Monday, October 18, 2010

Reading Progress

First we tried Rod & Staff's first grade reading program.  It moved too fast for 8yo (boo hoo, I love R&S).  Next we tried 100 EZ lessons.  That went great until she started to bog down about lesson 45.  Plateau.

While she is in this plateau I decided to pull out the predictable books and let her read those for practice.  If a  book is too long for her, we take turns reading.

This week's predictable books:

These aren't as predictable but she is familiar with the them which helps:

And just because she is into snakes:

Monday, October 4, 2010

Crater Lake and Oregon Caves

Just back from a week of vacation.  No school for a whole week. Wow! But, we certainly weren't idling the day away next to the pool.  Nope. We were learning.  We spent a couple of days at Crater Lake National Park, a day at Oregon Caves National Monument, and a couple of hours at the Klamath County's Main Museum.

Klamath County's Main Museum has an awesome hands-on exhibit for kids - "Forests for Everyone: Klamath's Living Legacy."  The exhibit shows how forests can be shared by sportsmen, preservationists, foresters, and recreation seekers.  There are many displays about the Modoc Indian Wars along with a huge washtub collection.  But, you know what was really amazing?  The actual newspaper pages from the 1940's taped up on the walls of the bathroom stalls.  It made for great reading along with the 1958 Rand McNally poster of the universe.

Crater Lake was beautiful of course.  We learned how the collapse of Mt. Mazama formed the caldera over 7,000 years ago.  There were so many geological features to see and cliffs to pull the 8yo away from.  Aside from the regular view the movie, drive around the rim, and take a hike, we also decided to stay and view a moon rise over the lake.  A natural forest fire provided the smoke necessary to create a deep orange moon as it peeked over the rim of the lake.

Oregon Caves was nothing like I imagined (I guess I was thinking of Mt. Timpanogos).  The drive was steep with hairpin curves for a good 8+ miles.  The guided tour had strict guidelines - no children under 42", no carrying children, no food, no flashlights, no back, breathing, or heart problems.  I knew I was too out of shape for the entire 90 minute tour, so I bailed at the 110 step exit.  But, what I did get to see was fun to share with my family...especially when the lights went out.  Oh, and on my way down the trail I was able to hang out with a group of five deer.

We even had an educational experience at the primitive campsite we stayed at, Huckleberry Mountain Campground (camping with cows was scary and fun all at same time).  While chopping wood for a fire, Dad exposed a fat grub we think may have been a mountain pine beetle larva.  Later the 12yo showed me the white fat grub and announced that she was going to eat it.  Crunch!  It was just biscuit dough.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Bed Bugs and Priorities

This summer we were exposed to bed bugs.  I had an inkling that we might have brought something home with us and then it was confirmed that the cabin we had stayed in had bed bugs.  Only one child had suffered from numerous bites, so I made a weak attempt to clean her bed.  I washed her bedding and vacuumed the top of her mattress.  Since the bites stopped, I stuck my head back in the sand and went about my merry way. mother-in-law let us know that a month after the reunion they had found a bed bug.   Oh goodness.

Today I spent an entire beautiful sunny autumn day washing bedding and dragging mattresses, etc. out into the sunshine to inspect them for signs of bed bugs.  I was overwhelmed and asked hubby to pick up a pizza or something.  He cooked instead.  It was great, but I feel guilty.  What has happened to me?  We eat "out" (not cooked by me) more than we eat food I've prepared.  I'm at least 50 lbs. overweight.  The house is dirty.  And homeschool?  It doesn't match my original vision at all.

What is my homeschool vision?  It is hard to put into words.  I see us going about our day in a leisurely  manner instead of hurrying to check off each item on a to-do list.  We would have time for read alouds.  There would be time to cook dinner without pressure.  Learning for the sake of learning vs. school at home.  In one word?  Relaxed.

Now, how do I get there?

Friday, September 24, 2010

Week 4

Yeah, early morning seminary is still causing some foul ups here.  Should that be foul or foul?  Hmmm...I think foul (notably unpleasant or distressing) is a better choice than foul (being outside the foul lines in baseball).   I am absolutely dragging every afternoon which affects homeschool.  I'm too tired to think, I don't have any energy, and I am irritable.  Seriously irritable.

My mantra continues..."I will get through this....I will get through this.....I will get through this...."

In order to "get through this" I'm going to have to make some changes.  The story of my homeschool career...tweaking.  Our homeschool has never been routine.  I am constantly tweaking, adjusting.  This year, month, week, will be no different. 

The first casualty happened before the new school year started.  I finally admitted that Rod & Staff's Bible Nurture and Reader Series was a poor fit for my struggling 8yo.  Love the readers but the workbooks were too much for her.

Next up?  All About Spelling as a remedial spelling program for my 12 and 15yo girls.  I wanted them to understand why certain words are spelled the way the are.  We were covering a lesson per day.  They didn't seem to mind.  Unfortunately, I needed to find some extra time somewhere and they needed more challenging words.  I returned 15yo and introduced 12yo to Phonetic Zoo.  Spelling is now an independent subject.  I still look forward to using All About Spelling with my 8yo (she's using the CD to learn the basic phonograms at this point).  I realize using Phonetic Zoo instead of AAS doesn't add much time to my day but mentally it has done wonders.  Less for me to worry about.

