Saturday, September 29, 2012

Where o Where have we been? Time consuming, essays, papers, APA format....

No, I'm not talking about the children. In May 2011, I returned to school to advance my nursing degree. I am so very close to being done with this phase of my education. I will graduate December 2012, and I am ready for a break!

First the updates.....Next summer, Big Bro' is getting married! One of the first blogposts that I made was about his graduation. Now he is getting married. Miss my boy but love the man he has become!

Big Sis' has moved on to university. We only see her 1-2 days per week , and the kids miss her like crazy! Charlotte has always called her "H-mom" and honestly I didn't realize just how much she did around here. I now have to go grocery shopping with the younger kids in tow. It has taken some getting use too...

The younger kids and I have gotten in a nice routine with school.

Sam has finally made the jump to reading chapter books. Although he does not pick up a book to read on his own, he can and will read a chapter book. What a relief! He felt that he was "forgetting how to spell" with Spelling Power so we are back to using All About Spelling. He hit a wall with WWE and a change to IEW has been a much needed spark to get him to write. He can and does write short compositions! First Language Lesson continues to be a great resource for him. He continues to prefer systematic studies of language arts. He has really enjoyed using Teaching Textbooks and will usually do his math while I'm cooking lunch.

Charlotte has done well with All About Spelling and I have been using the tiles to do phonics lessons with her. I have also been using Phonics Pathways which she does not enjoy as much. She is slowly working her way with phonics instructions. Thankfully, not as slowly as Sam did. She has turned out to be a good little student. She can work through a MUS lesson almost entirely on her own once I have taught her a concept. I have added in FLL 1, WWE1 with her and she has done will with these lessons. She has also been able to sit in on some of Sam's lessons! During the past 3 months, I have been doing far less separate activities since she has been able to sit in on so much of Sam's history and science lessons. When she gets bored, I let her walk away and this has worked well. She is an excellent oral narrator!

One interesting note, we removed all food dyes from Charlotte's diet this past year. Last year, I had thought that we might need to work her up for ADD since she was having so much difficulty sitting still. I found a study online that stated that artificial food dyes could trigger ADD type symptoms in some people so we decided to eliminate and see what happened. The difference is remarkable! After she eats artificial food dyes, she states she feels "sparkly".

Since we have re-started working together, we have also re-started SOTW. Sam really, really likes this resource. He prefers doing a SOTW routine.  I follow a modified pattern as outlined in the WTM. Typically, we do....

Day 1. Read the chapter, narrate, do map/coloring page.
Day 2. Read related text (usborne), write list of facts ( modified outline), timeline, find on globe.
Day 3. Finish chapter, start a written narration.
Day 4. Finish chapter, Finish/rewrite narration.

The closer that I stay with this pattern the happier he is. Charlotte participates in all these activities except listing the facts and the written narrations. She enjoys helping him with the list of facts and ques him in the narrations.

Science has also become a routine. Sam enjoys using the Apologia texts. We follow the schedule in the notebooking journal and do this resource for 2 days per week. He is not writting the narrations but that is a goal for this year. Charlotte does not participate with science for the Apologia days. Apologia is over her head. The other two days of the week I follow a similar pattern using on of the Usborne science texts, library books, etc. that I own. I do not expect Sam to participate but he usually does. He really wants to get involved on the 2nd day when we do experiments.

Our literature readings are done at bedtime. Typically, Sam will read outloud for a bit then Mom or Dad will read a selection. We pick from this list when looking for something to read at bedtime. Of course, a little bit of twaddle makes it into the bedtime bookbasket....this week's fun favorite is a about a motocycle dude and a princess. Quite funny!

2.5 more months and I will be done with my BSN. Cannot wait to be more focused on homeschooling!

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Year 5

Sam- age 10

Language Arts
First Language Lessons 4
IEW Fun and Fascinating
All About Spelling
Reading a variety of Chapter books.

Teaching Textbooks 5

Foreign Language
 Latin for Children A

Charlotte- age 7

First Language Lessons 1
Writing With Ease 1
All About Spelling
Phonic Pathways

Math-U-See Beta


D-Aulaire titles @ bedtime

Apologia Astronomy
Burgess' Animal Tales
Christian Liberty Nature Reader Book 2

Readings to be determined by interest

Year 4 assessment

We made a lot of changes last year. I suffered a rather severe case of burnout and needed to make some changes. Sam discovered a few resources that appealed to him. I split the kids to better suit their individual needs.

All in all it was a good year. I will probably regret missing ECC with Sam as written although we did read some of the resources.

This next year, I want to simplify my planning. I will be entering graduate school and will need to keep my planning time for our homeschool to a minimum so that I can focus on my own studies. Right now, I am spending time each week.....

