Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Nashville, Tennessee

Here are the kids posing after our lunch at Cracker Barrel.















Marco and Dh are going fast at the go-karts!














Poor Isabella couldn't really see over the steering wheel!














My 3 kiddos enjoying some candy at Opry Mills and loving the shark.



We are finally home after spending a weekend in Nashville. My dearest husband (dh) had an interview and the children and I tagged along for the fun of it. Well, now I see the big deal behind the "are we there yet?" question. Marco was asking every 10 minutes. Being the home bodies that we are, we never really travel more than an hour away, so that question was never a nuisance. But after this trip, I think we are planning on staying closer to home when driving...at least for a while.

Nashville is a really nice city. It's definitely bigger than I thought it was! We got to do a little exploring and the kids were excited to find that there is fun stuff to do when you are driving around. In Music Valley, we took the kids to the go-karts and mini-golf. It was fun for everyone, although I think Anthony was upset at the fact that he was too small for riding in the fast cars! We also drove by the Grand Ole Opry...not too exciting. I guess you'd have to go to an actual concert to get the full effect!

Anyways, as dh was interviewing, I got to spend a whole day alone with the kids. It was difficult getting them out of the hotel because the did not want to leave...they were having too much fun playing hide and seek! But we made it out eventually. We explored the Nashville suburbs and Vanderbilt University. After driving around, I decided to hit the stores and do some shopping. We ended up at Opry Mills (which is pretty much like any other Mills mall) and did some serious walking. I found some great deals on clothing for the kids and we made a few pit stops at the candy store, the ice-cream shop, and the toy store. After our sugar high, dh called us and we went to pick him up. We had a quick dinner and then headed for home.

Driving through the mountains at night is not my favorite thing to do, but given that I get seriously car sick, I gave dh no alternative but to let me drive. We finally got home after midnight last night and it feels wonderful to be home!! Now I just have to do some laundry, squeeze in some lessons with the kids, plant some seeds in our new garden box, go grocery shopping, and hopefully get back into the swing of things.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Garden Phase I is Done!



Whew! Our first 4x4 box is finally done. The box is in place, the dirt has been put in, and the veggies have been planted! I even put a little plastic fence around it to keep the rabbits and other critters out. We'll see how that goes, but so far we have had no problems. The pictures above are the same box, just different angles.

Here is what we planted in our box. Column 1 (on the left in the picture) is romaine lettuce (8 total heads) and onions (24 total of those). Column 2 is broccoli (1 per square). Column 3, top square are seeds that I planted today of rhubarb (4). In the second square I planted spinach seeds (9), the third it's cilantro, and then I have rosemary in the last square. The final column has a tomato plant in the top square followed by 2 squares of corn that I just planted today (the seeds). The last square has bush beans (9).
Hopefully my seeds will sprout and I'll be successful with those plants. So far my other plants look pretty good and the kids and I are really excited. This upcoming week we are planning to soil and plant our 4x8 box. I'll post those pictures once it's done.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Our Garden Is Almost Done!


We finally finished the boxes for our Square Foot Garden. The kids were a great help in building them and have been interested in every step of our planning. Marco did the nailing, Isabella helped with measuring, and I did all the cutting and drilling. We made two 4x4 boxes and what we finally decided to do is to place one of them on the slope by the fence (we made a bottom for that one), and the other we actually are going to convert it into a sandbox.

Since the current sandbox is next to the driveway, it would look much nicer as a garden. It measures 4x8, so there would be lots of space for planting. The kids don't need such a huge play area (and I don't need so much sand to clean!), so we are exchanging boxes. They happily agreed after we convinced them that having a sandbox by the swing set will be so much more fun.

Our next step is to fill the boxes with dirt and then plant. I'm planning on finishing this by Wednesday. We'll see if it gets done. Tomorrow I'm going to Lowe's to get our stuff. Hopefully the weather will cooperate and warm up a bit. I'll be posting pictures as soon as this little project is done. I can't wait to start getting my hands in some nice, organic soil!!

Friday, March 16, 2007

Our Kindergarten Curriculum

Here are the basics of our Kindergarten curriculum and schedule. We are doing year-round schooling and typically do a Monday to Friday schedule. Be sure to check back as I will be adding readers and other books as we finish the current list.

