Homeschool Curriculum – Decisions, Decisions

Back in September, at the beginning of our school year, I wrote this post about how well our homeschooling was going. Of course it was the beginning of the year and all the things were new and we were having so much fun and doing so much cool stuff and going on so. many. field trips.

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Things are still going fine, but I must admit, our homeschool year has lost some of its shine. We’ve gotten a bit more into some humdrum-ness and haven’t had a field trip in months (though I’m planning some big things to finish out the year). I mentioned in the September post that I wasn’t really loving our math curriculum, Math-U-See. I tried to make it work for several months after writing that, but I have at this point completely abandoned it. It just wasn’t for us, so I’m now piecing together other sources to round out Miss’s math knowledge for the rest of this year.

This year was pretty much my try-some-stuff-and-see-what-works year. Because it’s just kindergarten, and really I’m not even officially homeschooling yet, according to the powers that be, who don’t require me to register my child until she starts first grade.

But next year is first grade.

So now I’m at the point of trying to decide what worked from this year and what didn’t, what I want to keep and what I want to change. Obviously, we need a new math curriculum. I posted on Facebook a week or two ago that I was looking for suggestions, and I got some really great responses. I narrowed down the options to Horizons or Saxon.

I think.

While I was looking at Horizons and Saxon on the Sonlight website, I found myself checking out the full package curriculum they offer and thinking that maybe that would be a good option to try for next year. This is really odd to me, because last year I was feeling pretty strongly that I did not want to get a “curriculum in a box” and wanted to be able to be flexible and piece together the things I wanted to do and determine the time in which I wanted to do them.

But check this out:

It’s the Sonlight curriculum package for first grade. Doesn’t that just look beautiful?

It has pretty much everything I’d need for the whole year to do pretty much all the subjects I need to do. I’d need to add some Catholic learning to the religion part, but other than that, this is pretty complete.

But I’m still not sure, so I started looking around for some other ideas of complete curricula, like the Rainbow Curriculum package, Catholic Heritage Curricula, and even this distance education school, the Mother of Divine Grace School.

Now I’m just not sure what to do. I’m either going to scrap what we did last year and get one of these packaged curricula, or I’m going to keep the things we did from last year that worked well, like our reading curriculum All About Reading and the literature-based package we used that we loved, Five in a Row, and add in one of the two math options I mentioned above.

On the one hand, I think it might be really nice to have a packaged curriculum that covers all the subjects I need and lays everything out with a plan and schedule so I don’t miss any of the important stuff.

On the other hand, the creative side of me thinks I would really miss the time that I spend looking for fun things to do, coming up with unit studies on things my girls are interested in, picking field trips to match what we’re reading about, finding art and science projects on Pinterest, and so forth.

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The problem with continuing with what we did last year, is that I feel like I might have been a little lax in the areas of social studies and science and art. We did some of these things, for sure, but I wasn’t really systematic about it. Five in a Row includes some activities for these subjects, but I don’t think it’s enough on its own as Miss gets older. So I guess if I stay with what I did last year, I’ll have to add in a science curriculum and a social studies curriculum and maybe art and religion (to improve what I’ve already been doing in those areas).

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OR, I could just get a big fat package and be done with it.

What’s a mama to do?

Help me out here dear readers. I’d love to hear what you do, what works, what you love, and why.

Pretty please??

Kid-Made Stations of the Cross Box

Last year I made a Stations of the Cross box for my girls, inspired by the one Bonnie made and shared in this post.

The girls really enjoyed doing Stations last year using the box. It was fun for them to have something tangible to look at and touch while we read the book and prayers.

We had been doing it every Friday during this Lent too. They seemed to like doing the Stations and talking about them, just like last year. Last Saturday however, my kids’ love for doing the Stations went through the roof, and I had nothing to do with it.

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I wasn’t even home, but my oldest daughter decided she wanted to make her own Stations of the Cross box with the babysitter. All by herself, she came up with a way to make each of the items in the box or to substitute with something else if she couldn’t get or make what we had used before.

