Tuesday, August 18, 2015

2015-2016 Read Aloud List

In the years past, I have always planned out my read aloud list for the year.  I am a planner.   It is a sickness I cannot control.  :)   I typically lay out 36 weeks of read alouds that correspond to our history or science studies---and sprinkle in some "for fun" books from the Sonlight literature lists.  However, in all of the years I have homeschooled, I have NEVER stuck with my plan.  Never.   I always add in books and skip books.   I am always in some sort of flux of running "ahead" or falling "behind" my arbitrary schedule.    I started to realize that all of my planning does nothing but make me feel guilty when I fall short of the plan.

This year, I have decided to be more laid back when it comes to read alouds.  Its all part of my new 'schole' mindset.  I have decided to purposely try to "teach from a state of rest".   (SERIOUSLY.   Go read that book.  It is life changing.)     For some people, rest comes naturally.   I am not that person.

 SO---Instead of planning and scheduling everything, my plan is to just find a good book...and read it!  I still have a list of books that I want to read--but I will no longer will suffer from the guilt of being "behind" or "ahead". 

For that reason, I will be keeping a running list of the books we have read together as a family on this page.   I will be updating it often as we finish a book. 


At the Beginning of the year we fell into sort of a "Ramona Quimbly rabbit hole".   My children love Ramona's character.  As an adult, I find that Beverly Cleary is a genius when it comes to capturing the heart of a child at all of these various ages.   Reading these books is like growing up all over again.  I am not sure how she can remember so accurately the way children think or feel about the world at all of these different ages, but she does a wonderful job.   As a mother, I found that these books helped me to remember what it can feel like to be a child.   It has helped me be more understanding and look for the good intentions in some of the seemingly crazy things my kids do!   (Yes, my kids sometimes DO act like Ramona!) 

Beezus and Ramona by Beverly Cleary

Ramona the Pest by Beverly Cleary

Ramona the Brave by Beverly Cleary

Ramona and her Father by Beverly Cleary

 The Young Reader's Shakespeare:  Romeo and Juliet by Adam McKeown

I'm getting ready to host our first Homeschool Shakespeare club.   This month we are studying the play Romeo and Juliet.  So we decided to read through this re-telling as we study the play.   This is a FANTASTIC chapter book version of the play.   It is gorgeously illustrated and contains the perfect amount of true "Shakespearean" English.   

The Bard of Avon:  The Story of William Shakespeare by Diane Stanley

Columbus by Edgar Parin D'Aulair and Ingri D'Aulair

This again is another reason why not planning is actually working out.   We are studying ancient Greece and Rome this year in history---so I NEVER would have planned to read a book about Christopher Columbus.   However, the kids were reading a biography about him during reading, so I pulled this off the shelf and read it.   The D'aulairs have written several biographies---and they are all fantastic.   Check them out if you haven't.  

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Laying an Education Feast: 2015-2016 Curriculum Choices

Hi Everyone!

After much planning, I am finally ready to share my curriculum choices for the upcoming school year.   This list may look like a lot...and it is!   (I tend to put the LIBERAL in a classical liberal arts education!)  However, I think of curriculum choices as setting a huge banquet before my children.   At any banquet or feast--one is not expected to consume everything on the table!  Instead, a well laid 'educational' banquet gives us the opportunity for exposure to a wide variety of pursuits and interests.  For that reason, I have titled this post, "Laying the education banquet".

I also want to clarify what the word curriculum really means.   As one of my favorite authors Sarah Mackenzie wrote, "Curriculum is not something you buy....Curriculum is life, and life cannot be contained within the pages of a book."  (Seriously...go read that article. Its really good.  I'll wait right here.)   In other words, this post is nothing more than a list of books or resources.   These books are tools.   They will not educate my children alone...nor are we limited to the confines of their pages.

In future posts, I will show you how we also strive to partake of this educational feast with a sense of peace and leisure.   (The word school, after all, is derived from the word scholĂ© or leisure.)   I believe that in order for true learning to happen, a child (and an adult!) must have the time and space to contemplate and explore what has been taught.  

This year I will be homeschooling three lovely children:   
  • Marcus will be 8 and entering 3rd grade;   
  • Sophie will be 7 and entering the 2nd grade;   
  • And Joseph will be 2 (majoring in cuteness and general mayhem.)   
Even though Marcus and Sophie are 'technically' in different grades according to their age, we tend to allow both kids to work at their own pace in any given subject.   In other words, we meet each child where they are at skill-wise in any given subject.   So I am calling this "3rd and 2nd Grade"--but those are really just arbitrary labels.   What works in my home may not work in yours.  Your second grader may be further ahead or a need a slower pace.
 This is a LONG post filled with all of those juicy details that you homeschool-mamas love.   So without further ado, I present my 2015-2016 Curriculum Choices.

Please don't think we typically do math outside in front of hydrangea bushes!  Its just on the rare days we do, this mama takes a lot of pictures.   :)


Singapore Standards 3A (HIG, Textbook, and Workbook)
Singapore Standards 3B (HIG, Textbook, and Workbook)
Xtra Math or Timez Attack

Singapore Challenging Work Problems-2nd Grade
Beast Academy

It may seem like we have a lot of different math books listed up there, but we are a family who LOVES math.    I also believe that math is a concept that needs to be over practiced.   You can always reach a deeper understanding when it comes to math.  You never run out of things to learn. 

Our main math curriculum will be Singapore standards.  The kids are thriving with this math program.   They consistently test many grade levels ahead and math.   And perhaps most importantly, they enjoy learning the "Singapore" way.  

We have a few lessons to finish up in Singapore 2B, and then we will start with Singapore 3A.   I have given up stressing about what book we are in when we start and stop the school year.   Instead, we work diligently towards 100% mastery in math.   I have seen so many kids struggle in upper level math because they have a weak foundation in the basics.   So instead of rushing to complete a book before some arbitrary end of the school year, we spend as long as we need to master the material.

