Saturday, March 29, 2008

Angelicum Academy. The Decision.

I'm sure many of you have seen my curriculum and schedules. Well, things are ever changing at our little Classical Academy! After much prayer, I decided that I will be doing kindergarten with Isabella and first grade for Marco using the lesson plans and material from Angelicum Academy.

Angelicum Academy is a Catholic, classical, homeschooling program based on the Great Books Academy. I have looked at this program for the past year and never made any decisions. But after revisiting time and time again, I've decided to try it out for a year. My reasons? I'd be using much of the same curriculum anyways! This program is very similar to The Well Trained Mind and has a heavy focus on literature and the Good Books (which I love). The only downfall I saw that I really don't like is the history. They follow a chronological approach, but only cycle through history twice. I really like the 3 cycle approach because it gives me an opportunity to go through it again and again as all the kids get older and start sharing subjects. But I think this is easy to overcome by simply implementing my own history.

First Grade (Marco).
  • History: Story of the World 1
  • Language Arts: English from the Roots Up; Shurley English Grammar 1; Sing, Spell, Read and Write Level 1
  • Math: Saxon Math 2
  • Literature: Great Selections such as Aesop, Just So Stories, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, and Water Babies
  • Religion: Faith and Life along with many other supplemental reading
  • Art: Draw, Write, Now
  • Cartography: Map Essentials by National Geographic
  • Foreign Language: Prima Latina
  • Philosophy: Elfie
Art, cartography, foreign language, and philosophy are elective materials and not part of their core curriculum.

Kindergarten (Isabella).
This has been a difficult decision as Isabella would be considered preschool age this upcoming year. Starting her in kindergarten would mean skipping her preschool year. I've decided to go this route after analyzing all the things she is doing. Although her handwriting is not at all good, she is advancing faster than I thought. She also has placed into Saxon 1 and is well into reading beginner Bob books. My thoughts are to start her in kindergarten and just take it at her pace. For all other reasons, she'll still be called a preschooler.

  • History: Dinosaurs, Starting Point Science
  • Language Arts: Sing, Spell, Read and Write
  • Math: Saxon 1
  • Religion: Everyday Graces, Bible
  • Literature: Fairy Tales, Uncle Remus, Wind in the Willows, and many more.
  • Art: Draw, Write, Now
  • Foreign Language: Prima Latina
  • Philosophy: Elfie
I'm planning on sitting the kids together for history, literature, foreign language, art, science (not part of their curriculum, so we'll be doing on our own), and language arts (SSRW only).

The only thing left to do now is get all the lesson plans for Marco (I already purchased kindergarten). I won't be enrolling the kids in the program as of yet, since I feel that I don't need the testing and record keeping. That will come as they get closer to middle school, I think.

So there it is!! Another change in plans, but not so dramatic. We're still following the classical model. One thing we will continue in doing also, is nature studies. That will be more of a fun, relaxed thing; more like a supplement and not ever graded. But that will be a post for another day!

Friday, March 28, 2008

It's true. We're going to Walt Disney World! I've known about this for a bit. We actually just started planning about a month ago. It's a very last minute type of trip; something we kept saying we should do, but never really moved on. We leave next week!!

It should be a blast and the kids have been counting down for about 10 days. Now we are less than 5 days away and everyone is getting really hyped up! We are traveling with our good friends and their kids. We like doing family trips together since the kids get to play together while we hang out. It's a win-win situation!

Anyways, I'm trying to get as much done as I can with the kids in terms of school work. Taking a week off is definitely going to be a luxury at this point and I don't want to fall behind. Regardless, we are looking forward to a nice vacation with warm weather and lots of Mickey. I think the kids will have a blast and I'm just excited about having them experience something new. I'm sure my camera memory card won't be enough to hold all the pictures I'm planning on taking!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Homeschooling with Toddlers.

I thought I would revisit this subject, as it seems like I always am in the toddler stage with someone! My 2 year old is definitely a handful and it's hard to keep him busy while I do school with Marco and Isabella. The old stand-by, of course, is to do the more one-on-one subjects while he is napping. But I thought I would provide with more detailed ideas in order to help anyone else traveling in my shoes!

First, you might want to visit my earlier post on this subject here. I made a list of things I use to keep little ones entertained. It is not an extensive list, but has some ideas that might help out. One thing that I've started to do is to keep Anthony with me during school time. I used to let him roam around and play, since our home is very child proof. But now that he's gotten a little bigger, so have his little "adventures." This translates into: "If I let Anthony entertain himself, he'll make a mess so big that I'll never finish cleaning it up." My best bet now is to make sure he stays in our school room where I can keep an eye on him. In my case, I rather the school room get messy since it is the easiest room to clean up.

