Homeschool Discoveries

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

Collage Friday: Two Field Trips and Fall Fun October 5, 2012

Filed under: Fun Stuff and Extras,Weekly Highlights — kirstenjoyhill @ 5:21 pm

I never got a weekly wrap-up written last week, though I did get a post up on Monday with a few photos of the previous week.  This felt like a very laid back week for us.

We took two field trips:

The kids and I went to the Como Zoo on Wednesday afternoon.  In looking at the weather forecast for the week I saw that Wednesday was going be one of the last nice, warm days for a while.  It was nearly 80 degrees…it might not get that warm again until Spring!  So, after completing a reasonable amount of school work in the morning, we headed to the zoo!  The Como Zoo is a small zoo about 25 minutes from our house (with a “suggested donation” rather than an entrance fee), making it a nice destination for a short afternoon trip. Madeline’s favorite is the giraffes, while the boys love the gorillas.

Today my mom came for an all day visit, and we headed to The Works, a science and engineering themed museum located about 20 minutes from our house.  Somehow in over five years of living in this area, we’ve never made it to the Works before.   Everyone had a blast — kids and grown-ups included.  🙂  Buying a membership was not much more than paying for admission for the six of us (well, really five since the baby is free!), so my mom bought us a membership! We can’t wait to go back to play, explore and create again.  The Works has monthly “homeschool days” with hour-long classes, so we’ll try to hit some of those in the next year as well.   The Works seems like a great fit for our family — not as overwhelming as the Science Museum.  We could easily feel like an afternoon “after school” trip there would be worthwhile — you definitely don’t have to spend the whole day to enjoy it!

Here are a few highlights of the rest of our week:

I didn’t take a lot of pictures of our actual “school work” this week.  🙂  I shooed the kids out the door as often as possible Monday through Wednesday to take advantage of the beautiful warm weather.  The kids raked a big pile of leaves for the sole purpose of jumping in it.  After windy and cold weather yesterday and today, there is no longer any pile of leaves!

The kids also started on fall/Halloween themed crafts and coloring.  I let Miss M browse Pinterest for craft ideas, and she got to work on cats, ghosts, pumpkins and more.

We also enjoyed many fall treats this week.  Homemade apple sauce and homemade pumpkin spice lattes/steamers are in the collage above.  I also made apple butter bread/muffins and pumpkin cinnamon rolls.  Yum!

On Thursday afternoon (a blustery and cold day!), I popped popcorn, warmed up some chocolate milk, and called the kids to the table to start a new read-aloud — Sign of the Beaver by Elizabeth George Speare.  Mr. K wandered away after about 30 minutes, but Mr. E and Miss M begged for more and more and more.  🙂  Since we really had nothing else planned, I read to them for about 90 minutes straight (half the book!).   Needless to say this read-aloud is a hit.   I just noticed there is a movie of it available free on Amazon Prime Streaming.  Let me know how it is if you’ve seen it!

I love how history comes alive to the kids as we read living books.  I really like The American Story series of picture books by the Maestros. We’re currently reading The Struggle for a Continent about the French and Indian Wars.  Well, I actually finished reading it to the boys (they loved all the fighting in it!), and am about half way through reading it to Miss M.  She could definitely read it herself if she wanted to, but asked me to read it to her.  It’s a bit hard to see, but the picture drawn on large paper near the bottom of the collage is a drawing the Mr E. made of of a battle from the book!

We did a lot of the other “usual” subjects this week too, though I didn’t take pictures of most of them!  In spelling, Miss M took a week and a half on Logic of English essentials lesson 11 (-augh is a pesky phonogram that took extra practice!), and I started LoE lessons with Mr. E as well, who breezed through lesson 1 and is now part way through lesson 2.

We’ve played a lot of math games the last two weeks, and we’re making progress through our Right Start lessons.  In the past two weeks, Miss M completed lessons 124-130 of RightStart C (the end is in sight! Maybe we’ll finish up at the end of this month or possibly early November!).  In that same time period Mr. completed lessons 24-31 of Right Start B (though he still needs a bit more practice on some of the place value concepts in lessons 30-31).  That kid just cannot get enough math.  He begged to do math even last Saturday — and weekends are generally not “school days” for us!

In order to satisfy Mr. E’s appetite for math and possibly slow down our progress through Right Start B just a bit, I ordered Singapore Math 1A and Challenging Word Problems 1.  Some of this stuff is quite easy for him, but he find it fun. He loves “problems with a story” and math pages he can do on his own.  I am hoping that after my reading him some of the directions on the 1A workbook pages, he will be able to do the pages somewhat on his own for fun and practice — and having this book will keep me from having to print out new pages of some sort each day to fill his math desire after our time for working together is over.  I think if I had the time, he would sit with me and do math for an hour a day!

