What we’re studying this week







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Curriculum Review: Progressive Phonics

Progressive Phonics is a very inclusive phonics program offering an easy to learn system that incorporates read-with-me style books, worksheets, and fun games for a complete phonics experience.

Whether you have a visual or kinesthetic learner, Progressive Phonics has you covered.  The books for this program are available to to read online or download them on your computer to read offline, which is especially great for days when you do “school-on-the-go” (ie., reading while waiting at the doctor’s office, etc.).   We have often been known to take our tablet outside or to the park for some extra fun reading time.  If you have a reader who prefers the feel of a book in their hands, or who doesn’t do well with digital material, the books are also available for printing.

As for the style of the books, we adore their format!  Each book gives the child a different phonetic sound, with a list at the front of the book of all the words that will be included.  (Since our little reader is pretty advanced we generally skip going over the word list and let him experience them as he reads).

Phonics_List Book_Sample






The worksheets* that are included are a super addition to the system.  By incorporating the use of the worksheets children gain a better visual recognition for the words they are reading.  They also work on tracing, handwriting, copying, and spelling skills.

The final part of the Progressive Phonics system is the game time. Each book has its own set of matching cards available for printing.  Playing the matching game gives kids another way to recognize the words and sounds.  When we do this with the Muffin Man we have him read to us each card he turns over, that way he gets more practice verbalizing the sounds.

Progressive Phonics is truly and inclusive program designed to fit any style of learning.  If this program were available for sale, I would expect to pay no less than $150-200 for all of the books, worksheets, and games.  The lovely people at Progressive Phonics, however, believe that anyone should be able to teach a child to read, and have made this curriculum ABSOLUTELY FREE of charge!  Visit their website to get started today.

*Due to website redesign, the worksheets are currently unavailable, but Progessive Phonics assures us on their website that they are coming back soon, and better than ever!*

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Deflecting discouragers

We are now officially Kindergartners! We have mailed off our NOI (Notice of Intent) to the proper people, despite the “advice” of some to hold off doing this until the Muffin Man turns six. Every family has their own reasons for homeschooling, and quite often there will be people who do not understand why you’ve chosen this journey. PLEASE do not let that discourage you! Remember that God put you on this journey for a reason, and He will never leave you to walk it alone!

Family members you’ve looked up to for years may turn their noses up when you mention homeschooling. You may hear things like “well, our kids went to public school and they all turned out fine”, or “public school can’t be that bad, you went there”. Some will seem amazed or even enthralled with the idea that you are doing something so spectacular, and will voice their well-intentioned thoughts with something like, “Wow! How will you ever get any work done? I mean, I don’t know if I could have mine home all the time. Don’t you think you’ll get bored never going out or having any fun?” While they do mean well, some people just do not get it. Many people still have the idea that homeschooling means doing school at home. They picture all of your kids sitting at the kitchen table (or worse, some actually think you will clear out a room in the house and add desks and chairs to it) and you standing up in front of them giving lectures all day. Let me take a moment to compose myself from all the snickering and giggling I am doing at the mere thought of that. 🙂 These same people will be amazed when they find out that you take field trips to places other than the library or grocery store, and that school is often out by noon. They will be even more shocked when they hear your kids asking to do their schoolwork because you have made it so much fun for them. They will sigh and wish this for their own kids. You will smile and whisper a “thank you” to God. 🙂


I also want to take the time to mention a surprising group of “friends” whom you may feel discouraged by in your homeschool journey. Veteran homeschoolers. First off, let me start out by saying that having a network of veteran homeschoolers that you can turn to for help, support, encouragement, or advice is an absolute must! Surround yourself with people who have been there/done that so that you do not feel alone. We need good friends to support us and keep us from giving up when times get rough. What we do not need to do, however, is take every bit of advice as being mandatory to act upon, nor do we need to compare ourselves to others. As I said before, every family is different. Every family travels this road in their own vehicle, at their own pace. That means that what may work for one family, may not work for another. A curriculum choice that fits your best friend’s three kids may not fit your one at all, but it may work for five of your sisters seven kids and not for two of them. Every child is unique in their learning abilities. No advice followed or not is more important than doing what works for your family. When you seek advice from your network, be sure to keep in mind that the only person you need to measure up to is God to whom we are accountable for all our actions.</p>

Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all they ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct they paths.”  Proverbs 3:5-6

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The Ten Commandments


This week we have begun to study the Ten Commandments.  Muffin Man will be turning 5 in July, and somehow I feel we should have begun studying these a while ago.  However, it has recently been impressed upon my heart that now is the time to begin this journey of understanding with him.  He has, of course, been learning about God his whole life…but now is the time that he is starting to pay more attention to things, to really grasp concepts and ideas.  He has many questions that are surprising for his age, but I know that this is how he will learn.  God will guide us down the path in the direction He wishes us to go and I know that with Him we cannot fail.

