Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Homeschool Update #3

{Beyond Little Hearts Unit 21, Little Hearts Unit 4, Little Hands Unit 3 & 4}

We’re now doing 4 days per week of Heart of Dakota and one day of our homeschool co-op.  We’ve had three co-ops so far, and we are really enjoying our current semester!  It’s such a WONDERFUL group of moms and kids!

Alex is taking:
History Through Music, Solar System, Foods & Nutrition, Gym

Max is taking: Sign Language, Solar System, Foods & Nutrition, Gym

I asked them separately, and they chose almost exactly the same schedule!  They are LOVING their foods and nutrition class!  The teacher lives on a farm, and she brings fruits and veggies from the farm each week.  They’ve done a tomato taste test, talked about the vitamins and minerals in different produce items, learned about ‘eating the rainbow’ each day, made a rainbow fruit salad, and made a rainbow salsa with homemade cinnamon tortilla chips.  The kids are doing the slicing and measuring with guidance from the teacher, and they are truly enjoying themselves!

Jensyn is in the preschool class, where they sing songs, do a Five In A Row story and character lesson, do a craft, have gym class, and do a show and tell/activity hour all based on the weekly theme.  Here’s Jensyn with a few of her preschool friends after we made a fruit salad together on “Fruit of the Spirit” day.

I’m in a mom’s prayer group, helping in a jr. high/high school archaeology class, teaching a Fun In The Fifty States class, and leading the preschool show & tell/activity hour.  (Here are the ‘big kids’ in the hands-on archaeology class.  They’re using crushed berries to make paint.)

We also had a homeschool day at our local library this month.  It’s a new program they are hoping to get going.  The theme this month was architecture.  They built Jenga towers, read a fictional book about building bridges, and made structures with toothpicks and marshmallows.  My kids all had a great time!  (Jensyn was here, too – somehow I didn’t get a picture of her!)

Max with his friend Xander (who is also a part of our co-op)….


We also had a fun field trip to an apple orchard with our co-op friends!

Now, on to the ‘meat’ of our homeschool…

(Alex, age 7)

As you can see, we haven’t made a whole lot of progress through the guide since the last update.  In 13 school days (including 3 co-op days and a field trip, so 9 days at home), we’ve done only one unit in Beyond.  Whoops!  We’ve been working on getting Alex settled into a good routine in some other areas, so we’ve made slower progress than we normally would.  It’s all right – I don’t mind, as long as he’s learning.  We can stretch this guide a little longer if needed.

Teaching Textbook seems to be a great fit!  We finished Singapore 1B, and Alex has completed eight or nine lessons in TT3. He is excited to do math again! 


He is struggling with two-digit odd and even numbers, so we’re going to take a day or two to work on this before moving ahead.  Other than that, he has done VERY well with Teaching Textbooks 3!  (Below, he’s working on an odd/even color by number that I printed online. We’re gonna master odds & evens with a little fun!!)


Spelling.  This boy.  He is an excellent speller.  It seems like this just comes to him naturally, and though he isn’t perfect (who is?!), he seldom struggles with a spelling word.  HOD spelling is a perfect fit for him – it’s simple and quick!  I’d always thought I would use All About Spelling with him, and I’d considered continuing Spelling You See (which we reviewed last year), but I just don’t see the need to complicate things since he is doing so well. 

DSCN4645Growing With Grammar – Beyond’s grammar program just wasn’t enough to help the grammar concepts stick in Alex’s head.  I bought Rod & Staff 2, but it seemed like it wouldn’t be the right fit for Alex at this point.  I kept coming back to Growing With Grammar, and it has really been a good choice.  Alex enjoys it, and he is doing well with it.  He’d rather rush, skip over the directions, and end up making mistakes, but when he is encouraged to concentrate, he does excellent work!

We highlight important words in the directions (he LOVES to highlight now!), and this seems to help the directions stick in Alex’s mind.  His ability to write a sentence (with subject/predicate, capital letter, and punctuation) has really grown.  I am thankful to have come across Growing With Grammar!  I have heard it’s repetitive over the years and kids often grow weary of it, but for now, it’s just what Alex needs!


Ahhh, the FUN of science/history lessons!  Alex complains that, as he gets bigger, school is less fun and more work.  He’s jealous of Max and Jensyn’s short, playful lessons. It’s true that math lessons are more challenging, grammar and copywork are harder than handwriting practice, and everything takes a bit longer.  But seriously…look at this stuff…he’s still having lots of fun, active learning projects!

