Thursday, July 23, 2015

A year of pre-kindergarten for my 2nd child

This year, my daughter Vivie is 4.5 and we are calling her a pre-kindergartner. She has expressed some interest in learning how to read and having some one-on-one learning time with me.

She is invited to join us for any and all read-alouds, hands-on projects, and the sort, but she isn't required. I will require her to join us and listen in on the habits/character and Bible lessons.

  • Phonics: All About Reading pre-reading. This level (on its way to me) will include some hands-on activities and I suspect some will help improve fine-motor skills while we're at it.
  • A scissors skills activity book and others of that nature for fine-motor work
  • Letter formation practice with a chalkboard slate and paper as desired
  • Math: Mathematical Reasoning pre-k (since I already have it) as I'm not quite ready to start RightStart A with her. Is she ready? Yeah, probably. She has picked up a bit from listening in on Johnny's math. But I'm not.
  • My Father's World preschool activity cards and associated toys (I purchased an earlier version of this set awhile back). Also, being more deliberate with pulling our our assortment of educational toys and games.
  • Read-alouds on her level. She will sometimes listen in on a chapter book, but most of the time she is solidly in the picture book camp (and I am 100% cool with that!). What's interesting to me is that while she doesn't like to listen to longer read-alouds when read by me, she loves listening to audio books. 
  • Speech articulation: There are a few sounds she has trouble making properly, and it is causing her a little bit of embarrassment. She has expressed she would like me to work with her on it, and I found a resource that I think will work well: Super Star Speech. I did the initial assessment with her and found that some of her articulation problems are age-appropriate and some are not. I'm already seeing improvement and at this time I don't think we will need outside intervention (though I am open to that if it comes down to it).
I chose All About Reading pre-reading for Viv because after reminding myself of the pace of AAR level 1, I just don't think she is ready for that. The earlier level will meet her more of where she's at, and I think it will provide a firm foundation for her. I am not of the opinion that a 4-year-old needs to learn how to read, even if they are starting to sound out words on their own. Be little!

While it seems pricey to me, having something all laid out and prepared for me is worth it, as I have more money than free time at this point in my life.

Jumping back in time for a minute and reflecting on 2 years ago when Johnny was this age, I was roughly doing the same sort of things with him. Baby #3 was born in September 2 years ago though, so we were very low-key for the entire fall semester.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Goals for 1st grade, and curriculum involved

First grade is upon us! In my state, we need to count 180 days of school. Kindergarten wasn't required, but this year starts the really real stuff. For real.

We can choose when to start the count. I am choosing to go from July 1-June 30 for counting purposes, but we won't necessarily be running full tilt in July (in fact, I guarantee we won't). Still, getting started and having some summer days of cushion makes me feel better.

I enjoy reading about curricula used, and I like sharing my choices. I am influenced by Charlotte Mason's ideas (but I am not a purist).

I want to do focused work, and leave plenty of time for play, exploration and following his interests.

Here is where I'm aiming, and I will make adjustments as necessary.

Morning meeting:

  • Day's agenda discussion (brief)
  • Bible reading (pulling from our Genesis-Deut. readings)
  • Memory work (poetry, hymns, scripture)
  • Habits: Laying Down the Rails from Simply Charlotte Mason
  • Prayer

  • Math: Rightstart Level B, 2nd ed.
  • Phonics: All About Reading finishing level 2 and starting level 3
  • Handwriting: Finishing Handwriting Without Tears level K and starting Simply Charlotte Mason's Delightful Handwriting
  • History/Bible/Geography: Simply Charlotte Mason's Genesis-Deuteronomy and Ancient Egypt guide. Ancient Egypt and other locations and events in ancient times are the historical focus, and Africa is the focus for geography. Also using SCM's The Stuff They Left Behind e-portfolio (Ancient Egypt) and their Visits to Africa geography e-book. Planning to buy Boy of the Pyramids and possibly the Ancient Egypt and Her Neighbors book, but will read the sample chapters aloud to J first, and then decide whether to purchase and which format might be best.
  • Read-alouds!
  • Play outside!
  • Create something (crafts, art projects, building with blocks/Lego/misc. materials...whatever! Create!)
Fine arts loop: (more info on loop scheduling here)
Another loop:

I thought about adding poetry to the fine arts loop, perhaps focusing on one poet for a term. But lately, the kids have enjoyed listening to poetry as an element of read-aloud time, so I have been reading from books we have and adding a few titles from the poetry section at the library for each visit. I may loop this one at a later time, we'll see.

Read-alouds will of course include topics pertaining to our study of Africa, ancient Egypt, living nature books, books on our science topics, etc.

Also, I will work our way through a booklist of titles on our shelves, titles pulled from books such as The Read-Aloud Handbook, Honey for a Child's Heart, Books Children Love, the Sonlight catalog, etc. 

Most recently, we enjoyed Mr. Popper's Penguins as a longer read-aloud. Oh, the silliness! Next is The Story of Doctor Dolittle. We are two chapters in and J is looking forward to more.

Audio books

I have one child who enjoys audio books, and one who doesn't. I still hope to have audio books to listen to while we drive around, and perhaps during lunch. For now, familiar books and short stories are working well here. For example, we recently finished Charlotte's Web in the car. I read it to them maybe a year ago? Not sure. So they are familiar with the story already and I think that helps them to keep interest.

Right now, I have Stuart Little (also by E.B. White) playing in the car. We have about 30 mins to go, I think. They are hooked. J says he likes listening to books in the car, but nowhere else. I'm working on it.


I know some families prefer to not have a TV. I think it can be a wonderful tool. We don't have cable, but we have over-the-air stations, and subscriptions to Netflix streaming and Amazon Instant. 

I also will often borrow some DVDs from the library if they have some relevance to something we're studying, or just otherwise seem interesting. 

As I mentioned above, I plan to add Spanish DVDs, but also science-related topics, geography-focused, etc.

Outside activities:

Still sorting this one out. I don't want to have a lot of time commitments right now. We will likely do one-off programs at the library, field trips and park days. Oh, and the gym & swim 8-week class and/or private swim lessons.


I like flexibility to change things up from day to day, month to month. I think I would like to view the school year in 6 terms. Perhaps July-August; Sept-Oct.; Nov.-Dec.; Jan.-Feb.; Mar.- April; May-June.

The amount of work/type of work/intensity of it might vary from term to term, and that's ok and desired (by me). I loved having a Christmas-y December last year, for instance. It's a good opportunity to take a break from the routine and infuse the time with a different style of learning.

The actual nitty-gritty scheduling of a term's contents and how that might translate to a week or a day still has me a bit perplexed. I think for now, I will map out the frequency of the subject areas I want to hit, throw it in a spreadsheet and "do the next thing" when it comes time. For example, rather than scheduling which lessons to do in math on which days, just write in "RightStart" and then add the lesson number completed/worked on in the appropriate day. Like so:

This chart is a work in progress, but I thought it would be helpful to show you what I mean. This is in landscape mode and I think, after printing it, that I might prefer portrait mode and perhaps 2 pages for 1 week instead of it all on one page. I will need to fiddle with it.

Ok, this post has been in draft mode long enough. Time to hit publish and just get on with things!