Thursday, September 29, 2016

What We've Got Checked Out: Non-Fiction Books for Cycle 2

   After my recent post explaining our current schedule and showing off our amazing new table, I was asked by more than a few people what non-fiction books my kids, ages 11, 0, 5 and 3, read before lunch. Honestly, I have compiled books from a hodgepodge of sources, many of which I'm sure I'll forget. Mostly, I've taken the recommendations of lovely ladies that I follow online like Sarah Mackenzie, Pam Barnhill, and Brandy Farrell, and even some of my real-life friends-gasp! 😉 I am also an Usborne Books and More rep, and I try to order their amazing non-fiction books as often as I can afford. However, since I'm not much of a salesperson, I mainly just check out a ton of books at the library. Thankfully our library has an educator card which lets me check out unlimited books with NO FINES or late fees! This summer I googled "living books" and came up with several great lists that I have used to fill our library basket. Here are a few lists of living books I have really loved with links to buy the books if that's your cup o' tea.
Living Books for Science and Nature Study
Living Book for History and the Middle Ages
Living Books for Math

When I look at all these lists, I like to get a wide variety of levels. Honestly, more often than not I like to get the simpler books. I want my older kids to really enjoy this time and I want them to read to their younger siblings during this time at least once a week. With that in mind, here is a quick list of the non-fiction books we currently have checked out from the library:
(We do have a gazillion fiction books checked out and we love Audible, but these are books I've picked and assign them time to read to reinforce our learning)

History Books:
The Kitchen Knight: a tale of King Arthur retold by Margaret Hodges
Caedmon's Song by Ruth Ashby
Year of the Pilgrims, 1620 by Genevieve Foster
Year of Columbus, 1492 by Genevieve Foster
Abraham Lincoln's World, 1809-1861 by Genevieve Foster
Son of Charlemange by Barbara Willard
Leonardo and the Flying Boy by Laurence Anholt
Augustine Came to Kent by Barbara Willard

English Grammar:
I, You and Don't Forget Who: What is a Pronoun? by Brian P. Cleary
Mine, All Mine by Ruth Heller
Behind the Mask by Ruth Heller

Lemurs and Other Animals of the Madagascar Rain Forest by James Martin
The Galapagos Penguin by Kim A. O'Connell
Meerkats by Therese Harasymiw
I Am a Sea Turtle by Darlene R. Stille

Science Books:
Nicolaus Copernicus: the Earth is a Planet by Dennis Brindell Fradin
Neptune: the Stormy Planet by Greg Roza
Pluto: the Dwarf Planet by Greg Roza
Mars: the Red Planet by Greg Roza
Saturn: the Ringed Planet by Greg Roza
Uranus: the Ice Planet by Greg Roza

Find the Constellations by H.A. Rey
The Stars: a New Way to See Them by H.A. Rey
Stars by Steve Tomecek
Asteroids, Comets and Meteors by Giles Sparrow
The Moon by James Buckley Jr.

Planets: a LEGO adventure in the Real World by Penelope Arlon and Tory Gordon-Harris
Planets by Becky Baines
The Water Cycle by Rebecca Olien
Full STEAM Ahead by Paul A. Reynolds (Water Cycle)

Nature Study:
Crinkleroot's 25 Mammals Every Child Should Know by Jim Arnosky
Crinkleroot's Guide to Walking in Wild Places by Jim Arnosky
Butterfly House by Eve Bunting
A Tree is Nice by March Simont
Rocks in His Head by Carol Otis Hurst

Math related:
The History of Counting by Senise Schmandt-Besserat
Bedtime Math by Laura Overdeck
Bedtime Math: The Truth Comes Out by Laura Overdeck
Getting Started with Coding by Camille McCue
The Adventures of Penrose, the Mathematical Cat by Theoni Pappas
Sir Cumference and the...series by Cindy Neuschwander

Art Related:
The Noisy Paint Box by Barb Rosenstock (Kandinsky)
The Turn-Around, Upside-Down Alphabet Book by Lisa Campbell Ernst

