Archive for the ‘homeschool’ Category

Every Monday, kidlit bloggers celebrate the fantastic non-fiction available for kids and teens.  I’m excited to be today’s Non-Fiction Monday Round Up!  Leave a link to your post about a non-fiction title in the comments, and I’ll update throughout the day.

My contribution for today is Serengeti Journey: On Safari in Africa, a National Geographic Science Chapters book. The book includes an introduction, chapters on elephants, giraffes, and cheetahs, a short summary chapter, and information on writing a report.

We’re using it as part of a unit study on African animals. My 7-year-old devoured each chapter this week and then told me fact after fact that she had learned. I loved seeing her so excited about reading non-fiction. Next week, we’ll do a writing project based on what she learned.

There are lots of titles in the National Geographic Science Chapters series, including Amazon Journey, Mysteries of the Sea, and All About Ants. We’ll definitely be using more of them in the future.

Post from around the kidlitosphere:

Read about an amaizng graphic novel about violence among children, Fist Stick Knife Gun at Pink Me.

Jeff at NC Teacher Stuff has a review of Get to Know Wedges.

Hop over to Charlotte’s Library to read about DK’s Ask Me Everything.

Abby the Librarian tells us about The Buzz on Bees.

Learn about Creative Kitchen Crafts at A Patchwork of Books

Read a review and enter a giveaway for The Barefoot Book of Dance Stories, a mix of non-fiction and folktales.

Learn about Survival at 40 Below at Wild About Nature.

Wendie Old has a review of The Little Kids First Big Book of Animals.

Get Face to Face with Wolves at Book Dads.

Learn more about Bring Me Some Apples and I’ll Make You a Pie at Rasco from RIF.

Jupiter joins Non-Fiction Monday for the first time with Recycle This Book.

Read about Time is When at The Cat in the Hat blog.

Roberta from Wrapped in Foil shares Beautiful Oops.

Shirley Duke at Simply Science shares her own Infections, Infestations, and Diseases.

Rock out with  Jimi Sounds Like a Rainbow at Bookends.

Anastasia Suen shares The Shocking Truth About Energy.

Read about Benno and the Night of Broken Glass at Maclibrary.

Michelle Markel at The Cat and the Fiddle shares a post on story arcs in picture book biographies.

Check out a few National Geographic Easy Readers (Ants and Great Migrations: Elephants) at The Reading Tub.

Another book blending folklore and non-fiction, How the Moon Regained Her Shape is the subject of today’s post at A Wrunge Sponge.

Learn about What Rot! Nature’s Mighty Recycler at Apples With Many Seeds.

Head over to Chicken Spaghetti to read about Liberty or Death, Candy Bomber, and The World Famous Miles City Bucking Horse Sale.

Janet Squires joins us with a review of Math Appeal: Mind-Stretching Math Riddles.

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Zombie Cookies

This little ghost refuses to turn right side up no matter what I do :)

By accident, we discovered a simple way to make zombie cookies. The girls wanted to make gingerbread cookies and decorate them so I got out our Halloween/fall themed cutters and some sprinkles. They wanted to also use candy corn. I warned them that it would likely melt in the oven but they wanted to try it so we did. The results: the candy corns melted completely, turning a reddish orange and looking like decayed flesh. Ta da! Zombie cookies aka dead body gingerbread.


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One of our favorite homeschool activities this year is our nature study time. Either on Friday or over the weekend so Brent can participate, we read about a topic in a book and/or field guides, then we take a walk, usually just around our neighborhood, looking for our subject. When we come home, we draw in our nature journal. We don’t always find what we’re looking for. The week we hoped to find lots of birds to observe, we didn’t see many that weren’t high in the trees, but we saw plenty of birds the next week when we couldn’t find any butterflies. We always see something interesting and our walks have become a favorite part of our week.

A few weeks ago, we discovered a nature park close to M’s art class and while we were exploring, we discovered lots of cool mushrooms. The girls insisted we bring their dad that weekend and have a mushroom nature study session. I searched the library for mushroom books and discovered The Mushroom Hunt by Simon Frazer. We brought it along with us and the girls loved listening to it while nestled in a pile of leaves.

The book begins with a young girl named Ruthie and her family preparing to go on a mushroom hunt in the woods. The story of their explorations is interspersed with facts about mushrooms such as their ability to grow in the dark and how a network of tiny threads spread into the soil underneath them. By following Ruthie on her family outing, the reader learns how mushrooms grow, how they differ from plants and the characteristics of many different species.

