Friday, April 29, 2011

Long-Term Science Plan

One of the subjects I am most interested in - and most particular about teaching - is science. I want to make sure my children enjoy science, learn a lot about it, understand it, and perhaps even pursue it in college. So, what to pick as a homeschool curriculum that will meet those goals? An additional constraint is that I would really like to teach all 3 of my children together in this subject for as long as I can, mostly due to time constraints. Science, like history, is more amenable to multi-grade teaching than most other subjects.

As I wrote earlier, I have not been impressed by most of the Christian homeschool science curricula on the market, due to the negativity and accusatory attitude they seem to take toward old-earth viewpoints and evolutionary thought. Rather than repeat everything I wrote about in detail earlier, if you're interested, just see my 3 posts starting with Part 1.

So, what curriculum am I planning on using? I am very interested in the NOEO science courses. These combine the Classical and Charlotte Mason approaches to education, using lots of interesting books and hands-on experiments. They offer 3 levels of science: level 1 is for grades 1-3, level 2 is for grades 4-6, and level 3 is for grades 7-9, I believe. Those are approximate guidelines, and I don't think it would be much of a stretch to add a grade level before or after the main range. Within each level, they have 3 main topics: chemistry, physics, and biology, though level 3 only has chemistry right now. Other topics, such as geology, weather, or astronomy, are added in appropriate places.

One thing I like about these courses is the literature basis - lots of interesting-looking books for each course, dealing with subsets of the main topic. Another thing I like is that they come with experiment kits, which are scheduled in with the readings. Oh, and yes - everything is scheduled, with a 4-day week, which could be combined into a 2-day week. The publisher is a Christian company, but their courses just teach science, plain and simple. They provide secular, non-dogmatic books, and do not offer commentary, allowing the parent to address any issues they wish in the manner they wish. In fact, to me, NOEO seems similar to Sonlight, except for science instead of history/Bible/literature.

Now, I haven't bought and tried any of them yet, so I may change my mind, but right now, I'm thinking I'll use these for all of the elementary years. I am not going to start with them this coming year, since my 2 younger ones will be too young to get much out of it, and I'd rather wait to make use of all these experiments (which are a little pricey) when all 3 kids are old enough to observe them. I will start when my oldest is in 2nd grade, and the other 2 are in K and pre-K. They'll still be a little young, but we'll cycle through each science topic in future years too. We'll do the last of level 1 when my oldest is in 4th grade, but I don't think she'll be too old to get a lot out of the course. Then we'll proceed onward to levels 2 & 3.

Elemental Science
For this first year, I found another source I like called ElementalScience. The author is a Christian, according to the FAQ, but the courses are non-sectarian and focused only on science. They also offer science using a Classical approach, and using living books, with grammar stage, logic stage, and rhetoric stage courses. They don't have courses for all the stages yet, but they are planning to have 4 disciplines for each level: biology, earth science/astronomy, chemistry, and physics.

They also have a level for the "Early Years," and this level is what I'm going to use this coming year. Intro to Science is meant for preschool and kindergarten, but they have hints for using it with an older student so I think it will still be valuable for a 1st grader. I bought the eBook (only $15), and then bought the spine books: More Mudpies to Magnets and Usborne First Science Encyclopedia. Anne Comstock's Handbook of Nature Study is also required, but I downloaded it for free here. It sounds like we'll do some sort of nature walk each week, along with some readings and an experiment. Other book suggestions are given for individual weeks, which we may or may not use, depending on if they're in the library. Six topics are covered in this courses, with 6 weeks for each one: chemistry, physics, geology, meteorology, botany, and zoology. The eBook provides a schedule for either a 2-day week or a 5-day week. All in all, it sounds like it will be a good introduction, and will be interesting for all 3 kids (though my littlest may not do more than tag along). After we've used it for a while, I'll write another review.

