Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Things Kids Write

Recently my daughter discovered the much anticipated fight scene for Winter’s Tale would involve combs.  Yes, COMBS!    The play is set in the 1950s, so the director decided the greasers would pull the combs out of their back pockets for the fight scene.   Each year the kids look forward to learning the fight scene as it usually involves swords or pikes or some such exciting weapon.   Utter disbelief is the only way I can describe E-R’s reaction to this announcement.   On the walk home from Shakespeare, E-R orally put together her argument,   and once home she quickly sat down and wrote out this speech to share with the director.  

I was raised by the Filipinos (the knife people).  Knives are not useless.  We use knives for everything: opening cereal boxes, opening gifts, hunting, opening bags, and self-dense.  Like the “The Outsiders” Johnny saved his friend Ponyboy with his knife ( But he killed him but that is not the point).  We bring it everywhere: to the super market, to a movie, to the park, and to go bowling.  The knife will never go out of style;  my Grandpa still carries one.  The knife is part of your family.  You might think that it is funny to fight with a comb, but knives are the real weapons.You should never use a comb to fight and call your-self a man.  I will never surrender to the comb.  It is against my rule and the knife people’s rule to use a comb when fighting.  BECAUSE WE ARE MEN WE USE KNIVES.  And because, combs are for sissies; knives are for men.
And that is why we should use knives in our fight for Shakespeare not combs

My daughter started out the school year writing four sentence paragraphs.  Each sentence consisted of a subject, verb, and direct object with an occasional adjective thrown in for good measure.  It is exciting to be her mom and teacher and see the progress that is occurring in this arena.       
What progress has you excited?
Be sure to check out what others are learning about at

 Hip Homeschool Hop Button 


learning laboratory at mama smiles

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Week 16 and 17

Not a lot different has happened these past two weeks.  It seems like same old, same old.   Which is good because it means we have our routine down pat and things are chugging along.   But it doesn’t make for a super interesting blog post.

We have added history back into our routine this past week.    Covering the Counter Reformation, our writing skills practiced in history focused on taking notes and organizing those notes.    E-R and I-E also wrote two paragraphs about the founding of the Jesuit order and the Jesuits today.   Then we came up with sentences that would help connect the two paragraphs in an coherent manner which reinforced our writing lesson from Essay Voyage.  Our history literature  reading was a retelling of Pilgrims Progress.   At first,  E-R and I-E complained about “the  dullness and longness” of the text, but after discussing what an allegory is and taking some time to find the symbols hidden in the text their reading took on new meaning and we found it quite enjoyable.
Here are several neat websites I found that helped in our research this week. 
Counter Reformation from a Catholic viewpoint.
The Counter Reformation broken down into easily understood sections
Jesuits Today in the United Kingdom

We’ve continued focusing on writing.   One of the assignments in Essay Voyage last week was to write a five paragraph essay.   The assignment took longer than I had planned, so we worked on perfecting those essays this week instead of moving on to the next chapter.  The real challenge has been moving from a report to an essay as coming up with a thesis statement was a real killer for E-R and I-E.
In math, we have finished the first half of Singapore 6.   I will be ordering the second half of Singapore in another week or two.  In the meantime, we have been working on our Key to Algebra and Key to Percent books.   We are also working with our Hands On Equation program. 

So although we don’t have anything super exciting to share, I am super excited about the groove we’ve hit and the progress we’re making. 
How is school time moving along in your home?

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Almost Wordless Wednesday



hollywood ! 001



hollywood ! 009


hollywood ! 023



Yup, we visited a wax museum and shameless mugged it up with our favorite stars!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Why History?

Why history?   Why spend time on a subject I hated so much in school?   Why spend time on a subject that my child won’t retain anyway?   Why torture myself and my kids?  How is it really important in the world based on technology?

I could tell you without a past there is no present.    Or that to be a good citizen one must know one’s history.    Or maybe that one must learn history and memorize those dreaded dates to prove one is educated.

But let me tell you why my family studies history.     JOY!   Yep, we find joy in studying history.    History is a subject we study all together.   Starting in first grade, history is comprised of mom reading aloud stories.    Yup, history starts as simply as telling stories. 

