Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Changing Things Up

Every year around this time I get the urge to change up our homeschool a bit ~ keeping what's working and tweaking what's not. I spent a whole day recently reworking our homeschool routine in the hopes of streamlining it and making it more engaging (and perhaps a bit more Charlotte Mason - like). We have been doing a few separate BookShark levels for years in our home, and really, it has worked well. But lately, I have been feeling the call to do more things together, both because it's more fun, and to save some time.

To make things clearer, Grace is my tenth grader, Christopher my eighth grader, James my sixth grader, and Rose my third grader - and when I say "daily" I mean Monday through Thursday. Friday is our art and catch-up day.

*My tweaked homeschool plan for all four kids*

~ Grammar ~

~ Spelling & Vocabulary ~

~ Writing ~

Everyone: Work daily on a Writing Strands assignment, with a one week break between assignments. If a given assignment isn't to their liking, they have the option of writing a history or science summary instead, and I always let them tweak the assignments if the given one doesn't interest them. We are currently using levels 3, 4, and 5 of Writing Strands in our home.

James & Christopher: Work on Typing Instructor daily (for 10-15 minutes)
Rose & James: Do 1/2 to 1 page of Zaner-Bloser handwriting daily

~ Math ~

Everyone: Complete one Teaching Textbooks lesson daily. We are currently using Algebra II, Pre-Algebra, Level 6, and Level 3 of this program.

Rose: practice facts with Flashmaster  daily (2 rounds); watch Mathtacular for about 30 minutes weekly.

~ Poetry ~

Everyone: Work on memorizing a poem of their choice daily; listen to 2-3 poems read aloud daily. We are going to do this all together, focusing on one poet at a time, beginning with E.E. Cummings.

~ History ~

This is where things get interesting. Grace and Christopher each have a few weeks left of their BookShark levels (100 and 7), and we have decided not to continue with Sonlight or BookShark for them (I'll tell you why some other time).

Since they are both reading about the early 1900's now, I decided to pull everyone (mostly) into a study of modern history, while continuing with some of their independent BookShark readings on the side. So...

Everyone: Listen daily to a double-page spread of The History of the Modern World. Discuss, then choose an event or two to add to their timeline book.

Then, to supplement this reading:
Rose and I will keep to our current routine of BookShark reading, but she listens in on the combined history/lit most days as well.

~ Literature ~

This will be very loosely matched up with our modern history timeline. We are combining for a read-aloud, then having everyone read their own book on the side.

Our current titles are:

I will try to share my planned list of read-alouds and independent history and literature reading soon.

~ Science ~ 

Everyone: weekly nature study (in nicer weather months; first I plan to do a Shakespeare study starting after Christmas ~ more details on that after the holidays)

Grace: She was finding her chemistry text a bit dull, so we are going to switch it up with Life of Fred Chemistry, living books, plus the labs from her current chemistry textbook (Discovering Design with Chemistry)

Christopher: Continue with BookShark Science 6 readings, but skip the worksheets; we will discuss the reading instead. He'll supplement this with Janice Van Cleave's Chemistry for Every Kid, since the BKSK experiments haven't been that great

James & Rose: Read living science books with me once weekly and do an experiment from Home Science Adventures once weekly

~ Art ~

  • Everyone: weekly picture study (six weeks on the same artist, currently Norman Rockwell)
  • Grace: 1 art project weekly from Artistic Pursuits Senior High Book One
  • Christopher & James: 1 art project weekly from Drawing Lab
  • Rose: 1 art project weekly from Artistic Pursuits K-3 Book Two

~ Music ~

I plan to bring along music when we head out, since we spend so much time in the car. Music is one subject I have not found easy to fit in. I plan to start with The Nutcracker, with a nod to the season, and I plan to just mention what we are listening to and leave it at that!

We have been following this plan for a couple of weeks now, and it is working well. Of course, now that it is nearly December, some of our best laid plans are left undone pretty much daily! My next post will be all about our Advent plans this year...and hopefully I will be able to get it together far sooner than I did this one!

Till next time!

Monday, November 7, 2016

Monday Musings

For the week of November 7th...

A few plans for the week

Our usual line-up of sports, plus lots of extra things ~ a birthday party, a library event Rose wants to go to, a planned visit with friends, a local acrobat show we have tickets to, plus doctor appointments for the boys. And two of the girls' favorite horses retire from the barn this week to go to new homes, which has us all feeling a bit sad. It's one of those weeks where I feel tired before it has even begun. On the upside, the kids are really enjoying their chosen activities this year; this is one of my boys at a recent climbing competition...

Some homeschool notes

Our year has been going well, though I have not been successful in documenting and posting about it here, except for Five in a Row posts. This week I am hoping to start a series of posts about how things are going and what we are using, starting with language arts. This week we are going to have a light week due to everything else going on. The kids are quite interested in the election this year and have asked to watch the coverage "until it is decided". I told them, that's fine, depending on how long said decision takes! I plan to print out this electoral college map so we can color in the states red or blue as the results come in. 

