Saturday, December 30, 2017

A Peek into our Homeschool: December 2017

December was a busy month, as always!

Elliott's birthday - he is 11 now, and this boy is growing up before my eyes.

Some of the special holiday activities this month included what felt like a billion movie nights and Christmas movies.  Pajama Day at co-op included a story and a special preview of the local dance school's "Christmas in Narnia" program, hot chocolate, cookies, pizza and making ornaments.  We made Christmas cookies and Chex Mix and we went to see the Winter Wonderland lights.

School was pretty standard - We kept up with our AO readings, math and independent reading, but when they had birthday lunches or dentist appointments or other activities going on, I did let some of their minor subjects go.

We didn't do any special "Christmas school" other than reading some Christmas books and they made some Christmas crafts/cards on their own initiative.  We did trade out our monthly hymn, folk song, and our recitations for their Christmas songs and speaking parts for the children's program.

Both the boys were shepherds, and they did well with their speaking parts.  Eleanor was Mary, but requested not to have a speaking part.  She was so cute though, and even though she was "that kid" singing louder than everyone during practices, she was very calm and serious during the actual program.  This picture was taken after the program - hence the tired expressions, goofy smile and/or partially removed costumes.  (Eloise was a very cute cow!)

Christmas was great.  We had fun celebrating with my husband's family on Christmas Eve.  My brother-in-law read the Christmas story and we exchanged gifts, though it's mostly for the grandkids. They had a blast playing with the cousins, and they were exhausted and fell asleep in no time.

Christmas morning was spent relaxing at home with the kids.  We've been pretty intentional about the gifts we give the kids, and what we suggest to the grandparents, so everything is appreciated and enjoyed.  Two of the favorites for the girls has been the play food and the wicker picnic basket from my mom and husband's parents that Eloise received.  Eleanor has also loved her art set from my mom and her board games.

Between the four kids, they received a LOT of games this year - partially because we buy each of them a game for Christmas (and the boys got card games in their stockings), and partially because they're really into board games and received them from other relatives too.  It's great though, because as cold weather keeps us indoors more in the winter, it will give us plenty of "new" stuff to enjoy and more variety to our game nights.

We followed Christmas with illness, but we're mostly over it now.  We have no big plans for New Year's Eve.  I have a feeling that movies and games with the boys are in store.

©2011-2017 Mom’s Heart.  All rights reserved.  All text, photographs, artwork, and other content may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form without the written consent of the author.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Wordless Wednesday: Merry Christmas

©2011-2017 Mom’s Heart.  All rights reserved.  All text, photographs, artwork, and other content may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form without the written consent of the author.

Now Available: Magic Stix!

With a toddler in the house, missing marker caps can be a real issue.  Then a day or so later, you find the marker cap that rolled away, but the marker is already dried out!  Even preschoolers sometimes can't get marker caps on tight enough to prevent them from drying out, so imagine my surprise when I heard that the new Magic Stix from The Pencil Grip, Inc. are guaranteed to not dry out with the cap off for seven days!

Magic Stix are available at Amazon in 12-count and 24-count packs, and would make a great gift for the little artist in your life!  We have used Kwik Stix solid tempera paint sticks for a couple of years now, and have been very pleased.  I knew my little artist would appreciate that her favorite art supplier, The Pencil Grip, Inc is now offering markers!  She loves to draw, and we're always looking for quality art products that work in a home with younger children around.  Not only do these markers boast a good shelf-life, they are washable, orderless and non-toxic.  The plastic case is a nice bonus, because little hands don't have to try to cram markers back into a thin cardboard box that will eventually get ripped.  It also makes them great for travel, because the box won't get crushed inside of carrying bags.  This all makes them great for families with younger siblings, or for preschool classrooms and daycare centers.  In fact, I'll be adding Magic Stix to my list of "donation friendly" art supplies for the preschool classes we attend!

This is a sponsored post on behalf of The Pencil Grip, Inc., a company we use and love!  All opinions are those of my own or my family. 

©2011-2017 Mom’s Heart.  All rights reserved.  All text, photographs, artwork, and other content may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form without the written consent of the author.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Term One Enrichment Studies

This year as we transition to a more traditional Charlotte Mason approach, some of the things I wanted to add in were enrichments - hymn, folk songs, poetry, composer and picture studies.  I've been so haphazard about including beautiful stuff in our routine, but this year I have made a concentrated effort and it's going well so far.  Since we started with enrichments and slowly added curriculum, then switched to AO, our first twelve weeks of enrichments ended before our first official AO term.  I think that will balance out in the summer though, so we can slow down for awhile on the "extras" as we finish up our AO year.

