. (Right now I'm too ready for a week of vacation to come up with any ideas.) We're still working on the Fifty Nifty United States song and are up to Indiana. I usually hear the song at least twice outside of geography. The link above will take you to a page where you can listen to the song and get the lyrics.

This week for history, we finished up Champlain and got started on colonization. We briefly visited St. Augustine, the oldest city in America, and then learned about the mystery of the Roanoke Colony. Jessie was appalled when the colonists were put ashore on Roanoke Island instead of being taken up the Chesapeake as they were suppose to be. Benny was a bit confused when the book was over asking me if that was the end. I guess he was expecting to find out what actually happened to the colonists. I had a biography of Sir Walter Raleigh that we didn't get too. Oh well, it's library day and Jessie is thrilled to have a new book to read this afternoon until we go into town. We added Sir Walter Raleigh and Virginia Dare to our timeline. For mapping, I found a map of Colonial America online. We added Quebec, St. Augustine, and Roanoke colonies this week color coding for the different nations. Hopefully, the maps will hold up until we get all of the colonies labeled. We finished our narrations today, so none of the booklets are made yet. We'll probably catch up on those Monday.


For art this week, I thought we'd have another try at birds. This time I gave each of the girls a coloring page (from our geography work) with the picture of a cardinal. We talked for a few minutes about the different elements in the picture. Jessie worked very hard to copy the picture with good results. Violet kept trying to just slap some lines on the paper without studying the picture (maybe we should do art after lunch when we're not hungry). Once we started again and looked at one step of the drawing at a time, she drew a much better model. I think I'll try to find a simpler model for next week and see if we still have the same focusing problems. That's Jessie's red cardinal, Violet's pink one, and the coloring page model (colored in by Violet).

As far as music, we just didn't get to it this week. By lunch time, I was ready for quiet not a symphony of music. We'll try to finish the Vivaldi CD next week so we're ready to move on after vacation.

With Benny sick we only did 2 days of preschool. I figure we'll just pick up some extra books to read and finish up next week. It will give us some extra craft time, and Benny can spend some more time with DH on his days off next week "helping" get ready for our trip.

Saying no to multitasking

Some weeks even the best schedule created with the best of intentions fails miserably to get things accomplished. The girls have done no chores this week. I think the only housework that I have done has been 1 load of laundry, vacuuming 2 rooms, and washing dishes just in time to reuse them for cooking. What happened?

1. Swim classes twice a week make it hard to do afternoon cleanup.
2. Tuesday we made an extra trip to town to get the groceries that I was too tired to stop for Monday
3. Wednesday afternoon we ran into JCPenneys when my Mom called and said they had winter coats on sale, and the sale ended that day.
4. Benny came down with a fever and has been extremely snuggly (It's hard to be productive and snuggle at the same time.)
5. I haven't been feeling all that great myself.

Now it's Thursday, and I have a ton of housework to do. As I was trying to think of ways to multitask and combine in order to save time, I recalled an article that I had read some time ago about successful CEOs. Did you know that successful CEOS don't multitask? The Money magazine article says:

"The biggest mistake most people make, according to Winston, is multitasking. 'Successful CEOs do not multitask,' she told me. 'They concentrate intensely on one thing at a time.'"

As I recall, the last time I tried this it worked great. Off I go to tackle my house one focused step at a time.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Getting Ready for Vacation

eEvery October our family enjoys spending a week on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. With the official countdown now down to 11 days and counting, I realized that I haven't even begun to plan this year's trip. So to help organize my thoughts, I thought I'd try a vacation planning to do list.

Meals - Goal: Finish by Saturday

1. Establish a meal plan for the week.
2. Create a list of groceries required for the plan.
3. Divide the grocery list into items to the brought along (spices, Rice milk, snacks) and items to be purchased in Avon.
4. Make some snacks / meals ahead of time. (Possibilities: waffles, zucchini bread, muffins, pancake mix)
5. Tell DH how much cooler space will be required.

Packing - Goal: Finish by Thursday except for last minute items

1. Find last year's vacation list (Done.)
2. Modify list based on new needs. (No playpen, diapers, etc. required for Benny this time.)
3. Type list on computer this time so I don't have to flip through several spiral notebooks next year.
3. Monday and Tuesday - estimate clothing needs based on current forecast and start washing.
4. Monday - take recycle tubs to center to empty and wash thoroughly for packing.
5. Tuesday evening - may need to do some shopping for pants for Benny or more shorts for me depending on weather.
5. Wednesday - have kid's determine what videos/toys to take (Rules: no little pieces, no dolls, must fit in tub) and pack, also rinse and pack 1 bucket of sand toys
6. Thursday - pack kid's clothes, highlight any items which need packed on Friday, set aside clothes to wear on Saturday
7. Friday afternoon - any last minute laundry (usually for me), wash sheets and remake beds, clean out refrigerator to avoid unexpected science experiments, and pack my stuff
8. Friday evening - make a list of items to be gathered when we wake the kids up to leave (pillows, stuffed animals, my toothbrush, etc.)

