Sunday, August 14, 2016

A 2nd grader and a kindergartner and a tag-along -- OH MY (curriculum choices)

My baby is pushing 3 years old, and I still catch myself marveling at the fact that I have three children. THREE? WHAT! They are so precious and I'm thankful for another year of home education with them.

This year is the first year that I'm throwing academics at two kids. I'm nervous at how that's going to look this year, but ya know what? We've had a few days in our routine already, and I think it's going to be OK.

My Ker, a 5.5yo girl, has been anti-academics for awhile. I backed off and let her be. I think she figured it would cramp her style.

So I was surprised when the other day, she said she was ready for kindergarten and she wanted to get down to business. I was extra-surprised when on day 2, she woke me up all "Let's GET TO IT, MOM." Oh, really? Well, let's get coffee first, kthx.

The routine is a work in progress. We'll get there. For now, here's the curriculum lineup. I should admit that I am an acknowledged curriculum junkie, I have an enabler support group, and it is what it is. I sold some unused stuff to assuage my guilt. I know I'm pulling from too many sources and trying too much, but shiny things! Pretty things! ALL THE FEAST, LETS' BINGE!


  • Logic of English Foundations (cursive handwriting version. Covers reading instruction and handwriting. We have completed the first seven lessons AND I LOVE IT AND SO DOES SHE).
  • RightStart Math A, 2nd edition. Used this with the firstborn, it's a hit and perfect for K. So far, so good, and she already knew the "Yellow is the Sun" song thanks to her brother.
  • Morning time participation. I ought to do a separate post on what this is looking like right now.
  • An art and nature class (16 sessions, and all of my kids plus myself will participate!)
  • Nature Explorers co-op (2x a month at nature parks with friends). 
  • Brave Writer's Jot it Down! for her, plus 2nd grader. I think she'd dig it.
  • Adding some books, bible, activities from My Father's World K? I don't know. It is probably too much to try and work this in somehow, beyond just putting the literature in a box and reading it together. This really might be pushing what is reasonable here. 
  • PLAY! 

2nd grade:

I want to respect the fact that my son is still a young guy. He's 7.5, and if we go by public school cut-offs, he's a 2nd grader. I want to push him academically and help him grow, but at the same time I want him to have plenty of time for play. My goal is to finish our normal academic stuff by lunch time to allow for open afternoons. Time outside, field trips, park days, library, museums...that sort of thing can fit in the after lunch spot. To that end, we cannot/do not do all of this stuff every day. Some of it might be once per week; some might be for only a few weeks for the year.

He loves science, likes math, likes reading, likes creating.

Here's his lineup. Oy. Good luck, dude.

Language arts:

  • Logic of English Essentials, 2nd edition (reading, spelling, grammar, vocab, basic composition). (More on my switch from AAR/AAS to LoE)
  • Read aloud, read-to-self 
  • Vocabulary Cartoon of the Day (really fun thing to start our one-on-one time. I have him read it aloud. Takes less than a minute.)
  • Vocabulary Workshop C (probably overkill...but I like the format and I think it will help for independent work practice and getting a handle on more standardized/workbooky answers for standardized tests at some point). Haven't added this yet. I saw an earlier edition, and I much prefer the later edition which has a story with the vocab words in context. I like how the book explores nuances of words.
  • Other grammar: Mad Libs, Grammaropolis, Schoolhouse Rock, copywork, Ruth Heller grammar books
  • Rhythm of Handwriting cursive (Logic of English publication)
  • Brave Writer Jot it Down! For writing and creative projects. These look fun, and I liked reading more about the Brave Writer lifestyle.
  • Brave Writer Quiver of Arrows: We have already read several of these titles, so I think I will do audio books for a 2nd run through for those. We'll see. Started with House at Pooh Corner, which we've had on audio for awhile, in addition to the physical book. So fun. We did the first week and I'm happy with it.
  • Read-aloud literature pulled from a variety of sources: Brave Writer Quiver titles, Ambleside Online, Sonlight, Heart of Dakota, etc.
  • Audio books, probably while we're in the car to co-op stuff.


