Tuesday, March 31, 2009

History!!!

So you will probably get tired of me blogging about what is interesting me for next year's curriculum. I guess it's just that time of year! Recently, I've been doing a lot of thinking about history. Should I do a 3 year cycle? A 4 year cycle? It's all very confusing!

Of course, my first source of educated opinions comes from the boards over at The Well Trained Mind. I've been on those boards for about 3 years now! It's an excellent source of information. Of course, lurking on a homeschool board is only going to give you new ideas, new temptations, etc. Lucky for me, when I do lurk...I have specific things I look for. Lately, it's been history.

Today I came across an interesting post that mentioned History Odyssey. I've heard about it, but was never interested since I've been using SOTW. Well, it turns out that History Odyssey uses SOTW as a spine! Not only that, but they also use A Child's History of the World as well as Usborne's Internet Linked Encyclopedia of World History. These are all excellent and I like that they offer different view points.

So my history curriculum research has begun! Here is what I have gathered about PandiaPress's History Odyssey curriculum. These are the main reasons as to why I'm even considering it.
  • The program uses several books as spines. This gives a broader perspective on each topic being discussed. Because you have 3 different books to reference, the need to add additional books from the library is minimized (although you still have a book list to add to the reading if you wish).
  • History is still being taught chronologically, but with a twist. Instead of jumping from country to country, you spend more time on a particular topic before going to the next. For instance, you would study all of ancient Egypt before moving on to ancient China and so forth. This could be good if you want to actually delve into the country without having to worry that you'll be studying something entirely different the following week.
  • The program is heavy on literature, writing, notebooking, outlining, researching, and timelining...especially as you progress through the levels. For me, this is really important so it's a big plus!
  • Lessons are made out for you, so all you have to do is check off assignments as they are completed. This includes which activities are recommended, maps, coloring, readings, etc.
You can always Google History Odyssey and you'll come up with so many sites that offer reviews to this program. I particularly like Cathy Duffy's review. Being Catholic, she made sure to point out that the SOTW volume 2 is the only book with a Protestant slant and all the others are strictly secular.

So there is the latest curriculum review that I'm obsessing about. I'm sure that I'll end up purchasing the e-book version of it just to be able to review it myself without going off of all the wonderful things I hear about it! If you are interested, check it our here. They have a wonderful option where you can actually preview the first 10 lessons for free!!

Friday, March 27, 2009

Language Arts.


Today I received Writing With Ease (WWE) by Susan Wise Bauer. I'm very excited about this writing program and I think it looks wonderful!!! Language arts has lately been the number one priority in our house. Between working on phonics and fluency, I have felt for the past few months that I need to concentrate on having fluent readers before moving on to grammar and such. Of course, deciding that the best course of action was for me to ignore most other subjects and just focus on reading was an extremely difficult decision. But I feel that we are definitely moving in the right direction!

With the arrival of WWE, I feel like we can start preparing to add more language art components to our routine. Besides phonics, we've been focusing on spelling. I haven't been using any additional material besides Sing Spell Read & Write, but although the program has spelling integrated into it... I feel like it isn't working for us.

So here is what is up for review in regards to components to add to our current language arts schedule:
Shurley Grammar
Seton English 1
CHC's Language of God Level A (a grammar program)
Spelling Workout
CHC's My Very First Catholic Speller or My Catholic Speller Level A

Although I know that some of these books are at the first grade level and we'll be entering into second grade soon, I don't feel like it really matters much. I have the freedom to move through them quickly if I have to. I would hate to start at a more advanced level and encounter problems. I also feel like it's really important to start with a good, solid foundation.

We'll see where my research on grammar takes me. I am giving myself plenty of time to look through materials before making a decision. I would hate to start something only to leave it half way because I didn't find it was working for us. Although I realize that sometimes you don't know what will work until you try it.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Another Year of Co-op!!!

