Friday, February 29, 2008

Week 26: Adjusting

We've had a lighter school week than usual. Almost all of the basics have gotten done, but I knew we would need a chance to adjust because Jessie and Violet started swim lessons. The classes are twice a week in the afternoons. Although that doesn't disrupt morning school work directly, it does affect the housework and chores, which then have to be done at some other time (we played a bit of catch up this morning). Meals have been another big challenge simply because I'm not used to getting home just before 6 and needing something for dinner right away. One week of classes down. Three more to go.


Together the girls are continuing to work on A Child's Prayer for poetry memorization. For literature (which didn't happen on swim lesson days), we read sections of Calico Bush (which we also worked on during history time. Both of the girls enjoyed the book very much. Actually the minute I finished it, Jessie pounced on the book and took it to reread herself. For Classical Writing this week, Jessie has begun rewriting the fable The Fox and the Crow. I'm trying to get her to stretch the story a bit with her imagination by amplifying the dialogue. It's been slow going so far. I think we'll continue working on it for a day or two next week before writing a final draft. She also finished her critical thinking for the year. YEAH!! One subject down. In grammar, she's having some difficulty distinguishing between adjectives and adverbs. I think that all the different questions that R&S uses for introducing the two have her a bit confused. We went back to straight definitions from FLL for nouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs. She could tell me what word it described. Then we took that word and figured out if it was a noun or verb, which then told us whether the word in questions was an adjective or adverb. We may take a break from grammar next week and do some more diagramming and just marking parts of speech in sentences for some more practice. On the right is a page of Violet's copywork from our current poem.


The has been mostly a review week for both girls. Jessie had 3 days of cumulative review in the textbook and workbook. Friday, she started a new math section on time. Most of this should be review, so we'll try picking up the pace next week. Violet spent 4 days reviewing addition with regrouping and subtraction with borrowing with exercises in the textbook. The second day, I checked her paper, and it looked like she had forgotten everything she has learned in the section (which I found strange since the first review page had been fine). It turned out that she just wasn't in the mood to do school that day so she was just slapping numbers down without putting much thought into her work in order to call it done. When called on her sloppy work, she claimed that she didn't understand and it was too hard. It made for a very long morning. I'm happy to say her work was much better the next few days. This morning her only mistake was in miscopying a number from the last word problem, so we'll just keep chugging slowly along through the section. On the right is a multiplication table out of her Miquon book. There was a page for each number. On the top was a hundred chart with blanks to fill in skip counting according to the number. On the bottom was a multiplication chart with only the row and column of that number to fill in. Here's the end result.


We picked up the geography pace this week adding geography into the time slot on Tuesday and Thursday that used to be critical thinking. Tuesday, both girls decided to do the entire New Mexico booklet instead of just the first half. While they are still enjoying the lapbook, I can see the "it's almost spring, let's get this work done" attitude starting to creep into their work. I think it's because I have all of the booklets printed, so they know exactly what is left to accomplish. Having the end in site is always a great motivator for them. We'll just go at their pace and see when we finish. This week's booklets were New Jersey, New Mexico, and New York.

For history, we basically took a week off. We spent part of the time finishing up Calico Bush and Friday playing with friends. I didn't have the mapwork ready for the French and Indian War anyway. I think we might take Monday to assemble all of our booklets so far into our lapbook. (Hmm. That means I need to type up those summaries of William Penn.) The bags are getting pretty full and we still have the French and Indian war and the War of Independence at least to do for this year.

Science is going great. The shorter lessons in the Apologia book using my homemade booklets combined with the "Peter Rabbit stories" as my kids call them (aka The Burgess Bird Book for Children) have made science a new favorite subject. No extras this week because it's been so busy. The migration booklets that we made are pictured on the right.


No art this week. Music appreciation got done simply because the kids chose to do it. I checked out two Classical Kids tapes for Mozart. Wednesday afternoon, all 3 decided to listen to the first tape without any prompting from me. It is titled Mozart's Magic Fantasy. Jessie is really showing an interest in classical music. She loves the Masters of Classical Music cds that we have, but rarely gets to listen to them because no one else wants to listen with her. I think next week, I'll offer to let her borrow my portable cd player with headphones and see if she wants to listen to the Vivaldi or Bach cds on her own.


