Saturday, September 29, 2007

Week 7 and 8 Report

With a weekend trip at the end of last week, the Week 7 Report didn't happen. So now I present the Week 7 and 8 Report!

I've mentioned before that we have been working on catching up to our Year at a Glance! I am happy to say that we are right where I wanted to be in three subjects: math, language and phonics! In the next few weeks I hope to be caught up in History and Science too. We've been having so much fun with these that we've been taking our time. Ultimately I know there can be great value in slowing down and soaking it in but I don't want to (a) never finish (b) work on all our holidays to get it finished (c) skip huge chunks. I would rather go ahead and get back on schedule and then use our breaks to return to anything that peaked his interest the first time around. I really do want him to be exposed to the entire content of the curriculum we've chosen for him - even if some of the exposure is brief!

Here is our updated Year at a Glance chart. Everything we've done is now in white.

Here are some of the highlights of the last two weeks:

Math: I have just decided that one page of Horizons is going to take us 45 minutes to an hour. And I am finally okay with that. This is the is how Thatcher approaches a problem:

"Okay mom. This problem says 7+9. Well I know that 7+7 is double and it equals 14. Remember the doubles, Mom? Like 3+3, 4+4 and 5+5. Well, since 7+7 is 14 then 7+8 equals 15 and that means 7+9 equals 16. There's another way to do it too! I know that 7+10 equals 17. Those plus 10 additions facts are easy mom! Well since 7+10 equals 17 then 7+9 would be one less which is 16. Okay now I can write it because I am sure the answer is 16."

Think of a child doing that for every problem on the page and you have our math lessons. It can get maddening! I know is great that he can employ these thought processes but no matter how much I have encouraged him to do the thinking in his brain, he can't. I don't think he is there yet. So we will be spending an hour a day on math. Timers, bribes and whatever other trick you can name, I've tried it. An hour it is! I am interested in some of the supplemental things out there for math but at the pace we're going, we'd better just stick with Horizons for now.

Language: Even though I think FLL is a little dry I love it. It is so gentle. I have read many opinions that say a formal grammar program is unnecessary until 3rd or 4th grade but since FLL only takes 10 minutes a day (at most) I see no reason not to start now. We are up to lesson 73 and he's learned so much already.

ETC: Nothing new or different here. At this point ETC is like putting on a pair of fuzzy slippers; it's cozy and comfortable and does the job. It's not flashy or racy but consistent and thorough.

History: We've had so much fun learning all about mummies! We are going to begin the process of mummifying a chicken tomorrow. Thatcher is so excited but Dh has said that it can in no way be anywhere he can see it! Wanna see what else has been a big hit around here?
Thatcher and I have had a blast playing with this little mummy. I bought it on a whim at Borders but I could have saved money by ordering it online. Oh well, for the fun we had it was worth it!

Spanish and Science: not much has happened other than free play and exploration in these areas but we'll jump right back in on Monday. We spent so much time getting caught up in the aforementioned subjects that these took a backseat.

Art and Music Appreciation: Nothing has happened in the way art. I don't even think I have mentioned Rembrandt's name to Thatcher yet! I have lots of catching up to do there. I think I have put it off because I feel so unknowledgeable in this area I don't even want to attempt to teach it. I have it in my brain that I want to get this-

and I don't think I'll be prepared to teach without it. Okay that may be a bit of an overstatement but trust me when I say I really don't know anything about art!

As far as music we had a sweet moment this past week. I went to put on a Bach CD while I prepared dinner and Thatcher asked if they could listen to their Bach Comes to Call. The boys sat quietly and built with their megabloks for the entire length of the CD. It was wonderful! Quiet moments that last more than 10 minutes are few and far between in a home with three young boys - at least my three young boys anyway!

I am off to read all your blogs and see how your weeks went, too!

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

We're Learning Spanish! Aprendemos el español!

Before children, I envisioned my little ones bilingual by the age of four. I have a minor in Spanish after all! But that was prior to the reality that by the time my first little man was born I had been out of college seven years and had barely spoken 10 words of Spanish since graduation.

It is amazing to think back on my junior year when all my upper-level Spanish courses were taught completely in Spanish, all textbooks were in Spanish, notes were required to be taken in Spanish and tests were essays - you guessed it, in Spanish! At that time I was regularly dreaming in Spanish, as well. Honestly though, I still was not near what I would consider to be truly bilingual. It's one thing to listen to a lecture you can record and replay again and again (with a Spanish/English dictionary in hand!) and quite another to go to a restaurant and keep up a conversation with natives - who talk absurdly fast, too. Lol!

