Homeschool Discoveries

Sharing a few things I've discovered along the way…

Book Discoveries this Week: The Borrowers February 16, 2012

Filed under: Books — kirstenjoyhill @ 1:15 pm

When I selected “The Borrowers” by Mary Norton as a bedtime read-aloud with Miss M, I had no idea that I was actually making a timely choice of sorts.  I added it to my list of potential read-alouds at the beginning of the year. We picked it up at the library a couple weeks ago because I didn’t have any other read-alouds on our own shelves I was excited about that day, and I hadn’t planned ahead and requested or ordered anything else.  The Borrowers happened to be on the shelf at the library.

Miss M and I were then very surprised over the weekend to see a preview for a movie based on The Borrowers called “The Secret World of Arrietty” opens in theaters tomorrow (February 17th)!

Back to the book — “The Borrowers” is the story of a family of very tiny people (only a few inches tall) that live under the kitchen of an English country house.  Homily, Pod, and their teenage daughter Arrietty are the only remaining Borrowers in a house that once supported many.  Although her parents (like all Borrowers before them) go to great lengths to not be seen by “human beans” as they call them, Arrietty is willing to break the status quo to befriend a human boy.

I had mixed feelings about the book.  I have vague memories of reading this as a child and it is a fun and exciting story.  On the other hand, I had a sense of dread on behalf of the characters as I read the book, knowing the fate that befalls them at the end of the book (both just from an educated guess as to the plot arc and also from reading the description on the back of the sequel!).   It’s nothing too awful (small spoiler here) — they end up being forced to leave their home — but I did feel bad for them knowing what was going to happen.

I was also able to put some new knowledge from “Uncovering The Logic of English” to work.   The word “draught” has always puzzled me though, I must confess, not enough to have looked it up in the dictionary (I know, terrible for a homeschool mom and a former English major).  I thought it rhymed with “taught” and I really couldn’t quite figure out what it had to do with beer (this being the context in which I had seen it).  In “Uncovering the Logic of English,”  the word “draught” is used as an example of another word like “laugh” where -augh makes an “af” sound with a short “a”.   All of a sudden, the word “draught” makes so much more sense as the British spelling of the American English word “draft” — a word used for beer and for a breeze across a room (the context in which it is used in “The Borrowers”.

Miss M enjoyed The Borrowers quite a bit — enough to pick up the first sequel and start reading it as soon as we finished the original as a read aloud (we already had this book, “The Borrowers Afield” on our shelves from a library book sale last year). She’s also very eager to see the Arrietty movie as well.   We don’t go to many theater movies, but perhaps we’ll make our way to this one.  While I am sure they took artistic liberty with the story, it has to be better than the movie adaption of Mr. Popper’s Penguins, which had almost nothing to do with the original book (and much to my dismay, Miss M liked the movie version better!).

I’m linking up with Read-Aloud Thursday @ Hope is the Word!




Resources for Learning the US States

Filed under: Books,Technology — kirstenjoyhill @ 8:18 am
Tags: , ,

Miss M is in the middle of her first big memory work project right now — learning the names and locations of all 50 states in the USA.  Our homeschool co-op does a geography challenge each year in May, and this is the challenge for students in second grade.  Miss M wanted plenty of time to prepare, so we started this in January.

The starting point for Miss M’s memorization efforts has been “The Little Man in the Map” by E. Andrew Martonyi.  Little Man in the Map gives readers memory clues in rhyme to remember the shape of each state.  It’s really quite clever.  The “little man” is made from the line of states from Minnesota down to Louisiana (Minnesota is the hat, Louisiana is the boot…can you see what the states in between might be?).   The “little man” comes to life and provides other clues — such as Tennessee and North Carolina being a table, with the four states beneath as legs.  So far this has been a really helpful method for Miss M to remember each state, and she has memorized more than half so far!

We’re reinforcing this learning with lots of fun games on the iPad and computer:

On the iPad, Miss M’s favorite app for state practice is Wood Puzzle.  Wood Puzzle has a practice mode and a quiz mode and involves dragging states to the right spot on the map.  It also has a mode for state Capitals.

We also have iTeachStates and TopoUSA.   Iteachstates has a few different modes, including dragging the states to the correct position and a multiple choice quiz.  TopoUSA involves helping a little plane fly to the correct state.

