Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Review of the Week #5

We just had a 2 day week this week for Thanksgiving. It seemed very long for all of us. I am really glad for a break. I've gotten some organizing and cleaning done today and it has been sooo nice. There just isn't time on school days and it doesn't take long for messes to increase. The kids have been sledding, playing in the snow and reading today.

We did have a good 2 days of school. Group time went well both days. #2 passed her Singapore math 5B test-- yay!! I will be working with her one on one for Greek, she need to learn to focus and concentrate. I went through it with #1, I just have to sit with her and keep her on track and moving through. I have to remember to alternate my teaching time between the boys and the girls. I get tempted to just get the boys (younger ages) stuff out of the way, but sometimes it takes a really long time and I just don't have the fortitude to do anything else after sitting through addition, subtraction, multiplication, and easy reading books to be happy about group time or helping the girls with more advanced subjects. But when I do a half hour with a boy and then a half hour with a girl, it mixes things up a bit so I'm not so bored and tired. It keeps it a little more interesting for me and whoever is not being helped can work on things they don't need me to help them with or they can take a break or do art if they only have things left I need to do with them.

It is a good feeling to have worked so hard to feel the joy of this break. I'm sure we'll be ready to go again on Monday. It really is fun-- just challenging but rewarding and not always easy!!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Latter-day Homeschooling blog

One good resource for homeschoolers is the blog. I have been following them ever since they started and have enjoyed their articles and lists of resources. They have some really great ideas and contributors and lots of great links. Go check it out!

Elementary Academics -- what has worked for us

Elementary Academics

Philosophy of Education-- My overall philosophy of education is that children need to learn and do stuff. How they do it is less important than what they do. So the most important thing for the parent to figure out is what they think their child needs to learn. The end goal will help you get them there.

So for me in the area of academics my husband and I have mapped out where we would like our children to be with each subject. These are some of the things we want them to know, master and be familiar with:

For Mathematics -- Calculus.
For Logic and Grammar -- Latin
For History -- A good working and in depth knowledge
For Music -- Play an instrument and understand music theory
For Art-- Know the great artists and be able to draw well
For Science -- Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Astronomy
For Economics -- Markets, Business, Government
Literature and Philosophy -- Great Books of the Western World
Home Skills, Cooking, Gardening, Life Skills
Love of Learning and Reading
Religion -- Know our Faith and Scriptures and love and obey God

Your list may be very similar or different or both.

So now that I’ve established where I want to go I can figure out how to get there.

First Skills -- They must be able to read and write and do arithmetic.

So we start as soon as the kids are ready usually around age 4 especially for the younger ones who are watching the older ones.

For Reading I like to use several resources.

First to learn the letters I recommend “The Letter Factory” by Leap Frog. Now they know the letters and their sounds.

The next step is to start putting the sounds together to make new sounds and then words. So to do this, practice saying words slow and then fast and letting the new reader guess which word it is. Then they are ready to start ready easy books like Bob books or other reading curriculums. My favorite is the Ordinary Parent’s Guide to Reading by Jessie Wise. My first daughter learned to read on McGuffy and Bob Books. The second daughter memorized those easy words quickly and never learned to sound them out so That book solved that issue. I also love Diane Hopkins “Phonics Games” from . That really helped her learn all the different phonetic combinations, and my boys have enjoyed it also. It just takes practice, practice, practice. If it is too hard or frustrating, find something easier for them to read, and pretty soon they will take off. The boys have taken longer to read chapter books on their own so they are also doing the Explode the Code workbooks. I think it is also helping with spelling and penmanship.

For writing I like to teach my kids cursive first because it teaches them that there are spaces between the words and they can’t write it backwards. I print off the scripture of the week in grey or another light color and school script dashed font because it’s free and they trace as much as I tell them given their ability. Eventually they are able to copy and write on their own. I have also been using a writing workbook I found at Sam's Club.

For Math-- I love Singapore Math. I like their approach and their format and I like that they have the results to match-- #1 in math in the world. The kindergarten books get them so ready for level 1 and they are fun and colorful and make sense. When we need extra help, then we go to the textbook but otherwise we just work through the workbooks. Keep up on checking to make sure they are doing it right, and again go back to easier problems if they get too frustrated so they get the concept and then they will be able to continue on through their book. I also supplememt with extra multiplication, addition and subtraction problems from

If they keep up with Singapore Math they will be ready for Algebra in 6th or 7th grade which will get them to calculus their sophomore or junior year.

