Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Water Rockets, a Kindergarten Science Curriculum Day

Kindergarten is a fun year to homeschool.  We have some study time each day so that CJ continues working on reading and math.  Then we do awesome play dates with our homeschooling group to explore other areas of the world.  About 2x a month we host science days. CJ picks through the MythBusters Science Fair books and picks an experiment that he'd like to try.  Our science Tuesday for yesterday was Water Rockets. 
 We were lucky enough to have a friend who called her army of people to gather corks for us.  We ended up with almost a dozen corks, enough for each child to have their own rocket.  The idea behind water rockets is that there is a baking soda/vinegar reaction inside a water bottle and it shoots the cork out the top.  They can be a little tricky to find, particularly if you're shooting them into a fall garden, so we added streamers to the corks (use a push-pin at the top).
 Then we headed outside for instructions.  I love that top picture of all the boys listening to how to make a satchel of baking soda.  To do this at home: fill a disposable water bottle (16-20oz) with 1 inch of vinegar.  Add enough water so that it's about 1/2 full. Make a satchel of baking soda with 1 square of toilet paper and 1.5tsp baking soda inside it.  Shove the satchel inside the water bottle and put the cork in the bottle.  Hold the bottle, aiming it away from others.  The pressure inside the bottle will build and build until the cork comes shooting out!
 My boys were a little uncertain to be participants.  Everyone else wanted a turn and they held back.  After a bit of convincing they finally decided to do it.  EMan (3yrs) then kept saying, "Momma, I wanna make it 'splode again!"  It was a fantastic day to do a little science experiment with friends!  The next science play date is in 2 weeks.  We don't know what the concept will be, but it's sure to be fun!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Drama Through the Rec Center

Every quarter the city mails a Recreation Guide.  I scoured it looking for activities that I thought may help us achieve our homeschooling goals.  CJ has struggled with shutting down physically and mentally when faced with an unfamiliar situation.  I thought that the local drama class may help him.  We toured the library where it was to take place a week before class started.  I find it's always helpful to go "explore" a new place before being required to go there for an activity.  The theme for the drama class was "Dr. Seuss".  Every day they would read a new story and act it out.  At the end the parents would return and they'd put on their dramatic telling of the book they'd just practiced.  It turned out great and was an interesting experience to see CJ tap into some facial expressions and character traits. 

Friday, September 6, 2013

Into September 2013

We've made it into September of our first "official" homeschool year.  I feel like things are going swimmingly.  It is quite often that CJ wakes up early and we're able to get our lessons done for the day before EMan even wakes up.  We've been continuing our work on our TouchMath book which has now shifted into simple addition up to 5.  CJ has really taken to it and is mastering it quite a bit faster than I had previously expected.  CJ has still been struggling with numbers to 100 which TouchMath introduces in their first unit but doesn't take the idea to mastery.  We've opened up our MathUSee Primer to start working on the basic understanding of place value of numbers to 100.  It's slow work, but eventually we'll get there.  The boys are enjoying more laundry responsibilities these days and are loving our reading time together. 

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Playing in the Mud

It is so lovely to find a nice patch of mud to explore.  I often find the perfectly taken care of park to be a rather boring place to play as it puts constraints on our children's actions.  I wish we could stumble upon mud puddles more often.  How about you?  

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Memorization and Math-U-See

One of the things I picked up from all my homeschooling philosophy books was the idea of memorization.  After thinking about it for a while I decided that the first set of passages I should have CJ master are the Articles of Faith.  We belong to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and the Articles of Faith are 13 passages that outline our beliefs.  Today CJ passed off his first memorization: "We believe in God, the Eternal Father, and in His Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost."  I was impressed that EMan (just days from being 3 years old) has also memorized it right along with his brother. 
 On Mondays we have more time to work on specific lessons together since we don't generally have anything scheduled that we need to get to.  Today was the first day that we were able to work in our Math-U-See Primer book.  A good friend of ours got it for CJ for his birthday and through our conversations realized that it couldn't wait until January of 2014 so she gave it to him early.  He cruised through the first 3 lessons all about recognizing the sets and numerals 0-9.  Math-U-See has a DVD portion (generally just a few minutes long) that you watch at the beginning of each lesson.  Then there is a workbook that you practice activities in.  They also sell special Math-U-See blocks.  We don't own any of the blocks but do have a huge tub of unifix cubes that may become our math blocks stand in.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Library Visits and a Start of Narration

