Our MWF schedule

Posted in Uncategorized on January 23, 2013 by depechemom

It’s only taken a year and a half of homeschooling to be able to say this, but I think we finally have a schedule that gets nearly everything covered and relieves *most* of the stress from my shoulders.  [Sidenote: Anyone who tells you homeschooling is a breeze and they never stress about covering it all is just lying.  Or maybe only has one kid.  But probably is a liar lyingpants]  So my point…here is our schedule right now.  The afternoons/evenings will soon get busier as soccer practice begins, but that doesn’t impact our daily school schedule too much.  What makes this schedule work is 1) working in blocks of time and 2) outsourcing as necessary.  All of our school days begin at about 9am.  

Monday, Wednesday, Friday :
Our first block is Language Arts.  We all begin with journal which is typically a free writing time.  Each child has age appropriate requirements (Belle 5-7 sentences, The Boy 3-4 sentences, and Little Lady 2-3 sentences and a picture).  Something I repeat on a regular basis is this, “If you can’t think of a topic in a 2-3 minutes, just write about something that happened yesterday.”  These journals serve as a sort of diary for the kids.  They write about new toys, trips, imaginary stuff, whatever they want.  If they want to write about feelings to sort stuff out, that’s fine too.  Every once in a while, I assign them a particular writing prompt. I let them pick whatever spiral they wanted for their journal.  As much as it pained me to buy the Justin Beiber and One Direction spirals, I bit my tongue and just did it.  They were so excited to start writing that they forgot to complain about the work!  

After journal time, we do spelling workbooks.  The Boy and Little Lady follow this up with handwriting, grammar, and copywork.  Belle uses a fantastic writing curriculum, All Things Fun and Fascinating.  I got it here and have been very pleased with the results.  The Little’s grammar and copywork comes from there too.  H/T Jennifer :)

At 10:30 an alarm goes off on my phone telling us it is time to get our workout on.  Generally, we spend the full 1.5 hours on Language Arts.  Most days, that includes some time for Little Lady and The Boy to read to me.  Our work outs on Monday and Friday tend to be a pilates/yoga mix.  I have some pilates videos I’ve done over the years and I’ve combined that with some yoga poses I’ve found online.  I have a history of back issues and know that having a strong core is the best gift I could give my kids.  We could all stand to improve our flexibility, so this is helping that too.  Belle really wants to get her splits this year-she made so much progress last fall, but injuries slowed that down tremendously in the spring.  She is already noticing a difference in her flexibility!  On Wednesday, we do a more cardio centered workout.  Many days we do a Just Dance Wii game for an hour.  Sometimes we go out on a 1+ mile jog/walk in the neighborhood.  This is such a welcome break in our schedule and has taken a HUGE stress off my back.  We eat a snack after our workout, then I shower while the kids have free play time.  

After our break, we have Math lessons.  We use Math U See still.  I have absolutely no doubt that Little Lady and The Boy are getting a fabulous foundation with this program.  There are a few things that I need to add in for Belle, but otherwise I’m quite pleased with her progress as well.  There are PLENTY of opportunities for review and the lessons build nicely.  I always found Saxon jumped around too much and kept my head spinning, but that’s just me.

After Math, we break for lunch.  Then, we do our History lesson.  We are using Story of the World, Ancient Times for our main framework.  The activity book is very helpful with the extra projects, but I rarely feel like we delve deep enough into a subject.  Perhaps if I managed regular library trips like I did last year, but that’s simply not fitting in right now.  Honestly, at this point in the day, I’m ready to be finished and move on with other things I need to do.  Not the best thing to admit, but true nonetheless.  Thankfully, Belle has an additional history writing curriculum from the same company as above.  It’s probably overkill to do both, but I feel like we need to make up for lost instruction.  I simply am not a writing teacher and I had to call uncle.  

Boring though all this has been, I know one day I will happy to have this look back on and laugh at myself.  I’ll come back soon and write about Tuesdays and Thursdays… WooHoo!!!

Thankful project

Posted in Uncategorized on January 11, 2013 by depechemom

Trying a different approach to this blogging thing…

a quick snip-it from the day, something for which I’m thankful, a goal for the week. We’ll see how it goes.

Tonight, I am thankful for Internet radio.  As I crawled in bed next to The One, I realized he had on the station we listed to when we lived in VA. It’s something he does now and then. It’s not the best station, though far from the worst. Mostly, I love that I can say to The One, “I miss VA”, and he completely understands. It’s not that we don’t love being close to my family.  He really does love his job. But we miss VA. The breathtaking nature that surrounded us. I long for that beauty to be part of my everyday experience.