Okay, this one is a little embarrassing.  I've been using Writing With Ease Workbook: Level 1 with my 12yo.  Again the idea was to work through it quickly to make sure we had our bases covered.  We were doing a week in two days.  Of course dd didn't seem to mind because it was seriously easy.  As much as I like it, I um...admitted that she needs something vastly more challenging.  She's behind but not THAT behind.  Really not sure what to do with her in regards to writing.  Also, I don't think writing should be a daily subject by itself.

Science or history not both.  I've been doing both biology and ancient history with 15yo each day.  I'm going to try doing each subject for several days at a time and then switching to the other.  This is a head game as I don't believe it will help save time.  One less thing on the daily checklist may help me feel less overwhelmed.

I am also considering ditching Rod & Staff Arithmetic 1.  It is mostly drill of math facts.  It is killing my 8yo.  She likes Singapore Math (Frank Schaffer) much better.  The number bonds seem to be sticking, so we may focus on those for awhile and take a relaxed approach to math. 

Having schedules has helped to get more accomplished, but we aren't having fun.  I'm still mulling over how to find a good balance between the two.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Cheese, Hairy Legs, and Gift Shop Knives

Saturday we drove to Tillamook to tour the cheese factory.  We decided to take in the local air museum also.  8yo began whining before we hit the air museum parking lot, so I volunteered to sit out in the Westfalia with her.  Shortly after settling in, I remembered that I had brought some of her school books with me in hopes of doing a little planning during the drive up to Tillamook.  I retrieved them from my parents SUV giving 8yo quite a shock .  Once she realized that mom wasn't kidding, she sat back in her seat, pulled out her tourist knife from the cheese factory gift shop, and proceeded to trim her leg hairs with the scissors attachment.  The doors were closed to keep the dog inside.  The windows were closed to keep the rain out.  The 8yo was happily trimming her hairy legs.  We were reviewing math and science.  It was all very muggy cozy.  

BTW, my legs received a trim also. ; )

Friday, September 17, 2010

The week from "H" "e" double hockey sticks.

My 15yo attends an early morning religion class at our church every weekday (public school schedule).  In order to get her to class at 6:30am, I have to wake up at 5:30am.  I am NOT a morning person.  My body clock is set for a 1am bedtime and a 9am wake time. Somehow I survived last year and then summer, wonderful summer, arrived.

This was the first full week of class.  Monday I was tired.  Tuesday I was tired and irritable.  Wednesday I was a witch and my face felt like it might slide off my face.  Thursday my joints ached, I thought I was going to die, and I went a step above and beyond being a witch.  Being exhausted you would think I would fall asleep easily.  Not quite.  Every night I would lie down before 9:30pm but I couldn't fall asleep.  Bleh!  Thursday night I was desperate.  I sent the 8yo and 12yo to bed at 8:15pm (they are used to 10pm) and I went to bed too.  It wasn't great sleep, but I do feel somewhat better today.  Did I mention I was also suffering from PMS this week too?

Somehow homeschool went on...barely.  Please tell me next week is going to improve. 

It Could Always Be Worse
Maybe it is time to pull out my favorite picture book and give it another read. 

Friday, September 10, 2010

Week 2

I added in 15yo, and I'm shocked with how well this week went.  Apparently the scheduling system (weekly table for each student) is helping.  With the three schedules stapled together I can see the big picture and keep track of each child's individual assignments.

15yo started seminary this past Thursday.  With a waking time of 5:40am she is super tired during the day.  Last year she napped but the sleep specialist has said no naps.  Thursday we tried our one-on-one tutoring session in the afternoon but she had a hard time staying alert.  This morning we read Biology and ancient history together as soon as we returned home from early morning seminary.  I think it was a boost for her to have the bulk of school completed early in the day.

One glitch has been 8yo's schedule.  She has been up to full speed this week.  Unfortunately, I've had a few days where we simply could not complete everything.  We have had three rushed days this week and her work is the first casualty on those days.

This brings me to "rushing."  Three out of our four school days this week have been rushed which takes the fun out of homeschool.  Tuesday we rushed to finish before big sis's weekly visit.  Wednesday we rushed, so we could leave for Activity Day at church in the afternoon.  Friday we rushed so we could attend a picnic with dad's co-workers.   The only solution I see is starting school earlier.

Good things:
  • 8yo memorized a poem ("The Caterpillar" by Christina G. Rosetti).  She has a hard time parroting the most basic sentences, so I consider this a miracle.  In these two short weeks I have seen the fruit of consistency.  It is truly sweet.  
  • Though 12yo has no love of school, she comes to me ready to work and "get it over with."  I'm thankful she doesn't run and hide.
  • In the past, 15yo tended to silently dig in heels.  She would simply forget that I had given her a list of school work to be accomplished that day.  This week it was a relief to see her doing her work without constant reminders from me.  I'm also proud of her for wanting to attend seminary.
Tomorrow, amongst my chauffeuring jobs, I hope to extend my school planning by another week.  12yo needs grammar and 15yo needs German, grammar, and writing.

I need to remember to keep Tuesdays lighter than the rest of the week.  We want to enjoy big sister's visit on that day.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Week 1 Wrap-up (Rusty Chain)

The first day was tough.  It was like trying to ride a bike with a rusty chain.  Lots of exertion without moving very far along. Add in some awful squeaking noises.  12yo - compliance with frustration and tears.  8yo - non-compliance with copious amounts of whining

Day 2 - It was like someone oiled the chain.  Not as much exertion needed.  Moved more easily.