In history, we read about a young French pioneer named Marie.  She and her family were traveling in an Indiana canoe as they relocated to Detroit.  We read of the adventures they experienced along the way, the Indians they met, and the challenges they faced.

One of the projects in Beyond was to make homemade salt dough (measure and mix) and then build a canoe with toothpicks and dough, using a picture in the history book as a model.  Alex LOVED this project, and I love how his canoe turned out!  He is very proud of this canoe! 

DSCN4621  DSCN4622

Here is his history book, propped with a pencil box, so he could use the picture as a model.


During this unit, we learned about different types of clouds.  Alex made the clouds out of cotton balls and glued them to a paper chart.  This correlated with our history lesson when Marie and her family were travelling by canoe during a rainstorm.

We also read about Marie spotting a hummingbird.  After this history reading, our science reading was about birds.  Then we filled several containers with different foods (rice, popcorn seeds, colored water, etc) and used a variety of household items as “bird beaks”.  We explored to see which kind of “beak” was best for picking up each kind of food.  This was really neat, and all three kids wanted in on the fun!

DSCN4637 DSCN4638DSCN4639 DSCN4640

Each unit ends with a Bible study on Day 5, rather than a history lesson.  I absolutely LOVE how Heart of Dakota ties in Biblical truths with the history lessons for the week.  This week, we read from Philippians and talked about how the pioneers had to learn to be content with very little. We talked about feeing anxious or worried, and what it means for US to be content.

(Max, age 6)

We are off to a slow, but steady start with All About Reading Level 1!  Here is the much-loved rhyming word ice cream cone project.  Alex loved it several years ago, and now Max enjoyed it just as much!  When he finished, Max colored the ice cream so that each family member could have a cone in their favorite flavor.

DSCN4624 DSCN4625

Here’s Max working on the “Feed The Monster” activity in Lesson 3.  He LOVED feeding the words to the monster!

DSCN4720 DSCN4721DSCN4722 

We’re working through Rod & Staff’s “Going On Eagerly” book.  Max enjoys it, especially the ‘finish the pattern’ pages.  Beginning with the “G” book, each R&S book features a different biome.  Max is not too interested in the arctic facts on each page, but I try to read those to him whenever possible, as they are interesting facts!



My little math whiz is zooming through Singapore Kindergarten book B.  I’m pretty sure he’ll be starting first grade math sometime after Christmas.  Other than the occasional backwards number, he is handling the math with ease!

DSCN4632 DSCN4633

…and sometimes, we are GRUMPY about math…when it’s straight fact practice with no fun!


After reading our Bible story, we had an activity about rain and clouds.  We played with dry cotton balls, wet cotton balls, and a cup of water.  We made heavy clouds and rain.  Max thought this was GREAT fun!


(Jensyn, age 4)

{THIS POST contains links to some of the extra worksheets we find online…}

Somehow, we’ve made more progress with Jensyn than with the boys.  I’m not quite sure how that has happened.  So I’m including pictures of two different units here.  It’s not much, as I somehow didn’t get many pictures of her, but she is thoroughly enjoying her school time with Mommy!

Jensyn LOVES to make playdough.  Because of this, we’re doing the printable playdough mats from 123HomeschoolForMe.  In these pictures, she made a playdough “C” (with a little help from Mama to roll the snake-shape) and is driving a playdough car around the c-shaped race track.


Things Jensyn loves – her Rapunzel playset and her Bible.  This is from an activity related to the story of Abraham and Isaac, in which Jensyn had to hug her Bible and say she loves it more than anything – even a special toy.

DSCN4628 DSCN4630

We talked about how we can’t hide from God.  We tried to hide (camouflage) our names, but we could still find our names.  Here is Jensyn’s ‘camouflaged’ name.  She is very proud of it!

In this picture, Jensyn found and circles (and connected…) all of the D and d letters on the page.
Number Four page to correspond with the activity in the Little Hands guide – Jensyn drew 4 ‘ladies’ and traced the number 4.


Jensyn takes great pride in making these pages PRETTY!  (It’s not schoolwork unless you can find a way to decorate it!)  On this page, she traced the lines, circles the D and d letters, and then colored it pink and purple to make it pretty.

DSCN4708 DSCN4710

And…her counting page.  We drew 5 ladders.  Then I turned to help her brother for a few minutes.  When I turned back, Jensyn had made her page pretty.   In each little box (meant for the numbers), Jensyn had drawn a purple heart filled in with pink.  We wrote the numbers inside the pink hearts.

