Thursday, April 27, 2017

Rowing When I Was Young in the Mountains {FIAR}

Rose and I have finished all of the Five in a Row books I wanted to cover with her from volume two (you can see all of our rows to date here).  I chose to skip several titles from this volume for various reasons, usually (but not always) because the book was out of print and/or not available to buy.  We will not be rowing Wee Gillis; They Were Strong and Good; Babar; Down Down the Mountain; Mr. Gumpy's Motor Car; Gramma's Walk; or Follow the Drinking Gourd.

Now, I am a 'finisher' so it pains me not to do every single book, but Rose is at the upper age range for FIAR right now and that factors into my decision, too.  We will just focus on covering the titles I want to do from volume three, rather than worrying about chasing down every last book. I have about six more books I want to do from volume three, which we have already begun.

Okay, on to our row of When I was Young in the Mountains!

Here's what we did!

*Social Studies*

  • We discussed the setting for this book ~ Appalachia~ and I showed Rose the general area on the map.
  • This story features a traveling photographer. We talked about what that meant and why people needed them then and not so much  now. And I tried very hard not to cringe at this picture of the kids with a giant dead snake around their necks, because I don't want to pass my totally unreasonable fear of snakes to Rose!
  • We looked for old-fashioned details in the illustrations...such as the outhouse behind Grandma's house and the water pump the children use. 

*Language Arts*

  • I asked Rose to identify the repeating phrase that runs though the book...hint it's the title! We talked about how this choice really helps tie the whole story together.
  • We discussed the theme of the book - which the manual tells us is contentment: being happy with just having enough. The lives of the children portrayed in this story are certainly a great deal simpler than our own lives!


  • In the illustration with the water pump below, the artist chose to illustrate the sky with just a little bit of color. We discussed that technique, which we agreed was a pretty awesome and simple way to get your point across. 

  • One illustration shows Grandma pouring milk from a pitcher and we talked about how the artist drew the milk - the stream of milk is curved. I had her pour some water from a pitcher to a mug to see the effect for herself. 
  • Using the notes in the manual to start us off, we discussed some of the illustrations in greater depth. We talked about how the artist chose to portray the faces of the characters very simply, and how a limited palette of colors is used throughout. There is a wonderful double-page illustration of the general store, and we made a giant list of all of the items we could see for sale at the store. We also took some time to admire the simplicity of the dedication page and how it really sums up the simple essence of this story. 

  • Because there is a scale featured in the general store illustration, we did a quick review of pounds and ounces. Then, I had her choose several items to weigh. She chose her owl from our row of Owl Moon

  • There was a suggestion to make up math problems using the scenario of the children filling buckets at the well. So I asked if they each filled a pail, how many trips would they need to take to get six buckets, and similar problems. She also made a bar graph showing the types of animals in the story and how many times they show up in the illustrations. 

I figured it would be snakes, since they seemed to be everywhere, but actually chickens won!


  • I read Rose the information about snakes from the manual and then she made a snake egg. The idea is to soak an egg in vinegar for a few days until the shell dissolves. But two days later I was checking it and somehow managed to break the shell ~ experiment fail!

  • As suggested in the manual, we used the illustration of the family's dinner to discuss the four food groups. Then, we fixed the cornbread recipe from the FIAR cookbook and had it with pinto beans for lunch. 
And that wraps up our row of When I Was Young in the Mountains! Stay tuned for our first FIAR volume three selection!

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Fourth Grade Plans

I will be sharing our curriculum choices for next school year over the next few weeks as I slowly plan them out. First up is Rose, who will be in fourth grade next year!

Our Fourth Grade Homeschool Plans 

Language Arts 

History & Literature

I also plan to read a variety of math picture books with Rose this year. I plan to work though the list provided in The Well-Trained Mind, in the grammar stage section. I am planning to do a little series here on the blog, featuring the math picture books we read, as we read them. 



This is a subject I dropped with all of the kids this school year, but I want to try to get back to it this school year
Naturally, these plans are always subject to change, but I think this is a good starting point. Now on to planning for my rising seventh grader!

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Rowing Owl Moon {FIAR}

I still remember reading Owl Moon with Grace when she was little ~ we had checked it out from the library, and I was lucky enough to find a used copy at a book sale shortly afterwards.  This is one of those books I can almost recite by heart. You know, one of the good ones:). Our copy is a bit well-loved.

Here's what we did!

