Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Looking at LessonTrek & Summer Starting.

So, I'm checking out a new scheduling tool.  I really like the Simply Charlotte Mason Organizer - but I'd really like to be able to print out a week at a time for my kids - and I really am a visual person.  So I'm playing around with a program that plays to those features to see what I want to use next year.  The reports are not as good, and I think it may be harder to properly schedule for the whole year and adjust.  It is easy to move things around - but any changes would only affect that week...  So it may end up being harder to change things long-term.

But - I'm getting ahead of myself I think.

Lesson Trek lets you setup different courses, decide if they are graded or not, and setup different assignment types for each course.  I'm finding that it works well for setting up a course that uses different books.  For instance, I setup a Literature course with Assignment types of 'Age of Fable', 'Pyle's King Arthur', 'Christmas Carol', and 'Shakespeare'.   You can colour code each child, and each course.

So far I've played with coming up with a weekly layout of the AO 5 readings (with my Canadian and other modifications).  I did this by putting in the first week (and included readings that aren't used for that week).   It looks like there will be 3 readings per day.   

I am considering setting these all up ahead of time.  (Note that I made an 'AO Week Number'  course to label them, and put them on the Sunday (I moved it to Saturday to make the picture smaller...)) I've also made a 'Holiday's and Birthdays' course to easily note those ahead of time in the calendar. 

I figure that I may setup the 36 weeks at the very end of the school year, then copy the week to the current week when we get there.   Actually, I'll probably just do 1 term at a time....  fewer adjustments. 

Sample week of AO readings

I have also played with figuring out what each day might look like.  This definitely isn't set into stone at this point, but is giving me the general idea.  This picture is from the report screen instead of the planning screen.  For this I've just put in a generic 'AO Reading' course while I work things out.  I think I'll keep a week near the end of the year setup like this to use as a basic template to copy.  

Daily plan
I haven't decided how to deal with things that I hope to schedule out ahead of time, but that are not AO readings.  Things like General Science, or even Math.   It would be nice to get it scheduled out so that I can see where we are going to be at various times.  On the other hand - the more that gets scheduled out, the more I have to adjust when life happens.  Because LessonTrek will not push back assignments.  It is easy to move stuff around by hand - but not automatically.  (And it is tricky to move things from one week to the next - you need to copy the week, then indicate what you want to keep.  I will probably use the Saturday/Sunday days to help with that as we don't generally use those days.  I knew I said to show them for a reason!


I've played a little longer, and have decided how to store the AO weeks ahead of time.  I will keep my sample week at the end of the year.   And I am creating my specific weeks per the AO schedule - putting all the readings for a week on a single day (with a little marker subject between the days).   That lets me hold a good 6 weeks on a single week page.  When it is time to setup a half term, I can temporarily move the day with the week I want to copy to the Sunday, and then copy the week to the current week - and only keep those assignments.  Then I can move them to the proper days.  That allows me to have all the plans ready to store - but if we get off track, I don't have to shift up to 36 weeks worth of schedules!   I sure like the visual nature of things.  I wish it had more features, but it sure has potential.

6 week of AO readings  (well, just a small part shown)


On another note - the kids are finally almost done with school for the year!  (The public school kids have school today too... so we aren't way out there.)  Echo and Foxtrot have a few readings left to do - maybe 4 each.  Summer is going to be busy with swim lessons and camps!

Friday, May 8, 2015

Curriculum Sale Finds!

There was a curriculum sale going on very recently nearby, and I was able to go with a little money in my pocket.  This is what I came home with - I think I did pretty good!

Delta spent a couple of days after the sale reading up on the babysitting course.  He has a few months before he is considered old enough to babysit (and I think I'd like him to take a live course...) but he was sure busy thinking about the information in the book.

I've been wanting to use the Getty-Dubay handwriting books as it is pretty much the same italic style that I've been using, but with a bit more guidance and instruction.  I was able to pick up levels A-E, which will pretty much work for everyone.

The German course is the older Power-Glide course - it came with everything including Cassette Tapes!   I tried the one for younger children years ago when Delta was in grade 1 - I had concerns with it and gave it away - but I've though since that I should have kept hold of it because I think Delta was just a bit too young when we tried it.   I need to look at this high-school-ish level more to see exactly how it works, but I think it will be worth it.  "German on the move" was thrown in as an extra by the seller.  It will be more of a learning phrases for travel type of resources, so I'm unsure as to its value.

