Saint Coins Revisited

Cleaning out the classroom closet, I unearthed our old Saint Coins!!  I did a post about these seemingly forever ago.  I thought it would be a good idea to use them again with my younger children.  But when I told them about it, the older kids begged to be included!  They remembered fondly “the family store” on Friday nights.

I’m happy to report The Family Store is now back in business with a few changes.  We no longer use the laminated task sheets.  I implemented a hanging tag system a few months ago that works really, really well!  I can move tags around to give kids turns with chores and add in monthly chores, such as vacuuming the van, when needed.  When the chore is complete, the card is flipped revealing washi tape.  Once all the tape is showing on a kids’ row, they can have screen time, friend time, and almost earn their saint coin.  I say almost because the one other “task” they must complete to earn the coin is to joyfully complete school that day.  Bonus coins go to kids when I see them acting kindly or serving someone when they don’t think anyone is looking.

I’m surprised at how excited the kids are to earn that saint coin every day.  The family store is stocked with candy that costs 5 saint coins a piece. Awesome candy around once a week, sounds like a deal to me!

Some of my coins need to be updated, however.  I still have a Blessed Teresa of Calcutta and John Paul II.  I need to visit Happy Saints again!!  I’m sure I’ll find many new saints I want as well.  It’s so exciting to share these with my little kids while bringing back fond memories for my older ones.

Last and First

Today was our last weekday of summer.  We spent the last few days exploring forests, visiting turtles, climbing trees, sword fighting in the backyard, swimming, and reading…lots and lots of reading.  It was a good, slow summer that is now meandering into the school year.

Monday is the first day of our 8th year homeschooling.  While we don’t have definitive grade levels here, the kids are of age to be in 7th, 6th, 4th, 2nd, K, and the toddlers bringing in the caboose.  The 7th and 6th grade boys are getting older and thus needing a bit more privacy.

So while I will keep blogging here for the few people that read, I think I’m going to switch to just a homeschool blog.  I’ve been working on compiling all the things I’ve learned (and some that I should have learned) over the past almost decade of homeschooling.  I hope I can help at least a few of you out there in the homeschool trenches!  I’ll still be in the same places on social media since that’s where most of the great discussions happen. Here’s looking to lasts and firsts!  Have a great school year!

School Year in Review

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The school year is done!!!!  Before I barrel into next year, I thought I’d share a quick list of what worked and what didn’t work for us this year.  I’m so glad to say that after 7 years of homeschooling, most of the books we used this year treated us well. I think I’m finally getting the hang of this.  ***This post contains affiliate links.***

What worked

  1. All About Spelling and All About Reading  This is one of the few programs we’ve used all the years I’ve been homeschooling.  Liam and Jack completed level 5 of spelling.  Matilda completed level 4 of reading (the last one!) and level 3 of spelling. Matthew completed level 2 of reading and level 1 of spelling.  Max completed level 1 of reading and started level 1 of spelling.  He’s now begging to do it all summer so he can pass up Matthew. 🙂
  2. RC History  We are halfway through Volume 2 (the arrival of the King-early medieval).  The only reason we didn’t complete this yet is because the older boys had an intense extracurricular this year.  We’re finishing it up this summer, but the kids don’t mind one bit!  The literature selection is fantastic for this volume.  Liam is working on the logic level, Jack and Matilda are working on the grammar level, and Matthew and Max are working on beginner.  We have some fun projects lined up for the summer!
  3. Saxon Math I think this is the first year no one cried about math…well Matthew did a little. ha!  Liam completed the 6th grade book and Jack completed the 5th grade one. Both boys are taking pre algebra next year. More on that later.  Matilda finished the 4th grade book, and Matthew completed the 2nd grade one.  For summer maintenance, they will be doing Times Tales and Khan Academy.
  4. Elemental Science This was new to us and I loved it!!!  Matthew and Max worked on  Grammar Stage Biology.  The demonstrations were super easy for them to set up and we had most things on hand.  The best part is the boys retained quite a bit of information!  My goal was just to expose them to new things, but they completely surpassed that!  I loved it so much that the older kids are doing Logic Stage Biology next year.
  5. IEW writing and Fix-It Grammar This was another new program for us.  We’ll definitely be using this again.  The three older kids worked through the first Fix-It Grammar book, The Nose Tree.  For composition, Liam and Jack used Following Narnia Vol 1: The Lion’s Song.  Guys, they LOVED this.  I’ve never seen two boys so eager to write before in my life!  And the worked they produced, oh my goodness!  Matilda loved hers as well, and I loved that she kept wanting to rewrite each story and illustrate it.  Fables, Myths, and Fairy Tales was the book she used.
  6. Read-Aloud Revival  This isn’t necessarily a curriculum, but I finally got a membership.  We use this to “attend” live author seminars and various lectures about poetry and other things.  Seeing the kids learn about their favorite writers’ processes has been extremely fun.  Now when we read certain picture books or novels, the discussions the kids have has taken on a whole new level.
  7. Finally, our wonderful enrichment program worked well for us yet again.  The kids attend once a week to take such classes as Latin, art, jujitsu, etc.  They also attend Mass with their friends.  Little ones worshipping together, this is what homeschooling is all about!

