Sunday, December 20, 2009


I have been getting some spam comments lately, so I have enabled "word verification" for comments. Hopefully this will cut down on it. I apologize for the inconvenience. Please don't let it keep you from leaving your thoughts.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Week 11 Report


We studied the Depression and the Dust Bowl this week. I chose a book from TOG Classic for read-aloud. I already owned this one, so I chose it over the Redesign selection. (I'm such a rebel.) The kids loved the book. Robert, whose mind sometimes wanders during read-aloud time, begged me each day to keep reading.

This subject definitely sparked some great discussions. We talked about what caused the depression and what got us out of it. Also, with today's economic climate, we talked about whether it could happen again.


We finished Mary Poppins this week. Both kids liked it, but Robert especially loved the book. I shouldn't be surprised by that. He really enjoys quirky books (Roald Dahl is one of his favorite authors) and this fit the bill. He's already talking about reading the other books in the series.


Ruth continues with Apologia Elementary Zoology I (Flying Creatures). She was telling me how the albatross, who soars through the air effortlessly, has a terrible time taking off and landing. So, what's a mom to do, but search youtube for a video. We came across this one. It's very funny, but shows the point well. That poor bird.

Robert's science is a point of great homeschooling angst right now. He's been really struggling with Apologia General Science. He failed the first two tests miserably. I thought it was a study skills problem, so he and I worked together throughout this last chapter. I realized he's not getting the concepts of the material (and, while he did better on the test, still made a 67). After talking to a friend, and also bringing it up on a homeschool message board I visit, I realized something. Robert really struggles with reading comprehension. It is very possible that the "chattiness" of Apologia (which I love) is getting in the way of the technical information. So, I'm going to try a couple of chapters of BJU Science 6 (that I already have) with him to see if that is a better fit. If it is, I'll then have to decide if I'm going to continue with Science 6, or buy their 7th grade science. I hate wasting time like this with a curriculum that doesn't work.

I'm feeling the pressure of making sure the kids are ready for high school and it really weighs me down at times.

Math, writing, art, etc. keep moving forward with nothing very exciting to report. We are meeting with our friends on Tuesday to do our Georgia O'Keefe art project, so I'll have that to share next week.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

First Term Hits and Misses

We finished our first 9 weeks of school recently. Woo-hoo! I planned a break week and am so thankful that I did. We definitely needed a break. :) We spent the week mainly relaxing around the house. I also spent quite a bit of time planning the next term.

Looking over the first term of our school year, I wanted to share what's working, and what's not.


History Scribe notebook pages - I really, really love these. I was struggling with how to make sure the kids are absorbing some of what they are learning and these fit that need perfectly. Having pre-made pages helps me to focus on just a few things each week, which is also beneficial. Love them! (one small criticism - I wish they had pages for more 20th century world history events, rather than focusing so much on American history)

Tapestry of Grace - I love this history program. We've read some great books and the kids have really learned a lot.

Grammar/Writing - Alternating these two subjects is working very well. We finished two chapters of Rod and Staff English 5 and the first two units of IEW. Next term, we'll do units 2 (concentrating on adding dress-ups) and 3 of IEW and one more chapter of R&S. Love it!

Workboxes - I won't write more about these, but wanted to include them in the "hits"

Schoolroom - I don't know if I've mentioned this, but I turned our dining room in a school room this year and it is wonderful. It's great to have a room that is just for school, but is still close enough to everything that I can get small housework projects done while keeping an eye on the kids. I also set it up so that I can easily turn it back into a dining room.

Activity Points - I debated on where to put this, under hits or misses. I think the idea is still a "hit". However, our implementation was sort of a "miss". Ruth did well. She hit the goal of 30 points easily. Robert, however, did not. I think the open-ended nature of this was too much. I need to either make it part of his schedule, or do a lot more hand-holding until he gets the hang of it.

Meet the Masters - I love this art program. It combines art appreciation with art instruction, so we're covering both. We covered Frederic Remington in September. I won't say he's my favorite artist, but the kids enjoyed it. We also had a good time with friends working on the final art project. I am very glad we chose this program to use this year.


