Friday, December 6, 2013

Feast of St. Nicholas

This morning started with me jumping out of bed and hour later than usual...the boots...the boots...I must check to make sure St. Nicholas filled didn't forget out house this year! (our kids put boots out - maybe they want more stuff - maybe it's simply cold and the shoes are put away).  While outside, the door opened and our 8 year old asked what I was doing.  ahhhhh just checking to make sure there weren't any gifts left that needed to be taken in out of the cold (I think it was -6 F here this morning).  That seemed to suffice, and she suggested we take everyone's in.

Two years ago my husband and I had a 3 day stay at the hospital with our 5 day old baby.  We were gone on Dec. 6.  The kids were disappointed when they realized St. Nicholas missed us.  Thankfully, our oldest (17 then) explained that since we just moved, he didn't have our new address.  Whew!  That took care of it.  And when we brought 1 week old Abigail home with us to stay on Dec. 8 - the missed gifts were forgotten.  They were smitten with their sister and happy to have life back to "normal."

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Playmobil Greek History - Trojan War

Years ago, our older kids re-enacted The Civil War with Playmobil characters. It was a hit. We've been studying Greek History this year and the middle kids have been asking to do the same. It was well worth the time. The discussions that ensued showed me that they really did learn by playing.
Paris took Helen

Paris took Helen to Troy

Before Helen became King Menelaus's wife - the kings had vowed to help get Helen back should she ever be taken from whoever married her.  So he called all the kings together to help him to get her back. 

Odysseus didn't want to join the Trojan war because he was told that if he did he wouldn't return home for 20 years.  So he pretended to be crazy and plowed the beach and planted salt.  Someone put his son in front of the plow to test him, and since he avoided running over his son, they knew he wasn't crazy.

Achilles's mother, Thetis, sent him to an island and dressed him as a girl.  She believed that if he fought in the Trojan War that he would die.

Odysseus discovered that he wasn't a girl when a strong wind blew in and all the "other" girls ran.  Achilles took up arms.

Odysseus and Achilles joined the fight with Troy

The Trojans saw them coming.

Achilles mourning the death of his friend Patroclus (who was killed by Apollo)

Achilles avenged Patroclus's death and killed Paris's brother, Hector.

Paris mourned the death of Hector.

Paris then avenged Hector's death by killing Archilles.  He found the only spot he was vulnerable, his heel.  (When Achilles was a baby, immortal Thetis dipped her son into the River Styx to make him immortal also, she held him by his heel, so that is the only part that didn't touch the water...and that was the only part that was vulnerable.)

The Queen of Troy and Helen watched from a safe distance

The Greeks built the Trojan horse, and secretly had some men climb inside.

Then they pretended to sail away - as if they were giving up.  But they weren't, they were hiding on the other side of an island, out of sight.

The Trojans were told the horse was a gift and they pushed and pulled it inside the city gates.

The Trojans celebrated that night with strong drinks.  And while they were sleeping the Greeks climbed out of the horse and opened the gates.  Those on the ship had sailed back and helped in the fight inside the city walls.

King Menelaus and Helen left.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

The Rightstart Lightbulb

I used to use Righstart Math but stopped years ago...mainly because it takes more teacher time than most other programs I've seen, and I was also teaching a number of kids how to read.

But this is a program I refused to get rid of.  It's that good.  Even though I didn't know if I would ever use it again, I kept it.  I kept them all!

I pulled out one of the early levels of Righstart  at the beginning of the year for my 3rd grader who finds math frustrating.  It's finally making sense!!!

I pulled Level E out this week for my 4th grader.  He's fairly intuitive when it comes to math.  But give him 20 minutes of problems and it might take him an hour.  He's bored.  It was torture.  I couldn't really skip ahead any farther than he already is, he doesn't yet know the material.  He was a little uncertain as to whether or not I was making a good decision here....I don't normally switch gears mid year.  But I am so glad I did!  He is loving it!  He is doing extra work in his spare time for fun!  It does help that the book starts with Magic Squares.  He was particularly impressed that there is a painting by Durer from 1514 with a 4X4 Magic Square.  He is excited again about math.  And that makes the extra teaching time worth it!!!

Sunday, November 10, 2013

A taste of winter

We've had a small taste of winter here.....just enough to remind us to get the yard work done NOW.  The snow has melted, the garden has been "flattened", the compost piles moved around, miscellaneous outside items have been washed.  This week we still need to empty the hoses, store the wrought iron outdoor furniture, and get our chicken tractor ready....Thanks to last week's snow....we won't put it off any longer.
Our chicken tractor has not yet been moved to it's winter location.

My favorite place to sit outside - need to get our bench, and more, out of the elements.

We have a hill right next to our house.   We actually didn't have enough snow to sled on, the kids hauled some from the driveway and pulled some off the roof.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Quarter 1 Reflection: After my "MEA" break

So my planned MEA break to reassess our school plans didn't go as planned.  But then, I should have realized that.  One of the challenges we have been having this year is that things too often don't go as planned.  Why should my break week be any different?