Since this list is already reaching War and Peace length proportions, I’ll just give a quick what didn’t work.  Mystery Science (a little too simple for my kids to stay engaged), TOPS Science (a little too hard for my kids to stay engaged.), and Spectrum Geography workbooks (a little too much social studies and too little map work).

I already have my book list for next year, and I’m elated.  But first, summer.

 

Jack’s Tragedy

We’re winding down the school year, but I had my older boys eek out one more small essay for me.  Both Jack and Liam used the same source text, yet they both produced very different writings.  I loved them both, however Jack’s paper kinda made me tear up.  I thought I’d share

To give a little introduction, we were talking about CS Lewis’s character Diggory in the Magician’s Nephew.  Lewis drew inspiration from his own relationship with his mother to form Diggory’s relationship with his mother in the story.  For those who don’t know, CS Lewis was known as Jack amongst his circle of friends.

Jack’s Tragedy

by Jack (age 10)

Jack loved his mother, yet her life came to a tragic end.  Jack enjoyed when his mother spent time with him learning and having fun.  Her name was Flora Lewis, and she spent much of her time with Jack and his brother, Warnie, reading to them and teaching them how to draw.  Both Flora and the boys were exceptionally intelligent and imaginative.  In time, Warnie was sent to boarding school because he became of age, so Jack and his mother grew very close having fun and learning Latin.  Later, when Jack was still very young, Flora became ill and was confined to her bed.  Only six month later, Flora passed away, and Jack, who was heartbroken at the loss of his mother, became deeply depressed.  He would later find comfort in retreating to his attic and thinking of all the fun he had with his mother.  Later, in his days as a writer, he would reflect upon Flora, who had directed him to the world of literature and set him on his path to take part in it.

**For those homeschoolers who follow me, we use IEW.  This particular piece came from the theme writing book Following Narnia Vol. 1: The Lion’s Song. (affiliate link)**

All About Reading Level 1 Second Edition Review

IMG_9021**I was given All About Reading Level 1 Second Edition free of charge in exchange for a review.  All opinions are my own.**

I’ve never really been one to mark “firsts”.  I don’t remember the dates of first steps, first solid foods, or first haircut.  The same cannot be said, however, for first story read.  That is a huge moment here at Casa Jones.  Well, Max, at 4 years old, read his first story after just a couple of lessons in All About Reading Level 1 Second Edition, All About Learning Press’ updated early reader program.

IMG_9022We are now 8 lessons in and Max already knows and is comfortable with the rhythm of this program.  The lessons alternate between learning phonics and reading stories.  Each lesson is fully scripted, so there is minimal prep time for the parent/teacher.  I did have to spend some time before starting lesson 1 prepping the flashcards and adding them to Max’s reading box, but that didn’t take much time at all.

The phonics lessons offer a gentle introduction of letter sounds and reading rules to our budding readers.  Phonics are introduced using flashcards then tiles.  Max loves using the magnetic tiles to blend words.  The tiles also make it easy for Max to identify the vowels (red tiles) vs. consonants (blue tiles).

