Thursday, March 20, 2014

My Father's World Kindergarten: Unit 1 Sun

We started the first regular unit, Sun, on a Thursday. I like how this curriculum is designed so one unit = 6 days, rather than 5. It is helpful so that you don't feel like you have to start something new on a Monday, just because it's the beginning of the week. Instead, you start or pick up where you left off and enjoy flexibility that homeschooling allows.

Like for instance -- on Tuesday, we should have started day 4. Unfortunately, I had a dental emergency (lost a filling! BAH!) and needed to get in right away. So we did day 4 in the afternoon, because we felt like it. I could have easily put it off another day. Either way, I don't feel "behind" at all. We just do the next thing. This is great for my state of mind.

Oh, and I left Johnny at home with Shane (working from home) and took the girls with me. Vivienne was amazing with Amelia. She helped with her toy, talked to her, rocked her in her car seat, sang to her...basically melted my heart while I was getting my tooth drilled. Viv has exceeded all my hopes by far with how she treats her sister. Yay!

The biggest challenge for me right now is figuring out how to include or otherwise parent Vivienne. Sometimes she wants to participate in what Johnny's doing, or she wants her own activity. Other times, she wants to destroy whatever plans I have made with a big ol' tantrum. Yes, she is 3 and a young 3 at that. But, we are working on self-control, discipline and attitudes. For mama and tot. My word, Viv, you reveal lots of flaws in me.

Meanwhile, Amelia is still at the wonderful stage where she doesn't care one way or another. For most of our school time, she has either played on the floor with some baby toy or been in a baby carrier while I'm trying to get to sleep (lately for naps it has been the woven! A Storch Inka). She slobbered on Johnny's worksheet without me knowing it (it was on the floor and she was sorta aimed over it but I didn't know). Whoops.

Thankfully it was no big deal and he wasn't phased by it. He gets that she is a baby and does baby things like slobber. :D

Speaking of that worksheet, one side had him trace a cup to make a circle, representing the sun and then he traced a penny and compared which was larger. He wrote the cent symbol and learned what that was.

When he was playing later by himself and drawing stuff, he used the cent symbol again on his own.

The other side he was supposed to cut out 6 letter S's and glue them below six pictures, each of which depicted something that began with the letter s. I was like, whatever he knows this, let's skip it. So we did. He could of course use some more cutting practice, but eh whatevs.

He also made his sun "badge" and we taped the words to remember card along with the badge on his bedroom wall. We'll put the 25 future badges and words to remember cards on there as well, and then at the end we'll compile them into a book. He likes that idea a lot.

I think you're supposed to use the "badge pattern" sheet as, you know, a PATTERN, but I just had him cut out the circle and color it directly. I guess if he ever wants to use it like a pattern he could -- but maybe I'm just I want to conserve paper. Yeah, we'll go with that.

Some of the hands-on things we did:

- a see-through sun made from streamers and a lamination sheet. Hah! Not in the manual
- the spaghetti-on-paper craft mentioned in the guide (definitely do it on cardboard instead of construction paper, as this curled. Not that we kept it for long anyway)
- tried to sprout beans. One jar in a sunny window and the other in a closet.
- sun dial. Paper plate, pen stuck in the middle, boom. Sun dial. The first day he made it, we had decent sun from late afternoon on. But the next day was cloudy all day. It was a great demonstration of why a sun dial does not work in those situations. Back at it again the third day. He kept reminding me to update it every time he saw the sun peek out, but hey we don't need to record 12:48 on the dial. Just on the hour is enough :).
- the handwriting sheet (only one day per unit is handwriting...I will leave it at that for now, but eventually I think I'll want to increase that)
- another work sheet (the math activity, and sound discrimination sheet (circle the things that start with the letter s and cross out things that don't).

Books and videos:

Somehow I reserved the book Round Trip by Ann Jonas from the library, which isn't quite about the sun or moon but it does have a day and night theme. It has REALLY cool illustrations. You read the book straight through one way, and then when you get to the end, you turn it upside down and keep reading. The illustrations match both versions. Johnny thought this was so cool! Find it at your library.

