September 1, 2014

Calendar Magic

Today I labored, as is only appropriate on Labor Day, over the school year calendar.  I like to have the year mapped out (a residual effect of being a professional teacher or just Type A behavior?) and now that it is, I haven't stopped patting myself on the back.  The calendar worked out brilliantly.  We're studying the pilgrims (legitimately) the week of Thanksgiving and the Revolutionary War (legitimately) the week of July 4th.  How is that for amazing?

Granted, my yearly plans never go as planned but let me have a few more minutes to gloat over my calendar's awesomeness before I face that reality.

I spent all day poring over my two spines: The Age of Discovery by Timelink and The Elements: Ingredients of the Universe by Ellen McHenry.  I will also be using Ellen McHenry's second chemistry course, Carbon Chemistry, but I don't own it yet.

I broke everything down into pieces and then assigned each piece to a day.  So very, very time consuming, but so very, very worth it for me.

September is devoted to history.  Here is how it breaks down--

3rd: Joan of Arc, any other catching up, start timelines on paper roll

4th: map practice, what the world looked like at the end of the Medieval period, work on timeline

5th: Columbus and Magellan, read books about them, map where they went, discuss expanding world

8th: Cortes and the Aztecs, Pizarro and the Incas, Jacques Cartier in Canada--maps and timeline

10th: Ottoman Turks under Suleiman 1, Babur in India and the start of the Mogul Empire, maps, any documentaries I can find, books if I can find them

11th: Protestant Reformation, Martin Luther, Calvinism, Venn diagram for Catholicism and Protestantism, Henry VIII divorces first wife so England breaks with Catholicism

12th: Review of major world religions, Venn diagrams, books

15th: overview of Renaissance, definition of rebirth, ancient Greeks, ancient Romans, humanism--humans can accomplish anything--focus on this life instead of afterlife, Medici (look for documentary), patrons, Gutenberg

16th: Painters that made a difference: Titian, Raphael, Michelangelo, Donatello, etc., try to draw like one of them

17th: Perspective, Erasmus, Machiavelli (maybe)

18th: Guest lesson on perspective, draw

22nd: Durer, Hans Holbein, Leonardo da Vinci, try to make one of Leonardo's inventions

24th: Akbar--Mogul India--map; Toyotomi Hideyoshi--Japan, maps, timelines, Africa beginning of slave trade, French Civil War

25th: guest artist--another perspective lesson

29th: Spain's Golden Age; empire, Cervantes, El Greco, defeated Portugal, Dutch revolt against Spain, map Spain's empire

October 1st: Elizabethan England; England's Golden Age, new worlds, Richard Chancellor

2nd: Shakespeare

3rd: Pirates/Spanish Armada

At that point, we start chemistry.  I assigned one week to each chapter in the chemistry book, so I won't bore you will listing the dates here.

I wrote out the whole year like this.  Granted, I might end up scratching some things (like Machiavelli), depending on what is available at the library and how interested I think my children will be.  We might spend an extra day on pirates if I find enough cool things to justify it.  My schedule is usually pretty fluid, but having it laid out allows me to focus further planning on the nitty gritty of how I'm going to introduce the ideas to my kids.

Having everything outlined also allows to me focus my library searches and limit how many books I have out from the library at one time.  It also allows me to figure out how extra reading assigned to Miriam and Emeline fits in with the overall calendar.

Today was so productive!  I keep thinking I should work on school some more but . . . I think I'll rest on my laurels, read a novel, and eat something Chinese.  Happy labor day!

August 26, 2014

First Day of School Pics!

 Harriet (3)
 Cowen (9)
 Eli (5)
 Emeline (7)
Miriam (11)
Oskar (18 months)

The first day of school was awesome.  It felt so good to be following a schedule again--even though there were glitches here and there.  I'm still working on training the children in their new chores and helping kids stay on task.  We didn't get to history, but that isn't very surprising.  I figured we wouldn't do the extras until we got into the groove of things.

Today was nice too.  Miriam went to the DaVinci Academy for her day of classes.  I decided to give it a try with the new program but I'm definitely lukewarm.  One foot in, the other foot out.  I wanted a little homeschool $ and this was the last year for Miriam to take classes, so I put her in and kept the other kids out.  We'll see if the money is worth the requirements.