Days 3&4 - Did someone put a new chain on the bicycle overnight?  School went smoothly and ended a couple of hours earlier (for the 12yo).

Day 5 - We're in the groove.  No, they aren't jumping up and down for joy, but they realize Mom is going to stick to her guns.  "We will be consistent."

I have always LOVED planning.  Putting the plan into action?  Um, well, I've never been too successful with that.  
Week 1 - 12yo  
This year I made a table for each of my students - days of the week across the top, subjects in the left-hand column.  I typed in what I thought we could reasonably accomplish in each block/cell.  I planned out four weeks in which the weeks are progressively more productive.  Week one we worked on basics with lots of review - handwriting, spelling, math, Latin (reading for 8yo), history, and science, etc.   It was just right.  Week two I'll add Christian studies and writing.  Week three - grammar.  Week four - full speed ahead.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Dry Soil

Our first day of school was like pouring water on dry soil.

I'm notorious for letting our potted plants get so dry that the water runs off rather than soaking in.  Well, that was what our first day was like.  I was trying to put something into these kids but they were so "dry" that the information ran off before it ever had a chance to soak in, even slightly.  On one child I could actually see the run-off (in the form of tears of frustration).

I know that you have to gradually add water and give it time to soak into the soil. Eventually you will increase the soil's ability to retain moisture.  But, it takes time.  I thought I was starting my kids off slowly today.  I guess not.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Planning - so tired.

Spent the past two days planning school.  bleeeh.  I'm so tired.  And ya know what I accomplished?  I have planned a grand total of .....drum roll..... four weeks for the 8yo and 12yo.  I have nothing planned for the 15yo.  Nada.

But (my favorite word), I have a template for the younger two, so I'm hoping this will go much quicker in the future.

Now, what to do with the girl who wants to spend every waking hour on the computer playing Runescape...

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Not the best

I had a not-so-proud-of-myself aha moment this morning.  I was reading a homeschool thread about why homeschool parents would never consider public school for their children when I realized that I only plan to deliver a mediocre education.  I've never thought that I could give my kids an education that excelled or even matched the public schools.  I've only thought of it as different.  All of my planning takes the form of "what can we cover in a year" vs. "what is the most excellent education we can achieve in a year."  Are my kids not worthy of my best efforts?  Is homeschool just another thing to check off of my to-do list?

Saturday, August 7, 2010

The Book Samaritan

One of the pros of homeschooling is individualized instruction.  It can also be a drawback when you realize that a particular curriculum item isn't going to work for your child....especially if it is the youngest child.  When something doesn't work with older siblings you can store the workbook/textbook to try it with a younger child in the future.  When it is the youngest child that the curriculum doesn't work for you are forced to deal with how to dispose of said item.

I've tried selling online.  Not a good fit for me as I'm a procrastinator and buyers understandably want their item as soon as possible.  I've tried the local used homeschool book sale.  That's discouraging because you end up having to sell it for dirt cheap.  Honestly, I would rather give it to someone who needs it rather than sell it for practically nothing.  That's where The Book Samaritan comes in.  This group of volunteers receives used homeschool materials and then disperses them to families in need for free.

This week I finally gave up on a curriculum choice that I had made four years ago.  It didn't work for child #3, so I tucked it away in the closet.  And now, it has proven not to be a good fit for her younger sister either.  I liked it, but I don't need help with reading.  It was a bit painful, but I admitted defeat, put on my big girl panties, and shipped the books off to The Book Samaritan this week.  Kind of reminds me of the Island of Misfit Toys. ; )

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Shopping for School Supplies

I LOVE this time of the year.  Even though public school won't start here for quite some time (after Labor Day) the stores have already stocked their shelves with packs of notebook paper, folders, notebooks, scissors, glue sticks, lunch boxes, backpacks, etc.  As a homeschooler I have found out that we don't need many of these items to be replaced yearly which can take some of the fun out of the whole back to school time of the year.  Actually, the only items I think we may need to replenish this year are glue sticks.

I guess I was determined to participate in the fun this year, so I convinced myself to buy 8yo a cute backpack at Target recently.  And then, well, ya know, I might as well let the other girls buy a backpack too.  After all, we do use them when we go on overnighters.  I packed the girls into the car this afternoon and drug them all over town looking at each store's backpack options.  Of course, they decided to keep their first picks, but it was fun to oooh and aaaah over this year's latest back to school goodies.

Homeschooling a pre-teen

My daughter cracks me up.  One minute she's prancing around with high heel sandals and hair slicked back into a new "do" and the next she's having a 2yr old melt down over restarting math after several weeks off.  No matter how mature she looks, the little child who used to have tantrums is still in there. 

Bless her heart, she so wants to grow up.  She was a late reader and still struggles a little.  She is currently reading Mary Pope Osborne's Tales From the Odyssey and decided to check out the "real" Odyssey (Fitzgerald).  She came into my bedroom a few nights ago and questioned me about when I read it with her older sister.  She couldn't imagine how we had read it when sister was twelve.  She told me how boring it was and promptly re-shelved it.

edited 03 September 2012 to remove a keyword

Thursday, July 22, 2010


One way to tackle homeschooling is with a loop schedule.  You go through your list of subjects until say noon.  Didn't get to everything?  No problem.  When you start school the next day you just pick up where you left off.

Example:  Your list includes math, Latin, grammar, writing, and German, but you had to stop after grammar due to a doctor's appointment.  The next day you would start with writing, move on to German, and then start the loop over again with math.

