Homeschool Discoveries

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

Top Ten “Sciency” Things We’re Doing This Year September 24, 2012

Filed under: Science — kirstenjoyhill @ 10:42 pm

Our first few years of homeschooling were not very “sciency”.  Despite our best intentions, we were only half-way successful at implementing a very challenging-to-implement science curriculum called Building Foundations of Scientific Understanding (BFSU).  I tried teaching the lessons, but had a hard time knowing what to do.  We tried having Family Science Nights with Tony teaching, and did have a fair number of those, but not as many as we would have liked.

It also started feeling like science was in a bit of a “box.”   It was a subject we could only learn about at certain times — when Daddy was around, and we had time for a BFSU lesson and everyone was ready to listen attentively.

In the late spring or early summer it really hit me what I found most difficult about BFSU — it was not JUST that it was hard to look through the dense text of the lessons and figure out what to say — but also that there were no visuals or printables at my fingertips.  After complaining to various people about this, I finally thought of my own solution collaborative Pinterest boards (linked to my blog post about it) for BFSU users to join together and find these resources!

Looking through great resources on Pinterest led me to spend more time looking through the lessons, and I eventually decided that maybe BFSU wasn’t so intimidating after all.  And in general, I found myself more excited about science.   And in general, one thing led to another and I realized we were already having a very “sciency” year and liking it very much!

So here are 10 “sciency” things we’re doing (and maybe a few things you can do too!):

1. We’re making the most of the curriculum we already have. For us, that means we’re still doing BFSU volume one. I will be stepping out and trying to teach more of the lessons myself…But I will still ask Tony to help out with some of the demonstrations!  We have only a handful of BFSU Vol. 1 lessons that we haven’t done at all.  But there is so much depth in Volume 1 that given the ages of the kids, we will hang out in Volume 1 for a bit longer.  I also have to admit that after taking a brief look at volume two I am a bit intimidated.  You need Real Science Stuff like a microscope and a balance.  I’m not quite ready for that.  Maybe in 2013!

2. We’re adding some science that Miss M can do on her own.  I heard about Sassafrass Science Zoology late this summer, and I was very intrigued by it.  The price was low enough I decided to make the leap and try it out.   So, far so good!  Now even if life intervenes and I don’t get to as many BFSU lessons as I would like, I know Miss M has something she can work on pretty much on her own.

3. Reading Science Biographies — Starting with Scientists Through the Ages.  Miss M requested this — we’ll be reading one or possibly two of these short biographical sketches each week, and then Miss M will complete (with help) a notebooking page.

4. Interest led science topics (especially for the boys). The boys have been nuts about volcanoes and space recently.  I’ve been finding them printables and books and encouraging them to draw pictures about what they are learning and thinking about.  I love that they are so curious and it’s pretty easy to find resources to keep them happily learning about their current topic of interest.

5. Writing down questions the kids ask — to ask Daddy later or to research.  Despite having had college level science classes, there are so many things I’ve forgotten and many things I’ve never learned about science.  Right now, Miss M wants to know why people yawn and why people (especially young kids) rub their eyes when they are tired.  That reminds me, I still need to ask google the answers to these questions.  🙂

6. Doing “Science-y” fun activities — We did solar oven cookies this summer.  The kids did their own “mad scientist” demonstrations recently.  Tony helped the kids build model rockets last week.  The boys are also perpetually requesting to build robots, so that may be on the horizon as well. I’m putting Snap Circuits on the kids’ Christmas lists.  All these activities bring up fun science topics of conversation.

7. Watching science-related shows/videos – the kids are currently loving Magic School Bus and SciGirls.  I also bought a subscription to the videos at The Happy Scientist through the Homeschool Buyers co-op.  We’ve only watched two videos so far, but the kids liked it (and remembered things from the videos days later!), so I think we’ll definitely get our money’s worth from that purchase.

8. Reading books — I’m actively encouraging the kids to browse through the entire shelf I already have of science-related books, plus looking for new books at the library of course!

9. Random nature study/observation opportunities as they occur (and other outdoor activities like stargazing!).  We found raised monarch caterpillars over the summer, found an amazing big green caterpillar and watched a spider earlier this summer too.  Today the kids brought a “pet ant” inside in a homemade habitat (we’ll see how that goes!).  Nature observation opportunities in the city aren’t quite the same as the opportunities those who live in less urban areas have, but we try and make the most of it.