Think about it.   When you get to know someone, you don’t just memorize their place of birth, birthdate, and names of parents, kids, and siblings.   You get to know them by spending time with them, hearing funny stories about their lives, and listening to their hopes and disappointments.    History is the same way---it is getting to know people—not just their dates and vitals, but their stories, dreams, and mistakes.
So we start with stories.   Snuggled up on the couch, often with snacks in the afternoon or just before bedtime, we start to learn about people of the past.   Scripture stories, American heroes, Ancient cultures around the world,  all are excellent starting points.  Mythology of other peoples are also a valuable starting point for these myths share the values of a culture.
As my children learned to read, they would take a turn in reading history aloud to the family.   Important reading practice was taking place as well as honing public speaking skills.  Comprehension was also tested as we discussed our stories.    And often during play time these stories popped back up as the center of creative play.  

Around 2nd grade, my children started narrating these stories back to me.    This first involved drawing a picture and writing a few words or a sentence or two about the story.  Help was always offered for spelling and punctuation, if needed.  Perfection was not expected.  I also tried to add in crafts, cooking, or games that pertained to the history we were studying.    We now had snuggly read aloud time, play time,  and art time.    Nothing stressful here --Just plain old fun!

By 5th-grade, my kids  worked their way up to writing a whole paragraph about our history reading.    Some kids choose to drop drawing pictures by this age, other children diligently spent hours drawing weapons or political cartoons.   I also would start to see a style for learning develop for each child.   One child might love to make lists of facts and dates while another loves to make scrapbook pages with elaborate pictures.   So another benefit of history is recognizing learning styles for each individual child.
In addition to narrations and pictures, we utilize timelines.   A large family timeline hangs up for all to add dates.    On this timeline, one might find family birthdays and anniversaries as well as the date Shakespeare’s first play is performed.  Any date is allowed, and anyone is allowed to add to it at anytime.  Around 6th-grade I buy each child their own timeline book.  This is a rite of passage each child looks forward to.   Now dates are added to individual timeline books as well as the family timeline.   These books really do become keepsakes as each child takes ownership in their individual content.

Disclaimer:  Our timeline is not used to memorize dates!   Rather it is used to keep track of what is happening when.   Our history studies are not always chronological, so the timeline dates help us to realize that about the time the Gutenberg Bible was being published in Germany the Byzantine Empire was conquered by Mehmet II.  They help us connect the history happening around the world.

So by the time middle school rolls around, we are reading history, talking about history, and writing about history.  And it has all been done together as a family.    But now we begin branching out—while still keeping our family read aloud time.   At this time I begin teaching writing and research skills through our history studies.   I have my child learn to outline and take notes  from encyclopedias, magazines, and other history texts.   I’ve found that this isn’t as mind-numbing as one might think because as they are working with the history text,  they are connecting it to the stories we’ve read.    As they outline the facts of The Thirty Year War, they remember the story we read about Emperor Frederick as a child, they remember the Austrian folktales, and they start to connect those stories with the people who lived during this war.   They start to think what the values and ideals of the leaders and people and connect those with the facts they learn about the conflict. 

Research skills are taught as each child takes ownership in what they study about a particular time period.   After read aloud time and reading their assigned history articles each child decides on what they would like to research in depth.   A trip to the library ensues, notes are taken,  and a  paper is produced—1 page to begin with, but soon enough the papers become not only lengthener, but also more in-depth and thoughtful.   Ok, I must admit that the process of creating these papers are not always enJOYable!   Every child has complained here or there about this particular process.   But the skills we’ve learned getting to this point, have paved the way for success in writing a  history paper.   And that success is what marks the JOY!      To have the skills to create something of their own making is joyful!

And these papers are shared and discussed with the family –often at the supper table.   All have the opportunity not only to learn, but also to teach.   JOY is  found in having the opportunity to impart knowledge to others.   As mothers we’ve all felt the joy of imparting knowledge to our children---imagine your children having that same kind of JOY.

