Friday, December 30, 2011

Christmas "Break"

December roles around and somehow the structure of our school day goes out the window and in comes our time to break free from the textbooks and the confines of our school room.  Sometimes, it's nice to just let learning come naturally.  Many might disagree with our approach, but sometimes the best learning isn't done in a classroom at all.

We may not have opened a textbook in a few weeks, but  there is still lots of "schooling" going on.  Ella received the "Draw, Write, Now" series for her birthday and she is enjoying drawing and writing almost daily and without any prompting.  

Not to mention all the "Thank you" Cards she has been writing from her birthday! 

She received a Math Shark game for her birthday as well and continues to play, practicing her math facts (without the moans and groans).  Ella consistently loves to help in the kitchen and can follow a recipe as good, if not better than some adults.  She measures, pours, adds, subtracts, divides, and multiplies all without opening a textbook.  

We decided to try a new advent series this year, called "Truth in the Tinsel." 

 I heard about it just a few days before Advent, so didn't have all the necessary crafts ready to make.  However, the kids absolutely loved making crafts daily. 

 I have to admit it became cumbersome between all the birthday and holiday activities.  Next year, I am going to plan in advance and think we'll get even more out of this wonderful book of simple crafts with the kids.  I really enjoyed reading and discussing the full story of Jesus's birth.

Ella was so thrilled to receive a DVD bible for Christmas, 

along with many of her favorite books.  She has been reading non-stop and her reading skills continue to exceed my expectations.  

She's blowing through her Magic Tree House books and can read & comprehend her book in 2 hours time.  Amazing, that she can sit and read for so long at just 6 years old!

As for Eric, he has been singing his ABC's around the house, loves decorating sugar cookies and picking his colors (he knows all his primary colors now) and counting from 1-10 in Japanese.  Yes, Japanese!  Ella taught him how to count in Japanese, since she has to count in Karate class.  Eric has also been helping with the cooking (learning to count, measure, and follow directions) 

and loves to just play with his big sister.  I am so glad to give the kids a chance to really learn to cooperate with each other and learn to get along in spite of their differences.  

Even when they are playing freely with one another, I will often see Ella reading to Eric or singing with him.  He absolutely loves his big sister!

Well, as you can see Christmas "Break" is in full swing.  We've turned the lights on this holiday, but will continue letting our kids shine all through the coming year.  Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to All! 

Friday, September 23, 2011

It's "A" wrap!

Eric is really enjoying his "school" work!  He is really discovering books are his friends and requests to read books often now (not just tractor books).  His favorite this month is "The Three Little Pigs."

He enjoys re-enacting the story with Ella, pounding on her room door. "Little pig, little pig, let me in!"  It's so cute!  Ella likes to play along too, shouting (No! No! I will never, never, never let you in, not by the hair on my piggy little chin!"  It's so fun to watch these two go back and forth reciting the book.

I often find Ella and Eric throughout the week, sitting on a chair or sofa together with a book or two.  Just reading!  Ella really enjoys sharing her favorite past time with her little brother.  It just brings so much joy to know they are sharing the love of books together.

We finally wrapped up the letter A, by making a tissue paper apple tree.

We took our time counting all our apples on the tree (math), pinching all the tissue paper to make the apples (fine motor skills), and talking about trees (science).  He had lots of fun with this project.

Ella received a "Rainy Day" project book from Chick-fil-A when she was little, which has a great recipe for making clay we can bake and paint.  Ella made lots of different shapes to paint (ladybug, snake, and a panda bear).  I decided to make the letter A for Eric to paint.

While Eric and I are often busy in the mornings, working one-one with each other Ella is working on some of her independent studies (math, handwriting, reading).  However, sometimes she breaks away from the books and picks an activity instead.

She loves to make necklaces and bracelets with these wooden beads.  It works her fine motor skills and patterning as well.  It's all in the name of learning!

Pinto beans work great for pasting!  They look like little ovals, so what better to use for outlining this big oval!

Ella is absolutely loving her "A Reason for Handwriting" workbook and often requests to do more than what I request.  The end of each lesson, she writes an entire bible verse on a handwriting sheet with a picture she enjoys coloring.  These are great for giving to friends and family.

