Friday, November 21, 2014

2014 For All The Saints Trading Card Swap

Yep , its that time of year again!   Its time for the All The Saints Trading Card Swap. We found out about this really fun swap a few years ago and the girls really enjoyed making cards that they could trade with other people. We accidentally missed it last year because of our house move. So it will be nice to collect some new cards , since sadly our starting collection got lost in our move.   Though I still have hope I'll find them slid in a book in our school room waiting to be discovered.

Here are the ones we did in 2012 :
So you ask yourself, " How do I get to participate in the card swap?"   Very easily just jump on over to one of our favorite blogs :   Pondered in my Heart   and get all of the information that you will need to start your own  All Saints Collection.

I definitely can't wait to see what cards we get this year.  Also if your not sure what to draw you can google ideas online by typing All Saints Artist Trade Cards. You'll see what its all about.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Just Keeping It Real,,, Home School Style

Okay, so who here hasn't felt a twinge of guilt when reading a homeschool blog that looks like everyone has it all pulled together? You know? The blog with the perfect house all completely cleaned and clutter free? The wonderful children all lined up neatly in a row?  The school room that has all the books neatly lined on the shelf and the children intently working in their pristine school room that you wished you had?  

Well, never fear! Today is going to be " Keeping it Real Tuesday".   This day can be dedicated to all homeschoolers who feel like they never measure up( Don't worry, I have days when I feel  that way too) .  

With this said though , let's look at the purpose of those homeschool magazines and homeschooling blogs.  
First ,we'll start with the homeschool magazine.   Have you ever gone to a book store and spot a homeschool magazine? The Old Schoolhouse is one of them. I remember in my early days there was just the magazine. Facebook didn't exist, most people still hadn't quite had their own websites. There , though, on a shelf in a book store  was my saving grace. I opened the magazine up and it was like I had entered into a new world , ready to explore.  There I could read about what other families were doing and glean off of the knowledge of these experienced pioneers. Even today I still do. I know when I see that magazine in my mailbox, I still feel like its Christmas time. 
 Granted though you may find an article that makes you feel slightly inadequate. That's not the purpose of these articles though. The purpose is to inspire.  Magazines are meant to help those who are in the trenches and aren't sure what to do, or where to turn.  I mean, honestly who would want to open up a magazine and read an article that talked about a mother wanting to sign herself into the loony bin for the day? Or the mom who had a yelling screaming match for the umpteenth time with their sixteen year old to PLEASE do their school work for the one gazillionth time. Or how about the 8 year old who sat on her chair today and was mad at her mother because she had an assessment and assumed her mother was going to help her. Oops,,, yeah, that really happened. 

Or heck, how about this one?  The eleven year old who learned she had her yearly physical today and didn't want to go see the doctor.  Reason being  : because going to the  doctors equals shots, and mom couldn't guarantee she wasn't going to get one.  P.S. She did get one. 

                                                  All school work ceased at this point. 
  Don't feel to bad for H though. She is a steel wall when it comes to shots , she never cries, she just doesn't like them. 

So are you getting this already? We know magazines are meant to inspire. The families that send articles are not cookie cutter people. When asked to write ,a magazine company is NOT going to accept an article with the day  I just mentioned here .  They want the basics. No frills, no crazies. Just , what is a typical day. Things that are created to inspire, are not meant to  include negativity.   

Next, we'll talk about blogs. Who of us hasn't checked out a homeschooling blog where we see the perfect home? You know the one that is just so totally spotless?  Let me tell you , a camera can only catch so much. What you may or may not see is the children doing chores to keep that house clean enough to look spotless in the shot . What you may not see is the Room of Doom. They may be standing in a clean kitchen or a clean living room. What you may not see is the room that looks like a built in teenage closet.  For example:                             
                                               Exhibit A 

Check this out. Our school room. It's a small room, but its nice and clean and for the most part organized on our first day of school.   Now lets compare and contrast: 

 See what I'm talking about?The picture above shows a happy school room, a clean school room. One which you could actually sit and learn in.   The  picture above that looks as if Hurricane Katrina hit it and no one, trust me , no one is learning in here right now. All school work is being done in the living room right now. 

