Thursday, January 19, 2017

Weekly Review: A Puzzle, a Superhero, and Learning to Read

Tobias in a rare moment holding still for the camera.
January is slipping past and this week was no different. Monday we began learning about atoms, molecules, and compounds. Of course half the fun of chemistry is making reactions so we used yeast, water, dish soap, and hydrogen peroxide to create a foamy mess.

Math has found some of the kids moving ahead as usual and some slowing down for a concept. Daniel is working on long division with and without remainders. This was his topic last week as well and we didn't move forward as he still doesn't have it down. He is slightly frustrated as math usually comes easily. Makayla was introduced to combining radical numbers today. I decided to cover adding, subtracting, and multiplying radicals today.

Makayla and two of her reptiles - Olympia the ball python and Norberta the bearded dragon.
An exciting happening for Makayla today was that her veterinary medicine teacher from Landry Academy, which closed recently, opened the Veterinary Medicine 2 class up on a new platform and is holding it anyway. They are continuing their studies and dove right in to exploring different specialties this week.

Our family reading of the Book of Mormon is going well. We started the week at the beginning of 2nd Nephi. Our goal is to read about 6 pages per day, and to read extra on any day that it works out well to do so. That builds up leeway for days when we just don't get the whole family together in one spot long enough to read. As of Thursday evening we have finished 2 Nephi chapter 24.

Tuesday seems to be our smoothest day each week. We just slide along familiar tracks. We started the school day with more reading in the Book of Mormon. In science we built some atoms with candy and paper plates as we began learning about protons, neutrons, and electrons. The Periodic Table is next!

Math today included introducing division and simplifying radicals today for Makayla. It went well.
During the morning I also pulled out one of our Ravensberger puzzles to do at the table. Several children helped along the way and we finished this lovely pirate-ish puzzle.
We love Ravensburger puzzles!
My highlight for Wednesday would be the fun of listening to Oliver read aloud. He finished The Cat in the Hat yesterday and started Grasshopper on the Road by Arnold Lobel. He is starting to show more fluency (reading without sounding out) for words he had been sounding out before January began. Still a good ways to go but progress needs celebrated!

Oliver did math as Spider Man today.
By 7:30am Thursday morning breakfast and chores were done and 6 of the 7 boys were deep in the dress up tub working to become pirates, superheroes, and one member of the Wild Kratts team. Emma was practicing piano, Makayla was already reading her history book, and I was trying to find a few minutes to get myself ready for the day. We did a game to get to know the Periodic Table of Elements today.

Caleb started All About Reading Level 1 today. I am not sure exactly which lesson to place him into as he is already sounding out CVC words so we will just try a few different lessons until we find one with a concept he needs to practice. He loved feeding the monster bones that had words for him to read on the back today. Mason and Samuel were entertained using these lacing cards. They were quite serious about their 'school work'.

Everyone worked diligently today and we were happy to wave goodbye to this school week by the end of the afternoon. Tomorrow we're taking the day off! Mason and I will spend half a day meeting with most of his specialists for a 6 month team appointment and everyone else will relax at home with Grandma to keep an eye on them.

That's it for us! Have a great weekend!

Linking to Weekly Wrap Up.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Birthday and Lava Lamps and Snowmen

Our week began on Sunday with a great day at church. Our bishop challenged everyone to read the Book of Mormon in the next 90 days. I love taking any opportunity to read the scriptures more. We are taking the challenge as a family. That means each day the 11 of us gather around the table or on the couch and we read. Each person who can read aloud just goes until they want a break, be that 1 verse or 10 and then the next person begins reading from there. When we come to the younger boys who are not reading yet they have a helper and repeat the words of a verse after them. We also decided to read a little bit extra most days to try and get 'ahead of schedule', that way when days come where we just don't get to our reading we don't end up way behind. (Though really there is no excuse - we have the scriptures as an audio book too, so we can listen any time.) We are also continuing our own personal scripture study wherever we already were. So, for example, most of my kids are reading the New Testament right now, my husband is studying the Doctrine and Covenants, and I'm reading a little bit of everything.