Math - BJU math is a very good program, but just doesn't seem to be a good fit for my kids. They were hating math, and as a math lover, this was just killing me. I made the decision to really shake things up and switch to Life of Fred. It is going tremendously well. The kids love the stories and are doing well on the assignments. We are currently using the Fractions book. We'll do Decimals after that (assuming it's still going well). We'll finish out the year using the BJU math to fill any holes I feel were left. The biggest bonus is the kids are loving math now. Amazing!

BJU Science - Ruth was really not liking BJU Science 6, so I decided to switch back to Apologia Elementary. A friend let me borrow her copy of Zoology 1 (flying creatures), so we're doing that.

I have not done well with Robert's science program (Apologia General Science). He is doing very poorly on the tests and we're not following through with science experiments very well. I need to figure out a better way to handle this subject. Any tips would be appreciated.

Overall, I'm very pleased with how the year is going. We have more positives than negatives, and that's a good sign.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Workboxes and Homeschool Tracker

We started using workboxes at the end of last year. It made the end of the year easier, but I was still working out the exact logistics of filling the boxes each day. I've spent some time working on the process this year and feel that I have finally figured out a streamlined method that combines the workbox concept with my use of Homeschool Tracker Plus.

I began using HST+ last year and really love it. It does have a steep learning curve, but it is a wonderful product. As a bonus, I have found it to be a great help when setting up the workboxes.

First, I thought I would show our workboxes. These are Robert's, filled for today (and for the week, but more about that in a minute). You can click on any of these pictures for a larger image.

This is a copy of the assignments for box 7. It is the "assignment calendar" report from HST. I print off a week's worth of assignments at a time. I have to run a separate report for each box in order to get the dates across the top. This is the most time-consuming part of this process, but I feel it really pays off in the end because I'm not filling boxes or writing up assignments daily.

You have probably noticed that it is only half of a sheet of paper. Once I am halfway through the printing, I turn the paper over and reuse it in the printer. This conserves paper. I also color code the kids' assignment sheets (Robert - orange, Ruth - blue) and write the number of the box on them. This makes it easy to put them back in the correct box if they get separated (not that my kids would ever be so careless as to lose something... ahem).

This is a picture of the first box. This is the box with his TOG history readings. There are several books and they would not fit in the box, so I have them stacked elsewhere in the room. This is also helpful because Robert and Ruth share the books. I also put all of the papers needed for the week in the box. So, this box contains all of the History Scribe notebook pages we are using for the week. The math box contains all of the math worksheets for the week. I do this for as many subjects as possible.

I prefer to staple the pages together (that losing papers thing again), but I have them turn in work as finished, so I will only staple pages together if I'm not worried about the condition of the pages. I don't keep math worksheets long-term, so I don't mind if the corner is a little torn. I do keep notebook pages, so those are not stapled together.

I recently created a chart for my purposes. I wanted to see at a glance which boxes are being used on which day. Also, some boxes rotate subjects during the week. It's helpful for me to know, for example, that art is assigned on Tuesday, so I will remember to put the time aside to do that together. (This is not a typical week since Monday was a holiday. That's changed up our schedule for the week, which is another advantage of using this chart).

I put the chart in a page protector and use a wet-erase marker to mark the week's box assignments. I keep the page in my planning notebook and re-use it each week. I use abbreviations for the subjects, so if you have any specific questions about which subjects are in which boxes, let me know in the comment section. If there is interest, I'll do a separate post on that. UPDATE: See here to download a pdf of this chart (blank).

We also use the schedule strips, so this makes it easy for me to quickly see which boxes are and are not being used each day. (These are Ruth's schedule strips.)

We all love the workboxes, but I've heard many moms say that the time it takes to fill the boxes each day is burdensome. I hope that I've shown you a method that can make the process easier and allow you to get the full benefit of the workboxes with minimal work on your part.

(Disclaimer: I (and my kids!) love workboxes. However, they are not for everyone. If you have a system that works, for goodness sake, don't feel you need to change it!)