What we’re reading

Posted in Uncategorized on September 10, 2012 by depechemom

So in typical form, I disappeared only to resurface in the fall.  Seems I’m more of a Sept. resolution kinda girl.  And, as all good resolutions go, I drop it as soon as something shiny comes along.

I owe you a proper explanation of all that has happened in this past year, but I haven’t got the time right now.  Instead, I give you a link free, and oh so helpful, list of what each of us is reading right now.  

Me: The Well Trained Mind, again.  I’m attempting to order all of our curriculum, but I seem to have hit the overwhelmed phase.  Perhaps if I sleep on it, I will wake with clarity on just which portion of Institute for Excellence in Writing I should order for each of the kids.  (Which isn’t actually in TWTM, go figure.)  I am not a gifted writer, as is evidenced here clearly for you now, and I stress out when I think that I am responsible for teaching my kids how to write!  I am also reading The Internet.  Yes, all of it.  No, I’m not referring to a particular book.  But judging by the number of tabs and windows I have open on my computer, it would seem that I am attempting to Read. It. All.

Belle: I finally caved and allowed her to read the Hunger Games.  She was so lost when she finished the Harry Potter series, as in she cried when she finished the last one and has since read them several times over.  All her VA friends had already read it, so I gave in.  I should add that to my reading list, so at least I know what she has read, but I’m not making any promises.  Anyhow, we lucked in to a $1.99 deal on the Kindle, et voila!  The One picked up Catching Fire for her this weekend as a treat.  She is also reading Wizard of Oz and The Little Princess.  I’m quite certain she has at least 2-3 other books going right now, but there isn’t a chance that I could keep up with her.

The Boy: While he doesn’t have the reading appetite of his sister, he doesn’t fight me when it comes to reading for school.  The Boy is reading The Littles out loud to me right now.  We are enjoying it, especially the sword fighting/arrow shooting!  He loves the Magic Tree House series, though we don’t have any new ones right now.  We’ll work on that soon enough.

Little Lady: (who does NOT like her bloggy alias, though I’m sure she’s forgotten it by now)  This girl went from reading fairly well-truging our way through Little Bear books a word or two at a time-in April, to blow-me-out-of-the-water amazing this September.  We didn’t do any formal lessons over the summer, so I guess it just clicked.  She loves that she has joined the elite club of readers in the family.  Last week she read Henry and Mudge and the Careful Cousin, and this week she is reading another Henry and Mudge…The Long Weekend, I think.  

Read Aloud: Charlotte’s Web.  I had dreamily looked forward to reading this with Belle for the first time a couple of years ago.  I pulled it from the shelf and she announced, “I read that at school already.”  With a sad heart, I put it aside.  Good thing is, she’s forgotten most of the story now, and we’re all getting to experience it together.  Even though Belle is nearly 11 (!!??!!), she actually enjoys our reading time the most-begging for just one more chapter when The Littles are ready to go play.

Well, that’s it for tonight.  With any luck, I’ll make it back here within a week to update our reading.  

Our Routines

Posted in Uncategorized on September 8, 2011 by depechemom

We have a few things we do each day.  One of them, of course, is to update our calendar with the current positioning of “Today is”, “Yesterday was”, and “Tomorrow will be” markers.  We review the month and day of the week at this time also.  Another part of our routine comes from our beloved Kindergarten teachers in Virginia.  We have a big chart with 100 pockets, three medium sized pockets which I made from paper to hold straws, and a tally sheet.  Each day we add a number to our chart (alternating colors to reinforce odd/even numbers), add a straw to the ones pocket, and add a tally mark to our sheet.  After ten days, we bundle the straws and move them to the tens pocket.  Eventually we will move the ten bundles to the hundreds pocket.  I am quite certain my paper pockets won’t last that long, but they fill the need for now.  We also do some counting each day-either counting the number of days we’ve been in school so far, or how many days until something important.

[Aside: I have to wonder why in the world we had to make the numbers 11-19 so whacky compared to the 20's, 30's, etc.  The kids think it's crazy when the Math U See guys says stuff like one-ty one, one-ty two.  However, they think it's hilarious when he says two-ty, two-ty one, two-ty two, etc.  Please tell mine are not the only kids to laugh at this!]

Here is a picture of our sweet Little Lady, mastering the art of drawing hearts in her journal.  Journals aren’t something that is stressed in the homeschooling materials I’ve read, but all my kids have had them in school.  We don’t use them everyday, but it is a good way to allow free writing and drawing.  LL isn’t writing in hers yet, but I will start having her sound out simple words very soon.  Behind The Boy, you will see our calendar and chart.

