Thursday, November 4, 2010

On the Safe Side

Recently we borrowed the Stranger Safety DVD from our library. It's produced by John Walsh of "America's Most Wanted" and Julie Clark, the creater of Baby Einstein. The boys have really enjoyed it, and have asked to watch it again and again. I was wondering how much of it was sticking in their little heads until Tuesday.

We were in the kids' section of the library, the little one on the computer, Ian and I looking for books. Usually, if the little one needs me, he just calls out, but on this particular day he went looking for me, didn't see me and instead went straight to the librarian and told her he needed help finding me. The very kind lady found me and told me that he knew she worked there because of the ID tags she was wearing and came right to her! Awesome! :)

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Sick Day?

Friday was a sick day for mom, but one in which I could muddle through, provided there wasn't a lot of resistance and whining. So I mixed it up a bit. Here's what the day looked like:
  • Devotional time, working in Quiet Time Journals and AWANA verse memorization
  • Handwriting in our Handwriting Without Tears book.
  • Science, in which we read about animals, and watched a couple of brief videos related to what we were reading about
  • Reading through a few more Bob books
  • Tried out a new website, NeoK12, for some logic games. Ian liked Connect 4 and Parking Zone in particular.
  • A little time outside before lunch
  • During lunch, we had a picnic in the living room while we watched "Sunken Treasure", an episode of Reading Rainbow that dealt with the discovery and recovery of treasure from the Spanish ship Atocha. Part of the episode also showed some real life footage about the Titanic, which was pretty cool too.
  • After lunch we went to the library and quite accidentally, Ian saw a book about the Titanic and immediately recognized it and decided he wanted to take it out. :)
Part of our History lessons has been learning about Archaeology, and how we learn about past civilizations, so the Reading Rainbow video really fit in quite nicely. :) After we got home Ian "read" through the Titanic graphic novel he had found, and then I showed him the National Geographic book I have on the Titanic, which he thoroughly devoured as well. All in all, not a bad day.

Later in the afternoon, we worked on making Crazy Hats for our AWANA Crazy Hat night. If you would have seen the hats, you would understand why this presented a physics and engineering lesson all by itself! LOL... But really, it was a fun time of creativity and brainstorming.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Reading is Fun!

Okay, so school has been in full swing for a little over a month, and we are managing quite well. Things that were a struggle last year, like attitudes and Math, seem to be a breeze this year. What a difference a few months make!! I'm so happy. :) See?

Reading was a bit of slow going last year, but has picked up considerably this year. Again, so happy! Over the summer, I began to see some encouraging signs. For example, one day we went to the library, and for the first time, Ian made straight for the books, instead of the videos. It used to be that he would nag me about getting a video, and he'd let me worry about the books. No more. He had discovered some of my childhood comic books from Scotland just before this, and that seems to have been the catalyst for finding more comic books and graphic novels. I have mixed feelings about the Star Wars GNs, but if it keeps him interested in reading, I'm willing to reserve judgment.

In the meantime, we are continuing in our schoolwork with The Ordinary Parent's Guide to Teaching Reading as extras like Bob Books. The Bob Books are a bit below where he's at, but I thought they would be fun, and build his confidence. I was right on both counts. The first day I pulled out the Bob Books, my intention was just to read through the first book. (There are 12.) Ian pulled out one after another, till I finally stopped him at the end of book 4. It was a huge encouragement, just to see his enthusiasm. :)

Even with all this positive stuff happening I have to say that the reading process is frustrating to me. He is learning and picking up things at a decent rate, but sometimes he gets confused and flustered and starts making guesses at the words, and the guesses are SO off-base! So I'm trying to make it fun for both of us, and right now fun for Ian is drawing! So today, while working through our reading lesson, I wrote sentences and stories up on our white board, and had him draw simple pictures of the subject matter after each sentence. It really seemed to keep the mood light and fun, so I think we'll be doing that a lot more! :) In fact, halfway through our lesson today, he said, "Reading is fun!" YAAYYYY!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Back to School

So this week we were back to school. Mostly this was a week for review and getting back into the school routine. The boys did well, I'm glad to say! :) Aaaahhhh, such a relief! :)

Since it was a review week, I decided just to stick with what we knew. So we went back to the Horizons Math, Handwriting Without Tears, An Ordinary Parent's Guide to Teaching Reading, and Sonlight's Read Alouds. Next week we'll be adding some new material into the mix, and I'm so excited!! Truth be told, I really can't wait!

