December 19, 2014

Changes for the Upcoming Spring Semester

While we've had a good fall semester, I do have a few changes for spring. 

Tiger and Bee will both have finished their math curriculum before the spring semester. So, they will simply move on to the next level. Tiger will be in Right Start Math Level C and Bee will move into Level B. We will continue to work at their pace but so far they are both moving right along.

Curly will probably finish Right Start Level D before the end of the year so we'll spend the rest of the time working on Beast Academy 3B, 3C, and 3D. 

Because Curly has expressed interest in becoming an author we will focus more of our time working toward that goal. In addition to working through Writing with Ease Level 3, we will add Sentence Composing for Elementary School by the Killgallons. She is set to finish up First Language Lessons Level 3 before the end of the year so that will free up some time for this new program.

Curly will begin an online science class through Landry Academy. She is taking Marine Science in the spring now that her literature class has ended. We are both excited about this new class. She will be working through the Apologia Swimming Creatures science book during this class.

Now that Curly is no longer in an literature class, I want to add in literature that she can do with me. We are going to be testing the 3rd grade level of Lightning Literature from Hewitt Homeschool. They are currently writing this new level so we will get the new lessons monthly and try them. 

We dropped geography entirely so I was planning to order the Spectrum 3rd Grade geography workbook for Curly. This way she can get some daily geography practice and it will take very little time for her and very little planning for me. This will buy me some time to put together a better geography plan for next year. 

Tiger and Bee have both finished their Pentime 1 books. They will both start on Pentime 2 this spring. This level introduces cursive so they will get to start working on beautiful cursive handwriting. 

Curly, Tiger, and I are all going to watch Times Tales DVD to help us cement some multiplication facts. Curly's fact recall is fairly slow so I'm hoping that the story format of the DVD will help her remember the facts. Tiger is my little mathy child so he's going to learn the facts too as he continues moving forward in math. 

I plan to add some more art and music back into our days. I plan to continue working on piano with Curly and encouraging her to practice independently. If Tiger and Bee show an interest in practicing I will work with them as well. We will also try to do one art lesson per week (or more) with using Artistic Pursuits. 

While Curly does her online science class, I hope to focus more on science with Tiger and Bee. I plan to order Real Science for Kids Elementary Chemistry and do the program with them together. We will do fun but simple experiments and read the text together. I'm looking forward to some time with just the two of them.

So, not many big changes for spring, mostly a continuation of what we are already doing. However, I am excited that there will be a few new things added to our line-up.  I look forward to making little changes after each semester!

December 18, 2014

{Review} The Verbal Math Lesson

We had the opportunity to review The Verbal Math Lesson. We integrated these books into our daily math time and built math skills without using a pencil or paper. 

There are 3 books in this series. The first book is for ages 5-7, the second book for ages 7-8, and the third book for ages 8-10.

Topics in Book 1:
  • Working with nothing
  • Addition up to 20
  • Subtraction with numbers up to 20
  • The meaning of double and half
  • Adding and subtracting double-digit numbers
  • Doubling, tripling, and quadrupling numbers up to 50
  • Adding and subtracting double-digit numbers ending in zero

Topics in Book 2:
  • Subtracting single-digit numbers from double-digit numbers
  • Doubling and tripling double-digit numbers
  • Subtracting double-digit numbers from up to 100
  • Multiplication
  • Introduction to division
  • Mixed operations

Topics in Book 3:
  • Common divisor and greatest common divisor
  • Counting money
  • Adding, subtracting, and converting time
  • Multiplication review, squares and cubes
  • Ratios, rates, and unit problems.
  • Multiplication of double-digit numbers
  • Division of numbers with remainder
  • Fraction concepts
  • Factors and elements of algebra

Each lesson is in a similar format. The first section contains a short teaching of the concept with some example problems. Then there are two or three sections of exercises to practice the concept in different ways. The last section of each chapter contains multiple word problems.

Book one contains 31 chapters while the other two books only have 29 chapters. 

What did we think?

I loved these books! These are my new favorite math resources!

