Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Rolling it Back In

In order to simplify my life, I am going to roll the content of this blog back into my general blog, Everyday Snapshots. I will be redoing the tags over there to make things easier to find. If you subscribe to this blog, please accept this invitation to join me over there. This blog will remain active until I can move content over. Thank you.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

An Invitation

For those who read this blog, but not my regular blog Everyday Snapshots, I wanted to let you know that I will likely not be posting much here in October (not that I have been posting here much anyway, but that is beside the point). I am doing a scrapbooking challenge called Layout A Day. I will be posting my layouts each day as I complete them over on the other blog. I would love for you to pop over there and see what we are up to.

Monday, September 14, 2009

October Themes

We have really been having such a great time with our September themes. On days that we do themes, we stop at about 3:30 and have a full “tea party” or just a snack. If we are cooking the snack, Olivia and I usually prepare it while John naps. While the kids munch away, I read to them and then we do a craft or activity where planned. Good fun.


  • pumpkins on the vine
  • chrysanthemums in gold, russet and magenta
  • acorns underfoot
  • National Squirrel Awareness Week (7-13)
  • The Full Harvest Moon (4)


  • comforting casseroles
  • chili and cornbread
  • pumpkin muffins with streusel topping
  • hot apple cider
  • rice krispie treats
  • freshly baked pretzels
  • caramel apples
  • squirrel-shaped cookies
  • popcorn balls
  • spaghetti and Bolognese sauce – National Pasta Month
  • Scary Skillet Sheppard's Pie
  • Mummy Face Pizzas

Faith: Ordinary Time Continues (green)

  • The Feast of St. Therese (1) LT
  • The Guardian Angels (2)
  • The Month of the Holy Rosary (7)


  • Columbus Day (12)
  • National Popcorn Month
  • National Pasta Month
  • Our wedding anniversary
  • All Hallow's Eve
  • Football games


  • The Littlest Pumpkin
  • Autumn Days
  • Colorful Leaves
  • Growing Apples and Pumpkins
  • Pumpkin, Pumpkin
  • The Popcorn Book
  • Squirrels
  • The Biggest Pumpkin Ever
  • The Legend of Spookley the Square Pumpkin
  • The Scarecrow's Hat

Field Trips:

  • a visit to the pumpkin patch
  • an autumn walk


  • acorn hunting (for squirrels)
  • put out corn cobs for squirrels
  • do some squirrel watching with the binoculars
  • make leaf prints
  • collect pine cones
  • Pray the "Guardian Angel Prayer" (Catholic Customs p. 41). Make an angel craft. Make one angel for each family member. Hang over dining table in a "mobile".
  • Read The Tooth Book for National Dental Hygiene Month (5)
  • Pray a decade of the Rosary. Color the rosary. (7) Kids get their own.
  • Read Follow the Dream Columbus Day story (12)
  • Read poetry on Shel Silverstein's birthday (18)
  • read Strega Nona for National Pasta Month
  • watch “It’s the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown”
  • plant a paperwhite narcissus bulb for Christmas bloom.
  • roast pumpkin seeds
  • carve pumpkins

Monday, August 31, 2009

Circle Time

I still can’t decide what to call this part of our school day. Will it be circle time (the ps nomenclature), morning basket, family time? I am taking suggestions…

At any rate, I can’t quite remember how I stumbled on this concept, but after reading about it on a few blogs (see links below) and the 4Real forums, I decided to add it to our day. To be more exact, I thought it would be a fantastic way to begin our day each morning. Getting together with the same set activities each morning would be the hook that lured us into our day, provide consistency, and hopefully provide a “container” for those activities I want to do, but are often so small that I forget them (picture study, memorization, etc)

Enter the new family time board and basket with outline. Each day we plan to cover:

  • Calendar - Review month name. Place date on calendar. Do Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow cards.
  • Weather - Review season card. Change weather wheel.
  • Prayer -  Pray for weekly family. Alternate prayers as learned. Use Christmas Cards to create a family prayer file.
  • Pledge - Recite
  • Singing - Sing weekly song(s). One religious, one secular. Break up songs between other activities.
  • Countdown - Remove link for current countdown. Beach trip, pumpkin patch, Dad home, Thanksgiving, Christmas, etc
  • Memorize - Recite memory work. Read new and review from memory box.
  • Sight Word - Review weekly sight word. Play sight word games.
  • Learning - Do activity for this week’s learning. Place value, telling time to the hour, appropriate clothes for weather, sign language ABCs, learn phone number and address
  • Picture Study - Point out/discuss picture. Review artist/picture name.
  • Young Learners Bible Storybook - Do current day’s activity as per curriculum.
  • Sing, Play, Create Activity - - Do current day’s activity as per curriculum.

This looks like tons of stuff, I know, but it will move really quickly. It takes all of two seconds to move the weather wheel and say that it is still summer. The pledge will take all of 15 seconds. Point to our picture study of the week and asking them to name some colors in the artwork will take less than a minute, unless they decide to discuss it more. I have also arranged the activities in such a way that John can drop out of participating about half-way through. The stuff near the end is more for Olivia.