Well, we've had a bountiful crop of apples this year.  It would be such a shame to let those go to waste.  We've given many apples away, but we also had 48 canning jars sitting in the kitchen waiting to be used for applesauce.  The "plan" was for the high school kids to continue working while the elementary age kids and I took a break from schoolwork.  They would do a lot of the canning, I would do a lot of the planning.   The kids are great, I could not have gotten that much done without them.  But they could not have gotten that much done without me either.  At first my planning to a backseat to canning and my thoughts turned to anger. am I supposed to get anything done!  But now I think it was providence. 

I am a scheduler.  I like to move things around and make everything fit into our nice tidy little day.  I use the ideas from Managers of their Homes but do it all in my spreadsheets instead.  I've done it this way for years. I did get some time on Monday to work through things and decided we would have to start 90 minutes earlier and reshuffle a lot of things to get everything done.  Yeah....until I can find a way to get my K and 3rd grader to bed 90 minutes earlier....I don't think that's a smart plan.  Instead, while canning applesauce, I mulled it all over, and talked with a few friends, and did a lot more  mulling it over.

I redid the kids' schedules and told them all that I was going to try something brand new and we would do it for TWO weeks even if we didn't like it...because ONE week might not be enough time to really check it out.  You would think after homeschooling for 15 years that I would have seen the beauty in this....instead if always made me run.  I stuck with my old color scheme on their schedules (black - do it alone, red - do it with Mom, blue - do it as a family).  And this time I put the black items on top of the they didn't seem like an after thought that I wasn't really all that concerned about.  Now, in the morning everyone starts their solo work while I work with my Kindergartner.  When he's done he gets to play with his 23 mo old sister and I move on to work with the 3rd grader.  I just keep moving up the line.  If they get done with their solo work early they are to do their chores or ask me what they can help with - it's not play time yet.  (This has kept everyone on track - anyone else have the problem of going off somewhere quiet to give a reading lesson only to find out one older child (correctly) went to help the little ones with something and the next thing you know everyone is playing with the little ones???)  This has also helped with timing.   If I get pulled away because Abigail just needs her mamma, or someone gets hurt, etc. that isn't "infringing" on someone's time.  My kids get frustrated (and rightly so) when I have to step away from my 20 minute reading time with them or something to go attend to something else. I come back to them and push everyone else back, do we push back lunch, etc.  (wouldn't be so bad if this just happened once a day ;)  )  But now they know I will help them next.  If I get interrupted by something else, they know I am coming back and will help them when I am done.

No, this isn't perfect.  I do need to somehow squeeze my 10th grader into the mornings since he's usually gone for a few hours most afternoons.  My 6th grader has needed to be flexible because sometimes he gets helped before lunch and sometimes after.  My 9th grader has the afternoon naptime slot with fewer interruptions - which is really ideal for her, but she's gone 2 days a week at that time.  The 3 younger students always get done in the morning.  Monday afternoon is history, Tuesday afternoon is science, Wed afternoon is writing instruction, Thurs is temporarily busy with Lego League, and Friday afternoon is dedicated to time with the high schoolers.  Religion is floating at this point - but will settle into Thurs. 

So, my break started out looking bleak and break was supposed to be time for me to reassess!  The apple canning turned out to be a blessing in disguise.  I didn't have time to write, but I had time to think.

Hope this works out.

Friday, October 18, 2013

A Homeschoolers MEA

[When Terese found out I was taking some time to reassess some thing and take a breather she suggested that homeschool moms should always take a break on MEA...Seems that's about the usual time to need that first break.  She also pointed out that we should get together with other homeschool moms at this time....and that would help the kids too. Wise girl  :)  ]

I's that time of year again, I should just schedule this in to our school year.  Time to take a little break.  We've lived with our schedule for 7-8 weeks now and we need to make some changes.  Quick modifications are easy to make.  But when you have a lot of quick modifications, as well as some not so quick ones....I find it's better to step back, take a break and a breath, then proceed. 

It's often best NOT to forge ahead and continually fix the glitches...sometimes it's best to stop and pray about/analyze the glitches you already have and the ones that you can now forsee with your new knowledge (very timely...don't you think?  Do you think anyone in politics reads my blog?  Nope, I highly doubt it).

Back to school:

I'm finding that my high school kids need more help with math than I planned for.  They are in co-op classes to save me some time.  But since I am able to do the math, and have been called on for help nearly every day, this may or may not be the best route for us.

I'm also finding that I need to keep up on the readings with my highschoolers.   (Last year was American History.....something I am much more familiar with).  Greek History is not something I am all that familiar with (my oldest took a guided online class).  That means reading about 50 pages per week....or better yet for me....listening to it.  I might just see if I can squeak a Kindle in the budget so I could do either at any time (dropping a math class would pay for that!)  My other option is enlisting the help of my oldest since it's a time period she loves and is very familiar with.  But, for numerous reasons that might NOT be the best option.

My 6th grader will be starting Saxon math next week.  I really do have a love/hate relationship with Saxon.  But, I think it will be a good fit for this particular child.  But that will require some time on my part, at least at first.

We need to find a better time of day for Spelling - right now it's just before recess.  I thought that would be great, they can rotate through with me and do their afternoon chores when they aren't working on their spelling and then all head outside for recess.  That worked until our youngest decided that's the time of day she needs mommy the most.  All About Spelling appears to be doing wonders!   But it takes time.  And for many reasons I know that using this and taking the time is the best route for us to go.