In the evening we celebrated Mason's 5th birthday with cake and ice cream. He chose chocolate cake, chocolate frosting, and chocolate ice cream. With sprinkles on the cake. It was delicious! He enjoyed opening gifts as well.

Monday had chores and school of course. Today's end of the module science experiment was making our own lava lamps. Who doesn't love that?

This day also saw the oldest 4 children beginning piano lessons. Makayla can play piano already, she took lessons a few years ago and then spent time rotating with other youth to play prelude and postlude music at church services. She's missed lessons so she's taking them again, along with first lessons for Joseph, Emma, and Daniel. We have always told our children that our goal is that you will become comfortable enough playing piano to accompany singing at church if asked. Once you reach that level of proficiency you can choose to continue or stop lessons, so long as you maintain your skills. Makayla also has plans to begin guitar lessons soon.

Tuesday was cold and icy. It was also filled with music because kids were doing their piano practice. I finished my Reading Challenge book and posted about it. Tobias was a bit clingy with a runny nose so I applied some essential oils to help clear that nose up and we snuggled and looked at some books. Other children did school work at their own pace. I have done a pretty good job of remembering not to nag. We do morning basket work and science each morning and then I pass out their daily assignment list. After that they are responsible for doing their work, getting help as needed, or choosing not to do their work. The consequences of each choice are set and enforced.

Wednesday Mason officially turned 5 years old. I interviewed him over on his blog about some of his favorite things. The day started icy and then warmed up and rained all afternoon and evening. The day was filled with many of our usual things - school work, chores, cooking, cleaning. Mason also had physical therapy. He's working on using a walker, learning to fall, and doing exercises to strengthen his core and hip muscles.

Thursday we had a day off pretty much. Our only plan was to have friends over for art class. I shared an entire post about that with pictures, so I'll only share one picture here. Snowmen - on a day when our crazy Ohio weather got up in the 60s. By Friday morning it was below freezing again.

Friday you could see everyone's determination to plow through the entire day's work as early as possible. They just kept going from subject to subject instead of taking breaks to play or read or draw. One thing I finally captured on camera was Emma doing math. At the beginning of this week she asked if she could do her math work on the dry erase board and she has happily done so every day since. 

Oliver is still reading aloud to me every day for 15 minutes. He's more than halfway through The Cat in the Hat. It's always interesting to see how each reader develops differently. He's not independent yet, but he is well on his way.

Also in the reading department now is Caleb. This week we started building words with our letter tiles and he's reading them. The first few days we stuck with a word family each day. Monday was -at words, Tuesday was -op words, and so on. Thursday and Friday we started playing change one letter. We built a word, he read it, and then we started changing one letter at a time to cycle through a lot of words. For example you could go in this order: hat-ham-pam-pat-sat-sit-bit-big-pig-wig-wag-bag-bug. He's figured out blending of these CVC words so it's officially time to pull All About Reading Level 1 out of the attic and start it with him.

Shows and Movies this week:

Last week I shared books we enjoyed, this week I'll focus on shows. We watched these either on DVD or through a streaming option like Netflix or Amazon Prime.
  • Paw Patrol
  • Mythbusters
  • Alice Through the Looking Glass with Johnny Depp (this was a bit hit)
  • Gummi Bears
  • Zootopia
  • Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman
  • When Calls the Heart
  • Brain Games
  • Trollhunters
  • Cake Boss
Tonight or tomorrow we plan to introduce the kids to the Disney movie Newsies. It should be interesting to see what they think!

That's all for me this week! I'm linking up at Weekly Wrap Up, Homeschool Blog and Tell, and Homeschool Highlights.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Snowman Directed Drawing and Watercolor - Art Class

Today's art class started out with a forecast for snow - well, snowmen! We did a directed drawing with the children. Basically, one mom read directions and the other mom modeled the steps, pausing so the kids could each draw according to the directions as well.


The original drawing is in pencil. Sharpie traced over the pencil lines was the next step. Once everyone finished that step the sharpies were removed from the table.

Watercolor pans were brought out. This was the first time we've used pan watercolors in art class and it was a lot of fun!

Kids were instructed to paint the background for their snowman first. Then they painted the details. It was interesting to see the colors chosen. Many picked orange as the background color but there was also blue, yellow, and purple.

