Our Fall Plans  

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Wow. I have put so much thought into this year's curriculum that it's crazy. I truly have had to abandon all thoughts of doing it my way. The curriculum that has worked so well for Therese is just not going to work so well for the rest of my kids. I am happy to say that it's not my vanity talking, thinking that Therese is two grade levels ahead. I got her SAT scores back. That girl is at least two grade levels ahead. I'll just say I am one extremely proud Mama and leave it at that. Nicky's scores prove one of two things: either he is not a test taker, or he just didn't try. I just can't believe that he scores "low" when compared to other 2nd graders in math. Given that I sit next to him every day as he whizzes through 4th grade math, I am just not buying it. I also watch him write story after story, and I teach him spelling. Hence, I'm not buying that he's a poor speller. I *know* what an awesome speller he is. I know where the holes in his curriculum are, and anyone reading this knows that I have *no* problem talking about his shortcomings (ahem!), but academics -- not one of them. It is a very interesting revelation to me about how absolutely meaningless those test results can be, though, for kids who are not strong test takers, or who flat-out don't care to do well. It remains to be seen which one he is. Fact is, he was only six when he took the 2nd grade test. It could be that I was asking too much of him. If he were going to school, then maturity-wise, I would have wanted him to be exiting K at that age. He would have been one of the youngest 1st graders. Sigh.

In any case, here's the breakdown. I have made a tremendous amount of work for myself (but when don't I?).


  1. Math: Saxon 7/6 (She's about 1/4 of the way through now)
  2. Language Arts - Michael Clay Thompson
  • Vocabulary - Caesar's English (Latin Roots and Spanish Cognates)
  • Poetry - Building Poems
  • Writing - Paragraph Town
  • Grammar - Grammar Town
  • Augustus Caesar's World
  • Caesar's Gallic War
  • The Old World and America
  • Those are the main spines - there are others
  • The First Christians
  • The Story of the Church
  • The Acts of the Apostles
8. Art: Artist study with Salve Regina notebooking pages (link coming)
9. Handwriting: Continuing Cursive Practice
10. Copywork: Salve Regina Scriptorium for Young Ladies (link coming)

  1. Math: Saxon 5/4 (he's 1/2 done)
  2. Language Arts: Michael Clay Thompson
  • Vocabulary - Building Language (learning concept of Latin roots)
  • Poetry - Music of the Hemispheres
  • Writing - Sentence Island
  • Grammar - Grammar Island
8. Art: Artist Study with Salve Regina notebooking pages (link coming soon)
10. Copywork: Salve Regina Scriptorium for Young Men (link coming soon)

  1. Math: Saxon 1 (1/2 done)
  2. Language Arts: Language Lessons for Little Ones 3 (Queen Homeschool)
  3. History: American History for Young Students - Exploration-1800 (Truthquest)
  4. Religion: Old Testament Bible Stories and The Israelites (History Links)
  5. Science: Apologia's Anatomy and Physiology
  6. Art: Artist Study with Salve Regina notebooking pages (link coming soon)
  7. Handwriting: Writing our Catholic Faith
  8. Copywork: Salve Regina Scriptorium for Brand-New Writers (link coming soon)
  9. Spelling: All About Spelling Level 2
  10. Phonics: Click-N-Kid
I think that's it. I usually realize I forgot something. I absolutely have to write a schedule this year. Therese will have school all day. Her classes are a mix of 6th and 7th grade. She also has piano and dance. I haven't decided if they are going to try out for the play, which, if they made it, would mean Friday rehearsals 2-5 (at least on some days). We're not going to be in town on the audition day, so that may be a deal breaker anyway.

Well, at least it's all down now. I am just compiling my organizer pages now. We'll start after we get back from vacation. Therese and I want to start now!

