Sunday, July 31, 2011

America: The Story of Us ~ Lesson Plans (Stay Tuned)

I have had a couple of requests for copies of my notes and proposed lesson plans for our U.S. History unit using America: The Story of Us. I am completely and totally glad to share all of the work I have put into this unit. But I am concerned about any Copyright issues I might run into if I copy worksheets, etc. And, now that my materials are getting printed, they are hefty!

So, here is what I plan to do. But it may take me a couple of weeks.

I am going to type up and make jpg files of my lesson plans for each unit and provide them in a post. I will provide the names and websites (to the best of my ability) of all resources used, and the titles and authors of all of the books and videos we will use. Then you can feel free to obtain the resources and make your own copies. It will require some out-of-pocket expenses for those of you who would like to utilize it, in that you will need to order the Notebooking cd's.

I hope that this is not too offensive to anyone who has asked for a copy of my notes and plans. I am rapidly running out of time until our school year starts and I have not yet completed all of our lesson plans. I am starting to feel panicked.

I apologize to anyone who wanted to use these materials immediately. I am just afaid I won't have them done that quickly.

** UPDATE: Starting Saturday, February 12, 2012, I will be posting each Saturday about our specific lesson plans (with links), that go along with the "America: Story of Us" Episodes. Be sure to check back each week or sign up to receive my posts via E-mail so that you don't miss out!

Saturday, July 30, 2011

(Not) Letting Go ~ The Book Whisperer Chapter 7

And for me, this is where the rubber hits the road when it comes to how The Book Whisperer applies to homeschooling.

The fact of the matter is .. if a public or private school teacher puts his/her blood, sweat and tears into creating the free reading environment that enhances a student's desire to read, it doesn't mean that the teachers in following years will do the same. And that teacher has no choice but to LET GO and hope that what was accomplished that one year will stick.

Donalyn Miller says, in the final chapter, "Instilling lifelong reading habits in my students is like trying to hold the ocean back with a broom, a futile endeavor, if they are going to go right back to the same controlling environment they had before my class." How sad.

Thankfully, as a homeschool parent, I don't have to worry about that situation. If I am able to accomplish a free reading environment sufficient enough to get my students excited about reading, that is something that I can continue to build on year after year.

The greatest thing I gained from this chapter, that spoke to me directly, was when Ms. Miller talks about a teacher's "need" to micromanage "every aspect of reading for students" so that we can "call what we are doing 'teaching'".

A phrase I think I will type up and adhere to the front of my binder is ...

There is a marked difference between managing a classroom and controlling it.
(I can manage my classroom without dictating all thought and decision making for my students.)

I definitely need to let go of my students at times and let them learn. I am just thankful that I don't have to let them go into the hands of another teacher who does not share my philosophies of teaching.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Weekly Wrap-Up ~ Flipped Out and Bowled Over

Three more weeks until we officially start school. There is so much left to do. Eeeeeekkkkk!!!!

This week, though, we spent our time doing some reading and hanging out with Co-op friends. On Tuesday night the Co-op moms had our Back-to-School Support Meeting. I don't know if the kids are excited, but the moms are pumped up!!! It's going to be such a great year!

We had our last Co-op playgroup on Wednesday. It, again, was so great to get together with these families. The girlies have made some strong connections, and the moms certainly have, as well. For their craft, the girls decorated flip flops. So cute!!!

Today we went bowling with our group. Again, it was lots of fun and the kids had so much fun with their friends, and their big brother Dawson!

Even Eli has been getting involved in the Co-op activities. I signed him up for our group's monthly Boys' Club which is sponsored by Modern Woodsmen. He was so excited to go somewhere "just for boys" and can't wait to participate in this group! I was excited that he was so excited!

We also learned that while the Boys' Club is meeting, there is also a Girl's Club (also sponsored by Modern Woodsmen) that Brynne can join in August when she turns 6. And I have heard that the group is awesome!! So, both kids will be participating in these clubs this fall.

Lots of exciting things are in the works for this school year! Who says homeschooled kids lack socialization??

Check in with Kris at Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers for other Weekly Wrap-ups.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Our Schedule

I had fun yesterday with Brynne's Co-op Playgroup moms discussing the differences in how we schedule our homeschool days. All of these moms have early elementary, and mostly kindergarten, aged children. Their days aren't quite as scheduled as mine is. If I was just schooling Brynne, mine would probably be a little more lax, too. (Or maybe not, because I am a schedule freak). But, having a high school student tends to kick you in the rear when it comes to getting everything done every day.

