Friday, December 12, 2008

Weekly Report December 14, 2008

This week we've been more concerned with getting ready for my mom to come over (cleaning up, getting her room ready, and just plain being excited -- hehe) than school. However, we managed to get everything done, which was nothing short of a miracle.


This week we did more exercises in one half, one third and one fourths and reviewed concepts in money and 1-20.  We played fun math games which underscored how important play is at this age. We played a dice game, War with number cards from 1-20 and we built trains and towers with Cuisenaire rods. I've been using MCP's teacher's manual faithfully, and I love the mental math exercises before we start. We're definitely going to add more games in the future, including dominoes. I'm reading and learning much from Miquon's First Grade Diary, a treasure trove of ideas and implementation tips for Miquon.


This week Son read Quick, Quack, Quick!, a Level 2 reader by Step Into Reading. We have reading time scheduled right after Phonics, but he enjoys reading so much he just reads whenever and I don't have to worry about him in this respect. He reads all day. I'm so pleased with his progress and more importantly, his enthusiasm.


We're doing capital letters with Italic Handwriting. This week we worked on E, T and F. I'm encouraging him to take his time instead of rushing through, and he takes pride in showing me his best letter. E, T and F were all beautiful.


We're still reading James Herriott's Treasury for Children. This week we read Oscar, Cat About Town and Smudge The Lamb. I really liked the story about the sociable cat.


Plugging along with Spectrum Phonics Grade 1. Typical workbook. I use it for organization and to make sure I'm covering everything. Son feels successful with it, and as a bonus he learns new vocabulary and how to spell certain things. He also gets to apply his penmanship, although he prefers to copy the serif font of the workbook. 


Although he likes The Swing by Robert Louis Stevenson, he has a hard time memorizing this one. I see that the rhythm helps, but he has trouble with the word "pleasantest" which shouldn't be a surprise as it's not often encountered in our day-to-day conversation LOL

Natural Science

We accomplished a lot in a short time this week. First we reviewed the concepts previously learned about solids, liquids and gases. The attributes of which are that they take up space and have weight. After that, I told him that each part is made out of little particles. We set out to prove that. I set up a little station on the dining table with various materials: a large bamboo cutting board with a meat mallet and a shell, a white paper with a bit of dirt on it, Daughter's diaper spray bottle (with mostly water in it, mixed with a bit of soap and tiny amounts of tea tree and lavender oil), a paper towel, some toilet paper squares, a glass of water with some hand soap in it. 

Son had so much fun smashing the shell (I had him wear sunglasses as I couldn't find the goggles LOL) into small pieces. I also had him rip the toilet paper squares into pieces. Daughter was especially proficient at this. He moved the dirt and noted the tiny particles of dirt on the white paper, and since he liked smashing so much, I had him smash an O (Cheerio) as well. He proceeded to spray the water from the diaper spray bottle onto his hand, which he saw has tiny particles of liquid. Then I told him to spray it on the table, where you could see the little parts of liquid as well. He enjoyed this too. He also sprayed on the paper towel where he could see the water coming together again as a greater whole. Then he blew bubbles into the glass of soapy water. I believe this was his favorite part of the day. He blew bubbles large and small, and was able to see how little bubbles (particles of air) formed larger bubbles and to see how they rose and took up space. 

Son was really interested in the earth's plate tectonics, magma and core. We ran to his dictionary (no success) and then to the Scholastic's Science Dictionary where we found pictures and descriptions of the crust, plate, mantle, outer core and inner core of the earth. What I found interesting was that it said that most likely the center of the earth (the core) is made out of solid iron or nickel. Hmmm.. Note  to self: get video on the center of the earth. Son was likely extra interested because he saw parts of the movie Journey to the Center of the Earth starring Brendan Fraser.

Ugh. This has been really a pain. I really like the computer language program KidSpeak for kids this age (Kindergarten-First) but Son's computer hasn't been working. I tried to use it on my Mac but it's giving me problems. As a result, I'm improvising with a Spanish book I'm reading to Son and Daughter on colors. Son knows his colors in Spanish. Next week if we still don't have the program set up, we'll move on with the book (items, food, clothes, etc.).


Nothing formal, but Daddy did drawing activities with Son and they worked on a few framing projects.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Adding Fun to Math

Although Son and I are doing quite nicely with our math program, MCP Math Level K (Modern Curriculum Press Mathematics, Kindergarten Level), I felt we needed to shake things up a bit. We needed to add something fun. Games, activities, anything. I don't want math to be drudgery in Kindergarten. In fact, from all my reading and research, I gleaned that concrete examples and real-life experiences provide the best learning environment for a child his age (5). So began the quest for fun and games.