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Weekly Reports - Weeks 3 and 4

I guess I should call this the semi-weekly report. I can't seem to get around to doing an actual weekly report.

History - We are two weeks into our study of World War I. We have studied the causes for the war, trench warfare, the use of poisonous gas, the use of airplanes, and several other parts of the war. We've also studied the first term of Woodrow Wilson and continue to read about Fanny Crosby.

For a project, Robert did a diorama of trench warfare. He actually asked this summer if he could do a diorama, so he was very excited to work on this.

See the smoke in the background? Once Robert started working on the trenches, he noticed that the box was upside down. He didn't care enough to turn it over, though. Since it's his project, I let him handle it how he wished.

Do you notice the soldier in the trenches who has been mortally wounded? Actually, it's not looking too good for the British soldiers. They are are not even out of the trenches yet! The Germans are definitely winning at this point.

Literature - For Week 3, we read a collection of O. Henry short stories. One of them was The Gift of the Magi. I remember reading that story and knew Ruth would love it, and I was right. It was her favorite. They both enjoyed the stories.

Now we're reading Anne of Green Gables. Ruth actually read this on her own this summer, but she loves the book, so doesn't mind reading it again. In her words, "I feel sorry for anybody who hasn't read Anne of Green Gables." I agree with this sentiment. :) I worried that Robert would think of it as a "girl" book, but it has enough funny parts that he's enjoying it, too.

Science - Robert started Apologia General Science and is doing pretty well with it so far. I've increased my expectations for him and was worried that he would balk at the extra work. However, he's adjusting well. He's not quite up to the level I would want, but I figure he will be by the end of the year, and that's my goal.

He did two experiments - on density and atomic motion. I hope you appreciate how I cleaned off my kitchen countertops before taking the pictures (ha!). Keepin' it real, people.

Ruth finished her chapter on earthquakes and volcanoes and has moved on to weathering and erosion.

Grammar/Writing - We finished our first grammar chapter and have moved on to our writing unit. This week was Unit 1 of IEW, which is just writing out a key word outline and telling it back. I almost skipped this unit since we've done it before, but finally decided it wouldn't be bad to have an easy week. Next week we'll start Unit II and do some actual writing. I am really liking alternating grammar and writing.

We're up to a full schedule now and we've been getting done by about 2:00 each day, so that's good. We have been getting a late start, not beginning school until after 9:00, when I'd prefer 8:30. Still, since we're getting the work done in a timely fashion, I'm happy.

Notebooking - As much as I love doing the scrapbooking notebook pages, I've found that they just don't get done as often as I would like. We started out this year with some free TOG pages I found, but they really did not fit our notebooking style. I started looking for pre-made notebook pages, but was having a hard time finding ones for a study of 20th century history. I finally found them at History Scribe. A bonus is that I was able to buy the whole History Scribe set (including History Scholar - their high school level notebook pages) for $8!! This is the download version, but that is what I prefer, so I don't mind. (they are still on sale at the time I'm posting this)

One thing I like about using these pages is that is very quick and easy. I just print out the pages that go with our history topics of the week and assign them to the appropriate reading. This way, they are using them for their written narrations. If there is not a page for a certain topic, I don't worry about it. It's a way of controlling the amount of narrating I'm requiring of them. It's working very, very well.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Activity Points

I have always wanted to do projects with the kids, but never seem to get around to them. They don't ask for them, either, so I've never been too concerned with it. However, I do believe they have some value. I want the kids to think more about what we're studying, and I think these would help. I also think having them do some long-term (3-4 weeks) projects will help them learn how to schedule and some time-management skills. While thinking this through, though, I came to realize that I don't want to just assign them different projects. I want them to have some choices and some personal investment in what they choose. With that in mind, I came up with what I call "activity points".

For a 9-week term, I am requiring 30 activity points. These are divided into two different categories - hands-on projects and books. Since my children are not crazy about projects, I wanted to give them the opportunity to earn some of them by reading extra books. They have to do one long-term project that is worth 7 points. They also have to earn 5 points in books. Other than those requirements, they can earn the 30 points in any combination they choose.

