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.

6:00AM

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. 

6:30AM 

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! 
Saturday, November 1, 2014

Our Curriculum: 2014-2015 (2nd Grade)

Many of you are probably wondering if I am still homeschooling.   The answer is YES!   Homeschooling is going wonderfully!   The kids are thriving academically, socially, and emotionally.    And I can honestly say that I love being apart of their education. 

Homeschooling does make for busy days---which is why this blog has gone neglected.   However, I thought I would sneak away for a bit and talk about our curricula choices for the school year.

Marcus is 7 and in 2nd grade.   Sophie is 6 and technically in first grade....but she insist on keeping up with her older brother.  Here is a look at the materials we are using.   To see what all of this looks like in practice, make sure and check out my "Day in the Life" post. 

Reading


We started out the year using All About Reading level 2.    We had used AAR Pre-level 1 (which I love) and Level 1 in past years.   However, after REALLY giving the program a chance, I decided that it wasn't the right reading program for me.   (I hope to write a review of WHY this program didn't work for us in the future.  It seems no one hears from people who tried AAR and didn't like it.)

We ended up switching to the I See Sam readers on a whim---and I am SO glad I did.   The program has been incredibly effectual for my children.   It has raised their reading by two grade levels in a short 6 month period!!  Plus, it has made learning to read fun again.    I highly recommend those books.  

Our plan right now is to finish up the first 6 sets of the I See Sam books.  (We are almost done with set 5 now.)   Then, we are going to continue on with the Sonlight Grade 2 readers to help build fluency and increase their self confidence in reading.

By that time, the grade 2 readers will probably feel easy for Marcus and Sophie.  But that is OK!   I approach reading the same way I do training for an athletic event.    Sometimes we push ourselves and read books that are very challenging.  Other times, we want an easier read so they can learn that reading can be fun and relaxing too.   My ultimate goal is to raise children who LOVE to read. 


Spelling

We used All About Spelling 1 last year, and this year are continuing on with All About Spelling 2. 


Grammar



We finished up level 1 of this series in first grade, and are continuing on with level 2.   These books are pure genius in that they manage to teach some very challenging grammar concepts in a very gentle and systematic way.  

Writing


Another continuation we have from last year is the Writing With Ease program.    We finished WWE level 1 last year, and have started WWE 2 this year.

I can't say that I LOVE this program because there are some things about it that annoy me.  However, I haven't currently found anything I like as well for these early elementary years.   Plus, I do love how the writing instruction is broken into very small incremental chunks.  And I feel strongly that any child who completes WWE will have a strong foundation for later writing instruction.   For those reasons, we keep plugging away with this program.

My current long term plan is to continue on with WWE until we finish level 3 in third grade.   At that point, we are going to do a year of IEW to practice some stylistic techniques and outlining.   After IEW, we will probably start to use a writing program based on the progymnasta.   (There are so many great options that I haven't picked one.)

UPDATE:   I decided to take a break from WWE for awhile and have started using Write from History.   It contains many of the stories that I *want* to read to my children about history anyways.   We still continue the basic narration, copywork, and dictation model of teaching writing at this age.   

 

Handwriting:

Cursive using Joy of Handwriting

This is a great, budget friendly handwriting program that I highly recommend.   Marcus has always had some fine motor delays, but is picking up beautiful cursive handwriting thanks to this program.   So it really works well!

Next year we will continue doing basic cursive copywork (for practice) and learn to type.

Poetry


Math


One change we made from last year is our math curricula.   Last year we used Math Mammoth 1A & 1B.  The kids thrived in that program, and I highly recommend it.   (Both tested in the 97th and 98th percentile in math compared to peers across the USA.)  So we didn't switch from Math Mammoth because we didn't like it.   HOWEVER, I believe that Singapore math is just slighly more academically rigorous than even Math Mammoth.   It is just a really, really strong math program.

My kids LOVE math--and the Singapore method challenges them so they don't become bored.   So this is a switch I am glad we made.  

History:  (2 times per week)

Ancient History using Story of the World Volume 1 with Activity Book and Audio Book

Science

(2 times per week + 1 day for labs)
Supplemented with LOTS of Science books

History

Another change from last year is our history curriculum.   Last year we used Sonlight, but this year we are using Story of the World.   We love studying history with this book. 

