Monday, November 29, 2010

KISS Grammar ♥

Our New Grammar Program

I found this lovely and free grammar program while searching for something else and at first was quite turned off by the user unfriendliness of the website. But, I decided to download everything and take a gander, and I’m so glad I did.

It comes with complete, printable workbooks through at least the first few levels, and the rest are available online. I decided to print the first level out along with the teacher’s manual and answer keys and spent several days just reading about the method. It seems a bit different from what I remember from school, but I think it makes so much sense. It starts out slow and gradually builds from there, adding things slowly in a way that doesn’t overwhelm the student. There are about 10 problems to do every day it is scheduled (it is suggested that it not be done more than 2-3 days a week*). Because the lessons are so short, this fits in well with Charlotte Mason’s and Ruth Beechick’s schools of thought.

I intro’ed Geo (9) to it last week and … HE LOVES IT! He can’t get enough of it. *I can’t get him to just do 10 problems a day, he wants to do 2 or 3 pages a day, lol. I think at first that’s fine, and I’m sure he’ll be happy to slow down eventually, but it’s fun to see him finding this so enjoyable. Smile 

I highly recommend it in spite of the less-than-terrific website layout; the program itself is awesome!

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

That’s the Ticket!

I got around to reading my That’s the Ticket! book last Monday night, late, finished it in one sitting (it’s a big book but not a long book) and started trying to implement it the next evening (well, at least I introduced it to the kids to mixed reviews). I decided that since I had kids on different levels of abilities, likes/dislikes… I’d make my own “playing boards” or lists of “Ways to Win” and “Rewards” in Excel so each child has their own. Geo and Gigi’s boards are pretty similar with a few more things on his as he has a few more things to work on that aren’t issues for her. Here’s a sampling of some of our Ways to Win:




Finish school within time limits 3 3
Use good handwriting on your spelling test 1 1
Have a good-attitude school day 5 5

Be ready for School on time or early 2 2
Say, "Yes Mom" or "Yes Dad" when we call you 1 1
Practice Piano for 30 minutes 10 10

Be kind and considerate to your family
No bossing, bullying, pestering, taking things, hitting, pinching, kicking, being rude, being mean, annoying, taunting, stealing, arguing, throwing…
3 3
Include youngers in activities 4 4
Obey cheerfully and promptly and long-term
     (don't disobey, whine or argue)
2 2
To resolve a conflict, use kind words, then get help if you need it. 5 5
Be respectful to Mom and Dad 5 5
Respect each other's privacy 5 5

Rinse your plates after meals 2 2
Clear your place at the table after meals 2 2
Clean up any messes you make 3 3

Do a chore cheerfully when asked 10 10
Fold a load of laundry 5 -
Put a load of laundry away 5 -
Empty or load the dishwasher 5 -


Our actual list is quite a bit longer, but it’s stuff our kids have heard for years so now it’s just a matter of putting it into practice.

The value in seeing the game boards (to me) were the ideas that they gave me that I hadn’t thought of before to add to my Ways to Win list. So, the book alone is not sufficient if you are looking for ideas in this area like I was. The book has ways to play the game, but not a list of all Ways to Win or Privileges, that’s on the game boards.

In the fashion of PocketMod, I created little books for the kids with all their Ways to Win along with their Privileges to chose from so they have easy access to them. I also have them posted on the side of the refrigerator and on the wall beside my desk, plus they get reminded of what is expected of them each time they win points or have to relinquish them.

The book suggests giving them a couple of days head start before you start taking any of their tickets and only reminding them of what is to come, but I wanted to jump right in so I gave them 300 points up front for doing nothing and we got started.

At first I printed out some tickets, 1 point tickets on white paper, 5 point tickets on green paper, but it got so hard to figure out how many points each kid had that I decided to come up with another way.

I had some colored paperclips in 6 different colors so I made yellow = 50 points, orange = 20 points, white = 10 points and Geo’s 1 points are blue, Gigi’s are red and Eli’s are/were green (he’s out of the game until he decides he’s a big enough boy to start earning more points than he’s losing; he’s only 4 and I’m thinking the game is best started at 6 or 7, we’ll see when he seems ready).