This sounds wonderful and I think this would help me relax.  But (there's always a "but" right?), not one of my kids is independent.  Yes, I even have to tutor the 15 yo one-on-one.  This is more a parenting problem than an academic one.  The 15yo is, I believe, being passive aggressive.  She doesn't want to do the work (even when a written list is presented to her), so she conveniently forgets.  Suddenly it's bedtime, etc. and she has done very little of her school work.  I finally figured out that I had to tutor her in order for her to move forward.

Individually tutoring each child every day is tiring.  I enjoy working with them one-on-one.  It forms a special bond between us as we learn together, and I know exactly what they are learning.  At the same time, I feel fried by the end of the school day.  I feel used up, drained.  Consequently supper has become a hit or miss occurrence which is discouraging for Dad when he arrives home tired and hungry from a long day at work.

If I can accept the fact that we won't finish the loop every day then I think it would be a good fit for us.  It would allow me to tutor my kids without the pressure of feeling that I have to cram in x, y, and z before we can finish for the day.  Also, I would know that we are progressing, moving forward.  Maybe we won't be "on track" but at least I'll know that we are heading in the right direction.

I have to let go of the notion of being "behind."  This should be about learning not about ticking off a to-do list.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Wishful thinking for fall 2010

Sorry if it is large.  I'm still  learning.

Morning Routine
Independent Work List

3 R’s



3 R’s






Cook’s Helper
W - YW

Friday, July 16, 2010

Weekly Planner Page

Today I was done.  Just done.  I've been trying to help my 15yo prepare for the pioneer trek for three months.  Last night I took the girls for a supply check, and this morning I woke up not caring about anything.  I didn't even plan supper.  It was fend for yourself.  I ate half a peanut butter and jam sandwich and then a cheese tortilla.  That's how bare the cupboards are.

The one thing I did accomplish today was to make a weekly planning sheet for the fall.
(Shaded areas before and after lunch are for school time.   We also have dr.'s appointments in the a.m.  Sat./Sun are usually full of church/family related activities.)

 Now, before you think good thoughts about me, I will admit that I did it for a very selfish purpose.  I'm tired of living my life around the plans that everyone seems to like to make for me.  I'm 46 and I have never felt in control of my life.  So, I made a realistic planning sheet that shows that I have NO time left over for all of these people and their plans.  Homeschool is a full time job for me.  I know that everyone wants just a little piece but those little pieces add up and next thing you know homeschool has been short changed (or I have).

What I wrote on Facebook last night: "Polly is going to block out my entire planner for the rest of the year. Oh, wait, I don't need to do that. Everyone else has already filled it for me. Silly me. I thought this was my life."

Yeah, I know I'm whining, but I have reached my limit. 

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Twiddling My Thumbs

My girls (12 and 14) have been sewing, sewing, sewing.  I've done a little school with 8yo but mostly I've been letting her play.  With all of them busy, I've had to make myself find something constructive to do besides sitting around twiddling my thumbs.  I'm a big worry wart when I have time on my hands, so I'm trying to stay busy with cleaning the house.  When I say "clean" I really mean "declutter."  Of course the house needs to be cleaned but just a few decluttered surfaces has helped me feel better about the house.  As I look around at how much better it looks, I wonder why I don't keep up with it.  I can't seem to find a balance between homeschool and housekeeping.  It seems to be all or nothing in either direction.

Friday, July 9, 2010

So ready....

I am so ready for this pioneer trek prep to be over! 

Monday, July 5, 2010

80/20 Rule

If I understand the 80/20 rule correctly, I use 20% of my homeschool  resources 80% of the time.  Does that mean I should give away 80% of it since I don't use it?  Easier said than done.

I spent hours today going through my beloved homeschool books trying to decide if I can actually part with these lovely things that I never use.  It has been so difficult for me to try to decide if I should keep them or not that much of my time was spent walking through the house in circles instead of accomplishing anything.  Eventually I found myself merely moving books from one shelf to another.  My dad calls it "shuffling sh**."  Apparently I love my stuff too much to get rid of it.

Why not keep it?  Because we live in a smaller house (1047 sq feet) and we need some space.  There are homeschool books crammed into every nook and cranny in the house including the garage.  In fact, it is spilling over onto the floors.  There are piles everywhere I look.  Aah!!!

Now that I've driven the six miles into town for some comfort food (Taco Bell's Mexican Pizza), I think I can cope with the mess again.  Back into the fray.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Just Average?

What is average?  And, is it okay to have average kids?  Read about it here: "Average Kids"

Saturday, July 3, 2010

8yo update

R&S 1 workbook 80/170 - Five subtract math facts, halves, time to the hour
Counting - 5's and 10's almost perfect, 1-100 w/o chart with a few prompts

100 EZ Lessons - #23, still finding the lessons very easy : )
Can't say the "wh" sound

Oral Language Lessons
There was a time when she could not repeat strings of words, so I'm pleased that she can now repeat sentences correctly.

Need to work on handwriting.

Homeschooling really IS time consuming

I didn't realize until this past week how much time I spend homeschooling.  My 12yo and 14yo girls have been sewing pioneer costumes with my mom all week, so I decided to stop all homeschooling.  They are under a deadline to finish the clothes in a couple of weeks, and I quickly realized that they didn't have time to sew and do school.  I am amazed by how much I've able to do around the house this past week.  Sending them off to school is mighty tempting at the moment.  ; )

Friday, July 2, 2010

Bored Is Dangerous

My 8yo learned an important lesson tonight.  If you seem bored or are fighting with someone, mom will do one of two things.  First, she'll find a chore for you to do like cleaning up your room.  Or second, if she's in the mood she'll make you do school with her. 