Also, be careful, as some of the things I suggest are choking hazards. I have my little guy sit at the table with us when using these so I can keep an eye on him, but he is well past the phase where he puts things in his mouth.

I tried not to repeat from my previous list, but sorry if I missed a few items!

  1. Draw roads, houses, etc. on large paper or cardboard and have them use cars and trucks on it.
  2. Several cardboard boxes (cereal boxes, shoe boxes) to make a train or a town or just to stack and build with.
  3. Give them their own photo album of friends, family, pets and familiar things.
  4. Small cars in a cardboard tube (like Christmas wrap).
  5. Make a necklace or snack chain with yarn (masking tape on the ends) and any cereal with holes (like cheerios). If the toddler is old enough, they may be able to string them himself.
  6. A retractable measuring tape to measure with. (I use a soft retractable one that I have to avoid potential cuts).
  7. Nuts and bolts to sort.
  8. Stack cups or containers of different sizes.
  9. Game pieces from lost games & cards. Find old games at garage sales if you don’t have lost pieces.
  10. Writing tray – put a layer of rice (that just vacuums up) in a baking dish for them to write with their fingers.
  11. Lacing cards (I bought some Melissa & Doug ones on sale OR just use a cardboard shape with holes punched for yarn.) Attach yarn with masking tape.
  12. Chalk or light colored crayons on dark construction paper.
  13. Painting: water colors, paint books or food coloring in water with Q-tips.
  14. Blocks (fabric ones that may not stack well, but also don’t hurt when hurled across the room).
  15. Play-doh with a plastic knife, rolling pin, cookie cutters, small plastic toys.
  16. Pringles can with a slit cut in the top to drop cardboard or plastic coins.
  17. Look through a button box.
  18. Beanbags and a bucket.
  19. A large box (that’s all they need – they’ll do the rest).
  20. Books!
  21. Throw a blanket over a coffee table or card table. Give them clothes pins. They’ll figure it out.
  22. Sticky notes and pencil.
  23. Refrigerated cookie dough and a cookie sheet. They can play with it and you can eat all the results.
  24. A stack of puzzles.
  25. Ice trays and buttons, beads or marbles for sorting.
  26. A marble maze – set it in a shallow cardboard box to cut down on the lost marbles.
  27. A plastic bottle (clean milk jug, well rinsed detergent bottle, etc.) and small items like clothes pins, pennies to drop in and shake out again (this can be a little noisy during school).
  28. Damp washcloth and wall or window to “clean”. Paper towels and a spray bottle with a little water in it.
  29. Colored rice to pour through a colander or funnels.
  30. Colored rice or colored cereal to glue on construction paper. Write the child’s name in big block letters and let them glue stuff inside the letters.
  31. Tape a sheet of freezer paper or newsprint the floor and trace around the child, having them lie still with their legs and arms a little outstretched – let them color a self-portrait.
  32. Matching shapes – cut out shapes, then draw around them on another sheet of paper. Let the kids match the shapes.
  33. Ziploc bag of small plastic toys such as farm animals or little people.
  34. Make a mural with butcher or banner paper.
  35. Sort Duplos by color & size.
  36. Soft foam balls or daddy’s matched socks in a ball to pitch into the laundry basket.
  37. Have a stuffed-animal tea party with real crackers.
  38. Dominoes
  39. Paint with watercolor books – use Q-tips instead of paint brushes and a muffin tin with water to limit spills.
  40. Toy shopping cart to collect things around the room.

How to Get Ready for the Week.
I cannot express how important it is to have a plastic bin for each child/toddler to use during school only! Following is how I keep things simple and efficient.

  • Print out the list and keep it with your planner.
  • Slowly, gather materials and place into Ziplock bags. Most items on the list can fit into the large gallon size bags or you can purchase the bigger Ziplock bags available. For activities such as rice with funnels, I pour rice into a small sandwich bag and then place that bag into the larger bag with a funnel and some spoons.
  • Keep a shallow pan (like a cookie sheet) with your bin. It gives your child a work area while maintaining the mess.
  • Change the child's school bin out a minimum of once a week. I find that every 3 days works well for us.
  • Do not allow your child to take out all the contents at once! Allow them to do one activity at a time; once they get bored, you can put it back in the bin and then take out another activity.
I hope that this list helps you on your own homeschooling journey with toddlers and preschoolers. I don't pretend to be the "know-all" mom; but with 4 kids, I feel like I'm finally gaining some wisdom through trial and error.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Lapbooking and Notebooking.

I have had a great time creating lapbooks with the kids this past year. Now that 1st grade is upon us, we'll be adding to our lapbooking by starting with notebooking. Don't know what either one of these things are? Here's the scoop!