1. Find substitute teacher for Violet's Sunday school class.
2. Make sure all library books due that week are renewed or returned. Return all ILL books.

That's all I can think of for now. Hopefully, laying it out will help me not procrastinate until the last minute. (My DH hates it when I vacuum and mop at 9pm the night before we leave.) Now off to work on that menu.

Monday, September 24, 2007

What's a boy to do?

I finished reading our history book. Jessie and Violet went to the dining room to start geography. Benny had 15 minutes of free time until I started his video. What's a boy to do with 15 minutes? Supervising his sisters is always a good option.

He follows Jessie into the dining room and starts looking over her shoulder. (She was working on the floor for some reason.) He watches Jessie trace California and write the abbreviation.

"That's an A."

Then Benny inspects Violet's booklet.

"That's another A."

The girls continued working, and Benny disappeared. I was just beginning to wonder what he was doing when he came running down the hall with his drawing board in hand.

"Look Mom. I made an A."

There you have it. Not bad for a first attempt, especially without a model to copy. Hmm... Maybe we should capitalize on this sudden interest in drawing.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Why we love lapbooking!!

When we started history in first grade, we tried notebooking. We did a notebook page whenever Jessie did a narration. I usually wrote the narration. We cut and pasted it onto card stock and then decorated with a picture, map, coloring page, or whatever I could find online. While I still think this is a great way to organize narrations, Jessie just wasn't interested. I knew we were going to have to find something else.

About that time, the homeschool group I've been attending held a night of workshops for the monthly meeting. The best decision I ever made was to walk into the workshop on lapbooking. I loved the simplicity, the ability to pack a ton of information into a small space, the limitless possibilities of topics, and the variety of the booklets. Best of all, anyone can do this. (You don't have to be crafty).

Knowing that Jessie loves books, I felt fairly confident that she would love the idea of making tiny books. When we started studying Ancient Greece in first grade, we began our first and to date our best lapbook. Jessie loved the booklets, loves the lapbook, and still gets it out to look through it again. (I actually had to ask her where it was to take these pictures). Here are pictures of our first lapbook adventure.

This is the outside cover. Jessie picked her favorite images from the booklets, and I printed them off for her. She had a blast cutting them out and rearranging them. All of the images for this lapbook were found online using

The left flap contains booklets about the Greek myths that we made into a game. Each booklet was a plus sign. As we folded each section into the middle, we myths. The yellow booklets with the bows are a wrote a clue about the mythical person. When the booklet is completely open, the answer is revealed. We added the bows to hold them closed. In retrospect, matchbook booklets would have been perfect for this. For longer myths we made a separate booklet. The green and blue booklets cover the myths about Jason and the golden fleece and Perseus. The middle section contains 7 flip booklets about Aesop's fables.

This is the lapbook completely open. So the left flap from the previous picture opens out to the left while the middle flap opens up.

On the left side, the purple booklet it about the Iliad. It has 3 layered booklets in it: green for the Greek characters, blue for the Trojans, and yellow for the immortals. In the center is the basic plot: how the war began in pink, about Achilles in green, and how the war ended on the bottom flap. The yellow booklet is a one page book on the Odyssey, and the green one is a flip book on Homer. In red is the twelve labors of Hercules. This is a tall shutterfold booklet cut with 6 flaps on each side (one for each labor). Then we folded the booklet in half.

The next section has 2 booklets. In the flip book with the map is some information about the early inhabitants of Greece. In the blue trifold, some information about the first Olympics.

The green and light blue shutter booklets are about the city states of Sparta and Athens. In yellow is an upside down matchbook about the invasions of Persia under Darius in pink and Xerxes in blue. Hidden under that in light green is a pyramid booklet on Socrates. The purple trifold tells about the city state of Thebes.

Finally on the flip up extension are the final 2 booklets. In yellow is a trifold on Philip of Macedon. In purple is a slightly modified shutterfold with 6 flaps on top and bottom and 1 on the right which folds closed. The flaps tell the story of the life of Alexander the Great.

There's our first lapbook adventure. ( To be fair our subsequent lapbooks have been much simplier. This truly is our best so far.) Best of all we had a lot of fun along the way.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Week 6: Adding On...