I need to do a better job enlisting the help of TA's on a regular basis.  There is no reason that my other kids can't sit down with my K and help him with Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons (though I would still want to teach him his lesson at least once a week to make sure he is learning it well and doesn't need to slow down or add some review).  I keep reminding my kids that if I am not available, usually any older sibling who is available could answer their question.  (See the post below about our long division solution).  But reminding takes time, I need to work that into their plan, maybe set two kids next to each other to work on math and instruct the younger one to ask the older one for help if needed.

Our 3rd grader is working on strengthening very poor vision in one eye.  We need to dilate her good eye every other day to make it blurry and force the other eye to work.  We've had to shift her reading lesson to first thing before I get those drops in.

Our toddler needs some planned activities.  She is no longer content to play quietly near us (no....I didn't expect that to last!)  Rotating toys has helped...but she likes different things to do and different people to play with.  She has already picked out 14 year old Terese to color with.  She goes to Terese's room, climbs on her bed next to the desk, and colors pictures while Terese reads her Biology or whatever else she is doing out loud to her.  She goes to 16 year old Nathan for music.   I have a list of  Activities for Little Ones and plan to have someone scheduled to play with her and use some of these ideas when I am not playing with her.

Also, if I schedule someone to play with her - things will be less chaotic...No more yelling, "I need a break!  I'll play with Abigail!"

I also need time when I am NOT available to help with schoolwork. When I can just sit down and play or talk.  I need time to visit my elliptical downstairs on a more regular basis. 

So, next week will be a light week.  Maybe some enjoyable classes as well as some basics that I want to make a few changes to.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Righstart Division

1 5 9
3 ) 4 1 7 2 7

I was trying to teach long division to Wyatt.  He usually catches on to math concepts quite quickly....but long division has been stumping him for some reason. His oldest brother (who also catches on to math quickly) suggested he skip long division and do it the Rightstart Math way. He showed him and guess what?! Wyatt caught on almost immediately! Seems long division made no sense to him because he had to perform so many steps to get something that was already in his head anyway.

So, Wyatt will stick with this method for now.  Nathan ALWAYS does division problems this way and only ran into difficulties with polynomial division...he had to learn long division first.  He did.  But he told me tonight that when his Algebra II teacher asked if everyone knew long division he was the only one in the class who didn't raise his hand (*gasp*  please tell me he didn't let her think he doesn't know how to do division problems!!!  Thankfully she was puzzled since he gets A's in math, and after talking about it with him she's decided he is doing long division but most of the work is in his head).

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Homeschooling: Week 1

Strangest event:  2 kids brought me apples, 1 brought me a zucchini :)

Most life changing event:  2nd child now has his driver's license.

Sweetest event:  The elementary kids continued to work on their history long after I had called it a day.  A big thank you to Amy who lent us her History Pockets:  Ancient Greece book. 

Most inspiring event:  16 year has driven to Mass every day since getting his license, and he brings his 14 year old sister too (who rarely misses an opportunity if presented).

Most unexpected event:  On the very first day of school, my recess loving 4th grader got to recess 15 minutes late (it's only 30 minutes) because he was staying inside with me getting help on his math.  And he didn't complain one bit and was really very pleasant/fun to work with.

Most challenging event:  Our normally quite independent high-schoolers were completely thrown on the first and second day of school this year.  Brand new lesson plans, completely different from the old ones.  (Tell me again, Mom, what am I supposed to do?) They were frustrated and confused.  I thought our introductions to these plans over the past 2 weeks would have taken care of that.  It hadn't.  But by day 3 they were both on track.

Our oldest and youngest contribute in their own way.  I am very thankful that the kids are being accommodating/flexible schooling with an active 21 month old :)  And, everyone loves it when our oldest walks in their door (2nd year college commuter) and takes time to talk with them for a few minutes before heading to her room to study.

So far, so good.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Happy Birthday

to our second oldest child (oldest son).

He turned 16 years old today.  In 1997, Sept. 1 was Labor Day!

...and....I will always remember what year both Mother Teresa and Princess Diana died.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

High School Schedules DONE!

A shot of W-F for Quarter 2 of Greek Lit.  For an explanation of why this is even here....see the previous post.

  Quiz 4 Discuss 4
  Paper 4, Quiz 5 Discuss 5
  Thanksgiving Break
  Study Sheet 6, Quiz 6 Discuss 6
  Outline 7, Quiz 7 Discuss 7

Part of my color coded high school schedule

I've been at it all week (first mistake...usually I start this process in June!) and I finally completed my semester 1 schedules for my 9th and 10th graders. It helps a lot that they are in many of the same classes - gotta love St. Thomas Aquinas Academy for that!   (My 9th grader is moving right into "10th" grade Greek Studies with my 10th grader.  She'll continue with him until he graduates and then when she is in 12th grade she will finish with their typically 9th grade American History Studies - the one she is skipping over for now).