Now I am beginning the journey to teach this language I love to my children. A neat bonus for me is that my paternal grandmother was born and raised in Mexico, only moving to the states after she married my grandfather. I still have lots of family spread throughout the country - many of whom I've never even met!

Here are the products I've collected so far to help us make it fun, fun, fun! If you are teaching (or considering teaching) Spanish to your little ones, I hope you find something that you can use. We are also going to start using the Elementary Spanish Lessons on United Streaming next week but honestly you do not need a curriculum to teach Spanish to young children given the amount of materials available here in the states. The first two years of any language is basically just teaching vocabulary and these products are perfect. If you are teaching Croatian, that would be another story altogether!

These puzzle cards from Learning Resources are great! We have the Numbers, Colors and Shapes set along with Basic Vocabulary. On my wish list is the Calendar, Seasons and Weather set as well.

Also from Learning Resources is Spanish Bingo. This game teaches the Spanish letters and sounds along with basic words. We haven't used this one yet but the boys will be learning the alphabet in a few weeks so we'll be pulling it out for sure!

Last product from Learning Resources (No, I am not paid by this company, although their foreign language products really are quality!) are my beloved Spanish bean bags: colors, shapes and numbers. If you have a tiny bit of sewing ability (I do not!) you could easily make something similar very inexpensively.

Look at these...flash cards from the dollar store! My mil found them and bought us two of the six sets they had available. I was skeptical at first but these are great. The pictures are clear, the text is readable and they are visually appealing with English on one side and Spanish on the other. I couldn't find them at our Dollar Tree store so I called mil and she picked up two of each of the four other sets so that we can play matching type games. I never would have thought to look at the dollar store!

The next item has been discontinued from Leap Frog but you can still find it on Craig's List and Ebay - Bilingual Memory Mate. They also have a French version! You can play this game two ways: as a memory game matching the two sides or as a puzzle game fitting the two pieces together. We've played it both ways and the boys love it. Haddon even can join in just by matching the pictures.

I never would have thought of this either, but I saw it at Trivium's blog awhile back: My First LeapPad games in Spanish! My sweet mil bought these for the boys, too. We have La granja de los numeros (Tad's Silly Number Farm), El arbol de la miel (Pooh's Honey Tree) and La feria de las letras (Tad's Silly Writing Fair). I am hoping to get some of the regular Spanish LeapPad games for the boys for Christmas, too. Fiesta in the House and Fiesta in the Town are my favorites. Leap Frog has oodles of other toys in Spanish as well. Just type in Spanish on their homepage search and see!

Here's a freebie! We are checking out Baby Einstein videos at our library to view on the Spanish setting (another idea from Trivium!). At our library most videos can only be checked out for a week but these are considered educational and therefore can be checked out for three weeks and even renewed once. My favorite thing about these is the vocabulary is usually presented not only orally but visually as well ... and repeated time and again. My boys know about 20 words just from watching these two titles this month. As a side note, we are also trying to check out five books a month in Spanish that I can read to the kids - preferably books with Spanish settings and involving some aspect of Spanish culture - not just English books translated into Spanish.

Last is our Twin Sisters Spanish CD. We are trying to match a song with whatever vocabulary we are learning for that week. The songs are a tad cheesy and there may be better cd's out there but this one is working for us right now. If you have another favorite, do tell!

Also, take a look at these free online games you can play. There are literally hundreds out there so this truly is a tiny sampling! This Don Quijote site has a fun hangman game as well as simple word finds. Gamequarium has lots of matching games that are fun, too. See for yourself what other online treasures you can find (but be sure to come back and share your favorites!)

What else have you found?

Monday, September 24, 2007

Our Weekly Menu

I am still working on my "ultimate" grocery shopping/meal planning system but in the meantime I thought I'd share this simple idea. Every Sunday I post the upcoming week's meal schedule on the fridge for all to see. It may sound silly but it truly helps me have it posted so there is no thinking or decision making (regarding meals at least) once my week starts. I have already made certain I have all ingredients to make every dish so there are no quickie trips needed to pick up that one missing item when you already have a dish half-made! An extra bonus is I can see on one sheet if everyone is getting a well balanced and varied diet.

Anything - no matter how seemingly small - that helps me save time/energy I can use towards school and/or playing with my boys is a welcome addition at my house! :)

Hope this helps someone!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

My First Award

How Fun! Jessica at Trivium Academy gave me the "Nice Matters Award"! I just "met" Jessica a few months ago when I started stalking her blog and emailing her ten questions a day. :) She has been such an incredible inspiration to me and I am blessed to now call her a friend!

