Homeschool Discoveries

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

Collage Saturday: Christmas Fun Begins December 1, 2012

Filed under: Holidays,Weekly Highlights — kirstenjoyhill @ 10:54 am

After a quiet Thanksgiving at home, we enjoyed plenty of fun family time last weekend playing games, doing crafts, watching movies and a local Christmas parade on TV, and getting a bit more decorating done.  We also took the kids to an indoor play area (but I was too busy keeping track of them to take any pictures!).


On Monday it was back to school-days-as-usual.  Even though it was only a five day break, it was still hard to get everyone moving on Monday.  That made me reconsider taking a full three weeks off at Christmas!  😉  Overall it was a pretty quiet week with school in the mornings and plenty of time to enjoy Christmas activities in the afternoons:


1. Without really planning on it, we finished a lot of math lessons this week for both Miss M and Mr E.  Mr. E completed lessons 55-60 and started lesson 61 in Right Start B (though we skipped the midterm test — no need for a test for a Kindergartener).   We worked on telling time, adding coins, adding 9 by completing the 10, and he played his first game of corners.  The Corners game was definitely the highlight.   Unless something very surprising happens, we’ll finish B before the end of the year.  I’m not sure exactly what we’ll do after that — maybe some Singapore or Life of Fred?  Just play games? I just don’t think I want to start level C with a K’er!

2. Miss M worked on pages from early in the RightStart D workbook that she could work through on her own as review, plus we went through about 8 lessons together from the middle-ish portion of the book (starting with lesson 47, ending with lesson 68, and skipping a bunch in between).  We did some really interesting stuff, like learning about check numbers and “Terry’s Method” of subtraction.  We also got to assemble those “thousands cubes” to start talking about numbers in the ten thousands up to the millions.  Even the lessons we are covering together are pretty easy for Miss M so far (yea for easy math!), hence why we are able to cover so many lessons without a lot of effort.  We’ll start the section of Level D that’s all new in a week or two (but I’ll still be having her go back and do earlier pages for review and practice).  Now I’m starting to think that we may finish level D as well before the end of the year unless I significantly slow things down.   But I am not going to really “worry” about that at this point!!!

Academic Subjects Not Pictured:

  • Spelling/Phonics:  Mr. E read to me every day as usual, working a bit more on Danny and the Dinosaur as well as reading a few “I See Sam” books.  He also worked on lesson 6 in Logic of English.  Miss M did lesson 17 in Logic of English, and we were both proud that she scored 100% when tested at the end of the lesson!  I went the “lazy” route with spelling practice this week and just let them play Spelling City games for their respective lists instead of playing LOE games together.  😉
  • History:  We’ve “officially” moved on from the Revolutionary War in our American History studies and started studying the “new nation” period — with reading lots of living books it’s hard to keep things in a precise order, so I am considering events including the writing of the Constitution, the Louisiana Purchase and the War of 1812 to be all topics that are fair game right now!
  • Science:  Once again, no other science other than what Miss M is doing independently with Sassafras Science Adventures.  I think I’ll make it one of my New Year’s resolutions to get back on track with doing more science study as a family.

3.  Mr K randomly found a fun CD at the library: Kids Meet Composers by Wendy Rollin.  Kids are introduced to 10 composers with a short track giving a brief bio of each composer, plus a famous tune from each composer set to new words that again teach something about the composer and his/her music.  The kids all enjoyed listening to the CD and dancing or marching around the living room!

4-6: I started pulling out our fun Christmas “stuff” this week.  The kids enjoyed spending a few afternoons making Christmas crafts, using the Christmas play-doh set, and playing with the Playmobil Nativity set.

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

Homegrown Learners

Collage Friday: Halloween, a Birthday (and a bit of school too)! November 2, 2012

Filed under: Math,Weekly Highlights — kirstenjoyhill @ 3:50 pm
Tags: ,

We were probably a bit less productive than usual in terms of schoolwork this week.  Monday Miss M had an eye exam in the middle of the day, plus we had other errands.  Tuesday we celebrated Baby J turning one year old!

