Friday, August 19, 2011


We've been living our homeschooling plans for a few weeks, lightly at first and then in the full schedule, and we've made a few adjustments to the original plans. As I explained in that original post I don't feel locked into our lesson plans, but I do need a plan for the quarter to provide a bit of structure for our family.

First up: Successes so far...

Math. We are using Singapore 1 and we both love the set up. It is visually uncluttered, the amount of problems per page are perfect for Ender, and it has great pacing and learning through hands on work before doing the workbook pages has been key for us. One of the big questions I had about choosing a math curriculum was about whether or not we would actually need the teacher's manual- after all, how hard is first grade math?

I have to say- DEFINITELY invest in the teacher's manual. Not because the concepts are difficult, but because it includes so many different ways to incorporate math games into your lessons. There have been just a handful of lessons that we've needed a little more written work and I've improvised some problems on the white board for him to do, but otherwise I'm very happy with this curriculum so far.

Handwriting. LOVE LOVE LOVE Handwriting Without Tears. This is the first time ever Ender hasn't complained about having to write! I required very little writing of him last year and he always disliked it. He is using the Kindergarten book right now and if he keeps up his self-established pace he might make it all the way through the first grade book also this year!

Phonics. We've continued with phonics work in the Victory Drill Book, but Ender's fluency in reading has really taken off in the last 6 weeks so I'm backing off on the phonics for a bit. We'll still use this book for practice if I come across a problem in his reading, but right now he's reading out loud to me for 5-10 minutes every morning and 5-10 minutes for his dad in the evening and doing really well.

Science. This plan has been so delightful that it's been the inspiration for the changes I made to our history program. We've been working with our first quarter theme of ponds and creeks, reading, going outside, narrating about animals and facts that we're learning and it's just been so much fun. I do think we're going to revisit this theme again for a week in the winter and then another few weeks in the spring and summer to really understand the lifecycle and changes.

Ender has been reading from the Christian Liberty Nature Reader 1 for some of his independent reading and we've been using the K reader for narration material.

Fine Arts. Violin practice, art (some structured and some free) and composer study is going well. I so haven't gotten the artist study thing together yet. We may ditch it for this year, but we'll see if I can get that going next quarter.

Now the changes...

Language Arts. I'm refocusing our plans to literature. We were planning some literature yes, but as I thought more about what I wanted our first grade to look like, the more I felt like our plans just weren't as literature-rich as I was looking for. Instead of having "lessons from literature" I wanted to actually read the literature. So we've put the formal grammar learning off a year and instead I've inserted a unit on Fairy Tales, another on Tall Tales and another on Fables. We're also reading longer chapter books aloud together, but I feel like this approach is going to be much more what we're looking for this year.

I was kind of on the fence about including these this year anyway, but because of the above changes I did decide to forgo First Language Lessons and Writing With Ease this year. I like the curriculum and I think we could work through it slowly this year, but after working some with the material I think he'll retain it better next year and we won't have to go so slowly. Instead I'm pulling the beginning principles from WWE and having Ender narrate once a week to me after one of our read-alouds. I write down the narration for him and he illustrates. Mid-year we will likely move to using his one sentence narration as copywork.

History. As I wrote above, our science plans have been such a great match to our family's style of learning that I decided to pick a history topic for each quarter and then to read widely on that topic. After much debate back and forth (between me and my husband) and then finally a post from Jen that was perfectly timed for our discussion, we decided to hold off on the chronological progression a la Well-Trained Mind approach to history until 5th grade.

Right now we're focusing on people and places in history and specifically in areas where Ender is interested. So, yes we've been learning about Egypt this quarter (mainly pyramids) at Ender's request, but we're also going to spend time with a few of the American founders next quarter and on to a tour through the 50 states before taking a quarter to work back through the continents and make sure we remember the main points that we learned last year in addition to some new ones.

I'm keeping the geography section of our social studies in tact, because both Ender and I have been very excited to do that work and read from that book list.

I will likely share booklists as we complete "units" so that I can include only sources that we found useful.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Yarn Along

Yarning Along with Ginny, sharing a current knit and the reads for this week....

First, thank you to the folks who emailed and commented Monday about my mother-in-law. Your prayers and kind thoughts are greatly appreciated right now. We were able to get her home on Saturday and she is set up with a wheelchair, an adjustable bed and now will have home healthcare every day to ease the burden, specifically on my father-in-law.

I know I said I wasn't casting on anything new last week, but with all the hours spent in the car back and forth to the hospital plus the actual time in the hospital I got to points on all my UFOs where I needed to focus- shaping, finishing, lace... and I just couldn't have that along with me during the last week. So I did cast on the Back-to-School U-Neck Vest, another by Stefanie Japel from the book Fitted Knits. This is my third knit from that book and I *love* how clear the directions are. I've made my way through the 2x2 rib and I'll be able to move on from that section tonight.

We're reading Charlotte's Web together right now in addition to quite a collection of books on pond life, superheroes and dinosaurs (totally not in the same book). I am reading Tim Gunn's Guide to Style because I have none. I mean, I know what I like, but that's totally not what I wear because I'm a mom and in my work life I work with kids. I need to be practical but also professional looking without looking like I'm trying too hard.

The thing is that I have a coordination problem- I just can't coordinating off the top of my head unless it's very obvious- all the same color, or black with a color, or white with a color. My "uniform" seems to be jeans and a nice black shirt. And my hair? I'm in ponytail land right now and I really don't want to be. I'm really not looking to be trendy all the time, but I do want to look nice. My goal is to decide what my basic go-to pieces should be and then build from there. I'm willing to make many pieces, but I'm not opposed to buying pieces if they will be backbones of my wardrobe.

I need help, y'all! How do you mix mommy-hood and style?

Valuable Skills for Knitters

When I first started knitting the simple act of completing a row felt like triumph, and for a long while I felt like completing a few rows in a day accomplished a lot of progress... until I heard other knitters talking about how many inches they knit each day. Boy, did I feel slow. And then I took on my first adult-sized project. It was one of the patterns that first drew me to knitting- the famous February Lady Sweater.

I started to work on it and got through 90% of it over a few months- why didn't I finish? Well, I'd made so many mistakes on it that I just couldn't bring myself to complete it. I know now that I'm not the sort of knitter that can make a quick fix and ignore little mistakes, but working on that first sweater that was the advice I was given and it made me never want to work on the sweater again. It sat there with 1 sleeve left to go for a LONG time before I did the right thing and ripped it out. The yarn is washed and waiting in cakes for that sweater to be re-knit (and it will be, because I love it so much!)

I thought I'd share some of the things I learned in knitting that failed sweater that have proven to be incredibly valuable to me in my current knitting.

1. Know who you are and where you're at.

I'm the sort of knitter that would rather rip back and fix mistakes than move on with a quick fix. Call it perfectionism if you like, but it's certainly not the crippling kind. I just don't like to be stared down by mis-knitted sweaters. A friend of mine is quite the opposite. If she discovers that she's off by a stitch at the end of the row she looks back through to make sure she hasn't actually dropped something that's going to pull out and then she'll just quickly add those missing stitches and move on like nothing happened. The thought of ripping and reknitting a few weeks of work makes her ill.

It doesn't matter what type of knitter you are, but take the time to really know and embrace your true identity so that you can move forward taking advantage of your natural strengths. This knowledge is liberating! Even though plenty of knitters speak with bitter anguish about trips to the frog pond I don't feel bad about ripping out because I know I will be happier with the finished product. That doesn't mean that I don't sometimes banish projects to UFO timeout (sometimes it's healthy to take a break from misbehaving knitting) but ultimately I know that I'll never finish that item if there is a glaring mistake and even if I did finish it I would NEVER wear it.

2. Learn to "read" your knitting.

This radically changed my life. Remember those glaring mistakes I told you I made on my FLS? Yeah--- part of it was due to not really knowing the difference between the front and the back. When it was time to divide for the sleeves I did, but then I was confused- which was the front and the back? I threw a flippant "it kind of looks all the same" out there and moved on only to understand later that it DOESN'T look all the same, especially not in the lace repeats...

So what is reading your knitting? It's knowing what each stitch looks like after it's made so that when you look back you can "read" it and know that you did a knit stitch or a k2tog so that you can find your place again. This skill is what allows me to stop in the middle of a row even if I'm knitting lace. I can always read back through my knitting to figure out where I'm at again.

Great pictures of different stitches are available at Techknitting and videos for each stitch are available at knittinghelp.

3. Keep track of your progress.

Keeping track of each project is one of those little admin tasks that many people agree is a good idea but most of those folks never actually do. Have you ever had a project you started and had to set down for some reason- only to come back a few months later totally unsure of where you left off? Um, yeah. That used to be me.

I got tired of that though and started keeping notes. This looks different for everyone, but I mostly mark up the pattern. If it's printed I mark off rows on the pattern or write in the changes I've made to a portion. If the pattern is in a book I generally have a big post it note on the pattern where I mark rows and changes.

I also have a notebook that holds my life (not just knitting) and I frequently jot down a quick note in that notebook about what row I'm on in a project for easy pick up later.

You can also use the notes section of the project pages of ravelry. All you have to do is type up a quick sentence or two about which row you left off on  or how your project is going. I try to put all my notes about changes and pattern likes/dislikes into the notes section by the time I'm finished with a project, because those noted have proven so valuable to me when other knitters include them on their projects!

4. Read your pattern all the way through before you start.

This was my number one mistake in the beginning of knitting bigger projects. I would get part way into a project only to discover that it was FAR more complicated than I was capable of accomplishing at the time, or I would discover some tool or needle size that I didn't yet own.... yes, a lot of patterns come with a list of skills used and a list of supplies needed, but it's super easy to accidentally leave one little thing off that list that makes it difficult for you to complete the project.

Save yourself a little bit of trouble and read ahead.

5. Do projects you love- you won't regret it.

I'm just going to say it- your first project does NOT have to be a scarf! It seems to be a popular first item, but I'm not a scarf person and probably never will be. In three years I have knit precisely one scarf - the lovely Kernel- for a Christmas gift for my mother-in-law last year. I started out knitting nothing and moved on to baby-sized things- they're small so you finish faster and you still run into skills like grafting, seaming, lace, and shaping.

You *can* start with a scarf, but you can also start with a baby blanket or a sweater or a simple shawl. What's important is to choose a project you really love. I don't spend my time knitting things I "should" knit- I only knit projects I really like (or special requests from my boys, because who can resist a request from your kids for something handmade???).

What have you learned in your knitting journey that has been valuable to you and your progress as a knitter?

Monday, August 15, 2011


Since last Wednesday we have been to the hospital more times than we'd care to count to help care for Brian's parents. My mother-in-law's cancer is very aggressive and there has been complication after complication in recent weeks.

We've spent the time we've had at home over the last few days staying quiet and trying to string together peace between hospital visits. There has been sleeping in, comfort food, lots of read alouds, and yes- knitting too (alongside keeping up on dishes and laundry- the two never-ending chores!)

We worshipped yesterday at church alongside friends and we praise Him who makes all things new.

I'll be back in this space tomorrow.
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