Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Poetry Memorization

I love poems. I always have.

I have deliberated as to how to share that love iwth my kids. From my previous post you have seen that we incorporate a poem into our morning routine and it has been immensley fun to learn these simple poems together. THe kids love taking turns leading the poems as well.

I had been taking most of my poems from My Montessori Journey

and then tonight I came across this great resource and have selected Wise Old Owl for our next poem.

I do love the concept of having objects in the pocket chart or in a basket to help youngers remember the poem.

I have also found that devising hand motions with the children is a wonderful help in memorization. It's fun to say the poem and do the motions all together.

Here is the Owl Craft that we will do with the poem.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Starting Your Homeschool Day on the Right Foot

I'm not the best planner/organizer, but one thing that I am very pleased with this school year is the way we start our school day. I seem to have finally found the right formula for getting the kids off on the right foot each morning. It's quick and simple,but unifying, meaningful and memorable. HEre's how we do it:

After breakfast, chores, brief scripture reading (at the breakfast table) and personal grooming time, I head downstairs to the school room and gather the kids on the rug for RUg Time. And then we follow these steps.

1. Prayer
2. One patriotic song or quote from Wee Sing America. We listen to the same track for a whole week with the goal of memorizing the song or quote.
3. Pledge of Allegance
4. Scripture verse memorization
5. Poem recitation

That's it!

Each child gets to say the prayer and lead us through the 5 steps for an entire week. We rotate from oldest to youngest so that the youngest child is very familiar with the scriptures,song and poem that he is to lead during his week. I try to keep the poem and scriptures up for the 3 weeks,but we do rotate the song weekly unless we need more time to commit it to memory.

Simple right? Right! And I think that's been the key to our success. I have notions of adding in a Portuguese word of the day, and a nursery rhyme/song for our toddler. Maybe starting in January.

From rug time, we do group classes. HEre are our group classes and how they rotate during the week.

Monday: Science
Tuesday: History
Wednesday: Art, Science and Old Testament
Thursday: Old Testament, science and P.E. (the kids all do gymnastics together in the afternoon)
Friday: Music and Poetry

Depending on how long we spend on group classes, we may be ready for snack. Or we may head right into one-on-one time or independent work. I often will prepare "snack tray" and bring it downstairs full of fruit, crackers, cheese,chips, muffins, nuts or what ever else is on hand.

I send my 3rd grader to her desk to do her independent work after group classes(written out on a schedule the night before) while I take my 1st grader to the "teacher's table" to do her math, phonics and language arts.

Then I send her to do independent work while I do math, phonics and LA with my preschooler boy. (He was doing legos or some other quiet play while waiting hs turn). Then I let 1st grader and preschooler off for the day. They may play together indoors or out, but usually I don't let them on the Wii until 3rd grader has also finished school. Usually this is a good stopping place for lunch also and I put our 15 month old down for a nap.

Then I'm free to finish up the day working one-on-one with my 3rd grader. We're usually done with our day by 1:30 or 2pm. Currently, when teh weather is good, we like to take off after baby's nap to a local skateboard park. We get there just before the older kids are out of school and have the place to ourselves for a while. We bring bikes, skates, scooters and a thingy you sit on that has handles and four wheels. It's fun!

And in case you were wondering, our 15 month old girlie just finds ways to entertain herslef in the school room during the morning. Usually she is off making a mess in some corner! I do take breaks to read her a quick book or do a simple puzzle with her. This helps tremendously to keep her happy and satisfied. Often she is on my lap playing with my hair or reaching for things on my desk while I work with a sibling. I have lots for her to explore in the room, but of course she wants everything that is off limits, like paint and markers! She keeps us on our toes,that's for sure!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Book Club: My Side of the Mountain

I had heard that only 12 year old boys enjoy reading My Side of the Mountain, but I must say that our whole book club (none of us have a 12 year old boy) really enjoyed this read. Here's how our meeting went:

1. Go around the circle and share your favorite part.

2 We discussed certain points of interest in the book such as Sam's ability to remain isolated for so long without a search party coming for him!

