Category Archives: Reading

Day in the Life 2013

Date: January 30, 2013

Players: Henry (7), Samuel (6), Kate (4), Becca (4)

The conundrum: It’s been a rough month getting back into the groove after the fun of the holidays. Kind of like trudging through the mud. I’ve been realizing lately that my children excel in the Art of Leisure (a.k.a. dilly-dallying) and that when we do school well, it’s to the exclusion of everything else. But we have to eat. We’re nicer to be around when we wear clean clothes. I’m more positive and patient when clutter is picked up. So what’s a mom to do?

The solution: Ha! Of course it’s not as simple as that. I think we’re probably only on version 1.6 on our way to success. But we’ll get there.

No, seriously, I spent last weekend brooding over this conundrum and woke in the middle of the night with a brilliant plan in my head. We had a Homeschooling Huddle on Sunday to talk about the new plan and get the kiddos on board. It was simply this: each child is assigned an hour slot in the morning to work with Mom one-on-one. When their tutoring session is over, they finish their assigned work independently before they’re free for the day. Simple enough.

So this is how the plan went down on Wednesday, January 30th.

I (surprisingly) popped out of bed at 5:20 a.m. ready and rarin’ to go. I read a chapter in the New Testament before double layering my usual walking attire and heading out into the 45-degree-plus-a-stiff-headwind  morning to meet my walking buddy.

I returned at 6:30 with a cold, red nose, and after stretching, bundled up in a cozy blanket and downed a couple of chapters in Don Quixote. The house still quiet, I took advantage of the extra minutes to enjoy  a quick, but nice warm shower. By the time I got out and dressed, the sleepy kiddos were starting to stagger into our room bleary-eyed, looking for a cuddle to help them wake up.

By 8: 15 a.m., the day’s normal volume had been attained and pop-up pancakes were baking in the oven. I fixed a bowl of greek yogurt and granola for the son with the egg allergy. Dad headed off to work for the day.

Now, the new schedule mandates that I begin school with Child #1 at 9:00. This has been a lot harder than I thought it would be but today, I knew the schedule needed to bend a little. Why? Double-ad Wednesdays at Sprouts. The kids and I have this worked out to a science. We try to be out the door by 9:30 at the latest so we can skip morning commute traffic but also avoid the lunchtime crowd at the grocery store. The kids are all actually very good at selecting the produce for the week and we can usually get all of the groceries we need (mainly produce, dairy, and bulk items) and be back in the car heading home in around 30 minutes.

We returned home by 10:15 a.m. and by 10:30, the cold-sensitive groceries now residing in the refrigerator, Samuel and I were in the middle of a math lesson on adding double digits to double digits (RightStart B). He kind of had a case of the dilly-dallies so I decided to cut the lesson a little short and push the math game for the day to Thursday. He read a chapter of The Littles to me while we cuddled on the bed together. I helped him work through a page in Explode the Code Book 5. Then we called Henry to join us for grammar (First Language Lessons Book 2) and writing (Writing with Ease Book 1). Then Sam was off for some independent reading while I did math with Henry (determining perimeter, also RightStart B).

By now it was 11:40 a.m. I felt panic starting to well up, but reminded myself that we were making forward progress, so I forged ahead. Henry and I cuddled up with his National Geographic’s Rocks and Minerals book and worked through reading a page together. This book is a reading level or two above his reading ability but the topic is one he’s passionate about now, so it’s worth it to me to take a team approach to reading it. He then happily did his Explode the Code Book 5 page by himself and went to the front room to do his independent reading while I started math with the girls. (Dizzy, yet?)

I forget what our math lesson was on (RightStart A) but feel fairly confident it involved both abacuses and giving out a chocolate chip for each correct answer. Becca and Kate worked in tandem on their handwriting pages (Getty and Dubay Italic Handwriting Book A) and then took turns on the couch with me, working on their reading, which right now equates to a page in The Ordinary Parent’s Guide to Teaching Reading, followed by practicing their mad skills on a BOB book.

1:12 p.m. Phew. Made it to lunch time! The kids were happy for some play time while I prepared lunch. We ate, and then they headed outside to play in the backyard while I hurriedly cleaned up the kitchen. I now had exactly one hour to get a batch of bread in the oven and the kitchen ready so a friend could come over and use my wheat grinder to grind her wheat.

