Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Subjects 2013-2014

We are getting ready for our 2nd year of homeschooling here at Teach Academy! As you probably saw on my last post, I have purchased Homeschool Tracker Online. I finally finished adding all my courses for all the kids and am SO excited about how much easier it will be to keep track of everything. Last year, I did Lesson Plans every Sunday afternoon :-(
I am very excited that my Lesson Plans are DONE for the whole year!!! YIPPEE!!!

Here is a look at what we are using this year. I still really recommend the Cathy Duffy book 101 Top Picks for Homeschooling Curriculum, as I had to change only a few things from last year. For the most part, the picks from her book I made based on the kids' learning styles were right on. My only real changes were in Math and Religion (not even chosen from her book).

For Math, we ran kicking and screaming from the Spiral-Style learning! Both Grace's Saxon and Cian's Horizon were spiral-style learning. This is where you learn a new concept, then it switches back to another, than something different yet, repeat, repeat, repeat. While doing that you see the new bit added into your review. We had two problems with this:
1. Grace got very frustrated with it. She thinks like me, "lets make a list of things and do it in order." This math was like skipping all over an ordered, sequential list in her (and my) mind(s)!
2. For Cian, the Math 1 from Horizon was very easy, and for him the constant review was not needed. He got very bored of doing the same thing over and over. He is a "do it and I know it" guy.
Both kids have been switched to a Mastery Style Math companies. I chose Math Mammoth for Grace. It has gotten great reviews, is very cost friendly, and seems to be right on track for the grade level. Most importantly, it starts with one topic, finishes it, THEN moves to another one. The tests throughout provide plenty of review without overkill. For Cian, I chose Singapore Math. I went to a HUGE homeschooling conference and my Homeschool Idol, Cathy Duffy, presented on learning styles using MATH as the example! Perfect! I attended it and was pleased to hear that Singapore is both Mastery style AND challenging. (As I type I am realizing I never did a post on what I learned at that conference! Will have to do that in August!)

For Religion, I wanted a series that was a little more challenging and incorporated more Scripture so I switched from the company I used when I taught High School, and am now going to try the "Image of God" series by Ignatius Press.

Okay, enough of that!

As I entered them into my HST Online I added them to this pile!

  Here are their subjects for 2013-2014:

Grace - 4th grade:

Religion - Image of God- Grade 4
Math-  Math Mammoth 4A and 4B
Grammar- Easy Grammar - Grade 4
Spelling - Building Spelling Skills - Book 4
Reading- Reading Detective & Book Report weekly
Writing- Spectrum Grade 4
Typing- Jump Start Typing
Science- Noeo Science - Chemistry II & Science Detective CD-ROM
History- Portraits of American Girlhood, American Girl Historical Series, (2/3 done from last year)
History- A Child's History of the World
Geography- World Geography; I am using a combination of Confession of a Homeschooler's Expedition Earth AND Galloping the Globe book. They are actually VERY similar and cover almost the exact same things. I have merged the 2 curriculms into one that works for our family.
Spanish- La Clase Divertida
Critical Thinking- Building Thinking Skills Level 2; Mind Twisters Grade 4
Art- "How to Teach Art to Children" and an art class; will be using Global Art and Geography Through Art in our Geography courses also
PE- YMCA Classes and weekly Tumbling class
Music- Piano Is Easy series & "Boom-a-Tune" book 

Cian - 2nd grade:

Religion- Image of God- Grade 2
Math- Singapore Math 2A & 2B
Grammar- Easy Grammar - Grade 2
Phonics- Phonics for Young Catholics
Spelling- Building Spelling Skills - Book 2
Writing- Writing Grade 2 (Spectrum)
Handwriting- D'Nealian 2 - It starts with print, then moves to cursive.
Journaling- 1st writing prompts
Science - Noeo Science - Chemistry II
History- A Child's History of the World
Geography- World Geography; I am using a combination of Confession of a Homeschooler's Expedition Earth AND Galloping the Globe book. They are actually VERY similar and cover almost the exact same things. I have merged the 2 curriculms into one that works for our family.
Spanish- La Clase Divertida
Critical Thinking- Mind Benders, Mind Twisters, Building Thinking Skills I
Art- "How to Teach Art to Children" and an art class; will be using Global Art and Geography Through Art in our Geography courses also
PE- YMCA Classes and weekly Tumbling class
Music- Piano Is Easy series & "Boom-a-Tune" book

Zoe - K4:

