Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Our homeschool calendar for the year

Last year, we tried out year-round homeschooling and really, it worked quite well. The calendar I made then (see the link) lasted through June and we stuck to it fairly closely. But when we got around to this past July and August I really needed more than just a couple of weeks off. We had a week away and another week off at home with Dad and summer camps, plus I had a lot of planning I wanted to we only worked through July 4th and started up again last week, taking about 6 weeks off for summer. That was more than I had planned to take off and it didn't exactly set us up to be able to cover everything I want to this year and still take a week off every month, but I think I'm okay with that. We needed a long break.

So this year, 2014-2015, I modified last year's calendar a bit, mainly to include a bigger summer break.  We will be doing lessons throughout most of June and then breaking until the middle of August.

I found this calendar on the Donna Young site, it is the "ruled printable school calendar". I used color coding to show weeks we will homeschool and weeks we will have off - school weeks are in red and breaks are in blue. Obviously, it will need to be adjusted as the year goes on, because nothing much goes as planned does it? But I find having that initial plan very helpful to keep us on track and to keep me motivated.  I also broke down most of our subjects into a 36 week plan so that we have a master list to follow each week. I am hoping this will help keep us on track to actual finish those math books in a year. We'll see.  I'll do a separate post on that planning. 

This year's planned calendar looks like this...

August 18th-October 10th- School weeks 1-7 ( actually 8 weeks, to let us "ease in" a bit)
October 12th-October 18th- Autumn Break
October 20th-November 21st- School weeks 8-12
November 24th-30th- Thanksgiving Break
December 1st-12th- School weeks 13 & 14
December 13th-January 4th- Christmas & New Year's Break
January 5th-February 27th- School weeks 15-22
March 1-8th- Late Winter Break
March 9th-April 26th-School Weeks 23-28
April 27th-May 3rd-Spring Vacation
May 4th-June 30th-School Weeks 29-36

Again, I fully expect this calendar to get messed up, I just find it helpful to have a plan and to know when a break is coming up. It really helps me stick to it if we are having a rough week and I can look ahead and see that we are just two weeks away from a week off.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Mark Kistler's Draw 3D Review

Last week was our first week back to homeschooling after our summer break, and while there were definitely some ups and downs and kinks that still need working out, overall it was a success. Everyone's favorite part of last week? Our Mark Kislter Draw 3D subscription from Homeschool Buyer's Co-op!

I waffled so much about ordering this. I had originally considered Atelier, then decided it was way out of our budget. At $40 for a year of art instruction, this program was much more reasonable. I had the kids watch the sample lesson on HSBC and they all enjoyed it, so I went for it. Every single one of the kids love it so far, which is a rarity around here! I had them take turns doing their art last Friday, rather than everyone doing it all together. They actually seemed to prefer it that way. I think they were able to focus more and felt more willing to experiment without other eyes peering over their shoulders and commenting.

With our subscription we can log in to multiple computers at one time, so Grace did her drawing lesson in the kitchen while Christopher did his in our library room. James enjoyed the lessons so much that he asked to do two when it was his turn-and he doesn't usually love art projects. Rose and I did two lessons together and it was so much fun that I plan to continue my own lessons throughout the year, instead of frantically trying to catch up on dishes and laundry during art time. The equipment needed is very basic, just some paper and a set of drawing pencils. I was glad to have actual drawing pencils for shading and blending parts of the drawing.

And I was so impressed with the drawings! Grace is the one in our family that I consider "the artist", but everyone's work really impressed me! Even I was able to draw something more than a stick figure, which made me very happy.

Rose (6) "Dinosaur in Volcano"

Christopher (11) "Venus Fly Trap"

James (9) "Venus Fly Trap"

James "Shark"

Grace (13) "Caterpillar"
And my flying marshmallows!

The Venus flytrap and shark lessons are available for free at Mark Kistler Draw 3D. Subscribing gives you many more options for lessons. There are step-by-step animated lessons and videos for beginners through advanced. There are also "mini-marshmallow" lessons for kids four and up. Rose and I are starting with those! For each video lesson, Mark shows you exactly what to do to get fantastic results. In the video that Rose and I watched he went over foreshortened circles, shadows, and shading while we drew our flying marshmallows and dinosaur in a volcano. I learned a lot about drawing in just 30 minutes.

The one concern I had about this program is that the drawing tends to be very "cartoony" and I wasn't sure Grace would be into that, but she doesn't mind at all. The techniques learned could obviously be applied to any style of drawing. 

We all love this program and are looking forward to our next lesson!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Organizing Rightstart Math

I am using Rightstart Math B this year with Rose, my first grader. I had previously used Righstart through level C with my older three, and then Grace used up through level D. I switched because it just felt so teacher- intensive to me. Righstart involves a lot of other equipment besides the lesson book. You also need things like photocopies of various sheets, game cards, the abacus, geoboard, balance, student clock, a music CD, square tiles, fraction tiles, and game cards, though not all in each lesson of course!

This year, I had planned on starting Rose on Math Mammoth, but changed my mind at the last minute. The samples I saw for MM1 involve an awful lot of writing, which she is not ready for, plus it just seemed too dry for first grade math. I already had an ancient, well-used (and cover-less!) copy of Rightstart B on my shelf. It is not pretty anymore....


