Wednesday, December 17, 2008


We finally finished Journey to the Center of the Earth. We learned that French schools at that time did not allow science to be taught, so Verne packed his books with science. It doesn't always make for comprehensible prose or a pleasing pace, but I get it. Of course, the kids have read dozens of books since we started this one, but this was a journey that we made together. Another reading journey that they've insisted upon is reading the entire Bible from cover to cover. We're barely into Leviticus and it's going to take a long time, but in a couple of years we'll be able to say that we've done it. A little bit every day really can add up to something remarkable.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

The world is our classroom

This was a pause in our nature walk where we stopped to read about Archimedes' principle concerning water displacement and followed it up with a little Babylonian history. I don't know how many outdoor days are left before it's too cold for the baby...and for ME, so we're taking advantage. ;)

Saturday, November 22, 2008

A different kind of pie

Your slice of life was so much more substantial than ours usually is...If we were different kinds of pie, I'd say you're a calorie dense, filling pecan pie and we're a pumpkin custard without whipped cream.
Here's a rough version of our day:

All the kids wake each other up because they're in the same room.
The younger two yell until I get out of bed. (Junior Mint is already up watching cartoons or infomercials--he likes those for some reason.)
I get dressed and get the babies up.
They watch PBS while I change diapers, get babies dressed, acclimate my brain to the new day.
Everybody has cereal.
They watch more tv.
I read stories to kids.
I do cleaning and bed-making.
I check computer stuff.
The babies get their diapers changed again.
If we're lucky, the babies go to bed around the same time and sleep for 2 hours.
Then my official homeschooler and I argue about starting school for the day.
Eventually, I win.
We sing the Articles of Faith 1-3 (right now) and often 13 because it's his favorite.
Usually we sing at least 1 Scripture Scouts song from the songbook I have. He likes 'Melvin the Monster' best.
We pray.
We read scripture stories and/or the most recent Friend. Often, we take turns reading every other sentence.
We read a chapter in 'The Black Cauldron'.
We read from a Zoobooks magazine about an animal--about 1/2 a magazine at a time. This week it was camels. We usually do at least one puzzle of some kind from the magazine.
We have a snack or'll notice we forgot to eat it earlier.
We do English work, taking turns reading again.
Junior Mint usually takes over an hour to do one page of English grammar. (We use the 2nd grade Building Christian English Series from Rod and Staff, a Mennonite publisher.) He asks me why they're always talking about God all the time. Lately, he's liked English more and sets a timer and races against the clock.
If the babies aren't up and screaming, we'll read a history section from Story of the World, Vol. 1.
If it's a geography day, we've been doing a good U.S. Map puzzle over and over, talking about state capitals, political boundaries, and products from different states. This is not very focused, yet.
If we're still friends by then, we'll go onto BrainPop Jr. on another free trial. (We're getting a subscription soon.)
Then, the babies are certainly awake and it's hard to accomplish any other formal schooling.
Junior Mint plays and snacks most of the rest of the day. I like it when he spends hours building a Leggo fleet downstairs. (Not because I like him away but because the quiet time is good for him and I like him to play with building toys.)
If he hasn't been naughty, he gets 30 min. of recreational computer time.
Sometimes, usually earlier in the day, Junior Mint will just find an encyclopedia type of book and start copying from it. Sometimes it's a science book--he'll copy a diagram of the inner ear. This week, it was a history volume--he copied a section about the Onin Feudal Wars in 15th Century Japan. I figured that was good handwriting practice.
The day after that is usually a blur...diapers, baths, stories, more tv than I should allow or watch, blog stuff and now facebook, dishes, dinner (always late), stories, phone calls, cleaning up toys, kids going to the corner for hitting, there is always a lot of screaming, (not usually from me), brushing teeth--for the 2 year old, this is a 2 person job and can only be accomplished if my husband is home and there is definitely screaming involved--reading scriptures, individual and family prayer, another drink of water, etc.
I write in my notebook/journal and read from the Book of Mormon every day, though sometimes the result is pathetic...I'm maintaining a habit mostly.
Eventually, we stumble into bed because we've stayed up much later than we should have again.
We say night prayer as a couple and if it's my husband's turn, I often have to squeeze his hands several times to keep him awake long enough to reach amen.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Slice of life

