Monday, August 29, 2011

U is for Unscheduled - ABCs of Homeschooling

On 5 Kids and a Dog, there's a series called the ABCs of Homeschooling.  This week's letter is "U."

Alphabet ATC or ACEO Available - Needlefelted Letter for Unscheduled.

Anyone who knows me would be thinking, "What do you mean? You have a schedule and follow a routine with homeschooling."

That's true. I have a plan for the year and know what I want Sophia and Olivia to do and learn each week.

There are activities that the girls participate in that happen on certain days and times - homeschool co-op and piano lessons on Monday; Sophia's harp lesson on Tuesday; church choir practice on Wednesday with singing at two services on some Sundays; and Olivia's speech therapy and special education sessions on multiple days and times.

Each day during the school week there is a routine and rhythm that we follow. On days when there are activities outside the home, the schedule is modified to include them.

Generally, we wake up, have breakfast, take care of the horses, and then begin homeschooling. We take a break for lunch which we eat together. The girls play outside for a bit and then we resume homeschooling. After we are done homeschooling, the girls are free to do what they want to do until dinner which we eat together. In the evening, we read together, listen to books on CD, and play.

Girls - and Bailey the Pony - Doing a Nature Study
Sophia and Olivia on a nature walk/study with Bailey (the pony).

We focus on the more challenging subjects such as math and reading in the morning while leaving the "easier" subjects - such as geography, art, and home economics - in the afternoon. (These are not the only subjects that the girls study...they're just a few examples.)

Exploring the Code
Olivia working on reading skills.

What I'm referring to when I think of "unscheduled" is having the flexibility to sit down with the girls each week and say, "For math this week you need to do lessons 1-5. For penmanship you need to do lesson 1. For reading, I would like you to read chapters 1-15 this week," and so on.

By having blocks of time that we homeschool, the girls and I can spend as much time as needed on a particular activity. So, for example, if I'm reading a book aloud for history and we are all captivated by it, I will read until we are ready to take a break.

Sophia Playing Hockey
Sophia having fun one afternoon on the ice. She and Olivia were having so much fun skating that we ended up staying longer than we planned.
If I followed a strict schedule and didn't deviate from the set times, then there would be many times I would have to tell the girls, "We're done with this subject for the day. Time to move on to the next activity."

I can only begin to imagine the frustration the girls would feel with being interrupted right in the middle of being focused on their work and being told to leave something uncompleted. If they are focused and/or enjoying what they are doing, I see no purpose in interrupting their work unless there's some sort of emergency or dire need at stopping (which doesn't happen frequently, thankfully).

With homeschooling, I like having the ability to give the girls their assignments for the week and/or day and then letting them determine how they are going to reach these goals. If they want to do all their grammar lessons for the week in one day...fine. If they have the energy and motivation to do two math lessons in one day...great.

Making a Circuit
Olivia learned how to make a circuit. She was happy to see the light bulb work. Success!

The girls - who are 8 and 10 years old - are learning about time management and knowing their strengths and areas of challenge. They know that devoting time each day to practicing the piano or harp will be easier than practicing for 3 1/2 hours at one time because they didn't budget their time well.

Practicing the Harp
Sophia playing the harp and learning a new song.

By not giving Sophia and Olivia a set schedule each day with specific times for each subject, it allows them to fully use their minds and skills in self-direction. Also, with learning disabilities and sensory issues, there has to be flexibility and freedom to work at one's pace during the least that's what works for us.

Olivia Needlefelting a Valentine's Day Heart
Olivia was needle-felting a heart for Valentine's Day. She was ready to start homeschooling right away at 7:00 in the morning and chose to start with art/creative expression.

Having a homeschooling plan that details goals and activities for each week is critical to staying on track and meeting educational goals. Being flexible and committed to an unscheduled way of life and way of homeschooling is essential to making learning fun and engaging.

Spinning in a Hmong Skirt
Sophia spinning in a Hmong outfit that was part of an interactive exhibit at the Science Museum.

Monday, August 22, 2011

T is for Talking - ABCs of Homeschooling

On 5 Kids and a Dog, there's a series called the ABCs of Homeschooling.  This week's letter is "T." 

Alphabet ATC or ACEO Available - Needlefelted Letter for Talking.

Although there are plenty of quiet times with homeschooling when the girls are busy with their schoolwork and reading, a good percentage of the time is spent talking at home and in public.

Some of the ways that the girls talk; communicate with others; and share their skills and knowledge include:


Both Sophia and Olivia have acted in many plays through classes at the homeschool co-op as well as in community theater.

Olivia Receiving Diploma
Olivia in her first community theater play. She was 6 years old. She had 50 lines and many songs that she memorized for the play.

They've acted in several American Girl plays though the homeschool co-op which was a wonderful way to bring historical fiction stories to life.

