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The end of our school year

Last week marked the end of our Junior Kindergarten year! In one short year, Peanut has gone from only knowing 6 letters of the alphabet, and counting to 5, to knowing all the alphabet names and sounds, counting to 12, recognizing numbers beyond 20, he can read 60+ sight words, add one digit numbers, sing songs, knows opposites, beginning to rhyme, and his fine motor control is improving a bit!

These next two weeks are his break, and he’s discovered (much to my delight) that he likes Wild Krats and Krat’s Creatures! He’s learning even though school is done! Now to just get him hooked on Magic School Bus and I’d be laughing…

What have I been up to? Preparing for his 2017-2018 school year. We’ll be using Moving Beyond the Page level 4-5 and for math we chose McRuffy Color Math Kindergarten. Both shipments have arrived to our overseas carrier, so now it’s just a waiting game for them to get to the island and clear customs. Then we pay for shipping, duty, and taxes, and we’ll be almost ready for July 3 and our new school year.

We still need to pick up a few things as we go along, but this weekend we can hopefully get his student journal (the notebooks that have lines only from the middle of the page down, the top half is so the child can draw pictures to illustrate their story). We also need things like erasers, glue sticks, tape, glue, post-it notes, and shaving cream. Yes, shaving cream! This curriculum is very hands on, and our first week has us using shaving cream!

I have the lessons all printed out, and the student pages don’t get printed until the Sunday before their unit begins. I have our planner ready till December, but I need some yellow ink for our printer so I can print out January to June. I also need to figure out how to store all the supplies that Moving Beyond the Page provides. Maybe a storage bin with a lid big enough to hold 30 weeks of craft supplies.

Then there’s the books. 30 books. I think I’ll be saving up to buy a bookshelf.

Anyway, Peanut just woke up, my coffee is cold, and I need to get on with this relaxing friday! Till next time…

10 more school weeks to go… and my review of the year so far.

We chose Timberdoodle this year for our 2016-2017 curriculum. We are just finishing week 26, and we have 10 more weeks of school left. So what do I think of this curriculum?

Pros:

There are LOTS of hands on things to do. I don’t mean crafts. What I mean is that it is loaded with learning games. We have 3 Little Piggies, MiniLuk, GeoPuzzles set of 6 puzzles, Visible Human Body floor puzzle, Morphun blocks, Djeco Chirp Chirp art kit, Djeco Friends soft clay kit, and My First Super Science kit. They are fun, and with the exception of the human body floor puzzle (it’s kind of delicate, so we don’t use it often), we are thrilled with the quality and the fun of these items.

There is many fun “activity” books that encourage fine motor skills. We chose Construction Stickers Activity Book, Emergency Stickers Activity Book, Sticker Dressing Heroes and Rescue, BrainFood Vehicles Doodle Mats, Usborne Big Drawing Book, Oodles of Doodles, Big Book of Things to Find and Color, Kumon Amazing Mazes, Kumon I Can Cut, and Kumon Let’s Fold. These are fun, but Peanut has a hard time coloring and writing, so the doodle and coloring books have been set aside for when he’s ready.

The actual “workbooks” and “textbooks” are highly acclaimed and are basically open and go. This is the heart of Timberdoodle’s curricula. We chose Math U See, Spelling You See, Getty Dubay’s Italic Handwriting, Developing the Early Learner, Beginning Geography, and The Reading Lesson. They are all wonderful, but unfortunately Peanut just isn’t ready for them. We have set aside all except The Reading Lesson, and we supplement this with Hooked on Phonics and Alphabetti. We replaced Math U See Primer with Mathematical Reasoning Beginning 2.

Timberdoodle has AWESOME customer service. I had a problem with “my first scissors” and was given a refund for the item without any hassle. They also took the time to answer my many, many questions and were never annoyed! They are a joy to deal with!

The ease of scheduling! You are given a weekly checklist of how much to do (but not what to do) and it’s up to you to decide when to do it. If you want to do all 8 pages of math in one day, go for it! If you want to do 3 pages of spelling on one day, and two pages the next day, you can! Some people need to have a rigid schedule, so I guess this would be a ‘con’ for them, but for me, having the ability to be flexible with my week worked well.