Each day I used one or two sections from the books as a warm-up for our daily math lesson. I started Tiger with the first book and Curly with book two. It took us three to five days to work through each chapter.

I appreciated how the books taught the math concepts very simply with examples and then contained multiple practice problems to complete out loud. These problems did not take much time and I didn't need any other supplies to do the exercises. As my kids worked through the problems in their heads, they were sharpening their math skills and getting warmed up for our math lessons.

I found the books to cover a large variety of elementary math concepts. They were thorough and easy to implement. It was a fun challenge for my kids to try to figure out each problem in their head. The books progress in difficulty so my kids were able to gain the skills to complete more complex math problems in their heads after working through the earlier sections of the books.

I plan to continue working slowly through the books or even using them as a summer review.

You can order the physical book set for $29.99 or the e-book format for $17.99.

December 17, 2014

Failures of our Fall Semester

While we've had a great fall semester there have been a few fails. I'm going to have to reevaluate a few things and make some changes before the new semester.

The biggest fail this school year has been my attitude. Yes, I'm the biggest problem in my homeschool right now. I have been feeling tired, burned out, and just a little bit like a failure. Therefore, my semester has been difficult because I struggle to maintain the right attitude and find joy in learning. I'm going to have to work to find the positives during our day. I need to recapture my excitement for watching my kids discover and explore.

Because I've not had a good attitude or even the slightest excitement about the new school year, I've seriously lacked motivation. Some days I fantasize about crawling right back in bed and shirking all my homeschool and motherhood duties.  I haven't felt like plowing through another math lesson or hearing the same word sounded out for the tenth time. I dread the science experiments and avoid all the history projects. I feel ready to quit at almost any given moment. 

The Arts
This year the arts have really fallen by the wayside. We rarely get to art and we have skipped piano practice entirely. Ouch! It hurts to admit that! By the end of the day I can't imagine pulling out art supplies to paint or draw with pastels. I don't want to think about the clean up. And for music, I haven't felt like I've had the patience to listen to the same simple piano songs with all the same wrong notes every day. We've also skipped any formal artist or composer studies. We've read nothing and listened to nothing.

I haven't loved the geography program that I chose for Curly so we have done zero geography. I had hoped to spend this school year learning the location of the continents and the major countries of the world. Nope. Hasn't happened. I'll be lucky if my kids can find China, England, Brazil, or Canada. I felt like the program required too much time to plan and I didn't have time to glance through each week's lesson plan and choose what we would be learning. It also felt scattered to me. So, I've put it on the shelf and tried to look the other way.

So, I gave up on Latin for Curly. While I loved the program we were using I could not keep Latin and Spanish straight. I decided we would focus all of our time on Spanish right now and branch into Latin in either 4th or 5th grade once we have a more solid Spanish foundation. 

Science for the younger crowd
Curly has been very involved in science this year. I can't say the same for Tiger and Bee. I've read a few science books to them but that's about it. We haven't done any formal science or any experiments. Not that those things are necessary, but my kids find them fun and I want to include them in our day. 

Spanish for the younger crowd
My plan was to work through Song School Spanish with Tiger and Bee and I haven't once cracked open the book. We haven't listened to the CD one time either. I really want to expose them to Spanish and make sure they practice for a few minutes each day. That has not happened for us. I haven't found an extra moment in our day to open the Spanish materials and get started.

I had planned on doing fun projects with my littlest girls as well as learning letters, shapes, colors, and counting. Well, I have been entirely uninspired and haven not planned out fun learning activities. Our preschool time usually consists of us just doing something fun (like painting toe nails) or whatever simple project I can put together on the fly. I have been totally disorganized in my planning and implementation.

Crafts and Projects
We haven't done any holiday crafts or any history projects. I have boards full of Pinterest ideas for every possible holiday and history topic but I have not felt compelled to collect all the supplies, make a huge mess, and then clean it up.  I have conveniently skipped anything in our curriculum that takes more than a few minutes to make or clean up. I have refused to buy any extra supplies. I know that the kids enjoy a few messy projects in our school year but I have overlooked them entirely.

