Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Try-It Tuesday - Autumn Candy Making

Candy Corn
1 cup sugar
2/3 cup white corn syrup
1/3 cup butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup powdered milk
food coloring (optional)

Combine sugar, butter, and corn syrup in pan and bring to a boil stirring Constantly. Turn heat low and boil 5 minutes. Stir occasionally. Remove from heat and add vanilla. In a separate dish, combine powdered sugar, salt, and powdered milk. Add all at once to the mixture in the pan. Add food coloring if desired. Stir until cool enough to handle. Shape into creative pieces.

Suzy made the pumpkin. David made the rose - for me! How sweet is THAT from a thirteen-year-old boy? They all were very creative! This recipe makes a LOT. Plenty for all four of mine to be happy creating for a while.

Sight Word Game

Suzy is not adept at sight words yet, so I wanted a FUN computer game to increase her abilities with it. A google search turned up a lot, but most games weren't that exciting or were not free. I wanted it to be incremental - not too many words at a time, or in some unorganized manner. I want it to teach her to recognize the word and also to be able to spell the word.

Here's what I found that she liked and met my requirements:

It takes you to the main screen, which has an option to buy. However, everything I clicked around on in the games worked fine. Start here, if it doesn't work from the main screen.

There are some printable resources as well.

[EDITED TO ADD - It appears that only the first 3 levels are free. If we work through those levels and they are effective, we'll probably buy the program if I haven't found anything better. I really like it and Suzy liked doing it. More than that though, it seems like it will really help.

EDITED AGAIN - A friend found a promotional code WSBJ which should bring the price down to $20 a year. I haven't tried it yet.]

Monday, September 29, 2008

Magic Milk Shake

Are you trying to save money on your grocery bill? Tonight for dessert, James and I made Magic Milk Shakes from the Hillbilly Housewife website. Yum! No ice cream in them, so they're inexpensive. I have all the ingredients on hand. Everyone slurped them up!

If you are interested in spending less on groceries, poke around on her site a little. Especially check out:
Homemade Convenience Foods
$45 Emergency Menu
$70 Low Cost Menu

I did notice that food costs more now than it did when she made up these menus, even though it wasn't very long ago. But, I do think I'll be making use of a lot of recipes on this site!

Simple Woman Daybook - September 29

For Today... September 29, 2008

Outside my Window... I hear a lawn mower. I see a purple and blue bike & a small yellow plastic shopping cart & an empty blue recycling bin & a small wooden sword that I paid too much money for. The neighbors have some pretty pink and white flowers all along the front of their house. And now I see some sunlight dappling the grass.

I am thinking... that I should get OFF the computer and oversee the learning!

From the learning rooms... Lesson plan sheets all printed out for the entire week! We also moved up our lesson start time 30 minutes in hopes that we can accomplish more before lunch.

I am thankful for... my book club!

From the kitchen... a bunch of cut-up hot peppers and onions. My dh is making salsa.

I am wearing... Jeans, black t-shirt with a POTC pirate skull on it, white socks, black fleece-lined slippers, red fleece zipper jacket, hair in a clip (gelled, too!), no makeup

I am reading... A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith. I am getting ready to start Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen. I also have the newest Artemis Fowl book by Eoin Colfer waiting here.

I am hoping... that I can get ready for my scrapping weekend and still do some writing this week. I need to finish my story!

I am creating... still my Egyptian short story. And hopefully this weekend I can create a bunch of scrapbook pages.

I am hearing... James and Emily discussing what they'll buy with the money they earn on our new commission system (modified Dave Ramsey.) I also hear Bob telling them to quiet down! lol

Around the house... The exterior painting project is still in full swing!

One of my favorite things... scrapbooking weekends! lol I used to go away OFTEN for scrapping weekends, but I haven't been able to for nearly two years now. I am going with eight other wonderful ladies!

A Few Plans For The Rest Of The Week... soccer practices & games, Wednesday night church and Dave Ramsey class, art class for the older 3, and I am going away for the weekend for Scrapbooking!

Here is a picture thought I am sharing with you...

Sunday, September 28, 2008

A Newt Lives

James has a newt for his Creatures class at co-op. He had to choose an animal from a list.

Our requirements were that he would choose a quiet pet and also one that is not stinky.

This is a fire-bellied newt, I guess. It hails from China or Japan, or something like that. It is an amphibian, kind of like a salamander.

It probably has a name, but I am not sure what it is. My interaction with the newt is pretty much to walk by and notice it's habitat needs cleaning.

Doesn't James look absolutely ECSTATIC to own the newt?? He really enjoys it!

Heart of the Matter - Record-Keeping, the Essentials

Welcome to the Heart of the Matter Online meme. Every Friday we will feature a different topic for our meme. Please share with us your thoughts on Record-Keeping, the Essentials!

Do you keep a grade book? Does your state require attendance sheets or a portfolio? What are some of the best methods of organization that you have found to keep up with all of the school records for the year? Are you an organizational expert or do you find it to be a hassle? What about online forms--can you recommend some good sites to others? Share with us your greatest successes and your greatest flops in this area!

Ok, if you've read any of my previous posts, you'll see that I have struggled with record-keeping this year already. I bought a program for lesson planning and record-keeping, in hopes of getting in the habit of keeping grades for David. Next year he'll be "high school" so I should start getting used to the idea.

I didn't like the program. Back to square one, or just use the program I don't like?

Anyway, no record-keeping is REQUIRED for us in Michigan. I don't have to keep attendance or grades. No reporting to authorities is necessary (or desirable, really).

