Monthly Archives: January 2013

Week 22

Memory Verse: So do not fear, for I am with you; Do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. – Isaiah 41:10

Hymn: Jesus Paid it All

Artist: Claude Monet

Composer: Peter Tchaikovsky

Five in a Row: Hanna’s Cold Winter by Trisha Marx (learning about Hungary during WWII and Hippopotamuses)

Pre-K Literature: A Chair for my Mother by Vera B. Williams (learning about the importance of saving and the coins)

Read Aloud: The Story of Doctor Dolittle by Hugh Lofting

A Few Photos From Last Week:

We went on a field trip to the Bureau of Engraving and Printing. We weren’t allowed to take pictures there, so a photo when we returned home had to suffice.

Our First Monet Picture Study

Handwriting Practice for her Family Notebook

Elliot received his Poppy’s old Kindle and has been doing a bunch of reading on it. He’s been reading an older series by Enid Blyton that’s a little hard to find and is not available at our library, but I found the Kindle editions on Amazon for relatively cheap. It’s nice to save a little money (because otherwise I would have been buying these books at $10 a piece for the paperback editions) and shelf space at the same time.

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Week 21

Memory Verse: So do not fear, for I am with you; Do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. – Isaiah 41:10

Hymn: Jesus Paid it All

Artist: Claude Monet

Composer: Peter Tchaikovsky

Five in a Row: Hanna’s Cold Winter by Trisha Marx (learning about Hungary during WWII and Hippopotamuses)

Pre-K Literature: A Chair for my Mother by Vera B. Williams (learning about the importance of saving and the coins)

Read Aloud: The Story of Doctor Dolittle by Hugh Lofting

A Few Photos From Last Week:

We went with a local homeschool group to the Dallas World Aquarium and saw lots of interesting things.

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Stingrays
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Giant Crab
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Flamingos
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The Jaguar (At the aquarium…yes, I was confused too.)
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While Elliot and I were doing Mailing May and learning about the postal service, we used these little mailboxes I found in the dollar section of Target to send mail to each other.

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Elliot’s latest interest is cooking. He loves to be my little student as I make dinner. Here he was learning how to sauté veggies for the soup.

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Our sweet little Mabel fits right in in this environment. She’s appears to be book-lover like the rest of us. When you sit down with a book, you can bet she’ll come running to snuggle while reading.

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Week 20

Memory Verse: So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. – 1 Corinthians 10:31

Hymn: Jesus Paid it All

Artist: Claude Monet

Composer: Peter Tchaikovsky

Five in a Row: Mailing May by Michael O. Tunnell

Pre-K Literature: My Mama had a Dancing Heart by Libba Moore Gray

Read Aloud: The Incredible Journey by Sheila Burnford

A Few Photos From Last Week:

We’ve finally reached the point in math where not everything comes super easy to him like it always has. He used to zip through it in 5-10 minutes. Now he probably spends a good 25-30 minutes on his daily assignment. He’s been doing a great job with the shift in difficulty.

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Caroline has been working hard in her math book as well.
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We’ve enjoyed the company of our newest little friend, Mabel. We’ve attempted pet ownership a few times before and it hasn’t worked out for a number of reasons, but the kids have been longing for an animal companion so we gave it one more try. She’s the perfect pet for us! She enjoys overseeing our school work and snuggling while we read, but she doesn’t steal our attention off of what we’re trying to do. She’s such a laid back sweet girl!
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Last week we began studying a new artist, Claude Monet. The kids are relieved to see some brighter and more colorful paintings, after spending the previous eight weeks on Rembrandt whose work is pretty dark.
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For the spring semester, Elliot and Josh will be learning some Texas history together. I’ve found some good reading material that they’ll be using. We’re looking forward to a trip to Austin to see the Capitol and The Bob Bullock Texas History Museum and to San Antonio to see the Alamo sometime in April.
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Reproducible Activities to go in his Texas History Notebook
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First Few Pages for his Notebook
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Filling the Treasure Box- New Curriculum Picks for Next Year

