Wednesday, October 26, 2011


I've been making some changes on this blog. I'm still hunting for the picture that would capture the wonder in our little school. Looking through hundreds of digital images, I feel a bit tired now and will go to bed. Next week I should be able to find one.

Incidentally, this is my 100th post! Woohoo! A perfect opportunity to do some retooling.

Do you like the new design?

Monday, October 24, 2011

Some days I swear I learn more from the children than they learn from me. Want to go to the best growth process and therapy ever in your whole life? Have kids. They will teach you or spur you to learn about humility, compassion, living in the moment, how to relax, to take of yourself, how to heal past wounds.. if you are willing and open. Parenthood is certainly the best thing that ever happened to me. Is it like this for you? Please share your comments.

Weekly Report - October 17-21

Last week we listened to Treasure Island again, chapters 21-25. Son and I are enthralled by the sudden action in the story. Before there was much dialogue and descriptive parts, by necessity, but now that the enemies are out of hiding, the plot thickens. I'm discovering that Literature can be a joy for me as well through listening. I like reading aloud to Son, but I do have a busy 8-month-old to care for who has a penchant for crinkling and tasting paper. 

Still chugging along with place values for Math. I'm tempted to race ahead, I know that in Math and other disciplinary subjects, slow and steady wins the race. Son understands, but I want him to practice and have different problems thrown at him. I have started to (gulp) skip some problems, not many, but just enough so that it speeds us along without taking away from the practice and learning. When we do more than one page, I offer to write some answers down for him while he tells me what to write and how he got to the answer.

Spanish consisted of Rosetta Stone for 15 minutes at a time. He got 100% on most. I need to remember to set up the Homeschool aspects, the reports and such. His pronunciation is very good, and I like the fact that he enjoys it.

When we did English, we reviewed what a sentence is, statements, questions, exclamations, and commands. I find that Son seems to like grammar, and especially enjoys Lynne Truss books on the subject. A few weeks ago he asked me if he could get Eats, Shoots, and Leaves for Christmas! I'm planning on getting him the three-book collection. Now he's reading There's a Frog In My Throat! 440 Animal Sayings A Little Bird Told Me by Loreen Leedy and Pat Street. We continue with PLL  as our main book, and VIE as a supplement and oral review and activities.

Now that we do Poetry, Composer Study, Picture Study, and Logic on Fridays we have deviated some from the truly CM schedule. Poetry ended being nonexistent this week. 

I'm trying it out as I find out it takes upwards of 4 hours to complete our school, and with all the little interruptions (baby) sometimes it can take longer. I feel the need to simplify and cut it down to English, Writing, Reading, Spanish, History, Science, and Spanish. I like it and I don't like it. It's more efficient, and Fridays feel more relaxed, but at the same time it was nice to go back and forth between what CM called inspirational subjects and disciplinary subjects. However, this new schedule wins out for now. Son seems to focus better, and I strive to keep variety within the disciplinary subjects as well. 

Natural Science consisted of some review material of our Singapore Science MPH 3/4 Diversity textbook through Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS) "Taking The Challenge!". Son can handle them, although he does fly through the instructions too fast. I teach him to stop and read carefully. It's a process that I find will take some time. I am pleasantly surprised at the level of critical thinking he's capable of. We also started discussing the upcoming Science Fair in January. What a science fair is, and he read the Magic School Bus picture book on Science Fair. He also watched "Science Fair Panic!" 4-part video series by The Happy Scientist. Son also began his online research for his oral presentation on "Venomous Snakes of Florida".

I find that Spelling once a week is sufficient using Wheeler's Elementary Speller, and using Spelling City the other time. So far we only made it through the Wheeler's. Son never got to the computer.

In Geography, I gave Son a choice: would you like to continue going through the fifty states, or pause and camp on Florida for a while? He wanted to continue studying Florida, so Georgia was the last state he checked out before we started to hone in on Florida. This means that starting next week, or rather, this week, we'll be reading on Florida History and memorizing the capital, major lakes, state bird, motto, etc.

We did Lessons 85 and 86 in PLL for English. Son couldn't get over how funny "It is I" sounded. He argued that nobody should answer "it is I" because nobody would know who that is anyway. I think he has a point. It does sound more "natural", even if incorrect, to say, "It is me." However, Son said, he would want to say, "It is me, Son." Without your name it's crazy, after all. We had a chuckle.

Son was proud of himself, as nobody but one much older boy was able to knock him off his feet in Taekwondo sparring. He's practicing his forms, and has mastered the newest form. I reminded him that he needs to know all his forms up to and including the orange belt - from first through fourth. He has a tendency to think that if he's passed, he's done. The knowledge builds, like in math.

In Dance his teacher expressed that he was the best at the grand-jeté, but the worst at actual splits. Another student, the teacher's granddaughter and just over four years old, was just the opposite. Son just started ballet and tap, and he enjoys it, especially tap dancing. He will be performing for the first time this December, alongside his sister.

Son has convinced himself he can make millions playing Tennis. He's practicing hard, wants to work every day, and is getting better and better. He's the best in class, and his teachers see his dedication. His backhand is improving, and since Daddy bought him sneakers, he's been more agile on the court. We may need to splurge for private classes in the future if he continues this interest.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Weekly Report

It all starts with Literature. Every day we listen to a chapter of Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson.  He reads along in our little hardback copy. I explain the more difficult words and concepts to Son, and he is growing to enjoy this great story. Thank you, Librivox!
In English, I use a combination of Primary Language Lessons (PLL) by Emma Serl and Voyages in English (VIE) 3. I quite enjoy the logical, easy way VIE presents the subjects. We do this once or twice a week, mostly orally, and the rest of the time, twice to three times a week, PLL. It's working well, and I see improvement in both Son's writing and speech.

In Math we use Math Mammoth (MM) 2B. Son has a solid understanding of place values, and is practicing regrouping through a domino game the author, Maria, suggests. We like it, and I can't think of a more fun way to practice. We do basic addition drills in the car to solidify his math facts, and once a week he plays on my the Kids Math app on my iPhone. I think MM is a fantastic fit for both of us.

Poetry is a blast with Edward Lear's funny poems. Son enjoys his rollicking verses, and I have been introduced to an interesting man and form. We read one of his poems throughout the week, and on Fridays we dissect them for rhythm and meaning. Spelling we only worked on once a week this week, but next week I'm taking the words we have been working on and/or Son and been misspelling and giving him a test with Spelling City. Next week is Review Week for all lessons. We're reviewing the last six weeks of school and discussing what we have learned so far. Generally, we use Wheeler's Elementary Speller. Son is able to use that fairly independently.

Spanish  continues to be fun and interactive with the tools at my disposal: Spanish for Children (grammar), Rosetta Stone (immersion and interaction), SpanishDict (immersion and interaction), games and stories on Headventureland, and practice with me a few times a week (I'm conversant). I'm working to up that amount to daily, even if it's ten minutes daily. I also encourage Son to say a few words in Spanish to a few of his closest Latino friends.

History consists of listening to Mara Pratt's American History Stories Volume I, and Son then proceeds to read the story as well. We discuss. If it's an important event or person, Son creates a fact card. On Fridays we may do a project (we use Interactive 3D Maps). Right now we're steeped in the Colonial Period, just finished "Religious Troubles". We're also reading from The New Americans: The Colonial Period, Children's Encyclopedia of US History, and (not this week, though) The Complete Book of US History. 

Ah, Natural Science. It's one of Son's favorite subjects -- my favorite. We're doing Singapore Science My Pals Are Here! 3/4 Diversity. We're using the text, activity book, Homework, and HOTS (Higher Order Thinking Skills) book. I wield the Teachers Manual. I like this program. So far we learned a lot about diversity, the rainforest, plants, and this week we started with animals. On Saturday we went to the zoo to extend the learning and see how animals move. We will be visiting again very soon.

In Reading, Son is reading every day for thirty minutes, at least five of those minutes aloud. During Reading he reads assigned books, but outside of lessons he has books he reads for pure enjoyment. He chooses easy Magic Schoolhouse books for these with lots of pictures, and books about snakes. He likes the Magic Treehouse books as well. So far he has read Pocahontas by Bulla. He recently started The Courage of Sarah Noble, which we discuss with the aid of Progeny Press' Literature Guide. It's easy for him, but I wanted to digress a little, stop and enjoy, and truly work on reading comprehension and contextual vocabulary.

We use Writing with Ease by Susan Wise Bauer for our Writing curriculum. We do it four time a week: Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. It works like a charm with the addition of the workbook. We're on WWE 2. I simply do not have time to pick the literature. Ms. Bauer does it for me.

Logic is two-fold. We do Critical Thinking Press' Mindbenders 3-6 on Mondays, and on Wednesdays we do the same publisher's Moral Dilemmas, which in a non-judgmental way has me listening to how he would solve moral dilemmas. It really has him think about issues he has not and hasn't thought about encountering. I restrain myself from teaching it as a lesson in values, but instead have him soul-search and think through what he would do.

In Composer Study, we're reading about the life of Johannes Brahms. We learned about the 21 Hungarian Dances. We listened to the 5th, and recognized it at once. I recognized it from my youth and my mother whistling it, and Son (and Daughter!) from none other than the program Little Einsteins. Picture Study was learning more about the early American artist Benjamin West. He had just met with a few Indians who showed him how to make paint from bear grease and plant powder in different colors.

I have reworked our schedule to do only what I consider the basics (Literature, Reading, Math, History, Natural Science, and Writing) daily, with Geography twice weekly, Spanish shoot for daily but at least four times a week, and Logic twice a week. On Fridays we do a project, Composer Study, Picture Study, Poetry, Geography puzzle and videos. Daddy teaches Art some time during the weekend.

Monday, October 10, 2011

One Fine Day

Oftentimes we as homeschoolers get caught up in doubt. More like tangled up, I would say. Am I doing enough? Is this what my child needs? Am I meeting his academic needs? Am I providing an enriching environment? Is it perfect?

Danger. Warning. There is no perfect. As one wise person quoted once, if don't want to make mistakes ever and want to be perfect, do nothing, be nothing. Mistakes are indeed opportunities to learn in the right setting. As Charlotte Mason quoted, education is a discipline, a life.

My 4-year-old daughter stayed home today from Montessori preschool as it was Columbus Day. She goes there every weekday for three hours. Quality teacher, nice materials, no qualms. I am bringing her back home for K, though.

On Columbus Day we do continue homeschooling, and briefly mentioned Columbus again. We had covered Columbus extensively at the end of second grade, and at the beginning of third grade we reviewed. This was just a few weeks ago.

Daughter's days are so structured at preschool, although I know not nearly as structured as non Montessori preschools. She engages in practical life, pre-reading activities, math activities, writing letters, worksheets, and nature study through the classroom raising tadpoles and fish. She seems happy there, but eager to see us again and leave with us, reluctant to wake up in the morning, exhausted at the end of the day (she also has ballet twice a week and piano once a week), and relieved on days off.

Today was one such day. I know she needed a break from the structure (she is, after all, only four). First we had breakfast together. Then she helped wash up, fed the dog, and I put her on to practice her letters while I was working with Son. I heard her listening to the nursery rhymes and singing along. When she was done with that, I gave her a coloring sheet and a connect-the-dots sheet on dolphins. She wrote her name and connected the dots while counting out loud. She colored the dolphin gray nearly all between the lines. While I was showing Son videos from California and Alaska, two states we are studying, she watched along with us. She helped Son for about ten minutes while he was working on the United States puzzle. She can point out Florida and California, the area where we live, and she can pick the U.S. out of a map of the world.

Then she joined him in conjugating some Spanish verbs in a free online game. Son explained it to her. He was happy she was home.

She asked me to put some beautiful music on. I put some Vivaldi and other classical music on, and she danced and practiced her ballet moves. Son joined her in showing me their grand jetés. They were clearly enjoying themselves, practicing some skills, and getting some exercise too. The girl can stretch well. It lifts up my heart when I look at her.

When I saw she was wandering a bit aimlessly, I gave her her Melissa and Doug wooden letter tiles so she could practice her spelling. She grabbed it from my hands, got excited, and spelled cat, man, and when I gave her her phonics book from school, spelled a couple of those words too, before she was done. She put everything away neatly.

After that we curled up on the couch and I read to them from the Betsy and Guilio Maestro history book The New Americans. The two page spread we read was about colonists and Indians starting to wage war against each other, and I could see that Daughter was interested and not sensitive, just sad for the ones who got hurt. Then I sent both of them out to observe and sketch animals in the backyard as part of Son's Science assignment. When they came back in, I read aloud an Edward Lear poem. I could see she enjoyed the nonsense rhyme. I picked up Biggest, Strongest, Fastest, a library book about animals I had checked out for Son, and she loved it.

She had told me a week or two ago that she wanted to be an animal doctor when she grew up. I'm stepping up the animal content at home, and making a mental note of having her attend the zoo program in the Summer if she continues with this interest. She certainly is compassionate and interested in (almost) all creatures. She does despise and fear cockroaches, though. I don't blame her.

I thought about our day. She didn't have structured activities in the sense of a preschool environment, but she sure learned a lot. It was all nearly effortless, as an extension of living our lives, as a next step in parenting. As I'm writing all this, even I was surprised at all the educational activities she was engaged in without too much directed learning on my part.

She also got to spend time with her mother, with her siblings, and enjoyed herself too. She felt loved, connected, and accepted, which counts in my book too.

Ah, after all that I forgot that she also participated in a discussion about etiquette and how to hold a fork properly. I had recently discovered that Son was holding the fork with his fist, and we're working on teaching him how to hold it correctly. Daughter knows how to hold a fork correctly, and was proud to be able to help instruct Son, four years her senior, in this. He was not too pleased, but a little less than graciously accepted the directions.

Well, here you go. Not one perfect day, but who wants perfect? I happily take one fine day. May we have many more to come.

Friday, October 07, 2011

Field Trip - Fairchild Tropical Botanical Garden - October 5, 2011

Here are a few photos from our recent trip to the Fairchild Tropical Botanical Gardens in Coral Gables, Miami.  It's a beautiful garden, and houses the largest variety of tropical plants in the United States. After having completed the Plants section of the Diversity section of Singapore Science My Pals Are Here Science 3/4, it was the perfect place to visit.  Besides enjoying ourselves, I think all of us now have a deeper respect, admiration, and appreciation for the roles that plants play in our lives.  

Enjoying the beauty of Fairchild Gardens

Boy taking pictures with my iPhone. I let him take pictures of any plants he was interested in.

My little girl sketching a flower

Inspecting leaves

Looking for insects around and underneath leaves

Fuchsia Orchid

White Orchid

Eucalyptus tree bark looks like it's painted

Altogether now.. A glass sculpture by famous artist Dale Chihuly in the background

The flower  of the cannonball tree is pleasantly fragrant