We had a few neighbor families over for cupcakes after dinner on Tuesday night.  Between cleaning the house for the party, making cupcakes, gymnastics class, and another appointment Tuesday afternoon…Tuesday was almost a wash as far as school was concerned.  🙂

Then Wednesday was, of course, Halloween.  While we had nothing special going on during the day, the kids had just a bit of trouble focusing on schoolwork.  But hey, it’s math if we calculate the number of hours from any given time to the time for trick-or-treating, right?

Miss M dressed as Raggedy Ann and went out some of her best friends (and their dads) to trick-or-treat.  Tony, dressed as Abraham Lincoln, took our two “Junior Avengers” (Mr. E as Hawkeye and and Mr. K as Captain America) — another neighbor friend was Iron Man, so we had quite a few of the Avengers represented.  Baby J got to wear the same Frog costume Mr. K wore as a baby.  Such is the life of a 4th child.   Baby J stayed home with me to help hand out candy.  He was bummed that I wouldn’t give any to him!

Thursday was a pretty normal day (other than being tired from staying up late the night before.  Today (Friday) we had a regular school morning followed by two public school friends who had a day off today spending the afternoon at our house.

Despite our exciting week, we did make some educational progress: 🙂

Spelling:  It was a review week for Miss M (age 8, 3rd grade) in Logic of English Essentials (lesson 15).  I finally had her make spelling word cards for review and practice of words she decided she needed more practice on.  I’m not sure why we didn’t do that on the other review weeks!  We tried to do a spelling word Pictionary of sorts, as well as a “guess the word from a description of that word” type of game, with Mr. E (age 5.5, grade K) having a stack of Miss M’s words, and Miss M having a stack of words that Mr. E should know.   The spelling part of these games were fine, but it took forever for the kids to guess the word they were supposed to be spelling.  Neither one was able to draw or describe very well in a way the other could understand.  It was pretty funny.

Mr. E also finished the spelling words in Lesson #4 of LOE-E, (though he still needs more practice on the phonograms from that lesson), did a couple pages of Explode the Code 3, and practiced reading each day.

Preschool:  I don’t write very often about what Mr K (age 3.5, preschool) is doing.  To be honest, I am not doing a lot of stuff specifically with him.  He spends a TON of time listening and watching what Mr. E is doing for school, and plenty of time doing what 3.5 year olds are typically doing – listening to stories, playing, coloring, etc.  Most weeks, he gets a special more focused time with me for an hour during the big kids’ gymnastics class.  Sometimes we talk about basic math concept, sometimes we talk about letters, sometimes we just read.   This week he picked out an activity book with mazes, stickers and dot to dots.

He also got very upset that he couldn’t play the spelling game with us.  So he took the dry erase board after the game, and started asking me how to spell cat, dog, and a few other short words.  He actually managed to sort of write a few of the words I told him how to spell!  I was pretty impressed, considering I haven’t taught him any writing.  He is just learning by proximity, I guess! 😉

Math for Mr. E:  We worked on place value and traditional names for the 10s and teens with lessons 41-44 of RightStart B, as well as doing a few pages of Singapore 1-A and starting Lesson 45 of RS-B on adding numbers with answers in the teens.  The “stations game” to practice traditional names for the tens is pictured.

Math for Miss M:  We started Level D of RightStart this week.  I knew there was some review at the beginning of Level D, but once I took a really good look at it, I was really shocked by just how much there is!  I gave Miss M the 1st quarter test, and, except for one section on liquid measurement, she could complete the entire test!  I actually pondered ditching RightStart D altogether for something else, but when I broached that subject with Miss M (who really is not one to like change!), she said she really, really wanted to stick with RightStart.

So after stewing on it for a couple days, I think I came up with a plan that will work for us.  I went through the lessons and identified 22 of the first 86 lessons that will actually need me to teach Miss M a new concept (after lesson 86, it’s pretty much all new concepts).  There’s no need to rush, so we probably won’t do one of these brand new lessons every day.   We only need to average 3.35 lessons per week to finish D by the end of the school year, so we’ll feel free to take some extra days to play games (or just not have a “together” time for math — a “day off” of math for me!)

I think Miss M still could use review and practice (especially practice to develop speed) on some of the concepts in those other lessons we won’t do together, so I’ll be assigning her the workbook pages corresponding to those lessons she already understands as independent work.   I’ll also be assigning her pages of multiplication practice so she doesn’t forget all those multiplication facts she started learning at the end of level C.

