Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Write with the Best and other EDUDPS Products (TOS Review)

See the end of this review for links and current discounts.

When I heard that we were going to be reviewing products by something called Educational Diagnostic Prescriptive Services, I had no idea that they would include a writing curriculum by a homeschooling mom (Jill Dixon) who refers to Charlotte Mason and the "love of learning," as well as a careers-awareness guide and a vocabulary program.

EDUDPS does sell assessment and remedial products such as The Concise Learning Styles Assessment / POC4U, The Homeschooler's Guide to Learning Problems / The Homeschooler's Guide for Attentional Difficulties, The Diagnostic Prescriptive Assessment - K through 5th Grades, and The Total Language Diagnostic Assessment / The Diagnostic Grade Placement Screening. However, the three books that were sent to the Review Crew (actually four, since Write with the Best comes in two levels) are meant for general rather than remedial use, and are written particularly for homeschoolers.

EDUDPS boasts that its writing curriculum contains "8 Things Every Home School Mom and/or Writing Teacher is looking for in a Writing Curriculum" including "ease of use, activities that spark interest in reluctant and inexperienced writers, and thoroughness in teaching how to write every genre and not just one such as only descriptive paragraphs or essays." Volume 1 is labelled for grades 3-12, and Volume 2 (emphasizing expository writing) is for grades 6-12. Those familiar with Ruth Beechick's writing lessons and her references to Jack London's and Benjamin Franklin's self-teaching methods (modelling writing on good writers) will find this familiar ground, and yes, this sort of curriculum could be presented to students of different ages without too many changes. It's somewhat like the drawing curriculum we're using that teaches the elements of art--only these are the elements of writing. How does a good writer or artist keep your attention, make you believe, make you forget that you're only looking at globs of paint or words on a piece of paper? Younger students will have different results than more experienced writers, but both can benefit. (A warning, though, that the suggested passages start with Jules Verne and continue with Dickens, O. Henry and so on, with a reading level that may be difficult for elementary students.)

Is a composition or creative writing curriculum needed in a CM education? No, not necessarily. Regular readers of our blog know that most writing programs (especially anything involving cinquains or haiku) make me shudder. We've always taught mostly by the "osmosis" (read lots of books) method, with some attention to literary elements, essay format etc. just before high school. However, this program seemed to match up well with our middle-school student (only Ponytails is using this book), and our reading and writing interests. After I had checked out the free downloads on these products, which are quite generous, I was looking forward to getting the full e-books.

I have one word of advice based on our experience at that point, and it will probably be echoed in other TOS reviews: the e-book versions of these books, although the prices are attractive, are difficult to download, difficult to handle, and difficult to print. The explanation for this situation is given on the website, and while we're sympathetic to the problems that caused the company's decision to go with an unusual format, it doesn't make it easy for the customers. For instance, you can't print out individual pages (although many of the lessons expect you to mark or circle words in a literary passage; you have permission to photocopy those pages). You have to print all 109 pages of Volume 1, with all the answer keys, additional literary passages, and "how to write guides." You might be better off ordering this book (and the others, all in the same format) pre-printed. (Canadian and other foreign purchasers need to check the website for shipping details.)

So, now that we've gotten over that hassle--two of the books printed, and our school year underway, what should we say about Write with the Best and Roots and Fruits? Are they worthwhile? Are they more than you could probably figure out yourself? Do students enjoy them? Do they become better writers? Well, I can't answer most of those questions yet. So far Ponytails has completed only one lesson of Write with the Best (we're taking a week off to do a mini-course on "Writing without Flab"). It took her a couple of weeks, during which time she read a descriptive passage from Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, marked verbs, nouns etc. in the passage, was sent off to find a similar passage in one of our books, studied and wrote that one from dictation, read a rather dry description of yer old standard topic-sentence paragraph, and then wrote a descriptive paragraph of her own. Which I was quite pleased with...I had asked her please not to write a boring "This is about my hamster. My hamster is cute and fluffy" paragraph, so she wrote a more original description of Snowball.

There isn't a big learning curve required for a parent to use this curriculum--it's pretty much open-the-book-and-teach, with activities labelled Monday to Friday for each two-week unit. (You can go faster or slower if you want.) Sometimes we read through a lesson together, and sometimes Ponytails works on her own. The parts-of-speech exercises may make you think that it's a grammar curriculum as much as a writing one; but we're not diagramming sentences here, we're looking at how writers use words effectively. I try to emphasize that during lessons.

We've also started using Roots and Fruits, with both girls. "Vocabulary made easy! Greek and Latin based vocabulary curriculum with a unique and effective approach." I don't know if I agree that R&F is a unique approach--I mean, how many approaches can there be to learning Greek and Latin roots or prefixes? But it's probably as good as other similar programs, and the price seems reasonable. You could make up root lists on your own, but this does save you the trouble and puts it all in one book.

