Monday, August 27, 2012

First Day of Home School, August 27, 2012

Welcome to Homeschooling, Year 2. Please remain seated at all times and keep your arms, legs and books inside the car at all times...ok, I guess we don't have to remain seated.

This year, I wanted to make their first day more memorable. We had made a personalized backpack for everyone in the family. It has the store logo and their name printed on the front. These were a little surprise for the monkeys who didn't get to see them until this morning. I also bought a few new supplies for each of them,  a cool journal, some little medals to color that said "Super Star" and I had their laptops set out just so they remembered that those were new this year as well.

All in all, the morning went well. We eased into school a bit, just Language Arts and a tiny bit of Math.  Mom slept about an hour total last night, so I woke us up at 8am instead of 7am (caffeine is both the bane and the basis of my existence). Tomorrow, we'll get up a little earlier and hit that grindstone a little more roughly. I'll have that crazy math DVD figured out and we'll do a little welcome to a new year writing as well.

Here are some photos:
Here's what the table looked like when they came
downstairs this morning.

Here they paw through their stuff, checking it out. Neither of them are
"morning people", so their excitement level was understated to say the least.

Emma did get enthused when she saw that they
each had their own set of highlighters in a little case.
She likes little more than to spend hours wasting the ink
of every highlighter in a 100 foot radius of herself

I found these little signs last week and was as pleased as the kids when I saw how well they turned out.

My handsome Sixth Grader, Matthew

My third grade fashion plate, Emma

This is the face they make when Mom
makes them put their arm around one
Lily was LESS than enthusiastic about
having school in the morning. She just
wished we would all be quiet and go
back to bed.

Humphrey celebrated by throwing up a bear that he
had eaten. It was wearing a bunny suit. On a slightly
different note, NO ONE in the house recognized the bear.
If YOU or a family member are missing a bear...let us know.

Really, throwing it up, although unpleasant, really was the
better alternative ^_^
I meant to have a family prayer this morning that our homeschooling would go well this year and that God would bless our efforts, but we were caught up in figuring out how their LA program worked on the computer and didn't remember.

~make good choices

What are we using? Curriculum for 2012-2013 school year

Today was our first day of the second year of our homeschooling journey. We began with a light day, just introducing part of our new curriculum and familiarizing ourselves with our new tools. We changed  things up this year. Here is the rundown of tools we're using for the school year.


The only thing that stayed the same is our science curriculum. We will finish Animals & Their Worlds this year. We definitely enjoyed going through it last year and did not finish the materials. We will start it in about 2-3 weeks. The kids study each major type of ecosystem for 5-8 weeks. It covers biology, zoology, writing, and many other topics. They've enjoyed the areas they've covered so far and I know they're excited to finish what we've started.


We're adding in history with Winter Promise's All American 1. Both kids will go through this together each day however Matthew's writing requirements will be more stringent than Emma's.  The kids are very excited about journeying through American History this year.

This program is filled with great reading and projects. We will also start Timelining with each of the kids. Part of the reason public schools don't teach linear history in elementary grades anymore is that children that age don't grasp how one thing happens after another and because of another in time and space. Using timelines and maps, they get a three dimensional representation of history so that they can order their thoughts. It turns into a huge learning scrapbook of everything they've studies. I'm very excited to start pasting in dates and historical figures. I think tonight, we may paste in baby pictures of everyone ^_^

I had hoped to do an extended election unit along side the Presidential Election this fall, but I don't think it will fit into what we're studying at the time. By October, we should be at the end of the Explorer's Unit and heading into the Colonial Unit. Fitting government in as well would just be too much. I do plan on adding in some extra reading when we can. Now if I can figure out how to work that goofy book widget thing that goes along the side of my blog...


Although we loved Singapore Math last year, it only goes as far as 8th grade. I didn't relish switching Matthew at the end of middle school so we switched this year. We also needed something that if the kids were doing math with the grandmas, they could have a back up plan. Enter Math-U-See.

Things that drew us to MUS were numerous. First, it is based on a mastery approach to math. You don't flit from topic to topic (as spiral programs do). You start a topic, learn the ins and outs, try out the variations and finally master that topic. Then and only then do you move to the next topic. It also has DVD lessons. Although Mark & I feel confident in our math skills until we get up to calculus and beyond, our moms do not. Since last year, our moms were helping the kids go through the lessons after I set them up, we thought having a dvd lesson to watch and reinforce the day's lessons would be easier on the them. Finally, their presentations at the convention just blew Mark's mind. The way they explain math, using the manipulatives really removes confusion and makes math more concrete. With the kids, having the hands on portion holds their attention on task more than just a page full of problems ever could. We looked at many other programs (including Life of Fred, Teaching Textbooks, and Saxon Math) but preferred MUS over each of the others.