We stopped at the library yesterday to start getting acquainted with what was there.  CJ was very excited to pull different books off the shelf and look through them.  He asked me to read a number of different passages in nonfiction text that was interesting to him.  One of the reasons that we stopped there was because CJ will be having a community drama class there every week and I know from experience that if I expose him to a new surrounding before he has to participate in anything he does much better.  Plus, making a visit to the library every week seems like the right thing to do as a homeschooling family. 
One of the lessons that we'll be working on all school year is narration.  It's the idea of reading a text once and being able to retell the story in your own words with some quotes from the text and oodles of details.  CJ really struggles with this so we're working on short stories first.  I hope that this will also help him be able to tell us about his day with more detail.  Today we narrated Pete the Cat and CJ was so funny in his narration.  He even sang a bit of the song from the book to me.  Narration comes from the Charlotte Mason approach to education.  I tend to read many different ideas and books throughout the summer, pick and choose what I like from each of them, and try to apply them throughout the school year.  The chance of me reading another philosophy book until next summer is really slim to none, how about you?

Monday, August 19, 2013

Not the Best of Times

Homeschooling is not always the best of times.  We have moments that we struggle with every day.  We're continuing to work on number identification up to the #30 with a 100 chart and the straws pocket chart.  In order to make the work easier I requested that CJ order his number cards from 0-9.  This started a complete melt down and tantrum.  Sometimes we have to note that our child is having a tantrum because the work is in a frustrational stage (meaning it's too difficult for them), sometimes we have to recognize that everyone has bad days or mornings/evenings and it'd be better to pick it up again at another time, sometimes we have to recognize that they are pushing buttons and pulling strings to get out of something and we'd do better to hold our ground as the parent.  It's hard being a parent and figuring this out, but wouldn't you rather figure it out than let a teacher with 25 or even 30 other kids to attend to try and figure it out?  There are great teachers out there, but the quality that an individualized instruction provides our kids is worth the extra work, knowledge and relationship that we will build with them.   

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Kindergarten, Day 4

So many blogs out there show you all the nice looking, happy kids, perfect pictures type of homeschooling experience.  I intend to show you reality.  Some parents find themselves questioning over and over if they are doing a good enough job and if they are doing what is right for their kids.  There are good days and bad days.  There is also the opportunity to learn from your mistakes and make the next experience better.  As a homeschooling parent, you also get to know your child in a manner that you may not have seen before.  I've been learning a lot about CJ.  He has introverted tendencies and is easily embarrassed by things that are different, out of the norm, or appear to have a "rule" he doesn't know about. 

Today was day 4 of Kindergarten, and it was the FIRST day that Cooper chose to stand and do the Pledge of Allegiance with me.  We've I've done it every day since day 1. I stand, put my hand over my heart.  Look at the flag magnet that we have and point to the words as I say the Pledge out loud.  For the first 3 days he looked at me like I was crazy and performing some awkward ritual that he wasn't sure about yet.  Today he stood by me.  It took a little encouraging, but he stood.  That's a small victory.  I can only imagine that if he'd never done the Pledge before and he entered a public school where they were to do it.  That would be a scene that wouldn't go well.  He'd either be ignored or forced into participating and I'm certain that wouldn't go down well.  I wonder what other things I should think about and do with him before he has to do them in the world....
 We're continuing to work on place value and counting by tens.  I've pulled out my old straws counting pocket chart from my teaching public school days and I've let him play and explore with it. He doesn't fully understand that there can only be up to 9 in each place before it has to move into a bigger value.

Monday, August 12, 2013

First Day of "Official" Kindergarten

Today was our first "official" day of kindergarten.  We've been doing math and reading all summer long, but we're starting a new schedule with the start of preschool next week.  Each morning CJ and I will spend one hour together working on kindergarten work.  We'll do 20 minutes of scripture study, 20 minutes of math, and 20 minutes of reading.  We'll do plenty of learning throughout the rest of the day including play dates with friends based on our science curriculum, extra reading or math time together, etc. You can see our "Setting Up For Kindergarten" blog post here
 We're well on our way in our TouchMath Kindergarten curriculum and we're working on many varied reading skills.  I'm pulling from a number of different resources for reading, however one of the more prominent sources is the Moffatt Girls. Annie is fantastic and seems to always be creating things just as I figure out that I need them.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Trying a Co-Op

