Monday, December 12, 2011

Fresh Milk!

I know, I know,,,,I need to be posting pictures! Time is moving so fast. I barely have the time to fit in our Christmas/Holiday stories and crafts. I have a few pictures, but we are behind.

This week I have been doing some research on fresh, cow milk. Last spring we took a field trip to a local dairy, Lavy Dairy Farm, in Silex, MO. My friends started a group driving from the city to get the milk. For some reason I never jumped on the band wagon and I live right in town to get the milk (the others drive an hour~). Anyway, this week I decided we were going to give it a try and OH.MY.GOSH.....we drank a gallon of milk in only 3 days! That has NEVER happened in my house. Nico and I took the cream off the top of the milk and made butter. We had two gallons of milk and ended up with 1.5 cups of butter....YUMMMMY! We made some homemade bread to use our butter on. The next morning we used the buttermilk to make pancakes. I am loving it!

Last spring we raised meat hens for the first time. I wasn't sure I could do the butchering, but with the help of a friend, we mastered the task. I only had 10 chickens and sure wish I had more! We ate the last of our chicken breast last week and did a taste comparison with some frozen chicken breasts from the store. There is no comparison....I really wanted to throw the bag of frozen chicken away...but that is what we are left eating until next summer. I recently bought a larger pen to keep the chickens in next year as I am planning on having at least 30 of my own. I have gotten my friends and family from the city interested as well and they are going in on the feed and buying their own chickens to keep at my house. Then we will have a butchering party!

We also love our egg layers! I love going out each day to collect the eggs, counting them, seeing what sizes and colors we have gotten. Again, I have many of my city friends buying my eggs. My mom is a regular customer and has not gone back to eat store bought eggs since I started having enough to sell. The eggs we hatched last spring are laying now. We are looking forward to hatching more eggs this year!

I gotta wrap this post up as it is my break time at work....I will be back to tune it up some and will hopefully get pictures posted soon!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Christmas Preparations

This year I have decided to start a couple of new traditions to our Christmas festivities.

I have a Christmas Elf on the way! If you are not familiar with the tradition look here. I actually ordered our elf from Amazon with a book. I can't wait to start relocating him and having the boys find him in the morning.

We are also going to start a Count Down to Christmas. I am going to wrap up 24 Christmas/Winter related books and place them under the tree. With each book will be an activity to complete that day. Many acitivies will be crafts for us to decorate the house with. Each day the boys will unwrap a book. We will read it and complete the acitivty.

I will be posting pictures along the way of our fun!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Always Changing

This past week has brought a big change for our little school. My oldest son, Brian, came back to our house and has decided to finish his high school degree which he has been working on. It is an online degree and he is down to one class. We had a great week and I am really keeping my hopes up that he has decided to change and get his things in order. We are going to work with a friend who sells warehouse items on ebay and get Brian hooked up with him to start selling his items. This is something he can do at home or anywhere he is at (he just has to drive to get the merchandise to mail when sold). I would love for him to work someplace else as well, but we have agreed that he needs to be sure he will stay in our area to apply for any job locally as gas it too expensive to do a lot of driving for a minimum wage job.

With him coming back we rearranged the school house so each boy has a desk and I have one too. (good thing I bought that desk from IKEA a couple of weeks ago!). With the holiday we have missed a few days of school, but the days we did all work out there everything went great. The boys all did what they needed to do. Again, keeping my fingers crossed this week goes well too. I know, at 19, he is totally bored at our house but I am working on getting him his own phone so he can chat with his friends when I am not there.

Another change coming in January is a work schedule change for me. This will effect our school schedule a bit. Every other Tuesday night I will now have to work a 12 hour shift. At the present time I work Sat, Sun, Monday night 6pm-6am. We do school work on Tues-Friday with Wed-Friday being heavy days. Now every other week will be a little short changed due to my lack of sleep, time, and energy. Luckily Brian and Nico work on their own. Brian definitely can do his on his own and Nico will be given things that don't need all my instruction time. We may have to do some school work on Saturday or just go longer in the summer. We used to go year round, but last year we took off 3 months for the wedding and a break...we all loved it. It looks like maybe only 2 months will be off this year.

