Evaluating our 1st Term

This post is a week late.  Obviously I don’t keep any sort of blog schedule-Ha!  Since we started schooling again I haven’t written at all!  But last week was our “Sabbath week.”  We school 6 weeks on 1 week off.  It is a beautiful time of rest and re-calibration.  I spent a vast majority of the time freezer cooking, which was a great thing, but in my heart I knew that I needed to stop and asses how things were going before we continued.  I didn’t and this week I regretted it.  So a week late, I sit here reevaluating. (As this practice is so beneficial for me.  If I didn’t write it here I would have to talk it all out with my husband.  He does not enjoy the tweaking and evaluation process so he is thankful that I do a lot of it in written form.)

Read a-louds-I rocked the read a-louds first term.  I picked stories that I knew I could read a-loud well; it is was so enjoyable. I started a book last week that wasn’t as easy to read out loud.  I am going add it to our audio book list and find something else to read this week. I also used 5 in a Row with my kindergartner, but everyone sat in on that this as well.  We enjoyed the stories together and practiced finding the different elements of a good story.

“I picked stories that I knew I could read a-loud well…”

Veritas History Online-This is still a great option for us.  I think that my only complaint is that I wish it followed a 4 year history cycle.  Sometimes I would like to supplement with other currics and would be easier to do if it followed a 4 year cycle!  The kids’ test scores have improved this year.  Test taking is a skill that they will need someday so it is good to know that they both understand the material and can take tests well.

Teaching Textbooks-There is a great deal of review at the beginning of the year.  It turns out he needed it. 😉  I think that I will find some free printable worksheets for some additional review and confidence before moving forward.  Mastery, understanding, and confidence is so important in math.

Math U See-My 2nd grader is plowing steadily ahead.  I debated pushing him and seeing how fast he could go through this book and move on to the next.  The more that I thought about I decided against it.  The skills that he is working on is so foundational.  Why rush it?  I am assigning quite a bit of practice work, and he is not discouraged.

Build-Your-Own-4th-Grade Math-Before I started planning for the current school year I asked for his thoughts on math for our 4th grader.  Somewhere along the line she got the idea that she hates math-not that she isn’t good at it, but just that she hates it.  She began with MUS, then switched to Horizons.  I wanted to switch her back to MUS for my own ease, but my husband reminded me of some of our math goals for our kids and encouraged me to put together a math specifically for her.  It wasn’t the answer I wanted, but it was the right answer.  We are using the MUS DVDs to teach the math concept, but different workbooks for a little more variety in practice.  So far so good.

Spelling Workout-My first grade and forth grader really liked Spelling Workout last year.  They were able to work independently, and I thought it was great for their vocabulary too.

God’s Design Science-The first term we “finished” up our book on plants. I resisted the urge to plow ahead in the text and took it outside to evaluate leaves and roots.  It meant that we had to skip unit on unusual plants.  It was the right decision.  My oldest son has been itching to do more with science and approached me about it.  What kind of homeschool mom would I be if I said, “No, you can’t learn more!”? We ordered him Exploring Creation with General Science with the MP3 audio companion.  We are only one week into that one, but he has enjoyed his two days of “advanced” science.

Handwriting without Tears-Still my favorite.  I will say it is amazing to see the differences in kids.  One kid can have the most beautiful artistic handwriting and eagerly do page after page.  Another kid can solve complicated math problems in his head and yet struggle to get two sentences written neatly on a page.

Free-Write Friday-I am so glad that before we started a formal writing curriculum we started with free writes.  The kids really enjoy expressing whatever is on their minds without being bogged down with the mechanics.  They each choose one of their Free-Writes to edit at the end of the term.  I think that they enjoy that too.

Bravewriter’s Language Arts program, Arrow– The jury is still out for me on this. A Charlotte Mason approach to language arts sounds really good to me, but it is a leap of faith for me to put it into practice.  Arrow takes a children’s book and spends 4 weeks on 4 different passages doing copy work, dictation, spelling and grammar practice.  Since Arrow is organized in 4 week units and our term is 6 weeks, we used traditional grammar worksheets for the remaining 2 weeks.  There is an ease in teaching to the worksheet.  I have felt like the Abeka worksheets teach themselves.  I am still figuring out how to teach the Arrow units.

