After five years in school, will homeschooling be a fit for our family? Walk with us as we try to find out!

Thursday, August 29, 2013

2013-2014 Curricula and Our Homeschool Style

I cannot believe that it has been almost five months since I last posted on this blog!  Life has been very busy for us this summer.  With our oldest playing more competitive summer baseball and our family summer getaways, there has been very little downtime here at the lab.  School starts Monday for us, and I think we all need the return to a routine.  

I actually had begun to draft this post back in June, after I attended a homeschool convention and forgotten about it.  A friend saw this picture I posted on Facebook today of our homeschool room ready to go, 
and asked if I had posted our curricula for the year yet.  Her inquiry jogged my memory and here we are.

Once again, it turns out that our 2013-2014 Curricula is not drastically different from our 2012-2013 choices.  TS 1 will be in seventh grade this year.  (I can't believe I have a seventh grader!)  TS 2 will be in fourth grade, and TS 3 will be in first grade.

As you might be able to tell from the mix of curricula below, our homeschooling style is decidedly Christian, mostly Classical and Literature Based, with a touch of Charlotte Mason.  You can read the details of why we are homeschooling and what our goals are in our homeschool mission statement.  For now, in nutshell, our aim is to balance a rigorous academic program with time for extracurricular pursuits, fun and family activities.  

So without further ado, our 2013-2014 Curricula:

Humanities Core:
Includes History, Literature, Geography, Church History, Music and Art Appreciation
Language Arts
TS1- Finish Following Narnia: Writing Lessons in Structure and Style; Continue with Student Writing Intensive Level B Continuation Course

TS2-  SmartTutor Reading (Reading Comprehension)

TS 3-  Preventing Academic Failure (Reading, Writing, and Spelling)
TS 3- A Reason for Handwriting Level A (Handwriting)



Foreign Language:


Art/Music/PE/Sci, SS or Lit Enrichment:
Activities within Tapestry of Grace
Weekly Piano Lessons
Weekly Homeschool Co-op (Three Group Classes on Fridays with Other Local Homeschoolers)
Community Sports and Dance

And that about sums it up!  

How about you?  Have you planned your curricula yet?  If you have blogged about it, I'd love to read about it!  Simply leave your link in the comments.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Birthday Boys

My boys both have spring birthdays- less than two weeks apart, in fact!  This year, they decided that rather than having birthday parties, they wanted to do something different to celebrate.  Works for me!  Planning two celebrations so close together can be exhausting- not to mention- expensive!

TS 2 asked if we could go to an indoor water park for the day, so we packed up and set off for an overnight birthday celebration.

It was a fun-filled day and worth the emotional effort it took for me to don a bathing suit and get wet while snow softly fell outside.

The snow, though annoying this late in the season, was beautiful and reminded us of the day TS 2 was born on a snowy, late winter day NINE years ago.

One of the fun perks of this trip was an impromptu reunion of sorts we had with old friends.  We decided to go to church on Sunday morning at a church local to the water park.  Several old friends from our church had moved to this area over the years, and we hoped we might see some of them.  Did we ever!

We were even able to grab some lunch with them afterwards.  It was a blessing to catch up with our sweet friends!

TS 1 requested tickets to a Yankees/Red Sox game for his birthday celebration.  If you're not from around these parts, perhaps you don't appreciate the rivalry between these two teams, but it is pretty intense.  Despite the bitter cold, our die hard Yankee fans had a blast!

Of course, both boys also had their annual celebratory dinner at a local Mexican restaurant as well.

It's hard for me to believe that TS 1 is TWELVE years old now.  He is changing so much, so quickly.  Yet in so many ways, he is still a child.  It's a new phase of parenting for us.  I'm trying to help him think and make good decisions for himself, rather than making all of the decisions for him.  I'm trying not to be too frustrated when he fails.  I am so proud of who he is and who he is becoming!  I am so thankful for the gift of TIME with him now that we are homeschooling.