Cons:

Too many items have been set aside for the future. I know this isn’t the fault of Timberdoodle. Peanut just isn’t ready for 2/3 of this curriculum. We will eventually use it all, but for this year, I consider it a con. I think we should have purchased the Pre-K curriculum instead.

No literature. None. We don’t have easy and regular access to a library, so we need to rely on the internet for downloadable books.

No weekly/monthly topics. There are no “this week we’ll learn about dinosaurs, and next week we’re exploring the weather.” It gets dull and boring. I know it’s just kindergarten, but I would have liked even a suggested list of topics to delve into or read about each week of school. We’re now at the point where school is kind of a drag, and not enjoyable. I’m really looking forward to next schoolyear and our fun curriculum.

We purchased the science book called Soda Fountains and Spattering Paint, and so far not one of the experiments worked! And I’m not alone. Very annoying.

Conclusion:

Timberdoodle has been good this year, but not *great*. I wish I would have seen Moving Beyond the Page 4-5 for our 2016-2017 year, I would have used this instead! I am definitely looking forward to doing this for our 2017-2018 year. And, yes, it says ages 4-5, but I have to plan for the future too. Peanut will be 6, but the next level of Moving Beyond the Page AND our second choice, Bookshark, is for 5-7 year olds, and both recommend that unless your child is advanced, you should stay in the upper age range of the level. A 7 year old would get much more out of them whereas a 5 year old will struggle.

I do like Timberdoodle, but it just doesn’t feel very ‘cohesive’ and doesn’t really explore or expose Peanut to different topics. In later levels, there are books like The Story of the World, World History Detectives, Interactive Science (but note – this has awful reviews!), so it explores some various topics, but in reality this is a STEAM and thinking skills based curriculum. I’ll probably be using their STEAM and thinking skills items, but not their academic curricula. In my opinion, it’s a great curriculum for kids that enjoy workbooks. Unfortunately, Peanut isn’t at the ‘workbook’ stage yet, so they are all waiting for him when he’s ready.

Also, I’ve had to supplement this curriculum, adding phonics, a daily science curriculum, read aloud books, craft projects, and various videos like Magic School Bus, Super Why, LeapFrog, Reading Rainbow, and Blippi.

Next year, with Moving Beyond the Page, I only need to add math and phonics! More details on this in a future post…

2017-2018 curriculum pick, aka the award goes to…

It has begun. The quest for the perfect boxed curriculum, or at least an entire curriculum from one place that comes in one box. I need to think about shipping costs.

First I look at what our needs are. Peanut is very hands-on, and learns best by either doing things hands-on, or watching a video. He’s not able to write yet, so workbooks are pretty useless. He is barely starting to read, about the equivalent of a public school kindergarten child in their 3rd month of school.

I need a curriculum that is fun, but I also don’t want to be scrambling for supplies that I may not find on the island. I also need a curriculum that either has 144 days, or can be adapted to 144 – 150 days. Yes, we could go monday to friday, 180 days, but I know we’d probably burn out very fast.

So in my quest, I eliminated any highly religious curricula (sorry My Father’s World, Sonlight, and Lifepac!). I also eliminated textbook heavy curricula. This left me with Bookshark Pre-k, Moving Beyond The Page 4-6, Build Your Library K, Timberdoodle grade 1 (customized), Five in a Row, and one I create myself from Rainbow Resource.

After going through the samples of each, and actually planning out a typical week from each of them, I think I’ve found my match! But before I say what it is, here’s what I found out about each one of these.

Bookshark Pre-K:

Pros:

  • This is a literary rich curriculum! From Winnie the Pooh to Richard Scarry, the book selections are fantastic. I love every one of them.
  • The daily routine is easy. You read your child 2 to 3 short stories from beautiful picture books. You also read a couple of pages of a child’s atlas.
  • For Science you read from The Berenstain Bears’ Big Book of Science and Nature.
  • Bookwork consists of the optional “Developing the Early Learner” 4 volume set.
  • It’s open and go! My week is all planned for me!

