Logic of English Review

I have been on a social media fast for a long while now.  It is far too easy in this day and age of technology to become too engrossed in those technologies.  Sure, they make some things in life simpler or more expedient, but becoming too dependent on them can overtake a person’s real life.  So, feeling the need to focus on educating my children without social media interruption for a time, I have taken a step-back for several months.

After taking several months longer that expected to finish up the reading and grammar curricula we had been working on from last year, we finally began using Logic of English Essentials in December.  Now about a third of the way through the program, it is time for a progress report.

Our younger son is moving a little more quickly in his progress than his older brother.  Fifteen lessons into it, he has made the leap to reading chapter books for the enjoyment of it.  Older brother is also making progress, but it is slower going for him.  He has gone from struggling to read early 2nd grade readers to reading much more challenging Stage 4 picture book readers independently.  As a writing exercise, they both wrote a book report on the book they read to understand the concepts of: title, author, copyright date, setting, characters, plot etc. They will be presenting their book reports orally to the family soon for practice in public speaking. In the near future both boys have to do an oral presentation for 4-H, so our book reports are good help in learning to research and write  more effectively.  Soon they will be doing a non-fiction book report as well and then we will compare the differences between fiction and non-fiction literature. 

Meanwhile, we continue working on Logic of English every school day.  Mama has had to learn a little patience in this process to not rush the boys through the program.  Since I never struggled in reading like my sons have I have to remind myself daily that taking this at their slow and steady pace is what will finally win this reading race… for me as a kid, it was just a sprint… for my sons it’s a marathon. 

We are all different and have to respect each other in that.  It is hard for mothers who love to read for the sheer joy of it to watch their child struggle to learn the skills needed to learn to enjoy reading themselves.  As a mother, the wait for them to be ready to get into some of those “great books” awaiting us on the bookshelves at home and at the library can seem like watching a Never-ending Story marathon all day every day for years…Meanwhile the children are completely clueless as to the beauty and richness of these literary works you just can’t wait to share with them.  We aren’t quite there yet, but they are starting to catch up. I can finally see them coming up the reading hill behind me in my rearview mirror.  I struggle in the limbo land between excitement for them and keeping patience while they complete this race.

My Little Pioneer-girl  is just entering her “schooling” years at 3 1/2 year old.  Almost daily she asks to “do school” with her brothers.  We are starting some early phonics with her and some early math.  We have gotten her some early learning workbooks that use Ray’s Primary Arithmetic and McGuffey’s Eclectic Primer. With that we are mixing in lessons from Alpha-Phonics, use of objects like pennies and buttons as counting manipulatives, counting things while helping mom cook, about cleaning and putting things away and how plants grow.  This summer we will have a short overview with all three kids on what happens during birth, as Henry’s dog, Karen, will be having her first litter of puppies in May.

This summer or  fall, we will be starting Logic of English Fundamentals A with Pioneergirl for preschool.

Family

Last week, my niece and nephew, came up from Missouri for a three week summer vacation with my parents.  It’s been quite a treat for the cousins to get to know each other better.

The two 9 year-old boys, Henry and Kaden, are getting along famously and have so much in common.  Anna is the same age as her 12 year-old cousin Hannah’s baby sister,Tori, and so Anna is excited to have a “big sister” to play with.

Today, we have the pleasure of having Karen stay with us overnight, while Hannah, Grandma and Grandpa drive down to pickup my other nephew, Cameron, who is 13.

So far, we’ve been swimming twice together, once at the lake and once to the pool.  Next week there is a free swim day at the water park and we will all go to the Laura Ingalls Wilder Homestead tour and pageant for my boys’ birthday parties.  We are hoping to get time to go to Wylie Park in Aberdeen and to several museums while they are here.  We also managed to fit in some garage sale shopping, where the girls found some cute new outfits.

Homeschooling Conference

Pioneer Pa and I had the pleasurable opportunity, this past weekend, to attend a homeschooling conference in Sioux Falls, SD.  Amid the fabulous speakers and workshops, the fellowship and curriculum vendors, I believe we have finally stumbled across THE SOLUTION to helping our struggling readers (Charles and Grandpa), as well as something that will help our other children take off in this area.

During the SECHE Conference, I attended three out of the four workshops taught by Denise Eide, the founder of Logic of English.  Learning that the spelling rules, phonetics and word roots used in the English language make sense was tremendously helpful too me.  You see, I don’t actually remember how I learned to read… I just did.  I was reading by early kindergarten and by the end of second grade, I had read Laura Ingalls Wilder’s entire Little House series independently.  On the other hand, I am a mother of sons, both who have experienced varying levels of difficulty in learning to read. Charles in particular, deeply struggles in this area of learning.  Not knowing why your child is having such trouble in such a fundamental subject is extremely stressful for parents… not knowing how to help, leaves you feeling helpless to fix the problem.  I was so impressed by the Logic of English in the first session, that I decided to attend Mrs. Eddie’s classes on Soaring, Not Struggling and the Importance of Handwriting.