Lapbooking: "an inexpensive portfolio or collection of mini-books, flaps, and folded display material, that provides interactive space for drawings, stories, graphs, graphics, time lines, diagrams, and written work, from any topic, unit study, book you choose, gathered, glued, and creatively displayed in a coloured standard sized cardboard folder, often folded in a “shutter-fold”..., that fits in your lap."

Lapbooking is great in that you can do it with a 2 year old or a 17 year old. The difficulty of the project is up to you! Our best use of lapbooks come when we are doing unit studies. It's a handy little way to wrap up all the stuff your kids learned into one handy area. It's also easy to save since they don't take up a lot of space.

If you are just getting started, I highly recommend Dina Zike's "Big Book of Books." Here, you can learn all kinds of folds to include in your lapbook. Another great book is "The Ultimate Lap Book Handbook." This one also teaches you the folds and includes some lapbooks you can do. They make great reference books if you plan on using lapbooks as part of your curriculum.

If you are interested in getting more detailed information, free resources, free lapbooks, samples of lapbooks, and just about anything related to are some websites that I often visit when I start planning a new lapbook.

Lapbooking on Squidoo
Homeschool Helper (free lapbooks!)
Lapbooking 101 (great resource)
Lapbook info on Jamin's blog (another great resource!)
Lapbook Lessons (Lots of links, how-to's, and info)

Notebooking: this is probably self-explanatory. It is, basically, creating a notebook and falls along the lines of scrapbooking. Notebooking can be as simple as you want it to be with information being put into 3-ring binders. These notebooks can be made per subject and include maps, reports, narrations, science experiments, project results, drawings, worksheet pages, timelines, and just about anything else that is considered relevant work by the student.

Notebook is probably the easiest way to gather your child's work and notebooking pages are among the easiest to create on your computer (and find for free on the Internet!). If you are a scrapbooker, you'll find that creating an elaborate notebook is as enjoyable as putting together a scapbook page. Notebooking, much like lapbooking, can also be done with a preschooler or a high schooler. The older the child, the more their involvement in creating pages for their notebook.

Since we are embarking on a classical homeschooling journey, narrations and nature studies will be a large part of what we do. Notebooking is going to be the method of choice for collecting our work. Each subject will receive it's own notebook and the complexity of how they are put together will depend on how we are feeling at the time. The great thing is that you can always come back to alter your notebook at the end of a unit or chapter. It's a great way to review!

Still want more info? Here are some great sites that I've been visiting lately to get me ready for a new year.

The Homeschool Mom (great info and links!)
Notebooking A-Z
Free Notebook Pages and Printables
Notebooking on Squidoo (we love Squidoo!)
Free Notebooking Pages on Homeschool Helper

I hope the links I provided are enough to get you started on your journey into lapbooking and notebooking. They are both wonderful tools to add to your homeschool!

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Sing, Spell, Read, and Write. So Far...

We have been doing this for 4 days now. It is easy to do and the teaching manual is a big help. We are starting off with the basic book that teaches the letters and their sounds (Off We Go). It is meant to be a review and is part of the 1st grade section of the program. After that is done, you move onto the "real" book...Raceway Book.

After introducing the music and lessons on the first day, it was a HUGE hit. I don't think it takes much preparing since it is all there for you in the box. When reading the manual, it also states that it takes about 1 hour to complete the worksheets on top of everything else. This might be true as you go deeper into the program, but not when you are working on the first workbook. It takes Marco about 15 minutes to do the 4 workbook pages and we spend an additional 5 minutes singing the songs, and about 10-15 minutes playing a game. Total time: 30-45 minutes. Not bad at all.

Granted, the first book is EXTREMELY easy...but I don't expect it to stay this simple once we move forward into real reading. We are still doing Explode the Code and working on some readers. But I'm hoping that this will be the program I've been looking for.

To tell you how much of a hit it has been around here....for the past 4 days, every morning Isabella wakes me up and says, "Can we do the reading lesson now?" Once I'm up, Marco runs in and says "Hurry up so that we can do the lessons!" If I'm taking longer than usual with anything outside of is a constant "When are we doing our lesson?" "Can we do the lesson now?" So yes!!! I'm loving it so far. The real test will be when we move beyond the alphabet and into the reading steps. I have even been contemplating skipping the alphabet lessons as Marco keeps asking if he can just do it all at once.

As for Isabella, I'm still waiting on her kindergarten workbooks. She is very solid in her alphabet letters and sounds (she's known them since she was 2!), so I'm wondering how fast we'll be moving with her. I almost even want to do the 1st grade with her since she is blending and reading many CVC and CVCC words very well. I am actually looking forward to the spelling part of the program since she seems to be a writer. We haven't formally done writing or spelling, but she is constantly writing words down phonetically.

