Monday, August 30, 2010

New Baby. New School Year

Mr. P and the newest little P.

We will officially start school this Tuesday. Today we are cleaning house and getting organized for tomorrow. I'm rereading sections of The Well Trained Mind and using bits of it to add to our eclectic Charlotte Mason type approach. I was able to get one kid's lesson plans done for the first 6 weeks and have the 1st and 7th grader still to finish up today. Wish me luck on that...I'm always bad about leaving the hardest jobs for the last. In addition to school, we are happy to announce the newest member of our family. Colton was born August 11 and weighed in at a whopping 9 pounds and 9 ounces. So far he has been the best baby. He doesn't seem to be bothered in the least by the noise and activity in our busy household. The older children just adore him.

Wednesday we begin Classical Conversations and I hope to have a picture and post to tell about it.

Mrs. P

Saturday, August 7, 2010

2010-2011 School Year

I'm working on lesson planning while waiting on this baby to be born. My due date is today and he doesn't seem at all eager to be born, so rather than sit and wait I'm trying to be productive. I'm not exactly sure which day we will start school. It will depend a lot on when the baby arrives and how quickly we all settle into a routine.

This year, I will be doing something a little different in our home school. I have enrolled the children in Classical Conversations and it will begin on September 1. I'm looking forward to this and have at least 2 kids that I think will just love it. The younger two just love memorizing and this seems to be well suited to them. I'm crossing my fingers for the oldest. Memory work isn't her strong suit, but I'm hoping that she will love it just the same.

I updated the sidebar of things we will learn to reflect the upcoming year. I don't have everything listed as I have not ordered some things yet. After I order logic and Latin and a few other books, I'll be sure and add them to the list. Currently this list is just the things we will cover the first 6 weeks of school. So my lofty goal is to update that list every 6 weeks. We will see how that goes.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Homeschool or Clean House???

I have found that I firmly lay in one of two camps. Either I'm in the "clean house" camp OR I'm in the "we got all of our homeschool work done" camp. I find that it's hard to do both. For one thing I haven't trained all my little helpers as well as they should be trained; so messes are made at a rapid rate around here. For another thing, I tend to be a pack rat. I find myself holding onto various items with the thought that I might *need* it some day. The problem with this attitude is that I've now used up every square inch of space in my home storing all of this clutter. And guess what, I bring more things into the house daily. Every couple of months I add more books to my library. What homeschool mom doesn't? We have a new baby on the way and now I'm adding things that the baby will need. Those two things alone present a challenge to keeping a tidy and organized home. Now add in the home school day.

As far as school goes, I now have kids going into 7th grade, 3rd grade and 1st grade. The days of having my oldest two finished with school by noon or even earlier are long gone. So in a sense I have a full time job of teaching school, just like I did when I taught public school. One difference is that I'm teaching at home and I have no janitor to come and dust and vacuum my classroom everyday. In other words I get to clean up glue and glitter and scraps of paper. On top of that my "classroom" often has at least a load or two of laundry being folded. It isn't unheard of for me to find a missing sock in the crayon and marker bucket. So currently I'm to the point of just trying to do one thing at a time. I'm doing house keeping tasks before school, at lunch and after school and when it's school time I'm no longer attempting to multitask. Somehow a trip to reboot the laundry leads to a sweeping of the kitchen, thawing of dinner, and possibly even a straightening of cushions on the couch...all the while the students are now playing with legos and tea party sets instead of handwriting and math. So then I have to get them back on task and I find we've wasted lots of school time. And I also found that after 3:00 little children seem to zone out on you and so I really need to keep their school between the hours of 8 and 3. I have a couple of ideas on how I'm winning the war on clutter, even if it's one tiny baby step at a time.