I ran across someone making color coded school schedules at Shower of Roses blog.  I saw it an was intrigued.  I knew it wasn't going to work exactly the same way for us, but I loved the idea.  In addition to the color coding (Suz...if you're reading this....I can't help it...I must have your colors too...) I've always color coded our schedules to some degree.  The standard here is:  if it's printed in black it's solo work, anything in red is to be done with me, and items printed in blue are group work.   This year I added something extra...italicized orange for optional extra credit assignments. 

When I saw the color coded schedules online I liked the way it was easy to see, at a glance, what was to come and if they were falling behind in something.  I used to have each week's worth of assignments on 1 page.  But, if they struggled with something and I needed to slow them down, I'd be A) flipping back to old lists or B) continually adjusting their lists or C) make the lists so vague we didn't really have a good feeling for where we were in the subject.   Last spring, many of our 9th grader's classes finished early (co-op classes) and he asked for a complete listing of everything he had left.  Since he had more time available he wanted to double up on things and get done with school early.  It worked well.

So, tomorrow, my high schoolers will be given a packet for 1st quarter and a packet for 2nd quarter, each 4 pages.  They will clearly see where they are heading in their classes (I hope anyway!) and what is expected.  Their Greek Studies classes (Greek History, Greek Lit, Greek Essays, and Old Testament) have their own full lesson plans from STAA and it's simply too much to fit into a schedule like this, so for those classes I simply filled in dates assignments are due.

I'm a little too excited here.  I just might wake them up right now...or not.  I ended up color coding the weeks (rather than the quarters) to tie the them together.  It's easier to glance down and see what is assigned for all the "orange" weeks rather than search for Week 5 or the dates.

8/19-8/23 Gather Materials
8/26-8/30 Become very familiar with the book
9/2-9/6   Read 4-5 w/Mom & Em Read 146-148 & 18-19  w/Mom & Em Make FANBOYS card Make copies of tests to use
9/9-9/13 Do I, c/c, I Test p.149 Rework I, c/c, I section if test not 91% or higher Retake test if needed
9/16-9/20 Do I Sub I Test p.150 Rework I Sub I section if test not 91% or higher Retake test if needed
9/23-9/27 Do Sub, I,I Test p.151 Rework Sub I,I  section if test not 91% or higher Retake test if needed
9/30-10/4 Do I;I Test p. 152 Rework I;I  section if test not 91% or higher Retake test if needed
10/7-10/11 Study I;c/a,I p. 52 and define c/a on back of FANBOYS card      Do page 53
10/14-10/18         Do page 54

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Sibling "assignment"

I just have to share this because I thought it was such a great idea that other people might like to consider doing it themselves.   I had nothing to do with it.  I don't know if my husband thought of this on his own or not....but here you go.

He gathered ALL the children together and handed them each a piece of paper that had all the kids' names on it.   He instructed them to think of the nicest thing they could say about each of their siblings and write it next to their name.  Spelling didn't matter, he wanted them to do it alone.  (I did write down our 5 year olds answers for him though...word for word...)  They were instructed to not over think this, it shouldn't take long.  The next day he gathered all the papers and typed all the responses up in such a way as to be able to hand each child a list of the nice things said about them...anonymously.   I think it not only helped the child who received the list of all the nice things said about them.  It also helped, when writing the answers, to step back and think of something really nice about each individual sibling.

He plans to do this again; how frequently he plans to do this, I don't know.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

5 year olds

Don't you just love 5 year olds?  They say the darndest things...

Yesterday while driving home he saw clean white smoke off in the distance and exclaimed at the of his lungs, "We have a new pope!"

Please don't mention this to him.  He was a little embarrassed after I explained it to him (though I don't think he has anything to be embarrassed about. :)

Thursday, July 25, 2013

The Laundry Routine

I followed some advice from Pinewood Castle and made a laundry chart.  I don't know why I never made one before.  I make charts and lists all the time.  Needless to say, it helped.  It helped a lot! 
It's nothing fancy.  Basically something like the following:
  • Monday:  Wash darks (Mom, Dad, and 1 yr old's) - save jeans for T
  • Tuesday:  Wash the 5 & 7 year old's - add their whites to ours, wash the jeans, save dress clothes
  • Wednesday:   Wash our whites
  • Thursday:  Boys laundry day (ages 10, 12, 15) - save dress clothes
  • Friday:  Girls laundry day (14, 18), wash dress clothes
  • Saturday:  Wash towels and sheets
Other items are washed as needed. The kids all fold and put away their own clothes (OK - we are working on it with the 5 yr old). 
The older kids do their own laundry.  However, very frequently either I or my 14 yr old assistant, will wash the boys clothes.  If they are out working in the yard, as they often do, they bring their hampers to the laundry room and we cycle through for them.
This may not appear so funny to anyone else but I took this picture one Friday morning because I found it comical.   The boys' laundry had not gotten finished the day before, and instead of waiting, Terese bumped the older girls' hamper to the front and started washing their clothes.
I have to say....I have been getting a lot of help with the laundry lately.  Once I posted the chart I noticed Terese often grabs the laundry for the day and washes it all.
I've talked to the kids a lot about helping out around the house and we have assigned chores.  However, some kids have sort of found their niche - a  big chore and that's fine by me.  For example, our oldest son doesn't have much assigned to him inside the house since he takes care of most of the lawn maintenance.   I think I'll reassign Terese's other chores.  If she continues to help this much with the laundry (and cooking!) I think she found her niche.


