Tag Archives: homeschool

End of First Quarter Report

So this will be my first homeschool report since moving to Japan and starting Kindergarten, so you may want to grab a cup of coffee before you start reading what I am sure will turn into a novel.  Given my past history.

We have been doing school for about 9 weeks now, a total of 50 days.  This actually puts us about even with the local DoDDS school here – I checked, because I was worried that we were getting behind.

Overall, I am really happy with where we are right now.  We definitely started out a little slow in September, for multiple reasons, but mainly because I was having second thoughts about whether we were making the right choice, or whether Madison should even start Kindergarten this year.  It also didn’t help that I didn’t receive some of our books until October – they took two months to arrive – you really can’t predict shipping times around here.

It’s easy to say we’re going to homeschool when we had a preschool age child, but once Madison was old enough to actually start school, I kept feeling like I was going to mess this up somehow.  And since her birthday isn’t until October 25th, she wouldn’t be starting school if we lived almost anywhere in the states, but here in the DoDDs school system, the cutoff date for Kindergarten is October 31st.  After a lot of consideration, we decided to go ahead and start her with Kindergarten now.  And I do feel like that was probably the right choice for us right now.  She is definitely doing great with school, and most of my apprehension is gone now (which is not to say that it won’t return in the future…).

So here’s where we are:


We have continued with Bible Study Guide for All Ages where we left off at the end of preschool. We are about a quarter of the way through Unit 2.  I am still really happy with this program.  I’m really impressed by how much she remembers, and I am learning from it too.  I especially love that it goes through the entire Bible teaching the facts at the appropriate age level.  We are still using the Beginner Level, which is for ages 3-K, and I plan to continue using it until we get through all 4 Units, which should be the end of First grade, and then we’ll start over using the next level.


We finished up with Headsprout.  Her reading skills are definitely not as strong as I’d hoped they would be at the end of this program, but she is definitely reading, which I am thrilled about.

We are about halfway through Book Two of Explode the Code, which is helping reinforce what she learned through Headsprout.  I’m hoping to get through Book 4 by the end of this year.  We are also doing ETC online in addition to the hard copy books.  It’s basically doing the same thing twice, but she enjoys having computer time and I think the extra practice is good for her.

I also added in First Language Lessons for Little Ones.  The main reason I wanted to add this is for the picture study and the poetry appreciation, but it also teaches phonics rules and has copywork, so it’s extra reading practice.  We started with Volume Three and I think that was a good place.  We didn’t get the book until about a month ago, but we are already on Lesson 42.  And Madison loves it, which is surprising because reading is not normally her favorite.  I think I will probably move on to the next book in this series next year for language/grammar/copywork for first grade because so far we are both really enjoying it.

Also for reading we are, well, reading.  Madison read most of the books that went with Headsprout, most of the Bob books I have, and now we are just picking leveled readers from the library.  I try to have her read two new books each day, and then she has to choose one to reread to Dad when he comes home from work.  But, sometimes I do just let her do just one chapter or one story because some of those leveled readers are long.  I also purchased McGuffey’s Eclectic Primer and have her read a few lessons out of there at the end of each week.

And finally, I also read to her every day.  We have read My Father’s Dragon, Elmer and the Dragon, The Dragons of Blueland, Meet Kit, and now we are working on Anne of Green Gables.  We’ve also read tons of picture books.


Initially, I didn’t plan to do any formal handwriting; I thought I would just add it in other areas.  But after watching her writing develop, I thought it would be good to teach her how to correctly write letters.  We are using Handwriting Without Tears about three days a week (up from two days a week at the beginning of the year).  She really likes it, it takes less than 5-10 minutes each day, and I have definitely seen improvement in her writing.  After I teach her the “correct” way to write a letter, she generally remembers and writes it that way, which is normally neater and quicker.  We just finished with capital letters and will start on lowercase letters next week.

I’ve also done a few lessons from Draw Write Now with her.  She loves doing them, but we just add it in for fun on Fridays when we have time.


We continued with Right Start Level A where we left off at the end of preschool.  We are on Lesson 38, which is not as far as I hoped we’d be, but like I said, we got off to a slow start.  I love this program.  I actually think it moves a little slow for her right now, but I’m happy with that too.  I like that there’s hardly any worksheets and there is a lot of hands on.  And I really feel like it’s sinking in.  Previously, we did the first half of Horizons Kindergarten, and she got all the answers right, but I didn’t feel like she was actually getting it.  That may or may not have been true, but I am much happier with the feel and the pace of Right Start.  We do Right Start 3 or 4 days a week, depending on our schedule.  There are also a lot of games that go with the program, so Madison and Matt play some of the math games each night for extra practice.