  • RightStart B, then moving on to C. We took a summer break rather than plowing through. So far, I don't regret that decision, though it seems he has forgotten a bit. Maybe he's just a little rusty?
  • Singapore Math 70 Must-Know Word Problems level 1. A problem or a few a day as independent warm-up and practice. Grabbed it at HPB, it's fine for a warmup.
  • Process Skills in Problem Solving level 2. Probably will need to hold off on this one for a bit. Will finish the above workbook first, and maybe pull this one in as a once a week thing.


  • TruthQuest American History for Younger Students 1, and favoring using books I own from the Beautiful Feet American history list. Throwing in some biographies of scientists when it makes sense.

Nature study and natural history:

  • Burgess Bird Book and Dover coloring book for each kid (probably going to save this for winter). We have enjoyed getting to know the birds in our backyard by watching our feeders and using the field guides I leave on our window sills. Throw in a bird app to hear bird calls, and boom. Fun. Doable.
  • Reading nature lore, pulling from Sabbath Mood lists. We recently finished the James Herriot Treasury and loved it. Currently reading Paddle-to-the-Sea. It is just so beautiful! Right up my son's creek, because he enjoys tracing water sources to their end point.
  • Exploring Nature with Children. This one just came on my radar. Seems like a doable, practical, no fluff nature study, yet fun and enriching for all. It will point me to Handbook of Nature Study readings (optional), a library go-along list, a poem, an art work, extra go-along activities -- but most importantly giving us weekly topics of focus based on season. Check out the sample, as it explains the premise better than I just did. A 20% off coupon code is on the FB page right now through August 20.
  • Nature park co-op meetup with friends twice per month.
  • Art and nature class thing along with sisters


  • Building Foundations of Scientific Understanding vol 1. 2nd ed. I like the variety, the connections and the thinking required. Don't like that it's not open-and-go and that could be the downfall of it. We'll see. 
  • Mystery Science -- got a free membership! They might be still giving away some. Go see. I plan to just let him have at it and facilitate as needed for gathering supplies/grabbing library books.
  • Intelligo unit study on Astronomy. Grabbed this as a freebie and chose it for the internet links to perhaps save some time. 
  • Lots of interest-led stuff. Lots.


  • Maps, Charts, and Graphs. I chose this because it was straight-forward, practical, and something he can do independently. Sure, a multiple-choice format isn't Charlotte Mason-approved. Test-taking is a skill he'll have to use at some point, though. I never said I was a Mason purist.
  • Looking at our big ol' wall maps of the USA and world. They're prominent in the play room and get looked at quite a bit.
  • Geopuzzles
  • Finding locations that come up in our reading/life on Google Maps and/or our wall maps. I like seeing a location in context and adding street view.
  • Books from Give Your Child the World (on sale for $7ish and yours truly wrote the highest-voted review on Amazon!)

Fine arts:

  • Piano lessons using Hoffman Academy. Check this out! It has FREE video lessons that are so well done. They are getting ready to add a subscription option and different setup, so I haven't purchased the optional add-on packs, but I likely will once I see the format.
  • Poetry tea a la Brave Writer? Adding a poem-a-day to morning time? Still thinking.
  • Picture study using Claude Monet art cards from a postcard pack purchased from the art museum. If the prints are too small, I might find a digital version and cast it to our TV
  • Hymn (sing, eventually memorize)
  • Drawing: Draw, Write, Now book series for at-will creation, maybe some morning time involvement. Art Class DVD instruction
  • Artsy fartsy: I am not spending one second on Pinterest looking for ideas. I just buy stuff from the Dollar Tree or the craft store -- miscellaneous supplies or boxed craft kits. Here ya go, have fun with it!
  • Classical Kids podcast
  • Classical music just whenever. It happens kinda often actually as led by my 5yo, plus time in the car.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Big shakeup for 2nd grade language arts, and we've only just begun!

We've started our school year already (2nd, kindergarten, 2yo) and I'm already making some changes. What I had initially selected for some of our language arts wasn't going to work for me. It's a little early to say if the changes will be hits or misses, but here's hoping for the best!

Johnny finished All About Spelling level 1 at the end of 1st grade. When I closed the book, I just felt it wasn't time put to good use. Looking ahead at levels 2 and 3, I felt more of the same. He likely knew how to spell most of those words already, and I don't think I was using the program to its full potential. 

