Greatly Blessed

Greatly Blessed

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Our First Week of School

We did it!  We made it through the first week of school, the first week of homeschool, the first football game, and more.

These two headed back to their private, Christian high school.  Evenings with them have been full of signing papers, covering books, hearing about new teachers and new students, and a lot of energy and enthusiasm.

The rest of us get to stay at home.  Katie is showing me the drive thru she built for her bus.

We got to review a very cool playset all about China!  Since we love China, this was a big hit at our house.

We're going to be learning California history this year, so we started off coloring the California bear flag.

Our first art project this year comes from the 4th grade Home Art Studio DVD.  I've talked before about how much I love these DVDs.  They really are great.

Paul realized after I took this picture that the kids had neglected to paint the tree shadows, so we added those later.

This week was Eli's birthday!

He (finally!) got a cell phone!  He was one of less than a handful of freshmen who didn't have a phone at school last year.

In case you missed our review of Can Do Cubes, you may want to check that out.  In addition to Katie working through the printable workbooks with them, this week I had Jack do his spelling words with the cubes.

Hannah used the phonogram game tiles from our Logic of English package.  Next time we'll switch who gets what.

Years ago, I discovered A Beka's Art Projects line.  When Zach and Annaliese were little, we worked though a few of these books.  I ended up with a leftover first grade book in the school room and decided that Katie should work through that this year, since she's probably my last first grader.

Last year, I carried Eli piggyback across a parking lot after his birthday, just to prove that I can still pick up my 14 year old.  Now he's 15, so I had to give it another shot.  He's about 130# now, so I'm feeling pretty accomplished.  For an old mom.

Cake, ice cream, singing, candles.

Hannah is wicked good at Connect 4!  I like this game because it goes fast.

I made a "stack & whack" batch of leggings this week!

While I had red thread in the serger and coverstich machines, I did a red hoodie, too.  I'm starting to get into autumn mode.

Thursday was our library day this week.  The kids got 25 books, and Friday I heard, "I only have one book left to read."  Yikes.

Our library has a park next door, so we played for a while to burn off some energy and soak up some sunshine.  Call it P.E.

Our little visitors are fearless climbers now.  It's such fun to see how much they've changed since last year, and watch them explore their world.

Jack has hit that adolescent "no camera" phase, so I have to catch what I can of him, photo wise.

This is an after workout shot.  Both boys have PT/drill on Thursdays.  My Army boy and my Marine boy.  I know it's still a few months away, but the house just won't be the same without these two.

Friday was the first football game.  The players dress up for school on game days.  Brianna is having fun being a water girl.  It's like having a whole team full of brothers.  (JV lost and Varsity won.)

The mornings are getting chilly enough for a sweater or hoodie.  We have a date for our trip to the pumpkin patch.  Next week will be September.  It's starting to feel like autumn.

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Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Can Do Cubes

Part of what makes learning fun is when it can be hands on!  Such is the case with today's review product, Can Do Cubes, from (just2ducks LLC).

When our Can Do Cubes arrived, I was impressed by the large box of wooden cubes and curriculum resources.

This shows the first tray.  The cubes themselves are made of wood, and feel good in your hands.

This is the second tray of cubes, part of the "stage two" part of the program.  See the string?  Those two cubes are attached to teach the concept of silent e.  (One of the videos addresses this, and I thought it was brilliant.)

The box included two posters with the various words you could make from each group of cubes.  We're out of wall space in our school room, so I considered cutting this up and laminating it by section, but ultimately, we simply unfold it when we do a section.

When we started out, I gave Katie the first 6 cubes and let her play with them a little bit.  Then I'd read a word from the poster and ask her to build it for me.

This is similar to how she started doing spelling last year, so it was familiar to her.

Between the two trays of blocks, in addition to the posters, there were two small books.  These are books for the parent teacher, not the child.

Book one explains how children learn language, and gives lots of fun and easy suggestions on ways to engage your child with the world around them.  It offers tips on teaching beginning phonics to your child.  The stage two book gives specific teaching tips for how to use the lower tray of cubes in teaching the more advanced phonics lessons.

The top CD ROM contains 4 workbooks with both instructions for the teacher and many printable pages for your student to use with the blocks.

The bottom disc is a DVD which talks about the word version of the Can Do Cubes (which I ended up purchasing a set of; I can't wait to try those out with Jack and Hannah!) for the first 6 minutes, and then another 6 minutes featuring an instructor working with a child on the phonics cubes.  After that is a segment featuring the instructor saying each of the 42 sounds of the English language.  This would be helpful for an older student (remedial or ESL) to view to help them learn the sounds and the letters at the same time.  Then there's an explanation of the idea of synthetic phonics and where that name comes from and how to use the cubes to teach.  I found the video clips to be brief, informative, and helpful.

Katie likes doing the printable worksheets with the blocks.

I like being able to print off just the pages that we need from the CD.

One of the nice things about Can Do Cubes is that it can be used on it's own, or as a compliment to any other phonics or spelling program.  Kids like to play with these cubes.  They add a hands on component that holds a child's interest.  When I leave them out in the school room, I find words and sentences that my kids of all ages create.  Imagine the difference between telling your student, "Write this list of spelling words," and "Build each of your spelling words with these cubes."  Which one do you think they'll be more excited about?  I'm thrilled to add this resource to our classroom, and I'm sure I'll be pulling it out regularly for a long time to come.

