Monday, September 29, 2014

Addison Turns 6

While many of you are experiencing fall right now, we are right smack in the middle of birthday season in our home.  Yes, three birthdays in less than thirty days.  As I said in last year's posts I was in the process of scaling the birthday parties way back and focusing on the child and the memories they would have of their special day. 

 Here is what we did this year.  This year each of the big girls got a trip with my mom and me.  Addison's trip was supposed to be to Seattle.  Due to the location of our home, the airplane could get us out there but not back home.  Small town probs.  So, I spent some time fretting over what to do and came to this conclusion.  I was making this way harder then it had to be.  I live in the same state as Mickey Mouse.  Hello?  I gave my mom the news.  She re-arranged her schedule to fit the change and we were off.

It was just the two of us the first day.  We ran to Epcot first thing.
The nicest cast member insisted we have our picture together.  I am so thankful for this.

Hands down her favorite ride!  She even made us go back and take Meme.  Design your own car and then race it against others.

Meme joined us the next day.  We stayed
Our third day was a visit to Hollywood Studios.  This was the best character meet-n-greet I have ever experienced.  My best capture was on my phone, through Instagram, with Jake laying a big kiss on her.
Animal Kingdom.  Final day.  Do you see what I see?  Look closely.

Face painting.  Not optional.  Mandatory.
What a wonderful time we girls had together.  We made memories that will not be forgotten!

Her actual birthday was just a few days after we returned and she had decided she wanted to go skating.  So, a skating party it was.  

Her favorite banana bread muffins for breakfast.  Yes, we sing Happy Birthday at every meal, and throughout the day.  And yes, there is a candle to be blown out at every meal.  These girls can get creative with their candles.  :)

I still ordered up festive decorations and those cute boxes had goodies in them for each girl.
The requested roller skate cake.  Made with love.
The excitement definitely builds as the UPS man visits our house during birthday month.  The worst?  I save them all and won't let them open them until the actual day.  ;)
After ordering her shirt in advance, I remembered a tutorial on one of my favorite craft blogs.  So, I ordered the materials and made us all a shirt!  Find out how to make your own here.
After we had dinner, cake, and opened presents we were off to skate.  It was already very late, but she was not putting it off.

Her first time at the rink, but not on skates.

She loved it!
And she did too.
My Sweet Addison,

     You have grown up so much this year.  You have expressed interests in trying lots of new things, such as tumbling and soccer.  You are now involved with both, while still enjoying dance.  You graduated from preschool and are now homeschooled with Olivia.  You have just completed your Kindergarten work and will begin your first grade work next week!  You are a very determined and competitive little girl.  This was evident when you insisted on having your own school books in January.  You are not one to be out-done and it bothers you immensely to see someone your age (or sometimes not) ahead of you in a particular area.  While this can serve as a great motivator in life, don't ever let it be the wheel that steers your ship.  You are perfect, just as God made you.  

     You love being outdoors playing with your friends, riding your bike and scooter, skating, playing tag, riding the waves at the beach, and helping wash the car in your bathing suit.  You enjoy indoor crafts, especially painting, playing with your American Girl dolls and Barbies, dressing up, playing in the make-up, and watching cartoons.  Your favorite place to be is with me.  You continue to be a momma's girl and want to go with me everywhere I go.  You are very easy to take along, so most times you get to go.  

    I am so blessed to be your mom and to get to see you grow up.  You bring so much joy to our home and my heart.  You have the sweetest smile that needs no explanation.  You thrive on positive words of encouragement and lots of hugs and kisses.  You are not afraid to ask for either.  May you always be bold in knowing what you want and asking for it.  May you continue to grow in your own way, being exactly who you are, and never apologizing for it. 
                                   I love you,

Friday, August 22, 2014

Feeding a Book Connoisseur

"The more that you read, the more things you will know.  

The more that you learn, the more places you'll go." 

-- Dr. Seuss

There is a certain eight year old in my house that can read a book faster than I can turn around.  I am so very pleased that she enjoys to read so much and can very clearly remember when she was learning how to read (there are gray hairs to prove it).  I would sit and tell her that once she could read on her own her entire world would open up.  She would fuss and then read.  :)  Well, after many hours spent during her first grade year listening to her read out loud I set her loose last year on her own.  My plan was to let her read whatever she wanted (within lots of reason).  Basically it meant I was not standing over her and hand selecting every book.  The plan worked.  She is quite the little bookworm and loves to read.  However, I grew very tired of her choices when I knew there were so many wonderful books out there, she just needed help finding them.  She was stuck on fun series that just didn't go very deep.  I have known she was a strong reader, but not sure where she really fell in the reading spectrum, making me timid in picking for her.  After testing her in the spring, her scores revealed that she could read anything and my research suggested that I needed to focus on her selection of material and her ability to "deal" with what she may read.  Enter new game plan.  Mom controls the reading list. 

Olivia is competitively driven.  So, I did hours of research and then made a list.  You know, the kind that looks really big and you have to check off each time you finish one?  I wanted my initial list to reflect some old favorites mixed with some of today's newer reads.  I also wanted to include biographies of certain historical characters that will be making appearances in our studies this year.  I was pleasantly surprised to find several blogs devoted to this.  I simply began by Googling something like, "What books every third grader should read."  

