Homeschool Discoveries

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

Collage Friday: Sewing Week! April 27, 2012

Filed under: Weekly Highlights — kirstenjoyhill @ 8:05 pm
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I certainly did not start out this week planning on teaching the kids to sew.  Miss M has been asking to learn to sew for months.  Now, I know a little bit about sewing, but it’s not a really strong skill of mine.  My game plan was to enlist some friends who are better sewers to help Miss M learn how to sew this summer (and I still might enlist their help if her interest continues!).

However when Miss M asked me yet again if she could do some sewing…or “even please mom just give me some fabric and tape to make something?”, I decided to say “yes”!  Inspired by the “10 Days of Pouring Into Your Child’s Passion” series at Blog, She Wrote and by this post about simple sewing skills at Many Little Blessings…I decided that I could at least get Miss M started with a needle, thread and a piece of scrap fabric.  Then Mr. E wanted to learn too!  That was a bit more of a stretch for me, but I said “yes” to him too! I drew the line at Mr. K and told him he had to turn five before he could sew!

Hand sewing went pretty well.   Mr. E and Miss M made little bags and pillows, though Mr. E later turned a couple of his creations into “wrecking balls” by wrapping the thread around in interesting ways!  After a couple days of practice on hand sewing, Miss M thought she was next ready to try a skirt for one of her dolls.  I watched a tutorial video and decided that maybe, just maybe I could pull out the sewing machine and help Miss M put a skirt together in that way.  We made our own skirt pattern following the directions in the video and I did most of the sewing on the skirt, since I was trying to reacquaint myself with the machine.  I consider it a small miracle I even remembered how to get it going!  😉  Unfortunately, the skirt turned out too small.  I hope I can keep the momentum going to try again.  Maybe we’ll BUY a pattern this time!   Meanwhile, I did also let both kids try a bit of machine sewing to make a couple of tiny pillows.

Besides our multi-day impromptu sewing adventure, we did do some regular school stuff and a few other fun things this week:

1. We wished “Betsy Ray” a Happy Birthday in “Deep Valley” last Saturday.  Read about it here.

2. and 3.  We started a new Family Science topic with a Science Sunday with Dad about plants.  Miss M will be putting together a notebook/lapbook about plants…and here the boys are coloring in their own version of a sheet about plant parts.

4. and 5.  Week #2 of Logic of English Essentials for spelling went really well.   Both Mr. E and Miss M enjoyed Phonogram Bingo on Monday.  We played a phonogram game involving hopping up and down the outside steps on Tuesday.  I felt like we didn’t spend as much time as I would have liked on spelling this week, yet Miss M did a great job on spelling word dictation today!  She told me she loves her new spelling feels like “this is finally the right spelling for us!”  Yay!

6.  Mr K is ready for summer! This is what he was “playing” while the bigger kids did their hand sewing on Monday.

7. and 8.  We did about three and a half lessons of Right Start Math this week, including playing a Sum Rummy game, filling out a multiplication table and making a multiplication table out of cards.  I wish I could say math went as smoothly as spelling this week.  This was, unfortunately another one of those “character building” weeks of math that I suspect had little to do with the math itself.  One day Miss M was totally tracking with multiplication, and then today we could not even get through a whole lesson that looked pretty easy to me due to attitude issues.  Huh.   I’m praying for insight to know whether this is directly related to math and we need to slow down or camp out on some of these topics before moving on…or if math is just the flash point for character areas the Lord is refining in Miss M’s life!

9.  This was possibly my highlight of the week…a trip to my favorite semi-annual library book sale in a suburb about 20 minutes from our house.   I picked up all the books in the picture (plus a big book on the history of Minneapolis that I missed adding to the pile…that one is for me) for only $10.50! Miss M also picked out about two dozen books that only cost her about $4 of her “book money”.   I was hoping for more titles related to our American history studies next year, but I was happy with some Great Illustrated Classics and other chapter books that I hope will appeal to the boys in the next couple of years, a couple picture books, and a few read-alouds  to enjoy with Miss M along with the couple history titles I did find.

Have a wonderful weekend!

I’m linking up with Collage Friday @ Homegrown Learners!

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Collage Friday: Now with added Kindergarten! April 20, 2012

Filed under: Weekly Highlights — kirstenjoyhill @ 8:12 pm
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It was nice to have a “normal” week of sorts after our short week last week filled with preparations for Miss M’s Expert Day presentation.   But it was a “normal” with an added twist. As I talked to Mr. E about the purchases I made at the MACHE convention and about our plans for next year, he asked why he couldn’t just be a Kindergartener now. After all, he reasoned with me, he is five whole years old now and didn’t he graduate out of the 3-and-4-year-olds class at church and into a class with other Kindergarteners on Sunday mornings?

I had to admit, he had some good points.  And he probably doesn’t realize this, but a lot of the “school work” he’s been doing already these past few months is about the same difficulty level as what Miss M was doing when she was a K’er.   So, I told him he could be a Kindergartner right now  in our home school.  In honor of that change, I committed to Mr. E to make doing school with him a priority every day that I do school with Miss M.   Honestly, other than doing ten minutes or so of phonics every day I hadn’t been doing much with him and he wants more.

My school routine this week with Mr. E looked like me reading a chapter of the Bible with him and talking a bit about it, working on phonics/reading for 10 minutes or so, a quick math activity some of the days, and then working on handwriting until he got tired of it.  I think it was 30-4o minutes total.   But, wow, it made me feel much busier and tired each morning to juggle everyone’s needs with that little bit of extra school load.