3. Divide into family teams (we have 3 families in our club) and play Plant Concentration. I made color copies of the plants that were mentioned or drawn in the book (just got images from Google) and glued them onto construction paper squares. On the back of the squares I labelled them A, B, C, etc. I then taped them to a large board. on another board I taped similarly prepared squares with the names of the plants I had selected. On the back of this second set of squares I labelled them 1, 2, 3, etc. The object was to match the name of the plant with the correct picture in a Classic Concentration sort of way. Each family had an answer key to help them.

4. Fashion show! This was a real hit! We discussed Sam's need to create his own clothing while away in the woods for so long and the methods he used for doing this. And while we didn't have any deer skins available, we did have plenty of brown paper sacks from the grocery store. Each family was given the same number of grocery bags, some yarn, tape, scissors, whole punch. Each family was removed to a separate part of the house to work on their own fashion creation using the supplies given. Each family chose a member of the family to model the creation and be a part of the fashion show. So cute!

5. We ended with some pancakes and blueberry jam. No, no acorn flour here. Just hand ground whole wheat flour. They were gobbled right up!

Super fun night! I hope you have fun with these ideas too. Let me know if you have other ideas for making a book club night with My Side of the Mountain.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Vocabulary Practice for Read Aloud Books

I've tried tackling vocabulary from the traditional "Schooly" way with workbooks. I suppose it worked fine enough. But I always found that many of the words were too easy or irrelevant to my daughter's life.

So then I tried using a more organic approach to vocabulary and gleaned my vocab lists from our reading, both silent and read aloud. I would plug these words into spelling city dot com (most of that site is free but you can pay for the extra goodies). Again, that worked for a while, but quickly became tedious and boring for her. She keeps me on my toes, I'll give her that.

Then I tried just giving her a list of our words from reading and then asking her to choose four or five to look up in the dictionary. HOLY MOLY! It was like pulling teeth. She apparently doesn't heart the dictionary just yet.

Well, then I decided to try something new. I'm not sure how this idea came to me, but I'm glad it did because it seems to be working (so far). I wrote each vocab word on an index card with a sharpie. Then I hole punched the upper left corner and put all the cards on a ring. I then read through the words with her several times so she would know how to pronounce them and would recognize them while listening to the book.

I handed her the dictionary (YIKES) and asked her to listen for the words on her cards as I read aloud. When she hears a word from the list, she has the option of writing down her own understanding of the word's meaning given its context in the book, or looking it up in the dictionary. I suggested that she write down the page number that the word appears on in case she wants to go back and read the word in context later.

As we began it was fun, but I quickly realized the dictionary was actually much more of a nuisance than a help. Stopping to look up the words slowed us down and interrupted the flow of our story. It was much more fun and productive to have her infer the meaning from the text and write down her own definition. If she had trouble with this, I would then have her pull out the dictionary. Or if we were anxious to read on, I'd just give her guidance until she arrived at the correct definition. Thus we remained on friendly terms with the dictionary and kept our story rolling.

I should mention that I only give her vocabulary words from a few chapters at a time. I don't give her all the vocab words from the entire book. She'll have several sets of words on separate rings by the time we finish the book.

So far...it's working. I like having the words on separate cards and gathered on rings. I think it will make it easy to have fun review games at the end of the book. I'm envisioning vocabulary memory games or matching games. I like this better than workbooks, straight dictionary work, or resorting to online vocab practice. Asking her to do anything online simply leads to endless dawdling and game playing. ICK!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Better Than Christmas!

Does anyobody else out there love to order curriculum as much as I do? Or am I the only one that gets a long-lived natural high out of selecting the perfect set of studies for each child?
And when it all comes to the door (I'm an online-shopping-kind-of-girl) and I get to open it with the kids and smell that new book smell, and flip through the materials imagining all the great lessons we'll have....AH...it relaly IS better than Christmas.
I love to see the kids eagerly paw through the piles of books and materials to see what lies in store for them in the coming school year. Of course, I have to keep a few surprises up my sleeve, just to keep things interetsing for all of us.

I don't have all my stuff ordered yet. And only a very small portion of it has come to the house so far. But the anticipation is making me giddy. You may be wondering just what curriculum I've selected that is causing all of this "Christmas In July" type joy.