I've never kept a grade book, because I require 100% accuracy on assignments. If 2 math problems are wrong, they fix them. If I don't like the handwriting, they do it over. That said, I am not overly picky either.

I also don't put much faith in testing. I taught school for five years. I saw over and over that some kids who KNEW the info did poorly on tests. Also some kids did great on tests but promptly forgot the information or weren't able to transfer the knowledge to practical use. I can discuss my son's history reading with him and see if he knows enough about it. I can watch my daughter as she does her math and see where she struggles. Tests are not needed here.

So, why do people test? Only for a grade, right? Tests were designed to measure the knowledge of a large group of students (ie, a classroom) because it's impractical (or impossible) to discuss information with each one singly or to sit and watch each one work to see where the problems come in.

Did you know tests USED to mostly be essay tests? The student would actually have to KNOW something to pass it. With multiple choice tests, there is a strategy to choosing your answers, and you can do well on a test without knowing much about the subject. Fill in the blanks are better, but not by much.

So, I have not done much with testing, except in math and spelling. (Although my spelling tests aren't the traditional kind.) As my children move into their teen years, they will have more testing, mostly because they will do more of their work independently. But I don't see the goal as getting an "A" on a test, but rather to master the material and know how to learn.

OK, that kind of got off the subject, but I do enjoy the fact that we are not dependent on grades in our learning.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Weekly Review - Fourth Week

This was our fourth week of lessons. (I missed doing the weekly review last week.)

All the kids
  • Practiced our hymn (The Solid Rock) and praise chorus (Mighty is Our God)
  • Family prayer each day
  • Read and discussed 1 Corinthians 12-16
  • Attended the Renaissance Festival (last Friday! had to sneak that in!)
  • Listened to several chapters from our read-aloud: Spiderweb for Two: A Melendy Maze by Elizabeth Enright (will finish next week)
  • Read one letter from Mom and wrote one letter back (in Communication Journals)
  • Mystery of History 2 - read about Pentecost and Saul/Paul, also added timeline figures and completed map work regarding Paul's missionary journeys
  • Worked for 30 minutes or so on Creativity Express art history software
  • Worked for 15-30 minutes on Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing
  • Played Rummy Roots
  • Did silent reading for 30 minutes (or more) 4 days
  • Wrote a letter to a friend or family member
  • Went to co-op on Friday and took 5 classes (including PE or something active)
David - 13yo/8th grade:
  • Did Math-U-See Pre-Algebra 25E, 25F, Test 25, Honors Page 25
  • 2 pages on prepositions in Easy Grammar Plus
  • 3 days spelling study (Spelling Power Level F)
  • IEW SWI-B lessons Week 5 - Assignments 2-3
  • Read the History of US Volume 1 (Hakim) chapters 11-15 and discussed with Mom
  • Helped coach soccer and refereed two U8 soccer games
  • Read Cameron Townsend Chapters 11-17
  • Read Why Pray, Days 7-9
  • Apologia Physical Science pages 1-10 and did experiments 1.2 and 1.3 (I don't know what this was about! He did it independently. I should investigate, but I am happy he did it without my help.)
Emily - 11yo/6th grade:
  • Worked on multiplication facts with flashcards - knows almost all of them now.
  • Did 4 pages of math facts written out
  • 2 pages on prepositions in Easy Grammar Plus
  • 3 days spelling study
  • IEW SWI-B lessons Week 5 - Assignments 2-3
  • Lost her reading book Sarah, Plain and Tall, and therefore could not do any of her assignments. She will double up next week, if we find it. Otherwise, we will go on to her next book until SP&T is located.
  • Apologia Zoology 1 - pages 1-12 on flight, drag, lift. Did experiment to understand air pressure
James 8yo/3rd/4th grade:
  • Math-U-See Gamma - 4 pages
  • Read a book on Aladdin and Ali Baba and started a book on volcanoes
  • Wrote in literature journal - two sentences about each day's reading.
  • Explode the Code 5 - 2 pages each day
  • Penmanship - Cursive A and cursive B
  • Went to soccer practice twice and played one soccer game
  • Apologia Zoology 1 - pages 1-12 on flight, drag, lift. Did experiment to understand air pressure
  • Helped Suzy learn her sight words
Suzy - 6yo/1st grade:
  • Math-U-See Alpha - 4 pages
  • Alphabet Island - 4 phonics lessons on short vowel words
  • Practice learning sight words by playing Climb the Mountain with James
  • Explode the Code Book 2 - 2 pages each day (consonant blends)
  • Played two soccer games
  • Apologia Zoology 1 - pages 1-12 on flight, drag, lift. Did experiment to understand air pressure
  • Read 3 Bob Books
Wow, that looks like a lot when you write it all out like that! lol

Doing Science and History both in one day is too much on top of our other work. So I will either alternate days or weeks. Will think on this more.

Thursday, September 25, 2008


Our electric pencil sharpener died. I don't even think it was a year old. Anyone have a recommendation for a REALLY good one? A workhorse of a pencil sharpener? We sharpen a LOT of pencils here! lol

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

No Edu-Track Refund

No Refund from Edu-Track. They said it would set a bad precedent. While I can see their point, I think they should stand behind their product guarantee regardless of the time. If I said I won't use it after the refund, then I won't use it. But, whatever. I guess I'll still be able to use it for the record-keeping feature, as I mentioned, and the transcripts. However, I think the software interface is clunky and outdated-looking, and I won't enjoy using it at all. I hate to feel trapped into using it for ALL of my kids just because I made one bad purchase. So, I guess we'll see.

My advice? Don't buy Edu-Track!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Try-It Tuesday - Office Suite Alternative

Well, my previous post gave me an idea for Try-It Tuesday.

