Saturday, November 9, 2013

homeschooling, weeks 9 & 10

The past two weeks were a tad out of the ordinary. We had houseguests visiting from Germany. They have two little boys, 2 & 4. Despite the lack of a common language, the kids interacted fantastically and the older boy would protest when they would go sightseeing each day, asking to stay with Sanji instead. Sanji and he, Jusus, are going to start writing to one another as pen pals. Their dad was a foreign exchange student that interned where my dad worked when I was in high school. Our families have kept in touch all these years and this is the second time they have visited us here in Portland.

In math, adding has just been introduced. I really love how a concept is introduced but then not drilled in. In one of our lessons Sanji was asked to enter 3 on the abacus, then I placed my finger after the 3 beads and asked her to enter 2 more. So she could see that 3 and 2 are five. We had several exercises like that, with the abacus, and with manipulatives. It all focused on 5. There was one lesson just on the different ways to split 5. 

Sanji really enjoys when the different cards come out for games. One day the game was to put the number cards in order and then each of us takes turn removing one but pushing the cards together so there is no gap. The other has to quickly say what number is missing. Many of the games and concepts seem so simple but as the lessons progress, I see how they all fit together and how important they are to reinforce.

I am still holding out that I will win an All About Reading set! One of the contests ends on Tuesday. If I don't win, I'm going to order it that same day. Sanji has been using Explode the Code online, a few times a week. I'm really missing the structure of AAR though. She also reads books of her choice daily and loves to take turns reading pages with me when I am reading to her.

Last week we learned about Flamingoes. She had taken a sudden interest in them and somehow I had no idea that we have them here at the Oregon Zoo. We are going to go see them next week. We watched some Discovery videos about Flamingoes, read some educational books about them, and some fun stories. I found tiny rubber flamingos that I gave her on the first day of flamingo fun and on the last day I gave her a cute webkinz plushie that she named Flora, after one of the books we read.

I'm still not doing tons of planning, we pretty much wing it and I'm kind of learning to accept that the way that I picture in my mind as being the "right" way or the "best" way, doesn't mean that we can't do it another way and have it be great. Which it has been, and is. 

Friday, October 25, 2013

homeschooling, week 8

We had quite an unstructured week. Since completing the All About Reading program, Sanji has just been reading books even more than usual (instead of having a formal lesson).  I entered a contest to win a $100 gift card from All About Learning Press, the winner is announced on my birthday. No way I don't, win, right? In the off chance that I don't win (yes, I'm being sarcastic), then I'll have to dish out the $100 to buy level 2. I actually am not loving having this gap, even though Sanji is a pretty advanced reader for her age.

I found a few websites that test reading ability, not comprehension. She tests pretty equally across the board, with two of the four that we did having a wide range. The lowest put her at late 2nd grade level, the best at late 3rd grade level. Here are the ones we used.

Dear Teacher


Reading Key


Until we begin AAR 2, I've decided that we'll use Explode the Code online. I purchased it through the Homeschool Buyer's Coop for $35 plus a $5 processing fee. I earn Smart Points if you purchase through my link so should you decide to try it, please click here!

We did the next 3 lessons in Right Start Math. There were some fun games and I am really feeling confident that this curriculum is laid out in a way that allows her to really pick up the concepts. Some days we have repeated a lesson two days in a row because I felt she needed it. Usually, that's not necessary. Each new lesson pulls from past lessons so it is important that she really grasp the concept before we move on. If I feel we need to reinforce it, we'll usually do just one activity from the most recent lesson. If there was a game, we play it again.

I prep the supplies right after we sit down and she does her calendar work

Two consecutive lessons had even/odd activities.
On the 2nd day she could quickly distinguish between the two visually

The last game we played had me placing folded slips of paper into a basket. The manual says this is a game inspired by Montessori. There were 2 slips of each number, but some were written numerically and others were written in tally marks. We took turns and would say aloud the number that we pulled. Then we had to enter it on the abacus. It was fun for both of us.

We had playdates, theater class, and piano. We spent a lot of time outdoors playing in the gorgeous sun and all the leaves in the yard. We didn't pick up Little House all week. That changes come Monday. I'm pretty sure Sanji is missing Laura as much as I am!

