Friday, July 18, 2014

Some Time Off

We are officially on full summer break right now. I had high hopes of finishing up math levels and read-alouds, but they were dashed when the size of my pre-vacation to-do list grew! So, looking at the calendar, we will be taking off from now until August 18th, which will be our official start date. We'll be spending a week at the beach, plus we have another week of "staycation" with Dad off from work when we will do day trips and some fun stuff at home. In between, we will have two weeks of just hanging out enjoying summer and getting set for our next year of homeschooling! I need the break and I definitely need some time to get organized!

I will be on a blogging break for the next week or so as we head off on our trip. When I get back I will be in full planning mode for a couple of weeks and will definitely have some plans to share.  If you are reading, I hope you are enjoying your summer and I will "see" you soon!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Started: Zaner-Bloser 1

Rose is my child who is always itching for something to do. She loves doing her schoolwork and always wants to do more. But I have three other kids to teach too, so sometimes she needs something she can do  independently. I need to find some more things she can do by herself to keep her busy. She started her new handwriting book today, which doesn't count as entirely independent work because she needs help with the explanations, but I can usually help someone else at the same time, so it's a start.

She is working on Zaner-Bloser Grade 1.

 She did several pages today because the book starts out very slowly. The first pages ask the child to write their name, some letters they know, and their age....

 Then she got to circle the letters in her name, she got a kick out of that. The ZB books are very colorful and user-friendly...

 I especially love the green dots that show her where to put her pencil each time! She has trouble remembering where to start letters, and I think those will be a big help....

There are also red dots that will show her where to stop letters. This is the next page she will do.

And here is the facing page, where vertical lines are explained. She will be tracing lines down the sides of the colorful houses before beginning her "l's".

I will also be having her do copywork from Writing With Ease Level 1,  but not until she starts copying words and sentences in her handwriting book. That won't be for awhile yet, but here's a sneak peek...

I jotted a note to myself in the upper-right corner to start WWE at roughly this point in the handwriting book. I want her to be comfortable writing words and short sentences before we begin.

Zaner-Bloser is the top handwriting recommendation from The Well-Trained Mind, though I don't seem to hear much about it outside of that book. I really like these handwriting books and the only downside I have found to them is that they are only available from Zaner-Bloser and you usually need to pay shipping. I have seen some complaints that they do not contain enough practice, but they seem just right to me. I would rather have her spend more time on fewer letters and words than get tired and do a whole page of messy words. 

 I also reviewed Zaner-Bloser here

Monday, July 14, 2014

Monday Musings

For the week of July 14th...

On Tap for the Week

Grace has a 3 day art workshop that will have us driving back and forth and we need to do a library run and some summer reading club business. Other than that, this week is all about getting ready for our trip! We are heading out to a family wedding at the beach followed by a week's vacation.

Thinking About

Packing, getting the house in order (I hate coming home to a messy house), getting the goat & chicken housing cleaned out, and trying to figure out some easy meals to make while on vacation. We'll have a house rental which means a kitchen to prepare meals and save some money, but I don't like to spend a lot of time on vacation cooking either. 

Outside My Window

It looks like a rainy start to the week, but this past weekend was lovely. We camped out in the backyard, which the kids had been asking to do. And by "we" I mean the boys of the family. Grace decided she didn't want to get woken up by the rooster at the crack of dawn and Rose got upset about being in the tent and wanted to sleep inside, which meant I also slept inside! 


I did a lot of weeding work over the weekend, so things are looking better. Naturally, it seems that everything is ripening just as we are about to leave for a week! The raspberries, blueberries, and green beans will be in full swing when we get back.

Homeschool Notes 

This will be a super light week. I want to continue math with James and Christopher. James and I have been really trying to hit the multiplication tables hard, using flashcards a couple times a day. He is up to division in Math Mammoth 3 and is bogged down because he doesn't know his multiplication facts well enough.

In Our Kitchen

I cooked a lot of rhubarb, but there is more to be done. I need to use a lot of kale this week, too. I realized the other day I have not made a single green smoothie all year, so that will be high on the list.

Watching & Reading 

We watched another episode of Cosmos, but we still have several more to watch. The kids are plotting books to bring on vacation. The older three like a few of the same authors, so they plan out ahead who will bring what and then they can trade books around. For Rose, I usually bring an anthology type book rather than packing a bunch of different books. This one is a favorite. 

I hope you have a wonderful week!