3:00, friend comes over, grinds wheat. 3:10, two neighbor boys come over to play for the afternoon until their mom gets home. 3:30, new piano student shows up for a lesson. 4:00, piano lesson #2. 4:30, piano lesson #3. Thankfully (oh, so thankfully!) the weather had warmed up from the morning and all six kids (my four plus the neighbor’s two) were happy as clams playing outside.

5:00: Sent neighbor boys home. Started dinner.

6:00: Dinner while everyone caught Dad up on the news of the day.

7:00: Showers for four dirty children (how do they get so dirty playing outside???), all got ready for bed, stories, etc.

8:00: Lights out for the kiddos.

8:30: Drove to the church to meet a student for an organ lesson.

9:15: Back home and got ready for bed.

9:50: Lights out and ready for a good night’s rest!

Considering all of the external intrusions on the day’s schedule (grocery shopping, bread making, piano lessons), I felt pretty good about the work we completed. Looking back on our week overall on our new schedule, I think it has its merits. At least it was a great jumpstart to get us back in the groove. I just need to figure out how to get history and science back into the schedule and we’ll be 100% back on track.

I was actually talking to a friend about the “homeschooling to the exclusion of everything else” problem today. Does anyone else have this problem, too? I love being up to my eyeballs in schoolwork and discovery and learning with my kids, but sometimes think it would be nice to find a few hours to batch cook some freezer meals. Providing, of course, I am able to find an hour to actually plan said meals!

Hope you enjoyed the snapshot of our life right now.


Our Day in the Life 2012

Date: February 2, 2012.

Players: Henry, age 6; Samuel, age 5; Kate, age 3; Becca, age 3

No disclaimers. It is what it is.

I woke up at 6:42 a.m. feeling more rested than usual. Joe forgot to set our 5:00 a.m. alarm, but neither of us were complaining. Our early mornings tend to take a toll later in the week, especially if we haven’t been very diligent about getting to bed at a decent hour. Yes, it’s been one of those weeks.

I had time to pray and read my scriptures before the kids started filtering into our bedroom. We piled on the bed for our family scripture study before the kids ran into the kitchen for breakfast. It’s oatmeal for the kids, and since I was up late last night, I decided to try Aimee’s Apple Pie Steel-Cut Oats in the slow cooker. My 4-cup Pyrex wouldn’t fit in our slow cooker, so I had to cut the recipe in half. I know the kids would like this recipe, so for the moment, I was very happy that there wasn’t enough to share! It was delicious and Joe and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

We got Daddy off to work and then aliens descended and abducted my children while I was getting dressed (no shower today! Ah, sweet slumber…).

A little back story might be helpful here.

My four kids are three years apart. I’ve been in survival mode for the last three years. I feel like I’ve gotten my footing as a mom, but there are lots of things that I have to let go. Cleaning frequently is one of those things. I’ve made feeble attempts to teach my children how to clean the toilet and unload the dishwasher, etc., but what happens is that all four of my kids are eager to help at the same time. It’s just plain HARD to put shoes away, pick up books, wipe down a bathroom counter, and make a bed simultaneously, with helpers. So most of the time, I end up doing it myself because it’s faster.

A few months ago, in a moment of brilliant brainstorming, I came up with the idea to write various small chores on a little foam stars glued onto tongue depressors. There are eight for the morning and eight for the evening. Each child draws two stars at random and they have the option to put one of them back if they’re not feeling it for both chores. As we inaugurated this program, we drew one star at a time and I showed all four of them how to complete that task, and then we moved on to the next one. It worked well for a while, and then the holidays rolled around, and well, we haven’t gotten back into the groove yet.

Enter the aliens. My kids, of their own accord and smiles on their faces, divvied up the morning stars and with little assistance from me, completed their tasks. Cue heavenly chorus. Two of the four even made their own beds without any prompting!

Home Economics = A+

I was so inspired by their industry that I started sweeping the kitchen floor. Samuel, in his exuberance to take the recycled items to the outside bin, chose the low road after a rain and tracked mud all through the kitchen when he reentered the house. I needed to mop anyway, so I just thanked him for seeing that he was making muddy footprints and for taking his shoes off before he got to the carpet.

