Bamboo Sprouts

I sure likey these peeps of mine!

Here they are in our front yard all ready for their once a week enrichment program which is a lot like a day at school.  They LOVE this program and I mostly love it too.

So far, we are having the best school year yet.  The enthusiasm is through the roof and I see light bulbs going off constantly as they wrap their minds around all the new information this year.  Very fun.  We are much more interactive this year and I think that is making it more interesting and more fun for all of us.  Although their “desks” are still in place, we have not used them once yet this school year!  We are doing all of our work at the kitchen table, working together and this is so much better.

So!  Time to head back to school…which for us means back to the kitchen table.  🙂 

This year we have a second grader and two first graders, one who is more a kindergartener really.  I am using basically the same curriculum for everyone and then upping the level for Sophie a bit for second grade on some things.  Basically I am going to show my first grade curriculum here but honestly it is so much the same.  Sophie needs a more challenging math than the littler ones and she does cursive writing and that sort of thing, but if I was able to make it the same, I did.

So here is the stack of books that we will be relying on this year.  I am going to go through each one below because a couple of peeps have asked me to but I know this might be quite the dull post for some.   For me, it is my life right now!  🙂

This is THE book for us.  The Well Trained Mind.  It goes into detail about why classical method and it tells just how to do it.  It does not tell you exactly what to order, but it gives options to look into, an idea of how much time should be spent on each subject at each grade level, etc.  This book covers k-12 so it is a great investment.  I ordered this off of Amaz*n and I order whatever I can from them as I like their free shipping and good service and availability of books.

Math.  Oh math.  So this would be our third or fourth math program to try!  Yeah.  We used Saxon the first year, Singapore last year and switched to just basic math workbooks midyear and now this is Math U See Beta level (for first grade).  So far (just started using it today!), I like it.  It feels like a complete program and it doesn’t look like an insane amount of busy work (which is what bugged me about Saxon).  Math is hard to settle on.  We ordered the whole kit, manipulatives, teacher book, test and workbooks and cd from the MathUSee website.  Wish us luck!  😉

For reading, I like this.  This is by the same author that wrote the Well Trained Mind book and actually I like everything they do so far.  They have their own reading, language arts, history and writing programs and we use all of them.  I ordered this from Amazon.

Also by the authors of WTM.  I love this writing program.  There are two versions, a text only or this is text and workbook combo and to me, it is worth it to have the work pages ready to go so this is my preference!  Available at Amaz*n. 

We use all the BOB book sets to supplement for reading.  I think I found these at Costc* a couple of years ago but they are also available on Amaz*n.

Another by the authors of WTM.  We have the workbook, textbook and also the textbook is available on CD and we have that version too.  There are four volumes and they will get you through high school, you just study each of them three times, at different levels.  First grade begins with the ancients.  I think I ordered this on Amaz*n as well.

Language arts, also by the authors of WTM.  A lot of these resources go k or 1-2 so we really did not have to buy too much this year.  Math was my main investment, plus a few supplemental things for science and some consumable workbooks for writing and such. 

So this I am not too sure about!  Last year we used Spelling Workout and I think I liked that better because it had a few days of activity pages for each spelling list and then a spelling quiz on Friday.  This book is more just lists of words.  Hmm.  Might return this one.

I think this is such a cute little home ec series for home schooled kiddos!  It says for girls but I don’t see a thing wrong with boys knowing how to peel a potato, make a salad and entertain with nice manners so we will all be doing this.  Basically it is a very simple little program that teaches one thing a week.  I ordered this from some independent type website and would just suggest googling it if interested.

I forgot to take a photo of our main science book.  We are going to use Building Foundations of Scientific Understanding by Nebel this year.  We haven’t started it, but I like the looks of it and the way it is layed out.  We will supplement with these DVD’s and a science experiment type book and they are signed up for some classes that will have them doing some experiments as well.

I also ordered some of these fun little books.  One is experiments, one is geography and one is states.  I think another is backordered, maybe about body or plants.  What “should” be covered in science for first grade is body, plants and animals and Kingsfisher books are suggested but I find I need more direction than that.

I like this series for a general idea of where we should be.  When I have freak-out moments and start to worry that we are behind, I consult this book and usually see that we are basically fine.  🙂  These are available for each grade level.

I keep the things we are working on weekly (listed above) out and lots more supplies and resources in this cabinet.

See?  🙂

In our family room, we have these desks set up for individual work but my big goal this year is to do more stuff together so I think we will work at the kitchen table more.

In addition to our regular curriculum, we have decided to try a program that will meet once a week for some extra curricular things like art and science experiments and such.  The girls also do ballet, everyone does Chinese cultural school and Sophie takes piano lessons.  Rick takes them to the library each week as well and I am hoping to get organized enough to get some additional resources from there since you can’t beat that deal.  🙂

I will post our general school schedule tomorrow!

