Thursday, January 28, 2010

School Days

Here's a few shots from our school day last week. Enjoy!





The Master Planner

My friend posted this link on facebook.

The Master Planner

I looked and liked what I saw. I chose to download the package. It took less than five minutes to pay for it, download it and begin to play with all the forms. Now to get some ink for the printer....

Monday, January 25, 2010

Anatomy for a Four Year Old

Troubles has always been interested in the skeletal system. He learned phalanges right along with fingers, he'll mention how he can point with his scapula (double jointed-ness), and complain when he bangs his tibia. Due to his interest in anatomy, I thought of him when I saw this set at a garage sale for $2. Everyone enjoys getting these out, but the skeletal system always goes to him.



Today, he found these cards (ribcage if you can't tell) and put the front view on his chest and the back view on his back and said, "This is how they go!" I taught him "Anterior" and "Posterior", but he couldn't recall those words later. Just hanging hooks...


Sunday, January 24, 2010

Hanging Hooks

Len on coat hook Winnipeg c1946 Pictures, Images and Photos
(Image from Photobucket)

Hanging hooks is a phrase I think of often when teaching my Littles. I think I first read of it in "The Weaver", the curriculum I used during my eldests PK-K-1. It's the idea that you introduce interesting, challenging ideas to very young children for the purpose of 'hanging hooks'. Introduce hard things, whether or not they understand or even remember them, and you are hanging hooks. You are preparing them with a foundational hook from which to add understanding later.

Do you use real words with your babies or do you baby-talk them?
Do you expect your toddlers to sit and listen when you read from the Scriptures?
Do you make a habit to use rich vocabulary through the day?
Do you involve your Littles in the studies of your older children, when they can?
Do you take your Littles to the museum, the library, the field trips you go on, or do you get a babysitter so you can focus on the bigger kids?

All of these (and many more examples) are opportunities to hang hooks in their little lives. Take advantage of the time you have with them! Don't sell them short just because they are young.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Math-U-See Fun

Polly and Jack played a fun little MUS game today I thought I'd share with you. This game develops counting, an understanding of place value and skills in saying large numbers.

To prepare, gather unlined 3x5 index cards. Write the digits 0-9, one on each card, first in green ink, then again in blue ink and finally in red ink. These represent the colors of the MUS blocks and help them grasp place value.

Then, grab a couple of cute Lambies and set up the activity. Put the cards in separate piles. We keep the MUS block in plastic shoeboxes, and it works well with this game to separate the blocks into three groups.


Put the piles of cards in front of the appropriate box and turn the top card over.




Now have the child build the correct number and say it aloud.


It's really a simple thing that keep kiddos busy for quite a while, and is easily scaled back to just counting for a younger child. You can also make it harder by adding addition and subtraction problems for them to build and solve or by mixing the blocks all together and shuffling the cards together so they must place them in proper order themselves.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

A Science Experiment!

My daughter, Polly, came to me today with a request. She had gotten down a science book and saw a simple, fun experiment she wanted to run with her younger brothers and sister. I looked it over, set down some ground rules and said yes. She ran off to the kitchen, delighted. I continued school with the olders in the living room.

When it was all ready, she called the Littles. She explained the experiment. For some reason, Missy didn't want to participate. She missed a lot of fun!

Here are Polly, Troubles and Jack learning about what happens when bubbles meet, observing that they are covered with rainbows and more! For further study, tomorrow we'll look at these links... we might play these games...and maybe even try one of these....



And they are having such fun doing it, too!


Hope you enjoy this spontaneous mini-unit study.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

A Peek Into Our Binders

The children each have a binder that is anchor of our studies. It guides each childs day and shows them (and me) what they need to accomplish. Last time, I shared how I organize the schedules for each child. Here's a picture of my Y6 daughter's checklist schedule:


Note how she X's off things we skip, miss or choose not to do on a certain week. Most things get a check mark. Each subject is completed before the child may check mark it. I have to verbally ok an X.