This week, besides that 1st Quarter test, we did a couple lessons with “calendar math problems” from the beginning of the level, plus two lessons on liquid measurement.  We drew a nifty diagram to help remember Quarts, Gallons, Pints and so on…but I seem to have missed using the picture of it.  I’ll have to share that later.  🙂

History: We continued Ben and Me as our all-together fiction read-aloud, and also started If You Were There in 1776 as a non-fiction read-aloud all together.  Miss M finished Felicity’s World, and read several short historical fiction chapter books (including 4 of the 6 “Felicity” American Girl books).

Science (not pictured):  It’s really a good thing I bought Sassafras Science Zoology for Miss M, because the last few weeks that been pretty much our only science other than co-op.  While I feel more confident than ever in teaching BFSU lessons, with having to prepare lessons for my co-op class (which none of my kids happen to be in),  I haven’t been as motivated to prepare separate BFSU lessons for my kids.  And all my kids (especially Miss M) still remember the materials in the lessons I am preparing for co-op.  Note to self…go order those rock samples so we can actually do the Rock and Minerals lessons from BFSU sometime soon!  😉

We are looking forward to a weekend without too many plans, and another busy week next week with all the kids having well-child check-ups, election day and co-op day!

Have a wonderful weekend! I’m linking up with Collage Friday and the Weekly Wrap-Up.

Homegrown Learners

Collage Saturday: C is for Completion Celebration October 27, 2012

Filed under: Math,Weekly Highlights — kirstenjoyhill @ 8:20 am

This week I’ll start out with a big highlight:  Miss M finished RightStart Math Level C.  Yea!!!  This level of RightStart Math is pretty long, and  from what I’ve heard many students take over a year to finish it.  It took us 12 “school months” to finish (aka 15 months on the calendar, but we took nearly three months off from new lessons this summer and just did review!).

Since this was so long in coming for both teacher and student, we decided to celebrate.  We headed to the mall last night for some ice cream and window shopping:

Overall this was another “mathy” week as we worked to complete Level C:

Several of Miss M’s final 6  lessons of Right Start C this week focused on Tangrams.   She completed an easier Tangram book when she was much younger, so she thought these would be a breeze.  She was surprised by how tricky a few of the questions were, but in the end said the Tangram lessons were some of her favorite all year!  For her final activity of RightStart C, Miss M and I played a game of Negative Corners on Friday (scores in the below-zero range and moving lower).  Level D is ready and waiting, so we start that on Monday!

I worked through 4 lessons of RightStart B with Mr. E.  This was the section with the infamous “Cotter Fractal” involving potentially cutting out either 100 or 1000 tiny triangles and gluing them on bigger triangles in a nifty pattern.  Mr. E kept saying he wanted to do all 1000…but after doing just one “10 Triangle” he’d had enough!  I was more than happy to skip the rest of that activity (I skipped it the last time through with Miss M as well — I think it would be more fun with a group!).

Mr. E really enjoyed adding big numbers with the base-10 picture cards, and then also with side 2 of the abacus.  I love how RightStart emphasizes place value early on.  Mr. E wanted to play games on Friday as well since Miss M got to do that with me, so we pulled out Speed and played games of 2, 3 and 5 speed.   I don’t think I have mentioned it in any blog posts, but we got this game a month or so ago and really enjoy it.  It’s a fun way to practice or learn multiples/skip counting.   Mr. E and Miss M both love this game!

Other learning accomplishments this week:

  • Spelling: Miss M did all but the assessment for lesson 14 of Logic of English Essentials, while Mr. E finished lesson 3 and started lesson 4.   I’m pretty much only doing phonograms and one round of spelling dictation with him — I am guessing I’ll go through another round of LOE-E with Mr. E when he is older.
  • History:  I finished one bedtime-read aloud with Miss M (A Little Maid of Old Philadelphia) and nearly finished another (Toliver’s Secret).  We also started another “all together” read aloud (Ben and Me).   Miss M read several books from our history book basket as well and we watched another episode of Liberty’s Kids.
  • Science: Miss M finished Chapter 8 of Sassafras Science Adventures, the kids watched several “Happy Scientist” videos and we reviewed a few lesson on Air and Solid/Liquid/Gas from BFSU as I prepared to teach my co-op class for Thursday afternoon.
  • Mr. E’s Reading: Mr. E read several BOB books from Set #4 as well as a few other easy readers.
  • Co-op: The kids did “recitation” at co-op this week.  All kids K and up pick something to memorize and recite.  Miss M recited two short poems while Mr. E picked a Bible verse to recite.