How many of us can relate to this one? You are working with your other children and you assume that your fifteen year old is doing her school work in her room. 
            If your thinking that's a look like someone just got caught. Your absolutely right. Oops.

Okay, so this wasn't the type of blog post that showed me turned red as a lobster when my eight year old is throwing a fit because she wants to go play Barbies, rather than do her English worksheet with me.  I sadly don't have pictures of me breathing fire for the millionth time (remember I've been homeschooling for twelve years now , I think I lost count) at my sixteen year old to please, for the last time ,get off her Ipod , and to  please get her work done.  

                 Yeah, see that messy room,and that English book on the floor that is NOT opened?

 No, your not going to see a picture of me yelling at my eleven year old for the tenth time  that, yes, book reports require the actual process of writing.  Your definitely not going to see a picture of me just being frustrated with myself ,because even my own day didn't start off on the right foot. 

What you will see is :  us having fun, enjoying our time together and sharing the things that we love to do when we have good days. What you will see is us enjoying our year because we found a curriculum that works very well for us this year, and even sharing an idea or a craft or two that made learning really fun for us that day. 

We love it when dad jumps in to teach history
We have to throw a craft in there every now and then 
  There are so many blogs that I have gotten wonderful ideas from for my own family , and there are blogs where I wish we could do that ,but its just not for us. All I know is that if I were a new homeschooler and I came onto a blog that posted the pictures I did in the beginning of my post, it wouldn't be very encouraging.  I think if I saw pictures like what was above at the top,   it would discourage me in every fiber of my being to ever want to homeschool my children, EVER. I mean, who wants to think that homeschooling is like that everyday?   

  Homeschooling truly is full of more good days than there are bad days. We just tend to dwell on those bad days more often than we should.  Blogs are meant to inspire and not discourage. They are there to say " Hey, I know you had a rough day, but better days are here to come."  They are there to say " Need help? I'm here."  They are meant to help us ,get up, dust ourselves off , and to start all over again. 

 On a side note. If those pictures I posted at the beginning really inspire you  to continue with homeschooling. I can throw a few in every now and then too. 

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Seton's Third Grade Spelling, Hands on Style

Every family has one. You know? That child that isn't auditory, the child that isn't visual. They are the kinesthetic learner.  The hands on learner. The one thing I've found after twelve years of homeschooling and having four daughters is they all learn differently. They don't always learn in the way I wish they could. You know? My way. 

So when we got our Seton spelling book I found my youngest was having a very hard time with the third day activity when they had to put their words in ABC order.  I would write them down. we would talk about where to put what, but she just wasn't getting it. At all. 

So, in came index cards. Now before you say " Yawn, bore." They really do have their place in helping to teach spelling. 

The first thing I did was write all of her spelling words on the index cards. Thankfully these are so inexpensive.  I wrote them all down and then sat them all down , not it order of course.  We were able to sit on the floor ( you can sit where you are comfortable ) and we start going through the alphabet. We would start with A and work our way through. If she had words that started with A she would pull them out of the pile and we would figure which one would go first and she would add  them back into the pile, at the top and we would just shift the other cards over as we put them in order. This very act has really help solidify the concept and she no longer gets frustrated with it anymore. 
Maggie putting her cards in order

After we are finished putting them in order Maggie records them in her workbook. This has solved our issue of having to flip pages back and forth to see words.  No fuss , no muss. 

                                               Maggie writing her words in ABC order 

The next activity that has helped in learning to spell her words is Go Fishing.  Yes, we go fishing for our spelling words and spell them. This game is as easy as putting those index cards you wrote for the ABC Activity ( so keep those cards , don't throw them out! )  on the floor and using a 'fishing rod' which can consist of a wooden spoon, yarn at the end of it, and a magnet. Or  we used a play fishing rod that went to a game Maggie had gotten a long time ago for one of her birthdays.  Oh, yes, be sure to put paper clips on your 'fish' (index cards) so that they can catch them.  The rules of the game?  Catch the 'fish' (index card) with the rod, hand it over to the  parent or person they are playing with , and spell the word correctly. Spell it right, keep your 'fish' , spell it wrong and it goes back into the ' pond' (floor). They have to catch a different fish the next turn around if they miss it.  My daughter will usually play this game at least twice before she's done.  This is called sneaking in practice without them knowing it. 
                                                          Maggie 'catching her fish' 