Based on what we realistically did last year (it being our rookie homeschooling year), what we have to accomplish this year (from a high school perspective), and the priority of our reading goals, here is what I have come up with for a schedule:

I feel like this is a very doable (and necessary) schedule. I do plan to have Dawson participating in "school" from 9:00-3:00 (or until his work is all done) every day. If he completes an assignment set before the next scheduled block, he is to read his Personal Reading book. He has a genre goal he needs to meet for the year.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011


Last year, in my garden, I had the most amazing sunflowers! They were huge and beautiful and enhanced my garden so much! Brynne took the head of a sunflower to school (when she was still in school), so that the students could see where sunflower seeds really come from! She also took along the book, Big Yellow Sunflower by Frances Barry, for her teacher to read to the class. We had thousands of sunflower seeds that I fed to our birds.

I was so excited to plant our sunflowers this year. But, they have been a dud. I have had puny little sunflowers and only about five have even bloomed.

But we still managed to bring in one mangy one for a Sunflower Day for Brynne and her friend, Karlie.

They painted sunflowers ...

And they made sunflower cookies with sugar cookies, yellow icing, mini chocolate chips, and yellow raisins ...

Monday, July 25, 2011

The Homeschool Mother's Journal

Last week was a crazy, busy week full of activity that I am not used to! To say that I was exhausted by the end of it is an understatement! I am looking very much forward to this much-calmer week where I can restore some order and get my house cleaned. Besides it's going to be 108 degrees tomorrow and Wednesday with no break from the heat in sight.

In my life this week ... I would say it's pretty much "back to normal". No camps. No visiting relatives. No out-of-town trips. There are still some activities going on this week, with Co-op and church. And my husband started a new job today, so we have the excitement of that!

In our homeschool this week… We are just going to concentrate on some daily reading. We officially start school in a little over three weeks, so I just want to concentrate on a little more routine.

Places we’re going and people we’re seeing… We'll be seeing mostly Co-op and church friends this week. It's a week of preparation in both groups.

My favorite thing this week was… spending some time away with my husband on Thursday and Friday, and having the kids do so well so that we could do it without worry (we ruined Brynne last summer when we left her for two weeks to go to Hawaii)! I also really enjoyed spending time with my sister and niece. Going to the NKOTBSB concert with them and my older daughter was definitely a highlight.

What’s working/not working for us… Lack of routine. It never works for us.

Questions/thoughts I have… Again, where are my Teaching Textbooks materials? I'm not too concerned about it, because if they don't get here in time I'll just have Dawson do some Pre-Algebra review on Khan Academy. But, still .. looking forward to getting it!

Things I’m working on… more U.S. History!  And now I only have about three weeks to get about five units done. I am going to be busy the rest of the summer! I am also working on Brynne's birthday party that is next month. (This is exactly what I said last week.)

Books I’m reading… Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen, The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller, Seasons of a Mother's Heart, by Sally Clarkson (reading with the moms in our Co-op Playgroup), More Faith in My Day by Emilie Barnes (my daily devotional).

A photo, video, link, or quote to share… 

This is on my husband's nightstand. A real-life-book! He doesn't like to read, and I took a chance and checked this out from the library for him. He's almost read the whole book this week. Everytime I can't find him, he's in the bedroom reading.

School takes on many forms in the summer months. Hop on over to The Homeschool Chick to see what it looks like in other homes.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Weekly Wrap-Up ~ Curriculum 2011-2012

Everybody's talking curriculum these days! Why? Because it's about time to start using some curriculum!

I've been pretty settled on what we were going to use for several months now. I have tweaked it a bit here and there. But, for the most part I am still satisfied with what I have chosen. This tells me that my choices must be good ones for us because I haven't felt the urge to change them even when I read all the fun things other schools will be doing!

Here's a breakdown of what Dawson and Brynne will be studying this year. (Remember, Kyndal and Eli still go to public school.)

Dawson ~ 9th Grade

Language Arts: Easy Grammar Ultimate Series 9.

Science: Apologia Biology.

Math: Teaching Textbooks ~ Algebra I.

Social Studies: American History by using "America: The Story of Us" video series from The History Channel,, America's Heritage: An Adventure in Liberty by The American Heritage Education Foundation, Inc. and with Notebooking using Advanced World History Vol. 2 from Hold that Thought!  You can see how I have built this curriculum by clicking here.

Literature: Every three weeks we will read a Living Book based on our history topic.

Writing: IEW (Institute for Excellence in Writing) U.S. History-Based Writing Lessons Volume 1.

Art: The Usborne Art Treasury ~ study one artist per week on Mondays and Wednesdays. On Tuesdays we will be participating in Sketch Tuesday. And on Thursdays our art will be incorporated with a nature study using Outdoor Hour Challenges from Barb at Handbook of Nature Study.

