Monday, April 14, 2014

School Year = DONE ???

We are on our little break between sessions, and I just realized something.... Bug is totally done with 2nd grade!!!!!!!!! We are finished with our school year, basically. Huh.

And 3rd grade is more involved than 2nd... right? Social studies and Science get bumped up a notch. Things get more in-depth..... So I am spending much time researching curriculum to add into the mix. And figuring out how to proceed from here. :) With my third grader. !!! It's a little daunting. I want to make sure we don't miss anything. Pre-K through 2nd grade is so simple and fun.  Learning about the states, our community, the basics of science, reading lots of interesting books, adding/subtracting/multiplying, spelling, grammar (nouns/verbs/etc).... but now, things are about to get real. :)

Also, the tiny one will be starting K4 (4 yr old Kindergarten) when we resume...

So we are in essence about to start a new school year.  Yikes!!

This will be a big planning week around here. :)

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Session 2

Wow! This year is zooming by already!!! We are finishing up our second session over the next week or so.  We took a mini-break when Bug's friends were on spring break so we are going to go through Wednesday next week and just take a nice long weekend up in Phoenix.

Bug is loving her 3rd grade Language Arts books - Winning with Writing, Growing with Grammar, and Soaring with Spelling.  I am also a fan because they are about 99% self-guided. She reads the lesson and then does the work. I grade it, we discuss any issues, and that's that.

She is almost done with her 2nd grade Horizons Math book.  We will start the 3rd grade book during Session 3.  I am very impressed with this program!! Bug has learned way more than I would have expected for 2nd grade, and we are both excited to see what 3rd grade brings. :)

We also started a reading program with chapter books. Bug's goal is 50 books and then there will be a prize of some sort... no idea what yet :) I guess I should figure that out!! For each book, she writes a few sentences about it, or draws a picture -- I am using the Summer Reading Program we did last summer because I like the little banners and reward cards.

And, our big science project was --- a butterfly garden!!!  Bug wrote a report about the different stages after they were all released.  It was a fun hands-on adventure for a few weeks. :)  Here are a ton (probably way too many!) pictures of how it all went down.

Up next -- Rootvue farm, owl pellets, and Aquafarm. :)  We also joined the Desert Museum, so we will take some educational trips there.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Session 1

We are wrapping up our first 6-week session of the year.  It went really well. I love the 6-week time frame.  It's just long enough to really get some stuff done, and not so long that we got burned out.

During Session 1, we finished:

Growing with Grammar Level 1 - we will jump to level 3 for Session 2.*
All About Spelling Level 1 - we will jump to level 3* of a new program, called  Soaring with Spelling and Vocab.
Road Trip USA - we finished up the Midwest. We have now done the West, Southwest, and Midwest of the USA.  We are going to take a break before we start the East coast, and really nail down the few capitals that aren't sticking and spend some time exploring our neck of the woods and really learning more about the whole area.
Houghton Mifflin - Poetry unit.  We are going to switch to level 3* of Winning with Writing -- combined with the grammar and spelling/vocab, this should be a great Language Arts combo.

During Session 2, we will:

Do the above LA programs
Start Five in a Row -- I'm so excited about this one! I have heard great things, and I love that we can all do it together.  Lulu is now almost 4 (end of March) so she is participating more in school. She also loves to listen to books (finally! this is an energetic kid :) ) -- I think the timing is right for FiaR :)
Finish the letter of the week program for Lulu
Start planting our garden in the backyard - veggies!
Start using our Aqua farm fish tank we got for Christmas

We are loving Horizons Math, and should finish up the 2nd grade book during this next session.

*-the level 3 jumps above are because those programs said to start out with level 1.  So, we did.  And while it was good stuff, it was really easy, nothing new for Buggy.  After looking through the scope and sequence of the Level 2 programs, I chose to jump her up to #3. :)

This week, we are doing Math and a unit about the Olympics :) Then off on another road trip!!