(Ignore the whacky black rectangle above LL’s head.  Just me trying to cover up sensitive information…)

Here are some shots of our morning outside.

And just one more of our big girl, Belle.  It’s impossible for me to believe that she will be 10 years old in less than two weeks!!

Chug, chug, chug

Posted in Uncategorized on September 6, 2011 by depechemom

We’re in our 4th week of school now, and I couldn’t be more pleased with our progress.  The kids are having a great time and so am I!  As far as I can tell, they are learning quite a bit too…but I suppose only time will tell.  We’re wrapping up our unit on TX History this week with a creative writing project.  I knew Belle would like the assignment, but wasn’t sure how well The Boy and Little Lady would do.  As is turns out, The Boy did very well!  First, I asked them to draw a picture of what they thought Texas might look like 150-200 years ago.  I kept the instructions fairly loose, waiting to see what they would create.  Belle took inspiration from a combination of some books we read (The Picture Book of Davy Crockett and Sam Houston Standing Firm) as well as The Little House books and drew a covered wagon heading up a trail, passing a house.  The Boy went for the typical male approach and drew a battle scene-the Alamo-where he was the lone survivor.  :)  Little Lady, on the other hand, is still too immersed in her ego-centric world to imagine herself 150 years ago.  Ultimately, she drew our house as it is now as that is the only Texas she can really imagine.  I didn’t push the issue with her, after all it was meant to be a fun activity!
After the drawings were complete, I had the kids write a story from their picture.  Belle came up with three ideas and set about writing Chapter 1.  She was losing focus after that, so we’ll continue her story another day.  The Boy put together 6 or so sentences to describe his picture.  He isn’t the elaborate writer that Belle was at his age, but he does a good job putting together sentences.  Most of them begin with the word “and”, but we’ll sort that out as the year goes along.  Little Lady wasn’t interested in coming up with a story to go with her picture.  I was willing to write it down for her, but she chose to draw in her journal instead.
Little Lady loves learning her letters and the sounds they make.  Our text book gives a new letter with a line to a poem for each lesson.  For instance, our lesson today was on the letter N.  We learned about the sound /n/, a few words that begin or end with /n/, and then learn the next line to our poem.  Today’s was: n stands for /n/ in /n/ /n/ net.  Each day we review the lines from all previous days.  Tomorrow we will play a little game to make sure she is really remembering her letters and the sounds, and probably play with our picture sort magnets.  I’m hoping she is ready to really start reading once we get through the rest of the letters, but I’m not interested in pushing her.  Had we not moved, I can’t say for certain if she’d even be in Kindergarten this year.  We’re keeping it fun and as stress free as possible.  Honestly, though, it’s amazing how much of The Boy’s stuff she is learning.  She piped up with the definition of a noun today when The Boy stumbled.  :)
Well, I’m off to bed now.  We are enjoying our FINALLY cooler mornings with lessons on the back porch.  The kids even put on sweaters this morning, though they didn’t last long.

Back in the saddle

Posted in Uncategorized on August 31, 2011 by depechemom

***Oh how I make myself laugh!!  I put this together over a week ago with every intention of adding in links and editing.  Well guess what??  That just might never happen.  Sorry not to give credit to all the publishers and such.  If there is something you want to know more about, just ask.  I’ll happily provide more info.***

I’m going to do my best to jump back in the blogging world.  We’ve moved to TX for the year and, as such, I’ve started homeschooling the kids.  We started last week and are having a great time.  I’m not a “all in one” curriculum type, at least not this year anyway.  I reserve the right to change that opinion at some point, should we decide to continue homeschooling.  I followed the basic recommendations of the book, The Well Trained Mind, with a few adjustments.

Here is what it looks like for each child:

Belle (4th grade)
Grammar: Building with Diligence: English 4
Spelling: Spelling Workout D
Reading on her own: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
Handwriting: Zaner Bloser Grade 4
Math: Math U See Gamma
Science: a unit on Astronomy
History: Where We Live/Texas History

The Boy (1st Grade)
Grammar: First Language Lessons
Spelling: Spelling Workout A
Reading on his own: Henry and Mudge books and Little Bear books
Handwriting: Zaner Bloser Grade 1
Math: Math U See Alpha
Science: The Kingfisher First Animal Encyclopedia
History: same as Belle

Little Lady (PreK-Kindergarten)
Reading: The Ordinary Parent’s Guide to Teaching Reading
Handwriting: Zaner Bloser Kindergarten
Math: Math U See Primer
Science: same as The Boy
History: same as Belle and The Boy