This year's new stuff includes:
Plus, we are using all sorts of art books that we are taking out of the library. My little guy love to draw, and we discovered the 1-2-3 Draw books, so he has been trying his hand at learning to draw all sorts of things. Also, last year, I discovered this great website called Art Projects for Kids. It's probably my favorite site for art projects, although this year we'll actually TRY the projects instead just READ about them. :)

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Research Report

We here at Homeschool Digression have been taking a well-deserved break from the homeschooling endeavor this summer. Following our mid-winter move it became more and more clear to me that we needed to take the summer, and get our house in order, literally. :) So along with decorating and organizing our household, I've spent a ridiculous amount of time researching homeschool "stuff"... books, philosophies, publishers and programs. Cuz that's what I do: ridiculous amounts of research.... in everything.

Earlier this Spring, I had settled on continuing with Sonlight. The plan was to continue with the History/Geography, Readers, and Read Alouds that I had from last year, continue using The Ordinary Parent's Guide to Teaching Reading and Horizons Math, and add in Math-U-See and All About Spelling. But I finally got around to reading The Well-Trained Mind and The Read-Aloud Handbook which both really impacted me.

The Read-Aloud Handbook was such a pleasant surprise. I fully expected it to be a listing of books to read to the boys. That was included, but the majority of the book really focused on the many benefits of reading aloud. It really reinforced my commitment to reading to the boys, and my decision to stick with Sonlight, since they place a heavy emphasis on reading as an educational tool.

The Well-Trained Mind impacted me a bit differently in that it details more of a philosophical approach to teaching, called Classical Education. Classical Education gears teaching methods to the child's developmental stages. For instance in the early grades, kids are constantly recording all sorts of new information: facts, dates, languages, rules. This becomes a basis later on for logic and later for articulating or debating positions on different subjects. According to this teaching method, I am encouraged to fill my son's mind with all manner of facts, exposing him to Ancient History via chronological history stories, books and then have him tell me the stories back and then illustrate them.

I'm probably not going to follow this to the extent that they outline in the book, but what I liked was the idea of teaching History chronologically, and starting with Ancient History in the first grade. I was never very big into History in school myself. In fact it was the one subject that I really struggled with, but after I became a Christian, I began to see History as God's story through the ages. I just can't get enough of it. So last week I borrowed The Story of the World from our local library to see how I liked it, and I LOVE it! It's not terribly deep and there are things that I don't like about it, but I really love the way that it puts the stories in order, and I think it's a good starting point for teaching History to little ones. I'm thinking that I can still use the Sonlight History books in conjunction with The Story of the World.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010


When we purchased our Sonlight Reading program we went with the Readers 1 program, rather than the Kindergarten readers. I knew it was going to be a leap, but I didn't want Ian-6yo to be bored, and I wanted my money's worth, so I figured we could take it slow and stretch the lessons out over two years. So it's a bit understandable that the reading program has been a bit of a struggle, and at some point I realized I was going to have to do a bit more than just slow down. I needed to do something different. So I thought I'd share my solution.

When I began to rethink the way Ian was being taught reading, here's what it boiled down to... Every week or so, I would put rhyming words on index cards, so we had a flashcard system going on. I would introduce the words one day, then we would bring out the LeapFrog Word Whammer the next day and use the Word Whammer to build the words. (At the time, we were new to Handwriting Without Tears, which cautions against having children write words until they get better at forming letters.) Another day I would print a few of the words on the blackboard, nice and big and have Ian trace them with his finger or with a wet sponge (an extension of a Handwriting Without Tears exercise).

This worked okay for awhile, and it satisfied my need to feel like Ian was learning to read, but it frustrated me too. The process of going through the flashcards and keeping track of them felt cumbersome to me. So while thinking about last year's curriculum (My Father's World), and their use of a "blend ladder" to teach reading, I thought of a new idea that incorporates the blend ladder. I like it. Ian likes it, and it's just so much better on so many levels.