We will also be sprinkling in a few supplements as we have time.  Some days we warm up with the Singapore Math Challenging Word Problems book.   And trust me, they are not exaggerating when they say Challenging!   These problems are difficult, but we are not a family who runs away from a challenge!  In fact, we love 'hard' math problems.   I have found that the majority of our learning comes from the struggle in reaching a solution.   And it is a great character lesson in perseverance.   We are using a book that is a grade level behind from their regular math as another way of reviewing.

On a whim I have also decided to test out Beast Academy.    We will be working through those books when we feel like we need a change....sprinkling them in as we have the time and inclination.   (We will probably NOT finish these.   So don't think we are doing two math programs.)   Beast Academy is another math program that encourages conceptual understanding and deep thinking as opposed to rote problem solving.   Again, the problems in these books are quite challenging. 
Raising bookworms!


Sonlight Grade 3 readers (plus library books)
NOTE:  We do not use the Sonlight language arts package.   I love Sonlight, but their language arts products were not a good fit for our family.  We just use their suggested books and readers schedule.   

One Minute Reader
All About Reading 4
Reading Detective
This year will be all about practice, practice, practice when it comes to reading.   So our main reading lesson time will be devoted to listening to both kids read aloud for 30 minutes per day.   I will also be encouraging independent reading whenever and however possible.

We are using Sonlight's Grade 3 Readers package as our book list base.   However, we quickly run out of books when we read for 30 minutes per day.   So I also allow the kids to choose level appropriate titles of interest from the library to read.  (Sometimes Mommy picks the book; other times they get to pick.)

I will also be supplementing our reading lesson as needed with several other resources.  I will use these as I see a need. 
  • The One Minute reader app works on fluency and prosody through repeated oral readings.   
  • Reading Detective works on comprehension.
  • And All About Reading 4 will be for advanced phonics instruction.   We have finished about half of this book, but put it on hold for awhile.  I could tell the kids needed pure practice before moving ahead. 


All About Spelling 3 and then start 4

We ended last year about 1/3 of the way through All About Spelling 3.   Like math, I believe that spelling needs to be over practiced for success.  I also believe that it is worth going at your own pace to build a strong foundation in this subject.   So, we move as fast or as slow as we have to in order to master the spelling concepts.   So my plan is to work diligently, and start book 4 whenever we get there.

For now, I have both my 7 year old and 8 year old combined in spelling.   HOWEVER, I honestly don't know if this will work long term.   In a perfect world, I would probably split them into two separate spelling lessons; I just haven't found a way to make that happen in reality.

Both kids are whizzes in math....but both kids struggle with reading and spelling.  This means that they both require a very teacher intensive program to learn to spell.   Independent workbooks or traditional spelling lists are NOT going to cut it with these kids.  My 8 year old seems to be thriving with the Orton-Gillingham based methods used in All About Spelling.  However, my 7 year old would probably benefit from a morpheme based approach to spelling.  (Perhaps Apples and Pears?)   For now, I am going to keep them combined and move at a slower pace---however, you may see me making a switch later on this year.  ;) 


Song School Latin 1 and Song School Latin 2

Latin a new subject for us this year.   I was all set to use Prima Latina by Memoria Press.  (See my review here.)   However, after looking at my subject line up in the context of reality, I knew I had to makes some cuts somewhere.  I just wasn't going to be able to cram it all in no matter how hard I tried!  :)   I made some priority calls, and I decided to switch to a 'less intense' version of Latin.   The kids are both in the upper age range of Song School Latin 1.  This means the program will probably feel easy for them and be a bit easier for me to teach.    So we will move through the Song School program at a quicker pace.   We may switch to Prima Latina next year.  I love all of the bells and whistles that come with Classical Academic Press products (DVDs, fun cartoons, songs, etc.)---but I feel like the layout of Memoria Press makes more sense when it comes to foreign language

Composition and Grammar:

Treasured Conversations
Evan Moore Daily Language Review-2nd Grade

Composition wise, my goals for 3rd grade include teaching the kids to write strong sentences and eventually strong paragraphs given a topic sentence.   I looked (and actually purchased...blush) several different writing programs.   However, I finally settled on Treasured Conversations.   It covers strong sentence writing, paragraph writing, outlining, and note taking.   It also teaches the parts of speech in relation to grammar.

We are also using Evan Moore's Daily language review to work on mechanics, vocabulary, alphabetizing, and a host of other skills not covered in Treasured Conversations.   All in all, this is a light year for us when it comes to grammar.   However, my REAL focus is on original paragraph writing.   I will hit the grammar aspect harder next year. 

Sophie completing a very messy "archaeological" dig in my kitchen!


Finish Story of the World 1-Greek and Romans
(Book, Activity Guide Map Work, and Audiobook)

Last year we finished up the first 20 chapters (or so) of Story of the World Volume 1.   I was originally planning on trying to get through the whole book--but that just didn't happen.   So we will pick up where we left off.  Last year our main focus was on the ancient Egyptians.  This year our focus will be on the ancient Greeks and Romans.   (And there is PLENTY to cover when it comes to that topic!)  


Visualize World Geography-Africa, Middle East, Greece, and Rome
Shepherd Software

We will continue using and enjoying the Visualize World Geography program.   I purchased the old (and now out of print) book version of the program instead of the more expensive DVD program.    We will finish up learning all of the countries in Africa, and then we will start learning the countries of the Middle East and Mediterranean.   We are loosely tying this into our history studies.

We also utilize Shepherd Software to review.   It is something the kids can do independently, and it helps keep our past geography lessons fresh in their mind.


Waseca Introduction to Biomes
Quark Chronicles-Botany (maybe Zoology)

My original plan was to move into Chemistry this year.  However, I decided to give the kids another year to mature and do a biome study instead.   It should be a great way to tie in Earth Science, Biology... and even geography.  We will use the free download and supplement it with LOTS and LOTS of living science book read alouds.   We will be getting together with friends once per week to complete the activities in the guide, and then doing the reading at home in preparation.

