Homeschool Discoveries

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

On Time Changes, Internet Connections and Vintage Books March 13, 2013

Filed under: Books,News and Info — kirstenjoyhill @ 12:46 pm

I’m sure I’m not the only one that feels thrown for a loop by the Daylight Savings time change over the weekend.  The semi-annual time change seems to get harder the older I get and the more kids whose time schedules I have to manage as well.  🙂

On top of the time change and the usual life excitement and distractions, we’ve had ongoing internet connectivity issues that have seemed particularly bad the last several evenings.  Tony spent a while on the phone with tech support last night and a few changes we’ve made to our set-up might help…or we’ll have to replace some of our equipment soon!  So, all that adds up to having a hard time finding time to blog the last few days.

I’ve recently downloaded several vintage English books on to my iPad — books covering topics like  grammar, spelling usage and composition.  I just love looking at vintage books.  Having finished up Sentence Family (review coming soon!), I decided we would start the vintage story Grammarland by M.L. Nesbitt.    We read the introduction today, and I was struck by the quote, “For who could imagine a king or queen saying, ‘I is,’ or ‘you was,’ or ‘it wasn’t me.’  No one speaks that way except people who have never heard of Judge Grammar.”     Now, I think I have heard plenty of people say, “It wasn’t me!”   At least, plenty of children in my house.  Or maybe they are more likely to just say, “Not me!”.    I would venture to guess that “Not I” and “It wasn’t I”  sound pretty formal to most 21st century readers/listeners.   I love the formal style of this 1878 story, but it will be interesting to see as well how many other grammar conventions have changed in the past 135 years!

I was also struck by a little statement in the introduction to The Modern Speller by Kate Van Wagenen, another book I downloaded “just for fun.”    The book starts out by mentioning that this book emphasizes teaching spelling by the Dictation Method — essentially with full sentences instead of lists of words because it helps the student move toward real composition.  The author states, “It is because of this great gain that in all modern schools, teachers are beginning to recognize the advantages of teaching spelling by the dictation method.”    Maybe the modern schools were doing this in 1916 with Van Wagenen wrote her spelling book, but clearly this knowledge was lost somewhere along the way…since all “modern” schools when I was a kid and most schools and spelling methods today teach with a list of words.  🙂  I’m curious now as to how this dictation method exactly worked itself out in these “modern” schools of 1916.


Collage Friday: Math, Baking and More Snow March 8, 2013

Filed under: Weekly Highlights — kirstenjoyhill @ 11:19 pm

It was a busy week for us…even though we mostly stayed home!  We had a ton of fun and learning (and I took so many pictures that it took me four collages to share all the pictures I wanted to share!).

First, Congrats to Mr. E on finishing RightStart Math Level B!  We finished up the last few lessons this week, culminating in the “year end test” today…followed by a celebration at a new-to-us doughnut shop on the way home from Miss M’s guitar lesson:

End of Level B

Now, I do have to say that Mr. E’s understanding and level of proficiency as a not-quite-six year old Kindergartener is not as great as Miss M’s was when she finished level B as a seven-year-old 1st grader.   He doesn’t have the same maturity in writing skills, or the patience to practice the math skills.  But conceptually he gets bored easily.   :-).  Level C contains a fair amount of review at the beginning we can use to solidify some of these concepts, and I am going to try my best to not speed through this level with him (taking the time to play more games and maybe some tangents into more problem-solving oriented supplements).

Here are few more of our learning highlights from this week:

Learning Highlights 2013-03-08

1-2.  I took the plunge and started BFSU Vol 2. with my kids.  I picked lesson C-9 to start with on Center of Gravity.   The kids enjoyed these fun “tricks” we saw first in a YouTube video.

3.  We spent quite a while on afternoon curled up on the couch reading picture books.  I can’t remember the last time I did that with all the kids together (though J didn’t stick around for most of it.)  🙂

4-5.  Mr. E completed lessons 71-74 of Logic of English Foundations, and Miss M did lesson 28 in LoE Essentials.   Mr. E’s favorite part of the week was playing phonogram bingo.  Miss M is more excited than she was last week about the Phonogram app, and Mr. K seems to be “getting” the app a bit more.  Unlike last week, Mr. E wasn’t excited about the phonogram app at all!