Out of doors

It's cold and windy, but I really do love November. The leaves that are still hanging on are such a gorgeous color ~ especially the Japanese maple just outside the back door which is a bright scarlet. The fact that it is getting dark so very early now will take some getting used to this week, but I am looking forward to being able to take early morning walks again. I started digging up a bed for planting garlic today, but I gave up after a few minutes. Things are too busy this year, and my heart just isn't in gardening. I have admitted to myself that if I have a few extra minutes I would rather play a game with the kids, or decorate the house for Thanksgiving (what I did today instead of planting that garlic), or just sit and do nothing. I like growing things, I hope I will feel the  urge to do it again some year, but for now it is one of those things that just feels like too much. 

In the kitchen

I've been working on simplifying my dinner planning process. It has been taking me forever to figure out what to make for the coming week. So I assigned each night a "theme". Sunday is Sunday dinner, and that's Dad's night to figure out what to cook; Monday is slow cooker baked potatoes or slowcooker meatball night (with pasta or in sandwiches);Tuesday is Rose's cooking night; Wednesday Grace picks something to cook; Thursday my boys cook; Friday is slowcooker chicken night (barbecue chicken sandwiches or cilantro lime chicken on rice or in tacos); Saturday we make pizza. This has taken a lot of pressure off of me. 

Watching & reading

We watched Ghostbusters with the kids last week (the original), other than that we have not watched much. Without the kids we watched The Big Short. My current read is The House at Riverton, which I am very much enjoying, but it is so long I am not sure I can finish it before it is due back to the library! 

Thanks for stopping by and have a wonderful week!

Thursday, November 3, 2016

November 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 November

Special Dates to Celebrate

*November 1st ~ Begin gratitude project*

Each November, our family makes a gratitude chain.  You can read more about that here.  I absolutely love this little tradition and how it forces us all to slow down, at least for a minute, to record something we felt grateful for that day. Even if it's just bedtime! And there are many, many days I am grateful for bedtime. 

*November 6th ~ Daylight Savings Time Ends*

Perhaps not something to exactly celebrate, but something to notice anyway. It will be lighter in the morning than it has been, so hopefully I will be able to coax myself out of bed! On the flipside, it will get dark earlier, which means lots of driving home in the dark. 

*November 8th ~ Election Day*

Given all the excitement over the election this year, the kids have asked to stay up until the results are in...I told them we'll see how efficient the process is;). I have been looking around for an idea or two to add interest while we wait. One thing I plan to do is to print out a blank map of the country and have everyone take turns coloring the states red and blue as the votes come in. 

*November 13th ~ The Full Beaver Moon*

*November 18th ~ Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them*

I do not think we will see this movie the very day it comes out, but we are very excited about it! I just requested a copy of the book from the library, since it is apparently currently out of print.

*November 24th ~ Thanksgiving*

We will be having Thanksgiving at home this year, so it will feel extra special. We even ordered our turkey already. The plan is to cook, watch the Macy's parade, eat, and play games. I also have a few crafts lined up to hopefully complete in the weeks before.

*November 27th ~ First Sunday in Advent*

We will begin decorating for Christmas, light our first Advent candle, and put together our gratitude chain. I hope to have plans up on the blog in the next few weeks about our Advent plans.

Things to Notice & To-Do this Month

  • Ease into the shorter, darker days ~ it's definitely time for candles at dinner
  • Take a photo for the Christmas cards and order them. Get Christmas stamps too!
  • Stock up on cranberries. Use them to make cranberry sauce and cranberry bread (my all-time favorite recipe is the one in the back of Cranberry Thanksgiving!)
  • Start having "oatmeal mornings". Typically, one morning a week we cook a big batch of plain oatmeal, then set out toppings (chocolate chips, raisins, coconut, cinnamon, maple syrup)
  • Put the bird feeders up
  • Stock up on tea
  • Decorate for Thanksgiving (after taking down the Halloween decorations)
  • Plan the Thanksgiving menu, and try to prep as much as possible ahead
  • Make Advent plans
  • Get as much Christmas shopping done as possible!
  • Attend lots of horse shows with the equestrian in the family- 'tis the season
  • Purchase new throw blankets - we never seem to have enough of these
  • Enjoy the last foliage - brassy oaks and bright scarlet Japanese maples
  • Purchase Advent calendars for the kids
  • Check on everyone's winter gear (coats, shoes, hats, snowpants, boots)
  • Make placecards for Thanksgiving day
  • Plant amaryllis bulbs for Christmas

Happy November!

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Rowing Ferdinand {FIAR}

Catching up on our Five in a Row adventures this year...Rose and I recently rowed Ferdinand, a book about a bull who likes the quiet life.

Here's what we did!