After our watercolor snowmen were finished we took a snack break, just one of the perks of homeschooling. During snack I read Over and Under the Snow (aff link) to the kids because we were beginning a second project today based on that book.

I'm not really going to share many details about that art project because we won't finish these up until our next class.

Today we painted background papers and did some large sheets of painted paper that will be cut into trees and other landscape features next week. The kids went home with the assignment to draw and color the animals they want to add over and under the snow. The only rule is they cannot use paper any larger than a 3x5 index card, so they can use several.

What art is happening at your house this week?

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Fire of the Covenant by Gerald N. Lund - 2017 Reading Challenge

I decided as part of my 2017 Reading Challenge that I would share a short review of each book I read for the challenge. You can read the details of the challenge for yourself, it's a mix of specific book titles and themed months. January is a theme month: A book already on your shelf that you've never finished.

I chose Fire of the Covenant by Gerald N. Lund. I have had this book on my shelf for at least a year or two but just never pulled it off the shelf to read. It is the story of the Willie and Martin Handcart Companies. If you have never read a book by Gerald N. Lund you may wonder how his historical fiction writing works. He inserts some fictional families into the historical events for us to journey with. It was very interesting to begin in Europe and watch the gathering of people from many countries who emigrate across the ocean. You follow them across a new country and learn of the preparations put in place for them, the decisions they faced, and the choices they made at each point.

Each chapter I would wonder what was a device of the author and what was based on actual events. I love that the author does his research and then shares notes and excerpts from actual pioneer journals at the end of each chapter. I would devour the notes for the chapter, read the journal entries, and then dive back in to the story for another chapter. By the end of the book I was in awe of the experiences of men, women, and children who were determined to gather together with their people.

I highly recommend this book if you enjoy historical fiction!

Friday, January 6, 2017

Rookie Homeschool Mom Fail and Getting Back on Track

Me, all cheery, positive, and ready for January.

It's January! I love the fresh, open horizons of a new year! This week started off just like a typical year for us. Monday we had a solid day of homeschool work. We kicked off the day with our Morning Basket time. Today that consisted of:
  • Singing a hymn - Choose the Right
  • Reading aloud and discussing a scripture verse we will be reciting for a few weeks (memory work) - Helaman 5:12
  • Reading a few notes from the book This Day in History
  • Reading a bit about our new poet - Charles Lutwidge Dodgson. Wait, you don't know who that is? Well, he also wrote under the name Lewis Carroll, of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland fame. We are using Poetry for Young People: Lewis Carroll. Each poetry day we read a bit about his life and then a couple of his poems.
  • Discussed what we know about bats and then looked at the pages on bats in Nature Anatomy.
This layered liquids experiment was a fun density exploration on Thursday.
This semester is our science focus for my 6th grade and under crowd. We began this next, while my 10th grader headed to her bedroom for some individual studies. For science we are using Apologia's Exploring Creation with Chemistry and Physics. Today's lesson had us playing 20 questions to learn about properties and then experimenting with water, a graduated cylander, and a bullet to understand the property of volume (the space an object takes up). We also got into a discussion of density because the kids commented on how much heavier the bullet was than they expected. We pulled out a ping pong ball and a golf ball to show how they have nearly the same volume (size) but are very different weights because one has a greater density.

Other assignments today included math lessons, Oliver reading aloud half of Green Eggs and Ham to me, independent literature reading, scripture study, notebooking about something from their learning today, and listening to Little Women during lunch. My high schooler had geometry, writing, biology, literature, and art as well.

My husband's next semester of school also started today so he was on the computer navigating three new classes. He's studying to become a software engineer through BYU-Idaho. It's great for the kids to see Daddy working hard to study and learn for his classes!

Mason with the IV of medication for his osteoporosis.
Tuesday Mom and Mason spent half the day at Children's Hospital doing appointments for his osteoporosis, including a DEXA bone scan, checkup, and IV infusion of his medication. It was a no school day, which is always nice, to break the kids in gently to the every day school routine.

Tobias - look at that expression! It sums up Wednesday perfectly.
Wednesday the real 'back to school' attitudes hit. It wasn't pretty. Everyone realized that this wake up on time, do chores, do school, be productive and media-free until afternoon routine was back in place and nobody was quite ready for it. Whining, complaining, and dragging out work took up a lot of the morning.

