Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Our Homeschool

Warning:  This is a long post with details about the books we use and how we use them. Read on if you are interested. There are a few pictures of the girls on their horses from this week's lesson down at the bottom is you choose to skip down!

Assignment Journal
I write out the girls' assignments in a small journal I picked up from B&N. I put very basic information since they know what they have to do in all the subjects. This helps them keep track of what they've done and will also serve as an attendance book at the end of the year. At the bottom of the page I write in the activities for the day. We usually have at least one dance class, playgroup, coop, lessons, or something and so they can see what is scheduled for the day. This is the first year they've had their own little planners and it's been great so far.

I get most of my ideas for curriculum and schedule from a book called The Well Trained Mind by Susan Wise Bauer and Jesse Wise. The mother, Jesse, homeschooled the daughter, Susan, who homeschools her children now. The book that they wrote together is a manual of detailed instructions on how to homeschool every subject from kindergarten through high school.  I don't follow everything that they recommend but it has given me great ideas and helped me figure out what it is I do want to do.

Our homeschool focuses on math, reading, and musical instruments. We spend the most time during the day on these 3 things. For math, we use the curriculum Math U See. It is a program that comes with DVDs so the girls and I can watch the 5 minute teaching segments before each new lesson if needed. Ellen is finishing the 5th book, Epsilon, which is mainly fractions. Arianna is in the middle of the 4th book, Delta, division.

Reading consists of 30 minutes of structured reading out of a "chosen" book. I have a list of books that the girls can choose from for this portion of their school work. Daniel and I came up with the list together and they are mainly classics. Arianna is in the middle of the Chronicles of Narnia series. Ellen just finished Little Women. Other books Ellen has read include George MacDonald Fairy Tales, Tom Sawyer, and Huck Finn. Before Chronicles, Arianna was reading things to build her fluency so this is her first time reading classics by herself.

They also spend 30 minutes every morning practicing their chosen instrument. Ellen is still playing the piano and Arianna the violin.

We also spend about 3 days per week on grammar. I use First Language Lessons for the Well Trained Mind series by Susan Wise Bauer. We do the lessons all together and are on level 4.We work on diagramming sentences, memorizing definitions, lists, and poems and recognizing parts of speech, etc.

This year we are also using Bauer's writing textbooks. Arianna is on Writing with Ease level 3. Ellen is on Writing With Skill (Level 5). This text is not published yet but she offers a download of the the first 10 weeks on her blog. They do 4 lessons a week. These texts teach writing in a very structured system.  For example, Ellen is learning how to outline passages and Arianna is working on finding the main idea from a passage (4-5 paragraphs long) and summarizing it into 2-3 sentences.

We've also added some logic into our days. We use Mind Benders workbooks. It is a small workbook with only about 50 pages. The girls had so much fun with the problems that we finished it in one week. Now I've got to order some more:)

For spelling the girls each do a couple of pages (10 mins) of Spelling Workout books 4 days a week.

They are also asked to do 30-60 minutes of extra "fun reading." They can choose whatever they want for this time (except comics). Ellen's reading the Warriors series and Arianna is on the Judy Moody series. They read in most of their free time so this is not a hard thing to check off the list.

We will be starting our coop in September. This year we have a lot of new families involved and we'll be doing History, Science and Art. For History we are using the Story of the World volume 3. Science is Zoology for the first semester and engineering for second. For art we are using Artistic Pursuits.

We are members of a homeschool support group called REACH. This year I'm on the administrative board and work as the webmaster. Check out the new website These new responsibilities are the main reason I haven't been blogging as much over the past few months. The blog may continue to suffer as I spend my computer time on REACH. I don't want to spend any extra time behind this screen than I have to.

