Monday, August 20, 2012

Berenstain Bears Unit 1, week 4

A trip to Disneyland and California Adventure this weekend put me a day behind in getting my lesson plans posted, but we had a fabulous time!  LOL

But, back to the regular .... and our lesson plans.  This week we are finishing off the calendar with "fall" season learning.

  • Holiday overview of Harvest, Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas
  • Holiday worksheets from Evan-Moor 
  • Fall Harvest learning center packet from
  • Leaf mobile from
  • ABC fall themed packet of worksheets from Evan-Moor Teacher Filebox
  • Apple tree life cycle book
  •  Nature journal outside to see our apple tree in blossom with some small apples.  
She is also continuing her Learning Language Arts Through Literature Blue package to learn to read, and doing well.  We go at a slow pace.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Eden at "school"

IMG_1364, originally uploaded by WeeBeaks.

Eden has her own little desk in the school area. This morning she came down her "nigh nighs" (blankets), carefully tucked them in her desk below her seat for safekeeping and then set to work coloring. LOL

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Berenstain Bears Section I, Week 3

Onto week 3 on Lily's kindergarten unit built around The Berenstain Bears Big Book of Science and Nature.  This week we are moving on to themes of "summer," plants, gardening, 4th of July and weather of how to read a thermometer and thunder/lightning.


  • Read Berenstain Bears Big Book of Science and Nature pages 40-53. 
  • Summer printables from Evan-Moor Teacher Filebox
  • Craft:  Sun Catchers shaped like flip flops from Oriental Trading (all the kids will do this one)
  • Draw Write Now Book 1:  Draw Pig picture.
  • DK Eye Wonder Weather book pages 26-27
  • Finish Lightning:  It's Electrifying from Thursday with Noah
  • Berenstain Bears book on how to read a thermometer
  • Printable on reading thermometers from here

Sunday, August 05, 2012

Berenstain Bears Section I, Week 2

ARRRGGHHH, it deleted my almost complete post.  So ... here I go again ....

So, last week went quite well with Lily, and she enjoyed the first week of Berenstain Bears, where we looked at winter months and holidays, plus winter weather. We are moving on to the next week! Here are my lesson plans in detail for Section I, Week 2, for my Kindergartner:

  • Read "spring" section, pages 22-39, in Berenstain Bears Big Book of Science and Nature
  • Craft:  Spring flower coloring using our Do-a-Dot set
  • Craft:  Spring garden friends coloring sheet from using our new fine line marker set
  • Cut/paste picture from Kumon workbook, spring theme 
  • Read April-June pages in The Year at Maple Hill Farm 
  • Trace and copy month names for April, May and June carried over from the worksheet linked in week 1 plans.
  • Read Inch by Inch by Leo Lionni
  • Begin drawing lessons for her using colored pencils and/or crayons with Draw Write Now 1 book (farm animals), using her new My First Draw & Write Journal from Lakeshore Learning (love those!)
  • Choose a couple kite coloring pages/crafts from this page with LOTS of kites theme printables and activities.
  • Kites dot to dot for "math" from Teacher Filebox (Evan Moor subscription service - highly recommend if you are homeschooling little people in the K-6 grade range, especially if you have more than one child)
Thursday (light day due to parkday!):

Monday, July 30, 2012

Yep, fell off the face of the earth last week in blogging. But I feel good about it. It was a busy, busy week in our house, along with some illness. We pushed some school things, including Lily's unit study, to start this week. That is part of why I love homeschooling honestly; you can adjust if needed to suit what happens in life that is unavoidable. I would rather adjust our homeschool than stress ourselves out even more trying to attain something during illness. Better to learn while well and actually learn the material than push through with sick kids. Anyhow, it's Monday, and we are back to health pretty much! Thus, it's good for a Monday!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Berenstain Bears Big Book of Science and Nature Unit Study

I haven't mentioned Lily, my kindergartner, much.  She is not really rolled into TOG.  I plan to do some basic handwriting, reading lessons and some unit studies mainly probably.  The first thing, which I'm digging into next week, is going to be a unit study using the Berenstain Bears Big Book of Science and Nature, a title I have used with each kid, from the time Zach used it with Sonlight in pre-K.  I no longer use the Sonlight plans, so I have just begun to set up a unit study outline using the book.  I put up my general outline on Google Docs if anyone wants to take a look.  Please comment if you do!  I would love feedback.