I will keep you posted on our progress and let you know if this program is worth the $300 it is going for. So far, I would definitely spend that much on it...but I know it's still early.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

What a Deal!

I have been blessed today! As I have been pondering over purchasing Sing, Spell, Read, and Write, I found a wonderful opportunity to buy it used. Luckily, my good friends from our co-op have been following my journey in search for a curriculum and forwarded me some information on someone who was selling their "like new" SSRW K/1st grade combo kit.

After meeting at a science museum, I came away with a very new phonics curriculum (most everything still in shrink wrap) AND some Angelicum lesson plans. All for a unbelievable price! I am thankful to my friends for putting me in contact with the right person and I think that God is helping me along in my homeschooling journey.

Now that I have the phonics kit, I will be pouring over the material and getting Marco started. When we got home and opened the box Marco asked me what it was. I told him it was his new reading program. He was so excited with all the stuff in the box that he begged me to start right away! I told him that I would have to prepare for the lessons first and he was bummed out about that, but now he has something to really look forward to. His reaction to having to wait? "I can't wait until I do fun school!"

My favorite part of the day is hearing that from my kids..."fun school." It's what they call everything we do that is fun and part of school. Lately, fun school is everything except phonics. I'm lucky that my kids get excited about doing lessons. Even math isn't the big chore I thought it was going to be. Now that I have this new program, maybe we'll change our name to "Holy Family Classical Fun School."

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Phonics Switch.

Lately I've been suffering quietly over our phonics instruction. I have been using Phonics Pathways this year and believe me, it has been a very, slow year. Teaching Marco to read has gone from easy and fun, to difficult and frustrating. He is no longer responding to the text and complains at every opportunity. Our best selections have been the Nora Gaydos books, which he loves and finds extremely funny, and Explode the Code. Other than that, reading is just not fun anymore.

I have tried so hard to turn our lessons into something to look forward to. But I am failing. So now I am giving up on our text and moving on and looking for something better. In the past we have also tried The Ordinary Parents Guide to Reading, but that was even worse. I'm starting to think it all has to do with the bland text. Black and white is boring. Nora Gaydos readers are fun and colorful; Explode the Code keeps his interest with the writing portion. So I'm thinking that I need to appeal to the visual part of Marco.

Overall, I've been feeling a bit guilty about switching around with this so much in my mind. I've kept Marco with Phonics Pathways because I want to be consistent until I find something good. I wonder if all homeschoolers deal with these problems early on. I'm hoping to accept that it's ok to change a program while in the middle of it. If it's not working, why use it...right?

So my conclusion? With all my research and reviewing, I think I'm taking the plunge into Sing, Spell, Read, and Write. It's a bigger investment than I would want, but if it works it will be well worth it. I hope this is the solution I've been looking for. The good thing is that I'm planning on enrolling with Angelicum Academy in the future and this is the program they use for phonics. If it doesn't work, I guess I'll have a phonics program for sale!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Literature Schedule.

Following my previous post, I thought I would break down our use of Literature Pockets and the VP First Favorites. I'm planning on being EXTREMELY flexible with this as I don't want overkill. We'll have enough to do with our core subjects! With that being said, I have compiled a very loose schedule. I haven't dated the weeks that we are doing anything, since we school year round and things change. I am listing what we are doing on the left, and how long we are spending on that particular thing on the right. For the most part, I plan on spending 1 week on things. Also, I'm noting that we do these for fun (especially the Literature Pockets). The kids do not view this as school in any way, shape or form; so it is possible that we might do something like this year round, all the time.

*LP = Literature Pockets

*VP = Veritas Press

I Caught A Fish Alive (LP)1 week, 3x, 20 minutes
Pease Porridge (LP)1 week, 3x, 20 minutes
Rub-a-Dub-Dub (LP)1 week, 3x, 20 minutes
Sing a Song of Sixpence(LP)1 week, 3x, 20 minutes
To Market, To Market (LP)1 week, 3x, 20 minutes
One, Two, Buckle My Shoe (LP)1 week, 3x, 20 minutes
Diddle, Diddle, Dumpling (LP)1 week, 3x, 20 minutes
Curious George (VP)1 week, daily 20 minutes
Caps for Sale (VP)1 week, daily 20 minutes
Corduroy (VP)1 week, daily 20 minutes
If You Give A Mouse A Cookie (VP)1 week, daily 20 minutes
Blueberries for Sal (VP)1 week, daily 20 minutes
The Little Engine That Could (VP)1 week, daily 20 minutes
Floss (VP)1 week, daily 20 minutes
A Chair for Mother (VP)1 week, daily 20 minutes
Harry the Dirty Dog (VP)1 week, daily 20 minutes
Billy and Blaze (VP)1 week, daily 20 minutes
Bread and Jam for Frances (VP)1 week, daily 20 minutes
Dr. DeSoto (VP)1 week, daily 20 minutes
Frog and Toad are Friends (VP)1 week, daily 20 minutes
Frog and Toad All Year Long (VP)1 week, daily 20 minutes
The Little Red Hen (LP)1 week, 3x, 20 minutes
The Three Little Pigs (LP)1 week, 3x, 20 minutes
Goldilocks and the Three Bears (LP)1 week, 3x, 20 minutes
The Gingerbread Man (LP)1 week, 3x, 20 minutes
Little Red Riding Hood (LP)1 week, 3x, 20 minutes
The Three Billy Goats Gruff (LP)1 week, 3x, 20 minutes
Too Much Noise (LP)1 week, 3x, 20 minutes