Monday, July 1, 2013

We are renaming our oldest daughter

OK - nothing quite so dramatic.  But those of you who know our family in person know that I have created pseudonames on my blog for our kids.  Anna simply no longer that a give away or what?!

Anyway, our oldest will no longer be called Anna....she will be called Analia.

Hoping that helps my sister and few friends :)  It will certainly help me.  It's weird to say "Anna is in college now"

Sunday, June 30, 2013

June - need I say more?

This was the year for grad parties for us!  Not sure how we did it - but we did!  We made it to most of them.  Sometimes it's just not possible (like when we got 3 invitations for the same day, same time,.  Two were near each other - the other a couple hours away...).  Our oldest graduated last year - so we are simply in that age of knowing graduates!

Throw in a family reunion, a trip to my parent's house for Anna and Nathan, a camping trip with my husband's parents for Nathan and Terese.  There were also a couple events that we really wanted to make it to but just couldn't (tried to wait out sickness...but a nasty cold took the family down...glad we didn't share it with either group!) We missed one friend's combined b-day/anniversary/graduation party as well as another friend's gathering of some great families.

Oh, and did I mention that June seemed to be the perfect time for Nathan and Henry to begin guitar lessons taught by a music major on summer break (read....very inexpensive!) ...and Henry and Wyatt to join a Lego Robotics League?  Terese attended her annual 6 day Quilt Day Camp.  Anna started teaching a writing class that meets at our home.  Catholic Vacation Bible School was a week in June.

I always laugh when people ask if we stick to the one activity per child rule...7/8 activities at a time?  I don't think so!  Each decision to join something is prayerfully considered.  This has been an off month for us.  We generally have far less than one activity per child!  But, if the activity is free or very inexpensive I am fine signing a sibling up - hey - the time commitment is already there!

How does the rest of our summer look?   In a word...peaceful :)  Guitar lessons will continue, Writing class will continue, Lego Robotics will continue, and soccer as a family will continue...I actually have blank spots on my calendar...lots of 'em!  That's my kind of summer!

I have only one child who has really been interested in sports - that helps cut down the time commitment.  We spent a lot of time driving her from point A to point B and watching the games.  It was a sacrifice, but it was worth it.  She loved it.  The other kids are all very active but none have had any interest in joining a team.  If someone else did develop a sort of "passion" for a sport - yes - we would consider it again. 

How about you?  How has your summer been?  How do you balance time spent in activities for you children vs time at home just being kids and spending time with friends and family?  Really?  Do tell.  I am curious?  Although we've been doing this for a number of years I do like to glean ideas from others!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Don't steal my prayer time

My normal prayer time is right after I shower/get dressed.  Some kids are awake, but the younger ones who need me (or who can be loud enough to wake the sleeping/teething baby) are usually still asleep.  This morning things got out of whack.  My prayer time was in danger of being non-existent today - at least 4 people were coming at me needing all kinds of things they don't normally need.   So, I decided a cartoon would be fine for the kids and I would get back to the kids after my prayer time.

I had just started using A Book of Saints for Catholic Moms a week ago.  This is what I opened to today:

Today, Lord, may I extend my arms to all those in need, including my family in need of my love and attention.

I don't regret putting the kids in front of the cartoon so I could get my prayer time, in fact, my prayer time is usually before any kids young enough to need me in the morning NORMALLY wake up.  And, a spiritual director told me long ago that if that's what was needed to be done to make it work daily then that's what should be done.  It's not going to harm them for 20-30 minutes, they will be better off if I get consistent prayer time.  She was right.  

But I do regret getting frustrated that my well laid out plans for the day were going to get all messed up and I wouldn't get to pray and that would make me more frustrated. 

Those words were a good reminder to approach them with love....when my prayer time was over and I was immediately asked 352 urgent questions.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Need book recommendations for teens?

Just a little advertisement here....the following blog is written by my 18 year old daughter and her almost 18 year old friend.  They are both AVID readers. Please check it out, I think you'll be glad you did.  And, feel free to spread the word.  They are getting a lot of hits and would really like this blog to be out there so people can benefit from it.  Did I say they are AVID readers? Bonus:  If you suggest something they will try to read it or watch it so they can review it for you.  They do have a disclaimer though...they will not read or watch something they find morally objectionable (smart girls).

Note:  The name of their blog is Realms of Gold, but the site is named realmofgold

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Wordless Wednesday

I couldn't pick just one.....



Summer School: Revisted

As we were approaching the end of the school year I knew...we would be doing summer school.  We had a lot of little life interruptions this year.  Those used to bother me (ok - they still do). But I've grown up and finally accepted the fact that kids get sick, get hurt, need doctor visits, etc. during the school year *gasp* during the school day!  And while our kids really are generally quite healthy, the sheer number of them means that the interruptions listed above still occur rather frequently.

The kids have always tested well on their standardized tests and the results are never a surprise to me.  I know which subjects they will likely score way beyond grade level in, and I know which subjects they will likely score about average in. 

But this year we simply did not cover as much material as I would like to have covered in both math and spelling.  I had originally planned to have my 3rd and 5th graders finish they math books with little help from me, and I planned to get some "fun" spelling books for them as well as their 2nd grade sister. 

