A little About Us

I have been blogging over at for almost a year. I may double blog for awhile before I decide which I like better.....

But for an introduction......

I am Sarah, a homeschooling mom to 4 boys. Rylan-7, Cale, 5, Cohen, 3 and Lakin 1. We are a houseful with 6 people, 7 cats, 3 dogs, 2 bunnies and 23 chickens- no the chickens aren't actually in our house. I guess you could say we are eclectic homeschoolers. I pull things from almost all schools of thought based only on how I think my children will learn best.

That is my little family in a very small nutshell....for more...go here:

To see our Lapbooks
To see some of our Homeschool
To see our Family

I may add some of my previous posts to this one over the next few weeks to fill up all of the empty space!


Story/Book Writing

Today I finished up this project to add to our shelves.....


It is for writing a book/stories. Like a lot of boys, my oldest is somewhat of a reluctant writer. It takes too long is his number one complaint. While he is getting better at writing longer sentences he still doesn't write a lot. I want to encourage them to write down their stories and get their imaginations running. So here 's what is in this "kit":

First I made these books. Simple folded in half cardstock, with 3 sheets of paper inside. One is blank for a title page, 2 are lined on the bottom, front and back to form 8 writable pages. My stapler wasn't long enough to staple the binding so I sewed them...and I think they turned out nicer that way...


Then I made some story starter cards, in case they needed them. They are fairly generic...."One day I..." and "This weekend I...". I sewed a little pouch for the cards. Then I made a little information card with basic instructions...pick a topic or starter, write and illustrate your story, think of a title. Then a basic template for a cover and the information it should include. I stuck it all in, well actually it is a "mailbox" they made at Lowes, on the shelf with a jar of fancy pencils, colored pencils and my pens.


Cale has plans to write a story about a cat tomorrow.


New Additions

I mentioned last week that I have a new interest in the Montessori way of teaching. I love the preschool ideas and the practical life instruction. I have found in the past week that information on the elementary- or 6-12 class- is hard to find. There is a wealth of information on setting up a 3-6 classroom, but not so much on the older kids. So I have been adding things to our "classroom" and rearraging our existing items in more appealing ways.

One thing I have been making is this:

The beads are a major mathematics manipulative. And if you buy the ones through the Montessori stores they are ridiculously expensive. We actually don't really have much in the way of manipulatives. My kids have never used them much for counting. They just learned by counting things; while building, reading etc. I like it that way. Rylan was a natural when it came to addition and didn't take long to go counting objects to abstract problems. We own cuisenaire rods, but they aren't marked so it makes it hard to know which rod is 8 and which is 6. I can see a lot of uses for these beads. Montessori uses them for everything from counting to understanding higher numbers, to mulitplication and square root. So I went to Hobby Lobby- lucky for me the beading section was in the flyer last week and plastic beads were all 50% off. So I bought a bunch and used some wire left over from the chicken coop and started stringing. I made 10 sets of the bead stair (above) and I also am working on long chains- about 10 long- of each number for use in skip counting. Rylan need some work with that- esp since he will be coming into multiplication before too long. I set the beads out and they have loved "play" with them so far.

And Cohen has taken to these changes like a moth to a flame. He is at the perfect age for this. He's pouring and counting and scooping. I made him a salt tray to write in. He has actually been trying to write some letters- can do a c, o and i. He was so excited and ran to find his dad after each letter, yelling "Daddy, come see my "o"!!" Today I made this sorting set and he wanted to use it immediately. (excuse the smile, he's at the stage where he puts this grin on when he hears the camera...I tried to get one of him actually working but he would here the focus and look up with this smile)

Once he was done, I asked him to roll up the mat and put it away, which he did, but then he wanted to use the red mat. So I found an old counting game we made last year. An egg carton, numbered to 12 and enough beads to fill each with the appropriate number. I think for a not quite 3 yr old he is an excellent counter. He did all of them. A little help near the end keeping his 1:1 correspondance straight but overall he did it alone, counting the beads one at a time to put them in the right spot.


Week In Review

On Monday we headed back up to Townsend to swim and fish- although it was too hot to fish and the algae bloom in the lake made it not too inviting, but we did swim. A goal this summer was to get the boys swimming. Rylan, up until this year, as been very scared of the pool. But now he can walk the length of this pool (4ft at it's deepest) and he is relaxing a bit more. BUT still not enough to swim. Cale on the other hand paddles all over in his water wings and wants to learn. I told them they are both taking lessons in the fall if it doesn't happen in the summer and they have a reward for learning too. So this week we got them some kick boards and they helped a lot- got their bodies up in the water. And when they saw a 3 yr old jump in and swim under water both immediately dunked!! I was so pleased with that since the week before it took 10 min of reasoning to get Rylan to dunk his head.

