Monday, July 18, 2011


Look what we created today! My new motto for both Reese and I to remember!!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Create Your Own Bingo Game!

In first grade, Reese's curriculum came with Sight Word BINGO, and it was one of the things he asked for almost daily.  We enjoyed playing it through last year, but frankly, the words are very simple & I am ready to challenge him some more!

So, I looked up a 6th Grade Sight Word list and used Bingo Card Creator to make an updated version for this coming year.  There are 23 short lists in the 6th Grade Sight Word list, so once Reese masters the 24 words in our first BINGO game, I'll return to make new cards with new words.

I have found that changing up our learning experiences makes Reese really happy...and if he's happy, Mama is happy! 

If you would like to create your own BINGO game, think of all the things in your child's life & get creative.  Family names?  Holidays?  Level-appropriate sight words?  Food names?  Foreign language words (I will be making a Latin version soon!)?  Everything is more fun if it's incorporated into a game!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Subject: Language Arts

I have really struggled with our Language Arts selection for this year.  Reese is a very reluctant writer.  He's full of wonderfully imaginative stories, but when it comes time to put his pencil to paper, the thoughts get lost in the mechanics of writing & it's just been really hard.

So last year, when I found Language Lessons for the Very Young, I was pleased with its gentle approach to Grammar, Writing, & Narration.  We read & copied beautiful poetry, learned parts of sentences, worked on punctuation & capitalization, & really enjoyed it.

But (there's always a but, isn't there), I have this nagging in my head that says Reese needs to work on more writing. Creative writing.  Factual writing.  It just seemed like one big elephant & I didn't like it!

After reading The Well Trained Mind, I looked into Classical Language Arts programs & found Writing With Ease by Susan Wise Bauer.  It is similar to the Language Lessons, but I feel like it digs a little deeper on most exercises.  I much prefer the student pages, with handwriting lines, in this book.  Children are given just straight, solid lines in Language Lessons on which to do copy work, and Reese's letters tend to travel a path of their own that way.

I wasn't ready to walk away from Language Lessons though, because it incorporates some beautiful aspects of the Charlotte Mason approach, my favorite being the picture studies.  Sweet, beautiful works of art in incorporated into the lessons & Reese and I have had fun discussing them, analyzing them, trying to figure out what something in the background means.  So this year, we will work through Language Lessons for the Elementary Child along side Writing With Ease.   My hope is that one feeds off the other & we can work with them together.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Subject: Chemistry & The Periodic Table

I found the neatest little book to go along with our Chemistry For The Grammar Stage study this year!

The Periodic Table: Elements With Style!  by Adrian Dingle & Simon Basher is an adorable little book that covers the elements, but with a cute twist.  Each element is given a "personality", and the character helps represent some property of the element.  There is also a full page of basic information about that element.  Written in first person, ("I am the most important metal ever known to humankind.") it brings each element character to life.

Reese is a visual learner, and I think seeing each element drawn as a person/monster/cartoon-whatever will help him remember what is important about each one.
There is a tear-out chart like the one above at the back of the book.  My plan is to read about each element as we study them & incorporate the picture into our Science Notebook Pages with our narrations & summaries.

I just love when someone comes up with a cute twist on an age-old subject!  I also see that there are a number of other books in the series that coordinate with other science topics.  Love it!!

Friday, July 8, 2011

Fun With Mazes

It's so exciting to see Reese gravitate towards certain types of's pretty telling about how his brain works.  So two years ago, when he received a Kumon Maze Book as a birthday gift, I loved watching him tear into it & work away at solving the puzzles.

The Kumon maze books started simple, & worked towards more complicated solutions.  One of my favorite things about Kumon workbooks is the paper quality!  Nice, thick paper & colorful designs make them very appealing.  Reese would ask daily to do a maze as part of our school work, & I happily obliged!

After we finished a handful of Kumon books, I wanted something a little more challenging, & I came across The Everything Kids' Mazes Book.  Visually, it's a little busier than Kumon books, but I really liked the variety of puzzle problems.  Hidden pictures, geometric mazes, multiple-starting-point mazes...all sorts of great stuff!

One of the very best parts about The Everything Kids' Mazes Book, though, is that for each maze, there is a theme.  Terrific Turtles.  Sweet Trees.  Sacred Cats.  Flying Fish.  Each maze has a paragraph with information relating to the topic.  For example, Flying Fish tells all about actual fish that can "fly" out of the water (we've seen these on cruises...really neat!).  So not only will your child work on logical thinking skills, you can sneak in some reading practice & science study as well! 

Incorporating different types of thinking activities is important...I want Reese to be as strong as possible in all sorts of thought processes.  By adding mazes to our day, it's been a fun way to develop problem solving!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Subjects: Latin

I never understood the point of teaching Reese Latin.  Who speaks Latin anyway?  I feel like our homeschool plate is pretty full...did I really want to add one more thing that I didn't even see the value of?

Well, after reading The Well Trained Mind, my opinion  has changed.  Go figure!

The goal of introducing Latin at an early age isn't to have a fluent Latin speaker.  The Well Trained Mind encourages introducing all sorts of "advanced" topics at the elementary age to just plant those little seeds of knowledge. 

By working on Latin, we'll learn about the origin of English words, which I hope will help Reese understand English better as he grows. 

Notice I said we?  Meaning...I have never taken Latin, and I have NO IDEA what I am getting myself into!  We will definitely be learning together.  When I told Reese about it yesterday, he seemed excited to learn something new as a team.  We were giggling together listening to a YouTube video of the Latin alphabet. 

I've chosen to use Song School Latin as our introduction.  Written by Amy Rhen, it is a very gentle introduction to common Latin words & phrases.  The Student book comes with a CD, & catchy songs are included in each weekly lesson to help remember words.   There are 31 Chapters, and it looks like there are Review chapters built in about every 4 chapters. 

The reviews I read on Amazon.Com said the Teacher's Edition wasn't necessary at all, so I only purchased the Student Book.  But, after looking through the book, I started to panic because I have no idea what I'm doing!   So, for a few more dollars, I ordered the Teacher's Manual, if for no other reason than to give me confidence.

The Teacher's Edition, in my opinion, is much more than just a replication of the Student Book & will be useful.  Each lesson has an answer key (thank you!), as well as Teacher's Notes to help you along.  For some lessons, Additional Activities are suggested to reinforce what's been learned. 

The second half of the Teacher's Edition is what I like best...a page for each chapter with extra activities!  Cross word puzzles, drawing activities, word scrambles, word searches, etc. This part makes the Teacher's Edition worth the money. 

I look forward to starting our studies.  I feel confident that using Song School Latin will be a great place to start!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Subject: Math

One of my biggest challenges in homeschool is MATH!  I had to work really hard in school growing up to make math "click", and even though I did well, taking the SAT & ACT showed that Math is definitely not my strong suit. 

As Reese gets older, we will most likely turn to other sources for teaching advanced math...because, let's face it... I'm going to make a muddled mess of the whole thing. 

But...I can handle 4th grade math :)  And I have found a way to throw in some supplemental activities to challenge Reese & develop his logical thinking skills.

Mindware puts out a fantastic line of activity books (they call them Puzzle Books) that use all sorts of different thinking skills.  I started using them last year & it was one of Reese's favorite parts of our day.  We'd do just 1 puzzle each day as part of our Math & it's fantastic to see how well he is starting to think like a little mathematician.

Last year, we started with Analogy Challenges Level A, Perplexors Basic Level, & Venn Perplexors Level A.  Each one used a different type of logic pattern, but by the end of each book Reese really had a good grasp on how to think through the challenge. 

We will continue this year with Logic Links Level B (this one is really hard for me!), Venn Perplexors Level B, Math Perplexors Level A, & Perplexors Level A.

My hope is that by introducing these types of problems early on, he will easily think that way when it comes up in the future.  By solving just one problem in a book each day, we'll work through the 4 books above by the end of the year. 

If you're looking for a quick, fun little addition to your child's Math studies, you might want to look into the Mindware series of books!

Monday, July 4, 2011

Assessing Reading Level

 There's no need, but I'm really curious what grade level Reese tests at for reading.  I suppose there are two components I really care about.  The basic mechanics of decoding words or identifying sight words, and comprehension.  I can pretty easily determine his comprehension level, but I want to see what grade level he "tests" at for decoding words. 

A simple assessment for "reading" the words is the Wide Range Reading Test.  It's pretty quick & straightforward with very simple scoring.  The child reads a short list of words, until they miss 7 words in a row (which indicates frustration level), and that's the grade level.

 It took us about 5 minutes to complete the test & it was interesting to see when Reese was at frustration was quite obvious from one line to the next!  He also got some words I didn't think he would know.  That made me happy!  I also realized that his instructional level is higher than I gave him credit for & I need to challenge him a bit more in the reading selections I pick for him. 

Another short test is the Three Minute Reading Check.   There are a total of 14 sentences/short passages for the child to read, each one getting harder.  It takes about 5 minutes, & comes with hints on how to determine grade reading level, and fluency level (frustration, instructional, independent).   This test only goes up to Grade 6.5 Level, so your reader may already test out of this exam.

The last simple test is the Reading Competency Test.  Your child reads a handful of sentences, you check their mistakes on your copy, & stop when they reach frustration level (5 miscues in one passage).  Each passage is numbered according to the grade level it represents.  The website tells you how to interpret the results, and you'll have another example of where your child is reading.

I don't think in homeschool it really matters where a child tests compared to his at-school peers, but if you're curious to check progress, these three easy tools may help!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Subjects: Science

I'm excited to start our science curriculum this year!  I've chosen Elemental Science: Chemistry for the Grammar Stage.   This Classical Science curriculum is written by Paige Hudson & I just love what I've seen so far!  They also offer Biology, Physics, Earth Science & Astronomy for the Grammar, Logic, & Rhetoric stages (this stage appears to still be in the works).  I am hoping this series works well for us, because I like the idea of sticking with one curriculum model all the way through!

Elemental Science comes with two books: a Student Workbook & a Teacher's Guide.  The workbook has pages for two Scientist biography studies, vocabulary pages with picture & narration spaces, summary pages with picture & narration spaces, experiment pages with picture, narration, & summary spaces, & a whole section of awesome pictures that go along with the definition & summary pages (so your child doesn't have to draw everything!).  Everything is very simple & not cluttered in its design.  My plan is to remove the pages as we use them & put them into a 1" 3-ring binder.

The second book, the Teacher's Guide, lays out 36 weeks' worth of lesson plans.  You can either choose a 5 day week or a 2 day week.  There's a handy weekly supply list at the front of the book, & I would suggest gathering all your supplies at one time into a box, so you have it all ready.  Who wants to search for iodine, steel wool, baby powder, or alligator clips the night before?  Almost all the items are basic "stuff" you have around the house, with the exception of a small handful things (6 volt lantern battery, film camera, Borax, etc).  There is no pre-assembled supply kit, which I have always purchased with our other curriculum guides, so I want to be sure I have everything in one place ahead of time!  I know myself...if I don't have it when I need it, I'll skip the experiment & will likely not get back to it!

In addition to the Student Workbook & the Teacher Guide, you will need to purchase a few books to work fromFizz, Bubble, Flash: Element Explorations & Atom Adventures and Adventures with Atoms and Molecules: Book 1  are used for experiments.  Usborne's Internet-linked Science Encyclopedia is used as a reference tool, & offers fantastic links to Usborne's website that coordinate with each topic.

The two books used for the scientist study are Marie Curie's Search for Radium and Pasteur's Fight Against Microbes, both by Beverly Birch.  Many libraries carry these, so check yours before buying if you want to save some money!  Of course, you could substitute with any appropriate level book about these two scientists.   We already own the Pasteur book, but will substitute something else for the Curie book because our library doesn't have it.

I would have thought Chemistry was too complex a subject for 3rd grade, but given this curriculum, it's easy & fun to learn about what makes up our everyday world!

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Hard to believe....

Reese turned 8 this week! Hard to believe he is already 8 years old. Hard to believe we are starting our fourth year of homeschooling. Hard to believe....