Friday, March 30, 2012

And still more planning...

Am I bordering on obsessive yet?  Probably not.  There are most likely many homeschooling mothers who are putting this much time into planning their children's kindergarten year.  I hope.

My latest bout of schedulitis was brought on by the arrival of Henry's Saxon Math 1 Home Study Kit.  How much do I love that he was jumping up and down as I was taking it out of the box?  He wanted to dive in and get started, but I reminded him that we still needed to finish Saxon Math K.


I hope that enthusiasm doesn't ever go away.

Anyway, I started thinking about how to break up the lessons over the school year and that started me in on what next year was going to look like all together.  Three desires sprang to mind.
  1. The school year needed to work in concert with the liturgical year.
  2. We need to move to a more year-round model.
  3. We need both scheduled breaks and enough flexibility to accommodate things like appointments, visitors, and days when we just want to play hooky.
Here's what I've come up with.  Three sessions of school with breaks in between.

First Session: August 13 - December 1, 2012 (16 weeks)
Advent/Christmas Break: December 2, 2012 - January 6, 2013 (5 weeks)
Second Session: January 7 - March 23, 2013 (11 weeks)
Easter Break (Palm Sunday to Divine Mercy Sunday): March 24 - April 7, 2013 (2 weeks)
Third Session: April 8 - July 26, 2013 (16 weeks)
Summer Break: July 27 - August 11, 2013 (2 weeks)

This will give us a good beginning to the year before heading into a period of lighter work from December to April, followed by another four months of steady work with a short break before starting first grade.  It's 43 weeks of school and 9 weeks of break (not including days off for birthdays and random holidays and so forth).

Subjects for all sessions:
  • Saxon Math 1 - There are 130 lessons in this level, so I'm planning on three lessons per week.  This gives us another two days each week for any needed review, to play math games, and to read "living math" books.  The Well-Trained Mind has a nice list of these types of books.  I also found this great list via Pinterest.
  • Religion - This will, of course, be covered during breaks also.  We'll just follow the liturgical year.
  • Art and Music - This is pretty much a given!  We'll also cover these during our Advent/Christmas and Easter breaks, but they will be seasonally appropriate.
  • Philosophy - At least for now.  I won't know for sure what kind of time we'll need for this until I can get my hands on the Elfie teacher's manual and that won't happen until at least May.
First Session:
  • Hooked on Phonics Learn to Read, First Grade, Level 1  - This is very relaxed.  There are only three units with 15 lessons.  There's no way it will take us the full 16 weeks to get through.  This schedule does leave us with plenty of time to read, though, and that's what I want Henry working on most of all.
  • Zaner-Bloser Handwriting, Kindergarten - I haven't purchased this book yet, but based on the online sample pages, I don't think Henry should have any issues completing it during the first session.
Second Session:
  • Science - Since The Well-Trained Mind doesn't really even really push science at this level, I thought having a solid period of science would be okay.  We have seven lapbook studies to complete and 11 weeks should be an ample amount of time.  Henry will, of course, get lots of practice in other subjects through the creation of the lapbooks (art, handwriting, reading). 
Third Session:
  •   Hooked on Phonics Learn to Read, First Grade, Level 2
  •  Zaner-Bloser Handwriting, First Grade
One final resource that will probably get added in is The Ordinary Parent's Guide to Teaching Reading.  It's by Jessie Wise, one of the authors of The Well-Trained Mind, and it's an extremely thorough phonics program made up of 231 daily lessons.  While we all love Hooked on Phonics and I see it as a very effective "learn to read" program, I would like to have a better foundation for teaching the actual rules of phonics.  It's hard to plan on how long it will take to make it through the book, especially since Henry is already reading and more than a few of the beginning lessons will be review. We'll have to see how it will fit in once I get my hands on a copy.

Maybe I can relax now.

