Letter of the Week fun!

Okay, so, I know I just posted a bit earlier today. But I have to post again, because I just paid for and downloaded the K4 Expansion Pack for the Letter of the Week program offered at Confessions of a Homeschooler, and I am totally loving it! It’s absolutely perfect! A few of the sections are a little too advanced, and a few involve lots of the letters, so I’ll want to save those for a bit later. But that’s perfect, because that means that we’ll have some room to grow with this pack. And there are some things that are oh so perfect!

One of them, for instance, is the vowel blends worksheets. There are a bunch of worksheets with little pictures of objects/animals (and the pictures are really cute and absolutely clear, by the way). For instance, the first picture is of a fish. Then next to the fish are the letters “i” and “o.” The worksheet asks the student to circle the vowel sound they hear in the middle of the word. Later worksheets have, for instance, a picture of a box, and then “bo” and “bi,” and ask the student to circle the vowel blend they hear at the beginning of the word. These are really perfect, because they’re exactly what Emily needs. She’s right in-between, where she basically knows all of her letters and their sounds (minus a few, and she needs to learn how to write them correctly), but sounding out an entire word is a bit difficult for her. She can pronounce each sound separately but has trouble putting them together and remembering the sounds long enough to even try. So I think these will be very well-suited to her.

So my current thought is to maybe do a bit of a redesign (again!) of our little schedule over the next few weeks, taking out some stuff and working in these activities. We’ll continue to match the letter of the week (and the appropriate expansion pack) activities as we progress through the Code books. Once we finish the Code books and move on to the other parts of the Language Arts program and Handwriting, I’ll put in the activities the deal with the whole alphabet, maybe with a few other favorites interspersed. It should be a lot of fun! I’ll try to take pictures.

I just finished prepping the “M” letter stuff for tomorrow. I had to color in some of the activities with marker (because we only have a black and white printer), but they turned out remarkably well. So I have lots of activities ready to go, and we’ll fit in as many as we’re comfortable with, then save some for the next day. I can’t wait!

We had several odds and ends on our back deck from when we moved here. A small spare trash bin, some plastic tubs, a plastic writing table (the kind you would sit on the floor to use, with pockets on the sides for crayons/markers), and an extra large and deep paper tray (pink). So I rescued the writing table and the paper tray, washed them, and they’re finally dry and ready. The writing table I gave to Elisabeth, and she’s been using it for her drawing today, so she seems to like it. The paper tray is going to hold each day’s collection of books and activities for school. I can get it ready and loaded the night before, so when it’s time for school I can just pick it up and move it wherever I need it. Awesome. I’ll even try to put games, activities, and school supplies in it, so that we don’t have to hunt for them when it’s time.

Oh. And Amazon is the best place (well, better than the craft store) for buying Velcro dots. Just in case anybody else goes through them the way I have been lately. 🙂


New homeschool stuff!

I discovered a really cool new homeschool blog, Confessions of a Homeschooler (confessionsofahomeschooler.blogspot.com). I’m really loving it! Not only is the blog fun to read (the entry about “Teeny Tiny Tot School,” you can’t help but laugh), but she’s also got some really great tools! The “Letter of the Week” activities look totally awesome, and now she’s got a K4 add-on that is an extension of the same activities. I’m seriously thinking about redesigning my little planned review of preschool so that I can incorporate these activities. They’d go really well with our letter learning from Get Ready For the Code. They do both letters and numbers, and the activities look really fun. Unfortunately, we don’t have a color printer, and it would be prohibitively expensive to print everything at a copy shop. Nonetheless, I’m thinking about trying them in black and white and see how well it works out. It won’t be as brightly-colored and fun, but it might be well enough. And I could possibly print in color just those things that really require color. So I’m pretty excited about trying a few of these things. I might drop out some of the books I was planning for us to do and do more of these activities as well. We have plenty of time, after all. Also, I think that these will be even more useful for Jenny in a few years, as I’m planning to combine Jenny and Charlotte in the same year of core for Sonlight, so while I’ll let Jenny do math and reading and such on whatever level is appropriate for her, I’ll also be stretching out the books some to keep her busy until Charlotte is ready to join her. So interspersing with some other activities would be great.