Have a wonderful weekend!

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

Homegrown Learners


Resource Discoveries: Spelling City and “I See Sam” Readers October 2, 2012

Filed under: Curriculum,Technology — kirstenjoyhill @ 10:18 pm
Tags: ,

Today I wanted to highlight a couple of free resources that have been very helpful to us recently!

First for Miss M, my steadily-improving-speller:

We’ve used Spelling City off and on for the past couple years.  It’s a great website, and you can add your own spelling lists for your student to practice or play games with their words. But I we are super excited that Spelling City now has a free iPad app as well.  That’s just an easier way to use this resource.   I’ve entered our Logic of English Essentials spelling lists so far, and plan to keep doing this as we go along (search for me under username aragon95 if you are also a LOE user and want to use the lists too!).  Miss M likes playing “Hang Mouse” and doing word searches.  I’ve also used their “spelling test” feature for a painless end-of-lesson assessment.   The app won’t give away the correct answer if she is struggling (something that I have, uh, been known to do in the past).  And it is very patient.  🙂

Then for Mr. E, my new reader:

I think especially for those of us teaching reading primarily via phonics (and using as few “sight words” as possible), it can be challenging to find appropriate easy reader books.  We’ve read a lot of BOB books, we have some Nora Gaydos readers, and I’ve found some books that work okay at the library, but Mr. E still needs lots of practice to develop fluency in this beginning stage, so we need more books! I have more on the way that I’ve requested from the library, but I also stumbled upon the I See Sam readers:

Aren’t the characters cute?  This set of readers was developed in 1972, but because of the type of government funding that was used they entered the public domain in 1977.

There are 52 short books in the set.   If you are teaching reading via phonics, you only have to introduce a few phonograms beyond the basic single-letter phonograms to have them make sense (ee, th, and wh are the three main ones I’ve seen so far, plus letters doubled at the end of single syllable short vowel words — ll, ff, ss). The level of difficulty increases very, very slowly and there aren’t too many words on each page — features I really appreciate!

Scans of the original books are available here.   Another website,, has re-formatted the books nicely and even created interactive flash animations/readings to go along with about the first half of the books.  We’re using the printable versions from this site.  It is a bit tricky to navigate and you have to create a free account to access the printable books, but I think it was worth it! (Once you create your account, select “levels”, then after you find the level you want, you can click “parents/teachers” to find the printable books for that level…at least that’s how I got there!).

Since Erik does have some reading experience, I started him out at book 18 (a bit of a random choice — easy enough to build fluency but far enough along to not be too boring).  He loves it so far and has read about five books.

The only downside is, of course, if you want your reader to be holding these books in his/her hands while reading, you’ll have to print them out.  I have a laser printer and the black-and-white pages are pretty sparse in terms of ink use.  The formatting of the books does not lend itself to duplexing, so we’ll use a big stack of paper to print these.  But compared to buying new sets of Bob or Nora Gaydos readers, I am pretty sure we are still coming out ahead.  I think it would be possible to read these on an iPad or other tablet/e-reader type of device, but I am not sure Mr. E would like that as much so we haven’t tried that yet.

Some (or maybe most) easy reader books can be a bit lame due to the limited vocabulary.  In one sense these are just as bad if not worse than others I’ve seen in regards to this measure.  But my five year old and his shadow (aka, Mr K, age 3.5) both think they are hilarious, so no worries about lameness from their target audience I guess!

Have you found any other printable phonics-based easy readers you like? Are there any other great spelling websites we should try?


Happy October! Happy Fall! October 1, 2012

Filed under: Weekly Highlights — kirstenjoyhill @ 11:33 pm

I just finished up another one of my quarterly freelance editing deadlines tonight.  Consequently, the blog has been a little bit neglected again these past couple weeks.

Besides my cramming in as much editing time as possible during the last two weeks, we’ve been busy in the past week or so…

Enjoying beautiful fall weather:

Reading books I really hope I find some time to write about at some point:

Picking apples:

Playing games:

Dressing up:

Looking cute (Baby J turned 11 months old this past weekend!):

Coloring and Creating:



Learning (These are sundials!):

With any luck I’ll find some time to write a “real” week in review at the end of this week…and maybe a few other posts too.  🙂