Yes, at 8:30pm this evening we started school work together.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010


Last night as I sat at the end of one of those tiring, discouraging days, I realized that I missed homeschooling my girls.  Today, in between loads of laundry and paying bills, 8yo and I headed back to my bed for a little reading and 'rithmetic.  At first she protested about it being summer but quickly snuggled up to me while we did a few reading lessons.  Snuggle?  Well, not really.  She is a wiggle worm, so I guess snuggle isn't an accurate description.  We were on the bed close to one another.  And then there was math.  You can't beat counting to 100 while a vibrating massager is under your shirt and against your chest. No, not me!  The 8yo. ; p

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Why Am I Doing This?

This evening I visited my favorite classical homeschool board.  While skimming their high school sub board, I felt a bit out of place.  Very little of what was being discussed interested me, and I realized that my homeschool goals aren't the same.  Why do we require our kids to learn these things?  Is it going to help them grow up to be happy adults?  Probably not.  It is making me seriously question what we spend our time doing.

In the meantime

The girls (12 and 14) spent a big portion of their day sewing yesterday with Grandma.  I was able to do a bit of school with the 12yo, but I know that sewing the pioneer clothes has be the priority (trek starts July 21st).  While they are busy sewing I think it will be a good time for me to do some teacher prep.  I'm going to make a list here on the blog to help jog my memory.
  • science flashcards for lessons 1-9
  • math flashcards - weights and measures that 12yo has a hard time remembering (ex: quarts in a peck)
  • Latin flashcards - flashcards will work better than merely chanting as she is doing now
  • Grammar flashcards
  • update All About Spelling flashcards for Level 2 & 3
  • make a more concrete plan for The Easy French
  • Read some in TWTM
  • Read Writing With Ease
  • Work through First Form Latin
  • Summarize Teaching Textbooks lessons
  • Watch Algebra I DVD's
  • Biology - outline lessons
Okay, I think I have more than enough to keep me busy.  Oh, I also need to do school with 8yo.  

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Change of plans?

I hate to do this...but...I have to change our summer homeschool plans.  The pioneer trek has taken over my life since the end of April and it is getting worse.  My 12yo and 14yo have to make two pioneer dresses each plus the accompanying bloomers, bonnets, and aprons.  Thank goodness my mom is here for the summer to teach them how to sew their outfits.  Today I am admitting to myself that sewing is going to be their job for the next few weeks.  I hope to have time to fit in daily math. 

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Manic-Depressive Homeschooling

No, I'm not bipolar...that I know of.  Manic-depressive just seems to describe my feelings about homeschool better than saying it's a love/hate relationship.  I either feel dreamily content about homeschool or  "woe is me" depressed about how little we are accomplishing.  The scary thing is how quickly my feelings can change from, "Homeschool is so wonderful" to "I've ruined my kids!"  

For example, this morning I'll admit that I was hiding out in my room on my computer.  When 12yo walked in with the "let's get this over with so I can play with my friends" look on her face, I moaned too.  I sighed and cracked open the math book that she handed me.  Neither one of us wanted to do school (I'm such a wonderful example ; ).  School went well with both of the older girls and by the time we finished this afternoon I felt that fierce happiness that accompanies a day that has gone well. "Yes! We are doing the right thing!" and "I love homeschooling," washed over me.  Ah, I was in love again.

Maybe homeschooling is less like being manic-depressive and more like a teenage crush. 

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Pioneer Trek

"Cloy Kent painting of handcart family, which hangs in Iowa City 4th Ward meetinghouse..."

It has become popular in our church to have the youth do a pioneer trek/reenactment.  Our local church group  is having one this summer.  While dressed in pioneer clothing, they will be walking with handcarts.  Day one - 10 miles, days two and three - 5 miles each.

What does this have to do with homeschool?  The girls (12yo and 14yo) will be sewing pioneer costumes with my mom and for the first time ever my 14yo is exercising.  Since the last week in April she and I have made it a goal to walk a mile and a half six days a week.  Okay, I have made it a goal.  She's not too thrilled but she's been doing it.  Unfortunately she didn't pass her physical to be able to do the walking part of the trek, but it has been really good for her.  For the past two years her docs have been encouraging her to walk and now she is finally forming the habit.  She's even worked up to two walks per day.  We tried a three mile walk but that was too much for her.  But, I have hope that one day she'll be able to do it.  Hey, I'm even thinking about adding in a little weight lifting. ; )

I am counting the trek as history, home ec, and definitely P.E.

Friday, June 18, 2010


R&S's Homelands of North America is going into storage.  Happy dance!!!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

General update

We've been "good" for eight weeks, and I'm tired of being good.  Public school lets out today and I'm wishing that I could take a break too.  But, if I quit I'll beat myself up when fall rolls around.

12yo will finish Rod & Staff's History/Geography 5 Homelands of North America tomorrow.  We've been doing daily history lessons.  I need some time in my schedule so I think we may do away with daily history.  Still unsure as to whether or not we'll use R&S's History/Geography 6 course, Latin America, next year.  I'm burned out.

(will update later, have to go play chauffeur)

Edit 18 June 2010 - Yesterday was one of those days where you don't get poop done because you are driving kids all over the place.  Argh!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Fitting it all in

12yo and I are doing a full schedule.  It would be okay if this were fall or winter, but it is taking too long for summer.  I don't know if I need to drop subjects from our schedule for now or  rearrange the schedule.  I will try a schedule tweak first and then drop subjects if the tweak doesn't work.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

One Year Down

One year down three more to go.  14yo has survived her first year of early morning seminary (6:30-7:20am M-F).  I am relieved.  For a night owl like me, waking up at 5:30am has been killer.  At the same time it has been a blessing.  I learned that grocery shopping at 6:30am is the BEST time to shop.  I also was able to experience the satisfaction that comes from accomplishing many things before noon rather than just a few.  When you wake up between 9-10am you spend the day feeling overwhelmed because supper seems to be right around the corner.  You play the "let's see how much we can cram in before we have to start cooking" game.

14yo visited a sleep specialist recently and can only sleep-in until 8am over the summer. That doesn't sound like sleeping-in but technically 2 extra hours is sleeping-in.  We'll take it.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Looong Day

This blog post has nothing important to convey.  I simply want to whine and complain.  That is the whole point. ; )

12yo's friend, who attends private school, is on summer vacation.  The friend called at 10:30am this morning and asked to play, but we had hours of school ahead of us.  12yo's concentration went out the window which made school go even slower.

This is the point where I need to hang in there.  This is when I give up my dreams of summer school.  And the end of summer?  That is when I kick myself for letting the opportunity slip by me.  We can have summer fun AND learn at the same time, right?

The solution?  Do school with 12yo first thing int the morning during the summer months.  We can do this.  If I'm creative I'm sure I can find a way to make it work.

It's bedtime.  My bed is covered with school books, and I'm too tired to get up and move them off.  5:30am is catching up with me.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

The Verdict Is...

We will be doing school this summer.  I know the kids need time to play, but I also know that they have 2-3 hours per day to spare.   All we need to average is 3.5 days per week and we will accumulate 182 school days over the course of a year.  That is probably what we are averaging at the moment with interruptions (doctor appointments, etc.).  Daily school during the summer will keep their minds engaged.  Plus, one of the big benefits will be a legitimate excuse for taking a break from friends during the day.  Too much time together always ends up in group spats.

I will be the biggest stumbling block.    Yep, I'm going to want to laze around instead of putting in the effort to teach children.

In a previous blog post, I said we would be doing school lite.  This is going to be a little more than math.  We may not get to everything I plan each day, but I intend to make some progress.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Seasons animation

This is for those of us, children and adults alike, who struggle with visualizing how the earth's tilt causes the seasons.  Seasons animation.  <------- LINK TO ANIMATION

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Is it over yet?

12yo has enjoyed her North American history/geography book this year.  And I have too, but...well....are we there yet?  I'm ready to be done.  

Four weeks into her Math 6 textbook and 12yo is already 1/4 of the way through it.  We did a quick review of the first chapter but have slowed down the past two weeks. 

14yo visited a sleep specialist today.  Really, really hoping we can get her on a normal sleep schedule.  The erratic napping makes it hard to be consistent with school.  Doc said no naps and no TV/Computer after supper.

Summer Is Upon Us

Rain.....rain.....rain.....rain.....and more rain.  Ah, spring in the PNW.  The local schools have a different idea.  They believe summer is just around the corner.  The private school is out this coming Friday and the public school has one more week after that. 

Unfortunately for my kids this is the time of the year when I want to do school.  My kids are ready to play with their buddies all day.  I have to be realistic. I know they need to enjoy summer while it is here.   School lite will be probably be the way to go.

School lite = Math + anything else Mom can cram in. ; ) 

Friday, May 28, 2010


Thank goodness it's Friday.  I am feeling a bit burned out. 

8yo - "Would you sit still?  Pay attention!"

12yo - If she has one more melt down over math (which she KNOWS how to do), I'm going to have a melt down too.

14yo - Two or three days a week just doesn't cut it.  "We are spinning our wheels here." (sing/song voice)

Sunday, May 23, 2010

The Teaching Company, etc.

I finally gave in.  I bought The Teaching Company's Biology and Algebra I courses on DVD.  I've been trying to convince myself that I needed these for some time. ; )  And yes, they were on sale.  There is no way I would pay full price. (cough, splutter)

14yo and I started reading through Spielvogel's Western Civilization.  As we were reading about australopithecines, I remembered that we own DK's History: The Definitive Visual Guide (From the Dawn of Civilization to the Present Day).  The plan is to jump back and forth between the two.  For the next couple of weeks we'll be in DK's History.

If you've noticed our curriculum in the side bar, you'll see that BJU Biology has been on hold for quite some time.  A couple of is rigorous and religious.  I have nothing against using religious textbooks.  Rod & Staff is a Mennonite publisher and we use their books for many subjects (math, grammar, science, history/geography, etc.).  But, BJU was in your face, cram it down your throat, with a cherry on top.  It wasn't bleh, it was Argh!  I encouraged dd to let it roll off her back but the rigor finally gave us a good excuse to push the pause button.

In the meantime...I made another $5 discovery at Goodwill - Prentice Hall's Biology by Miller and Levine (2002).  It is one heavy book with tons of beautiful photographs.  And so far, it seems a little too easy.  I guess I shouldn't make that judgment until we jump back into the chemistry section.  But my, it sure is purty to look at. : )

12yo spent several days with big sis, so math was pretty much the only thing she accomplished this week.