Tuesday, March 11, 2008


I've been thinking a lot about our literature selections for this upcoming first grade. I want to make sure that we turn more of our time into read aloud time…something I think we've strayed from these last couple of months. I haven't been blinded by what my children are capable of doing and what they are incapable of doing as well. I know that Marco is NOT into story times, but Isabella is. So I'm thinking of starting off slowly with this and growing so that we are doing more and more reading as time progresses.

Currently, we read for about 30-45 minutes a day (not in one sitting). This is mostly picture books and bible stories. Marco recently rediscovered an old favorite and we are re-reading My Father's Dragon. I hope to find other books similar to this that will capture his imagination. It seems like such an arduous task to find chapter books to his liking that are fiction. I have no problems getting him to sit through non-fiction books, so I'm hoping that he'll enjoy our new set of books based on Greek mythology for first grade.

We are also big fans of Evan Moore's Literature Pockets. We have worked on them throughout the year and the kids love them! It has helped us in memory work…something I really enjoy and think beneficial to kids. I plan on continuing the use of Literature Pockets as well as the Veritas Press First Favorites Vol.1. The latter is a comprehension guide intended for children who are new readers. The books included in the guide are Curious George, Caps for Sale, Corduroy, If you Give a Mouse a Cookie, Blueberries for Sal, The Little Engine that Could, Floss, A Chair for Mother, Harry the Dirty Dog, Billy and Blaze, Bread and Jam for Frances, Dr. DeSoto, Frog and Toad are Friends, and Frog and Toad All Year Long. For each book there are activities geared towards comprehension that include things like crafts and copywork. Although I don't think that Marco is able to do all of the reading alone, I think we can tackle it together.

As for additional reading, I've always let the kids pick their own books when we go to the library. I think we'll have more than enough to read with the new year and our new curriculum. I do want to add a bit more fairy tales before bed, but I'm not going to push it. Slowly, slowly, slowly.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Book Mania!

I really enjoy this time of year! Easter and spring are upon us; the temperatures are warming up; our bird feeders are slowly getting more visitors; and, of course, new books are the norm!! I love greeting our mailman, especially when he has several packages tucked under his arm! This past week I've been slowly adding to our collection of first grade materials. It is very exciting and I can tell that science is going to be a hit around here! Our science living books are becoming most popular and the kids are enjoying looking at all the pictures.

I'm also on a personal quest for knowledge. This means that I'm adding to my collection new parenting books, homeschooling references, and family-themed books as well. Interested in what we've gotten? Below is my list. This list is without a doubt, going to grow in size as I order more books for the new school year. I've still haven't received them all, so I'm anticipating to receive them within the next week or two. I'll update my list as I add to it.

  • A Charlotte Mason Companion
  • For the Children's Sake
  • Apes and Other Primates (Eye View Book)
  • Outside and Inside Snakes
  • Eagles (Lets Investigate)
  • Mr. Carey's Garden
  • Elephant (Eye Witness Book)
  • Giant Panda (Welcome Book)
  • The Life and Times of the Ant
  • Fantastic Frogs! (Hello Reader)
  • Are You a Snail? (Backyard Book)
  • Discipline That Lasts a Lifetime: The Best Gift You Can Give Your Kids
  • Penguin Chick (Lets Read and Find Out)
  • Snakes are Hunters (lets Read and Find Out)
  • A Mother's Rule of Life: How to Bring Order to Your Home and Peace to Your Soul
  • Science with Plants
  • What Happens to Your Food?
  • Stokes Beginners Guide to Birds: Eastern Region
  • Identifying Trees: An All Season Guide to Eastern North America
  • Kids Love North Carolina
  • Seton Religion 1 For Young Catholics
  • Miracles of Jesus (St. Joseph Picture Book)
  • The Holy Spirit (St. Joseph Picture Book)
  • Mary My Mother (St. Joseph Picture Book)
  • Jesus and I
  • Coloring Book about Angels
  • Here We Come/This is Our Home (Faith and Freedom Readers)
  • This is Our Family (Faith and Freedom Readers)
  • These Are Our Friends (Faith and Freedom Readers)

Saturday, March 8, 2008


I recently stumbled across a great website while looking for a nature magazine for the kids. We used to subscribe to Your Big Backyard when Marco was younger, but cancelled it because we found that he was still not mature enough for it. Now that we are thinking of bringing it back to our home, I went to their website to check it out again. It was here that I found out about the National Wildlife Federation Green Hour.