Friday, January 10, 2014

Incentives & Rewards

Sooo... yeah.  I used to have a hard time with the whole behavioral chart thing they do in classrooms. I just don't like labeling behavior or having kids get put into the "good" and "bad" roles. I remember in school, those labels stuck.  I was a goody two shoes, except for the excessive talking :), and even when I would do something wrong in later years, teachers would be kind to me about it... I had been labeled "good" and so any acting out was seen as an anomaly.  Likewise, the "bad" kids -- the ones who ate glue in 1st grade or came to school in those early years with a chip on their shoulder -- were labeled as such and their actions were not viewed in a favorable light.  Even as a child, I didn't think that seemed fair.

Fast forward a few years (or um... decades!) and my daughter is in school.  And I could see why the teachers had to implement some sort of behavioral system. 30 kids + lots of testing + standards that must be met + a few behavioral issues in each classroom = a need for classroom management. I totally understand.  Thankfully, Bug's teachers were fantastic at implementing their systems in a fair and kind way.  They helped the kids learn which behaviors were acceptable and which weren't.  They gave them a chance to fix their behavior. They talked them through remedies. I actually learned a lot from the way they handled these situations.

And now, at home... yeah. I have actually started a reward system for the girls.  Each week, if they both have a good attitude and do their very best at school, they will get something special on Friday. And yes, I am putting smiley faces or frowning faces up on the dry erase board to keep track of the great and not-so-great moments. I'm buying into the whole enchilada.  This week, it's a trip to the frozen yogurt shop down the street.  I'm rationalizing it to myself that after a week of hard work, everyone deserves something special right? :) When they get older and have jobs, it will probably be happy hour.  But for now, yogurt and extra long recess or a trip to the zoo will suffice.  And I promise to not use the words "good" or "bad" through this process. :)

Happy Friday!

Thursday, January 9, 2014


Happy New Year!!!

We started school again yesterday after a nice looooong winter break and a 9-day trek to California.  Surprisingly, we dove back in with minimal drama. :)

After spending some time pondering our progress thus far and how I want to proceed, I decided on something a little different for 2014.  We are going to do 6-week sessions with 1-week breaks in between.  We will do this up until Thanksgiving (with the last two sessions being 5 weeks instead), and then take a break until January.

I also feel like we have gotten over the initial homeschooling humps of finding the right curriculum, figuring out what daily rhythm works best, and settling into our routine.  So now I want to get down to one of the main reasons I wanted to homeschool my kids --- exploring the world.  I want them to see everything as a learning opportunity, and to be excited by finding new things.  Lulu is almost 4 now and on board with both of those ideas.  Our trip to CA over break was a great starting point for 2014 and this endeavor.  We talked about all we had learned while studying California, and got to see some of the landmarks too.  Both girls had a blast :)

Here is what we are doing for Session 1:

Language Arts - finishing up All About Spelling Level 1 and starting Level 2; continuing with the Houghton Mifflin books (poetry and nature walk themes this session); and finishing up Growing With Grammar Level 1

Math - continuing with Horizons 2nd Grade book

Social Studies - Midwest states

Science - Rocks & Minerals around the USA / Plants

Extras - daily piano practice (Bug started lessons over the holidays), Van Gogh, and Handel -- and continuing with the weekly PE classes and monthly Science Club --- I also got a typing program and we received a harmonica lesson book, so those things may enter the rotation as well.

Lulu will be continuing with her Letter of the Week program for the first two sessions, and then will start a K4 curriculum in April.

That's it here! I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday season :)

Monday, November 25, 2013

Gobble Gobble

Happy Thanksgiving! :)  We are doing light school this week, so I'm taking a moment to come up for air and do a blog post.