This post contains affiliate links

Composer Study

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Emory remembered learning about Mozart in his music appreciation course at co-op last year, and had been requesting to learn more about him, so it seemed like a great place to start.  Having at least one enthusiastic child always helps.

I tried to read Mozart, The Wonder Boy by Opal Wheeler.  It's a really nice living book, if you're looking to add something, but we just didn't finish it.  I feel like we don't need a book to go with every single subject, if that makes sense.

We did, however, listen to Classics for Kids, because that's easy to do over a snack or lunch and only takes a few minutes.  It hits the highlights, without putting anyone into information overload.

Mostly, I just played Mozart in the background.  We have Amazon Prime, so I just stream one of the prime albums (99 Must-Have Mozart Masterpieces) through the computer or Alexa.

Picture Study
Claude Monet
Picture Study Portfolio: Monet

Going into our first picture study, there was a tiny insecure part of me that worried the boys wouldn't enjoy it.  It actually went very well!  All three of the older kids enjoy going through the pictures and choosing the next one to be studied.  Whoever chose the current picture gets to narrate first.  I've been pleasantly surprised that even the 11 year old has taken a great deal of interest in this!

The thing is though, they don't want to do the same picture for 2 weeks.  So for Monet, we did one picture each week, then when we made it through the 8 included pictures, we reviewed.  We went over the names of all of them again, played some memory games, had the kids describe them without me seeing, that type of thing.  The remaining 4 weeks, I did display some of the lesser-known pictures for a week at a time.

We started with the biography that came with the portfolio, and used a few books to supplement.
Who Was Claude Monet? by Ann Waldron
Linnea in Monet's Garden by Christina Bjork

Hymn Study
We've never formally covered hymns as part of our homeschool, but we started this year.  We didn't do anything special; we just listened, read through the lyrics and sang them.

August - Victory in Jesus
September - Marching to Zion
October - My Jesus I Love Thee

Folk Songs
Another new-to-us activity, so this has been interesting!

August - I've Been Working on the Railroad
September - The Outlandish Knight
October - Nice Field of Turnips

We started off the year with A.A. Milne.   It was an okay choice, I suppose, but I'll definitely keep this poet in Year 1 for the girls.
When We Were Very Young
Now We Are Six

This is where I dropped the ball.  First we read Lamb's retelling of A Midsummer Night's Dream, which went well.  Emory enjoyed it.  Then we tried to listen to the audio version, but that didn't happen.  Neither did the movie.

I think we're going to start over after Christmas.  Elliott should be reading the actual plays in AO, and Emory has loved the reader's theater activities in his co-op literature class, so I think he will enjoy reading the plays.  We'll see.

Term 2 enrichments are coming along well, and I'll be sharing more about our resources soon.

©2011-2017 Mom’s Heart.  All rights reserved.  All text, photographs, artwork, and other content may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form without the written consent of the author.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

A Peek into our Homeschool: November 2017

The kids have been playing a lot of board games for the past month or so.  I think because the weather is starting to turn and we aren't outside as much; I'm still intentionally reducing screen time, so they're looking for things to keep them busy.

This post contains affiliate links.

They seem to rotate through a couple favorites at a time, but I seem to recall that Clue, Monopoly Ultimate Banking, Battleship, Uno, Slamwich and Monopoly Deal were all being played through November.  We do get preschool games out for Eleanor, but the boys are also good about letting her be on their "team" when they play, and they let her roll dice, move pieces or pay the money for rent.  For the last several years, we have made sure to include a game for birthdays and Christmas, and a card game in each stocking (or some type of game-like "activity" for the toddler years) so with four kids and three winter birthdays, we'll have plenty of new goodies coming in to keep us busy during the colder months.

Core Subjects with Ambleside Online
We finished up Week 7 with AO at the end of November.  It has taken some work to get into a rhythm, but we're starting to figure things out.  I think the hardest part for me is is trying to balance the schedule evenly over 4 days.  The biggest challenge for the boys is increased workload, especially the Y4 - taking on more of his own reading load.  When we were schooling almost every subject together, I did the bulk of the reading aloud; now much of that has shifted to him.  He has really risen to the challenge!

Emory's thriving in almost every subject.  He is loving the animal science and wishes there was more.  He's not a huge fan of geography - but of course Elliott says that is one of his favorite subjects now.  They all love to watch any videos I scrounge up to go with their science.

