Friday, September 21, 2012

Back to School!

Although we’ve been dabbling with a day here and there, this week was our first real week back.   We still didn’t have a full week due to various circumstances but I think overall it was a very good week.   Of course, now that we’ve really started, I decided to change a few things (again!).

Homeschooling in a small space has lots of challenges and, once again, I’ve rearranged things in the hopes of finding the most efficient set-up.  I’ve moved our school back into the kitchen for the most part, since I like having a dedicated space and not having to move the computers out of our way.  It is also easier for me to keep an eye on both of them.  But, there are things just work better in the living room since that’s where our timeline will hang, where I have bulletin boards and posters, where there’s more space for projects, and where the computers and television live. 

My plan is to start our day in the living room – Georgie will do his 30 minutes of reading curled up in a chair or on his bed while Vicki and I work on a white board doing some phonics.  

Georgie and I will then do his All About Spelling (since the board is too big for the kitchen space) while Vicki plays independently.  

We will all move into the kitchen for the rest of our core subjects.  Georgie will do his independent work while Vicki and I work together.  Vicki can then do some independent activities or go into the living room to play school games on her computer (Jumpstart, Math Blaster and Animal Jam from Nat Geo Kids are the current favorites) while I work with Georgie.

We will take a break and come back into the kitchen to do our daily activity (Literature on Monday, Journaling on Wednesday, Art on Thursday and Music on Friday). 

After lunch (during which I hope to read aloud) the kids will go in their rooms for quiet time while I work-out and eat my lunch.

The rest of our work will be done in the living room because they either involve projects, using my computer or the television to watch videos, or playing games.  We will do Spanish every day, History or Science each day, Geography on Wednesday and Thursday the weeks we do History, and Social Studies on Fridays.  Tuesdays are light because we have 4-H twice a month.

Now for what we’ve actually accomplished:

Vicki is doing well with phonics and reading.  She finally seems to have a good grasp of blending and is starting to not sound out short /a/ words one sound at a time.   I am using Ordinary Parents Guide to Reading on a white board with letter tiles to introduce words.  We play games using large foam puzzle pieces with words attached to help practice the words.  She just started Explode the Code 1 as additional practice.  She did the consonant pre-test and did through page 7 of lesson 1.  I am letting her determine how many pages she wants to do each session and, just like I did with Georgie, I don’t make her do the pages where she has to write out the entire word.

As she finishes up a word family, she puts together a flower, reading each word before she puts the petal on.  The leaves are whatever sight words we are working on.  She is still struggling some with these since she wants to sound them out.  “I” isn’t a problem but “the” is giving her trouble.


Vicki is finally getting better with handwriting.  She usually would drop her pencil or crayon, claim she’s too tired, do a couple lines then “Oops, I can’t DO IT!”.  But this week she traced her name three times and did a few pages in Handwriting without Tears without any “oops”.

For math this week, she played with the Cuisenaire Rods and did MEP1, Lesson 9.  She didn’t want to do any structured activities with the rods yet, just stack them into little towers but she does seem to understand the difference between < > and = now.

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I did let her play around on the AAS board a little this week and started testing her with the phonogram cards used in Level 1, Step 1.  She knows all the single phonograms, both sounds of c, both sounds of g and the first sounds of all the vowels.  She put all the letters back into their places and then made some words by sounding out the letters.


She was probably so cooperative this week because I told her she could use Play-doh when she finished.  I’m going to have to watch her closely because she knows what drawer I’m keeping the play-doh in AND she evidently now has the hand strength to open those little cans by herself.   She spent about an hour making cakes and cookies for me to pretend nibble on.

Georgie was a little more cooperative than he has been in the past.  I bought composition notebooks for both kids to do some free writing/journaling.  Georgie’s has a strip of Mario Brothers duct tape on the cover and Vicki has Hello Kitty.  I also am planning to let them decorate them with some stickers eventually.

The first day I introduced them, they were excited but not really interested in guidance.  Vicki did some scribbles on a few pages in different colors.  Georgie wrote “I HATE SCHOOL” and “I love Minecraft” on the first couple of pages.  

The next time I pulled out their books went much better…sort of.    Both kids were working quietly and attentively, giving me lots of hope for our future schooling.


Vicki drew a few lines and had me write “Scientific Fairy Research” and tried to copy it.  Evidently it’s from a movie they’ve watched recently.  She was holding the pencil correctly and not complaining so I let her go with it.

I asked Georgie to draw an alien, a Pokemon or a monster and tell about bringing him home.   Instead he ran to get his Pokemon books and drew Elgyum.  He did also write some information about Elgyum.IMG_0725

I ended up pulling out his new How to Draw Pokemon book and he went on to draw Pikachu…


Marrill and Gastly. 


He still doesn’t like going for realism (can you talk about realism when discussing little Japanese monsters?) in his colors but this was probably the longest he ever spent voluntarily using a writing utensil of any kind, so I certainly wasn’t going to discourage him.

We worked a little bit on Beast Academy 3A.  Georgie still has a little trouble with the angle mazes but he can easily tell you if an angle is obtuse, right or acute.  I gave him an index card to check for right angles when we first started doing these.

He’s been having no trouble with his Algebra Readiness Made Easy logic puzzles but he is struggling with his Addition/Subtraction riddles.  I may give him a break from those since it seems to just be the number of problems on the page that’s bothering him.

We are continuing along in Math Mammoth doing a mix of topics from 2A, 2B, 3A and 3B.  I’m not even completely sure which book the pages come out of at this point.  He is doing addition with carrying, subtraction with borrowing, making change, time lapsed, fractions, place value to 1000's, and multiplication as an array. 

Even though he spent a lot of time complaining about math, it clearly is very easy for him once he starts doing it.   Because I don’t have him do a lot of the writing if it’s unnecessary, he is solving a lot of the problems in his head.  I’ll go over the problem with him, he’ll say “the answer is like…. 37” and figure out the answer while he is saying “the answer is like..”.  Word problems especially are very easy for him. 

For the money questions, he invented a machine.   The questions were written “92c + _____ c = $1”.  His answer was “put 92c in the machine with 8c and you get a dollar out”.  I guess whatever works for him to cooperate on doing it.

Place value also seems to come very easily to Georgie so to help him with the terminology since the concept seems to be understood, I made up a place value chart.  We will quickly work through these pages in MM just to be sure he does fully understand.  A link to the chart on Google Docs can be found on the Games and Files page of the blog.


I think I’m going to jump him ahead a little bit in math so he has to work a little harder but give him fewer pages each day so hopefully he’ll complain less.

Georgie told me that whenever he is playing on Minecraft Multiplayer, if he spells something wrong, the people he is playing with will correct him so he is learning spelling while playing and shouldn’t need to do more.  As happy as I am that he is learning while playing, and especially that he mostly plays with older kids and one adult (my cousin), we still pulled out Level 2 of All About Spelling to finally get started with it.   A lot of Step 1 is review of the key concepts from Level 1 – vowels and consonants, vowel sounds, when to use c or k, when to double f, l or s.  He didn’t have any trouble with these beginning lessons and enjoyed playing with the tiles again.  He tried to spell diamond on his own and couldn’t quite do it.


One other area I’m thinking about advancing him in is reading comprehension.  He’s doing a Grade 2 Spectrum workbook where he reads a passage and answers questions.   He reads the passages very quickly and answers the questions without referring back to it.  I have a subscription to the Evan Moor Teacher’s File Box, so I’m going to print out a few reading comprehension exercises at a higher level and see how he does with them.  If he struggles, we can go back to the Spectrum workbook.

We got some exercise and did some nature study while enjoying some lovely Fall weather.   We spent a few days at the park and Vicki insisted on wearing her sun hat….


we took a run out to our mailboxes and looked for signs of Fall….


we studied some fungus on a tree (it appears to be a Turkey Tail Fungus)….


we saw lots of Queen Anne’s Lace including in our backyard.


While trying to get a closer picture of the Queen Anne’s Lace, I discovered Milkweed in our backyard!  There’s been some for a long-time down by the pool along the river but this is the first time I’ve seen it in our yard.  Since it’s a favorite place for the Painted Lady butterflies to lay their eggs, hopefully we’ll be able to find caterpillars in the Spring.


One of our local indoor play places had a free homeschoolers day this week.   The kids had a great time running around with other homeschoolers, playing video games and air hockey, and picking out prizes before we left.

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Last but not least, I took some back to school pictures from the top of our new play set.  Vicki was eager to have her picture taken but Georgie was feeling less than cooperative.

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Next week we will be continuing with our Rock & Mineral study, we will be visiting a farm with 4-H Cloverbuds, we will be starting Spanish, Social Studies, Art and Music.  (I hope.  Keep your fingers crossed.)


  1. I really like your desk divider cardboard. My two kids can really distract each other when they are working on the same table, and I imagine they would like something like that.

  2. I had to do something to keep Georgie from "helping" Vicki all the time. Plus, it gives me some place to hang various helpful information - a handwriting guide, number lines, 100's chart, memory work, etc.

    It's a tri-fold presentation board cut in half and with the flaps taken off the end toward me so I can see what they are doing easily.

  3. what a fun week you gus had!! I love the back to school pics and that playplace looks really fun