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!

Second Grade Plans

second grade
I am excited to do grades 2 and 4 this year since I have experienced them once already. For grade 2, I plan on doing blocks on world geography/form drawing, heroes and saints, folktales, geology and biomes, animal legends and physics.

For the first block, I plan on beginning with a reintroduction to form drawings in order to get back into the school year. Then we will move into geography. For Parks, I plan to have him make a globe and label the oceans and continents. He will also work with the other kids on geography using David Sobel’s Mapmaking with Children.

His first individual block will be on saints and heroes. The last time I taught second grade, I only taught Christian saints. This year, I plan to shift my focus on both heroes and saints-no matter what the religion. Thus, as of right now I plan on teaching the definition of hero and saint. We will then read through stories on Genevieve of Paris, Kun and Yu, Rabia of Basra, Nandanar and Lord Shive, Finn Mac Cool, Judah Maccabee, Elizabeth, Hiawatha, Martin, Francis, Basil and the Baal ShemTov. I think my son will love the idea of studying heroes!

His second independent block, I plan to take stories from the Buddha’ Apprentice at Bedtime by Dharmachari Nagaraja. The book contains tales of compassion and kindness that teach the principles of the Eightfold Noble Path. The book also works on teaching meditation to children. Parks is working very hard to control his anxiety. For him, anxiety manifests in the form of anger and frustration. I am excited to bring some stories into his schoolwork that will assist in his control over his anxiety and to work on meditation..

Next he will work on geology and biomes with the other two kiddos. I do not have these blocks completely finished yet, so I will have to give you more input as time goes on. I am planning to do a joint block at this time based on previous years. I found that the time after the holidays is tough for us. Everyone has a difficult time getting back into the groove of school. Thus, if we work together then we can get more done.

His last independent block is on animal legends. in this block , I plan to read to use the Christophorus book on animal legends and the stories from Waldorf Essentials on Grandfather Frog. Finally, to finish out the year, we will work together on a physics blocks. Parks and Sawyer will focus on projects using the Earth, Wind, Fire and Air book.

In addition to his blocks, Parks will work on Teaching Textbooks level 3, Apples and Pears book A (he started this last year and will finish it this year), Growing with Grammar level 2, nature study and journaling.

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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New Blocks in the New Year

Well, the new year has begun with a bang!  This was one of those weeks that flew by in some ways and took forever in other ways.

On the academic side, each child is starting a new block.  Parks, first grade, is focusing on reading fluency.  Thus, he is reading a lot of fun stories including Fred and Ted Like Flying and The Bathtub Pirates.  He also is officially using a spelling curriculum.  He just started Book A of Apples and Pears.  Sawyer, third grade, is doing her last block on the Old Testament.  The Old Testament is not her favorite and she is ready to start a new block after only one week, so I am trying to get inventive for the next couple weeks to strike her interest.  Sims, fifth grade, started his freehand geometry block this week.  I am thoroughly enjoying the circles that we are doing right now.  This week has been a terrific introduction to circles and an intro into the vocabulary that will go with it next week.

On the extracurricular side, everyone’s activities are in full swing.  Parks started winter swim team, is finishing up his basketball season and continues with gymnastics.  Sawyer is performing this weekend in The Wizard of Oz at our local theatre, starting the gymnastics team at our local YMCA, and continuing to dance.  Sims continues with tumble and trampoline and gymnastics.  In between all of the running around this week, we did manage to get out and play in what was left of the ice.

Hopefully, we will get back into our groove soon.  This week felt out of sorts and crazy.


Inspiration through American Girl

Sawyer is working through the third grade curriculum from Waldorf Essentials.  So far, it has been a struggle for her to get through the material.  She is just not interested in the Old Testament stories or shelters (which you can read about in last week’s post).  Her lack of interest is requiring me to get inventive with the curriculum.  I like how Melissa Neilson keeps the curriculum developmentally appropriate.  the stories and the information in the curriculum is perfect for her age and developmental stage.

So how do I work the curriculum in?  Last week, I wrote about how I took her interest-birds- and made it about shelters.  She loved it.  In fact yesterday, we were out having a girls’ day and she was finding bird nests all over the place.  She was then looking around to see if she could find the various plants that the nests were made from in the area.