BOOKS I went through TOG's alternate book selections and Sonlight's booklist. I had quite a few of these on the shelf already. The rest will come from the library. I made sure I had several biographies on the list, because Robert really enjoys those. My list of books for term 1 are the following:

I chose point values based on Renaissance Learning's Accelerated Reader program. We are not using their program, but I did find it a handy way to assign points to the books.

PROJECTS I went through TOG's guide and made a list of all the activities they suggested, broken down by week. From there, I assigned them anywhere from 1 to 7 points, depending on the difficulty of the project. Unfortunately, I can't share that list here because it is part of TOG's curriculum. For example, though, the drawing that Ruthie did our first week of the Model T was 3 points. I do plan on adding things that are not associated with our history study at some point. I know that I want the kids to do a science fair type project in the spring, and that will be a high number project.

After compiling all this information, I made a chart and printed it off for them. They are in charge of choosing their activities and making sure they have the correct number of points by the end of the first term. Of course, since this is new for them, I'm doing a lot of hand holding at this point. My hope is that by the end of the year, they will be working on this completely on their own.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Weekly Report - Weeks 1 & 2

I can't believe we are through our first 2 weeks of school. Goodness, it's already going by so fast.

Here are the weeks in review:

History - We covered the first two weeks of TOG Year 4. Subjects covered included:

Albert Einstein
Pres. Theodore Roosevelt
Henry Ford
Wright Brothers
Pres. William Howard Taft
Jane Addams

Science - Robert hasn't started science yet, but Ruth has almost finished the first chapter of her book. She has covered earthquakes and volcanoes. We've always been lax on science, so I'm determined to dive in this year. So far, Ruthie has already made an earthquake study structure (based on fettucinni noodles and marshmallows - which amused me) and a paper mache volcano. She found the paper mache very messy, but really enjoyed painting it.

Literature - We read Call of the Wild by Jack London. (Robert did not like this book at all. He does not like books that have any type of cruelty in them.)

Activity Point projects (I will blog more about this at a later date) - Ruth drew a picture of a Model T Ford based on directions I found here.

We also did math and grammar. All in all, it was a good beginning to the school year. I look forward to sharing more of our homeschooling adventures in the future.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Final Curriculum Plans

A few posts back (but several months ago), I talked about our curriculum plans for this year. Things have changed a bit, so I wanted to share what we decided on.

History - This is the biggest change. After deciding on Sonlight Core 6, a friend offered to lend me Tapestry of Grace Year 4 (Classic) for free. After thinking about it, I decided to take her up on that generous offer. I spent some time with it, but found that going from Redesign to Classic was not that easy for me. I love all the updates in the Redesign version! However, after looking over Year 4, I also found that I did not want to go back to my original plan of Sonlight. So, I discussed it with Griff and he agreed that I could get TOG Year 4 Redesign DE if it fits in my school budget. After checking out the list of books needed for Term 1 (first 9 weeks), I saw that I would only need to buy 2 books. I either own them or the library carries them. That makes TOG much more affordable than I would have originally thought, and I made the purchase.

I am keeping my friend's Year 4 Classic through the end of the year. That way, if I find that I cannot continue to purchase the DE edition, I can go back to that.

Grammar - We will finish Rod and Staff English 5 as I mentioned before. However, we will not continue into English 6 as I had originally planned. Instead, I am going to take the opportunity to lighten our load a bit and alternate grammar with writing. Which leads me to...

Writing - We're going to continue with IEW. I'll be alternating a chapter of grammar with a unit of IEW. I want to get through Unit VII this year, and this will work out very nicely.

- This is part of TOG, so we will use that part of their program. I may still buy some Total Language Plus guides if they fit into the budget, just because I like them so much. We'll see...

Math - We did switch to Bob Jones. I put both of them in Grade 6 math and I teach them together.

Science - Robert is doing Apologia General Science. Ruth is doing BJU Science 6.

Bible/Devotional - We will be using the following books, alternating them through the week.

