I’m not trying to debate vaccines or push my opinions on anyone (that is soooo new-mother-ish! ), but for the sake of understanding this silly story, here’s a quick background:
We’re a selective and delayed-vaxing family. After much careful research, we chose to skip vaxes that aren’t crucial for babies who aren’t in daycare: Hib, Prevnar, rotavirus, etc.; as well as the (*coughcough*asinine) chickenpox vax. But we did choose do give the (IMO) crucial vaxes, for diseases that are either a real risk (whooping cough, anyone?), and/or very dangerous: DTaP, MMR, and Polio. Based on my research, I don’t consider measles particularly dangerous for children, but it does have potentially serious risks, and it’s also out there…and I don’t want to be part of its resurgence by not vaccinating.
However, for the MMR vaccine, because of all the controversy & risks associated with giving babies three live viruses all at once, I chose to delay it. We delayed it quite a bit, actually: Desmond just got his very first dose of MMR last week, and he’s just about to turn 6 (his 6th birthday is next Wednesday, to be exact). I actually didn’t intend to delay it this long. My plan was to give it just after his 4th birthday—sparing the risks associated with giving three live viruses to a still-developing baby, as well as eliminating the need for a booster until college age—but since I got sick right about that time, it kind of got pushed aside while we were trying to cope with dealing with my situation.
Now that things are at least somewhat under control with me (not that I’m not still very sick; unfortunately, I am. But I’ve learned to cope with the symptoms to the degree that, most days, we can focus on other things), we wanted to get him in to have his MMR shot.
So, Philip took little Des in to the health department last week. The whole thing was uneventful, as it usually is for him. He’s a tough little guy, and never cries for shots. He just purses his lips and takes ‘em like a man. He always has! The vaccine nurse at the health department is really sweet. She’s always remembered us and our boys when we come in. She always gives a sticker or small toy, and even though Gray wasn’t with them that day, she told Des to pick a sticker to bring home to him.
After the shot, Philip stopped at a convenience store and let Des pick out his choice of treat, for being such a trooper. Des took forever to choose something, but finally settled on “Fun Dip”, which is today’s version of the old “Lik-M-Aid”. It’s basically sweetened kool-aid type powder that you eat by licking a candy stick and dipping it into the powder, licking it off, and so on. The powder is blue, and it stains the tongue and mouth blue. He had some of it when he got home, and saved the rest for later.
Then, at around sunset, we all went out for our evening walk—something I’m so grateful to be able to do now, after spending over a year bedridden and unable to walk outdoors. I’m slow, and I feel horrible while walking & for a while afterwards, but I can do it, praise God! It’s a thousand times better than being stuck on the couch staring miserably out the window every evening, wishing I could just go outside and walk (yeah, that’s what I did all last year).
Back to the MMR shot, and its risks. I’ve dreaded him getting this one for a long time, again, due to the controversy and the higher risk of potential side effects. So I was watching him closely that day for any sign of reaction (with this one, adverse side effects are actually most common around a week after the shot, so I’m still watching him). Mind you, I wasn’t expecting a reaction, but was simply watching him in the unlikely event there was one.
So we had walked halfway around the block, where there’s a site where some land was recently cleared. Des likes to veer off into the newly-tilled ground there on our walks each night; apparently it’s great fun to run and jump on all the deep tractor tire ridges. He ran around like a wild man for a few minutes, and then we went on our way down the road. He came running up to us, out of breath from his exertion.
He said something to me, barely understandable because of his heavy breathing, and I looked down at him. I was horrified to notice that his lips were blue! Immediately, my mind went to that day’s vaccination, and I thought, “Blue lips! Oh my word, something’s wrong!”
“PHILIP!” I cried, “His lips are blue!”
Philip looked down at him and said with a chuckle, “Yeah, they sure are!”
Philip never panics. Never. Nothing shakes him. Clearly he was not grasping how serious this was.
“It’s from the shot today!”, I insisted, “Philip, he’s not breathing right…look, he’s gasping for breath! And HIS LIPS ARE BLUE!”
Philip looked at me like I was crazy and said, “He’s out of breath because he was just running around like a fool. And of course his lips are blue. That’s from his Lik-M-Aid powder. He had some after dinner, just before we left.”