Friday, July 11, 2014

Combining Sonlight/Bookshark & The Well-Trained Mind

I spent a ton of time this spring researching different curriculum options for all four kids. It takes just about forever to plan a year's education for multiple kids! I knew for sure we would do the next Sonlight (or Bookshark) core, so that part was easy, but then there was math to figure out, and writing, music, art, grammar, spelling, handwriting, phonics, vocabulary, Latin, Spanish, science, and logic... and then Grace said she wanted to learn's a lot to figure out!  I enjoy researching curriculum, but at a certain point it starts to feel overwhelming to me and I start changing my mind too many times and want to just throw my hands up in the air and unschool everyone!

At one point, I got out my copy of The Well-Trained Mind to look up Greek recommendations and naturally I ended up reading through it again. And you know what? I really, really liked what I read! We have kind of strayed from "classical education" in our homeschool, though it was a mainstay in our early days. We don't do history or science in four year cycles. We don't do much copywork or dictation or use an incremental writing program. James has never done grammar and he will be in fourth grade (gasp!).

 Pretty much the only thing we held over from our WTM days was Latin, which both older kids still enjoy. But reading through that book for the fourth time? It actually sounded do-able to me for the first time! So I am switching gears a bit and combining WTM and Sonlight (or Bookshark), taking what I think will work the best for us from each.

What I want to keep from Sonlight/Bookshark

  • The core- which is the history and literature.   Having all of our history and literature readings planned out for me is a huge plus. The WTM reading lists for each year kind of bog me down, I much prefer something all laid out.  I love The Story of the World for history, but I don't like always having to look up supplemental books.  I don't really want to do outlines or pages every week for history and literature, I mostly prefer to just read and discuss the books.  And we really, really like the Sonlight book selections!

  • The science-up to Core E, anyway. I prefer Sonlight science over WTM science for younger kids. There are more experiments, more books, and a wide variety of topics. That said, I am planning to do WTM science with Rose this year, but James will do Sonlight Science D and Rose will most likely do Science B next year.

What I want to start doing WTM-style instead

  • Language Arts, definitely. We tried Sonlight language arts this year and it was kind of a flop for us. I do not think it is the fault of the program, but just that my kids don't learn well with that style.  I would like something more incremental,with more review. Also, none of my children likes to do creative writing, at least for "school work" and Sonlight tends to have quite a bit of those assignments. We used Sonlight's Grammar 5 this year, and while I enjoyed it initially, as we near the end of the program I realize we are still pretty confused. There is just not enough practice or teacher help for us. So we are going to go with  the WTM recommendations for language arts. This is already reflected in my first and fourth grade plans, and will be in my sixth and eighth grade plans once I finalize them!
  • Logic- Sonlight doesn't really stress logic, but I want to try a more in-depth study, a la the WTM
  • Science- for my older two. I do not plan to follow the WTM model of doing mostly science kits in grades 5-8, instead I am looking for something more open and go for my older two. Not sure yet what that will be, but I am going to try to jump into the science cycle with them at this point, just studying one major topic per year. I think we will either do chemistry or earth science/astronomy this year since we have been light on both of those. 
Just writing all that out helped to clarify a couple of things for me. It's been a stressful and super busy week, but I find the planning process fun and relaxing, as long as I have a general idea of the direction we are headed!  Now I just need to figure out science, art and music and then the plans will be set!

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Updated 4th grade

I updated my first grade plans for Rose, and now I think they are all set. So naturally it was time to update my fourth grade plans for James, and now I hope they are all set.

My changes....

  • We will use Bookshark's American History 1 instead of Sonlight's Core D. They are virtually the same thing, with just a few differences.  I already own Core D, so it was just a matter of getting a new Instructor Guide and a few more books. I would not have bothered, except that I wanted to update my Core anyway in order to use the revised Landmark History spine. 

  • I was going to use Bravewriter's Partnership Writing, but decided I wanted something more streamlined. Instead, we will do Writing With Ease Level 3.

  • I was going to use Sequential Spelling, but decided to stick with the recommendation in The Well-Trained Mind. He will do Spelling Workout instead.

Basically, I am just trying to simplify my decision making process with these changes. There are so many options out there it can be extremely overwhelming to settle on any one thing! I have decided to stick primarily with recommendations from The Well-Trained Mind and Sonlight/Bookshark unless I have a good reason not to. More on that in my next post!