There are a lot of tiles on my oil drip pan, but that is because my older kiddos are using more for upper levels All About Spelling and Reading.  Having this many tiles on the board doesn’t bother Max, but it may help struggling readers to have only one set of alphabet tiles.IMG_9024Each phonics lesson has fun, interactive activities to help the kids practice blending and to commit the phonics sounds to memory.  My kids all love the word flippers!  These lessons are short and sweet so the little ones don’t get overwhelmed.  This also allows me plenty of time to teach the other kids, especially since there is minimal prep time with each scripted lesson.  IMG_9027

The readers Run, Bug, Run, The Runt Pig, and Cobweb the Cat are full of cute stories that incorporate all phonics learned thus far.  I find that each story is just challenging enough to give Max confidence reading while stretching his abilities. Some lessons call for reading multiple stories, so I like to have Max read one story at a time throughout the day or even over a couple of days to avoid any frustration.  IMG_9028

Not only does each story have fun reading comprehension games, but the teacher’s manual has prompts so that I can guide Max to relating the stories to his own life and discuss any new vocabulary words.  There was one fun activity that taught Max how to read a sentence with a period then again with an exclamation mark.  I love teaching him how to read expressively at such an early stage!

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And of course we have fantastic sticker charts!

So how does the second edition differ from the first?  Max is the third child to use All About Reading level 1 at our home.  I’m finding that the second edition has great improvements which gives me confidence that All About Learning Press will continue to improve each of their products.  There are four new lessons in this edition.  There are many new stories to give Max more reading practice and build his confidence.  This edition also had Max reading a story by the second lesson.  He was so, so proud!  So if you have the first edition from previous students and are wondering if you should purchase the second, I say it’s worth it for the extra stories and reading comprehension lessons alone!

One other great thing about All About Reading Level 1 is that it is self paced and has constant review.  Max is currently going through around 4 lessons a week, but he’ll easily be able to slow down if things get a little to challenging for him.  And I’m confident that by the time he completes the entire level, he’ll be able to read chapter books such as The Magic Treehouse series all by himself!

This is truly a program that can be used successfully with most students.  It is very thorough and leaves no gaps in teaching how to decode, blend, read with fluency, and much more.

 

The Calm After the Storm

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My wonderful husband took care of most of the crazy kids today so I could cloister myself in our classroom to prepare for our school year starting in 1.5 weeks!  I spent the bulk of the day rearranging things, filling garbage bags, and writing lesson plans.IMG_8885

I kept looking at the mess of a room with bare walls, and with toys strewn about on the subfloor that we’ll someday cover with hardwood.  I know we’ll hit the ground running and not stop until next summer.  Most people would call this the calm before the storm.IMG_8886

But for me this is the calm after the storm.  After a hurricane of a summer…very hard third trimester, new baby, new job for the husband with a lot of travel…this is my calm.  There is such peace preparing this room and arranging things just so. There is such peace knowing I’ll get to spend so much time learning and growing with my children for yet another school year.IMG_8888

These aren’t just lesson plans I’m writing.  They’re plans to snuggle up on the sofa while we soak up C.S. Lewis’ wonderful words.  They’re plans to take a walk down by the creek to see how many different birds we can identify then sketch in our journals. And most importantly, they’re plans to sometimes just be still and know.IMG_8887

I thank God everyday for the gift of homeschooling and the time I get to spend with these seven sweet, wonderful, mighty, and loving souls.

Lazy Days of Summer

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When you homeschool it’s so easy to continue schooling throughout the summer even though you’ve technically covered all the course material for the school year.

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This summer started out no differently for us.  I fully intended to have the kids do copywork, math, and a bit of poetry over the summer.  And of course reading.

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So far, it’s not quite working out that way.  With all the rain we’ve had in Houston, there is an explosion in the toad population in our yard.  So the kids bolt out of the door every morning after breakfast to see how many they can catch before lunch.  Our oranges are growing well, so the kids check on them daily as well.

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The blueberries are being eaten straight off the bush by the children and sometimes the birds.

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There are plenty of flowers to be smelled and picked.  The kids keep planting more (with awesome seed bombs from Seedle) with the hope of luring more bees and butterflies to the yard.

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And of course they’re doing all this barefoot, because why not?

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This little gal (along with her mullet haircut) is becoming a pro at catching baby toads.

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And there’s always a game of freeze tag going on in the cul de sac.

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So while we aren’t doing any school work (except reading…a lot), I’m pretty sure the kids are getting a stellar education anyway.