The third activity that we do  is really fun too( remember keep those index cards you wrote up on the third day) . I had been Googling on the computer to find file folder games. When all else has usually failed I've found that file folder games usually save the day. So when I did. I found a really good website that had several file folder game boards you could print out for spelling from The Measured Mom  .We chose The Great Pumpkin Challenge to go along with our theme of November to use and my girls love using this file folder game to play.  They roll the dice, move their piece and spell the words. Can't get any easier than that. 
You can have your student spell them out loud

                                                  Or write the words on paper
                                                    The Great Pumpkin Challenge Game
                                                      Hey, one is fun, but two's a game! 

My last plan on action has been Colorful Words . This isn't so much as a game but just a hands on activity. It's almost like magic for words.  When we finally do Day 4, which is a pretest in the book , I have my daughter take her pretest and whatever words she missed we write them in colors. That's right. We have fun writing them in crayons. Each letter with a different color. I know when we did this particular lesson she had a very hard time remembering how to spell the word Catholic. By the time we were done doing this , she could easily spell the word with no problem. See?  Like Magic. 

 For younger children I write down the words , each in different colors. This was the first time my daughter did it so she just wrote them all in the same color the first time around. No big deal, it worked just fine.  Older children can do this activity on their own with minimal ( if they've never done it before) to no help at all. 
                                Amazingly enough she still remembers how to spell Catholic, 

So there you go. If you find that " just doing the workbook" isn't cutting it enough for your elementary aged hands on  child. These activities really have been helpful to use in getting them to remember how to spell their words.    Anyone out there with any more ideas? What has helped you with your hands on child with spelling? 

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Our 2014-2015 School Year

We've finally been into our school year now since the end of August. So  I thought I would take some time to share with everyone what we decided to go ahead and use this year in our home school.
   First off, my children are growing up way to fast for my liking. My oldest daughter will be 17 years old in a few months and my youngest is 8 years old. Yikes!!!  Before I know it they will all be off to college!

Okay, back to reality.  This year I decided to try something very different. In the 12 years I've been homeschooling we've tried  a lot of different curricula out there. Some worked well and others not so much.  We even tried cyber schooling and though most of the girls did well with it. Katie really struggled to keep up.  So back to traditional homeschooling and back we stay. Cyber schooling really wasn't the good option it used to be for our family.  I've decided the one tried and trued way that works for us is traditional homeschooling.  

So many have asked. What are you using this year? Well, I wanted something that will bring the love of our faith to our children. I wanted something that was heavy on the Language Arts because as we all know, there is a lot of writing when you go to college and I wanted something that has a proven track record in providing a solid Catholic education that will prepare my children not only for the academic world outside of the home, but for life with God in it. So drum roll , please,.... we chose Seton.  

This year I am teaching 10th, 8th 5th and 3rd grades.  Though we are not enrolled with Seton this year, due to tight finances. The medical travel we've had to do the past several years with our youngest child really left us with with tighter finances now, so don't have enough this year to enroll. 

What I will do here is start with the lowest grade I'm teaching and work my way up. 

What can I say about Seton's 3rd grade? So much actually.  Compared to last year when we were doing cyber school. This level has been a breath of fresh air.  Last year was full of tears from my youngest daughter. Everyday was a struggle to get the work done. With the advent of Common Core, the work was completely not at all age appropriate for the 2nd grade level we were using last year with the cyber.  The curriculum had children writing a 5 page report  at the end of the year for second grade.  T We had many days were my daughter said she was ' stupid' because the work was to hard. 
 Fast forward to today and my daughter gladly takes out her books.  Just the other day Maggie told me, " Mom, I love my books from Seton. Can you get me more? "  What a HUGE turn around from last year. Last year whenever I would get her school books out  she would just cry and cry, and try and run away.  That says volumes to me that's for certain.  Not to mention my other girls are not complaining either. 