Exploring Creation with General Science.  Yes - it is the 1st edition, and it was only the book.  I found the test and solutions manual, and the Multimedia CD, for 50 cents each, plus about $7.50 shipping for both of them (and a few other things I bough.)   I could really use the MP3/Audio CD - I've been able to find that they did exist for edition 1 - but I haven't found any for sale.  Anyone have one they no longer need?     Anyway, I was delighted to get this as I plan to have Delta use it next year.  It used to be on Ambleside Online's Year 7 list - but they are slowly moving to using living books for science.   I'm not ready to make a leap to do that for years 7+ though.

The Mystery of the Periodic Table is actually one of the new books on AO's Year 7 list though and so I did pick it up.  I've read it and it will be good for Delta who IS very interested in Chemistry.  I'll probably hold off to use that with the Chemistry course - although I probably wouldn't be upset if he chooses to read it early.

And then - Exploring Creation with Chemistry.  This is Edition 2, and I had to grab it as it was a very good price and came with everything.  There is now an Edition 3 - but it was a total re-write with a different author, and has a LOT of problems from what I understand.  I have read that there are errors, incorrect diagrams, things taught out of order (ie, there are things expected that you know in the early part of the book that aren't taught until later in the book) - all in edition 3.   So, I understand that people are quickly buying up edition 2 when they see it.  So I snapped it up while I could.  It will be a couple of years before we use it.   I will need to try to buy the MP3/Audio CD - hopefully I can get a time when it is a good price somewhere, but before they all disappear!

There was also a similar set, with a similar price, of Exploring Creation with Physics that I was really tempted to get.... but that would have put me over the amount I was prepared to spend - and it was even further in the future.


I have been working through my plans for next year - mainly concerning myself with what I'll use for Delta as the youngers generally use what I've used before, with minor tweaks here and there.  It is looking like we will be doing AO Year 5 for Delta for most subjects, but removing most or all of the science to make room for Exploring Creation with General Science.   I have a couple of possibilities in my head for writing, spelling, and grammer - none of which come easy to Delta.  I'm not sure we will continue with our attempts at Latin and German with him (generally topics that fall by the wayside....).   I gave him a list of options to chose from for the year (I gave him a nice write-up like might be given by a school - probably with more details....) - he isn't interested in languages or music or art options at all.... he was interested in logic (which I'd use 'The Falacy Detective', and Drawing/Drafting (which at this stage would likely be using the RightStart Hands-on Geometry lessons...).  He was also interested in the 'make your own project' option - with learning about the science of war machines.... not sure how I'd help him with that one!


Here are some pictures from the last few months!

Echo starting work on her Cub Car.

Foxtrot with her Beaver Buggie
Echo learning about Lines of Symmetry.  (The elastics make a butterfly picture)

Echo laying out 100 tiles like the abacus.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Still alive! - and Reading Progress!

Ok, it has been a long time since I posted.  Honestly, it is because we are struggling a bit this year, and my time is also limited. This year I have 3.5 students, with only a small amount of independence, and it is keeping me swamped.  We are 'behind' where I would like us to be, and I don't have enough hours in the day for what we are doing.

I thought I would update with a program I am trying for reading progress in my students.  This is so totally NON-CM - but our first week with it has gone well.

In December I was sharing with a friend of mine my frustration with the work on reading with the kids. Her husband happened to be nearby, and mentioned an old program that they had downstairs - hooked on phonics.

So, I took it home and looked through it, and did a bit of research. It is based on 'SRA' Reading Labs - but scaled down for home use. Basically it has short readings at a basic level, followed by some comprehension questions, and then a few questions in a section on 'learn about words'. It is designed to be done independently, and checked independently.

With this home version, it has 100 of these little cards that start at a 'basic' reading level, and progress to 'high school'. It looked intriguing (and a little familiar) - but I wasn't quite sure how to implement it... it says to do one daily - but obviously even a normal child can't go from basic to high school reading in 100 days - so I wasn't sure what to do when the child hits their limits..... Delta was also fascinated by the look of the program and wanted to do it.... 

So - I started researching the program it is based on. It apparently has been around since the 60's and has been used in a lot of schools and still is in some. I am quite sure that I used them as a child in grade 1. The big thing is it lets a teacher have students of varying levels work on reading skills at the same time.... and it helps struggling readers.

There are lab kits of various levels (kits 1a, 1b, 1c are generally used for kids in grades 1-3 (well, more like 2-3) kits 2a-2c are generally used for kids in grades 4-6) there are level 3 and 4 kits as well for higher grades.. In each kit there are 10-12 colour levels which have readings of all the same 'level' - and there are 12-15 readings per colour level. The levels go from below the target grade level to above. Students would take a basic placement test, and then pick readings from their colour level and do the questions, and evaluate themselves. After doing a few in their level, the teacher and the student would look at how they are doing and decide when to switch colours.

Well.... I checked our teacher library (which we get to use) - and they had 2 of the kits! I got them on Monday (I took both, one is a kit 1b and the other is level 2b.) These ones are pretty old, 1969 and 1973 - but fairly complete considering. There wasn't a sample student book for the level 1b - I've had to make my own from guesses and descriptions and looking at the 2b book. I also have made a student book for 2b looking at the sample one in the kit. I've looked at a few of the readings and they are pretty interesting. Oh, the one other problem is there is no placement test in the 2b book.

So - it is time to return the kits to the teacher's library and here is my results.

We ended up just using the 1b level because it had less writing.  The stories were still interesting for all the kids, and I think there was things to learn for everyone even using this level.  Foxtrot and Echo do enjoy the 'Power Builders', and did learn things from them.

But Delta is definitely a success story in my book.  He has worked to the top colour level in 1b (about a 4.5 grade reading level) -  and is ready to move to a mid-level in 2b.  He hadn't really hit a ceiling where he needed to stay for a while, so could potentially be reading even a higher level.  But even more important - his reading in general has improved.  He has read a couple of books that I think before he would have not been able to understand what was happening.  And I got a comment from his Sunday School teacher about how his reading in class has improved and that he seems more confident.

Besides the SRA Labs, I intended to do Sequential Spelling as well as Alpha Phonics.  Actually that was my plan last September.

I was going to do Sequential Spelling with all the kids at once because it is designed for a classroom or just a few kids, or just one.  I didn't have the DVD - just the book.   We did a few lessons - but the different speed of writing was annoying them and it was getting frustrated. So it fell by the wayside.

The Alpha Phonics was going to be my reading remediation with Delta.  We have done a number of the lessons - and although he was doing great (we are in the early lessons that are easy) occasionally he would first say the wrong word or syllable.  I do have to say - it is a pretty boring process.  I've tried to be consistent - but as I mentioned - I've been struggling to juggle with 3 students that need me for a lot of things.  

 Today I got in the mail a gift from an internet friend - it is (Classic) Phonics Tutor.  It is a CD-ROM program based on Alpha-Phonics (but NOT the CD-ROM/DVD that now comes with phonics which seems to be just the book and a few videos.)  No - Phonics Tutor (Classic - no idea about the new version) actually does the Alpha-Phonics book in an interactive way.    It presents the phonograms and words (reading them to the student) then lets the student study them by clicking on them to hear about them.  It also presents spelling rules, as well as basic Capitalization and punctuation.  It then has exercises where words are typed in, as well as word read.  There is also dictation to be typed in.   And the great thing - although there is a teacher's manual with some notes on things to teach/do (and information about every lesson on the computer including the screens) the program is designed to be quite independent!   So we will be giving this a try to see if it helps.   This might be a nice change to focus on while we have a break from the SRA Labs.

Just in general otherwise - I have decided that for the rest of the year, that Ambleside Online is being put on the shelf for re-evaluation for next year.  I need something that I can (yes, I'm saying it) combine my kids for a little while, and just focus on a combination of some basics and some fun items for a bit.  I think I have a basic plan in my head for this half of the year that will not feel like a never-ending to-do-list while still keeping our options open for next year.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Summer over, School started.

Here is a post I started - but then blogger crashed, and I gave up for that day....

I hope to find time to blog a bit more - but I'm finding it harder with more kids in school to find time!

Here are a bunch of pics from our summer.  School is going ok so far this year - a bit of fun trying to juggle more kids!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

RightStart Card Game Storage

Ok, I haven't gone away.  I've even tried to post a couple of times, and something would always happen.   Anyway, life with 3 students and a preschooler have kept me busy busy busy!

I mentioned on the RightStart Yahoo group that I had finally found the perfect storage for our Math Card Games box.... and everyone wanted pictures.... So here we go.

I was in Ikea, looking in their storage box area, and there it was... a box with nice slots for cards, deep enough for the Number Card Deck, with slots big enough for envelopes for the multiplication deck sets...  and I figured it would be perfect.   I have also bought a couple of little boxes designed for holding paper clips / safety pins at the dollar store.  They are working well for the Corners cards, the Clock Cards, and the Clock Cards that come from Level A/B Appendixes.   Finally I have the Tally Stick / Finger / Abacus / Bead Cards right now in a ziplock bag - they are a bit longer than normal cards, and I haven't found a solution for them yet.   Folded in the bottom I have a hundred chart and the Swim to 10 board.  There is also room for a couple of pencils, a notepad, and a few legos for Swim to Ten.

The Ikea box is a "Glis" box which is about $5 in Canada.

The total cost of this storage solution was about $8, except of course I got the safety pins and paper clips as well.

The only thing that would make it better is if I could put the card games book in there too.

You may want to read about our Manipulatives Storage too.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Curriculum Plan for 2014-2015

So Tristan on Our Busy Homeschool has made a linky for us to share our plans for the next school year, and I thought I'd go for it.  Some of the plans aren't totally figured out yet - but this may also help with that!

First off, we use AmblesideOnline (AO) for our base curriculum.  We do some Canadianizing by removing some of the US history and adding Canadian History and some Lit.  You can see those general changes elsewhere on the blog, so I won't go through them again.

AO includes a lot of our topics like History, Science, Geography, etc - and then has items where you choose your own curriculum - like Math or Latin.

Delta (grade 6) - AO Year 4.  I don't think we will do all the new things added in Year 4 for the entire year - I expect to add them 1 or 2 items per term. 

Echo (grade 4) - AO Year 3.

Foxtrot (grade 1) - AO Year 1

Golf (grade K4) - AO Year 0


I am looking at the Getty-Dubay handwriting series.  It is pretty similar to the italic we are already doing, and I've heard really good things about it improving handwriting.  I'm just tired of making my own.  I will probably add some copywork from readings or other sources as well to get the benefits that good copywork selections provide. 

Delta - Level F?

Echo -  Level C or D?

Foxtrot -  Level B?

Golf  -  none


Delta - possibly Rewards Secondary? 

Echo -  McGuffey's 2nd Reader

Foxtrot -  McGuffey's 2nd Reader

Golf  -  Teach your child to read in 100 Easy Lessons


We use RightStart

Delta - Finish Level D, Start E.  I am looking at 'Hands on Equations' to add some higher math concepts.

Echo -  Finish Level D, Start E

Foxtrot -  Level C

Golf  -  Level A (done as interested)

 A non-CM part of our day.  I'm debating between continuing All About Spelling or switching to Sequential Spelling.     We made some really good progress in spelling with All About Spelling - especially with Delta where nothing else seemed to be working.... but it is getting a lot harder as we go along to remember everything.  It also takes me 15 to 20 minutes a day each with Delta and Echo.  With Sequential Spelling, it would be maybe 10 to 15 minutes, and I could do Delta, Echo, and possibly Foxtrot together.  And if I was fortunate enough to get the DVD's it would be a something they could do independently.  (And it is a LOT less expensive!)

Foreign Language

Delta and Echo want to continue with German, even though we aren't getting anywhere.  I need a good program that we can use consistently.  Suggestions?

Echo and Foxtrot want to continue with ASL.  Not sure about Delta.  We need to find something a bit more than Signing Time, but a bit less than ASLU.  Suggestions?

Foxtrot has not been at all interested in German.  French would be more helpful here, and there are a lot more resources...  am I crazy enough to try yet another language?

Latin: AO starts Latin in Year 4, so that would include Delta.  I have heard a lot of benefits, and think we will give it a go.  I'm thinking 'Getting Started with Latin'

Musical Instruments

This is an area that really hasn't been going well.  And it is added into AO Year 4.  We have done violin but it just is NOT going well.  We own lots of instruments, but the kids just don't like to practice (common problem) and I just don't seem to have the energy to get them doing it.  But I do feel it is really important.  So do I try more on Violin?  Organ/Keyboard?  Recorder?  something else (we have a flute, guitars, harmonicas, etc.)


We have been using Drawing Textbook... but it is a little.... boring.  We own a couple of Draw Write Now books as well. I do own "Drawing with Children", but find it so intimidating.... 


Only Delta is at the age to start Grammar.  I'm going to try out KISSgrammar which is free online and that I've heard a lot about.


We will be doing AO's science in the years - but I am considering doing a family science - 

either one of the Exploring Creation Series by Fulbright... 
 or one of the Science in the series by Wile.


Everything else will be following AO rotations and years.

Monday, June 16, 2014

End of Year!

Well, another school year has come and gone.  I remember in September worrying about how in the world I was going to do it with 3 kids needing school, plus a toddler.  In the Fall, we were behind my planned schedule, and I was worried.  I made a few changes, and we have actually finished the year a it ahead of schedule!  (Ok, I have about 2 math lessons per child left....)

Mind you - I am panicking about the upcoming year.  3 children in 3 different AO years, and Golf moving up to the age that I generally start offering some instruction in the basics.  Not to mention that Delta is getting into a heavier year.  I'm sure that at the end of next year I'll be chuckling at my worries.

In the meantime, we have been enjoying ourselves during good weather with things like trips to the zoo.  Enjoy the pics!

Coming Soon: - our rough plans for next year!