Sanji & Aria checking out the Halloween sensory bin

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Kindergarten Themes Spreadsheet

I know, there are SO MANY gaps here. What I did was find someone else's themes, and then pulled the ones that I wanted to use and plugged them in to the weeks. I added a few of my own, and still have to figure what and when I want to do other topics. I tried to leave several week gaps, for things that we might want to spend more time on. I'm thinking one of those blocks might be for learning about a different country or continent, every few days, for several weeks. We'll see. I'd love ideas!

homeschooling, week 7

Guess what? I was over my ickies for all of two days before I started feeling pain in my throat again. I've had a head cold all week and am not in the last fun stage of coughing all night. We had to make some adjustments, but we still had a great week.

I mentioned before that I'd like to have some sort of weekly theme. I still have a lot of gaps in my spreadsheet, I'll have to figure out how to post it here, or maybe I'll just take a picture of it and upload it. Hmmm. Anyway, over the next few weeks I hoped to cover apples, fall, pumpkins, and Halloween.  We started off with pumpkins. The first day we watched a short video on the life cycle of a pumpkin. Sanji did a color and cut worksheet, that once cut, she had to put the 8 pieces in the correct order. I also printed and laminated Montessori pumpkin life cycle cards. I really like these kinds of cards, I am trying to pin as many free resources as I can, although I think I'd be willing to pay for certain ones.

The next day we went on a "field trip" to the pumpkin patch. We needed just the right pumpkin to complete our pumpkin observation booklet. We went on a hayride, played on the playground, saw goats and chickens, and just enjoyed our time in the beautiful PNW sun. When we got home, we measured the pumpkin's height, weight, circumference, and counted it's ribs. We tested if would sink or float. We estimated and then counted it's seeds. We worked with the Montessori cards again, this time requiring her to match the image with it's label, as well as place the cards in the correct order.

We completed lessons 13 and 14 in our Right Start Math program. This is the area that I am the most nervous about. Will she acquire the skills she needs to enter first grade, should I decide to place her in school next year? (At this point, the likely answer is that she will remain at home). I had lunch with my oldest friend in the whole world, yesterday. We've been friends since 2nd grade and she just happened to end up in the PNW, too. She lives in a small town in Washington state and is a first grade teacher. She thought the math program was great and I was able to get great feedback and insight from her.

This week I began reading stories from A Pebble in Your Pocket, by Thich Nhat Hahn. This is a book that I used to read with my oldest and that he sometimes will pull from the shelf when he feels that he needs a refresher on peace and mindfulness. It is wonderful to share it with Sanji now. When I read to her, she often likes to draw. Some days she drew and one day she googled Buddha so she could see images, we have several small and one BIG Buddha in our home, so she was interested in looking at all the different representations.

Sanji is still working on the free D'Nealian sheets that I printed. She is on the letter K. We split this one over two days, the lowercase K is really a cursive K so I knew it would take a little more effort. I like these sheets for learning this printing style, but I want to add more word writing to it. Sanji writes on her own, but almost completely in capitals and the letters are always different sizes, either bigger or smaller as she adds each letter to a word, LOL!  The main benefit or the sheets is learning to write on lines. I'm kind of conflicted over how much I should push this right now, but until she says that she doesn't like it, we keep going. 

It truly has been so beautiful in the Portland area this week. It makes me feel so light and happy to be here. It really is the best time of the year here. I manage ok in the rainy winter and spring, but it really does wear on me. I am a California girl at heart, and I need my sunshine! We have spent hours outdoors every day. Either at a park or the farm or just in our own front or back yard. I've been raking up the leaves into piles for the kids to play in and it keeps them laughing and playing happily for a good long time. 

I am trying to do more prep work by nailing down some themes and creating boards for them on Pinterest, so that as that week nears, I can print out and gather supplies. I've been big time winging it big time.  This week we are going to talk about Apples and then move on to some Halloween stories and activities. I definitely want to cover Halloween around the world. She will get a direct lesson on Halloween in the Philippines, from my mom - who LOVES Halloween in America. Soon, I hope to do a post on being somewhat part of the "Sandwich Generation", having both children, and one's own parent, living in the home. 

As far as socializing, we see our regular friends and Sanji loves being in her theater class. I really am hoping to make some connections with other homeschooling families. I never quite fit into any one category so I find it can be tricky making strong connections. I naively thought that being a homeschooler, I would instantly bond with other homeschoolers of young children. As it turns out, I might not have enough "homeschool cred" since I also have a child in public school. Can't we all just support each other for making the choices that are best for our children and families?

