Friday, August 30, 2013

Homeschooling, Week 7

     We are back on track after taking last week off in order for me to attend the webinars.  Our week started with a doctor's appointment for my Little Toughie which happened to also land on the last meeting of our book club discussion of The Core.  Unfortunately, I missed out on all the wonderful insights I know the other parents had to share.  Bummer.

     One of the last chapters covered was Fine Arts, which was probably my favorite subject all throughout my education.  One of the questions I posed to our book club participants was how do they incorporate drama into their curriculum?  It's fairly easy to do drawing and painting and even music classes, but to me drama can be a bit harder or something we ignore.

     My daughter takes acting classes.  From the moment she could speak she would put on shows for us.  Whether it is singing or dancing or a fashion show...she has always loved performing.  When the opportunity came up for her to take classes (thanks Groupon!) we chose to give it a chance.  She loved it.  Moreover, her instructor said she was a natural and after only 16 classes her teacher said that my daughter was ready for a show.

     Why am I telling you all this?  Because my daughter is the one who came up with how to incorporate drama into our curriculum.  We had just finished reading My Father's Dragon (a lovely story) and I could hear my kids discussing the book.  My daughter told her brother that she wanted to pretend to be the dragon and that he should be the father.  A light bulb went off and I suggested that they pick their favorite chapters out of the book and act them out for me.

     Not only would they have to recall the what was said in the story, but they would have to remember the circumstances and figure out (with our limited supplies) costumes and settings.
     My daughter took charge and began rummaging through her dress-up box for whatever they could use for costumes and props.  She recalled much of the story and gave her brother his lines.  Then it was time for the show.  I wish I had recorded their performance, but I wanted them to feel relaxed and have fun.  It was a delight to watch and to see just how much they remembered from the earlier chapters of the book.

     So, that's just one way to incorporate drama into your curriculum.  I've read other homeschooling blogs from parents with older kids that would act out moments in history, bedecked in period costumes and with painted backgrounds, all in front of an audience.

     I can't wait to do that!

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Plink! Plink!

     Plink!  Plink!

     That's the sound of the small purple glass pebbles hitting the bottom of the a jar I've named the Fruit of the Spirit Jar.  This is something I started doing recently.

     In Galatians 5:22-23 it says, "But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives:  love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control."  Whenever I "catch" the kids putting forth good fruit, I put a pebble in the jar.  I don't say anything, but I make sure they can hear the plink.  They usually get excited when they hear it and come running to ask me what made me drop the pebble in there.  I'll explain it to them, emphasizing which fruit of the Spirit they were exhibiting.  Then they look at the jar and try and figure out how many more they'll need to get to the "Let's Go" line.

     The "Let's Go" line is the mark the pebbles have to reach before we go somewhere special.  Nothing extravagant, like a trip to Hawaii (!!), but something outside of our usual weekend routine that we can all enjoy.  I let them decide where to go.  They've chosen a nice dinner at our favorite prime rib restaurant.  (I'm not surprised.  They always get the royal treatment when we go there.)

     During homeschooling, if they're ready for class and work quietly like they're supposed to, I'll drop one or two pebbles in the jar when school is done.  They have to work together to get those pebbles.  They have to cooperate and work hard not to distract each other (which can easily happen when someone starts to giggle.)

     So far, it's working nicely.  There's less whining and tattle-telling and more teamwork!

     Let's go!

Check out some other great ideas for your Pre-K or K kid at:

Friday, August 23, 2013

We Interrupt Our Regulary Scheduled Programming...

Expo 2013 Special Event

     This was supposed to be Week 7 but I had the opportunity to attend The Old Schoolhouse Homeschooling Expo.  There were several topics covered in the scheduled webinars and I wanted to sit in on many of them.  I had just enough time each day to focus on one subject with the kids, squeeze a workout in between sessions, feed the kids, spend some time playing with them and reading to them and then get dinner on the table.  The rest of the time I was attached to my tablet listening to the webinars and learning.

     I learned a lot during the week such as the answer to the question below which I posted on our Facebook page:  "Do you know what C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkein, Sir Isaac Newton and Galileo have in common?  (Aside from being all men, as pointed out by The Principal.)