Miriam loved her classes.  The other kids and I lost focus around 10:30 because the weather was so nice.  We headed to the hills for a nice ambling walk on the canal road.  We might have to stick to paved trails though because carrying Oskar when he got tired was not fun.  A stroller might help me get to the end of this pregnancy.  Still, lovely day.

My favorite things that have happened over the past two days: Cowen and Emeline figuring out how to alphabetize and Cowen sitting by Harriet on the couch helping her go over her touch-and-trace alphabet cards.  Harriet wants so much to "do school" and Cowen was so sweet with her.  Loved it.

Funniest thing?  Emeline was trying to find a word in the dictionary for her language arts assignment and kept singing the alphabet song through the letter "o" over and over.  None of us were paying attention until she muttered, "I have got to learn the alphabet."  Then we realized she couldn't remember the rest of the alphabet and we erupted in a massive fit of giggles.  Emeline looked sheepish but appreciated her siblings singing the song repeatedly for her until she found the word in the dictionary.

Good times.

I'll leave you with another pic of Oskar--guaranteed to make you smile.

August 23, 2014

Everything Feels More Manageable Now

I've decided that for a person who usually muddles along without a "spine" for each subject I'm pretty happy to not muddle this year.  

I was really starting to feel desperate about where to start with the Renaissance (yes, I have a masters degree in history.  Would you care to know about masculinity during WWII, because I could really help you out there).  My sister, Kami, who likes history as much as I do but actually knows about the Renaissance sent me a bunch of links to help me out.  I went to each and every one and started to break down my units into logical sections and assign books to the units.  I was starting to feel better about things.

Then, I skimmed through the library books I already checked out and realized that I had unwittingly found a "spine."  A perfectly AWESOME spine.  It is called The Age of Discovery by Brian and Brenda Williams.  The book is laid out in sections by date and all the important things going on around the world during those years are broken up by geographic region.  There are timelines on the bottom of the pages to further clarify things. For example, on pages 52-53 the date box says, "1770-1789" and the sections are titled: "First fleet to Australia," "Settlement of Australia,""The Maoris of New Zealand," and "Tom Paine--Revolutionary."  

Awesome!!  At a glance I can see what the important topics are, whether or not I feel they are important enough to find an additional book about them, and how they fit together.  I can then skim over the timelines at the bottom of the pages that are in text boxes organized by continent.  It is seriously genius.  Now I don't have to worry that I'm going to leave out something critical from our studies.  It also gives me a way to fill in information without needing a whole book on the subject.  

I'm feeling much more confident!!  It is too bad Eli threw up today because now I'm pumped for school to start on Monday.  If all the kids are sick, we'll postpone.  :)  

As a small sidenote--I apologize to any and all of you who know me in person or who run into me on facebook periodically, or in any other way have to endure me during pregnancy.  This pregnancy has been harder on me emotionally than any other I can remember (the stress of the move? increasing sensitivity to hormonal changes? knowing it is my last one and just running out of grin-and-bear-it? having six other kids?) and I basically don't like anyone right now.  Grumpy is an understatement.  Please don't be offended!  I'll get over it the minute baby is born (or a week later when the hormones have settled a little).  Thank you for bearing with me!

August 22, 2014

Homeschool Wall Ready

 More organizing!!  Today I finished up last minute changes to our school and work schedules.  I decided Eli was old enough to do the downstairs vacuuming on Saturdays, so I took it off Miriam's chart and put it on his.  I also switched Tuesday and Thursday around since Miriam ended up attending classes on Tuesday when originally I thought she would be attending on Thursday.

The top row is our daily schedules, Monday-Friday.  Below that is our chore chart and scripture reading charts.

 Timothy would love to have cooler walls someday, but in the meantime--I find this set-up very convenient.
 A closer up view of Monday's schedule.  Yellow is play time, green is school, red is chores.
 The chore chart.

We set the goal that our children would read the Book of Mormon during the year they are 11 to prepare them for the temple.  Miriam is 11 so we are all helping her reach this goal by reading the Book of Mormon ourselves.  I have the tree chart.  I have a ways to go before our challenge ends on Miriam's 12th birthday.

