Monday, December 20, 2010


J has much higher motivation to do all of our school tasks for the day if he has a part in planning when he gets to do them. I have been making cards for each day and having J and E put them in the order they want to do them but I wanted something we could hang up so the boys could look at it. I also wanted to incorporate day of the week, month, and date into our learning. I bought a pocket chart.
Product Details
I made cards for each day of the week, date, month, subjects, and play time. In the morning J, E, and I change the day, date, and if necessary the month cards and put the subjects that we need to cover that day in the order the boys want to do them in. This system has also helped me get a bit more order in our days and has helped the boys anticipate what their day will look like.

Learning to Write

We have been working through "Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Lessons." As many of the reviews said and I heard from some homeschooling friends, the book it boring but the lessons are quick. I am using the book with both J and E. The book has a writing section for the sounds they are learning in the lesson. J does fine writing with a pencil but it was too frustrating for E. After the first frustrating lesson, I decided I needed to use something else for teaching writing with E. I filled the bottom of a 9x13 glass dish with flour and E writes with his pointer finger. This is working really well. I always give him the choice to write on the chalk board, the white board, or in the flour and he always chooses flour. He takes the flour out at other points in the day just to write in it.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Math Game

E just discovered War (the card game). This has been a great way to teach him number order and more and less.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Dealing with Difficult Days

We had a hard day yesterday. Everything went wrong. Everybody was cranky. So last night I spent a bit of time coming up with some ideas to give the kids a little more control in deciding when they get to do different activites each day. This morning we brain stormed all of the things we wanted and needed to do today. We put each activity on an index card and I had the kids order the activities how they wanted to do them. J decided we should do the longest thing first so he decided to put learning to read and write first. It is actually not the longest activity but it is his least favorite at this point. Some examples of our activity cards: Read Book (this one made it in 3 times), play Hide and Seek, play bow and arrows + princess (I was the princess today), coloring time, learn to read, cook with mama, go to grocery store, and play math game. Tonight I ordered a pocket chart to make things more permanent and so that I do not need to have index cards taped to my wall. The kids and I will
Smethport Midsize Pocket chart (742)make a stack of activity cards which they will put in the order they would like to do them each day.

I also made a star chart. My boys love prizes. This seemed to work well today. I gave them a star if they got the activity card done without complaining. If they fill up the chart they will get some sort of prize.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Unifix Cubes

We have been playing with Unifix cubes this week. Writing went out this window this week but math is still going strong. Thanks in part to Unifix cubes and some new math games.
100 Unifix Cubes
We have used the cubes this week for visualizing skip counting, visualizing simple addition and subtraction problems, making patterns, and using to make estimates of length. I also picked up "Developing Mathematics with Unifix." I have not had much time to read through the book but it looks like it will be useful. By just paging through the book it seems I need more Unifix supplies in order to do some of the later lessons. It looks like I will need Tens and Units Trays, 1-100 Operational Board, and 1-100 Track

Sunday, December 5, 2010


Save pieces of packing paper you get when you order some things online. I got two 8 foot pieces of paper from 2 different amazon purchases. This paper works well for many different crafts and learning adventures. We have used pieces of this paper so far for our THANKSGIVING banner, our Jesse Tree, and our body prints. Plus, you can talk about reduce, reuse, recycle!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Learning Games

We like to play board games and card games. I just purchased a few games for school. It is nice to see the boys learning without even knowing it.

Sum Swamp This one I really liked. You roll 2 dice with numbers 1-6 and one die with three plus signs and three minus signs. You make a number sentence with the numbers and the sign and solve it to move forward. I played with J, age 5.5, and E, age 3 (4 in less than a month). They both did great. I gave each of them a pile of uncooked garbanzo beans to use as manipulatives to help with visualizing the problem. I could easily change a couple parts of this game when the boys are ready to move on to multiplication and division.

Money Bags: Again we played this with E and J. Both enjoyed playing. You collect money for doing different chores. Before collecting the money for the chore you landed on, you spin the spinner. If you land on a no nickels, you cannot use nickels to get to the total amount of money you got for the chore you landed on. Same for dimes and quarters. I can see many ways of changing this game to use when the boys can do higher math functions.

Cooperative Game of Jungle Suspense Danger and Teamwork, Caves and Claws

Caves and Claws: This is a cooperative game. Both E and J really like to play. We got this just yesterday and have already played five times. I like that it is cooperative.

Bananagrams: To play this according to the directions is a bit beyond the boys but it works well for learning letters. We poured the letters out on the table and flipped them all letter up. We then asked the two younger boys to find certain letters. S, age 2.5, and E are still learning letter names and sounds. With J, I gave him Bob Book Set 1, book 1 and had him spell out the first couple of pages with the Bananagrams.

