Friday, August 31, 2012

Weekly Wrap-up ~ Steady

This has been an excellent week of school. There haven't been any real bells and whistles. But it was a nice, steady, enjoyable week.

We had a full classroom this day. Some of my students were sleeping, though.

We did have a little trouble getting moving on Monday morning. Even Dawson's cereal wasn't too happy about it.

Dawson was still suffering from his rotten cold, and Eli had to move the Grumble-Meter up to orange. He pulled it together, though, and was still able to help his team earn their letter for the day. The rest of the week it never moved off green. Both kids had an excellent week of work, with great attitudes. The secret word this week was FAIR, so we went to the Septemberfest carnival for an evening of rides last night.

Brynne ran for Junior Miss Septemberfest. She didn't win, but I was proud of her for stepping WAY out of her comfort zone and participating. She said she didn't care if she got the crown .... she just wanted to be able to ride in the parade on Saturday, so she is really happy. Eli, on the other hand, sobbed when she lost. He did say later that if she didn't have a crown, that meant he could call her "Future Queen". He is so sweet!

Back to school.  Dawson continues to do really well. He was excited that he got a 98% on his first Geometry test. And, he said he enjoys doing his weekly world reports for World History.

This week at home we did lots of reading and writing. Our Bible lessons are still our favorite part of the day with Stick Figuring Through the Bible by Grapevine. It's fun and the kids have learned tons already!

Our writing assignments this week were a continuation of "I Am Special". They pretended they were their favorite animal. They made a cover for their book and then wrote special attributes about their animal. Eli's favorite animal is a penguin. Brynne's favorite animal is a dog.

We are continuing to do math fact review, are moving along nicely in our grammar studies, continuing with daily P.E. lessons, and are enjoying All About Spelling. We have two sets of letter tiles. One of the kids works on the metal board while the other works on the fridge. Dawson has been leaving us messages on the fridge with the letters, but since there is only one of each he has to be creative.

We did our first Five in a Row unit this week, and read The Story About Ping. It was a fun week, and it surprised me how they enjoyed listening to the book each and every day and didn't get bored with it. It was fun to look for something different when we read each day. In fact, yesterday Brynne said, "What are we looking for today?" We looked for reflection (in the illustrations), facts about China, and facts about ducks. We also talked about discernment.

For our activities, we did some experimenting with buoyancy and reflection (1). We did some picture walking through books about China. (China happens to be their favorite country because of the moview The Karate Kid, so they already know about all there is about it.) In learning about ducks we listened to duck calls (our Favorite Resource this week), and did a demonstration on paper bags about how the oils in duck feathers helps them repel water (2). Once we were done with that, they decided they wanted to make duck puppets, which they did (3). The ducks helped us do our oral spelling lessons.

Daddy is here for the weekend, so our studies today will likely be light. They did get up this morning and talked about Hurricane Isaac, and watched some animations of it's path. Then they discussed the robot that has been placed on Mars. And, of course, they played Presidents vs. Aliens. We had plans to go to the park today to continue our study on local trees, but Isaac has made his way to Missouri and it's pouring and windy. I'm going to pull out the trees unit curriculum we are reviewing and see what we can do indoors. Likely we will just take advantage of daddy time and pick back up on it next Friday.

We are also planning to do our first artist study today on James Whistler. I'll post the end result of that activity on Monday.

We are so excited that Rick/Daddy is here for the weekend, so we have lots of fun things planned (getting together with family and friends, volunteering with our Sunday School class at a luncheon, going to the lake for the day). I hope you have a wonderful weekend!

Other posts you might have missed this week:
Not Back-to-School Blog Hop: A Day in the Life
A Library Story

Linking up this week at:
Weekly Wrap-up @ Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers
Collage Friday @ Homegrown Learners
Favorite Resource this Week @ Learning All the Time

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

A Library Story

In Oklahoma, I had a library card through the Tulsa City-County library system. I very rarely searched a bookshelf for a book. My routine was the get on the library website, search for the books I wanted (drawing from the 20+ libraries in the system), request the ones I definitely wanted, and wait for the little e-mail that told me that my books were waiting for me on the "Hold" shelf. There were VERY FEW times in the two years I used this system that there wasn't a book that I needed/wanted. In other words ... I was spoiled.

We use books every single day of school. My philosophy is that if you want to learn about it, you read about it. Very frequently I had the maximum books checked out that you could have, according to the rules.

