Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Now What is Realistic?

If anyone else wants to share their proposed academic schedules for the next year I would love to take a look. Last night I sat down and made our list for the fall and then tried to break it down between the days and I just don't know how realistic I am being.

Call this my pre 'school' stress for the year or whatever. I know what I would like to do this next year, but am now trying to think it terms of what is realistic to try. Mary is 7 1/2, just starting to click on reading and HATES to write. Katie will be 5 in September, likes to do school (on her terms), beginning reader and writer. Emily is 2 1/2 and alternates between having to be involved and total disinterest. Robbie will be 10 mos in a couple of days and most likely will be walking in the next month to six weeks. And, once he is walking will be into twice as much as he is into now.

My focus is to still give the girls a strong foundation for later learning, while introducing them to the joy of learning. I've decided on an ecclectic-Charlotte Mason-flaired style this year. I'm thinking it will be much easier to blend Mary and Katie during the day. Although Katie being only 5, I'm going to be much more relaxed about her participation.

So here is my plan, so far:


Math - Horizons Gr. 2, finish Book 2 this fall. Re-asses in December whether to continue to Gr.3 or move to MUS Gamma (4 days/week + 1 day of math games/'facts' review)
Science - Chemistry Pre-Level 1, various Chemistry texts through library (2 days + 1 day of lab)
Reading - Ginn Reader (older ones my mom used in her 2nd grade classroom 20+ yrs ago) plus extra readers where appropriate. (5 days/week)
Phonics - HOP and various worksheets and games (2 days/week) will switch to grammer after Christmas
Writing - Story starters and other various writing activities (2 days/week)
Latin - Prima Latina (4 days/week)
Nature Study - a la CM (min 1 day/week - but always much more)
Literature - Ambleside Level 1 Reading List (5 days/week) I will be reading aloud and Mary will be giving narrations.
History - Ambleside/SOTW 1 - We are going to spend the fall concentrating on Ancient Romans and the Roman Empire (2 days/week)
Geography - We are going to 'visit' a different country every three weeks. We will do activities throughout the week(s) - food, books, crafts. This is a very relaxed 'unit' study (1 day/week for planning and map activities)
Art/Music - Monthly artist and composer study. Mary will also be taking piano lessons.
(piano - 1 day lesson, 4 day practice; Art Study 1 day/week and Music Appreciation 1 day/week)

Math - Various Math/Number Worksheets and Kumon Numbers 1-120. When she finishes the Kumon Book will start Horizons K, book 1. (4 days/week)
Reading - "Dick & Jane" Pre-primers (5 days/week)
Phonics - HOP, worksheets and games (4 days/week)
Readiness Activities - flashcards, worksheets and games (3 days/week)
Writing - Various workbooks and activities (min 2 days/week)
Science - "Among the Forest People" and "Among the Meadow People" by Clara Dillingham Pierson (3 days/week)
Nature Study - a la CM (as a family) (1 day/week)
Literature - Along with Mary, also various nursery rhymes and fables (5 days/week)
Art & Music - with Mary (2 days/week)

It seems like so much. Yet, I have to keep reminding myself that each activity is only 10-20 minutes. Mary ends up with 8 things on her daily 'to do' list, which she says is too much. Is it too much? I don't expect much in the way of independent work - various worksheets and completing her math each day. It breaks down as such (in my mind):


Nature Study/Walk (all)

Math (M/K)

Latin (M)

Phonics (M/K)

Readiness Act (K)

Reading (M/K)

Literature (M/K)

Science (M/K)

Piano Practice (M)



Literature (M/K)

Math (M/K)

Latin (M)

Writing (M/K)

Phonics (K)

Reading (M/K)

History (M)

Art Appreciation (M/K)

Piano Practice (M)



Literature (M/K)

Math Games (M/K)

Latin (M)

Phonics (M/K)

Readiness (K)

Reading (M/K)

Science (M/K)

Music Appreciation (M/K)

Piano Practice (M)



Literature (M/K)

Math (M/K)

Reading (M/K)

Latin (M)

Phonics (K)

Writing (M/K)

History (M)

Piano Lesson (M)

Literature (M/K)

Math (M/K)

Reading (M/K)

Geography (M/K?)

Science Lab/Activity (M/K)

I could drop Latin for another year, but Mary really wants to do Latin. It was one of the things she asked for this year. Everything else is pretty much a 'basic' for us. If anything falls by the wayside it will probably be Art/Music Appreciation. But those are only one day each during the week and I plan on having 'fun' activities for the girls (painting, cutting, gluing).

If you have any ideas or suggestions shoot away.



Monday, July 30, 2007

Fun N Games

We only have three days at home this week as I will be leaving with the kids on Thursday to head to the mountains. Melora, want to get together? Mary has her first sleep-away camp over the weekend and I will be visiting with the in-laws. DH couldn't get off work so he will be holding down the fort of the weekend.

I don't really want to start anything new this week so we are having fun playing review games. The neighbor girl who will be homeschooling this year came over to 'do school' with us today, which worked really well. We were able to play addition-subtraction bingo, Rhyming Word Bingo, and did various cut paper art projects. Mary had a lot of fun being with someone who is working on a similar level in so many ways.

It also gave me some extra time with the younger ones. We started off with puzzles this morning and Katie pulled out her math workbook on her own. Reading-wise, Katie has started reading the Dick and Jane Pre-primers and is enjoying it. I had to cut her off after 5 stories today.