You can connect with Can Do Cubes/Jolly Literacy on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.  Forty Crew families received the phonics Can Do Cubes.  To read the rest of the reviews, please click the box below.

Can Do Cubes

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Tuesday, August 23, 2016

The Loyal Heart

I've mentioned before that I'm getting into genealogy.  When the Little Ones were visiting their mama, I had a chance to do some work on our family history, and I found a Civil War ancestor.  So when I picked up The Loyal Heart the next day and started reading, I was pleasantly surprised to find myself in a Civil War era POW camp.  The pact that wartime friends make over their friend's grave turns out to have lasting importance for them.

The bulk of this story takes place in Texas.  Phillip (one of the pactees) has died.  Another of the pact members, Robert, goes to his home in Galveston to check on his widow and see if there is any way the remaining pact members can help her.  The widow, Miranda, was pretty much at the end of her rope when Robert shows up.  She is managing her late husband's estate by turning their home into a boarding house.  The people of the town have spread viscous rumors about her.  Someone is sending her threatening letters.

The Loyal Heart is by turns suspenseful and romantic.  Robert and the other members of the wartime pact are able to help Miranda redeem her reputation and Phillip's honor, as well as keep her home and find happiness.  This was a good book, and I will be passing it on to my 16 year old daughter to read, as well.   We have enjoyed many of Shelley Shepard Gray's works of fiction.

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Monday, August 22, 2016

Learn to Read with Jolly Literacy

Even though it's summer time, Katie has been working on a special review program.  The folks at (just2ducks LLC) sent us their comprehensive reading program, which includes the Jolly Literacy Teacher's Book (in print letters); the Jolly Phonics Student Books, 1, 2, and 3; The Jolly Grammar level 1 Teacher's Book (in print letters); the Jolly Grammar level 1 Student Book; and Jolly Songs (in print letters).  Along with these review items, we received a catalog of additional Jolly Literacy products, and My Personal Dictionary from Primary Learning.  Wow, what a package!

Miss Katie is 5.  She did a "relaxed" kindergarten last year, and is still working on learning to read.  Although, she surprised me the last time we went to the zoo.  We were driving, and she said, "That says zoo!" when we passed a plain, no pictures, street sign.  I did a double take and asked, "How do you spell zoo?"  She answered Z-O-O.  She's learning more than I realized.

We started out with the Phonics book 1, just to get our feet wet.  Each lesson has a short story and a motion to go along with it.  The motions are a great idea for squirmy students to help get the wiggles out.  Little kids generally don't do well with sitting still for long periods of time, so beginning readers will benefit from these seemingly "silly" motions and sounds.  The workbook portion of the lessons are short and simple, which gives children a sense of accomplishment when they're starting out.

We also began playing the Jolly Songs CD, which is full of catchy little tunes to help kids learn the sounds that letters make.  The individual clips are short.  I liked to put it on in the car and let it play when I had younger kids in the van with me.

Although Katie already knows how to properly form her letters, and what sounds they make, she had a little bit of a harder time with the pictures at the bottom of the pages in the phonics book 1.  Katie did not begin learning English until she was almost 3 years old, so she's still not familiar with all the possible names of the "everyday" objects pictured.  Students are asked to cross out the picture that does not contain a certain sound.  In addition to increasing her vocabulary, this was good listening practice for her!

As the Phonics Student Book 1 progressed, we worked on not only individual letters, but also double letters and blends.  Book 2 starts off with students reading whole words, and covers the various short vowel sounds, writing, tracing, drawing, and more.  Children begin copywork in book 2, with the teacher writing a sentence on the board, and the students copying it.  Kids learn that sentences start with a capital letter and end with a period.  They are reminded to leave a space (we call them "finger spaces" in our homeschool) between each word.  At the teacher's discretion, students may be asked to come up with their own sentences.  Book 3 takes the skills learned in the first two books and expounds on them with more independent writing, bigger words, reading sentences, and even a crossword puzzle!  Jolly Phonics is a comprehensive reading program, broken down into 3 books to be less intimidating to the student.  There are also readers available in 4 levels, from beginner to confident reader.

Although not completely through the phonics program, we took a look at the Grammar book to see what it was like.  The first page allows the student to personalize the book, not only with their name, but also a self portrait.

This book contains many activities with words.  Students get to trace, draw, write dictation, and more.  The back of the book has 36 ten-word spelling tests.  By the end of the book, students are reading a 3 paragraph story containing words like orange, yummy, sunflowers, watch and summer.  They are then asked to identify different parts of speech by underlining them in various colors.  I'm excited to see how much Katie's skills will progress when we start working through this book!

This is Miss Katie's /oo/ face.  Not oo like in smooth, but oo like in took.  We had quite a time differentiating between the two /oo/ sounds.  Actually, when sounding out the words at the bottom of the page, she kept wanting to double the sounds.  B-oo-oo-k.  We are finding Jolly Phonics book 1 to be both simple enough to hold our interest and keep us (okay me) willing to work on it, and at the same time, challenging enough that I know Katie is learning new things.  I'm impressed.  That's a delicate balance.  I look forward to working through the rest of the program this coming school year.  I feel confident that it will help Katie become a strong reader.

Jolly Phonics and Jolly Grammar Review

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Jolly Phonics and Jolly Grammar Review

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