Monday, December 28, 2009

What We're Up To

Life is a little more hectic in the first grade than in previous years. I find myself with not as much to say or time to say it in. Here are some of the learning activities we've been doing:

Budgeting - using the Kid's Wealth Program.

Crafts - including painted and decorated wall letters and Christmas ornaments.

Math - for some reason he likes flash cards right now, so in addition to "living math" he is up to the 8's in addition and 7's in subtraction.

Art and Music Appreciation - saw The Nutcracker for the first time, as well as attended the lower and upper school Christmas Cantata which is a Lessons and Carols format

Compassion - shopped for two Christmas children and worked at the "toy store" for one charity's gift distribution.

Chores - cleaning, folding and putting away clothes, setting the table, helping in the kitchen.

Reading - began team-reading (I read one page, he reads the next, etc.) his first real chapter book, even if it is "twaddle".

Literature - read a wide variety of Christmas tales and poetry (Christian and secular) every day from Thanksgiving until December 26. I didn't keep an exact list of these, but I worked from another blog's list that I had cut and pasted a couple of years ago to my own Word Document, so I can probably re-create a list and may do that in a subsequent post.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Samuel's First Story

Totally out of the blue. A big secret. Samuel found a small empty notebook and decided on his own to write a story. Occasionally he asked me how to spell a word. Usually I would encourage him to use his phonics and see if he could figure it out first. Here is the finished product (I left in his spelling and grammar):

The place

ther was a 6 year old. he was A nice boy. Who Loved books! (a note at the bottom of the page to "Go on")

one of his books The Gengerbread man. another of his Books Was the place. The place It was his faveret book ever!

Onece he jumped into the Book. there Was candy. there was dinosaurs. even rainbows every day. But he got tired of eating candy he got a bellyache. he desidced he wanted to go back home. so he jumped Out of the book And went to bed

The End

Spelling and grammar aside, I was impressed with the fact that his story had a clear beginning, middle and end. Now that I know he is interested in writing stories, I think I will encourage it just a bit :-)

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Swine Flu, Anniversaries, Afterschool, Vacations, and Birthdays

I just realized it had been a few weeks since I had posted, but since I don't have a post idea in mind, I'm just going to ramble about some stuff:

Swine Flu
There have been a lot of absences in Samuel's school, making me slightly paranoid. Not that the swine flu is much worse than regular flu, unless you have something else wrong with you. I'm paranoid just the same.

My mother-in-law passed away almost a year ago. My husband doesn't talk about her at all. He didn't want to go visit her grave on Memorial Day or Mother's Day or her birthday. I'm worried he's bottling in his feelings.

Afterschool Efforts
Not going as well this year as last year. We still read at bedtime and look for educational opportunities at other times. Our two "spines", so to speak, "The Burgess Animal Book" and "The Story of the World". We don't read from these every night, but usually at least once a week. We have one novel from my "list" going at all times. I throw in poetry, living math books, living science books, artist and composer study periodically, but not regularly. There's a lot more homework this year, and less time with Dad (due to work and school schedules overlapping), so the time we have for this is significantly less. I also want to give him lots of free creative play time. I just think that's what he needs right now. So I'm happy with what we're doing, it's not what I planned.

Family Vacations
Four years ago this Christmas, my dad had a great year business-wise and gave all of us an extended family cruise. We all had such a great time together and we kept saying we're going to do it again soon. Well, it looks like "soon" might be next year (although it's not a gift this time, just all of us going to the same place). We've talked about another cruise or maybe renting a beach house. I'm hoping for someplace we can drive to.

I turned 41 on Sunday. Although other birthdays have had special significance for me, this one was just a number. I had a great day though. Samuel and Chris let me sleep in and fixed me cinnamon rolls for breakfast. Samuel gave me my fourth pair of annual Halloween birthday socks (after the first pair, I told Chris I didn't want any more Halloween socks or jewelry, which I have also gotten; he thinks it's funny to let Samuel get me a pair every I love it)! Then he made me a sweet little bracelet of orange yarn and rainbow-colored shiny beads. We went for "Sunday Supper" at my parents house with my sibs. I just love spending time with my family!

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

There once was a...


Recently while surfing through our channel guide on PBS, I discovered something wonderful...The Electric Company is back on TV! It's actually an updated version and after watching the first episode we could DVR, I think it may even be better. It has some of the old favorite bits like the shadow people sounding out words. That doesn't really describe this, but if you are a fan, you should know what I'm saying, and if you aren't a fan, then just trust me :-)

But it's got some real characters with a short story running through it and phonics rules set to rap music. One of the favorites we've seen a few times now is the "Bossy R".

Anyway, back to my post title. The very first episode we watched had one of the characters accepting a dare to enter a limerick battle, but she didn't know what one was. Samuel loved the sing song rhythm so of course, I had to check out a couple books of limericks from the library. The first one is "There Once Was a Very Odd School" by Stephen Krensky with poems all about being in school. We are now ready for the second book titled "The Hopeful Trout and Other Limericks" by John Ciardi. We've also tried our hand at composing a couple of limericks together. We're not that great at it. I'm not ready to post one of our joint efforts yet.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Another Fun Living Math Book

This fun living math book was too advanced for Samuel, but this one does offer a lot that he can do without my help and some that he can understand with my help.

Zookeeper for a Day plays into Samuel's love of animals as well as his love of math. The premise is that the child gets to walk in the steps of a zookeeper for a day and see how they use math in their jobs. Some is mental math and some needs a pencil, paper, and sometimes ruler. It's part of a Math Adventures series so I will have to see if we can find additional books.

So that's my share of the day! Hope you find it useful.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Homeschooling Dreams

There's a lot less time for homeschooling in first grade. I love Samuel's school, but I still hold on to that illusion that I am a homeschooler. He's in class 3 days a week, plus chess club and Awana. On Thursdays, he gets enough homework for Friday and Monday, but it's the school's homework, not mine.

I love his school. If I were a full time homeschooler, my curriculum would be very similar to their's. I still view myself as a homeschooler. I can't help it. I still faithfully read homeschool blogs and Yahoo groups. When will I give up my delusion?

I still have a booklist I put together for bedtime reading. This is fluid and other "fun" books get slipped in there. For instance, right now, we are reading the Burgess Animal Book, Story of the World, The Jungle Book (Kipling, not Disney), one of the A to Z Mystery series (Ron Roy), The Mouse and the Motorcycle (Cleary), and The Van Gogh Cafe (Cynthia Rylant - we love this). We don't read from each book every night. I let him choose which books, but not the same one two nights in a row, except for the A to Z Mystery which has very short chapters.

Also, periodically we will bring home another cool non-chapter book from the library (like a living math book or biography from Mike Venezia) or we read an old favorite in our home library. He also reads to me probably 4 nights a week.

So, I'm homeschooling, right? I'm homeschooling, but I'm not.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Fun Living Math Book

I'm not sure if this find was discovered because I saw it on someone's blog (if so, let me know and I'll give you credit and a link) or if I did some weird search on my library's web site, but this book came in for us and I LOVE it! The math is a little too much for my first grader, but I could see him being able to do some of the problems over the next few years.

The book is called Arithme-tickle by J. Patrick Lewis. There are 19 rhyming riddles that ask you to solve a problem. Here is and example using on of the short (and one of the easiest) riddles:

Dr. Nast said, :I'll give you three shots
to get rid of those hideous spots.
One shot every half hour." Goodness sake!
How long did those nasty Nast shots take?

The answer key is at the bottom of each page, but you need a mirror to read it!

When I see something cool, I like to share it, mostly because I [steal] get so many good ideas from reading other blogs. It's my "pay it forward".

Monday, September 14, 2009

First week complete

Despite the fact that we learn year-round and had already begun some books from our first grade list, this past week constituted Samuel's first week of first grade. His school does require a parent signature promising 11 hours of home instruction per week (due to the shortened school week/school year, even though they provide a full curriculum). Because we are parent-directed, child-led around here, I was a little worried about the homework/seatwork. Last year was really tough, getting him to sit still to do the work. It would often take him over an hour (split up by many breaks, but an hour total doing the work) to do work that I believed should have taken only 15 to 20 minutes. His attitude was much better this past week, though not perfect.

We've been reading several chapter books (including Story of the World, which is not really a chapter book) at bedtime in the tradition of CM-style savoring. One of those is The Mouse and the Motorcycle by Beverly Cleary, which we had listened to on CD on a vacation one and a half years ago, but he didn't remember it. Just last night, he decided to have me start reading The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling (parent-directed as this was among the choices I provided, but child-led because it was his choice).

