October 21, 2016

Our Favorite Poetry Books

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We start our school day with a few poems. It's the perfect way to ease into learning. My kids love our tradition and look forward to our poetry time. They're even starting to recognize many of the authors and their works.

I keep our poetry time very low-key. We sometimes have a very brief discussion about the poem; however, I chose to focus on the overall enjoyment of poetry rather than attempting to analyze it with them at these ages.

If you're looking for a few poetry books to start your own poetry time, here are a few of our favorites!

October 11, 2016

Homeschooling is Hard

I've disappeared from blogging for quite a while - much longer than I anticipated after the birth of our 6th baby. I'm going to slowly ease back into some semblance of a blogging routine. However, I'll admit that I'm not very motivated at the moment. Why? Because this homeschool year is HARD!

Let me explain.....

  • I had a busy summer and didn't feel fully prepared when we started our school year. Normally I have notebooks set up, papers printed, and materials organized. Not so much this year.

  • I've changed up some of our curriculum. I've had to throw some of our plans out the window and change them as I realized that some things were not working or were not going to get accomplished this year.

  • The school year has been busier than usual. We have our regular activities of AWANA, American Heritage Girls, and Trail Life. But after being on the summer swim team, my 4 oldest kids decided to try out for a year-round team in our area. They ALL 4 made the team - which is exciting but very, very busy!

  • We had a baby, remember? I'm still trying to find our new routine with adding child number 6 to the mix. I feel like I'm struggling though and it's been 6 months already!

  • Our schedule has gone through multiple makeovers. Normally we find a workable routine within the first month of school. Not this year. I'm constantly working and reworking our schedule to make everything fit and still have time for free play and exploration. This has been so challenging for me!

  • We got a puppy. And while she's been super sweet and doing well with house training, she's still a puppy and requires lots of supervision. It takes up a lot of our time and often destroys our schedule.

  • I'm tired and unmotivated. All of the things listed above have made me feel more run-down and unmotivated than usual. When the alarm goes off in the morning, I just don't want to even crawl out of bed.

So.......our homeschool year has been hard.

What to do?

Well, I don't have any profound answers. Homeschooling is hard. It's filled with sacrifices. It's time consuming and tiring.

It's a huge blessing and a wonderful ministry. But sometimes you just don't view it that way. In the messy moments it feels more like drudgery. How's that for honest?

Sometimes you don't enjoy being around your children all day. Sometimes your curriculum doesn't work out. Sometimes your plans fall through and your schedule is overwhelming. Sometimes subjects are overlooked. Sometimes learning isn't beautiful and exciting. Sometimes you drag your students through the day while they are kicking and screaming. Sometimes you drag yourself through the day, wondering why you even try.

Despite my color-coded schedule, organized notebooks, cheerful homeschool room, and well-laid plans, homeschool is hard.

That's where I am this year.

My days feel never-ending. I try to be enthusiastic about each subject. I try to revamp my plans and stay flexible. I change curriculum to better fit our needs. I plan, and I strive, and I work, and I keep powering forward. And nothing gets easier. And I become discouraged.

So this is me, in my 6th year of homeschooling, saying that I don't have it all figured out - admitting that this educating and parenting thing doesn't get any easier.

As homeschool moms we can be honest with each other. Extend yourself some grace. Know that homeschooling isn't supposed to be easy. But it is worth it.

I know homeschooling is my calling for this season. And I have to rest in knowing that I'm where God placed me, and He's able to work through me in spite of my messes and failures.

May 23, 2016

Why I'm Glad I Taught Spanish Before Latin

I aspire to be a classical homeschooler. Many times we fall short, but my ultimate goal is to stick closely to the classical model and definitely include a study of Latin in our home.

However, I delayed the start of our Latin studies in favor of learning Spanish.