So while scholars have their reasons the study of history is important, my family has its own reason to study history! 

To see some of the specific resources I use, be sure to look at Ancient History, Middle Ages, History Portfolio, and my History Planning Post

I wrote this post as part of Susan's awesome virtual curriculum fair.   
Homeschooling Hearts & Minds

Now you have the chance to get up close and personal and check out what other moms are using for history and science.

Science and Worldview by Beth @ Ozark Ramblings

  Nature Study as Science by Christine @ Crunchy Country Catholic

  Virtual Curriculum Fair Week 3- Social Studies and more Science by Leah Courtney @ The Courtney Six Homeschool Family

  Curriculum Fair–Exploring Our World by Angie @ Petra School

  Paths of Exploration by Jen @ Forever, For Always

  Learning Geography at Our House by Jessica @ Modest Mama

  The Fascinating World Around Us by Cindy Horton @ Fenced in Family

  More Heart of Dakota Praises by Nicole @ Schooling in the Sun

  Our History by Melissa @ Grace Christian Homeschool

  Playful US Geography for First Grade by Pam @ Everyday Snapshots

  Heart of Dakota-The Fine Details-Part 3 History by Lynn @ Ladybug Chronicles

  Exploring Our World Through History & Science by Brenda Emmett @ Garden of Learning

  Two History Must-haves by Letha @ justpitchingmytent

  Learning About The World Around Us by Laura O from AK

  Social Studies and Science - What do we do? by Joelle @ Homechooling for His Glory

  History Chronologically and with Living Books by Debbie @ Debbie's Digest

   Exploring Our World by Christa Darr @ Fairfield Corner Academy

I am also participating in 

learning laboratory at mama smiles

Friday, January 13, 2012

Week 15

We had a pretty productive week—even after a Mommy Meltdown!
This month our focus is on all things Language Arts.   We’ve started studying verbs in our Rod and Staff English.   So far it has been mostly review. 
 I teach.
You teach.
He teaches
.  I taught.
You taught.
He taught.
I shall teach. 
You will teach.
He will teach. 
In MegaWords we finished our Cv/VCe words.


And have started on r controlled syllables


In Grammar for Middle School: A Sentence Composing Approach, we kinda went wild and covered several sections.   E-R and I-E have really loved modeling sentences, and they look forward to reading the sentences and remembering the books they’ve come from or asking about the books they haven’t read yet.  E-R was very excited about this paragraph she embellished.  It started as

Rachel stared at her ruined doll.  She had played with that toy every day. Her parents had given her other toys, but she always loved this doll the most.  She looked down at the broken doll.   The doll lay there, and she wiped her tears away.  Rachel knew that birthdays would bring her more presents, and new toys to play with, but none could replace her doll.

And after E-R got her hands on it

Rachel stared at her ruined doll, headless and cracked.  Throughout every year, she had played with that toy every day.  Her parents had given her other toys with lots of moveable parts, but she always loved this doll the most.  Crying, she looked down at the broken doll. Always ready to play, the doll lay there, still wanting to play.   She wiped her tears away, frowning.  Rachel knew that birthdays would bring her more presents, and more movable parts and new toys to play with everyday, but none could replace her doll.

We’ve also worked in Essay Voyage.    I’m pretty impressed with the program.   At first I thought the classic essays were expecting a bit much, but now I appreciate the mind stretching and discussion.   I-E produced an awesome paragraph for her end of chapter assignment.   I am especially happy with her sentence variety, something we’ve been working on improving.  

What is a Red Panda?  A red panda is a small cat-sized panda.  This panda lives in mountain bamboo forests.  It’s sharp claws help it climb trees while looking for food such as fruit, birds, eggs,and small animals.  For hunting at night the red panda has large whiskers. 

We’ve also fit in our Shakespeare studies as well as math and geography.   But they seem almost an after thought with the progress we’ve been making in language arts.  It’s good to see progress!
What has been working out in your homeschool?

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Mommy Melt Down!


