Blog Archives

Winding down

May
2014
18

posted by on Update

Spring is (finally!) in the air!  Grass is green, flowers are blooming, and allergies are kicking me hard!

Fond Farewell to our Painted Lady Butterflies

This is the time of year that we slow down in the schooling department.  We do school year round but tend to be far more lax this time of year.

Science is anything the kid wants to read up on.  It can include documentaries, books, anything in the science field.  Her pick!  We completed Chem and co-op Chem.  I do, however, hope to go over this subject again but will wait till she’s a wee bit older so we can go more in depth.

American History we keep reading together.  Sometimes she reads a chapter on her own and then tells me all about what she’s read.

Writing -she is mostly writing her own fan fiction and I am totally cool with that!   I told her my goal is to start Writing With Skills soon.  Really soon.  But we’ll see!

Math -no change.  That is one subject the kid cannot halt in any way.  She continues a new topic each day, reviewing old topics, and then is doing random assigned reviews on older topics.  Takes her about 25-30 minutes.  So not much time and not too hard.

Grammar -ugh.  A lot of it is redundant right now so she is doing lots of independent review.  I may need to re-evaluate what we’re using.  It appears to be too easy -her words, not mine.  So we’ll see.  But for the Springtime it’s perfect.  Better to review than have to backtrack due to forgetting stuff.

Spelling is independent work, as well.  She alternates days in which she does grammar and spelling.  When it’s time for a ‘test’, I will quiz her on her words.  Nine times out of ten she gets them all correct so it’s smooth sailing here.

Mosdos Press is one thing I make sure to sit with her and we work on a story a week and manage to complete all the work that goes with it within that week.  I may need to take a break from it here and there due to a big project that is coming up (more on that later!!!).

We’re also doing Composers -very very easy.  Read a couple of pages on a new composer each week and listen to the music.  The book came with a CD but it only has very small pieces of each composers work, so we end up looking up online for longer pieces to listen to.  It’s been fun and non-stressful!  I just want my oldest to be familiar with famous composers.

Art -she does art on her own.  She has a neat art book, although she is very creative so some days she just does her own thing and that’s awesome!

Language -we’re doing two.  She’s doing Spanish with Duolingo.  It’s totally free and she’s absolutely loving it!  She does it every day for a few minutes.  We’re also doing Latin together.  It’s getting tougher so we’re going slow and doing a lot of reviewing to make sure she remembers it.  The grammar aspect of it all is starting to be challenging.

And my newly kindergartners.  I cannot believe I have two little kindergartners!  Where has the time gone!?  We’re really, and I mean really lax with them.  Following their interest and hoping to nurture a natural love for learning.  Towards the end of Summer I’ll try to have more prepared for them and do weekly themes and be more structured.  For now, with Spring/Summer starting it’ll be hard to do so we’re just taking it day by day.  If they request to do “writing” or “math” or anything, I’ll pull out said book and we work on stuff together.  Lots of coloring, crafting, etc. in the meantime.  Keeping it fun!

Hope you all enjoy Spring!

posted by on Review, Schooling Resource

Today I’d like to share with you an amazing curriculum find.  This company is not very well known in the homeschooling world, but I am hoping to change that by spreading the word!

Mosdos Press is a superior secular literature anthology series that does not compromise values.

I truly could not have said it better myself!

It can be hard to find secular materials and curriculum, so when I stumbled upon this gem I just had to share it with you all!

Mosdos Press offers six level sets starting at 3rd grade and going through 8th grade.  My review will be based on our experience with the Pearl set, which is the 6th grade set.

What makes this literature curriculum stand out, for me, is that it isn’t just literature.  This curriculum incorporates vocabulary and writing!

The Pearl set has 36 short stories, 3 drama selections, 15 nonfiction selections, 46 poetry selections, 3 dramatic poems, and 2 songs!

The books are so incredibly thick and rich with quality pieces!  Seriously –look at how thick the textbook (hardcover) and workbook is!