I am not complaining at all about the job. It could be ALOT worse. I am blessed to have my job now for 20 years. I have gone through many schedule changes with each bringing new challenges that I have overcome. The worst of this is changes for my kids and their schedules in the evening on Tuesday. But, again, it is workable. (better than any other night of the week. Nico is in competitive hip hop he has to be there on Thursdays.)

On another changing note, I am happy to say Luca is improving so much in his classroom work and attention. He has made great strides in his work recently. This week I gave him a matching shape worksheet. He had to glue the items that matched the shape in the square. He immediatley started gluing without me giving instruction, knowing what he needed to do. We write his assignments on the board and erase them as they are completed. He has started paying attention to the board and counting down the things he has left to do.
He is excited about letters and numbers and really wants to read. We are working hard on all of this.

Nico is working more independently, but he does not like it. I think he still likes to have mom there helping him and by his side. It is sad, but he is growing up! I am just so lucky to be able to be home with them and teach them! How can I complain about my work schedule. I get to work full time and be home with my kids!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Mini Vacation

Last week we took a mini vacation. By mini, I mean 2 nights in the RV at a campground 30 minutes from home. IT WAS WONDERFUL! We went to Tievoli Hills in Clarksville, MO.

A fall photo posing in front of the river.
The first day there it was beautiful weather. We drove into Clarksville and had a late lunch early dinner. While there we went to the Lock and Dam 24. They had a barge in the lock. I was super excited because we have recently finished reading "Paddle to the Sea" and Nico had to do a little research on Locks and Dams. We spent 45 minutes watching the barge move out of the lock, the lock refill with water and the tug with the rest of the barge move into the lock. Being able to see things in action gives it so much more meaning than reading about it in a book. (I also got to count those as hours :-)

The lock at lock and dam 24, Clarksville, MO

Nothing like a good splashing in the creek bed.

The campground consists of vacation homes as well as camping. There are timeshares, recreation center, hiking trails, and best of all WINE TASTING! The store the Port the winery in St. Genevieve makes in the basement of the wine cellar here in Clarksville. Mike and I being wine lovers, we popped in to do some wine tasting. They also brew their own beers, so Mike sampled some of those as well. We did find several wines we enjoyed and bought two bottles. I really enjoy supporting our local wineries :-)

The Bistro and wine tasting building

After the wine tasting we hopped over to the rec center and played some basketball with Nico, Air Hockey with Luca, and Mike and I took on some ping pong. This is the day it really started cooling off. We had a fire stocked outside, but it was even too windy to sit outside for long. We spent several hours in the camper playing board games, surfing the internet, and being together as a family. Even our dog, Thor, was with us. Nico put him to work pulling him on the scooter. Mike videoed some footage of this event. However, it cannot compare to the crash landing that Mike took while he was scootering with Nico. He came back with a bloody arm, bloody leg, ripped shorts and shirt. Luckily he didn't crack his head!
Thor being put to work. Mush, mush! He was done for the night.

While not a crazy, exciting far away trip, it was pleasurable none the less. Just being away from the every day routine and taking the time to play the board games with the kids was a pleasure in itself. (Also sleeping in and having 3 days off school).

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Language Arts and Extras

Language Arts has to be Nico's least favorite subject. I don't blame him, I hated it too in grade school. However, in 7th grade I had the best English teacher. Not only did she help me in my grammar she helped me in my handwriting!

We have jumped around through the years with language arts programs. We started with First Language Lessons for the Well-Trained Mind. It was great for Kindergarten, but he and I both got tired of doing nouns very quickly. I then moved onto Learning Language Arts through Literature from Common Sense Press. It also worked for one year. I found it not to have enough reinforcement and again, just doing the same basic thing every day. Finally in 4th grade I found Voyages in English Grammar and Writing. FINALLY, I found one we liked. Each unit focuses on a form of writing (ie: descriptive paper, personal letter, etc) and a part of grammar. It has exercises in the book, a workbook, and pre and post tests. I have to admit, I am learning more myself. I also don't get too frustrated when Nico can't remember what past participle means because I never really understood it myself, until NOW. I mean, I know how to speak correctly and use the correct words, but to say, what is the past participle in the sentence....never, until now and now it is helping us in Latin. It is like the light bulb went off in MY head! Sad, but true and I am not afraid to admit it.

