Monday, August 04, 2014

Homeschool Plans 2014-2015

The beginning of school is drawing near(er) and I thought I might update the blog with our plans for this year.  We're sailing into uncharted waters, trying some new things, and I'm so excited! And only a little bit nervous. ;) First some history before we lay out this year's plans…

Way back before homeschooling, before kids, and even before David, I taught 3rd grade at a fabulous private Christian school in Austin, Texas.  Regents' curriculum in the grammar school was a blend of what homeschoolers call the classical and Charlotte Mason approaches.  Before I interviewed for my job, I was required to read a book on classical Christian education and another on Charlotte Mason's educational philosophy.  I still have my copies of both of those books, and For the Children's Sake by Susan Schaeffer Macaulay (the CM resource I was given) remains a favorite to this day.

When I first began thinking about homeschooling and casting vision for what we'd be doing with our kids, the Charlotte Mason-y parts of my curriculum at Regents stood out in my mind as "musts".  They were the "riches" of the day, the parts that, in my opinion, built a student body from kindergarten up that loved to learn.  Regents placed value on the liberal arts.  We did art appreciation through picture study, listened to classical music, did nature study, tended classroom gardens, memorized large chunks of scripture and poems by great poets, and read many, many wonderful books.  My last class of 3rd graders recited eleven verses of Philippians 2 at my wedding, and memorizing it with them that spring was a joy.  You see, those things shape character.  When you spend time with the great ideas of literature, with beautiful art, music, and nature, it makes you a better person. When you prioritize the true, good, and beautiful in your curriculum, you have kids whose minds are stretched and love to learn, even if they aren't headed for a career in the liberal arts.  This was the type of education and environment I wanted for my own children.

I struggled a little trying to figure out how to do that stuff with such little kids when we first started homeschooling, though.  We used Five in a Row for two years in PK and K and enjoyed it.  It's a sweet little program that got us some social studies, science and art along with some absolutely fantastic children's books (the best part!).  I did add some CM-y stuff to FIAR.  We did nature study some, we did pretty well with picture study.  We fumbled with composer study.  It didn't feel quite like what I was looking for, though.  I grew weary of the planning.  Five in a Row is a unit study style curriculum, so everything is tied together to relate to the book of the week.  I began to doubt, about halfway through the 2nd year, that the work I was putting in to tying up our lessons into neat little unit-study bundles was worth the time and attention it required of me.  I began to suspect that my children were perfectly capable of making connections themselves and that I didn't need to make it all so tidy.  I began to read more Charlotte Mason and saw that she would have agreed with me, which made me begin to consider taking the plunge toward a more purely CM approach in our homeschool.  In fact, after this summer of reading almost nothing but Charlotte Mason, I have still found very little that doesn't resonate with me.  I'm a pretty big fan. ;)

So that's what we're doing! We're going to try Ambleside Online's free Charlotte Mason-style curriculum this year.  AO's Year 1 should be a good fit for all three of my kids.  I will be making a few tweaks (of course! I can't leave anything alone!), mostly in the area of history.

A Charlotte Mason style curriculum covers the following subjects:
  • Bible
  • History
  • Geography
  • Science
  • Math
  • Language Arts
  • Literature 
  • Foreign Language
  • Hymns and Folk Songs
  • Art Appreciation
  • Composer Study
  • Art and Handicrafts

That's a lot for 1st graders!  BUT not every subject will be done every day.  Whew!  AO offers a weekly schedule and suggests that you decide how to divide the work up onto individual days yourself based on your own schedule requirements, if you're schooling 4 or 5 days per week, if you have field trips or co-ops to work around, etc.

Here's what I'm planning to try for our daily schedule, although I know full well that I may need to make adjustments several weeks in as we see how it works for us.

1. Morning Time (after breakfast, all together)
  • Bible
  • scripture and poetry memory
  • one thing from the following list: nature study, art, artist or composer study, Spanish 
2. 3Rs (work with twins together and Jono separately, each at their own levels)
  • math
  • language arts (spelling, phonics/reading practice, handwriting/copywork)
3: AO assignments for literature, history, geography, and science (together again)

In addition to that, here are some other things I'm excited about this year: 

One afternoon per week I'm planning a poetry tea time inspired by Bravewriter. We'll be using the poetry books assigned in AO Y1, plus we'll probably pull some that look fun from the library.  If poetry tea time is a bust, that's OK, I'll add "read a poem" to the Morning Time pile.  But I hope they like it, since it sounds like fun to me!  

