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.

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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. πŸ™‚

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!

Bible

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

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. πŸ™‚

Science

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. πŸ™‚

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?

PE

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. πŸ™‚

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!

Extras

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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All About Spelling Level 1 Review

All About Spelling Level 1I promised this review ages ago, and kept letting it get pushed off in favor of other posts. So hopefully no one was waiting too anxiously for it!

We finished up All About Spelling (AAS) Level 1 just as we finished Core P 4/5. And despite being a couple of months into the next set of material we’re using for our framework, Core A, we still haven’t gotten back to spelling by continuing with Level 2. That is in no way a reflection of any dislike for the program! I wanted us to get into a good routine with Core A, and then my son was so focused on finishing Level 3 of the All About Reading (AAR) program, that I figured that was enough phonics work, and holding off on continuing spelling was ok.

Because we will be continuing with spelling using AAS – it’s fantastic!

If you’ve been using AAR, AAS seems less hands-on. It’s still got the letter tiles and word cards, but there aren’t all the activities like there are in AAR. That’s not a criticism, just a comment and comparison. I love the letter tiles, and my son does as well – he’s not fond of writing, and they keep him from being held back by his writing. Building words via tiles is much simpler, and lets him focus on the letters, not how they’re formed.

I love how the phonics rules are reinforced with AAS. Every one taught in Level 1 was one he knew already through AAR, but the change in focus from decoding to encoding helped him learn them in a different way. Spelling was always my worst subject in school, and my lack of phonics instruction really hampered me. I learned some things from Level 1 (the rules anyway, not so much the application at that level), and I’m kind of excited to see what else I’ll learn from the additional levels.

Each day’s lesson is quick – maybe 15 minutes tops – but that’s enough to make steady progress through the book. Everything is really easy for me to follow as well. It’s slightly scripted, and even with my non-phonics background it’s simple for me to use and teach.

Highly, highly recommended. I love this program. My son loves this program. It’s wonderful. It might seem a little bit pricey, but it’s completely reusable for my younger two. The only consumables in this program are the stickers – even the progress chart, phonogram chart, and certificate of completion can be downloaded for free from their website to use with additional students. Love that!

Disclosure: This is not a sponsored post, and I didn’t receive this program for free – I paid for it myself – I just LOVE this program. So much so that I am an affiliate for it, which means that if you buy the program using my link I may receive a percentage of the cost at no additional cost to you. And then I use any money I make to buy more books and homeschooling supplies which I talk about here. Thank you for supporting The Deliberate Reader!

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. πŸ™‚ 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. πŸ™‚

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.

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Homeschooling Math: It Shouldn’t Be This Hard in Kindergarten

Homeschooling Math Current Programs and Ideas for LaterIn last month’s update I avoided discussing math, instead promising that it would get its own post.

I’m not completely happy/content/certain/what have you when it comes to math for G. On one hand, he’s 5, and I know there are studies that show some benefits to delaying formal math instruction. On the other hand, we don’t live in an area where that is commonly done, and if he were to need to go into public school, I don’t want him to be too far off track of what is being done there. So I’m not completely comfortable delaying, despite those studies.

However, making math a BIG DEAL with lots of drill and repetition seems to be going too far in the other direction and risks making him hate math and school. And possibly me. πŸ˜‰

Mathematical Reasoning Level AI don’t want to bounce around between programs; I’d prefer to find something and stick with it, on the assumption that that will minimize gaps. My early math education ran into that when we moved to different states a couple of times during my elementary school years. I’d be ahead on some things, behind on others, and wound up never covering certain topics at all.

Despite this desire to pick something and stay with it, I’ve somehow managed to accumulate and (partially) use a variety of programs and items. And yet I’m still not sure what I want to use next year and in the more distant future!

What We’ve Tried

Singapore Earlybird AWe started with Critical Thinking Mathematical Reasoning books. These are super colorful and fun, and the early ones especially aren’t workbook-like at all. Even though they are workbooks – they were fun enough for G, and easy enough, that he’d quickly blast through 10 to 20 pages at a time, and ask for more.

Interspersed with those books were Singapore Early Bird. We both preferred the Critical Thinking books, which seemed to cover just as much, without being as repetitive or boring.