IEW Writing-I don’t know if I am teaching this “right.”  I went the economy route, and bought a really old version.  I have the CD’s that teach me how to teach it, but I don’t have the CD’s for the kids.  We are using the co-op schedule for All Things Fun and Fascinating. I really should have gone back and reviewed these CD’s last week for my own confidence in teaching.  I also need to watch myself that I don’t become a “slave” to the curriculum and the schedule that it suggests.  It is more important that the kids master each the writing skills that is presented than keeping the suggested schedule.  (I am going to write that again to keep it in the forefront of my mind… “It is more important that the kids master each of the writing skills that is presented than keeping the suggested schedule.”  There, hopefully that sticks!)

“It is more important that the kids master each of the writing skills that is presented than keeping the suggested schedule.”

All About Reading-If I have a homeschool regret in the last 7 years it would be NOT using this program from the beginning.  We are taking this so slow.  My kindergarten is only 5, and phonics do not come naturally to her.  Because of this I would rather wait another year to work on reading, but she so badly wants to learn to read.  Her attitude is really great so we are working together, making strides toward her development as a reader.  (Quirky commentary about this girl.  She picks out a chapter book from the library every time.  Then throughout the week she will sit down to read it-always with a bookmark.  She will sit for a period of time carefully “reading” each page and then mark her spot so that she can come back and continue “reading” the next day.  I wish I knew what was going through her head as she looks at page after page of words that she does not yet know how to decode!)

Sequential Spelling-My dyslexic son is using this.  We both like it for his situation.  He is reading well now and did NOT want to continue to use Barton, his Orton-Gillingham curriculum.  All About Spelling was confusing because it used a lot of the Orton-Gillingham method, but called the rules by different names.  This program does a good job of showing the patterns in words and builds gently in difficulty.  He is doing well within the spelling program itself.  I am hoping to see it cross over into his other writings.

First Language Lessons 2- My original plan had been to do the oral portion of these lessons all together in Morning Time, geared toward my 2nd grader but as a great review for my older two.  That worked swimmingly the first 5 weeks; then co-op started and two days a week different kids leave at 8:30 in the morning and Morning Time suffered a hard blow.  That leads me to my next conundrum…

Morning Time– Our Morning Time in August were great for the most part.  HSAP has thrown a huge monkey wrench into it.  Two or 3 days a week kids are coming and going for enrichment classes and/or field trips. For Morning Time this term we had planned to continue reading Who is God? And Can I really Trust Him?, Aesop’s Fables and replace our science reading with geography. Our memory work would be a new Bible passage, poem, hymns and creed as well as begin working memorizing the state and capitals.  Because I was apparently very optimistic I thought we’d try to throw some Latin in there as well.  (“Optimistic” or “senseless” pick your adjective.)   It is clear now that I need to rethink all this.

I need to have a full Morning Time option and an abbreviated Morning Time for days that we need to be out the door by 8:20 with lunches in hand.  So that is what I am working on the rest of the day.  What are the few things that bless us and need to be done, even in a time crunch and how can we loop the other subjects in a way that is fun and engaging?

What a great first term we had!  I really enjoyed looking back and seeing what really worked and needs to keep going and what needs to be tweaked as we move forward.  Time to go get ready for the next week!

Memorization and Morning Time Show & Tell

I have gotten a few emails following my Morning Time Plans post asking for a few more details on our morning time, group learning, memorization, and the like.  I thought that I would compile them in a FAQ post and attach a YouTube clip of our memory binder.

Where did you get your memorization binder?

I made it based on what we are currently studying.  We change out our memory work each term, and work in time for review.  (Our terms are 6 weeks long.)

What types of things are in your binder?

Our binder has our Bible memory passages, the poems that we are memorizing, our academic memory work (after compiling it for my kids I made it available as Relational Recitation) and the sheet music for the hymns we are learning.  You can take a peak at our memory binder here on YouTube.

How do you work memorization into your day?

We do memorization as part of our morning time.  That is one of the things I love most about morning time.  Now that we have created this time in our day to gather together, whenever I discover something that we could all benefit from learning I already have a place in our day for it.  For example, this year I wanted to do a composer study.  We will take one of our terms for a SQUILT classical music until.  (During that time we will not do geography or science.  We can’t do everything at once!)  Often the hardest part of adding something new is overcoming inertia and just getting it started.  If I have to get everyone gathered for recitation and then they all go do math, I have call them back for science.  Then they might split for spelling and I try to learn them back together again for Bible, and I’d spend all my morning starting and starting and starting again.  No thank you!

Do you do memorization with all of your kids?

Yes, we have Morning Time all together.  I would allow my preschoolers to skip, but they like to be where the action is. They paint with water, color or play with play-doh if we are at the table.  If we are having Morning Time in the family room they play with puzzles or blocks or do somersaults. (Honesty, folks!)

