winter schooling

love hearing about what others use for homeschooling. On a practical level it helps me figure out what might work with my kiddos. On a humorous level, if you start researching different methods and curricula, you’ll land in the room of online chat rooms and message boards, and there is so much crazy out there that you can’t help but laugh. People are so passionate about their choices that many just cannot imagine why every other parent wouldn’t pick their preferred method or materials. You won’t find any exaggerated rooftop exclamations here about one specific book or one type of method. One semester something might work great and the next not so much. We homeschool for now, but I don’t necessarily see it always being this way.

But we’re in a good groove right now. And lest somebody read back a few posts and think I do all my schooling through television, here is a quick rundown of some of what my kids see on a more-or-less daily basis.

Singapore Math has the boys chugging along at a good pace and there isn’t much drama in this department. Add in some Star Wars practice math books and they’re set.

Easy Grammar 2 is joining up with First Language Lessons 2 to form a pretty good grammar curriculum. Writing consists of copy work and dictation, and soon we’ll move into Writing & Rhetoric (I’m excited about this one).

My Father’s World US History is one of the only lower elementary one year American history programs out there. I switched from Sonlight this year to try to get a year of US history in when it looked like they might be headed to a charter school next year. That is off the table for now, so we’ll finish this up and either head back to Sonlight or make our way over to Veritas Press for their online self-paced history. I love the book list in the back of the My Father’s World manual, but the program has just not been a good fit for us. I love Sonlight history. Their book lists are great, and their teacher’s guides work with us. They are also one of the few companies that don’t have a completely Eurocentric history program. But…at this stage and even next year, there is still so much that I would have to read to them, and I think something has to give in this department. An online history program with less reading from me sounds pretty good right now.

Omar is using Song School Spanish with the kids in the mornings. I think they all like it?? Ha.

Literature read-alouds are a mix of things that match up with our history (currently Farmer Boy while we are in 1800s America) and things that just sound up their alley (recently From the Mixed-Up Files of Basil E. Frankweiler). As for what they boys are reading themselves, it’s a bit of everything: picture books from the library, Harry Potter, graphic novels, history readers, and books that I’ve read about from this site (such a good resource!).

Science is a mix of library books, scientific encyclopedias, the bit of science included in My Father’s World and Real Science 4 Kids chemistry. And there is always a focus on south Florida nature and animals, especially now that we’ve decided to visit all of the parks in our county. We always try to take field guides, a notebook, and The Nature Connection: An Outdoor Workbook for Kids, Families, and Classrooms when we go out.

My dad has been working through Mona Brookes’ Drawing With ChildrenWe’re also going to focus a bit on watercolor over the next few months.

Morning Time comes and goes depending on the week. Some weeks we faithfully memorize poetry, review civics questions, read books on random topics that just wouldn’t find their way into other parts of our day, and learn and sing hymns together. Other weeks? We take a break.

From January through March/April there are lots of park visits and walks around the lake. The weather is just too beautiful down here not to. And now that Asa is out of the itty bitty stage, museum visits and zoo visits are on the agenda more often. Like tomorrow, when we hit up the Ft. Lauderdale Museum of Discovery and Science.

Happy schooling.


oh, television, how often i love you…and hate you, but that’s for a different day.

Some day soon I want to write out what we’ve been doing for school this year. I want the record of it. I want to remember what this stage was like. I like to think I can simply remember on my own…that doesn’t work. I also love to read what others are reading and teaching and learning themselves. So much of what I do with my kids is based on what I’ve learned from others.

But sometimes those lists are overwhelming to others. But don’t we (mostly) know that those lists don’t tell the whole story? I am not one who finishes every book or assignment that goes along with a specific curriculum. I don’t even use much of the curriculum in the way the writers intended.

Today I am ignoring all the books and all the curriculum lists.

Because I am sick.

Because when you’re sick and coughing and feverish and find yourself in the, for the duration of the sickness, unfortunate position of being a homeschool family, the very last thing you want to be doing is teaching and reading to your kids. And still being on the young side, the kids can only complete so many assignments, chores, or piano practice sessions on their own before I need to step in. And while I would love to have hours of independent reading time on sick days, 30 minutes is about all they can take in one sitting. Here is where I declare without shame:


And did you know you can cover almost all the 2nd/3rd grade educational bases with tv shows? YOU CAN!

So here is my current line-up of shows that correspond (somewhat) with what we’re learning. It’s a list that won’t overwhelm you. It’s a list that will make you look forward to that next sick day(s). It’s a list that will demonstrate that we do, indeed, watch television. It’s a list that makes me thankful for television. And finally, it’s a list that will make you and your budget thankful for the internet and local library. I’ve gotten all of these through the library, Netflix, Amazon Prime, or Youtube.

