Tap Tap… Is this thing on?

Life continues to roll along here. We started back to homeschool about 6 weeks ago. Then co-op started a couple of weeks later – the day after Labor Day. The thing we’ve been enjoying the most at home has been a book called Time Traveler by Usborne. We have studied medieval castles, the Vikings, and are currently in the midst of the Roman Empire. All 3 of us are fascinated by it and it’s become the thing we look forward to reading about during afternoon snack.

Current status – Isaac:
He’ll officially be 7 1/2 in 4 days. His primary passions are Pokemon Go, Minecraft (discussions, not playing it), and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ). He started BJJ in July and has found his niche. Here’s are a quick video of Isaac and one of his favorite instructors, Israel. The studio is run by Professor Ruy (pronounce hooey) who is a black belt. Israel and Jojo are Ruy’s primary assistants and all 3 of them are amazing men. Isaac has gotten stronger already. He goes Monday through Thursday for an hour each day and he begs to go. Isaac’s co-op class with Miss Sevara has been creating all sorts of things. He’s recently brought home a bridge and a catapult he’s made. They’ve been fun projects.

Current status – Laine:
She’s been 5 1/2 for over a week now. Her passions are anything glittery, pink, twirly, princess, or unicorn. She’s in dance once a week and is still enjoying it. She gets to use the barre this year, so that’s exciting and new for her. Tap dance is harder than ballet, but she seems to enjoy it. She is also getting better at her reading. Today she read “Tin Raft,” which is the first story in her second All About Reading Level 1 book. She is moving slowly and steadily through the curriculum and I’m thankful that she’s pacing herself in such a way that she’s not getting overwhelmed but still moving forward. Laine has a new teacher this year, Miss Chris(tina). Her class is awesome. She’s working on mindfulness, studying human anatomy, and learning geography. She never wants to leave when I try to pick her up after class. I’ve teased Christina a few times that she’s going to end up with another daughter.

Both kids decided to continue swim lessons into the fall, so we’ve switched from week-long lessons to weekly lessons. This week was their first chance to go in the big pool. They did great, but they need to get a bit more comfortable with it before they move up to the next level. I expect that to take a couple of weeks.

Acid Tastes Sour

In today’s fun science news, acid tastes sour. The kids and I did a taste test on different foods. Then, we boiled water and, in a separate pot, shredded cabbage. Mom warned me that boiling cabbage might leave an odor behind, so I set everything up on the picnic table after the water came to a boil. I poured the boiling hot water over cabbage leaves and we let that combo cool for 30 minutes. Then I poured the strained cabbage water (which was now purple) into separate jars. Here’s our initial set-up:

After we’d completed our taste tests and decided which ones we thought were sour, we added bits of each food to our cabbage water to see whether it changed colors.

The most dramatic color changes were from lemon juice and vinegar, which meant they were the strongest acids. The least changes were made from tea and whipped cream. It was a fun excuse to get everyone outside on a sunny, breezy, cool day.

All About Reading

Hello Dear Readers,

Isaac informed me about 2 months ago that he didn’t WANT to learn to read. He has better things to do with his time. OK. I’m still breathing. Laine is incredibly eager to learn to read, so I’ll just teach her.

Anyway, I had been researching curricula for teaching reading. The curriculum we use for most of our homeschooling just hasn’t wowed me with the way it teaches reading. There’s a lot of emphasis on letter sounds and helping the kids learn to write letters properly. I think both of those are important. However, I don’t think that’s going to a) excite Isaac to want to read or b) allow me to feel like we’re covering all of the bases. In my research, I’ve come across the name All About Reading a few times. Then a fellow homeschooler I’d never met told me this was THE program as we were discussing kids and reading. I came home and went to work on Google. I gave both kids the assessments to figure out where their skill levels were. Both qualified for Level 1. After giving this a long hard think, I decided to call the company. The incredibly helpful woman at All About Learning could have been in my head. First, she said 2 different things that really captured my newly-6-year-old in a way that I myself couldn’t quite put into words. It’s honestly like she’d had a few chats with him and then called me up to talk it over. It was uncanny. Then she said something about how *I* was feeling about what we’d been doing and it was all I could do to keep myself from sobbing on the phone. She touched directly on my biggest fears. These people KNOW what they are talking about. She both understood the boy in my house AND the mom who wants to do this thing right. I am in awe.