Sophia in the Play at Barnes and Noble
Sophia performing in an American Girl play at Barnes and Noble for a special event.


One of the things that I want the girls to learn and be comfortable with is giving speeches. Growing up in the public school system, I did not have to make a single presentation or speech until junior high school.

Since I had never had to talk by myself in front of a group of people, I was terrified. I did not want the girls to have that same fear. So, I began encouraging them (a.k.a. requiring) them to do speeches for classes I taught at the homeschool co-op.

Sophia Making Presentation
Sophia making a presentation during home ec class.

The girls also did their first demonstrations for their 4-H club and at the County Fair. These were great experiences for sharing their knowledge with a wider audience beyond their peers. The girls did their demonstrations in front of other children, teens, and adults.

Olivia Doing Puzzle Demonstration
Olivia doing a demonstration about how to make a puzzle sandwich.


As part of showing projects through 4-H at the county fair, the children talk with different judges for each of their projects. The girls have been involved with 4-H now for two years, and have had the opportunity to talk with many judges about a range of projects and subjects.

Jam and Baked Goods Judging
Sophia meeting with one of the 4-h judges at the county fair.

Being interviewed as a child helps them think of appropriate answers and be able to easily converse with an adult about a variety of interests they have or skills they have gained. In the long-term, being comfortable in the interviewing process will help them as they seek a job or are ever in the position of interviewing others for a job.


When Olivia was adopted, she was said to be a healthy child with no special needs. However, initial doctor appointments revealed a host of developmental delays and physical challenges.

During the 2010-2011 school year, I had her tested further since she continued to experience difficulties with speech and learning.

She qualified to receive weekly speech therapy appointments as well as special education to assist with learning disabilities and auditory processing issues.

One of Olivia's favorite ways to practice her speech and talk was through two therapeutic horseback riding programs she did for five years.

Olivia Riding
Olivia enjoying time on horseback while practicing her speech/communication skills.

Therapeutic horseback riding helped move her from saying only one-word sentences and using American Sign Language at 3 years old to being an almost-constant talking 8 year old.


This year the adding will be adding narration to their ways of communication.

Narration is something that educator Charlotte Mason advocated that children do. With the amount of reading that we'll be doing this year, adding the skill of narration and the ability to summarize and re-word what has been heard will be something good to work on.


Talking is such an important part of homeschooling for us, and a skill that continues to unfold and develop with each passing year.

This article was written by Harvest Moon by Hand.

Friday, August 19, 2011

52 Books in 52 Weeks - Week 33 - The Journeyman

During the past week, I've been reading aloud to Sophia and Olivia The Journeyman by Elizabeth Yates as part of the Read 52 Books in 52 Weeks challenge.

This was actually one of the books from Sophia's fourth grade Sonlight curriculum for history. We didn't have a chance to read it last spring, so I was going to read it to her over the summer to wrap up that subject.

I'm so happy that I waited to read this book. It is set in New England during the 1800s. The girls and I will be heading to New England next month for a trip through six states. This book mentions several of the states that we will be visiting as well as some cities.

It gives an interesting historical picture of the pioneers and life during that time period. It focuses on itinerant painters who traveled from town to town seeking work and board. At times, they would simply receive board and food in exchange for their work. Other times, they also would receive payment.

The book explores apprenticeships and how early artisans began their work by learning directly from a mentor for about five years before being able to go out on their own and establishing their own business.

At that time, it seemed like people worked together more and helped each other grow in their field in exchange for time and labor. It was a mutually-beneficial relationship that helped foster the growth and expansion of the United States.

The book intersperses historical and artistic facts throughout the text. Hopefully, we will see some of the stenciling and symbols used in the artwork during the 1800s reflected in what we see on our trip next month. Regardless, The Journeyman has been a fascinating and engaging book to read this week.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Kidsrecipes website continues to steal posts from Harvest Moon by Hand continues to steal photos and posts from Harvest Moon by Hand's blog. Over 30 recent blog posts have been automatically uploaded to their website. DOES NOT HAVE PERMISSION to take any of Harvest Moon by Hand's posts and claim them as their own. post will post show up on their site printed verbatim.

S is for Stamps - ABCs of Homeschooling

On 5 Kids and a Dog, there's a series called the ABCs of Homeschooling.  This week's letter is "S." 

Alphabet ATC or ACEO Available - Needlefelted Letter S for Stamps.

For many years, Sophia and Olivia have collected stamps. They each have books designed to hold their stamp collection.

Olivia Working on Her Stamp Collection
Olivia was five years old when she started her stamp collection. It was a good math activity (e.g., sorting, grouping).

They have divided their stamps into categories such as horses, wild animals, sea life, queens, royalty, U.S. Presidents, flowers, and life during various time periods (e.g., American Revolution, WWII).