And a few others that I have purchased for this year:

The Magic Runes: A Tale of the Times of Charlemange by Emma Leslie
Ten Boys Who Changed the World by Irene Howat
*The Story of Inventions by Anna Claybourne and Adam Larkin

Astronomy by Emily Bone (Usborne Book)
Penguins Usborne Book
Bees and Wasps 
The Solar System

Usborne Book of Famous Paintings

Usborne Encyclopedia of World History 
The Usborne Medieval World 

Life of Fred Apples through Honey by Dr. Stanley F. Schmidt
The Math Curse by Jon Scieszka
Fractions, Decimals and Percents by David Adler
Math Start Books by Stuart J. Murphy

*Disclosure: None of the Amazon links are affiliate links, but the Usborne Books are linked to my own Usborne Website. Please let me know if you have any questions about any of the books that I own*

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

How and What We're Doing: Homeschooling Year 7

     This past summer I read the book Teaching from Rest by Sarah Mackenzie and had several light bulb moments. If you are a homeschooling mom reading this and you have yet to read Sarah's book, stop reading my blog and go get your hands on it STAT. Seriously, I was so encouraged by it and it helped me to narrow my focus as a homeschooling mama. Sarah gives practical ideas and speaks to the heart of the reader, and she does it all succinctly because she knows we all have a million plates we're trying to keep spinning. But since this post was not intended to be a book review I will move on...kind of. One of the biggest take aways for me from Teaching from Rest was thinking through what I want my kids to get or remember from our time homeschooling together. The other, which is closely tied to the first, is that I need to teach in a way that works with my strengths and not the way I've seen other moms teach, otherwise I will end up spinning my wheels and feeling exhausted. In thinking about those two things, how did I want to/need to change what we were doing to make sure that I am spending time on the things that I value the most in a method that works with my personality and strengths. Pretty much figuring out how to work smarter, not harder as a homeschooling mom.
The kids with Miss Elisabeth, a homeschool graduate, now Liberty University student, who used to be my mother's helper.
     All of this came together at just the right time as our family's babysitter extraordinaire, Miss Elisabeth, just left for college and is not coming to help with the little ones while I do school with the older two this year. I was freaking out about how I could possibly handle schooling a sixth grader, a fourth grader, and a kindergartner, with a three year old tagging along. But I'm probably giving more details than you need. The short version is I decided to change up our schedule and do more together. More together meant rearranging our school room. At the same time that I was thinking through all of this, my amazing husband has been growing in his woodworking skills and offered to make me new bookshelves and a school table. 😍 I'll post pictures of the table, please let me know if you have any questions about how Pete built it. I'd be glad to share. (Here's a link to the original plans I found. We did use this Ikea table top x2 instead of making the top)
Our brand new school table! I'm so excited and the kids are loving it, too!
Here's our general* schedule for this year**:

~Older two boys (4th and 6th grade) work on their CC Notebooks doing basic copywork of this weeks memory work, trace maps and prepare or practice their presentations
~I get my breakfast shake and my coffee and orally review the memory work with Will (5)
~Maggie (3) usually eats breakfast during this time, she's my late riser
~Older two boys do their history class. It's an online self-paced class from Veritas Press. They really enjoy it and it gives me about 30 minutes to work with Will one on one.
~Will and I work through Saxon 1, 2 pages of Handwriting Without Tears, and 2 pages of Explode the Code. Then we read one leveled reader together.
~Maggie usually colors or plays with stickers while we do these things. Sometimes she watches the history lesson with the boys or watches a show on tv.
~All together we have "Morning Time"
Morning Time starts with singing the Doxology, then learning a hymn together adding one verse at a time until we can sing it without looking at the words. We just finished learning Holy, Holy, Holy. After that we share prayer requests and I write them down in a prayer journal. Then one of us prays. After that we do one or two of a few things: -read a few fun poems; learn about an artist or piece of art; learn about a missionary; read about a Bible verse and how it can help us in our day to day lives; or read a seasonal picture book(s)
This is a piece that we just began adding and it has quickly become a favorite for all of us. The kids are loving the poetry-which I was nervous about adding-and the older kids truly love reading the picture books even though they are older. They have caught on to the hymns and remind me of prayer requests. Really this part of our day has blessed me more than I imagined and I'm so thankful!
10:30-11:00 Read Aloud