[My 3rd grader is in 4th grade math.....just for the record....I am not pushing him ahead beyond his understanding.  This kid gets math.  Even though he's working a year ahead he can finish a lesson in 15 minutes.  This is my child who, after working on averaging numbers, got to the bottom of the page and said, "Now what, should I average all the answers now?" ]

Anyway, I was helping both my 3rd and 5th graders with their math and realized they were learning basically the same thing (they are using 2 different programs).  While one was learning how to multiply 3 digit numbers, the other was learning to multiply 2 digit numbers.  Really, if you really understand how it works then there isn't much difference (Joan Cotter, author of the RightStart Math series, once said that if a young child could add 2 digits - then why not 4...if they can't do 4, then they really don't understand what they are doing with 2).  So, I pulled out both their books and made a list of all topics to be covered between where they were at and the end of their books.  Rather than hand them their books I plan to devise a way of tutoring the two of them together.    I think I will focus mainly on my older son's work since I don't want him to fall behind, but the younger son's work will be very similar. 

As for spelling.....we will get back to our All About Spelling.  As I was recently reminded, it really does take about 15 minutes per day.  It's the best spelling program we have ever used. 

Let's not forget summer reading lessons for my 2nd grader.  She has improved about 1.5 grades since she received her glasses a year ago.  She has a little more work to do.  I know some people would tell me to just wait until the fall, and I have with some kids.  But, my gut tells me with her we had better keep moving.  Besides, learning can become so much more once a child knows how to read.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Favorite Curriculum

  • Someone in one of the homeschool groups I am in has asked the other members to share ideas of hits or misses regarding curriculum choices.  As long as I'm typing it up anyway I thought I would share it here as well.  I don't mean to imply that the following is a list of the BEST programs available.  They are, however, the programs that have worked the best for our homeschool.  This past year we had children in grades Pre-K, 2,3,5,8,9, as well as a college student and a busy 1 year old. Every year really is different and each presents it's own set of challenges and blessings.  I've had kids struggle and I've had kids who learn very easily.  I can tell you that those who struggle don't always have it harder in the long run....just sayin' !

Sorry, it appear I am having some formatting difficulty.  The nice little outline method I used here isn't working so I've tried to separate things a bit with these beautiful little stars :)

  • Reading/Phonics
    • Little Angel Readers for most of my kids.
    • Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons is working great for my 5 year old.
    • My current 2nd grader is doing best with Seton Readers.
    • After 2nd grade I use either National Catholic Readers or Seton Readers depending on the child.
  • *********************************
  • Math
    • My all time favorite is Rightstart.  The phonics is to reading, Rightstart is to math.  Nothing is spoon fed here, the child is led to figure everything out.  The's more time consuming for the parent.  I'd love to go back to it.  We'll see.
    • Math-U-See...yes and no.  I currently have 2 kids using it.  One to "catch-up", the other to "skip ahead".  Each book has about 30 lessons.  Each lesson has 3 practice pages, 3 review pages, and 1 test.  If the student understands the material really well, not all those pages are necessary. 
    • Teaching Textbooks...yes and no.  I currently have 1 student using this.   It's a great idea being computerized and automatically graded after each problem; no more getting and entire page wrong!  But, it seems to be a little "behind" in the scope and sequence.  I am not happy about this as I have recommended this program to other moms of many.
    • Saxon...really not my favorite but I have to admit it's really good.  Sometimes I feel like the information is spoon fed.  The formula is given, the student memorizes it, they do zillions of problems (OK - not really).  A real understanding of the concepts doesn't seem to be necessary here.  That's what I don't like.  I have one student using it this year.  I wish instead of about 7 practice problems and 30 review problems it was more like 15 and 20 or something.
    • Singapore Math Challenging Word Problems.  Students as young as 3rd grade learn to solve complex problems that most of us would use Algebra for.  I highly recommend this for the student who really "gets" math. 
  • *************************************
  • Spelling
    • All About Spelling
    • The Phonetic Zoo
    • Spelling City
      • Spelling City is online.  You can search for other spelling lists or create your own.  For a very nominal fee you can create lists, sign your students up, then let them log in to play games and take tests.  You can even share lists with your friends.  Don't have time to enter the lists yourself?  Depending on the age of the child I have them take the first week of school and enter 9-36 weeks worth of words in.  It's just extra practice for them :)
  • *************************************
  • Literature
  • *******************************************************************
  • Religion
    • We've used Faith and Life and Seton.   I'd recommend either - I also group the kids as much as possible...depending on the year I usually do religion orally as a group and pull everyone up to the highest elementary grade level I am teaching.  The high school kids use other material, I don't pull them down.
    • Our FAVORITE one this year, and the one I plan to order again next year is the faith formation program developed out of the Church of St. Paul in Ham Lake .  I can't say enough about this.  One program for K-6 with questions geared to the appropriate level.
    • A Philadelphia Catholic in King James' Court.  It's an apologetics novel that is enjoyable to read.  There is a study guide available.
  • *****************************************
  • Handwriting
    • I start with Handwriting without Tears
    • Then move to Seton books
    • For some kids I move to  Writing Can Help .  I particularly like the way some of the books are designed around perfecting a passage and decorating the borders around the page.  The decorations aren't merely "pretty", they are also working on consistent hand movements, etc.
    • Retrain The Brain is also very helpful in developing consistent fluid movements.  None of my children has ADD or ADHD, there are other reasons to use this as well.
  • ****************************************
  • History
    • My favorite history "help" is Add A Century Timeline.  I think we need to start fresh though, most of the historical figures we've been studying are already on the chart.  It's wonderful to find them and see who else was alive or what else was happening in a certain time period.  I think it brought the history lessons to a more concrete level.  Nothing like actually realizing that the composer Joseph Hayden and the founder of the Mormon Religion ,Joseph Smith, were alive at the same time as Napolean, and John Adams.  Yes, I know, if you think it about it makes sense.  That's what this timeline does, it pushes those connections to the forefront of you mind.  I want to start a new one because I think part of the thrill is adding new people.  Simply glancing at a complete timeline doesn't work quite as well as creating it yourself.
    • Famous Men of Greece
    • Famous Men of Rome
    • I've used other programs for medieval and recent history but I haven't found anything else I've really been thrilled with.  I'm open to suggestions (on any subject) particularly in History.
  • ***********************************
  • Grammar
    • LOVE Winston Grammar.  If you have a child who is very kinesthetic this could be the program he needs. 
  • *********************************
  • Writing
    • We are fortunate to be able to sent our kids to a Writing Foundations class.  Ms. B. used to work for IEW - it sounds similar.
    • For 4/5 grade I like to use Writing Tales.  The idea is very similar.
  • ***********************************
  • Science
    • My kids attend hand on science classes in the younger grades
    • For the upper grade they attend science classes that mainly use the Apologia Books.
  • ***********************************
  • Foreign Language
    • English from the Roots Up (doubles as vocab).  Book 1 has 100 Latin and Greek word roots.  I wish I had done this with my older kids when they were younger.  This year we only did about 20 roots, next year I hope to finish the book and move on to Book 2.
    • We've used Rosetta Stone a little bit as well as Power glide (love that!) for Spanish.  I send my kids to co-op classes for high school level Spanish but I like to start earlier at home.
  • ***********************************
  • For Pre-K
    • I really like Five in a Row