The book is mostly made up of lists of those prefixes (with some marked as most appropriate for younger children, others marked for their frequency on tests such as the S.A.T.), their meanings, and sample vocabulary words, plus some suggestions for scheduling and for practice and review games. You write roots on file cards, post word lists on the wall, look up meanings in the dictionary, play concentration-type games, and make up "goofy sentences" with the vocabulary words. Again, you can make this more or less complex according to the age of the students.

The one book I was somewhat disappointed in was The Complete Career, College, and High School Guide for Homeschoolers. "Now you are in control! Get final answers, discover your student's best career, and focus your plan and career goals as early as Middle School. This guide has everything you need!" I didn't find this book particularly engaging, although it tries to cover a lot of ground. It has a work preference survey (pretty obvious questions, such as asking if you would enjoy driving a delivery truck or managing a toy store); personality profile questions; SAT advice; career planning forms; things to consider for Christian men (who expect to be supporting a family) and Christian women (who expect to be having a family--there are special lists of stay-at-home jobs and part-time jobs); high school requirements and accreditation information for homeschoolers; and then job descriptions of "Popular Careers/College Majors for Homeschoolers." The mix here of college majors with actual careers is strange: we have "Nursing" followed by "Philosophy" and "Political Science." There are many, many things you could do for a living that don't even appear on these lists: our daughter is apprenticing as a hairstylist, but beauty, hairstyling, cosmetology and aesthetics are not mentioned. The trades in general seem to be given short shrift, and that's too bad.

Again, if all this is new to you, and you want the information all in one place; or if your high schooler is required to take a Careers course and you'd like a Christian, homeschool-friendly approach, you might find this worthwhile. Otherwise I think you're just as far ahead to do your own investigating.

Here are the prices (on sale for 25% off right now):

Write with the Best, Volume 1
E-book on sale a limited time for $14.95 (regular $19.95)
Printed Pages Only - No Binder $22.45
3-Ring Binder $24.95

Write with the Best, Volume 2
E-book on sale a limited time for $18.65 (Regularly $24.95)
Pages Only - No Binder $27.45
3-Ring Binder $29.95

Roots and Fruits (Vocabulary Curriculum)
E-book on sale a limited time for $11.25 (Regularly $14.98)
Pages Only - No Binding: $17.48
Comb-binding: $19.98

The Complete Career, College and High School Guide for Homeschoolers
E-book on sale a limited time for $26.20 (Regularly $34.95)
Soft-cover: $39.95

For other reviews of this product, see the Old Schoolhouse Review Crew website.

Dewey's Disclaimer: These products were received free for review purposes. No other payment was made.

Food Court Musical: Laugh for the Day

Please note there are one or two lines in this song that may offend some viewers. Sorry about that.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Mrs. Black Thumb gives it another go

I found a Chia Terra Cotta Gourmet Herb Garden at a yard sale on the weekend, new in the box, still shrink-wrapped.

What you have to know is that I have not EVER...that I remember...had a long-term successful house plant. Floral, vegetable, whatever. I like our outside garden because mostly it just grows...if we have a drought I pour some water on it, and we do add compost, but that stuff's pretty hard to kill unless you get blossom end rot or slugs or...okay, we've had a few failures there too.

But house herbs with Chia sponges?

Well, we'll give it a shot.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

What's for Supper? Chef Earl's Soup

We've posted the link to Potage Paysanne before and also blogged about it. It's the perfect soup for a fall day after you've been to the vegetable stand.

(However, I've learned by bad experience not to give turnip scraps to the hamster...he likes munching them, but the atmosphere afterwards is not pleasant. Is that more information than you really needed?)

Vote for the winner in the Complete Lack of Taste Contest

We have some contestants from today's Yard Sale can cast your votes for them in the comments section, or add your own write-ins.

1. A ceramic dish shaped like a flip-flop sandal

2. A horoscope plaque decorated with Hummel children

3. A Conestoga wagon model that must have weighed at least ten pounds and would have taken up most of a table. Nothing against model making, but what would you do with it? As far as I could see it wasn't wired for a lamp--that would have made it a clear winner.

Friday, September 25, 2009

What did Mama Squirrel do today?

In no particular order...

1. Covered seven crochet hooks with masking tape and foam pencil grips (which we had sitting around doing nothing). Free comfort hooks! (This is where I found the directions, but I saw it here first , and I think I might have linked there from Frugal Hacks.)

