Thursday, April 28, 2011

Weekly Wrap-Up ~ Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

I didn't get last week's wrap-up done until this past Tuesday. And I'm getting this week's done a day early. You never know how things are going to go.

Dawson ~ 8th Grade

This was another week where Dawson was just chugging along, with not much excitement to report. I think it gets to that this time of year. It's all business, for the most part. He has written some great essays, and is enjoying his personal reading time for the first time all year. So, things are certainly being accomplished.

He has informed me that he thinks he needs a more challenging math program, so we will finish Life of Fred this year and start on Teaching Textbooks. I am excited about that switch, and I think he will enjoy it, too.

We are four chapters away from finishing up The Swiss Family Robinson. He is currently working on an ocean diorama of sorts. I think he's still in the planning phase.

Really, he's just ready for summer break. And I can't say I disagree.

Brynne ~ 1st Grade

Brynne, on the other hand, is smokin' along! We have been learning reviewing money (why does it seem she knows everything I try to teach her?) She has been doing Eli's 1st grade homework phonics pages from school as her phonics work and speeds right through those, too. And she is reading a couple of books a day.

In reading she has almost completed all 26 letters of the alphabet. As a review, each week she does a tracer page, makes a mini-book, does a word search, and reads 3 or 4 books about the letter. Our public library carries letter books from four different publishers. We counted today that she has read, independently, about 75 of those books this year. She is five. That just amazes me.

This week we have been focusing on Earth Day and living green because last Friday was Earth Day. We wanted to stay focused on Easter last week, so we moved our green studies to this week.

We read several books, of course.

The first one we read mentioned donating your outgrown clothes to others. I had just happened to go through her dresser that morning and bagged up two bags of clothes she won't be able to wear next year. They were on my front porch for a homeschooling friend to pick up to give to her sister. I went and showed them to Brynne. The book we were reading about was about a little girl trying to come up with an idea for a poster. So Brynne decided she needed to make a poster to attach to the bag.

Her sign says, "Someone can have my small clothes I can't wear. Love, Brynne"

We also learned a lot about composting. We made a small composting bucket to use in our kitchen for food scraps, and we made a compost area out by one of our raised beds to do our actual composting. She told me this morning that she found a pinecone and put in there.

Then yesterday we made new recycling tubs. We already recycle paper diligently, but really nothing else. We decided to recycle plastic, cardboard and aluminum cans (although we don't usually have a lot of cans). I will continue to recycle our regular paper in the house because that's where I dump all of the kids' school papers that we inevitably need at a later date.

The last thing we did this week was make May Day Baskets for her neighborhood friends. We used white paper lunch sacks and pipe cleaners for the baskets. She decorated them with stickers and markers. Then we filled them with recycled Easter grass and post-Easter-clearance candies and lip gloss. If you plan to do May Day Baskets, run to Walmart the day or so after Easter and snag your goodies for the baskets at 50% off, or more. Each basket only cost me about $3.00, with some really good goodies (not just cheap candy!) We are going to be out of town on May 1st, so are going to go deliver them in the morning.

And that was our week!


And, shoot, I just now remembered that I do not have a plan for Brynne for next week. Maybe I'll record the Royal Wedding and follow my friend Stacey's lead and do a princess theme. Oooohhh, that could be fun!

Have a great weekend, and spend some time seeing what other homeschools are doing at Weekly Wrap-Up hosted by Kris at Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

NEXT Year's Curriculum

You would think that with the end of the year approaching, and my energy and enthusiasm waning, that I would be thinking of anything but not thinking of curriculum.

However, with payment from my most recent contracted job I was able to order some of next year's curriculum. And, it's started arriving. It gets me so excited because, although we will be following the same basic structure in our homeschooling, the subjects will be so much meatier. Plus our main focus will be American History and I can't wait to dig deeper into it (since I snoozed through most history classes in my life.) Even Brynne's 2nd grade curriculum will be American History based. I can't wait to have my 9th grader and 2nd grader studying the same topics (at their own levels, of course.) Those two minds working tandem ought to make for an interesting year!