I've also checked out some living math books which we'll look at this week. Tomorrow he starts an after-school chess club. They learn for the first half hour and then play for the second half hour. He's really excited.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

New School Year

In July, I posted my final first grade curriculum plans. Hah! I should know better than to put the word "final" on anything. My outline is more of a fluid document and always has been. Well, anyway, Samuel begins Latin School (although they don't actually learn Latin until the 2nd grade) next week. Here is what we began last week in order to ease us into my plans for the home part of his education.

Christian Studies
He signed up for Awana Club. He will also be reading from "The Beginner's Bible". There is a strong Bible component at his school with most copywork and memory work relating to the Bible in the early grades. And, we attend church as a family.

I still don't have a real plan for this because the living math way has been working for us. His school curriculum is Rod and Staff.

We heard George Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue on the radio on the way to the library so we checked out a CD and the Mike Venezia book on Gershwin. At school, he will have music twice a week for lessons in basic elements of music, including ear training, note reading and choral performance. We are debating whether to also join the elementary choir at church.

Finished up two books on his summer reading list, "Floss" by Kim Lewis, and "Wind in the Willows" adapted from Kenneth Grahame.

We began "The Mouse and the Motorcycle" by Beverly Cleary.

I had not planned to do Ancient History; however, I found The Story of the World, Volume 1 on ebay for a good price (remember me mentioning fluidity in my plans?). This past week, we read the Introduction and the chapter on Nomads. I did a search for books to supplement this and hopefully some of them will come in this week. Tonight, I am reading him the story of Jericho from "The Beginner's Bible" because when the book mentioned Jericho as one of the first cities, he did not know about it.

We have been going back and forth between reading books from the library about African animals and reading "Poor Mrs. Quack" by Thorton Burgess. We also made a trip to the zoo last week and the week before.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009


Samuel will be going to his classical school three days a week this year. When the time came to pick outside activities, we had the choices of Awana, children's choir at church, tennis clinic, swimming, and chess club. I don't want to overprogram him so he never has a chance for creative play, so I told him he could only do one activity on a school day and another, if he chose, on a non-school day. I don't know if this was the right thing to do or not, but it seemed right at the time.

If it had been me, I would have chosen choir and swimming. He chose Awana and chess! Of course I don't even know how to play chess, so I guess I'll have to purchase a chess set and learn the basics so he can play/practice at home.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Changing how we do things

The answer to this question is "yes", I am too dependent on my library's computer catalog. :-)

So, I guess I will do things the old fashioned way. Tomorrow I am actually going to visit the library with a list of books and try to find them in the stacks myself!

Here is my list of readers for the next three weeks (after school starts, he'll be reading school reading assignments and/or The Beginner's Bible):
Mouse Tales by Arnold Lobel
Floss by Kim Lewis
Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskey
The Magic Fish by Freya Littledale
Gregory's Shadow by Don Freeman

Here is my list of literature read-alouds (for starters, I'm only going to check one or two out at a time):
The Borrowers by Mary Norton
Henry Huggins by Beverly Cleary
Homer Price by Robert McCloskey
The Magician's Nephew by C.S. Lewis

For History, I recently purchase Story of the World, Volume 1 (Ancients) on eBay. I plan to read a chapter or two a week, along with checking out other books to go along with those chapters. I won't start this until I get the book and the library online catalog is up and running.

Math and printing will primarily follow the school's curriculum; however, I will always be offering real life uses of these two skills for practice and enrichment.

Later on in the school year, I will add math history, nature study, artist and composer studies.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Am I too dependent on my library's computer?

I had planned on starting to request books from my literature and history book lists for first grade and beginning to read from them next week. Currently we are on a child-led tour of African Animals, which is science and also kind of geography. But our literature choices this summer has been pretty much child-led (and mostly twaddle) and he hasn't been interested in history at all.

Now to the point of the post title. We had severe storms and flash flooding in our town on Tuesday. The Main branch of the library lost many books, as well as electrical and the computer server. Now, not only can I not order new books, I don't know when the books (mostly readers from Samuel's summer reading list) we have checked out are due and I can't renew them because it's all on the computer.

They say that the server may be up sometime the beginning of next week. I am trying to decide whether to return all my books "just in case" or risk a fine waiting until I can check on the computer. I still want to start Literature and History next week, so I will go into my branch on Monday and look for one or two of the titles on my list.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Birthdays, Books, and Busted Cars

Samuel turned 6 last week. We went to see Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs and ate lunch at his favorite restaurant. On the weekend, we had the family party. The summer he turned 2, the movie Cars was coming out. Now, he hadn't seen the movie (at that point, movies were limited to those we could rent and watch at home), but he really wanted a Cars birthday cake. Since the movie was so new, I could not find a bakery that had the Cars stuff to put on cakes. Thus began my foray into the amateur world of cake decorating. I bought a small Lightening McQueen car and a couple of others from the movie and made a race track cake and placed the cars on the race track (after thoroughly cleaning them, of course).

The following year, he wanted a Mystery Machine cake. Last year, a camping cake. This year, a jungle cake. Here is what I came up with:

Next, to books. Whenever we are in Target, we always stop by the dollar bins to see what's there. This time, they had some readers. Samuel picked one called "Animals in Africa". After he read it, he wanted to learn more about African Animals (OK, I put the idea in his head, but he definitely got excited about it). So, that ended up being a lot of bang for our buck.

And busted cars...why, oh why, do cars seem to run great until you make your last car payment? Our last payment was in May; beginning in May, the car has broken down (meaning, won't run) twice. We have also had to replace the key tumbler because my key kept getting stuck, the brakes, and two tires. This latest break down is going to cost us over $1300. It almost seems easier to buy a new car, but wait, we've replaced so much stuff, this one is almost new!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

ABC Meme

I saw this at Whimsy Way and decided it looked like fun:

Accent: Mostly middle of the road, but sometimes southern when I get emotional.

Breakfast or not: Always.

Chore I don't care for: Vaccuming...or dusting...really anything that kicks up dust, and therefore, my allergies.

Dog or Cat: Cat, although I've had dogs as pets before. No pets now.

Essential Electronics: Computer and cell phone

Favorite Cologne: Mostly cologne bothers my sensitive nose, but sometimes I spray on a vanilla perfume that smells like cookies.

Gold or Silver: Silver

Handbag I carry most often. In the summer it's a sand-colored crocheted purse. In the winter, plain black.

Insomnia: It probably wouldn't be classified as insomnia, but sometimes I stay up till the week hours reading a good book....and then suffer for it the next day.

Job Title: Wife, Mommy, Financial Advisor

Kids: One beautiful six-year old boy

Living arrangements: Second story 3-bedroom condo with 17 steps to reach it.

Most admirable trait: Commitment

Naughtiest childhood behavior: One time I got mad at a babysitter for tearing the bread on my jelly sandwich and threw the table knife at her.

Overnight hospital stays: Two nights after my c-section

Phobias: people not liking me

Quote: "Walking around with the toothbrush in your mouth is not the same as brushing your teeth." I say this almost daily.

Reason to smile: Chris and Samuel

Siblings: Two younger brothers

Time I wake up: Most days between 7 and 8 am.

Unusual Talent or Skill: I don't really think of any of my talents or skills as unusual.

Vegetable I refuse to eat: Hot peppers

Worst habit: Losing my focus during a conversation.

Yummy stuff: Anything chocolate, and cheesy anything.

Zoo animal I like the most: Elephant

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

First Grade Curriculum - Final

As Samuel's private school grows in enrollment, it is falling under some state guidelines. One is time - number of hours of instruction. All homeschoolers know that quantity of time is not important, but quality of time is. This school also knows that. First graders only go to school three days a week (8 - 3:30) and for a shorter school year than public schools. They learn more (based on what I see from my nephew's homework who is in the same grade as Samuel) and have high test scores (they take the Iowa Basic Skills Test). Still, the state rules, so as a parent I had to sign a statement that I would provide 11 hours per week of instructional time. LOL...I already do more than that!

Phonics, Writing, Memory work, and Math Skills- I will let the school direct that and only provide enrichment and practice at home. I have an extensive booklist supplementing my outline, but I know I will nver get through it all. So here is my first grade outline and I will add my booklist in my monthly updates and in full next summer.

Bible Study
Samuel will read The Beginner's Bible throughout the year.