Personal Reading: 20 book requirement, all student's choice but with genre requirements. Go here to see what this looks like.

Typing: Good Typing.

Spanish: LiveMocha.

Brynne ~ 2nd Grade

Language Arts: Easy Grammar Daily Grammar Teaching and Review for 2nd Grade.

Science: Interest-based (self built curriculum) starting with The Human Body and Health using primarily Living Books. Will also be doing some Amanda Bennett Download-n-Go Unit Studies (Autumn Treasures, Veteran's Day, Winter Wonders, Seashells, and Dogs)

Math: MEP (Mathematics Enhancement Programme) and Living Math.

Social Studies: Following Dawson's curriculum with self-built lessons using primarily Living Books and Notebooking using Beginning History from Hold that Thought!

Literature: Each week we will read several Living Books based on our history topic.

Writing:  Copywork for Little Girls, pen pal letters, letters to grandma.

Art: The Usborne Art Treasury ~study one artist per week on Mondays and Wednesdays. On Tuesdays we will be participating in Sketch Tuesday. And on Thursdays our art will be incorporated with a nature study using Outdoor Hour Challenge from Barb at Handbook of Nature Study.

Personal Reading: Classic stories and student's choice, 30 minutes each day.

Nature: We will follow lessons from Barb at Handbook of Nature Study.

PE/Music: At our homeschool Co-op twice a month, dance class at a private dance company, Co-op gymnastics once per month.

Head over to Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers to see what other curriculum is being used this year.

Not Back to School Blog Hop

Unit Studies by Amanda Bennett

We are planning to use some of Amanda Bennett's Download N Go Unit Studies for our Science studies for Brynne this year.

Several unit studies are on sale TODAY ONLY!! I purchased Autumn Treasures, Veteran's Day, Winter Wonders, Seashells, and Dogs.

Go right now if you would like to purchase some of these fantastic unit studies. I saved about $15.00 on these studies by purchasing today.

You can also click on the link to the right to go straight to the website.


Classroom Reading Activities

Chapter 6 of The Book Whisperer did not apply as much in the homeschool setting, but it was still very informative to me as I have two public school students who deal with the exact classroom reading procedures described in the chapter: whole class novels, comprehension tests, book reports, reading logs, round-robin and popcorn reading and incentive programs. In reading this chapter I can see clearly how these procedures do not work! Donalyn Miller gives some excellent alternative procedures to use that seem as though they would be much more effective in a classroom setting.

There were a couple of things that stood out to me.

Again, are we teaching books or readers? If we teach readers, they will learn all they need to learn about books.

Comprehension tests. "[H]ow many adult readers would choose to read if they had to take a multiple-choice test for every book they finished?"

Accelerated Reader. " ... in which books are assigned a point value and students must complete a multiple-choice test after reading them, [is] the worst distortion of reading I can think of ... a student's selection of a book is limited by its point value and whether a test exists for it ... Instead of falling into a book and traveling on a journey with the characters, readers float on the surface of the story and cherry-pick moments they predict they will be tested on later." No wonder students hate to read. My daughter, who will be a junior this year in public school, does not have any Accelerated Reader requirements for the first time since 3rd grade. I doubt she will touch a book this year. She hates to read.

Reading Logs. Everyone cheats. You did. Your student does.

I know that in the traditional classroom there are procedures that are necessary to engage an entire class full of students, and to make sure they are reading and comprehending. Ms. Miller has some excellent suggestions.

But she also says, "Any activity that does not involve reading, writing, or discussion may be an extra that takes away from students' developments as readers, writers, and thinkers."

This is probably the best tip for a home educator. We tend to want to do arts and crafts and extension projects to reinforce what's being read. For a 2nd grader who loves arts and crafts, it's not a bad thing. But for a 9th grader? It gives me something to consider. These projects have their place. Especially if you have a students who likes to do them, like sketching, etc. I will apply the principle above from now on when we read. I want my students to be primarily readers, writers and thinkers.

How about you?

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Homeschool Mother's Journal

In my life this week ... Okay, really, I am over the heat! I'm all for summer temps (well, not really) but temps over 100 degrees every single day for weeks on end is more than I can handle! My garden is yuck, despite the watering. I even have bushes and trees dying. We don't feel like even stepping outside. It's gross, really.

In our homeschool this week… We have actually not done a thing this past week. At the end of last week we went to a Science Camp. Then this week my sister and niece are visiting, so we are busy spending time with them. Today, however, we are hoping to do Barb's Sunflower Study from Handbook of Nature Study's July activities calendar because we have some Co-op friends coming over.

