Friday, April 27, 2007

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Another Sale!

Grab (or make!) your homeschooler ID card and head to Barnes and Noble next week. 'Tis the season to sit with a good cup of coffee and look through books for next year!

(Okay, it's always the season for that, but it's even better when they're on sale...)

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Writing Progress

I've posted before that we've been using Institute for Excellence in Writing's Student Writing Intensive this year. I've been very pleased with their progress. I have required writing in previous years in the form of journaling, creative writing, and narrations from history readings, but we have never had a systematic writing curriculum until this year. Several years ago I listened to a Jessie Wise conference tape, and she suggested not doing a formal writing until the logic stage, especially creative writing. I remember her suggesting to simply fill their minds with great literature and well-crafted stories. I breathed a sigh of relief at the time, and took that as my license to lay aside writing until another year, as I felt really inadequate in teaching it. (I'm not sure that's what she meant, but that's what I did!) Last spring, after much research and a couple of years of prayer about IEW specifically, I walked into our HUGE homeschool curriculum fair and bought the IEW curriculum. That's all I bought at the curriculum fair, and it has been a wise investment for us. I bought the general dvd's for me, and the Student Writing Intensive levels A (for my 5th grader) and B (for my seventh grader.) I downloaded the weekly lesson plans which accompany the dvds here. I watched the teacher dvd's last summer, and they really refined how I view teaching writing. I am planning to implement what he said in future years of writing as we integrate it into our content areas (science, Bible, history, etc.) but I've been glad I had the student writing seminars for the kids. They have really been something I would concretely use, rather than just ideas or techniques for the teacher. Knowing me, I might have abandoned some of it or would not have been consistent if I didn't have weekly plans and curriculum.

My seventh grader has always been an apt writer, but this year she has gotten some specific techniques for strengthening her sentences and paragraphs. Last week, in her final week of report writing (before finishing the year with creative writing) her assignment was to apply the "dress-ups" she's learned so far to a paragraph she wrote in the first week of school. She read me the "before and after" sentences today, and I just wanted to share them to show the difference in her writing as a result of what Mr. Pudewa teaches in the program. The first paragraph was from an exercise in doing a key word outline and then rewriting a paragraph from the outline. The second paragraph is a rewrite of the first paragraph, using the dress-ups, clauses, and techniques she has learned:

(no title)
The heart is the most important muscle in our body, since it carries oxygen to all of our cells. Its frequency of beat is controlled by both the brain and a small patch of cells called sinoatrial node. It generates an electric signal which turns off and on around 100 times a minute. When the electric signal is on, muscles contract. When it is turned off, the cardiac muscles contract. When it is turned off, the cardiac muscles relax. The brain monitors the body's need for oxygen. When our body is resting, it decreases the electric signal in the sinoatrial node, which slows down the heart rate. Things such as nervousness or activity increase the electric signal.

Your Amazing Heart
The heart, delivering oxygen to all of our cells and pumping blood throughout our body, is by far the most important muscle in your body. Its frequency of steady rhythm is kept so by the brain, and is also contributed to by your sinoatrial node. This tiny patch of cells generates an electric signal, turning off and on nearly 100 times per minute. Once off, your cardiac muscles relax. The brain, one of the most complex structures in your body, is constantly monitoring your body's need for oxygen. It will also decrease the electric signal of your sinoatrial node and take it to a slower pace while your body is resting. Likely, it will increase its activity and begin pumping harder once your body is active, or when nervousness or worry is present. The heart is truly one of the most important and amazing muscles in your body.


Her favorite writing is creative writing, so this isn't a sample of her "best" (nor is it meant to be) but simply an example of progress from September to April. In the past couple of weeks they have learned how to synthsize research from more than one source into a cohesive report using techniques I wish I would have learned when I was in school! It's been extremely helpful, and I just thought I'd share, in case you're thinking about this curriculum or it's being offered at a co-op near you.

Happy Writing!

Finished Product

I posted last week about our salt map projects. Later in the week, we put the final touches on them, and I think they turned out great!

They outlined and labeled the neighboring states and the Gulf of Mexico, then painted and labeled the major rivers.

It's hard to see (the picture gets bigger if you click on it) but they also labeled the rivers with a thin Sharpie pen. They also put a gold star where Austin is and brushed decoupage glue over the top of all of the dough part, to give it a shine and make it look really nice. I think they did a super job. It was a really fun project!

