Friday, July 15, 2016

Sonlight's Core B: A Little Review

Rose and I are still slowly finishing up Sonlight Core B.  We only have about a week and a half left of readings, but our rather hectic summer routine has so far left us only bits and pieces of time for read-alouds. But, I thought I'd post a few thoughts about this Core since I hope to finish it by next week ~ we are in the middle of Detectives in Togas, and I want to know what happens next!

 I have mostly switched to using BookShark at this point, since it is basically a secular version of Sonlight, which I prefer. But I had Core B on the shelf from Rose's older siblings and I couldn't find any good reason not to just reuse it, so that's why Rose and I are doing Sonlight while the other kids do BookShark.  My Core is a bit "outdated" from the current Core B Sonlight sells, but many of the titles are the same. We did not use the language arts for this level, but we did use Science B alongside it.

Core B is the first half of a two-part World History program, covering roughly through the fall of Rome. We have the 5-day version of the program. Our Sonlight part of the day usually went something like this (though not necessarily in this order):

  • We read a chapter or two of our read aloud.
  • She read to me from her reader (we used BookShark Readers 2 this year).
  • A couple of days a week we were assigned poetry to read. 
  • We did our science reading (or assigned experiment) and went over the discussion questions.
So...more about the books!

History & Geography: The spines used for this Core are Usborne Time TravelerA Child's History of the World, and The Usborne Book of World History. Time Traveler was Rose's favorite of the three. This is a really fun book that takes you back into time to every day life in the ancient world through cartoons and short entertaining stories. By contrast, CHOW has few illustrations and is a very accessible narrative history that ties everything together in chronological order. The Book of World History is heavily illustrated and has slightly more involved information than Time Traveler. Its presentation is a bit "choppier" than the other two, but I do like the way the three work together to reinforce each other. For all of these books, we just read, discussed, and occasionally looked something up on a map; I did not really use the notes in the Instructor Guide for these books at all. We skipped over the religious history titles, but we did read The Great Wall of China, Tut's Mummy Lost and Found, and Archaeologists Dig for Clues. These were all very short, and we finished them in one or two days at most. I read all of the history books aloud to her.

Read-Alouds: Every day we had a read-aloud, and the read-alouds for this Core are absolutely fabulous. They were Rose's favorite part of the program. I can honestly say that she adored every single book we read together and usually complained when I stopped! For these, I did use the notes - the vocabulary words and discussion questions in my Instructor Guide. We went over the vocabulary before the reading, and I asked her the discussion questions after. If  we were a bit pressed for time I skipped the notes, and for the last two read-alouds, I also skipped the notes and we just read the books. The only book we skipped from this Core was Mountain Born, because I just wasn't in the mood for a sad book at the time! I think Rose's favorite from this core was Greek Myths - she adored all of the stories and we read through that one at double-pace because she didn't want to stop! Even books that I thought might be a bit slow-paced for her, like The Year of Miss Agnes and Understood Betsy, were very much enjoyed.

Science: Science B was a success for us. We enjoyed the books, we usually did the questions from the Instructor Guide each day, and we watched the Sonlight Science DVD's (which I love), and did most of the experiments. If I have one complaint about Science B, it is that it sometimes felt a little short and choppy to me. We read small bits of the same book three days in a row, then had an experiment day based on The Usborne Book of Science Activities, then read a bit from a different book on day 5. Sometimes I felt like science was kind of rushed through in our day, a tacked-on addition - read a little snippet, discuss, move on. It did get done though, which is always nice!

Notes on next year: I am considering switching to BookShark 2 (the equivalent of Sonlight's Core C) for next year, even though I have Core C on the shelf.  My Instructor Guide for C is quite a mess of pencil marks and damaged pages these days, and I am not sure I can stand using it again. I do think we will be going in a different direction for science than what I had previously planned (Sonlight Science C), but more on that later!

Sunday, July 10, 2016

A Review of First Language Lessons Level 2

I posted a review a couple of years ago on First Language Lessons Level 1; this post is a follow-up to that review and covers First Language Lessons Level 2, which Rose finished up a couple of months ago.