*Social Studies*
  • We discussed maturity. The main character in this story (we never learn her name) is a young girl who is finally old enough to "go owling" with her father. To do this, she has to be brave enough to walk in the dark woods and have enough self-control to stay quiet. 
  • We read the bit in the front of the book about where the story takes place - the farm shown in the illustrations is actually the farm of John Schoenherr, the illustrator.  We thought that was pretty neat!

*Language Arts*
  • We reviewed what a metaphor is using the line "The trees stood still as giant statues". Then, we hunted for similes throughout the book, as suggested in the  manual. Example: "quiet as a dream".
  • I defined hyperbole for her - this is an exaggerated statement ~ so when our main character says she stared at the owl for maybe a hundred minutes, she is using hyperbole. 
  • There are so many wonderful lines in this little picture book. We talked about how so many of the lines help us "see" the story ~ even without looking at the illustrations. 
  • This is an "I" story ~ so we discussed first person point of view briefly. 


  • Using the manual, we looked for little details in the illustrations. Many of the illustrations have animals hiding in them, for example. 

  • We carefully studied the aerial view of the farm ~ the manual suggested this was the owl's point of view. I love this illustration!

  • We discussed drawing trees, since there are so many throughout the illustrations. There was a nice explanation in the manual about how to teach your child to draw trees. I asked Rose if she'd like to do it with me, but she declined. She didn't feel confident in her ability to draw trees. I didn't push it, but next time she did an art lesson, I noticed that she included several trees. I love when that happens!

  • We reviewed units of time - how many minutes are in an hour, in two hours, in three hours, and so on. We also reviewed how many hours are in a day, two days, three days, and so on. 
  • The main character says that she and her father watched the owl for "one minute, two minutes, maybe even a hundred minutes". As suggested in the manual, I challenged Rose to tell me when she thought a minute had gone by (I used a timer). She actually got it almost to the second ~ I think doing timed poses at gymnastics helped with that!


  • There was a lot of information in the manual about owls, so I shared that with her. We looked in a local nature guide to see what kinds of owls live near us. We also checked out the owl calls in a bird call book we own. I am not sure if I have mentioned this book here on the blog before, but we absolutely adore it! We have had it for many, many years and it still works perfectly and still draws a crowd whenever someone gets it out. The dogs, however, are not fans;).

  • We talked about the moon and briefly reviewed the phases ~ we just did a project with this for Harold and the Purple Crayon, so we kept it short and sweet. 
  • We looked at the tiny tracks in the snow on the first page of the text. The manual pointed out that they are so small they could have been left out, but since they are included, they make the story that much more authentic. We whole-heartedly agreed. I had planned to go look for tracks with her, but we ran out of time. Instead, she noticed some tracks in the snow all by herself when she went out to collect eggs. 
  • The manual suggested reading "In Which Pooh and Piglet Go Hunting and Nearly Catch a Woozle". Luckily, we have The Complete Tales of Winnie-the-Pooh, so we were able to do just that. I miss reading those stories. I told Grace she should read them now, as a teenager. They actually get better with age, I think. 
  • We talked a bit about shadows, and why the father's shadow is long and the girl's is short and round. The manual pointed out that this was covered in Three Names, and I was grateful for that reminder, as I don't know if I would have thought of it on my own. 

*More Fun*
  • We made the root beer floats from the Five in a Row cookbook to go along with this story. Not really sure root beer floats had much to do with the story ~ but it was a nice excuse to make them!


  • And she dissected a real owl pellet, along with her siblings.

A close-up of her brother's pellet...I ordered a set of five and they all had neat things in them. I think Rose preferred the virtual dissection, though. 

 And that's it for this row! My next FIAR post will be about our row of When I Was Young in the Mountains. 

Thursday, March 30, 2017

April 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 April...the first month that really feels like spring around these parts! This is an update of last year's post.

Special Dates to Celebrate

*April 1st ~ April Fool's Day*

The kids like to come up with a trick or two to play on their Dad, and he and I come up with a trick or two to play on them. We always have meatloaf "sundaes" for dinner (meatloaf "brownies" baked in a muffin tin topped with mashed potato "ice cream" and cherry tomato "cherries". Dessert is usually "fried eggs" - a mound of whipped cream topped with a peach half. 

*The Full Pink Moon ~ April 11th*

It's always nice to notice when the moon is full!