Math
Saxon 1: We decided to do this grade level after taking the placement test. We also use the manipulative set made to accompany the math series. Although many decide to skip out on the math meeting book included in the homeschool kit, we use it daily to solidify calendar skills and practice other math skills.


Phonics
Explode the Code: We used the primers A-C as a review before starting on book 1. So far they are favorites and we tend to move at a slower pace in them in order to let our phonics lessons really sink in. We are averaging about 3 pages per week, although at times we may do one more or one less. I think it's a good idea to take a placement test if you are not sure where to start with the books. Although Book 1 is recommended for first grade, it seems completely doable for kindergarten. I really recommend these books to anyone looking to supplement their phonics program!



Phonics Pathways: After spending a long time looking at different programs, we finally settled on Phonics Pathways and we are loving it! We are working through this book daily. Sometimes we might spend more time on a page reviewing and other times we might do more than one page per day.



Bob Books: We will be using these to start out and then progress into something a little more advanced. So far, these books are great because your child can actually read a whole book all by himself after only a few lessons of Phonics Pathways! They are great confidence boosters!





Handwriting
Handwriting Without Tears: This is a great handwriting program that is very gentle and fun! We have been using it since preschool and we love that it works by using not only notebooks, but manipulatives as well. We work on a minimum of one row of letters per day, depending on the difficulty of the letter.



Religion
Who Am I? (Image of God Series): This program is intended for children ages 3-5. It offers such a gentle approach to teaching religion that we've been enjoying it since preschool. The program includes a teacher's manual that is full of stories and crafts to correspond with each lesson. There are also special sections to correlate with the liturgical calendar (advent, lent, Easter, etc.). The kindergarten workbook is fun and easy...mostly coloring, cutting, and pasting. We enjoy doing one lesson per week, alternating workbook pages with crafts.




God's Love Story: This is another exclusive from Catholic Heritage Curricula. The book covers all of creation through the birth of Christ and beyond. It is in a coloring book format, which is great because your child can color a couple of pages per week as your read along. We tend to read this book in sections once a week.


Beginners Bible by Zonderkidz: This is a super easy book to read to your kids! We have been enjoying it for a few years already. We read this daily before bed and it's always a struggle to stop because the kids enjoy it so much that they always want us to keep reading. It is also often their book of choice during our free reading time. They love the pictures and the stories!




The Catholic Children's Bible: This bible is a wonderful read during morning prayer time or after church on Sunday. The language is a little more advanced than The Beginners Bible, so I choose a reading to go with what we learn on Sunday.




Fine Arts
Drawing With Children: I just currently changed our art curriculum from Draw, Write, Now to Drawing with Children. After reading several reviews, I thought the this new book would fit our needs nicely. So far, I'm very impressed and am looking forward to teaching my kids the fundamentals of being able to draw and create their own works. I haven't created lesson plans on my own for this, but I'm planning on using the weekly plans on Paula's Archives (http://www.redshift.com/~bonajo/dwclp.htm).




How to Introduce Your Child to Classical Music in 52 Lessons: This program is new to our kindergarten schedule and we love it so far! We cover one lesson per week, which mainly consists of an introduction to a piece (such as Peter and the Wolf) and then we listen to the same piece every day. Sometimes we accompany what we are studying with picture books or other recommended material.



Music for Little Mozarts: I had been waiting to start this piano instruction curriculum and it comes highly recommended! It is definitely a gentle and fun start to piano and we are enjoying it. Once we finish with book 1, we are planning on starting piano lessons with a private instructor and possibly continuing with the series.




History, Geography
History Links: This is a great Catholic-based, unit study curriculum. I like that I can use it from preschool to high school if I wanted to. The books are set up so that you can teach to children at different levels at the same time. My plan is to cover the General Studies book and Creation book this year before we go into our classical approach to history in first grade. It does take a little more preparation time than many of the other history programs I researched, but I really liked the flexibility of the program. We are doing this on a daily basis, although some days are a lot more relaxed than others.








Science
We are taking a very laid back approach to science during kindergarten. Although we are doing simple science experiments from Mudpies to Magnets and More Mudpies to Magnets, this is not a weekly thing. Mostly we are reading books, taking nature walks, maintaining a garden, and visiting plenty of science museums. On a monthly basis (only through May and starting again in September) we visit SciWorks for homeschool classes on different subjects.


