October 2, 2014

Presents the kids can make each other

I'm pretty sure that at least some of the kids should make this for each other for Christmas.


October 1, 2014

Kids' Curriculum and Why I Like It (or not)

I recently received an email asking me to review some of the curriculum we use around these here parts.  I've been meaning to post about many things, but the email was a good kick in the heiny to actually do it, so I will.

Miriam, grade 6

Math and Critical Thinking: We have been using Mathematical Reasoning books from the Critical Thinking Co for years now and I love them just as much today as when we started using them.  Miriam is in Level F (grade five) because I keep my kids a year behind in math on purpose.  I do that, for those of you wondering, because abstract thinking skills don't completely develop until a child reaches high school.  If you hit pre-algebra before the abstract thinking skills are in place necessary to understand it, you can experience a great deal of frustration.  Since it is hard to predict how developed each child's abstract thinking skills will be by grade seven, I play it safe and take things slower.  I have not yet encountered a reason to regret this choice.  None of my children have experienced any math angst up to this point (except the first few years when we were using Abeka math) and several claim that math is their favorite subject.

I supplement the Mathematical Reasoning books with some other "fun" math products from the same company.  My favorites are the Building Thinking Skills books.  Miriam finished Level One two years ago and was thrilled when I presented her with Level Two this year.  Note that when each books is listed as a "full curriculum" it means in critical thinking NOT math.  Don't be confused by that.

A list of topics on the front cover includes things like logical thinking, similarities and differences, sequences, classifications, analogies, spatial awareness (Miriam excels at these problems and I stink--it usually takes me triple the amount of time to correct her work, which is always right, than it takes her to do it), vocabulary development, map reading, etc.  

When Miriam was doing Building Thinking Skills Level One, I assigned her six pages daily from her Mathematical Reasoning book and then six pages out of her Building Thinking Skills book.  She would inevitably do 12 + pages out of her Building Thinking Skills book because she thought it was so much fun.

Another favorite from the Critical Thinking Co is Math Detective A1. I must point out that Miriam does not like this book.  She thinks it is way harder than her regular math book.  However, I see a great deal of value in making her stretch herself.  Basically, this book has a bunch of extended story problems that have to be answered with complete sentences.  It is challenging because Miriam can figure out the answers but she has to really stretch herself to come up with the "why" of the answer.  I think that is a healthy exercise for her brain.  However, to avoid contention, I only assign one "problem"--usually a two-page spread with about six questions--a week.  That keeps her muttering to a minimum.

I wouldn't get the Math Detective beginner book unless you have a really advanced reader/writer.  Otherwise, you're just creating a lot of work for yourself.

Language Arts: Ah.  This is a hard one.  I've flitted about more with this subject than math.

First, we are currently using Phonetic Zoo: Lesson Cards for spelling.  I did not buy the whole $99 program.  I only purchased the cards for $15.00.  It is a fine program.  Not spectacular, but not bad.  It might be stellar if you buy the whole kit and caboodle, but I've never found a spelling program I loved and I wasn't willing to invest in another failed effort.

There are three "levels" on the cards.  On Monday I give Miriam a spelling pre-test and have her write each of the fifteen words on one card.  I don't pay much attention to the levels with her.  Then she writes each word she misses three times a day for the rest of the week.  It works.

We use Handwriting Without Tears for handwriting.

For grammar we use Rod and Staff and I LOVE their program. Currently Miriam is working out of Building With Diligence: English 4.  It is aimed for fourth graders and it is way too easy for her and she is flying through it at breakneck speed, but it is a good review while I try to get my hands on the writing program I want her to be using right now but can't afford.

Back to Rod and Staff for a moment.  I think they do everything right with grammar.  They include sentence diagramming from the very beginning.  They build concepts in a logical and appropriate way--without jumping around too much.  They have manageable assignments that I hardly ever tweak to cut back on the amount of work.  I wholeheartedly endorse their grammar series as long as you realize that they excel at teaching grammar and not writing.

The writing program I want to be using right now is The Write Foundation: Sentence to Paragraph.  I haven't used this program but I have read several reviews that are very convincing.  Especially this one.    I really think this might be a winner.  I have tried other writing programs, including the Institute of Excellence in Writing and I just wasn't that impressed.  I'm hard to impress.  I'm a professional English teacher.  :)  That said, I have a hard time teaching writing because I feel like my children should just magically know how to write--much like I did.  Instead, I have kids whose favorite subjects are math and science and for whom writing doesn't come easily.  I don't have time to create my own curriculum right now and so I will eventually (too bad I can't sell plasma when I'm pregnant) buy this one and see how it works out for Miriam.