Since I'm starting next week, I do have my first week more fleshed out, and also uploaded that to Google Docs as well:  Berenstain Unit 1, Week 1.   I'm trying to mainly utilize what I already own, the library and what I already subscribe to (Evan-Moor Teacher's Filebox printables).  In addition to the Big Book of Science of Nature, I plan to incorporate The Year at Maple Hill Farm, another old favorite Sonlight selection, and DK Eye Wonder:  Weather.   Both of these selections are still used in Sonlight, it looks like, the first in P4/5 and the second in core 2.  Despite moving away from fully using Sonlight, I will always fondly recall their books, and continue to see their choices!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

So what about other subjects?

Yesterday I blathered on and on about history mostly, but what about other subjects?  Are there other subjects?  ;)

2012-2013 grammar for Zach will be Rod and Staff English 5:  Following the Plan.  Rod and Staff is not secular at all, but funny enough is turning out to be really what Zach needs.  He needs drill, drill and more drill to remember any fact he really doesn't care to remember.  He can tell me passages of books from memory, on and on, but cannot remember what a noun is after 4 years of our prior curriculum.  Or, if he managed to memorize the definition, looks at me completely blankly when I ask him to give an example or find it in a sentence.  We used First Language Lessons books 1-4 already for his grammar.  We liked them generally; he did like them especially compared to Rod and Staff honestly.  The problem was that he was able to fill them in with minimal writing, do most of it orally and not recall a thing afterwards.  They are a gentle introduction to grammar, and were perfect for us (so I thought), because Zach's writing capability has always lagged quite a bit behind the rest of his language arts skills.  Of note though is he is not primarily an auditory learner, and I think these are skewed towards that.  We switched late last year to R&S 4 for him, and I started seeing some better understanding of concepts.  I am actually making him write out most of the exercises, because I think he needs that, both in the practice in writing fluency and neatness, as well as learning style.  Rod and Staff has an oral part of each lesson though, and even the written can mostly be done orally if you choose.  I truly hope we can continue to see gains for that.  I do let him type his responses often and email them to me for grading, as part of the recommendations of his occupational therapy evaluation to transition him to keyboarding due to dysgraphia.

Noah often gets just an afternote, but he also is using Rod and Staff.  He also used First Language Lessons last year, and did better than Zach using it.  I think there is a lot to be gained though even for him with more drill, and a review section incorporated in each lesson rather than just periodically as is done in FLL.  I have not yet experienced a child gifted in language arts in any way, shape or form, but if I did teach such a mythical creature someday, I think I would go back to FLL.  R&S would be honestly quite dull for a child who picked up grammar easily and did not need the repetition.

Zach is going to be using Winning with Writing, as is Noah.  Again, this is something that is wonderful for Zach, sequential, completely 100% spelled out what to do and how to do it, formulaic.  It is writing for the kid that detests it and needs it spoon fed.  I would not say this is the program for any child with a natural tendency towards writing.  LOL  It even has larger than usual lines even for level 4 that we used late last year and into the summer now, perfect again for a kid like Zach who really struggles with even the physical act of writing.  Zach has a lot to say that is interesting and detailed, but he cannot get it to paper, so I hope we can gain ground on that this year.  I would love for him to be able to fluency share what is in his head via a method other than oral.  Along those lines, later in the year we actually will likely get Dragon Naturally Speaking for him, another recommendation of his occupational therapist.

