Sunday, June 24, 2012

Its Summer!

Finally we get to summer. Once we hit May, the kiddo couldn't wait to get here. Thankfully we finished up everything but Geography the last week of May, and he likes Geography, so that's not a problem. He would love to go travel on a vacation, and also visit the grandparents and the cousins. And it may happen that we can. But I'm not counting on it. The husband retired from the military six months ago and is still looking for employment. But its still summer, and there is plenty of fun to be had right  where we are, right?

Now we do not do year-round school, but there are some things we carry on through the summer on a very relaxed and flexible routine. Of course with math being the favored subject that it is, ahem, we are doing games and activities from the book Family Math. To keep up with writing, he's writing letters and I intend to have him write my grocery list each week, or a portion of it. So far he's written a letter to our Compassion child and to Grandmom. And of course there's reading, reading, and reading. We're using the Barne's & Noble reading log this month and plan to use a reading log from Half Price Books in July.

But its summer! And Dad's here! That's something this military family hasn't had for a while. Now Dad's not just hanging around the house. He is finding short-term jobs here and there and finding plenty of ways to keep busy. But the kiddo is really enjoying having Dad around. They started a big project of building a tree-fort in the backyard. That will be awesome. Every Wednesday is park day with the local homeschool group. His PS friends are home and available to play. The library puts on some interesting programs. There's the local pool and volunteering at the food bank . . . Yeah, we're not going to be bored.

I probably should add that, for us, its summer in Texas. And we have hit it. This is the time of year I am sorely tempted to become a slug and hide out someplace cool. Many of the outdoor activities are happening in the morning. The husband waited as late as possible to mow today during the last shreds of daylight, and was still dripping. So any excitement I muster is gleaned from the kiddo's enthusiasm. ;) Spring is more my season. But the kid loves summer, so bring it on!

So, what's your summer routine? Any big plans? Share with us what your summers are like.

Looking Back: Year 3 (AKA 3rd grade)

This is the year we just completed, so not that far back. This was a very challenging, but also a very good year. Although he was resistant, the kiddo made great strides - eventually. So, here's what we did:

  • Beginning Reading: Really Reading from Tanglewood Education (click on the apple in the red box for the free pdf). We went through this twice, revisiting Progressive Phonics in between. Then we were finally able to start working our way through some first grade readers - Pathway Readers Days Go By, More Days Go By, and I Wonder from CLE.
  • Bible: We read through a devotion book for boys, and in preparation for Bible Study, I had him keep a notebook in which he wrote/drew something after each reading. Towards the end of the year, we were able to start Increasing in Wisdom, a study of Proverbs for elementary age students from Queen Homeschool. We are taking this very slowly.
  • Character study: We read a chapter from Wisdom and the Millers each week. I think he liked this book, as he's asked to read it again.
  • Handwriting/Copywork: Beautiful Handwriting by Penny Gardner. Again, we went through the italic section twice.
  • Foreign Language: I purchased The Easy Spanish Junior Level. While we didn't love this program, the kiddo did grow more willing to learn and actually try to speak some Spanish.
  • Geography: We continued reading through Window on the World, and are almost through it. When asked he will tell you Geography is his favorite subject and has asked to read this book again, too.
  • History: We tried a relatively new curriculum available through Queen Homeschool, A Living History of Our World, Volume 1. I really thought we would love this, and I did enjoy the readings, and really liked the timeline cards. However, the kiddo did not care for the writing style at all and I would have liked to have spent a little more time in some areas of history. While I know I could have brought in lots of extra books and spent as much time as I wanted on each chapter, this did not turn out to be a good fit for us.
  • Literature: We've read so many great books! Robin Hood, The Jungle Book, Hans Brinker, The Secret Garden, and Black Beauty (we're a little more than halfway through this one now). We also listened to some poems from Poems Every Child Should Know by Mary E. Burt each week, on You can also find the text online at The Baldwin Project. And I almost forgot, we had our first look at Shakespeare - A Midsummer Night's Dream. That was fun.
  • Math: oh, yeah, that. Have you seen this Calvin & Hobbes cartoon? That would be us. We were all over the place with math this year. We started the year off trying some math facts copywork, which went over like a lead balloon. We went through MEP Year 1, which seemed to help a bit, then went back to Math Mammoth 2nd grade. There is some hope for us, though, which I will discuss in another post.
  • Science: The kiddo wanted to study Astronomy, so we used Exploring Creation with Astronomy by Jeannie Fulbright. He really liked it, at first. Unfortunately, the writing style is quite similar to the Living History I mentioned above. And he wanted to do more hands-on experiments. Personally I think these are wonderful books and would like to get the Botany book for myself. But it was another misfit for the kiddo.
  • Spelling: Yes, this year I added spelling into the mix with Sequential Spelling. I had hoped this would help his reading with the way the lists are set up. While it did to a small extent, not nearly enough. Although this is an excellent program that has helped lots of kids with learning disabilities, it didn't stick with this one.
  • Grammar: I also started English for the Thoughtful Child this year. We worked together orally, introducing some basic grammar concepts, through half of the book. We'll do the other half this next year.
  • I did have nature, artist, and composer studies in the plans, as well as drawing. But those somehow fell by the wayside and did not get done. I am reworking the plans for those next year to try to make sure we don't forget them.
While we had quite a few mis-fits with our curriculum this year, I feel I've learned quite a bit from it. I am very pleased with how the kiddo progressed towards the end of the year. A main focus for us through all this was building strong character with a strong work ethic. And while he still has a ways to go (don't we all) we really overcame some hurdles with attitude and willingness, as well as readiness, this year. Overall I think we met our challenges well and had a successful year.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Looking Back: Years 1 & 2 (AKA 1st & 2nd grades)

