Sunday, November 14, 2010

Homeschooling Update, Week 9

{couch time, reading My Father's Dragon}

Well, it's WAY past time for an update, now that we are 1/4 of the way through first grade!!! I am really enjoying homeschool this year. Not that I didn't enjoy it last year, but this year has been more fun because Sam is enjoying it more, soaking up learning, and making much better progress with reading, which makes a huge difference. It's not like pulling teeth every time we have a reading lesson anymore! I wanted to share where we are in Sam's various subjects, and then give you a look at what our homeschool days look like.

  • Reading: Sam just completed lesson 137 in The Ordinary Parent's Guide to Teaching Reading. He is now reading longer words and sentences . . . we just finished learning about the silent "gh" in words such as "eight," "bright," etc.
  • Handwriting: Every week he practices a couple different words each day, then the last 2 lessons for the week are tracing a Bible verse, then copying it on a lined paper from the back of the book, which also has a picture around the border that he can color. I'm really happy with his progress in neatness, just over the past nine weeks! The handwriting book suggests that he give his finished verse to someone every week, which is fun . . . and he keeps thinking of more people to give or send them to. I'm sure we will use some of them to decorate the fridge, too. :) Along with A Reason for Handwriting, we are also loosely following Writing With Ease for copywork and narration practice. I say "loosely" because we don't follow it to a "T." :) We usually do a couple of copywork sentences every week, but I skip most of the narration because I have him narrate quite a bit back to me from our read-alouds, plus he gets narration practice with his language lessons, too.
  • Language: We started using First Language Lessons for the Well Trained Mind around the beginning of October. (I didn't order it till then because I was waiting for the newest edition to come out.) Even though we started it a month later than everything else, we should still be able to finish it by the end of the year with no problem, just doing 4 lessons a week. I am really liking this book a lot! It's a very gentle, repetitive introduction to basic grammar, and it fits well with both the OPG for reading and WWE for writing (it's from the same author/company). So far we have been learning about common nouns and proper nouns, the definition of a noun, and Sam has also memorized two short poems (which he loved!). These lessons only take about 5-10 minutes at the most and while they are very repetitive, I know that that is what helps build a good foundation for language. I don't remember when I learned the definition of a noun, but I don't think it was in first grade . . . if it was, I certainly don't remember it! But I'd venture a guess that Sam will have that definition drilled into his mind so well that he will remember it for the rest of his life!
  • Math: I am still very impressed with Singapore Math! Best of all, Sam loves it. So far this year we have covered 5 units: Numbers 0-10, Number Bonds, Addition, Subtraction, and Ordinal Numbers. The units on addition and subtraction were the longest, and I loved how the lessons covered the concepts thoroughly, yet kept the work fun and interesting. Sam really enjoys math, and he's getting good at it, thanks to Singapore!
Now, to give you a picture of what our typical homeschool day looks like! We don't have a strict schedule, but I usually try to get school started between 9-9:30 am. Sometimes it's a little earlier than that, sometimes a little later. Usually if we make sure to start by at least 9:30, we are easily done by lunchtime. We always start with his workbooks (math, handwriting, reading, language) at the kitchen table. The order we go in varies depending on his mood, but we almost always start with either reading or handwriting (his 2 least favorites) and save math and language for last. Handwriting tends to take the longest, because he does that on his own (I'm usually doing some kitchen cleanup or starting a batch of bread during that time). If he's not feeling motivated to write, he procrastinates . . . so handwriting sometimes takes a while! I sit with him to do the other subjects, so those go along pretty fast.

After the workbooks are done, we head over to the couch for our read-alouds. We call this "couch time" and it's Sam's favorite part of school, hands-down. :) Julia and Josiah usually hop up and listen in, too. We have been reading some neat books! This year's theme is "Introduction to the World: Cultures." There has been a lot of good variety in the kinds of books we're reading. We read one about William Tell (The Apple and the Arrow), The Boxcar Children (and we've added in a number of the sequels, too--Sam and Julia LOVE them), My Father's Dragon (this was another big favorite!) and others. For science, we've been learning a lot about plants and trees from our Usborne books. We have also been studying little bits of history and geography from the Usborne Children's Encyclopedia (I have to "edit" this one in some places--lots of evolutionary theory presented as fact), and we've been reading through Egermeier's Bible Story Book.

Another thing we are doing as part of our evening Bible time routine, is teaching the kids a hymn each month. For September we learned "How Firm a Foundation," October was "Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee," and this month we're working on "Come, Ye Thankful People, Come." The kids are really enjoying this, and it's exciting to teach them some of the old hymns of the faith. They memorize them so quickly, just like they memorize everything else. It's great! :)

We do school Monday-Thursday and take Fridays off, but my plan has been to use Fridays for nature study, art, or piano lessons, etc. So far I haven't been doing very well incorporating extra-curricular activities. I really need to work on this! My goal for the next quarter is to make our Fridays fun and educational with more nature study and hands-on activities. I would also like to add in some field trips now and then. Sam loves doing hands-on stuff, but I find it somewhat difficult/frustrating to do much of that with the younger ones wanting to be involved too. Bad mommy! I know I need to involve them, it's just hard to find the desire sometimes, since their capabilities aren't quite up to the level that Sam's are, yet. We did have one really fun Friday a couple weeks ago . . . we spent time outside doing bark rubbings as part of our tree study. We also studied our ducks (we were learning about ducks and geese), and Sam drew a picture of Puddleduck, and we watched "Fly Away Home" to learn more about geese.
Well, sorry this update has been so, so long! If you've stuck with me all the way to the end, you deserve a prize. :) I'll try to write about our school adventures more regularly after this! Also, I would love to hear comments from other homeschooling moms--about your daily routine, how you fit in extra stuff, how much hands-on stuff you do with your kiddos, etc. I am always looking for more ideas and inspiration! Over the next couple weeks I want to add in some Thanksgiving books and activities, so please let me know if you have any good ones to recommend, too!


Dan said...

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I would appreciate your reviewing SpellQuizzer in Life on a Back Road. If you are interested in hosting a giveaway of a SpellQuizzer license I'd be happy to supply a free license to the winner. You can learn more about the program at There's a video demo you can watch at and a community site where SpellQuizzer users can share their spelling lists with one another ( Finally, there's a page targeted to homeschooling families at I'd be happy to send you a complimentary license for the software. Please let me know if you are interested.

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Dan Hite
TedCo Software

Alicia said...

I made it to the end, what's my prize? :) Just kidding -- I devoured your post! I love hearing not only what other families are reading/studying but also what their day's schedule looks like. We just finished the boxcar children and Chloe loved it too! I didn't have any of the sequels on hand (I wasn't expecting to fly through it so fast) so today we started the borrowers. It's good but the syntax is at a much higher level than boxcar children so it will take some adjusting for Chloe's listening skills.

I have the same exact frustration about incorporating Clive into school. And sometimes I know it's not fair to drag him into things since he's still so young. I'm trying to work on that and to just play with him sometimes instead of forcing him to participate in Chloe's school things. It helps that I do most of Chloe's school stuff in the afternoon.

Isn't reading fun now that our kids are catching on and enjoying it?!? Chloe's been plowing through books lately and really turned a corner with her confidence level.

Thanks for the writing and language curriculum tips! Those sound fantastic!

Kira said...

What books are you using for Singapore Math and where did you get them? I want to begin using it as well. We've also recently discovered the wonderful free videos for math & science at Khan Academy. For fall crafts and nature projects you might like the tutorials on Dana Made It or The Magnifying Glass :)