My plan for next semester:
  • Remember that I'm called to homeschool for this season and look for reasons to be joyful
  • Know that my husband and my children are counting on me to provide an education and be the one to disciple the kids during the day
  • Try to sneak in art once a week and work to help the kids do music independently
  • Order something new for science for the little people and get started
  • Plan ahead for preschool and have one activity per week ready to go
  • Choose 1 or 2 worthwhile projects or crafts (for the next semester)and focus on completing them well

I have had a few fails this semester.  I'm not going to spend time dwelling on them, feeling guilty, or stressing. I'm going to move forward with a slightly modified plan. But I'm also going to extend myself some grace. I know we'll have a few fails in our next semester as well. What can I say? We are a work in progress here.

December 16, 2014

{Book Review} Wife After God from Unveiled Wife

I recently had the chance to review Wife After God: Drawing Closer to God and Your Husband by Jennifer Smith of Unveiled Wife. It was such a timely read during a time when life was busy with a new school year and the holidays approaching. In those times of busyness it is easy to neglect your marriage and not have quality time with your spouse.

After reading through this devotion, the author's heart for her readers and her desire to encourage a passionately strong marriage for them is evident. I appreciated her honesty and transparency in discussing the problems and difficulties wives face but providing hope through Scripture that the marriage relationship was created by God and is vastly important in His eyes.

This book contains 30 days of devotions designed to strengthen marriages by encouraging readers to commit to growing together and to pursue a relationship with God that will ultimately impact the marriage relationship. Each daily devotion has several components: a focus verse (or more than one), a thought from the author, a prayer, a challenge, a Twitter status update, and journal questions.

I so appreciated that this study was thoroughly grounded in Scripture and every topic was taken directly from themes in God's Word. Then in the thought section, the author shares her heart, her struggles, and what she has learned in her marriage and through her study of Scripture. She was open and honest in sharing her own study of God's plan for marriage. The challenge section enabled me to bring my husband into my study by asking him questions or discussing different Scriptures or thoughts about marriage with him. I always ended my time reflection on the journal questions and writing my own thoughts in my journal and ultimately turning those thoughts into prayers of either praise, intercession, or supplication.

What spoke to me.....

One of the devotions that spoke most deeply to my heart was Day 11: Pure Joy. In this devotion the author shares a story of a woman who was feeling anxious and had lost the joy in her daily life. Through a friend who exhibited random acts of kindness and faithfulness in being a loving friend, she was immensely blessed. This friend found joy in serving others because she viewed others in the same way that God did - as priceless and valuable.

I have felt that in these past few months I have lacked the joy in my daily life and have fallen into a routine of simply getting through each day. This devotion stirred my heart and reminded me that my purpose is to serve others and through that servanthood I will find true joy. I have to view my husband, my children, and my friends as worth serving. When I view them in the way that God does, as people who are uniquely created in His image, then I can find joy in making sacrifices on their behalf.

My favorite challenge and journal section came from Days 13 and 14 about pride and forgiveness. I think the most difficult thing for me to do is admit that I am wrong and apologize. So I just might have a struggle with pride (or maybe a huge struggle). Through the challenges and journal questions on these days I was encouraged to spend time thinking about how pride is impacting my relationships and how I should respond with humility. Another of the challenges was to trust God to help me forgive and think through the reasons why it was difficult for me to forgive others. I always need reminders in these areas. These devotions opened up the channels of communication for my husband and me to have humble conversations about any unresolved issues in our marriage and be able to fully forgive each other.

This devotion has been a breath of fresh air in our marriage. While I believe that we do have a good marriage, I know that God always wants us to continually grow together as we pursue Him together. Through reading the book, examining my heart, completing the challenges and journal entries, I have a deeper understanding of God's love for us and the beauty of the marriage relationship when it is based on God's truth.

This book can be purchased on Amazon for $13.49. Wife After God

December 15, 2014

Successes of our Fall Semester

In looking back on our fall semester I've realized that we've had some great success. Here is what is working for us right now.

This year we've had some serious success with the curriculum I've chosen. Overall, I'm still happy with our line up. Our main subjects of language arts and math are amazing.