Fun stuff this week:

Upper Left: Annual Pumpkin Carving Night!

Upper Middle/Right:  Miss M and Mr. E are taking a weekly homeschool gymnastics class.  We’ve done it for seven weeks with five more to go.   Baby J really enjoys watching the kids.  🙂 This week Grandma Karen was visiting for a couple hours on gymnastics day, so she came along to watch (and read to Mr. K, who is just a bit too young for the class, unfortunately!).  This week the gym was decorated for Halloween (Notice Miss M on the “witch swing”!).

Bottom row: We went on a spontaneous park outing on Wednesday afternoon, despite some drizzly weather.  Everyone came home pretty soaked when all was said and done, so much of the rest of the afternoon was taken up with hot baths, hot cocoa and time to snuggle and read.  🙂

Have a wonderful weekend!  We have a busy weekend ahead with a number of things planned…then next week we are looking forward to Baby J’s birthday and Trick or Treating!

I’m linking up with:

Collage Friday and the Weekly Wrap-Up!

Homegrown Learners

Collage Friday: Sewing Week! April 27, 2012

Filed under: Weekly Highlights — kirstenjoyhill @ 8:05 pm
Tags: , ,

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!



How We Picked a Math Curriculum Part 2 — Choosing and Using RightStart Math April 25, 2012

Filed under: Curriculum — kirstenjoyhill @ 1:49 pm
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About two months ago, I wrote about our initial attempts at finding a math curriculum that would work for us.  I’ve been meaning to write the second part…but I kept putting it off in favor of more time sensitive posts.  I made it one of my goals for the week to get back writing it!

As I mentioned in my previous post, we had already tried Saxon Math K and Kindermath, so when Miss M was a few months into Kindergarten, I knew a little bit about what I was or wasn’t looking for in a math curriculum.

I knew I wanted something that was more on the “mastery” side of the spectrum, rather than something as far down the “spiral” end of the spectrum as Saxon Math K proved to be (read this article if you aren’t familiar with those terms). But I also didn’t want something so “mastery” oriented that we would be doing the exact same topic for months on end.

I was looking for a curriculum with a strong emphasis on mental math.  I liked the idea of having plenty of manipulatives to use (that was something I liked about Saxon K).  At that time I was also looking for something without tons and tons of writing.  As a K’er  Miss M really struggled with writing numbers, and tired of doing so very quickly.  I didn’t want her math progress to be hindered by her writing struggles, nor did I want to spend excessive amounts of time being her scribe for worksheet after worksheet.

After doing a bit of research, I first narrowed my choices down to RightStart and Singapore Math.  Singapore is more workbook based by far than RightStart, but all the good reviews and the ways it met my other criteria caused me to give it serious consideration.  I looked over both programs with my husband.   He was impressed with the research behind the creation of RightStart, and we both thought the use of the abacus and the card games as a method of reinforcing concepts was very intriguing.

We purchased RightStart level A in January 2010.  Since Miss M had some previous math experience, we were able to fly through level A fairly quickly.  We finished nearly all of it in the last 5 months of her K year.   We completed Level B last year when Miss M was a first grader, and we are currently working on Level C.   This year I started Mr E (just turned 5 in March, so still technically a “preschooler”), casually in Level A. We do parts of various lessons when he shows interest, or I just keep the concepts in mind and talk to him about them as he asks “mathy” questions.

In general, we’ve been very pleased with RightStart Math.  It is a bit more toward the middle of the “spiral-mastery continuum” than I initially thought it might be, but it is still “mastery”-oriented enough to provide adequate practice on various concepts (especially when one considers the daily warm-ups and extra game playing possibilities) while also giving variety and covering important topics like measuring, time, calendars and geometry.