In a nutshell, the most important things I learned were: English makes sense and teach your kids WHY, intensive systematic phonics, spelling rules and understanding word roots will rescue your struggling readers, and teach cursive handwriting first (if your child already learned manuscript printing, do cursive intensively and make the switch…require cursive on all their work.)  I’m thankful for what I have learned this year at our homeschool conference, and most especially for Denise’s hard work in creating the Logic of English.  I don’t often order curriculum that I’ve never used before at these events, but this program is a complete language arts curriculum for rescuing an older student or adult who is a struggling reader, as well as starting beginning readers off on the right foot. We ordered the Essentials reading program and can’t wait for it to arrive, to begin rescuing Charles’ reading.

Meanwhile with some new tips on teaching penmanship skills, we will run through teaching cursive writing again, beginning with the lower case letters.  After we run through both upper and lower case alphabet letters and the few connector strokes to form words,  we will completely switch to cursive writing in June.

Our Furry Friends Are Hopping Into Spring

Although early spring sometimes brings cold snowy weather, here in South Dakota, it usually doesn’t last long this time of year.  After a day or two, the snow melts in late March and early April.  Sometimes this type of weather creates chaos on the farm in early spring.  You just never know a month or more in advance what the weather will be when the barnyard animals give birth, and a sudden cold snap can cause problems for newborn animals.  Several years ago we had a doe kid (first born of twins born to our alpine doe, Claire) who was delivered during a freakishly cold weekend in March and ended up with a frostbitten back leg.

On the other-hand, livestock having babies and increasing their family-size is the backbone of 4-H livestock projects.  To enable our 4-H’ers to grow their rabbit herds, we recently purchased 2 nest-box heaters for keeping litters warm until the babies grow fur (like rodents, baby rabbits are born bald.)  The mothers do pull fur to line their nests from their belly and sides, but if it is chilly and/or windy, this is often not enough and early litters are easily lost to exposure.

This year, we started off our 4-H projects by breeding Henry’s doe, Lady to his new blue Mini Rex buck, Slurpie, and Charles’ new doe, an albino New Zealand named Crystal, to his red buck, Lakota, in late Feb.  Lady delivered a nice all blue litter of 5 kits on March 26th.  Crystal kindled the day after, but had her 8 babies on the cage floor and lost them all to the cold.  Pa made a mistake in leaving her dead litter for me to see.  A rodent of some sort (out in the barn) ate the dead kits, then managed to get into Lady’s hutch and got her babies too.

The weekend after, we bred Lady’s daughter, Beauty, Henry’s castor-colored doe, Anna-Beth and Charles’ red doe and rebred Crystal. Two weeks prior to that, we had bred Charlotte to Slurpie and Blur to Lakota.  Both Charlotte and Blur are due to kindle next Saturday.

If all goes well, it will really get hopping around here.  As a side benefit, we should have a fabulous increase in rabbit manure to fertilize our garden  in the coming months of spring and summer.

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Keeping Home Education Organized: Part 1

Howdy to all of you!  For a while there I thought it was almost spring… until I heard the weather report on the radio while driving the kids to the 4-H building to pick up their fruit orders from the fundraiser.  As fundraisers go, it’s one of the better ones we’ve had to do over the years. At least it’s useful and I can definitely come up with something to do with a box of cooking/baking apples (apple pie comes to mind) or 6 whole pineapples (like freezing them for smoothies or other later use.)

With temps. being below normal all winter (except for a freakishly nice streak last week), it’s too early yet for the many gardening tasks ahead, a so far only a few precious tomato seedlings just beginning to sprout this week, I’ve been turning my attention to other tasks… teaching the kids to cook, trying to keep school lessons graded on-time and recorded in the grade book, looking over the lessons for the rest of the spring term and doing lesson planning, making lists of curriculum subjects we need more of before the rest (so I don’t have to pay over-night or 2-day shipping fees, or else lose a week or two waiting on books) and planning for our trip to the nearest home-school convention in May.

A lot of these tasks are paperwork organizational ones.  I don’t claim to a paper organizing guru… especially in some areas… like the incoming mail from my (snail) mailbox.  On the grade-book, lesson planning and student planner front I’ve gained a great deal of confidence in the last year.  Through trial and error, we’ve learned more about ourselves and what works (and more importantly what doesn’t) for our family.  I’ve tried a lot of planners and planning pages that are out there in the marketplace (mainly 2 types… those available in the stores and those that are available online that you can print out and use), but they always seem to end up requiring a goodly amount of “tweaking” in order for them to work for my family and I always end up with this random mix of pages I printed out that really don’t look like they belong together.  From an artistic point of view, I find the lack of cohesion annoying at best.  My main complaints of store-bought student planners are number one that they are almost always dated and lack flexibility and two that they are typically designed for high school students.  Research has shown though that these organizational skills are best formed in 2nd/3rd graders, not jr. high and high school.

