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Happy new year!

As promised when I first began this blog, I have been spectacularly craptastic about keeping it updated. New year, new attempt at keeping it at least somewhat regularly updated...

The first quarter of our 2009 school year couldn't have been more perfect. We were met with a bit of a challenge in the second quarter, which led to us only covering the basics (reading, math and Bible) on most days. Fortunately, reading and math are the big ones that the county requires us to do every day, so we're still in good shape. As of December 22, we had completed 90 out of the required 180 days of instruction for the 2009-10 school year. Halfway there!

After a week and half off for Christmas and New Year's, we're back at the kitchen table for school this morning. Quite a bit of what we're doing today is review, especially in the subjects that have been somewhat neglected (science, history, health) in the past months.

We'll be starting all new things before long, as Rachael is just two lessons away from finishing her math book - the one that we only started in September! Granted, we didn't do all of the review pages - I let her work on each lesson until she was ready to take the test, and then let her go for it. (As long as she has a good grasp on each concept, I see no reason to make her repeat, repeat, repeat.) So, she made short work of Math-U-See Alpha, which covered more skip counting, telling time on an analog clock, addition, subtraction, solving for unknown, word problems, etc. I'm very impressed (and, I admit, a little surprised) at just how well she's done with this math book, especially since she claims that it's her least favorite subject. Oddly, she complains about adding but has no qualms whatsoever about subtracting. We'll be finishing this book on Friday and then working on review pages until the next book (Beta) arrives.

We'll also be starting a new Bible study at the end of January, when we finish reading through her God's Little Princess Devotional Bible. As sweet and meaningful as the devotionals are for a girl her age, I'm looking forward to beginning something more in-depth with her soon. Train Up A Child Publishing has a series of "Choosing..." books that have gotten excellent reviews - I'm leaning toward Choosing Obedience or Choosing Self-Control to begin with, which will hopefully help nip some behavioral issues before they escalate. Other titles include Choosing Kindness, Thankfulness, Humility, Responsibility...all geared at children in K-5. There are more titles for teens that I think will be interesting to study with her later on, assuming that the reviews are correct and we love this series just as much!

Rachael still isn't a big fan of handwriting, although she doesn't fight me on it as much these days. She only takes offense when I erase a word for having capital letters randomly inserted in the middle...

She's still taking gymnastics lessons, and doing well with them. I love watching her flip over the uneven bars! She's also beginning her last year (sniffle) as a Daisy Girl Scout. I can't believe she'll be a Brownie this fall! The first meeting of the new year is tonight, and we'll be kicking off the COOKIE DRIVE! (No, I'm not at all excited about that!)

So, there's our new year update - hopefully it won't take me three months to post another one. :)  It's my intent to ease into a more classical method of education over the next few months, which focuses very highly on history (as well as math and language arts, of course.) If you're a homeschooling parent and have never read The Well-Trained Mind, I would highly recommend it. Lots of wonderful food for thought!

Happy 2010, everyone! I'm very much looking forward to making some changes in our home this year, and to a fun and insightful school year!

It's not pink; it's a cupcake.

I'm starting to wonder, already, if homeschooling Milly may not be more of a challenge than it is with Rachael. She's already exhibiting signs of being an abstract thinker, and I'm not sure my brain twists in her direction...

We were all sitting in the floor together this afternoon, when I decided that it was as good a time as any to start teaching Milly her colors. (Already later than I started with Rachael, but oh well...Second Child Syndrome (SCS) is unfortunately alive and well in our home.) The prevalent color in our home being PINK, that seemed the natural choice to begin with. And here is the conversation that ensued...

Me: Milly, what color is your nightgown? (Yes, she's still in her pajamas. Why get dressed when we're not going anywhere?)
Milly (looking down at the big picture of Dora on her belly): DORA!
Me (holding up her pink sneaker): It's PINK. What color is your shoe?
Milly: Mine!
Me (holding up a toy cupcake with pink icing): It's a PINK shoe! What color is the cupcake?
Milly: Yummmmmy!
Me (grabbing one of Rachael's dolls, dressed in a pink dress): Yes, yummy PINK cupcake. What color is the baby's dress?
Milly: Sissy's baby.
Me: Sissy's baby is wearing a PINK dress. PINK. See this? It's PINK!
Milly: PINK!
Me: Yes! Pink!
(Rachael retrieves a pink doll trunk from the toybox.)
Rachael: What color is this, Milly?
Milly: A box.
Rachael: NO, it's a TRUNK.
Milly: PINK trunk!
(wild applause)
Me: Good job, Milly! It IS pink! (picks up cupcake again)  Now, what color is this?
Milly: A cupcake.