I' admitting to a mommy melt down!   Yup, the same week that I posted about how to avoid The Homeschool Slump.  Mommy Melt Down is a bit different then The Slump.   Mine occurred after frustration upon frustration piled up and without any slow release valve---she blew!   My frustration was due to some choices my children made, and some feelings of lack of appreciation, but if I’m going to be honest mostly the frustration could be traced to me.

I haven’t been doing the things I need to do.   I haven’t been physically taking care of myself.   I haven’t been following through with children.   I haven’t been taking care of my home.
But it’s easier to get grumpy, and have a bit of a tantrum and express that frustration with everyone else than to face the facts that I need to do more.   I have goals I don’t meet.   Things I want to do, but never get to.   I need to learn to prioritize the things that really matter to me.
In order to do that I need to spend less time on the computer, determine a motivation, and start taking time to journal and organize my thoughts.
How do you avoid The Mommy Melt-Down!?

Monday, January 9, 2012

Homeschool Slump



It’s that time of the year   Time for the Homeschool Slump, the Homeschool Blues, the I Just Can’t Get Out of Bed and Do the Same Thing Over and Over Every Day Forever Feeling! 

The newness and excitement of the school year from August and September have passed us by.   The candy high from October is gone.   The breaks that came every three weeks in November and December have vanished.   Now we have long months ahead with nothing but a three day weekend here and there.   For most of us, the weather is cold and the day is short and dreary. 

What’s a mom to do when the homeschool blues come for a visit?

First:  Plan for them.   After homeschooling for 12 years, I know with certainty that the doldrums will come.    Looking at my calendar this year, shows me that there are 13 long weeks between the start of school after Christmas break and our scheduled spring break!   That’s a long time.   So I plan several short weeks to break up the monotony.  A three or four day weekend to look forward to makes the week go much faster. 

Second:  Change things up.   Take a week and set your normal curriculum aside. A short unit study is a good way to break things up. Or perhaps focusing on just one subject for the week might brighten things up—poetry week, writing week, or everyday math would work well for a week long focus.   

Third:  Get out.  Work exercise and fresh air into your weekly routine.  Getting out into the fresh cold air always leaves me feeling invigorated and ready to get to work when coming back inside.   Get out into your community for a field trip or two.  Adding field trips into your routine changes things up a bit as well as gets you out of the house.  

The doldrums and blues hit all of us at one time or another.   Understand that’s okay and they will pass.       

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Week 14

We are back!    But not quite with a vengeance!   Breaks are hard to come back from. 

This month we are working on diligence.   Our working definition:
Diligence does not rely on talent, but employs commitment, industry, and perseverance to transform vision into reality.  
And our favorite diligence quote so far—Diligence is the mother of Good Luck!   Benjamin Franklin. 
As a family we took this quiz:

True False
I always do my best; I strive for excellence.
I am willing to risk failure for a worthy goal.
I am self-disciplined.
I make sure to learn from my mistakes and failures.
I try to see the big picture and think long term.
I set goals and stay focused.
I don't give up just because things seem difficult.
I don't procrastinate.

After taking the quiz, we decided procrastination is really something we all struggle with.   Procrastination is something we are all working on.    Self motivation was also discussed and is something we are working on individually.
And I did see that diligence translate into our school work. And I worked hard on overcoming procrastination when it came to putting away laundry!

I-E and E-R reviewed the chapter on nouns this week before taking the chapter test.   In Mega words they covered closed and silent-e syllables.   For literature, they read through I Am David, so we can start analyzing this coming week.   For writing, we started Essay Voyage.   And in math, review of rates was on the schedule.
E-R and I-E applied and were accepted to produce, direct, and preform a preshow scene.   Although not a huge deal, it has caused me to really think about our goals and adjust our schedules.

Merry’s excellent post at Hope for Homeschool about prioritizing for passions has given me a lot to think about.   I-E has expressed a desire to pursue a career in the movies—specially screenwriting.   I know next to nothing about preparing for anything like this.   So for now, I have lots to  think about and no quick answers.  

But for now,  I’ve decided to forego history this month.   Instead, our afternoons will be filled with Shakespeare.  

Not a bad trade-off over-all.  
What changes are happening in your homeschool?