Finally, I found one other resource which I may use in the future. Despite not really liking unit studies, I think I may like the smaller-focus unit studies from Intellego. These are downloadable pdf files with discussion and links (constantly updated) to internet sources for much of the activities and readings. I wouldn't use it as a primary curriculum, and some of their science options sound too focused for me, but there are quite a few studies which I could see adding in either alongside NOEO or as a change of pace between courses. In fact, I may take one year between levels 1 and 2 of NOEO, and do 4 Intellego science studies in a row: Solar System; Soils, Rocks, Minerals & Fossils; Whales; and Natural Disasters. These are all multi-age studies, for 8-14 year olds, taking 1-3 months each. Other studies I like are a few of the K-2nd grade studies (Rocks, Minerals and Soils; and Astronomy) and 6th-8th grade studies (Astronomy, Plate Tectonics, and Oceanography when it becomes available). Their website has lots of samples you can try out. Just FYI, they are a secular company, and seem to cover evolution quite a bit in some of the studies.

Upper Grades
As for junior high and high school, I think I will be using regular textbooks, such as from Holt, Prentice Hall, Glencoe, or McGraw-Hill. Many of these have teacher resources and websites with lots of additional multi-media material as well. Many of the homeschool science providers don't offer science for the higher grades, and the ones that do, I don't like. Many of them, I have heard, are not even accepted as high-school level courses by more rigorous universities (some of that due to a low difficulty level and some of that due to misleading or simply erroneous "facts" being taught). We'll wait and see what's available when we get that far, but I may end up teaching science from the textbooks myself, getting science lab kits of some sort. With my science background, I don't think that will be a problem, except for the amount of time required. I will, again, try to combine kids and grade levels, but that might be a bit trickier at that level due to the math requirements. There are online and correspondence-type courses available at those levels, some of which provide college credit even, but they can be expensive. If I am capable of teaching it myself, I would find it hard to justify paying someone else to do it.

But those years are far away, so we will deal with that when we get closer!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Cathy Duffy

A friend loaned me her copy of Cathy Duffy's 100 Top Picks a few days ago. I'd already been using her website and reading a bunch of her reviews, but there were a few I wanted to see in the book - the ones for which the website just says, "See my full review in my book." So I read those, but I also started reading at the beginning of the book, and was surprised at how much good, useful information I found there!

The first few chapters offer questions to help you understand what you want to teach your children in school, and also detail different types of homeschool approaches, such as traditional (textbook/workbook), Charlotte Mason (lots of literature), classical (lots of books there too), and 5 others. I'd heard of all these approaches and knew some about all of them, but the book has a questionnaire which helps you determine which approach is best suited to you. That was very interesting, as I came out higher in "classical" than I thought I would.

It wasn't the most helpful for me as it might be for some others, because my "scores" actually came out very closely packed together for all 8 types of approaches - between 41% and 55%.  My top 2 were Classical (55%) and Independent Study (54%).  That, in itself, is kinda funny, since the classical approach "generally requires more direct instruction and interaction than do some other approaches. It is often more parent controlled and directed than other approaches."  The independent study approach is, well, independent - student-controlled and directed. It might be a bit difficult to combine those approaches. I agree that I like both styles though. The classical approach can mean many things, but it often involves reading lots of great literature, follows the Well-Trained Mind concept, deals with understanding connections among fields of study, and favors logical thinking. As for independent study - with 3 kids, and plenty of my own interests, I do favor having them learn on their own as much as they can! Aside from personal motivations, learning to learn on their own is a great skill and one that I value highly.

My other scores were 52% for Charlotte Mason (which I do like - again, lots of books, and enjoyment of learning), 50% for Unit Studies (which I don't actually like very much, I don't think), 47% for Eclectic (which is what I really am, I think), 45% for both Traditional and Umbrella Program (which means going through a correspondence school which gives you only a few choices of curriculum to choose from), and 41% for Unschooling (which I am too much of a planner and organizer to go for).  Perhaps my results confirm why I seem to like Sonlight and their approach to history and literature so well - Cathy Duffy's book says that Sonlight cores are generally eclectic, combining traditional, Charlotte Mason and classical approaches!

The other main section in the first few chapters of Cathy Duffy's book deal with learning styles, both of the teacher (the parent, or me, in this case) and the students. Some traditional learning style categories are visual, auditory, or kinesthetic, but Cathy's categories are "Wiggly Willy," "Perfect Paula," "Competent Carl," and "Sociable Sue." You can get a good idea of what these categories mean just by their names, but Cathy's book talks about them in more detail. My kids are still too young to really understand their learning styles so far, and Cathy warns not to label a preschooler prematurely, since nearly all preschoolers could be seen as  "Wiggly Willy." But I still tried to figure out what style each of my children could possibly be.

