Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Math and Science Fun

Sweet Baby continues to enjoy her math this year! I cannot tell you how good it feels to say that! For kindergarten and 1st grade we used Abeka math for Sweet Baby and other than the colorful pages, there really was not to much about it that she liked or that worked for her. After last year, another year of struggles with math and bad attitudes from her about doing math, we decided to try something different. This year we are using Saxon and she seems to really love it. Today she was able to play with some pattern shapes. We talked about the hexagon and trapezoid (in addition to shapes she already knows).

She was especially delighted when I told her to use the blocks to make picture of her own. I left her alone for 5 minutes and when I returned she had created a masterpiece. These are chickens. What the blue things above them? "Blessings" I was told....Awwwwww.

I started science with the little girls today. We are doing plants the first part of our year. Today we discussed how to determine if something is alive or not. The girls were thrilled that they got to go on a Living Things Scavenger Hunt. They hunted around the house (and the yard) and observed various objects to see if they could be classified as "living" or not.

As soon as they walked outside they wanted to classify the black eyed susan's that were sitting out the back door. Peanut was thrilled to see a daddy long leg hanging out on one of the flowers. "HEY! We can see if he is living too and add him on our sheet!" She delighted in pestering at him to make him move, since one of the questions you must ask yourself is "does the item move".

After classifying a rock (I must be doing a great job since they declared that a rock is not living) they walked to the back of the yard and determined that our chickens are alive. Great job girls! ;)

What We Have Learned So Far This Week

We have learned who Julius Caesar was, why the Roman Republic failed, much about Octavius (through the book Caesar Agustus' World) and Cicero, and the various buildings that make up a Roman town

Sunday, August 28, 2011

A Fun "Field Trip" Already and New Experiences

We have already taken a "break"...just for one day. Last year a member of our co-op was able to get the entire co-op signed up for a program through her county that had the kids keep track of how many pages they were reading over the spring. If the kids read a certain amount, they were presented with a waterpark pass to a park in that county. We have done MANY "summer reading programs" over the years but this program takes the cake! What a WONDERFUL way to celebrate their work and celebrate the end of summer.

The park was just about an hour from us, but we enjoyed the ride since we went with some friends of ours. The park had a giant wave pool, 3 waterslides, a lazy river, and a large splash pad. It was a perfect day to go. It was not very busy at all and the weather was just right. We had had some cool days so we were not sure if it would be warm enough, but it warmed up to 85.

The little girls loved the wave pool . I think Sweet Baby was "blowing the waves back" here.

Here Peanut was just relaxing.

I love this picture, they are both having such a great time together.

After spending the day in the sun we went home for dinner and then were back in the car. The girls were all invited to spend the night with the friends we had spent the day with. In the live of a child, this was a great day!

Then on Saturday night we used some MORE passes the girls had earned for some more summertime fun! We took part in our library's summer reading program and Peanut's name was drawn and she won some passes to play putt-putt. The girls had never been putt-putting before. As a kid/teenager, I played alot of putt-putt. It was a family tradition that we would find a place to play at least one on every vacation we went to. The girls all enjoyed themselves and Sissy said she wants to play at least once a summer.

No matter how many times we told Sweet Baby how to correctly hold the club, she just couldn't get it right!

Finally, here is Peanut looking as cute as ever. It was a beautiful night - minus the Michigan mosquitos that came out in droves - and a great weekend enjoying the end of summer.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Making the Day Flow a Bit Better For Us

I have always thought that narrations are an excellent way to incorporate writing and reinforcement into a school day; however, it seems to take my girls quite a long time to get a narration done. We will do history (which always takes more than 1/2 an hour - unlike the Hazell's schedule in the manual) and then I would ask them to narrate and the girls would spend at least another 1/2 hour to 45 minutes working on their narrations.

In order to speed things up a bit but yet still have them writing a bit, we use alot of lapbooks or lapbook pieces. They are still writing what they have learned but in smaller chunks and it isn't as intimidating for the two who are turned off by writing.

