Monday, September 29, 2008

Math Fun ...

I love it when I find a homeschooling item that really works.  Something that I'm glad I spent the money on.  Goodness knows I've spent enough money on stuff that I wished I hadn't.  This product quickly made it onto my "Best Homeschooling Purchases" List.  

It's the Math Discovery Kit 
from a company called Lauri.

Here's my 3-year old working on a pattern card from the kit:

My 3-year has to touch everything.  She's one of those that immediately reaches for things that catch her eye.  It's a challenge going in any store with her.  Therefore I figured she must be a hands-on learner.  And therefore this little kit is right up her alley.

There are pattern cards, counting cards, addition and subtraction cards, plus all sorts of fun manipulatives ... picture tiles, word cards, colored counters, and number tiles that have pop-out numbers.  Perfect for the little hands that NEED to touch things!

Today we worked on the number 5:

Then on her own, my daughter tackled a counting card:

There are so many ways to play with this kit.  I anticipate a few years worth of fun with this one as it can be adapted to many different levels.  

Just a note:  I have no connection to the Lauri company and I'm not being compensated for promoting this product.  I wish I were though, they have a lot of neat stuff!  I found this one at Rainbow Resource ( and had to show great restraint to not buy all of their cool products.  

Tomorrow ... I finish the schoolroom project that has cork involved!  Woohoo!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

A Schoolroom Project

I need another project like a hole in the head.  But I just can't help myself.  I had this great idea and I had to do it.  It required a trip to Lowe's.  I love going to Lowe's.  Except when it makes me think of another dozen projects I could do.  Then it's just dangerous.  And yes, I do happen to like Lowe's better than Home Depot.  I'm not sure why.  Maybe it has something to do with Jimmie Johnson.  I dunno.  I also like racing.  But I'm not a NASCAR fan really, I just like Jimmie.  Go figure.  

Anyhow ... can you guess what I'm going to do with these:

And this:

It's a bunch of cork tiles, some glue and few tools.  Hmmmm ....

Stay tuned ...

Sunday, September 21, 2008

The Bookshelves in the Schoolroom, Part 2

Back to the bookshelves ...

Which I dusted today, by the way.  Yes I realize I should have dusted BEFORE I took any of these photos, but that didn't occur to me at the time.  You'll see what I mean in some future post photos ... there's dust ... and you can see it!  Which is reality on most days.  Today was a fluke, I found a new Swiffer Duster pad and went to town on the shelves.  But now my nose is all stuffed up.  I knew there was a reason why I neglect to dust very often.  

So there are some great books on the first shelf I'm highlighting.  There is:  The Children's Bible that my 3-year old has just discovered and loves looking at.  Some resources for classical education:  Reading Between the Lines and Invitation to the Classics, neither of which I've managed to get around to reading ... yet.  How Should We Then Live? by Francis Schaeffer, which is considered required reading for serious thinkers.  At least that's what I read in a review somewhere.  It IS required reading for a Christian Studies course I would like my oldest to take at some point during her high school years.  There are 3 books from the Core Knowledge Series, What You're (Kindergartner, First Grader, Second Grader) Needs to Know.  These are fun to look through.  Also there's a great logic book, The Fallacy Detective, which I'm sure we'll get around to going through at some point. 

By far the most dog-eared, most go-back-to books on this shelf are: 
The Well-Trained Mind, by Susan Wise Bauer and Jessie Wise, and The Well-Educated Mind by Susan Wise Bauer.   
The Well-Trained Mind is basically my spine for home education.  When we first made the plunge to teach our kids at home I read a ton of books on the subject.  But it wasn't until I got my hands on this book that I said ... A-HA!  This is it!  Finally I knew how I wanted to do it.  I was able to tell my husband, we are going to give our kids a "classical education".  Of course I never knew what that meant until I read this book.  I finally saw a map for making it work.  Now I don't do absolutely everything this book prescribes, but it is my basic plan and I make adjustments as needed.  This is the one book I re-read every summer to renew my vision for homeschooling.  

One thing about The Well-Trained Mind though ... it made me think ... this is the education I wish I had received, but didn't.  Obviously I'm not the only one because Bauer wrote this book:

The Well-Educated Mind: A Guide to the Classical Education You Never Had.  Bingo!  I had to have this book.  It is a guide for how to read on many different levels.  And it's an outline of great books.  Books you should have read.  Books you still should read, at least at some point in your life.  Books that make you think, that expand your horizons and knowledge base, that enlighten you, that challenge you ... that change you.  That is the reason I read books to begin with.  That's what it's all about to me.  I was pleasantly surprised to see that I actually have read some of the books on Bauer's list.  But many I have not.  

