Thursday, June 1, 2017

K Family Homeschool Overview

I'm the kind that gets motivated and hopefully stays motivated by keeping the big picture in mind.  For homeschool, it's crucial for me to see where all this is heading...  And I haven't kept this blog updated well for a few years.  So a recap is in order.

Here's the big picture plan of what we're aiming for homeschool for K - 8 for our crew.

For us, Bible is tops and first.  But I usually think of it in family devotions which Matt leads before he leaves for the day or sometimes in the evenings.  The kids and I review memory verses but we don't cover too much else directly in homeschool time.

I'm a Charlotte Mason heart.  But I end up on the same page as Classical Education folks by middle school and for high school.  I've realized that my dreams of ideal homeschool days just aren't reality... so we've ended up doing more online English even from younger years (starting in 2nd grade). 

We've been grateful to be able to have our kids in local preschools primarily for Chinese learning, social contacts, and learning to enjoy local food.  We've always done half days for the kids in school for this age.  Afternoons, after nap or rest time, I did phonics lessons.  Since beginning math was also covered in preschool I didn't do any other lessons- just phonics.  We used star fall, progressive phonics free readers online, 100 Easy Lessons to Teach your Child to Read (Which is supposedly good for most kids, but hasn't been fun for any of ours or for me to lead them through!).  I love the free All About Spelling app of phoneme sounds.  

Kinder - Third Grade
<3 Things:  Reading, Writing, Arithmetic>

~  Explode the Code 1- 6
~ cursive worksheets from online (there's a link earlier on this blog) and then cursive copywork from Spelling Wisdom (for spelling, vocabulary, punctuation, and discussion of ideas.)  
~ I also have found some Sylvan workbooks or Scott Foresman downloadable workbooks that suffice for writing help for 1st-3rd grade for us.  We keep a little 50/50 mix of Copywork and Workbook stuff for these years... top it off with lots of read aloud together and call it good. (I tried to do Writing with Ease for these grades but it felt pointless to the kids b/c of my lack of valuable feedback... just Not a fit for our family.)  

Math:  our kids are doing well to learn math from Chinese textbooks and tutors that come to our home to teach them.  One on one with tutors has made them all able to be ahead of schedule in the Chinese textbooks, which puts them a fair ways ahead of the American levels.  Chinese textbooks are cheap and excellently thoughtful.  I love them learning arithmetic in Chinese!

We try to do lots of read aloud... usually I read aloud after lunch and often Matt reads aloud at bedtime.  I try to expose this age to extra Science reading (Christian Liberty Nature Readers or any books we have...) and to our CC Timeline History Cards as well, and the kids look at our CC app for history memory points (which I love to see how that info comes up in their questions and discussions with us at other times.)  

Fourth Grade - Fifth Grade
<Four Core and Four More>
Core:  English, History, Science, Math
More:  Chinese (and local minority language), Piano, Typing, Crossfit/Pilates, Baseball for boys and Art for girls.

~ Analytical Grammar Workbooks and/or Writing Through History in Cursive
~  for writing courses (Summary, Essays, Literature Response, Research Basics...)

~ Finish Chinese teaching at the end of fourth grade textbooks (this is approximately the end of basic arithmetic and the beginning of percents and decimals and fractions and higher vocabulary based math so it seems a good time to transition to English math.)  
~ The transition has proved to be hard.  I tried Life of Fred but won't stay with it (too little practice and the zany story-based lessons felt like wasteful distractions to my kids who just want to finish their math every day.)  I think end of 4th grade Chinese flows into 6th grade math at Thinkwell.  Perhaps kids will be ready to skip beginning of 6th grade topics in thinkwell's 6th grade course.  

~ Kids read, take notes, narrate and make presentations at our 6-8weeks "Learning Sharing Times"
4th grade:  Apologia Human Anatomy , 5th grade:  Apologia Chemistry and Physics

~ Kids read and take notes and narrate and make presentations on Mystery of History or Story of the World...
~  watch some CNN10 or news overviews and discuss current events
~ exposure for geography learning too (climates, countries and capitals, oceans, biomes, environmental issues)

~Chinese textbooks that I love   taught by a local tutor.  (Written by a Chinese group to educate the children of Chinese parents who are growing up speaking English and not reading or writing Chinese....  so perfect also for our kids!)