The Green Hour was designed to get parents and kids outside for "unstructured play and interaction with the natural world." It is a program that provides parents with ideas for outdoor activities and journaling. They break down the daily activity on their home page with books related to the activity, things to make and do, and other tips. They have a parents' guide available as well as resources. Overall, it is an AWESOME program!!!

Considering that we love to do mostly anything nature related, we'll be checking this website out on a daily basis. It should help us get away from the chaos of overindulgence in toys and tv. It can even serve as a great nature portion to any science curriculum!

Check it out and sign up!
NWF Green Hour

Have you read my latest toy rants? Well, check out this article on the Green Hour website. 10 Steps to Play, the Plastic-Free Way.
You can bet that this list is printed out and hanging on our bulletin board!! It will be helpful to any parent wanting to get away from the materialism of today and into the fun and games of yesterday.

Saturday Science Wrap-Up.

Today we finally finished off our insect unit. This is one study that really went on and on! The kids loved it as they got to see all kinds of insect picture books and movies. And who better than my kids to spend endless afternoons working on buggy crafts and their beloved lapbook? It was fun, but I'm glad I can finally move on to something new. I'm actually looking forward to passing the science teaching torch to my darling husband, Dr. Science. Although he's been a little far removed from the basic sciences, I know he's excited about studying biology with the kids this year.

So today we said farewell to the study of insects. We finished putting our insect lapbook together and now we are moving on to something new. Perhaps our next project will be our Lent lapbook. Hopefully we'll be able to finish it before Easter. Anyways, hope you enjoy the pictures!

Marco did the butterfly for the front of the lapbook.

Isabella created the butterfly for the back of the lapbook.

The mini-books and folds inside were fun to make!

The coloring pages were done by both Isabella and Marco. They did not want to leave them out of the lapbook since they spent so much time with them!

Thursday, March 6, 2008

A Toy Story: Part 2.

Let me start off with our math lesson. We recently learned to use tally marks to count by 5's, and being that I cancelled afternoon lessons in order to tackle the toy situation, I decided to have Marco practice his tallying. We went around the first floor marking a tally for every piece of toy that was on the floor or not put away (legos counted as 1 toy). Then we sat down on the couch and counted. Our grand total? 42. Yes...42 toys out of place and on the floor; and that was only in the living room, entry way, and school room. I didn't even bother to continue the lesson into the second floor!

So after tallying the toys, I took Marco upstairs and I read him my earlier blog entry about my frustration with toys. It seems that the level of understanding of an almost 6 year old goes further than I thought. His reaction? "Mami, you sound really frustrated. I'll help you take all the toys downstairs. Maybe I can even give some away to some other kids." Wow. Although I know he didn't quite get the whole gist of what I read to him, he understood that I was feeling frustrated. His understanding that basic idea actually helped me to calm down and he was a great help in transporting bins of toys into the playroom.

As it stands, we now have no toys anywhere in our main living areas with the exception of a few baby toys for Christian and some educational toys I use during school. These are all located at the top of our bookcase and aren't accessible to any child. The basement playroom is now full with all the toys and I have tried to organize them to the best of my abilities, but there is still work to be done. The kids never play downstairs without permission, so it is something that I am able to fully control.

The question in my mind is...will this work? Will this help me teach a greater lesson in gratefulness? Will all the values I want to instill in my children become easier with less "stuff" in their lives for them to worry about? Well...we are not throwing their things away, but we are limiting their use. Maybe it's a start. I think the rest of our life lessons will all fall on our parenting and life experience.

The toys? Well, they aren't being missed yet! I'll have to do an update in a week or so to let you know if my kids are going crazy.

The Last Straw. A Toy Story.

I am so tired of fighting the toy clutter. I have spent enormous amounts of time and energy trying to pick up, divide, sort, put away, and clear all the toy clutter! And it seems that as much as I try and teach the kids about putting things away in the right place, it NEVER lasts! I am tired and I have decided to clear the house of all toys. No more toys in any child accessible areas. I used to keep only a few toys in their bins in a shelf where the kids could easily get to. But now I give up.