But I figured it would still do the trick, so I resisted the urge to buy a new one. Even though I have found Righstart to be quite teacher-intensive, I love the math foundation the older three got from it and wanted the same for my little one. I knew though, that to use this program, I would have to be more organized. Teaching four kids makes for a very busy homeschool day and I knew I would just get frustrated if I had to hunt down maniupulatives and all the little pieces Rightstart requires each day. So I spent part of a summer afternoon making the program more open and go and putting everything together on a shelf. Here's a little tour of what is on that math shelf.

First, I purchased this cute little bin from Rainbow Resource Center, for less than four dollars. It is their "small utility caddy" and it comes in a ton of fun colors. I use it to store the items we use most often. The contents will most likely change over the course of the year, but right now I have an abacus, our Yellow is the Sun book, tally sticks, the place value cards, a set of plastic coins, and some math game cards.

I also keep a little baggie of plastic animals in here. Righstart lessons often require a certain number of items to use as aids to teach ordinal numbers, less/more concepts, and things like that.  With the bag right there, I don't have to get up and grab anything. These are just little things collected over the years that have been taking up space in the house, so it is nice to give them a function!

This tote comes along for every math lesson and it is small enough that Rose can grab it and bring it out along with her book. We can easily grab it and do our lesson on the back porch or at the picnic table. Obviously, all of our supplies don't fit in the little purple tote, so I also keep a larger basket on the shelf with some of the the bigger or less-often-used items.

In here, I have a box of colored square tiles, our hundred squares, more game cards, our skip-counting envelopes, and a set of geo-boards.

 In the back of the basket, I keep a folder containing most of the appendix pages. I bought the set of appendices available for this level so that I wouldn't have to make all those photocopies and I am very glad I did!

 Appendix pages that will be used more than once are stored in a binder outfitted with page protectors. In here, I keep things like:

A part-whole circle set....

 The Swim to Ten Game....

And the practice sheets (so she can do them with a dry-erase marker)...

 At the back of the binder, I put several copies of the "math journal" pages which are used frequently throughout the program....

Because Rose is my last child to go through this program, I am having her do the worksheets right in the worksheet book, rather than photocopying them all. There are not many worksheets at this level, which is nice.

And here is everything on the shelf. I have the bigger basket, the caddy, the math book and book of worksheets, my binder, a large teaching clock, and an extra abacus. Also, you can't see it here, but in the corner I keep a tub of pattern block and pattern block cards, just for a little something extra if she is bored.

And that completes the tour of our math shelf and how I organized Righstart! I am sure I will have more thoughts to share on this program as the year progresses. Right now, she is absolutely loving it!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Eighth Grade Plans

My eighth grade plans are the last in the line-up. If you are interested, you can also see my plans for my first-grader, my fourth-grader, and my sixth grader.

Grace has a good deal of overlap with her brother as always, since they have been sharing Sonlight Cores for a few years.

Grade 8 Curriculum 

Literature & History


Language Arts




Analytical Grammar Set | Main photo (Cover)



She requested "high school level science" this year, starting with biology, so our line-up includes:

  • Miller-Levine Biology - I ordered the textbook, Lab Manual A, and the teacher's lab manual from Pearson. There is also an interactive ibook version of the textbook, which last I checked was only about $15, so we may add that in.

  • Source readings- She is going to do source readings as suggested in The Well-Trained Mind. I had her look through the list in the book and choose a few. I doubt she will get through all of them-some look like tough reading! She chose De Rarum Natura (Lucretius), Natural History (Pliny), Origin of Species (Darwin), and Silent Spring (Rachel Carson).




Critical Thinking Book One    Critical Thinking Book Two


Grace is really into foreign languages and wanted to add Greek this year. I am not sure how that will go, as she also wants to continue Latin and Spanish.We are starting with a gentle introduction to the Greek alphabet, plus continuing with the next levels of the Latin and Spanish programs she did last year.


Art, Music, Etc.

I think that's it! We are planning to start up on Monday and I will hopefully do a post at some point over the year on each of the programs we are using.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Sixth Grade Plans

I think I finally have my sixth grade plans for Christopher together! There will be quite a bit of overlap between his curriculum and his older sister's, but  hers will be posted separately later on.

Grade 6 Curriculum

Literature & History



Language Arts



Analytical Grammar Set | Main photo (Cover)


He will be doing logic-stage science WTM-style this year. I haven't worked out every detail, but we will be starting with Creepy Crawlies and the Scientific Method, then doing science kits per interest. I'll post more info later.

Math 6 Teaching Textbook

  • Life of Fred Mineshaft, Fractions, and Decimals & Percents (or whatever he can get through)



Critical Thinking Book One    Critical Thinking Book Two


  • Latin for Children A- he finished Lively Latin 1 last year, but I think a year to solidify and review would be helpful, so we are starting with Level A rather than B.

  • Rosetta Stone Spanish-we dropped this towards the end of last year because he was getting too frustrated by it. We will pick it back up if he is able. 

Art, Music, Etc.

And I think that's it!!