Bible study - How to Study Your Bible, for Kids - I took the adult version of this class years ago and really like this Bible study method. It will not take us the full year to get through this guide, so we will hopefully use the methods learned to study at least one book of the Bible.

Devotional - Boyhood and Beyond (for Robert) and A Girl of Beauty (for Ruthie)

Composer and Artist study - I want to study 20th century composers and artists, but I haven't quite worked out the specifics.

Art - A friend and I are going to do Meet the Masters together. We'll get together once a month or so and do art projects. (Actually, this may impact our artist study, too. I'll have to take a closer look at it before deciding about that.)

Music - The kids will continue with private lesson instruction. We are not doing homeschool orchestra this year, so I will be looking for other opportunities for them to perform. I am thinking of nursing homes and our church's preschool program.

Health - We've never done this formally before, but I think we need some guidance in this subject. I want to keep it simple, though, so I just got the grade-appropriate A Beka Health textbooks. The kids will read from them, and we'll discuss what they read. That's it. Easy-peasy (and not too time consuming).

We have finished our first week of school and I hope to post a weekly report soon, so stay tuned!

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

One More Thing... (end of year portfolios)

I had thought my next post would be about our first week of school, but I was thinking about our portfolios yesterday and decided I would share how we do them. So, I'm backtracking to the end of May when our school year ended. (See what happens when you don't blog for awhile?)

Living in Texas, we are not required to keep any sort of paperwork. However, I think most homeschooling parents want to keep a record of the year. The problem is deciding what to keep, what to toss, and how to put it together in a way that will stay together.

I originally wanted to make a really nice bound book, but knew that if I waited for the "perfect" method, it wouldn't get done. I also found a couple of 3-ring binders that were the right size and, since I already had them, free!

So, what's in our portfolios? It's really simple, people. Done is better than perfect, right? Right.

  • - Final grades as figured in Homeschool Tracker. I only take grades in a few subjects, so it's a pretty short list.

  • - Scope and Sequence Report, also from HST. This is one thing I love about HST. I use the "topic" field when I make assignments. S&S uses that field to make a list of everything we've studied that year. One bonus is I easily get a list of all the books we've read during the year. Love that!

  • - Quizzes and tests from CLE Reading, Math, and R&S Grammar. I threw out all the daily worksheets because I just want a snapshot of what they learned

  • - Science worksheets. We didn't do test in science last year, so I included the worksheets. If we had, I would probably have just included the tests and experiments.

  • - History notebook pages. We kind of fell of the notebook pages wagon once we started TOG (my fault, not TOG's), but I included the ones we did.

  • - Maps. Any mapping assignments we did during the year

  • - Other various writing assignments. Our writing usually centers around history and is made into notebook pages. We did have a few assignments that are not, though, so I included them as well. (not shown in slideshow)
We did not do many projects this past year. The kids weren't that interested and I didn't push it. If we did, though, I would have either included photos of the projects, or scanned and reduced copies. You can have the latter done at places like Kinko's if they are over-sized.

Like I said, it's simple. But, I'm happy to have it done. If you make portfolios at the end of the year, please leave a comment so I can see how you do yours.

Monday, August 03, 2009

How I Spent My Summer Vacation

Summer is winding down for us. I've decided to start school early this year, much to my children's dismay. :) I know that it's because we will be taking more time off during the year, but all they see is that their days of lazing and doing nothing are coming to an end. So, in honor of the end of summer (for us, anyway), I wanted to tell what we've been doing.

Surviving the Heat We've had a record-breaking heat wave this summer. Day after day of 100+ degree weather, with no rain in sight. We were breaking records that have held since 1980. I typically don't mind the heat, but this has been ridiculous. Blech. God bless Willis Carrier.

Personal Retreat For the second summer in a row, I went on a scrapbook retreat with some friends. 3 days of nothing but scrapbooking and way-too-much food. I am very blessed to be able to do this. Not only do I get a lot of pages done, but I am refreshed and rejuvenated when I return.

