Homeschooling Update: A Reading Breakthrough!

All About Reading 1 Activity BookH has been struggling to get past the hurdle of blending.

And I know that it’s a developmental stage, and I know that research shows that children who don’t learn how to read until older catch up quickly, and she’s only just 6.

But still, it’s such an obvious thing when a child isn’t reading, and when you’re around people who aren’t particularly homeschool-friendly, it leads to lots of side-eyeing. “She’s not reading yet?”

Cue me feeling torn between not wanting to say anything because it’s not any of their business, and wanting to justify things, etc. etc.


All About Reading 1 Run Bug Run ReaderSo, mostly for that reason, but also because she SO wants to be reading on her own, I was thrilled when suddenly it’s like something clicked for her, and she’s blending with ease, and having fun with the activities.

Ok, so she’s only managing consonant-vowel-consonant words (bat, sat, mad, big, fin, and similar), but if she’s anything like G was, blending is the big hurdle and now she’ll start moving along with reading progress.

She’s already done 5 lessons in All About Reading 1 in 10 days, and she’s WANTING to do more. She’s reaching for the first reader, Run Bug Run.

I’m so happy for her. She’s thrilled, and it’s such a great milestone.

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for supporting The Deliberate Reader!

Homeschooling Update: Plans for First Grade

H is now in first grade, and many of the plans I have for the year are repeats of her brother’s year.

1st grade / first grade curriculum choices

First Grade Curriculum Choices


She’s working on Math Mammoth 1A as that worked so well for her brother. I am also eyeing Math Lessons for a Living Education, because I think she’d like the storyline, and the repetition would probably be helpful. Although I did a mix of Math Mammoth and Mathematical Reasoning for her brother, so I may just do that mix again for her as well.


G LOVED the Children’s Encyclopedia used as the spine for history used in Sonlight’s Level A, and it’s proving to be just as big a hit with H. I’ve also noticed that her brother likes hanging around when we read the encyclopedia, and he likes telling her things he remembers.

Sonlight updated this level since her brother went through it, so they’ve already made some changes. I will probably still add in The Story of Exploration like I did with her brother, as it was a fun book that he really enjoyed. They’ve made some other changes to the read alouds, and I’m planning on reading all the books in the updated Instructor’s Guide, plus the books they removed.


We’re still working through All About Reading 1, as she’s having a bit more trouble than her brother did at getting past the hurdle of blending.

I expect that at some point things are going to click for her and she’ll take off. Until then, we practice a lot of basic stuff with her. At some point, I have LA 1 to use with her, but we’re paused on it right now.


She’s begun Italic Handwriting Book A. It’s fine – no strong feelings either way towards it. She likes handwriting more than her brother does, and is better at it than he was at that age.


I don’t use the Bible reading assigned in the IG – I prefer the assigned Bible at an older age, so right now she’s working through The Family Time Bible in Pictures, and then we’ll move on to The Story in Pictures. We have several children’s Bibles so when we finish one we just move onto another one. She’s also starting back at Awana next month, for her second year in Sparks.


Sonlight’s Science A also uses the Children’s Encyclopedia, as well as several of the Usborne Beginners books. She loves those, so I’ll be rounding up all the extra ones we have that aren’t already assigned, and reading them throughout the year. Then I’ll likely add some library books on topics that catch her interest, as that worked well for her brother.

She doesn’t seem to like the graphic novel science texts he so loves, so her year won’t be an exact repeat of what he did. One fun thing is that Sonlight updated the Science IG, and it’s now in COLOR. That’s fun for her (and me too, to be honest).


We’re trying Artistic Pursuits Introduction to Visual Arts , and I may also finish up the Art with a Purpose program we started last year. Her brother didn’t like it, but she did, so I may just do it as extra art with her. She likes art a lot more than he does.

I also plan on doing some art appreciation/art history with him, and letting her listen in as she wants.


She’ll also have the option of tagging along with her brother’s music appreciation/composer studies, or it may be something else that I’ll save for when she’s older.


As I mentioned in the post about her brother’s third grade plans, I’ve fizzled out on using the video version of the Kids Cook Real Food course – I think if I had a tablet to use in the kitchen it would have helped. Instead, I’ve gotten the print version and will be trying to use that with them. They both are enthusiastic about any cooking lessons I offer, so I want to prioritize that this year.


She’s planning on joining Girl Scouts and is really looking forward to that! The introductory meeting is next week and she’s only asked me EVERY DAY this month when it’s happening.

She’s also playing soccer again and is disappointed that 1st grade still doesn’t include a goalie (gotta wait until 3rd grade for that). This will be her first year to play basketball, and she wants to play softball again in the Spring.

Taekwondo continues: she’s just earned her senior brown belt, and if she continues to pass each level, she’ll test for black belt in February. She’s also been invited to help teach the beginning and intermediate students and enjoys doing that one class each week.

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for supporting The Deliberate Reader!

Homeschooling Update: First Grade Math

Homeschooling First Grade MathBack in December 2014 I wrote about the issues I’d had with homeschooling math in kindergarten. I didn’t realize it’d been that long since I wrote specifically about math, beyond the small updates I give occasionally. Clearly it’s past time I gave some details about what we’re doing for math in first grade.

What We’ve Been Doing

Math Mammoth 2AIn that long-ago post I mentioned that I was interested in trying Math Mammoth (MM), with the hope of eventually moving on to Beast Academy. That’s exactly what we’ve been doing. MM has worked very well for us – I like how it’s structured, it’s *much* easier to actually teach than Right Start was for me (I *loved* the idea of Right Start, the research behind it, their goals, etc, but *detested* teaching it. So not a good fit for us.)

I like how MM is laid out, and the number of problems on a page. He does two pages a day, and that has him moving through the books at a nice pace. I often pull pages from different sections, so for example, he’ll be working through a chapter on addition and one on the clock at the same time. In the introduction the author tells you which chapters you can do “out of order” that way, so it doesn’t always work to do it like that, but much of the time it does, and G prefers it.

The “Second” Math Curriculum

Mathematical Reasoning BNot necessary at all – Math Mammoth is a full curriculum – but we had been using Mathematical Reasoning (MR) from Preschool on up, and G LOVES it, so we’ve continued. It’s much easier than MM is, but provides good practice for him at doing math quickly. He also does 2 pages of it each day, and I like how that has him doing more math each day, but he thinks it’s super fun.

