Curriculum Choices

As we sit and wait for the hurricane I thought that now is as good a time as any to start blogging again.  I’ve been meaning to get back up and going especially since we started our school year.  And it seems the best place to start is with our curriculum choices for the year.   For those who homeschool maybe it will give you some ideas and for those who don’t, it might give some insight into what we do all day (since that’s a question I get asked by my non-homeschooling friends).  So far we like the materials we are using; most, though, are ones we’ve been using for years.  Some are really popular while others are off the homeschool beaten path.  So, without further ado, here is what we are using this year…

Religion–Seton’s Religion

I like that Seton’s religion program is concise while providing a solid Catholic foundation.  It has also helped us memorize our catechism and improved the girls’ reading.  We are also using the Virtues in Practice program from the Dominican Sisters of St. Celia.  It’s a free program that focuses on a different virtue and saint each month.  It helps us easily learn about saints and holy virtues.

 

Literature–Memoria Press

We are doing the third grade literature study from Memoria Press.  The novels include Mr. Popper’s Penguins, A Bear Called Paddington, and Charlotte’s Web.  I’m replacing Farmer’s Boy with The Courage of Sarah Noble since we haven’t started the Little House on the Prairie series yet and The Courage of Sarah Noble fits with our Social Studies curriculum.  Our current schedule has us finishing the novels before our year is over so we will either enjoy books of the girls’ choosing, continue our Shakespeare studies from last year, or jump into the Little House on the Prairie series.  We’ll figure that out when we get there.

 

Poetry–The Harp and the Laurel Wreath

A lot of our curriculum choices are inspired by the classical program put forth by Laura Berquist so it makes sense that for poetry we use her anthology.  Each morning we read and practice our poem until eventually the girls have memorized it.  After reciting their poem correctly for their grandparents, we move on to another one, usually completing a poem a month.  During the course of their memorizing, we also have many discussions about the poem, read other books connected to it, and complete a coloring sheet.  This is one part of our homeschooling that has surprised me by all the benefits and joys it has provided us.

 

Latin–English From the Roots Up

Also based on Laura Berquist’s curriculum, we are using English From the Roots Up flashcards this year to introduce the Latin and Greek root words so that when they officially begin studying Latin next year it will be easier.   Each week we add three new cards that we then review daily and regularly I’m giving them a quick, cumulative quiz.  So far the girls are loving this–learning a different language and getting to play with words.  I was surprised that they consider Latin to be one of their favorite subjects.

 

Grammar–Easy Grammar

Easy Grammar really is just that, easy.  We do about a page a day.  The lessons include good explanations and enough practice without overdoing it or giving busy work.  I especially like that it starts with prepositions and prepositional phrases before identifying the subject and verbs.  Makes it so much easier and will make diagramming sentences easier in the future.

 

Writing

This year we aren’t really using a formal writing curriculum but working on simply writing regularly.  While we have some materials from the teaching supply store, I’ve also purchased a few things from Teachers Pay Teachers and will be occasionally supplementing with Memoria Press’s Introduction to Composition book which parallels our reading program.  I’m trying for as many authentic writing experiences as possible, trying to connect our writing to what we are studying or experiencing in life in order to make it more meaningful.  We aren’t just doing formal writing assignments, but writing letters, journaling, and creating stories.  At this age, I want the girls to like writing and to develop into strong writers.  So our goals for the year is for them to enjoy writing and to be able to write clear, well written paragraphs.

 

Math

Math is another subject where we don’t have a clear cut curriculum this year.  We are taking a strong mastery approach.  While the girls haven’t struggled with math concepts, they have struggled to memorize their math facts.  I know this is going to continue to hold them back.  They were also getting frustrated and hating math.  So we have taken a step back from an organized curriculum to focus on learning all of our math facts.  We are using Xtra Math daily which does a great job quizzing the kids on their math facts.  We are also using our Math Wrap-Ups (but if you get these be sure you get the set with the CDs; if you don’t have the music they don’t really work), worksheets from education.com, and fun resources such as Fun-Schooling Math Mysteries and Practice Problems with Minecraft.  We started all the way back with our addition facts and will move through subtraction, multiplication, and division with fractions and balancing equations along the way.  By the end the girls will have mastered their math facts and will be truly ready to move on to higher level concepts.  We’ve already seen improvements but the best one so far has been that they are enjoying math again and regaining their confidence.  This was a hard decision for us to make (math was the one subject I said I would always need a formal curriculum for) but this is one of the many reasons why we homeschool–to meet our children’s own needs.

