Thursday, November 3, 2016

Weekly Wrap-up #3 {the week the van doors fell off and Peter threw up his Halloween candy}

That title is a bit loaded.  Last Sunday after attending 7:30 a.m. Mass, I planned out our homeschool week.  Reading, handwriting, math, art, history, chemistry - all the details were planned out and ready to go.

Then the duck hunters came home and the van door wouldn't close.  Back track 18 months, the other sliding door broke and was Duck taped - good enough.  The remaining sliding door has been giving us grief for 6 months or more, and sadly, Sunday, it wouldn't latch shut.  Warren made a few calls, got some pointers, and tackled the job of fixing it.

Well you know the phrase, drive it till the doors fall off.  That's exactly what happened, because when he tried fixing the door, it actually fell off the track.  Our favorite body shop man is on vacation until just before deer season so we're down a vehicle for a few weeks.  We've vowed to attempt creative carpooling.

That was the start of a week of phone calls.  Life really took a crazy turn, despite my perfect homeschool plan.  Calling the body shop, chiropractor, pulmonary specialist, plumber, and college admissions office took up a lot of time.  Every call required messages and call backs and scheduling appointments.  It was crazy.

Now it's time for my weekly wrap-up.  I like to focus on our homeschool week, but let's face it homeschooling is just a snippet of our life, so the wrap-up includes it all.

Chemistry Chapter 4 lab - the classic cabbage juice indicator lab.  We're working through Focus on High School Chemistry.  It's very thorough and broken down into bite size pieces.

With real lab equipment the fun never stops.  Here are two sets with similar equipment to ours.

It wouldn't be a Halloween week weekly wrap-up without a few costume pics.  Here we have Little Bo Peep.

Hans and Franz with a mini Incredible Hulk

Ariel the Mermaid, Giraffe, French Spy, Super Girl and baseball player.

The costumes lead to candy.  There was a lot of this this week.  Rummaging, trading, eating.

Even a little hiding with candy.

Poor Peter ate so much candy that after all the craziness of costumes and trick-or-treating were done, he hopped into bed and promptly threw up.  Happy Halloween!

Are you familiar with Snap Circuits?  They've been on the dining table all week keeping Peter and Sam occupied.  Playing with electricity is like magic to a 4 year old.  Every time he completes a circuit his eyes light up in amazement.  If I didn't have so many phone calls to make, I'd probably sit there and just watch him.

Snap Circuits are on sale at Amazon for $14.39.

We're setting up for a beautiful weekend.  Most likely one of the last warm and sunny weekends of the year.  I wish you all the best and thanks for visiting my weekly wrap-up.

Linking up with

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Rhyming Isn't Necessary to Begin Reading Instruction

Most pre-reading programs include rhyming activities.  It almost seems that mastering the skill of rhyming is necessary to begin the actual reading program.  When I first started the All About Reading Pre-reading program with Joseph last year, I believed he needed to master each lesson before moving on.  Quickly, I realized that rhyming was his nemesis.  We were never going to move on because unprompted rhyming simply was not going to happen.  I have to admit that for a moment I felt despair.  He's never going to read.  This is it.  He's reached the top with his ABC's.  

No rhyming = No reading

And more WRONG.

Eventually, I tightened my belt (loosened my belt)...anyway I decided to do the rhyming activities, but not require mastery.  We would just keep moving on, despite the fact that bat rhymed with ball and hat rhymed with head.  I've talked with other parents of children with Down syndrome and this is a common complaint.  Rhyming is not a favorite activity.  Joseph is proof that a child with Down syndrome can learn to read even if they can't rhyme.  

However, and this is a huge however, rhyming shouldn't be thrown in the trash all together.  It's totally ok to learn things outside of the normal order.  So, I'll share a little game I play with Joseph to practice rhyming.  I call it Nursery Rhyming.  Nursery rhymes are a part of our cultural literacy.  Cultural literacy is having basic background knowledge of one's culture.  Why not incorporate a little cultural literacy and rhyming in one fun game.  

Here's what I do.  I read a few nursery rhymes aloud a couple of times through.  Then I repeat, but I leave out the rhyming word at the end of a stanza.  Here's an example:

The Mouse and the Clock

Hickory, dickory, dock!
The mouse ran up the ________;
The clock struck one,
And down he _____,
Hickory, dickory, dock!

The Cat and the Fiddle

Hey, diddle, diddle!
The cat and the _______,
The cow jumped over the moon;
The little dog laughed
To see such sport,
And the dish ran away with the ______.

Joseph fills in the blank with the right word and then I praise him for rhyming.  Here's a video clip example.

