What first grade looks like in our house, version Pete.0

Pete started first grade yesterday! If some of the titles sound familiar, it’s because we’re using a lot of the same publishers as we did last year. We seem to have hit on a good combination of curricula for our needs.

Social Studies

Story of the World: Volume 3

This year I decided to spare my voice a little and buy the book on audio. Turns out that was a great decision. I put the first chapter on Pete’s iPod, and he’s listened to it about 10 times since yesterday. I’m hoping that trend continues.


McRuffy Math 1

Pete got about halfway through McRuffy’s first-grade math book last year, so we’re picking up right where we left off.

Teaching Textbooks: Math 3

He wants to try Teaching Textbooks this year, too. I’m going to let him play around with it, but we’ll discontinue it if he starts to get frustrated.

Language Arts

First Language Lessons for the Well-Trained Mind: Level 2

One of the things I love about homeschooling is the ability to cater the curriculum to the child’s learning preferences. Poppy used “First Language Lessons: Level 1″ when she was younger, and she hated it. I still had the book when it was Pete’s turn to start grammar, so we tried it out. It was a really great fit for him, and we finished Level 1 last year.

Michael Clay Thompson’s Language Arts curriculum

I’ve been looking at Michael Clay Thompson’s books since we started homeschooling, but I’ve always ruled them out for being too expensive. This summer, though, I found a pretty good deal on them on eBay and decided we’d try them out. We just started the first book today; I’ll give you an update on how it’s going later this year.


Nancy Larson Science 1

I think I bought this last year, and we still haven’t finished it. Resident science guy Rockford is supposed to lead our science lessons this year; hopefully we’ll make it all the way through this year.


McRuffy and “Star Wars Writing Skills

Phys Ed

Tae kwon do

Pete is starting the school year as a yellow belt. He isn’t very passionate about TKD, but he’s plugging away at it. Mostly because I told him he can’t quit.


This will be Pete’s first season of soccer with a mid-week practice! He’s hit the big time.


Class with a local artist

Yes, it’s the same place as last time. I’ve talked to the instructor, and we’re going to take it on a week-by-week basis.

Three fun places near Savannah to visit with your kids

Rockford had a work trip to Savannah GA this week, and we decided at the last minute that we should all go along. We’d never been to Savannah before, and the kids and I loved it. We saw a baby dolphin, I ate every praline sample the candy store offered me, we went to the beach, and the kids became Junior Park Rangers.

It was a great trip.

Savannah 2014

Dolphin tour on the Savannah River

At $30 for adults and $15 for kids, the Dolphin Magic tour was a big splurge for us. Poppy and I really enjoyed the boat ride; Pete was pretty crabby the whole time. We saw a good number of dolphins, including a baby who was zipping along with two big guys, but I do wish we’d nabbed better seats. Ours were right behind a column. That didn’t impede our view of the dolphins, since the captain stopped the boat and everyone moved around to find the best vantage point, but it did shield us from the breeze while we were moving. If we did the tour again, I’d try to get a seat in the front of the boat.

Beach walk at Tybee Island

We did a beach walk with a guide from the Tybee Island Marine Science Center. I learned a few things about all the critters that live and/or wash up on the beach, and I think the kids did, too. Pete’s favorite part was learning how to squirt water at someone with a tunicate. It was sort of hard for Pete and Poppy to concentrate with all of the beach-goers building sandcastles and skim boarding and having fun beach time. They definitely had more fun when we went back to the beach later without an educational agenda.

Exploring Fort Pulaski

Fort Pulaski is a Civil War-era fort located between Tybee Island and Savannah, and it was well worth the $5 it cost us to get in. Following the advice of the guy at the front gate, we picked up a couple of Junior Ranger activity books at the visitors center before we crossed the moat via a drawbridge to check out the fort. They were really informative and well-written, and they gave the kids something to focus on at each part of the fort. Pete was especially taken with Fort Pulaski. He wanted to check out every nook and cranny, including the tunnels under the man-made hills in front of the fort.

The kids learned a little about the Civil War, which we haven’t covered yet, and I learned that Fort Pulaski would be a great place to be in the event of a zombie apocalypse. (Did I mention the drawbridge? And moat? It’s perfect.)

We took the kids’ schoolwork along with us to Savannah, and they worked every day we were there. Saturday and Sunday included! Which meant that today was our last day of school! They celebrated by having sweet rolls for breakfast and bursting through a paper banner Kool Aid man style. As one does.

In which we make Thiebaud-inspired art at co-op

"Great American Artists" Wayne Thiebaud projectI first became aware of artist Wayne Thiebaud a little more than a decade ago, when Rockford’s sister worked at The Phillips Collection. They only have one of his paintings in their regular collection, so they must have had a special exhibit or something. Or I could be entirely misremembering where I first saw his work.

Thiebaud is my favorite artist either way, so I knew when I saw that MaryAnn Kohl’s “Great American Artists for Kids” included a project based on his work that we’d be doing it in our art class at co-op.

Although he’s made paintings with lots of other subjects, Thiebaud is best known for his paintings of cakes, pies and other desserts. “CBS Sunday Morning” aired a nice piece on him back in 2002; he seems like a nice, self-effacing kind of guy:

The “Great American Artists” Thiebaud project focuses on his dessert paintings, so I took a couple of baking cookbooks with me to co-op yesterday for the girls to flip through before they got started on their watercolors. The book suggests adding flavor extracts to the painting water to provide a little extra sensory inspiration, so I took in what I had on hand: almond, lemon, peppermint and butter. 1 Not only was our classroom the most pleasant-smelling in the building, but the girls really enjoyed painting with the scented water.

After they finished sketching and then painting their cupcakes, the girls spread white glue over the frosting areas of their paintings and poured real baking sprinkles over it. That was definitely their favorite part of the project, and it really made their paintings pop with color and texture.

This would’ve been an awesome project even if I weren’t so fond of Wayne Thiebaud!


  1. “Didn’t you have vanilla?” my co-teacher asked. Yes, but I forgot about it because it isn’t stored with the other extracts. It’s in the giant vanilla jug.

This week in homeschooling: A Q&A at soccer practice

Homeschooling at ButterscotchSundae.com

“My wife and I have been talking about that,” said the dad at soccer practice. “So how do you do it? Do the kids have to take a test every year or anything?”

People frequently have questions when they learn that we homeschool. Every now and then they’re a little judgey, but for the most part they’re just curious. I’m usually happy to answer to the best of my ability, even if the questioner is just being snarky.

The “have to” stuff is pretty easy to answer. Our state doesn’t have the most draconian standards for homeschoolers, but there are a few rules to follow. Yes, I told him, homeschoolers do have to take an annual standardized test here; Poppy and Pete did theirs just this week. We also have to register our homeschool with the state, we have to operate on a regular schedule during at least nine months out of the year, and we’re required to keep attendance records on file. Our state also encourages — the state emphasizes that word on their website — homeschoolers to, among other things:

  • Offer instruction that is similar in quality, scope and duration to local schools. I haven’t spied on our local schools to see what they’re doing, but I think we’re doing fine on this one.
  • Do at least five hours of instruction with the students every school day. Maybe once they’re in higher grades, but we’re definitely not sitting down with the schoolwork for five hours a day right now.
  • Log 180 days of school every year. We do this, mainly because the kids and I like having a goal.
  • Keep a daily record throughout the school year detailing the time and information covered for every subject, every day. I’m really, really glad this one’s just a suggestion. Ahem.
  • The “how to homeschool in general” question is always trickier for me to answer, because there are roughly 1 billion ways to homeschool. You can get a curriculum-in-a-box or do school online. Unschooling, Charlotte Mason and Classical Education are all popular. Or you can take aspects of lots of different curricula and philosophies and cobble together what works for you, which is what we do.

    Here’s a bit of what we did this week:

    Language Arts

    Pete is making good progress in “All About Spelling,” and depending on the day he’s either enjoying or enduring “First Language Lessons, Volume 2.”

    Poppy started the “Wordly Wise 3000″ vocabulary program after finishing her spelling book a few weeks ago, and she’s working her way toward the end of “Growing with Grammar: Level Three.”


    The woman who administered the kids’ testing this week had some suggestions for us on the math front.

    Poppy isn’t behind, but she’s ahead of grade level in everything else and just at grade level in math. The test administrator said RightStart Math would be a good fit for her. We only have a month or so of school left this year, so I’m not switching it up just yet. Poppy will be trying it next year, though.

    Regarding Pete, she said he ought to be doing more challenging work. I gave him the next two end-of-unit tests in his McRuffy book, and he only missed two out of the combined 30-plus problems. So we’re accelerating his progress a bit. He’ll be skipping the rest of the current unit altogether, and we’re going to skip lessons here and there in the next unit.


    Poppy’s reading speed is off the charts, but her reading comprehension isn’t as strong. I know where she’s coming from on that front. We’ll probably both be well-served by the reading comprehension book I ordered for her.

