Monday, August 25, 2014

U.S. History for the Grammar Stage-- Year 2

Sorry for the delay in getting this post up, I had it almost completely done and...well, it vanished. God is in the deleted blog posts, right?!? ;)

We had a wonderful history year last school year. Making our own plans was a bit cumbersome, but very worth it. This year, we are continuing with the second year of U.S. History. When I sat down to plan the year I assumed like last year we would use The Complete Book of U.S. History as a spine and add in lots of books... However, as I sat down to look it over, I realized that The Complete Book of U.S. History took more of a "social history" turn that we would have liked in the second half. I scoured the shelves and settled on the Veritas Press 1815 to Present cards as a spine. I looked through all the usual lists (Sonlight, TOG, BP) and picked some nonfiction books to provide a great spine alongside the VP cards with The Complete Books of U.S. History to fill in any gaps.

Here is the link to the schedule: U.S. History Year 2 Overview/Schedule

After last year, I have discovered that we really enjoy studying history in chronological units-- for this year, we will be studying the following units:

U.S. History Year 2 Chronological Units:

I. Westward Expansion (1830's-1850's)
II. The Civil War (1840-1870)
III. The U.S. Grows (1865-1900)
IV. Changes (1890-1920)
V. Trouble (1914-1945)
VI. New Frontiers (1950-present)

I picked my topics/units, lined up the VP cards, assigned The Complete Book of U.S. History (though we will most likely only use this when we don't have other resources on hand for the topic), added living books, hands on notebooking, and unit projects. I also scheduled any of the NEST history DVD's we happened to have on hand, but they are not necessary.

Veritas Press cards 1815-Present
The Complete Book of U.S. History

Remember the Alamo
Buffalo Bill
If Your Traveled West in a Covered Wagon
Clara Barton
If You Lived at the Time of the Civil War
If You Traveled on the Underground Railroad
Harriet Tubman
Bully for You Teddy Roosevelt
If Your Name was Changed at Ellis Island
The World Wars
The Story of Ruby Bridges
A Picture Book of Martin Luther King Jr.

Many of the Sonlight Core E Readers and Read Alouds are scheduled as well. (These can be seen on the schedule.) I scheduled both upper grammar and lower grammar readers (from Sonlight), but not every week has a lower grammar reader. I added what I had on the shelves for my 2nd grader from the SL grade 2, 3, and 4/5 readers that applied to the time period. We will just fill in with the rest whatever he wants to read.

A note about read alouds. Many read alouds are scheduled. We will not read all of them. I am adventurous in my planning, but try to be realistic in my expectations. We will get behind and end up skipping some. Some we will read over the summer, some will remain unread for future use. It is what it is. We are currently 4 weeks into this schedule and still only reading the first scheduled read aloud. It happens. Review weeks (which are scheduled three times throughout the schedule) are great read aloud catch up weeks.

Last year we discovered interactive notebooking. Basically similar to History Pockets or Lapbooking, but you do projects, activities, and interactive notebooking pages that get put into a 3 ring binder, providing you with a wonderful "scrapbook" from your history studies.

Hands on History Pioneers
Hands on History Civil War
Scholastic Interactive maps
TruthQuest History binder builder (American History year 3)
TQ Memory cards and maps (American History-- second half of year 2 and year 3)
VP 1815-Present Teacher's Manual (I used a few of the projects from here, but not many and it is not necessary if you do not have it).

(The Hands on Histories and the Scholastic Interactive maps were purchased during the Scholastic $1 sale). 

Here are a few samples of what the kids have done so far this year:



Projects. I both love them and hate them. My kids love love love them. I love the idea of them, but find that I struggle to actually get them done. Last year we planned one project per unit, and bought a "kit" for as many of those as possible. Amazingly, this way they get done!

I. Westward Expansion (1830's-1850's)-- Covered Wagon, pan for gold
                                               Here is the completed Covered Wagon Project.

II. The Civil War (1840-1870)-- Freedom Quilt (using patterns found online, we will make mini quilts using felt and glue)
III. The U.S. Grows (1865-1900)-- Grow peanuts, make homemade peanut butter
IV. Changes (1890-1920)-- Wright Brothers model airplanes
V. Trouble (1914-1945)--Photojournal of the Great Depression (include recipes and choose one to make)
VI. New Frontiers (1950-present) Man on the Moon diarama

One of the main areas I knew we needed to work on was in review. I have not seen a whole lot of retention in previous years history studies which while it is to be expected from young children, it can still be disheartening.

Timeline Cards
The timeline cards from last year helped significantly and I planned to do them again, until I stumbled on the TruthQuest History timeline cards which were well priced and wonderful. I printed them on cardstock, laminated them, and cut them out. Quite the project, but they are a huge hit so far!


