Friday, September 30, 2011

Weekly Update 30/09/11

This week was busy but it had more to do with things unrelated to homeschooling. There were errands to run, folks to visit and doctor's appointments to be kept. Next week, with me officially in the four week countdown until my due date, it gets worse. A little part of me wants to stop the homschooling and just rest for the next month but most of me is thrilled with the progress the kids and I are making and doesn't want to stop just yet. So we keep plugging away.

Our progress this week is best summed up in the following photo.

We got timelines up for both Ancient and Medieval history (although the medieval history one is the chopped up one on the bottom and needs to be moved so it goes straight across). Harry put King Menes of Egypt on his. The books were sorted to get rid of anything we don't need or have finished. The built-in bookshelf was emptied of knick-knacks and filled with the new binders for their different subjects and related reference and activity books. Dish trays now only hold textbooks and work books. Computer speakers were moved in so that I can plug my MP3 player in anytime we need to listen to Story of the World, music, audio books or lectures. Bristol board was put up for us to stick on visual reference materials like maps and charts related to history and science.

With our days getting more routine, the kids' work getting more consistent, and homeschooling time getting more non-negotiable it seems that the space we use for work is getting more organized and useful. *phew* It feels brilliant.

PS: I made that table runner all by my lonesome one day last year when I was bored.

PSS: It's my birthday today. I'm 38.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Wordless Wednesday (With Title-Defeating Commentary)

The start of the day from the front porch.

After the tough stuff, Harry does some history and builds pyramids.

Then, with school over, onto making Martians with his Martian Matter supplies. Feel for the poor Martians because they're only headed for dissection.

The nest of baby spiders Harry discovered in the box that held his Martian Matter stuff.

While the son played the daughter plugged away (and hid from the camera). 7+ hours of school work today because she didn't finish yesterday's work when she should have. Heh heh heh. Good thing she's a good sport.

The game of Monopoly where Harry mercilessly, "beat the poop out of," (direct quote from the boy) his mom and dad. His tired dad and pregnant mom no less. Daughter choose to play the Xbox 360 after all her work.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Why NOT to Consult Your Child on Curriculum Purchases

Catherine has whipped through Grammar Voyage and is ready for more grammar. I was going to order Jensen's Grammar . Jensen's Punctuation has been a great success and we could finish it in a year.

Yay! Right?


I told Catherine that her choice was either Magic Lens V.1 (the next in the series after Grammar Voyage) or Jensen's and tried to sell Jensen's on the fact that it was just one more year as opposed to three for Magic Lens.

Her eyes got big, she hugged her Practice Voyage book and put the back of her free hand to her forehead and cried, "No more grammar after next year? But I LOVE grammar."

And she does. She really, truly, deeply loves it. And the MCT materials are why.

Jensen's would have been maybe $40 Canadian after shipping from a local supplier. Magic Lens is $50 US, for just one year, plus $27 shipping to get it here to Canada.

Needless to say I ordered next year's as well since the RFP lady said it would also fit in the box (not so the third volume though) so I'll at least save the shipping next year but holy macaroni, I just about keeled over.

But her eyes were SOOO big...

Sunday, September 25, 2011

The Benefits of Latin

Catherine and Harry got the day off Friday due to lack of motivation on my part. I have learned that there will be days in this pregnancy when I just have to sit back and rest and Friday was one of them. So today was catch-up day.

Extraordinary kid that she is she started her work with almost no prompting. While she worked on her grammar she called me over to explain how much she felt punctuation and Latin, especially Latin, were helping her grammar.

This wasn't a surprise to me. I've watched as her increasing knowledge of Latin has helped her grammar and spelling, had her make connections in language she's never made before, helped her French, and generally filled the world of words with an excitement and wonder that they hadn't had for her before.

She followed up her grammar comment with, "I love Latin. It's so cool."

I couldn't agree more.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

The Benefits of Low Expectations

I made lunch a little while ago. I got a little creative and when my son saw what I had done he was enormously impressed and showered me with compliments about what great cook I was.

What did I do?

I mixed cut-up hot dogs in with the Kraft Dinner.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Weekly Update 09/23/11

It was a busy week this week and I finally came to realize that not only are the mornings off limits for appointments and such, most afternoons are going to have to be as well. While Harry's work can be done in a morning Catherine is not so lucky. While most of English as well as Math,French and Latin can be done in the morning that still leaves history and science (on alternating days thank goodness), writing and violin. And just those 3 subjects often take a good 2 1/2 to 3 hours.


