Wednesday, August 27, 2014

2014/15: Year 2
"... study hard what interests you the most ..."

“ hard what interests you the most 
in the most undisciplined, irreverent and original manner possible.” 

― Richard P. Feynman

I know I mentioned before that I was renaming the years from K/1/2 etc. to "Year 1," with this being "Year 2,"  but when we did our back-to-homechool pictures this week, I still but "1st" on there.  That being said, today was our "first day," but we spent it at the Dallas Arboretum and then the Perot Museum to catch the end of the "Largest Dinosaurs" exhibit before it moves on.  

So, tomorrow will be our first day with our new "Year 2" schedule and curriculum.  We are heading to DisneyWorld in mid-September, so our first two weeks will be a bit lighter, with the project-based subjects like history, science, and writing/literature not starting until after we get back.  When we return, our schedule will be 8am-2:30pm on Mondays - Thursdays, with a few quick things like a spelling test and some different, challenging math on Friday mornings before piano lessons, with the afternoon free for field trips, meet up with friends, or just hanging out and free time.

We put some of the subjects on the back-burner last year (or took them much slower) as we adapted to life, as I wrote about before, so some of what we are doing this year I had originally planned for Year 1.  However, most of what I had planned for Year 1 was at least "1st grade" level, so I am not worried about it being "too easy" for this year.  In fact, while SC is advanced in understanding-type subjects, things like penmanship are still on target for her age, which meant working ahead in some things means either I did most of the writing for her, or we adapted (or in the case of some stuff, we held off for this year).  In the end, here is a look at the curriculum I have planned for Year 2:


Language Smarts level B (finish)
Language Smarts level C
Jacob's Ladder Primary 1 (finish)
Jacob's Ladder Primary 2
Vocabu-Lit level B
SpellWell levels A and AA
Explode the Code (various levels to reinforce phonics, not necessarily to teach reading)
Handwriting Without Tears
Reading Detective Beginning
BraveWriter Jot it Down
  *We are doing a fairy tale project all year that came from the Bravewriter book Jot It Down, where we will be reading and studying ten separate fairy tales from Perrault, Andersen and the Grimm brothers
BraveWriter - Arrow
  *The BraveWriter "Arrow" program is technically for 3rd grade, but we will be reading books on SC's level and modifying the dictation portions into copywork and more manageable amounts for her physical writing ability.  We will not be following their choice plan for this year, as I was able to choose individual books from past years.  Our list is:
        Sarah, Plain and Tall  by Patricia MacLachlan
        Turtle in Paradise  by Jennifer M. Holm
        The Lemonade War  by Jaqueline Davies
        Charlotte's Web  by E.B. White
        Because of Winn-Dixie  by Kate DiCamillo
        Henry Huggins  by Beverly Cleary
        Detectives in Togas  by Henry Winterfeld
        In the Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson  by Bette Bao Lord
        Harriet the Spy  by Louise Fitzhugh
        All-of-a-Kind Family  by Sydney Taylor


History Odyssey Ancients (finish)
History Odyssey Middle Ages (begin)


Singapore Primary Mathematics 1B (finish)
Singapore Primary Mathematics 2A
Zacarro's Primary Grade Challenge Math (begin)
Mathematical Reasoning level B (finish)
Mathematical Reasoning level C
various logic books from Critical Thinking Company and others


Building Foundations of Scientific Understanding K-2 (begin)


Song School Spanish (finish)
Sabio Octavio grammar, math and reading/spelling


Telling God's Story Year 1 (finish)
Telling God's Story Year 2

Meet the Masters
piano lessons, Broadway class at the local theatre, swimming, gymnastics and soccer, plus we got a subscription to a local symphony for the year and are very excited to be able to take SC to these concerts

Also, part of the BraveWriter "lifestyle" is experiencing the stories of life through nature hikes, poetry tea parties, listening to all kinds of music, watching movies, ballets, operas, stage performances, and then being able to understand the narrative and retell the stories in your own words.  This is one of the reasons I chose BraveWriter, as it encompasses so much of what else we will already be doing.

I hope everyone is off to a great start to their 2014/15 year, whether in their homeschool or in school away from home!

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

"'s chances of survival increase
with each book one reads."

"If one reads enough books one has a fighting chance. 
Or better, one's chances of survival increase 
with each book one reads."
-Sherman Alexie

Between this time last year and now, SC's reading skills have really taken off.  I distinctly remember the energy she expended about this time last year to get through even one chapter of the fun Mr. Putter and Tabby series books.  We read together every day, and she would be drained after just a few pages.  Now, however, she is decoding words at a mid-4th grade level, and comprehending at a mid-3rd grade level.  (Have you heard about the DORA test?)