Veritas Press Teachers manual
The VP teacher's guide has worksheets and tests for each card. While I don't have my kids fill them out, they make wonderful jumping off points for discussions and are great for oral review.

History is getting more fun and more engaging every year. The kids love the VP memory song, the timeline games, the hands on history notebooking, and I love all the books. As long as I don't get caught up in trying to do it all, we should be great!

Ready for a great year of U.S. History Year 2!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

God is Sovereign . . . over Broken Printers

It's Monday, starting the second week of school. Two kids sit around the kitchen table working on math worksheets, one pretends to sleep in the next room... It is calm, peaceful. . .quiet . . . mornings like these are great. They are just not very usual. Actually they are downright practically nonexistent. In fact by the end of typing that sentence the peaceful moment was gone. It has taken me 10 minutes to write that sentence because of the chaos that can ensue in .2 seconds around here.

I have a type A personality. As in AAA. I appreciate organization and a good plan. As the youngest of 6 children I am no stranger to chaos, and I can appreciate it even, but there are certain areas of my life I like organized and planned. Books and homeschooling fall into this part of my life.

My oldest has inherited my bent for perfectionism. It can get ugly.

A wonderful morning can easily be derailed by a glass of milk spilled all over the table. Normally perhaps no big deal, but add a laptop, an ipad, an iphone, and several hundred dollars of curriculum and . . . yup. Chaos. Chaos derails peace. I feel flustered, frustrated, agitated, and often angry over seamlessly small things.  I am not proud of these moments. Too many of these moments have left me ashamed and defeated. I have allowed circumstances to steal joy and peace too often.

This summer I spent some time reading and listening to speakers online. The message was constant: Learn to find peace in the chaos. I read Teaching From Rest: A Homeschoolers Guide to Unshakeable Peace,  a WONDERFUL book I would recommend to any homeschool mom. Such a good word! I was all poised for a RESTFUL and PEACEFUL experience in our homeschool this year.

And then <enter children> real life, didn'tgetthememotoberestful children.

Day one went pretty well. Day two ok. Day three rough and day 4 downright horrible. I was sending SOS texts to my husband, ready to send my 2nd grader to school...locking myself in the bathroom. Why? Ummm I think it involved clocks. You know past/ many hours from 3am to 9pm....yup. Craziness. How can something so simple go so . . . wrong. There was no peace. No restful teaching. Only chaos. I was defeated. I was so upset with myself. I had such unmet high expectations...of myself.

My printer kept going offline the entire two weeks before school I was printing and planning. The first week of school it was still an issue. A working printer is a major necessity in our homeschool. I was sending frustrated texts to my husband. Why have you not fixed this? What is the issue? I need a new printer!

I listened to a short audio this summer that was wonderful-- "Why Homeschool?" . . . (a few theological issues if you are not Catholic, but hey! The point was great) where the speaker talked about how God is in the spilled milk. We often get frustrated by things like spilled milk (or broken printers . . . or kids who can't tell time) and focus on how the distraction is "taking us away" from what we have to do. However, the speaker states that God is the author of the spilled milk. The spilled milk, the broken printer, the child staring blankly at the window-- that is what God had planned for that moment. The broken printer is God's will for my life at that moment.

Who am I to get frustrated or angry at God's will? Who am I to question the perfect will of the sovereign God? The same God that controls the wind and the waves controls the spilled milk and the dysfunctional printer. I am called to rest in His sovereignty. The chaos that all too often reigns? The distractions. The unavoidable yet unwelcomed hiccups in the day? Embrace them. God doesn't care whether or not we finish the math page, but he does care about how I treat His children. He cares about the relationship. And so do I.

Prayerfully approaching today with diligence, grace, and rest . . . even though the printer is still broken.

Monday, August 11, 2014

2014-2015 Curriculum

I cannot believe we started our new school year last week. I usually start planning the next school year before the current one even begins and then tweak the plan along the way. As we begin the 2014-2015 school year, this is the line up that made the cut (subject to change at any moment of course!):


4th Grade


Math Mammoth 4B-5A (starting the year with a lot of review before we jump in using the Math Mammoth review books)


First Language Lessons 4 

CAP Writing and Rhetoric Narrative 1 (for the Fall, unsure where we will go for the spring)

Rod and Staff Spelling (finish 4 and move onto 5)
Evan Moore daily reading comprehension

2nd Grade


Math Mammoth 2B-3A


Writing with Ease 2

First Language Lessons 2

Handwriting without Tears 2 

All About Spelling 2 (move to 3 when we finish)

Sonlight readers



ASK Science Kits (Weather, Matter, & Human Body) with the Usborne Encyclopedia, notebooking, and videos.

U.S. History Year 2/Modern (a mix of Veritas Press, Sonlight, and TruthQuest)
Outside science and history classes 1x a month


Sara Jordan's Bilingual Songs/ Duolingo (E)

Bible Study Guide for All Ages year 3


Singapore Math Essentials

All About Reading Pre-level

Handwriting without Tears Pre-K

Five in a Row vol. 1 (very lightly)

Monday, August 4, 2014

NOT Back to School 2014 and FREE First Day Printable

We just completed our first day NOT back to school. This summer seriously flew by and even up to last night I had my doubts about actually going through with starting school today. I am glad we did, as we had a successful first day. Well, no one cried and I didn't lock myself in a bathroom so that counts as a success, right?!?

J was literally jumping up and down last night in excitement and anticipation of school today. E was excited too, though a little more subdued. C-- well, he just assumes the euphoric world of summer Wii and Legos continue forever . . .

They all were up and dressed early and we jumped into a lesson of Bible Study Guide for all Ages. (The intermediate lessons take so long, I have negotiated with myself to be content with half a lesson a day.) ;)

After Bible, we ventured into the first day of school pic adventure. I refused to get frustrated over first day pics so they are what they are! ;) (oh and it was starting to rain so it was a quick point and shoot!)

E started the day at the piano at 8:30 while C and J played a bit.  We all started Bible at 9:00 and the morning ensued a rather fast paced revolving door of mom's attention. J's first day of Pre-K 4 was an amazing success as even now she is in the other room drawing the Yangtze River and a house boat, though school for the day is done.

C escaped to his Legos just after 2 when the final Spanish Greetings review was completed. E is finishing up her day reading a few chapters from American Girl Meet Kirsten. J is walking around saying si, por favor (yeah, no context whatsoever, but hey! It's cute!)

It's funny, I assured myself we would not be a slave to the schedule today...we would take it how it went and be relaxed (this year my homeschool goal is "teaching from rest" and yet, amazingly everything on the plan got accomplished, and though I am deliriously tired, I think everyone is still smiling. That may never happen again, but I will take it today.

It felt like a long day . . . J played most of the day but had just enough interaction with me to keep her content and engaged, but C worked consistently until lunch and then after a little break finished out history, Spanish, and a read aloud. E's only break was lunch and she just walked down the stairs to end her day...8:30-2:45. Since that includes piano, read aloud, and lunch-- I imagine it is as realistic as we are going to be for 4th grade. (I do assume we will get more efficient as time goes by.) Unfortunately that only leaves 45 minutes until she heads off to 3.5 hours of gymnastics. Busy kid!

4th grade, 2nd grade, and Pre-K 4 are under way!

How about a FREE PRINTABLE for your first day of school. Don't forget to leave a comment, I would love to hear about your first day adventures!


Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Balancing Confidence with Challenge

I have often pondered this topic-- Challenge vs Confidence. However, it has remained only a thought process up until this point, with no move make steps to improve how we do it.

One of the major benefits of homeschooling is going at your child's pace-- not being boxed in by a grade or label. Need to accelerate? Great. Need to slow down? Absolutely.

Somewhere during second grade, being a year ahead in math started to be a problem. So we slowed down to about a semester "ahead." That has worked pretty well up until this point. E is challenged, but not defeated.

Writing was another area of struggle. We backed up and found a new groove. Better. Challenged but not crying. Success.

Or maybe not so successful?

E is doing very well academically. Reading at an accelerated grade level, doing math at a higher level, almost a full year ahead in spelling.

My goal has always been find the more rigorous online and local schools and aim for that level of academic work as long as they are able.

She is doing that. But at what cost?

Yes, while she is excelling, if you ask her she will say she is not. She will say "I'm not good at math" or even "I'm horrible at it."

I remember my elementary school experience. While there were challenging moments here and there, I remember mostly feeling success. Feeling "smart." Things were mostly easy for me.

That feeling of accomplishment and confidence is lacking for E. And I want to head it off for C before we get to that point.

I need to find the balance of challenging my children, while still allowing them to feel successful and proud of their accomplishments. Confidence is critical.

I am not sure exactly how I will do this or exactly what it will look like, but I know I am intensely aware of the need to build up my kids and offer them more outlets to build confidence. Not make things easy for them-- I have no desire to build false confidence. Affirmation alone is not cutting it. I tell them all the time how smart they are and how great they are doing. However, they don't feel smart because all of their schoolwork tells them differently. They have to work at it therefore they must not be smart. If they were smart -- it would be easy, right?  When it gets easy we speed up...and move on. Sometimes this is ok. Sometimes, we just need to feel confident. Sometimes it's ok to do something "easy."

I want to encourage and affirm their hard work and diligence...with something other than harder work.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Failing Summer?

I had serious lofty expectations of summer. You know-- keep up on reading and math. OK. Maybe my expectations were not very high at all. But you know the old saying reach for the moon and land in the clouds? Well, we aimed a little too low and got the ground...

I remember back to the days when I was a kid...summer break did not involve Summer Bridge books. You didn't have to work all summer to not be "behind" in the new school year. And yet, things have changed. Usually we look at summer as a time to tread water-- not necessarily tackle anything new, but just not lose ground. It's a solid goal for us. One I still maintain. I just didn't hit it this summer. The best laid plans and all that...

I feel like I failed summer. I was going to have the kids do a Bravewriter project about our trip in May...and take numerous trips to the library, and read all those great read alouds we didn't get to last year. Nope. Didn't happen. In fact I only know my 7 yo hasn't forgotten how to read because he regularly reads Wii instructions. Go ahead and laugh. Pathetic. I know. Hey, we went to the library once.

Truth is ... I needed the break. Summer got crazy and got away from us. Hubby and I kicked off the summer with a cruise...just adults. Lovely. Needed that. Got back and he left for a work/mission trip. He got back, I left with my oldest for kids camp. We got back and I left for a weekend with some friends. Got back, hubby left on another mission trip. He got back and sheesh. It was almost July. Two weeks of tennis camp for the older two and -- summer is almost gone. I blinked and just about missed it. 

We didn't get done all that I had planned, (or any of it) and perhaps there was more chaos than I prefer, but I am very grateful for the break. I needed it. Every bit of it. 

We are headed into the homestretch-- 2 weeks until our start date.  A new school year. I have begun the grind of planning and printing and printing some more...organizing and vision casting for the new year. It's overwhelming at times, but I love the planning process. I love looking ahead and prayerfully considering our goals and focus for the upcoming school year. 

I am excited about things to come. I can't say I was excited in May. Perhaps the summer wasn't a complete failure after all...

Monday, May 12, 2014

Mother's Day Reflections: Good Enough?

Yesterday was Mother's Day.

Mother's Day is supposed to be the day to celebrate Moms and the effort and sacrifice they make for their families. But why is it that the only one often not celebrating is mom? I can't imagine I am alone as I receive wonderful homemade cards from my children and eloquent words of praise from my husband and yet, internally...I battle.

I don't deserve the praise...

I am constantly falling short...

I want to be so much more....

The truth is I never measure up to my own expectations.

I have often read that "good enough" is "good enough." But for this type A mama, good enough is NOT good enough. I want to be great. I strive for supermama status. And I fall short. Every day. Every hour. And then I feel like a failure.

I often think I am failing my kids or my husband or God. But truly the only one who really thinks I am failing is me.

Oh sure, I make plenty of mistakes. Say the wrong thing, yell too much, don't take the opportunity to heap praise...sure I am guilty of all of those things. But I have realized I spend too much time defeated. Too much time focused on my weaknesses.

This week I was studying Hebrews 11-- the "Hall of Fame of Faith." The "Heroes of the Faith."

I had a sort of revelation as I was reading, and God thoroughly rocked my thoughts and expectations of myself. We all look up to the heroes of the faith, some of those listed include -- Noah, Abraham, Rahab, Samson, David. . . Noah-- the righteous naked drunk....Abraham who doubted and laughed at God-- the lying polygamist. Rahab the prostitute, Samson the fool in love, and David the adulteress murderer, yet still called a "man after God's own heart."

Talk about a ragtag group of heroes. Yet, God calls them such a "great cloud of witnesses" in Hebrews 12. `But see, that's just it. Hebrews 11 celebrates the faith of these men and woman and Hebrews 12:2 declares their faith (the very thing they are being celebrated for) to be the result of Jesus-- the "author and perfecter of our faith." We don't celebrate these righteous sinners for what they did or didn't do or who they were or weren't; we celebrate them for what Jesus did in them.

And oh how that thrills my soul. For you see my friend, I will never be a great enough to be a celebrated mom or a celebrated wife or a celebrated Christian...but I pray that others celebrate Christ's work within me-- that I may celebrate Christ's work within me. God celebrates the weak, and the wounded because through them he is exalted and does great things. Not because of us, but because of Him.

It's not about our successes.

Thank the Lord.

I have not succeeded in any area like I intended...He celebrates our pursuit of Him. The pressure of this Pinterest perfect world is great...but I am oh so glad that ultimately, our success is not based on if we are "good enough" . . . I can go ahead and admit defeat there...I'm not. However, may I always be found in pursuit of godliness instead of goodness. For there I find peace and joy...resting in His greatness instead of wallowing in my weakness.
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