Thursday, March 29, 2012

Creative Writing

My kids both get hung up on creative writing.  I know they have great imaginations but the time it takes for them to write the words gets frustrating for them.  I took a break from it for a while and now we're back to at least 1 per week.  This week my son has 4.
He always asks me how many sentences I expect.  I wrote that he needed 6 earlier this week and his sentences were like, "It was red." Boo!  Today I said, write until I can understand what you mean.  His first completed assignment for today was only 4 sentences, but they were a much higher quality.
Then this afternoon, he drew a picture with his story and both story and picture were pretty good.

Unfortunately the quality of my mobile uploads to Blogger are not as good as the real pictures.  I uploaded one here and also to Facebook and they are definitely of a different quality.  I might have to start taking pictures with my regular camera for this site.
He writes, "This Jeep has just been bought in Africa by John.  John is driving it.  He sees what looks like an intersection.  He will drive into mud.  His engine died when he hit the mud.  'Oh brother!' John said."
He needed to write a story for the picture in Language 3 from A Beka books.  His assignment was to write 4 sentences in the workbook about the picture and then use those sentences and write a little story in his journal.  I am finding that when he is doing something that is so frustrating for him, I can't be too critical, but praise what he did well.

From her A Beka Language 1 book.  Jessie writes: "My Kite"  "My kite will fly high in the sky.  I run into the breaze, (yes, I know it's spelled wrong) and I pull my kite with me.  The tail is long, and the string is long too! The wind is so strong, that the trees are moving!  I like air outside."  
Her assignment was to write a story about a kite.  She was to use the words listed in the picture of the kite.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Curriculum woes

I have not been in this long enough to know a good or bad curriculum.  We have started mostly with A Beka books and I think they would be great starters in K-2, but I want to give my older child a more challenging curriculum.  He is in Bob Jones reading and I like that.  They both use Everyday Mathematics and I think it is fabulous, but I don't have a teacher guide and those alone would be about $300 a year per grade level.  It might be okay for large classrooms to spend that on a teacher guide, but for our home school with 2 students it is a bit pricey.  That is all I've really seen of curriculum because it came with them from their Christian school.
Next year we are changing things up a lot and I am excited.  I am mainly excited because whatever I buy will have teacher guides so I don't have to wonder if I'm teaching them correctly.  I have my wish list for next year all lined up, but don't want to share it yet unless I love it!
Kansas Home School Curriculum Guide is where I started.  I love this because it is not biased.  Most sites that I've viewed have a favorite and don't give credit to others.  I found what I believe will complement my children's learning styles and I have high hopes for next year.  My wish list will cost us less than $1000 total for both kids for the school year (that is less than $500 per child).  I've chosen to mix and match which might be a detriment because many companies use themes to bind all of their subjects together.  We'll see.

Monday, March 26, 2012


I never was a morning person, but learned to be when I had to be at work by 7am. I know there are good habits to get into and I want to train my kids right, but lately mornings have been less than great for me.  When we established our school the rule was that we had to be up, dressed and fed by 8 AM so that school could begin. After we took turns being sick for a few week, our good habits faded and now we are lucky to get started by 9 AM every day.
While it was a good try, I can't expect the kids to do something that I have not done. Now, we do like to be going by 9, but whatever time we start, we all start at the same time and get breaks after each hour of work.  My daughter, the youngest, was slow to get up this morning, so I let her start the day in her pajamas and she ate breakfast while I read a chapter from The Silver Chair and got dressed before the next hour of work began.  We have had pajama days, but the children are less productive in pajamas and so am I.
If we get started and do good work, we usually are done with seat work by lunch time which gives us a great opportunity to have fun lessons in the afternoon.  That is what is so great about our school.  I have found that I need to be in the room with them while they do their morning seat work even if I don't need to help them with anything.  I think just being in there makes them know that the day is seriously a school day and we need to be busy.
Morning things I need to work on.
1. Prayer to start the day
2. Tooth brush checks
3. Looking at the weather and discussing
4. Finding one piece of news for the day to learn about and pray about.
5. Prepare myself for the day to be prepared to teach my children before they are up and ready for me.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Spring Break

I pondered what Spring Break would mean to our family.  I almost feel like we're on a perpetual break since starting our school at home.  We went to a wedding over the weekend, but financially we are not able to do a long vacation this week.  So we are sleeping in and enjoying ourselves.  The kids got their rooms clean and now I am doing spring cleaning.  I like the results, but am not excited about the work.  It so happens that our extended family who attend public school also have Spring Break this week.  To my pleasure, my children are spending 2 nights with their cousins and I am free to do my cleaning tasks uninterrupted.
Speaking of cleaning, home school has provided an excellent opportunity for me to teach my children life skills.  Our chore list has increased and the kids' willingness to help has increased as well. While I find that many tasks take me more time because of the kids' help, they are proud of themselves and the work does get done.  I've been told that these life skills can count as school credit.  Why not?  I haven't included chore hours in school yet, but it is something I am going to look into in the near future.  Kansas guidelines are so sketchy and there is much room for interpretation.  I have counted cooking in the school hours now that I think of it.  The kids LOVE cooking class.
There may be creative and fun things other families do over this week, but I think for us an unstructured week is almost as good as a trip somewhere... for now.  Happy Spring Break everyone!