Places we’re going and people we’re seeing… Brynne has one more night of Dance Camp tonight. Then my husband and I are going for a much-needed-way-overdue night away to celebrate our anniversary that was last month. Other than that, we're staying in to avoid the heat.

My favorite thing this week was… Sitting next to my son at Brynne's Dance Camp with the two of us with our noses in books, side-by-side.

What’s working/not working for us… THE HEAT! And being off our schedule keeps us from doing our daily reading. We still have a month before school starts, though, so we can hit it hard again starting next week and get in three good weeks before school starts again.

Questions/thoughts I have… Where are my Teaching Textbooks materials?

Things I’m working on… more U.S. History!  And now I only have about three weeks to get about five units done. I am going to be busy the rest of the summer! I am also working on Brynne's birthday party that is next month.

Books I’m reading… Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen, The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller, Seasons of a Mother's Heart, by Sally Clarkson (reading with the moms in our Co-op Playgroup), More Faith in My Day by Emilie Barnes (my daily devotional).

A photo, video, link, or quote to share… 

The little gal visiting next door this past weekend.

School takes on many forms in the summer months. Hop on over to The Homeschool Chick to see what it looks like in other homes.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Do you have a reading role model?

"I am just feeling so inspired. Anybody reading the book feel the same?"

That was the last line of my last post about The Book Whisperer and Reading Notebooks. And Chapter 5 is all about our students catching the fever of excitement we feel about reading. We can't fake it. If we don't like reading, those watching us will know it. But if we always have our nose in a book, it's pretty evident that we think books are the way to go.

In the Self-Reflection Activity the question is posed, "What were your reading experiences as a child?"

I really don't remember reading that much as a child. It was more in high school that I caught the bug. I would read in class when I was supposed to be listening to a teacher. My friends and I were really into Danielle Steele novels, and read them all the time. I can even remember crying in class when reading Fine Things.

I don't remember any teachers reading. I don't remember any educators showing me their excitement about reading. I don't remember my mom reading to me when I was little. But I do remember my mom reading. My mom read all the time when I was a kid. She especially liked Harlequin Romances. I have to believe my mom instilled in all of her kids a love of reading, even if it was unintentional. My brother, sister and I are all avid readers. My sister is here for a visit and I asked her what she believed made her become a reader. She said, "I think just seeing mom read all the time."

Maybe we would have had a passion for reading without her influence. Or maybe her influence is the sole reason why we each have a passion for reading. If the latter is true, then I want my kids to see me reading all the time and remember, when they are adults, that their mom always had a book nearby.

Maybe that will be the one thing, the only thing, that inspires them to read. In turn, that inspires me to keep doing what I love in front of them.

Read on, mamas! Read on, teachers!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Whisper: Reading Notebooks

Well, the more I read The Book Whisperer the more I know in my heart that reading should be more of a focus for us this year! Homeschooling has brought back out the inner reader in me. And I want my kids to have the passion for reading that I have.

I had planned to make writing an emphasis this year, especially for Dawson, and purchased the IEW (Institute of Excellence in Writing) U.S. History Supplement. It. is. intense. Or at least it is in addition to the extremely full American History curriculum I have put together. I was already worried about Dawson's ability to keep up with it.

After I read Chapter 4 of The Book Whisperer, and Donalyn Miller's discussion about the Reading Notebook and reading requirements, I was feeling stressed about how to add in these great reading items into our already tight schedule.

So I really spent some time thinking about what I thought was important for the kids this year, primarily Dawson. And I just felt that reading is that important to make it the greatest priority. Writing could come from reading, especially with the Reading Notebook and the Response Entries.

So, this is what I decided to do. And I feel really good about it.

We will still do the IEW lessons. But instead of doing about one every day or two (which was really going to be impossible anyway!), Dawson will be assigned one IEW writing assignment each Monday to be completed by Friday. The downside is that we won't be doing the writing lessons that go with the current era we are studying, but at least we will have already studied the appropriate era when we get to that writing lesson.

And in exchange, we will go full throttle on reading and will diligently work in the Reading Notebook. Each Friday Dawson will write me a Response Entry about what he is currently reading and I will write him a response over the weekend to receive back on Monday.

I revised the Genre Requirements down to 20, instead of 40 for Dawson (Brynne's will still be 40, however, I know she will read more than that in a year). I prepared the Reading Notebook the same way suggested by Ms. Miller in Chapter 4, but instead of using composition notebooks I used three-ringed binders and tabbed dividers. Brynne will not do a notebook yet. She will, instead, do a lot of narration. Once she gets to a point where she is reading chapter books, we will start using Notebooks.

