Thursday, December 31, 2009

Schedule for the New Year

I made a few changes to our schedule for the remainder of the school year.
  1. History and science now have daily instead of alternating blocks. This will help me spread Jessie's history assignments out more evenly. It will also enable us to complete both God's Design Chemistry books in one semester.
  2. I moved Benny's read aloud time back to before lunch. It was just too easy for me to decide I was tired and skip his reading or cut back on the amount I read.
  3. I've also added an art time for Benny on Fridays instead of Read Alouds. He loves to make things, and Fridays when the girls are putting together their notebook pages are a natural time for that.
  4. The structure for Henry hasn't changed much, but I plan to follow the schedule more closely than I did before Christmas.
Other changes include:
  • Switching Violet from Discover 4 Yourself Bible studies to Explorer Bible Study
  • Adding Greek for Jessie (Alphabet Code Cracker)
  • Starting Latin for Children A with Violet
  • Doing an actual week's work in Homer in one week instead of two with Jessie so we can get to the poetry book (Totally my fault. I don't know what I was thinking last semester. I must have been stuck in Aesop mode.)
I'm looking forward to starting next week.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Looking Ahead...

At the end of December I always try to take a look ahead to the upcoming school year so I can start looking for used curricula. Based on what is working for us this year, here's a list of what I'm considering for the upcoming year with a 6th, 4th, 1st, and 2yo. Green is already decided. Green italics need to be purchased, and orange are still up in the air at this point.

Jessie's 6th grade

Math: Singapore 6A and 6B US edition with IP and CWP
Spelling: finish SWO H; Vocabulary from Classical Roots A??
Grammar: R&S 6
Writing: CW Homer B and CW Poetry for Beginners B
Reading: assigned reading with more of an emphasis on discussion over narration
History: Middle Age, Renaissance, and Reformation
Science: possibly more God's Design or Apologia General or Apologia Anatomy
Latin: LfC C without the DVDs this time since the updated ones won't be out
Greek: ??
Logic: Critical Thinking Books 1 & 2 or Fallacy Detective and Thinking Toolbox
Art: ??
Music: ??

Violet's 4th Grade

Math: Singapore 4A and 4B US edition with IP and CWP
Spelling: finish SWO F and start G
Grammar: R&S 4
Writing: CW Aesop B and dictation
Reading: assigned reading with narration
History: Middle Age, Renaissance, and Reformation
Science: God's Design Heaven and Earth set may sub Apologia Astronomy for Universe book
Latin: finish LfC A
Logic: start BTS 2 and Mind Benders A2-A4
Art: ??
Music: ??

Benny's 1st Grade

Math: Singapore 1B with Miquon Red with maybe some 2A and Blue
Spelling: SWO A and B
Handwriting: copywork
Reading: Read alouds with Mom, start narration
Middle Age, Renaissance, and Reformation
Science: God's Design Heaven and Earth set may sub Apologia Astronomy for Universe book
CT: BTS 1, VPSB 2, some Mind Benders or DooRiddles ??
Art: ??
Music: Classical Kids tapes

Henry Time

Nothing formal other than I want to start a reading time with him each day.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Week 18: Tying up loose ends

It has been a wacky week. Grocery shopping last Friday before the snow was a nightmare. Now I have a crack in my corner bumper that will have to be repaired. Happily, I didn't cause any damage to anything else. Instead of 8-14 inches of snow on Saturday, at our house we measured 27 inches when it was all finished. With church cancelled and no cable, I ended up helping DH finishing digging out the vehicles and making a path to the road on Sunday. (Digging snow with a regular shovel is no fun.) Monday afternoon I went out to finish Christmas shopping, look for snow boots for Jessie and Benny (Jessie's been wearing my boots, while Benny's been wearing a pair one and a half sizes too small.), and pick up a few grocery items that I was unable to get the previous Friday. Still we somehow managed to accomplish our three days of work and still get the kids out to play for a couple of hours each day.


Jessie finished the last lesson on angles in the workbook and spent Tuesday and Wednesday on a general review exercise in the textbook. That will leave her the IP section on angles and some general review for the first few weeks of January to finish up with the 5A books.

Violet spent two days doing the last practice pages in the textbook for the section on multiplying by 6, 7, 8, and 9. On Wednesday, she started the corresponding IP section. She had the week off from Miquon.

Benny completed another Miquon page that required filling in blanks based on a set of blocks all by himself. He actually told me to leave him alone because he could do it himself, and he did. The Singapore page on the left was more of a combined effort. Benny solved the problems and colored in the sections while I wrote the numbers down for him. He had Wednesday off from math.