Last year we discovered History Pockets by Evan Moor. We used them for Ancient Egypt and Ancient Greece. These are different from lapbooking. They are reproducible pages that we usually mount onto an 8 1/2x 11 sheet of cardstock and place in our history binder. Here is what we did yesterday.

We talked about the Punic Wars and rather than ask the kids to narrate about them, the History Pocket book had a sheet with it that told all about the Punic Wars and a second sheet that had a photo of a messagner riding through a Triumphal Arch. The kids were able to color the arch picture and then I asked them to answer just a couple questions about the Punic Wars. They wrote their answer on a small sheeet of paper and glued it under the arch. Here are Sweet Baby's sheets.

Sweet Baby commented to me the other day that, "It sure seems like I have more work to do this year." Of course I said, "Yes, you are in 2nd grade now, you need to do a bit more." She still wishes I would write for her but this year we are going to get out of that habit. So, to make the transition easier for her, I wrote the beginning of the sentence and had her "fill in the blank" on her Punic War page. I don't know if you can see it in the picture but I wrote:

"The Punic Wars were fought by", "They fought because", and "___________ won."

It was another good day here. I hope your day is wonderful as well.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Plugging Along - Day 2

Another good day at the Spencer Homestead. First and foremost it was a beautiful day. We decided to do History and Bible on the screened porch. BEAUTIFUL morning. We had a morning full of history and Bible. We are using a book this year called How the Bible Came to Us. Today was just an introduction. My girls have the books of the Bible memorized due to a song they have learned at church, but we talked about how the books are organized and the fact that the Bible itself was written by so many different people. The girls were labeling the various books of the Bible here.

We spent time reviewing the world map - where the oceans are, where Rome is in relation to other parts of the world and what bodies of water were nearby. Don't you LOVE the place mat world maps Sissy is using?? This is our first year with them. Usually we do History and Bible in the living room. The problem we found last year is that I was trying to show them a map in an atlas and sometimes they did not want to come near the book to look at it. So, this year I realized that My Father's World sells individual, laminated, world maps that are affordable. I think they were $3.50 a piece. This was a great thing for each of the girls to have with them.

We began discussing the Roman Empire and how it began growing. We added our Book Basket time into today. The older girls spend 15 minutes reading through various books in the basket related to what we are studying. Here is Peanut reading See Inside Ancient Rome by Usborne. Usborne has this entire series of books that are lift the flap books full of information on top of and under each flap. They are just fun books that the kids love. Last year we used the Ancient Egypt book.

It was another great day with Saxon! I LOVE this picture. Here Sweet Baby is displaying her birthday graph. We made the graph today and placed friends and family members on it depending on which month their birthdays fell in. Brooke had fun adding people like Audra, her pen pal from AHG. She loved seeing what a graph is and how it helps keep track of information.

The day was virtually done at lunch time. Imagine my sheer delight when Sissy said, "Do you want me to go up and make lunch? I can bring it down." Here she came with a tray and all with lunch for her and her sisters. So sweet and so helpful!

What We Learned

How the Roman Empire began and began growing, differences between noblemen, plebeians, patricians, where Rome is on the map.

First Day Behind Us

Our first day of the 2011-2012 year is behind us. It was a great day overall. We started on time - which for me is 8:30. We were able to do history, English, math drill for Peanut and math for Sweet Baby. We ordered Teaching Textbooks Pre-Algebra from the company and are waiting for it to arrive. Here is Peanut with a big ole smile!

Here are both Peanut and Sissy working on their work. I love how Daisy has chosen a spot right under their table. Notice the bathrobe on Peanut? Yep, like I said, we do school in the basement. So, if it is 98 degrees outside, it feels like you want to put the heater on. A great thing in the summer.