While I mopped (and perhaps hummed a little as I did so), I listened to the joyous sounds of the kids entertaining educating themselves. For Sam and Henry, it was Engineering and Architecture (a.k.a. Legos). For Becca and Kate, it was Interpretive Dance and Drama (a.k.a. playing Dance Class and re-enacting their favorite scenes from The Parent Trap. Hailey Mills version, of course.). My, this morning is shaping up to be just heavenly.

I took advantage of the relative quiet to prep the day’s school work, and had time to work one-on-one with each of the girls before lunch. For Becca, it was the numbers 7-10 via a dinky dollar store workbook. For Kate, it was the same numbers from an identical dinky dollar store workbook, plus six pages of her Explode the Code primer. She’s in Book Two (Get Set for the Code). Becca hasn’t shown any interest in her primers, so I’ve been playing math games and doing occasional workbook pages with her. She’s cool with that.

During lunch, I directed the boys’ attention to our school wall so they could see what was on the docket for the day:

Yes, I know the chart says “What are we doing this morning?” But I am not crazy. My kids did their chores PLUS now I had a sparkling clean kitchen floor. There was no way I was about to give all of that up for grammar.

Besides, it’s the idea. The boys know that they can’t take the word strip off the chart until they’ve completed it. Time is irrelevant.

Samuel and Henry each got a private math lesson (we use RightStart A and B, respectively) before I called them both back to the table for grammar and handwriting together. We’re using First Language Lessons for the Well-Trained Mind for grammar. Today’s lesson was on aunts, uncles, and cousins (common nouns) and the special names for their aunts, uncles, and cousins (proper nouns). Samuel is using the Getty and Dubay Italic Book B for handwriting and is about halfway through; Henry finished Book B last month and now copies a sentence or two from the Narnia books for his handwriting.

We finished with enough time for me to do the girls’ hair and get them dressed in leotards and tights for their afternoon dance class before we were out the door. The boys decided ahead of time that they wanted to find a quiet corner at the rec center and read aloud to me so they could log some time on their Read to Succeed charts; they both have about two hours left before they qualify for those Six Flags tickets!

Daddy beat us home by a few minutes, so he heard all about the kids’ day while I heated up leftovers for dinner.

After dinner, it was jammie time (no baths because we just re-caulked the tub and it needed to cure) and as a reward for obeying quickly, the kids chose to watch an episode of Star Wars: the Clone Wars (or something like that!). I checked email while Joe caught up with his Wired magazine subscription. When Star Wars was over, we all piled on the couch and read stories together before brushing teeth, going potty, and getting tucked into bed for the night.

When all was quiet in the house, Joe and I worked our way through the five loads of laundry I’d managed to run through the washer and dryer during the day. We caught up and got some needed face time in while we folded, and Joe had me listen to his latest podcast so I could critique it before he sent it to iTunes. Then we got ready for bed ourselves and made sure the alarm was set for 5:00 a.m.

I’m pretty sure I fell asleep smiling. 12 hours later, and I still couldn’t get over the fact that my kids had cleaned the house and that I had a clean kitchen floor.


Flipping the switch

One of the things I feel like I’ve constantly struggled with in terms of teaching the boys to read has been in making the transition from easy (EASY) readers to real book reading. We’ve been hovering in this no-man’s land for a year. I’ve been at a loss. We keep plugging away at The Ordinary Parent’s Guide to Teaching Reading, and using Explode the Code to reinforce the concepts learned, but I haven’t been able to get away from the feeling that it should somehow be easier than this.

I don’t know what happened, but something flipped the switch in Henry’s mind. He wants to read now.

We were cuddling in a chair one night and were about to start reading a library book. A quick glance at the first page told me that he knew all of the words but one. So I encouraged him, saying, “I’ll bet you can read most of the words on this page!” I try that tactic every now and then, usually unsuccessfully. But this night he took the bait. And read that page. And turned the page and read the next one. And on and on until he finished the book. He was beaming. He’d just read a real, live book! It was an awesome moment for both of us.

But it didn’t stop there. The next night he brought me another book and sat down and read it to me.

Lately, it’s been a mad quest to see how many books we have on our shelves that he can read. The librarian congratulated me this week for checking out the most books of anyone that day (47).

But it hasn’t stopped there. Me-Too (a.k.a. Samuel) has entered the competitive arena and is keeping pace with his brother. On a good day, I’ll be on the couch with each of them for an hour at a time. AND I’M NOT THE ONE DOING THE READING.

