Sunday, August 31, 2008

It wasn't a complete wash

So, my rough week wasn't a complete wash...

K (age 5) enjoyed reading a few of her Bob Books to her little sister. T (age 4) loves to listen to K reading to her. And really, what could be better than a sight like this:

K also took some time to lay around herself and peruse her new library choices.

NOTE: (for those of you that pick up on details in the image) This is NOT a book she'll read entirely on her own. I believe it is one of her new Boxcar children books that I'll read aloud to her. She is reading pretty well, but so many words on a page causes quite a bit of eye fatigue for her!

And like they say, next week is a new week!

Friday, August 29, 2008

Two Weeks In

We've been easing into homeschooling for two weeks. We started with math, handwriting, and reading. I consider these the basics of our Kindergarten year. Art, History, Science and other subjects are important as well, but I wanted to get the basics in place.

So how is it going?

1. We quickly learned that these Kindergarten basics won't happen while D (19 months) is awake. He is just too distracting to accomplish any teaching. So we are accomplishing these skills in the afternoon and will save the other subjects for the morning.

2. We had our first big battle. My first born daughter (K, age 5), normally fairly agreeable, decided she didn't want to do what she was asked to do. She was asked to complete a worksheet in her, "Explode the Code" book which should have taken less than 5 minutes. For some reason she refused, then acted as if she didn't know how...and the battle ensued. It ended with her in bed for 20 minutes, where she decided to do the worksheet. After an hour which left me completely baffled, the battle ended. Things were better for the rest of the evening, and thankfully school was over for the day.

It wasn't our only battle this week. We had another today. I asked her to begin writing her first and last name on her papers and she didn't want to. She complained that she didn't know how. (which she does) And even when I offered to state the letters for her as she wrote, she didn't want to do it. Luckily it only took 5 minutes in her room and a little chat for her to complete the task.

I doubt that these will be our last battles either, but they have been a bit discouraging for our start to the school year. I guess I thought everything would be "fun" and "new", but it hasn't been at every moment.

3. We encountered our first sick days. A cold and fever struck the house and K ended up sick. We kept our schooling pretty loose this week but tried to keep up with some of our goals. Clearly, this probably contributed to one or more of our battles as she didn't feel 100%.

4. Then mommy ended up sick on Thursday. After laying on the sofa until 10 AM, then laying back down by 3 PM, I began to think that perhaps my child would be better off at school. Because Thursday was quite a wash. And looking back, so was much of this week.

5. Some sense of loneliness kicked in as my very dear friends are experiencing the excitement of their first child starting kindergarten. They are going through things and discussing things that I am not part of. And as a former teacher, the school environment is something I miss and somewhat wish my daughter was a part of. I think it will help when our homeschool groups begin and we are interacting with other homeschoolers during the week!

I am looking forward to next week. Our full schedule kicks in, as well as our Classical Conversations classes. I know we are on the path God has laid out for our family. I can rest securely in that.

There are days that are tough and things we have to work through. I can't say everything has gone as I hoped or expected, but God is good and next week is a new week!

Monday, August 25, 2008

A soft answer turns away wrath activity

I was a middle school math teacher.

Teaching preschool/kindergarten does not come naturally. I live on, Enchanted Learning, blogs, and a variety of other online sources to come up with ideas.

But occasionally, I don't find a thing. Which happened this week.

Our bible memory verse was from Proverbs 15:1, "A soft answer turns away wrath." There is a devotion that goes along with it in our book, but I wanted an activity to drive the point home.

After searching, blogs, and all sorts of sources, I gave up. Then suddenly, in a moment of inspiration I designed my own activity and it worked so well. So for all you searchers out there seeking an activity for Proverbs 15:1, I have one for you to consider. And sadly, it is the only one you might find for now...

Materials: sandpaper, glue, cotton balls

1. Cut a piece of sandpaper for each student. Have them rub the paper on their arm and talk about how it feels. Clearly, it doesn't feel good. Do they want people to come up and rub their arm with that? No!

2. Explain how our wrath is like that sandpaper. When we speak in an angry tone and use angry words, they feel like that sandpaper. No one wants to be treated that way.

3. Then rub their arms with a cottonball. Talk about how it feels. It feels much nicer. (In fact, my girls loved it!)

4. Explain how the soft cottonball is like our soft words. When we are gentle and kind to someone it feels good to them.

5. Explain that this verse tells us that when someone "rubs our arm with sandpaper" we can "rub their arm with cottonballs", meaning that we can use soft words to turn away their wrath.

6. End by gluing the cotton balls on to the sand paper, which takes a "soft word" and "turns away wrath".

The final product was carried around by my daughters that day. The kept rubbing each others arms with their "soft words".