I know that this will be an adjustment for Dawson. But perhaps the trade off of not having to be so stressed about completing the IEW assignments will make it easier.

I am just feeling so inspired! Anyone else reading the book feeling the same?

Friday, July 15, 2011

Weekly Wrap-Up ~ Yes, UP!

** If you are visiting here from Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers, you might have noticed that I misspelled my own blog name. I really do know how to spell "excellence."

This week we got back to our reading schedule. Well, for a couple of days anyway. We had been off for a couple of weeks with travel and other activities and so Monday was a bear of a day! On Tuesday, though, we seemed to have our groove back. Things were definitely looking up!

Tuesday we took a quick trip to the water park. It was almost too hot to go, so we made sure we got there right when it opened and only spent two hours in the blazing heat! Although the kids did hit all the slides, they spent the majority of their time scaling the rock wall. They tried their hardest to get up to the top! 

On Wednesday we had our Homeschool Co-op Playgroup. I love, love, love these times together! We actually had some time that day to be able to talk about the book we have been reading, Seasons of a Mother's Heart by Sally Clarkson. I feel like we are learning so much, not only from the book, but from each other! The real upside is that through these get-togethers I have made some amazing friends!

Each time we get together we do some kind of craft. It always seems that the moms get into it more than the girls! We just can't help ourselves! This week the kids made capes out of men's t-shirts. What a great craft and how much fun! My kids are always tying blankets around their necks as capes and often play super heroes. Now they have their own personalized capes and I will be hearing lots of, "up, up and away!"

 On Thursday and Friday, Eli and Brynne participated in a Mad Science two-day camp. On Thursday they got to experience chemistry with the upward projectory of a baking soda and vinegar volcano. And then on Friday they watched as their rockets propelled up, up, and further up into the sky! Additionally they learned other aspects of chemistry and secret messages. And they made crystals, slime, rock candy and rubber band propelled spaceships.

It was another fun and educational summer week! Next week I hope to get to our Sunflower study. We are having some friends over on Wednesday, so I might pick up some pastels and put the kids to work sketching.

See what other summer fun is going on at Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers. Some families are back to full-time school! We have one month left of summer break. Soaking in every minute.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

What needs to be done

I'm feeling a little overwhelmed right now. School starts in just over a month, and I have much preparation to do!
  • Finish American History curriculum (3/4 way done)
  • Make IEW notebook
  • Make reading genre requirements list and reading notebook
  • Finalize Apologia Biology schedule
  • Make art notebooks
  • Plan Brynne's first science unit
Yikes! I need about a week somewhere alone with my computer, the internet and my printer, with tons of notebooking supplies. Since I won't be getting that, I just need to get diligent in setting aside time to get these things done.

Anyone else feeling the pressure of a looming starting date?

UPDATE: As of August 11th, I have now completed the crossed-out items! I feel so much better! Almost done!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Are we teaching books or teaching readers?

That question jumped out of Chapter 4 of The Book Whisperer and smacked me! It is posed by Donalyn Miller in response to a debate about whether to allow students to read "mind candy" for pure "escapism" or require all books they read to be up to the teacher's standard of superior "literary value".

She goes on to say, "By allowing and encouraging students to read what they want, I also endorse their culture and their interests -- something we do not do enough in school ... Once students find at least one book they like and receive approval for reading books of their own choice, it is easier to move them toward books you suggest."

These thoughts are reasons why I don't agree with Charlotte Mason's opinion about "twaddle". Of course you cannot just let your students read any 'ol trash, any 'ol time, all the time. But I think about myself ... sometimes I read some great stuff, and sometimes I just want an easy read with a good, if even mind-numbing, storyline!

Ms. Miller refers to one student who was really into the Halo series, based on the popular Xbox 360 video game, when he had been more than a reluctant reader up to that point. She piggybacked off this selection to recommend other more "nutritional" literary selections based on his interest in that genre and type of storyline.

I had this same type of experience with Dawson last year. There was absolutely no interest on his part in reading. Then he picked up the first in the Halo series and read it in a matter of a few days. He even read it instead of playing it! I can learn more about this series and get some recommendations of some award-winning fantasy fiction books that might interest him.

Back to the read-what-you-want-free-for-all ... Donalyn Miller requires her students to read 40 books per year! If the book is over 350 pages, it counts as two books. She allows her students to choose their own books. But to get them to read a variety of books, she requires that they read a certain number of books from different genres, including poetry, historical fiction, mystery, informational, and biographical, just to name a few. The students are then free to choose whichever books they want as long as they meet the genre requirements.

And then they just stinkin' start reading and read all the time!

