Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Review & Giveaway

We were given the opportunity to try out Homeschool In The Woods newest products: Lap-Pacs. We recently tried out their Knights version which is geared for younger children in the K-2 age/grade range. This particular Lap-Pak lines up with the Middle Ages study geared for older children, meaning your older & younger students can all be enjoying the same studies, but at their own particular grade levels.

If you're interested in learning more about the product, reading our review, or keen to win a free copy of the Lap-Pak yourself hop on over to The Curriculum Choice & check out the details!

Friday, January 23, 2015

Slow Start Back

For the past 2 weeks we've been back to business around here, but not full blast. We started back with what I dubbed quarter days last week. We picked up our read aloud & added a science book with it that we hadn't finished last year. We were suppose to start back to our Bible study as well at that time, but the printer ate my kids book. . . Kinda, it didn't like the smaller size & really did eat a chunk of one page & then gave me so many errors I was tempted to scream.

This week, we've added more to our routine so we've dubbed it half-days. On top of the meagre things from last week we added back in math review for both kids, Bible Study {because the printer did not get the best of me in the end}, & grammar. I'm always keen to jump face first back into things, but the slower start allows the kids to get use to being back into a daily routine!

Next week we'll add in spelling & science, possibly writing all though I'm hesitant with it being a short week for us. I like to give us a little wiggle room should we need all though most of our subjects are only scheduled for 4 days so there should be no issue accomplishing the tasks set before us. We're looking forward to digging into science, especially with the science kits staring them down each day!

Over the past two weeks we read The Puppeteer's Apprentice which is a Middle Ages book from the WP Middle Ages Theme. It's an beautifully written story that had us captivated from the start. There is one portion of a chapter that is a bit intense that parents may wish to preview if you have sensitive children. In fact, we were right in the midst of a very intense portion when one of our birds started flapping around & squealing. I'm not so sure the bird was into the story as much as he'd hurt himself, but it was fantastic timing! The ending is a wee bit sad & joyful all mixed into one, but it's certainly left an impression on all of us.

Both boys were back to math, but only on the review side. I figure there's really little point throwing them in the deep end without a little refresher after having had so much time off. I pulled out Unit Test 1 for the oldest to have a go at & allow us to see what needed reviewing. He'd previously done 11.5 lesson in his book, all while in dire need of new tints, the chances were incredibly high that he'd need refreshing on all 11.5 lessons. Having said that only 2 portions tripped him up which were ones he'd battled with before. A quick review of the lessons & he was off running again, & just to help him along I made him some "Math Cheat Bookmarks". You can check them out HERE if you're interested.

Jayde wasn't quite close enough to a Unit Test to be bothered with one as he was halfway between 2. Instead I pulled out his test booklet that we were a bit lax in using last year & he's done the tests for the past few lessons to see how much he retained. Aside from a few hiccups which had nothing to do with previous studies from his current book he was fine. Now if he'd just double check that the backside of the papers he's doing are the ones he should be, we'd be doing great!

After defeating the printer for a win, I managed to get Morgan's Bible study book printed on blue paper so we jumped back into that too. I'm gonna tell you that I really really wish that Precept Ministries would offer up a pdf of their children's Inductive Bible Studies because the hassle to get my child a book he can actually see to use was hair raising. It's nice to be right back at it & they are pretty excited about wrapping up the book shortly so we can move into a new study.

We also started reading Jayden's New Year devotional. It's traditional for me to give out new devotionals each year so that we can grow spiritually. I noticed Jayden hadn't opened his new one & opted to pull it off the shelf & start reading it with them. Funnily enough I think last year we gave a different Odyssey Devotional. This particular one takes you through the book of Matthew in 90 days.