RightStart Math Level BAfter much online reading and forum-stalking I became very intersted in the approach of RightStart. Turns out a friend had level B and wasn’t using it, so she’s loaned it to me to try it. I want to love it – I love the background behind it’s creation, I love the idea of it, and I love the strong math foundation I think it’d give G. We had a glorious honeymoon with it for about 2 weeks, and then he hit one concept that didn’t come instantaneously, and has avoided it ever since. Teaching it is also much more of a hassle than pulling out the CT books, so I haven’t really encouraged another try at it.

I also don’t like how the books are structured, and find it hard to teach from them. The way the math is done is different enough that I do need to use the books; it’s not like I can just wing it even though it’s elementary-level math. I’ve done some reading online and apparently the second edition is better for that, so maybe I’d be better off getting the newer version? Or maybe I should accept that this isn’t going to be the best solution for us?

Miquon OrangeIn the “I keep forgetting I even have this corner” I’ve also got the Miquon books and Cuisenaire Rods.Learning Resources Cuisenaire Rods Introductory Set: Connecting Why did I get them? They’re so cheap! But they’re so confusing for me to teach – the books seem so random, and what exactly am I supposed to be doing with the rods? We’ve done almost nothing with these, so I guess I’m extra glad that they were inexpensive. I probably should just sell them, but I hold on to them thinking maybe I’ll figure them out to use with one of the younger kids. The rods at least are a hit with my 5 and 3 year olds, although they don’t really use them for anything math-like beyond lining them up in rows.

Looking Ahead

Teaching Textbooks 3Long term, I don’t know what we’ll do. The CT books claim to be a complete curriculum. Do they give enough practice though? Does it matter at this age? At what point does practice become an issue? I read great reviews about Teaching Textbooks, but I also read that they’re way behind grade level, and don’t go into enough depth to provide for a strong math background looking ahead to college and some careers. I’ve also read the same about Math-U-See, and the way it’s structured feels like I’d really be locking us into continuing with it so it’s not one I considered for long.

What I want is a program that teaches what he needs to know, in order to not close off any options that he may want later. I want him to be able to go into any career he wants, and not be limited based on what I did or didn’t do for him educationally. I want to set him up for success. His dad is really good at math, and uses it every day in his work. He definitely wants all the kids to have a great math education. (I’ve been saying “him” only because I’m not yet doing anything for my girls, not because I think math only matters for boys. Not at all!)

Math Mammoth 1ATwo other ones I’ve been eyeing are Math Mammoth, which he could begin immediately, and Beast Academy, which starts with third grade. Math Mammoth is inexpensive, so I might end up giving it a try if I need something beyond RightStart. Beast Academy might be what I work toward for him; it’s colorful and looks like it’d be fun, and yet it’s put out by the Art of Problem Solving people, so I’ve got no worries about its rigor. That would also set him up to move into AoPS books when he’s in middle school and high school. Assuming his talents point in that direction. πŸ™‚

Beast AcademyOne thing I have decided, after writing all this out, is to get back to RightStart and give it another try. As I write this we’ve got 11 weeks of Sonlight left, and if I stick with RS during all of that, it should be a good enough trial run to determine if it’s a program that will work for us at least short term, or if I should return it to my friend and move on to something else (like Math Mammoth) for 1st and 2nd grade. And maybe I’ll try and find some tips on using Miquon as well, before completely writing that off as a possibility.

I never expected math to be such an issue, especially at this young age!

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Homeschooling Update: Over Halfway through Kindergarten

Core P45 IGA belated update, as we’re well past week 18, but for future reference here’s our thoughts on the second quarter of homeschooling Kindergarten with Sonlight’s P4/5 core. This nine weeks took a lot more than nine calendar weeks, thanks to home renovations, house guests, and especially adding a new baby to the family and the recovery that comes along with a c-section. I’m very glad I started it “early” so the routine was well-established, and it made it much easier to get back to it once I felt up to it with the baby.

Overall, I’m still really happy with this core, and using it as the framework for our year. I’ve added to it in an attempt to stretch things out a bit more, to change the approach, and to round out the curriculum.

I shared our thoughts on the books we were using for the first quarter already, and overall his opinions are generally still the same. He still loves the Developing the Early Learner books, and the The Berenstain Bear’s Big Book of Science and Nature might be the biggest hit for the entire year. Things People Do is finished, but he likes to look through it on his own still.

The Children’s Book of Virtues is very hit-or-miss. Some stories he likes, and I like. Others… well, the illustrations are all beautiful at least! We’re doing better with 101 Favorite Stories from the Bible, and will finish it. Maybe it was just a developmental thing for him, or maybe it was just a rough stretch there with some of the earlier stories?

New this quarter were three titles:

What's Under the SeaG *loved* What’s Under the Sea – I know some families don’t like Usborne titles because of the way they are formatted, but my kids adore them. We finished this book in maybe three days, and G would have been happy to finish it in one session if I’d have been able to keep reading it.

Stories from AfricaI wasn’t sure how well Stories from Africa would be received – there aren’t that many pictures, and the ones that are there are black and white and very simple (they look like coloring book illustrations, and if G liked to color I’m sure he’d have been adding his own touch to them all). I’m so glad I didn’t let the blah appearance keep me from trying the stories with him however – he really enjoyed most of them! They were surprisingly engaging, and he would ask to hear the week’s story whenever he’d see it in the stack of options. The one exception was the last story in the book – it was much longer than the others, and didn’t have the same compelling storyline. We got through it, but I’m glad it wasn’t the first story in the book, or G would never have wanted to try a second.

The Year at Maple Hill FarmThe Year at Maple Hill Farm was so-so. They both listened to it, and we talked about the illustrations and concepts, but G had no interest in reading more each day, or in revisiting it after we finished it.

Adding All About Reading (AAR) has been very successful, and I’ve got some Bob books that I use for practice as well. Those are so easy for him, but it’s nice having something that is easy – it helps show him how much progress he’s made. All About Spelling Level 1 has been super easy as well – the spelling concepts have all been reviewing things he’s learned in AAR.

The one aspect that I’ve been underwhelmed with has been Sonlight’s Language Arts. I’m using LA K, but since we’ve been using AAR the phonics instruction and readers have been too simple. I’m unimpressed with the Learning and Thinking for Young Children book (maybe because I’ve read Ruth Beechick’s The Three R’sThe Three R's by Ruth Beechick, and Barbara Curtis’ Mommy, Teach Me: Preparing Your Preschool Child for a Lifetime of LearningMommy, Teach Me: Preparing Your Preschool Child for a Lifetime of Learning by Barbara Curtis and Mommy, Teach Me to Read: A Complete and Easy-to-Use Home Reading ProgramMommy, Teach Me to Read: A Complete and Easy-to-Use Home Reading Program by Barbara Curtis books as well as others; nothing in this book seemed like new information or ideas). We do the copywork from it, and follow the handwriting schedule. We mostly skip the creative writing assignments.

Math deserves it’s own post, so I think I’ll save that for next month’s update. πŸ™‚

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

Twitterature: Recent Reads about Homeschooling

recent reads, twitterature-style

The Everything Homeschooling Book: All You Need To Create the Best Curriculum and Learning Environment for Your Child by Sherri Linsenbach
I liked this one – the best general homeschooling book I’ve seen. If you’re new to it, or considering it, this has a good overview of it and some brief information about homeschooling for different ages and stages. The best part is probably the resource lists it includes – there are a ton.

Homeschooling For DummiesHomeschooling For Dummies by Jennifer Kaufeld by Jennifer Kaufeld
Not bad, but so outdated. Really surprised there hasn’t been an update published for it.

A Biblical Home Education: Building Your Homeschool on the Foundation of God’s WordA Biblical Home Education: Building Your Homeschool on the Foundation of God's Word by Ruth Beechick by Ruth Beechick
Didn’t care for it much, which surprised me as I liked her Three R’s book. This one had a very dogmatic tone.

How to Homeschool Your Child From Preschool Through High SchoolHow to Homeschool Your Child From Preschool Through High School by Rosanne Muncy by Rosanne Muncy
I almost didn’t link to this on Amazon, because it’s $9.99 for Kindle and it is so not worth that price. Not recommended at all – don’t waste your time or money.

Weapons of Mass Instruction: A Schoolteacher’s Journey Through the Dark World of Compulsory SchoolingWeapons of Mass Instruction: A Schoolteacher's Journey Through the Dark World of Compulsory Schooling by John Taylor Gatto by John Taylor Gatto
Mixed feelings on this one – compelling stories, and lots of reinforcement if you’re on the fence about why you should homeschool. But it’s meandering in structure and repetitive and his tone was off-putting. And I’m a fan of homeschooling – I can’t imagine how I’d have liked the overall tone of the book if I weren’t already on his side if you will.

For more peeks at what people are reading, head over to Modern Mrs. Darcy’s link-up!

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

Homeschooling Update: Back in the Groove. Maybe

Homeschooling October updateSince my last real update in August we’ve:

  • Started back at Awana (yay for that! Thank you all Awana volunteers, you are so appreciated.)
  • Made more “official” progress than I expected as far as our schedule goes, and that’s the whole reason I got an early start on it. We did school almost all summer long, so a mid-August to mid-September break is no big deal, and still keeps us on track to finish this year well before we need to.
  • Finished All About Reading Level 1, and are about a quarter of the way through Level 2.
  • Began All About Spelling (and so far, it’s a hit).
  • Started RightStart Math (the first edition, level B).
  • Passed the halfway point of our Sonlight core.
  • Had a baby, the reason for bullet point #2. πŸ™‚

We’re now getting back into our school routine. We’re doing better when I just give G a handwriting page and tell him to work on that while I get ready for whatever we’re going to do next/finish cleaning up from breakfast/feed the baby/get H started with something/take care of some other need of the moment. He does it, and then we move on with the rest of the routine.

I’ve been trying something new as far as the rest of our routine goes – prompted in part by something I read on the Sonlight forums, which gave me an idea for how to modify it for us. I took five index cards and labeled them “reading,” “math,” “spelling,” “table work,” and “mama reads.” G gets to pick the order, and while we always do “mama reads,” the others may vary. He has to pick two cards for each day we do school (usually he picks three if not all four), and we do each one for at least 15 minutes. Some days it’s a lot longer than 15 minutes for each area, but that keeps him from getting aggravated/bored/what have you when all it has to be is 15 minutes.

(And he can’t continually pick the same two – whatever gets picked is “retired” until he goes through all four areas, then it’s up for grabs again.)

We’ve been trying out a new math program, so lately that’s been the first thing he wants to try, whenever it’s an option. Then it’s spelling or reading. Table work (which is the Developing the Early Learner workbooks and his geography workbook – things he does like once he gets started on it) is his last pick. The DEL books used to be his first choice, so it’s funny to me how things change.

Read alouds (a.k.a. “mama reads” happen on the couch, and the timing is almost entirely baby-dependent. It’s a lot easier to read while feeding/holding her, so when she’s napping is when we’re trying to do the other areas. I’m sure this is the sort of thing that will change as she gets older and becomes mobile.

We’ve done science projects once since having the baby, and that’s something I do hope to get back to semi-regularly soon. Right now the weather’s still been nice enough for the kids to play outside most afternoons with the neighbors, so I’m encouraging that. I can imagine some of that time will go to science and art projects once the weather keeps us inside later.

I got away from a true afternoon quiet time during the pregnancy, instead relying on the television to keep them occupied while I rested. I’ve got energy back now (usually) and am working to re-establish that habit. It’s going better than I expected! While I do have to police them a bit, generally they play quietly in a room for 45 minutes now. We started with 10 minutes, so stretching it to 45 has been good progress! I’m hoping to get it to 60, and have that really be 60 minutes of quiet time, not quiet time with lots of “is quiet time over yet?” questions plus interruptions where they fuss at each other in the doorways/stealth raids into the other’s room when they should be in their room etc. We’re getting there! And if I can someday get their quiet time to coordinate with the baby’s nap time, that would be glorious. She doesn’t have a good routine yet so I’m not even trying to match them up yet. I’ll just concentrate on getting the big kids to an hour of true quiet time first and then try and get it timed to M’s sleeping times!

Homeschooling Update: Teaching Reading with All About Reading

All About ReadingI wrote before about three books on teaching reading, and my favorite of the bunch.

So why did I switch from that approach and begin using All About Reading? Originally I had intentionally avoided this program, but ultimately ended up giving it a try when G stalled out with the reading book I was using.

The results? It’s been fantastic. G loves it, it’s working well, it’s easy to use – it’s absolutely great. Great, but not perfect…

What do I not like about AAR?

It’s expensive. Level 1 is $100, plus you have to buy an interactive kit for another $22. Level 2 is another $100, and Levels 3 and 4 are each $120 (at least you only have to buy one interactive kit). The Pre-Reading Level is “only” $80, or $120 if you want the deluxe version. That’s … a lot of money for one subject, albeit a very important one.

It’s only partially reusable. I mean, I buy Sonlight for my son, and that’s not the cheapest homeschooling option out there, but it’s almost completely reusable. With two other children following, suddenly that Sonlight price tag seems a lot better when I think about using it three times. With AAR, some parts are reusable, but I have to buy each child their own activity book: that’s $17 each for the Pre-Reading Level and Level 1, $20 for Level 2, and $30 for Levels 3 & 4. Adding it all, it’ll be $542 for G, and another $114 for each of the girls. For all three kids, that will be $542 + $114 + $114. That’s almost $800 just for reading instruction. Ayi yi yi.

Update: Heather noted below in the comments that the activity books include permission to copy for household use, and that means that you could reuse everything. It would mean lots of little pieces to keep track of until your next student needed them, but it’d definitely save some money.

I hate having to pay for shipping. I am so used to places offering free shipping if you order over a certain amount, but AAR doesn’t do that. So when I ordered one level, it was another $10 for standard shipping.

They don’t include the stickers with the student packet – you have to remember to buy that separately. The activity book includes a chart set up to use the stickers to track the student’s progress, but the stickers aren’t automatically included. They’re only $1, so really, could they not have included them already? That’s super annoying – just include them in the student packet already!!

What do I like about AAR?

Everything else. No, seriously, it’s a fantastic program. It’s fun for G – he went from not wanting to do reading from that book to LOVING reading lessons. We flew through level one because he’s enjoyed it so much.

It’s also super easy for me to use. I began it in earnest when I was in my final weeks of pregnancy, feeling brain dead and exhausted. I did not have the energy to come up with ways to make learning more fun and engaging, and wanted an open-and-go program. This is that. The most challenging part was keeping the kids out of it until I got it all set up – magnets on the letter tiles and phonogram and word cards separated out and put into their box.

G loves the word cards, and the stories in the reading books – they’re just hard enough to push him a bit, but still all very readable as it’s so incremental.

He loves the stickers. I am continually amazed at just how motivating it is for him to be able to put a sticker on his chart when he finished another lesson.

He loves the variety of activities in the book – there’s lots of cutting which he adores (and any coloring is optional, which is perfect since he hates coloring), and then every option has been fun for him. Making word flippers, feeding the monster, even flipping the eggs have all thrilled him. No joke.

(The only thing he doesn’t love? The fluency sheets. We do them all, but that’s the only time I’ve had to start thinking of ways to make it more interesting for him / break them up a bit. And apparently we’re not alone in that, since AAR’s blog recently posted some ideas for fluency sheets.)

So, do I recommend AAR? Yes, absolutely, with some caveats.
  • Yes, I recommend it in that it has been fantastic for us, and is working well to develop in G a love of reading.
  • Yes, it’s been so easy to use for me (a huge priority right now).
  • Yes, it’s piqued H’s interest and she’s excited to try it herself.
  • Yes, because solid reading skills are one of the most important things I want to develop in my kids – not just skills, but a love for it too – I think it’ll help with everything else school-related through the years if they’re excellent readers who also read for fun.
  • Yes, because even if you have no phonics background (ahem, that would be me) you can still use the program and teach your child using that method.
So why the hesitation to give a wholehearted recommendation?

I wouldn’t say it’s a “MUST HAVE” because of those drawbacks to it. It is expensive, and you don’t NEED it to teach your child(ren) to read. If you’re creative you can come up with lots of ideas for ways to make reading lessons more engaging and appealing. Scan Pinterest and you’ll see tons of suggestions you can adapt to your own situation.

If you’re not a crafty mom, and your mental energy goes other places than towards coming up with literacy-type games and all of that? This program is wonderful. I hope it continues to work this well, and if it does, I imagine I’ll be getting all the levels.

Disclosure: Unlike virtually every other review post I’ve seen online regarding All About Reading, I did not get mine for free. I bought it and we’ve finished Level 1, and have just started Level 2. I plan to buy Levels 3 & 4 if 2 continues working so well and they seem necessary. That said, I did sign up for their affiliate program and this post contains affiliate links. If you decide you’d like to try the program and click on my link, I’ll get a commission at no extra charge to you. And then I’ll use it to buy more books or homeschool supplies. Thank you for supporting The Deliberate Reader!

Homeschooling Kindergarten: the First Quarter with Sonlight Core P4/5

We’ve just finished the first quarter of the school year, as laid out in Sonlight’s P4/5 core schedule. That seems like enough time to give some thoughts on the books we’ve read, and the Sonlight experience. I’m really pleased with how easy it’s been so far. I do realize that right now I’m only really working with one child for Kindergarten, so we’re not talking hugely demanding academics here, but still – it gives me hope for the future to continue homeschooling with three children. And short-term, it gives me confidence that I can manage it with a newborn.

Core P45 IGFirst, a big success as far as I’m concerned is the instructor guide itself. I’ve loved having something written and planned out, to give me a general idea of what a reasonable amount to cover in a week is. If I was an experienced homeschool mom, I don’t know that I’d care, but as a newbie, I love it.

That said, I don’t follow the schedule religiously, and I have never once followed it day-to-day all week long. Generally, I try and keep us on one week at a time, but during that “week” (which may take anywhere from 2 to 10 days to finish) we jump around and do things in our own order. I also rarely use the discussion questions provided – I find it easy enough to ask my own based on what we’re reading.

For this first quarter, the books we’ve been using:
Developing the Early LearnerDeveloping the Early Learner
Perhaps my son’s favorite item from the entire package. He loves loves loves these sorts of activities. This is one of the main reasons I keep us on a week-at-a-time schedule, or else he’d want to finish the entire book in one week. As it is, he does a week in a day, and then impatiently waits until he can do more.

The Lion Storyteller Bedtime BookLion Storyteller Bedtime Book
Both kids like this one a lot, especially the stories that feature Rabbit and Tiger. (But our copy doesn’t look like the one linked; the cover is different. Apparently they’ve got the same content, just a different cover.)

Stories from Around the WorldStories from Around the World
They like this one, but not quite as much as the Lion book, although they have referenced these stories later, so clearly they’re listening and paying attention. I think Rabbit and Tiger just captivate them so much they’re inclined to favor that book.

Eric Carle's Animals AnimalsEric Carle’s Animals Animals
They’re mostly indifferent towards this one. The short poems don’t seem to catch their attention, but they do like the illustrations. However, I have noticed a difference in the last two weeks when we’ve read this one. My son is much more interested in it, so perhaps it was just a maturity thing, as my daughter still only cares about the illustrations.

My First Picture DictionaryMy First Picture Dictionary (Part of the Language Arts K package)
They love looking up the new letter each week, and were sad during the week with no new letter. It’s been fun for me discovering some words that both kids already know, and sometimes I have no idea how they know them. Some of them my son has told me I’ve said, but I don’t remember using them.

A Treasury of Mother GooseA Treasury of Mother Goose Rhymes
They’re big fans of this one – we tend to read lots extra in this one every time we open it, so we’ll likely end up reading the entire book at least 4 times during the year, assuming our current pace holds steady.

The Children's Book of VirtuesThe Children’s Book of Virtues
Somewhat indifferent, leaning towards liking it. We’ve only read 3 or 4 entries from it, so this one is a little more “still to be determined” as to whether or not it’ll be an overall hit.

Uncle Wiggily's Story BookUncle Wiggly’s Story Book
They HATE this one. I stuck with it for two weeks, but I hated reading it too, and decided to ditch it instead of torturing us all. I may try it again in a few months. Or I may not, since I didn’t like reading it myself. πŸ™‚

101 Favorite Stories from the Bible101 Favorite Stories from the Bible
They aren’t really fond of this version. They liked the The Jesus Storybook Bible: Every Story Whispers His NameThe Jesus Storybook Bible: Every Story Whispers His Name by Sally Lloyd-Jones I used previously, and I keep debating whether or not to try another one instead of sticking with this one. It’s not such an obvious thing as the Uncle Wiggly one was, so for now we’re sticking with it. At least each day’s story is short!

Things People DoThings People Do
They like this quite a bit, but they never protest too much at only doing one entry a week, so it’s not the most compelling book I’ve read to them. It’s still a good one, and leads to interesting discussions with one or both of them.

Language and Thinking for Young ChildrenLearning and Thinking for Young Children (Part of the Language Arts K package)
Eh, doesn’t do much for me, or them. I think if you’ve read a lot on early childhood education, and pay attention to every day learning opportunities, much of this will be a repeat. At least it’s all seemed that way so far!

Berenstain Bear's Big Book of Science and NatureThe Berenstain Bear’s Big Book of Science and Nature
I already mentioned this one last month, but I can’t leave it out as it was definitely a highlight of these weeks. This one will definitely be read through multiple times they like it so much. There was no way we were able to limit ourselves to the listed amounts for each week – instead I’d just read until we came to a good stopping point, and then pick up again where we left off.

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