Over the past month, we have switched a few things around.  The big change is our new school room!! It is SO NICE to have a designated space for our learning. With shelves for storage. And a HUGE dry erase board. And did I mention the shelves?? And storage?? I'm loving it. So much. :)

The next biggest change is our math curriculum.  We were doing Math in Focus, which was fine. But it didn't go with our learning styles here.  Buggy and I get kind of bogged down and bored when there is only. one. thing. at a time.  We both enjoy variety and a faster pace.  So we switched to Horizons (and I just accidentally typed Verizon instead.... ha!) and it's really fun.  After we did a "zoom review" through the chapters we knew, we are on track with where we belong.  This month, Buggy has learned to tell time on an "old fashioned" clock, adding & subtracting 4-digit numbers, skip counting 3s, 4s, 6s, etc., and how to multiply.  It's much more interesting. For both of us. :)

And we also started a new spelling curriculum - All About Spelling.  It's a little slow starting out with it, because we began with Level 1 as they advise and it's pretty basic.  It lays the foundation for the whole program so it's important (for example, instead of saying "buh" for B, we have re-trained ourselves to say just "b" -- I'm not explaining it well... look it up online!! It's pretty cool stuff).  I really like how it is going to teach Bug all the rules for spelling, so she isn't just memorizing a list of words each week and then promptly forgetting it when the next week's words come out.  The neat part of it being so basic is that Lulu has been able to join in some lessons. She knows all the letter sounds from her Leap Frog DVD, so she can participate too!

She also helped alphabetize the letter tiles. Sort of.  It went a little downhill after D.... she likes to do things wrong to be funny. She is a character.... teaching her will be interesting :) :) And entertaining!

That's it for now!! This week I am finishing up our new schoolroom and starting to prep for the second half of the school year. Whee!!! :)

Saturday, October 26, 2013

The Question. (and yaay! organizing!)

Several people have asked me lately, "So how is homeschooling going? Are you totally stressed? Are you getting out enough? How are you holding up!?" and other questions along those lines.  My answer shocks most people -- I actually am more relaxed and happy than I have been in years.  After getting stumped the first time someone responded with, "How!??! Why!?!?", I gave it some thought.  It's a valid question. I have my kids home all!day! every day.  I rarely have time completely to myself.  I have added a lot of work & pressure to my life by taking on this whole homeschool thing.  Shouldn't this all translate to being a kazillion and three times more stressed than I was last year at this time???

After pondering it for awhile, I realized that the answer has two parts ---

1. Homeschooling has slowed our lives down. We have opted out of the kiddy rat race that school can become.  And for us, we knew there were holes in Bug's education, so we also were supplementing when we could.  I never felt like we were doing enough to fill in those gaps, and that was super-stressful for me.  We have a lovely routine to our days now, and I am loving it.  Also, it's not like during the summer, where everyone is crazypants by the end. That was a concern of mine at the beginning of August.  Everyone was yelling at each other and all the fun summertime relaxation that seemed wonderful in June was just making everyone crabby.  While this was happening and I was putting together lesson plans, I kept thinking "OMG you are insane, woman!! Get them out of the house and take a BREAK!"  But the whole vibe changed once we started our school routine. (Whew!) And as far as "me time", the girls have quiet time in their room every afternoon for an hour or two.  During that time, I *make* myself rest, either with a book or catching up on TV. I relax. Sometimes I even close my eyes for a few moments. :)  I do the same in the evenings after everyone is in bed. And bedtime during the school week is nice and early, at 7:30.  So I get a couple of hours to myself each night.

2. It's such a relief to finally be homeschooling.  I have felt the pull to do this since Bug was a wee one, probably about 2 or 3?  For whatever reason, I really feel in my bones that this is right for us. That is a more nebulous answer than #1, but there you have it.  To finally be diving in and doing it feels SO right to me.  It's a relief to not fight it or worry about it, and just do it.  A huge weight has been lifted off my shoulders.


As you can probably tell from my posts, homeschool is working for us, so this is not going to be a temporary situation.  And, as most of you also know, I love a good organizing/decorating project!! :) So I am working to create a more permanent school room.  Right now we have a nice set up, but it's in our dining room with things piled into every nook & cranny I could find out there.  I'm really excited to get a HUGE dry erase board, a school table, and get all my school stuff organized in a more functional way. It will also be nice to get it tucked away into its own space.  This will happen during the week of Thanksgiving, which is our first big break this year.  So, be warned, there will be lots of pictures and posts about the new schoolroom!! :)

I hope everyone is enjoying all the holiday activities this weekend! Happy Fall! :)