If you can't afford the latest software from Microsoft - Word, Excel, PowerPoint - you should give OpenOffice.org a try. As I said, it is free and easy to use, and comparable to leading office software suites like Microsoft Office.

I am copying this information from their website:
OpenOffice.org 2 is the leading open-source office software suite for word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, graphics, databases and more. It is available in many languages and works on all common computers. It stores all your data in an international open standard format and can also read and write files from other common office software packages. It can be downloaded and used completely free of charge for any purpose.

So, yeah, you can use it for documents created in Word or Excel, and you can save your documents so people with MS Office can read them. You can save them other ways too.

It's open-source software, which I THINK means that if you are a software developer, you can edit the source code yourself to make modifications. It also means the software will always be free.

More from their site:
OpenOffice.org 2 is free software. That means you are free to download it, free to install it on as many PCs as you like, free to pass copies to as many people as you like. You may use OpenOffice.org 2 for any purpose without restriction: private, educational, public administration, commercial... Free, really free.

Did I mention it was FREE?

Are you convinced to download it yet?

Lesson Planning Solution

Just a quick post for those of you who were losing sleep or becoming depressed over my lesson planning issues. (KIDDING! lol)

Anyway, I imported some of the lessons into my word processor so that I could use the text. (By the way, my word processor is from OpenOffice.org - It is free and easy to use, comparable to leading office software suites. Did I mention it was FREE?)

Then I downloaded Donna Young's Excel Weekly Planner and input the information into that for the kids. (I used OpenOffice.org's spreadsheet program rather than Excel. Again, remember it's FREE. And it is powerful. Works just like the leading brand! hehe)

I also wrote out a list of what I expect to plan for which subjects each day of the week, so I end up with balanced time for the subjects and also for the computer.

I feel FAR more on top of this now. It isn't going to make me a transcript, but that's ok. I have printed out assignment sheets and will be able to do so each week.

Oh, btw, the school-assignment software I downloaded must need a registration key because I couldn't fully install it. Ah well. Maybe I can contact someone there and see about that, but for now, I am set.

I am going to write to Edu-Track and let them know about my issues and see if they'll refund all or some of my investment.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Simple Woman Daybook - September 22

For Today... September 22, 2008

Outside my Window... the sun slanting onto the dewy grass, some small fallen maple leaves of brown, yellow, and orange, the trash waiting for pickup, a bright red fire hydrant

I am thinking... that it's a difficult balance between being a complainer and allowing people to think everything is just fine.

From the learning rooms... a dissatisfaction with my lesson planning methods (see previous post) and an uncertainty about what to do instead

I am thankful for... my home. So many around the world live with so MUCH less than we do, even though we don't have much by American standards.

From the kitchen... toffee bark made from saltine crackers. Orange juice. Thinking about making homemade candy corn today for a learning project.

I am wearing... jeans, yellow t-shirt, grey zipper hoodie with sleeves rolled up, black socks, black fleece-lined slippers. My hair is combed and that's all you can say for it. No makeup.

I am reading... a romance novel. I have set aside for the time being: A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith (recommended by my sister Janet), I Saw the Angel in the Marble by Chris and Ellyn Davis (this is a series of essays, so it's easy to pick up and read a bit at a time). Also in my Bible reading (The Message), I am reading Job.

I am hoping... to finish my historical romance short story and edit it this week. Also hoping that my husband will make a lot of progress on painting the house this week, taking advantage of the forecast of 5 sunny days in the 70's.

I am creating... a new system for clothing in this house.

I am hearing... Over and Over Again by Tree63 (Pandora radio). As I typed this, the song changed to When All is Said and Done by Tommy Walker. Just before I click 'Publish Post', it is playing Holy is the Lord by Chris Tomlin. Everyone sing.... Holy is the Lord God Almighty, The earth is filled with His glory..... It's rising up all around, it's the anthem of the Lord's renown.

Around the house... 3 curtains need to be ironed and rehung (still), the kids and Bob are painting the outside of the house, so there are paint scrapings and drips around the outside (yep, just the same as last week!), PLUS the back room is in disarray as we rearrange by bringing 2 dressers into that room and try to figure out where everything will go and what we can get rid of

One of my favorite things... listening to my children play nicely. It doesn't last long, usually, though.

A Few Plans For The Rest Of The Week... Soccer practices and games, Financial Peace University, Pioneer Club, Co-op on Friday, Book Club (for ME) on Saturday night, and my BIRTHDAY

Here is a picture thought I am sharing with you...
My son went onstage during one of the Renaissance Festival shows.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Lesson Planning Software Woes

I am having a very hard time with EDU-TRACK software! It doesn't do what I need it to do. It is unwieldy. It is slow. It looks clunky. I can't get a mental picture of my kids' work with it. It feels like I am working blind. If I make changes in one subject for one student, I have to go in and manually make the changes for the other students as well, instead of being able to make global changes. That alone takes FOREVER.

A friend tells me that Homeschool Tracker Basic has pretty much the same problems for her.

Despite having about $75 invested in Edu-Track, I think I'm going to move on to something else, or maybe go back to what I was doing last year. It worked fine; I just wanted something on the computer to MAKE THINGS EASIER. Instead I am tearing out my hair, avoiding my lesson plans, and in general just not making things easier. Edu-Track will be getting a letter from me about this.

I found something else I just downloaded - School Assignment Lesson Plan Management Software. It appears to be a free download. I clicked on "Download Now" and it downloaded. We'll see if it works or if it is a limited trial. If that doesn't work, I think I am going to trash everything I did in Edu-Track and just use that software to keep track of David's grades.

Maybe you like paper forms (as I do too, in many cases!). Here is Donna Young's Lesson Planning page.

Don't know what I am going to do TOMORROW! LOL Maybe I'll be like Scarlett O'Hara and think about it tomorrow.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Heart of the Matter - Balancing Mom and Teacher

Welcome to the Heart of the Matter Online meme.

While many homeschooling moms know that being a mother includes teaching their children daily there are those who find the 'line' between teaching their homeschooling child and being a mom fuzzy. What are some of the best tips you can offer a new homeschooling mother who is sorting out those gray areas? How do you manage the balance between the two?

To be honest, this is never something I have struggled with. We have a learning lifestyle - we focus on learning. I don't put on a 'teacher hat' to 'do school'. We don't 'do school'. We have our lessons, but they are part of our life, not a separate activity.

Just be the mom. The mom who loves to learn and loves to show her children how much fun it is to learn.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Simple Woman Daybook - September 15

For Today... September 15, 2008

Outside my Window...
damp grass (but at least the standing water has disappeared), a forlorn toy boat forgotten on the lawn (probably by my son and daughter who played joyfully in the standing water yesterday), the trash waiting to be picked up, an overcast sky (thought we were getting SUN today!)

I am thinking... I need to be more consistent in discipline

From the learning rooms... Adding Mystery of History 2 and root word studies to our curriculum this week.

I am thankful for... a husband who knows how to fix things - drain a flooded basement, install a gas stove, fix a nonworking furnace, paint a house, etc....

From the kitchen... leftover homemade bean soup, going to make a spice cake (from a mix) to take to my meeting tonight

I am wearing... jeans, navy blue "Soccer Mom" t-shirt, grey zipper hoodie, white socks, black slippers, hair pulled up untidily in a clip, no makeup yet

I am reading... A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith (recommended by my sister Janet), I Saw the Angel in the Marble by Chris and Ellyn Davis (this is a series of essays, so it's easy to pick up and read a bit at a time). I have a book waiting at the library - The Keepsake by Tess Gerritsen. I finally finished Mansfield Park! YAY! Also in my Bible reading (The Message), I have just finished Nehemiah - on to Esther tomorrow!

I am hoping... that the disability hearing for my husband goes well tomorrow.

I am creating... a short historical romance novella - hopefully for publication.

I am hearing... Everyone talking, praise music on the CD player, the furnace trying to run, but not accomplishing it. (Thus the handy husband.....)

Around the house... 3 curtains need to be ironed and rehung (still), the kids and Bob are painting the outside of the house, so there are paint scrapings and drips around the outside

One of my favorite things... watching jousting!

A Few Plans For The Rest Of The Week... Bob's disability hearing, the girls have Keepers at Home, soccer practices and games, the beginning of our Wednesday night church activities, a harvest party at a friend's house, and the RENAISSANCE FESTIVAL!

Here is a picture thought I am sharing with you...

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Heart of the Matter - Extra Activities: Helping or Hindering?

Welcome to the Heart of the Matter Online meme: Extra Activities, Helping or Hindering?

What is your weekly extra-curricular routine? Do your kids take music lessons? Sports? Are they involved in church activities? How much time does this leave for family time? Are you over-scheduled or relaxed in your outside programs? Share with us your thoughts on this!

This is an interesting survey idea. Extracurricular activities abound for home-educated children, although I know that was not necessarily the case a few years ago. Lots of options means choosing wisely. Here is how our family has decided:

MUSIC - I notice that a lot of homeschoolers do participate in weekly music lessons, but we do not. We tried piano for Emily and guitar for David at our homeschool co-op a couple years ago. Neither one showed a great aptitude for it, and we didn't continue past that year.

We do sing as a family several times a week (as part of our family worship time), usually a capella, so they do study music at least a little. We own a piano and I bought Piano for Quitters for my husband this year. I have considered having my children go through that at their own pace. My husband has not yet attempted it. I took piano lessons briefly as a child and always wished I had learned to play more proficiently. I did play flute in school band for 8 years. The money involved in private music lessons is more than I'd like to invest.

SPORTS - All of my kids have played fall and spring soccer. The younger two are playing this year - James is in his fourth year, and Suzy in her third year. Emily played for six years and David played for eight years. This year David is helping me coach Suzy's team and also unofficially referreeing her games. We have not been involved in any other sports; AYSO soccer meets all the criteria I have for sports.

Soccer involves 1 or 2 practices every week and 1 game (sometimes 2) each week from August-October and April-May. We play on a local league so everything happens within 15 minutes of our home - with the exception of David playing on a travel team last year. THAT was definitely a lot more driving, thus more commitment.

CHURCH - Church activities also play a big part in our lives. We regularly attend Sunday School and Sunday morning worship. During the school year, our elementary age children participate in a Wednesday night program. We mainly allow them to participate in this program for the social aspect, since they don't tend to learn a lot of Bible content or memory in this program. The stories tend to be the same ones over and over from year to year, in our experience.

Our teenage son participates in youth group, and this has been a topic of much discussion - is it a worthy use of time? Will it draw him closer to the Lord or closer to our culture? For now, we have decided to participate. It meets on Sunday nights, which we like in some ways and in some ways we do not. Our 6th grade daughter is "old enough" according to the church, but we are not allowing her to participate until she is 13 (or maybe 12-1/2). She is only 11 now.

We also would like to be involved in a small group at church, but we have yet to find one that matches our priorities (children welcome) and also meets at a convenient time. It might be "one thing too many". My husband has been involved in a weekly men's group that met on a weeknight throughout the past year and it has been VERY MUCH worthwhile. The kids went along because I had to work those nights.

OTHER ACTIVITIES - We do tend to participate in a lot of field trips. Our group has Park Days and Beach Days during the warm months and we make these a priority.

Art class is held once a month for 3 hours and my older 3 will participate this year. Drawing is something I cannot teach and I think these are important skills. The teacher is a godly man and his testimony alone is worth the time investment.

Chess Club is something we did for a while, mostly for relationship purposes. However, we discontinued it when gas prices began to rise and when our schedule became busier. None of the children was highly committed to chess as an activity, so no one really complained.

Co-op is one of our most enjoyed extracurricular activities and one of the biggest commitments. I won't say much about it here, since I posted about it recently. Co-op meets every other Friday from 9:30-2:30 during September-November and January-April. This is our fifth year participating in co-op and it is very rewarding!

Keepers At Home - My girls are involved in a twice-a-month Keepers At Home group that two friends of mine started. To be honest, I am wishing I hadn't committed to it. It's 25 minutes away and it's in the evening, which is something I try to avoid - evening commitments for the kids. However, I really think it'll be a valuable group and it will allow Emily to strengthen some friendships and make new ones, as well as learn more about being a godly young woman.[END OF ADDITION]

I think that's about it for extracurricular activities. I find that if we write our activities on our calendar and plan our lessons accordingly, we accomplish a lot and still get to participate in many activities. Gas prices have made a difference in some of our choices, and if the cost continues to rise, we may opt out of a few more things.

Family time is important to us too, especially considering my recent experience with working full time. We do like to have family movie night, family walks, and play games together as a family. We try to eat meals together whenever possible.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Weekly Review - Second Week

All the kids:
  • Practiced our hymn (The Solid Rock) and praise chorus (Mighty is Our God)
  • Family prayer each day
  • Read and discussed 1 Corinthians 1-6
  • Re-read the first few pages of Making Brothers and Sisters Best Friends by the Mallys
  • Attended the first session of homeschool co-op
  • Listened to several chapters from our read-aloud: Spiderweb for Two: A Melendy Maze by Elizabeth Enright
  • Completed Module 1 in the Creativity Express software (art history & appreciation)
  • Completed 1 session of typing instruction (using Mavis Beacon Teaching Typing software)
  • Read one letter from Mom and wrote one letter back (in Communication Journals)
David - 13yo/8th grade:
  • Did Math-U-See Pre-Algebra - 3 pages in lesson 24 and Test 24
  • 4 pages on prepositions in Easy Grammar Plus and played Preposition Bingo
  • Did silent reading for 30 minutes (or more) 4 days.
  • 2 spelling placement tests and 2 days spelling study
  • Reviewed IEW SWI-B lessons for Weeks 1-4 on DVD
  • Read the History of US Volume 1 (Hakim) - chapters 1-8 - and discussed with Mom
  • Helped coach soccer and refereed one U8 soccer game
  • Read Cameron Townsend Chapters 4-8
Emily - 11yo/6th grade:
  • Worked on multiplication facts
  • 4 pages on prepositions in Easy Grammar Plus and played Preposition Bingo
  • 2 spelling placement tests and 2 days spelling study
  • Reviewed IEW SWI-B lessons for Weeks 1-4 on DVD
  • Read some of Sarah, Plain and Tall & did comprehension questions and vocabulary for Chapter 2
  • Silent reading - 30 minutes (or more) 4 days
  • Did 2 pages of penmanship - cursive review
James 8yo/3rd/4th grade:
  • Math-U-See Gamma - Test 4 and 3 pages in Lesson 5
  • Finished Monster Bugs and started reading Terror on the Amazon: Quest for El Dorado
  • Wrote in literature journal - one sentence about each day's reading.
  • Silent reading - 15 minutes (or more) each day.
  • Explode the Code 5 - 2 pages each day
  • Read and Think Skill Sheets 3 (A Beka) - 1 lesson
  • Penmanship - cursive introduction - 4 pages
  • Went to soccer practice twice and played one soccer game
Suzy - 6yo/1st grade:
  • Math-U-See Alpha - 4 pages
  • Alphabet Island - 4 phonics lessons on short vowel words
  • Practice learning sight words
  • Explode the Code Book 2 - 2 pages each day (consonant blends)
  • Silent reading - 15 minutes each day
  • Wrote in literature journal - one sentence about each day's reading.
  • 4 pages in her ABC Journal
  • Went to soccer practice once
I had assigned the 3 older kids to begin English From the Roots Up this week, but I decided to wait another week or two to start it. We haven't started our Science or History yet either. One of them will start this week and one the next.

I think I'm going to have David take 2 years to do Sonlight 100. It's far more work than we are used to doing - so much READING. But I don't want to give any of it short shrift, so I think we'll just take our time doing it instead.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Day 1 of co-op

Today was the first session of our homeschool co-op. This year we are meeting for 14 sessions, every other Friday, September through April (no meetings in December).

I am teaching 2 classes:
Glass Slipper - We will travel around the world by exploring different versions of the Cinderella tale (and other fairy tales) through picture books and activities. The class will compose an original Cinderella tale and publish it. We will finish our class with a Ball!

Written & Illustrated By - Students will create publishing companies, then each will write and illustrate an original book. The class series will end with a book-binding session or two.

My kids each have five classes. I posted their class choices before - HERE. The only change is that David has Open Gym first hour. They much enjoyed their first day!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Spelling Power Simplified

I wrote this to help someone who didn't have much time to figure out how to use Spelling Power. I thought I'd copy it here for anyone else who may be in the same boat.

We have used Spelling Power for 4 years now, I think. You can buy it at this link: Castlemoyle
It's also available many other places. Apparently the 4th edition is the latest. We use the 3rd edition and I don't plan to upgrade.

Spelling Power Simplified

First give the Survey Test. It is a list of 50 words. You keep giving words until he gets 3-5 words wrong, then you STOP. Score the survey test, and it will tell you which Placement Test to give.

Give the appropriate Placement Test. Give ALL the words on this test. regardless of how many he gets right or wrong. Score this test and it will tell you either which level of Spelling Power to start on or to give another Placement Test.

Go to the level recommended. Ask your child to spell the words. Give words until he gets 5 wrong or until a whole group is given. It should take no more than 5-10 minutes.

We don't buy the Spelling Power record books anymore nor do we use the forms in the book. The kids write their test words in a notebook and we use a study sheet that I like better. It is slightly different from the one in the book. (I didn't compile it.) Here is where you can download it as a Word document.

Write the words he got wrong on the study sheet. He should use the 10-step method (detailed in your Spelling Power book) to study each word. This takes just a few seconds AND IS THE STRENGTH OF THE PROGRAM. (DO NOT SKIP THE 10 STEP METHOD. Especially important is the tactile step, even for older kids.) Then he writes a sentence for each word. You can also give a supplemental activity, which are detailed in your book as well, but we usually skip these.

The whole thing should take 10-15 minutes per day. You can make it take a whole lot longer (I know, because when my dh does it, he DOES make it take longer). But don't - 10-15 minutes is plenty and is effective.

You can find more Spelling Power tips here: Spelling Power: How to Use It, Paula's Archives. (sadly this link is broken)

If you have questions, please leave them in the comments and I will answer them.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Try-It Tuesday - NaNoWriMo

Last year I participated for the first time in the NaNoWriMo challenge, also known as National Novel Writing Month. It takes place in November every year. I didn't hear about it until mid-October.

The challenge is to complete a 50,000 word novel in the month of November. Despite working full time and homeschooling 4 children, I was able to complete the challenge last year. I'd never written fiction before, at least not as an adult. I was quite pleased with my results and am currently seeking representation for my novel.

My son, then age 12, also participated and completed a book, although it was not 50,000 words. Children have a different program and can set their own goals. My daughter, age 10, attempted the program and enjoyed it, but didn't end up with anything completed.

Most people that participate in NaNoWriMo start planning weeks or even months beforehand. I haven't started outlining yet, but I likely will very soon. My kids will once again be participating to the best of their abilities.

You can start now by:
1 - Deciding to participate
2 - Reading the Basics
3 - You may outline your plot, but may not begin writing until Nov. 1st
4 - Read about the Young Writers Program
5 - Set writing goals for your children
6 - Decide on your incentives (NECESSARY! lol)
7 - Consider a donation to NaNoWriMo ($10 gets you a halo next to your name! lol)
8 - Register anytime after October 1st

So, my challenge to you and even your children?

PARTICIPATE! Decide now that you will participate in NaNoWriMo.

Even if you've never written fiction.
Even if you have no extra time.
Even if your kids don't like to write.
You never know what might happen as a result of it!

(If you do participate, let me know! We can be NaNo Writing Buddies and if we live close enough, we can have a Write-In!)

Monday, September 8, 2008

Simple Woman Daybook - September 8

For Today... September 8, 2008

Outside my Window...
the pavement is wet and the sky is overcast. No rain at the moment, but it did rain earlier. Cars are going by because school just let out at the elementary school one block away.

I am thinking... that I am so glad to not have a job! lol (I know that sounds backward!)

From the learning rooms... Edu-track assignment sheets (I've gotten the hang of the program). Some bad attitudes (hopefully nipped in the bud). Spelling survey tests to determine the placement in Spelling Power. Little phonics books for my first grader to read. An organized supplies shelf!

I am thankful for... being able to be home with my kids again

From the kitchen... haystacks (chow mein noodles, butterscotch chips, peanut butter)

I am wearing... yellow t-shirt with flag on it, black exercise pants (but not for exercising - all my jeans were dirty this AM!), white socks, white slip on shoes

I am reading... Mansfield Park by Jane Austen (still!)

I am hoping... that one of my query letters will result in a contract with an agent, and soon!

I am creating... more query letters and working more on that new novel

I am hearing... cars driving by, silverware clinking in the kitchen, people talking upstairs and in the kitchen, light footsteps

Around the house... things are getting organized. Over the past year and a half, while I was working, things got very very disorganized, grungy, and just plain put away wrong! I've been setting things to rights!

One of my favorite things... Diet Coke!

A Few Plans For The Rest Of The Week... going out tonight with friends, soccer practices and games, our first homeschool co-op on Friday, lots of writing

Here is a picture thought I am sharing with you...

At one point today I looked around and saw children with books, so I grabbed my camera.

Here's Suzy, reading to herself.

And Emily, reading to herself....

And, yes, that's David hiding behind that (Sonlight) book!

But I noticed JAMES was not around. He was not reading either. This is what I found HIM doing. (The red stuff on his forehead is part of a rub-on tattoo, a present from his brother while he was asleep last night! lol) He was out in the 'barn' with his dad, doing some kind of something with tools. lol

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Heart of the Matter - Learning Styles Meme

Friday is past, but I found this neat online homeschooling magazine that evidently offers a weekly meme. This week's is about learning styles.