10.  Science at our co-op.  Not only does Miss M have a science class which she tells me she absolutely loves, and Mr. E will be doing some science/nature topics in his K class at co-op…I am teaching a science class.  I am still surprising myself that I am doing this.  🙂  I am teaching a 1st/2nd grade science class!   I have nine kids to teach for 45 minutes twice a month.  I am going to rely heavily on science lessons that Tony already did with the kids from BFSU, but I am putting some together myself.  I did a “new to me” lesson for the very first co-op meeting, and it went okay!  I haven’t done much group teaching in the past, so I am new to “classroom” dynamics, but I think we’re going to have a lot of fun.

I’m linking up with:

Top Ten Tuesday at Many Little Blessings


Collage Friday: Spotlight on K and PreK September 21, 2012

Filed under: Weekly Highlights — kirstenjoyhill @ 10:57 pm

It’s already time for another week-in-review.  It hardly seems possible…but I guess since I wrote last week’s review this week (on Monday), it does make this week “seem” a bit shorter.

I tend to write a lot about what I’m doing with Miss M (3rd grade), and less about Mr. E (Kindergarten) and Mr. K (age 3.5 — Preschool).  I tried to take a few more purposeful pictures of the boys this week!

1. While we occasionally pull out Phonics Pathways for reading practice, these days most of Mr. E’s reading practice comes from easy-to-read books of his choosing.  I typically set a timer for 10 minutes.  If he wants to keep going after that, great…if not, 10 minutes of practice per day is fine for his age.  Lately I’ve not been introducing too many new phonics concepts — we’re mostly just practicing what he has already learned over the past few months and developing greater fluency with those blends and phonograms.

Mr. K always listens when Mr. E is reading or doing phonics exercises.  Usually, after Mr. E reads, Mr. K picks a book for me to read to him.  🙂

2. Speaking of phonograms and spelling, I invited Mr. E to play Miss M’s spelling game with us (more on that below).  He did a great job with writing and spelling cvc words, and a few trickier four letter words and words generally considered sight words (like “the”). Mr. K ignored us while we were playing this game for the most part, but joined in at the end trying his hand at writing a few single letters. He can write some nice vowels, but that’s about it (fine for a 3 year old!).

3.  and 4.  The boys continued their interest in space and planets this week.  These are a few books we read from our bookshelves, plus we just picked out a bunch more space books at the library.  I also bought a Hands of a Child Lapbook ebook on “Nearby Space” (it was a perfectly timed $5 ebook-of-the-week sale!), and printed out some of these nice draw and  journal pages for Erik to draw a picture and do some handwriting. For this page he dictated to me what he wanted to say (one sentence: “This is Mars”), and I wrote it down on another pieces of paper.  Then he copied it on to his journal page! Mr. K likes having his own draw/journal pages and lapbook pieces too.  🙂

5. and 6. This week for Math, Mr.  E and I went through lessons 17-23 and part of 24 in Right Start B! This kid is just eating up math right now, as fast as I can shovel it in.  Almost every day I had to tell him that we had done enough.  I think he might do math for an hour or more if I let him!  He also sat in on some of Miss M’s math, and was fascinated by the base 10 picture cards I pulled out for a subtraction review with Miss M.  He seemed to really be connecting with how those worked.  While I don’t know that he has mastered all the concepts in those lessons we covered, I am trying to keep the pace fast lest he get bored (that happened regularly last year when I tried to actually do RS A lessons with him).

Mr K often sits with us for math too (even at times I suggest he may go play…but he just sits and absorbs it like a little sponge as often as not!).  Lately Mr. K has been asking to “do math too”, so I have been teaching him the Right Start “Yellow is the Sun” song and working with him on knowing quantities 1-5 with beads, tally sticks, etc.

7.  I pulled out the Pattern Blocks primarily for Mr. K, but everyone had a good time using them.  I think it’s been over a year since we have used these so it was fresh and new!

8. Everyone loves every chance they are given for learning or fun on the iPad.  🙂 Toca Boca Band was a new app this week, and a fave for everyone.

9. Fun table work for the boys to do while I worked with Miss M — From 1+1+1=1 I printed out Animal Alphabet printables for Mr. K (but Mr E wanted some too!) as well as Solar System printables for both boys.

Here’s a few tidbits from Miss M’s week (3rd grade):


History: Most of our work for US History this week consisted of historical fiction reading.  Miss M is reading Pocahontas and the Strangers independently.  We  finished up Puritan Adventure and started the Witch of Blackbird Pond as bedtime read-alouds.  I had really good intentions of doing some notebooking or other projects on paper with Miss M to get on paper some of what she has learned so far about the Pilgrims and other early colonists, but it just didn’t happen.