Having put this into practice one day now I can say that it will take some training to make it all happen. We are already implementing Circle Time rules (ie. sit criss-cross applesauce, don’t pull on the board, etc) but that is good because Olivia needs a bit of that to help with other times she needs to sit still and pay attention.

Here is our portable family time board -- helpful for doing this one handed in the living room while nursing a baby ;-).


And on the back, pockets for holding the extra supplies and a velcro attachment for our flag.


And Workbox #1 which includes our binder, memory box, CDs, books and other supplies.



I have tried to plan out as much family time as possible here at the beginning of the year. Not getting stuck waiting for me to plan out the next section is a big key to success I believe. I have printed pictures for our art study through next May, I have prayer families chosen through the end of November from last year’s Christmas cards. I have other items printed and ready to go, songs chosen, etc. I do plan on taking December off (unless the kids revolt in which we may do a shortened version). These are all placed in the binder in page protectors with the monthly plans.

Looking at the board I am also beginning to think it needs a puppet friend to conduct one of the sessions, which would seal the success of family time in my house for years. Maybe I will shop for one this weekend. I will keep you posted on how this works!


Preschoolers and Peace blog – She offers an e-book, but the blog is a fantastic resource on its own.

Wildflowers and Marbles Morning Basket post.

Pinewood Castle offers her fall circle time plans.

Wayzley Academy – The inspiration for the portable circle time board.

Memory system – Simply Charlotte Mason offers this scripture memory system. This is where our memory work will come from each day. I plan to use if for scripture, prayers, catechism and poetry, though.

September Plans – Here you can see or download our family time plans for the month of September.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009


There are times when you read something so profound, you just have to write it down to remember it. Such is this:

“Home education is a school of virtue for mothers first.” – Elizabeth Foss

Read the rest here.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Organizing Part 2: The Bookshelves

I “finished” this project a few weeks ago, but other pressing projects have kept me from posting about it until now.  As our little collection of living books grew and grew quickly (thanks in part to my friend Donna’s purging of her own homeschool library – used book sale!), I knew that I would need some way to get a handle on organizing what we had. It does no good to have fantastic living books on squirrels or the five senses or Abraham Lincoln if you don’t remember that you have the book when the time comes to study each subject.

Enter the book organization project, Library Thing, and a helper elf.

Library Thing is an online book organizing system that is even used by some schools and smaller libraries to catalog books. You can enter up to 100 books for free (yeah, who has fewer than 100 books?) but a lifetime membership and the ability to add an endless number of tomes is only $25. I also spent $15 on one of their Cue Cat bar code readers to facilitate my book entry process.

There are many wonderful things about Library Thing. First, your catalog is stored off-site and you can access it from anywhere. The technically savvy could even pull it up on their iPhone or Blackberry while in the bookstore to avoid duplicate purchases.  You can also share libraries with others. If there is someone local to you whom you share books with this would be a great way to see what they have on hand (hint, hint local gals). Library Thing also includes a link to WorldCat which will allow you to search for titles and will tell you the closest libraries to your zip code which carry those titles. Love this feature. Finally, the best feature of Library Thing are the unlimited number of tags you can add to a book to help you categorize your home library.

Organizing a home library is not an easy process. In fact, I was quite daunted by it and put it off for a while. One day, though, I called in my Helper Elf (pre-teen from homeschool group out to make some spending money) and decided it could be put off no longer. Since you know I have to do before and after shots, when we started the bookshelves in the school room looked like this:



Umm, yeah, not looking so good, and the likelihood of finding anything was pretty small. So here are the steps we took to remedy the situation:

Step 1: Clear all the shelves and stack books by topic.  I had decided to organize the books by subject and then alphabetically by author. Each subject would get its own colored dot on the spine and be stored together. My subjects included: science and nature, math, language arts (includes literature and reading), social studies (includes history, geography, and civics), the arts, activity books, religion, and educational reference/homeschooling.

Step 2: Add the dots. Once we had huge stacks of books all about the room, Helper Elf stuck the colored dots on the spine of each book.

Step 3: Enter data into Library Thing. I would then take a stack of labeled books and scan the bar code or type in the ISBN or title to enter the book into Library Thing.  Once a books was entered, I would then tag it with the subject (science, math), the color of the dot (peach, green, blue), and then the topics covered in the book (farm, squirrels, American History, Civil War, etc). One note: the barcode scanner worked okay. Honestly it was probably just a quick to type in the ISBN number from the rear of the book, so if you want to save the $15 don’t feel like the scanner is a must. I will say the scanner automatically put the book in your library. Typing the number pulled up a “list” of books (often the only book on the “list” was the one you were after). It then took an extra mouse click to add the book to your library. On the other hand, at least half the time I had to swipe a book more than once to get the bar code to scan, so time saved on the extra click is a toss-up. Also, I had a small stack of books by private publishers that were not in the Library Thing catalog. I was able to enter the information for those books manually to put them in my library.

