Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Reading aloud

It was a snowy, blowy day here yesterday, a perfect day for reading aloud, which I spent much of my morning doing! So I thought I'd do a little round-up of each child's current read-alouds.  The first book is their daytime read-aloud. Rose and James have their own, Christopher and Grace share one since they also share Bookshark World History. The second book is our bedtime read-aloud. And yes, I do still read aloud to all the kids at bedtime - even my fourteen year old!

With Rose (6)

I am reading Caddie Woodlawn with her because Bookshark has Little House in the Big Woods scheduled and we read that not too long ago. She wouldn't mind re-reading it, but we can't find it. We had Caddie excerpts one week for her Writing with Ease assignments and she really wanted to hear the whole story. It is a much longer and wordier book than Little House, but so far so good. We are both enjoying it. 

  I can't believe that we are on the last of the Little House books! The First Four Years is much shorter than the other books in this series, so it will go quickly. I have to do some editing here and there, such as not reading parts about children freezing to death in snow storms. Everyone handles such things differently of course, but I just can't handle reading such things to a sensitive six year old at bedtime. So I do skip a page here and there. And I have added this to my wishlist for when we finish this series.

With James (9)

I am surprised that The Secret of the Sealed Room has so few reviews on Amazon. We are reading this for Bookshark's American History 1 and it is one of our favorite books in this level so far. We are really enjoying puzzling out the mystery.  

Edited: We actually finished this book today, doing a double reading because we wanted to know the answer!

James and I have been working our way slowly through the excellent Story of the World series at bedtime and we are now up to the final volume! I was really very interested to see how Susan Wise Bauer would handle some of the tough issues in recent history and so far I have been very pleased. She has done an excellent job in sharing just enough information to get the point across and help kids understand,  but not so much that reading about the Holocaust turns into a traumatic event.  If you are reading this series with a younger reader, I would probably pre-read potentially disturbing sections, but this has been right on target age-wise for James. 

With Christopher (12) and Grace (14)


My kids love reading Greek mythology so The Trojan War is right up their alley. They already know the whole story forwards and backwards but they are enjoying hearing it again. This has been one of our most popular read-alouds so far. My other two are always listening in as well. It is a pretty simple retelling and easy enough to follow. I wish it had a pronunciation guide, because I am always having to ask Grace how to say the names.

With Christopher


He and I were kind of stuck for what to read at bedtime one night, so I grabbed The Children of Green Knowe off the shelf. It is okay so far. It is kind of an odd book in that the writing style is targeted at a young age - probably 6/7, but  parts of the back story are a bit disturbing and seem better suited to older kids. It is definitely a bit young to read with Christopher, but we started it and are interested enough to keep reading.

With Grace

With Grace, I like to read classic books that I think she should experience but is reluctant to read on her own. She is very much into fantasy books, and it is hard to talk her into reading much else, except for her schoolwork. Lately we have been reading Watership Down, which I can't remember ever having read myself. It just seemed like one of those books you really ought to read. She did balk a little about reading about rabbits, but I asked her to just give it a try for a couple of nights and now we are both enjoying it. I would not read this with a much younger child, as I think they would probably either be bored or disturbed (or both!) by some of the happenings. And yes, it is long! We'll be reading this one for quite some time.

As far as my own books go, I started a page on the blog for my 52 books challenge where I am planning to list books as I finish them.

Happy reading!

Monday, January 26, 2015

For the week of January 26th...



Plans for this week

Anticipating a big snowstorm, picking up our farm share... and figuring out how on earth to use up so many carrots, visiting with friends, watching the rest of the The Return of the King with the kids, a trip to the Lego store with some birthday money, hopefully a riding lesson for Grace, painting the new game shelves, and of course, watching the Superbowl!
Thinking about

  Superbowl menus. Groundhog day, because I always like to have a little something planned. And vacations! We are just starting to plan a trip for the spring that is a little further flung than we normally go for, plus a much more local summer trip.

Homeschool notes

Grace is almost finished with Latin for Children B and she has decided to move into Latin Alive, so I have that on order. She has been getting a little bored with our biology plan lately, mostly because she doesn't want to write a science paper each week. Our new plan is to alternate weeks:  a short science paper one week, then a summary of her Story of the World chapter the next. I also really want to get back to watching documentaries on Fridays like we did last year, but I am having so much trouble getting the kids up and moving on Fridays! It takes just about forever to get everyone up, fed, showered, dressed, and chores done. And Fridays are a short day because we are out all afternoon. I am going to see if the reward of a documentary is enough to get them moving Friday mornings.

