Friday, August 9, 2013

The Name Our School Contest

So, with all the excitement of curriculum, books, math skills and starting Ancient History and Botany for a 1st grader, PreK twins and a preschooler, we haven't come up with an essential piece of our homeschool puzzle.

That's right. We're talking about a Name. Now, Johnson Homeschool works. Its short, to the point, and logical, but also extremely boring.(And Brooke says totally LAME!)

We need a name that says Harvard at heart, but international in outlook. Something like Oxford, but maybe more moderny too. Sort of like Ivy League meets Silicon Valley with a dash of the International Relations program at Georgetown University.
The teacher and her Students
 We need ideas.

 We need them now.

Which is why we're having our first Blog giveaway contest.

If you have ideas, we have an empty nameplate, waiting to be filled.

We've thought of Spartan Academy(Brooke's Choice), Currahee International School, even Stalag 13 International Diplomacy and Escape School(Brian's Choice).

But somehow we're still lacking something.

So, send us your idea in the comment section of this post, or Facebook or email us and you're entered. You can enter as often as you like, and you have the chance for a sweet prize. If you're one of our top three choices, we'll contact you and send the prize your way.

Contest Deadline: Friday, August 23rd

Thursday, August 8, 2013

A Lalaloopsy Birthday Girl

Well, our household is officially saying goodbye to the 'baby' stage of our lives...(barring a miracle of course) Skye has now hit the big 3.0.
It was ALL things Lalaloopsy from the beginning, starting with cinnnamon rolls that matched her little Lalaloopsy doll... 
As you can see....carefully planned out in every detail.  ha
And, we were able to get a Lalaloopsy shirt made at a local printer here. It was very well received.  And she got a new Lalaloopsy Doll. She's pretty tough, and can hold her own with her twin brothers and big sister, but her reaction to pink things is normally along the lines of, "It's SOOO COOT!!!" Tonight in bed, she cradled her new baby and softly sang her a nite-nite lullaby.
Lalaloopsy figurines, pink frosting and sprinkles make any cake Lalaloopsy-licious! She was so excited for her upcoming birthday she would talk about it in animated little yells...and when she saw some of the decorations going up last night, she could hardly contain herself. Birthdays are exciting! 
And, there were some fun presents, both from mommy and daddy and from grandparents far away. There was lots of enjoyment playing with some new special stuff today. 
Blowing out three candles was a little tougher than it looked....but she did her best. 
Well, that's our fireball Skye...pound for pound, she has the most determination of any three-year old we've ever seen...but she still wants the occasional cuddle and enjoys having us sing her lullabies and give the obligatory butterfly kisses before bed. Sometimes we wish she wouldn't grow up, but we are sure enjoying having the privilege of being along for the ride. Thank you God for our little Skye girl!!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

2013 - 2014 Curriculum Plans Part 2

Well, if Part 1 of Curriculum Plans didn't get you almost giddy with excitement, Part Deux will definitely push you over the edge. 

Now...feast your eyes on the subjects that we do separately!  Remember, I'm teaching a 1st grader, twin 4 1/2 (almost 5) year olds doing PreK and my little almost 3 year old preschooler. 

The logistical considerations alone are an obsessive planners dream (like myself, for example) come true.

Language Arts:
I honestly didn't know what to do with language arts for Asia.  I just couldn't find a complete program that had all the elements I considered necessary. So, instead of simple and neat but incomplete...I have a bunch of stuff that I've thrown together. Since she has completed both the Kindergarten and Level 1 of Sing, Spell, Read & Write...I decided to continue on with Level 2. When I have a spare 30 minutes--I want to write a review of Level 2. Back when I ordered it...I couldn't really find any reviews of it...and it is VERY different from Kindergarten and Level 1.  I haven't decided how I feel about it, it's just a lot different than the first two levels(which we liked a lot).
The workbooks teach grammar, spelling, handwriting and review all of the phonic rules taught in Level 1.
The other reason that I decided to use Level 2 of Sing, Spell, Read & Write is because we also are trying to learn about the United States this year...since Lord-willing we're actually going to LIVE there for all of 2014....and the readers cover all of the 50 States.
This way, my little Southeast-Asian-Raised foursome will hopefully be able to engage in semi-informed conversation about their passport country.
The Level 2 Readers give a tour starting in California and progressing along the Southern Border of the USA...and then, Up the East Coast.  So far, they're learning a lot and enjoying the journey!
The Level 3 Readers cover the rest of the USA & Canada & Mexico.
There are two CD's with Level 2.  The first CD is a short history of the United States and the second CD has songs for each of the states covered in the Level 2 books.
I also created a 50 States coloring book using free printables from various places online...which I had printed & bound (it's very cheap to do here)...  Leif & Slater also have one, they can learn about the United States while Asia reads to them for her Reading Class.
I use Explode the Code to reiterate what Asia is learning in Sing, Spell, Read & Write....and to really reinforce those phonic rules. We'll just slowly work our way through books 4 to 6 this year...doing 2 to 3 pages a day. 
A major goal I have for Asia this year is working on penmanship...her writing tends to be quite messy.  I have really like Handwriting without Tears...  It is easy for me to remember the cues for teaching the forming of letters properly.
And, a bit of grammar! (Told you this post would be exciting) We're loving First Language Lessons. These are scripted lessons.  I wasn't sure how I would feel about them...but actually, I really like them (of course, I'm only a week in)....They are short grammar lessons that only take about 5 minutes. So far Asia has learned that a NOUN is a person, place, thing or idea.  She also knows the difference between a common noun and a proper noun.
The lessons also teach how to Narrate, which is something we believe is very important.

And, I like that the lessons include a variety of poems to memorize.
Asia memorized the following poem in less than a day.
By: Christina Rossetti (1830 - 1894)
Brown and furry
Caterpillar in a hurry,
Take your walk
To the shady leaf, or stalk,
Or what not,
Which may be the chosen spot.
No toad spy you,
Hovering bird of prey pass by you;
Spin and die,
To live again a butterfly.
Writing With Ease teaches copy work and also narration...and only take 5 to 10 minutes a day.  
This has been super helpful for me as I begin serious narration with Asia. I wasn't really sure how to go about this and what should be expected at this level. So, these lessons work really well for that.  
The copywork is fantastic because we are working on penmanship extra hard this year.  Plus, the copywork comes from great literature that we have either read or plan to read. As I said has really helped me know what should be expected at this level.  
Asia also reads aloud from a "chapter book" of her choice every night.
Something fun that we are doing to keep track of her chapter book reading and to keep her motivated is... a bookworm chart! Every time that she finishes reading a chapter book we write down the name of it and add it to our chart.  She'll get a prize after a reading a certain number of books.  
She reads a LOT every day...but I only keep track of the chapter books...and just let her read for fun all through the day.

Leif & Slater:
We are continuing with the Letter of the Week for the twins. You can see more about that here.  Depending on how they are doing later this year, we may begin using Before the Code books A, B & C.  

Skye is just getting an introduction to the alphabet and to the sounds the letters make.  She is working hard at learning the ABC sounds song from Sing, Spell, Read & Write.

She spends time using the Handwriting without Tears manipulatives...but mostly makes a whole bunch of Os. haha  

She also loves the LeapFrog Letter Factory that we have on the fridge.    
I would like to see if we can get her writing S or even her whole name...But, she is only just turning 3 on Thursday...  So, I am not really pushing anything with her. 

The biggest thing: she is learning how to behave in a classroom setting, listen to her teacher, and follow instructions. When she started ballet last week, it was obvious that she KNEW what to do in a classroom situation, and she really listened and tried to do what the teacher was telling her. So, in our book, that's success for an almost 3-year old.

We still love Math-U-See...which uses the mastery approach...not the spiral approach.  We love the manipulatives and the fact that it is definitely multisensory.
We will continue working on Time & Money...We could use more of both of those!  Asia loves to play "store"...where I have her buy things from me...and she has to count out the correct change.  

Leif & Slater:
The twins love playing with the pattern blocks and they have recently decided to learn to count to 100. So, this year, we'll keep working on counting.  But, we'll focus on numbers 1 to 20.  I will be using some things that I got for free from Confessions of a work on learning how to write those numbers and improve number recognition.

Skye will be learning the rest of her shapes and continue practicing counting from 1 to 20. 
She'll also work on the rest of her colors...because right now...the only one she really knows is PINK.  haha

So, in a nutshell, that is our Curriculum. So far, I'm pretty happy with the choices we made. It will be interesting to see if I still feel the same way about a month from now...If I feel differently...I guess I'll have to blog about that too! Until then, that's our school. We are definitely NOT too cool for school.

Monday, August 5, 2013

2013 - 2014 Curriculum Plans Part Uno

Well, as a homeschooling mother of four, teaching a 1st Grader, two almost 5 year olds(PreK) and an almost 3 year old doesn't get much more exciting than this: Curriculum Choices!!

I wasn't really sure how to put my exuberance over this years curriculum into words...but that's never stopped me before, so here goes... 

I did realize however, that if I put all the curriculum into one post...well, perhaps that would be too much excitement for most people to handle in one go.  So, I decided to make two separate posts...This one covers the subjects that all four kids do mostly all it's stuff that can be made to work for mulitple age levels. (as in, not yet three years old to just over six.) 

And then Part II will cover the subjects that we do separately by age.  We are in our second week of this school, who knows what I will change.  haha

So, good morning class, let's stand and start by saying the:

Pledge of Allegiance
We start our day by saying the pledge together. 

Then it's...

Calendar Time:
We use some calendar notebooks that I got free from Confessions of a Homeschooler.  But I can't find the link that I got them from for free anymore. If you find it...she has a preK one and a regular one...which I like because the boys are in a very different place than Asia.  We cover the days of the week, time, chart the daily weather, etc.
1+1+1=1 has a pretty nice one available here.
Mama's Learning Corner has one available here.
The kids really enjoy Calendar Time--and the downloadables are free!

I know people have all sorts of ideas about how you should teach Bible if you homeschool...  Some people say, that it should never be taught as a 'subject'...that you should cuddle up with your kids on the couch and have a time of devotions...but you should definitely never make your kids feel like the Bible is a subject to be taught and learned.  

Well...I definitely want my kids to have a relationship with the Lord and not just think of it as another subject to be learned...but I do think there is a time and a place for in...people go to seminary to learn more about the Lord....but that doesn't mean that they don't/can't have a relationship with Him.
Anyway...before I get on that particular Soap Box...

We start our official school day with Bible. 

We are reading from Egermeier's Bible Story Book again this year...and reading The Awesome Book of Bible Facts when it has some facts that correspond with the Bible story that we are reading.  Sometimes if the kids are really lucky...I have my act together and while they were sleeping the night before I was printing out a coloring sheet for them that goes with what we are reading.
We are also adding many of the major people from the Bible to our timeline.
We are using "God Our Provider" from Sing the Word this year...  I think they are pretty good CD's that put Scripture to music...(they are super expensive on Amazon...much cheaper on Sonlight or on the Sing the Word website)  My kids learn really well through singing... So, right now, we are harmonizing our way through:
The earth is the LORD's and the fullness thereof,
the world and those who dwell therein;
for he has founded it upon the seas,
and established it upon the rivers.
Who shall ascend the hill of the LORD?
And who shall stand in his holy place?
He who has clean hands and a pure heart,
who does not lift up his soul to what is false,
and does not swear deceitfully.
He will receive blessing from the LORD,
and vindication from the God of his salvation.
Such is the generation of those who seek him,
who seek the face of the God of Jacob.
At night, we separate the boys and girls for bedtime reading...For some reason, putting our frisky foursome in one room at bedtime quickly turns into a sibling war zone. So,even if only one of us responsible adults is at home, we have separate story time. For some reason bedtime with 4 kids in the same room is just too much for them...or maybe it is just too much for us.
Asia is currently reading aloud from the Jesus Storybook Bible to Skye and I...

Brian takes the boys and is reading to them either from The Beginners Bible, The Lamb or The Jesus Storybook Bible.

I never developed a love of poetry as a child. To assuage my guilt at never becoming cultured in this way, I'm making sure my kids are going to love poetry, whether they want to or not. So, we are continuing to read one poem aloud every day from Ambleside Online Poetry anthology, available for free here.

I haven't really figured out an official list of books to read aloud this year...  We generally do our read alouds at night...  Though I read some with the kids in the afternoons when I have time.

But lately, I've read Alice's Adventures in Wonderland to the girls and now we're reading Matilda.

Over in the boy's corner, Brian has read Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Charlie and the Glass Elevator, Henry Huggins, Ribsy and is currently reading Voyage With the Vikings. When one of your sons is named Leif, anything about Leif the Lucky goes over pretty well.

This year, we've turned a bit more classical in our History/Geo...we are studying history chronologically. This year is all about Ancient History. We do this on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
Just a note on this...I actually don't agree with the dating of prehistory that Susan Wise Bauer presents in her book. But so far, that's the only thing I haven't liked in her curriculum.  I just explain to the kids that people believe lots of things about when the earth began.  And I tell them what I believe...but that only God knows for sure.
On Monday and Wednesday, we read from our text and do some review questions and then, narration exercises.  Sometimes we do one of the suggested activities from the book. Also, the audio version of our history book is extremely enjoyable for our kids, (and mom and dad) and very well done.---all 7 CD's have been listened to multiple times.
And our timeline is getting more interesting every week. This is our timeline that has taken over the living room/dining room wall. It starts with Creation and ends with the birth of Skye. We got our pictures about Ancient History for our timeline here.
On Friday, we do some "extra" reading on whatever subject we've been covering that week.  Normally, people would just get some books from the library to do this...but since we don't have a library...  I have a few books that we are using from our own slowly expanding homeschool "library."  

We are also making an Ancient History lapbook that I downloaded for free from here.  

We'll also use Friday to work on any extra projects we want to do for fun.

As mentioned before, the other thing we do outside "regular" school time is listen to the Story of the World audio book.  It is very well done and even Brian & I have been learning a lot.  

We are doing Science on Tuesdays and Thursdays.  This year we are using Apologia's Exploring Creation with Botany.
So, far we have been reading the text, doing review questions aloud, and then a narration exercise.  I like the Jr. Notebooking Journal as it has a couple of coloring pages for each lesson.  Asia tends to listen and comprehend better when she is doing something while I read aloud.

A few people have told me that Apologia is too difficult for kids in early elementary.  And I guess for just depends on what you want your kid to get out of it.  The first chapter does cover some difficult terms such as botanist, biologist, astrobiologist, phylums and even taxonomy...etc.
We haven't finished chapter one...but after the first section this is the Narration that Asia gave to me...from what I had read aloud to her.
"Plants are living things and God made all living things.  Scientists use Latin.  Botany is the study of plants."
So, she didn't remember ALL the big words...but she was exposed to a lot of good information, and she got what I think she should have gotten out of the lesson.
We also have a few fun "extras" as we study Botany this year.  And we have a bit of an herb garden that the kids helped plant. 
We continue to observe the nature around us...  The highlight of this week has been the stinkbug that laid eggs on the fence and has been staying with her eggs.  And, this flash. Two more stinkbugs, both with eggs as well were discovered. 

Asia has decided she thinks that stinkbugs are like turtles. As in, they lay their eggs in one place, the babies hatch, and the baby stinkbugs grow up, and go back to the same place to lay their eggs when they become adults. Well...a hypothesis is where scientific investigation starts.

I'll start off by saying...  I AM NOT CRAFTY OR AN ARTIST!  But I do enjoy art and I figured that I can teach Art History...  So, this year I invested in these books from a series called Getting to know the World's Greatest Artists.  I actually got the lessons and lapbook materials for free from Confessions of a Homeschooler's Worlds-Greatest-Artists-Unit-Study.  It is available for download free(this month) here.
We are studying one artist a month and of course, the artist is getting added to our timeline.
This month we are studying Michelangelo.  Slater's favorite sculpture is "David"...and today he drew this picture.  It gave me a good laugh.  Brian said that I should censor it.  I actually, think the reason he liked the "David" sculpture is because of the story behind it...he loves the story of David and Goliath.
The Draw-Write-Now books still get used almost daily.  They teach drawing way better than I ever could.  I have only used the copywork part of these occasionally with Asia.  But, I may use it more this year as we  focus more on penmanship.

I also DO NOT have a musical bone in my body.  So, for Music...we are studying one composer a month. This month we are studying Mozart.  Right now, we don't have any curriculum per se.  I am using some things I have found available online for free.  We have been reading about the composer and then, spending time listening to some of the composers music.  We make sure to add the composer to our timeline.

When I was planning my curriculum for this year...I looked at various foreign languages and thought... in what I then thought was a moment of brilliance...I should write a Visayan (the language spoken here) curriculum for the kids.

Our kid's friends learn English in school, so they usually practice their English when they're talking to our kids. So, they aren't learning as much as we had hoped that they would. Language is a complicated thing here...Visayan is the heart language of people where we live, but their school is normally taught with a combination of Tagalog, Visayan and English. Local television is mostly Tagalog, English, and a little Visayan. Because of this, most people are bi- or tri-lingual, with varying degrees of fluency. So, our kids don't just "pick up" the language the way they might in a more monolingual society.

Well, back to my moment of brilliance...about 1/2 way through my curriculum development, etc...I realized that it wasn't really a "brilliant" was a stinking TON of work.

As they say, genius is often close to insanity, and sometimes it's hard to tell the difference. haha  So, I enlisted Brian's help...and he found pictures for our flashcards. Then, he did a translation check of my curriculum with Wendel and printed out the pictures for me. Then, I laminated them all and am trying to cut them all out...  But I still only have a few lessons cut out...since my paper cutter is starting to get dull.

Anyway...We have a 32 week curriculum which includes around 360 words...which will give our kids a good start on basic vocabulary.
We have plans of creating a second year...but we'll give it a while before we start that.
We are using Total Physical Response (TPR) to teach basic nouns and verbs.  TPR in its simplest form is pointing at objects and saying things like, "This is a serving spoon. This is a pot. This is a grater." Then, after the student has heard the new word a few times, saying, "Where is the serving spoon? Where is the pot? Where is the grater?" And, the student points at the corresponding object. It can get a lot more complicated than that, but that's the basic idea. The kids (mostly Asia)  are learning about a dozen a week.  They are also learning some Practical Expressions every week.
We made these awesome flashcards... At least they better be awesome because they took a ridiculous amount of time to make. To all of you homeschool bloggers who put together your own curriculum all the time and share homeschooling hat is off to you...curriculum creation is a LOT of work!

Along with TPR, they can also be used to play Go Fish, Old Maid, and Memory...because learning language should be fun!!! And, because we are starting with the most common items in the household, we can practice a bit whenever one or more of the objects is around.
Brian isn't normally home to teach Visayan class but when he is...he is able to help me out with it.

One of the greatest things I have learned during our homeschooling adventure is to start off with PE. Seriously!!! It makes the rest of the day go WAY smoother.  Life tends to start VERY early in, we are extremely excited that the boys have started to sleep in until 5:30 AM this week.  So, it's easy for the kids & us to get some exercise in before we start our regular school day.  If it is not too wet outside the kids ride their bikes and scooters outside for a while after breakfast.
If it is too wet out...the girls practice ballet, they all do a Taebo video or some ABC exercise cards that I found online for free.
I have found that the twins tend to behave WAY better if  they have gotten some energy out before we get into the "classroom".
Asia continues to take ballet lessons on Saturday afternoons.
And, Skye just had her very first ballet lesson this last Saturday.  She'll continue them on Saturday mornings.

I really want to get the boys into a Taekwando class...but need to look into it some more.  We may just wait until we return from furlough. 

And if it's not raining...we spend every possible minute outside...  running around our yard, riding bikes and scooters, checking once again to see if the stinkbug eggs have hatched, etc.

So...that's Curriculum Plans...Part Uno. Check out our Curriculum Plans Part Deux here!

Saturday, August 3, 2013

The Littlest Ballerina

Well, next week our Skye girl turns three years old, so today, she had her first ballet lesson. She was thrilled from the top of her ballerina hair bun to the bottom of her tiny new pink shoes!
That hair is still a little short for a bun, but mommy can work wonders with some braids, a rubber band and a bow.
And, she carried her ballet bag, with essentials like her sippy cup and of course a snack. Staying well hydrated and replenishing your depleted glycogen stores is essential for any prima ballerina.
In all honesty, we had no idea how she would do. When she puts her mind to something, she can choose to do almost anything. But that works both ways. When she decides she doesn't want to do something....she is 23 pounds of pure determination.
But, she did amazing! She started learning the five positions, and did a great job pointing her toes.
And, she even had time for a little barre work...
The most exciting part? She followed directions for the hour-long session and listened closely to her teacher. She has been in homeschool preschool for months now, and so she is already used to having a teacher and following directions.  She tried SO hard to make her not-yet-three-year-old body do the different moves, and for someone still working on mastering fine motor movement, it was pretty impressive.

We are not concerned with having superstar athletes...our goal for our kids when it comes to sports is learning teamwork, listening and following a coach's instructions, and seeing that life-long exercise can be fun! 
Good job Skye! Mom and dad are pretty proud!

Check out Asia's very first ballet class here.  We thought Asia was tiny...She was HUGE compared to Skye at the same age.