Eleanor (Y0) mostly plays with Eloise during school, though sometimes she will ask for math or an educational app.  She loves to paint, draw, and color, and will often sit with Emory during his science so she can color an animal picture with him.  She frequently blurts out "You haven't asked me for my narration!" and wants me to write it on her paper too.  Sometimes she will ask me for one of her school books (a picture book) so she can narrate it.  I'm letting her take the lead, but I imagine she's going to be my eager beaver when it comes to school.

We're listening to Beethoven for our composer, and studying Leonardo da Vinci for our artist.  We started the rest of our music with Amazing Grace (Hymn) and An Acre of Land (Folk Song) but the last week of the month we switched to the songs they're singing in junior church for the Christmas program.  We're also reading Shel Silverstein for our poet.  He's about as nonsensical as A.A. Milne, but a bit more appealing to my boys - probably because of their age.

Nature Study
Our nature study is not always consistent.  I'm not good about saying "We're studying XYZ this week/month..." and then following through or documenting it in nature journals.  However, we always manage to study the wing of a bee that we find in the house, animals on the farm, and tree stumps and the bugs around the tree.  We jump in leaves and we play with shadows while reciting My Shadow by Robert Louis Stevenson.  It might not be consistent, but it is fun!


This post has been shared at Homeschool Highlights and Homeschool Review Crew.

©2011-2017 Mom’s Heart.  All rights reserved.  All text, photographs, artwork, and other content may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form without the written consent of the author.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Ambleside Online Year 4, the transition

With the recent transition to Ambleside Online, the most time I spent in researching was in deciding where to place each of the children.  From there, I just kind of jumped in the deep end.

For my 10 year old, I felt like Year 4 was a good place for him.  The beginning of this school year was already a big change for us.  We started doing the enrichments - picture study, folk songs, hymn, composer and Shakespeare, in full CM style, before even making the switch.  Additionally, he has added dictation, typing and map drills.  We're also not consistent with doing Nature Study, and there are more Form II subjects - like Latin and Plutarch - that we have yet to add.  He's also just gotten to the point where he has stopped telling me he hates reading.  (He's never struggled with reading, he's just never enjoyed it.)  I felt like Year 4 would offer him the opportunity to build is reading stamina and he could start at the beginning of some of the books that are used across multiple years, which was a good choice because he balked a little at not starting at the beginning of the history book.

I've made a few tweaks to the AO schedule, but here's my disclaimer - these changes were not recommended or endorsed by the AO Advisory, and are not a reflection of the quality of the curriculum; I made these changes to suit my family's needs when we switched things up.  That it is all.

We will continue with our own readings and AWANA

I'm leaving the history streams alone, and following the schedule as written.

History Tales/Biographies
I have opted to remove Trial and Triumph for now, though I'm considering putting the boys on the same schedule eventually, or else I'll use AO's alternate recommendation to cover this material later.  He does enjoy modern missionary stories with The Brinkman Adventures, and we'll probably do more seasons.

For first term, I have substituted Poor Richard and we're using Ben Franklin of Old Philadelphia, because I already owned it and the number of chapters fit the term readings.  This also allowed me to start Y4 immediately the week I made the sudden decision.

Instead of doing the Y4 selection, I have him currently doing Tree in the Trail with Emory.  (We already had the large maps and the guide from Beautiful Feet Books, so I'm blending the two programs together.)  However, we're running into the problem of why I split them up in the first place--this is one area that isn't going smoothly because of them goofing off and competing for narrations and such.  So I may split them back up and just have Elliott do Minn of the Mississippi in two terms instead of across all three as originally scheduled.

I haven't bought the extra "coffee table" style geography books, because I have other books that can be browsed at this point, but he has started map drills.

We're using the core books as scheduled.

I think since Physics Lab in the Home is optional, I'll just occasionally offer Lucky Science - Accidental Discoveries from Gravity to Velcro that I already own.  I'm not looking for a direct, week-to-week replacement, just something to fill in every now and then, and this fits the bill for me, for engaging text and relatively easy hands-on activities.

I also have the guide to A History of Science from Beautiful Feet Books already.  I'll look through it when we're doing a corresponding biography (Y4 is Isaac Newton) to see if any of the activities/experiments are appropriate.

Foreign Language
We're just getting started with Spanish again.  He's doing that with Emory (and Eleanor tags along).  I'm not ready to add Latin yet.

Language Arts
We haven't been doing copywork, but he's reviewing his cursive handwriting, and I'll transition that into copywork eventually.  He's doing dictation with Spelling Wisdom, and we're starting to do some written narrations.

