Thursday, January 31, 2008

Thoughts on Spelling

In just a few weeks we will finish the Explode the Code series. We started way back in preschool with Get Ready, Get Set and Go for the Code as well as Book 1. Kinder took us through Books 2-5 (including most of the half books) and this year we'll complete 5 1/2 though 8. I truly love this series. It has worked wonderfully for us but like any program, it's not for everyone.

That being said, as we conclude one journey it's almost time to embark on another - Spelling. All along my plan has been to begin Spelling Workout, and that still is where we will start. I love the workbook format that has been so very successful for us with ETC.

But I recently read about Spelling Wisdom on the Well Trained Mind Message Boards and I am intrigued. The concept is to teach spelling through dictation using, "beautiful and fascinating ideas from great men and women of history that encourage and motivate children as they learn to spell the words." Hmmmm. I like the sound of that.

I am going to purchase the first book. At $14.95 it's worth taking a look at for sure! As we start SWO I will need to decide how Spelling Wisdom will fit in with our plan starting in second grade. We will switch completely or just use it as a supplement? I don't feel that I have enough information to make an intelligent decision but I'll keep you updated!

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Weekly Report - Week 20

I usually only do slide shows with subtitles for each photo, but this one was too cute to pass up!

Photo 1 - We just finished Lesson 100 in Horizons 2 and he made 92% on his test! Two days this week he finished his math assignment in 30 minutes and earned time to stay up late at bedtime and play board games with Mommy or Daddy!

Photos 2 &3 - The large chart is how we have been reviewing our skip counting most days (simply oral recitation while looking at the chart) but it just wasn't sticking. This method works beautifully for poetry memorization but was failing us here. I remembered Jessica at Trivium Academy is teaching Camille her math facts through copywork so I tried it with this skill, too. You know what? We had been reviewing this every single day for 2 weeks with limited success. He wrote it these few times and had it down pat! Yahoo!!!!!

Photos 4, 5 & 6 - Here is our science work from this week: a bear profile page, a tiger profile page and copywork to go along with each. Thatcher always says how much he is enjoying filling out these pages and I am learning lots too! :)

Photo 7 - SOTW Narration from Chapter 20: Greece Gets Civilized Again - using History Scribe Notebooking Pages. I have really been working with Thatcher on choosing just the most important details to include in his narrations. This is such a hard skill for anyone but especially to a little boy for whom every detail is crucial in all areas of life. Lol!

Photo 8 - A few pages of Explode the Code Book 8. Thatcher was excited to see a few new activities in this book. This is our third year using ETC so a change was refreshing for him!

Photo 9 - I am currently reading The Iliad to Thatcher and he is reading Storytime with the Millers to me. The Iliad is following up our readings of Mary Pope Osborne's Tales from the Odyssey but this version is a little more (okay, a lot more) graphic. It is a war after all but yikes! I don't think I would be reading this to a little girl but Thatch loves it.

Photo 10 - Now that we finished up The Jesus Storybook Bible (still the best children's Bible of all time, in my opinion!) we are reading the Big Picture Story Bible. We read one story each morning at breakfast. Also T-Th we do family devotionals from Leading Little Ones to God with Daddy before he leaves for work.

Photo 11 - The big man himself! I forgot to take any photos of him actually doing his work this week so I went up to his room this afternoon and asked him if I could take a photo. He wanted to pose with his favorite trophy from last basketball season.

Happy new week to all! :)

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Weekly Report Week 19

As I logged onto the computer to type out our first Weekly Report of the new semester I realized I never did a report on weeks 17 and 18. Oops! I'm not even going to attempt to remember what we did a month ago and am just going to plow ahead. Here we go...

Math: I usually type this first since it's the first thing we do each day. In an attempt to speed up my little man, I have started a "Math Challenge" with Thatcher. Each day we set a timer and I've told him that every day he completes the lesson in less than 30 minutes he gets to stay up 30 minutes later at bedtime to either read or have me come play a board game with him. Two days this week he accomplished the goal and we played games together. It was so fun! Playing games is something we *rarely* do with an 19 month old around so I am hoping he wins more math challenges this week. One thing I need to do better at is helping Thatcher learn to count by 6's, 7's and 8's. He can count by 1's, 2's, 3's, 4's, 5's, 9's and 10's all the way to 100. I've just stalled out on teaching these last three. Other than that all is the same: Horizons 2 and just plugging along.

Reading: This week Thatcher started reading Storytime with the Millers aloud to me. I read Wisdom and the Millers to him earlier this year and he fell in love with the characters, so it's been great to revisit them. Many a great conversation has been started after reading one of the Miller stories! The covers are most definitely outdated but don't let that scare you away from these wonderful stories if you've not ever heard of them. I haven't made it back to the library so we were a little slim on our other readings this week. Next year I hope to make the library a twice a month trip of all of us but right now I go alone to choose books. It's too difficult with Beckett still being so young and into everything!