We are also supplementing Right Start with Singapore Earlybird Kindergarten Math.  The main reason I added that is because I didn’t want her to learn to answer questions for Right Start; I wanted her to have practice doing math a different way.  She loves doing the Singapore because it is so easy for her.  I ordered the Level 1A and 1B, which were ovbiously too easy because she did both of them, for fun, in three weeks.  She calls Singapore her “Fun Math.”  So then I ordered Level 2A and 2B (those four books comprise Singapore’s Kindergarten math program) and we are working through them now.  We got the books on Tuesday and we are on Lesson 4 in Book 2A now.

Five in a Row (Social Studies and Science)

This is probably the one thing about our Kindergarten curriculum that I am not sure about.  I know that a lot of people use it and love it, but I am really not feeling it.  We’ve still done it every week, but it’s just not what I wanted it to be, if that makes sense.  Basically, Five in a Row is a curriculum where you read the same book each day for five days, and each day you do a different activity based on the book.  For example, one day we talk about the geography – where the book takes place – and we find that place on the map.  Another day, we talk about the type of art used in the book and explore different mediums.  There also normally language activities, math activities, and science activities.  We do the geography and art every week, but we don’t always get to the science.  That is probably the subject that has gotten the shaft so far in Kindergarten.  I even bought some science experiment books, but we just haven’t really gotten them off the shelf yet.

One thing we did that Madison and I both loved was pumpkin week.  We spent the whole week studying pumpkins and cooking with pumpkins and made a pumpkin lapbook and it was wonderful.  I enjoyed it so much more than FIAR, and I think Madison did too, because it was her idea.  So I’ve decided to stick with FIAR except for once a month when Madison will get to pick a subject that we study for a week for fun.  Some of the things we’ve talked about doing are apples, oceans, butterflies, etc.


Originally, I had wanted to enroll Madison at the DoDDs elementary school for specials so that she could go in each day for an hour, be with other kids and get her art/music/PE time in, but after a lot of thought, Matt and I decided that we didn’t want to commit to that this year.  The time wasn’t great for our schedule, and I really didn’t want to have to fit that in when the baby is born in March.  But we did still find some other activities for Madison to essentially serve the same purpose.  She is in ballet once a week, we go to Storytime once a week, she is in Girl Scouts which meets every two weeks, and of course, she has bible class at church.  We also just started an art class which meets twice a week.  I don’t know if we will continue to do the art thing, right now that is just on a trial basis.  I don’t want to overwhelm her, but so far, our schedule is pretty relaxed.  Almost everything we do away from home is on Wednesday, which makes for one crazy day, but the rest of the week is great.  I’m also looking into Japanese lessons (I’m waiting to hear back from the instructor) and would like to start music lessons after the holidays, but in order to start those things, we may have to cut something else…

So that is pretty much where we are with homeschool for the year.  I’d like to commit to writing weekly reports, but I just don’t know if that is going to happen.  No promises.  I will say I am very happy with where we are as far as Kindergarten goes, and I think that Matt and I made the right choice to go ahead and start her.

All right already!

So yes, I realize that I have been neglecting the blog.  Sorry.  Of course, I’ll try to do better, but I’m not making any promises this time!  All I can say is the nagging helps.  I didn’t realize I had so many readers, but since I have gotten several complaints about not updating the last few weeks, I guess I had more than I thought.  I’m flattered…

So in the last few weeks, we started homeschool.  I completely intend to do weekly reports like last year, but we are on week 4 now and I haven’t done any, so I guess I’ll start with a monthly report.  I’ll make it my goal to do that tomorrow (remember, no promises), and just give you a general family update today.

We finally got all of our furniture from Florida this past Monday.  I am so glad to have it, although there are quite a few things I wish I had brought that will just be staying in storage for the next three years.  Namely, furniture.  I have some cute tables and another dresser that would have been really nice to have.  Oh well.  We have our new couches in the living room, put down some huge area rugs to cover the schoolhouse tile and painted the wall blue.  I am really happy with the way the room looks.  We have a new entertainment center coming sometime very soon, but apparently it was delayed with the typhoon.  Once that arrives, I’ll post pictures of the living room, but until then, here are some random pictures of the couches, the rug and the wall color:

We also painted Madison’s toy room under the stairs.  Actually, we’ve pretty much painted every room in the house, but I have pictures of how we did Madison’s toy room, so…  She wanted it to look like a garden and she wanted to make handprints for the flowers.  Here is what we ended up with.  I think it looks pretty good.  We also bought a rug for the floor.  These floors are hard!

We have been doing quite a bit of exploring as well.  I found a great store off base that is kind of like a Target, only way more expensive.  I think things cost more here because of the cost of shipping it to the island.  Either that people just don’t realize they are being scammed…  Either way, I mainly shop at the BX since prices there are closer to what they are at home.  But this is a great store for window shopping when I miss Target (which is everyday, but I’ve only been there twice), and it does have a really nice selection of kitchen tools (the BX does not).   And we also found a shop off base to buy Madison clothes – cute clothes, great prices.  We bought three dresses and seven shirts for about $20.