Sixth - Eighth Grade
<Four Core and Four More>

~ 6 (Isaiah will finish 2 writing courses) then Cover Story DVD which I need someone else to give feedback (grade) writing for  (Soverbose will grade assignments but maybe a friend would be willing to interact with our kids for this!?).  Word Build Online for vocabulary.
~ 7 BraveWriter "High School Helps" independent work course possibly??  Or maybe stick with so verbose?  Or possibly an online class by then?  Still hoping someone else will help grade work for this for me!  Possibly continue with Word Build online for vocabulary.  (I still need to buy this... and will be getting it at Homeschool Buyer's Co-op!  So so looking forward to that sale price!)
~ 8 Wilson Hill Academy online English Course.  (I'm a little bit hoping to avoid Shurley Grammar... no offense to your grammar folks... and I think this level will work.)  

***I'm really hoping that the good folks at Wilson Hill will be able to provide some live online classes for our kids in Asia daylight hours.  There's good hope that this will come together and I know it will be a tremendous blessing to so many families in Asia!

~ Wilson Hill for live online classes....  Modern History in 6th, The Great Conversation (Omnibus type course covering History, Geography, Literature, Philosophy)  TGC I in 7th grade and TGC II in 8th grade.

~ Wilson Hill Science... (Or Apologia General Science in 6th, Physical Science in 7th same plan as above.)

~Thinkwell.  Our goal is Prealgebra in 6th grade (this is Thinkwell's "8th grade math").  Algebra 1 in 7th grade.  8th grade....  Geometry possibly?

Electives:  same as above.  Kids need to focus on sharpening their Chinese reading and writing and expanding Chinese vocabulary so they can pass the AP Chinese test in high school.  

Friends!  I was just introduced to the best way to save money on homeschool stuff.  Homeschool Buyer's Co-op.  It's free to join and it simply gives you access to buy curriculum and online subscriptions and homeschool helps of every kind for incredible sale prices.  I just bought Thinkwell for about 45% off.  And I'm waiting for WordBuild to go on sale to get that for hopefully save 30-60% as well!  Here's my link...  I'd love to earn a little bit if you go over to the Co-op page from my link! Thanks!!

Monday, October 17, 2016

They really graduated...

When I just checked in at our little homeschool blog here, to see about getting in a new post, I thought it was just about 5 months ago that I last posted.  Wrong.  That's one year + five months.  And I didn't even know it.... yikes.

But my kids really did graduate.  Isaiah finished 4th grade summer 2016 and Marian finished 3rd.  In math, they have completed Chinese textbooks to (M) beginning 5th grade level and (I) beginning 6th grade level.  Super stars....  Now to work on English!!!

John's graduation pic from Chinese preschool (which, along with English phonics work at home with me, we counted as his first grade year) is on our family blog in July 2016 I think.  He's adorable and he's doing great... not an eager reader, but I think he's doing fine, especially when I weigh in that he is confidently bilingual.  I'm ok if he's not (yet :) ) the top of his class... oh but wait- he's the only one in his class at home, so he already is!  I love this sweet John Boy.  And Vivi is usually happy to take a stab at any simple word and doesn't feel the least bit intimidated by an early reader book.  I love that optimism and happy heart in her!

This fall we are in the states for our first ever semester of school here.  Matt is taking a huge and heavy and wondrously rich load of classes at RTS and the kids are at Libertas Academy, a hybrid school where they get 4 classes (writing, history, science, and speech and logic- for M and J/ Debate and logic for Isaiah) on Mondays every week, and then 4 days of assignments to work on at home.
Isaiah is in 5th grade, Marian in 4th, John in 2nd, and Vivi in Kinder.

The big three are using IEW for writing and I think its great for this semester but I don't think we will continue with it on our own back in China.  We will be continuing with Analytical Grammar and Beyond the Book Report  / Writing with Skill.  (Probably do WWSkill in 5th-6th grades and AG/BBR in 7th and 8th).

I love the Debate stuff Isaiah is learning from (The Argument Builder) ... and the Apologia textbooks the big two are enjoying. For history, I think we will carry on with Mystery of History, volume 4 when we head back...  I'm also looking forward to starting up with an online Humanities course for Isaiah in 7th grade.  We'll probably end up going with Logos School or Wilson Hill for this.   I love the integrated way they weave history/geography/literature/philosophy and intertwine and root it all on a solid Biblical foundation.  

