First Quarter Update

8 weeks down!  Can you believe that we are done with our first quarter of school?  So what is going well and what had to change, because you know things never go as planned?


Parks is doing well.  He is enjoying his science program, Exploration Education, a ton!  In fact, I am pretty sure that he will be finished with it before the holidays.  He also enjoys grammar (I know odd, right?).  Reading is starting to come a little easier.  He is open to reading books a lot more this year.  Dancing Bears (our reading curriculum) is also doing a terrific job of teaching him how to break down words.  I started him with the Apples and Pears Spelling program (which works in conjunction with Dancing Bears nicely) at the end of last year.  He is continuing with this program.  He does very well spelling aloud but has a difficult time putting the words down on paper, so that is something that he is working hard on.  Parks is also thoroughly enjoying his heroes and saints block!

Sawyer is working hard on her time management this year.  She is very aware of what she needs to get done each day which was a difficult task for her last year.  She is able to do her grammar (Growing with Grammar) with minimal assistance.  She did not enjoy doing Exploration Education for science, so we made a switch.  I recently read a review of The Gumshoe Archives on Only Passionate Curiosity’s Blog, and I decided to give it a try.  So far (she is only on the first book), she is really enjoying the book.  She is still doing vocabulary with the program and some simple projects.  She is getting the information through reading and not so much hands on which is what works for her.  We are also focusing on poetry with her Man/Animal block which she really enjoys.   Sawyer is continuing to use Apples and Pears for her spelling, and Teaching Textbooks for her math.

Sims had a rough time getting into a groove, but he has found it now and is thriving.  Sixth grade is a jump in the amount of work in most subjects.  He is doing very well with increasing his independence with his work.  He started the year with Apples and Pears spelling, but he quickly got frustrated with it this year (which disappointed me greatly because he does very well with it).  Thus, we switched over to IEW’s Phonetic Zoo.  So far, he LOVES it!  He gets to do it on his own which is important to him.  He also enjoys that he has to master the list before moving on.  He is still using Dancing Bears for reading fluency, and I hope he will pick Apples and Pears up again-but I am not going to push my luck.  He is also loving Exploration Education for science.  The projects are fun and do a terrific job teaching the concepts.  He is doing very well with the vocabulary portion of the science as well using the T method.  Math is taking more time, but he is mastering it well.  He gets frustrated when he doesn’t get a 100%-he has high expectations.  LOL.  Originally, the plan was for him to do a block on Rome, but he asked to start with business math/economics.  Thus, he is reading through Striker Jones and going over it with me.

Overall, I think we have had a terrific start to the year.  We are getting outside which keeps everyone happy.  Everyone is getting into the groove of doing daily work and an individual unit study.  Let’s hope the momentum continues through the next quarter!

Homeschool Resources for Dyslexia

Homeschooling is a terrific option for many children with dyslexia and/or dysgraphia.  At first, you may think that it is too much to tackle.  However, you have time on your side when you homeschool!  Children with dyslexia and dysgraphia typically need to have information presented in multiple ways.  Children with dyslexia also do much better when information is presented either in a small group or one on one.  Teachers do not have the time or the resources to do these two things even when they really want to.

My son worked with a tutor for one full year two times a week while in the third grade.  After that year, I realized that I could work with him as well.  There are a ton of programs out there for children with dyslexia.  I have tried many and the following is what we have now found that works for us.

Spelling:  We started with All About Spelling and went through levels 1-4.  This program taught/reinforced the spelling rules.  The down side was that the information did not carry over into other writing activities.  Well, it is wonderful to get a 100% on your spelling test but if you can not spell the word in your journal or in an email, then you didn’t get it.  Thus, I moved to another spelling program called Apples and Pears.  This is an open and go curriculum.  We started with the first book and are moving through the second book.  The program appears to have no rhyme or reason initially but as the teacher, you soon realize that the words appear again and the patterns are progressed.  The best part is that the spelling carried over!  He uses the proper spelling throughout his writing.  Note-he still has a LONG way to go, but there is noted progress.