Speaking of living books, we are going to be reading through the new living book science program "Quark Chronicles"throughout the year.   It looks like a LOT of fun.  If there is time, we will also dive into Zoology.

Memory Work:

History Sentences
History Timeline
Science Sentences

Our memory work comes from a variety of sources.   Much of it comes from the book Living Memory as well as the Classical Conversations foundations book and CD.  However, I also use quite a bit of "mama-made"memory work.   I basically take a list, date, or definition and set it to music for the kids to sing. 

I import these into a play list in itunes, and we listen to them in the car or while we are cleaning.   We will also continue to review the English Grammar lists and definitions from First Language Lessons. Our bible memory work comes from Seeds Family worship.


Most of our electives are covered in various homeschool clubs that I am a part of.   Some of these I have volunteered to start, and others are run by friends of mine.    I do this on purpose because it keeps me accountable to complete these electives.   Otherwise I am tempted to skip these important extras.   We meet once per month at a library or park to cover these electives as a group.   Afterwards the kids stick around to play. So it builds socialization into our week too.  In the summer, we typically go to a playground to play.   In the winter, we bring chess and other board games and play those. 

 Our electives are listed below....


IEW Linguistic Development Through Poetry Memorization

I love this program.   It is a continuation from last year so we will pick up where we left off and continue to review the poems memorized from last year.   We also love the CD that comes with the program.  (Andrew Pudewa does a wonderful job reciting the poetry.)


How to Teach your Children Shakespeare
Coville Retellings
Young Readers Retellings
BBC Shakespeare Animated Series

I am helping to host a Shakespeare club this year.   This year we are going to be studying  Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, The Twelfth Night, The Tempest, and Midsummers Night's Dream.   I hope this is not too many plays for one year.   However, this is my first year running the program so we will have to see.

Bird Club

This year, we also joined a bird club.   We are using the new Simply Charlotte Mason Learning about Birds curriculum as our spine.   At home we read a chapter from the Burgess Bird Book, color a picture of the bird, and narrate something interesting that we learned about the bird.   We meet as a group once per month to discuss the bird we are learning about and then try to spot it.   The kids are also keeping a running "bird log" of the birds they have spotted this year.

Nature Study Club

Our nature study club will study the following topics:  ,
August- crayfish
September- bison
October- buckeye trees
November- Squirrels
December- No meeting
January - constellations
February- pine trees
March- maple trees

We do the reading at home, and then meet once per month as a group to look for these things and observe them in nature.

Music Appreciation 

To be determined....
Art Club:  Our art curriculum includes lots of visits to our local museum with friends!

Visual Arts

Mama-made art program.  (I am SUPER excited about this.  I will post details soon.)

Physical Education

Homeschool Gym
Swim Lessons

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Memoria Press Prima Latina: A Review

It was a cold day in February when the Memoria Press cataloged arrived in my mailbox.   As many homeschoolers and teachers can attest, February can be a rough month for teaching!   I was suffering from a bad case of the “winter blahs”. 

So, I have to admit that I felt quite enamored when I first laid eyes on the Memoria Press catalog.  It was packed with full-color pictures of their elegantly laid out curriculum.   Their curriculum is so well designed that it makes giving your children an academically rigorous, classical education seem feasible!  Their curriculum was a ray of hope for me in this cold month of February. 

On the cover of this catalog was a headline that really caught my attention.   “Why Latin Is Not An Option.”   Hmmmm….Latin.   Memoria Press is known for their quality Latin curriculum.   So, after researching my options I decided to give their introductory Latin course, Prima Latina, a try.  

Why Latin?
If you had talked to me four year ago, I would have considered teaching Latin a waste of time.   I mean, it is a ‘dead language’, right?  Wouldn't time be better spent learning something else...anything else?   

However, I have realized that I was wrong.  VERY wrong.   There are many more qualified people who have written about the importance of learning and teaching Latin.   You can read Cheryl Lowe’s response to that question here.  Also, check out the Top 10 Ten Reasons for Studying Latin here.   And, you can also read Susan Wise Bauer’s discussion of Latin in Chapter 9 of her book “The Well Trained Mind.”   

Suffice it to say that I have changed my tune when it comes to learning Latin.   I really feel that Latin is important and worthwhile.  There is a reason why Latin has been at the cornerstone of education in western civilization for so many years.  It is REALLY a power-packed subject! 

Overview of Prima Latina
PrimaLatina is Memoria Press’s introductory Latin course.   It is designed for kids in 2nd-4th grade.   (See Memoria Press’sideal Latin sequence chart here.)    

The course is divided into 25 lessons, and each lesson takes about a week to complete.   I found that this gives the perfect amount of material to cover in a standard school year.   Parent-teachers will have time to schedule review or take things slowly if they need to.   You will not feel rushed trying to complete this course!

This course is a VERY thorough introduction of the Latin language.   In fact, much more thorough than other introductory Latin courses I researched.    The course objectives and student goals are written clearly in the beginning of the book.   Students will learn to read, pronounce, and spell 125 Latin words.  They will learn 25 practical Latin expressions and 4 prayers in full.  (I thought the prayers were ESPECIALLY cool.  I was sort of “geeking out” over these.)   Students also will expand their vocabulary by studying derivatives, learn the proper names of constellations, and expand their grammar knowledge.  
The course comes with a number of components and optional supplements.  These can be purchased individually or in a package from MemoriaPress.com.  

For this review, I was used:
The Prima Latina Student Book (Required)
The Prima Latina Teacher Manual (Required)
The Prima Latina Instructional DVDs (Optional, but highly recommended by me!)
The Prima Latina CD set (Optional. Nice to have, but not essential if you have the DVDs.)
The Prima Latina Copybook in New American Cursive (Optional, but highly recommended by me.) 
The Latina Christianna I Flashcards (Optional)
The Prima Latina Lesson Plans (Optional.  Personally, I didn’t use this.)

If you are new to Latin, you will soon learn that there are two main ways to pronounce Latin:  Classical and Ecclesiastial. 