Speaking of Latin, that is one of our 'electives' this year and will be our foreign language for the next few years. The plan is to then move onto Spanish. Classical Academic Press, Latin for Children Primer A, is what we are using for Latin.
Latin for Children, Primer A (Textbook)
No, I do not speak Latin myself, but I have taken Spanish and Italian in my highschool and college years. Thus, Nico and I are learning it together, but lucky for me, I know a few extra things, like verb conjugation. We have made it through one complete chapter and ready to move on. There is a CD and DVD that comes with the books. The CD has the chants that we learn on them so we can listen to them in the car or in the house. The DVD has a 'teacher' on it. It is a man teaching Latin to his kids. This was a must for me so I can be sure to get the pronunciations correct. I found it funny when Nico and I started our chant and Luca started singing right along! As a matter of fact, I asked Nico to conjugate amare, suddenly Luca started chanting it. I have decided to go ahead and start Luca on Song School Latin which is the early years Latin. He is loving it, but he enjoys singing whereas Nico hates to sing. Both boys are doing well and it is something new and fun for us.

Another elective we added this year and for the next few years is Greek Mythology.
This is the book we are using. There is also a workbook. There are tests included, but they are quit in depth. I have decided to create my own tests basically focusing on the vocabulary and the stories. This has been a lot of fun for us to read together and discuss. The pictures in the book are great!

You are probably wondering why the heck I would want to teach these. We are turning toward a more classical education. I am trying to make my children as well rounded as they can be. Nico has stressed an interest in being a vet. Latin is used widely in medical terms. It will also help expand his English vocabulary as many of our words are derived from Latin words.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011


It has seemed reading with boys has always been a challenge. Brian, now 19, finally likes to pick up a book and just read for fun. Nico is getting there - if he has a Pokemon book or something that can really keep his interest. Now Luca, he LOVES books. He is always asking me to read to him. (finally got a reader)

I have to say reading is the one subject I was most worried about teaching when I started homeschooling. With Nico I used Hooked On Phonics Kindergarten - 3rd grade. In 4th grade we started focusing more on reading comprehension and picking a book apart. I know this does not make reading fun but I allow Nico to have free reading every day where he can pick any book he wants to read. It can be a simple chapter book if that is what he wants. He usually picks that because he can finish it in one sitting.

This year in 5th grade we are still working on reading comprehension. As we are turning our learning to be more literature based, he is getting more reading in for each of his subjects. His reading has improved immensley this year. I was really getting concerned about his reading because he would always leave out the little words such as the, and, an, it, our, etc. Often he would read the sentence and it wasn't what was written there at all, BUT had the same meaning. It was like his brain read it ahead and then he paraphrased it. I started looking into dyslexia or some other reading/learning issue, but nothing surfaced or fit. Finally I ran across an article on the right brained learner. I started digging deeper into it and truely believe Nico is a right brained learner. He was also struggling with spelling and I struggled with finding a spelling program I liked. I had Spelling Power, but put it aside in 3rd grade, frustrated because it didn't seem to work. I pulled it back out this year and decided that I should use it correctly! When he misspells a word he gets to pick an activity to do that will help him remember how to spell it. So far, so good! I also notice that in his daily writings his spelling has improved too.

This week we started reading the book "Loser" by Jerry Spinelli. We are loving it!!!! Scholastic has a mini lesson on it with comprehension and questions on it, making it more fun for me to wait and read it with him. Friday he actually read a whole chapter out loud to me (without me sitting next to him correcting him) and did a great job. The book is really holding his interest because in the past he would never volunteer to read a whole chapter at once outloud.

My goal in reading this year is not just reading comprehension, but to start reading some of the classics. I have the Wind in the Willow, Desperaux, Trumpet of the Swan, and others lined up as a few of the readings. If I can find a movie to go with the reading then we watch the movie after we finish the book as a special treat. Next year we are going to focus on Mark Twain's works with reading and activities. We also live only an hour from Hannibal, MO so will plan another field trip there.