  • We lived in an area where Spanish speakers were in the majority. We had many opportunities to hear and practice our Spanish.
  • I was already somewhat familiar with Spanish. Starting with Spanish seemed so much less intimidating for our first foreign language experience.  
  • I was able to find more resources and provide more help to my children as they learned Spanish. There are lots of CD's, DVD's, online resources, and books that teach Spanish. 
  • Our family was able to find friends and relatives who spoke Spanish so we could practice our language skills. This was fun to practice vocabulary and conversation in real-world situations. 
  • Learning Spanish helped lay a foundation for learning grammar concepts in another language. I found it easier to study grammar in a language in which I already understood the basics. 
  • Starting our language studies with a language that was not totally unfamiliar to me gave me the confidence to tackle Latin with the declensions, pronunciation, grammar, and tenses. 

Now that we moved on to our Latin studies in 4th grade I can see the multiple ways in which we benefitted from studying Spanish first. 

  • My kids have learned how to analyze another language, learning vocabulary and new grammar concepts. 
  • I've gained confidence in teaching a foreign language and feel more prepared to study a less familiar language.
  • My kids have discovered the joy and excitement of learning another language and being able to communicate with others in that language. 
  • It benefitted us to study grammar in Spanish and then transfer our knowledge over to our Latin studies since Spanish and Latin are similar. 
  • My kids were thrilled and amazed to see all the connections between Spanish and Latin and also between Latin and English. They loved tying all of their knowledge together as they saw similar words and word roots. 
  • Studying Spanish first made our subsequent study of Latin easier. Latin somehow felt more approachable and less intimidating to all of us. 

I'm glad I started our language study with Spanish and then moved into Latin. And now we can continue both languages at our own pace.

I plan to continue both Spanish and Latin through middle school and into high school.

May 18, 2016

{Review} Adapting Well-Ordered Language to Our Homeschool

Today I'm writing about how I adapted Well-Ordered Language to fit our homeschool.

I love products from Classical Academic Press and am always excited to see what new curricula they produce. I was so excited to see a new grammar program but sad to see that it was initially marketed to schools. I wasn't sure it would work for a homeschool family, so I was thrilled to have the chance to review the program and see just how I could adapt it for homeschool use.

Here's what I did........

I read through the lesson planning options and choose how many days per week we were going to do the program. I chose the 4 times per week option so that we would not skip any of the poem or fable lessons.

I glanced over the introduction to students to become familiar with the objective of the program.

Then I read the introduction to teachers where I learned how to implement the system of teaching and how to properly analyze sentences with the method prescribed in the curriculum. This section also contained a breakdown of the various sections of each lesson and the length of time each section should take. The recommendation for a lesson is 30 minutes per day with the introductory day to each chapter taking about 40 minutes.

Next I read about the topics and teaching tips included in the sidebars.

After getting through the introductory materials I spent some time looking over the first two chapters. I spent most of my time reading the teaching notes that corresponded to each worksheet page (there are intro worksheets, part A, part B, part C, and review pages). There is a page or two in the guide that corresponds to each chapter that has additional teaching tips. Then there are pages of notes for each of the worksheets. These pages contain ideas for doing exercises on a whiteboard in front of the class, game ideas, simple craft ideas, or other tips for applying the lesson or adding in extra practice.

I had to weed through these teaching notes and determine if I wanted to include any of these extra teaching ideas or implement any of the extra practice on a whiteboard. (As a side note: these teaching notes are in addition to the answer key provided in the teacher's manual. They are not right after each corresponding worksheet, but are in their own section at the end of each chapter. This means when you are looking at a lesson worksheet you have to flip several pages to get to the teacher notes for that particular worksheet. I spent lots of time flipping back and forth to get a feel for the lessons and the extra activities available).

I glanced back through the lessons to see what books were referenced in each chapter and made sure we had them on hand to read. (Each lesson contains excerpts from literature and I know my daughter would enjoy the few books that she had not already read).

At this point I felt ready to try out our first few lessons.

After several weeks of using the program I made some modifications. This is how the program looked in our homeschool.........

I adapted the program to be used 3 days per week but I didn't exactly follow their 3-day schedule. I ended up making my own.

I only wanted to spend 15-20 minutes per day on grammar (rather than the 30-40 suggested in the program).

  • I split the introductory day into two lessons because that was the longest lesson for each chapter. 
  • On the first day we read the introduction and learned the new songs and chants.
  • On the next day we did the worksheets that corresponded to the introduction.
  • For day 3 we did the fable lesson.
  • Week two of the lesson began with part A worksheets.
  • On the second day of week 2, we did part B worksheets.
  • Day 3 of the second week was for the poem. However, we began the lesson with the review worksheets if they were needed.

Our schedule meant that we often skipped part C worksheets. I also would only do select parts of the review worksheets if they were needed.

I usually did not do the extra whiteboard practice that was described in the teaching notes. And while some (not all) of the games were adaptable to be done with only 1 student, I didn't find them to be necessary. This meant that I didn't spend much time reading the in-depth teaching notes at the end of each chapter or using the exercises contained in them. I found the chapters and worksheet pages to be sufficient. The only times I referenced the teaching notes was for the fable and poem lessons.

Here's what I found........

It takes some time to get ready to use the program. It really is important to read through the teacher notes and look over the student manual. It's also critical to read through all the notes for at least one week of lessons to see how the program is set up. For these reasons, I can't say that the program is open-and-go.

It also takes some time to find a good rhythm to using the program - determining which practice pages you will need and use. I also had to choose our schedule for the program. There are 3 options: 4 days per week, 3 days per week, and 5 days per week. With the first two options a chapter is covered in 2 weeks, and with the last options a chapter is covered weekly and the program is accelerated.

There are lots and lots of extra practice and review opportunities. I found that there were more than enough for us so it was best to cut some of them out and simplify. I also discovered that I didn't use many of the extra teaching ideas - writing sentences on a whiteboard for analysis and doing the games and activities).

While we didn't do a grammar lesson or worksheet daily, I often reviewed some of the songs and chants on the days that we didn't do a lesson. We spent less than 10 minutes doing this review but it helped solidify the concepts while giving us extra time on those days to focus on other subjects.

*Note- I used this program with my daughter who grasps grammar concepts fairly quickly. When I use the program next year with my son (who does not enjoy grammar) I may need to do the program 4 days per week and include more of the review pages. I like that I have that option and the program includes so many opportunities to review.

So, was the program easy to adapt? Yes. Did it take some time? Yes. 
I really needed to use the program for several weeks to get a better feel for the lessons, the amount of review we needed, and which things I wanted to leave out as I was teaching.

I do think this program works well in a homeschool, yet I was left wishing that there was a simplified and more streamlined version of the program for homeschool use.
And I'm happy to say that Classical Academic Press has some changes planned for future levels to make the program more adaptable to the homeschool setting. I can't wait to see the modifications to the curriculum!

Ok, are you still a little confused about the program and all the things included in each lesson as well as the teacher manual? I'm going to be writing an in-depth look into everything that's included through the guide next week. So be watching for that post!!

May 16, 2016

{Review} Well-Ordered Language from Classical Academic Press

Ok, if you've read my blog for any length of time then you know that I love curriculum. And nothing is more exciting than a brand new curriculum that is hot off the press.

When I saw that one of my favorite publishers (Classical Academic Press) had released a new program for grammar I knew that I absolutely HAD to try it. And they were gracious enough to let me review a copy!

Well-Ordered Language is a grammar curriculum that is designed to feed a child's curiosity of language through using stories, chants, songs, poems, and narrative to teach grammar concepts. The program is designed to incorporate the skills of reading, writing, speaking, and listening into the study of grammar.

The book I received is part of the first level of a grammar program that will eventually contain 4 levels.