Personal Family Tree
Genesis through Deuteronomy
American History - exploration of the American West
Famous Americans
American folk tales, stories, and songs

Cardinal directions (north, south, east, west)
Identify major oceans and continents, equator, north and south poles on a globe and/or map
Find our city, state and country on a map, as well as Canada and Mexico

Great books for read-alouds, approximately one per month (although I have about 20 books on my list!)
Children's Collections of Poetry (whatever we get from the library, such as the Oxford book)

Graded readers from personal and public library, Levels 1 - 3
Finish any books from the rising first grade summer reading list we didn't get to

Fibonacci - Math in Nature
DaVinci - Math in Art
"Mathematicians Are People Too" - Math in History

Life Science - habitats, food chain, plants, introducation of animal classification (add to Zoo Notebook), extinct and endangered species, environmental studies
Earth Science - Composition of the earth, weather
Continue Nature Walks, nature journal and zoo notebook

Artist Studies - Jackson Pollock, Andy Warhol, Picasso, Georgia O'Keefe, Edward Hopper
Experiment with a range of art techniques, including drawing, painting, collage, modelling media, printmaking, and weaving

Composer Studies - Leonard Bernstein, Igor Stravinky, Duke Ellington, Aaron Copeland, George Gershwin
Learn the four families of instruments in the orchestra

Life Skills
Tying shoes/knots
Learning to prepare one breakfast, lunch and dinner without help
Washing dishes

Physical Fitness
Encourage indoor and outdoor activity, to include swimming and basketball

Star-Spangled Banner

One of the things we have been working on over the last year is learning all the words to the Star-Spangled Banner. That is not so easy for a five-year old. Part of it is answering questions like "what does twilight's last gleaming mean?"

I found a wonderful book at the library to help with this. And since one of my best sources of good books is other people's blogs, I thought I would share it here in case someone else does this too.

The book is called "The Star-Spangled Banner in Translation: What it Really Means" by Elizabeth Raum. It seems to be geared to elementary age and tweens. It basically gives a little history behind the poem and song and then goes stanza by stanza (first verse only, which is ok since the first verse is all that is ever sung) and gives a modern day translation.

This was good for me as well, since maybe I had gotten to where I was just singing the words and not thinking about what they mean.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Library Finds

Almost every day I am adding requests for books to the library's website. These are books I choose from curriculum book lists and recommendations from homeschool bloggers and homeschool Yahoo groups. On occasion, I will also look for books by subject matter. Very rarely do I even take Samuel with me to pick up these requested books. But today I did and here is what he picked up off the shelves:

"The Great Snake: Stories From the Amazon" by Sean Taylor
This is a collection of short animal stories. The first one was along the lines of "how the Amazon came to be".

"The Kid's Natural History Book" by Judy Press
Samuel chose this one because he thought it was a book of crafts. There are a few crafts in it. The "facts" are written in an engaging style. However, it is definitely an evolutionist theory book. There are statements about how dinosaurs evolved into birds and how flightless birds evolved that way. Fortunately he is really only interested in the crafts in the book. I really must be on the search for some good books that present all sides of the argument fairly.

"Harriet's Halloween Candy" by Nancy Carlson
Pure twaddle - the only reason I let him get this book is because I told him I would not read it to him, that he would have to read it himself.

"The First Gift" by A. S. Gadot
I was very surprised to find this book. It was on the display shelf, probably because it is a new and shiny picture book. The illustrations are very nice. The "first gift" is the gift of a name, but much of the text is Old Testament and the last page shares a few paragraphs on Jewish Naming Customs.

"Mouse in a Meadow" by John Himmelman
This is a beautifully illustrated picture book that starts with a mouse in a meadow and takes us on a journey of all the animals, insects, birds, plants we find in the meadow, only to end with a weasel looking to make a meal of the mouse. The last pages of the book, show individual drawings of the different, animals, insects, birds, plants found in the book with their proper names so you can go back and make sure you saw everything. I checked and the author has several other picture books, some that look like living learning books and some that look like just fun.

So, all in all, a successful trip to the library. And a reminder to let my son choose some of his own books - I might just be pleasantly surprised.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Summer Reading

Samuel is participating in four summer reading programs.

The first one is for school. He is to read books from the list in this post (although I don't think he has to read them all) and complete this book report form for each book read. I like it because it gives a little bit of writing practice, but let's him be creative by drawing his favorite part of the book.So far, he has read "If You Give a Mouse a Cookie", "Morris Goes to School", "Frog and Toad Together" and "Each Peach Pear Plum". The Morris and Frog books are chapter books and he would read one chapter per day, which is why the list is pretty short. Plus the fact that he is also reading other books for other lists.

The second one is from Barnes and Noble. After reading and recording eight books on a reading log, he gets a free book from a list that you can see on the website.

The third one is from the public library - ten books read (including those read to you if you are a beginning reader) gets a little backpack filled with coupons for things like a free frosty at Wendy's or admission to the art museum.

The last one is from our church. This is the first year for this so I don't know what the prizes are. The goal is to read (or have read to you if you are a beginning reader) 25 books by the end of the summer. For each 5 books read, you get a prize. Each reading log has space for 15 books. For each reading log completely filled and turned in, you get a chance for the "big prize" drawing at the end of the summer. I don't know what the big prize is, probably a bible. The only rule is that you have to include at least 5 bible stories on your list. I have started asking Samuel to read stories from "The Beginner's Bible" at bedtime, but I haven't put any of these on the list. I think they should count, though, don't you?

Friday, June 5, 2009

Kids Wealth Program

Summer has always been a time for us to learn new things. Potty training and learning how to put on his own clothes were big ones. This summer we are beginning is Kids Wealth. Samuel turns 6 in July and it would probably be the time we start an allowance. This is different from an allowance. He got his first Kids Pay on Monday and is now learning the painful lesson of choices. It's awesome. Here are the basics:

  1. Determine how much you spend on your child's wants each month. I did not include college funding or birthday and Christmas gifts. I did include souveniers when we go on vacation, his weekly treat from the grocery store, the money he puts in the missionary globe at church, fast food when he is the only one who wants it, fun books, movies, etc.
  2. Divide that amount by half and make that the "Kid's Pay" which is paid out monthly. You still get some discretionary "treat your kid" money.
  3. Stop saying "no" all the time and let your child make their own decisions and learn consequences of those decisions.

The Kid's Pay is divided into different "accounts", each one having it's own color-coded wallet. The wallets are 30% to Wealth, 20% to Plan, 20% to Learn, 20% to Fun, and 10% to Angel. This next part is a description of each account.

WEALTH - The Wealth Account is your child's long-term investment account. The program talks about "paying yourself first" but because I believe you pay God first, I just altered this aspect. When enough money has accumulated, you open a savings account and eventually an investment account. They don't touch this money ever, just watch it grow.

PLAN - The Plan Account teaches your child how to set a goal and develop a plan to achieve it. This allows them to plan for more expensive items using their own money.

LEARN - The Learn Account reinforces that learning is a lifelong precess worth investing in. This money is for books, software, museums and any other educational activites. This should be spent each month.

FUN - The Fun Account is your child's monthly fun money to buy things they want. Kids learn to make wise spending decisions as they learn to live within a budget. This has already come into play a couple of times this week when Samuel asks for something. So far he has not spent his money because each time I tell him how much something costs, he decides it is not worth it! This money should be spent each month.

ANGEL - The Angel Account should be spent each month helping others, giving to church, charities, benefits, or other worthwhile causes.

I had signed up for their e-mail list long before I purchased the kit. It sometimes goes on sale, which is when I purchased it.

Friday, May 29, 2009

May Afterschool Report

"Regular" school finished up May 19 and we've been doing more unschooling types of learning at home -

Math - He learned to play Yahtzee. Although I do most of the adding, I let him do what he can and the rest I do out loud so he can see my thought processes. We have also begun practicing adding coins of different denomiations together. Previously, he has counted money of only the same denomination. We have also begun setting the stage for our summer (and hopefully continuing throughout the years) unit on money, using the KidsWealth program, which we are starting on June 1. More on this to come.

Music - We listened to Brahms Hungarian Dances in the car some. Samuel found my Fantasia 2000 DVD which I had totally forgotten about and watched that all the way through once and the Saint-Saens piece several more times. In March 2008, we had spent a month with this composer and piece of music, and he decided he wanted to do it again in June, so I've just requested all the materials from the library including a CD, a DVD concert, and Ogden Nash's ZOO for our poet since these poems are used in the DVD. Any ideas on other activities or books we should try?

