Thursday, October 4, 2012


We started our new school year September 15th and it's been a bit of a slow start.  We have been in the midst of home projects (roofing, exterior/interior painting, interior construction) that did not get completed on time.  We spent a week doing school in our travel trailer and these last few weeks, working around construction & painting.  We are just now getting into the groove for the year and are happy to be settling back into the new schedule.

I say new schedule, because we have added Eric's Preschool work in four days a week.  We now start school between 8:30 and 9am.  I set my phone to a school bell alarm that rings at 15 and 5 minutes to 8:30 and it seems to be helping with keeping us on track for the day. 

Here is our curriculum and extracurricular choices for the 2012-2013 school year.

Ella: 1st Grade, 6yrs

Bible/Devotional: Grapevine Studies  
Art:  Monart

Extracurricular: Karate, Kidz Club (Church), Soccer, Swimming, Violin, Piano, Horseback Riding, Sunday School

Eric, Preschool, 3yrs

                                               Bible/Devotional: Grapevine Studies 
Math: Saxon K Math
Science: Sonlight A

Letter of the Week: All About Reading Pre-1

Literature/History:  Sonlight

Extracurricular: Karate, Kidz Club (Church), Soccer, Swimming, Horseback Riding, Sunday School, Violin

Our school room (Sunroom) has changed a bit from last year, as the kids are now older.  We replaced the rocking chair (which was just too small for the three of us now) with an extra large and comfy bean bag chair.  The kids love it!  Eric especially loves to dive into it each morning.

Our table (IKEA) now seats all of us comfortably and we have a rolling drawer cart that sits between the kids chairs as a divider.  They both like having their own work space next to each other and I like how I can supervise their work and help if needed.  It's much more functional having us all together now at one large desk.    I even added a turntable filled with all the essentials like markers, crayons, glue, colored pencils, etc.  This keeps everything within easy reach and easy to put away.

We have a smaller IKEA table we use for messy art projects.  I am always amazed how nicely the white top on this table cleans up, even after the messiest paint projects.  

The baskets on the floor contains all our "Sonlight" literature.  The kids love picking these up and reading at their leisure.  Many of these books, we've already ready through more than twice.  

Ella is still using the workbox system and I will be phasing in Eric's over the year.  This keeps Ella working more independently and allows me to spend some focus time with Eric in the mornings.

Prayers to everyone for a blessed and successful school year of fun and learning!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012


I spent 3 full days at the CHEC (Christian Home Educators of Colorado) Conference in Denver and took home more than I imagined.  This time I approached the conference from a completely different mentality, since we have been homeschooling for a couple years now.  I opened my mind to other aspects of home education, besides just the academics.  I was inspired by the speakers and felt like I was given a better vision for our children , an improved framework to build our school upon.  

"You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up." Deuteronomy 6:7

We will no longer just require our children to obey the Lord, but will remember that ultimately we are the example our children will follow.  We are the role models for our children first and foremost.  Our discipline, which at times felt like we were grasping at straws is now paramount in our homeschooling as we have approached compulsory "school age."  We can no longer spend our days fighting over getting the work done, it HAS to get done.  

This leads me to a new program called, Accountable Kids.

This program has been a huge God send!  This is the first positive reward discipline program we have found and the kids are doing very well with it.  

The  kids have a set of cards to complete morning, afternoon and evening (agreed upon tasks & non-paid chores).  They complete their chores and earn tickets when a set of cards is completed (possibly earning 3 tickets a day).  These tickets are now used for privileges (riding a bike, going out for ice cream, going to the park), showing the children that there are basic chores that need to be completed before we can go and have fun.  Tickets can also be taken away for bad behavior (arguing, complaining, hitting, etc).  It's amazing at how fast these tickets have adjusted our children's behavior and we no longer have to feel like the bad guy.  They know that their behavior led to missing out on a fun activity.  We love how many opportunities the program gives kids to earn rewards for positive behavior, such as the "Good Behavior Card."