My babysitter texted me this picture while I was at the Catholic Women’s Conference on Saturday:

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At first I had no idea what it was, but I thought for sure Lass had made it, because she has been into making small figures out of paper lately. I texted, “Is that Jesus?” The babysitter texted me back that yes, it was, and that Miss had made all the items and they had been sitting around doing the Stations.

Yes. My kids did the Stations of the Cross with my babysitter on Saturday, with no prompting from me. Twice. Then they requested to do it again when I got home. And we did it again before bed.

We’ve done it at bedtime every night since then, at their request.

How do we do it? We use both boxes (the one I made last year and the one Miss made) and take all the items out. We distribute the items among the girls, and each of them also gets a small pocket Stations book to follow along with the pictures. We use this book to read the prayers and the descriptions of the Stations (and BTW, what a rip off, Amazon, the book was $2 at our local Catholic store!). As we read about each station, the girls with the items relating to it put the items in the boxes. Some of the prayers we all say out loud together. That’s it.

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Sometimes they ask questions about the Stations and we talk about what it must have been like for Jesus.

Sometimes they argue about who gets to put which item in which box. Whatever. We (or they) have read through the Stations 10 times since last Friday. (!!)

Miss used craft foam (my girls’ favorite) to make most of the items in her box. I love that she got creative with a few of the things she couldn’t duplicate from the box I made. She didn’t have a rosary, which is what I used to symbolize Mary, so she cut a piece of blue foam, knowing that blue is a color often associated with Mary. She didn’t have a rock, so she made Jesus and wrapped Him in tape to show that He was in the tomb. She could have easily gone upstairs and gotten her rosary from her room or outside and gotten a rock, but she chose to make all of the items instead (except the tissue).

The cross shapes aren’t perfect. The hand (symbolizing Simon helping Jesus) is missing a thumb. But she made it all by herself. And that has made her want to pray the Stations of the Cross and look at the items symbolizing each station every day. And because she’s the oldest, her sisters want to do it too.

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I had thought I might make this a how-to-type post, but then I realized I really couldn’t. In this case, the complete independence of the project, and the creativity and satisfaction that resulted from the process, made it so much better than if I had set out all the materials and had a planned way for Miss to make each item.

Obviously, I think it would be great to give your kids the idea to do this along with some suggestions on how to make it happen (I wish I had thought of it!), but I don’t really have those suggestions other than to show you another photo of Miss’s finished product and say, “Let them go for it”:

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By rows, top top bottom, left to right:

  1. Jesus is condemned to death (rope)
  2. Jesus takes up his cross
  3. Jesus falls for the first time (that’s supposed to be a BandAid, it has a 1 written on it)
  4. Jesus meets his mother
  5. Simon helps Jesus
  6. Veronica wipes the face of Jesus
  7. Jesus falls for the second time
  8. Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem (they are crying, thus a tissue)
  9. Jesus falls for the third time
  10. The soldiers tear off Jesus’s clothes (that is a piece of paper folded and taped to represent a tunic)
  11. Jesus is nailed to the cross
  12. Jesus dies on the cross
  13. Jesus is taken down from the cross (Miss said that this is the “Jesus outside the tomb”)
  14. Jesus is placed in the tomb (Jesus wrapped in tape = “Jesus inside the tomb”)

All kept together in a nice shoebox she found in her closet.

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If you try this with your kids, please let me know how it goes!

New Year, New Goals (7QT)

Last year I made some goals. I wrote about them in this post. I didn’t do a great job of keeping them.

I was doing pretty well for a while and then got derailed in the summer, mostly on my fitness goals. This year, I will do better.

New year, new goals.

1. Last year I had a goal to start using my camera in manual mode, and I did. I’m getting better and learning a lot just by using this setting. This year my goal is to take better photos, still using manual mode most of the time, but to spend less time behind the camera and more time in the moment. I think that means I need to really work on refining my skills and go beyond the trial and error phase that I was in last year. Trial and error means taking lots and lots of photos to figure out what works, but then I miss out on some of the fun of whatever I’m taking photos of. I need to have a better balance. Now that I’ve been shooting in manual a bit and learning how things work, I think I need to try to get some instruction. I don’t know from where/whom yet, possibly a person, maybe a book, perhaps a website. Something. I will learn.DSC_0145

 

2. I will get myself back in shape. I have found a great tool to help me with this, My Fitness Pal. The simple act of logging all the things I eat and the exercise I do makes me less likely to eat stuff I’d rather not log, and more likely to exercise so I can log it. Win!