We are starting our memory work in Europe.  Ella has learned the major rivers, countries, and cities in Europe and can easily point them out on a map.

We're moving quickly through our memory work, as some of this was review from the end of last year. We have memorized our times tables through the 8's, history sentences up to the Hundred Years war,  and so much more.  She is like a sponge and can recite and remember information quickly.  I've created a sticker chart for her, so she can track her progress and have some extra motivation to learn.  The power of a sticker is amazing.

Ella wrapped up her Math-U-See Primer book a few weeks before I anticipated.  She worked so quickly, once she saw we had new books waiting in the wings.  She was motivated!  

I had her take a placement test for Saxon Math and Math-U-See and was surprised to find out, she's an entire grade level (almost 2 grade levels) ahead.  She was two questions shy of moving into Saxon 3.  The Saxon 1 books I had already purchased just wasn't right for her.  I decided to save those for Eric and had to purchase Saxon 2 instead to review more of her math facts.  She will be flying through Math-U-See Alpha too, as we work through the math facts in this book as well.  A strong foundation and knowing her math facts will really help her later, so I decided to not skip these levels, but imagine we will move rather quickly through these books.

Ancient History and Egypt is really coming to life in "The Story of the World" series.  Ella is learning all about Egypt and the life of the Egyptians.  We even made our own little Nile River.  A little potting soil, rocks, and grass seed and *poof*...the Nile River!
The Nile River floods every year, making the ground more fertile.  So, Ella flooded her Nile every week and the grass grew around the River.  She had lots of fun watching the grass grow.  The rocks represent the Pyramids of Egypt.

Ella sporting the crown after the unification of upper and lower Egypt by Pharaoh Menes.  

The kids had lots of fun creating their own clay cuneiform tablets.  We used the same clay and bake recipe to create these little masterpieces.

Science has taken a detour as I came across a wonderful lesson plan for an upcoming movie release called, "Dolphin Tale."  The movie is about a dolphin named, "Winter."  Winter looses her tale in a crab fishing net and learns to swim with a prosthetic tail.  Through the Homeschool Movie Club we were able to catch a free preview of "Dolphin Tale."

 Ella absolutely loved the movie!  I asked what she loved about the movie and she replied rather quickly, that she loved ALL of it!  I learned there was an entire Science Curriculum put together for this movie through the same movie club and quickly downloaded it.  We have been studying dolphins, the ocean, and many other marine biology topics.  We will spend the remainder of the month on "Dolphin Tale," then continue on with our Astronomy studies.

I am learning to remain flexible in our studies.  Our lesson plans change, almost on a daily basis.  However, we are always learning and are so blessed and thankful to have this time with the kids.  We wouldn't trade it for the world!

Friday, August 19, 2011


This year we have changed up our curriculum a bit, as we start to figure out what works and what doesn't for each of the kids.  Luckily, I only have two children to consider.  However, I am quickly finding that what worked with one does not always work with another.  This year we have officially included Eric in our homeschooling journey.  I wasn't sure how I was going to manage both kids, at such different stages and still needing some quality time from me.  However, to my surprise it's actually been very successful and works out wonderfully!


Ella is officially of Kindergarten age, 5yrs old!

Although, we are still wrapping up a few texts from last term we are moving rather quickly.  We should be into our new curriculum by September.   We have expanded our curriculum this year, as Ella has progressed through her studies.   Here's the game plan for Ella this year....

Math: Math-U-See AlphaSaxon Math 1
Science: Apologia Exlporing Creation: Astronomy
Writing: The Complete Writer: Writing With Ease, Lvl 1
Literature: Sonlight, The Complete Writer, Unit Studies, & Read Alouds with Mom
Shurley English Level 1 
Art:  Monart

We have already been hard at work for the last couple weeks, slowly integrating our school schedule back into our daily routine.  Ella is really enjoying our new History book.  We have been learning about the difference between history and archeology.  We created our own family tree, 

Ella Marie Swift's Family Tree

In addition, she created this family history journal.  She has been interviewing us & her grandparents to learn more about their lives as well.  It has been very eye opening for her to learn that we didn't all grow up the same way and that she is part of a much larger family.