My wall is in place, my schedule is in place, our boxes are ready.  Now if I only knew how to approach studying the Renaissance!!  Ack!!!

August 16, 2014

More Getting Ready

After paying a bunch of fines at the Weber County Library, I officially decided I was only using the Davis System.  I can't afford to use the Weber.  That decided, I ordered a bazillion books a few days ago.  Timothy is going to pick them up for me on Monday.  Then I can kick getting ready into high gear!

Although I am painfully slow in the "achieve something" department these days, I do feel quite good about a few to-dos being checked off my list.  The hardest job I finished was going through all the hand-me-down clothes and making every child try on all their clothes.  During the process I kept a scribbler handy to write down each child's needs going into the fall season.  At the end I felt all teary because of the tender mercies of the Lord.  We need almost nothing for the kids compared to what I thought we would need.  There were clothes in the hand-me-down boxes that I don't even remember obtaining but they fit the kids who need them.  It was miraculous.

We told the kids they were getting a new house and new sister for Christmas, but I had some creative present ideas come to me and today at DI I found one of the things I needed for only $6.00.  We're giving the kids dress-up clothes and I got most of them free, including a Matrix looking black coat for Cowen, but I needed something cool for Eli.  In the women's section I found a black leather coat that is perfect.  I expected it to be at least $25 and did an internal happy dance when I saw the sticker!  DI, thank you!!  No, my children have no idea what Matrix is.  Neither do I, but I think my kids will instantly think "spy" when they see the coats, so we're building on that concept.

The day after sorting clothes, I spent six hours (without chocolate!!!!!!!!!) organizing my bedroom/office.  It was brutal and I hated every minute of it but it had to be done and it looks so much better now!  I'm ready to stock my bookshelf with this year's library books and homeschool helps.

Yesterday we went through the kids' homeschool boxes (they no longer have cubbies so we improvised).  We made new cover sheets for their binders with the correct grade (I have a sixth grader this year--how did that happen????) and subjects being studied.  Then I built interest in chemistry and the Renaissance/early modern subjects by having the kids pick pictures about those topics to put on their cover sheets.  We go through this process every year and the kids love it.  We even made Harriet a a binder this year so she wouldn't feel left out.  After looking at the cool images that come up when you search for "chemistry" the children have been deciding what things they are going to learn to make during the coming year.  They feel pretty confident they can make a light-saber or two.  Hmm.

Although there is much left to be done, I feel like progress has been made.  Now my pears just need to be ready to bottle on Monday so I can thoroughly enjoy my two day break with my hubby that I'm taking.  We wanted to fit in a day or two away before the new baby arrived so when my SIL offered to watch the kids we jumped on it.  Two days without kids!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  I can't wait.

Until then . . . I keep feeling my pears (I have three boxes) and praying that they ripen enough for me to bottle before the get-away.

How are your preparations coming along?

August 13, 2014

Getting Ready for the New Year

Getting ready for the new school year has been especially difficult this year for several reasons.  One) I hate the library system in Weber County and can't decide whether or not to order my books from Davis and plan on driving once a month to Clearfield, or toughen up and really transition to using a Weber County location.  This dilemma has resulted in my not requesting any books to prepare for the first few units of the new year and so I am much farther behind than normal at this stage.  

Two) I'm still trying to organize the new house.  While this is mostly done, it still feels like I can't cope with anything because I have stacks of books on my desk and boxes around my room, and my husband's piles of antiquated technology that he doesn't use but won't get rid of rounding out the disaster that is my bedroom/office.  I really can't handle clutter--it makes me feel like I am drowning.  

Three) I don't know how to tackle the Renaissance.  I know I want to do a lot with art (but I know nothing about art) and famous people like Leonardo (obviously) but I don't know much about anyone besides Leonardo.  I haven't found any good book lists to put together Miriam's, Cowen's, and Emeline's school reading lists, and I don't know about many good historical fiction books from my own personal collection or personal reading.  Because I'm not sure how to tackle the time period and because I don't have one hundred library books on the subject to browse through, I find it hard to progress to putting together an actual plan of study.