Saturday, October 12, 2013

homeschooling, week 6

This week began with this mama fully in the throws of a nasty cold. My throat hurt, my head hurt, I was freezing, I was achey. I printed out a free (my favorite kind!) of theme pack from TPT. Part of me feels that this is just pointless busy work, because it is so simple. But, I know that she will have fun and sometimes I forgot that just because she already knows how to do something, it doesn't mean she shouldn't keep doing it as long as it is fun for her. This was a cute pack with a picture that I laminated and cut into smaller pieces so that she could put it together. It had a patterning page, a dice game, a booklet that she had to glue apples into according to direction (over/under/next to/on top of), and some cute counting cards that I also laminated but did not use this time. Her math program teaches her NOT to count so I was thinking this might not be the best activity for her, but possibly good for Rishi.

patterning, puzzle, dice game, directional words book & more

it took like 40 rolls for the blue leaf to finally be the one to make it to 10, first!

Sanji completed the last two lessons in her All About Reading program. She was very proud when she realized that she had done every single lesson in that big book. I copied the certificate and progress chart out of the activities book, I hadn't noticed the progress chart was in there. I let her stamp every single star. Now I am hoping to find a used set of Level 2. I'm giving it 4 weeks, then I'll suck it up and dish out for new if I have no luck. In the interim we will just be reading a lot of short stories, and poems, like always. We will also regularly go over what the vowels say. She is totally on it and I can pop up and ask her any time what each vowel says and she can give me all of the sounds of each one, and tell me which sounds are the long and which are the short.

Since I was sick, we also missed Science Club, such a bummer! The planned activity was vinegar and baking soda and so I thought, hey, we can do it anyway! I got a baking dish and set up 3 mason jars (or, our drinking glasses, in our house). In front of each cup I put 1 dixie cup of vinegar and 1 dixie cup of baking soda. In front of the 2nd jar I also put a cup of dishwashing liquid, and in front of the 3rd jar I also put a cup of Coca-Cola. Jars 2 and 3 also had red and green food coloring, in their respective jars. We talked about what we thought would happen and then the fun began! Sanji observed that jar 2 had bigger bubbles than jar 1 and that jar 3 grew the tallest but then became the shortest as it went down. We talked about the reactions and I read her some simple info I had printed out.  Then I just let her go to town, I filled over a dozen cups with baking soda or vinegar and let her keep combining them and adding food color. She had so much fun, she had her hands in all of it. Amazingly, most of it stayed in the baking dish.

We had friends over this week that we have known since Sanji was a newborn. We met online and have been great friends ever since. My friend is also homeschooling her daughter so it was nice to sit down with someone I know and am already really comfortable with and just talk about things. I respect this friend tremendously and she is super busy being a fantastic mom and getting her PhD at the same time. The girls are very different yet they just seem to have this magical way that they play when they are together. Something about my friend's daughter, Aria, brings out this part of my daughter that I would love to see more! They heavily play make believe and they love to explore and interact with the nature in our yard. It could be that this is one of my daughter's very few friends that are girls, too. While they had lunch, they decided to draw cats. Sanji's is the neckless one, on the left.

We talked more about evolution this week and looked over our stack of library books. We also watched the part 1 of 3, of Nova's Becoming Human, on PBS through Roku. Sanji asked several questions and was interested in almost all of it. We snuggled up and watched most of it, then she needed to move, so she walked around the room like a chimp. She was very interested when they showed what brains look like (which she remembered from Human Body camp last summer), so I am excited to get her some fun anatomy resources for Christmas, that I know she will just love.

Yoga is pretty much her only structured PE. She plays a lot outside and like most kids her age, she is almost always in some kind of motion. I started all my kids on yoga before they were 2. Deep breathing is also something they learn before they can even say it. It is such a powerful tool. I am looking into a yoga workshop for children with special needs, to see if it might be useful for my youngest one, who has developmental delays. (you will see that I quite often to OT- off topic!)

Sanji ran off shortly after saying she would do yoga with her cousin and I. Alina and I do a quick 10-15 minute video in the morning before she goes off to school. Sanji only likes doing her own yoga DVD, which is fantastic by the way.