I'm also pumped up about Dawson switching to Teaching Textbooks for Algebra. He has been doing Life of Fred, and it was totally necessary when we switched to it from Saxon. However, last week he came to me and said that his math is too easy. He said it's not that it's too easy, it's just that there aren't enough practice problems. (Huh??? Did I hear that right? Did my 14 year old student who prefers minimal work say that he wants more work? I even asked him twice and he said, "yes!") After seeing that many homeschool moms, whom I admire, love Teaching Textbooks, I decided to look into it. I was pretty sold after watching the demos and was going to order a used set. But, then I saw that the new version coming out in July does automatic grading and gradebooking. For and extra $65?? Totally worth it to me! So I put in my pre-order.

How about you? Have you started purchasing next year's curriculum? What are you most excited about studying???

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Weekly Wrap-Up ~ {Thorns}

Okay, really, it's Tuesday and I am just now doing last week's wrap-up. I was just so absolutely behind all last week so our schooling was a sporadic mess, to say the least.

Dawson spent the majority of his time doing his independent work. I did make an intentional effort, however, to make sure Brynne and I got through some of our Easter Nature study.

Brynne ~ 1st Grade

Last week was all about Easter, and specifically Jesus.

We read the wonderful folk tale "A Tale of Three Trees". This book seemed to help her really grasp the important things about Jesus. She loved it and retold it to me a couple of times during the week.

We also learned about the importance of the crown of thorns placed on Jesus' head, and how he carried the thorns of our sins all the way to the Hill of Calvary. We went on a thorns nature hike and touched them. She then spent some time drawing them on her notebook page.

We also went on a color scavenger hunt.

We completed our Hill of Calvary and reviewed The Last Supper.

On Sunday morning she had the opportunity to share what she had learned with her brother, Eli, who is 7 years old. He was playing with a small helicopter by the Hill of Calvary she had made. All of a sudden he said, in a pilot's voice talking into a walkie, "We have Jesus. We have Jesus. We are bringing Him up to Heaven." Of course he was just playing, but she was quick to tell him how Jesus really got to Heaven!

Dawson ~ 8th Grade

Like I said, Dawson's week was spent doing mostly independent work. We really didn't do much picture-worthy. He just kept on with his study of the Age of Exploration and oceanography. He worked steadily on his language arts, pre-algebra, spanish, typing and personal reading.

I need to go now and start working on this weeks Weekly Wrap-up so it won't be so late next week. Is anyone else ready for Summer Break (if you take it?)

Thursday, April 21, 2011


Before we pulled Brynne out of public school, she had a little boy in her kindergarten class named Joshua. He was struggling and for various reasons, and after much prayer, his parents decided to pull him out of public school and homeschool him. I talked with them at length on the day they were pulling him out. They had that "terrified" look parents get (especially moms) when faced with the daunting task of schooling their child. They had questions. I had few answers. But the one thing I could give them was encouragement.

Over the course of the next couple of weeks Heather and I corresponded by e-mail. Again, she had questions and I had encouragement. I know that I felt such a deep connection to her through our recent shared experience.

I found out today that while driving home to take her out on a date last Friday night, her husband was killed in a car accident.

I am sure that she is more terrified right now than she has ever been in her life ... the uncertainty of her future .. the uncertainty of the futures of her children.

I am crying for her today.

You see, in this world of homeschooling we are more than moms and dads and kids teaching and learning. We are a family, a close community.

Please pray for Heather and her children.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Time and Money Tabletop Pocket Chart by Patch Products {Review}

Several months ago I received an offer from CSN to review the products of my choice. I couldn't resist getting some free homeschooling resources. I have already reviewed some of the things I purchased, and you can read those reviews by going here (the Your Backyard review was for a different company).

This time my review is for the Time and Money Tabletop Pocket Chart by Patch Products. Brynne has loved this! After she used it the first time she said, "That was a fun math program about time. It was so fun!"

We have only used the Time components of the pocket chart. We will start using the Money components next week.

Here are some of the ways we used it ...

I inserted picture cards into the pockets representing her typical school day schedule. She chose digital times for when she does those activities and then the analog time that was the closest.

I put analog times in the pockets and she had to choose the digital times to match.

I mixed up the digital and analog times and she had to unmix them to put them with their correct match.

I would highly recommend this product, especially if you have a hands-on kind of child. Brynne loves bookwork, but she also loves to reinforce it with hands-on activities.

Great product!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Weekly Wrap-Up ~ Better Late than Never

We were out of town this weekend and I have been behind since we got home. Therefore, our wrap-up from last week is late and we weren't prepared to start this new week! Ughhh! I hate that! Here is a short synopsis of what we got done last week.