Jessie finished the last lesson in SWO G. YEAH!! In grammar, she covered demonstrative pronouns, more friendly letters, and indefinite pronouns. She was off again from CW this week. In literature, she finished reading The Children's Homer and also read the second chapter in Age of the Fable covering the Odyssey. I guess that gives me a week and a half to decide what to have her read next.

Violet finished copying Infant Holy, Infant Lowly and completed lesson 27 in her spelling book. In grammar, she reviewed subjects and predicates and was introduced to the concept of direct objects. She was also off from CW. For literature, she just read a chapter each from The Red Fairy Book and The Complete Peterkin Papers.

Benny finished up the phonics page covering words ending with -ink, -ank, and -unk on Tuesday, so I gave him Wednesday off from phonics. We spent Wednesday doing lots of reading aloud since he was out playing in the snow the first two days after lunch, and we didn't do any reading. He also did a couple of days of handwriting.


The goal for OT history this week was to finish up with the reign of King Saul, so we could start fresh in January with King David. The girls both completed their summaries of Saul and David during that time and drew a picture of David using the Draw and Write books. (Actually, I think they traced it again because they both found it to be difficult and therefore frustrating.)

The only one with ancient history this week was Jessie. She read two chapters from The story of the Greeks covering the Dorian invasion and Homer. I had her write a summary of the former and complete a map showing the different Greek tribes. She also put together a corresponding notebook page.


The girls finished up the Middle East by completing maps of Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan.


We finished up our botany study this week by assembling our lapbooks.


There was no Latin or logic this week. While inside, Benny has been practicing his bike riding skills. DH took his training wheels off a couple of weeks ago, and he's getting really fast.

Henry as usual wants to copy what his big brother is doing. He spent some time this week practicing on the tricycle downstairs. He can move the pedals in a complete circle now. Sometimes he rides forwards, and other times he goes backward; but it's a huge improvement from rocking back and forth.

WW: Fun in the snow (all 27" of it)

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Our new science program...

I think I looked at every chemistry program out there during the end of November and the beginning of December before making a decision. Some like the Christian Kids Explore book, I thought would be to simple for Jessie. Some like the Real Science 4 Kids books, I thought were simply too expensive for the actual content covered. I decided against The Elements because I couldn't stand the cartoons. I briefly considered buying just a chemistry kit, but then decided my house is not yet Henry-proof enough to bring in real chemicals. Besides I would be hesitant to let Benny participate as well. What was left? God's Design for Science Properties of Atoms & Molecules and Properties of Matter.

What do I like about it?

I've looked at God's Design previously and decided against it because of its lack of color and textbook-like tone. I have to say, I am impressed with the new 3rd edition color versions. The layout is nice to look at while also being extremely easy to use. There is some type of hands on activity in every lesson, and so far based on what I've read they seem very doable (as opposed to many of the Apologia activities that we ended up skipping). I find the lessons short, focused, and understandable without talking down to the kids (which drives me bonkers). I'm more impressed with the expanded information for middle school students than I remember being last time I looked at samples. I'm going to pick and choose from the reading and activities for Jessie based on what I think she can understand. Even though it's recommended for 3-8, I believe I can present the main information in such a way that Benny can pick up a bit of knowledge while at the same time reinforcing the information for the girls. I also like that the works cited section in the teacher's supplement which includes a lot ofinternet links, although I haven't had a chance to look at any of them yet.

What don't I like about it?

Really my only disappointment was the reading list. I was hoping for a larger recommended reading list so I could assign Jessie a book every week or two to read. There are 7 books listed for the Atoms & Molecules text and 8 listed for the Matter text, but 6 of those books appear on both lists. Most of them are additional hands on activities. I have a few library books that I checked out which cover the same topics as the first unit, but I haven't decided if I will put together my own list or just stick to the information in the books which truthfully could stand alone.

Overall, I'm very excited about starting up in January. If the kids like the books as much as I do, I will probably go ahead and buy the Ecology book, the Earth/Space series, and the Physical science series as I have funds available. After we've worked through a couple of units, I'll come back and give a more detailed review and maybe a few posts covering how we are using the program in our house. Right now, I have some planning to finish up for our current books so I'm ready in a couple of weeks.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Week 17: Winding Down

It's been a great week. The girls have done their work well and quickly for the most part. I gave them their checksheets for this week and next on Monday, so they can see what needs to be done before we start break on Christmas Eve. They had the week off from CW, since I didn't want to start a model before Christmas and finish it afterwards. They also got some extra free time since we had no hands on lab activities. The extra free time was much needed on Tuesday so I could clean out the pantry after a bag of rice went bad, and I found little white worms crawling in my pantry. It was gross, but my pantry looks great now and I found a new way to entertain Henry (which I'll explain at the end). Here's our week

Jessie spent this week continuing with the IP section on ratios. I think I had to remind her once to make sure she put the numbers in her ratios in the correct order, otherwise she did an excellent job. There were lots of bar diagrams drawn for the word problems with no prompting from me, the normal two to three problems that we needed to work through together, and lots of very quick, efficient work so that most days she accomplished a lot more in the first hour than called for by the schedule.

