MFW Adventures: States & Birds

We are loving our tour through the United States.
IMG_7141

The boys memorized all fifty states and capitols last year during Cycle 3 of Classical Conversations. They also tackled all the geographical features and memorized many different important pieces of American History in their weekly History sentences. I’ve loved watching all this information burst out of them at different points this year.

I was initially worried that the State Study would not be enough on its own for them. But once again, turns out what MFW has prepared is more than sufficient!

I comb-bound all our state sheets into one notebook for each boy and purchased a special set of Prismacolor colored pencils. The boys know these pencils are very special (aka mucho dinero) and are only to be used with our state sheets. I love seeing the special care they have taken with these new tools. Its made them work carefully and their trademark little boy sloppiness has diminished greatly as the days pass. They are eager to shade their state birds just so and capture the exact color of each state flower.

IMG_7142

While the boys work on their State Sheets and Lego State creations, I read from various books. We have been using the suggested book list from MFW, but I have also incorporated a book of collected poems by Lee Bennet Hopkins entitled, “My America: A Poetry Atlas of the United States.” I also try and include readings from a few poets or authors hailing from the states we are studying. We usually glean these authors from the list of state poet laureates.  (PS There are FIVE states with Official State Poems).  Lastly, I read the next book off of our Beautiful Feet Books list. I will be posting our list and references soon so be on the lookout! We’ve read so many wonderful new books in the last two weeks. Its fun watching the boys play “raise the barn” or make knick knacks around the house to sell at Portsmouth Market like the Ox-Cart man.

Some days the reading outlasts the work at hand. On those days the boys rush to pull out their much adored US History Geo puzzle.  Some days the work outlasts the reading. On those days I rush to find a bottle of my much adored Essie nail polish. IMG_7143

The littles stay engaged by coloring their own states sheets and then making states out of play doh.  Other times they prefer to stick with their own motor skill/sensory play activities.
IMG_7097

IMG_6947

I have honestly spent more time in the last two weeks preparing activities for the younger boys to engage with so that our older boys can focus well on their work. Of course, this means that when the older boys finish their work they rush over to see what their younger siblings are up to and the join in the play!

Our study of birds is progressing beautifully. I am in love with this portion of Adventures! Having the Everglades nearby blesses us with a large variety of birds year round. This gentle introduction of state birds has blossomed into a new hobby for my children.We’ve started collecting feathers and nests. The eldest has asked for several new books on Audubon’s life. We are eager to learn about the birds in our area and are planning a field trip to our local Audubon base.  Pretty much everyone was happy… until they realized we would not be making a delicious chocolate nest treat every single time we studied a new bird.  Oh, the drama!
IMG_6866

Training the boys to observe nature quietly is not easy. I’ve armed them to the teeth with binoculars, notebooks, cameras and colored pencils, hoping that occupied hands would silence voices that lack volume control. This plan met with mixed success. I finally realized that merging the toddler’s snack time with our nature walks was the way to go!

BEHOLD!!!

A recipe on my blog. This may not ever happen again, so enjoy it….


Audubonbons

Ingredients:
Granola bars
Chocolate Bar
Wax Paper

Step 1: Cut granola bar into bite sized squares.
Step 2: Place granola squares onto a cookie sheet lined with wax paper
Step 3: Melt the chocolate bar and drizzle it onto the granola squares
Step 4: Place in fridge until hardened. Or place in freezer as an extra treat for teething toddler or as a tooth loss motivator for your 7 year old and his loose tooth thats been hanging in there for two months without falling out. Sigh.
Step 5: Place in baggie and take along on your nature hike.
Step 6: Hand it to your toddler and say “stick some Audubonbons in your pie hole and let your brother draw the mockingbird!”


Next week, we will be writing up a more thorough look at our bird watching activities. It will most certainly not be a “how to” guide, more like a “don’t you feel better about your nature walk/life in general now?” kinda thing.  Tears and laughter abound.

Speaking of life in general. The humidity is starting to dissipate! Its still warm, but its bearable. As in, I no longer feel like I am walking in a can of soup when I walk outside. From this point on, any schooling that can be done outside—will be done outside! Hooray! Time to bust that picnic basket out of storage.

IMG_6924Anyone else adoring “Farmer Boy” by Laura Ingalls Wilder? Its inspiring the boys to get even more involved on the farm. Training the new pup to guard the chickens, pulling weeds and helping mark out garden plans. Its going to be a lovely, all hands on deck, kinda Fall!
IMG_6888

MFW Adventures: Revolution & Rhinovirus

The best time to gauge my children’s progress in learning to work independently, always occurs when I am sick.

Mom is down for the count. How much can you do on your own?

I’ve been working hard with my eldest son to learn how to fend for himself. Last year, I realized that if I ever disappeared for a few days, I would likely return to find him half starved and wearing the same clothes he had on when I left, with a decent chance he may not have even noticed my absence. The child knows how to melt away into imaginative play like no other. On the other hand, my second born would have prepared three square meals a day, finished a load of laundry, completed an assortment of projects on top of his daily schoolwork, and managed to keep all the pets fed and the house clean.

Its not like I only worked with the second born on life skills. They both received the same lessons and the same amount of attention. It really boils down to this: my second born cares about independence and basic hygiene; my first born does not care about anything but the alternate universe in his head.

So I end up sick for their all time favorite history topic, the American Revolutionary War.  What to do? Should I skip school for a week? If it had been any other subject, I would have! But here was a chance to see the kids in action in a subject they were well versed in.

I did decide to skip science this week as an act of grace and mercy towards myself. We voted to double up on science the following week.  We kept our morning routine the same. The boys worked through their Saxon lessons and we set aside our Language Arts for the week. When life gets hard we usually stick with one or two subjects and let the other subjects take a rest. The chances of goal achievement are much higher and I don’t have to deal with the horrible guilt of not finishing a tremendous to-do list by the end of the week. Honestly, stripping back also helps the kids learn much more than they do when I try to pack in too much. Win-win.

IMG_6006

So how did we survive the Revolutionary War while the General battled Rhinovirus? Well, aside from an insane “Liberty’s Kids” marathon that has left me with a vehement hatred for the opening bars of “I see a laaaaaannnnnd….,” we spent the majority of our days on the floor with packs of army men and an assortment of legos.  I read books aloud and drank tea. Whenever I needed to sleep, they read books to each other and drank tea. Even outside of school hours, the boys kept picking up easy readers and step into reading books about the Revolution.  I loved passing by their room at night and seeing those night lights on and the history books open. What a thrill!  Despite the hideous plague of illness I was wallowing in, I could not help but feel immense gratitude for the blessing of homeschooling. My kids don’t hate school. They love to learn. <—This will never cease to amaze me!

IMG_5984

The boys built a variety of weaponry. Cannons, sabers, muskets. Full disclosure: I did not teach them any of this, I don’t know where they acquired this knowledge and I still have no idea what any of it is , how it works, or when it was used. I only know that my kids dig it big time.