Memoria Press uses only the Ecclesiastical pronunciation (sometimes referred to as “Church Latin”.) This is the style of Latin used by the  Roman Rite of the Catholic Church.   I personally prefer this pronunciation.   

As I mentioned before, the recommended age range for Prima Latina is 2nd-4th grade. 

Personally, I would suggest that parents wait to start Latin instruction after theirchildren are reading fluently and no longer struggling with the mechanics of writing.   I would focus the early years on building a strong base in reading, spelling, and penmanship before introducing Latin. 

Reading fluency will happen at different ages for different children.   For this reason, we decided to hold off on Latin instruction until my oldest son was almost 9 years old.  (He will be starting the 3rd grade.)  However, my daughter is a bit advanced with language skills and seemed ready to start much earlier in the 2nd grade.   Once your children can read a chapter book with little struggle and copy several sentences with ease, I would say they are ready to start.  Young children may have to divide the lessons into smaller segments.

Having some type of foundation in grammar was helpful, but not necessary.  By the time we started Latin, my kids had already completed First Language Lessons 1-2.   So, they were already familiar with the basic parts of speech.   Grammar is thoroughly taught in Memoria Press Latina, but I found having this knowledge base was helpful.  It allowed the kids to concentrate on learning the latin.

But I don’t speak Latin!   How can I teach it?
My answer to this is:  “Docedo discitur.”  Or “One learns by teaching.”   

 I am taking this year as an opportunity to learn Latin along with my children, and I think this is the BEST way to complete the course.   Modeling a love for learning new things is one of the biggest advantages for homeschooling.   I like to teach my children that learning something new should never end. 

Prima Latina is designed for the parent-teacher who has no previous knowledge of Latin.  The instructional DVDs were VERY helpful in giving me the confidence I needed to teach the course.   They are an optional component of the curriculum, but I wouldn’t want to use Prima Latina without them!  

Leigh Lowe, a writer and curriculum developer for Memoria Press, teaches the courses on the DVD.   She has a very slight and charming southern accent, and her teaching style is both entertaining and effective. 

But heed my WARNING:  Do not expect to plug in these DVDs and have your children complete the student workbook independently.  Prima Latina is not designed to be an independent study in Latin!  Parent involvement and instruction is still expected.   So be prepared to learn along with your children.  

I have a dear friend who made the mistake of attempting to let her students learn Latin independently. Things went well until they were about 18 weeks into the course.   Suddenly her child needed help completing a translations, but she was unable to help because she hadn't been sitting in on the Latin lessons.   She warned me not to make the same mistake, and to learn the language with my children.   I think this is good advice. 

Our Weekly Routine:
Prima Latina comes with a Lesson Plan book that guides parent-teachers with using all of the components of the program.   However, I found myself modifying their plan quite a bit.   

I think it is important when learning a new language to practice it as often as possible.   For this reason, I tried to allow about 10-30 minutes per day to study Latin.   Additionally, I tried to make sure that I gave the kids an opportunity to practice the “Four Arts of Language” everyday while learning Latin.   The “Four Arts of Language” include:  1) Listening, 2) Speaking, 3) Reading, and 4) Writing.***   

Day 1:  New Material and Copybook (25-35 minutes)
1)  We would watch the DVD lesson together and follow along in the student book.   (Reading Latin, Listening to Latin, Speaking Latin) (20 minutes)
The Attached Mama's Tips:  Parents should go through the lesson with their child so they can learn the material too.  Also, be prepared to pause the DVD as needed.  Require children to repeat the vocabulary, phrases, or prayers when prompted so they practice speaking Latin.   My children had a tendency to sort of passively watch these lessons, so I needed to remind them to interact with the instructor from time to time.
2)   Next I would have them complete the Prima Latina Copybook lesson independently.    I would check this when they were finished.   (Writing Latin)  (10-15 minutes depending on how much I could get my child to focus!)
Prima Latina Copybook in "New American Cursive"

Day 2:  Review and Workbook (20-30 minutes)
1) I would review the vocabulary, derivatives, and prayer using book, white board, and CD (Reading Latin, Listening to Latin, Speaking Latin).  (10 minutes)
The Attached Mama's Tip:  The CD pronounces words for those who don’t feel comfortable.   However, I found I could usually remember how to say the words if I had practiced the day before.  This helped me save time.   I didn't have to worry about dragging out the CD player and finding the right track.  
Prima Latina Student Book-  Students can read along with me as I review vocabulary on the board

2)  The kids would then complete the first page in their workbook. (Reading Latin, Listening to Latin, Speaking Latin, Writing Latin) (10-20 minutes)
The Attached Mama's Tip:  Some of these questions can be done orally if you are working with a child who is very young or doesn’t like to write.  I would suggest having the child write the Latin phrases and words though.  This helps them remember how to spell these words.
Prima Latina Student Book-I would typically have them do half of the exercises on the second day.

Day 3:  Review and Workbook (20-30 minutes)
1)  I review vocabulary, derivatives, and prayer using book, white board, flashcards, and CD (Reading Latin, Listening to Latin, Speaking Latin) (10 minutes)

2)   The kids would then complete the second page in their workbook. (Reading Latin, Listening to Latin, Speaking Latin, Writing Latin) (10-20 minutes)
Day 4:  Quick Review  (10 minutes)
1)  I would review vocabulary, derivatives, and prayer using book, white board, and CD (Reading Latin, Listening to Latin, Speaking Latin) (10 minutes)

Day 5:  
1)   I review  vocabulary, derivatives, and prayer using book, white board, and CD (Reading Latin, Listening to Latin, Speaking Latin) (10 minutes)

2)  I would dictate 10 English translations and the kids would attempt to spell the Latin word on a white board.  I would always do the 5 new review words and pick 5 words from previous lessons. (Writing Latin) (10-15 minutes)
I would have the kids take one of the online "Quizlet.com" tests to review. 
The Attached Mama's Tip: You can use the optional flashcards to review vocabulary too.  But I would typically flip back to previous lessons in my teacher guide and randomly pick 5 words to review.   Any word they could spell correctly, I would put a check next to it.  This helped me keep track of how many times I had reviewed the word.  Any word they misspelled, I would put an "x" next to it.   This told me I needed to keep practicing the word.   Using the workbook was easier for me than handling the flashcards personally.  I may start using the flashcards in the higher levels of Memoria Press Latin so I can review from multiple levels. 