 

Science–Elemental Science, Chemistry

In addition to Laura Berquist’s book and approach, our homeschool is strongly influence by The Well-Trained Mind.  One thing I like about the classical approach is focusing on a different branch of science each year.  Instead of spiraling and covering the same topics every year, we rotate through Biology, Earth Science/Astronomy, Chemistry, and Physics on a four year track.  While I like what Susan Wise Bauer describes in The Well-Trained Mind, I didn’t quite like how she approached it and wanted more structure as well as more diversity in activities.  Elemental Science uses the yearly structured I wanted.  It also uses real books as opposed to a text and includes lapbooking and has easy hands on experiments for every week.  Basically, Elemental Science program has everything I want in a science program.

 

Social Studies–Truthquest

Truthquest is basically my Social Studies equivalent to Elemental Science.  While it offers suggestions for a spine the program is also based on real books.  For the most part it is a list of topics with book suggestions.  It also includes lapbooks, writing assignments, timelines, maps, and coloring sheets.  And most importantly it makes history fun.  What I also really like is that it starts with American history and it is so hard to find a classical, hands on program for American History for the lower grades.  So often the classical programs start with Ancient History which I think can be very confusing for young children–here is a totally different culture from a long time that includes a bunch of gods that we don’t believe in.  The reason the Greeks used to study Greek history first is because it was their history and they started with what they knew so to me it’s silly for us following the classical model to start with the Greeks when what we really should start with is our own history and culture, like the Greeks did, building on the framework that children already have.

 

Spelling–Spellwell

This year we are trying a new spelling curriculum and so far so good.  Spellwell is phonics based with each word list grouped according to a different rule or phonogram.  What we like is that each list is only 10 words long but there with spaces for me to add words to each week’s list.  I also like that the week starts with a pre-test so we can focus on the words they need to.

 

Handwriting–Abeka Writing with Phonics Cursive

The girls asked to learn cursive awhile back and it’s been great for them.  While they are still working on perfecting their penmanship, learning cursive early helped them get their b’s and d’s straight.  And while the curved lines and loops are easier for them than manuscript writing, it has helped their manuscript printing as well.  Currently we are using our handwriting book from last year.  In addition to the workbook, I have them write their final drafts in cursive but for everything else the girls can choose what style they want to use.

We are also using our Draw Write Now books every so often as further practice for handwriting, drawing, and our fine motor skills.

 

Art–Discovering Great Artists: Hands-On Art for Children in the Styles of the Great Masters

In the past we’ve just done art projects throughout the year.  While this was great when the kids were younger, it’s been really hit or miss so this year I wanted a more structured approach.  But not too structured that it took out the fun of art at this age.  We are doing an artist/project a week and just moving chronologically through the book.  It is exposing our entire family to a wide variety of artists and different techniques.  We tend to already have the materials on hand and the projects are fun.

 

 

So that’s what we are using with the girls.  We are also doing sewing and nature study but those don’t really have a curriculum.  And of course we also have our little man doing tot school but I’ll be sharing that along the way.

For my homeschoolers, what curriculum are you using this year or what do you love?

 

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Who needs stuff? Me! Our move so far…

Right now I am sitting here in a house with no furniture watching the sunrise and thinking about my family.  Yep, we’re in the middle of PCS-ing (military jargon for moving).  While it hasn’t been as rough as the last move, it hasn’t been easy.  But, then again, moving to another state rarely is.

We’ve been living out of suitcases for 3 weeks now and still have over a week before our household goods arrive so now we are “urban camping”—a catchy name for sleeping on air mattresses in your own home.  We’ve done it on both sides of the move now so I’m a little over it to be honest.  I’ve got one pot to cook in and we sit on the floor in the entryway because I don’t want the kids to sit on the carpet to eat and the kitchen isn’t big enough for all of us.   I’m tired of no comfy chairs to sit in and everything being in piles on the floor.  I’m tired of not having my own washer and dryer, especially when a child has an accident in the middle of the night.  You would think living without most of our belongings would make me a minimalist and my take-away would be that we don’t really need all that stuff.  But no.  I miss my stuff.  And you can call me materialistic but you are probably doing that from the comfort of your home filled with your stuff.

