Saturday, May 25, 2013

Curriculum I Love

I have searched and sorted through a variety of different curriculum last year and this year for my son who is currently ending his 1st grade year. These are the curriculum I found that I really love and why.


Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons
This books starts out VERY BASIC! I have started it with my 3 year old, who has a very short attention span. Each lesson is short and takes only about 10 minutes to start up to maybe 20 minutes as you get near the end of the book. The first few lessons begin by teaching the sounds of a, m, and s. Each lesson also has some "say it slow, say it fast" games to get children used to how words sound slowly as they are sounding them out and how to figure out the word they just sounded out by saying it fast. I thought some of these activities were silly and redundant when I started the book with my oldest child, but as we got further into the book, I realized there was a reason for every activity and we actually went back and started the book over including these activities. It was very easy to do the lessons and required no prep from me. I could pick up the book, read and do the lesson with my child, and that was it. By the end of the book, my oldest son was reading fluently and well ahead of his grade level before he even started school. I cannot recommend this book highly enough!


Spell to Write and Read
I started using this curriculum with my 5 year old directly after the "Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons" book.

What I like:
1) You can use it for grades K-12 without having to buy new books each year. You need one new workbook each year that is $6. That makes this curriculum crazy affordable.
2) I love that this curriculum teaches the 70 phonograms (different combinations of sounds) in the English language independently. Before starting the curriculum, there are flashcards with all of these phonograms. Each card has the letter combination on the front and the different sounds on the back. There are game suggestions for interesting ways for your child to learn these. My son's favorite game is where he starts on one side of the room and me on the other. I hold up the card and if he gets all of the sounds for the phonogram correct, he takes a step forward. If he misses one or more sounds, I tell him the correct sound and he takes a step back. Learning the phonograms like this has greatly helped his reading. There are tests in the program to determine what grade level your child is spelling/reading, and my son is testing around the 5th grade level even though his is only in 1st grade. He is picking up chapter books and reading them for fun.
3) This curriculum teaches 99% of the rules in the English language. There are rules that I didn't know! There are rule cards like the phonogram cards that you hold up and have the child tell you the rules. We haven't worked on these quite as much, but I plan to get into these more this next school year. Most curriculum do not teach as many rules as this one.
4) When learning a new word, this curriculum uses many different senses. You read the word out loud, use it in a sentence, have the child repeat the word, sound out the word, spell the word, and then read the word after he has spelled it.

What I didn't like:
Switching to this Spell to Write and Read curriculum after the previous "Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons" was a huge learning style/curve for me because the previous book had each lesson spelled out for the teacher--I just sat down and read it with my son. This curriculum is NOT that kind of curriculum. Most of it is suggestions and ideas that are not cut and dried as the child is first starting to figure out the sounds. I was really lost for the first two weeks of trying to figure out this curriculum. Basically you practice the phonograms until the child has them down and then move on to the spelling lists. Now it is easy, since I mostly just have my son learn 5 new words per day from the spelling list and go over the rules for those words that day as well as the extra grammar ideas that the curriculum recommends for that section (words are broken into sections with 20 words per section). Now that I have the program figured out, I love it and have been recommending it to all of my homeschooling friends. I have about 4 other friends who have chosen to use this curriculum also and they all love it as well.


First Language Lessons for the Well Trained Mind
This book has simple, short lessons that only take about 5 minutes and no prep. The lessons are broken up into short paragraphs that cover different topics. It begins with nouns, first the definition of a noun, and then the various types of nouns (people, places, thing or idea). It reviews in depth family relationships, common vs proper nouns, days of the week, months of the year and addresses. There are also poems to memorize, stories with comprehension activities, and writing suggestions. Next is pronouns and then verbs. That is as far as we have made it in the book, but we will continue with this curriculum since I love how easy and short the lessons are as well as the way it really begins to teach and enforce the different parts of speach.



I do not love math, so I have had a hard time doing it with my son. I LOVE this math program because it is a dvd program. In the grade 1 Alpha program, there are 30 lessons. There is a 5-10 minute dvd presentation for each lesson where the teacher shows how to do the lesson. Then there are about 12 worksheets for each lesson. It is recommended that the child complete as many worksheets as needed to master the material before moving on. If the child seems to be having a hard time with a lesson, simply have him re-watch the lesson and complete more worksheets until he understands it. There is also a teacher instruction book that the parent can use to better enforce each lesson if desired. I also like that the program uses blocks as manipulatives. My son really enjoyed this math program and it wasn't difficult at all to get him to do his lessons, unlike the program we used his Kindergarten year! We will be continuing with the Beta lesson for 2nd grade.


Biology for the Grammar Student

This program is for grades K-2. There are several additional books needed for this journaling science program (I think it requires about 5 more books), but they are fairly inexpensive. The program covers animals, plants, and the human body. Lessons are broken up into either 5 day/week or 2 days/week. We actually do 3 days per week and just separate it and do the experiment on the 3rd day since there is a write up for the experiment that seemed to be quite a bit of writing when added to the 2 day plan. The lessons are very simple and I would actually like more information on the animals--the book that is used has 1 page of information for each animal, but it would be really easy to just use additional books to get more information on them. Before beginning animals, the students learn about habitats and begin a habitat box. As a new animal is learned, it is added to the herbivore/omnivore/carnivore page. In the workbook, there is a small picture of each animal that is cut out and pasted into the workbook and there is a small space to write a bit about each animal. The experiments are really easy and require pretty basic items that are fairly easy to find. This is a great, fairly simple and not too time intensive program to get a basic overview of animals, plants, and the human body as well as practice writing.