If you’re interested in the Letter of the Week stuff, she’s currently running a contest to win the K4 Expansion Pack. So check out confessionsofahomeschooler.blogspot.com and enter to win!

A pretty typical day

Nothing too extraordinary today. We didn’t really get around to morning school, as we went grocery shopping. I went to a different grocery store today, one of those ones where you can get a scanner thing that you carry around the store and scan your items as you bag them yourself. I liked it! Will definitely be going back. I need to plan my trip better, though, with the store sale ad and coupons and such.

Anyway, we did get in a bit of afternoon school. Some reading and a bit of work in “Get Ready For the Code.”


Yes, that’s chocolate around Emily’s mouth. I’ve been trying to cut down on treats lately, having snacks be fruits or veggies, etc. But I do usually allow them one treat snack (fruit snacks, graham crackers, cheese sticks, etc.) a day. Emily asked if she could have a piece of fruit in the morning and then have pudding after lunch, so I agreed.

Then, after we read a book called, “The owl who was afraid of the dark,” we made an owl craft.

Also, I’ve been working on the girls doing chores more regularly. I liked an idea I read in a homeschool magazine about short, 10-15 minute chores in the morning, afternoon, and evening. So I’m starting that (no afternoon chore for Jenny as she naps then). I created a chart with pockets for each time period, and little chore cards that I can put in the pockets to tell them what chore they have in each time slot.

The three girls’ names are across the top, Emily, Jenny, then Charlotte. I cut that part off because the names I use here are pseudonyms and I’d rather not give the real ones. Anyway, Emily is first, so she has chores in all the slots. Jenny has all but afternoon, and Charlotte, being only 7 months old, has none. I’ll put the chore cards in the time slot when I want them to do that chore, then when they finish each chore, they get to move it to “done.”

And now that I’m finished, I’m rather exhausted, so I’m vegging out for a few minutes, then going to bed. Good night!

A picnic and a calendar

Two quick pictures for you, as it’s a bit late.

First, we didn’t really do much school today. We hit the craft store this morning for foamboard and superglue… foamboard was on sale, so I bought a ton! Be prepared for more foamboard creations in the future! Then we read a book about having a picnic, and we had a picnic ourselves outside. This is the best picture I managed to get of it. All the children are at least looking in the general direction of the camera and nobody is making a disgusting face, so that’s something.

Next, this evening I finally mostly finished the calendar I’ve been working on for Emily to learn her days of the week, months of the year, and in general to get a sense of time. It also has weather and temperature and clothing. It will also have some little square to put on the calendar boxes with activities that she does on various days, like dance, AWANA, church, etc., but I haven’t finished those yet. She can use it as it is for now, and hopefully I’ll get those finished tomorrow.

Name Change!

I decided that I really don’t like the pseudonyms I’ve been using for the kids.  So, starting now (I’m going to go back and edit old posts gradually), the 4-year-old shall be known as Emily, the 2-year-old as Jenny, and the baby as Charlotte.  Sorry to confuse!  I originally picked names that I thought would be easy to remember based on their real names, but really I didn’t really like the names much.  Hence the change!

We played hooky from school yesterday.  🙂  We went to the indoor playspace instead.  The girls spent some time climbing on the play structures, bouncing in the bounce house (just Emily, for some reason Jenny doesn’t want to go in), and, mostly, in the art area.  Emily would have been happy to spend hours coloring and painting.  The paints were a special treat because we don’t do painting much at home.  And these weren’t regular cheap kid watercolors like we have, they were nice (acrylic?) paints.  I’m somewhat astounded that nobody ended up with paint on their clothes.  They did have smocks on, but still.