Going through Stamps in Home Ec
Sophia and friends going through stamps from the 1940s as they learned about WWII, Victory Gardens, and cooking during that time period.

The girls have enjoyed choosing a theme each year and putting together a display for the county fair. This year, Sophia's theme was the American Revolution. She received a red ribbon. Olivia's theme was birds. She received a Grand Champion for her display.

Olivia at County Fair with Panda Stamp Collection
Olivia with a Stamp collection focused on pandas. She was 5 years old in this picture.

In addition to collecting postage stamps, the girls also use stamps in arts and crafts projects and artist trading cards (ATCs) that they've made.

Decoupage Jar - Homemade Christmas Gift
Sophia making a decoupage jar with postage stamps, handmade paper, and other images cut from a variety of sources.

They also use stamps for geography. During the past several years, the girls have been doing a multi-disciplinary, alphabetical unit study about different countries. For each country they studied, they added three or more stamps from that country.

Vietnamese Stamps
Stamps from Vietnam.

Starting with the 2011-2012 homeschooling year, we're going to be doing a multi-year, multi-disciplinary unit study about each state in the United States. The girls will be looking at stamps that we have on hand and determining to which state they belong.

For example, if a person is featured on a stamp, they need to find out who the person is, where they were born/died, and where they spent the majority of their life. From that information, the girls can best figure out which state a stamp should be placed in.

****Note: this post is written by Harvest Moon by Hand. If it appears on it is stolen and is being used without the author's permission. *****

Monday, August 8, 2011

R is for Relationships - ABCs of Homeschooling

On 5 Kids and a Dog, there's a series called the ABCs of Homeschooling.  This week's letter is "R." 

Alphabet ATC or ACEO Available - Needlefelted Letter for Relationships.

One of the benefits of homeschooling is the ability to develop close relationships between parents and children as well as between siblings. 

Sophia and Olivia on December 23rd
The girls standing in front of
the Christmas tree.

When children are in a school setting, relationships with teachers and friends compete with loyalty to parents and siblings. School schedules and homework assignments take priority over family time, and children may be taught values that conflict with those taught in their homes.

Having attended public school as a child and teen, this definitely describes my school years.

When families homeschool, they operate as a team. Parents are confidants; and siblings are close friends. Schedules are set according to the family's needs, and children are taught their parents' values. This is very true for the way I've set up homeschooling for the girls.

At home, the curriculum and activities meet the needs of each daughter - not the needs of a classroom or school system. Both girls are treated as individuals, and are truly known and loved.

Ann and Girls 7 Years Later
The girls celebrating the anniversary of
Olivia's 7th adoption day.

I'm able to customize their lessons based on their interests as well as their developmental abilities/skills. The curriculum and schedule is flexible so if something isn't working, I can modify it to better fit their needs.  The goal is to make learning fun and educational...and inspire a love for learning.

Another benefit of homeschooling is that the girls have been able to develop a closer relationship with their grandparents who live 50 miles away.

Mom Me Sophia Olivia
The girls with their grandma and me on
my mom/Nana's 80th birthday.

Girls with All Grandparents
The girls with their grandparents
on their First Communion Day.

Sophia Reading Papa His Favorite Book
Sophia reading to Papa.
She chose to read him his favorite book when he was a child.

Another benefit to homeschooling is that children within a family have stronger relationships. There is generally more camaraderie than in siblings who attend school. Since Sophia and Olivia are each other's primary playmates, deep relationships have been and will continue to be formed and nurtured.

At the Chapel
The girls have traveled as part of homeschooling
with their grandparents and me.
This was taken at The Shrine of Guadalupe in Wisconsin
(a place where the girls' grandparents wanted to visit).

As Sophia's and Olivia's teacher, we spend a lot of time together in two main ways - educationally and as a family. This time that we spend together learning, working through any problems, and communicating keeps us all well aware of one another.

All of Us by Lake Saganaga
An educational trip to northern Minnesota.
Here we're near Lake Saganaga where
my Dad/Papa took many trips during the 1960s and 1970s.

Good relationships and communication extends beyond the immediate family. Generally, homeschooled children can easily communicate with people of many ages and from different walks of life. They learn to adjust to the group to whom they are speaking. Because of this, they often comes across as thoughtful and mature.

The Girls with Mary
The girls picking strawberries with their aunt.

Alice with Girls
The girls enjoying spending time with a
family friend (Alice) and her dog (Maggie).

Gathering together as an extended family brings together people of all ages - from newborns to seniors - giving the girls opportunities to play, talk, and build relationships with others.

Thanksgiving at the farm.
An opportunity for playing, talking, and having fun together.

