Cotter Fractals for RightStart Math

It took us over a year to finish this project but we finally finished it. The Gymnast was to construct a one thousand fractal to understand place value better.

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You first start with tiny triangles or ones (green) and glue 10 of them onto a larger triangle to make a ten triangle (white). Then you take 10 of the larger white triangles and glue them onto the blue triangle to make a hundred triangle. Then you take 10 blue triangles to make a large 1000 triangle.

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For many months every day she did a few ten triangles (gluing 10 tiny greens onto a white). Her little sister and I helped out on several occasions. Then over a few days she made the hundred triangles (blue). Then they sat and sat until one day the furniture was moved to vacuum. We seized the opportunity and hung our one thousand fractal up. However, since we have textured, plaster walls the triangles barely stayed up until Daddy arrived to see. Oh well, Little Bit is almost to that lesson herself so in a few months we can start all over again.

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A Child’s Weaknesses and Moses

Every child has areas of their life that are strong and some that are weak. As a parent we tend to focus on their weaknesses. We want to help them overcome their weaknesses. We look for programs to “fix” them and curriculum that helps them.

I believe God designed and purposed each and every one of us. Can God use a weak vessel? Absolutely!! In fact I think God prefers to use us in areas that we are weak or that we have always struggled.

Why wouldn’t God use our strong areas?

Philippians 4:13 says “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” And Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to [His] purpose.”

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God knows our weaknesses. But He can use that weakness by giving us strength to accomplish his purpose.

One illustration that comes to mind is the story of Moses. God called Moses to a life of public speaking. Moses resists this calling as he has suffered with a speech impediment all his life. But God knows Moses and knows this weakness. God calls Moses because of his weakness. God gave Moses the strength he needed to go in front of Pharaoh and the Israelites to proclaim God’s words. All who knew Moses knew that he could not have completed this without the help of God. Therefore, God was glorified.

If Moses had been a naturally gifted speaker God would not have gotten the credit for giving him the strength. People would have proclaimed that it was Moses, the gifted speaker who convinced Pharaoh to let his people go. God may have chosen someone else for the purpose that he called Moses. And Moses would not have experienced the rich life of experiencing God work through him.

I am always hearing stories of children who are physically weak who are used in big ways by God. So why do we mourn a weakness in our child. It is only through the weaknesses that God can use you to glorify his purpose in you. So we need to change our perspective. A weakness is an area that God will possibly use our children to be glorified. Of course God gives us natural giftings as well and can use those. However, I think it is harder for us as humans to acknowledge God through those strengths. It seems to us as those these are things we do ourselves apart from God. However, if we see it that way we fail to see that only God gave us that strength and natural ability.

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For God knows your child, He knows each and every one of their weaknesses. And God has a purpose for your child. And He can and will even use their weaknesses to accomplish His purpose. We as human we parents can only do so much to help them overcome those weaknesses. It’s still important to help them strengthen the weaknesses. But it’s not important to accomplish it overnight or to stress over the fact that it isn’t fixed by a normal age. It isn’t important that your child doesn’t perform everything at normal age range. Only God can give you strength in an instant that you need it.

We Love School with Ziggy or A Review of All About Reading Level Pre-1

The Curious Monkey started asking me to teach him to read at Christmas time. His exact words were, “Mom, my teacher said you would teach me to read. I’ve been practicing my letters.” He proceeded to sing me his version of the alphabet song. He looked at me with the saddest eyes. I, of course, said I would indeed teach him to read.

He didn’t relent after that day so I decided he must be ready and I ordered All About Reading Level Pre-1. I have been waiting since it came out to use it with him when he was ready. I decided to go with All About Reading for him because he has shown some signs of auditory processing delays. Since All About Reading is designed to make sure that all the pre-reading skills are taught I knew I wanted to use it.

Ziggy the Zebra arrived in the mail about a month ago and all my kids (even the 9 year old) played with him the entire weekend. He was quite a hit.  I intended to only do it with him but the Sidekick was drawn in and has done great with it.

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They both beg me to do “Ziggy” school every morning after breakfast. And the girls have gotten drawn in to the fun of Ziggy as well. They can’t resist but to join in the fun.