Art - Art was a little ecletic this month also. Instead of me picking one artist, I checked out several books of artwork geared to children, including "Seen Art?" by Jon Scieszka (of Time Warp Trio fame); "I Spy a Lion:Animals in Art" by Lucy Micklethwait; and "Come Look With Me:Animals in Art" by Gladys Blizzard.

Literature and Poetry - We finished "Charlotte's Web" and "The Bill Martin Jr Big Book of Poetry"; we also read another book in the "Littles" series by John Peterson and began "The Llama Who Had No Pajama" by Mary Ann Hoberman for our new poetry book. Samuel really likes poetry. In this book, he found one poem that he just had to memorize:

Leaps on
Long legs
Jelly eggs
Sticky tongue
Tricks flies
Spied by
Flicker eyes
Wet skin
Cold blood
Squats in
Mucky mud
Leaps on
Long legs
Jelly eggs
Laid in
Wet bog...

He says it in a sing-song way, but this is not easy to memorize.

Geography - we finished listening to "Paddle to the Sea" by Holling C. Holling. We also are trying to memorize the song in this video:

We've got the first verse pretty much down, but he's picked another hard one to memorize!

Nature Study - We finished reading "The Adventures of Grandfather Frog" by Thornton Burgess and began "The Adventures of Chatterer the Red Squirrel". I like these books because they are fun stories that teach something about the animals, but also help teach character. For instance, Grandfather Frog keeps getting into trouble because he thinks he already knows everything and doesn't need any help or advice from anyone. So we learn that being humble will help you out in life. We also made two trips to the zoo, the first one spent mostly observing the ducks (not an exhibit, just hanging out there) and the second one spent mostly in the bird house and penguin house. See a theme here?

The most exciting thing that happened was being able to observe a mourning dove nesting in the gutter that can be seen from Samuel's bedroom window. We also got to see the baby (called a squab) in the nest and hopping up the roof (with Mama watching from below and Papa watching from above) before they all flew off. Last year we knew there was a mourning dove nest in the tree outside our balcony, but we could never get a good look because of all the leaves. We were sad to lose our tree in the big ice storm that hit this winter and were afraid our mourning dove couple would find somewhere else. Fortunately we had a great view of their new home. We all felt bad because it hardly stopped raining during one of the nesting weeks, until we learned through some online research that they are also called Rain Doves! They are all gone from the nest now, although we still see them flying around the area occasionally.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Planning for First Grade

I probably put as much thought into Samuel's afterschool curriculum as some mom's do for a full homeschool curriculum. I actually think the curriculum at his school is great and if for some reason he couldn't go there anymore, would use a lot of what they use. The only subject where he is at a different level than his class is reading, and I continue to use graded readers for that, alternating between the level one step ahead of his class (for confidence) and two steps ahead (for challenge).

However, I have dreamed of homeschooling my child(ren) since I was in college and accidentily found a book on homeschooling in the library stacks while doing research for a paper on math anxiety in girls for my Educational Psychology class. Now, I have one child and so far full-time homeschooling remains a dream.

While I sweat and plan and revise my curriculum, I never stay married to it, knowing that the essentials (and some of the non-essentials) are "covered" by the school. Still, a big part of my parenting philosophy is that the parents should be the main educators and influencers in their children's lives for as long as possible.

Therefore, I have already spent many hours thinking about the summer and first grade. My Kindergarten curriculum has been based in large part on "Home Learning Year By Year" by Rebecca Rupp (who also has some interesting teen fiction under her belt) with a little Sonlight, Tanglewood, and Charlotte Mason ideas thrown in.

I have two schools of thought for a Core theme, since he is attending a classical school and I want enrichment, not repetiveness.
Number One: Use the Sonlight Cores as my "spine" for history, literature, and reading. I really don't like the clutter of Usborne books though, and my library has most of the books anyway, so I'm thinking about getting the IG (Instructor's Guide) and Reader's Schedule from Sonlight and filling in with other books along the same lines when necessary, probably using Rupp's suggestions, as well as Tanglewood's book lists. I want the IG more for the order to read the books as opposed to a schedule, but also for some questions and activities. I'm calling it "Sonlight Lite".
Number Two: Keep doing what I have been doing for literature, poetry, and reading; that is, use the various booklists I have been using and just read what I can get from the library when I can get it. If he isn't taking to it, move that book down the list and on to the next one on our list, and keep using graded readers from the library. For history, just supplement whatever they are studying in school with books from the library and projects I find online.

For science, I want to continue nature study, but also place an emphasis on Life Science and possibly some Earth Science as well.

For math, I am thinking of ordering the Mathtacular DVD and the Rainbow Rock CD-ROM game from Sonlight, and continuing our living math readings and enrichment activities, including studying some of the great mathematicians in history.

For art and music, I am borrowing from Ambleside Online's idea of picture and composer study, but we will pick these together as opposed to using the ones designated by the site's schedule.

I am wanting to continue working on "Life Skills" as well as encouraging physical activity, but I have no plan for this yet.

So this is my overview and I'd love to see some comments from others who afterschool or who have other insight.

Saturday, May 9, 2009


It's been a very informal month for learning. There has been some catch-up at school since weather lost them a week and the school opted not to extend the school year. They also spent three days taking the Iowa Basic Skills Test. He said he likes taking tests! He was sad when it was over and they went back to doing all their regular school work. In all honesty, I always liked testing week too.

Here's my example of why testing does not always work:

When I was a sophmore in college, I was really having a hard time finding a minor for my math major. I had tried accounting and computer science but didn't like either one. So I took an Introduction to Secondary Education class and decided that I would do that. However, that was not a minor, but a certification. I still needed a minor. I heard that the university was giving CLEP tests and although it had been two years since I had taken Spanish in high school, I decided to try that. I was pretty sure I could pass and semi-enjoy Spanish classes, but I didn't want to be behind on my four-year schedule. And if I didn't get a job teaching Math, I could maybe get one teaching Spanish. Perfect!

So, I signed up and went to the CLEP test one Saturday. Part of the exam was a tape (no, not a CD...I'm that old!) of someone reading a short paragraph in Spanish and then reading aloud a question and the A through D answer choices. I really didn't understand the gist of most of that, picking out 3 or 4 words here and there that I grabbed onto. The second part was a little easier, since I had written paragraphs to read and I could take my time. Still I left there thinking I had not done very well. At the very least, I didn't deserve any credits.

Imagine my surprise, then, when I received 6 hours in college credit! This was enough to start me in 200 level classes and make my 4 year time line.

As an aside, I miscounted on my 4 year timeline. Oh, I had all the credits I needed to graduate with a double major in Math and Spanish, but I forgot to count in the Student Teaching semester for my teaching certificate when I was organizing my education classes on my schedule. Never did get that teaching certificate...

Now, back to the present day. Now I realize getting accurate information out of a five-year old is not always the easiest thing to do, but I wanted to know what his test was like. I asked him questions:
"Did you have to count anything?"
"Did you have to read anything?"
"Did you have to complete a pattern?"
"Well, can you give me an example of a test question?"
"There were pictures in our booklet and Mrs. Oakley asked us to find the picture of the girl eating lunch and fill in the bubble."
What?!!?? What could this possibly tell you about what the child is learning?
"Was there anything on your test besides pictures?"

See what I mean? While tests may be fun for me and my child, they don't appear to be an accurate gauge of either our knowledge or intelligence.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Kids Are So Funny

We received an invitation to my niece's ballet recital. I told Samuel it was next Tuesday and would he like to go. He got a very serious look on his face and said he thought he had something else on Tuesday, but that maybe he could "squeeze it in"!

Monday, April 27, 2009

April Afterschool Report

Well, this month has two holidays that we spend quite a bit of time on. I already blogged about Easter and Earth Day, but we also did quite a bit that was not tied to a holiday.

Math - Mostly we are just practicing addition within 7 and subtraction within 5. I have also had him practicing counting nickels, dimes, and quarters. My find of the month is Sudoku puzzles. Here is a website that has some sample puzzles for kids. There are 6 altogether that are 4x4 in size. The first two I walked him through, asking him for the answers after leading him there. By the third puzzle he was leading me through the "logic". Then I printed out the second sample page of three puzzles and he did the first two all on his own, asking for one hint on the third one. I'm going to see if I can find more 4x4 puzzles before moving on to 6x6.

Music - We spent some time earlier in the month on Sergei Prokofiev and "Peter and the Wolf". Our library has a book with CD and a DVD of a ballet. We had fun trying to pick out the instruments and move like the animals.

Art - Because the first Saturday in May is the Kentucky Derby, which is like a two-week holiday where we live, I chose Degas for his "Racing Horses" painting. We also read "What Makes a Degas a Degas?" by Richard Muhlberger.