Both boys will be doing the vocabulary from Tapestry of Grace that is directly related to what they are learning.  We use a free site now for learning and testing that, Quizlet.  Both boys adore that aspect.  If the computer is involved in learning, it is automatically more fun!  They will also be doing Wordly Wise at appropriate levels to expand vocabulary, Spelling Workout for spelling and Noah only Explode the Code starting at level 5 to finish up the series.  Lily will be continuing the Explode the Code series as well.  She used the A/B/C preschool series of books last year and will proceed to level 1 soon.

Lily is my one truly learning to read this year (Noah just gaining fluency).  We are trying a new program for her, having used different things for the boys. She is using Learning Language Arts Through Literature Blue level, already in week 3 or 4.  She is liking it so far.

All will have handwriting practice, Lily and Noah using Handwriting Without Tears at appropriate levels, and Zach just fluency work with things I create or think of.  Of late, we have been passing a composition book back and forth.  I write a letter to Zach, in cursive, and he answers back the same way.  He is enjoying the private back and forth conversation, and practicing his writing at the same time.  I have seen another variation where mom just writes a passage and leaves room for the student to copy it.

So that is language arts for the year, aside from literature, which is mostly incorporated into TOG, and we will just be adding little extras here and there.

Ending with a photo, because it's always better with a photo.  Noah at Seaworld recently.

Monday, July 16, 2012

New Year, New Plan

I'm so far from the best and most consistent blogger out there.  But I've got a plan for the new school year.  I want to post what extras I'm using so hopefully I can look back in 4 years, when we are at the same point in our history rotation again, and know what I used last time.

We are currently using Tapestry of Grace Year 4, Unit 1.  We started TOG last year with two units of year 3.  At this point, we are up to Modern Era, currently working on World War I.  TOG does a multiweek spread on WWI, which I think is great.  I don't recall learning much about WWI in school.  I like this coverage of it, and that the kids will cover it multiple times.

I've got a D level and a LG and one kinder age this school year.  Kinder will listen in on what she can, but I'm not really rolling her into TOG at all.  My LG is 2nd grade, and my D level (accelerated learner) is 5th grade.

The "spine" if you can call it that for TOG, more realistically a multiweek book, for D level is The Complete Idiot's Guide to the 20th Century.  I thankfully got this from the library before purchasing it, because both of us disliked it.  What a bummer!  So, we are going with plan B (C, D, are we up to E?) and doing some of the primary D choices, some of the alternates, some of the UG primary resources and some UG secondary choices.  And sometimes just a book that looked good that we had on the topic.  Sometimes I feel I should have stuck with cobbling together my own curriculum, but all in all TOG has been wonderful for us so far.

In terms of literature for Zach, he read the book Anne of Green Gables in one week when it was supposed to last 4 weeks, so I'm putting in some extras there.  I figured that would happen.  He enjoyed it quite a bit, and when he likes something he will read all day to finish if necessary.  Noah had a shorter version read to him, and also enjoyed it.

So, what are we adding?  First off, we had the unbelievable luck of finding The Century for Young People by Peter Jennings and Todd Brewster at a library sale for $1.  Yeah!  We are using that from the alternate resources list, and both Zach and I like that one.  We already had The Story of the World books, audio and activity guide, so we are using those.  We also have History of US from Hakim.  We are choosing topics from both of those.    I'm also toying with jumping into Human Odyssey Volume 3 that we got inexpensively from during a free shipping sale.  I wanted to take a look at it as we go into the middle school years, and it looks great, quite engaging to read, written to the student as it is truly meant to be a textbook of course.  So far, Zach and I both seem to enjoy that selection.

For Zach we added in True Stories of the First World War by Dowswell.  Dowswell books are well loved here.  This was no exception, and Zach whipped through this one in a day, and then recounted to me most of the stories in great detail.  I believe TOG schedules some books on Artic exploration later, but we are diving into this week with Antartica by Lerangis.