We have some really exciting literature selections in AO this year! I'm really jazzed about Shakespeare. I am pretty sure I've read exactly one Shakespeare play in my life, and that was in 9th grade English.  I was not a fan.  But AO starts Shakespeare exposure early with illustrated re-tellings of Shakespeare's plays written especially for children.  The goal is to have them enjoy the story lines and be familiar with the characters and plots before they tackle any plays in the original.  I've been previewing our AO Shakespeare books and I'm in LOVE! We don't have any Shakespeare in our literature line-up until term 3 (last 12 weeks of school), though, so I'm going to read play (a full one) on my own instead.  I'm inspired. :)  In term 1, we have some Aesop's fables, James Herriots' animal stories, Paddle-to-the-Sea (geography) and some really fun history! 

History! I said earlier that this was my biggest tweak to AO Y1.  I'm throwing out their history selections in favor of doing an overview of early American history.  I previewed a bunch of early American history curricula from several homeschool publishers and nothing was quite what I was looking for.  Several were close, though, and I used their book lists for ideas along with some google work to put together a list of picture books in loose chronological order that will cover pre-European settlement through westward expansion.  The general plan is to read one good history book per week and do an accompanying activity or art project every 2-3 weeks.  I also have a list of novels that will go along with our history topics that we can choose from for family read alouds before bed or audio books in the car.  Should be fun!  

And finally, we have a co-op this year!  We're joining a small co-op that several of our homeschooling friends are in.  It meets every other week for two classes.  My kids will be in a Colonial Times class, which will be a perfect compliment to our US history study.  The second hour for them will be a science class.  The twins' age group is doing a solar system class, and Jono's age group is doing a Magic School Bus class with a different MSB science video followed by an experiment or activity each week.  I think they'll love it!  I'm teaming up with a friend to teach a Dr Seuss class for the PK-K age group, too, which will be adorable. 

So that's it! That's what our year here at Chaos Academy should hold.  We get started after family camp next week.  I'm interested to see how it goes.  You'll be welcome to follow along! 

Friday, May 23, 2014

Farewell, Five in a Row

It's certainly bittersweet, but after two wonderful years using Five in a Row in our homeschool, we are saying goodbye and going in a different direction next year.  I thought I'd take a minute and remember what we've done in FIAR.

We rowed the following books:

Volume 1:
The Story About Ping
A Pair of Red Clogs
The Glorious Flight
How to Make an Apple Pie and See the World
Another Celebrated Dancing Bear
Papa Piccolo
Katy and the Big Snow

Volume 2:
The Giraffe That Walked to Paris
Wee Gillis
Owl Moon
A New Coat for Anna
Mrs. Katz and Tush
Mirette on the High Wire
The Story of Ferdinand
Make Way for Ducklings
The Tale of Peter Rabbit
Mr Gumpy's Motorcar
Miss Rumphius
The Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Gray Bridge
Harold and the Purple Crayon

Volume 3:
The Bee Tree
Henry the Castaway
The Duchess Bakes a Cake
Andy and the Lion
The Salamander Room
Amber on the Mountain

We visited every continent but Antarctica on our literary journeys and met so many wonderful storybook characters.  We have loved these books.  They have literally become friends.

Some favorite memories:

  • the shaving cream "snow" with Katy
  • the wearable body activity with Madeline
  • the youtube video of Russian dancers that is still requested often from Dancing Bear
  • the gondola ride with Papa Piccolo
  • the Global Wildlife Center field trip with Giraffe
  • owl pellet dissection with Owl Moon
  • yarn dyeing with New Coat for Anna (twice!)
  • acting out The Story of Ferdinand
  • the fact that we still shout "Mr and Mrs Mallard" EVERY TIME we see mallards around town, thanks to Make Way for Ducklings
  • wildflowers in Texas with Miss Rumphius
  • the diorama of The Salamander Room
  • the beekeeper's field trip with The Bee Tree
  • sailing small boats in Lake Pontchartrain with Henry the Castaway
  • how much my kids loved the new vocabulary words "patience" and "fortitude" with Andy and the Lion

and I could go on, and on, and on.  Thank you so much to Five in a Row for a fantastic start to homeschooling here at Chaos Academy.  I'll continue to recommend you to moms who ask for suggestions for fantastic early childhood curriculum.  It's been fun!

If you use the search bar in the top left corner, every book I listed that we have rowed should be here somewhere on my blog.  I enjoyed recording our Five in a Row journey here.  Next year's curriculum won't be as neatly packaged in 1-2 week chunks by theme like FIAR has been, so I'm not sure what my blog habits will look like. I will probably not post as often, and honestly, I'm looking forward to that.  I do appreciate those of you who have followed along and cheered us on!  Happy homeschooling!


No more kindergarteners in our house! Hazel and Charlie did kindergarten graduation with our homeschool group last weekend.  It's on to first grade here at Chaos Academy!

They were so excited! 