School!  This is basically our classroom.  Recently, well over Christmas break really, I started fretting and thinking we better enroll them in public school.  I wonder if this is going to be a yearly problem!  So I got out some of my books to see where we should “be”…and seems we are ok.  We have overlooked geography.  But we have months to fix that little glitch.  That is why there is a bare spot on the top shelf of Bella’s desk!  The globe is on the coffee table right behind where they sit at their desks because we are working on that now.  🙂

I recently came up with a new system for organizing their daily work.  It now only requires about an hour each weekend to plan ahead for the coming week and it makes the week go so much better.  Each kiddo has a section in this sorter thingy and each has 5 folders in their section.  On Sunday evening, I put their work for each day in a folder and file it in this organizer.  Then each day, I just pull out the folder they need to complete for the day.  This allows them to work more independently on some things, is clear what needs doing each day, and keeps us on track better.  On the front of the folder, I list additional work that needs to be done because some things don’t fit in a folder. 

The kiddos are 5, 5 and 7.  One first grader and two kindergarteners.  It was getting so crazy with all the I am done and what’s next type questions and I was often unable to finish working with the child I was working with in order to get someone else started on their next assignment.  This has eliminated much of that.  I got to thinking about a typical classroom and there is no way that a teacher keeps each student working at their own pace!  They must often have to “wait” until the next assignment.  Now that is the beauty of homeschooling!  Everyone working at their own pace.  But at this age, with everyone not reading quite well enough to be on their own yet, it was just nuts.  SO!  🙂  We are learning to “wait” a bit and learning to find something else in our folder to work on if possible until the MaMa is freed up to help.

Hard at work.

The Grotto Grip.  Fantastic little thingy that makes their pencil grip flawless.  🙂  Sophie said last night she would like one for her fork and you know that isn’t a bad idea!  LOL  I have looked around at restaurants before and been surprised at how kiddos (even kind of old ones!) have not been taught how to hold a fork.  Feel free to steal Sophie’s gazillion dollar idea.  Just send us three sample fork grips when you do please.  🙂

Hard at work and helping each other out as needed.  Kind of funny…when I first moved us to the family room for school, I had Bella and Levi working at the coffee table for a few days and one day Levi said Bella lets move that plant so I can see your paper better!  hahahahahah  I had never told them a thing about doing their own work, not copying, cheating, etc.  We discussed this a bit but still when we set up these desks that we work at now, I put Sophie between the two kindergarteners who are usually working on the same assignments!  🙂

Overall, school is going well these days.  Recently, they asked what we were going to do and I replied SCHOOL and Sophie moaned and groaned and I said excuse me let’s try that again!?   And the other two cheered and said YAY SCHOOL and so she joined in!  LOL  You know we had to do that with dinner a couple years ago when everyone started coming to the table grumpy and not liking anything and now they just say thank you for my good deener and most of the time Sophie actually says OH IT’S MY FAVORITE.  Almost every meal is her favorite now.  🙂  So much nicer to sit down to a table of thankful peeps than a table ful of pills.  So we will go the same route with bad attitudes and school because I think so much of it is a matter of HABIT.  It had just become a habit to come to the table grumpy.  We don’t want that to happen with school!

Oh my goodness…where to do our school work!  We started downstairs in the playroom/office area but ugh.  I am just not a basement girl, walk out basement or not.  It’s so seperate from the rest of the house.  Which is exactly what I love about it for the playroom!  But for school, no good.  So then we moved up to the kitchen table.  But there is no wall space there, no storage for supplies and it’s an area that I dont like to be messy all the time because it is literally the center of our house and open to the rest of it.  So then I moved us to the dining room.  Pretty good.  Still out of the way a bit, but not as far out as the playroom.  Still didn’t like the mess in there although I did like the wall space.  Eventually though, I realized that I rarely used the white board anyhow.  I sit next to them and work with them more at this point.  And the big thing, I live in the family room really.  So, we made the move a few weeks ago.  Bought these tiny desks so that three would fit in here without too much having to be moved out.  This works.  We shall see for how long.  LOL  But this works.  🙂

Everyone has their own spot.  Can you tell who sits where?  🙂  It’s handy, I can see them from kitchen and family room.  I am comfy and so are they and guess what.  These desks are really microwave carts I believe and were on clearance for $29 at the Walm*rt and that is hard to beat.  At first when I realized they weren’t really desks (of course this was after they were assembled by the person who didn’t really love this idea in the first place!), I was fretting because the desk tops are high.  But guess what, these stools are perfect height for them and keep the kids from squirming so much.  Whew because that assembly person might have had a cow if I changed my mind AGAIN already.  He doesn’t get why finding the “place” for school has been so difficult!  I don’t really get it either but that’s that.  🙂

If you homeschool, where do you do it?  I understand lots of peeps move all around but so far, when they are so young, I can’t make that work either.  I can totally see that once they are older though!