We’ve also been able to try quite a few local restaurants and most of them have been great.  There is only one that we wouldn’t go back too, a Chinese place (go figure), and the rest are wonderful.  We found a place that makes fabulous fried rice, one with good seafood, and another with great cream puffs.  And the best place is a garlic restaurant where pretty much everything has garlic in it.  I love garlic.

As far as sightseeing, Madison and I took another tour (more on that later – that is it’s own post I think…), and a few days ago we went to Monakids Jungle with some families from Matt’s squadron.  It was kind of like Chuck E Cheese, only everyone spoke Japanese.  Madison came up to me while she was playing and said “I made a new friend!  She only speaks Japanese, but she still likes me!”  It was cute.  This past weekend we went to the farmer’s market and a china store – I have picked out the Japanese dishes I want to buy before we move back, now I just need to save my money… At the farmer’s market, we bought some vegetables and some bread, and Matt and Madison bought flowers to plant outside.

(A lot of people here carry umbrellas when it is sunny to protect their skin…)

(That is bacon and eggs on toast, ready to buy from a little bakery…)

We are also planning to go to the aquarium on Columbus Day when Matt is off work.  It is the second largest aquarium in the world and was featured on the discovery channel.  It looks amazing.

I finished my first cake class and am taking a break.  Hopefully I learned enough to do a decent job on Madison birthday cake in a few weeks.  I am planning to take the next level in December.  Here are the other two cakes I made.  I have definitely not mastered the rose, but that’s ok since I know there is a store in Wichita where you can buy them 🙂  I do think my handwriting improved from the first cake.

And finally, a family update wouldn’t be complete without some pregnancy pictures, right?  I am definitely starting to show and I have started to tell people here that I am pregnant because I don’t want everyone to think I am just chunky…  We have an ultrasound on Oct 21st and hopefully we will find out what we’re having.  We weren’t going to find out, but Madison has her heart set on a girl, so if it’s not going to be a girl, we need to give her some time to prepare!

(Madison thought if I was getting my picture taken, she should get hers taken too.)

So I think that’s a pretty good update, right?  You all are set for the next three weeks.  Just kidding.  Maybe.

And now, back to your regularly scheduled programming…

I don’t even know what to title this post. I have to say, the longer I have gone without updating, the harder it is the convince myself to sit down and blog. For one thing, I have so much to share, I’m not sure where to start. And I know I won’t include everything. I’m sure, however, now that I can blog on a regular basis, once I get this really long review of our last three weeks out of the way, I’m going to do a better job. I’ll force myself, for your sake…

So we are semi-settled in here in Okinawa now. We have a house on Kadena, which I actually like much better than I thought I would. It is a three bedroom, two and a half bath, two story quadplex. We are the end unit, so we definitely have the nicest yard. The kitchen is pretty big – it’s probably the most cabinet/counter space I have had in base housing, so I’m happy. The things I don’t like? No carpet – the whole house is what I would call school cafeteria tile, and very small bedrooms. We are planning to buy some rugs though, so it’s nothing we can’t overcome. Matt has already painted the bedroom blue for me, and we have green paint waiting for the homeschool/office/scrapbooking room. Once we find out what the baby will be, we are going to let Madison pick the paint for her room, and once I find a couch I like, Matt has agreed to even paint the living room for me. I am so lucky!

We got our stuff from Oklahoma a couple days after moving into the house and we have government furniture here, but we are still waiting on our main shipment from Florida with our furniture and bookshelves and everything I want to feel like this is home. We’ve been told that it will be here before Oct. 1, so that less than a month away. What I really want is my bed. The whole time we were in Oklahoma, we slept on an air mattress. A really nice air mattress that wasn’t too bad actually, but it got punctured in the move here, so we are sleeping on a government mattress, and they were out of double beds, so we have two twins pushed together that regular sheets won’t fit on, and I really want my own bed. I can’t remember much of what else we sent (since we could only send 1/3 of our stuff and it was packed last October…) and I know I keep buying things we already have, but I don’t know if we brought them or not.

Matt bought his car a few days after I found mine – it’s a ’94 Nissan Skyline. It was a really good buy, although I’m not sure if we’ll keep it. It is a little small for Matt since he’s so tall. I still like my car though, although I wish it was a little bigger so I could transport stuff, like furniture, etc…

Last Monday (Labor Day), we went on a tour with Tickets and Travel here on base. It was a really good experience and a good way to get acquainted with the area I think. We went to some castle ruins, the Nago Pineapple Farm, a glass factory where we got to blow our own glass (even Madison), and out to lunch at a fantastic restaurant. I would take the tour again just to eat there again

We’ve also been snorkeling a few times, which was actually really cool. And that’s saying a lot coming from me, because I am not much of an outside person and I am definitely not a beach person. We saw a lot of cool saltwater fish and now Matt wants to set up a saltwater tank with fish he catches. I think this is going to be his new hobby. Aside from the normal fishing and metal detecting, of course.

