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!

Friday, September 20, 2013

Village Home, A Newbie Review

Since homeschooling has been on my radar for years, back when my oldest was about to begin school (which he did and he remains in public school to this day), I've always known of Village Home.  Even though he had begun school, I always checked if they had any classes he might take.  As I was making the decision to homeschool Sanji this year, I began looking at their website more regularly.

They do have several classes for her age, but for what we decided to take, a membership wasn't the best financial choice.  It does get you reduced tuition, up to half off if you also sign up for Community Duty, which is an opportunity to volunteer in exchange for greatly reduced tuition on all classes.  

We attended Open House a few weeks ago and really loved the energy and the excitement from the staff and from the students who go there that were giving the tours.  They were well spoken and passionate about Village Home and I was very impressed with the young teen girl who gave us our tour, answered questions, and shared with us about her experience.

In the next few days, as I emailed VH questions and got answers, I signed Sanji up for one class, Magic Tales Theater. It meets once a week, for one hour, for 10 weeks.  It cost us $125 as non members. The member fee is $100, and the fee with Community Duty is $65.  

Sanji had her first class on Thursday.  It was SPECTACULAR.

The teacher, Whitney, was engaging, energetic, patient, radiant even.  The class started with a story, The Tortoise and the Hare. The children were given paper and crayons, to draw anything they wanted. Some drew the story, others did not. And it was all perfectly fine and supported by Whitney as she went from child to child to ask about their drawings.

They were invited to sit on the rug when their drawings were done. This happened at different times and each child was welcomed as they made the move from table to rug.  Next, she did roll call to match faces to names. She asked each child to share something about themselves, something they liked. Sanji said that she likes to do art.  Over the course of the hour, more stories were read, they were acted out, there was discussion and the class ended in a circle of holding hands where a squeeze traveled from teacher to child to child, all the way around so that all the good feelings they were having right then, could stay with them throughout the week. I adored this.

Sanji left happy and excited for her next class and we stopped for a treat at Cold Stone before heading to her piano lesson.

Other classes for her age include art, science, math, music, and sports, options. Once she turns 6, a few more options are available and from 7 on up, I could probably almost fill her days with classes there. I think the community is incredibly lucky to have this kind of resource and I am excited to see how our family might utilize this resource should we decide to keep on homeschooling after this school year.

homeschooling, week 3

So....i actually had intended to do a week 3 preview post because i thought it would be funny to do a week 3 recap and show how nothing i planned actually happened. Not only did i not complete the preview post, but nothing i planned actually happened. Well, half of it happened, but it was quite a scattered week.

Sunday evening, I tore my house apart in search of the book, THE DOT. I thought it would be fun to do some dot related activities since it was International Dot Day (there really IS a day for EVERYTHING.). I enlisted everyone in the search, I offered reward and incentives. Of course I ended up finding it myself. Kind of. I don't actually HAVE that book. What I have, is PRESS HERE by Herve Tullet.  It was gifted to my daughter for her 5th birthday by one of my oldest friends, who teaches first grade now. It worked just as well.

There are some nice printables for the book from the publisher's website. The ones we utilized were the coloring activity and the create your own picture activity. On Tuesday we continued our dot fun. I glued a piece of printer paper onto construction paper and penciled SANJANA on it and then she dipped an eraser in paint to make her name completely out of dots. We also played with modeling clay, in keeping with the books color theme. We added to the sensory fun by adding cinnamon tea tree tooth picks.

Modeling clay and craft trays were on sale this week at our local
learning resources store. 

On Tuesday and Wednesday, we ready Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes.  I found some great resources to go along with the story. Truth be told, I thought she'd like the flower craft the best, but she still hasn't finished it, I think it's going to be a scrap.  I've decided that after we read a story, I will ask her to retell it to me and then draw a picture. These will go into her notebook. (Someone remind me that I want to start a notebook of her work!)  There were also some worksheets that I filled in based on her answers. (Her very minimalist answers, I might add.)  We split this over the two days, reading the story once each day. The flower craft be found here, and the story mapping sheet is here. This is the journal sheet we use for story retelling, scroll down to page 6.

What's in My Name? Activity found here.

This week we did only ONE math lesson in our program.  In all honestly, I hadn't been reading the lessons ahead. I was basically seeing it for the first time along with Sanji.  Today I read ahead and decided we will do the next lesson on Monday and will do it again on Wednesday. Maybe not in it's entirety on the second go around, but just enough to see how much she is getting it.  My intention was 4 lessons a week, but I am seeing that I do want to have more time for art, sensory experiences and stories, so twice a week might be more practical for us. I'm constantly learning that we can stretch and adjust as we go.  Homeschooling seems to be very much like yoga, in that way!