Books are great, but Zach is an inventor and hands on learning profile type.  He needs to do some actual handy things too.  In hunting for some things, I saw Jimmie's Collage Blog linked through a search on The Well Trained Mind Forums.  Just look at the beautiful work they did on WWI!  Funny enough though, what I finally chose was something they didn't choose.  Isn't that the way?  I'm grateful they linked it though, because I think it will suit us well.  I pulled out the notebooking template for WWI that was linked and printed it for Zach.  It is short, perfect for this week, and combines a little writing, some coloring and some glue/paste.  I also have some of her other linked items in mind for next week, hopefully with some photos from this week's work.

For Noah this week I got the audio version of Velveteen Rabbit, and netflix seems to have the video on streaming.  That will be great for him.  We also added in The Keeping Quilt from the alternate resources from the library.  For him, we are also doing the Tapestry of Grace lapbooks for the units.  Sometimes I'm finding the info is not fully covered in the LG readings, but really overall it is going well too.

This post is getting long so I'll leave off what we are doing for science, grammar, etc., and add in later.  We are not back to math yet, not until August.  Is that a sigh of relief from the boys?

Have to end with a photo, because a photo livens up even the dullest writing (ahem).  Zach and Lily from when we went to Seaworld recently.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Lapbooking with a first grader

I'm sharing these photos after someone on a message board asked to see actual photos of lapbooks done by a K or 1st grader, without help really.  So many lapbooks I see online look so beautiful that I never posted pictures of ours because honestly .... they are not so beautiful except to their owners.  I aid in the learning of the material and what should be done, but I do zero of the cutting, folding, glueing, coloring or writing for my kids.  If they want to know how to spell something, I will write it on our whiteboard for them to copy, but they do the actual writing in their books.  So here is a "Busy as a Beaver" lapbook from Hands of a Child done by a 6yo boy, 1st grader, in the first semester of the year.  He struggles with fine motor (which, hey, you might have guessed looking at the photos).  However, he adored making this and learning more about beavers.  It was a great fit for his learning level, and the pack included either blank templates for the child to write in, or the ones we used where the child traced what was already written.  I love that it had adaptions for ability.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Book Review: The Long Way to a New Land

I don't use Sonlight as our primary curriculum any longer, but I continue to value and respect their reading choices. This one is a repeat for Zach and me, new to Noah and Lily. The Long Way to a New Land is of the series, "An I Can Read Book." On the back, suggested age is to 4 to 8, and I believe that is quite accurate, on the upper ages the child reading independently and on the lower ages as a read-aloud by the parent. The family in the book leaves a bleak existence in Sweden for new hope in America, based on a letter of encouragement from relatives who already had made the treacherous journey across the ocean. We follow the family through the journey, ending the book at arrival in the new land. For those interested, this family's saga continues in "The Long Way Westward." The pictures in Long Way to a New Land are dark blacks and grays, very little color, obviously suggesting the gray existence of the family. Unfortunately, it also means they are not easily seen, nor interesting, to the child reading the book or being read to. This is unfortunate, as it seemingly takes away some of the enjoyment of the book for the child, at least my children. I have used this twice now with 1st graders. The story itself is somber without being depressing, and interesting without being too long or detailed for a young child. I continue to think this is a good resource for the younger ones studying immigration to America during the early 19th century.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Book review: Cora Frear

This is used in Sonlight curriculum. It is a great fit for any US history/pioneer period study. I typically use it with my 1st grade kids, but my older and younger are interested too. Cora is a little girl who helps her dad, a doctor. On the way to a patient in their buggy, they get caught in a prairie fire. Cora is key in saving them, but I'll leave the rest a surprise. What is especially nice is this is based on a true figure in history, and of course female heroines are great as there are not quite so many books written starring a female for kids to admire. It is good for probably 2-3rd grade and above to read alone, or as a read-aloud down to even pre-K age.