Out of doors

Well there is snow, and much more snow coming. I have been wanting a big snowstorm, now I am not so sure I am ready! Rose is happy because she really wants to make snow ice cream.

In the kitchen

So much birthday cake this week! Christopher chose a chocolate mocha cake for his actual birthday and a vanilla cake for his family party. I have decided we are trying to cook too complicated on weeknights and I want to take it down a notch. I am coming to the realization that I just can't devote much more than a half-hour to dinner prep and my menu plan should really reflect that!

Watching & reading

I finished The Ocean at the End of the Lane (a decent quick read, but I can't say I understood what it was all about), and I'm now reading Broadchurch and Knitting Yarns.  We went to see Into the Woods and it was good, but a bit longer than it really needed to be. We also watched Mr. Peabody & Sherman , which is a really fun movie, especially with history-loving kids. 

Have a wonderful week!

Friday, January 23, 2015

Writing with Ease Level 3 Review

I just did a little review of Writing with Ease Level 1, so I figured I might as well review the other level of WWE happening at our house this year - Writing with Ease Level 3. James is using WWE 3 this year for fourth grade. I started him in Level 3 rather than Level 4 because he had never done dictation before. This level has been perfect for him - not too easy and not too hard- although he may not necessarily agree with me there! I will admit that I get a fair amount of complaining on dictation days, but we just keep up with it and his skills are definitely improving!


WWE 3 is set up basically the same as WWE 1.  The major difference is that the child does dictation instead of copywork. Like WWE 1, this level is broken up into 36 weeks of lessons, with four lessons each week. While WWE 1 focused on one book per week, WWE 3 focuses on either one book or one topic per week. There is a good mix of literature, poetry, history, and science passages. To give you an idea of the week focuses on The Moffats, with passages and dictation taken from that book. Another week is all about magic, and the dictation sentences and passages are pulled from both a book about magic tricks and a book about Houdini. Yet another week focuses on authors, with two days spent on Laura Ingalls Wilder and two on Dr. Seuss. This adds a lot of interest to what could otherwise be a pretty repetitive subject. It also means that if James finds one week boring, he may very well enjoy the next week. 

Just like in WWE 1, the WWE 3 workbook consists of scripted lessons followed by removable student pages. For this level, I am not removing the student pages like I am doing for Level 1. I bought the student pages PDF from Peace Hill Press and I print them as needed. This way I can preserve the whole book for Rose and save a little money. You could also preserve the book by having your student do their writing in a separate notebook, but I find the pre-made pages convenient.

Okay, so here is how the program is set up!

Day 1 is a narration day.  The student is assigned a one or two page passage to read.  James reads the assignment, then I ask him for a summary. Questions and/or prompts are provided and I almost always use these to help him collect his thoughts and pick out the important bits. Several example narrations are included to give you an idea of what to expect for a narration. I find these very helpful to get him going in the right direction and I often read the first few words of the example if he doesn't know how to start. The examples also give me a solid idea of what the passage is about, without actually reading it myself.

Day 2 is a dictation day. Dictation is not my child's favorite subject! But I feel the dictations in this book are very age appropriate and not overly challenging, unlike the longer dictations in Level 4. Background information is given to read to the child first. For example, on the day the child will take dictation from Humphrey's Bear, there is a very short summary of the book, and the scene is set for what went on just before the dictation sentences. Then we get on to the dictation! I read the sentence(s) three times, pausing slightly at commas and longer at periods. This can be a bit tricky and sometimes I have to read it a couple of extra times to get it just right. If there is unusual punctuation or spelling I let him look the sentences over first. Then I repeat the sentences or prompt him with single words as needed. I have yet to sit down and have him get it all on the first try, he usually needs another reading. You are asked to watch the child as they write, which is so important.  I admit I get bored watching him slowly write out each word and so will often take the opportunity to empty the dishwasher, help someone else, switch the laundry over, etc.. I am nearly always sorry when I do this, because I often come back to find a mistake. It is far better to catch mistakes right away than it is to have to erase and rewrite at the end. After the dictation there is sometimes a short assignment,  such as circling the prepositions in the sentences.

Day 3 is a narration and dictation day. Just like in day 1, the child reads a passage and you help him summarize it, recording his summary for him. Then you choose one or two of his sentences to dictate to him.

Day 4 is a dictation day again.