Phonics: We finished Book 7 in Explode the Code and will start Book 8 next week! Thatcher is so excited to be almost done with phonics and can't wait to start Spelling Workout in just a few weeks! I am sold on ETC and definitely plan on using this series again with Haddon although I am not yet sure of his learning style. Therefore, I reserve the right to change my mind. Lol! There are tons of great programs out there so I won't be at a loss if I need to shop around.

History and Science: SOTW...what can I say. I love it! I rarely do any projects or extra activities but it's working. Next year I hope to do so much more in this area. Right now on Monday we read the selection, do a narration and look up any additional information in one of our reference books. (For what it's favorite reference has been the Usborne Book of World History. I thought I would like Kingfisher History Encyclopedia or Usborne's Encyclopedia of World History. We own all three but find ourselves looking at the former 10x more than the latter.) On Tuesday we review that lesson, do the coloring page and the mapwork.

Life Science is going beautifully. Thatcher loves the Animal Profile pages that Jessica at Trivium Academy created and he's looking forward to starting our study of the human body in a few weeks. One of the nice things about living in the fourth largest city in the country is that we have amazing resources available to us. The Houston Health Museum is 40 minutes from my home and a treasure to be sure. My in-laws bought the boys passes for Christmas and we had a ball on our first trip two weeks ago. It will be a perfect supplement to our new study about to start. The picture shows the room in the museum that focuses on the Central Nervous system, the brain and the spinal cord. Pretty neat, huh?

That's about all for this Weekly Report. I'll take more photos of Thatcher's actual work this coming week and maybe a photo or two of my cutie pies!

Friday, January 11, 2008

GFCF Recipes to Try this Week

I haven't had too much in the way of homeschool stuff to blog about lately because most of my spare time has been spent researching and cooking gluten-free/casein-free.

After two hours of research here are the dinner recipes I am going to try this week (I will post the recipes of any keepers):

Spring Rolls with a peanut dipping sauce- with chicken, broccoli slaw, peanuts and rice noodles

Chicken Enchiladas - with corn tortillas and a homemade enchilada sauce (since most canned varieties have flour in them) - served with spanish rice, refried beans and guacamole

Forgotten Chicken - Chicken thighs basted in honey and slow cooked in the oven; I will serve this will mashed potatoes (cf of course) and whatever veggies look yummy at the store.

Swordfish - basted in a honey, orange juice and soy sauce (wheat-free) marinade! Yummy.

GFCF crispy chicken strips - with roasted potatoes and fresh veggies

In addition to these I will make a few old favorites that just happen to be GFCF, too.

For snacks I will try these recipes:

Homemade hummus with Ener-G's gluten free pretzels
GFCF Peanut butter cookies
Stovetop Popcorn with Earth's Balance Butter
GFCF Homemade Granola
GFCF Crackers

Here's hoping I find some yummy recipes this week! :)

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Year-at-a-Glance Revised

Here is our updated Year-at-a-Glance. Some things are much the same (math, history and science) but there are several changes, too.

I have finally decided to set FLL aside. I have always said that I loved this grammar book, but the reality is I love it in theory, not practice. It took me most of the semester to figure this out. Thatcher is a very visual learner. FLL as written doesn't have enough visual input for him; it is dependent auditory learning much of the time. I could change it, but as I have become sold on Junior Analytical Grammar and Analytical Grammar for later elementary and junior high I have decided to de-emphasize the importance of early grammar for our school.

For the remainder of this year we will memorize the definitions of nouns, verbs, adjectives and adverbs. I will introduce the other parts of speech taught in FLL as well and Thatch can memorize those if he chooses - most likely he will since memory work comes very naturally to him. My plan is to write four sentences (one for each school day) on our dry-erase board each week. The first week, he will underline the noun in each sentence as we review the definition of a noun and talk about nouns in our copywork and other reading selections as well. A few weeks later, he'll underline the noun and circle the verb. The grammar discussions will continue across other areas of the curriculum. We'll underline the verb, circle the noun and draw a box around each adjective with an arrow going back to the noun it describes in following weeks. And finally we'll add in adverbs. I want him to really understand these four parts of speech by the end of this year and least recognize the names of the following as parts of speech: prepositions, conjunctions, interjections, and articles. I feel good about approaching grammar this way and have taken lots of comfort from other moms who have said that it really is okay (and even beneficial) to wait and not introduce much grammar until later when they can really understand these very abstract concepts.