The big two are doing Life of Fred for Math which suits us well...  I'm not yet super confident that the kids are really learning from it, but I need to be working more closely with them (like "Crossing the Bridges"  the review check points in Isaiah's Fractions book.  I love the set up of these books!

And for Chinese.... I found as free downloads online the BEST curriculum for our kids to learn Chinese.  I am So Grateful for this b/c we've had a hard time finding teachers in China that would be willing to flex with us and not have an exact textbook.... because no textbooks fit our kids!  They are not on grade level with Chinese kids in reading and writing and they are not foreigner English speakers trying to learn a foreign language.  This series of 12 textbooks from beginner to advanced was written for English speaking kids of Chinese parents who live overseas.  It's wonderful!

Hopefully I'll get to a more detailed updated plan for our homeschool path....  My hopes and aims for where we're heading for middle school and, with the benefit of some hindsight now, the way I want to take John and Vivi through elementary homeschool years.  I've been working on this grand plan for a while....  post coming soon!

Wednesday, May 27, 2015


I wrote up a list months ago and have glanced it over most weeks since then, hoping for a time to reflect on these priorities and record these aims for our schooling.  Here’s what I need to keep reminding myself of… ways in which I want to aim my kids' schooling and home life towards excellence in more ways than just academics (though certainly including that!).

We get to focus our learning and growing together on 
A. Life:  character and relationships... This summer we are going to pay special attention to another round of Manners Class.  Especially greeting people kindly, eye contact and answering when you are spoken to, friendships, gift giving and table etiquette.  
B.  Home-ing:  cooking, cleaning, hospitality, repairs and maintenance skills with daddy, and gardening
C.  Schooling:  detailed below.  

1.  Bible.  I've written before how I wanted Matt to get to lead our Bible time, so we didn't do Bible as a subject during our homeschool time (when daddy was at work.)  But we've changed that up.  Matt leads our family devotions, but the Bible also leads our learning and is first among our subjects.  For now, this means we work on scripture memory together in homeschool time and as we always have, that we seek in all our subjects to apply a Biblical worldview and study each subject as "from him and to him and through him."

2.  Language Arts.  yea!  I'm learning to keep this simple!  Thank you Charlotte Mason!  We go heavy in our lessons on reading excellent literature aloud and copying excellent pieces as example texts to learn new vocabulary, spelling, punctuation and beauty.  Lesson planning is easy for this now!  We have a Sylvan workbook the kids enjoy doing a few pages from each week (it's colorful and cool) and the kids are getting there basic pieces of grammar... Parts of speech, types of questions, selling rules.  Besides that, we copy our Bible verse, sometimes a poem, and/ or sometimes a snip from Simply Charlotte Mason's SPELLING WISDOM  It makes perfect sense to me to follow the age old idea of apprenticeing our kids to learn English from the masters...  like the jade sculptor who had his apprentice hold and handle a chunk of jade for dozens of hours before he let him even begin polishing it- that way he could tell a fake piece from the real stuff and he knew quality based on simply observing.  Why not the same for English? Just one of the perfectly convincing reasons I use to excuse our crew from having to study terrible grammatical jumble at this age but aim to spend much more of our LA time knowing and appreciating excellent writing, excellent pieces.  

3.  History.  We've continued using Veritas Press' self-paced online hisotry course because it's chronological and covering the right time so that we can pick up with Tapestry of Grace in the future.  I really love Tapestry of Grace, the attitude they present of respecting other cultures and learning from them and speaking the truth of the Gospel into other contexts.  This is what I feel is missing from the lessons they're doing now.  But these lessons have hit the spot for me, giving me a bit more availability to attend to other things, even though, sadly, they're presented with a sometimes more arrogant tone.   So far in our kids history lessons, we've spent most of our time in the ancient world but also some time on American History.  

4.  Science-  We've kept this super simple so far.  Basically all that we've done this year is memory work (from Classical Conversations app) and some read alouds from the Christian Liberty Nature Reader or from Apologia textbook.  We're looking forward to a more intentional class arrangement for science next year- usuing Apologia textbook and notebooks for the kids.

5.  Math-  this is the crazy exciting thing for me right now.  Our kids are bright and blazing in math!  They have both finished their grade level textbooks in Chinese mathbooks a little bit early and are beginning to move ahead into next year's level.  Also, they have completed three mental math practice books each this year.  And their sweet fantastic teacher has incorporated lessons from the Olympic Math textbooks.  Check their graduation post below to see how awesome their math work has been!