Happy birthday to our precious boys!

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Blog Lovin'

Since Google Reader is going away soon, I'm going to try Blog Lovin' as my reader.  If you'd like to do the same, click on the link below!

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Friday, March 15, 2013

Weekly Wrap Up: Determination

Well, homeschooling three children has proven to be quite the time-consuming task :)  My blogging has taken a back seat, though I enjoy it so much.  This week, I am determined to blog, hence the title of this post.  My last wrap-up post was over a month ago!  Where to start?

We are in an exciting time period in history right now- the first battles of the American Revolution!  TS 1 has a great deal of reading each week in both history and literature, but he enjoys this subject and never complains about the workload.  We are trying to do the Tapestry of Grace Dialectic discussions each week as well, but it is challenging.  They often take at least an hour, which I break into two sessions.  Finding this time each week plan (a two-week stretch for us this year) is not always possible.  TS 2 and TS 3 are in the Lower Grammar level, and have much less reading each week.  I beef up their learning with read-alouds, lap books and videos.

Speaking of read-alouds, we are all enjoying Daniel at the Siege of Boston 1776 as our current read aloud.  It is from the Boys of Wartime series, and was recommended to us by our local children's librarian.  It is very engaging, yet the plot is simple enough that even TS 3 can follow along.

We have been watching Liberty's Kids episodes about this time period as well.  I recorded them on my DVR, and we have been watching each episode as we come upon that time in history in our readings.  I think you can also find some of the episodes on YouTube, if you're interested.  I stumbled on this great, little video on the Declaration of Independence on YouTube, which helped cement the main principles we had studied this week about the document.

In science, we started the lesson on Senses this week.  Here the test subjects are doing an activity to demonstrate that our sense of smell and our memories are closely related since they are both processed in the temporal lobe of the brain.  

While Tom taught science last year and for the first half of this year, we had to make a change recently.  The content is much more complicated this year, and it became hard for the boys to attend as they need to in the evenings.  I am teaching science now during the regular school day. 

Math.  Oh, math.  I'm still not sure how I feel about Math-U-See.  I am very close to switching all three to another curriculum for next year.  Namely, Teaching Textbooks for TS 1 & TS 2 and Christian Light for TS 3.  I just find the explanations for some of the higher level concepts more confusing than they need to be.  None of my children seem to need or even benefit from the use of the manipulatives, so I'm really thinking of making the switch.  

Collage Pictures- Clockwise from Top Left:
1.  TS 3's reading is progressing wonderfully!  She is reading level 1 readers almost completely independently now.  
2.  TS 2 at the dentist
3.  TS 3 sniffing herbs in science class
4.  TS 1 at the dentist
5.  TS 1 & 2 integrating the sense of smell and memory in science class
6.  TS 3 at the dentist

We have an exciting weekend planned.  Tomorrow is TS 2's NINTH birthday!  Instead of a birthday party this year, he requested a day at an indoor water park with the family.  

Wishing you all a lovely weekend!

Homegrown Learners

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Cousin Homeschool Day!

Monday was our first day of a week-long winter recess, and guess what we decided to do?  Homeschool!  Actually, my sweet niece (let's call her TS 4, shall we?), has been asking for me to homeschool her all year, so we chose Monday to do just that.  She slept over Sunday night and we had our Cousin Homeschool Day Monday.  Actually, it was just us girls.  The boys could not be convinced that it would be fun to pretend to do homeschool on our first day of break.  They promptly parked themselves in front of a variety of screens all day from TV to computer to iPod, until I called for a friend to come over and play.  
 TS 1 checking on spring training news on the iPad

TS 2 playing LEGO Harry Potter on the iPod

When we woke up Monday morning, my niece was so excited to get started.  She told me she was dreaming all night about homeschooling!  We started off with a pancake breakfast, complete with cookie cutters to make fun shapes.  
 TS 4 making a butterfly pancake

TS 3 with her flower pancake

After breakfast, TS 4 helped TS 3 with her morning chores while I got ready for the day.

