Monday, July 29, 2013

New School Year Quickly Approaching

School starts August fifth, one week, seven days! And we are off on another adventure. Zoey will be in second grade and Sierra will be a kindergartner. Zoey has been begging for school to start. Sierra is excited but a little apprehensive too. Sierra is young so I was concerned if she would be ready for kindergarten or not but she has shown me she is very ready. I will have the same approach with her that I had with Zoey when she was five. I will give her as much as she is ready to do but stop if she needs a break. One of the many reasons I love homeschool is I can go at their pace. Honestly, I still do the same with Zoey. She is very self motivated most of the time so breaks in a subject are not as common now.

Today I will be tearing apart our school room and organizing everything. I wanted to start this earlier but I have been working on a project that I just finished last night. I will blog more about that in a few weeks. So what will we be using this year for curriculum? Read on to find out.....

Sierra - Kindergarten
Sierra will be doing many of the same things Zoey did when she was five. She knows her letters and most of her letter sounds so we will begin Ordinary Parents Guide to Teaching Reading. I used this with Zoey and it worked well. For handwriting Sierra will use Handwriting Without Tears. She used this for Pre-K and really enjoyed it. It is simple to use and does not tire her hand out. She also will be using Explode the Code, Get Ready, Get Set and Go for the Code. These will reinforce letter sounds in a fun way.  In math she will be using Singapore Essentials. I did not use this with Zoey but I wish I had. Now that I know about Singapore, math has become easier for me to teach. I will also be using the cuisenaire rods to help her learn concepts. We love those rods here. And finally she will be doing the Book of the Week with Five In A Row! We love, love, love this curriculum and continue to have great fun and long lasting learning with it. Sometimes Zoey and Sierra will be working on the same book of the week and sometimes they will have different books of the week. Sierra will also be joining Zoey for science, history and art. More about those later.

Zoey - 2nd Grade
Zoey will continue using many of the same curriculums she has been using. Singapore math, Miquon math, Writing With Ease, First Language Lessons, Handwriting Without Tears and Five in a Row will all be continued this year. Near the end of last school year we started Story of the world volume 1- Ancient Times. We all are really enjoying this history program so far. I like anything where I can combine them. Last year we finished the science we were using and so we have something new this year. It is Building Foundations of Scientific Understanding. I will have to blog more about this once we get into it and let everyone know how it is going. Once again I like that I can combine them together for this. Both science and history are covered in Five in a Row also but in a much different way. The girls have always loved the additional history and science so we continue and have fun learning. Some new subjects for Zoey are spelling, vocabulary, and geography. Zoey is nervous about spelling but the program we will be using looks to be her style. Hopefully, once she gets started she will see it is not as bad as she thinks. We will be using a program called Spelling by Sound and Structure. I read about one billion reviews of spelling programs and this one seems to be the right one for us. The geography we will be doing is a simple workbook that teaches how to read maps, charts and graphs. It is one simple lesson a week but she will learn so much from it. We have been doing geography in Five in a Row but the focus is on countries and states. Learning where they are, some history, and what it is like there. This workbook focuses more on map reading skills. Also, Zoey requested Explode the Code this year. Last year we finished up book 2 and did not continue with book 3. She says that she misses it so I have book 3 and 4 for her to do this year. Zoey is reading very will but this will still help her reinforce the phonics she knows and work with her spelling too. This long list of curriculum may seem like a lot but most of them are not done everyday or are very short lessons. Short lessons are perfect for Zoey or any kid really. Most of all when we are done for the day, we are done. If everything didn't get finished we just pick up where we left off the next day. (I may need to remind myself of this from time to time. lol) Zoey did exceptionally well on her year end testing so she is learning quite well.

New for both of the girls this year is an art program. It is called Home Art Studio. I got a great deal on this program back in April and the girls are so excited to start it. The art lessons are taught on DVD by Ms. Vilon. She taught art in elementary school and has now created these DVD's for homeschool use. Check out her website to learn more. I have previewed them briefly and they look great. We will be alternating using the kindergarten and second grade levels. We already so a lot of art but these lessons will take us beyond what I am able to teach.

I am so happy that because of Mat's hard work on promotions at his job we were able to buy all the curriculum needed for this school year. Yea Mat!!! The only thing we left we have to buy is the art supplies for Home Art Studio. If anyone is interested in buying one of the items we need or contributing in any way just let me know. Once we get started with this I will blog about how it is going.

So now I am off to tear apart our dining room aka homeschool room. Wish me the best. I have to get it all put back together by this weekend so I can start decorating for Back to School!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Jesse Bear What Will You Wear?

Sierra's most recent book of the week is Jesse Bear What Will You Wear? by Nancy White Carlstrom.  We have taken longer than a week with this book because of all the summer fun we have been having. However, she has loved this book. One of the activities was finding all the bears on every page. Now she likes to find them every time we read it. We also made up stories about what Jesse bear would wear at the beach or in the rain or at the pool. She thought this was funny. One day we talked about loving relationships but Sierra's favorite thing to do was to find things in the book. Other than bears we looked for flowers, food and shapes. 

I also checked out other Jesse Bear books from the library. Sierra loved "Guess Who's Coming, Jesse Bear?"  In the story Jesse Bear's cousin comes for a visit. At first Jesse doesn't think he will like her but at the end if her visit he does not want her to go. I can't tell you how many times I read this book to her. It is a good book though and I'm glad she enjoyed our time with Jesse Bear. 
This morning it is nice out so we are enjoying some chalk drawing and bike riding. 
Zoey is taking some pictures. :-)

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

I heart Excel!

Homeschool can get very messy and unorganized very fast. I don't mean the kind of mess that is made from a fun art or other creative project. This mess is the one created when the teacher is also the mother. What needs to get done in school sometimes gets lost in the rest of, well life! 

This year I wanted to find a planner or program that would have the whole school year laid out. Not specifically what to do for each lesson but what lessons need to be completed each week. Make sense? No, well read on anyway. You are either Mat, my Mom or Dad, Debby or Danielle and you are hoping for a cute picture of the kids. Good news, I'll add a picture at the end because you are so patient to read my ramblings. 

Back to my I couldn't find anything I liked. I don't want to write it all out by hand. Hello, this isn't 1984! I didn't want to pay for a program that had tons of features I won't  need and was missing the ones I want. The free stuff I found wasn't right either. So I created my own!!! I know you are thinking, "Can we just see the pictures of the kids already?" 

I used Excel. I bet you guessed that from my title already though. I've been cutting and pasting and freezing cells and all sorts of fun things. Oh how I miss using Excel on a daily basis at work. Anyhow, I am not completely done but I am very happy with what I have thus far. I really hope it helps keep me on track and stops me from freaking out and thinking I am behind. I'm Happy! (At the moment. I'll find something to freak out about soon. It's my gift.). 

And now for a picture...(You may be thinking this better be one heck of a picture after I just read all of that blah blah blah) 
  Hmmm, that's blurry. Let me try another. 
Better. They are painting with corks and feathers. Short boring story. 
We also had fun with water balloons today.   That's all. Hope you enjoyed. Now you can go back to what you were doing. :-) 

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Schedule board (in lieu of work boxes)

Keeping school moving along during the day can sometimes be a struggle. However, we tried something new this year that worked very well for us. I had been reading about Sue Patrick's work box method for organizing the homeschool day. The basic idea is to have a drawer or box for each subject. Then the night before a school day you fill each box with the child's work for the next day. The child then just goes box by box to get all their work done. I love the idea but space and cost were both issues. Also I was concerned I would not keep up with it as well as I should. What to do?

One day I stumbled across an idea from a homeschooling blog and instantly I was in love! I took a piece of poster board about 12 x 18 and Zoey and I decorated it. Then I put 16 Velcro circles on the board. Next I made the subject cards. For these I took pictures of the workbook or subject matter and printed on regular paper. Then I glued those pictures on poster board cards about 1 1/2 x 2, covered with clear packing tape (I didn't have contact paper on hand) and put a Velcro dot on the back of that. 

Once we found the perfect place for the chart we hung it on the wall. Now in the morning I put on the board everything that needs to get done that day. Every time Zoey completes a subject she gets to take down the card. When the cards are all off she is done for the day! 

Many things in homeschool life are trial and error. I have been amazed how well this approach is working. We do not do the exact same thing every day and the schedule board helps Zoey to see how much she has to do that day and keeps us BOTH on task. In addition to cards for her subject areas I also included cards for 15 minute break, outside time, lunch and snack. These help motivate Zoey and remind me to give her a break. 
The schedule board also must be done in the order the cards are in the board. After we had been using it a few weeks and then I let Zoey have input on what order the cards went on the board. She stuck with the same order I had been using most of the time. Some days she put her cards up on the board before I finished breakfast. :-)  Another benefit of this system is I can more easily see where the handwriting heavy subjects are and spread them out. This way she is less likely to have tired hands. 

Over all the schedule board has worked very well. Soon I will need to make a second one for Sierra who starts kindergarten in August. I hope it works as well for her and maybe I won't lose my mind homeschooling two children. Ok, I am going to lose my mind but we will be getting things done at least.  
Not a great picture but you get the idea.