The Sacred Sprouts Schoolhouse

Archive for March, 2011

All It Took Was A Bout With The Flu

Was that just last week that I was wondering how I was going to encourage Zander in his ability to read more difficult books?  Maybe it was a few weeks ago, but regardless, he’s found it!

It all began Monday morning.  I had been very sick with the flu all weekend, and when I woke up Monday, still feeling like I’d been run over, I knew school was not going to go as planned.  So I assigned the three R’s to the kids, and that was that.  Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic- all three that they could do on their own for the day.   When I handed Zander his book, he looked at me a little puzzled.  And then we had a chat.

He’s been reading chapter books out loud to me during his reading time, and he dreads that, because it can really go on and on for a long time.  So that was his first thought, that reading a chapter book silently to himself was going to take forever.  But then I explained how when you read silently to yourself, you can read much faster than when you are speaking the words aloud.  That seemed to do the trick, because he headed off to a comfy bed to read.  And was back in about 2 minutes, because he’d already read his chapter.  So I sent him for a second chapter.  This one may have taken all of 3 minutes.  When I asked him what happened, he was able to tell me in great detail, so I knew that he had actually read it.

What a difference!  He’s a different boy this week, as every day he is begging me to do his reading first.  He LOVES reading to himself instead of out loud to me, and really, I have no reason to have him  read out loud to me anymore.  He reads more proficiently than his older sister- he’s just a natural reader.   He’s been reading to himself every day for school, but then for fun he’ll pick his book back up and read another chapter or two.  A whole new world has opened up for him, and he’s asked me if we can always do reading like this now.

Of course, now that means I have to change my plans for reading for him for next year.  The reader package I was planning on going with is just going to be too easy, and yet, the package beyond that has a little more difficulty than I really want to go with.

So, for the third year in a row, I now get to assemble my own reading list for Zander.  Maybe after this year I’ll be able to go with a package for him?  I’ve already started working on it, since I’m still feeling lousy, I have time to sit with book lists and catalogs, and I think I’ll come up with a real exciting list for him.   I’m planning on using several books from this list,(using a combo of Elementary 4-6 and Primary 1-3 Advanced books) which I have cross-referenced with Sonlight materials, so we won’t find ourselves duplicating in the next few years.  I’ll add in some Judy Blume, Cynthia Rylant, and some great tales about Vikings and Greek Myths, and I think he’ll have a wonderful year of reading.

So while I’m not thrilled to have been dealing with the flu, I am thankful that it helped my son get over his fear of failure.  Because what Mom wouldn’t like to walk upstairs and discover this:

I owe that Geronimo Stilton an awful lot- he is responsible for getting both my kids to really sink their teeth into reading.

posted by Erika in Random Thoughts and have Comments (4)

Homeschool Tracker

A few days ago I mentioned that I wanted to share some simple tools that we use to make our homeschool more organized.  This is one of them.

In the state of Wisconsin, we are required to educate our children for 875 hours during the school year.  That’s a lot of hours, and just thinking about going through the calendar, keeping track and then adding them up is exhausting!  Instead of manually keeping track, I’ve found Homeschool Tracker to be the ideal tool for this homeschool.

The Basic Edition of Homeschool Tracker is the one we use, because the only thing we need to track here in Wisconsin is subjects learned and hours learned.  The added plus is that the Basic Edition is also a free download.  There aren’t fancy bells and whistles, there’s nothing super special about it, but it works great!

Each week I go through and put in each child with the number of hours they school each day.  Some days it’s just a little, some days it’s longer.  When we go on a field trip on a Saturday, I am able to add in the time spent on a Saturday to our schooling tally.

With just a click of a button I can look and see how many hours we’ve done so far for the year.  Right now Abigail sits at 823 and Zander sits at almost 760.  I think we’ll have no problem reaching our target.  Then, at the end of the school year, I can print off a simple report that shows our school year at a glance, and file it away for the school year.   That way, should the state ever come knocking on our door, it’s a simple matter of opening up the right binder to show them that we’re doing everything we’re required to do.

For those who wish to keep track of more information, Homeschool Tracker Plus is reputed to be an excellent investment, it’s just not something I need at this time.  Now, come high school, when we’re needing to generate transcripts and grades, we will look at upgrading to the new edition.

posted by Erika in Tools and have Comments Off on Homeschool Tracker

What’s Happening This Week

In trying to update more frequently, I’ve made it a point to keep the camera nearby this week.  We’ve added some fun extras to our learning this week, and I thought I’d share a little bit of what we’re doing.

The first fun thing this week was a field trip for the kids.  We have a huge bald eagle population along the Fox River here, so we went to check out the action.

We found the big nest, with a momma eagle in it.  She would pop out her head from time to time, but as much as we willed her to join the seagulls in their fishing expedition, she stayed put.  We did get to see a juvenile eagle though.  He didn’t have his white head yet, but boy, was he big!  If you look close in this picture, you can see a triangular dark shape at the top of  a tree.  That’s the nest.