I was not looking forward to six more levels of AAS, plus doing the whole thing again with my girls. Such dread on my part so early on...something had to change. I know so many people love AAS. Actually love it. I am happy for them! 

Next up, I had looked at various options for writing, grammar, copywork, and the sort. I landed on Susan Wise Bauer's Writing With Ease and thought I'd choose my own selections from books we were reading. I didn't get very far when I realized that choosing my own passages isn't so straightforward.  

On to my new choices:
For spelling, I briefly considered dropping it in favor of copywork and prepared dictation (Mason), but that just felt a little too scary for me right now. While my son is a strong reader, he still could use some work on unfamiliar, multi-syllabic words. Rather than take his time with it, he might choose to mumble through a word. No, let's not do that, k? Some additional phonics work and practice with complex words would help this kid. Natural Speller was a contender, but it looks like it would take a bit of prepwork on my part to make it work. 

I had already rejected using All About Reading level 1 with my kindergartner. AAR pre-reading was a flop for her, but at the same time I felt AAR1 would move too fast for her. The fluency pages would overwhelm, and I don't think she'd care for the workbook activities. Instead of going the AAR route with her, I had already opted for Logic of English Foundations.

So far, I am a big fan. I like how we're really exploring letter sounds and how we're forming them with our mouth and voice. We're taking a close look at the work our mouth does to differentiate say, a /f/ from a /th/ and a /v/ from a /TH/. For this child who has some speech articulation issues, this is a key point. I like the phonemic awareness activities, the segmenting and blending stuff, and surprisingly I like how handwriting is incorporated. It isn't a "oh, and yeah you should also do handwriting just because." Rather, it is a component in strengthening the ability to read and write, and is treated as such with LoE.

She really enjoyed listening to me segment words such as /h/ /o/ /p/ and then doing the action. It's a whole-body approach and just what this kid needs.

I also like how Foundations incorporates spelling as we go. 

While Logic of English takes an Orton-Gillingham approach with regard to phonics, the execution and implementation is quite different from AAR, AAS, and other programs I've seen. It's still really early in the lessons, but I'm optimistic.

So, my appreciation for what Foundations is trying to accomplish, plus reading Uncovering the Logic of English by Denise Eide (also author of the curriculum), let me to take another look at Logic of English Essentials.

In the past when I had taken a more cursory look at it, I thought Essentials wouldn't be a good fit for my son because I thought he already knew most of the content: I thought he could read well enough, spell well enough that it wouldn't be a worthwhile purchase. 

Well. Maybe the 1st edition would be less meaty, but after receiving Essentials 2nd edition, I can say with certainty that no, he doesn't know all within. 

What I like so far, and note these are unique to the 2nd edition:
  • Three levels of spelling. I gave him a placement test, and level A would be a confidence booster and perhaps a good way for him to get his feet wet with the LoE methods. Level B would be a good instructional level, and C will be a bit of a challenge. I like that I can do one level for a year and cycle back, doing levels B or C spelling within the same book. Or, I could have him do some spelling for level A or B, and then demonstrate how we'd analyze level C words myself, or do it together. AAS moved too slow for my liking. LoE will allow us to speed up or slow down as necessary.
  • Grammar as it pertains to our spelling and dictation words (I think? I need to double-check this. I think there are 3 levels within). I'm not sure if I will like and use the grammar instruction or go another route, but it's there if I want it.
  • Morphemes as vocab study. A few for level A, more for B, and lotsa lotsa for C. Studying prefixes, suffixes, roots for meaning and how to spell these. Seems worthwhile. AAS does this, but not until what, level 7?
  • How LoE treats the schwa sounds
  • LoE finger spelling technique (and also see this video). Denise Eide rightly points out that unless we tell a child how to spell a word for the first time, how in the world are they going to know how to spell it correctly? They might be able to come up with a phonetically correct version, but the finger spelling technique tells a child which phonogram to use (without saying letter names; you'd use the sounds of the phonogram/mention the rule in play). 
  • I like the types of activities (and games, even) that LoE will have us do to reinforce and learn new concepts.
  • LoE introduces 46 advanced phonograms, typically from words borrowed from other languages, that I haven't seen on scope & sequence lists for AAS. These are on top of the 70-whatever basic phonograms.
Also a factor was price. I already owned the complete AAS1 and the TMs for 2 and 3, and if I bought new, I'd still need to spend $200 for the remaining TMs and student packets that I didn't yet own. Woosh. I already had the LoE flash cards thanks to a great deal at Half Price Books, so buying volume 1 of Essentials wasn't a bad price. Volume 2 should come out in early 2017, and even factoring that in, I'd spend less on LoE stuff than I'd spend completing my AAS collection.