3. I will meal plan!!! I must meal plan. I have so many cookbooks I’ve underutilized for the past year or two. Gorgeous cookbooks with amazing recipes. I failed on my cooking goals for last year because I didn’t plan what I wanted to cook before going to the grocery store. Meal planning will help me to cook new and fun recipes, to keep our food choices healthy, and to keep myself from hating to prepare dinner.

My husband came up with the fun idea for me to take requests from him and the girls each week before I make my plan. This keeps me from having to choose all the recipes myself and prompts me to cook new and different things. At least at least this is the case with my husband’s requests. He requested “something Spanish” last week and “something using Italian sausage” this week. The girls tend to choose things like BLTs and spaghetti.

Meal planning will also help me pick recipes to celebrate feast days or to go along with our school lessons. Tonight we listened to Russian music and I cooked Beef and Beet Borscht, because we’ve been reading “Another Celebrated Dancing Bear,” which is set in Russia.

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That may be the prettiest bowl of food I’ve ever prepared ^^

4. I will be more organized, especially with homeschooling. I tend to do last minute prepping or just wing it the day of, which is okay for this year, but I want to get into a better rhythm so I’ll be more prepared for next year when Miss is in first grade. I have tried so many different planners and printables and nothing really lights my fire. I bought a small planner last year and used it for one week. It went in the trash yesterday, with almost nothing written in it. I’ve discovered that printing planner pages and putting them in a binder isn’t the way for me to go. I don’t like using binders for anything other than containing pages for storage.

I have heard rave reviews of the new planner written by fellow homeschooling mom Kelly Mantoan of This Ain’t the Lyceum. The planner is called The Best Laid Plans. I just ordered one, and I really hope it will be the magical fix to my lack of homeschool planning. Kidding. But not kidding that I will be better organized.

5. At least partially as a result of #4, I will make a concerted effort to make school more fun. No yelling and nagging. More field trips. More art lessons. More science experiments. More feast day celebrations. More of the good stuff.

IMG_4229In our book this week the bears made tea in a samovar. So, tea party!

6. I will keep up with housework more. I hate this goal. But I have to make it.

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^^ This photo is from a post I wrote in March 2014, but my laundry room looks nearly exactly the same at this very moment, with baskets of clean clothes waiting to be folded and put away. I won’t even mention the rest of my house. Homeschool Home Ec class will be instituted ASAP.

7. In spite of #6, I will blog more. I have gotten out of the groove of writing, due to a number of things: I stopped getting up early for a while there. I was spending a good portion of every day outside with the puppies. I had less time to get stuff done, and I wasn’t making time for blogging.

But now I’m getting back into the habit of waking up early (thanks in large part to #2 above, if I get up early I’m far more likely to exercise, and if I exercise, I can log it!). AND, my husband set up a perimeter system so we can let the dogs out without leashing them. Freedom!

I’m looking forward to writing more again. I’m happier when I do.

 

I think this year I’ll write out my goals and put them somewhere I can see them often. Last year I forgot half of them by March.

What are your goals for 2015?

Linking up for 7 Quick Takes with Kelly!

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Vacation School

A few months ago, when I was planning for our homeschool year, I sat down and planned out our schedule for the year. No, I am not one of those amazing homeschool moms who planned out every lesson for the year in July. Most days I prep what we’re going to do the night before we’re doing it, if I’m lucky (if not, I just fly by the seat of my pants, and that works just fine for kindergarten).

What I mean about planning our year is that I sat down and looked at all the weeks we would be doing school, the days/weeks we would be off, the days Miss would be at her other school, and then figured out how many hours per day I’d need to teach in order to meet our state’s requirement of 875 hours of instruction per year. I don’t actually have to do that many hours this year because formal homeschooling doesn’t have to start until next year. But this is my practice year, so I did it anyway.