RightStart does take a lot of  direct teacher instruction, at least in the levels we have done so far.  I’ve heard that some parents have had some success at the higher levels in giving an older student the teacher’s manual and letting them work through the lesson independently.  I find that I need to plan on 20-30 minutes of focused attention with Miss M most days, and some days we may spend longer (especially if we play a game or deal with “attitude issues” we need to work through!).  Some users find the they can write out the daily warm ups to save on some of that teacher-intensive time.

It is hard to find time to play the games.  We love most of the games (though we have found a few to be boring!), but unless a game is directly called for in the lesson, we honestly don’t take the time to play them as often as we should.  It’s very helpful that Mr. E is now old enough to play some of the games with Miss M (sometimes I help Mr. E on harder games or give him a “cheat sheet” of some sort).  However, it is often very hard to keep Mr. K out of things.  He insists that HE wants to play too.  But even with help, he doesn’t have the patience or self control to really play the games.  More than one math card game has been destroyed by a careless or reckless toddler before the game was finished.  That’s very frustrating for the game players!  The best we can often do is to distract Mr. K with something else (he stopped napping well over a year ago, so that’s not an option for us), which may or may not work.

We’ve had some frustrating days in Level C to be sure (though I am sure this would be true of any math curriculum!).  Some days I know I have to have some trust in the process. Even though playing games and learning the multiples of each number and doing subtraction on an abacus isn’t how I learned math, I can see that it will probably produce kids with true understanding of what’s going on with the math, not just an ability to fill out a math test in school.

As of right now, my plan is to take a break on new lessons from level C with Miss M over the summer (we’ll still have somewhere between 20-35 lessons left, depending on how the next five or six weeks go!).  I’ll have Miss M do the “B-side” review pages from throughout level C, as well as math facts practice over the summer (hopefully via some games!), unless she requests new lessons.  Every six days the RS C student manual has a review page with two sides that cover the same concepts, just different problems.  All year we only did the “A-side” of these review sheets, leaving the opposite sides conveniently blank for summer review.   Casual math for Mr. E will continue as he has interest over the summer.

Then this fall Miss M will complete level C, and begin level D immediately after (we already have it ready and waiting!).  I will most likely start Mr. E in level B this fall.  Level B can also be a direct entry point for the Right Start sequence.  Given how quickly he grasped the material in the lessons/discussions we have done so far, I think we either might fly through level A if we continued there more formally or he might get frustrated by the slow pace.  I will try him with level B, knowing that we can slow down and/or play games as necessary if it gets too hard too fast.  We can always go back to level A if it’s a disaster.  😉

Even if you aren’t in the market for a new math curriculum but you like card games, I would encourage you to check out their games book and kit.  The Right Start games could be a fun supplement to any curriculum, and the book contains games to practice almost any elementary math concept!


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
Tags: , ,

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.


Get Ready for Pi Day! March 11, 2012

Filed under: Holidays — kirstenjoyhill @ 4:04 pm
Tags: , ,

I know there are lots, and lots of random holidays out there.  But Pi Day might be one of my most favorite!

Pi day is March 14th.  (Get it? 3-14?).  The past few years we have celebrated Pi day just by eating pie.  I serve something pie-like for dinner (like taco pie, shepherd’s pie, or a spinach pie…pizza would work too!), and, of course, a sweet pie for dessert.

This year we’re going to incorporate it into our homeschool day.

While we have done some nifty geometry lessons with RightStart math level C, we haven’t done anything with circles yet.  So one of the first things we’ll do is talk about measurement terms for circles (radius, diameter and circumference). Then we’ll try a “finding pi” activity. I thought this lesson plan did a nice job of explaining how it might be done.  Even though the grade level listed is significantly higher than that of my kids, I think at least Miss M will be able to “get it.” had another interesting “finding pi” activity, but I think we might save that one for another year.

I have requested a few Pi-themed books from the library.  I don’t know if I made my requests in time, but I am especially hoping that “Sir Cumference and the Dragon of Pi” arrives on the reserve shelf by Wednesday.

Since my kids love crafts, we might need to make some circular or pi-themed crafts.  I like the suggestions at Helping Little Hands, which includes some paper plate crafts and a pi-themed patterning worksheet!

