Thursday, June 25, 2009

Sale at Angelicum.

Just an FYI for all those considering Angelicum Academy for the new year. They are having a 10% off sale until July 6th. This includes enrollment fees, books, lesson plans and Socratic classes.

Although I won't be enrolling this year, I will probably still order some of their lesson plans!

Check them out at Angelicum Academy.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Organizing Centers.

I have been a big fan of creating centers for my children. Well, not really creating centers around the house...but making those "Take To Your Seat" type of centers. They are usually big hits and they keep the kids busy when the are bored, when they are waiting for their next lesson, etc.

I purchased a file folder holder awhile ago to help me organize all our file folder games and centers. You can check out this link to see my kids using their centers and how I organize them!

But lately, I came across a great post over at the WTM boards talking all about creating a math lab. (You can see that thread here.) It gave me an idea! Instead of having our centers in our school room, why not create a special place for them? After all, we have a space set up in our alcove with a table, chairs, and plenty of space for materials. All I have to do is organize the materials.

So I visited Fanning the Flame for some inspiration! Wow! She has some wonderful ideas and I suggest anyone to check out her blog (the pictures are great!). Another website for great ideas is over at Hubbard's Cupboard. You can see a couple of pictures of their math tubs and there are plenty of links to get you started.

For the time being, I'm gathering ideas for materials, manipulatives, and other necessities. CanTeach has some wonderful ideas of what math centers can include. But I'll also be including a place to store all our "take to your seat" centers. I'm planning on setting up a board with a daily or weekly challenge, just to get the kids started. We'll see how it goes!!

Right now, I'm in the planning stages and I would like to have it all done within a couple of weeks. Pictures to follow!!!

Monday, June 22, 2009

History: Past, Present, Future.

I truly believe that out of all the subjects we tackle on a weekly basis, history is the most time consuming and most fun. I'm almost glad that it is too, since it turns out that this is the subject that is typically the most expensive with all the books and extras that we end up getting for it.

The Past
This past year, we used Story of the World (SOTW) 1: Ancient Times. The kids love it and I'm not sure if it's because the book is written in a fun story format, because of the coloring pages, or because of the fun projects we do. I'm pretty sure that it's a combination of all three. History is usually the most welcome subject in our day!

The Present
Presently, we are still trekking through SOTW 1. Mostly due to my morning sickness, I abandoned doing history for a while. The thought of having to sit through 2 hours of reading, narrating, and making projects with the kids while having to suffer through bouts of nausea and vomiting just weren't how I wanted to spend my afternoons (I know, the thought of it makes me sick all over again). So now we having to cut out much of the activities and extra readings just so that we can finish up by August and stay on schedule for our middle ages studies.

The Future
This leads me into the future of history. You got it...this is the subject that I'm currently planning. We are using History Odyssey this year and I'm very excited! Not only do we get to read through SOTW 2, but we get to add in a different perspective with A Child's History of the World. As I take out and thumb through our history activity books, reading lists, and materials; the kids can't help but make their way over to see what I'm doing. Just telling them about it gets them excited and I get all giddy knowing the fun that awaits everyone come September! Studying the ancients was fun, but the middle ages (with it's knights, castles, and vikings) seems to be much more appealing to the kids.

So as I work on my reading list and plan our projects, I'll try to keep myself from ending our study of the ancients prematurely. Being a huge fan of the middle ages myself, I'm figuring that the more I plan it out, the quicker I want to get started on it all!

Keep checking on me, as I'll be posting our history reading list, project list, and history schedule as soon as I am done with them!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Year for Priests.

Starting on the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the Pope has declared this as the Year for Priests.

"Please pray for our priests that they might always be faithful to their sacred calling." -USCCB

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Final Preschool Planning.

Bear with me, please. I'm trying to tackle one child at time, in terms of planning. I feel an incredible need to have everything completely done before August. This is, of course, because that is when I'm due with baby #5!

First on my list was preschool. Materials? Bought! Daily Schedule? Done! Lesson Plan Breakdown? Finished! Preschool Box? Organized! So now I feel one-third complete!

I decided to use a separate planner for Anthony this year. Besides not having enough room to squeeze 3 kids into one, I thought that it would be easier to do this since much of his preschool is hands-on and might require more writing space for notes. I picked up a planner from Seton while at the IHM Conference. A good deal for only $6 and you can get one here.