Around lunchtime we got a call from the mother of another of Mary's friends. She is moving in a couple of weeks and wanted a sleepover tonight with Mary and the friend that was over this morning. We had lunch and I drove the girls over to the friend's house. It gave me much more quiet time this afternoon.

I printed off Among the Forest People by Clara Dillingham Pierson to read with Katie beginning this weekend while we are in the mountains. This is part of Katie's nature study for her Kindergarten year. It is a wonderful narrative story about animals in the forest, yet is focused on true description of the natural world. This is another one of the free books available at The Baldwin Project.

I also downloaded Pinocchio for us to listen to on the road this weekend. I voted for the audio of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, but that was voted down. Pinocchio is on our reading list for this year so it all works out.

I still need to print off the first half of Three Greek Children to read with Mary, but after that I should be done for awhile. I am having way too much fun with all these free books and audio.


Saturday, July 28, 2007

Online Books

This year I made the decision to add in a more Charlotte Mason flavor to our schooling. Several factors went into making this decision; I think the shorter lesson times will help Mary, Katie isn't ready for any real intense 'school work' this year but can still participate in the readings/history/literature, and most of the materials are available for free from the internet.

Even if you are not doing CM, I think that Ambleside Online is an amazing resource. Every book in their reading list that is available online is linked. If you have never looked at "An Island Story" by H.E. Marshall or "Fifty Famous Stories" by James Baldwin, do so. The short stories are wonderful to add into any study of history. We are reading these in addition to still trying to finish SOTW I. It just worked out that we are heading into a study of the Romans for the Fall, and this is where a lot of these stories begin.

Another highly useful link I found through Ambleside is Librivox. Here you can find FREE public domain audio books. Download the audio books and use with your MP3 player, or if you don't have all those fancy gadgets, burn it to CD using an audio player and then use it in whatever CD player you own. The readings are made by volunteers, no computer readings as I have found on other sites.

How am I using the public domain books? I am copying them from their sites and pasting into Word. In Word I can then manipulate the font, font size and line breaks. For Mary's materials I am mainly using Arial, size 14 with 1-1/2 breaks. This makes it a little larger and easier for Mary to follow. It might mean more pages per story, but I print it using the draft mode to save ink. I am using those inexpensive folders (~.10 each) with the prongs to store her readings, and eventually will have entire books printed. As someone pointed out on one of the sites when we print books she will have the white space on the back of the pages to make related drawings or to copy narrations onto.

I hope some of these links help you.




After talking with a friend of mine I got the urge to move furniture around in our 'front room'. The room that serves as our computer room, den and guest room. We have also been using it more and more as a classroom for Mary and Katie, letting the younger ones have the run of the family room to play in.

Excuse the mess, I took these pictures as 'in progress' pictures. And I still have not been able to totally finish the job with all the clean up.

First I rotated the sofa across the room so it sits under the front window. This is our sofa bed, and thus our guest room. I pulled in some bookshelves from other areas of the house and built a 'wall' of sorts to separate the two areas. The chest in the background was my grandmother's hope chest and was made by her brother. Unfortunately it is starting the come apart, so for safety reasons I keep it up against the wall. I think I am going to use it as our library book storage area once it has been cleaned off.
The back half of the room is the office/school room area. Off the picture, to the right, is my desk and computer. To set up the computer Katie is using I switched out the table we were using for our previoius 'art' table and the kitchen table. Our existing kitchen table worked better for setting the computer up.
Katie is so happy to have this computer set back up. Several of her favorite CD rom games would not play on our new computer.

The bookcase in here holds our current books and supplies. I'm going to continue using the bookcases in the family room to store our extra books. The cubbies hold several manipulatives, some activities for the younger kids if they come in and board books/extra reading books within easy reach for all the children.

Mary's desk was moved back into the corner. Less distraction in this corner. Right now it is covered with things I need to move to their correct home, so is a real mess.

I had to take this picture of the computer set-up because I am likely to not see the area this clean again.

I was kind of worried how DH was going to like it. But, surprisingly he liked it better than the previous set-up. I look around and realize we don't "school" at Home, rather we live in a "school."



Thursday, July 26, 2007

What we have been up to

The last two days have gone by in a blur. Tuesday was kind of a free-for-all day as I tried to catch up with some laundry and Mary caught up with all her friends. Our front door seemed like a revolving door at times.

Yesterday it was time to 'buckle' down. Well, kind of anyway. I've decided for the next week, since we head out to the mountains next Thursday, we will be doing Summer Lite Lite. I want the girls to vaguely maintain the schedule so we don't dissolve back into the chaos of earlier this summer. I'm focusing on keeping Mary moving through math, reading, latin and our astronomy unit.

She got up and did her math while I fed Robbie his breakfast. After that I had told the girls we needed to run errands. So, she packed up her reading book and we headed out. The children were so great at the errands. And, I have to mention that because so often I feel as though I am herding cats through stores. We went to the office store so I could 'trade' in empty ink cartridges for the blank CDs I needed. Then as a treat we stopped at the Pet Store for the kids to watch the animals. I also wanted Mary to see what a pet rat looked like, as I am trying to convince her that that is what she wants for her small pet we have told we would get for her this Fall.

