Monday, November 11, 2013

Toddler Days

Since Ruby has been 1 day old....she's been pretty high maintenance.
Beginning with a sensitivity to milk, putting me completely dairy free for about eight months, and suffering with some severe reflux, she's always kept us on our toes.

Napping and sleeping are no different. 
Don't get me wrong, she slept well very early on, and hasn't ever really REFUSED to sleep, except that time I forgot to get my frappe DECAF when she was about 5-6 months old.
Her latest trend is to nap in the recliner.
I have sat  behind her, rocking and reading history or science out loud to Katie and Noah while she watches a show or lullabye Pandora.

And within about five minutes, she is OUT.


Even mid-cheerio. (yes, she loves these owl pajamas!)

So, this weekend, we put a recliner in her bedroom because even though she would nap for 1 1/2-2 hrs in the recliner, it was kind of a pain worrying that someone might ring the doorbell or not be able to unload the dishwasher, etc.

It took a little longer today, closer to twenty minutes of rocking, but eventually....
she was out....

She slept about an hour and a half. 

Her latest favorite sayings:
"Mommy, I WUB (fill in the blank, pretty much whatever you are talking about)"
"It's my favit (favorite)"
or many times "It's my favit dame" (favorite game)
"Mommy (or Tatie or Noah, or Daddy, or Nanna, etc) You my best fwen" (your're my best friend)
The other night she came up to me and swaying her hips back and forth said, 
"Mommy, say, Whatchou do----in?" 
(I think she got this from Isabella on Phineas and Ferb)
She loves to try to sing ABC's and the Diego and Dora songs.
Also, she will say "I don wike dat" randomly about stuff.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Institute for Excellence in Writing

Institute for Excellence in Writing.  Wordy Title.
Okay, so I've raved about it before, but I want to say again that I absolutely LOVE this writing program. It is so academically rich with teaching how to write.  The DVD lessons at times can be a little long, but Katie and Noah seem to stay interested and entertained by them.  And they are acquiring great skills by following at outline for how to write certain methods.  We are doing Student Writing Intensive A at the rate of completing a full lesson every 1-2 weeks.  If you don't know anything about the program and have never been to one of the workshops, I HIGHLY recommend buying or borrowing (like I did) the Teaching Writing Seminar on DVD.  In all honesty, you COULD teach this method by just watching that seminar, quite easily in fact, but it would be difficult to use their writing intensives without having seen the DVD seminar.  That's how good it is.  I am a certified elementary school teacher, and what I learned from that seminar was crucial to our success with this program, it's not just a gimmick!  Now, I love the "set" of lessons with the DVD lessons for the kids, because honestly it does a much more thorough job than I would do of teaching the material in an interesting way, and the kids get to listen to someone besides me, and I know they are getting a HIGH quality level of instruction in writing.
Let's face it...being able to write (all genres, clearly, concisely, and with correct grammar) is the foundation for success in any higher education. In all subject areas, not just for English majors and professional writers. I am so thankful I found this program for 4/5th grade when they are really just beginning to be capable of understanding some higher level styles and information for writing and writing "about."

We use a separate curriculum for Language and Grammar.  Because as the teaching seminar points out, writing and grammar/spelling are two completely different things.  Do NOT try to teach spelling while you are trying to get a child to write a story.  Two totally different sides of the brain and slows down creativity and flow in an extreme way!  (same thing goes for HANDwriting and Writing!) I could go on and on about all the wonderful things I learned from that DVD but I will stop! ha ha.  Language/Grammar and Writing WILL all mesh together, but like learning to talk on a cell phone and drive, they can't be learned simultaneously.

