A Cameron-ism

Today Cameron learned about antonyms and synonyms (which he persists in calling cinnamons). I was asking him what an antonym or synonym of various words were. One of the word conversations went like this:
Me: What is a synonym for toilet?
Cameron: (thought a bit) Ground.
Me: (pause) Well, the answer in the book is commode, but ground works, too, so, yes, I guess you are correct.

Makes a Mother’s Heart Proud

A few months ago it became apparent to me that Ani is very behind in language arts. We used Sonlight Language Arts for almost 3 years and it is just too gentle or something because she wasn’t actually learning. Diamond Notes did nothing to actually teach her how to write (though it did teach her how to get organized for writing). Writing assignments gave little direction beyond “write a paragraph about…”

And so when we went back to school after Christmas we switched to Shurley English. Ani is in level 4. I am utterly amazed out what she has learned in just four weeks. She is catching up nicely (though it irritates her to no end that the lessons take as long as they do since Sonlight’s were so short).

Today she wrote her first well done paragraph. Shurley made it so easy with step by step instructions and lots of handholding. But she did it! She organized her thoughts and came up with a well-written paragraph. She even made sure to use her neatest handwriting. I am so proud of her! Her assignment was to write an expository paragraph about her favorite subjects, sports, or hobbies. Here’s what she wrote:

I have three favorite hobbies. My favorite hobbies are reading, drawing, and sewing. My first favorite hobby is reading. I like reading because it takes me away to another world. My second favorite hobby is drawing. I like drawing because I can use my imagination. My third favorite hobby is sewing. I like sewing because it’s challenging and makes me think. Those are my favorite hobbies, and I will always like them.

Specific To Do Lists

There’s something special my mother taught me about to do lists. It makes them much more fun.

Let’s say you need to do two loads of laundry. So you are making your to do list and you write “laundry.” I, on the other hand, make not one line, but 6 for those two loads of laundry.

  • wash load of laundry #1
  • wash load of laundry #2
  • dry load of laundry #1
  • dry load of laundry #2
  • put away load of laundry #1
  • put away load of laundry #2

Seems like overkill? Let me tell you. For a non-list maker like me, it is perfect. Because there are 6 lines of things to do, I get to cross things off that much sooner. As soon as the first load goes into the washing machine, there’s my first cross off. As soon as my first load is moved to the dryer and the second load is in the washer, I have three things crossed off my list.

There’s something about crossing more things off my list faster that makes my brain happy. I feel like I am getting so much more done. It motivates me to do even more. (Here I must interject that one of my primary love languages is words of affirmation and so the self-congratulations that comes with crossing things off my list is exactly what I need.)

In addition to breaking bigger jobs into steps on my to do list, if I do something I’ve been meaning to do but never wrote down, I add it and immediately cross it off. Again, my brain is happy and I’m motivated to do more.
Now, of course, my to do lists are pretty long. However, because I have big jobs broken into steps, if I have a couple minutes, I can go ahead and do something and get something crossed off my list. It’s amazing how much I get done because I make specific to do lists.

Daily Lists

I’ll be the first to admit that datebooks don’t work for me. My mom got a nice datebook for Christmas so she gave me the cheap one she had already bought. I had really good intentions of using it. Really I did. I always have, all those times I’ve gotten myself a datebook, too. Want to know how often I actually used it? Zero. I meant to write things down in it, but never seemed to get around to it until after that thing had already happened. So I gave the datebook to my daughter, who was seriously excited about it. She’s totally not like me in that way. I don’t forget to do things so I guess the no datebook thing is working for me.

So why do I write all that out? Because the thing that works for me makes no sense to me why it works. It’s something that kind of goes along with datebooks. So what is it?

Daily lists, both to do and to buy.

Every morning I write on one side of a half sheet of paper what I want to do that day. I never finish everything on the list and some things appear day after day. If it didn’t get done, it just gets added to the list the next day. I’m Type B. I don’t worry about getting things done the first time it’s on my list. On the other side of the paper, I write my to buy list. Most of the time that list gets rolled over day after day. I like having it ready, though, so if the opportunity presents itself to go shopping, I know what I need. If it’s something that must be bought that day (like today I absolutely had to order Ani’s next Life of Fred textbook), I write on my to do list side to buy it as well.

Toddler + Cool Whip =

Exactly what do you want me to do with this?

I’m supposed to touch it?

No way!

Why did you make me touch that? I must get it off!

Now you want me to taste it?

Wait! That was good!

I think I like playing in this stuff.

Yes. Yes, I like this a lot!

I think I need a bath.

Our New Plan (aka the super long post)

I have finally gotten everything planned and figured out in my mind and so now I can write it all out to share. Some things are being phased in, some things we’ve already started using, and some things we will start using on Tuesday when we go back to school.

The biggest thing is we are dropping Sonlight. This has shocked many of my homeschooling friends, but no matter how much you love something as the teacher, sometimes you have to take a hard look at the kids and if it’s not working, you need to make a change. I really like the history rotation, but it just isn’t working out for Ani and Cameron. Ani has declared that she hates history. That just hurt to hear because I love history so much. Two years of chronological world history has just been too much. My kids are very much spiral-y children. They like to touch on something, move to something else, touch on the first thing a little more deeply, move on to something else, and so on. Slogging through the same thing on and on has just driven them crazy.

And so, in about a month (since I do want to finish Core 2, at least what we are still using of it) we are moving on. I am using the Core Knowledge (What Your X Grader Needs to Know) series to figure out what subjects to cover. In February we will be doing family history. After that we will be doing citizenship. After that… I’m not quite sure. I’ve decided not to plan too far in advance. My brain was reduced to mush trying to figure out everything for a year. And then I realized I just plain don’t need to do that. I can plan a little at a time. Allow for random interests while still covering everything on my master list. That realization led to my Relief! post.

And now I am totally excited about school again. Too often I’ve felt like we are doing school to get through the lessons rather than doing school for the joy of learning. It’s time to get back to that joy of learning. So our new plan…

Our religion lessons will stay pretty much the same. We’ve been reading the Church’s scripture stories, one section a day, and doing a scripture notebooking page on that section. We are almost done with the New Testament so in a few days, the kids will each have a book of synopses of the stories in the Bible, written by them. We’ll also do Book of Mormon and Doctrine and Covenants. After that we will move on to Discover the Scriptures’ Book of Mormon (which also uses the Church’s scripture stories). We’ll continue learning the scripture mastery verses, continue reading the scriptures for the kids’ primary lesson, and continue practicing primary songs the kids are learning at church (if there are any). We are adding the Keepers of the Faith character trait booklets. We were using them at night at family scriptures time, but that didn’t work out so we are moving it to during school to see how that goes.

We will be doing art, music, and home ec on an actual schedule. Art appreciation, using the How Artists See… series, will be once a week. We will do a lesson in ARTistic Pursuits once a week. We will be doing some sort of music appreciation once a week. The first thing we’ll do for that is a Mozart lapbook. After that we’ll learn about the lives of various musicians. The children will have a musical instrument lesson once a week using Alfred courses for early elementary students. They got to pick the instruments they wanted to learn. Ani chose the drums and Cameron chose the guitar. Weeks that we have 5 days (which is a maximum of every other week since Jamie works a compressed schedule and has off every other Monday), we will do home ec. We will start with a basic cooking lapbook. Then we will learn some basic hand sewing by making felt animals. I also have some ideas kicking around in my head using Alton Brown’s cookbooks and Good Eats episodes.

We will continue to do PE daily, three to four times a week. Still just random physical activities. Once a week we will do health (required by our state to be covered). We will start that with a healthy bodies lapbook. We will likely continue to just do lapbooks to cover the health topics.

I’ve already said what we are doing for part of social studies. We will also be continuing to use Geography Songs. In a couple months we will start a major US geographical journey, learning some things about every state. I think we will start with Maryland since we live here and then move on in the order the states were admitted to the union. I want the kids to know where each state is, the capitals, and major land features across the country. I also want the kids to learn about all the presidents, but I have solidified when or how to do that yet. As with most subjects, we will be making a lot of lapbooks. This month, while we finish up world history, we’ll be making a lapbook on William Shakespeare.

We will be reading poetry and learning about poetry. I’ve never been good at poetry. I just don’t get symbolism and imagery and all that stuff. When people would say to picture something in my mind I just couldn’t (I have worked on that and have gotten better, but it is still difficult). I see words, not pictures. I want my kids to understand poetry. Ani has already shown a strong interest in poetry and has written several herself. She loves reading poetry. I haven’t decided exactly what poems we’ll be reading. My mom has lots of books of poetry, so we will be using those. We will also, of course, be making a lapbook, Preparing for Poetry.

For the last few months we have been using the Young Scientist Club kits for our science curriculum. It has been absolutely wonderful. We do an experiment every day and we are covering lots of topics. We generally only stay on any given topic for about a week. The kids are loving it. Once we finish those kits, I’m not exactly sure what we will do. We definitely want to continue to do lots and lots of experiments. We have quite a few more kits to go through so I’ve got a lot of time to come up with the next plan.

Language Arts (and reading, writing, and spelling) is changing in some major ways and not changing in some ways. On Tuesday the kids will start Shurley English. Ani will be doing level 4 and Cameron will be doing level 1. I have come to the conclusion that I really do not like the uber-gentle approach to language arts. Ani is very behind where I would expect her to be at this point. So I chose something very rigorous. I’ve looked at it off and on for a long time and decided to take the plunge. A friend of mine uses Shurley with her daughter who is about 6 months younger than Ani. I am quite impressed with what her daughter has done with it. We’ll see how it goes for us. I am prepared for a few battles with Ani because she does not like to do anything that doesn’t come super easy to her and, at least while she is catching up, I don’t think it will be very easy. In addition to Shurley English, we are changing what the kids do for reading. We are no longer doing the Sonlight readers. The pace was too fast for Cameron and the comprehension questions were rather useless for Ani. So Ani will be using the Teacher Created Resources literature guides. Tuesday she will be starting Little House in the Big Woods. After that she will do Island of the Blue Dolphin. I think she will do The Best Christmas Pageant Ever. Not sure after that. Cameron will be continuing Progressive Phonics. He really needs the intensive phonics instruction. So far it seems to be working for him and the price (free) is definitely right. Writing and spelling will not be changing at all. Ani will continue working on Write Your Roots. Cameron will continue daily journaling using writing prompts. They will both continue using Spelling City. Cameron’s words will continue to come from the Dolch sight word lists, but Ani’s words will come from the literature guides for the book she is working with (if she runs out of those words, we will continue to use the spelling bee words).

The kids started doing Singapore math a few months ago. It is going super well. Ani is almost done with level 3B. She has loved it and now knows the metric system very well. Wil is slowing going through level 2A. Like reading, math is not easy for him, but he works hard at it. Additionally, Ani has been doing Life of Fred for a couple months. It’s funny and Ani is learning that she needs to pay attention to every word. Many things are mentioned just once, sometimes in a side note, but are very important to remember. She complained a lot that she had to have two maths and Cameron only had one. Because addition and subtraction are so difficult for Cameron, I decided to try him on higher math concepts, but use something fun to do it. So Tuesday he’ll start playing with his ZomeTool and start learning about geometry.

I have added two daily workboxes labeled FUN. What I put in those will range from file folder games to crafts to Draw Write Now to building with Legos. The kids also will continue working on a lapbook of their choice. Starting Tuesday they will both be doing a Bakugan lapbook that I made. Once Ani finishes that, she will do a lapbook using the book The Care and Keeping of You. We will also throw in some unit studies here and there and just generally make learning lots of fun again.

In addition to the big kids, the little boys both will be doing tiny tag along activities now. For Fritz, that means about 20 minutes a day of school. He’s already started teaching himself how to read and he knows several numbers by sight (but can’t count out loud – he says 1, 2, 8 every time now). He knows his colors and shapes. He’ll be doing some lapbooks and file folder games and just generally learning through play. For Adrian, school will be about 10 minutes a day of guided play. Nothing fancy for him. After all, he’s still a baby (okay, toddler, but I call him the baby)!

So there it is. Our new plan. It looks like a lot more written out like that than it really is.