So this is what we do: I create a list on a single column table. I think we have 9 possible rows. Then I pick a rhyme family of 3 letter words, such as bat, cat, hat, etc, and type them into my little table. The font is quite large, so the words are about one inch high. Next, I type out the same words, just as big on a second page in a font called "Trace", which is basically a dashed line.

How I use them: After printing the pages out, I introduce the words on our word ladder. We read them together, (although lately, he reads them on his own), and we use the Word Whammer to build the words for fun. :) Then the next day, we go over the words again and Ian traces the words on the second page. He loves this and it's helping his handwriting as well as his reading. On subsequent days, we do a page in Kumon's Rhyming Words workbook, or supplement with worksheets copied from The Mailbox magazine.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Art experiments

Yay! Finally found the camera cables, so now I can get serious about posting pictures of some of our projects. :)

I just LOVE art! If there's one thing I wish we did more of around here, it would be art. Today we are all feeling less than 100% and I had a light school day planned anyway, so we focused most of the morning on an art project. I'm not sure that was what I was thinking it would be, but that's what it evolved into and I was thrilled. :)

My initial idea was simple. I brought out some old styrofoam egg cartons, and partially - cuz I'm not crazy! - filled them with water. Then I brought out the food coloring, which is always a big hit no matter what we do with it! The idea was that we would color the water with blue, red and yellow food coloring and then use eye droppers, medicine droppers, etc to move the colors to other parts of the carton and make new colors.

WELL! I should point out that Shane-3yo was pleased as punch just to move the clear water around from egg holder chamber to egg holder chamber. (You KNOW that there is surely a word for the little individual chambers that hold the eggs, don't you?!! I'm going to call it a cup, just to preserve my sanity.) Apparently little medicine droppers are a lot of fun all by themselves. So when I added some food coloring, he was over the moon! And he proceeded to make various shades of brown for the next hour or so! His big brother, was a lot more thoughtful in his designing of colors. We had a blast.

I brought out paintbrushes and gave the boys some white paper to experiment with, and that was such a hit, that I decided to try experimenting with dripping food color and water on coffee filters, and that was a lot of fun too! We got to watch how the colors spread out and changed, and decided that most of these food color drips ended up looking like a chinese dragon, if we would just leave it alone, which of course we couldn't. LOL... Next time, I am SO going to make my own art, so I can at least have my way with one project! :)

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Aha moment of the week.

This week we started reading "The Dolphin Adventure" and it's been great so far. I've found over the last few months of trial and error that the boys do better (or so it seems) at listening to the read alouds if they are coloring or playing with play dough, rather than sitting next to me, looking at a book with few pictures. They are good listeners, but they can only sit for so long. So today yesterday I read to them at our dining room table while they played with play dough. I encouraged them to make dolphins and fish while I read and it worked beautifully. I just can't believe it's taken me this long to really make this a regular part of our school day! LOL....

Continuing with the theme, I've found a great little resource for printed pictures and cut outs, and I plan to make use of it this week and in the future! If there's anyone out there looking for great printables, check out They encourage you to register for free, but I found I didn't have to and could still get to the pages I wanted.

You've got to try this one!

Today the boys tried out a new website I recently read about. It's called Talk about a hit!! Ian-6yo enjoyed exploring the site once he realized there was no right or wrong thing to do. Shane-3yo enjoyed watching him so much that I set up the other laptop for him to give it a try too. And he had a blast! There's not many games or websites that can completely entertain all age groups, but I think that this fits the bill really nicely. What I really like is that the 3 year old can actually use the website on his own while I'm working with the older boy... at least that is the hope! :)

Sunday, April 4, 2010

He is Risen

We did a craft yesterday where we took a half sphere of florist's foam, carved out a little tomb in the "rock", and put 3 crosses of craft sticks up on the hill.

We left the stone over the tomb last night and I wondered if one of the boys would want to roll the stone away this morning... I didn't say anything. Then this morning Ian says at breakfast, "Mom, can I roll away the stone?" :) It was so cool... and of course our tomb was empty.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Unexpected Benefits

So we're on week 11 of our Sonlight curriculum. It's not exactly week 11 in the school year, but we've been adding in extra bits here and there, supplementing the "official" curriculum as we go along. We've taken breaks to do unit studies on Thanksgiving, Christmas and the Olympics.