It's official! We have been approved to continue having our Catholic co-op at our church for another year! I am so excited because this co-op is such a blessing not only for our family, but for all the other families involved. We are a special group of homeschoolers in our area. Not because there aren't many homeschoolers here, but because there are LOTS of homeschoolers...just not Catholic. For us, being part of a group that shares our faith is one of the most important things.

I also must admit...I LOVE our church. It has become such a wonderful part of our family and I have never felt so much a part of a faith-filled community as I do now. Perhaps it's because of my involvement, but I just think that this is such a family friendly church. We love our priests and find them inspiring too. If we ever leave North Carolina, this will be one of the hardest things for me to let go of...our church.

But our co-op is awesome!! I love the families that are part of it and my kids absolutely love the other kids too. I guess for now we are moving into the planning stages for the upcoming year. I'm looking forward to continuing this for as long as possible.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Curricula, Books, and So Much More!

It seems that when spring rolls around, I get a little crazy over curricula and everything homeschool! I've been busy squeezing in curriculum research while trying not to become too consumed. I've been happy with my Angelicum Academy decision and the curricula they offer is top-notch, in my humble opinion. Still, I can't help but return to my love of the Well Trained Mind and the love I have for putting things together on my own.

I have definitely decided on several subjects including math, phonics, and religion. But that leaves grammar, history, science, and whatever extras I might want to add in. Staying with Angelicum would mean that I wouldn't have to worry about any of these extras. But if you have read along with any of my posts in regards to Angelicum over the past year or so, you will know that the one subject I feel completely unconvinced with is history. Mainly because I really love the way the Well Trained Mind cycles through history as opposed to how Angelicum does.

Story of the World was also a big hit around here with the readings and activities. I can't imagine putting something like that together on my own. Of course, the biggest drawback with going on with SOTW II is the teachings behind the Reformation. I'm lazy in a way that I don't want to have to read the entire book and find all the Catholic biases. But I know that there are so many resources to help me muddle through the print if I ultimately decide to go that way.

A classical education is a no-brainer around here. My choices? Angelicum, WTM, Kolbe, and Mother of Divine Grace. WTM works well because it is mainly secular. I don't have a problem with that at all. Angelicum also uses texts that are secular. Kolbe is a program that I have tried to like, but really don't. Lastly, there is Mother of Divine Grace. I've been receiving their catalog for the past couple of years and have even ordered books from them, but I feel completely unfamiliar with their course of study.

A weakness in deciding which way to go lies with myself. I am a follower. I will admit that I like being part of a group for most things. Homeschooling is no different. Of course, I decide what will work best for my family first, but after that there is this area where I want to be able to compare notes with other moms. I want to be able to say, "Have you done lesson 34 yet?" or "Did you come across this problem with your kids?" I guess I still feel like I need support and in my eyes, the best support comes from other moms who are going through the same thing or have been there and done that. I don't like feeling completely alone. Even now, with us making our path, I feel like I am constantly asking my friends for advice. God bless them!!

In the end, I suppose I will continue doing what I have done...whatever it is that will work best for us. I'm looking forward to June and all the planning that will be taking place in my hotel room at the Immaculate Heart of Mary Homeschool Conference. In the mean time, I continue to devour homeschool catalogs and websites, as well as taking other homeschool moms' experience into consideration!!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Celebrating St. Joseph with Color.

This week was a week to watercolor. It was our arts & crafts activity for co-op (although I was unable to actually make it!), I also planned it for my faith formation students, and today we're doing watercolor at home!

In celebration of St. Joseph's feast day, I printed out a stain-glass coloring page for the kids as well as an Easter Lily (taken from the book "Lent and Easter in the Domestic Church"). We did wax watercolor resist and it was a big hit. Of course, anything dealing with painting is always a big hit around here. It was nice that even Christian got to participate in painting and actually did such a great job sitting at his chair and painting right on the paper!

I always enjoy reading stories about the saints as the kids color or paint. It's a nice quiet activity that everyone always seems to enjoy and their retention on whatever is being read to them is greater than I always think it is.

So I hope everyone out there is enjoying the feast day of St. Joseph!!