They blend together quite well – MM is black and white (they pdfs are in color, but I didn’t want to pay for color printing), and MR is *very* colorful. It makes for a fun mix each day.

Where They Shine

Math Mammoth is extremely affordable – keep an eye out for sales, and you can download a complete math curriculum from 1st through 7th grade for a lower fee than some curriculum charge for one year. There’s currently one right now through the end of January for 25% off the downloadable version. That’s a great deal!

MM is also completely reusable – get the downloadable version and you can print off copies for each child – that’s fantastic when you have additional students coming along in later years.

MM emphasizes mental math and the why of things, not just memorizing methods – this is incredibly important to me, as it is not how I learned math.

MM excels in giving multiple ways of tackling problems. I’d never heard of some of the methods, but I *loved* how the author does that – giving the student different approaches to take. It’s a great way to get him thinking mathematically, and I love it.

Mathematical Reasoning is lots of fun for him, and includes more puzzles, especially as he gets later in the book. It’ll have a page of math problems, and he has to solve them in order to figure out the puzzle – either a mystery phrase, the answer to a riddle, or a dot to dot, etc. He loves those pages! He also absolutely adores the “Mind Benders” that are scattered throughout the book – so much so that I bought him a book just of those for Christmas. They’re like the Logic puzzles, scaled down for that age. Super fun, and I love how they get his brain turning. The book rarely feels like work to him.

Some Things to Be Aware Of

Math Mammoth is available as a download, on CD, or a printed version. While the pages are in color, if (like me) you get the download version and print it in black & white, there are things that don’t show correctly. It’s never been impossible to figure out, but be aware of the potential issue and be ready to help your child. Using alternatives to colors would have solved this issue – varying patterns or something similar – and it’s possible at some point that the author may address this small irritation. It’s not at all something that would keep me from using the curriculum in the future or recommending it.

Mathematical Reasoning claims to be a full math curriculum, but it doesn’t seem like it would be – that it isn’t complete enough as far as practice goes. As far as I can tell (and to be clear I am *not* an expert in math education), it covers all the topics that MM and other curriculum cover for each grade, just in less detail. It definitely doesn’t provide all of the alternative ways of doing the problems that MM provides. It doesn’t really seem to do much at all in the way of teaching anything – just gives practice.

What’s Next?

Beast Academy 3AG is within about a week of finishing Mathematical Reasoning B, and I need to hurry up and order C for him – he’s specifically requested it, so of course I want to get it for him. Math Mammoth 2B is already printed for him so he’ll move into that whenever he finishes 2A – at his current pace that should be early February. For now, we’ll just continue with the 2 pages of each every day routine we’ve got going, as it’s working so well.

Looking further ahead, shortly before Christmas I bought the first book from Beast Academy (BA), and skimmed through it, trying to get an idea of when he’ll be ready for it – it’s a *very* different curriculum, and I think he’ll enjoy it. It’ll be more obvious once he finished Math Mammoth’s 2B, so I didn’t worry about making a firm decision right now.

I may decide to do MM’s 3A & 3B, and then move to BA’s 3A. Because of the way we’re pacing things, he is working “ahead” technically based on his age, so having the extra curriculum won’t matter. Plus that may have him doing the harder BA work when he’s already covered it in a way through MM. Might make it a bit easier for him?

I don’t think I’ll continue with Mathematical Reasoning with him at that point, but if he still loves it and asks for it I can probably be persuaded. It’s hard to turn down a boy asking for a math book, even if they are kind of expensive for a supplemental math program. I’m *hoping* BA gives him that fun math approach he’s enjoying from MR, but we’ll see what happens. I may end up continuing on with MM as the “main” curriculum (it is working really well) and using BA as an occasional add on – letting him work through slowly, “behind” where he’d be grade-wise.

Previously on The Deliberate Reader

One year ago: What the Kids are Reading (in January 2015)
Two years ago: Book Review: The Spirit Rebellion (The Legend of Eli Monpress #2) by Rachel Aaron
Three years ago: Book Review: Momumental by Jennifer Grant

Homeschooling Update: Finished with the First Quarter of Core A

Sonlight Core A 1st Quarter CompletedLast week we finished week 9 of Sonlight’s Core A, which is the backbone for our homeschooling year. Something about finishing a quarter seems like a real accomplishment, and that I need to stop thinking of us as having just started the curriculum. 🙂

Structuring Our Day

Daily checklist September 2015Last year I briefly tried writing the day’s tasks in a spiral notebook (idea found via Catherine I believe), but that didn’t last long. What works better for us is a 3×5 card, flipped sideways, where I write the tasks. Why the difference? I’m not entirely sure. Some of it might be because there is more limited space that way, and some of it may be because when we’re done he gets to throw the card away (a.k.a. put it in the recycling bin), so it’s more satisfying.

Whatever the reason, it’s working well for us, so I’m continuing with it.

Daily assignments are done in no particular order, although we do usually have to work around the baby’s needs. Some of the readalouds happen while they eat breakfas – it’s helped break the watching tv in the morning habit we fell into over the summer, so I’m happy to continue with it lest they start asking for a show again.

History & Geography

Ongoing reads:

Usborne Children's EncyclopediaThe Children’s EncyclopediaThe Usborne Children’s Encyclopedia endures as the biggest hit of the entire curriculum – G loves it so much. Most days he clicks through the links that are included as well – they’re hit-or-miss, but every so often he finds a real gem, so it’s worth trying them all.

Living Long AgoThe Usborne Book of Living Long Ago: Everyday life through the Ages (Explainers Series) is still lots of fun, although I wish I’d remember to look ahead and see what projects are mentioned in it – they look like some easy ways to add a hands-on element to the curriculum. G really wanted to make a ruff like they wore back in the day, and I was scrambling to find some paper that would work.

Our substitute for I Heard Good News Today is The Story of ExplorationThe Story of Exploration, and I am quite impressed with it. Invariably I learn something new from each section, and feel compelled to pass it along to my husband. I really enjoyed the section on Marco Polo, and now want to read more about him. What an incredible story!

New this month

Sticker Dressing ExplorersWe’ve added in Sticker Dressing – Explorers, which combines beautifully with that Story of Exploration book. So much fun, and the easiest hands-on-element I can imagine. Love this book! G is always delighted when it’s time to do another page in it.

Read Alouds

Ongoing reads:

The Llama Who Had No PajamaWe continue to read from the poetry books The Arnold Lobel Book of Mother GooseThe Arnold Lobel Book of Mother Goose: A Treasury of More Than 300 Classic Nursery Rhymes and The Llama Who Had No Pajama, although our pacing has slowed down; we’re roughly on schedule with what the Instructor’s Guide says.

New since last time

In Grandma's AtticIn Grandma’s AtticIn Grandma's Attic (Grandma's Attic Series) by Arleta Richardson. I tried, really I did, but I’ve shelved this one. I hoped it would be like Little House books, and I think it wants to be, but the framing of each story is clunky, and the moralizing is heavy-handed. It was disappointing, especially because when Amazon had a sale on the other books in the series I bought them all. At least they were inexpensive, because I don’t think we’ll be reading them.

Here's a PennyHere’s a PennyHere's a Penny by Carolyn Haywood and Penny and PeterPenny and Peter by Carolyn Haywood. We liked Here’s a Penny enough to get the sequel, which I finished reading last week. Cute, old-fashioned stories that my kids enjoyed. Did they love them as much as some other books? No, but that’s ok.

5 True Horse StoriesFive True Horse StoriesFive True Horse Stories by Margaret Davidson. Five True Dog StoriesFive True Dog Stories by Margaret Davidson is scheduled for later in the Core, and I added this on somewhat impulsively. It’s a great fit for this level, although the writing is nothing special. I shared more about it yesterday.

CapyboppyCapyboppyCapyboppy by Bill Peet was previously included in this core, and I added it in – I’m so glad I did! It was a cute story, with charming illustrations. The full story of what happened with Capyboppy is not cute, and the book reflects different values regarding wild animals, but it was still worth reading.


The Story for ChildrenWe’re continuing on with our substitute Bible, The Story for ChildrenThe Story for Children, a Storybook Bible. We’ll likely finish it well before we finish the Core, but I’ll just add in another Bible (we have several children’s versions that we already own)


Math Mammoth 1A We just finished chapter 2 of Math Mammoth 1A, and have started chapter 3 on place value. So far, he has no trouble with place value, and thinks it’s super easy. Chapter 3 is the final one in 1A, and then we’ll move on to 1B (which I already have printed and waiting).

For whatever reason, math seems to be the subject where I am most tempted by other options, and can’t seem to stop looking into what else is available. Why do I do this, when as far as I can tell Math Mammoth is working?


The “spine” of science is the Encyclopedia mentioned above, but it’s supplemented with other books, both officially according to Sonlight’s schedule, and unofficially according to my own picks. 🙂

Eggs and ChicksWe read Eggs and ChicksEggs and Chicks in one day (love those books!) and we’ve finally started the Science ActivitiesUsborne Science Activities, Vol. 2 book – reading it, watching the DVD that goes along with it, and doing some of the experiments. The one where we put a coin on the top of a bottle’s mouth, and then poured warm water on the bottle to heat up the air inside? Big hit here. Both with the kids who love seeing the coin “jump” and with me because of how easy it is.

A Journey Through the Digestive SystemWe’ve also been reading the Max Axiom graphic novels. He got some for Christmas, and some for his birthday, and he loves them. He goes and gets a new one off the shelf whenever he’s ready for it, and he’s already talking about how he needs more of them. Maybe Christmas again?

Language Arts

All About Reading Level 4 Soar with Reading Activity BookAfter breaking from it over the summer, we’ve started All About Reading Level 4. Lesson 1 was a review, and it took us about 3 weeks to get through it (there was a lot of sickness in there too delaying things). We’ve since moved on to the new material, and that’s a lot more fun than review.

All About Spelling Level 2All About Spelling Level 2 was added in last week, and after a slow start through the review of lesson 1 he’s back learning new material. Once again I am so pleased with the letter tiles – they make it so much easier for him to spell! He does it that way about half the time, and the rest of the time he dictates to me, but either way he does not want to do any of the writing himself. Which is kind of funny, because…

Getty Dubay Italic Handwriting AHandwriting has seen a dramatic change – it used to be his most loathed subject, and now he’s saying it’s his favorite! I have to watch him, because he wants to do it on his own, and do extra pages, but I try to see what he’s doing as he occasionally tries to form letters in … creative ways, and I want to correct that before the habit gets ingrained.

Billy and BlazeHe’s doing a lot more reading on his own, and that’s lots of fun to see. He picks out his own books at the library (they’re invariably silly ones with super heroes, ninja turtles, or lego characters, but whatever. Have fun kid.), and then I also give him ones to read. Lately he’s working his way through the Billy and Blaze series. He’s finished the first two books, and is waiting (somewhat impatiently) for me to get him the third. I mix that in with Syd Hoff and Dr. Seuss books and other easy readers, and it ends up being nice practice for him. He still needs/wants lots of white space on the page, or he gets overwhelmed. The reading he does with All About Reading is challenging for him, so I like also giving him other books that are easier, to build his confidence, improve his fluency, and help show him that reading is fun.


He’s now a senior green belt in tae kwon do – not sure if he’ll be ready to test in October for the next belt or not. We’ve missed a lot of classes due to visitors and life getting in the way of things, so he’s a bit behind as far as prepping for the test as far as I can tell. But, I am far from an expert so he might be just fine to test then. We’ll see.

I keep looking into continuing swimming lessons, especially through the winter when I’m always hunting for ways to keep the kids active when it’s hard to play outside. I’m praying about finding a way to pay for that, because right now it’s not in the budget. They’d love it though, especially since our summer lesson season was even shorter than expected because of our unexpected trip west.

Art & Music

Harmony Fine Arts Grade 1 I mentioned in the last update that I was doing a “graduated” restart – not adding all of the subjects in at once. Art and music are the ones that have had to wait. We’re starting them next week, now that everything else is in a good routine. We’ll still be using Harmony Fine Arts Grade 1 as we’d barely started it last year before putting it aside for the summer.


Awana has started up again – G is in his second year as a Spark (his sister is in her last year as a Cubbie). We’ve switched locations, and although it’s not as close as the previous church, they have their program on Sunday evenings, and I think that’s going to work better for our schedules.

Looking Ahead

We don’t have any visitors planned, or anything else of significance that should disrupt our schedule and routine, so I *should* have lots to report next month as far as progress goes. However, I know that nothing is certain, so we’ll just have to see how it goes! We had a couple of bumpy days as we got restarted with it all, but overall it’s going really well and I think we’re all enjoying it!

Previously on The Deliberate Reader

Two years ago: A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for supporting The Deliberate Reader!

Homeschooling Update: We Have a First Grader!

2015 2016 first day of schoolWe also have a Pre-Kindergartner, and a Toddler, but we’ve had those before. Sorry, non-oldest children, but the first one gets the headline. I’m a middle child, I survived it, and you will too.

Scheduling Decisions

I grew up in Florida, and the school systems were county-wide. Whichever county you lived in, that was your school system, and so all public schools in the entire county were on the same schedule.

Why do I mention this? Because I *still* find it somewhat weird how Indiana has so. many. school. systems. All in the same county! There are townships here (also something new-to-me) and those may have their own system. Some townships combine to form a system. Some systems I still don’t fully understand their boundaries.

What it all means is that back-to-school around here is so spread out. I have friends whose kids went back in July. Some started the first week in August, some the second. Some probably still haven’t started, and I won’t realize that until their “first day of school!” pictures pop up on my facebook feed. It’s not one-county-one-system here.

On the plus side, it makes it not so obvious when I’ve got the kids out around town on a “school day” – no one can keep track of days off for the various systems so no one seems to bat an eye at us. I realize this may change as my kids get older and they’re all obviously of school age.

Anyway, it made for a not so clear “when” of when to restart school for G after our break. We could follow the school calendar , but which one? Ultimately I followed one of the closest locations, because it also worked out really nicely with us no longer having house guests. Back to reality kiddos! I don’t promise to follow that same system’s schedule all year, but it worked well as a start date.

Our Restart, and Where We’re At with Curriculum

G first day of 1st gradeWe’ve been back at it for a week and a half, and we will soon be taking a little break (yes, already!) because Grandma and Grandpa will hopefully be visiting from Arizona. When they’re at our house, we won’t do school. When they aren’t (because they’re here for a reunion, and won’t always be with us), we will. We’ll see how much we get done between now and our next update, but I’m not too concerned.

So far with the newly-titled 1st grader we’ve gotten back to reading (beginning All About Reading Level 4 this week), math (closing in on the end of Math Mammoth 1A), history (Sonlight Core A, week 8), and science (Sonlight Science A, week 6).

I have not resumed spelling (where we’ll be starting All About Spelling Level 2), but will add that in next week. We’ve done a “graduated restart” with the intent of making for a smoother time, and I think it’s worked well.

Next month I hope to get back to art and music (Harmony Fine Arts Year One), and begin Spanish (Song School Spanish, requested by my son). That should have us back to doing everything!

However, when I mention science above, that’s with a big caveat. We have done zero science experiments. We may need to take a day and just get a bunch of them done. Which means *I* need to suck it up and get myself mentally prepared to do a bunch of science experiments. They’re not my favorite. 🙂

The Other Two

H first day of PreKAnd for the Pre-K student? We’re reading through Sonlight’s Core P 3/4 books, doing All About Readings Pre-Reading Level (when she requests it), and Mathematical Reasoning or Miquon (when she requests it).

She sits in on any of the Sonlight A reading she wants to, as well as the extra library books we read, but I don’t force her to listen to them if she’s not interested. She also enthusiastically participates in art, so I know she’ll be happy when we resume that.

She adores workbooks, and I got her a set of 4 to do. She finished the first one in 2 days, so who knows what else we might end up doing once she gets through them.

The baby pulls books off the shelf, is a menace with any writing implements she can grab, and is delighted if we ever forget to put the gate up on the stairs to then let her practice her stair climbing. She’s also super cute and likes listening to stories, although she has to be watched lest she rip pages in her enthusiasm to flip to the next one.


First Grade August 2015 Deliberate Reader
I’ve done some rearranging of my house, and some re-figuring on our scheduling. It’s still so new that I want to wait until next month’s update to report back on how it’s working. So far it’s going well, but at only a week and a half into it (less than that when I’m actually writing this post), it’s still in the honeymoon stage. I know enough to know that doesn’t always mean something will work well long-term.

I also made some additions to my binder for organizational help. I briefly thought about making my own forms to have them be exactly what I wanted. Then I acknowledged that the time that would take me was better spent elsewhere, and using “close enough” printables I found online was a smarter choice. If I end up liking what I’ve got, I’ll share about it as well.

Disclosure: This post contains some affiliate links. Thank you for supporting The Deliberate Reader!

Homeschooling Update: An Unplanned Break

The Deliberate Reader US and Canada GeoPuzzleSo I’d planned on not taking a real summer break, but continuing to do school whenever we didn’t have other plans. That gives lots of flexibility as far as taking other time off during the year, without any concerns about hitting the 180 days required in Indiana.

(Although I don’t actually have to hit any days yet; my oldest is still under the mandatory age. I still want to get to 180 as “practice” if you will for next year, and because that doesn’t seem like a lot to ask of our educational year.)

However, June brought with it that unexpected trip to Arizona for a week, then recovery from that trip (for me at least; the kids were fine), then VBS, then two weeks of sickness making its way through the family. Throw in two birthdays and a week of tae kwon do camp, and suddenly it’s late July and we haven’t been doing any school.

And you know what? I’m ok with that. The kids have had lots of time to play outside with the neighbors, we’ve gone to the park and splash park. We’ve done VBS (more than once even) and tae kwon do camp. We’ve spent time with family, and celebrated birthdays. We’ve participated in the library summer reading program.

And G is still doing all his GeoPuzzles, and playing Stack the StatesStack the States and Stack the CountriesStack the Countries. He will happily tell you all the states, and where they’re located. “Which state is below Montana?” “Which state is above Indiana?” etc. He loves talking about the countries that a part of each continent too. He even got the GeoPuzzle U.S.A. and CanadaGeoPuzzle U.S.A. and Canada - Educational Geography Jigsaw Puzzle (69 pcs) for his birthday and it was the very first of all of his presents that he opened and started using.

August will be here soon enough when the neighbors go back to school. We’ll ease back into our school year, and I think we’ll all be more refreshed for the break.

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for supporting The Deliberate Reader!

Homeschooling Update: Core A Progress and Getting Ready for Summer

Homeschooling Update Core A Progress May 2015We’re now roughly through week six of our plans for First Grade, using Sonlight Core A. Here were some of the highlights from the past month:

History & Geography

Ongoing reads:

Usborne Children's EncyclopediaMy son says the Children’s Encyclopedia is his favorite. He wants to read from it every day (and every day doesn’t have something scheduled, so he’s extra happy when it is an encyclopedia day.) Fortunately it’s also used in Science A, and between the History and Science readings I can make it so most days get an encyclopedia entry. 🙂

Living Long Ago is still popular (and he’s definitely learning from it). On the other hand, I’ve officially given up on I Heard Good News Today. I may try it again next year, or with another core even, but for now I’m substituting something else for it.

New this month

The Story of ExplorationAnd that something else is The Story of Exploration. I went through and scheduled out this book in place of IHGNT, and we’ve read two sections of it. My son loves it, I love it, it’s a much better fit for us. It’s a great book with lots of fascinating information (including some details that I never knew about the Vikings!)

Read Alouds

Ongoing reads:

The Arnold Lobel Book of Mother GooseLast month I wasn’t sure how they felt about the poetry selections The Arnold Lobel Book of Mother GooseThe Arnold Lobel Book of Mother Goose: A Treasury of More Than 300 Classic Nursery Rhymes and The Llama Who Had No Pajama but there’s no doubt now – they really like them. We’re likely to finish both of these super early, and end up rereading them at least once. After seeming fairly indifferent towards them last month, now my son is enthusiastic about them, and requests many pages each reading session.

New this month

HeidiIt’s not scheduled in the core, but we read HeidiHeidi (Great Illustrated Classics) by Johanna Spyri, abridged by Deidre S. Laiken this month. My kids were not all that impressed with it, and my daughter barely listened to it. I think they were just a bit too young to appreciate it. I thought they’d enjoy this abbreviated version that’s loaded with illustrations, but it wasn’t to be. And actually, I wasn’t all that impressed with the abridgment, or the illustrations. I tried playing the audio book for them, but that did not go over well – I’d like to keep trying that with him, to see if I can find some he’ll like. Clearly Heidi was not it!

Dolphin AdventureI already shared how we finished Dolphin Adventure, and my son really liked it. He’s excited to read the sequel.

We’ve also just started My Father’s DragonMy Father's Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannett and James Herriot’s Treasury for ChildrenJames Herriot's Treasury for Children: Warm and Joyful Tales by the Author of All Creatures Great and Small, illustrated by Ruth Brown and Peter Barrett. So far I’m not sure how successful My Father’s Dragon will be for them (maybe they need another couple of chapters to get into the story?), but they’ve liked the James Herriot book. I love the illustrations in Herriot’s book – they add a lot to very familiar stories, and they’re simply beautiful. It’d make for a fabulous gift book!


The Story for ChildrenMy son really disliked the assigned Egermeier’s Bible Story BookEgermeier's Bible Story Book and I feel like we gave it a good try. Instead, I’m substituting The Story for ChildrenThe Story for Children, a Storybook Bible, which we already owned. The illustrations are fabulous, and he likes listening to it (and he follows along with what I’m reading much better than he did with Egermeier’s.) Plus I like reading this one more too.


Math Mammoth 1A We’re still working in Math Mammoth 1A, and we’re right in the middle of Chapter 2, on subtraction. I’m not sure he really gets subtraction yet – somedays he seems to, and once in awhile it’s like he’s never heard of it, and has no idea what I’m talking about. We use the abacus and Legos a lot at those times. 🙂


WeatherWe finished reading WeatherWeather (Usborne Beginners, Level 2) in about two days, because my son wanted to read more and more and more of it. He loves those books! These are easy enough where he can read much of it himself, and we often took turns reading the page.

We are quite behind on the experiments, and even on watching the DVD of the experiments. Hopefully daddy can get things set up so we can watch it soon on the TV (we’ve got a weird setup and I have passed on learning how to do it myself.)

Language Arts

ShipwreckLast month, I said my son had just reached the halfway point of All About Reading Level 3. Well, he then went on a tear and finished the final 18 lessons in a week and a half – he was super motivated! We’ve just received Level 4 and started it this week. I cannot say enough how much we love this program. Full post about Level 3 coming eventually. 🙂

Since he was doing so much phonics work ever day with reading, I didn’t start spelling like I’d originally planned. We’ll start that next week.

Handwriting is the big thing that I’m struggling with. How picky should I be as far as his letter formation? Am I expecting too much from him? Am I not expecting enough?


He received his senior orange belt in taekwondo last month, and he might even be ready to test for his green belt next month.

The baseball season is about halfway over, and is having lots of fun playing. And lots of fun getting snacks after every game and then playing on the playground next to the ball fields. His sister is enjoying getting to play on the playground during his games, so it’s been a success for everyone. 🙂

Swimming lessons have begun again – they’re both scheduled for about 10 weeks of instruction. I’m hoping they can get to be semi-independent to independent swimmers by the end of that. Wishful thinking? Perhaps; I have no real idea what is reasonable to expect at those ages, with once a week lessons.

Art & Music

Harmony Fine Arts Grade 1 We’re still doing Harmony Arts Grade 1 plan – and I still really like it. I’m not exactly consistent on doing it every week, but I’m doing more than I did last year when I had no plan.

I especially like that it’s easy to include his sister with it as well. She adores art and is a much more enthusiastic participant in this program than he is! So far everything we’ve done has been easy enough to adapt to whatever level of skill or interest fits. I’ve even joined in with them occasionally – those art supplies are lots of fun to use!