It's been a busy week so all of our work isn't quite done, but we're close. Violet started swim class on Monday, and Jessie starts today. Wednesday, it was so nice that we only worked half the morning then met some friends at a playground. Amazingly all of the basics got done. We have a little more history reading to catch up, and the corresponding map and booklet we'll finish up next week. Here's our week:


Language arts is basically on autopilot. It's nice to have one area that only requires a minimal amount of planning. We had no knew poems or scriptures this week, so Jessie and Violet both copied a passage from Little Pilgrims Progress for handwriting. We're almost finished memorizing An Evening Hymn. Hopefully we'll be ready to start a new poem by the middle of next week. Today the last few chapters of the first section of Little Pilgrims Progress about Christian's journey were completed. I haven't decided if we'll try to read the entire section of Christiana's journey next week or just take the week off from literature. The picture on the left is Violet's spelling lesson, and on the right is the final draft of Jessie's retelling of The Crow and the Pitcher for CW.


Jessie's had some review and has now started working on multiplying and dividing by 8. I really like the way Singapore teaches x8 as being a double of x4. Jessie is good with mental addition so saying 4x8 is 32, 8x8 is double 32 or 64 has helped her a lot. She didn't needed any outside manipulatives this week until Friday when she used her x8 key as a reference for multiplying two and three digit numbers by 8. (She loves it when she can do all the work in her head.) On the left you see 2 of Jessie's Miquon pages for the week. Violet has breezed through the intro to multiplication section and done a bit of review. She even took the first 4 pages of the corresponding IP section in stride . Sometimes IP doesn't have as many pictures, and she has trouble with the problems. Our daily math drill is starting to pay off as well. Her confidence on her addition facts is back up so we may add on a few new ones next week. That's her Big Book of Time and Money on the right. It's quick and easy enough that she enjoys doing several pages on Fridays.


We finished all the A states this week. With Arizona and Arkansas complete, we'll be moving on to California next week. I asked the girl's twice this week to work on their geography booklets independently, and they did great. (They actually did more pages than they were assigned.) I forgot to read from the Wish You Were Here book. We'll try that next week. If Violet still doesn't show any interest, I'll just let Jessie continue to read from it in her free time. (She loves it and anything else geography related). She and Violet also pulled out the World Geography book that goes with their LeapPad this week. I didn't realize that it had a page for the states with a game to play.

I didn't have all the library books that I wanted this week for history. (The best laid plans...) Monday and Tuesday, we read a biography of Francisco Coronado and a quick picture book on Sir Francis Drake. The girls were thrilled to see that Coronado tried to do what was right and wasn't cruel or greedy like the conquistadors from last week. I also added a biography of Samuel de Champlain because I wanted to introduce the girls to the French settlements. We're reading Champlain: Father of New France by Cecil Pepin Edwards. This is the second book from the series Makers of America that we have read. Both have been excellent. After 30 minutes and 4 chapters, they were still asking for another chapter on Thursday. (Sadly, my poor voice could take no more.) I added the Champlain biography to give us a point for comparison later to look at the differences between the French and the English in how they related to the Indians. We were also scheduled to read a biography of Henry Hudson this week. (The first two books came from ILL so I wasn't sure we would have them available). The Hudson book is still checked out, so we'll have to fit it in later (maybe when we talk about New Amsterdam). We did finally make and put together a tabbed booklet to hold all of the maps we've been drawing with each explorer's route. We'll finish it up next week with some decorations, labels, and a couple of final maps.


We got to art and music this week. We're still trying to work through Drawing with Children. We reviewed at the shape families (dots, circles, straight lines, curved lines, and angled lines). The girls had actually covered this material before at an art class they attended during our church Bible study. They really wanted to draw something real so we jumped ahead and did some drawings of birds. They were both very happy with the results. Now I just have to come up with something new along the same lines for next week. (They drew birds a couple of years ago as well).

For music we listened to Masters of Classical Music: Vivaldi with mixed results. Jessie loved all the music. Violet was mostly interested in the parts that she recognized from the Classical Kids tape. Benny wanted to know when I was going to turn it off (mainly because he was ready for his nap).


Our preschool wasn't quite as consistent this week. Violet kept finishing her math early, and Benny just wanted to go off with her and play. We did manage to add the letters Ee; however, the allure of the sidewalk has worn off so we'll have to come up with something new for next week. Our number frogs have also disappeared. Hopefully, I'll find them under the living room furniture when I shampoo the carpet tomorrow. He's taken an interest in drawing and coloring all of a sudden. We put it to use tracing our alphabet letters on the sidewalk today and coloring 4-5 pages from his Kumon book. (see pictures below). This morning he also asked the girls for every scrap of paper they didn't need while they were making booklets, sat down on the kitchen floor, and proceeded to cut them into tiny pieces. I think I'll try to find a real craft for him next week. Maybe he can make some star Christmas ornaments to give as gifts. (I know it's only September. Blame the Veggietales Christmas video Benny picked yesterday morning, and my mom and sister wanting to know our plans for the holidays already.)