6.  I got out a preschool art/activity book called Baby Lambs for Mr. K this week.  I bought it a year or two back for Mr. E but missed the right window of age/skill for him to use it.  It seems like a great book right at the moment for Mr. K to keep busy while I am working with his older siblings.  I am still struggling with finding time to do any LoE Foundations with him.

7. With Miss M for math this week, we continued to work on Division with Math Mammoth 3-B, and played a few RightStart multiplication and division games.

8-9. I worked with Miss M on baking this week.  She made these biscuits and bread nearly all by herself with just a bit of coaching from me.

Snow Fun…

The kids are thrilled that our winter is turning out to be so snowy.  We got another 8 or 9 inches of snow this week!  Even I got outside to play.  🙂

2013-03-082 Snow

And just for fun, here are a few more snapshots of our week…


Row 1: J showing off his coloring, “Magnet People”, Snow Ice Cream

Row 2: Lego creations, puzzles, silly fun

Row 3:  Baby J isn’t much of a “baby” these days…his new nickname here is “CT” (which stands for either “Cute Toddler” or “Cute Trouble” depending on what he’s doing!

Have a happy weekend!  Don’t forget that next Thursday is Pi Day (it’s one of my favorite random holidays…read my post from last year if you are looking for celebration ideas!).

I’m linking up with Collage Friday, The Weekly Wrap-Up, and It’s a Wrap!

Homegrown Learners

Book Discoveries this Week: A Pioneer Sampler March 7, 2013

Filed under: Books,History — kirstenjoyhill @ 10:59 pm

When I made my spreadsheet of books for our US History studies this year,  I originally stuck A Pioneer Sampler by Barbara Greenwood in the “activities and crafts” category.  So when it arrived from the library a bit after we started our most recent history unit (focusing on the pioneers from 1815-1860), I just put it in the book basket and didn’t look at it very closely.

As our unit progressed I finally took the time to look at it.  I discovered that A Pioneer Sampler does have some crafts and activities in it, but it has quite a bit of other content besides that.

A Pioneer Sampler follows the life of a fictional pioneer family (The Robertsons) on a backwoods farm in 1840.  pioneer samplerEach of the nineteen chapters in this fairly lengthy book (240 pages) tells a short story – a vignette if you will — about the life of the Robertson family over the course of the year.   Following each story are one or more short informational sections discussing everything from weaving fabric to making fires to getting lost in the woods.   Intermixed with these factual sections are directions for trying some of these activities at home — like growing a potato plant, making butter or painting with stencils.

In some ways this book made a great read aloud for a unit on the pioneers.  Short chapters broken down into sections make it easy to read a portion each day.  Since we started this book late in our unit, we felt a bit rushed to try and finish it all.    By the time we were about three-fourths of the way through the book, Miss M and I mutually decided not to finish it as a read-aloud.  We had already moved on to our next history topic, and we have too many other interesting books beckoning to us from the book basket.  We’ll hang on to it for a bit in case Miss M wants to read a little bit more on her own.

As interesting and thorough as this book is about pioneer life, I did feel it was a bit redundant for us.  Between the many book basket fiction and non-fiction selections we had for our pioneers unit and our previous reading about pioneer families (including the Little House on the Prairie Series, the Little House on Rocky Ridge series, Caddie Woodlawn, and Bound for Oregon, a book we recently read) I think I had already picked up many of the tidbits of information this book was presenting.

I would probably recommend A Pioneer Sampler for readers less familiar with 19th century pioneer life who don’t plan on reading an extensive list of books on this topic.  You could read this book and call the general topic of pioneer living pretty well covered.   An independent reader who is highly interested in pioneer times might also find this an interesting read.  I’m sure it’s within Miss M’s ability to read on her own if she finds herself interested and motivated to do so.

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


Organizing the Logic of English Flash Cards and Game Cards March 6, 2013

Filed under: Getting Organized,Spelling — kirstenjoyhill @ 2:56 pm

I finally got around to organizing all my Logic of English flash cards and game cards last night! This project has been a few months in the procrastinating making.  😉

Logic of English Cards

With only one student doing a Logic of English program, organizing the phonogram flash cards was pretty simple.  I kept a pile handy of the cards we were working on, and the rest were in a drawer in a baggie or held together with a rubber band.  Even adding a second student, Mr E, didn’t cause too many problems at first because I was going through the Essentials program very slowly with him and not using too many cards.   At this point I also wasn’t making very good use of the spelling rule cards, so those just sat mostly unused in another bag.