*Social Studies*
  • We found Spain on our globe.

  •  I dug out our atlas (I tried to find a link, but I don't think it is published anymore!) so we could learn some more about Spain. 

  • Ferdinand likes to sit under a favorite cork tree, and we were excited to see that our atlas had an illustration of a real cork tree ~ though not quite like Ferdinand's, which actually had corks dangling from it:)

*Language Arts*
  • This story begins with "Once upon a time...", and as suggested in the manual, I asked Rose if she thought this would be a true story. She correctly guessed no. 
  • We discussed the repetitive phrases in the story, such as "his mother, who was a cow", and looked for others that pop up more than once. 
  • We discussed interjections, then I gave her some examples and had her look through the book to find the interjection ("wow!" when Ferdinand sat on a bee!).


  • The pictures in this book are all black and white, and many are quite humorous. We each picked our favorite funny picture. This was hers (taking place just after the aforementioned bee incident). 

  • As suggested in the manual, I pointed out that Ferdinand takes two cart rides in the story. The first time he is going to Madrid and the second he is going home. In both cases he faces away from Madrid, to symbolize his distaste for bull-fighting. This is just the kind of detail that makes me love FIAR - I probably never would have picked up on such  thing on my own. 
(we skipped the math section for this row)

  • Ferdinand features an illustration of a vulture. I shared information on vultures with Rose from our manual, then we looked up turkey vultures in our nature guide to read about the vultures we have around here. 

  • We took time out to notice the wonderful details of this clover illustration, then I sent Rose out to find a clover in the yard. It isn't exactly clover season, but she did manage to come up with this rather well-loved one. 

  • Then she had some clover honey on toast...me, too. 

*More Fun*
  • For fun, we watched a Ferdinand cartoon, and then she used a cork as a stamp to make some art, which alas I forgot to photograph!
My next FIAR post will be about our row of Three Names

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Rowing Mirette on the High Wire {FIAR}

Rose and I are on our third Five in a Row book of our new homeschool year, so I am playing catch-up a bit here. Our first row this year was Mirette on the High Wire, which I chose because we recently watched The Walk, a fantastic go-along to this row.

Here's what we did!

                                        *Social Studies*

  • This book is set "One hundred years ago in Paris", so I reminded her that a recent book we also rowed ~ Madeline ~ was also set in Paris. 
  • We found some of the places mentioned in the book - Paris, Barcelona, Niagara Falls, and the Alps on our globe.
  • We talked about talents and abilities - Mirette definitely has talent to walk that wire! Rose and I had a little discussion about her talents - especially gymnastics, which is taking up a lot of her time this year as she gets ready for her first competition season. 
  • Mirette boasts that she will never fall again...we talked about why people may boast and why it is not a good idea to do so!
  • We talked a bit about the duties of an innkeeper. We were inspired by the manual to make a bed properly. We do make beds in this house, but it is really just for show - definitely not up to innkeeper standards! This took only a few minutes, but Rose took great pride in her work, and for a few days after that she had a very properly made bed each morning. 

*Language Arts*

  • We went over the vocab words and learned what a protegee is, what stupendous means, and how to devour our food (among other things).
  • As mentioned in the  manual, we discussed compound words and looked for examples in the text, like boardinghouse and afternoon.


  • I shared some information from the manual about the real Bellini, Jean Francois Gravelet. I also reminded her of The Walk, which is worth watching just for the rope walking scene - it was intense!
  • We talked about the medium used in the illustrations (watercolor) and searched for the orange cat depicted throughout the book. 
  • We talked about the various viewpoints of the illustrations in the book. Sometimes we are looking down on a scene, other times we are looking up. We often spend just seconds on some of these art concepts, but they really seem to stick with her, and she uses the ideas in her own art. 
  • I reminded her of our lesson on complementary colors and pointed out some examples in the book - there are a few examples where blue and orange are used to great effect, like the contrast between Mirette's hair and her bright blue dress. 

  • She used contrast to make her own picture. 

  • We discussed action and expression, using notes from the manual, then studied the circus poster at the end of the book.  

  • Next, Rose made a poster of her own - gymnastics related, naturally! And I reminded her of another row that featured a circus poster. 


  • We discussed how the shortest distance between two points is always a straight line. Then, we looked at a map to see that we can't usually travel in a straight line!

  • This book has an illustration with copper pots, so I shared a few facts from the manual about copper with her, then she tried the suggested penny experiment. She polished tarnished pennies with toothpaste, lemon juice and sugar, and a metal polish (we used Bar Keeper's Friend) to see which would work best. She decided that the lemon juice and sugar produced the shiniest pennies. 

To wrap up this row, I set up a tightrope for her along the floor.  She had a lot of fun with this, and I left it up for her most of the week.

I had planned to do a dinner with circus foods, but we never got to that. Better luck next time!

Next up I will have our row of Ferdinand. Thanks for visiting!