Literally like flipping a switch. It’s so exciting for me to watch.

And speaking of switch flipping…let’s talk about Kate for a minute. I’ve been working with her and with Becca separately, and have discovered that Kate is anxious to move past the dinky dollar store workbooks and really start learning. I’ve been using the Explode the Code primer series with her and she is eating it up. She’s 3, people. And she’s doing 12 workbook pages a day. 5-6 days a week. Crazy awesome.

And this is why I home school. Readiness. I have the ability to teach my kids when they’re ready for it, rather than slip them in to a prescribed public school time line. For Henry, (and Becca, I suspect) readiness comes in it’s own time, perhaps a little past what their peers are doing. For Sam and Kate, it’s about being able to give it to them when they’re ready for it, instead of putting it off because they’re not “old enough.”

It all makes for a great balance, really. I get the full spectrum, from encouraging, teaching, re-teaching, and finding new things to try, to not being able to teach it fast enough. From practicing hard things a little bit every day, to watching the switch flip. Love it.


Reporting on Reading

It’s been two months since my last post, and I don’t think I can adequately convey the sense of the miraculous change that has happened in our home as it relates to reading.

My boys are reading.

My boys are readers.

My boys are anxiously taking turns with our easy readers so they can complete various Summer Reading programs…ON THEIR OWN. Honestly, this one surprised me to no end.

It is all just awesome.

I feel very grateful for the inspiration I received to help me structure our second attempt at learning to read. It all came together so much better than what I was coming up with on my own.

Seeing their progress on their sticker charts with the object of their desire at the top really kept Henry and Sam going. Slow and steady was the name of the game. Their enthusiasm for reading grew as they neared their rewards. I overheard them talking about what they wanted to work toward for their next chart, which of course, made me smile, because it meant that they intended to continue in the learning process.

Sam reached his goal first. He ended up getting Nitroblast (a bad guy) instead of Stormer (a good guy). There were a lot of brother negotiations involved, but part of it had to do with Henry having his birthday about a week before they finished and buying Stormer with some of his birthday money. They were both happy with the way things worked out.

Henry finished a few days after Samuel and ended up with Evo instead of Fire Lord (he wanted Fire Lord for his birthday more than he wanted it for the reward chart).

By the time we finished these charts, it became apparent to me that we were more than a little behind on our Explode the Code books. Since I felt strongly that we needed these as reinforcement for the things we were learning in Reading, we decided to structure the next incentive chart a little differently.

Incentive Chart #2 was 100% ETC (Explode the Code). I calculated how many pages they each had left in their workbooks and told them that this time, in order to earn a sticker, they had to complete four pages of their ETC. 4 pages = 1 sticker. The reward would be a $5 gift card at Target, where they could buy whatever they wanted. Henry caught onto a subtle difference with this chart early on. With the first incentive chart, he got 1 sticker/day of reading, regardless of how much he read. This new system didn’t say anything about what he was required to do (or be limited by) in a day. He quickly got in the habit of doing 8-12 pages (2 or 3 stickers) a day. As a result, he finished his chart almost ten days ahead of Sam.

Here’s the happy reader:

The kids were anticipating a trip to Target with Dad this weekend, so Samuel hustled and finished his last 16 pages yesterday.

His $5 gift card went toward two new Transformer toys.

The current state of affairs brings us to another incentive chart, the purpose of which is to get Henry through ETC Book 2 and get Samuel into ETC Book 2 so that I can begin the Silent E section of “Ordinary Parent’s Guide” with Henry and Consonant Blends with Samuel. Henry is working toward a box of Jawbreakers and Sam a King-sized Twix. I’m not entirely sure how much longer we’ll need incentive charts to keep us going, but I couldn’t keep up with the expectation of Bionicles. Too expensive! A gradual weaning process is my hidden agenda here. 😉

All in all, we are all very happy. The boys are feeling more confident with their new skills and I smile from ear to ear when I hear them sounding out words on signage, boxes, stores, merchandise, etc. We are on our way.


More thoughts about reading

When a topic rankles your soul unrelentingly, consumes any thoughts you may have in your “free time” (kid-free), is a subject of much prayer and fasting, and you start having inner dialogues to argue and justify the aforementioned thoughts, it’s pretty much futile to just wait patiently, no matter what you told yourself earlier.