Step 4: Alphabetize and store. Once an entire section of colored dots were completed, we would alphabetize the section by author and add them to the shelves.

What does this mean for me?

Searching by Theme: Now when I want a book on a particular topic I can click on the descriptive tag (i.e. farm) and see every book I own and where it is stored. Some farm-themed books may be under math, activity, science, or literature, but Library Thing helps me to find them all.

Searching by Subject: I can also simply click on a subject tag like math or science and see my entire library for that subject. Since we are in the younger grades I might as well teach on the topics we already have books for instead of buying new ones and this helps with that process.

Not to mention, my shelves now look much better:


As you can see, I now have room for even more books! My Library Thing Library only has just over 400 right now. (Only homeschool books are entered. I am not even planning on entering personal reading books at this point.)

My next big plans for Library Thing are to add in all the ebooks that I own and to catalog my audio books as well. Most of those will have to be added manually, but it is so important as right now they are just a list of computer files, and I would be hard pressed to find anything relevant to a subject when I wanted it. Once they are sorted and tagged, though, it will be info at my fingertips. Of course I also have to maintain my catalog and I am tagging, entering, and filing new books as they come in to the house.

More info coming soon in other posts about shopping for books and how Library Thing can help you organize the books you don’t own (yes, I really said that).

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

It’s Tea Time!

Tea time is one of those activities I have read about on homeschooling blogs over the past couple of years anxiously awaiting the time I could implement it in our own home. I don’t remember if I first came across the idea in Elizabeth’s book Real Learning: Education in the Heart of the Home or through Julie’s Bravewriter blog, but I know both women helped to plant the seed. So the first order of business was to find some tea cups and a tea pot.

I set out last Friday with friend Melba hoping to piece together some mismatched cups and a tea pot we could use. I wasn’t after fancy or expensive, just “special” dishes we would use for our teas. We scoured the local antique mall, and I had just about given up hope when I came across this gem.


It was lovely and absolutely perfect. (In fact the only problem with it may be when we inevitably break our first piece and bust up the set -- pun intended). I brought it home and the kids eagerly helped me to unpack every piece, so excited about the impending tea party. I made them wait the entire weekend before we put it to its first use.

While John napped, Olivia and I baked muffins, washed the tea set, and set the table.


They loved it. Now with it being in the mid-90s everyday we are substituting lemonade for tea at the moment, but we look forward to cooler days when we can have an herbal brew or hot chocolate instead.


So, what does tea time have to do with “school”? Here are our tea time plans for the year:

  • Poetry teas (a la Bravewriter) -- reading poetry and playing word games. This is what we did Monday and the kids loved it, even asking me to read a couple of poems again.
  • Liturgical Teas – Sarah at Amongst Lovely Things posted an entire year’s worth of liturgical tea plans complete with menus and activities. We will be eagerly doing these as the year progresses. Note our green table cloth above for Ordinary Time. We have green and red and will be adding more soon -- got to get violet before Advent.
  • Seasonal activities – We will do many of the readings and activities from our Monthly Themes Lists during tea time.


We won’t do tea everyday, but hope to most days. The 3:30 time slot will help to bookend our day and keep us on routine while providing an afternoon snack as well. Sometimes the fare will be store-bought, while other times Olivia and I will bake our goodies together while John naps (more learning!). On nice, cool days I hope to take the party outside on the back porch, especially when observing our seasonal themes.

If you are in the neighborhood we hope to have you over for tea this year!

Sunday, August 9, 2009

September Themes

Inspired by Dawn at By Sun and Candlelight here is our list of September themes and plans. The idea is not to do all of these things, but to give me a menu to pick and choose from. Many books and foods will be made/read/eaten during our afternoon “tea” times. (More about those  and how I am organizing everything coming in more blog posts soon.)

September Themes

Nature: Lingering summer

  • apples
  • honey ~ It's National Honey Month!
  • the autumn equinox (22)
  • Full Corn Moon (4)
  • peanut harvest
  • Mums begin to bloom


  • applesauce ~ homemade, with just a touch of cinnamon
  • alphabet soup ~ for lunch on the first day of lessons
  • make an apple pie
  • homemade peanut butter
  • cross-shaped cinnamon breadsticks ~ Holy Cross tea
  • Devil’s Food cake ~ on the Feast of the Archangels
  • biscuits drizzled in honey
  • Kielbasa and Apple Pasta Bake

Faith: Ordinary Time continues ...

  • The Birth of the Blessed Virgin Mary (8)
  • The Feast of the Triumph of the Holy Cross (14)
  • Michaelmas/The Feast of the Archangels (29)

Family Life:

  • Labor Day (7)
  • New NFL and college season kicks off
  • Grandparents Day (9)


  • The Apple Pie Tree
  • What Makes the Seasons?
  • Growing Apples and Pumpkins
  • The Life and Times of the Apple
  • The Honey Makers
  • Monarch Butterfly

Field Trips:

  • the farmer’s market
  • the beach


  • tell apple stories (find the stars inside)
  • make up a fresh batch of homemade play dough
  • read A Weed is a Flower on Aliki’s birthday (3)
  • read poetry on Jack Prelutsky’s birthday (8)
  • fly flag at half staff on Patriots Day (11)
  • make family hand cross (14)
  • read The Art Lesson on Tomie dePaola’s bithday (15)
  • read Curious George book on HA Rey’s birthday (16)
  • watch for migrating monarch butterflies (17)
  • read Caps for Sale on Esphyr Slobodkina’s birthday (22)
  • read a few autumn poetry selections to mark the equinox
  • take an early autumn nature walk and picnic

Monday, July 13, 2009

A Give-a-way

Am hosting a give-a-way of custom painted children’s art on my other blog. Come check it out. An Artistic Give-a-way.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Letter E

Art Activity 1:  Elephant E

Art Activity 2: Easy Sun Catcher – Peal back the protective covering halfway down a piece of contact paper, exposing the sticky side (The contact paper can be any shape or size) Tear small pieces of various colors of tissue paper and stick to the contact paper. Peel off the rest of the protective cover and fold it over the tissue paper side. Trim the sun catcher to any shape or size desired. Punch a hole in it and string a piece of fishing line through it to hang.

So what does that have to do with the letter E? Absolutely nothing except the name of it is EASY Sun Catcher. If that really bothers you, make the sun catcher in the shape of an E, egg, or elephant (various colored tissue paper elephants would go great with the story below!). If not, just enjoy the art project.

Food: Deviled Eggs

Books: Elmer

Activity: Plastic Egg Learning Games

Letter D

Sorry this had taken so long. Busy week.

Art Activity 1:  Duck D

Art Activity 2: Duplo Painting – Use the large Duplo-type blocks to stamp designs on paper.

Food: Dirt Cake

Books: How Do Dinosaurs Any one or all of the series of books by Jane Yolen and Mark Teague.

Activity: Diamond Match (younger) or Playing Card Diamonds (older)

Monday, June 15, 2009

Just When You Think You Have it All Figured Out

So, I really knew what direction we were going to take with our curriculum. I had finally decided that I was going to pull together resources to develop our own Charlotte Mason-style course of study. Two kids close in age equals easy-peasy to homeschool, so no problem at all. Ahem.

So now since we are expecting number three I am feeling the need to simplify. Which got me looking at some things that I had not before. Now I am finding that the Latin Centered Curriculum (LCC) is very intriguing to me for a number of reasons. And since a fear of teaching Latin and Greek was one of those things which had previously held me back from giving this classical approach a second look, I was most happy to stumble upon Classical Liberal Arts Academy (CLA).

The idea of using CLA for everything and just enrolling the kids in the academy has a certain appeal. My fear is that the one-method approach to learning that all of CLA’s classes seem to take would be tedious – especially for a younger child. Even though they must do it and be diligent about it, I also want my kids to love learning. BUT I could see participating in the CLA Extern program for their Grammar classes (which cover Latin, Greek, and classical Grammar) and then using LCC to flesh out the remainder of our curriculum, teaching the other subjects in ways that would appeal to multiple learning styles. (Yes, I am thinking out loud.) Later we can use CLA for Logic and Rhetoric and all of those other classes vital to a classical education that I really should be taking myself instead of teaching. (Ah yes, CLA does have classes for parents too…)

I have ordered LCC and can’t wait to read it. It has been compared favorably to and as compatible with the Charlotte Mason approach on a couple of different message boards I read. It does cover fewer subject with greater depth than does the typical CM course of study. Honestly, that is very appealing.

What a great journey this homeschool research is. Fun stuff. (Or it will be until my carefully crafted plans fail to work for one of my three kids, and I have to punt. HA!) I will keep you posted on what I discover.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Organizing Part 1

The school room has been in desperate need of some organization. Now that I am done with work, I am taking advantage of the time my sitter is here to get some of that done. Today’s chore was to tackle the arts and crafts closet.

I meant to take a “before” photo before I got started, but forgot. I think you can get the gist of how bad it was from these two photos – one of the partially unloaded closet and one of the partially loaded table.



And now for the “after”:


We don’t have tons of stuff yet (and I should note that I have many more mostly adult-type craft items on shelves in my master bedroom closet). I do think there is room for expansion.  What is good right now is that I don’t have to stack many boxes. I am much more likely to put things back in their place if I don’t have to dig into stacks to do it.

The thing I hate about organizing things like this is that it is hard to group like-things together. I ended up with a box that held velcro and magnets and another that held feathers, ribbons, some craft kits, doilies, and wiggle eyes. Fortunately most are open baskets so easy to see into. To help solve this I may get a couple of over the door shoe organizers with clear pockets to hold the small, odd packs of things that just seem to multiply. I can hang them on the backs of the doors. I also think a paper towel holder to hang on the wall in there would free up that shelf space. The closet is pretty deep so might as well use that side wall space.

