Monday, September 29, 2014

Highlights from September

The end of September already? We had a good month. Here are some highlights and a progress report:

Field trips/classes:

  • An orchard for an apple tour
  • A physical fitness/martial arts class (just one session)
  • Trip to the zoo
  • Fire station tour
Other outings to the library and parks, and some visits with grandparents

Family trip:
  • Went on a quick getaway to French Lick, Ind., and also Holiday World in Santa Claus, Ind. Visited Spring Mill State Park. Very nice park! It has a pioneer village, with buildings from nearly 200 years ago, and some history interpreters on site. Kind of like Conner Prairie. Worth a visit. Also, Holiday World was basically empty when we went. So fun.
Academically, Johnny is moving right along with All About Reading. He went from lesson #33 at the beginning of September, to part of #47 today (level 1 goes to 49 lessons), and so I expect he will finish this level later in the week. We will start up with level 2 immediately after.

He is becoming more confident with reading on his own, and I'm grabbing a variety of materials for him to read from the library. Besides some of the typical Dr. Seuss books he enjoys, I selected a few joke books and comic books for him to try. 

He's reading through a huge collection of Calvin and Hobbes and enjoying it. 

For our road trip, I borrowed a Magic Tree House audio book. It had 5 books in the collection. Ahead of our trip, I read the first story in the series to familiarize ourselves with the characters and gist of the series. Quick premise: Two kids discover a magic tree house which contains books. They can travel to the location in the book and learn more about that moment in history. We've heard about the Titanic sinking, something out in the West, and something to do with Australia, I think? I haven't been paying terribly close attention.

It's an ok series. Formulaic, as series like these tend to be. Enough info to get an idea of what might have happened. I don't think I'll get more audio books from this one unless the kids request it. I do think I'll suggest Johnny reads some on his own, when he gets more confident with chapter books. He did read some of one title on his own, it just took awhile. 

With My Father's World, we did the units on octopus (ocean life), insects and goats (farm animals). I bought an ant farm and it has been SO COOL watching the ants at work. 

Math was light this month. Lessons 18-24 in RightStart. Uh. Yeah. Light. I had better get back to it in October.

But, Johnny worked on some math things in his Rod & Staff workbooks. Really simple things, like handwriting practice for numbers, writing the quantities of items in a picture box, etc. 

I've had him do more handwriting things and practice with scissors. 

In his free time that I still consider perfectly educational, this month he's made marble runs, constructed various things with Lego, Lincoln Logs and wood blocks; read (and been read to) a stack of books; made plenty of pictures and little books.

His latest thing is to use a pen to draw some sort of scene, make a photocopy of it and invite his sister to color it with him. Haha!

There have been other little things that I recorded in my log, but overall it was a nice, lightish month. I have no complaints, as we are achieving the goals I set out for him here. Fun, a focus on reading, and a good number of field trips and time outside while the weather is nice.

Coming up for October:

We have several fun field trips on the calendar! Also looking to go to a show at Beef and Boards dinner theatre. We've never done a live performance and I'm hoping it goes well with the baby. Speaking of the baby, she turned 1! Oh, my heart.

More of the same -- moving forward with reading, lots of books together and independently, etc.

More handwriting practice, and I'd like to get back with RightStart and do more with it this month.

Adding All About Spelling. Probably will go slowly here, but we'll see how it goes.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Combating a fussy attitude with a to-do list

The other day, I attempted to have Johnny switch gears from coloring a picture to doing our math lesson for the day. Instant resistance.

My motivation to do math at that moment: the baby was happily occupied playing with toys nearby and I thought ooh, we can do math now.

Johnny's motivation: he wanted to work on another drawing. He didn't want to switch gears. Hence, protest.

At the time, I didn't quite understand the issue since he wasn't communicating what he actually wanted to do. He was making it sound as if he didn't like math, period.

So...after a time-out for an attitude adjustment, some chatting with my husband to see if he had any insight, and the sort, we were able to sort it out. My husband even did the next math lesson with Johnny so he could see what he was learning and so we could both observe him doing the work. It went well. We saw that the math program is continuing to be age-appropriate, interesting and educational.

The problem was attitude.

I've been suspecting our days would go more smoothly if Johnny knew what was expected of him in terms of our school work. I recently made a morning to-do list for him, and he so enjoyed going through each item and checking it off.

So, I asked if he would like a checklist for his school work. He loved that idea, so I made one real quick the night before.

After bible and his reading lesson, I had on his list to do 10 jumping jacks. Next was his choice, and I listed a few options. He chose to make a drawing taken from the vantage point on the moon, American flag on it, looking out and seeing the sun, the Earth and a comet going by).

While he was doing this, I gave Vivienne some one-on-one time. I selected a Lauri puzzle, the one with kid shapes doing all sorts of different poses. I asked her to put the pieces in piles based on color; do an AB pattern with them; lay out 3 green pieces and then add 2 more and tell me what she had, etc. Next was I think her favorite: I asked her to stand in the pose of each piece before putting them back on the puzzle. Some poses were extra-fun (standing on her head, doing a squat, running, etc).