We started with our usual morning activities: Bible, calendar, reading and writing.  My sister sent a list of CVC words and sight words that TS 4 is working on, and I used those for our reading and writing activities.  

Then it was time for audio book and center time.  The girls listened to Flat Stanley on CD in TS 3's room while I prepared a fun President's Day craft for center time.  I found this Log Cabin idea on Pinterest.

After center time, we had snack and a read aloud.  I read Abe Lincoln's Hat to the girls while they munched on goldfish.  They seemed to enjoy it and asked good questions during the story.

While they played together during break time, I pulled together some activities for math and science.  The girls did a simple addition with pictures worksheet I found online first.  Then I gave each of them a handful of coins to sort by president onto another President's Day sheet I found online.  They each got to keep their coins after, which they loved!  Finally, they practiced their addition facts with the Math Fact Master iPad app that we use daily.  TS 4 was even able to e-mail her results to her mom through the app.

For science, we read a few pages about the nervous system from the First Human Body Encyclopedia I have been working through with TS 3 all year.  We discussed the pages and then watched a couple of nervous system videos I had pinned on Pinterest during lunch.  The boys joined us for that.

We wrapped up our Cousin Homeschool Day with more reading.  The girls each took turns reading a story to me.  They were very proud of their accomplishment!

What better way to end a busy Cousin Homeschool Day than some Just Dance 3?

It was so much fun to bless my niece!  And she was a blessing to me.  About halfway through the day, she turned to me with a beaming smile and said, "Titi Natalie, I am having so much fun, I never want this day to end!"  Thanks for the wonderful endorsement, TS 4!

Friday, February 8, 2013

Weekly Wrap Up: The One with the Halfway Mark

Last week, we finished up our second quarter, so we are officially halfway through our school year.  It seems like a good time to recap what each of our three test subjects are up to in homeschool.  (You can check out a complete list of our curricula here, if you're interested.)

TS 1 has moved on to the second book in the Apologia worldview series, Who Am I?  It really holds his interest and is doing a great job of helping him apply biblical priniciples to real life situations. He is still enjoying the Dialectic level of Tapestry of Grace for history.  He did well on the Unit 3 Test, and is keeping up with the readings each week.  We continue to have a discussion at the end of each week plan, too.  We are on to Unit 4 now, the Age of Revolutions.  In Math, he is almost halfway through the Zeta book on Decimals and Percents, which keeps him on course to finish the book by the end of this school year.  This will allow him to move on to Pre-Algebra for seventh grade next year.  We are planning on participating in a Spelling Bee in the near future, so we have put aside our Spelling Power curriculum for awhile to study words from a spelling bee list.  TS 1 is working on writing five paragraph essays in his Following Narnia composition curriculum.  He seems to enjoy writing and this curriculum in particular.   His co-op enrichment class for the second half of the year is Geography and since TS 1 has developed a love for this subject recently, he is thoroughly enjoying this class.

TS 2 continues full steam ahead with the Gamma book for Math.  He has mastered all his multiplication facts and is working on multi-digit multiplication now.  He continues to enjoy history, though not as much as his older brother.  I have found myself reading most of his history assignments aloud this year so that TS 3 can join in with the lessons, too.  We have been focusing quite a bit on improving reading comprehension recently, so reading aloud the history assignments allows for extra practice with this.  While he does a lesson twice a week on SmartTutor for this skill, most of the work with reading comprehension has been accomplished through reading together and asking him to narrate back the main idea, to answer questions about the characters, setting and plot and to give predictions about what might happen next.  I have taken a gentle approach with reading comprehension, in the hopes of increasing his interest in reading.  As a result of this approach, coupled with a very helpful librarian and some high interest books, TS 2 seems to  be looking forward to reading now!  Writing is going well, too.  He has moved from writing his compositions with me to writing on his own with my edits and suggestions coming after he has completed the composition.

