Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Why We Love First Language Lessons

First Language Lessons

I think I have mentioned in the past the my children do not like repetition, right?  Trying to get them to do anything more than once usually ends in a battle of wills.  This is super helpful in the home schooling environment where you, you know, review things in order to learn them.

After a LOT of research on grammar curriculum (seriously, I had dreams about this stuff for weeks) I finally settled on First Language Lessons for the Well- Trained Mind by Jessie Wise.  When I opened up the books and read through it, I started to sweat a little...there is a lot of repetition in there.  All I could think of were the temper tantrums and tears that were sure to come.  On the first day of school, I reluctantly pulled the book out and we did the lesson.  No tears.  The second day came and went.  No arguments.  The first week was completed without a single complaint.  Hallelujah!

Today was date night for B and I and I asked her how she thought school was going and what she thought of our curriculum choices.  Would you believe that she said grammar is her favourite?!  I know that sounds crazy because really, grammar is supposed to be no one's favourite.  But she really does love it.  And so do I!

So for the mom's out there who are worrying about finding a great grammar curriculum, here is my 100% unpaid, only-doing-it-because-I-really-do-love-it review of First Language Lessons (with bonus review by my seven year old!).

Why I love First Language Lessons

  • The biggest reason: it's easy!  The lessons are scripted so I literally open the book and we start.  There is no prep time, no cutting out or laminating, no memorizing songs and rhymes, no setting up games.  Simple.  Easy.  Perfect for busy moms (and lazy ones like me).
  • It's thorough.  We have been working on nouns since the beginning of school and let me tell you, she knows the concept inside out and backwards.  We've spent a good amount of time discussing each kind of noun in great detail and she gets it.   
  • The "Four Strand" approach: they use a variety of methods to drive the point home which keeps it from getting boring. There's memory work, copywork, narration and grammar lessons. 

How we use First Language Lessons

There are 100 lessons in level 1 and 100 lessons in level 2.  We usually do one lesson each day but have, on occasion, done two.  Some of the lessons are really, really short so I don't feel bad squeezing two in here and there.  The lessons take no longer than 15 minutes, even with enrichment activities that are sometimes included.  

B has a binder that we keep all of her school work in and there is a divider for grammar.  In here we keep the enrichment activities and colouring pages.  There is very little writing at this point so there's not much in that section of her binder.  

I do sometimes add my own activities to liven things up.  We do a lot of fun stuff to help memorize the poems. I often pull up the paintings in the picture narration lessons on the computer so we can see them in colour and learn more about them and their artists.  

Why B (the seven year old) loves First Language Lessons

(I asked her to give me the top 3 reasons she likes this curriculum.  I'm not editing her answers...its good to hear it from their perspective.  Plus its cute.)

  • "It's quick.  Lessons get boring if they take too long sometimes.  These ones are always fast."
  • "I like looking at the pictures.  Especially when mom puts them on the computer so we can see the colours and we get to make up stories about them."
  • "I like memorizing the poems because we can yell."
So there you have it.  We both love First Language Lessons.  If you're looking for something quick and easy while still being thorough, I highly recommend checking these books out! 

I just want to reiterate that I have, in no way, been compensated for this review.  When I was researching curriculum last year, I really appreciated all the reviews out there in internetland.  I just wanted to pay it forward!

But wait!  There's more...(said in a cheesy infomercial voice)

I've put together some vintage-y colouring pages to go with the poems.  After B successfully recites a poem she gets to colour it's page and put it in her binder.  She loves any excuse to colour and sometimes it serves as motivation when she's dragging her heels a little.   If you would like to use them, please click the image below.