Here is a breakdown of Anthony's Daily Preschool Schedule. (*Click on images for a larger view)

Scheduling his school work is simple. The HWT Teacher's Guide comes with a handy daily schedule at the end of the book, so all the work was done for me! MFW is similarly done, but a little more difficult to follow if you haven't done it before (and it's been over a year for me!). So I decided to make 2 simple charts. A Daily Lesson Planner, that will tell me what needs to be done daily before every lesson; and a Weekly Lesson Planner, that breaks down what is done every day. The planners don't include much detail, as all the information is found in the Teacher's Manual.

A quick note about the Weekly Lesson will notice that I broke it down by days (as described in the Teacher's Manual). This does not mean that we will be doing this on a daily basis. We are just going to follow the progression on a twice a week schedule, so finishing a week in MFW K might take us up to 2 weeks or more.

So on to planning for the older kids!! I must admit that planning for preschool is fun. It's simple and just thinking of Anthony's excitement at doing his own school work makes me happy!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Preparing for Preschool.

I'll be using a combination of different things for preschool. As you have seen in my previous posts, this was probably the last thing for me to settle on. Here is a list of what Anthony will be enjoying this new school year.
  • Handwriting Without Tears Pre-K (HWT)
  • My Father's World From A to Z Kindergarten Curriculum (MFW)
  • Rod and Staff Preschool Workbooks (R&S)
  • Preschool Box
This seems like a lot of material to cover for a preschooler. But here is how I'm going to break it down.

This super fun curriculum (I did this with Marco as a preschooler) will be implemented using the suggested schedule in the Teacher's Guide. The work is done daily and takes about 15 minutes. It's fun, easy, and a great way for preschoolers to learn because it is so multi-sensory.

Another great, multi-sensory program that leads the child from letter recognition to reading basic words. I'm not sure Anthony is ready to take this on all the way as a preschooler, so I am scheduling it only 2-3 times a week as opposed to the recommended full week, daily schedule. What is wonderful about this program is that it is all inclusive. It ties in math, phonics, reading, science, art, creative thinking, and character development...all in one curriculum! My plan is to take it easy and perhaps even finish this over the course of 2 years. Of course, this is all depending on how Anthony takes to it.

These are really wonderful little workbooks and I plan on using them while the older kids are doing their own school work. Once directions are given for a page, Anthony will be able to work on these on his own. This will help develop some independence and fill his own need to sit down and do serious work with the older kids. They will be a great way to reinforce shapes, numbers, colors, letters, and so much more. They really are fun books! And with 7 workbooks plus a bible story book in the set for only $20, they are a bargain!

Preschool Box
I am going to continue to use our preschool box this year. It saved my sanity many times and it is a great asset to any homeschooling family! For ideas on getting a preschool box started, visit my Homeschooling with Toddlers post. I rotate activities every week and these are all mostly Montessori inspired. (Check out my Preschool Activities post for even more ideas!) This year I am adding the MFW Preschool Package to the mix. It comes with wonderful Lauri products, as well as a handy learning activity booklet that was developed for use with MFW. Not only that, but I will also be making more preschool activity bags using the book Montessori on a Shoestring. With Christian running around, this will help me out with him as well!

I'm expecting to spend about 1 hour to 1.5 hours a day (depending on the day) one-on-one with Anthony. This won't be all at the same time either and doesn't include independent activities like his preschool box or R&S workbooks. He'll also be participating in our homeschool co-op once a week where he will participate in music, bible class, and unit studies.

Overall, he's going to have a great year!!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Homeschooling Scheduling Tips. A "How To" Guide.

I had a comment, or actually a question, in my previous schedule post about how I "stick" to the plan. First, I'll have to admit that I am a very flexible person when it comes to scheduling and I also tend to move lots of things around. But when you look at the bare bones of it all, I do in fact stick to the schedule.

I am not a type A personality. Sticking to planning and schedules is something that I have to really work hard at. But here are some tips on how I've managed to do it, despite my scatter brain!

Make your schedule a habit, but start small.

