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Category: Other Thoughts

In attempts to prepare for the upcoming school year in which we start in earnest September 6th, I wanted to creative a more engaging atmosphere in our Learning Loft. Yesterday while shopping at our brand new local IKEA, I scored this “as-is” Trofast frame! Nothing was wrong with it except no packaging and it was all assembled.

If you’re curious about what’s sitting on top, head to my Vocabulary Power Flip books post to learn more.

We cleared out a spot for it in the loft and today I set about making labels for the subjects.

We haven’t gotten into the Workbox system, but I did have this sheet made by Heather, a fellow homeschooler/scrapbooker/workboxer, so I thought it would add to the motivation to get our subjects completed each day. (This was over two years ago and she most likely isn’t offering to do this for just $10 anymore, I see she just had a baby.) I framed her chart and laminated the numbers so they’d last longer. Currently they’re attached by magnets, although she originally used velcro on them.

Underneath the Workbox chart is a clipboard with timer attached that shows our actual schedule. I print this out everyday from Homeschool Skedtrack, the free online scheduling program we use.

I figured we’d put it on all our subject bins each morning and then add them back to the chart as we get done with each subject. Hopefully by the end of each day we’ll have a full chart. 🙂 It’s been awhile since I read my Sue Patrick Workbox System guide, but I don’t think they specifically label the bins. We’ll modify the system to work for us though.

There are a few subjects we do in our Reading Room library, so I have three subject bins in the library closet – Story of the World, Writing with Ease, and MCT Grammar Island. These are stored in the tall, white IKEA frame that has ten slides to insert bins/shelves.

Congratulations to Cindy, who won the All About Spelling $50 giveaway! Thanks everyone who entered.

I plan to do a few more contests/giveaways to kickoff the typical start of a school year. I am going to be blog-reviewing a few of our favorite products and will likely do some giveaways of those products. I’d also like to give out some Amazon gift certificates. Check on back in the next few weeks for updates!



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. 🙂

Almost halfway through the summer, I thought I’d give a little update on how we’re doing. Since we school year-round, we’re going strong in July, but have had plenty of vacation days. This summer is our transition from first grade to second grade, as that’s what many of our subjects are covering. First of all, I added a new page – Second Grade Curriculum 2011-2012.

Going into second grade, we are happy to report that all of our official phonics and phonics review programs have been completed. Ordinary Parent’s Guide to Teaching Reading did a great job systematically going through teaching reading and Explode the Code workbooks continued on with a great review for Satori. We finished ETC last month. All that’s left is to enjoy reading!

Math is going swimmingly with Singapore Math. What a relief to find something that really works for us and that we both enjoy doing. We have plenty of extras that will challenge her – of course the Singapore IP/CWP books, and some new ones that we’ll be trying out this fall. I mention them on the curriculum page.

All About Spelling is fantastic as usual, we will be ready to start Level 5 the first of August. There are only seven total levels for this program (the 7th is not even out yet), so I’m starting to wonder what we’ll use next.

We’re finally utilizing an actual writing program every single day, and two different ones to boot! Winning With Writing was just released and we’re one of the first users. We started with Level 3 and so far it’s a cinch to get to everyday, and only takes minutes. More about that in a blog post next week. We also succumbed once again to using Writing With Ease, a more classical method of teaching writing for young children. We actually finished WWE 1 in less than one month and will move on to WWE book 2 next week. We want to be ready to start the level 5 program in a year or so. I showed her the samples and now both Satori and I are extremely motivated to do what it takes to be ready for that. Later this year, we’ll include Killgallon writing so Satori can improve her style. Main writing goal for first grade? PARAGRAPHS!

Following the classical education timeframe, we’ll also be starting both Middle Ages history and Earth & Space science next month. We’re going to use our timeline more, and I’m getting that all setup now. I finally ordered the new Pandia Press Classical Education timeline, which seems to give more space to more recent times than their old timeline does that we have. Looking forward to using it!  We’re adding another science program – My Pals Are Here science. It was painful to slowly keep purchasing all the different components to this program – I originally thought we’d just use the $3 student textbooks! But, being the perfectionist that I am, I should’ve known I would get the full program.

Ooh, Adventures in America was just released today. We’ll be starting that program asap. 🙂

MCT Language Arts has been a refreshing change of pace for us in the LA department. We’re still working through Grammar Island and have started Music of the Hemispheres poetry. We only do this a few times a week but should ramp it up more this fall. Newly released just this past 4th of July weekend is their new literature program which will be in our hot little hands any day now. More about that as we start using it.

