Wrapping up the year! Math

Believe it or not, we are pretty much through all of our curriculum for the year!  Obviously, we did not do enough fun stuff.  We are still trying to figure out the best methods for homeschooling that work for us (of course, I know this will be an ever-changing piece of our lives).  However, this week I am going to focus on math.

Last year we used Singapore Math for everyone with Montessori and Waldorf exercises in the mix.  Parks was the only kiddo who really enjoyed this method.  Thus, Parks continued with the Singapore math mixed with Montessori and Waldorf.  He finished up his level 1 A and 1 B books by the end of January.  For him (1st grade), Singapore worked well.  The book had a lot of pictures and not an overwhelming amount of information on each page.  For me, it was very easy to tie in bead chains, the multiplication board, the hundred board and the Waldorf stories into the Singapore Math curriculum.

Now with the older two kiddos, we did a complete change.  They did not want to continue with Singapore, and they also did not want to continue Saxon which we did the previous year.  Where to go? Looking at our schedule and considering that now I had three levels to teach, I decided to go with a computer based math program.  We chose Teaching Textbooks levels 3 (Sawyer) and 5 (Sims).    Yep, I handed in the towel on math-my favorite subject.  However, I freed up a lot of time and put a new responsibility on them.  Initially, the kids were excited but unsure of whether or not they were going to like it.  In the end, they loved it and asked to do it again next year.

My opinion of it-well, it definitely freed up some time.  The kids took ownership of the program, and they were very good about asking me when they did not understand a concept.  I do not think that either child was challenged much at these levels.  However, at this time-a challenging program was not the goal.  In their end of year testing, they each scored average on their computation skills (straight addition, subtraction, multiplication and division), and they scored amazingly well on their applied math skills.  So I am happy that the program seems to be teaching the math in an applied way.  We will continue to work on straight comupation skills, but understanding when and how to use those skills is more important in my mind.  Beginning in the middle of May, I plan on getting them each started on the next level.  Now that they are comfortable with the program and using the computer (My kids are not on the computer much so this program required them to also gain some basic computer skills), we will work on challenging their math brains a little more.

In addition to their basic math curriculums, each kiddo continues to work through the Life of Fred series.  Parks and I started back at Apples and we just finished Butterflies.  Sawyer worked through Cats, Dogs and Edgewood.  Life of Fred is her favorite way to learn math!  Sims worked with Parks on Butterflies and is now working through Goldfish on his own.  Life of Fred is the only curriculum that my kids all ask to do-even on the weekends.  The books are funny and entertaining.

What math program did you use this year?  I am always interested in what others are using and how it is working for them!


One LONG Afternoon

You know that horrible feeling that you get right in the pit of your stomach as you watch some thing “bad” about to happen and there is nothing that you can do about it?

I had that today for about 3 hours.  Today was testing day in the house.  In NC,  home schoolers are required to conduct some type of standardized test one time per year.  We do ours in April each year and today was the day.  All three kiddos sat at the kitchen table with the test administrator.  He was wonderful.  He was calm and candid at all of the right times.  I sat on the couch within earshot of the kitchen table “reading” my book.

We have the kids assessed using the Woodcock Johnson.  It is a fairly straight forward assessment, and one that we have used all three years.  As I sat listening to the kids answer the questions aloud, all I can do is hold my breath and laugh.  In my head, “I know you know how to spell that….you know exactly what that symbol is….what do you mean you do not know what that coin is?  You pay for things using your own money all the time and you know exactly what you are paying with.”  I despise this day.  I know the kids don’t love it either.

The worst part is that I look at the results more as a reflection on how I am teaching.  I know that I should not do this.  I also know that the results only show a snippet of each child.  I do, however, take the results and reflect on the year and what we can work on the following year.  None of the results wowed me or surprised me.  They were fairly close to my assumptions as to where each child score which I suppose is good.  No surprises means that I do know my kids and hopefully, we can keep using each other’s strengths to work on our weaknesses.

Do you have to give end of year tests in your homeschool?  If you do, what do you do with the results?



Wonder and Living Books

When reading blogs from life-long homeschoolers, listening to speakers about homeschooling, and learning about homeschooling-the main theme is read, read, read.

Well, reading is what we do a lot of around here.  We hit the library every 2-3 weeks and load up on books.  Everyone picks a chapter book to read and several picture books or nonfiction books.  The kids also participate in a monthly book club.  Sometimes, each child reads the book individually and sometimes we read the book together as a family.

When deciding upon which book to read aloud as a family, I try to find living books.  Living books, in my mind, resonate with the reader.  In our case, I want to the children to feel that they are in the book.  I want them to empathize with the main characters in the story.  So far this school year, we read White Fang, My Father’s Dragon, The American Girl Series-Rebecca, The Horse’s Boy, Nature Girl, The Island of the Blue Dolphin, Wonder and Hoot.


I have no regrets about any of these books!  While in Florida, we finished up the book Wonder by Palacio.  Wonder is an amazing book.  Auggie, the main character, has a rare genetic deformity which effects his looks.  Otherwise, he is a typical fifth grade boy who homeschooled through fourth grade and started school in fifth grade.  So why is this such an amazing book in my opinion?  Mainly, kids can identify with it.  The book changes perspectives from Auggie to his sister to his friends to his sister’s friend.  The author does an amazing job displaying how one person is able to influence an entire group of people-in this case, in a very positive way.

For my children, who do not attend school, the book gave them a glimpse into a typical school.  Yes, Auggie had a deformity; however, he experienced much of the same drama that most fifth grade kids experience.  The book went through all of the normal school social craziness including bullying, social “wars,” trying to fit in, finding true friends, trying to stay true to your self and just attempting to keep up with school.