I thought the weather was great for us to go check out the Educational Forest at Jordan Lake which is only 15 minute drive. Though we were not dressed for a hike, we did go down to the teaching pond and wander around for 45 minutes. They had pole nets out so the kids could see what they could scoop out. And we examined a beaver den. Talked about the catttails that were growing around the edge, and tried to decide what was making all the bubbles on top of the water. Mary, I believe, was the winner when she decided that something was making gas.
On the way out we stopped and looked at the helicopter and bulldozer they had out for viewing along with information about how they fight forest fires.

They want to go back tomorrow, better dressed and more prepared for a longer hike.

On the way home Mary read to me from her reading book. She is doing so well, and in a few short weeks has really seemed to pick up some confidence.

After a quick stop at the grocery store we came home for lunch. Mary wanted me to show her how to add pictures and draw in a Word document so she could make a card for a friend. Then we looked up the really cool lizard we had seen on our walk.

After all this - bliss. Mary and Katie went to play with friends while Emily and Robbie took naps. I begin printing off stories for our CM component. I was also able to burn a CD for the first few readings in "An Island Story" At this point I am almost done collecting our materials for the first six - eight weeks of school this fall.

In the evening my SIL brought over our nephews, who are visiting her this week, to babysit the children. DH and I went out for a little while. The girls were in heaven as they love their cousins, and since they (the boys) spend every spare moment playing baseball, football and basketball we almost never see them. My 12-yr-old nephew is now taller than I am and is wearing a size 11 mens shoe.

Today we got off to a little rougher start. I didn't sleep well last night si I have felt like I was running behind since we got up. Mary did her math, no problem, while eating breakfast. But, she did not want to move on to a new story in her reading book, though it was time. I spent a few minutes getting Katie settled writing her numbers and doing a 'color-by-number' sheet, and giving Emily some pictures of what we saw yesterday for her to color. And, by that time Mary had adjusted and was ready to read. Knocked out her reading and science work with no problem at that point. Katie was able to read me two stories from her "Dick and Jane' Pre-primer.

A little after 11 and all the work is done. Mary and Katie have already headed out to play at someone else's house for the day. I am half-heartedly doing some housework while Robbie naps and Emily is watching a Dora marathon. So, I thought I would come on here and catch up.

PS - only a month until public school starts and the neighborhood kids are gone during the day!!!!



Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Home Again

Mary came home yesterday afternoon. It was nice to have the family all together. The other girls were so excited to have their sister home. Mary had a wonderful time with my mom and at her day camp. Apparently she was a perfect angel the whole time. Which makes me grit my teeth even harder when not 15 minutes after walking in the door she is letting loose on me about something I did or didn't do for her. Grrrr.

While she was down there Mom went ahead and took her to our family's eye doctor. We are trying to narrow down issues that might be causing Mary to struggle so much with reading. Other issues have already been ruled out, so it was time for an eye exam. Other indications made us think that if anything Mary was far sighted with an astigmatism (my mom and I have that), but no, she is actually nearsighted.

My mom told me that when the eye doctor put her behind the machine to see what prescription she needed, Mary looked through that and exclaimed that she never realized that things were fuzzy before. Her eyes are not that bad and she only needs reading glasses at this point.

When she came home we went down and picked out some frames and her new glasses should be here early next week.

I don't know if this will resolve everything, but I called my sister who was another nearsighted child and got glasses around 7 or 8. She told me what a difference it made. She went from below average reading group to the top reading group by the end of the year. And, she never even thought she was seeing things 'differently' before the glasses. Considering Mary's biggest issues are confusing very similar looking words (is, it, what, want, with, cat, cut, etc.) I think that this might be just the key we have been looking for.

Letting the girls play today to celebrate Mary being home. Tomorrow back to school.



Monday, July 23, 2007

The Garden Died

I was quite saddened because at the beginning of June it looked so good. But all the weather extremes caught up with it and in the end only a few plants escaped enough that I have allowed them to try and make a feeble go of it. The weather extremes we have had since May took their toll.

The frustrating thing is that I hear any yahoo can grow tomatoes and zuchinni. Laugh if you want but my first year trying tomatoes and darn if I don't get three tomatoes and then all the leaves dried up and fell off. The zuke plants still look really good - but no fruit. I've left them to see if a miracle may happen.

I spent part of the weekend yanking plants and turning soil again. I added some more soil and a little more of our compost to the empty areas. After letting it sit for a couple days I have planted what I had left of our seeds. It looks like I can get two gardens in where we are. Fingers crossed that our August/September weather will be better for the garden. And, where or where are all the bees we have had for the last few years?

In a few weeks we will be planting our fall/winter crops. As spring crops the lettuce and spinach did pretty well. We are going to add cabbage to the mix this time.

I do not have a balck thumb, I do not have a black thumb....



Saturday, July 21, 2007

Seven Hours for Book 7

We avoided the HP parties last night, but our local grocery store was having a small neighborhood party. We didn't go to that either, but DH did find out that they were receiving 300 copies. We figured since we were so close to 2 B&N and 2 Borders, and a Target and a Walmart, that the gorcery store would be a good spot to get a quick copy. DH headed over about 11:55 and was home at 12:05. Being the smart man that he is he immediately handed off possession of the book to me. I read until 2am, when I couldn't keep my eyes opened. DH got up with the kids this morning, so I slept until 9. Upon awakening I returned to the book. I finished the last word, in the last Harry Potter book at a little after 2 this afternoon.

Sniff, Sniff.

Now I just need to purchase the Audio Recording.



Tuesday, July 17, 2007


It is kind of quiet, and lazy around here. Preschool activities abound and I am enjoying the little break of having lesson plans for the fall basically determined and not having to put together daily lessons. On the down side, I'm not doing to well with my morning shower schedule. I generally let Mary watch over the others while I jump in. Not really ready to give that responsibility to Katie.

Mary gave us a really nice surprise while she is gone. She asked her neighborhood friends to come over and play with Katie some while she was gone. There is a little background here; during the spring I asked Mary to include Katie occassionally in her play with the other girls. I had to remind them that Katie is not that much younger than one of the little girls she already plays with and that Katie would be in K this coming year. I didn't make Mary play with Katie all the time, just once in awhile. It has been an ongoing lesson in empathy and treating younger children with respect. But, when two little girls showed up yesterday, knowing Mary was gone and wanting to play with Katie, I was so happy. To find out that Mary asked them specfically to come over and play. It was just such a thoughtful gesture from her, especially since she really has had to work on being nicer to Katie recently. Katie is on cloud nine because the older children want to play with *her*.

Mary enjoyed her first day of day camp at the beach. Although she did tell Mamaw that she thought it would be the last year she wanted to do the day camp. She wants to start going to sleep-away camps. Last night she sounded exhausted on the phone, so I hope she got a good night's sleep.

I have not started working on any projects. I've thought about giving the girls' bedroom a good cleaning out, but Katie and Emily have set up a whole village with Little People and Dora and I hate to disrupt this quiet play activity. I could be cleaning out elsewhere, but just feel sort of "eh" about it. Maybe I will get some motivation as the week comes to an end.

Last night I just vegged out. I watched this week's episode of 'Army Wives', that show has totally sucked me in this summer. The last show that I looked forward to episodes of like this one was 'Seventh Heaven'. And, I just doodled around on the old laptop. What a waste the night was in regards to anything productive - but I need nights like that occassionally.

I just want to give some Kudos to Amazon. I ordered Mary's science materials last Thursday evening and had them sent through the 'savers' shipping. They arrived yesterday shortly after lunch! So, on my list to do is go through the materials and other science experiement books I have and figure out how I am going to get the '10' weeks to last 20. It really shouldn't be that hard as slow as we move sometimes.

Off I go to my day.


Sunday, July 15, 2007

Neat Museum Trip

Yesterday, Saturday, it was time to drop Mary off with my mother for a 10-day visit. Since my mom is also trying to balance spending time with my neice who is getting ready to return to the west coast shortly she didn't feel she had the time to come up here and pick Mary up. And, I have a few things to do so I couldn't fo all the way to the beach for a visit and drop Mary off. So, we arranged a meeting point about halfway at this little museum.

The museum is in Kinston and is through the city's park and recreation department. My mother had been there and thought it was great. I thought it might be a little pokey, but figured it would let the children stretch their legs.

When we got there I realized that along with leaving Robbie's food for lunch at the house (we stopped at a store got him some more) that I had also walked out without my camera. So, I'm going to try to describe the experience.

I was so wrong. The museum is located along the banks of the Neuse River. An awesome green space area that has been left since Hurrican Fran put Kinston underwater nearly 11 years ago. Along the same property there is a campground, picnic areas and swings set up so that you can just sit and watch the slow, lazy river wind its way to the coast. The physical space is not large and 'expensive'. In fact it is two old buildings that have been converted.

The first one was the 'natural' science building. It had one of the best snake collections I have seen in NC. Ten different varieties of snakes on display, eight of them common to the area. They had turtles, a touch tank, a very active prairie dog, lots of lizards, chinchillas, an owl and a couple different parrots. They had a nice display of stuffed animals that are native to the coastal plains area like bear and deer. Below that building, in the 'basement' they had created the CAVE. This is where aquarium animals and nocturnal were kept.

Outside three large cages had been set up along the river for their collection of raptors. Two birds were there - Red-Tail Hawk and an Osprey.

Looking around I realized that the museum is managing to exist through a local boy scout troop and their Eagle Scouts. Many of the displays were eagle projects. I also thought that most of the animals are probably ex-pets and they found a home at this museum.

The second building held the physical, body and astronomy science. Including their very own planetarium. Unfortunately the second floor, astronomy, was closed for the day. But the girls had a really good time with all the hands on science available to them.

Recently, Mary had asked me how the tubes at the bank drive-thru work. I tried to explain it the best I could, but without seeing the tubes in action I wasn't sure how much we understood. We walk into this building and they have a whole pnuematic tube set-up winding around the ceiling. You could pass notes back and forth through the tubes. All the girls loved pressing the buttons and watching the cylinder fly through the tubs.

You could climb through the heart and digestive system. A play hospital building was set up, which was actually three 'crawling' stories with different activities on each floor. Floor puzzles, a large pendalum, life-sized Operation games and so on finished the floor. The kids did not want to leave!!

We took them outside to play on what is a brand-new play structure so I could feed Robbie before heading back. Next to the play ground was a gravel pit so that people could hunt for shark's teeth. Mary got a baggy full before we had to leave.

After a couple of hours it was time to head on before the afternoon thunderstorms cranked up. Mom headed east with Mary. Katie, Emily, Robbie and I came home and Katie just coudn't understand why we couldn't go back there today.

The price for this museum? Nada, Zilch, absolutely FREE! So, if you ever find yourself heading east/west on Hwy 70 through coastal NC, pullover and stop here!