A few months ago, I stopped off at a Barnes & Nobles with $7 left on an old gift card. I found this book in the clearance section. Totally NOT age appropriate, however, it came with dozens and dozens of document replicas that made its $5 price tag worthy of my gift card.

IMG_5980

IMG_5981

IMG_5982

The boys loved reading notes from Cornwallis, drafts of the Constitution and George Washington’s commission note which renounces his allegiance to King George and pledges his loyalty to the United States.  Lots of tiny people geeing out over here. They spent Friday in Revolutionary War garb, tricorn hats in place, sending missives back and forth between camps. The toddler Nathan Hale was usually charged with carrying the documents between the Greenback Mountain Boys and an “ICY COLD” General George Washington.

So what did we read this week? Pretty much everything by Jean Fritz. One lunch hour consisted of twelve books and many, many quesadillas with sliced avocados from our tree. (Lemon tea for me!) They did not want lunchtime reading to end.

IMG_5977

Revolutionary War Book List
Can’t You Make Them Behave King George? by Jean Fritz
And Then What Happened, Paul Revere? by Jean Fritz
Shh! We’re Writing the Constitution by Jean Fritz
Where was Patrick Henry on the 29th of May? by Jean Fritz
Why Don’t You get a Horse, Sam Adams? by Jean Fritz
The Cabin Faced West by Jean Fritz
Why Not, Lafayette? by Jean Fritz
Will You Sign Here, John Hancock? by Jean Fritz
The Scarlett Stocking Spy by  Trinka Hanks Noble
The 18 Penny Goose by Sally M Walker
George the Drummer Boy by Nathaniel Benchley
If You Lived at the Time of the American Revolution by Kay Moore
If You Were There When They Signed the Constitution by Elizabeth Levy
Heroes of the Revolution by David A Adler
Nathan Hale Patriot Spy by Shannon Zemlicka
Paul Revere by Esther Forbes

We capped off the week with a Revolutionary battle reenactment that resulted in three nosebleeds, one broken picture frame, a box of overturned cheerios, a damaged tricorn hat and left me bedridden until my sweet husband came home early from work to rescue me.

Confession: I have a super big crush on my children’s principal.

MFW Adventures: George Washington + Bribery

Last Spring I sat at my desk and pulled out my new planner. I wrote out all the things we would be doing in the fall and felt tired just writing it all down.

IMG_5774
A few weeks later I trotted off to the FPEA convention and had a rather eloquent kick in the butt from Sonya Schafer of Simply Charlotte Mason. I went home and stripped my schedule down to the bare bones—and it was still overwhelming.

So I made the decision to start Adventures months earlier than I had initially planned. Early enough to get in at least 10 weeks of school before Classical Conversations, A Year of Skillful Playing, therapy and sports all took off in late August/early September.

IMG_5771

I am so grateful for that decision!

IMG_5653

We spread our unit on George Washington out over two weeks. In that course of time, Classical Conversations began and our in home therapy sessions started for our youngest boy. Next week, our year with Homegrown Preschooler starts. (Check back for updates!) Its somehow easier to add extras into an already established routine. The boys were eager to add new things in while still adhering to our established rhythm with Adventures. Real life seems a bit more manageable this year! I may have to repeat this schedule for Exploring Countries & Cultures. I always have to remind myself to take advantage of the freedom that comes with homeschooling.

Here is the breakdown on Adventures Week 9: GEORGE WASHINGTON!

(disclaimer) My eldest son is OBSESSED with GW. For his 7th birthday, our entire family dressed up like different Revolutionary war heroes and we spent the morning reenacting different battle scenes. He wanted a GW tshirt and a documentary for his birthday.  I knew we needed to spend a few weeks on ol’ George so the booklist is hefty!
IMG_5775

Activities:
1) Land Survey
Mother Earth News provides a very detailed explanation on how to survey your own land. I was not really up for going all out on this one. I just wanted to give the kids a basic idea of what a teenaged George Washington did to earn his bread and butter.  Our homestead is 2.5 acres, flat as a pancake. We made the chaining pins and used a piece of yarn to get our level measurements. It was 92 degrees and we received approx 18 mosquito bites between 5 people in the span of twenty minutes.  The boys were thrilled!

motherearthnews.com
motherearthnews.com

2. Indian Hoecakes
Based off one of our booklist treasures, “George Washington’s Breakfast” by Jean Fritz. The boys begged me to cook these little cakes outside in the fire pit on an actual hoe. I was pretty close to complying until I imagined my exhausted husband shaking his weary head and asking, “Sooo how exactly did the fire that ravaged our entire home start?” We stuck to our stove and a regular ol’ frying pan.

3. Fort Necessity
I am so sad I didn’t snap a picture of this activity. The boys built an enormous blanket and pillow fort and had a blast all day inside. We brought in a lantern and knocked 6 books off our list in one afternoon. There was a massive thunderstorm outside which made the fort an extra cozy haven for us.

4. Unsanctioned crossing of the Delaware
I managed to get my two youngest children down for a nap last week. After a night of little rest, I asked the older kids to build legos while I took a quick nap. Whenever my eldest children are left to their own devices, unexpected things happen. Thankfully, the firstborn develops ulcers at the mere whisper of anything unsafe, so I can rest easy. It may be unexpected, but it won’t be dangerous. I woke up 30 minutes later to find the boys floating toy boats filled with soldiers in a bathtub filled with water and ice. I never ever would have thought to do such an activity. They adored it.

Book List for George Washington Unit

  1. Benjamin West and his Cat Grimalkin by Marguerite Henry. (Part of our Beautiful Feet book study)
  2. George Washington’s Breakfast by Jean Fritz
  3. Phoebe and the Spy by Judith Griffin
  4. George Washington by Ingri D’aulaire
  5. A Picture Book of George Washington by David A. Adler
  6. A Picture Book of Patrick Henry by David A. Adler
  7. Journey to Monticello by James E. Knight
  8. The Winter at Valley Forge by James E Knight
  9. When Washington Crossed the Delaware by James E Knight
  10. The Cabin Faced West by Jean Fritz
  11. George Washington’s World by Genevieve Foster
    ***This book was given to us by another homeschool family. I don’t recommend it for younger children as a stand alone read. Its basically a text book about the world during the time of George Washington. My son is always asking  “what else was happening in the world?” whenever we study something (Thanks, Classical Conversations!) and so he loved flipping through this book.
  12. George vs George: The American Revolution as seen from Both Sides by Rosalyn Schanzer
  13. Paul Revere’s Ride by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
  14. Sybil Ludington’s Midnight Ride by Marsha Amstel
  15. The Story of George Washington by Patricia A. Pingry (board book for littles)
  16. George Washington and the General’s dog by Frank Murphy
  17. George Washington: Our First Leader by Augusta Stevenson
  18. Pauk Revere: Boston Patriot by Augusta Stevenson
  19. Who was Paul Revere? by Roberta Edwards
  20. Sarah Witcher’s Story by Elizabeth Yates
  21. George Washington by Cheryl Harness
    IMG_5167Additional Resources1.  Jim Weiss
    We love Jim Weiss. We started collecting his stories last year and they are the most requested stories for the CD player each night. For this unit, we enjoyed George Washington: First in the Hearts of his Countrymen. 
    2. Drive Thru History
    3. For God and Country- Adventures in OdysseyI know—its a huge booklist.But like I said, my kid is a BIG FAN of all things George. The truth is, all these books were one big candy incentive to get my eldest boy motivated to do some ART! And boy did we ever have time to do artwork! Renderings of George as land surveyor, Farmer Washington, Major Washington, General Washington and President of the United States, are now littering the classroom along with a dozen or so gruesome battle scenes. (We are binding all the drawings into one large book for the two boys to enjoy) Before each reading session I would set out basic art supplies and we would spend ten minutes discussing our OiLS concepts from Classical Conversations. Then the boys would begin to draw. We’d stop every few chapters to look at work and discuss what they would be attempting next.