6.  Chinese-  daily practice in Chinese reading and writing and vocabulary development (which means, more reading aloud.)  Both Isaiah and Marian feel confident to write characters, the order of the strokes, the names of the strokes, the names of common radicals.   They can read and write at probably an advanced first grade level and we are content with that, and content knowing that they are continuing to progress with Hanzi from there.  

7.  3rd Language-  our kids also have "minority language game time" 3-4 days a week (when their teacher, who is also a grad student, can come).  They don't have any tests or homework for this time but they're learning to follow directions, listen to stories and sing songs and answer questions.  We are thrilled with this.  All along, we've wanted our kids to be academic in English and Chinese and conversational in the local language.  

8.  Piano-  They're making progress, but slowly.  And sometimes I'm not content with how slow or how low the level is (especially for Marian right now).  But we are grateful to have a doable plan for their learning (Piano Marvel) and grateful that they both seem to enjoy it just enough (and are encourageable when they do get disinterested) to keep at it.  

9.  Memory-  We use the Classical Conversations app and Fighter Verse ipad app to memorize scripture and science, history, math facts.  The fighter verse app also has quizzes that have been helpful for our kids to find letters on a keyboard.... super basic typing exposure.  

10.  Physical Education/ Creation Exploration-  Matt's company is a super help for this.  The kids play baseball at least once a week with dad and friends.  I also want to aim them to be more observant and appreciative of nature-  clouds, weather, plants, flowers, bugs, animals.... We are so grateful to have a large patio where they are each tending the little budding plants from the seeds they each picked out.

EXTRAS-  the kids are getting to particpate in an art class in Chinese and I want to not loose sight of incorporating art and music appreciation for them too.  Those things are highly valued for me, but in the real world of time constraints and play that is still needed for our kids (at least an hour or so a day!) we can't add any more regular lessons since our kids spend a fair bit of time in Chinese lessons and home work and U language class too.  

Now for the more Mom-ish stuff, the priorities I get to hold to as Mom more than Teacher…  I can’t make all this happen and I know that full well.  But I also don’t want to loose track of the goals altogether just because I can’t focus on them entirely right at this season.  

Spiritual Focus:  Model devotions- daily reading and discussion at the breakfast table.  Train them in personal devotions.  Model repentance and humility, seeking reconciliation and peace and speaking truthfully and calmly.  

Relational - Character Focus:  1:1 time with each kid weekly (goal!), praise and positive encouragement, Firm and Loving Parental Authority.  Whisper correction to them privately- no yelling.  Good sportsmanship attitude and actions.  Confidence to speak kindness and lead others in goodness.   Train them in endurance, perserverance through hardship. (This is the goal, however I must note that the reality is that our kids, boys especially, are quite naturally wimpier rather than brave.... Oh God make us steadfast!)

Mental Focus:  Guide the kids for Time Awareness-  punctuality/ preparing ahead.

Physical Focus:   Harvest heavy diets (fruits and veggies).  Multi vitamins.  Koombucha- a shot a day for the brave ones who can get it down :).  More bone broth, using whole chicken instead of just the breast.  Balance exercise and juggling type skills practice.  Cardio.  Stretch and limber.   

Friday, May 22, 2015

2nd and 3rd Grade Graduation!

We had a joyful celebration last night in our home...  celebrating our big kids finishing a great school year with their Chinese teachers.  We'll have a Creative Arts Concert sometime this summer that will be with some English speaking kiddo friends.  But this time was special for the kids to celebrate their Chinese learning and to honor and thank their tremendous teachers.  They've done so well this year!  The Lord has sure blessed us with these fantastic young ladies as a Chinese and a Math & U teacher.

I just have to rave a little.  Our big guy is in 3rd grade and his teacher has been supplementing a standard 3rd grade level math book with the Chinese Olympic Math textbook.  Each kiddo also filled out three mental math practice drill books in this past semester.  They've been working hard, and it's been paying off.  Olympic math is a high level, logic heavy math book that kids all over the country feel enormous pressure to attain to.  Their sweet teacher Eldonna put the Olympic math problems at the bottom.  Isaiah conquered this whole poster of problems and the two biggies at the bottom in seven minutes!  (Ok, there were a few errors, but on the whole, he knows how to go after these problems and he did super well :)  The bottom problem... it breaks down into 4x25x4 (which he can do in his head) and then times 64....  sweet smarty boy!

Marian's Olympic math problem was like this:  You see 10 heads in a field and you count a total of 26 feet.  How many of the heads are chickens (2 feet) and how many are rabbits (4 feet)?    She nailed it:  3 rabbits and 7 chickens... and I still don't understand the straightest way to figuring that out!

We love this teacher!  

Our homeschool motto hasn't yet changed...  I do hope it will graduate with these kids from high school and into life beyond!  "Hard Work and High Spirits for His Glory"

The kids both read a selection from their Chinese textbook and recited a few verses from Psalm 103 (v. 11-13).  We had memorized the whole Psalm in English but only shared these few verses with the friends at our graduation gathering.  

This sweet Chinese teacher has only been with us for the past two months and I hope she'll stay with us for years to come.   We love her so much!  She's getting married early June and our girls will get to be flower girls for her... which they are over the moon happy about.  

We won't have any English "show" for this year... but the kids will participate in a Creative Arts Concert with other english speaking friends sometime this summer.  It has been a neat thing to hear them brining pieces together from their history class, the literature we read aloud in the afternoons and Bible...  so sweet to see them growing and learning and loving to read and loving the Lord.  Now... if we could just see more of loving each other!  

Oh we have a painful bickering crew on our hands... but we love them still!  If you pray for any one thing for our family, I would ask for the Lord's help for our kids to learn to wait and speak kindly with each other and generally, to lighten up and laugh and show love to one another.  We struggle so sadly much in this area!

Friday, August 22, 2014

2nd & 3rd grade launch!

UPDATED from the first post....  plans have changed a bit this week and I'm even more grateful for what the Lord has brought together for our kiddos now....

I'm excited for our big two this year....  It's going to be a great year.

And it's going to be just about as different as can be from what I've dreamed about....  since last fall, I had in my mind that we would be homeschooling our kids together with another dear family nearby.  I thought we'd rent a small apartment to be the little schoolhouse for these 7 students every day and they would have an English teacher come to teach them and a Chinese teacher to divide up the big and little kids so that everyone gets both languages.

But then those friends went back to Canada to give birth and we decided not to rent a schoolhouse (alone? of course not!) and we never found a teacher willing to come and bless our kiddos as their teacher.  (Only the Lord knows how I'll be able to continue in language study myself now that I'm the homeschool teacher... but we just might be able to swing it still, by the Lord's grace!  I hope so!)  And...  the *wonderful* apartment home the Lord blessed us with is just cooler than we imagined getting to live in.

Now... shockingly...  we have a four bedroom home (Matt and I are in the new, little bedroom and the large bedroom upstairs is a fully devoted schoolroom.)  OK- this is all so far a rewrite of the post below that's all about our school room- sorry.   I am so grateful though.  It's working super well!

For the morning, John and Vivi are going to preschool now!  The local preschool in our complex decided to accommodate us crazy foreigners and allow our kids to attend for only half days.

Isaiah and Marian meet with their Chinese language teacher for nearly 2 hours, 4 days a week.  Then for five days, they will do 3 English subjects a day and memory (which is only 15 minutes, so it doesn't count as one of their "subjects"- those are all about 20-30 min.)  In the afternoon (again, 4 days, not on Wednesdays) they also meet with a Chinese math teacher for 1.25 hours of class.

Here's their weekly assignment sheet that they will get every Monday and cross off as they finish lessons.  Fridays, they need to turn these sheets back into me, with their parts on the right filled out.   Hopefully, it will be a sweet record to keep.

For their English lessons, we'll try to run our lesson time on "pomodoros":  25 or 30 minutes on task and then a 5 minute break but I'm not bothering to introduce the term pomodoros...  we just call them subjects or classes....

It's not on the kids' weekly assignment sheets because Bible as a subject is covered more in family devotions than in our homeschool time.  I also have a weekly sheet that's equally unprofessional as the kids' sheets- it's my own weekly homeschool planning sheet.  On that page, I have these categories for our Bible learning:  Reading in the Word (discussion), Memory Verse (this one thing is from their memory time in school), Song, Catechism Question, Prayer.  We try to do morning devotions together every morning before breakfast.  This is usually a quick time of reading and prayer.  Then, 2-3 nights per week we try to do extended family devos with songs and longer discussion.  I'm glad Bible is more a Family Devo's thing than a Homeschool subject b/c that way Matt gets to lead and be involved more (although he's great about discussing history and checking on other subjects with the kids too.  #Ilovemyman.)  