Then to get them used to beautiful language and language usage and to love learning and books, we have story time. We have little kids story time first with the picture books and nursery rhymes and scripture stories. Then we move on to reading directly from the scriptures to other stories and longer poems turning it into big kids story time which consists of an interesting chapter book, a longer poem, a history chapter, a Greek lesson and memory verses ending with Science. I love the stories and resources at . We love story time. The older girls color, draw or crochet while I read to the younger kids, and the younger kids play with toys while I am doing the older kids stuff. If they get too fussy then we eat lunch and put them down for a nap.

For music I like to play a lot of classical music. It seems to make the house calmer and happier and it really helps them with music later because they are familiar with so many tunes even if they don’t know the names. We also like to sing together. We sing all sorts of songs and make sure to include lots of fun little kids ones like popcorn, wheels on the bus, Fun To Do, pioneer songs, etc.

For religion we read scripture stories during story time and memorize a scripture a week and a religious song. Obviously, we try to be good examples and attend our church meetings.

So that for me covers the basic foundational skills that will be needed for the younger children. So far this is what has worked . On to the next level:

After the Basics

Once they are able to read and write fairly well, they can start Greek. Our goal is to get good at Latin and Greek is a good fun stepping stone in that direction. Greek has 4 declensions instead of 5 and they can learn all the grammar and concepts with the easier Greek and then Latin will be a little less challenging. Plus I love the Greek curriculum we are using. It is found at and is called Elementary Greek. Our pick for Latin is to start them around age 11or 12 on Henle Latin. So they should have very good mastery of the subject and be able to read many of the Great Books in the original Latin by high school age.

For writing and English Studies I like Singapore’s program Sentences to Paragraphs and Word Study. They are workbooks that are fun to fill in and cover things that the kids pick up just from reading but may not realize there are rules governing punctuation, capitalization, grammar, etc.

Also for writing, I require some sort of journaling whether a traditional journal or a story journal, it is up to the child. Out of there I find spelling words for them to practice writing. I also have some writing cards which I got at one of these conferences that give some fun ideas to write about. I also have them write up a summary of something they’ve read for me once a week. I also ask them about what we’ve read after we read and have them summarize the story for me during story time.

But the main focus in these elementary years is for them to be able to write well and quickly and to be able write down what they are thinking in their head. Then when they are age 10-11 they can learn to outline and other rules of good writing, and then to be able to express themselves fully with reports and journals and other compositions. Maybe they’ll write short stories or novels or screenplays. Once they can read and write and think, they can grab a book and figure it out.

For Science I again really like Sinagapore‘s program, My Pals are Here Science. They were ranked #2 in the world in science, and we love the pictures, the explanations and the activities.

For History we like the series written for different age groups about different times and area of the world found at Also anything published before 1950 is probably good. The older kids are required to 15 min. a day 4 times per week or 1 hour per week of an approved history book we have for them. We also read many historical stories during story time and movies can be a valuable resource.

For piano, I like Music masters and Edna Mae Burnam piano course as well as music theory books. My kids have also had fun playing the recorders from West Music.

We continue with the stuff mentioned above as needed for the older children and add things like reading time on their own and reading the scriptures on their own always with the end goals in mind.

Schedules-- Now that we know what we want to do, how are we going to do it?

Organize and schedule

1-- Your house needs to be orderly and dinner needs to be planned has worked wonders for me to run my household smoothly and efficiently-- follow her plan to the letter, there are letters from other home schooling moms that are very helpful. Babysteps- alittle at a time
will help your children pace themselves and be ready to go in the morning.

We have to start by 9 a.m. or we will not accomplish our tasks for the day. Clean up after yourself and require the children to help clean and pick up after themselves including meals!!

2-- Make a school schedule that your kids can mark off and so that they know exactly what is required of them. My kids also like to use timers to see how long it takes. Figure out how to make this worthwhile for them-- a trip to the park or library when they’re done, a special treat, free time, etc.

Other considerations

Co-Op -- Think about what you would like for your family and then figure out how to get it. We organized a girls club when my girls were younger and this past year we joined a larger co-op. This coming year we’re organizing a Greek club and doing some smaller co-ops. Just be specific and find or make something that will work for you and your kids.

Enjoy your kids-- Do School when it’s time to do school and be home and enjoy your sweet family the rest of the time. If it gets to be too much, take a break and then start over. Keep up with Math and Piano as those are skills that are harder to make up later. Don’t push too hard while they are little. Enjoy your freer time as things seem to get more time consuming and demanding the older they get. Just love them and encourage and require and they will do their best.

