Skip to main content


Showing posts from July, 2011

America: The Story of Us ~ Lesson Plans (Stay Tuned)

I have had a couple of requests for copies of my notes and proposed lesson plans for our U.S. History unit using America: The Story of Us . I am completely and totally glad to share all of the work I have put into this unit. But I am concerned about any Copyright issues I might run into if I copy worksheets, etc. And, now that my materials are getting printed, they are hefty! So, here is what I plan to do. But it may take me a couple of weeks. I am going to type up and make jpg files of my lesson plans for each unit and provide them in a post. I will provide the names and websites (to the best of my ability) of all resources used, and the titles and authors of all of the books and videos we will use. Then you can feel free to obtain the resources and make your own copies. It will require some out-of-pocket expenses for those of you who would like to utilize it, in that you will need to order the Notebooking cd's. I hope that this is not too offensive to anyone who has asked

(Not) Letting Go ~ The Book Whisperer Chapter 7

And for me, this is where the rubber hits the road when it comes to how The Book Whisperer applies to homeschooling. The fact of the matter is .. if a public or private school teacher puts his/her blood, sweat and tears into creating the free reading environment that enhances a student's desire to read, it doesn't mean that the teachers in following years will do the same. And that teacher has no choice but to LET GO and hope that what was accomplished that one year will stick. Donalyn Miller says, in the final chapter, "Instilling lifelong reading habits in my students is like trying to hold the ocean back with a broom, a futile endeavor, if they are going to go right back to the same controlling environment they had before my class." How sad. Thankfully, as a homeschool parent, I don't have to worry about that situation. If I am able to accomplish a free reading environment sufficient enough to get my students excited about reading, that is something t

Weekly Wrap-Up ~ Flipped Out and Bowled Over

Three more weeks until we officially start school. There is so much left to do. Eeeeeekkkkk!!!! This week, though, we spent our time doing some reading and hanging out with Co-op friends. On Tuesday night the Co-op moms had our Back-to-School Support Meeting. I don't know if the kids are excited, but the moms are pumped up!!! It's going to be such a great year! We had our last Co-op playgroup on Wednesday. It, again, was so great to get together with these families. The girlies have made some strong connections, and the moms certainly have, as well. For their craft, the girls decorated flip flops. So cute!!! Today we went bowling with our group. Again, it was lots of fun and the kids had so much fun with their friends, and their big brother Dawson! Even Eli has been getting involved in the Co-op activities. I signed him up for our group's monthly Boys' Club which is sponsored by Modern Woodsmen. He was so excited to go somewhere "just for boys"

Our Schedule

I had fun yesterday with Brynne's Co-op Playgroup moms discussing the differences in how we schedule our homeschool days. All of these moms have early elementary, and mostly kindergarten, aged children. Their days aren't quite as scheduled as mine is. If I was just schooling Brynne, mine would probably be a little more lax, too. (Or maybe not, because I am a schedule freak). But, having a high school student tends to kick you in the rear when it comes to getting everything done every day. Based on what we realistically did last year (it being our rookie homeschooling year), what we have to accomplish this year (from a high school perspective), and the priority of our reading goals, here is what I have come up with for a schedule: I feel like this is a very doable (and necessary) schedule. I do plan to have Dawson participating in "school" from 9:00-3:00 (or until his work is all done) every day. If he completes an assignment set before the next scheduled block, h


Last year, in my garden, I had the most amazing sunflowers! They were huge and beautiful and enhanced my garden so much! Brynne took the head of a sunflower to school (when she was still in school), so that the students could see where sunflower seeds really come from! She also took along the book, Big Yellow Sunflower by Frances Barry, for her teacher to read to the class. We had thousands of sunflower seeds that I fed to our birds. I was so excited to plant our sunflowers this year. But, they have been a dud. I have had puny little sunflowers and only about five have even bloomed. But we still managed to bring in one mangy one for a Sunflower Day for Brynne and her friend, Karlie. They painted sunflowers ... And they made sunflower cookies with sugar cookies, yellow icing, mini chocolate chips, and yellow raisins ...