"The Lord gives strength to His people; the Lord blesses is people with peace." Psalm 29:11

Our school cabinet

I would love to have a separate school room with vast bookcases full of resources, maps on the walls, a large dry erase board, and separate areas for each of my kids to sit and do their work. We do have an unfinished basement, which we may be able to make use of in the future. Until then, we make do using the dining room table for seat work and hands on activities and the living room for reading.

Although it is always my intention to put away all of the school books and supplies before dinner, I must confess that last year there were quite a lot of days when centerpiece of our table was an assortment of school books, papers, pencils, and miscellaneous booklets. My DH's one request for the summer is that I find a way to better organize the school supplies so that the table is cleared for dinner (and not by moving stacks of books to the floor either). I didn't want the supplies just thrown in one big jumble in the kitchen cabinet so that we ended up with bent books and missing papers. Here is what it looks like:
Top left: Manipulative's - cuisenaire rods for math; pattern blocks, attribute blocks, and interlocking blocks for critical thinking, some pegs with which Benny plays on occasion.

Top right: Timeline notebooks for both girls, lapbook folder for each girl (geography and history), I also put my planning notebook and folders with check sheets, images for lapbooking, and our Bible curriculum.

Bottom left: 4 plastic letter trays stacked. On top are Benny's Kumon books and a pencil box with our math wrap-ups plus Benny's alphabet egg puzzles and number frogs. The next shelf has ziploc bags with Violet's completed history and geography booklets. Below that are two more ziploc bags with history and geography booklets for Jessie. On the bottom is our color card stock.

Bottom right: The 3 drawer plastic unit holds pencils and erasers in the top, dry erase markers (and the eraser when we find it again) in the middle, and scissors and glue sticks in the bottom. Above the drawer unit are Jessie's and Violet's memory boxes.

Jessie and Violet each have their own basket which holds all of their individual books which fit nicely into the remaining space in the bottom.

That's our cabinet with our current material. When Benny gets a little older we can expand into the other half of the cabinet, we just have to relocate the books on tape, the remaining play food, and a few miscellaneous books which I probably just need to go on and sell anyway.

Unused material is stored in boxes in my office closet, and I have a desk drawer for teacher's guides and catalogs. I think that's it other than the library books which have their own crate in the girl's room. It may be small, but I can find what I need and it's easier to clean up this year as well.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Adjusting our MOTH morning schedule

Our mornings have finally started moving a long fairly well with two exceptions. History and geography are never finished in 30 minutes, and most days we end up doing poetry and literature in the afternoon.

The first change that I made to our schedule was to increase the history and geography time to 45 minutes. This allows more time for the hands on work. To keep lunch at noon, I cut out the 15 minutes scheduled for cleaning up the school stuff at 11:45. With the girls help, this really only takes a minute or two so we'll just consider that part of the lunch routine.

In looking at the reasons we aren't getting poetry and literature done, I've found a couple of problems.
1. We aren't always starting school at 8:00. This is my fault not the kids. In order to this, I need to get up and get moving in the morning so that at 7:00 I can wake the girls up and get them moving. The first solution is to simply to get up earlier and follow my early morning schedule. (Basically I just have to stop be lazy and get up when my DH does.) Here it is:
2. We're spending the scheduled poetry / literature time making corrections to other subjects or getting Jessie to finish up something that she hasn't gotten to yet. I don't believe that Jessie actually needs more time scheduled for any of these subjects. I think we just need to emphasize putting our best effort into our school work (to avoid careless mistakes) and focusing on the task at hand (to get it done in a timely manner). Solution: After Jessie finishes her chores, she will be required to finish up and correct her remaining schoolwork before starting her quiet time. I know Jessie prizes her afternoon quiet time. (It's the only time where she's guaranteed not to be disturbed by her younger siblings). Hopefully, this will help her take more responsibility for her own work since the consequences will now fall solely upon her. Here's our adjusted morning routine:

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Look, Mom! It's a C!!!

Gotta love that smile! It's great to see his confidence!