Today we’re back on our normal schedule for school.  Plus I promised Emily a picnic, we need to clean the house in preparation for an inspection tonight (long story), and I need to go to the craft store and get more foam board for…

The calendar!  I’ve been making a calendar for the girls (mostly for Emily) to start to learn the days of the week and months of the year, plus to start to get a sense of time.  So it’s going to have a section at the top where it says: “Today is THURSDAY, APRIL 7, 2011.  The weather is <picture of sun> and COLD.  We wear <picture of coat, picture of pants> outside.”  Where the all caps words will be separate pieces of foamboard that will Velcro on, so that they change daily, and the parts in < > will be foamboard pictures with the words written smaller below.  Then the bottom half is a calendar with the days of the week written across, then six rows of seven days with little pieces of Velcro in the corner to place the numbers appropriately.  And then each day will have two little pieces of Velcro to fit two small pictures to show activities that we’ll be doing (dance class, AWANA Cubbies, Papa nights, church, etc.).  It’s been a lot of work but fun to make.  I’m pretty close to done (I have everything cut out but the weather symbols and the activity symbols), but I’m out of Velcro.  So today I’m going to get more foamboard from the craft store.  I want to make a separate piece of foamboard that will have all of the days and months shown in order, and we’ll pull the current one from it.  So it would say, for instance, “Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday                            Friday Saturday.”  So then tomorrow, Emily would pull off the Thursday and put it back, then grab the Friday.  She’d get used to seeing the days listed in order and getting a sense of where we are in the week and in the year.  At some point I’ll make a separate chart with seasons.

I also used one sheet of foamboard to make an alphabet tree.  The tree is construction paper, and we’ll put foam letters on it each time we’re learning a new letter, until we have all 26!

I’m also planning a new system of chores.  We’re going to try doing a short chore three times a day.  Morning chores for both girls, with no morning snack until the chore is complete to my satisfaction.  Afternoon chore for Emily before she can have her afternoon snack.  And an evening chore for both girls on days when our evenings are free (not on dance class or Cubbies nights, or evenings when we have something going on).  So far it’s been working fairly well.  The first day, Emily picked up the laundry in her bedroom and Jenny put toys from the living room into a box (to be transported into the playroom).  Emily folded pants for her afternoon chore, and there were no evening chores because of dance.  The second day, Emily’s morning chore was to pick up toys from the bedroom and put them in a box.  Jenny unloaded the kid dishes from the dishwasher.  And Emily helped me pick up her playroom and put things away as her afternoon chore (Cubbies in the evening).  Their chores really helped, and each chore was something they could do relatively independently, which means that the chores actually made it easier for me to get things done.  Yay!

My plan is to have a chart where each girl has a little pocket for morning and evening chores (and Emily has a pocket for afternoon chores) and then a pocket for “Done.”  I’ll set them up the night before, and then in the morning they can check the pockets to see what their chores are that day, and as soon as they’re done a chore they can have the satisfaction of putting it in the done pocket.  I’ll use a picture to represent the chore and write the name of the chore underneath.

So, Seth and I have been talking a bit.  And we’re strongly leaning towards being done having kids (at least biological ones).  We have three beautiful girls.  And while we’d initially talked about having four, there were certain practicalities that we didn’t really know about at the time, like the fact that the minivan can only really fit four carseats.  We want to make sure that we’re able to foster or adopt a few more kids in a few years.  We don’t want to have so many biological children that it becomes no longer possible to adopt or foster, or that it limits us too much.  So, it looks like we may be done having babies.  We haven’t decided for certain, but we’re definitely leaning the way.

It’s strange to think that things that Charlotte has grown out of, I won’t be using again.  So far everything has gotten three uses.  I feel like I’m probably supposed to tell myself constantly, “This is my last baby.  I need to enjoy her while I can!”  She’s really approaching my favorite age for babies.  I love it when they can sit and crawl and play with toys.  Even though they get into so much trouble!