Finally, she has this to say about the "Reading Freedom" her students have, "[Students] need a place to start. To provide scaffolding that will help them develop their own plans, I provide students with an approach for reading ...."

The place to start, is in the midst of their own interests with approval of their likes and dislikes. The scaffolding is the genre requirement list.

I don't know that I will require 40 books, probably more like 20, because we will, additionally, be reading Living Books as part of our U.S. History unit. But I like the idea of providing Dawson with a genre requirement list, pared down for a 20 book total, and allowing him to choose his own reading material within those genres.

Monday, July 11, 2011

The Book Whisperer and The Homeschool Teacher

Being a homeschool teacher isn't that much different than being a public or private school teacher, except that I love my students more than a traditional teacher loves his or hers and I know my students better than a traditional teacher knows his or hers. I have planned all summer for the educational needs of my two specific students out of pure love for them, and I don't have to spend several weeks learning the strengths, weaknesses, likes and dislikes of my students. I already know their family dynamics and history. I already know their educational abilities. I have it easy.

I know this because I have two children still in public school. I know that each year when I write that "introduction letter" to my child's teacher that I always get a heartfelt (albiet desperate) "thank you", because without it that teacher was going to have to get to know my child by trial and error while doing the same thing with at least 20 other children. And that's a waste of precious time. Tough stuff.

But I think, as educators, we all have the same goal, as it pertains to reading: To have our students have a real desire to read, not just an educational mandate to do so.

Again, I have it easy because I don't have a state required and produced exam I have to give my students at the end of each year (at least here in Oklahoma I don't). I don't have to cram a bunch of nonsense into the brains of my students, just to say that I did, so that I don't lose my job.

I get to, simply, have my students read. And the majority of home educators believe that the best way to teach our students vocabulary, grammar, coding of words, rhetoric, writing style and comprehension is just to have them read! Nothing more. Nothing less.

But just because I have this freedom in my teaching does not mean that my students will automatically like to read. In fact, that couldn't be further from the truth.

So, that's where The Book Whisperer is fitting into my life as a home educator. What tips can I glean that will help me get my student to a place where he and she (times 2, yes even the public schooled kids of mine) will hurry to get their other work and responsibilities done so that they can get to that book they have just GOT to read! I don't really even mind if they are distracted in their other work because all they can think about is THAT BOOK! Why? Because if they want to read, we can read about history, science, math, and art. We will do problems, but we will also read about the problems we are doing, if reading is so important. There are many ways to get to the end result.

Anyway, I am anxious to continue reading Ms. Miller's nuggets of wisdom in The Book Whisperer. I will take as many tips as possible into my classroom(s). And maybe, someday soon, my students will rush to get their work done to read a book instead of to play a video game.

To see how this book is being used in other homeschools, go to Thinking of Teaching.

The Homeschool Mother's Journal

We had an unusual week last week, being in Missouri at my parents'. This week we are back to our version of normal, with lots of heat and lots of activities!

In my life this week ... The temps here are going to be over 100 degrees every day for the foreseeable future. That makes me want to stay indoors, but we have lots of outside-the-house activities planned this week. We are going to brave the water park in the morning tomorrow. On Wednesday, we are meeting with our Co-op playgroup, which is always fun! Then on Thursday and Friday Eli and Brynne are attending a Mad Science camp! They are very excited! On Saturday my sister and niece are coming for a week-long visit, and bringing home Kyndal and Dawson who have been in Missouri at my parents'. Then on Sunday us girls are going to the NEW KIDS ON THE BLOCK/BACKSTREET BOYS concert! Squeal!!!!!

In our homeschool this week… We will resume our reading schedule. As our puny sunflowers are starting to bloom somewhat, we will do Barb's Sunflower Study from Handbook of Nature Study's July activities calendar.

Places we’re going and people we’re seeing… (see our activities above!) We'll be seeing lots of other kids, scientists, family.

My favorite thing this week was… The phone call I got from Dawson yesterday telling me how he went next door to my parents' new neighbors to talk to them about how they are neglecting their dog and got permission to clean up his dog pen, feed and water him, and take him for walks. My little advocate! My young man. He has matured this past week in leaps and bounds!

What’s working/not working for us… our new little church. What real people.

Questions/thoughts I have… Does school really start back up in a month??????

Things I’m working on… more U.S. History!  I have completed the lessons plans for the first semester of school ... Hallelujah! I have about a month to get the rest of the year completed. I can do it! I can do it! And then the school year will be so much less stressful!

Books I’m reading… Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen, The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller, Seasons of a Mother's Heart, by Sally Clarkson (reading with the moms in our Co-op Playgroup), More Faith in My Day by Emilie Barnes (my daily devotional).