So now he tells me.
We’ve been pulling all the old baby gear out of the attic and closets, in the hope of selling as much as possible in exchange for much-needed cash. I was listing my sling, and while I had a picture of it laying flat, I thought I might add a picture of what it looked like in use. So I searched my pictures folder and found one taken way back in 2007, when Des was just a tiny new babe tucked inside it during one of our evening walks.
Because Des seems to find it impossible that he was ever a baby, and also because he’d seen the sling and couldn’t recall ever being in it, I called him over to show him the picture, saying, “Look! There’s your head poking out of the sling. You were such a tiny baby then!” I explained to him that this is how I used to carry him on our walks. He studied the picture for a bit, and then asked, “Why do you look so different there?”
I looked at the image of myself, taken only 5 1/2 years ago, and realized why he’d asked that. The girl in the picture was young —even at 34, vibrant, and happy, with smiling eyes to go with the smile on her face. She was relatively thin even after having just given birth, her long, well-cared for blonde hair pulled back in a ponytail. She was even wearing makeup, something she’s not been prone to do without a good reason ever since she became a mom. But most of all, the girl was healthy.
Contrast the girl in the picture to the haggard, overweight, unkempt, unwell mother he now sees every day…and it’s easy to see exactly why he couldn’t put that girl and me now together as the same person.
I’m ashamed of how I look. Completely ashamed. I’ve never been beautiful, but I made peace with that years ago once I realized that I don’t have to be beautiful (as long as Philip thinks I am) , and have always taken pride in keeping myself looking my best. But now, after 18 months of enduring an illness that is truly indescribable, I have never been so out of shape, so fat, so unkempt…so not my best. And I’ve never in my life been in a place where there is absolutely nothing I can do about any of it. Being homebound due to the debilitating nature of my symptoms, I can’t even go out and get my hair cut & colored professionally; I have to do it here myself. And while I’ve learned how to cut the boys’ & Philip’s hair pretty well, I can’t cut my own hair for anything! Let’s just say my hair is a far cry from that perfectly-highlighted, cute blonde ponytail I was wearing 5 years ago, and leave it at that. It’s not pretty.
So back to Des’ question. It was completely innocent; he didn’t ask it to hurt me. He truly wanted to know why the mom he knows now looks so different from that healthy, vibrant, comparatively-beautiful person he saw carrying him in a sling when he was a baby.
But it did hurt. Oh, did it sting. It broke me to my core. To know that he sees how this sickness has devastated my body and changed my appearance. It magnified the shame I feel at what I’ve become, and the utter frustration I feel at being helpless to do anything to change any of it. He deserves better. Both my boys deserve better. For that matter, so does Philip.
Oh God, please…please hear the cry of my soul. Please, let this brokenness move you. I need healing so I can begin building a healthy, sound body again. My boys need a healthy, strong, vibrant mother again —for so many reasons.
I read a piece today on mothering, and how difficult (understatement!) it is to find your way when you first become a mother— I experienced this shocking blow not just the first time around, but also the second time. Perhaps even moreso after my second was born, because of how utterly overwhelming it was to tend to an infant while also trying to be there for his older brother. I remember months’ worth of days where I was so exhausted, I could barely see straight.
Anyway, one of the things she said was absolutely perfect for describing those exhausting, sometimes brutal months and years spent mothering new babies and young children:
“It is overwhelming and completely exhausting, and figuring it all out is some of the most physically, mentally, emotionally, and heart-wrenching work you will ever do.”
I’ll save you the story of how I spilled dark brown paint on our light beige carpet, and get right to sharing how we successfully removed it, despite how bleak things looked when we first stared in horror at the ugly, dark splatter on our living room carpet.
Yes, we got it cleaned up completely, with no trace of paint or stain left behind. And amazingly, it was rather quick and easy! But the key to success is: Work quickly. If you let the paint dry, there’s not much hope that I know of.
• First, take an old towel and use it to blot up the excess paint. Do not rub. Just press and blot, and turn the towel frequently. Get another towel if the first one gets soaked with paint quickly. Philip used his foot and put his weight on it.