2. Found out what lizards eat.

3. Taught fourteen homeschoolers how to make sock critters.

4. Made my Squirrelings laugh hysterically at my attempts to hop along with the Spacewalk exercise. (Don't ask.)

5. Read a chapter of Lassie-Come-Home, two Blake poems, and part of a Mr. Pipes chapter. (That was a very low-reading day.)

6. Watched Ponytails inflate a marshmallow in the microwave.

7. Took two Squirrelings out for a quick and rather cold Outdoor Challenge in the backyard.

8. Watched a very beautiful sunset out the back window.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Nutrition 101: Choose Life! (TOS Review)

Growing Healthy Homes homepage

U.S. Prices:
CD-ROM version, $79.95 (good if you want to make multiple copies of some pages)
Book version, $99.95 (no need to bother printing things out)
Combo (book and CD-ROM), $129.95

If you climb up here regularly, you'll have noticed that I mentioned Growing Healthy Homes's book Nutrition 101: Choose Life!: A Family Nutrition and Health Program as one of the resources we're using this fall. This is a big, ambitious book, co-authored by "homeschool mother Debra Raybern, N.D., M.H., C.N.C., I.C.A.; homeschool mother and researcher Sera Johnson, B.MU; mother and writer/editor Laura Hopkins, B.S.; and mother, grandmother and former Home Economics teacher Karen Hopkins, B.S."

From the website:

Nutrition 101: Choose Life! is a three-in-one family nutrition and health program for all ages that presents the major body systems, how they function, their common health issues, the benefits of good food and the consequences of bad food. Its 448 pages include into six units: 1) The Brain and Nervous System; 2) Digestion and Elimination; 3) Respiration and Olfactory; 4) Muscular and Skeletal Systems; 5) Cardiovascular and Immune Systems; and 6) Endocrine System and Emotions. Biblically based and packed with hands-on activities, science and art projects and nearly 80 family-friendly recipes, this program teaches and reinforces the why’s of what we should eat, not just “because I said so.” Containing a complete reference guide filled with nutrition facts, charts, practical tips and an exhaustive index, Nutrition 101: Choose Life! will serve as a constant resource for improved health and abundant living.
What I like about this program: it combines a logical progression of anatomy topics with practical activities, nutrition information, research projects (divided into elementary and high school levels), and shopping and cooking projects using specific ingredients discussed in the week's chapter. We're up to Chapter 3, working on the nervous system, and this week's recipe is for a potato salad that uses flax seed oil in the dressing--trying to get those Omega-3's in there.

We printed it out as tightly and economically as we could (black and white, two pages to a sheet), and it still fills a big binder. And this book is not only big, it's thorough, and quite current in its approach to health and nutrition issues (including the question of whose food groups you follow). My sister-in-law, a nutrition consultant, looked at it and said she thought it would be pretty heavy going for most kids. There are whole pages devoted just to different kinds of amino acids.

So if there's a downside to the book, aside from the price, it would be this: it's too packed. Family-friendly as it first appears, you probably can't just open it up and teach from it. If you're used to the chatty style used by many homeschool science and geography writers--a story or analogy, something to introduce the lesson in a very kid-friendly way, and then narration prompts and activities--you may find this book as frustrating as the Miquon Math teacher's manual. The concepts are there, and the activities, but you're going to have to figure out yourself how you want to teach them. (Reminds me a bit of our VBS experience this summer.) There is a basic schedule suggested--starting a new lesson a couple of days before you go shopping, doing the first set of activities, then doing the cooking activity, the recipe-related questions and activities, and any followup discussion (possibly over a family meal) on subsequent days. But where you start that new lesson can be puzzling.

For instance, chapter 3 begins with a Bible verse and then this:

"Like other systems in the body, the nervous system is composed of organs, principally the brain, spinal cord and a huge network of threadlike nerves. Together with the endocrine system, which we will learn more about in Unit 6, the nervous system is responsible for regulating and maintaining homeostasis--a normal state of the body."

Then we get into the various function of neurons (sensory, integrative, motor), the glial cells, the parts of the nervous system and what they do, what reflexes are, and the "fun fact" that "because nerves connect the spine to all body parts and end at the hands and feet, massage and reflexology are very effective in alternative healthcare."


Honestly, Crayons (elementary) and even Ponytails (middle school) aren't going to get a great deal out of that.

The discussion questions for that unit are also pretty heavy. "Name some receptor organs." "Name some effector organs."

But the Activities section--there's where we get into tapping knees for reflexes, drawing the nervous system, putting ice in our hands, tickling people with feathers--the fun, hands-on stuff. When I went to one of the "Additional Resources" websites at the end of the chapter, I found a whole kid-friendly article to print out about the brain and nervous system, along with a brain diagram to label. That's what I was looking for in the first place, something to read through rather than just a list of functions. So I printed that out, along with this week's recipe (that we'll make on the weekend after we go shopping) and the list of feather-and-ice activities, and that will be our lesson today. But I had to go looking for that material outside the book, and then print it out in addition to the chapter we already printed; and that's more work than some people would expect to put in after they'd already spent the money on the textbook.

As I said, I like the overall concept very much. Too much of the way we often teach about the body is disconnected from the nutrients that make it function, and how we choose and prepare those nutrients. But with all that information, all those charts and lists and appendices, it's somewhat overwhelming and, as I said, it's not always obvious how to use it most effectively. If you like designing your own lessons, you'll be glad to have all this information at hand. But if you're looking for a step-by-step curriculum, you may find yourself feeling a bit lost. Like taking your kids to a big fair, it's probably best to zoom in on a couple of rides and exhibits, and let the rest go. In chapter 2, we focused mostly on the list of "good brain foods," and didn't worry about the ratio of Omega-3's to Omega-6's. Instead of preparing a Greek salad (which, like the guacamole in Chapter 1, had too many things in it my family wouldn't eat), I adapted one of the high school challenges and had the kids come up with their own salad ideas using the list of "brain foods."

The good ideas are in there, and there are lots of them--but it can take a bit of time to dig them out and make them work for our family. We'll continue to use this through the year, so watch for updates as we go on.

(If you buy the book and want to use it with a co-op group, the other families will need permission to use it with you--see the website for details.)

For other reviews of this product, see the Old Schoolhouse Review Crew website.

Dewey's Disclaimer: This product was received free for review purposes. No other payment was made.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

What I'm reading: Jacques Barzun

Begin Here: The Forgotten Conditions of Teaching and Learning, by Jacques Barzun.

Krakovianka posted this on Jacques Barzun's 100th birthday, but I'd put it to the back of my mind until I picked up this book at the library.

So far this is very good stuff.
Take one familiar fact: everybody keeps calling for Excellence--excellence not just in schooling, throughout society. But as soon as somebody or something stands out as Excellent, the other shout goes up: "Elitism!" And whatever produced that thing, whoever praises that result, is promptly put down. "Standing out" is undemocratic.--page 3
And this echoes Charlotte Mason:
The result for them is that learning, homework, teachers, tests, grades, standards, promotion form a great maze--mostly make-believe--that they have to stumble through in order to be let go at last and, thanks to a piece of paper, get a job.

Of course, some go on to college--as many as 58.9% of high school graduates in 1988 were in college or on the point of entering. But with some exceptions, their experience there will not differ greatly. So-called higher education repeats the lower in form and substance: the sole aim is "to qualify."
And one more:
....educationists have persuaded the world that teaching is a set of complex problems to be solved. It is no such thing. It is a series of difficulties. They recur endlessly and have to be met; there is no solution--which means also that there is no mystery. Teaching is an art, and an art, though it has a variety of practical devices to choose from, cannot be reduced to a science.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

An on-the-wall idea

I always enjoy reading about Molytail's very creative homeschooling ideas. Here's what she and her son are doing for Astronomy.

(We use lots of Stick Tac too.)

Thursday, September 17, 2009

We return to Little Men in My Library

Homeschooling fun and work in Australia. Go visit, these are great posts!

Just Another Day of Fun
A review of our Fun / Work Day system
A very interesting post about socialization and missing dining room tables

The return of Simple Times

Debi is going to be reviving the Simple Times newsletter--always a good place to learn more frugal stuff! More on her blog.

Now we just need to see Magnanimity running again, and life would be almost perfect?

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

What's CM About?

Browsing around old Charlotte Mason links, I came across this lovely description by longtime CMer Jody Courtney. Have a look around the rest of her website, too--there's lots of homemaking and homeschooling help. Good booklists too.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

What is Mama Squirrel reading?

Jayber Crow, by Wendell Berry.

Okay, so I'm behind everybody else, it took me awhile to get around to reading this one...but I do like it so far.

Now is this total educational heresy?

Joanne Jacobs links to a Washington Post article questioning the validity of having teachers teach to all the different learning styles.

Those of us who have never figured out our learning styles can now breathe a sigh of relief.

What is this reptile project that Crayons is doing?

It's a lapbook.

Small "agh." In the back of the throat.

It's not our usual method of learning or reviewing information, but we were asked to try out a printable lapbook this fall as one of the Review Crew assignments. There was a choice of about five topics, and since Crayons actually is interested in reptiles, we chose that one for her to work on during Ponytails' afternoon "with Mom" time.

Never let it be said that I'm totally closed-minded.

What's in the workboxes?

Monday was a very long school day. I'm not sure if it was from dawdling or if I just overloaded the workboxes. Maybe both. Obviously there's still some fine-tuning to be done here.