Luca is learning his letters this year. A friend introduced me to Headsprout. It is a reading program online. I went ahead and signed Luca up for it even though he is 4. He made it through the first 5 lessons and is working on reading the first book. I think it is a bit advanced for him, but he asks every day to do a lesson and does not like to have to redo one! We will continue working with this, but I am also going to start Hooked on Phonics K with just the CD and singing the sounds the letters make. We will continue with learning how to write the letters as well. We are using Handwriting Without Tears for writing.

We also started focusing on letters this week starting with the vowels and their sounds. This week was letter A for apple and acorn. We collected acorns from the yard and he filled his letter A with them. Each time he glued an acorn on, he had to say "A". He does know the lower case 'a' because it is in his name. With just small workings with Luca he will master his studies fine this year. He does like to do his lessons and cooperates.

I am a big reader and have a huge library of books. I hope with Luca being my last little one, that the books on the shelves will finally get read by someone.

Saturday, October 8, 2011


Nico actually asked me this year to include health in our curriculum. We completed Harcourt 3rd grade health two years ago. It was one of his favorite subjects. I didn't want to do the same style book and workbook so searched out something new and exciting. WinterPromise pulled through again. They have Human Body and Forensics, grades 4-6. Again, WinterPromise is a literature based program with lots of hands on activities. Our first unit was on cells, which Nico found really interesting even though it was just a touch on the basics. Next we started into the respiratory system. When I was homeschooling Brian I had bought a couple of specimens to dissect with him. I think Brian only did one before he quit. Although it wasn't written in WinterPromises curriculum I decided to add it myself. I ordered a sheep pluck (includes sheep heart, lungs, and trachea) from Home Science Tools...a small fee of $13.00.

I used to teach dissecting classes at Florissant Valley Community college. They were Saturday classes for kids. Nico would attend the classes with me....he was only 4, but loved it. By the time I quit teaching them, he was walking around helping the kids with me.

Nico has stressed a desire to be a veterinarian. (I had dreams of being a vet myself. I had the school all set up, then decided to stay home. I now work as a chemist, but my true love is biology). We started chemistry early too with Nico. We are one our second year of that. Their brains are such sponges at these young ages. Nico couldn't wait to dive into class today.

Mike was home so he lowered the pressure on the air compressor and stuck the end down the trachea and watched the lungs inflate. It was so cool. Then one of the lungs pop, causing a split in the lung. That lung, of course, no longer worked properly. He was able to see that one lung is indeed smaller than the other and why (because the heart takes up part of that space).

Nico on his initial inspection.

I got  a kick out of Luca. Immediately he said, "It stinks!" but he still wanted to see what was going on.

Making the cuts.

I have a great dissecting microscope (and a great slide scope), but the dissecting one is great to look at the larger specimens up close. Luca really wanted to see. I loved the way he held his nose.

Getting a look at the inside of the heart.
Nico does have worksheets he completes after dissecting. He remembers so much more by actually seeing and touching things. To actually see the aveoli in the lungs and the blood vessels and arteries running through the heart. He is able to identify parts most kids his age will never see until high school or college.

I just can't stress enough the joy I have in homeschooling my children. Even if children aren't exposed to this in school, the materials are readily available for anyone to order and do at home themselves. Nico, as I write this, is dissecting some more on the heart and lungs with his friend.

Friday, October 7, 2011


Ahhh, Math....I can honestly say I am enjoying teaching math. I hated math growing up. We were not allowed to use our fingers and I was horrible at memorizing all those addition and subtraction problems. The math program I use is MathUSee. It starts out from the very beginning using colored blocks  - the wonderful manipulatives used to actually SEE math work.

It has also helped that while I was working on a Special Ed degree I took a teaching math class. I loved it!!! She taught us how to use the manipulatives to teach. It is sad to say at that time math really started to make sense to me! (Although I loved geometry and trig in high school).