    It worked! It worked so well. No complaining whatsoever. Glory be!

    “Please Mom, read another story and we’ll do more art work.” Music to my ears. I won’t flood my post with pictures of artwork, but I will post one that I am very proud of; my eldest son’s drawing entitled, “Portrait of Reluctant George.” I asked him why he named it that and he responded, “Poor George just wanted to be a farmer after all that fighting. Then they went and made him President!”IMG_5623
    Woo-hoo! Something that is not a stick figure. SUCCESS.

    Whenever hands became cramped we would return to pattern play or working with our lovely Land and Water Forms Map. (10% off Promo code: farm now extended till 9/30/15)

  22. IMG_5642IMG_5664We saved all of our science to do on one day. On Friday we sketched out our trees and leaves. We read “The Reasons for the Seasons” by Gail Gibbons. I set out our Montessori months of the year cards and tried to explain the concept of seasons to these southern-raised one season boys.IMG_5647IMG_5650Unit 9 is done!Now we await a tropical storm and next week’s unit on THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION!

MFW Adventures: Benjamin Franklin & Layers

unnamed-1

We get a lot of lightning storms. This time of year, we have them almost every day! Our study of Benjamin Franklin coincided nicely with the weather. Last night, the bad weather rolled in just as the sun was setting.

unnamed-2It was overwhelming. Soon after the evening meal, the inside of our home suddenly turned a brilliant golden pink. We ran outside to see what was going on! We were greeted by brilliant colors, the rumble of thunder and powerful lightning bolts transecting the sky’s rosy palette. A great way to end a week of lightning watch. Thanks, God!

IMG_5533

If you’ve been following our blog, you know by now that I am a bit of a book junkie. I hyper focus on books all. the. time.
So I am taking a page out of Ben Franklin’s personal book of improvements and finding ways to improve the way I do laundry homeschool with books. Book overload is not a good thing. I am learning to cut back on book volume and instead of grabbing copious amounts of literature repeating the same information ad nauseaum, I am choosing a few solid books that are well written and beautifully illustrated. I am trying to make sure that our book basket has variety and sustains high interest levels. Do I really need 6 books on Benjamin Franklin that all present the same biographical material? No. For example, we picked up “A Picture Book of Benjamin Franklin” by John Alder at our local library last week. This book is fine but not necessary for our week because it parrots back all the information we received through other sources. We ended up slipping that particular book, along with a few others, back into the library bag.

61zuKVuME5L._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_Benjamin Franklin Book List:
1. Benjamin Franklin Young Printer by Augusta Stevenson We read a few chapters from this biography every night before bedtime. The boys loved hearing stories about Benjamin Franklin as a child. In fact, he simply became “our pal Ben” during these evening readings. How fun to step inside the Franklin family banter! Ben made tough, deliberate decisions even as a child–this  captivated my boys.
2. Now and Ben by Gene Barretta We loved this book! Bright and engaging. Parallels our world today with the innovations created by Franklin way back “Ben.” The four year old always came sniffing around when this book was pulled out.
3. The Amazing Life of Benjamin Franklin by James Cross Giblin The pictures alone are enough to draw a crowd.
4. Electric Ben by Robert Byrd My boys read this one back and forth to each other.
5. Ben and Me by Robert Lawson Another great chapter book read. This was our lunchtime book and my children are so hopeful for their own Amos.
6. Whats the Big Idea Ben Franklin? by Jean Fritz My second born has chosen to read this book on his own. He is 3/4 of the way done and I am excited to hear his “report” when it is finished. I love that he is interested enough to pick up a book on his own.
7. Ben Franklin and the Magic Squares by Frank Murphy Simple enough for my son to read by himself. He came running into my office, waving the book and begging for help so that he could make his own “magic squares.” He made magic squares all week long.
8. Benjamin Franklin by Indri D’Aulaire Our primary resource (outside of The Story of the U.S.) Beautiful, informative, incredibly engaging.

IMG_5602

Our Beautiful Feet study has now synced up perfectly with MFW Adventures. We read the D’aulaires book, “Benjamin Franklin” each morning while coloring in the free pages provided by bfbooks.com.

$_35

One of our favorite chapters in the book, “Ben Franklin, Young Printer,” describes Josiah Franklin’s undercover methods of educating his children. Josiah and Abiah would invite guests over for dinner and through carefully crafted questions, lead the guests through a series of informative conversations that would edify their children and open the world to them while their little feet remained planted under the dinner table.
IMG_5513Now on his return trip home, Uncle Captain David stopped by for pizza and brought along his sea charts. Once the pizza was consumed, the chart was placed on the floor,  measuring instruments were brought out and my children were soon learning how to plot courses around buoys, shipwrecks and shallow water.

IMG_5518 My eldest remarked later, “I think we should do this kind of Franklin School Style more often!” We are so thankful for a wonderful visit with our dear friend and for his willingness to sprawl out on the living room floor and talk to our boys about the things he is learning.

IMG_0124 I would have loved to spend our week outdoors doing fun Ben Franklin Activities as originally planned; but the heat, lightning and mosquitoes convinced us otherwise. The great outdoors are a great misery right now. I didn’t want the kids bouncing off the walls all week. (This summer we are averaging 3 nose bleeds a day thanks to wrestling, wiggling and plain-old “not watching where you walk”). How to have a fun week learning about Ben Franklin with minimal outdoor time while also avoiding meaningless handouts? Hmmm…

Dare we try lap-booking?

Confession: I never really fancied myself a “lap book” kinda gal. They seemed like an inordinate amount of work for Moms with mixed reviews on how much kids actually learned. The endless copying, card stock, glue, coloring, assembling–yay! More “Things to Do.” I wondered what percentage of these books were actually put together by children? Also, anything that feeds my Type A personality in a negative way is something I tried to avoid. Lap books just seemed like the homeschool version of crystal meth for my personality. (RUN AWAY!) Anyways, my boys have loved Ben Franklin for many years (devotion to the point of attempting non-sanctioned haircuts in B.Franklin’s money style) and they wanted to do a BIG PROJECT when we reached our pal Ben during Adventures. You know whats coming….