But most of all I am wishing I had my stuff because it gives us something to do.  It creates a flurry of activity as we unpack and get settled and I am anxious to do that.  Right now it is like the waiting place in Dr. Seuss’ Oh!  The Places You’ll Go!

…a most useless place.
The Waiting Place……for people just waiting.
Waiting for a train to go,
or a bus to come, or a plane to go
or the mail to come, or the rain to go,
or the phone to ring, or the snow to snow
or the waiting around for a Yes or No,
or waiting for their hair to grow.
Everyone is just waiting.Waiting for the fish to bite,
or waiting for the wind to fly a kite
or waiting around for Friday night,
or waiting, perhaps, for their Uncle Jake
or a pot to boil, or a Better Break,
or a string of pearls, or a pair of pants
or a wig with curls, or Another Chance.
Everyone is just waiting.

We are stuck in this limbo where we can’t quite start our new life but we’ve left our old life and we just wait for them to hopefully bring our home to us.  Personally I find it hard to be motivated when living out of suitcase.  And all that waiting and unsettledness gives time for all the different emotions that come with moving to bubble up to the surface.  Especially for the kiddos.  They swing wildly from being madly excited and enthusiastic to crying their eyes out at missing “the best people I’ve ever known.”   Yes, that is a direct quote from my seven year old daughter.  Adorable.  And heartbreaking.

Yes, we moved with an inflated balloon. Because a friend gave it to her and how do you tell this face no?

It is so hard to tear your kids away from the life they know and love.  And even harder to do it more than once and know that it will happen again in the future.

People not in the military are fascinated by this turn of events.  They can’t believe that the date for delivery was changed by over a week, that our stuff isn’t coming when it was supposed to, that we are left with no belongings and trying to make do.  They are outraged on our behalf—especially my parents which makes me feel warm and happy inside.  (The best was when my mom insisted that obviously a man came up with this system because a mom would never have it work this way.)  My military friends commiserate but know that this is par for the course.  This is just kind of how it works.  And so we are left waiting.

But at least we are here in the waiting place together, right?

Ed is on leave (silly us thought he would be helping me unpack right about now) so we are left with an overabundance of family time.  You would think that we would be off having great adventures–we’re trying, but, well, remember when I said it was hard to be motivated when living out of a suitcase? And so we just spend time together: reading, playing games, exploring locally, and laughing (yes, we laugh a lot, even when things aren’t going well, perhaps especially when things aren’t going right).  And while it would help my kids to settle in if they had their own beds filled with their stuffed animals and treasures, I think that at the end of the day they will settle in just fine just having us—seeing that we can do this as a family, that we enjoy our time together, that we make the best of a bad situation.

Eventually we will have a home filled with our belongings, ringing with noise, busy with our schedule; but for now, I will strive to enjoy the quiet and the waiting and the time we have together.  Even if it’s not what I planned.

 

Holy Week Activities

As we start the holiest week of the year, I wanted to share some of the activities we have planned.  All of them are quick and easy to put together (because that’s kind of where we are at in life right now) so even if you’ve waited until the last minute to try to do something for Holy Week, have no fear.  Just click the pictures for links to the directions and activities.

Holy Week Wreath

Wee Little Miracles created this beautiful wreath to tell the Easter story.  I had seen the same Oriental Trading activity she mentions and wished to do something similar but the author Erin did such a fabulous job, why reinvent the wheel?  Click the picture to visit her site for all the directions, downloads, and more great ideas.

 

Cross and Crucifix paintings

Last year we painted cross paintings that were beautiful and easy to make.  We simply made a cross on the paper using painter’s tape and then painted water colors over the cross.  We did this with another family.  Some of the kids chose to add words with crayons ahead of time; others simply painted around the cross.

So of course I can’t find any pictures of our beautiful crosses.  I’ll keep looking and update when I find them but in the meantime, imagine a white cross on a page of beautiful watercolors….