I’ll admit that I feel a sense of relief, though.  Imagining last summer, when the kids were 3 and 1.5 and were so independent and played so well… I could be there again next summer, but this time not near the end of a pregnancy.  I guess that now that we’re getting into homeschool, I’m ready to move on to the next period of parenting.  It will be so much easier to homeschool if I don’t have a newborn or baby to work around.  And I’ll be able to concentrate on it so much more.  I’ll also be able to plan better for the future, not having to worry about where a new child will fit in.  Of course, while we could *intend* to be done having kids, God of course sometimes has different plans, and we’re aware that there aren’t any guarantees.  If He does decide that He wants us to have another even if we plan not to, we’ll happily accept.  But we just won’t plan one ourselves.

The Three Little Pigs

So, I meant to pull out the camera and take a picture or two of us doing school today. I forgot. Of course, it wouldn’t have done much good anyway, as today’s activity wasn’t so much of a hit, and it would be hard for me to take a picture of myself reading on the couch with the girls! 🙂 Although I may try to take such a picture tomorrow, just for fun. I’d like to start talking a bit more about school and including pictures on this blog.

Today we read several of the “Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!” books and another Mo Willems one, then watched the Scholastic DVD that went with the stories. Then we read yet another version of “The Three Little Pigs,” and a book called “The Cherry Tree.” Emily can now do the whole “Little pig, little pig, let me come in!” “Not by the hair on my chinny-chin-chin!” “Then I’ll huff and I’ll puff and I’ll blow your house in!” section by herself, which probably means this story has been covered sufficiently. 🙂 The activity was a series of coloring pages for her to color and put in order, then staple together to make a book. She liked doing that for Goldilocks, and was interested at the start, but she just didn’t seem to get into it today.

She also dragged a bit with today’s assignment from “Get Ready For the Code” because it involved more writing than usual, probably because we’re finishing up a letter. I was really glad for my box of “silly things” to keep her going. Each time she does a section, she gets to choose a piece of paper from the box with a silly activity on it for her to do. It really keeps her going.

We also took Charlotte to get her six-month shots (yes, she’s seven months old… oops), and I managed to scrub the kitchen floor. And that’s about all we managed today.

Tomorrow is “Good night Gorilla” and “If You Give a Moose a Muffin” and some other good ones, plus an activity of making “Good night Gorilla” puppets that I think she’ll enjoy.

I’m up to the end of Week 4 (we’re currently on Week 2) with planning activities. Everything else is done, I just need an activity (usually a craft) for each day.

Sonlight’s new website is supposed to go live tomorrow (was supposed to be today, but of course such things never quite go as planned!). I can’t wait to see it.

Two days in one!

Today was a little… weird.

I got started really late. And I mean really late. I think I was getting my shower at 10am. I’m not really sure how it happened exactly. I woke up around 7:30, I think, but didn’t get my shower before I needed to start getting Charlotte ready for her nap… and then by the time she was in her pack ‘n’ play it was 9, and she wouldn’t go to sleep and just kept screaming… So, yeah. Late start.

I had planned to take the girls to the library and Charlotte to get her 6-month shots… (yeah, she’s 7 months old now, oops). But once she finally went to sleep, she slept until 12:30 and that was out. So maybe tomorrow.

So we didn’t start morning school until maybe 11am.

The odd thing, though, is how productive we were. We actually did almost 2 days’ worth of school (minus the handwriting, which we didn’t get to). Not only that, but Emily did about a week or more’s work in her numbers workbook because she loves it and just wanted to keep going. So we read two days’ worth of stories, did two days’ worth of matching activities, etc., and we even read a few of her phonics books, which wasn’t on the schedule.