We finished a lapbook.

IMG_5603 Or rather, THEY finished a lapbook. Yup, we took the plunge. As you can see from the cover page, I was not in charge of coloring. I certainly did the majority of the assembling, but these boys took charge!

Homeschool in the Woods lap-pak study of Benjamin Franklin was incredibly fun and meaningful.  The instructions are clear and precise.  The Benjamin Franklin book we assembled was lovely and I am so thankful that it came with Audio accompaniment. I was able to leave Team A coloring, cutting materials and listening to audio, while Team B and I sorted laundry on the other side of the house.

IMG_5604I was a bit worried that we would overload on the Franklin family if we integrated this lap-pak with our MFW study, but it complemented everything quite nicely. The boys were always looking forward to the next small project. If they did not have such a high degree of interest then the lap-pak thing just would not have worked for us. But these boys wanted more! And the lap-pak delivered.
IMG_5605Leather apron trades, inventions, timelines, contributions, documents, etc.  Kudos to Homeschool in the Woods for this thoughtfully prepared material. My eldest loved getting to set the type for his own name with all the letters placed backwards and then seeing it close down on his name with the letters facing the right way. The second-born loved reading about Ben’s inventions and setting up the printing press diorama.
IMG_5606Once we assembled the books, I carved 10-15 minutes out my day with each son so they could walk me through their lap-pak. They were so proud of their hard work and eager to relay as much information as they could.

“See this armonica? Mozart liked it so much he made music for it. Thats how awesome Ben Franklin was. I want to build an armonica because you can’t get them in a store. They are in museums now.”
“All the printer’s type go in backwards because when it presses down then the letter go the right way. Its a mirroring thing, you know?”
“Just think about how important the Treaty of Paris was, you know Mom? And Ben Franklin helped write it and sign it! He was already pretty old by then so he had to use the bifocals he invented.”
“This is all the stuff he did. This line right here stops right before he’s your age Mom, which means he did all this before he was your age!” 
“Ben Franklin practiced these 13 virtues. My favorite is Temperance but really I think we could all use more Silence.”  

IMG_5561

If Ben Franklin is just another week for you, proceed as planned. But if your kiddos have a special interest in him and would enjoy something “extra” then I recommend this lap-pak with two hearty thumbs up. (PS. Its geared for grades k-2). The boys learned a lot about the life of Ben Franklin and the importance of following directions. I learned that I am a lap-book “once in awhile” kinda gal and am in no danger whatsoever of becoming addicted.

Last but not least, SCIENCE.IMG_5537Lots of Magic Schoolbus  over here! Beep, beep! We love reading Faith McNulty’s “How to Dig a Hole to the Other Side of the World.” Its one of our favorite books to read on a fairly regular basis.

IMG_5538

This year I deliberately included Gail Gibbon’s “Planet Earth/ Inside Out.” This book uses evolution and big bang terms throughout. I walked the boys through the basics of each theory using the book. We looked at the creation account (even browsed through our old MFWK Creation books) and then reread “Planet Earth/Inside Out.” Plenty of discussion and great questions. I had to look up a few things and the boys followed along as I researched. The second born was fascinated by Robert Ballard’s current research of the biblical flood’s impact on an ancient shoreline at the bottom of the Black Sea.  My eldest wants to research the possibility of pangea’s existence before the flood and the subsequent break up as a result of the flood. I love that he is wondering about that. I am glad that he is sorting through questions about creation and evolution while at home. I went to an evangelical college with a lot of kids that were taught nothing but creation at home and then went through major crises once they arrived in science class and began learning all these theories. I love that homeschooling provides platforms for researching and asking questions together about the beautiful mysteries of the universe our God so lovingly created.

IMG_5539
How fascinating is our earth? The boys resounding question was “But how do scientists know this FOR SURE?” They are hungry to learn more about the scientific method and the history of science in general.
I made a pretty ugly and haphazard basic felt puzzle for the boys to play with. They loved sorting the layers of the earth and labeling the various pieces, all the while asking for MORE INFORMATION! Something tells me that our high school science years will be quite the doozy!
IMG_5541
Next week we begin our study of my eldest son’s all time favorite person ever: George Washington! We may be taking more than a week to finish our study, we plan on enjoying it to the fullest!
Happy Adventuring, friends!
f557b73e4f3efce0e027d7829429187e

MFW Adventures: Pilgrims & Constellation Fun!

Its the end of week/unit 5 and I am pleased as punch that we decided to use MFW Adventures this year. What a fantastic curriculum!

We started the week with a classroom switch up. I try to rotate things every 4 weeks to keep the preschoolers from rebelling. IMG_5130

Our reading corner has a new location away from the play stand, or as it was known the first four weeks of Adventures, “The Launching Pad.” After repeated collisions and head trauma, I figured it was time to rearrange things.

IMG_5131
Puzzles (Target dollar spot finds) and toys were swapped out too. I never keep more toys out than they can clean up within 10 minutes. We clean the classroom at the end of each day and I am not a fan of spending more than 10 minutes doing so.  I’m glad we started the week out with a fresh feel in the room. I rotate the toys to keep the little guys interested and engaged.

I really needed hands skillfully occupied this week.  We kept last week’s Native American sensory bin and also added a sensory bin filled with water beads. The boys had a few tiny ships in there at one point and launched several journeys to the new world across a sea of colorful beads.

IMG_5235
Lots of rain and thunderstorms this week meant no great outdoors for us. I chose my flexible version of the Pilgrims unit since we would not be making tiny Plymouth plantations out of sticks and mud in the great outdoors as previously requested.

The boys were still not over last week’s Native American study when we began on Monday. We definitely had a lot of thematic carry over.  The boys made a few more necklaces and even started a line of Indian pottery fashioned from modeling clay. Squanto is cooler than Ironman around this house.
IMG_5137

I don’t believe I have ever read a book about Pilgrims in the middle-end of July. Usually, such books are read in the coolness of a dry November, under a shady tree, after a large dinner. How strange to read in this blazing heat and pouring rain. We did not feel very  Thanksgiving-ish. I am ok with that. We have a Thanksgiving Unit included in our MFW package which I will gladly use in November. To be honest, there is so much more to the Pilgrims than just Thanksgiving. I’m a bit glad all the cliche stuff was out of the way!

Our Beautiful Feet study led us through “Pilgrim Stories” by Margaret Pumphrey; “Squanto: Friend of the Pilgrims” by Clyde Robert Bulla; and “The Pilgrims of Plimoth” by Marcia Sewall. These books are rich and deep and thought provoking. My boys asked many difficult questions that led to very hard conversations about persecution. “Pilgrim Stories” was very informative but quite long to get through. The boys colored through a 3D map, coloring pages from pinterest and completed activities from a colonial history pockets book to pass the time as I read aloud. We would pause after each chapter to discuss storyline and ask questions.