This is one of the built-in “vacation” weeks for our year. We’re at the Farm for my husband’s annual week of deer hunting. I knew I wouldn’t be bringing our school work with us, so I didn’t count on logging any school hours this week.

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But duh, it’s the Farm. Being here is like having a week-long field trip. I’m definitely logging some hours.

The girls got to see a groundhog in personal after the hired man captured one in the live trap (the groundhog was digging and making a mess in one of the buildings, so he was taken somewhere else). We had a nice impromptu review about groundhogs, while having the benefit of being able to point out, up close, their perpetually growing teeth and long claws for digging.

We’ve had plenty of outdoor exploration, discussing deer behaviors, inspecting scrapes, discovering where they might sleep and what they might eat.

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We’ve had discussions about the formation of rocks, and there has been plenty of “gym class.” Balancing, jumping, running down and up hills, etc.

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While playing on the hay bales, we found a big caterpillar. It was spiky and rolled into a ball each time we picked it up.

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So, obviously, we had a discussion about animals’ natural defenses. And then we tried to guess what the caterpillar might eat, and we made a habitat for it.

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I’ve laughed at myself a little bit this week, because we are not doing anything at all differently from what we would do here at the Farm if we weren’t homeschooling our kids. But since we are, I tend to think about everything differently:

“Oh, an animal skull. Science! They’re climbing. Gym class!”

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Yes. I’m logging every bit of it. I love homeschooling.

Grandparents (again), Field Trips (again), and Walls (finally)

Quick Takes Friday!

1.

We had a lot of fun with my parents when they were here. We got to celebrate my Mom’s birthday in my very favorite way. With gifts from the Dollar Tree, of course! I let the girls each pick two things as gifts for my Mom. The two older girls really tried to choose things they thought their Grandma would like. I just love watching how proud they are to see their gifts opened and appreciated.

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Miss chose a fall-themed oven mitt and a water bottle (similar to the one my Mom uses for her coffee). Lass selected a six-pack of plastic hangers and a statue of a mother holding a baby, which she immediately thought to be Mary and Baby Jesus and decided my non-Catholic mother must have it.

Sis chose a snow globe with puppies in it and what she thought was a small “bouncy ball” that turned out to be a soccer-themed washcloth.

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I never get tired of the dollar store presents.

2.

The only time our little dolls and castle ever look like this:

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With every. single. one. posed at “The Ball,” is when my Mom is here.

3.

Grandparents are the best.

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4.

Two weeks ago, we read the book A Pair of Red Clogs (set in Japan). The Godmother brought me some real Japanese clogs and kimonos and an obi and other things from Japan, that her father had brought back after WWII. She told me to let my girls touch and feel and try on and play with these wonderful items!

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Somehow I only got really crummy photos, but the girls had such fun trying on the shoes and clothes and twirling and clomping around. I have such a thoughtful and generous Godmother.

5.

I had wanted to take the girls to a hibachi restaurant for a meal/field trip, but didn’t get around to it during the week that we read the Red Clogs book. So we went with my parents on Wednesday night. The older girls loved it.

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Sis didn’t want anything to do with it.

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6.

Speaking of field trips, this week we’re reading “A Glorious Flight” about how Louis Bleriot built an airplane and was the first person to fly a plane over the English Channel. We have an amazing aviation museum nearby, which was the perfect field trip this week.

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In case you’re wondering, that’s at least seven field trips for us already this year!

7.

Finally, I am very excited to show you this last photo:

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Walls! We have walls finally going up. We have such a long, long way to go, I know. But this, seeing something coming up from the ground for real, has just made my weekend.

For more Quick Takes, check out the link up at Conversion Diary.

 

Homeschooling is Going Quite Well, Thanks for Asking

Many people have asked me about how our first few weeks of homeschooling have been going. The answer is they have been going mostly very well. We’ve already taken several field trips, and Five in a Row has been the perfect curriculum for us to start with. We’ve covered “The Storm in the Night,” “The Story About Ping,” “Lentil,” and “Madeline” so far.

When we were reading “The Story About Ping” (which is about a duck in China) we took a field trip to a Chinese restaurant to try a new type of food and also to experiment with eating with chopsticks (yes, going out to lunch can be called a field trip when you homeschool).