I’ve browsed through the whole book, but honestly have not read every single short story and poem just yet.  We’ve been using the Pearl set for a little over a month now.  What stories and poems we have read have been absolutely amazing and quite interesting!  They have led to some very engaging conversations with my daughter.

The most valuable tool of all is the Teacher’s Annotated Edition books.  The Pearl set comes with two spiral bound Teacher’s books.  They are an absolute MUST.  You can certainly just purchase the textbook and workbook, but I can’t possibly overstate how advantageous also having the spiral bound books has been for us.

Besides having the usual workbook answer guide, The  Teacher’s Edition basically tells you how to teach literature!  It seriously feels like you have someone holding your hand through the process giving you an intro on how to introduce the story before beginning to read it.  It provides information on the literary components found in each story, guide to reading, and so much more!

I have used several different books for Reading Comprehension before this one.  They all had one thing in common; read the passage and answer questions based on what you read.  Answers were all found right in the passage -no critical thinking, no analytical thinking, no requirement for a logical thought out answer based on your child’s own opinion.  They heavily relied upon multiple choice answers.   What makes this curriculum unique and stand out is that the child actually needs to think when answering a question.  In some cases, there are no right or wrong answers- as long as your child provides a well-reasoned and relevant answer based on the material read, he or she will succeed.  The child needs to analyze and think!

My daughter and I end up discussing a lot of the stories, asking each other how we’d feel if in similar circumstances.  One such example was the the short story called Iqbal Masih.  We talked and talked about how one would feel if they were in Iqbal’s shoes, whether what he did was brave or foolish given how it ended.  We discussed courage in the face of danger and what that meant.

I mentioned that this isn’t just a literature curriculum.  There’s also vocabulary.  There’s usually a Word Bank at the bottom of each short story page that introduces the new words: 

Then in the workbook there’s a Vocabulary Activity page or two:  

And yes, there’s more!  Each short story has a mini original story found in the workbook.  We are then able to compare and contrast the mini story with the short story we just read in the textbook.  

Like I said, quite comprehensive!

The writing aspect is also based on the short story you read.

What’s really neat is that some of the writing activities have a Graphic Organizer that helps you put your thoughts down.  It involves the knowledge and comprehension of the story you just read.  Sometimes it asks you to compare and contrast the mini original with the short story you just read.  It varies from story/poem but there’s always some form of writing aspect; whether it be creative writing, or journal format writing, or even write your own short story based on a literary component from the story you just read (i.e. foreshadowing, internal conflict, etc.).

The beauty of this literature, vocabulary, and writing curriculum is that it all ties together quite beautifully giving the child a chance to truly understand what was taught by reiterating it in the variety of ways.

It usually takes us at least two days, sometimes up to as many as three days to complete one short story, mini original, vocabulary, and writing that goes with it.  My daughter and I take our time with it.  If it needs another day, then we give it another day.  This is something to be enjoyed and not to be rushed through.  Because we’re going at a slower and more relaxed pace, taking the time to discuss and enjoy the stories together, I can easily see this taking us more than a school year to complete and I am totally fine with that!

This is something that does require your presence.  Sure, the child could do it independently, but I feel the child could learn so very much more if you are involved and using the Teacher’s Edition to teach.

Mosdos Press Pearl Literature Curriculum is a rich, well balanced, and thorough secular curriculum.  I highly recommend this to anyone who wants to impart an appreciation and love of literature to their child.

 
 
Mosdos Press sent me the Pearl Set to review.  All of the opinions expressed here are my own.  And yes, I truly and really, and wholeheartedly recommend this curriculum!!

Our Writing Journey

Apr
2014
21

posted by on Update

If you’ve been following my blog for some time now, I’m sure you’ve heard me grumble and mutter about the difficulty I’ve been having teaching my daughter to write well.

What’s really depressing, to me, is that I love to write!  I’ve been writing in a diary since I was nine years old, so to find myself having to fight my nearly eleven year old daughter to write has been quite frustrating.

