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.