Today we started year two of schooling at home and we had a great day! 

This year we have a first grader and two kindergarteners.  🙂  If going to public school, Bella would miss the cut off here by three weeks!  But that is one of the beauties of schooling at home.  She would be so disappointed to not get to start school with Sophie and Levi and besides, she is plenty ready for Kinder!

Sophie Jiao age 61/2, first grade

Levi WenYu age 5, kindergarten

Bella Jiao age 4.5, kindergarten

Today is cool and cloudy so everyone was happy to get to wear their new, cool weather clothes and that even seemed perfect for the first day of school.  🙂

We kicked off the day with showers and a good breakfast and I was feeling like super mama.  Do some peeps do all this every day?  LOL  Well we dont!  But I sorta like ceremony and so new clothes and hot breakfast and such seemed fitting and made the day extra special.

Everyone hard at work.  Sophie has much more work to get done each day than the little ones do so I dismissed them for part of the time and they headed to the playroom while Sophie and I worked.  I was so proud of each of them today. 

Oh and the candle on the table?  Well a couple years ago for preschool at home (which we did not end up doing any formal program even though I ordered two different ones!), I ordered this program that was a little on the hocus pocus side.  LOL  Anyhow, one of the things was a candle lighting to kick off each session.  Well I found it weird.  But when setting things up last night, I thought of that candle again and could see some value in it.  It does sort of indicate the start of the school day and it also sets a mood.  I want kids to come to the table ready to work and not hopping all around.  They have a playroom where they can go hop all they want afterall.  If nothing else…there is FIRE on the table.  This just seems to say sit down and talk a little quieter than usual.  lol  I don’t know.  Maybe it’s still kinda hocus pocus, but it seemed to do the trick today (no pun intended there).

The Well Trained Mind book that we use as our guide for homeschooling, suggests starting cursive in about second grade, but Sophie is just dying to learn it, so we are going ahead.  She calls it curtsy.  LOL  Sophie is a great student.  Picks things up quickly and as with everything else she does, she excels at every subject.  Its pretty crazy.  I am amazed at how much learning happens naturally and was reminded of this today with Soph.  Last year there were some math concepts that she struggled with and frankly, I couldn’t come up with how to get them across to her.  We left those problems blank and came back to them today and it was all just clear and obvious to her now.  She is simply ready for those problems now.  This is why I basically don’t worry if they don’t all start reading at the same time and such.  It will come. 

I have been fretting over teaching Levi to be honest.  He is behind the girls in fine and gross motor skills, which I know is pretty normal for a boy, but still does wear on my patience sometimes.  And yet, with him most of all, I MUST be patient!  Well, he has come a long way over the summer.  Last year, he just could not get his hand to make the letters I would ask him to make.  Today, we started again with the letter A and he DID IT.  I mean it took lots of trying and coaching but seriously, I about cried at one point because he did so well!  He is so eager to please that I wont ever be able to fault him for that.  And when I got so excited when he finally got his A to come out pretty much right, he beamed and it just made him try even harder.  We are going to be ok.  🙂

Ah yes and then there is Bella.  🙂  She squirms.  She has trouble staying on her chair.  I told her she might need a seat belt.  LOL She said she doesnt want to do school in the car (not what I meant of course) and I said well then keep your tiny bootie on that chair during school!  She can do the work and is eager.  Her attention span is shorter than some and she is satisfied with less quality work.  But the thing is, I remember being a bit this way as well.  I have always been a person who can get a lot done, but not perfectly.  My standard is set at medium and I trade some quality for quantity.  I will have to find the balance with this kiddo.  She will need more creative and hands on work.  Her body has to be as busy as her mind.  It makes me wonder…seriously…how a teacher with 25 students manages to meet the needs of all their students!  I feel like sheesh I only have 3 students and they all have special needs in some ways and that is all the challenge I can handle!

Everyone did so well with their school work that we then loaded up and headed to the park for a McD’s picnic lunch and some “recess” time.

someone left a hopscotch board that we all enjoyed.  🙂

Today was one of those days that is a reminder of what is possible, which is exactly what I think a first day of school should be.  I think the first day often sets a standard that can’t be met daily, but it is good to know it can happen.  I am not a routine person and organization is something I have to work at.  I have long known that organization is the key to home schooling and this has worried me.  Because of this, I have planned out this year day by day (academically I mean and also I dont mean hour by hour.  I simply know exactly what needs to be covered each day in each subject) and based on today, I think this is going to help me.