This year I bought Digging Into Diagramming .  I wanted a way to make sure my children were diagramming a few sentences every day--especially Miriam.  I think diagramming is the best way to teach grammar, other than learning a foreign language.  There isn't much on the market by way of straight diagramming.  This book is great in concept and how it builds from simple to complex sentences.  I can't give it rave reviews, however, because it doesn't have as many practice sentences as I would like.  When I say the book doesn't have enough sentences, I mean it.  Each lesson only has one or two example sentences with four practice sentences.  There are 41 lessons, which sounds like a lot until you realize that the kids will only have diagrammed roughly 164 sentences over the course of the year using this book.  It just isn't enough practice.  It does, however, supplement Rod and Staff nicely since those books already have diagramming included.  I still think Digging Into Diagramming is worth the purchase--just be aware of what you are getting.

Cowen, grade 4: Cowen is not an independent reader yet, so that makes everything I do with him a little trickier.  He's getting there, but at his own speed.  Also, I bumped his younger sister up a grade because her birthday was right around the cut-off.  And she's a girl.  And he's a boy.  SUCH A BOY.  Meaning that his development is crazy different than his sisters', or even his younger brother who is a little less of a stereotypical boy.  Cowen and Emeline (grade 3) do the same grammar.  It works.

Math: He's currently using Building Thinking Skills Level One and Mathematical Reasoning Level D.   The skills in his Building Thinking Skills book do not come as easily to Cowen as they came to Miriam, so I am focusing a lot of our math attention on that book currently.  I also started Cowen on learning his multiplication tables on xtramath.com and created a fake student so he could practice addition under a different name.  I did the same thing with Miriam.  We are hitting computation really hard with the oldest two this year.  Once we've finished the Building Thinking Skills book, I'll shuffle Cowen back into his regular math book.  By then he'll know enough of his multiplication tables that the multiplying and dividing work in the math book will be easy and math will remain angst-free.

Small sidenote: I just starting giving weekly first and second place awards to the kids who make the most improvement on their xtramath work.  The improvement in their effort has been downright astonishing.  Amazing what a $1.00 box of candy can do for a child's motivation.

Language Arts: Cowen is working out of the Rod and Staff Beginning Wisely Level 3 grammar book.  I already told you how much I love Rod and Staff.  I take two years to go through the first book--making sure they don't get overloaded.  We do one lesson a day, four days a week.  I don't worry about teaching writing at this stage.  I wait until grade five and with Cowen, I might wait until grade six.

Basically, I'm not really converted to teaching spelling to young children.  Miriam was a terrible speller for years and I kept wondering why she didn't pick it up from reading like I had.  Then, one day, she could spell.  It was awesome.  My son, though, has a harder time with all things verbal so I bought the Phonetic Zoo just to help him practice a little.  I don't insist on memorization of the words. I tried that briefly and it led to much, much heartache.  Instead, I show the kids (Cowen and Emeline) the spelling rule outlined on the card, pick six words, and have them write those six words three times daily for one week.  Then we move on.  My purpose?  To help my kids start to recognize when something looks right and when something looks wrong.  If they haven't miraculously learned to spell by the sixth grade, I'll get more serious about it.

They also diagram one sentence a day from Digging Into Diagramming.  Miriam diagrams four sentences a day, but I don't want the younger kids to get in over their heads too quickly.  They have barely started learning about nouns so I don't want them trying to diagram adjectives yet, for example.

Emeline, grade 3 

Math: Emeline has a September birthday so she's technically in grade two, but I bumped her up to grade three one year to suit other purposes, and now she's still there.  It doesn't really matter except she's flying through her math book (the younger grades have much shorter books).  She doing Mathematical Reasoning Level C which is one year higher than I meant for her to be in (it's the second grade level).  After she completes it I will have her switch to the Building Thinking Skills Level One book just to slow her down a little before putting her into the third grade level.  She'll still be farther ahead than any of my other children were at her age.  We might have to take some time off math books to work on Mind Benders or something if I feel she's getting grumpy about math.

Language Arts: See Cowen.

Eli, kindergarten

I don't really do much with my kindergarten kids.  I want him in the Mathematical Reasoning Level A book right now, but money is tight with the baby coming and I haven't been able to get it for him yet.  He works on xtramath.com and loves that.

As for language arts, he does the I See Sam program that I've reviewed before to learn to read.  Love that program!  Then he writes funny sentences that I make up like "Dad sat on the fat cat."

This was probably longer than you wanted and less helpful than I hoped.  If you have any specific questions, shoot them at me and I'll do my best to answer.

September 23, 2014

Children's Extra Reading Evaluation Post: Rats, Bulls, and Flying Machines; Magic Tree House Monday with a Mad Genius and Leonardo da Vinci

First, a review of Rats, Bulls, and Flying Machines: A History of the Renaissance and Reformation (nonfiction) by Deborah Mazzotta Prum.  I linked to amazon in case you want to read more reviews.  Miriam, age 11, is being interviewed by me--her mom.

Did you enjoy this book?:  "Yes, I loved it.  I want more books like it."

What was your favorite part?: "All of it.  I liked reading about Shakespeare and Leonardo."

Anything else you want to say about the book or the author's writing style?: "I learned what a papal bull is.  Papal means having to do with the Pope and bull is a word meaning document issued by the Pope.  The author had lots of good little cartoons.  The author was talking to you like she was a cartoonist, kind of.  She was funny."

Who would enjoy this book?: "I think people that like cartoons that add funny bits to a history book.  I think age 9 to old age would like this book."

Emeline (age 7, grade 3) reviews Monday with a Mad Genius by Mary Pope Osborne (fiction).

Did you enjoy this book?: "Yes, I did.  It was very, very fun. Leonardo da Vinci and the two kids were fun to read about."

What was your favorite part?: "About Leonardo da Vinci's big bird."

Did you learn anything about history from this book?:  "I learned tons!  I learned that Leonardo was a great painter and a great architect."

Who would enjoy this book?:  "Kids that are 8, 7, and 6."

Emeline's review of Leonardo da Vinci: A Nonfiction Companion to Monday with a Mad Genius.

Did you enjoy this book?": "Yes, I did.  It was very, very awesome.  I liked the things it taught me about Leonardo da Vinci.  His most famous painting is the Mona Lisa.  I really liked how he paints and draws.  I really want to go and see the Mona Lisa."

Did you learn anything about history from this book?:  "I learned tons about history."

Who would enjoy this book?: "You would [meaning me, but probably you too!], Dad would, Miriam would, Cowen would, Kiersten would."

September 17, 2014

Cortes, Pizarro, and Exploring Turns Into Conquering

Cowen and Eli were riveted by the books we read on this day.  The girls were still a little meh.  If I had more time I would think of something to get them invested, but I don't have time.

I did one very smart thing for the day we talked about the Aztecs and Incas and that was having a bunch of books on hand with photographs of real relics from the civilizations.  We didn't read all the books, but the kids have been poring over them in their free time.

We did read Francisco Pizarro by Jeff Donaldson-Forbes.  I didn't realize that Pizarro lacked even basic honor and decency.  Sad.

We also read Aztecs and Incas AD 1300-1532 by Penny Bateman.  I couldn't find a picture but it is available at the Davis County Library in Utah.  I thought it had a good overview of both civilizations.

For the children's perusing pleasure, I had the DK Eyewitness book Aztec, Inca, and Maya on hand as well as the World Book reference titled The Aztec.  The children also enjoyed flipping through The Incas by Tim Wood because it has see through, cut-out type pages.  (Funny: Miriam just walked by and saw me holding the Tim Wood book.  She said, "That's a good book."  So there you have a firm endorsement.)

Lastly, after reading books, looking at books, and finding the Incan and Aztec empires in the children's atlas (I tell you, Cowen is obsessed), we watched a movie.  I broke all my personal and family rules and let the children watch it before I had seen it.  Therefore, I cannot say anything about the quality/accuracy/appropriateness of the movie.  The boys said it was awesome, but it had quite a bit a fighting and some artwork with nudes.

Here's the linky to the Cortez movie: http://youtu.be/A8niQ1ZAbwU

September 15, 2014

Columbus and Magellan

We haven't done as many activities with history as I would like.  Part of that is my being preggers and tired, and the other part is that we are still getting in the swing of things.  Hopefully more time will be devoted to history in the future.  Hopefully, I'll figure out how to put myself to bed at a reasonable time so I get up earlier.  That would help too!