"This award is for those bloggers who are nice people, good blog friends and those who inspire good feelings and inspiration. Also for those who are a positive influence on our blogging world. Once you've been awarded please pass it on to others who you feel are deserving of this award."

I would like to pass this award on to Heidi from Mount Hope Chronicles. Her tender spirit, love for family and introspective/intelligent approach to life come through in every post. Her blog is like a breath of fresh air.

I would also like to pass it along to Kerri from Way Out in the Dessert. She inspires me with all the amazing things she does with her boys! Her blog is so fun to read and I always get a million ideas from her.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Week 6 Report

Week 6 was our best week yet. We accomplished more this week than any other so far and had lots of fun in the process.

Grammar - We are slowly (or at least it feels that way!) working out way through First Language Lessons. I am so thankful we are finally out of the first 40 lessons; those seemed to move at a snail's pace. If you are at the start of the book and thinking it's way too dry, hang in there. It starts moving more quickly. In the past 15 lessons we have already covered pronouns and started learning about action verbs!

Phonics - We finished Book 5 1/2 on Thursday, and we'll begin book 6 1/2 next week. We completed books 5 and 6 last year but I wanted to review those same rules before moving on to anything new. Also, I am having Thatcher spell each word out loud as he writes it throughout the lesson and that seems to be helping his retention in addition to me being there with him. Before I was giving the workbook to him as independent work.

Handwriting - We are still having problems with some of his letters being formed incorrectly. When we begin cursive, I have made a mental note to be extra-careful he learns correctly the first time so all this reteaching won't be necessary - hopefully! That being said, his handwriting continues to improve each week.

Math - We are playing a little (okay, a lot!) of catch-up so we will be on track with our Year at a Glance schedule . I made that schedule before I realized I wanted to phase all subjects in slowly rather than jumping into everything at once. This week we did two math lessons a day - the first Thatcher did independently after the lesson was taught and the second I was his "scribe". He still did all the work but I did all the writing for him. He gets the biggest kick out of this! Writing is typically the hardest part of any lesson, math or otherwise, so this is a great solution for us whenever we get behind in just about any area. Also, in case you can't see, Thatcher scored 103 of 105 possible points in his last test!

History - This is our Nile River (or Nile Ribber as Haddon says!) I mentioned in our Week 5 Report. The boys are having fun checking on it each day to see how much new grass has grown. This project really helped Thatcher "get" why it was important for the Nile to flood each year.

The next slide shows Thatcher's name in hieroglyphics and cuneiform. We found these links from Trivium Academy's "Links to Explore" section. If you have never checked out all her links, you should! She has some great resources there.

Next is Thatcher's History Scribe page. So far he is doing the narrations with lots (and lots and lots!) of help. We write the sentence(s) on the dry erase board, read it a few times and then I write it on his paper for him. Again, his handwriting is beautiful but he tires very easily and he is extremely slow. Next semester I will require him to write his narration himself, but for now this is working. His hieroglyphics at the top say, "Meet me by the tree at the baseball field at 3:00." He was very proud!

Copywork - Here is both our history and science copywork. Back to the slow/difficult handwriting thing...I give him a tiny treat for each word he writes (a mini M&M, an animal cracker, etc...). Now he looks forward to longer copywork passages!

What I wished I would have included in our slide show:
  • All the books Thatcher read this week! He is gaining more and more confidence daily. We started reading with books below his reading level because he was getting stressed looking at books that appeared "long" to him - even if I showed him that there were only a few words on each page! We are working though the Amelia Bedelia and Frog and Toad collections as well as reading simple non-fiction books each day. Non-fiction is definitely his favorite right now. :)
  • My new organization attempts. I bought some baskets with handles to store my everyday school stuff rather than having it eternally spread across our kitchen island. This way I get out just what I need at that moment and put it back when I am done. It helps me to have neat, organized work areas and this is a step in that direction!
Off to bed so I'll be ready to start Week 7 in the morning!

Monday, September 10, 2007

A Book Review: The Jesus Storybook Bible

This is the most beautiful Children's Bible I have ever seen - both for its illustrations and, more importantly, its content. I sat at my desk and wept as I read the first five stories.

Now, some people think the Bible is a book of rules,
telling you what you should and shouldn't do.

The Bible certainly does have rules in it.
They show you how life works best.

But the Bible isn't mainly about you and what you should be doing.
It's about God and what he has done.

-Chapter One, The Story and the Song (emphasis mine)

How refreshing in the increasingly me-centered world we find ourselves inhabiting. The premise, and what makes this Children's Bible altogether different from others, is that God's redemptive plan is woven in each and every story, continually pointing your child to Christ as ultimate Redeemer! The subtitle of the book itself is "Every story whispers his name."