The Homeschool Mother's Journal

Last week was a crazy, busy week full of activity that I am not used to! To say that I was exhausted by the end of it is an understatement! I am looking very much forward to this much-calmer week where I can restore some order and get my house cleaned. Besides it's going to be 108 degrees tomorrow and Wednesday with no break from the heat in sight. In my life this week ... I would say it's pretty much "back to normal". No camps. No visiting relatives. No out-of-town trips. There are still some activities going on this week, with Co-op and church. And my husband started a new job today, so we have the excitement of that! In our homeschool this week… We are just going to concentrate on some daily reading. We officially start school in a little over three weeks, so I just want to concentrate on a little more routine. Places we’re going and people we’re seeing… We'll be seeing mostly Co-op and church friends this week. It's a week of preparation in both grou

Weekly Wrap-Up ~ Curriculum 2011-2012

Everybody's talking curriculum these days! Why? Because it's about time to start using some curriculum! I've been pretty settled on what we were going to use for several months now. I have tweaked it a bit here and there. But, for the most part I am still satisfied with what I have chosen. This tells me that my choices must be good ones for us because I haven't felt the urge to change them even when I read all the fun things other schools will be doing! Here's a breakdown of what Dawson and Brynne will be studying this year. (Remember, Kyndal and Eli still go to public school.) Dawson ~ 9th Grade Language Arts: Easy Grammar Ultimate Series 9. Science: Apologia Biology. Math: Teaching Textbooks ~ Algebra I. Social Studies: American History by using "America: The Story of Us" video series from The History Channel ,, America's Heritage: An Adventure in Liberty by The American Heritage Education Foundation, Inc.

Unit Studies by Amanda Bennett

We are planning to use some of Amanda Bennett's Download N Go Unit Studies for our Science studies for Brynne this year. Several unit studies are on sale TODAY ONLY!! I purchased Autumn Treasures, Veteran's Day, Winter Wonders, Seashells, and Dogs. Go right now if you would like to purchase some of these fantastic unit studies. I saved about $15.00 on these studies by purchasing today. You can also click on the link to the right to go straight to the website. Hurry!!!

Classroom Reading Activities

Chapter 6 of The Book Whisperer did not apply as much in the homeschool setting, but it was still very informative to me as I have two public school students who deal with the exact classroom reading procedures described in the chapter: whole class novels, comprehension tests, book reports, reading logs, round-robin and popcorn reading and incentive programs. In reading this chapter I can see clearly how these procedures do not work! Donalyn Miller gives some excellent alternative procedures to use that seem as though they would be much more effective in a classroom setting. There were a couple of things that stood out to me. Again, are we teaching books or readers? If we teach readers, they will learn all they need to learn about books. Comprehension tests. "[H]ow many adult readers would choose to read if they had to take a multiple-choice test for every book they finished?" Accelerated Reader. " ... in which books are assigned a point value and students m

The Homeschool Mother's Journal

In my life this week ... Okay, really, I am over the heat! I'm all for summer temps (well, not really) but temps over 100 degrees every single day for weeks on end is more than I can handle! My garden is yuck, despite the watering. I even have bushes and trees dying. We don't feel like even stepping outside. It's gross, really. In our homeschool this week… We have actually not done a thing this past week. At the end of last week we went to a Science Camp. Then this week my sister and niece are visiting, so we are busy spending time with them. Today, however, we are hoping to do Barb's Sunflower Study from Handbook of Nature Study's July activities calendar because we have some Co-op friends coming over. Places we’re going and people we’re seeing… Brynne has one more night of Dance Camp tonight. Then my husband and I are going for a much-needed-way-overdue night away to celebrate our anniversary that was last month. Other than that, we're staying in to avoid

Do you have a reading role model?

"I am just feeling so inspired. Anybody reading the book feel the same?" That was the last line of my last post about The Book Whisperer and Reading Notebooks . And Chapter 5 is all about our students catching the fever of excitement we feel about reading. We can't fake it. If we don't like reading, those watching us will know it. But if we always have our nose in a book, it's pretty evident that we think books are the way to go. In the Self-Reflection Activity the question is posed, "What were your reading experiences as a child?" I really don't remember reading that much as a child. It was more in high school that I caught the bug. I would read in class when I was supposed to be listening to a teacher. My friends and I were really into Danielle Steele novels, and read them all the time. I can even remember crying in class when reading Fine Things . I don't remember any teachers reading. I don't remember any educators showing me

Whisper: Reading Notebooks

Well, the more I read The Book Whisperer the more I know in my heart that reading should be more of a focus for us this year! Homeschooling has brought back out the inner reader in me. And I want my kids to have the passion for reading that I have. I had planned to make writing an emphasis this year, especially for Dawson, and purchased the IEW (Institute of Excellence in Writing) U.S. History Supplement. It. is. intense. Or at least it is in addition to the extremely full American History curriculum I have put together. I was already worried about Dawson's ability to keep up with it. After I read Chapter 4 of The Book Whisperer , and Donalyn Miller's discussion about the Reading Notebook and reading requirements, I was feeling stressed about how to add in these great reading items into our already tight schedule. So I really spent some time thinking about what I thought was important for the kids this year, primarily Dawson. And I just felt that reading is that imp

Weekly Wrap-Up ~ Yes, UP!

