Sunday, July 3, 2016

School Year 2016/2017 Plans

July means a new homeschooling year in North Carolina and although we school year round, I do like to mark it by starting new subjects and a special first-day of school celebration. I also like to take the time to evaluate my overall school plans for each girl and see what I want to change or add. We had our annual first day of school celebration a few days ago. The girls got some special school supplies and got to eat brownies and ice cream for breakfast. We also went to a bounce house place, Chick-fil-a, and a science museum. All told, it was an exciting day.

Lydia, 2nd Grade

Eleanor, Kindergarten

Adelaide, PreK

The bounce house place took horrible pictures, but Clara did enjoy just taking it all in and sat happily in her stroller, looking around for a solid 2 hours.

Rainbow shadows at the science museum

Not sure what this race track was supposed to teach them science-wise, but they had a blast on it for like a half hour.
Here's our plans for the next year. These are always subject to change, but I am getting better at knowing what will work for us and what won't and feel fairly confident these plans will mostly work out.


  • Lydia-Finish the Mensa K-3 reading list. She's been working on it for a few years and I think she can get it done this year. Also do readings associated with our history and science. Aim for at least a half hour a day. Also do Pizza Hut Book-It
  • Eleanor- Start the Mensa K-3 reading list. Also finish Ordinary Parent's Guide to Teaching Reading. She has about 40 lessons left. I would like her to start doing independent reading along with daily lessons. I'm going to aim for 15 minutes a day and up that to 20 or 30 once she finishes OPGTR. Start Pizza Hut Book-It.
  • Adelaide- Continue to work in OPGTR. She will most likely not finish this year but should make good progress. 


  • Lydia- She's on Christian Light Education 205 right now. I'd like for her to be a year further along, so we're going to aim for CLE 305, but certainly no less than finishing 210 so that she doesn't get behind. I also might continue to do some Ronit Bird math to help her with her basic facts and number sense on the side. And we need to work on skip counting, so we'll probably do a lot of skip counting YouTube videos as well. 
  • Eleanor- Finish Miquon Green and Yellow and at least start the final book, Purple. Also Continue working through Beast Academy. Finish 3A and hopefully 3B, but no hurry. This is secondary to Miquon for right now, but will become primary next year once Miquon is completed, as Miquon only goes through 3rd grade. Also continue with Mathematics Enhancement Programme level 2 and then 3. This is really just extra after the other two and we've sort of been skipping through it as needed when topics are redundant. But I'd like it to be secondary once Miquon is over as it is a full elementary program, so we'll keep it up in the meantime.
  • Adelaide- Finish Miquon Orange, maybe even a bit in Red and make progress in MEP level 1. Miquon is our primary concern for this year though.


  • Lydia- Continue with Writing With Ease level 2. Probably start Writing With Ease level 3. Possibly start Killgallon writing supplements with WWE 3 for some variation, but we're not there yet.
  • Eleanor- Continue WWE Level 1, probably skip to level 2 in a few months as WWE 1 is a bit on the easy side for her.
  • Adelaide- Continue working on handwriting using Handwriting Without Tears PreK and Kindergarten as well as extra apps and copywork until mostly fluent in writing letters and numbers. Probably start Writing With Ease 1 sometime this spring.


  • Lydia- Continue with First Lanugage Lessons level 3. Once she finishes that, I think we may pause before moving to level 4 and do a different approach to grammar for a bit. I haven't decided what yet, though.
  • Eleanor (NEW!)- Start First Language Lessons Level 1, possibly through Level 2. She's been listening to her sister's lessons for a while and the accompanying CD and will probably pick it up very quickly. I have a feeling she will finish level 2 this year, but I won't push it.


  • Lydia- Continue All About Spelling level 3. After that, either move to Rod and Staff Spelling, or AAS level 4. I haven't decided yet. 
  • Eleanor- Continue AAS level 1 (almost done) and start level 2
  • Adelaide- Depending on how handwriting and reading go, possibly start AAS level 1 later in the year.