Here are the endings of two stories which illustrate this truth-

A Giant Staircase to Heaven: The Tower of Babel concludes:

You see, God knew, however high they reached,
however hard they tried,
people could never get back to heaven themselves.
People didn't need a staircase; they needed a Rescuer.
Because the way back to heaven wasn't a staircase; it was a Person.
People could never reach up to Heaven,
so Heaven would have to come down to them.
And, one day, it would.

The final paragraph of The Present: The Story of Abraham and Isaac:

Many years later, another Son would climb another hill,
carrying wood on his back.
Like Isaac, he would trust his Father and do what his Father asked.
He wouldn't struggle or run away. Who was he?
God's Son, his only Son - the Son he loved.
The Lamb of God.

If you are interested in seeing more, click on the photo and it will take you to Westminster Bookstore's webpage. There you can read more reviews (much more eloquently stated than mine) and even download a pdf that shows two full stories: David's Anointing by Samuel and John the Baptist. You can see for yourself if this Bible might be something you will want to include in your family's library. I am so glad it has found its way into ours!

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Week 5 Report

Week 5 and we're finally getting into a rhythm - a really good rhythm. This was the first week we even got everything done I'd hoped to. It took a little creativity, but we did it. It's taken lots of tweaking and trying different schedules but we're getting there. I am sure there will still be changes to come but it feels great to be heading the right direction.

Here's the nuts and bolts of our week:

Math continues to go well; it's still the subject Thatcher calls his favorite. Last year he wasted a lot of time looking ahead to future lessons instead of staying on task. This year I tore out all the pages and three-hole punched them so that I could give him one page at a time. Now he can't flip pages but he can regularly be found staring at the wall, or his hands, or the dust speck in the air...oh the joys of homeschooling a kiddo with ADHD. And this is his favorite subject. Imagine when he's not so motivated!

Reading is going well, too. Thatch is doing much better with his oral reading - not so much mumbling. It's a joy to hear him read in his sweet little voice with all that expression! One of common characteristics of many ADHD kids (especially ones like mine who have some spectrum disorder (autistic) tendencies as well) is that they don't really "get" social and emotional cues. These things get all jumbled up in Thatcher's brain sometimes. As a result, he will sometimes read something in a sad voice that should be read with excitement or something in a surprised voice that should be angry. It's sort of sweet actually.

History is wonderful. I love the quote on the front of Cyndi's blog: To teach is to learn twice. That's definitely true for me. Actually, I don't remember learning much of this the first time, although I am sure I probably did. I am having at least as much fun as Thatcher, if not more! This week we learned about the Unification of Upper and Lower Egypt and we made a model of the Nile River. Right now it looks like mud soup but hopefully we will have grass growing all along the banks of our little Nile very soon. I was going to post a picture here but it really isn't a pretty sight. Lol!

Science is so much fun! We started learning all about animal habitats and the food chain. We painted six different habitats and after we study each animal we'll put a model of it in its correct home.

Phonics went much better this week than last. I took the time to sit down with him and not just let him work through the lessons independently. He only missed two words on his first test and got all seven words correct on his second test!

For Bible we started family devotions this week. We completed the first four lessons in Leading Little Ones to God, and I really like this book. The verses are from the KJV of the Bible so we have Thatch look up the Scripture in his personal Bible and read it to us for a more kid-friendly version. Family Huddle, as we're calling it, is a quick time since we are including all three boys. Next week I want to spend more time really discussing the lesson to be sure he is getting it after little brothers wander off. The lessons cover really great topics so I don't want to glaze over them just to "check a box".

Wanna know my favorite thing about his week? I was quite the "go with the flow" mom-at least for me, anyway! This is not natural given my personality, but I am slowly learning. I am also learning to use every second of the day and not let a moment go to waste. For example, one of my main goals for Thatcher this year is character development. One of the ways I planned to do this is to focus on one Aesop's fable each week. Before this week I had yet to fit that in. I thought through our day and realized mealtimes might be great times for some learning. None of my boys are big eaters; there's just too much fun to be had to sit still long enough to consume any significant number of calories (why can't I have this problem?!). They eat much better when they are distracted, so Aesop was our companion at lunch each day this week. We learned some valuable lessons and they ate much better than normal, too!