Hazel with her display board

and Charlie with his

with their teacher ;)

Charlie walking in

and Hazel

singing their song with their class

getting their awards and diploma from Mom and Dad

Each kiddo received a diploma for finishing kindergarten along with a certificate recognizing an outstanding character quality that they displayed over the year.  We recognized Hazel for the character trait of determination and Charlie for tender-heartedness.

I spent so many years mocking all graduations for anyone under the age of 18, and I'll be honest and say that I still think it's a little silly to parade 4 and 5 year olds around in miniature cap and gowns for PK and kinder graduations, but participating in our homeschool group's kindergarten graduation the last couple of years has been such a wonderful thing for our family.  We've made some dear friends and been able to recognize some significant accomplishments that our family has made during our first couple of years homeschooling.  I'm proud of what we've done and where we're going.  Way to go, kindergrads!

Wrap Up: A Pair of Red Clogs

Our most recent Five in a Row unit was on the adorable book A Pair of Red Clogs.

In the book, the narrator remembers back to her childhood when she had a new pair of shiny red
wooden clogs and wore them to play the "weather telling game".  The weather telling game consists of kicking your shoe off and seeing how it lands.  If it landed right side up, the weather tomorrow would be fair, if upside down, then rainy, and if on its side, it would snow.  My children are HUGE fans of the weather telling game.  We spent days sending our shoes sailing every time we took them off.  It's amazing how many times crocs land on their sides, but alas. no snow in New Orleans in May. ;)  We discussed weather, forecasting, and made a chart to record our weather for a week or so.

We did several Japanese inspired crafts for this row.  I checked out a few origami books from the library.  Charlie really liked these and now has a small collection of origami pets that we did together from those books.  We also made carp kites and practiced writing our names in Japanese.

I used these instructions for the carp kites. Super cute! For Japanese names, I put our names into this translator, printed them out, and then encouraged the kids to copy them with watercolor.  They did not really enjoy this, but I thought it was fun! 

We also made candy "sushi" one day for snack. This was HUGELY popular and I'm sure will be repeated.  I used these strange tube shaped rice cakes that we found at Costco, rolled them in fruit roll-ups, and sliced them, and then topped with sweedish fish. I read several other people who made actual Rice Krispie treats to roll for the inside of their faux-sushi, but these were faster. ;)

This is a row that I would have loved to spend more time on.  We read some good storybooks about Japan, including some compilations of Japanese fairy tales that were very popular, but we did this row around a four-day trip to Houston followed by several days of David being out of town and me single parenting and we just lost focus.  

Adorable story, fun row, could have done even more with it, but that was a wrap! 

Wrap Up: Mrs Katz and Tush

We have been CRAWLING to the end of the year with Five in a Row.  I have taken very few pictures and barely remember what we did during our last couple of rows, but I thought I'd go ahead and make posts for them, for consistency's sake. 

Mrs Katz and Tush is a book by Patricia Polacco about a boy named Larnel who befriends his elderly neighbor, Mrs Katz, gives her a kitten, and promises to help her care for it.  He grows to love her company as she shares with him about her past, her immigration from Poland to the United States, and her Jewish faith and culture.  

We did all the normal things with this row.  We found Poland on the map and talked about immigration.  When Mrs Katz tells Larnel that "your people and mine are very much alike" we discussed what she meant by that (the persecution and discrimination that both Jewish people and African Americans have faced).  We talked about Tush's babies and watched a cat give birth on YouTube.  We drew cats and made them into "lost cat" signs like the ones that Mrs Katz and Larnel posted to find Tush.  

We read storybooks about Passover and the Seder.  And then we invited some friends also use FIAR over to have a Seder with us.  Given that we are not Jewish, and neither were our friends, I'm quite sure it was not "right" but we really enjoyed the experience regardless!  I mostly used this resource for planning, and would recommend it for other Christian families who are interested in celebrating this Jewish feast day.  

Mrs Katz and Tush was very typical for Patricia Polacco books.  It was long, and a little heavy, but absolutely beautiful.  It was not one of my children's favorite FIAR selections, but I loved it.  

recent yarn work

Have you noticed that everyone is pregnant with baby boys? Or so it seems!  Almost all of my yarn orders this semester have been for boys.  Here are a few: 

monsters, now and later, for my cousin

The navy one should fit for newborn pictures, but then he'll never wear it again, since he's due mid-summer and it will be far too hot to wear yarny hats.  The larger one should fit for his first winter, and hopefully get a lot more use. 

Two newsboy and bootie sets, one in navy, the other in black.

This was a parting baby gift for Jono's occupational therapist before he graduated (yay!) and she left for maternity leave.  She actually did not know the gender of her baby, so I made my favorite gift for babies of unknown variety-- a neutral bear ear hat, with a flower that can be removed if it's a boy.  