Language Arts:  (they'll probably get 3-6 lessons of LA a week in the following categories)
Reading-  what the kids read independently (or Marian still reads to me)
Grammar- a workbook, complete a few lessons
Spelling-  just covering the Fry Words, spelling test
Copywork- a poem, a hymn or a verse each week
Writing- a letter (to family or friends or guests in our home), a journal entry, or a story

I love Tapestry of Grace.  I just love it- the organization of it, the excellence of academics, the Charlotte Mason with a bit of Classical tinge,  the humility and rootedness of the theology undergirding all of it.   But we're not using it b/c it's a bit more labor intensive than I can afford this year since I'm still hoping to get in some serious language study myself.  So...  these two are doing Veritas Press's Self-paced history course for the ancient world.   We're still using Tapestry's suggested read alouds along with the VP course since they're both chronologically anchored but I don't have to plan the history lessons at all.   This is my best shot at language study time!!

We'll look a bit more at the 106 Days of Creation Studies, from Simply Charlotte Mason.  This simple plan relies heavily on Christian Liberty Nature Readers.  We also have several Usborne books about Water, Outside, Weather and Apologia about Zoology and I just got two free apps on bird identification (National Geo.)  and plant identification (Leafsnap)....  my plan for science is pretty wide open at this point.  We might get to a more developed plan at some point or we might just leave it fairly open, fill it with as many living books and explorations as we possibly can squeeze in.

Every week, we're trying to tuck in a new Fighter Verse (we love the app for iPad, which includes a song for each verse!) and I'd love to be able to get them in Chinese and English but I don't know if that's going to work?  We'll see...  For our family time, we're also trying to memorize the New City Catechism.

The other main part of "memory time" is what our kids are memorizing from the Classical Conversations (CC) app.  The idea of classical education, the trivium, and even catechism learning is that since kids are so good at memorizing things in their early years, we ought to take advantage of this natural ability, this stage of development, by giving them lots of good things to memorize that they can digest and use and understand all the inter workings of later, as they grow.  "It's like laying logs in the fireplace of their minds.  Later it will take flame." (That's how the New City Catechism explains teaching young kids.)   So, we use the CC app to memorize Geography, History, Math and Science.  For the Timeline they are learning a parallel version- a similar song- from their VP history course.  And for English grammar, I just can't put my kids through learning English like that.  I love English too much.  And I love my kids waaay too much.  Charlotte Mason's approach to learning the art of language is just more winningly beautiful to me.

For us, Latin doesn't make the cut.  We will be working on English, Chinese, and the minority language around us.  Once we're swinging well in all those, I'm eager to study Greek with our kiddos, or possibly Hebrew.  That would be sweet to track with the translators who are currently working to translate the Good Book from Hebrew into our neighbors' language!

One other tiny bit to mention:  I know there are better-researched educators out there than I am, but I am not comfortable with some of what I see in the Classical Education world of what seems like stockpiling so darn much in our kids' minds that it is - in my opinion- too disproportionate- with what they actually know, comprehend, what they thoroughly understand at their ages.  I want my kids to "get" that the point of education is understanding, not regurgitating.  Also, Sonya Shafer has a great post over at about the pledge of allegiance which reminds me of why I value living stories and narration (I know, I'm a CM junkie :)  ) and not only, or not toooo much mere memorization.

How well do you know The Pledge of Allegiance? I’m pretty sure most of us can recite it.... But how well do you knowThe Pledge of Allegiance? Try putting it in your own words.
No, don’t just keep reading here. Stop and try to put The Pledge in your own words. Go ahead. I’ll wait.
Did you do it? Now, here’s the $10,000 question: Which of those exercises displayed true knowledge?
We're using PianoMarvel and so far we're very grateful.  The kids feel motivated to keep advancing through these video and even Vivi has been able to sit up to a few little lessons!  I'm wanting them to practice at least half hour a day.  I can see that this lacks a little from meeting with a teacher but we are thrilled with the amount and the way that the kids learning is fitting into our lives and budgets with this teaching method.  So grateful!  (And if you want to go get your free trial or subscribe to piano marvel too, then you could use the Piano Marvel link right here or this one to see about taking them up on a free trial and we will benefit from your subscription too!  Yea for all of us!!)

