At the Convention

We sat through a lot of sessions and all of us learned a lot. And also got some silly pictures in. The treat was hearing Andrew Peterson sing on Thursday evening and hearing him speak on Friday morning. The most we saw of Cincinnati was the rooftops of several beautiful buildings near the parking deck.

The kids were thrilled to meet some new authors but also one that was familiar to us.  S. D. Smith wrote a book about rabbits with swords.  I grabbed it up for free on the kindle, read it to the kids aloud, and we were hooked.  We highly recommend The Green Ember and the whole series!  Seriously…rabbits…swords…who could lose.

Large Family Lesson Planning

It only took seven years and six kids to get in to a groove in lesson planning.

Before I tell about how we do things, I will say several things.  I know full well that this planning is not for everyone. With Emmie’s trips to the doctor and our adoption, it has become absolutely necessary for me to plan out a good amount of school.  Yes, it is a lot of work.  Six kids.  All different grade levels.  All different abilities and learning styles.

But this is how we make it work.
IMG_20151010_151707667_HDR I start by planning nine weeks at a time.  That way I can get in our full 180 days of instruction (that our state requires for homeschoolers even though other kids are only required to attend 170 days).  The best way for me to do this is to take a couple of days when Mark is off and run.  Run, far away.  Okay, not really.  I go to Panera and sit and work.

I can only imagine what I look like with books spread all around me and buried deep in one book or my laptop.  The thoughts in those employees heads when I walked in trying to carry all of my books, laptop, and purse because the handle on the book bag just plumb broke from the weight of knowledge.

Anyway, I like to use Google docs spreadsheets because I can access it anywhere.  Each week gets it’s own sheet.  Each kid has his/her own section with our group lessons on top.  Each kid section has subjects listed out and I go from there. IMG_20151010_151712807 After I plan everything out on the computer, it’s time to get the hard copies in order.  Each week is a stack of papers and I use color tabs to separate each kids’ work and then clip them all together with binder clips.

This usually is a week long process since our school table is also our dining table and is usually occupied by a kid or two at any given moment of the day.IMG_20151010_151719391 IMG_20151017_231353400

And then, the glorious end.  When I can sit back and stare at our great accomplishment.  Another nine weeks ready to be consumed by eager minds ready to learn (that sounds so much better than reality).

Yes, time consuming upfront, as I said earlier.  But it has saved us a ton of time week to week and has helped us stay on track.

School is in Session

Technically, we started school in July of this year.  However, I didn’t get “first day of school” photos until August so here is my school post for this year.  Disclaimer:  I did not receive any compensation for mentioning the following products.

Everyone is working on:

Mystery of History Volume 1-We have already done this volume but took a break last year for American History.  This year, we’re back at it.

Exploring Creation with Botany-I’m not going to name names but there were a few groans about studying plants.  Needless to say, when we started breaking out our Nature’s Workshop Plus Botany Lab Kit, the groans ceased.

Math Mammoth-While I still love Life of Fred, I’ve noticed that the kids seem to not have enough drill and thereby are falling behind on several math skills.  I was able to purchase Math Mammoth through the Homeschool Co-op at a great price.  So far, I like it and it seems to be helping the kids catch up to speed on all things mathematical.

I have very good intentions to add some dication in there as well…Good intentions.

She has a lot of good books to read this year and some she has already read.  We’re focusing this whole semester on getting through The Lord of the Rings and subsequently watching the movies as a treat.  This book has provided a lot of great opportunities to discuss various themes throughout literature as well as looking at how our beliefs influence our actions and in Tolkien’s case, his writing.

IEW Rockets, Radars and Robotics-Yes, there’s some technical in this, but there is also a lot of fun creative writing.  Okay, I say it’s fun creative writing but the kids just make faces.  And for even more added fun, I’m snagging essay contests as they come across my email.  They are jumping for joy.  Zoe and Ace are both doing this.

Spelling Power-We continue to trudge through this curriculum and we usually do it once or twice a week.

Winston Grammar-First Language Lessons did an amazing job setting a good foundation in grammar that following up after that has been hard.  Winston Grammar has worked out well in that it takes a different approach (labeling versus diagramming) to identifying parts of speech and after completing it and the Advanced, she will be completely done with grammar.