My mom gave me a book "Kids Love North Carolina" by George & Michele Zavatsky. It is the parent's guide to all the places to visit in NC. Everything from the various parks to private museums, and even some people's yard art displays. I've been flipping through it and have decided that this book is probably going to become my field trip must-have for homeschooling. They have done a series of books on other states also. The website is www.kidslovetravel.com

I'm supposed to have the day 'off' per my husband. So I need to go find something to do so I can disappear for a few hours.


Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Blueberry Picking

We drove about 30 minutes out into the country for blueberry picking this morning. It was a good little drive and I kind of scoped out properties as it is one of the areas we have talked about moving to in the future. The farm was a great little hippie farm, not big on space and perfect for keeping up with the kids.

The set-up is totally mix-and-match, re-use/recycle in action. Guineas, chickens, roosters and peacocks/peahens wandering around. An above-ground swimming pool right next to the picking area - which my girls thought was a wonderful idea until I told them the pool wasn't part of the deal.
Mary was probably the most excited about going, which lasted about 10 minutes into picking. She gave me her berries and busied herself chasing bugs, entertaining Robbie and whining about how hot it was (it really wasn't being that it was morning and overcast). She redeemed her excitement when the owner told her she could have all the peacock feathers she could find. She spent the last little bit of time picking up feathers.
Emily had a blast. I think she ended up with five blueberries, but ate many more than that. She also found the blackberry bushes nearby and discovered that she likes blackberries as much as blueberries. I had to keep herding her back to the blueberries. She totally has the whole 'Sal' thing from Blueberries For Sal.
Katie had the best time picking berries, even if she doesn't look like it. She didn't want to stop. She is the only one who doesn't eat blueberries, but had a blast picking them.

I ended up with nearly 6 qts for $2.75, plus a box full of peacock feathers for free.

Now, I need to go clean-up the kitchen and decide what is for dinner, since it is after 6pm. DH will be home soon and he will think all I did when we came home was look at different book lists on the computer, read through some boards on the internet and take a nap.



Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Because they are cute

I know...three posts in a row. I have alot I've been saving up. The previous post about our day left out some pictures of the younger set. They are too cute to be forgotten.

Emily is potty training. It is good news for the dentist as lollipops are doing the trick.
"I need candy!"

"Mom, I need to go potty so I can have more candy!"
Here is my perpetually happy baby. He is such a charmer.
Even teething he still crawls around smiling and letting the drool just drip off his chin. No, he isn't babbling (la, ma, da, etc.) But he has quite a vocabulary of throat sounds and has recently learned how to give kisses - and not the open-mouth, I'm going to gum you to death variety. He can pucker up that mouth like a fish and will chase you down to give you a kiss.

He really doesn't like it when his sisters leave him out of the fun.

They do come back to check on him often to make sure he hasn't become too lonely.



We're getting another computer!

Since we are generally lined up for the computer, in a fashion kind of like this

This is rather big news. Even better we may pull back out the old desktop after I clean it up some and buy a new monitor for it. This will primarily be the girls' computer. We are inheriting my step-father's old laptop when he replaces it sometime soon. I am thinking about pulling back out our old laptop, but I don't know how well it will work. When we put it away several keys had been pulled off and the sound card had stopped working. All fixable, but not worth the money and energy for an 8-yr-old computer. It would be nice not to have to wait until 11 most nights to get on for any length of time (except for nights like tonight when DH took the big girls for haircuts.)



Is the day over?

I am exhausted. The kids have had a wonderful time today, but I am beat. The only blessing was that Robbie slept in until 7:45 this morning and I slept right along with him. Two more didn't appear until after 8:30 and Mary was still sleeping at 10 when I sent Robbie into the room to wake her up. He is still a baby and adorable so she doesn't get mad when HE wakes her - it is the rest of us that have to watch out.

Of course this sleeping in did nothing for the schedule - but obviously we all needed some sleep. We still managed to finish most everything up before 3 this afternoon. Although, I did just realize we forgot science for Mary - but since it is astronomy that can be handled tonight.

Katie started off the day asking for a math puzzle game which she does independently and Mary of course headed for the computer to check on her webkin. Emily and Robbie played really well together with stacking blocks - Emily built and Robbie destroyed. I did housework through most of the morning - sweeping, cleaning the kitchen and laundry - those never ending tasks.

Around 11 we actually got down to business. We started off with a group math activity. It was really for Katie, but I knew that since it involved glue everyone would want to do it. So, I tweaked it for everyone. Everyone got paper plates - Katie's had numbers 1-5 on the plates, Mary had subtraction problems and Emily's were blank. The had to glue down the correct number of objects onto each plate, well Emily just got to glue.

I thought the directions were pretty straight-forward, match the number of objects with the number on the plate. But, my creative energy child started by gluing an eye on number one. Well then she needed another eye. And the markers, then two beads for dimples.

Emily was in heaven she got to use glue and markers.

After lunch we curled up on the sofa and read, and read. Mary got started on her schoolwork and did a wonderful, independent job with her math and latin vocabulary. Katie worked on writing her full name and then with help completed a connect-the-dots through 30. Once both babies were down we pulled out the big fun for the day - paint.

Their assignment was to paint a picture and then narrate a story for the painting. First they had to get the sillies out. Which included painting around their mouths with the black paint. Why they did it? I have no idea. Why I took pictures - I'm not sure.

The girls did some great pictures. Mary's were really good and she had a pretty good story. Katie's were good also, although I have to say she tried to get to involved with the story and it was pretty disjointed.

Mary's picture of what will happen when the sun starts to die.

Rainbow picture (Mary)
Dolphins playing behind a cruise ship (Mary)
Katie working on her sea-life painting
Katie's island with the red boat.

About the time we were finishing the painting thunder started and we all ran outside to gather our laundry. The babies woke up from their naps and we called it a day.

I need to finish laundry and cook dinner now. At least I don't have to do too much planning for tomorrow. We are going blueberry picking in the morning, which means only reading and math in the afternoon. I know that I will at least be tired after trying to pick berries and keep up with four children.



Late, Late Night

I have to stop doing this. I am up way too late again working on stuff for tomorrow. I know I am heading for burnout and I have got to figure out some solution.

The good news is the AC is fixed. Our wallet is a little lighter, but at least we didn't have to replace the whole system. I can work in relative comfort again.

The bad news is that after another trying day with Katie on the schoolwork front I have had to re-address my approach with her. It looks like in keeping with the exact opposite theme to Mary, I have to approach what I do with her totally different than I did Kindergarten with Mary. Katie is going to need a much more traditional, arts & crafts/game kindergarten than Mary needed or wanted. How much more energy/set-up time is that all going to take out of me. The one good thing is that with some tweaking Emily, who wants to be involved should be able to participate with Katie in several of her projects.

I am going to have to do better with my weekends planning out Katie's week so that I don't have to set-up every single night. Combine this with the necessary science projects for Mary and there is a lot of pre-planning to do.

At least Mary seems to be flowing now. There was just something magical about her turning seven and her ability to 'do' schoolwork. I keep reminding myself about that with Katie. Before seven things need to be kept light and child-led, otherwise the kids definetly let me know in very unpleasant ways.

Some very pleasant things I just wanted to share are the amount of books being looked through and read around here lately. My reading phobic child has finally found something that makes her want to just sit and read, well actually two things: Joke Books and some illustrated, abridged classics I found cheap. At this point anything that makes her want to pick up a book. It is a wonderful feeling to walk into a room and see her curled up in a chair with a book. Even better is the feeling when she is following me around the house reading knock-knock jokes to me. Katie has joined in on the fun too. She isn't reading, but the past few days I am finding her curled up flipping through picture books and her collection of ocean life books. This morning I went in to wake the girls up and she was laying awake in her bed looking through "Ocean Biome".

I better get back to my paper plates. I just wanted to stop in and share. If you miss me I'm probably cutting something out or surfing the web for free Kindergarten activity ideas.



Friday, July 06, 2007

The heat is frying my brain

I am miserable and having a raging headache. And, the AC still isn't working. The guy came back out today and replaced the part and it worked. We went out and ran errands and it wasn't working when we came home. I called DH and he said the check the breaker box, which is UNDER the house. I crawled under there and it had flipped. Reset and the AC hummed back to life. It ran for two more hours and then stopped. I reset again - a real PIA since I have to wiggle under ductwork and the whole under the house and what could be living down there always gives me the willies. An hour later it flipped off again. I called DH, and he had me call the guy back - who of course cannot come back until tomorrow morning and informed me that it could be the compressor - Waaaaa!

I called my dad, who has his Electrical Contractor license and he called his friend who has an HVAC business. between the two of them they figure it isn't the compressor since it does run - Yeah! But we probably have a bad breaker or bad connection in the breaker box. At least it will be cooler for my husband to work under the house.

Anyway it is HOT and I am tired of crawling under the house.

Otherwise I have to say that this week has been really good. I was totally expecting full revolution over school starting but it isn't happening. We have accomplished everything and more. Mary did not want to stop working in the little creative writing workbook I had picked up for her today - let's do another page and so on. We did Latin translations in the car while running errands today. And, when we got home I told her she could go play with her friends for the afternoon and she said that she would rather hang out here for awhile. She did eventually leave when invited to swim at a friend's house - I don't blame her. Tonight she is at a sleepover- I wish I could be there too, they have AC.

I am seeing an attitude/reaction change in Mary, that would be congruent with the research I saw on Omega3, but I feel like it is too soon to ascribe it to that since we only started on Monday. But, really there is a difference and one that SHE is even noticing.

I feel very positive about it all. Good things!



Thursday, July 05, 2007

The heat is on...

and our AC isn't.

I turned off the AC over the weekend because we had this wonderful cool, dry air mass move in. I enjoy being able to have the house open and breezez blowing through. Then, last night DH went to turn on the AC because it was starting to become humid. As he went around shutting all the windows I kept telling him that nothing was blowing out of the vents. And, he kept telling me the fan was running on the AC unit so therefore it was on. I finally shut my mouth and sat on the sofa under the ceiling fan. A little while later he comes back into the room and asks me if it feels any cooler. Of course it didn't.

By this time it was cooling off outside and we opened everything back up and turned on the attic fan. Thankfully it got back into the 60s last night.

This morning, though, I heard on the weather that we could be looking at near 100 and humid over the weekend. I asked DH if we could call someone and got permission to not wait until he could get to it. A little after 9 this morning the HVAC company we use was at our house. Unfortunately, our blower motor is bad and they didn't have the right size. They are supposed to be back tomorrow morning with the motor.

So we had to grind through today with temps only in the low '90s. I believe it is 88 in the house at this moment. At least it was fairly cool until lunch. The kids have dressed lightly, except during Mary and Katie's dressing up time, and had frequent trips to the wading pool.