We started back to our LA which we didn't entirely wrap up last year considering we started mid year. They were a little slow on the first day, but it was all good after that. We reviewed personal pronouns, the various uses of an apostrophe, adjectives,  pronouns, & various vocabulary work They still enjoy the mysteries imbedded in the workbooks so they are always keen to keep moving with them. Don't ask me why he was wearing his alpaca sweater, we did have a few chilly days before the humidity hit us back again & Im' presuming I took this photo during that time?! He's the only one of us who lives up to the whole "Homeschooler's do school in their pj's" theory.

We finished off The Boys Body Book which we'd equally started late last year. The kids were huge fans of it, but they didn't groan either. The book is scheduled in the Sonlight Core F science which is biology based. You'd select books based on teaching a girl or boy. While Morgan had heard the book previously, Jayden had not & his science schedule won't have him onto biology for another year or two yet. I had Morgan sit in on the readings to make it a bit less awkward for Jayde. This book covers a lot of "boy" things from changing bodies to emotions. It also deals with hormone waves, family issues, & peer pressure. There's a section on divorce as well, but we skipped that.

We also read, portions of, Almost 12, & I don't honestly recommend the book. This is also included in the Core F science, regardless of teaching a boy or girl all though the book covers changes in a female & male body. One of the reasons we chose to skip some details. The book does discuss in great detail, with pictures, how babies are made. My kids were non-plussed & decided they were officially scared for life. There are a lot of aspects of the books I was displeased with, but I won't waste time boring you with that detail.

We hit the bike trail a few times over, all though not nearly as often as we like. On this particular day the wind was going in the opposite direction from normal & we were getting blown back down the mega hills trying to get home. I think it's the first time the final downhill run to the car elicited groans from any of us, all though the dog was delighted he didn't need to go at full-tilt in order to keep up.

I told, you that kid lives in that sweater! He's not wearing the same pants, he just owns a half dozen that look identical. Ironically the pants fit him perfectly, but the shirts that match are too small. Go figure! What's the deal with making long pants & short shirts?!

To help encourage, & inspire, the kids to get back into their foreign language I picked up my own lessons again. Mind you, I still can't say boy correctly in French which totally freaks out the computer. My neighbours probably think I'm now obsessed with boys or that we have a French tutor who was shouting at us.. Jayde starts Latin with Rosetta Stone this year which should be interesting for him. In the mean time I keep threatening to label the house in French, but Mr S says then when he'll just have to say, "Pardon my French.." each time he uses something.

With the short days & horribly humid afternoons we've been listening to an Audio book in the afternoons while we each work on something quietly. I pulled out a cross-stitch picture I started a few years ago but it got put on hold due to lack of light in the winter & somehow never got dragged back out. Morgan's been working on his drawings, & Jayden's been flagging things in his newest Lego book for building... or building said Lego... or colouring.

All in all, it's been a lovely start back for us over the next two weeks & most of the hiccups have been worked out so that we can just continue to pick up speed. It makes for more work accomplished when we officially get going.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

2015 Curriculum Picks

When it comes to preparing for a new school year I tend to start early, as in before the old year has finished. Mr S & I often laugh about the fact that before Morgan officially started his Kindy year I had his school mapped out through 8th grade. Of course plans changed & I had to remap things out, but at the time I thought I was doing great. Yep, we have a lot of laughs about it now & after 9 years of homeschooling I'm much more aware &, I like to think, adept at knowing when changes need to be made for one reason or another.

The downside to preparing so far in advanced is I get kinda excited about what's to come & so, while the kids are eagerly enjoying summer holidays, I'm raring to go! We've split the difference with a slow easement back into school. Read alouds, some math review, & a bit of science one week, language arts added in the next week, & then adding in the final bits the following week. The kids really need the gradual build up, as it just makes our transition back into the daily routine so much easier.

As for our picks this year, we have:

Morgan {14}

Bookshark History 6 & 7 -- We're halfway through & will finish it up before starting in on 7; we added a bit into 6 & loved every minute of it, we won't add as much into 7, but we will add a little. Morgan has really enjoyed using MOH alongside SOTW & the choice was left up to him to continue that path, he's keen.  He'll also be using any available audio books that co-inside with the core via the Bookshark list to aid him in his independent learning.