The History of Ella's Family
We often struggle to get some of our more basic subjects done; however, I have learned that if I set a timer she can work extremely fast.  I usually have to keep on her to get her math work done and it can take from 30-45 minutes; however, I set the timer for 10 minutes one day and she whizzed through it.  She picks up on new concepts fast and wants to just move on.  However, repetition and a good foundation in basic facts is key to upper level math.  So, we continue on with the basics.

Working on her Math
Ella is so excited to start her new curriculum, it's such a motivator for her to see the books sitting on the shelf just waiting to be opened.  We look forward to learning so much more this year!

Eric is 3 yrs. old  
He is a bundle of energy and enjoys being engaged, so he is very happy to be doing "school" with us this year.  The best part about homeschooling is having Ella be able to also encourage and help Eric with his activities.  We try to keep all the learning activities fun, engaging, and short (no more than 15 minutes).  Reading is the exception. When we sit and read, we will keep on reading until he decides he's done (lately, he'll sit for 30-45 minutes just reading different books from his Curriculum).  Here's what we have planned for Eric this year:

Bible/Devotional:  Positive Action Bible Curriculum, ABC Bible Verses
Phonics/Math: Sing, Spell, Read, and Write - Preschool , Letter of the Week
Reading:  SonlightBFIAR, Lots of Read-alouds with Mom & Ella

He's really enjoying the one-one attention and being included in our school day!

Eric's Learning Board from "Letter of the Week"

Ella helping Eric with Letter Recognition

Ella & Eric working on their Spanish Lesson

Little Picasso's

Dot Painting The Letter "A & a"

Coloring our 1 Red Ripe Strawberry
A typical day for us, well no day is exactly alike.  However, we do try and set a routine.  We start with our Bible Lesson/Devotional at breakfast, then after we're all ready for the day head to the school room.  We  talk about the weather, calendar, and have a time to read together.  Ella then moves on to her independent work (workboxes) and Eric and I continue reading, until he's had enough.  Eric and I move on to his guided learning activities, when Ella usually asks to help or join in.  Ella jumps back and forth between Eric and her workboxes, but eventually gets all her independent work done before lunch time.  

Once Eric goes done for nap, after lunch it's time for Ella and I to go through any remaining workboxes and new learning she has for the day.  Typically, we start at 9:30, take a two hour lunch/quiet time break, and we wrap up by 3:30.  A typical day for us is about 4 hours, half the time it would take in public school and no homework to finish at night.  This also leaves us more room for extra curricular activities.  We do have a rule though, if her school work doesn't get completed during the week, then she has to get it done on Saturday and doesn't get to enjoy her other activities.  It's great motivation for when she doesn't want to work.

This year Ella will be continuing her music studies with Piano, which she is doing very well at.  I believe her class will be picking up Guitar this year as well.  She is starting Karate two days a week to help with focus, self-control, and coordination.  She will continue Horse back riding, as the weather permits as this is truly a relaxing and rewarding activity for her.  A new Christian worship dance class every Tuesday and Homeschoolers PE Class every Friday, will keep her well exercised and provide a social outlet too.  

Eric will be doing more independent classes this year, as he turns 3 in October.  We will be enrolling him in a Gym Class and Art Class once a week.  We are contemplating a swim class for both Ella and Eric in the winter too.

We tried to workout a well rounded set of activities for the kids, knowing that we can tailor it down as needed.  School comes first, so all of Ella's activities are in the late afternoon (with the exception of PE on Fridays) to give us enough time to get things done.  Ella has been really good about getting her independent work done during Eric's morning classes, while she sometimes has to wait for us.  

I am so glad we have all this flexibility in our studies, activities, and home life.  The kids are provided with such a rich and well rounded education!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

A New Year, An Old Story

The children are screaming and running through the house, yet the sun has barely had a chance to catch it's breath of morning air. The children are in their breakfast smeared PJ's and resisting every move I make to try and turn them into civil and obedient little citizens. Finally, I grab each one by the hand and lead them up the stairs. One by one they get dressed, brush their teeth, comb their hair, wash their oatmeal smeared faces, and even help to make their beds. I rush them downstairs, but out the door we don't go. Instead, we gather into our beautifully sun filled school room.