Monday, September 17, 2007

Truthquest - Making a schedule

Step 1: Check out books from the library one section at a time and preread them

I have enjoyed almost every book that I have read so far on the TQ list. Michelle does an excellent job of commenting on which books are must reads and warning when an author in a particular book has a bias in a certain direction. So why do I continue to preread the books? (It's certainly not that I have an abundance of free time on my hands!! LOL) There are three reasons really. First, I am not a history buff. I am a math person. What I remember about history is a person or event and maybe a sentence about the event (ie. Balboa - first to see the Pacific). I can't just look at the table of contents and decide what topics are important and what can be skipped. Prereading helps me prioritize which topics are more important and which can be skimmed over or skipped. Second, I'm not good at off the cuff discussions. I need to read the book and have time to think it over. I have to take the time to decide ahead of time what points I want to discuss (character's motives, choices, or character for example); otherwise, the discussion just won't happen here. Finally, I know that some people enjoy meandering through TQ and spread the guides out over more than 1 year. While I want to take time to enjoy and discuss, I also want to keep us moving along. Prereading allows me to gauge more accurately how long it will take us to read through a particular book to make sure we keep moving along.

Step 2: Sort books into categories

Once I've read the book, I put it in one of the following categories: read aloud(noting how many days), assign to girl(s), or skip.

Step 3: Set up the weeks

Once I had gotten through the first dozen sections or so in the guide, I set up a table in Word. The first column tells what week it is, what topic, and lists what to read aloud. The next two column are for Jessie and Violet for listing books to assign. The final column is for activities. In it I jot down what to add to our timeline, what to summarize and make into booklets for our lapbook, and when to do maps.

Step 4: Add in projects

Projects are something we're trying to include more of this year. After I had some weeks set up, I went back through the guide and checked out the activity books. My goal is to do an additional project at least every other week. I usually pick the project, assign it, and then copy the instructions so that I will have them on hand.

I wish I could say that I got all of this done over the summer. Alas, I am only halfway through the guide, but my goal is to have it finished before Christmas so I can start thinking about the next school year. I can't post the list of books, but I will put up the schedule of weeks and topics noting which ones we only used spines to cover when I finally finish.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Can I have another muffin please?

In searching for healthy snacks without sugar that I can make for my kids to eat, I came across a muffin recipe a few years ago (sorry I can't remember where). I experimented a little with different combinations of shredded zucchini and carrots, and here is the best combination I have found:

Zucchini / Carrot Muffins

2 c. peeled and shredded zucchini
1 c. peeled and shredded carrots
1 c. canola oil
1 c. honey (We get the large containers from Sams)
4 eggs
2 t. vanilla (imitation or real)
3 c. whole wheat flour
1 t. baking soda
1 t. salt
1 T. cinnamon
1 t. nutmeg

Preheat oven to 350. Grate carrots and zucchini. Beat together with oil and honey. Beat in eggs and vanilla. Sift dry ingredients and add to liquid mixture. Bake in a greased muffin pan (or use the paper liners) for 12-15 minutes. Cool in pan for 10 minutes. Serve warm now or bag and freeze for another day. Yields about 2 dozen muffins.

My kids love these so I usually make a triple batch of these. My mixing bowl only holds one batch, but I have another bowl which holds a double batch. I like to measure the dry ingredients the night before into ziploc bags to save some time. I also have lots of bags of shredded zucchini from our garden this year in the freezer to save on the cost of zucchini. We haven't tried this yet, but you can also add 1 cup of chopped nuts for some protein.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Week 5: We're finally hitting our stride!!

It's taken 5 weeks, but we've finally gotten comfortable in our morning schedule. The girls know what needs to be done, what their choices are if they finish something early, and that dawdling around results in less free time. We even finished early on Wednesday, and they had half an hour to play outside before lunch. Here's a look at our week:

Language Arts

Grammar, copywork, and spelling are moving along. Jessie's enjoying R&S 3. Violet's getting a bit bored with FLL. (Not nouns again). We'll have to change things up a bit there next week or skip some lessons. For copywork they finished writing the poem we're working on memorizing, An Evening Hymn by Thomas Ken. That's Violet's printing on the left, and Jessie's cursive on the right. They have one stanza left to learn for next week. They are thoroughly enjoying Little Pilgrim's Progress by Taylor. We've been reading 4 three page chapters a day instead of the 2 I had planned. Thursday they were aghast when I stopped after 4 chapters. We ended just as Christian and Faithful were led away to the Governor's house in Vanity Fair. Even Benny joined his sisters chanting one more chapter over and over again. Poor children, I put the book up on the refrigerator so they wouldn't read ahead and made them wait for today because I needed to fix dinner. They survived.


Jessie worked on multiplying and dividing by seven this week. Violet's work is also about multiplication. Singapore 1B has a section introducing multiplication as adding groups with the same number of items in them. She just thinks it's cool to do multiplication like her sister.


We finished our Alaska booklet this week and started one for Arizona. Both girls are loving our state booklets. Violet declared that she wished she could keep "stickering" for at least two weeks. Jessie's reading Wish You Were Here by Kathleen Krull. In it, a young girl is traveling through all the states one summer and writes home to tell her parents what she discovers. There are two pages on each state with nice illustrations and lots of good information. It would be a great spine for a US geography study. I'm also teaching the girls the song Fifty Nifty United States. So far we're up to Hawaii, and they love it. I just have to be more consistent at remembering to do it.