There are many other state geography games and learning apps available in the App Store.  One I’ve heard several friends say they like is “Stack the States”.  To be honest, I’ve been waiting to see if the full version would ever be available for free (I got the other state apps for free by downloading them on a day when they happened to be available with no charge).  Perhaps some day soon if it doesn’t go on sale I’ll drop the 99 cents for it so Miss M can try it.  🙂

Our site of choice for practicing states on the computer is the USA Geography section of Shepherd Software, a site with many free educational games for kids.  This site has practice games for learning states, capitals, and other geographical features such as lakes.  Games are available at several levels of difficulty.

If you are looking to practice with traditional paper maps, check out the free printable maps for the USA (and the rest of the world) at Education Place.

We may also consider purchasing a board game or two for additional practice.  I have 10 Days in the USA and Scrambled States on my Amazon wish list.

Do you have any favorite resources for learning the US States?

I’m linking up with this week’s Tech Tuesday @ Sunflower Schoolhouse!


Collage “Friday” (on a Saturday): A Birthday and other Fun February 11, 2012

Filed under: Weekly Highlights — kirstenjoyhill @ 5:26 pm

Here’s a little bit about what we’ve been up to this week:

1. & 2.  Happy 3rd Birthday to Mr. K!  His birthday was on Monday, and we had a small party on Sunday afternoon. Our family tradition is to let the birthday boy/girl pick the menu for the day and a fun activity on the day of his/her birthday.  Mr. K picked donuts for breakfast, Cars soup for lunch, Cars Mac and Cheese and chicken for dinner, and bowling as his fun activity.

3.  We had a Valentine’s party at co-op this week. Miss M wanted to make her own valentines this year for her co-op class, but wasn’t sure what she wanted to make.  It was the perfect use of pinterest! I showed her a number of links I had pinned to homemade valentines, and she picked the one she liked best.  I printed out the template, and she took it from there!

4. I haven’t had much patience lately to let the kids help me in the kitchen, but this week I let them help me with the dumplings for our chicken and dumplings in the crock pot.  Miss M made most of the dough balls, but the boys helped a bit too.

5. We scrubbed off the old exersaucer and brought it out for baby J this week…he seems to like it a lot.  It’s nice to have one more way to keep him occupied while we are doing school or I am cooking.  He’s getting more interested in trying to play with his toys every day!

6. Mr. K got some new play-doh this week.  I really, really hate the smell of play-doh (yet, somehow I never quite get around to making my own).  After Miss M was finished playing, I let the boys continue mostly unsupervised with the play-doh, since they were quiet and not fighting.  The result — one entire container of play-doh cut up into tiny chunks and spread out over the table and floor.  Sigh.  At least it swept up pretty easily.

7.  We got out the Right Start fraction chart for the first time this week.  The lesson called for folding and cutting strips of paper, but I am glad I remembered I had this instead!  We only made it through three lessons this week, having gotten bogged down in the warm-ups on two different days.  The geometry/fractions portions of the lessons were only mildly challenging for Miss M, but we discovered a particular subtraction strategy that had been forgotten, and some of the multiplication proved more challenging for Miss M than I had expected.  It was good to slow down both for the purpose of review and reinforcement, but also to deal with the character issues this brought up.  Miss M was not happy to hear that she had given me the wrong answers on these warm-ups.   We took the time necessary to deal with the heart issues.  While I don’t “love” these moments as the occur, I love these opportunities homeschooling brings us to work on Christ-like character (for mom and children alike!).

8.  Arts and crafts completed by Miss M and Mr E this week.  While sometimes I think to myself that we should be using some of the art curriculum materials I purchased for this year…other days I look at the projects my kids complete of their own volition, and remember that they have many, many good art/craft experiences with very little involvement from me at all!

9. We had a very short morning of school on Friday, leaving most of the rest of the day for fun.  We enjoyed a gym playdate, hair cuts for Miss M and Mr. E, and a trip to Half-Price Books.  I brought a huge box of books in to sell (mostly some pretty junky books that were really dead weight on our bookshelf), and of course still spent well beyond the credit I received for the books I brought.  🙂  Each of the kids got to pick out some books for themselves, and I found a few titles I was looking for.   After our outings, the kids packed their bags and went to Grandma and Grandpa’s house for the night so mom and dad (and baby) could go out for a fancy early valentines date and then our church’s annual marriage retreat.  What a fun Friday!