At the beginning of the year they were creating a "key-word outline" by taking apart informational or other texts sentence by sentence.  They would then test this outline by retelling the information or story by only using their outline.  This helped them be sure they were choosing quality terms and words from the original text for their outline.  They would then re-write the paragraph, using their keyword outline.  What wonderful practice for essay, research papers, and public speaking!  Along the way they were introduced to stylistic techniques (with mini lessons to show how to use and brainstorm lists to draw from) to include in their rewriting.  Things like "use a "who or which" clause, or include a quality adverb.  They also started a banned words list, so they are no longer allowed to use the word "said" but must choose a better and more interesting word to use instead.  By making all of these things a requirement, although they are searching and putting them in that way, these techniques will become more of a habit and they will easily find ways to do it more independently.  They both mostly are able to fit all the requirements in on their own, but sometimes I do give them some hints or help in suggesting where might be a good place to include them in their rough draft.

So the past couple of weeks they have been working on a re-write of the well-known story, "The Boy Who Cried Wolf"  Another strategy that IEW uses, is allowing students to use other material to draw from for inspiration.  I agreed when watching their teacher training sessions that it's really unfair to expect an elementary student to be able to completely come up with an idea to write about from absolutely nothing. In the grand scheme of life, they've only been reading less than five years (generally speaking) and don't have very much life experience to draw from.  So teaching ways to enhance a story that is given to them, summarize, learn stylistic techniques and practice them on material that is given to them, will prepare them to be really good story-tellers, and THEN they can start making even mundane every day things into good stories.  It's hard for a kid to make a trip to the store into anything more than a few sentences without tools in their possession to inspire them to make it good.

This story also included several paragraphs, stepping up from the shorter one paragraphs they've been doing.  They had to do an outline, complete their checklist, and rough draft each part separately before being done.  This is teaching them to not retell the story or tell any story for that manner, in just two sentences.  ha ha.

So back to why I'm posting.  I am SO happy with their stories they've written this week! I want to blog them here for you.  I let them (for the first time) type up their final drafts so that I could just copy and paste them here.  I am going to do a direct copy and paste, no editing!

Their checklist for this assignment:

"-ly" adverb
who/which clause
strong verb
quality adjective
because clause

banned words: said, see/saw, go/went, thought
And they are required to come up with an interesting title based around the ending of the story (again I know this isn't a MUST for creative writing, but it makes them think harder at this point in time and see the story as a whole)

And for the grammar police out there, he had a whole entire segment on the teacher training about "who/which" clauses and how it helps them become better writers, addressing the nitty gritty of fitting them/not using them in professional writing later is another issue to address later!


Noah Thompson

November 8, 2013

How the Chicken Nugget Lost His Cap

Once upon a time,there was a very foolish chicken nugget who was wearing a big red cap and playing on the swing. Then he got really bored because he had nobody to play with. 
Then he remembered one day his dad exclaimed “If you ever see a mouth be sure to quickly call to the other chicken nuggets because they will scare it away.” So he eagerly called “Mouth Mouth!” The other chicken nuggets rushed over but they they discovered there was no mouth,which made them mad. They blabbered “Don't ever do that again!”
Later, he got bored again so, overwhelmed with boredom the chicken nugget cried “Mouth Mouth!”
 The other chicken nuggets rushed over, but they got furious because there was no mouth! Then they violently screamed “Don't EVER do that again!”
 After they left the chicken nugget cried “Mouth Mouth!” because he noticed a real mouth with razor sharp teeth! But the other chicken nuggets ignored him! The chicken nugget loudly screamed “Mouth Mou......." But then the other chicken nuggets got worried and rushed over, but only found his cap.


