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Archive for July, 2011

This past week I’ve been obsessed with books and what better project to do next than to start cataloging our book collection! I’ve been playing around with four book catalog software systems and hopefully next month emerge with our favorite. Our new barcode scanner (just $30) arrived today to make cataloging a cinch.

Satori and I made a video to show how easy it can be to catalog your very own book collection. In this video we are using Collectorz. One of these days we will learn how to make our videos more professional and smoother. 🙂

I’m asking for your help! The past few days I have been compiling a huge children’s literature list. I thought I would make a top 100, but it quickly surpassed that number and now I’m at 250. I opened up suggestions at a few homeschooling forums and I’ve been flooded with suggestions.

This list is books suitable for children in the grade 1-6 range, although a little lower and higher would work as well. All must be still in print so they would be easy to find. Nothing is more frustrating than finding a great book list, only to have them all out of print!

Here is the list as it stands so far – Children’s Literature Sortable List. As you can see, it’s sortable by Title, Author, Last Name, Page Count, Copyright Year, Genre and Newbery award. Books that are more appropriate for older children are marked.

I’m still open for suggestions, additions/subtractions/revisions and feedback. Once done, I’ll work on making a printable PDF page (my initial attempts have failed, but I’ll keep trying).


We are using two different grammar programs both of which offer features that we like.

First Language Lessons

First Language Lessons is a program we started at age five with Level 1. The program is very gentle and emphasizes memorization techniques, repetition, minimal writing, and is completely scripted. We found Levels 1 & 2 to be very easy for Satori who is a bit language-arts-advanced, and would do 2-5 lessons at a time, but we’ve finally found a comfortable spot with level 3. We now do just one lesson in about 15-20 minutes, twice a week, which is perfect for us.

FLL Level 3 comes with two huge components – Teacher’s Manual (468 pages) and Student Text (352 pages). Normally I have been buying their PDF versions and printing them out myself, but not with these colossal books. Instead, I got them on Amazon at 34% off. The student text is necessary and is consumable. The pages are perforated so I took them out and ProClicked them so we have an easy-to-use workbook that lies flat. I kept the Teacher’s book as-is, the pages stay open.

There are 89 Lessons plus an additional 21 Lessons covering Writing Letters, Dictionary Skills, and oral Usage. The book includes three sample schedules. It uses a Four-Strand Approach.

  1. Memory Work – memorizing poetry, rules, and definitions
  2. Copywork and Dictation – For Copywork a student copies a quality sentence. Dictation means student writes down a sentence said aloud, without looking at the written model.
  3. Narration – Student retells a passage she has heard or read and puts it in her own words. Precursor to original writing.
  4. Grammar – Rigorous yet gentle scripted lessons. Level 3 introduces sentence diagramming as well

I’m going to go over a lesson in each program that covers Adjectives That Tell Whose. In FLL3, that would be Lesson 14, and it’s 4 1/2 pages long. (click for larger image) As usual, we start off rattling a few grammar definitions. We have to say the definition of an adjective three times.

An adjective is a word that describes a noun or pronoun.

Then we get into the actual lesson and the completely scripted lesson has a script for the teacher and expected student response. The student will be directed to her workbook to read some examples of adjectives.

And so on… It’s very thorough. There is sometimes an Optional Follow-Up activity. We didn’t do this one, but it consisted of taping labels on to items (Mom’s purse or Smiths’ table).

Here’s the student workbook for Lesson 14, which is four pages long. Most of it is reading, but there are a few exercises that requires writing.


I realize that this lesson didn’t have any diagramming exercises, so I included a lesson that did. In First Language Lessons, the lines are drawn for the child, making it pretty easy to diagram.


Growing With Grammar

Now for Growing With Grammar Level 3.  First huge advantage, it can be done independently! A second benefit to us is that it offers more written practice on the grammar concepts in each lesson.

We also do one lesson, which takes about 10-15 minutes, three times a week. This program is very straightforward and easy to do. Like FLL, there are two books, but this time they are both for students – the Student Manual and the Student Workbook. Both books are spiral bound so lie flat nicely. The manual is small and two can fit in the size of the workbook. We like it as a reference book when we need to quickly look up a grammar concept. It’s much easier to do that with GWG than FLL. Level 3 has 105 lessons and 5 review lessons, for a total of 110 lessons.

There are five chapters, each with roughly 20 lessons. See the Table of Contents on their website for additional detailed information. They also show a sample lesson.

  1. Growing with Sentences
  2. Growing with Nouns and Pronouns
  3. Growing with Verbs
  4. Growing with Adjectives and Adverbs
  5. Growing with Words and Punctuation

Lesson 4.4 covers Adjectives That Tell Whose. Lessons are pretty much always just two pages.

That takes just a few minutes to review, usually I am sitting there next to Satori to be sure she understands it all. Then we whip out the Student Workbook. Again, there is just two pages. The first page has practice problems that cover the day’s lesson.

The second page is a review. You can see here the diagramming exercises do not include lines like FLL, but we are okay with that.

So now you have an idea of what it might be to use First Language Lessons or Growing With Grammar Level 3 (grade 3-ish). My goal was not to say one is better than the other, but to let you decide what might work better for your family. Since we love language arts, we do both – Growing with Grammar on M/W/F and First Language Lessons on Tu/Th. I think they both cover grammar in different but complementary ways. First Language Lessons explores grammar and language arts more in-depth, in the classical style, and includes poem memorization (see previous blog post). Growing with Grammar is independent, more to the-point and got us up to speed on grammar very quickly when we needed it last fall. It has more writing and practice in the early years, which is what we enjoyed. We just love both programs. 🙂

First Language Lessons Level 3 starts off Poem Memorization with the poem “The Land of Nod” by Robert Louis Stevenson. Satori loves to memorize poems and here she is reciting the poem for her blog.


In the midst of our study of life this year, I thought it would be fun to create a Tree of Life. The more I researched, the more I realized that a six year old and her mom could not comprehend the entire classification of life in just a few months, plus there are so many different tree of life diagrams. So I decided to make something extremely flexible so that when we study life again in the next cycle and learn more about genetics, we’ll be able to add/modify our tree.

Here’s our simplified version of the Tree of Life! (click to see larger)

I pulled out my magnet pages again and printed out some images about 2″ in size. I got the images idea from a huge Tree of Life image that Michael D. Barton pointed out to me (11 MB jpg image). We learned how all life fits in together and cool tidbits like how a hippo is related to a sperm whale.  It shows the most fantastic Tree of Life all sorted out with and colorful images. I’ll talk more about it below. (I found that the images are available under a Creative Commons BY-NC-SA Licence.)

Soon our 4’x6′ white board was plastered with magnetic tiles! Can you find Charles Darwin? We printed out almost all the animals and some plants, including some species that are now extinct.

Hastily I drew up a simple chart and had Satori put the animals in their places. This is our second time studying the animal kingdom (fish, amphibian, reptile, bird, mammal), and recently studied yet more fascinating life types, so she knew exactly where to place almost everything. You can see a small print-out of the Tree of Life image that I used.

It is impossible to fit the images on a small 2’x3′ whiteboard so I took out some of the less familiar images and re-did the chart on our smaller, portable whiteboard. I love how flexible it is to make! Now all we need is a dry erase marker and we can organize it all!

I gave Satori a pointer stick and asked her to point to a few special things. Here she’s pointing out a Tiklaatik, a now extinct creature that was a link between fish and amphibian.

If there is interest, I could probably make a few sheets of images available free for download.

I also found Tree of Life posters available on Amazon, where you can choose from three different medias in nine different sizes. Although expensive now, they did give this poster away for free a few years ago for Darwin year.

Further googling led to this fantastic version of the online Interactive Tree of Life. You can zoom in on specific varieties of life and learn more about them, download a detailed image and more.

You can even do a search to pull up more information on the life samples included in their tree of life, and it includes links to research further.

We’re keeping in mind the statement below.


Another cool website I linked to earlier this year was Tol – Tree of Life Web Project.

I also have another idea for an interactive, flexible Tree of Life, this time with green window clings shaped as leaves and brown window markers. My idea to use a leaf puncher didn’t pan out though, as the vinyl cling is just too thick, so this idea is on the backburner for now. I don’t feel like cutting out dozens of leaves individually.

Our new Pandia Press History Odyssey Timeline arrived yesterday and wow, is it beautiful! Featuring vibrant full-color, it corresponds well to History Odyssey or other classical history programs, covering from 6000 BCE to present day. There are four separate timelines for each major period (Ancients, Middle Ages, Early Modern and Modern Times), measuring approximately 5 feet long and 11 inches tall, giving you 20 feet of timeline. (Click for larger image.)

The timelines arrived all folded up in a flat envelope. Upon carefully opening the package, they were even more dazzling in person than I expected. They are made up of medium weight paper, easy to fold up in a binder accordian-style or hang on the wall. The flat timelines have a “lip” sticking out on one side, so you can hole-punch them and store them in a binder if you are short on wall space, and fold up neatly. If you do hole-punch them, I suggest using packing tape along the side or serious hole reinforcement tabs so it won’t rip out.

For these I decided lamination would be nice, as I wanted to be able to use a dry erase marker. Plus, I figure this will be our main timeline through all three stages of classical education, so I want it to last through high school.

A moment after opening the package, I made a spontaneous trip to Lakeshore Learning (over an hour away for me). They laminated all 20 feet, within minutes, by a friendly employee – for just $2.90! They have a huge laminator there and she stuck two timelines in at once, and at 26 cents per foot with their Teacher’s Club  (I got as a homeschooler), I couldn’t believe it came to just a few bucks. Plus, with a current promotion they have going on, I got a free reusable Lakeshore Learning bag. I got everything below for $3.10 including tax. Staples, on the other hand, quoted me over $40 and 24-hour turnaround. Yikes.

So I ended up with a huge laminated poster which I took home and carefully cut them apart. I love that laminating took away some of the folding creases. Now, the question was where to hang them….

It took me hours, but I finally settled on our foyer, which we think is a huge empty space anyway. It was the spot closest to the Learning Loft with adequate space and sufficient natural light.

Differences between Pandia’s 2011 and older version

The 2011 timeline is separated into four separate timelines featuring the following periods:

  • Ancients | 6000 BCE – AD 500
  • Middle Ages | 500-1600 AD
  • Early Modern | 1600-1850
  • Modern Times | 1850 to Present

The 2011 timeline displays 7 different categories displayed vertically along the left and right sides. The vertical space is 1.5 inches for all the categories except Eras/Reigns, which measures in at just over 2 inches tall, shown with lighter marking right in the middle.

  1. Art/Architecture and Literature
  2. Men and Women
  3. General Events
  4. Eras/Reigns and Dynasties
  5. Inventions and Discoveries
  6. Wars and Conflicts
  7. Treaties/Agreements

Within each timeline, years are consistently spaced, but not within all four timelines as a whole. This is an improvement for our purposes. Their old timeline was spaced consistently from Ancients to Present Day by 100 centuries. That ended up to be over three timelines dedicated to just Ancients, with very tiny spots for Renaissance and Modern Times, right when things really start happening. That makes it hard to actually put events on the timeline. For pictures of the older timeline, head to my April blog post appropriately named  “Wall Timeline”. Sometimes it is nice to see history spaced out evenly, so that’s why we’re still keeping our old timeline up.

With this new 2011 version, each period gets its very own timeline, giving plenty of space to mark events. The timelines are spaced differently, allowing for more space to fit recent events in shorter time.

For Ancients, time is spaced every 250 years, with approximately 2 inches of space between time markings. Our right side of the timeline is heavily populated, with the left side (toward 6000 BCE) very sparse.

Middle Ages has spaces every 50 years with about 2.5 inches between markings.

Both Early Modern and Modern Times are spaced one decade (10 years) apart. Early Modern has approximately 2 inches between markings.

Modern Times has a generous spacing of just over three inches between the decades. As you can see, each timeline has its own color scheme, along with beautiful color pictures representative of the time.

We have a few Pandia Press packets of B&W timeline stickers, so we used the Ancients to fill in our Ancients poster. We just finished Ancients this month and are moving to Middle Ages next.

The negatives? My only regret is that the stickers cover up the gorgeous timeline. I am thinking of switching to markers instead, as Pandia displays on their website sample. Click for big image.

Detailed Sample from doesn’t carry the new timeline on their own website as they used to, but you can buy it at RainbowResource (least expensive), Classical Home Education (where I purchased mine), or A Brighter Child. The timeline stickers are sold separately, Rainbow Price is listed as $6.50. You can also make your own timeline figures.

We’re excited to start using the new History Odyssey Timeline! We are actually going to use their program, History Odyssey Middle Ages Level 1 this year. They have all three levels for a classical education history program available, with the Level Three programs for Early Modern and Modern Times available in the future.

There is not really actual art or drawing instruction in Artistic Pursuits, at least not in the first few books yet. Take our lesson last week, “Artists Make Portraits”. You can click to see the lesson larger. They talk about a famous painting that includes a portrait, show a sample by another six year old, and then it’s all up to the child. There is usually one little tip on using the art materials or something like that.

So we find a picture that Satori can use for a portrait. This is David and myself. 🙂 We really need to get more family portraits, but that’s beside the point.

After setting Satori loose, I can see that some intervention might come in handy. Luckily, she was a good sport about the whole family bursting into giggles after seeing her first try. I asked if she wanted me to show her a few things. She said ok, as long as she doesn’t have to draw a nose, since she can’t draw noses.

I not only walked her through making passable noses, but pointed out the shape of the eye, trying to make it look a tad more realistic. Daddy has a wide mouth so I thought it would be funny to have her draw a big mouth, hehe, some things I cannot resist. But I showed her how to draw the shape of a lip and include some space between the upper/lower teeth. We drew some individual hairs to add texture.

End result? An improved portrait of her mom and dad! One thing Artistic Pursuits did have her start was to make sure she includes some sort of background. Here you see purple fireworks upon a pink background.

We only had 15 Caran d’Ache Neocolor II Water Soluable Pastels to choose from, I think she did a pretty good job. A bit of water, and we have a painting!

We have her first try on the back side of the finished portrait, and we all still can’t stop laughing. 😀

We still enjoy Artistic Pursuits. Satori doesn’t do well with following cookie-cutter art projects, so this is perfect. Hopefully a little guidance from Mom won’t hurt now and then.

Next lesson we’ll do tomorrow is to paint a Still Life. We made Daddy buy his ladies a colorful bouquet assortment. These flowers will also come in handy as we’re studying flowers in REAL Science Odyssey this week. I’ll blog about that next week.