Saturday, September 22, 2012

The Beast is here!

Although Math Mammoth is going well - we're on 3B - I had a hunch that Beast Academy would be fun for Builder to read after school. Builder loves comic books, and the samples of this unique presentation were promising. In addition, I hoped it would underline the relevance and importance of mathematics and how it can be enjoyable.

I had him preview the 3B and 3C samples online and he begged to keep reading! Builder tolerates math, and finds some math topics interesting, but just mildly. This was new.

He read all the samples available, and I ordered just the 3B guidebook. I was tempted to get 3C as well, but I really wanted to see if he would read and understand it.

About a week later it came in, all shiny and glossy and high quality. Here he is, devouring it.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Nature Walk Friday, September 14

Being four years apart, it's not always easy to combine subjects. The lessons we do together are Nature Study, Composer Study, Art, Picture Study, Geography, and Health & Safety. Ballerina has a double dose of Natural Science because she seems to enjoy it. We do Building Foundations of Scientific Understanding (BFSU K-2) together on Fridays, but during the rest of the week she tags along with Builder and his second level of BFSU, Elementary Science Education for 3-6th graders, chiming in with answers and participating in building and testing kites, and showing diagrams on the whiteboard.

Our first nature walk was beyond my expectations. The weather is still hot and humid in our area, and I anticipated complaints. Thankfully, we had none and nothing but a great time. I made sure the kids packed their binoculars, magnifying glasses, sketch books, pencils, collection kit, and set off. I snuck my own sketch book in Builder's backpack. Note to self: put a backpack on my Christmas/Birthday wish list.

We set off, and only a little more than a block from our house, we stopped. We saw a round hole, and immediately Ballerina excitedly thought it may be a snake's hole. I pointed out that usually snake holes were narrower, and although we couldn't see it, we were very near the ocean so it could be a crab's hole as well. We examined it closely with our magnifying glass and saw a pair of what we think may be mating beetles walking around together. The kids thought they were funny with "their butts stuck together". We sketched them in our sketchbooks, taking care to write the date and a few words on the weather and labeling the colors on the insects' legs and thorax. They were orange. Ballerina was empathetic with an identical lone insect that didn't have a mate.

Remembering our living book "Life in A Bucket of Soil", I found a twig on the ground and gently poked in the hole. We saw dozens of ants, and Ballerina found a large snail shell. We were all excited that the snail seemed inside and alive! We find lots of shells where we live, but no occupants.

We collected some foliage, a twig with two tiny snails, a few mystery berries, and the big snail. Builder made sure to put some dirt in there with it.

We walked some more, then turned towards home. We all had fun, and it took a whole thirty minutes. We vowed to leave earlier next time, when it was a bit cooler. As it is, it was 10:30 and about 82 degrees with pounding sun.

In the picture all three children are taking a rest from their excursion.

At home we found out the snail was a Florida Apple Snail, with a pretty olive green and brown striped shell. Builder read two of our books on the care of snails, Pets in A Jar and Life in A Bucket of Soil. I gave him the large empty container that used to belong to our hermit crab, and he set to work creating its habitat.

This is what Nature Study is all about, and learning is effortless when it all flows so easily. The kids already asked if we can go on another Nature Walk on Monday.

Kindergarten, First Two Weeks

This is my second time around with Kindergarten, but boy, it couldn't be any different. Ballerina is a very different person, and this makes it fun and keeps things interesting. Whereas Builder was all energy and books and took to reading in a flash, Ballerina has a quiet demeanor and work ethic admirable in one so young. She excels in math so far, easily completing the challenges before her in her Miquon Math Orange Book.

That said, she has a restless mind. I need to keep her occupied. I gave her a "work box" (See Jane Work with butterflies) to keep all her extra materials such as play dough, fun workbooks (she enjoys these), painting supplies, and other independent items. She uses this box when she's done with school and I'm busy with my fourth grader. It has been working well so far.

Here is one of her play dough creations. When she runs out of ideas, I chime in. I said, what about a computer? This is a computer with her sitting beside it. Maybe she's trying to tell me something, ha. Sometimes inlet go on Starfall or PBS Kids, but I need to monitor her screen time.

It's fun teaching Kindergarten. I get to see the wonder in her eyes when she gets something and the joy when she reads a word.

Sunday, September 09, 2012

Our First Week - 2012-2013 Year, Part I

Six weeks vacation time is in our experience the right amount so we all get relaxation - Mama has some time to plan for next year - and the children don't forget everything they've learned. We started our vacation back in late July, and started school again last Monday, on Labor Day.

During those six weeks the kids created an enormous card for their grandmother (about 5 feet by 6 feet!), we visited the island of Aruba for a week (where we also visited an ostrich farm), we celebrated Ballerina's fifth birthday, read books, did Chemistry experiments from a kit Builder had received as a gift, read and did some activities from the Leonardo Da Vinci Inventions kit, went to the pool often, and culminated the whole summer with a 6-day trip to Orlando, Florida followed by Builder's birthday. We went to SeaWorld for three days and drove almost an hour one day to visit Legoland! We all had so much fun. When my computer finally wants to cooperate with posting pictures, I really want to post pictures

I find it easier to start the summer vacation around Ballerina's birthday (late July) and ending this time right after Builder's birthday - bookends. It's hard to believe my oldest is nine!

This week we have started building up to our schedule gradually. After a few years of hours lost and wrestling with complicated homemade schedules, I've decided to go the easier route. I simply typed up by subject what needs to be done from weeks 1-6, weeks 7-12, etc. in Mac Pages. These are only the subjects which require some sort of organization in our curriculum, not "do-the-next-thing" curricula. Perhaps I should write another blog post about this, especially how I organized Elementary Science Education - Building Foundations of Scientific Understanding (BFSU 2), as I know many people struggle with implementing this excellent science curriculum.

All that said, my schedule went well this week. I do suspect that I have too many things going on at the same time - for someone with a toddler. However, I like it this way. I only need to stagger, which is my favorite new tool. From Mondays through Thursdays, we do the basics (math, grammar, reading, science, history, poetry) and Fridays we do health & safety, geography, piano, and art. On Sundays, we read aloud Book of Virtues and Builder does Faith & Life on

To speed things up a bit, I have Builder work the allotted time on the lesson - this year from 20-30 minutes - and if he doesn't finish, it's "homework", which cuts into his play and watching-Phineas-and Ferb-on-Netflix time. I anticipate this will reduce dawdling, daydreaming, talking, and interrupting.

To Be Continued..