Since I started using the paperclips (which get tangled up easily), I came across these plastic links from Oriental Trading and I think they’ll work even better (though the 1 point links will all have to be the same color). This method makes it very easy to figure out how many points each child has and to carry out transactions. I can also wear several around my neck for easy access so I don’t miss an opportunity to reward good behavior. Also if the kids wear theirs, their points won’t get lost and I’ll know where to go to collect “tickets” if necessary.

Part of our day includes chore time (I’ve moved it to the morning and school to the afternoon because I just didn’t have the energy needed for zipping around the house cleaning in the afternoon. I’m usually feeling like a siesta come 2 p.m. so doing our chores in the a.m. has helped a lot.) and I made some nice little chore charts with rotating chores so that the kids won’t get too bored with the same ones week after week. They do have the same chores for 1 week, then I’ll print up another, different list. (Let me know if you’d like a copy of my chore list system and I’ll e-mail it to you).

KidsSchedSampThere’s a place at the bottom of their list where I add up the # of chores they did, properly and on time, and figure how many points they’ll get. They get an extra 5 points if they finish all of their chores correctly and on time, plus they get 2 points each for each correctly done/on time chore. But… if they aren’t all done on time, they lose 5 points, and lose 2 points for each chore not done correctly/on time. So, yesterday Geo got 33 points because he did them all on time and decently. But, today he only got 19 because he said he did a couple, but didn’t really do them at all (should have got him for lying too I guess).

I suppose it’s a little more work on my part, trying to keep track of points and every little things they’re supposed to be doing (and catching them if they don’t), but the difference in attitudes alone would make it worth the money and I’m starting to see a change in the house and how the kids relate to each other too (and this is only the first week). So far I’m very happy with this program and can’t say enough good things about it :) It’s truly been a God-send to me!

SonLight Education Ministry Homeschool Curriculum

As I mentioned, this is our homeschool curriculum for the next 15 or so years (if the world lasts that long). Recently I received a letter from them stating that they are closing up shop due to personal and financial reasons. However, because they believe in their curriculum and have put so much time and effort into it, they will be offering any of their self-published products for free starting December 31 of this year. I’m not positive because I haven’t checked with them yet, but I’m pretty sure this would include their Bible/Worship/Nature/Character Development curriculum they call Family Bible Lessons as well as their 2nd-8th grade unit study based SonLight program.

It is a conservative Seventh-Day Adventist curriculum and the Bible is woven into every aspect of study (including math!).

We haven’t used the 2-8 program yet, but will hopefully be starting that in January. I can speak to the Family Bible Lesson, though, as we’ve been using them for almost a year. I really like them, they have memory verses that you learn along with the lesson, character traits which are emphasized in each lesson (a different one each week), Bible selections to read for each lesson, then an overview with comprehension questions and finally a nature nugget which ties into the story and character trait with some ideas at the very end of each lesson on how to make what you learned practical in real life.

There is also a companion book of stories, poems and activities that go along with the lessons. There are activities for several levels of development plus applicable poems and interesting character building stories. There’s a wealth of information in each lesson, it’s not a wimpy Bible curriculum by any means. So check them out, the website is a bit basic and even the curriculum is black & white only (laser printer friendly), but my kids haven’t seemed to mind.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Homeschool 2010-2011 - Unabridged

This year has been interesting. I started eclectic homeschooling (i.e. doing my own thing based on Ambleside Online and then in 2007 mainly because we didn’t have much money to pour into a curriculum.

I researched a bunch and was at one point drawn toward KONOS, but what I really wanted was SonLight Education Ministry’s unit-study-based curriculum (not to be confused with the ubiquitous and well-known Sonlight). It’s an Seventh-day Adventist Homeschool curriculum that weaves Biblical themes and character traits throughout every topic you’re studying at any given time. From 2nd grade on, you can school your upper grade children together as there are different levels of questions/activities at the end of each lesson for them to complete. Anyway, to get everything I’d need for 8 grades of school, it was going to cost a pretty penny (which we didn’t have) so I just let it go.