When we catch the kids in a "Fruit of the Spirit" moment (showing extra kindness, love, self-control, being a peacemaker, gentleness, goodness, etc) they can earn a Good Behavior Card.  These are not given every time they exhibit such a behavior; however, at least weekly.  The child with the most Good Behavior cards can pick a special prize the whole family can enjoy.

Ella's face when she earned a Good Behavior Card for helping me when I had broken a glass bowel (she immediately grabbed a broom, lead the pets out of the way, kept little brother company and away, while I cleaned up) was just priceless.  She was so excited  that we recognized she had done something worthwhile and meaningful to all of us.  I knew right then, that we had found a discipline program that would work.

We have two more steps to really have a full program in place, including earning Bonus Bucks for extra chores completed.  The best thing is that the kids are excited about the program too!  They love the structure the program provides and the positive rewards that are given, but overall we love the new freedom it gives us to spend more time rewarding good behaviors and less time punishing the bad.  

We've enjoyed the program so much, we will be implementing this in our school day as school work is completed as well, utilizing the travel boards.

We decided these travel boards would be great too, while camping or on trips.  These allow us to maintain our regular routine and structure.  I'll update this post in a few weeks to let you know how we implement the program at "School" and how it has worked for us.  We're praying it works just as well.

This new discipline technique is more positive, rewarding and makes the kids accountable for all their actions.  We definitely think this makes for a good foundation for our children.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Summer Catch Up!

Summer is upon us and as many children have a two month or more break, our kids are still exploring and learning. 

Eric has grown tremendously in the past few months, not just in size and vocabulary.  He is becoming more focused and displays a strong desire to learn now.  He's willing to sit for longer periods of times and is requesting to do "school."  Our letter of the week, has been letters of the month.  However, he is definitely gaining ground on letter sounds and names.  He definitely knows their sounds better than their names.

Ella started her art class for the summer at Monart, which includes Clay and Drawing utilizing the Mona Brooks book method of drawing.

Ella really enjoys this class she has taken on/off , since she was 3yrs old. Her drawing our starting to really display her own style, as she experiments with different color and mediums.  She absolutely loves art!

Eric had a glorious time with Glitter for our letter G study.  

It came at just the right time as we were getting our Garden ready for planting!  The kids walk through our gardening nursery, like kids in a candy store.  The vibrant colors of all the flowers and the pictures of all the fruits and vegetables are just too tempting, as the kids made their their own garden.

Spring training came and went and Eric loved trying his hand at T-ball.  The sport definitely became a favorite, but will be exposing him to others during the years ahead.  

Preschool is often thought of the only place to learn how to take turns, follow directions, and listen to authority; however, we have the same outcome when we slowly introduce Eric to life outside of the home and in various activities.  Eric started a gymnastics class and is loving it, really building all those wonderful preschool social skills in a much smaller group setting.  I am always their to supervise and correct when needed. 

Even on vacation, school doesn't stop.  The world is our classroom.  On a vacation to Florida to visit family, the kids were enthralled with all the sea life that graced the ocean floor.  Ella encountered this beautiful sand dollar, still alive.  She opted to throw it back in the ocean, instead of taking him home.

While in Florida, we ventured over to Clearwater Marine Aquarium where Winter the dolphin was filmed for the movie, "Dolphin Tale."  The Aquarium was filled with educational opportunities for the kids.  We were able to tour many of the props from the movie set, as well as learn how some of the props were altered & filmed for use in the movie.

Of course, we visited Winter the dolphin (the highlight of the trip) and learned first hand Winter's story and triumphs.

We were amazed at just all the different types, textures, and sizes of shells.

Even more amazing was watching a sea turtle undergoing surgery for numerous tumors.  Being an active working marine hospital, we spent hours learn all about marine life in and the hurdles they face from man.  A true real life educational experience for everyone.

We spent some time at the Children's museum in Charleston, where the kids learned about dams and working lock systems.