Watching the kids rehearse in sis's Village Home class

This week I did not stay with Sanji in theater class, It was the first week that I brought Rishi along with us since my husband was teaching a class via tele conference and needed the house to be quiet. Village Home is such a cool place and I really hope I can make some new friends there. After saying bye to sis, Rishi and I hung out in the play room. It's a space designed for families with younger kids to hang out while their other kids are in class. There are plenty of toys and you can eat in there too. VH is totally welcoming of family in the classes, so we came back in for the last five minutes to watch them rehearsing their little play. Sanji is the bear.  

We covered one math lesson that we went over twice during the week. It was a fun one where she got to use the tiles to create different squares and rectangles. I was surprised when I showed her the square and asked her what it was, that she right away answered, "a square, a quadrilateral, and a special rectangle". Right on, kiddo.

Little House in the Big Woods has come to an end! We finished it this week and are going to pick up a used copy of Little House on the Prairie, tomorrow. We will start it Monday and we will also begin working on our Big Woods lap book.

In my mind we'd do school every day from 8:30-10:30. I thought it would really bug me on the days that it doesn't work out that way. Sometimes it's hard to adjust to things not being how I pictured them. Funny thing is, there was this one day where we did our calendar and handwriting in the morning, then did learning games and reading after lunch, then math right before dinner, and I felt like everything went so well and she was more excited to come to the table each time. It was probably one of our best homeschooling days.

Part of me just gets really nervous, because like I said, I am on a one year plan. So internally I panic that if I am too flexible at home, she won't adapt well to a typical school day. I also find myself really picturing myself continuing this, at least for a few more years. I'm awful at decisions. I guess we'll see as the weeks go on.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

homeschooling, week 5

On Monday, we started with some handwork.  The night before I poked holes into a foam flower and threaded some embroidery floss onto a fat needle. I have ZERO craft skills and I'm desperate for my daughter not to follow my fate. For now I am looking for simple projects that even I could teach her to pull off, but it is likely that lessons outside of the home will be in her future.

This week we alternated between reading and math each day.  The math lessons are longer and I like to spend a lot of time on them.  Sanji is an advanced reader for her age, and we do multiple lessons on reading days. She also reads aloud to various family members, every day. I keep feeling nervous about the math. Math is not my thing.  I'm glad I have a program that is scripted and multi-sensory.

This week we learned more about quadrilaterals, and learned about perpendicular lines. This was the first week that we got to use our geoboards. I asked Sanji to make a square on her board with a rubber band, then I would draw the square onto a little geoboard I printed out.  After she had done several squares, she was asked to place them from largest to smallest.  We then did the same thing with rectangles.  We also continue to work on showing numbers 1-10 on our fingers, abacus, and with tally marks.

showing 9 on abacus, with fingers and with tally sticks

We finally had a little sunshine this week and it was glorious.  It lasted the whole weekend, but I was too sick to enjoy it.  Now we are expecting rain again, tomorrow. I'm glad I was well enough Thursday and Friday to get out for some nice walks with the kids.

my daughter can not resist slugs (ew!)

Sometimes in the morning when I am not fully prepared to just sit and get to it, I like to have an activity for Sanji to work on, a coloring sheet or a maze or crossword puzzle. But my favorite thing is this Doodle Tin! Each wipeable card gives you a topic to draw and it sparks alot of imagination and creativity and we can often make a story out of her drawing.

drawing favorite foods on the grill

We will finish All About Reading Level 1, on Monday!  I have to be honest, I did not do any of the activities that required cutting or removing pages from the book.  My intent was/is to sell this program once I finish it.  I am lightly considering saving it for my littlest, although I don't know that I will homeschool him, not that I am opposed to doing so.  There are just so many other factors that will go into what is decided for him, depending on where he is developmentally at school time. We did do every fluency exercise. However, on Friday when I saw that I could just copy one page for each of the games that corresponded with the lessons we were doing, I thought it would be a fun treat to do so.  These lessons taught the additional sounds of letters with more than one sound, the vowels, ch, and s.

The games were that I would say a letter sound and she would cover it with a coin or a block or a candy. I had some M&M's and I knew it would be a hit and that she'd be willing to play several times as I wanted her to memorize ALL the vowel sounds. While we were playing, we were treated to quite the sight in our backyard!
this stunning young man was just outside our window

Another perk to homeschooling is that there is always time for an impromptu foot massage.