The boys are studying science together again this year using Apologia's Exploring Creation through Anatomy and Physiology.  It is considerably more complex than last year's study of Astronomy, which has made it more challenging to teach to both levels.  It can be easy to water it down too much for TS 1 or get too in-depth for TS 2.  We are going to try to do more of the hands on activities and experiments in the course and find more related YouTube videos to customize the learning to each boys' level more.  They have just begun studying the Nervous System, and we made models of the brain and a neuron this week.  (I have no clue how that little yellow guy got in the shot- lol!)

TS 3 is my most challenging test subject to teach, which might seem strange since she is only a Kindergartner.  However, she learns so differently from the boys, who seemed to progress in a (mostly) straight line without much regression at any given point.  TS 3, however, will have mastered something for a long time and one day out of the blue seem to have lost that knowledge.  This is a pattern we have seen since she was very small and beginning to learn simple concepts such as colors and shapes.  Because of these challenges, we have changed (or put on hold) quite a bit of her curricula since we started.  Looking back at where we started this year, though, her reading has come along beautifully.  She is reading CVC words, some blends and sight words very well.  She can spell the majority of the CVC words we have worked on, many blends and sight words as well.  She uses context clues while reading and is learning to use different inflections for dialogue, questions and exclamations.  In all, I am trying not to worry when I see regression, and just take time to review until she regains mastery and then return to the curriculum when she is ready.  

We are in the midst of a blizzard tonight, so weekend plans include hunkering down with my loves, good books, movies and comfort food!  

Homegrown Learners

Friday, January 25, 2013

Weekly Wrap Up: The One in the Frozen Tundra

Brr!  It has been bitter cold in these parts this week!  It's weeks like this one that make me dream of moving south.  We have been spending much of our time indoors, or bundled up like Eskimos just to get from the house to the car.

On Monday, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, we had a half day of school.  All three test subjects worked on the three R's in the morning, and then went to a birthday party for their cousin in the afternoon.  It was a swimming party, and they had a blast.  Tom took them so I could continue to catch up on phone calls and paperwork.  It was so peaceful to be home alone for a few hours.  While I am able to find alone time most weeks, it is always out of the house.  To be home alone was a gift!

Speaking of MLK, we finished up our copy work this week, and had some great discussions about the meaning behind the quotes and what they told us about the kind of man he was.  We have yet to watch the documentary I mentioned last week, so I am hoping to schedule that in for some evening next week.

Late Monday afternoon we had some friends over to practice making these crochet hearts. Aren't they adorable?

On Tuesday, we had a busy homeschool day and our regular gymnastics class in the afternoon.  My dad was kind enough to take the kids to their gymnastics class, so I could spend a few hours at the hospital with a friend who is nearing the end of her life.  In the midst of the sadness, I feel such joy and hope knowing that we will see each other again in glory!

The highlight of my Wednesday was traveling into the city to have dinner with three of my four college roommates.  Since most of us live hours away from each other, and we have a total of 11 children between us, getting together is a rare event.  It was great fun!

As a result of all the Wednesday night fun, though, we all overslept about an hour on Thursday.  Even though it wasn't a longer day than usual, it felt that way because we started and ended later.  Besides that glitch, Thursday was a productive homeschool day.  I even found a few moments while the kids were taking a break to work on the Quarterly Reports that are due to our school district next week.  It's hard to believe that we are almost at the halfway point of our school year!

Friday is our co-op day, and despite this bitter cold, some the gym classes are still scheduled to be held outside.  I am so thankful that I am not assisting in the gym classes this year, but I am concerned for TS 1 who may spend 45 minutes out in the cold tomorrow.  He, of course, don't understand what all the fuss is about and is perfectly happy to be outdoors despite the frigid temps.  

On tap for the weekend: basketball games, a boy cousin play date at Dave and Busters and church!  

Homegrown Learners