In history, we breezed through Cortes, Pizarro, and Cartier on Monday and Tuesday. Wednesday and Thursday we read a biography on Hernando De Soto. The girls were disappointed that De Soto didn't force Pizarro to keep his promise to free Atahualpa. They wanted him to be the good guy. They were indignant and called him cruel later when he took Indians prisoner and forced them to carry the Spanish supplies after the Indians has treated him so kindly. Jessie thought it was sad that he looked for gold until he died and never saw his wife again. We had a chance how greed affected the decisions of the Spanish conquistadors and spent a brief time talking about how we should thank God for the blessings we have instead of always asking and wanting more.

For fun we made explorer ships out of card stock on Wednesday afternoon. I thought they turned out really well. Since there were three ships, the girls named them the Nina, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria. Here they are proudly displaying their work:


Benny had a lot of fun with preschool this week. He loved going outside where we wrote our alphabet letters on the sidewalk and playing games with them. Not only did he have fun, but he also learned some letters. We're up from just B to B, b, C, c, and D. That just leaves A, a, and d to concentrate on the beginning of next week. It's been a great confidence booster for him. You can read more about what we did 2 posts down under Experimenting with Preschool.

I still need to come up with some more centers for Benny to do alone just after breakfast. Letting him play with water on Tuesday (it's mopping day anyway) has been great. He's poured, funneled, and made soup. What could he do differently this week? "Mom, can I have some bubble soap to put in here." He had a blast and even came back to play with it again before I cleaned it up for lunch. Here are a few pictures from this week.

Benny's Surprise

Here's a glimpse at our preschool this morning.

Me: "OK. Today we're going to start learning a Bible verse for your Sunday School class. I'll say part of the verse, and then you repeat after me. Genesis"

Benny: "Genesis"

Me: "one, one"

Benny: "one, one"

Me: "In the beginning..."

Benny: "In the beginning"

Me: "God created..."


So much for teaching him something new! LOL! Even Jessie looked up from math and said, "He got it right! Good job, Benny!" Well, now I know he is paying attention during our morning Bible time. I taught the girls this verse about a month ago. I wonder what else he has absorbed?

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Experimenting with Preschool (the alphabet)

The only letter that I can say with certainty that Benny knows is the B. With Aa, b, Cc, or Dd, I get an I don't know when I ask what letter is this and only about a 50% accuracy rate if I try the show me the letter whatever route. Now, I don't know for Benny can either mean he really doesn't know or it can just mean he's not sure enough that he's right to be willing to give me an answer. So for this week, I decided to change things up a bit and try a new approach.

Knowing that Benny loves to be outside, we moved our alphabet review outside for the week. On Monday, I drew each letter A to d on a separate square of our sidewalk. While I was drawing, I asked Benny to walked on the letter lines. Once all of the letters were drawn, we went back to the beginning and hopped our way through the letters, stopping to name each letter on the way. Then we turned sideways and stepped our way back to the beginning again naming all of the letters.

Next came letter tag. I called a letter. Benny went to tag it. If he tagged the wrong letter, I simply told him what letter he had tagged, repeated what he was looking for with the addition clue of its color. Then came Benny's favorite part. He got to call the letter, and I tagged it. Sometimes he would simply point to a letter and say that one if he didn't know the name. I usually just answered, "Do you mean the ______?" Then we ended by walking down the letters again and looking at each one. I told him the name of the letter and tried to describe each letter's shape to him. For instance, the small a was a circle with a tail, and the B was a straight line with two big bumps. Will this help him learn these letters? I'll have to get back to you on that one. What I do know is that he is having fun.

A few ideas we haven't tried yet. Tomorrow we can sweep off each letter and say its name. (DH mowed this morning.) I thought we could play freeze with Benny running up and down the sidewalk until I call freeze and then telling me what letter he's on. We might try letting Benny trace the letters in chalk. Other than that, we're going to try adding an alphabet book to our stack each day. Any other ideas??

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Preliminary Planning for Truthquest

There are many people who use TruthQuest without a schedule and love to just meander their way through from one topic to the next spending as much or as little time as they wish along the way. Unfortunately, I just wasn't made to work that way. I LIKE to plan ahead, to have lists of library books to put on hold or to ILL, to write down ideas for projects or lapbooks. Plain and simple, I just like to feel organize. I need a framework to work in or things simply don't get done. To me the beauty of TruthQuest beyond its wonderful booklist and engaging Christian commentary was the fact that I get to make the schedule from start to finish. No scrambling for extra resources if I want to spend more time on a topic. No feeling guilty when I breeze through or skip entirely portions of someone else's schedule. That to me is the most beautiful part of TruthQuest.