*Easter ~ April 16th*

I really love when Easter is in April! We have a few fun traditions. I like to come up with a craft or two to do the week before. This year, I want to make little nests and sock rabbits with the kids. We start our "living Easter baskets" two weeks before by planting grass seed in colorful tubs ~ these later serve as Easter baskets. We color eggs, make hot cross buns, and watch Hop on Easter Eve. We do an egg hunt indoors and out on Easter morning, eat hot cross buns and boiled eggs for breakfast, and the kids each get a basket with candy and a few fun surprises. Then we usually spend the rest of the day visiting with family, and being outdoors if possible. 

* The Boston Marathon ~ April 17th*

We always have a light day of school to watch the Marathon. We keep the television on for the whole thing, and the kids filter in and out to check on the progress of the race. They also do some of their work in front of the television - a special treat. And I am hoping to make a Boston cream pie poke cake to celebrate the occasion. 

*Arbor Day ~ April 28th*

 I plan to celebrate Arbor Day Mrs. Sharp-style - one weekend day before or after will be designated for yard clean-up. Everyone that needs them will get a new pair of gardening gloves and help tidy the yard. And because I don't expect this to be terribly exciting to the kids, I am planning to bribe them with the first ice cream outing of the season! Mrs. Sharp also suggests planting something together - we may do that if time allows. 

Things to Notice and Do This Month

  • The days are getting warmer! I love doing schoolwork outside when possible
  • Stock up on Easter basket supplies
  • Buy an Easter lily for the dining table
  • Enjoy the rain
  • Listen for spring peepers in the evening
  • Continue planning for next year's homeschooling
  • Start wrapping up some of this year's subjects
  • Watch for the first butterflies on warm days
  • Clean out the garden
  • The first dandelions appear
  • The grass starts greening up
  • Time to start tick & flea treatments for our furry friends
  • Chives are up in the garden
  • We might have some rhubarb by month's end
  • Put out outdoor furniture
  • Tune up bikes/put air in tires
  • Go on a spring hike
  • Clean and hang hummingbird feeders
  • Do the taxes!
  • Plant radishes
  • Clean up houseplants - rinse dusty foliage, trim as  necessary
Happy April!

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Our Read-Aloud List & Sonlight Core 200

I love read-alouds. In our homeschool, read-alouds have always been majorly important. If I could keep only one "thing" that we do, it would be read-alouds, hands-down. We have used Sonlight (or BookShark) for years ~ and both of these are book-heavy programs. I love that. We are all about books here. But a couple of years into using three different Sonlight/Bookshark levels something began to feel a Eventually I realized I really missed reading to everyone together. My oldest two are 16 and 14 and have completed all of the Sonlight and BookShark read-alouds (after SL Core H, there are no more assigned read-alouds).  My youngest two are 12 and 8, for the record.

So, I decided that since I really missed reading to everyone all at once, I could just start ~ reading to everyone all at once. Genius right? But I decided that it wouldn't have to be a long and complicated thing, just 15 minutes a day or so, with a bit of discussion afterwards. Well, we are on our third "together" read-aloud book, and this is working so well for us.

As I said, we are Sonlight/BookShark users. I prefer to use BookShark, because it is secular, but alas, the high school levels of BKSK did not release early enough for my oldest to use. So she will finish BookShark 100 (tomorrow!) and begin Sonlight Core 300. We chose to skip Core 200 (History of the Christian Church). However, there were many books in the literature section of Core 200 that I wanted to read with the kids, so I decided to make those my read-aloud list. That way we don't miss out on them, and we have a set list of books we can enjoy together.

These are going to be our "together" read-alouds:

  • Outlaws of Sherwood
  • The Best of Father Brown
  • The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde ~ we actually just finished this one!
  • Enchantress from the Stars
  • The Gammage Cup
  • Going Solo
  • Jane Eyre
  • Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH
  • Oliver Twist
  • A Parcel of Patterns
  • Robinson Crusoe
  • Romeo and Juliet ~ Shakespeare Made Easy version
  • Treasure Island
  • Twelfth Night ~ Shakespeare Made Easy version

I may or may not get the Sonlight instructor guide that goes with the Core 200 literature program - we are already one book in without it and I do find that I miss having the notes handy. Either way, I think this list will appeal to most of my kids ~ though I may hold off on Jane Eyre and Oliver Twist until we have read through the others. I don't plan to read through these on any sort of schedule; we'll just spend a few minutes a day working through them. 

As for my younger two, who do still have BookShark read-alouds, I will continue those with them. I am currently reading Strawberry Girl with Rose from BookShark 2. James is working on BookShark Eastern Hemispheres and he and I have been on a bit of a break from read-alouds lately, but we are going to start reading Daughter of the Mountains next week. 

Thanks for stopping by and happy reading!