"There are many little ways to enlarge your child's world.  Love of books is best of all."

-- Jacqueline Kennedy

She was slightly apprehensive when she saw the list.  Partially because of the list size and partially wondering what in the world Mom would be picking.  I am happy to report she is well into the list and I have been given the thumbs up on every selection thus far.  I anticipate that she will be done with this list well before Christmas, when we will make a new list.  So, please give me your favorite selections and we can work together to get our kids reading the best books out there!  Here is Olivia's current list.

Little House on the Prairie (I chose this because it is timeless.)
Little House in the Big Woods
Little House on the Prairie
Farmer Boy
On the Banks of Plum Creek
By the Shores of Silver Lake
The Long Winter
Little Town on the Prairie
These Happy Golden Years
The First Four Years

The Chronicles of Narnia (Timeless.)
The Magician's Nephew
The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe
The Horse and His Boy
Prince Caspian
The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
The Silver Chair
The Last Battle

Old Classics + New Finds
Old Yeller
Where the Red Fern Grows
The Mighty Miss Malone
Each Little Bird that Sings
A Crooked Kind of Perfect
The One and Only Ivan
Who Says Women Can't Be Doctors?
Island A Story of the Galapagos
Violet Mackerel's Brilliant Plot (a series)
Walk Two Moons

Historical Characters (Actual titles not yet chosen.)
Attila the Hun
King Arthur
Christopher Columbus
Walter Raleigh
William Shakespeare
Part of my concern with the speed at which she reads is whether or not she is comprehending what she is reading.  So, in order to give me some assurance in this area, she will be reporting on these books in one of several ways.  She will either write a book report, complete book projects (often found on Teachers Pay Teachers), or she can write a blog post about the book.  She did have a brilliant idea that I had to totally cave to when she suggested it.  She formed a book club with one of her best homeschool friends.  She convinced her to get her mom to buy one of the first books and they would read two chapters a day and then have a phone date every Tuesday to discuss the book.  See?  How could I say no to that?  They started with The Mighty Miss Malone.  I think it is a hit so far...the book and the club.  ;) 

"The only thing you absolutely have to know, is the location 
of the library."  -- Albert Einstein

Read On,
The Homeschool Mama

Monday, August 4, 2014

No-Sew Upcycle ~ Leggings to Monkey Bar Shorts

Every summer I face the same ugly reality....monkey bar shorts.  Is it just me or does every retail outlet out there have it all backwards?  No one cares if someone sees their 12 month old daughter's diaper, yet every skirt or dress comes with bloomers.  However, when we begin to worry more about modesty, as they get bigger, the coverings disappear.  I am notoriously on the hunt for those monkey bar shorts and I am not the mom who is willing to pay high dollar so they will look cute when my kid hangs upside down on the playground.  Well, this year I figured it out and I want to share it with you!

By show of hands please...  How many of you have leggings in the drawers that look like this?  I am so ashamed to think about how many pair I have thrown away.  Not.any.more.  This is going to blow your mind....not your wallet!

Here's what you do.

1.) Purchase this wonderful stuff pictured below called Stitch Witchery.  I found mine at Hobby Lobby but you can typically find it at any sewing goods store.

2.) Put the leggings on your child then measure and mark how long you want the shorts to be.  After marking the pants and removing them from the child, add about 1" for the turn under, as long as your Stitch Witchery is about 5/8" wide.

3.)  I fold the legs one on top of the other and cut straight across.

4.) Next, you will turn the cut edge toward the inside of the legging an inch all the way around.  Press with an iron as you go.  Don't skip that step!  Yes, I am aware that iron is a four letter word to some of you.  ;)

5.)  Now, simply cut a piece of stitch witchery the length to cover the front and another piece for the back or you can choose to work with one long piece.  It was easier for me to use two pieces, since this pair was somewhat small in the leg.

6.) After you get it in place, place your hot iron on top of the section.  The directions will tell you not to slide the iron.  They also tell you to place a damp cloth between the iron and the fabric you are working on.  I did not do that and mine turned out fine.  Here is what it will look like.

Now, you can just stop here and all is good in the world.  Some reviewers of this product say that re-application may be necessary after several wearings.  Others say it lasted much longer.  It will obviously depend on the wear and wash factor. 

IF you have a sewing machine, like I do, you may choose to reinforce this.  If you wish to do so, simply run a zig-zag stitch with a pretty good length on it, for stretchability, all the way around.  If you run a straight stitch they won't be comfortable around her leg and will have zero stretch.  Also, don't forget to change your needle to ball point since you are working with cotton.  Since my middle princess is very girly I decided to go the extra mile for her and put a "frill" on hers.

Sew there you have it!  A simple and (almost) FREE solution since we all have some worn out, too short, and faded leggings hiding in those drawers! 