First of all, as I mentioned in my review of FLL Level 1, my copy of FLL is a combined edition of the first two levels. However, I believe the content is basically the same as the newer, separate editions.


It is suggested that you do at least one lesson per week of Level 2 over summer break to improve retention, but we didn't do that. Rose did forget things over the summer, but she was able to pick them up again fairly easily, and since I only do grammar for exposure at this age, it didn't bother me much that she didn't retain everything. We did grammar 3-4 times a week, about 10-15 minutes each day, and easily completed the book in less than a year. We started out doing one lesson per day, but towards the end of the year we doubled up on some lessons in order to finish more quickly. Rose is my child that likes to finish things when she sees that she's near the end.

The structure of this book is basically the same as Level 1. The scripted lessons continue, and the lessons provide a good variety based around a few major themes...

Grammar: The grammar in FLL 2 starts out with a review of nouns, then covers state of being verbs, pronouns, linking verbs, commas, capitalization, contractions, adjectives (including predicate adjectives), conjunctions, direct and indirect quotations, adverbs, types of sentences, prepositions, and interjections.

As in FLL 1, the lessons are short, gentle, and often interactive. Instead of just rattling off a list of pronouns, you help the child slowly memorize them over several days and they get to make up sentences using pronouns. When we learned about linking verbs, we made a little paper chain of three different colors: one for the noun, one for the linking verb, and one for the adjective. The state of being verbs were learned by chanting and clapping them. Prepositions were reinforced by setting the table! She put the plate on the table, the fork beside the plate, the glass above the knife, etc. There are just enough activities to make the book fun but not overwhelming, and none of them require much prep time. This is a huge win in my book.

Poem Memorization: As in Level 1, Rose memorized several poems. We were reminded throughout Level 2 to review poems memorized in Level 1, and one of the final lessons in the book was a cumulative poem review where she was asked to recite all of the poems she had learned over the two levels. She wasn't sure she could do it, but she did great!

Story Narration: Story narrations continue in this level with slightly longer stories. As in Level 1, I had her do oral narrations, occasionally typing them out for her. Some of the stories were read again in subsequent lessons and used for a parts of speech hunt. For example, we read "The Quarrel" one day, then the next day we read the same story to look for contractions.

Picture Narrations: As in Level 1, this level contains several picture narrations, which were a nice change of pace. These are often used to reinforce another lesson. For example, in one picture narration Rose was asked questions involving prepositions, like: What do you see on the bed? What is beside the lamp?

Copywork/Dictation: Some of the lessons end with a short copywork or dictation exercise. We skipped most of these because we also use Writing with Ease. But, because the exercises often related to the lesson (such as copying sentences containing adverbs), I did read them aloud to her.

Optional Enrichment: Many of the lessons end with an optional activity, which we usually skipped. These include things like making a "My Week" booklet, or drawing pictures of various things related to the lesson. Others we chose to do, such as making a crown for the King of the Stuffed Animals ( a fun lesson in the preposition section).

Writing: This level included some writing activities, but since we were also working through Writing with Ease Level 2 and Writing Strands Level 2, Rose did not complete all of these. She wrote postcards and learned how to address envelopes, but we skipped some of the composition lessons because they were very similar to things she had already done in Writing Strands. We also skipped a few lessons at the end that were designed to review dictation, since we cover dictation with Writing with Ease.

Like Level 1, we both really enjoyed First Language Lessons Level 2. Rose didn't often complain about doing it, which is a huge plus in my book. The only thing she didn't really enjoy were the days she was asked to hunt for nouns, verbs, etc. in a story. She got a bit frustrated by that, but other than that this was a nice, light continuation of Level 1, and I plan to begin First Language Lessons Level 3 with her this fall.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Rowing Mrs. Katz and Tush {FIAR}

Rose and I are still working on wrapping up our Sonlight Core B readings (we are on week 35!), but we finished up FIAR for this school year last month. Our last FIAR row before summer break was Mrs. Katz and Tush. We kept this row pretty light, and I didn't do quite as much as I had hoped with the story, but here's what we did!