A photo, video, link, or quote to share… "What a great kid. I'm having a great time with the grandson I've always wanted." ~ the spontaneous text I got from my dad yesterday about how he feels about the time he is spending with Dawson.

School takes on many forms in the summer months. Hop on over to The Homeschool Chick to see what it looks like in other homes.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Anywhere, anytime

When Kyndal was in the 2nd grade, which seems like a lifetime ago, she had a teacher named Mrs. Owens. When I think back, I realize this year was Kyndal's best year in school, ever. There were times I would come into the room and it would appear to be in chaos. Kids would be sprawled out everywhere ... under the desks, on the desks, on bean bags, etc., with shoes and socks all over the room. The room was trashed and I just couldn't imagine how any learning was happening. And that teacher is now the school's librarian. Hmmmmm ...... She obviously shared Donalyn Miller's philosophy of not having a designated reading corner in the classroom. She felt that if kids were reading, and enjoying it, that she could stand the smell of stinky feet.

In Chapter 3 of The Book Whisperer, Ms. Miller says that "[b]uilding a trusting relationship with students is easier when you expect them to do the right thing instead of assuming that they are not." (pg. 67) She is referring to not assuming that your students are goofing off when they are gathered in a group talking during reading time. More than once she has caught her students actually discussing what they are reading.

I know that there have been times that I have accused Dawson of goofing off instead of reading, and stomped upstairs to "catch him in the act". But everytime I have gone with that intention I have "caught him in the act" of reading, or doing his other independent work, just like I had expected him to do. I know that our relationship will flourish when he feels as though I trust him to do what is required of him. And he will have freedom to learn in some of his own ways, going down his own rabbit holes without my micro-management.

What stood out to me most in Chapter 3 was the concept of Stealing Reading Moments. In the traditional classroom, I can see how this would be possible ... the second you are done with your assignment, or if you are waiting in line somewhere, or when the class is interrupted, you pull out your book and read. How does this work in the homeschool environment? I don't know.

I know that I do everything I can do to get my work done each day so I can read. I take my book with me in the car, when I think I will have to wait for something or someone, so I can steal moments to read.

During the school day, Dawson and Brynne will have a goal to work hard in the morning so they can rush upstairs to play Xbox over lunch and then again in the afternoon. I would so rather develop a love of reading in the two of them that they worked hard to get all of their schoolwork done so that they could rush upstairs to read over lunch and again in the afternoon.

I don't know how to accomplish this. I am hoping that the rest of The Book Whisperer will give me tips on how to do that.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Weekly Wrap-Up ~ A Week of Racing

This wasn't a typical week for us. We left on Saturday for the 4-hour trip to my parents' in Missouri. A lot was going on. My parents' have sold their large house in the country of the past 14 years and purchased a smaller one in town. So my mom and I spent the majority of our visit doing landscaping, getting curtains hung, shopping for items needed for the new house, and making trips back and forth between the two houses moving things.

On top of that, my grandma was placed in a nursing home on Friday, so we made several trips to see her, and went through her house taking care of any heirlooms.

Add to that haircuts by my sister, swimming, and 4th of July activities, and we had a busy five days! It felt like we were in a non-stop race to get everything done.

Brynne participated in some races at the annual 4th of July celebration at my childhood hometown park. She did the egg race and sack race. The other kids opted out of the park festivities this year, so she and I went alone.

We got home on Wednesday night and spent yesterday getting caught up on laundry and vegging with the dogs. We also went over to some friends' in the evening to eat watermelon.

Then today, Eli, Brynne and I went to see Cars 2.

It was good. I enjoyed it. But it didn't pale in comparison to the first one, in my opinion. I then treated the kids to a Cars 2 Tokyo Race Track and a couple of cars they didn't have, and they have been racing them all afternoon. I wanted to reward them for being really well-behaved kids! Spending a couple of hours at a movie theater with other kids, and then seeing how the majority of kids act while out shopping with their parents, I just had to show my kids that I appreciate them!

I would like to say that things will be slowing down now. However, when I look at the calendar and see that school will start in a little over a month, I realize that it will actually be a race to get everything ready to start back up in time.

Whew! With temps over 100 degrees every day, I'd really like to just slow us down. No time for that, though. Summer races on!

How are others spending their days? Check in with Kris at Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers.

Some Library Fun

Last Friday I took Eli to the library to get his Summer Reading Program prizes! He has read 21 books so far this summer!

When we were leaving, we noticed that the murals in the foyer of the library looked very 3-D, so Brynne wanted to do some posing.

I thought they turned out really funny!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Classroom Surveys

Have you ever given a written survey to your homeschooled student? I've gained insight from my kids about certain topics before, but I have never handed them a written survey to complete.