See also how there are extra lines where I have listed the books for the day? It seems that there's always something I forget to list, so it gets penciled in when we discover an omission.

Each child 2nd grade and up is participating in Geography. We are using Ann Voscamp's Explore the Holy Land. Included in geography is mapwork. I print the maps off from the included CD and they are slipped into a sleeve in the binder.


I print off the AO weekly schedule for the older children, first having copied it to a word processor and adapted it as I need. I delete books we are subbing out and add in our personal changes. This helps the kids know exactly what to read, since, in the older grades, it's not always 1 chapter a week.


Each child also has a pencil bag, extra lined paper for notes, and 3-hole-punched drawing paper for sketching. One child has a small atlas she found at a garage sale. Younger children have flashcards of sight words. Most of the also have a spelling dictionary. Some of the older children choose to keep their spiral notebooks (for Grammar and Spelling Wisdom) in their binders. Others keep them in their school drawer.

Next time, I'll give you a tour of our school closet.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

How I Organize Our AO Schedules

I admit it. I am a checker-off-er. I have too many things to remember to NOT be a checker-off-er. If I don't have a written record, I most likely won't remember it. Therefore, I need to have check-off sheets for the childrens schoolwork. In addition, I am constantly striving to work myself out of a job. I want my children to be able to do school themselves if I have to be away for some reason. Check-off sheets help accomplish both of these ends.

After trying numerous planners that weren't right for me, I found LindaFay's wonderful site. Her articles have been so helpful as I have developed my homeschool philosophies and goals. She has a forms site, too, I discovered. There I found the check off sheet I have used for the past two or three years. It's a perfect fit!

Here's how I organize a Year. First, I downloaded the checkoff form to my computer. I add Bible, Memory Verse, Grammar or Phonics and Math-U-See since these are daily subjects which all the children need on their lists. I save it as "Master Planner", then open it up again and rename it "Year __ Term ___" and save it again. I have folders for each Year and save the completed forms into them, so that each fall I have most of the work done and need only make small adjustments for the new year and the new student.

Next, I refer to the AO site. I go to the booklist for the Year I am planning. I print a copy of the booklist so I don't have to be flipping back and forth on the computer tabs, and I can scratch and scribble my notes and plans on the booklist as I organize my thoughts.

I choose which books I am going to use from the booklist and which I will substitute. I am not a slave to the AO booklists! If I don't care for a book, I will change, even in the middle of it, if I must! I write these on the blank back of the booklist. I add in books that I want to include that aren't on the booklist. I note which books are daily or twice-weekly reads and which are only weekly, so I can add them the correct number of times to the schedule.

Next I begin to arrange the books into the check off sheet on the computer. I sort them by subject and by difficulty. I don't want to put all the hardest books on the same day! Bible, Memory Verse, Grammar, Phonics and Math-U-See are already added in the previous step. I choose to have Monday and Tuesday our heaviest days, since we are fresh from the restful weekend. I arrange the bulk of the harder 'core' subjects on these days. I balance them out with free reading and literature. Science (Apologia) is daily for the older children, twice weekly for 3-6th graders. I add and change around the remaining books until I am happy with the arrangement.

I make sure to note if I want a written or oral narration of a certain book, because if I don't, I will forget to ask for it. I even add in "Read a story aloud" or "Help a Little with a page" in the older children's lists. I want them to be developing teaching skills as well as academic ones.

I choose to schedule all our weeks work into four days, with Fridays being reserved for fine arts, field trips, service opportunities, and catch-up, in case something unexpected happened earlier in the week. I have the freedom to drop school for a day if something fun or challenging comes up, without falling behind. That freedom is important to me.

Once I am pleased with the form, I print it out on cardstock. I slip it, back to back (since it is two pages), into plastic sleeve and it goes into the students binder. It is referred to by the child, to see what he or she must accomplish on a given day, and serves to help me see at a glance what they need to do still before earning free time.

