Saturday, August 16, 2014

Notes from the last 2 weeks

Rather than create lesson plans for our to-do list, I'm simply recording what we have done. So far, it is working really well.

Highlights from the last 2 weeks:

- Went on a field trip to Eagle Creek Park where we met up with some other homeschoolers and did a guided trip. Learned about amphibians, reptiles and insects. The kids had some opportunities to touch animals; Vivie touched a snake and turtle and J touched the turtle. Lunch and then playground. Fun!

- Dinosaur unit via My Father's World. Read a big stack of books over the last 1.5 weeks, some simple coloring pages, a dino puzzle we had, a dino dig (plastic dinosaur figures we had, and letter "Ds" we had from foam puzzles/fridge magnets, all in a plastic box of dried beans),

- Some phonics lessons from All About Reading -- I appreciate that the author probably realized many children would need some extra practice with double consonant words ("ff'" , "ss", etc.) because we've just been assigned some stories in the reader without new instruction, which is exactly what Johnny needed. He has finished lesson 28/49.

- Moving along with RightStart math. He was starting to get a little frustrated that he wasn't learning new things. So I skipped some things I knew he had down cold, and combined lessons for a few days. I know that soon, he will indeed be learning new things. A k-level math program is just plain going to start at the very beginning, and we need to make adjustments for each kid. Love this flexibility. He has completed lesson 10.

Here's where some moms might feel a little derailed, but I'm choosing to look at it as life-learning and building relationships. And this is also why I'm glad I'm recording our "done" stuff rather than making to-do lists for dates:

This week, we spent the day at the zoo. My husband and his parents were able to join us. Educational! Also, since school is back in session locally and it was during the week, it was LOW crowds. Still plenty of people there, but I had room to breathe. The kids could see the animals without a bunch of folks everywhere. Love it so much.

Then Thursday and Friday, we went to my grandma's for part of the day where we watched construction workers 1. dig up her old driveway 2. pour a new one. Pretty entertaining and it was nice to spend time with her. The second day, I took some educational toys with us to help keep them occupied after they were done watching stuff.

They've had time outside, some free crafting/book making/coloring. Some time with our educational toy stash. Etc.

And, after doing a more "chapter book" read-aloud with limited pictures during our dino study (Finding The First T. Rex) and having attentive children, I decided to try Charlotte's Web. It is going well! There are some illustrations (which I forgot were there) and I think that's great. We're reading a few chapters per night and they beg for more. Yay! It really is a great first chapter book for little kids.

Overall, I'm happy with the way things are going. It's a slow ramp-up to more academics. For pete's sake, it's still only mid-August! And again, the weather here has been unseasonably cool. I'm worried about this winter, that it'll be another bitter cold thing. So we'll just be outside when we can.

There are some things that I sorta intended to be doing now, that we haven't gotten to yet: handwriting and Five in a Row. The FIAR I think I'm going to put on hold right now. For weeks where we are really digging in to the MFWK unit, that is plenty of literature and activities. FIAR on top of that would just be too much at this point. We will run out of MFWK units so having FIAR for later will be helpful, or for weeks where we just don't dig in as much. Plus, I may combine some MFWK coming up (when we are doing farm animals and wild animals, I'm thinking).

Handwriting is still a priority but it just hasn't been happening. Johnny has been writing on his own for when he makes a book or a coloring page, but we haven't done our more structured stuff yet. Soon. And I'm not going to stress.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Some highlights from our first week of kindergarten

My son thought August 1st sounded like a good day to start, so I said why not? The area public schools are back in session ranging from July 30 - the first or second week of August.

I am planning a slow build, especially since it is August and the weather so far this summer has been pleasant for the most part. Let's be outside!

We went to area parks 5 days in a row. Love it. We even went to two that we had never visited. We had a last-minute playdate and 3 other homeschool moms joined us.

While at one park, a mom commented aloud that she couldn't wait for her kids to go back to school. Johnny told me later that he thought that was a really sad thing to say.

I mean, I get wanting to be back in a routine and stuff but don't make your kid think you don't like spending time with them. If that's how you feel well, that's your feelings -- just don't tell your kid that, know what I mean?

So while we have been in the van, I've switched us from music CDs to some story CDs to change things up. We borrowed an Adventures in Odyssey pack from a friend and enjoyed it, though some of it was over their heads. Though it was 4 hours, I was surprised how fast we went through it.

Now, we're listening to the Adventures in Odyssey the American history one from the HSLDA. LOVE IT. They were both so into the first (of 8) CDs. I wish they had some history CDs of other eras and places (let me know if I'm just not seeing it).

(Sidenote -- if you have other suggestions for CDs I'm all ears. I'm still downloading Jim Weiss CDs at the rate of 3 tracks per week. I wouldn't mind other history CDs, or perhaps audio book recommendations. I'll see what our library has. If it's a book, perhaps less than 3 hours? I just want to make sure we can finish it within the 3-week borrowing period without needing to renew).
One day, Johnny read aloud to me from a Dick and Jane reader that I had. The illustrations are so precious! The stories are kind of dull but Johnny seemed to enjoy reading it. He is overwhelmed by books with small print and pages full of text. I don't know if it's a visual thing or psychological one.

He is doing really well with reading but he needs lots more practice to become fluent and comfortable, so I'm just going to encourage him to read anything that builds his confidence right now. No need to feel stressed.

He is working on an "all about me" book this week. I think it'll be a fun kindergarten keepsake. I found some free printables for it and created some simple questions for him to answer with my help for spelling.

