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"!