I’m linking up with Collage Friday @ Homegrown Learners and the Weekly Wrap-Up @ Werid, Unsocialized Homeschoolers!



Book Discoveries this Week: Joan of Arc February 9, 2012

Filed under: Books — kirstenjoyhill @ 10:25 pm
Tags: ,

I’m finding it hard to believe that we are almost done with our journey through the Middle Ages.  We only have three lessons left in Mystery of History Volume II (if last week and this week would have gone as planned, we would already be finished!), and MOH Volume III arrived yesterday.

I think we’ll still have a few read-alouds yet this year that take us back to the Middle Ages — I just keep finding more books I’d love to read related to this time period.

Our history read-aloud this past week was Joan of Arc by Diane Stanley.  Both Mr. E and Miss M enjoyed this in-depth story with beautiful illustrations.  (Mr K on the other hand had to be “bribed” with the iPad in order to keep him quiet enough for us to finish this book.  He tried very hard to convince me not to continue reading it!).

Having read a somewhat extensive lesson about Joan of Arc in our Mystery of History book, I wasn’t sure  if Miss M would want to devote even more time to learning about Joan.   I gave Miss M the choice as to whether or not we would read this book, and she was pretty eager to read it.  She was fascinated by the idea of a woman fighting for her country back then.  Stanley’s story of Joan of Arc provided additional details that were not in our history lesson and made this famous story seem even more amazing.  I would have to say, though, that the illustrations were my favorite part.  The are done in a style somewhat reminiscent of an illuminated manuscript and are very bright and colorful.

In recent weeks we also read Ms. Frizzle’s Adventures: Medieval Castle by Joanna Cole and The Chanticleer and The Fox by Barbara Cooney as quick history-related read alouds.  Ms. Frizzle’s castle adventure was about what you would expect — a fun, silly story with some real facts thrown in here and there.  The Chanticleer and the Fox was a bit of a disappointment to me.  When I requested this one from the library I was envisioning a picture book with poetic text, but Cooney’s book is more of a retelling of Chaucer’s story in non-poetic form.

Tangentially related to our history studies is a book the boys loved this past week: A Good Knight’s Rest by Shelley Moore Thomas.   In this story, the Good Knight (who is featured in several books by Thomas) needs to take a restful vacation, but his pals the little dragons make that a challenge.  I like the “Good Knight”/”Good Night” pun (and don’t quickly tire of it), so that makes these books bring a smile to my face.  🙂

And finally, not at all related to the Middle Ages, is the boys’ other favorite book this week: The Donut Chef by Bob Staake.  The Donut Chef is a story in rhyme about a chef who opens a donut shop, only to be challenged by a competing shop that opens next door.  The two shops try to out-do one another:

“We’ve donuts laced with kiwi jam and served inside an open clam! Donuts made with huckleberry (Don’t be scared, they’re kind of hairy).  And donuts made from spiced rum pears, so popular with millionaires!”

It’s hard not to smile at rhymes like that.  After trying many, many flavors and shapes, the donut chef finds out what the most popular kind of donut really is.

What books did you discover this week?

I’m linking up with Read Aloud Thursday @ Hope is the Word!


“Uncovering the Logic of English” by Denise Eide February 8, 2012

Filed under: Books — kirstenjoyhill @ 6:09 pm
Tags: ,

When I think back to elementary school, the subject I disliked most was spelling (and it’s probably the subject I struggled with the most as well).  I remember spending what seems like hours drilling weekly spelling words with my mom’s help, only to still get mediocre grades on spelling tests and still spell words wrong on papers in later grades when spelling tests were only a memory.  The only thing that really helped my spelling was starting to use spell check on a regular basis as a high school student.  I was an editor of my high school newspaper, and after seeing certain words with the familiar red underlining many times over while typing up stories, I finally memorized the correct spelling.  I went on to get a degree in English and I now even do some freelance editing, yet I still struggle to spell certain words.

As I began researching phonics and spelling programs a few years ago for Miss M, I made an exciting discovery: There are actually reasons why some words are pronounced or spelled the way they are.  This seemed like a much better way to learn spelling than the “memorize a random list” method I experienced in elementary school.

It didn’t take long to find out that even with an approach to spelling that included some rules, Miss M still struggles to learn spelling.  She is so much like me!  We’re on our second spelling curriculum already, and I haven’t been 100% pleased with either of the ones we’ve tried (but that is a subject for a different post!).