At the back of the manual, there are about a dozen or so books that go along with each unit. You don't have to read these -- it's just a helpful library list. My library had only 2 or 3, but we also owned a couple. For the rest of the book basket, I just checked out other books on the sun. No big deal.

There are a lot of Magic School Bus episodes that tie in with MFWK rather nicely. I bought the box set on Amazon when it was on big sale, and not long after, these episodes were all available on Netflix streaming. Go figure.

For Sun, there is an episode about stars, and one about getting lost in space.

We also watched some videos on YouTube from NASA. Some were about solar flares, some were about solar and lunar eclipses. Very cool.

Some things we skipped:

Though he would enjoy it, I skipped the "make your own calendar." He has a few calendars of his own, and likes to tell me what day it is. I also skipped making the 100 chart.

I think both of those activities are good ones, but I wanted to save *something* for when he is an official kindergartener. So, I'd rather count 100 days of kindergarten starting in August, rather than start the count right now. Just for the sake of it.

The manual had us read a poem all 6 days. I read it the first day and he recognized it from somewhere else. I skipped it on the second day, and read it on the third. He immediately recognized that we had already read it, but I said let's give it another go and he was a good sport about it. I think six days of the same poem would just make him a little irritated, though there is absolutely value in repeated readings.

We also skipped the "introduce letter sound," the "a-a-apple song" and "picture box activity" for the week. He is way past these phonics activities. We are still doing All About Reading level 1 and he likes it, and I guess I do, too -- but it's not big slobbery love like some bloggers out there rave about it.

Final thoughts

This run-down doesn't include every single thing we did, and I don't mention the Bible discussion here, either. I want to walk that line of respecting MFW copyright, while still allowing a peek at what we do, ya know? But for example, each day for Bible there were different little verses or small Bible stories describing different ways that "Jesus is the light of the world."

These are all bite-sized and very age-appropriate.

Overall, it was a nice unit. I was surprised at just how simple things were, and how quickly we moved through it. I have to remind myself that this is what I want for this stage. I don't want lots of seatwork. I don't want complicated activities. I want this to be fun, easy for me to implement with 3 children, and I want Johnny to learn about God's creation and the Bible truths presented.

I do see why some moms beef up this curriculum. I can see me doing that at some point, too (just like we are with the All About Reading already). I can see us adding more handwriting and more math as we move forward. But for now, I want to do it mostly as-is.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

MFWK: Creation unit

The creation unit is a simple, gentle introduction to the My Father's World Kindergarten curriculum.

This unit is a bit different than the 26 that will follow. The letter and number activities are a bit basic. Some kids will enjoy and need to review letter names and number information, but I chose to skip this entirely for Johnny. If Vivie decided to join us, I would have her do those things (or maybe have Johnny ask her to name whatever letter, etc.).

She had no interest -- she instead played nearby. One day, a pan of dry pasta and some measuring cups kept her busy for the longest time.

We customized this unit to suit our family, and we read some storybooks about creation, mostly from the library. Here are a few:

Johnny worked on a page for his creation book each day. The guide instructs us to do something separate with the included numbers, by making a number line, but Johnny thought he wanted to include the numbers within his book. Worked for me, so we went with that. I laminated the pages (and had to trim them first since the construction paper is larger than lamination sheets). I wanna keep this book! On the back, he wrote: "Made by Johnny age 5."

If it occurred to me, I asked him which day we were on, and how many we had to go so he could do some math.

On day 5, we took a trip to a nearby pet store. It was cold out -- too cold for the zoo, but we still wanted to check out some birds and fish. So boom, pet store. Have you ever seen blue parakeets? They are beautiful!

We enjoyed watching the birds, and seeing which fish were really slow and which ones seemed hyper.

After that, we paid a visit to my grandma (and aunt, who happened to be at grandma's already). Love living near them!