Now that I've touched on some of my ideals, lets go back and have a look at reality. How has this looked in this home with this kid? Well, we've just completed year 3 (3rd grade), so I've had to go back through my records to remind myself what we did those 2 years. We've done some trial and error - trying different types of books and materials figuring out what works best for us. So lets see how my brain does bringing back year 1 for us (take note of links, there are many free resources you may want to check out):

  • For Bible we read various Bible story books, went through his AWANA book, and read through 1st Corinthians.
  • Beginning Reading: Starfall, Word Mastery, and Progressive Phonics. We were rather relaxed with these materials as it has taken awhile for him to be ready to read. He especially enjoyed the stories at Progressive Phonics.
  • Character Study/Personal Development: we read through several Character Builder books in the Spyglass series. I got these on Paperback Swap, and I don't believe they are in print as this particular series. But I believe these books contain the same material: A Child's Book of Character Building, book 1, book 2.
  • Calendar: I actually started this in Kinder. I printed monthly calendars and each week we reviewed our week on Monday, he traced the numbers and wrote or drew something on days we had something planned.
  • Spanish: Spanish for Kids 2-12. I will have to look for the box that contains this book as I cannot locate it on Amazon. I had picked up the book at a used curriculum sale and purchased the accompanying CD online. It was a fun little intro program for kids.
  • For History we tried Ambleside Online's year one guide reading from An Island Story, Fifty Famous Stories Retold, and Viking Tales.
  • Literature: We read through a book of fairy tales given to us by Grandpa, A Child's Book of Poems, and started the Little House series. He loved Laura and Almonzo.
  • Math: Ray's New Primary Arithmetic. I really thought that was going well until we approached the end of the year and I realized he was not remembering things I thought he had learned. I am still trying to find a program that we can afford and will work for him.
  • And finally we dabbled in picture, composer and nature study. I've loosely followed Ambleside Online's guides for both artists and composers and have rather informally done nature study whenever it suited us. I noticed I did not include any science/nature readings in my records but do recall reading various animal and nature books like James Herriot's Treasury for Children.