Yup - Overconfident  

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I didn't get the writing job I thought I had pretty well in the bag. Oh, well. I'm still going to produce the materials on my own. It's a blessing in disguise (or not even in disguise). I have so many things on my plate right now. I finally made the move to create a new, TOS Homeschool Crew friendly blog here: http://myhomeschoolreviews.blogspot.com. I copied over some reviews and a couple of HOTM posts to make it look not quite so naked. I think it will suffice. In a couple of days I'll be able to add a review of The Secret of Zoom, the book I'm doing a lit unit for on edHelper - such a cute kids' book.

No Time for a Title  

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Pressure. I don't understand enough about blog rolls, SEOs, blog design, etc. I must confess that what I care about is the writing. Now, though, since becoming a member of TOS's Homeschool Crew (yay!), I am suddenly overwhelmed by things I don't understand - things which have nothing to do with writing reviews. Writing reviews I can do (see below). In fact, right now I have more writing assignments than I can handle (pressure!). I have never been great at daily blog writing, though (okay, or weekly or monthly blog writing), because I am always writing for someone else. That's kind of the whole point of being a writer. I envy people who have beautiful, well thought out, updated blogs. I don't have one. In a few weeks, though, the Crew will get to my blog as they work their way through their blog walk...then I'll be found out for the blog fraud I am. I don't even have the skills to make a shamefaced smiley :-(

Okay. I've got it all out of my system. On other fronts, the kids are rocking their swimming lessons. I'm beyond excited about finalizing their curriculum (and I'm hacked that we have to take June off - can't really be helped with all this swimming). T is going to start Greek. I have almost completely decided to do the Bluedorn's program. It is mega-pricey, which is the only reason I haven't completely decided. I just found out yesterday that Memoria Press has a Greek program in the works. I wish I knew a timetable on that one. I'll do a curriculum update soon.

I've been writing on homeschooling gifted kids at Heart of the Matter Online. It's really helped me better to understand my own kids, especially N. Sadly, understanding does not lead to patience or better parenting. It seems that that is just something I am going to have to continue to pray for. Wait. No. I've learned the hard way: don't pray for patience! God will give you plenty of opportunities to learn it! Pray for the grace to accept what He sends you. Yes - now I just need to remember that...

I have so many other projects on the back burner that really need to come to the front burner. My Kindle book is dying to be written. My other blog has such promise, but it languishes. My website is waiting to be built. I have two projects that I think I could market through CurrClick, but when to create them? I was overconfident about a prospect with another company (a huge, well-known homeschool publisher) a few weeks ago, but I think that might have been a case of pride goeth before a non-starter. That's okay, though, because even if they don't want to publish this work, I still love what I created, and it's one of those that I think would sell on CurrClick. Now all I need are ten more hours in each day!

I think I have to make a decision. I think I may need to keep this blog just for me (and those few discerning readers who occasionally pop by), and, as I've said before, move the reviews and such to a new one for the Crew. Must consider...

Cleaning House  

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Figuratively and literally. I've been looking at some blogs written by some amazing Catholic moms, and feeling completely inadequate. Where do they get the time? I hardly have time to glance at anything non-school or work related! In any case, I'm doing some housecleaning. On the literal front, that means I'm cleaning out the school room - not because we take the summer off (are you kidding?), but because it provides something of a transition point. We're also cleaning out the kids' rooms as best we can, and we re-sodded both the front and the back yards (not so impressive - small yards). I'm cleaning out this blog, too. Why? Surely not because I have too many posts! I really like reviewing for The Old Schoolhouse, but those reviews are not well placed here. I'm creating a separate blog just for reviews. I'll then move them there.

When I see what the kids were doing curriculum-wise one year ago, it seems like a lifetime ago. In some ways we've made tons of progress, while in others we have moved very slowly. I have made some curriculum decisions I'm ecstatic about, and T continues to be my easiest child to teach. I love planning what I'll do with her. N is a challenge, simply because of how quickly he picks up on things, and because of how little he likes to sit still. He loves to learn, but he doesn't love to work. I'm so grateful for my opportunity to write for Heart of the Matter, as it has compelled me continually to research the learning styles of gifted kids. Without the constant bombardment of reinforcement that N is not completely insane and abnormal, I would probably go pony express.

In any case, N has finished Math 3 and is halfway through Saxon 5/4. I expect that he will finish it by the end of the summer. Fortunately, T is done with 6/5 and is into 7/6, freeing up 6/5 for N. I keep warning her that he might catch her! She is staying ahead of him for now, though! My biggest find for the year, though, was definitely Michael Clay Thompson's Language Arts curriculum. I should probably cut and paste from an email I wrote to my SIL rather than try to reproduce a coherent review. Better yet, I'll wait until I have peace and quiet (or until I'm dead, which will probably come first) so that I can properly extol the virtues of the amazing curriculum. Although written specifically for gifted kids, I don't see why anyone couldn't use this wonderful program. I have never met (or "met") anyone who loved words the way I that I did until I encountered MCT. He doesn't try to make grammar fun or interesting because he recognizes that grammar *is* fun and interesting. Words are meant to be dissected, understood and, ultimately, to be played with. A sentence cannot properly be understood without an understanding of its component parts - its phrases, its clauses, etc. Even better, from the youngest ages, MCT incorporates a study of poetry: not poetry simply as memorization or "appreciation", but poetry as construction and technique. By understanding these poetic techniques, children can then be equipped to recognize them when they read prose (there is a reason that most great writers also wrote poetry).

Well, suffice it to say that T is thriving with this curriculum, and that N would stop whatever he was doing to listen in.

If T had her choice, she would do religion all day. We kind of two-tracking religion. For our instruction, we use the series I outlined back in June or July (I still love it) in conjunction with Fr. Laux's Chief Truths of the Faith. Fr. Laux quickly moves into a discussion of each of the books in the Bible, and here is where we begin our second track. We have brought in Peter Kreeft's book You Can Understand the Bible in order further to explicate Fr. Laux. Here is my conundrum. Fr. Laux has another book, a wonderful book, which is more in-depth, and focuses exclusively on a discussion of the books of the Bible. Part of me says to wait until T is older to bring this book in. Part of me says that she is old enough or, more importantly, mature enough, to handle it now. We don't have to go fast, and taking a couple of years to move through the Bible, book-by-book, now will give her a huge advantage. She can hear it all again when I do it with the younger set but, even better, she can move on to more sophisticated exegesis. Alternative #2: she can set aside the Kreeft for now, and not pick up the 2nd Laux at all. We can just keep moving through Chief Truths of the Faith, and add Bible History, which was written for 6th-8th graders. The huge advantage for me is that this is written as a textbook (although since it was written in 1931, it is not typical textbook for *our* times; it reads quite nicely, and the questions at the end of the chapter are discussion style - with mapwork!). This gives her another independent subject. Of course, I'll read the book, too, so that we can discuss, but I won't have to read it to her, like I do with Kreeft, so that we can discuss as we go. It will give her more background to do the more in-depth Bible study next year. I think I'm convincing myself; she won't be happy, though.

Religion for the little kids? St. Joseph Catechism, lots of Bible stories, narrations, and drawings. They love to do their drawings! I want N really to work on his narrations this year. He is becoming quite a good writer, and his grammar sometimes amazes even me. M and M-C love to color anything I put in front of them, especially these Rosary coloring pages.

More subjects to discuss next time. History -- oh that history. How can I love it so much, but have so much trouble figuring out how to teach it coherently? I am trying to teach the unified history of the world and everything. It's not going all that smoothly. However, M is drawing Ajax as we speak, and the kids love to reenact the Trojan War, so at least they are in touch with their roots. There's nothing bad about that. T can tell you just about anything you might want to know about the Tudors (including which of Henry VIII's wives escaped the blade!). They all know a thing or two about the Tlingit Indians. They even know that American Indians called themselves "The People." I guess we're doing okay. Now to break out those timelines so that the Tlingit don't end up fighting the Trojans. It hasn't happened so far...