Violet spent the week multiplying and dividing by nine. She seems to have found it easier than multiplying and dividing by 8 last week. One day she actually made herself a little chart showing all the products when multiplying the numbers 1 to 12 by 9 to speed up the long division. It seemed to work for her very well. I think I may make her a multiplication reference table to use for her work after Christmas until she gets her math facts mastered.

Benny wrote lots and lots of number sentences this week for both math programs. In Miquon, he had blocks and equations with one missing number to be filled in. Thursday we also had one section of a page to write our own number sentences using the block pattern given. His Singapore assignments were basically the same except with pictures instead of blocks. He struggled a little on Monday, so on Tuesday we reviewed the idea of number bonds, parts vs whole, and how that fit into writing the number sentences for addition and subtraction. He did very well the rest of the week.


Jessie completed lesson 35 in her SWO G book and is set to finish that level next week. In grammar, she's still in the section on pronouns. This week discussed possessive pronouns and reviewed which pronouns are appropriate to use in which part of the sentence. Also thrown into the mix was a little diagramming and some letter writing. She's continuing to read The Children's Homer and Age of the Fable. In the former, she's begun the section on the Odyssey. In the latter, she got a quick two chapter review of the Iliad.

Violet struggled with her spelling test this week, so we decided to redo the lesson. In grammar, she's still covering verb forms. This week introduced a few helping verbs and discussed which form of a verb should be used in conjunction with them. She worked with the helping verbs do, does, and did as well as has, have, and had along with a select number of main verbs including come and came or go and went. For handwriting, she still copying Christmas carols. She finished up "Come Thou Long Expected Jesus" and began copying "Infant Holy, Infant Lowly". For literature, she reached the part of The Golden Fleece and the Heroes Who Lived Before Achilles where Jason is performing a number of tests for the king to try to earn the fleece. She also read another chapter in both The Red Fairy Book and The Complete Peterkin Papers.

Benny finished up working on words ending in -ing, -ang, -ong, and -ung. We spent a couple of days adding -ing to other three or four letter words (ie. helping, fishing, etc.) Friday we started a new page with the endings -ink, -ank, and -onk. For handwriting, I used his memory verse from Sunday school ("Today in the town of David a Savior has been born, he is Christ the Lord.") for copywork for the entire week by breaking it down into a few words each day. This allowed us to both accomplish our handwriting and begin introducing the idea of memory work before I give him a memory box next fall. We used the girls' CW time to do lots of reading this week. In addition to more chapters from Surprise Island and fables from Winter's Aesop's Fables, we read the Pooh story where they are hunting for Small and Pooh and Piglet end up in a pit along with Potter's "The Tale of Timothy Tiptoes".


For Old Testament history this week, we continued in 1 Samuel learning about King Saul and the troubles of David during his reign. We have a couple of more stories/chapter to cover next week before we assemble our notebooking pages.

In ancient history, our topics were the Mycenaeans, the Trojan War, and the Odyssey. Jessie wrote a three paragraph summary about the Mycenaeans covering who they were, why they were considered both warriors and traders, and possible reasons for the decline of their civilization. She also did a map showing the extent of Mycenaean influence at the peak of their civilization. For the Trojan War, she read several chapters from The Story of the Greeks covering the events of the Iliad. She wrote down brief descriptions of the key events, which went on her notebooking page along with pictures I found on the internet. Both girls drew pictures of the Trojan horse using the Draw and Write book and completed a simple map showing the location of the events. Violet read the story of Odysseus from Usbourne's Greek Myths for Young Children and wrote a summary for her notebook page. Their new timelines figures were the Mycenaeans, the Trojan War, the Greek alphabet, and Homer. Benny and I continue to work through the Greek myths book simply enjoying the stories.


For geography this week we covered Pakistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Kazakhstan.


The girls read and completed booklets for lessons 11 and 12. That finishes up our Botany study with the exception of assembling the lapbook.


Jessie completed another lesson in LfC B covering ordinal numbers this week. She has finished her first Think-a-Grams book for logic and is close to finishing her second Mind Benders book.