• Next, soak the stain with water. We put a drop of dish soap in a big cup, filled it with hot water, and then poured the soapy water directly onto the stained carpet until it was thoroughly soaked. Then we let it sit there while Philip called our neighbor, asked if we could borrow his wet/dry shop vac, and went over to get it. It took about ten minutes for him to make the call, go down to our neighbor’s house, and get back with the shop vac.
• With the shop vac, suck up all that soapy water. This was the amazing step. The paint came right up with the water. After the first round of vacuuming, almost all the stain was gone from the carpet. There was just a hint of dark stain remaining.
• Repeat, this time using a scrub brush with the soapy water. We poured another big cup of dish-soapy hot water onto the remaining hint of a stain, and this time, Philip used a scrub brush to work it into the fibers and gently “scrub” the carpet. Then he vacuumed up all the water again. The stain was almost completely gone. In fact, no one would ever know at that point that there had been a spill there, so it probably was completely gone.
But the perfectionist in me — if I stared at it in just the right light, at a particular angle — could see what might have been a hint of a dark stain left behind. So I added another step, which probably isn’t necessary, but was basically harmless as well as easy, so, why not?
• (Optional Perfectionist Steps) Pour rubbing alcohol onto the scrub brush and gently scrub the carpet. Don’t pour alcohol directly onto the carpet! This can harm the backing, or cause some such problem— although I’ve used rubbing alcohol on other stains (ink, nail polish…yes, we’re a very destructive lot when it comes to spilling horrible liquids on carpet!), with no harm to the carpet that was worse than the stain itself. All I know is, rubbing alcohol dissolves latex paint. (In fact, a little trick to use if you move into a previously-owned house and want to know if paint on a wall is latex or oil-based, is to put rubbing alcohol on a rag and rub the wall. If paint comes off on your rag, it’s latex. If not, then it’s oil-based.)
After the rubbing alcohol scrub, there was absolutely no trace of paint left in the carpet at all! We did an extra rinse or two to make sure the alcohol was washed away completely, and then a final vacuum with the shop vac to remove as much water as possible.
The carpet now looks better in that spot than everywhere else in the room. Now I need my entire living room carpet cleaned to match the clean spot!
I’ve been out of pocket for quite a while now. I’ve been sick for a year, and as I wait for healing, I’m going to kind of take the blog in a different direction. Because I’ve turned to a completely different direction in my life, and I need to sort it out. I’m not sure yet how I’ll do it…I’m considering maybe doing a separate blog, one that addresses the topic at hand and doesn’t interfere with my sporadic chronicling of our homeschooling endeavors.
So much within me has changed this past year, since I got sick. I mean big, fundamental changes, the likes of which I’ve not seen since I became a mother (you know how becoming a mom completely re-makes you as a person? And at first it’s quite distressing and very scary? Yeah. Same with this). During these last 12 months, I feel like God has completely taken me apart and has been putting me back together, one piece at a time— exactly the way he wants me to be. Which happens to be pretty much 180 degrees from the person I was on the day I became sick.
Simply put, I was a bad person, through and through, and no one, not even the Lord himself, had been able to get through my selfishness and change my heart. I was reckless and foolish, had spiraled down into the lowest of pits, and was getting close to throwing everything away that I’ve always held so dear.
So, I believe he allowed something into my life that would finally get my attention, because nothing else had yet been able to do it. This sickness —this bizarre, undiagnosed, baffling, absolutely terrifying, miserable sickness— is what at last brought me to my knees and to my senses. It brought me back to my God…
We’ve finished up another week of schooling, and I thought I’d update for once. We had a short week this week, because I was at the doctor’s office again on Monday (don’t ask).
Since it’s been a while, I’ll just condense a few weeks’ worth of fun into one update.
In math, G just finished up a thorough section on converting measures. We’ve also begun some very basic algebra, solving basic equations for “n” or “x”. There’s always lots of daily multiplication & long division review, and he’s up to the “nine” family in multiplication/division.
His language studies have involved studying capitalization, punctuation, synonyms, antonyms, homonyms, and how to write a friendly letter and thank-you notes. The latter was very timely, as we were just getting around to writing our thank-you notes for all the Christmas gifts from relatives and friends.
Recent writing lessons have been narration & dictation from biographies about Paul Bunyan and Harry Houdini. As a bonus, we learned some magic tricks. G’s writing skills are continually evolving.