Also, I found this wonderful blog called ART PROJECTS FOR KIDS. It's awesome. Samuel did this project, except his chameleon had stripes and polka dots and his background color was orange. It was his first time doing a watercolor resist and he was so amazed at how his crayon marks showed through the paint. We put it in a frame and put it on his art gallery wall in his room (it's just three dollar store frames in a row on the short wall next to his window).

Reading - I've moved into some challenging books for his reading aloud time, mostly level 2 and 3. He's doing very well. I always have a fairly large choice, but he gets to choose which ones he reads. For his "fun" reading time he usually chooses easy picture books, which is good too. Just recently we started a reading journal, where he records the books he reads and draws a picture from the story. I'll blog about that more later, after we've had a chance to develop it more. Here are the challenging books he has read for me:
"Dolores and the Big Fire: A True Story" by Andrew Clements
"The Berenstain Bears and the Tic-Tac-Toe Mystery"
"The Case of the Puzzling Possum" by Cynthia Rylant

Literature/Poetry - We are reading Charlotte's Web" by EB White and poems from "The Bill Martin Jr Big Book of Poetry". We'll probably finish up both of these in May. A la Charlotte Mason, I usually only read one chapter from the 2 or 3 books we have going at any given time each day or two, plus one or two poems each day, in order to "savor" them. We also have two chapter books going that fall in the Nature Study category.

Geography - We are listening to "Paddle to the Sea" by Holling C. Holling once a week in the car (although we usually listen to 2 to 4 chapters at a time). I also checked out the book and we look at the pictures and use our US placemat map (I really need to get a bigger map!) to see where he is. A really fun thing we've been doing geography-wise is singing "The Fifty States That Rhyme" song. There are several versions on Youtube and I wrote down the words to the one we like and we listen and sing along. It's very hard. I don't think he's learning anything from this, but it's just showing how learning can be fun. Here's the version we like:

Nature Study - This is one of our bigger areas of study just because it's so much fun. We finished up Thornton Burgess' "The Adventures of Danny Meadow Mouse" and began "The Adventures of Grandfather Frog". We have also been reading from "The Tarantula in My Purse" by naturalist Jean Craighead George. Strangely enough, we haven't heard one word about a tarantula! We also visited the Louisville Science Center and spent a whole afternoon exploring, learning, and having fun. Of course, the weather has been nicer and we've spent countless hours outdoors, exploring the effects of our winter ice storm on our little patch of trees we watch. We lost our tree that was home to a pair of mourning doves, but we have still seen them around.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Earth Day - Hooray!

Usually I do not post plans because I am sure to change them. Just compare my Kindergarten Curriculum posting in relation to my Monthly Reports. However, Samuel is taking an interest in my blog and wants me to post everything. While we have started our Earth Day fun/lessons, there is still time before Earth Day (April 22) and maybe it would be of interest/use to you for this year.

These are the books and videos I have gotten from the library so far:

Every Day Is Earth Day, by Kathy Ross (A Craft Book)
Earth Day -- Hooray! by Stuart J. Murphy (a living math book and the inspiration for my post title)
The Lorax, by Dr. Seuss (in DVD and book format)
The Magic School Bus Holiday Special DVD (three programs about recycling, saving desert animals, and the rainforest)
I also plan on reading the creation story from the Bible to relate how we should use what God provides, but still take care of His creation.

The first book I got was the craft book. Samuel loves crafts and was desperate to find one we could do RIGHT NOW, without having to go to the store or wait until we had collected whatever trash we needed to make the craft (like toilet paper rolls, etc). The one we decided on was the TRASH MONSTER!:

Trash Monster
Side View

Top View (Face)

Here are the directions:

  1. Cut a large oval hole out of the bottom of a grocery bag (Samuel drew the oval and I cut it out). Open a second grocery bag and slide the first bag inside so that the bottom with the hole is at the top. The hole is the monster's mouth.
  2. Crumple newspaper into balls (we used half a page for each ball) and glue them above the mouth for eyes. Cut sharp teeth (triangles) from an old magazine cover and glue them around the inside of the mouth (we used scotch tape instead of glue).
  3. Cut large letters from the magazine to spell out "trash monster" and glue them to the front of the bag (our bags had writing already on them so we first glued our letters to the back of a piece of paper that we had previously drawn something on the front - more re-using!)
  4. The directions in the book made a nose out of a pipe cleaner that you could also use as a handle, but our bags had handles on them and Samuel wanted to draw on his nose so that's what we did.
  5. Take your trash monster for a walk and feed it trash you find along the way. Since we made this, we have had wet weather and I didn't think it would be a good idea to put wet trash in a paper bag, so we have been "feeding" it with bits of trash that cannot be recycled like the plastic from clothing tags and Easter candy wrappers.

I'll post pictures if we do any other crafts from this book. It's out of print as far as I can tell, but it's pretty good and I recommend trying to find it at your library or you can find it used through Amazon.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

To Bunny or Not To Bunny?

It's not about the Bunny. I know that. But the Bunny is a part of the day, just a very small part.

Beginning on Palm Sunday, I began our bible readings with Matthew 26 and continued each day through the rest of the story. I was happy, when I got to the part where Peter denies Jesus three times before the rooster crows, to hear Samuel say that was the bible story at school that week. At least I know he's getting some religious training, but I am not going to rely on that or our church for teaching him the important things.

We went to church on Saturday afternoon because our church asked its members to save the Sunday morning services for guests and those who were bringing guests. Then we went to dinner in a non-crowded restaurant because it wasn't Easter Sunday, and stopped by the Wal-mart to pick up a basket because we realized earlier that day that Samuel's basket from the past 3 years was missing.

Saturday night we also began making Resurrection Cookies. This was something I wanted to try last year, but we ran out of time. You can find the directions on many sites. I used something I printed out last year, but is no longer posted on that site. I googled "resurrection cookies" and came up with lots of sites, but linked Annie's Page.

Basically, you are making merengue cookies, but every step has some significance to the Easter story, with a bible verse reference to read aloud. The last step is to put the cookie sheet in the oven (tomb), turn off the oven and seal the oven/tomb with a piece of tape. In the morning you open the oven and give everyone a cookie to break open and see that the cookies have a hollow middle or are empty like the tomb, and read one last verse of the resurrection.

So, Sunday morning, the first thing is the basket. But while he was looking at the basket, he saw the first of the Resurrection Eggs that Hubby and I had hidden. This is the third year for this and he loves it. You can make your own eggs and follow an outline from many sites that you can find with Google. But I couldn't get it together, so I went to the local Christian bookstore and bought the eggs put out by Family Life, and the book "Benjamin's Box" by Melody Carlson that specifically goes with these eggs. Each egg has something in it that helps tell the Easter story, like a piece of cloth for the buriel clothes or a dice for when the soldiers cast lots for his clothes. The last egg is empty to signify the empty tomb. We all love this tradition.

Then we opened the oven/tomb and broke open the cookies to see they were "empty" and read the last verse. Non of us liked the cookies, but we all enjoyed the process and story.

Then we visited family and there was one way-too-many-eggs Easter egg hunt. All in all I think it's a pretty good balance with the main focus on Jesus.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Samuel's Zoo Notebook

I mention this often under the Science/Nature Study heading of blog entries, and since this is an ongoing project, I thought I'd take some time to describe it.

I am a sometimes scrapbooker. I am usually about a year behind, but Samuel loves my scrapbooks and asks to look at them often. Of course, he is the main subject of most of them of the last 5 1/2 years!

Since Samuel loves animals, we go to the zoo often. While other kids are running from one animal to the next, Samuel "observes" each animal for more than a few seconds. While other kids are shouting "hey look at the monkeys", Samuel knows that they are actually lemurs and the names of the 3 different kinds of lemurs in the exhibit at that. That is just his "thing" like other kids might be into dinosaurs (Samuel couldn't tell you much about them) or cars (knows nothing beyond the color of the car). So we usually visit a zoo when we are on vacation and between these trips and our local zoo trips, we have a LOT of pictures.