So, I was quite intrigued when I saw a few messages on a local homeschooling list about a book and curriculum called “The Logic of English”.   After some quick googling, I quickly decided that my first purchase with a recently-received amazon gift card would be the book “Uncovering the Logic of English” by Denise Eide.

Eide is an educator (and a homeschooling mom herself) who sets out to prove that English is not nearly as illogical as most people think it is. Eide first discusses the need for students to learn the 74 basic phonograms (one or more letters that represent a sound) of the English language (a common idea among many spelling programs that don’t rely on sheer memorization or visual patterns).  I’ve been meaning to work on this with Miss M, but have failed to put good intentions into practice.  Whoops!  There are also 33 more “advanced” phonograms in English that occur less often.

Besides the 74 basic phonograms, Eide offers 30 spelling rules that explain the spelling of most words in the English language.  Most of the rest of the book is devoted to these rules.  While most people might not consider this riveting reading, I was fascinated.

These aren’t rules like “i after e except before c”, a rule with many exceptions.  For example did you know that English words do not end in I, U, V or J? That’s rule #3.  A key thing to note in the this rule is the word “English.”  There are a few foreign words adopted by English (like “chai” and “ski”) that break this rule, as well as “three very old English words, I, you and thou.”   But the vast majority of English words follow this rule, explaining why we need to write “hedge” instead of “hej” among many other things.

This rule also gives some sense as to why words like “give” have a silent “e” at the end, yet that silent “e” does not make the other vowel say it’s long sound — “v” cannot be alone at the end of the word, so an “e” is added.

“Uncovering the Logic of English” is full of fascinating examples and rules like this.  I feel like it is unlocking a code as to why our language is the way it is.  I breezed through the book at a fairly fast rate — but I would definitely like to spend more time studying it to glean even more spelling knowledge to commit to memory.

Eide has also developed a curriculum that follows these principles — the “Logic of English Essentials” curriculum.  I’m very intrigued by it.  I think I could implement many of the principles in her book with the curriculum we are currently using (for example teaching the phonograms — our current curriculum recommends that anyway).  But, part of the reason I don’t think we are succeeding with our current curriculum is the lack of scripted lessons…or really any lesson planning at all.  “Essentials” takes care of that.  However, I’m also wondering how well Miss M could really keep the rules in mind while trying to write out words. She seems to have trouble already applying some of the rules she has learned.  But that might be lack of practice coming through as well.  I’ll need to do more research and consideration.

If you are at all curious about why words are spelled the way they are (whether you are looking for a new approach to spelling or not), I highly recommend this book!


Tech Tuesday – A New Meme! February 7, 2012

Filed under: Technology — kirstenjoyhill @ 11:02 pm
Tags: , ,

I’ve been thinking about writing a series of posts on “techie” stuff we use in our homeschool.  I love reading about great iPad apps and educational websites on other blogs, so I am excited to share some of the discoveries we’ve made.  I was also thinking that “Tech Tuesday” or something similar would have quite a ring to it as far as blog memes go.  Well Honey at Sunflower Schoolhouse was kind enough to start just such a meme after I suggested it in the comments on her blog!

I’m linking up with her Tech Tuesday meme and plan to do so on a regular basis.

We got an iPad late last September.  It is such a wonderful tool for learning (and for fun!).  I asked each of my kids what his or her most favorite app is:

Miss M (age 7.5) said:”My Horse” — An app that simulates having a horse that you can feed, take care of and even take to horse riding competitions. It’s perfect for my horse-loving daughter. This is an app the potential for in-app purchases, but of course those need the parent’s password (and I am not sure that Miss M even realized until recently that it was possible to buy things). It hasn’t been a big deal for us. She is able to enjoy it without spending any real money.

Mr E (turns 5 next month) said: “Red Birds” (aka Angry Birds) 🙂  This one is a classic, and needs no explanation!  My boys love to run around the house pretending to be “red birds”.  The only problem with this is that they want Miss M to play the role of the pigs in the Angry Birds game.  That usually does not go over well!

Mr K (just turned 3) said: “Robots!” (aka Toca Robot Lab).  Toca Boca makes many innovative apps for kids, and Mr K enjoys all of Toca’s apps that we have purchased so far.  The Robot Lab involves constructing a robot from a selection of parts, then maneuvering this robot through a maze of sorts.