Then we made paper dolls. First she wanted help cutting out bears so that she could make Goldilocks and the Three Bears paper dolls (we read that book yesterday). Then I found a template online (http://lds.about.com/cs/ldsclipart/a/paperdolls.htm) and printed them out. I cut out the dolls and two dresses, and then I had to get some other stuff done. She ended up cutting out a bunch more dresses and coloring everything beautifully. She had so much fun. It was very cute.

Then I got the dishes done, table cleared, counters sprayed, dishwasher run. Cleaned the playroom and organized some things that are always all over the place into nice neat bins. Put a ton of stuff into the attic. Picked up the living room. Swept everything. Did some laundry. The house was actually fairly clean by the time that Seth got home at 4:20.

And I’m sort of… mystified. Some days we start at 9am, we do one day’s worth of school, and I can’t manage to do the dishes. So what happened today? Seth’s theory… time turners. Hmm.

Anyway. So, I’m not as thrilled with my little makeshift program as I would have liked. I found this website that recommended some nice picture books (http://www.homeschool-curriculum-for-life.com/picture-storybook-reviews.html) for homeschooling preschoolers. And honestly, I’m just not liking most of them. They aren’t classic picture books, they’re just… favorites of one particular family, I guess. I don’t really like “Stories For Me.” I think it’s had one story that I thought was worth reading. The rest are just eh. The story about Dooms was okay but a bit long and just didn’t capture Emily’s interest. A Winter Story and a Spring Story were really the only two that we’ve liked much so far. I’ll look forward to when we finish the stories from that website, though. I found a lot more on http://childrensbooksguide.com/top-100 , and they seem to know what they’re talking about, as I’m familiar with a lot of these books from my time as a librarian. Definitely classics. A lot of these are also on Sonlight’s curriculum, which is reassuring! So I’m just going over the ones that Sonlight doesn’t cover.

So we’ve just started our second week of interlude before we start the second year of Sonlight preschool, P4/5. I’m so excited! I had to put the books in the attic just to keep myself away from them. We’ll have a lot of fun this fall, though!

One thing that I may be shooting myself in the foot with is starting Handwriting K and Language Arts (LA) K already. It just seemed silly to wait until P4/5 or even A (they renamed the core curriculums, so instead of K through 7 they are now A through H) to start learning letters when she already knows most of them. And I wanted to do handwriting as well because Emily writes all the time, and she forms a lot of her letters wrong. So I wanted to get her writing them the correct way if she’s going to write them anyway. However, since she’s young, my solution was to alternate days. One day of handwriting, one day of language arts. And I think that, despite everything, it will actually work out well. A 36-week schedule of each will take 72 weeks to complete at the half-rate of alternating days. So my 20-week interim schedule plus the 36 weeks of regular school will leave me with 16 more weeks of them at the end of the year. And since I’ll probably want to do another interim schedule before starting Core A, it should work out really well. I could also start doing them every day at that time if needed, so get them done in 8 weeks. So I’m hoping it won’t end up being a problem.

One thing I’m doing with the language arts, though, is skipping the book “Language and Thinking For Young Children.” It’s a nice book, but it’s too advanced for where Emily is right now. While she knows a lot of her letters and their use of the book “Get Ready For the Code” and introducing a letter a week is fine (even a little basic), it also has lessons like learning the “30 Days Has September” song, and… she doesn’t even really know her days of the week, much less the months, and she doesn’t understand her numbers well enough that the 30/31 days in a month thing would mean anything to her. Etc. I might do some lessons and skip others, as some are things like fables that she’d probably find interesting. I’m just hoping that skipping this book won’t be an issue in the future. It looks like it’s covered in Core B, where it’s optional, but I’m not certain if they cover the exact same things. I emailed a curriculum adviser to ask (it’s so awesome that they have curriculum advisers on staff! I wish I could do a live chat, but their hours for that are only during the day and I tend to be busy with the kids then).

Oh, and don’t worry. I’m making a calendar for her, so that she can start learning the days of the week and months of the year. She’s just not there yet.