Kings, Emperors, and frogs

These past couple of weeks have definitely had it’s ups and downs, but we also have made huge breakthroughs too!

We started off with achieving a huge milestone. Peanut, out of the blue, was able to cut paper with scissors! He cut straight lines! This was HUGE! This means that the muscles in his fingers are getting stronger, and he’s able to co-ordinate both his hands to do what his brain is asking! I was so happy to have a front row seat to this milestone, and being the softy I am, I cried tears of joy most of the rest of the day whenever I thought about it. I wanted to throw a party, and shout it out far and wide that our son could now use scissors! I wanted a marching band and fireworks, hahaha!

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We also began using Reading A-Z’s high frequency words lessons. There are 24 lessons, and they recommend doing one lesson per day. This seems a bit fast for Peanut, so we are doing one lesson for a whole week. So far this is working out wonderfully. He’s learned the words I, a, the, it, is, can, see, go, to, we, at, look! Not bad for two short weeks! They also seem to be staying in his memory much better than the technique that Moving Beyond the Page uses.

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We switched our science curriculum to Easy Peasy science year 2 – Zoology level L. It seems to be working much better than Elemental Science. We switched because so many of Elemental Science’s experiments were “over time” instead of almost instant results. Both Peanut and I were getting very frustrated about waiting days or weeks to finish one experiment, and we had 6 on the go! It was just too much! Easy Peasy is much more user-friendly for families that don’t have the time or patience to do long range experiments.

Some warnings about the Zoology level:

It has a minimum of 12 lapbooks to do over the course of the year.

It also has 180 days of lessons. If you’re like me and do less days a year than this though, it’s really easy to condense it. I use a 144 day year, and I had no problem dropping a few things, and condensing others.

It also is written from a christian religious ‘new earth’ perspective. This has been a tough one for me. I am religious, but I take more of a “big bang” view of the world. Yes, I believe  that God(s) created the universe, but I also believe it was by God creating a “big bang”. I also believe the scientific theory of evolution. So when Easy Peasy’s unit on dinosaurs comes up, I will have to do some creative editing. It is my belief, as well as most scientists (many whom are Catholic) that dinosaurs became extinct before the appearance of Adam and Eve. Adam and Eve did not ride dinosaurs! Noah’s ark did not have dinosaur eggs in it. Dinosaurs were not all herbivores until the fall of man (quote: Genesis 1:30, ‘And to every beast of the earth, and to every bird of the air, and to every thing that creeps upon the earth, which has life, I have given every green herb for food: and it was so.) I’ll definitely be changing this a lot!

Still, this is only 1 week of editing, so it’s not that much to worry about. We can easily get information about dinosaurs from the library or other websites online.

We also are in the final stretch of our Moving Beyond the Page 4-5 curriculum. After today we’ll only have 7 more units to do. This means we’ll be done in mid July.

This week our book was Jump, Frog, Jump! by Robert Kalan

I thought we’d be learning stuff like the life cycle of frogs, or a pond ecosystem. Nope. This week’s lessons are all about trying to remember the order of the story, counting to ten, adding to ten, and sorting. We spend only one part of one day doing a frog life cycle. That’s fine though, since I’ve pretty much decided that come July we’ll be doing Moving Beyond the Page level 5-7, and that covers this in more depth.

Which brings me to another problem we’ve been having. Read alouds! We have been struggling with Story of the World Volume 1. Peanut just won’t sit still for non-picture books. His attention span drifts away fast if he can’t see any pictures of what we’re reading. I was beginning to dread reading Story of the World to Peanut. I was even thinking of switching to another kind of social studies curriculum. Then I got a brainstorm.

Story of the World is a great history curriculum, but what was wrong? Peanut hated to sit still long enough to hear the 3-4 pages of reading. What could I do? Easy! Condense it! Reader’s Digest it (for those of you old enough to remember the Reader’s Digest Condensed books, hahaha). I read through the pages we were supposed to do this week about the first Sumerian Dictator, and used a highlighter to mark only the really relevant things. Once that was done, I had turned a 5 minute read aloud into a 2 minute read aloud. Short and to the point. Peanut actually loved it! He even remembered the names of King Narmer and Sargon the Great! It worked!!!

The only problem was that I now realize that I can’t use Bookshark for our curriculum yet. There is no way Peanut will sit through books like My Father’s Dragon, The Boxcar Children, and Big House in the Little Woods. I wanted to cry. I really, really love Bookshark and desperately want to use it. But it isn’t a good fit for Peanut. Not yet.

So what to do? Stay with what works! Moving Beyond the Page has been a really good fit this past school year. So when the time comes, we’ll be ordering level 5-7 for Peanut.

One other big change we’ve made is in handwriting. Peanut is a lefty, and we are having a lot of trouble with the formation of letters because he just can’t see them as he makes them. We’re ditching the standard block letters and we’re going to start using a combination of Getty Dubay’s Italics and also D’Nealian style writing. They both use minimal strokes and it’s much more adaptable for a lefty.  The added benefit to these two fonts is that cursive writing will be so much easier to learn!

Dnealian example: Image result for dnealian

and Getty Dubay Sample:  Image result for getty dubay italic sample

So that’s how our past couple of weeks have been. Next week is our week off, so there will be a lot of lazing around and being couch potatoes on our schedule!


Out with the old, in with the new.

Due to some financial craziness that’s happened, and about to happen, my plans for Peanut’s grade 1 curriculum just went down the drain. Bookshark level 5-7 is now only a sweet dream, and hopefully we can either get it much later in the year, or start next year with bookshark level 6-8. (insert heavy sigh and one small tear in my eye!)

So now I am scrambling to use as much free or inexpensive curricula as I can manage. I am actually lucky enough to have an extensive collection of various pdf textbooks and workbooks saved from various resources, and I’ve tended to jump on “limited time free” and “Save over 75%” offers in the past.

It took about a week to go through what I have, what I need, and what Peanut needs to learn this coming year. I have pretty much gathered together an amazing curriculum that cost me next to nothing except some printer paper, printer ink (we have an epson ecotank, so this is a beast of a workhorse!) and now I have to gather up some binders and a couple of notebooks, and we’re ready to go.

So here is our curriculum for 2018-2019:

Math: Singapore math U.S. edition 1A and 1B   or   Math Mammoth 1

Primary Math US 1A Set | Main photo (Cover)cover for Math Mammoth Grade 1-A Complete Worktext

Language arts:

Learning to read: Reading A-Z. We’ll start with aa readers and work our way up.Untitled.jpg

Phonics: Explode the Code book 1,2 and 3

Explode the Code Books 1-8 (including 1/2s) (2nd Edition) | Main photo (Cover)

Handwriting: Evan Moor Daily Handwriting

Daily Handwriting Practice - Traditional Manuscript | Main photo (Cover)

Spelling: Spelling You See ‘A’ (it’s been sitting on our shelf collecting dust for 2 years!)

Spelling You See Level A: Listen & Write Universal Set | Main photo (Cover)

History: Story of the World Volume 1 with Activity Book

Story of the World Volume 1 Complete Package | Main photo (Cover)

Social Studies: DK Nature Encyclopedia (we’ll do 2-4 pages a week and research one animal from the page, including habitat and life cycle

Science: Elemental Science (another treasure that was sitting on our shelf collecting dust)

Exploring Science Teachers Guide | Main photo (Cover)Exploring Science Student Pages | Main photo (Cover)

I won’t worry about art since both our history and science have a lot of crafts to do.

So now that I’ve got a plan, and I’ve scheduled out the difficult stuff (history, science, social studies), it’s time to grab a coffee, some chocolate, and pat myself on the back for a job well done!

We still have 8 more weeks of Moving Beyond the Page 4-5, but we’ll begin this curriculum on Monday. We are ready for this new adventure.

Grade 1 here we come!

A crazy month…

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December wasn’t a very kind month. In fact, if there was an option of a “do-over”, that reset button would have been pushed flat to the ground. It was that kind of month.

We had a huge scare. My hubby’s father was hospitalized and nearly lost his life. Acute limb ischemia, then a heart attack while on clot busters. He eventually did lose his leg from just above the knee. He was in the hospital during Christmas, so aside from the Christmas morning ritual of kids opening gifts, there was really no celebration. In fact, there were prayers to keep our loved one alive and help him get strong enough to have surgery on his leg so he could finally come home. December 30 he finally had the leg amputated, and after a short recovery, he’s now home.

Then came the news that a very dear friend from my youth went to hospital on Christmas day. He had emergency brain surgery 2 days later. His personality has now permanently changed. And he has 1-2 years left. Terminal cancer.

My anxiety disorder has flared up. Sometimes the stress seems unbearable. I know an outsider would see a calm, patient, loving woman who probably could take on the world. If they spend even an hour in my head, they would come away shaking with fear and wonder how I even make it through a day. I’m trying to learn new ways to cope.

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With the new year, I decided to begin a new way of using my daily planner. I found a website about a happiness journal. It has 365 writing prompts. Questions like “who made you smile today, and why?” “What’s your favorite meal?” they may seem kind of random and sometimes strange, but after doing this for 2 weeks, I already look forward to spending some time every day doing my “happiness” writing! I also decorate my planner every week with a new theme. I love this one with owls!

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Our homeschool curriculum is changing a bit too. I’ve noticed that the past while, Moving Beyond the Page hasn’t had much in the way of Science or phonics. It’s mainly been art (which is GREAT for Peanut’s fine motor skills), basic math (which Peanut is beyond, but we do use it as a review), and handwriting (which is too difficult for Peanut, so I’ve had to improvise). So I sat down over the Christmas break and really looked at what’s working, what isn’t, and what we need to change.

Math: we went back to Math U See Primer. Peanut was having too much trouble with McRuffy math – the writing was too much, and the games, although they’re fun, he wasn’t really ready for them yet. He has trouble understanding the rules. For instance, if we were playing snakes and ladders, if he rolled a 6, he’d go to the tile marked 6, not move his game piece forward 6. That’s fine for the first roll, but the second roll, if he rolled a 10, he’d insist on going on the 10 tile. I think we need a game like candyland to teach him how board games work.

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Math U See Primer: What a difference a year makes! He loves it! He’s counting by 10’s! He’s learning to count by 2’s. He can tell me what any number is up to 999! He can add numbers up to 20. The blocks help tremendously, but I have to make a deal with him – if he does his work, he gets 10 minutes after math to play with the blocks.

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Phonics: I’m finding that Peanut needs a bit more practice with phonics and sight words. I’m going to go back to basics. Progressive Phonics beginner phonics. We’ll do it all again, this time we’ll use the lesson plan, flash cards, word wall, activity sheets, and handwriting practice. We’ll use his letter tiles to practice spelling out the words of the day. I’ve been using Treasures grade 1 by McGraw Hill, but it’s getting too difficult for Peanut to keep up with all the new sight words. We’ll shelve it for now and come back to it in a few months.

Beginner Phonics Book 1

Science: I stumbled across Magic School Bus Science in 180 days! Oh what an amazing curriculum, and totally free! Well, free except the stuff I need to buy for the experiments. And yes, there are experiments! I’m condensing it so we end by June, but that’s easy enough. Instead of watching the episode one day, experiment the next, we’ll combine the two days to one. Easy peasy.

The Magic School Bus in 180 Days Free Lesson Plans!  Download Your Printable Copy Now!

Speaking of Easy Peasy – I have been very tempted to use the totally free curriculum called Easy Peasy Homeschool. It really looks wonderful. I appreciate how well put together it us, from preschool to high school. It’s complete. It even has foreign languages. Phys ed. Health. Computers. Thinking Skills. So why am I not using it? I really want to. I think this will have to wait for another post, dedicated to this topic. It’s a huge bag of pro’s and con’s. But I really like it. We may eventually use it, but not now.

Till next time, may your coffee be strong and your chocolate sweet.




When you find a hidden gem…

Peanut struggles with handwriting. He does well when he can write big, but our curriculum printouts have letters that are just too small for his ability. After feeling his frustration for a couple of months, I scoured the net and all my resources on the computer. I stumbled upon a sweet little nugget that I got my hands on two years ago and set aside till he was ready for it.

K4/K5 Kindergarten Curriculum - PDF - Click Image to Close

I got this from Confessions of a homeschooler and really took a good look at what it offered. I was amazed at the quality of this curriculum, and it had the one thing I have been searching for: letter writing practice with BIG letters!


This was exactly what I’ve been looking for! As an added bonus, it has sight word practice, early math, handwriting, spelling using letter tiles, and so much more! Even though it’s a 34 week curriculum and we only have 18 weeks left of Moving Beyond the Page, I plan to add this curriculum onto our workload. It is really amazing and worth the money! Yes, it’s for ages 4-5, but as any homeschooler knows, age is just a suggestion. Some kids may breeze through this at age 2, and others may struggle with it at age 10.

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Peanut actually managed to write legibly for the first time!

So this past month was a bit difficult. Our computer decided to overheat and fry the video card. The hard drive also was affected and had to be wiped, but thankfully all our homeschooling documents were backed up first!

We have had fun doing our unit on owls, Halloween, and the Seasons of Arnold’s Apple Tree. The unit on Thanksgiving was a bust though – we ended up not reading the book (too “american” for us since Peanut is half caribbean and half Canadian) and just did our own thing.

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For the seasons/apple tree unit we got messy, had fun, and even made an apple pie!

Next week should be fun too – the topic is DINOSAURS!

But no elephants!

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Peanut absolutely loved this week’s book and activities. We spent the week with the book “But No Elephants” and it was a huge hit! Peanut learned the sight word “no”, and how to print the letter “E”.

We learned to act out the story with stick puppets, how to sort animals from the smallest to the largest, what each pet did to help Grandma Tildy, and touched on the concept of needs vs. wants.

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For math, Peanut was introduced to the geoboard. He learned how to create pictures from shapes – he even made a farmhouse without any instruction! We also began to add numbers by 1’s and 2’s. I’m not sure if the number line is helping or hindering… I may try to add in some more basic addition practice.

As a reward for a very hard three weeks, we went to the beach Friday evening to just relax by the ocean. Peanut and his brother Popeye enjoyed playing in the sand, finding crab holes, and just plain making memories. Hubby and I enjoyed the laughter, ocean breeze, and I of course had to dip my toes in the water at least once, and it was warm and wonderful. I actually wish I brought my swimsuit to bathe!

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This week was all about insects, bugs, and creepy crawlies!

What makes an insect an insect? Is a worm or a spider an insect? What about an ant?

This week, our book was called Fireflies, written and illustrated by Julie Brinckloe.

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We really enjoyed this book, and not to spoil it, it did bring up some concepts we had to discuss.

This week we learned that all insects have 2 sets of wings, 6 legs, antenna, and 3 body parts (head, abdomen, and thorax). Fireflies, ants, grasshoppers, ladybugs, dragonflies, butterflies are all insects. Spiders, worms, and millipedes are bugs, but not insects!

We worked on the word “said” and the letter “F”. Peanut can now reliably sight read all the 6 words we’ve learned so far: he, said, that, go, little, and you! He also can identify all the letters of the alphabet, and can identify all the numbers from 0-20, although when he recites them, he does skip a few!

Some of the fun things we’ve done this week are making a firefly from an egg carton, decorating a bug jar and trying to catch bugs to study (but we had no luck, it’s rainy season so all the bugs were hiding and staying dry!), watching videos about insects, and lots of coloring!

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Here you can see Peanut’s firefly. He painted the thorax yellow (and painted me, himself, and even his dog!), attached pipe cleaners for legs and antennas, glued on eyes, and even made wings and glued them on! This craft was a definite hit, and I appreciated that I only had to provide the egg carton and glue – everything else was in the kit!

For math, we worked on counting to 100, used pattern tiles to make pictures, and on Friday we played a game. Peanut is even starting to know the days of the week by heart – although for math we say them every day, I stumbled across a website that said to use the tune of “the Aadams family” song, and it’s been working great!

Next week is our week off, so I’m hoping to take that time to get a bit more organized both for school and our house. Or start working on Christmas gifts.


Our 4th week (almost) done…

Last week we had a nice week. Our book of the week was “What Do You Do With A Tail Like This?”

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We learned all about the ways different animals adapted certain features and what they use them for. For instance, monkeys use their tails to hold onto branches like a hand. Archerfish can use their tongue to spit water into the air to shoot their prey like an arrow, and beavers use their tail to warn of danger. Elephants use their noses to spray water on themselves to keep cool. Amazing how different structures are adapted for each animal!

We played lots of games like pin the tail on the monkey, race car rally, and we did some nice arts and crafts too.


The word of the week was “this” and Peanut had it memorized by sight within two days! The letter of the week was “T”, so we did a lot of practicing with it.

I did manage to assess his handwriting readiness again, and he still isn’t really ready to write yet. Instead of focusing on writing, I’m going to switch gears and have him do a lot more coloring and a bit more cutting.  Also, lots of Play Dough, sand play, anything to get his fingers moving. I’ll also be using the whiteboard more often for his handwriting practice, having him write huge letters.

One thing he can do now while we work on his fine motor skills is learn to read. I’m going to be introducing one easy reader a day now, and they will be using the words he knows as well as the words of the week. I’ve pulled some from This Reading Mama, Progressive Phonics, Reading A-Z  (I used a free 2 week trial, but won’t continue since it’s a $110 subscription fee per year, or raz plus which is $200 a year! Eeep! ) and a few other printable books I’ve stumbled across.

Just because he can’t write doesn’t mean he can’t learn to read and spell! We can use letter tiles for spelling, and when he’s ready to write, he’ll already know how to spell! Even if he only learns to type, I’m okay with it, as long as he can get his words on paper (or computer) eventually. Even if it takes him several more years. Until then, I’ll be his scribe, but also insist he at least try to write too. Effort is what counts.

I’m also beginning to use Alphabet Fun Pages which are fun and a little bit challenging, but not too much! Also, Reading the Alphabet  has some nice resources like word mazes etc to help reinforce our word of the week, and coloring pages as well as poke pages for the letter of the week! I have to admit, I really love This Reading Mama’s things. I’m becoming a fan!

I also stumbled across Discovery K-12 again after rejecting it two years ago. I may use part of their curriculum too, but only as a suppliment to what we do already. Unfortunately, Peanut works at a pre-k level for writing, K for reading, and K-1 for social studies, art, and science. The issue is that they don’t offer customization, so you have to pick one level and stay with it, or keep swapping your level out every day. They do say it will be customizable soon though.

So now it’s our week off, but we still have last Friday’s lessons to do this week sometime. Both Peanut and I have been a bit under the weather, so we’ll get to it by Sunday at the latest, gotta luv the flexibility of homeschooling!