Once a week I want to leave open time to cover some special stuff....  Honor class (to discuss character, virtue, manners), Art or Music Appreciation, Handicrafts (Isaiah's loving wood carving and Marian is learning some sewing).  Today we wrote letters to our Compassion kids.  And then there's always baking together or iPad play time as pure reward for awesome diligence for the week of studies.   (They get 15 minutes-  I'm stingy screen time  for our kids, there's just too much LIFE to be lived!  But for our kids, 15 min is normal and they hardly think to ask for more and I'm super happy that's our pattern.)

Chinese, Math, minority language:  (I put them together b/c they're both taught by Chinese teachers.)  Chinese in the morning (4 days, no Wed) and math is the same in the afternoons )no Wed. Our kids are both math minds, doing very well in local textbooks, even the tough level stuff.  We're so thrilled for both of them and so glad that they can advance at their own comprehension speed since their class is just them and a teacher.... they don't need to go anyone else's speed.
For minority language class, the kids have game time 2 afternoons a week and I'm hoping to arrange a language exchange for them with local kiddos 2 more afternoons....  the more play the better.  I'm so glad for how quickly they are learning this local language already!
I didn't even put the minority language on the sheet for the kiddos because the goal at this point for them is simply conversation.  They'll have no assignments but just exposure and opportunity to practice and play in this beautiful new language!  I'm amazed and crazy joyful happy for how motivated and how much progress they've already made in their third language!  Thank you Lord for this!

My Read Aloud:
Following Tapestry of Grace's suggestions mostly to fill out factual history with fiction alongside it... And we'll throw in a few books for fun too...(the goofy Mrs. Piggle Wiggle right now!  Thanks to BookEnds!!!)

On Fridays I'll do a memory check with them and we'll plan if there's something worthy of making a presentation to the family... a memorized poem or summary of history or sharing a science discovery.
I'm also excited to hear from the kids on the right side of their weekly assignment sheets:  J.O.Y. goals are Jesus, Others, Yourself...  How can we show love, make beauty, serve for eternal gladness?

We're running school 4-5 days a week.  Saturdays are just no fun for us to go to the park or run errands and we're planning  (hoping!) to be busy as a family with the sports company once that's running so we're taking one day off every other week.  Homeschoolers can do that!  Yipee Hooray!

Tucking Marian into bed this evening, day #2, she thanked me for teaching her.  I smiled at her and she nodded, "I'm so excited for homeschool this year."

Me too, babe.  Me too!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Kindergarten for John & Pre-K for Vivi!

How amazing that this pair is up and off to school already!  Well...  off to school as in...  they're beginning.  They're at home for school and that's a joy for me!

***  So much for that week and half! Plans have changed and now John and Vivi are in morning preschool (for John, his kindergarten year) in our complex preschool.  ***

3 hours of Chinese in the mornings.... then a reading lesson with mom, for John.  We're well into 100 Easy Lessons to Teach Your Child to Read (which worked like a charm for Isaiah and not so super great for Marian... but it looks like it's hitting near target for this guy).    For reading lesson time, Vivi's free to play!   I will go over a Kids' Foundation Verse (from the Fighter Verse app.) with them both in English and Chinese (I'm meeting with a tutor for help on our weekly verses- in all three languages!)

Two afternoons a week, the little two will get to join the biggies and one other friend who will have a minority language class with us.... That will basically just be game play time in this next new language.    I hope it will be a cheery fun time for all!

And that's it.  That's our plan for Kindergarten and Pre K for our sweet little two!  I'm so grateful for a way to keep them engaged in books and life-learning hopefully, growing bilingually, and just covering the basics and keeping it simple.  The Word and reading lessons and not too much else but a bunch a fun.....  that sounds like a good kindergarten year to me!  May it be Lord.... by your grace, for your glory!

Friday, August 8, 2014

a new school room!

Isaiah's starting Third Grade and Marian begins Second Grade in just over a week!  We had hoped to start earlier but 我们束腰装修房子。  (It just sounds better in Chinese. We're doing some work at our house to make room for a new school room!)

So, we moved to this town thinking that we would educate our kiddos alongside another family whose kids are perfectly matched age-wise with our learners.  We thought there'd be a tiny school, we'd rent a small apartment for our 7 students (Arrow Academy, gotta jump on a chance to use Arrow... for something :).  But those guys wisely headed back to their home country for mama to give birth to their fifth little one.  So we're at it alone now.