I am angry and upset right now. It seems that I spend every day telling the kids to clean up their toys. No more! I am putting everything in the basement or in the attic. No more toys in their rooms. No more toys in the living room. No more toys ANYWHERE! If they are bored, I’m sure they can come up with something to do. I’m tired of the entitlement they feel. I’m tired of the attitude of not caring if something gets broken or lost. I’m tired of them being spoiled with toys. I refuse to let my children grow up thinking that they can always get something for nothing. I refuse to let them turn into materialistic brats. The more I give them, the worse they get. Sure they are all “thank you, mami” and “I love you”…but that wears down pretty quick.

I want them to really know what being thankful is. I want them to know what being grateful feels like. I want them to learn to take care of things because it matters to them and to others! What kind of a mother am I if I don’t teach them humility, thankfulness, gratefulness? What am I doing to them when I yell because I am once again inundated with toys and child clutter? Is it their fault? I feel like I’m pointing a finger to them only to see it point back at me.

So today I am canceling our afternoon lessons. I am moving the toys out. I will still let them play with things, but not like now. I want to go back to the days when we didn’t have so much stuff. When things were simple and we were entertained by just reading a book or playing outside. When playing with toys meant you actually played with one toy for more than a minute before throwing it out. I pray that this is the solution to my current problem and that it will cut down on the amount of frustration I feel everyday.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Science Schedule

Following is a table that breaks down the order in which we have planned our science units.

If we were to follow the lessons as they are in the curriculum lesson plans, we would have 45 weeks of science study. Since that goes a little over what we want, we turned a few of the animal lessons into 1 week studies and incorporated them with Harcourt materials. We also decided to combine the human body units of study with the Harcourt corresponding unit. Of course, we can always just omit what we want.

Science is not a big deal in terms of grading, so our main objective is to fulfill the needs of the kids. They are big science buffs (as is DH) and we want to be able to satisfy their curiosity in a fun way while getting them to learn along the way. The great thing is that I feel like we are being completely flexible with our schedule. We are not committing to this many units, but I know that with DH teaching science, it will probably all get done.

To put things in perspective. We school year-round and we will be starting with this first grade science plan within the next couple of weeks. Maybe if time permits, I'll make a list of all the books we will be using to go along with each unit.

LLB = Living Learning Books

*= Units to shorten or omit

Whales (LLB)

2 Weeks

Elephants (LLB)

2 Weeks

Snakes (LLB)

2 Weeks

Ants (LLB)

2 Weeks

Eagles (LLB)

2 Weeks

Butterflies (LLB)

2 Weeks

Primates (LLB)

2 Weeks

Leaves and Roots (LLB)

2 Weeks

Growing Things (LLB)

1 Week

Flowers (LLB)

1 Week

Trees (LLB)

1 Week

Carnivorous Plants (LLB)

1 Week

Pandas* (LLB)

1-2 Weeks

Frogs* (LLB)

1-2 Weeks

Penguins* (LLB)

1-2 Weeks

Harcourt Intro

1 Week

Harcourt Chp.1/Lesson1

1 Week

Harcourt Chp.1/Lesson2

1 Week

Harcourt Chp.1/Lesson3

1 Week

Harcourt Chp.1 Review/Links

1 Week

Harcourt Chp.2/Lesson1

1 Week

Harcourt Chp.2/Lesson2

1 Week

Harcourt Chp.2 Links

1 Week

Harcourt Chp.3/Lesson1

Exploring the Five Senses (LLB)

1 Week

Harcourt Chp.3/Lesson2

Sight (LLB)

1 Week

Harcourt Chp.3/Lesson3


1 Week

Harcourt Chp.3/Lesson4

Touch (LLB)

1 Week

Harcourt Chp.3 Links

Smell (LLB)

1 Week

Harcourt Chp.3 Review and Activities

Taste (LLB)

1 Week

Harcourt Chp.3 Activities

Digestion (LLB)

1 Week

Muscles & Bones (LLB)

1 Week

Respiration (LLB)

1 Week

Skin (LLB)

1 Week

Immune System (LLB)

1 Week

Monday, March 3, 2008

Monday Lessons.

Today we played catch-up in a couple of things. Since we've been under the weather, our lessons have been extremely light. Math was the first thing to conquer this morning and we started out with some leftover worksheets from Friday's lesson. After that, we continued with 2 more lessons in order to catch up a little. Lucky for us, one lesson was with pattern blocks and the second lesson was an assessment. Both went really well.

Of course, doing phonics with Marco lately is like pulling teeth. After much hesitation we got through the page and we were done. Isabella is quicker to please and she completed 4 pages worth of reading. Girls and boys are so different in this aspect. Marco went straight to playing hockey in the hall after reading, whereas Isabella picked up Cat in the Hat and attempted to read it all by herself.