History is always our favorite time of the morning. I’m especially enjoying the new volume of The Mystery of History, as we’re now into the Dark Ages/Early Middle Ages, and this period in history has always been fascinating to me.
Since Christmas we’ve studied the fall of the Western Roman Empire (very depressing, since our country is facing a very similar decline— and the effects on those who lived through it were devastating. It ushered in the Dark Ages, after all). We’ve studied daily life in the Dark Ages, including things like baking birds into pies, and how barbers got their striped poles…there are just so many fascinating things! We learned about the Angles, Saxons, and Jutes (did you know “England” got its name because it was known as “the land of the Angles”? You’re welcome. ). We covered the legend of King Arthur (which was possibly based upon a real warrior), and various early Christian saints. We’ve both been learning lots.
Cursive…oh, I remember last time I updated back in the fall, G was having a very difficult time with the introduction of cursive. We worked for weeks on the letter “a”, which was the first letter. Well, persistence pays off, because I kept making him practice, practice, practice, and eventually he just “got it”. Something clicked, and now he’s officially learned all the vowels, plus all the other letters up to “j”, and has figured out on his own how to do all the rest of the letters (but we’ll continue going through each one formally). His cursive is really quite beautiful, especially for a boy, and the crazy thing is, he loves doing it. He made the statement to me today, “Cursive writing is like reading: once you start, you just don’t want to stop!”. So funny.
Speaking of which, G is a reading machine lately; he’s been going well beyond his 30 minutes of required reading most days. I added a new shelf to my Goodreads account for his books; it’s a great way to keep track of his reading both for my records (and his!) and for the various reading incentive programs he takes part in. If you’re on Goodreads, look me up.
As for little D, he’s been doing very well at his schoolwork. At last update, he, also, was having a very difficult time learning to write. I didn’t expect much from him, and had decided not to sweat it— my concern right now is formally teaching him each letter’s sound, and writing can wait. But, he surprised me, too, when he suddenly began to master the basic concept of writing. He’s getting better at it every week.
He’s up to letter “J”; we just finished it up this week. He’s doing great. He already knows all the letter sounds, but we’re going week-by-week, one at a time, and really drilling the sound in with lots of activities & repetition.
We just finished featuring number 10 this week. I guess we’re just doing this for fun, because he can count to 100 and understands counting quite well. But he loves doing it, so we work on counting every day, after we do our letter work.
D loves schoolwork, which makes me happy! G loves his lessons every day, but doesn’t care much for the actual work he has to do after the lessons are over. Except for his daily cursive sheet, of course!
I really need to write out some posts on things I’ve learned about schooling these boys. Maybe I’ll have time to do it soon, but probably not. I stay pretty busy lately. One thing I’ve definitely proved over and over is that even when you (and they!) think they aren’t ready or able to do something, they really are. It just takes diligence, repetition, and lots of practice.
Welcome to my first “Weekly Wrap Up” of the year! We’ve been back to schoolwork for about four weeks now, so this is going to be more like a wrap-up of our first month so far. First, I’ll cover G’s studies, as he’s the student covering the most subjects right now.
In Math we’ve been doing lots of review work (a big reason I’m changing to year-round schooling; more on that later). I double up on lessons when possible, so we’ve already gotten through 30 lessons, or 6 weeks’ worth of math done. I love being ahead so that we can take weeks off when the whim (or the need) arises.
Grammar has been all about adjectives, verbs, and identifying the subject of a paragraph. We found some cute, funny books at the library that cover each part of speech. Wish I could remember the name of some of them now— I’ll check next time we’re there. They made verbs, nouns, and pronouns very fun for him!
In history we’ve studied Hannibal, Spartacus, Julius Caesar, Marc Antony, Cleopatra, and Augustus Caesar. The Roman Empire makes for a very interesting study! When we studied Julius Caesar, we used army men to re-enact his infamous “Crossing of the Rubicon”. Then when we studied Cleopatra, we decided to re-enact her crazy stunt of having herself rolled up in a carpet and delivered to Julius Caesar. Gray was Caesar, sitting in his palace, and Des got to be Cleopatra, all wrapped up in a carpet (well, a quilt in our version!).