But joy of joys, this last Christmas, my parents decided to bless me by buying it for us. As soon as it came (mid January), we started with the Riggs Institute’s Writing and Spelling Road to Reading and Thinking (which they recommend for 1st Grade) since I hadn’t done an official LA program with Geo and I felt he had some things to learn.

We’ve been plugging away at it all year and will probably finish it some time around the new year. It’s a great program (very thorough, lays a strong foundation in spelling, grammar, composition, phonics, reading…) and I don’t regret getting it, but it doesn’t seem to be melding with Geo’s personality (or maybe it’s his age). Whatever the case, this year hasn’t been my most fun or rewarding. I can’t wait till we’re done with Riggs and can start the actual SonLight program. We are already using the Family Bible Lessons (the Bible part of the curriculum) for worship and nature study and that’s going well.

In addition, this year, we’ve been going through Book A of McCall-Crabbs Standard Test Lessons in Reading (will finish tomorrow!), he’s in his 2nd year of piano lessons, he earned a Bible from Kid’s Time Kids Club by reading a year’s worth of Bible lessons and passing all the tests in less than 1/2 a year, and we’ve been trying to keep up with the kids’ Sabbath School Lessons (My Bible Stories, My Bible Lessons and My Bible First).

SonLight adheres to the “Better Late than Early” school of thought so they don’t suggest starting school till at least age 8. They also believe in waiting on math until at least grade 2 (they have many studies showing how beneficial it is to hold off on math till middle school) to let the right side of the brain develop more fully and better allow faith in God to develop during the early formative years.

Not knowing this, we’d started math in first grade, first using MEP (challenging, free, British math curriculum), then Math on the Level (which I will use again to supplement SonLight’s math next year). MEP was good, but there were so many problems to be solved every day and Geo was balking at the amount. When I came across MOTL, I was intrigued by the 5 problems a day method and Geo took to it right away too. I love the record- keeping and the math problems to chose from. All this to say that as soon as we read their reasons for delaying math, I stopped it to focus on Riggs.

Gigi started doing a little bit of homeschool last year (reading, math, writing, Bible, nature study…), but after I got the SonLight curriculum, I have backed her off to light reading, her recorder lessons, early phonics (in anticipation of Riggs which she will start as soon as Geo finishes), and Bible/nature study. We will let her start Riggs a little early (when she’s 7 1/2) because she is really anxious to start it. I will probably take it a little slower though and aim to complete the program in a year and 1/2 so she’ll join Geo in SonLight for 2nd grade.

I’ve had a bit of a hard time figuring where to place Geo as far as grades. The way we were going before, he would be entering 4th grade this year (August). But since he’s 9 and we’re just doing the first grade level of SonLight with him (catch-up), I’m not sure whether to say he’s 2nd since he would be if we’d waited to start him at age 8 and that’s how the new program goes, say he’s in 1st because he’s doing the first grade year of the SonLight program, or to say he’s in 4th this year (doing 1st grade catch-up work?). For now I’m saying that, because we got started on Riggs at an odd part of his 3rd grade year, that his 4th grade year won’t start until January. I figure since it’s a unit study curriculum, that he’ll easily be able to jump to the right grade level once we start the SonLight program. I also am not sure if it would be discouraging to him to be told that he’s not in 4th grade like he thought he was, that he’s really only in 2nd grade (at least according to the new system). Boy, things can get confusing. With Gigi, it won’t be such a big trouble, she’ll start first grade when she starts Riggs and since she doesn’t have a firm grasp of time and how long it should take to complete a grade, likely won’t catch that she should be going into 2nd this year instead of staying in first.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Oh happy day :)

Well, for the most part it’s been a frankly crummy day. Attitudes have been in the gutter (no mine, although I was somewhat effected), energy has been pent-up (definitely not mine), dog has been pestered (poor Lucy), school dragged on. So I’m so very glad that this day is almost to an end.

But… all wasn’t lost :) One more wall in our school/office/play… room got painted and it’s starting to look really good.


Also, the other thing that I’m rather excited about is this new game I found online called “That’s The Ticket.” It’s normally $44.95, but is currently on sale for $29.95. However, I found the complete game on Amazon for $4.99 (+s&h) and I’m doing a happy dance :)

It’s supposedly “teaches your kids how to empower their lives” in “a fun, interactive, motivational game” that helps to empower “parents to inspire their kids to WANT to:

Set clear goals

Complete specific tasks

Build positive habits

EARN the things they crave.”