I think we’ll also talk just a bit about the history of Pi.  Check out this page from the organization that founded pi day for a quick read on the history of Pi.

Until I saw this pin on Pinterest, I had never thought about incorporating Pirates (or would it be pi-rates?) into Pi Day, but I know that’s something Mr. E and Mr. K would love! Maybe we’ll read some pirate-themed books or do some pirate themed crafts or printables. (Photo Source: via Kirsten on Pinterest)

A fun Pi Day would definitely not be complete without some pie, of course (and perhaps some other circular foods?).  We’ll have Taco pie for dinner with Blueberry-Cherry Pie for dessert.  Maybe pancakes for breakfast and pizza for lunch? And don’t forget pi-neapple for snack.  🙂

If your are looking for even more amazing Pi Day ideas, check out my Pi Day board on Pinterest!

Are you going to celebrate Pi Day this year? Do you have any other fun Pi Day ideas?


Collage Friday: When Life Gives You Broken Eggs… March 9, 2012

Filed under: Weekly Highlights — kirstenjoyhill @ 10:36 pm
Tags: , ,

Have you read the story or seen the episode of Thomas and Friends where Thomas drives too fast and breaks the farmer’s eggs? At the end of the story Sir Topham Hatt tells Thomas that all is well because he will eat scrambled eggs for breakfast (or was it omelets?).  I wonder if Sir Hatt got lots of dirt and straw in his breakfast.  I know that the floor in front of my fridge is not nearly clean enough to make breakfast from. 

Yes, Mr. K was feeling quite mischievous this past week.  The eggs on the floor were a bit of a “fail” on my part.  It happened in the evening and I thought both boys were upstairs with Tony.  I was relaxing on the couch, just me Facebook and baby J.  Eventually I became aware of a strange noise coming from the back of the kitchen (where our fridge and freezer “live”).  With dread, I made my way there and found Mr  K and the dozen or so broken eggs (a carton not in the picture was already completely empty).  He smiles and says to me. “I say YES to eggs!”

You may notice in the picture that several of the eggs are perfectly broken, as if they were ready for the frying pan — so he was clearly very purposeful about what he was doing.  And, believe it or not, this was only one of several mischievous acts on the part of Mr K this week.  I’m still trying to decide if he is bored, testing the boundaries or going through some other new developmental phase.  But keeping up with Mr K definitely took more time than usual this week.

We did manage to have some fun and learning this week amidst the extra chaos:

1. Miss M had a really great collage idea that she executed almost entirely on her own.  She found a picture of a doll in an old Christmas toy catalog we had in our stack of magazines.  She then sought out similarly sized pictures furniture, food and even a dog.  Then she asked me if I could “use google to find her a blank room”.  Smart idea on her part! I found an appropriate looking picture of an empty room and she made her work of art!


2.  The boys did water colors while Miss M did her collage.  Mr. E says that his work is entitled “Millennium Falcon and Storm Troopers.”  🙂 This boy always has Star Wars on the brain these days.


3. Mr E and Mr K with a new-to-us dinosaur game passed along to us by our neighbors.  It’s kind of like “Operation” for dinosaur bones…and it even relates to what we’ve been talking about in science, since we have been discussing human and animal skeletons!


4.  Miss M decided that Mr K needed some “tot school” this week.  So, to be honest, I haven’t been doing a lot in terms of working on numbers, letters and so on with Mr K.  He isn’t chomping at the bit to learn this stuff most of the time, he only just turned three, and I have other priorities for him like getting to the potty on his own more frequently and not causing chaos everywhere he goes!  But he seemed to enjoy doing a letter coloring page and “letter hunt” with Miss M while she read him an appropriately themed story that she picked out.  Hmmm…maybe we are on to something here!


5,  Oh, column addition…both teacher and student wished we never knew you.  We only made it through about two and a half RightStart math lessons this week.  We’ve made the big shift in gears away from geometry.   Miss M struggled with not making small mistakes in the column addition problems, which led to answers I could see were so close, but not totally correct.  It was discouraging for her to have to retrace her steps to find her mistakes and she couldn’t always find them.  Attitudes may have been deteriorating on both of our parts by the end of the week.  I am glad to see that after the lesson that is currently half-finished we switch gears again to subtraction for a bit.  Maybe that will go better for us!