My next job is to tackle the book shelves and book organization.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Letter C

Art Activity 1:  Caterpillar C

Art Activity 2: Wet Chalk – Make a sugar solution of  1/3 cup sugar to 1 cup water. Dip the end of your chalk in there and then use it to draw on dark-colored paper. If you prefer, soak your chalk in the solution overnight before drawing. You can also use wet chalk outside to make brighter marks on the sidewalk.

Food: Cupcakes – allow the kids to help make and then decorate their own with frosting in squirt bottles and lots of sprinkles.

Books: The Carrot Seed, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Charlie the Caterpillar

Activity: Car Wash – This is so much fun. Pull out the bicycles, ride-ons, and push cars. Put the kids in their bathing suits and add some soapy water and sponges to a bucket. Allow them free-reign with the spray hose attachment and stand back (no, really, you want to stand back). C-C-Car starts with C!

Letter B

Going to go ahead and post the next couple of letters for anyone who likes to gather supplies ahead of time.

Art Activity 1:  Buzzy B

Art Activity 2: Balloon Painting– Provide kids with a large piece of paper, a small inflated balloon, and a pallet with a couple of colors of paint (we use a paper plate for this). They can then paint by stamping the balloon into the paint and then onto the paper. Fun will ensue.

Food: Chocolate Covered Frozen Banana or your favorite banana bread or muffin recipe – make these treats in your kitchen with kid help. Kids really love to smash the bananas for batter.

Books: Bears New Friend (or any of the Bear books by Karma Wilson), The Three Bears

Activity: Big Bubbles – I got a special bug-shaped bubble wand in the dollar spot at Target for this one. Any way to blow bubbles and talk about how that starts will “B” will make an impact and be fun.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Letter A

Let’s get this Summer Fun School ABC's party started by starting at the beginning.

Art Activity 1:  A is for Alligator

Art Activity 2: Art Absorb – Lay down some newspaper. Use water-based markers to draw on coffee filters. Then paint over the marks with water and watch them blur and spread to make designs. You can also spray the marks with a spray bottle of water and dab with a wet sponge.

Food: Apple Juice Pops – make these treats in your kitchen with kid help

Books: Amelia Bedelia, One Hundred Hungry Ants

Activity: Alphabet Bugs

Summer Fun School ABCs

We have been taking  a bit of a break around here while I struggled with the first trimester, but I am happy to report that I am beginning to feel up-to-snuff again. I lamented for a while over what to do this summer. We will be beginning Winter Promise’s I’m Ready to Learn preschool curriculum later this year, but I didn’t want to do so until much closer to fall. I also did not want to spend tons of time putting units and things together each week.

Last week my mojo came back, and I was inspired to create a whole summer full of fun activities based (very loosely) on the ABCs. Now that the planning is done I know what I am doing each week and just have to gather a few supplies on occasion.  So these are our plans in case anyone wants to follow along.

My goals for this program are for John to learn his letters and possibly some of their sounds. I also want to give Olivia a review of all the letters and sounds since sometime in this year we will begin a formal reading program to see how she takes to it. The only other goal was to have some activities for FUN already planned out and ready to go, so I am not scrambling to come up with something all the time.

Here is the plan in a downloadable Excel worksheet. Summer Fun ABC Download. Some of the activities are from the Internet, while others come from resources I have here at the house. My plan is to create a post for each letter giving the links or brief directions for the activities so you can follow along if you desire. We plan to spend 3-4 days on each letter. We are also trying to form a little co-op of preschool friends to meet and do some activities with us. If you are local and want to come, shoot me an email.

This was the logic behind each activity:

  • Art Activity 1: An activity made using the form of each letter to introduce the letter and form to the kids. All of these activities come from the wonderful blog No Time For Flash Cards.
  • Art Activity 2: This is almost always a “process art” activity. The end product is not as important as the DOING is. They also tend to be a bit messy.
  • Food: Something for us to make together and eat together. Yes, it is fun, but there is so much preschoolers can learn while cooking in the kitchen.
  • Books: These are books that we already own beginning with each letter (most of the time). There are still a few holes. Feel free to substitute books you own, books more appropriate for your age child, and books you can grab at the library. Basically the list is the get us reading lots of books this summer and not fall into a rut. We will also point out the letters as we see them.
  • Activity: This is a non-art activity. Sometimes it is a song, sometimes sensory, sometimes number recognition or math related, sometimes science, sometimes geared more towards Olivia, sometimes more towards John. The criteria was FUN.

I have also included a few general activities that we will do for many of the letters. The easier, no planning ones we will do for every letter. The ones that are a little more involved we will only do sometimes.

  • Sing ABC Song
  • Learn each letter in sign language -- practice daily
  • Scavenger Hunt of things that start with that letter. Sometimes use the camera and print out the photos.

If you have any questions, please let me know. If you decide to do some of the activities, we would love to hear from you too.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Art Galore!

Since our workboxes have been keeping us so organized around here, we have had time for some cool art projects.

Funky hats as a go-along to Caps For Sale from Before Five in a Row.


John also made one, but wouldn't sit still for the photo.

Finger painting





Yeah, they loved this one.

And today we did Feelie Goop from First Art: Art Experiences for Toddlers and Twos by Maryann Kohl.


Despite the looks on their faces they actually enjoyed this one too. John played, pouring it back and forth from cup to cup for a long time.

Workboxes are Awesome!

I stumbled across the idea of workboxes weekend before last while cruising some of the homeschool message boards. Check out the concept on Leslie's blog here and on the official website here.  As you can see from that information, workboxes are a great system to manage time with multiple students and promote independent work in all ages.

While it won't be long before encouraging independence is something we want to do, at first I thought that workboxes might be too rigid of a system to work well for us. The moms on the homeschooling forums were so excited I was drawn into the threads, and the phrase that kept catching my attention was that the system kept THEM accountable and allowed them to be more organized. That really resonated with me. I have long been a planner of great plans, but have often fallen short on execution. I can do a set of lesson plans the beginning of the week, and never be able to execute those plans as the week goes on. For some reason, things just don't get done.

One ebook download and one trip to Target later and enter the workboxes.


I think what makes the system work is that there is a place to put everything I need to execute my plans. I have a large basket where I keep all the resources for the week. On Sunday I sat down with a planning grid and filled in what I wanted to put in each box, each day -- or what activities we were going to complete each day.

Now, all I have to do each evening is check the grid for the activity, grab what I need to complete the activity, and put it in the box. The next day we work through the boxes one by one. When we finish the activity, the resource goes back into the main box to be used again next time.

If we are doing an art project I can put the supplies needed in the box (I still have to be careful what I leave out with John running around). I can throw in a puzzle, CD, activity bag, game, book to read, etc.

The photo above shows our boxes for tomorrow (we have gymnastics and errands in the morning, so I planned a light day). Here is what we have planned.

  1. Reading about the baptism of Jesus from our children's Bible.
  2. Sing "Go to the Zoo" and practice the signs from our ASL sign book -- Pick Me Up.
  3. Read portions of Animal Homes (a go-along with our Before Five in a Row book for this week -- Katy No-Pocket).
  4. A page from What Your Preschooler Needs to Know Activity Book.
  5. A go-along activity with A Pair of Socks our math reader for the week.
  6. A Jazz for Kids CD -- we will sing, dance, and play instruments to a few songs.

So you see, workboxes can be used with a very relaxed style of preschooling, yet still help keep mom going in the right direction. Each of the activities will take less than ten minutes, most about five, so we are talking less than an hour of "school" with many activities being very non-schoolish.

Look for more posts coming soon about our current plans and how we are using workboxes to accomplish those plans.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Habits and Routines

“’Habit is ten natures.’ If that be true, strong as nature is, habit is not only as strong, but tenfold as strong. Here, then have we a stronger than he, able to overcome this strong man armed.” – Charlotte Mason

Charlotte Mason believed strongly in the power of the habit. In fact, discipline (or the formation of good habits) was one of her three definitions of education. Her thought was that children will develop habits regardless of what we do as parents. Do nothing, and poor habits may develop. But if you train and work with the child you can foster the development of good habits. In fact, the number one thing she encouraged mothers of the under six set work on was habit training.

So that is where we are. We are going to focus on the idea of habits and training for good ones as well as changing any bad ones that we have developed. And I am not talking the royal “we” here. Miss Mason firmly believed, and rightly so, that adults can not expect their children to have good habits of their own if the parents are exhibiting bad ones. So in addition to working on my children, I also have to work on myself.

We are starting with daily routines. We are focusing on the morning routine of getting up, dressed, and completing chores before becoming distracted by entertainments or having to rush out the door for activity. To that end I have created a routine checklist for Olivia to use in the morning and evening. This not only facilitates the formation of the morning routine, but I hope in time, it will give Olivia cause to be more independent in these tasks. Right now I am standing there and working through with her, but in time I will loosen the strings and have her complete more and more on her own.


The idea for and the graphics for these charts came from one of the nice moms on the Ambleside Year0 Yahoo Group. I modified her list into a chart with a space to add a check-off (in our case a smiley face). I knew this touch would be something Olivia would appreciate. She likes to check the list just like mama does. I printed these on cardstock, laminatd them,  and use velcro dots to attach the faces. We take the faces off in the morning and right before the evening routines and put them in a basket. After completing each task Olivia goes to the basket, retrieves a face, and puts it in the proper position before moving on to the next task.

As I said, today was only our second day so I am still standing by to walk her through, but over the next couple of weeks I plan on sending her in there to work through herself more and more. She has been very excited by this and anxious to complete the list and put on the faces. We do need to lay clothes out the night before, and I will still have to help with hair brushing and the bed, but I want her to take the impetus to get it done even if she needs my assistance.

If you would like a copy of the routines, you can get a PDF version of both sets of routines.  A Word version is available if you would like to change the order or items to suit your family. I am not

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Charlotte Mason

Who was Charlotte Mason?