Dawson ~ 8th Grade

We are knee-deep in the Age of Exploration. We were learning about Christopher Columbus this week and went to the driveway to draw out the measurements of the Nina, Pinta and Santa Maria with sidewalk chalk. You can't see the lines, but they were basically about the size you see here. Not very big for all they were trying to carry.

In science we discussed the different ways water freezes depending on the amount of salt in the water. Water definitely does not freeze as fast or as solid when it has salt in it.

The Swiss Family Robinson has actually been boring to Dawson. I think what is frustrating for him is that they basically had everything they needed to survive. And they always seemed to find exactly what they needed, if they didn't already have it. It annoys him that the father knows everything about everything and how to do everything. He doesn't feel like it's very realistic. I tend to agree. They don't make being stranded on a deserted island seem that much like a hardship.

Brynne ~ 1st Grade

We have been doing a lot of studying about Jesus' last days, which has included a nature study. It's been a great way to demonstrate key points about Holy Week. We made a Last Supper craft that turned out really great. (Catholic Icing has lots of great printables. We did a Nativity set at Christmas that was just as great!) I loved how Brynne told me about various disciples and their role in Jesus' last week.

We went on a purple nature hunt. I wish we would have done this the week before when the lilacs and wildflowers were in bloom. We actually had some trouble finding any purple foliage, but did manage to find a couple.

We also went on a fragrance nature hunt. Again, there wasn't a lot of fragrance going on, but we did our best. What is so funny about Brynne is that she thinks lots of things stink. So, the things I thought smelled good, she didn't like.

We plan to do lots of Notebooking next year, and I found out from our fragrance walk that she is going to love it. We did a notebooking page about the fragrances and she drew pictures of different things. She really got into it.

I try to turn anything we do into "school". Last week Eli (our public school first grader) had a class musical called "A Caterpillar's Voice". He had the honor of playing the caterpillar. Soooo, since we were going to be attending the musical on Thursday afternoon, I made Brynne a Notebook of activities to do about the musical. We covered things like characters, setting, story pages and a word search. I found all of her activities here. And by-the-way, my son did amazing as the caterpillar! He took his role very seriously!

We are continuing to learn about how to tell Time. We have primarily used living books, her homemade paper plate analog clock and this little jewel in the photo below. I received it free from CSN, in exchange for a review. The review will be coming in the next day or so. It has been a wonderful tool for her to use and she has loved it! She wants to play with it every day!

And that (finally) was our week-in-review.

You can check out other homeschools at Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Weekly Wrap-Up ~ Wild {flowers and ocean life, that is}

This was another great week! It seems our studies (and the beautiful weather) have been getting us out-and-about the last couple of weeks. This week we went on a field trip and a hike, and called it all "school".

Dawson ~ 8th Grade

Dawson and I began reading The Swiss Family Robinson and skipped ahead in our A World of Adventure Curriculum to the Age of Exploration. This was totally selfish on my part because I have never read The Swiss Family Robinson and since we are running out of time I was fearful we wouldn't get to it. In fact, we are only doing 17 days of the Age of Exploration, to read the book and do all of the lessons surrounding it, and then will be finishing our year going back to The Renaissance.

Since this Age is mostly about just reading about adventure, I have Dawson doing LOTS of vocabulary words from the chapters. I like the "flashcard method", so have him writing the words on one side and the definitions on the other for easy self-quizzing. Then I will make up a matching exam for him to do each Monday over the previous week's words.

To finish off The Middle Ages, I copied a timeline and synopsis from the curriculum for him to study for his final. I told him he needed to know everything on those four pages. Somewhere in our discussions I said that he would want to know the overall theme of the Early Middle Ages, High Middle Ages and Late Middle Ages. He commenced studying, and spent a couple of days "memorizing" the events on the timeline. When it was time for his final I handed him a piece of paper and said, "You have 3 questions. What is the overall theme of the Early Middle Ages, the High Middle Ages and the Late Middle Ages?" He was furious. He said, "I've spent all this time memorizing all these facts!" I reminded him that I told him, previously, exactly what would be on the final .. he just hadn't listened carefully. He learned a very valuable lesson about how sometimes (heck, many times) a student will spend tons of time studying something they do not see on a test. My Public School Pet Peeve ~ teachers at our public middle and high schools tend to give kids the EXACT test as a study guide and all the kids have to do is memorize and regurgitate. My son will not learn how to test that way. He may hate it, but he's going to do it right and in a way that will prepare him for college.