Update:  Maybe not.  I just kept looking at that five week break for Advent and Christmas and thinking it's going to be too long.  Changes are as follows:

First Session: September 2 - December 22, 2012 (16 weeks)
Advent/Christmas Break: December 23, 2012 - January 6, 2013 (2 weeks)
Second Session: January 7 - March 23, 2013 (11 weeks)
Easter Break (Palm Sunday to Divine Mercy Sunday): March 24 - April 7, 2013 (2 weeks)
Third Session: April 8 - July 26, 2013 (16 weeks)
Summer Break: July 27 - August 11, 2013 (2 weeks)

That gives us a couple extra weeks before we start to make sure Peter/Violet is settled in nicely and tightens up Christmas break.  I'm keeping our end date and summer break the same for now.  There's no point in trying to figure out what first grade will look like this far in advance!

Monday, March 26, 2012

March 25 - 31, 2012

I'm a day late posting this week's schedule because we were really busy yesterday... with Oliver's third birthday!  We had a fun day, dinner out, cupcakes at home, some new books, and a Talking Woody doll that has already become his new favorite.  I'm still amazed at the fact that our littlest boy is three years old.  It really feels like we just brought him home from the hospital.


Well, moving on.  Henry's math lessons for this week are:
  • Lesson 82 - Comparing number to ten
  • Lesson 83 - Comparing numbers to ten (again); Handwriting master 15
  • Lesson 84 - Making an ABBC pattern using pattern blocks
The fun thing is that the second "comparing numbers to ten" lesson is actually going to be him learning how to play "War."  This is definitely a lesson that Daddy will enjoy, too.

Today is the Feast of the Annunciation.  We have a coloring page to complete and a new book to read, Mary: The Mother of Jesus.  Hey, it's by Tomie dePaola.  What do you know?

Friday, March 23, 2012

Easter is right around the corner!

Just like during Advent, the combination of nightly ornament hangings, readings, and a countdown calendar has seemingly accelerated time.  Easter is but 15 days away, unbelievably.  We've got more than a few activities planned for Holy Week and I'll post about those next weekend.  However, the Easter baskets are done.

Well, we have all the stuff for them.  I haven't made up the baskets yet because it's easier to explain away cardboard boxes on a shelf as opposed to bright baskets of goodies.  We kept it all pretty simple and tried to keep the emphasis on the real meaning of Easter.  We also kept with our "three gifts" theme from Christmas.  Quality over quantity and all of that.

Which means books.  Now that I've been introduced to Tomie dePaola's work, I can't get enough of it.  So, one kid is getting his Book of Bible Stories and another is getting The Miracles of Jesus.  The third will receive Brian Wildsmith's beautifully illustrated The Easter Story.  These are all books that they can come back to for years.

They're also getting an age-appropriate toy that relates to Easter in some way.  Henry, I'm sure, will be intrigued by this 3D egg puzzle.  Jane, who loves stuffed animals, but turns her nose up at dolls, will be happy with this little lambOliver's is probably the one I reached most on, but the kid loves trains and at least it says "Happy Easter" and not "Happy Spring" or something like that.

And what's an Easter basket without candy?  Only, we wanted to avoid a huge amount of junk that would get transferred to the old candy bowl on top of the fridge to be parceled out for months.  Instead, we ordered each child one of these from See's Candies.  It's perfect for them.  There's a nice variety, a cute little box, and just enough candy to enjoy over a few days.  They shipped quickly and were packaged well.  I was a little worried about ordering online and having it delivered because we've been getting into the 80s lately.  But, they showed up today in an insulated box accompanied by reusable cold packs.  Everything was in perfect shape.  (No, I didn't sample anything.  I was tempted, though.)

Our final Easter morning surprise is something for all of us to share.  I didn't want to make the same mistake I did at Christmas and not have something planned in advance for the Easter season.  So, we have Tomie dePaola's (surprise!) The Garden of the Good Shepherd.  It's a laminated 11x17 background board that comes with 51 reusable stickers to count the days from Easter to Pentecost.  There's also a guidebook that explains the symbols for each night.  The night before Easter, once the kids are in bed, we'll set up our little table for Easter and have this ready to go.  Again, this is something that we can use year after year.