Charlotte Mason lived at the end of the 19th century in England. A teacher, she later became an education reformer who operated her own college for teachers based on the methods she had developed. Miss Mason believed that all children were born persons, not half-formed adults. She also believed that all children were deserving and capable of a liberal, or broad, education.

Miss Mason’s educational philosophies and methods are outlined in her six-volume series on education. It is available to read here online. You can also read a summary of her 20 Principles of Education. Her methods include living books over dry textbooks, narration, tons of time outdoors, nature study, and exposure to art, music and great literature throughout childhood.

Why Charlotte Mason?

The first thing that drew me to the Charlotte Mason method was, of course, the living books. As a lover of books, who appears to be raising two more lovers of books I knew that using great literature and interesting, well-written non-fiction would be an optimal method of learning. In fact, that is exactly the method I have used (without ever even knowing it) to learn. Whenever a subject interests me, I search out the best books I can find about it, spend my days reading, and then use my blog “narrate” back the information. That alone was enough to prompt me to take a closer look.

Since I have started exploring the rest of her methods there is a simplicity and practicality to them that simply make sense. I have just begun my journey of exploration with her methods, but look forward to delving deeper and learning more.

Charlotte Mason Resources

These are listed in various other places on this blog, but I did want to provide a central location for my favorite resources.

Under construction – please check back for updates.

Ambleside Online

Mater Amabilis

Simply Charlottte Mason

Penny Gardner’s Charlotte Mason Website

Ambleside Online Year-O Yahoo Group – For using a CM approach to preschooling.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Living Books Curriculum

Have you ever looked at something and dismissed it only to have a closer look later and wonder what you were thinking? I have taken a second and closer look at Living Books Curriculum over the past few days and am really liking what I see.

Keep in mind that kindergarten is still two years away for us, so curriculum research is really just a hobby of mine right now. It is so fun to look at, though. This post is really just me thinking out loud.

A few very glowing reviews on a message board the other day sent me over to the LBC website once again. I had been over there a year or so ago and liked what I saw at first glance, but was also somewhat daunted by the price. I was one their email list for a while and loved the newsletter articles. I also loved the fact that the curriculum was the closest to Charlotte Mason in a Box that you can get.

Charlotte Mason-style appeals to me greatly, but I never thought I could do it because many of the Charlotte Mason helps out there (Ambleside Online, Mater Amabilis, Simply Charlotte Mason) give books lists and very loose schedules, but little else in the way of scheduling help. Some homeschoolers love that. For me it would be a recipe for disaster. I would be constantly scheduling and never getting any schooling done. I really need things fairly planned out for me. (This is what drew me to Winter Promise in the first place. Now I am finding with IRTL that it is a little hyper-scheduled for me.)

Things I am liking about LBC:

  • It is scheduled, but not too much so. It tells you what to read each week. (Unlike the ones above that tell you what to read each term, and WP which tells you what to read each day.) Then it give suggested activities for the week. It works on an eight-week term with a ninth-week for assessment and catching up (just like Charlotte Mason's own schools). The assessment activities are wonderful. Very much finding out what your child knows about a subject and not trying to reveal what they don't know through tricky questioning.
  • The activities are a good mix of crafty and non-crafty. I see this type of curriculum working very well with building notebooks. There seems to be a few (just enough) craft-type things from looking at the samples, but if not those are easily added in with other resources.
  • It goes by grade, not topic. While this can be off-putting to those schooling more than one child, the message boards and FAQ give examples of how to combine things for multiple children in history and science. The nice thing is, you don't have to decide where to go next - it is planned out. The history cycle is six years from ancients to moderns. American and World History are studied simultaneously, so that "slows things down" even more. I think this is a great pace for elementary school.
  • Living Books! The book suggestions look great. I would probably keep a child's history encyclopedia on hand for reference, but I love that the reading come from living sources for history and science.
  • It includes: Bible, Language Arts (gentle grammar, handwriting, Shakespeare - Julius Caesar in grade 3 anyone? - poetry, and literature), art and art appreciation, music appreciation, geography, nature study, storytelling, world history, American history, and science. You have to add your own math (after K) and foreign language, but that is it. Note that you don't do all of these subjects every day.
  • It practices the CM method of short lessons. The included material for a school day takes about 2.5-3 hours to complete. Still time to add math and eventually foreign language and still have plenty of time for play and personal interests.  We could still add another subject or some other activities if we wanted and have a very manageable school day.
  • Easy substitutions. I can see a couple of places (mainly grammar and writing) I would substitute different materials. Due to the looseness of the schedule this would be easy to do.
  • It includes recitation and storytelling. I think kids really need practice in oration. Have you tried to carry on a conversation with the average 13yo?