Now mind you, I'm great at researching, planning, obtaining, and scheduling our materials for the year. I even made flash cards and number cards. However, after almost three months, they were safely out of reach of daughter's clutches, but unfortunately ours as well. As a child who did not enjoy math in elementary school, it wasn't too easy to equate math with fun. Well, I am determined not to let that fact deter me from creating an enjoyable, practical experience for my kids. The matter of "how" still eluded me.

At first I thought I may need a change of curriculum. However, Son is doing so well and I feel confident in my ability to teach MCP and I like how the program is laid out. I had spent hours upon hours researching all the math programs out there before deciding on this one. Trust in yourself is one of the most important lessons any homeschooler learns, especially a newbie like me. No, we like MCP. MCP stays, likely all the way until 6th year (which is when the program ends). Then I thought about supplementation. Well, I knew I was going to be supplementing MCP Math Level A with Miquon's Orange Book next year. I don't have any experience with Miquon, but I have researched and concluded that it's a discovery approach to math, which would complement MCP's solid mastery approach perfectly. 

On the boards I've been frequenting, a tantalizing math program was being touted as the next "It" curriculum -- Math on the Level (henceforth referred to as MOTL). I usually don't fall for slick words (pictures yes, I admit it), but I had to admit, this program was very intriguing. MOTL seemed to be just what I needed: real-life math applications, thorough scope and sequence, freedom to tailor it to your child's needs and level (hence, the name, Math on the Level), fun and games, a mastery approach with built-in review, which in turn incorporates some spiral into this too. What was really of high interest to me was that this program seemed to do for Math what Building Foundations of Scientific Understanding (BFSU) does for Science. And I love BFSU. I love the freedom to choose threads that are relevant to us, the scientific thinking it encourages, how it makes me understand science better and see its beauty and interconnectedness, reading living books. This book certainly warrants a post of its own. 

However, with MOTL, I thought, can I really do this in Math? Is this a confidence issue or the fact that it's so expensive up-front is holding me back? It turned out to be a combination of both. BFSU is so inexpensive I didn't think twice about trying it out. I could always sell it if I don't like it, I reasoned. MOTL is not expensive in the long run, as everything is non-consumable (can be used with multiple children) and the scope and sequence goes from K-8. In the end it's actually a bargain, but.. BUT. The cost is up-front. You pay for the whole program, hundreds of dollars, without knowing if it will work for you. I know you could sell it, and I recommend people do this if they are sure they like the program, but I wasn't sure. The deciding factor for me wasn't actually the cost, but teacher prep and involvement. Although I love my children and enjoy being involved in their education, too much teacher prep is not something I would like to do on a daily/weekly basis (especially since I already have a little bit of this for BFSU, which I do gladly), and I have as a goal a more self-teaching model in mind for my children as they mature and get older.  In addition, I already have one spine text and workbook (MCP), a supplement (Miquon) and a third lined up online (Living -- wonderful resource for living math books), what did I need another Math for? Besides, I was getting away from my true quest: more fun and games in math, vs. a new program.

Hmm.. After much deliberation for a few weeks, in which I read as much as I could on the MOTL curriculum, read reviews on blogs, other websites, checked out the online samples no less than five times, and joining the MOTL Yahoo! group, I decided to stick with what I had and instead focus on getting math games. Which ones? How do I start? My brain doesn't naturally think mathematically. In pictures, yes. In words, a big yes. Numbers? Nuh-uh.

I decided to ask for help at my favorite homeschooling forum, The Well Trained Mind (WTM). What math games and activities are your favorites? I asked. I received an amazing amount of responses. Thank you, ladies! Many, many people recommended RightStart Math Games. RightStart is a math curriculum which extensively uses manipulatives and games, but it also includes a kit you can purchase separately with games. I looked into it, and it looks nice, but I wasn't ready to plunk more money down if I couldn't do it in the most frugal way possible. I still had it in the back of my mind if nothing else panned out, but I had other choices.

Family Math, for instance. Aaaaaaahh.. how could I have forgotten? I had read of this book probably a few years back now, and I put in my huge, overflowing, crowded mental filing system, where it got misfiled apparently. I remember it sounded really good to me. Check. I requested it through my library's Interlibrary Loan (ILL). I still haven't received it. 

In the meantime another WTM forum member kindly gave me a free link with a list of great math games to play with your Kindergartner. See, this is what I mean by frugal -- free :)  I gladly pay for certain things, but in this case I only need some fun, please. Thanks, Tonia!  

During all this, I received the copy of Miquon's First Grade Diary through my library's ILL, a diary of the author of the Miquon program who recorded one year, in the 1960s, of her first graders' experience with the progressive methods of her program. I found myself getting hooked with this book. Fascinating. I never thought, in a thousand years, that I would find a book about math so interesting. I'm still reading it, lingering and lo and behold, an unexpected source of inspiration and games! Turns out the program I'm going to be supplementing with next year, Miquon, has many fun and games built in and explained, but apparently only in this First Grade Diary and Notes to Teachers, not as much in the official teacher's manual, Lab Annotations. Needless to say, I will be purchasing both the First Grade Diary as well as the Notes to Teachers. Each is about five dollars new (I know!), but I can also get them used, as I did my copy of Lab Annotations (pristine condition -- free!), from the WTM board. I will just keep checking. If not, I'll splurge and spend the whole $10.

Back to First Grade Diary: I wanted to try out one of the games right away. There are pictures, which I'm much better with than following wordy instructions. The picture above shows Son and his pleased expression playing our first fun math game: matching up the number of Purely Os (the organic equivalent to Cheerios) with the dots on the dice. So simple. Why didn't I think of that? It was fun, and I upped the ante by asking him to match not only the number of dots, but also the positioning of the dice when they fell. He looks so proud matching up, eh? By the way, the long greenish thing behind him is his trusted companion, Pet the Snake, a stuffed animal Rhinoceros Snake.  Adding has never been so much fun at our house. I'm looking forward to playing more games and using more manipulatives.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Keys Atheneum Weekly Report

This week we've been really busy. Husband has been working increasingly (holidays), I've been getting ready for my mom to come over (less than two weeks -- yay!) and the children have been off and on with a cold of sorts. It seems everyone I talk to has something. We also attended the Islamorada Holiday Festival yesterday. No snow this year, however. Son was excited to see snow again, but the truck broke down in Homestead and all that snow was melting.. Yes, we live in a warm climate that never gets snow. It's fun to play with snow in weather that doesn't support snow.  We took pictures with Santa, which I'm going to post next week -- hopefully.

I introduced concepts of one-half, one fourth and one third and dividing into equal vs. non equal parts. Son was very knowledgeable about this (undoubtedly from experience sharing with Mama -- hehe) and completed each sheet perfectly. We're using MCP Math Level K.

Mix a Pancake by Christina G. Rossetti. We're using Poems to Read to the Very Young.

We completed Tanglewood's Really Reading phonics program and I filled out and showed Son the certificate at the back of the book. Now we're exclusively using Spectrum Phonics Grade 1 until the end of the school year (end of May).

He's done all the lowercase letters and numerals, and now we're reversing the order of the book. He just did number 9 on Friday (yesterday).

This week Son read Me Too! by Mercer Mayer and Are You My Mother? by P.D. Eastman (this one with help. He's doing great, and picks up books to read without me asking him to read aloud.

The week before Son decorated Christmas ornaments, coloring sketches Husband drew on them, Son's choice.  This week Husband had him looking at Leonardo Da Vinci art in his book and discussing his art and life a bit in preparation for tomorrow's art class. 

I read aloud a few stories from James Herriott's Treasury for Children: Bonnie's Big Day, Blossom Comes Home and The Market Square Dog. He likes the stories, especially the latter.

I read about the earth's rotation around the sun from My World and Globe and demonstrated with the globe and flashlight. We also talked about time zones and how the seasons come to be because of the increased or decreased light from the sun. Every day since he says when it's day time: "Now it's nighttime in Asia" and at night he says, "Mama, it's daytime in Asia" :)

Natural Science
After Son gathered materials from outdoors and we sorted them, we discussed what makes something living or biological, natural nonliving or human-made. He seemed to have a good idea of what was nonliving and he knew that his toys and stuffed animals were and that they are human-made. We sorted leaves (fresh or otherwise), pieces of bark, seeds, and an insect in the living/biological category. He has some difficulty in understanding that an apple was living, but after some explanation (it grows, it dies) he understood. I love Building Foundations of Scientific Understanding (BFSU)! I can see Son making the connections and thinking about the concepts in his daily life.

We did half notes. We clapped to beats and Son played a simple song and I sang along with him. He did great! The only thing I had to remind him is to keep his fingers curved. I'm using Alfred's Piano Prep Course to teach him. 

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Wordless Wednesday