Thursday was a no school day for us! Well, no school at home, I should say.  Sanji had her first Magic Tales Theater class, at Village Home, nearby in Beaverton.  It was FANTASTIC. My review will follow in a separate post.  

Today, Friday, we did our calendar work, and 3 lessons in All About Reading. Then, I read her Big Bang, The Tongue-Tickling Tale of a Speck that Became Spectacular. We will be reading this again, along with books about evolution, next week.

I also read Sanji a chapter of Little House in the Big Woods, almost every evening and we plan to incorporate some fun activities into our day, based on the book.  Oh, and I decided to drop First Language Lessons for now. The expectation of the sentence structure for answers in just lesson 3, was way too much for my five year old and I could see her wilting (like Chrysanthemum!) every time we attempted to go over the lesson. We can always try again next year!

Have a great weekend!

Friday, September 13, 2013

homeschooling, week 2

Wow, we are really doing this! We finished our second week of homeschooling. I am really enjoying the flexibility homeschooling allows us.  In my mind I saw us working for a set time every morning and doing everything else afterwards.  This week didn’t quite work out that way.

One day this week I had a friend come over around 8am, to do my niece’s hair for picture day. Long story, but my brother and his daughter recently relocated to Oregon and are living with us while he starts his new job and looks for a place for them.  I can’t braid to save my life so I called in a friend and she was so sweet to come over and hook my niece up. My friend and her daughter ended up staying for a play date, so that day we did our calendar work before they arrived, and we did our math and grammar work after.

On Wednesday’s, my little guy has occupational therapy at 10am, so we did our calendar work and reading lessons before he and I had to leave. Half the days we did both math AND reading, but the math lessons are getting longer and she reads at an advanced level for her age so the reading is really just for review. If we have to skip something, I opt to skip the reading lesson. She reads plenty each day on her own, so that is good enough for me!

In math this week we learned about 5 & 3, and, 5 & 4. The point is for her to recognize a group of 5 plus any number 1-5 and knowing instantly what it is. There is a really cute song that goes along with it and helps reinforce the concept. We also make 5 & 3 (or whatever number we are doing in the exercises) with tally sticks, our fingers, on the abacus, and by tapping. My daughter struggles with recognizing the amount of taps. I’m not sure how vital this is to her learning the material.  Tomorrow we will learn that 5 & 5 is ten. Then I think we will do review and math games for the rest of the week while she gains mastery.

using the abacus (i guess this picture speaks for itself!)

making the tower as seen in our lollipop logic book
and yes, we had school in our pj's this day!

The reading lessons are going over final blends. I am so happy with my daughter’s reading ability.  I know some think you should teach reading right away and others think you should wait.  We really just gave her the tools and helped her when she asked and over the summer her reading skills just blossomed.  I love hearing her little voice read me a book.

I decided to start First Language Lessons wit her. We did three lessons this week. The first lesson we learned about nouns and the second lesson we learned about common nouns. Sanji can only remember that a noun is a person. When I have asked her this week, she said “A noun is a person, a flower, a sun, a book……..”.  The third lesson was reading her a poem that she will work on memorizing this week and then will recite it for our family.

Sanji also takes piano lessons, once a week for 45 minutes easy. Her piano teacher is delightful.  She is warm and bubbly and gentle but really knows hot to keep Sanji going.  Her teacher came out to speak with me for about 15 minutes after Sanji’s last lesson.  She told me that she is continuing to learn very quickly and that is is going to start becoming more challenging.  I’m going to sit in on her lessons once a month so that I understand what she is learning and that way I can better support her at home.

On Thursday, Sanji will begin a class at a local homeschool education center, Village Home.  They have an amazing selection of classes for preschool up to adults.  You can become a member or take classes as a non-member.  Since we are only signing up for once class, the membership option doesn’t make financial sense for us, bit it something we will consider in the future.  She is taking Magic Tales Theater, it’s like a drama class for 5-7 year olds.

Our first science co op group meets tomorrow too. I’m really looking forward to meeting other homeschool families, and hopeful that Sanji can make some new friends to play with regularly.

Friday, September 6, 2013

homeschooling, week 1

We started our school week on Tuesday. I am a new to homeschooling mom, and I have mixed feelings about it all. The first feeling is “this is it?” I feel like I didn’t plan enough, even though I thought my plan was to keep it simple. I don’t even feel like I can define our homeschooling style, after just a week, we don’t quite have one yet. I know that we won’t be unschooling, even though it fascinates me and I see how wonderful and amazing it can be. It is definitely more about me feeling that I wouldn’t do well with it. Are we classical? I have read over The Well Trained Mind, many times. In fact, the first time was over six years ago when I thought I’d homeschool my firstborn (I didn’t.). I read on and post on their forums. I have based my planning loosely on a classical education. I think I’d like for us to have an eclectic style.

As we are getting started, I really do want to keep it simple, focusing on reading, handwriting, and math. I do have a weekly list of kinder themes for the school year that I found on a teaching blog. I’ve highlighted the ones that we might use and will make a new spreadsheet based off of it. Will we stick to it? We might, we might not.

This is what our first week looked like. After Sanji was up and dressed, we met at the kitchen table. I do have a really great kid sized table right next to it, but the main table has been comfortable for us both. I love the light in my kitchen, but we also have a great playroom space that we may move into.

We started with our calendar notebook. We went over the date, sang the days of the week song (to the tune of The Adam’s Family) and another days song (to the tune of frère Jacques*) Our calendar work was downloaded from Homeschool Creations and you can find them here. Of this packet, we are currently doing the 100 days of school chart, where we X off a box each day. On the 100th day we will do something special (TBD). We chart the weather. We add the current day’s number/date to her calendar, and color in the number day below. We make a tally mark of each school day. We talk about what day of the week and what date come before and after, but we don’t do that worksheet. We haven’t begun on time or money either, so we haven’t done those sections. But we do have them in the binder in a sleeve so that when we are ready, we can do it daily with dry erase marker.

After calendar, what we do hasn’t been in the same order every day, but it has been the same things. We do 3-4 lessons of All About Reading. I bought my set second hand months ago and by the time school started, she had surpassed all the lessons, so it is for review purposes and goes by very quickly. We did 13 lessons over our 4 day school week, we are halfway through the program. We will likely move to The Ordinary Parents Guide to Teaching Reading, after this. We will also begin All About Spelling Level 1 OR Spelling Plus.

We do one math lesson each day, from Right Start Mathematics Level 1. I like that is is scripted and Sanji likes the tally sticks and that we use our sorting pie to do some of the exercises that require manipulatives.

Finalliy, I read aloud to hear. We are reading Little House in the Big Woods. While I am reading, she is drawing pictures of things from the book. We started this book early this year and she just couldn’t get interested. She’s really enjoying it now and I don’t know if this will ever happen, but I would love to make our dining area the Little House for a week. Maybe when we finish the book.

I had printed free handwriting practice sheets but they weren’t a good fit for her (I had my heart set on her learning D’Nealian printing). I am weighing my options but I think we might go with Handwriting Without Tears. It is supposed to be lefty friendly and a teacher friend gave it her endorsement.

We have joined a science co op and the first meeting is a week from Monday, so we are going to see how that goes. I bought More Mudpies to Magnets but I’m less excited about it than I was when I first received it (I bought my curriculum and supplies over six months ago).

I have found tons of arts and crafts on Pinterest (of course) but I think I might like some kind of art program, like Home Art Studio or Atelier (not exactly in my budget). What we do will definitely grow and evolve. I just didn’t want to start it all at once. The first day my daughter complained about staying at the table. But the subsequent days were great. We had a good connection and rhythm and I loved being beside my sweet (not always), beautiful (SO beautiful) girl and when she said “School is fun!” when we were doing math, I almost cried right then and there.

I know that I can give her everything she needs for a well-rounded kindergarten experience. I should say, I am not sure this is our long-term plan. This is what felt was right for right now, I do have another child who was in a great (when it was great) charter school, who is now in a public middle school, and a child who has speech, emotional, and social delays. I wasn’t ready to send her to begin her school life away from me and homeschooling has always spoken to my heart. We will just see where this year takes us.

I’ve been inspired by so many blogs as I have prepared for, and now as I have begun, homeschooling. All of them are written by women who, to me, seem confident and experienced and sure and dedicated and SO ORGANIZED, smart, and talented. It really has made me very nervous about jumping in. I thought it might help someone along the way to find a total, unexperienced, not super organized, not particularly talented, and not so sure, almost always anxiety ridden, newbie to the homeschooling world. At least, I hope it can.