Emma is starting the year with Gamma it will reinforce her multiplication and division skills that she started building last year and expand her into doing multiple digit multiplication and division.

Matthew is beginning with Epsilon. It will cover fractions and factoring. Although we covered fractions in depth, we hope that the new approach and angle used in MUS will clarify the parts that he found confusing and give him a solid foundation to move forward into decimals and pre-algebra.

We are all a bit nervous because the first 2 videos on the dvd are 2 hours and 2 hours & 45 minutes long. Hopefully, those are not the norm because I am certain that none of us will sit through that much math each week.

Language Arts

Here's where we really changed things up. This year, we went with Switched on Schoolhouse for LA. Mark really loved the idea of using the computer and a completely on-line school for both kids. I hesitate that they need quite that much screen time. I worry about absorption of information and retention of information. However, as we both work full-time (40-50 hours per week) outside the home, at some point, I need some help getting everything done. Grading was a real problem last school year as was maintaing a grade book. The compromise we reached was this, we will try the LA section of SOS and see how it goes. If I feel like they learned and retained enough material, maybe next year we'll expand the subjects we teach with it.

I've discovered there is a huge learning curve to the software. I'm sure that we'll get it figured out but at the moment, I've managed to assign a couple of things and set up the school calendar, sort of. The kids did very well at working their way through the tutorial this morning and figuring out the various tools they have at their disposal through the software.


We went with Horizons Penmanship Book 3 and Book 5 for the kids. I was so mad at myself when I opened these last week and realized I had bought the wrong books. My intention was to get pick up Book 2 as that is where cursive is "taught" from beginning to end. Emma is just beginning in cursive and Matthew has no confidence in his ability with cursive so starting over seemed like a good idea. I know what distracted me. I started looking through the 6th grade book and talking to one of the ladies in the AOP booth. She told me if I was doing American History, I should use the Book 5 for Matthew rather than Book 6. Book 5 is a lot of American History speeches, documents and information. Then I just grabbed Third grade with out thinking.


I have a fantastic book I found that is an art curriculum called Drawing with Children by Mona Brookes. I plan on this being daddy's contribution as he has his BFA in Fine Arts Graphic Design. Sounds about right, huh? We also have tons of projects and hands on pages in our history program (750 + pages in one part and 300+ pages in the State Study sections). We also supplemented with some great classes ran by a family friend over the summer, the kids loved them.

All American 1 also includes 3 great American artists studies. These are fairly in depth and take artists who painted scenes of great battles or historical figures. What I've read so far has been very exciting. Can't wait til the kids start trying to recreate George Washington Crossing the Delaware or some of the other amazing paintings.

Health & Nutrition, Physical Education

I am slowly putting together my own Health, Nutrition and Kitchen Home Ec program with a variety of resources I've found on-line. I want to teach my kids the reasoning behind choosing good foods over junk foods. I'll eventually do a separate post where I organize the sites, blogs and worksheets I've found  on the subjects.

Physical Education will be bolstered by playing Upward Bound Basketball this fall/winter. The kids also want to take karate and gymnastic lessons. Sounds pretty busy, but can't wait to see which activities the kids like best.


Our history program (AA1) has included as part of it a fantastic resource for Bible study. It is called Christian Character Traits for Kids. We will cover things like:

  • Courage
  • Determination
  • Leadership
  • Insight
  • Sacrifice
  • Loyalty
  • Diligence
  • Compassion
  • Commitment
These character traits are paired with stories from great American historical figures and their stories. We learn about George Washington while studying leadership and Bible verses that support the qualities a leader displays. It includes writing prompts that encourage a depth of thinking and study that I hope will prompt the kids to look inside themselves and contemplate their own decisions from a more thoughtful place. I am excited to start sharing this with them.

Seeing it all in black and white makes me wonder how it will all fit in to our week. All we can do is our best, I suppose. 

I know I'm forgetting something. I guess I can always edit the post at a later date.

~make good choices

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Things I've done instead of getting the kids' curriculum figured out...