I have loved the Flylady System, but never really fully implemented it where my house "cleans itself." However, even following it a little bit will improve your home management. I'm continually amazed at how much better my house looks after a 27 Fling Boogie or a Hot Spot Fire Drill. If you aren't familiar with it and you also collect clutter you should go visit her
website. It does work and if you follow through the babysteps and establish good housekeeping habits while getting the clutter out you can find yourself in a really clean and peaceful house in about a month's time. Now if you are like me and somehow have to get the clutter under control as well as keep the home school running, then you might be interested to know about a yahoo group that I am a member of. It's called Large Family Logistics. It is sort of a Flylady meets the homeschool mom type of group. It is run by a real life home school mom with a whole house of kids. She also has a blog if you like the yahoo group. She does send out reminders like Flylady and also the group doesn't have discussion, like the Flylady. So when you sign up you will get her reminders and that's it. She also includes reminders about various homeschool tasks, daily Bible study, exercise and her weekly plan is set up for a mom at home with lots of kids. I also love that she sends an occasional reminder for things like "Friendship Friday." The notes on this reminder are: Schedule a lunch date with a friend for the first Friday of every month.
Friendship Friday
If the first Friday doesn't suit your life, pick a different date.
Ideas: one on one at a restaurant, picnic lunch with the children, an afternoon of crafting
While I haven't yet followed through with this particular reminder, I do need to be reminded of it so that I don't forget to get out of the house or invite a friend over. I also love that she sends a reminder on Saturday night to lay out and iron church clothes, to send a child to gather everyone's Bible and start breakfast and load the crockpot for Sunday lunch.

One thing I've found is that by signing up for both groups and putting my settings to read on web only, I can customize the two systems into one. I use my yahoo mail for my email address on the yahoo groups. Once you get to your yahoo mail, choose to look at your calendar. All of the reminders will be on there even though you are set to read on the web only. You can then pick and choose the reminders that you want to come to your email box thus eliminating lots of email reminders that don't apply to you. For example, I chose to only get the Flylady morning routine reminder. There are even times that I have NO reminders sent to my email due to vacations or just really busy seasons of life. It's worked well for me and I hope this post helps other moms who like their clutter but also like a tidy house.

Mrs. P

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Updated Curriculum and Books

I spent a little time this afternoon updating our curriculum and books list on the sidebar. It now shows the books we are currently using. I'm using Living Books Curriculum Grade 5 but am not going in the order of the lesson plans so if you are using that curriculum you may wonder why I'm on term 1 books in April. We are using what books we can from the library and due to the availability of them, we are using that curriculum in a very different order than is suggested. For the younger kids, I'm mostly using Ambleside Online Year One with my own eclectic additions. I'm trying to mostly focus on utilizing the Ten Things to Do list from Teaching the Trivium by the Bluedorns.

I'll be changing things up next year as I'll have a new baby arrive in August. I'm thinking of ordering a packaged curriculum for multiage to simplify lesson planning. Currently, I spend about an hour writing out lesson plans, making copies, and making other preparations each week and several hours once a month organizing the month's activities into a chart format that is easy for me to keep track of things. I plan to school on throughout the summer in order to be a little ahead of the game when the baby comes in August.

Here is one curriculum that looks like it might be a good fit for me. My Father's World is a Charlotte Mason type study that has 2-8th grade go through a 5 years history cycle. We will be ready for Year 3: Exploration to 1850 of that curriculum this fall. I'm still researching, but this one looks like it would cover most of my kids leaving me with Miss J who will likely do Abeka 1st grade since I already own all the first grade stuff and would only need to purchase a student kit. I've not used MFW before so comment if you have used this curriculum. I did LOVE Winter Promise, but it would cost almost twice as much to cover the same history period with their curriculum because they don't have any units that cover this broad of an age group. Even so, I still have it on the list of things to consider due to such a pleasant experience with it in the past. It really was very user friendly. Another consideration is Sonlight, although I've not used it before either. If you have other suggestions, please post them in the comments section. I'd love to know if there are other packaged curriculums that cover a multiage group.