Here's my list for Third Grade Girl:
Lang ARts: Paths of Exploration at geomatters dot com. This looks like fantastic stuff. The rewviews are terrific. I'm ordering because it accomplishes my goal of giving my children a solid understanding and love of American History without beating it over their heads, while at the same time providing a flexible/adjustable and very thorough lang. arts program using living books. I love that it effortlessly creates a portfolio for the student as you go. This actually includes a little science and obviously some history as well.
I'll be supplementing the grammar with G.U.M Drops and spelling with Spelling WOrkout.
Also, at the end of last year someone introduced me to Ignite your Writing, which you can download at CurrClick for ten bucks. It's fantastic! Short,fun, clear writing assignments that my daughter doesn't hate! All for ten bucks.And there's an advanced version also. We'll continue with that next year too.

Math: We used teaching textbooks grade 3 last year. IT started off well, but got very boring for her. Sheresorted to using JUST the book because she got really put off by all the online demos, cheering monkeys, and "silly" games. SO this year we're going the no-nonsense route and using Saxon Math. I got the books used from a local second hand homeschool curriculum store.

First GRade GIrl:
Math: We're nearly done with RIght STart Math level A. I'm sure we'll go on to level B since she's loving the program and doing very well.

Lang ARts: We flew through the K year of Sing Spell,Read,Write and we're now about 1/3 of the way through the first grade portion. We'll keep on chugging there. My only misgivings about this phonics program are the following: I don't like the sequence. Looking ahead, I can see that it is going to really throw a lot at us all at once, while in the beginning we were bored with endless reptition of simple concepts. Also, we don't really "sing" much with this program as the title would seem to indicate.The teacher's manual says to start each lesson with asong, and end each lesson with a game. But so far, only a couple of songs have been introduced (and they all sound alike to me). And the games....where is theinformation on how to play the games and at what point they should be introduced? I find it all a bit confusing. I just kindof make use of the games as I see fit by looking at the materials and guessing where they best fit intomy lessons.BUt Icertainly don't play the same ol' games every time.
If I could choose again, I might go back and do the K12 grade 1 phonics program with her. It worked very well for my oldest, althoughit was very visually bland. I loved their letter tiles, built in review, and predictable, consistent sequence. I disliked their spelling however! I guess you can't have it all, right?

My kids do History, ARt, and Science all together. EVen the preschooler boy.
So here's a quick rundown of those subjects:

Art: Harmony Fine Arts. It's a very Charlotte Mason approach to both art appreciation and art "lessons" as well as music appreciation. Can't wait!

Science: We're doing something new this year. We'll be using Noeo (sp???) Biology Level 2. I think I can tailor it to all ability levels.

History: Wow, we loved Story of the WOrld level 1 so much last year that we only got half way through the book! We spent a lot of time on each chapter. So we'll just pick up where we left off and move on to Book 2 when we're ready.

There you go. Sounds simple enough right? I'll add more later about ideas I have for poetry next year...and I finally have had a successful idea for helping the kids learn vocabulary from our read aloud books. That's for another post as well.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Our First Science Fair

I don't remember being in a science fair as a kid. I did a couple of "academic fairs" and always entered in the Language Arts section, but never did a science project.

I decided to encourage our second grader to attend the Washington State Science and Engineering Fair for several reasons.

First,I felt like we needed a bigger goal to work toward. I wanted to see our daughter make steady, long term progress on a project that required more than 30-60 minutes of her time and effort. Completing large projects is an important skill.

Second, I wanted her to feel part of something larger than our home school.

Third,I wanted to inspire her with the wonderful world of science in a way that our texts really can't.

And fourth, I wanted her to have an outlet for her sometimes competitive nature.

I do feel that all of our objectives were met. She did a fantastic job and even said, "wow,science is fun!" several times throughout the experience. You know how that affects us homeschooling parents. :)

Admittedly, the day of the fair itself was entirely exhausting for our family of six. We all went. My husband left work early and took the ferry over the Puget sound with us to the Bremerton Highschool where the fair was held last week. Our little 7 month old baby probably felt it the most. We left the house at 11:30am and returned home at 11pm. And that was because we left the second session of judging EARLY!!

Still, there is something to be said about sharing these experiences all together. It helps to have the younger ones witness the process and gear themselves up for the day when they can participate too. (I do have feedback for the organizers on the scheduling however....)

