Monthly Archives: November 2008

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Songs that I want my children to know

We started talking in the car this evening about different songs, and I realized that I haven’t taught my children any Thanksgiving songs or many Patriotic songs. They do know America the Beautiful, My County ‘Tis of Thee, and parts of The Star Spangled Banner. Here are some of the songs that I want to be sure that they know before next Thanksgiving.

All Things Bright and Beautiful
Come Ye Thankful People Come
We Gather Together

I will probably be adding to this list. I know that we need to add some patriotic songs and folk songs to the mix as well. Wow, this is going to take some planning…but there are just some songs that you need to be exposed to as a kid!

Our Curriculum such as it is

This probably should have been my first post, but oh,well……I suppose that is part of the point of my blog – things don’t have to done in the “correct” order. I have tried to provide links to the materials in a location where sample pages are available. For purchasing alot of products from one location, I highly recommend Rainbow Resource. I am always on the lookout for a deal, and when I have multiple products to buy, this is always the place I go. For single books, I occasionally find better deals – but that happens so rarely (and the pricing changes often), so I am unable to direct you any further than where I find the best samples. And, I do like purchasing from these companies to reward them for providing samples. Goodness knows that it is hard enough to choose a curriculum without having to do it sight unseen.


Scripture Study

We have been using the Child’s Illustrated Bible to cover the main events and people in the Bible. We are also reading at least part of the story out of the King James Version of the Bible because I feel like they might understand the language easier if they already have an idea of what the passage is about. We prefer to move in Chronological Order.

DD has started doing independent Devotions this year (Thank you WILDS!) using Kids 4 Truth (a free online program whose beliefs seem to be inline with ours – although I check it over before I give it to her each day.)

For a more in depth study, I plan on doing Answers for Kids from Answers in Genesis.


I am trying to teach them songs out of the the WILDS songbook.

Scripture Memory

I have found two webpages (same site) that have helped me tremendously in this area. The first is a great Verse Bank to memorize. The second covers a Scripture Memory System. I have found that this has greatly relieved my burden to decide what verses to learn first and how to make sure that we review them regularly.

DD is very interested in missionaries, so we are going to be reading lots of misions stories.


DS – Miquon – The thing I love about this program is that it really does build “precept upon precept.” There is virtually no instruction necessary as the books move in such a way that the learning is almost done intuitively. DS loves his math work, and I am constantly amazed at what he is able to do at 7. He seems to have a natural bent for math, however, and he was born a sequential person. DD used this series until she had “outgrown it.” She was ready to move on before she actually finished all of the books – but, this is in large part due to her being “right brained/visual spatial”. We needed to move on to something harder so that the “easy” would fall into place (math facts, etc…) I got this idea from “Upside Down Brilliance: The Visual-Spatial Learner” by Linda Silverman, Ph. D. If you think you have a right-brainer I completely recommend this book. I am happy to say that so far, this technique seems to be working – but more about that in the next section. I do recommend the Teacher’s Book (Lab Sheet Annotations) for this set (but not the First Grade Notes), but Annotations covers all six workbooks, so it is great for the budget. Also, each of the workbooks covers 1/2 a year, and the price is only about $6 each.

DD – Key to…… Series This series is a natural progression from the Miquon series. The books provide some explanation, but in most cases steps are built upon slowly so that they are easily grasped as she moves through the books. While using this series, she is getting quicker with her math facts, and the best thing is that her work with prime numbers has helped her with remembering her multiplication facts. Before these lessons, she understood multiplication, but she would always revert to an addition problem when presented with a multiplication problem. A computer program called Math Success Deluxe (I have a different version which does update itself) – the program also includes problems designed for younger learners – again a great bargain for only $20 (at Walmart). This program gave us some great hints for multiplication facts so that she was only left with about 15 problems that actually had to be memorized. There were several that I had never heard of before. This program is a tutorial and does not really include any games or inter-activity. Anyway, we purchased the first books of all the Key to Series, and she is allowed to work in whichever book she wants to each day. She has only done the Geometry and Algebra books so far. Also, she grades her own work using the Answer Booklet, and then we go over what she has missed if she doesn’t understand why she got it wrong. I also peek into her book to check out her progress. Also check out Keypress – I love the Key to Tracker. It helps me know that DD is grasping the material without her book. This is also a very inexpensive program. One of my favorite things about both Miquon and Key to is that they do not use “graded” books – so the kids never think about whether they are in the correct grade or not.