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The next day we learned about how ducks keep their wings dry, doing an experiment with oil and water.

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And then we took another field trip.

IMG_3631 IMG_3639 IMG_3654This time we shared our lunch with a mama duck and her babies. Field trips are my favorite.

When we read “Lentil” we learned about different tastes (in the story there is a character who makes everyone pucker by sucking loudly on a lemon).

DSC_0011Sweet brown sugar, bitter cocoa powder, salty uh, salt, and sour lemons.

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Of course, then we made lemonade,

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which also counted toward gym time, they were working so hard.

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This week with Madeline we didn’t do much photo-worthy stuff. Other than ice-painting French flags.

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We’re taking another field trip tomorrow to a local farm. It has nothing to do with our book this week, but it’s a place with pony-riding and cow-milking and chicken-chasing, and I want to go before the regular school kids start taking their field trips. And as much as I sometimes want it to, not every thing we do is always going to fit with our book or our theme of the week. I’m cool with that. And field trips are my favorite.

The girls are also (mostly) enjoying our reading curriculum, All About Reading. It’s a good fit for us, because we’re pretty much all about reading around here these days.

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The jury is still out on our math curriculum, Math U See. It’s fine, but I don’t love it, and neither does Miss. I’ve been eyeing some Life of Fred books, but I’m not quite willing to bail on our current plan. Yet.

I have bailed out on some other things that I bought out of early excitement and over-eagerness to get all the things and start teaching my kids with Catholic Stuff! I bought a bunch of workbooks from Seton Home Study School, and they just aren’t a good fit for us. Other than the handwriting book, I’m not using any of them right now.

Art, science, and social studies are mostly rolled into our FIAR work. I’m winging it on religion, knowing that Miss is getting some back up teaching in her regular school time. Right now we’re memorizing the Ten Commandments (I don’t know them by heart myself), and we celebrate various feast days, read about saints, and talk about the Mass. There is also a Bible component of FIAR that we do, which includes verses and stories that are relevant to our book for the week. I think were doing pretty good there.

I try to have Miss do a little bit of computer time here and there using PBS Kids Play or ABC Mouse. She gets music class at her regular school and she takes piano lessons. Gym is not systematic at all at this point. It’s running around the couch and playing outside and going to soccer once a week. And foreign language has not made it into the line up at all yet. I have a Spanish program for them, but I haven’t used it.

We still have some tweaking to do, but I’m very happy with how our homeschool is coming together so far.

Next week we’re reading “A Pair of Red Clogs.” It’s set in Japan. I see a field trip to the hibachi restaurant in our very near future.

7QT, Theme Thursday, All in One

Linking with Jen and Cari today.

1.

Cari’s Theme Thursday this week was “Google Image Search.” Easy – type your own name into Google Images and share the first image of you that comes up. Except that I am kind of crazy paranoid about keeping myself and my family somewhat anonymous on the internet. I don’t use my last name here on the blog, I don’t use my kids’ real names, etc. Add that to the fact that my last name is super generic (think Jones), and I end up with a Google image search in which not one of the photos that shows up is of me. Not. One. I would have done a screen shot of the images that did show up, but I have no idea how to do that, so here are a few samples.

^^ Not me (that’s Amy Grant in case you couldn’t tell)

^^ Also not me (that’s Amy Lee from Evanescence)

^^ Yeah, not me either (Amy Smart?)

Anyway, you get the idea. There were tons of photos that came up of people who actually do have the same name as me, but I didn’t want to put some random person’s pic on here without her permission, so these are a few of the celebs that came up.

Apparently, as far as the internet is concerned, I don’t really exist. I’m cool with that.

To see other people’s actual pictures of themselves from Google image searches, check out Cari’s Theme Thursday link here.

2.

We started homeschooling this past week. This is earlier than I wanted to, but Miss will be starting her part-time kindergarten next week, and for the first week she’s going to go for three full days so she can get into the classroom groove and get to know the other kids. I wanted her to get a foundation of school at home before doing that, so I began before I was entirely prepared.