Benny's school time was a bit shorter than usual. He was a bit disappointed when I spent half of the morning catching up on some cleaning before our company came. I promised we'd read some books this afternoon after nap instead. No new letters added this week. We just reviewed the ones he already knew. The girls have been teaching him how to spell words with the magnets on the refridgerator. Benny's been a good sport about it, so I haven't said anything to the girls about the lessons being too hard for him now. His newest idea for the week has been to start singing the alphabet song the moment he sits on my lap at a speed so fast that sometimes I can't understand the letters. He also hasn't been interested in doing any Kumon pages this week, although he did make quite a mess yesterday cutting up some of his sister's geography scraps into tiny pieces. No pictures this week for Benny.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

An Unusual Evening Meal

Monday evening for dinner I fixed venison steaks (for DH), broccoli, and an apple and orange fruit salad (for the kids). I expected the kids to ask for seconds of fruit salad and that it would be eaten up. I also felt certain that there was enough steak and broccoli cooked up for me to eat leftovers for lunch the following day. Dinner was quieter and more pleasant than usual. I had barely gotten started on my plate when Violet polished off the last few bites on her plate and requested bread with butter. A few minutes later, Benny finished up and put in his nightly request for bread and butter. I was just glad that they had both eaten without any complaining or prodding on the part of DH or me. Then things took an unexpected turn.

BENNY: "May I please have some more steak?"
ME: "I'll get it for you in just a minute. Let me finish eating."
BENNY: "And some more broccoli, too?"

BROCCOLI!?! I'm quite sure that the look of surprise on my face was obvious. No one in this house has ever asked for seconds of broccoli. I couldn't have heard that right....

ME: "Did you say that you wanted more steak AND more broccoli?"

I actually reached over and checked his forehead to see if he was running a fever. No. Temperature feels normal.

ME: "Are you sure you're my Benny? My Benny never asks for more broccoli."

The kids all giggle at the joke. I walk over to the counter and started getting Benny's seconds. I'm just starting to cut the meat when Violet pipes up.

VIOLET: "Mom, can I have some more steak and broccoli too please?"

BROCCOLI!?! AGAIN!?! I set the knife down, turned around, and just looked at her for a minute.

ME: "You want more steak and more broccoli too?"
VIOLET: "Yes please."

I look over at DH, who is trying very hard not to laugh out loud at this point.

ME: "Now I know I'm in the wrong house."

Everyone starts to giggle. And yes, just in case you're wondering, they ate every bit of the seconds that I gave them including an additional helping of fruit salad. So much for leftovers. I still have no idea why they were so hungry. They had their normal lunch and snack. Really they did.

Monday, February 25, 2008

A quick reality check...

Ugh!! I knew my eating habits haven't been the best lately although I have been making progress in improving them. There's nothing like a call from the doctor's office to give me the motivational kick that I need. I failed my glucose tolerance test last Friday, so Wednesday of next week I get to spend a delightful morning at the hospital lab for a longer 3 hour glucose test. On the plus side, it will give me some time to either do some more history reading or plan out at least 2 more science chapters. On the down side, I'm expecting to feel miserable most of the morning. The glucose drink on Friday made me feel extremely nauseous and generally miserable until almost lunch time. (I suppose that should have been my first clue since I've never felt that badly after a glucose drink in my previous pregnancies.) Hmm. Let's see that means no more caffeine free Pepsi (not so bad I've made it down to 1 or 2 a week), no more yogurt (Drat. Just when I thought I'd found another protein source. Oh well, dropping the dairy usually improves my allergies.), no more desserts (I was so looking forward to a piece of my MIL's red velvet cake tonight), and no more candy (at least there's none left in the house to tempt me). I'd really rather go eat a couple of pretzel rods for a snack, but I suppose it won't kill me to try eating a tangerine instead.

Oh, and of course, I'm slightly anemic again. No surprise there. It happens every time. Unfortunately, I don't tolerate the iron supplements very well, but I guess it never hurts to give them another try. I could always eat scrambled eggs every morning for breakfast until May if it doesn't work out.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Week 25: Moving Along

It's been a great week!! Despite oversleeping a couple of mornings and an early morning doctor's appointment, we have gotten all of our work done. We even added in a little extra (see the post on science below this one). Here's our week:


The fraction manipulatives seem to have done their job. Jessie had a much easier time going through the workbook exercises this week. The only question that the manipulatives couldn't answer was: "How do you know what number to use for the common denominator?" I gave her a couple of guidelines even though the reality is that it just gets easier with more practice.
Violet has been working on borrowing for subtraction all week. We started off with the manipulatives to illustrate borrowing from the tens place. Then we reworked the same problem both by writing it down and moving the manipulatives. I split Monday's lesson and exercise in half so that she could practice just borrowing from the tens place first. Then Tuesday, we finished up the lesson and explained borrowing from the hundreds. We've also speeded up the pace in her Time and Money book which she loves mainly because it is so easy. She was very excited to be learning about quarters on Thursday.


Our new poem to memorize for the next couple of weeks is A Child's Prayer (the words are over on the left under poetry). Spelling is going well for both girls. Violet spent part of the week copying Psalm 1 which we are also working on memorizing. Then she requested to use a section from a Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle book she has been reading this week for copywork. I was happy to oblige and not have to come up with my own selection. Jessie is still plugging through the creation section of The Magician's Nephew for dictation. I think it may end up lasting us the rest of the year. Jessie is wondering if we can fit it all in her handwriting book.


We have started doing geography daily now. On Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, it is still part of history time. On Tuesday and Thursday, the girls are working on their booklets during their critical thinking time since Violet has finished all of her books and Jessie will be finishing the last one next week. We finished booklets for Nevada and New Hampshire and started a booklet for New Jersey. Now I just have to remember to sing that song so we can finish it up.

For history, we read the TruthQuest commentary on the Great Awakening, Nathaniel Bacon, and Peter Zenger. Unfortunately, I couldn't find any of the books listed in these sections. We did read about Nathaniel Bacon in Guerber's Story of the Thirteen Colonies. The remainder of the week we worked on the section about slavery and indentured servants. The girls asked me to explain the difference between a slave and an indentured servant. In addition, I explained that even though the family in our reading selection was nice to their indentured servant that was not always the case. We read Calico Bush during both history and literature time this weekend. I underestimated the amount of time the book would require, so we'll do a bit more reading on it over the weekend.

For science, we looked at how birds fly with topics on flight muscles, steering, takeoffs, flapping and gliding, as well as soaring. We cut back on the amount of reading from our zoology book and decided to spend part of our science time reading The Burgess Bird Book for Children which is available online at On Thursday, we also incorporated some origami into science. See the Tuesday and Thursday posts below for more information on science for this week. The pictures on the right side show this week's science booklet.


Letters: We've now added Nn. Benny does great at matching up the letters. He has needed a couple of hints this week on letter names because he was mixing up G and J also M and N. We'll just wait a few extra days for those letters to sink in before we start adding on again.

Numbers: Benny's counting is improving. He's still skipping a number here and there. We're working on that for now and then we'll get back to some number recognition again.

Other: This week Benny decided to work on his Kumon coloring book. I lost count of how many pages he did. There are a couple in the pictures below. His favorite books for this week were the Frances books Best Friends for Frances, Bread and Jam for Frances, and A Birthday for Frances. We read the other books in this series last week. I was also very impressed by Will You Be My Friend by Tafuri and The Quarreling Book by Zolotow. New for this week, we've started adding a short short Bible reading each day and are starting to learn a few simply Bible songs as well. If nothing else, at least he'll have something to sing to himself once he's tucked in at bedtime other than the Alphabet song.

Combining science with art

Today, in Apologia Zoology 1, the first part of our reading was about how birds steer while flying and how they alternate between flapping and gliding to conserve energy. To illustrate these concepts, I grabbed a piece of mail that was laying nearby and pretended it was a bird. Suddenly everybody wanted to have my piece of mail so that they could play bird too. I suggested that we wait until the afternoon (we were already running a little behind because I overslept), and I would try to teach them how to make an origami bird to fly instead if I could find some directions. I found some great directions online at

Step 1: Make an origami square base.

Step 2: Next turn the square base into an origami bird base.