Ella enjoyed playing cashier in their kid sized store, but quickly realized the computer system wasn't accurate in it's calculations.

The kids loved the fire museum in Charleston, learning about fire safety and the history of firefighting and fire trucks.

We arrived home and jumped right into finishing our study about the earth.  Our most yummy project yet, was our Rice Krispie treat model of the earth and it's layers. 

Eric made a huge leap in his learning these last few weeks.  He's recognizing letters in words and is quick to point them out.  The first time we heard Eric catch a letter, was during our study of letter H.  We were sitting at the breakfast table and he quickly glances up and shouts, "letter H!"  He had spotted the letter H in the writing above our front door which reads, "God Bless This Home."  

I was shocked and totally amazed!  This was the first time he had seemed to absorb and verbally dictated to me without prompting what he had been learning.  What a proud Mom I was, to know that it is all starting to "click" for him! 

Eric still struggles to form letters with pencil, but have found other ways to build his writing skills.  He often switches between left and right hand, but does seem to be left hand dominant.  We sometimes use fingers paints, as he does well with forming letters this way.

He is very precise in his dot paint and takes the time now to complete each letter.  No more flying through his dot paint letters with paint everywhere and anywhere.  

The kids had a fun time getting Daddy involved in building an Assyrian tower, out of legos.  The re-enacted the story of the conquering of Babylon by the Assyrians.  Eric always enjoys joining us for the history projects.

Eric took it upon himself to grab these playdoh tweezers and place his letter "I" parts in just the right spots on the page to form the letters.  What a great way to help develop his fine motor skills and pincher grasp for writing.  I'll have to remember this next time we're playing with Playdoh.

Notice how well he holds the magnetic pen as he moves the balls around the board.  He spent 15 minutes with me, taking turns and maneuvering the balls.

We've had this shape sorter for a couple years, it was gift from his Aunt.  He asked to put it together with me and as we played together, and we had lots of conversation about the different sizes of the cars and colors.

We are so blessed to be able to see all these learning moments first hand!  I don't have to hear about it at a teacher conference or from someone else, I am privileged to see the spark in our kids eyes, when they grasp a new concept.  During times of frustration and struggle, I pick them up and find new ways that will encourage and inspire them.  Never once, are our children left behind.  They are always top in their class!  Probably why our kids are so strong willed and confident, which shows in many aspects in their lives. 

Friday, March 9, 2012

Letter E - Eggcellent!

We embarked on letter E and had an eggcellent time!    Eric enjoys the dot paints,

but does tend to get a little excited and looses concentration after a bit.  It's all fun though!

He is doing awesome at tracing!  He was doing so well with tracing lines, that we have now advanced to more shapes.  He likes using the dry erase markers on the worksheets I print.  I put them in a page protector sleeve and it allows us to use them again and again.

Magnets are fun, but can be hit or miss with Eric. He will usually put the magnets on quickly and then turn them into snakes across the board.  

I had him put magnets on all the upper and lower case E's in the eggs, saying the E sound with each one.  

He really didn't want his picture taken, so he shared his "cheesy" smile.

Stamping the letter E, he really went to town with this. These stampers were a dollar at Target, so I couldn't resist.  The only problem is that they are so small, his little hands are always covered in ink when he uses these.

Eric had lots of fun with our letter E craft!  I found this idea from DLTK , we crushed up egg shells and glued them to the upper and lower case E's.  

The school room is fun, but getting our hands dirty in the kitchen is a blast!  We do lots of hands on learning too!  The kids love to cook with Daddy (the chef)!  We will work on their counting, measuring, and they learn how to read directions too.

Ella can read and make simple recipe's now from start to finish, while Mom and Dad help with any major heating elements. 

The kids had a wonderful time playing together with Insta-Snow !  We brought the sand/water table inside and filled it with "Snow" and the kids went right for it. I always enjoy watching the kids playing together, so nicely.  

