Saturday morning. Menu planning and grocery shopping. Oh the joy! I recently started planning a little differently and thought I would share. I made a menu template for meals. I fill in the meals and then at the bottom I have 2 columns for a shopping list. For me that is Publix and Costco. As I fill in the meals on the calendar I simply add the needed ingredients to the shopping list at the bottom. I never follow the calendar exactly, but at least I know I have that many breakfasts, lunches, dinners, and snacks in the house! I can also plan meals based on what we have going on that week, planning in pizza nights and crock pot meals as needed. I think I am going to laminate the template and use a dry erase marker to save on paper. Being organized with meals certainly helps stay on budget, and balance having plenty of healthy meals with the "I just need something easy nights!" I never know when those nights will be, but this way I always plan for at least one!

Menu Planning

by on 9:13 AM
Saturday morning. Menu planning and grocery shopping. Oh the joy! I recently started planning a little differently and thought I would share...
You know the old adage "God won't give you more than you can handle?" Well, the truth is we can handle a lot. Every day I survive tantrums, screaming, whining, toy explosions, art in various unartistic places, unkind attitudes -- you get the point. No matter the day I have had, each evening I snuggle up with my kids, pray and sing with them and say goodnight. It's usually at that moment that I breathe for the first time in what can seem like hours. It is also usually at this time that I get my first reflective glimpse into my day. As I pray over my children and thank God for the amazing treasures He has given me, I have to face the reality of how I have treated those gifts that day.  Some nights I smile in contentment and joy and some nights tears flow down my face in regret for things I have said and done. But every day I survive. Every day I "handle" it. That isn't enough.

Last week I was having a particularly rough day. Ron was away counseling missionaries in Greece, and I was "holding down the fort," though some days a breeze could have blown it over. As J has gotten older these trips have gotten easier for me. However, this week was crazy. I was trying to clean our way too big house with three kids running around. My mental image all week? That Facebook e-card that says "Trying to clean your house with kids around is like brushing your teeth while eating Oreos."  I was preparing to host 2 exchange students for 2.5 weeks, and preparing to teach 2 weeks of English classes, as well as preparing for our homeschool year which starts directly after this teaching commitment. I was struggling. Spiritually I was being attacked and I knew it. I was allowing sin a foothold and it was obvious to me and my children. You know that awkward moment when you hear your child being nasty to another and your heart freezes and then sinks because . . . well, they sound just like you.

That is not who I want to be as a parent. Generational sin is tough,and way too many times last week I got on level with one of my kids and apologized for raising my voice. I am not proud of those moments, but I am ever so grateful for them. As I heard myself in my children, I was slapped in the face with my reality. They are the most effective mirrors in my house and sometimes what I see is not pretty. In the trenches last week as I was struggling and too often failing God spoke. You know the lighting bolt to your heart that stops you in your tracks. It's not about what you can handle. It's about what you can handle with grace. It's about what you are handling well. I stopped and prayed to be filled with God's grace. Grace that only He can give. Grace that forgives. Grace that causes peace in the midst of the storm.

Mirror, Mirror . . .

by on 3:29 PM
You know the old adage "God won't give you more than you can handle?" Well, the truth is we can handle a lot. Every day I surv...
Only two weeks to go until our new school year begins. I am a little nervous since I have SO much to do! However, all books (and more books!) and resources are on the shelf, copies are made and time is near! Here are our plans for this year:

 E-2nd grade
Bible: Bible Study Guide for All Ages intermediate pages
           We Choose Virtues
Math: Math Mammoth finish 2B-3; Right Start Games
Language Arts:
       Phonics- Explode the Code 6-8 (for review)
       Spelling-- All About Spelling- finish level 3-4
       Grammar- First Language Lessons 2
       Writing- Writing with Ease 2
        Handwriting- Zaner-Bloser 2C
        Reading- Sonlight finish grade 3 readers-grade 4/5 readers
                                        History: Sonlight Core C (with a WTM flavor!) :)
                                        Science: Elemental Science Earth, Space, and Astronomy for the grammar stage

Bible: Bible Study Guide for All Ages beginner pages
          We Choose Virtues
Math: Right Start A moving to Math Mammoth 1A when finished
Language Arts:
         Phonics- Ordinary Parents Guide to Reading/ABeka combo
                       Explode the Code 1-2
         Handwriting- Handwriting Without Tears K
History: Sonlight Core C (the geography portion and read alouds only)
                                     Science: Elemental Science Earth, Space, and Astronomy for the grammar stage

J- Tot School!
Bible: Tagging along with Bible Study Guide for All Ages
            We Choose Virtues
Math: Puzzles, games, and manipulatives
Phonics: Leap Frog Letter Factory, puzzles and games

Updated on August 10th to join in on the Not Back to School Blog Hop!

2012-2013 Curriculum

by on 2:13 PM
Only two weeks to go until our new school year begins. I am a little nervous since I have SO much to do! However, all books (and more books!...

Science is another of those "not broken" areas in our homeschool. I wanted to switch science curriculum's this year for several reasons, but E begged to continue with what we use. What can a homeschool mom say about that? When a child begs to continue, continue we shall! We have been very happy with Elemental Science. It is basically Well Trained Mind science planned out. It has several spines (encyclopedias and other real books on the topic) and then has notebooking component and weekly experiments. We did Biology for the grammar stage this year. I wasn't fantastic about getting the experiments done, but those that we did were enjoyed by E and C tremendously. They both love science. 


ES is not a "Christian" curriculum, they strive to be "neutral." This is one of the reasons I wanted to switch this year. However, the author of the curriculum is a Christian and that gave me the peace of mind knowing we wouldn't come across anything controversial for us. Also the author makes no apologies when she explains her worldview and how while she tries to remain neutral, she herself is a 7 day literal creationist. 

I also like being able to buy it as a PDF so I can use the teachers manual on my iPad, and print 2 student books for the kids. The teachers manual has a plan for either 5 days a week or 2. I love that since we schedule science 2 days a week so we can alternate with  history.  The best part of this curriculum to me is how easy it is to use, which means it actually gets done! I  The best curriculum is the one that gets used!
For first grade math, we continued with Math Mammoth. I switched at the end of Kindergarten after a semi disastrous math year with Saxon. Saxon, though a great program was not a great fit for E. She was not grasping concepts and was simply memorizing "tricks." In the end I was discouraged that we had spend such a focus on math in kindergarten (45 minutes to an hour a day) to yield so little. And I hated spending 15 minutes introducing a concept only to have 1 or 2 practice problems or none on the worksheet. So we switched and I have been thrilled!

At first I was nervous to leave the "scripting" of Saxon to something I had a hard time even picking out the "teaching." As time went on that became the best part! Math Mammoth teaches concepts in such a way you barely notice you are moving to a new concept. I love how each step in the "worktext" takes you just a little farther into the topic. MM is based on the Asian system of doing math like Singapore math, but unlike Singapore has more practice and does not possess the "conceptual leaps" some complain about in Singapore. E is not necessarily "mathy" and I thought Singapore would have been a stretch for her, but MM gives the Singapore edge in a way she can understand. I also love that it is written in a way that it is often able to be done semi independently. We do add manipulatives occasionally, especially when introducing a new or challenging concept.

Math Mammoth is a complete curriculum and does not need to be supplemented, however, we found that while we liked the mastery of MM, E needs a little more spiral for review. So this year we added in Right Start Games. They have been the hit of math this year! They are a perfect companion to MM and add just the right fun spiral review E needed. E says she doesn't "like" math, but she loves to play math games!

Another huge plus is the cost. Twice a year Homeschool Buyers Coop has MM on sale and sell the download of grades 1-6 for up to half off. I got 6 grades of math for around $65! (Just a note if you print in color as I do the savings quickly diminishes, but hey!) Math is one area I didn't even consider looking at other curriculum for next year. If it's not broken, don't fix it!

2011-2012 in Review: Math

by on 9:46 AM
For first grade math, we continued with Math Mammoth.  I switched at the end of Kindergarten after a semi disastrous math year with Saxon. S...

I have spent more time researching history curricula than anything in the world. The problem is there are so many fantastic options and my perfectionist nature fears missing anything! But that is another story for another post! Before we began homeschooling, I had already been researching curricula for years. Before E started kindergarten I read The Well Trained Mind by Susan Wise Bauer, and so much of it resonated with me. The problems of traditional education and the benefits of classical education. I am not a true classical educator in the truest sense of the word, but I do have strong classical leanings. :) For one, studying history chronologically makes sense to me. After a geography/missionary study in K, we ventured into the Ancients using Story of the World and the Activity Guide for first grade. 

It didn't take me very long to realize that SOTW alone was not going to do it for us. While studying a major time of Biblical history, the few Biblical references in SOTW were thrown in and honestly some were not very true to Biblical history at all. I think it is a wonderful text and serves its purpose. However, I knew I wanted more for our study of the ancients. I ordered the Veritas Press curriculum for Old Testament Ancient Egypt and New Testament Greece and Rome. I certainly would not have used it as is with a first grader, but the VP history cards and song certainly brought the Biblical history in.  I really liked the VP cards/song aspect, but honestly it fell by the wayside and we rarely got to it. 

Looking back, history was my biggest regret of the year. We have a large 3 ring binder full of notebooking pages, coloring pages, maps, projects, and a ginormous reading log, but honestly, I don't think E could tell you much of anything we studied. I do recognize that the grammar stage history cycle is for exposure, but to spend an entire year studying something with little to no retention is enough for me to switch gears. E was not a fan of SOTW and neither was I. For first grade I felt it was too rushed, too many chapters to cover, too much information. In retrospect, I would have used the VP cards as my spine, memorized the timeline song, read great literature to go along with the cards and used SOTW if and when we didn't have extra books on hand for that particular card. The projects we did were a hit, and the SOTW activity guide was a great resource!

I spent a lot of time picking books to go along with our history study and that was the highlight of our year! E and C love read alouds and we read some great books! I love that we read about Alexander the Great, the Gilgamesh Trilogy, and the Trojan War. We studied mummies, made Starburst pyramids, had an archeological dig, carved cuneiform tablets, painted African cave paintings, painted papyrus and more! There were definitely some great moments in our history studies this year!

I am learning so much about how I like to teach, how E learns, what works, and what doesn't. For second grade, we are switching gears and using Sonlight Core C (with a Well Trained Mind flavor). :) I am hoping this will help with the fact that E says she "hates history." It was a difficult choice for me to "leave" the four year classical cycle to do something else, but my main goal in these early years is to develop a love of learning. I am hoping Sonlight will help us achieve that in history!  I know the greatest change will not be the curriculum, but me. Particularly taking time to stop and enjoy what we are studying, and being ok with it if we don't "finish." I want to enjoy rabbit trails and dig deeper into less topics. I am looking forward to next year! 

2011-2012 in Review: History

by on 10:11 PM
I have spent more time researching history curricula than anything in the world. The problem is there are so many fantastic options and m...
What we used for second grade LA:
Finished Abeka Phonics 1 and readers (finished first semester) 
All About Spelling 1, 2, and part of 3
Writing With Ease 1
Handwriting without Tears 1 (finished first semester)
First Language Lessons 1
Sonlight grade 2 readers and about half of Grade 3 readers
Explode the Code books 3-5

Wow, that's a mouthful! We are definitely language centered in our homeschool. I believe language arts and math are providing the foundation for which the rest of schooling will be built. While we pursue content areas (history and science), I believe they are secondary in the early years. They happen, but on a much smaller scale. Of our 3/3.5 hours of school work a day in first grade, language arts took about 1 hour and 15 minutes, math 45 minutes. Since the school day includes 30 minutes of piano and 30 minutes of Bible, you can see the heavy priority.

Review time!

Abeka Phonics: We started first grade when we finished K at the end of K. Honestly, I was very ready to be over with this. It was thorough, but very tedious. Since we only used the phonics portion, I found that I had to filter through a lot of other material to get what I needed. Also, there was quite a bit of information included for classroom use, and I found this tedious to go through as well. However, there were parts that we loved. The Basic Phonics flashcards, charts, and handbook for reading were very helpful.  They are colorful, engaging, and although we are switching gears  for our next phonics go round (C), we will be using these "extras" from Abeka. I do think my time with Abeka was benefitial. It was the way I learned to read and I was comfortable with teaching it. I knew it was a solid program and it gave me a lot of ideas for the presentation of material. It is amazing how many silly games you can play with phonograms on a white board!

All About Spelling: I almost sold this before I took it out of the box. It overwhelmed me at first. I finally decided to sit with the teacher's manual and grappled with it. I am so glad I did! Since we only completed Abeka Phonics 1 (and not through grade 3 as the phonics program continues), I was worried about any gaps that might be present. AAS thoroughly fills those gaps. It is based on the Orton-Gillingham method, teaching spelling through phonics rules. It is very hands on, using magnetic tiles on a white board. We do not always use the tiles, but it is great to introduce new concepts. AAS is not written in daily lessons, but is designed in "Steps." Sometimes a step can be done in a day, but sometimes it can take longer. I have found that I like having lessons set up like this. It takes the pressure off of having to complete a certain amount in a day. I simply set the time for 15-20 minutes, and when it goes off we are done.  We also use different modes for writing the spelling words, phrases, and sentences. The white board, paper, and E's favorite, a white board app on my iPad that she can "paint" the words with her finger. I love the constant review that is built in. The only negative to AAS is how teacher intensive it is. I dream of handing a workbook to her and having it completed independently, but I know the truth is I would not be happy with the results of that. So we press on.

Writing with Ease 1: I love the Peace Hill Press LA products. They are short and to the point lessons. They are scripted which takes the guess work out of it. It took about 10-15 minutes 4 X's a week. WWE was a small struggle this year for E. She struggles with comprehension and this was a challenge. But one I believe is worth it. We will continue with the next book in the fall.

First Language Lessons 1: This is such a light introduction to grammar. We loved this. We will continue with FLL 2 for second grade.

Handwriting without Tears 1: Unlike in kindergarten when we used all of the manipulatives and got the most out of the program, we only used HWOT 1 as a workbook. She completed it the first semester and we allowed the copywork in WWE to be enough of handwriting for the rest of the year. This served its purpose this year in solidifying manuscript, but was not a stand out.

Sonlight Readers: Love these! I cannot say enough about Sonlight books. Whether readers or read alouds, they are always family favorites!

Explode the Code: We like these, but honestly I go back and forth with whether or not they are busywork. I despise busywork and am not really a fan of workbooks. E likes them, but I am unsure of the extent of retention. However, it is something E can do independently, and calms my fears about gaps in phonics. ;) We plan to continue the series, but will continually evaluate. If we were to drop something, this would be it.

We had a great year with language arts and are continuing with most everything for second grade. I am thrilled with E's reading progress. My next goal in LA is to find books that interest and fully engage her, so that not only is she able to read, but wants to! I deeply desire her to LOVE reading. She loves read alouds, so I know we will get there soon!
If there was a curriculum junkies anonymous, the mantra would be "Just Choose One." Yeah, its true, it is impossible for me to use a program as is. After debating ad nauseum of whether to use ABeka Phonics or The Ordinary Parents Guide to Reading with C for K Phonics, I ultimately decided a combination with a splash of Explode the Code would be best. :)

Both programs are perfectly complete in and of themselves and produce great results, so Why Combine? 

1. Abeka Phonics Teacher's manuals drive me crazy. We only use the phonics, so sifting through the other language arts subjects is annoying. 
2. Abeka phonics moves S.L.O.W. There is too much extra, and as a perfectionist I fear if I move too quickly or skip something, I might miss something. 
3. OPGTR is straightforward, easy to use, and scripted (which I love!) And it is only one book instead of multiple levels. 
4. Cost. This wasn't so much a factor for me since I had all of the Abeka items. OPGTR is one book that gets you to a 4th grade reading level. 
5. Abeka is much more colorful and engaging. This is why I chose to use the Basic Flashcards and Handbook for Reading.
6.  Abeka has built in review. OPGTR does say to use the "1 New 2 Review" method, but I like constant review. Another reason for using the flashcards and Handbook for Reading. 
6. Abeka is too much writing for my current Ker. I didn't want to do the Letters and Sounds workbook, but the Explode the Code books will be less writing and more directed at just phonics and not the rest we don't need. 
7. I like to know when I am "done." I went through Abeka Phonics K and 1 with E, and felt we were ready to move on. We continued with All About Spelling and Sonlight Readers and I am very happy with the results. However, in the back of my perfectionist mind I still wonder if we missed something by not completing the Abeka phonics program. I don't think we have, but to be sure I have her working through the Explode the Code series. Probably unnecessary, but it is relatively painless independent work and it makes me feel better. :) 

Here is the document if you are interested:

We will be adding a lot of games for my little guy that is ALL boy. A few favorites so far: Great online reading/phonics games. 

Flashcard Hop: Choose several letters or phonogram cards you are working on, scatter them on the floor across the room. Call out a sound and an action (Hop, crawl, hop one one leg) and the child moves to the correct letter while completing the action.

Phonogram Toss: As you cover a phonogram (or just letters) write it on a beach ball in Sharpie. Toss the ball back and forth and the child has to read the phonogram closest to their thumb.

Reading Easter Eggs: I saw this on Pinterest and loved it! I also made a second batch/toddler version for J with the capital letter on one side and the lower case on the other (be sure to mix match eggs for different colors if you want to make it more challenging!) 

A few more phonics games I found on Pinterest that I plan to make and try out!

Kindergarten Phonics

by on 1:13 PM
If there was a curriculum junkies anonymous, the mantra would be "Just Choose One." Yeah, its true, it is impossible for me to use...
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