Here are a few of our favorite books from our Columbus/Magellan day.

How We Learned the Earth Is Round  by Megan Lloyd is my favorite that we read.  It had a lot of great information, but it was very child-friendly and accessible.  I highly recommend.

1492: Year of Columbus by Genevieve Foster was also pretty good.  We skipped a few pages about the Aztecs and Incas because I knew we were going to study them more in-depth later.

I didn't love any of the Magellan books.  Magellan and Da Gama: To the Far East and Beyond wasn't terrible, but it had too much info for my younger kids.  I skimmed it with them and mostly talked about Magellan.

Cowen is definitely more interested in the explorers than my girls.  He has happily pulled out our children's atlas every time we've read an explorer book--just to make sure he knows exactly where the explorer traveled.  It has been fun to engage with him and answer his questions.  The girls . . . eh.  They aren't as interested.

All my children, however, loved this handy dandy little video about Magellan:

I also thought this one was pretty informative, although not as entertaining:

September 14, 2014

History Review Days

We've been accomplishing a great deal these past few school weeks.  We've ironed out the last of the new work assignments, got into the groove of doing diligent school work every day (except Tuesdays, when I've been bottling).  We've read and laughed and  . . . not laughed.  

Since it had been awhile since we focused our attention on history, I decided to do a bit of review.  We started with a large review timeline.  I wanted something the kids could manipulate.  It took a bit of jogging their memories, but eventually the timeline took shape.  Obviously, since this timeline covered the history of the world since the creation to the end of the Middle Ages, I really limited the events to the highlights. 

We also read some books to review.  One of our favorites was Joan of Arc by Diane Stanley.

We also really liked The Silk Route: 7,000 Miles of History by John S. Major.

We read those books, and a few others, to review what was going on in the world and to set the stage for the major world exploration we studied next.  I wanted the kids to understand how Europe received goods from China and India and how the balance of power and prices changed when Islamic empires shut down the overland trade route.  We read a little bit about Marco Polo and then we did one of my favorite things.  We mapped.

The purpose of the map was to remind the children of basic divisions of power in Europe going into the Age of Exploration when things started changing fast.  We also looked at a map of Asia and Africa, but I couldn't find a good outline map for those areas.  


Lastly, we made individual, and slightly more detailed, timelines on calculating machine paper.  I love that stuff for timelines.

There are lots of places online that offer a highly simplified overview of world history.  I used one of those sites as a reference when choosing the events for the timeline.  Mostly I wanted to remind my kids of things we spent time on in the hopes it would all come back to them.  It did--for Miriam at least.

Here's what is included on Miriam's timeline:

Timeline Events:

8000 BC: beginning of farming

3100 BC: Egypt is ruled by pharaohs

3000 BC: Sumerian civilization began; cuneiform writing

2000 BC: First Chinese dynasty

1200 BC: Oldest known civilization in the Americas, Olmecs

800 BC: Greek city-states formed, democracy explored

776 BC: First Olympic games

550 BC: Cyrus forms the Persian dynasty

334 BC: Alexander the Great conquers his empire

27 BC: Roman way of life spreads throughout the Roman Empire—mightiest empire in the ancient world

AD 33: Jesus is crucified

AD 410: Barbarians plunder Rome marks the beginning of the end of the Roman Empire

AD 527: Justinian 1 becomes Byzantine Emperor

AD 622: Muhammad starts religion of Islam

AD 814: Charlemagne unites much of Europe, starts the Holy Roman Empire

AD 900: Viking Age

AD 1066: Battle of Hastings; William the Conqueror defeats the Saxons

AD 1099: First Crusade

AD 1279: Kublai Khan conquers China

AD 1298: Marco Polo publishes his adventures

AD 1347: Black Death arrives in Europe

Here's a video that might also be valuable if you are reviewing.  http://www.historycentral.com/dates/Overviewhistory.html  It is a link to a 15 minute video that discusses all major world events through AD 1500.

And that was the first two days of history of the new school year!

September 1, 2014

Calendar Magic

Today I labored, as is only appropriate on Labor Day, over the school year calendar.  I like to have the year mapped out (a residual effect of being a professional teacher or just Type A behavior?) and now that it is, I haven't stopped patting myself on the back.  The calendar worked out brilliantly.  We're studying the pilgrims (legitimately) the week of Thanksgiving and the Revolutionary War (legitimately) the week of July 4th.  How is that for amazing?