A side benefit, the kids didn't have to put their snow gear on and freeze their toes off outside in this snow!  

We had a few snow days this month, as this month has turned into one of the snowiest.  Although, we don't have snow days, I do try to change things up a bit ever once in awhile.  Ella enjoyed trying Math-U-See's online drills, while Eric decided to play Starfall on the iPad.

Ella was working on weights & measurements this month, so we broke out the scales for the kids.  They compared weights with everything from bear counters to stuffed animals.

We created a nice little reading nook in our living room, which Ella absolutely loves.  You can always find her in her reading chair first thing in the morning, even before breakfast.  We have a small basket full of books right next to it and she just goes to town, reading to her little hearts content.

Ella is an avid reader, but spelling is another story.  We've struggled with finding a good spelling program, until we found All About Spelling.  It's a quick lesson each day, very hands on and great for kids who don't always like writing.  It uses letter tiles, but also has the kids spell the words as well.  It's simple to teach and so easy for the kids to grasp.

Some days we use the white board, or chalkboard to write and other days we use the iPad, utilizing the Real Chalkboard app.  We change it up, based on her preference that day.

It's so nice to have found All About Spelling, we are already finishing our last lesson in our 1st book this week.  We've decided to continue on to Level 2 and have ordered their new preschool reading program for Eric.  It's so multi-sensory in it's teaching style, I thought it would work well for Eric.  We'll let you know how our very active boy, likes it!  

Ella has spent much of February learning about Venus!  She loves science and I will often use it as a motivator to get some of her other (writing work) done.  The Apologia science books present such a refreshing hands-on approach to learning.  There are lots of activities and projects to complete, we just can't do them all.  We always try at least 1-2 and I imagine we will be using the books again when Eric is older.

Studying Venus, she learned that Volcanoes are found heavily across the surface of the planet. Our activity utilized flour and melted butter, to represent the lava that flowed.  We watched it cool and turn hard, just like the lava on Venus creating rocks.

She had the most fun, creating her own comic strip about Venus.  She usually doesn't like writing, but really enjoyed putting this comic strip together. (Double Click to Read)

We enjoyed a presentation with our homeschool group from SpaceTime ,  learning about NASA and how they prepare astronauts for space travel.  We even learned that they are building the first spaceport in New Mexico, where Ella is looking forward to visiting someday.  At the end of the presentation, he showed us how to make fizzy rockets and of course we had to give this a try at home.

The kids had so much fun with our rocket launch!  

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Diving In

Ella was chomping at the bit and ready to start back to school, after the holidays.  I was still finalizing some plans for the new term, but found a great app on my iPad called The ABC's of God.

The app has letter tracing, bible verses, crosswords and more and the kids absolutely love it!  Ella was even cheering Eric on, as he found different letters and traced a letter himself.  How wonderful to see them working so peacefully together!  Ella absolutely loves to teach Eric and is very encouraging!  It definitely helps that Eric adores his big sister!

We jumped right in after the holiday with a new school schedule and morning routine,

Our "Morning Board"

trying to make life a little more manageable as I fully integrate Eric into our daily lessons for Preschool and streamline some basic concepts for the kids.  Our new morning board has been a great way to start our morning after the Calendar.  We have a photo of our sponsored child from Compassion International, whom we pray for every morning.

We have math concepts that she is working on in Saxon 2 Math, Math-U-See & Classical Conversations such as Skip Counting, Making the Date with Money, Telling Time, Days in School, Graphing and Temperature.  We also have our character virtue of the week, from We Choose Virtues.  We introduce the weekly virtue at our Sunday family meeting, review the card each morning, hand out stickers for our 100 Days of Virtue Poster and have a memory song, bible verse, and poem to go along with it.

Our schedule resembles more of a traditional school now; however, we are flexible and do not always hold to it.  Usually, all gets done in a day, but sometimes we may choose a different order or opt for a field trip or more project based work and will have "homework" in the evening.  Ella doesn't seem to mind the homework and sometimes even asks if she can finish up her work later in the evening, which she is usually very diligent about (she's a night owl).