And now, year 2:

I know I had him do some writing that year, very short items from our readings, like the Busy Bees (be obedient, be truthful . . .), but his fine motor was not proving ready for much writing yet. Reading also did not take off until the latter part of year 3. We primarily enjoyed our feast of books and practiced narration. Ah, those were good years.  :)

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Classical vs Unschooling and that Middle Ground

In the previous post I mentioned that there were aspects of both classical and unschooling that I found appealing, in spite of them being "diametrically opposed." Ultimately, I found that Charlotte Mason's philosophy of education is that middle ground I was seeking, essentially the best of both worlds. I love Charlotte's insistence that a child is a thinking person, not some empty vessel to be filled up. Albeit, an imperfect person that needs guidance in developing good habits. It works well for us to have some structured routine, with short lessons during the mornings, providing a feast of ideas. But much time is left in the afternoons for the child to further explore what has captured his interest, exploring nature, learning handicrafts, music, or more reading of his choosing.

I just ran across this article, Charlotte Mason and Classical Education, that nicely compares and contrasts these ideals. She concludes that while Charlotte was a classical educator, her primary goals centered on character building (instilling good habits) and maintaining that innate love of learning that unschoolers hold so precious. So yes, there is a middle ground that can incorporate aspects of both philosophies. If you are interested in learning more about Charlotte and her philosophy, here are a couple of sites to begin with:

Simply Charlotte Mason
Ambleside Online

If you have done some reading on the various methods and philosophies, which ones do you find most appealing? What fits, or looks like it will fit, best with your family?

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Where I Landed

So for Pre-K and Kinder, we primarily used Five in a Row, enjoying wonderful books together, read Bible and Bible stories, enjoyed music and had some fun with Spanish. But it took me a while to figure out how we really wanted to go about this home education thing. Here's another post from the old blog, March 2008, where I began to feel primarily drawn to Charlotte Mason.

Coming in for a Landing

I once made a comment while chatting with a fellow homeschool mom that, in thinking about how we would homeschool, I was somewhere between the classical model and unschooling. I remember her eyebrows going up and stating something about those being on opposite ends of the spectrum. I realized she was right and felt a little foolish at my comment. But, as I’ve been reading further, I am finding some overlap in the different methods. I recently read a wonderful book: Homeschooling Methods: Seasoned Advice on Learning Styles. I would highly recommend this book. I gained a better understanding of some of the different methods, and why people choose them.

In this book, Mary Hood and  the Moores writings are in the chapter on unschooling. However, I’m attending a conference by Mary Hood next month which states in the description that Relaxed Home Schooling is NOT Unschooling. The Clarksons have their own chapter, called Whole-Heart Learning, separate from the Charlotte Mason chapter. Yet their books are recommended by others for learning how to implement the Charlotte Mason method. So, now I’m thinking I wasn’t too far off in seeing some good things in classical as well as more relaxed models, and so much in between.
Although I have been inspired and learned a great deal from John Holt, I know pure unschooling is definitely not a good fit for me and B. On the other hand, classical is too school-like for my tastes with all the rote memorization in the earlier years. I have mentioned the Beechick methods before. I really like the emphasis on readiness, and approaching language and math in a more natural manner – much of learning happening during normal everyday living. I love the emphasis Charlotte Mason places on developing habits – I would call it building character. I also love the preference for “real” books over text books. We have already been enjoying some wonderful literature together, thanks to Five in a Row. So that seems a natural fit for us.
I have been circling for a while, taking in all the methods and appreciating what is good in each one. But, now I am coming in for a landing around Ruth Beechick and Charlotte Mason. Although they are not exactly alike in their methodology and thinking, it seems they are very similar. So now my focus has narrowed to learning more about these specific methods and what it will look like to implement some of their ideas in our family’s education. I found a local CM group that actually meets once each month to discuss just that – women after my own heart! :-) I knew it was the right group for me when, as I approached, I noticed a crate full of books sitting in the middle of the table.
I guess you could say I’ve been living and breathing homeschool lately. I think that will subside as I begin to gather my thoughts and feel like I have some direction as we look toward the more “official” school age with B.
In upcoming posts I'll review with myself along with you guys what we've done for Years 1, 2, & 3, and start looking at how plans are shaping up for future years.