Sometimes it is best to keep the little ones close during morning time.  Left to themselves they tend to find amusement in all the wrong places!

Do all of your kids cooperate with morning time?

Sometimes.  Actually this question is quite humbly-timed today.  There was  a lot of fight back from the youngest two in the form of whining and trying to get the attention of the older ones.  (Someone may have purposefully dumped his water from paint with water directly onto the paper and we had to relocate to the family room.) Like just about everything in life we have our days!

I believed that morning time was going to be a blessing to us, but that meant that I had to work to establish it.  I will send an uncooperative child to listen from the stairs or to his bedroom.  I have taken a pretty strong stand that this is a profitable time for those who participate, and I cannot allow one person to ruin that for the rest of us.

Any tips for helping everyone enjoy morning time?

  1. START SMALL.  We have been having Morning Time for a few years now.  It is a little like juggling; start with a few balls, and when you’ve found your rhythm, add another ball.
  2. Use a time that you are already gathered-a regular story time, group study or even snack time.
  3. Plan things you know your kids will enjoy.  Our family loves music so our morning time involves singing.  We are reading from an Aesop’s Fables book each day.  My middle son picked our Bible passage for this term.
  4. Purposefully put variety into Morning Mime.   First we recite, then I read to them, then we sing. After that I might read again.  We waft back and forth from reciting (with movement if possible) and sitting to listen and then we go back to something more interactive.
  5. Make sure to break out of the mold once in a while.  Sometimes if things are getting a little mundane we take morning time outside or we have hot chocolate.  Once a week I try to  include a YouTube clip of a current event or of something that corresponds with our science chapter.  Every day does not need to be a treat, but adding something special every now and then is good for all of our spirits.


Morning Time At-A-Glance

Our Nature Encounter

“I am going to rock nature studies this year!  We are going on nature hikes and starting nature notebooks! This is the year we are going to get out there and learn outside!”

So I bought real sketch pads and expensive colored pencils. I got a book of Iowa plants and flowers to help us identify what grows naturally here.  Last week I scouted for great places near by for us to have nature hikes.  I found some about a half of a mile from our house.  No problem.  I will just get out the bike trailer.

This morning I told the kids, “Put on your hiking shoes and clothes we can get dirty in.  We are going to have some fun this morning!”  They were thrilled.  I was pretty sure that a nomination for “Mother of the Year” was going to be coming my way.

This is where I would insert pictures of the kids exploring and finding treasures amongst the woodland creatures.


Sadly, no such pictures exist.

First, It had been approximately 4 years since I last pulled the bike trailer.   I was fine but my children had little faith in my capabilities and kept yelling, “Slow down!  Do you know what you are doing?” Ridiculous.

We arrive at the hiking spot, parked our bikes and started hiking…for a whopping 30 seconds.  The rains that have gifted us lush, green yards also left ample breeding grounds for armies of mosquitos.  It took less than a minute for us to each get bit a half-dozen times and we high-tailed it back out of the trees and to our bikes.

I would not be beaten by these little bugs.  A quick ride back to the house for bug spray, and we’d be back in nature in no time.

“I’m hot!”

“Can we be done?”

“This is a the longest bike ride EVER.”

I sprayed them all down and rehydrated everyone. I could see that our enthusiasm was waning, and a compromise was in order.  We decided that we would get back on the bikes and ride to a much closer, smaller area with trees to look for treasures to bring back to the house to draw in our nature notebooks.

The boys took off exploring at once.  The girls and I followed more slowly behind.  The mosquitos were totally ignoring our repellent.  This trip was not fairing any better.

Then my daughter walked into a spider web…with her mouth open.  Complete Panic. I don’t know that I can adequately describe the flailing, the jumping, stomping, spitting, screaming and wailing.  It was epic.  Clearly she almost ate the spider and would probably die.

I called the boys back.  It was time to be done.  My youngest fell in the mud and kept yelling, “Bugs in my ears! Bugs in my ears”  And more than one of my children said, “I think we have had enough nature for the day.”

Earlier today I had posted a picture on Facebook of my 7-year-old eagerly completing two math lessons before 7:30 a.m.  If I share pictures of the good times it is only right that I also post the times like these when my great plans are eaten by mosquitos, and my children want to curse nature and die.


Memorization: Shaping Hearts and Minds

As I prepare for another school year, books and paper strewn across my table, I often listen to podcasts absorbing words of wisdom from homeschool veterans and moms still deep in the trenches.  I try to listen to a broad base of subjects and methods soaking in ideas and encouragement.