All in a hopefully fun game disguise. We shall see, but for that price, I didn’t figure there was much to lose and the reviews that I’ve seen have been really positive. Even my child-rearing mentor, Kevin Leman, promotes it.

So… after a day like today, there’s a lot riding on this working because nothing I’ve tried so far has been terribly successful. Tonight I was SO fed up by everything that had happened today that I sent the kids to bed early. I just needed some quiet, decompression time, sans kids. Now, don’t get me wrong, I totally love my kids and can’t imagine my life without any of them, but sometimes… sometimes I just want to run and hide somewhere. So a quiet evening will hopefully be just the thing for this frazzled soul.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

They once were lost, but now are FOUND!!

The keys, that is. We searched and searched inside the house (everywhere the kids had been playing, under beds, under and behind couches…) and quite a bit outside yesterday, but with no luck. This morning I sent the kids outside for recess and to get their wiggles out and told them to keep an eye out for the keys. A little while later I heard excited pounding on the carport door, which was locked, and saw 2 little heads jumping up and down outside the window, rattling a set of keys!! :) Yay, got my thumb drive back, van key, house key, fire safe key… Thank you Lord!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Lucy lives!

Our doggy is going to get the “life-saving” surgery (as in she probably would have been put to sleep if not for this surgery because of finances) she needs to live a hopefully long, hopefully happy, hopefully healthy life. At least she has a chance now. All because 2 very dear, generous, benevolent, caring individuals who have a certain close grandparently tie to 4 certain little kids and who also probably didn’t like knowing how torn up I was getting… decided to pay for the whole kit and kaboodle and get the surgery to fix her foot, complete with pins for proper alignment of the bones. God is good! (Thank you Mom and Dad ;)

Oh where…

are the van keys?

Oh where are the van keys?

Oh where, oh where, oh where, oh where, oh where,

     oh where, oh where, oh where….

are the van keys?


Eli was playing with them or took them out when he went to play yesterday and he can’t remember what he did with them… they haven’t been seen since. I’ve checked in the tree house, under the tree house, by the swings, by the picnic tables, around the yard, on the back porch, down the stairwell, in all the bedrooms, behind the couch, under the couch… everywhere I can imagine I would put keys if I was 4. We we were supposed to go to Nina’s homeschool music class today but it doesn’t look like that will happen. :(

Monday, September 13, 2010

Could this be good-bye?

Our little dog Lucy broke all 4 of her metatarsals in her front right foot this morning. She was chasing a swinging child (yeah, one of ours) and somehow her foot collided with the swing (wooden porch swing type). I saw the x-rays, they don’t look good.

Our choices are: 1) splinting the foot and hoping for the best ($200+ for all care), 2) amputating the leg ($500+), 3) “doing it right” and having surgery to put pins in the bones so they will grow together the right way and hopefully insure years of pain-free dog life (~$900), or 4) euthanasia ($13). We’ve already spent $130 just to have her checked out and x-rayed. Aye!

DH and I are NOT leaning toward just splinting the leg, but there’s no way we can afford surgery either. So it’s a difficult choice. Do you put a dog down because she broke 4 bones or do you become indentured servants to pay for surgery? I really don’t know what to do. She is spending the night there so we can pray about it and try to figure out what to do. It was a sad day for me :( I didn’t think it would hit me so hard, but whenever I had to talk about her, I had to fight hard, let me tell you.

Crawling out from under my log

I admit I’m not much of a blogger, life gets so much in the way sometimes and just takes over. But I’ve been feeling the pull to express myself lately so here goes again. This time I’m messing around with Windows Live Writer since I have a sort of mental block about having to log in to Blogger to post to my blog each time. Maybe this way it’ll mentally not seem like such a chore (not that it’s really that difficult, but I’m that way with webmail too [I use Thunderbird] and if I could get onto Facebook without logging on to the website, I probably would). Ok, so anyway, I’m baaack! (at least for awhile ;o)