So I set about on the quest ... to educate myself ...

Part of the journey is keeping a reading journal.  Of course I had to decorate mine.  Which required getting out my set of colored pencils:

I probably spent several chapters worth of reading time on doodling and decorating my journal.  I'm just like that.  

Susan Wise Bauer has divided her reading lists into genres.  I decided I wanted to read everything chronologically.  I like to do things in order.  I'm just like that.  So first up on the list was The Epic of Gilgamesh.  Here are my journal notes for Gilgamesh:

Of course I had to doodle in the notes too.  But at least it has something to do with the book.  After Gilgamesh comes The Iliad and The Odyssey.  And that's where I left off on my great reading quest.  I forgot to mention that I started this journey over 3 years ago.  And I'm only on the 3rd book on the list.  Sorry, I had a baby and got incredibly sidetracked.  But I'm picking it back up and we'll see how far I get this year.  

Oh and I found some great new colored pencils to assist me on the reading quest: 

These are so cool.  You don't have to sharpen them.  Just twist and go!  The kids thought I was buying these for them.  Nope!  I seem to have an addiction to art supplies, much like my addiction to books.  I guess I'm just like.  ;-)

Thursday, September 18, 2008

More About (Home)Preschool ...

A few people have asked what curriculum I'm using for preschool with my 3-year old.  As with my older two kids, I don't subscribe to any one method, any single textbook publisher, or any particular boxed set of curriculum.  In other words, I can't say we do Sonlight.  Or, I use A Beka (although I do use A Beka for grammar, I do not use it for anything else)  I sort of pick and choose a bit here and bit there from all over the place.  

With preschool ... I, for the most part, am just making it up as we go along.  I went to my local teacher's supply store and thought, hey this looks interesting, or oh that will be fun.  I went to Target (I'm there on a weekly basis anyhow) and found some cute puzzles, cards and games.  Then I went through the plethora of toys we have at home and pulled out the items with potential educational value and put them in a special "school" box that can only be taken out, you guessed it, during school time.  Then I created another box especially for "school art" supplies.  The super fun stuff that really needs mom's supervision ... like paint, markers and glitter glue.  (side note, be careful not to drop any art supplies on the floor ... our bulldog ate an entire glue stick the other day, plastic container and all ... yummy!)

So every day we pick some sort of hands-on toy activity to do.  Things like blocks, puzzles, lacing cards, beads, letter magnets, etc.  Things that need sorting or stacking, or use problem solving skills.  

So here's my 3-year old using some pattern blocks and pattern cards today ...

Those pattern blocks were used in grade school math too by my oldest 2 kids, so we're definitely getting our money's worth out of them.  

The only real preschool books I purchased were these:

They are from Rod and Staff Publishers.  These are really the greatest little workbooks I've ever used.  They are from a Mennonite publisher who's schoolbook items are very plain and very simple.  No frilly pages, no over abundance of colors or designs.  When I first saw these I loved them, but I thought, oh my little one won't.  She's an over-the-top girl who loves things like sparkly, sequined pajamas and wearing frilly dresses to bake bread with mommy ... she will be bored with these books.  Guess what?  I was wrong.  She was immediately drawn to these books.  

Here is the first book in the series ...

And here's my girl working very hard and doing her very best ...

All she really wanted was a chance to "do school" just like her bigger brother and sister.  They have special books for school, she wanted some too.  These books fit the bill!

Do you need a bunch of special stuff to do preschool with your little one?  No.  Do you even need to do preschool with your little one?  No.  I've found some of our greatest learning opportunities happen when my little one is just hanging out with me and following me around and helping me during my day.  

I probably wouldn't be starting school with my 3-year old at all if I didn't have the older 2 at home.  But since school is so much a part of our lives it just makes sense to let her get started too.

And just look at the sense of accomplishment on this little face ... gotta love it!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The Letter o' the Week is:

My 3-year old is learning a new letter every week.  Or maybe every 2 weeks.  Depends on how much time we can actually devote to said letter.  We get side-tracked sometimes.  For instance, we lose pretty much all day Friday this week.  We have a Park Day with our homeschool group.  Park Day is over around noon.  But seriously, once we get home, and everyone is hot, dirty and tired, I really don't expect much school work to be completed after that.  It already feels like a weekend by then anyhow.