Step 3: Take the bird base and fold it into an origami flapping bird. To make the bird fly better, you need to change the last step by folding the wings straight down instead. The directions show the wings being folded down and to the back. I tried this and the wings didn't flap very well. When I looked at the demonstation video that showed how to flap the wings, I noticed that the wings were folded straight down. This works much better.

Here's a look at our bird creations this afternoon.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Not Quite Wordless Wednesday

It was a quiet school morning, maybe a little too quiet. Both girls were busy with their studies. Meanwhile at the other end of the house....

At first, he was oblivious to my presense until the flash went off...

Uh-oh! Busted. Wrong room. Wrong set of Legos. Personally I'm just glad it didn't involve paint this time so his secret is safe with me.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Making science more interesting

Although my girls have been enthusiastic about the booklets I created Zoology 1, they would probably both admit that the text itself is a bit dry. So to make science a bit more interesting this morning, I decided to try a different tact. We shortened the lesson from the Apologia book and spent the remaining time reading The Burgess Bird Book for Children (Yesterday's Classics). It is also available free online at Mainlesson.

Then results: drum roll please

I actually found a science book that they enjoy!! YEAH!!! Since we are already mostly through the bird section of Apologia, we read 3 chapters today. In chapter one alone, there were references to migration and camoflauge for science. As an added bonus, we talked about how the wrens did everything with all their might and how we too should always try to do our best. Then we pulled out our field guide and looked to see which of the birds mentioned in our reading were found in our area. Through Ambleside Online, I found a few more interesting links. For more information about the birds mentioned organized by chapter you can go here. They also have links to an online site to listen to bird songs and calls and some free coloring pages including this printable coloring book for common feeding birds with questions to answer regarding color, shape, size, and similarities or differences between males and females.

I don't think we'll drop the Apologia text at this point just slow down the lesson pace a bit. Next time around when Benny is a bit older, I believe I will start with the Burgess book as my basis and add in information from Apologia or various library books to expand on some of the topics being introduced. Now, if only I can find something similar to go along with the section on insects....

Monday, February 18, 2008

Our new game folder

Basically, I took a regular file folder and glued on 2 top-loading sheet protectors with Tacky glue for our base. This way we can use dry erase markers on our same base and just change out what is in the sheet protectors for different games. For our first game, I put a US state map on top and a list of the 50 states on the bottom. I numbered the states that we have learned so far on the map, and then asked the girls to write the numbers on the bottom using dry erase markers. Jessie thought it was fun. She got all but two of them without help. Violet answered about half of them correctly and then had to pull out a reference map for the rest. I think Wednesday or Thursday we'll try reversing the game. I'll write different colored shapes down beside the names and let the girls place them on the map. I know it's not a very creative game to start off, but I figure we can work on something more fun like diffreent versions of Bingo or something else simple as we go along.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Our Homemade Fraction Manipulatives

I decided that it would be better to stick with fraction bars instead of trying to make my own pie piece fractions since the odds of my dividing a circle equally into thirds, sixths, and ninths would be slim to none. The brown strip which represents one whole is made of construction paper since that is the only kind of paper in my house that is twelve inches long. All of the fraction pieces are made of the same cardstock we use for our lapbooks.

The concept that we need to work on is basically equivalent fractions. We'll lay out the bars to show how 1/2, 2/4, 3/6, 4/8, etc. and 1/3, 2/6, 3/9 etc. are simply different ways of naming the same amount. Then to explain why multiplying the top and bottom of the fraction by the same number doesn't change the amount, we'll discuss that multiplying by 2/2 is the same as multiplying by 1. Hopefully with something concrete to look at, the last couple of exercises in the workbook will be much easier. Depending on how it goes we can either move straight into the exercises in the IP or spend a couple of days working exercises of our own. Worst case scenario, we can always move on for now and spend some more time on fractions over the summer.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Week 24: A Few Bumps

We hit a few bumps in the road this week so not everything has gotten done that I had planned to accomplish. Actually, for once it doesn't even bother me a little bit. Maybe I've finally found that balance between structure and flexibility that I have been wanting, or it could just be that I haven't been sleeping very well and am too tired to care for now. Here's what did get done.