     They were all classically educated!  Now, that doesn't mean that they were taught focusing solely on classical music (I learned that a lot of people have that misconception about Classical Education.)  To read a brief synopsis about Classical Education click here.  You can also pick up a copy of A Well Trained Mind or The Core (a faster read and one that I've read) for more in-depth information.

     So, what else did I learn this week?  Well, I learned:

  • That while every child learns differently (visually, auditory, or kinesthetically) I should use different approaches to teach my children and not just play to their strengths.
  • I need to quickly decide how I want to teach my daughter reading and spelling (and there's nothing wrong with refining my son's skills as well).  I want them to learn the rules of English and I can't rely on the look-sound-and-say method (which I've done a bit of) or memorizing sight words (which I'm not a fan of at all).  Both those techniques can hamper their language skills as they get older.  I've narrowed it down to two specific language curricula and just need to choose.  Now is the time to start and I need to make sure the program I choose is one that she will continue on since each level is built on the previous.  
  • That I have rights as a homeschooler and that I should know what those are for my state.  (I know them!)
  • It's not too early to teach my daughter to find the conflict, climax and conclusion in every book we read.  After that particular webinar, I asked both kids to pull books that we've previously read and then I read them again.  They thought it was cool finding those parts of the story.
  • The basics for how to write my own book.  Not that I will, but you never know.
  • How to homeschool a child with special needs.  I really enjoyed this one.  While my son will be starting Middle School in a couple of weeks, things may change and I may homeschool him instead.
  • I can homeschool year-round without burning out.  Some families work 6 weeks on and then take 1 week off, along with holidays, so that the kids never experience that summer brain fog.  This sounds appealing to me and I may try it next year.
  • Just because it's in a textbook does not mean it's correct or accurate.
  • The old model of education is to fill a child's head with as many facts as possible; get through the textbooks to simply pass a test and move on.
  • A newer and better model of education teach our kids HOW to learn so that as they get older they can apply those skills to anything, whether it's in high school, college or in their careers.
     I have pages and pages of notes and am thankful that I had the opportunity to listen in on the experiences, professional advice and encouragement.  I was especially thankful to be reminded that my goal, above all, is to train my children to become ministers of the Gospels and disciples of Jesus.

Can I get an amen?

Friday, August 16, 2013

Homeschooling, Week 6

 C-Line Products Reusable Dry Erase Pockets

     This week was all over the place.  Some days I was slow to get around (I was getting over a sore throat).  Other days the kids would get around at a snail's pace (they were being lazy).  In the end, we slowly made our way through our lessons and ended up getting excited about the things we were learning.

     Remember last week when I showed you my son's copywork?  This week I wanted to share with you my daughter's copywork.  Now, I don't always set up her copywork this way but I wanted to try it this week after finding these cool dry erase pockets at The Container Store.
     I liken being in The Container Store to how a child must feel at Toys R Us, "Oooh, I want that and that and that.  Oh, and can I have that?"  We have a very strict budget that keeps us me from buying everything I think we I need.  (Side note:  we use Dave Ramsey's approach to our budget.  Works great!)

     Anyway, the pockets were at our local store and came 5 to a pack for $12.99 (I think.  It may have been a couple of dollars less, but no more than $12.99)  Other parents also use page protector sheets or have blank lined sheets laminated for repeated use.  Basically there are a few options out there.  I've used both of those options.  I even carry laminated blank sheets in my homeschool binder just in case we're out and about and I forget to restock the paper supply!

      Below is the C-line pocket ready for my Little Toughie to use:

     Here she is using a low odor, non-toxic, wet erase markers:

     Here is her finished copywork:

     And, viola!  I wipe it down and it's ready for her to use again:

     At the end of the week I pulled the sheet out and let her write directly on it.  The downside of any dry erase work is the tendency for my kids to get it all over their hands and then every where else.  This may be something that I use more for Geography instead.  They're thicker than page protector sheets but not as convenient since they don't fit into my binder well.  A smaller, stitched edge one with 3-ring holes would be perfect but it seems I'll have to wait until they get that into production.

     On that note, I bid you adieu!  Have a wonderful weekend.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Get Outside!

     We have recess everyday.  Everyday.  Now, I say it's recess but really it's the P.E. part of our curriculum.  I think recess sounds more fun!  The kids get outside and I either play with them or workout (or try to check something off of my never-ending mommy/teacher to do list).

