Saturday, December 31, 2011

Study America Saturday ~ Amanda Bennett Download-n-Go

Have you ever used any of Amanda Bennett's Download-n-Go unit studies? They are excellent! In fact, we will be starting one on Dogs next week when we start our second semester of school.

Right now Amanda Bennett is having a 12 Days of Christmas special, and some of her BRAND NEW unit studies are on sale! I have decided to cash in on some of these for next year.

Our History plans for next year include a semester on Current Events, with the presidential election being our main focus, and then a semester on U.S. Government.

Well wouldn't you know it ... Amanda Bennett has a unit called Elections 2012 and one called American Government which are brand new! They are regularly $10.95, on sale for just $5.00!!

The thing I love about the Download-n-Go unit studies, other than the fact that the entire unit is completely prepared for you, is that there is a younger grades lesson plan and a Junior High/High School lesson plan, so BOTH my kids can study the same thing at their own levels!

Check with Amanda Bennett each day to see what other specials she has. I have an affiliate link on my sidebar and would love for you to order through me!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Meeting Goals

Eli ended his first semester of 2nd grade this week. He has met a couple of big goals and we are so proud of him!

He had an Accelerated Reader (AR) goal of 10 points this quarter, which meant that he had to read 20 half-point books and get a 100% on the reading comprehension tests for them. He is still developing his reading skills and isn't ready for chapter books, so he has to read lots of books to meet his goal. He has really been into a series of non-fiction books about animals. He reads one almost every day. And he has to read each book twice before he can take the comprehension test on it. Usually he reads it to me after school and then to his daddy before he goes to bed. This week, however, I made him read one to Dawson instead of me. It was about naked mole rats. Yuck!

This quarter I also started paying Eli $5 per week for every spelling test he got a 100% on at the Pre-test on Wednesdays. If the students get a 100% on the pre-test, they don't have to take the test on Friday. If they get under a 100%, they get a second chance. Honestly, I was not trying to bribe Eli to do good on his tests. My main goal was to get him to take his test in the classroom and work hard enough early in the week to get a 100% so that we wouldn't have to spend the rest of the week studying. The reason for this is that last year he took his spelling tests separately with his reading resource teacher. She would go slow for him so he wouldn't get behind. But I really wanted to push him this year to try to keep up with the other students and learn to take the tests in the busyness of the classroom instead of in private. That little stinker has made $52 this quarter!!! He got a 100% on every pre-test except for one, and he got a 100% on the Friday test (he got paid $2 for that.) The real goal was met, and he has some cash to buy a new video game.

Since math and science are his strong subjects, improving in reading and spelling is so very important. He has accomplished so much!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Tea Time

On Tuesday, Brynne had her Girls Club Christmas Tea. She woke up that morning so crabby, which is not like her, and was crabby all day. As we were getting ready for the party, she started getting teary and weepy. She said she just didn't feel very good. I asked her if she wanted to stay home, but she really wanted to go. She got all dressed up and I was able to snap a photo of her and Eli before we left (he was on his way to his Boys Club Christmas party).

The tea was absolutely lovely! The tablescapes were beautiful!

And so was this little girl.

The girls decorated "gingerbread" people and then took turns telling about the cookie they brought to share. By this time Brynne was really not feeling good, and was shivering. She wouldn't take off her coat. I felt her head and, yep, she was warm. We stayed separated from the rest of the girls so that she could participate in the gift exchange. She just sat with me, covered with a quilt, sipping hot cocoa.

In the gift exchange she chose a large gift that was full of makeup (oh, joy!). She was so happy with it, and the other girls were bummed that she left before they had a chance to steal it from her (it was a Dirty Santa exchange).

The leader of the Girls' Club and her assistants are fabulous! Every month the girls do some amazing things!

(On a side note, Brynne came home and had a fever of 102 degrees. She took a bath, drank some hot tea, took some ibuprofen, laid on the couch and watched Elf, and then went to bed. This morning she woke up perfectly healthy. But now Daddy has the yuck. I hope it stops there!)