Here we go on week #8...it's amazing how quickly the time is flying by. In filling in my lesson plan book last night, I marked off two days for Thanksgiving already. Yes, only two days...but you know that the rest of that week is going to mostly be Pilgrim stories and fall crafts, right?  :)

Rachael is still doing great with her schoolwork. I've had to let go of a few of my OCD tendencies where math was concerned. Each lesson in the Math-U-See Alpha consists of six pages - three that focus on that lesson and three more that review previous concepts - plus a test booklet with a test for each lesson. I was dividing each lesson into two days in order to do all of the pages...and it was taking forever. Did she really need six pages of practicing writing numbers up to 100? I think not. So, my new easier/faster rule is that she does the first page of the lesson and decides for herself if she needs more practice before taking the test. If she's struggling, of course I recommend that she does one more page. But if not...it's test time, and help is unavailable during the test. Once she finishes, we'll discuss any answers she might have gotten wrong - but those are pretty few and far between. She has much less issue with math now that it doesn't take soooo long! This book, so far, has focused on addition and subtraction of single digits, and solving for unknown. (Algebra at age five!)

We nixed our Book of Virtues unit study last week in favor of reading a chapter of her new Girl Scouts handbook each day. We finished it up on Friday, and that earns her one more patch for her uniform!

And now, on to today's brag... I pull her spelling words each week from a book called Natural Speller. There are several pages of words for "Grades 1-2", broken into columns of 7 or 8. To begin with, I was going in order and giving her one column each week. In week seven, her spelling words included such perplexities as in, if, it and sit. What utter nonsense! She could spell in she was two. So I devised a brilliant new plan. Rather than giving her spelling words on Monday, having her copy them all week, and then testing her on them on Friday...I would give her a test on Monday. That's right - I'd just start reading through the words and having her do her best to sound them out - and when she got up to eight that she had spelled incorrectly, I'd stop and those would be her eight spelling words for the week. That way, she would be working on eight words that actually presented a little bit of a challenge.

Well. We sat down today and I started reading through the words. She wrote...and wrote...and wrote...and finally started complaining, asking why she was having to write ALL of these spelling words? The child wrote 56 words and only missed FIVE. So much for my goal of eight! The words she missed were: block (bloke), start (sart), third (thrid), stir (str) and shirt (sirt). I chalk the last four up to the fact that they were so near the end, and she was sick of writing by then! So, those are our spelling words for the week. All five of them.

In case anyone is interested, here are the words she didn't miss: got, hop, drop, shop, top, not, hot, on, dog, fog, box, stop, mop, sun, cut, us, fun, run, up, but, such, club, much, cup, rub, jump, running, arm, farm, car, far, hard, harm, are, card, cart, star, dark, part, apart, bird, first, girl, birth, born, more, for, or, fort, corn and horn.

Yep! Still proud of her. :)

Wow, week six already?!

I missed two weeks of updates - which included the one month mark of this school year. How did that happen?! Now we're into the sixth week - already! It seems like we just started! I'm taking this as a very, very good sign. If things weren't going well, I would most likely be slashing the days off of the calendar in red marker and keeping a running total in my head...only X more days until my goal is met! But no - we have our routine now and, even though Milly is still irritated sometimes that all the attention isn't focused solely on her, it's mostly a smooth process.

A few things that have happened since my last update...
  • We finished Math-U-See Primer (kindergarten). Rachael was terribly excited that we wrapped it up on a Friday afternoon and that the next book in the series hadn't yet arrived. Just as she began rejoicing the fact that she wouldn't have any math to do on the following Monday...the UPS truck arrived with the Alpha book. Them's the breaks, kiddo! (I gave her Monday off from math anyway, just because.) The first few lessons in the new book have been review, but new material (word problems) will commence next week.
  • Handwriting is going better - she doesn't mind doing the lessons any more - but we still butt heads on a pretty regular basis. She has apparently decided that she only cares for capital letters, and would be quite happy using nothing but. In what must be a half-hearted attempt to please me, she'll occasionally throw in a lowercase letter or two, so her English workbook is filled with lines such as "THe cAT rAN AWAy FrOM THe DOG." I'm sure most everyone has encountered the teenager who randomly capitalizes things that way online, and how annoying it is. I refuse to let Rachael become one of them! She gets pretty mad at me when I erase the whole thing and demand a re-do, but darnit, lowercase letters are our friends. (Incidentally, we seem to be going through an inordinate number of erasers.)
  • Rachael has a spelling test, consisting of eight words, each Friday. She missed one word each on the first three tests, but hasn't missed any on the last two!
  • We're still loving our Book of Virtues unit study, although the section on compassion that we just finished up was hard for my soft-hearted girly. It took a good half hour to stop the tears after reading The Little Match Girl. The Gift of the Magi was better received, although Rachael maintains that she's going to grow her hair all the way to the floor and will never cut it all off to buy a gift for any man.  ;)
  • Girl Scouts is back in full swing, with the first fundraiser of the 2009-2010 school year starting next week. Expect her to be hitting you up for orders of nuts, toffee popcorn and choclate-covered everything. Thankfully, it's not terribly expensive. We got to sample everything at this week's meeting too, and it's all really, really good.
  • Gymnastics is still going well. Rachael flipped over the top bar on the uneven bars this week, without so much as a teacher standing there to spot her. I was so proud!
I asked Rachael what she would like to say on her blog, and here's what I got out of her:

"Homeschool is really cool. The funnest part about homeschool is that Mommy gets to teach me. I like the books that we read for English."

And now, being that it is Tuesday afternoon, we're off to the library for craft time and to re-stock on chapter books. We've begun reading about Kirsten, the pioneer American Girl that Rachael will be for Halloween. She's discovered Cam Jansen books and absolutely loves them, and she's always on the lookout for more, more, more things to read. I have to shove books out of the way to make room for her to sleep at night, but I'm not complaining. If genetics are to be blamed, it's all my fault anyway. :)


Week three is over!

It's hard to believe that we're three weeks into first grade already. Things are almost going too well - I keep waiting for a big problem to pop up somewhere, and keep praying that it doesn't!

We didn't have co-op this week, since all of us have had colds, and one of the other mom/teachers wasn't feeling so hot either. Rachael missed it, but had a nice, restful day with not much in the way of schoolwork. She did go to gymnastics that evening - her first class of the new school year. It's a large class, being in the evening rather than midday, but she liked all of her new teachers, which is more than we can say for the last class. Plus, her best friend is in this class - so it's going to be a good year for her.

With the arrival of a bit of cooler weather, we're starting to look forward to fall and all the fun things that go along with it. Apple picking is high on my list this year, followed by learning to make apple crisp. Rachael received her very own set of purple measuring cups and spoons for "back to school", so she'll be helping me more and more in the kitchen. Her math curriculum hasn't gotten to fractions yet, but she'll be learning a little about them anyway by measuring out ingredients. Talk about a practical application for math! Yummy too. :)

As we wrap our school week, I'm thrilled to note (and report) that Rachael has mastered the art of telling time on an analog clock! I devoted the whole week's math lessons to it, and it paid off. Next step: replace batteries in her pink Cinderella clock so she can start (really) using it! We will be working on subtraction next week, and finishing up the Math-U-See Primer (kindergarten) book. I ordered Alpha (first grade) today and can't wait to see what she'll be learning for the rest of the year.

Have a great Labor Day weekend, everyone!

Halfway through week three...

...and things are going pretty well! Milly is getting used to the idea of doing something on her own for a few minutes here and there while Rachael and I do schoolwork, and that's a tremendous help. Rachael is learning so much - Bible verses, common and proper nouns, pronouns, syllables, alphabetizing, telling time on an analog clock (she finally got that pesky skip counting by fives thing down pat!), planets, gravity... It's a good thing she loves to learn!

The only thing she isn't enjoying so much is handwriting. She seems to have a generous amount of "don't want to" combined with a dash of "don't care", and that makes it a bit of a struggle some days. We've started the first grade Handwriting Without Tears book, and that's a little easier for her. She still has a tendency to make sloppy letters in an effort to rush through the lesson, continues to mix up her b's and d's, and makes several of her numbers (2, 3, 7 and 9) backward. What to do with her? Everything else is so easy for her - maybe this will just "click" one day as well.

It's been a while since my last update - would you like to see pictures of what we've been up to?


Well, we have school outside in our pajamas sometimes. Just another perk of living in the middle of nowhere! Rachael has a nature journal that she draws in every day - anything interesting that she finds outside. In this picture, she's sketching her beloved tomato plant. Going to need quite a few more of those next year, I think.
We still have our "pet" turtles in a makeshift pond outside, and Rachael and Milly love to go out and watch them every day. They're in charge of feeding them, and once in a while we get a good action shot of them fighting over their breakfast. In this picture, Ruby is snapping at Felicity. Ruby is quite a bit larger and tends to be a bit of a bully, but Felicity gets her licks in too. We've added one more turtle since this picture was snapped - as with the others, Gene rescued Lilly from the middle of the road. Rachael knows that, with fall approaching, we'll have to set the turtles free soon, and she isn't terribly thrilled at the idea.

We play a lot of games, and Math Bingo is one of her favorites. She uses the manipulative blocks from our Math-U-See curriculum to help her add the big numbers, but she's starting to remember a lot of the smaller sums now. The pink card is always, always hers.

Coloring (okay, scribbling) is one of Milly's favorite schooltime activities. Anything with Dora's face on it is a BIG hit with her right now.

We finally made the balloon model of the solar system today. They're lined up in order from the sun - the big orange balloon - and even though it was officially stripped of planet status, she wanted Pluto to be included. (That's the little purple speck behind Neptune.) I thought that it would be appropriate to hang her solar system over her WALL-E poster, and she agreed. However, I'm not very happy with the whole thing. Her astronomy book actually outlined this project, using the balloons, and the diameter of several of them were so small that you couldn't even put air into them. Not to mention that NONE of the planets are actually ROUND. It's odd...I feel styrofoam balls and paint in our future.

This little monkey likes to steal the teacher's chair every chance she gets - and if she can grab a pen and scribble in the lesson book, so much the better.

We've had two Thursday morning co-ops now, and both have gone well. Rachael loves going to learn with her friends - and play in between lessons, of course. So far, she's made her own personal timeline in history...

...sorted shoes to learn about taxonomy and classification (this was a drawing of the process afterward)...

...and done leaf rubbings while examining the symmetry of several leaves' veins.

Naturally, Milly also works very hard while Rachael is in class.

After history, science, Bible and art comes lunch - where Rachael can be found at the end of the table with her "boy best friend", Patrick...who she will marry and have a hundred little girls with someday (the first two being named Genevieve and Lacey), but for now, they're just friends. Daddy is only moderately displeased, having seen for himself that Patrick is a very polite young man. :)

Then comes P.E. before heading home. Needless to say, we don't do a lot of other schoolwork at home on co-op days - just reading and math.

So, there's our week three update! We had two weeks to get into a routine without worrying much about outside activities. This week, Girl Scout meetings and craft time at the library resumed, as will gymnastics on Thursday. Thankfully, those are all late afternoon and evening activities, so we can still knock out schoolwork (and Milly's nap - very important) before rushing off to those.

More to come soon...!

What would have been...

Today was the first day of school in our county. This morning, I would have set an alarm to wake us all up early, gotten Rachael dressed and fed and driven her a couple of miles to the absurdly large elementary school - the same building where I attended middle school and my mom graduated from high school. I would have dropped her off at the door of a kindergarten classroom and (undoubtedly) cried like a big ol' baby all the way back to the van. Then I would have had a fun day playing one-on-one with Milly, who would probably have adored having the spotlight solely on herself. All day long, I would wonder...what is Rachael doing now? And eventually, I would cut Milly's nap short to jump back in the van and go retrieve my *sniffle* big kindergartener from her first day of school.

Instead, we all slept until about 8:00. We didn't rush through breakfast. We started school in our pajamas. We even went outside in them. We did our schoolwork at the kitchen table, drew pictures, played Math Bingo, and stopped for hugs and tickles as needed. She learned new things, and she had fun doing it. Rather than being her first day of kindergarten, it was her third day of first grade - because that is the level where she belongs, where is competent yet challenged. We had a great day of school together.