Imaginative Play

This article reminded me why I wanted to homeschool J this year.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Jesse Tree Day 2

We are a couple of days behind in our Jesse Tree because of a late start. Last night we read about taking care of the world that God created and discussed some ways that we could do that. One of those ways the kids came up with was picking up garbage outside. When we walk in our neighborhood we see A LOT of garbage on the ground. This is mostly because we are in the city and there are many student rentals near our apartment. This morning we had to walk to drop off our rent check about 8 blocks away. Before we left I armed the kids with plastic bags and we picked up garbage while we walked. We ended up filling 3 bags to overflowing. After returning to the apartment building, we went in the basement and sorted the garbage from the recyclables. I want my kids to have a mind for taking care of the world that God gave us.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Happy December!

We started our Jesse Tree this morning. Thanks to the Reformed Church of America website, we have daily lessons and thanks to D and me, we have some (fairly awful) ornament pictures for the kids to color with each lesson.

We also finished up "Liberty or Death" this morning. Josiah was cheering, "yeah America! We won against so many British!"

Over the past month, J (sometimes E) has been listing to "The Chronicles of Narnia" radio theatre. I could not count how many hours he has had the stories playing. He LOVES them. If you are looking for a good CD version of the Chronicles of Narnia, I would highly recommend this version. Our house has been filled with Narnia quotes and sword fights ever since we started listening. We have also used it for long car trips. The kids will go for hours without a word while they listen.

We started learning about clocks this week using "Clockwise K-3" and an old book we have with a clock with hands that move. I also pulled out an old watch where I could turn the dial and move the time for J to see time changing. This morning he spent 9 minutes cuddling in bed with me while telling me each time our digital clock changed. I thought we should teach him to tell time because he kept reading the numbers this way: "it is now seven, dot dot, one five." Amusing.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Thus Far...

The nitty gritty of our day is not so nitty gritty. I attempt to make J think he has done very little "school" each day. We read. We play. We listen. There is a war going on in me about how to set up homeschool. Half of me wants to just let school happen and the other uber-organized part of me wants to plan out every inch of our day. A compromise has been worked out. I plan general units for the week or month. Not specifics for each day. Just topics.

For the last two weeks we have been talking about the Revolutionary War. J LOVES war, guns, swords talking with our local children's librarian we found a great series called "Dear America." We are reading one of the books in the series about the Revolutionary War called "The Journal of William Thomas Emerson." It is great because it is about a boy who lived during the time of the Revolutionary War in Boston, Massachusetts. We also picked up a Magic Tree House series book called "Revolutionary War on Wednesday" and the Magic Tree House Research Guide called "American Revolution." I like using fiction paired with non-fiction. Along with all of these books, we picked up multiple kids history books about the war; our favorite being "Liberty or Death: the American Revolution 1763-1783." I have a Netflix account and am able to access through it a series called "Liberty Kids." This was where J's initial interest in the Revolutionary War came from. He watched one episode and wanted to know more.

Before the Revolutionary War, we talked Pilgrims. We read "The Journal of Jasper Jonathan Pierce" from the Dear America series, "Thanksgiving on Thursday" from the Magic Tree House series, and multiple non-fiction books about pilgrims and the Mayflower.

I try to work in some arty fun each week. Last month we hung a huge piece of paper and did a project each day with a letter from the word THANKSGIVING. Below the word we filled it with handprint Mayflower pictures, paper weaving of a piece of corn and pumpkin pictures. For this coming month we are going to attempt our first Jesse Tree. I have never done a Jesse Tree but I would love to learn more so here we go!

READING (teaching this scares me silly): J can sound small words out. He has known his letters and their sounds for awhile but he has no interest it learning how to read right now. I am trying not to force it but some days my brain freaks out that I am ruining his learning life by not pushing him to read. Then I remember to calm down and remember he is only 5. I have found a few great learning to read helps. Number 1: Starfall Number 2: Bob Books

We love science at our house. My husband is a biologist and I have a teaching degree for grades 7-12 Science (and English but that was more so I could read more fiction books during college). Right now I am using the "I Wonder Why" books as jumping boards for talking about science related subjects. Last week we made body prints by tracing each kids outline on a huge piece of paper. After reading about bones, nerves, and brains in "I Wonder Why I Blink" the boys were given free reign to fill in their body prints with bones. I had them feel for bones on their bodies and try to put those bones on their body print. It was a really fun activity. The boys spent at least an hour working on their prints.

Some other topics we have covered this year in science, sink or float, density of different liquids, cheetahs, Earth orbit, seasons, plants, chipmunks, squirrels, and snakes. The boys get a big lesson in ecology each summer while we are in Iceland for D's work. I am proud to admit that all of my boys love insects and spiders and have absolutely no fear of handling them. D has taken the 2 older boys out in the field with him collecting spiders multiple times.

And now for the what next in homeschooling...

Homeschooling Mama

Why homeschool? We move a lot. We have a boy with a summer birthday who still naps many days of the week. We spend months of the year in a foreign country. I have a teaching degree and am a SAHM. We have 3 boys close together in age who love to play together (and fight together). I was not ready to have our oldest gone for such a long part of the day. All of these things, and more, went into our decision to do school from home this year. It is a tester year. I am not committed for life. I am trying it out and some days I love what I am trying and some days I look forward to the day we send them all off to school.

This blog will chronicle ours days of school and some of the fun and frustration that goes into those days. It will also be a motivation for me to plan more for our days.