So what about the cost I was so worried about before:

  • I didn't realize it includes SO MANY subjects. Honestly I think it works out to be much cheaper than WP because of all it includes. (With WP you have to buy history, science, and LA separately.)
  • I priced out a package separately and managed to save $165 off the packaged price of the Foundation (Kindergarten) Year. I found a few books on Paperback Swap (cost of shipping only!), many used on Amazon, and a few new on Amazon. From LBC, you would only need to order the LBC exclusives like the teachers handbook and the books they print themselves. This is great if you are going to do some substitutions with program components, too. If you have a good library system (we do not) then your price could be much cheaper.
  • Their profits go to charity. If you want to use the program As Is, and don't want to do the legwork to piece together your package, it is great to know that you are supporting LBC's Education in a Box program with your purchase.

This certainly gives me much to think about with the old homeschooling plan.

Caps for Sale Unit

I wanted to start sharing my preschool units on the blog. Partially for accountability (We had such fun with the last one it is a shame it took me so long to plan this one.) and partially because someone out there my benefit from everything I pulled together.

This one is based on the book Caps For Sale by  Esphyr Slobodkina and is planned to last two weeks.



  • Monkeys
  • Money
  • Hats

Additional Books:


  • Daily we will read two to three books not including those Olivia might choose to read at naptime and bedtime. There are days we may read some multiple times (and that’s OK).
  • We will read Caps for Sale MWF for both weeks. At each reading I will discuss some of the the topics in BFIAR.
  • We have planned activities each day except for Thursday (sitter day).  You can tell by the volume of activities for each day which days we are home and which we are gone more. We will see how it goes.


Day 1

  • Act out the story using “puppets” made from this activity sheet.
  • Play “Monkey Throw a Hat Down to Me” (FNL)
  • Walk while balancing a stack of hats on our head. Sing “Hats on Heads” while walking. (PE)
  • Begin lapbook – decorate cover. (See a sample lapbook here. Ours will be similar, but not exact. Will share more later.)

Day 2

Day 3

  • Play Monkey See Monkey Do and share the poem.  I can’t find the source for this. I will list the poem here. If anyone knows who I should credit, please let me know!)

    Pick a leader to make silly movements and others try to imitate it.  Change leader.

    Say this poem together as a variation of Monkey See, Monkey Do
    A little monkey likes to do
    Just the same as you and you;
    When you sit up very tall,
    Monkey sits up very tall;
    When you pretend to throw a ball,
    Monkey pretends to throw a ball;
    When you try to touch your toes,
    Monkey tries to touch his toes;
    When you move your little nose,
    Monkey moves his little nose;
    When you jump up in the air,
    Monkey jumps up in the air;
    When you sit down in a chair,
    Monkey sits down in a chair

  • Do Hat Play (PE)

Day 4

Day 5

Day 6

  • Share Money Poem (this was shared on the Before Five and a Row Message Board)
    • Money Poem
      Penny, penny, Easily spent
      Copper brown and worth one cent.
      Nickel, nickel, Thick and fat,
      You're worth five cents. I know that.
      Dime, dime, Little and thin,
      I remember, You're worth ten.
      Quarter, quarter Big and bold,
      You're worth twenty-five I am told!
  • Make “Whose Hat?” layer booklet and play. (HSS) Add to lapbook.

Day 7

  • Act out story again if interest is there
  • Cut out photos from magazines that start with letters M and C. Put into mini booklets and add to lapbook. (HSS)
  • Do What’s In the Piggy Bank (HSS) Add to lapbook.

Day 8

  • Go shopping for bananas. Pay with some coins. Put coins into the St. Jude coin tube at Wal-Mart and watch them go round and round.
  • Make chocolate-dipped frozen bananas.
  • Decorate cans to make SAVE, SPEND, and GIVE banks. Explain and give Olivia first allowance.
  • Finish up lapbook.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Curriculum We Are Planning to Use

These are curriculum that I have researched and plan to use with my children. Note that these can (and will) be changed or added to at any time!

About This Blog

What this blog is

This blog is a repository for my own thoughts and research on homeschooling. I am lucky. My husband and I decided to homeschool our children not long after our oldest was born. I have had plenty of time to research homeschooling methods and curriculum. In fact, I am still researching as she is only turning four-years-old this year. You will find that I love to research.

I have already bought and sold curriculum despite the fact that we have not officially started to homeschool yet. I can already tell that I will have to curb a desire to be a curriculum junkie. I hade already created and recreated a course of study for our first six years of homeschooling. I have already changed my mind about methods at least three or four times. I have already learned that I am not alone in doing all of these crazy things!

I have also been asked countless times about homeschooling – despite the fact that I have never done it.

So this blog is a place for me to put my thoughts for me and a place to share my research for others who might be interested in it. It is a place for me to work through the methods I am discovering, to post information I discover about the curriculum that interests me, to share neat things that I find in my journey. You are most welcome to share my thoughts, lend advice, come along for the ride.

What this blog is not

This blog is not the blog of a homeschooling expert. Nor is it the blog of a mom who has “been there, done that”. It is not a place to get sage advice.

As long as we are straight on that, please grab a beverage and stay awhile.

Doing Right Now

Our current plan: Summer Fun School ABCs. Click for more details.