Science: I added Sassafras Science Volume 1: Zoology to our science studies as a program that Miss M can complete mostly independently.  A lot of information is conveyed via a story about two kids who go on a trip around the world to learn about various animals and their habitats.  This is supplemented with encyclopedia or other readings about the animals and some short notebooking pages.  Pictured is Miss M’s notebooking page about Lions.  She filled in the top section and narrated the bottom portion to me.  Miss M will spend maybe 15 minutes per day on this science program. She likes it so far!

Spelling: This was a review week (Lesson 10) for us in Logic of English.  Miss M identified from a list a dozen or so words from the last five lessons she felt like she wanted to practice.  Miss M’s favorite review and practice activity was Spelling Basketball.  I called out the words and she wrote them down on a half sheet of paper.  Then she could crumple up the paper and toss it in the basket.  One point for every correctly spelled word, plus an extra point if it makes it in the basket!

Math: We only made it through three math lessons this week for Miss M.  We breezed through lessons 121 and 122 of RightStart C.  Then we hit the next review lesson, 123.  We had fun playing the game pictured, which was not a RS game (inspiration from here), but fit in perfectly.  But in going through the review worksheet in Miss M’s workbook, I discovered that Miss M had forgotten how to do 4 digit subtraction with trading.   My plan to spend yesterday’s math time reviewing this concept did not go over well.  Nor did my attempt to present this material today.  The “school principal” was called in (aka Daddy) for an “after school” math lesson tonight.  This was as much a character building opportunity as it was an opportunity to review a forgotten math concept.  Eventually, the method for subtraction was remembered and (I hope) Miss M is better prepared to be a humble, teachable, ready to learn math student.  🙂

Have a wonderful weekend!

I’m linking up with:

Collage Friday, the Weekly Wrap-Up and Preschool/5K Corner!

Homegrown Learners


Book Discoveries this Week: Puritan Adventure by Lois Lenski

Filed under: Books — kirstenjoyhill @ 5:21 pm

Miss M and I finished reading Puritan Adventure by Lois Lenski earlier this week.   This was a title I found via All Through the Ages, a great book for finding suggestions of both fiction and non-fiction read-alouds for any time period.

Puritan Adventure takes place in the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1635.   Many historical fiction books I’ve looked at for our history studies take place in the early Jamestown/Plimoth colonial days, or in much later colonial times (after 1700), so I thought this was a nice addition to our list.  It’s clear from Lenski’s forward and Bibliography that she put a lot of time into researching this novel.  From her research she created an imaginary town to serve as a composite picture of what life in a Puritan settlement might have been like at that time.

The story in Puritan Adventure centers around the Partridges, a well-established family in the town.  Goodwife Partridge’s sister Charity comes to join them in New England.  She is a young widow, and it’s clear almost from the beginning of the story that she has not come because she shares the convictions of the Puritans in the colony.  Not that she is not God-fearing — but austerity, sobriety and plain clothing are clearly not her way of life.

While adjusting to life in the new world, Aunty Charity tries to also bring the best of Old England to the new — Christmas-keeping and going “a-shroving” and “a-maying” are strictly forbidden by the colony’s laws, but she manages to find ways to introduce these holidays to the children and bring some joy to their seriously sober lives.

Meanwhile, another thread of the story revolves around Patty Tucker, a servant girl and “redemptioner”  — aka someone who is “paying off” the cost of her voyage to the new world by working as a servant for a required number of years.  Goody Lumpkin, Patty’s mistress, is cruel, leading Patty to be a poor servant in return.  Like Aunt Charity, Patty is also drawn to sharing some of the joy of Old England with the children of the town.

The vague idea I had in my mind of Puritans before reading this story is basically true of many of the townspeople in Lenski’s story.  The religious leaders are concerned with everyone following strict rules and regulations to a T.  “Tithing men” are assigned to each family (one watches over a few families in the town) to make sure they keep up with the rules.   Violators are punished by stocks, pillories or even whipping or ducking (getting dunked under the water!).

While definitely a fictional story, Lenski portrays that some may have wavered in their conviction of this way of life.   Mothers in the story weep with joy as they see their children celebrating Shrovetide and remember their celebrations of the holiday as a child, while later still being willing to condemn Aunt Charity for passing on the knowledge of these celebrations.   And everyone puts up with Aunt Charity’s actions for a surprisingly long time.