Now I just need to plan the menu and get the rest of the things to decorate the table with and...

Sunday, March 18, 2012

March 18 - 24, 2012

Whew.  A lot less going on this week than last week.  At least with school.

Henry's math lessons for this week are:
  • Lesson 79 - Ordering objects by length, measuring length using nonstandard units
  • Lesson 80 - Making an ABC pattern using pattern blocks
  • Lesson 81 - Acting out "some", "some more," and "some went away" stories; handwriting master 14
Monday is the Solemnity of St. Joseph.  We've been doing this novena from Catholic Icing and will finish it Monday evening.  Other than that, all I've got planned for the day is a coloring page.  Maybe next year we can make a St. Joseph's altar, but that is not going to happen during this rotation around the sun.

Oliver has one speech therapy appointment this week.

There are a couple of good sales beginning Monday.  The first is from LinguiSystems.  If you sign up as a member (free, just an email list), you get a code good for 30% off your order until the 23rd.  This is a site with a huge assortment of speech language pathology resources.  I'm planning on ordering this Early Intervention Kit for Oliver.  The sign-up process for therapy is taking a ridiculous amount of time and I'm unwilling to sit around and wait any longer.  I think this kit will help me to accurately assess where Oliver's delays are and the activity guide will provide specific exercises to address each problem.

In the Hands of a Child (the site we ordered the St. Patrick's lapbook from) is having a March Madness sale this month.  Each week, they're putting a few entire categories on sale for 50% off.  This week, their seasonal/holiday category is going to be one of the ones on sale, so I'm going to order this Easter lapbook to put aside for Holy Week or the first week of Easter, depending on the included activities.  Next week, science is on sale and I'll be loading up on 8 different lapbooks that we'll use next year for kindergarten.

I need to get a little more sewing done this week.  The coming home girl set is pretty much done, except for the mittens and shoes.  I may scrap the shoes, though.  The pattern is for a 6-9 month old size and our kids all have tiny, tiny feet when they're born.  I don't know if I could use the machine to make shoes small enough to fit and I really don't have the time to hand sew them.  I may just go with socks instead.  I need to do the diaper cover and trim for the boy set and then that will be finished, too.  I also have some material all ready to make one more pillowcase dress for Jane.  She's got six of those now, along with five or six skirts.  I think she has a nicer wardrobe than I do!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

We've got a cake cooling on the counter and I'm getting ready to whip up some soda bread and shepherd's pie.  We've had a fun week of crafting and reading and learning about Ireland and St. Patrick.  The highlight was definitely the great lapbook from In the Hands of a Child.  Here are some pictures of our activities over the last week:

We attended a storytime/craft session at our local library and this shamrock hat was the craft for the day.  All three of the kids had a lot of fun during storytime.

Later that day, we made our Trinity shamrocks from foam pieces that I'd cut out in advance.  The small glittered symbols were adhesive-backed, which made it quite easy for both Jane and Oliver to make their own.

Henry thought the St. Patrick puppet was the coolest thing ever.  He was really excited to show this one to Matt when he got home from work.

We used an old display board to set up an impromptu puppet theater.  Henry is actually regaling me with facts about Ireland and legends of St. Patrick in this picture.  I guess some of the lapbook stuff sank in!

When he remembered his little box of toy snakes, Henry decided that he needed to act out the legend about St. Patrick driving all of the snakes of Ireland into the sea.

And, the lapbook!  This was so worth the $5 we paid for the PDF file.  It was great to have a little schedule laid out for us for each day so the activities weren't overwhelming.  It was also nice to have the ability to customize some of the mini-books for non-writers.

The first flap has an Irish flag, colored by Henry, and facts about Ireland set up as a flip book.

The first section is a St. Patrick's day mini-greeting card, a counting poem called "5 Little Shamrocks", the vocabulary words for the lesson, a "When and Why" on St. Patrick's Day, some Gaelic words, symbols of the day, and another little Irish flag.

The last section has the Breastplate of St. Patrick, a spinner with symbols of the different legends of St. Patrick, a scale comparing the number of Irish in Ireland and America, the canonization process, how St. Patrick got his name, and different ways that people celebrate the holiday.

 All dressed in green and really happy with his own book!  And since we paused for lunch in the middle of this post, I can say that the soda bread and shepherd's pie were great (and so was the cake). 

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Still in Planning Mode - Kindergarten for Henry

We've got the rest of Henry's preschool year laid out, plans for summer in place... naturally, I went ahead and started mulling over kindergarten.  I don't know if it's spring homeschooling fever or premature nesting, but I'm guessing I'll be thankful for having this all done before Violet/Peter arrives.  Once baby brain sets in, it will take all of my neurons just to make sure that all four kids are clean, fed, and breathing.

The first thing I did in planning was to consult the Angelicum Academy's curriculum list for kindergarten.  I was a little underwhelmed.  As much as I love Angelicum, there are some choices that I don't agree with, for a few different reasons.  The biggest one is that I think Henry needs a little less desk time during kindergarten.  He's doing really well with reading and his penmanship is excellent for a four-year-old, but I don't think he's quite ready to move on to spelling and so forth.  I'd really like him to keep focused on improving his reading/phonics skills and practicing writing.  I feel that the kindergarten resource recommendations are pushing him past things a little too quickly.

The second reason is that I don't think the Angelicum resources will be a good fit for Oliver.  They'll be wonderful for Jane, I'm sure.  That child already begs for pencil and paper so she can sit at the table with Henry for her "lessons" while he's doing his.  Oliver... he's not too interested in workbooks.  He's much more of a tactile/visual learner.  He enjoys his Starfall and the Hooked on Phonics series.  He likes to play with shapes bean bags and sorting cubes and so forth.  He loves his Cars Tot Book.  These are all really hands-on activities.  The Angelicum nursery level is very heavy on deskwork; I just see a lot of frustration if we try to start him there.

Which all brings me back to The Well-Trained Mind.  The further along we get, the more I like the classical trivium model.  I like the emphasis on reading and phonics during the grammar years.  I like the cyclical history study, especially that the kids would get the entire cycle of history three times (during grammar, logic, and rhetoric).  I like the incorporation of all of the literature and biographical resources.  I like the schedule.  And, most of all, I like the flexibility of the resource recommendations.  They cover all different learning styles, so the program is easy to adapt to each individual child.

So, after a lot of thinking and researching and discussing with Matt, Henry's kindergarten is going to be a meld of Angelicum and The Well-Trained Mind.  Here is the plan:

Reading Skills
Writing Skills
  • Elfie but only if I can find the teacher's manual also.  Angelicum is shutting down their bookstore and moving to an Amazon storefront.  The transition should be complete by May, but I won't know until then if they're going to have this bundle to offer.  Currently, Amazon only offers the student book and what's left of the Angelicum bookstore is sold out of the teacher's manual.  I'll keep my fingers crossed because this looks like an excellent introduction to philosophy for children and it's one that will grow with them through high school.
It seems like a lot, but this will actually decrease Henry's desk time and increase our reading and discussion time.  This means Oliver and Jane (and Violet/Peter) can listen too, even if they don't contribute to the discussion.

As for a formal curriculum for the littles, I don't think I'm going to repeat what we did with Henry.  So much of what he did in nursery school was a repeat of his two-year-old curriculum, and quite a bit of what he did in preschool was a repeat of nursery.  There was an awful lot of formal instruction just to learn colors, shapes, numbers 1-10, and his letters and letter sounds.  I'm going to try approaching this more organically for Oliver and Jane, with a strong emphasis on reading, letter identification, simple counting, and observing shapes.  They'll also be included in the activities for the science lapbooks and in our normal religious activities throughout the liturgical year.  When it comes time for preschool for Oliver, I'll reassess.  So much will depend on his speech and language ability.  As for Jane, if she begins showing signs of being ready and willing to sit down with a workbook every day, that's fine too.