So, tomorrow's supposed to be the first day of school. I have most everything I'm supposed to and we have a schedule or the beginnings of one. All that's left to do is figure out how to create assignments in SOS (Switched on Schoolhouse) for LA (language arts) and make sure I understand how Math-U-See works. That was the goal this weekend...the ONLY goals this weekend. How many of those goals have I accomplished? ZERO  zero. 
Let's list what I've done instead:

  • Cleaned out the fridge
  • taken out the trash x4
  • planned meals for the week
  • organized the kids' dvd collection and matched up discs with their boxes
  • dusted the shelves on which the dvd's reside
  • straightened the bookshelves to move baskets around in the computer room
  • played a game with the kids & some friends
  • laundry, even folding half of it!
  • recycled a bunch of stuff
  • organized part of the school shelves
  • watched a grown up movie with my hubby
  • gave the puppies some time (too much)
  • decided to start collecting bottle lids to make stamps out of
  • checked facebook 97 times
  • set up a YouTube for Schools page
  • searched out numerous extra materials to add in to what we're studying
  • made Heather macaroni & cheese
  • made a grocery list
  • promised to cook dinner for tonight
  • promised to cook breakfast for the kids this week
  • promised to cook lunch for the week
  • oh, and of course, written this blog.
I keep thinking that I should KEEP putting it off, look at how productive I've been!

Guess I should quit and get to work on figuring this out before the old man gets back with fixings for dinner! 

~Make good choices ^_^

Friday, August 24, 2012

Keep your arms and legs inside the ride at all times

Well, this summer has been a madcap ride blurring by us in a flash. I had great plans and schemes in mind, a great many things to take care of before we started school back up. Those things never happened and now it's AUGUST! Three days past when I WANTED to start school. I know what you're going to's ok, there's plenty of time, you homeschool, start whenever you want. I'm not really built that way.

Realistically, both kids have a terrible cold and I wasn't feeling 100% myself, if we had started Monday, it would have been a horrible first day. Therefore, this Monday has been declared a school day.

Yesterday, I cracked open All American 1 from Winter Promise (at least what I have so far) and started sorting. First putting the Instructor's Guide together with some numbered dividers, then sorting the 1500 pages of projects that come with it (enough for two kids together).

Today, after fighting valiantly with the printer, I gave in and just used the USB cord to print the 150 pages for our state study and the beginnings of our character study. I think I'm just going to let the kids read those digitally on their laptops though, that's a lot of ink.

I looked through Horizons Penmanship and cursed myself loudly for buying two different levels. The intention was to start them both at the beginning with cursive. By buying 3rd & 5th, neither book has the how to for cursive. Guess I'll see if the Parent Teacher Store carries those :-/

The big to-do list now is to get Math-U-See figured out before Monday. I also have to learn how to create assignments in Switched on Schoolhouse. That's totally doable, right?

Monday, August 13, 2012

Instant Gratification...not included

So after months of waffling and studying, we ordered our history curriculum two weeks ago. Dozens of wonderful books, hundreds of pages of  educational resources and activities just waiting for us to explore, all shipping to us from the great state of Michigan! Shipping via a caravan of three-toed sloths who have narcolepsy. I LOVE Winter Promise Publishing and the materials they put together...I hate the wait for them to get us our stuff. I know, I know, I should have placed the order in March or April. I can't expect them to get everything here overnight, BUT I WANT MY STUFF NOW!

They offer eBooks this year and those are kind of awesome. The next day I got links to download 10 of my resources/books immediately. I can read about all the cool stuff I'll eventually be getting, start some of the planning process, and even read several of the books ahead of time. I didn't get the "spine" or "spines" of our program though and that makes it tough to move forward too much. I'm so bad at "hurry up & wait", I want everything right now!

Friday, I received the giant packets of projects that the kids will get to do this year. 500 + pages of notebooking, cardboard construction, and who knows what else x2 so each kid has their own. I was disappointed that they were the only contents of the box.

Today, I just opened box #2 (while typing this blog, BTW) and was very excited to see our timelines, a selection of books, our printed Instructor's Guide. That's more like it! Still no spines, but the promise of them helps. Now I can plan for what size binders we need for our timelines and the IG. I know that we need some cardstock for things the kids print and want to add to their timelines. I have the reassurance that perhaps, we can start history by September 1st, which is when I hoped we would be able to start.

I always like to ease the kids into school. We start with math and language arts first. After a week or two, we add in the other subjects: science, history, health, and geography. This year we're going to start basic keyboarding with some typing games too. I'm still looking for some organized resources to add MS Office basics in to our mix. Matthew has a basic idea of how it works, but Emma hasn't had too much. The kids want to start a foreign language and I agree that it's important, I just don't see us having time to fit that in unfortunately.

To add insult to injury, we bought a new van...sort of. It also is being delivered by a pack of narcoleptic sloths. They can't tell us exactly when it will show up or when we can have it. I guess God thinks I need to work on my patience...I'm sure he's right.