Things like full name, age, address, height and weight (we measured him and weighed him and wow this guy is growing!), and a family tree. Also, I asked him some open-ended questions, like "What do you want to be when you grow up?" Answer: "a flying-car engineer."

I told him I would buy a flying car if he made one, and he said not to worry, he'd give me one for free.

He's having fun making his book and sharing it with his grandparents. I 3-hole-punched the pages and we are putting them inside a folder with a clasp. We'll print off his "first day of K" photo to include, maybe do a paint handprint for a page and I'll ask what else he would like to add.

We are doing a lazy unit study on China. There's a really fantastic exhibit at the children's museum that opened recently, so I thought it would be fun to expand upon what we saw there. We watched two videos (one was about ancient China and also the terra cotta warriors, which are at the museum now; the other video was a day in the life of two Chinese children).

We read through a few books, I made a Chinese-inspired dinner one night that was well-received, and Johnny made his version of the Great Wall using craft sticks. He is really into craft sticks lately and he did that project on his own.

Oh and of course, we found China on our globe.

I should probably do The Story About Ping with our Five in a Row guide soon.

We started our 100 chart (just add a number to a chart each day we do school), a craft stick counting thing (one stick per day and when we get to 10, we bundle them with a rubber band, up to 100) and filling in the date on a blank calendar. These are all MFWK ideas. When we get to 100 days of school we will have a partyyyyyyy. I like these activities because while they are so quick to do, they reinforce a lot of information.

A few books from our library basket and that was our week.

It was great and I'm so glad we've been able to be outside and play with others.

Johnny is excited for this year and he said, "I can't believe I'm in kindergarten!"

I can't believe it, either. So glad I get to do it with him!

Not much has actually changed between what we normally do and now, because children really do learn all the time. As we add our more structured subjects perhaps it will take a different feel.

P.S. I am making progress on my history search. I am loving the looks of TruthQuest History, starting in maybe 2nd or 3rd grade. Haven't decided and I will post more about it soon.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

A chart comparison of how some programs handle history eras

Note: Some updates below.

I'm making a chart comparing how a few non-classical programs approach their history eras by rough grade level. Why non-classical? Well because the classical cycle is a fairly standard 4-year rotation.

I did this to help me visualize other approaches. For instance, Heart of Dakota does two big sweeps of history, and they do American history early on. My Father's World has a year of cultural studies and geography before they get into a history cycle. Each program listed has differences (of course).

I sorta color-coded eras but it's not perfect (but let me know if there's a mistake). The programs break up time periods differently. Within the chart currently are My Father's World, Heart of Dakota, Sonlight, Simply Charlotte Mason, and Ambleside Online.

I did:

  • light red: ancients
  • blue: US history/modern
  • green: more of a cultural/geographical approach vs. strict historical period
  • yellow: middle ages
  • purple: sweep of everything, or a really broad period of history tackled in a year
I linked to the scope & sequence or page that I grabbed the info from, below each column.

(shown as an image but the link to the chart is here)

Important to note: 

With Heart of Dakota, I called their "Little Hearts for His Glory" program their kindergarten program, but you can do that for 1st (they say ages 5-7). 

With Sonlight, the grade levels mentioned are minimums. Many people use P4/5 as their kindergarten, and do Core A with an older kid and so on. Also, they have years where they do a B+C combo, or a C+D combo if you wanted to hit that content in one year instead of two. 

I stopped at roughly 8th grade rather than compare it all the way through 12th. 

I am really not sure how to group some of Ambleside's. May need some revisions. 

P.S. I don't like Ambleside's approach at all, nor SCM's.  OK Actually, after reading more about SCM's approach and actually downloading a sample (instead of just looking at the page where they describe the materials used) I think I do like it a little more. The 6-year cycle is kind of throwing me but I need to look into it more. Some people say the 4-year is too short. My main concern is I don't want to wait thaaat long to get to American lit, but perhaps there is an easy workaround.

P.P.S. I actually have been unaware of the Sonlight drama that went down like a year ago. Maybe it's ongoing. I dunno. Apparently Sonlight has made a bunch of changes to cores and people are mad. For me, Sonlight isn't a good fit (I identify with several of the "reason's not to buy this program" that they have on their site). But I just wanted to include how they do their progression...which apparently has changed and it's not a set in stone thing. So. Ok then.

P.P.P.S: I was woken up a lot last night. And each time I was thinking about some history-related thing. Apparently I'm dreaming about this and a baby is interrupting me.

Are there other programs I should include here? Should I throw in classical programs? Any color-coding errors I should fix?

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Learning some history myself

It occurred to me that it would be a good idea (given my rather pathetic education and understanding of world history) to do some learnin' of my own.

I am definitely a "see the big picture first" kinda gal. I need a broad view so I can have an idea of where the little pieces fit in, vs. a "examine individual plants and trees and THEN see them in the forest." Just like I want to have a general idea of how we'll approach history in my home -- I want to see the big picture before getting down to the details.

So, I grabbed a few sweeping history story books to read through. I hope to gain a better understanding of some key historical moments and people, as well as see how the general progression of history has flowed over the years. Perhaps this knowledge will help me make more informed decisions for choosing what to study with my children.

I have:

  • A Little History of the World by E.H. Gombrich
  • The Story of Mankind by van Loon
  • The Light and the Glory (American history) by Peter Marshall
I also have some Usborne world history books. One is a timeline and another is either an encyclopedia or just short fact book -- I forget what it's called.

I've read about 90 pages in to Story of the World vol. 3 by Bauer. Awhile back, I tried to read her history book written for adults. It was on the ancients. I just could not pay attention. 

I plan to get my hands on a copy of A Child's History of the World

This is only a start, so let me know if you have recommendations.