DSCN4712 DSCN4713

And last of all…she INSISTED she needed more work.  So I gave her this page…color the uppercase Ds pink and the lowercase ds purple.  She was all excited, but then she started to pout and say that her hand hurt.  I told her she’d done enough, and she was welcome to be finished.  Instead, she INSISTED on staying at the table and completing the page…with a pout on her face.  Silly girly!


Friday, August 28, 2015

Homeschool With HOD Update #2

{Beyond Little Hearts Unit 20, Little Hearts Unit 3, Little Hands Unit 2}

We’ve managed to fit in 12 days for the month of August, which is exactly what I’d hoped to accomplish!  Hooray! These 12 days leave us with a little wiggle room throughout the school year for vacation days, sick days, and ‘I just can’t do it today’ days.

We’ll start with the fun…a local homeschool mom is offering leveled art classes for K – 12th graders at one of our area libraries.  My boys are enrolled in the K – 2nd grade class, and they had their first lesson last week.  What a NEAT class!  They came out with smiles on their faces and fun projects in their hands.

For this first lesson, they learned about the color wheel and mixing primary colors to create secondary colors.  They made these cute little mice.  (The teacher said she gets many of her ideas from Pinterest.  I was able to find the lesson here.)


Jensyn and I spent the time reading books and hanging out with other homeschool friends who were waiting on their children.  But so I don’t leave her out, here’s one of her recent drawings of a group of princesses:


And a little more fun – this little guy turned SIX this week! 
Happy birthday, Max!


Moving on to actual school work…

(Jensyn, age 4)

We read the story of Noah’s Ark this week, so for her counting page, Jensyn (with Mommy’s help) drew raindrops.  I wrote the numbers lightly in pencil as she counted, and then she traced them.  She’s doing really well with counting and numbers, so we may start to do two per box and practice counting by 2s in a few weeks.

(Please judge her hair by this picture, not the remaining uncombed-hair pictures in this post, ha ha!!)


Unit 2’s letter is made out of dried beans.  She LOVES gluing and decorating her letter!

Coloring uppercase and lowercase Bs.  She insists on using pink and purple, rather than the colors suggested in the directions.  I love my girly-girl!


She’s attempting to make Bs in the salt box.  The curved lines gave her some trouble, so I’m glad our handwriting practice is very large and tactile at this point!


For Unit 2, we practice the number 2.  (Makes sense, right?!)  We traced her TWO hands and traced the number two.  I’m teaching her the Rod & Staff preschool rhymes to remember number formation, so we talked about “Around and back on the railroad track”.


We read about the Tower of Babel, and then we made our own block towers.  We started with just a random tower, and then we moved on to a two-color pattern.  She thought that was easy-peasy, so we tried a three-color pattern.  She had no trouble with that, either!  She LOVED LOVED LOVED tower building!  None of these pictures are posed – she had the BIGGEST grins as we worked on our towers together!


Coloring all the Bs and bs later in the week…

Making a playdough B and a butterfly
(Playdough mat is from 123HomeschoolForMe.)

(Max, age 6)

I am blessed that Max is the type who wants to get his work done!  He understands that the more quickly he completes his work, the sooner he gets to go play.  He does his work, he does it thoroughly, and then he’s off to do his own thing. 

Each day, he starts by getting quick instructions from me and then completing his handwriting, fine motor skills, and math.  I’m there if he needs help, but he’s really quite independent with these tasks!  (Yes, we are doing handwriting AND fine motor skills every day, even though the Little Hearts guide has you alternating days.  He LOVES his fine motor skills workbooks and wants to do them every day, *I* want him to have daily handwriting practice, and he’s an older kindergartener, so he is handling it just fine!)

DSCN4511 DSCN4495

This week, we had a “Smelling Test”.  The kids though that was hilarious when compared with Alex’s spelling tests!  I sent Max out of the room, randomly picked some ‘smelly’ kitchen items, and soaked a cotton ball with each item.  We used lemon juice, vanilla extract, peppermint extract, and maple flavoring.

I lined up the bottles (NOT in the same order as the cotton balls), read the labels to Max, and had him smell each bottle.  Then I asked him to smell each cotton ball, matching it with the correct bottle.  He had great fun, and he matched up the items perfectly!


The rest of the family got in on the fun, too.  Alex did it blindfolded.  Daddy, who was working from home, did it with his eyes closed.  Max tested me with my eyes closed, as well.  I love how homeschooling allows us to have fun TOGETHER with science lessons!