Granted, my yearly plans never go as planned but let me have a few more minutes to gloat over my calendar's awesomeness before I face that reality.

I spent all day poring over my two spines: The Age of Discovery by Timelink and The Elements: Ingredients of the Universe by Ellen McHenry.  I will also be using Ellen McHenry's second chemistry course, Carbon Chemistry, but I don't own it yet.

I broke everything down into pieces and then assigned each piece to a day.  So very, very time consuming, but so very, very worth it for me.

September is devoted to history.  Here is how it breaks down--

3rd: Joan of Arc, any other catching up, start timelines on paper roll

4th: map practice, what the world looked like at the end of the Medieval period, work on timeline

5th: Columbus and Magellan, read books about them, map where they went, discuss expanding world

8th: Cortes and the Aztecs, Pizarro and the Incas, Jacques Cartier in Canada--maps and timeline

10th: Ottoman Turks under Suleiman 1, Babur in India and the start of the Mogul Empire, maps, any documentaries I can find, books if I can find them

11th: Protestant Reformation, Martin Luther, Calvinism, Venn diagram for Catholicism and Protestantism, Henry VIII divorces first wife so England breaks with Catholicism

12th: Review of major world religions, Venn diagrams, books

15th: overview of Renaissance, definition of rebirth, ancient Greeks, ancient Romans, humanism--humans can accomplish anything--focus on this life instead of afterlife, Medici (look for documentary), patrons, Gutenberg

16th: Painters that made a difference: Titian, Raphael, Michelangelo, Donatello, etc., try to draw like one of them

17th: Perspective, Erasmus, Machiavelli (maybe)

18th: Guest lesson on perspective, draw

22nd: Durer, Hans Holbein, Leonardo da Vinci, try to make one of Leonardo's inventions

24th: Akbar--Mogul India--map; Toyotomi Hideyoshi--Japan, maps, timelines, Africa beginning of slave trade, French Civil War

25th: guest artist--another perspective lesson

29th: Spain's Golden Age; empire, Cervantes, El Greco, defeated Portugal, Dutch revolt against Spain, map Spain's empire

October 1st: Elizabethan England; England's Golden Age, new worlds, Richard Chancellor

2nd: Shakespeare

3rd: Pirates/Spanish Armada

At that point, we start chemistry.  I assigned one week to each chapter in the chemistry book, so I won't bore you will listing the dates here.

I wrote out the whole year like this.  Granted, I might end up scratching some things (like Machiavelli), depending on what is available at the library and how interested I think my children will be.  We might spend an extra day on pirates if I find enough cool things to justify it.  My schedule is usually pretty fluid, but having it laid out allows me to focus further planning on the nitty gritty of how I'm going to introduce the ideas to my kids.

Having everything outlined also allows to me focus my library searches and limit how many books I have out from the library at one time.  It also allows me to figure out how extra reading assigned to Miriam and Emeline fits in with the overall calendar.

Today was so productive!  I keep thinking I should work on school some more but . . . I think I'll rest on my laurels, read a novel, and eat something Chinese.  Happy labor day!

August 26, 2014

First Day of School Pics!

 Harriet (3)
 Cowen (9)
 Eli (5)
 Emeline (7)
Miriam (11)
Oskar (18 months)

The first day of school was awesome.  It felt so good to be following a schedule again--even though there were glitches here and there.  I'm still working on training the children in their new chores and helping kids stay on task.  We didn't get to history, but that isn't very surprising.  I figured we wouldn't do the extras until we got into the groove of things.

Today was nice too.  Miriam went to the DaVinci Academy for her day of classes.  I decided to give it a try with the new program but I'm definitely lukewarm.  One foot in, the other foot out.  I wanted a little homeschool $ and this was the last year for Miriam to take classes, so I put her in and kept the other kids out.  We'll see if the money is worth the requirements.

Miriam loved her classes.  The other kids and I lost focus around 10:30 because the weather was so nice.  We headed to the hills for a nice ambling walk on the canal road.  We might have to stick to paved trails though because carrying Oskar when he got tired was not fun.  A stroller might help me get to the end of this pregnancy.  Still, lovely day.

My favorite things that have happened over the past two days: Cowen and Emeline figuring out how to alphabetize and Cowen sitting by Harriet on the couch helping her go over her touch-and-trace alphabet cards.  Harriet wants so much to "do school" and Cowen was so sweet with her.  Loved it.