Prayer to St. Joseph

O blessed Joseph, faithful guardian of my Redeemer, Jesus Christ, protector of thy chaste spouse, the virgin Mother of God, I choose thee this day to be my special patron and advocate and I firmly resolve to honor thee all the days of my life. Therefore I humbly beseech thee to receive me as thy client, to instruct me in every doubt, to comfort me in every affliction, to obtain for me and for all the knowledge and love of the Heart of Jesus, and finally to defend and protect me at the hour of my death.

Amen
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Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Sing Spell Read & Write. An Updated Review.

We are nearing the end of using Sing Spell Read & Write (SSRW) for both Isabella (Kindergarten Level) and Marco (Level 1). This program has definitely been a huge hit around here! The songs, the colorful workbook, the readers, and the games have all been favorites with the kids.

As the teacher/parent, I did see some downfalls, however. I found that I am having better success with a constant review of Dolch words. These are included in the program, but not necessarily in list form. I recently have returned to using flashcards and our word wall to reinforce fluency with Dolch (sight) words.

If you have an advanced reader, you might also find that they can go through the program pretty quickly. Isabella will be finishing her Kindergarten level this week and we'll continue on to Level 1 next week. Marco is completing the lessons at the recommended pace, however. Luckily, it is easy to go from one level to the next.

I recently ordered a replacement Level 1 workbook. The newer version is not the same as the previous edition. The picutures seem more attractive, some of the pages in the workbook feature smaller print, and several of the songs don't exactly go with the CD. All small changes that don't cause big problems. I do, however, like the newer workbooks so much better as they seem to cover a little bit more. In either case, I feel like the teacher's instruction manual is completely necessary.

Overall, we really like this program!! My only advice is to have your children practice, practice, practice! Using their readers is not enough for us as my children tend to memorize them rather quickly and use the pictures for reading cues. Mixing in other readers is helping us with fluency and with using all the phonics rules learned. Be prepared to spend about an hour (maybe more!) going through the lessons. This might seem like a lot, but with the use of the games and songs, the time really flies! It's easy to split the daily lesson in half if you want to cover part of it in the morning and the other half later in the day.

We are planning on continuing SSRW for 2nd grade. I've heard great things about it and I'm planning on getting both the home kit and the readers (these aren't included in the home kit).

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

A Mini-Break.

This past week has been a very happy one for my family (especially me!). My sister finally got the chance to visit us and we took advantage of having her around. Although I talk to her nearly every day, I hadn't seen her in over a year. Things just haven't worked out with traveling.

But I'm feeling wonderful about having seen her again and the kids loved to have her over. It was a sad ride home from the airport for everyone, but we'll be taking a trip down to see her pretty soon.

So for that, I took time off from blogging. I still accomplished lessons with the kids and even made some new centers for Anthony. I'll have to take pictures and post them soon!

Monday, March 9, 2009

Help is on the Way!!

I have always known how important prayer is, but sometimes it seems that I forget how much we really need Him. Over the past weekend, I'm starting to realize that we never know what is on the horizon. We never know what is about to be. But He does!! Prayer serves as a reminder that we never know when we will need Him to help us out a little more than usual.

Today, I'm thankful for having the support I need in this homeschooling journey. Through ups and downs, we always need to have someone to help us muddle through the tough spots. But before anything, there is God. As I encounter more and more challenges, I realize that it's because of Him that I have a great support system...and for that I am truly thankful!!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Preschool Activities.

I have let my preschool bin go un-updated (is that a word?). This has recently caused me a lot of problems with Anthony wanting to do something, but not knowing what to do. Today I decided it was time to rotate and replenish my preschool bin and I spent the morning busy buying supplies and raiding my craft bins. I'm hoping these activities will last me a bit. I became rather lazy over the holidays, but have now come to realize just how important the preschool bin is in our daily life. It keeps little kids busy, while giving me time to teach the older kids. Here is a list of what I have added today. Perhaps I'll add more later, once my resources are dwindling again.




Correspondence Bag
-Contains envelopes, labels, paper, and stickers.