Read Alouds

One thing that we loved about our Sonlight days were their read aloud choices.   Reading good quality literature aloud is still a HUGE part of our day.   However, this year I made my own read aloud list.   AND....what can I say?   I love my picks!   ;)   I hope to be able to share my schedule in a future blog post. 

Nature Study


Fine Arts





Friday, October 17, 2014

Wrapsody Stretch-Hybrid Review



The following review was written by guest blogger Jennifer Marple. 

I recently tried out the Wrapsody Stretch-Hybrid: Chronos from my local babywearing group’s lending library. I own a Breeze (gauze) wrap from the same manufacturer, and have tried other traditional stretchy wraps and wovens, and was interested in how the hybrid stretch would compare. I was looking to evaluate how it worked with a slightly older baby (about 6 months old and 15 lbs), and in particular how it faired with back carries, which I’ve become comfortable with just in the last few months.

Stretchy wraps in general are designed to be very soft and comfortable, with no diggy fabric or buckles, straps or buttons. The Wrapsody Stretch-Hybrid specifically is intended to be used up to 35 lbs on front hip or back. This is one of the key differentiators between this and more traditional stretchy wraps, which are intended for front carries only. My understanding is that any back carry with more than one pass across the baby is safe with this carrier, so I was able to use my growing woven wrap repertoire in my experiments.
The fabric seemed a bit thinner than other stretchy wraps I’d tried, but stretches less freely, which is what allows it to be more supportive at higher weights. This is a one size fits all wrap, and the tails are tapered in a way that makes it not bulky when tying the ends around after wrapping baby.

I found the Wrapsody Stretch-Hybrid to be supportive and comfortable for my daughter, in front and back carries. It was no warmer to wear than my favorite heavy-ish cotton woven wrap, and almost as supportive. It was not “diggy” in the least on my shoulders, as most wovens can be if you’re not very precise with your wrapping job.
Overall, I was pleased at how the Wrapsody Stretch-Hybrid performed for us. If a friend was having a baby and interested in babywearing, I would definitely recommend it over other stretchy wraps, due to the versatility of being able to use it for hip and back carries, and get better support at higher weights. For me, I’m already too far down the woven rabbit hole, and we will not be having any more squishy newborns in our house – but I would really enjoy helping a friend learn how to carry their little one in this wrap, knowing that it could last them the full duration of their babywearing time.


Pros:
Easy to care for the fabric
Several color and pattern choices to suit different styles (mostly patterns, not solids)
Can pre-tie before leaving the house keeps the wrap out of parking lot puddles
Can also be used with hip or back carries
Comfortable for wearer and baby
No complicated sizing
No rings, buckles or straps to dig like a soft-structured carrier or ring sling
More affordable than a woven wrap
No significant bounce, even with a larger infant

Cons:
Thicker than a gauze wrap, can be warm in summer
No sizing can mean excess fabric for some wearers, depending on carries chosen (but tapered tails help with this)
More expensive than a traditional stretchy wrap



NOTE:   Wrapsody donated the Wrapsody Stretch Hybrid Carrier to our local babywearing lending library in exchange for this review.    The views expressed in this review are Jennifer's own and were not influenced by this donation.   Our community whole-heartedly thanks Wrapsody for their very generous donation.   

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Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Boba Wrap Review

The following review was written by guest blogger and fellow "Attached Mama" Jennifer Marple.  
 I recently tried out the Boba Wrap (orange) from my local babywearing group’s lending library. I’d previously used a Moby and a Sleepy Wrap in exactly the same color, which I learned was the former name of Boba Wrap, as well as more recently some woven wraps.  It had been some time since I last used the Sleepy Wrap, having passed it along to another mama before my daughter was born, so I was looking to evaluate how it worked with a slightly older baby (about 6 months old and 15 lbs).