Jessie hit a mental roadblock working with fractions in math this week. Somewhere between comparing fractions and equivalent fractions, she simply didn't get the concepts. She was at upset at first when I told her that we needed to go back through the textbook and workbook exercises before trying the intensive practice section. After I explained that we were going to make some manipulatives to help her better understand the concepts and showed her in next year's math books why she needed to understand fractions better this year, she accepted the fact that we needed to review (even though she's still not thrilled about it). In Miquon she's been enjoying plotting points on a grid so math wasn't a total bust this week.

Violet has been breezing through her addition with regrouping exercises. She definitely has the concept down. I've only had to correct a few careless errors here and there. This week it was her Miquon exercises that I actually needed to sit down with her to help. They were covering multiplication in terms of doubling. (If 2x2 is 4 and 4x2 is 8, the 8x2 must be...) Since she hasn't done a whole lot of multiplication, I expected her to have some difficulty with these and made her get out the rods to use. After laying out the rods end to end for a few problems, she realized that she could just pick up the rods in her hand and add them up mentally. For 4x6, she picked up 4 number 6 rods in her hand, looked at her hand for a minute, and then told me the answer was 24 because if 2 6 rods made twelve, 4 rods made 2 groups of 12 which was 24. I was thrilled. It's great to see her making some connections with her math. She's also progressing well with her addition math drill. She has master the +5 key, is close to mastering the +6 key, and has starting working on +7.

Jessie and Violet both finished memorizing our poem Loving Jesus this week. They got another week off from literature because although I have 3 different titles on hold none of the copies have been returned yet. Well, hopefully next week we'll have at least one of them. On the right is part of Violet's copywork for the week. If you look closely, you can probably guess which half of the page was written on Valentine's Day when she was rushing to be able to open her Valentine's presents.

At the beginning of the week, Jessie informed me that she wanted to work on the section of The Magician's Nephew where Aslan is creating Narnia for dictation this week, so we started it. She is insisting that we do all of that part of the story, so we'll probably be working on it for a while yet. In Classical Writing, Jessie really stepped up and worked hard this week. We started our outline together on Tuesday. On Wednesday since I didn't have a math assignment to leave for her while I went to a doctor's appointment, I asked her if she thought she could finish the outline on her own. She did a great job. It took her a little more than one page of regular notebook paper, which is a lot of writing for her, but I could tell that she was proud of her accomplishment (even though she admitted her hand was a bit tired).


We only did geography one day this week, and finished up Nebraska. I'd like to make a couple of file folder games over the weekend to reinforce what we're learning. I'll post some more when I have them completed. We managed to do all of our history in 2 days this week. On Monday, we covered the smaller wars that lead up to the French and Indian war. On Friday, we read about the founding of Georgia. We added Oglethorpe to our timelines, labeled Georgia on our colony map, and took some time to color the map.

For science, we finished up lesson 3 about feathers. On Tuesday we learned about the 5 different types of feathers and preening. We added 6 folded sheets of paper with fill in the blank information to our feather diagram from last week: one for each feather type and one for preening. On Thursday, we talked about why feathers are so colorful. The girls took colored pencils and scribbled in the flap booklet which colors went with which type of pigment.


No official art this week. Jessie made small Valentine's cards for everyone, and Violet made snowflakes for Jessie and Benny. For music they listened to Mr. Back Comes to Call one day while they were playing the basement without me even realizing it, so hopefully we can find another composer when we go to the library this afternoon.


Letters: Benny is now more than halfway through the alphabet!! The picture below was taken when we did letter matching on Monday. By the end of the week, Benny had also learned the M and m. He thought it was funny when I told him that pretty soon we would need to use a second drawing board because there was only room for one more animal on this one.
Numbers: Mostly finger counting this week. Friday, I wrote numbers on the board and asked him to hold up that many fingers. It got everything 5 and under but needed a bit of help with 6 to 8.

Other: This week Benny took a break from cutting and wanting to work in his pasting book. We glued a beak on a duck, a mouth and nose on a dog, and a face on a panda bear in addition to the two pages pictured below.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Quick and easy one skillet homemade meal

Here is a recipe that I created as a homemade alternative to those one skillet meals you can find at the grocery store.