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It’s been a little crazy. I’m not in a groove yet. I haven’t gotten things worked out so that I can work with Miss and keep the others occupied and still be able to do a little bit of one-on-one work with Lass. I don’t know what the heck I’m doing.

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^^ She doesn’t use a binkie, she just found that and decided it was nice to chew on ^^

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I will say that, though it has been a little crazy, I’m pleased overall with how the week went. Miss is begging for more of her reading lessons. The girls learned some fun stuff, like what onomatopoeia and personalization are (thanks, FIAR). They had fun coming up with examples of these. We did some cool art. We went on our first field trip.

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3.

The field trip was to a place called Bookworm Gardens. All of the different areas at these gardens are based on different children’s books. They even have little cubbies all around the gardens with the books in them, laminated, so you can read them while you explore.

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^^ Goldilocks and the Three Bears

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^^ Little House on the Prairie

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^^ Horton Hatches the Egg

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You get the idea.

I thought it wouldn’t be crowded, since school groups aren’t taking field trips yet. I failed to realize that, since most schools haven’t even started yet, the summer daycare programs are ending, and they’re taking field trips. The place was packed.

We had plenty of fun anyway.

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4.

In addition to having to prepare for doing my own schooling with the girls at home, I’ve had to get Miss’s stuff ready for her part-time Kindergarten too.

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Which means a lot of labeling. Her teacher wants everything labeled. Each crayon. Each marker. Each colored pencil. That’s a lot of labeling. Super Friend did this last year, and she recommended her handy dandy label maker machine.

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Which really is quite handy dandy. Except the labels aren’t quite as sticky as they’d need to be to stay on curved objects, like crayons and markers. I stayed up late Sunday night and got all of the items labeled. When I went to show Miss her stuff the next day, I found that on the 108 crayons, 20 skinny markers, and 10 colored pencils, the labels didn’t stay.

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I panicked for a moment, and then resorted to the obvious solution. Scotch tape.

DSC_0170I went back and taped over every one of those suckers.

When I took Miss to meet her teacher and drop off her supplies in her classroom she said to her teacher, “My Mom was really smart, because she put my name on all of my things.”

Worth it.

5.

Speaking of taking her to meet her teacher, the open house for her school was on Thursday. She got her school pictures taken.

IMG_3498She looks so grown up, and so tiny, at the same time. Look at her little feet dangling. I could cry.

6. 

We had a birthday party today.

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A little girl who really loves animals is turning four tomorrow.

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Naturally, we had her party at the zoo.

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We had just enough time to play on the playground for a bit and see all the animals before it started to pour. Between them running out from under the covered areas to get wet on purpose, jumping in puddles, and needing to make a mad dash through the rain to the car, we had some wet kids when it was all over.

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I suspect the rain and puddles were one of the highlights of the party for them.

7.

After much deliberation, prayer, and checking (and rechecking) with my husband to be sure he’s okay with it, I have decided to become a sponsor for the RCIA program at my parish this year. The first class is September 8th. I can’t wait.

For more quick takes (probably much quicker than these!), check out Conversion Diary.

Theme Thursday – Panic, New Homeschool Mom Style

Kindergarten. Very soon, our first real year of homeschooling will begin. I’m terrified. And disorganized. And terrified.

Cari’s theme for Theme Thursday this week is “Panic” and her post yesterday showed that even veteran homeschooling moms can be in a state of disarray and panic at this time of the year, leading to hands thrown up and spontaneous avoidance-baking. I don’t like to bake, so I haven’t gotten to that point yet. But I did nearly decide that I would rather my daughters be illiterate than to spend absurd amounts of time peeling and sticking magnetic squares to letter tiles and tearing apart perforated cards (pages and pages of cards!!!) for our reading and spelling curricula. All About Reading didn’t include that part in the description of their product!

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^^ Look at all those tiles! That’s only half of them. Peel and stick. Peel and stick.

I am nearly ready, as far as my product preparation goes. 1000-ish Cards have been torn apart. I just have about 700 more to do for the spelling curriculum, and I’ll be done with that. I’ve mostly finished figuring out what we are going to do each day. Sort of. I’ve tallied the total number of hours we have to do school (the only state requirement of homeschooling here) and the number of days we’re doing school and used my math skills to determine the number of hours we need to work each day. I’m already exhausted. Math is hard.