However, knowing what would have happened today has made me remember the discussion that first slung us haphazardly onto the road to homeschooling. Gene and I were sitting at the kitchen table one Sunday afternoon when Rachael was about a year - maybe a year and a half old, reading the newspaper. There was a feature story that week about an area homeschooling family, but I hadn't seen it yet. So I was caught completely off-guard when he told me, "I think you should homeschool Rachael." I was speechless. Homeschool? Homeschool?! But but but...homeschooling was for hippies and zealots and weirdos, and *gasp* what about socialization?! I told him that I would think about it.

And I did think about it. Every time I read about the merger of the county schools that was happening then, and wondered what the more crowded conditions would mean for my child, I thought about it. When I read about the below average test scores in our area schools, I thought about it. When I read about a little guy being caught in one of our schools with a knife in kindergarten - kindergarten! - oh yes, I thought about it.

Eventually I started thinking...I could do better than that. I could keep her safe, give her one-on-one attention, customize her curriculum to her needs, abilities and interests, and very likely provide better socialization than she would receive in a classroom anyway. I started thinking that, no matter what we taught her about God at home and at church, she wouldn't be hearing about Him at school. And as she got a little older, I realized what a bright little girl she was, and thought that just maybe, she would be bored to tears in elementary school the way that I was as a child.

While I was thinking and reading and researching, I was also praying. Was homeschooling really right for us? Was it consistent with God's plan for our family? I had always assumed that, once my children were in school, I would go back to work to help supplement the family income. Children are, after all, expensive little things. It didn't take long to find peace in the conclusion that one can't put a price on the well-being of her family. This time spent with my children is costing us a bundle in terms of lost income, but the benefits are priceless. The more I learned, the more I prayed, the more confident I became in the decision to educate my children at home.

In June 2007, we attended the Home Educators of Virginia (HEAV) conference in Richmond. I was amazed and inspired by the speakers at the workshops (especially Joy from Daughters 4 God - I want to be like her!) and could hardly wait to "do school" with my own daughter. We started exploring curriculums and quickly settled on a few things for preschool. We started that fall, when she was about 3 1/2, and preschool was lax at best - as it should be, I think, for such a little one. "School" was largely interrupted in December anyway, with the arrival of her baby sister, and then Christmas. Still, she read her first words on her own in January 2008, just before her fourth birthday. She progressed so well and loved learning so much that we made the decision to go ahead with a kindergarten curriculum in fall of 2008. And that is how we've come to be starting first grade at the same time that she would have been put into kindergarten in our county school system.

I started school last year with the affirmation that it would be a "year-to-year basis", that we would reassess at the end of each school year to see if it was working out well for all of us. By the end of kindergarten...well, I honestly don't recall pausing to reflect on whether or not it was working. I was already too busy deciding which curriculum to use for first grade. :)

With each passing year since that initial, shocking suggestion, I've learned more about homeschooling and become more comfortable with the idea - not just of homeschooling for the first few years, but indefinitely. Of course, if circumstances arose that would mean her learning better in a different environment...well, we won't muddle through just on principle. We'll do what's best for our children. Right now, homeschooling is undoubtedly what is best for them. I've also met more homeschooling families...and found that they're not hippies or zealots (or just plain weird) at all. What they are is dedicated and helpful. Their children are sociable, friendly, and smart. And I love being one of them.

First Grade - Day One: SUCCESS!

Rachael officially started first grade on August 17! Even though I thought I had planned too much for our first day...it was an absolute success.

We started out with a breakfast of blueberry waffles. Absolutely essential to the learning process, you know. Then she decorated her "first day" sign and posed for a picture before getting down to business.

I'm organizing our daily lessons with "workboxes" - an idea stolen borrowed from a homeschooling mommy friend's blog. Someday, I'll actually read the book on how workboxes are supposed to work...but for now, a very simple version worked out quite well today.

Ignore the junk in the background. That room is a work in progress, after all. Anyway...each box has a permanent number (on the left) and a removable number, stuck on with velcro. Inside each drawer is one subject that we'll cover that day - everything that we need for that lesson is inside the drawer, down to pencils, crayons, etc.

As we finish the lesson in a drawer, she removes the velcro number and sticks it to these handy little holders. There are actually ten spots, so she gets two "extra" activities thrown into the mix. Computer time is shown here - she also has the option to watch one show on TV. I need to come up with more ideas. Want to see what was inside the drawers today?

Drawer #1 will always be her devotional Bible, along with the day's memory verse and words to whatever song she's learning that week. (Yes, she already knows "Jesus Loves Me", but this week she's learning the second verse. I'm also hoping Milly will pick it up from hearing her sister sing - goodness knows she's picked up every song that Dora sings quite well, so I'm sure she's capable.)

Drawer #2 held our math book today - only the teacher's manual, as we only did review of place values and addition. She did a full worksheet of addition problems and had no trouble with the adding - only remembering which direction to write her 2s, 5s and 9s. She thinks it's absolutely hilarious to write her 9 backward - making it look like a P - and then informing me that "OOPS, she just P'ed in her book again!" We'll be doing more adding tomorrow, only in columns instead of horizontally. And of course, more working on that pesky skip counting by fives.

Drawer #3 was Language Arts. LLATL is awesome in that it's broken down into daily lessons already - no planning needed. Today's lesson consisted of reading a poem, talking about it, underlining the nouns in the poem, deciding which sentence went with a picture, reading several short words, writing a sentence, etc. It didn't take long at all, and I'm really looking forward to doing more tomorrow!

Drawer #4 is a great example of what workboxes can be for bigger kids - a completely "do it yourself" drawer! Love this little lined white board we found in the $1 bin at Target. Stuck to it are a list of her eight spelling words for this week, with instructions to write them on the board. I'm loving the things she can do by herself and have me look at later!

Drawer #5 contains another stolen borrowed idea - the Nature Journal. The first item of business was decorating the cover. Then, she took her binder and colored pencils outside with instructions to "find something in nature and draw it." She chose to draw her pet box turtles, Ruby and Felicity. Wonder what she'll choose tomorrow?

Hmm, this drawer looks suspiciously like the last one. This binder, however, is for her unit study on The Book of Virtues. Once again, she decorated the cover first, and reviewed the vocabulary words (philosophy, development, disciple, passion, appetite and reason) that we started on last week.

Believe it or not, I was trying to start slow today...so drawer #7 was kind of filler. I finally printed out the information for her Girl Scout Shape Up! patch and started documenting her physical activity time. We got off to a good start by having a big ol' dance party in the living room for half an hour this afternoon. Gotta love the 90s music channel!

Finally, drawer #8 - which will always be the last drawer of the day and will always contain this little black and white journal. This is Rachael's "end of the day" journal. I'll start a few questions in it for her each day, and it will be up to her to finish them. Unlike in her workbooks, I won't be offering spelling help in her journal - I want her to write her answers the way she thinks they should be. Mostly, I just want to have these years from now to go back and see how cute her answers were. :)  Today's entry was as follows (my words beginning, the bolded words at the end are hers, spelling errors included):

"My first day of first grade was FUN.
My favorite part of the day was drawing in my journal.
Tomorrow, I hope we do ART.
I am proud of myself for doeng it."

Okay, okay, I did help her with the word journal. She asked and said she really wanted it to be right. Besides, it was written right on the cover if she had thought to look. ;)

Once school was over for the day, us girls headed off to let my mom thoroughly spoil the grandbabies. Rachael got her choice of restaurants for dinner (pizza buffet at Cici's) and Gramma picked up all of the still needed school supplies from Target - down to a pink baseball and pink tennis balls to use as part of upcoming science projects. She also got a new movie (Barbie and the Diamond Castle) and book (Fancy Nancy - The Show Must Go On) from Gramma, who tends to go a little overboard but mostly justified it this time. In the interest of fairness, Milly also came home with a new book (DORA) and coloring pad (DORA) to help keep her busy during school time. :)

All in all, we had a great first day. We got so much work done in so little time, and Rachael absolutely loved the freedom of deciding which box/drawer would be opened next. The only big kink I still need to work out is finding more things for Milly to do during school time - sure, I could print out DORA coloring pages all day long, but come on. Even that will get old eventually. I assume. I recently exhumed Rachael's old PowerTouch Baby (the Fisher-Price version of the LeapPad) with all its books and cartridges from a tub of outgrown baby toys, and have it ready to go for tomorrow - maybe that will keep her entertained for a while. If anyone has ideas on how to keep a 1-1/2-year-old happy during school time, please share your insight with me!

'Twas the night before first grade...

...and I'm still putting the finishing touches on everything we'll need for tomorrow. My lesson plan is done, now it's all organizational. Pictures will be forthcoming. :)

I'm so excited to start school with Rachael tomorrow - and she's excited too. She watched me getting everything together tonight and asked to do some right then and there, but I told her to wait till morning. How I hope she'll always love learning this much! Maybe if I play my cards right...

For my fellow homeschoolers, homeschool-curious and interested friends and family, I thought I'd recap our final curriculum choices for the 2009-10 school year.

BIBLE: Rachael absolutely adores her God's Little Princess Devotional Bible, so we'll be reading it for our daily devotions. She's outgrown our old devotion book, God and Me, but I may let her read a daily devotion to Milly from that. We'll be going back through the A Beka Bible curriculum from last year, to brush up on our memory verses and the doctrinal drills. We'll need something else later in the school year, and I'm open to suggestions.

MATH: Doing a bit of review and the last few lessons in Math-U-See Primer before moving on to Alpha. Must find a way to make skip counting by fives make sense to her...

LANGUAGE ARTS: I read so many awesome things about Learning Language Arts Through Literature that I just had to go with it this year, and I can't wait to dig in. We went with the red books this year, which is geared toward second grade, but I think it'll be just right for Rachael. I also have a reading list for the year typed up and ready to go, and I'll probably add to it - as will she. She's moving steadily through the American Girl books, and loves several other "chapter book" series as well (Judy Moody, Junie B. Jones, Amber Brown, etc.) so there will be some solo reading time each afternoon during which she can read whatever she wants (and give me a break - hopefully during Milly's naptime!) But I digress. LLATL covers reading, grammar, spelling, handwriting, phonics...it's pretty all-inclusive, but we're adding to it anyway. We'll be learning spelling words from The Natural Speller (this little book has spelling lessons for kindergarten through high school - check it out, homeschooling moms!) and I'm hoping that Handwriting Without Tears will live up to its name...whenever it shows up. Not terribly impressed with shipping time from the company, but I've heard good things about the curriculum

SCIENCE: We'll be learning all about the planets, sun, moon and stars using Apologia's Exploring Creation Through Astronomy. This one is going to be fun! Our weekly homeschool co-op is also using an Apologia book, Exploring Creation Through Botany - which we will likely use full-time and explore more deeply next school year. I'm also borrowing an idea from another homeschool mom and having her make a nature journal - she'll have to go outside and find something to draw in it every day. Or most every day. We'll see how it goes.

HEALTH: I may have underestimated her by ordering the first grade book from Horizons Health. But it'll be a quick, easy once a week (or so) lesson for her.

HISTORY: Brushing off The Story of the World: Ancient Times. This will most likely be another once a week topic, as I'll be teaching from this book in our co-op. We may expand on it at home, though, as there are so many wonderful activities that go along with each chapter.

THE BOOK OF VIRTUES: This is a free (although thorough!) unit study available online at Shiver Academy. It is a 20-week unit study on the book by the same name, focusing on self-discipline, compassion, responsibility, friendship, work, courage, perseverance, honesty, loyalty and faith. I have a feeling we're going to be going through a loooooooot of printer ink with all the great pages included in this study, but it will be well worth it.

OTHER: Rachael is a little fascinated by all things French (thanks, Fancy Nancy!) so we'll be dabbling in Muzzy French this year. Obviously, not pushing the foreign language at age 5 1/2! Art will be covered at our co-op, although she'll have plenty of opportunity to create her own masterpieces at home. The kids will be doing P.E. at co-op as well - the older girls especially are aiming toward next spring's Presidential Fitness Challenge, and we'll be working toward the Shape Up! Girl Scout patch as well. I'm still not sure what we'll do about music - Kindermusik is just SO expensive, as are piano lessons and, well, nearly everything musical. Worst case scenario, I guess we'll just listen to the radio and dance, a lot.  ;)

Needless to say, we won't be doing ALL of that EVERY day.

Wish us luck tomorrow as we dive into the new school year...and check back for an update soon!


Gearing up and sharing an article!

We're almost ready for the start of our 2009-10 school year! A bit more organizing and planning and we'll be good to go on Monday morning. Look for a long post on Monday evening about Rachael's first day of first grade!

Meanwhile, thought I'd share a great article that a friend passed on to me. One of many reasons that we choose to homeschool. :)

Study: Homeschoolers Scoring 'Well Above' Public School Peers

By Aaron J. Leichman
Christian Post Reporter
August 11, 2009

The most comprehensive survey of homeschoolers in America in more than a decade found a large gap between students educated at home and those educated in public institutions.

In the nationwide study conducted by Dr. Brian D. Ray of the National Home Education Research Institute, homeschoolers were found to have scored 34-39 percentile points higher than the norm on standardized achievement tests. The homeschool national average ranged from the 84th percentile for language, math, and social studies to the 89th percentile for reading, reported the Home School Legal Defense Association, which commissioned Ray to conduct the survey in 2007.

According to HSLDA, anecdotal evidence of homeschooling’s success has been backed by multiple research studies. However, it has been at least 10 years since any major nationwide study of homeschooling was done.

During that time, the number of homeschooled children has grown from about 850,000 to approximately 1.5 million, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

"Homeschooling is a rapidly growing, thriving education movement that is challenging the conventional wisdom about the best way to raise and educate the next generation," commented HSLDA president Michael Smith in his group’s announcement of the study Monday.

For the new study, touted as “the most comprehensive study of homeschool academic achievement ever completed,” Ray surveyed 11,739 homeschooled students from all 50 states, Guam, and Puerto Rico, and drew from 15 independent testing services.

Aside from the academic results, the study found that the achievement gaps common to public schools were not found in the homeschool community.

Homeschooled boys (87th percentile) and girls (88th percentile) scored equally well; the income level of parents did not appreciably affect the results (household income under $35,000: 85th percentile – household income over $70,000: 89th percentile); and while parent education level did have some impact, even children whose parents did not have college degrees scored in the 83rd percentile, which is well above the national average for public school students.

Homeschooled children whose parents both had college degrees scored in the 90th percentile.

"These results validate the dedication of hundreds of thousands of homeschool parents who are giving their children the best education possible," commented Smith.

"Because of the one-on-one instruction homeschoolers receive, we are prepared academically to be productive and contributing members of today's society," he added.

According to the study, 82.4 percent of homeschooling parents identified themselves as Protestant Christian, 12.4 Roman Catholic, 1.1 percent atheist/agnostic, 0.8 percent Mormon, 0.4 percent Jewish, 0.2 percent Eastern Orthodox Christian, and 0.1 percent Muslim.

The vast majority (97.9 percent) of parents in the study was also married and had an average of 3.5 children compared to the general population’s average of 2.0 children.

The title of the study is “Progress Report 2009: Homeschool Academic Achievement and Demographics.”

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Favorite Homeschool Quotes

"I don't want my children fed or clothed by the state, but I would prefer that to their being educated by the state." -Max Victor Belz

"I have seen the village, and I don't want it raising my child."

"It is, in fact, nothing short of a miracle that the modern methods of instruction have not yet entirely strangled the holy curiosity of inquiry; for this delicate little plant, aside from stimulation, stands mainly in need of freedom." -Albert Einstein

"I suppose it is because nearly all children go to school nowadays and have things arranged for them that they seem so forlornly unable to produce their own ideas." -Agatha Christie

"Earth and sky, woods and fields, lakes and rivers, the mountain and the sea, are excellent schoolmasters, and teach some of us more than we can ever learn from books." -John Lubbock

"I learned most, not from those who taught me but from those who talked with me." -St. Augustine

"Research reveals a significant advantage in social development for home schooled children. They are socially adept, possess a positive self-image, and are active in areas that develop leadership skills. Thomas Smedley, in a 1992 controlled study, concluded that "...the home-educated children in this sample were significantly better socialized and more mature than those in public school." -Dr. Brian Ray, HSLDA

"He who joyfully marches in rank and file has already earned my contempt. He has been given a large brain by mistake, since for him the spinal cord would suffice." -Albert Einstein
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