In The Book Whisperer chapter entitled "Whisper: Surveys", Donalyn Miller discusses the concept of classroom surveys, and even has an example of the one she has used. What a great idea to get students, especially non-readers, to think about their interests, likes and dislikes, put them in writing, and submit them to someone who could decipher them and help them find books they would like to read.

I know that some of the best books I read are as a result of a recommendation. Perhaps my students would be more excited about reading if I, or a library professional, was able to take their interests and recommend a book or series based on those interests.

I know that this has been a problem with Dawson. We go to the library, but he is so overwhelmed with the vastness of selections that he doesn't know where to start. He will take several books off the shelf only to put them back because he is unsure about them. Brynne has an easier time because she will choose a book based on whether the cover illustrations look interesting. She has such a wide set of interests that she doesn't care if she pinpoints just one area. At least not yet. Once she gets older she will appreciate reading books recommended to her based on her greatest area(s) of interest.

Will I give my students a survey at the beginning of this year to get us started? You bet! I can't wait to see their answers to the questions. Then I am going to enlist the help of some friends and library professionals for recommendations.

Monday, July 4, 2011

The Homeschool Mother's Journal

In my life this week ... We are having a busy week at my parents'! They have sold their home and purchased a smaller one, so my mom and I have been so busy doing landscaping and making some purchases and moving things. My grandma was also moved into a nursing home this past Friday, so we have been there getting her settled and visiting her.

In our homeschool this week… We really aren't doing anything this week, other than reading, because of our travels to Missouri for the 4th holiday and then recovering from our travels.

Places we’re going and people we’re seeing… We are currently in Missouri at my parents' enjoying the 4th holiday. When we get home we are going to socialize with one of the pastors of our church and his family (his wife is Eli's reading resource teacher at school). We are also going to the movies with our Homeschool Co-op on Friday.

My favorite thing this week was… visiting my grandma at her new nursing home. It was great to see her so happy and vibrant after many years of not being.

What’s working/not working for us… It's been fun to do unscheduled learning, by taking something that just "comes along" and turning it into a lesson.

Questions/thoughts I have… If you have used Apologia Biology, would you suggest a microscope as a necessity?

Things I’m working on… more U.S. History!

Books I’m reading… Blue Like Play Dough by Tricia Goyer, The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller, Seasons of a Mother's Heart, by Sally Clarkson (reading with the moms in our Co-op Playgroup), More Faith in My Day by Emilie Barnes (my daily devotional).

A photo, video, link, or quote to share…  

My grandma after my sister did her hair at the hair salon in the nursing home.

School takes on many forms in the summer months. Hop on over to The Homeschool Chick to see what it looks like in other homes.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Weekly Wrap-up ~ The How To's of Ice Cream

This past Saturday our whole family spent some time together at the Blue Bell Creameries Taste of Summer Open House (with about 15,000 other people). We had all-you-can-eat ice cream, did some crafts, "milked" a "cow", and went on a self-guided tour of the ice cream factory. We had so much fun!!

So I decided to carry this theme through our week. The temps have been in the 100's this week, so staying home and indoors was vital!

The big news of the week was that Eli finished his Summer Reading Program with a bang by reading all of a 64 page book in one day. It was his decision to do it, and he was so proud of his accomplishment! So was our whole family! We are going this afternoon to pick up his prizes from the library.

On Wednesday, Brynne and I went to her Co-op Summer Playgroup and we made barrettes. It was fun! This small group has been such a blessing to the moms and kids!

Yesterday we tackled our ice cream unit. We made baggie ice cream, read the book How it Happens at the Ice Cream Factory by Shawnda Shofner, and then did an ice cream math page. I actually had some other things planned, but we just didn't get around to them. Hey, it's summer! And as you can see from the last picture, we might have been too busy playing Cars.

I love how blurry the next two pictures are ... it shows you how fast and hard they were shaking the baggie!!

This was another fun week! We would sure appreciate some slightly cooler temperatures. The kids and I are headed to Missouri to visit Papa and Grandma tomorrow and I hear they are having a cold front come through compared to us .. it will only be 90 degrees.

On a side note, our daughter, Kyndal, will be a junior this next year. She attends our local high school. She applied to and got accepted to Cosmetology School through Vo-tech in the fall. It is a completely free program! She will receive her high school elective credits at the same time, and this year will also be taking Chemistry, English III and Algebra II at school. This week we sent in her official registration! It was an exciting day! She is really looking forward to doing this. It's something she has always wanted to do with her future.

Go see what other summer homeschoolers are doing at Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers. Thanks for hosting, Kris!