1. Create a morning routine.
When Marco started kindergarten last year, I made the realization that as I had more kids to homeschool, I was going to encounter problems if I did not adhere to a schedule. I started small, by first creating a morning routine. With the help of the book, Managers of their Chores, I worked on getting the kids used to doing a morning routine. We used pre-reader chore cards and they would carry their ChorePacks with them until their morning routine was done. For us, the routine was simple. 1. Wake up, brush teeth, and wash face. 2. Make your bed. 3. Fold pajamas and place under pillow. 4. Get dressed. 5. Pick up room. 6. Short morning prayer. It took about 2 months before all the kids (then ages 5, 3, and 2) had formed this as a habit and they no longer needed to carry around their chore cards.

2. Create an eating schedule.
As we were establishing a morning routine, I created an eating schedule. Snack time at 10-10:30 am, lunch at noon, snack again at 3pm, and finally dinner at 5:30pm. This schedule has only changed on days that we happened to be out on trips or other rare occasions. Otherwise, it is the same day in and day out. So now I had 2 habits created...morning routine and eating schedule!!!

3. Insert nap times and quiet times into the schedule.
Nap times and quiet times are important for every mother's sanity. Not only do they provide a quiet break for the kids, but this is an especially good time to do one-on-one teaching with older children. A key to making quiet times work is to separate they kids. Although my children share a room, I split them up. One in each bedroom, while I do school with my oldest. In the beginning, I had problems with kids coming out and asking, "Is quiet time over yet?" This was driving me insane, so I invested in the Time Tracker. My kids didn't know how to tell time yet, so this was a huge help (and still is!!); and it stopped the battle between trying to keep them all in their rooms until time was up. Once the light turns red, you are free to go!!

4. Schedule school subjects.
You will notice that I put this as the final step in creating a successful schedule. The reason for this was more laziness on my part, but it turned out to be the most helpful. Since I was just learning the ropes of homeschooling, I wasn't sure how much time any particular subject was going to take. I also wasn't as strict with getting school done at a particular time, because at that point it was all just kindergarten and preschool work with the kids. What I did know, however, is how long everything else on my schedule took (I knew lunch break was for an hour, quiet time was another hour, etc.). With all my other habits in place, I could just plug school into all the blank spots on my schedule! After much trial and error, I also learned to evenly distribute the work throughout the day. My kids need breaks. They are not the "sit at your desk and do your lessons until they are done" kind of kids. I learned this as we went along. So I scheduled our most difficult and longest subject first (in this case math), followed by subjects with shorter lessons. You learn to play with your school schedule as you get to know how your kids work best, and this is where being flexible is important.

Since many homeschool moms don't school during the summer, it is a perfect time to start implementing the new habit of a schedule. Starting with chore routines and then making your way down to school lessons was what worked for our family. I can be the first to tell you that not every day will be perfect. Sometimes math takes longer; sometimes kids get sick; and sometimes you just feel like jumping out a window! But with the basic habits formed, it is easy to jump right back in the next day!!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

A New Schedule for a New School Year.

I've been slowly working on a new daily schedule for the new school year. It's a difficult thing to do since I'm not sure what is going to happen to our routine with the new baby. But for now, I'm basing everything off of past experience. With three kids to homeschool, things are beginning to look a little more tight!!

I have managed to work out a good schedule so far, however. This will be my work in progress throughout the summer. I'm posting it now since so many homeschoolers are in planning mode and this might help someone out there looking to form a good schedule.

I used this same format this past year. Although I dropped certain things from my schedule (like grammar), I still stuck to it and it was a HUGE help! The important thing is to be flexible with yourself and your family.

**Just click on the schedule for a closer look!!

IHM Conference Highlights.

I've been looking over all the great tips and notes I took over the weekend. Usually, I go to homeschool conferences, take notes, read them over once or twice, and then file them away. This year I've decided to post the best highlights here...a place I visit over and over again!!!

This is a mish-mash of all the different talks. Speakers included Dr. Ray Guarendi, Virginia Sueffert, Laura Berquist, and Carole Breslin (among many others!!). Since many of the talks given by speakers such as Fr. Phillip Chavez and Fr. Andrew Apostoli were at the same time, it was impossible to see everyone.

I hope others are able to take away from this. These are just bullet points and in no particular order, so forgive me if they seem like they are in disarray!