Looking Back

Since this is the beginning of a new blog, lets go back to the beginning of our adventure. This is a post from my old blog from the preschool years - January 2007.

My Homeschool Pendulum

Lately I’ve been concerned that I might not be doing enough with B in the “preschool” department. He’s not really “getting it” yet with most of the letters – recognition or drawing them. He’s counting pretty well, but is not recognizing or drawing numbers, either. So I started searching for a new curriculum for next year, and ideas to supplement and “beef up” what we’re using this year.
I found a great curriculum in the classical tradition that I got really excited about. It’s purpose is to prepare youngsters for their academic Kindergarten curriculum. But it had some fun looking rhyming and rhythm activities and anawesome Bible unit:
Twenty-six short and easily-read chapters in Tell Me About God help children find out more about God. Keyed to the alphabet, each chapter explains an aspect of God’s character and suggests an appropriate Bible reading with a text to learn. Songs and questions from the Shorter Catechism are integrated as well.
I was about ready to do flips and cartwheels over it and had set my heart to order it. Then I had a conversation with my friend, Liz, at church. She’s an “older” mom who’s children are pretty much grown, and I learned that she had home-schooled them. From this conversation I was reminded that my intent when I set off on this road was to be relaxed and not to rush B into academics, or formal study, before he was ready. Oh yeah, that.
So, I got out my Successful Homeschool Family Handbookby the Moores and read through some chapters to refresh and renew my homeschool commitment. I then got out my Before Five in a Row book to read through again. I have gone through the book list to see which ones our post library has. It turns out I already have what I need to supplement and “beef up” our current curriculum. And I’m seriously considering  using Five in a Row next year.
Another recommendation by my friend Liz was to start B in Suzuki music lessons. So, I am investigating that. He definitely has some giftedness in the music department. Our church family was treated to his drum playing at the New Year’s talent show. He never ceases to amaze me.
So, I swung over, and back again, on my homeschool pendulum. I am more relaxed again, now that I remembered what my point was, to begin with. B is doing just fine. He’s a very bright kid who is very curious and loves to learn new things. I certainly don’t want to squelch that by pushing him into things he’s not developmentally ready for, yet. Whew! Thanks Liz!
If you are looking for a strong Christian academic curriculum in the classical tradition, do check out Covenant Home Curriculum. I am definitely filing it away for future reference. You can only get the preschool curriculum as a complete package, but they offer subject modules from Kindergarten on up and offer tailoring services.
If you are considering whether homeshooling is right for your family I strongly recommend reading books on the subject by Raymond & Dorothy Moore andJohn Holt, among others. These offer very insightful information on child development. The Moore’s have done extensive research and study on the subject. I have found lots of great books in my local library that were very helpful.
Most importantly, don’t jump into something just because someone else is doing it that way. There are lots of different ways to “do school” and what works well for one family may not work for yours. Read, read, read, as well as talking to anyone you might know that homeschools, or check out the net for forums, blogs, and such.
OK, a quote from the Moores, then I’ll step off my soapbox. :-)
The best early “academics” are your responses to your children – giving yourself to them in warm fellowship, conversation, travel; reading and telling stories with moral values; working at home chores and cottage industries together; teaching them by example how to serve others; being alert to their highest motives and interests; and encouraging them to develop their own creative ideas in the sand pile, with kitchen dough, with a telescope, in a diary, and with tools in the garage or garden.


A first post can feel like a first hello, wrapped up in so many questions. What will this be and where will it go? As you may have noticed from the title, I intend to mainly focus on our "home" education adventures, just me and the kid. We both love it. But, while I know a few other "onlies" who homeschool, I haven't run across any in the online world. So maybe I'm here to represent. And, maybe I'm here to show someone else out there that it can be done and it can be fun for both of you. Homeschooling is a wonderful lifestyle - even with just one child. 

Now that I've said hello, I'll start putting together what we're about. In the mean time, I'll pull over some posts from my old blog on the subject. I look forward to hearing from other homeschoolers - no matter how many kids.