7 am I went for an early jog
8 am shower
8:15 am personal scripture study and journal time
8:30 am first round of wake-up calls, touch base with husband (one of the girls is sitting in the kitchen listening to Where the Red Fern Grows on CD) (the other girls is reading a YA novel that a friend of ours is prepping to send to publishers)
9:30 am everyone is awake, thinking about breakfast and I'm nursing the baby
the times get fuzzy after this, but here's what happened
Everyone eats breakfast, reads two Emily Dickinson poems about Hope, gets dressed and all beds are made. We have family prayer. Not necessarily in that order.
The oldest girls read scriptures alone. I read to the younger kids.
The oldest girls write in their journals, quiz themselves on multiplication on, and complete daily grammar.
The 6 year old reviews yesterdays easy reader and has a new reading lesson. Then she draws a turkey and writes "turkey" underneath it. Finally, she does a number recognition worksheet. I promised her she could take a nap once all of those things were done, but then she got excited about her workbook pages and did more math, coloring and alphabet review. It's glorious not to have to push her or bribe her. She can be a stinker!
#1 does history of music reading and completes an assignment from Drawing from the Right Side of the Brain
Private spelling lesson for #2 based on errors found in Christmas story draft
Everyone spends a few minutes working with the baby on her exercises and games for therapy. That's a daily joy and a daily assignment. =)


The older girls and I take turns reading about atomic mass and google a question about nuclear weapons.
Then the oldest girl outlines the Christmas story idea she selected from her brainstorming yesterday, practices calligraphy and reads more of the new YA novel.
The second oldest begins typing her Christmas story.
I read to them about Huang-Di and Lei Tzu from the yellow river valley of ancient China and the story of how silk was discovered.
I discuss current economy and potential career options with husband. We make lunch while husband moves the car. Everyone gets something to eat. Husband tells me that I shouldn't be spending $$ on mythology books right now. The baby's occupational therapist arrives and departs. Two neighbors come for a playdate which includes turning my dining table into a fort. The older girls take this opportunity to play pop music (not allowed before 3pm) and groove to Pandora.


Playdate continues.
Checking in on various internet interface sites, blogs, facebook, etc
6:30 pm Pasta for dinner. .
Dinner chores
Bedtime routine
Family study of the Old Testament which lines up with our daytime study of ancient civilizations
Read aloud Journey to the Center of the Earth chapter 35, 36
I get to write

Fortune Cookies

For our study of Asia:

Fortune cookie batter is like crepe batter and works better if it sits overnight before baking.
1. Mix:
1/2 Cup flour
1 Tablespoon cornstarch
1/3 cup sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
2. Beat into flour mixture until smooth:
1/4 cup melted butter
4 large egg whites
1 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
2 Tablespoons milk
3. cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate overnight.
4. Drop batter a tablespoon at a time onto a buttered, non-stick baking sheet. Space cookies 3 inches apart because they spread a lot. Make only two cookies the first time, then four cookies at a time after that if you are fast enough with the folding process.
5. Bake at 300 for 10 min. until edges are golden brown.
6. Remove from oven and use a metal spatula to slide on cookie onto a smooth kitchen towel.
7. Wearing gloves and working quickly, place a paper fortune on the center of the cookie, fold the cookie in half, and press the edges to seal.
8. Bend the folded edge over the rim of a glass to give the cookie the familiar shape.
9. Place in a muffin cup to help keep the shape until cool.
10. Repeat quickly!

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Brave Writer

I'm in love with this new program. I'll let you know more once I actually get the book, but I ordered The Writer's Jungle because I believe the brave writer philosophy that language is a way of life. Mentors must be reading and writing if they expect it from their kids. They know what it is to be a writer and to overcome the fear of the blank page. Here is an excerpt from their blog. Also, check out I'll post again after I've had some experience with The Writer's Jungle.

Developmental stage: What level is your child? Forget age, forget grade level. Look at actual skills. Match the work to the skill level, even if it means slowing way down or moving back a couple of years. Conversely, work that is too easy for the child can be just as inhibiting and demotivating.
Positive environment: What is the emotional temperature of your home? Are children free to share their real reactions, feelings and ideas? Can they openly state that they are bored, that their work is too hard, that they are too tired from a late night to concentrate? Likewise, do you bring a cheerful, realistic, supportive person to the table when you start the day? Are you undistracted and available to help, support and applaud the work that your kids do?
Habits: Which practices can you turn into habits that will support the natural growth in any given area? These habits don’t need to be iron-clad laws that suggest punishment more than reward. Rather, what kind of routine will give maximum opportunity for a child to cultivate the skills that will take him or her to the next level? Have you shared the benefits of the practices so that your child can see the point of the work and the direction he or she is pointed? Is there a way to validate growth? Is there a way to mix it up - habits that have a variety of applications so that the practice isn’t endlessly predictable and tedious?


I just finished my IHIP (individualized home instruction plan) for my three home schoolers this year! Whew. That was a long night. I'm posting a copy here in case that's handy for anyone out there. The content changed slightly for my younger ones, but not much! i still need to make a monthly/weekly schedule that I can use, but this is our second year and we're already off to a much better start. What I didn't include in the IHIP is that we'll be studying ancient world history with DK history of civilization and Story of the World by Susan Bauer. Along with that we're reading the Old Testament. My oldest is learning calligraphy. Everyone is working on typing with BBC Dancemat typing online. Google it. It's a great program which also happens to be GRATIS! Which reminds me that the kids have taken to beginning Latin with Minimus by Barbara Bell. We may be throwing in a photoshop class with another HS family. I just ordered all my books and we're looking forward to making friends with Mr. UPS this month.