Reading fluency and comprehension:  For reading fluency, we are using Dancing Bears.  He began with the fast track AB book which went through the sounds fairly quickly.  Due to the extensive tutoring, he did well with this.  If you have a reader who is still struggling with the initial sounds, then I highly recommend you begin with book A (we are doing this with our youngest and it is working well).  Again, I find the carry over phenomenal.  Reading fluency in other book continues to improve.  Reading aloud is still a struggle and most books that my son can read aloud are not necessarily what he wants to read.  This is why we use Learning Ally!  Learning Ally is an online program for people who are blind and/or have a reading disability.  Learning Ally has real people record books as they read them aloud.  Note that I added real people.  The kindle and apple programs can read aloud but the voice it automated and lacks inflection.  Real people make the stories come alive, use the proper pausing, and use the proper inflection.  Learning Ally allows Sims to read books that are at his comprehension level, which is much higher than his fluency level.

Writing:  I do not use a specific curriculum for writing.  I have him journal and write nature studies that I do not edit.  These are for him just to simply practice writing.  Then when he does have a writing assignment, we do several things.  Some times he will make notes and then dictate the paragraph or paper to me to write.  Other times, he makes his notes, forms an outline, and then writes on wide ruled paper and skipping a line.  We use form drawings (a Waldorf activity) and metal insets (a Montessori activity) to work on sizing, fluid motion, pressure and letter formation.  I use the IEW program as my teaching method for how to write a paper.  We do not do the program, but it is my main go to for lessons on note taking and paper writing.  (I also recommend using gel pens or mechanical pencils)

Math:  Luckily for Sims, math comes easy.  He gets it and he understands how to apply it.  This year we used Teaching Textbooks and he really enjoyed it.  Now the difficult part isn’t doing the calculations.  It is the writing!  In the years past, he has used two methods to keep the numbers in line.  One trick is to use large graph paper (meaning the squares are large).  This is tough to find, but when I do, I stock up!  The other trick we us is to turn a wide ruled notebook sideways.  This allows you to place the numbers in the same column.  Next year, we are going to try using Mead RediSpace paper.

Note taking/Vocabulary: We use two methods for note taking and vocabulary which are used for science and history.  One method is using notecards.  Some people love notecards.  Others do not.  They are simple.  He can put a picture on one side and a word on the other or a definition.  There are many options for using notecards.  The second method is to draw a T on a sheet of lined paper with the top of the T going across the top of the page and the perpendicular line about three inches from the left hand side of the page.  Then either dates or vocabulary words or a main topic can go on the left.  On the right, corresponding definitions, information or notes are written.  Adding color is a terrific option.  Highlighters or using different colored pens are options.

We also do a lot outside.  Thus, we take our learning everywhere.  We listen to audiobooks in the car.  We do tons of nature study, visit museums, visit historical sites and learn from the world.  As I stated in an earlier post, we know that he has dyslexia and dysgraphia but it no longer seems to be a learning disability while he is learning at home.  Thus, the stress is gone!


September Studies

We are only two weeks into September and it has already been quite an exciting month.  Last week, we enjoyed a beautiful hike at South Mountain State Park as a family.  We continued the fun this week as we visited the Cabarrus County Agribusiness Fair in Concord on Tuesday, the National White Water Center on Wednesday for some white water rafting and Latta Plantation on Thursday for Muddy Boots Class.

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The kids began their Waldorf lessons this month as well.  Parks is continuing with the IEW program that I wrote about here.  He is doing very well with writing and is actually enjoying it.  We are continuing with fairy tales, folk tales and classic stories.


Sawyer is in the third grade.  This year she will be studying the Jewish faith and history.  We began her lessons by reading the book, Meet Rebecca.  Rebecca is one of the American Girl Characters.  We then researched on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kipper.  This week, we started the creation story.  She is truly enjoying the art that goes along with the story.  Next week, we plan to finish the creation story and do a little geography on Israel.


Sims is in the fifth grade.  He started his Waldorf studies with a quick review of the United States.  He looked at the regions of the US and how they have changed over the years.  He is beginning to learn the states and their capitals.  This week, we “flew” over to Africa for a quick study of Africa.  We studied the geography and history of Africa.  Sims was amazed at how much the history of Africa was similar to that of the US with European exploration and trade.  We also thoroughly enjoyed a few African folk stories and fairy tales.