We have learned about the terrible actions taken by the Pharaoh in the time of Moses’ birth and about his subsequent  retrieval out of the river by the Pharaoh’s daughter.  We are watching the movie version of this story (yes, the old one with Charlton Heston) to help him have a deeper understanding of the events.  Of course we have been taking it slow and watching only about an hour of the movie each night. I’m sure we will watch it many times over the years.  For now, at least, it helps him have a bit of food for thought, peaks his interest and gives him many more things to ask us about–and there is great pleasure in sharing about God with your child!

Later today we will be making our own “stone” tablets 🙂

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The lost camera

We moved to a new home in the middle of January. We have been here for three months now. We still have not managed to locate our digital camera, or the charger for our Nintendo DS. This makes me very sad. It means we can not get photos of Muffin Man enjoying our new home, the new playground that is literally right in our backyard, nor can we take new photos for the blog. We now live right on the edge of Washington D.C., where there are photo opportunities galore. We have a few pics on my cell phone, which we can not seem to get onto the computer. We can not afford a new camera. Muffin Man wants to take up a collection for one. I love him for his exuberance. We miss our camera. Please come back to us!

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April Showers

April is upon us. I could spend this whole post apologizing for the lengthy absence from the blog, giving you one excuse after another as to where I’ve been or why I’ve been away, but all of that would serve very little purpose in actually moving ahead and getting back on track. So let’s just say that life has happened and now it’s time to chug full steam ahead!

So what’s on the schedule for this month? A little bit of everything. We just started an introduction to social studies. We have been working hard on our science and studying the state of water–which Muffin Man has learned quite well. We have been a little slow going with our Right Start Math, but since he is only 4.5 years old and doing the Kindergarten level we haven’t pressed for it to be finished in a hurry. Mostly it has been Mom and Dad who’ve been sporadic with it, no problems on his end with understanding or catching on to the concepts.

Unfortunately life was turned upside down for us all at the first of the year and we have just taken our time getting back into the swing of things. However, now that we are settled into our new routines and know what each day has in store for us, we are looking forward to the warmer weather and all of the extra fun activities, experiments, and learning opportunities it brings.
For those of you who have stuck with us on this journey, I do want to offer a small apology for our delay, our many thanks for not giving up on us, and our sincere hope that you will continue this adventure with us as we move forward on the path God has given us.

Spreading God’s love, from our house to yours,

The Marvins

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Via Colori® : An art experience

There is truly nothing like teaching a child. Every thing that we do has the opportunity to teach them something. This past weekend we took our budding artist to spend an afternoon at a Via Colori® event that was happening downtown. He, like his Mom, has an affinity for all things creative. He loves art; drawing, coloring or painting everything he can get his hands on, and then begging for things we won’t let him have. I knew this event would be a great chance for him to see real artists at work, see the amazing creations that the imagination can bring to life.

As suspected, he was completely enthralled!  We spent several hours that afternoon walking through the streets looking at each piece carefully, discussing what really caught our attention, then looking deeper into the piece for things that didn’t stand out at first glance.  This piece (above) was one that stood out immediately to me, because of the fact that it is such a great example of what you can do with color and lines.  From light to dark and thick to thin, there are so many artistic elements at work here.  It was the perfect piece to help him visualize the variety of things that can be done.

After browsing for a while, we decided to take a break under a nice shady tree. Our little guy was quickly busy with his own project.   We enjoyed watching him work and the look of pure excitement on his face when we told him how much we love his pictures.  In the past couple of weeks, his ability has improved immensely!  He went from drawing stick figures that you could barely recognize, to putting actual body parts (arms/legs) and even shoes on them.  It’s so fun seeing how he grows and but scary that the changes can come so quickly.

Like most moms, I’m afraid I’ll wake up one morning and all these precious days of youth will be behind us.  So that is why we took a full day today to grab all our art supplies, throw a blanket on the ground in the front yard, and just CREATE (memories)!   We painted, colored, drew, played, tickled, laughed, had a snack, and even had a short nap in the sunshine.  We had so much fun that even Dad ventured out for a few minutes every time he had a break in work.  Days like these are what keep us sane, remind us why we chose this path, and bring us all closer together as a family.   THANK YOU GOD 🙂

Click here to see a full photo gallery of some of the amazing art created during this year’s event Via Colori® Fredericksburg 2012


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Three and Two

Like many other homeschooling families, today was our first day of school. This year is going to be a bit interesting in our family. Son will actually be attending preschool at the local Y, in their three-day, four year old program. His days there are Tues/Wed/Thurs. He will be spending the other two days doing school at home, where he is doing Kindergarten level work. I know it seems a bit confusing, but we think it will work out best for him in the long run. The reason for it being set up this way is that he really needs the routine that a five day program offers, but he also needs the consistency of being around the same kids on a regular basis. He attended the three-year old program at the Y last year and will have most of the same kids in his class this year, as well as being blessed to have the assistant from last year’s class as his lead teacher this year. We are so glad the Y worked with us to keep him in her class! With all of the problems we encountered last year in regards to violence and personal space issues, we want to see how he has grown in those areas. We do have him involved in other things where he gets to be around children his own age, but school seemed to be the biggest problem area for him.