A few notes about why I picked what I picked…Belle has never had a formal grammar book.  She knows the basic parts of speech, but I honestly don’t know if she learned them in school or just doing mad libs with me.  I never saw evidence of grammar work, but I know much more happened in school that what I saw coming home.  The book I selected has a Christian perspective.  It isn’t so much that it overtakes the topic of the book, and it has brought up some good discussions between Belle and I concerning religion.  It is fairly dry, as any grammar book would be, but I firmly believe in teaching these concepts.  Belle is such a gifted writer, and I want to make sure her stories remain sound grammatically as well as imaginative.  I don’t think it is realistic to do a lesson every day, but maybe that will become easier as the routine settles in.  This book also includes writing prompts every few lessons.  I like having this as one of our options.

I also firmly believe in having weekly spelling words.  What I like about the Spelling Workout books is they give a list of words plus several workbook assignments.  Sure, I could come up with a list of words for them each week, but the assignments would be a pain to create each week.  We will supplement the assignments with fun games like Bananagrams and possibly some online games as well.

In a true classical education, the reading assignments tie in with the history assignments.  With us just starting out, I wanted the kids to have assigned reading that I knew they would love.  Belle is in a big Harry Potter phase right now, but hasn’t had the discipline to read all the way through the books.  She tends to prefer shorter books she can get through quickly, so I thought this was the perfect opportunity to encourage it.  Also, I haven’t quite decided what we are doing with our history.  Do I pick one time period for all three kids and dig deeper with Belle or do I pick one time period for Belle and another for The Boy and Little Lady?  I just couldn’t decide, so I put off the decision by beginning with a Texas History unit.  We’ve talked about our address, phone number, city, county, a map of TX, the state flag, and the state bird so far.  I bought a simple kids book about TX to get us started.  We will delve deeper into the actual history-explorers, important landmarks, etc.-once we finish covering the basic state facts.

As for math, the Math U See books just arrived on Friday, so we haven’t actually used them yet.  Instead, we spent the week doing basic review and simple math with dice activities.  On Friday, I let them do basic drills on the computer.  I’m looking forward to digging in to the Math U See books next week.  I’m sure that the Primer books weren’t really necessary for Little Lady, but she needs things to occupy her while the others are in school.  She doesn’t do well with the play while your brother/sister finishes this lesson.

Science is another area where I was undecided.  The Well Trained Mind suggests a study of physics in 4th grade, though the experiment book they recommend is so old.  I just wasn’t sure it was the right fit for us.  So instead of chancing the order, or just going to look at the bookstore, I postponed the decision with a constellations unit.  We have a couple of excellent books I haven’t taken the time to really study with Belle, and this seemed like the perfect time.  The One downloaded an excellent app onto the iPad that made star gazing really awesome.  It’s only available on the iPad, though.  I was surely missing our house in the woods with excellent views of the stars last night.  Our house in TX is in a traditional suburban neighborhood, complete with star-blinding street lights.  Thankfully the iPad made things much more clear.

For as much as I struggled with Belle’s science, picking the book for The Boy and Little Lady was easy.  I knew LL would love learning about animals, despite not needing a formal Science curriculum for Kindergarten.  And getting to learn about them with The Boy?  Even better!

Whew!  That was an excruciatingly long post, but I know I will like being able to go back and read this one day.   Sorry if I bored you to tears!  Here’s a cute pick of my sweet children on the first day of school:

Tuesdays

Posted in Uncategorized on February 22, 2011 by depechemom

Tuesdays are Little Lady and Mommy days. Most of the time I like having a day with my sweet shadow, except of course when she is beyond pitiful, missing Belle and The Boy. I can always detect those days right away as she asks for lunch as we’re pulling out of the school parking lot at 8 am. I guess she figures pick-up isn’t much after lunch, so an early lunch should bring an early pick-up. Little does she know what little control over the school schedule we have.

Today started as just that sort of day. She simply cannot fathom playing something on her own and isn’t willing to engage me in play. I let her have a little TV time while I busied about the house. As soon as that was over however, it was clear we needed to get out of the house. We spruced ourselves up a bit-make up for me and braids for LL-and headed out on a quest. TB is getting baptized (also called babatized around here :) ) next month and I wanted some new pants for the occasion.
The first store was a strike out, in both merchandise and improvement of LL’s attitude. We took a little break for a bagel and chocolate milk (coffee for me) at Panera and that was just the boost we needed!

I found the perfect pants at the second store and another Little Lady/Mommy day was saved! She really has the sweetest smile of any little girls I know.

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