Homeschooling has given the girls opportunities to form friendships with people of different ages who live in other countries. They have met and hosted people at our home including two exchange students from Brazil who lived here in the late 1990s; and my friend from Japan who visited here a couple years ago.

Mom, Dad, Girls, and Ruth
The girls with Ruth (from Brazil) and their grandparents.
Their grandparents invited us over for lunch, and
to visit with Ruth.

The girls also have enjoyed making friends with other homeschoolers as well as children who attend public, private, parochial, and charter schools. This have given them insight into multiple ways that children learn, and introduces them to a wide variety of children.

Sophia's Tea Party
The girls having a tea party with some of their friends.

Sophia with a Friend Before Performance
Sophia and a friend before one of the choir performances.

Sophia, Olivia, and Maggie
The girls holding pumpkins they picked
 from our pumpkin patch.

They have participated in community activities - theater, community ed courses, camps, homeschool swimming lessons, choir, and sports - which introduces them to a diversity of children who have a wide variety of interests.

Olivia with Friends from the Play
Olivia with three other girls who were in a
play/musical with her at a local community theater.

The girls also have had the opportunity to learn from other adults - whether it is at the homeschool co-op where they take a variety of classes; or through special education/speech therapy. They have developed special friendships with some of the teachers and therapists who have helped them learn and gain new skills.

American Girl Tea Party at Co-op
Sophia with one of her teachers at the homeschool co-op.
Ms. Dawn was the American Girl teacher, and this is the
end-of-the-semester party.

Laurie - Olivia's Speech Therapist
Olivia with her speech therapist, Laurie.

Homeschooling is represented by strong and varied relationships. As the girls get older, this will continue to be an important area and benefit to homeschooling.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

The Summer of Color Wrap-Up

Here it is...the final week of The Summer of Color challenge that is being hosted by Kristen at Twinkle Like a Star. This has been such a wonderful project, and helped motivate me to:

- do some projects that I've wanted to do for a long time,
- create new window star patterns,
- try existing window star patterns in different colors, and
- make a quilt.

Projects I've Wanted to Do

I did several embroidery projects during the weeks when the featured color was pink and green.

Embroidered Greeting Cards
Pink hand-embroidered greeting cards.

Embroidered Dala Horse
Green hand-embroidered Dala horse and tree.
They can be used as ornaments or tags.

For the Blue Week, I did some sewing projects - a bunting and tablecloth.
Blue Bunting Close Up
Blue bunting.

Puzzle Tablecloth
Tablecloth that I made by tracing puzzle pieces
onto pieces of fabric. Each are hand-cut and then ironed onto
the white fabric using an iron-on adhesive.

Create New Window Star Patterns as well as Use Existing Patterns to Make Window Stars in New Colors

For many of the weeks, I enjoyed making window stars in a variety of colors. It was fun to create new patterns and see what the new window star would turn out like.

Trio of Purple Window Stars
Trio of purple window stars.
The pattern on the bottom is one I created.

Equally exciting for me was to see what window stars look like in different colors using patterns that I normally use.

Trio of Brown Window Stars
Trio of brown window stars.

Two orange window stars.
I've made these patterns before, but never in orange.

The pattern on the left is one I've used before, and
the pattern on the right is a new one I created.

Two yellow window stars. The pattern on the left is one I created
and the one on the right is one I've made in different colors
but never in yellow until The Summer of Color challenge.

Creating a Quilt

My on-going project during the summer was a quilt. Each week, after the color was assigned, I created two quilt blocks that were about 11 1/2" square. Each square included seven different patterns of fabric - to represent the seven days of the week.

My goal was to use only fabric, thread, and batting that I had on hand.  This wasn't a challenge when I was doing the squares - it seemed like I had plenty of fabric to choose from.

WIP - The Summer of Color Quilt
Five weeks' worth of quilt squares.

However, once I got to the backing and batting, it became a bit more difficult. I didn't have either the fabric or batting in the size I needed for the quilt. So, I had to piece both elements together to create the quilt.

The batting needed to be hand-sewn in order to attach each piece to one another (there were three pieces of batting used). For the quilt back, I used one of Sophia's floral-print sheets and cut about a six-inch section off the end.

By cutting that in length-wise and sewing the pieces together, I was able to create enough fabric to sew to the other piece...thereby creating a quilt backing.

Quilt squares bordered by 3" white fabric strips.
The white fabric strips are from
bed linens that were discarded from a hotel.
I washed the sheets and was able
to use the fabric to make the quilt.

What I like about the quilt is that it is made entirely from fabric, thread, and batting that I had on hand. I didn't have to purchase anything to make it!

The Summer of Color quilt that I made
during June-August 2011.

Lots of color will be welcome during the middle of winter
when the landscape is all white and
the temperature is well below zero.
Sophia, Olivia, and I will use this
soft, colorful quilt when
we homeschool and read together.