Cons:

  • Not very many hands on activities. This means I’ll have to turn to Pinterest and other sources to add some art and craft activities to reinforce what Peanut is learning. This will definitely be time consuming to find and organize the crafts, but I do love the literature so it may be a small price to pay.
  • Math, science, and language arts are weak. I would have to order the Science K and also the K Language arts and readers. I would use Mathematical Reasoning Kindergarten or try Math U See Primer again.

Moving Beyond the Page 4-6: Wow! What an amazing curriculum!Age 4-5

Pros:

  • It has 30 units, so this means I can spread them out over 150 days without any effort!
  • The literature is amazing! From old favorites like Blueberries for Sal, to modern ones like A is for Musk Ox, the book selection is fantastic (except one book, see cons for that)
  • Crafts! It is heavy on crafts, and the best part is that they supply almost everything I would need from yarn to craft paper! This means Peanut’s fine motor skills will get a great workout.
  • Two versions of activities – one for children that can write, and one for those who can’t. If your child cannot print a letter, they suggest things like trace the letter in a cookie sheet filled with shaving cream, rice, or salt. They have so many great ideas on how to encourage handwriting without even using a pencil!
  • It is unit based, so one week we learn about Musk Oxen and their habitat, and next week we learn about trees and their life cycles. It’s a great mix of learning and exploring our world and everything in it!
  • It’s almost open and go! I would have to tweak it a bit to turn it into our 4 day week, but it would be very easy to do!

Cons:

  • I would have to find a suitable replacement for one book, “Millions of Cats”. It is one of those morbid books that I can’t bring myself to read to Peanut. It is about a greedy couple who want a cat, so they adopt millions of cats. They only want one, so the cats begin eating each other until one remains. Ewww. Just NO!!! I’m sure I can find a sweet story about cats that doesn’t involve cat cannibalism!
  • Math is weak. I’d have to supplement it with Mathematical Reasoning, Math Mammoth, or even Math U See Primer.
  • Phonics is weak, so I’d continue with The Reading Lesson and Hooked on Phonics.

Build Your Library K: This curriculum is excellent and very literature rich!https://i1.wp.com/buildyourlibrary.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/83532.jpg

Pros:

  • The book selection is awesome! Over 30 classics and modern well loved books.
  • a 30 week schedule, which means I can easily adapt it for 36 weeks (144-150 days).
  • It touches on all the continents and explores what life is like for different children of the world.
  • The manual is a PDF and costs under $25!
  • It has some arts and crafts to keep Peanut’s hands busy and help strengthen those muscles.
  • It incorporates other ideas like cooking to round out a fun week of learning.

Cons:

  • The books need to be ordered from Amazon, and some are out of print. This makes it a bit more expensive if you want the out of print copies since they sell for a ridiculous price.
  • Math is weak. I’d have to supplement with Mathematical Reasoning, Math Mammoth, or even Math U See Primer.
  • Phonics is weak, so I’d continue with The Reading Lesson and Hooked on Phonics.
  • Not very many hands on activities. This means I’ll have to turn to Pinterest and other sources to add some art and craft activities to reinforce what Peanut is learning. This will definitely be time consuming to find and organize the crafts, but I do love the literature so it may be a small price to pay.

Timberdoodle grade 1 (customized): I’m currently using Timberdoodle Kindergarten Secular customized curriculum and love it for the most part.

Pros:

  • All in one curriculum that covers all the required subjects
  • lots of hands on games, science experiments, art, and STEM

Cons:

  • Very workbook intense. There are 8 workbooks in their standard grade 1 secular curriculum. Peanut cannot write yet, so they would either be omitted from the kit, or would sit on the shelf until he can do them.
  • For the amount of money we’d spend, we would basically be buying a year of toys and games, and no real learning opportunities.
  • No literature is included, so we’d have to either rely on the library or purchase books to read.

Five in a Row: Although this is a religious curriculum, it is very easy to remove the bible and religious content.Five in a Row Book Set

Pros:

  • Unit based, and excellent book choices from Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel to How to Make an Apple Pie and See the World, it would make a fun year of great books
  • It covers Social Studies, Math, Literature, Art, Science, Human Relationships
  • It is easy to implement since you choose one social studies, language arts, art, math, and science a day.
  • It has many hands-on arts and crafts

Cons:

  • There are a few religious books (ie. Clown of God) that I would have to skip
  • I’d have to order the literature from Rainbow Resource, but they would be one shipment.
  • Math is weak. I’d have to supplement with Mathematical Reasoning, Math Mammoth, or even Math U See Primer.
  • Phonics is weak, so I’d continue with The Reading Lesson and Hooked on Phonics.

So what did I choose? The great debate is truly between Moving Beyond the Page, Five in a Row, and Bookshark.

Timberdoodle lost because of the heavy writing component, making this curriculum almost useless for a few more years.

Build your Library would win out for literature alone, but it falls down on hands-on activities. I would be willing to make it work though, but I don’t like the amount of out-of-print books.

Bookshark falls down on the lack of hands-on activities too, but I will probably use the level 5-7 after this next year is done, since the 5-7 level has lots of arts, crafts etc. Peanut just isn’t ready for the level 5-7 literature yet, or I’d definitely use this one for our 2017-2018 year. I’m actually still considering the pre-k level if Peanut is able to write by June or July.

Memoria press was another that was in the running, very much a fantastic literature based curriculum, I’d just remove the bible and religious content of it. In order to have it work well, it requires the basic curriculum, the suppliementary read aloud books, and the supplementary science books.This brings the curriculum to a very expensive price that I can’t justify!

So the winner for 2017-2018 is Moving Beyond the Page!!!! (insert fanfare and flying confetti here!). The runner up is Bookshark (going to first place if Peanut can write by June), and third place is Build Your Library tied with Five in a Row.

Now where’s my wine, strawberries, and chocolate? After all this work I deserve it! hahaha!!!!  Seriously, this is going to be an awesome year, I want to start it now!!!!

Math: A quick change, hopefully for the better

I haven’t posted in a while, it’s been a few weeks full of crazy, hectic, nail biting chaos. Even homeschool has taken a back seat. We have done the basics like phonics, reading, and read alouds, but everything else was just too much to fit into our days. That will be a post for another time!

What I have been going a bit obsessive over has been Peanut’s math skills. He just hasn’t grasped the concept that there are numbers between 12-18! Why oh why can’t he count to 20? He can tell me what the numbers are when he sees them, but when he counts, it goes 11-12-18-19-20…

I have tried Math U See Primer, but that moved at a faster pace than what we were both comfortable with. It starts slow, gentle, then suddenly introduces numbers up to 100 and then 2 lessons later introduces skip counting! ARGH I wanted to bang my head against the desk! This was set aside for at least the rest of this school year. We need to focus on only the numbers from 1-2o or a bit beyond.

So I moved our focus to MCP Mathematics Kindergarten. I thought it would keep us busy for a few months, but alas, no! It focused on numbers 1-10. A great review, and great at restoring Peanut’s confidence, but 200 pages were done in 6 weeks!

So after searching, I found Kumon numbers 1-30 book, but it’s only 80 pages, and really just a suppliment. We do about 4 pages a day right now. Peanut needs more of a challenge!

Enter Mathematical Reasoning by Critical Thinking Co! I downloaded their samples from Beginning 1 (targeted to 3 and 4 year olds), Beginning 2 (for 4-5 year olds) and Level A for Kindergartners. Peanut tried the worksheets, and we found level A was too hard, Beginning 1 was too easy, and Beginning 2 was just right (why does this remind me of Goldilocks and the three bears? Bwahahaha!) So I bought Mathematical Reasoning Beginning 2, and with fingers crossed, we will hopefully see some progress in the next little while!

This book is that it’s available as a hardcopy or as an ebook, so I bought the ebook and it’s actually spitting out of our printer right now!  What attracted me to this series was the amount of stellar reviews, the ease of use (I love open and go books! Prep time can really suck with some curriculum!) and the pages are fun! It makes me happy to look at the bright, colorful pages. Take a peek at a page:

How cute is this? It actually makes bugs look cute! Not only does it work on basic math skills, but also has a few challenging puzzles that take a bit of logic and reasoning skills to do. Here is an example:

I’m really hoping Peanut enjoys this, and he does well with it. At  282 pages, it will take us the rest of the year to do, or may even spill over into next school year! Here’s hoping with fingers crossed that it’s a good fit for Peanut!

Homeschool rules to live by…

I’ve been homeschooling Peanut for 2 years now, and at first it was so scary, thoughts filled my head like:

  • “Can I really do this?”
  • “Will he be missing out by not going to ‘real’ school?”
  • “What if I don’t know the topic?”
  • “What happens if he wants to go to college or university?”

I was tormented by these questions, many more.  But I did what I always do when things are unknown and a bit scary. I did a bit of research and then jumped into the deep end both feet first.

Although I’m no homeschooling pro, I’ve definitely learned a lot about what works for us. Your mileage may vary, hahaha!

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Just because you have the book doesn’t mean you have to use it right away! This year we bought a customized “boxed curriculum” from Timberdoodle instead of building my own curriculum.  It came with a couple of books that I ended up putting on the shelf to be used either later this school year, or even for the next grade. I tried to make it work for Peanut, but when I realized he hated it, and I dreaded pulling the book out, something had to change. I took a look at what was different about these books, and it struck me! Peanut wasn’t ready for them! He was frustrated, and that’s why he was acting the way he did when it was time to do these subjects!

Don’t compare my homeschool with other homeschool families! I respect your choices, and although your little boy and mine may be the same age, they learn differently. Yours may be able to multiply and divide while mine is eating glue off his fingers, but mine can understand the concept of gravity while yours is pushing crayons up his nose! You may want your child to have a more religious schooling, while I prefer secular. In the end, we all are doing what is best for our own children. Homeschool, private school, public school, we all want our children to succeed and be the best they can be.

Make learning fun!  I’m not saying you have to be entertaining your kids every second of school, but foster a love of learning! Peanut hates reading, so I make it fun by doing silly things with him randomly. If he reads 4 words without struggling, I give him an “earthquake” by shaking him! If he finally sounds out a word he’s been stuck on for a while, I cheer and have him jump up and down. When he finishes reading for the day, I’ll give him a few fast spins on our computer chair. It makes the difference between Peanut not wanting to read and Peanut looking forward to reading!

Be flexible, and do what’s best for you and your child! There are days when we just don’t feel like school. This doesn’t mean we don’t work, it means I grab another coffee, Peanut plays more Minecraft, and we do school later in the day. I know some families insist on rigid timelines, some even insist of school uniforms, packing a lunch, and strict routines. It works for them, but for me, I’d have burnout within the first two days. I usually am still in my pajamas, Peanut is usually shirtless, and still we get school done. We don’t follow a daily routine – shocking since *most* autistic children thrive on it, but Peanut doesn’t, and neither do I.

There will be days when school takes a backseat, and that’s okay. Our school year is 144 days long, and we homeschool all year, so this gives us a lot of wiggle room. We also aren’t tethered to “public school” rules of learning between Monday to Friday and 8am to 2pm. It’s okay to do school on Sunday afternoon, Tuesday evening, or even Thursday after a trip to the beach. Sometimes there are days when school doesn’t even happen. That’s okay too! We have a Monday to Thursday schedule, so if we miss a day, we can do school on Friday, Saturday, or Sunday! We were supposed to have school up to December 22, but we ended up taking from the 19th off, only doing minimal reading and read alouds. Are we behind? Yes and no. Peanut is already ahead in math and science, so all we need to catch up on is Phonics, but since he’s already doing reading daily, Phonics will be easy to catch up on!

There will be difficult days! Homeschooling is frustrating at times. When your child is sounding out the word “cat” and comes up with “dog” for the 18th time, or they consistently count from 0-20 but always skip 13-16, you want to bang your head against the wall and pull your hair out! Trust me, there will be days like this! Finish your lessons and let that be the end of the day!

Don’t make EVERYTHING about homeschool! There will be times when your kids just want to cuddle, snuggle up and listen to you read a story, or eat popcorn while watching a movie, no strings attached! Don’t analyse the book or the movie (unless your kids initiate this). Let a beach day be a beach day, don’t start explaining tides or insisting on building a medieval castle complete with moat and working drawbridge to supplement your history lessons. Just relax, enjoy the simple pleasures!

And of course, my most important rule for our homeschool: Always make sure mommy has a coffee! Trust me, you don’t want me around you if java isn’t flowing through my veins!

As for all the questions I had at the start of this journey, that’s going to be another post!

School daze

We have been in a “let’s not do school today” mood for about a week now. I know it’s because of the Christmas season, and we are all feeling the overwhelming hustle and bustle of the season.

Cookies to bake and decorate, dinners to plan, plus getting the house clean and fresh for the holidays. Allergies acting up, and one of my older sons is sick with a head cold. Not enough sleep, too much coffee, and too much sweets.

So our plan to do our last week of schooling for 2016 didn’t work as planned. Instead of trying to cram it all in, we are now scaling back to only the really important things this week.

Geography, science, art, and phonics have been set aside. So has fine motor skills. We now are pulling out only Peanut’s reading practice, a bit of math, and some read-alouds. This takes about 30 minutes of our day, but spread out over several hours. A bit here and there.

One thing about this season, it really lends itself to learning without even trying.

When we make cookies, Peanut gets to learn about math (counting the measurements for the ingredients), science (how blending the cookies, watching them bake, changes them), and we even throw in art and fine motor skills with the decorating!

Christmas movies and stories teach Peanut about Geography (he learns about the North Pole, Canada), about physics (how Santa gets down chimneys in The Santa Clause), math (counting the reindeer), and even music (all those christmas songs!).

So once again, thank you, homeschooling. I love how flexible and fun you can be, and hopefully these memories will last for years to come.

Homeschooling Log: Stardate 11302016

Captain’s Log:

We are enjoying day 6 of our 10 days of shore leave. It has been a strange but fun 4 weeks of homeschooling, but we need this break for some rest and relaxation.

Ensign Peanut has done some amazing things between homeschooling weeks 11-14. He has navigated through new worlds, and explored them with enthusiasm.

Linguistics were a bit challenging, but he has made the attempt at duplicating various hieroglyphics. Letters such as o,p,q, s,t,e, and the numbers 0-3 were difficult with a pencil, but done on a bigger scale on the whiteboard there was some success. We are aiding Ensign Peanut with his fine motor control by the use of Lego blocks, Kumon Mazes, and various fun coloring and activity books.

Literature has been a well received endeavor. Ensign Peanut has mastered over 55 sight words now, and can phonetically read several more. He has begun chapter four of The Reading Lesson, and has mastered the first two Alphabetti Beginner Phonics books. He will be starting the third Alphabetti Beginner book when we return from shore leave!

Mathematics have seen some changes in curriculum, but Ensign Peanut did not get discouraged. We are now concentrating on mastering how to count to 20. It seems Ensign Peanut has an aversion to the numbers 13-16! He can recognize them by sight, but always skips them when counting to 20.  We will keep at it until he is ready to move on. No rush, though. He has also begun to understand the concept of addition to 10, and is starting to understand subtraction from 10.

Cartography is not one of his favorite things, but he is valiantly trying to understand the four compass points. We may save the rest of this curriculum for next year, as it’s meant more for someone who is skilled in the literary arts and linguistics…

Ensign Peanut has been really enjoying the Science bay. He has finished his unit on force and gravity, and has done several experiments to test his knowledge. He also has done some fun experiments with water beads, and even a spider that grows with water. It tripled in size in just 4 days!

The Thinking Skills lab is probably one of his favorite places to be. Ensign Peanut received a gift of a new game last month called Three Little Piggies and he has had so much fun with it that we don’t think he realizes he is actually learning too! He also received a Lego set, and has been spending much of his free time building with it.

Arts is not one of his favorites either, not unless it involves some form of mess. Ensign Peanut is not a fan of coloring, but he enjoys playdough, painting, clay, glue, and dirty hands! Ensign Peanut definitely likes more tactile art projects!

This captain will now return to her much needed furlough, until next Monday,  Captain out.