  • Lydia- Continue in the Complete book of Maps and Geography. It is teaching decent geography skills but also really working on her "following instructions" skills, which is important for her. My guess is that she won't finish it this year (it is really thick and I only make her do a page a day). That's fine, we're in no hurry.
  • Eleanor (NEW!)- She's been begging to do geography for more than a year now. I told her that her reading skills had to be a little better and I think she's finally ready. So she's going to start Evan Moor Beginning Geography

Latin (NEW!)

  • Lydia & Eleanor- This would be a new subject for both girls. I intended to only do it with Lydia, but Eleanor wants to do it too, so why not? I am going to start very gentle with a program called I Speak Latin, possibly combined or just followed with Getting Started with Latin. I want to be consistent with Latin, so if I see that this isn't happening, I might put off Latin for another year, but I hope we can start because I think they'll really enjoy it.


  • Combined All Girls- History didn't really happen this year beyond the informal history as we visited places locally and on road trips and Liberty's Kids. So I'm hoping to be better. We will be working through Story of the World again this year, continuing where we've left off with Ancients.


  • Combined All Girls- We've been really awesome about doing science in a sort of unschooly way. We are really deliberate about bringing up science topics in day-to-day life and have lots of apps, shows, and toys to help facilitate that. I really don't see a problem with it for now and at this age, but I might try out Mystery Science, which looks like my favorite theoretical program (Building Foundations in Scientific Understanding) but much more open-and-go (which I need). I only recently learned about this new program, so I need to think about it for a bit.


  • Lydia & Eleanor- Continue Hoffman Academy. We are absolutely loving Mr. Hoffman and it is working very well for our family. I recently backed their Kickstarter, so we should be sticking with them for the long haul. They are both almost done with Unit 2, and I'd like them to be through Unit 4 or 5 by the end of next year.
  • Adelaide- Start Hoffman Academy in the spring when she turns 5. 


  • Lydia & Eleanor- Take 2 classes/semester at local co-op. They did it this year and it went pretty well, so I hope it continues to work for them. They will also continue in Girl Scouts.

These are not exhaustive. We use a lot of educational toys, apps, games, books, tv/movies, etc. I also try to be very deliberate in what we discuss and look for teaching opportunities all the time. Homeschooling is a lifestyle, in my opinion, and I try to include it in every aspect of our lives.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

April Report

April was filled with beautiful weather. I've been encouraging the girls to spend as much time as they can outside and they've been enjoying that. We went to the zoo many times and also the park and other outdoor activities.

The tulips at our local public botanical garden

Mostly we've had an uneventful month. No big trips or happenings. We did enjoy a science day and talking to lots of local college students and volunteers about various scientific principles.

I'm gearing up for my epic road trip soon, so a lot of my thought and efforts has been devoted to that. I plan to take that time off formal school, although we will be doing lots of academic activities. I'm really looking forward to it, although time will tell if I'm crazy or not.

The only other big thing we've done this month is to introduce chores. I think I've finally come up with a system of chores that might work for us, so here's hoping. We are only on day 2, so it hasn't been proven yet. I was just getting sick of crafts and paper all over my house all the time, and the girls could use a little more personal responsibility. That and they've started playing with neighborhood kids. If people are going to be in my house all the time, it needs to be at least non-embarrassing.

Lydia reached her Book-It goal for April, the last month she can do it until the fall. I guess I'm going to have to come up with some other incentive for her. She is currently reading Trumpet of the Swan. I guess we're going through an E.B. White phase. Maybe I'll give her Stuart Little next.

Eleanor is doing well and starting to read a lot for fun. A lady at church gave us a whole bunch of those hard-backed Disney picture books and Eleanor has been devouring the princess-related ones (and Lydia is devouring the animal ones). She has also been regularly doing more than one lesson in OPGTR willingly most days. She's almost done with the r-changed vowel section and finished through lesson 175. Really though, at this point most of this is a formality. She's picking up a lot of the things she's being taught in her every-day free reading. 

Adelaide is doing well in OPGTR. She's doing simple blending words like "risk" and "stump." She is about to start Lesson 50.

Lydia finished CLE 204 and started 205 today. She's doing a little bit better with having a good attitude and if we need to, we take a break and do Ronit Bird remedial math for a few days. I'm seeing improvement in her abilities though, and I'm very pleased about that. She is also spending a lot of time on Prodigy. Seriously, I usually have to kick her off or she would spend the whole day playing. At least it is math. Heaven help me when she discovers "real" video games though.