*Social Studies*
  • We discussed why Larnel's mother visits Mrs. Katz so often ~ she is a lonely widow with no children, and this was a way for them to be a good neighbor. We talked about other ways we can be good neighbors. 
  • We found Poland (where Mrs. Katz is from) on our globe. 
  • We talked about immigration, and where our ancestors came from. With more time, I would have done a simple family tree. 
*Language Arts*
  • The story begins with a picture of Mrs. Katz looking at a photo, but we can't see who it is. The manual suggested asking the student who they thought might be in the picture. Rose wasn't sure, so I offered her suggestions, such as her husband, or maybe Larnel himself. 
  • We learned lots of fun Yiddish words such as bubeleh, borscht, and kugel, using the manual's vocabulary section. 
  • We used ideas in the manual to help us notice and appreciate the wide variety of colors, textures, and patterns throughout the book. Lots of details to notice!
  • We flipped through the pages of our book just to admire the way the artist drew such realistic expressions on the faces of Mrs. Katz and Larnel. 
  • The manual suggested having the student compare their view out the window to Mrs. Katz's view, so we talked about that for a bit. There was a suggestion to draw your view, but she wasn't into that, so we skipped it. 

  • We counted the baked goods in the deli illustration - my favorite picture in the book! 
  • We discussed the math problem in the manual - how many grandchildren would Tush have if each of her four kittens had four kittens. We took it to great grandchildren, then great great grandchildren. 


  • I read her the sections in the manual about cats and cooking with yeast. I had planned to make a kugel with her, but we never got to it!

So that wraps up FIAR for us for a little while. I do plan to pick back up with volume 2 in September. We probably won't row every book in that volume, but I do plan to row these, time permitting:

  • Three Names
  • Wee Gillis
  • Owl Moon
  • Mirette on the High Wire
  • They Were Strong and Good
  • The Story of Ferdinand
  • The Tale of Peter Rabbit
  • Mr. Gumpy's Motor Car
  • Miss Rumphius
  • The Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Gray Bridge
  • Harold and the Purple Crayon
  • Follow the Drinking Gourd
  • When I Was Young in the Mountains
  • Gramma's Walk

 I will probably skip these, because they aren't available through inter-library loan:

Babar, to Duet or Not to Duet
The Giraffe that Walked to Paris
Down Down the Mountain 

You can see the books we have already rowed from volume 2 and volume 1 here.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

July Memory Making

In keeping with my resolution to be more thoughtful and organized when it comes to celebrating the seasons... here are some plans and random thoughts for July a few days late!

Special Dates to Celebrate

*July 4th ~ Independence Day*

This is always a fun day. We do pancakes or waffles with strawberries, blueberries, and vanilla ice cream for breakfast, then head out for a day at the lake with family. We have a cookout and swim, fish, canoe, and/or play yard games. We head back home for a quick dinner, then out again to see the fireworks!

There aren't a whole lot of special dates in July, which is probably a good thing what with summer camps and summer practices. There are, however, a whole lot of things to notice and do!

Things to Notice and Do This Month

  • Make sure our American flag is in good shape; replace it if needed
  • Enjoy the daylilies that seem to pop up everywhere this time of year
  • Sit on the screened porch during thunderstorms
  • Install air conditioners in the upstairs windows 
  • Pack a bag for summer fun
  • Remember to water the garden during dry spells - we're having one now!
  • Wait for that first tomato from the garden
  • Finish homeschool plans for the fall
  • Jot down notes about this past homeschool year (transcript-style) for my high-schooler
  • Listen for crickets and cicadas
  • Grill as often as possible - it's too hot to cook inside!
  • Enjoy raspberries from the garden - it looks to be a bumper crop this year
  • Corn-on-the-cob season begins
  • Get a bunch of fun toppings and have a "make your own sundae" night
  • Try to remember to deadhead the flowers
  • Watch movies with popcorn and lemonade when it's too hot to be outside
  • Make time for the kids to use the pool whenever possible
  • Catch fireflies in jars (then release them)
  • Make popsicles
  • Make homemade ice cream
  • Eat every dinner on the back porch
  • Try to spend some time just sitting outside and soaking it all in - it's summer!

Happy July!