And I made a butterfly beanie for the American Girls.  

These are my favorite types of projects--small, fast, instant gratification.  And it's a good thing I  like them, since let's face it--that's about all I have time for these days! 

Easter 2014

Catching up the blog!  Here's a review from Easter. 

We grew real grass in our Easter baskets this year, and it worked beautifully! Here are the instructions I used.  This was about a week of growth.  That would have been a nice stopping point.  

Unfortunately, we planted greass about 2 weeks before Easter, so by the time we put the grass in the baskets, it was totally overgrown and crazy! I loved it though, and will definitely do this project again next year! 

We dyed eggs, of course. 

We spent a couple of weeks going through our Resurrection Eggs at breakfast to discuss the Easter story.  Those remain my #1 favorite craft project.  Make yourself some

 We looked nice and springy on Easter Sunday. We were also thoroughly uncooperative for photos.

We spent the afternoon with friends and cascarones...


and Hulk costumes!

 Lovely day, lovely traditions.

Sunday, April 06, 2014

Wrap Up: Miss Rumphius

I love the story of Miss Rumphius, who sets out to make the world more beautiful by sowing lupine seeds throughout her hometown.

When I first read the book, I was reminded of the Texas bluebonnets that make the fields and highways throughout that great state more beautiful every spring.  In fact, the Texas bluebonnet is a type of wild lupine (lupinus texensis)! I decided that I'd save this book for spring when we could take a trip to Austin during bluebonnet season and row it with with a Texas twist and a visit to grandparents.

During our first week with Miss Rumphius, we started by finding the places that Miss Rumphius visited on our map and put the story disk on Maine on our USA map for an approximate location of her home "by the sea".

We took a little field trip to the Mrs Heather's Strawberry Farm to pick some berries and play on the many playthings there.

We also read a few go-along books to tie Miss Rumphius into our upcoming trip to Texas, the bluebonnet, and another lady who tried to make the world more beautiful, first lady Lady Bird Johnson.

Miss Lady Bird's Wildflowers is such a lovely book! They really enjoyed the Legend of the Bluebonnet, as well.  We talked a little bit about President Johnson and (generally) the office of the president, and Charlie was particularly interested in the go-along book pictured above.  It's very entertaining! Lots of fun facts about the different presidents. 

We painted bluebonnets using this tutorial.

And then we went to Austin! I'm kicking myself for not taking some pictures of the fields we passed between Houston and Austin.  They were covered in a lush mix of bluebonnets and indian paintbrush (my personal favorite wildflower).  It was a gorgeous drive!!  We got to my dad's on Thursday afternoon and Friday morning we hit the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.  Perfect!  

the nature classroom for kids at the Wildflower Center was the biggest hit as far as the kids were concerned.  They could have played in there for hours!
Can you see the owl at the base of the plant?
The next day we just enjoyed some beautiful Austin weather at Zilker Park.

Dad happened to have a few bluebonnets growing in his front yard, so I decided it was OK to pick one to bring home for our brand new wildflower collection.  In just the past couple of weeks, we've found and identified seven species, and I have one more pressing to add soon.  I'm not sure we've landed on the best method of display (using our home laminator), but it's durable, and the kids seem to like it.

After we got home and unpacked and back-to-normal, we spent a few more days focusing on plants.  We watched the Magic School Bus episode on seeds and made this sunflower craft:

We planted sunflower seeds along the fence in the backyard, too! We're taking bets on whether or not they outgrow the fence by summer's end. 

We took Tuesday and went out to the Barataria Nature Preserve for a day of swamp hiking and nature study.  

elevated swamp trails 
quite the green forested picnic spot!
crawfish chimneys! These were EVERYWHERE.  Fascinating!
We also planted grass seed in plastic plant saucers to put in our Easter baskets.  Here's hoping they grow! I tried this two years ago and it flailed miserably, but Pinterest says it should work!!

There were a few other garden-themed books that we read during this row and enjoyed. I highly recommend The Curious Garden. This is probably the 3rd or 4th time we've checked it out of the library and everyone loves it.  The Gardener was a new one to us, recommended by a friend.  It's very sweet, and a Caldecott honor book, so it has lovely illustrations.  Miss Maple's Seeds was one I chose randomly off of the library shelf display and thought was adorable!  Kids enjoyed it, too.  

In other news, Friday was our  homeschool group's field day!  I was in charge of Charlie's group, so I didn't get many pictures, but they all had a lot of fun! Here are pictures showing off their ribbons. 

We start a new row with Mrs Katz and Tush this week, which will take us up to Easter.  This year is flying by!