Going with my best attempt at classifying them at this age, I ended up with one child in each category - and I'm in the remaining one. 

Hmm.  That makes things a little bit difficult when trying to teach them all together and/or use the same curriculum and yet still cater to their learning styles. Maybe my guesses will turn out to be wrong. But for now, I'd say I'm a "Competent Carl," my 5 year old is a "Wiggly Willy," my 3 year old is a "Perfect Paula," and my 2 year old is a "Sociable Sue."

I think an eclectic approach may turn out to be my best bet, not just due to my teaching preferences, but due to practicality and necessity!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Long-Term History Plan

I have gone through several iterations of history curriculum planning. The more I learn about literature-based curriculum, the more sure I am that I want to use that method. History was my least favorite subject in school, so I hope to make it more interesting for my kids. Plus, it might be good if I relearned a bit more of it myself, since I skimmed through my own history courses, learning just enough to pass the tests and not really caring enough to commit any of it to long-term memory! Reading interesting books, biographies, original sources, and the like seems much better to me than reading a heavy textbook and memorizing facts. I'm sure some textbooks and workbook programs can be interesting too, if done right, but I am a reader and love books, so literature-based is more than likely going to be the most interesting to me.

In addition to using literature instead of textbooks and/or workbooks, I wanted a history program that could be taught to all 3 children at once. Math and language may have to be taught to each grade level, but history and science are much easier for combining grades. My kids' grades will span 4 years; for example, when Rebekah is in 5th grade, Reanna will be in 3rd and Ryan will be in 2nd (though the 2 little ones will be on the young end of their grades, having November birthdays). I had looked at Sonlight originally, since a friend of mine uses that and offered to show me her material - the very first look I had at any homeschool curriculum. It seemed nice, but the official "rules" seemed to say that they would work well for kids up to 3 years apart, but not 4, so I decided to pass on that one and put Sonlight in the back of my mind. More on that later.

History Odyssey
Meanwhile, my next choice was to use History Odyssey, published by Pandia Press. These are guides with detailed lesson plans for each week, using a couple "spine" books plus lots of other stuff, including coloring books for the younger grades, activity books, lists of books for each topic, etc. In addition to lists of lots of interesting-sounding books, the hands-on aspect also seemed a good idea to me, since, at this age at least, my kids all seem to like making things (though not always - hard to tell now what their learning styles really are - Rebekah rebels at too much cutting and pasting and even coloring). History Odyssey uses the 4-year cycle so prevalent in home school history curriculum, cycling through ancient times, middle ages, early modern, and modern times, going through it all 3 times in the optimal situation of starting in 1st grade.  The guides said that multiple grades could easily use them too, with level 1 being for 1st-4th grade for the first few years, then gradually moving upward in age. The guides themselves are fairly cheap (~$30/year), but then you'd want to buy at least the main books that get used in multiple weeks, the coloring and activity books, and maybe some of the other books so you wouldn't have to be searching the library all the time. And, importantly for me, they described the option of discussing prehistory at the very beginning, allowing for both young-earth and old-earth beliefs. The optional timeline material even provides a "millions of years ago" add-on for those who so desire. You can get a good chunk of each guide as a free sample too, at the Pandia website.

So I was all set to use those, for at least the first 7-8 years (they don't have level 3 of early modern and modern done yet, but that's when I would probably do government/economics anyway). But then I kept searching and researching, which I have found is a dangerous thing for me, since there is always so much more I find interesting and I spend way too much time doing it! Anyway, I won't go through all the other options which I studied and discarded for various reasons. Two other intermediate options did stand out, though, and I still may end up using them too: Intellego unit studies and TruthQuest history guides.

Intellego provides a whole bunch of highly-rated unit studies, covering history and science and several other topics (art, orchestra, baseball, etc.). I never thought I wanted to use unit-studies, mainly because they seemed like too much work for the parent. Also, I don't really like the concept of combining all subjects into one. I know it's possible, but it seems contrived to me, and I really like having more separation between subjects, where you can focus on one subject, and not one topic, teaching that subject in the way best suited for that subject.

But Intellego unit studies are narrower than many unit studies, and they seem to be very well laid out for the parent. I still don't think they'd be my favored way of presenting material, but some of the topics might be useful as an add-on to our regular curriculum. They only go up to 8th grade, anyway. They do have some ancient history units which are secular and do talk about millions of years ago, which I would like to introduce to my children. So I might add those on as a short-term study to whatever other history curriculum I choose. I think I may also use some of their studies on unusual topics, such as the Orchestra, Baroque Era, and maybe Folktales. They may be difficult to add in at the same time as our regular studies, since they are geared toward a more intense study, using them - and only them - for a short period of time. Perhaps in summers or between other topics, they would be useful. When I talk about my science choices in another post, I'll add some more notes about some of those Intellego studies.

The other intermediate option is TruthQuest. These are guides which can be used with any history textbook or other books. In fact, a large portion of the guides are lists of books for each individual history topic or personality. But the other part of the guides is a commentary, describing how everything in history works together (from a Christian viewpoint). Since I have been thinking about using a secular history curriculum, I liked the idea of having a Christian commentary to add to that. With my poor knowledge of history, I think I might need that assistance more than I would in, say, science. I also like the idea of understanding history from a broader perspective, seeing how everything fits together, instead of just knowing the individual facts and not seeing how they are related (which is all my history knowledge consists of).

Anyway, I may or may not get some of these guides as we proceed, depending on how things are going on our own. They mostly seem focused on upper grades, so I wouldn't get them right away anyway. Oh, and they are multi-grade, with one group covering grades 1-5, and the other group covering grades 5-12 (within each single guide, with book suggestions for multiple ages). Many people use these as the basis of their history courses, going through them at their own rate, picking out the topics which interest them more for more in-depth studies. I, however, would probably just use them as an addendum, just for the commentary, since I want something with a more detailed lesson plan already done for me.

Which brings me to my current top choice for history: Sonlight. Yes, I came full circle back to Sonlight. I've been reading all sorts of reviews and comments by people who use Sonlight, and have decided that it really would be quite simple to teach all 3 of my kids with one core, despite their ages being a little bit too spread out. The core guides might require a little bit of tweaking for either Rebekah (adding more material) or Ryan (less material), but they really do sound like they will work great for my kids' ages. They have very detailed lesson plans, requiring very little preparation on the teacher's part. And they are full of wonderful books! Many of the same books as in History Odyssey, actually, but with more of a Christian slant. And despite the Christian slant, they are not as stringent as other Christian curricula which shun old-earth viewpoints. Their guides indicate when anything old-earth might appear, to warn those with a young-earth belief, but they leave it to the parent to choose how to present the material. And their packages do contain books which talk about "millions of years ago." So it seems like a perfect fit to me!

They are expensive, but they come with everything, and if I consider all the books I might end up buying to go along with History Odyssey, it really comes out to be about the same. Plus, it includes Bible (which is an area I had been having trouble deciding what to do) and literature, and lots of writing in the later cores too. I don't think I will use anything else from Sonlight (like language arts or science). One thing I really like about Sonlight is their global perspective. They were originally developed for missionaries overseas, and so their material reflects a solid respect for other cultures. I really like that. I don't want my kids to be centered only on America. Patriotic, yes, but not disdainful of other cultures. I like the compassion toward others that seems to be emphasized in Sonlight's material.

So, I have debated using a combination of Sonlight and History Odyssey for different grades, but I think I am settling on using Sonlight almost all the way. I won't start next year, since I already have 1st grade planned for Rebekah. Since Sonlight is expensive, I don't want to use it for just 1 child, but want to wait until all 3 are old enough to appreciate it more. When Rebekah is in 2nd grade, Reanna will be just starting kindergarten, and Ryan will be in preK. That's when I plan to use Sonlight Core A, which is for K-2 technically, but Ryan should be able to listen in on most of it too. Core A is more of an overview course anyway, talking about cultures. World History starts in Core B, which I would use when the kids are in K, 1st, and 3rd. And then I'd continue from there, up until at least Core 100, and then maybe splitting the kids up a bit more for Rebekah's last few years.

Anyway, that's my long-term plan for history (and Bible and mostly literature too).

