Monday, September 7, 2015

Trail Guides for Learning

In my daughter’s 3rd grade year we used Paths for Exploration. My daughter loved it. I was a little nervous about it because of all the reading that was involved but she LOVED it. She really got into reading about real people, real explorers. We started with Christopher Columbus and went on to study John Smith, The Pilgrims, Daniel Boone, Lewis and Clark (and Pocahontas) and Johnny Appleseed. 

When my daughter is asked in her class what subject she likes best she always answers history.  This is a change from science to history.  What I really like about the Trail Guide for Learning series is that it incorporates reading, language arts, science, geography and history into unit studies.  She doesn’t feel like she is doing a lot of busy work because it is all tied together. 

She has retained the information and loves sharing her new knowledge with others. Being a mom and a her educator I love watching as she takes ownership of the information that she has learned to share it with others.

We did a number of hands on activities throughout the year. Some of the activities we went in search of and other activities were suggested by the curriculum.

This year that my daughter is doing the study Paths of Settlement. This year we are looking at the challenges that our country has faced to be a settled country. In the beginning we are looking at the events leading up to the American Revolution and the American Revolution War.  These are the first two units in our 6 unit study. We will go on to learn about the Civil War and up to the turn of the century.

She will get to have some hands on crafts. One of the exciting things we are going to do is make hand dipped candles. We were supposed to do in the last 6 weeks but we got a bit busy.  But this is a craft that we are all looking forward to. 


What does a typical day look like with Trail Guides??

I know that this is what you really want to know. Is this doable for your child or your family? 

1. Copy work or Dictation: This is where she gets a passage to copy out of one of the books she is reading.  If they are an older child then they can have the passage read to them. My daughter just copies the passage. This works better for her and her ability level. The other reason she does this is because she is able to do this while I am working with her younger brother. 

2. Reading: This is where she reads out of the book she reads on her own. When she was in 3rd grade she read out loud to me. This year she is reading independently and then telling me what has happened in her reader. Again, this is something that she can do while I am working with her younger brother.

3. Read-Aloud: This the the time where I read to her from another book. In 3rd grade it was just one book and this year we are reading 2 books together.  I may be changing the order we do this one but we also have a discussion. 

4. Spelling or Word Study – This is where they focus on different words and how to spell them. This is also where we learn about prefixes and suffixes and vocabulary words. 

5. History and Science trade days and when the subjects are covered. In 3rd grade it also rotates with Geography.  History is looking at what is going on in our readers and applying it to what is happening in history at that time.  In 3rd grade Science focused on animals and plants that explorers would have encountered on their journeys.  Science this year is more earth science focused such as weather and rocks. 

6. States – in 4th grade she is learning about 2 states a week.  Day 1 of the state she maps out the important landmarks.  On day 2 she looks in the atlas and finds important information such as the abbreviation, state flower and bird as well as unique facts. 

7. Writing and Doing. Some days she writes in a journal format. Other days she gets to work on watercolor painting or specific crafts that are related to the unit. 

8. The majority of the work takes place Monday – Thursday. Friday is our catch up day and also test day for her Math work that is not included in curriculum. 

School Photo

We just finished our first 6 weeks and it is just the beginning of September. I start early because we like to free up our December. It is hot outside here in the summer and if we start early we get some great outdoor play time when it cools down.  This year I have a 4th grader and a kindergartener. We have finally found out groove and are doing well in school. We have a lot of added extra curricular activities that keep our days busy and long.


I hope you have a happy school year!

Monday, August 3, 2015

4th Grade 2015-2016

Fourth grade is already here. I sometimes can’t believe that we have been homeschooling this long to already be at fourth grade.   I may be trying to bite off more than I can chew this year but like always I am excited to see where the new year takes us. 

4th grade

Trail Guide for Learning – Paths of Settlement

We used Trail Guide for Learning for 3rd grade and we both loved it. Since we both loved it we decided to continue on our journey and start Paths of Settlement.  In Paths of Explorations she studies Christopher Columbus, John Smith, Pilgrims, Daniel Boone, Lewis & Clark, Johnny Appleseed. We journeyed through history through the eyes of the explorers.  This year we are going through the journey though the eyes of those that settled the United States.    The events we will study will include the Colonial Period, the Revolutionary War, the war of 1812, the Civil War, and Westward Expansion.

We read books to go along with our study.  There is plenty of hands on experience to make my girl happy.  This is all in one curriculum so she can learn literature, grammar, science, history, geography and art.  This curriculum does not include math.  Soon, I will blog about a typical day in Trail Guides so you can see if it is right for you.

Math U See

GammaDeltaWe will continue on with Gamma in Math U See and then move on to Delta. Gamma’s focus is multiplication and Delta’s focus is on Division.  When we first started Math U see.  We started in the middle of the year.  So we are always starting the new school year with the old math book until we finish. 



Cursive Handwriting

This year we are introducing Cursive Handwriting with Handwriting without Tears.  I know that there are lots of schools these days that are not teaching cursive handwriting but I feel that it is an important skill to learn. My girl has been wanting to learn “fancy” writing for awhile, but I have made her wait because I wanted her printing skills to get better.  She seems to love the practice she has done in cursive so far. 



Product DetailsThis year we are incorporating Bible Study into our weeks.  I have seen this curriculum around the last few years and I finally decided that I think that she is now ready to for this study. In the past we have read Bible stories and discussed them.  This year we are using “Who is God?” by Apologia. I think that this curriculum will help give both my children a solid foundation.  We will read this together along with my kindergartener. My 4th grader will work on the workbook but I think that both of my kids can benefit with this curriculum.



Flying Creatures of the Fifth Day: Exploring Creation with Zoology 1I am wanting to incorporate Apologia’s science book “Flying Creatures the Fifth Day” or “Land Animals of the Sixth Day”.  Both of my children love learning about animals and I think that they will thrive using this curriculum.  Right now I am trying to figure out how to incorporate it. I have the materials and I am just trying to ease into this year and overwhelm us.  I will let you know how I fit this in. 



She will continue on using Rosetta Stone this year.  We need more time in the day or more days in the week to get this in on a regular basis. But again, I am trying to find a home for this during our week.  She has worked on her Spanish in 3rd grade and will continue to work on it in 4th. 


My daughter as well as my son have extra fun classes during the week. My son takes gymnastics twice a week. My daughter take gymnastics once a week.  She also has her dance days where she will focus on Tap and Jazz.  Alongside that she will have musical theater classes. 

This is going to be a busy year. But I am looking forward to it. 

Friday, July 31, 2015

Kindergarten Curriculum 2015/16 School Year

It is official we are in Kindergarten with Nate. We started unofficially doing Kindergarten work in January. Nate had covered everything that I had planned for him by January and we decided that we should just keep moving forward. So now that we are officially in kinder we are doing more of the same.  kindergarten

Reading and Phonics

 McRuffy Kindergarten Phonics is what I used to teach Mickey to read. I still had the teacher’s manual so all I had to order was the workbooks for Nate. I like the readers that come with books because they are fun and Nate looks forward to reading them. We are currently taking a break from the workbooks because it requires more writing than Nate can do right now.

Reading Eggs is an online reading program. Nate has been using this program since January and he loves it. It has reading games that he plays and learns different phonics lessons. A parent can sign up their child for a free trial to see if this is something that will work for them. Nate is also getting computer skills at the same time. When he first started using the mouse was a little difficult. We slowed down the mouse and got him a kids mouse that only has one mouse button and he does well now moving that mouse all over.  The program tests his skills and understanding along the way. It also gives the parent a summary of everything that they are learning. 


Nate is using Handwriting Without Tears. I used this program with Mickey to learn how to write.



Nate has started using Math-U-See as his math curriculum. This is the only book in the series that is a non mastery curriculum. The focus on Primer is to have fun with numbers. They are teaching concepts of numbers, counting and basic math facts. But this is an introductory math curriculum.  Once he moves to Alpha he will learn addition facts.

Science and History

Zoology 1I don’t have a set curriculum for Science or History. My main focus this year is to get the basics down. This does not mean that we are not going to have fun with science and history. He loves science and learning about animals. So he will learn alongside of his big sister as we go through Apologia Science Flying Creatures. He will also join in as she learns about Earth Science. He will also learn about the different states that we will study in his sister’s history program. 


Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Heart Changing Journey

This year I will be teaching my daughter who is in the 4th grade and my son who will be starting kindergarten officially. When I think about starting kindergarten with my son I remember when I was so afraid that I would mess up with my daughter. I didn’t know how to teach phonics and I had no clue on how my day was supposed to look.  I remember asking over and over again “what curriculum do I use” when I found those other homeschool moms.  I would get frustrated when they did not tell me you need to be doing x, y and z.  I was so unsure of myself and often second guess myself and this journey were about to begin. How things have changed. 

I now understand that people couldn’t tell me to use x,y and z curriculum because every family and every child is different.  I now laugh when people ask me if there is curriculum that I can buy.  There are loads of different types of curriculum and once you open the doors to your search the main problem will not be if there is curriculum but narrowing down the curriculum. This journey to homeschool is not just for my daughter or just for my son but for us as a family. It is what works best for our family.  There are a list of reasons why we have chosen to homeschool and those reasons are not everyone’s reasons. I have friends that have their kids in public school and private school and I respect their decisions because that is what works for their children and their families. I know and believe firmly that this is not something that we are doing just for kindergarten as I said when I first started out.  This is something that we are doing for the long journey.

I don’t have it all together and I still have lots of questions. What I do have now is a community that I can go to ask questions. There is the local community that we talk to and hope to more involved with this year. There is also the online community that I read their blogs and follow their adventures on Facebook.  There is also Facebook groups that I can ask a question and get lots of answers back in a  heartbeat. 

I can see now how the Lord has truly changed my heart. Where I was once fearful; I am now confident and excited about the journey. 

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Preschool Update

Nate is officially doing preschool.  We are focusing on learning the letters and the sounds that go a long with it.  We have done the letter of the week letter crafts.  We have lots of fun with it. 

Here are some links to places where I find my crafts to do with Nate.  Homeschool Creations is the site where I find my jumping off site.  She has a great list of alphabet activities.  Crystal and Co. is a place that has templates for the alphabet crafts.  They are cute and fun and simple.  We also get some templates from Miss Marens Monkeys.  I don’t think that she has the complete alphabet at her site but the ones she has are very cute and easy to use. I have also visited The Measured Mom to get some free letter books.  She includes lots of neat songs and finger plays.  I also visit Homeschool Share that has many free letter lapbooks.  I often don’t use everything in the lapbooks but I do pick and choose what I think that Nate will like.

E is for EagleLetter F

Other activities that we do are playing with his letter puzzle.  It is a wood puzzle that we bought from the Farmer’s Market.  We have so much fun.  We started at first learning where they go in the puzzle.  He has now able to pick up a letter, name it and tell me what animal starts with that letter and find where it goes.  He is correct about 95% of the time.  We also have alphabet magnets that we play with. 

So in short we do lots of play with letters and he is learning them.  I love to hear him tell random people that H is for Hippo and F is for Fox.  He loves to show off his skills. 

We are also trying out  So far it is not a hit.  So I think that we will try for some of those games. 

computer work

Nate also gets involved with the science projects that we do with Mickey.  He loves to learn and he even has the names of the planets down. 

Helping with Science

We are also trying to make regular trips to the library during their storytime.  Nate loves books and the puppet show, but I think his favorite activity is the hokey pokey. 

Hokey Pokey

Monday, September 1, 2014

Trail Guide To Learning–Unit 1 Review

As I have written we have changed curriculums this year to Trail Guide To Learning. We are using Paths of Exploration books this year.  Our first unit was focused on Christopher Columbus for six weeks.  We incorporate reading, copy work, word study, grammar, science, history, geography and art.

I had a few concerns when we started because reading and copy work are areas that Mickey needed to work on but she also complained greatly by having to read so much or write all the time. Now that we have finished up our first 6 weeks Mickey tells me that her favorite parts are reading and copy work.  She has greatly improved in both of these areas. 

We had a lot of very hands on activities which is just what I was looking for.  In the first week of our unit we studied about Bazaars where people bought food and clothing.  It is very much like our Farmer’s Market that she attends weekly.  So we made a special trip to a night Farmer’s Market where Mickey took a photo journey and added it to an album that she would use in her end of unit presentation.  She LOVED this. 

Mickey Farmer's Market

Mickey Farmer's Market2

We also had a lot of hands on science activities.  We used Trail Guide for Learning and also our Astronomy book that we use from Real Science 4 Kids.  I was so thrilled how the 2 correlated in our learning.  We studied planets and put together a solar system model.  The end product is now hanging in my daughter’s room.  She is very excited. 


Mickey Planets

We also studied constellations.  The kids enjoyed learning the stories and finding the constellations on their own board. 


Mickey Stars

We also learned about the weather.  I think that one of the fun things we did was learn about clouds and rain while we had a thunderstorm going on outside.  It really made the lesson come to life. 

Nate Cloud

Nate is feeling the heat from the water.  I don’t know why is has the sock but it made him happy. 

Mickey Cloud

Mickey being fascinated about how the “clouds” were releasing the rain.

We also tried our hand at making a sundial.  There is a lot more that goes into a sundial than I ever knew.  It was fun creating art and science at the same time.

Nate SundialMickey Sundial

One of my greatest joys taking this journey is the excitement my child had while reading about Christopher Columbus.  She couldn’t wait to read on and learn what else was going to happen.  She didn’t fuss about reading her book because she knew that I was also going to read to her from my book.  Her reading improved and she enjoyed reading.  How great is that??  Her writing has also greatly improved.  She looks forward to the copy work and likes to see how neat her writing can be.  She enjoys working in her lapbook and likes to cut and paste.  This program has been a huge blessing to our family.