Sorry my handy tables separating subject and curriculum didn't show up here, but hopefully you get the idea.

Individualized Home Instruction Plan (IHIP)
School Year 2008-2009

Child’s Information

Parent’s Information

Primary instruction for _________ will be provided by her parents. Supplemental instruction will be provided by others as necessary.

Assessment Reports will be submitted on the following schedule:
Quarter #1 November 15, 2008 Quarter #3 April 15, 2009
Quarter #2 January 31, 2009 Quarter #4 June 30, 2009
Annual Assessment June 30, 2009

SUBJECTS Syllabi, curriculum materials, textbooks OR plan of instruction include, but are not limited to the following:
Alpha Omega Horizon Math 5

silent reading, reading aloud, choral reading, reading response/discussion, dramatic reading and oral presentation

Merriam Webster Online Dictionary variety of activities for spelling and vocabulary building including, word origins, word games and practice for the Scripps National Spelling Bee and

The Writer’s Jungle – Julie Bogart; Easy Grammar 6 Wanda C. Philips

English Language
Literary tour of ancient world history will include offerings from Middle East, Africa, Latin America and Asia, myths and fables, novels, Shakespeare, fairy tales, 17th century lit., nursery rhymes and poetry

Hammond Atlas of the World, Children’s Atlas of Civilizations –Antony Mason, DK First Atlas Planet Earth – BBC video; trip planning and navigation, maps for tracking the travels of our friends, family and literary characters.

United States History
Focusing on 19th century mainly via American Girl series books, period cookbooks, period crafts; Little House on the Prairie series

Exploratopia: More than 400 kid-friendly experiments and explorations for curious minds by The Exploratorium; DK Science Encyclopedia (revised edition) Susan McKeever; Janice Van Cleave’s Chemistry for Every Kid: 101 Easy Experiments that Really work; Concepts and Challenges in Physical Science-Janice VanCleave, Second Edition- Globe Fearon.

Health Education
Kids Health –; How the body works, Staying healthy, Growing up, Everyday Illnesses & Injuries,

The Music Pack – Ron Van Der Meer and Michael Berkeley; Primary children’s choir; live musical events; piano; wide exposure to all forms of music and music theory

Visual Arts
The New Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain and Workbook – Betty Edwards; The Art Pack – Chriostopher Frayling, Helen Frayling, Ron Van Der Meer; trips to the Met; arts and crafts; design; sewing; abundant art supplies

Physical Education
Basic sailing with Sail Manhattan Club; running cumulative marathon; swimming; hiking; rollerblading; bicycling; dance; free play indoors and outdoors

Following subjects to be covered during K-12:Patriotism and citizenship;Health education regardingAlcohol, drug and tobacco
Misuse; highway safety andTraffic regulations, including Bicycle safety; and fire and arson prevention and safety.
-Learning patriotic songs; political parties, election process and following upcoming elections; community volunteerism. drugs/know_about_drugs.html – 43k and ongoing discussions generally prompted by drinkers/smokers in our neighborhood, on billboards and other media.
-Traffic and Bicycle Safety Kids Page:
-U.S. Fire Administration for kids - and

Bilingual education and/or
English as a second language
where the need is indicated NOT APPLICABLE

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Gearing up

I"m going to resist the urge to philosophize, give back story or even to polish my words. This is a forum for sharing ideas about educating our children at home. I'm putting together my 08/09 home instruction plan for the state. New York requires that we teach US history every year, which is funny because after five years in public school my daughter's classmates had never heard of the founding fathers or the revolutionary war and did not recognize me as George Washington in my character day costume, even with clues like "I'm on the 1 dollar bill. I was the general who led the revolutionary war. I was the first president of the United States of America." One student asked, "Are you a person or an animal?" Why do I homeschool? I digress.

The point is we did tons of US history last year especially focusing on the founding of our country since it was our year of founding home school. However, my new plan was to rotate years and focus on US history intensely every 4th year. This year we're studying ancient world history. I really want to study the Sumerians and Mesopotamia and Egypt, etc. so what to do? Finally, the idea struck me that we can read the American Girl series (and other books like Little House, Dear America...). They are excellent and give kids an in context feel for what was going on in politics, technology, music, family life, etc. Real aspects of history for every day people. I think I'll have the kids keep notebooks and we'll collaborate on what the most interesting and meaningful assignments might be, whether it's illustrating scenes from the book, designing period clothing, writing a letter to the main character, re-telling part of the story from another character's point of view, learning popular songs of the day, period cuisine, etc... There are so many options and we'll post our ideas here as we try them out. Whew! Anyway, it's a relief to know that the learning is going to be so fun and easy to integrate into our lives. We've started with Kiersten who immigrates from scandinavia just like our ancestors did. Maybe a trip to Ellis Island is in order...once the tourists leave. ;)