Vocabulary is coming along nicely. We mostly use Wordly Wise 3000 (workbook and online) and have just started Book 3. Satori just loves to use new vocabulary, so this is a big priority at our house. I also am earnestly working on expanding my own vocabulary and trying to use it in conversations with her. All this work has definitely paid off. We also are using Evan Moor Word a Day, but we do one week’s worth in one day and we probably won’t continue with that program. Sadlier-Oxford Vocabulary Workshop intrigues me, but I really don’t want to extend my curriculum addiction even further…

Languages… Finished Song School Latin and I had Minimus lying around which caught our eye. I figured we’d zip through that quickly just for fun. People say their children enjoy it but don’t retain much. The book says its for ages 7-10 to get exposure to Latin vocabulary, which is what SSL did nicely, so I figure we could give it a whirl. After that, Lively Latin 1 is all lined up for the fall, which will be our first serious Latin program.

I recently blogged about REAL Homeschool Spanish. We use both that and online Elementary Spanish. We haven’t done much this summer with Spanish, but for sure this fall we’ll be diving in more.

For Geography I recently discovered the Evan-Moor Daily Geography Practice books and we’re finishing up Grade 2 this month and will move on to Grade 3. We used to zoom through independent geography books (tried almost every series out there), so I wasn’t sure how much I’d like this series. There’s more parent interaction, and I didn’t think I’d be up for that for geography. But I’m really liking this series so we’ll continue with it. We do other fun stuff for geography like puzzles, games, and more.

I should have just started out saying that we are having fun with every subject. Critical Thinking/Logic is no exception. We’re burning through a bunch of Prufrock Press books, good thing they’re inexpensive! Again, we also enjoy puzzles and games for this.

As for art, we don’t get to that every week, but when we do we thoroughly enjoy ourselves.

Both mom and daughter started Getty-Dubay Italics handwriting, but I’m not sure how easy it is to just be able to convert to a new style. We’ll chug along and see how it all pans out. After being all excited learning to type/keyboard this spring, we haven’t practiced that yet this summer. I can definitely see she needs practice, so we’ll have to start that up again. I want to see her blogging on her own again!

Satori continues to write like a maniac. Last week we ran out of blank books and she started freaking out, escalating to sheer terror yesterday. We made a few homemade books, but she started up a huge list of stories she was antsy to get down on paper. We both breathed a big sigh of relief when our big Rainbow Resource order arrived this afternoon, with 20 blank books! Also in the shipment was an ITBS Grade 2 Test Prep teacher/student book. I am curious to see how she’ll do in such testing situations. For Grade 3, we have to start taking this test for Colorado state requirements, and then every other year after that. This will be nice practice for that test, which she won’t have to take until two more years.

Apologies for the long post with no pictures, this seems to be one of those rare instances.

Looking back at last year at this time, it seems we’ve made tons of progress!  We look forward to what the upcoming year brings.


Up until this month, Satori hasn’t been big on reading. She’s quite bright, but did not teach herself to read at an early age. When we did start using a reading program, she just followed along but did not race ahead in our reading lessons. To my dismay, she has not taken much initiative in reading on her own. I was the complete opposite as a child. Sometimes I worried she’d never take up reading for pleasure. I reminded myself she was only six.

I’ve never strongly encouraged her to read the typical early readers, but as I want to be a great father and learn about parenting from sites like I knew I have to be patient with her. She’s read only a few books over 50 pages on her own this spring. One of them was a picture book on Anne of Green Gables, which I’d say was about 3rd grade level. Other larger chapter books she would start but not finish.

Well earlier this month she started reading. She’s finally interested! She’s been reading books like The Trumpet of the Swan, Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH, and Anne of Green Gables Classic Starts books (more on those later). She’s perusing magazines like Ask and Click. And she’s not dropping them after reading just a few chapters. She reads during the day, before bed, the entire time we’re in the car (long time as we live far away from the city), in the grocery cart at the store… She still writes stories a lot, but now at least she’s reading stories as well.

We’ve dedicated an empty bedroom for a library in our house, but the past year we haven’t read in it much. Satori had no interest, and we do our read-alouds at night in the bedroom. The poor room has been neglected, and even worse, when we’ve finished a workbook or program, we just toss it in the room on the floor. Mounds of paper sat on the chairs and tables.

Well this week I decided to start using it again and it got cleaned and updated! I no longer have my wide-angle camera lens, so room pictures aren’t as fun/easy to take anymore, but here’s some updated photos.

The biggest change I made was adding our laminated timelines. We’ve got four Classical Education timelines on the far wall. Running along the entire twelve-foot length of the wall is our Charlie’s Playhouse Prehistory timeline. The Charlie’s Playhouse timeline is too high to touch and read easily, but we also have their Floor Mat timeline, which is the exact same thing, but bigger. The white shelf holds all our Dover coloring books, Poetry books, small history/science/math series books such as Read-and-Find-Out, If You Lived…, You Wouldn’t Want To…, as well as some chapter books.

On the left of this wall we have our magnetic paint space, but above it has a U.S. Presidents and an Ancient Civilization timeline. The closet that runs the whole length of the wall holds lots of homeschooling programs, games, manipulatives, and books.

This wall has Ancient Art history and Western Art History from 1400. The far shelf holds most of our history and science books.

I also moved our whiteboard/drawing table in here in case Satori wants to draw, doodle, or write if I’m reading aloud. She still loves her squishy beanbag!

Geography wasn’t forgotten, we’ve still got our World and US Maps in bright color in here, as well as a talking educational globe.

We’ve been using this room everyday this week, even while I was in the process of cleaning it. I want to incorporate a Read-Aloud time plus Silent Sustained Reading time, for at least a full hour of reading during the day. Our current read-aloud is The Secret Garden. We’ve also started up our Writing With Ease lessons again, the part where I read the story and she answers the questions in full sentences. We do this in the reading room now. It’s gotten her interested to read The Trumpet of the Swan.

Even Daddy joins in on the fun, as he reads his PMI book (Project Management Institute Exam). He’s taking his big test tomorrow, I wish him luck!

Someone suggested to put my curriculum addiction to good use and become a homeschooling consultant. While I am not prepared to take that big step, I will try to continue writing curriculum reviews and photo-document our experiences. It’s something I love to do, and love to see on other blogs as well.

Probably not coincidentally, I’m being bombarded with requests to post about some of the curriculum we’ve been using or are just starting. I happen to be in a blogging mood which will hopefully carry throughout the week, so as soon as we finish up our lessons today, I will start blogging our experiences with the following new programs we’re using:

  • MCT Island (specifically Grammar Island for now, as we’ve just started)
  • Getty-Dubay Italics Handwriting – Book B (B is 1st grade, may show sneak peek of book C)
  • Reading for the Gifted Student (reading comprehension workbook we just started and really like)
  • EPGY Math and LAW
  • First Language Lessons 3 (just started, so may take a week to get this one up)
  • Evan Moor Daily Geography Practice – Grade 2
  • Evan Moor Word a Day

Also I plan to give some updates on programs that are not quite so new to us:

  • Singapore Primary Math 1B
  • Wordly Wise 3000 Grade 2
  • Elementary Spanish
  • Song School Latin
  • Evan Moor
  • Explode the Code 8 (our last post, as we’re finishing this up)
  • All About Spelling
  • Math Mammoth
  • Growing with Grammar
  • SOTW
  • RSO

Later this month, I’ll post our experience with new curriculum that we are starting asap:

  • Winning with Writing – Grade 3 (brand new writing program from the creators of Growing with Grammar)
  • Singapore Science My Pals Are Here (just got the last books today, we’ll start tomorrow)

If there’s something you want to see more, feel free to comment on this post or email me. My PMs on forums fill up fast, so you can always contact me through this blog via the Contact Form or leaving a comment.

For some reason I have been overly ambitious about homeschooling this weekend. I’ve been putting our 2011/2012 year together. I’ve broken it into Summer 2011 and 2011/2012 year (September through May). I’d love to do a lighter load this summer (2 hour days). Usually I don’t have too much of a problem narrowing choices down into a reasonable day. But I keep running into curriculum choices I can’t resist, and I’ve been hit particularly hard with curriculum lust this week.

So far, here’s what our summer is looking like. Talk about Curriculum Overload! I need to narrow this down!

If I talk it all out on my blog, maybe that will help me drop some stuff. The numbers in front of the subjects are how I rate them according to priority groups. We’ve got 4 different priorities, with a few extras at the bottom that I just added and not sure what priority (if any) they are. Taking it from the top… I’ve crossed off the things with the most potential to drop, and added question marks to things we might drop next.

  • ETC 8: The first subject is ETC, which is a phonics/spelling/reading review for us. We’re on book 8, the last book, and following the above schedule, we should be done the first week of July. Then it’s over forever.
  • GWG/FLL 3: The next two are purely grammar programs. We’ve had no problem using both and I love how they complement each other. But if we end up having to drop one, we’ll drop FLL temporarily. We accelerated grammar because it does so much for my little writer.
  • Singapore Math: Our main math we love. In the fall we’ll go back to doing this 4-5 days a week. We’ll finish up 1B soon and dig into 2A this summer.
  • Math Mammoth?: The math that was supposed to be just our supplement, but I couldn’t resist the cute workbook format I made with the ProClick and we just got done doing a week of it on our Oregon vacation. I am not sure why I’ve scheduled it more than Singapore. But this is something I will definitely lessen and probably only do when we’re out of town.
  • Getty-Dubay Italics?: Satori wanted to try out a fancy new handwriting program. We started with their 2nd grade book B. The spaces to write are so huge though and it’s hard for Satori to get used to. She writes very neat and tiny. I’m not sure why we need handwriting anymore to tell the truth, so we possibly might drop this, or at least get to a more suitable book level.
  • All About Spelling: One of our core favorites, but we’ll only be doing 2 days a week over the summer, switching back to 3 days/week in the fall. We’re more than halfway through Level 4 and will start Level 5 this fall.
  • Writing With Ease: I feel so guilty flying without WWE on the WTM forums. Out of all our curriculum choices, this is one both Satori and I pretty much dislike. The concept behind it sounds great for young children, and I wanted to give it a third try. But we’ve got so much on our plate, this will be one of the first to drop, simply because we dread doing these lessons. I don’t know why, they’re set up as so easy to teach.
  • Write Source 2?: Since Satori actually does write, this is what we use to help her with her varying writing genre. This tends to get skipped a lot, so I’ve tried to break it down into manageable chunks twice a week. We only do the student text that focuses on writing and not the other parts. We may drop this if EPGY LAW (Language Arts and Writing) covers writing well.
  • Vocabulary (Wordly Wise and Evan Moore Word a Day): Satori loves to learn vocabulary and it doesn’t take long. We’ll skip the reading part of the WW workbook and learn the terms on the free online site, do the games, and do the exercises in the book.
  • MCT Island?: We’ve gotten our feet wet into the Grammar book and really enjoy reading it together, but we’ve already got so much grammar. We also have their Poetry, Sentence Island, Building Language, etc… We’ll see how it goes.
  • SOTW History: We’re a bit behind and wanted to take the summer to finish up SOTW 1 – Ancients in time for SOTW 2 this fall.
  • RSO Life: Wrapping up Plants this summer and easing into RSO Earth and Space this fall. Satori has taken an interest in biology, so we’re going on lots of in-depth rabbit trails in this area.
  • Geography: We use a variety of resources, including online geography games, puzzles, and workbooks. This summer Satori will memorize all the countries of the world. She does this easily, we are almost finished with Europe and will move to Asia next. For workbook, we’ll use the Evan-Moor Geography a Day 2nd grade. We whipped through tons of geography workbooks, this will be our first time trying this out.
  • Elementary Spanish: This is super easy to implement and adds lots of vocabulary. No problem there.
  • Getting Started with Spanish: Can drop this.
  • Song School Latin: Can drop. If not, we’ll finish up quickly and be done with forever. We’ll start Lively Latin in the fall.
  • Logic/Critical Thinking: We use various workbooks/resources, it only takes 5 minutes a few times a week, so we’ll keep this subject.
  • Meet the Masters: Love this program! The art projects that have us copy a concept from the artist slow us down though, so we’ll skip those and just focus on the art appreciation aspect. I’d love to go through the program faster so we can learn about more artists, yay!
  • Artistic Pursuits: We slack on this one, but it actually doesn’t take much time to do. I think Satori really enjoys it, so we’ll spend the summer and try to get through AP Book 1. No biggie if we don’t get to it every week, when we do get to it, we tend to do several lessons at once.
  • Read and Understand and Daily Paragraph Editing: The next two are both Evan Moor workbooks. Both these workbooks I’ll probably slash for this summer. The Read and Understand looked interesting, we could combine reading with another subject. The Daily Paragraph Editing is fun for Satori to take a red pen and slash and edit. Maybe we’ll revisit these this fall.
  • Singapore My Pals Are Here Science – This is one I just realized we could do this weekend. There is a HOTS component that might challenge Satori. This program looks interesting because there’s a text, workbook/activities, challenging book (HOTS), and other components. Kinda like Singapore Math, which we love!
  • EPGY Math and LAW (Language Arts and Writing): David really wanted Satori enrolled in this, so now we’re all registered and paid and ready to roll. I’m not sure what to expect.

If we actually do follow the above schedule, here’s what our days would look like in the next two months. Monday-Thursday averages 2.5-3 hours, with 2 hours on Friday, and 1 hour (of easy stuff) on the weekend days. I really want to get everything below 2.5 hours, with a 1 hour Friday.

The last few subjects were ones I only recently discovered and that’s what tipped the scale to be overwhelming curriculum overload for me. Give us a few weeks and we’ll pare our schedule down and let you all know how it’s all working out!

Screenshots were from the online scheduling program I use – Homeschool SkedTrack. Oh and one more thing that is overwhelming me – I wanted to program my own online scheduler to have all the features I wanted. I love web programming, but it would require too much out of me right now, it’s been several years since I was last active in programming.