Funniest thing?  Emeline was trying to find a word in the dictionary for her language arts assignment and kept singing the alphabet song through the letter "o" over and over.  None of us were paying attention until she muttered, "I have got to learn the alphabet."  Then we realized she couldn't remember the rest of the alphabet and we erupted in a massive fit of giggles.  Emeline looked sheepish but appreciated her siblings singing the song repeatedly for her until she found the word in the dictionary.

Good times.

I'll leave you with another pic of Oskar--guaranteed to make you smile.

August 23, 2014

Everything Feels More Manageable Now

I've decided that for a person who usually muddles along without a "spine" for each subject I'm pretty happy to not muddle this year.  

I was really starting to feel desperate about where to start with the Renaissance (yes, I have a masters degree in history.  Would you care to know about masculinity during WWII, because I could really help you out there).  My sister, Kami, who likes history as much as I do but actually knows about the Renaissance sent me a bunch of links to help me out.  I went to each and every one and started to break down my units into logical sections and assign books to the units.  I was starting to feel better about things.

Then, I skimmed through the library books I already checked out and realized that I had unwittingly found a "spine."  A perfectly AWESOME spine.  It is called The Age of Discovery by Brian and Brenda Williams.  The book is laid out in sections by date and all the important things going on around the world during those years are broken up by geographic region.  There are timelines on the bottom of the pages to further clarify things. For example, on pages 52-53 the date box says, "1770-1789" and the sections are titled: "First fleet to Australia," "Settlement of Australia,""The Maoris of New Zealand," and "Tom Paine--Revolutionary."  

Awesome!!  At a glance I can see what the important topics are, whether or not I feel they are important enough to find an additional book about them, and how they fit together.  I can then skim over the timelines at the bottom of the pages that are in text boxes organized by continent.  It is seriously genius.  Now I don't have to worry that I'm going to leave out something critical from our studies.  It also gives me a way to fill in information without needing a whole book on the subject.  

I'm feeling much more confident!!  It is too bad Eli threw up today because now I'm pumped for school to start on Monday.  If all the kids are sick, we'll postpone.  :)  

As a small sidenote--I apologize to any and all of you who know me in person or who run into me on facebook periodically, or in any other way have to endure me during pregnancy.  This pregnancy has been harder on me emotionally than any other I can remember (the stress of the move? increasing sensitivity to hormonal changes? knowing it is my last one and just running out of grin-and-bear-it? having six other kids?) and I basically don't like anyone right now.  Grumpy is an understatement.  Please don't be offended!  I'll get over it the minute baby is born (or a week later when the hormones have settled a little).  Thank you for bearing with me!

August 22, 2014

Homeschool Wall Ready

 More organizing!!  Today I finished up last minute changes to our school and work schedules.  I decided Eli was old enough to do the downstairs vacuuming on Saturdays, so I took it off Miriam's chart and put it on his.  I also switched Tuesday and Thursday around since Miriam ended up attending classes on Tuesday when originally I thought she would be attending on Thursday.

The top row is our daily schedules, Monday-Friday.  Below that is our chore chart and scripture reading charts.

 Timothy would love to have cooler walls someday, but in the meantime--I find this set-up very convenient.
 A closer up view of Monday's schedule.  Yellow is play time, green is school, red is chores.
 The chore chart.

We set the goal that our children would read the Book of Mormon during the year they are 11 to prepare them for the temple.  Miriam is 11 so we are all helping her reach this goal by reading the Book of Mormon ourselves.  I have the tree chart.  I have a ways to go before our challenge ends on Miriam's 12th birthday.

My wall is in place, my schedule is in place, our boxes are ready.  Now if I only knew how to approach studying the Renaissance!!  Ack!!!

August 16, 2014

More Getting Ready

After paying a bunch of fines at the Weber County Library, I officially decided I was only using the Davis System.  I can't afford to use the Weber.  That decided, I ordered a bazillion books a few days ago.  Timothy is going to pick them up for me on Monday.  Then I can kick getting ready into high gear!

Although I am painfully slow in the "achieve something" department these days, I do feel quite good about a few to-dos being checked off my list.  The hardest job I finished was going through all the hand-me-down clothes and making every child try on all their clothes.  During the process I kept a scribbler handy to write down each child's needs going into the fall season.  At the end I felt all teary because of the tender mercies of the Lord.  We need almost nothing for the kids compared to what I thought we would need.  There were clothes in the hand-me-down boxes that I don't even remember obtaining but they fit the kids who need them.  It was miraculous.

