Thursday, October 2, 2014

tweaking our homeschool (week seven)

Bubby and I were both getting a bit stressed out.  I had a list of things I felt we had to accomplish. He thought school was hard/boring/long/fill-in-the-blank-depending-on-the-mood-at-the-moment. There were tears every other day during phonics (even though he is a good reader). I was trying to make sure we covered everything.  I realized I was becoming a public school teacher, not a homeschooler. (Not a jab at public school teachers - I was one. Hence my slide back to to do lists and covering it all in a week's time and moving on.)

So last week I let up a little bit on some things. And this week we let up on some other things.  And guess what? I have a pretty happy kid and a less-stressed me.  We actually accomplished MORE in the last few days in terms of depth and enjoyment and mastery by doing a little less.

I will still post what we did (at some point) with weeks five and six, but I think for now we are moving away from a theme of the week, at least the way I was doing it. (Though next week I am sticking with my original plan to do a pumpkin/autumn themed week because apple week was so much fun!) We will keep reading the great literature I have mapped out for the year.We will keep doing math and handwriting and phonics and memory work at calendar time. But what else then? Books we decide we want to read - on topic or off - we will read.  Art projects I find, we will try. Or we will  just take more time to paint/draw/create.  And  of course, there should be lots of time to play and hopefully get outside more.

So what did this week look like with these changes?

On Monday we sat on the bed and read One Morning in Maine, a pretty long picture book by the beloved Robert McCloskey.  We have loved each book of his that we have read. We found Maine on the map (again), and as some postcards have started coming in, we have found them on the map, too. We did phonics and math and worked on the letter R. Then we all went to homeschool co-op for the afternoon because it was my day to volunteer. Bubby did art and music and games and P.E. and stories there. I remembered to read some fun poems at bedtime, something I always want to do, but don't often remember.

On Tuesday I took Bubby out for coffee/pastry while Bug was at preschool. I think the one-on-one time was exactly what he needed because his attitude has improved so much this week. This may become a regular date with him. Then we hit swim lessons, and met a friend and her baby for lunch. At home we then did phonics, handwriting (K) and math and read another McCloskey book, Time of Wonder. Bubby had a soccer game to finish up our evening.

Yesterday was BSF, so I know the boys are engaged in games and singing and learning the Bible while I'm in my own class. Then we met a friend at the park for lunch, and there was a lot of time playing on the playground and running around. Bubby had piano lessons and Bug had therapy, and then it was almost time for dinner and Awana. No school at home yesterday, but a lot of learning everywhere we went.

Today while Bug was at preschool it was rainy out, so we were able to do phonics and math and a painting project. We also had new memory work to begin for October, since we were gone yesterday. A new poem, hymn, and patriotic song in addition to Awana verses and New City Catechism questions make up much of that time.  Then Bubby picked out a few books to read and still had time to practice piano and build with Legos. The boys are  watching a LeapFrog DVD this afternoon, and we'll spend the rest of the afternoon playing and reading and relaxing before soccer practice this evening.

Tomorrow we have a time to play at the park scheduled with friends - the kids coming are younger than my boys, but it will still be a fun time for them. We'll end the week with some more math and phonics and books and projects of choice. I hope to do some fun things with the postcards tomorrow or this weekend, too.

There is a time and season for everything, and I realized what we were doing wasn't working for this phase of our life. Bubby is five. He has time to learn everything he wants to learn, but the time to learn to enjoy and be wonder-filled about life and learning is now. I don't want my to-do lists to get in the way of that.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

apple books and activities and week 4 recap

In public school, kindergarten and often first grade classes, too, spend at least a week (sometimes an entire month) on an apple theme. I could not let Bubby miss out on this American rite of passage, so we spent a little more than a week reading apple books and doing apple inspired things.

Books We Read:
Johnny Appleseed
Seasons of Arnold's Apple Tree
Apples (by Farmer)
Ten Apples up on Top
Apple Cider Making
How Do Apples Grow
Apple Pie Tree
Apples - (by Gibbons)
Apples To Oregon

Things  We Did:
Each day we read a couple of different apple themed books, usually a fiction  and a non-fiction one. We started the week with Johnny Appleseed, and therefore I had the boys create self-portraits of  themselves as Bubby and Bugaboo Appleseed. We also mapped out Johnny's route on Bubby's US map. (Later in the week we mapped out the route from Iowa to Oregon to go along with Apples to Oregon, and we briefly compared the trips.)
Bubby decided to give himself a beard

Making apple prints with paint on paper was a big hit for both boys. It worked on some different fine motor skills for Bug, too, so win-win.

One day when Bug was at preschool, Bubby and I painted the four different seasons of an apple tree. Even when I painted the example to follow, he chose to do his own thing with it, so I just let him. (This is much harder for me to do than it sounds.) Both boys created a simple and fun Ten Apples Up pictures, much like our Caps for Sale pictures from last year. Bubby insisted on doing a pattern with the colors.

We made another KWL chart for this topic. Bubby cut out, glued, and labeled the parts of an apple. The labeling counted as handwriting that day as he traced the words I had written for him.  We also spent some time searching around the house for things that are bigger than apples and smaller than apples.  It was interesting what Bubby chose to put on the lists.

I intended to make applesauce in the crockpot for the first time, but instead opted for my favorite apple dessert - apple crisp.  You can't go wrong with something that has a brown sugar topping!

In other learning, in phonics we worked on final blends. Phonics has started to be a bit more challenging for Bubby, but he can do it, and the challenge is good for him.  In Math, I introduced him to the unit bars our curriculum uses, so it was an easier week in that subject.  Handwriting focused on O, Q, and G. The O and Q felt awkward to write on the Handwriting Without Tears slate, in my opinion.  We continued series two in Spanish, but he's not enjoying it as much as I had hoped, so we are going to back off a little bit while I figure out what to do with that.  Bubby continued piano practicing and lessons and soccer started.

Favorite Things:
Both boys had a lot of fun this week with the activities. Bubby said his favorite thing was the apple printing. Anything with paint is always a big hit with him. I Just really enjoyed looking for various books and activities, planning our week, and implementing it all.  I really do love curriculum and instruction.

What I Learned:
Hands-on is always best. It's more work, but why use a worksheet when even a five year old can cut out and create their own apple to label and create their own four seasons to paint? I rarely use a worksheet (other than our consumable papers for math), but I can do better with more hands-on/cross-curricular activities. If I can aim for one of these types of weeks each month, I think I will have more enthusiasm in this house towards learning.

Make Way for Ducklings (Five in a Row) and Week Three Recap

I'm very behind on blogging about homeschooling. We went to Illinois for almost a week in the middle of the month when my great-grandmother died. September started up some extra activities for us. And life just gets filled with many other ordinary and wonderful things, but I want to still try to keep a record online on what we have done.  Here is a look a week three.

The story we rowed was Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey.  There is a reason this is a classic. The ducks are lovable, the storyline sweet, and it lends itself to many extension activities.  We didn't even get around to some that I had lined up - there's always next time.

What We Did:
We started the week off by going to a park where we are actually allowed to feed the ducks. (our favorite park has signs prohibiting that.)  The ducks and geese were out in full force and the way they circled around us was a bit overwhelming.  I think we all freaked out a bit at their demands at one point, which accounts for me not getting a sweet and picturesque shot of the boys feeding Mr. and Mrs. Mallard.

We read a few nonfiction books about ducks and ducklings. The book Just Ducks was probably our favorite go-along this week. Bubby and I made another KWL chart for the duck topic. We did an experiment with water and oil to discover why ducks don't get wet, and we informally compared mama and daddy ducks - their looks, their roles, etc.

Last year we read The Story of Ping for Five in a Row, so we reread it this week and compared and contrasted the stories just through conversation about both books.  There were some great vocabulary words and just some old-fashioned things to discuss in Make Way for Ducklings.

Uncle Chow and Auntie Missa happened to visit Boston this summer, so Bubby and I looked at the many pictures of famous places Auntie Missa had posted online.  There was also a really neat google tour specifically for Make Way for Ducklings, so we used that as well.  We located Massachusetts on the map (and China when we reread Ping) and colored and labeled a MA map and surrounding states. Bubby tracing the state names doubled for handwriting practice that day.

In other areas of academics, we covered the "ch" sound in phonics. In math we learned about place value to the 100s. This is just an introduction with MathUSee, but by the end of the week I think Bubby was feeling better about some of the concepts of place value. I know we will hit this more next year in math.  We also did a fun duck-based math sheet with manipulatives that worked on some pre-multiplication concepts. In handwriting we introduced U and C, and in Spanish we began our second series.  Bubby started piano lessons this week, so that was exciting to begin that journey.

Favorite Things:
Bubby's favorite thing this week had nothing to do with our duck theme.  I let him really help me make peach muffins one afternoon. He helped measure and pour in, but he really liked when I let him (with supervision) cut slices of peaches into the little pieces we needed. He ran to his room to get his chef hat. It was quite precious, and the muffins were delicious.

What I Learned:
I realized how fast time flies. From starting piano to helping more in the kitchen, Bubby is growing up so fast! This was a fun week of learning with both boys.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Harold and the Purple Crayon (Five in a Row) and Week 2 Recap

Charlotte Mason recommends lots of outdoor time for children each day. Charlotte Mason lived in England in the late 1800s'/early 1900's - not Missouri in the middle of August 2014. It has been in the nineties/hundreds this week, and it is not an Arizona heat. And while I will always prefer heat to snow and ice, I'm still not getting outside in this mess! So yet another way I'm not a true Charlotte Mason educator.
Who needs nature when you have Legos?

We did have a very good second week of school. The only difficult day was Wednesday, though Bubby had no difficulties. Bugaboo was having a very rough morning, so we muddled through and saved some school for the afternoon, but were all better by lunch time.

What We Did:
This week we spent time reading Harold and the Purple Crayon. It is different from books that I would typically pick out, but once again, Bubby enjoyed the story, laughing at a couple of moments in the story, and by the end of the week I liked it better than I had at the beginning of the week. (I learned it is a favorite of one of my blogger friends!) I was planning on doing a separate write-up for our Harold activities later, but most of them were the bulk of curriculum this week, so this is my Five in a Row post, too. We talked about vocabulary as needed, and Bubby drew in his literature binder about his favorite parts of the book.

Since Harold features a moon, we learned about moons in science. Some of the subject matter was a little over Bubby's head (no pun intended), but I was surprised at how much he retained by the end of the week when we finished the L on our KWL chart. (KWL stands for - What I Know, What I Want to Know, What I Learned) There was a nice poetry book about the different moons of the year called, When The Moon is Full by Penny Pollock. I was pleasantly surprised that Bubby liked it as well as he did. We attempted a different water color project with the moon phases. Once again the watercolor project didn't work as well as I had hoped, but Bubby had fun, and by the end of the week could tell me a few of the different phases of the moon. We also watched a Mister Rogers clip on YouTube on how crayons were made.  Bubby informed me he had already seen this clip on Daniel Tiger and my heart broke a little bit because Daniel Tiger,try as you might, you are no Mister Rogers.

 One day I put a large piece of paper (recycled from an Amazon package) on the boys' wall and gave them purple crayons to draw/imagine/create like Harold.  This wasn't as exciting for them as I had hoped it would be, but it did help Bugaboo and I work on something for OT - drawing on a vertical surface.  For math I had Bubby take a "What's Your Favorite Pie?" survey. He came up with the pie choices (I had to steer him away from unknown pie ideas like "grape pie.") I posted his picture and question on Facebook, expecting maybe ten people to respond. We had over eighty responses to his survey. (Thank you, friends and family!) I was going to use a pocket chart to graph, but with the number of answers, we used the entire kitchen table. It was so fun reading everyone's answers to Bubby the next day (he was especially excited to know who chose what) and watching him graph them one by one.  We were going to bake something with blueberries this week, but remember it was 100 degrees here this week!I avoided using the oven whenever possible.

In MathUSee this week we introduced place value. Oh my goodness. This may have been too soon in my humble opinion. I love the way the curriculum explains it, but I don't know that moving from "this is a triangle," "These are numbers one through nine" to "Here's the ten's place and what that means is..." is developmentally appropriate.  We'll see how next week goes with the hundred's.  We learned the "sh" sound in phonics (All About Reading), and that was much easier than last week's "th" sound. We spent another week on series one in Spanish, and I introduced a couple of simple Spanish songs I learned on mission trips in high school.  Handwriting went a little better with H, T, I this week, but we continue to move very slowly on this - and just a few minutes a day.

Bubby's favorite part of the week he said was, "learning all about the moon." My favorite part of the week was the graphing project, even though it made me want to go to Village Inn for pie, like back in my high school days.  The funniest Bubby quote of the school week came at the end of the project when pumpkin had the most votes and Bubby's lemon tied for the fewest votes. "My team didn't win!" he cried out, followed by almost as much sadness as when "the horses" lost to "the birds" in the SuperBowl this last year.

One of my favorite parts of the week was when Bubby just sat drawing at the kitchen table with paper and markers while I fixed lunch. He took his time and came up with his own idea for what to draw - "When God created the earth," he told me. He drew a bunch of animals, dirt (always dirt with this boy), grass, a sun, and a red circle which he informed me was a mosquito.

Can' you find the mosquito?

What I Learned:
I learned that I can do school in the afternoon and run errands in the mornings if I need to because it is too hot to grocery shop after lunch in August. I also learned that Bubby is happiest when he is in charge of the pointer during calendar time.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Night of the Moonjellies - Five in a Row Style

I hesitated writing/posting about our Night of the Moonjellies week (aka our first week of kindergarten at home) because I was so consumed with taking "back to school" photos that I really didn't take any of our learning. I scrounged up two that work, but they don't really highlight the fun and enjoyment we had with this book.

Bubby loved this book. I had to get it through inter-library loan, so I was extra careful with it. He asked for it right away each day, and he was disappointed when it wasn't first on our schedule. It is a lovely story of a boy working at his grandma's hot dog/lobster roll stand at the shore out east, and also his encounter with moonjellies.

Some easy things we did with this story were going over new vocabulary, eating at a picnic table (like how Mark ate outside), and going to Sonic for orange soda, hot dogs and onion rings (since they were ordered a lot in the book, and we don't have lobster rolls here in Missouri). We attempted a jellyfish watercolor drip art project I read about on a blog, but it did not work.

A different day we created boats out of shapes and then we painted moonjellies in the water and Bubby added stars in the sky. We read an easy-reader on Maine, since that is a state famous for lobsters, and we located various northeastern states on our map (Maine, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and New Jersey).

We read two books about jellyfish (even though moonjellies aren't really jellyfish), and we completed a KWL chart on our new whiteboard (that still needs to find a place besides the floor). Since Mark and his family were selling food, I introduced some money concepts, but we didn't hit that very hard. One evening at bath time I put glow-sticks (leftover from what Babushka sent awhile back) into the tub and turned out some of the lights. Bubby thought that was awesome - like the moonjellies glowing - but Bugaboo was not impressed.

Night of the Moonjellies was such a sweet story. It is based upon Mark Shasha's real life memories of his grandma's shop. I think Bubby and I both liked it because of the grandparent theme, and any excuse to eat onion rings is also fine with me!

This week we read Harold and the Purple Crayon.  I will post about that soon, perhaps with a couple more (and better) pictures.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Weekly Recap (August 11 - First Week!)

The first week of homeschooling is finished, and I wrote a little bit about my back-to-school emotions on my other blog. My goal on this blog, however, is to somewhat journal about and keep track of our school year. I'm guessing future "weekly recap" posts won't be as lengthy, but wordiness is my gift. :)

My list of "things to do" went a little faster than I anticipated, and there were moments when I wanted to freak out about that.  I had to remind myself that a homeschool does not look like a classroom because Bubby and I don't have to wait on twenty-five (or thirty-three) other students to finish/understand/stop horsing around before we move on to the next thing. Each day we covered a lot of things in a short amount of time.
first day self-portait, survey, handprints, and silly picture

What We Did:
This week we read Night of Moonjellies by Mark Shasha, and Bubby really enjoyed it. (I hope to do a separate blog post about this soon for my Five in a Row section.) We also read about jellyfish, read some other science books (not textbooks) that we will make our way through this year. We covered the "th" sound in phonics, which was probably the hardest thing Bubby has encountered so far in reading, I think because he doesn't do well with the "th" sound in his speech. Math was a review of triangles, and I also threw in positional words and a short introduction to money.  We did a little bit of handwriting each day (not our favorite subject), but by Friday attitudes and ability had improved for both of us.

We started our first series of Spanish phrases "Tomo el libro. Abro el libro. Cierro el libro." We did one easy art project and there were a couple of other times to just paint. We had our first field trip - meeting up with other homeschoolers (whom we did not know) to a local farm/park to learn about goats. We played outside in the water table some and at a couple of different parks. Bubby loves calendar time (which includes a lot of other things besides the calendar), and I love everything about calendar time except the calendar/"Today is..."/"What is the weather?" portions. There was lots of time at different parts of the day to read together, and plenty of time for Bubby to just play.

Bugaboo LOVED seeing the goats (He kept calling them "Dog!")

Bubby's turn to pet the goat
I had listed things on my planning sheets for Bugaboo to do during our school time. I wasn't sure how this was going to go with two kids of different ages, abilities, and needs. Bugaboo joined us for calendar time. (Well, he wandered around and watched us do calendar - and joined in for his memory verse each day.) He usually sat in on the books we were reading on the couch or on the floor in the boys' room, though not always. He participated in art and our field trip. A couple of times during math he was content to play with some manipulatives (one of which is good for his fine motor skills). The rest of the time during school he was pretty content to do puzzles, "read" his books (he could sit for a very long time looking at every picture book on his shelves), playing in his pretend kitchen, and on two occasions watching the shortest Veggie Tales DVDs we own. I'm sure that not every week will go as smoothly as it did with Bugaboo this week, but I think it will help that he will be at preschool two mornings a week while Bubby and I do school.

Bugaboo's first day of preschool. We both did well.
Such a hard decision for this mama.

My favorite thing from this week was Bubby saying on Wednesday, "You mean I have to do school EVERY day?" I don't think he quite understands what the next thirteen years of his education will be like. Lucky for him, he gets to start off in a gentle way.  My other favorite thing was Bubby asking me to reread certain books that were new to us at the beginning of the week.

What I Learned:
This is going to be a good year. On Monday there were a couple of times when I thought, "This was the wrong decision. We are going to butt heads all. year. long." The middle part of the week I saw pictures of friends' kids going off to school and struggled a bit with that as I: a) worried that Bubby was missing out on something wonderful by not going to a school building b)thinking about all the things I could get done around the house if I sent him to school every day (or a couple of days) each week.

But now, at the end of the week, I know that this is the right decision for us for this season. I love the flexibility. We went outside in the mornings a few days this week and did school before and after so that we could enjoy the nice weather and meet up with friends. I love that I am picking what he learns right now. I love that there are times when Bubby, Bug, and I are sitting on the couch or at the table learning together. I love that I don't have to push him on handwriting too much yet, and I love that he isn't being held back in his reading by a predetermined kindergarten curriculum. Yes, this is the right fit for us right now.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

"Not Back To School Blog Hop" - Curriculum 2014-2015

Last year I had all of these wonderful ideas and curriculum for preschool for my boys, especially my oldest. Then I read more and more about and on and by Charlotte Mason. And my educational philosophy evolved. I don't want to say changed because a) I think I already embraced many of her ideas and b) there are still a few of her ideas I am not completely sold on.  That being said, I backed off Bubby's curriculum, and we spent much of our last year reading, playing, and learning just in real-life.  This spring and summer we've hit some road bumps with Bugaboo which also caused me to just go with the flow and enjoy preschool-hood.

But kindergarten is here for Bubby, and I will be homeschooling him.  The Charlotte Mason method says no formal academics until age six, but like I said, I don't 100% agree with everything Charlotte Mason... at least not yet. We will be doing some formal academics (including phonics!), but with a gentle approach and with short lessons. And there will still be a lot of time each day for Bubby to be outside, to play, to create, to imagine.   Here is a look at the curriculum I have pieced together for our year.. because I absolutely love piecing together curriculum maps, lesson plans, etc.  It's one of my favorite parts of getting to homeschool!

We have switched from Ordinary Parents Guide to Reading (which was fine and working okay but very dry for Bubby and for me) to All About Reading Level One.  So far we have done about a dozen lessons which have mainly been review for Bubby, but good review.  I like that I can make the lessons short and that there is a hands-on component similar to the "making words" lesson I was used to from my public school teaching days. We will most likely finish Level One mid-year, and if all goes well, we will continue to Level Two.  I am a believer in a strong phonics foundation.

We will do Math U See Primer this year. I had purchased it for last year, and Bubby was doing fine with it, but I don't want to rush him in math and then have him feel frustrated in later years. (This was a decision based upon some research on the brain, development and learning math.) We are also going to do calendar time (ugh! sorry I hate calendar stuff), but not too much fluff with it.

We loved Before Five in A Row, so we are going to use many selections (one per week) from Five in a Row Volumes One and Two. We will also read poetry, rhymes, Beatrix Potter, Winnie the Pooh, other living books and some age appropriate chapter books throughout the week.

I am most excited about this! We are going to slowly begin Speaking Spanish with Miss Mason and Francois. It is a different approach to language learning, and I'm hoping I will re-learn Spanish as I teach Bubby.

Nature walks, living books on science topics, and even the Berenstain Bears Big Book of Science.  Lots of outside time will also be part of our days. (This has been one of the biggest stretches for me in exploring the Charlotte Mason Method -- I am NOT an outdoor/nature girl.  But I know it is is good for my kids --and me!)

Social Studies:
Bubby loves maps, so I am doing a postcard/map project with him this year based on the U.S. map.

Handwriting Without Tears - Bubby is not a fan of writing, so I did not push it last year.  We are going to the preschool book we started last year and then ease into the kindergarten level.

Bubby will be in Sparks for the Awana program at church, so we will use that for some Bible study along with slowly making our way through the New City Catechism each week at calendar time and hymn study. We do Bible reading as a family before bedtime, so that will continue. 

We will be doing field trips, hopefully swim lessons and piano lessons at some point, and other real-life learning.

Preschool Curriculum for Bugaboo:

Bug is going to be attending preschool two sessions a week where he will be receiving his PT/OT/Speech and Language services.  This was a very, very hard decision for us, but we are trusting God with this decision.  The rest of the week he will be listening to what Bubby is learning (if he wants to sit with us), learning his Awana Cubby verses, and participating in field trips and art projects and outdoor time. I also need to modify this checklist a bit, too, with some of his new goals/skills.


Tuesday, April 22, 2014

discovering Charlotte Mason

Over the last several months, especially since Christmas, I have done a lot of reading/researching on Charlotte Mason and her teaching method.  It completely interests me, and I am glad I learned of it while the boys are still preschool age. There is so much talk about push, push, pushing our children to do more sooner, that I had felt myself starting to get swept up into that idea.  I am a former teacher, daughter of a teacher, product of 5 day a week all day gifted program for a large chunk of my own school years.  The pressure to produce/keep up/excel coupled with the fact that Bubby catches on to academic things fairly easily may have had me take a different road if I hadn't learned about Miss Mason.

I don't agree with everything in her method. I am probably a bigger fan of phonics than she was, for one thing.  I am sure as I read more of her books and philosophy, that there will be more things to consider how I want or do not want to implement with my boys.  I do not like being outside, but Mason advocates lots of time outside, everyday, so children can interact with nature, play, observe, get fresh air, etc. I prefer to just read about nature than to be in it.

But now that spring is here, I am making us get outside more because I don't want to deprive my boys of something they might like. In the last five out of six days, we have spent intentional time outside. That is huge for me. We have caterpillars in chrysalis right now in a mesh home in my living room. They have been fascinating to watch. I am glad (for the most part) that I am getting out of my comfort zone.

Charlotte Mason wants us to read living books, not twaddle. I thought that I was pretty good at that, but over the months I have found some things to fine tune. There are some books we love though, that I'm sure some would call twaddle, but for us they are just well-loved favorites. I have been making book lists for the last year or so, and I am thankful for Before) Five In A Row introducing me to some wonderful children's picture books.

In addition to reading everything Mason I can find, I also read a book called Simplicity Parenting. I highly recommend it to any parent.  After reading that, The Hubs and I decided to significantly decrease the amount of t.v. our boys watch.  Compared to some, I know they don't really watch that much (we don't have cable- so that leaves us with PBS kids, Veggie Tales DVDs, and some Disney movies).  But now that we have said that for awhile t.v. is for Friday nights, Sunday afternoons (so maybe I can get a nap), and sick days, I realize that an hour or two here or there really did add  up. I have to admit, I miss my box-babysitter, but we have been less cranky, we have played with more things around the house, and Bubby has utilized his creativity even more.

In big and small ways, I am really starting to understand Mason's words, "Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life." I wish I would have learned so much of what I am getting know back when I was a classroom teacher, but I am thankful that it's not too late for my own children and myself.

Monday, April 7, 2014

busier days ahead

We have officially decided to homeschool Bubby for kindergarten next year. I wrote a little bit about it on my other blog, so you can check out the details there.

I have been most impressed with the Charlotte Mason method, which buys me a little more time on some things, and gives Bubby a chance to enjoy childhood and to really observe the world around him.  There is still a lot about the classical model that appeals to me, too.  Both of these are a huge switch from public school style teaching, which I think is part of my draw to them. Both of them are heavy on living books (quality literature) and history, two of my favorite things.

Obviously, I have a lot to say and ponder and question about where I want next year to go, so this blog really will be updated more frequently. There are wonderful things in store for this schooling adventure.

Monday, February 17, 2014

katy and the big snow - five in a row style

After finishing The Snowy Day, we spent another week or so rowing a different snow book, Katy and the Big Snow by Virginia Lee Burton.The fact that this book involved tractors/bulldozers and maps made it a big hit with Bubby. He is very into maps right now. Almost every day he spends some time with his neat USA wipe-off map he got for Christmas. We need to put up the world map that he just received. Seriously, the kid loves maps. But I digress.

The pattern of some of the sentences in this book made it fun and easy for reading several days in a row. Bubby loved saying, "Sure....follow me." and both boys liked when I made the "chug chug chug" noise that Katy had in her thought bubble in some of the illustrations. The little details in the seemingly simple illustrations really held our interest.

Each time we got out Katy and the Big Snow, Bubby had to spend some time looking at the Geopolis map. We talked about the cardinal directions, but we didn't spend a lot of time on that concept since they are preschoolers. I put out large pieces of paper (actually cut apart grocery bags), and the boys and I spent some time trying to draw our own maps. (With Bugaboo we just worked on his fine motor skills of using a marker.) I had one idea in mind for a map, and Bubby had a completely different idea of what it should look like.

We got out the shaving cream for a sensory activity since it looks like snow.  One day when it started snowing, Bubby requested to go outside and catch snowflakes on his tongue, so we did that even though we were still in our pajamas.  The next day I brought the snow inside in a big container.  We got out some of the hot wheel cars and the traffic signs from the train set, and the boys spent time digging "roads" in the snow. And of course they just played in it. Bugaboo wasn't really thrilled with either of these sensory activities.

In addition to reading this book, we read books about how snow forms.  Some other snow-themed books we read to go along with Katy and the Big Snow were: Carl's Snowy Afternoon by Alexandra Day, Snow by Uri Shulevitz, Snow by Valerie Boden, Snow by Erin Edison, and my favorite of the week, Over and Under the Snow by Kate Messner. Over and Under had a poetic feel as well as a lot of great information and pictures about wildlife in winter.

We measured and marked on the door with sticky notes the different stages of the snow storm in Geopolis.  It was neat to show the boys how tall five feet of snow would be. I also measured the boys to see how tall they were compared to the snow.

We also did a freezing experiment. Bubby and I decided on some various liquids (or semi-liquids) to put in an ice tray, and then we all predicted which would freeze first and last.