We are behind on what would be considered a regular class setting in that Nico is wrapping up the multiplication book and getting ready to move onto division. The bonus in taking it slow is that he totally gets it. We had a little rough start getting back into math after having the summer off, but a month into he is moving along steadily. I have found that if I put the problems into a word problem he works them so much better than if I just have 76x84 written so he can work it out. I think putting into a picture puzzle gives him the tangible thing he needs. (my right braind learner!) He can actually 'see' what the numbers mean, making the problem worth while to solve.

Here he is working on the factoring page. He was building all the different rectangles and writing the numbers down when it suddenly hit him...."oh, they are the numbers that when multiplied together equal that number!" I love when the light bulb goes on and they figured it out themselves.

Luca is really just learning how to count and make one to one associations. He is also learnig to recognize the numbers themselves. He does enjoy counting. In MathUSee they instruct to count 10 as 'onety', then 'onety-one, onety-two, etc' makes total sense to me and he loves saying onety-one. He had to tell Mike he was wrong today when Mike said eleven...Luca said no 'onety-one'. Don't worry they switch over suddenly, on their own, to ten, eleven, twelve, etc. I have found a lot of fun activities to do for math. We will start him on the primer MathUSee later this school year. We play a lot of games. Here he is playing a game from Muggins Math Series with Mike. The kids have the best time playing them. Mike helps quit often with math. He will work with Luca while I am working with Nico. Today, Luca actually asked his dad to come watch him do his lessons. I love it! (as long as I can put Mike to work teaching him - otherwise daddy is a distraction in the classroom). blog has the most wonderful lesson theme plans! I am totally hooked on their things and have printed out many of the fall ones so we have a different theme to work on each week with different pictures to look at. (I just love the internet!)  Their items cover all subject areas.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

World History, US History, Geography Week

This week is Social Studies Week!

Our curriculum started out with just world history, using Story of The World by Susan Wise Bauer. It starts out in the neanderthal time and progresses through present time in 4 different books that are to be used 4 different years, then repeated again the next 4 going into more and more detail. We used the first book in second grade. By third grade I really felt like we needed to add some US History so we added Abeka US History 3rd grade and Daily Geography Practice from Evan-Moor Educational Publishers. We also switched from just SOTW to History Odyssey as our outline which uses SOTW in it. We continued on that route in 4th grade, moving up the the 3rd Story of the World Book and 4th grade Abeka US History. This year we are finishing up the 3rd Story of the World book skipping the parts we already covered in US History as they are joining each other. We will continue our year with History Odyssey and the 4th SOTW book.

I have learned SO much about world history that was never taught in schools when I went or is probably still not taught (at least it wasn't when my now 19 year old son was in public and parochial school). It is great now when we go places and Nico can answer questions and share in discussions with adults about history. (Maybe now I can play Trivia Pursuit and get some answers right ;-)

We have had the best opportunities to learn about US History in our vacations over the past years. Last year we took a 3 week vacation up to the east coast in our RV. We stopped in Hershey, PA, Gettysburgh, PA, Washington DC, and Boston, MA. We didn't spend the whole time delving into studying the history but took tours and had a lot of fun learning while actually seeing where things are.

This year (and the next 4), mark the 150th anniversary of the Civil War. In our own home state of MO, there are several Civil War battle sites. This weekend I took a night off work, drove 3 hours to Lexington, MO and spent the whole weekend with the boys learning about the Battle of the Hemp, September 18, 19, 20, 1861 that happened right there. We were able to watch the re-enactment on Sunday which they both really enjoyed.

Luca had fun visiting with the doctor and telling him he had a tummy ache. Here he is waiting for the doctor to find some medicine for him. (candy) After our tour Luca came back and told the doctor he felt better.

I took Nico on an evening tour of the Anderson House, which is the house that is located near the battlefield that was used as a hospital for both sides. It is also the house where the hemp bales came from. The evening tour had actors portraying the darker side of the Civil War, as in the wounded.

Nico has always enjoyed history. Living history is my favorite. There are usually WWII battle reenactments at Jefferson Barracks so we will probably hit that too. I can't wait to take them both to Williamsburg, VA for a family vacation. I had so much fun when I brought Brian.

