Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Excitement and anticipation

Summer is almost over. I thought I would feel more sad but I don't. I'm ready to start the school year, ready to have a regular routine, ready to not have a week of this and then a week of that. It was a good summer. We had fun spending time with family and friends. I'm just ready to move on.

Last year, we switched math curriculum halfway through the school year so I had planned to continue doing math through the summer so the kids would be able to catch up. We did it about 10 days total all summer. Oops. So I started it up again last week and was pleasantly surprised to see they hadn't forgotten much information. Whew! And Tori was catching on quicker than before. The numbers seem to be making more sense to her and she's able to remember addition facts a little easier. This was a much needed boost of confidence for me as we go into the school year.

One of the drawbacks of homeschooling is that you choose your own curriculum. It's not really a drawback until you begin second-guessing your decision and wondering if another curriculum would make your child smarter and your job easier. I tend to second-guess every decision I ever make. I second-guess the decisions Josh makes for me. And the ones he makes for himself.

Our first year of homeschooling, I chose curriculum from A Well-Trained Mind by Susan Wise Bauer. I enjoyed all the materials but we didn't finish because the twins were born in early February. We still did some work but it wasn't consistent.

The second year, I chose Christian Light because it was all workbooks and Brendan could do them on his own, with a little direction from me. We both hated them. He didn't like all the seatwork and endless workbook pages and I didn't like making him do them. I also disagreed with some of the things he was expected to learn and remember.

The third year I had two that would be in school (before this, Tori had just done little workbooks with us) and I had toddlers. I decided to try Sonlight, which uses mostly books (I think I've expressed my love for these before) and also comes with a teacher's guide already planned out. It felt like Christmas when these boxes arrived. The Sonlight was definitely a better fit for us than Christian Light but as the year went on, I noticed some things I didn't like. The math books they recommended were time consuming for me and seemed to move rather quickly before making sure the student understood the material. Halfway through the year, we went back to Math-U-See and I immediately noticed an improvement. The history books were interesting to read and look at but we didn't do anything with the information after we read it. Around March, I started re-reading A Well-Trained Mind and some other resources to figure out what to do the next year.

I just ordered our curriculum last week and feel good about what we'll be doing this year. I liked the reading program that Sonlight provided for new readers - they give you a guide with what book to have them read and how many pages each day. I didn't have to do this with Brendan - he learned to read when he was 4 and was reading chapter books easily in 2nd grade. He's now reading The Hobbit. Yes, the same one I just finished not too long ago. Reading is not coming as easily for Tori so I want to make sure we have a practice time each day. I also liked the science program through Sonlight. They use fun, regular books and then have worksheets that go along with them. They also have experiments you can do every week and provide the special materials for the experiments and give you a dvd so you can see how to do them (or just watch them if you're too lazy to do them yourself - this happened more than once).

So this year, we are using Math-U-See for math (still working through last years stuff but will order the new books when we finish these), Sonlight for science and Tori's reading, Winston Grammar (a grammar program that I've heard good things about), Writing In Narrative (a writing program that I've heard good things about), Spelling Workout (a spelling workbook that we've used before), Italic Handwriting (a handwriting program that we've used before), and Story of the World (middle ages - I think that will be awesome) for history. The only unknowns are grammar and writing. I like that we've used everything else before and will feel comfortable with it. The Story of the World are history books written by Susan Wise Bauer in an easy-to-read format. There is an activity book that comes with it that has map work and coloring pages and fun ideas that correlate to what you are reading. I remember being so impressed when we used this with Brendan in 1st grade. We put all his pages in a binder and my parents came to visit one time and he went through every page and described what it was about and what it meant. I couldn't believe it had all sunk in!

I opened a box today with the Sonlight science books and Tori asked when we could start school. Here's to a great year of learning!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Another year . . .

Brendan, age 9

Tori, age 7

Rachel, age 2

Owen, age 2

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

There's something about paper

* I have to add this link for an article on the pros and cons of the Kindle that my brother-in-law gave me in my comments section. I found it very interesting and entertaining, too. I hadn't even thought about a Kindle breaking! It reinforced my decision to stick with "dead tree books", at least for now. *

I don't understand my love of paper but it's there. When I was in elementary school and had extra pocket money, I'd buy pens and notebooks. So it shouldn't surprise me that even though I use Pear Budget, an on-line budgeting software, I want to write it out on paper first. I appreciate all the tools of the software and I enjoy using it throughout the month to keep track of what I'm spending. Okay, that's not entirely true. I haven't been consistent at using it throughout the month. I'm working on it. But when it comes time to actually fill out the budget, even though they give me all these nice little categories and boxes, I want to use a paper form.

There is something about holding it in your hand and having a tangible copy that just makes me happy.

That is why I don't think I will ever become a Kindle user. Have you seen these? I haven't actually held one but I can't imagine preferring it to a real book. I see the draw - cheaper than new books, super easy to travel with. But I love actually holding a book and feeling the pages. I won't say I'll never own one. I like technology, too. And the thought of always having a bunch of books all in a neat little gizmo in my purse for whenever I get a spare minute to read is very enticing. But it could never take the place of real books.

So for now, I'll try to combine my love of paper with the modern technologies that make life easier. I'll write out my budget first and then transfer that info over to the budget software. And if someone really wants to buy me a Kindle, I won't refuse it.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Meal plan

Here are some meals I am thinking about having this week - no commitments and no guarantees.

- pork chops, rice (a special rice mix I got at Trader Joe's), green beans
- pancakes, bacon
- tacos
- chicken garlic pasta, focaccia bread
- pizza
- chicken divan, rice, banana bread

I'm actually making this before my shopping trip this week so hopefully I can get what I need and there will be no excuses. :)

Friday, August 7, 2009

Fun on the lake!

Our friends invited us to go boating last Sunday and we had a wonderful time. Some highlights from the day . . .

Owen got to "drive" the boat. He was so serious about it.

Rachel and Owen went for a ride on the tube with Josh. Owen kept trying to jump off and get into the water. Because, you know, he can swim already. Or so he thinks.

Rachel and I just relaxing.

Brendan tries the "water-ski" tube. He looks ready for the real thing!

Tori and Paige go for the longest-ever tube ride. We finally just told them their turn was over.

Rachel and her new love

I've mentioned before how Rachel loves babies. This is a video of Rachel and her new cousin Barrett. She just can't get enough of him.

Special thanks to Owen for his great timing in announcing his stinky diaper.

Monday, August 3, 2009

computer woes

I have so many fun pictures to post and I keep putting it off because my computer is not letting me move the pictures around after I upload them on here. It's very frustrating. So I thought I'd do a little update and then post pictures after I figure out why it's acting up.

My sister was here with my nephew from Tuesday through Friday. It was great to spend time with them and see my kids interact with their new cousin more.

Saturday, Brendan had 5 friends come over and stay the night. I didn't realize 6 boys, ages 9 and 10, would be that loud or make our house feel that small. They're all good boys and they got along together great. The 6 of them crammed into Brendan's room for the night, where they continued to wrestle and goof around until about 2 am. They then proceeded to get up around 6:30. Needless to say, I slept *great* Sunday night.

Sunday, we went to a friends house to go boating. It was a nice, sunny day and we had a great time. The kids went on the tube - even Rachel and Owen! Josh practiced "surfing" and I enjoyed the boat ride.

This week the kids finish up their swim lessons. I have several goals - order curriculum, work on budget stuff more (yes, I realize the month has already started, which means I'm behind once again), make a shopping list, cut and organize coupons (this could be time consuming because I just bought 50 inserts on ebay), and make a meal plan. This looks overwhelming so I better just focus on 1 or 2 things today.