But chaos broke loose with my phonogram cards once I started Mr. K in the Foundations program and transitioned Mr. E to this program as well.  Now I had stacks for cards Mr. K was using, cards mastered by Mr. E but not by Mr K (but that Mr K will need in upcoming lessons), cards currently needed by Mr. E, cards needed by Miss M, cards Miss M had mastered but were not needed yet for Mr E and finally cards no one is using yet (but of course Miss M will need in the upcoming weeks).  Oh, and plus those spelling rule cards! Whew, that’s a lot of cards!

The Logic of English flash cards are a bit of a challenge to organize because they are bigger than typical 4×6 cards, and are also too wide to fit in many of the other random plastic boxes I had around the house or could easily find at Target.

After much searching online and asking for advice on forums, the best option I came up with at first is the box I purchased (see the picture above — or here on the Target website). I liked the fact that the game cards also fit in the box, but I was a bit disappointed not to have a storage box with a lid!  I’ve found what I think will be safe place to store the box so that it’s less likely to be tipped over by our curious toddler.

After I bought this box I did find a couple of options for 5×8 file card boxes that close with a lid (here and here).   I’m going to see how things go with the box I purchased, but I’ll be keeping this type of box in mind for the future if we have too many spills of the no-lid box.  😉

In order to avoid buying special large divider cards, I made some using cardstock — I just needed to trim a bit off the side of a standard letter-sized piece, and then cut each piece in half.  I then hand-cut the tabs (as I’m sure you can tell from their uneven sizing!).

As of right now the game cards aren’t very well organized.  They are just separated into three groups – cursive, bookface, and special cards.  A project for a future day would be to organize them better by who might use them for a game.


US History Unit 5 Recap: 1815-1860 – Pioneers March 5, 2013

Filed under: History — kirstenjoyhill @ 11:24 pm

We’ve pretty much finished up the 5th unit/topic in our US History studies for this year, looking at the years 1815-1860 with a focus on the pioneers.  Unlike previous units, I’m trying to get this written up before it gets too foggy in my mind.  😉 We still have one or two books to finish up that fit more into this topic, but since there is overlap timeline-wise between this unit and our next unit (focusing on slavery and the underground railroad during approximately the same time period), I feel like this unit is “done enough” to wrap up.


I had a hard time finding just the right “spine” or key text for this unit.  I really wish that the Maestros had continued their American Story series beyond the “New Nation” book, which ends with the War of 1812.  Those books give such a good overview of the time periods they cover, without giving too much detail.  Other books I considered were too detailed or lengthy for the ages of my kids.

I was hoping for something that would give a bit of a socio-political overview of the time period between the War of 1812 and the Civil War.  Westward migration and slavery are certainly two key topics, but other things were going on as well.

We tried out a few chapters of a vintage book, “This Country of Ours” by H. E. Marshall.  It was okay, but the kids weren’t “into” it enough for me to feel it was worth our time to continue.  I decided that since this is just 3rd grade/Kindergarten US History, I would just forgo finding that big picture “overview” and trust that our assortment of book basket books would be enough.  After all, up until recently I don’t think I really knew exactly what else was going on between 1815-1860 (other than the pioneers, the gold rush and the slavery issues) anyway!

One book I did discover toward the end of this unit was “A Pioneer Sampler.”  I had requested it from the library but didn’t look at it very closely until it had been in the basket for a while.  I had been under the impression it was mostly an activity book, but that’s not really the case.  Look for a post about it coming soon (maybe later this week).

Read-Alouds (linked to my blog posts about the book):

Birchbark House

The Game of Silence

The Porcupine Year

Bound for Oregon

Of the three Louise Erdrich books, only Birchbark House originally appeared on my read aloud list for this unit.  But we loved it so much that we went ahead to the next two books in the series.  Doing this meant we dropped a couple of more traditionally pioneer-oriented read alouds I had scheduled.  I am really okay with that, however, since I feel like our reading of the entire Little House on the Prairie series a year or two ago (even though it falls in a bit later time period) gave us a good background on the pioneer life in general.

A book I wanted to read aloud that belongs in this time period that we didn’t read yet is “By the Great Horn Spoon.”  We’ll reading that one sometime soon.  🙂

Longer Books Read Independently by Miss M (age 8, 3rd grade):

Carolina’s Courage by Elizabeth Yates — A story about a young girl traveling west in a covered wagon and a challenging sacrifice she is asked to make in giving up a cherished possession along the way.