Review of Expedition China DNG Unit Study  

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It is getting so that anticipating Amanda Bennett’s Download N Go™ unit studies is becoming one of the highlights of my homeschooling month! While I know that somewhere online I can find out what is coming next from the DNG team, I love the surprise of finding the unit that I next get to review waiting in my inbox. It’s like a double treat: I get the surprise of finding out the subject to be studied, followed by the actual study itself. You see, if you are unfamiliar with Amanda Bennett’s shorter, bite-sized (as I have come to think of them) unit studies, it really doesn’t matter what you are currently studying in your homeschool. You always have time either to take a short break to work on the current Download N Go™ topic or, as is more usually the case, to work the current Download N Go™ topic in to your present course of study. Amanda’s and The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine’s current offering is no exception.

There are so many ways to make Expedition China relevant to any homeschooling topics of study. Geography is an easy and obvious one, but what about world cultures, ecology, history, biology, and languages? One of my favorite features of Download N Go™ unit studies is their adaptability. Yes, they are specifically designed to lead you through a complete unit in one week’s time; however, you are completely free to use any part of the unit, at any time, in any way that you see fit! More than any other of this series that I have yet seen, Expedition China particularly lends itself to this type of flexibility. Now that it is abundantly clear that I am entranced both by this form of unit study (I think I need either to put Amanda Bennett on my Christmas Card list or friend her on Facebook!) and by the choice of China as a subject for Download N Go™, let’s look at exactly what makes this unit study so compelling.

First, as with all of the studies in this series, the book list alone justifies the price. With so many books for children available on the topic of China, winnowing the list can be a daunting project at best. Recently, I returned from a trip to the library with no less than 13 books – on Marco Polo alone! That list doesn’t even include the older narrative stories that I had already downloaded and marked on my Kindle! Really now…I don’t have a semester just to study Marco Polo. I need someone like Amanda Bennett working for me! Another wonderful part of this unit study is the animal and geographical features of the day. My children couldn’t wait to find out what the animal would be each day. Even better, these animals are tied in to the optional, but included, lapbook component of the unit study! Finally, and in keeping with the winnowing benefit I so love, Expedition China contains several videos featuring aspects of China that my family will only ever see over the computer. Once again, there are thousands of such videos online. Amanda Bennett has done all of my legwork (fingerwork?) for me, and has found examples of the best videos which correlate to the relevant portions of her unit study. All my children and I have to do is sit back and enjoy. Well, the kiddies have to pay attention so that they can answer the questions which follow the videos! Given that this is a Download N Go™ unit study, the clickable links to the videos are right there in the download itself. One quick click, and you’ve downloaded your unit study, and all relevant materials (well, you may have to make a trip to the library, but what homeschooling family doesn’t welcome any excuse for that outing?). You could spend triple what you would spend on this unit study, or more, quite easily, and still not get the concise, quality study of China that you will get when you purchase the Expedition China Download N Go™ unit study. As you wind down your school year, do yourself a favor and take a vacation to the Orient!

You can purchase this unit study here http://www.theoldschoolhousestore.com/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=429&products_id=15621

Review of The Old Schoolhouse's 2010 Planner  

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Having owned both the 2008 and 2009 TOS planners, it was with great anticipation that I eagerly accepted a copy of this year’s incarnation of the planner in return for my review. The best part of the 2010 planner is that all of its familiar features have returned this year! Once again, it checks in at a whopping 600+ pages – intimidating if you plan to print the whole thing all at once, but why would you? TOS makes it so easy to find and print only the forms you need at the time you need them. Rather, it’s a joy to see all of those pages, because one surely knows that each one contains a valuable, homeschool-enriching treat!