Home Renovations We have been remodeling our bathroom for about a year and a half now (yes, we are very slow workers). We've made significant process this summer and I can see the end in sight. We also spent a weekend tearing out the tile in the kitchen. Removing the floor was hard, dusty labor, but it will be so worth it when the new floor is in. We will not be installing the new tile ourselves. I would like it done in a few days, rather than a few months. :)

School Planning I had a goal to do no planning for the month of June. However, I figured out we were going to have a pretty busy July, so that really did not make much sense. I didn't obsess over it, though, so I'm pleased. I've gotten the first 9 weeks of school all planned out. I'll have a separate post about school curriculum and plans soon.

Time With Friends The kids had various sleepovers with friends, but the friend highlight was when my best friend Linda and her girls came for a few days in July. We alternate houses each summer and this was their year to come here. We went to the beach in Galveston (ouch, sunburn!) and our favorite haunt, Katy Budget Books. It was a short trip (only 3 days), but it was a great visit.

Short Vacation We had originally planned on going to Colorado this summer. However, the budget being what it is, we decided it was not the smartest thing to do. We did go to San Antonio for a few days, though. Griff attended a music convention and we tagged along.

Music conventions not being the most exciting thing for two kids, we headed up to Austin for the day and saw old friends. I finally got to meet this little guy. Isn't he adorable?? He's the baby of my friend, Sprittibee. Be sure to check out her blog. It's great!

Various Summer Activities VBS, swimming, friends, library visits, summer camp (for Ruthie), movies... It was a good summer.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Organizing My Scrapbook To-Do List

Once upon a time, my scrapbooks were all caught up. Really. It was January of 2005 and I was working on December 2004 pictures. I don't think you can get much more caught up than that. However, I obviously rested on my laurels, because as of now, I am still working on 2005 pictures. A few things contributed to that.

- We began homeschooling in January of 2006 and my free time was no more. :)

- My Creative Memories consultant stopped doing monthly crops. I got most of my work done at those crops, so that really hurt.

- When I did start scrapbooking again, I was in a group with a Close to My Heart consultant. We did a kit with a specific theme each month. So, I would need to find something like Christmas pictures and would often choose the most recent Christmas, skipping many, many months in between. I was officially working out of order. (ack!)

As the pictures piled up (figuratively, as they were on my computer), I was getting more and more overwhelmed trying to figure out what I had and had not scrapped. When I get overwhelmed, I mentally shut down, so I knew I had to get a handle on this. I knew the only way I could was by a lot of (compulsive) organizing and list-making.

The following is what I came up with. It is working marvelously. I know exactly what needs to be done and am getting so much more accomplished.

First, I organized my photos in iPhoto. I had them sorted by year, but I took it a couple of steps further and organized them by month and event.

I did screen captures of this and printed it out. I needed to be able to sit down with my scrapbooks and mark off what had been done. I pulled out my scrapbooks (one for each kid and the family album) and started the somewhat laborious process of figuring out what I had done and what I was missing. The only thing that kept it from being extremely tedious what the trip down memory lane I took as I went through the finished pages.

Since I needed to know what pictures I still needed to print, I had to go through all my pictures. I put the photos in envelopes, sorted by date and category.

From there, I made the following spreadsheet. The categories (events) are the same ones that are in iPhoto.

Then, I started working on my chart. Items highlighted in blue are finished for each album they belong in. A box with an "X" means it is done for that album. Boxes highlighted with gray still need to be done. If it is highlighted in gray in the photos column, that means I need to have those pictures printed out. I also have a column for journalling that needs to be done (a lot still does!) and a place to put any ideas I might have for those layouts.

I've done this up through 2008. It was a lot of work and may seem like too much to some (most?) people. However, I no longer have that feeling of being overwhelmed by the confusion, and that makes it all worth it to me. And, hopefully somebody out there will think I'm not so crazy and this might actually help them. :)

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Planning for Next Year

I've been thinking about next year's curriculum quite a bit over the past couple of weeks. I thought I'd write it all down so I can remember my thought processes. I also try to find as many things used as I can, so I give myself plenty of time to do that.

Note: Robert will be in 7th grade next year. Ruthie will be in 6th.

History - As much as I have loved using Tapestry of Grace for the end of our school year, I've decided that I just can't justify the cost. Our money is just not going as far as it used to. (I'm pretty sure this is a common problem everywhere.) I'm going to have to cut expenses somewhere and TOG just does not fit into the budget. So, I'm now looking at Sonlight Core 6. I love the book choices of Sonlight and we already own most of the books for this particular core. My only hesitation is the speed at which Sonlight moves. We'd be covering the Ancients all the way through the Reformation in one year. Wow! I would probably slow it down, spending at least 1.5 years covering this core.

Grammar - We started Rod and Staff English 5 a few months ago and we'll continue with that. We only do grammar a few days a week, so we probably won't finish it until February. We'll then start R&S English 6. I have tried other things for grammar, but I just love how R&S is set up. I also know it's very rigorous, so I'm comfortable using it below grade level.

Math - This is a tough one. I have really liked CLE, but my kids' grades on tests and quizzes this year have been very low. I feel that they really need more one-on-one instruction. And, while I am very good at math, I'm not so good at explaining it. So, I am probably going to switch to Bob Jones. I like their teacher manuals a lot and it's what I need. Since Robert is behind in math, I'll be able to put both of them in Grade 6 math and teach them together (which will also save money). The following year, Robert should be able to move into pre-algebra. Ruth can either do Grade 7 or pre-algebra, depending on how strong I feel she is in the concepts.

Science - Robert will be moving into more serious science. I have enjoyed using Bob Jones science this year, and he really likes the look of Life Science. However, it's very teacher-intensive. So, if we can afford to do the DVD (or their new online) classes, we will go that direction. Otherwise, he'll do Apologia General Science. I honestly think he would enjoy either one, so I'm comfortable with those choices. Ruth may do BJU Science 6. I'm not sure about that.

Literature - Well, Sonlight has plenty of reading, so that's covered. I'm going to try to involve the kids in some casual discussions of the books using Sparknotes, and possibly some Total Language Plus guides. I'm also looking at how logic-stage literature is covered in The Well-Trained Mind.

Writing - We're going to continue with IEW. I'm going to use the IEW Ancient History-Based writing lessons. We'll also do written narrations and notebooking.

Bible - We're going to do something wild and crazy here and just read the Bible for our curriculum next year. :) I might try to find a one year Bible for them to use, but I'm not sure. Since we're studying the ancients, it makes sense to start with the Old Testament, so that is what we'll do.

Composer and Artist study - We'll continue with the Ambleside Online rotation.

Art - A friend and I are going to do Meet the Masters together. We'll get together once a month or so and do art projects. (Actually, this may impact our artist study, too. I'll have to take a closer look at it before deciding about that.)

Music - The kids will continue with private lesson instruction and homeschool orchestra.

I think that's it. I'm happy with how it's shaping up. I think it's going to be a good year.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Spring Break Plans

We are taking Spring Break next week and I am so excited. We're not doing anything spectacular, but we do have a few fun things in the works, and I have quite a few things I want to accomplish. I'm listing them here for my own record-keeping purposes

- spend the day with a friend
- take pictures of kids in bluebonnets
- go to the Houston Livestock Show (depends on $$)
- work on taxes
- plan out TOG Year 3 Unit 4
- go shopping for some new clothes for me and Ruthie (maybe Robert, too)
- watch lots of movies
- read lots of books
- scrapbook with my sisters
- go to the dollar movie (assuming there's something worth seeing)
- finish stripping the wallpaper in my bathroom
- do some decluttering
- get Robert's legos organized (again!)

A mixture of fun, friends, family, and work (sorry, couldn't think of another "f" word that would fit). Sounds like a perfect week to me!

Friday, March 06, 2009

Civil War Study

We just finished our 3-week Civil War study with Tapestry of Grace. I thought I'd share some of the things we used and some projects we did during this study.

Mapping of the Civil War battles. Rather than have individual maps of the battles, we did one large map. I enlarged a Knowledge Quest map at Kinko's and glued it to some foam core board. We have made small flags (glued to toothpicks) to mark battle locations. The back of the flages are noted with the name of the battle site and the date. The flag shows which side won the battle.