Burger and noodle with vegetables

1 to 1 1/2 pounds of ground meat (we use venison, but beef or turkey would also work)
1 small sweet onion, chopped
3 medium carrots, peeled and chopped
2-3 handfulls of frozen broccoli
1/2 teaspoon of garlic powder
2 Tablespoons of parsley
2 teaspoons of basil
1-2 teaspoons of pepper
1/2 to 2/3 of a box of whole wheat rotini noodles whatever fits without overflowing

In a large skillet (we use 14"), brown the ground meat. While the meat is cooking, peel and chop up a small onion. Once the meat is done add the onion to the skillet stirring occasionally. Peel and chop carrots. Add to pan once the onion is translucent. Take 2-3 handfulls of frozen chopped broccoli. Hold it under a stream of hot water for a few seconds to thaw off any ice then add to pan. Sprinkle in garlic powder, parsley, basil, and pepper. Allow vegetables to sautee a few minutes stirring occasionally. Add 3-4 cups of water so that the skillet contents are covered but there is still room to add the noodles. Bring to a boil. Add in noodles and cook for another 6-8 minutes until the noodles are done and the water has boiled off.

Last night we tried substituting boneless, skinless chicken breast for the burger. I started with a few tablespoons of cooking oil, cut 2 large chicken breast in chunks, and cooked them in the skillet in place of the burger. It worked great. It's a nice simple meal that my kids enjoy and as a bonus it's also healthy.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

How much does used curriculum really save?

I've often wondered on my extremely slow dial up connection how much money I actually save when I spend months scouring Ebay and various For Sale boards looking for what I want in good condition at a reasonable price. This year I decided to keep track. The curriculum list below is for Jessie to use in 4th grade. All of Violet's 2nd grade curriculum will be handed down from when Jessie was in 2nd grade. The list also leaves out any curriculum that I am putting together myself using library resources, any that I haven't decided on yet, and any non-curricular items. I'll update the list periodically as I get in more books or decide to add or delete things from my list. It will be interesting to see by the end of June what the cost savings actually are.

  1. Singapore Primary Math 4A Textbook ($7.95) USED ($3.00)
  2. Singapore Primary Math 4A Workbook ($7.95)
  3. Singapore Primary Math 4A Intensive Practice ($7.95)
  4. Singapore Primary Math 4B Textbook ($7.95) USED ($3.00)
  5. Singapore Primary Math 4B Workbook ($7.95)
  6. Singapore Primary Math 4B Intensive Practice ($7.95)
  7. Singapore Primary Math 4 Challenging Word Problems ($7.50)
Total cost for math: $55.20
Cost saving so far: $9.90 (18%)

Language Arts:
  1. Spelling Workout F NEW ($12.37)
  2. Spelling Workout G NEW ($12.37)
  1. Rod and Staff, Building with Diligence ($14.90)
  1. Finish Aesop with Core manual only ($0.00)
  2. Poetry for Beginners with Core manual only ($31.95) USED ($15.00)
Total cost for Language Arts: $71.59
Cost savings for LA: $16.95 (24%)

  1. Latin for Children Primer A ($21.95)
  2. LfC A DVDs ($54.00)
  3. LfC A Activity Book ($16.95)
  4. LfC A History Reader ($9.75)

Total cost for Latin: $99.95 bundled
Cost savings for Latin: $0.00

  1. TruthQuest American History for Young Students 2 ($28.95)
  2. TruthQuest American History for Young Students 3 ($28.95)
Total cost for history: $57.90
Cost saving for history: $0.00

Critical Thinking:
  1. Building Thinking Skills Level 2 ($29.99)
  2. MindBenders A2 ($9.99)
  3. MindBenders A3 ($9.99)
  4. MindBenders A4 ($9.99)
Total cost for critical thinking: $59.96
Cost savings for critical thinking: $0.00

Total curriculum cost: $344.60
Cost savings so far: $26.85 (8%)

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Brainstorming for preK, part 2

Now for the undecided part. I know Benny will continue to listen to his sisters' history and science, but I'd like to have a separate program of reading aloud to Benny during his time with me. The themes in preschool this year didn't work for us because there weren't enough books to read. Right now I've just started putting books from the booklist in Honey for a Child's Heart on hold each week to make sure we have something new each week. While it seems to be working for this year, I don't really want to continue flying by the seat of my pants each day with a new baby next year. Benny loves watching animal planet and loves animals in general so I'd like to do something along those lines. Here are some ideas that have been bouncing around in my head so far.