Health -- Take care of yourself, exercise, eat dark green leafy salads and raw foods. Soaked almonds are great. Cut back on meat and dairy products and all processed foods. You will feel better and be able to accomplish and enjoy more.

Review of the Week #4

This was a pretty good week. #1 is moving through Greek pretty well and has finished lesson 5 of 30 and is understanding it all pretty well so we are on a good track for Latin. She has been doing all her individual workbooks pretty well this week and hasn't needed much help. She needs to do better with poem memorization. I also need to check and read her reports and compositions.

#2 took the 5B math test twice this week and got 79% both times. Math has come so easily to her that she hasn't had to really apply herself so it's good that she is finally being challenged, but she now has to learn how to focus, concentrate and work through difficult problems. She finally got into the groove a bit after 2 hours on the first test, but she didn't pass. She went faster the second time, but just wrote answers she remembered from reviewing the mistakes she made so she'll take it again on Monday. She doesn't seem to focus very well and rolls around a lot, but somehow she manages to get her work done and does a great job memorizing. Also with her, I need to make sure I read her compositions because I don't think she's been doing them.

#3 passed his 2B math test with an 84 %. He does not know how to tell time and is a bit of a perfectionist so he doesn't like to take risks and fail. Anyway, he's moving right along pretty well- he started the 3rd McGuffey reader and the next Explode the code workbook. We need to continue working on times tables and penmanship. I also need to make sure we get in a few science experiments. He loves those.

#4 made great progress with his eye exercises this week. Both eyes are equally strong and he gets to start exercises that encourage them to start working together. As far as school goes -- he would only be in kindergarten this year, so I don't want to push him, but he is moving along great. He's reading pretty well-- still not on his I think mainly due to his eyes and he will be taking the math 2A test in the next week or 2. He loves art.

#5 really wants to start reading and writing. He has some workbooks, butI don't want to do much with him until #3 is more independent. He says some really cute things. This morning he got up and we told him to go back to bed and he said, but it's morning in my window.

Babies-- are growing and fun. They are eating a lot and getting into things. Very sweet and very cute. I am blessed.

Group time-- we only did it twice this week. I was a little burned out. I'm just going to have to be more disciplined even though Christmas is coming!!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Review of the Week #3

This has been a busy and productive week. We only held group time twice this week, but we did make it to the library for the first time in a very long time. That means I have read a bunch more children's books to my little ones than usual, so we are definitely going to schedule in the library and have it replace group time that day. We will have group time 3 times a week instead of 4 and I think that will be acceptable. The 2 group times we had were very efficient and worthwhile and fun. I enjoyed them and the kids enjoyed them.

We started a new book for history mainly for the younger kids, but the older kids like to listen as they draw-- Glimpses into the Long Ago

We finished our science book, but didn't pass the little quiz at the end, so I'm not sure how much we learned, haven't decided whether we'll go on and count it as good exposure or go back and make sure we learned some things. We'll probably go back and do some projects to help us remember better.

We have memorized the first 8 articles of faith. We worked on a Greek scripture. We are reading the New Testament and Little Women. We learned about the spinning Jenny and how people used to make thread, yarn and clothing. We read lots of picture books. Berenstein Bears is very popular.

The kids watched the Incredibles in French while I went to the store and were very proud of understanding some words especially "My name is IncrediBoy". We're actually making progress in both Spanish and French. We've got The Incredibles in several other languages as well.

The boys finished all their work for the week. I have to be unbending in the requirements even when they throw fits, because once they decide they will do it, then they do great, but it is hard and they have to concentrate. We are working on times tables, review of 2B for math for the 8 yr. old, he needs to take the test this coming week. The younger boy is on 2 A and doing at least 4 pages a day. He slowed down a little when it got hard but it's easy again especially since we are working on times tables. The 8 yr. old is finally starting to read on his own for pleasure and not just when I make him.

The girls finished everything on their lists except for reports, memorizing a poem and writing a composition. The oldest passed 5B and started 6A. She is doing great. She also finished lesson 3 in the Greek book. It has taken a lot of extra one on one time to get her ready for and to pass the test and start Greek. Those are ou7r main focuses though so it's O.K. Iwill be working more with the next daughter this coming week. She will be taking her 5B test and starting the 3rd year Greek book.