We sure don't need to rent a separate space to school our four, but with not an overly spacious 3 bedroom apartment and the reality of no libraries, no kids museums, no place else to go for class time, we wanted to try to rig some way to have a designated learning place for our kiddos.  Our little two will meet with a Chinese teacher while I try to teach the big two their English subjects and we just wanted PLACE for all of this....  Plus, Matt's little start-up company got registered in our home (this is a huge grace from the Lord, that this was approved!!).  We thought we'd be paying for rent for two other little places..... but now, no extra rent at all!

With all this, we decided to finish off one patio off our upstairs.  It came ready to be finished- had three walls and most all our neighbors have finished off that patio as a room already.  We got the basic model home (which we were thrilled for, to get to design things to suit us best) and with the money we're saving from not needing to rent and from going with the trash-truck movers (not really, but they were so bad to our stuff... good thing they were so cheap!) we are finishing off that needless patio to turn it into a little cave-like room for Matt and I (it's not too spacious and the ceiling is quite low- but it works!!).  That means the first glorious room upstairs will be the new school room.

Friends, I still feel shocked to enjoy this room so much, and that this beautiful place is in our very own home!  I've never been in a room that I think would make a nicer school room for our kids than this....

Our apt. was a 3bed- 2 bath.  Now the upstairs room will feel more like a second living area.  A wide open, spacious, gracious, lofted-cieling (incredible, eh!?   Here in China? Yes, amazing isn't it!?) family room/school room.  Our new little bedroom is off that back hallway- near the door to the bathroom.

The big room is so much better as a school room than as our room.  As it is now (we're just half way through building the new room) I rarely go in our room all day long.  But it is such a light, bright, beautiful room, it's a pity to not have an excuse or an opportunity just to be there.  But as the school room.... we'll be there lots :)

The whole deal is a gift- that we're able to build it, the kids all enjoying the process of watching the workers, the cute little bed shelf we'll have over in our new room, and the fantastic new space for our family.... space I'm also super eager to fill with cute neighborhood kids playing and learning together...

We are so grateful for this gift from the Lord!!

Here's a pictorial view of our process...

the patio- with three walls.  The door was maybe 5.5 feet tall...

in the building just beyond you can see our neighbors have already built in their patio-rooms

our nice construction guy (who worked alone with his wife for almost the entire 2.5 week project) jackhammered up just the right amount of cement floor to lay down the floor heating (water tubes) and then recover with cement to make it nearly match the floor one step down from the original two steps that led out to the original patio.  If I could only explain how chabuduo (literally, "about", it means Not exact, Not precise) jobs are here usually, you'd know that it was a treat to see the floor completed so well!  

see the floor all one level from the first step?  :) 

Our kind worker friend, Mr. Yang, is about 5.4 I'd guess.  And the ceiling looks a bit goofy or angle but it's only the sides that have low, low angles to them, the rest of the roof is flat and just high enough for me to nearly flat palm it.  It's cozy and sweet....  and here's my favorite part....

the window sill - bedside table.   Pintrest said that small bedrooms need built-ins and that's handy b/c this one built-in was ready to go from the railing that was there earlier.  

Look at these amazing cleaner helpers!  

And I guess I have to have two favorite parts...  I love the floor!  Who knew that cheap fake wood could look so nice!?  I am one grateful mama!

UPDATE:  This room is such a sweet provision for our family!  We could live just fine in a 3 bedroom place... but with Matt's company running in our home, and our 4 kids homeschooling (and our super desire to get to do co-ops with homeschooling friends here), it is a fantastic gift to have a place for everyone!  Today, the second day of school, Matt was sick in bed all day with sinus trouble. I am so happy we could close him in a private place and give him some rest while all the madness continued just outside his door!  The little kids with their Chinese teacher upstairs and the big kids for English lessons with me and piano and history lessons all running on computer downstairs...  It worked!  I'm so happy-grateful-humbled-amazed....  such a gift- this space!!!

Maybe I'll get around to posting pics of our new bedroom all moved in and of the new school room.... but honestly, pretty pics of our home are sometimes hard to come by.  Guess I'll just have to eat my pride and post some regular life pics.  I'll try!  I'm sure eager to share what a joy and a blessing this home is to our family, sports company, homeschool kids and homeschool community!