Friday, August 29, 2008

Science week #1

My younger three children just started two weeks ago working through the book Christian Kids Explore Earth and Space. We started out talking about creation and how God created the earth. Then we labeled two maps one with the continents and the other with the oceans. We worked on memorizing the names of the oceans and continents plus the Bible verse Gen. 1:1 "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth."

We then moved on to learning about the parts of the earth - core, outer core, lower mantle, upper mantle, and crust. We also learned about the words rotate, axis, and revolve.

Then they painted styrofoam balls with the different layers of the earth as their hands on project.

Next week we are off to explore caves and then onto volcanoes - stay tuned!

American Girl Lapbooks

Micah was having so much fun with his lapbook that Natania and Annaliese wanted to join in the fun too. They chose to work on the American Girl series. Here's Natania's - she chose Kirsten.

Here is Annaliese's lapbook of the Molly stories.

They had so much fun with these that they wanted to continue. They are starting on two other girls in the series - Julie and Josephina. Keep checking the blog for photo updates our of school year.

Ahoy Matey!

The theme of Pirates was my son Micah's first lapbook project. We started this the first week of school and took about 2 weeks to complete working on it most days for about an hour. We read the books to go with it either during the day or as bedtime stories. It was kind of funny because it sparked an interest in my 2nd child in pirates too so she has begun reading books that branch off on the pirate theme.

We incorporated books, coloring, worksheets that matched a picture to a vocabulary word, made his own map, learned about Blackbeard, compass with directional points of N, S, E, and W. and touched upon oceans and continents. We talked about what an Island is and made the matchbook component for it. I only picked a few vocabulary words to focus on which were island, captain, and compass. I tried to review these words with simple questions:

Mom: "Micah what does a compass do?"
Micah: "Helps find the way, so you don't get lost."

Mom: "What is an island?"
Micah: (he got stuck so I started him with a piece of land) and he finished with "on the sea with all sides water." I didn't think that was too bad for an almost 6 year old.

Mom: "What is a captain?"
Micah: "the leader."

The girls reported the other day that in the middle of trying to watch a movie, Micah decided to walk across the coffee table and yell "walk the plank." I guess he was bored with the movie.

Here are a few pictures

Our reading list for this unit:
Edward and the Pirates by David McPhail
Captain Flinn and the Pirate Dinosaurs by Giles Andreae
How I Became a Pirate by Melinda Long
Pirate Jam by Jo Brown
Shiver Me Letters A Pirate ABC by June Sobel
Pirate Pete Talk Like a Pirate by Kim Kennedy
Pirate Pete by Kim Kennedy
Bubble Bath Pirates by Jarrett Krosoczka
I Love My Pirate PaPa by Laura Leuck
Port Side Pirates by Debbie Harter
Pirate Pete's Giant Adventure by Kim Kennedy
Roger the Jolly Pirate by Brett Helquist
Little Badger of the Seven Seas by Eve Bunting

BFS 2008-2009

You ask "What does BFS stand for?" Blogger Friend School. I just stumbled upon this from another blog site, clicked on the link because I liked their "old" sytle graphics, read about the concept and decided to join. Hopefully I will be able to follow where to find the assignments, it isn't as easy as Homeschool Memoirs, but if I can navigate around the "blogging world" it should be fun.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Agendas, Plans, and What Becomes of Them

This weeks asignment was to write about your curriculum plans and your curriculum choices. We use a kind of eclectic approach to some things during the school year. I tend to mix "traditional" textbooks with unit studies along the way - either made by myself or from other fellow homeschoolers.

You can read my post here titled "The Best Laid Plans" and that will give you some indication as to what I think about planning, the follow through on those plans, and what happens when "life" gets in the way.

Now for some of the what and why?