When my daughter was six years old, she had such an amazing imagination that I encouraged her to write her stories in a composition notebook.  I didn’t care if the handwriting was messy, spelling was awful, and the grammar bad!  I just loved that she wanted to write.  She even drew pictures beside her stories!  I loved it!  I encouraged it!   So where did I go wrong?  What happened to my imaginative child who actually appeared to like writing at such a young age?

I think this is where I have to say following all those “rules” really made it a chore and took the fun right out of it for her.  At least, that is my guess.  When we started learning grammar, proper capitalization and use of quotes, etc. it really made her feel like she had to write and had to remember all the rules that it was just too much!  It literally took the fun out of it.  Her wanting to write kinda poofed!  Sad, really.

So what did I do?  I slowly stepped back and tried to give her the freedom to write, if she wanted to.  It’s been hard, really and truly.  I feel it is really important to know how to write a proper essay, how to properly punctuate sentences, etc.  She needs to have these tools.  It is important.

How does one balance the creative side and the necessary requirements for the future without making the creative process such a chore that it becomes completely and irrevocably no fun!?

I honestly struggled with this –still struggle with this!

When I noticed my daughter was interested in writing lyrics to instrumentals she’d heard, I thought that was so neat!  I told her so and I grabbed some poems and poetry books and introduced her to Emily Dickenson, William Wordsworth, and a great many poets.  I thought if I showed her that lyrics were a lot like poetry, she might come to see the creative side of writing.  Maybe it would spark her interest in writing again! I tried explaining that what she was creating could be seen as poetry!  I even told her if she wrote a bunch of songs, we could put it together into her very own poetry book that we would design and bind together.  She seemed excited about this –at first.  And then… ugh…. She just stopped being interested in doing this.

Once we began to do more poetry together, she got annoyed and lost interest.  She still writes the occasional lyrics –on her own, but won’t do assigned work or to do it towards a project like creating a book of poems.

So if I see she has an interest in something, I can’t keep jumping in there and trying to turn it into something educational or it quenches her interest in said subject.  What a conundrum!

Frustrating, I tell ya!

This child loves to read.  Absolutely loves to read!  But only if the topic is of interest to her.  If it’s about cats –she’ll read it!  It has dragons?  She’ll be hooked!  Fantasy genre?  Yup!

Several months ago, I heard her typing away at her computer.  I noticed “chapter 3” written at the top of her word document.  I said nothing.  She doesn’t hide things, but she seemed adamant on not letting me in on it.  Perhaps in fear that this momma would turn it into a “school” thing.  Poor kid!

After a few days, she confided in me that she was writing a story.  I was thrilled and so wanted to read it, but I held my tongue and smiled and told her how great that was.  I didn’t push. At. All.  On her own, she asked if I’d be interested in reading and I said that I would be delighted to read her story!!

It was so incredible to see her creative side again!  Yes, there were tons of grammatical errors and punctuation errors, etc. but I did not make a peep.  I told her I really and truly enjoyed the story and couldn’t wait for the next chapter!

Every time she got more written, she would invite me to read it and I told her each time how much I enjoyed it and can’t wait to find out what happens next!

Then one day she asked me how her grammar was.  Hmmm should I tell her?  Dare I say anything?  I didn’t want to ruin this!!  I point blank asked her what she was looking for –the truth?  She said yes!  So I pointed out a few small things that would make it easier to follow conversations in a story.  I told her to bring her favorite book to me.  I showed her how in her book conversations from different people were written on different lines so as to make it flow better, and be able to differentiate who was talking, etc.  She nodded and said thanks.

The next time she had me read some more of her story, she had incorporated that technique and I was better able to follow what was going on in her story!  And I told her as much!  She was so pleased with herself!!  She even went back and fixed what she had already written.

Wow!  Could I be on to something?  Could this be working?  All I needed to do was take several thousand steps back and just let her be?

And this is how it’s been for a couple of months and she is still writing!

I do feel pretty strongly about teaching her how to write a proper essay and the tools she’d need eventually for writing research papers.  I feel it’s important to know how to do this, but I have not been able to find a curriculum that would work for us.   It seemed that we got the creative aspect down pat, but how would I go about getting her to summarize narratives and then write essays?!

Summarizing without copying word for word was something I hadn’t realized was an issue until recently!  Oops!  We had some backpedaling to do.

A good friend pointed out Writing With Ease.  She’d been using level 2 book with her daughter and was really liking it, so I decided to give that a try.  And O M G!  Due to not having to write much, the child actually didn’t mind or argue or cry or fight me with this!!  So, between her independent creative writing and the WWE we’ve been making great strides!  I went ahead and picked up Writing With Skills level 1 and truly hope we leap into that soon.  I am not rushing though.  We’re not anywhere quite ready to tackle that.  All this progress and the last thing I need is to make this a war again!

I have also come across one other literature curriculum that has really brought about the love and appreciation for writing that I would like to talk more about but I will leave that for another post.  It definitely deserves a post of its own!

I just wanted to share our writing journey.  It really has been quite the roller coaster ride with my oldest!  I’m sure it’s not anywhere near over and I’m sure it will continue to be a challenge but I feel that what small progress we’ve made is actually quite a large learning experience for both of us.

Sometimes a little less hand holding and more space might be necessary.  Sometimes letting someone explore on their own can be helpful.  It is wise not to react like it’s the end of the world if your child hasn’t mastered something that everyone else at this age has already mastered.  And the most important thing:  Just breathe.  It’ll all be OK!

Easter Idea

Apr
2014
19

posted by on DIY Crafts

I’m mighty tired of all the candies we have accumulated.  I still have candy from Halloween in my house!  Yikes!

This year, I have decided that I would get more creative with the kids egg inserts.  No more cheap plastic-y toy that would eventually end up in the garbage, and no more crazy amount of sweets!

Here’s what I came up with:  

I created some personalized puzzles for the girls with characters I knew they’d enjoy seeing.  Just googled some pictures online and added some text to it.  On the back of each completed puzzle is part of a riddle (each puzzle numbered so they can read it in the correct order) that will lead the girls to their Easter basket filled with some goodies that is not chocolate and candy!  Ok, so one chocolate bunny got into each of their basket this year, but the rest is stuff that I knew the kids would like and it was not edible (like dress-up clothes, a doll that I found on clearance that they’ve been wanting, gift card, stuff I knew they’d hang on to for a long time)!

Each puzzle piece was put in an egg and will be hidden around the house for them to find on Easter morning. 

The beauty of this is that they will need to work together to find their Easter baskets!

Here’s what you need to make this: Blank puzzles, Sharpies, T-Shirt Transfer sheets, and a hobby knife.

You print out your images on the T-Shirt transfer sheet -make sure to mirror it so it turns out right!  Once ironed on, flip it over and write your riddle on the back with a sharpie.  (Next year I’ll make sure to add the riddle on the front -no idea why I didn’t think to add it to the front -oops!)

Then use your hobby knife to carefully go over each individual piece of puzzle so it comes apart.

Then just insert one or two pieces into a plastic egg!  Voila!  Easy peasy and a fun treasure hunt for the kids for Easter morning!

UPDATE EASTER DAY:

It was a great success!

opening their eggs

I have to admit I was kinda worried about how the oldest would take this new twist on egg inserts.  The youngest two I really didn’t think it would impact much, but for the oldest who was used to a tremendous amount of candy and chocolate and plastic cheap toys inside the eggs.. well, I was worried she’d be rather upset about the change.

My oldest actually thought it was pretty cool!  She loves treasure hunts and so really enjoyed putting the puzzles together with her sisters, flipping them over, and reading the riddles!

The best part was it was truly fun!  And the girls had to work together to find their hidden stash!  Definitely a new tradition has been born!  We’re going to do this  next year for sure!!

Hope you all had a wonderful Spring/Easter/Passover/Whatever Holiday you Celebrate this time of year!  :)