Lastly, Fridays have always been somewhat of a dilemma for us. Since Dh is a minister and works much of the day Sunday, Wednesday nights and often other nights of the week, he has Fridays off. It is great because we can go on family outings without having to fight weekend crowds. On the other hand, it's hard for me because we're off-schedule. This Friday I decided that we would try to get everything done we hadn't managed to accomplish during the week (novel idea for me for some reason). Basically, we needed to do our history and science projects and introduce our artist and composer of the month. It ended up being a "Fine Arts Friday" and worked beautifully. We listened to Bach's music and the Mr. Bach Comes to Call cd from Classical Kids as we built with Mega Bloks. Then we read the Bach title in the Getting to Know the Worlds Greatest Composers series. We painted our habitats and created our very own Nile. It was so fun and very doable with daddy at home to help keep little hands out of the way. Why didn't I think of this before?

Okay, this ended up being a long post and with no pictures. I will do better next week. Tonight I am just happy to get our report up as our ISP has been down most of the day today.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Nature Study...a Slow Start!

I've been learning about nature studies, nature journals and such, and I truly want to incorporate more of this into our days to come. Growing up I was a girly-girl and never really given the opportunity (nor took the initiative) to appreciate God's wonderful creation. I have three can I not do this?

We are going to start slow. My plan is to create a nature journal we will take with us each time we visit the Hill Country - 4x a year hopefully. We will gather leaves and flowers to press in our books. We'll take photos of bugs and other things they find interesting that can't be put in the journal (like "cacti-pie" - Thatcher's word for cacti, no matter how much we correct him!). At some point I would like to encourage them to sketch things they find but maybe dh can help in this department until any of the rest of us can draw the tiniest bit!

In the meantime, here are some photos I took in our backyard the other evening as the boys were playing. While pondering these ideas I was struck with the realization that I don't have to wait until we leave our home to experience and appreciate nature (told you I was a girly-girl!).

This is a plant we started growing last year from an avocado seed. It grew on our kitchen counter for months before we transplanted it, and to all our surprise, we haven't killed it yet.

We found these eggs on the edge of Beckett's swing. We've been checking on them to see what hatches...nothing so far, although as I am typing this I am realizing we forgot to check the last day or two. Oh, drat!

This little guy (or gal) kept his web right outside our back door for a little over a week. It was fun to see how it changed each day.

None of the boys showed much interest in any of this except Thatcher who loves to have a reason to get the water hose out. It's not really about the plant - just a reason to get wet! Hopefully that will all change.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

I am so ready...

for this week. We started the school year when I still had much to do in the areas of research, planning and organizing. I am slowly making my way through my long to-do list (currently typing out custom plans for history and science, working out a grocery shopping/meal planning strategy, researching long-term Spanish goals, organizing my teacher book, etc...) and starting to feel like I may actually not be "in the weeds" all year long!

For Week 5, lesson plans are done, Thatcher's weekly folder is ready to go, I have pre-read our history and science lessons as well as all supplemental books and have a shopping list for a few things we'll need for our projects. We'll turn that shopping trip into a mini-math lesson and a reason for a break during the day. I have all books we'll need for every subject for the week pulled and organized in one place with necessary pages marked with post-it flags ( I love these things!) where needed. All library books have a new home in our schoolroom, too.

Just wanted to share my excitement with someone! Have a wonderful week to all.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Week 4 Report

Did you like it??? I had dh sit down and create this slide show with me. Next week I'll try it all by myself. It's fun to learn something new!

Okay, to the matter at hand - our Week 4 Report.

Handwriting - To truly appreciate this photo, you would have to see where we started on day one of Kindergarten. I would teach Thatch a letter and the next day (sometimes the next minute) he had no clue how to properly form it. No muscle memory would be the understatement of the century! :) He has worked hard and come so far.

Math - Still his favorite subject and what he wants to do first each morning after Bible.

Phonics - We've hit our first bump in the road with ETC after two years of success with this program. On Thatcher's last two "tests" (the last page of each lesson gives the opportunity to write each word from the lesson and we use it as an assessment tool) he has missed half the words - although only by a letter or two. After some deliberation, I think I know the problem. I am using these workbooks the same way I was at the beginning - a quick lesson to start and then he completes the pages independently. That worked fine with one and even simple two syllable words. Now that the words/skills have increased in difficulty, he needs more review and support along the way. I still need to think through what this will look like before we start next week.

History - I was so nervous about starting History for some reason. It seems so much more complicated than our other 20 minute lessons: read a chapter, do copywork, mapwork, read additional library books, complete an art project, etc. It was great though. Thatcher talked about what he learned all week and even spelled "nomad" with his alphabet cookies tonight. My favorite is the cave drawing he did all by himself (except for the horns on his deer). I almost didn't do this project because I didn't have all the recommended materials. That's my personality - by the book, just like it says, no creativity, just follow the directions - but I realized how silly that was. I modified it, and we had a ball.

On to do my lesson plans for Week 5. How is your year going?