Besides studying world history and US history this way, we also have a separate Geography curriculum. We are using Winter Promise, Geography through Literature. We are really enjoying it. It consists of reading 4 books by Holling C Holling. As we read them we mark the trail on the maps. The curriculum also has research topics and assignments to expand on each story. An example: We are reading "Paddle to the Sea". It is about a boy who carved an canoe and put an Indian doll in it. He set it in the frozen water of Lake Nipigan near his home. As the ice melts the canoe takes off. The book follows the journey of the canoe as he travels along. At one spot he goes through an iron ore plant. The assignment is to research iron ore, finding out where it comes from, what it is used for, etc. I then require Nico to write a paragraph or two about what he found.
In this way we are not only studying geography, we are reading, researching, and writing.

There is so much to be learned not only about our country and state, but the world in general. It is so important for these kids to really understand our world and why things happened the way they did.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

My Little Scientists

I thought I would post some specific things on our subjects for the next few weeks and add some pictures of the boys in action.

This week Luca found a Jr. Science Kit I had bought for him, but stuck up in the loft until later in the year. He was so excited to find it. He brought it down the stairs filled with joy saying, "Open it, please". The kit has all the goodies; goggles, tweezers, flask, beaker, pipette, magnifying glass, etc all in large sizes for little hands to maneuver. We happened to have some water in the school house so I filled the beaker with water and for about 45 minutes he played pouring the water through a funnel into a flask, then back into the beaker. Later in the week we added colors to the test tubes and he mixed colors.

Our first quarter of science for Nico is chemistry. This is our second time doing chemistry. We are using Real Science - 4 - Kids. I like them because they have the student book, lab book, and this year they have quizzes, midterms and lapbooking materials which are great for studying. This means less work for me! They graduate in steps of difficulty. The labs are similar year to year, but add an additional element of science to it. This week we continued talking about atoms, molecules, and bonds. For lab Nico got to make molecules and identify them. The fun part was they were made out of marshmallows so when we were done the kids got to eat them for snack. Luca even made molecules.
I love teaching Nico science. Being a chemist and majoring in Biology and Forensic Science I enjoy that he has such an interest in it. It was so beautiful we were doing our lessons outside on our school house porch.

Luca couldn't wait to eat his molecule.

 I also dug out the element kit I had bought for Brian that had the correct electron sites on them. I wish I had kept the one from my chemistry class in college.

This week also started our Co-Op. Every year we do a different topic or theme. In the the very beginning it was whoever was hosting picked what they wanted to teach. We then went for two years studying the states. Each week a hostess presented a state giving facts and information in whatever way they wanted to present it. This was fun for the kids because they got to do different things each week depending on the mom or dad that was teaching. Last year we flipped to doing science every week. We have two groups of the kids, the Pre-K and the older elementary kids. They each had the same topics but worked on their level. We had a hostess for each group. This year we are geared toward games and cooperative play based on educational games. We are doing a different subject each month. This month is Science. I had so much fun the first week seeing the different games everyone had.
Luca and Miranda are playing a game with Avi  helping them.

Nico is being introduced to a time travel game. It is so great to see the dads participate.

This is the Pre-K, K group. Luca and his harem I call it.
Nico also found a baby mouse that he really wanted to try to save. He called me at work to tell me about it, but I did not know it was going to be so small. The little thing had no hair yet. I knew it wouldn't survive, but let him try it. He fed it with an eye dropper and listened to it squeak. He has such a big heart.


Science is my favorite subject by far. It is so fun to learn when you can see what is happening. There is also so much to do with science it is never ending. I love that both boys have such an interest in it.

Friday, September 2, 2011

One Week Down and Tools

We have our first week under our belt. We had 4 good days and 1 bad day. However, we got into the groove of things quickly. I get up at 7:30am, which is early for me. I am not a morning person and neither are my kids, but if we want to be done by noon or 1pm, this is what we have to do. I get the boys up and have breakfast by 8am. Luca rings the school bell at 8:30am. (this is his favorite part). Luca usually hollers, "Nico, let's go!"  Nico likes to eat fast so he has time to play before class starts and is usually out running around the yard.
I am just going to share a few pictures of our week.