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If you haven’t noticed, I love planning for our homeschooling and each year I start earlier and earlier for the following year. It feels more like a hobby now because it’s something I do for the enjoyment of it instead of just because it’s part of my duty as a homeschooling mom. There’s something about piecing together just the right curricula, books and other materials that compliment each other and contribute to building a rich and exciting homeschool year that thrills me. It’s like putting together a puzzle and when I find a piece that fits well with what I’ve already got, it makes my day.
Ever since this school year started, I’ve been working on my plan for next year and collecting up the things I’ll be using. I’ve been storing it all away in what is now affectionately referred to as our treasure box. When I open it up while the kids are around, they beg me to let them look through it, pull out stuff, and they want to know what will be used for who. Elliot has been known to beg me to let him start using some of it this year because he “just can’t wait”, but I stick to my guns about finishing what we’re doing this year and waiting until next year to dig into the new stuff.
By the end of this year, Elliot and I will have finished all the FIAR books I have planned for us to do (I believe it’s a total of 50 of them for all three years…wow.) and he’ll be ready to “graduate” onto more challenging things. It’s not the end of FIAR for us though, as Caroline and I will be starting back at the beginning. I’ll probably keep it pretty simple though, considering we are adding history and science for Elliot and I plan for her to be pretty involved in that as well.

So, without further ado, here’s a look at a few of the new things we’re going to be adding next year for third grade and kindergarten:

For history we’ll be doing a basic overview of world history. I’ve paired up a few different things to use together. Our “spine” is going to be A Child’s History of the World by Virgil Hillyer.

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Along with that we’ll be keeping history notebooks with pages I purchased on a CD from Hold That Thought!. We’re also going to keep a timeline of the people and events that we learn about with Sonlight’s Book of Time and timeline figures.

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Book of Time and Timeline Figures

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Like I mentioned, our history text is just our spine which we’ll be adding lots of other books to, many of which we’ll get at our Library. We’ll be referring to Usborne’s Book of Living Long Ago throughout the year and several of our read-alouds will correspond with our history. I’ll also frequently be assigning Elliot extra reading in books that go along with what we’re learning in history.
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In addition to read-alouds that correspond with history, there are some on my list that we’re going to read “just because”, and these are a few of those.
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For Literature, Elliot will be using Progeny Press guides. These booklets contain things like reading comprehension, vocabulary and critical thinking, and they are written from a Christian perspective, so many of the “digging deeper” questions involve applying biblical truths to a certain situation.

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Elliot will also be finishing Explode the Code’s final book this year, giving him a firm phonics foundation, so we’ll be moving on to a spelling program, and I’ve chosen Simply Charlotte Mason’s Spelling Wisdom. Each of the books takes about two years to complete, and there are five books available in all so there are more than enough to use all the way through high school.

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Instead of lists of random words, the student learns new spelling words in the context of passages from great literary works, quotes, and scripture. About two passages are learned each week, wherein the student should be able to write it all correctly, including punctuation, when recited by the teacher.
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Finally, we’re adding Apologia’s Exploring Creation with Astronomy series for science. We’ll be working through the student journals as well as doing an experiment for each lesson.

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Supplies for Science Experiments

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You’d think I’d be satisfied for a while, but I’ve started working on the plans for the next two years as well. I’ve got folders where I keep a running list of ideas and books. Maybe I need to find another hobby???

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Week 19

Here’s a short and sweet update for our first week back at it after our long and wonderful Christmas break:

Memory Verse: So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. – 1 Corinthians 10:31

Hymn: Jesus Paid it All

Artist: Claude Monet

Composer: Peter Tchaikovsky

Five in a Row: Mailing May by Michael O. Tunnell

Pre-K Literature: My Mama had a Dancing Heart by Libba Moore Gray

Read Aloud: The Incredible Journey by Sheila Burnford

Our biggest recent news is that my husband, Josh, has started his own company and will soon be working full time out of our home. That’s right, all four of us will be here at home together each day! This has been our dream and ultimate goal ever since we started homeschooling. We love the idea of having our family here at home together, sharing experiences, and just growing and learning together. We’re excited about the opportunities this will give Josh to contribute to the kids’ education and most importantly, about the unique upbringing the kids will have not only being homeschooled but also having their Dad more involved in the daily routine and available to us. What a blessing!