Katie Thompson

November 8, 2013

Don't Lie
Once, there was a bug,he was a ladybug and a school bug who was very foolish. He lived on a leafy
treetop in the woods. One day he was impatiently learning math, then he got very bored because math is not very fun! Then he remembered Mrs. Webber's warning when he first started going to Redwood Elementary, ''Beware of the bird, if you see one, call for help!'' He became very curious.
He wanted to make some excitement in his classroom so he screamed loudly, ''BIRD!'' 
Mrs Webber, the principal, the janitor, and even Marsha, who is the most tough class bully, ducked and screamed! But there was no bird. He had the whole building fooled! He laughed uncontrollably!
The whole building was pretty upset with him! Marsha said ''don't ever, ever, EVER do that again you little pest!''
For a long time he did not, but one day he got SO bored, he knew he shouldn't , but it just ''happened''
to slip from his lips. ''Oh no... b-b-b-b-b-b-b-b-b-b-b-b-b-b-b-b-b-BIRD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” There was panic all in Redwood Elementary. Then there was ANGER!!!!! Bugs knew he was gonna be punished. He got some severe talking-to. 
Then, a couple hours later Bugs spotted a real, beak-licking, sharp beaked, eyes gleaming
''B-B-B-B-B-B-B-B-B-B-B-B-B-B-B-B-B-B-B-B-B-B-B-B-B-B-B-B-B-B-B-B-B-BIRD!!!!!!!!!!!'' screamed Bugs. he was ignored. ''BIRD!'' BIRD!!!'' he was still ignored. ''BIR-------------gulp!'' At this the students and Mrs. Webber became startled! Before they could duck, the bird swooped in and greedily ate them all up!

The moral: Don't lie or other people might not believe you when you are telling the truth.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Farewell to October

October is always a fun month for us!
Katie turned ELEVEN! 
She got a pet for her birthday, neon tetra and some tetra that glow in this special tank that is really neat!
She has loved having a pet finally!

Katie requested coconut cake, so I had to post a picture of this delicious cake.  I am quite proud of my first attempt at making coconut cake. Very yum!

Here she is all dressed up for her birthday dinner.  She chose Provino's.

Our kids absolutely crack me up.  After pointing out that it didn't really matter what she named the fish because it's not like they would ever come if she called them, Katie (after Noah coming up with this idea sort of), decided that a "wheel of fish names" was in order.  So she spins it every day and gets to use all the names she came up with for her fish. One name means they all that same name for the day.

Katie and me before going out for her birthday dinner.

And of course, Halloween! Ruby's first time trick-or-treating! (last year we stayed in with friends)

I did NOT choose to buy or go all out for this child's costume.  With her personality, going through any trouble for a costume would certainly guarantee her refusal to wear it.  So we just raided the dress up box before going out.  I DID buy her some $1 wings at the dollar tree since we didn't have any surviving wings at the moment.

Katie chose to be a "roman princess."  Meme whipped up this toga/robe a couple of weeks ago and we used some silky fabric for the scarf thing.  Some gold binding finished up the details.

Fancy hair and makeup were the finishing touches.  She looked beautiful!

Noah was the first to really decide on his costume.  After seeing this idea posted on Pinterest, all it took was some printer ink, gluestick, a box, and time.  It was just printed out from a tutorial online and pasted on the box.  Pretty easy!

Here they all are together before going out to Trick or Treat on Broad Street in Rome.

Ruby got used to the idea very quickly!  She loved it, and even more I think loved seeing all the other kids in costumes.

Grandpa walked a block with us then cut out! When we were done (a WHILE later) she noticed he wasn't with us anymore and asked where "Papa" went.

Meme dressed up as a pumpkin, ha ha!

After we finished we went back to Meme's office (a block away) and Noah immediately sorted his candy to see what he got.

Our of order pic! A store had this set up in front.

Ruby was SO EXCITED about eating candy! She had a piece in each hand going back and forth licking and taking bites.

And to finish off the day of junk, we had "spooky face pancakes" for dinner.  IHOP was supposedly giving out free spooky face pancakes for kids all day, but we decided to just pick up a couple of things and make our own. The one above is Noah's creation.

This one is Ruby's.  I did the hair with apples to encourage her to eat SOMETHING good, ha ha.

Mine! That's some Orville Reddenbacher prepopped kettle corn.  good stuff.

And Katie's pretty design.