You probably notice that my Confederate flags don't look like what most consider the flag to be. While searching for images to use, I came across this article. (Yes, it's a wikipedia article, but I found it confirmed here.) I had never heard this before, so I found it very interesting. I chose to use the first flag (with 13 stars) of the Confederacy and not change it, just for the sake of ease in reading the map.

(The kids are pointing to the white flag I made that marks the location of Lee's surrender to Grant.)

Our read-aloud was Across Five Aprils. When I decided I wanted to add some discussion of this book, I went looking and found a free study guide. We did not do any of the assignments, but I did use the questions for discussion purposes. I had never read this book before and it is excellent.

Another project was creating a wanted poster for John Wilkes Booth. While looking for examples to show the kids, I came across an online wanted poster generator. We had so much fun with it that we used it for our project.

We then got silly.

We enjoyed our Civil War study and we all learned something. It's a brutal, ugly part of our country's history, but it's important that we know about it so we can better understand where we are now.

I still have a few things I would like to do, but I haven't posted in so long that I wanted to go head and share these. If we get around to them, I'll post them later.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Tapestry of Grace Week 19

We really enjoyed our first week of Tapestry of Grace. So far, so good.

We studied Manjiro,

the opening of Japan by Commodore Perry,

and President Millard Fillmore.

We also covered the Opium Wars in China as well as the Taiping Rebellion. Whew! That's a lot covered in one week, but it really didn't seem like too much.

Ruth learned a bit about Chinese brush painting from this book. She made this picture of a dog from the instructions.

We will be adding writing back in next week, so hopefully we'll have some notebook pages to share then.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Idealess? Really?

Ruth attends enrichment classes once a week. This week, they asked the students to write a poem. Ruth loves to write, so this would not typically be a problem. However, they gave them a form to follow that has fill-in-the-blanks. Ruth does not like being told what to write. At all.

So, she ended up writing a poem about how she couldn't write a poem. I thought it was pretty clever, so I'm sharing it here. I've underlined the prompts she was given.


Whenever I'm asked to write a poem,
Whenever the teachers ask me to play with prose,
All night I think, searching my mind
A mind like an empty slate!

Late into the night I work feverishly
Why don't the words come easily?
Whenever I write a story, it's like a faucet turned all the way,
And they dance across the page.

By Robert Frost
By Emily Dickinson
By Shel Silverstein
By Robert Louis Stevenson
My deepest respect for them all.

Idealess, indeed.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

It Must be January Because...

I'm making changes again in our homeschool. I don't know what it is about January, but it always brings about a need for change. I've lost enthusiasm for what we're doing and feel the need to shake things up.

This year, I've decided to give Tapestry of Grace a try. I know, big change. What's funny is that when TOG made the decision to go digital, I basically gave up on it, and was pretty vocal about it. However, my pull to that program has never gone away. I was looking at it last week and saw that Year 3, Unit 3 fits in perfectly with where we are right now. I thought about it for awhile and finally decided that I would not be able to let go of the idea of TOG until I had actually tried it. If it doesn't work out, we haven't lost anything. If it does, I've found something that quells a lot of my fears about homeschooling my kids as they get older.

So, I did it. I am currently working on scheduling out the next 9 weeks. I've decided we're just going to do the 3 R's next week while I finish up the planning. Then, the following week, we will dive in.

I've read Harmony Art Mom's method of using TOG in a more Charlotte Mason fashion, but for now I'm just going to use it as written. I will tweak it later. I'm afraid if I try to tweak it now, I will just get overwhelmed. I am, however, taking her words to heart and being very careful about not selecting too much from the options.

One of my biggest questions was what to do about Ruth's Eastern Hemisphere study. There's no way to do both. She has been doing some of the American History readings we've had this year, so she's up-to-date on that. I've decided to shelve the Eastern Hemisphere study for now and have both kids do TOG. It would be very easy to finish over the summer or even as a slowed-down side project next year.

I'll keep you posted on my experiences. I am very excited about this and hoping it's a good fit for us.