Four) I'm pregnant.  This is really the crux of the problem.  We found out we're having a girl (yay) and I'm thrilled about her and finishing our family and all that good stuff, but I really struggle when I'm pregnant.  I mostly just want to stay in bed and pretend I don't have children.  Accomplishing anything is a huge ordeal.  Thus, I'm waaaaaayyyyy behind.  

Now, you sweet people will tell me that the baby is the lesson and it is fine if we don't do much school.  I agree with you.  However, it is also true that children are happier with a schedule and limited free time.  Another truth is that I feel crummy unless I'm accomplishing something.  Type A and all that.  So for everyone's emotional health, I really do need to force myself to continue moving forward with all my homeschooling, children, and church responsibilities.  

Some of the worst parts of my to-do list have been checked off.  Two days ago I went through every stitch of clothing in the house (excepting the adult sizes) including all the hand-me-down boxes and created a master list of what we need for children this fall.  I hate doing that job, but God is merciful and my list of what we need is much, much shorter than I anticipated.  

I also did all the laundry and made the kids do another deep cleaning of the downstairs.  (One huge drawback to a larger home is that the kids can spread out and wreak more havoc in more places without my noticing.)  I think I even made dinner . . . nope, camping leftovers, but it was tasty.

Yesterday I did make dinner, thank you very much.  I also created a new chore chart and school schedule.  That was important.  Last year I implemented an idea I got from Latter-day Homeschooling and assigned everyone the same chores for a year.  It worked beautifully for us.  It has been a year and a house change and a new chore chart was desperately needed.  Here's what our chart looks like:

2014-2015 School Year Chore Chart

Keep bedroom clean every day
Morning chore: make breakfast Monday-Wednesday and also Friday
Evening chore: Help Eli clean and tidy the downstairs, mop steps by side door
Dish night: Friday
Supper Prep night: Monday

Saturday: vacuum downstairs, mop downstairs, downstairs bathroom, kitchen cupboards up, lawn

Keep bedroom clean every day
Morning chore: tidy bathrooms
Evening chore: dog poo, feed dogs
Dish night: Tuesday
Supper Prep night: Wednesday

Saturday: upstairs bathroom, kitchen cupboards down, lawn

Keep bedroom clean every day
Morning chore: tidy and vacuum upstairs
Evening chore: tidy upstairs
Dish night: Wednesday
Supper Prep: Tuesday

Saturday: dust and vacuum upstairs, water plant, mop dining room

Keep bedroom clean every day
Morning chore: feed dogs, tidy downstairs
Evening chore: tidy downstairs
Supper Prep: Thursday

Saturday: dust and tidy downstairs, scrub kitchen sink

If you'll notice, Miriam was assigned cooking breakfast for the year.  That will hopefully solve a pressing school problem: my not taking time to help Cowen and Emeline with their piano practice as much as I should.  With this new schedule, I can help with piano practicing while breakfast is being made, then Miriam can practice while the rest of us do the breakfast dishes and our most important subject (piano) will be done by 10:00 am and I will feel like we accomplished great things and feel more motivated to keep going.  Awesome.

Harriet does do chores, but it is mostly helping pick up books and toys and keeping her room clean.  I might hang up a chore chart with pockets for her to help her remember to brush her teeth and make her bed--things like that.  She'd like that.

Our school schedule isn't very different from last year except for one major change--all three of my oldest kids will be working on language arts.  We've done a little spelling and handwriting in the past, but I don't start actual grammar/writing kinds of things until 3rd grade.  I didn't start Cowen in LA last year because I knew it would be easier to wait and teach him and Emeline at the same time.  So, the schedule needed a LA slot.  I'll tell you more about my LA plans in a different, less lengthy, post, but I'm pretty excited about it.

Here's Tuesday of our schedule.  If my hubby was here he could show me how to make an excel document look nice but I'm just going to cut and paste and hope for the best.

If any of you have any brilliant Renaissance ideas--lay them on me.  I hope your preparations are going much more smoothly than mine!!