At the end I always review the rhyming words:  dock rhymes with clock, one rhymes with run, diddle rhymes with fiddle, and moon rhymes with spoon.  As Joseph improves, I choose more difficult nursery rhymes.  Here's a video clip of us reviewing the rhyming words.  It's a short clip - certain kids didn't get the message to stay out of the filming area.

For beginners the board book is a good place to start.  It has the most popular rhymes for children.

 Once all these are memorized, then the full length Mother Goose is best - there are so many rhymes to choose from.

And this adorable board book from Tomie de Paola might just show up in Maria's something to read box on Christmas.

Need more fun ways to teach reading skills?
Here's a link to All About Reading's free activity book.

You might like

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Library Haul

My library account currently reads "61 items checked out".  We've been visiting the library quite frequently again, and it shows.  Our library shelf seems to have shrunk, and now the books are spilling out all over the place.

We tried to shrink the pile a bit today by taking back a few items, and I want to share a couple of our favorites.

Amber has been reading The Selection series.  They must be good; she reads one in a day.

Berry Big Help is your typical character style DVD - characters with high-pitched voices, big heads, big eyes.  After watching it a few times, it needs to go back to the library.

Sesame Street board books are, again a fine library checkout, but not books I'd like to own.

Horses - Trotting!  Prancing!  Racing! is a sweet book about all the actions horses make.  If there's a horse lover or three in your home this is a must read.

Here are the winners!
  We're actually a little sad we had to take them back.

Winter Is Coming is a beautifully illustrated book; the perfect pick for November.  A young girl enjoys observing and drawing nature from her tree platform.  As the days march on, the weather cools, the animals search for food, and her clothing changes from a sweater to hat and mittens.  The kids asked for this book over and over which was fine because it was a joy to read.

I'm not as thrilled with Little Burro as I am with Winter is Coming, but Peter loved this book.  Little burro follows his band of burros away from his favorite spot - home - to a secret place, which turns out to be a beautiful watering hole.  Nice story, Peter's favorite.

What are others checking out from their libraries?  Follow along with the Library Haul link-up.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Weekly Wrap-up #2 {the week I didn't take a single picture}

I didn't take a single picture this week, but I have a few from other weeks I'll share.

We are just finishing week 6 of homeschooling. Why do we have only 6 weeks in? We took two weeks off for cranberry harvest. Well, mostly off. Nick continued with his college classes, but took off completely from homeschool. Amber put in about 3 or 4 days of homeschool over the 2 week period. Sam took off completely, except for violin. His recital was smack dab in the middle of harvest so he still had to put in plenty of practice time. And as for the littles, Joseph, Peter, and Maria continued to learn, whether it be cutting grass, raking leaves, All About Reading, and enjoying plenty of walks on the marsh.

There was all the normal stuff this week - the schooly stuff. 

Teaching Textbooks
From Sea to Shining Sea
Easy Grammar
All About Spelling 
All About Reading
Focus on High School Chemistry
U.S. History
Stories of the Saints

Novels in progress:

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm
The Impossible Journey
West Side Story

And the extras:

Joe has a tutor every Monday for 1 hour.  She works on fine motor skills and writing skills.  Sam went to Tween Tuesday where 6th and 7th graders take part in phy ed and art and then a rotating project.  Currently they're working on making Google slides and uploading them to their teacher's website.  Peter and Maria attend Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, weekly, with 3 other children at a local parish.

Hobbies were enjoyed:

Horseback riding (pictured below is Amber and Joe bringing the horses back to the paddock)

Duck and Goose hunting (this was September, but they're still going strong)

Ending the week with a little trip up North, Warren, Sam, and Peter are having a boys' weekend.  They're spending it with some relatives.  One of which is Uncle Dan.  It has me thinking about making generational memories with family.  During harvest this year we spent an evening making a traditional family meal - Pork and Dumplings.

Uncle Dan was instrumental in getting it done.  What I mean is he bought pork roasts, sauerkraut, bread, and potatoes.  Nothing says let's get this done like providing all the ingredients.  I think I finally learned the process of making the dumplings.  It looks like Sam, Peter, and Maria will be my helpers next time.

I've also been checking my list twice, tweaking and updating my trimester plan.

And after one more look at my pictures, I actually took one picture this week.  My oldest girls enjoying coffee and tea from their favorite mugs.  Emily's new favorite tea is Lord Grantham Breakfast Blend.  
Description on the tin:
.....This energizing tea is perfect for an early morning foxhunt or preparing for the dramas of the day.

And you can bet there are plenty of dramas to deal with when two teenagers share a room.