So today I purposely filled them "light," and we spent the afternoon at the library and doing a couple of other errands.

Tomorrow (Wednesday) is going to be a heavier work day again, but I added "time cards" to most of the boxes, to give everybody a sense of how long (I think) things should take. We'll see how it goes. I don't add markers for things like breaks and lunch--Squirrelings don't need to be told when those things happen. Also, sometimes we work in some free computer time to check on emails or Webkinz pets, or to look at Ann's How to Feed a Brain Every Day links. One we enjoyed today was the September 14th Last 24 Hours in Pictures, starting with skateboarders in Moscow. This is wonderful! (Small warning: one of the photos in that slideshow is of a crime scene, but it doesn't look too graphic.)

Don't forget we also do Bible, hymns and exercises (usually outdoors) before we get to the workboxes. I've started shifting French to a group time later in the day--I found it dragged things out first thing in the morning.

One activity I've started adding a couple of times a week is a 15-minute visit to our "French library." That's a box of French books and magazines, as well as a set of picture word card puzzles that belong to Ponytails. Some of the resources are ours (we even have some Scholastic Bonjour magazines going back to my own sixth grade French class), but I've topped it up with picture books and CDs from the public library. The idea is not to understand every word, but just to get some exposure to written French, in a fun way.


1. Key to Geometry workbook, and any science assignments from Dad
2. Carmen Sandiego Math Detective
3. History: Abraham Lincoln's World, written/drawn narration
4. Write with the Best (work with Mom)
5. Group time: French
6. Play Perquackey with Mom
7. Readalouds (poems, novel) with Mom and Crayons; Artistic Pursuits lesson
8. Make milkshakes.
9. Read part of Leon Garfield's retelling of King Lear. (and short surprise activity afterward)
10. Work on friendship bracelet
11. Extra reading list
12. Evening math and science work with Dad.


1. Memory poem
2. Miquon math activity
3. Reading with Mom: Blake poems, Lassie-Come-Home (a switch of books, owing to the fact that our copy of Hurry Home Candy turned out to have a whole section of missing pages starting in chapter 3, and the library doesn't have a copy either. That's okay, Crayons has decided that a different dog story is fine).
4. Canadian Handwriting, one page (and a short surprise activity afterwards)
5. French with Ponytails
6. Nature Friend Magazine
7. Reptiles project (independent work)
8. Readaloud and art time with Ponytails
9. What's the Secret? (a CD-Rom she hasn't used yet)
10. Extra reading.

Carnival of Homeschooling #194: Creatures and Critters

Carnival of Homeschooling
Welcome to the 194th Carnival of Homeschooling. Due to the number of critter-related posts we received this week, this week's Carnival is dedicated to the wonderful world of animals.
(This is Snowball, our elderly hamster.)

Some critters are counting up their winter supplies.
Mama Squirrel needs some mathematical advice in Outfoxed?, posted here at Dewey's Treehouse.

NerdMom presents MathStart! posted at Nerd Family Things .

There's a lot of chattering and chirping and tweeting going on.

Adventures in the 100 Acre Wood presents Prelude to a Blog - Review and Giveaway.

Why Homeschool let us know that longtime unschooling supporter Pat Farenga was recently on television talking about unschooling.
(Dewey makes some friends this summer)

Designated Conservative offers an eel-like view of homeschooling, in both short and long varieties. "How many homeschoolers are there anyway? We're a slippery and a private lot, so reliable nationwide numbers are difficult to obtain."

The Frugal Homeschooling Mom presents Why Do I Homeschool? Reason #18 – Just Joining the Crowd.

Corn and Oil presents A Contrast in Attitude- Public Online School and Homeschooling.

Beverly’s Homeschooling Blog ( asks, "Does your family support homeschooling?"

Some of us prefer finding critters in books to finding them in the bathtub.

Although not specifically aimed at homeschoolers, September is National Literacy Month - Free Resources! at Bur Bur & Friends: Community Park offers some interesting reading-related downloads.

Classroom Jr. presents Dr. Seuss Activities and Lesson Plans.

Barbara Frank Online presents Losing Control & Liking It. "A veteran homeschool mom reviews a book she wishes had been published before her kids became teens."

I Want to Teach Forever presents A Dangerous Book for Your Classroom Library.

The Reluctant Homeschooler presents Exploring Social Injustice through Literature "After cramming my high school son full of classics, some not so interesting to read, I've changed my approach. This year he will be reading some little-known books, but they are interesting and impactful, and will take him into worlds of poverty, slavery, and social injustice that most of us are blissfully unaware of. It's a dose of hardship and real life for much of the world's population. And it's eye-opening."
(Snowball says he can almost smell that pizza)
Many homeschoolers specialize in the unusual! Amber presents Another Creepy Crawly -- Chinese Mantis, posted at The Mommy Earth.

Petticoat Government presents Two languages are better than one. "A father who's been speaking German to his homeschooling children since they were born gives a list of reasons--some quite funny if you understand German--why he wants them to be bilingual."

Momma Skyla presents Particle Motion with Preschoolers.

But there are times of quiet and reflection as well.

Special Needs Homeschooling presents The chronically tired parent.

Homeschooler Cafe' presents Teaching a Biblical Worldview. And Pajama School Blog presents God's Ways are Clearly Seen and Understood - or not?

Homeschooling in Kerrville presents 5 Things You Must Teach Your Children.

Our Curious Home presents Some Learning has been going on, but is it what I meant to teach?

Notes From A Homeschooling Mom presents Why I am not against using teachers in homeschooling.

Alasandra's Homeschool Blog discusses the recent Presidential speech to schoolchildren.

Independent Learning and Home Schooling reflects on independent learning and Grandma Moses.

This concludes our Critters and Creatures Carnival of Homeschooling. Next week's carnival will be hosted by Apollos Academy. Thanks to the Cates at Why Homeschool for keeping it all going!

Submit your blog article to the next edition of Carnival of Homeschooling, using our carnival submission form. Past posts and future hosts can be found on the blog carnival index page.

All photos taken by Mr. Fixit and Ponytails. Images copyright 2009 Dewey's Treehouse.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Church Sale Morning

We went to a rummage sale this morning, at one of the churches that always has good annual sales. I picked up a box with a bunch of yarn and stuff in it, filled it up with a few books and other things, and made a reasonable offer at the door. Considering the 32 pairs of knitting needles in there, I think we did very well. Ponytails found a mini stereo, Mr. Fixit found a magazine rack that he's going to spray paint he's already spray painted, and Crayons found a small bag and a couple of mini animals.

(The royalty books aren't for me, they're a gift for a family member.)

Perquackey game
Piece of black Pellon
Assorted pieces of white interfacing and cotton scraps
Large piece of white muslin
One souvenir bandana decorated with a "Tourist Map of National Park Mt. Kyeryong". (Really.)
Two other bandana-size hankies
New package of 5 x 7 Stretch 'n Stitch bars (I had to look those up to see what they were for)
10 feet of braided nylon rope
Half a carton of assorted balls of yarn and crochet cotton
32 pairs of knitting needles
1 circular needle
1 set of 4mm double-pointed needles
A More Fridgies design leaflet
Make the Most of Town & City Gardening
Charles & Diana's First Royal Tour
The Prince & Princess of Wales on Tour in British Columbia, Canada
Diana, Queen of Hearts
Invitation to a Royal Wedding

We also stopped at a yard sale and found some Sculpey, trivia cards, and a picture book all for a dollar.


Friday, September 11, 2009

Extra reading lists

Each of the girls has one workbox designated as "extra reading." I've put three or four books in each one, and they can choose which one to read. Crayons is supposed to read hers for at least 20 minutes a day (although she often goes longer) and Ponytails has a 30-minute reading goal.

Speed-reader Crayons has already finished The Mouse of Amherst, Jungle Doctor's Monkey Tales, and is working on Happy Little Family. I may have a problem keeping her in books that she hasn't already read.

Ponytails is working on Farmer Giles of Ham and is planning on starting A Wrinkle in Time after that. Or maybe My Side of the Mountain. I have always been a bit uncertain about L'Engle's books (for theological reasons), but I thought Ponytails might like this one.

Outfoxed? (A mathematical question)

Yesterday Crayons and I tried playing a game of Fox and Hounds that we saw in Family Fun Magazine. You need a checkerboard, four checkers of one colour and one checker of another. The rules are explained in the link and they seem pretty simple.

Except that...the fox seems to win every time. Crayons was the fox, and I usually let her go first. There seemed to be no way to marshal my hounds to keep her from getting past.

Try it and see if you can come up with a strategy to let the hounds win once in awhile.

Crayons' Math this year (last year of Miquon)

I really think this might be our last, ever, ever year of Miquon. Unless I adopt triplets or homeschool my (future) grandchildren or something...Crayons is in her Purple-and-Yellow year, so that will be it.

I'm trying a bit different system of scheduling Miquon this year, using index cards and a recipe box. I went through the page list for the two workbooks and set up a schedule by week (about half the year per workbook), then wrote each week's scheduled pages on a 3 x 5 card along with specific topics, page references and comments from the Annotations (and comments I'd jotted down from previous children, like "this one was really hard!"). Some weeks have more than one card, if one topic is to be finished and another one started during the same week.

I also went through some of the other math books we have, like Math for Smarty Pants, Family Math, and our 1978 Childcraft Mathemagic book, looking for similar topics, wrote those page references out on more index cards, and slipped them behind the main cards in the box. So when we get to the co-ordinate geometry pages, I have references as well to the Co-ordinate Tic Tac Toe and other games of that sort in Family Math; and when we do perimeter, area and volume, I have extra activities and explanations marked from our books.

Then all we have to do through the year is work through the file box. Even if we get a bit behind, we can just pull out the next card and work on that. This week we spent a couple of days doing the fun stuff in chapter 1 of Mathemagic (like the old story of the man with the boat who has to carry a wolf, a goat and a basket of cabbages), and now we've started the Yellow workbook as well.

Thinking INSIDE the box (Today's school plans)

We are finishing our first week of homeschool.


Overall I like the system that's evolving this school year. A few things are still getting worked out, but the first week seemed to get things off to a good start. We have been getting everything done by mid-afternoon, and people seem to have enough time to play outside too.

What are we doing today?

Together time:

Read the words of "Now With Creation's Morning Song"
Sing one hymn
Read half of the first chapter of Mr. Pipes and Psalms and Hymns of the Reformation
Copy out Psalm 16:1 (we're memorizing Psalm 16)
Short game using vocabulary from The Easy French Lesson 1
Space Walk exercises (outside)



1. Carmen San Diego math CD-Rom
2. Math and science assignments from Dad
3. Handicrafts: 15 minutes to work on friendship bracelet
4. History: Read one section of Abraham Lincoln's World and draw narration (keeping a sort of timeline book)
5. Nutrition 101 (group work)
6. Play the keyboard for fifteen minutes
7. Composition exercise using a Thesaurus
8. Start the Book of Think (work with Mom)
9. Folk songs and reading King Arthur (group work)
10. Drawing with Artistic Pursuits (group work)
11. Extra reading list
12. Evening work time with Dad (math and science)


1. Miquon math with Mom
2. An Island Story (British history)--finish chapter about Henry VIII
3. Spelling City
4. Nutrition (group work)
5. Tall Tales
6. Reptiles project
7. Egg Cetera puzzle game (from Family Pastimes)
8. Artistic Pursuits
9. Sentence writing
10. Extra reading box

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Yes, we're here (and next week's CoH here!)

We're deep in school. Someone asked me last week how I could homeschool and blog at the same time.

Occasionally I can't!

But we'll be back posting within the next day or so. And--we're hosting the Carnival of Homeschooling next Tuesday! So please send us your posts by Monday night!

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

When Dad teaches math

What's Ponytails doing for math this year?

We had a last-minute change of plans when we discovered (last weekend) that our old Math and Music CD-Rom wouldn't work, even on a program that emulates older versions of Windows. We had printed out the workbook and other printed materials from it without trouble, but the multi-media parts of the disc aren't working. Obviously a no-go.

So Ponytails--for the moment--is going to be using Key to Geometry and a thrift-shopped grade 8 textbook (Addison-Wesley Minds on Math 8), along with Quarter Mile Math for drills. We may also try out other math materials as part of the Review Crew, but I don't know what they'll be.

This is a new and different year, that's for sure!

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Snowball the hamster

I've noticed several people clicking on "Snowball" lately.

Yes, he's still here and still furry. But in hamster years he's getting quite ancient (well over two), and he's definitely feeling his age. Even exploring the grass or playing with his "toys" takes more effort than he can really put out.

But thanks for thinking of him. (I'm going to get Ponytails to post a couple of recent photos.)

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

I'm not hyperventilating, no, not me (Scheduling)

School doesn't start here until next week--we're still spinning our summer wheels. Might even get to the beach this week.

So I would really like to have a clear idea what we're doing this fall for school. So would the Squirrelings. I've sent anxious emails here and there asking for help with some of our problems, and I appreciate the advice I've gotten. A lot of the responses I got had to do with CM-not-overdoing-it, but I don't think that is exactly the problem this year, although with all the Review Crew stuff plus workboxes plus juggling two Squirrelings' schedules, it would be easy enough to do. I'm actually happy with what we narrowed it all down to (how's that for dangling prepositions); so in the past few days it's been more a problem of how to fit it together. Including workboxes.

Sue Patrick's Workbox System is on the Review Crew schedule for this year, but we won't be getting the book until sometime in the fall--and I don't even know if ALL of us are supposed to be trying it out. However, on the chance that we were going to be asked to review it, I thought it would be less disruptive to start that way rather than have to change over. I wasn't going to go out and buy twenty-four shoeboxes, but I did overhaul two shelves of a freestanding cabinet, and I found enough magazine holders to give each Squirreling nine "boxes." Not purely Sue Patrick's method, and we haven't gone for the scheduling strips, but at least we did make "completion charts" to go with them.