We told the kids they were getting a new house and new sister for Christmas, but I had some creative present ideas come to me and today at DI I found one of the things I needed for only $6.00.  We're giving the kids dress-up clothes and I got most of them free, including a Matrix looking black coat for Cowen, but I needed something cool for Eli.  In the women's section I found a black leather coat that is perfect.  I expected it to be at least $25 and did an internal happy dance when I saw the sticker!  DI, thank you!!  No, my children have no idea what Matrix is.  Neither do I, but I think my kids will instantly think "spy" when they see the coats, so we're building on that concept.

The day after sorting clothes, I spent six hours (without chocolate!!!!!!!!!) organizing my bedroom/office.  It was brutal and I hated every minute of it but it had to be done and it looks so much better now!  I'm ready to stock my bookshelf with this year's library books and homeschool helps.

Yesterday we went through the kids' homeschool boxes (they no longer have cubbies so we improvised).  We made new cover sheets for their binders with the correct grade (I have a sixth grader this year--how did that happen????) and subjects being studied.  Then I built interest in chemistry and the Renaissance/early modern subjects by having the kids pick pictures about those topics to put on their cover sheets.  We go through this process every year and the kids love it.  We even made Harriet a a binder this year so she wouldn't feel left out.  After looking at the cool images that come up when you search for "chemistry" the children have been deciding what things they are going to learn to make during the coming year.  They feel pretty confident they can make a light-saber or two.  Hmm.

Although there is much left to be done, I feel like progress has been made.  Now my pears just need to be ready to bottle on Monday so I can thoroughly enjoy my two day break with my hubby that I'm taking.  We wanted to fit in a day or two away before the new baby arrived so when my SIL offered to watch the kids we jumped on it.  Two days without kids!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  I can't wait.

Until then . . . I keep feeling my pears (I have three boxes) and praying that they ripen enough for me to bottle before the get-away.

How are your preparations coming along?

August 13, 2014

Getting Ready for the New Year

Getting ready for the new school year has been especially difficult this year for several reasons.  One) I hate the library system in Weber County and can't decide whether or not to order my books from Davis and plan on driving once a month to Clearfield, or toughen up and really transition to using a Weber County location.  This dilemma has resulted in my not requesting any books to prepare for the first few units of the new year and so I am much farther behind than normal at this stage.  

Two) I'm still trying to organize the new house.  While this is mostly done, it still feels like I can't cope with anything because I have stacks of books on my desk and boxes around my room, and my husband's piles of antiquated technology that he doesn't use but won't get rid of rounding out the disaster that is my bedroom/office.  I really can't handle clutter--it makes me feel like I am drowning.  

Three) I don't know how to tackle the Renaissance.  I know I want to do a lot with art (but I know nothing about art) and famous people like Leonardo (obviously) but I don't know much about anyone besides Leonardo.  I haven't found any good book lists to put together Miriam's, Cowen's, and Emeline's school reading lists, and I don't know about many good historical fiction books from my own personal collection or personal reading.  Because I'm not sure how to tackle the time period and because I don't have one hundred library books on the subject to browse through, I find it hard to progress to putting together an actual plan of study.

Four) I'm pregnant.  This is really the crux of the problem.  We found out we're having a girl (yay) and I'm thrilled about her and finishing our family and all that good stuff, but I really struggle when I'm pregnant.  I mostly just want to stay in bed and pretend I don't have children.  Accomplishing anything is a huge ordeal.  Thus, I'm waaaaaayyyyy behind.  

Now, you sweet people will tell me that the baby is the lesson and it is fine if we don't do much school.  I agree with you.  However, it is also true that children are happier with a schedule and limited free time.  Another truth is that I feel crummy unless I'm accomplishing something.  Type A and all that.  So for everyone's emotional health, I really do need to force myself to continue moving forward with all my homeschooling, children, and church responsibilities.  

Some of the worst parts of my to-do list have been checked off.  Two days ago I went through every stitch of clothing in the house (excepting the adult sizes) including all the hand-me-down boxes and created a master list of what we need for children this fall.  I hate doing that job, but God is merciful and my list of what we need is much, much shorter than I anticipated.  

I also did all the laundry and made the kids do another deep cleaning of the downstairs.  (One huge drawback to a larger home is that the kids can spread out and wreak more havoc in more places without my noticing.)  I think I even made dinner . . . nope, camping leftovers, but it was tasty.