Plutarch - I haven't added him to Term I.  Maybe next term.  Maybe next year.
Shakespeare - Kind of a Y2/Y4 combo going on here, as we were already doing our own thing and we're just going to keep plugging along.
Poetry - We were already doing a family reading at lunch, so I'm keeping that for now.
Age of Fable and Robinson Crusoe are still on the schedule.

Free Reads
For the most part, I will be pulling his independent reads from Years 3-5 for his independent reading.  I'll be more intentional about the ones marked by term, but otherwise, I'll let him choose.   For family read-alouds, I've been pulling mostly from Years 1-2 because they more suitable for the younger siblings.

In addition to AO and CM style enrichments, and his skill-level math and language arts, he also has church activities and co-op.  So far, everything is going reasonably well.  We're starting to ease into a routine finally, but when we finish up the first term, I'm sure I'll share some of our thoughts about the books and what we've learned!

©2011-2017 Mom’s Heart.  All rights reserved.  All text, photographs, artwork, and other content may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form without the written consent of the author.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Best Homeschool Review Crew Products 2017

One of my favorite things about the Homeschool Review Crew is taking time at the end of the year to look back over the amazing products we have reviewed and loved.  Every year, the crew members are asked to vote in a variety of categories, the votes are tallied, and the Blue Ribbons are awarded!  I didn't vote in a few categories because I didn't review something in that subject (foreign language) or I don't have children in that age range (high school) so you won't see those represented in my post, but you WILL find them among the winners and in the posts of my fellow crew members who are also sharing their "favorites" this week!

I reviewed 30-some products this year, and we enjoyed almost everything, but these are our overall favorites.  In no particular order . . .

ArtAchieve is a fun art program that teaches children to draw and explore artistic concepts using real art from around the world as the basis for the lessons.  It's self-paced and a great way to explore different mediums with guided instruction.  You can expand into unit studies for the country represented by the art, or you can use this program as a supplement to your geography program.  There's really so many ways to use it.

The Pencil Grip, Inc
This year I have reviewed Thin Stix 6 pack and their Creativity Pack - which has metalix and neon colors too!  These are fun, easy to use, dry quickly, and are relatively mess-free, making them great for last minute projects or preschool art.  They are a staple in our home, and a favorite of everyone, particularly my two and four year olds!
Winner - Kid's Choice

We also reviewed their safety scissors and pencil grips this year.

I was unsure about reviewing a math program (I usually only review supplements) but I was surprised with the results of CTCMath!  We tried it a few years ago, and it wasn't a huge hit at the time, so I was thrilled with my oldest son's response.  He does well in math, but "hates" it.  Both of my elementary age kids use it as their core math, and my 4 year old uses the K level on and off as well!
Winner - Favorite Math Curriculum 

Heirloom Audio
This company has been turning G.A. Henty's historical fiction books into audio dramas, and they are truly a great listening and learning experience.  This year we reviewed In the Reign of Terror (about the French Revolution) and Captain Bayley's Heir (American West) and they're fantastic as always!  They also include a study guide, which make them a great tool for in-depth studies.
Winner - Favorite Audio Book or Audio Drama (Captain Bayley's Heir)

Let's Go Geography
Let's Go Geography is a fun K-4 geography program that includes videos, mapping, craft ideas, coloring pages and note booking pages.  You can pick and choose activities based on your needs and the ages of your children, and it is suitable for a classroom or co-op environment as well.  It's very flexible, and enjoyable.  While it's a full geography program, we now use it as more of a supplement, but it's great for that use too because you can 'pick and choose' the order of studies.
Winner - Favorite Social Studies

Let's Go Geography

Super Teacher Worksheets
Super Teacher Worksheets is a resource for homeschool parents and teachers.  I'm not usually a worksheet person, but there are some wonderful treasures here.  I use it as a supplement for just about every subject, but I really love their labeled and blank maps for map drills.

Brinkman Adventures
We have reviewed these in the past - this year we reviewed Brinkman Adventures Season 4.  These are missionary stories told through radio dramas that are appropriate for the entire family.
Winner - Favorite Christian Education Supplement

Reading Eggs
We received a subscription to Reading Eggs and Math Seeds and Eleanor really enjoys playing on them!  It's a great supplemental tool for Pre-K and early elementary.  There are sections of the website for younger (pre-reading) and older students (comprehension) as well.  She still asks for this often.
Winner - Favorite Reading Curriculum, Favorite Preschool Product, Best Online Resource

So there you have it.  Our overall favorites!  Obviously we enjoyed many more products that we reviewed, and we voted for many of them in different categories, but I just couldn't list everything.  Then of course there are plenty of winners we didn't review this year.  So be sure to check out the FULL list of winners on the crew's website!