IMG_5161

IMG_5225

IMG_5164

We loved our book basket this week! “If you sailed on the Mayflower in 1620” absolutely captivated my boys. It asks a new question on each page and then provides a detailed but brief response. Since it was not one long continuous narrative, we were able to go through a few pages each day that pertained to the storyline in our other chapter books. It all unintentionally worked out.
IMG_5213

“You wouldn’t want to Sail on the Mayflower” was also quite the crowd pleaser…
IMG_5229
But the real winners were a quartet of books from the library about colonial trades. My boys were thrilled with these!
IMG_5214

They expressed interest in opening their own individual blacksmith trades and we made signs for their respective shops; “Sharp the Gizzard” and “The Hunter’s Blacksmith.”
IMG_5243

Lots of imaginative play around the farmhouse this week. The boys were quite struck by all the strange Puritan names in the books we read (Love, Fear, Patience) and dubbed me “Goodwife Misery.” I was told that as a mute I could not comment on the living conditions. I basically sat in a chair while they brought me various household items. They would go hunting and gathering. They “planted” corn (yellow construction paper bits) in the couch. Later when I went to clean up, I found a can of tuna wedged alongside it. I am grateful that it was a sealed can of tuna.  I love this kind of play that points to deeper learning. These stories are staying with them beyond the classroom.

We took up a new craft this week!

IMG_5178                                    IMG_5186IMG_5191

The loom is from Melissa and Doug. We were able to snag it for $10 with a coupon. All of my boys have loved giving the loom a try and we have two completed products so far. Weaving isn’t just for the little gals!

We watched library videos about Miles Standish and Plymouth Plantation, along with Drive Thru History’s episode on Plymouth. I managed to find my childhood favorite “The Mouse and the Mayflower” for free on youtube.

The lovely MFW blog, Chaos meets Creativity, shared a link for a very cute Mayflower game. Unfortunately, the boys were not very interested in playing by the time I finally got around to pulling it out because they wanted CONSTELLATIONS!

Our library had nearly every book on the MFW recommended book basket list for science this week. We read them all, along with our favorite well-worn copy of “A Children’s Introduction to the Night Sky” by Michael Driscoll. I love that book! We all wished we could go outside this week with the telescope, alas, certain death by mosquitos just was not worth it. Ah, life in the tropics.

IMG_5207

I printed out Montessori cards, lacing cards and set out black squares of construction paper along with little star stickers so they could build various constellations.

IMG_5206

We even made constellation tubes!
IMG_5197

Yup…45 minutes of work to put those puppies together and the two eldest had zero interest in them.  ZERO.

Truth is, I spent tons of time laminating, coloring, punching holes, wrapping, organizing, etc; and my kids just wanted to spend time making their own constellations THEIR way. You don’t always have to be fancy. Simplicity seems to be the recipe for flourishing around here. Complication almost always backfires on me. (I’ll learn the lesson one day, right?) Child-crafted constellations were popping up everywhere. Leaving soggy cheerios on the dining room table in the shape of Cassiopeia; connecting the freckles on your brother’s face with a pen to find Andromeda; arranging the Little Dipper in the schoolroom abacus, building your own constellations is quite a marvelous undertaking!

IMG_5194

My personal favorite is simple and sweet– a boy with some sidewalk chalk and a bucket of rocks to mark the stars with.

IMG_5242

Isn’t child-led play a wonder? I love it. These boys taught themselves more about constellations this week than I did with my sad little basket of internet offerings. This is as it should be. Way to go, boys!

MFW Adventures: Jamestown & Reevaluations

IMG_4840

There are times when my children prove with resounding flourish that there is an art to gentle learning. This was definitely one of those weeks.  These kids kept slowing me down! I wanted to press on and they dug in their heels and demanded a slow walk through the unit. They wanted to savor their learning like a delicious meal. It was a good reminder to only give them the very best. Even though I found 12 books on Jamestown at our local library, I only gave the children 4 to look through. Good, true and beautiful is the standard. IMG_4906

After years of careful, parent-led gleaning, they are starting to filter through things a bit for themselves. “This book is….not that great. What are they trying to tell me? It doesn’t seem like its anything good or true or useful,” my eldest mused.  He can’t put many words to his assessments yet, but he can decipher richness from twaddle. This is incredibly encouraging to me!

IMG_4838
Jamestown is mighty good fun, Mom! Lets study it again and again!” said the second born.

IMG_4851We spent the majority of the week in just this way; boys coloring pictures or building forts out of lincoln logs, while I read aloud from books.

This was so pleasurable for everyone, it almost felt like a vacation!

In some ways we are on an eternal vacation from school. Those strict regulations are being stripped away as I become more and more unschooled and we are left with the brilliant truth that learning is living and abundant and pleasurable.

The boys learned so much from their Beautiful Feet Books—Pocahontas and Jamestown, New World Adventure.  We are just thrilled with their Early American History Guide thus far.  We colored in our next 3D map and built a model of Jamestown (pictured above) which we found in a free sample lesson from Homeschool in the Woods.

IMG_4854
Then came the unexpected punch in the gut from my eldest.

“Mom, I loved school this week. It was so nice to not feel stupid.”
“WHAT? You have felt stupid? Why? When? You are not stupid, not in the least!”
“I am such a slow reader and no matter how hard I try to remember what I learned, I just cant. It doesn’t make sense when I look at it and I never know which way things are facing. My heart beats really fast and I feel kind of sick.”

Yeah.

MFW 1st grade phonics was a huge hit with my 6 year old. He’s a duck in water when it comes to reading. Everything clicked. It all made sense. It was all so incredibly effortless. He is reading chapter books on his own now. He is always reaching for something new to read.

My eldest did not do well with MFW 1st phonics. He struggled. It was painful to watch and miserable to teach. We added in Explode the Code halfway through the year and he improved a little bit.  But here we are on the threshold of second grade and it feels like he is regressing.

Do I press on? Do I stop all together? Do I hold the six year old back until the seven year old gets a more solid foothold?

I felt overwhelmed by all these questions at first. Then I remembered to be thankful for them. We are so blessed to homeschool. We can stop if we need to. We can slow up or speed down. No matter what, we have the opportunity to do what is best for our children without worrying about someone else’s timetable. What incredible freedom! What a gift to our children!

We are sticking with MFW and Beautiful Feet as planned but with expectations adjusted for each child. I have taken out a few of our tougher language arts books for now. We will resume Writing With Ease once we’ve had time for remedial reading work. We will continue using First Language Lessons along with our Spelling program. We have ordered All About Reading and will commence with this program once it arrives.  My eldest will work on this program with me in the afternoons. We are hoping AAR will help him decode words and build his confidence! The second born will use this time to read books and make new vocabulary lists to record in his composition book, which we have titled “Discovery Dictionary.” He jots down all unfamiliar words throughout the course of the week and we look up their meanings on Friday afternoons.

We will keep using lots and lots and lots of read aloud books. IMG_4848
We had torrential downpours all week long.

The backyard fort is infested with mosquitos.

Studying Jamestown gave these boys fort fever! So we built forts with pillows and blankets. We built forts with crackers and cheese. We built them with paper and toothpicks and glue.

The boys really melted into their play this week.

I believe with all my heart that there is no better learning than that kind of deep, engaged play. I’m glad we cut back on the unnecessary busyness in our life.

I see our schoolwork transforming into lifestyle.

Books start informing their play. Projects start melding with their dreams and ideas. Chores link up with character studies.

Even if the house is a bit chaotic and I am not using even a tenth of all the great ideas I had scribbled down while planning our Adventures year, learning is seeping into every minute of our day. I see the transformation from those once “busy hectic days” into “full rich days.”

Hard weeks can bring rich blessing into our lives. I am grateful for the revelation my son gave me and for the chance to slow things down and help him. I am thankful for God’s mercy in showing me all the ways these loose threads of many years are coming together to make something lovely.

MFW Adventures: 1492—go with the flow.

IMG_4804

Christopher Columbus!

I always love the way June Allyson, as Jo March in Little Women, lets that expression fly.

I ended up saying it all week…

i.e. “Christopher Columbus! There’s an armadillo in our yard!”
IMG_4747I have lived in Florida for the majority of my life and never once met an armadillo in the wild. To be fair, this armadillo has presumably lived its entire life in Florida and never encountered me once. We kept our distance out of respect for Mr. Armadillo’s wild nature and all around creepiness. Hooray, nature walk! Always exciting when something other than birds, bugs and/or types of bark, happens.

And that is not the only strange thing that happened around here….

IMG_4823My boys asked to do multiple crafts.

Multiple.

Crafts.

IMG_4825They made a pirate ship (Not what Columbus sailed on but I’ll take it), three maps, bead necklaces to trade for Indian gold and a flaaarrllaarggllaar made out of popsicle sticks. Ok, even after it was explained to me three times by my exasperated six year old, I’m still not quite sure. I believe it was some sort of navigation tool. I said “ooooo” and “aaahhh” whenever he paused for approval during his explanation. A flarrrrllaarggllaaar you guys! All on his own!

Ah, Columbus. He really wanted that trade route.

unnamed-5
He wanted the route and I really wanted the boys to hit certain goals this week. Halfway through I realized that they were going in a completely different direction than I.

Just like Columbus, I had hit an unexpected barrier.  Pesky ol’ South America kept Columbus from finding Asia (and months of madness, possible mutiny, starvation and eventual death in the middle of the Pacific). I decided to respect the road blocks my kids were putting up, lest I meet with disaster, and follow their lead. Last week, they were up for long discussions about Leif Ericsson. This week, they wanted hands on experiences and in-depth play about Columbus. In other words: “stop talking Mom and play with us!”

IMG_4813
We enjoyed the MFW materials in this unit–especially American Pioneers and Patriots. This became one of our favorite read alouds during our Literary Lunch hour. When the rains came, we hid in the boys bunks. Catalina, Pedro and Martin, riding out the storm. (We did not wedge any knives into the door)

Our Beautiful Feet book study continues to delight the boys. While I enjoyed “Leif the Lucky” more,  it was great to add in “Columbus” for a few great comparison discussions.  The boys have learned so much about diligence and self-control in these last two weeks of BF study. We press on, eager for more great living-book learning!
IMG_4720

The younger set of siblings had a great time tagging along this week. Every time the elder boys asked to draw maps or star charts, the younger boys would jump in on the fun. Lots of paint everywhere. Truly, a fantastic mess. They were so happy!

IMG_4722

IMG_4802IMG_4815

The boys are still loving their manipulative maps from Interactive 3D Maps: American History. Its probably our favorite resource this year!

DRIVE-THRU-HISTORY-COLUMBUS-THE-PILGRIM-AND-EARLY-BOSTON
We also enjoyed watching the Drive Thru History episode about Columbus. We asked for the series last Christmas and its been great fun so far–we highly recommend it!

After days of reading and mapmaking, the boys were itching for some adventure. When an afternoon rainstorm rolled in on Friday, my eldest stood at the window and watched the powerful winds shake the trees in our orchard.

“Can you imagine this kind of fury in the open unknown sea?” he asked.

“It must be terrifying,” I said.

“Mom, is it too late in the world to have an explorer’s heart?” he wondered.

“Never.” I assured him.

“Thats good. I am a kind of boy thats made up of courage and exploration but with safety too because, well, you’re my Mom and I love you,” he grinned at me.

I’m glad I went with the flow. Forcing them to do everything on my agenda, well, they may as well matriculate into our local school system for all the good it will do them as independent, creative learners.

I love watching them develop a love of learning.

I love that studying about Columbus and Viking Explorers has left my boys with a heart for exploring and a yearning for discovery, instead of an ache from sitting down all day staring at a textbook.

I read a passage this week about the unfurling of a mighty white sail from its massive yardarm. The boys were listening attentively, faces smiling and eyes alight with wonder. I’ve spent the last years hoisting their sails onto yardarms, tacking everything down and tying everything in place. Now the sails are beginning to unfurl, the wind may not have caught yet, but the sails are starting to stretch out and its a breathtaking experience.

Book List for Columbus (I found nearly all of them at the library)
1. Explorers Who Got Lost by Diane Sansevere Dreher
2. The World of Columbus & Sons by Genevieve Foster (this is an upper level BF book. We just looked through it)
3.  Who Was Christopher Columbus by Bonnie Bader
4. Christopher Columbus by Stephen Krensky
5. Animals Christopher Columbus Saw by Sandra Markle
6. Pedro’s Journal by Peter Koeppen
7. Into the Unknown by Stewart Ross
8. Great Ships by Patrick O’Brien
9. Columbus by Ingri & Edgar d’Aulaire
10. Land Ho! Fifty Glorious Years in the Age of Exploration by Nancy Winslow Parker (This was a great read for any kiddos wanting MORE explorers!)

Beautiful Feet Review + My Father’s World Adventures

Beautiful Feet books. 

3371_1

They do it to me every time.

benjamin-west-and-his-cat-grimalkin-9781481403948_lg

Online or at a conference, I am drawn to them.

Moth to a flame.

34249_1

We are using their Early American History: A Literature Approach for Primary Grades along with My Father’s World Adventures.

I love reading to my kids. The majority of the books studied in EAH were all ready on my book list for MFW. I had flipped through their guide at the FPEA convention this year and loved the way they went through each living-book. The study can be completed in two years or in one year, depending on how many lessons you decide to complete each week.  I will say from the onset that I am in no hurry to complete Adventures. Maybe we will finish in one year, maybe it will take two. What I know for certain is my desire to make the most of this wonderful season in their lives.

003436

They employ the Charlotte Mason method of education: reading, reasoning, relating and recording. If I am going to incorporate something, I want it to integrate well with the learning style we employ. Beautiful Feet meets the standard.

The EAH guide opens with this quote from Cervantes:

“…the ultimate end of writing is both to instruct and delight.”

We just completed our first book study, “Leif the Lucky” by Ingri & Edgar Parin d’Aulaire.  Instruction and delight indeed!

I would have read “Leif the Lucky” this year, no matter what. Its just too excellent of a book to pass up on. However, we would not have delved into the book to the extent that we did without this guide.