-on Donna Young to write out the next week's lesson plan
-Reviewing SOTW's activity guide to pull out resources and activities
-sorting through LLATL to gather supplies, books.

I would like to eliminate the lesson planning, and the gathering of supplies.

It has been working well keeping the kids separate. This is allowing Charlotte a little more time to mature before adding her into the mix with Sam. Her -often funny comments- were distracting for Sam and would add a lot of time to our school day. Right now, I work with her on skill subjects during the day. We read through stories during the evening before bed. This way she can add all the comments she wants without adding to the length of the school day. This has worked out exceptionally well for her. Sam has the ability to "do schoolwork" and save the  "tangent" comments until later in the day. I find that I am much more willing to chit-chat about whatever connections that they are making with the material while cooking dinner or watching the kids outside then I am during the schooltime.

So what do we do for next year?

Somethings are keepers and somethings are not. Teaching Textbook is a keeper. Spelling Power is a keeper. Story of the World is a keeper.....if I don't have to do the planning. LLATL is not a keeper although the concept is good. I like a resource that I can do in 4 days without compromise.

Some other thoughts.....I enjoyed MFW 1 and Adv since the planning was done for me and it could be individualized through the use of the bookbasket. MFW 1 was a  really good year for Sam as a review of phonics and to provide a year for maturity. Hmmm.....I already have CtG and MFW 1 purchased from last years convention.

I spent sometime reviewing these resources. ILL is the recommended resource for English from MFW. PLL was not a good fit for Sam when he was younger. ILL looks similar to LLATL with the types of exercises but without a 5 day a week schedule. We could work through this in 2 years. CtG looks very interesting for Sam. I could always keep SOTW as a bookbasket reader for him to add to the program.  MFW 1 would be a nice review of phonics for Charlotte. I really enjoyed using it as a review during 2nd grade for Sam. Charlotte does not have Sam's speech issues so she would probably progress through the writing portions easier than he did. I had also started WS 3 with Sam last year but decided to wait a year to allow his ability to get words on paper to catch up with his thought processes. He has made great strides this year in writing ability. I can see English from the Roots Up really being something that Sam would enjoy.

I'm starting to ramble.

I also reviewed my thoughts when I first diagnosed myself with burnout. I thougtht that the problem was that I become a "check the box" homeschooler. Maybe that is true. However, I also stated that the resources that I was using prior to my funk was WORKING for the children. And they were working for the children. If I had just ignored my funk, and kept on working through the program as written, it would've worked for the children. However, I might have been more willing to quit and move onto something else. Something else like returning to work fulltime. It is the downside of working on graduate school and planning my career. So, I cannot say that I regret doing some other things for this past year.

This still leaves the question, "What do we do for this next year?"

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Changes part 2.

So my son has expressed a desire to do his schoolwork without his sister's interference. He also expressed interest in Teaching Textbooks for math, LLATL for language arts and Spelling Power for spelling.

I mentioned all this to Big Daddy and he merely shrugs his shoulder's and says "switch him!"

So we did. I also split of the kids in content subjects. Sam gets to continue his Apologia Astronomy and Story of the World without his "talks-a-lot-about-random-stuff" sister's input. Charlotte gets to do a more age appropriate science and history that explores her interest in the subject.

My goal is to do this without consuming our day and still leaving me time to pursue my own educational goals. I have returned to school last summer and must be able to put in sometime working on my own school projects.

Sam is aware that he must be willing to work independently on some of his work so that this works out for us. However, separating the kids hasn't been as hard as I originally thought it would be.

Without Charlotte's input, working with Sam goes so much smoother. He is able to concentrate on his subjects and dig deep. I reviewed my language arts framework and realized that Sam is right on target for his age. He has a basic concept of the parts of speech and basic punctuation. He is able to narrate quite well and is able to get words on paper. He is working towards doing some simplified written narrations. Written narrations will be worked on with Apologia Astronomy's notebooks and with Story of the World's notebook. LLATL covers copywork, dictations and grammar review for his age. Dropping FLL and WWE actually frees us up to use his interest in astronomy and history to advance his writing ability. He has been far more enthusiastic about writing about topics that interest him then about a random book. WWE has served its purpose and now it is time to let it go. He actually still enjoys memorizing grammar definitions and lists so we can easily add this to LLATL. My only real complaint about LLATL is that it is scheduled for 5 days per week and we school for 4 days per week. So far we just do 1.5 days worth of work for 2 days of each week. I foresee that eventually he will need to do 1 day of LLATL on our off day of school. If I remember correctly, this is what my older kids did.

Teaching Textbooks has been a fun little addition. He is able to work through this almost completely independently.

Spelling Power has been interesting. He does not like mispelling words and gets upset. I keep explaining that I don't expect him to spell each and every word correct the first time. This resource is still questionable. If he continues to get upset with each mispelled word we will need to change back to All About Spelling.