Ella's Desk & Workboxes

My Desk & Eric's

Children are no longer screaming, faces are eager to learn, and a rocking chair for the three of us to cuddle on awaits us. 

Reading Chair

 The kids quickly fight for a spot on my lap, luckily the chair and my lap are big enough for my two little ones now 5 and 2. Despite the initial opposition, we are ready to begin our school day.

Life in our house is a little different, as our kids aren't shipped off at the end of summer to the "magic" school bus or the big brown building down the street wondering with uncertainty and a bit of nervousness what each day will hold for them. They have security in knowing that our school house is in a place of love, respect, and in a house that love's the Lord. "Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it" Proverbs 22:6

So, we begin again. A new year, but an old story of the end of summer.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

"Brown Bear, Brown Bear"

Tot School
We had a great week as I introduced Eric to "Tot School."  This is fun activities with a purpose.  Eric has showed a real interest to books lately and wanting to "read."  I thought it was about time we started some real basic preschool activities.  We spend about an hour in the morning with Ella as my helper.  She will often read the books to Eric and help with the games.  This is a great character builder for Ella, as she learns to be a role model for her little brother and encourages her to take on a leadership role.

We started the week with "Brown, Bear, Brown Bear" by Eric Carle.  We read through the book each day and worked on animal and color recognition.

This "heads and tails" game was lots of fun.  Eric enjoys matching the animals and making funny new ones.  He practiced animal names, colors, directional attributes (behind, in front), and animal sounds.

I initially intended this dot paint sheet to be brown dots, but since we didn't have the color brown I thought just the dots itself was good practice for his fine motor skills.  He did really well at covering all the dots neatly.

We experimented with water colors too; however, he had more fun just playing with the water.

His favorite activity this week, was this color match sheet.  I used M&M's and had him match the colors as I had him say the color and animals, placing the M&M on the correct colored animal.  This was also a lesson in patience, as he had to wait, until all the animals had an M&M and I called on the color before he could eat them.  He asked for this activity every day, wonder why??? :)

We worked on matching this week as well, with this shadow sheet.  He enjoyed this activity and did very well!

Another fun game, sizing the "Brown Bear."  Not only did he size the bears, but he had to feed each bear a Cheerio (one-one correspondence).  Of course, once all the bears were fed he had a snack of his own.

I picked up this stacking, shapes, and sorting toy at "Tuesday Morning."  A great find that keeps him busy for quite a bit, while Ella and I wrap up our morning Bible time.

I am grasping Eric's learning style and really enjoyed the time with him this past week.  I am still learning how to incorporate both children at times, but really enjoy seeing Ella work with Eric as well.  Eric impresses me with what he already knows and I'm starting to make note of what we need to work on as we prepare for Preschool next fall/winter.

Monday, February 28, 2011

A New Way of Learning!

A couple months ago I received an email in my inbox about a program in Castle Rock (about 20 minutes from Parker), called Classical Conversations.  I knew a little about Classical education, from reading A Well Trained Mind a few years ago (when I first started thinking about homeschooling).  I was intrigued and attended an informational meeting in January.

I was completely amazed at the information the children were learning - the Classics, the fun ways in which it was taught  - music and movement, and the complete nature of the program - developing a WHOLE well rounded child through a classical method of teaching.  This was an answer to a prayer!  I had been struggling and wondering if I was covering all the right material, finding outlets for the children to meet others who homeschool on a routine basis, and being able to expose the kids to a world of topics.  This program meets all those needs!

The group meets once a week throughout the school year, with parents in tow.  They offer childcare for those under 4, so Eric gets some play time too until he's 4.  They cover the classical model of teaching so lots of memorization and recitation.  The kids also are required to make a presentation to the group each week, at this age it's more like show and tell but it's great to have the kids speak in front of their peers and others.  It's a Christian group and kids are placed within a group of their peers, but there is time for socializing on the playground at lunch time with all the kids in the program.  You can learn more about Classical Conversation (a program found throughout the USA and abroad) at .