In regards to the academic side of the situation, he is well ahead of his peers, which is where the kindergarten curriculum comes in to play. At the end of the last term, he was the ONLY child in his room who could read (at any level other than their name). I think that most of the children could recognize their name, although I’m not sure because most of the times they had to try the teacher had included a picture of the child next to the written name, so I could never decide if they actually knew it, or were just picking out their photo. Less than five of them could actually spell their name. I don’t say this to look down on any child, because they all did a wonderful job and were probably at exactly the level three-year old’s should be at, but my high-functioning child’s abilities sometimes causes me to take for granted that not all children are on the same level. Following the scope & sequence for our state, some of the work he can do is at a first grade level. However, since it is not all at that level, we decided to stick with kindergarten this year. God has shown us this is where we need to be; I am happy with our decision; Dad is happy with our decision. It is going to be an exciting year!!!

So what will we actually be studying? Our curriculum & subject choices include (but of course are not limited to) the following:
Bible Study: The Beginner’s Bible Kid-Sized Devotions
Math: Right Start Math Level A
Reading: Progressive Phonics
Writing/Spelling: We use a variety of methods to keep this lively, including many worksheets/ideas from Homeschool Creations
Geography: We will be taking some notes from The Five J’s combined with library books and other online resources
Foreign Language: Spanish with Rosetta Stone Homeschool
Music: Music & Movement In the Classroom for Pre-K and K
Art: Drawing basic shapes, turning basic shapes into pictures, coloring in the lines, using imagination to create art from a variety of mediums, tools, and every day items

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Right Start Math

We recently started our first real math curriculum, and so I thought I would share some info about it.  At the HEAV convention in June, Dad had the pleasure of attending a session that was quite informative on this product, but alas, I was off in a totally different session, so I am learning as we go.

Right Start Math is a lot different from how I learned, in that it is not based on counting *gasp*.  Yes, you read that correctly.  This program is based on grouping and visualizing, and it uses an Abacus to teach children how to do this.  For those of you who may be thinking that the abacus is a little outdated, let me assure you that it is becoming quite a popular method again. I have to admit that even I laughed a little when Dad expressed interest in this program, but since he is practically a genius when it comes to math, and I’m more at a middle school…okay, well, maybe high school Algebra level, LOL….it’s easy to see why I said “okay, let’s do it!” The fact that he agreed to teach it might have weighed a teensy bit heavy in his favor. 🙂

First impression: At the convention Dad took me to the Right Start table in the exhibit hall to show me all the wonderful things they had to offer. I must say that I was quite impressed with all that comes in the box. The price wasn’t too bad, and the lessons looked like something that Muffin Man would really enjoy. There is a LOT of hands on stuff here! I was hyped! We ordered and waited excitedly for our kit to arrive.
Right out of the box I was completely impressed. Everything you need for a full year of kindergarten math is right at your disposal. There was our brand new shiny abacus, just waiting to be played with, along with a whole pack of tally sticks, some plastic coins, a balance scale, some shapes, a clock, etc. You name it, and it was included! Here is a photo (from their website) of the kit that we purchased

We are only a few lessons into it so far, but from what I have seen, Muffin Man is truly loving the program. When it is time for school he actually asks if he can do math first! I love seeing him excited about learning, especially when I know that it’s not one of my favorite subjects and I hope that he can develop a deeper appreciation for it than I did. I also love that he is able to transition what he is doing there, to things in the real world.  We see him recognizing groups of items a lot quicker than before, and his ability to put the correct amount of items into groups without counting them individually is drastically improving!  Who knows, the farther along we get maybe I can pick up some of that mathematical energy, too!

If you’re curious to know what learning to visualize counting groups is like, or would like to get the “feel” of using an abacus, check out this interactive AL abacus on the Right Start website.

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Curriculum Clean-Out

A friend of mine is hosting a curriculum clean-out so I wanted to make sure to tell you about it. This clean-out will be totally AWESOME! None of the items in the clean-out are being sold, instead this will work more like a trade-off, where you will have the opportunity to WIN items that you need, as well as giveaway items that you no longer use.

This is a great way to help clear your shelves and school space of items you no longer use, and you get the added benefit of knowing you helped someone else get materials they may not be able to find or afford elsewhere. What a great feeling!

If you’re wondering how this works, it is simple, during the Clean-Out you will list your item giveaways on your blog or website for people to choose from, then visit the other participating sites and enter to win the items you would like. Easy, right?! 🙂

For more information and to find out how you can participate, visit Homeschool Creations Curriculum Clean-Out

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