Fix It! Grammar

Grammar. Oh grammar. It took me such a long time to find a way to teach you! I remember early in my homeschooling journey I asked a fellow homeschooling mom what she used to teach grammar. She responded, “Oh, I don’t. As a matter of fact, many homeschoolers don’t really teach grammar anymore.” Dear reader, no. At the humble dwelling, I want my kids to read critically, to communicate thoughtfully, and to revise and edit their own essays. In order for that to happen, we must teach grammar! But all of the programs I found had such contrived exercises that my kids hated doing.

I want my kids to read critically, to communicate thoughtfully, and to revise and edit their own essays.

Finally someone suggested Fix It! Grammar from IEW, and we’re now on year 3 of using and loving it! Fix It! Grammar is a program with 6 books that model proper grammar within stories. The stories keep my children engaged, and I’ve seen them use this knowledge from this grammar course in other areas of their schooling. That alone was worth continuing with Fix It! I’ll explain a bit about how my kids use this and the benefits they’ve gained.

This is the binder I create at the beginning of every school year.

IEW offers the option to get a student e-book or printed. I opted to get the ebook so I can make grammar binders for the kids. This way my children have easy access to their printed out books, vocabulary, and copywork.

An unedited page from the student workbook.

Each week is divided into 4 easy days of work. Using the teacher’s manual, I go over the lesson that week on day 1. The kids then work each of the 4 days for about 10-15 minutes per day.

An example of Book 3: The Frog Prince

The beauty of Fix It! Grammar is that the work the kids do is labeling and correcting a story. The example above is work done by my 7th grader. I’ve started noticing that when he edits and revises his essays for various subjects, he uses methods he learned with Fix It!, especially when it comes to usage and homophones. The kids, knowing the reasons for the fixes they do during grammar, are able to better edit their own work!

An example of some of the vocabulary.

Each day the students are given a word (in bold) to define within the story. The benefits of this exercise are that the students improve dictionary skills, and I see many of these words trickle into essays throughout the school year. I also really love that the kids are learning nuances in our language. There may be many definitions for one word, and Fix It! Grammar allows them to figure out which definition best fits a particular sentence.

Fix It! Grammar copywork.

After completing the vocabulary portion, the students flip to the last section of their binders and copy the corrected story. By the end of the year, they have a complete, grammatically correct story copied! This copywork allows the kids to slow down and internalize all that they have learned. The fact that it’s one complete story makes the copywork really enjoyable and brings such satisfaction with the very last punctuation mark.

Grammar Cards

Fix It! Grammar also comes with quick reference grammar cards that are very helpful. I put them at the beginning of my kids’ binders for easy access.

Using stories to teach grammar and vocabulary is really engaging for my children and teaches them these skills in a natural, uncontrived way. And who can beat 15 minutes a day!

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A little bit of this and that

Way back in November, I wrote saying we’re emerging from wonderful rest, blah, blah, blah. Y’all, after Christmas, our schedule got crazy! You guys may all be thinking “But you’re super mom! You can handle anything!” Well I’m here to tell you I spike my morning coffee one drip at a time just like everyone else. More on all that schedule in a bit…

House(blog)keeping: I was looking through all of the curriculum I’ve posted so far and decided to change it up a tad. I cut out some unnecessary parts and simplified here and there. I don’t want to overwhelm people who are just starting out with this whole homeschooling craziness.

Music: I stumbled upon an awesome Patreon! I have a secret love for folk, bluegrass, and old country music. I cannot sing at all, and the kids remind me of this, but I love listening to and learning about folk music. Well Annie Hatke had a wonderful idea of going on a traditional/folk tale tour this summer and posting videos about it, including bits of history about the songs. I’ve never done Patreon before, but I’m definitely willing to make this my first! Go check it out!

This has nothing to do with this post. I just needed a picture to break up the novel of a post. And to demonstrate what a toddler can MacGuyver up with a rock, chalk, and scissors when left unattended for 0.5 seconds.

Reviews: I have some curriculum reviews I’m working on since it’s curriculum hunting season. If there’s anything in particular you have questions about, either comment, email me, or find me on Instagram (@elainemj7) I’m planning IEW, Elemental Science, History, Math Mammoth, and a few other reviews so far.

Schedule: Back from the crazy schedule I mentioned. A word to the wise…don’t fall into the trap of “Oh no, my kids aren’t getting a “real” school experience because we’re not in this group or that activity!” then proceed to sign them up for everything and volunteer yourself to help with all of it. We all burned out. We’re still not done with everything since my kids’ Odyssey of the Mind team advanced to state competition and one child has a play in May, but I see the light at the end of the school year. The lesson learned is even after almost a decade of homeschooling, I still have to remind myself that it’s a good thing homeschool doesn’t look like public or parochial school otherwise I wouldn’t be doing it. Perhaps if I put this in fancy quotes on my blog, I can remind myself of this at the beginning of every school year.

The lesson learned is even after almost a decade of homeschooling, I still have to remind myself that it’s a good thing homeschool doesn’t look like public or parochial school otherwise I wouldn’t be doing it. Perhaps if I put this in fancy quotes on my blog, I can remind myself of this at the beginning of every school year.

Me, 5 seconds ago

Sometimes the best laid plans can get eclipsed.

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Last week, our first week of school, went so smoothly.  I was sure, SURE, this week would be the same.  I had all the lesson plans written out!  The calendar is filled in until May.  I was all set to teach a few neighborhood kids our first science class of the year.  Then one by one, my children dropped.  It started out with little innocent coughs and sniffles.  Suddenly, high fevers and lungs threatening to burst with each breath.

