Tuesday, September 21, 2010


I have never done well teaching spelling to my children, but this year I was determined to find something to try with them.  I did lots of research into various options, but most were either too complicated or too expensive ... neither of which appealed to me very much. 

Then I found Sequential Spelling.  I like what I read about it and how it teaches spelling based on word families.  I also like that it is very inexpensive and works well for both of my older kids, even though they are in different grades.  It might have worked to start Laura at the 2nd level, but I figured it would be good to start them both at the beginning and build from there.

The lessons are designed to take you through one level per 180 day school year with one 10-minute lesson per day.  So far, we have done 2 lessons per day, one in the morning and one in the afternoon.  The beauty of the lessons (besides how quickly they go) is that the student gets immediate feedback on each word.  The teacher reads the word, followed by a sentence using the word in context, and then the student attempts to spell the word.  The teacher then writes the word on the board, beginning with the word family in one color and adding the other sounds in another color.  The student checks his own work and corrects his own mistakes, thus giving him an opportunity to recognize why they were wrong and mentally correct the mistake.  The student is encouraged to learn from his mistake rather than being upset that a mistake was made.

So far, my kids are loving Sequential Spelling.  They keep asking to do more than 2 lessons a day!  The teacher's book does say that it is okay to do multiple lessons a day as long as you space them several hours apart and don't do more than 4 lessons in one day.  I am thinking that 2 is enough!

I hope we have finally found what we will use for spelling for the next several years and more importantly, I hope my kids will finally learn how to spell!

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Tough Questions

For the most part, when I started this second blog, my plan was to share more of our day-to-day schooling and hopefully capture some of the fun stuff we do.  However, this is not one of those posts.  (Come back later in the week when I plan to post about the play-do people the kids made as part of our study of the skeletal system, I promise it will be more fun than this.)

This is the post where I plan to do a little venting  and in the end, ask you some questions.  This is also the post that I am hoping other home-schooling moms will read and respond to and maybe impart some of your wisdom to me!

Today has been one of those days when I feel like giving up and begging the next school bus driver who comes by to take my kids with them.  So, of course, on this day when my home school has been in total chaos, I read a few other blogs , one in particular that I don't read very often, whose school rooms are the image of tranquility and where the Moms/teachers are in perfect harmony with the children/students and I wonder where I went wrong.  Perhaps God is trying to tell me something ... like please give those children to someone else for their education before you ruin their lives!

Okay, that is an exaggeration, of course.  Well, maybe not.  But the kids and I have been butting heads all day and I am incredibly frustrated and wondering if I am the only Mom who wonders if her kids wouldn't be better off in school instead of fighting with me.

Intellectually, I know the answer to that question, but that doesn't necessarily help me in the more emotional moments.  I know that this post is basically a pity-party and I hope you will all forgive me this moment of choosing to be a little too honest.

I am curious though, for those of you who may have experienced days like this, do you have any advice on how to redeem a day that starts going down-hill (like before 10 in the morning)?   Do you try to turn the day around or just try to work through it or even give up and reqroup for the next day?

I think I feel better already just admitting where I have been today ...

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Science Experiment - Mummified Apple

We have completed our first science experiment of the year.  We are studying Apologia's Human Anatomy and Physiology and the first lesson was basically an introduction to the course.  This introduction began with a discussion of several ancient cultures and their study of anatomy and ended with a simplified description of cells.

As part of the history of anatomy we read about the ancient Egyptians and the process of mummification.  The suggested experiment involved observing what would happen to a peeled apple if it were left uncovered for a week compared to one that was covered in a mixture of salt and baking soda.

We began the experiment last week by cutting an apple in half and peeling it.  The control apple was left in an open bowl.  The kids mixed the baking soda and salt and took turns covering the other apple.

Taking turns covering the apple...
even Gilligan got in on the action

Once the apple was covered the only thing left to do was wait.  We completed our scientific speculation sheet and observed what was happening to the control apple each day.

The children each had a hypothosis for what would happen to each apple and they all got it pretty close.  Everyone agreed that the control apple would rot, but that the other one probably wouldn't.  Actually, they all agreed that the covered apple would change, but no one could really guess as to how it would change.

The change in the control apple was easily observed and, by the end, quite disgusting.

This is today ... I missed photographing day 6,
but trust me, it looked much the same as today.
This morning we uncovered the other apple (I guess I should be calling them specimens or something scientific like that) to see what the salt and baking soda mixture had done for it.  The kids were incredibly excited to find that their hypothoses had been correct.  The covered apple had changed, but it wasn't rotten, or even nasty looking.  It has turned a yellow/brown and the texture is now kind of rubbery or maybe spongy would be a better word.