The best store-bought planners I’ve found for Elementary students are little spiral-bound assignment notebooks made by Mead (yes the people that make notebooks and Trapper Keepers that you remember from your school days.)  These are inexpensive (usually $3 or so) and I can find them at a couple my local (non-chain) grocery stores.  Each page has sections for 3 days and (Subject, Assignment, Date) at the top of each section.  You can use it one of two ways: 1 section per subject and all the assignments for that subject for a week (probably how the manufacturer intended it) or you could use it like we do.  I simply list all of the subjects/assignments for one day in a section and where it says Date:  I write the day of the week.  Then I just cross the completed assignment with a highlighter.  It’s simple and it works… for assignments… but it lacks planning pages for activities, home- school co-op, sports/clubs, church and for longer-term school and club projects… you would have to get another different planner for that sort of thing.   My kids’ complaint with these little planners…” THEY ARE SO BORING-LOOKING MOMMMMMM! ” I ask you… just how many planners should a 2nd to 5th/6th grader really be asked to maintain (even with a great deal of adult help)?  The answer to this question should never be more than ONE!  These are kids who have trouble keeping track of their shoes, toys, mittens and just about everything else that comes in pairs or more… so a pair of planners (one school-work and one social life) is just too much!

Having your student’s “paperwork organizational brain” all in one book makes their life and yours a great deal easier.  I had some specific requirements I struggled to find elsewhere (or if I did find it the format was super boring or not quite what I needed in some aspect or other.)

My Requirements:

* We school 6 days a week,  so we need either a 3-day per page or 6-day per page

* Longer-term Project planner pages for research papers (which we will be starting in the Fall), literature log/book report to ensure independent reading, and projects/goals for 4-H etc.

*Social organization pages.

*Month at a glance calendars to accompany the 5 weeks of assignment pages every month.

*Cohesive artistic design.

 

To this end result I used the Printmaster Platinum 6 program on my computer to design something that would work for my kids,  a planner that met our needs and wouldn’t bore the children to tears.  I may eventually design another version or two… or three…. as we all know that all children are very different.  For now the boys and decide we all like the “chalkboard” look… so we went a little old-school for our first home-school student planner.  I am going to try to add this on here as a downloadable file (you all let me know if it didn’t work.)  I will add pictures of the completed project after I try my link myself from our other computer which is the one that works with our printer.  It is meant to be copied with additional copies of the assignments, social and project pages for each month.

Daily Assignments

(Please Note: You are welcome to download and print it for personal use only, but please be respectful and don’t copy for commercial use.)

A Flavorful Take On Christmas Cookies

Gluten Free Eggnog Sugar Cookies

 

Heris a gluten fre version of one of our favorite Christmas cookies (original version from a favorite cookbook “Christmas Treats & Sweets”).

 

1 c. Butteflavor shortening

1/2 tsp. Salt

2 c. Sugar

2 tsp vanilla extract

1 tsp. Rum extract

1/4 tsp. Nutmeg

2 large eggs

 

2 tsp baking powder

3 to3 12 c. Gf all purpose flour (with xanthan gum or guar gum in theblend)

 

Using aa mixer, cream together shotening, salt and sugar until light and fluffy. Add flavor extracts and nutmeg and mix in, add eggs 1 at a time mixing between additions. Add baking powder and then add flour slowly 1 cup at a time mixing  between additions. Dough will be very thick, but not crumbly. Chill or allow to rest for 1 hour..  Prepare an area to roll out cookies with psrchment, foil or wax paper sprinkled well with gf flour and well spinkled rolling pin also. (Alternately, if you want round cookies, you can hand-roll walnut sized balls of dough in colored sugars, plsce on baking sheets and gently flatten with the bottom of a glass..)  Roll out about 3/8 inch thick and then cut out cookies with your fsvorite cuters.  Bake at 350 F for 12 to15 minutes or so, or until the edges are just browning and cookies aresoftly2 cS set.  Bake a bit longer if you like crispy cookies.   Cool on pans 5 minutes before removing to a cooling rack.  When completely cool, decorate as desired with ffosting and  sprinkles. 

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To Bake OR Not to Bake- A Math Lesson

Almost every child LOVES COOKIES.  We all know this… entire marketing campaigns are based on this fact in the fall of the year when the kiddies go back to school, the weather starts cooling and folks start thinking about football, homecoming games, treat-laden parties and the major baking holidays.