Here’s Josh’s new work set-up, in one of our master bedroom closets. It’s bigger than the average closet and works great as an office! The best part is, when the day’s work is done, his commute to our living room is about ten seconds!

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Reading Aloud: Looking Back and Contemplating What’s Ahead

As I was recently sifting through the many notes I’ve kept about homeschooling over the last two and a half years, I came across a blog post about reading aloud that I wrote quite a while ago as a guest on a friend’s homemaking blog. As I recall, when I wrote it, the kids and I were just beginning to discover the excitement of reading longer books together. This was not something I had ever really planned to do before homeschooling entered the picture. I guess I always figured that we’d read picture books together when they were little and then when they were able to read independently, I’d just turn them loose to read on their own. I don’t think that lack of enthusiasm for reading would have been very helpful for nurturing a love of books and learning in them. Praise God, homeschooling changed all that and has given me a passion for children’s literature and an excitement for reading with my kids that I never imagined. Since that blog post almost two years ago, the kids and I have continued to devour books together and I would say that it’s probably my absolute favorite thing we do together in our homeschool, and the kids would likely tell you the same thing. I’ve spent many a night staying up way too late searching and adding books to our “want to read” list and I’m not even sure I have enough years left ahead of me to read all the books I aspire to read to them, but it’s fun to think about it anyway.

The most helpful tool I’ve come across for organizing my list of reading material has been Goodreads. Not only can you browse through just about every book ever written and read reviews, but you can save all your ideas for future reading in an organized way. I highly recommend it if you are wanting to make lists of books in a variety of categories. For example, I’ve got “shelves” for just reading aloud in general, shelves for books that go along with a particular school topic (quite a few of them go with what we’ll be studying in history), and a shelf for each of the kids for books I think they’d enjoy reading, either with a parent or at some point on their own (I tend to plan up to several years ahead). Many of the books are on several of my shelves since they could fit into multiple categories and I may not have decided exactly how I want to use it yet. Here’s what’s on my general read aloud list so far, if you’re interested in getting more ideas.

And just for kicks, here is the previously mentioned blog post, written when our love of reading together was just beginning to blossom:



Discovering the Joys of Reading Aloud

The choice to homeschool was quite unexpected and spontaneous for us. We had enrolled our son in Kindergarten, but about two months prior to school starting, I got the nagging feeling that it wasn’t the right choice for our family, so we quickly changed our course, began our wonderful homeschooling journey and have never looked back. It’s especially fascinating to me to know that God had this, and all the blessings that would stem from it, planned for us long before we ever knew that this was the direction we’d go. I would need more than my own two hands to count out the ways that homeschooling has blessed our family. One of these blessings has been discovering a love for good books and reading aloud to our children. Prior to homeschooling, we did read to the kids – after all, that is what good parents are supposed to do – but I wasn’t particularly fond of it nor was I very picky about what we read as long as we did it every once in a while. I was not a big reader myself as a child, so I think that part of me was still there under the surface, viewing reading as just another task to check off the list. Once I got into researching all the homeschooling methods and philosophies, I was really struck by the importance of reading good literature to children and thus my excitement for finding good books for them was born. We chose Five in a Row, which is a fantastic literature-based program, as our core curriculum, which only deepened our love for enjoying books together. While reading well-illustrated children’s picture books is important and something we plan to do for several more years (since we plan to continue using Five in a Row), we also wanted to begin the habit of reading chapter books aloud. I just couldn’t ignore the ways it would benefit our children to include it as a regular part of homeschool.