All and all. He is quite happy with the changes we have made.

Charlotte has proven to be a little bit more of a challenge. She fell in LOVE with LLATL blue. UGH! All those pieces kinda drove me nuts with Sam, and now all those pieces are kinda driving me nuts with her. However, she does like it more than 100 easy lessons, and she is enjoying the projects. I have continued the self designed science that we were using before with her. I am currently reading Sarah Noble to her at bedtime until I decide on a plan for her for history. I need a booklist of stories that are well liked by sensitive young girls. I am considering starting WWE 1 with her to help her turn her rather verbose narrations into something concise and relevent.

Having the kids completely separate hasn't proved to be as difficult as I originally thought.

Saturday, February 4, 2012


I spent some time rearranging our book closet. Our book closet is really the size of a small room and holds 18 years of books and curriculum. As I was sorting and moving supplies around, Sam joined me. He had an agenda.

Sam, "Do I have to do school with Charlotte?"

This took me a bit by surprised. I have been working towards having the kids work separately during skill subjects then working together during contenct subject. Honestly, I thought it was going quite well. Sam did not. His main complaint seemed to be related to the fact that Charlotte talks too much. I have to admit that she does talk a lot. Actually, she talks non-stop and usually on a tangent of the related subject.

So, I'm still cleaning and sorting. Sam is still talking about all the reason why he should be able to do history/science/art/etc. completely separate from his sister when something catches his attention. He opens up a crate full of math texts and sees CDROMS.

Sam, "You can do math on the computer? Why hasn't anyone ever told me about this??"

The product he found was Big Sis' and Big Bro's Teaching Textbooks Algebra program. He goes on to explain that Math U see is just a little too " little kid" for his tastes and that he really doesn't like the blocks.

Hmmmm. MUS has been working quite well, and I am not especially interested in changing a program that is working. However, one thing that I learned with my older son is that young men do better when they have some ownership with their schoolwork. So I got Sam on the Teaching Textbook website and let him take a look.

He liked what he saw and copied the placement test. He took the placement test and stated that he wants to do this! Hmmmm. Technically, I could just switch him over. We are almost completed with a level of MUS, and will be shortly making a math text order. I tell him that I will think about it.

I'm still cleaning and sorting. Sam is still talking about the really cool math on the computer and doing school without his sister's help. He sees something called Spelling Power. He pulls it out and takes a look. I'm not exactly sure what he sees since Spelling Power is this monstrosity of a book but he starts asking questions.

Sam, "Was this Big sis' and Big Bro's spelling book? Why didn't you do the tiles with them?"

This catches my interest. Sam has recently completed level 3 of AAS. I am a little leary of doing 2 levels of AAS with 2 different kids. I was toiling with the idea of switching Sam to Spelling Power. I tell him we can do a placement text next school day and try it for a while if he wants. He likes the idea of doing "big kid" spelling and not "little kid" spelling that requires using tiles.

I'm still cleaning and sorting. Sam is still talking about growing up and doing big kid school and not little kids school when he finds the Learning Language Arts through Literature stuff. He pulls out the Blue level and shares it with Charlotte. He shows her how to build words and read the early readers. I'm pondering how he even remembers using this. There they are playing with letter cards and reading when the next question is asked.

Sam, "I always liked this. Why can't I use this instead of the other stuff?"

This prompts me to ask, "What do you like about our school?"

He likes Apologia Astronomy and Story of the World. Charlotte pipes in and states that she does NOT like Story of the World and wants to hear more stories about girls. She claims SOTW world is just too "icky and about boys starting wars."

After a good laugh, I give up finishing cleaning the closet. I have a lot to think about. I was always able to combine my older kids in subject but they were only 15 months difference in age. Sam is an older nine and is transitioning to a logic stage of thinking. Charlotte is a younger six and is still very much a little girl.

So the question becomes would it be tragic to separate the kids in all subjects?

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Year 4.5

We made some drastic changes since September both to our content and to our schedule. We are actually spending more time with schoolwork but enjoying our day much more. Sometime in the afternoon, it stops being schoolwork, and it becomes fun stuff that we do as a family.

We do our skill subjects separately and in the morning. This allows me the time to work with each child individually without feeling rushed. We have plenty of time for discussions, and I am able to add in a little extra to their day without overwhelming us.

Sam-age 9
All About Spelling 3
First Language Lessons3
Writing with Ease 3
Math-U-See Delta
Pathway Readers 3

Sam has expressed an interest in astronomy , so we are also doing Apologia Astronomy during this time.

Charlotte-age 6
100 EZ lessons for reading
Math-u-See Alpha
Handwriting without Tears

I also read a separate read aloud with her during this time to practice narrations.