Note it is part of the Brave Kids series, and we just put another of these on our library holds list as this one has been such a hit here.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Book Review: Dame Shirley and the Gold Rush

Although Dame Shirley and the Gold Rush has suggested age range of grades 3-6, I think it is suited towards slightly younger ages as well. The book is slim, only 4 chapters, making it a good choice for older struggling readers or reading aloud to younger readers with shorter attention spans. It gives a brief glimpse of life in the gold camps from the point of view of Dame Shirley, the wife of a doctor, as recollected through letters to her sister in the east. It is said those letters are the first truly honest written records of the gold camps. I used this book with 1st and 4th graders. We read it aloud over the course of a week. The language was simple, easily understood by both. There are a few black and white pictures to help the younger crowd. What this book provided that other resources did not interestingly was an introduction to the problem of racial tensions between the Hispanic and white miners during the time. Very little was mentioned about this in other books we read, but it features prominently in the camp described by Dame Shirley, causing her much distress. This gives a nice leap to talk about the history of these tensions throughout California history and into modern times. For such a short book, this is a very nice addition to our California study with grammar age students.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Book Review: Tales and Treasures of the California Gold Rush by Randall Reinstedt

Tales and Treasures of the California Gold Rush is an engaging book told in the first person narrative of the author, a storyteller. Chapters cover stories about the first gold discovered, how the 49ers arrived in California, famous and infamous bandits, what the 49ers did for fun and many, many tales of lost and buried loot from the mines, never found, to ignite the imaginations of the listeners of the tales. I read this book to my 1st and 4th graders in our California State study. Both were engaged in the lively tales, nearly always involving some sort of guns, hanging or a posse. So be forewarned, this book has quite a bit of death and burials, but not gory, and unavoidable given the subject matter. The early mining camps were not peaceful places. In terms of the kids' visualization of the time, place and people of the Gold Rush, this has far been their favorite resource this year. We very highly recommend it, both for the content and the easy narrative style of the storytelling, as either a read aloud selection or as a reader for older kids.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Book review: Jessie Benton Fremont: California Pioneer

This book is used as part of the Beautiful Feet California History Through Literature Guide. I used this primarily with my 4th grade son, with a 1st grader tagging along. Honestly, this book was a very difficult read, the hardest by far of the books used in the Beautiful Feet California History pack. My 4th grader is an accelerated learner, and he did okay, but he did not really enjoy this selection. I did not enjoy it either honestly. The vocabulary and syntax in the book were elegant, clearly a very literate and graceful writer. It was the actual plot that was uninteresting to us. The book covers almost the entirety of Jessie's life, yet I did not as a reader develop much empathy or interest in her fate. We are told time and time again in the book of her love of her life, her husband, so much so that this book could almost be considered a romance. The politics of the time, as they relate to our characters, are covered well, which is likely why this book is included in the history guide. We learn about topographical exploration of the west, slavery tensions in the government and among the states, the Mexican-American war, gold and mineral rights in California and the election of Abraham Lincoln through the historically-accurate interactions of the characters. Her children, her illnesses and her sadness are covered very dispassionately though, given she is the primary character. Perhaps this is because the author has her background in journalism rather than novels? The tone throughout is very dispassionate, which is disappointing as I think this was probably a very dynamic and interesting couple in history. Overall, I was extremely disappointed in this selection and will not read it again when I cover this time period later with my other children.

Zach and Eden reading together

IMG_4555, originally uploaded by WeeBeaks.

As part of our day now, Zach often reads for 10 minutes or so with Eden. I love to see how they are interacting.

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Eden's new crayons

Eden crayons, originally uploaded by WeeBeaks.

Eden got a new set of Melissa and Doug triangular crayons for Christmas. These are easy for her to grasp, and nice and chunky so they don't break. Plus, there is no paper wrapped to tear off and throw on the floor! These are a huge hit here.