Monday, August 31, 2009

Day #4/175 - Field Trip!

A week ago I decided the perfect way to kick-off the official start of our sixth homeschool year would be to go on a field trip. I put it out to the local groups I'm part of & we had 22 people attend! This was perfect as a group of 15 or more meant a group discount - love that. We headed to the Maine Wildlife Park to see - well - Maine wildlife.

I loved albino animals. They've had the porcupine for some time, but this time there was a raccoon as well. It just looked off to me. I kept thinking he was missing his "glasses."



Can you see their matching smiles?
Cousins - both missing their two front teeth.

Amazingly enough the woodchuck was out! We've gone 4-5 times
now & have never seen him (or her?) before!

Miss H checking out the bears.

Conductor watching the bears beg. You could buy
a handful of dog food for $0.25 & then chuck it in to them.

The new fox exhibit was great. It had a viewing platform
above the wire so I didn't have to fight with my camera.

I love the sign.

The new.....

The boys were checking out how far their arms reached in relationship to different raptors wing spans.

Happy has a "wing span" equal to a saw whet owl.

Conductor's arms almost equaled that of a cooper hawk.
(Lego-Man was off with friends so I didn't get any photos of him.)


Happy spent the first half of our trip with a friend & his mom.
After lunch he joined us & the mom had mentioned how well
he was reading the map. He LOVED the map & did a great job reading it.
Here he's showing us where we are - the turtle exhibit.

The turtle in front kept kicking the one in back in the head.
It was pretty comical.

Two tired kiddos - even though Miss H was still awake.

Happy is seeing how far he could jump.
The different signs show different animals.
Apparently spiders can jump two feet (::shudder::)
and so can Happy.

Look a photo with the Teach!

Mr. H - awake & happy & sitting on a turtle
for a photo op with help from my sister.

Miss H on the metal turtle.



This was a great way to kick-off our school year & I plan to do something similar next year.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Day #3/175

Wow - two days this week - maybe we're on a roll! LOL

Circle Time - Day #2 of Circle Time went faster. I think because we are now reviewing some of the things I introduced the other day. I think Monday Circle Times will end up being longer than the rest of the week. We again started out with "popcorn" prayer" which is going to be good practice for all of us I feel. We said the Pledge of Allegiance and then sang theStar Spangled Banner. I reviewed calendar work with Happy & he seems to be getting it some. We moved on to our poem study. We are going to work on "Time to Rise" by Robert Louis Stevenson this week. I had each boy read the poem aloud & then I taped a copy up on the wall so they can see it throughout the day. I discovered a new blog this week & she had just posted some great things to go along with our hymn study of "Amazing Grace." It's called sure to check out her free notebooking pages. I read a bit of a biography of the kids & realized it sounded familiar. We had heard the story of John Newton on one of the Your Story Hour CD's we listened to this summer. We than sang the first and last verses of the song. We ended Circle Time with a Bible reading. We read aloud Psalm 13 & Proverbs 13. I discussed some of the verses as we went.

Bible - I had the boys go to their rooms (Lego-Man & Conductor) & read Psalm 2 over & over - as many times as they could - for 15 minutes.

We then did Grapevine - the "Creation" lesson and Lesson 2 in NW. We are continuing with studying "faith."

Math - Both Conductor & Lego-Man spent time working on Conductor tried out Quarter Mile Math as well but we're having some technical difficulties with that one. Hopefully we can get it fixed as the boys do seem to like it when it's working.

Kindergarten - Happy was pretty content to just be in the same room with us today. I did nothing formal with him. However, I have a box of activity toys for him to use. I set it up last year. They are various puzzles, games, and other things that help him build on skills. I'm quite content with letting him slowly get in to the routine of being in the same room with us and learning "listening skills" & "being quite to learn" skills. I'll continue to slowly introduce him to more formal learning as the year progresses. My goal is to have him be able to write the alphabet and his name as well as read simple sentences by the end of the year.

Photos of our day:

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Day #2/175 days

We tried a bit more today & accomplished some good things...I think. We have done (this is not really in order of how we did it, but it's makes it easier to type it this way since we did jump around a bit):

PE - the boys rode their bikes or walked laps outside (either from our house to grandparents garage & back for one or leaving here & going up around the grandparents house & back for one) Happy & Conductor chose to ride their bikes & Lego-Man walked. While they did that, I was inside doing an exercise video myself.

Math - Lego-Man & Conductor spent 15 minutes on All the boys did two pages in their Math-U-See (MUS) workbooks. We had left off in the middle of a lesson (oops!) so Conductor ended up needing to rewatch his lesson to remind himself what he was doing. The nice thing was that the problems he was working on in Aleks earlier reinforced what he was doing in MUS.

Circle Time - We tried out Circle Time for the first time this year. It went okay. There is definitely room for improvement but for a first try, it went well I think. Daddy was still here (he went to work late today due to a migraine) so we tried out "popcorn" prayer for the first time. We started with the youngest & went to the oldest. Each person prayed one thing about God in "adoration" & then one thing in "thanksgiving." We'll continue to work on this. We said the Pledge of Allegiance and then sang the Star Spangled Banner. After that I did some calendar work with Happy. I found some freebies over at CurrClick that we are using. I'm using these free calendars and these free weather pictures and words to help him with this skill. We moved on to our poem study at this point. We are going to work on "Time to Rise" by Robert Louis Stevenson this week. I have this in a Dover Coloring Book so I printed one out for each boy. We read it aloud & each boy colored the picture. We'll continue reading it aloud the rest of the week. While the boys finished their pictures, I read a chapter aloud from Farmer Boy which is our current book. I then played two videos from YouTube of the hymn "Amazing Grace." The first was Il Divo singing it (::sigh::) & the second was the Chris Tomlin version. I have the lyrics printed out & we'll continue to work on this over the course of the week as well. We ended Circle Time with a Bible reading. We read aloud Psalm 11 & Proverbs 11. I discussed some of the verses as we went. I think this will really help the boys with their reading skills as well. I'm still amazed at the words Conductor knows!

I had planned 30 minutes for Circle Time but with the interruption of having Daddy home and other minor things (sit down, pay attention, let's be quiet...things like that), it was closer to 60 minutes. We'll see if this continues to be the case and adjust accordingly.

Bible - We are trying private devotions this year. I'm starting small - just 15 minutes - but hope to work up to 30-45 minutes. Today I simply had the boys go to their rooms (Lego-Man & Conductor) & read Psalm 1 over & over - as many times as they could - in that 15 minutes. While they did that I had Happy come to the table with me & we used his Rod & Staff Bible coloring book to have a little devotion of our own.

When this was done, I gave Conductor & Lego-Man their choice of what to do next. We are using The Narrow Way for Bible this year & currently are using a study by Grapevine (a TOS Crew product I am in the process of reviewing). They chose the Grapevine study which didn't surprise me. They really enjoy this one. From there we completed Lesson 1 in The Narrow Way. We are studying "faith."

Kindergarten - While the boys were finishing up math, I pulled out Happy's K books & spent about 20 minutes with hi working on some of the skills in the first book. We are doing a very gentle start with Happy this year. I expect him to sit & listen while the older boys & I are reading & we do table-work at his level but he is not getting a ton of table time at this point.

Lunch break

History - I am trying to finish up Story of the World Vol. 2 this month so we can start the year fresh with Vol. 3. In an effort to speed through the rest of the book, I am simply reading the chapters to the boys without much else. Today we read Chapter 29 about the African nations. I did let them do the map as well but I had to call my sister for help. She is going to be using my Volume 2 this year with her son & I had already given her my Activity Guide. Oops! I may have to rethink the rest of the chapters & map work.

Science - I think our first attempt at using the Simply Charlotte Mason Guide "106 Days of Creation" went well. We finished Lesson 1. I read the account of creation in Genesis 1 while the boys had a notebook page. The page came from Considering God's Creation. They drew a picture of what God created on each day. I enjoyed Lego-Man's version as he drew a photo of God in each one (He has a head & a corkscrew body - in case anyone wondered.)

Literature - We ended our day with 30 minutes of quiet reading. Lego-Man has started on his Daddy's favorite series of books - The Wheel of Time series. The first book is called The Eye of the World. They are adult books but we think he can handle them. I had given Conductor a small chapter book called Cooper-Toed Boots by Marguerite de Angeli which I have also been reading at night so I can discuss it with him later. While the two older boys read to themselves, I read out loud to Happy. We read two Beatrix Potter stories (The Tale of Peter Rabbit & The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin), some poems from When We Were Very Young & Now We Are Six by A. A. Milne & finally Socks for Supper by Jack Kent.


I am attempting to do my planning weekly rather than for the year as I have done in the past. This is mainly due to the fact that I will be needing to add in various different things this year to manage my TOS Crew responsibilities. If you want to see what this week *should* look like, click on the link above.

Overall I'm quite happy with our first real attempt at starting school. I'm thrilled we were able to accomplish a few more things after lunch. We have never tried it in the past & when we have, I haven't had great results. However, the boys were great today. I'm not planning to get back in to the full swing of things here until next month, but this is certainly going to help us once fall arrives. I'll be babysitting Miss & Mr H throughout the school year so I'll be adding in a toddler and an older infant (about 7 months by then). Needless to say, it should be interesting.

Please note...links to most of the curriculum I mention & am using has links in my sidebar. Thanks!----->

Friday, August 7, 2009

A Limping Start

I had originally wanted to start school on the 3rd, but I knew this week would be very busy with all I had planned out of the house. As a result I had changed the start date to the 10th. Then I changed it back to the 3rd. ::sigh:: I should have left it as the 10th since we only completed one day this week.

I'm still working on lesson plans. It seems to be a harder start to this year for some reason & it's not apparently just me. I've seen many others in the homeschooling community say the same thing. But I'm moving on as best I can.

Today I was reading through blogs when I saw something on Harmony Art Mom's site that made me pretty happy. I will be using her Grade 4 Harmony Fine Arts at home this year. It's a full year (or maybe two) of art & music appreciation lesson plans. Happy will participate as much as he is able, but the other two boys will be doing as much of the plans as written.

One book that Barb uses extensively for one of the options is called Drawing with Children by Mona Brookes. This is a really great book on how to teach art to your children. It is for the parent/teacher to read & then teach the child. I had seen this mentioned at one point in time somewhere so I had put in on my wish list at PBS (that's Paperback Swap - seriously - if you aren't a member - get on there!) & I was able to get a very nice copy of this book (for free!!!) just a few months ago. That was even before I went with the Harmony Fine Art plans. I love it when things that that work out (and yes, to me, that's a God-thing. ::smile::).

So back to my original thought...sorry for getting side-tracked there for a moment.

Barb has a Squidoo Lens posted with lesson plans for using Drawing with Children & it even has Amazon links for supplies! I'll definitely be using these to supplement our art studies this year.


I did spend some time last night looking over the geography book we'll be using this year. I found it at the used curriculum sale back in June. I was originally going to try Galloping the Globe, but found Around the World in 180 Days (and when I went to get that link I see they are having a sale) instead & in great condition & it was what I wanted to try. We have used the two volumes of A Child's Geography & love them (well, I certainly do!!!) but there are only two volumes currently out so we'll have to do something else for a bit.

I did like what I saw in 180 Days. It's a pretty comprehensive study of the seven continents which is something we have not yet attempted. It's a notebooking based study to extra cost is minimal.


Last night I realized that I should have an inventory of what I have for homeschooling curriculum. I already do an inventory of books but it still needs to be tweaked somehow. I'm thinking of marking the spines to correlate somehow. Anyone have a wonderful method for your home library?

I'm sure I can't be the only homeschooling mom who has completed the year only to discover something tucked away that would have fit wonderfully with that year's study. Or buying something new for a subject only to find you already had something adequate in the closet. I'm sure you get the point. It's frustrating isn't it?


While reading the introduction to the 180 Days study last night, the author said something that made me go "That's it!!!" (Charlie Brown style of course.) The author, Sherrie Payne, is a mom of six children & covers a lot of different grades among them. She says this,

"And teaching all those grade levels together is not that hard. Granted, there are some subjects that have to be taught fairly systematically and individually, (i.e. the skill subjects of math and grammar), but the content subjects of history, science, and sometimes even literature can be taught to all the children at the same time. By using grade level textbooks and other resources, everyone can glean what they need at their particular level of ability.

It's that last sentence & a half that worked for me. THAT is what I am trying to do. I simply am not capable of teaching three complete school days to the three boys. So we have always done math together - but they work on their own books during that time. We have always done writing together - same thing. We have done history together & they actually do that together. This year I will be expecting more from Lego-Man than the younger two but I will also expect more of Conductor than I will of Happy. That paragraph helped cement what it is I believe works for us in regards to learning here. I guess this year will either prove that it works...or not.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Day #1/175

Today was our first day of school - sort of. Can I still get some sort of drum roll please? I had originally planned to start today & then decided not to because of all we have going on this week. However, I am reviewing curriculum for the TOS Homeschool Crew & I have a few reviews due by the end of the month so I had to get cracking. BTW, reviews are posted on my main blog - The Berry Patch.

Today we did:

  • Morning routine (the boys have set chores they must do each morning)
  • Prayer
  • Worksheets from the TOS Homeschool Planner. They are "beginning/ending" year pages where the boys wrote down their names, height, weight, likes/dislikes, and yearly goals. There are also spots for photos. It will be fun to see how much they grow over the year. And it was a bit freaky to learn that my 5 year old, Happy, weighs 51 pounds while his 8 year old brother, Conductor, weighs 55.5 pounds.
  • I read a chapter from The Story of the World volume 2. I really want to finish this volume before we dive in to Volume 3 this year. (history)
  • We did a few pages in the Grapevine Studies book I am reviewing for TOS. This is a fun way to learn the Bible. I chose to use their Multi-Level Old Testament Basics book. I don't want to give away too much but we are using this for Bible & loving it. (Bible)
  • Lego-Man watched a TV show called "Big" on the Science Channel. It's a new show with a team of builders making large-scale items. On this show they made a BBQ grill & grilled a nine-foot long hot dog. (science)
  • Lego-Man & Conductor also spent time on Aleks which is another site we are reviewing for TOS. I really like what I see so far. (math)
  • Lego-Man is spending time building towers using the Duplo Legos. He made one about six feet tall earlier today. (science)
  • Lego-Man also wrote a letter to his pen-pal. (writing)
I don't plan to delve in to full-time school with circle time until later in the month. Right now this is working for all of us as we begin our new year.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Circle Time Ideas

One of the blogs I've been reading for the past year or so is called Preschoolers and Peace (does that seem like an oxymoron to anyone else?). The author, Kendra, is the mom of eight children of various ages. She has some really great Circle Time ideas over at her blog so I'm reading through those. Plus, she's even put together a book about how she uses Circle Time in her home. She is having a contest through the month of August to win a copy. I just thought I'd share.