Drawing With (My) Children: Our Homeschool Experience Using the Monart Method

A recent addition to our homeschooling activities has been the introduction of “art class”. For our first few sessions I did some searching online for tutorials and ideas and came up with some simple yet enjoyable projects. The first was crayon etchings, and the second was watercolour pencil drawings.  Then I had the realization that I DO have an “art curriculum” sitting unused on my shelf! A few years back I purchased Drawing With Children but was somewhat overwhelmed with the prospect of implementing it and following through with my plans. I loved the premise of the method, and the examples given of children’s work is quite impressive. But life was busy (pregnancy, move, newborn, move) so we just stuck to the basics for the time being and focussed on “The Three Rs”.

So now that we’ve got our own grove going, why not give it a try?

Here are the basics of the book:

The author of the book, Mona Brookes, proposes that drawing (like music, dance and other artistic subjects) should be taught through basic instruction. She refutes the notion that drawing evolves naturally and that you shouldn’t give young children any guided instruction in drawing. She has broken drawing down into it’s basic components which she calls the basic elements of shape. When learned and practiced, these elements make up the basis for the drawing of all subjects. This melds very well, by the way, with the tenets of a classical education’s grammar stage. The Five Basic Elements of Shape make up the “grammar” of drawing.  I really appreciate her philosophy that anyone can learn to draw well, that drawing is a  learned skill, and not only possible for the few of a us who are gifted with it.

The book contains step by step instructions for 5 lessons. The student begins the program by determining their starting level (1 of 3) which encompass children from approximately age 4 to the adult beginner.  Then The 5 Basic Elements of Shape (dot & circle family, straight, curved and angled line family) are taught. There are warm-up exercises and teaching tips, as well as information on selecting good art supplies and preparing your environment (and attitude!). We are very excited to see where our learning takes us! This is really the perfect project for us, because it will feature the teacher learning alongside her little students!

So check back often and follow along with us to see how we are progressing! We are sure to be having fun!

We don’t expect children to play the piano, study dance, or learn a sport without showing them the basic components of these subjects. Why do we expect them to understand the complexities of drawing on their own?

Have you used Drawing with Children? What are you doing with your little learners for art?

This post contains affiliate links.


This post is first in a series about our implementation of Mona Brookes’ Drawing With Children. You can check out the others here:

2. Drawing With (My) Children: Lesson 1 BIRDS!

3. Drawing With (My) Children: Lesson 2 LIONS!

4. Drawing With (My) Children: Lesson 3 DRAWING FROM A STILL LIFE

Hip Homeschool Moms

A Few Things That Have Made This a GREAT Winter!

I’ve seen a lot online about February Blahs and Homeschooling Burnout, but I have to say, that February was a great month for us!  Like most of us, I did grow tired of the snow, cold and short days; but the homeschooling itself has been the smoothest it has ever been! Now this may be in part due to the fact that we are not currently selling a home, buying a home, planning to move, unpacking a move, pregnant or caring for a new baby. Which does, in fact, describe much of our previous homeschooling journey up until this point!

While we are enjoying the continuation of some of our previous selections (Story of the World!), we have also begun some new things that are working out really well.

Nature's Workshop Plus! Science Kit for Exploring Creation Through Astronomy - www.learningmama.com
Nature’s Workshop Plus! Science Kit for Exploring Creation Through Astronomy

New for us this winter is studying science with Apologia’s Young Explorer Series, and All About Spelling.  I’ve already posted about how wonderfully AAS is working for us. Astronomy is going well also, and I am so glad I decided to opt for a less writing intensive approach for Big Sister and more hands on work than last year. Our previous science selection involved notebooking which she found very tiring and produced quite a bit of resistance. We also did very few of the suggested experiments. Since then we have been doing lapbooks which seem to be more enjoyable for her at this stage of her development, and I have purchased a prepared science kit that covers all the experiments in our astronomy book. No excuses! Absolutely everything is included except for a few perishable items that can’t be shipped in a box (like whipping cream). Last week we made our own eclipse and it even included the flashlight (and the battery) that was required.

popsicle stick bird feeders
Popsicle stick bird feeders!

Fun Fridays! are still going strong and Big Sister just revealed to me today that Friday is now in competition with Sunday for her favorite day of the week. We have been playing Math Bingo, dice games, and more instead of our formal math curriculum. We’ve also made popsicle stick birdhouses, crafts, art and co-ordinated our science experiments to fall on Fridays. We wrap Fridays up with pizza and movie.

A very welcome improvement in our daily schedule has been the introduction of a formal read aloud time after lunch.  While I am a firm believer in the importance of books, reading, and reading aloud, this one had really slipped since the arrival of Baby Sister. From very early on Baby Sister was a book grabber and a poor napper, so reading aloud got the short end of the stick and was relegated to an only at bedtime activity. But for the last few weeks we have had success with curling up on the couch with a few good books for 15-30 minutes after lunchtime clean-up. Baby Sister crawls around on the floor contentedly and we snuggle and read. It seems like a great calm, quiet, segue-way to our daily afternoon Quiet Time.  The podcasts from The Read Aloud Revival have been a great encouragement to me, and really got me re-committed to this practice.

Homeschool organization in a simple spiral notebook - www.learningmama.comAnother thing that has been working really well for us is a simple organizational tool – a spiral notebook.  When I first heard of this method, I was very skeptical that it would contribute anything worthwhile to our days. The basis of the system is to set up a daily checklist for each child in a simple spiral notebook. The child completes the items on the list and checks them off. Very simple. I didn’t think it would work for us because almost everything we do is teacher dependent.  We don’t do a lot of workbook or busywork type activities in our day. BUT I have found that my daughter really enjoys seeing the day’s activities (even housework!) laid out for her. For the first two weeks, she was really into checking each activity off the list but the novelty seems to have worn off.  It does however provide her with the ability to be independent about some things such as her math corrections and beginning the required reading for science. It is also helping me to be organized the night before and to make sure I’m ready for each day’s activities. I am also writing short, fun notes to my daughter and she is illustrating her day with stick figures of her doing each subject. Additionally, I’ve added three independent activities to the checklist that I can’t believe I didn’t require sooner: 15 minutes each for independent reading (from our book basket), reading to Little Sister (her own selection), and piano practice. The payoff here is that Little Sister is getting even more read aloud time, Big Sister is getting through all the awesome supplementary reading suggestions from SOTW’s corresponding history and literature selections and daily piano practice is actually happening. Don’t you just love it when something so simple works so well?

Crayon etching for art class www.learningmama.comWe’Watercolour pencils www.learningmama.comve also added a time for “art class” to our weekly activities. So far we have done a crayon etching and pencil water colours thanks to some Youtube inspiration. A few years ago I purchased Drawing with Young Children and I’m planning on starting the lessons from that next week.

Do you know what else is working really well for this mama lately too? The positive numbers on the thermometer, the longer days and the beautiful sunshine! I’m sure we will be adding nature study, and lots of outside play very soon!

This post contains affiliate links.


Three Keys to Maintaining Sanity While Homeschooling

I won’t pretend that I’m an experienced homeschool mom who has “been there, done that”. There are some wonderful ladies who have decades of home education under their belts, and I sit in awe of their sage advice and experience. I’m a mama to only three blessings, only girls,  and have only been in this parenting gig for 8 years and home educating for 3. I have not BEEN there. But I am here now.  So I thought I would share what I do know, and what has been working for me so far in these short seasons. Maybe you are just starting out on your journey of teaching and discipling your children, or maybe you are thinking that you would like to homeschool but you just couldn’t because (insert myriad possible personal inadequacies here).

Maybe you’re just starting out on your journey of teaching and discipling your children, or maybe you are thinking that you would like to homeschool but you just couldn’t because (insert myriad possible personal inadequacies here).

This is how I survive and maintain my sanity as a homeschool mom. These habits help me to not only survive but remain sane and to even thrive depending on the particular season of parenting I’m in.  Because surviving my children’s childhoods is not really the goal.

Maintain a Daily Quiet Time

Three Simple Keys: Quiet Time
Playmobile is a popular quiet time toy.

This is something I stumbled upon somewhat accidentally when my oldest gave up napping –which she incidentally did immediately preceding the birth of her younger sister. This younger sister is the one who screamed constantly when not being a) held, b) nursed, c) jostled or d) all of the above. She went months of sleeping in seldom more than 45 minute increments.  So I trained Big Sister early on that a daily quiet time was non-negotiable.

Every afternoon she was to spend an hour in her room, by herself, playing quietly.  I supplied her with special toys which are not played with at other times. Toys that are not safe around babies.

I reinforced this new habit with a small reward for a successful quiet time. No, I’m not above bribery! I think it can definitely be useful when establishing a new habit. Successful quiet time is defined as staying in your room, not calling mommy, and cleaning up when it is finished. She even resumed having naps (which she denied) for periods of time and would accidentally fall asleep while playing.

Three Simple Keys: Quiet Time
It’s quite rare now that she’s 4 that Little Sister falls asleep during quiet time. Here she has fallen asleep listing to her stories.

Little Sister stopped having regular naps at approximately the same age Big sister did (3 years) and she transitioned even more easily into the quiet time routine. She already knew this activity was expected as her sister had been having a regualar daily quiet time all along.

These days, our daily quiet time provides a much-needed break for this introverted mama who gets quite over-stimulated by all the happy (and not so happy) noises, questions, and constant activity of young children. Mama spends this time reading, cleaning or eating chocolate 😉

Quiet time insures a break for mommy now, and children who grow up with the skill of being comfortable with their own company.

Start Training Young

Three Simple Keys: Start Training Young
Big Sister started learning to clean the bathroom at the age of 4.

One of the biggest challenges for many homeschool moms is the struggle to maintain some semblance of organization, nutrition and cleanliness in a home that is being used heavily all day, every day. We may even be more challenged in this area than the working mom because at least the working mom’s children are out messing up a school or daycare during her working hours.

A homeschooling home is a home that is fully lived in. The dishes, crumbs, and sticky fingers produced by three meals per day plus snacks. Toys strewn about. Books. More books. Bathrooms that receive heavy use by unskilled and rather short people.

One of the most useful things you can do is to train your children from a young age that caring for the home is everyone’s responsibility.  Start with your toddlers while they still think everything you do is fun! You might be surprised what they will be capable of by the time they are five years old if you start now. Good habits will also take you far.

In our house, no one gets breakfast until they have dressed, made their beds, and put their dirty clothes away. Each activity or toy must be cleaned up before the next one (or meal) begins. Small messes are so much less intimidating than big ones!

I really appreciated my previous efforts in training my girls when my youngest was born. Even if I haven’t managed to get to my big cleaning jobs, my girls were able to empty the dishwasher each morning, clean the bathroom sinks, counters, and mirrors, keep their toys and bedrooms fairly neat, and ensure that the house was presentable. Did I mention that our house was put up for sale when I was one week post partum?! Yeah, that was fun.

Children who participate in household chores make mama’s work easier, feel good about their contribution to the family and learn valuable life skills.

Plan Your Meals in Advance

Three Simple Keys: Meal PlanningI know there are some super organized moms who have a six week rotation of 30 different meals that they prepare for their families and have the pre printed grocery lists to go with it. They have inventory checklists taped to the door of their freezers so they know exactly what is in it at all times.

I am most definitely not that woman.

I can’t even think of 30 different meals, and there are only probably around 10 that I can make. I am not a big planner, nor am I a good cook.  But I can almost guarantee you that if I wait until 4:15 every afternoon to try to figure out what to feed my family I am going to get stressed out.

So feel free to take your meal planning as far as you would like, depending on your needs, personality and preferences. Like in everything else, I keep things simple and do the bare minimum: plan what will be eaten for dinner the next day at least the night before.

Ideally, at the beginning of each week, I make a list of what we will have for dinner each night. I have a chalkboard in the kitchen that I use for this purpose and by doing this I eliminate the stress of trying to decide at the last minute what to make.

Combined with my minimalist meal planning, I have found two specific things to be of particular help: finding a few crockpot meals that my family loves, and doubling (or tripling) some of my regular meals for the freezer. For example, we almost always have crockpot meals on Tuesdays at our house because we are away from home all afternoon until 5:00, and then have to leave again at 6:00. So when we get home from our homeschool co-op and library visit, all we have to do is set the table and make rice, pasta or any other quick thing that we want to add on to the crockpot meal.

Having even a loose plan for meals and food prep can significantly decrease your stress levels while ensuring your family doesn’t eat out of a can or box every night.3 Simple Keys: habits to help you maintain your sanity while homeschooling!

Here are a few ideas and resources you might find useful in establishing these practical habits in your home:

For Quiet Time:

  • Quiet Time Boxes. Teaching Mama has some good ideas:
  • Audio Books. Big Sister loves listening to Jim Weiss’ audiobooks which we have found at our local library and more recently for free to download with our library’s subscription to Freegal Music. We don’t have a membership but have heard awesome things about Audible as well.  The girls have also enjoyed the audio version of The Jesus Storybook Bible and various other audiobooks on CD that our family owns or we have borrowed from the library. Adventures in Odyssey and Paws & Tales are also popular.

For Training Children to Contribute the Home:

  • Working Together is a great book that influenced my personal view of training children to work alongside you and find joy in working as a team. There are lots of ideas and inspiration on how to set up a system that will work for your family.

For Meal Planning

  • Websites such as Plan to Eat.
  • The Nourishing Home  has tips on how to meal plan, wonderful, healthy recipes as well as a weekly meal plan for all three meals of the day.


How do you stay sane while homeschooling? Can you share any tips on how you keep your homeschooling household running smoothly?



Our 24 Family Ways: A Review


Almost 2 years ago when I was wondering how to add some Bible and devotional content to our homeschooling days, I borrowed this lovely book from a friend. First off, I am a big fan of borrowing books/curriculum before making any purchases whenever possible! And it’s great to borrow from a friend who can share their experiences with a product to help you decide if it is a good fit for you.  I had been really appreciating Sally Clarkson’s ministry through her blog and her book, The Mission of Motherhood. She references her husband’s book and these Clarkson family “ways” in various places in her blog and books.


So I borrowed my friend’s copy of Our 24 Family Ways and thought it looked great! When my oldest was younger, I felt that reading a picture Bible (we use The Jesus Storybook Bible) and memorizing verses was sufficient. As she got older though, I wanted to move beyond just the “Sunday school stories” into more Bible study and character training.  This book seemed perfect for that, and even has colouring pages to go along with each lesson. So I purchased my own copy, and we have been using it for about a year and a half now. We are currently on Way 15 of 24.

Our 24 Family Ways is written by Clay Clarkson, who along with his wife Sally, founded Whole Heart Ministries. I also have a copy of his homeschooling book Educating the Wholehearted Child which is on my list of books that I have found most influential in my own homeschooling journey. The book’s layout is simple, with each Family Way having a picture, a story and 5 days of scripture readings and ideas for discussion questions, conversations and praying.


Clarkson uses his “ARTS” outline for each Way:

  • A – Ask a Question: suggestions for questions are included each day to stimulate discussion and gain interest.
  • R – Read the Bible: Bible passages applicable to each day’s topic are chosen to read aloud.
  • T – Talk about it: Questions are provided in relation both to the scripture’s content as well as life application.
  • S – Speak to God: Each day is completed with prayer.

We’ve really enjoyed using this devotional! We bought my  oldest daughter her own Bible last year, and she has had some practice looking up the verses, and she usually asks if she can read the passage aloud for us. I really love to see her growing and learning like this. It has also been adaptable for even Little Sister who was three years old when we started. She still doesn’t participate much with the Bible reading and discussion, but she is memorizing each of the ways and enjoys colouring the colouring pages.  I really like the Family Ways and have found memorizing them to be quite useful for training and correction throughout the day. I find myself saying “Big Sister, we use that build up and bless others” or “Little Sister, we treat others with kindness, gentleness and respect” and the girls knowingly nod their heads because they understand and remember those lessons.


While we did step away from our circle and Bible time when things got crazy here last spring with the birth of Baby Sister, things are settling down and we are getting back to a more regular routine again. We picked up where we left off with Our 24 Family Ways a few weeks ago and are enjoying it again!

Our 24 Family Ways: A Review - www.learningmama.com

As we are nearing the end of the devotional, I am already starting to look around and see what is available for us to dive into next. I’ve briefly looked at Grapevine Studies, and think my girls might enjoy “Stick figuring their way through the Bible” but I definitely think we will come back to Our 24 Family Ways when Little Sister is older and Baby Sister is old enough to join in!

What about you? Do you have any suggestions for Bible studies or devotionals suited to young children? I’d love to hear about what you like and why!


This post contains affiliate links. I purchased this book myself however, and have not been compensated in any way for this review. It is my own honest opinion.


Learning Mama’s “Day in the Life of a Homeschooler”

Here’s a “normal” day in the life of this homeschooling mama of three girls aged 9 months-7years. I’ve been calling my  homeschooling style “Classically Eclectic Slacker” or something like that.


It’s 6:40 am and Baby Girl wakes up. She was up at 2:00 am and 4:30 am, but now she is up for the day. Daddy goes to get her and leaves this tired mama to get a few more winks. He drops her off in bed with me at 7:00 am  as usual so he can get his shower and get ready for work. I nurse the baby in bed and pretend I don’t have to get up soon. It’s not long before I’m having my turn in the shower. I’m interrupted in the shower by my oldest daughter who has been reading an animal encyclopedia and feels she just has to tell me the funniest thing! Something about a fish that changes from female to male after migrating upstream to the ocean or something. I fein interest while trying to wake myself up. I then get dressed and check to see if the girls have started their morning routine. Their unmade beds and laundry on the floor indicate that as usual, the morning may not go as smoothly as mama would like.

8:00 am and I am making breakfast. Daddy has left for work. Big Sister (7) and Little Sister (4) have A Day in the Life learningmama.comemptied the dishwasher. Actually, Big Sister and Snow White did, but I send Snow White back upstairs to change before breakfast.  Big Sister is now cleaning the bathroom sinks and counters. Little Sister has requested blueberries in the Cream of Wheat this morning, but as soon as it is cooked she’s crying that she doesn’t want it/doesn’t like it.  Big sister is annoyed because she wanted mangoes in it. It’s shaping up to be a fabulous day! Big sister has her nose in a book at the breakfast table as usual, this A Day in the Life learningmama.comtime it is about volcanos.  We review our memory verses using the Memory Box System from Simply Charlotte Mason. We try to do this at each meal, and it is a great system and is working even for the four year old. Table is cleared, teeth are brushed and we are ready to start our day!



9:00 am Circle Time! We are making good time today, and have time to have a little circle time together before starting our morning learning. If we are running late and Baby Sister needs her nap already, we have DSC_4604to skip it. Baby sister typically takes only 30 minute naps so I need to do any one on one teaching while she is asleep in case it’s our only opportunity for the day. So we do some stretches, action songs, and try to get the wiggles out before settling down for our Bible Time. I read from The Jesus Storybook Bible, about Zaccheus, and then play the song “Zaccheus Was a Wee Little Man” for fun. Then we move on to Our 24 Family Ways which we have been working through off and on for about a year. This week we are working on “We take initiative to do all our own work without being told”. We discussed AGAIN making beds, getting dressed, clearing dishes etc without being reminded by mama. Hopefully it will stick one of these days! We finish up by praying together.

9:30 am Table Time. It’s time for Baby Girl to take a nap, so I set the girls up with quiet and independent activities. Big Sister A Day in the life learningmama.comdoes Math while little sister works on puzzles. Baby Girl is asleep by 9:45 am and I have just enough time to do a quick writing lesson (Writing With Ease Level 2) and get our white board set up for spelling (All About Spelling Level 1) when Baby Girl wakes up. Total nap time less than 30 minutes! JpegShe does make our days challenging! We continue on with spelling while she crawls around.




10:45 am I start lunch prep (quiche) with the help of Little Sister while Big Sister works on Science (Apologia’s Exploring Creation with Astronomy). Then she runs off to play Barbies with her sister and I change a diaper and sit down to nurse.

A Day in The Life learningmama.com

12:00 I realize that I forgot to take the chicken out to thaw for supper. Oups. I start trying to think of an alternate plan. Big Sister is reading and Little Sister is listening to Robert Munsch audiobooks. I sneak some leftovers for my own lunch so I don’t have to eat while the baby yells at me from her highchair. One bite for baby, one bite for mama is not fast enough for her.

12:20 Lunch My girls ate 3/4 of a Quiche all by themselves. It’s their absolute favorite lunch.

A Day in the Life learningmama.com







1:30 Quiet Time! I managed to get the kitchen cleaned up before bringing the baby up for her nap so I’ll A Day in the Life learningmama.comhave this time to myself 🙂  The big girls are listening to stories on tablets while playing quietly. Big Sister is listening to a Jim Weiss audiobook in my room and Little Sister is listening to a Paws & Tales podcast in hers.  I’ve got my cup of tea, laptop, a book and a chocolate bar. All is quiet and mama is happy!  Baby Sister wakes up 40 min into her nap, but she is still tired and nurses A Day in the Life learningmama.comand then allows me to put her back to bed for a change. The big girls don’t want to leave their playing and stories until around 3:00 pm and by then I have their valentine card crafts set up on the table for them to assemble. Big Sister spends a good hour arranging everything just so and glueing but Little Sister gets tired of her project after about 5 minutes and just starts cutting scrap papers to shreds for fun.

PicMonkey Collage33:25 pm I’ve got a new plan for supper.  We’ll do our usual Friday night pizza and have the chicken tomorrow instead. I start the dough in the Kitchenaid. Supper must be eaten early tonight as Big Sister has piano lessons with Daddy at 5:40 and it’s a good 20 minute drive away. By 4:00 pm I’m nursing a sucky baby and trying to grate cheese/roll dough/assemble the pizza.

5:00 pm Supper is started without Daddy who hasn’t arrived from work yet. By 5:20 pm he’s come, eaten, and gone with Big Sister.  Little Sister and I clear the table, and start baking Daddy’s birthday cake.

PicMonkey Collage4

6:30 It’s bath for Baby Sister  and then I set Little Sister up with a snack and Leap Frog’s Letter Factory. She watches and eats while I nurse the baby and put her to bed.  Big Sister and Daddy return home from piano, and then it’s pj’s, teeth, stories and bed for the big girls too. We read  some Beatrix Potter, and everyone is tucked in by 8:10 pm.

And then I spend most of the evening on the couch as usual.  I finish assembling Little Sister’s Valentines and then pack up the cards for our Valentine’s party with our little homeschool group tomorrow.  I’m usually in bed between 9:30 and 10:30 but Daddy had a particularly unpleasant day at work so we chat and he vents. We end up staying up until almost midnight. Yawn.


So that’s a somewhat typical day around here. We don’t make cards and cakes everyday. Sometimes we have tea parties, meet with our homeschool club,  have a co-op French class or a library visit. Once in a while we take a field trip with friends. But this is how we roll 75% of our time when we have days entirely at home. And I like it!

A Day in Our Homeschool


The Homeschool Post

Fun Friday!

A recent addition to our math lessons (pun intended!) is Fun Friday.  On Fridays we will take a break from our usual lessons and do some of the more fun type of math activities. Today my oldest did an addition colour by number page while her little sister matched the Math U See blocks to a page and coloured them. I recently discovered that we had shelved the Test & Activity Book from our Alpha curriculum without so much as looking inside it. Now that we have moved on to Beta, I think we can use it as a sort of fun review of what we have already learned. We are also going to add in UNO, dice games, math Bingo, and anything else I can think of.

Fun Fridays-Math U See-Learning Mama

Fun Friday www.learningmama.com
I think she got tired or bored of colouring long before completing this sheet!

We finished off our morning by getting caught up on the History Chapter we didn’t complete LAST week. We didn’t even do a chapter this week. We finished up our chapter on the rise of Islam with the Five Pillars of Islam and then worked on the “supplemental” lapbook. We are a few chapters behind with that one and my daughter did the page for Constantinople today while I read Otto of the Silver Hand. Maybe we will continue to work on History this afternoon? It’s a favorite around here and always considered fun!

HIstory with Usborne Internet Links learningmama.com
Checking out the Usborne internet links from the pages on Islam



Do you have any favorite fun math activities that you would like to share with us?


Ditching What Doesn’t Work and Finding What Does

When we began our first-grade spelling lessons last year, it took me a little while to figure out that what we were doing wasn’t working for my daughter. Did she protest when I brought out her spelling book? No. Did she drag her heels and take forever to complete her work? No. Was she enjoying her lessons? Yes, she was. So what could possibly be the problem? While I want my children to enjoy their learning, a smiling face isn’t always the best indication of a successful learning experience. You see, learning has to actually happen!

This post contains affiliate links. Please see my disclosure policy for details.

When choosing and planning our studies, I always consult my trusty copy of The Well Trained Mind. I’ve already mentioned that I love this book and it has greatly influenced my educational philosophy and material selection. I lean heavily toward the classical camp of homeschooling, but I also appreciate many of the other approaches especially Charlotte Mason.  Anyways, I think that the WTM really misses the boat on this one. My copy, the newest edition available, recommends Spelling Workout.  The problem we had using Spelling Workout was that there didn’t appear to be much rhyme or reason to how it was teaching spelling. And that it wasn’t really TEACHING anything actually. It seems to be your standard workbook and might work well for some kids who are already good spellers. But it failed to teach my daughter ANY spelling rules and suffice it to say that my daughter had zero retention of any of the material covered. I would hazard a guess that if the WTM is ever revised a fourth time it will recommend All About Spelling.

I must say that I was totally wrong in believing that a child who reads well, loves books and is exposed to quality literature will automatically spell well.

So after our SWO flop last winter, I started looking into other options. There is a lot of buzz in homeschool circles about All About Spelling. Everywhere I looked people were recommending it and All About Learning Press’ reading curriculum All About Reading.  I hesitated in purchasing the curriculum though, for two reasons: the first being that I had never seen or handled the curriculum myself; and second that it is a very costly program. Spelling Workout A can be purchased for $18, and each subsequent workbook is approximately the same cost. To get started with AAS in comparison, you need to plunk down $29 for a starter kit and then $38 for Level 1. Subsequent levels are in the ballpark of $50 each! And then you have to factor in shipping from a curriculum supplier as it is not available on Amazon.

So I spent the winter trying to do spelling on my own. I have zero knowledge of spelling rules and am myself not a great speller. There are graded spelling lists available online, and these I taught in the method commonly in use in public schools (according to a friend who is both a parent of young elementary children and a public school teacher). At the start of the week, I would do a pretest. My daughter would get approximately 5-7 out of 10 words correct. On day two she would copy the words. On day three she would alphabetize the list. On day four she would build the words with letter tiles. I was trying to add some multi-sensory experience to our learning a la AAS 😉 I used these tiles. On the final day, I would re-test her. And this is where it got interesting – she would get the same or almost the same score as she had on the first day BUT SHE DIDN’T ALWAYS SPELL THE SAME WORDS WRONG! She was often spelling words incorrectly that she had previously gotten right. And vice versa.

So after several months, we quit spelling altogether and I just kept thinking about AAS.

This fall I had the opportunity to purchase the AAS Basic Interactive Kit (starter kit) and Level 1 used. So I jumped on it and we have been enjoying it. And most importantly, my daughter is LEARNING from it. So am I, and that my friends, is what this learning mama is all about! We have cruised through Level 1 which I think is about a first-grade level, and are one lesson away from being finished. So without further ado, I will show you how we have been using our All About Spelling Level 1:

Ditching What Doesn't Work and Finding What Does - Our experience switching to AAS from Spelling Workout. www.learningmama.com
We begin with REVIEW

We begin each lesson by reviewing our Phonogram Cards, Sound Cards, and Key Cards. Then we review 10 spelling words from our cards in the “mastered” section. I try to shuffle them well so there is a good mix of all the recent rules we have learned.

Ditching What Doesn't Work and Finding What Does - Our experience switching to AAS from Spelling Workout. www.learningmama.com
Pleased with her hard work!
Ditching What Isn't Working and Finding What Does - our experience switching from Spelling Workout to All About Spelling www.learningmama.com
First step of learning a new concept – using the letter tiles to build the words

Next, I demonstrate the new teaching using the letter tiles. The letter tiles are really great – read all about why they are so great on the All About Learning Press Blog. Then my daughter practices a few words using the tiles. The instructor’s guide specifies that the student is to spell all 10 words in the list using the tiles before moving on to writing them by hand. Since my daughter is finding the words really easy and doesn’t like using the tiles very much, I allow her to move along quite quickly to writing. She loves the dry erase markers!

Ditching What Doesn't Work and Finding What Does - Our experience switching to AAS from Spelling Workout. www.learningmama.com
After learning the new concept using the tiles, we practice with the markers. Today we learned to make words plural by adding s or es. Here she is erasing the e she added in error to the word “truck”.

The last step in each lesson is dictation. At this point I dictate to her a few of the phrases, she repeats it back to me and then writes them down. This is working really well for her as we have just begun dictation in both our writing and grammar programs. Ditching What Doesn't Work and Finding What Does - Our experience switching to AAS from Spelling Workout. www.learningmama.com And when we are all done, my daughter enjoys making a picture out of the words! She decorates the board to her heart’s content and then little sister has the fun of erasing the whole thing.Ditching What Doesn't Work and Finding What Does - Our experience switching to AAS from Spelling Workout. www.learningmama.com And just in time, look what came in the mail this week! Level 2 &  3 which I ordered from The Learning House:Ditching What Doesn't Work and Finding What Does - Our experience switching to AAS from Spelling Workout. www.learningmama.com Ditching What Doesn't Work and Finding What Does - Our experience switching to AAS from Spelling Workout. www.learningmama.com Here is the whole Level 2, complete with all the cards I get to separate and assemble into my review box. I didn’t get to do that last time as the previous owner had done it for me. My daughter is curious what the “jail” is for. Is it for words she keeps spelling wrong? Or is for words that break the spelling rules? We will soon find out!

And it is worth noting that this curriculum is quite popular and holds it’s value well so I should be able to resell it when we are done. It is almost completely non-consumable as well, with the exception of the progress charts and certificates, which we don’t use anyway. So the cost of the program will be spread out between my three girls.  I would have had to re-purchase SWO workbooks for each child, so in the end, this one might actually be cheaper, and re-sellable!

Update:  I’ve now been using AAS for several years and am midway through Level 4 with my oldest (fourth grade) and preparing to start my first grader. It’s an excellent program — and it is now included in the recommended resources for the fourth edition of The Well-Trained Mind.

It’s All Fun and Games…

Along with my “second grader” I am also “schooling” an active 4 year old.  If we were public schooling, she would have started JK this fall which is now full day, every day school. But that’s not how we roll around here 😉

At the beginning of September, this fun loving, free spirited gal could only identify a handful of letters of the alphabet. In contrast, her big sis at this age new all of her letters and “what they say”.  I wasn’t exactly worried, but I did feel a little uncertain. I felt a little guilt that this sweet gal of mine doesn’t get near the amount of attention and one on one time that big sister did. She didn’t get half the read aloud time. To my dismay, she often gets just one little story from Mama a day. Big sister has loved books from birth and we read HOURS a day. So I was wondering if this slower start to reading and less voracious appetite for books was due to my neglect or if it is just a difference in development or preference.

I am so pleased however, and encouraged, that within the span of 3 short months my little gal has almost perfected letter recognition and sounds!  Did we start a phonics program? Buy some boxed curriculum? Nope!  All that has changed in our day to day around here is once a week she helps me give baby sister a bath while big sister is at  piano lessons. And while baby splashes to her heart’s content, she plays with the foam alphabet letters putting them into alphabetical order and telling me what sounds they make. She also watches Leap Frog Letter Factory while I put baby sister to bed. Ahem. Carry on.

So what do we do for preschool around here?

Not much.  When Big Sister was preschool age we were reading A LOT. I used booklists from Ambleside online, Sonlight and Five in a Row/Before Five in a Row. We spent hours a day reading. Once she had her letter sounds all figured out, we started in with Bob Books, but that’s as intense as it got. My current preschooler is not getting all that attention from Mommy due to my needing to work with her older sister and take care of her ever wakeful baby sister. Although she would love nothing more than to play all day (which would be OK with me) she doesn’t like being alone so she joins her big sister at the table for all of her school time. We call this “Table Time”. Here she works on worksheets, makes puzzles, colours, plays with play-dough, or uses some of the lovely learning kits/busy bags I have put together using the help of Pinterest.

Don’t you just love Pinterest?!


preschool learningHere are the links to the preschool/kinder booklists we have used. I continue to use the Classical Education Loop’s list of 1000 Good Books for my second grader as well as the books listed in the Ambleside online curriculum:

 Five in a Row

Before Five in a Row

Sonlight PreK 

Sonlight Kindergarten: 

Classical Education Support Loop’s List of Good Books:  

Ambleside Online Year 0


Also invaluable resources for helping you find good quality literature for your children are the following books:

Honey for a Child’s Heart By Gladys Hunt.

The Read Aloud Handbook   By Jim Trelease

What to Read When By Pam Allyn

“Mom, can we do History?”

We’ve just begun the second volume of Susan Wise Bauer’s Story of the World. My original plan was to complete one volume each year. We would begin in first grade and make our way through history from the ancients all the way to our current times in a four year cycle as out lined in The Well Trained Mind (I love that book!). SOTW however, is 42 chapters long, and with a move, a pregnancy and a new baby all during the “school year” we didn’t complete it until just before Christmas. And we school year round.  So while we will be studying history in chronological order, I doubt we will cover it in 4 years. At this rate, it will be more like 6 years! History is the most favoured subject around here though, so we don’t want to miss a thing.

Story of the World is really a great curriculum – it can be as simple or in depth as you want it to be depending on the age, maturity or interest of your students. For a very simple, story based approach, the text could be read chapter by chapter.  We typically read one chapter a week and complete the review questions section by section. Then my daughter narrates each section to me as I write it down, and then she illustrates it. The activity book also presents so many options to take your learning to deeper levels. To continue with a simply book/literature based approach, the activity guide provides extensive book lists for further historical or literature reading.  To incorporate geography, use the maps and mapwork provided. There are also numerous colouring pages to give little hands something to do while you read the chapters or the supplemental reading listed. For fun, and to help the children “experience” history, there are also numerous activity suggestions some of which require special supplies (such as building clay tablets, making your own papyrus or mummifying a chicken) or everyday things you already have (building a pyramid out of legos). There are even recipes and costume suggestions so your family can experience an African/Indian/Monk’s feast.  I must confess I haven’t done any of the more exciting suggestions due to my own laziness.

This year I purchased the recommended colouring book A Coloring Book of the Middle Ages which I think will be well received by my girls. I also bought The Usborne Encyclopedia of World History  (internet linked) which I wish I had last year when we were doing the ancients.  We’ve already used some of the links and my oldest has really enjoyed the online history crossword puzzles listed there.

A final addition to our SOTW history studies this year is the lapbook I found online. Lapbooks for all four volumes are available from the blog Carrot Top x 3  It doesn’t require very much work on the part of my second grader, but it will give her something to cut, colour and glue while I’m doing read alouds.

We are really looking forward to learning all about the middle ages this year using the above mentioned resources, and I’ll be sure to post updates and pictures of our learning as we go along!



Story of the World – Volume 2: The Middle Ages 


Favorite Curriculum 2016

Back in the Groove!

I love our boring ordinary life!  We took two full weeks off for the holidays this year and I’m glad to say that our first week back to the “same old, same old” has gone well. Baby Girl took decent naps, we got a lot of our table work completed and we even had some fun!  Our usual Friday morning homeschool group was cancelled due to a large snowfall in the weather forecast but we enjoyed the day anyways. Playing in the snow, enjoying “lemon ice”, tea time and a science experiment seemed to have more than made up for the initial disappointment.

Exploring water currents as the hot water rises above the cold.
Exploring water currents as the hot water rises above the cold.