Using our Blokus game to help her do Beast Academy

Eleanor finished Miquon Blue and started Green, which I believe is considered the second half of 2nd grade level. It is working wonderfully for her. I've also been jumping through MEP2 and only having her do non-redundant sections. As a result, she is already on lesson 38 despite just starting it last month (lessons are supposed to be 1/day). But the most exciting thing is her Beast Academy math. She loves it, even if it pushes her quite a bit. All the girls are enjoying the "guide" book, which is essentially a comic book of lovable monsters learning math together. It really is quite cute and there are lots of hidden jokes in the pictures. The practice book is where the problem sets are and some of those questions have even stumped me! She will finish the first chapter tomorrow. 

Adelaide continues with her math. Now that she's four, I've upped her schooling slightly and made it less optional. It is still very light, but I like to start the transition at this age, and I think she will just roll into our routine easily. She has finished 43/126 in Miquon Orange and I started her on MEP 1. She is on Lesson 5. MEP is definitely secondary for her and if Miquon is especially challenging, then I set it aside for the day. I imagine she will follow a similar math track to Eleanor.

Language Arts
Lydia is on lesson 4 in All About Spelling 3. She's on Week 12, Day 2 in Writing With Ease 2 and her summarizing skills are getting better. She did a great job with the selection from Pilgrim's Progress today, despite being unfamiliar with the story. I was proud of her and I love seeing her progress. And she's halfway through Lesson 30 in First Language Lessons. She learned about direct objects and adverbs in April and is enjoying learning how to diagram sentences. The lessons in FLL3 are longer than her grammar used to be, so I often split them into 2 days instead of one. Since she's already quite a bit ahead in grammar, I feel like she can take the time. And she is just powering along in her Geography book, which she claims is her favorite subject.

Eleanor is on Week 12, Day 1 in Writing With Ease 1 and enjoys it a lot. She will also be starting Level 22 in All About Spelling 1 tomorrow. 

Adelaide started Handwriting Without Tears PreK after her birthday. I usually just have her do a 2-page spread on any given day. She doesn't seem to have strong opinions about it either way.

Both Lydia and Eleanor have completed through lesson 28 in Hoffman Academy. They have started playing many of their exercises with a metronome, which they are finding quite challenging. But they are both progressing. In fact, I think they could go faster than they are, so I'm going to try to up their lessons to 3 per week now that we are doing piano more regularly. If they hit a wall, we can always slow down.

Friday, April 1, 2016

February/March Review

At the end of February, the girls and I took an impromptu trip to west Texas. My youngest sister was about to leave to go on a mission for a year and a half and asked if I could be there to go with her to the temple. It turned out, ALL my siblings were able to go. In fact, it was an entire family reunion (minus Tyler who couldn't get off). It was a 2 day drive, one way, and the girls were champs. I love going on road trips with them, even though it is exhausting. We have lots of fun, and even Clara was really good.

Fun with their cousins
More cousin fun
Making cookies with Grandpa
As a result of our impromptu trip, we aren't as far along with school as I would have hoped, but this is one of the perks of homeschooling. If Lydia was in school, there's no way we would have been able to have this trip, and it was a unique chance for the girls to see so much family.

Now that the weather is getting nicer (and I have a fitbit and am trying to hit my daily goals!), we've been spending a lot of time outside lately. We even got a zoo pass in order to have more active fun outside.

Flamingos are their favorite
We've also been hiking a lot. It has been such beautiful weather, that most days we have tried to spend the day outside either hiking or playing in the backyard.

Standing in front of the grave of 2 of the signers of the Declaration of Independence at Guilford Courthouse Battlefield.

Playing on some rocks during a break from hiking next to the Yadkin River
School is going well and I'm feeling pretty optimistic about our choices right now. Minus some attitude problems, things couldn't be going better. I also did Lydia's legally required standardized test this week. I went into it with no pre-conception with how she would do. Standardized testing isn't super important to me at this age, and we use many non-standard scope and sequence curricula. But she did amazing! She was at grade level or higher in every subject! It was very validating, even if it wasn't important.