She cannot get enough of books, and we have had to deal with the quandary of her sneaking books past bedtime.  I cannot bring myself to in any way tell her "no books" or "you shouldn't be reading."  So, when we catch her reading past bedtime, I just take the flashlight or book light away and tell her that she needs her sleep, to have enough energy for the next day, and that the book will still be there in the morning.  It is hard for me, though, because I understand the need to finish, and how wrapped up one can become in a good piece of writing.

At the beginning of last summer, and into the fall, I had a "reading challenge," and we diligently wrote down each book she had read, tallied points, and she earned prizes.  Very quickly, however, we had to adjust how points were calculated (away from number of pages to reading level), and then again (to extend the reading level).  We ended up just tallying minutes, and finally stopped keeping track.  I am not sure if the challenge helped give her that push she needed to become a reader or not, but she is just as likely (if not more) to closet herself away in her room, in her "reading chair," as she is to ask to play video games or watch the TV.

I thought it would be interesting to put together a list/progression of the books she has read on her own over the past year.  Once we stopped keeping written track (because I just couldn't keep up!), I may not have them all or be in the correct order, but this is most of them.  I have previously written about the first ten books she read here, so I will start after that.  I am also only going to link to a few of our favorites, rather than each one, for expediency.  

This first part of the list is the one I diligently kept track of, June through November.

Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus Mo Willems
Almost Richard Torrey
Born to Be a Butterfly Karen Wallace
Should I Share my Ice Cream? Mo Willems
I'm a Caterpillar Jean Marzollo
Chicka Chicka Boom Boom Bill Martin, Jr.
Sid's Surprise Candace Carter
Going to the Sea Park Mercer Mayer
Welcome to Royal Prep Lisa Ann Marsoli
Mr. Putter & Tabby Walk the Dog Cynthia Rylant
Penny and her Marble Kevin Henkes
Mr. Putter & Tabby Ring the Bell Cynthia Rylant
Bear in Underwear Todd H. Doodler
Mr. Putter & Tabby Spin the Yarn Cynthia Rylant
Hop on Pop Dr. Seuss
The Cat in the Hat Dr. Seuss
Just Lost! Mercer Mayer
The New Baby Stan & Jan Berenstain
Bad Kitty Gets a Bath Nick Bruel
Mr. Putter & Tabby See the Stars Cynthia Rylant
Mr. Putter & Tabby Run the Race Cynthia Rylant
I Want my Hat Back Jon Klassen
Mr. Putter & Tabby Pour the Tea Cynthia Rylant
Mr. Putter & Tabby Catch the Cold Cynthia Rylant
Mr. Putter & Tabby Paint the Porch Cynthia Rylant
Just a Little Music Mercer Mayer
Happy Birthday, Bad Kitty! Nick Bruel
Missing Molly Lisa Jahn-Clough
The Giving Tree Shel Silverstein
Bad Kitty Meets the Baby Nick Bruel
Princess Posey & the First Grade Parade Stephanie Greene
Play, Mozart, Play! Peter Sis
My Trip to the Hospital Mercer Mayer
Mr. Putter & Tabby Write the Book Cynthia Rylant
Mr. Putter & Tabby Fly the Plane Cynthia Rylant
Mr. Putter & Tabby Spill the Beans Cynthia Rylant
Pete the Cat: Rockin' in my School Shoes Eric Litwin
Mr. Putter & Tabby Make a Wish Cynthia Rylant
Lily's Purple Plastic Purse Kevin Henkes
Princess Posey & the Perfect Present Stephanie Greene
Hamster and Cheese Colleen AF Venable
Madeline Ludwig Bemelmans
Princess Posey & the Next-Door Dog Stephanie Greene
Princess Posey & the Monster Stew Stephanie Greene
Cardboard Doug TenNapel
Princess Posey & the Tiny Treasure Stephanie Greene

This part of the list is not in exact reading order, but rather alphabetical by author.  I also do not list the various picture books she has read because I cannot keep track of them all.  Our usual take from a library trip is 20-30 books, and we also go to Barnes & Noble to sit and read picture books a few times a month.

by Jorje Aguierre
Giants Beware!