Here are a few highlights from our week:

1. As I mentioned in this post, I made a big investment in the “Logic of English Essentials” spelling curriculum, which we started right away this week.  As much as it is really well planned out, there is still a learning curve, just as there is with many curricula.  As much as Miss M was initially feeling a bit put off that we had to start “all the way at the beginning”, I could tell that was really a good thing.  I’ll post a more thorough review once we’ve had a bit more time to use it.

2. and 3: On the recommendation of the Logic of English Essentials, I decided to try teaching Mr. E cursive first for his lower case letters (He pretty much taught himself upper case printing, but hardly knew how to make any lower case manuscript letters).  He was actually pretty excited about the idea.  LOE suggests that learning cursive first can be easier because all letters start at the baseline, the movements are more fluid, and it reduces letter reversals.    I’m not 100% convinced of their theory, but I thought  we could at least try it!  Mr. E practiced cursive on the iPad and by making really big letters on really big sheets of paper.

4, 5 and 6: It was an artsy-craftsy week around here.  In #4 the boys were making beaded necklaces while Miss M worked at the desk.  #5 is the result when the boys used their new  “nice” watercolors for the first time…let’s just say they looked “not so nice” rather quickly! Luckily I could rinse the trays off and they didn’t look so bad.  Miss M found my copy of the “Arts and Crafts Busy Book” and set off to follow the directions and make a couple crafts on her own.  I love that she is old enough to do that!

7.  We went out on a “Spring Nature Walk” in our neighborhood.  We haven’t been too “into” nature study in the past, but this was great. Hopefully we can do more of this in the future.  If I find the time, I’ll write up a post just about the nature walk.

8. This is my stack of reading from our weekly library trip.  Well, at least my stack for “skimming.”  🙂  We’re studying American history next year, and I am investigating various potential “spines” or key texts we might consider using.  Miss M has mostly been reading books I bought for her at the Mache conference — three books from the Grandma’s Attic series and Emily’s Runaway Imagination by Beverly Cleary.

9. This week’s RightStart lessons were a breath of fresh air for Miss M.  She breezed through lessons 96-100.  These were much easier for her than the previous lessons that were thick with lots, and lots, and lots of long subtraction problems.  Maybe taking a week off from math was a good thing too!

Have a wonderful weekend!

There’s no “official” Collage Friday this week, so I’m just linking up with the Weekly Wrap Up at Weird Unsocialized Homeschoolers!

 

MACHE Conference 2012 Wrap-Up April 18, 2012

Filed under: Books,Curriculum — kirstenjoyhill @ 8:50 am
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I had the opportunity to attend the MACHE (Minnesota Association of Christian Home Educators) annual conference in St. Paul last weekend.  It was only my second time attending a homeschool conference, and I am glad I went.

In some ways, my favorite part was the shopping.  I came home with this major purchase:

Yes, it’s an expensive shopping trip to pay money to attend a conference to go and spend more money once you are there.  But on the other hand, it is such a great way to actually see products first hand, ask questions of knowledgeable product reps (or sometimes the authors/creators themselves!), and in some case come home with your item right away.

I’ve known for a couple months that our current spelling curriculum was not working for us.  I had been super curious about “The Logic of English Essentials” curriculum by Denise Eide, ever since having read her book “Uncovering the Logic of English”.   After looking through the material in person, asking questions of the product rep (I was a little bummed that Ms. Eide was not there herself, given that I think she is a resident of our area!), and attending a breakout session about the curriculum I decided to go for it.  I then lugged what felt like a ton of books around for several hours since I didn’t want to pay two bucks for the book check.  Silly, I know!

I’m sure I’ll have a lot more to say about this curriculum in the future, but I will say I decided to jump right in and use it right away, and I think I am going to like it from a teaching perspective.  I guess only time will tell if it will help Miss M’s spelling woes or help Mr. E get off on the right start as a new speller himself.

I feel good about my investment in the sense that even if after a couple months I change my mind, this product should have a good resale value since it is such a new curriculum.

Besides my purchase of the “Logic of English” curriculum, I purchased a few art supplies (using great restraint — I wanted so many more!), a couple handwriting books, and a few fiction books from the used books area.  I even found a copy of “Gentlemen from England” by Maud and Delos Lovelace for myself!

A few other highlights:

  • I attended a seminar on Fractions by RightStart math author Joan Cotter.  It was a helpful seminar, and helped me continue to feel enthused about Right Start.  If games and these concepts can help kindergartners that Ms. Cotter taught learn concepts that upper elementary children often get confused about, this is a great approach.
  • I had a great conversation with a bookstore owner about “spine” texts for American history.  Unfortunately it confirmed what I already thought might be true — I am going to have a hard time finding exactly the type of text I am looking for at this time, given the age of my student and my other criteria.
  • I heard most of a Keynote session about homeschooling as an opportunity to make disciples.  I am challenged to think “simple” when it comes to having devotions with my kids.   While something fancy and prepared is great, we can also have a great time in the Word by just randomly (or purposefully) having a “one inch” Bible study as the speaker called it — picking an inch of text and discussing a few simple questions: What does it say? What does it mean? What does it mean to me? So What should I do about it?

My conference experience was not without its frustrations.  Two seminars I wanted to attend were full by the time I arrived.  I lost my name tag mid-way through the second day and had to pay a $5 fee to get a new one.  Bummer!  But overall it was a great experience.  I’m not sure going to a conference is an every year sort of thing for me, but I definitely enjoyed my time this year.

 

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

Filed under: Books — kirstenjoyhill @ 6:09 pm
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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!