That turned out to be a rather long weekly wrap-up, especially since I thought I had nothing to share.  I hope you enjoyed your visit here.  For more weekly wrap-ups from homeschooling families, please visit Weird Unsocialized Homeschoolers.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

The Why & How of the Homeschool Trimester Schedule

Scheduling our homeschool year is something I love doing, but has always been a struggle.  Do I plan out the entire year at once?  Should I plan monthly?  Weekly?  Just let it happen amidst life?  Ah, NO! Definitely not the last one.

The struggle comes from having so many awesome ideas, and wanting to fit it all in.

I once heard of a mom who booked a hotel room for one weekend in August and planned every detail of their homeschool year.  Every lesson was was given a date.  Workbook pages were torn out and stapled together by week.  Holiday crafts, morning read alouds, individual chapter books correlating to history lessons were all decided upon and given a specific day for completion.  Wow!

I tried that for a semester once, but life happened and I ended up discouraged that my well thought out plans were falling apart.  It felt like we were always behind, trying to catch-up.

My way of homeschool planning has evolved over the years.  When our three oldest were in the primary grades, the planning and schooling looked very different than it does today.  And if I learned one thing over the years of homeschooling, it's to be flexible.

Since we homeschool through our local school district's virtual learning program, I had to turn in grades for my highschoolers according to the trimester schedule last year.  I was not prepared to give grades by mid November.  We were working with the semester schedule at home.

2 semesters = 1 credit
2 trimesters = 1 credit

So, I was all confused as to how to give a grade for math if we were stretching it over the entire year.  Did that mean they received and extra half credit?  Did it look like we were slacking off so it took us all year to complete something that should've been completed in 2/3 of a school year?

Fast forward to 2nd trimester - I was a little more prepared, and had settled my mind on the fact that we'll do what we do, how we do it.  I'll assign grades for the district and not worry about semesters and trimesters.

Midway through trimester 3 and I thought this would be a great way to plan for next year.

Why am I using the trimester schedule this year?

Basically, because breaking the year into 3 trimesters rather than 2 semesters allows for greater flexibility.

Now for the HOW.  This is the fun part if you like planning and organizing your homeschooling year.

First, I grabbed a notebook and wrote down the months of our school year with some space between.  Our year is September - May.  That's nine months, which easily breaks down into three 3-month trimesters.  I've had 7 babies so I'm good at the trimester math thing!

Trimester 1

Trimester 2

Trimester 3

Blue ink and pencil are original.  Black ink indicates changes in progress.
In the blank space under each month I numbered from 1-5.  Focusing on 5 subjects/books/projects each month sounded appropriate and manageable.  Using the trimester schedule means every core subject won't be on the schedule all year.

I made up a page in my notebook for each of my kids I'm homeschooling.  This year I have one in 12th, 9th, 6th, 2nd, and 2 in Pre-school.  Yeah, Emily graduated so one less plan for me this year.

I already had our curriculum choices made, so I made piles of textbooks, science project kits, novels, art kits, workbooks - really anything I intended for them to accomplish this year.  I started with Nick's pile, dividing it into 3 smaller piles - one for each trimester.  Then I assigned each pile a trimester and started writing in the subjects and novels in the appropriate month.

For example:  his focus for trimester 1 is Algebra 2, Chemistry, and reading 5 novels/biographies (all historical).  He also takes 6 credits at our local technical college.  Any extras can be added in the extra blank space.  Extras for him include scheduling ride alongs with police officers, weight lifting, and preparing blinds for hunting.

Amber's pile was the next to tackle.  Nick and Amber are teaming up on Chemistry this year so I had to plan accordingly.  Besides Chemistry, her first trimester focus includes:  Algebra 1, U.S. History, Stories of the Saints, and various novels.

Once all the piles were assigned trimesters and then divided by month and written in the notebook, I was done.  The year was loosely planned.

Once the school year got started I had a trimester 1 conference with each child.  We planned out the details of what needed to be done by the end of September and wrote it on the master plan.  For example:  Nick and Amber need to complete 2 chapters and 2 labs each month in order to finish their chemistry in 2 trimesters.  Amber needs to complete 2 saints per month.  Sam needs to complete 4 steps in All About Spelling in September.

We only wrote in the details for September because like I said, life happens.  We get interested in something and end up spending a morning reading books about nothing on our list.  Or, perhaps the van needs a tire rotation and possibly some brake work, but turns into a multiple day stay in the shop and requires some creative carpooling to get everyone where they need to be, therefore, keeping me away from home more than I'd like.  How is that a school problem?  Well, even the most obedient and diligent children get off track when Mom's not around and then schoolwork doesn't get done the way it should.

Anyway, this trimester scheduling is working well for us this year.  I love the flexibility it offers, and to be honest, breaking the school year into three bites instead of two allows for 2 do-overs instead of one.  Because, let's be real now, sometimes the most researched curriculum and well-chosen read alouds turn out to be duds.  And I typically don't realize it until nearly the end of the first semester; I only have one more chance(semester) to get it right.  But, the trimester schedule gives me two more chances to get it right.

I made a much prettier version of my Trimester Planner to share with you.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Weekly Wrap-up #1 {leaves, stomp rockets, spiders, chemistry}

Today I'm sharing a Weekly Wrap-up.  Mostly it will include homeschool pictures I've taken throughout the week.  Sometimes it might contain affiliate links.

This is my first time linking up with Weird Unsocialized Homeschoolers for the Weekly Wrap-up.
For a peek into more families' homeschool days, visit the link-up.

Want to be the best mom ever?  Of course you do!  Grab the kids and a couple of rakes and do what comes naturally.....rake a pile of leaves.  You can call it life skills class or physical education class or community service if you really feel the need to define it, but we called it plain old fun.

A child size rake makes it that much more fun.

We pulled off the leaf raking in between walks on the cranberry marsh.
Another super fun outdoor activity is Stomp Rockets.  My kids are ROUGH with their toys.  This toy has stood up to tons of abuse.  Yes, the fins on the rockets are mostly missing, but that hasn't stopped their fun.  I like that Joseph gets lots of jumping with this toy.  It helps strengthen his leg muscles and loose hips.  They also get tons of exercise running to collect the rockets.  Again, I could categorize this into a school subject, but I don't.  We just have fun first and let the learning come naturally.

I shared my low tech way of keeping track of preschool activities.  This thumbprint spider project was written on one of the notecards.  It didn't go quite as planned.  The idea was to divide up their paper into 10 sections.  Then make black thumbprints in each section according to the number in that section.

1 = 1 thumbprint
2= 2 thumbprints
That went pretty well.  Joe loved dipping his thumb in the paint.  Once their prints dried, I wanted them to pen 8 legs on each thumbprint making it a spider.  Peter gave it a try, but it was too much to stay on task for all those spiders.

While waiting for the prints to dry, we spent time with the Animal Encyclopedia (favorite animal book ever - the cover has been torn off more times than I can count) reading about spiders.


This year Nick and Amber have been working through Focus on High School Chemistry.  

It's geared for mixed level highschoolers, which makes it perfect for the homeschool setting.  The chapters are broken into manageable sections making it easy enough to complete a chapter and questions in 1 week.  Then after correcting the review questions the next week, they complete the lab.  The lab manual is laid out well, and they're doing a fine job completing the labs.  Today's lab #3 has been the most fun; they finally felt like they were doing real chemistry - splitting H2O into O2 and H2.

Here's the basic setup for splitting H2O.

Look at those smiles as they write up their results.
More Weekly news:  we finished cranberry harvest, had a harvest pizza party, had the van repaired again, ordered a shelving unit for the little ones' bedroom, and picked up reading lessons again.

It's been a full week, but what week isn't full?  Anything you want to share about your week?  Share in the comments.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

One Last Cranberry Harvest Tour of 2016

We are officially done with cranberry harvest 2016.  It was a fantastic harvest - great fruit quality, dependable harvest crew, mostly decent weather, and only 1.6 million cranberry leaves scattered from the garage to the basement to the bedrooms.  I'll be vacuuming those until Christmas.

I wish this picture was in landscape mode - it would show the rest of the story.  Warren is backing up the dump truck, and Joe is guiding him in.  That pointer finger above his head is moving a mile a minute beckoning him in.

Tools of the trade in the foreground.

Working together to corral every last berry.

Dad and son working together, placing the boom just so.

Love this picture.  The swirling shades of red are so impressive.

Cranberries falling from the conveyor belt into the dump truck.

Peter had a chance to pull on the hip boots and trudge into the cranberry bed to try his hand at raking the old fashioned way.

Always a helper - raking up leaf trash.

Freshly raked cranberry bed - fruit is floating, once the water is higher it will be boomed.

Did you know we buy Bumblebees from Michigan?  They're trucked here and we place them around the marsh for pollination purposes.


One of the most fascinating sights on a cranberry bed are the strands of cobwebs formed on a lightly flooded bed.

As usual, have a CRANTASTIC day!
I'll be back with a few fun ways to use dried cranberries.