At her suggestion, I purchased the Level 1 program for Isaac and the Pre-Reading course for Laine. This has been a great choice for us. Laine’s already up to letter I in her class and is motoring right along. (For reference, she turned 4 in late March, but will pour over books for an hour at a time while she looks at pictures and tries to read the words). She’ll work through all of the capital letters and then we’ll go through all of the lowercase letters via this program. There’s an adorable little Zebra puppet (Ziggy) who works alongside Laine and she is having a great time helping him learn. She gives him a lot of encouragement and hugs. It’s utterly adorable. I feel great because I’m working at her pace and we’re mostly doing crafts and playing games. She is picking this up VERY quickly and I don’t feel like she’s getting the short end of the stick because I don’t know how to teach this. I’m no longer reluctant to try teaching reading.

Meanwhile, there’s Isaac. Level 1 teaches with a combination of phonics/phonemics (the sounds letters make) and sight words (words like “the” that you just have to recognize). He’s also playing a lot of games – some of them are even games that have him sounding out words on flash cards – and he’s really having fun with it! He’s knocking my socks off every single day because he’s not only asking me if we can do schoolwork, I’m finally watching this click for him. The focus is on getting him to read, but it’s not done in an obnoxious way and it’s done so well that we are both genuinely enjoying the time together. There are letter tiles on magnets we’ve put on a baking sheet (so we can use it at the dining room table) and we put together lots of words there and he sounds them out or spells them to ask me to sound them out. That’s also been unexpectedly fun for him.

This program is everything I’d hoped to find in a reading program. I’m thrilled with the teacher’s portion of it because it is remarkably well-organized and I am able to follow a plan. It took me about 20 minutes to set up Laine’s Pre-Reading stuff. It took about an hour to set up Level 1 for Isaac. Then I went back a week later and ordered the Reading Games with Ziggy book for Isaac and he asks for these games with the zebra puppet all day long (I know Grandma will be surprised that he wants to play a game over and over and over again!) There won’t be gaps in the kids’ learning. They’re both moving forward and having a fantastic time without me feeling like I’ll have to force them to work on their reading skills (#1 on the list of things I’m not about to do…) It’s self-paced, so Isaac has been on Level 3 for 5 days (because I’m really and truly not going to rush this). Here’s where we were today:

Tap the pan (Sentence)


Sam can nap (Sentence)

I can’t figure out how to post a video within the blog any more, so you’ll have to click on the links to watch them. 

I also didn’t video me hugging him and then jumping up and down in my excitement. You’ll just have to imagine what that part looked like.


Science has become everyone’s favorite subject. In addition to studying outer space at co-op on Mondays,

…we’ve done some fun science work and experiments at home.

We learned about how plants send water to their leaves. Then we demonstrated it using blue food dye, water, and some celery stalks. The kids had fun checking the celery every 15 minutes to see whether it had changed. After the leaves turned blue, the kids cut the celery stalks to see the blue capillaries. Laine displays the end of hers…

We read about leaves and how they work and then collected leaves from various plants around our yard. We got a fairly impressive collection of them and used them to do leaf rubbings.

We all had quite a bit of fun with that one. The ones that involve going outside to work are definitely the favorites for all of us!

More Kindergarten

Homeschool is continuing on really well, but I’m not doing a good job at updating the blog. I’m going to do an update for about 2 weeks’ worth of schooling because Todd left with my laptop power cord… for Austria. I’m not able to do much with my blog on the old computer upstairs because it is painfully slow and my new power cord won’t be here until Wednesday. Bear with me…

This is the pile of books and manipulatives we’re going to be using this school year. I meant to post this photo in the beginning, but forgot about it.