The science unit to go along with the Age of Exploration is Oceanography. I love the topic, but it is very weak for an 8th grader. I happened upon a book called Discover the Oceans: The World's Largest Ecosystem at our local library. It's not too long, and very well-written and intriguiging. So, we are going to use that book as our curriculum in addition to what we already have provided for us in A World of Adventure. I am also having Dawson do lots of diagramming and drawing.

One of the activities in Discover the Oceans this week was to demonstrate the amount of salt in sea water.

The first one was fresh water.

The second one was "brackish" containing only a pinch of salt. Still not bad.

The third one had a tablespoon of salt in it. Yuck!!!!

On Monday he is going to track how much sodium his daily diet contains.

On Tuesday he, Brynne and I went to the Oklahoma Aquarium for a field trip. We had a good time and actually learned a few new things.

Today while Brynne and I were at Coop I had Dawson do his entire day's lessons independently (with the exception of our The Swiss Family Robinson reading.) He had cleaned his room yesterday and thrown a closet-floor full pile of laundry down the laundry chute. So, I decided this would be a good Home Ec lesson for him. I taught him how to sort his laundry and how to do it. While we were gone he did all of his laundry and cleaned his bathroom without being told. He said he felt like a housewife.

Now he and Crusoe are off to the lake with their best friend for a weekend of boating, fishing and camping. They love those weekends!

Brynne ~ First Grade

Brynne and I are starting a unit on Easter. I purchased a unit study from NaturExplorers called Nature Studies through the Holidays: A Mini Book of Nature Studies for Easter. It will provide us with three weeks of Easter Nature studies.

I found some other great ideas while web surfing. So, we started our week out by making a Hill of Calvary that should be all ready for us by Easter.

Obviously this is just the beginning

We read The Legend of the Easter Egg, written by Lori Walburg and illustrated by James Bernardin. We finished our special nest and eggs, from last week, by blowing out the insides of eggs and then dying them. She wanted one to look like an owl's egg, one to look like a robin's and one to look like a blue bird's. It turned out so nice that we tied it into our fake tree in our living room.

Our other Focus book was The Parable of the Lily written by Liz Curtis Higgs. As part of that book we went on a wildflower nature hunt.

We also learned about the parts of a flower by making a simple craft. I got the idea from Jolanthe at Homeschool Creations.

We continued our study of Time by watching a video and reading a couple more books. But that wasn't the only Math we did. While eating lunch one day she was eating pepperonis and crackers. She had two more crackers and wanted more pepperonis and more crackers. So we had an impromptu lesson on pairs. I had her make pairs with her crackers and then tell me how many pepperonis she needed for each pair, etc. I love homeschooling.

She did her "T" activities and we planted flowers and went to Coop PE and Music and hung out together and played outside.

Like I said, it was another great week.

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

Thursday, April 7, 2011

A Wildflower Nature Walk

Brynne is doing a nature study from NaturExplorers called "Nature Study Through the Holidays: A Mini Book of Nature Studies for Easter" by Cindy West and Melissa Leach. This week's focus book was The Parable of the Lily by Liz Curtis Higgs. One of the activities for this week was to go on a nature walk and find flowers in the same family as a lily, dissect them and compare them. We were also to to find wildflowers and measure them.

Because we didn't get a lily purchased, and didn't have any growing nearby, we opted out of dissecting and comparing. Instead we just went on a wildflower (aka weeds) hunt. Brynne rode her scooter and I took Crusoe on his leash.

When we saw a wildflower we would stop, take a photo and try to identify it with the Usborne Spotter's Guides Wild Flowers of North America.

We are not the best identifiers in the world, especially because we were looking at drawn pictures, but I think we got all of them pretty close, if not correct.

Here's what we found:

Creeping Lady's-sorrel

Flowering Spurge ?

Either Bloodroot or Anemone

Spotted coralroot or Western wallflower?

Western Dog Violet

Heck, I don't know ... Frostweed?
Please, feel free to correct me if you know what any of this is!!!

And then I took some pictures of the prettiest little flower on the hike. I know what she is ... just simply lovely.