Teach Me to Crochet

Leisure Arts *COOL STUFF*
Teach Me To Crochet

This is the book that the girls and I are using to learn to crochet. Miss J and I made crochet flowers and a crochet scrunchy yesterday. The book progresses in difficulty from quick and easy projects like a chain to the final project of a lap blanket. All of the projects are things that young ladies would want to crochet. It is a full colored book with pictures of all the steps for both right handed and left handed kids.

Some of the projects include: crochet flowers, hair scrunchy, spiral coaster, round pillow, ruffled hair scrunchie, curlicue key chain, floppy hat and scarf, dog's toy ball, cat's toy fish, cotton dishcloth, and ripple lap warmer.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Watercolor Pencils

If you need to get your kids excited about drawing and coloring their nature journals, get a set of these. They are a nice pencil color, but when you go over the colored picture with a wet paint brush the picture is transformed into a beautiful water color. My oldest daughter used them most recently on her Fashion Design Storyboard and now wants to use them for everything. I got my set at Michael's and they were pretty pricey (about $10 for a set of 12). If you are looking, you might want to wait for a coupon.

Mrs. P

A Pillow Case Dress

Want to teach your littlest girls to sew? Have them make a pillowcase dress!

Miss J made this pillowcase dress for the County 4-H Fashion Show. She had a great time sewing it and is so proud that she wants to wear it on Easter Sunday. Instead of buying a pillowcase, I purchased the fabric at my local Wal-Mart for $2 a yard. I then made a pillowcase and she followed the directions from there. After I had the pillowcase made, it took about an hour for her to sew. Here are basic directions for a pillowcase dress. Instead of using elastic, I just had her sew a casing and she then threaded long pieces of ribbon through. This was pretty easy to do, but the ribbon comes out easily so you may prefer to use the elastic as in the tutorial. Here is another tutorial starting with fabric instead of a pillowcase. Miss J is 6 years old and she sewed hers on the sewing machine. In order to make that work, I put the presser foot on a huge stack of books until she could easily reach it. Also, my sewing machine is a Bernina 180 and is able to sew r-e-a-l-l-y slow. I helped her guide the fabric through so the stitches came out reasonably straight. This had just enough sewing for her to remain interested, yet feel very fulfilled to have a completed project in such a short time.

Happy Sewing,
Mrs. P

Monday, March 29, 2010

Learning to Crochet

Miss J learned to crochet at a recent 4-H workshop. She can now make crochet chains with the best of them and can't wait for read aloud time to work on her newly acquired skill.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Finished Botany today!

Today we finished up our study of Botany. We used an Answers in Genesis book called The World of Plants. It was a good fit for our family, with short chapters and interesting activities for each lesson.

Topics included:
Classification system
Carl Linnaeus
Plant and Animal Cells
Flowering Plants
Monocots & Dicots
George Washington Carver
Special Roots
Stem Structure
Stem Growth
Arrangement of Leaves
Tree Identification
Pierre-Joseph Redoute
Annuals, Biennials, and Perennials
Meat Eating Plants
Parasites and Passengers
Other Survival Techniques
Reproduction without Seeds

Next up we will be learning to use a microscope.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

When Mama has Limited Energy

Having just left the first trimester of pregnancy and all it's entails from nausea to extreme lack of energy; I was glad to read this article and see how one experienced Mama has handled that and so much more. Kendra blogs at Preschoolers & Peace. She utilizes many of the principles in Teaching the Trivium as well as ideas from Charlotte Mason. I really love all of her book recommendations and classical ideas. In addition to that, she is homeschooling a large family and all the challenges that go along with such age varieties. So if you are wondering how you can "do it all" during times of life when you have less energy, pregnancy, hospitalization or other issues that try your soul, read When Mama Has Limited Energy for encouragement and ideas to help you get through those tough days. In fact, I regularly read her blog for ideas and encouragement as she is an experienced homeschool mom that I can learn a lot from. I hope you enjoy the article as much as I did.