by Annie Barrows
Ivy and Bean
Ivy and Bean and the Ghost That Had to Go
Ivy and Bean Break the Fossil Record
Ivy and Bean Take Care of the Babysitter
Ivy and Bean: Bound to Be Bad
Ivy and Bean: Doomed to Dance
Ivy and Bean: What’s the Big Idea?
Ivy and Bean: No News Is Good News
Ivy and Bean: Make the Rules
Ivy and Bean: Take the Case

by Nick Bruel
Bad Kitty for President
Bad Kitty School Daze
Bad Kitty Drawn to Trouble

by Kazu Kibishi
Explorer: The Mystery Boxes
Explorer: The Lost Islands
Amulet: The Stonekeeper
Amulet: The Stonekeeper's Curse

by Mary Pope Osborne
Dinosaurs before Dark
The Knight at Dawn
Mummies in the Morning

by Ashley Spires
Binky the Space Cat
Binky Under Pressure
Binky: License to Scratch
Binky to the Rescue
Binky takes Charge

by Doug TenNapel
Bad Island
Tommysaurus Rex

The list also should include all the Berenstain Bears and Little Critter books she can get her hands on, plus anything Star Wars related that the library has.  I still feel like I am forgetting some, but oh well.   

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

"Happiness can be found
even in the darkest of times ..."

Over the past school year, we have really gotten into listening to audiobooks.  I am horrible at reading aloud, especially books that have more than one main character, who all need to sound different.  In fact, I struggle with this issue even when reading silently to myself.  (On a side note - I have found that watching a tv/film version of said book helps immensely by giving me the voices in my head, though of course I cannot reproduce them aloud.)

Enter: audiobooks!  The first audiobook we listened to, about a year and a half ago, was The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien, narrated by Rob Inglis, and from then both SC and I were hooked on having a professional read to us.  As SC's reading skills began to develop, she even began to follow along with her own copy of the book, which exposed her to more words (and what they look like) than just listening alone would have.  Over this past year, she has gotten to where she can follow along without getting exhausted (which frequently happened when we started out), and we have found some great books that we love.

Many of the books we were able to find on, which is a monthly subscription service.  Each month we get 1 credit toward the purchase of any digital audiobook (they have larger packages), and considering the 1 credit costs only $16, and most of the audiobooks are $20-$30, it is a great savings.  We have also been able to find some at the public library (like the Harry Potter books), because they are not available digitally.

So, in reverse order of listening, here are our "read-alouds" for this past school year.

1. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, by J.K. Rowling, narrated by Jim Dale(currently listening)

2. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, by J.K. Rowling, narrated by Jim Dale

3. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, by J.K. Rowling, narrated by Jim Dale

4. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, by J.K. Rowling, narrated by Jim Dale

5. The Mysterious Benedict Society, by Trenton Lee Stewart, narrated by Del Roy

6. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, by L. Frank Baum, narrated by Anne Hathaway

7. Coraline, by Neil Gaiman, narrated by the author

8. A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeline L'Engle, narrated by Hope Davis

9. Zorgamazoo by Robert Paul Weston, narrated by Alan Cumming

10. From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweilernarrated by Jill Clayburgh

11. The Magician's Elephant by Kate DiCamillo, narrated by Juliet Stevenson

I should note, SC is very interested in fantasy/sci-fi stories, especially the darker ones.  In fact, the book from the list she liked least was From the Mixed-Up Files.  While these books are appropriate for her (and we spend quite a bit of time discussing them), they may not be appropriate for all 5 year olds.

*Are you making a list of the books you have "read aloud" this year?  Join me, as I will be adding this list to the "List it Tuesday" link-up here:

**This post contains affiliate links.  Please read my disclosure statement. 

Sunday, May 4, 2014

"Without deviation from the norm,
progress is not possible."

"Without deviation from the norm, 
progress is not possible."
-Frank Zappa

According to the typical school calendar, our first year of homeschooling "for real," and SC's kindergarten year, should be almost over.  Yet, after all this time, we will do school through the summer, with a few adjustments for the water park and other summer activities.  See, we have only been keeping a "regular" school schedule (like the one I laid out here, though not really) for just over a month.  Though kindergarten technically started at the beginning of September, after the first few weeks of struggle (during which I absented from blogging), I forced myself to adapt so that school wasn't such a miserable experience for both of us.  

On top of starting school that "counts," SC was also dealing with AC's travel becoming more frequent as well as less structured, which resulted in outbursts of anger and an attempt by her to survive through control.  We dropped back to only going to her twice-a-week private kindergarten, which was normal for her, and worked on the homework they sent home.  We spent time going to the local science museum, and signed her up for a few classes there.  We met other homeschoolers for park days and field trips.  We listened to a large number of audiobooks, and spent hours at the various local libraries.  We watched PBS Great Performances stage shows, ballets and operas.  We baked together, and had tea parties, and discussed the arts.  Plus, we traveled with AC when we could, including spending two weeks this spring in London and Belgium.  We had a wonderful "school" year.