Here is Nico listening to a chapter from Story of the World. This is our World History curriculum. We are in the 3rd year using it. I am working on getting Nico to be more independent. Yes, he can read it himself, but he is an auditory learner and does better by someone else reading it. This year I bought the CD that goes with the book. Instead of me reading it to him, he listens to another person. He follows along in the book. This only happens when the subject material is new and had more depth to it. The downside is I have to go back and read it again, or read his notes, to understand what he read so we can have a discussion on it. That is part of my homework in the evenings :-) It is best if I can grasp everything from his notes. That means he understood what was read.

Today Luca brought his R/C truck to class. Nico showed him how to build a wall and run the truck into it. It became quite the game for them. Luca would stack blocks on the back of the truck and drive them to Nico. They experimented with how thick they could make the wall for the truck and how far the blocks would scatter. Educational and fun!

 Luca's theme for this week and next week is farm life. I found this game, Old MacDonald Had A Farm, up in the closet. I think I bought it for Nico when he was little. Luca had a blast with it. He loves to sing (where Nico hated to sing). Honestly, it did get to be quite annoying and had to be put away when Nico moved onto math and needed to concentrate.

Besides all our learning I thought I would share some of the items I am using to try to organize ourselves. Nico is a pretty good organizer so teaching him the tools I am using is working out great.
 This isn't organizing, but one of my FAVORITE tools....the laminator. I bought this one on ebay for only $20.00. It is Scotch brand and the best I have ever had and trust me I have had a few :-)
 This is our wall organizer for the paperwork. It is organized by subject. Each evening I run through my lesson plan and see what worksheets are needed the next day. I put them in the correct subject pocket. When the subject is started he can look at the board (pictured below) that has each subject listed for the day and the assignment written next to it. Several subjects he can start on  his own so  he looks at the assignment board and can go right to the red file to grab what he wants to work on. He gets to pick the order of the day. Usually he goes from fastest to the one that will take the longest. He also starts with what he can do himself which allows me to work with Luca.

Also in the hanging red file is a place for completed work and a place for work that needs to be filed. At the end of the week, Nico has to file his papers in the correct binder. This is new this year for him. In the years past I put the papers away. I am trying to hone his organizational skills as he will need them when he goes off to college. Today we realized we need to create a simple book to write down assignments that are long term and have a 'due date'. We only do some subjects twice a week so he has an extended time to write a story (such as the Greek Myth). He has to remember to get it finished in time. Again, this is a training tool for college and life in general....knowing there is a timeline and getting things done in a timely manner.

 These binders hold all the completed work that is filed at the end of the week.

This is my new spiffy organizer I bought from Staples. It holds all kinds of goodies and spins around. (only $29.99). 

It is all coming together nicely. Each year I learn more and create a better learning environment for us all. I do take in any suggestions they make to organize their things in a manner that is simple for them. I love Nico's desk this year because he can keep all his books right with him. It is up to him to be able to locate them and be ready to go. Next week is more of the same, with a park day thrown in....unless the kids have a bad week, which I doubt, because park day is VERY important to them.

Monday, August 29, 2011

First Day of School

Today was our first day of school for the 2011-2012 school year!

Mondays are very hard for me. I get off work at 6am and have to be back at 6pm. Usually we attend a Co-Op on Monday to get our educational hours in. This works great for me because I can count the hours, they are learning, and it is a social time for us all. It is not starting until Sept. 12, so we needed to do a little something at home today.

