Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Great Link of the Month

OurLosBanos.com is a cool website with lots of homeschooling information, free printables, and even some free curriculum.  The author has been homeschooling for 16 years and shares her ideas, reviews, 395 free printables (I know!), and other links of interest.  I highly recommend it.  I don't bookmark every single link I see, but this one is worth holding on to even if it's just for the copywork pages, available in a variety of fonts, including our Getty-Dubay Italic Handwriting.  She has a whole science curriculum for the little ones available too.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Our New (Tweaked) Kindergarten Schedule

Now that we're starting Week 3 this week, I have a good idea of our schedule and what needed tweaking.  We're not going to follow Theology rigorously, but just have a short discussion of no more than 5-10 minutes.




Piano Lessons 4 PM





Soccer at 6 or 7 PM

Nature walks 2X
Read Bible stories before bed 1X

Extras during the week: Unstructured play indoors and outdoors, chores, board games, Mind Benders (critical thinking exercises)

Friday, September 19, 2008

The American Story

I know I'm early, but ever the planner, I was looking around long and fairly hard for a spine to use for American History.  For those of you who have never heard of a spine, a spine is the "backbone" of a unit of study. From there you can always flesh out the program with living books and activities. Many times the spine is a textbook, but in a Charlotte Mason homeshool, the ideal would be a living history narrative.  Perusing the Well Trained Mind forums, I knew I would have a few to look through and review. 

So far I've just glanced through Joy Hakim's books and read a few paragraphs from number 2 (I had a thinking five-year-old and a busy one-year-old loose in the library). It's well-written and interesting, but the pages look too busy for son. He gets distracted by clutter, as do I. It also seems geared more towards older students, and I would recommend it for middle school and up.

The American Story: 100 True Tales of American History by Jennifer Armstrong and Roger Roth is a large, beautifully illustrated and interesting book.  It's a collection of short nonfiction stories and legends of American History. I was impressed by it as soon as I saw its heft, beauty and breadth of topics.  It's chronologically presented by year, from 1565 to the year 2000.

The stories are engaging, and I find myself wanting to read the whole book. I love the fact that it's factual but in narrative form. I love the illustrations. I love the big size. Needless to say, this is the book we're going to be using as our spine for American History for the early grades. It's everything I've been looking for.  

The curriculum Winterpromise uses this as its spine together with the Maestros' Trilogy on American History.  Since I'm planning on using almost all the same resources, including its living books, I may just go with Winterpromise for that particular year (possibly 3rd grade).

I may.  However, I do really like my independence as well.  We'll just have to wait and see. II'm also attracted to the idea of trying out a pre-packaged curriculum -- even if it's just once.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Our First Day of School

I was nervous and excited.  Son was just excited.  I had been planning for months now, and today it was finally here.  Our First Day of School.  

We woke up, I made him a good breakfast and gave him vitamins, and we started off at the dining table.  There I showed him the day of the week, the month, the whole date.  We reviewed the days of the week and I told him September is his birthday month and it has 30 days.  We have a daily calendar we flip and also a monthly one where he crosses off the previous day.

After Calendar, which only takes roughly five minutes, we start working on Math.  I've made it short and sweet, with completing only one page of our MCP Math Level K book.  I'd rather explain concepts well before moving on to the next.  We also make use of manipulatives when necessary.  This day we used the abacus and real nickels to explain money and its value.

After Math, we read Susan Blue, a short poem in Poems to Read to the Very Young.  Son loves poems. We read it three times.  The third time he repeated after me.  By the end of the week, he would have it memorized.

After poetry, we worked on shapes from the Italic Handwriting Book A.  We work on them until he's got nice shapes of good form and then we have our 15-minute break.

During the break son can go to the bathroom, have a quick snack, drink some water and play with his little sister.  I try to impress upon him the importance of getting everything done before school starts again.  I also try to give daughter some focused attention too at this time.

After break, he plunged right into phonics.  I use a combination of Tanglewood's Really Reading program (on this day) and Spectrum Phonics.  Son is particularly skillful at this, and wows me with his knowledge.  Hmm, I think.  Perhaps I have underestimated him.  He's on the brink of reading right now, already reading many simple three-letter words.  Not bad for a boy who just turned five years old.  Needless to say, I'm proud of him!

When we're through with our phonics page, we read a simple book.  We're halfway through our Now I'm Reading! for Beginning Readers by Nora Gaydos.  They're fun, and engaging for son.  In the beginning there are visual cues, which will gradually be phased out as he keeps recognizing words.  He reads aloud for at least five minutes, then begs to read more.  My rule is: read until he gets tired.  As soon as I see signs of fatigue or disinterest, we move on.  I want him to enjoy reading, and so far he does.

Last but not least, we do our Literature (read-aloud).  Our first day it was Good Morning, Chick by Mirra Ginsburg.  Son loved it (as did daughter).  We read on the couch, nice and cozy.  I do the Peak with Books literature curriculum and I pick activities to do throughout the week.  I love this gentle introduction to literature for young ones.  What I like even more is the flexibility of it.

Our first day was idyllic.  No complaining, no dawdling, no sour faces and exemplary obedience. We got off to a wonderful start.  Now if only all days were like this!

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Laying the Foundation for Narration

Since son only just turned five, we're not doing formal narrations.  Charlotte Mason recommended in her Home Education tome to not start narrations until the child was six.  I try to listen with intent to what he has to say.  I have ample opportunity to practice, as son has many things to say.  His imagination is fertile, I want to nurture it and keep it this way.  This is what I tell myself when I'm preparing dinner with fussy one-year-old daughter on my hip and son is chatting a mile a minute.

We're using a gentle, literature-based Kindergarten curriculum called Peak with Books which incorporates finger-plays, songs, poems, other books and kid and mom-friendly activities around wonderful children's literature selections.  It's not until I've been using this program in a relaxed manner for a while that I hit upon the fact that finger-plays and having him tell me of his own accord about the book and activities are excellent pre-narration preparation.

When he memorizes finger-plays, he makes connections in his head and has to organize the material in his brain.  As he demonstrates the finger plays, he shows me how much he knows about the subject.  I don't require any telling, but sometimes I remark what I found interesting about the book and he'll flood me with a stream of his own opinions and observations.

Lots of unstructured play indoors and outdoors, introduction to and appreciation of art and music, nature walks and living books all pave the road towards planting the seed of narration.  I consider finger-plays to be the preschool and Kindergarten equivalent of grappling with the material and synthesizing it towards higher order thinking.

Thursday, September 04, 2008


I pieced together our K curriculum for this year.  Pulling from different sources suggests we're eclectic, but in reality all our methods are Charlotte Mason.  Since son is only in Kindergarten, we won't be formally doing narrations yet, but nature walks, living books, short lessons, music and art are all de rigeur over here.  Son is a brandnew 5.

These are the curriculum materials we're using this year:






Natural Science:


Miscellaneous materials, as Dad is the art teacher

Music Appreciation:
Exposure to great music, movement and classical radio station

Piano Lessons:

It's not that expensive to put together, as all the books required in the Peak with Books curriculum I obtain from the library if I don't already own the item.  A few I have to obtain through Interlibrary Loan.  A little planning goes a long way in ensuring success.  I will be reporting how my first week (next week) is going.  

I was planning on starting this Monday, but with Hurricane Ike grazing too close by I may delay a few days and start on Wednesday and make up during the weekend.  I believe we're supposed to have mandatory evacuations tomorrow (sigh).  We'll just have to see.