Stretchy wraps in general are designed to be very soft and comfortable, with no diggy fabric or buckles, straps or buttons. The Boba Wrap specifically is intended to be used with newborns up until 18 months for weights 7-35 lbs. The Boba Wrap’s fabric is different from Moby, having more of a jersey knit type texture – there’s a definite right and wrong side. To me, the fabric seems to make the difference in being able to use this wrap with a larger-than-infant size baby. Having experience with both this style of wrap and woven wraps, I did not experience much difficulty in getting the Boba Wrap on and baby into it. I did have to tighten it up the first time, as I’d forgotten just how much stretch there was and to not leave slack. My daughter seemed very comfortable and cozy in it, and enjoyed several wrap naps during my borrowing period.

When I tested the Boba Wrap, it was the hottest time of the year where I live, and I was taking frequent walks while babywearing, at a pace intended for exercise.  So, it was hot, and the thick fabric isn’t exactly breathable and cooling, but it wasn’t any hotter than my favorite cotton woven wrap, and was more comfortable than my slightly cooler gauze wrap. I was walking at a pretty good speed when testing this wrap, and I found that my daughter “bounced” in the Boba more than I was accustomed to. Not quite to a level where I was concerned of any danger, but much more than I experience on a day to day basis with a woven wrap. She is heavier than I’d ever used a stretchy wrap with in the past, but still 20 lbs below the top end of the recommended weight range the manufacturer listed. She didn’t seem bothered by it, but I did find it distracting and impacting on my personal gait/balance. When walking at a more leisurely stroll I did not experience the bounce. I also know that this was not an issue with my son when he was a newborn using this same wrap under the old branding.
Overall, I was surprised at how well the Boba Wrap did with my 6 month old, as I’d never considered using a stretchy wrap past 2-3 months of age. It’s a great option for a comfortable, affordable babywearing solution from birth on – though I still do not think I’d recommend it much beyond perhaps 8 months, not into toddlerhood as Boba’s site states is feasible.


Pros:
Easy to care for the fabric
Easy to store (comes with a storage bag)
Several color choices to meet each person’s preference (mostly solids, a few prints)
Pre-tie before leaving the house keeps the wrap out of parking lot puddles
Comfortable for wearer and baby
No complicated sizing
Simple instructions, less learning curve than woven wraps
No rings, buckles or straps to dig like a soft-structured carrier or ring sling
Affordable

Cons:

Thick, heavy, can be warm in summer
No sizing means lots of excess fabric for most wearers
Not as supportive for larger babies (allows a lot of sag or bounce past the infant stage)









NOTE:   Boba donated the Boba Wrap Carrier to our local babywearing lending library in exchange for this review.    The views expressed in this review are Jennifer's own and were not influenced by this donation.   Our community whole-heartedly thanks Boba for their very generous donation.  
Sunday, October 12, 2014

Boba Carrier 4G Review

The following review was written by guest blogger and fellow"Attached Mama" Kate Burgener.   You can check out Kate's website at www.kateburgener.com

When an opportunity to review a soft structured carrier (SSC) came along, I was pretty excited. At that point, my husband and I had only used a Moby, a ring sling, and a borrowed mei tai with our son Henry.   We loved wearing him, but we were interested in something that would come together a little faster. Having zero experience with a SSC, I envisioned clipping the carrier around my waist, popping Henry into the seat, and away we'd go. I expected the straps to be kind of "set it and forget it," which appealed to me. The ring sling required all kinds of minute adjustments, and I didn't always feel as if I had him seated just right.  What could be easier than a SSC?

I got the Boba 4G model to review because I had a 3 month old. The Boba 4G comes with a nifty infant insert that I was eager to try. A leader from our local babywearing group patiently walked me through the finer points of the carrier.  We clipped the waist belt on me, and she showed off the neat elastic loops for rolling excess straps up and getting them out of the way.  Next came the infant insert.  The infant insert had a moon-shaped little spot for a baby bottom to rest allowing the legs to be supported. After snapping it in and testing Henry in it, however, it became apparent that my long, skinny, cloth-diapered kid was already WAY too tall for it.   You are supposed to have the baby's head within "kissing distance"--however Henry was withing teeth-bashing distance!  So, my local babywearing group leader suggested we try the carrier without the infant insert.

The Boba 4G Carrier Infant Insert:  Instructions for a newborn hold can be found here.