Homeschool Review Crew Favorite Products for 2017

©2011-2017 Mom’s Heart.  All rights reserved.  All text, photographs, artwork, and other content may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form without the written consent of the author.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Ambleside Online Year 2 - The Transition

When making the transition to Ambleside Online, I didn't want to spend much time planning, or I'd spend too much time following rabbit trails and we'd never get started, but I did need to figure out placement.  Ambleside Online uses quality living books, but they are advanced, thus the years do not correspond to grade levels.  Additionally, the years continue to increase in workload, difficulty and mature themes, so from what I could find on the website and forum, it is common practice to often place a child a year or two below their current grade level.  The objective is to find a year that is challenging without being overwhelming.

Ambleside Online Year 2
This post contains affiliate links.

Emory is a 3rd grader and is doing great, but he is still "young" for his grade (late summer birthday) so I needed to take all of this into consideration.  After looking over the content from two years below to two years above his grade level, to look how how the material progresses, I felt confident that Year 2 was a great choice for him.  I knew he would love the content and could mature steadily with the curriculum.  I would have two years to prepare him for the jump to Y4, and since he's not doing phonics/reading instruction (which is often assumed of a Y2 student) that time is freed up to have him work towards more independence in his school work.  (From what I've read, everything Y7+ is high school level, so I'm not worried if we only get through Y11, but there are also plans to do three upper levels in two years, if desired.  This is a well-thought out curriculum!)

I'm trying to do minimal changes to the curriculum, and what changes I have made are not a reflection on the quality of the curriculum, rather they are just for practicality or personal reasons.

We will continue to do our own readings and AWANA

I want to trust the process so to speak, with the history streams, so I am mostly leaving the history as-is.  I am removing Trial and Triumph for now, though I'm thinking of putting both boys on the same schedule for this book soon enough.  If not, we'll use AO's alternate recommendation to cover the material in later years.  (We have, however, done some missionary stories with The Brinkman Adventures, which the kids love.  They want to do other seasons!)

We were already planning to use Geography through Literature from Beautiful Feet Books, so I'm using the BFB guide for the geography elements.  I already have their nice maps, and this way I have a tad bit more guidance on the mapping. I've been following the reading schedule in the BFB guide instead of the AO schedule, which puts us on pace to finish one book per term.  We'll see how that goes.

The geography concepts to be taught conversationally aren't entirely new to Emory, so I'm not going to worry about "teaching" them for now, though I'm thinking we might just read through the recommended books as a family eventually anyway.

My little naturalist was thrilled to find out he has an entire year of animals for science!  He doesn't always find it enough though, and he often begs to add a chapter from Burgess Bird Book.  We had already started that book with our Learning About Birds adventure, and since it was also a Y1 science, I don't mind to occasionally add a bird chapter if we only have one Animal chapter for the week.

This is the area with the most tweaking.

Shakespeare - We were already doing our own thing with both boys, so I'm just continuing with that for now.
Pilgrim's Progress - I already owned Little Pilgrim's Progress, and I am reading that to both boys.
Poetry - We were already doing this as a family, so we'll continue that way, at least for this year.  We were already doing A.A. Milne first term before switching, and are now on Shel Silverstein.
Parables from Nature - As is!
Novels - Following the schedule for this one!

Free Reads
I am pulling his independent reading mostly from Years 1 and 2 free reads.  I'm also using some of these free reads for our lunchtime readings, since Eleanor (4) is with us.

So far this has worked well.  He has some books that are easier, some that are right on level, and some that are challenging and stretching him.  It has been really good for him!

In addition to the delightful feast of core subjects from AO, he also does the following:
  • Copywork and cursive practice
  • Recitation with Linguistic Development through Poetry Memorization
  • Math with CTC and Xtra Math
  • Foreign Language - Spanish
  • Player Sloyd - we're just starting!
  • Fine Arts - See the Light (drawing), picture study, composer, folk song, and hymn
  • Nature Study - we do the study; we're still working on the journaling
  • AWANA, Sunday School, Junior Church 
  • CO-OP with Art, Literature and Science classes
I'm still working on slowly adding a few more elements and fine tuning the process, but so far I am really happy with the changes!  