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I hope your studies are going well also.  Have a fantastic weekend!

End of Quarter Review

End of Quarter Review

Can you believe we have been in school for 9 weeks?  Amazing how quickly the time goes by.  I decided I would give everyone an academic update and a quick recap of the year up to this point.  We started school officially on August 13, 2012 with three students.  I was definitely slightly nervous about adding one but I also knew somehow it would all work out.

As a group we read To Kill A Mocking Bird (one for me), Charlotte’s Web (Parks’ pick), Swiss Family Robinson (Sims’ pick) and Peter Pan (Sawyer’s Pick).  Sawyer and Sims are in a book club at the library.  They started with The Whipping Boy and just finished Because of Winn Dixie.  Now they are reading The Bridge to Terabithia.


  • Reading: He is doing the Primary Phonics program.  He is on the second level which covers vowels digraphs.  He can read most level 1 books and is starting to realize that he can read signs around.
  • Spelling: All About Spelling.  He knows all of his basic sounds and how to spell them.  He is now spelling CVC words and his sight words.
  • Math: He is still doing Montessori Math and he loves IXL.
  • Waldorf curriculum: Through this curriculum he follows a story that integrates folk tales and fairy tales which he then recaps and illustrates.
  • Language: First Language Lessons.  He knows nouns and can distinguish a noun.  He does very well with doing picture studies but his favorite thing to do is to recite poems.  So far his favorites are Caterpillar and The Goops.  He listens to Sims and Sawyer do their poetry and he will memorize theirs too if he can.
  • Art:  This is Parks.  He is art.  If he can build, paint, create or collage something then he is a very happy camper.  I try to make sure there is some kind of art in most of our lessons.

Sawyer and Sims:

  • Reading: Anything Sawyer can get her hands on.  Sims has been into almost anything nonfiction.  He has read about the revolutionary war and animals and is just starting to get into mysteries like the Hardy Boys.
  • Writing: She and Sims are working on a writing program from the Institute in Excellence in Writing.  This week they each did their first independent outline of a folk tale and they did it perfect.  I was very surprised.  They both also journal each day.  This semester they worked on paragraph writing, outlining short stories, writing a poem and journaling.
  • Spelling:  Both kiddos are using All About Spelling.  Sims is amazing me with his spelling.  I love this program, his tutor from last year and Sims’ amazing memory.  Last year, I was worried he would not pick up spelling but now I have no worries.  Sawyer is a natural speller.  She boggles my mind.  She is learning the spelling rules but she generally can just visualize how the word looks.
  • Language: Both are using First Language Lessons (Sims fourth grade and Sawyer third grade).  Thus far, they have learned nouns, verbs, adjectives and adverbs and how to diagram a simple sentence.  Diagraming-brings back memories of fourth grade for me. 🙂
  • Math: Both kids have been reviewing addition and subtraction and had lessons on Roman numerals.  Sawyer started multiplication, and Sims is starting decimals and fractions.  They both work on each day also.
  • Handwriting:  Both kiddos asked to learn cursive so that is what we are doing.  I think they will do well with writing in cursive once we get through all of the letters.
  • Waldorf curriculum: Sawyer studied the Saints for the first four weeks and is now onto folk tales and fairy tales.  Sims did animal research and compared several different animals.

We do science as a group except for Sims.  Sims also takes ecology at Latta Plantation Nature Preserve.  On the days he goes to ecology, we take hikes and do nature study.  In our science at home, we have looked at matter and investigated the three states of matter.  We have all done lots of animal research.

The school room, which was so nice and orderly in my first post of the year, is now messy and lived in.  There is fabric on the floor, paper all over and books on desks.  Our schedule is hectic but on the days that we are home, we are in the schoolroom  by 830.  They work diligently for about 2 hours and then they crash.  They take a short game break and start working again.  Unfortunately for them , school never ends.  They cook (math), clean (practical life), help in the garden (science), discuss the world and play with unbelievable imagination and happiness.  I am sure that sounds cheesy but for the most part it is true.  They are all full of life all the time.

How is your first quarter going?  What do you have planned for the next 9 weeks?