While we didn’t get to see any mature bald eagles in flight, it was so nice to be out in nature.  It also gave the kids an opportunity to work some binoculars and explore.  We saw ducks, seagulls, blue herons, and even a trio of deer wading in the river.

This week Zander also really got down and dirty with his Biology.  I’m impressed with the experiments that have been included with his kit from NOEO.  This week, after learning about Louis Pasteur last week, we’re taking our own turn at exploring bacteria and fungi.  The first day, after I prepared a few petri dishes with some agar, he gathered some bacteria from a Wii-mote and smeared it in one of the dishes.  Then he applied some antibacterial goo to one half of the dish.  We’re keeping an eye on it for growth, and are kind of not very excited to see just what’s living on our video game controllers.

The next day, he needed to compare two similar things, so he chose to compare spit.  Both he and Abigail scraped their tongues and then applied the resulting goo to one half of a prepared petri dish.  This dish has joined the first one in a dark place, and we’re just waiting to see the colonies start growing.  We’re expecting it could take a few days.

Today his experiment involved yeast- a helpful fungi.  He started with three plastic cups, which he labeled, and then I divided a packet of yeast between them.  To one cup we added warm water, to the second cup we added warm water and sugar, and the third cup was cold water and sugar.

Yeah… this one didn’t do much.  According to our directions, we should have seen some serious foaming actions.  I’m wondering if the yeast is dead, because we got a few bubbles in all three cups and nothing else.  We have another packet of yeast, so we’ll try again tomorrow.

Abigail has been intensely studying World War II, and it’s amazing all the many things that we could add to this study to really make it come alive.  We have plans to watch The Sound of Music this Friday, but today, since Andy was around and had nothing else to do on a grey, dreary day, he got out an old board game, Axis & Allies.  Him and Abigail have been striving for world domination for about 2 hours now, and it sounds like she’s been putting up a fairly fair fight.

I think that Zander’s hoping they wrap it up shortly here so that he can have some play time with his sister today, but overall, it’s been a great week here at the Schoolhouse.  This was one of those weeks where I got up Monday morning and really thought about declaring it Spring Break.  I really didn’t feel motivated.  Instead, we took Monday off after a busy weekend, and then Tuesday when I woke up I STILL felt like taking the week off.  But we trudged on, and all the added extras gave us the little boost we needed to keep moving forward.  I like the idea of instead of doing a week-long Spring Break, to break it up over the next few weeks and take a day here and a day there off.

We may just do that.


posted by Erika in Field Trip and have Comments Off on What’s Happening This Week

The Home Stretch

My, how the school year is just flying!   I swear it was just a few weeks ago I was looking at Abigail’s schedule and wondering how on earth we were going to spend six weeks on World War One, and just like that, we’re through it, the roaring twenties, and we’re moving into the second of six weeks on World War Two.   We’re moving into Week 27, and with a 36 week course, that means we’re in the home stretch, the fourth quarter, and looking ahead to next year is well underway.

School’s been going very well this year, and I figured I was about due for an update anyway.  Both kids have really been enjoying their new Science programs.  Zander started out with a weather study, which was good, but most of the experiments we have to hold off for nicer weather so we can spend time outside.  This last week we learned about Louis Pasteur and all next week we’re going to spend it doing experiments with bacteria and fungi.  He can’t wait!  Abigail spent her first few weeks with NOEO learning about cells and using a microscope.  She’s really enjoyed that, and next week we’re hopping around within the curriculum and beginning a four-week study on the human body.  She really wanted to do that first, but I thought studying cells and microscopy would lay a good foundation for the body study.  Her first week will be studying the cells of the body, so that was a good move to make.

French is still going well.  I’m a bit confused by the curriculum we have- it’s moved into using visual cues and something called a diglot weave to help learn French, and it makes no sense to me- it almost looks like morse code- so I’m spending time going through the lessons in the book, trying to figure out how to pick out the phrases and such we want to learn.  In the meantime, we’re reviewing phrases we’ve already learned- and mastered- and also learning basic vocabulary.  French basics like numbers, the alphabet, animals, etc.  I think it’s a good balance, and a good introduction to a foreign language.  After the school year is done, I may do some research and see what else I can find to help us better grasp the language.  I’m just not sold on the immersion approach, but we’ll see.

A few weeks ago we came to Zander’s read-aloud of the Wizard of Oz, and since Abigail has never read it, nor have either of my kids seen the movie, we adjusted our school day so that both kids could sit in on the read-aloud, and then we watched the movie.  They really enjoyed both the book and movie, but both agreed the book was so much better.  Of course, we find that with pretty much everything we read and then watch an adaptation, but I love hearing my kids say that.   We read Wizard Of Oz so fast, that we had extra time, so now we’re reading The Voyage of The Dawn Treader as Zander’s read-aloud, and of course, they’re both enjoying that immensely too.