He’s back into writing, where he reads a passage of good literature and then summarizes it into his own words. This is such a great way of improving writing skills! The last few passages have been from biographies on Paul Revere, so he also got a little history and learned about the beginnings of the American Revolution.
We’ve just cracked open our first Apologia Science book- we’re starting with “Exploring Creation with Botany”. He’s going to be keeping a notebook for the first time as we study science.
Moving on to Little D, we’ve mainly practiced learning the very beginning stages of handwriting (tracing dotted lines), practiced counting to 20, and we’ve also introduced and covered the letter “A a” and its sound. I have him trying to learn to write the letter “A a”, and it’s definitely an exercise in patience. Which reminds me…
G is starting to learn cursive, and his first letter has been cursive “A a”. Wow, is he having the hardest time learning this skill! I just have him continuously practice until I see a line that has mostly perfect “A a”s. Maybe, just maybe, we’ll move on to the next letter next week.
For reading, G has gotten into reading the wonderful works of Roald Dahl. He’s gone through “The Fantastic Mr. Fox”, “The BFG” (which he absolutely loved), “The Magic Finger”, and “The Giraffe, the Pelly and Me”. He’s currently reading “The Witches”. It’s the last Dahl book we own; I’ve managed to find all those for less than a dollar each at thrift & consignment stores. Hopefully I’ll find “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” and its sequel someday soon, because he wants to read those and any other Dahl books out there. He really enjoys Dahl’s dark (very dark) humor and writing style.
I mentioned earlier that I’ve decided to move to schooling year round. I’ll explain it in more detail in future post, but it boils down to the fact that taking 2-3 months off in a big block is really counter-productive where learning is concerned. It’s also silly to take all our time off in one block, during the hottest months of the year! It was an inferno out there this summer (still is!), and I think their time off will be much better spent and enjoyed when it’s taken when the weather is more pleasant. We’re going to be schooling for 5-6 weeks at a time, then taking off 1-2 weeks at a time. Year-round. And I’m looking forward to it!
Check out other Homeschoolers’ Weekly Wrap-Ups this week at Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers.
The HOTM (Not) Back to School Blog Hop is still going. Last week was Schoolroom Week (thanks to all who stopped by to look and leave a comment for us!), and now this week is Student Photo Week! Here are my students and a little about them.
I’ll start with the youngest, D (on the right, up front).
D is three years old but will turn four next month. He’s a complete mess, as you can probably tell. He has a silly streak that’s fairly new, as he’s always been our serious fellow. And he still is very “old soul” most of the time. He’s all boy, rough and fearless in all his play. He’s strong-willed like no child I’ve ever known— we’ve had some power battles with him you probably wouldn’t believe! But oh, how I love him. We had a rought start, he & I, as I had a hard time bonding with him until he was much older (long story). Now, it’s as if all the love has come flowing out of me for him at full volume, overflowing and spilling out daily. I’m crazy about this boy, I cherish his place as my “baby”, and I find it very hard to tell him “no” (but I do when necessary). He gets a lot of spoiling as the baby of the family, by all of us.
D is just starting out as an official student this year. He knows his alphabet, can count to 20, and knows all the basic colors and shapes. I’ve done a little work with him, but he learned most of it from just living life or from his big brother.
We’re going to be doing preschool work, learning all the letter sounds and how to write them, as well as all the other typical preschool things— but letter sounds and writing are at the top of my priority list for him.
My oldest student is G (on the left). You’ll have to look past the ham who stuck his face in front of the camera at the last second.
G is seven & a half years old and is doing 3rd grade this year. He’s my sensitive, sweet boy. There’s not a mean or even a rough bone in his body. He’s insatiably curious and intellectual, and prefers academia to any kind of sport or roughhousing. He loves nature (particularly birds) and being outside exploring. I kind of regret not going the Charlotte Mason route with him, because it fits him perfectly. But it’s not too late to start, and he’s already led us in a CM direction on his own, anyway. I’m researching and considering how to do CM, while still giving him a rock-solid traditional education in math & grammar.
This year we’re doing math (Abeka), language (R&S), history (MOH), science (Apologia), writing (WWE), and learning cursive (ARFH). He’s a pleasure to teach because he loves learning and picks everything up very easily.
We’ve been doing school “lite” for a couple of weeks now, and this week we’re diving into a fulltime load. I’m looking forward to having them both at the table with me this year— with bare feet, of course!
Check out all the other students on showcase this week at The Heart of the Matter Online’s (Not) Back-To-School Blog Hop’s Student Photo Week:
Once again, we’re participating in the annual (Not) Back-To-School Blog Hop: Schoolroom Week over at Heart of the Matter Online. It’s my favorite week of the year in HS blog world, the week everyone posts pictures and descriptions of their schoolroom! I got so many storage, organization, and setup ideas this way when I was first dreaming up our homeschool space, and now I’m happy to share what I’ve done with ours, as well as keep looking at everyone else’s spaces— I usually spend several weeks checking these out during my downtime, eventually hitting every single post so I can see each schoolroom.
Without further ado, here is our schoolroom, aka our dining area, which we use for both functions daily. We’ve been in this house for two years and I’m still tweaking how I store things and how we use the space we’ve been blessed with. I’ll share all the details as the pics progress. And please, keep in mind that all my spaces are freshly cleaned out and organized for the new school year; they don’t represent the chaos of everyday life yet at this point. Not by any means. That should be a given, but last year I was actually criticized on a homeschool page on Facebook where we were sharing our schoolroom pics— for having too neat a space. True story! Thankfully, most of my fellow HS moms were quick to defend me by saying that we’re all starting out fresh and neat and presenting our spaces in their best form— sharing ideas and solutions with each other.
Here is a shot of the table, where all the action happens, both during school time and at breakfast, lunch, snack time, and dinner:
Those are, of course, my students, whom I’ll be showcasing next week. This was taken just after I’d finished giving them both their lessons and they were doing their work. “Work” for the little one consists of tracing dots I made on the lapboard. He loves doing that!
This is the room as you walk into it from our foyer/living area. The kitchen is to the right.
I panned around the room. The cabinets in the corner I had added to our house plans with the specific intent of having a homeschool supply cabinet. I love having it more than words can express.
This is with my back to the kitchen. We love the view out of our windows— nothing but trees in our yard and across the street.
Facing into the living area. G is making faces, because…that’s just what he does.
Now to the organization & storage breakdown.
I use the countertop of the school cabinets to store all the books we use daily. My teacher manuals, answer keys, their workbooks, and all the various texts and supplementary materials we need to get our hands on easily, most every day. I bought a simple plastic vertical file sorter to hold them all up neatly. I love this setup. It really does stay mostly this neat all year, because as long as we put the books back up, they stay orderly and neat.
We also keep our printer/scanner up there, and of course our pencils & sharpener. All used daily.
This is one of the top cabinet shelves. Way up top, I keep all the books/manuals/materials from G’s previous grades, to use in the future with D. On the lower shelves I have various supplies like stickers & dominoes, and that bin holds D’s magnetic letters. I have a space made there for a bucket of counting bears, which I hope to be able to buy soon.
These are the other top shelves. Way up top are boxes of G’s previous years’ work and extra school supplies. Middle shelf is all art supplies and other supplies that the boys know are off limits unless they ask and someone gets it down for them (basically, the messy stuff I don’t want them getting into on their own.) The bottom shelf is not school-related but is just our medicine/vitamin shelf. Didn’t know how to not include it, but please just ignore.
Here is a view of all the bottom cabinets. Left side I keep those file shelves for filing finished worksheets & papers, each boys’ folders of artwork for the year, notebook paper, and handwriting paper. In the middle is a box of used paper, printed on one side, that my dad gave the boys for drawing & writing on. Above that I have file shelves with printer paper. Right side is paper and materials I save for them to paint on. I save all cardboard scraps, fancy white paper (like, for instance, when you buy a picture frame, the glossy sheet you get that’s plain white on the back? Perfect for little ones to paint on!), newsprint from packages…I keep anything they can paint on, that I don’t have to pay for.
The shelves way in the back I just use for storing containers and things we may use in the future. Those shelves are extremely hard to get to…or maybe I’m just getting old.
These are the drawers. Nothing exciting, just various supplies, but maybe someone will get an idea or two, like the baskets for drawer dividers. Love having those!
Another pic of the students, obviously hard at work.
You can see a white cabinet over there in the corner; I use that for more storage. On top is our globe, clock, flag, and I have a tray that we use to store change for money counting practice (and currently, it’s holding G’s stuffed bird collection). And inside…
Top shelf is extra workbooks, books, and materials that are not our daily-use things, but that I use from time to time. On the right I have magazine files with coloring and activity books; most of these are just for-fun things and not school-related.
2nd shelf holds the only art supplies they have free range with: their markers, crayons, and colored pencils. And I see there are some flash cards there, too.
3rd shelf holds flash cards and normally there are learning games and manipulatives there in the empty space, but I guess they were out being used on picture day.
Bottom shelf is where I store extra binders, schoolbooks we’re going to use this year but aren’t using yet (his Apologia science set is down there…yay!), and the binders in which I keep G’s state portfolio, in the event it’s ever requested.
That’s an exhaustive tour of our schoolroom. Thanks for stopping by! I love comments. Be sure to stop by and check out all the other schoolrooms on display this week at The Heart of the Matter Online:
It’s almost time to gear up for school again! I made my curriculum decisions in early June and then I set to work buying everything we need—quite a task, because I buy everything I possibly can used, via homeschool curriculum boards online and also from our local homeschool consignment store. This allows me to buy books for half the retail price, sometimes much less. The only thing I buy new is consumable workbooks, and I even find those “used” sometimes, but with only a couple of pages filled out.
It’s hard mental work scouring the listings, and scoring an item can be very competitive. When I find something I want for the price I want, I have to jump on it quickly. Still, often, by the time my inquiry email reaches the seller, the book in question is already spoken for by someone whose email got there first. It can be very frustrating! But I stuck with it, kept emailing vigilantly, and within a week’s time I scored an entire curriculum for G at half the price of new. The items I buy are used, but in like-new condition (I ignore items listed in lesser condition).
So what did I choose? Let me share. I’m also going to list the retail price of each item, followed by the price I actually paid. Because I’m all thrifty like that, and seeing the difference makes me feel good.
Math- Abeka Arithmetic 3 I’ll be sticking with Abeka for math through elementary math, for sure. It’s hands down the most thorough, advanced, and traditional math program out there. Any curriculum that helps my 7 yr old score 99th percentile nationwide in math, is a keeper in my book. And it’s easy to teach: the lessons contain word-for-word dialogue for me to use to explain new concepts. I just can’t say enough good things about Abeka’s math program.
Materials Purchased: Teacher manual, Answer keys, Student Books- Retail Cost: $113. My Cost: $61.
Language- For the first semester, we’re going to finish up our Rod & Staff Building Christian English book. Then we’ll start Abeka Language 3. Both very strong, traditional language programs.
Materials Purchased: Teacher Manual, Answer key, Student Book- Retail Cost: $76.50. My Cost: $35.
Writing- Again, sticking with what has worked wonderfully for us: Writing With Ease 3. We used book 2 last year, and I saw G’s writing improve by leaps and bounds. He scored above 99th percentile nationwide on the writing fluency section of his testing in June. WWE uses the simple approach of listening, narrating, and dictating to create strong writing skills. It works.
Retail Cost: $34.95. My Cost: $20.
Handwriting- I didn’t do cursive handwriting with G last year. I decided to let him work more on perfecting his manuscript. This year, we’ll do cursive. He’s using A Reason For Handwriting. Cursive practice will focus on writing meaningful verses. At the end of each week, a special page is given to write out the verse in his best handwriting, decorate & color the pictures, and then give to someone who might need a blessing. I can’t wait to use this!
Spelling- Can you believe I didn’t do a spelling program with G at all last year? I decided he didn’t need one, since he’s such a gifted speller (he gets that from both his parents. It’s our claim to fame. Spelling masters, we are! ). On his yearly evaluation test last month, he scored 99.9th percentile nationwide in spelling. That’s the highest score possible. Out of 1000 children his age, he would be one of the top two scorers. Spelling is just his thing.
All that said, he needs to learn to spell harder words and to nail down all the rules and exceptions. Enter Spelling Power. For grades 3-12, this is the only spelling book my boys will need. We’ll never do those weekly spelling lists that contain words he already knows how to spell (I hated this part of my school career—what a waste of time!). With SP, 15 minutes a day (on the days we choose to do it) helps identify words he doesn’t know how to spell, and he works on those words until he masters them. Over the years, he’ll master the 5,000 most misspelled words in the English language, and so will his brother, and this is the only book I’ll have to buy. Looking forward to this.
Retail Cost: $64.95. My Cost: $18. On this one I saved big by buying the previous edition, used but in good condition.
This is a one-time buy and will be both boys’ spelling curriculum for their entire school career.
History- We have about 6 weeks left to cover in The Mystery of History I. Then we’re moving on to The Mystery of History II. We both enjoyed MOH I so much, so of course we’re continuing. It’s history given in chronological order, including Biblical history. It’s nothing short of amazing. G declared history to be his favorite subject thanks to this incredible curriculum.
Retail Cost: $49.95. My Cost: $25.
These are pricey, but once I buy all four volumes (and I’m halfway there!), I’ll have both boys’ complete history curriculum for their entire school career. This curriculum is made to be done 2-3 times over, with more research and questioning each time as the student progresses in age and knowledge.
Science- I’m diving into an official science program this year. I chose the gold standard, the curriculum that gets raves from every Christian homeschooler: Apologia Elementary Science. There are six volumes: Astronomy, Botany, Anatomy, Zoology I (Birds), Zoology II (Fish), Zoology III (Land Animals). All from a Christian, creationist POV. All six books cover the entire elementary science years, up until about 7th grade. Each book can be used by students of all ages, so they’ll be both G and D’s science curriculum. It hurt to buy them all at once, but we’ll be using them for years to come, and they’ll have a high resale value—IF the boys will even want to give them up. The material is presented in a very easy to understand fashion, and there are lots of projects and experiments, but they’re simple ones that use materials that every household has on hand. I’m very excited about them and can’t wait to start, and neither can G. He wants to do the Birds volume first, so I guess I’ll start with that one.
I bought all six volumes.
Retail Cost: $234, at $39 per volume.
My Cost: $126, at an average of $21 per volume. They were all used, in excellent condition.
This was a major purchase, but it will cover both boys’ science up through 7th grade.
Bible- I think we’re going to read through the Gospels this year, chapter by chapter. And discuss each chapter daily. Linked with Bible teaching, I’m going to do a Character-Building curriculum as well. I’m going to use Kids of Integrity, a free resource from Focus on the Family. There is so much material there! A week’s worth of activities, lesson plans, discussion ideas, and more, for each of 22 featured character traits. Looking forward to this.
Art- I’ve never felt the need to do a formal art curriculum, because we’re all artists in this house and we create art all the time…I figured formal study of artists could wait until later years. But I stumbled upon this free download recently, and can’t resist adding it to the docket for this year. A unit study on the World’s Greatest Artists. We may not have time every week, but we can do this when we have time. And if we don’t get to do it this year, then I have it for next year, or whenever we get around to it.
And for Little D, well, he’s joining us at the school table this year! He’ll be doing preschool work. Learning letter sounds and numbers, and to write. He knows his alphabet and can count to 30. I’ll be doing a letter and number per week until we get through the alphabet, with him learning each sound and each number value. He’ll also be learning to write those letters and numbers. There’s a world of free material online for preschool, so I won’t have to buy anything.
I added up the total retail cost for everything, as well as my total cost buying most everything used. Here are those totals:
Retail Cost for everything: $573.35
My Cost for everything: $285
That’s almost exactly half price! And everything I buy is in either new or like-new condition. Postage for anything I don’t buy locally is included in the prices. This, my friends, is an example of a frugal mama at work. Now if I could just get all our tax money back that goes to the local schools we don’t use, and use that to pay for all this…maybe someday homeschoolers will be able to do that! As it is, we rely on a generous scholarship from Philip’s parents to buy all this. Without them, we’d have to starve in order to pay for it all (that’s not much of an exaggeration).
And that concludes my long, exhaustive post on our 20011-12 curriculum! I’m chomping at the bit to get started, so we may start up here in the next couple of weeks.
If you end up liking and deciding to buy any of these materials new, will you consider using my Amazon link in my sidebar?
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