Saturday, March 22, 2008

Weekly Report

We have enjoyed a week of Spring Break this past week, since Derek has had some time off of work. We didn't do anything particularly special. Just hung out together. And we always continue with our library visits and reading. That's just as much fun as it is educational for us. Lauren went ahead with piano lessons and practice this week; Cameron's eye still was not healed enough to do something that strenuous on the optic organ.

I have picked up a copy of First Language Lessons 3 (hereafter known as FLL3) for Lauren simply because I couldn't resist! I am thinking I'm going to switch her over from the Abeka to that for the rest of this year. The publishers are coming out with a FLL 4 very soon, and I was planning to use that for fourth grade anyway. I'm very excited about that! I'll have to add a Spelling program to this curriculum...still looking at a couple of different ones. Next week is the Midwest Homeschool Convention, and Derek and I are really stoked about going! Not only for all the things we're looking forward to learning during the sessions, but also because we're looking forward to fellowship with dear friends.(at least Julia and Becca that I know of, and maybe a meet-up with Sonja for dinner!) I know many people also look forward to conventions like this because it is their only opportunity to actually "get their hands" on curriculums that they would otherwise only see in catalogs or online. I feel very blessed to have a Christian bookstore *a hop and a skip* away that also has a "homeschool headquarters" section. I can sit and flip through all these resources to my heart's content. And anything they don't have, they will order for me. (and at a discount, no less!). So I'm planning to be a very good girl and not spend too much money "shopping" at the convention! :)

The children have almost finished memorizing the Latin prayer, "The Sanctus". I hope to post a video of them reciting it together by next week.

A note of interest: we have had a couple of classical Christian schools move into our general area. I don't know if I'm just paying closer attention to details like that now, or what......Anyway, one of them looks wonderful. They are latin-centered, and work in conjunction with families. Three days of the school week are spent under the parents direction at home, and students report to the classroom for 2 days per week from September through May. A summer reading list is in effect for homeschooling families to follow. I read about them and found it very impressive overall. Here's the part of most interest: they are using nearly all the same curriculum that I am using already here at home, and definitely following the same pattern of learning. THE COST FOR THIS??? For all 3 of my school-age children next year it would be OVER $7000!!!!!! YIKES!! So, while I'm impressed, I'm also encouraged to know that my kids are getting a "hoity toity" education for a substantial FRACTION of what we'd have to shell out. Oh, and the other classical school, which runs 5 days/week???? Would be nearly $14,000.!

Looking forward to getting back to a full-swing school week come Monday. And when we do, you'll read all about it right here. Speaking of which, aren't you impressed with my hubby's blog designing skills? I thought that was a pretty cool looking crest up there. :)


Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Green Hour Challenge

I wanted to post the link to the Green Hour Challenge. Started by a homeschooling blogging mom to get families out enjoying nature and keeping a nature journal, etc. It is Week #5 of the Challenge, but you can start anywhere. We've done it VERY loosely as the weather has been pathetic here. :(

Click here to access the blog....and scroll down....on the right column you will see the words Green Hour Challenges. Click that and each assignment will pop up for you to print out. Enjoy!

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Ode to Public Libraries

If you've read my other blog, then you know what kind of week we've had. Not exactly a week conducive to a learning atmosphere. For one thing, Cameron couldn't tolerate light or hold his eyes open to read for most of the week. So we followed a much lighter, looser schedule.

For all my griping about certain areas of public services, I have to sing the praises of my local Public Library. One of the especially helpful suggestions put forth in The Well-Trained Mind is about taking advantage of this resource. Jessie Wise says that when she first began educating her kids at home (back in the 70's when this was truly a revolutionary concept), she would load up her three young'uns, along with a laundry basket, and head once a week to the library. They followed a simple pattern: they checked out 1 Science book, 1 Math book, 1 Poetry book, 1 History book and 1 just-for-fun book. I have not closely studied the Charlotte Mason method of education, but it is my understanding that this would fall somewhat under what she calls "living books"; it is a rich literature-based approach to learning.