6.  Miss M working on her math while baby J keeps her company (I had been sitting in between them, and when I got up I thought they looked so cute together!).


7. Family science night around the iPad, while daddy shows the kids pictures of animal skeletons to discuss similarities and differences between various vertebrates.


8. Snack and a history lesson.  We don’t read over a meal or snack very often…because, to be honest, I am usually too hungry to read.  But I wanted to read a long lesson from MOH III on Leonardo DaVinci today, and some cinnamon/sugar biscuits seemed like a nice diversion.


9. A complicated afternoon play-date situation didn’t quite work out as we had planned it, but the end result was great — we ended up with five kids around the table building with toothpicks and marshmallows (and only a reasonable number of marshmallows were eaten, I think!) provided by a friend who hadn’t originally planned on staying to play at our house.


I’m hoping for a relaxing, not too chaotic weekend and looking ahead to a busy week next week that includes a water-main shutoff on Monday, Pi day on Wednesday, a woodwinds class for Miss M on Thursday and maybe some St. Patrick’s Day activities thrown in for good measure. Oh, and we were invited to go roller skating too.  We’ll see if we’re ready for all of that!

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

PhotobucketWeird Unsocialized Homeschoolers


Collage Friday: Leaping, Cutting and Pasting March 2, 2012

Filed under: Holidays,Weekly Highlights — kirstenjoyhill @ 11:20 am

1. We celebrated Leap Day with a “fun school” day.  Despite my previous aspirations, we did not do a 100 days celebration as well.  Between the amount of time I was able to find to prepare, and remembering how busy our fun school Valentines day was, I decided we would shelve the 100 days celebration for this year and plan for it next year (since we will, of course, have to wait another four years to celebrate Leap Day!).  In the picture, the kids are playing leaping lilly pad games inspired by this post at Toddler Approved.

2. Also inspired by Toddler Approved, we read Frog and Toad stories on Leap Day — including the story about cookies and willpower.  Then of course we had to make some cookies.  Peanut Butter kiss cookies are a favorite here…and who says they are only a Christmas cookie? Not us!  It was fun to talk about willpower and if there is any difference between willpower and self-control.  (The kids said “no” initially, but I tried to make the case that willpower is something of our own effort, while self-control is a fruit of the Spirit).

3.  Miss M helped daddy to make our second-ever batch of homemade rootbeer! I jumped the gun on opening the first 2 liter of homemade rootbeer, and it was not very fizzy.  We’ll open batch number two tonight!

4.  While getting out some science and geography worksheets for Miss M (she really likes these, and she is probably learning at least a little bit from them), I remembered I had a Kumon cutting and pasting book for the boys we hadn’t gotten out at all this school year.

5. and 6.  With completion of lesson 81 on Tessellations, Miss M has made it through the big section of geometry/drawing lessons in the middle of RightStart C.  We had a review day yesterday and a games day today.  Miss M was not pleased to hear that we are back to “regular” lessons after this involving mostly adding, subtracting and multiplying.  She really likes the drawing and geometry!

7. Mr. E wrote a star wars story inspired by a book we read together.  I printed it out on a few sheets of paper, and he enjoyed cutting out and pasting on pictures to illustrate it from the Star Wars preschool pack at homeschool creations and from printables found on the Star Wars website.  We even bound it together with my new ProClick binding machine.  He told me, “this is a real book now!”

8. Miss M has her own cutting and pasting project — she is working on the Horse lapbook from Hands of a Child.  She has chosen horses as the subject for her “Expert Day” project for our homeschool co-op.  More on expert day in coming weeks!

9. Aren’t Baby J and Mr. E cute in their almost-matching shirts? One was a hand-me-down and one was from the thrift store — they have the same picture but different words! It’s not the best picture of the two of them, but every picture I tried to take where the boys were looking at me, Baby J’s hands were blocking his shirt! Baby J turned 4 months old this week and is now 15lbs and 12 oz!

Have a wonderful weekend!

I’m linking up with:

Collage Friday @ Homegrown Learners and the Weekly Wrap-Up @ Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers!


Weird Unsocialized Homeschoolers