I’m not surprised that each of them picked an app that is mostly “for fun” — but they do all have more educational apps they enjoy too, and I’ll be featuring some of those in future Tech Tuesday posts.

I started a new Pinterest board for techie stuff today too.  I *think* you can see this even if you aren’t a member of Pinterest.

Do your kids have favorite apps or websites we should check out?


Homeschooling with a New Baby in the Family: A “Day in the Life” February 4, 2012

Filed under: Babies and Tots,Getting Organized — kirstenjoyhill @ 9:33 pm

Homeschooling with a new baby in the familyYesterday, I wrote about a few things I’ve learned about homeschooling with a new baby in in the family.  Here’s an outline of what a “typical” day might look like for us with a 7.5 year old 2nd grader (Miss M), an almost-five-year-old doing some pre-k/k level work (Mr. E), a three-year-old (Mr. K) and a new baby (baby J, now 3 months)!

6:30am — I get up for the day and make a latte and some days make something for breakfast. (Some days I’ve made something the night before, other days we have a breakfast I don’t have to cook, like cereal or bagels).  This is my goal time to wake up — other days realistically it is 7am…or 7:30 if everyone would let me. 🙂 Usually Mr. K and sometimes Mr. E is up with me.

At maybe 6:45 or 7am until about 8:30am: I Eat breakfast, catch up on blogs and email while feeding baby J and also read my Bible (sometimes while feeding baby J, other times while eating breakfast).  If I am lucky, I also find time for a shower or bath.  Meanwhile, the kids eat breakfast and play (or Miss M reads).

8:30 to 9am: While the boys are playing and Miss M is getting dressed and reading her Bible, I make sure we’re ready for our school day and clean up from breakfast.  Or if we’re running behind, I’m still eating or getting ready for the day.

9am: We start school.  I encourage Miss M to be ready to go for the day by this time, having already read her Bible chapter.  She and I meet in the school room and I go over the plan for the day.  I show her the list of independent work I have for her, tell her what other work we have to do together, and discuss any other plans, chores or expectations for the day.  In an ideal world we would also have “calendar time” with the boys too…but the reality is that this happens maybe once every couple weeks!

9am to Noon is essentially our “school block” exactly the order of things depends on everyone’s moods and when baby J is sleeping and eating. Here’s how one day looks: (I don’t have actual times — it’s hard to watch the clock while all this is going on!)

  • Boys are running around pretending to be clone troopers shooting battle droids.  I encourage them to play with the Lego clone troopers instead since it is more quiet, and I help them get the Legos out.
  • Next, I go over the school work for the day with Miss M.  Since baby J is neither eating nor sleeping and the other two boys are playing , she starts on her independent work.  Today’s list includes cursive copywork, one row of a telling-time worksheet, a short page of subtraction facts, practicing her US States memory work, reading a chapter of a “classic starts” version of Little Women, and a page of spelling words to copy in her spelling workbook.
  • Meanwhile, I start a load of laundry and talk to the boys about their Lego creations
  • A short while later, baby J seems like he is getting tired, so I lay him down for his morning nap.  I let Miss M know we’re going to do Math soon.
  • As soon as J falls asleep, we start math. The boys wander away from the Legos, and I direct them toward some coloring books and dot-to-dot books.
  • We start working on the math lesson, but I haven’t reminded Mr. K to use the potty in a while, and he has an accident.  Miss M works on independent work for a few minutes again while I help Mr. K with clean up and new clothes)
  • Back to Math.  We finish the lesson, while the boys are now cutting up pieces of scrap paper into tiny pieces all over the school room floor to amuse themselves.  This is fine motor practice, right? They grudgingly clean in it up when they are done, and color a bit more.
  • After a quick oral quiz on spelling words, it’s break time.  I help everyone get a snack and set a timer for 15 minutes so I don’t lose track of time to get Miss M back to her school work.
  • Baby J is still asleep at the end of break time, so Miss M goes off to continue her independent work.  I ask Mr E if he would rather do a page in his phonics book (Phonics Pathways) or work on reading a book.  He picks reading a book, so I get one off the shelf (a “Now I’m Reading” book by Nora Gaydos) and he reads it with my help, while Mr K listens in.  I try and spend 10-15 minutes on some kind of focused learning activity with Mr E every day — but if he isn’t interested, I don’t push it.  Mr K is just turning 3 this month, and I rarely do anything formal with him.  He is picking up letters and number sort of by osmosis, I guess and he loves to color, cut paper and “write A’s” (he loves the letter and does not care to learn to write any other letter right now I guess!).  I’ll probably start trying to spend 5 or 10 minutes a day with Mr. K on something a little more “formal” starting next fall, if he is more inclined by that time. Mr E will be “officially” a Kindergartener in the fall, and I would imagine that his school time will increase to 20 or 30 minutes a day at that point.
  • Baby J wakes up and I call Miss M over to read a lesson from Mystery of History while I nurse the baby.  The boys don’t want to listen today, and they wander away to play in their bedroom.  After the History reading is over, Miss M goes to check off one remaining item on her to-do list, and then she is free to do as she pleases.  I call to the boys and see if they want to pick books to read while I finish nursing the baby, and they do.  The get books from the library basket and join me on the couch.
  • After J is done eating, it is time for me to make lunch.  The kids remind me they haven’t done anything on the iPad yet today (sometimes they use it during the school block for something educational…other times I use it to distract the boys if I am having trouble keeping them quiet while I work with Miss M!).  So they talk me into letting them each have a short turn to play a game for fun while I get lunch on the table.