We did do more science done involving density. Water, salt, and a grape tomato were ingredients to see if we could change the density of the water enough to make the tomato float. Then we colored four cups of water and put increasing amounts of salt in them. We used a straw to pick up each color/density of water, beginning with the least dense, and watching it stay in layers without mixing. Fascinating!

We got through school and by afternoon I recognized I had made a rookie homeschool mom fail - I was trying to herd everyone through their work, hovering, nagging, and not leaving the responsibility and consequences in their court. I apologized and told them I would not do that anymore. Instead, we will operate on the following rules:
  1. Breakfast and chores are to be done before 8am, when mom calls everyone together for Morning Basket.
  2. For the 6th grade and under crowd science will follow morning time, led by mom.
  3. After this everyone is responsible for doing the rest of their day's work. Mom will give each person a daily list of assignments. If you need mom's help you are responsible to go to her with your materials. (For example, Oliver needs me to do reading lessons with him, but is independent in scripture study because he can use his kindle to listen to and look at the scripture readers.) You can work on things in any order.
  4. When the alarm rings at 1pm anyone who has not completed their list of assignments (and their chore room) forfeits their personal media time for that day.
Caleb and Samuel were playing together and wanted their picture taken.
Thursday we began again. The kids understood that mom meant business, I was not responsible for dragging them through learning. I am happy to help them, team up with them, or stay out of their way. Everyone finished their work before the 1pm alarm. Some worked mostly independently on everything. Oliver grabbed me to read aloud to me from The Cat in the Hat for 15 minutes. Caleb brought me his alphabet game to play and asked me to sit with him for math. Daniel asked me to do scripture study with him. I helped older kids with math questions, and one biology question as needed. It was so much more peaceful! Nobody felt pushed, rushed, or dragged through the school day. Will it always go this smoothly? Of course not! Will someone miss the deadline? Yes, probably more than once. But that is their choice, and the consequence is attached.

In the afternoon Samuel was supposed to do speech therapy. He was not okay with that. He started crying when it was time to go to therapy. He sat in the chair crying or hiding his eyes and ignoring both his speech therapist and I, which he has never done before. Miss Sarah and I did the activities and played with the toys instead. He didn't care. We'll go back next week and hopefully he will be on board with it. However, I'm not too worried about it. He has been making some great progress at home over our Christmas break. If he truly refuses to resume speech therapy we will just carry on at home like we're doing anyway.
Emma's turn loading her boat. The boys were leaning over to see below the water surface.

Friday was cold and snowy. We had another uneventful day. The property of the day was buoyancy so we made aluminum foil boats to see how much weight they could carry depending on their design. One thing I want to remember - Oliver grabbed a set of actual scriptures to 'see if I can read them yet Mom'. Yes, son, yes you can. He made it through about 3 verses with some help on names and unusual words. He told me now he is going to read from them every day too, at least a few verses. Then listen to the scripture reader stories too.

Books this Week - Here are books that were read or listened to this week:

  • Little Women - Yes, we're still working away at this one.
  • Fire of the Covenant - I'm reading this one for my 2017 Reading Challenge.
  • Magic by the Lake
  • Eragon
  • Inheritance
  • The Ranger's Apprentice Book 2
  • Green Eggs and Ham
  • The Cat in the Hat
  • Snow
  • Three Little Dinosaurs
  • Winter Poems
  • Snow Globe Family
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Looking Ahead:

Next week is relatively quiet on the appointment front. We get to celebrate a certain little boy turning 5. We will be doing art class with friends. I'm excited for our projects but need to do a shopping trip to Hobby Lobby for a few supplies this weekend.

That's all for me this week! I'm linking up at Weekly Wrap Up , Homeschool Blog and Tell, and Homeschool Highlights.

Friday, December 30, 2016

The Week Between Holidays


We had a lovely Christmas weekend with family and church. On Christmas morning it is always fun to watch the children's reactions to our carefully chosen 3 gifts. (It still looks like a ridiculous amount of gifts around the tree with 11 people in the family!) Seeing their surprise, enthusiasm, and joy is wonderful. Having children all happily playing together and using their gifts for weeks on end is also wonderful.