The main theme for the third grade of Waldorf Essentials is Judaism and the Old Testament stories.  She did well with the seven days of creation and with a few of the stories here and there.  She enjoyed learning about Israel, but the majority of the stories are not interesting to her.  I went to the drawing board.  She loves to read so I  thought about living books about Judaism.  Living books are a Charlotte Mason type of learning style that I find very effective when trying to teach an era or a historical lesson.

I went to the American Girl Book area of the library and found Rebecca.  Rebecca is a little girl close to the same age as Sawyer who is Jewish.  She lives in New York City during the early 1900s.  The series has six books total.  Sawyer reads the books aloud to me one chapter a day.  Everyday she begs to read more but I want her to actually absorb the information and sit on it for a night.  We discuss what she read the day before and then read through the next chapter.  The books are entertaining for her and meeting my needs perfectly.  Sawyer is learning the main components of the Jewish faith such as the Sabbath, Chanukah, Passover,  Bar Mitzvah and Rosh Hashanah.  The series tells the Biblical stories behind each special day in way that Sawyer didn’t even realize it.

At the end of each book, we discussed the Jewish tradition that was discussed in the book.  Sawyer is able to tell me the story behind each tradition and how the tradition is celebrated based on the books.  Amazing!  Unfortunately, we are through the books!  I am not sure what is next in the curriculum.  I will go back to the written curriculum first and give it a try.  However, I may have to get on my thinking cap again if it doesn’t go over!  Child interest in the subject is vital to making home schooling effective and manageable!


Waldorf Grade 3 Shelters

Last month, Sawyer completed her first block on shelters.  She was far from interested in this topic and wanted to research birds instead.  Well if you know kids, then you know it is best to just follow their lead sometimes.  I went to the library and checked out a tone of books on birds.  She read them and researched birds on the internet and loved every minute of it.

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Then I made the slip.  I found a book on nests.  Birds, Nests & Eggs by Mel Boring was perfect for what I wanted to cover.  The book covered where the birds lived and how the bird’s habitat determined what type of nest it would build.  She spent time attempting to make different types of nests.  She had a difficult time getting the nests to “stick” together.”  We all have a new appreciation for nest building!

Along with the bird books, I picked up a couple of books on Native American Shelters.  She loves to read, and she will read almost anything that I put out.  She read the two books that I picked up and immediately found the similarities between the Native American shelters and the bird nests.

We then looked at the Native American homes sheet from Montessori for Everyone.  Sawyer made a booklet out of the sheets and was amazed by the different shelters that people made.  She also made several connections between the tepees in the sheet and the tepees described in the book White Fang, which we are reading as a family.

Considering I was nervous about how the shelters block was going to work, the block worked out perfectly!

A Glimpse into the New Year

A beautiful sight

A beautiful sight

We started into the new school year this week. We are still quite into summer mode, but we are getting our feet wet with school work too. The kids checked out all of their new curriculum as it came in so there were no new surprises. Sunday afternoon, we went over some of the changes for this year.

1. Each kiddo will have a monthly work plan.
2. Each kiddo is responsible for documenting his/her work done during the day in his/her planner.
3. We will meet once a week to look at how each person is progressing on the work plan.

Beyond those few changes, everything has pretty much remained the same. We started Monday off by designing a cover page for the main lesson books and learning how to use the new computer. The older two kids are pretty excited to start emailing friends on their own accounts. So far the schedule is shaping up. We begin the morning at the YMCA so that I can get a workout in. I pretty much stopped exercising regularly when I began homeschooling. If you are new to homeschooling, I highly recommend that you DO NOT STOP EXERCISING! You really need that time to yourself to regroup each day. We started going everyday this summer and so far it is working well. They play games while they are there and have a quiet start to the day. We come home and get to work. Everyone has a plastic bin with books in it.

We are working in the kitchen for the most part. The kids move about the house throughout the day. Last year, the kids wrapped up most of their work before lunch time. Unfortunately, we are starting our school day later this year which means they will have to work some in the afternoons too. Hopefully, it will not be too bad. So far, they finish up their work while sitting at an activity. For example, Sims worked on his math while waiting on Sawyer and Parks at gymnastics today.

Grade 3

Grade 3

Grade 1

Grade 1

Grade 5

Grade 5

Sawyer working on the computer

Sawyer working on the computer

Of course this is only the first week. We will see how it all works out this year in the weeks to come!

Sims and Parks playing war to practice greater than and less than

Sims and Parks playing war to practice greater than and less than