I have to share this photo of Sweet Baby. Last year was not an easy year doing school with Sweet Baby. There were MANY days that I considered taking the easy route and sending her to school. She is not a very motivated child which means that any school work that takes any amount of time is met with whining, rolling of the eyes, and complete attitude. If the subject is hard for her, it is magnified. So..she loves reading and doesn't really mind spelling so that would go well. Every other subject was a nightmare, math especially. This year we are trying Saxon math. I realized that not only is she unmotivated, but Abeka just moved to quickly for her, so asking my unmotivated child to work to learn new material to frequently was not working for us.

I had been dreading school starting, mainly because I was not looking forward to a day full of Sweet Baby's attitude. But look!!! This is my precious gift DURING MATH!

Do you see that? A SMILE?? (She was demonstrating to me that she remembers her left from her right by placing her left hand on her ear). Now granted - today math was really easy, but I she happily said, "Math was fun today!"

I also love this photo of her. She is concentrating..do you see it? Look at that face! She was copying from the board the ways to write Roman Numerals. She didn't complain not once that it was "to hard" or "to much work". I'm really looking forward to today.

What We Learned

History- The myth of Romulus and Remus (how Rome was formed), about roman numerals, where Rome is on the map

Math - math fact brush up, began graphing the weather for the month

English - importance of brainstorming, combining sentences

Monday, August 22, 2011

School Room, Ready...

I had to take a few pictures of our school room. If for no other reason than to prove to myself that yes indeed, it has the potential to be clean - at least once!

A bit of background on this room. First of all it is in our basement, and it is the only place that is finished in our basement. I have been a Stampin' Up! demonstrator for the last 8 years and needed a room to hold classes in. My husband finished this space for me and it worked wonderfully. Our first year of homeschooling had us doing school in our dining room with merely one bookshelf (the one you can see in this picture with the globe on it). This is a view of the room when you enter and look directly to your right.

The tall bookshelves my husband and dad built last year for us. They are WONDERFUL! They house all of our current curriculum, literature guides, kids books related to science and history, math manipulatives, games and some various other curriculum - not all of which is being used this year.

What I hated about doing school in the dining room was that we NEVER were able to shut down. It seemed like "school" was always looking at me. Yes, I know - we should live our lives to learn and learn in all activities - however, the fact is I did not want school staring at me all the time. In addition I realized that homeschooling brought just a bit more of myself that had to die. What I mean is that my love of stamping had to go on the back burner. There just was no time for that any longer. So, I gave up a large portion of my stamping room for the school room. This year I have given up nearly all of it.

This photo shows all that is left of my "previous life", when you walk into the school room and turn directly to your left. Behind this curtain is 3 floor to ceiling bookshelves full of my stamping stuff. If I am to be completely honest, all the shelves are not mine anymore. I have given up 1 shelf to the kids for their art books too. The black shelving unit is the final space that holds my stamping stuff.

This is the view of the room directly across from the door that enters into our school room. See the shorter bookshelves? My dad made those back when I was a kid. They housed a 1960 something encyclopedia set we owned when I was growing up. They can be stacked on top of each other or side by side like they are. I keep kids story books on there and chapter books. I want them short so all the girls can reach them.

Do you notice the art on the wall? These pieces belong to all the girls. They are from various classes at our co-op. I LOVE them. The reality is that I don't make time for "art" so my kids don't do art with me. I'm so very thankful for our co-op!

Finally, here is our dry erase board and timeline.

If I could change anything about our schoolroom it would be windows. There is not a window anywhere. I would also give it a fresh coat of paint. The color is supposed to be a Certainly Celery green (a Stampin' Up! color), I think I'd do all white and just dress it up with the curtains and the stuff on the walls. I am blessed to have a place we can "do school" and am thankful for how God provides!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

What We Are Studying

Mom is preparing for the start of the 2011-2012 school year. We will begin on Monday..SIGH...goodbye summer!

It occurred to me that I have not yet shared what we will be studying this year.