I recommend this book as an interesting story with a few caveats — the language is a bit difficult to understand at times.  Lenski wrote the dialog in the way that the Puritans probably spoke at the time and there are plenty of “ye” and “thee” and other such trappings of early modern English.  Miss M seemed to follow the story fairly well despite this (and with a few explanations of word definitions as we went).  Lenski also uses some terminolgy to refer to the Native Americans in the story that some may find offensive — such as the use of the word “squaw” and describing the Indian women as “fat” and “waddling” in a few places.  I tried my best to skip over some of the more offensive descriptions, which didn’t take much away from the story.

Lenski was also not shy about incorporating what was probably a somewhat common way of treating servants at the time — Patty tucker is often whipped and otherwise physically abused by her mistress.   Patty’s response to this behavior is held up in contrast to her behavior when treated much more kindly by Aunt Charity and others, so it does provide an interesting point of discussion.

One of my favorite parts of any work by Lois Lenski is her illustrations.  I have a special place in my heart for Lenksi as an illustrator, since she illustrated the first four volumes of my all time favorite children’s book series (the Betsy-Tacy books by Maud Hart Lovelace).  Her style of illustration is very distinct, and as I saw the illustrations in this book, it made me imagine just a bit the girls in the Betsy-Tacy books dressed up in 17th century garb.  😉

Finally, I just have to say I’m so glad my library keeps old books like these.  I loved this relic of the past in the back of the book:

The dates on this card are from 1957! 🙂

I’m linking up with:


Meal Planning and Homeschooling September 17, 2012

Filed under: Getting Organized — kirstenjoyhill @ 3:32 pm

I can’t imagine myself ever becoming a food blogger — I take lousy food pictures and rarely, if ever, make up my own recipes.  I do, however enjoy menu planning and cooking (at least most of the time).  And of course menu planning is a big time saver (very necessary with four kids and needing to spend a good part of each day educating them!).

So, I was pretty excited when I saw that the topic for  our monthly homeschool support group meeting was going to be “Organization in Cooking Meals: Meal Planning to Help Free Up Our Homeschool Days.”  I love to both share things that I’ve learned about meal planning and learn from others as well.

The mainstay of my menu planning for the almost ten years we’ve been married is a basic monthly calendar, always filled in with a pencil:

The magnetic frame is a freebie I got years ago, and each January I print out a new year’s worth of calendars to put on the fridge.   I’ve used these monthly calendars in various ways over the years — sometimes filling in a month at a time, other times filling in just a week or two at once.

But whether I do it once a month or once a week, it still takes a lot of time and energy to pull out my menu planning inspiration  (lists of favorite recipes, my binder of recipe print outs, and my laptop full of bookmarks and Pinterest recipe pins, etc), and decide what to fill in each menu square.

So, I decided a few months ago to try something new.  I created six weeks of menus for summer back in May, and rotated through those for four months.  Then at the end of the summer I created a five week menu rotation for fall/winter that I hope to use for at least the next four months.

Here’s what the Fall menu rotation looks like hanging on my fridge:

At the beginning of the month I use this menu rotation spreadsheet to fill in the monthly calendar (in pencil, of course!).  If there are certain nights I know at the beginning of the month we will definitely not be eating at home, I just skip those meals from the menu rotation, making a note somewhere that I skipped them in case I need meal inspiration some other day — perhaps a day we’re just not in the mood for something I had planned, or if I end up not finding a reasonable price on the ingredients for another meal I had planned.

Using this method I am not only saving time in menu planning, but I have a better likelihood of saving time when grocery shopping as well.  I didn’t try this at all over the summer (and I had more time then, since we weren’t doing full school days!).  But in the interest of saving time, I attempted to purchases as many groceries as possible at the beginning of the month! Sure, I still have to run into the store for milk and produce, but that takes much less time and stress than buying a week’s worth of groceries!

Having all my meat for the month also allowed me to do a bit of freezer cooking — At the beginning of the month I cooked enough ground beef and shredded chicken to use for all the meals in this five week menu! I’m also trying to do just a bit of other freezer cooking — doubling a meal here and there.  But for now, I’m pretty happy just to have most of my groceries on hand and some already-cooked meat in the freezer!

So, what about sales? With my limited time right now, I am not doing double couponing or looking for the loss leaders every week — I’m mostly going to Rainbow for double coupons when I need cereal.  If I happen to find time for a special sale on some other items, great! I can incorporate it into my current plan or save the item for a future month.  I am doing most of my shopping at Aldi, which has pretty consistently low prices on most items I buy.  I’m sure I could do a bit better on overall spending, but my hope is that I’ll save money by shopping less often…and of course my time is valuable too!