Sunday, June 26, 2016

A Summer Bag (To Keep in the Car)

We have such a busy summer planned, and I have been trying to brainstorm ways to make it easier on all of us, especially me, the designated family taxi-driver. I have spent a lot of time lately waxing nostalgic about the days when the kids had one or two weeks of day camp in the summer (if that) and the rest of the time was ours. I would like to go back in time and tell my former self to appreciate those totally unscheduled days, to savor all those empty squares on the calendar. I would insert a photo of our summer calendar here, but I can't bear to turn the page to July. It terrifies me, quite frankly. 

I like for us to have a lot of time at home, for the kids to be able to just hang out, go in the pool, play games, stop by the library, go to the lake, read in the yard, or have friends over without planning weeks in advance.  I like to have time to work in the garden, hang out with the kids, and prepare for our new school year. I'm having a hard time wrapping my brain around a summer that seems like it is going to be mostly spent in the car ferrying kids to one thing or another. And yet, that is the season I am in right now, and while I do my fair share of complaining (mostly in my head), I see much value in the activities they have chosen.  And it's nothing new really, just more of the same, and more in-depth. Counselor-in-training, tennis clinics, horse shows, summer practices...oh my, the summer practices, especially for my soon-to-be competitive gymnast! If I think about it too long it makes my head spin, especially taking into consideration that not one single thing is closer than 25 minutes away. 

So, I have been brainstorming ways to ease the load a bit and keep this summer from disappearing in a haze of driving.  We might not have many lazy days at home, but we will have lots of little moments here and there when a sibling is not quite ready to be picked up, when we get somewhere early, or when practice is running late. It's for those sorts of times that I made up my summer bag to keep in the car. 

I found this large tote bag with lots of outside pockets at L.L. Bean. It's sturdy and stands up by itself, which I love, because it is super easy to pack. The plan is to keep it stocked with things to make our driving trips easier and more fun. 

 First of all, this bag has lots and lots of pockets, which I love. Pockets are key; I have a big tote bag with no pockets that I thought about using for my car bag, but I really hate spending tons of time digging through a big bag looking for a tube of sunscreen. There are some small pockets on the inside....

And then the whole outside is lined with deep pockets.

The pockets go all the way around the bag, and I have things stashed in every one of them.

Here's what I have decided to keep in my summer bag:

In the main compartment:

  • A large blanket - to use at the beach, on a picnic, or just to spread on the grass at the park to play games or read on
  • A couple of towels - for drying off after impromptu wading, sitting on when bathing suits are wet, or just putting over hot car seats
  • An empty reusable shopping bag - for separating wet items, carrying groceries, or just as an extra place to stash stuff
  • A Frisbee, and a ball to play catch with
In the inside pockets:

  • Quarters - for meters and vending machines
  • A tiny bottle of hand sanitizer
  • Stick sunscreen 
In the outside pockets:

  • Sunscreen - a tube of regular sunscreen, a tube of facial sunscreen, plus spray-sunscreen for reapplying at the beach
  • Bugspray
  • Wet wipes
  • Napkins
  • A little bag of sporks, plastic knives, and one sharp travel knife 
  • Bottles of bubbles
  • Baby powder - the easiest way I have found to get sand off of everyone's legs and feet!
  • A deck of cards and another small game - currently it's UNO; I plan to rotate games for variety
  • A small first aid kit with band-aids, antibiotic wipes, and Tylenol
  • A small hairbrush and extra hair elastics - for redoing ponytails before practice
  • Ziploc bags - for stashing little treasures and other things
  • Plastic grocery bags - to use as trash bags for carry in/carry out parks
  • Doggie bags
  • A small coloring book/drawing pad and box of crayons
I was going to keep the bag in the car at all times, but have decided that it's better to bring it back and forth to the house each day. That way I can easily restock it.

In addition to what is in the bag, we may also need to bring along:

Sun hats and sunglasses
A cooler with extra water
Snacks and/or lunch-to-go
Reading material
Swimsuits and towels
Change of clothes/shoes
Other sports equipment

I have a little sticky note on the side of the fridge with these "extra" items listed on it, to jog my memory as we get ready to head out the door. I am already in love with my bag, and I've only taken it along twice so far.