(If you've been following along this summer, this is all old news. I'm just trying to put it all together.)

And yes, some of the Review Crew products are more CM-friendly than others. We're supposed to try the things out where practical, or at least examine them closely enough to give a decent review. If I wouldn't use this, is there someone out there who uses a different homeschool method and would find this useful? Or someone with a different learning/teaching style? Not everything is suited to CM Squirrels, and that's fine--but still, we have to make room to try out some of these things. I'm excited about using Nutrition 101: Choose Life! as a kind of combination health, anatomy and food class for both the girls. And since Ponytails did ask for some creative writing this year (something for which we've never used any special curriculum), it seemed worthwhile to make Write with the Best part of the fall/winter plan.

Another program, Artistic Pursuits, was offered to last year's Review Crew, but I had to go scrounge up my own. One level for both girls.

And I ended up getting Coffeemamma's copy of The Easy French, to use with both girls. In answer to Jeanne's question, I have never used this program before, but I was looking for something self-contained that would appeal to both our students at once. I'll let you know how that goes.

So for a do-it-yourself kind of homeschool family, we seem to be suddenly loaded down with "do this on Monday Tuesday Wednesday, start a binder, listen to the CD, do this project, review, review." What made Mama Squirrel reach for the brown paper bag was, first, having to figure out how to use all those other people's programs; and second, fitting those things, even broken down into short, CM-friendly lessons, into a week that doesn't feel like a race car out of control. Now that I've gone over most of the pieces, I think it will work out all right, even with the workboxes, because I can ask each Squirreling to do the parts on her own that seem appropriate, and drop in a "work with Mom" card when necessary. Most of the daily instructions are fairly self-explanatory, and a lot of them will repeat from week to week (do dictation every other Friday, etc.).

Plus...and this is a big issue...I wanted to find ways for the three of us to work together when possible. Ponytails doesn't like spending homeschool days being sent off by herself to study, and with her home just this year or possibly one more, I would like to take advantage of this time we have too. It's not always easy to combine students four grades apart, but we're going to intersect wherever it makes sense.


First thing in the morning, we'll do our Bible/Christian studies time, hymns, memory work, about 20 minutes of French, and a physical exercise.

Then workboxes for most of the rest of the morning--math, language, history (and science for Crayons--Ponytails will do her science later with Mr. Fixit).

The last bit of the morning we'll do together--Outdoor Nature challenges, readaloud science biographies (starting with The Ocean of Truth, about Isaac Newton), composer study, and picture study.

After lunch, Ponytails will work with Mom on Grade 7 English (including the creative writing course) and Other Grade 7 Stuff (Money Matters for Teens, Citizenship, Logic; later in the year a Plutarch study which falls under Citizenship). Crayons will finish up her morning workboxes and work on an animal project (something from the Review Crew).

Mid-afternoon, we'll do readalouds together (including Ponytails' literature selections--I chose the ones that Crayons would probably like to hear too), and alternate the Nutrition 101 and Artistic Pursuits lessons. That leaves extra time if an art project goes long. Nutrition will last till about March, and then we'll either leave the time open or do something else during the spring.

They'll each have an extra-reading list, and Ponytails will have some work to do with Mr. Fixit (i.e. science lessons, plus going over her math work and setting assignments to be done during next day's workbox time).

We have this schedule written up on a piece of poster board in the kitchen, along with colour-coded Post-It notes with names of some of the books we're doing. Blue for Ponytails' books, yellow for Crayons', pink for shared.


I made a black-markered grid, 11 by 5 boxes, on a piece of paper, photocopied it twice, and covered each one with an overhead transparency sheet (I got a whole boxful of those at a yard sale). They can now be written on with a dry-erase marker. 11 sections per day, 5 days per week.

Crayons' grid will look something like this (more or less the same each day): Poems to learn, math, history or science, copywork, literature, spelling, work with Ponytails, animal project, work with Ponytails, and extra reading. That only makes ten boxes, but there's one left over for "surprises."

Ponytails' grid looks like this: Math, copywork, history, group work (nature etc.), Grade 7 Work, Grade 7 English, readalouds, Health/Art, extra reading, and Work with Dad. Also ten boxes, one left over for extras.

Since we have nine magazine holders per girl, the extra reading books will be in separate baskets. (Yes, I can do math better than that. I will probably put two numbers on one box--that's how it comes out to ten boxes plus one extra. I just don't have room on the shelf for more than nine per person.)

Mama Squirrel breathes a sigh of relief.
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