His reading list is different than Zoe’s but other than that, we are using the same curriculum as she but on a different level.

He is learning cursive this year!  I know that it’s not common to teach it but since so many fonts are in cursive nowadays, I find that teaching how to write it also helps to learn to read it.

Building Spelling Skills-Every super hero has a weakness and spelling is Liam’s.  As a decent speller, it is  hard for me to accept but he is working hard at it and appears to be doing well on grade level.  This curriculum is a little slower paced and repetitive enough that I think it is helping in the spelling area.

First Language Lessons of the Well-Trained Mind-Liam is doing a great job with this curriculum this year.

Again, different reading list.


He has his own reading list as well and is continuing on the same curriculum as Liam but only at a grade level below him.

Ceili Rain:

My newest student is working in Abeka Phonics and Saxon Math K.  She has two sidekicks (Bryant and Malachi) who enjoy the lessons as well.

And now for the obligatory first day of school pics:

Project Fair 2014

This year’s project and performance fair was quite different in that I was the coordinator.  And 38 weeks pregnant.  It was very busy but not too stressful as we had an amazing team working to bring it together. I made mistakes, sure, but if I continue next year I’ve definitely learned from it.
All of the kids (even Malachi) performed “Holy, Holy, Holy” with handbells.  I thought they did an amazing job.  But, since all seven performed, that meant Mark was up there nudging the littles when their note came up, and I was directing (on the floor…pretty impressive to say the least) and no video could be taken.  Perhaps some time later we can get a good video.  I would like to be a bit more diligent in practicing so that we could go places and minister to others with them.
Here’s what the kids chose to do for their projects:

 Zoe had a Little House cookbok and since the Little House series is one of her favorites still, she chose to pick several recipes out of it to share.  She made hardtack, johnny cakes, apple turnovers and strawberry jam.  I didn’t try the hardtack or johnny cakes but the turnovers and jam were delicious.

 Ace and Liam made a volcano!  Mark had fun with this one.  Ace researched Mt. Vesuvius and Pompeii and Liam did research on Mount St. Helen’s. Big props to Storm the Castle.  If you want to find any “crafts” boy related (think trebuchet, catapult, hidden blade…you know weapons crafts), this site is definitely the place to go.

Josiah decided to showcase Fifi the Rabbit.  We have a book on rabbits and Josiah found a lot of useful information in it, however, he can’t type and to write it all up would have taken quite a bit of time.  So, two days before the fair, I realized that doing a lapbook would work much better.  Professor Google to the rescue!  With lapbook located and clock ticking Josiah went to work.  He was very diligent and he loved showing off our rabbit.  It’s a Lion’s head rabbit that friends gave us when they realized their new yard was too small to accommodate her.

Photo Op

A home school day at the lake turned in to a photo op for my adorable little ones.  The older kids were too busy being “anti-social” to take pictures (playing games like four square and skipping rocks with friends kind of anti-social).

 If I keep smiling, she’ll never know I just ate a leaf.

 Josiah is refusing to dress like it is fall. 

 Hands down, Malachi is Ceili Rain’s favorite person right now.  Do ya’ll remember Elmira from Looney Tunes?  Well, it’s that kind of favorite.  Bless him, despite all she puts him through he still smiles and laughs at her.  I think he either forgets that she carried him by his toes all around the room or he’s just letting off that nervous “don’t come near me” laugh.

 I scored some cute rainboots for Bryant for $4.  He had to wear them.  They take up almost all fo his foot.  And make him look 10 billion times as cute as he is.  Especially when he has a stick for a sword.

 Oh, back to me…okay, time to ham it up!

The little kids with their little friends.  They explored, pretended and romped around until we finally had to tell them it was time to go.

It’s All Greek to Me

Every year, our city has a Greek festival.  Since the kids are learning Koine Greek, I thought they would enjoy seeing a bit of the Greek culture (in America, but it’s still Greek nonetheless).  I was right, they did enjoy it. The folk dancing was good but the baklava was better!  They didn’t enjoy the soulouvakia or the gyro (Mark and I did though).  

We got a variety box of pastries.  Otherwise, we would have been trying to pick something out all night.  Baklava was the favorite.  I wish I could tell you the names of all the pastries but I really can’t pronounce any of them (right now).