Noon, or sometimes sooner: I make lunch, and we eat!

After lunch to 1:30ish: Unless we have somewhere to be (like our homeschool co-op days, where we actually eat around 11am and leave the house by 11:45), the kids have time to play freely.  They might head outside to our fenced in back yard if the weather is nice. Miss M often chooses to read for fun.  I feed the baby again if needed, and relax for a bit.

Afternoon “block” 1:30 to 4:30 or 5pm:  The block of time varies considerably from day to day and week to week.  Twice a month we have co-op.  We go to the library once a week (and sometimes this is combined with another errand as long as we are leaving the house).  Some weeks we also need one afternoon for a trip to Target or Aldi.  If we’re at home, the kids may play games, work on art projects, or just play inside or outside.  Some days I convince them to help me with chores.  Miss M often spends time reading.  I will try and read aloud to the boys while I am feeding J if they are willing.  While not tending to the needs and requests of the kids (or dealing with discipline issues), I am often trying to get a few chores done myself, work on some sort of project or do some cooking.  Or I am reading blogs or Facebook if I am too exhausted to be productive! 🙂  Toward the end of this block of time we have a snack and maybe do some clean up if I have the energy to follow through with making them do it! To be honest, clean up time is not usually very pleasant, and some days I just feel too tired to make sure they actually do it and not just complain about how they hate to clean up. It’s a character issue we’re working on around here!

Sometime around 5pm, or maybe 5:30pm I start cooking dinner.  For a while we were very successful in just having the kids play while I try to cook dinner…this has been more chaotic lately and stressful, so I am back to having them most days either watch half an hour to an hour of shows (DVD or Netflix), or letting them play a game on the computer or iPad.

Sometime between 6 and 6:30pm we sit down for dinner, then enjoy some time as a family before our bedtime routine!

That’s a general overview of what our days look like…but of course with 4 kids you can expect the unexpected!


Collage Friday – Enjoying our New School Room February 3, 2012

Filed under: Weekly Highlights — kirstenjoyhill @ 10:18 pm
Tags: ,

This week feels like it went by in a bit of a blur.  I was pretty distracted by organizational projects around the house — our school room project was finished by late Sunday night, but the boys’ room still needed organization, piles of items remained in the dining/living room to put away (mostly in rooms other than the school room), and I had a mountain of items to donate.  We had outings on three out of five days (usually once or twice is my max these days with both a baby and a not-very-well-potty-trained toddler), and some members of the family with a bit of a cold…which also thew off the rhythm of the week. Yet somehow, we still managed to get most of our school agenda for the week accomplished.  We really enjoyed doing school in our newly organized room!

Here are a few highlights:

1. Miss M found cursive to be more of a struggle than usual last week, and didn’t finish last week’s verse from “A Reason for Handwriting C” until Monday.  But she was so proud of it when she was done! This week she worked very diligently and finished all five “days” of this week’s lesson in only three school days.

2. Grandma Karen visited on Monday, which is always a treat! After a shortened morning of school, the kids worked together with Grandma to build an entire duplo zoo, among other things.