Monday, April 11, 2011

Zoo Pictures

My husband got some really good zoo pictures from our last field trip, so I thought I'd post a few of these too!

I see that I'm not the only mom whose children try to crawl between my legs all the time.

Like mother, like daughter

Family togetherness

We encountered some excitement in the rhino enclosure - a slow, quiet fight for dominance. I wish the fights in our house were this quiet, but at least the kids don't have sharp pointy horns

Sisters wrestling - also a similar sight in our household


Not sure what this look means - the 3-year-old glare

Schoolroom Pictures

Here are some pictures of our classroom here at home.

...and XYZs (plus lots of room for new books!)

Globe and desks

Picture books!

Very sad that he is relegated to the non-fun side of the gate

But consoled a little by his section - toys and puzzles and little boy books

Friday, April 8, 2011

Short Week

This week has been a little shorter than normal for us. We decided to go to the zoo on Tuesday, as the weather was very nice and we wanted to go again before the heat of the summer. Many of the animals don't really like the Houston heat either, so they're a bit less exciting to watch then. But the kids loved the zoo on Tuesday. We got to watch a baby elephant get her bath, saw a baby giraffe curled up in front of her mother, watched lionesses cavorting about, chimpanzees mimicking human kids, and sea lions popping in and out of the water (my 2-year-old's favorite!).

Apparently this past Tuesday was also the day many local public schools arranged for field trips, as the zoo was much more crowded than the last time we went. Parking was at a minimum, and there must have been 40-50 school buses in the parking lot. Ryan even got knocked over once by another kid running around. Fortunately, he didn't get hurt. Next time, we may call ahead and see how many field trip groups are coming on that particular day!

So we didn't do any school that day, other than the education we got at the zoo. We also didn't do school, for the girls anyway, the next day, since Tuesday evening they went to spend the night at grandma's house and didn't come back until the next day. We could have done some school then, but since we're ahead of things, and since we were going to church that night, I just let them play in the afternoon. I did get a chance to do some one-on-one school with Ryan, though. He loves his picture flashcards!

A few times, when we've had appointments or other field trips during the week, we'll do school on Saturday instead, but tomorrow I have a brunch to go to, so we'll just wait until next week.

We have a few more field trips coming up soon, arranged by the home school group we belong to:  a trip to the wildlife park just down the street from us in about a week (the group rate is much cheaper than going by ourselves), a trip to a "hands-on, interactive learning" event on colonial times at the end of April (just when I'm starting to teach Rebekah about the colonies!), and a trip to a water park near the end of May. We also need to go and pick some strawberries soon at a local farm. We do plan on continuing school over the summer (when it's too hot outside, and most venues are too crowded anyway). So for now, some fun, some learning, some social activities - a nice break from studying at home!

Monday, April 4, 2011

A Day in Kindergarten

I thought I'd give you an example of a day in our kindergarten-level homeschool. This was a fairly typical day in some respects. We don't spend very long in school right now, due to shorter attention spans and the fact that we've already finished most of kindergarten already. I also only have one "full-time" student right now, since the other two are just 2 and 3 years old right now. I'm sure my days will get longer as I have more students to teach!

We finished breakfast and went upstairs to our "school room" around 8:15 or so this morning. Our "school room" is our former loft/library, with a couple of desks added. This room has built-in bookshelves on every wall, other than the window and the top of the stairs and the door into the only other room on the 2nd floor - my youngest's bedroom right now (used to be my office). One wall is only a half wall, open to the living room below, so those bookshelves are only 2 shelves high, but the rest are full size. We did have books packed into all these shelves (my husband and I are both avid readers), but I have moved most of them to some new bookshelves we put in our master bedroom, so now I have space for all our school books and supplies and puzzles and educational toys. I printed out alphabet sheets (1 letter per regular-size paper) in full color, and have them taped all along the top of the bookshelves. The Y and Z didn't quite fit, so I had to put those below the W and X. Oh well.

