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


Lesley said...

I love to read this! So inspiring and SO much work. Ellen and Ariana are lucky girls. Jen, you should be proud. The community is lucky to have you too - well done on that website! I have been putting off making a website for work (for years).

Cant wait to see you guys in Oct.....hopefully Irene is not going to damamge our plans.

Love, Les

Anonymous said...

A wonderfully detailed and informative post. I burst with pride. I know no harder-working, gentler, stonger women anywhere.


KathyB said...

wow, what can I say after those two comments. I love reading your blog and I love the details. It's sort of living my life vicariously through my kids and it's wonderful The girls look like they were born to ride horses and I'm so thrilled that they are having these lessons. Way to go girls!!! My Jen Jen, you are an inspiration to your own mom.

homegrownsunshine said...

That was refreshing. Love the detail. Love the gift you are giving your children daily. Your presence, direction and thoughtfulness is so evident.
I read this entire post and I am glad I did. I have been wanting to know what you had lined up for this year. More of the same it looks like. You have created such a unique school for your learners. I admire you so much.
Ellen and Arianna are so bright, loving, creative and curious. I can't wait to hear about all of your adventures this upcoming year. Love to you...

William Kruidenier said...

I read recently where Charlotte Mason wrote, "Education is atmosphere." The atmosphere in your Columbia family is certainly educational: formal and informal, purposeful and accidental, planned and serendipitous. Thanks for this good update. I know it's happening, but it's great to see it all explained so clearly.

I wish I had been introduced to these giant horses the way the girls are. I've been hesitant around horses ever since I was plopped on one in the Smoky Mountains as a child and he did everything HE wanted and nothing I wanted. So good the girls are learning at such a young age to be confident around these friends.