Happy Monday! ~ The Sewing Mama

Sunday, August 3, 2014

The Homeschool Series Part 3 - Classical Conversations

The Homeschool Series - Part 3

Hi Friends!  Well, we have certainly been in the growing phase of a new school year around here.  It took a little longer than I thought to get each one of us settled into the new "norm" that will be school this year.  If anyone knows how to "fix" 2 then please let me know.  Seriously, 4 can't get here fast enough, if you know what I mean. #allyeiamtalkingaboutyou

Today I am going to cover Classical Conversations (CC).  I found out about CC through the homeschool group I was a part of our first year. I would highly encourage you to click through to their website and read everything that is there.  I could never do justice to what they so eloquently explain and teach through their website.  The link can be found below. 

What it is About

"The real mission of Classical Conversations is equipping parents to be great educators at home." --CC Website

Where to Start

1.) Go to an information meeting.  In our area, I first went to a meeting one evening at the church our community met at.  The Director hosted and gave an overall view of CC and answered questions.  Lots of questions.  I recommend that you start with this type of visit.  Try to be child free so that you can truly take it all in and feel fully informed when you leave.

2.)  After the informational meeting we went to an Open House.  These are days set aside toward the end of a CC year where they invite the parents to come with their children and let the children participate in the age appropriate class and the parents observe.  My girls did not want to leave!  They wanted to come back the very next week.  They were very disappointed when they had to wait 5 more months.  This is a very common reaction that I have witnessed many times over now.

3.)  Attend a Practicum.  Look to the CC website for specific dates and times.  Each summer, between April and September, a three day learning session takes place in cities everywhere.  As stated on the website, "A significant portion of our time at these conferences is spent actually practicing using the classical model, hence the name, Practicum. Morning sessions focus on the classical model in general and afternoon sessions delve deeper into a particular subject.  We offer academic camps for children during the Practicums so your children can learn while you do! There is a charge for the student camps, but parent training is absolutely FREE. We hope you’ll join us this summer at a Parent Practicum near you!" 

 **  If you miss these visits please contact the Director personally.  I have not met one Director that was not willing to spend all the time it took to answer questions and talk about CC.  Just remember that they are mommas too and that always comes first.  Those I know typically set aside a certain day or time of day to make these return calls and emails.  Be persistent.  It is worth it. ***

What Does Your Child Learn ?

There are three stages of learning in the classical model called the trivium.  1. The grammar stage (memorizing facts).  2. The dialectic stage (discovering how the facts relate). 3.  The rhetoric stage (applying the facts).  Click here for a thorough explanation of these stages of learning.

 Both of my children fall into the grammar stage, known in CC as Foundations.  They will remain in this stage through sixth grade.  Beginning in the fourth grade Olivia will dual enroll in Foundations and also begin the dialectic stage (known as Essentials).  It gets a little hairy after that so just go to the site.  There is learning all the way through grade twelve.  Since Foundations was my experience I will speak to that. 

There are three cycles of learning in the Foundations program.  Your child will complete one cycle a year.  If your child were to begin this journey at age four and attend through grade six, they would cover the same information almost three times each.  That might seem repetitive but that is the point.  They hope to bury these facts so deep in their minds that they are hiding there and can never be forgotten.  Kind of like riding a bike.  You never forget.  Once they have them "pegged" and buried in the brain they will slowly pull these facts out and begin to expand on that knowledge, challenge it, and dissect it.  

We started CC with Cycle 2 

* TIMELINE - We learned the Timeline of history from Creation to the Rising Tide of Freedom (September 11, 2001).  This calculated to 161 events on a timeline.  The coolest part of it all?  It is learned as a song.  Each week the girls learned 7 points along the timeline until they sang the entire timeline.  Makes for a great Thanksgiving table moment.  :)  Even Allye sings along now!

* HISTORY - We learned 24 history facts that were about people, places, events, and time periods.  These are also set to a tune and many tutors (the name for the "teacher" of each class) teach them with hand motions too.  It goes something like this.  "Class.  Tell me about Charlemagne."  Then the class, once taught, will respond in tune with, "In 800 AD, during the medieval period, Pope Leo III crowned Charlemagne Holy Roman Emperor of Europe."

* GEOGRAPHY - Each week the kids are taught 5-7 places on a map.  They are taught the locations using many different techniques, depending on the tutor.  This year our girls learned 122 locations ranging from bodies of water, to continents, and then rivers.  When quizzed they should be able to locate the position when asked or identify it if the tutor points to it on the map. 

* ENGLISH - We focused on definitions of certain parts of speech this year, specifically pronouns.  Several others we learned the definition for and will expand on later.

* LATIN - Cycle 2 spent twenty-four weeks teaching 1st Conjugation Endings.  Set to recognizable tunes, like Happy Birthday and others, the kids learned the endings for Present Tense, Present Perfect Tense, Imperfect Tense, Pluperfect Tense, Future Tense, and Future Perfect Tense.  We spent two weeks on each set for twelve weeks and then repeated them again in the spring.  