However, next year, I'm really looking forward to switching to a science program that is Bible-based and I'm going to try Apologia Science. My friend is using it for her homeschool and loves it. We will be trying out Exploring Creation with Astronomy.

This is also a journaling science program with lots of interactive activities included. Hopefully we will love it as much as we think we will!

There are additional curriculum for the days of creation and includes botany, zoology-flying creatures, zoology-swimming creatures, zoology-land animals, and human anatomy and physiology.

Friday, May 24, 2013

About Vinyl Pool Liners

When we first purchased our home and pulled back the cover of the pool, this is what we found:

It looked a little ominous, but the cover had a couple of rips in it and overall the vinyl appeared to be in good shape, just dirty. We swept and cleaned what we could and then started adding water.

A couple of things about vinyl pools (we didn't know anything about them before we had one):

We thought it was vinyl covering concrete. Nope. Ours has a sand floor under the vinyl and fiberglass frame on the sides. The vinyl has a lip that goes into the frame to hold it in place.

You should NEVER empty them all of the way. Before winter, you drop the water level to just below the filter and leave the pool filled with water. If the pool is drained and left, the vinyl can pull away from the side or wrinkle up. If not covered, I've read they can even get brittle and break. We thought the previous owners had drained the pool, so we just cleaned it and started filling it.

If there is water in the deep end, but not the rest of the pool, there is a good chance there is a hole in the vinyl. It can be hard to know if there is a hole. We had no idea how long it would take to fill our 35,000ish gallon pool. We started filling ours... and filling it... and filling it for about 3 days before we said, wow, this isn't really filling up. We stopped filling, and it all drained in about 24 hours.

Our 35,000ish gallon pool takes a little over 24 hours to fill if the deep end is already about 1/2 full.

If there is some water in the deep end and you fill it a bit and have a leak, your hole is going to be about where the water was sitting when you first started. We filled ours a couple of inches, and then used red dye and squirted some slowly and watched the dye. We started with the seams, didn't find anything, so then moved on to the walls of the pool. When we found the hole, we were surprised it took us so long to find because it was a quarter-size hole. It looked like someone had shoved a pole down to see how deep it was and punched it right through the liner.

There are cheap patch kits (under $6) for vinyl pools. We got ours at Walmart in the pool section. Just follow the directions. It was super easy to patch and quick.

From there, we added 2 packets of chlorine shock to kill the bugs and bacteria and filled the pool, which filled very quickly this time! We filled to 1/2 way up the skimmer (square hole), and added 4 more packets of chlorine shock. And we added another 1-2 chlorine tabs in each of the 2 skimmer baskets. Then we used the vaccuum hose on the "waste" setting on a sand filter to begin sucking up the muck from the deep end. It took us forever because our yard besides the pool is tiny, so we had to vaccuum for a bit, then stop and let it soak into the ground, vaccuum and let it soak, etc.

Once we had it relatively clean, we took a small jar of water to our local pool store, where they tested it (it was only about $12 to have it tested) and said the alkalinity was low. We added 12# bag of alkaline and a little more chlorine and began to swim!

Noble Groom Review

I received this book free from Bethany House to review. The content of this review is my own.

At the beginning of the book, Annalisa is going to confront her husband about stealing money from her jar to pay off the property in order to support his gambling habit, but she is worried about how he will respond. She doesn't think it will help to say anything, but she is willing to risk it to provide for her daughter. In her culture, women and girls are worth about as much as cattle and she knows very few women who are treated well or who actually like their spouses. When she finds her husband dead, culture being what it is, she is at the mercy of her father. While her father does love her, for a girl, he doesn't take into account what she wants, only that she needs a new husband and he writes his brother requesting a man come to marry Annalisa. Annalisa meekly accepts her fate and is willing to be obedient and marry a complete stranger.

Enter Carl, who has narrowly escaped an execution for a crime he didn't commit. His servant sends him to his brother, not as the requested groom, but as someone who needs a place to stay for a bit. Carl agrees to help Annalisa with her planting and her farm until her groom arrives. As a nobleman, he is not used to hard labor and helping Annalisa makes him re-evaluate his father's beliefs of nobility, and he works hard to help Annalisa even though he is inept at the beginning.

Carl is nothing like anyone Annalisa has ever met before. He is kind, whimsical, laughs, and plays with her daughter. Annalisa begins to re-think a daughter's role and to become her own woman with thoughts and desires of her own.

I really enjoyed seeing the growth in both characters and the story was very well written. I especially liked that Annalisa finds her backbone even though culture dictates that she accept whatever she is told to do. This was a very enjoyable book!

Thursday, May 16, 2013

DIY Sandbox

We have a very small patio area, so my mom and I made them a sand box. My husband requested that it be lined and that the sand only fill half of the box. So we bought two 2 x 12 boards and had Home Depot cut them in half. I'd recommend looking more closely at the boards before purchasing them than we did since our boards were a little warped and the corners didn't fit together well, but it works. We used 3" screws, pre-drilled, and then screwed 2 in each corner to hold it together. We then took an old tarp that I had lying around, cut it to the right size for inside the sandbox, and stapled it to the wood. To help keep the sand inside the box and to prevent children from pulling the top of the tarp, we then used 1 x 4 boards and screwed them to the top of the frame to create a lip. The box is very sturdy, a perfect size, and looks great! We will be adding 4 more pieces to the corners for little corner seats once we get them cut.