Am I as Smart as a First Grader?

Often, in the course of homeschooling, I learn things I somehow missed (or possibly, forgot!) in my earlier life’s education. Sometimes it might be a historical fact here or there, a reminder of a math rule or formula which, frankly, I’d just as soon have forgotten, or perhaps an amazing new animal factoid.

Usually such discoveries accompany study with one of the older children. But today I was delighted with a fascinating new story from, of all humble places, my first grader’s latest reader:

small hill of fire

Spoiler Alert!!!

Well, hey, I hate to steal the excitement away from anyone else!

It’s all about a Mexican farmer who is plowing in his cornfield one day when he just happens to witness the birth of a new volcano. This volcano came to be known as Paracutin and it’s inception in 1943 was a huge shock to firstly, this farmer (it sorta ended up destroying his cornfield if you hadn’t already guessed) and ultimately to the people of the two towns which it engulfed.

The event was momentous enough that Paracutin eventually became known as one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World, but, it turns out (and I also learned this today) that periodically, the current wonders become old hat and are voted off the island, and new wonders are voted in.

Regardless, I was surprised I hadn’t heard this story before, and after we finished the book, Josiah and I spent some time together exploring the web for pictures and more information about Paracutin, of which there is plenty.




black white paricutin



fiery red




I suppose if I were a really fabulous homeschooling Mama, the art/science project which would naturally flow, heheheh, out of this little reading/history lesson would be a project where Josiah gets to research and build and then of course ERUPT his very own volcano.

Hmmm…must think on that.

The Week in Recap…

This past Monday morning marked our return to reality: Jay went back to work after a delightful week and half’s vacation, and the children I put away the wii, laser tag, and Christmas movies, taking out instead our books and school tasks.

It was a hard week.  No one (the Mommy included) was too thrilled about resuming school work.  There was weeping, there was whining, there was gnashing of teeth. Ok, maybe no real gnashing, but we got pretty close!

Despite all this, things were looking up somewhat by Friday, and overall, we ended up accomplishing more than I would have thought we could. And there was some brilliance in the midst of the hardship, for this week, I finally got smart, and put my $5 roll of Ikea paper to work for me!

Each day during schoolwork with the older children, I struggle with how to effectively spend time with Josiah and alternately, how to prevent him from bringing constant interruptions to the flow of learning that is going on. It is hard, and admittedly, it is my least favorite part of homeschooling. When I complain to Jay that I am missing out on serious quality time with my preschooler, he reminds me of mothers who work outside the home, and never see their preschoolers between the hours of 8 and 5. That usually puts a stop to my whining. Ahem.

Nevertheless…I have continued to look for creative ways to engage my four year old, and earlier this school year I brought home this beauty from Ikea to help….

At $14.99 this is worth every penny!! Josiah has used the chalkboard and whiteboard happily for several months.  But on Monday, I brought out the drawing paper roll…and the real fun began! He put on his “smock”, we chose paints and brushes, and used these awesome little paint containers that my wonderful MIL bequeathed to us. (Thank you, Grammy Ruth…these are sheer brilliance!)

See the holes in the top? Just perfect for your paintbrush. After some trial and error, I thinned out the tempura paints with some water, and they were perfect for creating fine art!

When Josiah was done painting each day, I covered every paint container with that sticky saran wrap and we were able to keep the same set of paints out all week for him to use. He had a blast, and was so proud to show off his paintings!

I really like his use of color and mood in this one. Very modern.

This is a more traditional rendering:

Oh he is so yummy…

Cave Paintings! or….The Differences Between Girls and Boys!

This year we are learning Ancient History from Story of the World


with a supplemental text for Abigail to study in addition,


plus a good variety of library reads and historical literature thrown in.

Unfortunately our six weeks of sickness have slowed our progress in this subject considerably. Though we are way past early man and well into Ancient Egypt, I have put off most of our hands-on projects this past month, and we are only now getting around to enjoying some of these fun activities.

Yesterday afternoon to the children’s delight, I promised them that we would create “cave paintings” !   We spent some time looking at several examples of actual paintings that have been discovered in well-preserved form:

This one is from a place in France called Lascaux:


and one from Altamira, Spain:


and another from Ancient France:


and finally another from Spain:


We did our best to note special characteristics of this early art form. Then we spent about an hour making some paintings of our own…and each child put their own special touches on their masterpieces.

Here they are, hard at work:


I bet if you look at the pictures below you can figure out which painting is the one our girlie drew, and which ones the boys drew.  When Abigail thinks of the Ancients, she envisions happy, peaceful animals in a calm, pastoral setting. The boys are clearly more interested in warfare and hunts. Even the 4 year old insists that there is a dead guy, arrows, and several hideous beasts depicted in his masterpiece.

Abigail drew some serene-looking horses: in the middle is the mother horse, there are cliffs either side; there is a cloud in the sky, and the mother’s colt runs below.


Jonathan’s painting depicts a bull, a stag, and a boar being hunted by5 cavemen. Two of the three animals are already dripping with blood…their deaths are imminent.


Nicolas’ drawing shows a buck being shot with arrows (notice the gory blood spurting from its neck), by a hunting party, and one poor soul who was done in by the buck before the animal was hit.  He’s the dude on the ground with x’s for eyes, in case you couldn’t tell.


Here is Josiah’s word-for-word description of his “cave painting”


“There is a dead person and it’s Indiana Jones’ dad, and then Indy went into the big deadly cave and only he survived it. And fire burned all the persons that were not brave and they got dead, and only Indiana Jones survived the cave.  And the dead person was alive again, and Indiana Jones went back home by “hisself”. Also his dad was going hunting. But then his dad was too tired, and so Indy was making some soup for his dad.  Then Indiana Jones’ dad quickly went back home, and he had some of the soup.”

Once again we smile at the innate differences God created in men and women and how they show up so clearly at such a young age!

My Precocious Pupil

So….we are loving our Singapore math curriculum. To better prepare for our year, I spent the summer months working with the two older children on a review of third and first grade, respectively. If you have not used Singapore math from the beginning, jumping in midway, especially if you are wanting to begin “on level”, present challenges. It is an excellent math program, but it requires mental conception and thought that other curriculums, even highly rated ones, do not.  Our school had suggested the summer work, and I am glad we did it; it has made the transition into this year much easier.

Mostly easy, I should say. When one is working with a little boy whose brain likes to skip ahead, there are some challenges, as I saw today.  This morning, Jonathan and I began a unit on “Subtraction With Renaming”, that is, borrowing ten ones from the tens place to stick in the ones place, borrowing ten tens from the hundreds place to stick in the tens place, and so on. We looked at our first problem:

92 – 68 = ?

And before I could even say anything, my child did the subtraction in his head. Brilliant, but you still have to learn this renaming “thing”, Jonathan.

So, I began explaining the concept that since we cannot take 8 from 2, we must “borrow” ten ones from the 3 in the next place over. And Jonathan stops me once again, this time with an almost incredulous-sounding, “But Mom, you don’t need to rename the 2 at all!! Don’t you know: 2 minus 8 is negative 6?!?”


Our Home School Plan

Several friends have asked me recently what exactly we are going to use for material in this home schooling adventure we are embarking upon. And while I joked in my previous entry about pretending to be prepared for our year, the truth is that I have been researching like a mad woman since April.

For the past five months I have eaten, slept and breathed home school curriculum, pored over catalogs, read countless reviews, asked every home schooler I know about their personal curriculum choices, compared and contrasted this and that program, and have really, really loved the entire process.  Those of you who know me well are aware that I live to research – it is glorious fun to me. Surely someday I will figure out how to market this ability to obsess on something so singularly, but for now hopefully my family will enjoy the benefits of my having peeked down every curriculum rabbit hole I could possibly find in an effort to put together the best plan (that I could create) for our particular family’s schooling needs this year.

I will ask my hunk of a webmaster to post fancy links and permanent pics of our various choices over to the right so that anyone who might be interested can see info about our curriculum choices long after this particular post is gone from this front page. And while it sounds rather arrogant to presume folks might be even the littlest bit interested in such granular information, well, the fact is, I have answered this question several times already, so surely there are more people out there who maybe will benefit from being able to access that.

That said, here’s the rundown of our current choices in no particular order. It should be stated up front that much, but not all, of what we are using was guided by suggestions and curriculum structure outlined in Susan Wise Bauer’s (for those of you who are wondering, no – I don’t think she’s related to Jack at all) text, The Well-Trained Mind. I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in learning more about Classical Education.

Bible: The Child’s Story Bible by Catherine F. Vos

Math: Singapore Math

Grammar: Rod and Staff, 4th and 2nd grades; Language Lessons for Little Ones, Volume 3 by Queen Homeschool, K

Spelling: Modern Curriculum Press’ Spelling Workout

Vocabulary: Wordly Wise, 4th and 2nd grades

History: beginning the year with a short study of Texas History from various sources including State History from a Christian Perspective ; spending the majority of the year completing Year 4 of our Classical History Cycle “1850 to Modern Times via Biblioplan. Biblioplan is a literature-based history program which allows you to tailor your material to the ages you are teaching, and provides a huge list of “living” books at all levels to choose from. Our “spine” will be Joy Hakim’s History of Us, Volumes 6-10.

Latin: Mars Hill’s Latin Primer, 4th grade

Composition: Susan Wise Bauer’s Writing With Ease

Science: outsourced via the Heard Science Museum and Wildlife Sanctuary

Poetry: Dickinson, 4th grade; Milne, 2nd grade; Stevenson, K

Art: outsourced via a local Co-op: Drawing I, 4th and 2nd grade; Young Children’s Art, K (I won’t provide links here, but email me for more information if you are local, and interested.)

Handwriting: Universal Publishing’s Manuscript Enrichment and Manuscript/Cursive, 2nd grade; Universal Publishing’s My Letter Book, K

Copywork: Copywork for Girls, 4th grade; Copywork for Little Boys, 2nd grade

Phonics/Reading for Nicolas: finish up 100 Lessons, begin Explode the Code, Reading Pathways, and ongoing memorization of all his phonograms to hopefully provide him a secure foundation for lifelong reading.

Literature: this is a vast subject so I will only skim the surface. and admittedly, I have not selected books for the entire year yet. Abigail (4th grader) and Jonathan (2nd grader) will study the same texts for the practical reasons of both time, and because Jonathan’s reading level and comprehension are almost equal to hers anyway. We will start with Five Children and It, follow that with Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and also enjoy Dickens’ A Christmas Carol before Christmas.

Nicolas, while welcome to listen to these above selections read aloud, will enjoy literature on a much younger level, and I am choosing to concentrate on Hans Christian Anderson, Kipling, and Aesop with him.

I have not included every last piece of material we will use this year, but if anyone has more questions I will gladly answer those. Truly, we are all so excited about this year at home. The older two children have worked hard on summer math since beginning of July, and Nicolas has progressed amazingly in his reading level/awareness in that time as well.  Aside from their scholastic improvements, we have already had countless opportunities to learn about how to better live together and love each other.

Though we have currently begun about half of what is listed above, the plan is to be at “full school” by Tuesday following Labor Day.  I’ll keep you posted about how it goes.

A Weekend of Wise-dom

I am just back from a trip to College Station: several friends and I traveled this weekend to attend a conference where Susan Wise Bauer was the keynote speaker. I went mostly thinking it would be a fun road trip “with the girls” and hoped to leave feeling more inspired as we prepare to embark on this home school journey.  And well, in reality, I have returned home feeling so blessed to have been able to sit under this woman’s teaching and instruction for even a few hours. As we said goodbye to each other at the end of our weekend, I gratefully hugged the necks of all my friends who really were the reason I ended up making the trip – had it not been for their enthusiasm I would never have gone.  (Had it not been for Jay’s delightful management of the household in my absence, I also would not have gone, so thanks, Honey for all you did to make this trip possible!)

While I won’t take the time now to elaborate on what I learned, suffice to say I would encourage anyone who has an opportunity to hear Susan speak to run, don’t walk!! to get in line for a ticket.  The wisdom she brings to the world of Classical Home Schooling is well worth your time and effort to go hear her.  Not only did she speak throughout the day on a variety of very pertinent topics, but she spent lots of time in between talks answering our granular questions about this and that curriculum, listening to our inquiries regarding our own particular situations with our children and what we are trying to accomplish this year, and offering thoughtful advice to help us navigate these home schooling waters with our own families.

You can read more about Susan Wise Bauer, as well as visit her blog at her website.

What a great weekend!!

Fun With Math

This is a picture of Josiah giving moral support to big brother Jonathan as he takes his placement exam for Singapore Math.


Nicolas tried to give moral support too, by way of looking over Jonathan’s shoulders and correcting his errors, much to Jonathan’s frustration. So even though it’s completely unnecessary, we gave Nicolas “his own test too” just for fun. (Because hey, math is fun, right Susanne? Well, Nicolas thinks so, too!)


The kids have used Saxon for the past several years at school, but Covenant is excited about introducing Singapore for the first time this fall, and we are making the switch too. After much work we got through the placement stuff


and have figured out where to start our own little pupils this year. Abigail loves the word problems and says she is looking forward to doing this new kind of math! Josiah is not so sure:


“Yeesh Mom! This math stuff sure is hard for a two year old to grasp!”

Big News

Yesterday I received my very own copy of what I am affectionately referring to as My Educational Bible in the mail. I’ve already read and re-read the library’s copy, but it is nice to have my own finally. And it will certainly be an indispensable part of our home schooling adventure this coming year. Yes, you read that right: The Hornes are going to home school next year!


After feeling conflicted about next year’s schooling plan for quite some time, it is a glorious thing to have finally made a decision. We are in no way pulling out of Covenant for lack of love – we are still crazy about our school. It is an amazing place, and we hope to be back there in the near future, but a set of complex circumstances as well as a huge change of heart as regards home schooling have led us here, and we are very excited about next year.

If I didn’t admit to being somewhat nervous about how it all happens I would be lying. But in the past several months I have discovered such a vast array of amazing resources in the Dallas area available to families who home school. The truth of the matter is that we will have to carefully pick and choose enrichment and other extras so that we actually have some down time here at home to get the basics done!!

I will certainly write more on this topic in the weeks and months to come. Those of you who have known me for some time and hear that we’ve decided to home school for a year may well think I’ve lost my marbles. So be it. I am looking at it as a way to savor some of the precious time with my children while they are still relatively young, and as an opportunity to try out some things we haven’t had time or resources to put toward in the past. We are looking forward to the journey!