3. We’re so happy to have our newly re-organized school room, and one big benefit to the new arrangement is better access to our bookshelves! Here Miss M is taking a break from her regular school work with a picture book she rediscovered on our shelves (Mirette on the High Wire).

4. I got out our Lakeshore Learning “cars” themed math box for the boys. I had a nice time doing some counting and matching with Mr. K, and Mr. E had fun with it too.  Then they scattered all the cars out over the rug and the cars had some kind of a battle with the lego guys.  🙂

5.  Mr E. wanted to “draw rectangles too”  just like his big sister was doing in her Right Start math lessons.  So, he traced the 1 inch math squares. 🙂  We had a nice discussion squares being a special type of rectangle.

6.  Miss M completed five Right Start C lessons again this week! While the drawing lessons were not quite as much of a breeze as last week, Miss M persevered through the challenging points of using the drawing tools (and the tricky business of using the 1 inch squares for making a rectangle of a certain perimeter) to get each day’s lesson done.  I think she has inherited some of her daddy’s visual-spacial abilities that I don’t have! I don’t think I would have done well with these types of lessons at her age!

7.  A game of sequence turned into a lesson in patience and bearing with one’s younger sibling.  The object of the game is to get four chips in a row…you may notice there are multiple spots in the picture with four green chips.  Mr K really wanted to play, but didn’t quite “get” that he couldn’t put his chips any where he pleased.  Mr E and Miss M did an admirable job of humoring him while still playing the game by the rules themselves…until Mr. K started taking their chips off the board.  When I told Mr K that this wasn’t kind behavior melt-down ensued and Mr K needed to take a few minutes to rest with mommy.  Then Mr E. got a good reminder about being a good sport even when you lose.  Board games sure are character building!

8. We are finally back at it with our “Family Science Nights” with lessons from Building Foundations of Scientific Understanding (BFSU).  This week’s lesson was on gravity.  Which will hit the ground first, a flat piece of paper or a ball? How about a paper airplane or a ball? Why? And what does air resistance and gravity have to do with it? That was our discussion this week.

9. And finally…happy Three Months Old to baby J!

I’m linking up with Collage Friday @ Homegrown Learners and the Weekly Wrap Up @ Weird Unsocialized Homeschoolers!



5 Tips for Homeschooling with a New Baby in the Family

Filed under: Babies and Tots,Getting Organized — kirstenjoyhill @ 4:57 pm

Homeschooling with a new baby in the familyThere’s no doubt that the arrival of a new baby to a family brings schedule changes and requires extra work and flexibility from everyone.  Homeschooling is so wonderfully flexible, and many families chose to take an extended school break of some sort when a baby arrives.

When baby J arrived 3 months ago, we decided that extended time off wasn’t the best option for us.  While learning can certainly take place at any time, our formal school time is an anchor to the routine in our day.  We also didn’t want Miss M to lose valuable progress she was making in learning addition facts and telling time.   And I really enjoy teaching my children (most of the time, anyway!).

I planned our schedule for the year to accommodate taking two weeks off.  But then Tony suggested that he could be my “substitute teacher” while he took his two weeks off of work. We decided this would be a unique opportunity to not only maintain some routine in the face of all the other changes a new baby brings, but also for him to bring his perspective and ways of explaining things to the table.

But of course, about two weeks after J was born, Tony went back to work! Then it was up to me to carry out our plan of continuing on with school, even with a newborn.  Here’s a few things I have found helpful:

1. Have a thankful attitude and realistic expectations.  I knew that, especially at first, we might not get as much school work done as we had before baby J was born.  I let Miss M (our oldest — 7.5 years old/2nd grade) know what my priorities were (doing at least a few basics every day during the first couple months).  I wanted her (and I) to be thankful for what we were able to accomplish, not focused on what we were not getting done.

2. Do read-aloud subjects while the baby eats.  If you are stuck sitting on the couch anyway, why not read? I’m not the type to follow very much of a schedule at first for the baby’s feedings.  So, when the baby gets hungry, we often stop whatever else we’re doing and move to the couch to read history or other read-alouds.

3.  Make a daily to-do list of independent work.  Maybe this is something you do anyway! For us it, was something new.  Rather than have Miss M ask me for another thing to do after finishing one thing, I now make her a list of all the things she can do on her own on that day.  Sometimes she does all these things, and then comes to get me for the subjects we do together. Other days these independent items are checked off the list here and there while I am taking care of needs that come up for the other kids.