I am sure that this is just the first of many experiments we will do this year.  In truth, science was never my favorite subject in school, but I think I would have enjoyed it more if we had done things like this and had a textbook like the ones from Apologia.  All three kids are enjoying science (even the reading) and can recall more information than I would have ever thought possible!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Neatness Counts

Twice in the last two weeks, I have had to face my failings as a teacher in the work my daughter is doing.  I have no choice but to admit that I have been way too lax with both the kids when it comes to requiring neatness and even to letting them off the hook for mistakes.  I have always pointed out their mistakes, but haven't always made them correct them. 

Just for the record, that was a bad idea!

Now that Laura is getting older and her work is getting harder, I almost feel like apologizing to her for not being more consistent when she was younger and the work was easier.  But, as I have had to face many times before, I cannot change the past and all we can do is move forward from where we are now.  And, sometimes, that means we may have to step back and evaluate where we are before we can know how to move forward.

With that in mind, I have come to the conclusion that we will not be moving as fast in grammar as I would like so that I can stress the importance of turning in neat, accurate work.  I want her to be responsible for checking to see that she has spelled words correctly and started every sentence with a capital letter and ended it with a correct punctuation mark.  I hope that it won't slow us down too much, but I really think that it will serve us both well for her to learn this now.  Hopefully a few times like today, when she had to completely redo an assignment, will help her to remember to do it correctly the first time.

The benefit for me is that I hopefully won't make the same mistake with the boys that I made with Laura.  Poor thing, she has been my trial run for a number of years now.  Maybe one day I'll get it right!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

My Newest Student

The carrot he drew all by himself!
This year, we welcome our youngest son into our school.

For years, I have been telling people that one of my biggest challenges is schooling around a preschooler.  Now, for the first time, we are including him in our studies.

What will change? 
Not much.

He'll have a few workbooks to teach colors and letters and numbers ... all of which he pretty much already knows, so I guess this is more of a review.  As for the other subjects, he's been listening to our read-alouds and science books for at least two years already.  Every now and then, he'll surprise me with some fact about the swimming creatures we studied last year or even with a detail from a book that we have read.  This year, he's already learned some of Laura's grammar jingles and soon he'll be hearing us read about human anatomy and American History.  He won't remember it all, but somewhere in the back of his brain there will be a little notch that we will build on in years to come.

Monday, August 9, 2010

"Not" Back to School Blog Hop ~ School Room Week

Not Back to School Blog Hop

Hmmm ... where do we do school?  That is the question for this week's blog hop.

My dream as a homeschooling Mama has always been to have a school room.  I can picture it in my head ... individual desks that the kids can customize to their personalities, bookshelves in a corner with comfy chairs nearby, maps and timelines on the walls, a large closet with lots of storage for all our supplies ...

All that would be wonderful, but lets get back to reality, shall we?  Honestly, we can be found in any number of places around the house or in the yard doing school work.  We do have a few favorite places and these are the ones I'll show you.

The first and probably most used place is our dining room table.  It is small and now that I have all three in school we have to take turns.  This is where they do the majority of their bookwork and all of their copywork/handwriting.

This is an old picture, but it gives a better view of the kids at the table than my newer ones.
This is Gilligan's first year actually doing work at the table ... in this pic he is using dot markers to make his own version of all beginning letters of the names in our family ...
don't ask me what letter he's working on here ... this exercise was more creative than realistic!
Since our work can't all be done at the table together, we spill into the living room for many activities.  The kids' math lessons come with a video to watch and that has to be done in this space.  It is also the home for our bookshelves and our go-to place for reading ... I much prefer our comfy couch over the hard chairs of the table for extended reading times.

Laura wrapped in her favorite blanket for her reading time.
Davy getting ready for his oral reading time.
Sometimes, while one child is working in the dining room, I need the opportunity for one-on-one time with another child, so for this we retreat to my bedroom and of course the best place to hang out here is on the bed.  I can't really speak for the kids, but I look forward to spending time with each of them separately each day.

Davy getting ready to read aloud to me
These may be our most common school spots, but we have been known to do our reading in the yard, on the trampoline, or at the park.  The kids sometimes choose their rooms when privacy (or quiet) is what they are looking for. 

I believe that learning can happen any where ... even sitting on the floor in your pj's practicing with your scissors.

Monday, August 2, 2010

"Not" Back to School Blog Hop ~ Curriculum Week

Not Back to School Blog Hop

When I saw a post on facebook about this blog hop, I knew that I wanted to participate, and I figured that this would be a good beginning for my new homeschooling blog.

I school three children ... the oldest is 10 and in the 5th grade ... the middle child is 8 and in the 3rd grade ... the baby is 4 and in kindergarten.  This will be the first year that I have homeschooled all three of my children.  I like to bring them all together for as many subjects as possible.  Of course, this is easier to accomplish with the older two, but even the little one enjoys listening to all of our read-alouds and I am always surprised by what he remembers.  For this year, the kids will be using the same history and science curriculum.  I will have to tailor the individual assignments and the tests to their grade levels, but we will all cover the material together.

Our history course for this year is Exploring American History from Christian Liberty Press.  History is one of my favorite subjects and was my minor in college, but, despite my love for history, I have not been extremely eager to tackle a complete history course with the kids before now.  I want them to enjoy learning about history and many textbooks simply steal that joy.  Up until now, we haven't done any formal history at all.  What we have done has included reading books about historical events and characters and this has worked well for us.  Exploring American History continues that format in that it looks at American history through the biographies of the men who helped to shape that history.  My hope is that this will gently prepare the kids for a more traditional history course beginning next year.

We have been using Apologia science for a couple of years now, and I absolutely love it.  This is one of the classes that the older kids take as part of our homeschool co-op and this year's course is Exploring Creation with Human Anatomy and Physiology.  I am excited about getting started in this book.  The kids will be in separate classes this year and the work for the older class will be much more intense than for the younger.  We will do all the reading for each chapter at home and the classes will come together to do experiments.  I know that the teacher for the older class plans to have the students keep up with all the notebooking activities and I am glad of this.  I have been lax in having the kids do these in the past, but I know that if they are assigned for class, we will get it done.

These are the only two formal courses that we can do with both of the older kids at one time.  We do spend a lot of time reading together, though.  We usually keep one just-for-fun literature book going at all times.  We are just about to finish up Charlotte's Web and my next choice is Around the World in Eighty Days.  I am looking forward to getting to that one.  I read it for the first time this summer and I feel certain the children are going to really enjoy it.

We are beginning our second full year of using Math-U-See with both of the older kids.  Math was always the subject I struggled the most with in school and the teaching of it to my children has always intimidated me.  So, when I realized that our daughter was not where she should be in math at the end of her 3rd grade year, I began to panic.  As I searched for something to help her, several people recommended Math-U-See.  And, after watching the demonstration video online, I was sold.  It has been a great fit for us.  This math is taught the way I think math.  That may sound strange, but it helps me to teach them when it is being taught in a way that I can actually feel comfortable teaching.  Both kids have done well using this curriculum and I can see us sticking with it for a long time to come.

Our language arts is where the kids are totally different.  Both kids will be taking a literature class with our co-op this year, but the classes will be very different.  I am not sure exactly how they are going to work, but I am looking forward to getting started later this month.  I feel sure that the amount of reading and writing will be a stretch for my daughter (the 5th grader) but she will survive.  I think the younger class is just going to be lots of fun and will hopefully encourage a love for reading in the students.

We have been using Explode the Code with our middle child for several years now and it has worked well for him.  Because of his success, I plan to start our younger son on Get Ready for the Code this year.  I hope to move them both quickly through the books this year.  I supplement the 3rd grader with various language assignments from old A Beka books just to give him something different and keep his interest.

This year we are taking on a completely new adventure for our oldest child.  During the summer, she and I began working on Shurley English, Level 5.  She isn't sure that she likes it, but I love it.  I majored in English in college, but my focus was mainly on literature and writing, so teaching grammar is a bit out of my comfort zone.  I knew that I didn't want to teach her grammar the way it was taught to me, but I also couldn't deny her need for some formal grammar at some point in time.  This course, so far, is a great fit.  It is keeping her (and me) busy, but I can already see an improvement in her writing skills.  The fact that it also includes challenging vocabulary is a great asset as far as I am concerned, though I doubt that she would agree.

This is a pretty good overview of what we will be using this year.  I am still looking for the right Bible curriculum and I also want to add spelling for both of the older kids, but haven't found exactly what I am looking for (at least not that we can afford), so I will just keep looking.  I feel sure that we will throw in a few unit studies here and there just to keep things interesting and I think I'll try to find some good ideas for lapbooking to supplement our history studies.  I am always open to new ideas and I am looking forward to visiting other blogs on the blog hop to see what I can glean from other homeschoolers!

Be sure to come back next week for a look into where we do school ... and until then, click on the link at the top of this post to visit other homeschooling families and find out what they plan to teach this year.