Our family has always enjoyed living rather close to the library here, and at various times since the children were babies, have enjoyed the different reading programs and activities. We are now much more faithful to visiting consistently each week, and are trying to follow this reading suggestion. After weeks like the one we just came through, it's a little comforting to know that we just can take advantage of the educational books we have checked out until we can return to more structured learning. And the kids have so much fun in the process.

Here are some of our choices this week:

Monday, March 10, 2008

A Closer Look

Since this topic has been so warmly received by "ya'll", I thought I would try to give a little closer look at the school day as it stands for us right now. As I explained in the first entry on this blog, we have made the transition to the classical method smack dab in the middle of the school year. So part of my time on hiatus from blogging was spent in figuring out exactly how I was going to make that change, and how to structure the academic part of the day. The advice that is almost ALWAYS given to new home-schoolers who are pulling their children out of conventional classrooms, is to take some time and de-compress from the routine that your children are used to. Give them a chance to relax a little bit and focus on some of the things your family is most looking forward to in making this big change. Then ease into your home-schooling schedule. I tend to agree with this advice. Although Lauren was the only one of ours that was ever enrolled in conventional school, I still found this advice useful. It also proved relevant as we made a change in our learning style, as well. I am looking forward very much to finishing out this year and having a fresh start using all classical curriculums. I read the Well-Trained Mind suggestions for scheduling very carefully and I put together a very simple plan for our children to complete this school year. Next year will look a little different, but this is what I'm endeavoring to follow for this year. And, as a sidenote, I am also seriously considering moving to year-round schooling schedule. I have read many different ways to do this that look appealing. Like four weeks on, 1 week off, etc. At any rate, the beauty of homeschooling is that when it's time for a break, it's TIME FOR A BREAK! And since you're the boss, you can make that happen. Quite Lovely.

So for anyone interested, here is our plan for the remainder of this school year:

Language Arts: Spelling Words review 15 min per day. Test weekly. Spend 30 minutes reading (which can include reading in other subject matter, such as history), and making notebook narration pages. Formal Grammar study 20 min per day; 10 minutes per day reviewing memory work such as Scripture, Poetry, Preamble, etc. Spend 30 minutes several days per week in fun reading, such as library books, American girl series, etc.

Writing: Work on writing out narrations of Reading material; Write letters to friends/relatives at least twice per month; write from dictation and/or copywork 3 days per week.

Mathematics: Mastering concepts, such as times tables, etc. for 30 minutes per day. Continue to improve in Speed Drills and workbook sheets from the Abeka curriculum. (I am looking into a program from Rod and Staff publishers for next year.)

History: Study Medieval -Early Rennaissance era (400b.c.-1600 a.d.) Story of the World, volume two. Listen to History books, read aloud by Mommy; read some historical biographies on her own form the library; keep a narration notebook for all material learned. We study History 3 days per week.

Science: Laid back approach this year. Mainly nature walks, and nature journal, weather permitting. Study animals from library books, and work in our Taking Care of my Body book. Horse-back riding lessons and involvement in horse shows will also serve some of this purpose! Science will be studied twice per week.

Latin: We work several days at a speed we are most comfortable with through the Prima Latina book. Review Latin vocabulary words. Usually 10-15 minutes daily.

Religion: We study other religions of the world through our history study. Our family focuses our time mainly on study of the TRUTH, which is Jesus. We will develop character traits to align with God's Word, the Bible. ( I am still looking for something like a Bible Curriculum for next year, though I am currently impressed with a series called Character Building for Families; we'll see!)

Music: continue with weekly piano lessons. Listen to classical music several days per week with the family; read Library books about great classical composers. ( I plan to do a study on classical composers with the children over the summer for fun!)


Language Arts: Continue to work with phonics and blended sounds 15-20 min/daily. Spend 30 minutes per day reading aloud and being read to, and making a narration notebook. Daily lessons from First Language Lessons by Jessie Wise. Also have 30 minutes several days per week for fun reading, like Magic Tree House books from the library.

Writing: Copy short sentences three days per week working up to 20 minutes daily. Work on simple letters to family/friends twice per month.

Math: Continue with learning new concepts 3o min daily, as well as working on Abeka worksheets and speed drills.