To do this week: I need to print off more efficient lists for the girls
Finish downloading music and audio books for my mp3 player

Scheduling appointments and shopping

This has been a busy week. One thing that was good about this week is that I combined all my necessary trips into 2 days. One day is huge-- we drive about 45 min. each way for vision therapy for my son, then do all our grocery shopping for the week, then go to the park with other homeschooled friends. There aren't many girls at the park, so we may start an arts and crafts club to meet after the park for my daughters. That is a long day, but then I don't have to load up the twins any extra time and we don't get interrupted in our school days.

One other day of the week my daughter has a violin lesson right after lunch for a half hour, then we go the library right after, because the twins are already in the car to take her to violin, so we just stop at home and grab the other kids and go. This is a little disruptive to our at home schedule, but the kids love the library and we had stop going otherwise because I just couldn't take everybody and we had way to many fines because of it. This way we have a weekly appointment so we shouldn't incur so many fines and the kids really learn a lot from their books. They get to check out 4 books of whatever they want and 2 books on something they are interested in learning about. The library took over group time this week. So we may just have group time 3 times a week instead of 4. I'm O.K. with that. That will give me a bit of a break too. I kept having the thought "it is not requisite that a man should run faster than he has strength" (Mosiah 4:27
) run through my mind this week. There are so many things I want to help my children accomplish and so many fun and important things to do, that it can feel overwhelming. That thought helped me destress and keep perspective, that it will be O.K. if we don't do it all. But scheduling is going to help us get some order so we can accomplish a lot.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

We're on our way to learning Latin

There is a National Latin Exam. They have an exam for six different years or levels. My husband was fortunate enough to take the first year exam while in high school, because his was one of the few high schools offering Latin. He attributes much of his ability to think critically and learn easily to his study of Latin. Students of Latin generally score higher on standardized tests than those taking other foreign languages. Memoria Press has some great articles on the value of learning Latin if you'd like to learn more check out their newsletter. Here is a link to one of their articles.

In order to be eligible to take the first year exam, the student must be enrolled in a Latin I course without having taken other Latin courses. We of course want our children to do well on that test and we want them to learn Latin well enough that they will be able to read some of the great books in the original Latin. In order to take all six national tests, they need to start Latin I no later than 7th grade. Henle Latin is our curriculum of choice. We have books for all 7 of our children. My husband bought them so that we'll for sure have them. He bought them for the the twins as soon as we found out we were having twins. So in order to learn grammar before we start first year Latin, we are having our children study Greek.

The curriculum we love is called Elementary Greek from My oldest is now on the 3rd year book. We are really focusing on the Greek now and moving through the 3rd year much more quickly than we did the first 2, so that she will be ready to start Latin I in September. My second child is finished with her workbook of year 2 but I don't think she is quite ready to move on. She is very bright though, so I think if I work with her enough she may also be ready to start Latin in the Fall also. We'll see, if not she'll certainly be ready to start the following year. I may push her hard this year because it will be easier to teach the 2 girls together. Time will tell.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Interesting articles about Singapore Math

Singapore Math story problems are awesome. They are hard, but the kids learn to do them from the beginning. They then practice the basic math skills by practicing story problems. Very good stuff. There are more links at the bottom of that page to other articles written by him.

Singapore Math-- should we switchover from Saxon?

This is a copy of a post from my other blog:

We love Singapore math. I started my first on Saxon and we both hated it for the constant repetition and it's sooooo dry. The Singapore books are like you're playing. If you did have your kids go back, they'd probably actually enjoy it it because there are so many codes and mazes and things to , so if they already know the concepts it would be a fun review and practice but you can have them take the placement tests on the Singapore site to see where they are.

I have posted a couple posts on our math experience on my blog if you want to read about it. My first daughter had a bit of a hard time transitioning and we took a loooong time on levels 1 and 2, finally by level 3 I decided we needed to really focus on math and get her caught up. Level 4 was tough, but now she's onto level 5 and whizzing through. I'll find out tomorrow how well when she takes her test which is the placement test on their site. I'm hoping she'll start Algebra by the end of this year, she'll be 6th grade age.

It was a tough transition I think mostly because she got a sour taste for math from the boring Saxon books, and she's more of an artsy imaginative kid not real math minded. The other kids who started with Singapore have just whizzed through with no problem. They slow down when we get to a harder section, but once they get it, they're off. They should be fully prepared to start Algebra when they finish level 6, and the story problems are amazing. I'm learning how to solve them without Algebra. Then we plan to use the Algebra and Geometry books from McDougall Littell. We haven't picked the Trig or Calculus books yet.