However, we still needed to get a real routine going for school.  Much of the past year has been up to SC with regard to what she wanted and when she wanted, which isn't real life.  Eventually there will come a point where it may not be best for her to be homeschooled, either because I cannot keep up with her (like in math or science), or because the services offered by the district we happen to be living in at the time can do as good a job at teaching her on her level.  We are aware of at least two local districts that have full-time gifted programs, and while we don't live in one of them currently, moving isn't out of the realm of possibilities for our future.

So, when we returned from our European vacation, SC and I sat down and talked about school.  We talked about the things that had to be in our daily schedule (math, language arts, handwriting practice, spelling), we talked about the additional things she would like to do (Spanish, history, art, breaks), and we worked together to plan out a schedule that worked for both of us.  

The first few days were a bit tough to really get into the schedule, but now I am excited for the next stage of school, over the summer.  I am also really excited that we will be done with the private kindergarten, because it is opening up our schedule so that we are not having to cram things in.  We are looking at potential extra-curricular activities for the fall, like a Broadway class that teaches acting, dancing and singing, and maybe a class at the local zoo.  So many of the local museums and places that offer after-school activities now offer classes during the day for homeschoolers, which means we don't have to be out late into the evening trying to get things done.

Finally, for the time being I have decided that instead of calling this year "kindergarten" and next "first grade," which is the way the US public schools do things, I will just call this "Year 1," and the next "Year 2," and so on.  The work that SC has been doing, even the work she has been doing at the private kinder class, is at least on the first grade level, so to call it "kindergarten" is a fairly large misnomer.  For organizational purposes, it just makes more sense to call this "Year 1," and I will be changing the labeling on the blog.

I hope to get back to writing blog posts at least weekly, because I love to write and I have missed it.  I am not going to work to write posts just for weekly "link-up parties," though I may join if the content fits.  Also, I want to continue writing the What 2 Read Wednesday posts, because I enjoy writing book reviews.  I want to get back to this blog being a refuge for me, rather than the chore it had become, and hopefully others may be able to take something from it as well.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

"If there is no struggle, there is no progress."

"If there is no struggle, there is no progress."
-Frederick Douglass, "West India Emancipation," 1857

As I sat down to type out this post, wrapping up our first week of kindergarten homeschool, I couldn't think of anything positive to say.  I got through three paragraphs of drama, and decided to just delete it.  We have had a REALLY bad week.  There has been a lot of explaining "why" school is mandatory from k-12, a lot of fighting/arguing, a lot of tears (from both SC and I), and I am just drained, both emotionally and physically.  

We only made it through 1/3 of our schedule for the week, and that bothers me to no end.  However, I still have hope that things will get better.  Much of the arguing has given me some real insight into how SC's brain works (and why there have been such major bumps in this road), and though things might have to go on a bit differently than I had originally anticipated, I still have hope that this will work out.  I keep coming back to the fact that God has led AC and I to choose this as the best choice for her this year.  Cliche, I know, but as Jeremiah 29:11 states "For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope."  There is a reason He has led us down this path for now.   

So, I really didn't want to look back on our first week a few months, or even years, from now and read how horrible it has all been, even if we eventually stop homeschooling.  I don't need to rehash the gory details (and they are, believe me).  I do want to remember it has been hard, but so is any major change.  And I want to publicly remind myself to be faithful to Him who knows the plan, and not lose hope.

"Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, 
so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit."
Romans 15:13 

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Thankful Thursday:
"I have no notion of loving people by halves,
it is not my nature."

“There is nothing I would not do for those who are really my friends. 
I have no notion of loving people by halves, it is not my nature.” 

― Jane AustenNorthanger Abbey

Just last night, AC and I were talking about how I seem to have more than one good friend whom I regularly spend time with.   I also have a few good friends who do not live nearby anymore, but I chat with on a regular basis.  This is an anomaly for me, as I am fairly introverted and don't deal well in most social situations.   In fact, typically having just one good friend is difficult, stressful and exhausting for me.  As well as being introverted, the Austen quote above is very true for me, and contributes to my difficulties with friendship.

This week, I am enormously thankful that God has placed this handful of women in my life, and that even through my awkwardness or sometimes inappropriate comments, they continue to be faithful.  I hope you all know who you are, and I love you.