8yo is working hard on transferring the counting by 5's chant to paper.  She had bit of a time getting her numbers in the right place, but I know she'll get it.  That's the beauty of Rod and Staff math.  They will drill it until it is part of you. ; )

Saturday, May 15, 2010


Came across a passable copy of Spielvogel's Western Civilization 5th edition at Goodwill today.  For $5 I'll take passable.  Cool part?  I found a companion website with goodies to go with it like flashcards (w/pronunciation!), crossword puzzles, maps, time lines, quizzes, etc. 

I finally feel a history plan coming together.  Up until now we've been following Rod & Staff's geography/history sequence. The problem with Rod & Staff (for me) is the higher the grade level the more their textbooks are devoted to Mennonite history.  

Tentative plan:
8yo - The Story of the World, Volume 1: Ancient Times by Susan Wise Bauer
12yo - K12's The Human Odyssey, Volume 1:  Prehistory Through the Middle Ages
14yo - Spielvogel's Western Civilization and Susan Wise Bauer's History of the Ancient World

As you can tell, we are nowhere near a four year rotation.  It's okay as I'm pretty sure youngest would not have been ready for ancients two years ago.

Friday, May 14, 2010

The Grade Level Game

I've run into a problem...again.  The problem is that pesky grade level number on the cover of the Rod & Staff textbooks.  It is constantly screaming out to me to "catch up!"  Catch up to what?  Does it matter if my daughter learns about moss and algae when she's 11 or 12?  Does it matter if her math textbook has a five or six on the cover if she is steadily progressing?  Why do I get caught up in the grade level game?  I want my kids to learn what is presented in the book not just check it off a list of topics covered.  I'm thankful for Rod & Staff textbooks (really thankful!), but I need to remember that they are tools not my masters.

12yo finished Rod & Staff's grade five science text today. Yea!  I'm looking forward to starting the grade six text next week.  Here comes the sun! and Mercury, and Venus, and....

Saturday, May 8, 2010


When 12yodd finished her math textbook a few days ago she requested that we continue with math  through the summer.  She wants to catch up to her grade level.  

See, this particular child struggled with math and learning to read.  She was still a beginning reader at 8yo and she did not know any of her math facts.  It was a blessing that by a fluke she was registered as a 1st grader at the age of 7yo.  This accident meant that she would always test a year behind most children her age.  This gave us an additional year to prepare her for standardized testing at the end of 3rd grade.  Even then we struggled to get her up to a 3rd grade level.  

Though 12yodd is technically the same age as most 6th graders, we've been using 5th grade textbooks for almost all subjects except grammar.  I had accepted that fact and was okay with it.  She is progressing nicely through all her subjects (except pesky grammar) and I don't want to push her for the sake of seeing a 6 on the cover of her textbook rather than a 5. 

When she requested to work through the summer I didn't hesitate to say yes.  I'm not about to turn her down when I know she's capable of moving ahead in this subject.  I calculated that if our lives are perfect between now and the end of the year, she could finish the 6th grade math textbook before Christmas.  And then, I started looking through the lessons.  The first chapter reviews addition and subtraction with very little new information.  Hmmm...couldn't we skip those lessons?  Why require 12yo to do lessons that would merely be busy work for her?  I think it's time to break away from the "Thou must do every lesson in the textbook" fear.  We are going to skip lessons (Oh, I'm so rebellious ;)


12yo dd did her standardized testing yesterday.  I was very nervous.  She has only been tested once before and that was at the tester's home.  This kind sweet lady passed away last year.  This year I had arranged for dd to test at a church she had never been to with folks we didn't know.  New testing situation, new setting, new people.  When I decided that it was time for me to exit the room, I could read the concern in her face through her calm facade.  During their break, I was relieved when  I saw her approaching the van with a beaming smile on her face.  She survived.

Thursday, May 6, 2010


12yo daughter finished her Rod & Staff Arithmetic Grade 5 book today.  Oh what joy!  I think I'm happier than she  is.  She asked if we could start Grade 6 and do it over the summer so she can catch up to her grade level.  Who am I to say "no?" : )

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

It's True

Recently a homeschool mom whose family is struggling with illness asked for advice about planning for the next school year.  One of the veteran moms who has been dealing with family crises of her own shared this gained wisdom:

"I've been reading Rafe Esquith's books, along with Outlier, by Gladwell and my big works! Sure, pedagogy is important, curriculum is better or worse, etc. but the bottom line is this: a good solid curriculum, applied reguarly, with time dedicated to school, will cause education to occur."  Laughing Lioness

I have been testing the last part of her quote with my 8yo and what Laughing Lioness said is true.  A little reading and math every day has made a measurable difference.  She may continue to struggle, but every day we will plod along together down the path.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

We did it!

We survived the first full week of school work.  It felt so good to be doing something instead of fretting about what we weren't doing.

There were a few glitches.  14yo has sleep issues and by Wednesday she was so sleep deprived that she was falling asleep while reading aloud.  I didn't think it was possible to read that slowly.  Plus, her words were slurred.  I finally had to have her stand up while she read.  A nap was in order that afternoon. 

In general Wednesday was one of those days when you feel like you are spinning your wheels.  12yo and I were still doing math at 5pm.  It felt like the day that would never end.  Thankfully school went much better Thursday and Friday and we were able to finish around 1pm those two days. 

