All posts by Amy

2014-2015 Curricula: 5th grade and 3rd grade

This week we will begin our sixth year of homeschooling.  (That’s really hard to believe to me.  It feels like we just started a year or two ago, not half a decade ago.)  This year Lulu is a fifth grader and Louise is a third grader.    The DLM is a four year old, so I suppose he is really, truly a preschooler, though I’m in denial about that point.  This year we’re shaking things up a bit and have more outside activities (for both me and the children) than ever before.  I will be serving as the assistant teaching director for our Community Bible Study class, which means a couple of hours one morning a week I’ll have leadership council.   The girls will take along some independent school work to work on while we’re there.  One morning a week we’ll attend Community Bible Study, where each child will be in age-appropriate (and completely wonderful) classes.  We’ll also be participating in a weekly co-op from mid-morning to early afternoon one day a week.  More on that in a bit.

Here’s the current lineup for the year:

Circle Time:   I love circle time and consider it the most important time we spend together.  However, having so many morning activities is going to make having Circle Time a challenge this year.  I’m shooting for 2-3 times a week and will feel quite accomplished if we manage that.  I also plan to use some of our memory work for handwriting practice/copywork for the girls’ independent work.  I’ll share another post detailing this first month’s Circle Time later (when I get it figured out).

Math:  We’re RightStart users and fans, so both girls will be continuing in the levels we were working through when we took our summer break.  Lulu is in level E and should finish it this first semester.  That means we have a big decision to make before Christmas:  will Lulu continue straight into level G, which is all geometry, or will we transition to a new curriculum after level E?  Stay tuned. . .   Louise is currently in the last third of the level C curriculum, so she’ll be moving into level D when she finishes that.  We’ll continue to play math games, too, aiming at four a week.

English Grammar:   This is a big change for us this year.  We’ve always used First Language Lessons, but this year we’re changing to Rod and Staff grammar because Lulu has aged out of FLL and we really, really need something that’s a little less teacher-led.  I still plan to teach the lessons, but it’s helpful to have a slightly more textbook approach for our out-of-the-house days.  Lulu will be working through the 5th grade book and Louise the 3rd grade book.   Lulu will also be doing a 4-level analysis sentence from MCT Practice Town a day, and we’ll fold Louise into that when I can get her up to speed on how it works.  (I like the 4 level analysis method but have not found the MCT books to be a huge hit here.  I like them, but I think they’re a little too much for the girls.)  I’d also like to find a way to use the CC English grammar trivium table (and here), but I’m still mulling that over.

Writing:  This year Lulu is moving up to Writing with Skill I, which I hear is a pretty big jump from Writing with Ease.   I’m going to try to take it as it comes and not push her through it, realizing that it’s okay to do it half-time if that’s what she needs.  Louise will be working through Writing with Ease 3.

Spelling:  Spelling is a thorn in my side because I’ve yet to find a curriculum I love.  (Not true–I love All About Spelling, but I cannot do it and RightStart Math; they’re both very manipulative and teacher-driven, and we haven’t the time–or patience–to do both.)  I’ve reconciled myself to Rod and Staff spelling.  Lulu will pick up in grade 4 where she left off last year and then pick up with grade 5.  Louise will finish grade 3 and pick up grade 4.  Steady Eddie has graciously entered all their spelling lists into Spelling City, so each week the girls will take a spelling test on the computer.  I don’t love doing it this way, but it helps me out and they love it, so it’s a practical win-win, if not a moral one.  ;-)   I’ll be honest–at times this spelling work feels like busy work to me, which I loathe, but it’s not really very time consuming and it does get us thinking about words, so there is that.  The girls’ spelling seems to have gradually improved, too.  It might’ve improved anyway, but that’s something I can’t know, so we plod on.  :-)

Handwriting:  This is another thorny subject.  Both girls have been learning and practicing the Getty-Dubay Italic method/style, but they don’t love it.  I purchased PreScripts from CC for them to learn a loopier style of handwriting, but I’m not sure that Lulu is not too far gone with Getty-Dubay for that to work.  Sometimes I think I might’ve botched handwriting for them, but then I look at mine and Steady Eddie’s and realize that it probably doesn’t matter, anyway.  ;-)  We’ll see how this goes.

history books
history books


History:  This is our first year to not use Story of the World as our primary history book.   This year seemed like the right year to tackle American history, which is really where the girls’ interests are.  (They read history for fun.)  We’re using Sonlight Core D.   We’re using it for history, geography (sort of), and read-alouds.  I’m still a bit nervous about it, especially the fact that it will by force drive our read-aloud choices.  Again, we’ll see how it goes.

and more history books!

and more history books!

