Tag Archives: LA

Today’s Freewrite by the Four Year Old

Every so often (not as often as I’d like), I listen to the kids as they tell a story and I write it down for them. I remember my mom doing the same thing for me, and I’ve always cherished the funny little stories I made when I was little. These days, I get to type the stories, helping me write them down almost as fast as the kids can speak. A weekly freewrite is also part of the Bravewriter writing program, which I really enjoy.

I really liked today’s freewrite by the four year old:

Once upon a time there was a fishy. And then there was clownfish and she said “hi!”. So they swam into the sea anemones. And then there was a sea grape. They both shared it. And then there was a grape and they shared it too. And then there was another grape and there were actually two grapes and they shared it and they got one. And they ate it at the same time. And then there were two more clown fishes. There were four now. Now there’s four grapes. And then they eat the same time. They all eat at the same time. So, they got eight cherries. So they kept and then they saw a rock. And then they went in their sea anemones. And then there was a cherry and it hugged them. I’m done.

My favorite part is when she paused to count how many cherries she would need for each fish to get two.

Curriculum vs. Curricula

Okay, so I know this is horribly pedantic and rude and awful and miserable and awful of me…. but for the love of all that is holy and good, homeschoolers, please learn the difference between curriculum and curricula, because so many of you are doing this wrong.

Curriculum is the singular. Like datum, millennium, memorandum, and stadium. The plurals are curricula, data, millennia, memoranda, and … okay, no one says stadia. I suppose only really picky people say datum anymore, either. Memorandum was shortened to memo with the plural memos. But we still use millennium and millennia. No one says, “I’ve visited 24 different baseball stadium”, because they know stadium is singular.

The dictionary recognizes curriculums as an okay plural. I don’t prefer it, but it follows the standard way to make plurals in English. We don’t speak Latin, even if many of our words have roots in that language. Fine. But when you use curriculum as a plural and curricula as singular, you make my head hurt just as much as if you switch plural and singular for any other word.

Try these sentences:

  • “I’m going to go buy some new curriculum.”
  • “I’m going to go buy some new book.”

Or these:

  • “This is a great curricula!”
  • “This is a great books!”

It hurts, just a little bit, doesn’t it?

Now, curriculum can mean an entire course of study, so it can mean an entire plan of dozens of books and subjects. So you could be going out to buy just one curriculum for your kid to use this year. There are plenty of companies that release all-in-one curricula for people to use. But the way I know if you’re using the words as a singular or a plural is if you’re using an article (a, an, the) or singular pronouns (this) or not.

  • “I really love curriculum” compared to “I really love this curriculum”.
  • “I really love book” compared to “I really love this book”.

So, please, for my sake… get your plurals and singulars straight. I beg you!

Note: People make mistakes. I know I do. I miss having a Real Live Editor to fix all of my mistakes. But as I point out above, I don’t think it’s a typo so much as a large number of people who are unaware of this at all. So I try to help. Annoyingly. Without being asked. Because I care.

Outlining His First Essay

Today The Boy outlined his very first essay. It goes with our grammar and writing curriculum, even if it wasn’t one of the assignments. The books have introduced the idea of an essay, some examples, and described the sorts of strategy you use to put together the paragraphs.
So, because he was already trying to persuade me to get pizza and started to list all of his reasons, I opened Google Drive and started a new sheet and just wrote down what he said. It took one more minute to guide him into categorizing things and making a quick outline with a phrase or two he might use in a topic sentence. Then, out loud, he gave me an example of what it might say.

Motivation: Pizza.

Brainstorming Reasons for pizza
  • You wouldn’t have to cook or use any dishes besides a pizza cutter
  • paper plates
  • kids like it
  • no arguing over dinner
  • spinach pizza is healthy — spinach, tomatoes, parsley, cheese, bread
  • it’s good.

Persuasive essay outline:
  1. Intro
  2. Healthy — pizza is a square meal
    1. Spinach and tomatoes are veggies
    2. Cheese is good for calcium and protein
    3. Bread — a major part of the food pyramid
  3. Even though it’s healthy, kids like it!
    1. No fighting
    2. It’s happy — kids would all eat well
    3. Good
  4. Finally, it’s easy for mom
    1. No cooking
    2. No cleaning
    3. No need to come up with dinner
  5. Conclusion
 So — does he earn a spinach alfredo pizza for this?

Spring 2012 Homeschool Portfolio Review: English and Social Studies

Continuing our review of the spring 2012 semester, this is what we did in English and Social Studies.