After lunch we work on content subjects.

Story of the World book 1
Self designed science study
IEW Poetry Memorization
Hero Tales
Every Day with God
PE with Family Fitness

I have found that I am spending far more time reading aloud to the kids with this schedule. We now have time to read and discuss subjects at length. We can follow our own interest in subjects. I developed an open ended schedule so that we spend time on each subject but aren't limited on the topics or resource.

History with SOTW. We spend a week on each chapter, and we spend 2 days a week on history. The first day we read the chapter, narrate, work on the map and pictures. The second day we read another book or two on the subject, narrate and do a project. Super easy.

Science. I collected all our science books in one place, and we spend 2 days a week on science. The first day I read 2-4 pages of the book of the week/term, they narrate and list several facts that we learned. We follow up with another book on the topic or do an internet search. The second day we will read another 2-4 pages or another book on the topic. Narrate and list several facts. Do project or experiment. Since making this change, we have spent about several weeks on the human body and have started studying space exploration/astronomy.

Art. I gathered all my different art books. One day a week we pick a book and spend 20 min or so doing a art lesson. Currently we are using Draw Write Now book 1. The second day of art we do a picture study lesson.

Spanish. We are using Flip Flop Spanish in a very low key way. We review the vocabulary and spend a few moments each day using our spanish words. I keep the vocabulary list on the fridge and Big Sis' reviews the words with the kids when she gets home from college each afternoon. We have picked up quite a bit of Spanish in this easy low key way!

IEW Poetry Memorization. We have memorized 6 poems!

Hero Tales/Everyday with God. We read and narrate a story from each resource each day.

Literature. We read aloud during lunch, during our morning AND afternoon schooltime, and before bed. Our current read alouds are Squanto, Charlotte's Web, Voyage of the Dawn Treader, and The Lemonade Trick. Lots of variety!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

We gotta do school today?

That whiny voice isn't the children. It is me. I'm burned out!

I took most of the summer off by default; so, that isn't the problem.

I went to my local homeschooling conference, and I got refreshed and excited about this year; so, that isn't the problem.

My curriculum choices are working well for my kids; so, that isn't the problem.

So what is the problem?

It has been a really, really long time since I been in this state of burn out. In fact it has been a decade (!) since I've experienced this level of burnout.

I thought that part of the problem might be the fact that I returned to school to advance my degree. However, I'm on a break from my classes for 2 weeks, and I still have absolutely no desire to do school with the kids.

I spent part of this week re-reading some of my favorite homeschooling books and listening to some of the lectures from the homeschooling conferences in the past. I re-read The Whole Hearted Child by the Clarksons, and I'm starting to get a clearer picture of what is the problem. I've re-read portions of Charlotte Mason's Original Series and it becomes even clearer. I've listened to talks by A. Pudewa and the Clarksons from THSC conference, and it is now crystal clear.

I've become a check-the-box homeschooler. I have strayed so far from my vision for my home and homeschool that homeschooling is drudgery for me. I have so many boxes to check that I cannot do or add or experience anything remotely individualized or unique with my children without overwhelming my day.

Changes that I've made in the past have been done to find a solution that works for my children. I now find myself in the situation in which I need to make some changes so it works for me.

Despite that it is working to separate the children, I need to find a way to combine them.

Despite the curriculum options are working for the children, I need to find a way to change them.

I reviewed my curriculum options and resources, and I've decided to make a few changes to the flow of our day. I will keep the kids separate while working on our content subjects. I will combine them on our discussion and discovery subjects. I will stop viewing this year as "Sam's only year to work through ECC" and instead view ECC as a resource to pull our discussion and discovery subjects. This might mean that we do not do everything that is scheduled in ECC. This might also mean that we do other activities that are not scheduled in ECC.

Our discussion and discovery subjects schedule is going to be:

Day 1.
1. Bible reading( pulled from ECC) - narrate and discuss
2. Geography/atlas readings (pulled from ECC)- narrate and discuss
3. Memorization- Memory verses (ECC) and Poetry( IEW's Linguistic Develpment through Poetry Memorization)
4. Art Activity ( from a variety of sources)
5. Music (ECC or composer study)

Day 2.
1.Bible- narrate and discuss
2. Science readings (ECC)- narrate and discuss
3. Memorization
4. Geography game(ECC)
5. Picture Study (resources from MFW1 or study artist of quarter)

Day 3.
1. Bible
2. A-Z Geography activity (ECC)
3. Memorization
4. Music
5. Nature Study

Day 4.
2. Spanish-New lesson (reviewed throughout week)
3. Memorization
4. Geography game or puzzle
5. Science reading/experiments (ECC or other sources).

I need to return to my CM style of homeschooling. I'm not sure if these changes will help me get out of my funk. I hope so. I will give it a go for a month.