Reading-  This is our Valley, The Story Tree and This is Our Town.  
These books are wonderful. Honestly, you can't get any more wholesome with  stories than with the Seton readers. These were stories that were written most likely back in the 50's and 60's . These are stories that actually have a plot that children can actually learn from. Characters in the stories display virtues that people should still have in this day and age.  We love, love , love these stories. The first book, This is Our Valley, follows a story line with families, neighbors and townspeople of  Timber Town. Everyday we love to listen to the next story to find out what is happening in Timber Town .   We both look forward to getting to read the other story books this year.   I will say if your using Seton, and are not enrolled  with this grade level,  the story books do not have questions at the end of the stories like most readers.  So if your the type of person that would like to have a list of questions to ask about the story on hand , you won't have that, but you can get that if you enroll in their program. I will say I'm kind of in that category where we're not enrolled , but in the same breath I really don't find it to difficult to come up with questions about the story as we read along . 

Next onto the Seton 3rd Grade English. This is Seton's updated version of their grade 3 English.  This by far as been the best English program I've used in a very long time.  Last year my daughter had very little English instruction with the cyber school. What we did get was far over her head that she retained nothing from it.  So this year having the Seton English  book , again was a breath of fresh air. My daughter is learning English and in a way that  is age appropriate. Meaning there was real instruction in the book that she could look at , we could read together, see examples,  and she could practice with. 
The content in Seton's English 3 is exactly what I think a 3rd grade English program should have. Not to mention it is challenging at the same time , adding in skills like sentence diagramming, and even important skills like writing a letter.  It also includes how to address an envelope. Believe it or not today this is  becoming a lost skill on how to do that since ,so many people do so much of their interaction by email  and pay bills online. Its almost becoming obsolete.   
Another nice thing I like about this book is you can pretty much go in any order you want with the book. No need to start with Chapter 1. The only chapters I would say that would need to be done together, and after learning some grammar before ,  are the two chapters  that introduce diagramming sentences. Since you really need to know what a noun, verb, adjective etc. are to be able to do that. Other then that the other lessons do not rely on the other. 

 The first two chapters start with learning to write. I love the way Seton teaches writing and its been what I've been looking for all these years.  For years, writing has been such a difficult subject for me to teach. I'm a natural writer, and to think of the steps involved, had really been difficult for me , until now.  Seton's English 3  is very methodical and gives you what you need to do step by step. Starting with : 1st, Pick a topic. 2. Write down or make a chart of the things you know about that topic. Pick three of the things you listed in your list, then write them in the order you want to write it about. Then start with your beginning sentence. If your enrolled Seton has that provided for you to give your third grade student. If your not enrolled like we are , you can make two beginning sentences up yourself and have your student pick out the one they want. If you have a student that is a natural writer, challenge them with coming up with one of their own. Then, they go on to write three sentences with the three things they chose from their list and then end it all with an ending sentence. Then last but not least come up with a title for their paragraph. When I came across this , I thought, " Wow,this is genius!"  All these years I had used curricula that would tell me to: let them copy stuff down, do dictation, let them just write (regardless of mistakes), or it would teach you to chart ideas but never told you how many sentences really made up a paragraph , or that you needed to start with a good beginning sentence. I would get bits and pieces.  Seton truly put it altogether in a way that makes sense to me.   
I will say for Maggie that writing is a very difficult subject for her to do physically because of her hands , but we do a little at a time and break it down so its not so daunting for her. 

Next, is math. We chose to use Saxon math. This works well for Maggie. She needs the constant repetition that Saxon provides for her in math. Its not a subject that comes easy to her. Sadly, the math we used in the curriculum we used last year was so poorly put together I would have been better off going to Walmart and buying a cheap workbook . There had been no drill in the math book we had. It  was so all over the place with the  topics ,with no review that she learned almost nothing from it.  So we are using Saxon 2 right now.  Though she is actually getting close to completing it. We started working on it during the summer and I think she will be done with Saxon 2 at least by December. Then we'll move on to Saxon 3.    Seton does have their own math and it goes from K-4th grade. I'm not sure if Seton will be  going  any higher than that or not? So I figured since we will be switching to Saxon when she hits fifth grade I'm just going to stick with Saxon. Not to mention I may throw in Life of Fred for fun.  