So, that's the plan.  Kindergarten will still begin in September, in accordance with the Saxon calendar.  Violet/Peter will be about 2 1/2 months or so and we should have settled into a good routine by then. 

Here's hoping!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

March 11 - 17, 2012

I have gone a little resource-crazy this week.  Just a little.  I'm blaming Facebook and Pinterest.  There are so many great homeschooling resource sites out there that I would have never heard of if not for those bastions of social media.  The kids are either going to love all of this or go absolutely crazy.  Or both.

First, Henry's math assignments for the week from Saxon Math K:
  • Lesson 76 - Copying lines and shapes on a geoboard
  • Lesson 77 - Copying lines and shapes on a geoboard (again)
  • Lesson 78 - Assessment #8 - Creating a real graph; Handwriting master 13
We have two projects this week, one big and one little.

The little project is in anticipation of the feast day of St. Joseph on Monday, March 19th.  Lacy, from Catholic Icing, created an awesome children's novena.  It's a printable stand-up picture of St. Joseph and the infant Jesus that includes the novena prayer.  She includes instructions for creating nine St. Joseph's lilies from pipe cleaners and paper, one for each day of the novena.  In order to finish the novena on the 19th, we'll start this on Sunday.  And I'm still giggling over her using a shot glass to hold the finished lilies.  I'm trying to think if we have one that would be appropriate for the occasion.  I believe most of ours were collected during our more, um, freewheeling days.  I suppose I could always stick them in a juice glass instead.

The big project is for St. Patrick's Day.  We are all enamored of the Cars Tot Book that we made earlier this week.  Thanks to the aforementioned Facebook and Pinterest, I came across another site, In the Hands of a Child, that sells complete project packs for a variety of different subjects.  They're a self-contained unit that includes activities and crafts across the board.  Each week, they offer a $5 ebook for download and the one for this week is St. Patrick's Day.  Henry was peeking over my shoulder while I browsed the site, saw the book, and literally squealed in delight.  When I asked him if he'd like to make it this week, he could barely say yes, so I went ahead and got it.

The packet is fantastic.  It's a 95 page PDF that includes a daily plan to complete the lapbook in 7 days.  The age range is pre-K to 3rd grade, so it's something we can come back to over the next few years.  I think it will be well worth the $5.

We'll also do the craft activities that were outlined in this post, although I may spread them out during the week and leave just the coloring page and cooking/baking to the 17th.

Oh, we're doing these printable rosary cards from Paper Dali, too.  We were going to do coloring pages, but I think Henry is getting a little colored out.

I spent yesterday's naptime cleaning out and reorganizing the schoolroom.  We're making room for next year's books and materials and finding places for all of the tools and supplies that we are relying on more and more.  We'll see how the new setup works this week.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Our First Lap Book™

We took the plunge!

First, for all the people who live under rocks like I do: What is a Lap Book™?  Besides being a trademarked idea from Tobin's Lab, it's a way for kids to have a personalized book that coordinates with specific subject matter.  You can make them to go along with a piece of literature, a style of art, a science unit, history lessons... pretty much anything you want, really.

Since Henry is only four, I hadn't really looked into them very much.  They can be pretty labor-intensive and involve a lot of research and reading.  It's not exactly the type of thing you would assign a preschooler.  However, I came across a great site, 1+1+1=1, that offers free printables to make Tot Books.  Tot Books are the same concept, but pared down for little guys.

So, first I downloaded all the files and printed them out.  Some of them went on regular printing paper because they would be laminated.  The others were printed on cardstock.

