Thursday, February 16, 2017

Homeschool Photo Journal: Valentines, Snow, & Science

Flowers from the kids:: Seeing how food coloring spreads through water :: experimenting with magnets in Home Science Adventures :: Getting ready for the Great Backyard Birdcount:: learning about chromosomes and extracting DNA from a banana (BookShark Science 6) :: a new Five in a Row book :: pompom monsters for Valentine's Day :: cupid floats :: snowstorms :: stacking conversation hearts.

Have a wonderful weekend!

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Mid-Year Update: Homeschooling Sixth Grade

We are officially on week 19 of our 36-week homeschool year...right where we should be in some subjects, behind in others, and ahead in just a few. So I am planning a series of posts to update you all on how things are going in our homeschool! I posted an update for my third-grader last week; this week's update is devoted to my sixth grader, James (you can see his original sixth grade plans here).

We have made a few tweaks as this year went on, mainly in order to combine some subjects with his siblings and ease my workload a bit! I'll explain as I go. James is doing much of his work independently this year, but I check in with him throughout the day. 

Here's what he's doing...

  • Analytical Grammar ~ We started the year by working through Season 1 of AG together. It took until just before the holidays. Now that he is finished, he does the AG review book independently, completing one exercise every two weeks. I reviewed Analytical Grammar here
  • Teaching Textbooks 6 - I talked a  bit about how we use this program here and hereBut basically, James does his lesson independently, then I go over it with him briefly to make sure he understood it. I check his grade on the computer, and if needed, go over any incorrect problems with him. 
  • Duolingo French ~ he spends about 10-15 mintues a day puttering around on this site to learn some vocabulary. 
  • Literature & history readings - We are doing this a bit differently than originally planned. The original plan was to  use BookShark's Eastern Hemisphere. Instead, we changed things up so he and his older siblings could do more together, with a focus on modern history.  

Currently, I am reading aloud to him and his older siblings from these books each day:

He also reads to himself each day; he has been reading some books from BookShark's Eastern Hemisphere and some others we had on hand from the general time period we are studying. 

Currently he is reading:

After he reads, I quickly skim his reading and have him narrate a bit to me, or if he is reading a BookShark book,  I use the discussion questions in the instructor guide. 

Moving on to science ~ James does a Home Science Adventures experiment twice a week or so along with his younger sister. We are using the Astronomy-Birds-Magnetism Triple Set.  I'll have a review of this program up in the next week or so and hope to start posting reviews of other programs we're using as well. 

And that's it for the day! After he finishes, he usually has chores to do, takes a shower, gets ready for practice, or just putters around. On Fridays, he usually spends the whole morning doing art - he is using Drawing Lab along with Christopher. After he does a lesson or two from that book, he often draws on his own until lunch-time, after which we are generally done for the week!

Thursday, February 2, 2017

February 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 February - a month that can be a bit hard to love, yet has so many fun things to look forward to! This is an update to last year's post. 

Special Dates to Celebrate

*February 2nd ~ Groundhog's Day/Candlemas *

At some point we pop over to Punxsatawney Phil's official website to see if he saw his shadow or not (or we find a video on You Tube). Someone always points out that even if he does see his shadow, meaning six more weeks of winter, that that would still be an early spring around these parts! We often have a fun Groundhog's Day dessert that night, like these little pudding cups (this year we made these).

Historically, according to Mrs. Sharp, Candlemas Day was the day that the household would make an inventory of the household candles and replenish them as necessary. We take this day as an excuse to light a lot of candles at dinner. We light candles most nights for dinner, but on Candlemas we like to go all out and light every single candle we can find in the house. It makes quite an impressive display during dinner. 

*February 5th ~ The Superbowl*

We aren't big football fans in our house, but we always watch the Superbowl and make an evening of it. Everyone picks a team to root for and we make a lot of fun food - nachos, sliders, 7-layer dip, a veggie tray, and boneless chicken wings. We watch the game while we eat.  For dessert we often do a "football field" cake - just a rectangular chocolate cake with green frosting "grass". I have the kids print out little clipart team flags to decorate it with. And yes, we do stay up late to watch the whole game, no matter how long it goes on for....always past my bedtime!

*February 12th & 22nd ~ Lincoln's & Washington's Birthdays*

I know President's Day is for celebrating all the presidents together, but we like to do something a little special for Lincoln and Washington on their special days. So we make a Lincoln's Log (a jelly roll) for Lincoln's birthday and a cherry pie for George Washington. Or we purchase either or both, again, it all comes down to what else is going on that day. 

*February 17th -20th ~ Great Backyard Birdcount*

The Great Backyard Bird Count is an annual event that we participate in whenever possible. I try to get at least three of the four days of counting in. We count birds in our own backyard, which means we don't usually see anything too exciting, but it is time well spent to find out who is visiting our yard each year.  