This will be our third year using the My Father's World curriculum. This year we will be using Rome to the Reformation for history and Bible for all the girls. I had considered skipping this in the cycle and going straight on to Explorers to 1850 because my younger girls had asked about learning about American history. When I asked Sissy what her thoughts were on this, she adamantly declared that she wanted to learn about what was happening in history during the time that Jesus was alive. As a parent, you can't argue with that!

Part of Rome to the Reformation including studying latin roots with English from the Roots Up. Last year we studied Greek roots so the procedure will be familiar to the girls.

We will not be using the Science that My Father's World recommends. The younger girls asked to learn about two very different science subjects. Sweet Baby wanted to learn about plants and Peanut wanted to learn about the planets. Although we really liked Apologia science last year, it takes an entire year to get through one book. We have decided to return to God's Design science so that each of the girls will get to experience the subject they want.

Sissy will be using Apologia's General Science this year. As a 7th grader it is suggested that she begin working rather independently and Apologia's middle-high school programs are used widely with home schooling families. In addition, our co-op will be doing a class that will be doing the experiments that go along with the reading. It should work out really well for us.

For math, the two older girls will be continuing on with Teaching Textbooks. Teaching Textbooks works really well for us. The fact that mom is off the hook from teaching an actual math lesson with this program (the computer does that) and the fact that the girls love using the computer are two things that keep us coming back to this program.

Sweet Baby will be using Saxon math. We used Saxon with the older girls our first year of home schooling, but they both complained that it moved to slow. They seem to "get" math concepts easily. For kindergarten and 1st grade Sweet Baby used Abeka Math. It worked well for our first year, but was moving to quickly for her. So, we'll try Saxon. I am prayerful that the repetitiveness of this program will be just what she needs.

We will be using Tap the Deck for Sissy and Peanut for writing. Sissy used this program last year and really made some good strides in her writing. This program was suggested to us by another home school family. Peanut will also be trying Learning Language Arts Through Literature. This is a program I have been intrigued by for a couple years, so I thought I would let her try it. Sweet Baby will be using Just Write and a bit of Bob Jones English. We'll just try to piece it together.

We will be using Wordly Wise for all of them - as a vocabulary builder. Sweet Baby will continue with Sing, Spell, Read and Write and some Explode the Code to build on her reading skills.

When I look at it all laying out on the table, it sure looks like alot!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

A Peek at History

One of the places our family enjoys visiting is Greenfield Village. If you have never been to Greenfield Village and you like history - even a little bit - you have to plan a trip there. Greenfield Village was created by Henry Ford and it is adjacent to Henry Ford Museum. Both are amazing places with incredible exhibits - the museum houses the chair that Abe Lincoln was shot in , the bus that Rosa Parks would not give up her seat in and so much more!

The village houses buildings from so many different time periods. Many of them are the actual buildings and some are reproductions. One of the places that Peanut must enjoys visiting is Thomas Edison's Menlo Park. His laboratory is there which includes a chair that he actually sat in while at a visit to the Village.

The village is about an hour from us so we packed a lunch and headed down on Monday. The girls enjoyed playing games and toys in the village square. I love that there are many different "actors" wandering the village. they are dressed in period clothing all the way to their toes and the ladies dresses are so beautiful.

I thought the puzzle the girls were trying to do was amazing, so I took a close up.

Here is a photo of all of us girls...

As always each of us chooses a treat while we are there. The kids are always anxious for the time to stop for ice cream or cotton candy.

One of my favorite places to stop is the Cotsworth Cottage. This cottage is from England in the 1600's. It just exudes charm. The gardens surrounding it are amazing as well.

Daddy and I most enjoy visiting the Harvey Firestone working farm. It is truly a working farm and at any time of day you can wander in to wonderful smells of the ladies working in the kitchen. We enjoy wandering through the barn which this visit housed a 3 week old calf and we like looking at the turkeys and different varieties of chickens that are wandering the site.

Monday was wash day so the girls were able to try their hand at a washboard - they all kept commenting on how much fun it was. We must have stayed there more than 10 minutes while they went through the motions.