Welcome to the Heart of the Matter Online meme. Every Friday we will feature a different topic for our meme. Please share with us your Your Children's Learning Styles.
We discussed curriculum and would love to hear how these choices best teach your children according to their specific learning styles. Are they visual learners? Auditory? Kinesthetic? Give us your best teaching methods!

I guess that's my cue! I've done quite a lot of study on learning styles and multiple intelligence theory. Learning Styles are generally divided into 3 categories - visual, auditory, kinesthetic.

Learning Style Quiz
Learning Style Chart (changed link 6/10/2013)
Learning Style Questionnaire

Multiple Intelligence Theory goes a little deeper to define eight or more areas in which learning takes place: Verbal/Linguistic, Logical/Mathematical, Visual/Spatial, Bodily/Kinesthetic, Musical/Rhythmic, Interpersonal, Intrapersonal, Naturalist, Existential. The theory is based on the belief that we all possess at least eight unique intelligences through which we are able to learn/teach new information. Although we each have all eight, no two individuals have them in the same exact amounts.

Multiple Intelligence Inventory (changed link 6/10/2013)
Survey for Children (changed link 6/10/2013)

Ok, so what about my own children?

David (age 13) is very clearly an auditory learner. He adores listening to audiobooks and will listen to his favorites multiple times. He is not much for reading or writing, but math is a favorite and he likes to build things (Legos, models). I would categorize him with high levels of logical/mathematical intelligence and spatial intelligence.

For his schoolwork, this means that I try hard to offer many auditory experiences for him - books on tape, reading aloud, etc... Practically, this year, I've sought out his Sonlight books on audio recordings, as well as obtained the audio of his Apologia textbook. I think this will make it a more pleasant experience as well as increase his comprehension.

Eleven-year-old Emily's learning style is more like mine - visual (linguistic intelligence). She loves to read and is good at writing and spelling. Math is much more difficult for her, as it was for me. (I didn't learn to tell time until I was 10!) Her interpersonal intelligence is at a high level, as is her musical intelligence.

The visual/linguistic style is the easiest to teach in a traditional manner - books and paper/pencil tasks come naturally to this learner. She also loves learning songs to go along with her memorization. I am trying to use her musical strengths to help her learn her math facts.

James (age 8) is mainly a kinesthetic learner - he moves and moves and moves. And moves. He does enjoy books, however. This is the hardest for me in some ways, because the constant movement drives my ADD self nuts! However, because we are not in a traditional school setting, James does not have the stricture of sitting still all of the time. He can do his math on the floor, upside down hanging off the couch, or out on the porch. He can take a break to ride his bike up the sidewalk. This all helps and James, on the whole, enjoys his lessons.

He also seems to be quite spatially aware and also more intrapersonal than I often expect. James also is very interested in nature especially animal life, which probably rates him a high level of naturalistic intelligence. He is also my child who delights in asking me deeper questions - perhaps an existential intelligence?

Suzy (age 6) is harder to figure out. She isn't a workbook-y girl like Emily was at 6. She has a low tolerance for any activity that she is not the boss of. That's not so much learning style as a Type A personality. Suzy talked well at an early age, which hints at a high level of linguistic intelligence. She's not reading yet, but probably could have been with a little more diligence from me during her kindergarten year. She likes to dance and move, which indicates a bodily-kinesthetic awareness. She doesn't particularly like music, other than as an impetus to movement. So perhaps her kinesthetic style is higher than I might imagine.

Children under the age of 8 or so are hard to label, because most children are, by nature, kinesthetic. They learn by doing and touching. So, I will have a clearer picture of Suzy's intelligences in a couple more years, I expect.

Perhaps you noticed that my first three children all seem to be different learning styles! That makes it interesting here at Cornerstone Academy - lots of moving, singing, dancing, talking, building, writing, and reading going on here. How about your home?

Friday, September 5, 2008

Weekly Review - First Week

Our first week of school consisted of 4 half-days, three of which contained academics. David was sick for 2 of those days, so he didn't accomplish much academics.

All of us:
  • Reviewed Paul's 1st and 2nd missionary journeys (from last year)
  • Learned a new hymn (The Solid Rock) and a new praise chorus (Mighty is Our God)
  • Family prayer each day
  • Read a section from Acts about the start of Paul's 3rd missionary journey
  • Went to a homeschool park day with about 10 other families
  • Started our new read-aloud: Spiderweb for Two: A Melendy Maze by Elizabeth Enright
David - 13yo/8th grade:
  • Did Math-U-See Pre-Algebra - page 24D
  • Read Cameron Townsend biography Chapters 1-3 and narrated it to me.
  • Did silent reading for 30 minutes (or more) 3 days.
  • Helped coach soccer
  • Was sick two days
Emily - 11yo/6th grade:
  • Worked on multiplication facts
  • Read some of Sarah, Plain and Tall, did comprehension questions and vocabulary for Chapter 1
  • Wrote in literature journal two paragraphs.
  • Silent reading - 30 minutes (or more) each day
James 8yo/3rd/4th grade:
  • Math-U-See Gamma - pages 4D, 4E, 4F
  • Read most of Monster Bugs
  • Wrote in literature journal - one sentence about each day's reading.
  • Silent reading - 15 minutes (or more) each day.
  • Went to soccer practice (scrimmage) once
Suzy - 6yo/1st grade:
  • Math-U-See Alpha - pages 5D, 5E, 5F
  • Alphabet Island - 3 phonics lessons on short vowel words
  • Explode the Code Book 2 - pages 1-3 (consonant blends)
  • Silent reading - 15 minutes each day
  • Wrote in literature journal - one sentence about each day's reading.
  • Went to soccer practice twice
Next week, we will add in the rest of our language arts, art, typing, etc... I think I'll hold off on history and science until the following week. I've got to figure out how my writing schedule will work with the lessons.