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Eli's 2nd Grade Christmas Party

On Monday, Eli had his class Christmas party. They had snacks, made a couple of crafts, and had a Secret Santa gift exchange.

Eli got a Nerf gun for his Secret Santa friend.

The boy who drew his name happens to be one of his best friends. The kids each wrote four clues about who was their Secret Santa friend. They stood at the front of class and read the four clues and then the students tried to guess who it was. His friend gave these four clues about Eli:
  • I have had dinner with him.
  • He has long hair.
  • He loves to play Wii.
  • He doesn't like to watch movies.
His friend knows him so well. Eli does not like to watch movies in class. A lot of movies scare him and he feels trapped in a classroom, so kind of freaks if he has to watch one. When they start to watch a movie, he gets up and goes out into the central pod and gets on the computer. He's always been like that and all the kids know that about him. As soon as the clues were read, his teacher said, "All together now ..." and the kids yelled, "EEEEEEEli!" His friend got him a $10 gift card to Gamestop.

He'll be spending that at their Buy 2/Get 1 Free promotion that starts tomorrow, on his birthday!

Times are good for Eli right now!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Study America Saturday ~ Slavery

Dawson is studying the period just prior to the Civil War, when Slavery was at it's height.

We have been reading Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe.

Dawson has done some activities about Harriet Tubman and The Underground Railroad at the Scholastic site. And he wrote a Character Sketch about Harriet Tubman.

He watched the History Channel video "Underground Railroad" hosted by Alfre Woodard. I thought this was an excellent video because it covered all aspects of slavery that we were studying in more detail, even the true story of Eliza as told in Uncle Tom's Cabin.

We read Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, his personal account of slavery, and did some literary studies on it. You can read the entire book by clicking on the link.

We finished our study this week by watching the entire mini-series Roots. I can remember watching that with my dad when I was a kid. It was a good end to our study. Dawson said, "Watching this makes me ashamed to be a white American."

Obviously, this is a study for the older student. We have not held back in the graphic details of the plight of American Slaves. It is such an important part of our history that needs to be understood. I would suspect that in the public schools this topic is merely mentioned in the study of American History because of the African Americans that attend the schools. It's a sensitive subject. Probably the key people are taught but the specifics glossed over. That, to me, is a travesty to both the white and black students. Don't you think? I think, as Americans, we like to pretend that it wasn't a big deal. But, oh my, it was a big deal. It's still a big deal.

It has set the stage for the Civil War that we will study after Christmas break.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Weekly Wrap-Up ~ Freedom

Our Christmas break will begin next Wednesday, but we are certainly short-timers around here! We have had a lot going on in our family, that is no secret. It has been difficult to keep on with our everyday lives in the midst of it. But we have done our best to trudge ahead.

Our week this week consisted of sleeping in a little bit, staying comfortable, and finishing up some units.

Dawson and I have been watching the mini-series Roots. What a great movie! Along with that we have been finishing up Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe. I never knew that this book was so faith-based. If Uncle Tom can be a missionary in his dire circumstances, can't I be one? I feel like Dawson has gotten a real, deep understanding of Slavery and it's impact on our country. Because of the 2 1/2 hours + of movie watching and reading we have done daily this week, we decided to put off our Biology lessons until next week. Dawson has kept up on his other assignments, though, making steady progress.

Brynne has spent her week in her pj's mostly, working on a Christmas unit I received free from SchoolExpress. I highly recommend you register for their free unit studies. She loves them! I print them off, put them in a manilla folder turned notebook, and she works steadily on the pages every day. There is reading comprehension, sentence structure, spelling, word unscrambles, crossword puzzles, word searches, and lots of drawing and coloring. Additionally, the unit is discussed at length. Each unit can easily be completed in a week, doing 3 or so pages a day. She is really into coloring right now, so if I am busy doing work with Dawson, I can sit her down with those parts of her unit study and she is occupied for a long time!