Then we moved to a town of less than 3,000 people. There is an adorable library here that is affiliated with the county library, and you can have books delivered here from there. However, when I sat down to see how many books the library system had from the Five in a Row Volume 1 curriculum we are using this year, they had TWO. Yes, only two! I was sad, and dismayed.

I did some research and found another city library in another nearby town 30 miles away. Going to that city is doable a couple of times a month. And, I noticed on their online catalog that they had many of the books I would need. So on Saturday I drove up (to see my grandma at the hospital) and stopped by the library to purchase a library card, since I don't live in that city. It would be $20 well-spent.

But, it was closed for renovations. What? Now what am I going to do???

Driving away, I was worried. It looked like I was going to have to start buying all of the books I wanted to use, or get very creative.

I drove a whole block ... yes ONE block ... and saw a sign for a regional library. Being desperate, I pulled in. It was great! It actually looked like Powell's Books in Portland, Oregon. (btw ... if you ever go to Portland, make sure you go to Powell's. It's a book experience you will never have again.) I went in to inquire about a library card. I was told that I would need to purchase one (no big deal ) for $15. But in order to get a card that day, I had to have proof of my address, which I didn't have. Urghhh! What is the deal?

And here's where the story gets good.

As I was was turning to leave, I looked up at the woman who was standing behind the gentleman helping me. AND IT WAS A GIRL FROM MY HIGH SCHOOL GRADUATING CLASS! What are the odds? I said, "Jo!" She turned around and we started chatting. I told her we had just moved back, blah, blah, blah, and she looked at the young man and said, "Give the woman a library card." Squeal!!

This small town stuff has it's perks!

After I had my library card in hand, I headed downstairs to the children's department and was delighted to see many of the books I knew I would need this year. I also pulled several from the shelf for our current tree unit, even some specific books that the study recommended that I had not been able to find elsewhere. I was thrilled! I learned that there are actually five libraries affiliated with this one, so I could get books from their libraries as well by ordering them online.

Oh ... a happy ending!

Monday, August 27, 2012

Not Back-to-School Blog Hop ~ A Day in the Life

We are only one week into our Journey for 2012/2013, but I think we have established a pretty good routine.

6:30 a.m. ~ Dawson and I get up. He jumps in the shower and I grab my coffee, Bible, devotional, and journal and sit down in my favorite chair for some quiet time.

7:00 a.m. ~ I get dressed and get Dawson some breakfast.

7:25 a.m. ~ Dawson and I drive the 4 blocks to my parents' so that he can catch his ride to school. My mom, dad, niece Rylee, Dawson, and I all sit on their front porch and wait for Rylee's friend to come pick them up. After they are gone we talk for a couple more minutes before my dad leaves for work and I head back home. (I am finding this to be precious time.)

8:00 a.m.~ I have to get home quick and get my bike, because my mom and her friend, Brenda, are coming down the street to get me. We ride our bikes to the community park and walk three miles. Then we ride back home.

9:00 a.m. ~ I am home and Brynne is usually just waking up. I get the dogs settled, get her breakfast and jump in the shower.

9:30 a.m. ~ If Eli is not already awake, I wake him up and get his breakfast while I finish getting ready. Then I make the beds, get their clothes out for them to get dressed, and prepare our dining room for our school day while they are getting dressed, brushing their teeth, and fixing their hair.

10:00 a.m. ~ School starts. We have been starting our day with Bible, and then moving right into Grammar, Spelling, Writing, and Math. I have found, however, that Eli starts to fizzle out between Grammar and Spelling. So, this week I think I will work in a break. Maybe I'll let them each choose a few small toys to play with while I read out of our current read-a-long, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. He's so excited to get to Math that I shouldn't have much trouble getting them started back up. He just needs to have a break from sitting at the table.

11:30 ish ~ We are ready for a lunch break. Depending on how much prodding Eli has needed, sometimes we aren't ready until closer to noon. (On Mondays we head over to my mom's for lunch because my aunt comes through town on her way to work for a visit, and I love to see her.) I also use this time while the kids are eating and taking a break to run out and see my grandma at the nursing home.

1:00 p.m. ~ By this time I am wanting us to be deep into our current unit study. Last week we studied Caves. This week we are doing our first Five in a Row unit on The Story About Ping. This is also the time of day that the kids do their independent reading.

2:30 p.m. ~ By this time I am ready to end our day with P.E. We are reviewing a specific Physical Education curriculum that we are loving, so we get out some pent-up energy then.

3:00 p.m. ~ I'm off to pick Dawson up from school.

3:30 p.m. ~ It's time for mom to take a 30 minute power nap. I do this while the kids play.

4:00 p.m. ~ I'm back up and ready to start thinking about dinner.

Evenings ~ The rest of our evening, the kids play. Dawson does his homework. I get caught up on some computer work and housework. We have dinner and clean up the house from our active day. Some evenings we go for a walk, or go to the school playground to play, or walk to the Dairy Queen for a treat, or walk to grandma and papa's for a visit. Usually I water my plants or get my recycling together or put out the trash for pickup. We typically watch a little bit of television. I give the kids a bath, and try to have them in bed by about 8:30 p.m. They take the dogs with them so I can have some alone time to load the dishwasher and do a final house pickup. I also collapse on the couch with a glass of wine to watch some of my shows. Until I am ready for bed, the kids will watch some t.v. in their room, play with some toys in their bed, play Nintendo 3DS or the iPad.

10:00 p.m. ~ It's lights out.

The only real variation from this schedule is Fridays. On Friday, we do Bible, Writing, Fun/Living Math, Art and Nature. Our days are a little more free-flowing and slow. We go to the park for a picnic lunch and to explore (and get in a little play equipment time for P.E.). On our way home we stop by the public library so Eli and Brynne can get on the computers. They have some really great educational games that they love to play, especially ones on U.S. and World Geography. This also gives me time to check out books we will need for the next week or make a list of books I need to get from another library.

And that's our day, in a nutshell. It looks simple. However, I always feel like we are behind and rushing. And so far there has been lots of interruptions, like my grandma being in and out of the hospital and my niece being sick and in the hospital for a couple of days. But that's the beauty of homeschooling. Interruptions are life's lessons, so we embrace them and move on.

How about you? What's your day look like?

Have you missed my other posts in the Not Back-to-School Blog Hop? Here's what I had to say about ...


As usual, the Hop has been fun! See you next year!

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Weekly Wrap-up ~ The New Normal

Okay. Now we are back to normal, or the "normal" we are going to have this year. We successfully completed our first real full week of school. That means all subjects have been incorporated into our week. And, it was an excellent week!

Let me start with Dawson. As you know, he decided to go back to public school now that we are in a small town. I knew he was ready and was excited for him to go to the same high school from where I graduated. The first couple of days were really hard, as they are for any new student at a new school. But this week has been much better. He has made some friends, knows kids in every class, is enjoying the majority of his classes, and is really getting into his schoolwork. He is feeling very confident academically, and I couldn't be happier with how seriously he is taking his work. I am very proud of him! (He did end up with a horrid cold at the end of the week, and had to come home from school at noon. He's been in bed ever since.)

The other change for us this year is that we brought Eli home for his first year of homeschooling. He and Brynne are both third graders, but really doing a combination of 2nd and 3rd grade work this year. (Shhhh ... don't tell them.)

By far, our Favorite Resource this Week was our Grapevine Studies Stick Figuring Through the Bible lessons. We have been starting our day with it and both Eli and Brynne LOVE it! They memorized Genesis 1:1 and 1:31, and were able to recite to me what God created on each of the 6 days, and to explain why God rested on the 7th day. It think this might end up being our favorite subject of the school year. We are using the Old Testment Overview, Level 3-4. It's really designed for tweens, but I have just modified the lessons each day to emphasize the drawings, verse memorization, and review.

Some highlights from our week are shown in our Collage:

1. We did a unit study on Caves this week. As part of that, we learned about all of the animals that live in caves, including Bats. We did an experiment of amplifying sound with our special "ears". This helps bats who cannot see in the caves when they are flying.

2. The pricklies from the Sweetgum Tree. This is one of the 15 trees we will be identifying in the next month.

3. Math is one of the favorite subjects of the day.

4. We are reviewing an excellent PE program that has us exercising every day! The kids have really enjoyed it! Even our dogs get in on the action. Eli, however, gets exhausted!

5. We started using All About Spelling this week. We went ahead and started with Level 1, even though they are both pretty good spellers already. They have really enjoyed the tokens and letter tiles.

While on a walk last week, we came upon the pricklies from the Sweetgum Tree. My kids immediately started asking questions about them. So, we pulled a couple off the tree to bring home to examine. A big topic that I want to cover in Nature this year is to learn the flora and fauna of our new state and city. AND we are reviewing a great new product about trees, so this all tied in nicely! We went to the park for Nature yesterday, and while there we identified 15 different trees! We took pictures of each tree and a closeup of it's leaves and anything else that would help us identify it. We are going to have one heck of a tree journal when we are done!