Also, last semester our artist and composer studies never happened consistently to get any real benefit from them. I have decided to spend two weeks on every composer and artist to finish Thatcher's introduction to these great men and women by the end of this year. Note to self...I still need to decide what to use next year for fine arts!

Finally I have decided a really fun way to wrap up our year will be to make a lapbook for each content area that will cover the most important things we learned this year. Our Spanish lapbook will review vocabulary, math will have sample problems of all the things he learned to do this year, history will be a big time line with information about some of the most important players in history for that time period....We have never made a lapbook and these will definitely be the homemade variety - not the slick pre-made ones you can buy (although those are really neat, too!). We will spend two to three weeks on these and more if needed. I want to jump ahead and start these now!!!! If you are interested in lapbooks here's a link to a post I did about them awhile back.

What doesn't fit on our chart is the Aesop fable we will be studying each week this semester and the two poems we will focus on memorizing each month. Okay now that the "big picture" is in place I can do our next six weeks of lesson plans. :)

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Keeping it Real: Confessions of a Homeschooling Mom

Okay for whatever reason I have had this thought all day that I need to "come clean" here. It's so easy to always put your best foot forward and make everything look shiny and pretty in the cyberworld. I guess it's actually easy to do that in the real world too but even easier (in my opinion) in cyberspace. So here it is...the real me in eight confessions for '08.

Confession #1
: I am an organization FREAK. That can be such a good thing, unless it's taken to the extreme. That's me...the extreme! I would often rather be cleaning out a closet than on the floor playing with my kids. Sad but true. People are draining on me (even family and friends I adore) and tasks energize me. I constantly work to maintain a balance but too often don't do a good job.

Confession #2: Homeschooling is the second hardest thing I have ever done. Some days I dream of being able to put my kids on that yellow school bus that drives by my house. Then I would come inside and scrapbook, keep my house spotlessly clean and cook amazing meals. I would have lunches with girlfriends, take naps everyday and work out all the time. In reality I know I am blessed to have the privilege of educating my children; it's just sometimes it doesn't feel much like a privilege.

Confession #3: The hardest thing I have ever done is work at my marriage. I adore my husband and he me. But we are two very strong-willed people and can definitely clash. I had no idea whatsoever how to communicate when we got married almost 12 years ago and often still stink at it. My marriage is the one single hardest instrument of discipleship in my life and yet one of my greatest sources of joy as well. Someone told me before I got married that looking at your spouse is sometimes like looking into a mirror which reflects your biggest flaws. I have definitely seen this to be true. I see my selfishness and sinfulness constantly.

Confession #4: My kids don't eat healthy all the time. I met up with a precious college friend over the holidays whom I haven't seen in seven years. She mentioned how she had been keeping up with my life through this blog and that she was amazed at how healthy we are. Yikes! I guess I need to come clean with the whole story. I try to live by the 80-20 rule. 80% of the time we do attempt to eat really healthy but the other 20% of the time I don't worry so much. We grab fast food, eat chocolate chip cookies and indulge in all sorts of junk-food. We do try to stay away from artificial dyes and things with tons of chemicals but that still leaves room for lots of unhealthy stuff for sure!

Confession #5: I take myself and life in general waaaaay too seriously. I need to laugh a lot more and chill out. Dh used to tell me that on a scale of one to ten everything for me was a 12 - from the tupperware drawer to something that really matters. I have come a long way but still have much room for growth.

Confession #6: I cannot shop for my own clothes. I take friends or my dh with me. I have often joked that when God knit me together he gave me a double dose of the organizing gene but left off the decorating gene - picking paint colors, buying clothes, accessorizing (myself or my house) are all beyond my comfort zone!

Confession #7: I am a people-pleaser...big-time. I worry too much about what others think - a bad trait for a pastor's wife! If you read my New Year's resolution post you may have noticed the book titled Pleasing People: How Not to be an "Approval Junkie" and now you know why!

Confession #8: I have a temper. Really I do. Just ask my husband. I've struggled with this demon as long as I can remember. I am nice and sweet the huge majority of the time (and hopefully genuinely so) but that last 5% beware. Not a pretty thing to admit but it's the truth. The Apostle Paul talks about a thorn in his flesh and this is mine. My one biggest character flaw - among many unfortunately. God has done great works in my life in this area but the thorn is still there and it continues to be something I fight more than I would like.

Well now you may know more about me than you wanted, but it feels very good getting it all out! :)

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

We're Officially Dairy-Free

In an attempt to help Thatcher with his ADHD we are trying several things - the most major being eliminating dairy and later gluten (protein found in wheat, rye and barley). We have also started OmegaBrite, an Omega 3 supplement found to help many children with impulsivity and focus. If you are new to my blog you can read about our journey in an older post.