When Samuel was four, I started a Zoo Notebook with him. First we bought a cheap 3-ring binder in his favorite color (orange) and he helped me design the cover with a picture of himself eating pizza at the zoo and the title of "Samuel's Own Zoo Book". I anticipate he will want to change this when he gets older :-)

Next I sorted all the pictures by animal and asked him to pick an animal. He chose the Red Panda which we saw at the Atlanta Zoo. I asked him to tell me something about the Red Panda which I wrote in the journal box. The page ended up looking like this:
Red Panda Notebook Page
If you can't read the journalling, it says:

"Once upon a time, there was a little red panda, and the red panda climbed up a tree and he went into his cozy warm house. I saw this at the Atlanta Zoo." :-)

Clearly, I had a little work to do on the journalling aspect of this project. For the pages after that, I would first ask him what he knew about the animal, then we would go to wikipedia, where I would read him some of the facts from that animal's entry. THEN, I would ask him to tell me about the animal and I would write it down. It's been a process. The last page we did was a few weeks ago on the Polar Bear, which I think we saw in Palm Beach, FL.
Polar Bear Notebook Page
The journalling reads: "Polar Bears eat seals. They live in the Arctic and spend a lot of time on the frozen sea. They like ice because it helps them hunt for seals. The polar bear is an excellent swimmer. They are a vulnerable species which means they are endangered."

He also is now designing the pages himself, picking the colors, papers and stickers and placing them where he wants them on the page.

After the first few pages, I added some alphabet tabs and put the animals in alphabetical order. I can see this being something that Samuel continues to add to and the pages getting a little more descriptive. I have an idea to go back and add the Latin Scientific names of the animals at some point.

Monday, March 30, 2009

March Afterschool Report

March has been a fun month as I have tried an even less formal approach and allowing more input from Samuel.

Music - We have been listening to a Bach CD from our library, "The Essential Bach". It's a two disc set and we have listened all the way through twice (we only listen in the car) and we both have decided Bach is our favorite composer out of at least the last two. We also read a little about Bach's life from Mike Venezia's series of books.

Reading - I have been alternating between books that he can read with little or no help (mostly Level 1 and some 2)and books that require more help, with both the punctuation and words (mostly level 2 or "beginning chapter books" that are not graded). I don't know that the actual titles will be of interest to others. I try to find non-fiction readers about animals, because that's "his thing" or mysteries which he also likes. Lately he has started to read the "Henry and Mudge" books by Cynthia Rylant, which are at the comfort-zone level.

Literature and Poetry - We started "The Family Under the Bridge", but we find it difficult to keep more than two chapter books going at a time, so I took that back to the library for now. What we've been reading and will finish by the end of the week is another in the Boxcar Children series by Gertrude Chandler Warner, "Mike's Mystery". I personally do not like the sequels, but Samuel keeps asking for them, so every few months, I'll check out another one.

We also read a book of poems written and collected by Nancy Elizabeth Wallace, entitled "The Sun, the Moon, and the Stars" to go along with our impromptu study of the solar system (see the Science entry).

Finally, we read some of the old favorites from our very own bookshelves.

History and Geography - We finished up our thirteen original colonies study and began reading books about national symbols. So far we got to the White House ("If These Walls Could Talk" by Jane O'Connor), the Liberty Bell ("The Liberty Bell" by Mary Firestone), and began learning the Star-Spangled Banner (from the book by the same name illustrated by Peter Spier). I also downloaded a United States puzzle from Owl and Mouse Software and Samuel had a lot of fun and I think maybe learned a little.

Nature and Science - We finished up "The Adventures of Reddy Fox" and began "The Adventures of Danny Meadow Mouse", both by Thornton Burgess from a box set I gave Samuel for Christmas. Hubby planned a trip to the planetarium at the beginning of March to see a show designed for children called "Our Place in Space" and this what prompted enough interest for a small study on the solar system. We read "The Planets in Our Solar System" by Franklin Branley and "Zoo in the Sky: A Book of Animal Constellations" by Jacqueline Mitton, along with the book of poems already mentioned.

Life Skills - We did some more cooking in the kitchen, including some guided cutting, with my hands on his, and worked on setting and clearing the table. Clearing the table includes throwing away food and paper in the garbage and either putting the dishes/utensils in the dishwasher or sink. Also, I've had to work on th concept of "tone of voice" and the fact that how you say something is often more important than what you say. I think this is something most parents deal with on a daily basis!

I also found a good book at the library called "A Little Book of Manners for Boys" by Bob and Emilie Barnes which we have been reading about once a week.

And lastly, he began another set of swim lessons, which he also did last spring and summer to get ready for and practice during swim season. My secret hope is that one day he will want to swim on a swim team and I can be a swim mom (I will not push, I will not push, I will not push...)

Monday, March 16, 2009

How Protective Am I?

I was reading this post at Funschooling and got to wondering if I am an over-protective parent. Like Suji, we live in a yard-free environment (in our case a condo complex). So I decided to do a little inventory -

Knives - I have allowed Samuel (age 5) to use a table knife to spread and cut, although I started with a plastic knife, and after I taught him knife safety. Once I allowed him to use a sharper knife under my supervision, but he couldn't get a good enough grip without getting his fingers in the way, so I volunteered my fingers to do the gripping while he did the cutting. I'll probably wait a while longer to try again.

Climbing - we don't have any climbing trees in our complex, but I think I would let him climb a tree if we had one. He has climbed grassy hills (one so steep I couldn't even follow and when he couldn't walk back down, I had him scoot down on his rear) and ice covered hills, but I won't let him climb on the sofa, mostly because he tends to also want to jump on it and I am afraid for the life of the sofa more than the life of my child if he jumps).

Stoves - we do a lot of cooking together. He is the one who usually wants me to do the "hot" work. I wonder if this is because of the "don't touch the stove" warnings when he was smaller.

Fire - I haven't let him play with fire, but he does love to blow out candles.

Throw a spear?!! - What? I don't know anyone of any age who has thrown a spear.

Deconstruct appliances - In theory, if we had something that didn't work, I'd be all for it if he were interested, but I also think I've heard that some appliances have some dangerous chemicals in some of the pieces, so I think I would want supervision by someone who knows about that appliance.

Break the digital media copyright act? - I don't even know what this means.

Drive a car - Well, I do remember sitting in my Grandaddy's lap driving a tractor, but that was way out where no other traffic could find us, not in suburbia. Maybe in an office bulding parking lot on a Sunday. But he hasn't asked me to, so I probably won't offer.

So, even though somedays it feels like the only words I know are "don't", "no", and "ok time-out, mister", I think I am maybe more free-range than some, but not as much as others. However, I do desperately wish for a house with a yard where I can tell Samuel to go outside and play and I don't have to go with him because our "outside" is a parking lot.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

February Afterschool Report


Samuel has been attending "big church" with us. I don't know how much he gets, but it has led to a few questions on baptism, communion, and giving. We are also doing devotions from Gotta Have God, but not daily. When we do the devotions, we are also reading from my NIV bible. I think I may switch some of his daily reading with me to the Beginner's Bible, which is on the Sonlight Curriculum Readers 2 list.


In school, Samuel has been working on addition fact families. They made it through the "7" family. They also have been "counting pennies". I decided to enrich that aspect of school with living books on money, as well as talking more about money and adding change at home. These are the books I found that worked for us:

“One Cent, Two Cents, Old Cent, New Cent: All About Money” by Bonnie Worth

“How Much Is That Doggie in the Window” by Bob Merrill, retold by Iza Trapani

“Jelly Beans For Sale” by Bruce McMillan

“Counting Money” by Tanya Thayer

“You Can’t Buy a Dinosaur with a Dime” by Harriet Ziefert


“Honeybees” by Joyce Milton (All Aboard Science Reader, Station Stop 2) – This was by far the hardest and longest book (at 45 pages) he has read, but he kept plugging away and finally finished it. I am so proud of my little reader! And of course, this also counted as science.

He also read "There's a Wocket in My Pocket" which challenged him to use phonics to read all those nonsense words Dr. Seuss loved. And some other readers that I forgot to record.


We finished "The Story of Doctor Dolittle" by Hugh Lofting. This was a favorite and he even ended up naming two of his Webkinz after two of the animals in this book. We began "The Five Little Peppers And How They Grew" by Margaret Sidney. This book will take quite a bit of time. The language is so difficult that we only read 3 or 4 pages at a time, and we don't read this every day. So, I guess we're "savoring" this one.

History and Geography

We finished reading about the thirteen original colonies. When I requested some children's books from the library on the Revolutionary War, I made the judgement not to read any of them due to Samuel's sensitive nature. He knows that the war happened and the basic "why", but I decided not the emphasize the "how". Instead I read two of David Adler's "Picture Books" on George Washington and Paul Revere. For the next few months, the plan is to read more biographies of famous Americans and books like "Meet Our Flag, Old Glory" by April Jones Prince on national symbols.