**The “Four Arts of Language” is a term I first heard Andrew Pudewa use in his talk “Nurturing Competent Communicators.”   Listening and Speaking are the verbal components of language.  Reading and writing are the written components of language.   Listening and reading are the two main ways we input language, and writing and speaking are how we typically output language.  We need practice in all four components when learning a language.

Final Thoughts:
I was surprised by how much I liked Prima Latina.   It is a quality, no-nonsense program that is easy to teach and learn from. 

Disclaimer:   I received a free copy of this product in exchange for my honest review.   I was not required to write an honest review, and I was not compensated in any other way.   All of the opinions expressed in this blog post are my own. 
Saturday, January 31, 2015

A Day in the Life

In my last post, I talked about the curriculum we are using this year.   When you first glance at that list, it seems like a LOT of stuff to cover.   One person commented and asked me how I fit it all in a day.   So I thought I would show you what the typical day looks like for our family this year. 

 Keep in mind that our schedule and family routine changes often.   As the seasons, nap times, and ages of my children all change—so does our day.   BUT—for those who are curious, here is what a typical “day in the life” looks like for our family right now.


I stumble downstairs and start making coffee.   I’m up a bit earlier than normal thanks to my cat who has been scratching at the door all morning.   Grrrr…
My plan is to grab a few minutes of quiet before the kids wake up.   I hear Joseph, our 1 year old, stirring.  My dear husband gets him back to sleep buying me a few precious minutes to drink my coffee in quiet.  

For a few weeks, I was waking up early and working out.  That hasn’t been happening lately.   I make a mental note to start working out again (someday…but not today) as I sip my coffee and enjoy the quiet. 


Sophie, our 6 year old, stumbles out of bed early.  I try to convince her to go back to sleep.  “Its still dark out!” I say.  “Why don’t you try to go back to sleep?” 

Instead, she goes and wakes up Marcus (8 years old).  I quickly gulp my coffee down in an attempt to keep up with my now WIDE-awake children.  The day is starting whether I like it or not.

6:45AM-8:00AM Breakfast and Showers

By this time, Joseph is awake too.   We all go upstairs to get our showers and get dressed.   Marcus is talking to my husband about super heroes and Joseph is toddling around our bedroom playing with my shoes.   Sophie decides that she wants to dress in a ninja costume for the day.   And I say, "Sure!"

Soon, we are dressed and ready for the day.  We all head downstairs.  I warm up an egg casserole for our breakfast.   (I have pre-made breakfast, snacks, and lunches on grocery day so I don’t have to cook in the morning.)   Joseph is eating at his high chair while Marcus, Sophie, and I eat at the table.   Doug, my husband, is packing up his breakfast and lunch to take to work.   I look over and notice that Joseph is purposely dropping most of HIS breakfast on the floor saying, “UH-OH” with each plop.   He’s very cute, but also very messy.   I also make a note that his clean outfit is now COVERED with egg.  Mental note:  don’t dress the baby until after breakfast.

8:00AM Cleaning & Memory Work

We’ve recently started this new habit where we clean our house every morning before school starts.  I don’t know how long this will last, but it seems to be working really for us right now.   I like starting the day with a somewhat clean house.   It helps us all to focus better without clutter laying everywhere.  Plus, I just FEEL better when the house isn’t so chaotic. 

On this particular day, I realize that we went to bed with a sink full of dinner dishes---so things are really bad.  I also realize that Joseph has dropped not only his breakfast on the floor, but most of his dinner from last night is still stuck to the floor.   I let out a long sigh and decide its time to get to work.   I also ask myself if it is time to get a dog.  Maybe that would help keep the floor cleaner?  

I fire up my ipad and play on our memory work playlist on our kitchen speaker.   

Our memory work playlist comes from several sources:
 Next, we all sing and dance around to our memory work songs while we get the house clean.   This is multitasking at its best.   I assign jobs as I see things that need to be done.  We all work together on any given room.  That way I can watch them and make sure things are done correctly.  It also helps us to feel better about a job.  Things can seem overwhelming to a 6 year old when you send them off to clean a room by themselves.   When we are ALL working to get a room clean, things don’t seem as bad.   “Many hands make light work!” I remind the kids.

Even Joseph grabs his little broom and tries to help out.   He sees us all working and singing every morning and just assumes that is what he should do too.

9:00AM  Poetry, Grammar, and Writing

By this time, we’ve made a good dent in the kitchen, the family room, and our dining-room-converted-to-a-school-room.   I’ve also planned dinner, started a load of laundry, and rebooted the dishwasher.  The house is still not completely clean.  However, my “rule” is that we stop cleaning at 9AM whether we are finished or not.  I don’t know how things are at your house, but we could work on the house all day and still keep finding things to do!  So I have to have a hard stopping point.  School is our main priority.

We start the day off with a quick grammar lesson from First Language Lessons 2.  The instructors guide tells us to review memorized poetry today.  So I have the kids practice their IEW poems instead.  (I just like the IEW poetry choices SO much better.)  We ham it up and recite the poems with lots of gusto followed by heavy applause from the "audience".  

Next, we recite the definition of an adjective.  We then move onto some grammar copywork.   Copywork is a "workhorse" subject in our house.   I use it to teach penmanship, spelling, punctuation, capitalization, grammar, and writing.    I have the kids copy a sentence into their copywork notebooks from a book they are reading.  (I take out their book and select a sentence on the fly.)   We then review the definition of a noun, pronoun, verb, and adjective and the kids take turns finding those in their copywork.  They circle each one in a different color.   Joseph is sitting at the school table trying to “do school” too.  He is scribbling happily with a pencil on paper. 