This book is the first semester of level 1 of a grammar program for students in grade 3 or 4. It covers the following concepts:

Kinds of sentences
Subject and predicate
Subject and predicate verbs
Direct Objects
Subject Pronouns
Interrogative Sentences

The program includes scheduling ideas for studying grammar 4 times a week or 3 times a week. There is also an alternative schedule for covering grammar 5 times per week and finishing up each chapter in one week rather than in 2 weeks (for students who need to accelerate through the program).

How did I use this program?

I decided to try this program with my oldest, Curly, who is finishing up 4th grade.

I spent some time familiarizing myself with the teacher's guide - which is a rather large and intimidating book! There was quite a bit of reading that I needed to do to be comfortable with the teaching style. I also needed to go through the many teacher helps and tips provided for the lessons.

I chose the option to cover grammar 4 times per week to ensure that we would cover all the additional fables and poems included in the program.

We spent about 20 minutes per day on grammar - with the introductory day sometimes taking longer due to the large amount of reading to be done that day.

What did I think?

I was worried when I saw on the website that this program was designed for school use. However, I found that I could easily adapt this program for homeschool use.

I love the CD with the chants and songs to help memorize the definitions and parts of speech. This makes reviewing easy and fun.

In the introductory lesson at the beginning of each chapter are excerpts from literature. This was my daughter's favorite part - to see what book was referenced. And if it was one that we had not yet read, she insisted on adding it to our reading list.

I appreciate the level of review through the pages. There are 4 sections of review pages to ensure that concepts are mastered. Many of these could also be done orally with the student to minimize writing (I definitely have a child or two who would prefer oral exercises to written ones)!

The teaching notes include ideas for extra games or activities to reinforce concepts. This would be a nice way to get in some extra review practice if a student needed it. You won't run out of teaching ideas with using the teacher manual.

I enjoy the sentence analysis where we break down a sentence into its parts orally. This is a nice alternative to diagramming a sentence - especially for kids who do not enjoy writing. The book also introduces simple analysis of labeling the various parts of the sentence which is a great introductory activity to precede diagramming.

We loved the poems and fables throughout the program. They were a nice break to the grammar study. Also, the chapter introductions are written in a very approachable style that makes grammar interesting and simple.

There were a couple aspects of the program that were not love at first sight. For starters, the manual is really huge and it took some time to become familiar with the lesson set-up and the extra materials. I found that there is quite a bit of teacher help which is both a positive and a negative. It's great information but it can be a bit overwhelming.

Each chapter has multiple review pages which is excellent for thorough review. Yet, if all pages were completed it would be quite a bit of repetitive writing for a student. At times it would be best to condense the pages and skip one of the review sections or do the pages orally.

At the end of every chapter in the manual is a section of teaching notes. There is an introduction as well as a page of notes for every practice page. This means that when you are teaching you will do some flipping back and forth between the page that has the answer key and the page that has additional notes and teaching ideas.

I was also left wishing that the student book contained the text to the fables. They are available as a printable in the PDF that also contains the quizzes. As they are an optional part of the program they were not included in the student pages. But we found them so fun and interesting that my daughter would not have wanted to skip those lessons and she wished she had the text for the fables in her own book. She ended up looking over my shoulder and reading the story along with me from the teacher manual.

It took a few weeks to find our rhythm while using this curriculum as I had to sort through all the information in the guide and tailor the lessons to fit our family; however, it was worth the effort as we enjoyed our grammar time together.

My final thoughts: 

This program was what I needed for grammar. It is thorough, has excellent review, encourages memorization, and contains poems and fables for reading, analysis, and discussion. It's a wonderful mix of Charlotte Mason/Classical education that is perfect for our homeschool.

I've decided that it will be an excellent grammar program for 3rd grade next year for Tiger. He will enjoy the variety of the program and I know he will need the extensive review provided through the practice pages. I think Well-Ordered Language is a great follow-up to First Language Lessons 2 and will be a great choice for our 3rd grade year!

Be sure to come back on Wednesday to read another blog post that will give you a glimpse into how I adapted this program to homeschool use. 

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