I want to share an insightful 3 part series of podcasts by Andrew Pudewa from IEW’s The Art of Language podcast.  There are many opinions to the value of memorization in a modern education.  I will not pretend to be an expert of the subject; I am very much a leaner.

Mr. Pudewa was argues for the memorization of good literature (scripture, poetry, famous speeches) for linguistic development.  He also reasons that to abandon memorization (including drills) limits a student curiosities because a student who does not have knowledge, does not know what questions to ask.

He explains the two ways that memories are formed: with an intense emotional connection or repetitious exposure. The various educational philosophies  place differing amounts of emphasis on both methods-relationship and repetition.  There are ample examples of students benefiting from an exciting experience with nature or a riveting biography, forever implanting that knowledge into memory.  There is an equally firm belief based on academic history personal experience (or the lack thereof) of the benefits of recitation and drills

A student who does not have knowledge, does not know what questions to ask.

Wisdom keeps the pendulum from swinging too far in either direction.  An education long on memorization and drilling facts can quickly become uninspiring and lacking.  On the other hand there is some knowledge that is not naturally emotion all and lacks the intensity needed to plant it into the memory.

The concept of pi as a mathematical constant immediately comes to mind.  I presented it to my children with enthusiasm.  (“Isn’t if fascinating that God crested this seemingly magical number that is used in all equations involving circles?  What would it have been like to discover pi?  Do you think that there are other mathematical constants yet to be discovered?) An “exciting” encounter with pi and a few equations were not enough to permanently etch it into their brains.  It is one of the things we drill.

This is a great listen if you are considering adding memorization to your home, or  if you are tempted to forego recitation all together.  If you listen please be sure to let me know what you think! Continue reading “Memorization: Shaping Hearts and Minds”

Flexible Planning

I was so excited about some of the new planning methods that I have put into practice over the past couple of months that I decided to talk about it on YouTube instead of typing my thoughts all out. (Please be patient with me as I explore this new-to-me media!!).  After the link to the video I included a few of the blog posts that I read that got me out of my slump of not knowing what to do next.  These ideas have helped me have a plan even for the days and weeks in this season that are busy and seem full of interruptions.

Image result for image planner

Click Here to watch Flexible Planning


Simplified Organization: Brain Dump

Simplified Organization: Know your Vocations

Simplified Organization: 3 x 5 Card (Mine are not quite this fancy!)





Morning Time Plans

When I wrote Relational Recitation I purposefully did not prescribe a schedule to go with the material. I wanted to create something that was open ended so families could shape it to meet their unique needs and goals. However, I’ve been asked several times how we use recitation in our home so I decided it might be time to give examples.

Our memorization and recitation is woven in with our morning time.  I will attempt to give a simple sketch of what that has looked like the past two years.

Two years ago we began our morning time with prayer and a bible lesson. Then the children got out their memory binders.(Memory Sheet Yr 1) Our memory work was organized by weeks.  We would sing a hymn, recite the scripture passage for that term, then read or recite the work for that week.  We followed our memory work by reading a corresponding living book or doing map work.  We school in 6 week terms so our binders were organized with 5 weeks of memory work and a week of review.  Our poetry lessons consisted of sporadic poem reading.

Last year I decided to take a different approach, and I organized our recitation by days instead of weeks.  Only spending a week with the memory work as we had previous year felt rushed so I put together academic memory work, religious recitation, and a hymn for each day of the week and used that daily rotation for several terms. (Memory Sheet Yr 2)

I knew that morning time was taking up a more significant portion of our day so I moved it away from the table and into the family room where the little ones could wiggle. I made one memory binder with large print and pictures that I used like a flip chart instead of each child having an individual binder.  We added more reading each day and sprinkled in more singing to keep the little ones engaged.  We spent one term specifically studying poetry, and each of the kids worked on memorizing their individual poem.IMG_4711

Last week I began preparing to restart morning time after our summer break.  I looked at what we will be studying in science and geography and lining it up with our memory work.  Now that we have a few years under our belt I’d liked to work in time to regularly review some of what we have learned in the past couple of years.  I plan to go back to individual morning time binders, but we will use the index cards from Relational Recitation for our review.  We will add new hymns and scripture passages, and I am still figuring out how to weave in more poetry memorization without overwhelming or schedule.

I hope that these examples are helpful to anyone looking for more information on morning time.  If you need help getting started adding memorization to the school day be sure to check our my book Relational Recitation or my blog pages with memorization aids and scripture memory printables.

Here’s to another year of recitation, morning time and learning together!