*February 14th ~ Valentine's Day*

We start our Valentine's Day celebration the weekend before by making valentines for each other, plus a few to mail to some special people. The ones made for our family go into an old hat box until the big day, along with any cards we may receive in the mail.  On Valentine's Day we have waffles (frozen or homemade) with strawberries and whipped cream. Everyone gets a small cup of pretty candy at their place that morning, and we all look at our cards. Then, the kids compete to see who can make the highest conversation heart tower.  This is a tradition they invented on their own, and I buy an extra bag of candy each year for them to use.  I try to make something just a bit fancier for dinner, and dessert is always a heart-shaped cake

Things to Notice & Do This Month

  • Hope for snow - we haven't been able to sled or make snow ice cream yet!
  • The days getting longer...slowly but surely
  • Those wonderful days when the sun starts feeling warm again
  • Songs of the chickadees
  • The Full Snow Moon on February 11th
  • Tap our maple trees towards month's end
  • Decorate for Valentine's Day and make a craft or two
  • Put away all lingering Christmas decorations
  • Buy flowers - primroses lined up on a window are so cheery this time of year
  • Buy a box of chocolates to share
  • Make homemade candy
  • Try out some new board games
  • Continue planning for spring and summer fun - daytrips, hikes, camping trips, etc.
  • The National Mythology Exam
 Now I am sure we will not get to everything on this list; we'll see what we can fit in!

Friday, January 27, 2017

Mid-Year Update: Homeschooling Third Grade

We are officially on week 18 of our 36-week homeschool year...right where we should be in some subjects, behind in others, and ahead in just a few. So I am planning a series of posts to update you all on how things are going in our homeschool! I'll start with my third-grader, Rose because she is the easiest;).

First of all, you can see Rose's third grade plans here. And what you see there is what we are doing; I haven't made any changes so far.

Here's a rundown of what my third-grader's school day looks like....

Language Arts

I start my homeschool day with Rose because she is always up and ready. My older kids tend to sleep in and drag a bit in the morning, but she is always energetic and raring to go. This means we can start sometime between 8:30 and 9, which I love. We always start with language arts and we do things in this order pretty much every day.

1. First Language Lessons for the Well-Trained Mind Level 3 - I cannot say enough about how much I love the First Language Lessons series! I don't have a review up for this level yet, but you can see reviews of Levels 1, 2, and 4 on my review page. We do one lesson a day, three days a week, and the lesson usually takes 10-20 minutes to complete (but usually closer to the shorter side).

2. Writing with Ease Level 3 - I reviewed this here. This is another awesome Peace Hill Press product that makes it super easy to do narration and dictation exercises. Rose doesn't always love the dictation, but her skills in it are steadily improving, and she enjoys reading all the little story snippets for her narrations. She has actually checked out several books from the library to read because snippets of them were included in WWE, and she wanted to read the rest. We do WWE four days a week, for about 15-20 minutes each day.

3. Writing Strands Level 3 - We wrap up our "together" language arts work with WS3, which I reviewed here. I really like the wide variety of writing assignments in this little book. Sometimes, if she has had a long dictation or is just a little tired, I will have her dictate while I write, sometimes she writes everything herself, and sometimes we take turns. It just depends on the day, but the assignments are nicely broken up so that it never seems like too much. The book tells us to take a week off between assignments; sometimes we do, sometimes we don't, depending on if we are caught up or not.

4. With our "together" language arts work finished, we move on to our read-alouds. We are using BookShark World History 2 this year, and I follow the reading plan pretty exactly. We go over any vocabulary from the instructor's guide, I read, then I ask her the questions from the guide. Finally, we look up any map locations mentioned. 

Then we move on to the next book. 

Today we read from these books:

  • A Cricket in Times Square
  • Usborne Book of World History
  • Child's History of the World
  • The Aesop for Children
  • Cornstalks: A Bushel of Poems
5. Rose is taking the National Mythology Exam this year for the first time, so at this point I read a few pages of D'Aulaires' Greek Myths to help her prepare.

6. Before we leave the couch, she reads a chapter of her current reader to me. She is reading through Sonlight's Grade 3 Readers

7. A couple of days a week (usually Monday & Wednesday) we do Five in a Row. I read our current story aloud to her, then we do a related activity or two. This usually takes about 20 minutes total. If you want to follow along with our FIAR adventures, they are all posted here. Currrently, we are finishing up with this lovely book:

6. By now, it is usually between 10-10:30, so she has a little snack and sets off to do her independent work while I grab someone else to work with. She likes to bring the dog upstairs and camp out on her bed:). 

She does:
  • Flashmaster ~ I give her an assignment to work on throughout the week; this week she is practicing her 5's tables in multiplication.
  • Memory work ~ she has a poem she is working on  memorizing and reads it to herself three times.
  • Handwriting ~ She does a page (or half a page if it's too long) of her handwriting book. 
  • Then she usually spends a bit of time reading the D'Aulaires' book mentioned above to herself.

7. Next up is math. She is using Teaching Textbooks 3. I am usually on hand to help her, but she mostly does the lesson independently, then I check her grade and discuss the lesson with her to make sure she understood it.