Because of all we have had going on, we kind of abandoned our Christmas Books and Activities. I hate it when I start to follow someone's blog who has a great idea, and then they quit doing it. But there just hasn't been enough time (or energy), so we have just been doing what we feel like doing when we feel like doing it. My mother-in-law sent us some wooden Christmas crafts and Brynne has been loving working on them. She has also worked steadily on her grammar and reading this week. After the new year, we will get back into our science studies by doing a unit on dogs and will resume our states studies.

While I see many homeschool bloggers talking about changes they want to make to their curriculum, I am feeling very confident in what we are doing. I just want to hit it a little harder in the next semester, with a little more consistent focus. Without all of the birthdays and holidays and turmoil (turmoil be GONE, in the name of Jesus!), that should be much easier to accomplish.

I pray that everyone has a blessed and lovely Christmas season. Hold tight to the ones you love.

** Linking up at Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

A Sad Wrap-up

We were chugging along so good, until Thursday. Kyndal decided that she couldn't live under the constraints of the rules of our home anymore, so she moved out with a friend. She has made plans to move to Missouri with her dad next week. She refuses to see me or talk to me. She claims I don't love her.

Needless-to-say, it's been a difficult weekend. Not only have I had to suffer the loss of my daughter and our relationship, but I have encountered other selfishness as well that has really taken a toll on me. To say I am fed up with the world right now would be an extreme understatement!

Rick and I are in the midst of trying to make plans for our future. We have determined that what we have been doing just has not been working. Something needs to change. Hopefully there will be news on that front soon.

In the meantime, we still have seven days left of this semester and I need to get myself in gear!

Dawson and I will be wrapping up our unit on slavery and pre-Civil War. We plan to take it kind of easy this week by finishing Uncle Tom's Cabin and watching the original mini-series Roots.

Brynne and I will concentrate this week on our Christmas books and activities. Later today, I will give a preview about what we are doing this week.

I feel like we have done really well this semester, despite the upheaval and turmoil we have experienced.

Stick with me. I'll be back to my old self soon.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Tulsa Festival Ringers

Today we went to a bell choir concert by the Tulsa Festival Ringers. It was held at the Tulsa Performing Arts Center in a theatre containing a backdrop of "The Christmas Carol" that is currently being played by the American Theatre Company. The scenery was It was truly beautiful with snowflakes falling in the background.

The Tulsa Festival Ringers is the only auditioned bell choir in Tulsa. They played a free concert of Christmas songs. A large group of our Homeschool Co-op attended.

After the concert we went with our friends for some lunch at Spaghetti Warehouse.

Then we took the opportunity to run by Bass Pro Shop and visit Santa! Brynne had written him a letter because she didn't want to tell him what she wanted. She did manage to give him a hug, though. Eli wasn't shy at all about telling him what he wants.

It was a nice, Christmas fun day!


Other than just a tiny bit of accumulation on the roofs from flurries, we haven't had any snow yet. But, we're reading about snow this week! Our book for Thursday is Snow by Uri Shulevitz.

We will also be reading the book Super Snow Day ~ Seek and Find by Michael Garland. When I saw this book I just knew that we needed to check it out. It will be so fun!!

We will also be making shaving cream snow scenes. We'll make the scene of snow on blue construction paper and then once it's dry we will cut out winter shapes (trees, snowmen, houses, etc.) to glue on our scenes. This is always a fun project!!

Monday, December 5, 2011

The Legend of the Poinsettia

We will be doing our Christmas stories and activities on Tuesday and Thursday this week. Tomorrow's book is The Legend of the Poinsettia by Tomie DePaola.