To create a schedule from scratch, I came up with the following plan of attack:

1. I need to know what resources are available at my library.
Solution: Copy the alphabetized resource list from the back of the guide. Using the online catalog work my way through the entire list highlighting all of the resources at my library.

2. I need to know how many resources are available for each section.
Solution: Take my highlighted list and go through each section of the guide marking what books are available.

3. I need a starting framework.
Solution: I went through each section of the guide, looking at how many books were available and came up with a very rough estimate of how long each section might take and which sections might be combined. Here is what I came up with:
# of WeeksTopic NumbersDescription
13-4St. Augustine and Roanoke Colony
17-8Colonies & Puritans
19More Colonies
111-12Mississippi River & Peter Stuyvesant
113-15More colonies, Pirates, & King Philip's War
117Daily Life
118-20Colonial Wars, New Orleans, & Georgia
121-22The Great Awakening & Growing struggles
123-24Slavery & Spanish America
125-27Events, Pioneers, Frontier Indians
128-29French & Indian War & Chief Pontiac
130-31Conflict and Daniel Boone
132-33Captain Cook and Williamsburg
134-35Blood and Tea Spill & A mad king
236-37War of Independence & 1775
141-421779 & 1780
143-441781 & Peace
345People to Meet
146-47Special Topics & Fiction
148-49Art & The Constitution
151America Grows

It actually adds up to 36 weeks, although this was unintentional on my part. Now I was ready to start putting together an actual schedule. More on that later.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Our Memory System

Our memory work has changed quite a bit from last year to this year. Last year, Jessie only had to memorize Psalm 139 for Sunday school and a couple of the poems in FLL 2nd grade. (I just didn't like the selection of poems that much). Review was built in. We said all of Psalm 139 every day up to the new verse, and we said the new verse 5 times. For poems, we just reviewed when FLL said to review, ignoring any poems we weren't memorizing.

Fast forward to this year, our church has switched to a new Sunday school curriculum so instead of memorizing a block of scripture for the year (or semester), we have different verses almost every week for each child. I decided to increase our poetry memorization. Jessie also has Latin vocabulary to work on and some grammar definitions that need to be cemented down (the FLL definitions just didn't seem to stick). I needed a system that would not only introduce new memory work but also provide some systematic review.

I started with the Scripture Memory System from Charlotte Mason. Jessie and Violet each have their own 3x5 index card box with dividers for daily, even/odd, each weekday, and each day of the month. Here's Jessie's box:
Then I decided to color code the index cards. Both Jessie and Violet have purple cards with Bible verses and pink cards with poetry. In addition Jessie has green cards with grammar definitions and yellow cards with Latin vocabulary. The purple(Bible), pink(poetry), and green(grammar) cards will be filed according to the Charlotte Mason method with the exception that I won't put poetry and grammar cards in the Saturday or Sunday slot. For Latin, I only used half an index card per word or prayer. I divided the cards in three stacks and have a green (let's go memorize) rubber band around the words needing daily review, a yellow (caution don't forget me) rubber band around words we'll review weekly, and a pink (in place of red for stop we haven't learned these yet) rubber band for cards we haven't started yet. For now I'll keep the Latin cards in the back of the box.
Future ideas for expansion. I still have blue and white cards for any new memory work, maybe another language or something for history like the Declaration of Independence, Paul Revere's Ride, or the preamble to the Constitution. I'll probably break the Latin weekly review stack into a weekly and monthly stack sometime next month. Next year, I'll probably split the Bible verses into one box and the other verses into another box for Jessie.

Jessie's comment about her new box. "Oh, that's cool. Mom, you're so organized." I don't know about organized, but at least I'm getting closer. One step at a time.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Meditations on Genesis 3

As I was preparing the lesson for Violet's Sunday School class, I was struck by God's actions after Adam and Eve had sinned. I had always seen God's promise to send Jesus in verse 15 where in speaking to the serpent it says "he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel." What I saw this time was God's actions speaking just as loudly as his words. First God came. Then he called. Finally he clothed. Isn't that just like our Savior?

First Jesus came to earth trading the riches and beauty of heaven for a manger of hay.

Then he called to his people "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest."

Finally he lived a perfect life and died on the cross for our sins so that we can be clothed in His righteousness by His grace and mercy.
"I delight greatly in the LORD; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels." Isaiah 61:10

Saturday, September 8, 2007

US Geography Lapbook

I'm finished!!