In our writing lessons, our topic has been "I am Special". So, for art this week, I had each of the kids sit on the bathroom sink and look at him/herself in the mirror. Then they used their new, very fun, window markers to draw and color themselves by tracing their faces on the mirror. It was actually a lot harder than we thought it would be. So, they each did one of their own and then I helped them with another one. They turned out pretty cute!

This was an exhausting week! We got a lot done, and even went swimming one afternoon. I had to spend some time with my grandma at the nursing home, so we had to take a couple of breaks here and there so I could go check on her. But, otherwise, it was an amazing week!

Last night my mom, Brynne, and I went to a nearby town to watch Kyndal cheer at the first foodball game of her senior year.

See her doing a back handspring on the left side of the photo?

How was your week? Are you back at it full time?

In case you missed any of my posts this week, here is a recap:
You can also catch up on my Not Back-to-School Blog Hop posts:

I am linking up this week to Weekly Wrap-up, Favorite Resource this Week, and Collage Friday.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Not Back-to-School Blog Hop ~ The Students

I am FINALLY getting some pictures taken of the kids for our Back-to-School photos. We had our nature day at the park today, so I thought it would be a good backdrop. Little did I know that our little park would have a couple of brand new areas with beautiful foliage and flowers!

Eli and Brynne are my homeschooled students this year.

They are both in the 3rd grade. However, I have decided to kind of do a 2nd/3rd combination for this year for both of them, and a rigorous 3rd grade for them for next year. Brynne would be a super-young 2nd grader this year, but academically she is ready for all 3rd grade work. I'd like to slow her down a bit, though, so that she doesn't graduate from high school when she is 16. Eli was a slight bit behind last year because of birth-related neurological delays. Although he is very smart, he could certainly use a transition year before we blast forward.

The two of them are 19 months apart in age, but are cognitively at about the same level. That makes schooling them easy, for the most part. I can teach them the exact same material. But, they have completely different learning styles and strengths/weaknesses. Eli loves all things math and science and is a whiz. Brynne is slower at math, with less interest in science, but LOVES literature-based learning and social studies. He likes worksheets. She likes living out her subjects. So, that presents as a challenge at times. But, I just try to make it work, pushing them to try each other's learning styles and trying to give them enough of what they like.

One thing is for certain, though: They are best friends. They spend ALL their time together. They have their "moments", sure, but for the most part, they are content just being together. I have to give Eli his space sometimes, though, because he needs alone time and Brynne doesn't know that alone time exists. And, she mothers him to death, which he doesn't always mind. But sometimes even he hits his limit. I love it that they are so close, that they push each other to succeed, and are each other's biggest fans, by far!

This is Eli ... the sweetest person you will ever meet. He is 8 1/2 years old. He loves to play with toys .. any toys. He can take a mish mash of small toys and create a story that he will act out for hours. He loves to dress up, primarily as a Ninja, Indiana Jones, or a ghost hunter. He is tender-hearted, loving, and affectionate. He tells me he loves me many times a day. He is a rule-follower and likes very specific boundaries. He is a resister, however, always saying "no" to anything he is asked to do (usually by saying "ohhh man"). But then he does it without question. He needs lots of supervision and prodding in his work to get it accomplished because he drifts easily. He loves to laugh, so his favorite shows are America's Funniest Home Videos and Wipeout. He is very competitive, to the point that it freaks him out if his "team" isn't going to win. He is terrified of babies and storms. Every single person who meets him loves him. And he loves geography.

This is Brynne ... oh, my Brynne. She is a spitfire! If there was ever a person made for school, it would be her. She could literally do school from the moment she wakes up in the morning until the second before she goes to bed at night. And, some days she does just that. I have the hardest time keeping her challenged. Her favorite things in the world are her dogs and her brothers. She cherishes them all. We often say that she is going to be the ruler of something someday. It might just be her own home, or it might be a small country. She is my shadow and my mini-me. She mothers Eli so much that I have to ask her to please let me be the mother. I don't think she really thinks I'm capable without her, and she doesn't know how he survived until she was born. She loves to ride her scooter, play with Eli (doing whatever it is he wants to do), play Xbox with Dawson, and help me in the kitchen or with housework. She could go swimming every single day of her life. As confident and sure as she is about most things, she is also the biggest weenie when it comes to many things. I am always surprised at the things that scare her. Our days would be so dull without her.