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Now this little boy.....he fell off the step on the 4th of July and went under for a second- not even under he was bobbing with his eyes out.....he didn't even choke. But he got scared. I was sitting right next to him, but looking on my otherside....turned around to his eyes peering out. So last week he cried and cried and refused to get near the pool. He did finally sit on my lap on the top step. This week he sat on the first step in by himself and thanks to a big beach ball and Lakin throwing it- he came out into the water with me- nails digging in....but out in the water.


And this one just floated around....chasing a beach ball....dunking his face in the water in front of him....


And today when Rylan and Cale were out playing with the chickens....Lakin and Cohen made bubbles....2 buckets of water, 2 whisks, 1 hand beater and some soap. It took awhile for him to work the beater fast enough to get a good foam....but soon the bowls were overflowing. They had a blast. And were covered in bubbles. Cale came over later and threw bubbles all over the walls and glass door. Then they dumped them and paraded around in the foam. Rylan was too good for this might get him dirty??


We also did a chemical reaction experiment today....forgot my camera...but they experiemented for awhile. I set out baking soda, paking powder and corn starch. And water, lemon juice and vinegar. All unlabled (although the liquids were easy to guess). They we tested each possibility for a reaction. Cornstarch made none. They were suprised when they discovered that water and baking powder produced a reaction. We talked about baking and the bubbles that cause rising. We also talked about carbon dioxide and it's uses and dangers. Then we made dancing popcorn. Back when Cale 2 or 3 he wanted to make dancing popcorn all the time. He vaguely remembered it....but they all had fun watching the kernals dance and dropping more vinegar or baking soda in to make more bubbles.

And finally...since I took away a lot of their toys...including their plastic car garage....they have a renewed interest in the wooden unit blocks. They are all about the monster trucks right now so they have been making tracks, ramps, garages, etc....Today Rylan made a huge high rise hwy for them during quiet time. But yesterday they built this:


(Good thing I took a picture when I did, since hurricane Lakin knocked it down a second later trying to drive up it). They specifically asked me to photograph it so we could show my brother- Uncle Justin- they love to build with these when he visits. So Uncle Justin- if you read this- the above building ramp is for you.


Changing the Environment

I have always been interested in the Montessori Method of teaching. I like the ideas and the tools. We have gotten the catalogs in the mail and order from them for gifts and my boys seem to really enjoy the Montessori inspired activites we do....I stumbled across this blog the other day....and I read a lot, and looked at her prepared enviroment pictures. For a few weeks I have been itching to reoganize our play/school room. They have too much stuff, too much clutter. Some days they go without playing in the playroom at all. So once they went to bed I started clearing. I ended up boxing up 3 tubs of toys, cars, etc. More if you count the art supplies I put up. I don't plan on getting rid of them- yet. Rotate them as needed. See what really gets played with. Drop some off at the camper up in the mountains for recharging playtime. Probably donate some to a friend whose house recently burned down. But the point was to simplify. Put things in order. Keep everything clearly visible. I don't have a before picture, but this is our arts shelf. Other than Rylan and Cale's school book shelves, before were jammed packed with coloring books, paper, boxes of collage fixings, a lot of stuff that frankly was never seen. This is what it looks like now:


I left a smaller amount of different papers, organized. I DRASTICALLY reduced the playdough toys- rolling pins, hammers and knives are all thay is left for a packed box. The top shelf, and 1 from the next level down, are for rotating. Currently there are the rubber band board, rubber stamps/ink, paper punches and cutting activities. On top is the color mixing set my mom got for Cohen last year for his birthday. They spent a good hour this morning punching shapes into paper. But it is so much cleaner and nicer looking and easier for them to pickup afterwards (we do still have our hanging shoe organizer with the paints, crayons, pencils, markers, etc...)

I also added a couple things from around the house:


I inherited this very old silver sugar/creamer set from a great great grandmother. I had forgotten it was stuck in the bottom of my china cabinet. So I filled it with beans and set it in front of my almost 3 year old. He loved it. Sat for a long time working with the tongs. They were tough for him to use on such small beans but he did great. I also added a little silver spoon which he used after he got tired of the tongs. All 3 used this today.

And I added this:


The Montessori catalogs have a lot of practical life items such as pouring. And I actually own a few little pitchers- but they come from the fore mentioned great grandmother and I am not sure I am ready to hand them over to my kids. I even have a small pitcher/bowl set like they used to use to wash hands. Again I am not ready to hand it over. But I do have this. I don't think it is old...seeing that the pitcher has mints on it. I am thinking it was probably from some holiday set. But I filled it with water and set it with a little tiny goblet and let them pour with it.

They also got out their older sets:

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So they had a busy day. They used their hands a lot. They swept up their holes from punching and nut shells from cracking. They dried water spills. I am still reading, doing more research- esp on using these ideas for kids older than 6. But I have my head filled with ideas on what things I want to change in our home.


A Study of Kandinsky


This year I have planned to study a handful of artists. This week we began with our first artist: Wassily Kandinsky. His abstract art and use of color and shapes seemed to be a good first choice for my boys. In my planning I discovered that our library is not a good resource for art prints, so I had to improvise. There are a number of online galleries- this one was one of my favorites- so I set my printer on 4x6 photopaper and saved a few images from the galleries. They turned out nicely- with the exception of the one print I really wanted. Farbstudie Quadrate wasn't avaiable in a good print size. I did manage a smaller one though. So throughout the week we have been looking at the prints, discussing colors and abstracts, narrating a few of the prints, and today we got out the paints to make our own "Kandinsky". So after blocking their papers and a brief discription of concentric circles they went to work.

Here is the print I chose for them:

Wassily Kandinsky - Farbstudie Quadrate - Art Prints and Posters

Hard at work:


And here are the masterpieces: (Cohen, Cale, Rylan)


And finally the little artist. This is the first time I have let him go all out with the paints. He could pick and choose just like the bigger boys and he had a blast (was a mess by the end too)



All About Me Lapbooks

I picked something sort of easy for our first project. Something they would find fun, but incorporated some of the information they need to know: full name, address, phone numbers etc. Most of this was review for my 2nd grader but not quite memorized for my Kindergartener. I also wanted to introduce the concept of history in thier own lives before we jump into the history of everything else.

The minibooks/parts included:

  • A self portrait

  • My Time Line, downloaded from somewhere but I can't remember where
  • a family tree- I c/p a clipart tree and drew the boxes I needed in Word

  • Likes and Dislikes

  • My Family

  • Measurements accordian book

  • graph of the above measurements
  • a person shape book taken from an Evan Moor Theme Pocket book, downloaded from Googlebooks. Name, age, height, right/left handed, boy/girl, etc

Most of the books were made by me. It was pretty simple. But they enjoyed working on it.

Week 1

Today finished up our first official week of school. The entire week went as well as the first day. It was an amazingly easy week. Here is a some of the stuff we did:

Spelling: Each had a list. Cale's were all short A, Rylan's were double consanants at the end. The each spelled all their words correctly today.

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Language Arts: In addition to the 1 required book to read each day, they did activities like these:Photobucket Photobucket

The first one was an idea from this fellow blogger, and I also saw something like it in the Montesorri catalog. Most of the words were CVC- cat, pin, bug, top, etc....some were harder for my almost 5 yr old, But he did very well. The second was for my 2nd grader. It is a little kit on syllables....1-4. I downloaded one of the Evan Moor Phonics Center bools off of Google Books. It he did very well reading the longer 4 syllable words. Most of thier writing this week was done in the All About Me Lapbook.

For math we mostly focused on add and sub facts for Rylan and counting 1:1 and writing the numbers with Cale. This went over really well with Rylan and he loved doing it.

For the past few days our afternoons have been filled with june bug catching. It is a new favorite for them. They take their jars and lids and a big pitcher and we go out. Once we get about 50 of them we stop and throw them into the henhouse. The birds, and boys, love it. So it was only natural that our nature notebook entry for this week was the june bug. My boys are not natural artisits, at least as far as sketching goes, so a couple times this week I have had them actually pay attention to detail and draw what they see. Rylan especially lacks the confidence in himseft, plus his perfectionist nature wants his drawing to look exactly like what it is. I guess that is why he likes photography. But here are their June Bugs: (Cale's, Rylan's)

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And the final project was our lapbook....

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and the details of those I will post separately


A new year begins....

We started our school year today...I am now officially homeschooling 2....2nd grade and Kindergarten. I have days 1-20 planned; completely planned. Which books they will read, which chapter book I will read, pages in workbooks, games, activities. And today went really well. They both sat down and didn't complain at all this morning. Cohen colored and worked with is Cars tot-book, which he loves to read through, plus it helps him feel a little more involved in general. Lakin is finally old enough to sit at the table so coloring holds his attention a lot longer....he was using stamp markers this morning and he ended up with a perfect star stamped on his face. They we did it all, the LArts book work , reading their readers, me reading 2 chapters, math activity and their address/phone/DOB/Name minibook. They were done before 10:00 am. So we all went out to play soccer, collect tomatoes and raspberries, exercise the rabbits and collect eggs. It was a very stress free morning.

Cale has been asking to start school all weekend. And we did cut out all our "All About Me" lapbook pieces yesterday. He is a good student and that really encourages Rylan to be a good student too. Hopefully they will use their brotherly competitivness for a good use. Rylan also has his incentive to be good: we finshed reading the first Harry Potter book on Saturday and on Friday if he has a good week he gets to stay up late and watch the movie.