Anyway, so we went upstairs for school, and our first order of business was reading a Bible story out of Studying God's Word A, from Christian Liberty Press. Today's story was about Gideon routing the Midianites. It was a bit long for my kids' attention spans, but when I offered to stop and finish it later, my 5-year-old (Rebekah) said no, she wanted to hear the whole thing. It got exciting at the end, with the smashing of lamps and blaring of trumpets, so they enjoyed it. It helps when I try to be really dramatic in my reading. There were a couple comprehension questions at the end, which Rebekah answered with only a little prompting.

After this, I put the 2-year-old (Ryan) on the other side of the baby gate, which resulted in about 5 minutes of loud complaining, but then he gave up and went to play with his toys while the girls and I continued school. I gave Reanna a few worksheets to do - coloring, cutting, and counting today. She's working on the number 3 right now. She still interrupts frequently, but it helps enough to give me time to work with Rebekah.

Then I started lesson 11 of Saxon Math 1 with Rebekah. This is supposed to be 1st grade level, but so far it's all stuff Rebekah already knows. She enjoys it though, especially with the linking cubes and other manipulatives. Today we reviewed ordering (first, second, middle, last, etc.) using some of her My Little Pony toys, which made things even more fun! We're supposed to do some story problems, counting, subtracting, and an introduction into fractions (halves) with a bunch of apples later this week. We've also started reviewing "left" and "right" lately, which I have to be careful with, since I still have problems with this myself! It's especially hard since I'm looking at her face-to-face, which makes everything backwards for me.... (I blame my difficulties on being left-handed in a right-handed world. I'm still sad, though, that all of my kids appear to be right-handed.) We did side 1 of her math worksheet, saving the other side to do at the very end of school (the book says this time separation results in better retention).

Then we moved on to language arts (after some interruptions giving Reanna more to do). We talked about complete and incomplete sentences, and I read a bunch of examples to Rebekah for her to tell me whether they were complete or incomplete. She did this very easily, so I think she must have covered this some when she was in public school last fall. Then we listened to and watched an animated version of "Chicks and Salsa" on the pbs website (click here), and I let her play the related word-making game on the computer. Finally, I gave her a new paper mini-booklet to practice reading. There's a whole bunch of these you can find for free on various websites (see my "Links" page, and the phonics and reading sections).

Then we did some history. We normally alternate between science and history, doing one subject each day. Right now, we are transitioning from kindergarten stuff to 1st grade stuff, so we are reading through some books on Native Americans, the Pilgrims, and the first colonies before we move on to our U.S. States study. I plan to create a "Booklist" page soon, which will have names and links to all the books we're using. Today we read about 10 pages out of the DK Eyewitness Book called Native American Indian. We have just started doing the Evan-Moor History Pocket book on Native Americans too, and I had her color a cover page for a word dictionary we will be compiling over the next few weeks.

We then finished side 2 of the math worksheet, and then I had Rebekah do some Explode the Code Online. She gripes at that a lot right now, since it is getting harder for her, plus it comes at the end of a long period of sitting and doing schoolwork. She usually starts enjoying it after she gets going though. She is about halfway through book 2, and I've been realizing that a lot of co-op type schools just assign 3 books a year from Explode the Code, and some don't even start book 1 until 1st grade, so I've decided to not push Rebekah as hard right now. She's plenty ahead of things!

That finished our school day, at around 10:15am, and I went to get the kids some snacks and drinks. Sometimes we don't finish so early, and I wait until after lunch to have Rebekah do her Explode the Code. We try to get most of the work done in the morning though, since Ryan takes a nap at 1pm, and I don't want the girls upstairs waking him up then. So in the afternoons, we just have quiet play time (though the girls are usually not as quiet as I would like). I often send them outside, but it's cloudy and threatening rain today, so we'll try to do some physical exercise inside a bit later.

Oh, and we also used to say the pledges to the flags (U.S., Texas, and Christian) first thing in the morning, but I just used a powerpoint show of the flags since we don't have any real ones handy. Since we started doing Bible and Saxon math first, I don't turn on the computer until later, so we've forgotten to do the pledges. I plan to buy some small flags soon, and then we can just say the pledges without the computer images. Rebekah liked doing the pledges, since she did that in her public school last fall (at least the U.S. flag one), and it gave her some continuity.