If you’re familiar with this planner, then you already know that TOS has provided a form for virtually every need you can conceive of…and yet somehow, they have managed to come up with more than 25 new forms for the 2010 planner! Trust me when I say, if you can think of something you want to record, this planner has a form for it – and I mean that literally! There is a form for writing down the TV shows you want to remember to record! If, by some small chance, though, you have need of some form that has not been included, you can always jot down your thoughts on the beautiful journaling paper that is included. Once again, as with previous planners, there are numerous short articles on different subjects included in the planner as well. The articles cover a variety of subjects, all of which should be of interest to the vast majority of homeschooling families. Regardless of your homeschooling style or the size of your family, these articles should speak to you as you plan and execute your 2010-2011 homeschooling year.

Along with the articles, I was thrilled to see the return of my favorite feature of the TOS planner – the recipes! If your idea of dinner involves three courses and a wine pairing decision, not only is my homeschooling-mom hat off to you, but these recipes probably won’t make you rejoice the way they did me. If, however, you love finding that next great five-ingredient, 20-minute meal, then you will thrill to this group of recipes. An investment in this planner, then, not only guarantees you the most comprehensive planner you will ever own, but it also buys you inspirational reads each month from moms just like you, a mini-cookbook full of recipes you will actually cook that your family will love, lists and lists of research resources such as famous artists and famous composers, and enough blank forms for you to create anything else that you might need. Even if you were only to use one-third of the offerings in this planner, your money would have been well spent.

Oh, and for those of you who love your smart phones, and who can’t imagine needing any other date book or planner? Don’t think of this as a planner. Think of it as an E-book custom designed just for homeschooling moms, with monthly resources targeted at making your home life easier, and making your homeschooling life more meaningful. This planner truly is a tool for everyone. It gets better and better every year!

Review of March Molly's Digest  

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Having received Molly’s Money-Saving Digest for March in exchange for my review, I find myself in an uncomfortable position. I must recant something I said in a previous review. I’ve been fortunate enough to review one of Molly’s Digests before, and in that review, I said that if you have never tried one of Molly’s Digests before, that that Digest was the one to try. I was wrong. As wonderful as that Digest was, the March issue of Molly’s Money-Saving Digest is better. Molly packs more money and time-saving and life-enhancing suggestions into the March Digest than one would believe possible. In its trademark format, with all of the usual category headings included, Molly manages to pack in so many recipes that I’m still not quite convinced that the Digest couldn’t double as a cookbook. The best part is that every single recipe is one that my four children and my husband will enjoy. In fact, I’ve already incorporated two of her recipes into my dinner menus this week!

For those of you unfamiliar with Molly, I have found that one of her finest skills is the ability to pass on information without condescension. Imagine my delight, then, when I discovered that Molly included in this digest step-by-step grilling instructions. As with many families, my husband is the grill master in ours. I don’t question his methods; I merely prepare the food that he carefully cooks on the grill. How lovely, though, to be led incrementally through the entire process of grilling, from lighting the coals (for a charcoal grill), to soaking the wood chips (with a convenient explanation as to why one definitely does not want to skip this step!), to cleaning the grill after use. I feel confident now that I could take over the grill and not make a single error; what a great feeling!

While I love to cook, and look first to the wonderful recipes Molly provides, one of the things I appreciate most about Molly’s March Digest is her frugal decorating/recycling section. In this digest Molly provides nine uses for a common household item which probably usually ends up in your recycling bin. It won’t anymore! You’ll be asking your neighbors to save theirs for you once you read what Molly (and you!) can do with this ubiquitous article!

Finally, although I often describe myself as having a black thumb, Molly’s upbeat style and gentle encouragement have given me the courage to take on one of the many backyard projects presented in this month’s Digest. If I can manage a container herb garden without injuring Rosemary or running out of Thyme, then maybe I’ll have the courage to take on one of the more ambitious projects that Molly makes seem so doable! Whether you love to cook, or prefer to garden; whether you love to repurpose old objects, or just can’t pass up a wonderful directory of Internet links, Molly’s Money-Saving March Digest has something in it for you! Molly just keeps getting better and better!