Writing & Rhetoric Book 3 -- While it's not exactly his LA level, it covers fictional writing & he's really keen for it. The book will only last for 14 weeks so we'll divide it over 2 terms. He'll do the writing portion via Dragon as advised by his Specialist, Dr T.

Writing With Skill Book 1 -- We haven't finished this book & with his new helps & aids he's keen to get right back into it. He really loves it, & I love the way it teaches non-fiction writing. He'll do this on the opposite 2 terms of WR, using Dragon for the writing portion.

Math-U-See -- He'll pick up right where he left off last year, Zeta, prior to his appointment with Dr T. He was heavily disappointed not to meet his goal last year, but when you can't see the digits swimming in front of you that puts a bit of a complication in the works. Unless he hits a major road block he'll move into the Pre Algebra book mid-year or sooner.

Sequential Spelling -- this is one of the only LA items he'll be doing the actual writing for. He made huge strides last year & we'd like to keep the forward motion rolling with it.

WP LA -- We'll finish the book we're on & then he may or may not move into the next book. I'd rather he spent a good deal of his time on the writing aspect of things, but the grammar portion doesn't take us that long.

General Science -- Despite not being full sold on Apologia Science he'll be using GS this year following the SL schedule. He'll take notes via Dragon on the computer & listen to the audio lectures. He's keen to listen in on some of his brother's Chemistry readings & all ready put in a request that we wait for him on those.

Electives -- Rosetta Stone French 1, Hoffman Academy {music}, computer programming {various programmes}, & sport {undecided which one as of yet}

Jayden {11}

Sonlight Core D -- We're using an older version which I've altered to reduce it to a 4 day schedule. This meant swapping some of the scheduled 4 day for some of the scheduled 5 day, adding in a few I know he'll love & deciding which ones we could skip in it's place so as not to overload his schedule. It's a balancing act, especially if I want him to be able to do this independently.

Writing Rhetoric Book 2 -- Again, this book is below his grade, but as there are only 3 books out yet & you can accomplish at least 2 in a year he can catch up quickly. Jayden has had a lot of writing practice in general as he's spent most of his time previously using Writing With Ease, which took him from, "I hate writing." To "Writing is my favourite subject!"

Scout's Guide To Good Paragraphs -- This is part of the WP LA 5 programme which will cover more writing for him. It should be a lovely fit for him especially since he stated that he really wanted to learn more about writing this year.

Sequential Spelling -- Both boys are doing the same lessons with these & doing really well. We'll finish up our current book & continue moving forward. Sequential Spelling is a non-graded curriculum in that you start with Book 1 & keep moving until you finish book 6. I appreciate that considering one child would be on grade level while another might feel behind, yet they are both exactly where they need to be!

WP LA -- Again, this is another subject they do together. They'll finish up the book they are in & Jayde is most certainly moving into the next book. He's a little disappointed that Book 5 isn't a mystery to solve again & he'll have to wait until Book 6, but WP makes the grammar lessons so painless I don't think he's really that upset about it.

Math-U-See -- He needs to finish up his current book {Delta} which he's very nearly done with, & then he'll slip into Epsilon. He's had no problems whatsoever with his previous lessons so unless an unforeseen issue happens with the last few lessons in his book he should stay on track for finishing this off.

Noeo Science -- We're pulling Chem 2 & it's books off the shelf & digging in. He's really excited as he's been eying up the experiment kits for a while & telling us how they look like so much fun. We'll be adding in a few Earth Science books in some of the latter weeks as they fit into the topics & themes as well as using the Chem Kit we have on hand. He's very excited about the Chem Kit!

Electives -- Rosetta Stone Latin 1, Computer Programming {scratch}, Sport {undecided yet}

We'll also be reading, together as a family, It Couldn't Just Happen as well as The Fallacy Detective.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Gearing Up

Gearing up for back to school started last year for us. It's usually an ongoing process around here where I jot notes in my planner about what I want to use & when, flag books to read, & other things down the same line.