Today was a bit different after school too, since I have resigned myself to the fact that I really need to start potty training Ryan. I had to change his diaper anyway, so I put him in some real underwear, picked up all the throw rugs, and let nature take its course. He really has shown no inclination to understanding what a potty is for, so I figured I'd let him make a few messes first, to let him see what happens. He was a bit upset at first when I didn't put his pants back on, but then decided he liked it. He made one mess without me even noticing until after the fact - it didn't seem to bother him in the slightest. I cleaned him up, put on dry underwear, and despite giving him lots to drink and putting him on the potty multiple times, he never went. For about 2 hours - nothing! It was naptime then, so I put him back in a diaper and in bed. Sigh. We'll try again later. At least I didn't have a lot of messes to clean up.

We had lunch, and I let the kids watch a video I just got that shows short animated Bible stories. They really loved it! Usually we just watch Nick Jr. or Playhouse Disney on TV during lunchtime. They love that too.

Now it's quiet time, Ryan is sleeping, and the girls are playing back in their rooms, giving me some time to blog. Soon things will get noisy again, my husband will come home, dinner preparations will start, and I won't have much peace until bedtime at 8pm. That's life around here!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

1st Grade History

So after my long complaints about history and science, you may be wondering what I'm planning on doing for this coming year - 1st grade for my oldest. I have found several options I like for our long-term history plan, but for this first year, I didn't want to start any of them yet. I plan to do history together with all 3 children, but this coming year, my other 2 are still a bit young to get much out of an expensive history curriculum. I will wait until Rebekah is in 2nd grade, Reanna is starting kindergarten (5 years old for most of the year), and Ryan is starting preschool (4 years old for most of the year) before I spend too much money on anything.

So, for this coming year, I've decided to do a study of the U.S. states with Rebekah. There is tons of material on the web for studying the states - too much to ever do all of it, especially with a 6-year-old's attention span. So I've narrowed it down to some basics. I've chosen one book to use as our "spine" - Our 50 States: A Family Adventure Across America. This book has 1-2 pages for each state, with lots of little tidbits of information for each. The pages are a bit busy, but I think it will work well for our purposes. The book is written as a travelogue of a fictional family's adventure, visiting all 50 states in a row. The family has 3 children, so I thought it was a good fit for us!

I also got 2 coloring books: one that has a blank outline map plus details and facts for each state, and one that shows the state bird and flower for each state. I plan to do one state a week, or maybe double up on weeks where we're not doing too much else. We will read that state's pages in the Our 50 States book and do the 2 coloring pages for that state, one in each book. We may also look up some websites for that state, such as Their interactive, on-screen coloring activities should be fun to do.

I also made a mini-booklet for us to complete. I found a package of state flag stickers, so I made this booklet for them. Each page (1/4 of a regular piece of paper) has the state name, a blank box for the sticker, the state capital, and the date it was admitted to the union. We'll do each page as we come to that state, and put the whole thing together at the end, making a keepsake booklet. Since a study of the states seems to be a popular thing to do, educationally-speaking, I thought others might be interested in my template too, so I've made it available here. It could be used for older or even younger students as well, as just a handy little activity that only takes a minute per state to do. You can probably find similar state flag stickers in quite a few places, but on the left is a link to the ones I bought from Amazon.

In addition to the states study, we are also going to be reading some books about native Americans and the pilgrims and the early colonies. I'll try to start up a list of books we're reading - maybe a separate page to keep all that straight.

Then, I also got a geography book from Evan-Moor - Beginning Geography for K-2. It's a workbook with lots of good, short exercises teaching about how to read maps and globes, different types of terrain, and a short study of each continent too. I already found a bunch of good videos for each continent from National Geographic (see here: and here:, and when we get to that part, I'll post about what we're watching.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Old Earth Creationism

Just a quick entry to say that I've stumbled across a few more websites of interest for the old earth viewpoint.  This blog - - is exactly what I was looking for! The author has grade-level lists of curriculum for science that are "old-earth" friendly! I have just barely begun to look into her blog, but I think I will find a lot of useful information there.

Also, by following a few links, I found these websites as well:

I have not looked at them in any depth, but they seem very interesting, and were recommended by several other sites. Both appear to have content about integrating science with the Bible.

A few more links: - mostly geology, but also general science from a Christian viewpoint - not much content yet, but it sounds like they may have some soon (their parent site: