Thursday, May 14, 2015

I've always been intrigued with personality tests, career tests, learning styles, etc. I love seeing the results and learning more about myself. My kids are no different. Although my kids are all girls, they have similarities of course, but their differences make them so unique. Over the year, I've learned a lot about myself as a person, mother and homeschooler.  I've written before about this year's experience and how we are making it work.  But, what about the future?


A few years ago I stumbled across Cathy Duffy's book, Top 100 Picks for Homeschool Curriculum.  I was in the process of looking into a preschool/kindergarten program for Abby and wasn't sure what direction to go in.  At the time, I never considered my vision for our homeschool, I was more concerned with her learning style and choosing what works best.  At the time, I heeded the advice of the book and went in a different path with my initial curriculum choice, although I still don't believe the alternative was the best path.

Anyhow, with our struggles with Abeka this year and my failed attempts at Tot School with Summer, I knew the upcoming fall school year needed to be a complete overhaul and I needed to fully invest serious time into planning and researching curriculum that would work for us. 

I decided to refer back to Cathy Duffy who recently published a revision of her original book with Top 102 Picks for Homeschool Curriculum. I wanted to really take advantage of the resource and begin to fully understand my learning style, my homeschool vision and also Abby's learning style.  Summer is still too young to peg exactly, although I think her learning style is very similar to mine and Jeremy's.  Back to Abby, she is definitely a Wiggly Willy with a lot of Sociable Sue mixed in.  If you aren't familiar with the book, Wiggly Willy's are hands on, multi-sensory learners.  They prefer short lessons, freedom to move, lots of physical involvement, variety, games and aren't too keen on workbooks.  Sociable Sue's prefer real books, social interaction, discussions, enthusiasm, public presentations, being personally recognized and valued, among others.  I laugh when I read about Wiggly Willy's and Sociable Sue's because it's Abby in a nutshell.  Constant movement, always on the go, a social butterfly that loves the spotlight. 

So, what is my vision for our homeschool?  In the earlier years, I never thought about it.  Obviously, I want a fun, exciting environment full of opportunity but that looks different with each family and each season of life.  With Abby, it was easy and fun to put together themes, games, learning toys, etc.  I had plenty of time and only one child.  Our family has grown quite a bit in the last two years and school time has become different in so many ways, along with my own responsibilities as a stay at home mom/wife.  There's the added pressure of her now in the elementary grades versus preschool/kindergarten.  At the same time, I want to provide the same early learning to Summer and Kaitlyn that Abby was given.  It wasn't until this year that I totally began to understand what I want and what I don't want.

For me, I like variety.  I like mixing things up and being spontaneous.  I don't like feeling tied down to a certain lesson plan/curriculum.  I want to be able to branch off and go in a different direction if we want to.  I want to enjoy learning along with my girls without feeling stressed out and rushed.  I want to include the younger two and offer them unique opportunities on their own level without everyone off on their own doing something different.  I don't want dry, boring, busywork and the like.  I want to see each of my girls learning academically, but also building their character through personal development.  I want to include nature studies and to introduce them to fine arts, history and hands on science.  I want to grow more in my faith with Bible studies and verse memorization while being a good witness to them.

sister _walk

After looking at learning styles, I flipped back to take Duffy's quiz on education approach.  I always just assumed I was eclectic, but I was surprised to find out otherwise.  I ended up scoring very high in both Unit Studies (94%) and Charlotte Mason (90%).  While I've heard of these styles, I never really looked into either.  Unit Studies are like themes--so if we are learning about the ocean every subject revolves around the ocean.  Ok--yes because that's what I used to do with Abby in preschool.  But, Charlotte Mason?  I was familiar with the label, but not so much with the her style and method.  We made several trips to the library gathering all the books I could regarding Charlotte Mason.  She emphasizes living books, narrations, habit training, and so much more.  All the things I wanted and had seen in my "vision" of homeschooling, but I wasn't exactly sure how I would implement.  I kept on researching and looking for more resources to help clarify and help me better understand.  A few weeks later, I discovered exactly what I wanted and needed--Simply Charlotte Mason.  The website provides a free curriculum guide to help you get started and resources, free e-books and quality samples.  I have continued to spend countless hours downloading information, looking at the curriculum picks that suit Abby, but also compliment my approach.  

I see so much potential for the upcoming school year, it excites me.  Fully understanding learning styles and my vision has shed light on what wasn't really working this year.  I look forward to sharing more details soon!

Tot School: H is for Hammer

Monday, April 27, 2015

Summer is 33 months old.

I had such good intentions at the beginning of the school year.  I spent so much time planning, gathering items and organizing by theme to help make our Tot School time fun and easy to put together.  But like it seems to do all too often in our home, life happened. Tot School, blogging and the like have taken a back seat.  It's frustrating and disappointing. However, in my quest to find balance and stay positive--I finally dusted off my camera and found our Letter H week from early March.

Summer loves "school" time. She literally asks to do it daily and while it's not documented or pretty, I can usually find something fun and educational to keep her occupied while I work with Abby.  We include her in art, read alouds and any other subject she's around for.  She admires Abby and is always looking for ways to be just like her big sister. 

Up to this point we've been using Tot School Printables and the related themes from 1+1+1=1. I like the convenience of the printables, because it's not always easy for me to pull a bunch of additional activities.  But, I've been contemplating changing things up a bit.  At this point, I'm considering several options, mainly Before Five In A Row.  I hope to be sharing more about that later. 

But, back to Letter H...

Coloring...sometimes she's all for it, sometimes not so much.  This time it was a winner!


Dot painting her letters..she always gets so excited to see dot paint!

dot painting

She asked for her foam shapes (Target Dollar Spot) to use for matching.


More matching...




Number matching and identification...




We practiced more with color identification and transferring.


Playing with her bristle blocks...


And, she spent lots of time playing with her workbench and tools.

Tot School- G is for Goat and Farm Theme

Friday, March 20, 2015

Summer is 31.5 months.

As we continue through Tot School printables, our weekly focus this time around was Letter G for Goat.  We've previously done a farm theme which you can read more about here, but I knew she would enjoy it even more at this age.  And, she did which makes it worthwhile.

 I had a small setup of activities, mainly her farm and animals, some farm themed books and her puzzles.  She headed straight for her farm and loved every minute


farm play 2
farm (similar)

farm play

Puzzles are still a favorite.  Sometimes she wanted to complete the puzzle quickly and other times, I called out the animals for her to find. 

farm puzzle

She loved using the flashcards and her magnets to practice animal recognition.



One of her favorite books was this Eric Carle sound book. The pictures are beautiful and pressing the sound buttons over and over is the best!

sound book

She still enjoys using these printables.  I actually got her to stamp this particular week which was something she hasn't been too interested in.


She worked on shapes recognition...



Letter Match

Dot Painting...

dot paint
dot markers

And, while coloring is usually an exciting favorite of hers...this week not so much.  She did a little bit herself spread out over a few days, but then asked for help.  So, Abby helped her out.



abby and summer color

Looking for more farm themed activities?  Click here.

Set Up

 Check out our previous weeks below.

Abeka Lesson Organization

Sunday, February 22, 2015

A few posts back, I shared my thoughts on Abeka: First Grade.  While I'm starting to get the hang of it and our days are going much smoother, that wasn't always the case.  I went in with one idea and was quickly wondering what I had gotten myself into.  Long story short, after accumulating all the "optional" materials things improved greatly, but organization was still a huge issue.

I began browsing online to see how other homeschooling families organized their Abeka lessons.  I simply wanted to have some understanding and starting point. I wasn't having much luck until I came across this post which was helpful.  I took the idea of a file system and decided to give it a try by creating a smaller version.

Filing System

My idea and main objective was to, at least, get a six week grading period organized.  This meant heading to Target to look for inspiration.  I happened upon a wooden file holder and some cute hanging file folders.  I then used simple manila file folders and created labels for each.  For my trial run, I decided to label by weekday.  I made 6 sets of Monday-Friday folders and put each week in a hanging folder.


You could also do this by lesson number, if you prefer.  I then tore out all worksheets needed for that particular day/lesson.  For example, if this specific Wednesday is Lesson 56 then all Lesson 56 paperwork would be included.  Pretty simple.  To simplify further, I stapled all seatwork papers together, including a tablet sheet.  Daily sheets (like math or the occasional spelling paper) are paper clipped to the seatwork packet.  The stapled packet takes care of two days of seatwork (one lesson on front, another on the back) and Abby can hold on to the seatwork packet until it is completed on the second day.  All finished paperwork is then filed away in a plastic container.


I also use this same system for Summer's Tot School Printables.  Each letter has a folder, which is filed by the specific week.  It helps keep them easily accessible and helps me know which letters are coming up.

As we continue to progress through the curriculum, I'm open to modifying this system.  But for now, it's helping so much.

I'm curious, how do you organize your lessons?

Link & Learn

Tot School: F is for Foot and Doc McStuffins Theme

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Summer is 30.5 months old.

This week we continued using Tot School Printables from 1+1+1=1 and focused on the Letter F.  I love how excited she gets when I ask if she wants "to do school." 

Since Summer loves coloring so much, I started her off with the coloring sheet.  She prefers to color all at once, so one day we colored and the next few days we played a game to locate colors.



She matched her foam shapes to the pictures.

Shape Match

Shape Match 2

She also has a slight obsession with dry erase idea where she gets that from and enjoyed the prewriting practice sheet.

dry erase board

One day, I pulled a few Valentine's Day inspired activities for her.  She practiced gluing the foam hearts and lacing. 

Glue Heart

Gluing Heart

Heart Placing

Lacing Heart


The vocabulary focus this week was parts of the body. My girls are fans of Doc McStuffins so I thought it might be fun to incorporate that into our week.  I had some happy girls!


I used an old workbench for the checkup center and set up all the Doc McStuffins toys we had and a few books.  I filled the basket with animals and baby dolls and Summer (and Abby) loved it!

Setup 4
Doc McStuffins Doll | Doctor's Bag

Setup 3
Doctor Coat | Book of Boo Boo's

Setup 2
Dora the Doctor | Corduroy Goes to the Doctor

Doctor Play

Playing Doc

Playing Doctor

Looking For Previous Weeks?

Letter A
Letter B
Letter C
Letter D
Letter E

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