And then you move on to the next week! Right now, this is all that James does for writing, though I have been considering having him do a summary each week in history or science. I did not take pictures of any of the pages for this level, but they are not very different from Level 1, so just click here if you want to get an idea of what a completed student page looks like.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Writing with Ease: a little review

Rose and I are finishing up week 8 of Writing With Ease Level 1, so it seems like a good time to do a little review of this program. This is my fourth time (or so) going through this book.  Honestly, I was expecting a lot of complaints from Rose about this program, but there have been very few so far. For whatever reason,  this program has caused much less whining from my girls than my boys. I think it is probably a fine motor control issue? That is not to say that I would not use this program with boys, though - James and I are using Level 3 right now and I will do a separate post on that later in the week. It is just that I have experienced far fewer complaints from my girls when it is time for writing! I think that might be true for homeschooling in general though....hmm.

Most weeks of WWE follow the same pattern. The book is divided into 36 weeks with four lessons per week, making scheduling super easy. Each lesson focuses on a particular literature selection, which I really love. We have had weeks on Little House, Pinocchio, and Alice and Wonderland, to name a few. Copywork and narration assignments are drawn from the book of the week. It is great fun when we get a book we have already read, almost like meeting an old friend. And when it is a book that is new to her, Rose invariably asks to read it as a bedtime book. Those little passages do a good job of piquing her interest in the whole book!

The WWE workbook consists of scripted lessons followed by student pages. The student pages are perforated, so that you can tear them out for the student to use.  Peace Hill Press also sells a PDF of the student pages if you want to keep your book intact.  I do tear the pages out of mine and it is working out great. I have enough stuff to print as it is, and since Rose will be my last to go through this book, I have no real reason to save it. I love that the book is getting smaller as we go along - clear evidence of our progress! Finished pages get hole-punched and filed in her language arts binder. I should mention that Rose is six, and we are using this for first grade.

Okay, on to what the program is like!

Each day of the week is a bit different, which mixes things up nicely. Day 1 is a copywork day. There are two sentences to choose from, depending on the student's ability. I always let Rose copy the shorter one. If she balks at doing it - which is rare - I tell her that she can choose her sentence for the day. Naturally she chooses the shorter one I would have picked anyway, but she feels like she is getting away with something.

The sentence is printed right on the student page, with room for the copywork below.  On copywork day there is often a suggestion or two in the lesson for discussing the sentences. These might include  giving background information about the book or pointing out proper nouns or punctuation.

Day 2 is a narration day. A short passage from the book of the week is included, along with questions to help you assess comprehension.  There is a reminder to have your child answer these questions using complete sentences. At first I felt kind of stupid asking Rose to do this, but I have come to see it as an excellent way for her to practice expressing herself.  After the questions, you ask the child to tell you one thing they remember, which you then record on the student page.  The narration pages are decorated with a drawing based on the story, a nice little touch.

Day 3 is a copywork day again.

Day 4 is a narration day for the first few weeks, then it becomes a narration and copywork day. These student pages have space for you to record one thing your child remembers about the passage, followed by space for them to write the sentence themselves. If the sentence is too long to comfortably copy, you can have them copy just part of it.  I love the little ink drawings on these pages, they add a little fun.

Copywork length increases very gradually in this level. Different kinds of punctuation are introduced as well. This is enough writing for Rose right now - we don't add anything except a handwriting program.  Also, once or twice a week she narrates to me from our science reading and I write that down for her.

 WWE has been very easy to add into our homeschool days. Most days our writing lesson takes only 10-15 minutes. This program is beautifully open and go and very user-friendly. It is deceptively simple but really builds a great foundation for more complex writing.  I love it!

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

reading and knitting

I need to get some new knitting projects going on here. I am still working on my very simple afghan, just row after row of knit stitches. I am slipping the first stitch of every row, like in this pattern, which creates a neat edge pretty easily. My plan is to knit two skeins of each color until the afghan is big enough.  I'm not sure yet what color I am going to do after this blue, maybe gray?  I have some soft gray yarn kicking around from a failed pair of wrist warmers. After knitting a bunch of wool hats this past fall, I am pretty attached to wool yarn,  but I wanted something very easy care for this afghan.  I am using Red Heart Soft, which I picked up for about $3 a skein at Michael's. For such an inexpensive basic yarn, it is quite nice to work with.  So far it is standing up well, so hopefully it will prove to be durable and washable. We shall see! I expect this afghan to take a couple of years (at least!) because I only work on it when we watch a movie or documentary with the kids, or when we take a long car long as I am in the passenger seat, of course!

My little 52 books in 52 weeks project is going very well. I am working on book number two right now, This House is Haunted, which I think is just such an awesome title. And I love the book! It is well-written and old-fashioned and spooky....just right for a winter's night read, although I admit I had trouble falling asleep one night after reading it!