©2011-2017 Mom’s Heart.  All rights reserved.  All text, photographs, artwork, and other content may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form without the written consent of the author.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Transitioning to Ambleside Online

I always hear that there are times when the best laid homeschool plans get tossed out the window.  It finally happened to us this year.  I've been known to change a thing or two throughout the year, but I don't think I've ever made such drastic changes as I did in October.  Initially I had a relaxed, CM inspired year planned, but things just weren't moving forward in a productive way.  In reality, the curriculum I had chosen uses living books, but the guide was not CM.  I'm just not in a season where I have the time or desire to adapt it to fit our needs for two different ages, but I do have the desire to be more authentic to the philosophy and methods of Charlotte Mason.

Transitioning to Ambleside Online
This post contains affiliate links.

I also realized that I needed to separate my 3rd and 5th grader--not just for the age/maturity difference, but also because I was tired of the goofing off at the table together, or the bickering, or the constant comparisons.  After careful consideration and prayer, I felt drawn to Ambleside Online.  It would allow us to still do a few subjects together, but also to separate them more overall, giving them their own stuff.  Having your own math and language arts is one thing.  Having your own stories, your own connection with books, with living ideas, something to delight in.  I can already tell that it is a completely different experience!

I actually found Ambleside Online (AO) early in our homeschooling journey.  We did Year 0 (Preschool/K) and fully intended to use AO straight through.  We started Year 1 but we just couldn't find our rhythm.  In hindsight, I should have just waited a few months or a year, as was suggested in the depths of their never-ending website.  (I kid you not, you will never stop following rabbit trails on that website-there so many resources!)

Over the years, I have come back to Ambleside Online, considering it on and off, and I almost made the decision to switch this summer when researching curriculum.  I just couldn't commit to separating the boys, because I still had that "keep them together for as long as possible" mentality.  However, after starting up this fall, I knew it was time.  As I said, they needed their space.  We were about 8 weeks in when I finally felt convinced to just drop almost everything and change gears.  It was time.

Ambleside Online years do not correlate to standard grade level.  Their levels are more advanced, and after perusing the website and forum, it seems a common recommendation to start a transitioning student a year or two below their grade level.  This gives them time to become familiar with the CM method, living books, etc.  The objective is to find a year that will challenge them, without overwhelming them.

For a 3rd and 5th grader, that meant I basically needed to look through years 1-6, looking at where to place them now and ahead to see how things progress.  I decided to place Emory (3rd grade) in Year 2 and Elliott (5th) in Year 4.  This seemed like a good place for both of them, considering the workload, the content of the books, and their personal needs.  I plan to write more about their individual years soon, and I will probably expand more on my placement decisions there.  Overall, I feel this was the right decision for both boys.

I am making a few small adaptions* to the curriculum, but most of those are related to combining the boys in a few books, not because of the curriculum itself.

  • Bible - We are continuing our own readings and AWANA 
  • Trial and Triumph - I am dropping Trial and Triumph from both schedules for now, and will likely use AO's alternate recommendation to cover church history in later years.  (We are however, doing modern missionary stories with Brinkman Adventures.)
  • Pilgrim's Progress - I moved this from the Y2 schedule to a family read-aloud, and we're actually using Little Pilgrim's Progress because I already owned it.  I'm thinking we'll tackle the original as a family later, perhaps when the girls cycle through.
  • Geography - I've combined both boys in Year 2 geography - this gets Elliott through more of the Holling C. Holling books and lets them do a core subject together still.  I have the guide and large maps from Beautiful Feet Books, so I've actually been following their reading schedule, which would put me on pace to do one book per term.  We'll see how that goes.  
  • Shakespeare - I'm kind of doing my own thing with this still since we'd already started; it's more of a mishmash between the ideas of a Y2 and Y4 approach.  (I think it's more in the style of Simply Charlotte Mason's Shakespeare recommendations.)
  • Free Reads - I'm pulling various books from the lower levels of AO for family reading material.  This way the books are more appropriate for the girls listening in, and the older kids don't miss these great books.  

  • *The Ambleside Online is a beautiful and thorough Charlotte Mason curriculum.  These "tweaks" I have made are for my family's unique situation, and are not a reflection of the quality of AO, nor are they endorsed or specifically recommended by the AO advisory.  I do not want to take anything away from the dedication and hard work of the AO advisory.

