Sunday, August 28, 2011

Lesson Planning via Bento

*This is not a paid advertisement.  I just enjoy sharing with others things that have made my life easier!*

Just to give you an idea what my lesson planning looks like every week, click on the image below.

I use the Bento program w/ my iMac & absolutely love it. I used this template from the Template Exchange and just tweaked it according to my needs.  

As you can see, I enter all of the assignments required for the week for each child.  The oldest 3 students copy their assignments into their personal assignment pads and devise their own strategies for how they will finish the week's work.  No more writing detailed daily plans for 6 children!

On the far right, you will see just a part of the box labeled "goals/what happened this week."  At the end of each week, I write a short journal about the highs & lows of the week and what was accomplished.  The hope is that I will be able to read through these at the end of each quarter when I'm ready to write up my quarterly reports.  I don't know about you, but by the end of 10 weeks of school, I have often forgot what happened the first half of the quarter!

Syncing my desktop program w/ my iPhone is invaluable. Having my schedule in my phone allows me to always have assignments handy to help me figure out what each of the 3 younger students need to accomplish on any given day.  When any my kids take a test, I just enter the score into my phone and, when it's convenient, I will sync it w/ my desktop so I can have all the grades in one place for future reference.  This convenience is huge for a homeschool mom of more than 1 or 2 children!

I realize many are still Windows users, but in case you've come over to the brighter world of Mac, you might want to try the Bento program for your lesson plans.  It's saved me a ton of money on pre-made planning books, it's tailored to my personal needs, and it's been extremely easy to use.  I'm all about easy organization and this is it!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

What all Homeschool Mothers LOVE to Talk About

So, now that we are finished with our first two weeks of school, I will share what curricula we are using.
I just know you've been sitting at your computer losing sleep at night waiting for this!  Well, wait no longer!

While I am using a variety of publishers, etc., I am using the same curriculum for all the children in each particular subject.  (ie - all grades are using BJU  History).  I didn't necessarily plan it that way as I tend to use whatever will meet a particular chid's needs, but it worked out that way this year and, so far, it seems to be a working.  So happy for that!  This year, I am teaching the following grade levels: K/1, 3, 4, 7, 8, 8/9.

Reading/Literature/Grammar/English language:
Teaching Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons - My 6 year old is enjoying using this book in order to learn to read.  My two older girls learned to read with this program.  While it didn't work for the next 2 children, I am pleased that it seems to be working wonderfully with Gloria.  In all honesty, though, this kindergartner is so ready to learn to read that I'm pretty sure any program would work for her at this point.  I'm just glad I can use an easy one!

Learning Language Arts Through Literature - I went into this program with a sense intrigue and a bit of trepidation.  As an English major, I was worried this curriculum would major on "the joy of reading" and prove weak in the "important" areas of English.  However, I am very pleased with this program.  Gloria's Blue Book is also working on reading readiness and it works great alongside 100 Easy Lessons.  The rest of the kids are reading some great books they would not have otherwise read and are learning to pay attention to detail in writing through the copy-work exercises.  I love the personal spelling lists - my children spell a word wrong somewhere in their school week, it gets added to their list for the next week.  They are learning the many parts of speech as well as other areas of the English language.  My 9th grader, who normally doesn't care for writing, just finished a great short story re-telling the Biblical parable of the Good Samaritan through the donkey's point of view!  It was wonderful!

Easy Grammar - Because of my fears that LLATL wouldn't be strong enough in the grammar department, I bought this curriculum for my children.  Mostly self-explanatory and not at all overwhelming, this is, by far, one of the best grammar texts I've ever seen!  This curriculum has the kids learn and memorize the prepositions first (the list is more extensive in the upper levels than it is for the younger elementary).  The thinking is that if the student can eliminate the prepositional phrases first, he will have an easier time of identifying the other parts of speech. There's no doubt about that!  When I was in 3rd grade, I had no idea what a preposition was.  Forget that - when I was a freshman in college, I had no idea what a preposition was - a pretty scary predicament for an English major!

Math: - This on-line-based math program is one that my kids really seem to enjoy.  Eric & I love the fact that the writers make our kids THINK.  It's not just a list of facts, but a lot of logical reasoning.  Written & developed in Australia, it's neat for my kids to become familiar with the different terms and spellings of words - an added bonus in reality-schooling!  I print out the workbooks that are available on-line and assign their work for the week.  They each need to spend 15min/day 3 days a week on-line doing Math drills, assignments, and games.  I can even assign different drills for them to do before they can even get into the games.  It's definitely stretching their minds (& mine) to think through problems.  I love the short-cuts the program teaches, as well.  It's not about a lot of work and "show me your work" - it's about getting the correct answer.  THAT I love.  My biggest concern is that the upper levels don't have all of the on-line workbooks completed.  So, I'm doing what I can until we have to cross that bridge.

Apologia - I've already raved about Apologia in recent posts, but it bears repeating.  My 3&4 graders are doing "Swimming Creatures of the 5th Day" together while my 7th grader is doing "Land Animals of the 6th Day."  The 8th grader is doing "General Science" and the 9th grader is doing "Physical Science."  If you are familiar with Apologia, you will notice that my two oldest are doing titles that are one grade below where they are.  Two reasons for this:  My kids are fairly young for their grade level.  While they can do the work of that level, Apologia is a lot to consume once you hit General Science, so I start them in 8th grade rather than 7th.  The other reason is that I really don't see my kids doing Physics in their Senior year, so I'm making better use of that added year making sure they are ready to comprehend what they are studying.  Does that make sense?  It does to me, anyway! :)
I will say that the "extras" are extremely beneficial (audio book, cd-rom, and lab kit) - especially in the upper grades.  Have I mentioned lately that my son got a 93% on his first test?!  Well, maybe this is the third time, but I'm pretty excited about it!  I totally praise God for a husband who is not afraid to spend a little extra money to help our children succeed!

BJU - This was a difficult decision for me this year.  As a lover of history, I tend to want to get away from the dry textbook/worktext format for a subject that can be so exciting.  However, I have yet to find anything that is as thorough as BJU.  So, what I'm trying to do is add "real books" (for some reason I struggle with that term.  Real books - like there are fake ones out there?) to supplement what my children are studying.  I came close to doing "Story of the World" for my younger ones this year, but I decided to have them complete their BJU history and then start them with SotW in the winter, as BJU won't last the whole year.  As I'm not sure I'll keep up with the activities in SotW, I will use it as a supplemental.

A Beka - Is there even another Christian publishing company that offers this subject?  I'm so pleased with their tasteful and extensive teaching on the important subjects of hygiene, nutrition, exercise, safety, etc.

Handwriting Without Tears - I began using this curriculum years ago and I doubt I'll ever use anything else to teach my children to write.  With only 1 page a day of skill practice, the books live up to their name.  I have one student repeating the cursive book they did last year just to fine-tune their penmanship.  I made it clear to this child that it wasn't a punishment, but just to build their skill & the child is doing great.  I HIGHLY recommend this curriculum - especially for boys who struggle with writing.

So, there you have it.  Just as a disclaimer - in no way am I telling any of you that you have to go out and buy the curriculum that I'm using.  This is what is working for our family.  Your family may have different needs.  I'm so grateful for the many options homeschoolers today have in the area of curricula so that each of our diverse needs are met!

How about you?  Are you using any of the same things we are using?  Do you love it or hate it?  I'd love to hear from you!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Carnival of Homeschooling

Carnival of Homeschooling

This week's issue is up over at Our Curious Home.  Thanks to Christine for linking my post (you'll find it under the sweet pic of the 2 boys eating).  I often find other great homeschool blogs & encouragement while browsing the carnival.  Hope you enjoy!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Homeschool Mother's Journal - Aug. 22, 2011

In our homeschool this week...
We got started with our year.  I went into it with great fear and trepidation, but our first week went great!  I was exhausted at the end of each day, but I believe it was a success!  We are using a few new curricula and enjoying most of them!  The work load is definitely more intense (especially for mom!), but I really feel my kids are getting a great education. For more on our first week, read this post.

Helpful homeschool advice to share...
Forget the laundry, cooking, cleaning, etc., during the school day.  It's hard for me to see that things "aren't getting done" while I sit and educate my children, but something IS getting done - something that will last a lifetime.  I find that while I am trying to kill two birds with one stone (ie - do dishes while helping with math), my children and I both get frustrated.  Multi-tasking during school is not a good idea.  OK, well, helping 6 children with school IS probably considered multi-tasking, but let's not get technical! :)

I am inspired by...
Those who can do it all.  Or, seem like they can.  Maybe inspired isn't the word.  I think I get more depressed...

Places we are going/people we are seeing...
During the school year, we will continue going to our weekly children's Bible club in our city (CHOICE).  We also went to the library last week (a weekly must-do) and soccer started for 4 of my children on Saturday.  After soccer, I took my oldest to his best friend's house where a bunch of the guys had an AirSoft war & swam while the parents had a great time laughing harder than we have for a long time.  It was great to relax after a long week.  

My favorite thing this week...
My son getting a 93% on his first Science Test!!

What's working for us...
Easy Grammar & Apologia Science.  I really believe the extras I purchased for my son's science curriculum helped him attain his best grade in a long time!

Things I'm working on...
Keeping my head above water.

I'm reading...
"Leap of Faith" by Queen Noor - the wife of King Hussein II.  I'm less than 100 pages into it, she stands for most everything I oppose, but, it's intriguing.  

I'm cooking...
Tater-Tot Casserole.  Kept up with my menu plan last week.  It's a good feeling to know that, even after spending most of my day "doing school," I can still give my family something good to eat.  Just a little forethought...

I'm grateful for...
My children and the effort they're putting into their school.

I'm praying for...
God's strength...every day.

A quote to share...
"Show me the condition of your Bible and I will accurately gauge the condition of your soul." -A.W. Tozer

There's still a few hours to join in the sharing over at Homeschool Chick!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Observations & Joys of Our First 2 Days


1.  It's a good thing to ask others to pray as we begin our school year.  I haven't been more terrified of a first day of school since....well...never!  But, I asked people to pray and many dear and true friends did.  I am so grateful to each of them for it is because of their prayers for me and my family that our first day went so smoothly.

2.  It's a good thing to lean on God.  I have reached the point where I truly realize that this is all God's deal.  I have six children in school this year with grade K-9.  I will fail miserably without God's help and I'm holding onto Him for dear life.

3. While I was terrified of our first day, Gloria was excited for her first day ever.  She still loves it. Ok, so it's her second day into 13 years, but....

4.  Long gone are the days of school being done by lunchtime.  School is taking about 6 hours.  On the up side, this makes me feel like they're getting a great education!

5. I have a lot of kids.  And, I have a lot in school.  And, I have a lot of grades to help teach.  K/1, 2, 4, 7, 8, 9.  The youngest is learning to read while the oldest is doing experiments on the kitchen table for Physical Science.  This all adds up to one thing....

6.  I'm no spring chicken.


1.  My son, the struggling learner, took his first science test today.  He made sure he got a head start in school this year, and he's been working diligently.  Anyway, he only got ONE answer wrong resulting in one of his best science test scores ever - a 93%!!!!!!!!  What a great way to start my morning!!!!  All the helps I got him are paying off!

2.  My 2 oldest are working together in math.  Today, they were trying to figure out a riddle/problem.  Mike was downstairs while Cassia was upstairs.  Just as he was beginning to say, "I GOT IT!" Cassia came bounding down the stairs exclaiming the same thing!  Smiles and a sense of accomplishment - THAT's what makes this mom happy.

3.  Yesterday, my husband said homeschooling is a thankless job. For once in his life, he was wrong.  Gloria, a few hours after finishing her first day of school, thanked me for doing school with her.  Make my heart melt, kid!

I'm exhausted, we're only 2 days in, but I'm less stressed and more excited about this year.  With the Lord's help (a lot of it!), we will succeed happily!

Monday, August 15, 2011

The First Day of School - Delayed

So, I was going to begin school today, until I looked at the calendar late last week.  Turns out, my son had an eye exam scheduled for this morning.  10:15.  Prime time for school.  Who wants to break up the day and mess up the schedule on the very first day?  UGH!

Today, I took my 4 year old to his exam and then went grocery shopping.  Just he and I.  I figure that, as he is the only one not in school this year, he'll start getting less attention once school begins.  It was good to have him all to myself for a few hours - though I found that if he had been our first child, I probably would have been to exhausted to have had any more!!!

Once I got home, I started a spontaneous meal-prep session. I got 4 meals prepared and, tomorrow, I'll prep for at least 2 more.  This should make dinner-time a lot easier these next couple of weeks.  I'm hoping to continue this throughout the year.  I usually make a weekly menu in order to avoid the stressful, last-minute decisions after a long school day.  But, if I can actually get the entire dinner made ahead of time, or even just the majority of the prep-work, life will be even easier...and I'll have more time in the afternoon to get other things accomplished, whether it be chores or rest!

So, tomorrow is our official first day of the school year!  Pray for us!

Monday, August 8, 2011

The Homeschool Mother's Journal - Aug. 8, 2011

In my life this week...
I took thing easy and got some things done for our final preparation for the up-coming school year.  I also took our 10 year old daughter to have some minor surgery this past Tuesday.  All went well and we'll find out in a month or so if it was, indeed, successful.  I was reminded, once again, of all those who care for us through their taking the time to pray for our sweet girl.

In our homeschool this week...
We are getting ready to start next Monday (8/15).  Actually beginning to look forward to it!

Helpful homeschooling tips or advice to share...
It's taken me forever to learn this, so I'm probably the last person to suggest this, but:  see where you can cut back on your activities this year.  After a down week at home, I'm realizing the importance of slowing down in order to really focus on my family.  Even my kids are tired of running hither & yon.

I am inspired by:
James Knox.  We heard him speak at our annual conference Wed-Fri night last week.  His messages focused on our Saviour, Who He is, and what He did for us and what that means for our relationship with God & our future.

Places we are going & people we are seeing...
Didn't go too far last week, as I said.  Went to church for a few nights, went swimming at a neighbors on Saturday and had some new friends for a very informal supper that night.  Went to a friend's house yesterday afternoon for a good time of fellowship & delicious food!!

My favorite thing this week was...
My husband quit work early on Saturday and took all of us swimming at our neighbor's.  What a treat to just relax with him and have fun!

What's working for us...
Slowing down.

Thoughts I have...
For some thoughts I had last week, check out my post over at Love & Rewards.

Things I'm working on...
IHIPs & lesson plans.  I have 2 IHIPs completed, 1/2-way through a third, and have 3 more to go after that.  Then, I'll be making my weekly lesson plans.  Last year, I planned the whole school year, but I think I'm going to go back to planning week by week, or, at most, do a month at a time.  I use the Bento program on my Mac.

I'm reading...
I finished Julia's Hope...LOVED it and look forward to reading the other books in the series.  I am now half-way through The Wilder Life by Wendy McClure.  There are some words and issues that I'm not crazy about, but, overall, it's a very good and very honest book about the impact of the Little House books on its readers.

I'm cooking...
A ham for dinner tonight with leftover salt potatoes.  Will have to come up with a good dessert to serve.

I'm praying for...
My friends the Snyders - missionaries in the spiritually hard country of New Zealand.  Mrs. S is due with a baby at the end of the month - about one day after they are scheduled to move into a new house!

A link to share...
A picture from the 150th anniversary re-enactment of the Battle of Mannassas.

For more journal entries, go over to the Homeschool Chick!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Making Science Better - for them & for me!

So, I was doing my final school shopping on-line today and I found this:

It's the Apologia Physical Science Lab kit.  This is our 2nd year of doing Apologia Science.  I love how thorough it is while still being interesting.  There are several labs throughout each course, but, last year, we didn't do most of them as we were usually missing one or two of the required materials.  That's where this kit comes in.  My son is doing Physical Science this year and this kit includes almost all of the materials he will need for each experiment this coming year!  The beauty of it is, the materials are separated out by modules (chapters).  It takes the load of thinking, preparing, and running around to various stores off of me and allows my son to get the most out of his science curriculum.  I am thrilled.

I also bought a kit for my daughter's General Science course.  If I could afford it, I'd get the kits for my elementary students, as well.  Hmm...the year's young.  I could always wait till next month....

Check it out.  You can get the kits from CBD (like I did), Rainbow Resource Center, or directly from the people who do all of the work for us...Nature's Workshop Plus.