If there is a science fairinyour area, I'd strongly encourage you to look into participating. If you can't find one, think about organizing one,even if it's a small affair with just your coop. Need a venue? Check with your local YMCA to see if they can lend you a room for the occasion. You could even do an online science fair! And post all of your projects on a common blog. Why not??

Our daughter placed second in her grade. She felt good about her work. She met some great people, saw some great displays, learned some great study skills, and maybe even learned a little science along the way!

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Poetry Tea party

This post is a companion to the previous post. As a new fan of the Brave Writer website/blog, I've decided to implement a monthly poetry tea.

The idea of holding a poetry tea inspired me because I've struggled with finding the right way to introduce my kids to poetry. I wanted them to enjoy poetry most of all, without making it feel like a chore.

You can read all about what a poetry tea party is here:http://www.bravewriter.com/bwl/poetry-teatimes/

Our younger participants repeated lines of previously selected poetry that was whispered in their ears, or showed off pictures of a favorite poem that they had produced. My oldest actually decided to play a piano piece instead of reading her original poetry that she had prepared. The family we invited to share the tea time with us shared some wonderful poems as well.

Next time, however, I think I'll try to put more emphasis on the actual poetry part of tea time, and less emphasis on chit chat during the tea. You know how H.S. moms are. They can't stop talking when they get together. GUILTY!! It's so fun to connect with other moms and I think that our conversations actually overshadowed the poetry part of it just a bit. But we had fun, we enjoyed poetry, we saw our friends and we had a great time setting up the fancy affair. So I'm chalking this up as a total first time success!

Give it a try. It's fun! Then let me know how yours went.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Updated Curriculum Review -Writer's Jungle vs. Trail Gide to Learning

***Scroll down page for my updated opinion of Writer's Jungle.***

I wanted our return to home school to be successful. So I had to do some deep thinking about what was it (other than total sleep deprivation from new baby and the fact that we never got a summer break) that was causing friction in our home school.

I think there was some stress over the grammar/writing/lang. arts part of our curriculum. So during our down time, I did a lot of research on writing curriculum and I asked myself, "What do I really want her to get out of a writing curriculum this year?" Well, the answer surprised me: I don't want her to hate it. That's it. If we could just get beyond hating the task of writing and balking at every little word that is requested to be put on paper, I'd be a much happier mama.

I ordered the Writer's Jungle from Brave Writer.com and I have to say that I'm really pleased with it. The author, Julie B., seems to think the same way I do. But she does such a better job of actually channeling those thoughts into actual writing instruction. It helps that she really is a writer too!

We also subscribed to The Arrow, which is an age appropriate monthly newsletter with copy work and dictation material, as well as some tips for teaching the grammar and literature points in the selection. I'm not sure it's worth the money. She talks quite a bit about copy work and dictation in the manual. I think it's enough information to go on without paying for The Arrow. But if you are looking for a more prepared system for copy work/dictation/grammar/lit then it would be with your while to subscribe.

I would recommend Julie's work to anyone. The only "drawback" (if you can call it that) is the fact that this manual is only written for the parent who will teach writing. It's not actual writing assignments or instruction for the student. So the parent needs to be able to digest the information and apply it to your student's age and circumstance. Some of her recommendations are very concrete and easy to implement. Some of them are just concepts and general attitudes or approaches that may seem vague or difficult to implement. Still, I'm very glad I got it.

Her site/blog has a ton of free information that I LOVE, and I have been slowly working on adding her tips and tricks into our writing curriculum.

UPDATE:  FEB 22, 2013
This happens to be one of my most popular posts, which leads me to believe that many people are taking a look at Writer's Jungle and trying to decide if they should give it a go. So I feel like I need to give you my updated opinion of it.

I never use it anymore. 

Enough said, right?   Why you ask? Well, because it isn't convenient to use.  It's too vague and wishy washy. As the kids grow and their academic needs become more complicated, I find myself trying to balance between PLUG-N-GO curriculum, and organic-interest led curriculum.  More often than not, despite all my good intentions, I need to revert to plug-n-go.   Turns out the Arrow subscription wasn't nearly as useful as I had hoped it would be. And it didn't keep me supplied with enough copy work anyway.