Literature Enrichment
Literature Pockets: This quickly has become the favorite part of our schooling! We are beginning with Nursery Rhymes and then going into Fairy Tales for our kindergarten year. I highly recommend it to anyone! We are doing this on a weekly basis, 4 times a week. If possible, I think that the kids would sit around the table making stuff for their pockets all day long!

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

It's A Boy!

No, I haven't had a baby yet. But we did find out the sex of the baby today and it's a boy! When they showed us on the screen I couldn't stop laughing! I was really happy and excited, but everyone (including myself) thought it was going to be a girl! In all, we are excited about choosing a new name and getting ready for a little baby brother for the kids. Marco and Isabella seemed happy about it, but I don't think they really care either way.

It was a really hectic day due to all our commitments today. After morning lessons, we got the minivan cleaned, ate lunch, did our afternoon lessons, went to the doctor, and then headed to baseball. I felt so bad for my littles because they didn't get to eat dinner at their usual time. Marco came home starving and promptly ate a hamburger and 2 slices of leftover pizza.

Now that everyone is finally in bed, I feel like I can rest a little. Tomorrow is another day full of errands and shopping. I really need to better schedule all these little things that pop up! Oh well...at least I can now imagine holding my little baby boy in my arms. Time goes by so slow when you're pregnant!!

Monday, March 12, 2007

On Our Way

Today is our official start of kindergarten. This really doesn't mean much, except that we'll be adding a couple of extra elements to our school days. I'm moving Marco on to Saxon 1 and he'll also be starting on his Who Am I? kindergarten workbook (as opposed to the pre-school workbook we've been doing). I'm also incorporating one science experiment per week revolving around a topic we'll be discussing. Besides that, everything else is staying the same...at least for the moment.

Sometime in April or May, we'll be starting with Draw, Write, Now and perhaps Handwriting Without Tears. I'm also looking into a music curriculum to enhance his piano lessons that he will start in late spring or summer. History Links is another unit study curriculum choice that we are looking into, but haven't decided on yet. And of course, we'll be busy with read alouds and phonics lessons. Looking back at my schedule it seems like over-kill; but I know that we're not doing every subject every day.

A great thing we're planning together is the start of our garden. We've picked a spot in our yard and I'll be working on the grids this weekend. We have been inspired by "Square Foot Gardening" and are looking forward to having a great first experience with growing our own produce. Marco and Isabella are very excited about breaking in their gardening gloves and are constantly asking when we are going to start planting stuff. Last year we had a little herb garden that Marco planted and we used it for cooking almost everyday! I'm sure the kids will feel the same sense of pride knowing that what they are eating was planted by them!

Saturday, March 10, 2007

We begin again.

We are finally getting a fresh, new start on our goals. I get to start a new blog and Marco is finally going to begin his K5 year. Isabella is making milestones as well; she's finally beginning to transition from total play mode to preschool mode, which is extremely helpful during our lessons together. Anthony continues to play and run around the house, which seems to work well for us because he is learning to play independently. In all, we are all moving on to new things!

I have spent this past week sick in bed with some yucky form of strep throat. Luckily, I'm feeling better and more motivated to get back into the swing of things. Currently, I'm preparing my curriculum for Marco. We want to get a good head start on kindergarten this year since we will be having baby #4 in August. I don't imagine we'll be doing much school that first month after the baby arrives, so it will be nice to not to worry about falling behind.

Isabella will also start getting a little bit more formal education this year. She seems content on doing worksheets but really craves to do a little more than color and draw. We'll be combining many of her lessons with Marco, although I know that her attention span only last for about 10-15 minutes at a time.

Overall, I'm excited about exploring new books and am so open to all the wonderful choices out there for kindergarten! If you are interested in what we have chosen for our K5 year, just follow the link. Isabella's pre-k year is also posted. I'm planning to do lots of unit studies this year in order to incorporate history, science, and humanities. We plan to continue with swimming and sports for the kids, along with Marco starting piano sometime between late spring and early fall. I'm sure we'll be making plenty of adjustments as we go!