I'm still trying to figure out who to do school with first.  In the past 12yo has always been first because she is eager to get school done and over with.  I started with 14yo for most of the week to try and catch her before she disappeared into her room for a nap.  Yesterday I started with 8yo.  That was okay but working with her first is probably not the way we'll go.  She is highly distractable which leaves the teacher frustrated.  Not a good way to start the day.

A productive week.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Tomorrow is THE day.

I spent the day making homeschool checklists for 12yo and 14yo.  12yo? Easy, peasy.  Her schedule is a continuation of what she's been doing.  The 14yo?  In the next few days I predict that some of you will sense a disturbance in the force.  I expect this to be cataclysmic.  Sort of like the Greek Gods vs. the Titans.  Yes, a huge power struggle is about to commence.  And you know what?  I expect to win! ;)

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Do or do not. There is no try.

Yes, I'm quoting Yoda.

I came to the painful realization this week that I need to either do homeschool or quit.  Ouch!  My 14yo "forgets" to do school and I let it slide rather than confronting her about it.  I informed her Wednesday, with Dad present, that starting Monday she will do what I assign or we will have to make alternative schooling arrangements.  We are both at fault and I intend to do my part to rectify the situation.

Here I sit on a Saturday morning trying to figure out where to start over.   I'm also mulling over how to homeschool with a child who is passive aggressive.  How do I get her to do her work without having a melt down myself?  I don't want to be babysitter who has to watch her every move. 

12yo is doing good.  She complains about school work, but she does it.  We have found the right fit for her - Rod & Staff textbooks (math, history, and science).  Grammar and writing are our biggest weaknesses.  IEW writing is perfect for her when Mom follows through.  Grammar is just plain tough for her to grasp, so it is easy to let it slide.

8yo?  The kid needs help with everything.  She is a completely different ball of wax.  I've tried Rod & Staff with her but it is over her head.

No matter what we use, I believe consistency will be the key.  Just do it ... every day.

Monday, March 29, 2010


If you are an LDS homeschooler, I have found a great new website that I think you'll like... Latter-Day Homeschooling

From their website:
"Welcome to LATTER-DAY HOMESCHOOLING. This blog was created as a gathering place for LDS homeschoolers to share their homeschooling experiences, offer tips, resources, ideas and encouragement to each other. Although we are not an official site of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we strive to hold to the standards and values of it."

Saturday, February 6, 2010

How we do flashcards

(Pictures below)
I used to pooh-pooh flashcards.  Making them was time consuming considering how long they were used.  And then...I had a child who needed repetition.  I found that having her go through flashcards with basic information (ex: addition math facts) each morning helped turn on her brain for the day.

Yes, we have used the standard homemade 3x5 index cards and the pre-printed multiplication flashcards.  For homemade flashcards you don't usually need a full size 3x5 card, yet it is a pain to cut them in half.  I have come up with what I think is a better way to do/store flashcards - a Rolodex.  I copy questions from the science or history chapter we are studying and write the answer on the opposite side so that it is readable (upside down).  It is as easy as reading the question and then flipping the card forward.  No tracking down stacks of flashcards all over the house, they are in one place - on the Rolodex. 

FYI, writing them out is still time consuming.  I've also switched to blank cards. 

Monday, February 1, 2010

Who is the problem?

Hard to admit but true.  If school ain't happening it's mama's fault.  If I don't have it together, of course my kids are going to quietly slink off and find something else to do.  They are children.

This weekend I planned school for the week and today I attempted to stick to the plan.  Result? 
  • 7yo - whining.  
  • 11yo wailing and gnashing of teeth.  
  • 14yo - rebelled by ignoring most of the list and played RuneScape instead of doing school work.
 The 14yo almost sent me over the edge into an emotional rant.  This is my child who is compliant for the most part.  In other words, she learned long ago to fly under the radar which has allowed her to do what she wants.  I bit my tongue and put myself in time out.  

I feel calmer and ready to jump in the trenches again tomorrow.  I expect more whining, wailing, gnashing of teeth, and rebellious attitudes.  And if I get better behavior?  I'll be pleasantly surprised.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Curriculum Slave?

It can be easy to become a slave to curriculum.  For example I really like Rod & Staff, so I chose to use their Bible Nurture and Reader Series (BNRS) to teach my beginning reader.  I like the mix of phonics, sight words, and Bible stories.  But..., it moves too fast for my kids.  My 7yo was taking about 45 minutes per workbook (one for phonics, one for reading comprehension/skills) with me sitting beside her.  When we finished, my brain felt like it had been sent through a blender.  After one of these torture sessions, I wondered why I was making us endure this?  Why was I trying to force her into a mold rather than individualizing the instruction to her needs?

I'm a rule follower and I struggled with the realization that one of my favorite curricula wasn't going to work for us.  Wait.  I started thinking, "Is BNRS good? Yes.  Do I need to use the materials step-by-step as laid out in the teacher's notes? No.  There is no need to throw the baby out with the bathwater." 

We have continued to use the phonics and the sightword flashcards that accompany the stories found in the BNRS Readers.  We have hit the pause button in regards to the workbooks while solidifying her knowledge of phonics with Progressive Phonics readers (free online) and ABeka's Handbook for Reading (phonics textbook).

Learning to read can be fruitful without being frustrating if, as her teacher, I remember to go at her pace.  She'll get there.