Saturday, 11 October 2014

This Week in Preschool: Thanksgiving Theme

This week was our Thanksgiving Theme in Preschool.  It's a little early for you American readers but us Canadians are celebrating this weekend.  I'll enjoy some turkey and stuffing for you. ;)

Preschool Thanksgiving Theme
Thanksgiving is... - Gail Gibbons
A Pioneer Thanksgiving- Barbara Greenwood
One is a Feast for a Mouse- Judy Cox
An Old Fashioned Thanksgiving- Louisa May Alcott


Using cinnamon play dough, we made turkeys.  Along with the play dough I set out card stock beaks, feathers, googly eyes and pipe cleaners.  

It was a short week for us this week because we spent two amazing days at a friends' farm.

Baking: That will be happening this weekend as the kids and I help grandma prepare for our Sunday dinner.  
Painting/ Drawing: I printed out this how to draw a turkey page for the kids.  They traced the steps in the boxes and then attempted their own.  

Craft: The kids have been very interested in plasticine illustrations since seeing it in a book last week so we tried our hands at that this week.  We made Thanksgiving turkeys. 

The worksheets I used for this week all came from this Thanksgiving Printable Pack.  We used the pre-writing, shape tracing and cutting practice pages from the tot pack. We also did a Turkey Do a Dot page

Don't forget to check out my Thanksgiving Theme Pinterest board for more great ideas!

Saturday, 4 October 2014

Preschool: Apple Week

Here's an overview of our Preschool Apple Week. If you're looking for more apple-y ideas, check out my Apple Theme Pinterest Board.

Preschool Apple Theme
Apple Books

This week we read:
Ten Red Apples by Pat Hutchins
An Apple Pie for Dinner retold by Susan VanHecke
The Apple Pie that Papa Baked by Lauren Thompson
Our Apple Tree by Gorel Naslund
Apples for Everyone by Jill Esbaum
One Green Apple by Eve Bunting

Apple Circle Time Songs

We don't do an actual circle time right now because I spend too much of it chasing a rogue baby.  I try to incorporate songs and fingerplays into the natural pauses in our day instead.  I like to use songs for transition periods (coming inside after our walk, for example) and fingerplays are great for diaper changes or while cuddling on the couch. 

Apple Craft and Paint
Monday: bake an apple pie
We started our week off with an apple pie.  Grandma even got in on the action (which is good because I despise peeling apples and we couldn't find the peeler). 

Tuesday: wet-on-wet watercolour apples
We are big fans of the Waldorfy wet-on-wet watercolour painting.  It's such a forgiving medium and it always produces such beautiful results.  I set out green, red and yellow (apple colours). 

Wednesday: make apple pies with play dough (rolling pin, pie plate, crimp cutter)
We didn't actually get to do play dough this week, sadly.  If we had it would have looked something like this.  I love incorporating things I have lying around the house (especially things from outside) into their play and the cinnamon adds and extra sensory experience with that lovely scent!

Thursday: Button Apple Craft
Whenever possible, I like to tie projects from different days into each other. It's especially nice to use paint projects in crafts because, well, you can only hang up so many paintings before you get overrun.  I had the kids cut apple shapes out of their water colour paintings from Tuesday.  They glued them onto construction paper along with a stem and leaf.  Then they traced the outline with white glue and added buttons. 

Apple Worksheets
The kids really enjoyed the worksheets this week.  Every morning A would ask when we get to start school.  She took it all very seriously and actually cried when I told her we were taking Friday off!  It's been nice to have them working on something instead of destroying things while I work with B.  

You can find the worksheets we used below:
Apple Prewriting Sheet
Apple Do-a- Dot
Apple Counting Book
Another Apple Prewriting Sheet

So that was my week with the preschoolers!  Overall, it went very well.  We're still working out some scheduling kinks but I am confident that this year is going to be awesome!

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Please don't call me a single mom.

As many of you know, my husband has joined the military.  Right now he is away at basic training and the kids and I are hanging at grandma and gramdpas house.  It's been a big adjustment for all of us but I'm feeling pretty good about it all so far.  I've paid bills AND taken the garbage out by myself.  That, my friends, is what I call winning.