Dinner tonight is a real gourmet. After I announced that the appliances in the kitchen were off limits as I wasn't going to get heat stroke trying to cook dinner, they decided on cold cereal for dinner. I've defrosted a bag of precooked shrimp and will have those with a salad. Watermelon and Canteloupe for dessert with maybe some ice cream later.



Daily Chaos

I am reading this post on The Denim Jumper about balancing homeschool and home chores. I've decided to share some pictures I took around the house this afternoon after we finished lessons. These show our house probably in a half-way stage. We can get way more cluttered, but dh did clean up really, really well about two weeks ago. I also tackled the craft area and Mary's desk to give us a fresh start for the summer quarter. I am not sharing pictures of the kitchen, because this time of day it is trashed, as I normally do a big clean up in there right before I start cooking dinner.

Generally I do go around the house and pick up after the kids have gone to bed. Pick-up being picking the toys off the floor and putting back on the hearth where they live during the warm months. During the day the kids do a pretty good job of picking up when I ask them too, but in their creative spurts I like to just leave it and let them wander back and forth between creations.

As much as I like a clean house, I also like a house that feels lived in. I look around my house in the evening and say to myself, " I can tell the kids had a lot of fun today." With four children under eight, my house will not be a show place. I can remember 18 months ago when we put the house on the market and how clean it was. And, I can remember what a bear I was to be around trying to keep it in the state. I would rather just enjoy my days with the children.

This is our family room, AKA the 'preschool'. It is the only playroom we have in the house and serves 100 other uses. I love my built-in bookcases, and there is our storage for school books, games, manipulatives and we have some other general books mixed in.

The craft area looking much neater than normal. Generally it serves as the staging area for the crafts that we end up doing either on the kitchen table or outside on the deck.
Mary's desk. She is about half and half about doing her work here. But, she likes having the quiet room to escape to if she wants.
The computer desk. And yes, most of the clutter is mine.

These three areas are part of a larger room that we split into a living room and office area. It is supposed to be a no toy zone, but that doesn't always work out. It is, besides the master bedroom, the least toy-cluttered room in the house.

Coming back into the family room from the living room we pass through the laundry area. Today was actually a LAUNDRY day so I am just about done, otherwise the piles look much worse.
The kitchen table piled with the day's art activities, books and other younger children stuff that just seems to find its way to the table.

I have saved the worst for last. I will probably hear the collective gasps across the internet world for daring to show this picture. But, this is what my children can do to their bedroom in 24 hours.

While the room was not 'clean' last night, there was a floor visible and the toys were generally in the right places. But, last night Katie decided that she wanted to sleep on the floor and pulled down every pillow and blanket onto the floor next to Mary's bed.
And today, Mary and Katie decided to have a dress-up day and changed costumes in-between every lesson. In order to get to the dress-up box the castle and house have to be thrown off gently removed from the top of the box.
The white hamper are their clean clothes from Sunday, still waiting to be put away.

I do get in there every so often to shovel it out and make sure things are put where they belong. And, since it is so bad I will probably 'crack the whip' over them tonight to pick up before going to bed. But there are three girls sharing a bedroom so chaos is expected and I try not to get too upset about it.



Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Lesson Planning

Since I had some quiet time to myself this evening I thought I would share my lesson planning process.

I try to keep about a month or six-weeks ahead with a pencil version of my lesson plan. This is kind of a general guideline of how/where I see us progressing. I like to try to plan so that math and spelling tests fall on either Thursday or Friday. I'm able to plan ahead for books to pull out and prepare and collect art or science supplies. Like I said this is pencil and I really like to be flexible.

The real planning is done nightly. Five nights a week I sit down and review the day and figure out what needs to be done the next day. This might sound time consuming, but it really never takes that long. What I like about it is that I can rearrange quickly if a special trip comes up or interest takes off in a particular direction. I can also review as many days as necessary and not feel at all pressured by some larger schedule.

Mary and Katie each get a personalized schedule that is hole-punched and added to their three-ring binders. I keep a copy on the computer also. This is my 'journal'.

Here is a copy of Mary's lesson plan:

As you can see we don't do everything everyday, and right now we are actually not doing history at all. Instead we are spending a lot more time on our star/astronomy study.

Here is Katie's. It is much shorter and concentrates mainly on the basics.

At this age I like to leave a lot of time for independent play and interests. Generally Katie likes to play with the shape tiles or the collection of various 'flashcards' we have. Of course she and Emily might team up and build a railroad track and village for their little people.

When we re-started I also made the decision that we needed to go back and review before the point we stopped in this Spring. So, both Mary and Katie are recovering material in their HOP series. Latin, we are starting totally over since we only were at Lesson 5 when Robbie was born and that subject came to a screeching halt.

The girls like their checklists and are upset if I don't have them ready first thing in the morning. I really never thought that they would go over as well as they did. But, they keep us organized and focused, while also having some flexibility.



Something else to 'suck' me in

I was googling something else and linked to this. I had never heard of Wikijunior. And, it is printable!



Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Day 2, Robbie's nine months and other going ons...

Day 2 and no one has been harmed. This morning it took us a little while to get down to business. I first had to play referee between Katie and Emily, the two that seem to be aggravating each other the most right now.