Collage…Monday? (A very late week-in-review)

Filed under: Weekly Highlights — kirstenjoyhill @ 7:28 am

Better late than never,  I guess.  Despite the fact that it is Monday morning right now and we are about to embark on a brand-new school week, I wanted to still post a weekly wrap-up…so if nothing else I can remember what we did this week.

Between a long trip around town Friday afternoon to buy a new fridge seal, a chore that took most of the day Saturday, family time and grocery shopping on Sunday after church and then some church ministry responsibilities I needed to take care of on Sunday afternoon and evening, I just couldn’t find a time to write this up.  I am still hopeful that this may be the week that I get back into my regular blogging routine since I still have so many other things I want to write about.  Or maybe not since I have another quarterly editing deadline looming. I guess becoming a super-awesome daily blogger will have to wait! 😉

Here are a few highlights from our week:

1.  Last weekend I re-arranged some of the kids’ books.  Now at least when Baby J does this while we are doing school, it is mostly board books he is pulling off the shelf!

2. Miss M wanted to be a “mad scientist”, and put on a “show” for us involving science demonstrations she had seen at a birthday party.  Not to be outdone, Mr. E also made a great concoction that ended up looking at bit like a slimy green volcano.

3. Volcanoes are so last week…as of the middle of this past week, space is the boys’ new science obsession.  Ever quick to the printer, I found them some coloring sheets and a printable book.  Then daddy even let everyone stay up late and he took them outside star-gazing on Friday night.  (Well, as good as one can do in the middle of the city!).  I often miss taking pictures of the Kindergarten work that Mr. E is doing, but we also practiced writing lower case letters, and he practiced ten minutes of reading each day.

4. Miss M and I played Phonogram Tic-Tac-Toe  this week.  We both thought that was a fun Logic of English game.  Miss M worked on Lesson 9 of LOE this past week, but still needs to take a test on those words.  I entered some (so far) of the Logic of English Essentials spelling lists into Spelling City, so Miss M can use their iPad app to take a spelling test each week.  It’s much lower stress for both of us to do spelling assessment that way,

5. It was a big week for RightStart math games as well.  In this picture we are playing a multiplication game called “Who’s on Top?”  Miss M and I both liked this one. Some RightStart games do turn out to be boring or confusing.  We tried one called “Multiple Authors” earlier in the week, and we were pretty confused!  Miss M completed 117-120 in Right Start C.  Mr. E is still sailing along through Right Start B’s early lessons.  We did lessons 13-16, including playing Go to the Dump and Memory to find pairs that equal 10.  I am amazed that he seems to already have 10 partitions fairly well memorized!

6. Recycled art this week — a “can Rapunzel” and a “can drum” made by Miss M.  The boys made can robots (all of this Miss M’s suggestion and leading…I love that she can lead the boys in crafts!), but I think they broke/lost them from rough play soon after they were made!

7. Miss M read many books from our history book basket this week (some I assigned, some she read on her own time, even on Saturday!).  I also “assigned” her to pick an activity to try from one of the activity books I picked out for this unit.  She waited until I could buy strawberries, then made her own “Berry Ink” and wrote with a homemade quill pen (made from a feather we found this summer).  Very cool!

8.  Miss M and I channeled our inner pioneer women and scrubbed the floor by hand on Saturday.  I really spent almost all afternoon at it on Saturday! We rent an old house with an old, old floor that never looked clean even after I mopped it.  I have known for a while that I really needed to put some elbow grease into it and scrub out the ground in dirt.  The floor is now several shades lighter in color even than what it looked like when we moved into this house three years ago!

9.  In many ways, most exciting of all was our Sunday morning.  Miss M and Mr. E both decided a week or two ago that they wanted to get baptized! Both have placed their faith in Christ and having seen others at our church get baptized, they wanted to take this step as well.  We studied verses on baptism this week and they took this step of faith and obedience on Sunday.  We are so proud of them and happy for the chance they have to grow up learning to obey God from a young age.

I hope your weekend was wonderful and that you are ready for a new week!


Book Discoveries this Week: Margaret Pumphrey’s Pilgrim Stories September 13, 2012

Filed under: Books,History — kirstenjoyhill @ 10:46 pm

As we were wrapping up our unit on Native Americans and Explorers last week, we needed a new read aloud.  We stopped our last one mid-way through due to boredom.  I pulled out a couple of books for our next topic (early settlers/colonists) and a couple non-history-related read-alouds and let Miss M pick.  She picked Margaret Pumphrey’s Pilgrim Stories, revised and expanded by Elvajean Hall.  It’s this edition on amazon.   Apparently there are at least a couple modern revisions/expansions of this 1910 work available.  I can’t compare this edition to the others since I don’t have any of those on hand.