So what is so special about All About Reading that I decided to use it. All About Learning Press designed Level Pre-1 to teach the five necessary skills for learning to read. This program is designed to teach much more than letter sounds. The Big Five Skills as Marie calls them are:

      1. Print Awareness learning that letters make words that we read
      2. Letter Knowledge learning and understanding the alphabet
      3. Phonological Awareness learning to hear sounds in words
      4. Listening Comprehension understanding the meaning of words
      5. Motivation to Read wanting to learn to read

You can learn more about the Big Five Skills here. Visit the Reading Resource Center for even more articles and information on teaching reading. The website claims that “We teach the Big Five Skills in fun and creative ways.” I can honestly say that All About Reading Level Pre-1 is fun and very creative. I wish I would have had this to teach the older kids to read. It is so much more exciting than the way I taught them to read.

What makes it exciting, fun and creative?

Well, Ziggy the Zebra for one. In your teacher’s manual there are scripted games where Ziggy comes to play. In the very first lesson you are teaching the child rhyming. I had such a hard time teaching the oldest two to rhyme. They just didn’t get it. Curious Monkey has not started to rhyme yet but the way it is taught makes it easy for the kids to understand it. Ziggy comes and touches different body parts. But he says the wrong word, a word that rhymes with the correct body part. The child then corrects Ziggy. Here’s Ziggy touching Sidekick’s “leek”. And they say, “No Ziggy, it’s a cheek!”

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We laughed and played this many times. And they still ask to play this one. The first time I played with Curious Monkey he didn’t know the correct word for some of his parts. He leaned up to me and whispered in my ear, so Ziggy wouldn’t hear, “Mom, what’s that called again?” Then he would sit back and correct Ziggy with eagerness.

The student pack is another fun and creative feature of the All About Reading Pre-Reading Program. The student pack comes with My Book of Letters and Sounds Activity Book. This book is filled with letter craft activities that include cutting, pasting, and painting. Several ideas are given for how to complete each sheet. The pages are clean, non distracting and beautifully illustrated.

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Even my girls have wanted to get in on the letter craft fun.

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In addition to the activity book your student pack will include picture cards. So far we have been working on rhyming with these cards. After a couple rounds of silly Ziggy and rhyming body parts the Monkey has been able to find rhyming words from the picture cards. I have to admit that I didn’t think he would catch on this quick but even the Sidekick is finding the rhymes.

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These picture cards make it so much more fun than just trying to do this activity orally. And I appreciate not having to print or find picture cards for each lesson from a suggested word list. I keep our cards inside the reading activity box. The cards are filed behind dividers labeled by lesson number. I love how much thought has gone into the organization of student materials. The student cards in all the products are organized in an easy to use fashion.

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These beautifully illustrated alphabet charts are also included in the student pack. Curious Monkey enjoys following along on the poster as we sing our alphabet son.

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What All About Reading Level Pre-1 lessons look like in our house.

All of the All About Learning Press programs are designed to go at your child’s pace. There are 78 lessons in All About Reading Level Pre-1, first learning to recognize the capital letters then the lowercase letters and finally learning the letter sounds. Right now we are doing 1-2 letters a week. I have 30 minutes of teaching time for the preschoolers in the morning. The first day we sing the alphabet song, read from the associated All About Reading story book, do our letter page and then read from our Jane Belk Moncure set of My First Steps to Reading. The second day we sing the alphabet song, try to recall the name of the letter we are on, do the language exploration activity or game, and then read from our Moncure book again. If time and interest permits, I read a book from Sonlight P3/4. The boys also sit in on our Sonlight Bible, History and Science reading so they are getting plenty read aloud time each day.

We school through the summer here so I plan to continue at this pace or do more letters a week if Curious Monkey becomes bored and ready to move faster. When we finish this level we will move to the next level whenever that is. I’ve learned from many failed attempts not to push faster than a child is ready for, it only frustrates Mom and child.

You can see samples of the teacher’s manual here. And you have nothing to loose with All About Learning Press’ Go-Ahead and Use It One-Year Guarantee. Buy it, try it for a year and send it back if you don’t like it. You can receive two creative, fun free e-books here.

Moments to Remember ~ Homeschool Special Needs Accommodations

The ability to make accommodations for my children is a huge benefit to homeschooling. With the Karate Kid’s ADHD and Asperger’s it’s hard to keep his mind on school when he is being still. I’ve tried; both Karate Kid and the Gymnast hear nothing I say if I make them sit still. I allow quiet play while I read to them. They are allowed to build legos or puzzles or color while I read. So while I read Karate Kid’s math story to him he stood up and built with his legos.

