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Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The Story

Summer is such a great time to try new things, right? Without the pressures and time constraints of our school year, it's my time to work on some projects around the house, read a little more, and maybe try to change some of our habits. I have a smidge more brain space available in the summer.

This summer, Berean bookstore is sponsoring a summer reading program. You can read eight books at your level for a prize, but you can also read the Bible for 15 minutes every day for another prize. I've been wanting to work more Bible time into the kids' lives, so a little extra motivation got us started.

The kids know the stories from Sunday School, children's church, and Awana. They hear the stories from us often. But I don't want them to have a disjointed knowledge of Scripture. I want them to begin to see how it all fits together. A few years ago, I did a Kay Arthur study on Covenant, and it was AMAZING. (I'll save that for another post.) We're maybe not ready for that kind of depth, (the Jesus Storybook Bible is awesome for this, but we've done that a few times and I wanted actual Scripture this time) but we need something more than what we've been doing.

So, I picked up an NLT because I felt the translation was easier for them to understand. We started with Esther, my favorite story. I love stories where seemingly unrelated events come full circle (hence my love for A Tale of Two Cities), and Esther is the perfect example. It makes me giddy, quite frankly, to see how God worked in that story.

After Esther we kind of floated around. Colossians, 1 Peter, Matthew, etc. But I realized while we were all enjoying it, it was still disjointed.

While looking for Father's Day gifts, we came across The Story. It takes the NIV translation and weaves together different stories into 32 chapters that feel like a novel. Dad has taken over this reading time; they often do it during breakfast. 

I love seeing how excited the kids are to dig in every day. I want them to grow up with this as a regular part of their day and not to see it as some daunting undertaking or a burdensome task.

We finished our official reading plan this weekend, but the 40 days of reading has created a new habit in us. 
His loot from Berean.

She chose a set of best friend watches.

At this point in The Story, the kids are reading about Joshua battling his way into the Promised Land. Just as God is showing me many truths in Joshua.

Praise God!

Monday, July 29, 2013

Literature Pockets

When I was writing about our kindergarten plans, I mentioned that we will be using literature pockets. I had some feedback about those, so I thought I would share a little more about them.

We used two different types last year.

Little Bear used history pockets, Ancient Civilizations. We had been using Story of the World, volume 1, but as much as Curly loved it, Little Bear was not interested. I still wanted him to learn some of the material, so when my friend, Mrs. Nerdy, showed me her history pockets book, I was excited.

Each week we read the included history segment. We learned the new words, defined them, and illustrated them. We read relevant books from the library. Our library is really great at getting books from throughout the county, so as long as we planned ahead, we had a huge pile to refer to. Some of the books were over his level, so we would just use the pictures to give him a better glimpse into the time period. Some of the books were fiction, and he loved reading tales from the times. Some of the books were great for his reading level, and he really enjoying digging deeper. Little Bear has always liked history, so that was a lot of fun for him.

After we spent two days learning about the time period, we worked on some of the crafts. In Ancient Egypt we had a crocodile who gave us a tour of the wildlife along the Nile River. In Ancient Greece we created comedy and tragedy masks. In Ancient Rome, we designed triumphal arches and laurel wreaths. Ancient China was not nearly as interesting to him, but we still managed to make lanterns with Mandarin numbers and a dragon.

The last day of the study, Little Bear had to write a postcard about his travels. The space was really tiny for a first grader, so I usually wrote what he dictated. He wrote to his grandparents, Gibby and Grandad, each time. He loved telling them about what he learned and "saw," and it was a great summary for him.

 Tiny Dancer was not about to be left out, so we also borrowed Mrs. Nerdy's fairy tale pockets.

She loved them! It was enough to make her feel like she was "doing school" with her brothers, but was not tons of work for me. She's notorious for coming up with outrageous craft projects that would take me a week to put together, and she got the wrong mama for that! 

We didn't finish the whole book last year, so we will start with the remaining stories this year before moving on to the new one I purchased.

Each week we read a different fairy tale/folktale. Each story has a little book included that I would copy for her. We also checked different versions of each story out of the library. This was definitely our favorite part. There are so many different tellings of these old stories, and there are also parodies of the stories. Our favorite was the Three Little Pigs. We found The Three Little Pigs: An Architectural Tale at the library, and it became one of our favorites. It has famous works of art and landmarks throughout the book, so we were able to enjoy the story on different levels. It was like a high brow version of Where's Waldo. :)

We read a different version each day, and then we did the corresponding projects and crafts. The stories came with word books to help her learn some new words as an emergent reader. Sometimes there were sequencing projects; sometimes we created the title character. There were lots of different ways to apply the story in meaningful ways. When we had our open house this spring, she was very proud to display her pocket book, even in its incomplete form.
Those are wheat stalks she painted.

We are planning to use more pockets this year. Little Bear has one on Newberry award winning books. Tiny Dancer has one on more folktales and one on Nursery Ryhmes. And we have a book on the Plymouth Colony that we will probably save for the following year, when we hit that time period in history.

Thursday, July 25, 2013


I woke up grumpy yesterday, and it didn't get any better. I had had a sleepover with the kids the night before. Two out of three kids talk in their sleep.

I should have had a caffeine fix. I should have prayed. I should have found some way to sleep for a few minutes instead of growling at everyone.

But I didn't.

By mid-afternoon, I was a full- fledged bear.

I picked up my paint brush and supplies and starting painting some doors. Someone before us had painted them with a flat finish. Sigh.

I turned on some praise music.

Slowly, slowly, my heart changed. I began to pray while I painted. I was grumbling to God about my trivial complaints. So many trivial complaints that were making my heart heavy. Focusing only on myself in a small moment of time. Losing all perspective.

As I worshiped, my heart began to lighten as I focused on Someone greater than myself.

And then a friend sent an email to get together to study the Word. We've been reading through Joshua together. I had messed up our scheduled time, and she responded with: Let's do it tonight!

Okay, Lord. I see what you're saying.

In Joshua 3, Joshua tells them that tomorrow the Lord will do wonders among them.


According to my massive Strong's, wonders was originally pala meaning: deal marvelously, make marvelous, bring extraordinary.

Who doesn't want some pala in their life?

And then, as we talked about the wonders God was doing, we also talked about reverence. Knowing WHO God is. And this song came to her.


"Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?" (Job 38:4)

"...who enclosed the sea with doors when, bursting forth, it went out from the womb; when I made a cloud its garment and thick darkness its swaddling band..." (Job 38:8-9)

"Who has cleft a channel for the flood, or a way for the thunderbolt, to bring rain on a land without people, on a desert without a man in it..." (Job 38: 25-26)


Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Math Woes

I think I've been following the math book at the end of the yellow brick road. I've been skipping down the road, thinking I know what lies ahead, only to get there and find out it's not what I expected.

Wait. Maybe my problem is I'm following the wrong yellow brick road!

I have an idea of what I want. I just don't think it exists.

I want a mastery approach that also has plenty of review (daily if possible). I want a program that is challenging and that encourages them to think outside the box, at least some of the time. And I want a program that we can follow for a good, long time. I don't want to skip around, continually searching, which is what I feel like I am doing.

Here's what I've tried so far.
 Saxon Math 3, Home Study Kit   -     
        By: Saxon

Saxon. Hated it. The incremental approach drove me bananas. I felt like there wasn't enough practice on the topic introduced that day, and then the next day it was a completely new topic. There was no opportunity to move any faster through the books or to go into any greater depth on a topic.

Singapore. The jury is still out. We've been using it for two years, and I mostly like it. Mostly. More or less. I feel like I should like it because so many other like-minded folk do. It is mastery, and it is challenging. It makes kids think outside the box. And yet... sometimes the way topics are introduced just don't make sense to me. I end up explaining it the old-fashioned way, which negates the approach.

Thinking about trying this Calvert book for Curly. For Little Bear... maybe A Beka? maybe stay with Singapore? BJU Press? HELP!

I have two solid math students (Tiny Dancer is too young). One is very advanced, and the other is a little advanced. I am open to two different math programs, if I must. I just don't want to/can't spend a fortune.

I am good at supplemental materials.

We have tried Beast Academy. I really liked it, but I think it was too "mathy" for Curly. I have a hunch Little Bear will eat it up.

Life of Fred. HUGE hit in our house. We all love the stories, and no one seems to realize they are learning or doing any math. Works especially well for Curly who leans (I mean tips the scale) to the verbal side. Everyone looks forward to seeing what Fred will be up to next.

Miquon and Cuisinaire Rods. Everyone raves about these. I used them a lot when I taught first grade in public school. We haven't latched on to them at home as much as I thought we would.

This year we are going to try out these Challenge Math books. They look really cool.

And lots of math games. Especially Yahtzee. Lots of Yahtzee.

Anyone out there want to tell me what to do  have some good ideas of what spine to choose?