     I recently happened upon Mama's Like Me and her post about Fun Water Games.  I loved her ideas and found the Sponge Bullseye was one that I could immediately set up (we were just about to head outside).

     My daughter got a kick out of it.

     Please excuse the other chalk mark scribbles.  Our driveway, along with the sidewalk in front of our house, is filled with chalk art.  I recently drew a giant ant that said, "Feed Me!"  The kids on our block think it's funny.

     Anyway, as you can see I used 1, 2 and 3 as points so that my Little Toughie could add up her score for three tosses.  As I was practicing cleans I watched her play and listened to her as she added up her points.  The most she got was an 8.

     What I was most pleased about was the fact that unbeknownst to her, she was doing math work!

     Never stop playing and never stop learning.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Field Trip to the Getty Villa

     This was our first field trip of the school year.  We recently finished our studies on Ancient Rome and Ancient Greece so there was no better place to view artifacts from those cultures than at the Getty Villa.  They even had a special exhibit titled Sicily:  Art and Invention between Greece and Rome.

     We arrived there shortly after they opened and spent three hours there.  It wasn't enough time.  Though we got to see most of it, we didn't get to see all of the special exhibit.  Still, we enjoyed every bit of it.

     I made sure to pack journals and pencils for the kids so that they could sketch any pieces that they really liked.  That's part of the reason why we ran out of time.  Below is a picture of them doing their first sketch.

Sketching Herakles

     I didn't take many pictures but below are a few of them.  Happy viewing!

Friday, August 9, 2013

Homeschooling, Week 5

     This week started a little rough but ended quite nicely.  On Monday my Little Toughie had an appointment with her Urologist (whom she sees every 6 months) and there were many tests given.  Nothing unusual.  The appointment was much longer than I had expected (Three hours!) and then the doctor told us that she was severely constipated and needed to be completely cleaned out.  Without going into too many details, she had to go through a regimen quite similar to what an adult has to endure prior to a colonoscopy.  It was painful for her.  She's okay, now.  That was the rough bit.

     The rest of the week went smoothly.  Sort of.  Both kids had to report to the Principal this week for goofing off in the classroom.  He set them straight.  There were a few interruptions as well, like my daughter coming up to me during my prep time and wanting to make a banjo because apparently everyone needs a banjo!  It was a nice break and I didn't mind getting creative.

     We're 5 weeks in and I'm slowly building more into our curriculum.  Not a whole lot.  I'm just trying to reinforce some of the things we're studying.  For example, the Presidents.  If you ask either one of my kids to list all the Presidents by last name, they can and will (They'll either sing it or say it, depending on their mood.)  To reinforce this for my son, his copy work includes writing the Presidents' full names as well as the continents, since we're studying them in Geography.

What I wrote for my son to copy
His completed copy work

     If you've read The Core, you already know the importance of copy work.  For my son it's especially helpful.  He struggles with keeping his letters neat, straight and the same height.  It's because of his syndrome that he struggles with this.

     When he was first diagnosed we watched a video on Williams Syndrome and I remember they showed a girl, roughly as old as my son is now, and she was asked to name the parts of a bicycle, from the wheels to the seat to the handle bars, etc.  They girl could do it perfectly, no problem.  However, when asked to draw that bicycle, most of the parts were in the wrong place.  It was fascinating (and heartbreaking) to see how her mind just couldn't put it together.

     Now, my son is a big fan of cursive writing and we thank God that he can do it.  I wanted him to go back to printing first, to perfect that before completing his work for me in cursive.  As you can see in the work above, he's coming along very well.  There are days when he's in too much of a rush and I ask him to write it again.  He's not a fan of that, but he does it and understands that I expect him to do his best and that I know when he's not putting that forth.  My husband recently remarked on how much our son's printing has improved, so I know it's working.

     Our week ended with a trip to the Getty Villa.  Our first field trip of the year!  I'll have a follow up post on our excursion later on in the week.

     Enjoy your weekend!

Thursday, August 8, 2013

When Life Hands You An Empty Tissue Box...

     Make a banjo!

     At least that's what I did after my Kindergartner brought her drum and drumstick to me this morning and requested some tape and rubber bands.  I asked her what she was trying to do and she said, "I just need to make a banjo."  I told her that I think we can do better than that and we did!