Next, Johnny told me it was math time. How 'bout that? So we did lesson #23 and it went really well. No complaining. Asking to do one task again for practice (!). Win.

Next was handwriting, then I had him do some practice with scissors, and his last task on the to-do list was do a headstand. Hah!

It went swimmingly.

I think I could do a similar thing with a workbox, but I think it will take me less time to do a to-do list for him. He seems to get satisfaction out of checking items off (don't we all)? and there's the added benefit of him reading what I wrote. He sees what his school day will include and he knows when he will be done.

We finished and they had some quiet time in their rooms while I prepared lunch. The weather is gross today, so they are inside and watching a video. Amelia is sleeping now (on me, of course...whatever).

When she wakes up, we will read some library books. This week, we are reading about insects and pioneers (separately, lol!). I'll have them choose some puzzles or something else from our educational toy/game selection. I'd like to keep afternoons a little more light. If we can do our 3Rs in the morning, I think that goes more smoothly for us.

It has taken us more than a month to find our rhythm with kindergarten stuff, but I think we are getting there. Yay!

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Our first break and getting back into it again; AAR thoughts, RightStart etc.

We had our first break since we started kindergarten due to us catching a cold. Blah! One Saturday, we went to the Children's Museum and I'm pretty sure that's where we picked it up. It was nice to just pause where we were at, have our colds and not have the stress of J missing school and all that. So, we played a little, watched some DVDs, read, and took a break from our routine.

We did some reading and math lessons but it was low-key. Still learning, but not my goal.

This week, we were back at it and I was worried that our break would derail us. I took advantage of the fact my husband had Labor Day off to help ease back into it. I had him be a part of our math and reading lesson and I think that was really helpful for all parties. Yay!

Reading is going well and I'm going to place an order for All About Reading level 2 soon. At one point during AAR level 1, I wasn't sure if we'd go for level 2 or not. I wondered if we could just use other (cheaper!) materials and have the same success.

Then I decided to just forget that plan. Johnny really, really enjoys his reading lessons through AAR. He likes the readers, he likes the worksheets and activities, and the pacing and progression are just so spot-on. We got to a point where I suspected we'd need to spend a few days getting comfortable with a new phonogram, and I flipped ahead and saw the author was doing exactly that with the lessons.

This is a rock-solid program and I am seeing great results. Also? Johnny is reading words that I have no idea how he knows. Like when he's reading to himself, he'll read words (with no picture clues!) and I'm just like...wow!

I do want to keep going with AAR because there are a lot of phonograms that we haven't covered. And, he needs a lot more practice with fluency. He is not at the point of reading short novels to himself, by any means. Lots of words on a page still do intimidate him. Plenty more work to do. But this is fun work.

Rather than mess up a good thing by switching to our Phonics Pathways book, I'm just going to plow forward. I'll be able to use most of it (minus the workbook) with the girls. It's fine. I already have level 3 anyway that I got on sale.

I also plan to buy All About Spelling level 1 while I'm at it. Johnny has a strong interest in being able to spell words correctly, so we're just going to run with it. I briefly looked at other programs to see how they do it, but AAR has made a believer in me, in that the author knows exactly what she's doing and I trust her. I appreciate that AAS will teach encoding using phonics rules, rather than memorizing word lists by rote and doing worksheets that don't actually enhance learning and retention.

Math

I like RightStart math. A lot. We have completed lesson 19 of 130 and I think it's going well. I'm surprised that 3.5yo Viv is joining us and understanding a lot of it, but hey I'll take what I can get.

Mr. Johnny on the other hand is starting to get a little fussy about math. I know he knows how to do it. I know it's not too hard, and the lessons certainly aren't taking very long. So I'm a little puzzled as to why he's showing some resistance.

I probed a little and he said he wanted to practice writing numbers (and lowercase letters, he said). Oh. Because math involves writing numbers, in his mind I guess? I'm wondering if he'd actually enjoy some math worksheets?! Gah.

I have Math Mammoth which is a worksheet-based program, with some manipulatives perhaps. My plan with MM was to use perhaps as reinforcement or a break when we hit walls with RS. Perhaps we're hitting a wall now? I have no idea.

I do want to keep moving forward with RightStart for now, and I'll just try to tune in to Johnny some more to see if I can't resolve his issues with it.

One other possibility is I could back off with math for a few weeks. Though I'm intending to keep school time fun and not stressful, maybe the amount of things we're doing is stressing him out somewhat.

OOH. In re-reading this post (I vaguely edit these things) I'm wondering if Johnny's resistance to our math stuff is because he doesn't like his sister joining us? Maybe he feels that if she can do it, it might be babyish? Or too easy to be worth his time? Hmm. I'm pretty sure that it won't take long for the program to be past Viv's capabilities. Maybe a wait n' see could help.

No need to stress out a kindergartner. It is EARLY SEPTEMBER. Don't need a burnout already.


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.