Thought I'd add a cute little video.  Fishing would definitely be something to do on Spring Break!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Learning our Pattern

At this point, we are not part of the local Home School Association.  I have spoken with a few home school moms and have researched online and have read a few books on the subject and there is 1 thing in common with all of my resources.  They all report that no 2 home schools are alike.  That is good to know, so I know that I won't be completely wrong.
I am blessed to have 2 very smart children and found that I really don't need to plan lessons at this point.  I let them do their assigned work and when they have a problem with something, they come to me and we have individual lessons.  Sometimes I have to learn new things in order to teach them.  Lattice multiplication is an example of something that I have never done before, but I have taught my 3rd grader how to do it and he scores nearly 100% on pages where he uses that method.
We started by me reading a chapter of a book in the mornings and then saying the Pledge of Allegiance and praying and starting work.  We had a break for "recess" and then more work.  We found that this pattern was not working for us.  I really like structure, so I was having a bit of trouble figuring out how to help.  One fantastic thing about our school is that we know where to turn when we don't know what to do.  Not the internet, God!  We turn to God!  As I prayed about what we should do, I was led to begin the day with a prayer and then seat work.  At one hour time, we have to stop what we're doing and regroup.  We stretch and we get our wiggles out and then we have our reading time.  I read aloud to the children and they enjoy it. It is not part of our curriculum, but we are currently reading The Chronicles of Narnia.  I've never read them before so I am enjoying it almost as much or more than the kids.
We will not do more than 1 hour in a row of seat work because it is too frustrating to sit for a long time and be expected to produce good work.  After each hour we take wiggle breaks and we have science lessons and art and music depending on the day.
When we started, my son was jealous of my daughter who got to sit with Mommy and read out loud.  In early reading this is necessary, but it is difficult for him to comprehend.  He felt that I favored his sister and so he decided that he needed to read out loud.  Well after about a week of that, he changed his mind and said that it took too long to read out loud and he would read to himself.  We also changed how I assigned his reading portions.  If he had a story with chapters, I was assigning it as one chapter per day, but he wanted to read the whole story.  Now he reads the entire story in one day and then does his workbook activities for the next few days covering each chapter.
I haven't quite put my finger on my daughter's favorite way of learning yet, but I know she hates seat-work and really hates handwriting.  I take off points if she is sloppy and she always puts off her handwriting until last.  In fact she writes more neatly in her language workbook than in her handwriting workbook.
I think our entire home school experience will be dynamic.  We will learn how to learn and hopefully continue learning forever.  Can you imagine how boring a song would be if it were only one note and one rhythm and one dynamic the entire way through?  Our life songs will have faster and slower tempos, crescendos and decrescendos, piano and fortisimo, multiple rhythms and pitches.  Learning to play each section will be the challenge and I am ready to take them on!

In the Beginning

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.  Gen 1:1  We aren't going that far back.  Just the beginning of our school.
Home schooling was a dream that my husband and I had when we first got married in 1996.  I was in college and had just become an LPN and was working toward my RN.  As our lives continued to change and develop together, I became very engaged in my career as in ICU nurse and really enjoyed my work.  Through many trials and losses, we finally had 2 beautiful children.  As they became school-aged, our debt was too great to have me quit my job and it never seemed like an option.
Within the first 4 years of having school-aged children, much had changed.  My job changed and we switched daycares for our youngest.  Our eyes opened to the possibility of debt free living and within about 9 months that possibility was reality and I resigned from my job as Director of Nursing in a local Assisted Living facility.  The talk of home school continued, but we LOVED our Christian School.  I'm sure there are others just as fantastic, but ours was incredible.  Stirring came and the Lord told me to start packing to move and I had no idea where, but knew it was soon.  My husband accepted a new job across the state and that is a story in itself, but we were moving to a new town.  I knew at the time we made the decision to move that we would home school in our new location.
We decided to let the children finish the semester at their wonderful school and we moved the week before Christmas.  Our school was generous enough to let us take the books with us that the kids were already using.  We would keep the workbooks and mail back the text books at the end of this year.  I logged in to and found the tab about homeschooling and followed the instructions.  We discussed names and came up with Life Song Academy and I registered our school.  We were ready to go!  My son is in 3rd grade and my daughter in 1st grade.  I planned to follow the calendar of our previous school for the rest of the school year and so on January 2, 2012 Life Song Academy began.
Over the break, in the midst of unpacking, I gathered all of our school books and counted pages and divided all of the remaining work into weekly assignments on my planner Jan 2-6, Language 3 p. 112-114 and so on.  I created a sheet to write out daily segments of the work for the kids to use as a plan.

Daily Assignment Sheet                     Name___________________

Math_________________                Spelling_________________
Reading_______________               Language________________
Math_________________                Spelling_________________
Reading_______________               Language________________
Math_________________                Spelling_________________
Reading_______________               Language________________
Math_________________                Spelling_________________
Reading_______________               Language________________
Math_________________                Spelling_________________
Reading_______________               Language________________

I know this is a very simple page, but it works for us and I added the grade-specific subjects on the "other" line.  I don't know that I will change this format during this school year, but I write lots of extra stuff in the margins that I have set for 1 inch.  The kids highlight or check off their assignments when finished with them and I keep them in my record book in case our files are audited.
I am finding that the kids' daily seat-work is taking 1-2 hours to complete and Kansas has a set amount of days for school if each day is 6 hours or more.  Well we don't always make 6 hour days, so I began to keep track of school by the hour.  We need 1116 hours per school year.  I am discovering, though that we can count Sunday School and Kid's Church and baseball into school hours, so we do.  We also watch the History channel and Discovery when the shows are appropriate for education and count those hours or half hours for school as well.
Finally, we needed a way of keeping track of our work and our grades.  I played with Excel and couldn't come up with something I liked.  I did some searches and downloaded a few templates and my favorite template came from  It is called Gradebook+ and it meets all of my needs.  In the attendance chart, I changed the word "days" to "hours" and type in how many hours we had of school that day.  The first worksheet of the Excel document is instructions and they are easy to follow if you are familiar with Excel.  I changed the grading scale to be a little more strict than the one provided.  I have found that the internet is a fabulous resource not only for the students, but for the parents.
So there is our start up in quite a large nutshell.