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Oldest and youngest

My oldest is now a college student.  She commutes, so we get to see her every day!  She's pretty busy, but she does take time out to spend a little time with her younger siblings.  They love her so much! 
Today we visited her college campus and she gave us a tour.  The little ones were especially amazed and had so many questions for her.  I especially enjoyed watching how they would run ahead and take her hand.  It was sweet.  Now she's on to finals.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Our kids certainly are creative

Because we couldn't drive the lawn tractor on the soft yard (we are trying to make it less bumpy), 11 year old Henry hooked the trailer up to the trike.  Their task was to pick up sticks and stones from the yard and bring them to the appropriate locations.

Abigail LOVES to ride her bike, especially after Henry made some modifications.  This bike used to have an attachment that stuck out the back so that an adult or older child could help push or stop the bike. It really didn't work all that well because steering is pretty important too!  So that piece disappeared long ago.  Henry found some PVC pipe we had in the garage (we have a small stash that they hook up to the hose in the summer to make all sorts of water play contraptions).  Now we can help 17 month old Abby to steer as well as keep her moving.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Funny things happen when teaching multiple grades

I've been teaching literature to my students (grades PreK, 2,3,5,8,9) using Teaching the Classics:  A Socratic Method for Literary Education.  I highly recommend it!  The Socratic approach is useful for teaching any subject, and this program has helped me not only teach literature but to do a better job with our other subjects.

But back to Literature.  The beginning of the program uses short children's stories to discuss plot, character, theme, etc.  I simply start out asking the youngest kids questions and work my way up.  I  often ask my 5 year old about the characters.  He can name them and the older kids can add in some more information.

We have now moved on to something more substantial.  Mark Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.  Today I introduced the book and read a synopsis from our accompanying study guide.

Now we get to the funny part....

Our 8th grader was flipping through the book and discovered this page near the beginning of the book

Persons attempting to find a motive in this narrative will be prosecuted; persons attempting to find a moral in it will be banished; persons attempting to find a plot in it will be shot. (BOLD MY EMPHASIS)
                                      BY ORDER OF THE AUTHOR
                                      PER G. G., CHIEF OF ORDANCE
I looked up to find a few kids staring with wide eyes.....oh no....we are supposed to find the plot!  "Maybe we just shouldn't tell anybody," whispered one of my younger students.
So, do I...
1.  Go with the sneakiness.....we'll find the plot, we can find a plot in each chapter if we want to...but we had better close the blinds and whisper. :)
2.  Let them know it's only a joke.
I just don't I want them thinking that it's OK to do something we are clearly told not to do, as long as we don't tell anyone?  That would be so much funnier (and more exciting) than telling them the truth.  Maybe it's just getting late, but I am finding this quite funny myself.
Maybe we'll just go with it for a bit and then read the story of the little girl whose father takes her out to the field at night so she can keep watch while he steals.  He tells her to let her know if anyone sees them.  She periodically tells him that someone sees him.  He looks up, sees no one, and continues to pillage.  Finally he gets annoyed and asks why she keeps saying that.  Her reply is that, "God sees us."  Then I'll tell them the truth.  