After finishing Katy and the Big Snow, we have taken a break from some Five in a Row books, and have instead read some classic children's stories as well as continued with a winter-theme and have read some books on hibernation. (I hope to write about that.) I am not sure what we will do next, but I do know we are all ready for spring!

Friday, January 31, 2014

a simple checklist for preschool learning at home

Am I doing enough? This is the question that constantly runs through my head at the end of the day.

My two boys are preschool ages, with varying interests, strengths and weaknesses.  In addition to those typical challenges, my three year old, Bugaboo, has developmental delays, and requires various therapies three afternoons a week. There are always things I need to be working on with him at home. But how do I know I am doing everything I can for him? In addition to that how do I make sure my four and a half year old is still having his needs (and interests) met, too?

I used to be a teacher, so I contemplated a lesson plan type form.  But honestly, that felt really restrictive at this phase of life. Our schedules are not typical due to the therapies, a couple of activities we choose to do, and The Hubs in the midst of nursing school.  Plus if lesson plans ended up being anything at all like my chore schedules I've tried in the past, they were likely to fail.

I wanted the freedom to go with some of my boys' interests each day, but also some self-accountability, too. It has been a long winter here, and so I never know from week to week which days I will be able to get out and run errands or take the boys out to do something fun. There are days we spend a lot of time on the couch reading book after book, and days when both boys are content to play for hours with Legos. And there are many days when I feel like nothing I plan goes as expected. 

So instead of a weekly lesson plan, I came up with a checklist.  

Activity checklist

read alouds


Five in a Row



sensory bins



beads or other fine motor


pretend play

spoon or fork practice

cup/biting practice

5 W questions or yes practice







swimming or library

outside time

Each week I print off this checklist (which I am constantly tweaking). The checklist includes individual activities for Bubby and Bugaboo, as well as things they do together. As we do an activity, I just make a check mark or a little note in the box describing what we have done.  Then I can look back over the week (or at several sheets for the month) to see what we have done a lot of and where we might be lacking.  It also shows me, yes indeed, I am doing a lot. I often need the reminder, "Relax, Mama, there are only 24 hours in a day."

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The Snowy Day - Five in a Row Style

Every once in awhile I plan ahead.

Just a few days before a big snowstorm here in early January, I managed to get a copy of The Snowy Day from the library. Not only is the story a beautiful classic, the fact that we ended up with several snowy days made me (almost) excited to do snow activities.  (I hate snow. I hate winter. Just thought I'd put it out there.)

Once again, this "old fashioned" looking book held my boys' interest each day, and actually into another week.  Then when we went to story time at the library last week, the librarian was reading it among the selections, and both of my boys were excited to know the story.  I loved that Bug even participated more than normal at the library because of the familiarity of the story.

So what did we do all week to go along with the story?

Well, we obviously went out to crunch, crunch, crunch in the snow. We made tracks with our feet and with sticks. Bubby made a snow angel until the dog got a little to close to him.

We did a science observation. I brought in a scoop of snow, and we watched how long it would take to melt on our kitchen table.  (We didn't just sit and watch it. We would check it every few minutes to see the progress.)

We attempted snow paint, but I wasn't impressed with the recipe I found. Maybe I did something wrong.

Bubby worked on The Snowy Day themed tracing and cutting pages, as well as the summer/winter clothes sort activity from this packet.  His cutting is getting so much better. The boys each made a paper snowman out of white paper scraps (which they had to tear and glue to help fine motor skills). I forgot to take a picture of this activity, but it turned out really cute as most snowman art projects usually do.

Some  of the other snow-themed selections we read were White Snow, Bright Snow by Alvin Tresselt, and most of the snow/winter poems in Read-Aloud Rhymes for the Very Young by Jack Prelutsky.

I have looked through most of the other Before Five in a Row books, and we have either read them already before we started rowing, they are books better suited for spring, or  I am not interested in rowing (a couple of) them. I may move back to doing some of the regular Five in a Row books for our next study. It is hard to sometimes know what is best to do with my two boys with their ages and strengths and weaknesses. I believe Katy and the Big Snow is on hold for me at the library, so we may continue with the snow theme for awhile.