History :: Liberty’s Kids and This is America, Charlie Brown and various Nest Learning historical biographies (whatever our library carries)

Geography :: Where On Earth is Carmen Sandiego? and the occasional Rick Steves’ travel show. (It brings back childhood memories.)

Science :: We’ve got options here, especially related to chemistry, which is what we’re focusing on this year. Want to combine home ec with science? Alton Brown’s Good EatsCartoon series? The Magic School Bus. Straight-up science (on the cheesy side) that reminds me of something I would’ve watched in school? Rock N Learn science DVDs. Animal science? Wild Kratts. It’s scary the kinds of things my kids know about animals from this show.

Math :: We’re learning all about money, and Rock N Learn has a money DVD, as does School House Rock.

Bible :: What’s In the Bible? Hands down, the best tv show that explains the bible to kids.

Spanish :: Salsa Spanish language program produced by Georgia Public Broadcasting.

january weekending

kids arranging fallen coconuts in the yard
squishy lawn from over 12 in of rain
neighbor’s mango tree blooming
shoe making (more like planning) for Asa
Grain Brain reading and gluten-free diet planning for me (I’m desperate to stop the migraines and headaches)
Natalie Merchant concert for Omar and me
An American In Paris viewing for the kids
The Sound of Music soundtrack on repeat for all
discovering there is a Lego! rental! program! genius.
freezer filling up with meals
not wanting to use any of the meals because then I won’t have a freezer full of meals
school sneaking into Saturday
boys not minding because they are taken with all things Marco Polo and Mongol Empire
Lenna: pop bead necklaces, Raccoon Rumpus, baby doll rocking. repeat.

fret a little and then eat some pie

July. The month of sparklers and thinking way too much about school for the kids. While they play in the pool and run on the beach, I can be tempted to spend most of my waking hours thinking/fretting/option-weighing/praying about all options. If homeschooling were just about the researching and planning and reading I’d be a pro. But then I look down and there are little people. Little people who make me realize this isn’t just some theoretical school researching game.

But oh, the options. There are so many. Options that I get excited about but am unsure of what their reaction would be or whether it would be beneficial to them. Options that I’m hesitant about but know they might thrive under.

You should see my legal pad of lists and thoughts and pros/cons. It makes me sleepy every time I walk past it.

But then I remember it’s summer. And fretting is easier to get over when there are fireworks to watch, cousins to play with, blueberry pie to eat, and beaches to go to.

top five :: school time

I could easily list the Top 5 books we like or my Top 5 curriculum choices of the moment. But since the kids themselves are an integral part to this whole homeschooling thing (ha), I figured it would be good to consult them and ask what they enjoyed about school. Here is the blended list of all our opinions:

1 :: Sonlight’s Read-Alouds. This is our third year using Sonlight’s suggested read-alouds. It’s basically just an age appropriate list of novels to read to the kids, but the kids have loved almost every book. Many book lists include books that kids read to themselves, but I love that with Sonlight’s suggested books, they are being exposed to stories and language that are more advanced but still not too over-their-heads.

2 :: I love geography. I love maps and globes and random facts about countries. My kids enjoy it, too, but they especially love it when it’s taught using Little Passport’s Sam and Sophia. Each month they get a package in the mail with contents about a specific country from travelers Sam and Sophia. They get stickers for their world map and little suitcase that comes with the initial package, a country sticker for their passport, a letter from Sam and Sophia, a postcard or picture, and a little souvenir. It’s simple but quite effective for my kids, and they love (LOVE) anything that combines mail, stickers, and postcards.

3 :: Writing With Ease. I’ll be honest. This choice for the Top 5 is more mine than Elisha’s, but this writing curriculum is one of those things that clicked for both of us. He enjoys writing (in small amounts), and I wanted something that combined copywork and narration and dictation using real books. This is a great fit for us right now. The amount of writing is not overwhelming, he’s not forced to come up with his own words or ideas, yet, and each week focuses on a different fairy tale or novel. To read a great intro to the philosophy behind this kind of writing, click here and scroll down to the Writing With Ease Instructor Text PDF sample.

4 :: SAINTS. This is essentially p.e. for homeschool kids. And they absolutely love it. And I absolutely love it. I drop the kids off once a week for three hours of everything from archery to capture the flag to dodgeball.

5 :: Spotify. This might seem like a random choice, but our days are filled with music. Most mornings start off with something along the lines of classical music. They have their own preferences and requests for when they are drawing or having snacks. If we are talking about a certain song or instrument, it’s a great resource for tracking down specific music. And the Jim Weiss story productions are listened to almost daily.

And to end, my boys make up stories all the time. Sometimes they make sense and other times they are random and creative thoughts. The little boy who narrates this video by a film student would fit in quite well around here.

(via The Wine Dark Sea)