    What do we think?
    We started the second week of October, so we're 5 weeks in now.  The first few weeks were a struggle to find our balance and rhythm, but we're making huge strides, and Elliott specifically is much more comfortable with the books.  (He doing more independently than Emory.)  My biggest challenge is juggling so many books and keeping up with their history streams (I remember none of this stuff from my public school days!) and they distract each other during geography.  So we may make some changes there.  However, it is getting easier!

    As I said, I plan to share more about the boys thoughts and our experiences with the individual years as we progress through the curriculum.

    ©2011-2017 Mom’s Heart.  All rights reserved.  All text, photographs, artwork, and other content may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form without the written consent of the author.

    Tuesday, November 7, 2017

    Kwik Stix Creativity Pack review {includes neon and metalix colors!}

    I teach two 2nd grade literature classes at co-op this year, and when I realized this age group does not have an art class this year, I decided I would try to incorporate a few art projects here and there.  One of the easiest ways to do this was to take my Kwik Stix in for them, because the 90-second drying time meant their paintings would be dry by the end of class and they could take them home the same day!  None of the children were familiar with Kwik Stix, but they seemed to enjoy trying something new, because the simplicity of uncap, twist and paint was intriguing to them.  That being said, I noticed after the two groups were finished, I would finally need to start replacing my beloved Kwik Stix (after nearly two years of adding to our collection) for our regular home use.   Enter The Pencil Grip Inc. and the opportunity to review their Thin Stix Creativity Pack.  I was able to restock my supply just in time, and my 4 year old was thrilled to see the large package of her beloved Kwik Stix!

    Kwik Stix Thin Stix Creativity Pack

    Kwik Stix are her favorite art supply, but this package was even more exciting to us because it contains colors we had not used before.  The Creativity Pack includes 12 traditional colors, 6 neon colors and 6 metalix colors.  Needless to say, my daughter was thrilled, and she couldn't wait to try them out.

    The first thing she did that morning (yes, ignore the bedhead and pajamas please!) was paint a picture of a mermaid so she could try out that new purple.  Her mermaid is resting on a rock and drinking tea, because she had to make a sparkly rock!  We have used and loved Kwik Stix for a couple of years now, and the traditional colors have always been vivid and bold, but now we have the bright neon colors and the sparkly metalix to add a fun flair to everything!

    Another day, she was making a fall picture, and wanted to paint fall leaves and a pumpkin.  It started out as a leaf pile with a happy pumpkin.  Then she added the muddy puddles.  (If you're familiar with Peppa Pig, you'll know why!)  I walked away for a minute, because that's a luxury I have with these mess-free wonders, and when I came back I realized she couldn't resist those new colors!  She added several balloons because "those colors are pretty and I needed them."

    The Thin Stix Creativity pack is available at BJ's Wholesale for the discounted price of $19.99 (regular $24.99) and I would recommend them for kids of all ages!  We have used Kwik Stix on paper, cardboard, craft sticks, craft foam, and wooden projects.  The paint adheres well and remains vivid and bright months later.  You can see some of our previous crafts here.  I have some fun ideas for Christmas crafts and ornaments that I'll share when they're completed, but be sure to check the rest of the crew reviews to see some of the amazing projects other homeschoolers have been creating!

    Thin Stix Creativity Pack {The Pencil Grip, Inc. Reviews}
    Crew Disclaimer

    ©2011-2017 Mom’s Heart.  All rights reserved.  All text, photographs, artwork, and other content may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form without the written consent of the author.

    Friday, November 3, 2017

    A Peek into our Homeschool: October 2017

    Curriculum wise, there were big changes in our homeschool in October!  I made a sudden but necessary change, and we did a rather abrupt move from my "planned" relaxed CM year to Ambleside Online, and trying to more fully embrace everything about CM.  It happened rather quickly, because I knew if I took the time to research and plan, I would end up going down rabbit holes and delay the switch.  Jumping into the deep end was definitely the way to go this time around.  I made the decision during the first week of October, and all I did was print schedules and download ebooks, and we switched almost every subject during the second week.

    Why did we switch?  It is hard to explain.  I had big plans for History, Science and Geography this year.  History of Science isn't going to work for the boys right now.  It's a solid program, but too heavy for the lower end of the age range (says 3rd-7th, and I feel 5th-7th is a better target for using the program as written), and there was a bit more busy work than I anticipated.

    However, many of those science biographies are used in AO, so I do plan to utilize the guide for hands-on activities alongside the biographies when relevant and appropriate.  I am still going to use the Geography and kind of blend BFB and AO geography so that I can at least combine the boys there, at least this year, since I have those beautiful maps already.