Have you ever pondered a cooperative learning structure for your homeschooler?  I'm part of a fantastic group that is focused on the education of our children.  As a group of moms with mostly preschool and kindergarteners we feel like we're trying to figure things out.  If you've been around Little Adventures Preschool long you'll already know that I ran a very successful playgroup for nearly 3 years.  I started the group with a few moms that I hardly knew when CJ was a year old.  I was once asked by one of the members what it was, in my opinion, that made the group so successful.  My honest answer is hard work and constant motion.  We utilized where everyone could see the calendar and RSVP to events.  I made sure that there was an event EVERY day at different times of the day and on weekends.  I had a full calendar that I sometimes despised because I just needed to stay home and do laundry, but we were having an excellent time playing and making new friends.  We tried a number of times with this group to put together a co-op preschool.  Tried, and failed.  One of the benefits of this group was that it was an open group to anyone who wanted to play.  We all had different goals and desires for our children and we enjoyed playing together.  For the co-op however this proved to be a problem.  It was something everyone wanted to take part in, but not do any work to make it successful.  As time went by the playgroup split and with my closest friends we started a new group.

The new group (called LEARN = Life Explored And Responsibility Nurtured) has some high expectations.  It's a small group with a common goal of being intentional parents with education for our children a top priority.  It is a group where each member is expected to put into the group as much as they get out of it.  It is a group of families that I trust with all of my being.  I know they will follow through with tasks and assignments.  They hold the same values that I do and will work to achieve common goals.  We thought that this type of group will run a successful cooperative style learning experience.  We were wrong.

We met one Monday to talk about what a co-op would look like.  Perhaps our experience will help you ponder yours.  We set a plan where we'd meet once a week at a set time.  Each mom would be in charge of a short lesson plan based on her interests in life.  Some wanted to do art, others math, myself: reading.  We had great goals.  One even went home and prepared six months worth of curriculum.

The exciting "trial-run" day arrived.  Families joined together to experience well thought out lessons from each mom.  It was an exciting day.  However, it was rather disappointing.  It was harder than we imagined to address everyone on their level (2 year olds to advanced kindergarteners).  We debriefed the experience and determined that in order to spend our time and effort doing this we need to feel that our children are getting out of it what we'd like them too.  Unfortunately, the co-op fell apart before we even started "for real".  I was hoping and planning on this co-op working.  However, it didn't.  I learned that co-op style learning isn't necessarily interesting to me.  Perhaps in the future I'll try again.  Maybe someone discovered how to make the co-op wheel spin more efficiently.  Or, maybe they just have much different personalities than we do.  For our group, we can remember a lovely day of a fruit based TouchMath lesson, a memory game, Cubism art and a transportation lesson.  It was fun, but it simply didn't work.

Starting to Homeschool {For Real}

Starting to homeschool {for real} is both unnerving and completely natural at the same time.  I mean, as the parent you've been your child's teacher since birth.  You helped them babble sounds, roll a ball back and forth, walk.  Talk about big milestones!  You've taught them to talk, jump off stumps, and most likely to recognize colors and their ABC's.  You can do this!  The unnerving part comes when you recognize the outside pressure to homeschool well, to fit a mold or follow someone elses timeline.  Eventually (each state is different) you'll have to turn in records of attendance and evidence of learning.  Oiy!

It comes down to recognizing that every child is different.  There are different strengths and weaknesses, there is no standard box that every child fits into.  They may be doing math at a first grade level and still learning their ABC's.  The joy is that as the parent, you know your child and can learn with them.   You will read, and then read some more about the various curriculum programs that are available.  You'll find that some fit you and your child and others don't.  First ponder on your goals for yourself and your child.  Get down to the nitty-gritty.  Is there a schedule or time-limit you'd like to enforce (for your sanity or your child's)?  What subjects are of interest?  What subjects are required regardless of interest?

Here's what I've discovered for myself homeschooling kindergarten with my oldest.  We started with a schedule in August.  It would take us less than an hour to accomplish goals I had set.  I had determined that our schedule would be as follows:
It was fairly simple and led to different activities each day.  This worked for me, and it worked for CJ.  This schedule may look nothing like what you would do.  Simply write down your priorities and hop to it!  You've guided them through such large milestones already, you can do this!

Our schedule hung true until about Thanksgiving.  Then we sort of fell off the bandwagon.  No problem, we'll pick ourselves up, reevaluate and start again.  In January we implemented a new schedule.  We had finished some key curriculum goals and were ready for something new. Our new schedule looked like this:
  • Pledge of Allegiance
  • Scriptures
    • Prayer
    • Scripture Story or Lesson - mark words in personal set of scriptures
    • Article of Faith (memory verse)
  • Math
    • Khan Academy - addition and subtraction review
    • Math Booklets - Moffatt Girls
    • Time?
    • Money?
    • Measurement?
  • Reading
  • Handwriting
    • 1 page per day in workbook
  • Geography
    • 1 page per day in workbook
  • Music 
    • Piano Lessons Weekly
    • Daily Practice - 10 minutes
    • Starting Recorder in February
  • Extras
    • Review Packets from Moffatt Girls
I do believe I was too ambitious in January.  We haven't successfully completed our list of activities more than 3 times a week.  Sometimes we were lucky to do it once. Maybe that's because I used a variety of different programs and my teaching background to set curriculum.  I didn't purchase a day by day planned out set that tells you what to say.  You may want to do that if that type of program appeals to you.