Sarah, Plain and Tall by Patricia MacLachlan — I realized after including this book in this unit that it probably takes place later than the time period we were trying to study.  Miss M read it and enjoyed it anyway.  🙂

Skylark by Patricia MacLachlan — Sequel to Sarah, Plain and Tall

Three sets of the “American Girl” books are set during this time period — Kirsten, Josefina, and Mary Grace/Cecile.  Miss M has read the Kirsten books several times in the past (they’re her favorite of the American Girl books) and she did not re-read them at this time. She did read all the Josefina books for the first time and re-read 5 of the 6 Mary Grace and Cecile books.  She also read the “Welcome to Kirsten’s World” and “Welcome to Josefina’s World” non-fiction companion books that go along with those series.

Book Basket:

I filled our book basket with over two dozen books for this time period.  You can see a list of most them in my US History Year 1 spreadsheet. Miss M read many of them independently, with the boys only asking me to read a couple of them out loud.  The boys love the “You wouldn’t want to be…” series, and “You Wouldn’t Want to Be an American Pioneer” was no exception.

I read aloud to all the kids “Young Abe Lincoln: The Frontier Days” (We read this story about Lincoln’s early years on Abe’s birthday, no less!),  “Who Let Muddy Boots into the White House?” (a humorous book about Andrew Jackson), and parts of “Day that Changed America: The Alamo” (a very, long and detailed picture book that I tried to squeeze into far too few minutes before a trip to the library on the day the book was due and couldn’t be renewed!).


Collage Friday: Snow Forts, Fred and Writing March 1, 2013

Filed under: Weekly Highlights — kirstenjoyhill @ 10:02 pm

I couldn’t really think of one unifying theme for the week, so the title reflects the potpourri of things I’m thinking about as I write a post to wrap up our week.

Remember last week, when the neighbor kids helped our kids build a little fort in the snow? The next day, Tony helped our kids mound up a whole bunch of snow, which the kids dug out in to a really cool fort (or a “hut” as they insist upon calling it!).  The hut and surrounding paths and small forts were the site of much play this week (and neighbor friends joining in for the outside play again today):

Snow Fort Winter 2013


Here are a few of our learning highlights this week:




1. Mr. E (Kindergarten) and I played a game of Subtraction Corners early in the week, then Miss M (3rd grade) joined Mr. E and I as well for a game of adding corners today.  We’ve never played corners with more than two players but it works just fine!

2.  Mr. E continued to practice subtraction with Right Start B, and wanted “more worksheets”, so here he is doing some subtraction in a Singapore 1-A workbook I keep on hand for just such occasions. :-).  We also did a bit of work in RS B on making change and reading thermometers and scales.  Mr. E is just about done with B…maybe another week and we’ll be on to Level C.   Miss M continued with division practice with Math Mammoth 3-B this week.  I didn’t really “push” too hard on the math front this week, so we’ll still be working on division next week for at least part of the week.

3.  All three of the older kids tried out the new Logic of English phonogram practice app that was released this week.  I think it hits Mr. E’s interests and abilities most closely.  Even though Miss M still needs practice on some of her phonograms, she thought the game play of the app was a bit boring.  Mr E really liked it and found it helpful, while it seemed a bit tricky for Mr. K (age 4, preschool), who is just starting to learn all his lower case letters and their phonogram sounds.

4.  It was a co-op week for us…I taught a lesson on magnets for my class of 1st and 2nd graders, so that meant my kids got a bit of a review on magnets as well.  Though I had great intentions of also starting a lesson from BFSU Volume 2 with my kids, preparing my lesson for co-op (plus helping Miss M put a few finishing touches on her Rocks and Minerals labpook) seemed to take all the science-related energy I had this week.

5.  We finished reading Life Of Fred: Apples today.  Life of Fred is like “math dessert”…everyone loves it so much!  We’ll start Butterflies, the second book, next week.  Miss M started expressing interest in doing a bit more writing so I bought Write On! and we got a start with two lessons from that book this week (I’m sure I’ll have more to say about it once we’ve tried out a few more lessons).

6.  Mr. E drawing a comic strip (inspired by the “Your turn to play” questions in the last chapter of Life of Fred: Apples).

7. Sketch/Scribble art and a sentence by Miss M..The start of Write On! project #4.

Have a great weekend!

I’m linking up with Collage Friday, The Weekly Wrap-Up, and It’s a Wrap!

Homegrown Learners