And let's not forget Dawson! My sweet 6'3" son is a sophomore this year. If you have followed my blog, you know that Dawson is the reason why we started our homeschooling journey. At his request, we took him out of public school in the 8th grade and homeschooled him for two years. What a transformation that took place in him during those years. I have seen my punky little boy turn into an amazing young man. And I am so proud of him. Dawson is the most loyal and protective person I have ever met. He believes in Justice, and has a soft spot for anyone with special needs. He is incredibly smart and intuitive. In school he enjoys researching topics and discussing them. He's someone you just like to spend time with. He makes my life very happy. He is one who doesn't have a lot of friends. But the friends that he does have are his best ones! That's why moving to Missouri has been so hard on him. He had to leave his two best friends behind, and he misses them desperately. Thankfully, his absolute best friend came with him .... his 2 1/2 year old Border Collie, Crusoe. Crusoe is a boy trapped in a dog's body, and Dawson loves him more than anything in the world.

Dawson is getting ready to turn 16. When we moved, he decided that he would like to go back to public school. And I think it was the right choice for him. He is now going to a super small school where he can make his mark and not be just another number. I am so excited for him to experience high school life without all of the fear and loneliness he was experiencing in a huge school system. I can't wait to see what this year holds for him.

And last, but certainly not least, is Kyndal. There is one word to describe Kyndal ... INDEPENDENT. Last December, Kyndal decided that she would like to move to Missouri to live with her dad. And that's what she did. It was the most difficult thing I have ever gone through, and I still struggle with it today. But, she is not someone I need to worry about. She has a good head on her shoulders, makes relatively good decisions, and has always been mature for her age. It's been hard to just let her make her own way in life, but her personality demands it. She will be 18 in a couple of months, and is a senior in high school. She is going to a small high school in her dad's hometown, and is thriving there. However, she thrives wherever she is. She is just adaptable. She is a cheerleader and working at her uncle's restaurant. Kyndal is a social butterfly and spends every waking spare moment with her boyfriend or her friends. You cannot hold her down, no matter how hard you try. She is a free-spirit. My prayer for her is that she just embraces that and lives her life how she sees fit, not how she thinks others want her to live it (even me). Somehow I think she'll do just fine.


And those are the students on this Journey to Excellence. They are all in different places, three of the four of them not even doing what they were doing last year. But that's our philosophy in education. We want our children to thrive in the environment that is best for them. Sometimes that changes. We are very happy where all of our kids are at this year. It's going to be a great year!!

Now you can skip on over to iHomeschool Network to see everybody else's adorable kids.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The Second Full Day ~ Soooo Much Better!

Oh, what a better day we had yesterday! Mostly, I give credit to the Grumble-Meter. Here it is.

It's made from a paper plate colored with markers, a black construction paper arrow, and a brad. Pretty fancy.

For each "set" of work Eli and Brynne complete without Eli them grumbling enough times to get to RED (it moves up a color with each grumble I hear), they earn a letter in the Secret Word. The Secret Word is a reward.

This week's reward is a GOOD one! Our neighbor gave us free circus tickets in a nearby town, so the Secret Word is CIRCUS. They have the opportunity to earn enough letters through Thursday for us to go to the circus Thursday night. We will have a set of work in the morning and a set of work in the afternoon each day. There can be two grumbles in the morning and two grumbles in the afternoon to still earn their letters. (Believe me, that's a whole lot less grumbles out of Eli than if we didn't have this system.) But we made it through yesterday without even ONE grumble. And we had a great day of school that everyone enjoyed!

Is this bribing? Kind of. Does it work? Absolutely! If you have a grumbler, should you use it? Yes, if you want the grumbling to be at a minimum, or to even stop completely! It works wonders in our home.

Dawson had a much better day at school the past two days. Two senior boys sat by him at lunch, and one of them is in his PE class. In fact, I think he is going to end up being really good friends with one of them. The boys are friends of my niece's and are more Dawson's type than a lot of the other kids. He was so much happier after school both days. Thank goodness!

He also told me that he is really proud of himself for how well he is taking notes and taking care of his daily planner. He said that he feels that he learned that from homeschooling. It made me happy to hear that he felt that his time at home was positive and beneficial to him.

Last night he had to write a full essay and an introduction to another one. He did a great job on them both, and then showed me the notes he's been taking and how organized his binder is. He said that his yearly goal is to do well enough to get asked to join the National Honor Society. Wow! I was so proud to hear him talk like that.

I am looking forward to a great year for everybody!

** I am linking this post up with What Works Wednesday over at Upside Down Homeschooling.