Eventually though all the major things arrive at the house & it comes down to putting it all together in a formable plan that will carry us through the upcoming year. I hear a lot of homeschooling Mamma's say they just open the book & run. I love that, but I am not one of those kinda Mamma's. I like a good solid plan, & if it fails I defer to plan B, or C, or.. You get the point, right?

Planning out our year isn't too hard, I grab a piece of paper & all the books. I check out how many lessons are in each book & divide it by 4. We generally school in 4-10 week terms which makes it pretty simple for planning things out.

I try to have 9 solid weeks of new learning with 1 week set aside in there for catching up on projects, readings, or what-not. Things don't always go according to the plan & that's okay. Sometimes we need to stay on a math lesson longer then we scheduled; we might speed through one book really quickly & be ready for the other sooner then expected. With the spare week in there it generally gives us room to dot all our i's & cross all our t's.

Once that's done I can leave it like that or I can type up my nifty hand written scrap of paper. I tend to type it up, & that generally means I can get a wee bit carried away breaking each thing down to how much we'll do in each week of each term. It sounds tedious, & perhaps it is, but weekly lesson plans are extra simple once all that legwork is done. It also makes for a lovely printable for the kids portfolios to show how you broke the work down for each week.

I have a master sheet that is, you all read guessed this I'm sure, colour coded by child. It has 10 weeks along the top & subjects running along the left side. I just fill in the blanks with the information needed. Lessons we'll work on, pages in a book we'll read, whatever the student will be working on for the week ahead. These are what I print out, by term, so at a glance everyone can easily schedule what needs doing in their planners.

They look a lot fancier then they are, I promise. Once you get a master made up it's just fill in the blank! Of course if things change we just adjust as we go along, so I tend to only print 1 term out at a time so that I can adjust thing as/if needed for the year.

Honestly, it doesn't take me that long. I had 2 terms typed up in about 40 minutes time. I need to adjust them slightly all ready as we made some minor changes before we've even started, but that's what's nice about having a hard copy on the computer!

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

2015 Planner

Another new year upon us & it's nearly time for a new school year to begin in full. I debated the whole making a planner thing for this year, mostly because with the kids keeping their own planners I wasn't sure how much I'd need my own. Yeah, but the thing is I kinda like having a planner & filling it in as I move through each week. Yeah, that's probably weird, but it's how I tend to roll!

The upside was, because I didn't change much in the planner from last year it was a quick adjustment of dates & updating the small bit that I did change. It didn't take me very long.

Then I realised that the only photo I had to slap on the front of it, of the whole family, was some nerdy one I took at the beach when we were down the other side of the coast this past spring. My kids are totally playing it up, I'm attempting not to freeze, & Mr S is the only one acting semi-normal, except that's not really normal for him. You know, it totally sums our family up in one crazy picture, & that's pretty much why I haven't had the decency to send our Christmas cards in the past 2 years.

I didn't really think to take a photo before I started to fill in personal information, whoops! I still add photos before I print it out to help reduce the bulk of the planner. That, & I find that it easier to be sure I've sized them right.

Same ol' planning page which is available here if you want it. I love being able to see at a quick glance what we have going on & map out our school year. Mind you I've only got Term 1 mapped out at the moment & we'll be back full swing in just over 2 weeks time now. I've been using this planning sheet for several years now & it's works really well for us.

I added matching monthly calendars this year. I debated a two page spread vs 1 page for a while & even made 1 page spreads, but didn't like the limitation so I fixed it. The bottom space below allows me to plan out things I might need to deal with each month like my kids Lego Club or other monthly obligations I might have but need to put a bit more information down about. I was going to add holidays, but here's the thing.. I figure not everyone will have the same ones, & some people won't want any at all so I left utterly blank for filling in. 