My daughter is also enjoying spelling as well. We like how each day is separated on each page. Labeled with Day 1 , Day 2 , Day 3 and Day 4.  Day one has a short activity , it usually has them divide words into categories of some sort.  Activity two has fill in the sentence with the word, day three has them putting their list in ABC order.  With that activity I've had to get a bit hands on with that to help my daughter see what she is putting in order. 

I've  added in other activities to make learning to spell her words fun.  I'll share more about that in a different post, but it works for us. On Day 4 they have a pretest to get them ready for their Friday test, and this works really well. I keep our cards I make for our games and we review them often.  After each quarter( which is about 8 lessons in the book) there are two pages devoted to practicing all 8 lessons. They can write out their words, you can play games with them , or whatever you need to do to review those words. So its not taught and just forgotten.   
Seton handwriting is a beautiful book. For this grade level they have letters and words typed in with the light grey so that your student can trace the words. Of course there is plenty of room if they don't need that type of reinforcement but I think it really helps children to learn how to form those letters the proper way.  This book uses words that start with each letter of the alphabet and that includes Catholic words too. There are also some exercises in there like: match the manuscript letter to the cursive letter, copy a poem or a prayer, fill in the blank to put the days of the week or months of the year in order. It also has a manuscript practice at the end of the book for practice should they need it. I love this book as its something my daughter can pick up and needs no assistance from me to do. Of course I check in the book to make sure she is forming them right later on in the day. But this is something I can hand her when I'm working with one of her sisters on something. 

Though I have this listed as last , this by far is not at all the least in the Seton program. Actually this is one of the best parts of the Seton program. My daughter absolutely loves this book along with the First Communion Baltimore Catechism book that we have. This book follows the Catechism. Each day we start with Religion. Its the most important subject of the day.  This book is beautifully put together. I honestly can't say enough wonderful things about it. 

Each page is divided into days just like the spelling book. In this book lessons are about a page long for each day. We sit together , and either she or I read the pages and we discuss the questions at the end of the lessons together. We are only on week two and she has learned more than she has had having three years of Religious Education class.  I also bought some of the St. Joseph picture books that go along with some of the topics to reinforce what she is learning and she absolutely loves them. So much so, I plan on getting her some more for Christmas.  If you are Catholic and you use anything out of Seton , I highly recommend their Religion books. 

We also have the History book for 3rd grade. It's small enough that we can go over it about once a week or so. This makes me feel like if we don't get to it , its no biggie because we have plenty of time in the year to finish it. As well we are using Apologia Elementary science. This year we are finishing Astronomy. This was a shorter book and we also worked through some of it through the summer so we are actually close to being done with it. 

Now there are some books I don't have at the moment. Like the Vocabulary book, or the Reading Comprehension book and Art book. We're  getting there in our collection of school books though. But this has really kept us busy that its very easy to get them when we need it and just add it in. 

Grade 5 
Here H is working on her Vocabulary 5 book 

I'll go ahead and spare you pictures of all of the books for 5th grade. There are just so many of them.  

Of course we love the Readers. The nice thing about the 5th grade readers is they actually start to have questions at the end of the story to reinforce what they've read.  There are two readers : These are our People and Book of Gratitude. The first book has those wonderful wholesome stories that I mention just like in the 3rd grade reader. Stories that children this age level can relate to . along with stories about Saints as well. The Book of Gratitude is a book full of poems about Saints and barefoot summer days. Makes an excellent study of poetry for this grade level. This book does not contain a questions and answers. I imagine lessons for this book are in the Seton lesson plans. 

 The English is a little different than the third grade in the fact you do have to go in order. It expands on learning how to write and teaches a lot more diagramming. Its a large book with about 212 lessons. It provides plenty of practice for kids who need it, and parents can skip things that children know and move on. 

  The history is very interesting and even I've learned a thing or two about American History. Though I do need to find a way to make history a bit more interesting for my 5th grader as its not her favorite subject. 

The handwriting book for 5th  has them writing in smaller spaces and they get to write facts and Catholic facts about each state in our glorious United States. I've even learned a few things just by sifting through the pages of the book. 