1. Expand on the themes that I used for the coop preschool with units on different animal habitats, reading literature and even simple non-fiction books on animals that live in the different habitats. I would probably have to cover at least 2 different animals each week to have a sufficient number of library books.

2. Do a more geography-based program similar to what I used for Jessie back in K. (Unfortunately, it's no longer on my pc but shouldn't be too difficult to recreate). Each unit would be a different continent with different countries each week. This would let us broaden our reading to include some children's literature related to each country, but we could also include the different animals on each continent as well as major habitats such as the Brazilian rainforest and the Sahara desert. As much as Benny loves ocean animals we would probably lump the oceans together with Antarctica as a unit. I have McGraw Hill's The Complete Book of Animals (The Complete Book Series) and an Usborne's Animal Jigsaw Atlas which both list animals by continent. Jessie found the former to be a bit dry, but Benny seems to like non-fiction books more than his sister. We could always start out with the countries and scale back on areas that don't interest Benny. (It's certainly easier to scale back than try to add on on the fly).

3. Group the animals based more on type of animal (birds, insects, mammals, etc.) Here again we would probably need to cover more than one animal a week to have enough books. I do have a few books from the Dr. Seuss Learning Library that we could use to introduce topics on birds, dinosaurs, bugs, and mammals if we go this route. We also have DK's Animal Encyclopedia that we could use for pictures, but I think some of the text would probably go over Benny's head.

Hmm.. it's looking like choice 2 would be the easiest to expand, but it also has the most potential for me to overdo things. We'll pray about it for a few weeks (I have to get the taxes done in the mean time) and see what direction seems the best at that point.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Week 23: A Taste of Spring

We've had some rain this week, but the temperatures have been wonderful. No running downstairs to check on the woodstove. Instead of "I'm bored", it's "can we go outside since we finished early". (Nice weather is an amazing motivator for school work.) There's nothing like a glimpse of spring to brighten up the mood in the house. If you haven't already guessed, it's been a great week.


Jessie has been doing an excellent job on fractions this week. No confusion or tears this time around. It's seems that the concepts are finally beginning to click. We did a bit more multiplication drill, and I realized that Jessie really hasn't cemented done her facts on the x6 to x9 keys. So we'll be taking a bit of time to during memory work to make sure she masters these.

Violet has really seemed to make a huge leap forward in understanding math concepts this week. She took to the vertical format of working out addition and subtraction problems on paper like a duck to water. Thursday we started addition with renaming. I tried explaining the concept with the pictures in the book and received a blank stare, so we broke out the cuisenaire rods and reworked the problem with the rods. Then I modeled a couple of problems for her on paper, and finally gave her 4 problems on paper for her to explain to me how to work them. After a couple of questions to get her started with the first one, she took off. It was great to watch, and she was so proud of herself.


Our new poem for the week is Loving Jesus by Charles Wesley. Violet's using the new poem for copywork while Jessie has been doing a paragraph from The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe this week for dictation. (The Magician's Nephew went missing under their dresser for a couple of days.) For literature we have all (Benny included) been enjoying The Courage of Sarah Noble.

I wrote last week that Jessie was having trouble with diagramming, and then over the weekend it dawned on me what I was doing wrong. I had explained diagramming adjectives as if they were a part of a puzzle just telling her where to put them on the diagram. Instead I needed to explain how adjectives fit into the process of sentence diagramming by modeling the whole process from start to finish. (You would think I learned my lesson when we hit a similar wall working on the process of long division.) So each day when we reached the section about diagramming the sentence this week, I ran through the whole process with her using the example and grammar has gone much more smoothly.

Violet's favorite accomplishment of the week has been finishing up all 3 of her critical thinking resources: Building Thinking Skills Primary, Visual Perceptual Skill Building 1, and Dr. DooRiddles A1. Jessie was excited to finish up her Mind Benders A1 book as well.


In US Geography, we have made it through Montana this week. I'd like to pick up the pace in the geography booklets. I think Jessie should be finishing up some more of her critical thinking books next week. We can use that time on Tuesday and Thursday to accomplish an additional geography booklet each week. I forgot to go over the states song again. (Pause here while I go print the words out right now so I remember next week.) OK. Let's see. In history we had a light week and looked at a couple of books covering Colonial Life. I had thought we would do a couple of projects this week, but the weather was so nice it just didn't happen. Maybe I can work them in over the next few weeks. No booklets, maps, or timelines either.