Isaac continues to work on his letters – he LOVES to write them BIG on the easel!!!

We made a weather vane when we were learning about wind.

Not school-related! Laine was helping Todd work on the shed and I loved this shot of her in her little work gloves.

You needn’t worry that it’s “all work and no play” around here…

Painting and crafts aren’t a part of our daily plans, but I know the kids would like them to be. I’m trying to get better about that.

Isaac working on his “Explode the Code” workbooks. The kids and I are crazy about these books. I actually had to hide them from Isaac for a while because he wanted to work on them *constantly*. They’re a fantastic tool for learning phonics/phonemics.

Using the magnifying glass to inspect some leaves and debris from around the yard.

Sorting the leaves out:

Working on the letter t in “Explode the Code.” 

These are some of the pages from his “Explode the Code” workbooks. You can see where he’s really mastering the letter sounds. I’m ecstatic about how quickly he’s picking this up.

I promise there will be more soon. I have the photos loaded onto my laptop and I’ll work on updating again as soon as I get a new power cord – hopefully Wednesday afternoon!

Kindergarten – Week 1

This week, we started homeschooling in a more official capacity. I decided to try firing up Ye Olde Blogge this week so I could show you a little bit of what we’re doing. The future looks bright!

We did some fun things and some serious things. I obviously didn’t document every single thing we did because I want to be engaged in this process, but I thought it might be fun to share some.

Isaac decided to create his own instructions and then follow them to build a tower:

He practiced writing:

This is a neat program. It’s called Handwriting Without Tears. First, we “build” the capital letters using big lines, little lines, big curves, and little curves. Then, we follow the “wet, dry, try” method. I write the letter on the chalk board. Isaac traces over it with a wet cloth, then again with a dry cloth, and then finally he draws it himself. He *really* liked this method when we tried it this week. 

I’m glad he’s enjoying some of the process.

Then we practice again by writing it in his workbook. He’s less thrilled about having to write the letters so much smaller, but he’s working on it. He’s such a perfectionist that he tends to get upset if it isn’t just like he wants, so I’m thankful for erasers!

Meanwhile, not to be left behind:

For history, we’re reading a fun book called Living Long Ago. This week we discussed different modes of transportation. There were boats called coracles that had animal skins wrapped around a wooden frame and then were coated in tar to make them waterproof. We made our own version of this using a plastic bag and pipe cleaners. I was ecstatic that it didn’t immediately sink!

The other history lessons come from the Usborne Children’s Encyclopedia. I can’t possibly say enough good things about this book. It has QR codes (those little square boxes on nearly every package of everything that you can scan for more marketing materials). We scanned several of them and got to see videos on cloud formation and hurricanes (for science) and then saw a neat video about how the first farmers settled down in the Fertile Crescent. Clicking additional links while we talked about Ancient Egypt took us to a *phenomenal* site from a children’s museum in Birmingham, UK. We got to take a 360* tour of a pyramid – inside and out as well as learning lots of new info about mummies via an interactive page. I was so fascinated! Isaac put up with me. LOL! 

We also have a fun science book we’re using, but it’s British, so they talk about fun experiments we can do using radiators. I had to laugh. Even if we had radiators in Texas, we certainly wouldn’t be using them during school hours in early September! So we tried to use the heat from the road. This would have worked better a few weeks ago when the temps exceeded 100*, but we tried.

For P.E., Isaac learned something new (and not my favorite) this week.

Unrelated to homeschool, Laine has started ballet and tap classes this week and she’s very excited about it. It was exceptionally cute to watch her and her new friends.

Finally, marginally related to homeschool, I now need glasses so I can keep up with our literature-based curriculum. I pick them up in 2 weeks, but here’s the preview:

Anyway, Isaac is on his way!