Here's something interesting though.  When people hear that Ryan has gone and how long he'll be away for I get responses like, "How does it feel to be a single mom?" or "It must be a big change to be doing the single mom thing".

But let me tell you something.  I am not a single mom. 

My dad was raised by a single mom.  I have some wonderful friends who are single moms.  And here's the thing about these women.  They have the hardest job in the world.  When it's two hours past bedtime and the kids are still awake, there is no one to take a shift so they can relax.  When the toddler is having his fifth meltdown of the day and its only 2 o'clock, they don't get to call their partner to complain.  They do all of the wake ups, bed times, meal prep and clean up.  They kiss all the booboos, wipe all the tears and pick up all the messes.  I've watched single moms in action and I am in awe of all that they do.  I don't think I could do it.

Before Ryan left for basic training, I called him at least once a day to complain about some trivial part of my day.  Before he left, I shoved a baby in his arms the minute he walked in the door after work.  Before he left, I let him handle bed times and as many diaper changes as I could get him to do.  And even though he's gone right now and I can't convince him to get up with the kids so I can sleep in on Saturdays, I know that this is only temporary.  And that's what is getting me through. The knowledge that Ryan will be home to take some of the responsibilities off of my back is what motivates me when A wants me to read the same book for the 57th time or when W splashes water all over me during bath time.  It's not always going to be this way and knowing that helps me remain calm.

Just because Ryan isn't here right now, doesn't mean that he isn't an active player in our marriage and this parenting team.  I still run decisions by him.  We still discuss issues the kids are having.  He is still there to commiserate after a very bad day (or at least he would be if he was allowed to use the phone).

I can only imagine how he would feel if he heard someone call me a single mom.  Being away from us has been hard for him.  He missed Ruby's first word.  He didn't get to see B's face light up as she realized that she can read "big" words now.  He's had to listen to A cry over the phone because she misses him, knowing that he can't come wipe her tears.  All of this has probably been harder for him than it has been for me.  I'm sure he feels guilty about missing things.  To completely write him out of the picture by saying I'm doing this alone will only make it harder for him.

We chose this together.  We know it will be hard.  There will be times when we are apart and times when he will miss things.  That's the nature of this job and we knew what we were getting into.  Giving up his spot in this parental duo was not part of that.  He's just doing it by correspondence sometimes.

I know that people don't mean to be hurtful when they say these things.  It's just something that people say and I get that. And I appreciate, more than I can say, that they are acknowledging how hard this is for me because it is hard.     But words are powerful.  I don't want the work that single moms do to be downplayed and I don't want husbands who have to be separated from their families to feel any more shut out than they already do.

So please, don't call me a single mom.

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Reading Goals {and free Reading Log Printable}

We've finally found and visited the new (to us) library!  It's kind of exciting to have access to big city libraries.  There are so many books to chose from!  Now that we have our very own library card, we've set our reading goals for the year.  I'm excited to see how we do!

Reading Goals for the Kids

This year we're aiming to read 50 chapter books.  I'd like to include a wide variety of genres and subject matter including lots of living books about Canadian history and geography.  

I like to work off of book lists because...well, because I like lists and I might be a little bit obsessed with checking off boxes.  We will be choosing books from Sonlight's Core B Read AloudsSimply Charlotte Mason's Book Lists and Simple Homeschool's Top 25 Read Alouds.  We will also be choosing many books from The Canadian Homeschooler's History Through Living Books List (this is such a fantastic resource for Canadians...I highly recommend checking it out).

B and I have agreed that she will read one book that is at her reading level each week.  She isn't very confident in reading independently yet so this was more than she wanted to do at first but I think she will warm up to it quickly! 

Reading Goals for Mama

I'm setting goals for myself this year in the hopes that my box checking compulsion will motivate me.  I love to read but often find myself too "busy" to do it as much as I should.  So my goal is to read 100 books this year.  I am starting with BBC's Book List Challenge.  I've read only 15 of them so this should keep me busy for quite a while! 