I hope that's a clear presentation of what works for me on scheduling. Please do ask if you have any questions or need clarification on anything I have mentioned. :)

Friday, January 15, 2010


One of the children received a SkyRail marble track for Christmas. These are wonderful toys that are powered by thinking! It was a real popular toy with all the children! Dad helped them learn how to put it together.

skyrail track

skyrail track

Several days later, we were in Target and found several SkyRail tracks on clearance. I wish we could have bought all of them, but we did get two. Now all of the children can build! Here's what is gracing the library right now.

skyrail track

skyrail track

What a great tool to learn physics concepts: cause and effect, speed, friction, inertia, etc. and have a lot of fun at the same time!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

The Seven Silly Eaters

The Seven Silly Eaters by Mary Ann Hoberman
Illustrated by Marla Frazee

The Seven Silly Eaters is one of my absolute favorite picture books. I would own eight or nine copies of this one if I ever saw it again at a yard sale! I'd like one for every one of my children to own their own copy and one for me, too!

It tells the story of Mr. and Mrs. Peters and their children, beginning with the oldest, Peter Peters, as an infant. Each of the ensuing children (they eventually have seven) have a favorite dish, and that's the ONLY one they will eat! Mrs. Peters must work her days away meeting the demands of her children, until.......

This book is delightfully written in rhyme and very well illustrated. I refer to it when one of my Lambies makes an unusual or outrageous request for a meal..."Who do you think I am, Mrs. Peters?"

The Country Bunny and the Little Gold Shoes (as told to Jenifer)

This is a classic story, published in 1939 by DuBose Heyward, illustrated by the great Marjorie Flack.

From the back cover: "The Country Bunny is a lady, and she attains the exalted position of Easter Bunny in spite of her responsibilities as the mother of twenty-one children. That the story ends with success and a reward is, of course, as every child would wish."

This book is sometimes touted as a feminist book (on the back cover of my copy it is, at least), but I see it as a mother that has trained her children so well that they can take some responsibility for the home for a little while, allowing her a day to serve her neighbors. It is well written with interesting vocabulary and I love, love, love the way the relationship between Mother and the children is portrayed.

One drawback is the absence of Father Bunny, but there is a Grandfather Bunny as a positive male character. Father is mentioned in the beginning of the story in this way: "By and by she had a husband and then, one day, much to her surprise, there were twenty-one Cottontail babies to be taken care of." Father is not mentioned again.

The illustrations are lush and soft, yet at the same time, the colors are vivid, and they are somewhat reminiscent of Beatrix Potter. Anyone familiar with Marjorie Flack can imagine how delightful the characters are. All of the animals are modestly dressed, and might inspire your Little Princesses to want a full skirt and apron and your Little Prince to desire a bow tie and jacket! Make sure to check out the sleeping arrangements to bunnies enjoy at the back of the book!

Hairy Maclary

I wanted to offer more of our favorite books for your enjoyment. This is a series of superb rhyming books by Lynley Dodd. There are lots of books in the series, and every one is great fun! They are available from Amazon for about $6 each. I would place the read aloud ages from 1-10+ (since my baby and my ten year old and everyone in between enjoy them), and the read alone level at about age 7 or so... the vocabulary can be pretty challenging in some books!

In this book, the first, we meet many of the characters in the series: Hairy Maclary from Donaldson's Dairy, Hercules Morse, as big as a horse, Bottomley Potts, all covered in spots, Muffin McLay, like a bundle of hay, Blitzer Maloney, all skinny and bony, Schnitzel von Krumm, with a very low tum, and.......Scarface Claw. When my Lambies see a wiener dog, they often shout, "There's a Schnitzel von Krumm with a very low tum!"