Our soft words:

Saturday, August 23, 2008

The End of the Big Plan: Literature and Science

I am quite fortunate that my kindergartener is able to read. She is actually quite proficient at reading and it makes this year a bit more relaxed.

We are working through the Ordinary Parents Guide to Teaching Reading, to reinforce her phonics rules. She is also working through the Explode the Code books series. We use it to reinforce her work in the OPG.

I plan to use two stories from Five in a Row each month to study and interact with literature. We have a few good ones picked out that I listed here.

I also ordered the First Favorites Guide from Veritas Press. I have yet to receive it in the mail, but it looked good! I think we'll pick one a month from that guide.

I am working on a list of read-aloud books right now using, "Honey for a Child's Heart," as well as the Sonlight catalog. We are in the midst of the Magic Tree House Series right now, currently on Book 10 - Ghost Town at Sundown. Both of my girls love this series.

Our Classical Conversations group will do a science experiment each week. This year we are focusing on anatomy and chemistry. The experiments look like a lot of fun and during one of the six week sessions, they get to build their body and all its internal organs, etc, using the book, My Body.

Eric, the daddy of the house, will be doing other science activities with the girls. He is focusing on nature journaling and I printed him this excellent post by Kelli! Next week he'll be helping the girls stamp their own nature bags, which we will fill with their supplies: magnifying lenses, clipboard, sketch pads, watercolors, and binoculars.

We purchased the First Nature Readers for CLP to use as well.

Looking forward to the year...that sums up our plan.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Geography and History

This year our Classical Conversations group is studying US History as well as the US states and capitals. I have kept that in mind as I have picked topics for our studies each month.

I also elicited the advice of a more experienced homeschool mom. She gave me a great list of "Patriotic Holidays", as she called them, for the younger years.

We intend to study the following historical events/topics during our first semester:

Sept - Johnny Appleseed
Oct - Reformation Day
Nov - Pilgrims and Thanksgiving
December - Advent Season and Christmas around the world

I am going to pull from a variety of websites and library books. Enchanted Learning is one of my current favorite sites for these topics and a lot of other activities.

Each month we will also study two titles from Five in a Row, volume one. We will use the book as the basis for our history and geography that week. We may pull out some of the other great activites as well!

Sept - The Story of Ping; How to bake an Apple Pie and see the world (doesn't that go so well with Johnny Appleseed and apple picking?)
October - Madeline; Lentil
November - The Rag Coat; Who owns the Sun?
December - A Pair of Red Clogs
*I didn't link all of these great titles, but you can type them in amazon to see more.

We are also working on map skills and the memorization of the US statesand capitals.

The memorization of US presidents, the Veritas Bible Timeline, and 24 important events in US History are also part of our memory work at CC this year. We'll see how much we are able to cover on a weekly basis as we follow up at home.

We haven't started these topics yet. September is when we'll kick it all off!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Fine Arts and Health

Fine Arts

Our Classical Conversations group will cover the Fine Arts each week in class and I will mainly supplement at home. Our CC group will spend six weeks on each of the following topics:

1. Drawing
2. Music Theory - enhanced with playing the tin whistle
3. Great Artists - this year is Great American Artists
4. Composers/Classical Music/Orchestra

What I intend to do at home in no particular order:

At home I am using, How to Teach Art to Children. I really like this book, as far as I can tell. The ideas are fun and the instructions are easy to follow. We are going to do a lesson each week from this guide, beginning with the chapter on "line".

We might plan a trip to an art museum, perhaps even the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC.

The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra has performances for homeschoolers and school trips. I'd like to make one of their events to enhance our study of the orchestra. And speaking of orchestra, Zin! Zin! Zin! A Violin!, is an awesome book. As each instrument is introduced the musicians increase in number from a solo to a duo then trio all the way up to a chamber group of ten. Love this book!

Drawing with Children is another resource I own. It isn't quite as colorful or simple as the other art book, so I haven't explored it as much yet. (yes, I like the easy to read and colorful...) So many people recommend it! I am sure there are gems in there and I will find them!

The Draw, Write, Now Series look like fun as K (age 5) develops some dexterity. There are a ton of books that seem to range in topic, not skill level. The book itself has a wide variety of skill levels. We have book five (pictured) because we are studying US History this year.

Classical Music for Dummies is a book I have to purchase for tutoring this year. I have a feeling I am going to need it and will use it at home as well.

Discovering Great Artists is another required resource for tutors and it looks great!


Not much to say here. We are going to take a few ideas from the Five in a Row, Volume I guide as we pick titles each month. We'll also use our public school county guidelines for some ideas. I am sure we'll cover things such as germs, disease prevention, safety, and nutrition. I intend to do a topic about once a month with a few lessons.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

The Big Plan: Handwriting and Math

Why group handwriting and math together?

Because I am just following a guide for both so there isn't much to say!