In Mexico, the poinsettia is called flor de la noche buena: flower of the Holy Night. At Christmastime, the flower blooms and flourishes, the quite exquisite stars lighting up the countryside. A Mexican legend tells how the poinsettia came to be, through a little girl's unselfish gift to the Christ Child. Tomie dePaola has embraced the legend using his own special feeling for Christmas. His glorious paintings capture not only the brilliant colors of Mexico and its art, but also the excitement of the children preparing for Christmas and the hope of Lucida, who comes to see what makes a gift truly beautiful.
We will be doing a couple activities. First, we will learn about the parts of a poinsettia, draw and label one, and inspect the leaves of a fresh one we have in our living room.
Then we will make a paper towel poinsettia to mail to my grandma. (Scoll to the bottom of this link to see the instructions.) 

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Study America Saturday ~ The Five Senses of American History

When you have the opportunity to see American History ... see it. When you have the opportunity to hear American History ... hear it. When you have the opportunity to touch American History ... touch it. When you have the opportunity to smell American History ... smell it. When you have the opportunity to taste American History ... well, we didn't have that opportunity (unless you count McDonald's on the way home). But we had opportunities to do the others. And it was awesome!

The Nina and Pinta, lifesize replicas of the originals sailed by Christopher Columbus, made a stop in Muskogee, Oklahoma, and we went to tour them this week.

In preparation for our trip, we read a couple of books, of course. We sketched some pictures. We talked a lot about it.

But on Monday, we experienced it!

We saw replicas made in the exact dimensions of the original Nina and Pinta (well, the Nina is the exact dimensions but the Pinta was made larger for some reason). The Santa Maria has not been made, as it would be too big to travel down the rivers and ports that the replicas travel down to dock for the public to see. When you see how big, or how small, the ships really are, it's amazing! Really, those many crew members all lived and worked (mostly worked) together on those tiny ships.

We opted for a guided tour from one of the actual current crew members of the Nina. How fascinating it was to hear the history told by him, and to hear about his modern-day adventures as a crew member aboard one of the ships. Of course he has luxuries the original crew members did not have. But he had real life experiences to share!

We touched the deck and the ropes and the "mechanics" used to sail the ship. We touched a piece of American History! We read a flier on the ship seeking current crew members. Dawson thought that would be so awesome! I asked him how many of his friends would be able to say that they were a crew member aboard one of Christopher Columbus' ships.

And there were even things to smell! The guide told us about how the ship, ropes, everything, were always covered in tar as a way to protect it and camouflage it from enemies. He told that you didn't have to worry about the smell of bad body odor, because the overwhelming smell of tar was constantly in the air. He passed around a jar of tar for us to smell.

There wasn't any food for us to eat at the ship. Unfortunately, the crew members did not have a lot of food themselves. What they did have to eat were salted meats and brick solid biscuits. He told about how the water would be rancid and germ infested. They would pour wine into the water, to kill the germs and make it taste better. The Vitamin C in the wine was what kept the crew members from getting Scurvy. Interesting.

My point? Get out of your books. Scour the internet for opportunities to use your kids' senses to learn about a topic, even if it's not a topic you are currently studying. Take a week-long break and learn about it and then go experience it. Dawson and Brynne loved this field trip, even though we were outside on a 35 degree morning. Hmmmm ... I wonder what kind of weather conditions the original crew members had to endure???

Good times and memories made. A school day and lesson that will likely never be forgotten.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Weekly Wrap-Up ~ Books and Bookends

We jumped right in this first week back after the Thanksgiving Break. We started and ended our week having some fun outside the house. And sandwiched in between was three days of good 'ol fashioned schooling.

On Monday, we went on a super cool field trip to a nearby town to see replicas of the Nina and Pinta sailed by Christopher Columbus. I have a full post about this field trip scheduled to post tomorrow on Study America Saturday. Check back because it was really something to see!

On Tuesday, Brynne started her Christmas unit. My intention during this time is to read a Christmas book every day, do a Christmas activity related to the book, and do as many Christmas themed reading, writing, and math projects as possible. I gave her a new set of spelling words with a Christmas theme which she wrote two times. Then I drew a Christmas tree with markers and she wrote her spelling words inside the ornaments. Her book for the day was Snowbear's Christmas Countdown and we made our annual Paper Countdown Chain.