And guess what? Although Catherine loves Latin her first real interest when it came to ancient languages was Attic Greek (blame Homer). We worked through A Greek Hupogrammon so she could learn the alphabet and then retreated, stumped by the search to find a good homeschooling course that wasn't Koine (Biblical) Greek. But just last night on the evil Well Trained Mind forums another posted mentioned Athenaze, a text from Oxford University Press on learning, you guessed it, Attic Greek. And I had to mention it to Catherine. Her eyes lit up.

No, we will NOT be adding Attic Greek this year but I suspect it will be entering the lineup next year. And no, we will not be dropping Latin or French. And yes, my daughter will be learning some scheduling, organization and study skills this year. Why do you ask?

Catherine did do well in history this week, starting The Teaching Company's Early Middle Ages audio course. Her writing work wasn't completed though but I've got a promise for her that she WILL complete it tomorrow afternoon. I also dug out a vintage algebra text that I think I bought in a used book store in Newmarket, Ontario. Catherine liked the looks of it and needs a little more review then she's getting from her current text so we might dive into it a bit in the coming weeks.

Harry's big excitement for the week was when the Purolator truck arrived with the next levels in his reading and spelling programs. He was thrilled! Thrilled and yet sometimes trying to get him to work through Apples and Pears is like pulling teeth. I think though, being able to see those books also meant seeing his progress. One year ago he couldn't read at all. Now he's worked through two levels of reading and one level of spelling and only seems to be progressing faster as we go. Such a relief for both of us after several years and several programs that amounted to nothing.

We made a trip to the library where I picked up Adventure in Atoms and Molecules for his science this year. We DO have the Singapore My Pals are Here program but it's very light on experiments and what it's very good with, thinking skills, aren't really hitting home with Harry. It takes a little more reading skill and focus then he has right now. We'll finish out the books we have but rather then get the rest in the series I think we'll start a science notebook and either dive into Adventures with Atoms and Molecules or physics experiments so that he and Catherine (who I think I'll use Hewitt's Conceptual Physical Science with) can have one subject they can work on together. Not at the same level of course but parallel.

You'd think I'd have had this sorted before we started up our work. Not so. I wonder if that ever happens.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Thrifty Thursday

A lot of the materials we us in homeschooling are things I pick up at local thrift stores or yard sales. I thought it might be fun to post pictures here and invite others to who also buy a lot of used materials to do the same.

One local thrift store is the product of one women's ministry and as a result has a great deal of religious material. Much of it is too conservative for me but these items seemed useful. One book is a bible study book that I thought might have some interesting questions the kids and I could reflect on. The other is a Jesus comic. Yes, a Jesus comic! How on earth could I leave THAT behind? The cassettes are the entire New Testament as read by Darth Vader. Okay, James Earl Jones but he did Darth Vader's voice in the original movies so that's the next best thing, right?

I'm a sucker for good binders so as soon as I spotted the ones above I knew I was bringing them home. They're clean, solid and have clear plastic on the covers so the kids can make up a cover and slip it into the plastic. The book on Feudal society might come in handy with Catherine learnign about the Middle Ages, the National Geographic video will be viewed some family movie night and The Young Victoria is for me to relax with. The 10 cent roll of register tape is the start of timelines for the kids.

The best find at that thrift store. I went in looking for a good dictionary after yet more frustration from my daughter with her little Webster's Student Dictionary. Awful little thing. There was nothing on the bookshelves but when I turned around to leave I saw that handsome beast lying on a side table just waiting for me to notice it. $5 just for it but it was worth every single penny.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

On With the Early Middle Ages

I love the The Teaching Company audio courses. I've learned a lot over the years on subjects ranging from philosophy to science fiction literature. They're generally engaging and informative and always leave me curious and unsatisfied which in my books is good thing because I'll then go on to pursue a subject on my own. Since Catherine is doing the Middle Ages in history this year I though I'd cross my fingers and have her listen to a lecture from The Early Middle Ages course. These are college lever lectures so I wasn't sure what she'd think but hey, it's worth a try, right?

She loved it. She didn't stop at one lecture but went on to listen to three and only stopped because the battery in my MP3 player died. She went from Diocletian (who was nasty to the Christian folk but I like anyway) to Constantine to Julian the Apostate. I quized her when she was finished and she'd not just understood the main message of the lectures but came away with a lot of extra bits of information; "Oh yes, Julian, him and his beard," (accompanied by a grin and an eyeroll). When I asked if she'd like to listen to the whole course her answer was an enthusiastic yes.

Whoo hoo! This simplifies history greatly. It gives me a really in-depth resource to use as a spine and gives her practice in listening to and eventually, taking notes from, a lecture.

I'll still be assigning lots of extra reading and she's got another biographical report, this one on Constantine, due by the end of the week but it's fantastic to find one more way for her to approach and be engaged with the material.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Sunday Challenge #1

In our new schedule Sunday is supposed to be the day for art, music and poetry. We didn't get to that today. It was Open Farm Day in Nova Scotia so that meant that part of the day would be taken up by a trip to a local farm. Since I'm only 6 weeks from a baby just the thought of that outing was tiring to me so I came up with an alternative Sunday activity for this week.

I pulled out a little wood puzzle-sculpture kit (Purchased several years ago at a dollar store), put it out on the table and then told the kids they were to put it together by themselves. They had to work as a team and my husband and I would not be giving them any help. Harry seemed eager but Catherine gave me a bit of that tired, "do I have to?" teenager attitude. Didn't matter, they had to do it. When each had the carbonated beverage of their choice, they started working.

Catherine did most of the construction. When she realized I wasn't going to jump in after a few complaints that Harry wasn't helping she found a way for him to be more involved by getting him to find the next pieces she'd need. Her attitude changed from a bit sullen to engaged and polite, especially with her brother.

Soon enough, they were finished.

With the dinosaur done we went off to Open Farm day. I forgot my camera so I have no pictures but they had a fairly good time. The farm we choose was a vinyard that had hired a bouncy castle, brought in some local farm animals and tradespeople and even some absolutely gorgeous but almost unbelievably huge Percherons for wagon rides. When Harry got out of the bouncy castle and needed help with his sneakers, Catherine bent down and helped him. When I made a sarcastic remark about Catherine, Harry stepped in and defended her.

When we got home they pulled out Harry's Star Wars toys and spent the next hour playing together.

I'm calling the Sunday Challenge a success on several levels. Not only did it give me some quiet time, it gave the kids a challenge they had to sort out on their own and seemed to set the tone for a day of sibling fun.

Next week I'm thinking of dragging out the pizza boxes we've been hoarding, handing them over and telling them to construct the giant dice Harry has been wanting to make for some time.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Weekly Update 09/16/11

It's been a busy week here. We started school a couple of weeks ago but began with the basics and slowly added in the other subjects until we're now almost at the point where I feel like we've got almost everything covered. I still need to find a satisfactory way to approach science for both kids because although I do love the Singapore programs they aren't quite doing it for us. We're also adding poetry, art and music appreciation into Sunday afternoons and I need to figure out what to use for that but we're getting there.

Anyway, on with the weekly rundown.

Catherine - We started the week by drawing up a weekly schedule. If everything is done Catherine should have a minimum of 6 hours of work on school days. Yikes. Thankfully, this didn't seem to phase her as she enjoys most of it.

On top of the math, languages and English studies we added in histoy this week. I think I've finally found something that's not too pricey and a good compromise between structured and flexible. It's Medieval History Portfolio from Homeschool Journey. I bought the to-die-for Oxford Medieval and Early Modern World set (at about 60% off the regular price so don't go thinking I spent the $200 plus at the link) last year but for the most part it sat on our shelves unused. I'm hoping that having the portfolio will give us the spine we need to have some activities lined up and to branch out into the set and other readings. The only hitch I ran into with History Portfolio is the expense. I could buy the teacher/activity guide and maps in PDF but I would have had to buy the hard copy of the binder and have it shipped here to Canada and that would have been ridiculously expensive. So we made our own binder for this year and I would provide a picture but my internet is desperately slow today and despite a few attempts, won't let me upload pictures. I also added a section to the binder for a glossary so Catherine can write in unfamiliar words and a bibliography to record her sources. She spent this week learning about the early Christians and only just finished up a short report on St. Paul.

Catherine also requested a firmer focus on her cursive and an extra language - Tolkien's Runic from Lord of the Rings. :)

Harry - Harry's work last year focused on basic reading and writing to get him up to speed now that we've finally found programs that actually work for him. This year we're sticking with both Dancing Bears and Apples and Pears and adding Math Mammoth to our math lineup. I love Singapore but there inevitably seems to be a point where the kids need some reinforcement in something and that's when I can bring out the Math Mammoth worksheets.

We also added in writing this week. It's Emma Serle's Primary Language Lessons. It's actually from the same series as Catherine's writing program but this is only a slightly reworked version of the 1914 original from Downunder Literature while Catherine's has been reworked a bit more for a Catholic student. It's pretty much what I've wanted for the kids for years but never knew existed.

That's the new and exciting stuff. Most of the rest is same-old, same-old.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

High Expectations Can be a Bummer.

Catherine wrote her Basic Rudiments music theory exam for the Royal Conservatory of Music here in Canada in August. We just got her results online.

87% and First Class Honours.

We both would have been thrilled with this a couple of years ago but with the higher expectations philosophy that we've been adopting this is sort of disappointing for her. She was shooting for at least 90% and Honours.

Ah well. Without high expectations she may not have gotten the mark she did. Next time.