Now, that day, we were planning on leaving a bit early to go to the festival because they were offering tours of the Greek Orthodox church and since we had studied a bit about the Greek Orthodox church, I thought they would enjoy seeing one in person.  We got ready to leave and I noticed that Ginger (our dog) was not outside.  I called her.  The kids called her and we could not find her anywhere.  We concluded that she slipped out as I was loading up the van.  Thus commenced a two hour search for the dog.  I even posted on our neighborhood facebook pages that we were missing our dog and for people to be looking for her.  I had given up all hope as the kids and I trudged along walking trails and up the road (we were only walking for about 30 minutes.  We drove most of the time).  Mark made it home while we were walking and did another search of the house.  He found her.  Hiding in a corner of the girls’ closet, snoozing.  Zoe and I both looked in there and never saw her. 

Depsite our afternoon adventure, we had a wonderful time at the festival.

My 15 minutes…

Where I talk about being organized and homeschooling…ha.ha.  Right now we’re not so much organized…but that’s a whole ‘nother story that I will share very soon.

Anyway, head over to The Old Schoolhouse Magazine and see what I had to say!   Stephanie Green is a local journalist who I’ve had the privilege of being interviewed by on multiple occasions.  She’s such a sweet persona and I do so love talking to her (yes, she did misspell my name, but then again, who doesn’t?).  So, when she called and asked if she could interview me for the homeschooling magazine that almost all homeschooling geeks moms know about…well, I couldn’t pass up a chance to chat with her.

Oh, and Ceili Rain is in there too.  And I still can’t believe how much she’s changed in less than a year!  By the way, those pictures were taken when Malachi was in utero…hence the big belly and all!

The Futur(ity)

We had the opportunity to attend The Futurity for the first time this year.  Usually, it falls on a day/week/month when we are traveling (I know…stand back in shock).  But, this year it didn’t.  Wondering if it has to do with a little one who is baking away in my belly. 

And since I know everyone knows what the Futurity is, I won’t bore you with details.  Okay, I’m kidding.  We really had no clue what we were going to until we actually went.  It was a field trip of sorts and an extremely nice gentleman met with all of us to explain what we were actually going to see.  So, here’s the lowdown that you can just skip if you already know what it is.

The Futurity is a week long cutting horse competition held every year in our town (okay, it’s a city).  Cutting horses are trained to cut away a cow from a herd so that he/she can be treated, branded, or just looked over.  They were used primarily out west (which explains why I never heard of it.  I believe my granddaddy, daddy, and uncles just used a barricade of sorts to brand the cows…yes, my granddaddy was a cattle farmer and my uncle still is).  Anyway, while the cowboys were out on the “range” so to speak (I feel myself turning more country as I type), they got bored watching cows eat grass and whatnot.  So, they started competing to see who had the best cutting horse.  This naturally grew in to a big competition with big prizes.

Now, this is a horse competition.  So, what happens is, the cowboy or cowgirl rides in, picks out a cow from the herd and gets her singled out from the rest.  Then the cowboy or cowgirl relaxes her reins and the horse takes over.  And that’s the amazing part, to see these majestic animals do what they are trained to do with little to no involvement from the rider.  It was also fun watching some of the riders because, well, some of them were big ol’ boys!    Each horse gets about 2 minutes to cut away a cow.  And all of us totally loved it.  Mark swapped his regular off day to go with us and that was such a blessing!

Of course, our resident animal lover was beside himself!  Horses and cows everywhere.  He was saying “Horsie, Cow, Moooo!” almost the entire time. 

The John Deere tractors on display were a nice treat too.

 This is for my niece J, it was really neat to see several girls/women who were riding horses competing.  Their horses scored very well too!

 Still loving it!

*And since this was a field trip, most of these pictures were taken by the kids.  In all, they took over 100 including some of someone’s shirt.  I pricked some of the best to share though.

A Day in the Life, Homeschooling 2011-2012

It seems that every minute of every day we are reworking our schedule but the big overhaul comes when we start our new curriculum.  So, here’s how I homeschool all of this bunch AND maintain a resemblence of  sanity.

Breakfast time:  Before I got pregnant my goal was to have breakfast on the table at 7:30.  Now, we’re blessed if it gets there by 8.  And no one is complaining.  The first rule of the day is GET DRESSED.  That was taking up the biggest chunk of our morning.  Getting dressed after breakfast would consist of me telling, disciplining, telling, discipling, yelling, and finally they would be ready for the day.  Now, every one is dressed and ready to go when we sit down at the table.  Which turns out to be a good thing because at breakfast is when we start school.  After I finish eating we crack open the books and they are free to continue eating or to sit still in their seats and listen and comment when necessary. 

At breakfast we do Bible, journaling (we have one family journal and everyone contributes what goes in), History, Science, calendar, and poetry (for Liam but everyone listens).

After breakfast we do quick chores including brushing teeth, putting away laundry, emptying the dishwasher, sweeping and mopping, dressing toddlers and brushing their teeth (those are my chores).

Morning time:  Zoe and Ace work on their schoolwork.  They each have a checklist that they run through each day and then we go over their work as needed.  I work with Josiah, Ceili Rain, and Liam through their school work.

Lunch:  After I finish eating lunch we read, I select one fiction book and one non-fiction book.  Right now we are enjoying The White Knights by W.E. Cule and The Adventure of Missionary Heroism by John C. Lambert.

Afternoons are reserved for playtime outside, rest time, and finishing up any work that had not been completed in the morning.  As the months go on, I’m hoping to work with Zoe on teaching her how to sew and learning stitchery (her choice, not mine).  The boys listen to our daily Bible reading in the afternoons and Zoe will read her Bible first thing in the afternoon. 

And that’s how we do it.  It sounds simple when I type it out but if you were to come to my house you may find a two year old looking for someone to play with, a five year old who is hanging upside down reading, a seven year old who is looking for an excuse to stop working, an eight year old who is tolerating the distractions and doing her best to finish her work, and a four year old who is playing with trains.  Oh, the one year old is still taking naps in the morning and when he’s not doing that he’s usually running around the house with a ball.  Trust me, there is order even if my house doesn’t look like it.  I think.

This is How We Do It…Homeschool 2011-2012

Yep, another year is upon us.  Actually, it’s already started.  To keep sanity and limbs from being lost, we continued on with school in June and July.  Now, lest you think I’m a homeschool nazi, we did not do that much school.  If you’ll remember June was the month of strep which carried over into July and crossed over into pregnancy blahs and friends visiting.  So, all total, we may have had school for possibly twenty days total.  So, don’t judge people.  It was for my own sanity’s sake.

Anyway here’s what we’re up to this year:

All Ages:  After reading A Love that Multiplies by Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar, and listening to my children yell and scream at each other, I decided that memorizing Matthew 18 would be a great place to start our Bible time.  We are through to verse 23.  As we memorize, we are also discussing what it means.

After we finish Matthew 18 we’ll start into a more structured Bible time from Lamp & Quill.  I’m looking forward to this curriculum as it is written for all ages from Bryant all the way through to me.  We should gain a lot out of it.  Of course, this does not and will not replace our family worship time during the evenings.  This is a little extra that we’ll be doing along with that and our daily Bible reading (we’re reading/listening through the Bible chronologically)

Language Arts
Pre-K/K:  I rebelled this year.  We’ve stepped back from Abeka and are now trying Institute for Excellence in Writing’s Primary Arts of Language (PAL).  Can I just say I love it?!  We started this month and the first month is very teacher intensive.  Knowing this, I was glad we waited until the others were set on their routines.  We’re almost through with the most teacher intensive part and we should be heading towards more learning independence.  Liam is the primary student for this with Josiah and Ceili Rain playing the games and listening in at times.  This is right up Liam’s learning alley because it moves quickly from one activity to another.  So, it holds his attention and he’s starting to read at a slow pace.  This PAL program includes both reading and writing and will include spelling later in the year.

2nd Grade:  Primary Language Lessons by Emma Serle-I used this last year and enjoyed the easy pace of it for Zoe.  So, it’s nice and easy going for Ace who doesn’t seem to want to go too fast.

3rd Grade:  Easy Grammar: Grade 3-Zoe seems to be picking up on this and she’s getting her daily dose of grammar without her head exploding diagramming sentences.