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He’s also always had trouble getting dressed in the morning. Trouble with the change required in changing clothes. His first question to me every morning is, “Do we have to go anywhere today?” If I say no his next question is, “Do I have to get dressed?” I quit fighting it a long time ago and allow him to stay in his pajamas until he’s ready to change. It usually happens when everyone is outside having fun and he decides he wants to join them which is usually around lunch. But he’s also been known to play outside in his pajamas. There you have it, two more reasons I homeschool, my child can stand and play legos in his pajamas while I read the math lesson.

This week I’m linking up to Moments to Remember on Homeschool Creations.

We Are Crazy About Sonlight


I am a Sonlighter

Sonlight Christian Homeschool Curriculum is a literature-based, Christ-center learning program. It’s based on the methods and philosophies of Charlotte Mason and Ruth Beechick. Sonlight offers complete lesson plans for Bible, History, Geography, Language Arts, and Science. The lessons are based on real living books not textbooks. The Instructors Guide offers you a daily reading schedule for each subject, study guides, map study, timeline entries and comprehension questions for each book. It is Christ-center in that it includes Bible readings, memorization, devotions and missionary stories. Also, the study guides are written from a Christian viewpoint.

This school year is our 3rd time using Sonlight. But, I wasn’t crazy about it the first time I used it. That was five years ago, my children were 5, 4, 2 and newborn. We started with what is now Core A but then it was called Core K. I did the main Core but not the Language Arts. I thought the books looked very interesting for my 5 and 4 year old. They did not like the history readers at all, I would get them out to read and they would moan and groan. They loved the read-alouds though. The Boxcar Children was the first one we read and they begged for chapter after chapter. I think we finished it the first week. I made the decision to not continue with the history lessons but read whatever read-alouds they enjoyed. It was a winning solution. Looking back on it I realize that my children weren’t ready for history at the time. They loved nature and we read a lot of animal books that year in addition to our Sonlight books. If I had chosen a different Core that year we probably would have loved it as we do now.

After my self professing flop of Sonlight we tried a few other curriculum. And it seemed every year I tried something different like last year when I stumbled upon the Waldorf method and thought it was just what my kids needed. Well it may be what they need but I should’ve started learning about it 5 years earlier and 4 kids ago. I just couldn’t make it work well for us and I was defeated by January. That’s when I started thinking about Sonlight again. I got out my catalog and started pondering what we could do and I walked into our local homeschool bookstore and fell in love. I just wanted to sit on the couch and read to the kids again like we had done all of our other years. At this time my oldests were 8,  7 and 5 and I thought they would love P4/5. And I was right this time. They loved every book that we read. Some people would never think to do p4/5 with an 8 and 7 year old. But we were so busy with still learning to read and basic math that I wanted books that they enjoyed and relished. And so it was. Stories from Africa and New Toes for Tia, stories about how God worked in childrens lives, were wonderful books. My 8 and 7 year olds understood so much about what they children in the stories were going through. They really saw God’s glory in each of the stories. It was wonderful. I don’t think my 4 1/2 year old would relate to the stories as they did. I think it’s a great literature pack for an 8 and 7 year old and if you added maps and science experiments it would suffice for a K-2nd curriculum.

It only took us about 6 months to read all of the books. Because my kids were older they could listen to a whole weeks assignments in one day. So even though we started it last February we were ready for our next core in September. And I thought at 9, 8, and 6 they were ready for Core B. This year I decided to use the Science and the Language Arts as well as History. The Karate Kid loves history now, loves biographies and real stories about real people and has becoming interested in Ancient Civilizations. He also loves to learn about any science topic. I wasn’t so sure about the Gymnast’s interest but she has enjoyed it just as much as her brother. As long as she has some visuals (color pages are her favorite) she seems to be able to grasp the story better. I found several Dover coloring books to divide between the kids that were perfect.

I have P3/4 that I am going through with the two younger boys. We are going really slow through it as I don’t plan to do P4/5 with them until they are 5 and 6. So I have 2 more years to read all those wonderful books and do some fun school with them. And right now they want to read the same story the entire week or longer so it will take us 2 more years to actually read all of the books in P3/4. And I am more than happy with that.

So will I continue to use Sonlight next year? Absolutely. We are going really slow through Core B, I don’t know that we’ll be ready for the next core in September. But when we finish Core B we will definitely be going on to Core C to finish World History and explore the next science topics.

How We Do Workboxes

I learned about workboxes several years ago and have been using the method for 3 years now. The workbox system was created by Sue Patrick. The system is especially helpful for visual children, and highly distractible children. You can read about it here. The concept is that the student will be able to see the days work in front of them and see it disappear as they complete it. The original idea is to use 12 shoeboxes and each box gets a subject or task. With five children I don’t have room for 12 shoeboxes. So we use a file box. And of course the boxes coordinate with the kids colors. This is the Karate Kid’s box. My 3 year old and 4 year old each have a box but it doesn’t get changed out except every now and then. When they want to do school they open it up.