Unfortunately,  we were not able to jump into the program for the remaining school year.  However, we have signed up for the Fall 2011-2012 school year.  In the mean time, I decided to start the program at home to become familiar with some of the material.

Ella is doing a great job memorizing the material in only our 2nd week.  She has learned about Charlemagne and William the Conquerer.  Biomes and Consumers, the 8 Parts of speech, and European bodies of water, and how to conjugate verbs in Latin.

We of course add in our Saxon Phonics and Singapore Math as well. We don't just memorize the material, but we use the topics for the week as our spine for our lessons (History, Science, Grammar, Geography, etc.) Now if that's not a comprehensive program I'm not sure what else is.

Even Eric has been wanting to recite as well, his favorite is conjugating the word "amo" in Latin. Although, he hasn't picked up the different endings, I think he actually carries a tune pretty well ....

This week we are learning about Archeology and started reading "The Story of the World."  We will be creating a timeline of Ella's life thus far and also a family tree in the coming weeks.  

Our recent reads are Pinocchio and we've she's also started reading "The Boxcar Children" independently.  Ella's reading is coming along remarkably well!

We are so excited and are enjoying our new way of learning, more classic literature and readings.  Less worksheets and the mundane.  It's fun, interesting, and we're learning together

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Learning is Fun!

Learning and education isn't all about the ABC's and 123's.  We try to make learning fun too in the everyday activities.  Home school is spending meaningful time with the kids, building a strong bond between brother and sister, and developing a love of learning that will last a life time.

Ella continues to enjoy her Art (Drawing/Clay) class; however, this left a 2 hour window for Eric and I to spend some quality time together.  I thought a gym class would be perfect for him to burn off some energy and also develop his social skills in a large group setting.  Well, Eric absolutely loved the classes and he proved to be right at home in the gym. 

Eric is reaching new heights not only in the gym, but at home too.  He's building his vocabulary daily, now forming 2-3 word sentences.

Occasionally, the kids like to dress-up and use their imaginations to take them on crazy adventures.

Ella loves to dress her little brother up and they enjoy playing together.  We thank Grandma Swift for these great outfits!  Here's Eric the train conductor!  He shouts, "All Aboard!"

Doctor Ella Swift quickly climbs aboard the train.

Ella in deep thought over her English project.  We started a new English/Grammar program (Shurley English) and she had fun drawing pictures and learning about groups and subgroups around us.

We attended a trial PE Class for Christian home schoolers and walked away with a box full of books.  It just so happens, that the county library gives away it's books to the home school group and so they had a large supply to give out.  We were able to take our pick and received some wonderful books all for free.  The kids enjoy reading through the books daily.  Ella will be joining the PE class in the fall.

We spend a lot of time indoors during the winter, so I have been trying to keep the kids busy with fun activities at home.  Eric has grown very fond of his construction puzzle and will sit for 30 minutes putting it together.  He is really quick now at finding their spots and is starting to recognize the different colors associated with each vehicle.

We try not to let the weather hinder our time for exploration.  The kids had fun playing with "Moon Sand" in the kitchen.  Lucky for us we have tile floors and it sweeps up rather well.

Time to play!  Eric loves his Laurie Toys tote he received for Christmas.  He is great at stacking the pegs up, is matching the shapes really well and can now tell me at least three different shapes (heart, star, circle) and colors (blue, green, red).  He is also doing really well matching up all the different shapes.

Sometimes, we just need a break.  Ella had fun serving up Hot Chocolate to her brother one very cold afternoon.  They had fun chatting, stirring, and serving up the marsh mellows.  She is quite the little hostess, always asking Eric if he needed more Hot Chocolate or marsh mellows.

Both the kids absolutely love art and enjoy getting their hands dirty.  The kids enjoyed an afternoon of dot painting.  However, Eric was having more fun trying to figure out how to get the tops on and off.

The kids are always busy learning, either on the floor reading books or playing with Moon Sand.  It doesn't matter if it's at a desk, in the kitchen, or on the floor. We have fun and enjoy spending time with one another.