Such has been my life with Henry and reading. Or non-reading.

To avoid rehashing all of the inner dialogues, here is my grand conclusion:

Unreadiness is not the same as unwillingness.

If Henry were truly not ready to read, then we would not have completed the Kindergarten level of Hooked on Phonics in four months. He would have struggled with identifying letters, most likely wouldn’t have known the sounds they make, and would have had a difficult time connecting the dots. This was not the case for him.

Which led me to realize that when you’re five years old, Legos are more important to you than learning to read. Duly noted. Who wants to do hard things, ever?

Time for Life Lesson 105.

We started tackling reading again this week. But my approach has been modified. This is the recipe I’m trying to follow right now:

  1. Change in curriculum. Now we’re using Ordinary Parent’s Guide to Teaching Reading. I believe it’s working for Henry because he doesn’t have the pressure of a brightly colored book waiting to be read. That was the part he would balk at before. In this new book, the stories are encapsulated in the lesson and are illustration-free. So it works. This change is working for me because I felt there were too many holes in the logic and sequence of the Hooked on Phonics program. I like the systematic and very thorough approach in Parent’s Guide.
  2. Set a timer. I’ve been setting an egg timer for 10 minutes when we sit down to work on reading. If we finish the lesson, great. If not, no biggie. Ten minutes keeps it from getting big and overwhelming for Henry.
  3. Lots of positive reinforcement. I didn’t praise him enough in Round One. I’m trying to find one thing he did well in each lesson and sincerely compliment him on it. I’m trying to stress less and laugh more. We have lots of High Fives and hugs.
  4. Reinforce lessons learned. Again, learning from my mistakes the first time. Once he mastered something, we would just plow on. This time, I’m using Explode the Code Book One to reinforce the things he already knows. It feels “easy” to him, so he feels successful.
  5. Incentives. Hooked on Phonics had a sticker chart. That was fun. We could see our progress and be excited about it. Overall? Not a big enough carrot. Now Henry’s working toward a Lego Bionicle toy that he wants. He still gets the daily sticker for doing reading, but he’s a leetle more motivated to sit down with me for our ten minutes of reading now.

(I am clearly not a 5-year old boy. This does NOT motivate me!)

Once we had the Bionicle chart on the fridge, Me-Too (a.k.a. Samuel) wanted in on the gig. So he’s working toward this guy:

(Seriously? What happened to chocolate as a motivator?)

He’s doing great. I started him at the beginning of the Parent’s Guide and we flew through the review of consonants and vowels. We’re two or three lessons into the short-vowel sound words, and he makes it quite clear that he wants to do this himself, with no help from the teacher! I think reading will come much easier to him than to Henry.

I feel much better with this change in course. We can all do hard things, and the one thing I can’t wait to teach my boys is how awesome the feeling of satisfaction is when you conquer a mountain. Wish us luck as we climb.


STOP! (in the name of love)

Given the watchful (minor) anxiety I’ve had with Henry and reading (even though, as previously stated, I know it will all work out okay), when I walked outside the other afternoon and saw this, I was elated:

The boy was busily engaged in creating a parking lot for all of our bikes and scooters and ride-on toys. He spelled STOP without asking me how! My anxiety immediately eased and I absolutely loved the moment and basked in his creativity.


Ruminations on Reading

I remember clearly the afternoon last summer when Henry quietly tiptoed into my bedroom and whispered, “Mom, can you read to me?” We were on vacation, Dad and Sam were already sacked out on the couch for some afternoon zzz’s, and I was in the process of tucking the girls in for their naps when Henry tried to unobtrusively catch my attention.

“I can’t right now, honey. Can you read to yourself while you wait for me?”

Whisper-sob. “But I don’t know how to read!”

After I finished with his sisters and we were able to cuddle on the couch with the books of his choice, I remember asking him if he wanted to learn how to read and promising him that I’d teach him how as soon as we got home.

And literally a week after we returned home, Henry held me to my promise. So I dug in my closet and came up with the Kindergarten Hooked on Phonics kit I had purchased on sale at some earlier date.

It looked simple enough. An intro to a word ending page, a review page, and then a story or book to reinforce the ending just learned. A sticker chart to mark his progress. A CD to guide him through it if he didn’t feel like being coached by Mom.

