Sunday, August 28, 2016

My Homeschool Mother's Journal: Week 2

Life this week...

April passed her driver's permit test! She had her first driving lesson on Tuesday evening in the parking lot at our church. It was definitely crazy seeing my daughter behind the wheel. I'm happy and scared at the same time. I didn't have to sit with her this time, her Dad gave her the lesson, but I will soon. Yikes! She did pretty good for her first time though.

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Adjusting the seat, and learning about all the stuff on the inside of the car.

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April didn't like the crazy picture lady (me) taking her picture so much.  This was the "MOM!" look.

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Of course we all had to come watch her first time, sitting safely outside of the car :) Just kidding, we didn't want her to be too distracted.

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Lap 342...

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Ok, she didn't really do 342 laps, but she went around quite a bit. He even got her to go out on the real road. I could tell it took some convincing because they sat at the driveway exit for some time before she went.


School this week...

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Our morning meeting basket
I am starting to set the rhythm for our school days by slowly adding back in things. We added back in "The Morning Meeting" more regularly (almost everyday). It is the start to our school day, and gets us going, so I really enjoy doing it. Sometimes it's the 'doing it' that is hard, but we did pretty good this week. I made an effort to sit down with the children for meeting even if we only had one thing to do. This week our basket included Bedtime math, Scripture stories, a song, and some reading.

Since we have been starting to structure our days more, I thought I'd share what our day looks like. It is a very good day when it looks exactly like this, and we get everything done.

Our school day:

  • Around 5:30: I wake up, read scriptures/quiet time for Mom
  • 6:20: Take April to Seminary at church
  • 7:20: Pick April up
  • Eat Breakfast, get dressed, ready for the day, exercise/movement if there is time
  • About 8:30: morning meeting
  • ~9ish: Start into our school day.
  • 12:00: Lunch time
  • 1:00: Rest/quiet time. Everybody in their own space doing something quietly, or if I'm feeling like it a movie.
  • 2:30: Afternoon creative time. Projects, nature walks, life skills, finish up any school work and screen time after everything else is done.
  • 4:30: Chores for everyone to help get the house spruced up before Dad gets home.
  • 5:30: Dinner
  • 6:30: Family time
  • 7:30: Bedtime routine starts--PJ's, reading, and prayer
  • 8:30: lights out for kids
  • I spend the rest of the evening doing things that need to be done, spending time with Hubby, or blogging/computer stuff.
Someday that might be more refined, but it works for us right now.

Something Fun this week...

We finally got to see Disney's The BFG. As soon as I heard this movie was coming out, I knew it'd be one that we should try to see in the theatre. We read the BFG aloud last summer, and the boys really liked it. The movie did not disappoint. I think we all enjoyed it very much.

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Something I accomplished this week...

I got all the boys' school books ordered that we get through the charter. I still have some things I need to order through Sonlight to complete it all. I am excited to get all their books so we can get started for the school year. We get to pick up our charter curriculum orders this week at orientation.

Places we went and people we saw...

We had something going on almost every evening this week. Tuesday evening was a planning meeting for our local homeschool group, Wednesday was Mom/daughter time at her Young women's night, and Thursday night was a cub scout pack meeting. Saturday we had a nice date night, and April went to a church youth dance in the evening after our date. It was a pretty packed week!

I think that about wraps up the highlights from our week.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Can Do Cubes (A REVIEW)

Jolly Phonics and Jolly Grammar Review
just2ducks LLC
We are getting more practice with phonics and spelling using Can Do Cubes from jollyliteracy.com. These natural wood looking cubes have letters and symbols on them to use with lessons for some hands on spelling, phonics and grammar. We can build words, and even some small sentences with them. I use them along with the Jolly Phonics and Grammar program that I just reviewed, but we also use them just to have fun with. My kids like to build with them in other ways too, both fun and educational.