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It took us until the 6th day to have our first sick day.  However, Mother Nature stepped in  and took charge!  The clouds cleared just in time for us to put our pinhole projector into use.  In between rests, the kids came out with eclipse glasses in hand that a neighbor had generously given us.  We shared with other neighbor kids who were in and out of our back yard testing various pinhole contraptions.

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The five year old even came out for a look despite being fearful of “ending up like Helen Keller.”  He survived with all senses working perfectly.

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As a bonus, monarchs and swallowtails flew all around us and we found quite a few monarch hatchlings!  A container now sits on our windowsill with swallowtail larvae as well.  The kids and I were also given an opportunity to research how to get rid of aphids without killing monarch caterpillars.  Let’s hope soapy water works!

The kids are on the mend, so I think we may get back to our schedule tomorrow…or we can just wait and see what Mother Nature gives us.

A Glimpse into Neverlands

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I find that the best conversations and learning opportunities I have with my kids are while they’re freely doing their own thing and wanting to verbalize what’s going on in their mind, imagination, little worlds.  I cherish those little peeks into their puzzlers.

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I decided to start adapting that learning style to parts of our homeschool day.  Instead of sticking to a strict schedule with clock times written down, we now follow more of a routine, not necessarily tethered to a clock.

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Our day starts with a bit of scripture time (when I remember!  I’m getting better) and discussion followed by some keyboarding and math facts practice.  After that, the older kids go off their own way to complete independent school work while I spend around 1 and 1/2 hours with Matthew.  He’s the type of “get all my school done in one sitting so I can spend the rest of the day playing outside or with toys” type of kid.  He really does enjoy our little school time together though, and so do I.

We then break for snack and play time.  After play time, I start helping the older kids until lunch.  Lunch break is good and looooong!  The kids usually talk me into reading to them. We’re reading Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, and my voice hasn’t given up yet!  After lunch, the big kids and I take about 2 more hours to finish up our work.

Since we’ve adapted this loose routine, I find the kids are much more thoughtful and not rushing through their work.  I also find that I’m more keen to let conversations veer a bit off track when one of the kids is processing some thought.  This especially happens during literature time, which is my favorite time to let minds wander!

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I love being visited by the littlest ones during the school day.  I’m able to sneak in a few (a lot) of books for those cuties.  Stella, Max and Matthew flitter in and out of the classroom, steal pencils, and cause general mayhem which usually leads to laughter, or sometimes fights and tears to be honest.

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This way of teaching the children always makes me feel like Mrs. Darling in the first chapter of Peter Pan.  She tidies up the kids minds as they are sleeping and puts things straight and in their proper places.  A bonus to tidying up the kids minds is that I get a small glimpse into their Neverlands.

workboxes

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ADD and homeschooling.  I know there are many of us who walk this path.  It’s a hard, rocky path but occasionally the path smooths out.  This happened for me when years ago, someone mentioned the word workboxes.  My son has a terrible time trying to stay organized and he used to feel so overwhelmed at the beginning of the school day.  So after some research, I decided to give workboxes a try.

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Last school year was our first attempt, and it was beautiful!  My son’s tears and frustrations decreased considerably.

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The nitty gritty:  I purchased the Trofast (I always want to call it Trogdor! darn you Homestar Runner!) storage unit from IKEA.  Little labels were sketched out and laminated. The female side of Velcro is on the back of each label, and two male sides are on the drawers.  Labels are on the left for uncompleted work then moved to the right when completed.  In each drawer are all the books Liam needs to complete his work.  His pencils, erasers, rulers, and other supplies are all in a basket on his desk.  And it’s as simple as that!

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Over time I’ll transition Liam out of the workboxes and into a locker style something.  I’m sure as he grows, his organizational skill will improve, and these workboxes will hopefully give him a leg up.  I don’t use these with the other children since I have limited space and they seem to be doing fine without.  However, I can see how workboxes would be fantastic even for kids without ADD or any other learning disability.

No More Teacher’s Dirty Looks…

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The school year is DONE! This was our family’s 5th year homeschooling, and I have to say it was, by far, hardest.  The end of last year was tough because I was very pregnant and we were trying to sell our house.  Because of moving and having a baby, I didn’t prepare as much during the summer as I should have for this school year.  I also, for some insane reason, decided to change curricula.  Let’s just say that next school year, we are running back to Kolbe Academy.

Here are are a few things I learned from this school year:

1. Make a schedule and stick to it.  The day doesn’t have to be scheduled down to 15 minute increments, but having math, lunch, etc at the same time every day really keeps the kids in a better mood.

2. The more positive I am, the more positive the kids are.  It’s hard, really hard sometimes to stay chipper all day.  This year Liam was in 4th, Jack was in 3rd, Matilda was in 1st/2nd, and Matthew was learning how to read.  On top of that I was caring for a toddler and a newborn.  There is always a lot going on here!!   But I found that the days where I found humor in everything and joked around with the kids all day were some of the most productive days we’ve had.  Don’t get me wrong, the kids complained a lot about doing school, but what kid doesn’t!  But I’m the one setting the attitude example, not the kids.

3. A messy house is ok.  Really, it is.  At the top of my list of things that stress me out is clutter.  But realistically, there will be clutter in my house.  We homeschool 6 kids, and that equals mess.  I can’t change that.  But what I can change is how I feel about it.  I read a great quote by Simcha Fisher that hit me in the heart. “Given the choice,  I will  almost always choose cleaning up a mess over keeping things under reasonable control.”  Yep.

I’ll be back with summer reading lists and activities and curriculum reviews!  Yay for summer!!