This wasn’t a book that I originally had on my American History book list.   However when I saw it at the Half Price books tent sale for a buck, it was a no-brainer to pick it up.  There is no shortage of books about the pilgrims.  Without much effort, I feel like half our history book basket is about Pilgrims, the Mayflower or the first Thanksgiving.

Margaret Pumphrey’s Pilgrim Stories turned out to be a fine opening for our studies on this topic.  It’s a fairly easy-to-read chapter book with 17 short chapters.  I could have very easily handed it over to Miss M for her to read herself.  But I’m glad I didn’t.  The book opens in 1606 with Queen Anne visiting what turns out to be the home of some of the separatists.  A young girl gives away the secret that her family worships God not in the official church, but in their own meeting.   Soon the separatists are hiding and being even more secretive to avoid capture by the authorities.    Their journey takes them to Holland for several years as they pursue religious freedom (I must have slept through that part of elementary school history class – I didn’t know they went to Holland first!), before they eventually join with many “strangers” to take the journey to the New World.

In Pilgrim Stories we learn not only what the Pilgrim mothers and fathers were doing, but what the children were up to also –some making trouble and getting in the way, others being helpful and brave.  The book follows the story of the Pilgrims through the first Thanksgiving and the arrival of another ship from England (The Fortune) shortly after.

As I put together our reading list for this unit, I noticed that many books leave the story there.  I’ve found a lot of books about Jamestown and Plymouth, and then many more books that pick up the story of life in the colonies in the 1700’s.

We’re filling in the pieces of what life might have been like in New England about 15 years after the first Pilgrims landed in our next read-aloud: Puritan Adventure by Lois Lenski.  I’m sure I’ll be sharing more about that book for a future Book Discoveries post.

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


Collage Saturday: Looking for our Schedule Groove September 8, 2012

Filed under: Weekly Highlights — kirstenjoyhill @ 8:16 am

Happy Weekend! It hardly feels like it should be the weekend already with the four-day school week.  We took Labor Day as a holiday since Tony was home from work — I hit the 50% off sale at the local thrift store, then we biked to the beach in the afternoon.   A fun send-off to summer.  🙂

Our four days of school had their ups and downs.  On the down side, we really still haven’t hit our groove in terms of our schedule.   Both Miss M and Mr. E have requested to have their subjects-with-mom first.   Sorry guys — you can’t both be first!  Miss M seems easily distracted by the boys’ fun Preschool and K work and would like to watch or join in…but she also wants to get school done by lunch if possible.   After a major meltdown on Wednesday, Miss M let me know that she felt too much time pressure with the first schedule I set up.   But today when I tried having a 50 minute block with her to do her “with mom” subjects back to back, Mr. E had really hard time waiting for his turn.   I try another schedule iteration on Monday and hopefully we’ll find something soon that works for us.

Despite meltdowns and schedule issues, we still had plenty of learning and fun this week:

1.  I pulled out some preschool busy bags to help keep the boys busy and quiet during some of Miss M’s work-with-mom time.  It worked…a little bit anyway.

2.  Miss completed lessons 113-116 in RightStart C — introducing on area, reviewing subtraction strategies and practicing Multiplication.  I liked how these lessons were short and sweet.  At least they were sweet once subtraction strategies were firmly in the forefront of the student’s mind.  🙂  In other math news, Mr E is breezing through early lessons in RightStart B.  We did portions of RightStart A, but didn’t necessarily go through the program sequentially.  So, some is review and some is not.  We either reviewed or covered for the first time portions of lessons 4-12!

3. We’re trying some calendar time all together.  It’s easy fun/review for Miss M, new and “right on” for something Mr E is ready to learn and a bit above Mr. K’s head.  But we’re trying to spend a few minutes on it all together each day.

4. This was a light history week for us.  We’re finishing up our unit on American Indians and Explorers by gluing important explorers dates into our timeline book.  We already started a read-aloud related to our next unit, and next week we’ll jump in full speed with Settlers/Pilgrims/Colonists.

5. Miss M requested we make homemade lemonade with fresh squeezed lemon juice, since we didn’t get that checked off our summer bucket list.  So we enjoyed our lemonade Friday afternoon along with a couple of pastries and had a fun snack/story time.