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This has really helped keep me organized. If it’s in there box then we don’t forget to do it. My kids hate when I say, “Oh you are suppose to do this…” when they think that they were finished with school. So if it’s in the box they have to do it.

Inside each box are 12 file folders. In each file folder is work for one subject. Not all my students have 12 files worth of work. The 1st and 2nd grader only have 6-9. My 4th grader is the only one that has 12. Some of the files are fun things like a maze or critical thinking pages. The Karate Kid has one file that says take a 10 minute break. At the front of the box is an empty hanging folder where they put there completed pages for the day.

Most of the folders are permanent, like handwriting is always file 1, math is in file folder 2. Workbooks stay in there folders even after the work is done. I have a preset do 2 pages or do 1 page and everyday it’s the same. Sticky notes attached to the front of a workbook work great for new instructions or for making changes to the normal instructions. For things that I print out or make copies of I have put them in a folder and take them out as needed to fill boxes.

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I do not use a scheduling strip. I printed one out once and have all the cards for it but I just haven’t gotten to putting that step together for the three kids that do workboxes.

I have filled the boxes a couple of different ways this year. At the beginning of the year I filled boxes every night. This got very tedious. Now I plan 2 weeks at a time. I take enough loose pages from the folders for 2 weeks and place them inside the hanging folder but behind the file folder. The first days work goes in the file folder. The rest of the work for the next 2 weeks goes behind the file folder just inside the hanging folder. When I check the kids out at the end of the day I refill the folders. Or I fill them the next morning when they are reading to me. But when I plan for the 2 weeks I fill out my daily lesson plan sheets at that one planning session for the next 2 weeks.

We don’t sit down and work from 1 to twelve every day. Each student starts school with Mom at a different time. I work with each one on the things that they need help with such as their reading and math lesson. When they are done with their work with me they have a different place to be like their 30 minutes of computer time or time to play with the littlest one. And then my next student comes to work on their first few files. At another time of day they come back and sit down to do the folders they can do by themselves.

To keep track of what they have in their box each day I created a planner page for me. Because we don’t sit down and work till it’s done sometimes things get forgotten. But if it’s written down on my planner page then it usually doesn’t get forgotten. At the end of the day they have to sit with me and “check out” of school. I grab my page and check through their box to make sure they’ve gotten everything done.

You can download my daily workbox planner pages for 3 students here.

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A Mid-Year Review

It seems every year I make changes to our curriculum in January. It’s usually about that time that I realize that something just isn’t working. There have been varying reasons that it didn’t work. The biggest reason usually was that my kids needed something more remedial or they hated the curriculum or I needed something more structured. But that is the beauty of homeschooling, when the shoe doesn’t fit you can try another shoe.

This is the first year in our homeschool career that I am not making any major changes. I knew that my Curious Monkey wasn’t ready for structured learning in the fall but I thought as he got closer to 5 in January he would probably be ready. I actually got that right. He has been begging for reading lessons. So we will be starting All About Reading Level Pre-1 in a few weeks. He’s so excited for Ziggy the Zebra to arrive and help him learn to read.

The Karate Kid and Little Bit were working through Sing, Spell, Read and Write but we are taking a little break. Little Bit is reading just about anything she picks up and is bored with the SSRW readers so she is beginning to read through the Sonlight Language Arts 2 readers which I bought for her to start at some point this year. The Karate Kid needed something to read that inspired him. I found seven Billy and Blaze books at a garage sale for $0.10. Billy is a boy and Blaze is his horse and they set off on adventures. The pages are beautifully illustrated with black and white pencil sketches. There are just a few sentences on each page so a boy doesn’t get overwhelmed by all the reading he must do to get to the story.

We’ve added the Life of Fred Elementary Math Series for the Karate Kid. He loves a good story and a story about math is even better. It’s his reward for getting his math workbook pages done. We call it Fred’s math around here and Karate Kid thinks Fred is very entertaining.

Here’s a fun little memory that we made last week. These kinds of things don’t happen often here and I had printed this out to do last school year and it never happened. I do wish that school could be like this every day but I lack the creativity and time for this. Alas though Karate Kid wanted nothing to do with my fun little project so I suppose it’s good that everyday isn’t this fun. However, there were three little ones that had a blast grabbing labels and running off with them to put them where they go.