    In read-aloud news: We’re still reading “The Mysterious Benedict Society” by Trenton Lee Stewart, and I still don’t love it. This kids do, though.

  • Pete tests for his yellow belt at tae kwon do tonight!

  • Our homeschool co-op has a Field Day every spring. This is the first year that we’ve been able to go, and the kids loved it. There was a soccer skills challenge, a long-jump station that turned into a high-jump station, a sack race and a hula-hooping station, and there were a couple of different relay races. The most popular “event” seemed to be rolling down the giant hill next to the field, though.
  • The test administrator — a former elementary school teacher who homeschooled her five children — said we might consider committing four days a week to our core schoolwork and using the fifth day to do things like nature walks, projects or field trips. I like that idea a lot, and I think we’re going to incorporate it next year.

    How was your week?

    Wanna read more about homeschooling? Check out the Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers weekly linky thing!

    Notes from the vomitorium

    We’ve been having something of a norovirus (probably) plague at Butterscotch Sundae headquarters. It started with Poppy on the night of March 20th, hopped to Pete for a bit and then returned to Poppy. Here’s a handy graphic I made, which should be just as informative and helpful as that terrifying one about Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 and the ocean:

    I have done so much laundry.

    I have done so much laundry.

    It’s a really odd virus. No fever, no aches and pains, no 24-hours-and-everything-is-fine-and-dandy. The kids only feel truly awful when they’re in the middle of an incident. The rest of the time they’re feeling well enough to watch movies, play video games, wrap blankets around themselves like capes and tell me that they’re very, very bored.

    I’ve bleached every surface in the house, I’ve washed everything I can put into the washing machine and I’ve even put a cut-up onion in the room just in case it really does soak up the germs, but nothing seems to be getting rid of it. Fortunately — knock on wood — neither Rockford nor I 1 have come down with it. I’m especially happy that Rockford’s been OK, since he’s been out of the country for business since Saturday. I think being sick in a hotel in Morocco would be worse than being sick in a hotel in Virginia. At least there’s no marathon plane voyage to worry about if you’re just in Virginia.

    Homeschooling at ButterscotchSundae.comAs you may have already surmised, it’s taken a toll on the schoolwork. We had planned to do a field trip day while we were in Virginia for Rockford’s grandmother’s memorial service (I wouldn’t choose to be sick in a hotel, but it was a relief to just stuff the linens in a large garbage bag and leave them in the hallway. With the staff’s blessing, of course. I wouldn’t have left them a surprise like that. I also asked them to leave a bucket of cleaning supplies with me so I could clean and disinfect after every incident. TMI? Maybe, but keep it in mind in the event that you ever have the same problem.), and we were supposed to meet The Ivey League in Atlanta for a mega-awesome-fun-fest but I like Bridget too much to give her the plague.

    So. Things haven’t exactly fallen to pieces at home, but we’ve definitely been on a reduced schedule.

    Spelling & Vocabulary

    Pete finished Step Six — the short A sound — of All About Spelling this week. He hasn’t been super-enthusiastic about it, but I think part of that is the virus talking. He gets pretty crabby when he doesn’t feel well; it’s a trait he inherited from his mother.

    Poppy finished her SpellWell book last week, and I decided to let her take on a vocabulary curriculum rather than replacing it with more spelling. She’s doing the internet-based WordlyWise3000, and she seems to be enjoying it so far. You can only buy subscriptions for an entire school or classroom on the WordlyWise site, but they offer single-kid subscriptions through the Homeschool Buyers’ Co-op. (I get some kind of points if you buy through that link. It isn’t money, exactly, but I figured I’d go ahead and disclose that anyway.)


    History has really taken a hit lately. We started back to it this week, but the only activity we did was gluing pieces to the timeline.


    Since I was adhering to the 24-hour rule, the kids have been going to their activities sporadically. I feel very guilty about that, although I haven’t heard from anyone saying they’d gotten sick. I just kind of figured if they hadn’t thrown up in three days we were safe, you know?

    Anyhow, Pete started tennis lessons this week. His first lesson was on Wednesday, and he loved it.


    We’re still working our way through “The Mysterious Benedict Society.” Progress there has been a little slow, too, because I’ve had a touch of a cold (or allergies or hey why not a sinus infection?) for a few weeks and sometimes I lose my voice.

    Wanna read more about homeschooling? Check out the Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers weekly linky thing!


    1. I’m having chills and an increasingly sore throat as I write this, though, so we’ll see.