I am glad we did this unit the way we did. We could have beefed it up with more crafts, or themed snacks or whatever. I figure we should just ease our way into it, rather than starting out too heavy and needing to pull back. Plenty of time for beefing it up with future units if we want to go that route.

He is proud of his book and can't wait to show the finished thing to his family. I think I'll hole-punch it and tie it together with something to bind it.


We watched "Buck Denver asks: What's in the Bible? Vol. 1" and it was sort of a good match -- the first episode discussed where the Bible came from in the first place and more generalities, and the second episode was more about creation, but also other things that happened in Genesis.

We viewed "God of Wonders" on Netflix. This movie has lots of beautiful imagery from around creation, and takes a created-by-God approach. Did you know that only natural snowflakes (as in, falling from the sky) are the beautiful, unique ones?

Man can create snow, but the flakes aren't those beautiful hexagons -- they're more like blobs.

Check out these pictures of snowflakes under microscope for more, including the man-made stuff.

I asked him why God might have done it that way. Johnny thought it was to show that God was real. We talked about how God loves creating beautiful, unique things all around creation.

Other things for the week not at all related to MFW:

- My husband took Johnny and Vivie to their very first movie at the theater! There are a few local theaters that offer free movies on Saturday mornings. These are not current releases. We figured it would be a fun experience for the kids, and way better than spending a bunch of money and have them either not like it or want to leave early for whatever reason. They saw Chicken Run. I'm told Vivie was initially scared of the dark theater and loud noises, but she got over it fast.

Amelia and I went shopping for swimsuits. What could be more fun than trying on swimsuits a few months after having a baby and in the winter?! I told myself, no body shaming. Just find a suit that will stay put and allow me to enjoy myself and my family at the pool this summer.

- The kids and I stood in line for 3 hours while waiting to purchase a 10-visit pass to a local aquatic center (see, I need a swimsuit!). It was $10 per person, whereas it was normally $58/person for a 10-visit pass. The wait was insane and if I realized just how long it would be I probably would have chickened out. But the kids impressed me with their patience. It helped that they could run around in the gym while the line winded around there, and that they made some new friends.

I was so happy to meet TWO moms in line who both had experience with MFWK! One was in the middle of it right now with her daughter, and the other had finished it not long ago with her son. I hope we can all hang out soon. :)

- Johnny and Shane attended a little basketball clinic. It's just a 4-time deal, aimed at introducing some physical education skills to the preschool set. We thought it would be good for them to have some father-son time. Plus, we wanted him to have some opportunities to follow directions from another adult, play with some kids, practice some gross motor skills, and have fun.

I am not big on organized sports at a young age for our family. But I like opportunities such as these -- short-term classes that can add a lot of value to my kids. J&V will do swim lessons next month, for example.

I'm not sure about sports for the future, if Johnny will want to try something out on a more structured basis. Maybe martial arts? Maybe soccer. Maybe we'll just enter him in a 5k lol. Seriously though he does like running. We'll just have to figure it out later.

Vivienne seems to be naturally quite athletic. When she gets a little older, we'll do some of these types of things with her, too.

Oh and I should include a baby Amelia update while I'm at it -- the girl is 5.5 months and last week weighed 20.5 lbs (weighed by me standing on a scale holding her, and then not and doing math). She is in 9 or 12m clothing, but depending on brand even those are too small. Size 4 disposables fit her best. I had a few months of disposables from a baby shower and I guess I should get her back into cloth for a little while, at least until we introduce solids and get past that horrible transition baby poop phase.

She is such a happy thing! Loves being worn, loves seeing what her brother and sister are up to. Can roll from back to belly, but not the reverse. But she can spin herself in a circle using her arms, sorta walking herself around. I hope she can figure out the rest of rolling over soon. She can do a quick tripod sit, but if she notices that she's sitting she usually tips fast.

My kids are really awesome!