* SCIENCE - There are two parts to science in CC.  One portion is the experiment portion.  Each week the kids will observe or participate in a science experiment.  The Scientific Method is reinforced with each experiment and the student fills out a worksheet that has a space for each step of the method.  These are always a big hit!  The second portion is the new grammar portion.  This is when the kids will learn straight facts about something specific.  For example, I would ask my kids, "What are the seven types of biomes?"  They would respond, "The seven types of biomes are grasslands, deserts, scrublands, tundra, deciduous forest, coniferous forest, and tropical rain forest."  I chose to teach all of my science facts with hand motions.  So, for the above question, each time they stated one of the types they were doing a hand motion to represent that as well.  Also, part of CC and the Classical Education is that you always answer in a complete sentence.

* MATH - Each year, for every cycle, math is the same and begins with learning the times tables.  When complete, each child can tell you the answer portion of the times table starting with 1 times a number up to 12 times the number.  We learn these from 1 to 14.  This is a very awesome tool when you begin to teach multiplication.  It happened in my home last year.  Although we learned the tables front and back for many months (we go for mastery around these parts) there were times where she just could not remember.  It was so awesome to watch her face the first time I said, "Hey, sing the 7s."  Then I told her those were the answers!  Of course, I did not tell her that on the front end.  She would have only wanted to use that method.  :)  After the tables the children learn measurement equivalents to include liquid, linear, and metric, areas of shapes, and the associative, commutative, distributive, and identity laws of math.

* FINE ARTS - The fine art portion is broken up into four six week segments.  Four different areas are studied during those segments.  Each class will spend six weeks in the following areas: drawing, orchestra and composers, tin whistle, and great artists.  The drawing teaches the elements of shapes, mirror images, abstract art, upside-down images, perspective, and a final project.  You would truly be amazed that with little instruction what even the youngest child can accomplish in this area.  Orchestra and composer fine arts focused on what makes up an orchestra and we studied some famous composers and their works through readings and listening to their music.  The tin whistle is probably the most challenging of all of the areas.  The kids l.o.v.e it!  The tutor and the parent are apprehensive, scared, you name it.  The small children want to just blow that thing as hard as they can.  It is not a pretty noise.  and they struggle with finger placement as their fingers are not quite long enough.  That does not stop them.  The older children, from what I observed, can make beautiful music with these instruments.  You must try it yourself to truly appreciate that it is not easy to be in tune.  Whew!  But, the final two classes when my kids had mastered playing the scale we worked on for those weeks, I wanted to jump for joy.  The pride on their faces was worth every ear deafening moment.  For the great artist segment the kids are taught about one great artist each week and then get to re-create or practice that artist's form.  

So, each week your child will learn new grammar in the areas of the Acts & Facts Timeline, History, English, Latin, Math, and Science.  They will learn all of the facts I mentioned above in one thirty minute segment.  The tutor will have them state (sing, hand motion, dance, hop, etc...) each area at least five times and move on to the next subject.  It is fast.  The child will spend another thirty minutes each on the science experiment of the week, the fine art, another fifteen or so minutes focused on geograpahy (actually learning to locate the places), offering a presentation to the class, and participating in review games. 

 Let's touch on the last two for just a minute.  Each week the child comes to class prepared to give their classmates (approximately 6-7 other kids) and tutor a five minute or less presentation.  Some tutors assign the topic and some allow the children to choose.  I had younger children so I allowed them to choose every week but one or two.  On those weeks I had them share a favorite holiday tradition (right at Thanksgiving), nothing too hard.  Once I had observed the kids for a couple of weeks I spent more time having the parents practice certain qualities of a good speaker.  For example, I would email the parents and ask them to please focus on having the child speak loudly and clearly for that week.  Over time, the children became naturals.  It should also be noted that each child begins their presentation with, "Hi.  My name is Lindsey Bouchard and today I am going to talk about ______."  They end with, "That is the end of my presentation are there any questions?"

  At the end of each day the child will enter into thirty minutes of review games.  This is the time where the tutor will have a game prepared that will be won/lost or just enjoyed based on the knowledge retained by the children.  Each tutor chooses their own age appropriate games.  But, the common denominator is that the game's questions are all things the children learned that day or in weeks past.  Ah yes, weeks past.  How many you may wonder?  That would be six.  So, if it were week eight, I would ask them questions from weeks three through eight.  That is where continued practice at home shows through.  I will say that all ages feel much better during this time if they know the information.  Even my little five and six year olds would get so upset if they couldn't remember and let me say, that wasn't often.

How To Use CC at Home

Every home is different.  Let's start there.  I use CC to supplement what we learn at home.  Because I teach using the classical method many of the things we learn in CC are directly beneficial to our home school.  For example, because I use Story of the World, when we come to each new lesson it typically relates back to one statement from the timeline.  So, we pull the card we have for that topic and use it as we study, which typically leads to singing some timeline facts on either side as well.  Here is a great benefit that happened since we started school this year.  Addison's first grammar lesson was "What is a noun?"  I didn't have to spend much time teaching the definition because she learned it at CC.  Lesson one done.  Less than a minute.  Moving on.  See how nice that is?  Now, some parents use CC just for their child to have a concentrated time with children that are in their same school situation.  Others will teach their child on a daily basis mostly on what is taught at CC that week.  They will go home and thoroughly teach all seven timeline facts with library books and articles for example.  As far as choosing curricula because you are in CC here is my answer to that.  You must first focus on the best curricula for your child.  If it happens that your child is successful with classical materials, great.  What I am told is that children who use Shurley English are very well equipped for Essentials (begins in grade four).  The big question everyone asks is about math.  Here is what I know.  Classical Conversations "endorses" Saxon math.  I use the word endorse because there is a link on their site to purchase Saxon and no other math curriculum.  I would suggest that Saxon most likely follows the classical method with strong repetition and math grammar.  It is absolutely not necessary to use either one of these to be successful in CC.  My personal plan is to switch my kids to Saxon at the fourth grade level based on my own research and what I think is best for my girls at this point.  It really doesn't have anything to do with CC.