Max is LOVING Reddy Fox!  I know that some families complain that the Burgess books are outdated or boring, but this is our second time through Little Hearts and our second time truly enjoying these books!  The daily readings are brief, and they keep my children wanting to hear more the next day! 

In this picture, Max is completing his Reddy Fox ‘writing assignment’.  It’s just filling words in to two blanks in a sentence.  (Jensyn is torturing her big brothers by hammering on an upside-down plastic bowl, and Alex is attempting to do his copywork.  Real life.  It’s interesting!)


A few more pictures of handwriting and fine motor skills work…


(Alex, age 7)

Alex is soooo jealous that the littler ones get to have more fun than he does.  I keep reminding him that he once did those fun things, and when the younger kiddos are 7, they will be doing the same work as Alex is.  Getting big is no fun, is it, Alex?

I debated telling this, as I don’t think it’s right to embarrass my child in a blog post.  But the truth is, sharing this will share WHY we love Heart of Dakota so very much and HOW God is using HOD to touch our children’s hearts! 

I lost it on the first day of this unit.  LOST IT.  Alex was, yet again, stubbornly sitting at the table refusing to do his work.  He says that grown ups love work, and kids love play, and he shouldn’t have to do hard work since he’s not a grown-up.  We’ve had more than a few battles in our first few weeks of school, and he’s spent ALL DAY sitting at the table a few times until he gives in and does his work.  He’s lost video games, snacks, and other fun activities because he doesn’t want to work. 

I’d HAD ENOUGH that morning.  In the 20 minutes that I worked with Jensyn, he had broken several pencils, hung upside-down from his chair, and messed with everything he could reach.  He hadn’t written one work on his paper yet. Finally, I yelled.  I *YELLED*.  I reminded him yet again that nobody flips a switch when you turn 18, making you suddenly love to work.  I told him that he had to DEVELOP the WILLPOWER to do the work and do it well, whether he liked it or not.  I am ashamed to say that I yelled until my little boy was in TEARS.  I apologized, we snuggled for a long time, and then we tried to get down to business.

I opened his Beyond guide to start the new week of lessons, and we looked at his Bible verse and poem for the week.  Talk about a verse that hits home!!! 

Proverbs 12:24 – “Diligent hands will rule, but laziness ends in slave labor.”

Then, we read our poem for the week – “Against Idleness and Mischief” (click on the poem title to read it).  Wow. God knew when I’d hit my breaking point.  God knew what my son needed to hear on that day.  And guess what?  Alex had a MUCH better week than he has had so far this year.  Though not perfect (which I don’t expect), he has worked much more diligently!

For the record, Alex DOES still get to have a little fun along with his school.  (He’s just not building block towers or using playdough on an everyday basis.)  In this picture, he was doing an activity to help him review his memory verse.


And in this picture, we were learning about dusk by using a flashlight as the sun and a ball as the earth.  It’s a lousy picture, I know…but I wanted proof that he has FUN with his schoolwork at least a few times each week! Winking smile


The sad truth, though, is that second graders spend more time doing things like this:

math workbook (LOVE the face, ha ha!)


poetry copywork – helps with handwriting, punctuation, grammar, and memorizing the poem

spelling word practice

This week, Alex finished his Singapore 1B math book.  Hallelujah, as it’s been the cause of a lot of frustration for Alex.  I really love Singapore, but I think it’s not the approach that Alex needs.  We have Singapore 2A if we choose to use it, but Alex would like to try Teaching Textbooks 3 for a while to see how that goes.  (Since Singapore is a bit more advanced than other math programs, and TT is considered a little behind other programs, it’s a good place to jump in.)  So next week, Alex will begin doing math on the computer with TT.

He is up to lesson 11 in Growing With Grammar 2.  I am liking this a lot, and Alex is, too.  We use markers to highlight important words in the teaching paragraph at the top of the page, and then he has to do the writing to complete the page.  I think the more writing/less oral approach is helping things to stick in his head.  Right now, he’s working on subjects, predicates, and parts of a sentence.

Alex really is a very bright boy! I try not to push him too hard, as I know he is struggling to learn diligence now, and he may shut down again if he finds the workload too tough.  I try to compliment and encourage him whenever possible.  I hope we’re finding the right mix of hard work and fun!  It’s so difficult to know, but I feel like he is doing well and learning a lot!  We will continue to pray for diligence and a good attitude, for patience and wisdom for me, and that this will be a GREAT year!

Disclosure: This post may contain Amazon affiliate links.  By purchasing through these links, you are not paying any extra, but you are blessing our family with a very small percentage of your purchase.  Thank you for supporting Our Little Monkeys!