Jolly Phonics and Jolly Grammar Review

Included with the cubes were a DVD and CD-rom, 2 spiral books with information about the stages, and some charts with at-a-glance information. The CD-rom contains a teacher's guide and the printables for the workbooks which contain some specific activities to do with the cubes. The DVD is titled Teaching, learning and 'sounding out' with Debbie Hepplewhite. I haven't watched the DVD yet, but it is on my to do for this school year.

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They came in a nicely packaged box, organized into groups, but when I first opened them I didn't realize that the groupings were important to the layout and stages of the blocks. So, I don't have that nice packaging anymore. Lesson learned, don't get rid of nice packaging until you know for sure why it is like that, and read the material! I can see very clearly now why they were packaged the way they were, and it makes total sense now. For some reason it didn't make sense why when I first opened them, and I didn't feel like organizing them all the time. Luckily there are numbers on the cubes (very small) so I can sorta organize them and use the ones that are needed for certain lessons. I will just have to do something like this (picture below) each time I want to find the important blocks.

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The Can Do Cubes can be used with any spelling or phonics curriculum, but there are many activities within the items given that they can be used alone as well. I chose a few of the activities from the template book to see what fun things we could do with them.  First my kids just enjoyed trying to build words. That is one of the suggested activities is to just let them play with them a little and build words!

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I had my Kindergardener match some of the letters with the ones on the page. We sounded out the letters, and pretty much tried some of the instructions at the top. He needs a lot of help with some of these sounds still, but he enjoyed finding the letters.

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At first I could not figure out why 2 blocks had a string going through them, but again this was before I read everything. The 2 blocks contain all the vowels! This was great review for my 3rd grader! First I quizzed him about those 2 blocks, and asked why he thought those 2 particular blocks were the ones on there. I read the letters to him, but he didn't get it right away. I had to give him some hints, but eventually he figured out that they are all vowels.

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One of the other activities that was suggested in the printable book was to give the children 3 blocks and have them try to build words with them. First they could just try to build a word using any side, but then there was the suggestion to have them roll the blocks and use only the sides that were facing up. That is how we ended up with "tchores." He was trying to spell chores, but those are the only blocks he had. They can get creative and even make up words to see what works. It's kind of fun to make up words too.

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These blocks are a great resource for any age, but especially for those learning to read. I love the feel and look of them, and they would be great for those children who really need some hands on learning to help them along.

If you would like to see what others had to say about the Can Do cubes you can click on the link below!


Can Do Cubes
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Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Jolly Phonics and Jolly Grammar (A REVIEW)

Jolly Phonics and Jolly Grammar Review
just2ducks LLC


We had the opportunity to try out Jolly Phonics and Jolly Grammar from jollyliteracy.com. We really only got to the Jolly Phonics Student Book 1 for the duration of this review, but it came with several other components including Jolly Phonics Book 2 and 3, Jolly Phonics Teacher's Book, Jolly Songs, Jolly Grammar 1 Student book, and Jolly Grammar Teacher's Book. All of this is a very complete and simple phonics and grammar curriculum. And, even though it looks like a lot it is very easy to use.

Jolly Phonics and Jolly Grammar Review

Jolly Phonics and Jolly Grammar Review
Jolly Phonics and Jolly Grammar Review
Jolly Phonics and Jolly Grammar Review
Jolly Phonics and Jolly Grammar Review

There is a lot of phonics curriculum out there. We have tried many, and most are way too involved for mine or my kids' taste. I love the simplicity of this program, the engaging pages, and the activities that go along with each lesson. In the phonics lessons there are stories, movements, sounds, and songs to go with each lesson, but the lessons can be completed in a very timely matter. It doesn't feel like you have to spend forever on each sound, and the child stays involved with what's happening. There are also workbook pages to go with each sound so the child can see and write the letters while doing all the great activities to go along with it.


We unfortunately didn't get very far into this program during the review period, but I plan to continue it this year with my 5 year-old this year for his Kindergarden year. I look forward to getting up to the Jolly Grammar portion. As the child moves through the Jolly Phonics it prepares them for the grammar part. The grammar part is definitely something he won't be ready for until at least he is done with the Jolly Phonics part of this program. Both programs build on each other.


How did we use this program? Well, there is a lot of reading at the beginning of the Teacher's books about the why and what phonics and grammar is all about. It's all great reading, but I focused on the 2 page spread about how to teach phonics with the student books, and we got started with lesson 1! Other than the reading at the beginning, there's really no preparation for each lesson. Each lesson is a new letter or sound with complete lesson plans in the Teacher's book. It's pretty much completely an open and go phonics and grammar program, and can be completed several days a week. As the school year starts I can see us doing this 3-4 times a week. I also received the Can Do cubes for a separate review (coming soon) to supplement this curriculum, and we use those to help reinforce the sounds with some games.

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Can do Cubes~my kiddos thought they also doubled as stacking blocks!

Overall, I think this is a great program for little ones needing to get those letter sounds down so that they can read. The workbooks are inviting and colorful which is important for little kids so that they can be excited about what they are doing. The systematic and multi-sensory approach to Jolly Phonics really helps the children grasp the sounds and remember them so that they can become better readers. I am excited to see my little guy become more familiar with his sounds. He is so close, but just doesn't quite get how to put the sounds together. I think this will help him.

If you want to see what others have to say about Jolly Phonics you can click on the banner below.


Jolly Phonics and Jolly Grammar Review

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Sunday, August 21, 2016

My homeschool Mother's Journal: Week 1 back to it

Life this week...

This was kinda our back to school week. I say kinda because we did just a few things. We can't go full bore until they get their curriculum from the charter school at the beginning of September, so we are just using some Five in a Row, and review products that we're still working on for now. I have lots of plans that I hope to be able to share soon. Things such as curriculum choices, and the things coming up this school year that I hope to do. For now I have to leave it at that, sorry! Some things are still in the works.

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In our school this week...

We attempted to row The Salamander Room this week since we saw a lot of Salamanders/newts in the water at the lake while camping. I have to say I love Five in a Row, but I don't. I just keep trying to do it, but I just fizzle out after the first few days. I just can't get it going again. I am not sure how much I will use it this year. I think it's time for me to move on.

The things we did get to were pretty fun, and probably sufficient for this book.

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We started out the week making buggy parfaits. These were fun and delicious. I couldn't hold these off because the kids saw all the yummy treats I brought home from the grocery store to make them, so we ended up making them on Sunday afternoon before we started the week.

On Monday we had some nature study/notebooking time while we read from the Handbook of Nature Study about Salamanders.

Alex drew his "Salamander" from the Draw, Write, Now book. In the book it's actually a lizard, but we pretended he was drawing a salamander.

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Here's his completed salamander. I am hoping to use the Draw Write Now books a lot with him this school year. It will be part of his curriculum.

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This is Aaron's notebook page. He narrated some of his words to me.

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Aric's notebook page and narration.

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We stopped somewhere to take a little nature walk, and do a nature scavenger hunt. No salamanders here though, the creek was all dried up.

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We've been watching the olympics on and off throughout the last few weeks. I printed up this Olympic Sudoku for Aric to do with math one day.

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We worked on our balloon solar system for our Apologia astronomy science lesson. Review coming soon!

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Something new this week...

We had the fun opportunity to take care of four kittens until they found their homes. It turned out to be the hardest thing letting the kittens go. Lots of fun, but lots of tears by the kids who really wanted to keep one. We were all sad that we couldn't keep one. Their names were Oreo, Mittens, Mr. Chicken, and unnamed (can't remember what we ended up calling him). It was fun to see their different personalities.

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Something I accomplished this week...

First off, I don't have a picture of it, but I managed to get up every morning early so I could get my scripture study and quiet time in before the kids wake. I really LOVE that time. It was hard some of the days, but on the days I did it I sure felt more complete and ready for the day. I would definitely prefer to read my scriptures and study in the morning than the evening, so I am hoping to make this a priority this school year.