Topics like the principles of self-control and moral sense, were discussed by looking at the text and digging through scripture. We memorized a poem and used a dictionary.  EAH made us stop and really reflect on this book. Each lesson provided socratic questions to further enrich our discussions. Beautiful coloring pages, which are free to download, accompanied the lessons. This gave my children a closer look at the d’Aulaire’s gorgeous artwork. My son was inspired by these exercises and now tries to imitate their work in his own independent projects. Nothing sweeter than amateur d’Aulaire-esque Lego mini figures and dragons.

1893103315

There are 19 books studied in this guide. They all pertain to American History but not all match up precisely with MFW’s schedule. For example, Leif the Lucky, Columbus, Pocahontas, Jamestown and Pilgrim Stories all fall nicely into the sequence. But in later lessons we will be reading through Winter at Valley Forge while we study different states. I am ok with these themes not lining up perfectly. I don’t want to rush lessons in one curriculum or pull back on another just to make them meet up. It will be interesting to see how the children react to newly introduced books that relate to something they learned weeks prior. What will they still recall? How will a slower study of a living-book influence their understanding of the topic? How will this fit into the framework of their timeline now that they know “what happens next”? 21513_1

I have not purchased the entire package of books used with the guide. I plan to find them little by little on thrift sites or at used curriculum sales.  Some we will be able to find at our local library and I can decide later if we would like to add those books to our personal library.

I’ll be checking in throughout the year as we try and incorporate these excellent Charlotte Mason based curriculums. If you are using Beautiful Feet books along with My Father’s World, please chime in the comments and let us know how your experience has been!

MFW Adventures: Vikings & Intestinal Disorder

IMG_4598

And so it begins…with Vikings!

I had grand plans for this week, my MFW friends. Have you done a pinterest search for Viking projects? Chances are you have. I know I have. In fact, I have a pinterest plan for every unit this year!

This is because I routinely set myself up for catastrophic failure by inundating my life with self-imposed, unrealistic expectation via pinterest. Super healthy, right?

1082156

But God is gracious, you know?

For this first week of school, He decided to smote us with stomach flu, which was probably the best gift He could have given us. Perceived failure at the starting gate and then GRACE.

This is a pretty standard pattern in my life. I make enormous plans and from the get go, the rug gets torn out from under me. I pray, reevaluate and the dust settles into something way better than I had planned for.  I am stupid enough to need this method of correction repeatedly, yet so drenched in grace that I can only feel relief afterwards, instead of shame or defeat.

Confession: I wanted to build a kid-sized historically accurate viking ship out of cardboard boxes, duck tape, aluminum foil, wasted hours and bitter tears.

Pinterest meme 2

Yup. We have four kids, a farm, house chores, church commitments, co-op commitments, relationship commitments, etc. and I wanted to spend my nights not talking to my husband and building a kid-sized Viking ship.

Instead, I spent my nights escorting tiny people to the bathroom for a not so tiny horror show.

In the mornings, I’d stare at my planner with disgust and regret.

After a few minutes I’d move on to the question, “which of these activities translates naturally into our learning styles so that my kids can enjoy quality, skillful learning this morning?”

There are about a zillion ideas and pins for Adventures. You won’t have any trouble finding ideas. But you will have trouble if you overwhelm yourself with unnecessary fiddle-faddle.

Thats right, I said fiddle-faddle.

So ask yourself the question, let it lead to other questions and start gleaning.

Does this translate? Does this fit in with the way you homeschool? Does it fit in with why you homeschool?

Does it fit the learning styles? You are an expert on your kids. How great that your child gets a custom tailored education! There is a lot of stuff out there. You can’t use all of it. If your kid loves playing with dolls, by all means, forgo that snotty looking handout from smartchildrenonly.com and give your kids some paper dolls to act out the story with.

Don’t get overwhelmed, get picky! Choose things for your child that will increase their joy in learning and your joy in teaching. I might have to make a sign for my desk.

Don’t get overwhelmed, get picky!

3371_1

Here’s what rose to the top for us this week…

My boys are big on things they can touch and/or manipulate. I can read a story about the Viking voyage ten times and it won’t soak into their brains the way moving a boat through a chart will.

Interactive 3-D Maps: American History is a big win for us this year. Several of the MFW units are included in this book. The copyright allows for reproduction within your class so this will be a reusable tool for us.

IMG_4592

My second born was under the weather on this day so I colored his map and he helped me assemble it.

IMG_4607

My eldest had no trouble coloring his own map and needed little assistance in assembling the pieces, specifically, he need help cutting the line into an open slit for the ships to travel in.  Every time I read a Viking Tale or story last week, the boys would pull out these maps and play/follow along, moving Eric the Red’s ship from Iceland to Greenland while emanating accompanying growls and other boisterous Viking sounds.

My eldest loves detailed pictures. Richard Scarry books are one of his favorite things on the planet. All those thousand of delicious details for mothers to read out like a robot when its 9:30pm and they are exhausted….
Kidding, I love me some RS. (le sigh)

I found “Into the Unknown” and the kids adore it. Details, galore! Beginning with Pytheas the Greek sailing to Ultima Thule circa 340 BC and ending with Apollo 11 in 1969, this wonderful book gives us historical play by play, along with diagrams of navigation tools, charts and beautiful drawings of the vessel’s insides. Sophisticated Busy Town.

IMG_4596

IMG_4595

Guess what happened after they read that book? They went out and built their own longships and knarrs out of legos. Pretty sure building their own lego ships cemented this story in their heads to a greater degree than my building a giant cardboard ship would have. Although, they probably would have remembered the weeping, wailing and eventual surrender. Lets face it, I never would have finished that ship and if I had it would have been a hot mess. They wouldn’t have helped out or learned much while watching me stress out over cardboard cutouts and a glue gun. Build with me/learn with me was not a realistic goal for this week, which we are already referring to as “Viking Pukefest.”

unnamed-3

Getting these children to willingly engage in craft or art time is an art in and of itself. On a week when we are feeling under the weather, I pretty much let them do whatever they want instead of insisting on a project I want them to do.

unnamed-4

This was craft time. They loved it. They didn’t whine. I loved it.

Viking are fascinating. The mythology, the survival skills, the head gear. They created some truly beautiful things. But like all other humans, they also did some pretty horrific things.

I wasn’t quite ready to read accounts of Viking marauders to my kiddos, but I did want to give them a closer look at Vikings, their place in history and the damage they did.

 I also wanted them to stay in one place with a puke bucket next to them. (Seriously, what is it with the classic kid move of running while vomiting? So much ick.)

Sit down. Hold this bucket. Watch this….

kells_ashley

We watched “Secret of Kells,” which is an incredibly beautiful movie. The Vikings are the bad guys and we follow young Brendan, master illuminator, on his quest to help preserve the Book of Kells (a copy of the four gospels) from Viking raiders with the help of his kinda creepy wolf/girl friend. Visually, it is art work from start to finish. I love exposing my kids to that kind of beauty and detail. Spiritually, it provided a great framework for us to discuss “mythologies” of the day. Celtic mythology, Norse mythology, mythology within medieval Christianity and so on. Lots of myth and false gods entangled in there, but the gospel was still “the light in the darkness.”