Language Arts


Both children are using Italics: Beautiful Handwriting for Children by Penny Gardner. This book is best purchased from the author as she has the best price I’ve been able to find. We previously used a different Italics program, but I felt that there was too much mindless copying. I subscribe to the Charlotte Mason idea that the goal is to get them writing so they can start to copy words of value. In Ms. Gardner’s book, there are only 14 lessons before the child is ready to start copying “real sentences.” Then, we move onto copying poetry, scripture, etc… Charlotte Mason said that children learn how to write well by copying things that are written well (extremely paraphrased.) Think about this with children as they are learning to speak – if their parents speak well, then usually the children learn to speak well with very little intervention – whereas if mom and dad speak poorly, then little Johnny is bound to follow suit.

DD has completed the second half of this book, which teaches Cursive Italic. This is another 10 lessons that cover the joins of cursive. At the end of this book are lots and lots of copywork examples. She also explains how to use standard notebook paper for correct sizing through all of the writing sizes. The great thing about Italic writing is that the Basic Italic and Cursive Italic are so similar. When children learn manuscript writing and then looped cursive, they are basically having to learn two complete styles of writing. My children will know how to read looped cursive, but I see no reason for them to learn this style of writing. Also, Italic is very focused on developing your own style. Adults do not write exactly the same as each other, and yet in “regular school,” conformity is always the goal. In our home, the goal is readable writing that is aesthetically pleasing. As they are ready, we will add Dictation to their weekly schedule.

Phonics/ Reading

DS – Noah Webster’s 1824 Blue Backed Speller – I had a really hard time finding information on how people were using this amazing resource, so I will attempt to share in detail our situation. As previously mentioned, DS is 7 and at the beginning of this year, he was not even attempting to read. We were not overly concerned because we know several families that do not even begin to formally teach reading until 9. However, my one concern was that he didn’t seem to be retaining a word from one sentence to the next. I felt that if I told him what the word was then he should be able to “read” the word when presented with it in the next sentence – however, this was not the case. I started searching the net, and lo and behold, I found out that when I thought that I was teaching him phonics, I was really only teaching him glorified sight reading. This method did work with DD (but as we already discussed, she is a different type of learner.) So, what to do about it? I decided to give the Blue Backed Speller a try. Luckily, I had a great phonics instruction using ABEKA when I was little, so I do understand the phonics rules, but I like Noah’s Speller better because it doesn’t seem to change the rules on you. For example, when I started my phonics instruction, we read “ba” as baaaaaa, but when ba is a syllable in a word, the correct way to say it is BA (long “A” sound.) The short “a” sound is heard when a consonant is AFTER the vowel – what a revelation for me. My son believes in rules – and if you tell him a rule, it needs to stay the same time after time. Once we started going through the Speller, he started to “get it.” Because the rules stayed the same, he didn’t feel like he was always having to readjust for the new section. This is yet another example of how different children learn differently. What a concept?!? Different people are different! My daughter needed alot of whole – part – whole instruction (I will discuss this more in DD’s section,) while my son needs to “build” his words – part to whole. Now, you may be asking, how do we use this amazing FREE resource. First, of all, I needed it in a book (this is my thing – maybe this is not as important to you.) So, I downloaded the document, then uploaded it to to have it printed and bound. This only cost about $10, and soooo very worth it. DS and I sit down about every day and work through the book. One of the most important parts is the Syllabication Chart at the beginning of the book – Do NOT skip this part. These are the sounds that almost all of the English language is built upon. We repeated this section until he was very confident with these sounds. Later in the book, when you get to two syllable words, Don Potter has divided the words, so that your student can easily see which of his syllabication sounds to use for that portion of the word. Now you might say – “But real books aren’t divided that way!” I had the same resistance to this idea, but I have found that my son can break large words into the syllables without very much effort. We haven’t even gotten to the two syllable words in the Blue Backed Speller, and already he is reading two and three syllable words in his books. We’re not “there” yet, but his reading has improved at an amazing speed. The great thing about the Speller is that he is just reading words. There is no story (in this version,) and this is a good thing because it has stopped the guessing while he is reading. This was one of the biggest challenges we had – DS would guess at words as he read and once he had guessed wrong once, it was very difficult to correct the word (and yet this amazing memory did not translate to words that I had told him.) Many other families don’t allow the child to attempt books until they have completed the Speller, but DS really wants to apply what he has learned. So far, I have been extremely happy with this choice for DS (but it would have been a terrible choice for DD.)

DD – learned how to read at the age of 5 using a combination of Zaner-Bloser Activity Phonics (you can get school pricing by telling them that you are a homeschooler) and Pathway Readers. DD needs to see the whole “picture” and then break it into it’s parts and then put it back together again. Zaner-Bloser provided this technique wonderfully well for her. The Pathway Readers provide high interest stories to encourage the child’s reading skills. (Who wants to read See Spot Run over and over again?) They do use repetition, but it doesn’t seem to be tedious like other readers we have looked at in the past. She is no longer studying Phonics as a subject, but I do occasionally have her read aloud to me so that I can be sure she is pronouncing the words correctly. She is reading unabridged classics so that she is exposed to excellent writing. There are several websites that offer suggestions on what is appropriate for different ages – I will compile our reading list here in a future post. I am also having her read the McGuffey Reader Book 4 (available Free online) because these books really have interesting content.


This is one of the cornerstones of the Charlotte Mason style of homeschooling, and one that I personally love. Narration involves the child “telling back” what has been heard (or read alone.) How much better is it find out what they heard and remember than to test what they do not know? Also, this is a great way to find out what was most interesting to them in the story. It will quite often NOT be what you think is important :) This is an important precursor to writing because it helps children to organize what they want to say verbally before being asked to organize their thoughts onto paper. No one is allowed to interrupt while someone is doing their narration; although additions are allowed at the end (also gentle corrections by Mom.) This covers comprehension, speaking and listening sills.

Family Read Alouds

Read alouds do not always have to be done by Mom (or Dad for that matter) – we love Audio Books because it gives us the opportunity to listen together as we’re driving, eating, etc… This year, we have listened to both classics and tales just for enjoyment. The books we have completed this year are the following: A Series of Unfortunate Events books 1 – 6, A Cricket in Times Square, and The Hobbit. As you can see, they are definitely varied, but we come together as a family with shared experiences. I am currently reading Swiss Family Robinson to both of them – although it is taking us a looooonnnnngggg time to finish. Sometimes we do narration for these books, but quite often these are just for enjoyment.


DS is not using a formal spelling program at this time. DD used A Reason for Spelling in the first grade. This is a great book because it uses several different activities (many of which are great for those right-brainers) to firmly set the words into their little brains. It is *not* simply writing the words every day. The downside to this program is that you really need the teacher book, and it is a bit pricey. This program does dovetail very nicely with a great spelling program for her which is Spelling Power. This book is expensive, but it covers grades 3 – 12. I moved DD to this program in second grade because she just seems to have a knack for spelling. One of the great things about this program is that you test for 5 minutes each day or until they miss 5 – whichever comes first, and the child does not have to practice those words that they already know how to spell. This works great for her, and it gives her a goal. If she doesn’t miss anything in 5 minutes, then she is done with spelling. Even if she does miss, then her maximum spelling time is 15 min each day.

A program that I have been looking into for DS (remember they learn differently) is Sequential Spelling. This program seems like it would really capitalize on his tendency to “build.”

Creative Writing

Neither of the children are doing any Creative Writing at this time. They are both still learning what good writing looks like (copywork and reading) and learning how to organize their thoughts (narration.) But, here’s the great thing – they are experimenting with it in their spare time! DD makes up comic strips on a regular basis. She has also “published” a newspaper for our home. These are some of my favorite things in her “scrapbook piles.” I also had the privilege earlier this year to guide her into the correct writing of a letter. She wanted to send a letter to a friend from camp, so I pulled out the page from an old grammar book so that she could copy the correct formatting. And, guess what?!? No complaining or arguing – she had a sincere desire to do it the correct way! How different it is to teach a skill using real world application instead of simply being part of “busy work!”

Formal Writing

It is possible that Formal Writing will begin this year for DD. I didn’t want to start too early because I want to be sure that she had something to say before I ask her to write. I have purchased Strategies for Writers from Zaner-Bloser, and I believe that this method will work well for DD.


We are not currently doing any formal vocabulary because great words come up in everyday life and in the books we are reading. DD reads with a dictionary beside her so that she can look up any words with which she is unfamiliar. She also has the program Word Wisdom (again from Zaner-Bloser) which worked well for my niece and nephew, but although DD enjoys the program, she finds it drudgery to do every day. This program is not recommended for earlier than third grade, and it may just be that DD needs more time to process the information than she has if she is required to do the program daily.


This is a subject with which we have had lots of trial and error. Charlotte Mason does not advocate Grammar as a formal subject until at least the age of 10, and I heartily agree. It is so much easier to move through this subject quickly once they are ready for the information.

DD has tried G.U.M. from Zaner-Bloser, and we found it to be over-simplified. We also tried Climbing to Good English. It is very similar to Pathway Readers, so we thought that it would be a good fit. She found it to be too repetitious, and although it was more challenging, it also seemed to be too far away from real world application. The program that we have settled on for her is a FREE program developed by a University Professor who discovered that his college freshman were unprepared in simple grammar. It is called KISS, and it really is simple. This program uses real literature for analysis, and I find it to be marvelously done. This program is so gentle and gradual that you could probably easily use it for a younger audience (especially since he has arranged it by grade level so well.)

The kids get a multitude of books from the library regarding scientific subjects. When they were younger, we would get out into nature and check out library books. The idea was just to fill them up with facts (Classical style) and allow them to become familiar with God’s Creation (Charlotte Mason style.) Last year we read a biography of Thomas Edison (which DS would quickly say Thomas Alva Edison,) and our textbook this year is Apologia’s Zoology 1: Exploring Creation with Flying Creatures of the Fifth Day. What an amazing book!

This book covers all Flying Creatures – not just birds. Have you ever thought about that? On the fifth day, God did not just create birds! He created all the creatures of the air. So, we are covering bats and insects in addition to birds. This author has written in a very friendly style – you could easily give this book to your fourth grader for self study (however we are enjoying studying science together.) There are plenty of experiments and notebook activites (more about notebooking later.) Our current experiment is that we are testing which type of bird food the birds in our backyard prefer. We chose to test Oil Sunflower and Cracked Corn.

We plan on completing all of the Exploring Creation books as a family, and when each child is ready (depends on math skills), they will venture into the higher Apologia sciences.


This isn’t really a subject, but it applies to almost all of the subjects, so I am including it here. The kids draw a picture or narrate something for me to write about what we are studying. Also, handwriting pages go into the notebook. Right now everything is in one notebook to give it some thickness, but eventually, the papers will be separated in order to have a separate notebook for each subject that should last through high school. How great will it be when they can look back at their achievements in a subject?!?

Fine Arts/Handicrafts


This is something that we have studied haphazardly, but I am going to try to nail down a system. They have memorized a few poems, and we have ready several poems. I will post a schedule when I figure it out.


There are two components to Art – studying the great masters and learning the basics to be able to create yourself. I have not chosen the specific artists to study, yet, but we have studied some of Da Vinci’s work last year. We have really only covered mixing colors as part of our art instruction. I am doing research on programs that will help me with this field.


We are reading Tales from Shakespeare by Charles and Mary Lamb available free online. This will probably be stretched over a couple of years – until the kids are ready for the “real stuff.”

Music Study

Again, this involves both studying the masters and learning for ourselves. I play classical music when the children are drawing, reading, etc… I plan on branching out and covering the history of music later. As for their musical education, DD has shown an interest in this area and has a keyboard, harmonica, guitar, and recorder that she is using to teach herself. DS is just starting to show an interest, and he has a recorder.


Handicrafts are different from crafts. These are activities that can be used as adults: sewing, cooking, crochet, archery, woodcarving, basket weaving, etc… Sometimes they start out as crafts for little ones, but it is something that can grow into more. I am teaching both kids to cook and crochet. DS is interested in carving, and he will be learning on a bar of soap using a plastic knife. until he is old enough to attempt the real thing. DD is interested in sewing, and she has begun learning how using a store bought kit to sew a teddy bear. (The one that does *not* have holes already punched and uses a big yarn needle – she is using an honest to goodness needle.)

Field Trips

We have gone this year to the zoo and visited a neighboring county’s library. We also plan to go to a fort and a plantation this year (and hopefully back to the zoo.)

Standardized Testing

Yep, it’s required in Georgia. We are required to do standardized testing starting in the third grade and repeated every three years. We have decided to use the PASS test because it is approved in our state, and it is geared toward homeschoolers. It is untimed which was a major consideration for us because DD freezes when she thinks she is being timed. Even when playing a game, it upsets her so much that she can’t focus. Also, the parents can administer the test in the comfort of their own home which is a major benefit and makes testing so much easier. The only downside is that they do recommend that you test twice a year, but it certainly isn’t required.

Okay, so that’s the overall plan. Seems ambitious doesn’t it? Well, part of the secret is using short blocks of time – and, you don’t have to do everything in one day! Isn’t that an amazing concept – doing different things on different days (it was for me – even though that system was great in college.) We do Bible, Math, Handwriting, and Reading every day. This is what I consider the foundation for everything else. If I can teach them the basics of how to learn – then the sky is the limit, and they can do anything! I love a quote that I read by Will Smith – “The first step is that you have to say that you can.” And, of course, with God anything is possible, so I’d say that we’re doing A-O.K.

The best laid plans

Today I spent about 2 hours, without the kids, at the library collecting books to read about Colonial and Renaissance history for the next few weeks. I try to read these books together so that we get the benefit of discussion during the “lesson.” However, my daughter noticed that we had new books before she went to bed, and the next thing I know, she has grabbed half of the “history books” to read in bed. Not wanting to discourage her interest in the subject, I figured that it was better to let her go ahead and read them, and I will cover the material with my son later.

I just love that there is no cajoling or arm twisting to get her excited to learn the material. How awesome is that?!?