To end the day we had a surprise tour. As we were walking up the lane to the Firestone house one of the girls said, "I wonder if we'll ever see the upstairs in that house." So, I asked the ladies in the kitchen if they ever open the upstairs for touring. They said that some days in the fall when it is not busy they will, but it is not something that is scheduled. As we were leaving the house, one of the ladies stopped us and quietly ushered us up the back stairs so we could take a peek. One room held photos of when they dismantled the house and then brought it brick by brick to Greenfield Village. It was alot of fun to have that sneak peek of a house we have enjoyed many times.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Summer Getaway - Grand Haven, Michigan

Since beginning homeschooling 4 years ago we have begun taking our family vacations during the fall. It seems to work really well for a couple of reasons. First, once kids in public school return to school, places are significantly less crowded. Secondly, both daddy and I do not enjoy HOT weather, so if we wait till the end of September or October we get less crowds and cooler temps. However, when everyone around us is headed out of town and then returning with stories of their adventures, the girls and I feel a bit left out.

Some friends of ours camp here in Michigan at Grand Haven State Park every year and have been inviting us for the last couple of years. The problem is that we don't have a camper and mom really does not want to begin experiencing tent camping. So, we have passed each year. This year we decided to give it a try. Daddy had to work so the girls and I headed out for the 2 1/2 hour drive to get away. What a blessing it was! We had planned to stay for just 3 days but added a 4th because we enjoyed ourselves so much. There were 4 families there - 7 adults, 14 kids, sand, sun and fun.

Next year I'm hoping we get the invite to return and daddy can come too!

We enjoyed time at the beach, a walk into town for some yummy ice cream, a trip to the farmers market, good meals and great time with friends. If you ever get the chance to make it to Lake Michigan in the summer, you have to do it. Grand Haven was much fun, we also love Ludington. Both are wonderful places places to visit along Lake Michigan.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Serving This Summer

As Sissy is going into 7th grade she is approaching her teen years...seriously? SIGH.... One of the good things about that is that she is able to be active with the youth group at our church. We have an amazing youth minister and my husband and I are lucky to say that we see eye to eye with him on several issues like teen dating (not necessary) and entertainment choices (filter, filter, filter). Sissy has been participating in a few youth group activities this summer including Service Tuesdays.

I've been fortunate to attend most of the events because there were so many kids signed up to attend that they needed an extra driver. The kids have served at the local soup kitchen, a food and clothing "closet" that gives food and clothing to people in our area and an elderly care center. Most times I was able to leave the younger girls with someone for a few hours, but the care center was an hour away so I took them with us. What a blessing it was to watch the kids interact with the elderly. Their "service" was to entertain them with a game of kickball. A very energetic game of kickball. Prior to the game they sang some songs to them.

I suggested to my little girls that they take a bag full of books, coloring books and crayons with them to occupy themselves. What a joy it was to look over and see that Sweet Baby had started reading to one of the residents.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Badge Work - A Family Affair

One of the convenient things about being a homeschooling family in American Heritage Girls is that we seem to do badge work all the time, without even knowing it, for school. The little girls wanted to learn about plants for science this year so I grabbed their handbook and wouldn't you know it - there is a plant science badge.

Daddy is an avid gardener and is always trying to get the rest of us interested in gardening. We have a pretty large garden for the size of our yard. The girls have planted their own mini garden once before but as part of their badge requirement, they needed to plant a garden again.

Daddy let them choose what to plant, helped them work up the soil and make markers so they would know what seeds had been planted and where.

After making their markers the girls and dad headed down to the garden to get started. First Peanut planted hers. She is the one who gets very excited about what is growing in her garden, she will weed, once in awhile, and is really excited to do projects like this.

Here is a picture of Peanut and her Prince. Notice the hat?? World's Greatest Dad - Sissy's Father's Day gift.

Then it was Sweet Baby's turn to plant her garden. I love these pictures...all of them in a row. Mind you that "Cinderella" by Steven Curtis Chapman is playing in my house right now....