Reading Ember Falls together 
~We start this time all together, and if the younger two get bored they are allowed to leave and go play quietly. Initially I had hoped this would be a together time, but coming on the heals of sitting and listening for Morning Time, I have decided to roll with this and make this time more for reading books the older two can enjoy. That said, I still need to work in a more consistent time to read other books with the younger two.
~The older two take turns doing math (Saxon) with me for about 15 minutes, then work on their own.
~Will plays Wii U or iPad for 30 minutes
~Maggie either plays with Play-Doh or paints with water or something like that
~Will and Maggie play together
~Jon and Sam read non-fiction books that I've gathered from library that coincide with the science and history that we're learning about with Classical Conversations.

Sam and Jon reading in one of the two book nooks they've made recently
~Older two do Duolingo to learn a little Spanish for our upcoming trip to Peru!
On a rainy day, playing keep the balloon off of the floor works for recess!
Older two report back to work on Essentials
~Chart copying and sentences
Younger two play together or separately. Maggie often goes to play with her neighbor buddy! :)

My 4th and 6th graders copying charts for Essentials 
~Day 1 Write a Key Word Outline
~Day 2 Write a rough draft
~Day 3 Add dress ups and stylistic techniques
~Day 4 Finish final draft
~Day 5 Go to class and read paper and learn about the new chapter
2:30-3:30 Quiet time for ALL

*One of the biggest lessons I'm learning is holding my plans and my schedule loosely. We've had two rounds of viruses run through our family and my plans have had to go right out the window. I just keep coming back to God's plans are better than mine. He knows what these kiddos need and what I need and loves us even better than I could even begin to imagine. More important than covering all the lessons in the math book is being present with my kids and pouring His truths into their precious hearts and souls. I have a feeling that this lesson is going to take a while to get maybe the rest of my life. ❤️
You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. Trust in the Lord forever, for the LORD God is an everlasting rock. Isaiah 26:3-4

** This is our schedule Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. Tuesdays we go to our homeschool community group, Classical Conversations. It's definitely a highlight of our week!

There is a Target right next door to our Classical Conversations location, so we often stop there on the way home. The kids love to pose in the circle. 

Birthday Boys

Jon and Sam had the opportunity to serve alongside the Andy and Jordan Dalton Foundation with Pete and some other local State Farm agents on Jon's birthday. It was an incredible chance for them to give back and see Love in action. 

These oldest two boys of mine get lumped together often, so it's only fitting that their birthdays should be lumped together in this post. It's really more about the time I don't have to be posting, and the fact that they're older so there's not as many cutesy pictures to post. However, since this blog is sort of a digital scrapbook for our family, I do want to post about their latest birthdays, even if it is one post for both birthdays!

Jon with our traditional birthday pancakes in the shape of your new age
Jon turned 11 in August. ELEVEN. For some reason he seems so much older to me lately. I've had other people comment on it, too. He's definitely had a growth spurt, and with that physical growth has come a maturity that is such a blessing to this mama. In general, he has become more patient, more understanding, more compassionate, and less dramatic. All the moms out there know how incredible and encouraging that is to see in your kids. It has given me hope for the other kids, who are still very egocentric. Don't misunderstand, Jon is no saint, but the growth I've seen is tremendous. It's actually driving me to my knees for him and the other kiddos even more. I want to see that growth continue in him and his siblings.

Jon reading Life of Fred to Will 
On a Mom/Son date, Jon discovered that Steak n' Shake is his new favorite
Jon and his buddy, Josiah, at Classical Conversations
Jon, like all of us, is complex. He loves reading, yet he also likes being with people. He still loves Legos, video games and swimming, but also decided to try out for a musical recently. (We find out tonight what part he got!) My oldest boy is a great helper at church, volunteering to help wipe down tables or vaccuum. He helps out at home, too, but a little more reluctantly-like I said, he's not a saint, and that's okay! He's super sweet with his sister and will gladly read to her or Will. He is still closest with Sam and they can usually be found doing something together. He's over a month into 6th grade here at home and is doing a great job. (I'll post more about that soon and link to it here) Jon continues to love science and history. He's great at creative writing and art, and loves when I read aloud to him. Overall, my first born makes me so proud to be his mom and brings me so much joy! I can't wait to see what God has in store for him this year.

The boys and I get to go visit my brother and his wife in Peru in November, so here they are with their brand new passports!
Sam just turned 9 at the beginning of this month. I have been struck lately by Sam's ability to make friends everywhere we go. On the swim team this summer he made some new friends. In our neighborhood he continually makes friends. At our homeschool group he has several really good friends. I wonder how that is going to serve him in life-his friendliness and the way he is able to develop good friendships so easily. He is laid back yet driven-I'm not sure how that's possible, but if you watch my boy you'll see that it is. He is entering into this pushing back phase of questioning things, which from what I've learned in studying education is pretty normal for his age, but can be frustrating as a parent. I'm trying to teach him how to question respectfully and, thankfully, he is learning how to do that more and more.
Sam with his birthday gift-a Garmin Vivofit to keep track of his steps so that he can try to beat his mama every single day! 
Sam and Jon in one of two of the reading nooks they have created around the house recently 
Sam with three of his buddies from our neighborhood swim team. These four swam in two relays together at our championship meet and placed in both! 
Sam continues to love all things athletic and active. His favorite sports to play are basketball and swimming. He also loves soccer and baseball, and would watch just about any sport with his daddy. His siblings all love spending time with him. Although if I'm honest, he and Will butt heads often. He loves math, and he tolerates reading, yet loves being read to. He would rarely chose to draw, but is a pretty decent little artist when he does attempt to draw. He loves history and learning about animals, his favorite of which continues to be the penguin. Sam has a great sense of humor and loves making people laugh. I'm so thankful to be his mom and can't wait to see how he will grow this coming year!

These two boys are getting so big and are growing in so many ways. It's not an easy job to be their mom, but I wouldn't trade it for the world!

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Notebooking with Boys-CC Cycle 2

         Guess what? We've finished our homeschool year, which means I'm starting to look forward to next year. The teacher in me totally loves planning what we'll be doing. The teacher in me also loves summer break! I personally need this time to recharge and just be mom to my kiddos. After reading some great books*, I am trying to streamline some of our learning so that I have more time to read great books with my kids and let them explore different things they're interested in and less time spent on busywork. After all, I don't need to keep them busy just for the sake of keeping them busy, I'd rather invest that time a little more wisely.

         We just finished up our sixth year of Classical Conversations. Although I am far from being an expert, I know that I am constantly looking to those mamas who are a few steps ahead of me to figure out what might work better than what we've been doing, so I thought I would share for those who might benefit from what is working well for us. In the past we have used pages from CC Connected to give each of my older kids (they just finished 3rd and 5th) what we call a "CC Notebook" with one page of copywork from each subject we cover with Classical Conversations. This has been great reinforcement for my boys as they have both gone on to become Memory Masters for the past couple years. My youngest son, Will, is 5, and not really up for all the copywork the other two boys do, but I think he can do some. I am trying to make him an age appropriate notebook for the fall. I have listed below the usernames that I am planning to use for my older two and made a note if I think I will use them for Will, too. For now, I'm planning to give him a history page with a coloring portion and some simple printing and a simple science copywork sheet. I'm considering a timeline matching page and possibly a geography page as well. We'll see. For now I thought it might be helpful for others to see what our notebooks look like and which users we'll be using for Cycle 2. Please feel free to comment here with any questions, or send me a message on Facebook. :) Also, check back later because I plan to post about what we're going to be doing besides our CC notebooks this fall!

Things we are using from CC Connected: 
History color and copy pages by Melissa Corkum (cursive for my older two and print for Will)
Science copywork pages by me (heatherg) (I made a younger version for Will and shared them on CC Connected, too)
Geography blackline maps by Tara504 (and possibly her lapbooks if I get crazy! ;))
English Grammar pages by me** (heatherg)
Latin by abbycarp and anniepat
Math by me** (heatherg) for Sam and Will and
         chart to be laminated by JosephsAprilAnn for Jon who is over 10 and can't do skip counting
Timeline: I might use the pages by user whitmanmc for Sam and Jon, or I may create my own.
         I may also use Sheri Ellis' timeline sheets for Will

*I cannot recommend Teaching from Rest by Sarah Mackenzie enough! Read it and be encouraged homeschool mamas!!
Also, any of Leigh Bortins books are an excellent help us mamas to understand her vision and plan for using Classical Conversations to help our kiddos blossom under this program! :)
**I have been told that the files I uploaded to CC Connected are not working right. If you find this to be true, please let me know. I can open them from my computer, but that may not mean anything!
You might be interested in reading about why we homeschool, getting started with CC or about how we use Audible.

Friday, May 27, 2016

How Our Family Uses-and LOVES-Audible!

I love reading, but if I'm honest since college I haven't read nearly as much as I'd like. Life is busy. Whether it's work, kids, extracurricular activities or laundry, by the end of the day turning on Netflix seems easier and let's face it easier is appealing at the end of the day. I kept hearing about people using Audible either for themselves as they commuted to work, or for their kids, but thought, "I don't have a commute, I'm a homeschooling mom." Or "I can read to my kids" and I do, but I cannot tell you how much I love Audible. 

In December I saw a deal on Living Social or Groupon that was similar to this one and decided to give Audible a try. We had three months to see if it would really be useful to our clan. We're now 6 months in and it has decidedly changed how I spend my time. But I'm getting ahead of myself! 

Honestly what pushed me over the edge was the busyness of life. I wanted to be reading aloud to my kids more than I was and they wanted me to be reading to them more, and I saw this as a way to meet that need without having to rearrange my schedule. Since I homeschool them and we're all together nearly 24/7, we have quiet time daily from 2-3:30 pm. During this time, everyone goes to their own space-a bedroom or the basement-and plays quietly by themselves. They have often used this time to listen to Adventures in Odyssey or Jonathan Park or books on CD from the library, but now they are bringing a Kindle or iPad and listening to Audible instead. They have gotten so wrapped up in an audiobook that they will stay past 3:30 and are often found listening other times of the day. 

The first several months I used our credits on children's book collections (the Ramona collection, Henry Huggins collection, etc) but would pick up other books with our Audible membership discount like A Cricket in Times Square, The Jungle Book, Blackstart of Kingston, My Side of the Mountain and many others. I love knowing that they are listening to books that I have chosen and then hearing one child recommend one to another child. Sometimes more than one of them is listening to the same book at the same time on different devices. It's really been wonderful to see them diving more deeply into books they might not have picked up on their own. 

Personally I wasn't sure it was going to be very useful, but I was content to use Audible to be filling my children's heads with good literature. However in April I was trying to read a Jane Austen book for book club and was not finding as much time to sit with my nose in a book as I had hoped and saw that I could get the audio version for less than $2. I spent the next few days listening to Emma as I prepared dinner, washed up pots and pans, folded laundry, drove to the store, and more. I followed that with a few other Austen works and just recently finished three of the Anne of Green Gables books that way. I have always wanted to read them, but have never actually done so until now. I just started David Copperfield and plan to check off many other Bucket List books this way. My favorite thing to do at night now is to crawl into bed, click off of Facebook or email and onto Audible, stick my earbuds in (my hubby falls asleep within minutes of his head hitting the pillow), and play 10 10 while I listen to someone read to me. It's really quite delightful. 

If you've ever considered Audible and have any questions, please let me know. I am no expert, but I am thoroughly enjoying it and highly recommend it! 

For more helpful information, this blog post is very helpful:

Birthday Boy 5

Will turned five back in November. Yes, you read that right, November. As in 6 months ago...that's the kind of mama/blogger I am. Life is busy and full and I have not been here often. I'm actually okay with that. You see in November Will got very sick. Like I was afraid for his life sick. I will blog about that another day. Today I just want to talk about this fun boy who had a less than exciting birthday, but LOVED it anyway-because that's who he is! 

We started the day with breakfast and presents and he was thrilled to get lots of Lego sets and 2 pairs of boxing gloves! (We decided one pair wouldn't be wise because he wouldn't be able to box with anyone, thus two pairs-one for Will and one for a friend!)
He spent the day building Lego sets, boxing, and playing Wii with his brothers. All that sounds super fun, however despite the fun, he was still not feeling right. He wasn't hungry enough to eat much at breakfast or lunch, and he fell asleep multiple times during the day. It was really pretty sad. I was so glad we hadn't planned a big party. In fact our plan had been a trip to the Aquarium because he was super into aquatic life at the time. Shortly after his birthday he switched gears and doesn't care so much about marine life anymore, so we decided he'll just get to have a fun birthday party next year. 

Will's current favorite color is red, so when I saw this shirt online, I knew I had to get it for him. He adores it. In fact he wore it today. He calls it his "Birthday Boy 5" shirt. I love it!

My parents came over to celebrate with us that night and he perked up enough for pizza and cookie cake. :)

Here's the birthday survey:
~What is your name? Will, William James Gross
~And how old are you? 5
~How does being 5 make you feel? Funny
~What do you want to learn this year? How to swim good
~What was the best thing about being 4? Play Wii
~How did you celebrate your birthday?
~What was your favorite gift that you received? 
~What is your favorite color? Red
~What is your favorite food? Pizza
~Who is your favorite person? Mom <3
~What grade are you in? Pre-K
~What is your favorite thing to do during school? Veritas (history)
~What is your favorite game to play? Super Mario 3D World
~What do you like to do with Daddy? Play Battleship
~What do you like to do with Mommy? Hug you!
~What do you like to do with Jon? Play Legos with him
~What do you like to do with Sam? Wrestle with him
~What do you like to do with Maggie? Play guns (ha!)
~What’s your favorite thing to do with the whole family? Movie night
~What’s your favorite store? Target
~What’s your favorite place to eat? Chick-fil-A
~What’s your favorite book? Elephant & Piggie I Really Like Slop
~What’s your favorite song? Everything is Awesome!
~What’s your favorite thing in the Bible right now? David and Goliath
~What do you want to be when you grow up? A Ninja 

Sunday, May 22, 2016

We Have a Threenager!

Maggie turned three 6 months ago! I can barely remember what we did that day, so I decided I had better blog about it before I can't remember at all! 

There were two things that she asked for: a "jump-o-line" (Trampoline) and roller skates. We got her the trampoline and her grandparents got her the roller skates, plus her brothers got her some stickers and some girly Legos, her other grandparents got her Doc McStuffins dress up outfits, and her uncle got her some Doc McStuffins stuffed toys. All in all she was thrilled with her gifts.

She wanted to go to Target and to help me make purple cupcakes. What the birthday girl wants, the birthday girl gets! :)

She LOVED being sung to and blowing out her candles. I'm not sure why the picture below turned out the way it did, but it cracks me up.

Maggie is growing up so quickly and is becoming quite the fun girl. She makes up songs all day long and loves, loves, loves to be with people. I am so thankful for my Maggie-girl and can't wait to see what she'll be up to next! <3