The Boy finished up Grammar Town, learning more about
phrases and clauses and semicolons, and we began semi-weekly work in
Practice Town, “diagramming” one or two sentences a week. He continued
to use Caesar’s English to learn new words and stems, and The Girl even
chirped up with a sentence using a new word here and there. He stopped
using All About Spelling when, apparently, phonics suddenly clicked and
he could spell just about any regular word. In fact he has a bit of a
compulsion about it, randomly spelling the words in his head. Sometimes
for hours. So now he just asks about larger or stranger words when he’s
typing something to a friend to trying to name things in a game. He’s
started writing his first paragraph, guided by Paragraph Town. Of
course, he demonstrates no ability to spell when he’s composing a

The Girl continued into All About Spelling 2, which
she seems to really like the idea of, but if she ever gets a word
non-right she dissolves into tears. It appears I have another little
perfectionist. So we put that aside for a while and just worked on
reading some simple books, like Green Eggs and Ham, and Amelia Bedelia,
and Frog and Toad. Sometimes she even reads the instructions in her math
book, but mostly she’s too timid about possibly being wrong that she
asks for clarification of any instruction up to three times. (Yes, just
circle it! Argh!!!) I may need more patience. She’s also learning parts
of speech and occasionally dictating a story for me to write down.

The baby’s talking abilities and vocabulary are growing by leaps and bounds, and she even likes to move her finger along words as she pretends to read them. Green Eggs and Ham is one of her favorite books, probably because it taught her her new favorite phrase, “I do not like…” which she uses. All. Day. Long. Of course, “I do not like baths!!!!” is at least a little cuter than just screaming, “No!!!”.

Social Studies

To mix things up a little this year, we’re not just reading Story of the World and doing some activities. While it was fun when The Boy was little, The Girl isn’t as into dead leaders and their wars. Plus, The Boy needed something additional. So we added in some reading and activities from History Odyssey, Living Math, and went on a few trips that were mostly unrelated.

The Boy finished up SOTW 3, leading up to the civil war: Mexican independence, abolitionists, the Boers and Zulus, Trail of Tears, Opium Wars, the Alamo, New Zealand and the treaty of Waitangi, and the Gold Rush. He also read the entire declaration of independence with me and we discussed what the whole thing meant, using the metaphor of a breakup letter. He also studied France a bit.

Then, with his sister, they studied through SOTW chapter 13, about ancient Mesopotamia (Sumer, Babylon, Assyria, etc.), Egypt (Old, Middle, And New Kingdoms), Kush (Nubia), the Indus Valley, Ancient China, and Africa. They visited the American History museum, the Clara Barton House, Mount Vernon, the ground of the Needmore Mansion (a real archeological dig!), and (yesterday) toured the Constellation, the Lightship Chesapeake, and the Torsk (a submarine!).

I really enjoyed the reading and activities in Ancient Egyptians and Their Neighbors.
It focused on regular everyday life, how people lived, what they ate,
and who they worshiped, not just leaders and their wars.

Then, of course, they did some study of World War II, just by playing Battlefield 1942. 😉 They also study geography quite often, following their family members paths as they go on exotic trips across the Atlantic, through Europe, and to islands in the Pacific!

First Paragraph

We’ve just started the next book in The Boy’s language arts cirriculum, “Paragraph Town”. The goal of the book it to take what they’ve learned in grammar and making beautiful, efficient, poetic sentences and start stringing them together into beautiful paragraphs.

The assignment for Lesson Three was to write a 5-10 sentence paragraph describing something and the point of the exercise was to think about what order you want to write in. What goes first? What goes last? Honestly, it’s hard enough just to get him to put any words down on paper, so I think this might take longer than expected.

I gave him things to think about and he wrote his first draft:

stone smeld like sulfer and hot dogs. the cheesburgurs are good thare,i
rele like the guysers thare, the mountns are hi and the vallys are

I read it out loud and suddenly he started just gushing with beautiful, interesting sentences…. but out loud. So I quickly wrote them down and asked him questions, which lead to more:

Yellowstone smelled like sulfur and hot dogs.
are geothermal pools of water that have different elements in them like
iron, and such. One had an airflow in it that made it bubble. It was
red and green and stuff.

mouth really smelled like sulfur. It didn’t look like anything at
first, but then it blew out a giant wave of steam that just eck. Just
smelled really bad. It smelled like creepers.

And it had a pool of water it was like a cave with a lake inside.
The cheeseburgers are juicy and cheesy and good.
The mountains are 11,000 feet, which means an airplane could crash into them, they are so high!
The geysers explode with boiling hot water.  
The tallest geyser I could see from half a mile away, it was super tall.
The buffalo are hairy and live in herds.

We’ll wait for another day to revise this. We don’t have a coherent paragraph yet, but we have some very amazing ideas and images to work with.

I Guess This is What Unschooling Is Like

For those of you who aren’t homeschoolers, or don’t know a lot about it, there are actually a lot of different categories of homeschoolers. These are really general categories and there is a lot of overlap and squishiness about the categories, but sometimes it’s helpful to explain to other people the sort of philosophy you have about these things. It’s not entirely unlike explaining what sorts of foods you eat — low carb, vegetarian, kosher, and so forth. Broad categories that everyone stretches this way and that to make it work for them.

I probably can’t do justice to all the flavors of homeschooler right here, but if you’re interested the Homeschool Diner has a list they compiled.

We don’t really fit into any particular group. We have fewer rules than many families, but we’re not radical unschoolers without bedtimes or required chores or anything. I like a lot of the ideas of classical schooling, such as using original sources and mastery of concepts, but we’re not obsessed with following anyone’s particular idea of it and no one is learning latin right now! I buy curricula, but we don’t necessarily follow it, we use it as another source. We sometimes do unit studies, sometimes not. In fact, anytime I try to follow any schedule or routine or list, the kids object.

We are dedicated to randomness.

Lately, I’ve managed to injure myself in annoying ways, or get sick, or find some other reason to be busy, or cranky, or unprepared, and we’ve had a week or two (ahem) here or there (cough) where maybe we weren’t all at the kitchen table doing math worksheets every morning, if you know what I mean.

But the kids still learn. It really hard to keep them from learning, as it turns out. Boredom actually causes them to do all sorts of things. And kids can make anything fun.

One day a few weeks ago, all of us were sick with a fever, a cold, or bronchitis, so my son was playing on the computer. He was using Minecraft, along with a friend of his half way across the country, and he managed to do an entire day of school-worthy activities in just about every subject we need to cover.

This is what a home school sick day looks like: he had to multiply out the gold he won in the minecraft RPG he and his friend invented and divide by 64 to see how many stacks that would be (math). He’s making logic gates to power his doors and traps (science). He has to type to me to communicate (English). He taught his sister about the immune response system (health). He made a sculpture of a creeper (Art) and composed a song about how it holds his treasure chests (Music). As soon as I fix the printer, he can print and mail a certificate for another Junior Ranger badge (history — it’s about Clara Barton). 

It’s semesters like this one that makes me wonder if I’m going to eventually just relax, let go of the reins of control, and just be an unschooler. I wonder how far away that even is…

Flower anatomy

Today we looked at violets and tulips to learn about flower anatomy. We came up with a way to remember some of the girl parts:”The sticky stigma sits on the style”

I guess we did language arts for the day, too.

Haiku for the Guild

We’ve recently re-activated our World of Warcraft accounts, thanks to Blizzard’s latest resurrection scroll deal. Originally I stopped playing when I was pregnant with the third child. I can’t think or sit or exist when I’m pregnant, and you can’t do raids with morning sickness. Or at least I can’t. Then I had a baby and we moved and there wasn’t any time. Instead I played a lot of Terraria, Minecraft, Bejewelled, and a few short DS games.

In order to join a particular guild, the requirement is to write a haiku. Now, my son once threw a tempter tantrum for an hour because I suggested it might be fun to write one, back when we were studying medieval Japan. I didn’t say he had to. Just started telling him how it’s done. It was Golden week, too, so we already made samuri hats and origami baskets and all sorts of fun stuff. But he would not even listen to haiku. Apparently it was too much.

Fast forward to today. He wanted to join the guild, so he wrote the haiku.

The little worm plays
Dancing in the sunlit park
Under the oak tree

Things I Like: The Oatmeal’s Grammar Posters

Okay, caution when approaching The Oatmeal — it’s so very Not Safe For Work (NSFW) or kids at times. In addition, it’s also incredibly funny.

This post is about the series of grammar posters he produced. I picked them up on sale back when there were only four of them, thinking they would eventually be nice for school.  They have some silliness to them but, IMHO, they are ok for my kids. Some people wouldn’t agree, and if you don’t, then don’t buy them for your kids.

Anyway, today the day came. They day one of them finally tied into our grammar book. The Boy’s lessons have been about clauses: independent and dependent, compound and complex sentences, and the punctuation required. Which led to discussion of the most misunderstood punctuation mark, the semicolon.

So I ran upstairs, grabbed the roll of posters and showed off the semicolons one. It certainly got The Boy’s attention.