Nature Study

We've been reading "The Adventures of Reddy Fox" by Thornton Burgess. Of course, his reading selection taught us about honeybees. And I already posted about our bird observations in this post.


This past month we focussed on Leonardo Da Vinci. We read "Katie and the Mona Lisa" by James Mayhew and "Getting to Know the World's Greatest Artists: Da Vinci" by Mike Venezia. I used the color printer to print out The Last Supper, Mona Lisa, and Lady With an Ermine and placed them in dollar store frames for our own art gallery.

Life Skills

We practiced more on making his bed, and added setting and clearing the table. I also found a cute book on manners at the library - "Do Unto Otters" by Laurie Keller.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Interview With a Five-year Old

I loved this post over at Life With My 3 Boybarians, so I decided to steal the idea. So, thanks to Darcy for the post idea and Darcy's cousin Amy for the questions.

1. What is something mom always says to you?

"I love you."

2. What makes mom happy?

"Hugs and kisses"

3. What makes mom sad?

"When I get hurt."

4. How does your mom make you laugh?

"Tickle me."

5. What was your mom like as a child?

"I can't ...oh I just can't do it. "

6. How old is your mom?

"My brain wants to say 25, but I know you're not 25."

7. How tall is your mom?

"I think I'll just....pass this question. I just don't know."

8. What is her favorite thing to do?

"Look at a book"

9. What does your mom do when you're not around?

"Read a book"

10. If your mom becomes famous, what will it be for?

"Reading a book"

11. What is your mom really good at?

"Reading a book"

12. What is your mom not very good at?


13. What does your mom do for a job?

"Work at the office"

14.What is your mom's favorite food?

"Lean Cuisine....hmmm....maybe chocolate?" Oh, you think?

15. What makes you proud of your mom?

"Because you read me stories"

16. If your mom were a cartoon character, who would she be?

"Scooby Doo"

17. What do you and your mom do together?

"Read stories"

18. How are you and your mom the same?

"We both like reading stories."

19. How are you and your mom different?

"Mommy has longer hair than I do."

20. How do you know your mom loves you?

"She's nice to me."

21. What does your mom like most about your dad?

"He makes you laugh."

22. Where is your mom's favorite place to go?

"the bookstore"

Hmmm...I wonder if I read too much? Naaa...

Friday, February 20, 2009

New Reading Idea I "Discovered"!

My title is very tongue and cheek. Mostly I steal ideas from the much more organized and experienced homeschooling mom blogs I read. However the seed of this idea actually came from my cousin who does not homeschool, but has two voracious reader sons. She was telling me at Christmas that they both always have a book or two in the car to read. Well, most of our car trips are very short in-the-neighborhood errands, so I didn't really think about that as a homeschooling idea. Plus he is reading on his own, but not silently and I thought I had to be looking at the same page so I can correct if needed.

Today I decided to throw that out the window. By accident, at the Half Price book store, I discovered a "Junior Chapter Book" version of a series of books he and his dad read together. Flipping through the pages I knew this would be a challenge for him, but thought the familiarity with the characters and stories would keep him going.

Fridays we have two 20 minute or so drive times. This morning we were listening to an audiobook. We had not finished it and I expected him to want to hear more for the afternoon drive. I had forgotten I had thrown the new book on the back seat. He saw it and decided to read. Remember he is not a silent reader so he is reading aloud to me, although often I couldn't hear his precise words due to traffic and road noise. Every now and then he would speak up louder and read a sentence with a spelled word and then tell me his "guess". He was usually close, but it allowed me to help him with unknown words even though I couldn't see the page.

This I decided was a much better way to teach a LOVE of reading, as opposed to just reading lessons (although he will certainly still get those). Later he told me he loves so many things - dancing, singing and reading!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Changes to Curriculum

The next book on the history list was Sam the Minuteman. I pre-skimmed it and while I thought it was a good book, I thought the talk of war and fighting would be too much for my five-year old. He's very sensitive to scary and sad things. So, I took it out of our book list and decided instead to look for some books about the national symbols from that time...the Declaration of Independence, the Liberty Bell, and the Flag. I have requested several books from the library, and if we end up using these books, I'll add them to my Kindergarten Curriculum post. I made a few changes today to reflect what was "planned" and what has actually occurred. History for a five-year old is more about exposure to the "idea" of history in my personal educational philosophy anyway.

I kind of chuckle when I use the word "curriculum" because to me it is just a guide of the books and ideas I want to expose my son to. I gather these ideas from all over the web and from homeschool curriculum books. Sometimes reality sets in. It has always been my practice to not push anything. Sometimes I make him listen to a few pages from a book before making up his mind (don't judge a book by its cover, you know), but if he doesn't want to finish it, I don't make him. Usually, I just move that book title down my list and the next time it comes up, he is receptive.

I recently was reading posts by a mother who was reading The Five Little Peppers and How They Grew to her sons (I believe...if this is you, please leave a comment and I will edit my post to link to your blog). She was not particularly enjoying the book. I remembered reading my mom's childhood copy as a child and knew she still had the book. I didn't really remember anything about the story though. I decided to bring it home to re-read.

But when my son found out it was his "Mommy Anne's" book as a little girl and that I had also read it when I was a little girl, he wanted it as a read-aloud. I started it and after the first page thought, "There is no way he will understand this language and context", but to my surprise he wants to keep reading it. The language is very hard and I had to stop and explain some things. One example is when the family was getting excited over the idea of 200 candles burning in the house and I had to explain that the story took place before there was electricity in every house so they wouldn't have had lights at night or on dark days. He especially liked a section where Polly is talking to an older lady who is deaf and mishears quite a few words.

So, it's been two nights now and I will keep reading it to him as long as he likes, but I won't make him finish it if he stops being interested. But for now, I added it to the Kindergarten Curriculum post.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Summer Reading List

Sheila left me a comment on my last post about public school. Don't worry, Sheila, I didn't take it personally, but I thought I'd use that as an opportunity to blog about my son's school and why we made the decision to send him there.

He goes to a private school. I'm pretty sure they are further ahead than the public school kindergarten classes here. Second, the kindergarten is only two days a week. First and second grades meet three days a week and third through twelfth meets four days a week. They have three 11 week trimesters. Independent work is emphasized. In fact, the school started as a homeschool Latin class in the founder's basement and grew from there. What I love about it is that if I were going to homeschool 100%, this would be the kind of curriculum I would use. But as you do in every "class" situation, your child does not always get to move at their pace. Which is why I "afterschool" so I can help him where they are moving faster than his pace and keep him challenged where they are moving slower than his pace.

There are a couple of reasons we decided that homeschooling was not the best solution for us, but if we didn't have this school as an option, we probably would be homeschooling. The first reason is work schedules and the second reason is that Samuel is an only child with limited opportunities for interactions with other children of any age. I have gone to some of the local homeschool group activities and while the activities were good, I have not been successful in building any friendships, either for myself or my son.

And since the comment came in regards to the reading level of his class, I thought I would share his summer reading list with you. So if they are reading these books by summer time, I think they will pick up the pace in the last trimester (beginning in March).

Rising 1st Graders

I Can Read Books
• Morris Goes to School (Level 1)
• Frog and Toad (5 book series, Level 2)
• Mouse Tales (Level 2)
• Wind in the Willows
I Spy, Each Peach Pear and Plum, 32 p.
Drummer Hoff, 32 p.
If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, 20 p.
Doctor DeSoto, 32 p.
Corduroy, 28 p.
Circus Caps for Sale
Curious George, 36 p.
Harry the Dirty Dog, 32 p.
Bread and Jam for Frances, 32 p. (5 book series)
The Little Engine that Could, 37 p.
Floss, 32 p.
Ox-cart Man, 40 p.
Blueberries for Sal, 32 p.
The Magic Fish, 32 p.
Gregory’s Shadow, 32 p.
Maybelle The Cable Car, 42 p.
Madeline, 46 p. (6 book series)
Seaman’s Journal: On the Trail with Lewis and Clark, 32 p.
Poems to Read to the Very Young, by Josette Frank

Monday, February 2, 2009

January Afterschool Report

This month we focussed mostly on reading and math. In his Kindergarten class, they are still on CVC short vowel words. Mostly I view this as writing practice. In math they are doing addition by "fact houses". All the combinations that add up to a certain the "four fact house" consists of 0+4, 1+3, 2+2, 3+1, and 4+0. They are on six right now. This is what we did at home the other 5 days of each week:

· “Fun Devotions for Boys: Gotta Have God” by Diane Cory - we actually just started this and are enjoying it so far.