 

Similar to our cross painting, Do Small Things With Love has done a watercolor crucifix painting.  This week the kids get to choose which one they would like to make.  Just click the image to visit her page.

Easter Egg Printable

We created this printable a few years ago when our girls were little.  Now we have our son who has gotten old enough to make the Easter Eggs so they are back in the rotation again.  You can find all the directions here.

Hot Cross Buns

This Good Friday we will be enjoying traditional Hot Cross Buns.  On Friday we will simply score the buns with a cross as we will be fasting, but any buns leftover will be getting yummy icing cross for Easter.  Catholic Cuisine has a great recipe along with historical info about this Lenten treat.

 

Stations of the Cross

This is one of my favorite parts of our Catholic faith.  I love the Stations of the Cross.  Really, I love Good Friday.  Maybe that’s not quite the right emotion or not the right way to say it.  But I just love so many people coming together as a group to mediate on the sacrifice of our Lord Jesus, walking in his steps on the road to Calvary, venerating the cross.

It does get hard to keep the little ones quiet and focused during the Stations, however.  My go-to is coloring books of the Stations so that they can follow along while also staying occupied.  Here are a few different ones–just click the image to visit the different sites.

From Catholic Playground:

From St. Anne’s Helper (a great site for Catholic printables):

From Catholic Mom: Stations of the Cross coloring pages

 

And if you need help getting your kids into the Stations of the Cross, check out the Lego version here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bs5Z8TAVoGg

 

Happy Holy Week everyone!!

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Inaugural Bingo Board

The peaceful transfer of power is a hallmark of our country and on Friday we get to watch it once again.  I personally am excited and will be watching it with my children and friends.  In order to help my children get the most out of the event and keep their attention, I created a bingo board filled with questions whose answers should appear during the Inaugural coverage.

If you prefer, I also listed the questions in a simple worksheet with lines for the answers.  And I made an answer key if you don’t hear the answers or want to check yourself.

Inauguration Bingo Board

Inauguration Worksheet

Answer Key

 

 

A Lesson in Thanksgiving

Two years ago we were spending Thanksgiving in the pediatric intensive care unit.  Mia fell down and then suddenly had a huge hematoma.  Before her eyes we watched her body be covered in unexplained bruises and dark red spots.  At the hospital we found out that she had no platelets left.  Over the course of days they diagnosed her and worked on treating it.  This all happened the day after we arrived at our new duty station.  So we found ourselves with a sick child in a new city CAM00167with no friends or family celebrating Thanksgiving and just being grateful that our children were alive and we were together.

And so at this time of year when we are being grateful for our blessings, I think back to that scary time and to the lessons I was reminded of during it…

I am thankful for my faith.  Riding in the ambulance with lights flashing, Mia looked up at me and said, “Don’t worry, I’m not scared.  I know that God is with me.”  And she was right.  As our minds started to fill with panic our hearts were filled with faith.  God doesn’t make us sick and He doesn’t necessarily heal our body, what God does is walk beside us, loving us, giving us strength and preparing us for the way ahead no matter what it might be.

Our brave patient with her best buddy

Our brave patient with her best buddy

And I am thankful for the love with in our family.  Zoe would not leave Mia’s side.  When they wheeled Mia up to her room, Zoe rode next to her hugging her.  She laid in her bed, played with her, brought her food, and cried when Mia screamed in pain.  She was everything a sister could be.  I am proud of both of my daughters.  And I am proud of the family we have created and the love we all share for each other.

I am thankful for our friends and family, for all those who love me and love my children and love my husband.  People may be far away at times but our lives are filled with loved ones who will pray for us during our sorrows and celebrate with us during our times of joy.

And I am thankful for the generosity shown to us by both friends and strangers.  That Thanksgiving one of the doctor’s arrived with his family and a Thanksgiving dinner for us.  It was an act of such pure kindness I still tear up thinking of it.  But I am grateful not just for grand gestures like that, but for every time a stranger held the door open for us, gave my family a smile, picked up a dropped cup.  People are kind and we need to remember that.

I am thankful that my daughter is healthy again, yes.  But I am also thankful that our family survived the challenge and that we have learned and loved through it.  It has been a reminder to me of all that we should truly be thankful for–faith, love, friendship, and kindness.

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