Our week also included one play date, piano lesson and theater lesson. We have been thinking of joining girl scouts but I'm torn. There is a homeschool troop but their meeting time and location might not be ideal for us. There is a local meeting to place girls, this week, and I'm thinking of going just to see if there is a Daisy troop forming near us that would be open to a homeschooler joining them.

Oh! I also started working on my theme week schedule, I laugh as I type this because I hardly can imagine myself keeping up with it, but we'll see. My oldest leaves for outdoor school for 4 days tomorrow (wah, don't go!!) and my plan is to hit the library after dropping him off so that I can get a pile of books on Fall & Apples. I'll let you know next week, how that goes.

Friday, September 27, 2013

homeschooling, week 4

Over the weekend, our family visited Champoeg State Park, for the Fur Trapper's Encampment.  It was perfect because we had just read about Pa going into town to trade his fur's.  The kids got to try their hand at ax throwing, feel real animal furs, see actual traps, and get a small glimpse into what life might have been like during Laura's youth. Sanji even dressed like a pioneer girl.

This week was light on the homeschool front.  Monday started with Sanji and I going to a science co op event.  It was hosted by a really nice mom that I met online, and then in person at Portland Children's Museum.  The group is geared towards 5-8 year olds.  We missed the first meet up, a week prior, because I had to take my mom to an appt.

The activity of the day was making treasure soap!  The kids each picked a treasure and put it into their mold (silicone cupcake molds), glycerin was poured on top, halfway full.   Then each child could add dye and a scent, and more glycerin was added to top it off. Sanji chose red, and grapefruit, with a spider in one soap and a skull in the other.  She did not mix the die in so it essentially became a bloody looking blob, which fit quite well with the creepy treasures she had chosen.  The kids also watched a short video about soap and made "soap molecules" with toothpicks and little poofs.

The red blob is the natural dye that settled, we didn't mix it!

It was my first real experience being with a group of homeschoolers.  Always nervous in new situations, this was no different.  There were at least a dozen kids, probably more, and all the participants were boys, with a few sisters that were either toddlers or teens.  The set up was great and the environment was very welcoming.  I didn't get a chance to talk to every mom, but I spoke to a few really nice women, and the host and her wife were awesome.

The concept for the group is for members to take turns hosting. Having had preschool at my house (whole other story but there was a 14 child co op going on for a few months) I knew I can accommodate many bodies, but I think it would have to be in a more structured way.  The soap making itself was very well organized but the free play portion wouldn't work as well since I don't have the same kind of very large open play space that their home had (complete with an indoor climber, big hit!)

This is our main homeschool space

For the structured part, we focused on one lesson from our Right Start Math program, and did it twice.  We plowed thru 10 reading lessons over the week, and should finish level 1 in about 10 days.  Then I'm not quite sure what to do.  I partly want to move on to All About Reading level 2, but it's quite spendy compared to option B, which is The Ordinary Parents Guide to Teaching Reading, which supposedly covers up to a 4th grade level and is 1/5th of the cost.

She made different patterns withi her quadrilaterals and then glued her favorite

I have so many things printed, and so much TO print, I really need to spend an evening organizing it all.  I did print some file folder games.  Sometimes I forget that simple activities are still very fun, for Sanji.  I printed an uppercase/lowercase matching game. I laminated all the pieces but I need to take the folder and inside pages somewhere to be laminated.  I'm not sure how you laminate the entire folder, if you still want it to close. Clearly I did not do enough Lollipop Logic activities when I was growing up!

File folder game

This week we also started working on our printing.  I have decided to have her start with D'Nealian.  I ordered a workbook but it's basically a look and copy, and she really does need to start with tracing. She can form all of her letters (except R which comes out very funky) but she has an odd way of forming some of them and I've never had her write on lined paper.  I am using free printables and I printed out 1 sheet of each of the letters. Each page has the two rows of the capital letter to trace, one row to do your own, then two rows of the lower case letter to trace, and one row to do your own.  We
are doing one letter a day.

Thankful for these free D'Nealing worksheets

Sanji also had her second Magic Tales Theater class, she enjoyed it even more than the first one. She did ask me to stay and I did this week, but next week I will be hanging out with Rishi in the mama lounge and peek in on her a few times.  Sanji was also very excited to complete two of her piano books and two begin two new books.  Her teacher uses the Bastien's series of books.

I really do want to incorporate some themes and spend more time exploring things that Sanji is interested in.  I'm hoping to develop a solid rhythm early next month!