** If you are visiting here from Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers, you might have noticed that I misspelled my own blog name. I really do know how to spell "excellence." This week we got back to our reading schedule. Well, for a couple of days anyway. We had been off for a couple of weeks with travel and other activities and so Monday was a bear of a day! On Tuesday, though, we seemed to have our groove back. Things were definitely looking up! Tuesday we took a quick trip to the water park. It was almost too hot to go, so we made sure we got there right when it opened and only spent two hours in the blazing heat! Although the kids did hit all the slides, they spent the majority of their time scaling the rock wall. They tried their hardest to get up to the top!  On Wednesday we had our Homeschool Co-op Playgroup. I love, love, love these times together! We actually had some time that day to be able to talk about the book we have been reading, Seasons of a Mother

What needs to be done

I'm feeling a little overwhelmed right now. School starts in just over a month, and I have much preparation to do! Finish American History curriculum (3/4 way done) Make IEW notebook Make reading genre requirements list and reading notebook Finalize Apologia Biology schedule Make art notebooks Plan Brynne's first science unit Yikes! I need about a week somewhere alone with my computer, the internet and my printer, with tons of notebooking supplies. Since I won't be getting that, I just need to get diligent in setting aside time to get these things done. Anyone else feeling the pressure of a looming starting date? UPDATE: As of August 11th, I have now completed the crossed-out items! I feel so much better! Almost done!

Are we teaching books or teaching readers?

That question jumped out of Chapter 4 of The Book Whisperer and smacked me! It is posed by Donalyn Miller in response to a debate about whether to allow students to read "mind candy" for pure "escapism" or require all books they read to be up to the teacher's standard of superior "literary value". She goes on to say, "By allowing and encouraging students to read what they want, I also endorse their culture and their interests -- something we do not do enough in school ... Once students find at least one book they like and receive approval for reading books of their own choice, it is easier to move them toward books you suggest." These thoughts are reasons why I don't agree with Charlotte Mason's opinion about "twaddle". Of course you cannot just let your students read any 'ol trash, any 'ol time, all the time. But I think about myself ... sometimes I read some great stuff, and sometimes I just want an easy read

The Book Whisperer and The Homeschool Teacher

Being a homeschool teacher isn't that much different than being a public or private school teacher, except that I love my students more than a traditional teacher loves his or hers and I know my students better than a traditional teacher knows his or hers. I have planned all summer for the educational needs of my two specific students out of pure love for them, and I don't have to spend several weeks learning the strengths, weaknesses, likes and dislikes of my students. I already know their family dynamics and history. I already know their educational abilities. I have it easy. I know this because I have two children still in public school. I know that each year when I write that "introduction letter" to my child's teacher that I always get a heartfelt (albiet desperate) "thank you", because without it that teacher was going to have to get to know my child by trial and error while doing the same thing with at least 20 other children. And that's

The Homeschool Mother's Journal

We had an unusual week last week, being in Missouri at my parents'. This week we are back to our version of normal, with lots of heat and lots of activities! In my life this week ... The temps here are going to be over 100 degrees every day for the foreseeable future. That makes me want to stay indoors, but we have lots of outside-the-house activities planned this week. We are going to brave the water park in the morning tomorrow. On Wednesday, we are meeting with our Co-op playgroup, which is always fun! Then on Thursday and Friday Eli and Brynne are attending a Mad Science camp! They are very excited! On Saturday my sister and niece are coming for a week-long visit, and bringing home Kyndal and Dawson who have been in Missouri at my parents'. Then on Sunday us girls are going to the NEW KIDS ON THE BLOCK/BACKSTREET BOYS concert! Squeal!!!!! In our homeschool this week… We will resume our reading schedule. As our puny sunflowers are starting to bloom somewhat, we will