We have also added a School Room Job Chart for the kids.  They each have jobs they are responsible for during our school day and I rotate them through the week.  I'm not sure why I never thought to make one before; however, having both kids in the school room full-time definitely results in twice the mess.  This has definitely helped and the kids love having a special job for the day.

We are excited to have Eric even more involved with our daily schooling, as he starts a more formal preschool routine this term.  I tried a letter of the week curriculum a months ago, but he just wasn't ready.  He has matured quite a bit in the last five months and now shows a strong interest in writing, letters, numbers, and reading various books.  He has also mastered using the mouse on my laptop, so he is enjoying having more control over his learning and utilizing the Starfall website to help reinforce his learning.

We jumped right in with the letter D last week and he just soaked it up.  He really enjoys are songs and movement and by the end of the week he was recalling many of the songs by memory.

He even dressed up as a Dinosaur for his daily lessons, which he loved.

I found this great magnet, dot page, Dino printout from Confessions of a Homeschooler.  He started placing the magnets on, but soon found out that the magnets were attracted to each other. He ended up making a caterpillar with the magnets and had more fun playing, then actually doing this activity today.  

Eric did have fun dot painting his Letter D picture.  I tried to keep him focused on making "dots" for D, but in the end this is his piece of art and not mine.  He requested more dot painting, so I found more do-a-dot pages 

He likes stamping the letter D as well and completed all of these in one sitting.  Looks like a found a winner and remember this for next week.  I would always sit with him and review what letter we were learning, the sound it made, and name other things that began with the letter D.

We even broke out our Handwriting Without Tears Stamp and See Screen, so he could see how to build the letter D.  

He had to keep making it, to erase it and so it worked out.  He much preferred the erasing to the making.

He loved making this truck out of rectangles, as we also reviewed the shape of wheels and did some size sorting and counting here.   

I definitely have to switch gears with Eric and plan for activities that will keep him engaged, fun, and hands on.  He is very much a kinesthetic learner, at least for now.

Eric is definitely learning a lot watching and listening to Ella, being a part of our full morning routine.  The kids like working together and Ella will often help Eric or want to join in on our more "fun" preschool activities (songs, rhymes, play).  Many times during the week, I would glance over during a break and find the two of them sitting side by side and playing cooperatively.

"Moment to Remember"
We even have a few subjects that we try and work on together, like Spanish and of course the bigger projects within Science and History.

While Eric was busy working with the Letter D, Ella was hard at work in her studies.  She learned  about the Cod of Hammurabi and made her own set of rules to live by.  

We are working on 1 minute timed tests for our addition math facts, which she is learning quickly averaging 18/20 almost every time.  We use Math-U-See to help her visualize the facts and Saxon 2 Math to run through math concepts.   

She is starting to write full paragraphs now, so look for her posts at "The World According to Ella."  We have learned about the 2 point Expository Paragraph and will be writing daily now.

Ella's favorite subject, which she looks forward to daily, is Science.  Our current topic, the Sun.  We've been learning so many details, like the difference between revolve and rotate, Thermonuclear Fusion, the different eclipses, sunspots, and more.  We are wrapping up our study of the Sun this week with daily projects about shadows, light, and heat.

All this directed learning can get boring, so Ella will often pick up books herself on other various topics.  I found her just today reading a few of our Sonlight books about Weight and Pulleys ("How Do You Lift A Lion?"), "The Underwater Sea", and "Noahs Ark".  She is currently reading the chapter book, "Misty of Chincoteague" as well 

and has plans of getting her first pony at Chincoteague. 

Ella absolutely loves to read!  She definitely understand the power of books and even explained to her Dad that she enjoys using her imagination, instead of watching a movie.  She just gets lost in books for hours, something she could never do at a traditional school.  I am so glad, she has the opportunity to get lost daily!