I also managed to get a whole month of the menu planned out. I have a friend that made this menu printable up, and gave some tips on planning for a whole month of dinners. I tried it out even though we are halfway through August. I just did half of August and half of September. I need to do one of these for lunches. I have found a lot of things I need to change for next time, but this was a great start, and I'm excited to get better at this. Also, note that even though I put pizza for every Friday night, it will be some variation of pizza whether it be frozen, homemade, Papa Murphy's, etc. It also leaves room for an extra night that we can adjust if we go out or something comes up.

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I think that about wraps up our week. Here are links to some of the things I used this week:

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Basketballs aren't for Breakfast (A REVIEW)

Beginner Spanish Foreign Languages for Kids by Kids Review

My boys have been asking to learn Spanish for quite some time. They have friends that are in the Spanish immersion programs at school, and we live in a town that is predominantly Spanish speaking, so I can see why they sometimes want to learn the language they hear around them a lot. I took a few years in high school and college, so I can help them with a few words here and there, but I was excited for them to get a little more through a fun program from Foreign Languages for Kids by Kids. We received the Starter Set 1 that will take the children on a 20-week Spanish adventure. We made it through several lessons during our review period.

Beginner Spanish Foreign Languages for Kids by Kids Review
When we received the box and opened it all up it looked a bit overwhelming. We received the DVD, 3 student workbooks, flashcards, stickers, and a curriculum guide complete with instructions on where to start.  Once I read the Guide for Parents and Teachers I was starting to see the simplicity of this whole program, and how nicely it is laid out. I was able to start right away with almost nothing I need to prepare except maybe putting the DVD in.

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 So, how does this program actually work?

The Starter set 1 is split up into 3 levels. Each level has a Guide for Teachers and Parents, and a workbook. We started with Level 1 which is titled Basketballs aren't for Breakfast. The Guide breaks up each level into lessons, each lesson varying in length. Some are as short as 5 minutes, some up to 40 minutes. Almost every lessons starts out watching a segment from the video. The kids learn vocabulary by hearing and watching over and over again. Most video segments are repeated throughout the lessons. My boys did not mind watching the video several times, and they got something different out of it every time. The kids in the video are easy to relate to.

After the video segment is watched there is usually some sort of activity like the geography, or the workbook, or a game. Sometimes there are several activities. I didn't get a picture of it, but one of the other fun activities that we did during the first few lessons was put vocabulary stickers around the house. In the fridge we put a sticker on an apple that said manzana, or on the bookshelf el libro for book. It was fun to see the stickers around, but I was a little disappointed when I tried to take them off. They didn't peel clean off. I had paper residue stuck to some things that I didn't want evidence of a sticker on. I was a little disappointed in that. I think it's important to use stickers that will peel back off nicely. I can understand the desire to have them stick and stay though. I might have to come up with a solution for the rest of the stickers because my boys sure loved putting those stickers all over the place.

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Teachers and Parents Guide
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Basketballs aren't for Breakfast workbook

I love when we can weave subjects together! We get a little dose of geography as we work through the lessons with the geography in a Jiffy pages. Every few lessons there is a little tid bit about geography where you either find something on the map, or read something interesting about the location.

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Another cool feature of this program is the games. We love to learn by games, and this Spanish program seems to have a few. In the 2nd lesson my boys enjoyed playing "Duck Duck Goose" with Spanish words. They picked 2 words from the flashcard pile, and had to replace the words in "Duck Duck Goose" with them. It was great fun, and all the boys had fun with that. They even wanted to play again.

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Playing "Duck Duck Goose" FLK style!
The instructions for the Go Squish Cardgame were also included, but we didn't get around to play it. I thought that we hadn't received the cards for that game, but just missed them (there are a lot of cards in that stack!)

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Overall, I think this is a neat program. It is always fun to learn a new language in real life situations. I love that each lesson is simple with a few engaging activities. Learning Spanish with this program is a blast. I hope you found this review helpful. You can find out what others had to say by clicking on the banner below!

Beginner Spanish Foreign Languages for Kids by Kids Review

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