Anywhere, anytime

When Kyndal was in the 2nd grade, which seems like a lifetime ago, she had a teacher named Mrs. Owens. When I think back, I realize this year was Kyndal's best year in school, ever. There were times I would come into the room and it would appear to be in chaos. Kids would be sprawled out everywhere ... under the desks, on the desks, on bean bags, etc., with shoes and socks all over the room. The room was trashed and I just couldn't imagine how any learning was happening. And that teacher is now the school's librarian. Hmmmmm ...... She obviously shared Donalyn Miller's philosophy of not having a designated reading corner in the classroom . She felt that if kids were reading, and enjoying it, that she could stand the smell of stinky feet. In Chapter 3 of The Book Whisperer , Ms. Miller says that "[b]uilding a trusting relationship with students is easier when you expect them to do the right thing instead of assuming that they are not." (pg. 67) She is refe

Weekly Wrap-Up ~ A Week of Racing

This wasn't a typical week for us. We left on Saturday for the 4-hour trip to my parents' in Missouri. A lot was going on. My parents' have sold their large house in the country of the past 14 years and purchased a smaller one in town. So my mom and I spent the majority of our visit doing landscaping, getting curtains hung, shopping for items needed for the new house, and making trips back and forth between the two houses moving things. On top of that, my grandma was placed in a nursing home on Friday, so we made several trips to see her, and went through her house taking care of any heirlooms . Add to that haircuts by my sister, swimming, and 4th of July activities, and we had a busy five days! It felt like we were in a non-stop race to get everything done. Brynne participated in some races at the annual 4th of July celebration at my childhood hometown park. She did the egg race and sack race. The other kids opted out of the park festivities this year, so she and

Some Library Fun

Last Friday I took Eli to the library to get his Summer Reading Program prizes! He has read 21 books so far this summer! When we were leaving, we noticed that the murals in the foyer of the library looked very 3-D, so Brynne wanted to do some posing. I thought they turned out really funny!

Classroom Surveys

Have you ever given a written survey to your homeschooled student? I've gained insight from my kids about certain topics before, but I have never handed them a written survey to complete. In The Book Whisperer chapter entitled "Whisper: Surveys", Donalyn Miller discusses the concept of classroom surveys, and even has an example of the one she has used. What a great idea to get students, especially non-readers, to think about their interests, likes and dislikes, put them in writing, and submit them to someone who could decipher them and help them find books they would like to read. I know that some of the best books I read are as a result of a recommendation. Perhaps my students would be more excited about reading if I, or a library professional, was able to take their interests and recommend a book or series based on those interests. I know that this has been a problem with Dawson. We go to the library, but he is so overwhelmed with the vastness of selections that

The Homeschool Mother's Journal

In my life this week ... We are having a busy week at my parents'! They have sold their home and purchased a smaller one, so my mom and I have been so busy doing landscaping and making some purchases and moving things. My grandma was also moved into a nursing home this past Friday, so we have been there getting her settled and visiting her. In our homeschool this week… We really aren't doing anything this week, other than reading, because of our travels to Missouri for the 4th holiday and then recovering from our travels. Places we’re going and people we’re seeing… We are currently in Missouri at my parents' enjoying the 4th holiday. When we get home we are going to socialize with one of the pastors of our church and his family (his wife is Eli's reading resource teacher at school). We are also going to the movies with our Homeschool Co-op on Friday. My favorite thing this week was… visiting my grandma at her new nursing home. It was great to see her so happy and v

Weekly Wrap-up ~ The How To's of Ice Cream

This past Saturday our whole family spent some time together at the Blue Bell Creameries Taste of Summer Open House (with about 15,000 other people). We had all-you-can-eat ice cream, did some crafts, "milked" a "cow", and went on a self-guided tour of the ice cream factory. We had so much fun!! So I decided to carry this theme through our week. The temps have been in the 100's this week, so staying home and indoors was vital! The big news of the week was that Eli finished his Summer Reading Program with a bang by reading all of a 64 page book in one day. It was his decision to do it, and he was so proud of his accomplishment! So was our whole family! We are going this afternoon to pick up his prizes from the library. On Wednesday, Brynne and I went to her Co-op Summer Playgroup and we made barrettes . It was fun! This small group has been such a blessing to the moms and kids! Yesterday we tackled our ice cream unit . We made baggie ice cream, rea