Monday, April 16, 2007

Body Worlds

A couple of weeks ago, we took the opportunity to go see the "Body Worlds" exhibit. Since we were studying life science this year, I thought it was too timely, so we went. I was kind of squeamy about it at first, but I'm so glad we did! It was absolutely fascinating. I learned so much, and have an even great appreciation for just how intricately God designed us. I just asked my kids what they thought of it, and my daughter said, "It was much more interesting than I thought it would be." My son's favorite part was the plastified horse and rider. I kind of got past the fact that they had been actual people and told myself they were models. (Yeah... models. That's the ticket!) We rented the little headset with the recorded information and it really added to our understanding of what we were seeing. We had kids as young as eight years old in our group, and everyone really enjoyed it. It was really worth going to! It is touring all over the country, so if it comes to a museum near you, I'd encourage you to go check it out.

Salt Maps

Recently we did the chapter in Story of the World 3 called, "The End of Napoleon," about his exile to the island of St. Helena. It was fascintating to learn how he spent his last days, and to learn about St. Helena, which I had never known existed! The activity listed in the activity book was to make a salt dough map, which my son thoroughly enjoyed. As God so often does, He wove our studies together, as my daughter's assigned Sonlight reading was Betsy and the Emperor, about a little girl who knew Napoleon during his time on St. Helena. She is doing a separate, Texas History text this year, but on my plans for her co-op I had planned to end the year doing a salt map of Texas. So, our history worlds collided!

Here is the salt dough recipe we used (from the SOTW Activity Guide):

2 cups flour
1 cup salt
1 cup warm water

I found that it worked a bit better than recipes we had done from the Kid Concoctions book. (A favorite resource! Full of great ideas!)

Mixing up the dough

Drawing the continents, then placing the dough on the posterboard

Ready to dry. (See the tiny dot in the middle of the Atlantic? St. Helena!)

Not-so-tiny Texas, using the topography map in the text.

Texas, painted according to the NASA map, with the bordering states and Mexico added.

This week for co-op (now that the paint's dry) the girls will finish labeling the neighboring states, add borders, and paint Texas' major rivers. Kyle will paint the Atlantic. It took a good week or so for the salt dough to completely dry, especially where the Texas mountains (yes, mountains!) are. So, it's been a good project to do in stages.

If you've not tried salt maps before, I encourage you to. The kids have loved it. In fact, with some of his left over dough, my son even created an island for some of his tiny ships, so it doesn't even have to be for geography, it can be just for fun!

School? Oh, yeah. That!

SO, a couple of weeks ago I posted that we were going to take a school break for two weeks to handle up on our house projects. We did, and it was wonderful! I have found that as a homeschooling family, it's all based, well, here. At our home. And as a result, I get so overwhelmed when we've got house projects, ministry and mission materials, school, laundry, and life all co-mingled. Sprinkle some random lyrics from 80's songs in there and it's pretty much a picture of what the inside of my brain might look like! As a result, narrowing my focus for a couple of weeks was just what I needed. We didn't get totally finished with the house, but it was a break from having to teach math and grammar in the midst of it, so it was just what I needed.

Last week we got back to it. We have somewhat of an "abbreviated" schedule at the moment, because I really do have alot on my plate, and I'm being realistic. The one subject in which I refuse to compromise is math. I sat down with their math curricula and figured out how we can still end in May, having covered the material we needed to for each of their levels. I'm loving how Teaching Textbooks offer sreview at the beginning of the next level, so we may just end Pre-Algebra in May and pick up Algebra in August and go from there. (The first 36 or so lessons of the Algebra are a repeat of the end of Pre Algebra.) Kyle will finish Math-U-See 's Epsilon level (fractions) this year, and be able to do Zeta (decimals and percents) next year before beginning TT's Pre Algebra program in 7th grade (or before, if he's ready.) They spend gobs of time reading good books, and we are continuing with our history and Bethany's co-op subjects, which is enough for now. We're ready to wrap things up! In the mean time we are packing up our house for a move, planning for our upcoming trip to China, and ending our ministry year in Awana, all of which they are very involved in, so hopefully they are learning some life lessons in there, too!

We've had some fun salt map projects and went on a couple of great field trips in the past two weeks as well (which I'll post about separately) so there's been some great learning going on. I hope your school year is "spring"-ing along nicely, too. I feel like I've neglected my lil' homeschool blog for too long, and I've got some thoughts I want to post, so I'll be back more often as time allows.

Thanks for reading, and have a great week!

Monday, April 02, 2007

Just the best blog name ever...

Isn't that the most fun? It's a new group blog where homeschool moms can come and encourage one another. Mind training can be mind-draining some days, can't it? This is a great place to stop and share struggles, how you rejuvenate, inspirations for other homeschoolers, and maybe even "refuel."

I'll be posting over there when I get the chance, and would love to see you over there, too!


Blog Widget by LinkWithin