Mary actually settled in and tackled her math first, 90% on her own, while I sat with Katie to write a couple of her letters. We listened to the Latin CD while hanging out on the sofa, then Mary did her translations independently so I could work with Katie and Emily with the phonics/letter tiles.

After this the girls took a break and ran around, and got into more squabbles. Katie is experiencing her first 'grounding' after popping Emily with the (plastic) shovel. At least she admitted to doing it, sometimes she will blame everybody else down to the dogs before I can get her to own up to something. So, she had a time out and lost tv privileges for the day. I got them back to work before anymore blood could be drawn.

We are studying astronomy this 'semester'. Our primary book is The Complete Book of Our Solar System that we used last summer also for our Solar System study. We are starting out with Stars and then moving on to constellations, which we will also use Find The Constellations by H.A. Rey. Mary did a great job reading our page for today, and then we went to the Hubble website, which is awesome, for great images of nebulas to add to the science notebook.

Both Katie and Mary read today from their readers with little problems. In my great plan of keeping things small and slow we will keep reading the same story until the end of the week. Hopefully after four or five days we will achieve fluency and more importantly, confidence.

The phonics site I downloaded a few games from this past week has ended up being a hit. Mary is really enjoying the "Go Read" game. Based on Go Fish, it helps to cement some of the phonetic blends. Since there are also visual clues on each card it wasn't impossible for Mary to play and I think gave her a lot of confidence with her blends which is where we are in phonics. When I finally get all the fish cut out we are going to be able to play a lot of fishing games, not just for reading skills but I also have some ideas for using them for math.

This afternoon Robbie had his nine month check-up. He is still on his growth curve: 4% for weight, 7% for height and 63% for head size. Just a little top heavy. He charmed all the nurses and showed off his quick crawling moves. But, I have to take him back in a month to double check other areas of development. While he crawls around very well and is starting to pull himself up, he isn't very steady when he sits without support. And, he isn't babbling yet. I wasn't particularly worried about either of those, but the doctor wants to see him at his adjusted nine month age to see if he hits those milestones.

Melora, the Omega-3 is supposed to help with concentration and impulse behaviors. It is based on years of research overseas, and could really have some merit. The research is too much to post all the links I looked at, but google Omega-3 and ADHD and loads of stuff comes up. I bought a flavored liquid fish oil thinking that it would be easier for Mary, but she actually prefers taking my larger gel capsules. I am also giving it to Katie and Emily. Well at least Emily takes it with very little struggle. I have a hard time just getting Katie to take one of the multi-vitamin and everyone else considers them candy. I figure it won't hurt me to take the Omega-3 either as I could use all the extra 'brain food' I can get and it raises the HDL Cholesterol levels, which should help my poor ratio. Vitamin B-6, is important for the central nervous system and it also helps people with low blood-sugar issues maintain their sugar levels. Two good reasons for Mary. It takes anywhere from 2-4 weeks to see any affect, maybe I might be writing about a little bit calmer life - Ha Ha!

Mid-week holiday tomorrow. I hope everyone plays it safe when playing with explosives.



Monday, July 02, 2007

Return to Schedule

After a period of about 9 months going 'extremely' relaxed for school, we have returned to our normally loose schedule. Sunday the poster board with our base schedule was hung on the wall - much to the groans of Mary. But, I do say that she stepped up today and did well all things considering. I was the one who messed up the schedule this morning when I realized that I needed to run errands this morning. So I quickly rearranged some things so that lessons could still be finished by 3pm.

The schedule I am trying out doesn't break out math, reading and so on. After breakfast we have an exercise period (walk the dog, follow a yoga dvd, etc.). Then, we have four 30-minute lesson periods in the morning. This allows us to play some games, read a little and do some writing in 10-minute spurts. The 10-minutes spurts is about as much as I can hope for right now between all the ages and needs of the children. At the end of the 30-minute period we take a quick 5-10 minutes for snack and to change gears.

We are done with 'lessons' (reading/phonics/math/science/spelling/history/general knowledge) by lunch time. After lunch we have read alouds, quiet read time and put the little ones down for their naps. Then we have an hour of art or science lab. At three o'clock, the girls get free time if they have finished all their scheduled work.

Disclaimer: We are not covering everything everyday, obviously.

I did spend the better part of the last two weeks combing books and the web for free game ideas to use with the girls. The last few nights I've been doing a scissor marathon cutting out all sorts of pieces for the games. We've also resurrected all the index cards and am planning on using flashcards a lot with Mary.

My main goal this year, besides advancing all the children along in the education, is to instill a sense of SUCCESS. Mary, particular seems to be missing this feeling in her life. So, by breaking things down into smaller and smaller morsels I'm hoping she will not continue feeling so overwhelmed by life. At her request she wants letter grades and I am shopping for cheap little treats to reward her for good behavior/work weeks.

The other thing we have started today are supplements/vitamins. In addition to their standard multi-vitamin, all the girls are getting Omega-3 (fish oil). Mary is also getting extra B-6 and Evening Primrose Oil. In the spirit of it I have joined in with the Omega-3 supplement. I already take a B-complex which does a world of good for me.

I actually feel very positive about the near future. I am actually prepared with lessons laid out for the next five weeks. I'm finding lots of interactive websites and we have oodles of games. I just need to get the back-and-forth with Mary and Katie more finely tuned.

Need to get back to cutting while it is quiet.


A family of six living and learning. You might catch us outside in the mud or working on crafts. We always seem to be on the go, come on and join us.