September Hymn - The Solid Rock

This is our hymn for September.

The Solid Rock

My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly trust in Jesus’ Name.

On Christ the solid Rock I stand,
All other ground is sinking sand;
All other ground is sinking sand.

When darkness seems to hide His face,
I rest on His unchanging grace.
In every high and stormy gale,
My anchor holds within the veil.


His oath, His covenant, His blood,
Support me in the whelming flood.
When all around my soul gives way,
He then is all my Hope and Stay.


When He shall come with trumpet sound,
Oh may I then in Him be found.
Dressed in His righteousness alone,
Faultless to stand before the throne.


This is the praise chorus we are learning for the month.


Mighty is our God
Mighty is our King
Mighty is our Lord
Ruler of everything

Glory to our God
Glory to our King
Glory to our Lord
Ruler of everything

His name is higher
Higher than any other name
His pow'r is greater
For He has created everything

(repeat two verses and bridge)

Mighty is our God
Mighty is our King
Mighty is our Lord
Ruler of everything
Ruler of everything
Ruler of everything

© 1989 Integrity's Hosanna! Music (ASCAP) (c/o Integrity Music, Inc.)
CCLI License No. 477577

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

First Day Lunch

Our First Day of Lessons is traditionally celebrated with ice cream sundaes for lunch. Today was no exception!

First Day Treasure Hunt

As per my earlier post, we did a treasure hunt today as one of our "First Day" activities. My younger two (ages 6 and 8) worked together on a rhyming treasure hunt. (They apparently both need some reinforcement on RHYMING words - one of the many skills that evidently disappeared during the long hot summer.)

My older two (ages 11 and 13) worked on a Bible treasure hunt. They looked up a reference and had to deduce from the reference where the next clue (another reference) was hidden.

After some intense searching (and some confused clues!), the teams ended up on the porch to find their new school supplies and a treasure box (dollar store!) filled with candy and interesting things.

They brought it inside to divvy up the booty. Lots of fun!

In case you are wondering why my younger son is in PJ's - he was running a fever today. I know - bummer for the First Day - but we went ahead with our plans anyway and he did ok.

Try-It Tuesday - Treasure Hunt

I mentioned before that we do a Treasure Hunt on the first day of school. For a while, I used the Klutz Treasure Hunt book that had premade treasure hunts. We've done all of them, so, although they are re-usable, I've looked elsewhere for this year's treasure hunt. I'll save the Klutz book for doing as the two youngest children get older.

After much google searching, I finally found a link that offers FREE printable premade treasure hunts. Lots of places will sell them to you. Lots of links turn out to be junk.

But here is the best site I've found - Reading Clues Scavenger Hunts and Treasure Hunts. I used the Inside Rhyme Hunt for my younger two (ages 6 and 8).

They have pre-reading (picture) hunts and text-based hunts as well, both scavenger hunts (kids look for stuff on a list) and treasure hunts (you hide the clues and a prize at the end).

I also found this site with tips on making a Bible treasure hunt and the beginning of a hunt started for you. I used this one for my older two (ages 11 and 13). I used the clues they had and then made several more, using Bible Gateway's search feature to find appropriate verses. [Note - 2 of the sample verse references are incorrect, so if you use the samples, please doublecheck them.]

I'm off to do the treasure hunts soon! I'll let you know how it goes!

Monday, September 1, 2008

Simple Woman Daybook - September 1

For Today... September 1, 2008

Outside my Window...
the sun is going down and it's cooling off, but it was a perfect hot sunny summer day - lovely lovely lovely. My neighbor had a garage sale and she's been cleaning it up. Ooh, she's put some stuff out by the curb - time for treasure hunting! lol I hear a neighbor's dog whining. And the scent of goldenrod is in the air - Ah-choo!

I am thinking... that I'm sad summer is over. But excited about getting back into the routine!

From the learning rooms...a bunch of curriculum for sale in hopes of getting to the tailgate sale tomorrow, if I can get organized.

I am thankful for... my son feeling better (he's been sick the past couple days)

From the kitchen... Subway sandwiches = late lunch - what's for dinner? No idea. No, we didn't grill ANYTHING. Oh, and ingredients are on hand for our First Day of School Ice Cream Sundaes.

I am wearing... khaki capris, red tank top with stars on it, bare (dirty!) feet, and hair untidily pinned up.

I am reading... Mansfield Park by Jane Austen and I Saw the Angel in the Marble by Chris and Ellyn Davis. I just finished an issue of Real Simple magazine and it had the BEST simple recipe for ice cream cake! (I'll go that recipe one better, and use Cool Whip! lol) What else will I read this month? I read TWELVE books in August. Go me! :-)

I am hoping...that none of my other kids get sick this week.

I am creating... a cleaner and more organized home

I am hearing... my son clearing his throat and sniffling, that dog down the street, and the rumble of the fan in the window

Around the house... 2 bags of clothes from the thrift store, several more bags dropped off by a friend, some orphaned laundry items, curtains that need to be ironed and re-hung, and lots lots more....

One of my favorite things... is a whole weekend with NOTHING PLANNED (like the one I just had, and like I won't have again until at least November!)

A Few Plans For The Rest Of The Week... starting our formal lessons, several soccer practices, art class for 2 kids, park day, maybe a visit to the beach while it's still hot, a curriculum sale, and OH there is a concert I'd love to attend!

Here is a picture thought I am sharing with you...

It's soccer time!