For science, we have started lesson 3 learning about molting and feathers. There are 2 completed booklets and 1 partially completed booklets below. The orange and red accordion booklets cover molting with questions and fill in the blanks. In the white booklets, we did flight feathers. The top part matched the names of the feathers with their location and function. Then we mapped the flight feathers out on the bird below. The incomplete booklet shows our diagram of a feather. We'll be adding to that next week when we learned about the other types of feathers.

Looking forward, I realized that there are a few other bird related topics not covered in the book so I'll look to see what the library has available this afternoon and try to cement exactly what else we're going to cover this weekend.


Letters: We added Kk and Ll this week. I'm going to order some new alphabet magnets for the refrigerator so that we can actually match on the refrigerator and use the magnets to write on the dry erase board. More on that when they come in.

Numbers: Number recognition up to 7 is good. We're still doing lots of finger counting. We also worked on counting when putting the chips in the cups again. Benny hasn't quite mastered the concept of saying one number with each chip.

Other: For reading, we were having a hard time finding new, interesting books at the library. I believe I have already read to Benny every picture book that I ever read to the girls. Last Friday, I took our new copy of Honey for a Child's Heart with us to the library and used that to find some new books for Benny. Benny's favorite for the week was Can We Sleep Here Tonight?by Koide. I placed 5 or 6 more books from the list on hold for next week. My plan is to continue through the list of picture books for the remainder of the year. Here's a few of Benny's Kumon cutting pages. We also did a few pages in the Let's Sticker and Paste book this week.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Brainstorming for PreK, part 1

I haven't even finished planning this year yet, but quite honestly my brain is ready to start thinking about something new. Since Benny's Pre-K year is the most up in the air right now, I figured I'd jot down some ideas to pray and consider for a couple of weeks before making a decision. Here's what I know we will use:

Phonics - Phonics Pathways: Clear Steps to Easy Reading and Perfect Spelling with Bob Books, Set 1: Beginning Readers, MCP readers, and level 1 readers at the regular and church library. Not much planning is required for this part since I will let Benny set the pace. I would like to make a list of readers and write them in a chart to show roughly where they would correspond to PP. (Otherwise I know my brain will forget them in it's baby-induced state of sleep deprivation).

Handwriting - Benny has been trying to write letters on his own recently but has been a bit frustrated with the results. To help with general pencil/marker control, I believe we'll use Amazing Mazes (Kumon's Practice Books) and My First Book Of Tracing (Kumon Workbooks). Based on Benny's interest we could also use Kumon's My Book of Mazes: Animals (Kumon Workbooks) and/or My Book of Mazes: Things That Go! (Kumon Workbooks). If he continues to be interested in writing letters, we can do some letter tracing with chalk outside on the sidewalk or maybe even painting in an outlined letter on rainy days. Again nothing formal. As many or as few pages a week as Benny is interested in completing. I'm not interesting in pushing handwriting at this point.

Math - This will likely be lots of counting using pennies, m&ms, cheerios, the beads on the abacus, etc. The goal will be counting to 100 by 1s, 2s, 5s, and 10s similar to what's described in the WTM for Kindergarten. Our other main math focus will be a magnetic calendar. We'll cover days of the week, months of the year, seasons, and number recognition up to 31. I'd like to find a few simple dot-to-dot books for number recognition as well. At various points during the year, I think we'll take a break from counting for other topics like shapes, patterns, names of coins, etc. I'll have to sit down and brainstorm a few more ideas here.

Fine Motor Skills - In addition to the fine motor work under handwriting, I'd like to keep up Benny's progress in cutting. (This is one area that I didn't do a good job at developing in the girls). Kumon has a few more books that we could use: My First Book Of Cutting (Kumon Workbooks), My Book Of Pasting (Kumon Workbooks), and My Book of Pasting: Jigsaw Puzzles (Kumon Workbooks). We'll continue to use these as long as Benny enjoys them and then switch to some simple paper crafts similar to what I used for the coop preschool class I taught last year.