To Be or Not To Be...A Tutor

I came to be a tutor when the Director at the time emailed all of the parents with a need for several tutors.  I did not respond to the first request as I thought others would step forward.  It was when the second email came that I sat up and paid a little more attention.  I could not stand that there may be kids who would not get to attend CC because of no tutor.  I had no idea what a tutor did, but I signed myself up anyway.  I had only seen CC in action one time.  I had no idea what I was really in for.  After attending tutor training I was a lot more apprehensive.  Not their intention at all.  Experienced tutors raised concerns that I never thought of.  For example, how to handle certain types of parents in your classroom.  Oh yeah, if you didn't know, the parents stay in the class each week.  Remember?  We are equipping them to be the best educator for their child.  I never considered that a parent would step out of line.  Yep.  I got one of those.  Basically, I got one of every type they talked about that day, not all necessarily a bad type.  I made some wonderful friends!  After the initial shock and making it clear that I would be happy for them take over any time they would like, things settled down.  I was very polite, but direct.  The hardest parts for me in class were a.) the students who were taught ahead b.) disciplining the children effectively at times.  I had one student who was always telling me they had already learned "that" or asking if I knew there was a song to "that".  It was very hard.  Discipline was our other adjustment period.  I did not offer these children a reward for acting good, as many tutors did.  You know, the treasure box type thing.  I was raised that you are not bribed/rewarded for good behavior, it was an expectation.  Now, don't get me wrong, of course, I have bribed rewarded my kids at times, but that is in extreme situations.  You know, life or death, you better keep it together moments.  It is my own belief that children have been taught to behave and they should use self-control and do as they have been taught.  We are not talking perfection but work in progress.  I do not teach my children to behave just so they can get that sucker.  No.  The reward of good behavior in life is acknowledgement from others with a compliment, more responsibility, and the opportunity to experience more things when we show that we can do as asked.  The other side of the discipline issue was who was doing the disciplining.  Ever had to discipline someone else's child and they were sitting right there?  It's not easy.  The biggest struggle I faced each week was to learn all of the new material.  I was having to learn how to pronounce all of these things (I speak Southern Ya'll), locate geography points, come up with games, figure out ways and techniques for them to remember the facts, art projects, review the ins and outs of the science experiments, it went on and on.  Now, let me say this too.  I am quite sure I probably went above and beyond but I don't do anything half you know what.  Folks, I won't lie.  It was tiring.  I was exhausted physically and mentally each week only to pull up my boots a day or two afterwards to begin all over again.  This really hurt my kids in CC.  They ask that the children not see any of the material before going into class, which I honored.  So, I was up late at night trying to sing it, read it, memorize it, after they went to bed.  I couldn't listen to it in the car because they were always with me.  After all of that I just didn't have much interest in quizzing them throughout the week although we did listen to the CDs in the car, from the weeks they had already learned.  I finally smartened up and put my husband on duty getting the presentations done each week.  Then I took that back over too.  Well, because I am me.  We will leave it at that.  In all, it was a rewarding experience.  I love those kids!  To see them learn and retain so information at such a young age was so fun.  I fell in love with each of them and will always cherish that time.  I hoped I would be a blessing to those children, but I was most definitely the one blessed in that situation.  Final answer?  I would not recommend a first time parent to tutor.  I feel like you will enjoy it more and feel more successful if you have been an observer first.  The Directors wish I wouldn't tell you this.  Ack!  I will go on to say that I really don't think that an established community should even ask or allow a first time parent.  I would think you would want to grow that parent first so that the children get the most benefit once they tutor.  It is also very hard to come in and the six year old knows more than you do.  Let me repeat, this is just my opinion.

Helpful CC Websites  

As a tutor and parent I used a couple of websites repeatedly and thought I would share those.  Everyone in CC knows about the first one, well the second one too.  :)

Half A Hundred Acre Wood 
You will get lost for hours in her site.  It is very well organized with link up parties to other people's sites and tons of tips, tricks, games, etc.  Really....YOU.MUST.GO.TO.IT!

I think this one goes without saying but I will say I had a hard time finding a lot of information here.  It was great for art ideas and tin whistle.  After that I really didn't find too much in a great quantity, like Pinterest is known for.  I do have a CC board that you are welcome to look at.  Just click the Pinterest board to the right and it will put you through. **In review for this portion I noticed that Brandy, from Half A Hundred Acre Wood, has a Pinterest board.  Maybe we should all just follow her and we would be set?