When Ian hits a bit of a roadblock in a particular area, I slow things down a bit and focus a little more on that one subject, taking extra books out of the library, using extra worksheets, manipulatives, videos, games, whatever. Then we get right back into the "official" curriculum. This was a conscious decision from the start, as I was really hoping to stretch out the curriculum over two years, if possible. Sonlight is really packed with so many options that you actually have to pick and choose which things you will include and which you will leave out. They suggest various options to add in to round things out, but you're always free to throw in a few of your own.

This week we have been focusing on money in our Math time. Usually we use Horizons Kindergarten, which we ordered from Sonlight, but it's kind of short in the instruction area, and we needed a little extra work in the "value of money" department. Being of Scottish decent, money is very important to us, so we have to get this right! LOL...

Our local library has a subscription to The Mailbox magazine, so I picked up a couple of copies for the months of Feb/Mar in various years, just to see what they had to offer. I was delighted to find that because of the Presidential Holidays and St. Patrick's Day, coinage figured heavily into the worksheets and activities, so naturally, I made lots of copies to incorporate into our school time!

This little digression has been a nice break from the usual program of Math and Reading for both of us! The nice thing about copying worksheets is that The Little Man (3 years) can enjoy the cutting, pasting and coloring right along with his big brother. Sure, Little Man is doing his own thing, but he feels like a big shot because he's using the same papers and tools. :) An added benefit that I didn't really consider is that Ian sometimes finishes his work and comes over to help his brother with his "work", explaining it to him the whole time.... All nicely reinforcing the lesson of the day.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Challenging Seasons

In homeschooling there's all sorts of challenges and seasons. The most recent challenge? Homeschooling while purchasing a new house, fixing it up, and packing up the apartment... during the holidays! Yeah, when it rains, it pours!

We put in an offer on a house the beginning of December. By the middle of January we were first-time home owners! Exciting stuff! Thus began the process of painting, minor repairs, sanding, staining and polying the floors. We had no idea that this process would take over 3 weeks! Looking back now, it doesn't seem like that's a lot of time, but at the time we were itching to get into the new house and get settled in.

Question: How do you decorate your house for the holidays, and pack up all your belongings at the same time? Apparent answer: you don't...

Second question: How do you pack up all your belongings, while spending every waking moment updating your new house?
Answer: See above

Third question: How do you homeschool your Kindergartner during all this?
Answer: You get creative! :)

Our answer to the third question has been to focus largely on reading and writing and math.... During this time we haven't been closely following our Sonlight curriculum, which makes it feel like we're not doing schooling, but perhaps this is what the unschooling people do.

We've been reading signs everywhere we go, making cards to send to friends, handwritten and drawn by my son. Either I spell the word aloud that he wants to write, or I write the words down for him and he copies them. Other times we talk about how things are spelled, and what rules a word follows. We've been reading books, going to the libraries, doing puzzles and mazes, and doing some math work.

We've been using some workbooks as well. Last year we bought Hooked on Phonics, Hooked on Math and Beginning Sounds. They aren't terribly deep for his level, but he enjoys them and they are good for reinforcing some concepts. In particular, the Hooked on Math book has been great for getting him to practice his writing skills, which has been HUGE. A couple of weeks ago, writing the number 4 or 5 had caused meltdowns. This week, he sat down and wrote out about fifteen 15s and 14s in his HOM book, independantly... for fun!! LOL... Can't beat that!

And I've been learning too. He can read words, I haven't taught him!! Yeah, it's kind of freaking me out, actually. And his handwriting is actually quite nice for a Kindergartner! I've actually been impressed by this, because usually for school work, he's writing on lined paper and a lot of it is tracing. We haven't done much copywork.... Now, I'm kind of thinking that we need to start doing copywork!

And art? The boy's got skills!! Mad skills! Yeah, we need to be doing more art. LOL... Speaking of which, he had a blast doing the Nutcracker photo with pastels, which we mentioned in the previous post. Here it is: