Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Penguins Unit Study update

Our first unit study process is going along very well.  We've done lots of small activities and have been reading the Magic Tree House book about penguins and Antarctica.  We've all learned a lot, it's been very fun!

Cute story from yesterday.  I checked out the BBC Planet Earth series from the library so that we could watch the segment that had penguins in it.  After watching it the kids played penguins and it was so cute!  They were using a plastic baseball as their egg and they were passing it back and forth on their feet like the mom and dad penguins do.  They were talking about how they needed to walk so far for food and making penguin noises and bowing and dancing like penguin couples do.  It was just so cute and awesome to see their knowledge being acted out.  A very nice way to evaluate their retention without them having any idea that's what I was doing!

Yay for learning while having fun!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

I have been inspired.

So yesterday I read this post at Not Inadequate and I was intimidated yet inspired to figure out just exactly how unit studies work.  It just so happens that the kids and I had started a book on Penguins yesterday and after doing research til almost midnight I decided to turn it into a unit study.  I am a unit study virgin, never did one when I was a classroom teacher and I've never done one here at home but it seems to make so much sense with how my kids learn.  

My unit study research turned me onto lapbooking and there are about a million resources for figuring them out.  Just google.  Then google a subject you are interested in and lapbook together.  Amazing.  How did I not know about this?

So yeah.  We're doing a unit study on penguins and there will be a lapbook at the end.  Stay tuned to see how it turns out!

Sunday, November 28, 2010


It is my goal to get things accomplished before the end of 2010.  I feel like we are getting a bit behind, although I'm not too concerned since I realized that the big long winter with lack of fun and holidays is just a month away.  We have been extremely unmotivated to accomplish anything measurable lately though, so I'm going to try to change that.   Wish me luck!!!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

What’s up?

Face Painting:





A zoo trip:



Oceanopoly: Disclaimer here, they were playing it with their own rules. 












Counting and Sorting:




Hiking and Nature Observation:





And apparently stealing my camera and having a dance party:






What are you up to?

Thursday, October 21, 2010

I cannot explain how ironic it is……..

That my last post was joking about how scary spiders are and now we are actually dealing with a very scary spider bite in our dog.  Head over to my family blog if you want to find out what’s going on and see some pictures that are not for the weak.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Super Cute (wait, I mean Very Very Scary) Spiders!


Inspired by this post we made our own very busy spiders today! 

First we dug out some information about spiders and talked facts.

Then we dug out the black paper and white chalk and drew our webs.

Then we dug out the rainbow pom-pom balls, google eyes, pipe cleaners and glue and built these little guys.

They are cuter than cute, don’t you think?

P.S.   The small balls on Gracie’s are bugs trapped in the web that the spider is going to eat.  And both kids had to made a daddy spider and a baby spider, cause one spider alone just isn’t happy.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Peter Peter Pumpkin Eater

Peter Peter Pumpkin Eater

Had a wife but couldn’t keep her

Put her in a pumpkin shell

And there he kept her very well

Today we did an art project based on this verse.  The idea was very simple, read the verse to Gracie and then have her make a drawing based on what she heard.  We also looked at the mini pumpkins we have to get an idea of how different they are and to give her something to go off of for the drawing.  In the art book it was slightly more guided, directing the children to make a large pumpkin the center of the drawing.  The example they had was beautiful, a lovely pumpkin turned into a house and a happy couple standing together proudly.   I, however, wanted to just see what she would come up with since she had never heard that verse before, so I didn’t direct her at all and I didn’t let her see the example that was provided.   The result was adorable and hilarious and oh so Gracie.




From top left we have:

Peter, who is apparently very square, and his wife who is small and sitting on a couch.

Then we have his wife sitting on her bed.  She’s on the phone with her boyfriend Gracie said.  That’s why Peter put her in the pumpkin shell.  She has a dog and a cat under her bed.

Last we have the poor wife, trapped in a pumpkin and unable to get out.  

Finally Gracie decided to write the verse all around the drawing, without any of my help (“no mom, I know it, I can do it!!!!!!”)


I plan on doing this again with other verses she has never heard.  If anything it’s good for a laugh!!!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Mad Scientist

My children have informed me they have a new teacher.  They refer to this person as the mad scientist.  The kids both love the mad scientist.  They keep asking for the mad scientist to come do other lessons for them but so far it just hasn’t happened.

I guess that every time the science book opens for a lesson the mad scientist appears.  She apparently has an accent and talks all crazy and fast and yells and points her finger and the kids think she is hilarious.  They all do the science lessons together and then when the lesson is complete and the book goes back on the shelf she just plain disappears.  It’s very strange, this whole mad scientist thing.  But since the kids love her who am I to complain that someone else is coming in and teaching for me, if only just for one subject.

The strangest thing is that I have never met this scientist.  Apparently I go into some sort of zen like state when she appears.  The kids say that I am the mad scientist.  I think they are crazy.  I would know if I were a mad scientist, wouldn’t I?


Monday, September 20, 2010


I started school in the middle of August.  We started out nice and strong with everything organized and lessons plans set in my Scholastic planner.   As much as I believe in the unschooling  method of  learning I have to admit that for me, the former school teacher, I like having my books and plans and teachers guides.  I mean I REALLY like it.  I could jump back into a traditional classroom today and have no problems being a good teacher.  It’s what I did and I’m pretty sure I did it well.  And I loved it.  It suites my type A personality to have everything laid out all nice and neat and a schedule to follow. 


For Gracie school became something to dread really quickly.  At the end of two weeks she was really fussing every time I said we needed to do something and then the third week she said the dreaded words:  “I hate school.” 


I’m pretty sure that my enthusiasm and planning and love of my teachers guides unfortunately ran right over Gracie’s desire to learn.  Oops.

So I stopped, cold turkey.  For the past couple weeks we have only done what she wants when she wants to.  I tossed my planner and let her choose what she wanted to do and then I just called on those teacher skills whenever she had an interest and we went for it.  We deschooled.  And we still learned a lot, it just takes a lot more spur of the moment creativity on my part to turn interests into a learning experience.  I don’t mind doing things that way sometimes but I have to admit that I am not great at making lessons in my head in 5 seconds flat.  Again, I’m pretty type A.  If I’m going to do something I want to do it well.  I want to have the resources to research and I want to have a project or whatever to help follow through on the line of thought.  I want to make sure I’m giving the correct information.  Those things take time and preparation.  I don’t like to do things half-ass.  It’s just not me!  In theory I totally get the unschool philosophy but in practice I feel like I’m constantly missing opportunity because of lack of information or creativity or both.  I know unschooling works for lots of people, I’m just not sure that we are those people.

So this week I decided we will try a new approach.  A kind of compromise.  Gracie gets some control and I get to prepare what we will do. 

Today Gracie and I sat down and decided how many times a week we should do our various subjects.  We have 4 days to do lessons in, Fridays she has Options.  She gets to pick which lessons she wants whichever day of the week she wants to do them, and she can do them in whatever order and how ever many she wants.  If we have to we will use weekends to finish the list up.  I explained to her that if she chooses to do nothing one day that’s fine, but we will have to do extra the other days then.  She understood that concept, although I have a feeling she will have to push it at least once to truly understand.  But that’s ok, she’s learning how to prioritize and accomplish things and the consequences of procrastination will probably be part of the process. 

After we decided how many times a week she will do her various subjects I quickly wrote her a chart where she can keep track of what she does every week.  It looks like this:

Math                                  1         2         3

Science                              1         2

Social Studies                     1         2

Spelling                               1         2         3

Handwriting                        1         2         3

Writing                                1

Reading                               Every Day (We read multiple times a day and James does a chapter book with the kids in the evenings.)

Spanish                                1         2

Art                                       1         2


Then, every day, she picks what she wants to do.  When it’s done she crosses it off.  Pretty simple.  Then she has control with what she wants to do every day and I know how many things to prepare for every week.  I hope this will meet both our needs.  I’m thinking I may come up with a much smaller schedule for Ian to follow with us since he participates in many of our lessons anyway.  I think he’s like his own list to cross off too.

So, do I think this will work?  Yes, for now.  That’s the glory of home school, we can do what works til it doesn’t and then switch it up.  I’d love it if this was our schedule for the rest of the year, but we’ll see. 

How do you mix things up when you hit a wall?  I’d love to hear from any of the home schoolers out there who happen by!

Sunday, August 22, 2010


We painted these a couple weeks ago.  I need to get some hangers on them so we can put them outside next spring and see if we get any birds to nest in them.

IMG_7901 IMG_7894 IMG_7897 IMG_7898 IMG_7900

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Wow, I haven’t even posted yet in 2010!

That’s nuts.  I had no idea!

Anyway, we are off to the races with Gracie’s first grade year.  I hadn’t planned to start til after Labor Day but we got her books weeks ago and she’s been seeming a little bored so I said “what the heck!” and we hit the books.

Gracie is doing Options again this year.  We’ve moved and the drive is going to be looong, but she made good friends and it doesn’t seem worth trying to move her to another location.  It’s only one day a week.  I think most of the time it should be fine.  The snow could throw a kink in things, but we’ll see. 

The nice thing about Options is that because it’s a public school program we have access to curriculum for free.  This is a huge thing to me since curriculum is expensive.  And there’s so much out there, you could go for days and days comparing it and then finally get it only to find it’s not really what you thought.  Options narrows the field a bit and then has a book fair where I was able to go in and look at every subject, the books, teachers editions, workbooks, and manipulative.   It was wonderful to go in and see everything and helped make choosing very easy.

So, for 1st grade Gracie is doing the following classes:

Math- We are doing Math-U-See  So far I love it and Gracie is really digging it too.  It’s similar to Saxon with it’s repetitiveness and I taught Saxon (eons ago now) so it’s comfortable for me.

Reading- No text.  We’re just reading.  I’m pretty confident she’s reading above grade level right now and honestly I hate reading text books.  So we’re using the library.  A lot.  And Goodwill, great place to get good classical literature.

Spelling-  Spelling Power.  It’s good and basic with lots of ideas for fun and games as review.  I like it because it’s so comprehensive, it’s one book for kids K-12.

Grammar- No text.  I figure if she’s reading good literature and she can spell that the grammar will follow.  I know some would disagree but at this point it’s what works.

Handwriting- Handwriting Without Tears  This one I didn’t get through Options, they actually didn’t have anything for handwriting which I thought was weird.  So I did some research, had this recommended by a few people, and jumped.  So far I like it and again, I really like the approach it takes with fun learning activities that don’t just involve a workbook.

Creative Writing- Writing Strands  It’s a basic simple small book with lots of ideas for introducing good and creative writing for children.   There’s no text for students.  Again, lots of activities that don’t necessitate sitting with a book and holding a pencil.  Do you see a pattern in my philosophy of teaching here?  ;)

Social Studies- MacMillan People and Places-  I think this will be ok, but not awesome.  It will expose her to things which is good.  I think a lot of it is really dumbed down which annoys me, but that’s just the way it is with a lot of text books.  We will probably supplement the information in this book a lot.

Science- Scott Foresman Penguin-  Kind of like Social Studies this book will be a nice catalyst but it’s not exactly stimulating information so far. 

Art-  Atelier Homeschool Art-  Love this so far.  Really love it.  Gracie loves art and I am not artistically gifted, like at all.  But I can do this stuff with her and it makes it easy!!  Also it includes fine art prints and guided discussion.  Sadly I have had very little exposure to any of that my entire life, so I think I will learn as much as she does!

Spanish- Power Glide Language Adventure-  This is Gracie’s favorite by far.  This girl has the desire to speak with anyone of any language and she will learn it.  Period!  She’s torn through lessons this week, luckily it’s totally on CD so I can sit back and learn with her. 

We will be doing Math, Reading, and Spelling M-Th.  The rest of the subjects will be twice a week.  Then on Fridays she will have whatever they do at Options this year.  It will most likely be Science, Spanish, Art, and PE.  I think that’s what they did last year.    She’s also in weekly piano lessons, weekly gymnastics class starts the end of this month, and hopefully show choir will start next month (they are having enrollment issues so there’s a chance it won’t start which is so so so so sad).

So there it is folks.  My first post of 2010.  I sure hope to do another one before she’s in 2nd grade! :)