6. I haven’t put a lot of effort yet in how to keep Baby J out of trouble during school time.  Luckily taking all the clean towels out of the laundry basket doesn’t cause too much chaos.  😉

7. I finally added labels to all our school drawers.  Unfortunately, Baby J immediately pulled all the labels off the bottom set of drawers!!!

8. The most exciting thing that happened to us this is week is…we bought a new van!!! After years of saving, we paid cash for a 2007 Toyota Sienna.  It is much bigger than the old, tiny mini-van we drove previously.  I even fit 12 bags of groceries in the back with room to spare after a big stock-up trip.

9. I purchased a set of the small We Choose Virtues flashcards to try out this program. I’ve read a lot of positive reviews of this program so I was excited to give it a try.  We chose “diligent” as our first virtue.  So far I am really liking how it motivates the boys and gives them a practical handle on how they can grow in something that is a bit of an abstract concept.   Even Mr. K was walking around telling us he was “Diligent Man” while reciting the catchphrase from the card and actually cleaning up his duplos! Yay!

10. Random cute smiley baby J picture…just because.  🙂

11. – 12.  It was a science-y sort of week…both in ways I had planned and ways that  I had not planned.  Last week we reviewed lesson D-2 (Day, Night and the Earth’s Rotation) in BFSU.   This week I had planned to cover lessons D-5 (Time and the Earth’s Turning) and D-6 (Seasonal Changes and the Earth’s Orbit).  We did cover, but not finish, portions of both of those lessons.   Thanks to inspiration from a library book, the boys begged to study volcanoes.  That’s what they are doing in the picture.  In #11 Mr. K is perusing a Magic Schoolbus book about volcanoes.  #12 shows some of Mr. E’s work — a notebooking page he narrated to me, a drawing and a Hands of a Child lapbook piece from V is for Volcano.  We also had a random lesson about how Yo-Yos works after Miss M got a new yo-yo.  Thank-you Google for helping me find the answers about questions like this!

Have a wonderful weekend!

I’m linking up with Collage Friday and the Weekly Wrap-Up!

Homegrown Learners

Book Discoveries this Week: Om-Kas-Toe and Walk the World’s Rim September 6, 2012

Filed under: Books — kirstenjoyhill @ 11:19 pm

This week we’re finishing up our first “unit” or topic of our US History studies — Native Americans and Explorers.  We did two read-alouds related to this topic.  Maybe I should really only count it as one-and-a-half since we didn’t actually care for the second one well enough to finish it!

Right before our vacation we read Om-Kas-Toe: Blackfeet Twin Captures an Elkdog by Kenneth Thomasma.    Om-Kas-Toe and his sister Twin Girl are very lucky indeed — while both children are not normally allowed to survive when twins are born, their mother works hard and proves she can take care of both babies.  A series of lucky events seems to follow Om in particular, as he finds a very smart bird that he keeps as a pet and this bird leads him to a number of interesting discoveries.

At the time the story opens, the Blackfeet tribe has not yet been introduced to the horse.  Om and an older member of the tribe see a horse for the first time being led by a member of an unfriendly band of Indians.  This strange animal appeared to be large and powerful like an Elk, yet tame like a dog, hence the name “Elkdog”.   Eventually, Om and his sister are lucky enough to capture their tribe’s first Elkdog.  Om is growing up and proving himself responsible and is given the opportunities for even greater adventures and responsibilities.

The kids and I all really enjoyed this book.  I read this book during the day (as opposed to a bedtime read-aloud with Miss M) since I thought the boys would enjoy it too.  While Mr. K (age 3) got bored and wandered off at times, Mr E (age 5) was riveted — especially when Om or other characters in the story used any weapons.  :-).   After the book was over, he even asked if we could purchase a copy for ourselves so we could read it again some time (our copy came from Interlibrary loan — rare for us since our large library system carries almost everything that we want to read!).

Last week I started Walk the World’s Rim by Betty Baker as a history-related bedtime read-aloud with Miss M.  This story follows a young (fictitious) Native American boy from a poor tribe as he sets off on a journey with (real) Spanish explorer Cabaza de Vaca, two fellow Spaniards and a slave.   The party of travelers is taking a long route to Mexico, where they hope riches, honors and luxury await them.    To be honest, Miss M and I were both bored of this book by about half way through.  I skimmed ahead through the rest of the book and didn’t see much in it I was excited to read about.  I found myself hoping to find some excuse to skip reading it.