Religion- Image of God- Grade Pre-K - B 
K4 from Confessions of a Homeschooler (MOST of this is good, using over half of this and supplementing with challenging Preschool Packs. I found some I really like on that have packs with pages from tot level all the way to 1st grade etc.. )
K4 Packs
My Preschool Learning Book Worksheets & other Supliments 
Let's Go Read - CD-ROM
Math- Jump Start Math CD for K
Critical Thinking- Mind Benders; Arthur's Thinking Skills CD-ROM
Handwriting- D'Nealian K 
Journaling- Journaling the Rebus Way
History- A Child's History of the World
Geography- World Geography; I am using a combination of Confession of a Homeschooler's Expedition Earth AND Galloping the Globe book. They are actually VERY similar and cover almost the exact same things. I have merged the 2 curriculms into one that works for our family.
Spanish- La Clase Divertida
Art- "How to Teach Art to Children" and an art class; will be using Global Art and Geography Through Art in our Geography courses also
PE- YMCA Classes and weekly Tumbling class
Music- Piano Is Easy series & "Boom-a-Tune" book

Ellison - Tot School:

Tot School Tot Packs on the 1+1+1+1 website.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

My Summer Organization Goals and Homeschool Tracker Online


Those of you who know me well know that I kinda like organization... Okay, that's not true, I LOVE organization. I like labels and lists and have a post it note app on my iPad I can't live without ;-)

I organized my summer into "To Do" projects and made a list about that. Actually, I made a blog about it too. See it here! I know, I'm kinda an organization dork, LOL! I'm pleased to announce I have accomplished all but one of those summer goals and am working on the last one as we speak! I will admit that I had a little extra motivation to get #2, 3 and 5 done as my father-in-law decided to come visit from Ireland for 3 weeks and I thought it might be good if he didn't have to trip over boxes of homeschool books to get to the downstairs bathroom, lol! I'm also super pleased with my yearbook and so bummed that I can't get it to share online :-(

Anyhow, onto the last goal which, as I mentioned, got bumped out of order- #4 Purchase Homeschool Tracker Online! I have purchased it and am currently logging in ALL my school subjects for this year (this is where not being an eclectic homeschooler [which I am] would have made it much easier!) I have literally spend about 20 hours in front of the computer logging in lots of little details. Please note, one does NOT have to be this detailed oriented, but it is how I wanted mine. I am probably about 1/2 to 2/3 done entering all my subjects for the kids. Here are some reasons why I picked this particular program, why the online version and why I am getting so detailed:

  • I picked the Homeschool Tracker Online (HST Online). Here is their website if interested.  I looked at lots of different ones out there including the My Well Planned Day online (since I used their paper book one last year). I heard from other homeschooling moms and read the best reviews about HST Online by a landslide! The other ones don't seem to measure up for the features this company has to offer.
  • I went with the online version. It would have been much cheaper to get the desktop one, however I have been putting a TON of time into this and want it to not get deleted, lost or trapped in my computer. You tech-savvy folks probably could update and move all your data from one PC to another. I probably could not. So instead of a one-time $49 for their desktop version, I am choosing to spend $60 a year. I know that sounds like a lot, but it breaks down to $5 a month and it is SO worth that to me. I like that it is stored in the cloud and can't be lost or deleted by me. Also, we don't switch PCs often, but given that I will be homeschooling for the next 17 years or so, I'd imagine at some point we will. I especially like that I can get it on my iPhone as I am on the go a lot and this way our lesson plans can be too. Grace has been saving her allowance to get an iPod touch and she when she has enough money, she will be able to see her assignments on it as well.
  • My main reason for this one over some others I looked at was that it saves your lesson plans so they can be used for your other children. I made detailed lesson plans last year in my Well Planned Day book, but I realized that at some point I might be looking at 3 different lesson plan books at a time trying to find old lessons for younger siblings! With HST Online they are all saved and I can just assign them in years down the road. So, yes, that is why I am doing all the detail now! It is like making one lesson plan for Grace, grade 4 then knowing it is done for Cian, Zoe and Ellie when they are grade 4. Obviously, there will need to be minor adjustments and some subjects I do different publishers for the different kids based on how they learn or how strong they are in the subject, but barring all those things, it will be a HUGE time saver for me across the years.
  • I am able to get all the lessons entered now during the summer then can either assign the whole year or take a couple minutes each week or month to sit down and assign them! Awesome! I spent lots of time writing out lesson plans each week last year and that is gone forever! Yippee!
  • I heart organization and this gives me plenty! I am now an oh-so-experienced 2nd year homeschooler, but what people that don't homeschool don't understand is that with multiple kids at multiple levels and sometimes multiple "grade" levels even per kid on the different subjects it is a lot to organize and keep track! When I was a high school teacher I had roughly 150 students each year. I taught usually 3 different subjects and taught 7 periods a day. I thought that was a lot until I began homeschooling last year! What I explained to someone last fall was now I am only teaching 3 [this year, 4] different kids, but teaching a bazillion subjects. ;-) Here is last years' course load - click here- I haven't even written out this year's yet. It'll be posted before August 19th- our start date though! HST Online will have all my subjects broken down into the number of lessons I wanted and I can assign it with a few short clicks. LOVE IT!
So that's my 2 cents for the day for what it is worth. If anyone is interested in getting their homeschool organized and want the lessons to be saved for future siblings I recommend this program. 

Best of luck to all my homeschool teacher and classroom teacher friends for a great new school year. I can't believe that later this week is AUGUST! Summer has flown by!

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Dora the Explorer Birthday Party - THE DECORATIONS

Here are the decorations from Ellison's 2nd birthday party:

 We used this cute Dora theme for her 2nd birthday party. Here is the wrapping paper that matched everything else. I am a sucker for matching stuff, lol!

The plates and napkins were of this print too! I have them photographed on my Dora party post about the food. It is here!

I got this cute sign that you can add on the age to it: Sorry for the bad camera work, "Appy Birthday" LOL!

This also matched the theme and was just too cute! It was a photo backdrop! Here is Ellison in front of it:

I also purchased a banner for my fireplace:

I made some cute little signs by doing a google search for "free Dora clipart" and here is what I made:

I also made water bottle labels for the party:

By far, Ellie's favorite was her "Big Dora." She asked for "Dora cake" and "Dora balloons" for her party. This is an airwalker balloon that was almost twice the size of Ellie!

You can see how big she is next to the normal balloons:

Notice they match too ;-)

A big hug for "Big Dora"

Carrying around her big Dora & pin the tail on Swiper during her party!

Dora the Explorer Birthday Party - THE GAMES AND ACTIVITES

For Ellison's 2nd Birthday we invited friends with many different ages of children. Because of the varying ages, I think we had kids ages 2-13 here, I tried to pick an activity everyone would enjoy:


I created a scavenger hunt map that looked like what Map shows Dora on Dora the Explorer. I put the map face on the outside and rolled it up to look like Map. 

For the inside I used free clip art or my own pictures and made the three locations the kids had to go to get their goodie bag items back. 
It said, "Oh no! Swiper has swiped the treat bags from Ellie's house and stolen all your goodies! Map says to get them back , take an empty treat bag, look behind troll bridge, at the chocolate tree and crocodile lake. Then, enjoy the bounce castle! YOU DID IT!"

Here is where the kids started their scavenger hunt. The first picture on their map was the empty goodie bags.

Here is a couple pictures of the birthday girl:
Heading out to the hunt with her Godmother
"Reading" her scavenger hunt map!

For the second stop, they had to go look behind troll bridge:

I had a bag that had Dora tattoos in one pocket and Dora goodies in the other pocket behind troll bridge:

After troll bridge, they went to the chocolate tree. I used the printable found at nickjr, enlarged it, colored it, and laminated it. Then I hung it on the tree to make it look like the ones in the Dora show.

 I think they were excited for this one:

Here they are running to the chocolate tree!

I had strung M&M packets and the kids each got to get their own packet off the tree:

Their next stop was Crocodile Lake. I used our little Dora pool and put laminated crocodiles in it. I didn't add water, but it would have been cute to do that! I had more goodies for them there including necklaces and bracelets, laminated Dora bracelets from the nickjr website: here is that link , and a coloring book which was also from nickjr. Click here for coloring book.

 Here they are climbing the "mountain" to Crocodile Lake:

Their final stop was the entertainment for the party: we rented a bounce house for Ellie's birthday fiesta:

Ellie was too scared to get in with the big kids!

 It had to be shut down only about an hour into the party as rain was approaching, so I took her outside and booted the big kids and she got in with big sister Zoe and bounced for a little bit. She LOVED it! Grrr rain! I almost sang the Dora, "Rain, Rain, Go Away" song! Major bummer! Here are a few cute pictures from her time in the bounce house:

The big kids had a lot of fun playing with their friends in their rooms so we didn't even get to our last game: Pin the Tail on Swiper the Fox. It is also a cute printable from

 Overall, a super fun day with great friends and family and one super adorable 2 year old Dora fanatic. 

Dora the Explorer Birthday Party- THE FOOD

Here are some super fun foods I made for Ellison's Dora the Explorer themed 2nd Birthday party:

I got the idea for food cards from lots of great websites and blogs I found through Pinterest. Too many to note here, so instead see them and follow me on my Pinterest board:

This is the menu I created and the food place cards I made for the Dora themed menu:

Guests started off getting Dora plates and their utensils here. The sign near the plates said, "Watch out for Swiper! He'll try to swipe your plate." 

I had a couple stations for the main. Here is Tico's Taco Bar:

I also had a Pulled Pork sandwiches station:

For the little kiddos, I had Stars' PBJ's:

The sides:

My mom's recipe for Fruit Salad. Get it? Abuela's? Nanny's? 

And just for fun...

And of course...... CAKE!!!!
I wish I could take credit for this one, but it is a store bought cake. :-)