We looked at pictures of the Book of Kells and marveled over the details of this lavish work. I even found the wherewithal to crush some berries so the kids could paint a picture like the illuminators did.

We talked about the latin vulgate and the preservation of the four gospels. We talked about the death of certain characters and the very real, every day brutalities faced by some groups of people. Really, the quality of the discussions which sprang from this movie surprised me.

Oh, we also watched How to Train Your Dragon because VIKINGS.

How-to-Train-Your-Dragon-image-how-to-train-your-dragon-36801797-1500-851

The quality of the discussions which sprang from this movie, did not surprise me.

But we had fun.

We’ll post Vikings Part 2 soon.

PS. If you actually managed to build a kid-sized viking ship, post a picture. Way to go! Hope your kiddos had a blast.

My Father’s World Adventures Year: Getting Ready

I can’t believe second grade is upon us, but here we are! After a lovely  “Summer in Spring” break, we are ready to start My Father’s World Adventures.

For all you MFW Mamas out there—here is a breakdown of how we “organized” our year, what extras we tossed in and what we took out.

I know lots of über-organized Moms like to label, laminate and make special work boxes for each subject, etc. God bless you, wonderful organized women!  I am not gifted that way.  If I tried to buy one of those rolling rainbow carts I keep seeing on the Facebook page for Adventures, it would end up hijacked by toddlers driven wild by malicious intent to destroy shiny newly discovered object. The once lovely homeschool cart would end up a fully weaponized derby cart for chickens before the week was out.  So yeah, this post won’t feature work boxes of doom.

BEHOLD!
IMG_4612

I call it, “Basket of Curriculum.”

Don’t everybody pin it all at once.

The MFW manual has planned out the curriculum by week. I have found that the homeschool planner term “week” is equivalent to a thumbtack-encrusted anvil about my neck. Weeks 1-4 will be fairly smooth, but you know by the time 5 hits someone will be throwing up on Tuesday and on Thursday you will need to make a meal for your super pregnant friend who is on home lockdown with her 9 kids. You’ll have to mash tons of lessons in on Friday and miss your nature walk, all for the sake of getting that crisp week long unit in.

So I ignored the word “week” and subbed in “unit” or “theme.” The lid is off the pressure cooker AND if we are having a great time on a certain topic we can stretch it out a bit without feeling like we are behind.
IMG_4613
Each unit has its own high-tech manilla folder. I write out all the various themes, supply lists, Draw Write Now page numbers, pinterest ideas, correlating Magic School Bus episodes, etc., on the outside.  I enjoy pulling it out for the sheer pleasure of gazing upon its state of the art efficiency.

Thankfully, there are lots of loose hand outs this year.

Yaaaaaayyy.

Gone are the days of 1st grade spiral-bound splendor.

Last year, my Christmas list had a comb binder on it (take a moment to absorb the coolness of that confession) so we traded spiral binding for comb binding…

unnamed

The boys each have four bound booklets.

1. States Notebook (State sheets from MFW)
2. State Motto Copywork book. (Extra handwriting practice)
3. My Father’s World Scripture Copywork (Scripture sheets from MFW)
4. Student Sheets Notebook

IMG_4422

The rest of the basket contains:

1. Saxon Math 2
2. Spelling by Sound and Structure
3. Writing With Ease Level 2
4. First Language Lessons for the Well Trained Mind
5. Usborne Scince (Included in MFW Curriculum package)
6.  Teach Them Spanish Grade 2 (A cheap win!)
7. Star-Spangled State book
8. Maps
9. CTB Bibles
10.Early American History: A Literature Approach for Primary Grades
11.Classical Conversations (which includes our new grammar, Art, Music Theory and Science)

IMG_4615

Most of my reference books I stack next to my other basket, which holds timeline cards from Classical Conversations, tin whistles, flashcards, etc.

Explode the Code, Draw Write Now and any other remedial teaching aids I need to access quickly rest against that basket.

If its one area I don’t skimp on, its books! I am a mathematics disaster zone so the personal library overload is a bandaid on my numerically illiterate heart.

The boys have small book baskets on their bed, filled with read alouds from the library.

IMG_4621

I am encouraging them to keep a simple log of their favorite books this year.

IMG_4614
Found this puppy at convention last month in the Rainbow Resource booth. I have no doubt that this particular item will either be a total hit or miserable miss.

I have also surrendered my counter space in the classroom to our History books. We received many of these when a local library closed and everything else was found at thrift stores or thrift sites. I’ve added several books off of the Sonlight core reading list for American History, which I bought used.

IMG_4599

And now for a quick look at the setup in our classroom  (which was once a garage, refurbished into an office space by the family that lived here before we bought the farmhouse).

This is the cleanest my work space will look all year. I am more than ok with it looking a bit messy. I love those Montessori preschool spaces with their airy light and open bookcases and trays of educational goodness, free from pesky bourgeois germs, boogers and crayon marks. Alas, this classroom is dripping with books and papers and life, and so the lofty Montessori Play Space pins remain in the graveyard of my pinterest board.

IMG_4611

The work table. A donation from the basement of my generous in-laws’ home. I go through at least one bottle of Goo Gone on that table alone each year.

IMG_4616

The upper cabinets are stocked with art supplies, audiobooks, math manipulatives, science supplies and yard after yard of lovely fabric and bundles of yarn, relics from when I used to have this amazing thing called “Time.”

The rest of the classroom is outfitted for the imaginative play needs and heavy-handed dictatorial demands of the preschoolers. Nothing matches and everything is covered in a fine layer of cracker crumbs.
I love our play stand, which is rarely used as pictured in the catalogues. It is, in fact, a jungle gym for marine training, and occasionally moonlights as a covered wagon, submarine, wigwam, and/or a Starbucks.

IMG_4554
The book nook was built by my Hubs and Father-in-law. I modge-podged pages from a science book onto the back wall. The lower cubbies hold a science center to the left, puzzles and cars to the right. When the curtains unfurl they display a terribly inaccurate map of the globe courtesy of Urban Outfitters.

IMG_4620

I try to stack things in corners for the nosey ones to sort through: lacing cards, magnet tiles, a basket of peg pirate people. By the end of the school day these shelves are typically empty and some enraged tiny person is standing on its wiry top, shouting down at the rest of us.

IMG_4618

All of our Schleich toy animals live in wooden sorting crates under these science posters. They do take frequent sojourns throughout the house, but this is their main landing place.

IMG_4619

Lastly, the littles enjoy these Big Joe chairs (which lost their shapes 5 months after we purchased them). I usually leave the elders working on an assignment so I can cuddle up with Team B and a few books.

IMG_4622

And that is how we pulled stuff together this year for MFW Adventures. We are adding in our preschool curriculum this August so stay tuned for that bit of lunacy.