We did spend some time with the Letter A today though.  Here's what we did ...

We traced and copied the letter A with string and with blocks.  But the biggest hit ...  


Who doesn't love an edible A?  

Next, I gathered all the kids for a cooperative learning effort.  You have 30 seconds to find something in the house that begins with the Letter A. 


How many items in the above photo do you see that start with the letter A?  

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The Bookshelves in the Schoolroom, Part 1

If you walk in my front door and stand on the entryway tile and look to your right this is what you see ...

This is one wall in our schoolroom (formerly known as the living room) and these are our bookshelves.  I must say that this is a favorite part of the house for me.  For 2 reasons:  

1) there used to be a terribly blank, boring wall there but my dad built these awesome shelves for me (love you Daddy!) and ... 

2) all of my books are here and I love my books!  Books make me happy.  I like to buy them, I like to collect them, I like to touch them, I like to look at them.  And I've even been known to read them.  

So I'm going to take you on a shelf by shelf journey through my books.  Hold on ... here we go ...

Starting with the bottom left ...

See those 2 red books on the very end?  Those are the dictionaries that came with our encyclopedia set.  I tossed the encyclopedias but kept the dictionaries because they're really good.  The encyclopedias were from 1994, the year our first child was born.  We were young, brand new parents, clearly intoxicated with a new baby and got suckered into buying a set of encyclopedias we couldn't afford.  We were told we were making an investment in our child's education.  Obviously not wanting to raise a dumb baby, we bought 'em.  It didn't occur to us that she wouldn't be able to read for several years and by then the darn encyclopedias would be outdated.  Oh well.

Part of the encyclopedia deal was also a set of My Book House story books.  Ok, I have to admit, these books were worth it!  I have read numerous stories from these quality books to my oldest 2 kids over the years.  It's a set of 11 volumes (plus a reference book) that get progressively more advanced in reading material as you go along.  I've just started reading to my 3-year with the In The Nursery, book 1.  It's full of great nursery rhymes and songs, perfect for this age.  These are great books that I'm sure I'll be passing on to my grand kids someday. 

There are a few books in the middle of this shelf that I will pull out and discuss individually later.  For now, I'll start with this one ...

It's called Fun and Active Devotions for Kids.  This is how we start our homeschool day.  This little book has a thought-provoking question to present to your kids.  There is scripture to refer to and a little commentary to get your discussion started.  I've just opened it randomly to show a sample ... 

It may seem too simple for a teenager, but my daughter still participates and adds quite a bit to the discussion.  The activity may be a bit too corny for older kids (some of the craft ideas for example), but my main objective is to open our Bibles together and get a discussion going.  So I think it's applicable to a wide age range.  

Next time I'll share both Susan Wise Bauer books on this shelf.  Look out ... I have a lot to say about those two!

Monday, September 15, 2008

What We Learned in School Today ...

Homeschooling:  Year 8, Week 2 

Today I officially started "preschool" with my 3-year old.  I know, when you're 3 every day is a learning experience.  But my little one wanted to do school just like her older brother and sister.  So today we got out her books and her school supplies and got busy.  Who knew a slate, chalk and the letter A could be so much fun ...


We're doing a letter a week.  This week is the letter A.  Do you have any idea how many things actually start with the letter A?  Well we're finding things everywhere ... this is so much fun!

Then my son and I started our history timeline.  Ok, we've attempted time lines every year and for some reason we never keep up with it.  Our timeline from last year never made it past Moses and the Exodus.  See what I mean?  

This year we're studying American History.  My son's first history chapter was about Leif Eriksson (Ericson, Erickson, take your pick) finding North America.  Therefore, our timeline is starting in the year AD 1000.  Only 1008 years to go and we'll be up to date!

Tomorrow??  More adventures with the letter A, a fun science experiment, Chess Club, and grocery shopping.  Fun and education at every turn ...

... keep checking back for updates!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

"Mom, What Are You Going To Blog About Today?"

Having already covered the first day of school, and only being 3 days in, and all of those days pretty much the same as the first, I really have nothing new to talk about.  

So, I'll just load the photos I have on my camera and we'll see what we come up with ...