Since this wasn’t a classic work or a “must read”, I decided it would be okay to *gasp* just not finish it.  We rarely do this, but I didn’t want to waste our time given the long list of potential read-alouds I have for this year. Miss M seemed a bit relieved when I suggested we had the option to not finish the book!

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


Collage Saturday: First Day of School! September 1, 2012

Filed under: Weekly Highlights — kirstenjoyhill @ 4:47 pm

Wow…it’s been three weeks since my last Collage/Week-in-Review post!  Two weeks ago at this time we had just finished up our Vacation Bible Camp at our church.  It was my third year organizing/directing the program:

After VBC week we had our family vacation/staycation.  You can see a few photos of that in this post. 🙂

That brings us to this week:

I like how the collage turned out but I didn’t quite get them in “order” as I wanted to tell the story of our week.  (In other words “sorry for the weird # order in this post”).  😉

Of course after a week of vacation/staycation. we had piles of laundry, bags to unpack and some overdue dishes from quick meals eaten on the way to and from our family fun.  So most of Monday was devoted to “vacation recovery.”  And with the busyness of VBC and summer fun in the weeks prior to VBC, I didn’t quite get all my intended school year preparations done.   A lot of Tuesday and Wednesday were devoted to that effort.

The kids were more helpful than usual in getting chores done around the house, and also did a great job amusing themselves with efforts like building the “world’s tallest duplo tower” (#8) and getting some very early Christmas preparations done by making some painted pine cone ornaments (#9).  We also enjoyed some impromptu nature observation as a very large (for around here, anyway) spider made a web about 2 ft. in diameter between the deck/part of the house. (#1 & #2).

Finally on Thursday I hoped we would be ready to “officially” start our school year with the first full day of school.   My mom visited on Wednesday, and stayed overnight since she had an obligation nearby on Thursday morning.  Having grandma around first thing in the morning was, of course, a bit distracting.  The kids found out on Wednesday about a book-making contest sponsored by our nearby Little Free Library, and they were eager to work on their books (#4 and #5).  Taking our back-to-homeschool pictures took a bit longer than I expected (#11 — see the rest of our “student photos” in this post).

So, needless to say, we didn’t accomplish our new “regular schedule” much at all on Thursday!  We did have some fun with handwriting practice outside (#10).  Mr. E is learning his lower case letters.

On Friday we did something my kids have been asking about all summer after reading this book — “Backwards Day”!   Tony was getting back from a short work trip on Friday morning (flying home on a redeye flight from the west coast), so it seemed like the perfect day to do it.  Usually the day ends with daddy coming home, but on Friday that’s how our day began.  We actually started Backwards Day with “lunch for dinner” the night before (aka a really easy dinner since daddy was gone!).  Then we had “dessert” for breakfast (apple crisp with a bit of ice cream on top — #6), “dinner” for lunch (meatloaf — something we never eat for lunch), and “breakfast” for dinner.  And of course the kids wore their clothes backwards!

We also completed our first “regular day” of school on Friday, trying out the new daily schedule I created.   I’m trying out short subject blocks of about 20 minutes each, with some five or ten minute breaks interspersed through the school day.  It felt a bit frenetic switching from topic to topic and kid to kid so quickly…but I am not sure how else to get to everything, not finish too late in the day, and also give enough attention to my 3rd grader AND my K’er.   I’m sure I’ll be writing more about our new daily schedule in an upcoming post.

I didn’t take many pictures during our first full school day (I was too busy trying to keep moving with the lessons and make sure we sort of stayed on schedule).  I did take photo #7 of Mr. E practicing his reading outside…and #3 of baby J creating chaos while I worked with the older kids.  🙂

Even though it was a little funny starting school with just a day or two before a three day weekend, I’m glad I had a chance to run through the schedule as tweak as necessary before we start an almost-full week.

Have a wonderful Labor Day Weekend!

I’m linking up with Collage Friday and the Weekly-Wrap-Up!

Homegrown Learners

First Day of Home School, 2012-2013

Filed under: News and Info — kirstenjoyhill @ 3:17 pm

We had our sort-of-first-day-of-school on Thursday (more on that in my week-in-review post), and we took our annual “new homeschool year” photos.

Miss M is now in 3rd grade:

Mr. E is a Kindergartener:

Mr. K is a three-and-a-half-year-old Preschooler:

And Baby J is 10 months old as of Thursday:

And here’s my best attempt at getting them in a “school photo” all together:

Check out more homeschool photos in the “Not Back to School Blog Hop!

Not Back to School Blog Hop