Writer's Jungle is NOT plug-n-go.  In my mind, there's not even a plug.  It's just some ideas (GOOD ONES!) put together to guide your path to creating your own writing lesson plans. Too much work for this busy mama right now.  SO it sits on my shelf. And I still kick myself for paying that much money for it.

There were good things I picked up from reading the manual, like the importance of copy work, and letting children write about what they know a lot about instead of forcing them into a topic. We also enjoyed the poetry tea party idea and the co-operative story writing idea.  There, by writing those 2 sentences I saved you $200.  There are lots of great currics. that incorporate copy work and free writing, however.  My favorite one that I've been using for 2 years now is Trail Guide to Learning.  It's a great balance between ready to go lessons and flexibility for creative lesson planning.

Writers Jungle  might be right for you. But it wasn't for me,  as much as I wanted it to be.

Monday, January 31, 2011

And we are BACK!

Today was our first day of our return to homeschool. And it felt great. Mostly it felt gret because my daughter has now made the choice to be on the journey with me as a partner, rather than an unwilling tagalong. She has looked on the other side of the fence, and decided that the grass really is greener right here at home. Wow. That's pretty much all the validation I ever need.

Experimenting with public school was probalby the healthiest thign we could have done for our homeschool. At first it made me angry, even a little scared, that we were delving into the depths of government run education. But the insight we gained into ourselves, our family, our relationsihp to learning and each other is priceless. Irealize that I'm being vague when referring to the positive effect that this experience has had on our family and our homeschoo. Truth is, there have been so many benefits (not academic) to this experience that, if I was asked, I would certainly recommend that every homeschool family take a break when they feel the need, and just give public school a temporary try. You might be surprised at what you gain.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Teaching Patriotism

I'm not shy about telling my kids how lucky they are to live in such a great land with so many opportunities and blessings. I try to show my passion for politics and love of country in my every day pursuits. I know some parents try not to be "political" in front of the kids so as to allwo them a chance to develop their own policial views. Whhaaaaat? If I don't teach my kids what I believe is correct and true about politics and our sacred duty to uphold the constitution, there are plenty of folks on the other side of the fence that would be HAPPY to brainwash them into their camp.

My mom tells me that when she grew up in California during the 50s and 60s, she believed that government was all good, that government could do no wrong, that there was no such thing as a "bad cop" and that all public officials could be trusted implicitly. Well, guess what...our kids can't afford to grow up like that!

So, while I don't regularly preach politics, I DO make a point to show my patriotism. I had a wonderful opportunity to do just that last night as we read from a great book called (IN THE YEAR OF THE BOAR AND JACKIE ROBINSON)IN THE YEAR OF THE BOAR AND JACKIE ROBINSON BY LORD, BETTE BAO[AUTHOR]Paperback{In the Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson} on 1986

Without spoiling the book for you, it's about a Chinese immigrant family. THe story is told by the young daughter in fifth grade. One day her teacher asks the class why Americans are so in love with baseball. What is it about baseball that Americans so deeply resonate with? No student could think of a good answer. So the teacher lays out this elloquent explanation:

"In our national passtime, each player is a member of a team, but when he comes to bat, he stands alone. One man. Many opportunities. For no matter how far behind, how late in the game, he by himself, can make a difference. He can change what has been. He can make it a new ball game.
"in the life of ournation, each man is a citizen of the United States, but he has the right to pursue his own happiness. For no matter what his race, religion, or creed, be he pauper or president, he has the right to speak his mind, to live as he wishes within the law, to elect our officials and stand for office, to excel. To make a difference. To change what has been. To make a better America.
"And so can you. And so MUST you!"
Pg. 92

That is so powerful. I love it. It's why I cry at every game when they sing the national anthem.

My daughters and I had a beautiful conversation about the blessing of freedom and what makes it possible. I was clear about the two things we must do to maintain our freedom. Namely, we must honor God and keep his laws. We must also honor and uphold the Constitution.

My 7yo then piped up and said, "Mom, Obama likes to recycle. So that's good. He does good things." Uh....where is this info coming from? "My teacher told me!"
The look on my face must have said it all, because then she back peddled and said, " I mean, I don't know. I just know that."

Yeah, like I said, if I don't teach, there are PLENTY of others who will.