* The most important reason for Catholic homeschoolers is to make saints. The world doesn't need any more smart, successful, sinful Catholics.

* Our goal should be to make responsible citizens for our nation.

* We have to teach our faith by word and example.

* We have to enable good citizenship in our children by setting the example and helping others.

* Good discipline leads to good family life.

* We need to promote and encourage courtesy in the home.

* If homeschooling with toddlers and young children, work outside so that older kids can get school done while the younger kids run and play.

* Become a nap nazi. Schedule nap times regardless of children wanting to take a nap or not. Quiet time will enable you to work with older children without interruptions.

* Use car time for learning. Saying the rosary or practicing prayers during car trips is an excellent idea.

* Be stingy with your time and pick enrichment activities very carefully. Clump children together, if possible, for activities in order to avoid becoming too busy driving from activity to activity.

* Make a schedule and stick to it!!

* Start school at the same time every day.

* Set up the children's school work space the night before with work ready to do in the morning.

* The most important virtue for children is obedience.

* Ask if your home is filled with Love, Patience, and Joy.

I highly recommend Dr. Ray Guarendi to anyone who is in search of parenting books and talks. He offers DVD's, CD's, and books through his website:

It is impossible to write down all the wonderful information gleaned from this conference. I hope the above will get you started and whet your appetite for more! You can get more information on the IHM Conference at their website:

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Back from the IHM National Conference!!!

I am back from the IHM Conference! It was a great trip, but WAY too short!! Two days is just not enough to be away from it all. I definitely felt the need for more time to let all the talks sink in, to decompress, to organize my thoughts, and finally to plan the year far away from the distractions that running a household bring.

I do, however, feel a bit more refreshed and inspired. I came away with a more knowledge and faith that I can actually do a good job homeschooling! I also don't feel so alone in my journey. Sometimes it's easy to forget that there are others out there who are doing the same thing you are and who are struggling with many of the same issues. Going to conference is like getting a yearly tune-up for me. It keeps me looking forward.

One unfortunate thing about this year's conference was that I felt that there were vendors missing. CHC failed to attend and many other vendors didn't have the selection of books that they usually have. I'm not sure if it is due to our present economic status or not, but it was an inconvenience to me (and many other moms) to not be able to peruse through many of the books only offered through online Catholic sites. It makes a huge difference to be able to thumb through a book, as opposed to just reading the description and reviews. Perhaps next year will be better in that sense.

Overall, IHM is a wonderful Catholic conference!!! With a daily rosary, confessions, and fabulous speakers...I'm not sure why anyone would not want to attend! And as for our's done! I just have to piece our schedule together and get all the logistics out of the way. From Preschool to 2nd grade...amazing that I've been on this homeschool journey for 3 years already. It is truly a blessing!!!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

A Light World Geography Plan.

For the past year, the kids have been studying the continents of the world through our co-op. This was a wonderful introduction to world geography. With lapbooks, presentations, and even cooking; it was a fun year! This year I wasn't ready to move on to a study of the states, so I decided to continue with world geography, but moving the emphasis from continents to countries around the world.

Time is a huge factor for me, especially with a new baby on the way; so I wanted to make sure that our geography studies will be light, fun, and not time consuming. After looking around, I decided to use the bare bones of Galloping the Globe. Although this book can be used over a span of up to 3 years, I've opted not to use it so in-depth. With suggestions for activities, recipes, literature selections, and so much more....I can see how easy it would be to spend a whole month studying a country. This is not an option for me, so I am planning on doing one country a week.

A country a week for 5 days? Not even close! We'll be doing this only twice a week!!

Day 1: Maps, facts, geography

Day 2: Culture, saints, people, food (activities and extra reading books, as well)

That's it! Simple.

I'm aiming at spending 30-45 minutes MAX!! The last thing I'm going to need is my schedule being taken over with geography projects.

Monday, June 8, 2009

More for preschool??

As I continue to peruse my own stash of curriculum, I keep coming back to My Father's World Kindergarten program. I used this for Marco when he was in kindergarten himself, but stopped about half way through the program. It wasn't that it was difficult to implement or that I disliked it; but it was more about the repetition that was boring Marco. I just got tired of forcing it upon him. Now this doesn't stop this from being a solid and fun program. It just didn't mesh well with my child!