I've made up a reading log printable so that we can track our progress and I will share it below.  Click on the image to download it.  

***Terms of  Use: Before you download the pages, please agree that you will not share these files directly via social media, email, blog posts, etc. These are for personal use only! If you would like to share them (and I hope you will!) please link directly to this post with this link address:

Please do not sell or change these files in any way. 

Thank you!***

Reading Log Printable

I'm so looking forward to cuddling up on the couch and reading with my four favourite little people. 

Any good book recommendations?

Saturday, 20 September 2014

5 tips for making memorization fun for kids!

After a long week, I've come up with 5 tips for making memorization fun for kids. If anyone else has children like mine, this may come in handy.

memorization for kids

I've heard it said that all kids love repetition.  My kids did not get that memo.  They do not watch the same movie over and over.  They get bored of a song after they've heard it a few times.  They don't have a favourite outfit that gets worn everyday.  In fact, the only things they do repeat are the words, "I'm hungry" (about 70 billion times a day).  I should have remembered this fact about them when I decided to introduce scripture memorization.  The best way to memorize something is to repeat it.  Over and over and over.  Obviously, this went over really well with my kids.

When I first brought out the memory verse box, the kids were intrigued.  Until I dared to repeat the verse a second time.  The third time was met with stares of disbelief.  Was I really going to make them listen to it again?!  And then, I asked them to say it three times with me.  I wish you could have seen the eye roll that I got then.

Luckily, I never back down from a challenge.  I know that memorization is an important skill to have.  I know it gives the brain a good work out.  And I spent a long time making those scripture cards so we are using them!

I don't particularly like whining though and I want my kids to enjoy the things we do when home schooling.  So I came up with five strategies for making memorization more fun (for all of us).

My first tip is to get loud.  As a mother of four children, this is probably the only time you will ever hear me encouraging an increase in volume.  I suggest waiting until nap time is over and maybe leave some ear plugs in neighbours mail boxes.  Seriously though, they love this!

  • ask them to yell the passage as loud as they can
  • see who can be the loudest
  • send one person upstairs and one downstairs and see if they can hear each other say it
  • go outside and yell it 
  • play music loudly and see if they can make themselves heard over it

This one is a little more my speed!  Get them up and moving while reciting their verse or passage.  It doesn't seem as boring when your body is moving and as an added bonus, you can count it as phys ed!  

Have them recite while:
  • doing jumping jacks
  • running in place
  • doing head stands
  • jumping rope
  • bouncing a ball
  • clapping their hands
The possibilities are endless.  This is also a good opportunity to get the wiggles out if you've got a squirmy student. 

 I used to do this with my Sunday school kids every week and it is so much fun! Have them say it while acting like different animals.  My kids love being mice; making themselves really tiny and saying it in their squeakiest voice or tigers; growling it out while swiping their claws.  They also enjoy singing the verses.  I often name a tune for them to sing it to (Phantom of the Opera is my personal favourite.  Hilarious!).  Have them try it in different accents or have them make up actions to go with the words.

Games work really well in this house.  They don't have to be complex or involve any prep time either. 

  • race to see who can say it fastest
  • bounce a ball back an forth, saying the next word as you catch the ball...if someone misses, start again
  • write the passage out on paper and cut it up like a puzzle for them to reassemble
I remember in school, there was a chart displayed on the wall and for every Bible verse we memorized, another sticker was put on the chart.  That was motivation enough for me!  I worked my butt off and ended up memorizing quite a few verses that year! Of course, I am a little bit (some might say extremely) competitive so that may have been a factor too.

 You can give stickers for every verse memorized or a special treat when they've memorized a certain number of verses.  Maybe they can earn a 15 minute later bedtime or be excused from their least favourite chore (if it got me out of laundry, I'd memorize the whole Bible!). 

I'm sure every family can come up with their own reward system.

So there you have it.  My five tips for making memorization fun!  

Is memorization a part of your homeschool?  What is your strategy?

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