 We basically spent a little time going over our subjects for the year and giving Nico his new books to keep in his desk. Luca learned where his toys, crayons, paints, etc are kept. Here is the boys "First Day of School" picture.
 Luca got to ring the bell this morning for the start of our day. It is planned to be a short one, because mom is tired and has less patience on these days.
 Luca's first unit is on farms. Today we read a farm book and he drew the background of a farm setting. As the week goes on he'll cut out and draw pictures to add to his farm scene. We'll be reading lots of books about farms and playing some fun games. Nico will get to help out and participate in the games. He enjoys it because it is a break from his work.
 We took the summer off this year and over the last month spent no time at all even reviewing math. Today's lesson was suppose to be a quick 20 minute math drill over multiplication,,,,it ended up being an hour with us going to the MathUSee website and doing online drills. I love the online drills because it is quick correction. Much nicer than filling out a whole worksheet only to find out later you missed half of them. More math drills tomorrow! Hera, our cat, loves Nico. She loves laying on his paperwork when he has papers out. She is quite a treat to try to do school work with. I look at it as good thereapy.
 Nico took a break from flash cards and helped Luca draw his farm scene. Nico is a great drawer and added an awesome tractor and plow to the scene.
This little treasure box is from our wedding. I knew when I bought it for the wedding it would end up in the school house. I am going to fill it with reward coupons and little dollar prizes such as hot wheels. If they have extra good weeks they will get a prize. The coupons are such things as skip a subject the day of your choosing, a trip to DQ, bowling or a movie (after school hours), a park day, a half day, play a board game for math instead of a worksheet, etc. I am trying to make it fun and encouraging for the boys. They boys have to do their work without complaining and whining each day with a minimum of 3 days out of the month being bad days. We all know we have bad days. This goes for mom too!!!! So, if I feel a bad day coming on for myself, I usually shorten our day before the boys even know it, then I can make it by too.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

School Starts Tomorrow

I am so excited to be getting back to our studies. I am really looking forward to fun year this year.

The boys stayed home with Mike tonight while I am at work. I love it, because I can go home and sleep a bit then we can get up and get started. Mondays are light days for us due to my working until 6am Monday morning and having to be back at 6pm Monday night. In September we will be starting our Monday Co-Op. We attend this from 10am-12pm. This year our group is focusing on educational games with a focus on different subjects every 4 weeks. The next couple of Mondays will remain light days preparing for the weeks lessons and reviewing things learned the week before. We will also have art once a month on Monday.

I will post pictures this week on our first days of school.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

First Field Trip of the School Year

Our summer camping trip was going to be at Mark Twain Landing and fun at the water park. However, the water park was closed due to so many schools starting so early. I was really bummed because I wanted a camping trip full of fun. We didn't do a whole lot this summer due to the wedding, so I wanted a lot of fun for the kids. Mike then suggested the Missouri State Fair. We love the fair, but I wanted to camp. I was excited to find out they had over 500 campsites! Since we were going Monday through Thursday it was super easy to get a spot. $20/night, 3 hour drive, $90 in we had...priceless!!!!

While this is a lot of fun, there is still education going on, although Nico was sure to tell me he wasn't going to learn anything. 

The smile on Nico's face as he dove into the first ice cream of the trip. Funnel cakes are our favorite. We ate breakfast at the camper and then back to the camper around 3pm to cook up dinner. After that it was yummy snacks for the evening. It worked out perfect. The break for dinner was needed for us all. The beer was too expensive to buy there ;-) and the kids needed to rest their legs. Nico said his favorite part of the fair was the bunnies and rides.

One of the learning things was watching the baby pig drink from it's mama. Nico did me a favor and got down on the ground to take this picture for me. I think it is a great shot.

Can his smile get any bigger??? Luca loved this ride! The first time he went on it, his face was priceless. Luca said his favorite part of the fair is the rides.

Baaa, Ram, favorite thing at the fair is the animals. I could walk around each barn and look at each pen.

Luca had not actually heard a pig 'oink' in real life. The pigs were great to watch and listen too. Ooops, was that another learning opportunity.

I absolutely loved this big bull. I think this picture will be photo edited and hung on a wall.

Poor Luca...he kept measuring up to see if he could ride. He could ride quite a few things, but the water ride was the one he wanted to go on the most. He could ride it with a parent, so I spent $5.00 and bought myself 5 tickets to ride it with him. (yes, this says 6 tickets. It was the roller coaster) I love how me measured himself....tippy toes!

Another favorite of mine is the old buildings. The Missouri State Fair started in 1901. The buildings have been replaced, but they are still beautiful. Many are now air conditioned and the shows have tops over them. The last time I went was in 2004. Improvements are made every year.

At the end of the evening, around 9 or 10pm, we would walk back to the camper and still be able to listen to the sounds of the fair until about midnight. Nico even asked if we could make this a yearly trip. Hmmm, did we achieve what we wanted to? I would have to say and some learning too.