What are you thankful for this week? Leave a comment below, and then check out some other Thankful Thursday posts here:

Thankful Thursdays Button

Monday, August 26, 2013

"There cannot be a crisis next week.
My schedule is already full."

"There cannot be a crisis next week. My schedule is already full."
Henry Kissinger, quoted in The New York Times Magazine, June 1969

We are only one week away from our official first day of kindergarten, and I have been working on lesson plans and making sure I have a schedule that (1) will fit in everything comfortably, and (2) is doable.  A few weeks ago I thought I had the schedule down, but then SC met a new friend whom we really want to spend time with weekly, so I adjusted everything and was able to clear an entire afternoon.  

I am linking up this post for the final week with iHomeschool Network's "Not Back to School" Blog Hop, and while it is supposed to be a post that details a "day in the life" at our homeschool, since we won't actually be starting until next week, I will instead be focusing on what the ideal week would look like, based on my latest version of the schedule.  On this year's curriculum post, I mentioned the times I had planned, but did not go into any detail about what specifically we will be doing during those times.  So, here is what I hope things will look like during our upcoming days.

Monday, Wednesday and Fridays will look very similar in the mornings, as will Tuesdays and Thursdays.  SC will be going to a "bridge" kindergarten twice a week at the same church she has been at for the past few years for Mother's Day Out.  I just cannot compete with the monthly themed activities.  Every weekday SC will need to complete one activity from A Reason for Handwriting level A, as well as a few pages from Explode the Code for phonics reinforcement.  This will happen in the evenings, before free time is allowed.  


7:00-8:00am:  Wake up, walk the dog, eat breakfast

8:00-8:10am:  Warm-Up [either listening activity or short reading passage/questions]

8:10-8:40am:  Bible

8:40-9:00am:  All About Spelling OR All About Reading [I have two separate sessions set up each day for AAR/AAR, but I am going to try to do them simultaneously, so some days we may do two sessions of AAS (NOT two lessons, but I have planned for much reviewing), or two AAR, or one of each.]

9:00-9:30am:  Junior Great Books 
[language arts]

9:30-9:50am:  Grammar [Language Smarts B]

9:50-10:30am:  Math [Singapore]

10:30-11:10am:  History

11:10-11:30am:  All About Spelling OR All About Reading

11:30am-12:00pm:  Spanish

12:00-12:30pm:  LUNCH

Mondays, after lunch, we will be traveling to a friend's house, and be listening to an audiobook on the way.  We also have gymnastics in the evening.

Wednesdays we will use Draw.Write.Now for some art instruction, combined with writing instruction (that I create - not handwriting).  Then we will hopefully meet some of our homeschool group at the park before heading to a short 30 minute dance class.

Fridays we will do some brief logic work before heading to piano lessons, and then have the afternoon free for a possible field trip to the zoo, one of the local museums, or more time with friends.


7:00-8:00am:  Wake up, walk the dog, eat breakfast

8:00-8:10am:  Warm-Up [either listening activity or short reading passage/questions]

8:10-8:50am:  Jacob's Ladder [language arts]

9:30am-2:30pm: away from home kindergarten class

2:30-3:10pm: listen to audiobook in the car on the way to afternoon activities (T: swim, R: dance)

Tuesday evenings SC will also have soccer practice (and I will be coaching for the first time).

Finally, as mentioned on the curriculum post, we will be doing a few homeschool activities Saturday morning, so that we can keep our afternoons mostly free for friends, park days and field trips.  


7:00-9:00am:  Wake-up, walk the dog, eat breakfast (we won't have a hard wake-up time)

9:00-9:50am: Science

9:50-10:20am: Math [Life of Fred]

10:20-10:50am:  Grammar [Grammar-land and Primary Language Lessons]

10:50-11:50am: Teatime and classical music to relax from all our hard work!

Throughout the school-week, SC will have the opportunity to earn free time, which will include watching taped PBS shows, using the computer to play games (usually, playing on the iPad or other electronic devices, as well as just playing with the multitude of toys we have.  However, she will have a checklist that she needs to complete some of first, during that free time period.  Here is an example of the checklist I have made:

I am hoping that this will be a baby-step in teaching her to prioritize tasks and how to manage her time.  We shall see how it works.

So, that is an ideal "day in the life" at our homeschool.  Don't forget to check back at the end of the first week of September to see how things actually went.  

What do your school days look like?  Leave a comment below, then check out all the other bloggers' posts at the iHomeschool Network 5th annual "Not Back to School" Blog Hop.

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