Archive for June 2011

Life Skills for Kids

June 26, 2011

I recently read Life Skills for Kids by Christine Field.  I was looking for inspiration to get the kids to help me more around the house, like maybe a detailed list of age appropriate chores.  While she does offer a two-page rough list of chores by age groups, the inspiration came in a different form than I expected.

In this book Mrs. Field, a homeschooling mom, talks about how much planning we put into our kids education and fun activities yet we just expect them to pick up life skills by osmosis.  I had already planned on using Life Prep for  Homeschooled Teenagers by Barbara Frank to go over financial information (credit, budgeting, mortgages, etc)  with my kids in high school, but I had  not really made a specific game plan to teach each of my kids other life skills like cooking, laundry, cleaning, and home maintenance.

The book breaks down the skill areas into things like Cleaning, Shopping, Life Navigation, Health Habits, and even one for spiritual habits (very Protestant leaning).  Field recommends that you go through each section and put together a specific check list of each skill in each area that a child needs to know in order to someday be a competent adult.  Then she suggests making a binder/book/folder for each child you have with a copy of the check list.  And then as each child becomes competent in each task you can check it off the list.  You can also add pictures, directions, recipes, and scrap booking things to each child’s book.

I am personally not really big on scrapbooking (our family photo albums are almost non-existent), so I scrapped that part of it.  But I did put together a three-page, double-column list of skills that I think are important.  Some I know will be addressed through schoolwork (counting money) or come up naturally in the course of life (brushing teeth).  Others, though, will involve taking the time to teach them (fuses/circuit breakers).  I printed out four copies of my list, labeled one set for each of the girls, hole-punched them, and put them in the back of my home procedure binder (where I keep my cleaning lists, dinner schedules, most-used recipes).

The next thing I did was look through the Zone cleaning lists I had compiled when I started trying to do FlyLady months ago.  I made an asterisk next to every chore on each list that I thought Bailey (8) could already do or was ready to learn.  Then I put a little triangle next to the ones that I thought Piper (5) could already do or was ready to learn.  Eventually Katie (3) and Sabrina (1) will get their own symbols, too.

Now instead of giving each child a list of daily or weekly chores, I decided to just incorporate them into some of my chore time.  I set aside fifteen minutes between breakfast and the start of schoolwork for zone cleaning.  I look at the FlyLady zone of the week, then I turn to my list of chores for that zone, and I assign each of the girls an age-appropriate chore from the list.  For instance, one week’s zone was the kitchen so I had Bailey clean out the microwave and Piper wipe down the cannisters while I scrubbed the stove top.  Since the zones rotate each week, the girls should do a variety of chores through the course of a month.

In addition to the daily zone cleaning they are also required to clean up after themselves more and help with “Room Rescues” throughout the day to keep the kitchen and living room from looking like disaster areas.  I’m trying to have the patience to incorporate them into more cooking, especially when it comes to lunch items.  And if they show an interesting in doing a chore I’ve been trying to step back and let them do it even if it’s not done perfectly.  Bailey was really interested in helping me vacuum last week, so I also showed her how to clean out the dirt cup, wind the electrical cord, and dismantle the under compartment to clean the rotating brush which are all skills listed on her Life Skills checklist.

I figure that every so often I will go through each girls checklist and mark the things that I feel they are capable of doing with no further instruction as well as look for any gaps that need special attention.  I will also need to periodically reassess which zone chores they are capable of trying.  Right now I let Katie (3) help as much as she is willing, but I plan to incorporate her in zone cleaning when she turns five.  Mrs. Field indicates that each child should be capable of most (if not all) of these things by the age of 14.

Now that we have a game plan, I am hopeful that when our kids leave the nest they will have more life skills then I did when I left home.


Rethinking Latin

June 22, 2011

I’ve always kind of been intrigued by Latin.  I think it goes back to when I discovered “Adeste Fideles” in an old music book for an organ my parents had when I was child.  I made my dad tell me how to pronounce the Latin words.  If Latin had been offered at my Catholic high school, I probably would have taken that instead of Spanish.

However, when it comes to homeschooling, I have been turned off by the idea of forcing my kids to learn Latin.  Latin kind of has a stigma in the homeschooling community as being reserved for those who are trying to make their kids geniuses or as a benchmark of “truly orthodox” Catholic homeschoolers.  (“My kids don’t even know the ‘Our Father’ in English, only Latin.  Aren’t we so pious?”)  Now academically I could see the benefits of knowing some Latin and some Greek, since most sciences use quite a bit of both languages and a lot of English is rooted in those languages.  That’s why I plan on using the Vocabulary from Classical Roots series.  (Bailey will start the first book in the Spring 2012.)

Somehow, I can’t really trace how it happened, I found myself looking into Prima Latina, an introductory Latin curriculum.  And the more I looked into it, the more I thought that this would be a good way to introduce Bailey to English grammar via another language.  I remember spending years in school going over verbs, nouns, adjectives, and such wondering why I had to know what the name of each part of speech as long as I knew how to use them correctly.  It really didn’t seem useful until I started studying Spanish and I had to learn how to translate tenses.

So now I am thinking that I will work with Bailey on Prima Latina in fourth grade.  This would serve several purposes.

  1. The curriculum introduces English grammar concepts in a hands-on, immediately purposeful way.
  2. The five Latin vocabulary words in each lesson are good roots for understanding English derivatives.
  3. Each lesson includes a prayer in Latin and offers the opportunity to study Latin used in the Mass, doubling as religious instruction.
  4. The vowel pronunciation of Church Latin seems to be the same as Spanish, offering an introduction for learning Spanish later.
  5. It overall acts as a foreign language preparation program.

I think that after one year of Prima Latina Bailey will be better prepared to begin diagramming in fifth grade as well as starting Spanish.  Right now I really don’t anticipate continuing Latin after the one year, unless Bailey expresses an interest.  But I do think it’s important that the girls understand the importance of Latin, as the official language of the Church.  In the meantime, I bought the Lingua Angelica CD and songbook of Latin prayers and hymns to supplement the basic living of the Catholic liturgical year and for later use with our Latin and religious instruction.

7 Things I Love About Sabrina

June 13, 2011

1.  Her curly, crazy hair.

2.  Her big, toothy grin.

3.  The way she tries to show affection by nuzzling with her head, giving big open-mouth kisses, and wrapping her chubby arms around my neck.

4.  She is so sweet that all three of her big sisters declare Sabrina is their favorite sister.

5.  Her infectious giggle.

6.  The way she follows her sisters around and tries to play with them.

7.  Her new found love of drinking milk from a sippy cup.

Happy 1st Birthday, Sabrina!!!

7 Quick Takes (v. 50)

June 10, 2011

1.  During our two-week homeschooling break, I have been really busy.  Bailey finished up her gymnastics session with the big exhibition and has had like four softball games.  I’ve also been reorganizing a lot of things:  our daily schedules, my meal plans, the house rules, chores, and homeschooling.  I’ve had a lot of stuff percolating in my mind.

2.  This weather has been crazy.  Within the span of about a week it went from a high of 65 degrees to a high of 95 degrees.  On Wednesday it was 100 degrees according to a bank we passed, and then after a late night storm the temperature dropped to 63 degrees yesterday.  It’s a wonder we’re not all sick.

3.  I’ve finally accepted that we will not be eating super healthy food (organic, from scratch, with no dyes or preservatives).  And I’ve also accepted that it is not a waste of money to spend $1.50 on a can of pre-made pizza crust if it ensures that I will actually eat homemade pizza (for under $5 total) instead of spending $20 on fast food because the night I planned to have pizza sh*t happened (like the electricity going out for six hours yesterday) and I didn’t have the time or energy to mix up and pre-cook pizza crust from scratch.

4.  Bailey used all of a gift card from Christmas to buy Just Dance for Wii at Toys R Us.  It is so much fun.  My husband and I have been having dance-offs with her, and her little sisters have been dancing along non-competitively.  We have been getting tons of exercise, but our arms and shoulders have been so sore.  We think Bailey tends to have an unfair advantage with the scoring, though, because her Wii-mote has an extra sensitive sensor attachment that my husband bought for his Wii golf game.  I think I would win more dance-offs if I used that one.  We might just have to add Just Dance 2 and Just Dance Kids to the Christmas lists.

5.  I decided to take a look at Slow and Steady Get Me Ready again.  I didn’t really care for it the first few times I read it, but I heard it recommended again somewhere (homeschooling book ? blog?).  It’s so funny how my reaction to a book can be so different  depending on what season of life I’m in.  At this point I’m just looking for small age-appropriate activities to do with my baby and preschooler to make sure they don’t get lost in the shuffle of housework and homeschooling the two older girls.  I care less about some sort of educational advantage rather than having something quality to do with them besides watch television.

6.  I think I’m ready to accept this book more now because my educational paradigm has shifted.  I’ve learned that sometimes kids need to repeat subject matter they already know in order to build the confidence to approach the things they don’t.  So, even if Katie already knows her colors it won’t hurt to spend a week doing a color-learning activity again.  And I’ve learned that even a “failure” can be a positive learning experience…in how to accept failure gracefully if nothing else.

7.  This is my new favorite summer dessert recipe:  Chocolate Pudding Pie.  It’s the perfect recipe for children or the cooking-challenged like me to make.

Homeschooling 2011

June 8, 2011

Spring 2011 Wrap-Up

We finished up our spring 2011 semester on May 27th.  Bailey completed Wordly Wise Book 2, Mindbenders A2, and Brain Quest workbook grade 2, as well as an introductory year of Medieval history.  Sadly our lessons on the recorder flute kind of fell by the wayside; it was just too hard to do with the younger children around at this time.  During her pre-K session, Piper completed Explode the Code prep books B and C as well Singapore Essential Math Kindergarten B.  She also completed  all of packet 1 of my home-made reading worksheets and about ten pages of packet 2 so far.

Summer 2011

We took a two week break at the end of our semester.  Our lighter summer session will start this Monday.  Bailey will work through some grade 2 extra practice workbooks by Singapore Math.   Bailey and I will also be going over some geography.  We touch on geography a little bit through our history lessons, but I wanted to focus a little bit more on the language of geography as well as more general and modern information.  This summer the plan is to study the continents of Asia and Europe.  I’ve decided to switch tactics with Piper, at least for the summer, and try a light version of Before Five in a Row with Piper and Katie.

Bailey is finishing up her softball season and is signed up for guitar lessons.  Piper is signed up to take gymnastics.  I’m also hoping that we can take advantage of a lot of cheap and fun summer activities around town.

Bailey Fall 2011-Spring 2012:  Third Grade

In third grade Bailey will move up to 1 hour and 30 minutes of formal work per day on average.  Five days a week she will have math (Singapore 3A & 3B) and spelling (Sequential Spelling 2).  She will also continue to have 15 minutes of assigned reading everyday.  She’ll continue to study vocabulary 3 days per week (Wordly Wise 3000 Book 3 in the fall and Vocabulary from Classical Roots 4 in the spring).  However, I’m going to have her start putting together a dictionary of all her vocabulary words.  Logic will still be once a week, but she’ll do two puzzles each time instead of one.  As a result she should complete levels A3, A4, B1, and B2 before next summer, and the company has switched their format from workbook to computer disk which should make things interesting (as well as easier to reuse with the other kids).

Our history studies will still be twice a week, but this year we’ll be focusing on Early Modern History (1600-1850).  We’ll be using the Usborne Encyclopedia of World History (which I finally broke down and purchased) as our spine, but Bailey will be reading corresponding essays from The Story of the World volume 3 during some of her independent reading time.  I also plan on supplementing our lessons from The Story of the World volume 3 Activity Book.  We will probably finish our history study mid-Spring, so I am adding some small research projects on the first 12 presidents and statehood through 1850.

In third grade Bailey will be doing more formal study of her faith again.  We’ll be using the St. Joseph Baltimore Catechism No. 1 three days a week.   We’ll be doing a combination of read aloud, copy work, and discussion.  Bailey will also pick one saint to read about from my old copy of Picture Book of Saints.  We will actually be integrating her “saint of the week” into a new activity this year:  a daily journal.

I’ll be giving Bailey four journal topics each week (including her saint) about which she will be expected to write a minimum of five complete sentences.  On Fridays she can write about a topic of her choice.  I originally didn’t intend to have her start doing this until middle school, but I felt this was a better way to trouble-shoot her writing/grammar abilities without starting a formal grammar program just yet.  Also, combined with her independent reading time, it should keep her occupied while I spend time with Piper and Katie.

  1. Monday: Independent Reading, Journal Writing, Math, Spelling, Vocabulary, Catechism
  2. Tuesday: Independent Reading, Journal Writing, Math, Spelling, History, Catechism
  3. Wednesday: Independent Reading, Journal Writing, Math, Spelling, Vocabulary, Catechism
  4. Thursday: Independent Reading, Saint Reading, Journal Writing, Math, Spelling, History
  5. Friday:  Independent Reading, Journal Writing, Math, Spelling, Vocabulary, Logic

Piper Fall 2011-Spring 2012:  Kindergarten

If Piper were in public school, she would be starting kindergarten in the fall.  When Bailey was in kindergarten we did 30 minutes of formal work two days per week.  I think, though, Piper and I both need the consistency of daily school time.  What makes things interesting is that due to a combination of factors (the biggest one being a difference in temperament), Piper is actually quite a bit ahead of where Bailey was at this age.  So, I can’t just repeat what I did with Bailey for kindergarten.

Piper also has a less compliant attitude and is already complaining about how much she hates her schoolwork.  So, I thought this summer would be the perfect time to try a different approach with the Five in a Row.  If that works out, we may continue into the fall with the occasional use of reading worksheets and math workbooks pages.  Probably after Christmas I’ll have her start working on Singapore Math 1A.

Katie:  Preschool

Katie is three-years-old and technically a preschooler.  For right now, though, I am not planning any real formal work for her at all.  Most of her learning will continue to be interest and opportunity-led.  But I’ve been a little concerned that in the busy-ness of my day she hasn’t been getting enough of my attention, so we’re going to try some Before Five in a Row just to give us something nice to do together.  If she starts asking to do more formal schoolwork, I will pick her up a few workbooks to work through at her leisure.  Of course, the most important thing I hope that she learns before the end of the summer is how to use the potty!


I have no doubt that Sabrina will learn all kinds of things in the next year and I will be able to take very little credit for it.  It will be interesting to hear what she has to say about it all.