Today we have officially been here for 4 weeks, and I think we are adjusting pretty well. I had the hardest time adjusting to the time, although I think I’ve discovered the real reason for that – Matt’s snoring. Now that he’s taking Sudafed, I’m sleeping much better. We have been able to get involved with some things here, so we are starting to feel at home and make some friends. Madison has made quite a few friends between church, neighbors, Matt’s work friends families, etc. She started ballet lessons at the youth center last week and will be starting Girl Scouts sometime in the next few weeks.

Madison also officially started Kindergarten today – more on that later. I meant to start much sooner, but I definitely overestimated the amount of stuff I could get accomplished while moving across the world and being pregnant… One of the main reasons for the delay is that I ordered some materials before we left the US and they just arrived last Friday – it took about a month. Kindergarten in public school here only started last Wednesday, so we aren’t too far behind them anyway.

Overall, we like it here. I have to say I miss Target much more than I anticipated. People warned me, but I didn’t believe it. There are so many things you just can’t get at the BX or locally. I’m sure I’ll adjust, but in the meantime, I am compiling a list of things for Matt to buy when he goes TDY to Alaska in October.

So I guess that’s it for today. I’m sure I’ll do a much better job updating now. Really. At least I’ll try…

How I Schedule

When I started homeschooling, I set up an excel file with pages devoted to a few topics:

  • My overall 12 year plan
  • Year Overviews for each grade
  • A Price Guide for each grade

My 12 year plan is fairly vague.  I wrote down a general idea of what I want to cover in each subject each year, and what currculia I plan to use.  This is based largely on what is presented in the Well Trained Mind.  As I am exposed to other curriculia, I frequently go back into this file and change my plan, or add suggestions for things to check out when I get closer to that age.  Having this general plan gives me conifdence in where I am headed and a little assurance that I am not going to forget anything.

On the year overviews, I have a column for each subject and have planned them out by week.  I list the week number, what I plan to cover in each subject (i.e. Bible lessons 12-16, Math lessons 32-36, etc.)  I also schedule our breaks on this chart.  Then I print it out and put it in a page protector in my teacher notebook.  I love to plan on the computer, but it is easier to keep track on paper.  Each week, I highlight what we got done.   This way, if we get ahead or behind, I go back into Excel, update the sheet and reprint.

I don’t worry about finishing a workbook or unit each year.  For example, the Bible study we are doing is 104 lessons long and we are about to finish it.  Even though I don’t plan to start Kindergarten till August, when we finish, I will just start up with Unit 2, since this is a subject I plan to do year round.  So on our math schedule, we will end up doing just a little bit more than one grade level each year, since I plan to school for 44 weeks total instead of 36, which is what curriculum is generally written for.  I think this gives me a little bit more freedom too, to take a week off if we need to.

I plan a four day schedule (Friday is reserved for field trips), schooling 36 weeks each “school year” and 8 weeks of “summer school.”  This gives us 8 weeks off each year.  I eventually plan to use Tapestry of Grace, which is divided into four quarters, each nine weeks long, so that is what I used as a basis for my weekly schedule.  In between each quarter, I plan to take a week off for planning, and then take two weeks at the beginning of the summer and two weeks at the end.  We also plan to do quite a bit of traveling while we are in Japan, so I may move those summer weeks around if I need to.

As far as our summer school is concerned, I plan to continue to do bible, math, and phonics (the basics) because I think reviewing at the beginning of the school year is kind of a waste of time.  I really believe in year round school because I think students forget too much over the summer that has to be retaught in the fall.  It is something I witnessed as a teacher and was the basis for my Master’s thesis.  (And now I’ll climb off my soapbox and get back to the topic at hand…)  The rest of our summer studies will be delight directed, probably unit studies that I will plan based on what Madison is interested in.

The other page in my excel file is a price guide.  When I decide what curriculum I want to use, I add it to this list with the price as well as where I found it the cheapest.  Then when I am ready to order, I just go down my list and buy it all at the same time.  I also add other supplies I think we will need for the next school year, like oil pastels, board games, etc, and also memberships I want to purchase (like to the zoo or the aquarium).  Then I have a comprehensive list to present to my husband.  One thing I do think I will do for next year is add a homeschooling section to my budget so that when we run out of printer ink, finish an ETC book before the end of the school year and want to buy the next one, go on field trips, etc, I will have the money set aside to do that.