Underwhelming I know, but the first site is so magnificent you just start there and explore her site and click through to other sites.  Simple as that! 

Wrap Up

I sincerely hope I have answered most of your CC questions here.  I have tried to give a more personal look into CC leaving the majority of the fact finding to be yours on their site.  CC is a wonderful gift to our family.  It is not a free gift, but it is worth every penny.  I would strongly encourage anyone who asked me to try CC, if you felt your child would enjoy this type of learning.  It is a truly magnificent moment when you see your child learning and having so much fun!  These kids form bonds with each other and love to be together!  It is a safe environment for your kids to grow and you can feel comfortable that all of these children are coming from like minded homes.

Learn On,
The Homeschool Mama



Monday, July 7, 2014

The Homeschool Series - Schedule & Curriculum

The Homeschool Series - Part 2
 Wow! What a wonderful response I got to the Homeschool Series - Part 1.  Thanks for reading along, commenting, and offering encouragement.  I am happy to say we survived our first day back in the books.  We will start with some more cuteness tonight.  Here are our final day of school pictures from the 2013 - 2014 school year taken at the end of May.

Olivia - Age 8.5

Addison - Age 5.5
Allye - Age 2.5

As promised, I am going to cover what a day in our school life looks like and our curriculum choices.  Buckle up, it's quite a ride...

What Does Our Day Look Like?

This is somewhat of a loaded question right now.  Today began a new chapter for us so I will speak to our previous school year and can update you later as to how things are working for us with two in grade school and one in preschool.  School year 2013-2014 had Olivia in second grade, Addison in Pre-K, and Allye in Mom's Morning Out two to three days a week.  

Originally, I was not going to place Addison in Pre-K.  In the state of Florida, Pre-K is known as VPK and is paid for by the state.  Lotto money at work folks.  Guess what else that means?  State controlled and mandated.  But, as I was planning Olivia's school year and Allye was coming into her own, I was afraid Addison would get lost in the shuffle of the madness.  She much prefers to be at home with me but she also needs her own attention from me that I was fearful would not be possible.  So, thinking about her best interest I signed her up for VPK at the same school she attended for preschool.  It was a commitment.  She had to attend every day, M-F, from 8:15 to 11:15.  She could only miss 30 days or we would be asked to pay or leave.  Well, I had already signed her up and paid her fee for Classical Conversations (CC), 24 days of the best thing my money could buy... and I wasn't giving that up.  The school happily worked with me on this.  I was slightly concerned about what she would miss out on knowing that they would be testing her multiple times during the year for Kindergarten readiness.  Her initial test, about one month in, revealed that she missed only two questions on the entire test.  I worried no further about that.  I then turned my worry to what would she learn if she was already "Exceeding Expectations".  The obvious making friends, playing together, etc.... but what else?  This threw us for a loop.  Addison misses the public school cut-off by 11 days.  That did not effect our ability to go ahead and homeschool her for Kindergarten and it was strongly considered. However, I was looking forward at what might happen if we should ever insert her back into the system.  I was not sure how flexible the system would be or where we would be living.  If I had to do it all over again I would not have done the Pre-K.  The best advice I can give you if you are facing this dilemma is to go with your gut.  My child was ready for Kindergarten and I did not need a test to tell me that.  I made a decision in fear, which I do not advise.  

With all of the placement decisions made, here is how it all went down.  We dropped Addison off each morning at 8:15.  Two mornings a week we sat in the same parking lot until 8:45 until I could drop Allye off at Mom's Morning Out (MMO).  During this time Olivia would read or work on her penmanship.  When we returned home the school day began and here is how it was scheduled.

Now, let's talk.  When Olivia was in first grade I did not have a schedule like the one you see above.  We also had less work to complete, more interruptions, and more flexibility in our day.  Olivia is very much like me and likes to know what is going to be next in her day from one event to another.  It dawned on me, now that she was capable of reading anything, that she might like the schedule and I could be free to spend more time doing house chores or playing with Allye.  It took several weeks for her to adjust to me not being at the table with her the entire day, but ultimately she liked the responsibility.  Once Allye was napping after lunch we sat down together and completed the subjects that she needed my help to finish.  While this has been successful for us, it is not for everybody.  I found the positive side of the schedule to be that she absolutely learned to be responsible with her time, how to solve problems on her own, and how to better manage her time.  I only found one real negative side effect to the schedule.  When the day had to be altered for appointments or life, she had a hard time adjusting.  After several months and several occurrences she better learned how to handle those moments.  Another life lesson learned.  Things will not always go according to schedule.  ;)  

Let me throw this in now...  In the spring of 2013 I offered to teach preschool activities to my neighbor's little girl along with Addison two days a week.  Those days would fall on Tuesday and Thursday.  Ultimately I had to flip-flop Olivia's schedule so that I could work with her in the morning on those mornings and the little girls in the afternoon.  I fulfilled that schedule through Christmas.  I dropped her down to one day a week after Christmas because in June of 2013 our CC community did not have enough tutors and I accepted a position there so that those students would still have a place at CC.  More on that later, but let's just say I was overwhelmed with all of the planning, teaching, and everyday life that was going on.  Her mom graciously let me off the hook.  Some people questioned my sanity to teach another person's child.  Let me just say that those moments with her, here in our home, gave me some of the best memories that I get to have forever.  I would not trade that for anything.