After that, I split Marcus and Sophie apart.  Today happens to be what we call  “Marcus’s Special Day.”  (The two older kids taking turns having a "special day" where they get to go first in various things.  On Monday, our next school day, it will be Sophie's "special day".)  Before I work with Marcus, I give Sophie her independent work.  She is practicing the cursive h and copying another sentence from “Write from History.”  Today it is a sentence from JamesBaldwin’s 50 Famous People called “Saved by a Dolphin”.  

Marcus and I head over to the couch.  I read him the same story (“Saved by a Dolphin” by James Baldwin.)  He then he narrates the story back to me “Charlotte Mason” style.  (Basically, he tells the story back to me in his own words.  I challenge him to use his best storytelling skills.)  I write his narration down while he watches.

Meanwhile, Joseph has discovered that someone left the crayon box within his reach.  He happily takes the crayons out and throws them on the floor one at a time.  He then finds some blank copy paper and starts ripping that to shreds.   I ignore this as it is keeping him quiet and busy.  "Fine motor skill development," I think as I laugh to myself.  

Sophie finishes her copywork and plays in the room with Joseph for awhile while Marcus finishes up his narration.   My oldest son is quite the storyteller and has a knack for copious narrations. 

Yesterday, Sophie narrated her version of “Saved by a Dolphin” while Marcus did the copywork.  (They alternate days.)  So today, I have each child stand up and read their own version of the story with as much enthusiasm as possible.  (Elocution)  While one person reads, the rest of us practice being good audience members and listening attentively.   At the end of each story we clap wildly and hold up "pretend" perfect 10 score cards.   Joseph has given up his paper shredding activity and decided to join us on the couch for all of this clapping fun.  

Next, I look at Sophie’s copywork and praise her for the things that she has done well.  “Wow!  What beautiful handwriting!  I like how you made sure each letter sat right on the line.” I say.  I also give her some very specific feedback on things that she can work on.  “Did you notice that you forgot the word ‘led’?  Next time you are doing copywork periodically stop and read what you are writing.  That will save you energy.”  She goes back to fix her copywork while Marcus does his cursive h paper. 

Joseph needs a diaper change…and I realize it is 10AM already.  Wow!  The day is getting away from me. 

10:00AM Snack and Read Aloud

We always break at 10AM for a snack no matter where we are in school.  I used to send the kids in the kitchen to fix their own snack whenever they were hungry.  However, I realized that the kids weren’t making the best food choices when I did this.  The kitchen was also in a constant state of disarray because someone was always cooking and eating something all day long.  SO—now, we are breaking and eating as a family for all meals and snacks.  We all eat the same thing for snack which means less dirty dishes.   This is perhaps not the most efficient use of time, but it is working for us at the moment. 

Snack today is some carrots, snap peas, and dip that I made on grocery day.  Food prep REALLY saves me time during the week.  I make most of our breakfasts, lunch, and snacks on the weekend and package them up in our refrigerator.   This way all of our food is convenience food (even real food!) because it is all prepared ahead of time.    Marcus and Sophie get everything out of the fridge while I get Joseph buckled into his high chair. 

The kids and I also start eating while I find our current read aloud.  ("Hmmm, where did I put that book?")   

 Right now we are reading Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle.  It is part of the Sonlight Core B Read Aloud package.   Sophie runs downstairs to our playroom get her toy keyboard and brings it to the kitchen table.   While she is doing that,  I fire up my laptop.   A few months ago, Sophie got this idea to make our own "homemade" audio books from the books we are reading.   We are big audio book fans.  I let the kids pick a new audio book from audible each month.  However, she decided that she didn't like to wait that long for a new book.   "Mama," she said, "Why don't we make our OWN audioboks when you read us books?   You can read the books, I can make the introduction music, and Marcus can do the sound effects!"  

So, every time I read a book to them, I record it using garage band on my laptop.  (It is very easy to do.)  Each chapter from our books has a LOT of introduction music played by Miss Sophie.  She doesn’t know how to play, but that doesn’t stop her.  I record these books with all of our family’s imperfections.  Today, you can hear Joseph yelling for more dip while I read.  You can also hear us frantically trying to wipe up some milk that has been spilled.   On some days, you can hear people interrupting to ask questions.  You can also hear laughter at the funny parts, and mommy's voice shaking when I read a sad part.  Our homemade audio books are certainly not professional quality, but they wind up being the kids most favorite things to listen to.  I'm sure they will be a wonderful keepsake of our family time in the years to come. 

10:20AM  Reading 1

We have finished our chapter of Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle and we do a quick clean of the kitchen.   Besides some extra family time, another bonus of eating our meals together is that I can "police" the cleaning of the kitchen after meals.  :)  We do a QUICK 4 point clean in this order:  1) dishes, 2) clear table/counters, 3) wipe table/counters, 4) sweep floor.    This goes by pretty quickly.   Many hands really DO make for light work.   I also try to teach the kids to do every job the best that they can and with a good attitude.  In our house, we try to make each task fun.   For meal clean up, we have a competition to see whose wipe is the dirtiest after wiping the table and counters.   We pause to judge our wipes.  Sophie has won again!  Drat!   We all challenge her to a rematch as we sweep the floor.  Who can get the biggest pile of dirt!  It might sound silly, but it does make a menial job of cleaning more fun. 

 Joseph has dumped a lot of his snack on the floor (again!) while I was reading, but we quickly forgive him when he grabs his little broom and tries to help clean.  What can I say?  He is just too cute!  I change Joseph’s clothes (again) because they are covered in 'dip' and take him into our playroom with Sophie.  Sophie plays with Joseph while Marcus reads to me first.  (Remember, it is his "special day" so he gets to go first.)  He reads a story, and then we switch.  (Sophie reads to me while Marcus plays with Joseph.)  This year we are reading Sonlight's Grade 2 readers.  These books are seriously great!