2nd & 3rd Grade (Writing):  Institute for Excellence (IEW) in Student Writing Intensive Level A (SWI).  Last year we used Writing Strands and having never taught writing, well, it didn’t go so well.  Zoe and I survived, barely.  We got the Teaching Writing Structure and Style (TWSS) and the SWI.  The TWSS really is a teacher prep course and I have to say, I am prepared!  We’ve been doing this through the summer and it is going so much better!  Zoe is getting it and so is Ace.  Ace will go through the first two units while Zoe will complete the whole level (this was per the conversation I had with the IEW people at the convention).  I can see her brain starting to work and realize that she can enjoy writing!  One of the best things about IEW is that if you purchase your material from them and are not fully satisfied at any time you can return it! They also have a great yahoo group which offers super support.  And, if you’re not sure where to start your child, request a catalog and there is a grade graph showing where to start what and when.

2nd & 3rd Grade Spelling:  Spelling Power-We used this last year and given Zoe’s test results last year, we’ll continue with it.  It’s simple and takes about five minutes a day and includes everything I need from grades 2 through 12th grade.

PreK:  Saxon Math K-Josiah will start this.  We are waiting to start until we get a good routine going for our PAL program.  Once that is set, I’ll start it.  I’m in no rush although Josiah’s doing a great job with his critical thinking skills.

K:  Saxon Math 1-Liam started some of this during the summer but when we started up PAL, I decided to put it on hold until it gets more student independent.  At five, Liam can’t really take a full day of mommy’s attention focused completely on him.  I can totally understand.

2nd & 3rd Grade:  Teaching Textbooks 3-This came after a bit of a struggle last year.  Zoe was ready to move a faster pace than Ace.  Ace needed more reinforcement of some concepts but could move on, although more slowly than Zoe, onto others.  They had started out on the same math because I learned a year too late that Saxon Math is usually set at a grade below what it’s actually teaching.  So, much research was involved and we felt that Teaching Textbooks would be the way to go.  It gives Zoe that independent and quick learning that she needs and allows Ace to practice and re-practice, if necessary, concepts he can’t quite get.  It also gives me a break from having to instruct daily math (at which I’m not very good at) lessons for older kids.  All the lessons are included on the software.  They get about 30 minutes a day on math and at the end of the day, I review how they did.  If they didn’t do too well, I can erase the lesson record and they are required to do it again.  There have been zero tears of the math lessons although the fact reviews have brought a bit of tears.  With this being our third month, Zoe is on her third of four Cds, which means she is more than halfway through with the lessons.   When she finishes, she’ll start in the Life of Fred series.  She’s super excited about this as we’ve already done quite a bit of research on it!  She’ll pick back up with Teaching Textbooks when we start the next school year (can’t have her get too ahead of her peers now can we???)

All grades:  Mystery of History Volume II-I’ve scaled down my expectation on history and we are still loving this curriculum.  Zoe and Ace are continuing to work on Memory Cards with it and we are including a geography lesson (that is included in the back of each week’s lessons) with it.  It’s awesome and we’re now studying my favorite part of history…the Middle Ages.

All grades:  Apologia Science, Zoology 1, Flying Creatures of the Fifth Day-This has been a great text so far.  Included with several of the Apologia Science books are journals.  We are using the journals this year and it’s been great to have everything we need right there.  Incidentally, if you are using Apologia Science the best place to get lab kits (with all the stuff you’d spent a week collecting at various stores) is Homeschool Science Tools.  It’s also the cheapest.

Other stuff
Zoe is taking dance.  Ace is doing something else, but we’re not sure what.  They are all doing gymnastics (it’s a homeschool gymnastics that meets twice a month).  Zoe and Ace are both still doing piano although Ace’s may change after this winter.  We’ve got handbells and art and other fun things to do in case they finish the above and are board.  We also are planning on expanding our missions work around our area.  The older kids are getting older and we’re all learning that we need to show Christ’s love to those around us.  I’m looking forward to opportunities to do that!

I will also say that almost everything we are purchasing now or have purchased in the past is non-consummable, or is in ebook form so we have the rights to print off as much as we need for the time we use it.  A lot of what we purchased this year was a bit expensive but taking into account we’ll not need to purchase as the next child goes through it, well, it gets cheaper as we go (and the more kids we have).  And that’s one of our minor goals!

So, stay tuned for tomorrow, when I’ll let you know how we do all this during a day.  Well, at least how we’re supposed to do all this in a day.