We have been using for 3 years now Tapestry of Grace for our basic foundation in history. This curriculumn covers all ages K-Mom. I have to add mom because that is how they advertise their program which is good because many of us moms, myself included, need some real guidance in teaching sometimes. I chose this program because of two things first it was oriented to the classical model of learning and then because I could teach all five of my children the same thing but at their own learning level. I do tweek it a bit because they provide you with so much to choose from that you really can't use it all unless you only have 1-2 children. We use this program to cover our history, literature readings and writing assignments. I really do love this program but at the high school level, where I just ventured into with my first 9th grader, is quite heavy in reading and in scope. Thankfully I have a husband who is an avid reader, who loves classic literature, and can keep up with some of it for me.

For some of the simplier things we use Rod and Staff for English, Spelling Power, Teaching Textbooks for math grade 5, Pre-Algebra and Algebra 1. The younger two are still in Saxons. Then we throw in a few workbooks to cover phonics and handwriting.

My older two are using Apologia Biology this year. I struggled for several years on what to use for my younger three for science when I finally found the Christian Kids Explore series. This year we are focusing on Earth and Space. I like this program to because it is so user friendly. You can use it as a way to cover topics or you can have your student memorize lots of facts. I use it as a guide, a tool to plan what to cover and how to lay it out in their notebooks.

Every year I always want to incorporate the study of great art and great music but I would fall short and my plans, well you know. So this year I bought the Young Scholars Guide to Composers. You can cover this in one year but I think I will take two so we can really enjoy the works of Vilvaldi, Bach, Handel to name a few. In regards to exposure to great artists I am doing my own thing and have scheduled artists throughout the year for two weeks at a time. I will be incorporting books on the artist, notebooking pages from and some drawing and/or painting. We will talk about the dates with each artist, maybe do a small timeline, talk about their style or technique, try to jot down a few details about each artists life, and then study their paintings. We will talk about what we like and what we don't like, the colors, the mood the painting reflects; then we will try to re-create our own version of that artist's work.

Here are a few additions to the general framework of our school year - artistic pursuits art curriculum and from Harmony Fine Arts my oldest will be following her plan for music appreciation and art appreciation. We will follow her plan loosely but similar to the above paragraph with the exception that she will be reading more and doing some research so she can write an essay on each artist and composer plus a short opinion piece.

My youngest is Micah and is almost 6 years old. I found last year that he is much more of a hands on learning but I myself didn't learn that til about the end of the year. I stumbled upon this website which uses lapbooks as a learning tool. So for my son we are also doing some of those. The funny thing about this is he was having so much fun that two of his sisters wanted to also work on lapbooks. Those two are working through the templates using the American Girl series which really wasn't part of the original "plan."

As far as plans and agendas, well yesterday I forgot all about the English lesson and spelling words for my 3rd grader, Annaliese, because she was having so much fun working on her lapbook. So that might give you a clue as to what really happens with my plans.

I think I've learned over the years to relax more, have fun, not worry about grades so much but about real learning. My kids tell me all kinds of things that they learned that I personally did not cover with them. So much of learning comes from exposure to many different things. I hope from being homeschooled that they will develop a love of learning for a lifetime not just to fulfill graduation requirements.

You requested a Bible verse - Jer. 29:11 For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for good and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.

I chose that verse because we can only accomplish so much in our children's educational goals with the time we are given whether that is through textbooks or unit studies or some where in between. We have to rest in the assurance that if we truly feel led by God to homeschool that he will take care of the rest. For some, homeschooling isn't just about academics but more about training our children in their faith and in instilling them with Christian values.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Sneaking in Summer

I thought before we get to far into the school year that I should post some of our summer pics for family and friends. These were taken at the local beach in a town about 10-15min away from here.

You ask, "where is Gabrielle?" Well she didn't want to go swimming that day. She was under the tree reading, of course. There is maybe around 15-20 photos so keep watching. Some of them are pretty good.

Back to School Week #1

We started back to school last week with a few of our subjects. I found a few years back that it was always easier on the kids and myself if we started back slowly. We focused on some core subjects like English, Math, Science and History. I will add the other "elective" type subjects this coming week. Here is a basic run down of the kids and their courses for study.

Gabrielle is in her first year of highschool. She is doing the following:
Biology and lab
Algebra 1
Tapestry of Grace for history
Literature and writing currently reading Pride and Prejudice
Music appreciation from Harmony Fine Arts - to include listening selections and a report on each musician covered, plus an opinion piece
Art appreciation from Harmony Fine arts
Artistic Pursuits for hands on art
gym class (at home for now)

Arianna is in 7th grade and doing the following:
English and spelling
Biology with Gabrielle
Tapestry of Grace for history, literature and writing
Artistic Pursuits
Young Scholar's guide to Composers

Natania is in 5th grade and doing the following:
English and spelling
Christian Kids Explore Earth and Space
Tapestry of Grace for history, some literature and some writing
Artistic Pursuits
Young scholar's guide to Composers

Annaliese is in 3rd grade and doing the following:
English and spelling
Christian Kids Explore Earth and Space
Tapestry of Grace for history, some literature and some writing
Artistic Pursuits
Young Scholar's Guide to Composers

Micah is in 1st grade (approx) and is doing the following:
Reading - using Alpha Phonics
Literature - lapbook projects based on a book
Christian Kids Explore Earth and Space
Artistic Pursuits
Young Scholar's Guide to Composers

The younger three also have some workbooks for handwriting and phonics practice.

In addition to some of these classes I like to incorporate unit studies for geography and famous artists this year. We have started with Van Gogh for our artist and the countries in Europe for geography. We find it much more interesting than the regular "textbook" method of schooling. It gives an opportunity to explore other areas of study with books, listening to music, nature walks or nature journals. Less of sitting at a "desk" and more of actual learning through observation and discussion.

Micah started his first lapbook with a unit on Pirates. He was having so much fun that it prompted Annaliese and Natania to work on lapbooks too using the American Girl series. Natania started with the books on Kirsten and Annaliese is using the Molly books. I will post some pictures of these when they are done. Our lapbook templates are from a wonderful website that provides everything you need to get your lapbooks done.

Check back often and see what our family is learning. I will post pictures on a regular basis.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Homeschool Memoirs

I just joined this group called Homeschool Memoirs - it is was created to connect mom's with each other through blogging. This is the first week and the first assignment is to write about yourself. So here it goes . . .

*I am a city girl but for now have to live in the country
*I am a scrapper and lover of all things that have pretty patterns- so that would
include fabric and dishes
*I'm a born and raised NEW ENGLANDER, so I love the Red Sox, Patriots, Celtics but I am not a sports fanatic - just have to cheer for the home team
*I love of the smell of the salty sea
*I have 5 beautiful children
*I've been married for 20 years (this Friday 8/22)
*I'm a pastor's wife

I think I fell into homeschooling. I had never heard of homeschooling before. When I was pregnant with my first daughter, I remember sitting at a dinner table with some friends, and my husband mentioned we were going to homeschool. My response was "What is that?" I then starting running into people at church and around town who also homeschooled. They encouraged us to start this journey.

The journey - has been long, some where around 10-11 years if you include preschool and kindergarten. It has been often bumpy, trying to learn your way in new territory. I've made mistakes along the way. It has been filled with laughter and discovery.

The best part of the journey - spending as much time with my children as I possibly can without going crazy (every mom still needs a little time away) but yes, spending all my time with my daughters and my son is priceless.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Journaling with Children-it's the little things that produce big results

I started journaling with the kids the other night. I bought my four older girls those 10cent notebooks when the stores do those back to school specials. And my youngest, Micah, I bought him the journal with space at the top for drawing a picture and lines below for writing. We've only been doing it a few days now but it has been fun and rewarding. Micah and I draw pictures to each other and I write him a short sentece as a note. The other night he secretly asked his sister's for help to spell words for his little sentence back to me.

He wrote: I (heart symbol colored in pink) you. It was very sweet.

I'm getting a chance to write little notes back and forth to each of my kids. I'm always curious to what they write back or how they perceive this "exercise". I don't correct spelling, grammar, or punctuation. It is merely for the practice of putting words to paper. My Annaliese, 8 years old, really looks foward to it. It's like passing notes in school but you don't get caught by the teacher. Instead the teacher is the one who started it. I've noticed in one of my children that she can share her personal thoughts better on paper than in coversations, she has a hard time finding the right words when talking. And that's okay. She will learn and grow and this keeps it easy and free for her to talk about things. With another child it was neat to see the Holy Spirit working in her, convicting her of wrong doing. She took the time in her note the other day to apologize for her behavior. So it's those little things, the fun things, that often touch the heart of a child and produce big results.

Monday, August 18, 2008

The Best Laid Plans

I've spent the past couple of weeks planning out our school schedule for this coming year. Figuring out when we will cover which subjects, when to fit in activities outside the home, at what time will the computer be used for their math lessons, how my freshman daughter's high school schedule will mesh with her younger siblings, and how to make the best use of our time each day. But you know what they say, the best laid plans . . . will be replaced by vacation, by unexpected field trips, by sickness; replaced by daily life. Those best laid plans. . . will be replaced with how to juggle everyone's English lesson, with cooking meals and doing laundry, with answering the many calls for "Help, I'm stuck!" We might have days where it seems like we are falling behind; where our plans seem non-existant. And once again our best laid plans . . . will be replaced with the day to day life of our family.

But that's okay, because those best laid plans . . . will also be replaced with laughter and fun, with learning and creativity, with reading good books, with smiles. With recognizing the little accomplishments like learning how to write your name or learning to read for the first time. Or replaced with big accomplishments like conquering algebra.

The best laid plans . . . will be replaced with moments like these. Moments I get to spend watching my children grow and develop their own unique gifts. Moments of sibling rivalry changed into friendships between sister and sister, between brother and sister, the strengthening of that bond. Moments between a mother and a child, keeping the lines of communication open.

The best laid plans . . . will be replaced with character training, with instilling values and faith in my children. Helping them to become the person God intends for them to be.

And I wouldn't trade those moments with anyone. So to heck with schedules and those "best laid plans" life is full of surprises.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Artist Study and a Little Bit of Fun

The other day I thought I'd try out these card games that I bought many years ago and had forgotten all about. I have 3 sets from Birdcage books - Van Gogh and Friends, Impressionists, and Renaissance. The game is played just like "Go Fish" just with groups of artists and their paintings. It was a big hit with my younger three ages 10 down to 5. The kids had fun trying to figure out how to pronounce French and Italian paintings along with the names of the famous painters. They were able to recognize some of them from previous years of art study - yeah!

I'm really hoping this year to cover more ground in the way of famous artists and their great works. My thoughts are to incorporate reading library books such as the Mike Venezia series, looking through our wide collection of art books and talking about their paintings, lastly I want to implement Debra's art study pages from I also have many of those "color your own" books from Dover. We will be spending 1-2 weeks on each artist, just giving them some of the highlights. I think I will also invest in one or two more games that feature famous artists and their works. I will have 5 students in grades 7th, 5th, 3rd and K/1st. I'll let you know how it goes.

Saturday, August 9, 2008


Life hasn't been too crazy in this little town but I am starting to feel overwhelmed. Another school year is fast approaching and I don't feel nearly ready and I don't imagine my kids feel nearly ready either. I am overwhelmed with the organizing that still needs to be done, with some of the purchases that still need to be made, overwhelmed with the time commitment we make each year to homeschooling, just plain overwhelmed some days.

This coming year will be my first student in high school. I often feel like I have gone back to school myself with just a few differences - I am the teacher (how did that happen?), we don't have to raise our hands to go to the bathroom, we can go to school in our PJ's if we choose, we can take any day off during the year - it doesn't have to be a scheduled school break, we can sit together and read all day, we can laugh and share the precious time we have together. For in the blink of an eye, they will be all grown and leaving for an adventure of their own.

I hope when they are older that they will look back with fond memories of being homeschooled, with no regrets, and with a confidence to face the world's challenges knowing how much they were loved.