Monday, March 3, 2014

Handwriting Without Tears materials were a waste for us

Ever since Johnny was fairly young, he has wanted to write things down. It goes along with his enjoyment of writing little storybooks and sending cards to people.

I thought it would be helpful to teach him proper letter formation, so I bought some Handwriting Without Tears hands-on materials awhile back.

Many people love the curriculum and have had great success with reluctant writers, and it's supposed to be a lefty-friendly curriculum.

Unfortunately, some of the extras I purchased were a waste for us.

Specifically, the Stamp and See screen and the Roll-A-Dough letters thing.

The Stamp and See screen (basically a magnadoodle) broke, but I didn't realize it until a year after I purchased it so the company wasn't able to refund my money. I had it stored in a box with our other HWT materials and now I'm wondering if the screen was pressed? I'm not sure.

Though having magnetic sticks and curves can be a helpful tool, we would have been just as well using a regular magnadoodle instead of this specialized version.

The Roll-A-Dough was something we could have done without. Their clay is a bit odd, and it dried out (as dough can do) and I couldn't re-moisturize it. I could have had the same effect with Play-Doh.

However, the thing comes with cards and a small tray that you can create the letters on top of. That part is semi-handy and I think I might get some use out of it with Vivienne, but only because I already have it.

Their chalk slates are worthwhile. Cheap enough for me to get one for J&V, and a nice size for letter-forming. I would recommend a little slate for anyone.

I purchased the preschool workbook without thinking it through. To save money, I skipped the teacher's manual since I figured I could just wing it. False. The manual is needed. But, the price for the workbook + teacher's guide just doesn't seem like a good use of money, in my opinion.

Finally, the letters just look odd with HWT. Very neat and legible of course, but odd.

I'm sad to give a negative review of Handwriting Without Tears materials, but for my son it just wasn't needed after all.

I do own the K workbook and teacher's manual and I will use those since we have them. We also will have handwriting with my MFWK program. Perhaps the HWT could just be extra practice later on.

We've only done one lesson in the K book, so I can't give a complete review right now. I think the workbooks are pretty decent, though. It's just the extras that were too extra for me, but I can definitely see how they would appeal to some kids.

If I had to start over, I'd just purchase the chalk slates (and chalk and those little sponge cubes), a magnadoodle and start with the K-level workbook.

No idea what we'll use after he completes the K workbook and the MFWK handwriting. I'll need to evaluate our options then.

Started My Father's World Kindergarten today

After hemming and hawing over this for months, last night I decided that we'd just start MFWK this week and see what happens.

Johnny is 5y2m and to me seems developmentally ready for this program.

Originally, I was going to use this as our true kindergarten year (according to the public school calendar, which would start at the beginning of August this year).

Instead, we're going to start now and just work our way through, taking breaks as needed. I'll decide what to use after we finish MFWK when we get closer to that point.

I'm telling him that his grade is "pre-kindergarten" and we're calling Vivienne's grade "preschool." Subtle difference, but he likes having "kindergarten" in the title. We'll call him an official kindergartner in August. The label doesn't matter much for our purposes, but we'll keep it aligned with the public school progression.

This week, we're learning about the days of creation. We're reading the Bible text about it, and making a page of a book for each day. Johnny intensely loves making books -- he does it on his own all the time, so this is right up his alley.

I printed out a copy of the craft page for Vivie to do if she wanted (the MFW copyright allows this for this unit only) and she didn't want to today. No problem. It's there IFF she wants to participate.

We will continue with our All About Reading program. J finished lesson 10 last week. It's going well, and I think I'm going to add some of the games from our Happy Phonics set. I *think* AAR has a game pack you can purchase for this level, but I've already spent enough money on reading curricula.

Back to MFWK. So looking forward to the first two regular units, Sun (unit 1) and Moon (unit 2)! Johnny loves astronomy. I plan to visit the Children's Museum and view a show at the planetarium when we are somewhere in these units. Squee!

I'll update at the end of the creation unit with some photos and extra books and videos we viewed.