Pom-Poms
-Contains varied colored pom-poms to sort out into colored cups with a small spoon.

Pasting
-Contains both glue stick and white glue, scissors, construction paper and paper scraps.

Matching Designs
-Contains some homemade cards to match.

Number Matching
-Contains Unifix cubes and numbers printed on cardstock. Helps with number recognition and 1:1 correspondence.

Ladybug Number Matching
-A file folder game in which you need to match numbers.

Lacing Beads
-Contains colorful bead and a shoelace.

Pouring Beads
-Contains a small tray and 3 different containers and a spoon used to pour small beads.

Paper Punch
-Contains scraps of paper and different paper punches.

Memory Game
-Contains homemade cards about the seasons to play as a memory game or in any other creative way.

Snow Day!!!

Today was a very special day. After living in North Carolina for almost 5 years....it snowed!!! Coming from Illinois, I am not a stranger to snow. But the kids have only had a chance to play with the white stuff on our trips to the mountains. Although we had to mismatch snow pants, gloves, mittens, and jackets, everyone had a fabulous time outside!


Monday, March 2, 2009

Homemade Bread.

I like to make homemade bread. The smell your home fills up with, the anticipation of a warm slice of bread with honey. It's all worth the amount of time you need to invest to make a loaf. I don't use a bread machine and like to watch the bread baking in the oven. Unfortunately, I was finding myself making a loaf of bread only about once a week. I was sticking to usual store bought brands. Lately, however, I've been making a loaf from every day to every other day. I've been spoiling not only my taste buds, but those of the kids.

Yesterday, we ran out of homemade bread. I had to substitute with our usual store bought replacement. As we sat down to lunch and I took a bite out of my turkey sandwich, I almost threw my sandwich in the trash. I could taste the preservatives or at least what seemed to be something most unnatural. Needless to say, I force fed myself what was supposed to be a yummy sandwich...good mustard and all!

I immediately cleared the table and set out to make a loaf of bread. After about 2 or so hours, it was done! Piping hot from the oven, we gathered around and had a delicious slice of heavenly homemade bread. Is it possible that I may never again enjoy store bought bread?? I never thought I would turn into a bread snob!

I usually follow a couple of recipes for oatmeal bread, white sandwich bread, and Italian loaves. Here is my most used recipe...good for making sandwiches or just enjoying with a bit of butter. It is one of the very few recipes I have memorized!! I hope you enjoy it as much as my family does!!!

White Sandwich Bread

3 1/2 cups flour (I am partial to King Arthur or Gold Medal)
2 tsp. salt
1 cup warm whole mile (about 110 degrees)
1/3 cup warm water (about 110 degrees)
3 tbsp. honey
2 tbsp. melted unsalted butter
1 packet fast acting yeast

*I use my Kitchen Aide mixer with the dough hook attachment.

  1. Mix flour and salt in mixer.
  2. Combine milk, water, honey, butter, and yeast. It's important that your liquids aren't too hot, otherwise you might kill your yeast and your bread won't rise. I always use a thermometer and get great results!
  3. Slowly pour liquid mixture into bowl with flour.
  4. Mix on low until well combine. If your dough is too sticky, you can add more flour...about 1 tbsp. at a time, but no more than 1/4 cup.
  5. Once combined, mix dough on medium speed for about 10 minutes.
  6. Take out dough and knead into a smooth ball. Place in a lightly oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap.
  7. Place dough in a warm place to rise. My house is always cold so I like to warm the oven to about 200 degrees for about 10 minutes. I then turn off the oven and place my dough in the warm oven.
  8. Wait for the dough to rise and double in size; about 45 minutes.
  9. On a lightly floured surface, shape your dough into a rectangle and roll. Pinch the seams and ends together and place in an oiled loaf pan and cover with plastic wrap.
  10. Let dough rise again until it doubles in size...about 20 minutes.
  11. Bake in 350 degrees oven for about 40 minutes or until the internal temperature is 195 degrees.
  12. Let your bread cool a bit and then enjoy!!!