It was threatening rain all afternoon but turned into a nice cool evening.
We finished up the night with handing out candy to trick or treaters.  We actually ran out of two HUGE bags of candy and gave out some of Ruby's candy (oops! not like she was going to actually eat it all!).  They LOVED LOVED handing out candy! Ruby squealed and could not have more enjoyed putting candy in the kids buckets, and loved seeing all the costumes.

It was a fun night!
26 days till Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013


Ruby had her first visit to the ER last week.
She was so pitiful! She started getting a bad cough suddenly over Wednesday night and then Thursday it got worse and she ran a fever all day.  At around 11pm she woke up trembling and gasping with a tell tell "bark" to her cough.  I wanted to go let someone listen to her to rule out anything too serious or to evaluate the severity of what I was sure it was: croup.  No meds, but I was reassured with her lungs being clear, so we just have to wait it out.

This picture was taken on Friday.  She got in my lap and asked to be rocked with the blanket.  She took a really good nap for a little while at least.

This was taken this past Tuesday. After she felt a little bit better she would just fall asleep whenever and wherever she would be able to get comfortable for a few minutes. 

She was sleeping hard! Moved onto the floor completely!

This was taken last night.  She has felt a TINY bit better every day, and she's finally off the pain meds for her sore throat today.  I finally got brave enough to give her a bath after almost a week of waiting for the worst to pass.  She wanted bows in her hair because she saw them under the sink.

And after her bath....she got comfy on the bed.  Took about an hour nap but it didn't keep her up TOO late afterward.

And today she had her best nap of the week in the recliner.  Over two hours in this exact position!

She still has a really nasty sounding cough, but from the increase of stubbornness and mess, I can tell she's getting back to her usual self after a full week.  Croup is ROUGH!

And another first....

Corey celebrated his first anniversary with Shaw this week and he got this really cool water bottle as a present.  His official anniversary date was in September but since apparently a ton of people get hired in September they split them up over two months to celebrate.
He has come SO FAR with the company in such a short time, I am very VERY proud of him.  And I am very pleased to see that they recognize hard work and see his potential for leadership.  That awesome water bottle happens to be sitting on his very own desk.  Who gets a desk upper level job less than a year after going to work for Shaw? My awesome husband that's who! God definitely placed him in the right place at the right time and we are very blessed! And patiently (attempting anyway!) waiting to see what will come our way for his future!

Friday, October 11, 2013

Organizing Our Homeschool Year!

When this posts, we will be finishing the last day of our 9th week of the school year! I spent yesterday organizing and planning for the next nine weeks and decided to take some photos and share how I organize our school days!

This was taken after I finished.  Just some laundry and school planning!

Here's the front of my notebook.  I keep a big binder every year and at the end just take everything out and put it with all their school papers in a blue banker's box and label it with the year.  I put everything they do in there.  It's only two kids work so the box is plenty big to keep everything.  I also throw in their art, co-op papers and projects, and test scores.

The first page in the binder is a page listing our curriculum for the year.  Our Math has been scratched out a few times for our issues picking something at the beginning of the year, ha ha.

I then have divided sections as you can see.  The calendar I print from Donna Young and pencil in special events when I know about them.  I also roughly plan out our semesters and breaks, then actually circle school days after we've completed them. That section also contains the printed confirmation of our declaration of intent which I have to keep a copy of for legality sake.

In my lesson plan section I have....lesson plans! ha ha.
Yep, I write out lesson plans.  I do this for nine weeks at a time, ahead.
I started doing this the year that I was pregnant with Ruby, (although I didn't know I was pregnant when our year started).  It was the single most important thing that kept us afloat while I was very very very sick with the pregnancy.  And then, our year went SO well, that I decided to keep doing it!
I take each subject, and just go through writing down a very short lesson number or just a phrase to describe the topic for that day.  
The top section of the lesson plan is just showing that we do spelling, vocabulary, and handwriting practice every day and gives an approximate time those take each day.
The next subject is Math, I write the lesson number and the skill/topic.
The next subject down is our rotating subject area.  This is new for this year.  
I decided that instead of doing a little bit of science, social studies, language, writing, and art every day, that we would block those subjects off by day.  
So on Monday, after co-op, we do a week's worth of social studies along with the worksheets or activities.  On Tuesdays we do First Language Lessons, again a week's worth (which is usually only 1-3 lessons), and I have scheduled Art that day as well because Language doesn't usually take as long. 
On Wednesdays they do a lesson from Institute for Excellence in Writing, and complete the work that goes along with it.  That's also a subject that only does one lesson per week. 
 On Thursdays I had originally planned on it being a light day because they had violin and karate spread out throughout the day, but Katie's violin got switched to the morning, so this has turned into finishing up the writing assignments and maybe doing Art if it wasn't done on Tuesday. 
Then on Friday, we do science.