Right Start is a major success for all of my children in math.

We are also loving First Language Lessons for both Tiger and Curly. It is a great intro to grammar that is incremental.

My kids also enjoy Writing with Ease (which still kind of shocks me). They love the story excerpts and I can tell how the questions and summaries make them think about what we've just read.

Tiger and Bee are both doing well in their levels of All About Reading and I know that I will soon have two new fluent readers. I'm so excited about that!

Tiger and Curly are also working on different levels of the Phonics Road. Curly's spelling has improved dramatically and I'm so proud of her progress. Tiger is slowly learning some spelling rules and I know he will keep improving as we work through the levels.

And the extra subjects.....

Curly and I love Getting Started with Spanish and she is learning an amazing amount of Spanish grammar and vocabulary through this program. All the kids are watching Salsa Spanish at lunch time and are picking up new words and phrases.

I am loving the Bible program from Classical Academic Press and Curly and I enjoy working on that together.

Tiger and Curly are working through Story of the World Volume 3 with me and we are adding in some extra books for each chapter. They are both really enjoying it and loving the extra book selections.

Curly is moving quickly through Nancy Larson Level 3 and we are having so much fun with the topics.

We are ahead of my little schedule. While I don't write out daily lesson plans I do have a general idea of how many lessons we need to complete before the end of each semester if we want to have any hope of completing our curriculum for the year.  Overall, we are working at a great pace and seeing progress in completing the work.

I've revamped our schedule slightly and it's working beautifully. I did have to move some afternoon things to the morning and switch some morning subjects to the afternoon so our day felt more balanced. I split our read aloud times move evenly as well, rather than doing all our read aloud time in the afternoon (because I was either falling asleep on the couch or losing my voice completely).

Taking Time Off
We've had several little breaks throughout our semester for big field trips, little family trips, or time with family as they come into town. It has been so nice to have breaks to look forward to. In the times between the breaks I've been much more motivated to push forward with school so that we can enjoy our time off more fully. 

Reading Time
The kids are loving our read aloud time and I'm so thankful that it's something that remains in our schedule. They enjoy sitting on the couch and listening to a wide variety of stories. Each week I have a new book for Curly, for Tiger, and for Bee and Ladybug. They each get their own time with me (with the exception of Bee and Ladybug who listen together) and they are always excited to see their new book for the week. I try to ask them some brief questions at the end of each chapter to check their retention and I've been pleasantly surprised with what they remember. I'm also thrilled with how their vocabulary has grown from listening to these stories.

Audio Books
My kids could listen to me read aloud to them all day long. I unfortunately need to take breaks from reading. There have been numerous weeks because I've lost my voice from all the reading and talking I do (I promise it's not from yelling!). So, my husband and I have set aside some of our budget toward the purchase of new audio books each month. My kids look forward to the new stories on their iPods and they listen to them in their rooms before bed and even in the car. It's much better entertainment than TV or movies!

Exercise Breaks
When my kids can't focus, are argumentative, or are just plain grumpy during the school day I stop for a mandatory exercise break. That child (or children) who are having a bad attitude or a difficult time with school work are either sent outside to play or to the treadmill to jog while listening to upbeat music. This has been one of the most wonderful and refreshing additions to our homeschool day. I have found that when my kids are done with their 15-20 minutes of exercise time, they are able to come back into the school room with renewed focus and attitudes and we can complete their work in record time. During the exercise time, I work with a different child or get some chores done.

Online Class
Curly had the experience of taking an online class this semester. It was wonderful! Her confidence blossomed and she developed a strong sense of personal responsibility as she made sure her assignments were complete for class. She also enjoyed interacting with students around the world and having discussions with them. Her teacher was passionate and enthusiastic and I felt like the class gave me a break from one subject (literature) for the semester. It was so freeing to know that Curly was receiving excellent instruction from someone other than me and I could use that time in working with another child who needed my help.

Looking back on my major successes for the semester has been so encouraging for me and it's made me feel more ready to tackle a new semester. I'm so thankful for the number of things that have gone well this fall!

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