Saturday, November 09, 2013

in my absence...

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I'm pleased at how well our homeschooling adventure is going this year.

After a year or two of feeling overwhelmed by alllll the choices and pathways for homeschooling, we decided to just... BUY a complete curriculum! (GASP!)  We opted to go with Sonlight this year, and I can't express how happy I am that we purchased a curriclum. 

We've just finished week 16 of Sonlight Core A.  With Core A, we purchased Sonlight's Language Arts 1, and Science A.  We opted for Handwriting Without Tears, and Singapore Math Primary Math 1A/B.

We definitely don't follow the schedules as printed, but it's not intended to be a strict "this way only" kind of schedule. I would say that we tend to "clump" things, especially with the read alouds.  So, rather than reading one bit of this and that each day, we'll read most of the assigned reading for the whole week for a particular book in one sitting. I'm totally fine with adapting it to fit us. So, here's a little first semester review on the materials

I'll start with the things we DON'T use or do: 
The sing along bible verse CD.  Listened to it once, and didn't care for it.
We don't do scripture memorization.
The Timeline Book is hit or miss - like, once or twice we've used it. I just tend to forget it. Oh well. 
The Giant Map. I'm okay with not having purchased this, since we use our globe and the smaller maps.
The Critical Thinking book.  I bought it as an extra, but for whatever reason, just never quite fit it in.  I'm thinking to try to start in with it eventually.

Things we don't use as intended, or that maybe don't quite fit us:
 The Science material.  Reading and worksheets are fine, but the timing of the experiments is just kind of off for us.  I think we've done... maybe half of the experiments so far?  Otherwise we just watch the DVD and read the book.  I'm okay with skipping some of these things since we do a fair amount of science outside the scheduled stuff in the material.  I think we will go ahead and get science b, though, because it seems to fit the mark for us in balancing the presentation of commonly accepted theories of a very old earth/universe while allowing space and information to present a creation-based view. 

The Handwriting Without Tears Sonlight Schedule. Why Sonlight schedules it the way they do is a mystery to me. They spread the use of the workbook out over the course of 36 weeks, while the suggested schedule from the maker uses the workbook in 18 weeks, and then does weekly review for the rest of the year.  That makes a whole lot more sense to me, since the child builds the proper handwriting techniques early on, rather than reinforcing bad ones for longer.

 Everything Else:
Language Arts 1 is probably the right fit for Elizabeth. She speeds through the reading.  She taught herself to read last year using, so the phonics and sight word lessons she breezes through.  I can't really say if it's a good method for teaching reading, or not. I think it is SPOT ON for her writing and creative thinking. We supplement with a separate journal in which she can free-write about writing prompts.

We hadn't worked much on handwriting in previous years, so the copywork in the LA is a great regular practice. Using the HWT schedule for the workbook has given her good practice in learning to shape letters. For a while, handwriting was her least favorite task, but her writing has improved significantly just in 10 weeks.  I've learned that it's better to do handwriting early in the day before she gets tired.

Math - we were plowing through the lessons for a while, but we got into subtraction and realized she didn't really have a handle on her addition math facts within 10, and that she was just not getting subtraction, so we have paused for the past couple of weeks to play math games on the ipad (like this, do flashcards and do things like coloring worksheets to help her practice her math facts. I wish that number bonds were something she really connected with, but alas, it's not, so math fact memorization it is.  I borrowed a teacher's manual, and I'm glad I did.  It's given me different ways to introduce the concepts that are displayed in the textbook.  I don't refer to it every day, or even every week, but I think it's worthwhile.

I'm generally satisfied with the curriculum. I LOVE the selection of books, and the opportunities they give to talk about hard, but real life issues. I'm finding a love of Usborne books (they use several for the main texts).  I'm not sure how I'll manage running more than one core in the future, but that's a couple years off, assuming I even stick with Sonlight.  But for now, this is just what I needed to get my feet under me, and to have a guide with which to work. I sometimes long to be more interest led, but I can be so bad with following up or getting into the moment that going unschooled would not be good for us.

Overall, I'm pleased with Sonlight. It's just what I needed to pace lessons so I don't overwhelm the kids with my need to get everything done right now. 

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

and that was August

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Note: I found this post languishing on the drafts. Here it is months later. 

So what happened to the rest of August?

We got back from vacation. We recovered by not going anywhere for several days.

I discovered my garden had been growing nicely. Many peppers greeted me. Carrots and tomatoes are growing in abundance. The strawberry plants are trying to escape their pots.

Elizabeth and I went on a geocaching date, and got some caches that we can't do with the younger siblings. And we watched moveis, and just hung out. And got together for a Not Back To School Picnic with our homeschool group.
And then it was time to start our school year.

Elizabeth is in 1st grade this year. We've chosen to go with a "boxed" curriculum, one that has all of the subjects we'll need for the year. Here's what we're using:

Sonlight Core A, with 1st grade Language Arts for E (Mostly for the writing. She's already finding the reading assignments to be super easy. )
Sonlight Science A
Singapore Math's Primary Mathematics 1A/1B
Handwriting Without Tears 1st grade
Art will be on an interest basis at home and with our homeschool group.
PE with our homeschool group, mostly in the form of playdates, but also group get togethers for rock-climbing, open gym, skating, and whatever else we do.
I'd like to add:
Spanish, maybe using Rosetta Stone, but we will see.  We have several Spanish-speaking children in our homeschool group, and Elizabeth would like to be able to talk to them better.
Music, mostly through piano lessons. Looking for a teacher.

So, I've been trying to get myself ready for teaching, getting a handle on the flow of the material, and making sure we're ready to go.  We've done a couple of days so far, and I can see we'll find our grove with it.

And in a few days, we'll have some people visiting us to finish our fly-by August. Good-bye Summer,  Hello Fall!

wild, wild, west

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I feel like I've missed August.

Here's why:  We went on vacation. Whee!

We piled our family of 5 into our truck, and headed of for places unseen. We met up with my parents and 3 of my nieces for our 2 week tour of the Wild West. We added Nebraska, Wyoming, Montana, South Dakota, and Minnesota to our children's states list.

In Nebraska we saw: A small train to ride a local park. We rode it. We saw here Papa was born, and where his grandparents lived.  We saw the world's largest train yard, but only from the ground because the tower was closed. I grabbed a geocache or two.

In Wyoming we saw: Dry flat land. Cheyenne, and the biggest locomotive, ever. Big Boy.  I grabbed a geocache, but really Jude found it. A Mountain range.

Laramie, and a bridge over a train yard, which was right next to the restaurant where we had our dinner. Nathanael was VERY excited to be standing on a bridge, watching trains pass right under us. The bridge shook. The wind from the passing trains whipped our hair around, nearly knocked off ball caps, and would have caused skirts to fly, had there been any skirts to be flown. The smoke from the diesel engines was black and surprised several of us. Drivers honked the horns at the crazy people waving at them from the bridge, and the 4 year old who was nearly jumping out of his shoes from excitement.  We all grabbed a geocache.

Do you detect a train theme here?

More Wyoming: More dry, flat land. I tried to grab a geocache, but subtle was needed, and subtle a crowd-of-10-people-milling-around-a-street-corner is not. Mountains! The Tetons!

We made it into the Jackson area, and spent several days checking out locations in Grand Teton National Park. We saw bison, elk, pronghorn, muledeer.

No bears, despite all the signs telling us bears would practically be crawling all over us/our food.  I grabbed a virtual geocache while the rest of the crew was painting on Lunch Tree Hill.



Wyoming, and Montana: We then moved on into Yellowstone National Park.  Geysers, mudpots, and fumeroles, Oh MY! Although I enjoyed Yellowstone, and would go back, I was a little underwhelmed at most of the hydrothermal features. Nathanael was not impressed with Old Faithful the first time around (he had just woken up) but the second day we saw it, he was much more enthusiastic.

He was especially pleased that we were standing on a real, live, volcano. I really wanted to see Grand Prismatic Spring, but they were working on the boardwalks. Boo. We did see bison and elk. We really wanted to see moose, bears, and wolves. Some people saw wolves. Our truck did not.  We did see moose, though.  I grabbed a few more virtual geocaches, and even a traditional cache in Montana. Woot!   We managed to get Adelle to say "buffaloes,"  but really it sounds like "Bup-a-boes!" And then she proceeded to exclaim "buffaloes" every time we saw bison. Again. Blocking the road. 

Buffaloes! And an unfortunate alignment for nosepicking?
Buffaloes. Blocking the road. Again.
And then, our time (which was still too short) was nearing an end.  It was time to leave the natural wonders of Western Wyoming and start the return home.

More Wyoming, again: We eventually made it over to Devil's Tower, but didn't stay very long.  There was much rock climbing in the time we were there.

South Dakota: Deadwood! We didn't realize how much of a gambling town this would be. Casinos everywhere, even in our little hotel. But we walked Mainstreet Deadwood, saw a model train display, and got some ice cream. We also grabbed a geocache. Gold Mine Tour, panning for gold, driving through the Black Hills. Mount Rushmore! Yup, there it is. It's big. But now that Elizabeth has seen it, she found the humor in a sign she saw, where someone substituted some band's faces onto a picture of the monument.  The Badlands National Park did indeed include bad lands. And Bighorn Sheep! We stopped by the Minuteman Missile historic site, and saw the silo from the ground, but the tours of the launch facility were full. It was still awesome.

And then we headed home. Several days later, we rolled into our driveway. We were done. We were glad to be home. Adelle wandered around the house, playing with whatever she found, glad to be OUT of her seat. Nathanael wanted to make his own geyser (and did with Elizabeth's help - a few squirts of hand soap, and a stream of running water in a cup, and Viola!  A geyser!)

Adelle - "Buffaloes!" Nana, Papa, Anna, J, Go-gan. Splashing in the water. Counting trains with Nathanael. And probably watching the movie "My Neighbor Totoro" pretty much every day while spending hours in the truck. Thank you, inventors of the portable DVD player! (To-wo-wo? Peas!?)

Nathanael: "Going to grand tetons, staying in hotels, eating at restaurants, and seeing my Nana and Papa." Nathanael picked up stick pretty much every place we stopped, turning them into swords, guns, arrows, fishing poles and whatever else. His friend Hammy (the puppet hamster) was his constant companion.


Elizabeth: "Yellowstone. Seeing Old Faithful. Going to the Grand Tetons, and staying at Jackson Lake Lodge and getting to paint with Papa."

Monday, July 29, 2013

pickin' strawberries

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(Forgive the fuzzy pictures.  My camera decided to quit focusing properly, then quit all together. Didn't see if till after the fact.)

We went strawberry picking for the first time this summer. We (me) managed to pick 20 pounds of berries, of which we made jam, frozen whole berries, and some delicious fresh treats!  A shout out to Guelde Strawberries for the easy picking. Great prices, too!  Although the berries aren't organic (I wish!), they say they minimize spraying chemicals on the berry plants.

I'm not totally sure if the kids liked it.  They said they liked the first 5 minutes or so of picking. Adelle, especially, since she just ate the berries out of the box.  After 5 minutes, the kids were done, really, but they hung out around me for another 20+ minutes picking a berry here or there.

Then, the fun really started for them - I  opened the trunk of the car, and spread a blanket out.  They got to hide in there with the trunk lid acting like a sunshade.  Thank goodness for the crazy-big trunk of an Impala! They played with toys, drank water, and kept themselves entertained while I finished picking berries.

I think we'll go again next year!

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