Now Isabella is going into her kindergarten year and I haven't even considered taking this program out. I'm sure she would enjoy it (as she did do it along side Marco), but since she seems to be a little advanced for now...I'm taking her in a different direction.

Anthony is my little guy who I can't get out of my mind for using MFW K, however. Although it might move a little fast for him (he is a young one), I can't get out of my head how much he would enjoy the program. So now I'm seriously considering adding this to his weekly schedule. I'm not opposed to taking it nice and slow at all...perhaps take 2 weeks to do 1 week of work (or more!). Not only that, but I know that Isabella would more than likely want to join in. It's always fun when you can have the kids do activities together!

So I will spend much of my weekend working out a schedule for Anthony...and all the other kids! I'm looking forward to my weekend away at the IHM Conference. I know it will give me the time I need to focus on creating our weekly school schedule. Having 3 kids doing school, 1 toddler, and 1 newborn is certainly going to throw me for a loop!! I hope that we are able to blend into a productive year...with lots of prayer, of course!!!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Preschool Decisions.

I'm not completely done with Anthony's preschool materials as of yet, but I'm getting there! I did go ahead with the Handwriting Without Tears Pre-K; mostly because I already had everything needed for it (I used this with Marco). I just bought him a new workbook. It is a fun program and takes such a small amount of time every day. I'm sure that Anthony will love it since we already sing the songs from the CD.

On top of that, I also purchased Rod & Staff's preschool workbooks. I thought they were really cute and simple. Enough to keep Anthony occupied for short periods of time when I need him to be nice and quiet. These workbooks introduce shapes, colors, numbers, and all the typical preschool stuff.

Of course, I am looking forward to getting him some nice, Catholic books to look through and color in. I'll be looking for these next week at the IHM Conference. For now, Anthony has looked through his books and is extremely excited about getting started with his own school. It's so much fun to see the look of pride on his face knowing that he too will be an official preschooler!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Planner Done!! Next Up....

Well, I finally got my planner printed, organized, and bound! I'm excited about it because it is exactly what I want and need. It is definitely an improvement over last year's planner that was in a 3 ring binder. This is lighter and easier to use, as well as easy to take with me anywhere if I need to.

My very basic planner. I'll be adding a large label to the front cover.

First page is a yearly calendar for quick reference.

Following the yearly calendar is the student checklist, where the kids can check off work completed. This can also serve as an attendance record.

The weekly planner is spread out over 2 pages. Following this are monthly pages, my curriculum planner, reading logs, and lined pages for notes.
*For more details on my planner and links, check out my Planning a Planner post.

Last year, I had all my lesson plans and schedules included in my planner. This was handy, but also became a pain after a while. It made my planner heavy and cumbersome. Not only that, but I didn't need my lesson plans or schedules on a daily basis. It became a bit of a hassle to have them in my planner. This doesn't mean that I don't need my lesson plans or schedules this year. I just have decided to make a separate bound notebook for them.

This separate notebook will be my Lesson Plan Book. It will contain all the lesson plans for each subject for the year. Of course, some subjects don't require their own lesson plans (Saxon math, religion, etc.) because the lessons are self explanatory and there is very little prep time. But for other subjects, such as history (History Odyssey), I need a break down of what to do week by week including supplies and books needed.

Since the Lesson Plan Book will only be needed, at most, once a seems like a better idea for it to be separate from my daily planner. I'll have to post picture of that when I'm done. For now, I'm still organizing and making my lesson plans. I also have some materials left to buy, so I don't want to get it all together before I have every book in my hand!!

Monday, June 1, 2009

Nature Study.

Not too long ago, we went outside for a little nature study. We had been listening to different bird calls and were trying to see how many different birds we could recognize in our own backyard. I got the idea when I was searching through the NWF Green Hour activity section. They have all kind of bird calls in their Issue #109.

We were able to hear 5 different birds (although we weren't able to identify all of them). Afterwards, we got out our drawing pads and made some nature drawings of birds, flowers, and trees. It was a fun and productive time spent outside.

Taking a walk into the forest to listen for birds.

Marco and Anthony pick a spot for drawing.

Anthony draws a robin.

Marco worked hard at his nature drawing.

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.  ...