Yesterday I did make dinner, thank you very much.  I also created a new chore chart and school schedule.  That was important.  Last year I implemented an idea I got from Latter-day Homeschooling and assigned everyone the same chores for a year.  It worked beautifully for us.  It has been a year and a house change and a new chore chart was desperately needed.  Here's what our chart looks like:

2014-2015 School Year Chore Chart

Keep bedroom clean every day
Morning chore: make breakfast Monday-Wednesday and also Friday
Evening chore: Help Eli clean and tidy the downstairs, mop steps by side door
Dish night: Friday
Supper Prep night: Monday

Saturday: vacuum downstairs, mop downstairs, downstairs bathroom, kitchen cupboards up, lawn

Keep bedroom clean every day
Morning chore: tidy bathrooms
Evening chore: dog poo, feed dogs
Dish night: Tuesday
Supper Prep night: Wednesday

Saturday: upstairs bathroom, kitchen cupboards down, lawn

Keep bedroom clean every day
Morning chore: tidy and vacuum upstairs
Evening chore: tidy upstairs
Dish night: Wednesday
Supper Prep: Tuesday

Saturday: dust and vacuum upstairs, water plant, mop dining room

Keep bedroom clean every day
Morning chore: feed dogs, tidy downstairs
Evening chore: tidy downstairs
Supper Prep: Thursday

Saturday: dust and tidy downstairs, scrub kitchen sink

If you'll notice, Miriam was assigned cooking breakfast for the year.  That will hopefully solve a pressing school problem: my not taking time to help Cowen and Emeline with their piano practice as much as I should.  With this new schedule, I can help with piano practicing while breakfast is being made, then Miriam can practice while the rest of us do the breakfast dishes and our most important subject (piano) will be done by 10:00 am and I will feel like we accomplished great things and feel more motivated to keep going.  Awesome.

Harriet does do chores, but it is mostly helping pick up books and toys and keeping her room clean.  I might hang up a chore chart with pockets for her to help her remember to brush her teeth and make her bed--things like that.  She'd like that.

Our school schedule isn't very different from last year except for one major change--all three of my oldest kids will be working on language arts.  We've done a little spelling and handwriting in the past, but I don't start actual grammar/writing kinds of things until 3rd grade.  I didn't start Cowen in LA last year because I knew it would be easier to wait and teach him and Emeline at the same time.  So, the schedule needed a LA slot.  I'll tell you more about my LA plans in a different, less lengthy, post, but I'm pretty excited about it.

Here's Tuesday of our schedule.  If my hubby was here he could show me how to make an excel document look nice but I'm just going to cut and paste and hope for the best.

If any of you have any brilliant Renaissance ideas--lay them on me.  I hope your preparations are going much more smoothly than mine!!

Mom Miriam Cowen Emeline Eli
7:00 AM          
7:30 AM bath/dress/hair bath/dress/hair bath/dress/hair bath/dress/hair bath/dress/hair
8:00 AM :piano make breakfast :piano :computer work chores
8:30 AM :piano make breakfast :computer work :piano chores
9:00 AM breakfast breakfast breakfast breakfast breakfast
9:30 AM chores :piano chores chores chores
10:00 AM :Cowen read :piano :read :school reading play
10:30 AM :Eli read :computer work :Walk with Wilson :Walk with Wilson :read
11:00 AM :Eli piano :Spanish/French play play :piano/computer
11:30 AM :grammar/LA :LA :LA :LA play
12:00 PM :history/science :history/science :history/science :history/science :history/science
12:30 PM :history/science :history/science :history/science :history/science :history/science
1:00 PM lunch lunch lunch lunch lunch
1:30 PM devotional devotional devotional devotional devotional
2:00 PM :scriptures :scriptures :scriptures :scriptures :scriptures
2:30 PM :math :math :math play play
3:00 PM :math play play :math :math
3:30 PM   play play play play
4:00 PM   play play play play
4:30 PM   play Scouts play play
5:00 PM   Activity Days Scouts play play
5:30 PM dinner prep Activity Days play dinner prep play
6:00 PM dinner prep chores chore dinner prep chores
6:30 PM supper supper supper supper supper
7:00 PM   bed prep Dishes bed prep bed prep
7:30 PM bed prep :school reading bed bed bed
8:00 PM   read in bed bed bed bed
8:30 PM   bed bed bed bed