Henry had a blast on Tuesday while I cleaned out the closet. I had put all of the plastic bottles into what is normally our toy basket in the living room. Henry proceeded to plop down beside the basic and began moving the bottles one at a time to the stools which just happened to be right next to the basket. Once the basket was empty he loaded it back up. After a few times back and forth he decided that it worked better if he sat in the basket while loading and unloading.
Finally, he decided to unload the basket completely. Violet climbed in the "boat" with him while Benny pushed them back and forth.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Magic of a Few Rocks

With the colder weather and the increased amount of time spent together within the confines of our house, it hasn't taken long for me to see an increase in the quarrelling between my kids which in turn makes me cranky and that only causes further augmentation of the problem. Having to split the kids up in separate rooms only alleviates the problem temporarily. Trying to keep them all where I can either see or hear what is going on (aka tomato staking) has worked in the past, but then I don't have time for housework or planning or anything else. Enter the timely post by Jennifer at Smooth Stones Academy called "An Idea from My Student Teaching Days".

The basic concept is to use a pocketful of rocks as a tool to remind yourself to be more positive and less negative. You start with the rocks in your right pocket. Every time you praise someone or speak in a positive way, you get to move a rock to your left pocket. If you speak in a negative or critical way, then you move a rock back to your right pocket. The goal, of course, being to have all the rocks in your left pocket by the end of the day.

I decided that both Jessie and I would give it a try on Wednesday. I started Jessie out with 10 rocks with instructions to move a rock to her left pocket any time she said or did something nice to either Violet or Benny. She was a little dubious when I gave her the instructions because she didn't see how she could be nice to her siblings (excluding Henry of course) when they were "always" mean to her. I explained if she just looked carefully, I was sure she could catch them being nice; and maybe, just maybe, if she started by being nice, they would be nice in return. Jessie kept her rocks in her pocket all day. By lunch time, she had managed to get them all into her left pocket. Violet and Benny were grinning from ear to ear and bursting with pride any time Jessie gave them a compliment, and as I expected, they cued off their big sister's change in attitude with their own attitude changes.

I, on the other hand, started out with 20 marbles. Alas, my poor marbles didn't last long because as soon as Benny and Henry realized there were marbles in my pockets, they began going after them. I put the marbles up and simply concentrated on considering both my words and my tone of voice before I spoke. Still, there was a definite decrease in the amount of quarrelling and negativity and a decidedly more positive atmosphere that day, so overall I have to say the rocks (and the accompanying attempts to be more positive) were a success. I'm sure we'll pull them out again from time to time as the need arises.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

WW: Crazy boys

Can you guess what they were watching on tv?

Monday, December 14, 2009

A Reading Challenge for the New Year

Growing up I was a lot like Jessie is now. I would go to the library each week, check out a stack of books, read every single one of them, and return them the next week to start all over again. Granted, I did have a lot more free time on my hands back then and a lot fewer responsibilities, but still I would like to increase my reading beyond what I am prereading for the kids at school. Enter the 52 books in 52 weeks challenge. This challenge began last year on the Well Trained Mind Forums, but at the time I didn't feel like I had the time to participate. The rules are simple.

  1. The challenge will run from January 1, 2010 through December 31, 2010.
  2. Participants may join at any time.
  3. All forms of books are acceptable including e-books, audio books, etc.
  4. Re-reads are acceptable as long as they are read after January 1, 2010.
  5. Books may overlap other challenges.
  6. Create an entry post linking to this blog.
  7. Come back and sign up with Mr. Linky in the "I'm participating post" below this post.
  8. You don't have a blog to participate, I can set you up as a reviewer.
  9. I'll be adding a post with Mr. Linky for participants to post book reviews.
I may not get to 52 unless I count some school related books, but it will certainly be fun to try.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Week 16: On Our Own

It was a strange week. DH left Saturday to go to the beach with a friend of his and came back on Thursday. There was no pressure to have school done at a certain time or to straighten up before Daddy got home. The kids spent as much time out in the snow as they could before it melted. I caught up on some housecleaning, and we finished all the Christmas decorations except the gingerbread house which is still sitting out in the back of my van. Still we managed to accomplish our work. Here's a look at this week.


Jessie's assignments on ratios were easy this week, so most days she finished math early and worked ahead in other subjects. She simplified some ratios and had some word problems involving ratios. Friday, she started the corresponding section in the IP.

Violet has spent the week multiplying and dividing by 8. After the pages covering just the basic facts, her math assignments took forever this week. She did some multiplying of larger numbers by 8 and some long division with 8 plus a couple of review pages. In Miquon, she is still manipulating numbers to subtract.