11:00AM Math

After reading, we start right math.   We are using Singapore for Math, and I LOVE it.    Math is by far my kids favorite subjects.  I teach a quick lesson on multiplication using the Singapore math home instructors guide and some math manipulatives.  Joseph is with us playing with the manipulatives too and very happy that he is included in our day.   Using manipulatives helps teach the lesson in a very concrete manner.  This way they understand (conceptually) exactly what is happening in math.  They aren't just learning a procedure to solve number sentences.  They understand exactly what those number sentences represent. 

Next, I work a few example problems on the board from the text book.  This helps take the concrete idea taught previously and translate it to the way we write out math problems.   Finally, I give the older kids their assignment in the workbook.   I have them do this work independently so I can see if they understand.    Both kids tend to catch on to math very quickly.  So, they race through a lesson on multiplication and swear that multiplication and division are “easy”. 

While they are doing their math work, I quickly race around our school room picking up the crayons, paper scraps, and math manipulatives that Joseph has scattered.  The key is to clean up faster than he can make the mess.

When the kids are finished, we grade our papers.  Sophie loves this.  She says that she wants to be a math teacher when she grows up.   Marcus tells me that he is still planning on being a ninja, but may teach math at nights.  (“Wouldn’t it bet the opposite?” I wonder silently to myself.  I decide to keep quiet.)  Sophie gets her marker and draws BIG blue check marks next to every answer she got right.  Marcus draws slightly smaller yellow check marks next to his answers.  If the kids miss a problem, we work it together on the board and fix their mistakes.     At the end, Sophie gives herself a “star plus, plus, plus, plus” grade.  Marcus draws a picture of Pikachu and says that he got a “Pikachu plus”.  (He is really into pokemon at the moment.)

11:30AM  Spelling

We put our math notebooks away and they take out spelling.  Yesterday we did an All About Spelling lesson on the board with the alphabet tiles.  All About Spelling uses what is called an Orton-Gillingham approach to teaching spelling.   It is very "hands-on" and incorporates all of the senses when teaching spelling.  

Today, they are working on spelling plural “silent e” words.   First, I dictate some vowel combination sounds and they write them on their paper.  Then, I dictate 12 words.  These words are mixture of their actual spelling words and words they have missed in their regular writing.  (One of the benefits to homeschooling is individualized instruction.  I target their lessons to cover the exact material that they need help with instead of wasting my time teaching stuff they already know.)    After the 12 words, I dictate 3 sentences that they write.  Dictation is another "work horse" subject.   I can teach so many things through just a short dictation exercise.   While they are writing their sentences, I make note of any words they had trouble with and we will practice them again the next school day.

12:00PM Lunch

At noon, we break for lunch as a family.   Once again, we like to all sit down together at the table to eat.  We are having leftovers from our dinner last night.  TACOS!  Marcus and Sophie argue over who gets to use the microwave first while I strap Joseph into his highchair.  I try to intervene and remind them about patience and thinking of others.  (I think I am being ignored, but I try anyways to bring peace to the squabbling kids.)    Joseph is yelling, “CHOC-O-LATE!” at the top of his lungs.  I think I know what HE wants for lunch.  I give him a taco instead.  He is happy.  Sometimes I use our lunch period to read a book of poems for fun.   We have been going back and forth between some funny Shel Stenvenson poems and some more traditional poems from the Barefoot Book of Poetry.  We consider poetry the 'cotton candy' of language.  We read and recite them for fun and enjoy the sound and cadence of the language.  Poetry is not just something we memorize, it is something we savor. 

However, today, I decide to put the poetry on hold for this meal.  I am starving myself.  So we all just sit together and eat and chat. 

12:30PM Reading 2

After lunch, we do our quick 4 step clean.   (This times Marcus wins in the competition!)   As we are cleaning up, the mail man comes and delivers a package.  There is some excitement while the kids tear it open.  “OH, it is just some used writing book that mom ordered on amazon.”  (At least I am pleased with the delivery.)  

I have the kids each read to me for another 15 minutes or so.  (I divide up the time so they don't get too tired.)   Reading is our priority number 1 subject this year.  So I devote a lot of time to hearing them read out loud.   I really want to make sure they are strong, fluent readers before they head into the third grade.   Next year, writing will be our priority number 1 subject.  

In the afternoon, they read the same story they read in the morning so we can work on fluency and expression.  

1:10PM Geography and Bible

I look up at the clock and realize that I let time get away from me.  The kids each take a short break while the other is reading.   Marcus has built some new bionicle contraption and brings it to the table to show me.  Sophie is bragging to me about how good she is getting at chess (when she plays herself).  I can’t help chuckling.  

The kids pull out their geography notebooks.  We are using Visualize World Geography (just the older book, not the DVDs) to learn all of the countries in Africa.  I purchased this book used for around $20, and it has been one of my FAVORITE homeschooling purchases.   It is very light, fun, quick, AND (most importantly) effective.     

Today we are learning where Kenya is.  We quickly review all of the previously learned countries by pointing to them on an outline map.  Then we quickly review all of the previously-learned flags by pointing to them as I call them out.  Finally, I introduce the new country and we locate it on the map.  The kids quickly draw and color Kenya’s flag and review all of the previously learned countries and flags again.   Geography is finished in less than 7 minutes flat!  How great is that? 

Next we do bible.  The kids and I have been using “Bible Study for All Ages” and we LOVE it.  We sing a song that helps us memorize the “12 sons of Jacob”.  I ask the kids some review questions and we teach the new lesson.  The lesson finishes with some map work on ancient Egypt and some time line labeling. 

1:30PM Content Subjects

We save the afternoon for most of our 'content subjects'.  We all look forward to these subjects.  These subjects are the 'dessert' of our homeschool day.   We work on content subjects 4 days per week.  On Monday and Tuesdays, we read about our science topics.  On Thursday and Friday, we read about our history topics.  (Wednesday afternoon is reserved for our co-op.)   We don't read boring text books to study these topics.  We read REAL, living books about these subjects.  The books are what make these subjects so interesting.

Today is Friday, so we are reading about History.  This year we are studying ancient history.  So, I read to the kids a chapter from Story of the World about the Phoenicians while the kids eat another snack.  (Seriously, the are always eating!)    