Running Monologues   recommended the book in a recent post.  At the time, I was in my search for our next book to read aloud.  I love when life works like that.  It made my search much easier.  I highly recommend this one as well!

Now we are on a new journey-Hoot!

March Madness-Homeschool Style

I posted earlier in the month how I planned for the February blahs and how we made it through.  Evidently, I did not plan well for the madness of March.  In my mind, March is the beginning of spring and new beginnings.  However, nature has a different plan.  NC had snow, ice, rain and just plain cold weather.  For those of you in the northern part of US, you expect the cold to stick around.  Those of us in the southern US states await the warm breezes and the signs of spring-not the cold furry of winter.

We begrudgingly made it through our work this month.  Sims, 5th grade, worked on an Ancient Greece block which included reading the Greek myths, Mary Pope Osborne’s version of The Odyssey, and the study of several Greek philosophers.  Sawyer, 3rd grade, explored the US government including laws, the US Constitution and various aspects of the US government. Parks and I are doing some inner work which will continue into April.  He is working on ways to be a good citizen, the importance of being responsible and trustworthy, and finding his strengths.

So where is the madness?  The madness is within me.  I am a person who needs sun and warmth.  I enjoy doing our work outside at the park or in our backyard.  Hiking, playing at the White Water Center and exploring the outdoors are some of my favorite parts about homeschooling.  Unfortunately, I did not put my big girl panties on and trudge out in the wet, cold weather.  I am paying for it now.  I noticed myself getting frustrated very quickly and having little patience.  Luckily, my kids are amazing at reading me and they began to step in to help.

Even more wonderful than the kids helping out is the wonderful surprise that my hubby gave me.  We planned a trip to Lake Lure to go hiking and enjoy the wonders of spring in the NC mountains.  We should be there now.  Looking ahead at the weather channel, I noticed that the weather forecast was cool with possible rain throughout the week.  I couldn’t do it-not when the Charlotte forecast is sunny and 65 degrees.  I have never stated that I was not going to join a family vacation before, but this time I did.  I know-awful right?

I hit the wall-not of homeschooling but of rainy, cool weather.  Well, Wednesday I received a beautiful email from my hubby that asked me if I would like to scrap Lake Lure and head south to Florida.  YES! YES! YES!  So we are here in sunny Florida.  We are soaking up some much needed vitamin D, catching lizards, and enjoying the beautiful landscape of Florida!  I almost cannot believe that we are here.  Enjoy the rest of your March-I will send sunny thoughts to you all in hopes that they will bring warmth to where ever you are!


Hiking Sticks- Montessori Lessons

We are finally getting outdoors again!  OK, so we were outdoors before this too, but now it is sunny and warm!!  The kids are busy coming up with ideas for the spring and summer (and fall).  One of their main projects of late entails making hiking sticks.

Sims took a class at Latta Plantation last spring on making hiking sticks.  Since then, he has taught Sawyer an Parks how to pick the right stick, whittle it down, sand it and add the necessary amenities.  Last week, Latta had another class on hiking sticks.  Sawyer and Sims attended the class.  They then came home and gave Parks another lesson.

When I envisioned homeschooling three years ago, I thought Sims and Sawyer would work with Parks on reading, spelling and math.  So far, that has not happened.  However, they are awesome about completing the Montessori cycle with outdoor activities.  They get a lesson.  They practice on their own, and finally, they teach someone else.  This was definitely the case with the hiking sticks.  I truly enjoyed watching the kids work together on this project.

Of course, the best part was putting the hiking sticks to use this weekend on our hike.  We headed to Elk Knob State Park in Boone.  The weather was beautiful.  However, the ground was covered in SNOW!!  Parks and I were not prepared for the snow so we relied on the hiking sticks for some added traction.


Natural Fibers-the Fabrics of Our Lives

I keep reading blogs about the dreariness of February.  According to these blogs, many people experience homeschooling hardship during this month.  Maybe it is the cold weather? Or the fact that others are looking at new school for the next year?  Whatever the cause, I can completely relate.  However, this is our third year homeschooling and I was prepared for this month!

In January, I felt overwhelmed with all of the work-teaching three kiddos at different levels and with three different learning styles.  I knew that I needed a break.  Thus, I decided to do a textiles block with all three children.  We took a break from our Waldorf Essentials and did a block on our own.  I guess the block was more like a unit study of sorts.  I varied the work load and the difficulty of the work based on the child’s level.

Overall, we studied three different types of fibers-silk, cotton and wool.  We used lots of picture books that gave the history of each fiber, the harvesting of each fiber and the process of taking the raw material and producing something wonderful.  The older kids had the task of finding appropriate videos for each fiber and the process.  They are all looking for the fibers throughout their days.  What did they learn?

The history of each fiber such as where it comes from, how its trade effected the world, and how its development changed the world.

How was it used in the past and the present?

The “life cycle” of the fabric.

How the climate and geographical position of its harvest affects the product.

The chemistry behind dying fibers.

The physics behind turning a raw product into yarn or thread.

The final projects included lots of main lesson pages, papers, tree weaving, ginning and carding cotton, spinning wool into yarn, a field trip to a cotton and wool farm and dyed fibers.  The best part was a relaxed month without too many meltdowns by mom or kids!


Grade 3 Old Testament

As I stated before, I am having a difficult time getting Sawyer interested in the Old Testament blocks and blocks on Judaism.  She loved the Rebecca series and she learned a lot of the information through that series.  I decided that January would be her last Old Testament block.

She decided upon Moses as her last block.  We went through the story of Moses from his birth to his death. We also delved into some history about Egypt and the pharaohs of the time to keep it interesting for her.

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