How about the fact that someone is sitting in my chair?  Here's what I found when I walked into the schoolroom (aka: living room/dining room) this morning:

Awww ... with a face like that, I couldn't be too upset.  The cat, on the other hand, is ready for action.  She totally disapproves of anything canine sitting on the furniture.  If you look in the background you'll see my 3-year old's calendar.  This is my beginning attempts at pre-school with her.  She loves putting a number on there every morning.  And there's a little cupcake a few weeks ahead on the calendar.  That's so we can count the days until my son's 12th birthday!

Here's a photo of what I did last night ... 

(side note: that nail polish is really much prettier in person ... it's called Wine Time or something catchy like that)
I'm finally letting hubby treat my numb foot.  Ever since I injured my back in February half of my foot and the back of my leg has remained numb.  It's really very annoying.  It's a constant reminder of that back injury.  I was down for 2 weeks.  I mean really down.  As in, cannot get out of bed or even attempt to move at all without intense pain.  I swear, giving birth was less painful.  

If you ever have to go through a back injury I highly recommend you have a few things in place.

  First:  one teenage daughter.  Essential for taking care of 3-year old (who was still 2 at the time).
  Second:  one 11 year old son.  Great for bringing drinks, snacks, magazines, telephone, etc.  
  Third:  awesome friends.  Critical for keeping the family fed when Mom can't even sit upright, much less cook dinner ... (think mac and cheese, chicken pot pies, beerocks, potato soup, pie, ice cream ... I know there was more.  Thanks B Family and H Family!) 
  Finally:  one cool hubby who would do anything for you ... carrying you to the bathroom, narcotics, and back massages come to mind.  And even several months later ... the zappy Fenzian treatments in the above photo.  
  Even when I'm lame (literally) and in pain, I'm still truly blessed!

So back to the present ...

This photo is the 3-year old during art period today.  She's so intense and focused.  This might be your first glimpse at a future celebrated artist!  And you can say you saw it here first.  Along with my foot and my dog.  

What a day!

Monday, September 8, 2008

First Day of School!

Finally ... we started school!  Woohoo!  Just look at these eager students ... everyone in their places with bright, happy faces.  Let the (home)school year begin!

We immediately got down to some serious academics ...
I'm not sure why, but for some reason my son and youngest daughter are actually getting along!  Of course I had to take a photo of this rare moment.  Here he is helping her learn to sort.  I found these cute little farm animal counters at the teacher's supply store.  There are 6 different animals, in 2 different sizes, in six different colors.  I'm not a math whiz, but to me this adds up to tons of fun for a 3 year old (and the almost 12 year old apparently).  Oh, and notice the cool hors d'oeuvres platter they're using to sort in ... who knew Pottery Barn  party accessories would be so educational?

With the younger 2 having so much fun I went to check on the oldest child.  Here she is, hard at work on Biology.  She is an amazing kid ... I really don't contribute much to her education, other than buying the books.  I give the books to her, she goes to work.  And viola ... she's super smart!  And very organized ... she already has her entire semester scheduled and so far, one day down, she's right on track.
By the way, yes that is a wine goblet sitting on the table in front of the Biology book.  No, I don't serve my kids wine during the school day, I save that for myself (kidding of course, sheesh) ... but my daughter played Queen Gertrude in our Shakespeare Class's production of Hamlet.  This wine goblet was her "poison cup" prop.  She now drinks orange juice out of it in the mornings.  Too funny.

Do you think I'm weighing my son down with too much?
He can barely see over the stack of books.  And that was just today's work ... wait until tomorrow ... bwaa haa haa!

All in all ... good first day.  Thank you Lord!

Thursday, September 4, 2008


We finally took a vacation!  Just when everyone else was heading back to school, we packed up the car and went to the coast.  What a fun time!  We stayed at our little cabin and just relaxed and did a bunch of nothing.  We decided not to take any computers, our cell phones only worked when we went into town, and the satellite TV was down.  So we were transported back a few decades and had to rough it.  What did we do with our time?  We read books, looked at magazines, played games and went to the beach!  It truly was wonderful.

Here's a photo of the whole family on the beach just down the hill from our cabin ... dog included ... well at least her backside.

Here's the girls ... on the rocky beach ...

And here's son and youngest daughter ... on the sandy beach ... my 3 year-old can't decide if she likes the rocky beach or the sandy beach the best.  Looks like we'll have to go again and keep testing.

Son and dog ... both love the rocks!

And here's how we end a wonderful day on the coast ... it wouldn't be complete without roasting marshmallows on the deck!
And then we had to come back home.  And back to reality.  Which is ... a ton of laundry, football practice, homeschool group meeting, student newspaper to print ... and ... we start school on Monday!