Making an AM radio with Daddy

Lydia is doing well as she transitions to reading "real" books. I've decided to work harder on the Mensa reading list in hopes to get her that t-shirt in the next year or so. She read Ramona Quimby, Age 8, Frederick, Make Way for Ducklings, and a "free choice" book, which was Charlotte's Web. She's really into Charlotte's Web lately and has been making all sorts of little books based on it. She has also been enjoying reading on my old Kindle lately. If she keeps it up, I'll probably get her a Kindle of her own so she doesn't keep hogging "the family" one, or more accurately, Tyler's.

Eleanor is doing better and getting faster all the time. She has started checking out books like Clifford from the library and is able to read most of them. She even started the first Boxcar Children book on the Kindle. She's on lesson 156 in OPGTR

Adelaide is blowing me away with how well she is doing. She is done with the cvc section in OPGTR and is easily my best-prepared reading student yet. I often skip the word practice part of the lesson and go straight to the story part because she just doesn't need the extra instruction. She is picking it up so quickly. And because of her bubbly personality, teaching her is really a joy. "That's the end of my lesson? OK!" and off she goes. She is on lesson 41 in OPGTR

This month we discovered Prodigy Math. It is an online video game in the format of Final Fantasy that requires math problems to be solved in order to fight the monsters. My girls are loving it! They are using all their daily screen time playing it, even math-phobic Lydia. Gamification really motivates them, and it is great at working on sections the girls struggle with.

Lydia fininished 203 and is on 204 now (lesson 8). She's doing really well with math. In fact, her latest quiz was a 99%, her best ever quiz score. I was so proud of her.

Eleanor continues to do really well in math as well. So much so that I've decided to go ahead and get her Beast Academy, a 3rd grade math curricula that is reputed as being incredibly difficult but also very fun. It has always been my goal to get her to the Art of Problem Solving's curricula, of which Beast Academy is the youngest level available. It arrived today and even though she had already completed her math for the day, she still wanted to read the first section with me and do a practice page. I think she will be able to do it, but if not, we'll put it off for a little bit and try again later. In the meantime, she will continue on with Miquon and MEP. She is almost done with Miquon's 3rd book (78/103) and is about to start the 4th. She should also finish MEP1 soon (lesson 105/140). MEP is the most "normal" math she has, even though it isn't very traditional either. I often mark out sections and try to only have her do ones that help solidify her math thinking. They also have brain teasers that I try to have her do because it is good for her. We do use it behind where she is in her other math by about a 1/2 year to a year, so she usually flies through it, but it is good practice for her.
ETA 3/3/16: I've been thinking a lot about it, and have decided to skip the rest of MEP level 1 and move on to lesson 25 in MEP level 2. It was mostly going to be busy work for her. She was zooming through the pages (5 or 10 minutes to do an entire lesson). I want her to have a solid foundation, but not be bored and do busy work. After looking at it, lesson 25 is about when they start place value and pre-multiplication skills and I think she could benefit from more practice in that, although those skills are pretty decent already. Still, I think the different perspective and extra practice could help. I'm also going to be a bit more judicious with which parts of each lesson I give her. Doing 3 complete math programs at once is a bit much, so since I have to choose, I'm just going to go with the problem sets that I think will specifically benefit or challenge her from MEP. This will probably equal about half of each lesson rather than the whole thing.

Adelaide is still working on Miquon Orange. Since she's still only 3, I only "require" one page a day, if we feel like it. She really enjoys it and is doing a good job. She likes to make up little math problems for me all day or tell me little math problems she's figured out. Lately she has taken to counting to 100 for fun while she looks at our hundred chart. She has completed 30/126 in the Orange book.

Language Arts:
Lydia finished AAS2 and is in the first lesson in AAS3. She chose Adele's "Hello" as her dance party song when she finished. She also started FLL3 and is on lesson 16. It has started her diagramming sentences and even I'm learning some things about adjectives. My grammar instruction was not the best, so I'm looking forward to learning with her. She is doing a fairly good job in WWE2 as well. She is on week 9, day 2.

Eleanor just finished lesson 18 in AAS1 and is on week 8, day 3 in WWE1

Both of the older girls are enjoying Hoffman Academy and I'm fairly committed to stay with it for the long haul (next several years). We supported their Kickstarter last month and are excited about the expansion they are doing. Taking piano lessons from Mr. Hoffman is like taking piano lessons from Mr. Rogers, and the girls really respond to him. They are almost done with Unit 1 and we should be picking up our pace soon. I want to do at least 2 video lessons a week regularly.

Friday, February 12, 2016

November, December, and January Report!

It has been a while since I last blogged, but I have the best reason. At the beginning of December, our fourth daughter, Clara, was born.

Because I have c-sections and having a newborn is crazy in the best of circumstances, I planned on taking all of December off. As it so happened, Tyler was able to take off almost the entire month (except 2 days) which is almost unheard of for a resident. He helped SO MUCH and I never had him around that much for a baby before. We were also happy that his mother was able to come and stay with us and the girls when Clara was born. We had a wonderful Christmas at home since neither Clara or myself were up for travelling.

My first adventure out with the girls by myself was to a New Years Eve party at church since Tyler had to work that night. I did pretty well, I thought, and we stayed until 10 o'clock, which was VERY late for my girls who are used to going to bed at 7:30.

In the middle of January, my parents came to visit and meet Clara and attend Clara's baby blessing. The girls loved seeing almost all their grandparents within a month of each other. We are very blessed to have such a large family that cares about us.

With all of our adventures, we didn't get a whole lot of school done in January. We did some, but not tons. We've been better about it in February and I think we are finally back into our routine, even though our school days often look like this:

As for our progress, here goes:

Lydia is getting faster and faster with her reading. She can usually knock out a Magic Tree House book in 2 or 3 assigned reading times. I'm hoping to start transitioning her to real chapter books, and right now she's reading and enjoying Little House on the Prairie. She continues to be very motivated by Pizza Hut's Book-It Program.

Eleanor is doing well too. She is now on lesson 136 in OPGTR and is reading better every day. She is starting to use her reading in her everyday life, which is great to see.

Adelaide started reading lessons today! In our family, I usually start sometime around their fourth birthday, and I was planning on putting it off for a few more months (because honestly, teaching reading is not my favorite thing) until yesterday when she sat down and read half of a BOB book on her own! What? Apparently she already understands the concept of blending and her letter sounds. Thank you iPad! I realized I have no more excuses to put it off, so I'm starting my third go-through with OPGTR. She is on lesson 29. She's also working through our iPad's Hooked on Phonics app which has some readers in it too.

Lydia is on lesson 6 in CLE 203 and is doing pretty well. Math isn't her subject, but she is usually a good sport and works hard at it. CLE is really working for her. I'm also using a Ronit Bird on the side, which is for kids with dyscalculia (which I suspect she has). It is already helping her with picturing numbers.

Eleanor continues to rock math. She has finished 42 out of 106 pages in Miquon Blue, so almost halfway there. She also finished through lesson 86 in MEP.

Adelaide has started doing math in earnest with us. Right now I have her do one page of Miquon Orange every day while her sisters are doing math. We just started this pace a week ago, so she is only 9 pages in, but she calls it her "easy math" and is enjoying herself.

Language Arts:
Lydia is in lesson 23 in All About Spelling 2 and doing well. Again, thanks to the Logic of English iPad app that teaches the girls their phonograms, when I introduced "oy" and "oi", Lydia already knew the spelling rules about them! I love technology. She is also on Week 5, Day 2 in Writing With Ease 2 and doing pretty well with it. Her narrations and dictations have been steadily improving. As for First Language Lessons 2, I think we'll skip the rest of it and start on FLL 3 sometime in the next week. She only has about 20 lessons left. She has already memorized all the grammar definitions in it and understands how to apply them. So we'll skip to something a little more challenging. I have a feeling she will love diagramming sentences.

Eleanor is in lesson 15 in AAS1. She is doing well with spelling and it is also helping her handwriting. She doesn't love it, but it gets the job done. She is in Week 4, Day 2 of Writing With Ease 1 and she is really good at it. Honestly, if her handwriting fluency was better, I could probably skip her to WWE 2, but for now I'm using it as some good handwriting practice. She also likes the stories.