Homeschooling moms have a big advantage over their public school teaching counterparts in the area of math to keep their students engaged in lesson material and at the same time give their youngsters a fun break from the day-to-day on-paper math assignments.  The homeschooling mother (or father, or grandparent… whatever the case may be) has: #1. a pantry containing food ingredients #2. cooking equipment and facilities ever present when at home (cooking in the car is probably NOT a good option unless your home is also your mode of transportation) #3 a handy supply of cookbooks, recipe card or perhaps recipes memorized from years of experience. #4 As a parent, IF your children have any food issues such as allergies, you KNOW what they are and unless the result of your math lesson is going to end up as snack for the next scout meeting or church potluck, you don’t have to worry about anybody else’s allergies except your family’s.

I don’t know about your kids, but mine love the process of making cookies almost as much as they love eating them.  That said, our family does have a few food limitations among our children: corn/corn syrup, gluten, milk protein, soybeans, bananas, strawberries and avocados.  With that in mind, we do quite a bit of our own baking anyway.  Baking is a great way to make math fun, particularly when trying to teach fractions.

Today’s math skill (new) was adding fractions and to this end, we used 1/3 and 1/2 measuring cups and a 1/4 tsp measuring spoon (okay, I couldn’t find any of the others anyway… but we made it work for us!) to measure ingredients.  We also ended up writing our own recipe for these cookies as we went along and the oldest wrote it down on recipe cards. Life Skills Lesson: Bake a healthy, low-sugar and yummy  “go-to” cookie that even my future 20-something possibly bachelor sons could make on their own without too much difficulty for their lunchboxes and such when they are grown and on their own. (Clever Mama!)  Bonus Lessons: Creative Writing and Penmanship practice … check!

Chocolate Peanut Butter Peanut Cookies

1/2 + 1/2 + 1/2 cups Creamy Peanut Butter

1/2+ 1/2 + 1/2 + 1/2 cups brown sugar (or 50/50 blend of brown sugar/splenda or brown sugar/stevia)

1/4 + 1/4 tsp salt

1/4 + 1/4 + 1/4 + 1/4 tsp vanilla

2 large eggs (or 3 medium… that’s what I happened to have)

1/3 cup cocoa powder (baking, not hot chocolate mix)

1/4 + 1/4+ 1/4+ 1/4 + 1/4 + 1/4 tsp baking powder

1/3 + 1/3 cup of room temp. leftover coffee (adjust as needed depending on the moisture of your flour)

1/2+ 1/2+ 1/2 cups whole millet flour

1/2+ 1/2+ 1/2+1/2+ 1/2+ 1/2 cups Gluten-Free all purpose flour (use your favorite blend) Adjust flour as needed if your cookie dough seems too wet from the coffee

1/3 cup Enjoy Life Mini Chocolate Chips (okay, this was all I had left of the bag)

1/3+ 1/3 + 1/3 cups chopped peanuts

1/2 cup Sugar in a small bowl (add more if needed

1. Cream together in a large mixing bowl, the peanut butter and brown sugar.

2. Add the eggs, salt and vanilla and stir in thoroughly.

3.  Stir in the coffee (it will look very loose almost like pancake batter at this point.)

4. In another mixing bowl mix the flours, cocoa powder and baking powder.

5. Add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients 1/3 or so at a time. Mixing well between additions.

6. Stir in the chocolate chips and peanuts.

7. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or foil and chill for at least 2 hours.

8.  After the dough is chilled, Preheat the oven to 350 F.

9. Remove the dough from your fridge and scoop out walnut-sized balls of dough.  Roll the dough in sugar (as you would regular peanut butter cookies) and place on your baking sheet.

10.  Using a fork, lightly squish the cookie dough balls in a criss-cross fashion (again like regular peanut butter cookies).

11.  Place your cookie sheets in the oven and bake for 10-12 minutes (use your judgement here, if you like soft cookies take them out when they look well set, if you like a crunchier cookie leave them a couple minutes longer, but plan to keep a close eye on them so they don’t burn.

12.  Cool the cookies on the baking sheet for about 5 minutes before transferring them to a cooling rack or plate.

13.  Let the kiddies enjoy the results of their math lesson, but don’t forget to save some for dad’s lunch too!

For holidays you can use colored sugar or roll them in sprinkles to dress them up a bit.

For Extra Credit, check with  your 4-H and Scout leaders to see if this math project can count toward a 4-h project (perhaps and Educational Display in Baking/cooking as part of a cookbook you child writes out him/herself) or for a cooking belt loop in Cub-Scouts/Badge in Girl Scouts.

(*  I apologize for lack of photos at the present time, my camera bit the dust after the 4-H photography clinic we had in late July and we haven’t had the funds to replace it just yet.  I will bake these cookies again another day after we DO replace the camera, edit and re-post this again in an updated version with photos.)

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