Speaking of adding in Read-Alouds, I wanted to give some thoughts about the Core that I had Zander do this year.  Last year at this time, I was really going back and forth as to what I should have him do for first grade.   Really, it was most important that we nail the basics well for a good foundation- the reading, writing and arithmetic.  He’s come a long way with his writing ability, and of course, his reading and math abilities are off the charts.   He really just needs confidence in his ability to read long chapter books, because he can do it very well, he just gets overwhelmed by looking at all the pages and the words.  He could totally read something complicated like Tom Sawyer, and even understand much of it, but his confidence isn’t quite there yet, that’s what we’ll be working on next year.

Anyway, back to my choice of core for his first grade  year.  I went with Sonlight’s Core K, because despite the “K” designation, it is recommended for ages 5-7, and I heard a lot about how a lot of kids on the younger age spectrum were troubled by some of the content.  Looking down the long road through elementary school, and knowing I wanted a good three years before we came back to Core 3, Core K was our best option.  And it’s been wonderful for the most part.  The History and Geography is light, it’s presented just a bit at a time, and it’s really been a great introduction to the world around us- and how the world has changed over time.   The read-alouds have been great for the most part.  Two come to mind that we didn’t care as much for so far, but many have been wonderful.  Some have been so wonderful that we read them more quickly than scheduled, and then dashed to the library to pick up any and all sequels and squeeze them in as well.

The sheer volume of books that Zander has read this year is staggering.  He’s easily read to me upwards of 60 books- and most of them are the introduction to chapter reading type books.  Books that are still picture books, but divided into chapters.  Yet we still will take a day and read classic Dr. Suess or Eric Carle, and discovered that he loves Beatrix Potter too. It’s been great fun pulling books of the shelf and rediscovering them with him- and seeing his delight.  We read a small, single book of Peter Rabbit, and Zander commented about how awesome it was.  So then when I pulled out the complete anthology of Beatrix Potter that we have, I thought his eyes were going to roll back into his head.

But one thing that I have not been happy with, in regards to Core K, is that it seems like it could almost have been tweaked a touch more to make it either a solid kindergarten curriculum, or a solid first grade curriculum.  While the books have been perfect for first grade, every week there are suggested activities that I wouldn’t even do with a preschooler, and are definitely more geared to the younger crowd.  Things like finger-painting, sorting beads, cutting out shapes and such.  Things that, honestly, if I suggested to DS we do them, he would be insulted by being asked to do such baby-work.  Even calendar work is ridiculous for my son.  He knows the days of the week, the months, the seasons, the hours of the day and so on.  So we skip all that.  So while we have loved Core K, and it was a good fit, in my mind, I feel a tiny bit like there was some waste, that maybe those extra activities could be packaged up as a “kindergarten add-on”.  Of course, this whole discussion could be a waste of time, because the rumor is that Sonlight has finally decided to re-name the cores for the coming year, and Core K will no longer be Core K.

Either way, I’m really looking forward to moving on to Core 1 with Zander next year.  I think he’s ready for something new, something exciting, and the first of two years of world history will be so exciting to him.  He’s going to love studying a little deeper about the Egyptians, Romans, and Greeks.  For Abigail, next year we’ll be doing an in-depth study of the Eastern Hemisphere- content that most school students don’t get at all unless they take specific classes in college.  We’re both really excited about that, though a little sad to put American History behind us for a few years.

But for now, we’re focusing on the next nine weeks, which may be done without a break.  I’m still considering a spring break of sorts, but at the same time, it would be awesome to just keep going and get done a week earlier than anticipated.

Abigail will continue with World War Two, and then we’ll quickly make our way through the rest of the 1900’s.  We’ll touch on The Cold War, Korean War, Vietnam, Civil Rights, the many presidents along the way, and finish up the year with a study of Canada.   Zander will continue with reading his missionary stories around the globe,  and then after spending the year learning about the people from around the world, we’ll spend the last few weeks learning about the natural world around the globe.  The climates, the animals, and the vegetation from all over. I think he’ll really enjoy that, and it should tie into his science very nicely as well.

One of these days, I’m going to do a post about little, simple tools that we use to make our days run more efficiently.  And another day, I still really want to do a photo-heavy post about what our day actually looks like.  Because when I say we homeschool, I think people automatically get an image in their head of a school-at-home experience.  Mommy as the teacher, at the blackboard, while the kids work diligently in their workbooks.  That’s not our day At. All. We spend much of our days curled up on the couch, reading to one another.   We take a geometry study on angles and turn on the Wii and load up the billiards/pool, and learn how we can use the study of angles in real life.  We spend some time learning about wind direction, and then we’ll pull up golf on the Wii, and use the wind speed and wind direction to help us determine how to swing the golf club.   That’s our school day.  We may finish with our bookwork early in the day- doing the math, the writing, and the grammar, but it’s what we do afterwards and in-between that encompasses how we view homeschooling.   Every day is a learning experience just waiting to happen.  It doesn’t have to be done in front of the blackboard or seated at the table.  It doesn’t at our house.


posted by Erika in Random Thoughts and have Comment (1)