 The Vocabulary book has been a bit of a challenge. Its not quite set up like the 3rd grade vocabulary from what I can compare online ( since I don't have the 3rd grade vocab yet).
 The book is divided by days so the child does one page per day. The first exercise has them looking up definitions of words in a dictionary, but they don't exactly match up the same as the rest of the exercises. So to remedy that I'm going to pull out the middle page and have them match up the definitions from the crossword page that way they can do the day two lesson.  Its just a little backwards in that way. If I had my own way I would have them match up the word to the definition given by the book as not to confuse them. Not to mention we're still working on the exercise C that seems to be trumping my 5th and 8th grader up a bit. They'll get it, it will take time. Its something new to them so they'll get it. 

The Spelling is set up the same as 3rd in the way its divided up by having one exercise to do a day. Instead of having a pretest like third grade does at the end. It concludes each lesson with a story about a Saint  using the words with the same spelling rule.  

 As always the Religion book is beautiful. Each lesson is about 2 to 3 pages long with a few questions or crossword puzzles to go along with it. Again its something we sit and do together. I'll admit being a convert to the Catholic faith, and having had grown up in Catholic schools , I've learned more about the Catholic faith in these books then I have in quite some time. Even grown ups need to learn the basics and this truly sets a very good foundation for children in their Catholic faith. I've also found that the 5th grade expands even more on what is learned in the 3rd grade. So my 8 year old will try and gladly answer some of the questions she already knows as she is a little bit more ahead in her book than her 11 year old sister is in her book.  Call it a little bit of girl  competitiveness if you will, but it also shows me , when they answer each other's questions that they actually have been listening even when I think they haven't at all.   We also have the Concise Bible History which we read. Its a short book about the stories in the Bible and we use the Baltimore Catechism to go along with it. This makes an excellent religious education program. 

Grade 8 
Grade 8 is pretty similar to grade 5 with the books. Many of them are set up the same way.  

Though the English is broken up into 2 Semesters. With the first focusing on English skills and the 2nd on Writing.  

The  American History book for grade 8 is more than excellent. I've found myself picking it up and just reading it the book is that good. 

Spelling is set up pretty much the same as 5th grade , but the words are far more challenging. I even bought my 10th grader the same spelling book to do her spelling along with her 8th grade sister as the words are very challenging and I KNOW she doesn't know how to spell them. 

 We use Saxon for math, Apologia Biology for 8th and the Vocab is set up the same as 5th but of course with harder words.

 The Religion course for 8th is Witness of the Faith and is the  history of the Catholic church from the beginning of Jesus Christ to modern times. Its a good book but packed full of information that can sometimes be hard to absorb at times. We are working through this very slowly. 

 Reading is the same , set up just like the 5th. With wonderful stories with moral values, and Catholic stories spread throughout ending with questions for each story. 

Grade 10 
If you've managed to make it this far we are also using parts of their 10th  grade. This year my oldest is taking a few classes at our local high school ( Health Tech course, and Algebra 1 and Geometry). We are using Christ the King Lord of History, we are also using the High School Grammar book, which is a nice review of the stuff that was taught in the 8th grade book. And the literature from Seton as well. Right now we are getting ready to read Animal Farm. I haven't decided what to use for Religion as Seton's religion seems to be a bit dull for the High School  levels. I do have the Understanding the Mass book. I may go ahead and get the Seton books but the Didache series seems far more appealing than the Fr. John Laux books they use. 

All in all I am extremely happy with Seton. So much so I plan on using nothing else now. I will admit I wish we could have enrolled with the school. I believe it would make my life much easier as far as that is concerned having four children.Its very difficult to keep on top of everything without lesson plans.  Especially with Writing, Reading and Religion. I wish I had the lesson plans and guidance for some of that. Hopefully ,with more praying, God will provide in that area.  I believe I have finally found my happy place with Seton after all these years. I will admit that I wish I would have known about Seton sooner because I like the fact that the curriculum focuses first on Christ. They also focus a lot on the importance of language arts as well and that will take them far into future as far as college goes. Honestly though, you can't get any better with a curriculum that was created to prepare children not just for the things of this world ,but for life in the next world with God.   

So if you use Seton, what do you all like about the curriculum?  Post in the comments below.