Monday, July 25, 2011

Airport Poetry and Prose

The airplane is big and loud.  

Old gray pantsuit
weary and bent over

quickly clicking high heels
ready to conquer the world

Anxious to see his new love the young man urgently talks to the counter man about his missed flight.   He missed his flight because he needed that extra minute to get his hair just right.   The lucky lady will now wonder where her love wonders without her.   When will they meet again?  And will their love survive the separation?   

Ever stuck in the airport with time to spare?   With wiggly bored kids?   

I've found airports to be a great place to people watch and to practice writing skills.   I try to have paper and gel pens (which seem much more inspiring than the regular kind) in my carry-on bag, so we can use that time to have a little writing session.   Littles may write a sentence and include a picture to illustrate their writing.   Poems of any shape and form are popular in our family and all jump in to help describe what they see.   Sometimes we write paragraphs one sentence at a time with each family member adding on one sentence to tell the story as they see it.   Other times we choose the same person for all to write about and then compare our stories we see in that person.   

This has been an easy way to include the joy of writing in our everyday life.  How have you included writing in your day to day activities? 

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

History Portfolio Review

History Portfolios are blank history notebooks published by A Homeschool Journey meant to organize the results of a history study.   These beautiful notebooks  with their hard cover binders and creamy study cardstock pages are available for four different time periods, ancient, medieval, renaissance, and modern history and in two different levels.    This review will speak specifically to The Renaissance History Portfolio meant for older children.   A junior level for all of the time periods is also available. 

  Each portfolio starts with a title page. 

 Followed by a Table of Contents.  

  Followed by a page of information for the parent and a how to page --both of which could be easily removed when the portfolio is completed.  

Then the portfolio is divided into sections each with a list of Maps, reports, images, and illustrations that will follow in that section. 

The Renaissance portfolio has 5 sections:  The Italian Renaissance 1300-1527, The Renaissance in the North, 16th C., The Reformation, European Political History, 1500-1725, and Exploration and Trade,  for a total of 74 blank pages .  

A variety of different page set-ups are provided.

Each section has at least one map to color in and labeled.   A few sections have two maps

 Following these sections is a multi-page timeline meant to be taken out of the book and put together to display what is happening in the time period represented across different countries and continents. 

 Published to help parents direct students to fill in the pristine page of their history portfolio, the soft cover spiral bound Teacher's Guides by Barbara Shukin provides not only direction for filling in the history Portfolio but also an outline of topics to teach.  

Some of the suggestions included in The Renaissance History Portfolio Teacher's Guide: 

 Define humanism
 Describe what is meant by Italian City States, 
 Write a report on Giotto recording important events in his life and major works
Write a persuasive argument for or against the following: Giotto was, or was not, the first true Renaissance artist.  
Research how to draw a building, or a simple street scene using "one point perspective"  make a small drawing and paste it into the image box. 
Define the following :horizon line , vanishing point, orthogonal lines.
Write a report on France from the years 1453-1789 focusing on the Wars of Religion
Write a short report on the Northwest passage.
Write a narration on Robinson Crusoe
Define Colonialism

Also included in the Teacher's Guide are drawings, diagrams, word finds, crossword puzzles, and matching exercises meant to be colored,labeled, or otherwise completed, and included in the History Portfolio

Concluding each section of the Teacher's Guide is a full page reproduction of a piece of art represented the time period covered in that section.

Also available is a packet of maps meant to be referenced when completing the maps in the History Portfolios.

We have found History Portfolio's quality inspiring.   The quality of the product moves my students to work hard to include work that meets the quality of the materials.   The images and diagrams included in the Teacher's Guide help to give the completed portfolio a scrapbook feel and add an extra visual aspect to the study of history.  

Last year I added History Portfolios to our study of history which worked well.   My students had a place to put all of their written work and were inspired to add drawings and other visual aspects to their work.  This year I am using the structure and the book list provided by the Teacher's Guide to plan our history studies for the year.  

One thing I would change about the History Portfolio would be the pages listing what is included in each section. 

On the back side of these pages are the maps that start off each section.   Many times we don't follow the suggestions on this page, so this page seems irrelevant.    Because the map is directly behind this page, one can't just discard it.   

I also ran into a slight glitch when ordering my portfolios last year.  I ordered two Medieval History Portfolios from Rainbow Resource and received two different versions.   The section titled Christians was different in each History Portfolio.   I'm guessing Homeschool Journey Publicatons made a change to the Medievel version of the History Porfolios, but Rainbow Resource still had older versions in their inventory.   It wasn't a big deal, and we made it work.  

Some examples of completed pages from our Medieval History Portfolios:

I highly recommend History Portfolios. They have added an excitement to our history studies that was missing when we were simply filing away our work in a notebook. Our work is now poured over repeatedly and shared. History Portfolios have a permanent place in our homeschool.

Be sure to check out other reviews of homeschool curriculum at




Monday, July 18, 2011

Dictating School Time versus Interest Lead Learning or Am I a Dictator

I can't count the number of times I've run into the attitude that classical homeschooing kills the joy of learning.   One school of thought in homeschooling is that as homeschoolers we have the chance to let our children follow their interest and requiring them to do otherwise will kill their joy of learning.   Those who dictate learning will raise children that never learn the joy of learning, or so the theory goes.   Children whose learning is dictated to will grow up shunning  learning because as children they didn't learn how to learn for themselves.  

I dictate school time for littles (until about age 9 or 10).  I teach reading, spelling, handwriting, math, science, history, manners, and whatever else I think my kiddoes need to learn.   But I do make sure that school time is no more than a few hours at that point, so my littles still have lots of time to follow their interest. I found it fascinating that my kids many times use that interest lead time to continue processing the learning that occurs during dictated  school time.   

I would watch as they play-acted the Story of  the World chapter we had read during school time. They often repeated the science experiments over and over just for the joy of the discovery.  At that age interest often grows out of the things learned in school time.

At about age 10 my kids have a bit more say in what they read and study in science and history. I still dictate the outline of what will be learned, but I also focus a bit more on their interest in my planning. Now that school begins to take up more of their time hours and hours of playtime is a thing of the past. So it seems fair to include their interest in what I dictate. I have to remember to be flexible as their interest are quite changeable. Susie loves fantasy books for the first three months of the school year, but than her interest shift more towards mystery. I try to keep in mind that plans will most likely need to change as the year progresses. That doesn't mean that we only read fantasy or mystery, but rather that I choose books from my list of classics that lean more towards that genre. I follow the same pattern with our history and science focus.

My youngest daughter is very interested in fashion while my oldest son is more interested in the battles that took place, so their history studies cover the same time periods and countries in different ways. At this point what they study is still dictated, but how they study it begins to become more interest led.

In high school things change again. My kids know what they need to do to graduate. That is dictated to them by me and the state of California.   They make the choices of how to meet those dictates. Two of my kids have decided to go to an actual high school. They chose to give up the flexibility of home education for the opportunity to fulfill those graduation dictates in a more traditional setting.   My oldest who graduated this past year had me as a teacher his freshman year and then chose to take classes at the community college and through an independent study program. He learned how to work within a system that dictates certain requirements while still following his interest. He chose which maths, sciences, languages met those dictates. He chose where to volunteer to meet the dictates required to graduate. He choose a very different path than I would have dictated, if I had been dictating every class he took. Thank goodness for that because what he chose helped him to discover his strengths and weakness and to decide what he wants to pursue in college and beyond.

High school is a time for my children to realize life dictates certain things, but it is up to the individual to determine how those dictates will be met.

So I suppose homeschooling in my home begins with dictating in hopes of  producing kids that have a wide range of interests and knowledge to draw on throughout their lives.

Check out what all the other Hip Homeschool Moms are up to at  Hip Homeschool Hop Button

Friday, July 15, 2011

Garden Update

Our garden has been growing like crazy.   We had two and half weeks of sunny weather which caused things to just take off. 

The cosmos have outstripped the sunflower (in the foreground).

Tomatoes are coming along and I've picked my first ripe ones this week.

We planted a butterfly garden which we hope will fill in by next summer.

Sad, sad cabbage plant.   Look to the left to see how we've covered up our other cabbage plant.

And low and behold this is what our protected cabbage plant looks like.

Side by side!
I am blaming this on a certain fat squirrel I see around.

Our watermelon is coming along.  I choose a variety that is suppose to do well in cooler coastal areas. 

Here is my bed of honeydew melons.   They are a bit stunted as they have also been a tasty meal for a certain fat squirrel. 

Then and now.

My cucumbers have really taken off.

This is our first cucumber of the season.  I ate it right then and there.  It was super yummy.

My bush beans are loaded with beans.  Note to self--next year I need to double the amount of bush beans.

My runner beans have been pretty, but a bit unproductive!
I think we need a bit more heat. 

The coolest thing by far in the garden was this moth.   I'm not sure what kind it is?  Anyone have any ideas? 

How is your garden growing?

Feel free to check out other garden posts at The Homeschool Village Garden Challenge. and at The Garden Path and at the

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Our Homeschool Curriculum Choices 2011-2012 or English, Science, and Math oh my!

It's that time of the year again.   Time for homeschoolers to get all their ducks in a row for the coming school year.   Time to file, time to plan, time to organize, time to sleep-in--oh, one of these things doesn't belong!

This school year I am down to two students in my homeschool.  E is leaving our school to join A-M at Foothill Technology High.  All though we will miss E, we are also excited about the bit of freedom this will allow us and the new adventure this brings to his life. 

And so without further ado--our curriculum choices for the year! 

Rod and Staff English Level 6
Rod and Staff English Level 7
Sentence Composing for Elementary School
Grammar for Middle School: A Sentence Composing Approach
Write Source 8
Sequential Spelling

 E-R really wants to finish her beloved Rod and Staff English series before starting high school, and since level 6 has so much review I think combining both levels 6 and 7 this year is doable. Also, level 7 is where the writing instruction moves more toward logic stage skills which we need at this stage.   Adding to the writing skills in Rod and Staff, we will finish up Sentence Composing for Elementary School and move into Grammar for Middle School:  A Sentence-Composing Approach by by Don and Jenny Killgallon.  Write Source will continue to help us incorprate writing across all of our curriculum, and Sequential Spelling will cover those all-important spelling skills.  

Thames and Kosmos Physics Solar Workshop
Thames and Kosmos Wind Powered Kit
Thames and Kosmos HdryoPowered Kit

Thames and Kosmos alternative energy kits will form the base of our science this year.  In addition to the kits, we will utiliize Usborne and Kingfisher Science Encyclopedias, library books, and various websources.   Our first kit,  Solar Eneregy, requires lots of sunshine.  We're keeping our fingers crossed here in this fog-encased community that the sun will make it's usual appearance in October.   As we use the kits and work out the kinks in my lesson plans, I'll post the lesson plans, so check back for those.    Feel free to check-out and use my lesson plans for the Thames and Kosmos physics kit here and here.

Singapore Math Standards Edition Level 6
Key to Algebra : Books 1-4
Key to Percentages

Singapore Math Standards Edition Level  6 along with Key to Algebra: Books 1-4 will prepare E-R and I-E for algebra next year.   We also have Life of Fred: Biology floating around to throw in for a change now and than.   I'm also drooling over the Murderous Maths Books.  I haven't tried these out, nor even seen them in person, but I hope to get my hands on one to see if it would add a bit of fun while shoring up some math concepts.


I have all of the books and the guide for Beautiful Feet Horse  Study.   I'm not sure if it will hold E-R and I-E's interest like it did for A-M at this age.   So, I also purchased Blackbird and Company literature guides for Eight Cousins, I am David, and Treasure Island.   And the all important Figurative Language workbook is making another appearance.   It prepared E for Windows to the World.   E-R and I-E started it last year, but it became clear quite early in the year that they were not quite ready for it, so we set it aside until this year.

Nature Studies:
Handbook of Nature Study
My Nature Journal
Handbook of Nature Study Blog

This year we are adding formal nature studies to our school for the first time.   My two gals love to draw and muck around outside, so I think adding nature studies to our week will add a level of enjoyment we've been missing.  I downloaded for free the Handbook of Nature and will use lots of the terrific ideas from the Handbook of Nature Study Blog.

Atelier Art 7
Meet the Masters

After drooling over Atelier Art at a homeschool convention, I came home determined to finish Calvert Art so we could move on to Atelier Art.    Calvert is a super-solid program which I have always wished had more levels to it.    I think Atelier Art is comparable to Calvert instruction with many more levels available. Meet the Masters is a fun program I purchased and downloaded on a whim last school year.  We did several of the projects, and I'm sure it will help us beat some of the school blues that pop up from time to time in even the best of homeschools.

Memory Work:

As always, memory work will fill an important spot in our homeschool day.   I haven't even started planning it out though!   I do plan on featuring Memory Mondays again throughout this coming school year and invite all to join in.   I think I will make it a bit more formal with a linky to make it easy for all to hop around and glean ideas from other's work.

Building Thinking Skills: Verbal

We have used Building Thinking Skills workbooks for several years now and will work through the end of the series, but I would like to add something a bit more formal at this stage.   I'm looking at the Blast Off with Logic series.   


Last, but certainly not least!
Story of the Renaissance
Native America on the Eve of Discovery
History Portfolios: Renaissance
History Portfolios:  Modern History
Kingfisher History Encyclopedia
Marco Polo Jackdaw
China a Cultural Heritage Jackdaw
Rats, Bulls, and Flying Machines
Almanac of World History
The World of Columbus and Sons

are some of the books I'm using to put together our studies this year.   As my current project,  the books are spread all across my living room, and I'm beginning to wonder what in the world I bit off!   But I'm sure it will work out in the end!

I would love to see what you are using in your homeschool or answer questions about what I'm using this year or what worked for us in past years

And be sure to check out what curriculum other homeschoolers are using this year at

Not Back to School Blog Hop