So. I sold my AAR and AAS stuff rather quickly on the used market, ordered and received Essentials, and we'll jump in this week. Check with me in a month or so to see how it's going. Oh, and he's already doing their Rhythm of Handwriting cursive instruction book with great results. Good attitude, reasonable output. 


Cutting to the chase, I'm getting to know more about the Brave Writer lifestyle and so far, I love it. My kids loved the first poetry tea we did. They hope it will become a weekly occurrence. I like what I've read and heard (via podcasts) on what Julie Bogart has to say about stages in writing and what we're trying to accomplish. It's a bit tricky at first to get a handle on what BW even is, but the emails, blog, podcasts and FB group helped me get up to speed quickly. It's not complicated, really.

So, I purchased Jot it Down! with my Ker and 2nd grader in mind. These are writing projects, and the purchase also comes with a brief overview of elements of the Brave Writer lifestyle and philosophy. I suspect these will be a hit.

I also grabbed A Quiver of Arrows to guide copywork, French dictation (basically, a bridge toward full dictation where the child is listening for certain words to fill in, rather than doing it all), discussion of certain literary elements, and a writing project for the month. We've already read some of the books in the pack, but I think that's ok. Maybe we won't re-read them in full, maybe we'll do the audio version as a refresh. 

There are other publishers that do a similar thing -- study grammar, mechanics and so on from literature. I mean, even WWE does that, though in a different way. I like BW's take on it, especially the literary element and doing an exercise with it ourselves. I hope this study is lots of fun. 

Note, BW products are markedly cheaper on Homeschool Buyer's Co-Op

(Was this post long enough? Should I have stretched it for a bit longer? kbye.)

Friday, March 18, 2016

A week of "low tide" and it was so fun!

This was our first week of intentional "low tide" and it was restorative. Not a week off, not a break, but a bit relaxed and unschoolish.

For more on the tidal homeschooling concept, see Melissa Wiley's site here. I also appreciated listening to her interview on the Ed Snapshots podcast episode 24.

We have been plugging away at our normal to-dos since the beginning of 2016, and while we had a week totally off in February due to a nasty flu bug, that wasn't a restful break. That was just getting through the bug and recovering.

I could sense that our family needed a little something different for the week, and it felt low-tidey to me. I facilitated some of our goings-on, but stepped back a bit and watched to see what would happen.

Bird study: Last weekend, I restocked seed and added a new bird feeder to our yard. I placed some bird guides and binoculars on a nearby window. We had many visitors this week, and observed, looked them up, and used a bird app to hear some bird calls. I wasn't leading the ship on this; it was kid-driven with me making just a few contributions as a facilitator.

Lego: My son's Lego Contraptions set arrived on Monday, and he holed himself up in his room for most of the day building. He used some of the instructions, but also made some of his own creations. For $13, the set was money well spent since we didn't have Lego gears, those types of axels or other do-dads like that.

Audio books: We had a few outings this week, and all listened to parts of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz during those drives. I started it last week as a read-aloud to just my son while we were spending time in a waiting room, but switched over to the Audible version performed by Anne Hathaway ($0.99 on Audible when you already own the free Kindle version. Be sure to buy from Audible if you want that specific performance, and it is a performance -- who knew she could do so many voices?!).

They also listened to more of House at Pooh Corner (for the 2nd or 3rd time? Viv is currently obsessed) at bedtime.

Nature study: Hoo-ahh! Went to two nature parks with two groups of friends this week. The weather was starting to warm up a bit, and time outside felt great.

The second park we visited had a creek. When we got home, we were curious what it was called. We looked it up, saw where it fed into, and what THAT fed into, and so on and how you could in theory follow it all the way to the Gulf. Cool!