Of course, we had extracurricular activities.  I would tell you those are a vital part of the homeschool experience.  For Olivia, she attended drama classes on Monday afternoons, Wednesday night she went to AWANA, and Thursday night she had dance class. 

 Now we can get to the how I got that schedule above.

Let's start with this.  When I decided to join CC I studied the idea and philosophy behind a Classical education.  I truly believed in what it offered and wanted to bring it into our home as well.  Now, whether or not you choose the Classical method to train your children, I would consider this a must buy book for every homeschool family.  I call it the Homeschool Bible.

This mother-daughter combo thoroughly explain how to achieve a Classical education in your home.  They also tell you what, in their opinions of course, children should be learning at each stage of development, the amount of time the child should spend on a certain subject each day, how to organize it all, track it all, and the curricula they endorse.  This is what I was looking for the first year I taught and had no idea what I was doing.  Sure, each person you meet can tell you what they do, but there is nothing like feeling you are getting expert advice.  With my confidence firmly placed in this book and its contents, I began to study the curricula they suggested and what I thought would work for Olivia.  Here is my 2nd must-have for every homeschool parent.  Ms. Duffy has obviously spent countless hours pouring over every curriculum out there.  She has a Top 100 book that really narrows down her favorite selections as well.  She explains the curriculum you are researching on her site, gives the pros and cons, compares it to other curriculum at times, and tries to give you an idea of what type of student would do well or poorly with each one.  I cannot say enough positive things about her site.  Are you with me so far?  #1 Get the Homeschool Bible #2 Go to the site.

Here is what you have been waiting for.  Let me remind you, these are the selections we made to best fit the needs of our daughter.  What works for your child, may not work for mine and vice versa.

There is one book missing.  Prior to the Route 66 Bible book you see above we read and completed all of the lessons for The Jesus Storybook Bible.  Also missing are her penmanship is below.

The only curriculum I kept from first grade is Horizons math.  When I decided to homeschool her I consulted my experts (my two teacher friends mentioned in part one) and they gave me their opinions on curriculum.  My friend who was/is currently homeschooling gave me great advice on the basics and her reasons why she was choosing those specific curricula.  I did go with her Language Arts at the time but swapped it out once I began to take up the Classical method.  Another requirement I have held to, thus far, is that none of what I use will be Common Core aligned.  We don't even have enough lines here for me to go there.  There are sites available to help you know which ones have aligned and which ones have not.

Below are each of my selections with some thoughts about each one.  If you have further, more specific, questions comment or send me a direct message and I will do my best to answer.

Horizons Math

Olivia is very strong in math.  The problem we had in public school is that they wanted her to do upwards of 10 or more pages on the same concept before moving on.  On top of that, she was supposed to draw circles (Common Core) for simple addition etc. and that was not cutting it for her.  She catches on quick and wants to learn something new.  In my discussions with my teacher turned stay-at-home mom friend, who knows Olivia very well, she said I should look for a spiral math curriculum.  That is how we got to Horizons.  She learns a new concept about every day or so, sees it for a couple of days behind other new concepts, it drops off, and then it will return later down the road for review.  In CC THE math is Saxon.  I have talked it over with my resident CC math expert and she says we are fine and they are quite similar.  So far I am of the opinion, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it."

Spelling Workout

In our first year, I made up the spelling list each week.  We mastered days of the week, months of the year, and all sorts of other fun words I would come up with.  So, I really didn't know what to expect from a spelling curriculum.  This one had good reviews and was recommended by The Well Trained Mind so I went with it.  We were five lessons shy of completing two books in one year at the end of our last school year.  For Olivia, the words were too easy.  So, at times, it seems like busy work to her.  But, the strength in this curriculum is the way they teach the rules of spelling from proper names for letter combinations, phonetic symbols, and early proofreading marks.  I could have never done that for her without guidance.  She will begin Level D in a couple of weeks and it is suggested to try and have that one done by the end of the fourth grade.  We are just starting third grade.  I can happily report the words did seem to make quite a jump in Level D, so I am confident she will feel somewhat challenged.  I will continue to use these for Addison.

More Mudpies to Magnets

Science.  Ah yes.  My children love science.  I, however, do not.  It mostly comes from the fact that I just can't explain it all very well and I don't care.  Of course, I can't tell them that.  So, when we showed up to CC and there were awesome experiments with explanations I let this slide too much.  The fact that I was having to now do the explaining is for another day.  Thankfully I survived.  We did do several projects form this book and all worked beautifully and they did come with the basic information to explain it to a young child.  I would say these are great for a young child who likes to see something really neat but is not too concerned with the ins and outs.  I have remedied this area for this school year.  More on that later.

Writing Strands

I will leave this to Ms. Duffy and the experts to explain how this process works.  I will tell you that Olivia has enjoyed doing these writing exercises and I have enjoyed the process of teaching it to her.  It thoroughly covers each step in the writing process for different types of writing.  It guides the teacher and student through each step, leaving plenty of time to grasp the concept.  I am excited for where this process (there are 7 levels) will take us.  The earliest age is 7, so about second grade.