I looked into those subjects, the number of chapters or lessons, then figured out how many we needed to cover per nine weeks, then went from there breaking it down into each individual week.
This really helps me make sure that we will finish each curriculum by the end of the year.  I have also allowed for most subjects to be "finished" before the last two weeks of school, to allow for review or delay, and to allow time for testing week.

Under that in the bottom section is Reading.  We are doing Literature studies this year and they are reading the same books which is wonderful!  
You can see we are going to be continuing our study of The Borrowers.  

Now, some people may HATE being stuck to a lesson plan, but I LOVE it!
Honestly, if it were left up to me to go on our own pace....well....
let's just say that pace would reflect my serious deficit in attention and love of procrastination.

The next section is progress reports. The Georgia homeschool law states: "Parent must write an annual progress report and retain it for three years."
The way I do this is to write a short little status for each subject area at the end of each nine weeks for each child.
I made a chart and printed it out similar to the lesson plans with each subject area, then put a box for each nine weeks.  Then I just write a little update, list something they excelled with, or listing something they might have struggled with.  Then at the end of the year I have a more detailed account for each nine weeks than if I'd just written something at the end.
And yes, my kids always do well on their progress reports? Why in the world wouldn't they?! ha ha.
They always get A's because why would a private tutor move on before their student learned the subject matter? ;)
They keep working till they've finished for the day, so there's no "unfinished work" or incomplete projects.
Yep, they have been doing math right before bed. But it doesn't happen often. But if it needs to, it does. There's no leaving because it's time for school to be "done" and therefore they just take a bad grade.  
They finish. And if they get it wrong, we redo it together. Pretty good system.
Oh, and they don't have to go attempt independent work until we've done enough of it together that I know they understand what to do.  Just another BIG advantage of individualized private schooling at home from a teacher who knows you. ;) 

So, after my lesson plans section comes the WAY big help.  All my lesson planning would be in vain if I didn't do this next part.  I usually spend an evening or two planning out all the lessons then spend another afternoon or evening doing this.

I have a numbered divider for each nine weeks.

Behind each numbered nine weeks there are two heavy duty plastic page protectors. One for Katie and one for Noah.

Inside their labeled page protector is every single worksheet they will need for that week.
Spelling, Math, Vocabulary (pulled out of the Wordly Wise book, yes), Science, Social Studies, and even their Language Lessons. I pull everything out of its original workbook, divide it up and put it in these individual page protectors.

I cannot express how much this has helped me stay on track and COVER everything!
Even last year there were some things that I didn't pull out of the workbooks, like spelling and vocabulary, and guess what didn't get finished by the end of the year??
When dad is home in the mornings, there is a needy toddler *needing* to be given a new distraction every so often, or a juice cup refilled, or there are just various random *things* going on, every 2-3 minutes that it takes to find a workbook, find the page they need to do, show them where it is, and FIND it later or the next time you need to do some work, well that's just time we don't have! Add that on to every subject and you've got a BIG ole chunk of wasted time spread throughout the day.
Not to mention, I've got quite a few things on my mind.
Planning out when I need to start lunch (since that's our big meal of the day with Corey home), time getting Ruby down for her nap, and trying to get most everything done fairly early in the day so we aren't still working on school at 5pm (it happens!), well, this is just the thing to help us not waste time finding what we need.
And this year, I added another level of organization to it that is even better!