Improved Language Skills

One of the most obvious benefits of reading aloud is improved language skills. When you read aloud to children, they are exposed to vocabulary that they might otherwise not ever hear. Because children learn most of their vocabulary through what is spoken to them at home, they are limited by the vocabulary and vernacular that their mother and father commonly use. When you expose them to a variety of books, however, their world is broadened. From personal experience, there have been a number of times when I’ve been reading to the kids and there have been words or phrases I haven’t used in years or wouldn’t ever ordinarily say, but all the sudden I am using them in context and thus the kids are learning how they are properly used.

Learning that Lasts

Another benefit is that reading aloud helps a child learn new information in a more meaningful and exciting way, as opposed to memorizing facts out of a textbook. When you learn something as you are reading a captivating story, it sticks with you because you are connecting it with something enjoyable. Reading aloud also serves as a great springboard onto an unlimited number of new topics to learn about. There have been so many times when we’ve been reading a book that touches on a topic briefly and we have decided to learn more by checking out books at the library about it. They are always things that we would have never thought to research on our own!

Family Bonding

In addition, when you read aloud to your children, it has a unique way of bonding your family and bringing you closer together. There is a physical and emotional closeness that results from reading a great book together. It also creates long-lasting positive memories that your child will carry into adulthood. I recently heard Steve Demme (founder and creator of Math-U-See) speak on the topic of reading aloud as a family and he said that one of the things they loved most about it was that it provided their family with countless inside jokes over the years. It enhanced their family-life with so much joy and fun! I love that!

Refined Auditory Skills

Reading aloud also refines children’s auditory skills. There is currently a huge emphasis on developing visual skills in children, which is great, but auditory skills are critical as well and reading aloud is a great way to develop them. Children are given so much information through visual images to enhance their learning, but when they are read aloud to, they acquire the ability to receive information auditorily and to create their own images.

Improved Attention Span

Likewise, reading aloud also improves a child’s attention span. One of the biggest struggles children face these days is the inability to focus their attention on one thing because it’s not something they are required to do very often. They are taken from one activity to the next, all while they are simultaneously being bombarded with other distractions. It’s a skill they really have to learn and exercise. Being read to fine-tunes that skill by capturing their attention and holding onto it with the excitement of the story that’s unfolding. My three-year old daughter is an example of a child who struggles with a short attention span, however, she’s been participating in our read-alouds lately and I’ve been amazed by her ability to stay focused on what I’m saying. She demonstrated this ability the other day when I had been reading for quite a while. It was a chapter that seemed to drag on a little longer than typical and I was unsure if she was still hanging in there and paying attention. One of the characters in our book jokingly said something in old English and my daughter instantly sat straight up and looked at me with big curious eyes and said, “What does that mean?” I was quite surprised that she was so drawn into the story that she immediately recognized when the language sounded different than anything she’d ever heard before. And more importantly, she really wanted to understand what was going on. I was impressed, to say the least!

Instills a Love of Reading

One of the greatest benefits of reading aloud, in my opinion, is that it instills a love of reading. It’s unreasonable to think that just because we have taught a child to read that they will instantly have the desire to read. You have to give them a reason to want to read and that can take a lot of time and effort, but it will be worth it. I’ve been reading The Read Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease, and one thing he said really made an impression on me. “Obviously, if we are spending immense amounts of time and money in successfully teaching children to read but they in turn are choosing not to read, we can only conclude something is wrong. In concentrating exclusively on teaching the child how to read, we have forgotten to teach them to want to read.” How true that statement is! It’s so important to show children that reading can be a very enjoyable experience, otherwise they will inevitably learn to view it as an undesirable task that should be avoided.

What to Read?

So once you’ve decided that you want to begin the habit of reading aloud to your children, you may wonder how you possibly decide what books read. One idea is to simply think back to the books you enjoyed as a child. If it impacted you enough that you still remember it today, chances are it will capture your child’s interest as well. There are also plenty of great resources to give you ideas. I mentioned The Read Aloud Handbook and I highly recommend that as a good starting point. It has several lists of books that make excellent read alouds for all different age groups. You want to try to find quality books that are well-written and that will challenge your children, yet will still be exciting and interesting to them. You’ll be defeating the purpose if you only read them dull dry books that go way above their heads. Finding the right balance is the key! Also, you want to start off slowly and gradually progress. If you have not made a habit of frequently reading picture books to your children, you can’t expect them to be ready to sit through chapter books right away. And last but certainly not least, don’t forget to read to them from the Bible often. The goal is that they hear it so often coming from your mouth that it becomes second nature and is ingrained in their minds and written on their hearts. It will have more of an impact on their lives than anything else you read to them.