Miss is going to the local Catholic school for 1.5 days per week. She’ll go to Mass, get religious education, music class, gym class, and a few other things. I’m going to send her for the first three full days of school, so she can get to know her teacher and classmates and the routine. Then we’ll start our part-time deal. They start school on August 26th. I am starting our at-home schedule the week before that, with the idea being that I’ll sort of cement “we-mostly-do-school-at-home” in her mind before she goes off to the big world of Catholic school kindergarten for three whole days.

So that means (gulp) we’re starting on August 18th. And we’re going out of town on Friday (tomorrow!) for a week. WHAT?

Panic, you see.

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Yes, I have been sitting at the tiny kids’ table to do all the prep work on the materials.

I still need to figure out my first lessons and get some stuff on the schedule of what we’re actually going to do.

I have to figure out a way to organize all this stuff.

I have to clean out our craft and supply cabinets.

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I have to figure out what I’m going to do with Sis, to keep her from running off with the fruits of my magnet-sticking labor every time I turn my back, and perhaps help her to learn a little something as well.

I have to actually read our first Five In a Row book and decide what activities I’m going to do to go along with it.

And because I’m crazy and my child is also attending a non-home-school part time, I have to get all of the required supplies for that school, and label each item individually (yes, each crayon, each marker, etc.), and make an appointment for her to have a physical (oops!), and get all of her uniform clothing de-wrinkled. . .

Yikes. Writing this post is only making me more panicked. I gotta go do some stuff. Wish me luck!

Preschool – X Marks the Spot and X-Ray

We finally covered letter X in our home preschool and co-op a few weeks ago. I hadn’t been looking forward to it, knowing that I wouldn’t be able to find nearly as much inspiration from Pinterest and other sources as I usually do when planning a lesson. And when I started looking for ideas, I found that, in fact there isn’t much out there about X. I pulled together some ideas I found and came up with a few of my own to teach our preschool co-op. Here’s what we did:

I started by reading Alphabet Mystery by Audrey Wood. This book introduces the concept that the letter X is not a frequently used letter, but can be used as a symbol for other things, like kisses (XOXO), as is the case at the end of the book.

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In the book, the other letters go searching for the little X when he runs away. So the next thing we did was to do a letter X search on our white board. I wrote a 4×4 grid of letters, half Xs and half other letters. I got the idea here. The kids took turns, and with each turn had to find an X and circle it, and find a non-X and “X” it out.

The kids really loved the book and the grid activity, and these were a great way to introduce the next part of the lesson. I explained to them that in addition to being a way to symbolize kisses, X is also used as a way to mark the location of something, as in “X marks the spot” on a treasure map.

I passed out “Xx marks the spot” coloring pages from this printable pack and told them it was their treasure map. I then gave each of the four kids a section of the room to search (to avoid fighting or having just a couple of kids getting all the booty) and told them to find the treasure hidden under the Xs. Earlier I had placed small squares of construction paper with Xs on them around the room and under each one was either a gold “doubloon” or a gem. After the kids found all of the loot, they glued them to  piece poster board in the shape of an X. Here’s Lass’s:

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After completing this we returned to our rug. Usually I take some time to have the kids come up with as many words as they can think of that start with our letter of the week. But this time, considering the paucity of X-words, I tried something different.

I talked to the kids about how very few words begin with X but lots of words end with the letter. I then held up a bag with several different objects of pictures of objects in it and had the kids take turns picking something out.

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With each item they had to name it and then tell us whether the item starts with X or ends with it.

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Then we moved into talking about X-rays and read the book Jessica’s X-Ray by Pat Zonta.

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We made these super easy and fun X-ray crafts:

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E-Z. Trace hand and part of arm on black construction paper with a white crayon. Give each child seven and a half Q-tips and a small cup of white glue. Have them dunk the Q-tips in the glue and place on paper to make basic finger, wrist, and forearm bones. They loved it.