4.  Make a weekly plan of school work to get done for that week. I have to admit that while I made an overall schedule for the year, each week (before J was born) I rarely made a list of what I was specifically hoping to accomplish.  With tiredness or crying baby or potty training toddler to distract me (yes, we are crazy enough to be trying to potty train our almost-three-year-old while having a small baby!), it helps to have it all charted out.  Right now I’m using the daily assignment sheet printables from Homeschool Creations to plan my week.  I know they are meant to be a student assignment sheet, but I think they are cute so I am using them for me for right now.  🙂 I write in pencil, so it’s easy to change things up and be flexible if needed!

5. Do the subjects requiring the most focus while the baby sleeps.  Even though a tiny baby (assuming he/she isn’t crying) is not much of a distraction to school work, I find that I am more focused on teaching if I am not holding baby J while doing math lessons in particular.

I guess I would sum up these five tips as “Be Flexible!”  By being flexible and making school a priority in our day, we’ve found it to be very possible to make progress toward our academic goals over the past three months since baby J joined us.  Now getting the house clean and surviving taking all the kids to the store…I might have to read someone else’s tips on that.

Tomorrow, I’ll post what a “day in the life” looks like for us!


Book Discoveries this Week: “The Saturdays” and “3 in 1: A Picture of God” February 2, 2012

Filed under: Books — kirstenjoyhill @ 10:35 pm

the saturdaysI’m very drawn to books that take place in the 1st half of the 20th century, so it’s no surprise to me that I enjoyed The Saturdays by Elizabeth Enright.  The Saturdays follows the the four Melendy children on eight different Saturdays as they experience adventures alone and together in 1940s New York City.

The Melendy Children have a brilliant idea — to combine their weekly allowances, each then taking a turn to spend the entire amount on something not affordable on an individual weekly allowance.  In contrast to what almost any parent would allow today, the Melendys can each experience the city alone.   Imagine having an entire afternoon and $1.60 (a decent sum in those days) to do something memorable!  I was allowed some freedom starting at about age 12 to ride my bike around town and visit a few favorite hangouts (the frozen yogurt shop, the bowling alley, the mini golf course, and of course Taco Johns for taco Tuesday!), but I lived in a small town of about 15,000 people at the time.  It’s hard to imagine I would have been allowed the same freedom in a large city.   But the 1940s were a different era, and perhaps that was not so out of the ordinary for similarly-aged children to be allowed such freedoms back then.

Miss M seemed to enjoy the book as well.  We had a good time discussing cultural references of the era (I had to explain who Hitler and Mussolini were, among others), and how everyday things have changed over time (like the furnace powered by coal vs. our furnace at home powered by natural gas).  I even learned a new word: lugubrious. tells me that this means “mournful, dismal, or gloomy, especially in an affected, exaggerated, or unrelieved manner.”

While the chapters in the book are somewhat unrelated to one another (maybe “episodic” would be a good description?), the lack of a strong plot arc was not enough to deter me from liking the book.  I think we’ll read Enright’s three other novels about the Melendy’s at some future point.

It was another uneventful picture book week.  The boys were again enjoying lots of “Chuggington” and “Mater’s Tall Tales.”   I think I found some interesting picture books during our library trip this week, so perhaps I can entice them into listening to something else this coming week.  We also made our own tall bookshelf more accessible in our school room re-organization project over the weekend.   For many months toys had been piling up in front of the bookcase and we were rarely reading any of the books on the shelf.  This week I’ve seen the kids browsing our own books many times. I’ve also run across several books I’m looking forward to reading to the kids in the near future.

One book I recently read to the boys from our own bookshelf is “3 in 1: A Picture of God“.  This book takes the tricky subject of the trinity and brings it down to a level even a preschooler can grasp.   An apple has three parts (peel, flesh and core).  Each part is apple, yet there are not three apples.  God is Father, Son and Holy Spirit, yet He is one God and not three.  While I’m sure there are many theological nuances this analogy doesn’t capture, it satisfies the curiosity of my boys.  “3 in 1: A Picture of God” also does a nice job of presenting the basic concepts of the gospel.   I found this book at a used book sale a couple years ago, and I’m so glad I picked it up!

I’m linking up with Read-Aloud Thursday @ Hope is the Word!