Katie and Noah each have a binder with five pocket dividers.
On Friday or over the weekend, I take all those worksheets out of the 9 week page protectors and further divide them by day into their own dividers. 
This is where some more customization can come in.  If we are behind, or if I know there's a change in the schedule that week, I can divide things out to accommodate those things.
When we are up and I'm getting breakfast or prepping for lunch, I can tell them to go get started on their Math or Vocabulary, or start on their reading for the day.  It's so wonderful that it's already in their day's work so I don't have to go find it.  It also gives them some responsibility, or at least gives them the opportunity to take ownership of their work a little more.

The back of each day has a pocket as well, so the idea is that they will put their completed work there when they are done...but that part hasn't work out quite as well, ha ha.

Their Literature studies are right now from things I've put together myself and printed.  I put them in pocket folders and they are separate from all this.  Their literature study is a weekly assignment (ex, by Friday read and finish all the pages chapters 1-5), so they are being given some responsibility in planning out what days and when they complete those assignments.
They also have a completely separate binder for Institute for Excellence in Writing.  They came with that curriculum and it has to stay separate because they have sections with outlines, sources, word lists etc.

I love that I don't have to have ALL our workbooks and curriculum out all the time.  We have enough just storing the binders, reading books, and textbooks for science and social studies.  Everything else, teacher books, workbooks, etc, stay put away.  Another good thing is that last year we were in transition a couple of times throughout the year and having nine weeks planned out at a time this way was WONDERFUL when we had to be out of sorts and I didn't have to lug boxes and boxes of school stuff just to stay on track. (as long as picking up and going never happens the 9th week! ha!)

Now, since I've gotten all this done DURING our 9th week, I can enjoy our fall break next week with no planning to get done! And I'm finished planning through the rest of 2013! I don't *have* to plan again until our Christmas break, though I will probably get it done before then.

Theoretically I could do this over the summer and have an entire year planned out at once.  It would take more space to store the nine weeks materials, perhaps a hanging file system. It would also take some TIME and SPACE. I really want to give that a try next year. I bet it would be really nice! :-)

Thursday, October 10, 2013

October Busy-ness!

The sensory box for August stretched into September.  When I made it "apple" themed I was still thinking about starting school in September.  ANYWAY, she was way bored with that box for several weeks so we were long overdue in making a new sensory box for October.

We've been so busy that I haven't even had the chance to go to the dollar store to pick up little things for this month's box, but lucky for us, all of these items were scavenged from family members! ha ha! 

Here's a view of the busy/sensory box for October!

Nanna had all the little play things...the two scarecrows, the little plastic spiders, and the fall color flower wreaths!  I had thought in the back of my mind that I would do popcorn kernals or dried corn for the scooping play, but look what turned out!

SHE LOVES this thing!

 For scooping, for some crazy reason I had the thought to use bird seed.  We were able to get an AMPLE supply from Memaw and Granddaddy, and it turned out to be even more perfect because it was all black sunflower seeds!  Pretty cool to go with the "bone guys" and the scarecrows!

Now I can use another variety of birdseed another month for a different feel.  She likes digging for the "te-shures" which are the little sticks and rocks/bark that are mixed into the birdseed.

The best part about the bird seed is that we will be able to throw it and toss it outside or put it in a bird-feeder when she is done playing with it!  The lentils and split peas were more difficult with last month's box.  She had (of course) dumped some larger portions of them out several times.  So, in sweeping it up, various kitchen floor debris had gotten in the mix, so no good for eating. I didn't want to throw it in the trash, so I ended up putting it away in plastic baggies to use again later.  I don't think it would be a good idea to just throw lentils outside would it?  Would birds eat it?  Would that even be safe?!
The green and tan colored lentils and peas will probably reappear in our March box.

I am so excited that she has another "new" thing to occupy her for a while!