Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Switching reading curriculums...

Ok, so.... I switched reading curriculums. I know, I know, stop the presses. BUT, this is a big deal for me. I'm the girl (so far) who starts a curriculum and finishes it unless its a total disaster. And this wasn't a total disaster. It just wasn't the fit that I was hoping for, and we got bogged down, and I got frustrated because Seth was frustrated.

We started out with All About Reading- Level 1. I did the pre-reading curriculum with him, and I loved the well scripted lessons, and the zebra puppet, and all the little games. Those were fun, and doing it with him gave me confidence that I could teach him to read.

AAR is not a bad curriculum. It has lots of games and is well scripted and moves in a logical progression. It's a solid, phonics based, reading curriculum. We both learned a lot while using it last year. But I think that Ordinary Parent's Guide to Teaching Reading is going to help us progress with less frustration.

Honestly, AAR is so thorough that we both felt like we weren't making much progress. And I blame the blankity blank fluency practice sheets. Every other lesson teaches a new concept and gives you a fluency practice sheet to practice reading words using that concept and some review words.

I counted on Lesson 24 (yes, we only made it up to Lesson 24 in an entire year of kindergarten, and you'll find out why in a second), and there are 104 words to read. Yes. 104. I had to break up every other lesson into several 15-20 minute sessions to get through, and I was skipping every other word. It was just too much. And he and I felt stalled out.

We would spend several teaching sessions reading words. And then, after we struggled through that, the next lesson he would get to read a story in his reader. Finally! This was a problem. It motivates Seth to be able to read real stories... not just words and random sentences. He was not getting to read enough stories to feel like he was really becoming a reader.

I also discovered that he was using the pictures in the reader to try and guess the words of the stories. The pictures were a distraction for him because he's a visual kid. What I thought was playing to his interest actually backfired here.

So now we're on to OPGTR, and I'm breathing a sigh of relief. Every lesson involves reading a story at the level where we're starting. There are not a million words to read before you can get to it. There are no pictures to distract him, and the stories are interesting. Review involves just underlining a few words in pencil that he had trouble with in the stories, and we go back over them the next day for a minute or two before starting the next lesson.

The way that the author set up the lessons is genius in getting a child to feel like they are really learning to read. No bells and whistles and not as many games. Just steady, meaningful progress.

It took time and prayer for me to admit that AAR wasn't working for us and move on, but I'm glad that I did. Homeschooling requires so much listening to your child and revising and begging God to show you the next step. It's hard stuff, but I feel like I'm growing through this. Hopefully. :)

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Our School Curriculum- 2013-14

After all the wailing and the gnashing of teeth at the NCHE conference in May.... and after the summer rest for my obsessive planning brain... and after extended conversations with friends and the hubby about all things History... and after changing my mind and changing it back again and buying stuff and taking it back and then re-buying it...

I present to you... Our 1st Grade/Pre-K/Toddler Crazy School Curriculum for 2013-14! :)

Seth- 1st Grade

History- Story of the World- Ancients with Activity Guide
Science- Little Otter's Science for the human body, switching off every other week with books on animals using the observation questions from p. 161 of the Well Trained Mind.
Handwriting/Grammar/Narration- Writing with Ease with some Handwriting Without Tears
Grammar- First Language Lessons for the Well Trained Mind
Math- Math U See
Reading- The Ordinary Parent's Guide to Teaching Reading
Unit Studies- Five in a Row- Handbook 2

As you can see, I decided to deviate from just doing FIAR unit studies, and David talked me into starting with Ancients for History. (He made the valid point that we'd have more fun with field trips with American History if I waited until Seth was in 3rd grade.) I hope to do an activity from the activity guide, the comprehension questions, and some of the map work for each chapter.

Little Otter's Science is just going to be a guideline for me for teaching different body parts and systems in a systematic manner. Hah! :) I'll request the books they suggest from the library, but if they don't have those, we'll get other books on the same subject. For our animal weeks, I'll just pick out books on whatever animal interests the boys at the moment.

I am really excited about Writing with Ease. I think it'll be a gentle introduction to grammar and narration. I like that all the copywork comes from great children's literature, and I really love that I don't have to use brain cells to pick out copywork every day. Also, the lessons supposedly go along with First Language Lessons. I won't be doing everything in First Language Lessons, but I want to hit the high points with Seth.

I don't know how FIAR is going to fit in with all this right now. I am planning on "planning" some books to row, but not too many. I want to see how much interest in STOW the big boys show me. It's possible we'll just read SOTW at meal times and not do too much extra if they don't seem really interested. I will also buy SOTW on CD so that David can listen to it in the car, and they can re-listen to it in the evenings during their before bed "books on CD" time at some point.

Ok, Morning Time stuff.... We'll probably do our Community Bible Study reading during breakfast. (Seth is joining the homeschool class there, and he'll actually have homework every day, plus a memory verse every 2 weeks.) After breakfast, we'll do our weather calendar and regular calendar, song for the day/week/whatever, and I'll throw a little picture study and composer study in there occasionally, and then there's poem memorization, etc. Then we'll get into whatever social studies we're doing for the day, be it FIAR or SOTW.

After that we'll have Table Time. Seth will do his math and english with me, and Evan will be working on some workbooks from Rod and Staff, cutting practice (Kumon books), upper and lowercase letters, puzzles, etc. Read aloud books will be during lunch and whenever else I can fit them in. Seth will do his reading lesson with me during afternoon rest time.

I'm really wanting to add in Picture Study and Composer Study this year. Basically, we'll learn a little about an artist, and I'll put up 6 of his pictures on the wall for us to observe for about 8 weeks. I really, really want to figure out how to print out some Google images of pictures by Benjamin West at Kinkos that will be high quality. (Can't find a good book of his works anywhere.) I figured we'd read "Benjamin West and His Cat Grimalkin" to kick that off. I made a playlist of Bach's works on Spotify, and I plan to use Opal Wheeler's Sebastian Bach book to tie that in. Hopefully adding in this will be painless.

Still have to figure out how to get writing to our Compassion kids, regular creative writing dictation, some learning about the 50 states, etc., in there. But I will. Somehow. :)

I have an active toddler this year that no longer takes a morning nap, and I didn't last year. I expect that Morning Time may drive us all batty for the first 6 months. I expect that I'll be taking a crying toddler to time out over and over again. (He knows what I mean when I say, "Ben, I cannot read to you right now, and if you stand there and hold out a book and cry, I will put you in time out.") I expect that I'll have to lower my expectations quite a bit. We may have to change the times that we do a lot of things. It ought to be interesting. :)

We're on the Virginia schedule. That's a fancy way of saying that we start our school year on Labor Day. :) Bring it!

Thursday, August 08, 2013

Random bits...

A "dragon"... clearly.

- The back yard looks like Sanford and Son moved in. David and I are trying to see the torn up cardboard boxes, cinderblocks, and leftover decking boards as symbols of creativity and free expression. The key word is "trying." David is wondering how long it will take him to pick up the yard before he mows. I'm glad he wears eye protection because who knows what could be lurking in the (crab)grass.

- Seth fashioned a "tow truck" out of a plastic clothes hanger and some paper strips. He showed me how he can attach it to the front of the "broken down" dump truck and haul it around.

- Seth puts on his clothes backwards almost every day. If you see him not wearing his shorts and shirt backwards, you've caught him on a rare day. I smile at it most of the time. He'll stop doing it one day, and I'll miss it. BUT... he's teaching Evan to do it. I don't know if I want to let this mildly endearing little boy thing go that far...

- Ben is my first to figure out what soda is before the age of 2. He is always on the lookout for an unguarded soda can/fountain drink, etc. He's a complete nuisance at any gathering where there are drinks. He also loves water bottles. He decided that he would rather spend his time at the inflatable jumping place this morning trying to scavenge sugar water from every mom there than actually jump. Drove. me. craz- zeeeeee...

- The fighting and whining around here have really ramped up in the last couple of weeks. When I pray every night before bed that God will let Seth wake up in the morning in a kind and less than argumentative mood, we're not in a great place. 

- Ben has also turned into a clingy, crying, piece of work. If he's not bringing me a book and yelling "Bookie! Bookie!" around his passy, he's going to the fridge and pulling on it and yelling, "Milkie! Milkie!" If I don't oblige in 2.5 seconds, he melts down in a big way. It's been a lot of fun. 

- Hmmm... something positive, something positive... I'm back at the gym again since I gave it up for Ben's pregnancy. Since I found out that Jazzercise is conveniently located across the street from my house, I ran out of excuses not to work out. And I'm actually enjoying it! (Will wonders never cease? God is in the miracle working business still, people.) I'm even trying to figure out if its possible for me to go twice a week. (Mom? Mom? Dad, throw some cold water on her. I know she'll come to in a minute.) 

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Thursday, August 01, 2013

My first experience with Stitch Fix...

Ok, so enough of my friends have been curious about my experiment with Stitch Fix that I thought I should post about it. :) I saw it on some mommy blogs that I read, and I decided that I'd throw a little of my fun money at it.

So this is how it works... you go to the website and answer an extensive questionnaire... height, weight,  bra size, typical sizes, what you want to hide or flaunt, the colors you like and want to avoid, jewelry tone preferences, etc. At the end of this, you can leave a personal note AND give a link to a style board on Pinterest. (I had to create a style board because I have no style, but I just re-pinned from friends who have style, so there ya go.)

Then you request a fix. (You can do this whenever you'd like; its not like a club where they make you have a "fix" whether you'd like one or not.) You can make a personal request to your stylist. I asked for  a cardigan, a casual top, and a necklace that go together that I would wear with jeans. I also told them nothing that had to be dry cleaned.

I selected a price point of "as cheap as possible." The next price point up was $50-100 per item. Most of the items that came in my fix were between $30-$60. Now, that's higher than I usually pay for my clothes, but keep in mind, my clothes come from Old Navy and Target, and they're trashed after about 6 months most of the time. I'm tired of this, and I wanted some slightly higher quality stuff because I have no time to replace my ratty clothes.

You pay a $20 styling fee. It's not refundable, but you can apply it toward whatever you keep from your box.

I've got to say, I was pleasantly impressed. I didn't expect to like anything in my box, honestly. (I'm a pessimist from a long line of pessimists.) Almost everything fit and did not accentuate the negatives. And I found one item that I really like and am going to keep.

This is keepin' it real. Notice the pile of clean sheets in the corner and my head chopped off 'cause I'm not wearing any make up and my hair is wet from my post work out shower.

Item no. 1- dress and belt. Price point? $68. I would have to LOVE this dress to keep it. I didn't, so its going back. But the fit was good, and I would consider another dress of this style. Just didn't like the colors or the weird front pockets.

Items 2, 3, and 4- Shirt, cardigan, and necklace. The shirt was thin and wrinkled easily, and I have other things in this color. I LOVED the cardy, but alas, it was too small. (You can't ask for a change in size.) I would've kept it if it had been the right size. It was $34. The pink shirt was about that, too. And so was the necklace. I'm not keeping a $40 necklace unless its made of sterling silver, so that's going back, too. But it's a cute look, and I was pleased that she included it.

Item 5- Tunic top. This is the keeper. You probably can't see it, but there are brass studs around the neck and around the edges of the sleeves. I think it'll go with everything, is season less, and is something I probably wouldn't have thought would work had I seen it in the store. I can wear it to church all year long, and it looked great with the too small cardigan and would look good with lots of different colors of sweaters. At $58, I wouldn't have tried it on in the store BUT that's kind of the point.  I've already sunk $20 in, so I just had to decide if it was worth $40.

At this point in my life, people, time is worth more than money. I'm gonna be honest. I have no time to shop because that's the choice I have made. I homeschool my children, I like spending weekends together as a family, and I have to use naptime on weekends when Daddy is home to get necessary errands done that usually are not for me. (Or napping. Napping usually wins.) Spending whole days shopping isn't a possibility much anymore. And shopping doesn't sound that appealing when there are so many other things to be done.

If I do this a few times a year, and if the clothes hold up well, I will have some items to wear to church and my Bible study that don't make me want to cringe. And that made this experiment feel worth it to me.

If you're in my boat, you might want to give it a try! And if you do, please use my referral link. (I don't remember exactly what I get if you do, but it's something. :) And if you're reading this and are cleaning out your closet, remember me. Since most of my closet is faded maternity stuff. Thank you and the end. :)