I had complete confidence in the program. We were making great progress. Henry started to balk a little at the longer review pages, but we’d try to make games out of them to keep things fun. Then he started to balk at reading time during school time. We were SO CLOSE to finishing that I pushed and bribed a little to get those last few stickers on the chart before we’d take a negotiated break.

He was really doing well, so I was surprised at his vehement “I hate reading and I’m never going to read again!” reaction a week following the completion of Kindergarten reading, when I suggested starting the next level. So I backed off a little. Kind of confused. Not sure where to go from here. But definitely not about to push it while he had such strong feelings.

That was early December.

Since then, I’ve been grateful that we’re educating at home. Very grateful. If we were in the public system, regardless of how he felt about it, he would be expected to keep up with his peers and the lesson plans. He would be set up to develop a major dislike of reading, perhaps one that he’d never get over.

I’ve also been grateful that we can try different things until the spark is ignited again. I’m grateful that we can take our time with it. If he’s not ready to read for another year, it’ll be okay. If he’s not ready to read for another four years, it’ll still be okay.

The funny thing is, it’s just the act of sitting down with a book and asking him to read that makes him park his heels. He doesn’t have any qualms about other reading-type activities. He still loves to have us read to him. He likes it when I give him words to spell while I’m cooking dinner and he can figure out how to spell them with the letter magnets on the fridge. He still likes his handwriting workbook and learning how to form the letters correctly.

So I have confidence that the reading will come–in his time, and on his terms, maybe, but it will come.

I just want him to enjoy reading.

I found a book at the library this week called “I Don’t Like to Read” by Nancy Carlson. A little mouse named Henry doesn’t like to read. The first half of the book was almost an exact mirror to our Henry. In fact, he kept saying, “I say that!” or nodding as we read. The book ends happily, just as I know our story will end, too.

I’m so glad this journey is happening at home.


He did it!

Kindergarten Reading: Complete.

Bring on the first grade reading program!


Random Ruminations

Ruminations on Reading: Reading is going well. Henry is able to sound out the words in his workbook every day with very few hang-ups. He is always excited to read a story or a book and get a sticker on his progress chart. And he’s always willing to pull his workbook out whenever I ask him if he’s ready for reading. Okay, those were more observations than ruminations. But they set the stage for the ruminations.

I wonder when Henry will start seeing the words he knows how to read in picture books not part of Hooked on Phonics. I wonder when that light will click on for him and he’ll start transferring his skills outside his comfort zone. He’s only been reading, really, for two weeks. I’m not trying to rush this. I just wonder.

I also realized with a start this week that Henry becoming an independent reader means that my days of snuggling on the couch with him, logging hours of reading together, are numbered. Sad thought.

Ruminations on RightStart: We introduced the abacus to the boys this week. They both liked being able to represent quantities in a way other than their fingers or their tally sticks. I asked them to show me “4” on their abacus. Henry selected the right amount and pushed them to the left as a unit. It was exactly the way the textbook wanted him to and I didn’t even say anything to him about it. Yay, #1! Then, I asked him how he knew it was four. He said, pointing to the lone blue bead at the right, “Because there’s only one blue bead left!” That was literally a textbook answer. Yay, #2! I think I did an inner Toyota jump because he’s getting it. So exciting.

This math curriculum is geared for two lessons a week. Sometimes I wonder if I ought to do one more day a week since they both seem to like it so much. But sometimes I think I should just hold back a little and keep from overwhelming them. Fine balance.

Ruminations on Art: Not our best week. I didn’t do a very good job of explaining the scope or what I expected of them. Oh well. It’s okay.

We did Fanny Joly’s “Mr. Fine, Porcupine” (Storybook Art, page 31). The boys think the story is hilarious and it’s one of the most requested reads from this round of library books.

The idea was to finger paint a simple large line drawing of choice (think a drawing of a sheep or a house) before using craft sticks to scratch away paint to create a textured look. Instead, both Sam and Henry opted to recreate a page from the story. Sam did a darn good job of creating Mr. Fine, Porcupine, and Henry chose a page with a town on it. Here’re the finished products:

Please meet Mr. Fine, Porcupine.