· Math History - “Mathematicians Are People, Too: Stories for the Lives of Great Mathematicians” by Luetta and Wilbert Reimer – Thales, Pythagoras, Archimedes, Hypatia
· Tangrams – “Grandfather Tang’s Story: A Tale Told With Tangrams” by Ann Tompert
· Regrouping (adding 2 digit numbers) – “A Fair Bear Share” by Stuart J. Murphy
· Area – “Bigger, Better, Best!” By Stuart J. Murphy
· Symmetry – “Let’s Fly a Kite” by Stuart J. Murphy
· Understanding Halves – “Give Me Half!” by Stuart J Murphy
We also played some Uno and Battleship.

· Beethoven – Fifth Symphony, Fur Elise, Moonlight Sonata
· “Getting to Know the World’s Greatest Composers: Ludwig van Beethoven” by Mike Venezia

· “Addie Meets Max” by Joan Robins (An I Can Read Book)
· “Frogs” by Laura Driscoll (Station Stop 1 All Aboard Science Reader)
· “Honey Bunny’s Honey Bear” by Marilyn Sadler (Step into Reading 2)
· “Blue Goose” by Nancy Tafuri
· “My Friend Rabbit” by Eric Rohmann
· “Water” (An All Aboard Science Reader Station Stop 1) by Emily Neye
· “A Dollar for Penny” by Dr. Julie Glass (Step Into Reading Step 1 – also math)
· “Snow Wonder” by Charles Ghigna (Step Into Reading Step 2)
· “Cat on the Mat” by Susan Schade (Step Into Reading Step 2)

· “The Story of Dr. Dolittle” by Hugh Lofting - we are also reading a new "fun" series (A to Z mysteries by Ron Roy), so we still have a few chapters left.

Read from the Library of the Thirteen Colonies and the Lost Colony series:
· “The Colony of North Carolina” by Susan Whitehurst
· “The Colony of Connecticut” by Susan Whitehurst
· “The Colony of South Carolina” by Susan Whitehurst
· "The Colony of Maryland” by Brooke Coleman

· “The Adventures of Peter Cottontail” by Thornton Burgess

Life Skills
· Making his bed - this is a HUGE deal since his Dad never makes the bed. With his work schedule, he sleeps later than us every day and I don't always remember to go back and make the bed as an example to Samuel.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Bird Study

I mentioned in this post about our cool bird field guide. It's sometimes hard to use because we don't get a great look at any bird before they are scared off by our movements or sounds. We have a tree just outside our balcony and we sit out there sometimes trying to intice them to come to our tree so we can look at them. Last spring we were excited to see a mourning dove build a nest in the center of the tree, but soon the leaves filled in and we never got a good look at the pair (or any babies they had) after that.

This past week we had an ice and snow storm that broke off a branch of the tree, so we are very sad about that. But one good thing is that Samuel spied several "blue" birds alighting on the white branches. We tried to get closer looks and even a close up picture, but we always seemed to spook them away. Still, Samuel got out his trusty bird guide and decide they were barn swallows. Even though our field guide said they were summer birds in Kentucky, he was adament. They did look more like this bird in our guide than any other. I just was unable to give him another option.

So I asked him if he wanted to try drawing a picture in his nature notebook (and other stuff). It's just a small notebook we infrequently write nature notes in and sometimes he draws a picture. He said he couldn't do it. I told him of course he couldn't do it if he never tries. This is an area we struggle with. If he can't do it perfectly or without help, he doesn't even want to try. I told him to look at the picture in the book and copy it. I left him alone for a while with his notebook, field guide and some colored pencils. When I came back in to the room, I was shocked and amazed to see this:
Barn Swallow Nature Journal Page

This is probably better than I could do and he's only 5 1/2. I am definitely going to encourage him to draw more. He's not interested at all in the Draw Write Now book we have though, although I love it.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Product Review - ETC Online

I received an e-mail from Homeschool Buyers Co-op and followed a link to this product and to look it over. I am thinking about purchasing either a math or phonics computer "game" for summer school around here. I looked it over on my own and then called Samuel in to do the student demo. I started him at the end of Book 1 which I knew would be no challenge. Most of the exercises entailed reading two sentences and matching one of them to a picture.

It kept working him up the demo levels (not all inclusive) until I knew he wasn't reading or comprehending all the words in the sentences. However, he could read enough of the words to match one correctly to a sentence. To me, this defeats the purpose of telling me where we need to do more off-line work. To be fair, I skipped ahead to a higher level (words ending in -ed) and there were no pictures. That "game" entailed filling in the blank from a list of words to make the sentence make sense.

I have not used the ETC books before, so this may be a good fit for a family who likes and uses these books. It just isn't what I am looking for.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Summer Planning

I have just begun thinking about summer. It might have something to do with the fact that we have had several below freezing days in a row and snow two days in a row. I know my friends to the North are saying, "that's nothing", but to us in the Ohio Valley of KY, it's something.

So, on to to summer...

The obvious start is reading and read-alouds. This will continue as part of bedtime, as usual. Nothing to plan other than to make sure I have some good books in my running list that I can check out from the library. I will include some biographies and historical literature in this category.

My idea from there is to have each day be a specific "camp" day. So far I have

Art Camp
  • Watercolor Tutorials from Hearts and Trees (scroll down to the links on the sidebar) - currently she has 8 lessons
  • Usborne's I Can Draw Animals - I'm on the waiting list to check this out of the library. If I like it, I'll buy it.
  • I also may purchase the Clouds Art Show pdf, also from Hearts and Trees
  • Field trip(s) to the KY Museum of Arts and Crafts and the Speed Art Museum

Cooking Camp
Kids Cooking Lessons from Kids Cooking Activities, possibly finishing with a end of summer Pizza Cooking party with a few friends. There are 13 lessons and I may combine the Assistant Chef and the Chef in Training program because he already has kitchen experience.

Science/Nature Camp
  • Walks at local parks, exploring some we haven't been to before
  • easy science experiments from a kit he received for his last birthday and this website
  • Field trips to the Science Museum
And that's as far as I've gotten. I know I don't want to forget math, but we use math almost day, and I know that his skills are already at first grade level, except perhaps with money and time. However, having never used a formal program before, I don't know how to come up with "math camp" ideas.

My other thought is to have a whole week devoted to each subject on a rotating basis so he would have a whole art camp week, capped off by a field trip to a museum on Friday and then we wouldn't do it again untit it came up in the rotation again. However, I'm leaning more toward each "subject" being a day of the week.

But this is just my preliminary thoughts, so I'll be searching and looking for ideas all the way up to June, which is when we will start our summer, probably with a vacation.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Math Living Book Reviews

I really want to make math interesting in a real way to my son. I include him in most of the math I do to get through the day. He likes doing math worksheets now and enjoys his addition flash cards every once in while.

I love introducing new math topics by way of a story. We have read most of the Stuart J. Murphy Level 1 books more than once, and some of th Level 2 books. We even check out a Level 3 or 4 (can't remember now) book each spring called "Earth Day Hooray" which teaches recycling AND place value, even though he is just now starting to understand the idea of place value.

Grandfather Tang's Story by Ann Tompert is another book that I recently discovered. A granddaughter is playing with tangram puzzles with her grandfather and begs him to tell a story using the tangrams. The story he weaves is full of animals and they use their tangrams to make the animals in the story. The story itself is a story about friendship.

I know some people own sets of math manipulatives and probably own plastic or magnet tangram puzzles, but there is a page at the back that you can copy and cut out to have your own set. I enlarged my copy.

Samuel is 5 1/2 and this was a good introduction to using shapes. It was not easy for him and I had to help quite a bit, even though we had a pattern to follow, but he really enjoyed both the puzzles and the story.

The other book, Mathematicians Are People Too, is a great way to introduce math history. Each chapter tells of a different mathematician in history. The stories read like fiction and it really is interesting. My son enjoyed the first story about Thales; however, the next two chapters, while interesting to me, were just a little above him. I plan to check this out again in another 6 - 12 months and see how it goes over then.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

One Year Bible

I just added a new widget for the One Year Bible Blog. I have four resolutions for 2009 and beyond to improve myself in regard to these four areas:
  1. Financial
  2. Health
  3. Relationships
  4. Spiritual

Using the One Year Bible blog is one way of working on the spiritual area. I know that it would be better to let the Lord lead me in daily bible readings, but I am not disciplined enough to have daily or even weekly bible time. This is my way of having some accountability for reading the Bible. If you think this is something you would like to try, please check out that blog.