It's easy to cut out the obvious dairy: milk, yogurt, butter, cheese, cream cheese, sour cream... The tricky part is finding all the hidden dairy in foods. Most hot dogs and some lunch meats have dairy proteins; canned tuna and turkey chili have it too. The whole wheat bread I've bought for years has milk in it as do many bagels, english muffins, hot dog and hamburger buns. Even products labeled dairy-free (rice cheese for example) can have casein, a milk protein. The list is almost endless of where dairy can be hidden in foods. Here is a list at the Go Dairy Free site if your interest is piqued.

For now we are sticking to simple meals and virtually no processed foods. We have found that rice milk and almond milk substitute well in most recipes where milk is used for moisture and is not a major player. We even made almond milk ice cream and it was yummy! :) Knowing that we are moving towards a complete gluten-free/casein-free diet, I've been testing out new foods in that vein as well. Thankfully I've discovered Bob's Red Mill product line of gf/cf mixes. Their chocolate chip cookies are wonderful; my boys gobbled them up without noticing anything different. We have also tried their Gluten Free Pancake Mix and Gluten Free Homemade Wonderful Bread Mix (using leftovers to make french toast tomorrow morning!). Next week I am going to try their Gluten Free Brownie Mix, too. At some point I am going to need to learn to cook gf/cf from scratch but for now these mixes are a great way ease me into learning to cook a whole new way.

I thought I would share a little about this journey since we're hoping to see major improvement in focus/impulse control which will make his (and our) life easier not to mention school so much easier! I promise to post more about actual school plans soon.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Rethinking our Nighttime Schedule

We are starting back to our full school schedule January 14th. That gives me a little time to get organized for not only our spring semester but to work on some other long term projects as well. Sometimes though, I get so wrapped up thinking about and planning for school that the simplest things escape me. This week not teaching has freed up some brain cells and allowed me to examine a few things I haven't considered in awhile now. :) Like this...our nighttime schedule hasn't been working but we have just been plugging away. After talking, dh and I have agreed to try something new.

Our current evening schedule goes something like this:
  • 5:00- Eat dinner
  • 5:30-7:00 boys play and dh cleans kitchen and I do nightly chores (sweep and mop kitchen floor, run dishwasher, do laundry, pick up toys...)
  • 7:00 - Bathtime
  • 7:30 - Snack
  • 8:00 - Bed for younger two boys and Thatcher reads from 8-9.
  • 9:00 - Thatcher to sleep
A few things make us want to change what we're doing: dh often has lunch appointments meaning big meals and he's not hungry by 5:00, the boys are not eating well at dinner because they too don't have enough of an appetite yet, we would prefer to have that free/empty time before dinner rather than after when they are more tired and less prone to play nicely, Haddon is not needing quite so much sleep and doesn't require quite so early a bedtime (since I would prefer him to continue taking naps just a little while longer), Thatcher takes so long to wind down and if he reads until 9:00 it often means he is not asleep until 9:30 or later; that's not enough sleep for him since his eyes pop open at 7:00 no matter what time he goes to bed!

Here is what we are trying for the next few weeks:

  • 5:00-6:00 - Mom prepares dinner while boys play in playroom, outside and/or with Daddy
  • 6:00 - Dinner
  • 6:30 - Mom takes boys to bath time while Daddy cleans up kitchen.
  • 7:00 - Family pick-up time/ clean up all toys upstairs and down
  • 7:15 - Snack
  • 7:30 - Thatcher and Haddon go to rooms to read/look at books - Mommy does evening chores then reads to Beckett
  • 8:00 - Beckett to sleep
  • 8:15 - Start bedtime routine (read one book, sing a song and pray) with Haddon
  • 8:30 - Bedtime routine with Thatcher
  • 8:30-9:30 Mommy and Daddy free time! :)
  • 9:30 - Mommy to bed for eight hours of sleep

This is the ideal but many things will keep us from it. Dh is a minister and studies for his sermons many nights at home. He won't always be available for "divide and conquer" duties. We have AWANA and church on Wednesday nights so we have to be out of the house by 5:30 that day. Also, Thatcher is often involved in sports with weekday practices; right now we have Thursday night basketball practices at 6:30.

We have attempted this schedule the past two nights with great success. The only tweaking I've had to do is to give the boys an apple around 4:00 to hold them over until dinner. They were getting cranky waiting until 6:00 to eat. Keeping the boys moving from 6:00-7:30 has worked beautifully. They have no lag which is not a good thing for any of them that time of the night. My boys are like their mamma - early birds! Thankfully none of them get too cranky but they do get WILD when they are tired. It can be exhausting trying to focus all that energy when I too am ready just to go to bed.

Now off to do some more school planning!