This is the town Mr. Fine rides his bike through, a la Henry

So…the ruminations in my head that are art-related are mostly happy thoughts at finding such a great resource to gently guide our creativity. I love that my boys are creating. It’s fun to see them be more excited over a blank piece of paper and a box of markers than a coloring book. It’s fun to see what’s in their little heads—especially the level of detail! I love learning new techniques and love that we’re being exposed to more than just line drawing or painting with watercolors.

Ruminations on Science: My biggest concern in this area is that I need to practice with different settings on my camera. I need to learn how to take better pictures. I know what I want different compositions to look like in my head; I just haven’t figured out how to make them happen. Not even school-related. For the boys, anyway. Just realizing that if I’m going to document our journey, I’d like to figure out how to capture better shots than blurry stills or flash-washed close-ups.

But our science experiment this week was tops. We tackled “Shine Your Pennies” (Mudpies to Magnets, page 99). I was messing around with the camera more this day, so my explanation of our experiment will be peppered with pictures.

The set-up was pretty basic: four bowls, varied combinations of salt, vinegar, and water.

(Yay! I figured out the macro setting!) 3 of the 4 bowls required 5 mL of salt. Thank heaven for medicine cups. I had no idea how I was going to measure 5 mL!

Our first bowl had vinegar only; our second, salt only; our third, salt and vinegar; and our fourth, salt and water.

We placed one dirty penny in each bowl and made observations after five, ten, and fifteen minutes. The most pronounced changes were observable at the five minute mark.

The penny in the vinegar didn’t get shiny but it put off a lot of bubble chains from the penny to the surface of the vinegar.

Hmm…nothing’s happening…

Ooo! Can you see it getting shiny?

The boys thought this one was cool. Maybe a teensie bit more than the shiny one.

After we recorded our observations and the boys made their notations in their science journals, I let them go crazy trying to shine the rest of their pennies. It made for a fun project.

Ruminations on Spanish and Social Studies: I’m kind of bored, not going to lie. I’m pretty sure we’ll be through both the yellow and red levels of Spanish by Christmas. Then what? Who knows.

I think if I cared more about our approach to Social Studies this year, then I could make it more fun with menu plans and supplemental library books. Maybe when I find my groove again in the menu planning arena. Hmm. Something to think about.


Learning to Juggle

This past week was a really good illustration of what happens to well-laid plans when life gets in the way. For various reasons, it was hard for us to find our groove.

However, I will say that the flexibility of homeschooling is something to love. Even though we still tried our best to do some learning during the girls’ naptime, I loved that when it didn’t happen, I could do it whenever it worked best. Sometimes it meant doing math with the boys while the girls were in the tub and couldn’t steal the manipulatives. Sometimes it meant working on our art project with all four kids at 8:00 in the morning. Whatever, you know? It’s working.

Henry made some great progress with Hooked on Phonics this week. He read his second story, “Dan Ran,” and his first book, “Cat.” He was so thrilled to be reading an actual book (term used loosely) that he called Nanny and Poppa to read it to them. I’m sure they understood every word of the six page plot, no problem.

Our two math lessons were pretty basic. I think both boys will be happy to move onto more challenging things. Still, they did hands-on exercises with patterning, matching, and sorting, and learned about parallel and perpendicular planes.

This week the boys joined Joe at the convention center for a morning to go see and play with the robots during the company’s yearly conference. Daddy was happy to fill in for me on science this week! Here are some pictures of the boys before the camera conked:

Operating a robot with a joy stick

The boys in front of “The Bear,” a rescue robot

So yeah, science this week was a raging success. The boys couldn’t stop talking about all of the robots they had seen and I think gratitude for being part of the event was even expressed in their evening prayers.

I am still loving Storybook Art. This week, we checked out Donald Crews’ Ten Black Dots from the library and had fun with stickers. All four kids gave this one a thumbs up. The question is posed at the beginning of the book: “What can you do with ten black dots?” The author/illustrator used various numbers of dots as a starting point and then created a picture around the dots (Storybook Art, page 46). Henry jumped right in and had created this before I had finished passing paper and sticker dots out to the crew:

It’s an alligator, folks. A five-legged alligator with menacing eyebrows. I love it.

Here’s Samuel’s creation, a water slide, complete with splashes:

Henry did two more pictures, one was a spaceship and the other a train. Here, he’s working on the train:

Not to be outdone, here’s Becca’s creation. Once she saw the boys drawing on and around their dots, she followed suite. The boys and I thought this looked like a bunch of lightning bugs.