For this snack, the kids are eating some guacamole chips and fruit.   Joseph happily smears guacamole all over his hair and purposely drops some fruit on the floor.  "Uh-oh!" he says with a big smile on his face.  (As you can see, I have to choose my battles when it comes to homeschooling with a 1 year old!  At least he is content and quiet I remind myself.)

After I finish reading, the kids start asking me if there will be a new "Phoenician Memory Work" song.  I make a mental list that I need to write and record this sometime this weekend.   I will have to channel my inner weird Al Yankovic for this tasks.   Maybe my son will be some sort of Dido parody....hmmmmm?   Again, I can't sing to save our work, but the kids have fun with these memory songs.  It really helps them keep the topics and people we read about straight in their mind.  I will later add our new song to our memory work playlist.   

After snack, we quickly clean the kitchen.   I get Joseph wiped down and change his clothes while I ask them review questions from the Story of the World Activity guide.   We do this game show style where each kid tries to buzz in to answer.   (Multitasking at its best again!)   After we finish cleaning up, the kids go back to the school room and take out their history notebooks.   They draw a picture of what they learned in their history notebooks.  I then have them each narrate a sentence or two while I copy it into their notebooks.    

We are also doing some more mapwork today.  The kids color their map according to the Story of the World activity guide instructions and paste it into their notebooks.  

2:00PM Socialization and Electives

I am running late with school today.  So, as the kids are working in their history notebooks, I start packing the car to go out.   We have chess club today at 2:30PM, so I have to hurry so we aren't late!

Our afternoons are reserved for socialization, playing, and relaxing.   We go out with friends about 2-3 times per week.  The rest of the days we relax at home.  My children are both extroverts, so they enjoy lots of time out of the house with friends.    

We have several weekly and monthly engagements that make up a large portion of our learning and (mixed with plenty of playtime).   I try to schedule everything for 2PM or later so we still have time to get school completed in the morning.  

I am lucky that I live in an area where there are more homeschoolers than you can shake a stick at!   It would be possible for me to schedule some fun, educational homeschool event EVERY second of the day.   Seriously, there are that many things going on.   (And no, I don't take that for granted!)  Really, the most difficult thing for me is learning to say no to some of these events so we can get in our important subjects.   It is so easy to fall into the trap of over scheduling yourself!

Today we have Chess Club.  Chess Club is a new group I started to give the kids an opportunity to practice their chess game.   We meet at a local library meeting room with a bunch of the kid's friends.  We play some friendly games of chess.   I use the book Chess for Children to go around the various tables to give the kids some challenge exercises to work out.  But mostly, this is just a fun, indoor thing for the kids to do in the winter.   It is also a great activity for developing logic and thinking skills.

After everyone has played each other, the kids naturally put the chess boards away and spend the rest of the afternoon playing with their friends.   We walk around the library together and pick out some books.   Another benefit to homeschooling is the strong family friends we have all made.   I enjoy spending time with the other mothers just as much as the kids enjoy spending time with the other kids.  It is good for all of us! 

5:30PM Back Home

Back to today….
We roll back home at 5:30PM.   The kids are busy talking non-stop about the things they did with their friends today.  They are planning their birthdays (which are more than 6 months away!) and who they are going to invite.  I start hanging up coats and putting everything away.  Our house is a mess again.  (Can you even tell we cleaned for an hour this morning?)  So I rally the forces again to do a quick clean. 

6:20PM "Daddy's Home!"

Doug gets home from work a bit late today because of traffic.   The kids tackle him when he walks in the door.  I convince them to let their Daddy up so he can change his clothes and put down his bags.   

Then, the kids start playing a rowdy game of “ring around the rosey”.    Joseph keeps squealing, “FALL DOWN!” at the end in his little baby voice.   I am cooking dinner, but I stop to just watch the kids for a second.  All three of them are holding hands and dancing around the family room singing.  

For just a moment, I am able to take a glance at my life with a little perspective.  It seems like JUST the other day, I was holding baby Marcus in my arms.  Now he looks so big and grown up.   Sophie and Joseph are growing and changing so fast too.   I know that I am going to close my eyes and blink and my children are going to be teenagers too old for a game of "Ring Around the Rosey".  I know that I am going to blink again and they will be out of the house.   It is crazy how fast life happens to us, you know?    I realize that I am living some of the BEST days of my life right now.  THESE are the days that I will look back on and remember someday when I am old and gray.    I am so incredibly thankful that I get to spend these days with my children.  I don't want to miss a moment of this life I am living.   As I watch my children all playing together, I am so incredibly thankful that homeschooling has instilled such close family bonds between us all.  

 Doug and I finish up dinner together while we talk about our days.  Life is good.

7:15PM Dinner

We (finally) sit down for dinner.  We are eating later than normal.  I've been on this "health kick" since the new year which means I have to wash and chop about a million vegetables every time I cook dinner.   

The kids tell dad all about their chess club. He asks him what else we did that day.   Sophie says, "We are making a new audio book!"  Marcus starts into a long speech about the history of the Phoenician people.  (That kids never forgets anything he hears me read!)  And Joseph purposely plops some more food on the floor and says, "Uh-Oh!"

8:00PM Bed Time

We get the kids teeth brushed and send them off to bed.  It is still Marcus’s special day, so he gets to pick the audio book tonight.  He picks “How to Train a Dragon” read by David Tennet.  (Its really good!)  Someday soon, they will probably both want to listen to our "Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle" homemade audio book.    But it isn't finished.

We tell Sophie and Marcus that they can stay up until 8:45PM playing, reading, and listening in their room as long as they go to sleep at 8:45PM.   I secretly like for them to stay up listening to great books like this.  So I am perhaps a little more relaxed about bedtime compared to most parents.  

Doug and I head head downstairs to watch some TV together.  I nurse Joseph to sleep while we talk about our day.   We both relax together after our long day.  The day is over and tomorrow is the weekend.  Yeah! 

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