First Language Lessons for The Well Trained Mind 

This is where the Classical method becomes very evident.  There is no fluff, cute pictures, or fancy strings to pull the child in.  This book is about learning grammar from the ground up.  It is taught through repetition and memorization.  Doesn't it make sense to have a strong foundation in grammar?  In addition to learning all of the basic rules of grammar and complete lists of verbs and prepositions, etc., Olivia also memorized and recited, multiple times throughout the year, 5 poems or rhymes.  It was quite amazing to see her do this.  I really did not believe it to be possible but she loved that challenge.  This is what I see over and over with the Classical method, proof that our children have the capability to learn at a much higher level then we give them credit for.  We just have to create the expectation and they will meet it.  It might not look the same for every child and probably will not, but they all CAN do this.

Route 66 - The Bible Curriculum

Like I stated above, before beginning this one we read and completed the handouts for The Jesus Storybook Bible.  Every child should read that book.  I did not purchase the complete curriculum as it is quite pricey.  But, the handouts worked great.  There were a few times that an answer sheet would have been great though.  I did a little research before I found Route 66.  I really liked that it was intensive in its demand for her to truly use her Bible.  This workbook takes the child on a journey along Route 66, stopping off at all 66 books of the Bible along the way.  Clever, right?  Olivia loved this.  Each stop off includes a set of questions about particular versus in the book you are studying, some type of game (word search, crossword puzzle, etc.) passages to focus on, a key verse, the key people, the purpose of the book, the author, and the time line.  Just make sure you have an adult Bible on hand, as her children's version often did not have the same wording so she had difficulty finding the answer at times.  I would highly recommend this if you are looking to have your child study passages of the Bible.

The Story of the World and The Usborne Book of World History

Let me preface this with the fact that I have never enjoyed learning about history.  My step-father is falling over right now.  But, it is the truth.  So, with that being said, I absolutely LOVE The Story of the World.  I have said so many times that I wish I had been taught history in this manner.  Are you ready for this?  They actually teach history from Creation to Current Time.  I know!  It is told in a story type format that draws you in and truly makes you want to know what happens next.  I will read one excerpt from the small book you see at the top and then turn to the much larger activity book to ask questions from and to pull maps for learning about the story geographically.  Each chapter includes questions and dialogue for you to have with the student, specific points that the student should identify on the provided map, always 5 or more additional books that you can find at your library to enhance the chapter, several hands-on arts and crafts activities to further the story as well.  I am not sure about you, but I never had any of that when I slept sat through history.  The Usborne Book of World History is referenced in each chapter to provide a great visual learning experience for the child.  It is not mandatory, but a great addition.


So, Olivia wanted to learn cursive last year.  It is one of those things I just do, but couldn't even start to think about teaching.  I turned to my trusty CC website and researched there only to realize they offered these books that would teach her for me!  She loved every minute of both books.  She began with letters and drawings in her first book.   The drawings were a learning tool for her hand to practice the movement of the letter she was learning.

The second book focused on transitioning from one letter to another, mostly the harder transition combinations.  I would really like her to continue these books but she did accomplish the task to my satisfaction.  So, for now I will let her rest, but should I see any slipping I will return to these books. 


I thought I would go ahead and let you see the new books we are venturing into this year.  Everything has stayed the same with the exception of the above.  I am truly excited about each one, especially science.  It is going to be a very hands-on experience with lots of projects to reinforce the idea taught.  Latin will be interesting to say the least.  Thankfully we began this in CC last year and there is a CD for pronunciation.  Latin and Southern don't always come out pretty together.  ;)  The top book is for my art lovers.  I can't wait to see what happens when we experience the Monart method!  

Honey For A Child's Heart

I couldn't ever do a post on curriculum and not include this wonderful resource.  Have you ever wondered what the best books out there are?  Which ones are right for which age?  Are you sick and tired of reading My Little Pony, Barbie, and Dora?  Welcome then to the best book since sliced bread.  Ms. Hunt tells you, in depth, which books are the best on the market for each ages 0-14.  I have truly enjoyed every selection we have purchased on her recommendation.  This book was given to our family as a gift from our last church librarian (a "retired" homeschool mom herself) and I could not imagine being without it now!

Where to Purchase Curriculum

I use three main sites to purchase all of our curriculum. 

Classical Conversations 

I typically begin in January evaluating what I have liked and what I want to change or add.  I have found that I need to be prepared to purchase in April.  From everything I have seen that is when the largest discounts are offered, specifically through the site  That is where the large majority of our books come from so the discount can be substantial.  I do subscribe to Amazon Prime so I can order from there any time and often hold those books until I need them and they will be here in two days.  Love, love, love Amazon Prime! 

**Important Stuff - No one I have talked about in this post knows me, pays me, or gives me anything for writing about their product on my blog.  All of these opinions are my own and without influence.  I have included links for your convenience and receive nothing if you make a purchase by clicking through.**

May 2014 - Allye, Olivia, Addison
Learn On,
The Homeschool Mama

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