8. At this point, if it's a Tuesday or Thursday, I do a science lesson from Home Science Adventures with her and James. These take 30 minutes or less to do, and I love that everything is included that we'll need. We started the year with the astronomy kit, made it to lesson 10, then put it aside for the magnetism kit. The observations just weren't getting done because someone was either tired from practice, or sick... or it was too cold or cloudy to go out. I plan to pick the astronomy lessons back up in the spring!

And that's it for Rose's day! After lunch she has free time, reads, takes her shower, gets ready for gymnastics, or just putters around while the rest of the kids finish up. 

On Fridays, we do none of the above; instead she does a lesson from Artistic Pursuits Book K-3 Book 2, then she usually spends some time drawing on her own. If she has extra time and there is anything she is a bit behind on, I'll ask her to do a little catch-up work, but in general, she has quite a bit of free time on Fridays.

Thanks for stopping by, and check back soon for a mid-year update on my sixth grader!

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Rowing Miss Rumphius {FIAR}

Here's the last pre-holiday Five in a Row adventure to catch you up on! Miss Rumphius was a fun book to row as winter set in ~ it reminded us that spring is really not far away!

Here's what we did!

*Social Studies*
  • We are told Miss Rumphius lives by the sea, but we aren't told exactly where...however there are many clues in the story, such as an icy harbor scene and this illustration of Miss R with some young we assume the story takes place in Maine, which just happens to be one of my very favorite states!

  • We discussed how Miss R does what she can. Instead of sitting around doing nothing when her back hurts, she takes small steps towards accomplishing her goals. A wonderful lesson!
  • In this story, we see Miss R grow from a little girl to an elderly woman. Along the way, a lot changes in her world! Using the FIAR manual prompts, we spotted things like horse-drawn carriages in the illustrations of her youth, and cars as she gets older. 
  • Miss R is called a "crazy old lady" at one point, so we talked about why it is hurtful to call names and why people do it....the story characters changed their minds when they saw what a wonderful thing she had done!
  • Miss R is quite the world traveler! In the story she visits a beautiful island, mountains, jungles, and deserts. We had a brief discussion about each of these environments and I reminded Rose that she has visited tropical places, mountains, and a desert herself. 
  • As suggested in the manual, we discussed what the "Land of the Lotus Eaters" means, and we looked for a photograph online of a camel kneeling down (since Miss R hurts her back getting off a camel).

*Language Arts*

  • We had a brief discussion of the Dewey Decimal System, since Miss R works in a library. I had planned to go to the library and show Rose how to find a book on a specific topic, but we never made it during this row ~ this is something we have done in the past though. 
  • We went over the vocabulary for this story ~ mostly fun sea-related words, like "chandlers".

  • We discussed the medium used in the illustrations by Barbara Cooney ~ the manual tells us she used acrylic paint and Prismacolor pencils. 
  • The manual includes many fun details to look for in the illustrations ~ such as the same pictures, and even the same type of cat, in the living room when Alice is a little girl and when she is an elderly lady in her own living room. There are so many fun little details in this story, and I am not sure I would have picked up on even half of them without the notes in the manual. 
  • We talked a bit about Islamic influence in architecture, using the illustration with Miss R and the camel (which is above) as our jumping off point. 
  • In several of these paintings, the artist shows wind in this picture, where the curtains are blowing back from the bed. We looked for more examples in the story and discussed how the artist showed that there was a breeze in each one. Then, Rose made her own picture of trees blowing in the wind. 

  • There are a few illustrations in this book that show the sun at high noon, with shadows puddled right underneath people and objects. We shone a flashlight directly down on this little porcelain owl to achieve a similar effect. 


  • Miss R. plants five bushels of lupine seeds. We happen to have a bushel basket in the house, so I showed her that. Five bushels is a lot of seeds!
  • She counted all the people in the story from beginning to end, and came up with 134. 


  • Since this is a book that features gardening, Rose sprouted a bean seed in a glass jar. We watched it develop over a couple of weeks. 

Fun! She is hoping a bean will grow on it;). We also started a few amaryllis bulbs around this time, so we had lots of things growing. 

  • I took out some shells from past trips to the beach, and we listened to see if we could hear the ocean in them ~ we could!

  •  The manual called our attention to the stuffed birds in the illustration of the library where Miss R works. I asked her to identify the species shown, then she chose a bird coloring page to do.

  • Little Alice has a set routine for her life...we talked about Rose's routine and how it helps her stay healthy. Then, she set out to make  a collage of favorite foods.

Because we did this row right around Christmas time, we ended up cutting it a bit short and we never made the recipes in the FIAR cookbook ~ they looked good though, and I hope to get to them at a later point. Also, I have a note in my planner to purchase a  lupine plant this spring 💗.

Well, that's it for this row! We are currently completing our row of The Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Gray Bridge, and I should have that up soon. And in the meantime I am working on a mid-year update for each child...what we're using and a bit about how the year is going.

Thanks for stopping by!