We started the week needing to get repairs done on one vehicle unexpectedly (after replacing the battery on the family 12 passenger van last week - oy vey!). The first quote was $1000.00. Not exactly what you want to hear at Christmas time or any other time. We went to a trusted mechanic after that and the repairs were about half the first quote.

Our day to day activities were pretty laid back - sleeping in until 7am or even 8am for some kids, chores, and then free time all day long. Kids played, crafted, enjoyed the new tabletop air hockey, and played Ticket to Ride: First Journey (a gift from great-grandparents). Kids also drew, built more Legos than they knew what to do with, rebuilt Legos into new creations, read books, and ate candy canes.

Tuesday was a temple trip for the oldest two children with their youth group. Wednesday my Boy Scout headed on a cold weather campout that included caves and hiking. He was thrilled. I'm grateful for leaders who make campouts happen so I don't need to.

One frustration this week was the collapse of Landry Academy. Makayla has taken a couple online classes through them and loved each one. She just finished up Veterinary Medicine 1 this month. Next week she was to begin Veterinary Medicine 2 and Criminology. That won't be possible and we are not likely to get back the money we spent on the classes. Such is life, I suppose. We have already purchased the book for criminology so we will do the usual homeschooler thing - study the book anyway. Makayla and I will work through it together, probably later this winter or in spring. We have already started talking about what her goals are for the course.

One last picture from Christmas:

I got some organizing of book shelves done one day, watched some webinars, and made sure everyone was fed. It's Friday afternoon and I'm going to go tackle a few more school shelves before Tobias wakes up from his nap. I'm rotating out some things we've read and making other things easier to find. Then it's on to making dinner and challenging kids to another round of Ticket to Ride!

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Mid-Year Check-Up: 3 Questions to Direct the Rest of the Homeschool Year


January is fast approaching. This is one of my favorite times of year because it marks the midpoint of the homeschool year. It's time to evaluate how the school year is going. I decide where we have met, exceeded, or fallen short of our plans. I often realize that the priorities and goals we set at the beginning of the school year no longer reflect the children I have now. My children have grown and changed. Depending on the year I may need to tweak things a bit or I may need completely new priorities and plans.

This week I think about each child as an individual. I want to make adjustments to our course for the rest of the school year. It is a simple process that consists of just three questions.

What are this child's strengths?

These areas are ones that I want to encourage but may not need to provide as much support. We tend to use our strengths out of habit. If the child's strengths are writing and art then I'll be sure to offer opportunities for them to use them but I won't prioritize one on one work focused on these areas as often. They don't need me right beside them every day for these areas.

What are this child's weak areas?

These are areas that a child needs more support, areas that they struggle in. In the example above the child's weak areas might be word problems and following directions. When they are doing word problems my one on one support and partnering can be the weight tipping the scale toward success. I can be their guide, their reminder, and their cheerleader. Effort put into practice in a weak area consistently will help it turn into a strength. Eventually.

What is ONE weak area we want to give priority to for the next several months?

I try to select one area that I think will make the biggest difference for my child to have support and to give some extra focus to in the coming months. Choosing more than that makes for an overwhelmed child, and an overwhelmed child shuts down. We have time. They do not need to master every thing in one month or year. Learning is a lifelong pursuit.

An example - My 7 turning 8 year old Oliver and I will focus on reading independence. He is so close to that crossover to being an independent reader. Becoming an independent reader will have massive impact on Oliver's ability to learn any time he wants to. It is a foundational skill.
Giving priority to one weak area means I will do my best to make sure there is consistent opportunity to work together on that weak area. I give support, I find ways to encourage the child's practice, and as much as possible I help to make it fun. With Oliver this means we will work daily in All About Reading level 2. We will play games with words. We will find books on topics he is interested in and will partner read - taking turns sentence by sentence and paragraph by paragraph.

I have nine children and seeing how they develop and learn in different ways and timelines is fascinating. Children truly are individuals. I am excited to see just what growth and changes will happen with consistent, focused effort in one weak area.

Do you do a mid-school-year evaluation? Will you be adjusting goals and priorities for the next few months of learning?