Also the US edition Singapore math books are the ones they were using in their schools when they were ranked #1 in the world for math. Tried and tested with excellent results. Love it!!! Good luck on your decision.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Review of the Week

I've already detailed Monday and Tuesday of this week. Wednesday was good too. Rotating my time every 30 min. seems to help everybody stay focused 'cause they know we really will stop when the time is up. It took more sessions to get all work done on Wed. than it did on Tues., but that's O.K. The kids got most of their lists finished. The girls have to do some math, Greek, required reading and instrument practice today. The boys finished their work today. We did no school work on Thurs. That is our new shopping/ appt./ park day. We did no school work on Friday because we had to get the house ready for a detective birthday party for my now 10 yr. old. It turned out to be quite fun. The kids were a little stumped on some of the clues but they eventually found the hidden jewels and captured the thief. Very fun. The cake was yummy too. I'll be posting the recipe at . It was lemon cake with frosting which I have not made for years.

So lots of fun this week. We are making up for some of the fun today. The kids aren't happy about that, but they will be grateful when they're older and getting great scholarships!

Spanish and French were so so this week. We got a whole bunch of "The Incredibles" the movie in many different languages so the kids can exposure to a variety of languages. I don't expect they will learn any of them very well, but at least they will have exposure. It's kind of fun. We memorized the 7th article of faith and continue to read the same books, we are almost done with our science book.

To do list:

find a poem to memorize this week
put some more songs on the mp3 player for music time
rip some cds for music time
add music theory game to kids lists
print new lists for the week

I am looking forward to a nice uninterupted week this coming week!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

A Bad Day and a Good Day

Yesterday was a bad day. I didn't get up early enough to exercise before the kids got up and I had to decide whether to start school or exercise. I hadn't exercised for 2 weeks because I was sick and I cut my hand real bad Sunday night washing a glass cup that broke and slipped into my hand plus I hate Mondays. Then instead of letting my girls off the hook after an hour of math work, I made them finish their pages cause I didn't think they were concentrating well enough which took another 1 1/2 hours-- so that was 2 1/2 hours of math. The boys were good just playing around and pulling out every game in the cupboard and I felt bad that I didn't get to their work earlier and then I really regretted it that afternoon around 5 p.m. when I was trying to get them to practice their times tables and finish their other stuff and not making dinner. Also, we had a very short group time, we had to skip yoga and music we didn't do any Greek, and we spent a lot of time talking about how we need to act better. Then my mom came over to visit and I started to get a headache-- for good reason. Not my best day. So I sat in the tub and fortunately the headache did go away. My husband put the babies to bed and everybody else too which was nice and I got to rest. I went to bed early and got some decent sleep. soooooo.....

Today was a really good day. I loved it. I thought about how to make things run smoother and it worked pretty well even with violin lessons in the middle of it all. So this is what we did: I got up before the kids and exercised. I always feel so much better when I exercise. It's the one thing I do for myself. I love it. I just handle life so much better when I exercise. When I was done I started making breakfast and cleaning the kitchen and the kids started getting up. I told the kids to eat and do their chores and start school as soon as possible so that we wouldn't have a repeat of yesterday. They did very well so when it was time for school we had nice clean areas to do it in. I love that. Then I set the timer for 30 min. increments. I told the kids they had to work hard during that time with me helping them, then the boys could have a break while I helped the girls and the girls could do their piano practice or reading while I worked with the boys. I set the timer and didn't add minutes for the time it took for kids to find their books. When the timer beeped we were done.

So I started with boys- we worked on multiplication tables and they did well knowing we would stop when the timer beeped-- the girls did some of the things they can do on their own-- then I did 30 min. of Greek with the girls and the boys continued on with their work that they can do on their own surprisingly because I told them they could take a break. Anyway, when we finished Greek, the girls started math, but they were not allowed to ask me for any help because I was helping the boys finish up their reading, phonics and math workbooks, they were to skip the stuff they needed help with and when the timer went off I would help them. We were done at about 12:45 p.m. It was so awesome. The boys were all done and the girls were done with the hard parts. YAY!!

Then we started some birthday invitations, I nursed the babies, got lunch on the table and we got off to violin lessons. I needed a break after that so we all took one and then resumed school with yoga and music time outside. It was beautiful outside. We came in for Spanish, French, Scriptures, stories and -- oh I guess we forgot science today-- oh well. The rest of group time went rather well. The kids listened and payed attention fairly well. Then the boys went to their friend's house, the girls finished up stuff and I started dinner and then went to vote. My 11 yr.old then baked her 1st loaf of bread all by herself. It took her a while but it turned out pretty good.

Good day-- I guess I'd better go to bed so we can have a repeat of today!!