What surprised me most was that after getting into the carrier and arranging Henry, I'd be adjusting the shoulder straps each time. Not what I was expecting from a SSC! (Not a drawback, just not what I had pictured.) A few more tips from my local babywearing group leader, and we were on our way with our brand-spanking-new carrier to test out!
Carrier Adjusted From Front
The first thing I should say about the Boba 4G (and I have no previous models to compare it too, please remember), is that I was surprised at how soft it was. Again, I hadn't explored any other SSC, but I kept expecting them to be kind of like backpack canvas.  The Boba 4G carrier material was downright cozy.  The fabric turned out to be a magnet for cat hair, but a good lint-rolling from time to time would keep you presentable if you cared about that sort of thing.

The second feature I noticed (which ended up being my favorite part and is now non-negotiable for future SSC purchases) was the napping hood. Henry desires to be in arms at all times. (I mean, a little less now, but still isn't happy with more than 15 minutes of alone time.) This started to get super difficult after the various grandparents and relatives were back home and my husband and I were left to the task of figuring out how to get the kid to sleep during the day. Carrier naps became our go-to for mid-day naps, if only to give our arms a break. Plus, let's face it, snugly napping is awesome, even if that means the wearer doesn't get a chance to take a nap themselves. However, as Henry got more aware of the world, it became harder and harder for him to relax and nap in a carrier. The napping hood allowed him to still peek out if he needed to, but provided a much darker and less stimulating environment for him to drift off in. Because he was in front-carries only, his little head was usually leaning against our chests, so the hood was less about support for us. We made sure we could peek in and keep an eye for an open airway, even when the hood was up.

Henry Naps Happily on Dad
Another thing that we loved about the carrier was that Henry just felt super secure in it. When he wriggled in the ring sling, I would get nervous that he'd give an especially mighty kick and knock the seat out. With straps and buckles, I felt confident that he wasn't going anywhere. I picked a little basil from our garden while wearing Henry and I felt much better about bending down to reach things than I do with the sling. My husband and I also both found it faster to use, even with the strap adjusting, and would have made it a go-to style for quick trips if we were keeping it. The way the weight distributed on our shoulders was also great, wearing our son for a few hours was easy, with the padded waist belt providing extra support. 
Baby Henry Helps Mama in the Garden
My husband and I did find a few drawbacks to how the Boba 4G fit, at least for us. We're both pretty tall people, so this could entirely be a torso-length thing, but the backpack-style straps ended up cutting right under our arms from the back. We adjusted and adjusted, moving the chest strap around and the waist belt up and down, and neither of us could get it quite comfortable on our bodies. When I was in a tank top, this was especially irritating, because it meant that one or more buckles was rubbing against my bare arm as I was wearing him. Not ideal. (For what it's worth, knowing that style isn't great for us was super helpful because now we're focused on SSCs with straps that can cross in the back and have since purchased two that work a lot better for us. Again, it's just how it hits your body, I think, because I've read that some people love the Boba 4G and how it fits.) The other problem that I continually had was in adjusting the straps every time I put the carrier on, I found it very easy to accidentally over-tighten the straps. While it didn't seem to make a difference in how Henry fit in the carrier, it would eventually make my shoulders ache from being pulled a bit forward. I usually didn't notice until after 20 minutes of wearing, by which time my kid would be asleep and I'd be reluctant to mess with the straps for fear of jostling him awake. I got more mindful of it, but it was still not second-nature after a few weeks.

Carrier Adjusted From Front
Carrier Adjusted From Back

Overall, we liked our experience testing out the Boba 4G. It was the carrier my husband would grab first, always, and Henry always felt supported well on our bodies. We liked trying a SSC to see how it'd compare to our stretchy-wrap, ring sling and mei tai options. While there were definitely positive things about what was clearly a very well-made carrier, I'm so glad we had a chance to test it out for awhile, because carriers fit each body differently and babies definitely have their own ideas about what they prefer and what's comfortable for them.

NOTE:   Boba donated the Boba 4G Carrier to our local babywearing lending library in exchange for this review.    The views expressed in this review are Kate's own and were not influenced by this donation.   Our community whole-heartedly thanks Boba for their very generous donation.  

 

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