During the actual school year on a day to day basis, I use a weekly lesson plan book (the same as I used when I taught).  This is where I write down what I plan to do each day in each subject and check it off when we have finished it.  I have decided not to write out my schedule more than two weeks in advance because things can change.  When I started using this book, I wrote out a schedule for nine weeks, then we got a little behind on reading lessons, and that is really annoying.  I don’t want to rewrite everything, but I don’t like having to flip back a week to see what we should be doing for reading lessons.  I guess I have learned my lesson.  I plan to purchase a new one of these books each year.

In the front of the book, I have converted one of the grid sheets into an attendance chart by month where I record days we have school, field trips, and when we are out of town, as well as “professional education” days for me.  I keep a running total of days we have had school on this chart.

So that is probably a good overview of how I plan.  Hopefully it makes sense… I am sure the longer we homeschool, I more I will refine this process until it is a well oiled machine, but for now, I am very pleased with the system I have.

This post is part of a meme at Heart of the Matter Online.  To read more posts about how to schedule, visit this link!

The longest trip of my life…

Does that sound negative? I’m sure I didn’t mean it that way… but this is going to be a very long post (with lots of pictures). My mom and sister were planning a trip to Kentucky to visit their two best friends (also a mother and daughter) and they invited me and Madison to tag along. Since they have both been out there a few times, they also gave me the authority to plan a few things to do while we were out there. That was probably a bad idea for them, but it worked out great for me! We did get to do a LOT of stuff and we did have a really good time.

Since my parents live in Kansas, we headed up there on Thursday afternoon, then left for Kentucky Friday morning. On the way, we stopped at Whiteman AFB in Missouri, which is where I used to live. I told my mom, if you all get to visit your best friends, surely we can stop and visit one of mine? It wasn’t too far out of the way… and we got to eat lunch at one of my all time favorite resturants, Oriental Cuisine. I left my camera in the car, but lucky my good friend Stacy not only took pictures, but also emailed them to me! She has five adorable kids now, and Madison absolutely LOVED playing with them – even though she didn’t remember who they were. We moved away from Missouri when she was two.

On Saturday, we continued the trip to Louisville and on Sunday we went to the Louisville Slugger Museum, which – to my great surprise – was very fun. They have a gigantic baseball bat out front that you can take a picture with, and each visitor gets a free mini bat.

Monday we went to visit the state capitol in Frankfort, which was about an hour drive. That takes our state capitol count up to eight! Not too shabby. The inside was actually closed for Memorial Day but we knocked on the door and a security guard let us in to look around. Madison said that he probably let us in because she’s so cute, but it could have been that he’s never seen a four year old so excited to visit the capitol…

We also took a tour of the Rebecca Ruth Candy Company, which was featured on the Food Network. They are famous for their bourbon balls, but I did not like them. I did try to refrain from spitting mine out since Madison and my sister already had.

Then in the afternoon, we drove to Shaker Village for lunch. It is a very neat place, kind of Colonial Williamsburg like, and if you are into that sort of stuff and in the area, I would recommend a visit. Definitely bring money for the gift shop. It was really neat.

On Tuesday, I went to King’s Island (without Madison). I saw them on the Travel Channel and have been wanting to go for so long. I know Madison would have really enjoyed it, but without Matt or my mom along to help with her, I didn’t think I should bring her. She is still too short for almost everything thing there, but we had an awesome time and I would bring her back someday if she likes rollercoasters (like me). It was about a 2 hour drive from Louisville, but definitely worth it. It was sprinkling most of the day and the kids up there were still in school, so it wasn’t busy at all and we had a great time.

On Wednesday, we went to the Kentucky Derby Museum and toured Churchill Downs. Horses are not really my thing, but the tour was neat. And Madison read a sign while we were there! I was so proud of her – I didn’t prompt her or anything. It only said “No food or drink” but she read it on her own, then said “Mom come here! I can read this sign! I know the word no and the word or, and I sounded out food and drink!” She was so excited and I was so excited.

Thursday was our last day and we crammed it full – we went to Schimpff’s Candy Store, Lynn’s Paradise Cafe, the Louisville Glassworks, and the Waterfront Park. I loved Schimpff’s. They make red hot candy, and if you go in at the right time, you can watch them make it and taste one while it’s still warm – and they are so good. I am already hoping they ship to Japan because my tin is almost gone. They were featured on the History Channel on Modern Marvels.

Lynn’s Paradise Cafe was featured on the Food Network on Throwdown with Bobby Flay. You are going to think all I do is watch TV, but I didn’t even know about these last two until they told us. I do love Throwdown with Bobby Flay though. I ordered the Kentucky something Scramble, which is what they made for the show and it was SOOOOOO good. Looked disgusting, but it was really tasty.

The other two places, the Glassworks and the Waterfront Park were okay. Fun, but I’d skip them next time. I thought Madison would like the glassblowing more, but maybe she was a little burnt out by the time we got there. And she was probably all sugared up from the candy store. I spent more money on candy on this trip than anything else I think… except gas, but let’s not go there…

I think I can safely say I’ve done Louisville.

Now be honest – you thought that was the end didn’t you? Nope. On the way home, we also stopped at the Arch in Saint Louis. Not sure what I expected there but it didn’t live up to my expectations. To get to the top, you ride in tiny little pods. Then when you get up to the top, you can look out the window. That’s it. And it was so full of sweaty people and general stinkiness, I was ready to go as soon as I peeked out one window. I am glad I did it, but I don’t think I need to do it again. Ever.

And now I’m done. And you can understand why this was a great trip, but also the longest. trip. of. my. life.

PS – you can review the rest of the picture from my trip (all 248 items!) at Flickr.

Back from Kentucky (and other ramblings)…

We officially got back into town on Sunday night, but it seems like I have needed the last two days to recover from 11 days away from home…  It’s cliche, but I really did need a vacation from my vacation.  I am planning to post pictures from the trip tomorrow.  For now, I’ll just say we had a really great time, did some really fun things, but I am so glad to be home.

This is the longest break we have had from homeschooling since we started. I tried to schedule our other vacations so we still had half weeks of school and I always took work for us to do at the airport, but this time, we drove and we were gone for a longer period of time.  When we started with school again yesterday, it was hard to get back into it – especially reading.  And we are going to be going out of town again next week for about 5 days.  I have toyed with the idea of just taking a break for the summer, with the vacations we have scheduled and our upcoming move to Japan, but I really don’t want to do that, especially after seeing what happens after a week break.  I am going to try to keep going with a toned down schedule until we actually get to Japan (which I have an update on…  keep reading 🙂 )

I think part of our problem getting back into the routine this week is swimming lessons.  I signed Madison up for lessons which started yesterday.  They are in the morning and by the time we get home, the morning is gone, I am starving for lunch and it is really hard to start school.  BUT… she loves her lessons so far.  We go everyday for the next two weeks for this class, and I plan to keep signing her up until we move.

And now, the news you have all been waiting for – or at least the news I have been waiting for… since December…  After being in Oklahoma for more than six months (two months longer than expected), Matt told me yesterday that we are almost done here – it looks like we will be done the beginning of July.   Then we will spend a few weeks with family in Kansas and Matt will leave for Japan the end of July.  Madison and I will have to wait for Matt to find us a house since the lodging on base there is being renovated, and then we will come over, hopefully sometime in August.  Part of me is saying “YEAH!” and the other part has really started to like Oklahoma and the proximity to our family.  And a big part of me is not looking forward to being homeless for a good chunk of the summer…

But today I cycled into “move” mode.  I made a list.  I ordered Vonage phone service, since we are able to use that in Japan if we set it up before we move.  I sorted Madison’s toys into keep/sell/give piles.  I cleaned out the hall closet.  I started to figure out what I can make with the groceries I have left and planned to give our apartment notice tomorrow.  I really REALLY started to get excited.  I mean, as much as I like OKC, I am ready to get to Japan.  I am ready to have all my stuff back and be able to paint my walls.

Then Matt came home and told me there was another delay.  But hopefully, even with that delay, we are still on the same schedule.  I’ll let you know (and hopefully it will be soon, but this is the Air Force, so…)

So, we are back from vacation and getting back into our groove.  Don’t forget to look for pictures tomorrow!

A new start in math

For the past few months, we have been using Horizons Math for Kindergarten. As of last week, we officially finished the first half of the program, 80 lessons. There are some things I really liked about it. The fact that it is a spiral curriculum, for one. Each day, a new topic was presented and old ones were reviewed (versus a mastery curriculum, where you stay on one topic until you have it mastered). It was colorful and seemed to have good reviews.

But there were two things that I really did not like about the program: It seemed to move really quick, and it was boring. I don’t know if some of that has to do with Madison’s age, but on some topics there was so much review and on some, it seemed like we were moving on before she understood what we had done the day before. And while I am sure there is some way I could have tried to slow it down, I just didn’t feel like it was working out for either of us.

As far as the boring part, it felt like all we were doing was worksheets. And truthfully, Madison didn’t complain about doing worksheets – she loves to “do math.” I just really want school to be fun for us (as much as possible). And doing Horizons felt like too much writing and not enough understanding, so I decided to look for something new.

That was probably a month ago, and doing that time I have tried to do a much better job researching math curricula than I did the first time. The one that really stood out for me was Right Start. Again, I have heard so many positive things about the program, and the main negative comment was that it is very teacher intensive. I feel like I can handle that – I only have one kid right now, so that’s ok with me. One of my favorite things about the program is that it tries to teach understanding, not memorization. And I also like that there are so many learning games, especially at this age, and not so many worksheets.

So, after reading about RS quite a lot and asking other preschool moms why they love it, I decided to order it. I waited to buy it from our homeschool convention because I really wanted to see it in person and read the manuals and see the manipulatives. I am glad I waited, because I feel like waiting really gave me confidence in my decision.

Our starter kit came in the mail on Friday as we were on our way to Kansas for the weekend. Of course, I took it with me and read everything and started cutting out all of the things we would need for the first few (twenty) lessons. I will say that I agree about the teacher intensiveness. There are a lot of materials to prepare, but I only have to do it once! And when we do have more kids (hopefully soon…), it will already be waiting for me!

We officially started the lessons today and Madison loved them. She was more excited about math today than she has been in weeks. She asked to do an extra lesson, and I let her, although that is not a habit I want to get into. I am trying to take it slower this time and make sure the information sinks in. Since we are starting in Level A, I definitely feel like we have taken a big step backwards from where we were with Horizons, but I think it is a good place for us right now. We aren’t really in a hurry, you know?

I was asked why I chose Right Start over Math-U-See and that is hard for me to answer. I did look at MUS at our homeschool convention, but it just didn’t feel right. There are some similar aspects between the two programs, but RS feels right for us right now (although I reserve the right to change my mind later), and I will keep you updated on how it works out for us.

Our Field Trips, OKC Style (Part 1)

Since we have been in Oklahoma City, I have been trying to cram all of the really neat and fun things around here into our schedule. Initially, we were just randomly going to different places, but since my discovery of Homeschool Share and all of the wonderful units housed there, we have started studying about a topic, then visiting the appropriate museum. So far, of the places we have visited around here, my favorite has been the science museum.

Originally the Onmiplex, the Science Museum Oklahoma changed it’s name a few months ago, but to my knowledge it is still the same on the inside. I was really impressed by the size of the museum. We went specifically for the Human Body traveling exhibit, but did spend some time looking around other areas too.

The human body was really cool. You couldn’t take pictures inside, hence the reason I have none, but they were real human bodies dissected in different ways to highlight the body systems. It was the perfect end to out unit study about the human body. It was a little pricey, but definitely worth it!

One really cool thing (that I was not expecting) was the exhibit about the AWACS. They had a section set up like the inside of the plane and a video about all the training. There were also some models of the plane set up.

Among other fun things? A giant slide,

water stuff,

and face painting.

It a funny story about the face painting actually. I did Madison and she did me. So you can guess what mine looked like – a big blob. After we left the museum, I completely forgot that I had it on and continued to do the rest of my errands – went out to lunch then went to the base, where the gate guard asked me “Got your war paint on today?” It was pretty funny, after I got over my embarassment.

And last but not least, my favorite part of any museum: the gift shop. It was a pretty amazing shop, with lots of fun and educational souviener. So what did my wonderful daughter choose to remember our trip (about the human body)? A butterfly glittery snow globe ring. Oh well. It was only $2, right? I also made her get a human body pencil (plus we bought a lollipop with a real bug in it – how cool is that??).

There was also a space exhibit and a planetarium that we skipped completely since we are planning to do a space unit in a few weeks and that will give us an excuse to go back 🙂

If you want to see the rest of the pictures from our trip, visit our album at Flickr.

This post is part of a meme at Heart of the Matter online. If you want to read about more field trips, visit them!

How we use our memory CD

Truthfully, I think you are going to be surprised and maybe a little disappointed. It’s really not some big fancy thing or magic formula.  I got the idea from Jessica over at Trivium Academy, although we use it a little differently than they did (which is to be expected, sing Madison is doing PreK and her daughter is doing 2nd). Our memory CD is a combination of songs, poems, and scriptures – mostly songs. It is not all “facts” that I want Madison to memorize; I also included some songs she likes just for fun. I want her to want to listen to it 🙂

How I made it: First, I picked out things that we are working on, like memorizing the books of the Bible, the sons of Jacob, counting by 10’s, some of our memory verses, state capitols (that’s really just for fun, since one of our family goals is to visit all the state capitols), alphabet sounds, the colors of the rainbow, etc. Then I tried to find songs for them. If I couldn’t find one on a CD or online, I made one up and recorded it using Audacity. Audacity is very easy to use and you can download it for free.

After Madison and I recorded the songs (I let her sing with me if she wanted) and the poems/verses, I imported them into iTunes with the other things I had found. All of that was less than 30 minutes play time, so I added in songs that we just like (although a lot of them came from her “learning” CD’s) to make the total playing time 30 minutes. Then I burned a CD and it was ready to use.

How we use it: Truthfully, we use it just for fun. Madison likes to listen to it, so whenever she wants to listen, I let her. When she has rest time, which has not been very often lately, I put the CD on and she listens to it. She has to stay in her room until it is over and then she can come out. It’s like a timer, and it gives me 30 minutes to do laundry and clean the bathrooms. But, during “rest time”, she also plays with her toys in her room. She rarely lays down and never goes to sleep…

She also listens to the CD at bedtime, sometimes. I let her choose what she wants to hear when she is falling asleep. Sometimes she chooses her memory CD, sometimes she listens to books on tape, sometimes other CD’s that are hers that she likes, sometimes Dave Matthews Band (no really, she likes the Dave Matthews Band…). I would say she chooses her memory CD once or twice a week, and she listens to it during rest time probably two or three times a week.

BUT… I really do think it works! When we started counting by 10’s in math, she had been listening to the memory CD for about 3 weeks, and within 3 days of introducing that topic, she already had it memorized. The same thing happened with counting by 5’s. It also seems to work with Bible verses we have done. I am interested to see whether it will work with poetry. The poems on the CD are the ones I plan to have here memorize when we start poetry memorization, but we haven’t really gotten to that yet.

I plan to make a new CD each quarter (although so far I have only made one and we have used it for about 3 months… so I guess it would be time for a new one). I want the CD to be relatively short and include things that are relevant to what we are studying. For example, Madison is really great at counting by 10’s, so I can take that song off and add a new one for counting by 2’s. Also, I would like to update the scriptures to ones that are relevant to what we are studying.

As far as what I put on the CD, I have several resources that I really enjoy. One is “Sounds Like Fun,” which I bought from Discovery Toys. I had that CD cassette tape when I was little, and after I bought it for Madison, I realized that I still knew all the songs, so I guess I listened to it a lot. Madison really likes it and it is what she listened to most nights before we started the memory CD. Another is “Children’s Songs,” by the Bible Study Guide for All Ages. They have songs for every Bible thing I want Madison to memorize, except for the books of the Bible (I downloaded the Old Testament Books online and the New Testament Books I sang). And I just purchased a skip counting CD from Math-U-See which has not been included on the memory CD yet, but I plan to add it when I finally update. Madison has listened to that some nights as well and really enjoys it.

(As a side note, we also really enjoy music by Joe Scruggs. If you have never listened to him, I really recommend you check it out!)

Here is a screen shot of our memory CD playlist. You should be able to click on it and make it large enough to read.

So, in a nutshell, that is everything I can think of to share about our memory CD – and probably more that you wanted to know! If you have more creative ways to use your memory CD, please share them with me!

My first convention

I read several articles about being prepared for your first homeschool convention, but I ignored them.  I’ve been to conventions before, so I thought I knew what to expect.  Not so.  I printed out the convention schedule, circled the classes I thought sounded good, grabbed a book to read in case I had free time (yeah right!) and walked over to the convention center.  As soon as I walked into the exhibit area, I was overwhelmed.  I really underestimated the amount of shopping that was going to be available…

I have already picked out my curriculum for next year, but I wasn’t planning to buy it since we are supposed to be moving to Japan sometime soon (the date is still up in the air).  Well, actually I was planning to buy Right Start Math after becoming frustrated with Horizons and hearing so many good things about RS, but I wanted to wait for the convention and see it first, and I did end up buying that.  I also bought ETC, Book 2, since we are about to finish Book 1.  We are moving along with that faster than I expected.

I also bought some Handwriting without Tears stuff, which was a change from my original plan of using Horizons handwriting.  I was able to look at that and decided against it.  There was a very large Rainbow Resource booth where I was able to see HWOT, along with almost all the other handwriting programs I had considered, and decided to buy HWOT.  I didn’t need to buy it now because I don’t plan to start it till fall, but I got caught up in buying stuff.  That’s ok.  I might decide to start it sooner.  We are on a little different school schedule than most other families right now because we started preschool in December, and I haven’t really decided when we are going to transition to Kindergarten.  I am waiting to see how the Japan situation will pan out.

Some other stuff I bought that I did not plan to – a skip counting CD from Math-U-See, which I plan to incorporate in Madison’s memory CD when I update it (hopefully soon), a Kumon cutting book (just for fun), and (my favorite purchase), a poster with the genealogy of Christ.  It is one of the coolest posters I have ever seen – I am excited about it for myself, not just for school.  Here is a link – check it out – really!

There were a lot of classes available too – some were just ok, but one I really enjoyed was about Classical Conversations.  I would really like to find out some more information about this program – from what I can tell, it is like a homeschool support group for classical home educators. They have a free 3 day program that I am going to attend in June, and they have them in several states, so if you are interested in classical education, I would recommend checking out the website and seeing if they offer the free classes in your area.

Matt came with me on Saturday, but we only made it till lunchtime when we met up with some friends and went to lunch with them.  That was the end of his time at the convention, but he was good company.  It’s probably good that he didn’t come with me on Friday.  We have a tendency to make each other spend more money when we are together.

Unfortunately, I think this is the only convention I am going to get to go to for several years – unless there are conventions on Okinawa I don’t know about!