History: Study ancient times (5000 b.c.-a.d.400). Story of the World, volume one, read by Mommy 3 days per week. Make narration notebook pages. Read simple biographies and history books independently from the library.

Science: same plan as Lauren.

Latin: same.

Religion: same.

Music: same.

Reading: Spend time every day listening to Mommy read aloud from all kinds of books. Continue with basic phonics, for fluent reading. Read simple age-appropriate books and readers. Do the First Language Lessons with Mommy and Cameron daily, participating in the enrichment activities as possible for her age.

Writing: Practice writing cursive letters every day, 1o minutes daily. Copy short sentences from a model as she becomes more comfortable.

Math: following the WTM suggestions, Sophie should be able to: Count from 1 to 100. Use manipulatives to understand what numbers and placements mean. Be able to write numbers 1 to 100. Practice skip counting by 2's, 5's, and 10's. Look for Math lessons in everyday life. She's well on her way in these things! Next year I will use a more structured curriculum for her. She just turned 5 last month~!

The other classes, such as Latin, Sophie also enjoys sitting in on, though I don't require from her what I do the older ones.

Music: she begins piano lessons very soon! And listens to classical music with the family weekly.

SO, there you see our current weekly schedule. This will be tweaked over time. But it is the basic recommend plan and it's working for us right now. Each child has their main notebook with a viewfinder front. I made copies of each of their "schooling plans" and put in their own notebook, so they know what their plan is.

Hope this was of use to someone!

Friday, March 7, 2008

Weekly Progress Report.

Tis late this snowy Friday night. We're all snuggled in for the night as "the biggest winter storm in a decade" is predicted to arrive tomorrow. (according to the all-knowing weathermen! we'll see.) I am reflecting on our school week, and wanted to report our accomplishments.

First, you may have heard of the book, "Tuesdays With Morrie", but around here we're quite excited to have "Tuesdays with Daddy"! Derek is on a four day work week schedule, and he is home on Tuesdays. Nothing could be more wonderful for a homeschooling family. We get to plan things without the crowds and bustle of a weekend, and enjoy our time together. We love to take our library trips on Tuesdays, and this week it was extra fun because our local library had a family craft night, painting mugs. The kids really enjoyed it. I feel blessed to have such a nice library so close by. We also try to take advantage of Tuesdays to "split up" and do some one-on-one "dates" with the kids. It's important when you have four to make sure that you still provide for individual time. So this week, Cameron had time in the morning with Daddy, while the girls each had a turn going out with Mommy in the afternoon. Lauren and I went to a nearby cafe' for cocoa and muffins, while we worked in our "Growing Little Women" book together. Sophie and I made a trip to Kmart for accessories for her Baby Alive doll. Nothing grand or extravagant, but their little faces just light up like Christmas when we have these little "dates". :)

As for school, how blessed I feel again this week for the progress made!

Lauren: Spitting out her multiplication tables with growing ease. She's a natural speller. Is enjoying her study of the fall of Rome, and we've supplemented SOTW with books from the library, including an Atlas of Ancient Times. Doing very well with the latin studies: this week we began learning a latin prayer called "The Sanctus". She also handwrote a beautiful letter to a lady from our church who winters in Florida. (The WTM approach encourages letter writing once a week or so to strengthen writing skills. Look could be on the receiving end one of these days!) She moved on to a new song in her piano studies this week that really is tell-tale for how much she moving along in piano study. I'm so proud of her. She had a great week.

Cameron: Still coming along beautifully on his Math speed drills. I marvel at how easily Math comes to him. Definitely a trait from Daddy's side of the family. Cameron used to complain a lot about handwriting, and just didn't want to give it his best at all. I've been so pleased that he has taken to cheering when I tell him to get out his handwriting work! And with that positive attitude has come greatly improved cursive writing! He's still progressing well with First Language Lessons. Enjoys reading independently, although I've been focusing more on having him stand upright and read aloud to me with proper diction. This is a challenge for him, but he's doing well. His latest read has been a book about King Tut from the library, complete with all kinds of photos, and drawings. He's quite taken with this topic right now.