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Almost Wordless Wednesday

What a difference a week makes

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Lesson planning with an older child listening in

It's been a busy weekend and tiring day.  Last night we celebrated our 2nd graders First Communion and had a small party afterwards.  Today I was exhausted, but had to take our oldest to the acute injury clinic.  She broke her foot in December and it is still not healed. 

So...I'm up late tonight going over lesson plans.  Since our 9th grader was still up as well I pulled him over to get his ideas (does he want to do his History over 2 days or 4?, I don't really care as long as he is prepared for our discussion on Friday, but this will save him the time or reworking some things).

Anyway, he was to start reading a small book about the atomic bomb.  My oldest overheard and said, "MOM, you aren't going to make him read that are you?!  That was horrible, I couldn't even read it past the first day, remember?!  You won't be able to get those pictures out of your mind.  Remember how you called and the STAA advisor said we could switch to a different book?"

Yes, I do remember that now.  At first I was annoyed.  It's late.  I have this planned.  I have the book.  It's already divided up over 3 weeks, etc. etc. etc.   {I don't do so well on the fly}.  But, she had a good point.  We are always talking to our kids about guarding their eyes because what you see will stay with you.  This book is about Hiroshima and it also includes information about the Holocaust.  We will discuss both.  That I think is important.  Is it important that he read THIS book?  No.  I think

So, it's late.  I don't want to put this off.  I'm scouring through my mind trying to think of what we own that might be around the same time period (and thankful that I have 2 daughters that LOVE books...meaning....we have lots and lots of used books!)  Aha!  We have one.  I go grab it off the shelf.  Problem solved.  Now I have to read it too.

First Communion

A very Happy First Communion to our 2nd grader.  She is SO happy to finally be able to receive Our Lord in the Holy Eucharist!

Also Happy First Communion to her friend (AMT) who received today for the first time. 

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Christmas & Easter are part of the same story

After hearing that someone had wished their dad a Merry Christmas when leaving work today, Wyatt asked if we could surprise him by setting up the small Christmas tree.  They added some Easter eggs afterwards.   The colors didn't come out so well; there is a silver egg at the top.

Last week nearly all the snow was gone.  I had packed all the boots away; the kids were riding bikes and scooters.  Now the scooters and bikes are sitting in the garage alongside the sleds and snowshoes.  For recess one day last week some kids were having snowball fights and others were riding their bikes in the cul-de-sac.  I guess this will be a year to remember. 

Friday, April 12, 2013

Media won’t cover Kermit Gosnell mass baby murder trial

Please read the following article if you have not already heard about the Gosnell case.  EVERYONE needs to know what happens to many babies born alive during an abortion.  This man is on trial for the killing of over 100 babies, yes, over 100 babies!  8 of his staff have already plead guilty.

We don't hear about this stuff in the mainstream media.  The word needs to get out somehow.  Please consider posting something on your blog, facebook page, or twitter page.

Media won’t cover Kermit Gosnell mass baby murder trial

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Getting kids ready in the morning

I'm often asked how we get the kids up and ready in the's my secret....sssshhhh...Wild Kratts :)

School starts here at 8:00.

Kids must be up and dressed (some showered), having already eaten, AND having already done their morning chores.  If they are then they can watch Wild Kratts from 7:30 - 8:00.  If most kids aren't ready I will allow those that are to watch it on the small TV in our room. 

Do I care that my kids start the day this way?  Nope.  Unless we get a movie night in during the week that's most likely the only time it gets turned on in our house.

Though I do have one small complain.  My kids LOVED Zaboomafoo!  When the cartoon version came out (Wild Kratts) they still preferred Zaboomafoo....not anymore.  Not sure why creators of children's shows feel the need to make everything so hyped.  My kids enjoyed Zaboomafoo with all the REAL animals.  Maybe they changed it because the Kratt brothers are getting a bit older....

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Something only a 5 year old would do

One should never lay on ones stomach on a chair, push oneself under the counter, then pull the lever to raise the chair as high as possible.  And, if mom neglects to take a picture, siblings should NOT entice the original victim to do it again simply for the sake of a picture.  Do you have any idea how hard it is to push down with enough force to lower it?  Thankfully his 15 year old brother came to the rescue.  That was a month ago, it hasn't been done since.

Monday, April 8, 2013

First Fire of the Season

The guys (and one gal) cleaning up after our first fire of the season

Friday, April 5, 2013

Some of my favorite blogs

I've been wanting to add a sidebar of the blogs I follow but my cohort lost the password!  Haha, crunchmomma has moved 6-7 times in the last 9 years (is that right?)  so I can hardly blame her!  We've moved 3 times in the last 20 years of marriage, I don't know how she does it....

My blog reading goes with the flow of my life.  I find that when I have an infant, I have more time to read while nursing (easier to click than hold a book).  My "infant" is now 16 mo. old, I don't read blogs as much as I used to.  But these are a few of my favorites, for a variety of reasons, I find these edifying.

I actually follow these blogs on my private blog.  Some are updated frequently, others rarely.