I also changed the former monthly pages up a bit to be more fitting for our needs. I tend to write down initials for what's we're reading or using & this page allows me to keep track of what those stand for should I forget. I also like to pop down funny things the gang says to look back on & laugh about. We hear a lot of craziness around here. There's also a space for keeping track of achievements, tracking goals, & outings. All in one simple place I can refer to. I like it!

The weekly pages are nearly the same, just a small addition of a weekly prayer slot on my planner page, which is what I often use my notes section for anyway. I changed the little menu section too, but other then that it's all the same.

I changed our Nature calendar to nearly follow the year, because the other way was driving me a little bit bonkers. What's written in the squares is the same, & not what we'll necessarily be studying, but things to keep an eye out for in those months.

That's about it. I still have the Homeschool Verses page at the start of the planner & of course the year at a glance pages. Extra note pages in the back. It's slimmer then the one I had last year, but mostly because last year I'd added in some pages from the Motivated Mom's Planner. This year it's just the school stuff all bound up. I used the binding from an older planner & it was long enough I had spare. I was pretty keen that it was purple! It's all set & ready to roll & should be available soon if you're interested.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Backyard Antics

Mr S was off work for a few weeks over the holidays & we had grand things planned to do, but life happened & unexpected company came to town so our plans changed. There was the crazy rushing about to set up spare beds, & set a few things to rights we hadn't anticipated the need for, but it all came together in the end. Christmas Eve came in bright & early & warm.

The guys had a blast playing cricket while I nursed a headache & listened to old cricket tales from Nana; none of which involved her old cricket injury much to the boys disappointment & Mr S' relief. We flew kites & rockets, & came home & did it all again. After dinner the guys decided to challenge Mr S & a visiting Uncle to a few rounds of Plum Tennis, played with the unripe plums that fell form our tree. Once they wrapped that up they moved on to archery.

I've suggested we join an archery club as a family this year, but so far no one's taken me seriously. Yet, it's not stopped them from entertaining themselves with the broken arrows & too-small bows in the backyard. They don't let me play, but that's okay, I prefer the long bow to the cross bow.

They dragged a big box out into the yard & few a funny little target on it, much unlike most targets. One had to hit precise areas on the target that seemed to be in odd places in order to score the most points. There was a lot of action happening out there when all the guys gasped & then busted out laughing. The arrow, missing it's point now, ricocheted off the box, hit the base of our fence & proceeded to fly over the fence into a neighbor's yard.

There's that moment when an arrow is sailing across a fence line where you're praying like mad no one's standing there, or their pet, or anything of value. Not that our arrows can do much damage these days, but there's a reason we don't generally use them in close proximity to others yards.

The guys finally pulled themselves together & peeked over the fence to be sure Fred was okay, & as no one saw his flappy tail or happy face chewing a ball & a few calls to him produced nothing they carried on looking for the arrow. They found it, lodged in the neighbors beautiful archway of roses, but couldn't reach it. They produced a great number of contraptions in their attempt to make longer arms, but each one failed in it's turn.

Not to give up the kids trotted around the corner to ask if they could retrieve the object. Imagine the wail of laughter that errupted when we heard them say, "I'm so sorry Mrs W, but the arrow we shot flew into your backyard & we just wondered if you'd mind if we went to get it back."

Mrs W was understanding, but not until after she'd regained her composure that an arrow had sailed through her yard. Not that I blame her. They boys also removed all the tennis balls, ping-pong balls, & other objects that, in their furious game of Plum Tennis had sailed over her fence. We wished each other a lovely Christmas & she parted with the words, "Feel free to come over & get your items anytime, but I'm afraid Fred chewed your tennis ball."

The boys assured her they didn't mind & clambered up over the fence & back home again. They are now contemplating the many ways in which they could devise a cricket ball that wills till bowl properly but not fly over the fence. Never mind they shot an arrow into someone else's yard.. I feel somehow compelled to insist they get their priorities straight, but I feel pretty certain it's best to let them worry about cricket while I hide the archery supplies.