Today’s Non-Fiction Monday Round-Up is at Write About Now.

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We’ve been studying Egypt over the last few weeks and doing lots of reading. Two books stuck out as particularly well-written, engaging and educational: Pharoah’s Boat by David Weiztzman and The Great Pyramid by Elizabeth Mann.

Pharoah’s Boat tells the story of shipwrights building a funerary boat for the Phaoroah Khufu (Cheops). M and I were amazed at the detail of their work and the skill with which they constructed a boat that survived thousands of years buried in a limestone pit next to Khufu’s pyramid (The Great Pyramid at Giza). The boat pit was discovered in 1954 when sand was being cleared from the side of the pyramid. Ahmed Youssef Moustafa, an Egyptologist who’d struggled as a young man to be respected in his own country, spent 15 years re-constructing it including time apprenticed to modern Egyptian shipwrights and much trail and error as attempts were made to understand how the 1224 pieces fit together. The boat now stands in its own museum next to the Great Pyramid.

The Great Pyramid begins with a short, fictional tale of a boy called to Giza to work on the pyramid which Khufu (Cheops) has ordered constructed for his burial chamber. The rest of the book tells what Egyptians believed about the after life, describes the construction of earlier, simpler tombs, and explains how such a massive structure as the Great Pyramid (2,300,000 stone blocks) could have been constructed with no wheeled vehicles.

This week’s Non-Fiction Monday Round-up is at Wendie’s Wanderings.

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Both my girls enjoyed reading The Rabbit by Sally Tagholm (part of her Animal Lives series). We’re going to do a re-read when we study rabbits for nature study next week. The book follows a litter of rabbits from birth until maturity. Readers learn about rabbit family structure, challenges the young rabbits face, how they stay safe and what they eat. Since my girls are such animal lovers, I’m excited about having found another good series. I’ve got The Frog on request at the library.

This week’s Non-Fiction Monday Round-up is hosted by The Miss Rhumphis Effect.

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Our Homeschool Schedule

I wanted to share our weekly schedule for M’s second grade year even though I know we will rarely if ever have a week that looks just like my planning spreadsheet. I’ve tried to make each day a balance between written work and activities that will have us moving around more. I’m also balancing work I know M will enjoy and those things that tend to elicit complaints and eye rolls. And we’re working around weekly and monthly activities and C’s preschool so we have more time for work on some days than others.

Monday: Nature Study, Copywork, Free Writing/Drawing/Journaling time*, Reading Comprehension, 1 or more Narrations, Math. For 9 weeks of the fall, we’ll have co-op from 11-2 and M will have an art class from 3-4:30 every week.

Tuesday: History, Dictation, Free Writing/Drawing/Journaling time, Silent Reading, 1 or more Narrations, Math. Every other week we will have art group and on the off weeks we will occasionally attend a nature study class for C.

Wednesday: Chemistry, Dictation, Silent Reading, 1 or more Narrations, Math, Latin. C will be at preschool in the morning.

Thursday: History, Writing Assignment, Grammar, Silent Reading, 1 or more Narrations, Math. C will be in preschool in the morning. Once/month we will have science class at a museum in the afternoon.

Friday: Nature Study, Logic Puzzles, Math (usually a game or special activity), Free Writing/Drawing/Journaling time, Silent Reading, Music Appreciation. We may participate in a monthly nature study class.

Saturday: Chemistry with Brent

*M, C, and I each have notebooks that we will use for free writing/drawing/journaling time. We will spend 10 minutes with our notebooks communicating our thoughts on paper in some way – through words, pictures, doodles, anything. Obviously C may not sit for the whole time or even participate at all but I knew she would want to be included and she can get quite focusing when drawing or doodling.

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Over the course of last school year, M gained the confidence to read short chapter books on her own and by early summer was devouring them at a rapid rate.  I knew about easy readers – we’d explored Elephant and Piggie, classics by Dr. Seuss, Mr. Putter and Tabby, Amanda Pig and many others as Meg began to read. When she was ready for something longer, she started with the Magic Tree House series and moved on to Cam Jansen, Rainbow Fairies, Keeker and the Sneaky Pony, Secrets of Droon, and other short chapter series.

But when those became easy reads, I wasn’t sure what was next.  She started several significantly longer books that we’d read aloud – Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone and The Lightning Thief for example. She could read them but her slow progress, the length of the books and the small print discouraged her so she only read a chapter or two. I wanted to encourage her to keep reading whatever she chose no matter the level, but I also wanted to present her with some choices that would challenge her but not be discouraging. I questioned a few teacher friends and learned more about different systems of leveling books, particularly Lexile and Fountas and Pinnell.

Based on what I’d learned I began to assemble a list of books that were at her current ability level or just above it. So if you are looking for some reading suggestions for a reader who is gaining confidence with chapter books, here are some options. Most of these are O, P, Q on the Fountas and Pinnell scale or 500-750 on the Lexile scale. They are more or less listed from easiest to hardest but all scales don’t agree and interest or familiarity with the story makes a big different in how difficult it seems to a reader at this stage.

Ivy and Bean series by Annie Barrows

Encyclopedia Brown series by Donald Sobol

Dragon Slayer’s Academy series by Kate McMullan

Time Warp Trio series by Jon Scieszka

The Boxcar Children (and sequels) by Gertrude Chandler Warner

Socks by Beverly Cleary

Henry Huggins by Beverly Cleary

Beezus and Ramona by Beverly Cleary

Betsy, Tacy and Tib by Maud Hart Lovelace

Animal Ark series by Ben Baglio

Dolphin Diaries series by Ben Baglio

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We’re going to cover Ancient Civilizations this year using History Odyssey as a guide but also pulling from Sonlight Core 1 and bringing in some of our own resources. We’ll do history twice a week on average (not that we ever really have an average week) and we’ll pick and choose between the activities and book choices given in History Odyssey, probably only doing about 1/4 of the suggested work. We’ll use Story of the World and The Usborne Internet Linked Encyclopedia of World History as our spines and each week we’ll read a few short books and do a hands on project.

Our Booklist for the first several weeks:

Archaeologists Dig for Clues

The City of Rainbows: A Tale From Ancient Sumer

Pepi and the Secret Names: Help Pepi  Crack the Hieroglyphic Code

Ms Frizzle’s Adventures: Ancient Egypt

Adventures in Ancient Egypt (Good Times Travel Agency)


Pharoah’s Boat

Egypt in Spectacular Cross-Section

We’ll be using Ancient Science and Ancient Egyptians and Their Neighbors: An Activity Guide for science, art and cooking projects.

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Wow! I’ve certainly neglected this blog over the summer. We’ve continued to enjoy a whirlwind of summer fun – swimming, hiking, nature study, laying around in the a/c and watching movies, all punctuated by camps for M and trips for all of us. This week I am enjoying some restful time to reconnect with my husband while the girls are with my parents.

Our official kick off date for the school year is August 23 so I’m also taking some time to reorder bookshelves, refresh our homeschooling spaces, and rethink what this school year will look like. I’ve been having a blast over the last few weeks ordering books and buying school supplies. Oh how I love school supplies! Each girl will receive a basket filled with fresh supplies for the year as part of our first day tradition. We will also decorate notebooks and look through lots of new books. I’m excited but also nervous about the year. I’ve rethought our curriculum and plans many times, and I know that the way we structure our days and the curriculum we use will be a work-in-progress but I so want to make a good start.

Last spring, I shared plans for second grade and most of those have remained the same with the exception of Language Arts. I’ve always found Language Arts to be the hardest to plan because there are so many parts to pull together – spelling, writing, grammar, phonics, reading, handwriting, research skills, etc. I decided not to use the next level of All About Spelling and bought only the Flash Kids’ Complete Curriculum workbook planning to use it as our base and find other activities as we need them, but once I started making concrete plans for the first few weeks, I found the organization of it frustrating. I toyed with buying Sonlight’s LA for Level 2 Advanced but I knew we would only use a fraction of the work in it. I kept looking for other options and then I stumbled upon the Charlotte Mason Language Arts series at Wildflowers and Marbles.

I’ve been reading more about Charlotte Mason’s educational theories over the summer and after reading this set of posts, I decided to revamp our LA plans to include dictation once/week, copywork once/week, several narrations weekly, one grammar lesson/week possibly using the Flash Kids book and one writing assignment per week based on a chapter or section of a living book. This might be handwritten by M or dictated to me.

M is now comfortable reading short chapter books on her own and can read longer, more complex books but is often discouraged by small type or a book that seems dauntingly long.  I intend to encourage her to continue picking out books on her own and reading as voraciously as she has been at any level she chooses. I also plan to assign a few books that are at a slightly higher level than she has been commonly reading.  I will read those with her and we will discuss each chapter.  To compile my list, I used Sonlight’s Readers 2 Advanced and Reader 3 lists as well as this list of books with Fountas and Pinnell levels given.  All books I’ve chosen are level O-Q.  Here’s the list so far: Beezus and Ramona, Encyclopedia Brown, Socks, Meet Josephina (American Girls), Into the Deep (Dolphin Diaries), Betsy, Tacy, and Tib, and The Boxcar Children. Some of these are familiar stories and some are new.

For read-alouds, I will continue to let M’s interests lead her plus we will read several books off the Sonlight Core 1 list (several of which are re-reads we’ll talk about in more detail) and a few more we’ve been planning for awhile.  Here’s what I’ve got listed so far: A Bear Called Paddington, Charlotte’s Web, Henry Huggins, Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle, The Railway Children, Wheel on the School, Homer Price, Mr. Popper’s Penguins, and Understood Betsy.

I’m trying to get the concept of less is more to actually sink into my brain particularly in light of how much M’s writing and spelling skills have improved over the summer as she’s made books and typed up lists and created other projects completely on her own initiative.

Other areas I’ve altered/tweaked since my original plan include art and history.  For art we will still be using Artistic Pursuits Book 1 but we will use it with our art group every other week. I’m sure we will also do projects from the book on off weeks some of the time but I’m also interested in following the picture study and composer studies at Ambleside so depending on how much time we’ll have, we may or may not do Artistic Pursuits projects on our own.  M is also signed up for a weekly art class with the same wonderful teacher she had for summer camp last year.

I’ll explain the books and resources I’ve pulled together for our first weeks of history, the booklist I’ve made so far for our chemistry course, and the basic schedule of our days in additional posts.

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Every Monday, kidlit bloggers celebrate some of the fantastic non-fiction available for kids and teens.  I have the pleasure of hosting today’s Non-Fiction Monday Round Up!  Leave a link to your post about a non-fiction title in the comments, and I’ll update throughout the day.

My contribution this week is the DK Encyclopedia of Animals. Recently, we borrowed a copy from a friend and had to order our own before we gave it back. This encyclopedia is a beautifully-photographed, reasonably-priced reference that would be useful to any animal lover.  The first pages explain how to use the book.  The next section covers general information about animals including topics such as classification, camouflage, organs, senses, and various habitats.

The bulk of the book is comprised of “Animals A to Z”.  Each animal covered has 1-3 pages of annotated pictures, captions and a fact box. I can think of numerous ways we will use this book as homeschoolers, but one way we’ve already incorporated it into our studies was as a practice book for using an index and a table of contents and finding alphabetically arranged entries.

Posts from around the Kidlitosphere:

Learn how 1+1=5 at 100 Scope Notes.

Read about The Horrors of Andersonville at Bookish Blather.

Tammy from Apples with Many Seeds has reviewed books that turn research into a mystery hunt.

Read about two burros who delivery books in Biblioburro at Shelf-Employed.

Click over to Charlotte’s Library to read about Swords: An Artist’s Devotion.

Abby the Librarian joins us with Project Seahorse.

To read about Fainting Goats And Other Weird Mammals head over to Simply Science.

Learn what animals do before a hurricane at Wild About Nature.

Jean Little Library has a review of Summer Birds.

Check out the short list for the Mock Sibert Awards.

Rasco from Rif is sharing ANTics an alphabet book filled with ant antics.

Head over to The Fourth Musketeer to learn more about The Candy Bomber.

NC Teacher Stuff has a great book for these hot summer days: The Coldest Places on Earth.

Jennie from Bibio File has reviewed Readicide: How Schools Are Killing Reading and What You Can Do About It Kelly Gallagher, a book for adults who care about reading.

Take an alphabetical tour of Walden Pond at Check It Out.

Join Carrie in her Comfy Cozy Reading Nook for Ubiquitous: Celebrating Nature’s Survivors.

Visit Bookends to learn more about Sir Charlie Chaplin: The Funniest Man in the World

MotherReader has a review of My Stroke of Insight.

Brenda at proseandkahn joins us with a review of Planet Hunter.

Read up on the Famous Places series at A Patchwork of Books.

Three Turtles and Their Pet Librarian have also reviewed a series, Media Literacy.

Learn about A Log’s Life, part of Wrapped In Foil’s Festival of the Trees.

Click over to Books Together for a review of A Boy Named Giotto.

Wendie Old discovered the difference between Alligators and Crocodiles at Wendie’s Wanderings.

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