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All the snack ideas I saw involved eating something that could be placed in the shape of an X, like strips of cheese, pretzel sticks, etc. I opted to stick with my emphasis on learning the sound of X by talking about words that end in X, so we ate Chex Mix. Big hit.

And that’s that. Though I wasn’t really looking forward to doing X, it ended up being the most fun co-op lesson I’ve taught. And the lesson was very easy.

In addition to the co-op day, we did other letter X activities just in our homeschool, like making these St. Francis Xavier dolls:

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They were inspired by the ones at Catholic Icing. We just used different materials that we happened to have available.

We also read lots of other books about X-rays and bones, like My Mom Has X-Ray Vision by Angela McAllister, Dem Bones by Bob Barner, What Does the X-Ray Say? by Second Grade Students at Longfellow Elementary School, and Curious George Goes to the Hospital by H.A. Rey.

Letter X wasn’t too bad. And now we only have two more letters of the alphabet to complete. We’re doing Y right now, and in a few weeks we will do K. Then we will be done.

I’m really excited about this because I’m ready to move on from focusing on a Letter-of-the-Week style of homeschooling (though for us it’s usually more than one week per letter). I have purchased some different curricula for Miss to start working on kindergarten stuff, and I’m eager to start something new. I really don’t care that it’s April and an odd time to change what we’re doing in our school.

I just bought Five in a Row Volume 1, and I’m really looking forward to starting it with the girls. I also have some kindergarten materials from Seton Home Study School for Miss and grabbed some new preschool books from Rod and Staff for Lass to start on. We will be adding other components when kindergarten starts for real in the fall, but I think these will be the perfect change of pace for us for the rest of the spring.

Going to Catholic School?

I met with the principal at the local Catholic school today. Next fall Miss will be starting kindergarten. But since I homeschool my kids, you might wonder why I would bother to meet with a school principal.

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I had started thinking about beginning the process of taking my girls to after school religious education classes in order for them to prepare for their first communions and confirmations. And then I thought about the descriptions I had heard from people who went through religious ed after school like that (none were good). And I began to wonder if there was some way I could have my girls do it differently.

I have a sister-in-law who homeschools her oldest son part time and sends him to public school part time. He’s in first grade. They love the arrangement they have.

Super Friend’s kids go to the Catholic school here in town. I have heard wonderful things about the school from her and everyone else I know whose children attend there.

I put all of these thoughts together, and I couldn’t help but wonder if I might be able to work something out where I could send Miss (and later her sisters) to the Catholic school part time, and still maintain our homeschooling for the rest. I figured I could still have her home with me most of the time, still be able to technically be a homeschooling family so that we aren’t subject to the attendance rules of the schools and could continue to travel as much as we want, and yet be able to derive many of the benefits available with a traditional school system.

My mind was swimming with the possibilities. I envisioned being able to send her to school for religion classes and then not have to send her to them after-school. Maybe letting her take art and music classes in school. I mulled this over in my head for quite a while, and finally I just called up the principal of the school and asked her if we could do it.

Guess what she said? “That sounds wonderful. Let me check into it.”

So she met with the people that needed to be met with. She sent me a schedule for the kindergarten class to look over. And today we met to see if we could come up with something that might work.

It. was. fabulous. The principal was absolutely open to all of my ideas and completely willing to work with me. She was open to trying to enable Miss to attend not only religion classes but the school mass on Thursday mornings, music, gym, computers, and art. I also asked that she be able to participate in some free periods like recess and “free choice,” so that she’d have a chance to play and interact and make friends with the other kids.

I am so thrilled with how the meeting went. As it looks now we will probably send Miss to school maybe for about a day and a half per week. She’ll be able to perform in the school concerts. She should be able to go on field trips. She’ll be able to have plenty of time playing and learning with other kids her age, but still be home with me most of the time. I’ll be in charge of the majority of her schooling. I’ll get some help in teaching her religion. And we will still be able to travel whenever we want and do all the other things that homeschooling enables us to do.

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I haven’t talked to Miss about it, but I think she will be very excited about the possibility of spending some time at school outside our home. And I think it will be a great experience for her. I really think it will be the best of both worlds.