Handicrafts: Decorative Eggs in a Basket

Here is a cute Easter Handicraft for you and your kids. I am thinking that my oldest daughter could do this independently. My 8 year old son could do the paper covered eggs with a little help. My 6 year old daughter could easily make the doily baskets or the glittery eggs. I'm always looking for crafts that won't require a spendy trip to the craft store and this fits the bill. We have an abundance of eggs, I happen to have a collection of fabric and crochet doilies, and I always save scraps of pretty tissue paper and scrapbook papers. So really, I would only need the fabric stiffener to complete this project as everything else is already here from previous crafting moments. Click here for the directions.

Friday, February 12, 2010

A First: Handmade Basket

We purchased a basket making kit at a children's craft fair. It wasn't fancy, it just included a book and lovely rolls of reed waiting to be woven into a basket. Lots was learned with wet reed in hand, ruler sitting on the table just so, trying desperately to get the reed to line up straight and properly. Weaving is the easy part. Measuring, bending, finishing...these all take more time and effort. Wet reed has a habit of inching from side to side and doesn't want to stay put, but she perseveres and the basket comes together. In the end there are some mistakes, but overall the artist is well pleased with her first basket. The reed dries a lovely pale white. I kindly suggest stain, but she just shrugs and says that white is best. And I am reminded that this is her art, not mine. This to me is the hard part of being mom and teacher...letting the children create as they desire. Not trying to make choices for them. Just letting them pick the color, style and art that suits them best. After all, as a child I was able to choose my own art, my own colors, my own projects. This is the part of art that I love, the creative part. So I will learn to be silent and let her enjoy the creativity and the making of art. This is her work and her work is well done and lovely and she is right. White is best for this basket. It is not only lovely but useful and I'm anticipating more baskets in our future.

Nature Study: Digging for Arrow Heads

This summer we found that there was once an Indian campground on a river bed near our house. The folks that own the property allow you to come and dig for a daily fee. We took a field trip there and found several interesting things. Above are some pictures that I snapped with my phone so the quality isn't great. The last photo is my son digging into the dirt with his friend.
First they would dig up a chunk of dirt and then sift it through a sifting screen. Arrowheads and other rocks would be filtered out while the dirt goes through the screen. After a day of digging they were lucky to have found some arrowheads themselves and then to be given some from others who were digging where we were. Those guys dig all the time and had some really nice artifacts to show the kids and tell about them.

Vowel File Folder Booklet

Jumbo Fun with the Alphabet can be purchased from

For my kindergartener, I'm using Phonics Pathways to teach her reading. I also have a book called the Jumbo Fun with the Alphabet. While the latter sounds pretty hokey, it really is a very nice book and I've gotten a lot of use from it. It has several activities for each letter of the alphabet including snacks and crafts. In the file folder book, I've just taken various pages from those two books and let her paste them in. For cut and paste activities, I attach velcro instead of having her glue them and then she can do that activity over and over. It takes her a few days to complete a folder and she thinks it is the best fun. Also, she gets to reinforce learning those letters without the dull moments of sitting in front of flash cards.

Mrs. P

Monday, January 25, 2010

Librivox on your iPhone!

I do love the librivox website. Many, many of the books we use are available as free audio downloads there. From the amble ramble group that I'm on I learned that librivox also has an iPod/iPhone app. It is called Audiobooks. I just type in the name of the book and it automatically plays so that we can all listen to our books anywhere.

This week we've been working on sewing projects and have listened to several great books during that time. If you haven't read/listened to The Five Little Peppers and How They Grew, you really should. It is such a heart warming story. We also listened to The Princess and the Goblins as well as The Heroes by Charles Kingsley. Other greats from that site are Heidi, Otto the Silver Hand, and many more.

So if your voice could use a break and you have an iPhone or iPod, download the audiobooks apps. You'll be glad you did.