The girls have been taking horse back riding lessons after getting a great deal from a Groupon over the summer. They will get a total of 10 lessons each. Today we had our 5th lesson and Ellen trotted off the lead rope with no hands on the saddle for the first time. Arianna got her hands off the saddle in a trot but the instructor is still leading the horse. The girls are learning how to be more assertive. It's hard to get "Big Ugly" (that's the name of that beautiful horse) to do what they want him to do. :)

Ellen off the lead

Arianna trotting

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Our tour of the Southeast

The girls and I took a road trip in mid-July. After spending the night in Montgomery, AL to break up the drive, our official first stop was my dad's house in Baton Rouge. We spent the night there and then packed up again the next morning to go out to dad's camp in the Atchafalaya Swamp. It was a 30 min drive from his house (the house I grew up in).

The camp is only accessible by boat, so we packed our stuff onto the boat and headed into the swamp.
Dad and I

Pure Beauty

Old oil rigs along the canals
This area is simply beautiful, and one of the best things about it is that there is no one around. There are a few other hunting camps scattered here and there, and a handful of fishing boats quietly strolling the water,  but we hardly saw anyone on this beautiful Saturday afternoon. Dad took us on a long boat ride. Then my step brothers (Daniel and Chris) and dad helped the girls fish for the first time. Here's Ellen and Arianna with their first catches. They caught a few more right off the pier.

The alligators were not afraid to show their heads right around the pier also. These guys were all over the place and would swim straight towards us while we were out. Maybe they are used to being fed or catching leftovers from fishermen?

One of the best parts of our day/night in the swamp was my experience froggin. Daniel (brother not husband) had told me about how they go out at night with spot lights and catch bullfrogs with their hands. He, his wife, daughter, and Chris took me out at about 9:30pm in his mud boat to catch some frogs. We rode to the lake where they spotted and grabbed about 15 bullfrogs. We also saw tons and tons of baby alligators. They were everywhere! Daniel grabbed one and handed it to me. Can you tell I'm in shock but having a blast? These guys were great swamp tour guides. It was unforgettable.
The next morning they drove us out to the same spot so the girls could see this part of the swamp. It's an area that my dad's boat can't get to. There is shallow water with tons of lily pads and grass that has a small trail carved out. I'm not sure how they saw this trail in the middle of the night! I couldn't see it.
My camera lens was foggy because of the temperature change from the inside of the camp (very cold) to outside (very hot) not because of fog. I didn't get many pictures because of it. Below is the area where we were frogging. Again, very shallow lake with lots of wildlife. 

We want to go back very soon. My Daniel (husband, not brother) wants to catch some frogs!

The next day we drove to Gulf Shores, AL and stayed a week at the beach with more family (mom's side this time). This resort had huge swimming pools with slides, a lazy river, and all kinds of family games. We rode to the beach on a trolly but couldn't stay out much because the jelly fish were everywhere. The cousins played sweetly the entire time. We had a wonderful time. It was so nice to be with family and especially since my grandmother had been very sick and actually passed away during our trip. She was 99 1/2 so we were prepared for it, but that doesn't make losing her any easier.
Othermommy and girls Christmas 2010

We were all sad to leave but we went our separate ways on Sunday. The girls and I made the long trip home in one day. We arrived completely exhausted but we didn't have much time to relax because we had to use up our free tickets to Six Flags over Georgia that were going to expire the next weekend! (Tickets were won by the girls for a reading program that they participated in. I, as the teacher, also got a free ticket. Daniel's was half price.)

This past Sunday we took Daniel with us this time and drove to Atlanta for the day. We spent 7 hours walking around the park and rode 17 rides. The crowds were low so we hardly had any waiting. We spent half the day drenched from the river and splash rides, we were having a blast. The girls were thrilled to see so many huge rides. Daniel and I love them too, as long as they don't spin. We let the girls do those alone.

We returned home late Sunday night, exhausted again. Summers are full and so fun. Now back to real life. We have already returned to doing school work but I only have one more week off before my full teaching starts back. We will stay put for a while and it'll be so nice to be home!