Benny's continued subtraction in his 1B text and a combination of addition and subtraction in his Miquon text. The Singapore had him solving subtraction problems and the filling in a number bond with the numbers from the subtraction sentence. He also had some picture where he had to write the entire subtraction sentence. His Miquon was similar, but he used a set of blocks to write addition and subtraction sentences.


Jessie completed lesson 34 in SWO G and the second unit on verbs in R&S 5. In grammar, she's now moved on to a new unit on pronouns. The basic concepts are review but some of the terminology (ie. antecedents) is new. In CW Homer, she completed her rewrite of "The Parable of the Prodigal Son". I haven't told her yet, but I'm sure she'll be glad to get the rest of December off from her CW lessons. Her literature continues to be The Children's Homer by Colum and Bulfinch's Age of the Fable.

Violet also continues to do well with her assignments in SWO E. I thought this week might be a little tricky because the list had a combination of words ending in -er and -or, but she sailed through her test. In grammar, she's spent most of the week working with state of being verbs, although today's lesson began to introduce helping verbs. In CW Aesop, she rewrote the fable, "The Lion and the Mouse". She's continuing to enjoy her current literature selections.

Benny finished up the section covering the digraphs /sh/, /ch/, and /th/ in Phonics Pathways and has moved on to -ng endings. We've did a better job of getting to his copywork this week. Most days he had a short 3-4 word sentence to copy for me. For literature, he requested the next book in the Boxcar children series, so we began that on Monday.


In our Old Testament readings this week, we finished up reading about Samuel as judge, started Saul as the first king, and introduced David. Both girls completed summaries of Samuel. Violet started a summary of Saul, and Jessie asked for a chart for Saul which I'll work on over the weekend. They both completed a map of Saul's kingdom with Jessie's containing a few of the specific locations mentioned in the reading. Saul was added to the timeline.

In ancient Greece this week, Jessie studied about the Minoans and wrote a two paragraph essay explaining what we know about the Minoans based on mythology and archaeology. Violet read a few pages about the Minoans from The Greeks by Burrel and gave me a list of 5 things that she found interesting (which somehow did not make it onto her notebook page). She also read about and completed summaries on Theseus and Jason from Usborne's Greek Myths for Young Children. Both drew their own minotaur using 1-2-3 Draw Mythical Creatures. For maps, Jessie's map shows the locations of the Minoans palaces on Greece while Violet's simply locates Crete relative to Greece. After assembling their notebook page, they added the Minoan civilization to their timelines. Benny and I are still working our way through the book of myths.


I forgot to write the geography assignments on the checksheets this week. Friday, they completed a page for Afghanistan.


The girls finished up reading about gymnosperms this week and completed the corresponding homemade booklets. We have two lessons to cover next week before we officially finish with botany for the semester.


Since science didn't have any hands-on activities, the kids made Christmas angels one day this week. I have a picture of Benny's to post, but I'm not sure where the girls have taken theirs.

Henry missed having time with DH this week and spent a lot more time playing with his big brother.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Trying something new...

After my original plans to use Exploring Creation Through Anatomy for science next semester fell through when they pushed back the release date to the end of February, I took a few days to take stock of what science I have covered with Jessie and what I have not. I was bit disheartening to see the list, but I know at the time we did what we could manage.

1st grade - lots of animals using an animal encyclopedia and apparently read several library books on the human body (of which neither I nor Jessie have any memory because by that point in the year I gave up on lapbooking and we didn't do hands on.) I don't think we ever got around to botany that year.

2nd grade - We covered astronomy. I remember doing the planets. I know we started on the constellations, but at some point science fell by the wayside that year. At this point I decided that science a la TWTM was not working for us, and I was unable to put it together on my own with library books whether or not I had a spine.

3rd grade - Apparently we didn't get around to science until January when we started Exploring Creation With Zoology 1. ( I have a feeling we tried the botany book and didn't get very far in the fall before deciding it was too much for my then 1st grader.)

4th grade - finished Exploring Creation With Zoology 1 and completed Exploring Creation With Zoology 2

5th - so far almost completed Exploring Creation With Botany

She's definitely done enough zoology and botany and has a good memory of what we did cover in astronomy. That leaves chemistry, physics, earth science, and anatomy (since neither of us remembers it). If we go the Apologia route for middle school, the General Science and Physical Science books cover the latter three topics. I also looked at the BJU science sequence and didn't see any chemistry topics in middle school. By process of elimination, I've decided we're going to do a semester of chemistry starting in January. (I also happen to love chemistry, so I'm sure we can have some fun with it.) I'll post about which program I've decided on and my reasons behind it next week.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Let it snow! Let it snow! Let it snow!

I told the kids last night that they might see some snow falling but not to count on any accumulation.

Boy was I wrong!! It's still coming down...