The maps are inserted, the bird/flower coloring pages added, the remaining stickers ready, and all the formatting is done. The files for our US Geography lapbook are over on the right under lessons to share. Now all I have to do is print the booklets out on cardstock each week to hand out.

It's nice to be able to check something off. Now what to do next. Tackle that history schedule and stack of library books I'm supposed to be prereading. Clean up the kitchen from breakfast (DH made eggs this morning) so I can cook dinner. Email my mom that list of what other clothes the kids need for this fall.

"To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven." Ecclesiastes 3:1

Hmm. Time.... 4:30. Better start with that kitchen and dinner before they get hungry and grumpy.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Week 4: It's been a great week!!

It's been a really great week!! We still trying to get the hang of the morning schedule. We seem to consistently either overshoot or undershoot our allotted times. Looks like I'll be doing some tweaking this weekend.

What's that? Could it be a smile? DURING MATH TIME?!? Yes, Jessie has joyfully left behind the drudgery of long division for another unit of multiplication. This week she's worked on multiplying and dividing by 6. Because she hasn't memorized the facts from 6x6 to 6x9 yet, it wasn't quite as easy as she originally expected. Between mental calculations, use of the abacus, and borrowing the x6 wrap up (which she completed and then used as a reference), she managed to finish early every day this week. Of course this particular smile may have had as much to do with the fact that she secured the coveted purple dry erase marker for the morning. Solving riddles and coloring purple robots during math time never hurts either.

Violet's been reviewing addition using the corresponding chapter in Singapore IP. She struggled a bit this week with the lack of visuals, but for the most part she managed quite well her rods and some occasional help from me. On Thursday she was quite excited by the color by number exercise in math (and of course by having a legitimate reason to monopolize not only the coveted purple dry erase marker but all of the others colored ones as well). She worked through 2/3 of the problems alone, and basically just needed my help to keep her focused for the rest. She insisted I had to take a picture so here it is. She was also thrilled to find to game pages among her Miquon assignment. She and Jessie played cat and mouse rolling the die to see who could race up to 30 the fastest. Another day she raced mom (truck v. car) rolling a die to go from 30 down to 0.

Poetry memorization, grammar, and spelling are all going fine. The girls did much better with their spelling test Tuesday. We are a little behind in reading our poetry and literature, but that's been more my fault. It's easy to let the last subject slide when Dad is home two days, and Mom has a project that has to be finished. There's always this afternoon, especially with highs in the 90s again. Jessie loves her CW. This week she insisted that we use the entire passage of Androcles and the Lion instead of just the excerpt in the student manual. In handwriting, we're still working on holding the pencil correctly with both girls. Sigh. It's hard to break bad habits.

I decided to try an experiment with history this week. I had added Magellan to our Truthquest schedule. The only book scheduled for the week was Magellan, First Around the World by Ronald Syme. Rather than waiting until the end of the book for the girls' narrations, I took time each day to discuss and get each of their narrations written down. The result was the best summaries yet for our history. They were much longer and more detailed than usual. We had an ocean stretching to the sunrise and starving men eating sawdust(YUCK!!). As a result we resorted to the accordion style booklets for the lapbook.

Exploration has also be added to our play. (Always a good sign of learning). Here's Jessie's queen and princess are leading Pooh bear and company (her bank) on an exploring to find a new island inhabited by an assortment of other Disney figures. (I wonder if that's where all of the missing ones have disappeared.)

Our lapbook approach to geography also appears to be working. Jessie calls geography fun time. By the 3rd day, I was glad to see Violet picking out Alabama on an unlabeled map. We seem to have a good balance of fun and learning. On the downside, DH and I both find the geography songs tape highly annoying. We'll have to put that up for sale. I started teaching the girls the song Fifty Nifty United States. I learned it in elementary school and can still sing the 50 states in alphabetical order. Maybe we can find a song for the capitals online somewhere. Coincidentally, I see a thread on the WTM curriculum board to check out.

With DH home two days we took the week off from music. We skipped art again this morning because I had to meet someone in town. Hmm. Tomorrow's suppose to be hot too. I'll see what the girls think of that suggestion.


As always, Benny is ready for me to start preschool before I am. Thank goodness the stack of books in the chair stayed at 5 or less this week. (Once he unloaded most of his bookshelf when I suggested he go pick some books and make a stack for me to read.) Apparently a group of 4 is a new concept to him. He had to actually count flies on the lily pad and needed help to show me four fingers. I'm hitting some resistance with the alphabet. He can do the egg puzzles, but can't always tell what the letters are that he is putting together. I'm not sure if he doesn't know the name of the letter or if he just doesn't want to tell me. Next week is alphabet review, and I have the weekend to come up with a way to make the letters more fun. Perhaps I just need to brush up on learning styles again.