~make good choices.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Last Sun-Filled, Hazy Days of Summer

Today we celebrated the end of Emma's softball season with a soirée at Silverlake's outdoor water park. All in all it was a pretty great season and a great party. We haven't been to Silverlake in a couple of years and I think we enjoyed the water park more today than we did the entire time we were members.

Tomorrow is another crazy day, we're headed to a Cincinnati Reds' game. They planned a Peanut Sensitive Day for tomorrow. Of course, even with the extra precautions, Matthew & I are a nervous wreck. They're playing the Pirates and today's game was contentious, hopefully it will be action packed enough to keep our minds occupied.

On other fronts, we finally ordered our other curriculum. Mark & I never really agreed, but he admits that I'm doing most of the work and I should be happy with what I'm using. Now begins the long wait until it starts trickling in. This year is a little different as I got several ebooks already and the Instructors' Guide (thank God for those innovations). I can start laying out weeks and fitting together how it's all going to work in the next couple weeks when we start school...couple weeks?!?!? Guh. Still have to send my letter of intent :( meant to get that out last week. Much to do, sleep must come's hoping it rains tonight & not during the Reds's game!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Welcome to the Lazy Days of Summer...almost

Originally posted May 2012
So, summer break began for the public school kids this week, the kids thought they were done...not so true. I explained to them that when they finish their books, we'll say second & fifth grade is over. I worry that may take until November. They have found a little motivation with those words though. "When I finish this book, I'm done, right mom?" Matthew then proceeded to do an extra lesson as did Emma. As we are reading through Joann Calderwood's book on self-teaching for next year, it does give me some hope that it will work.
Meanwhile, Lily & Humphrey think summer is pretty awesome.

Little Miss Sunshine...well, not quite

Originally posted 6/5/12
Funny little bit of insight into my youngest's psyche...
Arby's has new toys in their kid's meals from the Mr. Men Show (apparently). This has led to my children wanting to eat there more than usual. It took me two weeks or more to notice that it was all about the toys. Inside each small plastic bag is the character and a checklist.
A couple of Friday's ago, both kids were staying with Mark at the store to play D&D. They were very excited. I, who had been at the store for 9 hours, was less than enthusiastic. I wanted to leave, but I felt guilty at leaving Mark & the 'rents with both kids at work for another hour while I ran off free as a bee. To mitigate this guilt, I decided to take them for a quick dinner and bring them back closer to closing time. Where, you might ask? Arby's. As we ate, the kids enthusiastically played with their goofy looking little smiley-faced toys. They ate very well though, so I didn't think about it too much. I noticed as we were leaving, both kids grabbed their little advertisement/checklist off the tray.
Once we were back to the store, Matthew grabbed a pen and started writing on his checklist. Emma copied her brother and soon they were engrossed in assigning names to the character on the sheet. They finish their character assignations and excitedly exchange their lists. The conversation goes something like this:
"Aw Emma, thanks for making me both Mr. Strong & Mr. Happy! That's really nice of you." ~Matthew
"Matthew, you made me Little Miss Chatterbox? I don't like Little Miss Chatterbox! I don't chatter. I don't like her. You know my favorite is LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE! Did you make me both like I did you? Why would you make me Little Miss Chatterbox? I don't like being called a chatterbox!"
"No, I thought I wo...."~Matthew
"What's going on here, Emma? Why are you hitting your brother in the gut?" ~Me
"We were telling who we thought each of the characters were like and he put me as (**POONK**) LITTLE MISS CHATTERBOX (**POONK**) INSTEAD OF LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE (**POONK**). HE KNOWS LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE IS MY FAVORITE (**POONK**)!!!" (weeping ensues).
"Oh my gosh, Mom! She won't stop hitting me!" ~Matthew.
"Well Matthew, I think you need to admit that your sister is more of a Little Miss Sunshine, than a Little Miss Chatterbox. (quietly, under my breathe)~Before she pummels you into dirt." ~Mom
"Emma, maybe your brother would think you were a little more sunshine-y if you weren't punching him in the gut so much all the time?" ~Mom
"He knows I'm SUNSHINE-Y (**POONK**) ~Emma
"Emma, no more punching!" ~Mom
"Emma, you can be Little Miss Sunshine, I'm sorry I put Payton there where you should be. Can you please quit hitting me now? (**OW**) Stop it!" ~Matthew
Yes, eventually, I addressed the hitting is wrong aspect of this scene. Yes, she had consequences for punching her brother, but first, I had to go in the back room and laugh til I cried at the irony of this:
Here's the little slip out of the toy: