Friday, August 22, 2014

One Homeschool Day {Link Up}

Ok, I debated on scratching this day...and completely starting over so my "One Homeschool Day" looked a little bit more impressive...but then I decided, in the spirit of keeping it real, I thought I'd share exactly how THIS homeschool day turned out!  It is not a perfect homeschool day...because life got in the way.  That's REAL life though and it happens!  A lot!  I didnt get to take a lot of pictures because I was so busy I kept forgetting.  Anyway, here is a rundown of One Homeschool Day and I'm excited to link up with Our Busy Homeschool.  :)

I finally drag myself out of bed.  I have been fighting a cold and I'm just now starting to feel human again.  I convince myself that the extra hour of sleep was a good thing....  I'd better hurry though, both girls have swimming lessons in town at 9:30 (a 45 minute drive - 1 way!)

I have showered, dressed, tidied my bed, etc.  I go in to wake the girls...thankfully they are already awake...Excited that they have swimming today!  They start their morning jurisdictions.

Girls are dressed and ready to go...  We have all eaten breakfast.  We head out.

Arrive at swimming lessons.  Maggie has her lesson from 9:30 to 10:00am.

Kayley has her lesson.  While Kayley is swimming I receive an unexpected phone call.  Someone was unable to pick up their commodities from the church (the blessings of being Relief Society President), I would need to run over there and get it...

I make it to the Stake Center where I pick up a food commodities order.  We head out (again)

The kids are famished.  I (cringe) stop at McDonalds.  (There were only 2 choices between the Stake Center and the Highway, it was McD's or Hardee's)  They have to eat on the go...we have cold/frozen food stuff in the car and a 45 minute drive.

 *Notice those backpacks in the back?  Those are for a school supply drive the Relief Society just finished, I was supposed to drop them off at a Women's Shelter on the way back from Swimming...that would have to wait now until after the food was delivered.

Since the recipient of the food was not home, I drop the food off with another church member who lives close by.  I end up chatting for about 20 minutes while my girls enjoy playing with her kids.  We head toward the square to find the women's shelter to drop off the backpacks.

I drive around in circles several times trying to find this women's shelter.  I eventually find it.  A sign on the door tells me that they are unexpectedly closed.  Darn.  I guess that's why they weren't answering the phone when I tried to call ahead.

We make it home just in time for the kids to watch Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood.  Daniel has a new baby sister you know and the all-new episodes this week have been the rage in our house.  We need to relax for a bit anyway we are hot and tired.  I turn on the TV and let the kids watch while I check my email.

Daniel Tiger is over.  I try to get Kayley to do schoolwork with me.  She doesn't want to plus she's exhausted from swimming and running around.  She pouts and has a little fussy fuss.  She looks like this:  (adorable right?)

I convince Kayley to work for an hour and then she can quit.  She goes for it.  She does 1 lesson in Singapore 3A, 1 lesson in First Language Lessons, 1 lesson in Writing with Ease, 1 page of Wordly Wise, and her Winter Promise Grammar Lesson.  Science and history can wait until tomorrow.  Good enough for me...  after swimming and running around she can't do much more anyway.  Maggie zonked out on the couch.

3:30 - 5:30pm
Play time.  The kids pretty much destroy the house...  I don't care.  I'm tired too.  I wander around a bit, tidy the kitchen some, read some, Facebook a little, and receive another unexpected phone call which causes me to make 2 more phone calls...

Dinner Time.  Hubby is working late tonight so we literally eat a bizarre combo of Frozen Waffles, String Cheese and Cous-cous.  Weird, I know.

Kids are bored.  I suggest they clean up.  They look at me like I've lost my mind.  So, I quickly tell them after tidying up they can do art....(That worked!)  We are using Home Art Studio DVD's.  The girls love them.  They learn about mixing primary colors and Van Gogh.  We end up with paint messes everywhere, but at least we squeezed in another subject today.  Whew!

More clean up, get ready for bed, reading time, then goodnight!

Hubby comes home.  I'm spent so I go to bed to read...  I read an article about having a more organized homeschool day and it makes me feel cranky.  So I play Bejeweled instead... until I can't keep my eyes open any more....  then... ZZZZZZ!

So, there you have it.  I want to say that this was not a "typical" homeschool day but we do have a lot of days that just fall apart.  Life gets in the way.

I do not regret stopping our regular day to give service.  I am happy to set the example for my kids by letting them see that people are important, my calling is important, and that we have to just adapt to life when it happens.

I just kept it real.  Thanks for stopping by!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

WinterPromise Language Arts Syllables to Sentences {Review}

Ok, so, you might notice that this review of WinterPromise Language Arts - Syllables to Sentences does NOT fall into our "WorkBasket Wednesday" post.  There is a reason for this.  It is because I didn't use it.   I thought I'd share a brief review, what I liked and didn't like, and explain why I returned it to Winter Promise for a refund.  

Winter Promise Syllables to Sentences is designed for students who are ready to read simple 3-letter words.  (This fits Maggie perfectly).  You need: the Teachers Guide, Phonics Activity Pack, Phonics Cards, the Romp in Pine Nut Park Readers, Explode the Code 1-3 and the Word Family Activity Book.  This is designed to be an 18 week program OR a 36 week program for younger kids.  (It only schedules 18 weeks with the idea that you will finish the 2nd half of the year using their Paragraphs to Pages 18 week program).

These items are NOT available as .pdf downloads so you have to order the hard copies.  I did, but they came in piece-meal.  The Teachers Guide sent me only the 1st 9 weeks (the other weeks were not ready yet), 3 readers (out of how many, I had no clue) and the purple-linker was not in the activity pack (according to Winter Promise customer service they must've "ran out" and would send me one as soon as it was available).  I did receive a note saying that the rest of the curriculum items would ship separately as it became available.

Now -- The actual curriculum itself has a lot of potential:  You can see from the sample page below that this program is going to cover Phonics, Reading, Word Families, Writing, Handwriting and Spelling.  There are extensive notes at the bottom to guide you through the activities each day...

You will use the Phonics Activity Pack pretty extensively.  This was a small (pencil box) pack of materials that included a bendy figure, finger puppets, a ball of homemade play dough, noodles, yarn and a small sand timer.   The Phonics Activity Pack paper had a comprehensive list of games and activities using these items that would help your child review phonics, letter recognition and a whole lot more.

The phonics cards were flash cards that had letters, how to form them, and tricks that involved phonics characters to help your child remember the individual letter sounds.

The Romp In Pine Nut Park Readers were...well...made out of card stock.

So-- what did I actually think about this program? 
It had a lot of good qualities and has SO much potential.

The Phonics Activity Kit is such a good idea!  The game and drill ideas were really good and I could see how those are so beneficial and fun.  Ideas like a cabinet scavenger hunt to find foods that begin with a certain letter, hiding the bendy guy near an object that starts with a certain sound, etc.  It is supposed to include a purple-linker to make bendy letter shapes.

The Phonics cards were also decent.  They included some various ideas of how to play games to increase retention of the letter sounds.  They were basic card stock - not laminated....

The bad qualities?
 These two items together cost:

Whew.  That's a lot of money for a few sheets of card stock and a small box full of trinkets.  (Recall my purple-linker wasn't even in there...I had to call and ask about it).

The Romp in Pine Nut Park readers were also made of card stock, folded in half, with a staple down the center.  The pictures were gray scale.  There was no image available at the time I purchased so I bought them sight unseen.  They cost:
$68.00.  Yes, I was surprised when I received the readers and they weren't actually books.  For $68 I really anticipated...books.  As in, not card stock folded in half with 2 staples in the center (some of which hadn't been put in correctly so they were already coming out).

Ok, to finish the program you would also need the following:

I purchased these through Amazon and a lower price than sold through WinterPromise and these items are not included in the grand total of what I paid for the Program...

Which was an impressive $171.00 (shipping included).

After receiving it and staring at it for 2 days I decided to send it back.  It was just waaaaayyyy to much money for what I received.  Like I said the program has a lot of potential but I was so disappointed in the actual products (they were just cheap) and I paid a LOT for them!  

For a comparison of a very similar program look at Sonlight Language Arts K - with grade K readers
which offers free shipping (and real books) at a much lower price of $84.20.  (You could add on Handwriting With Out Tears (optional) with this program bumping the price a bit - closer to $110.00).

Anyway, I sent the items back to Winter Promise and I did receive a full refund.  They were very gracious when I explained that Syllables to Sentences was just not a good fit for us...

So, if you are wondering what I have purchased and kept I will admit I am still seeking a better fit.  
We are currently using Ordinary Parents Guide to Teaching Reading.  (Pure phonics instruction - we haven't got into the actually reading anything yet.  I LOVE Peace-Hill Press products so we enjoy this so far.  Maggie has memorized her vowels so far and is working on a long poem with consonant sounds.  I bought this used as well.)

I also bought the Sonlight Grade K with Language arts (used so I didn't spend as much as new) but I'm not really sure that is the thing for us either...  We've used some bits of it but, to be honest, its a little boring (I can review this another day).

Then, I ended up buying All About Reading Level 1 trying to find that better fit for Maggie.  We are still waiting for it to arrive and we will give it a try!  It has ah-mazing reviews and we already LOVE our All About Spelling so I have high expectations for this product!

Thanks for sticking with me, I hope this review of Syllables to Sentences helps out someone who is considering this program.  ;)

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

WinterPromise Language Arts 3 {WorkBasket Wednesday}

In that past I have been piecing Kayley's Language Arts together.  In fact, following the Well Trained Mind recommendations I used a lot of Susan Wise Bauer's Peace Hill Press products in conjunction with Rod & Staff English.  We liked it.  But, I had wiggle room in my budget and for no reason other than it just "looked fun" we purchased WinterPromises Third Grade Language Arts program called "Tracking Down Good Grammar" featuring Scout the Dog.  So far, we love it and I'm happy to give my readers a walk-through of some of its features!

There are several components to this program.  You need the teachers guidebook, Student Books A-D, Wordly Wise 3000 book 3, and Spellwell B, Bb and answer key.  I purchased the Teachers Guide and Student Books as .pdf downloads, printed them myself and had them spiral bound at Staples.  I really adore buying this way when I can because it lets me write all over the teachers guide and workbooks without remorse (or fear of retaining its resale value) and then print out another if I decide to use them again.  It is also cheaper and saves on shipping AND I get it right away (I dig instant gratification - its a fatal flaw).

The teachers guide is a simple grid format.  You can see from the photo below that this Language Arts program includes Grammar, Creative Writing, Handwriting, Spelling, Vocabulary, and at the very bottom, depending on which Themed Study you are in, Kayley's independent reading assignment.  Since we are doing the Animals Themed Unit, she is reading Classic Starts Black Beauty.

The student workbook pages are fun!  
This activity sent Kayley on a capitalization scavenger hunt!

Each page is themed with Scout the Dog 
(we really like programs that offer a storyline or theme)

A feature I really like is the creative writing.  Last year, using Writing With Ease, we learned a lot about how to summarize and write a synopsis of a story or paragraph.  Creative writing seems to tickle a different part of the brain and it has been fun to try it out....

The Spelling program WinterPromise schedules is Spellwell B.  You start each week with a pretest, make corrections, and then as the teacher you can add any extra words as you see fit at the bottom.  Now, at the very bottom of the page it says that if you get all your spelling words correct or only miss 1 then you do the "alternate" assignment at the bottom of each page...

Here is an example of Tuesday's homework in the Spellwell book.

For Vocabulary, Wordly Wise 3000 Book 3 is scheduled.  
This is a simple straight-forward way to learn some vocabulary.

Now--  What do we really think of Language Arts 3?
We really do like it!  I've had to do some "tweaking" to make it fit us a little better, but not much.  Kayley really likes the Grammar, Creative Writing and Handwriting just as it is....  (FYI: handwriting makes the transition to cursive in Student Book B.)  She really loves how hands on many of the activities are, like scavenger hunts, interviews, writing about books she is reading, etc.

You can see from the sample of week 3 where I have changed spelling to All About Spelling 3 and added in First Language Lessons 2 and Writing With Ease 3.  What WinterPromise Language Arts has done for us is replaced BJU Handwriting, Rod & Staff English, and random Literature in a one-stop-shop format that is fun and engaging.

Ok, so, you might be wondering why I replaced and added a couple of things.  Here is why:

1.  All About Spelling* is just way, way, more awesome than SpellWell...  To start the 1st 3 weeks of Spellwell Kayley aced all the words.  We could follow the "alternate" assignments as listed but they typically involved "writing a paragraph using your alternate spelling words" or something similar.  (pass!)  It also seemed crazy to write in the book when we were only using every 5th page.  Plus, we used AAS Level 1 and 2 and we really LOVE the hands on approach to spelling and felt that it is more rigorous in learning the actual RULES of spelling.  (*affiliate link)

2.  First Language Lessons 2 (and FLL 1 that we completed last year) is all oral and focuses on memorizing grammar definitions, word lists, poetry, and much more.  While I've tried this year to get a little more "Charlotte Mason" I find that I can't just leave the Classical behind and dump some memory work.  We were only midway through book 2 at the end of last year so I want to finish it this year.  There is NO hurry on this book.

3.  Writing With Ease has the child reading through a story and learning how to pull out information to narrate a summary either orally or in writing.  This is SUCH an important skill that Kayley still needs so much work on.  It is just "different" than creative writing.  This is more technical writing.  It is simple to implement and we can do it in less than 10 minutes...  

We will definitely be continuing with Winter Promise Language Arts this year.  It has been a nice break from piecing other curricula together and I admit I was getting burned out on constantly trying to create the "rigor" that is Classical. 

It's also affordable.  I bought the eBook set for $69.00,  printed them myself and had them spiral bound for less than $10.00.  I purchased Spellwell and Wordly Wise through Christian Book Distribution.  (WinterPromise is a little to slow for my taste on getting print items shipped so I ordered through someone else - sorry WinterPromise!)

So, there you have it!  I hope this review of LA3 helps someone!  Thanks for stopping by!!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

The Plague is Plaguing Us!

(Kayley dressed as a medieval plague doctor) 

To say we have had "the Plague" around here is a bit of an exaggeration, but I'm not kidding when I say that we have been sharing some type of malady through the family ever since Kayley's baptism excitement.  It started 1 week ago when Daddy began hacking and coughing... We thought we were going to survive when on Sunday I started burning up with a fever.  By today, my cough is obnoxious, my throat hurts from hacking and the muscle aches have the the WORST.    So, yesterday...Maggie starts hacking and by the middle of the night last night she was crying with an ear ache.  A quick trip to the doctor determined that she had an ear infection.  During lunch today Kayley mentioned " ear is clogging..." and within a couple of hours we had sneezures and lots of drippy nose.  

So...  the only person recovered (mostly) so far is Daddy, while the rest of us have been totally wiped out!  Whew!!  It's a good thing this isn't the middle ages and the only doctor you had was this creepy dude!!!  

(FYI: plague doctor costume instructions are found in Story of the World Teachers Guide Vol 2.)

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

WinterPromise Week 1 {WorkBasket Wednesday}

Ok, so I mentioned recently that we have jumped out of our rut to try something a bit different.  I wanted to find a program that let me combine my girls together.  This is challenging because they are about 3 1/2 years apart in age.  Maggie is working at an early K level with Kayley working at 3rd or 4th (depending on the subject).  

I had read a lot about WinterPromise.  Reviews were mixed.  People either really, really like WinterPromise.  Those who don't - really don't.   WinterPromise is trying hard to get over a bad reputation of poor customer service, low quality products and slow shipping.  It was hard to find a review that was pretty basic and in the end I decided to take the plunge, make the investment, and try it WinterPromise the benefit of the doubt.  ;)

I purchased Animals and their Worlds.  This is a 4-day, science program that is geared toward children ages PreK-4th grade.  It is available as either hard copies or downloadable .pdf's.  I chose the download option because it was a lot cheaper and I like instant gratification in my shipping (I was also a little apprehensive about the shipping issues that I'd heard about).  You also need to buy "real" books and to save money and get them faster, I either bought them used or purchased on Amazon using Prime.

Almost immediately we had a problem.  After my purchase, the download links didn't automatically come.  I thought it was possible that WinterPromise manually pushed through .pdf files but after a couple of days of not hearing anything, and not seeing anything in my inbox, I gave them a call.  They were friendly, they weren't sure why I hadn't received my download links but we got it all worked out...they sent them again, it worked. 

I downloaded my files and took them to Staples to have them spiral bound.  WinterPromise has a special agreement with Staples and you can have your stuff printed and bound at a significantly discounted rate.  It worked like a CHARM.  I had no trouble with that at all...

As for our first week, today we completed Week 1, Day 3.  There was a lot of set up that went into our first week and some of it was a little frazzling...  I think this is true with any new curricula you buy, getting through that first week fog.

Because we are studying animals we set up an Animal Height Chart.  We will be comparing different sizes of animals and putting small colorful animal stickers on as we go.  The height chart was pretty darn tall...

much, much, much, taller than our ceilings.

WinterPromise has the children keep a very large notebook.  We've gotten started with these, so far taking notes that involve animal observations and setting up an Adventure Kit to help us as we study animals and nature this year.    So far Kayley is loving it.  But she adores animals, bugs and dirt.

You had a choice of 2 notebooks. 

One book is for kids ages Prek-K and the other is for ages 1-4th.  I bought 1 of each since I had kids in each age range.  These were $40.00 each for the .pdf download and I'm here to tell you that the difference between the two notebooks is minimal.  I'd honestly save yourself $40 and buy one or the other and then just tweek the very few pages that you need to tweak.  And-- to be even more honest, the first several pages I have used of the notebook are over my Prek'er's head.  She can't read and she can't take notes like the notebook is asking her to anyway...

The journals also asked the kids to go outside and make observations, which would've been great but it was a gazillion degrees outside and there were wasps, bees, sweat bees and we just couldn't take it!

Some other books we have used this week is the DK Encyclopedia of Animals and The World of Animals.  Both of these books are great.  The DK is recommended for 1st-4th and the World of Animals is for all.  Maggie enjoys looking at the pictures in the DK guide too, it is a really awesome book.

They also schedule a devotional book for the 1st-4th graders called Glow in the Dark Fish...  We've only done 1 devotional so far (I'm not sure why they only schedule 1 each week?) but it was really interesting teaching us about the Fibonacci sequence and how it points to a creator.

 It even went so far as to having Kayley calculate the next 3 numbers in the Fibonacci sequence.  Cool huh?

Maggie's devotional book is a different story...  WinterPromise schedules the Big Book of Five-Minute Devotions....  but, looky here--  See that picture below?  This is the book listed on the website...  so that is what I bought.  When trying to turn to the appropriate page today guess what I discovered...  I bought the wrong book.  The picture is of Five-Minute Devotions...the Title listed below is for the Big Book of Five-Minute Devotions!

So, guess which one I bought?   The wrong one, the one in the picture instead of the one listed in the title...  Of course.  Yeah, that was confusing and I'm a little annoyed by that.  So, I ordered the correct book today and I should probably tell WinterPromise that they have the wrong picture for the title of the book they are using.  And Maggie didn't get to read her devotional today.  She'll get to read it when it comes in from Amazon...

So, where was I?

The schedule is set up very Sonlight-ish, using a grid format...
Here is a sample of Week 1.  The scheduling pages are 2 pages long.  The first page shows you all the reading that you (the teacher) will be shuffling the kids through.  The 2nd page shows you all the material that the 1st-4th graders have on their Independent Schedule and that the PreK-Ker's have (although theirs is "guided").  This is one feature we really like about this program is the independent study schedule!  (I put an example 3 pictures down).  I made a copy for Kayley so she could have it to mark off her own assignments...  She LOVES that part!

The schedule is a little bit hard for me to follow still.  I haven't quite figured out what order I should do which reading assignments and the kids get all distressed when I tell them to turn in their journals to page 6 when they haven't completed page 5 yet (which is listed on the independent schedule).  Then today we were a little frustrated because the schedule says to do a "habitat page."  I couldn't find a "habitat page" and the scheduled reading about "habitats" doesn't even happen until tomorrow?    And technically only for my 3rd grader so I'm not sure how my Preker would know much about habitats at all?  I also couldn't find any instructions that tell you what to do for this habitat page?  I had the kids put it off until tomorrow since we weren't doing the reading until then anyway - then maybe I can figure out what we are doing.

I also noticed tomorrow too that they have you look at the website "Biomes of the World" and I've yet to figure out what website is since I can't find a link or web address for it? 

Now every curriculum comes with a learning curve and this is just our first week.  I'm sincerely hoping things fall into place as we get into week 2.    I was more than a little frazzled today trying to find what I need for a curriculum that is supposed to be "open and go" and the major downside is while I'm trying to find what we need my kids are wandering away!  

I will have to get back at some other point to give an update to this curriculum and what we are thinking of it.  Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Kayley's Baptism

Kayley's Baptism was amazing!   There were a lot of things that went into play and I was so grateful that everything fell into place.  We had a lot of company including Gram, Aunt Mary, and Kayley's birth mom Kristyn (with her family!)  Here are some pictures!  Thanks so much to my bestie Christina for snapping these awesome pics!

Here are a few that I managed to snap, but I admit that I didn't take nearly as many as I wished.  I hope that my Sisinlaw, Mary, will bail me out because I know she took way more than I did!  Hint hint!!

 Kayley's little half-sister Autumn.   
She was SO ridiculously cute.  
It was like Kayley's mini-me!

Krystin brought some fun art projects for the kids to do...

People thought we were crazy for bringing Kayley's birth family out for her baptism but it was really quite amazing and I'm not kidding when I say everything went just fine.  It really did!  :)

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