We have all been suffering from a bit of cabin fever, so I decided to do a nature activity. I was raised by tree hugging parents, so it is obvious that I have a great love for nature. Nature walks have always been part of what we do around here, especially when the weather is as nice as it was today! I made up a simple list of things to find and I sent the kids off to explore the backyard and forest area. After a good 30 minutes of exploring, the kids returned with a bag full of goodies. I set out our trusty picnic blanket and we set out to look at our finds while we enjoyed a snack.

Part of our nature exploring routine has always been to find something different and present it to everyone. I have always felt that this helps the kids to develop their ability to describe and narrate. I always help by asking them the same basic questions: "What do you think this is?" "What does it feel like?" "What color is it?" "Where did it come from?" This always leads to more questions and extends our nature exploring for a while. Today Marco found a seed pod from a crepe myrtle tree and Isabella thought some grass was interesting.


Our Sticks

Isabella and Christian Share a Smile

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Saxon Math: Why We Love It.

We are currently using Saxon Math 1 for Marco's kindergarten. I've been meaning to post on this subject since math has recently come up with some of my friends. Trying to decide on a math curriculum is not easy; especially if you and your child enjoy different methods of teaching/learning. Luckily, Saxon Math has fit us and here I am telling you why!

Saxon uses a spiral method of learning. Basically this means that concepts are broken down into pieces and presented throughout the year. There is daily review through worksheets and practice problems. The material is eventually mastered through this incremental development. The good thing about this approach for us is review. Constant review is what helps us really master all those math facts.

Another plus side for Saxon is the ease of use. I am not a seasoned homeschooler. Marco is my first and I'm still learning as I go. Because of this, Saxon is my logical choice. The lessons are scripted so that you always stay on track of the lesson. It is because of this that I never fail to ask the right questions and present the material in the best way possible. Other programs are merely made up of examples; Saxon goes further than that. They provide all the necessary strategies needed for you to truly teach your child. It's really a no-brainer.

The positive for the kids? Manipulatives. At this age, learning is made so much easier with the use of manipulatives. Saxon provides this in practically every lesson. The use of counting bears, pattern blocks, scales, geoboards, etc. make learning more hands-on and fun. It makes for a completely balanced curriculum. Anther good thing about the use of manipulatives is that they change. If you sit my child down with blocks to do math every single day...he'll get bored. But here, you are interchanging the use of blocks with other hands-on learning. It keeps boredom at bay.

Finally, how do I get 3 children ranging from 2 to 5 engaged in learning math for 15-20 minutes? Our math meeting time! Included in the lower Saxon grades is the meeting book. This is comprised of calendar time, counting, time, weather, money, and other concepts...each introduced slowly throughout the year. This is how we start math every day (or mostly everyday). The great thing about this is the flexibility. You really don't have to use the meeting book if you feel your children don't need it. I, however, find it to be a great way to really drill everyday concepts into my kids. It offers practice and goes along with the spiral approach to teaching/learning.

I can't promise you that your child will leap for joy at the mere mentioning of math; I know that my kids sometimes run and hide. But in the long run, it has given them a certain confidence about numbers and math concepts. It is the hour of our day that goes by the quickest and it is by far one of the easiest subjects for me to teach. I appreciate the repetitiveness involved with the calendar and counting before every lesson and the diversity in the introduction of new material. The kids appreciate the fun in the presentation of the lessons, the worksheets, and the independence they gain during our meeting time. Given the choices out there, I believe that for now, we have made the right decision!

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Getting Sick.

Sometimes I wonder if there will ever be an illness-free winter. With all these kids, I really doubt it. We have been battling with colds for a while now (about 1 month), and just when I think that the kids are getting better...another one gets sick again. At least we're giving our pediatrician good business!

Christian was fully recovered from croup and just this week he started coughing again. Then on Thursday he had a small fever followed by a higher fever on Friday. I took him to get tested for the flu, and luckily he is flu free! He is slowly recovering and is sleeping a bit better.

Unfortunately, today was another trip to the pediatrician. Marco woke up crying because his ear ached and it turns out that he has an ear infection. After all the commotion of getting all 4 kids into the car to take Marco to see the doctor, we come home and only 2 hours go by before Isabella AND Anthony start complaining that their ears hurt too. Now we have to wait until tomorrow morning to make yet another trip to the pediatrician. Luckily they have weekend hours now for acute illnesses.

I'm hoping that after all this passes, we'll stay healthy for a LONG, LONG time!!

New School Room Tour.

It's back to school time and it seems like everywhere in the homeschool blogosphere, people are giving tours of their learning spaces.  ...