One of the nice things about these is that you don't need crazy materials.  I've got two red file folders here.  The only thing I did to them was fold each side into the center.

Because the insides had the manufacturer's logo and were a different color, I cut a piece of red construction paper to fit and used double-sided tape to stick it to the center panel of each folder.

Then, because I really wanted to use the entire tot book packet and preschool pack, I opted to create a double lapbook.  All I did was match up two sides and tape them together.

Then, I started adding things in.  On the top is a library card holder with laminated counting cards.  The bottom is a mini-accordion book of Oliver's name.

Here's the whole first section of the book.  The middle cards fold up to show pictures of the Cars characters.  The right is a regular mini-book with different shapes to find within the characters' pictures.

In the second section, I laminated a tracing worksheet to put in the center.  For now, Oliver can use his finger to follow the dotted lines.  Later on, he can use a dry-erase marker to practice.  The sides are more lift-the-flap cards that have the different Cars characters pictured inside of the shapes labeled on the front.

I created this cover page in Word using free Disney clip art off of the web.

Success!  Oliver really likes it.  So does Jane.  So does Henry.  I think I'll be making more!


St. Patrick's Day Plan

We've got a little over a week until St. Patrick's Day.  There are so many cute and fun projects all over the web that it's hard not to put them all on the list.  It's a good thing the 17th falls on a Saturday this year so Daddy can help color, cut, and paste.  (Right, Matt?)

First on the list is Patrick: Patron Saint of Ireland by Tomie dePaola.  I ordered this a while ago and tucked it away on the shelf, out of sight.  It's a wonderful book and beautifully illustrated.  It gives both a history of St. Patrick and some of the most popular legends about him.  We'll begin our day by reading this so Henry can understand what we're celebrating.

Next up is a St. Patrick coloring page that all of the children can work on.  The whole coloring and laminating a guide is going really well, so I'll do that again here.  I figure we'll wind up with a wall of homemade saint cards that we can take out again and again over the years.  Liz at Holy Family Classical Academy created a great coloring page and kindly put it up as a download.

After that, we've got two cute crafts from Catholic Icing: a St. Patrick paper bag puppet and the easiest pipe cleaner shamrocks out there.  We'll probably use the pipe cleaner shamrocks on the puppet instead of cutting out a paper shamrock, just to tie it all together.

Our final project of the day will be a shamrock Trinity from Karen's Adventures in Mommyland.  I mixed it up a little bit and got foam sheets to use instead of construction paper in the hope that Oliver and Jane would be able to make their own, too.  I figure the foam is a little less destructible, plus they had glitter ones and every project is better with glitter, especially when it's pre-applied.

For the puppet and shamrock Trinity, I'm going to cut out the pieces in advance.  I picked up a few stencil boards and a Fiskars cutter on sale from Joann's last week that will come in handy.  I confess that I looked longingly at the Cricut aisle, but ultimately I can't justify the expense.  I'm not a scrapbooker.  At all.  It's a big deal for me just to stay up to date on all the kids' baby books.  So, manual stencils and cutters come through the cost/benefit analysis much better.

Of course, what's a feast day without a feast?  I saw a lot of cute green pancakes around, but I know that both Henry and Oliver would revolt if I set those down in front of them.  Jane would probably give a big "ooooooo."  Instead, I'm thinking we'll do "Holey Shamrocks," meaning I'm going to use my little shamrock cookie cutter to cut a shamrock hole in the center of each pancake at breakfast.  For dinner, I'm planning on making a shepherd's pie (ground beef, not lamb) and I saw a great shamrock-shaped Irish soda bread recipe on Hungry Happenings

Dessert will be plain-old cupcakes, but I'll break out the mini-shamrock cookie cutter again and use that as a stencil to make green sprinkle shamrocks on top of each one.  Oh, and Daddy gets a nice Guinness, which he will probably need after all of the craft time.  I'll settle for an Izze blueberry soda and think of next year when I'll be able to partake of a nice hard cider!