     Materials Needed:
  • Empty Tissue Box
  • Scissors
  • 2 crayons or small dowels
  • One of those paint stirring sticks (we had a small PVC pipe and used that)
  • 2-3 rubber bands that can fit snugly around the box
  • Double stick tape
  1. Remove the plastic from the tissue box opening
  2. Cut a small slit at the top (short end) of the tissue box to accommodate the paint stick.  You'll eventually push the paint stick (or PVC pipe) through this slit (if using a PVC pipe make x slits that the pipe can push through, like in the lid of a to-go cup).
  3. Place crayons or dowels at the top and bottom of the tissue box (open side).  Use double stick tape to secure it.
  4. Wrap rubber bands around box and over the crayons.
  5. Insert stick.
  6. Rock on!

     My daughter is now playing it making up her own songs.  I just heard her sing one about clouds!

     For  more fun and to take a peek at other Pre-K and K activities head on over to:

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Poetry Anthology (The Runaway Egg)

     When Summer began I wanted the kids to get a break from school work but still do something educational and creative.  I decided to help them create a Poetry Anthology.

     We did this by borrowing a couple of books from the library; It's Raining Pigs and Noodles and Where the Sidewalk Ends.  We started with me reading the title of a couple of poems.  They chose the one they wanted to  hear.  I did not show them the illustrations in the book.  Instead, I asked them to close their eyes and imagine what the author was trying to convey.  Then, I asked them to draw what they had imagined.

     Eventually, this led to my Kindergartner choosing to write her own poems (She dictated them to me.  I just typed them up.)  Below is one of her original works, including the illustrations, which I scanned to share with you:

     Eggs and bacon.  You can't go wrong with that!

Monday, August 5, 2013

Homeschooling, Week 4

     Yawn.  That is how our homeschool week started.  My daughter was extra sleepy after a very active Monday.  She woke up late and said, "I'm tired." then laid her head back down.  On Monday we headed out to meet with our Classical Conversations family to discuss The Core while the kids played on the field.  If you are interested in homeschooling or even just supplementing your child's education, I highly recommend reading The Core, now.  While your little ones are still little.  It will make a huge difference as they get along further in school.

     During our book club discussion we covered Math and Geography.  Admittedly, math was not my favorite subject in school.  I was a fan of English and Art.  My husband is a math whiz and I find myself being lazy and turning to him to calculate something instead of taking it upon myself to solve.  That bad habit ends now.  Or, at least I'll try.

     Anyway, the wonderful moms shared some great ways to incorporate math into daily routines:
  • Cooking, especially teaching kids how to halve or double a recipe.
  • Flash Cards (for speed and accuracy)  You can make your own and personalize to your child's level.
  • A deck of cards (or two) which you can use to have your child either add, subtract or multiply as you lay the card(s) down.  I actually want to play this myself.
  • Use a ruler to measure things different things and then either add or subtract the difference (again, depending on your child's level).

     While shopping I give the kids our budget and then as we put items into our grocery cart we add things up and see how close we are to either meeting our budget or going over it.  This isn't easy for my Kindergartner since she can't add yet, but this also serves as a lesson in smart purchasing choices and how to stick to a budget. My son adds things up (with the help of my husband, the walking calculator) and lets us know when we're over our budget.

     Our group also discussed Geography and I shared with the lovely ladies a great website that provided printable maps.  I'm currently working with the kids to help them learn the Continents and their location on a World Atlas. is another source for larger, colorful maps.  We have a map of South America printed out and in my school binder from this site.  Last year in CC, thanks to a delightful song taught by my daughter's teacher, both of my kids have the countries of South America memorized.  There was even a question on Jeopardy last week about South America and my son was able to answer it because of the song (my daughter was napping and missed out).

     That was just part of our Monday.  The rest of the day was filled with activities, before and after the book club meeting.  We were so busy that when Tuesday morning came around, both kids were still feeling the need for rest.  Our school day started slowly (and later than usual).  I could tell that they weren't ready for class, so we took it easy; only doing our Bible study and some reading.  Afterwards, I let them relax.  My Little Toughie opted to draw and this is what she came up with:

     We just finished our study on weather last week and while she didn't have the energy to go over new material that day, I was happy to see that she wanted to share what she had learned with a picture.  She explained to me that the girl got caught in a thunderstorm.

     This is the prettiest thunderstorm I've ever seen!