Tuesday, October 25, 2011

If it's not fun, you're not doing it right

This is on my refrigerator right now.

And I think about how true it really is in all of life.  Isn't it?

I certainly have not been "Super Duper Homeschool Mom" these days. Especially by not using a consistent writing curriculum but, hey, that's the way I roll.  I have been convinced lately though that my girls need some practice by way of descriptive writing.  So....while I was (in the 11th hour) fervently leafing through a book of writing prompts trying to figure out what in the heck we were going to do for a writing assignment today, it hit me when I read this.

Well, "Booooorrrrrrrring" is actually what I first thought and what I was pretty sure my girls would think as well.  It seemed more like busy-work to me and I'm pretty sure it would to them, as well.  And I would surely have gotten some huffs, puffs, heads flailing on the desks, and subsequent hum-drum descriptions just to finish the laborious task.

So, I told them both to
  1. Brainstorm, make a list and/or write out a description of a halloween costume 
  2. Once she was finished with the written description her sister had to draw it based on her description.   
It was "game on" then.

In retrospect I would first have had them draw a costume, then use that picture to help her describe it in words, keep the original drawing hidden, then hand the written description, only, to her sister.  I think this would have been better for several reasons (#1) it would have been something more concrete for them to describe and (b) they would have had 2 finished drawings to compare.  Next time.  And, oh there will be a next time because I can run something into the ground until it ISN'T fun any longer. 

As you can see I was scribe for little bit (on the white board).

It was funny to watch their expressions and talk to them about what their sister had drawn.  Both of them genuinely liked the others' drawing but they did admit it wasn't quite what they had pictured in their mind.  I briefly talked with them about how they could have added details and what words they could have used to better describe their costume and explained how important it is to be as descriptive as possible when writing because we draw pictures in our minds of what we read.  Blah, blah, blah...enough talking, Mom.

So there you have it, an otherwise lackluster writing experience they actually had fun with.  You could use this for all kinds of descriptive writing exercises.  Let me know if you think of more ideas!

Sorry that I have been kind of MIA lately.  I was waffling about whether or not to hang up this blogging thing.  But I think I am going to keep at it.  I learn and glean so much online (and mostly off of other people's blogs) that I simply want to pay it forward.  So, hope to see you soon!

And...Happy Fall, Y'all!

Monday, July 4, 2011

Help Shoo

Sometime, I'd say about a year, ago I stumbled upon THE BEST blog around.  Shoo Rayner's his name and drawing's his game.  Well, this morning I got an email from him asking me to get everyone I know to vote for him on Youtube's Next Up contest.  So click on the link and look for this thumbnail (you may have to scroll down to find him). 

He says if he wins he will be able to do some AMAZING things.  I can't imagine his drawing tut's getting much better.  Here's the link again:  http://www.youtube.com/youtubenextup

 Oh and he has some GREAT Independence Day drawing lessons.

As Mark Kistler says...draw at least 8 hours a day.  It's good for the brain.

Happy Independence day and don't forget to vote for Shoo!

Thursday, March 24, 2011


This year we have opted to do Geography studies in lieu of History.  It has been "alright".  Like everything else I guess it requires commitment.  I was recently talking to a fellow blogger friend and we were discussing how we feel like we are always switching things up.  Another friend said she was a curriculum schitzo.  So Tracy...this post's for you.  Since you asked about me (not) blogging.  Here's you a new post!

We started out the year with AChild's Geography 1 and moved pretty quickly through it.  It was pretty good - almost as much a science curriculum as geography.  However, we started on A Child's Geography 2 - Explore the Holy Land and now my girls seem to loath and detest geography.  It is not all that bad and we have gained a lot of knowledge but it is certainly written above 2nd and 4th graders' interest level (well, even a 39 year old's level).  The text is very wordy.  I have even started going through and pre-reading sections just so that I could move a little more quickly through.  Then it always seems something's missing.

I needed a proverbial carrot to get them through it.

So I told my girls if they would get through the Israel material with me that they could make a salt map of Israel.  They took the bait.

I am considering trying Sonlight's Core 5 next year.  Hoping that will be a little more literature rich and less dry reading of geographical facts.  I don't want to repeat American History with my girls so soon and I think it is a little too soon to do World History with my girls (especially Lil' Bit).

So, do any of you use Sonlight and if so have you used Core 5?  I'd love to hear your opinions.  Because I've searched high and low online for blogs of people using SLCore 5 and I certainly can't find them.

As for the salt dough maps...We got our general directions from reddie0890's youtube video.  You gotta' love these good old boys...making salt dough no less.

First we sketched out a general outline of Israel onto a large piece of cardboard.  Then they painted in the Seas and River.

Then they made the salt dough.  Add equal amounts of salt and flour (we used 3 cups each).

Then add in a little cornstarch (3+ Tablespoons)  we found that adding more cornstarch kept it from being so sticky.

Then measure the water.  Err on the side of caution here.  You can always add more water.  Have your little sister start the mixing process while you do the laborious task of checking for good measure. 

Pour in the H20.

Now, have at the mixing.

Plop it onto your painted cardboard.

Spread it around and start forming any mountain ranges.

You can use a knife to cut away any excess dough.  They used the cut away part to add to the mountain ranges.

Let them dry at least overnight if not longer.  Then paint (we used washable tempera paints) the land mass and label.

Here they are after they have dried completely.

Not bad, I think.  I am so tickled my girls have a knowledge of Biblical lands and the places where Jesus lived and walked. I always felt like in Sunday School that I was completely in the dark about where they were talking about and we'd turn to some map in the back that had no point of reference.  It was always frustrating.  I think any time you can put learning into context everyone (teacher and students) are better off.  But I guess it is like a sign I saw the other day, "The Bible:  Great to read what's in it but better to know its Author."

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Heart of the Matter Science quickie

Ran across this great science magazine by Heart of the Matter and wanted to share.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

New year, new schedule, Ms. Priss' new post

It's a new year and with it a new schedule.  Recently I had a conversation with another Mom about workboxes and my worktag system.  I have completely ditched the workboxes because they were just TOO much work on dear, frail, little me.  Heck I even gave one set of drawers to my neighbor for her to use for storage.

I am all about letting the kids own whatever they CAN.  Me filling up boxes with work for them as if every day is Christmas just wasn't fitting in with my Charlotte Mason philosophy of educating my children.  I don't believe Ms. Mason thought spoon feeding a child was particularly the best way to educate them. (Me being the robot shown)

And that is kind of how I've come to think about workboxes.  Don't get me wrong - I still think workboxes can be of benefit - to parents with many children particularly with young ones they need to keep busy or to parents of children with issues such as autism.  However I simply do not think that for my able-bodied girls that workboxes are either a necessity or a service to them.

So, I have decided to simply use the worktags sans workboxes.  If there is a task to be done there is a tag.  No more cross referencing some drawers with some work, etc...  My head wanted to explode every time I thought about the logistics of assigning them work.  Every assignment/subject now gets its own tag.  I just simply made sure I included at least some Reading, Writing, and 'Rithmetic for each day.  Here is a sampling of Tuesday's, Thursday's, and Friday's tags.

I also used to try to stagger their "work with me" times and have everything "flow" perfectly.  Gone are those days.  Now, they're responsible for working with me when they want to and if I'm busy or working with the other one they have to find something else to do.  Amazing...it just works!

Ms. Priss wanted hers to stand up on her desk instead of hanging from a hook with a book ring.  So if you remember my post on altering notebooks, I simply used the chipboard spine of an old half size notebook/binder to hold them all together.

The way I figure it is if they are capable of opening a drawer and finding their work, they are capable of locating the book or item themselves.  And guess what?  They get to put the items away too!   For things like Math, Spelling, Logic Books, etc... they know that we simply move on to the next lesson or page.  It isn't a terribly complicated lesson planning system but it seems to work.

"Success is the sum of small efforts, repeated day in and day out..."
                                                  --  Robert J. Collier

We had been using this laminated check-off sheet

However, I think the worktags will provide me the flexibility to be able to change their daily tasks if need be.  I was forever telling the girls "just skip so-and-so" on any particular day.  The laminated weekly checklist was making me feel like we were all terrible failures because we never sensed a feeling of accomplishment even though we were doing a lot and were all plenty busy.

For Ms. Priss' worktags I made a tag for her to blog on Thursdays.  So today she has a new blog post...  Do check out her recommendation.  You can visit her blog here:


If you'd like here is the pdf with the tags I use.  Also here is the pdf with the blank grids.  So that's it.  Never forget:  the best laid plans of mice and men sometimes go askew.  And this system may too (hey, I'm a poet and don't know it).

Happy New Year!