Dawson focused primarily on a new unit about Energy in Biology (he read about atoms, learned their parts and took a couple of comprehensive quizes online) and Harriett Tubman (he did a web hunt and an interactive activity on The Underground Railroad). He and I are still reading Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beacher Stowe (about 40 pages a day, which takes us quite a bit of time) and he has started reading the How to Train a Dragon series. He started working on an essay (summarizing extensive resources) about the French and Indian War.

We dug in hard again on Wednesday. Brynne worked on grammar in her Easy Grammar book and then did a noun activity. I drew a snowman on a piece of paper with markers and labeled the three snowballs "person", "place" and "thing". She took the book she was reading, I Broke My Trunk by Mo Willems, and sorted every noun she read by writing it in the appropriate snowball.

She then plotted coordinates on a graph and followed the legend to color the blocks specific ordered colors and ended up coloring a Gingerbread House. I was honestly doubtful that she could complete this worksheet, but she proved me wrong as usual.

Her book for the day was Snowmen at Christmas and we made Snow Playdoh for some playing fun. She used winter cookie cutters to make angels and stars. Then her and Dawson made some snowmen. They had a good time.

Dawson worked steadily on Algebra, his IEW essay, grammar, and Critical Thinking. In Biology, he moved onto learning about ionic, covalent, and metallic bonds, and about the second law of thermodynamics. Our Uncle Tom's Cabin reading took us quite a long time, so we simply read a poem about Harriett Tubman and discussed character sketches.

Thursday was another book school day, but I was feeling the beginnings of a cold and Brynne was feeling the effects of the one she has, so we were a little slow. Our book was A Wish to be a Christmas Tree. We did easy drop sugar cookies (instead of rolling and cutting out trees) and decorated them. We intended to decorate our pine tree in our backyard, but just never got outside to do it.

We saved some cookies for Eli to decorate when he got home from school.

Brynne actually spent the majority of her time "playing school" upstairs in the playroom while completing some Christmas worksheets on Capitalization and math game called "Santa's Sleigh Drop" with her students.

Dawson finished strong in his independent daily assignments. We made some more headway in Uncle Tom's Cabin. Dawson is not enjoying it much, but I am! It doesn't have enough action for him.

The majority of his day was spent completing his IEW essay. It turned out so good because I saw some incredible progress. It was obvious that he was using his sentence starters, quality verbs and adjectives, appropriate uses of introductory and clincher sentences, and just really applying what he has learned in the past few lessons.

He ended his Biology lessons this week learning about Enzymes and doing an experiment with an apple. We all know that if you apply lemon juice to a cut apple that it won't brown. But do you know why? We now do. The high ph of the lemon juice destroys the co-factor that is necessary for the enzyme to work.

At this point in our week we were feeling extremely productive.

So, on Friday (today) we enjoyed ourselves by attending our Homeschool Co-op's Christmas party. The kids ate, played games, did a craft, and just played with their friends.

This afternoon we had one more activity. Dawson and Brynne were the "Mystery Readers" for Eli's class at school. This is always fun because the kids don't know who is coming to read until they walk in the door. Eli was shocked to see that it was Dawson and Brynne! This was the first time siblings came to be the Myster Reader. That is what is so beautiful about homeschooling. We can do these things. Dawson and Brynne read I Broke My Trunk by Mo Willems, with Brynne reading the part of Piggie and Dawson reading the part of Elephant. Brynne was adorable because she read the part in a high, squeaky voice. Then I read Moosletoe to his class. We enjoyed some hot chocolate and the smiles and excitement of Eli.

I love how Eli is captivated in the lower left corner of this picture.

This was really a week full of reading. And, personally, I like weeks like this.

We are linking up with Kris at Weekly, Unsocialized Homeschoolers.