When to Read?

Another question people often have about reading aloud is, “How do I fit this into my busy life?” Yes, reading aloud does take time but it’s not impossible and every family should be able to find time to do it. What works for some families may not work for others. I’ve heard some homeschool mothers say they start off their school day by reading a chapter from a book, that way everyone is alert and awake. But maybe mornings are not a time when your family is alert and awake! Some choose to read at the table during lunch time while those little mouths are busy chewing so they won’t be tempted to interrupt. We choose to read in the afternoon, right before we settle down for nap time. I find that by that time my children have gotten their wiggles out and are ready to relax and listen. For some people, reading at night before bedtime works well. My husband and son have their own special reading time together at night when they can choose books that interest them but may not be of particular interest to me. In addition to reading books to your children, audiobooks are a great option. Our son listens to audiobooks in his bed almost every night after we turn off the lights. It’s something he really looks forward to and enjoys. Just remember, it’s great as additional exposure to books being read aloud, but it should not replace the experience of you, the parent, reading to your child. You also don’t want to make the mistake of assuming that once your children can read, you no longer need to read to them. Continue reading and sharing books well beyond the point when they are capable of reading on their own. Trust me, the gift of reading aloud to your children is one that you will never regret giving and it will bless your them in more ways than you will ever know!

Caroline, quickly approaching the age of five (a little too quickly for my liking), is definitely no longer that squirmy little toddler with whom I’d struggle to keep interested in the books we read. She’s a huge reading enthusiast herself these days and now has her own display shelf of her favorites.

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Child Training Bible

Oh how I love Pinterest! I’ve come across some of the greatest ideas on there, and also some of the neatest products that I didn’t previously know existed. This one in particular is among the most practical and useful products I’ve seen on there. I think I spotted and pinned this Child Training Bible maybe a week and a half before Christmas, and I made it very clear to my kids and husband that I’d love to get everything I need to make it (with Christmas and my birthday coming up…I knew there was a good possibility they might need gift ideas anyway). Lo and behold, my hubby made it happen. On Christmas, I got the kit and all the supplies needed to put it together. I got right to work and completed it in just over a day.
What is it that makes this product so great, you might ask? Well, for starters, the Bible has so much instruction and encouragement in it that could and should be used in the training of our children, however, if you’re like me, in the moment when it’s needed, you may forget exactly which verse you’re looking for and by the time you find it, that teachable moment has passed. To have handy scripture available, I’ve tried charts that have verses, along with index cards on rings, but they don’t quite have the same effect as opening God’s Word to see what it has to say. Caroline, my inquisitive and skeptical child, has asked me before when I’ve told her what the Bible says, “Does it REALLY say that?” (“Yes, my dear, I promise you it does say ‘Children obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right’ even though I know you’d like to believe I’m making that up.”) So now, with this product, I can grab the Bible, quickly find several verses on a particular topic, and sit down with the child whose heart needs to be reminded of truth. THAT is what makes this product an incredibly useful parenting tool. I knew I had to have it when I saw it.

On their website, they list the exact materials you need to make The Child Training Bible.

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Their guide goes in the front of the Bible (that needs to be exactly 9×6) and allows you to easily find verses you’ve tabbed (they give you a list of recommended verses, but I also included some of my own personal favorites) on each issue.

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On the tabbed pages, you highlight the verse in the corresponding color to make it super easy to find. Some pages may have highlighted verses in various colors.

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This is something I decided to add on my own so I wouldn’t have to keep multiple guides stuck in the Bible all the time. The gospel section is broken up further into four parts, so I marked those on the inside so we could easily find what we were looking for.

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