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Archive for August, 2009

We’re calling it the Not-Back to School First Day of Kindergarten tomorrow – September 1!

I should try to get a better picture, but the sun was casting a warm glow while we were outside, so I just snapped a shot. 🙂


I’ve been up late every night planning our fall stuff, so I haven’t been able to post much.

One subject I’m apalled at myself for not thinking about too much yet is science. When I first made the decision to homeschool, science was one of the subjects I thought I would be very good at teaching, and couldn’t wait to get started! I’ve spent weeks or months thinking about almost everything else – reading, math, art… Five in a Row of course covers science, but now that I’m primarily following a classical education, I need to prepare for our science curriculum! Quoting Susan Wise Bauer at the Well Trained Mind:

The sciences are studied in a four-year pattern that roughly corresponds to the periods of scientific discovery: biology, classification and the human body (subjects known to the ancients); earth science and basic astronomy (which flowered during the early Renaissance); chemistry (which came into its own during the early modern period); and then basic physics and computer science (very modern subjects).

In typical Angela fashion, I make sure I got my bases covered by ordering a few programs. Right away I got a few fun Science books that have to do with experiments, games, and even art. But the first actual curriculum type science book I ordered back in June - Building Foundations of Scientific Understanding: A Science Curriculum for K-2 by Bernard J Nebel PhD.

Building Foundations of Scientific Understanding

I heard people talk about this book (he also wrote one on elementary education), and with one quick look, I knew this was a science book for me! I browsed through it, and it looks great, but it seems a bit more challenging than I expected to turn it into an actual curriculum, but I’m positive it will come in handy and I’m glad I have it.

Next (just tonight), I looked into R.E.A.L. Science Odyssey (I already purchased their History Odyssey program). This also is a secular science program that specifically follows a classical education. They only have the first 3 years out so far, but I’m sure when we reach Modern Times, they will have the 4th year ready.  Of course we only need the first year when we start our classical education, and that is life science. Luckily, they have a very cool “Try Before You Buy” program.


I think this is the one we will follow this year. Here is the R.E.A.L. Science Odyssey Life Lesson plans.

It amazes me to see that quite a bit of this stuff we already covered briefly through FIAR.

All summer, I kept hearing about this awesome math curriculum that had some math games that families and math students were having a blast with. Naturally I had to check it out, so I ordered RightStart Level A. It sat for about a month, but recently we started in!

RightStart Mathematics Level A

RightStart Mathematics Level A

WOW. I had NO idea of exactly how cool this program was… I read the first 10 lessons and realized this program will rock in getting to understand math in your head. No counting on hands to do math. How is that? They break up numbers in chunks of 5 and 10. It’s easy to visualize with all their manipulatives and extra activities.

First off, your hand naturally has 5 fingers, both hands have 10. So you always have a “handy” way to see the numbers in the chunks of 5! Next, tally marks are grouped by 5. Here is the number 8:

Tally Marks - 8

Tally Marks - 8

This concept of chunks of 5 is so important, they even have a song for it! It’s easy to memorize and helps you remember your “chunks”. Here’s the first verse, included in a CD in their Right Start A Starter Kit.

Yellow is the sun, SIX is FIVE and ONE.

Finally, the manipulative they are most famous for, is their special AL Abacus (not sure what the AL stands for). Specially marked beads designate groups of 5. A row is 10. A half board is 50. Then they swap the colors to mark 51, and the full board is 100. See for yourself.

RS Abacus

RS Abacus

Students do not have to count at all, it is easy to visualize 5 + 3 is 8, so they slide over 8 all at the same time. No more slow and erroneous counting of 1… 2… 3… and so on. Just simply 8.

AL Abacus - quantity of 8

AL Abacus - quantity of 8

Soon, Satori will be able to do addition and subtraction in her head! Not only that, but each lesson is very interesting and covers multiple concepts and so far in the first 7 lessons, we are learning days of the week, parallel, and so much more. You won’t be doing an entire year of just addition, now you’ve got fun, games, and an intuitive way to think of math so you “get it”.

I got RightStart for the games, I almost forgot about that in my excitement about the actual curriculum. I really think Satori is going to rock in math because of their approach. Instead of boring worksheet/flash card drills, these games will help reinforce what she’s learned. I cannot wait.

Here’s what we ordered – the Right Start Starter Kit Level A. Includes most of the manipulatives and materials we’ll need, we already have some of the extras at home. It came in a big box:

RightStart Level A Starter Kit

RightStart Level A Starter Kit

Here is a sample page out of a lesson, the manual/workbook are included in the above kit. As you can see, it uses visual, auditory, and kinesthetic activities to help with the lessons. And it’s fun!

Lesson page

Lesson page

Daddy liked Satori’s artwork and we thought we’d give him his own copy. 🙂


We then thought it would be a good idea to practice handwriting with penpal letters, as we haven’t done that for awhile. First up, a little girl who just had a birthday (name erased for privacy). I LOVE Satori’s colorful balloons she drew!


Head’s up for a giveaway! My comments are now set for me to approve first (so people can’t see previous answers), so the first FIVE people who comment to this post will get their choice of a Little Gems necklace! The lucky winners can choose any necklace on this page. All you have to do to win, is to tell me who this little girl is, and where she is. Again, the first 5 comment repliers get a free necklace gift! (Valued at $38-54, on sale now in my Sling Outlet store)

On Thursday, 8/27, 10pm CST, the comments will be shown and contest will be over, and I’ll contact the winners for their choices.


After we whizzed through the “f” section in Explode the Code, we did an art project about FISH (hey it starts with “F”). We took this idea out of our new Usborne Art Treasury book. We are going to be doing many art projects during the week, and normally I want them to be all her own and not just “copying” another artwork, but this was too irresistible. This is based after Paul Klee’s “The Goldfish”. In his painting, the fish absolutely glows in the dark murky water and commands your attention. So we tried it ourselves… Mama sketched the fish, Satori colored it all in with oil pastels…


Then she brushed over it all with dark blue/purple watercolors. As you can see, the watercolors “beaded up” on the colorful oil pastel parts!

watercolor over oil pastel

watercolor over oil pastel

And our finished artwork. Satori dubbed it “The Aquarium”.

Satori's Aquarium

Satori's Aquarium

Mom did get carried away with the watercolor and didn’t dilute with water enough, so we ended up having to brush it up to soak up some of the paint to have the fish show through. I think it would have turned out perfect if we diluted the watercolor more with water, but we learn something everyday. I kinda like the swooshes we made when we brushed it up, it looks like water currents!

You may have noticed that at one point I had listed Explode the Code (ETC) phonics program up on our curriculum. I had these all set to go as a supplement to our OPG reading program. However, the “Get Ready, Get Set, Go for the Code” books were just too simple for Satori at the time. She honestly learned all her letters and sounds in one night, by watching a Leapfrog video!

So over the summer we started our Ordinary Parent’s Guide to Teaching reading program, but it can be dull. She gets each concept very fast. However, even though she masters the new sounds quickly, it is altogether a different thing to be able to read sentences fluently! She sounds them out. She can sound them out quickly, but nonetheless, sounding out words detracts from fluently reading/comprehending books.

Explode the Code workbooks

Explode the Code workbooks

So we’re taking a break from our normal reading program! Back to Explode the Code. We’re going to try these again, as she likes her HWT handwriting workbook so much, maybe this fall she’ll get into these workbooks.

Unfortunately, she has progressed to ETC  book level 3 now. The ones sitting on top of the above pile, that we already have on hand, are the A-C “Get Ready” books which covers consonants, which she knows very well already. But we’re going to try to go through them anyway superfast, like we do our HWT workbooks. In fact, she goes through her handwriting books so fast that we do need to stop and practice now. And luckily, ETC books cover lowercase letter handwriting practice! If it wasn’t for the handwriting instruction in ETC, I would probably wait until we got book 3 in.

We haven’t learned lowercase “f” yet in our HWT book, but we went over it today in her ETC workbook.  You can see she needs practice! But not too entirely bad for a 4 year old’s first time writing “f”s…

lowercase "f"

lowercase "f"

I am not sure how it will work out going through these early books (A-C), but I did order Explode the Code Books 2-5 last night, which takes us way beyond what we’ve learned so far in OPG.

Get Ready for The Code A
Consonants b, f, k, m, r, and t

Get Set for The Code B
Consonants d, h, j, n, p, and s

Go for The Code C
Consonants c, g, l, q, v, w, x, y, and z

Books 1 and 1 ½
Consonant review
Short vowel sounds

Books 2 and 2 ½
Initial and final consonant blends

Books 3 and 3 ½
Long vowels including silent –e
Digraphs (sh, th, wh, ch, ng, ck)
Trigraphs (-tch)
Vowel digraphs (ee-ea, ai-ay, oa-ow)

Books 4 and 4 ½
Compound words
Common endings (-ful, -ing, -est, -ed, -ness)
Syllable types (open, closed, ending in -y and -le, diphthong, and three-syllable words

Books 5 and 5 ½
Word families (all-alk, old-olt-oll, ild-ind, qu words)
3-letter blends (thr, shr, scr, str, spr, spi)
Diphthong -ey
Three sounds of -ed

Books 6 and 6 ½
-controlled vowels (ar, or, er, ir, ur)
Diphthongs (oo, oi-oy, ou-ow, au-aw, ew-ui-ue-ou)
Vowel digraphs (ea, ie, igh)

Book 7
Soft c and g
Silent consonants
Word patterns (ear, ei, eigh)
Digraph ph

Book 8
Advanced suffixes and endings

Here is a Day in the Life at our homeschool, a great idea by Darcy in her ^Not Back-to-School Blog Hop!

Day In The Life

Day In The Life

I wake up when my daughter gets me up around 8-8:30am. Since I’ve probably been up reading until 2am, this can be difficult. She eventually succeeds and our day starts.

Now, just 3 days ago I finished updating our Craft Kitchen, so we’ve been excited to play with arts and crafts right away in the morning. If Daddy is home, we can give him our homemade craft, such as this heart we made yesterday.

Good morning Daddy, I love you!

Good morning Daddy, I love you!

Then, I quickly check my email and then fill the birdfeeders and hummingbird water, still in my pajamas. (We have no close neighbors to our mountain home, so I can get away with this.) After that it’s breakfast and shower.

After breakfast, I try to take advantage of my bright-eyed and bushy-tailed 4.75 year old daughter’s eagerness to learn! We have no set schedule times, but I do use Homeschool SkedTrack (free online scheduling) to get a gist of what our plans are. The most important subjects I want to tackle are the typical 3 R’s plus spelling.

Up to our Learning Loft to do some learning! This summer we dedicated this room to homeschool, sit-down type learning, although we usually sprawl out on the carpet to learn. Kept short and sweet, as Satori is still only 4. We spend on average 20 minutes each on 2-3 of the below subjects.

  • Reading – Ordinary Parent’s Guide to Reading (on lesson 53 or so right now)
  • Math – Rotate between Math-U-See Primer and RightStart A, sometimes a Singapore Earlybird workbook thrown in
  • Writing – Handwriting Without Tears “Letters and Numbers For Me”, we’re 1/4 through our lowercase letters now
  • Spelling – All About Spelling, we’re on lesson 10, Level 1

Satori reading

Satori reading

Here she is reading a Nora Gaydos Playful Pals book. She loves her HWT program, especially the coloring. She’s quite good at spelling, that is why we added All-About-Spelling so early, I believe it will be a key to help her read even better.

After that hour, I typically feel very good about myself. She is let loose on her computer to play educational games like I am nearby, surfing blogs like Well Trained Mind, and MDCs homeschooling section.



After lunch, we’ll read aloud our current book, I’ll have her color or play with a related toy while I read the book.  We retire to our Reading Room Library which is also a new dedicated room we made this summer. Then we try to get some exercise -  take a walk on our property, or head to a park, a few geocaches, or head to the library. This is the time I try to organize and clean the house, it’s a never-ending project to get this house totally organized as I’d like, but I’m getting there!



She will play most of the afternoon, and I will be planning, researching, browsing homeschool stuff.  Since this is our first year homeschooling, I’m still doing a lot of research on particular homeschooling styles, curriculums, ideas, etc… I try to update my blog most days, so this is usually a good time to do that.

We may fit in one more 20 minute lesson of one of the subjects above if we missed it earlier.

Satori will try her best to write a “letter to mama” about how much she loves me and how she loves that I teach her lessons. 🙂 She’s been doing this the past 4 days, and recently, she’s been trying so hard to sound out the words to write what she wants to say. This is even more of an incentive for me to teach her to read, write, and spell!


After dinner, we’ve been tackling art lately. Here’s what she did tonight:

Scratching our some color on this black paper…


A long time ago before she knew all her letters, we started “Alphabet Art“, but only did a few letters. Just this week Satori has been begging to do the rest, so we started again! Here is “Gift-wrap G” and “Hairy H”.


A mermaid with red hair and a lavendar swimsuit top. (Wonder why she has red hair, hmmm…) 😉


At bedtime, I will read a  picture book or two, and then at least one chapter of our current read-aloud. Off to dreamland for Satori, and back to planning/surfing for Mom!


Thanks to “Life with my 3 Boybarians” for this great idea! Head to their Not Back-to-School Blog Hop to read more!