Sophie: This little gal has just thrown herself full-swing into the idea of "school". I can't believe what a difference a few months makes at this age. Even though she just turned five a few wks ago, there is a definite change in her attention span, and she doesn't want to miss anything. Doesn't want Sizzy and Bubs to have school without her! I have worked with Sophie extensively this week on writing. She has learned cursive A's, U's, and E's so far. It is a real struggle for her to form the letter properly; she seems to achieve the look of the letter, but goes around "Robin Hood's Barn" to get there! So it has taken lots of methodical repetition to get these letters formed properly. There's lots of cheering and jigging when this is done! She continues to enjoy the FLL with Cameron, and has been using Math manipulatives leftover from K12 to help her understand groups of ones, tens, and hundreds. More work to be done there, but she's having fun with it. She also gets a big kick out of being the first to answer some of the Latin vocabulary quizzing that we do. It's very cute. Sophie says she wants to be a librarian when she grows up, which would be just fine with her Mama!

I'm just too tuckered out this week to do it, but I hope to start scanning in some of their work to have on record here.

We're thankful for another good week.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Very Important....

I had heard about a situation in California regarding the legality of homeschooling, and I had hoped that it was maybe hype or over-reactionary. Alas, this seems not to be the case. In effect, a court ruling has stated that it is unconstitutional for parents to educate their children at home. This is a very serious matter, and should be of grave concern for ALL parents. Not just homeschooling ones. If the government is able to interfere in this basic parental right, there may be no stopping what other areas in which they may reach their hand into our homes. And it does NOT belong there!

Tomorrow's (March 7th) Focus on the Family broadcast will address this topic further. Let's all be in prayer that a reversal will be achieved.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Weekly Progress Report

We've just ended our first week of schooling fully embracing the classical method, and using appropriate resources. It has been a WONDERFUL week! I have seen the light come back on in my children's eyes. I've watched them grasp material and be able to verbally "give it back" to me. We've spent so much more time together in a productive learning atmosphere. Not that the week was without it's challenges; however, the pros have outweighed the cons, and I feel like we have turned the corner to a new that is carrying us forward to our future. And that's a great feeling.

One thing I noticed that I was unprepared for, was the effect that this process would have on my throat/voice. I have done whole lot more reading/teaching aloud, requiring me to be speaking more. I noticed my voice becoming hoarse, like a presidential candidate or something! LOL! I was taken off guard by that little development.

In a more specific sense, I will give the following personalized reports:

Lauren: continued w/her Abeka Grammar, spelling lists, etc.; started SOTW, book two, since she had covered most of the material from book 1 during her K12 years; worked on narration, and did a little book report just for practice...I was very pleased with her work; continued w/her Abeka Math, which has been her weakest subject, but she had a very good week. Introduced Latin into our schoolday, all the kids excited about that.

Cameron: continued w/his Abeka Math, his strongest subject...he did great in his speed drills, etc.; worked on his cursive writing, his weakest subject, but he had a GREAT week w/it...I think just the overall more positive atmosphere improved everyone's abilities this week!; he gave great narrations back from the SOTW; seemed to really click w/the First Language Lessons style; also seemed to show interest in Latin.

Sophie: gave her first narrations this week, both dictating to me, and through art...did a GREAT job; worked on cursive A's and U' proud of her!; enjoyed SOTW w/Cameron; also sat through all of the F.L.L. w/Cameron...picked right up on the difference between Proper nouns and common nouns; overall a very good week for her as well.

We read the Bible together daily and spent time talking about the practical application of what we read. All of the children did daily independent reading, and I read to them from "the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe." They were enthralled with it. After we finished it, we had family night on Friday night and watched the Motion Picture production of it. My heart turned over with pride, when Cameron commented during one scene.."that's not right! That's not how I pictured it at all!" I told him to just hang on to how he pictured it, and that would be just fine! I love it when the kids describe what they imagine things to look like. We also listened to one of my favorite recordings from my childhood, "Prokofieff's Peter and the Wolf". That was a highlight of the week for me.

I've been at this long enough to know that not all reports will be so "cheery", but am very thankful for the good week that we have had. God has been good, and is even allowing us some sunshine on this Saturday for which we are MOST thankful!