We are using Shiller Math and I love it. The lessons are 5-10 minutes each day. The activities are very hands on and build a great foundation. (as far as I can tell) This is our first year with Shiller Math. We did about 5 lessons at a time this summer until we hit K's ability level. We'll begin at lesson 90 this week.

I am glad we didn't skip the first 90 lessons even though they were pretty easy for her. There were some great lessons on True/False; even/odd; and left/right, which she needed. She passed her first review test with flying colors so I am confident she knew the earlier material.

By the way, I was a middle school math teacher pre-children. I love Algebra. Not so much these basics. This is actually kind of hard for me. But the guide is very straight forward and scripted, so it is working for me.


We are trying Handwriting Without Tears this year, but without all the jazzy stuff. I only bought the Kindergarten handwriting guide and some of the practice paper. I am sure the slate boards and wooden pieces are a blast, but they just aren't me. I am pretty business like about handwriting and would rather focus my time elsewhere.

K practices handwriting on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. I think that is plenty for now. We add in a new letter and review previous ones. She knows most of them, so I think we'll get through the book fairly easily.

I really like the gray blocks used for letter writing. I have already seen a better awareness of letter size and proportion develop in K's writing.

Friday, August 15, 2008

The Big Plan I: Bible

I thought it would be fun to record my goals this year, one subject at a time. We'll keep tweaking it as we go, but here is the start.


1. Hide God's word in our heart through bible verse memory
2. Develop habitual family devotions
3. Develop personal quiet time with God for K (as she can read)

Resources to achieve these goals:

ABC Bible Verses by Susan Hunt. We'll work through 3 verses a month, leaving a week each month to review. I love the little devotions that go along with each verse in this book! We'll introduce the verse on Monday with the devotion and memorize it through the week.

Hymns for a Kid's Heart by Bobbie Wolgemuth and Joni Eareckson Tada. This book is fabulous and the CD of 12 hymns is included. We plan to learn one hymn each month. The book includes a story about the writer of the hymn as well as a devotion that reflects on the meaning of the hymn. We began in August with, "Holy, Holy, Holy" and have enjoyed starting our day in worship this way. I hope to do a few activities with the hymns as time and creativity allow. There are some great vocabulary words to study and add to our vocabulary list too.

Leading Little Ones to God by Marian Schoolland. We are using this book at dinnertime for family devotion. Devotions were previously done in bedrooms at bedtime, but our desire is to have the whole family together so we moved the time. These devotions are basically a walk through basic theology with little ones. There is a devotion, scripture reading, a bible verse, questions, song, and prayer. We are reading the devotion, answering the questions and praying together this year. We will probably do them again and add in more in the future. I highly recommend them!

The Young Readers Bible. This is a bible we found at a yard sale a few years ago. I can't say it is my favorite, but it contains 70 bible stories that K (age 5) can read by herself. She reads it each night and often throughout the day. She loves it so this is where we will begin encouraging her to read a bit on her own. I'd love to have her journal a bit regarding her reading, even with just a picture occasionally, but we'll ease into that.

My First Prayer Journal by Karen Hill. My mom bought this journal ages ago and K has finally grown into it. It is probably more appropriate for older children who can read and write with ease, but she enjoys it. We keep it in her bin and occasionally do an activity/prayer in it.

I also bought the Veritas Big Picture Bible Timeline for this year, but have not determined a way to "fit it in" the picture here. We'll probably hold off until we finish our current devotions and perhaps move into something with it while reading the Child's Story Bible by Catherine F. Vos.

This is definitely an area with lots of goals and resources, but this isn't just school for us. Our relationship with God defines our lives and the way we interact with the world. We want to establish a good foundation for our children to help them establish a biblical worldview as they grow.

Speaking of world view, it is also my desire to have my children see beyond their own bubbles. I want them to view God's ENTIRE world as they grow. I want to encourage a mission focus in their hearts so they see service to others as a way of life.

At a homeschool fair, I was delighted to discover an organization called Kids With Purpose. They have created a Family Guide to Monthly mission Activities. I LOVE it. The mission activities include helping at a homeless shelter, supporting the military, supporting local community helpers, working with project literacy, and so much more! (they are listed on the website) Each month includes a family devotion, question/answer time, fact sheets, a scripture verse, as well as ideas for providing practical help to people in need all around us.

For example, Share The Bounty and Thanksgiving, is the title of chapter 11. After a time of devotion and discussion, the family makes a thankful tree together. Also included is a fact sheet about poverty with accompanying websites. The final culminating activity is preparing a holiday box for a family in need at Thanksgiving. The list of what to include is provided as well as suggestions for finding a family in need of such a thing. Also included in the chapter is the basic cost of a Thanksgiving Meal.

I seriously love this guide and highly recommend it. I was only able to share a small flavoring of what is provided in it.

That about sums up our current desires as we follow God's direction for our family.