Ms. Dodd's rhymes are very precise and her cadence is easy to read. I can read these books over and over without becoming tired of them. I think that's a very good quality in a children's book, since the children will listen as long as and as many times as I am willing to read! The vocabulary is rich and endearing, not at all "dumbed down for children". Her pictures are very entertaining and have details that encourage a "deep looking at" according to Trixie, aged 7.

I encourage you to try one of these charming books; I think you'll like them!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Masterful Inactivty

Masterful inactivity: My definition: The art of doing something worth doing when doing nothing.

My children have free time scattered throughout the day. I read with them one or two at a time, after having Bible time in the morning, then math and other “together” subjects. The children that I am not reading with have free time and help keep an eye on the smallest children. There is no T.V. or video games allowed before Daddy gets home, and sometimes, not even when he is home. So what do they do? They are engaged in masterful inactivity! What are some of the things they enjoy?

Legos, Legos, Legos!

My six and older set love to play chess with one another. They are also learning backgammon. Other board games are also popular. Some favorites: Battleship, Harold and the Purple Crayon (Polly’s pick!), Mastermind, Abalone, Stay Alive, etc.

The Dice Game: Gather five or six dice, set a winning number…for example, 300 points, and take turns rolling the dice and roll and add until one person reaches the goal. It’s simple, but very fun for the kids!

Card games such as Go Fish, War and Slap Jack. We also have a ongoing BlackJack tournament going on with the four oldest Lambies and Dad and Mom. We play it once in a while and keep track of chip totals. Trixie is the only one in the black!

Bible verse challenges. Have one child read the address of a verse and the others try to be the first to recite the verse.

Hangman and other whiteboard games are always fun.

Puzzles are a favorite.

My older girls cross-stitch, crochet and sew clothes.

My sons love to disassemble old electronics.

Garden areas can be tended (read that play in the dirt).

Animals are cared for and loved on.

Reading of “free-time” books is often indulged in.

The younger children like to play "The Animal Game". I (or an older sibling) provide clues and see how quickly they can identify the animal. I also play a variation with people from the Bible. For example: I am not an Israelite, but helped defeat Jericho. Two spies hid on my roof. I let them down a scarlet cord. Who am I?

Drawing, painting, watercolor pencils, clay, playdoh, etc. come out and engage their creative sides.

Physical games, like “Hide and Go Seek Back To Camp” (which involves both hiding and racing to a safe spot, eluding the person who is It), “I’maDarlin’” (plot narrated by Trixie): a gamewe made up where one child plays a parent, and the rest are children and the children, when they go to bed, they have to escape and the parent has to run after them and try and spank them, but when they get in bed they can’t get spanked, the parent has to hide in the hall and catch the children as they try to sneak past. ***I haven’t any problem putting the children to bed due to their playing this game!***

Playing outside on bikes and scooters, or playing tag is a top choice!

I hope some of these ideas will help you and your family enjoy some “masterful inactivity” during this long holiday weekend!

Herbert the Lion

(Originally posted on my other blog 7-25-2006)

Here's my next offering for book reviews. I found this one at my local used book store for $5.00. That's more than I usually pay for a book but this is a great one! This is not my own picture, but one I copied from Amazon.

Clare Turlay Newberry won a couple of Caldecott awards for other books. I have not seen any of her others, but am keeping my eyes open for them. (ETA: I have most, if not all now) Herbert the Lion was first published in 1931 and has the feel of the roaring Twenties. The style of clothes on the characters, the car the family travels in, groceries being delivered to the home, it's all so Twenties! The illustrations are fairly simple; the color palette consists of only the two colors plus black for outlines, but the overall feel is delightful!

Sally is a little girl who wishes for a lion. Her mother brings one home for her, then the adventures begin! The problem is stated on page 8: Herbert grew, and grew and GREW! There is even a nutrition lesson in this short story!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The Dangers of Homeschooling

Jack, seven and a half years old, to Troubles, age four:

"What's three plus three?"


"Nope, thirteen!"

Momma: "Don't teach him math anymore, Jack!"