    Ambleside Online covers History, Science, Geography, and Literature.  I'm making very minimal changes to the AO curriculum otherwise, but I'll share more about the switch and how we're using it for 3rd and 5th grade soon.

    The boys are continuing to use CTCMath.  I'm really liking how flexible it is.  I love that they can repeat exercises with new questions or move between lessons as needed, getting the most out of the program.  It's reduced the amount of whining from my child who is good at math, but complains about everything.  He even said today that it's the best math program he's ever done!  I'll take it!

    Language Arts
    3rd Grade - Emory is focusing on copywork (passages from his books) and cursive.  Copywork really does offer a lot of opportunity to talk about basic spelling, grammar and punctuation, without it feeling formal or boring.

    5th Grade - Elliott is using Spelling Wisdom for dictation (and I'm addressing additional language concepts as the need arises through this program) and I'm very pleased with it so far.  He doesn't whine over language arts anymore either!  He's also practicing cursive/copywork, and doing typing lessons.  I do let him skip an occasional Spelling Wisdom lesson on days when he has a lot of writing in his AWANA book.

    Literature Free Reads - Read Alouds 
    A lot of my family books are free reads from AO Years 1-2, since Emory's in Y2 and this way the boys don't miss all the books from the lower years.
    The King of the Golden River by John Ruskin
    Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi
    Anderson's Fairy Tales by Hans Christian Anderson (a tale here and there between books)
    Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator by Roald Dahl- We read the first book last month, and the boys wanted to know if there were more.  I found the audio book of the sequel on Overdrive so they could listen to it, and I wouldn't have to read another Dahl book again so soon.

    Personal Free Reads
    I give them a list of "free reads" as they're called on AO, and they can choose the order.  I ask for a chapter a day.  They're free to read extra (they usually don't though) and they do not have to narrate regularly, though I occasionally ask for updates.  They usually choose to read read their own picks at bedtime.

    Elliott's Free Reads - He read The Whipping Boy (sometimes 2-3 chapters a day, as they're short) the chapter from Homer Price that I never did read aloud earlier this year (he realized he remembered all the other stories and didn't want to reread them), and is now reading Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.

    Emory's Free Reads - Emory wanted to read The Whipping Boy after Elliott finished.  The chapters are short but there are a lot of them, so his chapter a day is taking him awhile.


    Hymn - My Jesus I Love Thee

    Folk Song - Nice Field of Turnips
    This one is kind of catchy!

    Composer - I am still playing Mozart in the background.  I even catch Emory turning Mozart on through Alexa to play while he's reading.  We're finally at the end of our 12 weeks, so we'll be switching to a new composer and artist next week.

    Drawing & Art - I do want to pick back up on our drawing lessons, as we've slacked since switching curriculum and trying to adjust, but I'm not going to stress over art since both boys have art at co-op.

    Picture Study - We went at a slightly faster pace for picture study than recommended by Charlotte Mason (picture a week, instead of every two weeks) so we went through all eight pictures in the picture study portfolio, and had four weeks to fill.  I did continue to rotate the pictures on display, and we spent a couple weeks reviewing.  One week, each of the big kids described a picture and I had to guess which one.  One week, we flipped through the book Linnea in Monet's Garden and I read the bio from the back.  Last week, we did a Monet inspired art project (reflections) from ARTistic Pursuits. It didn't quite turn out as they had hoped, but you can faintly see the "reflection" in the water.

    We haven't really been doing Before Five in a Row in the "read a book and do an activity every day" style of FIAR, but if you read through the manual and read some of Steve Lambert's comments (Mr. Lambert is husband of FIAR author Jane Lambert) online, Before wasn't even written to use like that.  It is supposed to be of the more spontaneous and casual and informal nature.  That suits my needs and this phase we're in much better, and is more  in line with CM anyway.  We're still reading lots of good books, and I'm playing math and phonics games with her occasionally.  She does nature study, art, music, picture study and lots of family activities with us.  She also tags along on Emory's Burgess Animal Book (and Birds, when he requests it) and loves to draw pictures to go along with it.

    Red-wing black bird.  I love how it has four legs.

    Overall, we're trying to get into a better rhythm with our new choices, and I'm still working on getting my oldest to be a bit more independent.

    In other news . . . the bat signal in honor of Adam West.  Then I had a Luke Skywalker, a Batman, and Everest and Skye from Paw Patrol.

    ©2011-2017 Mom’s Heart.  All rights reserved.  All text, photographs, artwork, and other content may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form without the written consent of the author.