Our homeschool group has wrapped up for the summer, and I’m still thinking about what I want to do for next fall. Part of me wants to just do my own thing, or try to coordinate some easy things with some of my homeschooling friends, but then I wonder how complicated that would be, and do I have the time/energy to try and do that? Maybe I should first gauge interest in it.

Looking Ahead

I have wanted to slow down our progress through Core A, but so far I’m not being all that successful at it. G really loves it and generally wants more in a day, not less. This summer may make it easier to take our time, as we’ll have lots of extra things going on and taking up our usual school hours. Taekwondo camp, VBS, and a planned visit from Grandma will all be weeks when I’m not planning on doing any school. Add in lots of time playing outside with the neighbors (hopefully) and we may have other shorter school days ahead.

Next month’s update should be the real test: do I have much to report? Have we done anything? Have we done lots, proving that this core just will not be slowed down, despite my initial plans?

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A Day in the (Homeschool) Life

Linking up with Sonlight’s monthly blog. April’s prompt: Share a day in the life of your family. What does your family’s homeschool schedule look like?

Witching Hour7:30 My son brings me the baby. This is one of his favorite things to do, so if she’s not crying, I often will leave her in her crib for him to wake up and get her out. She gets fed while I talk with her brother and wait for her sister to wake up.

8:00 Downstairs, to fix breakfast for everyone. First up is tea for me. The kids watch a 30 minute show until I finish drinking a second cup, then we all go back upstairs to get dressed for the day. Upstairs chores as well – make beds, start a load of laundry.

Reading9:00 Downstairs to get started on the day for real this time. Into the playroom to do school. We’ll start with our Bible reading, and then we’ll alternate picks. I pick Sonlight books, and check things off in our IG as I finish them. We do not ever follow it exactly. 🙂 I also move the laundry over when I hear it buzz that the wash cycle has finished.

10:00 We’ve moved on to game time – my son alternates reading a section of his AAR lesson with playing a game. Once he finishes the AAR lesson, he’ll do his math the same way. A page of math, another game, then another page of math. The baby has also gone down for a nap, although it’s always questionable if she’ll sleep or not.

Math11:00 Wrapping up the last game now, and it’s time to go get the baby and get her changed and all of us ready to leave for my daughter’s taekwondo class. They used to both be in the same class, but my son aged out of it and is now in the “regular” classes, instead of the tot classes. It’s better for him, but a lot more time spent by me waiting and watching.

12:00 Class just ended, and now it’s our usual Monday routine – picking up lunch somewhere and bringing it home! Today is my son’s turn to pick, and he wants Arby’s.

Waiting at TKD1:00 Finishing up lunch cleanup, and then I get help folding laundry and putting it away. I’m trying to stretch things out with everyone so quiet time starts when the baby is ready to go down for her nap. That helps guarantee a real break for me. 🙂

2:00 Quiet time for the big kids, naptime for the baby. It was my daughter’s turn to pick which room she wanted to be in for quiet time, and she picked the play room. My son then chose to be in the TV room (the TV isn’t on, but that’s still their name for the room). He’s got a Lego set in there with him which should keep him busy, or else he’ll work his way through a stack of puzzles.

Reading Lesson3:00 Snack time! They both know how to read the clock to tell if it’s snack time. This helps prevent every-five-minute queries of “can I have a snack?” I dole out some snacks and send them outside to play.

4:00 Still outside, although they’re in and out frequently. The baby is up and we’re watching them from the front room until it’s time to get ready to go to my son’s taekwondo class. He’s responsible for making sure he has everything he needs for class – gear and uniform. He does a great job at it, and has never forgotten anything.

H playing with her friends5:00 G’s taekwondo class has just begun, and he’s thrilled that today I chose to drop him off (“like a big kid!”) and take the girls to the store around the corner. His class is 45 minutes, and if I hustle I can pick up enough to get us through the week. And if the checkout lines are long, well, there’s another class right after his and they don’t mind if he watches it for a few minutes until I get there to pick him up.

6:00 We’ve just arrived home and it’s time to unload the groceries and get dinner going. Right now I’m really wishing I’d put something in the crock pot this morning. Instead we’re having green chili enchiladas with black beans and rice. The kids both want to play a game on the computer and since it keeps them out of the way while I cook, I’m all for it. They’re alternating between a geography game, building a mummy, playing Barbie dress-up, and a race game. The first two are courtesy the links that come along with the Encyclopedia we’re reading as part of Core A.

Dinner7:00 Almost ready to eat. It got much easier to finish dinner once daddy got home at 6:30 and could take over with the baby. The kids are all back outside playing while daddy watches/joins in. Dinner won’t thrill them, and while in theory I’d have them try everything I already know this meal is too spicy for them. Instead they get leftovers and anything else I can easily scrounge together.

8:00 Wrapping up dinner clean up and setting up the dishwasher to run overnight. Then it’s time to get the baby ready for bed – she’s tired and getting cranky. The older two start their bedtime routine at 8:30, but daddy takes care of all of that.

Playing Games9:00 Kids are showered and pj’d. Now they’re playing a bit until it’s time to get in bed and turn out the lights. Time for me to get ready for bed.

10:00 This is my prime reading time, after the kids are all asleep. I just have to choose carefully lest I get sucked into a story and lose track of time!

11:00 Lights out, crossing my fingers that the baby sleeps through the night, and if she doesn’t that she’s quick to go back to sleep after eating!

Full disclosure: The pictures are pulled from several different days, as I’m not on the ball enough to get a full day’s worth taken in one day. They’re not staged at all (except for me arranging the books to show all the titles), and do represent what our days look like.


Homeschooling Update: Beginning Core A

We’ve finished our first two weeks of Sonlight Core A (more or less). Here were some of the highlights from the past month:

History & Geography

Usborne Children's EncyclopediaMy son LOVES the Children’s Encyclopedia. LOVES it. I catch him flipping through it on his own, and asking when we’re going to read certain pages.

One of his favorite things is the internet links included – I’ve bookmarked the encyclopedia on the computer, and he knows how to get to it and explore the links. So far his favorite things have been putting the continents/countries/cities on the globe, and playing a game where he makes a mummy.

Living Long AgoLiving Long Ago he likes, but not as much as the encyclopedia. So far there have been some fairly easy hands-on activities mentioned in LLA, but we’ve not actually owned the items we’d need to do those activities. I need to look ahead and see if I can get them, because I think they’d both like to do them.

I Heard Good News TodayI Heard Good News Today has not been a hit. I’m putting it aside to try again in a few months.

Read Alouds

(And a clarification: We don’t necessarily read all of the books in the official order given in the Core. They’re not tied into history at all, and so I will move them around and add in other books as we like. So seeing a book from the Core mentioned here doesn’t mean it’s scheduled that way.)

The Arnold Lobel Book of Mother GooseThey like The Arnold Lobel Book of Mother GooseThe Arnold Lobel Book of Mother Goose: A Treasury of More Than 300 Classic Nursery Rhymes, but I’m a bit burned out on Mother Goose (plus I preferred the illustrations in last year’s A Treasury of Mother GooseA Treasury of Mother Goose). I’m reading what’s scheduled, but no extra. The rhymes are making an impact on my daughter at least: she spent several days reciting Humpty Dumpty after I read it one afternoon.

The Llama Who Had No PajamaI want to hold off on a verdict for The Llama Who Had No Pajama: 100 Favorite PoemsThe Llama Who Had No Pajama: 100 Favorite Poems by Mary Ann Hoberman, illustrated by Betty Fraser – we’ve read so little of it. So far the kids seem to like it, but they’re not desperate for more.

We’d already read The Boxcar Children, so I added the sequel, Surprise Island. We also read Winnie-the-Pooh, and we just started The Yellow House Mystery (The Boxcar Children, No. 3)The Yellow House Mystery (The Boxcar Children, No. 3) by Gertrude Chandler Warner (book #3 in the Boxcar Children series)

The Story about PingWe finished The Story about PingThe Story about Ping by Marjorie Flack. I loved it and both kids really liked it – enough so that we read it a couple of times, and then read a couple more Flack books. My son especially liked The Boats on the RiverThe Boats on the River by Marjorie Flack, illustrated by Jay Hyde Barnum. I’ve lost count of how many times we’ve read it now, and I still don’t mind reading it again – always the sign of a good book.

The Complete Adventures of Curious GeorgeWe also finished The Complete Adventures of Curious GeorgeThe Complete Adventures of Curious George: 70th Anniversary Edition by Margret and H. A. Rey in one day because the kids loved it so much. Every time I finished a chapter they begged for more, and were sad when we reached the end.


Egermeier's Bible Story BookWe’re working through the Egermeier’s Bible Story BookEgermeier's Bible Story Book. The amount of reading seems fairly inconsistent on the schedule, but I’ve changed it to just read a section every day. It works. I like it more than the 101 Favorite Stories from the Bible101 Favorite Stories from the Bible in P 4/5, but not as much as the The Jesus Storybook BibleThe Jesus Storybook Bible: Every Story Whispers His Name.


Math Mammoth 1AWe’re moving along in Math Mammoth 1A, and just finished through page 50 (practicing adding three numbers). G also decided that he wanted a break from it and spent a few days working in his Mathematical Reasoning B book instead. I let him pick each day which one he uses.


Tadpoles and FrogsWe’re doing Core A science, and have done the readings through all of week one, and half of week two. We have not watched the DVD, or done the experiments. The worksheets we’re doing orally. We’re in the midst of reading Tadpoles and Frogs, and surprisingly for an Usborne book, this one doesn’t have my son begging to finish it in one day. That’s a sign of how high my expectations are for those books that I’m shocked he just likes it and isn’t obsessively crazy over it. 🙂

Language Arts

Chasing HenryWhile I have Sonlight’s LA1, we haven’t done any of it so far. He’s still doing All About Reading 3 (just reached the halfway point of it and finished the first reader, Chasing Henry), and will be starting All About Spelling 2 soon (I was getting us settled into the new Core first). He’s got a handwriting book too.

The Sonlight LA seems pretty redundant from the other materials, and I’m not sure how I want to use it. At some point I’ll have him read the readers at least (maybe maybe interspersed with AAR 3 & 4?), and I’m considering going back to the LAK sheets and going over the writing assignments from it. We were inconsistent with doing them, and they seem like they’d be a good fit for him now.


G had a taekwondo tournament, and finished 3rd in forms and 5th in sparring. He’s belt testing this weekend, and will hopefully pass and get his senior orange belt.

He’s also started baseball, and is right in the middle of practicing. Later this month he starts playing real games, and he can’t wait.

Art & Music

Harmony Fine Arts Grade 1I purchased Harmony Arts Grade 1 plan – it’s designed as an overview year, and is supposed to be good for those new to art and music appreciation. That would be me/us. So far we’ve done the first week of it, and I like it. It’s very doable by me, and it’s fun for the kids. It’s also inexpensive enough that I didn’t feel like I was risking a lot by trying it out.

(and a heads-up if this looks interesting to you: it’s 40% off through the end of April using the code SPRINGTHING40. That’s making me seriously consider buying next year’s program already.)


Create-a-CalendarI’m a bit disappointed in the calendar Sonlight includes – it’s a blank calendar, and the kids are supposed to add their own dates and stickers and all that. Except it’s got the months listed, and it begins in September. While that might be a typical start date in North America, I’d really have preferred the blank calendar to be completely blank, so whenever we started the Core, we could decide how we wanted to use the calendar.

Sonlight Timeline BookThe timeline though, is a HUGE hit. G wants to add figures to it every day, and we’ve only added about one a week, much to his disappointment.

We’re all taking a field trip today and touring a local ice cream place, to see how they make it. I haven’t told them what we’re doing and they are going to be so excited. I can’t wait to see their reaction. And when they find out that they’re going to get to TRY the ice cream? They are going to be ecstatic.

He’s still doing lots of Legos and puzzles. He’s already planning which Lego set he wants for his birthday, and for finishing Level 3 in reading. Until my Kindle Fire died, he was playing lots of Presidents vs. Aliens and Stack the States on it while waiting for his sister to finish her taekwondo class. I’m wondering how long I’ll be able to hold off on replacing it with another tablet – there are definitely times when it’s handy. And I was surprised at how much he picked up regarding US Geography and Presidential history from playing those games!

Beginning Core A Update 1

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Homeschooling Update: Plans after Finishing Core P 4/5

Sonlight Core A Readers 1When I first drafted this post I thought it’d be running before we finished our 36 week schedule for Sonlight’s Core P 4/5. Instead, we’ve just finished what was supposed to be the framework for G’s kindergarten year. As you might guess by our finishing it this early in the year, it went VERY well. So well that the last six weeks of it was completed in a much more rapid pace than I originally expected.

So what will we be doing next? We’re definitely not going to take a months-long break to stay lined up with the local school calendar, that’s for sure. *

The main disadvantage of doing it this way is it starts getting confusing to me as to what to say when someone asks what grade G is in. He’s finished what we planned for Kindergarten, and we’ll be moving on to what we planned for 1st grade. But it’s still the school year when he’d be in K. So I while I’ll still call him a Kindergartner, in this post I am writing about curriculum for 1st grade, more or less. Or maybe I’ll think of this as his K5 work. Or maybe it doesn’t matter at all, except for signing up for things like Awana or VBS. 🙂

Core A books on bookshelf

Anyway, I’ve already mentioned that we plan on continuing with Sonlight, moving up to Core A. It’s been lined up on the bookshelf, waiting for us. That’s what G was seeing waiting for him and why he got so excited to finish P 4/5 – he wanted to dive into those new books! And the day after we finished it, I pulled them all out and spread them across the table. He had a fun time looking at them all, and flipping through a handful that he couldn’t resist (the most tempting one? That encyclopedia!)

Language Arts

Along with Core A I’ll be using Language Arts 1. Originally I selected LA 2, and while the readers would be fine, the writing part is too much, so I moved down to LA 1. The reading portions will be easy, but that’s ok. If nothing else, that helps him be super confident with that, and I can get him additional readers from the library that might challenge him a bit more.

LA 1

We’ll continue on with All About Reading, and will move on to level 4 once he finished level 3. No real guesses yet as to when that will be, but his recent pace has been to complete 2 – 3 lessons a week.

All About Spelling Level 1 is all but finished, and Level 2 is waiting for us. I assume he’ll finish it this year, and that we’ll begin level 3 at that point. I’ll probably order 3 when he gets about 2/3 of the way through 2.

Because I’m a bit ridiculous and am also looking for more as a way to stretch Core A as well as fill up our hours (remember, it’s all little kids here; I don’t expect that to be a need once they get older), I’ve got Language Smarts B. It looks like a fun workbook, and that it’ll work with LA 1 well as reinforcement and a more explicit way of teaching some grammar and language details. We can do one page a day and easily finish it up along with this core. And if he hates it? I’ll put it aside, in case maybe one of his sisters likes it.

For Handwriting I’m planning on switching from Handwriting without Tears. G hates it (no tears, but it is the most despised subject for him). While I don’t think it’s *just* the writing program, he does hate HWT’s smaller lines, and always switches to the “other” side of the LA worksheets instead of the HWT-aligned side. I’ve got Getty-Dubay’s Book A for him, and he’s already looked through it. He really liked what he saw, and is anxious to start it. We’ll see how it goes.


For math, I have Mathematical Reasoning B, and as I recently mentioned, last month I got the downloadable version of Math Mammoth. So I can use both of them as seems best, and move along at his pace. He’s also very excited about that, and was super anxious to finish up the other book and get started with the new ones. We’ve already begun that, and he’s liking them both.

I’m also considering making another effort with Miquon. I got a very nice email after my post bemoaning how confusing Miquon is, with some suggestions on how to use it. We’ll see. 🙂


Science AFor science, we’ll be using Sonlight’s Science A, as well as probably finishing up the Apologia Astronomy book. We’re about halfway through astronomy – we took a long break from it because I couldn’t deal with the experiments and a new baby – so I’m assuming we’ll finish it up this year. Depending on his interest, we might move into the Apologia Botany book, or possibly try Science in the Beginning, which looks interesting. Or we may not add anything extra beyond nonfiction books from the library. Or maybe we won’t even add that, and Science A will be it – it’ll all depend on how things are going, and what it seems like G wants to do.


We have lots of maze and dot to dot books – G ADORES them, and can’t get enough of them. I figure those are good fine motor skills practice. 🙂

Physical education is still taken care of with Taekwondo. G is a new orange belt, and working towards his senior orange belt. He’s now in the regular classes, which are 45 minutes long. I’m not sure that we’ll get there for all 6 classes they offer in a week, but I’m aiming for at least 4 of them, and possibly 5. We’ll also do swimming again this summer – they’re all signed up again with the same teachers as last year.

G sparringI’m considering some options for a foreign language. I’d assumed I’d start with Song School Latin, but G has requested Spanish (his cousin is learning it). Any advice on a little-kid friendly and effective Spanish curriculum? I’m all ears. I’d thought about just getting Rosetta Stone, but reviews seem to be very mixed-to-negative about how effective it really is, and I don’t want to waste time and money on it if it won’t do any good. I also just missed a big sale on it, so I don’t want to buy it until I spot another sale. It seems like they do run sales fairly regularly, so next time around I want to be prepared if it’s one we should use.

I’m also still mulling over what exactly I want to do for art (appreciation and application) and music (appreciation / awareness, not so much application right now), so if you’ve got something you adore for either of those, let me know please!

Follow Along on Pinterest

I’ve set up a Pinterest board with all of these things, and am planning on adding the books I use to supplement. Sonlight does have a lot of books, but it’s still not enough for me. Especially since I want to stretch Core A!

I also set up a second board with other ideas and possibilities. These are things I’m considering, and if I end up using them I’ll move them to the other board. Don’t worry that I’m going to overload my son by trying all of the things on this board – I’m won’t; these are just for ideas. I’m likely going to try *one* thing for art, but I may have three or four pinned as I consider the options. The same for all the rest of the ideas pinned there.

* And a point of clarification: In Indiana, Kindergarten isn’t required, so I don’t have any state regulations to worry about satisfying. No minimum-number of days of instruction, no topics of instruction, etc. So if I’d wanted to I could have taken off between now and next year, at least as far as the state is concerned.