Mom Miriam Cowen Emeline Eli
7:00 AM          
7:30 AM bath/dress/hair bath/dress/hair bath/dress/hair bath/dress/hair bath/dress/hair
8:00 AM :piano make breakfast :piano :computer work chores
8:30 AM :piano make breakfast :computer work :piano chores
9:00 AM breakfast breakfast breakfast breakfast breakfast
9:30 AM chores :piano chores chores chores
10:00 AM :Cowen read :piano :read :school reading play
10:30 AM :Eli read :computer work :Walk with Wilson :Walk with Wilson :read
11:00 AM :Eli piano :Spanish/French play play :piano/computer
11:30 AM :grammar/LA :LA :LA :LA play
12:00 PM :history/science :history/science :history/science :history/science :history/science
12:30 PM :history/science :history/science :history/science :history/science :history/science
1:00 PM lunch lunch lunch lunch lunch
1:30 PM devotional devotional devotional devotional devotional
2:00 PM :scriptures :scriptures :scriptures :scriptures :scriptures
2:30 PM :math :math :math play play
3:00 PM :math play play :math :math
3:30 PM   play play play play
4:00 PM   play play play play
4:30 PM   play Scouts play play
5:00 PM   Activity Days Scouts play play
5:30 PM dinner prep Activity Days play dinner prep play
6:00 PM dinner prep chores chore dinner prep chores
6:30 PM supper supper supper supper supper
7:00 PM   bed prep Dishes bed prep bed prep
7:30 PM bed prep :school reading bed bed bed
8:00 PM   read in bed bed bed bed
8:30 PM   bed bed bed bed

July 29, 2014

I'm actively starting to hate the Weber County Library System

I know, I know--you should never hate libraries, but the policies are so punitive and make it so costly to use the library that I find my blood pressure rise every time I have to interact in any way with the library system.  Oh, Davis County Library System, I miss you so!

First--Davis lets you renew books after they are overdue, Weber does not

Davis renewal period is two weeks and Weber is one week from the day you renew.  If you are on top of things and renew early than you only get an extra few days.  If you wait until the day the books are due to get the full week, you run the risk of forgetting and not being able to renew at all (no renewals after the books are overdue).

Davis doesn't make you have a pin number.

Davis you can use your card until you have $14.00 in fines (at least, that is the amount I need to pay on the card that is locked).  Weber it is $4.00.  Are you kidding me?

Davis you can put books on hold even if you have outstanding fines.  Not so, Weber.

Davis still has librarians check your books out and have outside drop-off boxes at all their locations.  The two Weber locations I have tried you have to check out your own materials (which is fine if you are there by yourself but not if you are there with six children) and the outside drop off boxes are only available after hours.

At one location I tried in the Weber County system you have to check in your own books one at a time on a little conveyor belt.  What do you think my six children were doing while I checked in 30 books one at a time?  I don't know--I couldn't watch them, I was checking in books!

One Weber location has the children's nonfiction mixed in with the adult nonfiction.  I understand that space is limited in that location, but that's a pretty anti-boy thing to do.  Most boys prefer non-fiction, and you should encourage boys to read every single way possible.  Also, as a parent, how am I supposed to patrol my offspring if the children's materials are not all in one location?

Weber you can't renew books if you have any outstanding fines.  What????????????????

I've been getting more and more frustrated but today when I sat down to renew some books and put some others on hold and I couldn't, my pregnancy hormones exploded and I had a bit of a melt down.  I recognize that for most normal, childless people, these regulations and organization are not a big deal.  I usually have about 60 library books at my house at all times.  My kids get to pick out three each (theoretically, if they find something awesome I let them get more) so that is 20 right there.  Then I usually have science books for our science unit (20 + 20), and then the history books for my history unit (20 + 20 + 20).  I don't mind the occasional fine for legitimate things, but I'm finding it really discouraging trying to navigate the Weber County System.

I wanted to put some books on hold today and then make a big trip to the library in a few days, but I can't because I can't renew the books because of fines and I can't put any on hold.  So that means two trips to the library this week.  I can't afford the gas, I can't afford the time, I can't afford the assault to my sanity of taking my children to the library that often.  And thus, my hating rant.

Does anyone else have these issues or are you all going to tell me to be more responsible and not rack up $4.00 in fines in the first place?