Geography:  I plan to focus on U.S. Geography this year.  I want us to try our hand at map tracing and learning all the states and capitals.  I also hope to incorporate some geography quests into our Fun Fridays.  We love to play games, so I want to slowly build up a small collection of geography board games.  I recently bought Ticket to Ride and am eager to learn how to play it.  (Heather has a list of geography games here.)

Science:  Science is the subject I feel I’ve dropped the ball the most in.  This year the girls will be taking Zoology 2/marine biology at co-op using Apologia.   They’ll have homework to complete in preparation for their weekly classes.  Rumor has it that they might even be doing a dissection or two in class!  I think it will be a fun year of learning for them, which is really what we aim for in science in the elementary years.  I’m particularly excited about it for Louise because this is definitely an area of interest for her.

Other stuff:  The girls will work through a couple of Perplexors books, primarily working on these on the days I have CBS leadership.  (I hope I can keep them from ripping through them in a couple of weeks.  They love these, and so do I!)

One of my disappointments in our homeschool has been that I have been unable to manage to include a Latin study in our learning.  Both girls will be taking a fun Spanish class in co-op this year, and on our Fun Fridays I hope to work through Word Roots Beginning as a part of our language and vocabulary studies.  We’ll keep up our Poetry Tea Times, which became a much anticipated part of Fun Fridays last year.  I hope to get back to doing art, too, as often as we can.  I purchased Great American Artists for Kids by MaryAnn Kohl, and this book and Deep Space Sparkle will likely be my most-used art resources.

Of course, we’ll keep reading aloud.   Both girls will take weekly piano lessons.  Lulu will also have an Alabama history class at co-op, and I anticipate many field trips for this class.   We’ll squeeze in 4H activities as they come up and we can participate.  Louise will take a p.e. class at co-op, but we’re still deciding if the girls will participate in any sort of sport this year.

Just typing all this out makes me feel like the year might be a wee bit over-stuffed.  I’m working out the details now–all of this won’t be done every day, of course.  We’ll hit the biggies 4 or 5 days of the week:  math, writing, language.  We read 7 days a week.  :-)  Other subjects will be hit harder on the days when the girls do more independent work.

I do have a plan, or at least the beginning of one, for the DLM, but I’ll have to share it on another day.

I’m trying to remind myself that this is always, always, always a work in progress.  We never arrive, and that’s the way it should be.

How is your year shaping up?

Previous curricular posts:

The end of an era


DSC_0018Two of our children have been finger suckers, and two have been pacifier babies.  Lulu sucked the same two fingers as Steady Eddie did when he was a baby–the middle and ring finger of the right hand.  It was quite ingrained in her–to the point that she did it well past her third birthday.  She did it so much that her fingernails on those fingers were flat and a little shriveled.  When she held up her hand with her fingers extended, her tall man and ring man stood close to each other, like best buddies.  One day I read something that made me realize that she needed to stop doing  it!   Today!  So I made a deal with her, and she quit.  Just like that.  She never looked back.

Louise took a paci, and while it was hard to break the habit, it was nothing that a well-aimed snip of the scissors into the paci’s nipple wouldn’t cure.

When the DLM was a few months old, we were astounded to realize that he had that some predilection for the middle and fourth finger of his right hand.  It seemed like too much to be just a coincidence.  What’s more, he loved those fingers even more than Lulu, if that’s possible.  He’s a very affectionate, physical little fellow, and if his skin ever came into contact with someone else’s–even down to his feet stepping on yours–into his mouth went his fingers.  It was downright annoying at times.  (Just ask his sisters!)  Even past his fourth birthday, I had no idea how to break the habit.  What’s more, I didn’t have the mental and emotional stamina to break it.  I just couldn’t even think about it.

So the DLM solved the problem for us.  He broke his right arm.  The angle of the cast made it impossible for him to put his fingers in his mouth.  We thought it would cause problems, especially at bedtime, but it didn’t.  He was able to go to sleep just fine with nothing at all in his mouth.   He had his cast removed at the end of July, and so far, we only know of one time that he’s had his fingers in his mouth.  That was at night while he was asleep.

It’s a pretty extreme (not to mention expensive!) way to break the habit, but it works.  :-)

(Benny is a paci baby, but we really wonder if he would’ve sucked those fingers, too, if the paci hadn’t won out.  When he was younger than a year old, he would often put those very same fingers up to his paci and rest them there.  Really!)


David Crockett Days 2014


We had our first field trip of the 2014-2015 school year on Friday, and we haven’t even started the year yet.  ;-)  David Crockett State Park in Lawrenceburg, Tennessee, has an annual event called David Crockett Days in honor of Crockett’s August birthday.  My mother and I took my four children and a friend up for the afternoon.  It was a billed as a homeschool day, so quite a few of my homeschooling friends made the trek north, too.  (It was kind of funny to me to “run into” so many Alabama friends in Tennessee.)  Many historical reenactors “rendezvous” here, ply their trades, and sell their wares.

DSC_0008 DSC_0009 DSC_0010-001DSC_0012 DSC_0013 DSC_0014

It was a very hot and humid day, and we spent a good bit of it walking around the demonstration area with low rumbles of thunder as our background music.   We spent some time talking with ladies who spin wool into thread, dye the thread using natural dyes, and quilt by hand.  Sometime during the quilting demonstration the DLM managed to get a splinter in his finger from the bow and arrow (kid-friendly ;-) ) he had bought, and it was downhill from there.  It was nothing a little time under the refreshment tent and a bottle of ice-cold Orange Crush couldn’t help, though.  ;-)

Benny was just so happy to be able to walk around in the grassy, open area–he wouldn’t be contained.  :-)


DSC_0027 DSC_0026 DSC_0025 DSC_0024 DSC_0023 DSC_0022The girls all had money to spend, so we spent the last thirty minutes or so shopping the vendor tents.  Our guest bought her dad an old-fashioned knife for his birthday.  Lulu came away with an fan made from feathers and I forget what else.  Louise bought a gigantic sea shell to go with her collection.  There was more I wanted to see, but we managed to get everyone back in the van before the bottom fell out and we drove home through driving, torrential rain.



This is a good festival and certainly worth a few hours of time.



Just call me E.B. White


Confession:  I wanted to knew I needed to clean the window really well before I hung the new faux Roman shade, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it.  Louise has had such a good time getting to know our resident arachnid, and was even able to identify the type she is, conjecture that this thing was an egg sac, and then see the baby spiders emerge.  That’s science at its best.

Dining room progress

I don’t know if anyone out there in blogland really cares much about the little, very amateur things we do to spruce up our home.  However, since it’s my blog and we’ve spent a lot of time on home improvement this summer, I’m sharing anyway.  :-)  I made a long list of things I need to do before starting our school year, and I’m happy to mark a couple of them off the list!

We brought home our Amish-made, 9′ long dining room table months ago, so this has been a long project.  I began staining the top of the table with General Finishes gel stain in Java, but after two or three coats (!!!) I realized I preferred Minwax Polyshades in Ebony (which I used on our buffet) much better.   My longsuffering husband sanded the table top down and we went at it again, with much better results.  I painted the table legs, chair and bench legs, and chair backs with General Finishes milk paint and then glazed them with Ralph Lauren glaze.  It didn’t end up exactly the way I wanted it (I think the glazing makes it look muddy), but I am SO glad to have this done and am pleased with the overall effect.




Our dining room only has one window, and I am a little embarrassed to admit how long it has been since there was any sort of window treatment except blinds on it.   I saw this tutorial online for a faux Roman shade and decided that’s what I wanted for our dining room.   Picking out the fabric took longer than making the shade!  I have lots of fabric left over, too, for some other project.



It’s still very much a work-in-progress.  I have to figure out how I want to “dress” the mantle, and we need a large piece of furniture for the wall at the end of the table.  We’re thinking we might buy an Amish-made china cabinet or something like that.  I’ve picked things up here and there, though, and I like how it’s looking over all–bright and cheerful and homey.

Clearance flower pot bought for about $7 at Joann, with artificial forsythia bought at Michael's and Joann at 50% off
Clearance flower pot bought for about $7 at Joann, with artificial forsythia bought at Michael’s and Joann at 50% off
I love birds and nests!
I love birds and nests!



Detail of table runner I bought on clearance for $10 at Pier One
Detail of table runner I bought on clearance for $10 at Pier One

I really want to be more hospitable, and having a table large enough to seat more than just my medium-sized family is one more step in that direction.

Thank you, Lord, for enabling us to make this progress!