THAT led to a discussion on the water cycle, but also weather patterns. Johnny already understood how the water cycle functioned, but he was less clear on how rain and storm systems got to our state. What put that in motion? Did it have anything to do with the earth's rotation and seasonal tilts? he wondered. Oh. Let's go down that path, then.

Science discussion: Discussed warm fronts/cold fronts, the impact of Earth's rotation on weather patterns, the Coriolis Effect, video clip demonstration of water draining at the Equator and at points slightly to the north and south. Wondered if the rapid rotation of Jupiter and Neptune helped contribute to the violent storms there (likely).

Saw that rocket launches and airplanes need to factor in the Coriolis Effect when planning their flight paths.

He liked seeing the connections between meteorology, astronomy, physics, and rocketry. They're all related!!

These discussions between my son and I are rapid, and they are often me asking questions to him to clarify something, because I am unclear but HE knows and will explain it to me. I look it up to confirm and he's right. This kid! I need to really, really brush up on my science understanding so to have better discussions with him.

I think this time of year is a good time to study weather a little more closely, so I thought we might take the opportunity to segue into a little weather unit. I am going to read aloud Everyday Weather and How it Works by Herman Schneider and illustrated by Jeanne Bendick.

This book came highly recommended on Nicole's weather book list at Sabbath Mood Homeschool (her book selections are really good. Check out what she has to say about Charllote Mason living science).

We already enjoyed Follow the Water from Brook to Ocean, and Pitter & Patter. Pitter & Patter is a simple picture book that I saw on the library shelf and grabbed it.

Daily Word Ladders: I saw samples of this book on Amazon and did a few on the screen with J to see how he liked it. Word puzzles and games are so fun to me, and if it is a way to sneak in spelling, vocab, and handwriting, then yes send it to my house. We did a few ladders together using a dry erase cover and marker so that he could do them again sometime, or I could use them with his sisters later. So far, so good! There are several levels in this series and I started with the first.

Read-alouds: Besides the science books I read aloud this week, I also read a few chapters of our current just-for-fun, Indian in the Cupboard. Not quite PC, but opportunities for discussion on certain topics presented themselves.

Silent reading: J read plenty to himself this week, as usual. Pretty sure it was all science non-fiction, but he also did read a Star Wars Lego library book to his sister. Twaddle? Yup. Building read-aloud practice and building a relationship with his sister? YES. WORTH IT.

Play: Lots of playing. Time outside in the yard or at the nature parks, building Lego together, just playing. My 3 kids bicker and fight. This week, they got along pretty well and that is so wonderful!

So, while we didn't do formal math, handwriting, a phonics lesson, history, fine arts stuff, I would still call this week educational and a total success. Yay for low tide!

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Lots of nature study happening here!

I knew we could do better with nature study, and I'm glad that we are making progress. My main goal is to get us all outdoors, observing nature, and just being out in creation. The sketching and nature notebooks can come later.

We are having a warm burst of weather and took advantage today by meeting up with other homeschoolers at a nature park. It was new to us, and we will be back. It has a pond, trails, and wooded areas to explore and we saw two little snakes, some flowers starting to bud, rotting logs, and a lot of wild onion grass.

The sunshine and warm weather did wonders for my well-being. The weather looks good for tomorrow, so we're going to try and do the same thing, only this time at a different nature park.

One of my kids isn't super thrilled about being out in nature (this is boring! I want to go to a playground!) sigh. I hope more outings with friends at fun places will help on that front. Once we got going with things, the attitude improved.

At home, we have enjoyed observing a lot of birds. This weekend I restocked our bird feeders and added a suet feeder (no takers on that one yet, that we've seen). So many visitors! At least a dozen varieties. We also saw Mr. and Mrs. Mallard, right on schedule, waddling through our yard and finding a place for the nest.

I had a child's pair of binoculars and a bird field guide laying on the window sill and we used that to get a little more out of our watching. All of the kids were really into it, and I love how naturally it all came together.

Looking forward to getting to know more of these creatures.

Last, we are the proud owners of 3 hermit crabs. In our experience, hermit crabs are easy to care for and also entertaining to watch. One decided to molt immediately after settling into its new home, so who knows. We added some playmobil toys to see how they like climbing on them.

We will read Holling's Pagoo coming up.