I also discovered a great set of report cards that line up with Common Core.  I'm not a fan of Common Core.  Not at all.  However, knowing that this list covers many of the skills we'll be using, I went ahead and downloaded it to determine if I was missing any large chunks of skills that I had simply overlooked. 

Knowing that there were activities I wanted my boys to participate in outside of our home I also looked into the rec center offerings for my city.  I determined that we'd do swimming, drama and gymnastics.  Other classes may also be considered throughout the years. 

There is so much to think about and decide, but you could spend your whole life researching instead of living if you don't limit yourself.  For Kindergarten, just determine a few key factors that are important to you and go from there.  Remember, as the parent you were their first and are their most important teacher.  You can do this!

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Learning to Type

Learning to type seems to be a very important task that kids start to do at a younger and younger age.  I used to be "pushing the envelope" when I started a typing club for my 2nd graders (7-8 year olds) just over 7 years ago.  Now my Kindergartner (a 4 year old) is using the same software and being just as successful as they were.  The software is old and will only work on an older computer but it is worth having that older computer hang around to be a kids computer.  The software is a CD-ROM called Disney's Adventures in Typing with Timon and Pumbaa.  If you have a computer to run it on it is SO worth it, but check the specks first.
My boys play this for hours.  The learn to sit up straight (oops, I'm severely slouching right now), keep their feet on the floor and their fingers on home row.  They practice a series of letters and spaces and then they get to play the "shooting bugs" game.  I've found it universally exciting for both boys and girls.  They learn to type letters first (in a specific sequence of home row first followed by keys that involve reaching).  After they've mastered the letters (it keeps track of accuracy and they can't move on until they get a certain percent correct) they get to move onto higher and higher levels, typing words and then even paragraphs.

I find it's an awesome game that CJ pulls up during his independent study time.  He's practicing the basics of reading and learning exciting new computer skills at the same time. 

Friday, July 26, 2013

We've had a fantastic vacation visiting our family in Utah.  The boys are so excited about the kindergarten science plans I have.  We'll use the MythBusters Science Fair books and pick out activities that look great to us. While riding on the airplane the boys flipped through the books and marked anything that was appealing.  We have also been working on our TouchMath PreK unit 1.  CJ is struggling with the written form of larger numbers (most numbers with a ten and a one).  I love that one of the pages was a dot to dot to make a picture.  CJ wasn't in to coloring it but enjoyed the dot to dot part.  It's the type of page that I wish I had laminated though so he could do it over and over again.  It's a fun way to get in repetitive practice of numerals in order. On our trip we enjoyed being outside, exploring the aviary and jumping lots on the tramp!

Friday, July 19, 2013

Reading A-Z

I use the Amazing Action Alphabet to teach my kids the basics of reading.  We do the preschool program through 2x and then they're ready for something more challenging.  We've started using Reading A-Z and to read appropriately leveled books.  I love the books and the interactive elements that are provided for each text. CJ can read books on his level or he can listen to books that are too difficult for him to read alone.  He can access the books on the computer or the iPad, making a whole book library very transportable!

TouchMath Kinder - Getting Started

We've gotten the TouchMath Homeschooling Kindergarten curriculum to try out for the year.  CJ used the TouchMath PreK curriculum for the past 2 years and I felt that it was one of the most comprehensive PreK curriculums out there.  Check out my review of it here. Were were excited to get the Kindergarten curriculum in our hands and start putting it to work.  We took it along with us on vacation as a little extra brain work during down time.
I like that the TouchMath Kinder pulls in many different science mini lessons into the math lessons.  They talk about a nautilus shell and penguins being birds for example.  The Kinder starts simple enough, starting with tracing the numbers and doing dot-to-dot type activities.  CJ is still struggling with the tens (like 30, 40, 50, etc) and asks what comes next for almost all tens.  Upon being told the tens he can count to 100 by 1's. I'm looking forward to using the TouchMath Kinder and hope that it addresses his misunderstandings in depth rather than just glossing over the concept.  Time will tell!