Tuesday, September 23, 2014

so much going on around these parts...

school.  floor time.  

school.  jammies, apples and math.

charter school day, 2nd grade.  flat stanley.

charter school day, 4rth grade.  Art.

school.  bird unit art project.  gold finch.

 school.  bird unit art project.  great horned owl.

kitty, our constant companion during school.  we've had to permanently move the oil pastels.

the gold finch and his top hat.

ikea shopping trip #1, me and the kids.  packed to the gills.

everything but 5 boxes fit.  then we hit our weight limit.  i'm a mad tetris packing genius.

painting their grecian pots as i read the story of odysseus to them.  homer is my homeboy.

silly girl.  she likes cyclops.  

finishing up their science journal covers.  luke getting our science experiment ready.

 luke impatiently waiting for his sister to be done.  kids love flames.

i mowed the kids a mini-put course.  

charter school day, up before the sun came up working on their school, before school ;)

reading her book on george washington.  next weeks report and art project are about him. 

primary program, our sunday best.  luke's new shoes, men's size 8.

trampoline gym.  buddies.

sweaty kids.  showing us their toughness.

life has been so much more busy that i could ever even begin to cover here.
but we manage to have a lot of fun in the midst of it all,
and school is so much fun this year.
i love when we get in a good groove.

what a good, good groove.
these are the precious years,
the best years.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

the mother of all curriculum posts...2nd and 4rth grade...

Social Studies

Our core curriculum for social studies comes from The Story of the World.  
We are wrapping up Volume I, Ancient Times - 
and quickly getting ready for Volume II, The Middle Ages.

While we do the daily reading together and accompanying workbook,
a majority of our extra work comes from Muse of the Morning's amazing supporting POST
We also work some of these activities into our arts/crafts lessons.

We also love any and all Usborne encyclopedias and supporting web materials.  
We do world history Monday through Thursdays.
Some chapters take a day, and some we spend a few days on -
(mostly because we do lots of fun projects on the more exciting periods of history)

You will begin to notice a trend of read-and-discuss curriculum.  
Just make sure that you make the kids "discuss" in full sentences,
focusing on new words and concepts.  

As we do every year, our Mission studies will continue.
We plan on seeing three or four new missions and since Luke is finally in 4rth grade -
(not that it matters, but I changed schools and never got to do my mission)
we will be doing a mission project.

Charlie will probably piggy-back on this, simply because how do I tell her not to.  

We normally keep these materials in a tub to grab-and-go 
for when we know a roadtrip will take us by a mission.  

On Fridays this year, we will be focusing on American History.  
I have a number of projects planned around our early founders.  
Our first project is awaiting materials to come - 
and I am riffing off of this art project.
We will be building one for George Washington.  
(I am very excited about this project)

We will be doing a whole unit next month on The Constituion,
so I am prepping by reading to the kids from Zinn's A Young People's History of the United States.  
We will also be spending some time on the Declaration of Independence.  

As I have said before,
go and find Sam Fink's illustrated history books -
they make adults rethink their rote understanding of these famous documents.  
the art and symbolism is so beautiful, it's been known to bring me to tears.
his illustrations (matching line-by-line) of the Gettysburg Address slay me.  

I am also adding a twist this year, 
and asking the kids to do some symbolic art projects riffing off of Fink's illustrations. 

and for those that want extra ideas, check out my social studies Pinterest Board.

Literacy, Handwriting, Writing and such...

I love Explode the Code -
it's a great phonics program that is self-directed.
It's good to have a certain amount of work that you can turn over to the kids,
with little to no instruction.

Beyond the Code is a great program,
allowing for thorough assessment of critical thinking skills.
I am forever stressing that reading means nothing
if my kids can't prove to me that they understand what they are reading
(aka: reading comprehension ;)
Again, self-directed.  Love it.

If there was one book I could give my "have-to-read" seal of approval -
Writing with Ease is it.
It is the kind of book that lets you relax and change your philosophies on writing.
essentially, because of this book,
I now prioritize good thinking over good writing.
The writing comes, the thinking -
well, now is the time to really correct bad habits and form new ones.
Discuss everything, analyze everything and model everything.

This is a totally new program for us this year.
Nick looked it over and gave it the teacher seal of approval.
I'll let you know how it goes.
(it's not really my thing, but I hear great stuff - so trying it out)

Handwriting without Tears, as always.
We've done this since pre-k.
I love it.

Read and discuss.
Read and discuss.
Read and discuss.
If you do not like to do either of those things,
this isn't the curriculum for you.
well, most of this post isn't for you ;)

We do the journal portion on the first day of the week,
but skip it for the rest.
I love the concept of reading the piece repeatedly and discussing daily.
I just prefer to do more creative work to help the kids keep the stories present.
We do artwork or minecraft assignments to follow up,
even acting out or animation at times.

At the bare minimum,
Read the parent's text and train yourself.
The techniques covered have helped us in all of our read-and-discuss work.
Highly recommend.

This is just a fun writing journal that someone recommended,
and the kids love it for a special treat.

We read and write a lot.
letters, paragraphs, essays, book reports...
cartoons, comic strips, scriptures, novels, non-fiction...
we do a bit of it all.
If we do anything particularly exciting,
I will share.

Math and STEM

We are finally catching up with our new adventure into Singapore math.
This is the curriculum I wanted to use from day 1, but it was too expensive.
Then common core came along and actually opened up the options for our school to provide it!
And not only does our Homeschool Charter provide the curriculum for free,
they provide lots and lots of training.

Fair warning, if you are looking into this the first time.
Singapore runs one to two years ahead of US schools (depending on the district),
so, you have to be able to get your hands on the books if you can -
thumb through them, see where your kids are, etc.

Homeschooling made this a bit tricky,
in that my kids were all over the board with math -
in some areas they were way ahead, and some they were way behind.
As far as behind, let me explain -
Singapore is numeracy based and you will have to go back and relearn the basics to catch up.
It takes some effort, but is so worth it!

This is a curriculum that completely steps away from rote memorization and tradition methods -
and requires the students (and parents!)
to focus on math in a way that supports true cognitive understanding.
math becomes second nature, less daunting, less of a chore.
My kids now sit down and do math like it is any other subject.
There have even been a few exclaimed, "I love Math soooo much!" while they are working.

But the trick to this, especially at home, is the mom and dad have to relearn their math.
You have to be willing to retrain your brain.
You also need lots and lots of study on this.
You need to get smart about Math education, brain development and core philosophies. 

A conversation with our Ed Coordinator/Friend, a training and THIS article 
have shifted my math focus even farther this year toward numeracy.
So, let me explain how I am going to support this new focus in the new school year.

I have and will continue to pick up books and manuals for myself.
There are also a lot of Singapore training videos
and support material over at teacherspayteachers.com
We are still finishing out the month and halfway into the next,
focusing on foundation building.

I have found that there are a great amount of resources supporting parents/teachers
in their efforts to shift their kids over to numeracy based learning.
It can seem daunting, and is at times -
but the effort is worth it!

One of our biggest goals this year is to spend less time trying to "get through the workbook"
and spend a lot more time talking and writing about math.
Our math journals have become really important for this part of our journey.

Math journaling is too big to cover in this post,
but it is a huge support for our goals this year -
I promise there will be a follow-up post!

 This book is amazing!
It is written for traditional classroom instruction -
but will work for me,
in that I like to hold classes for the kids with their friends.
We are definitely doing a STEM unit this year -
in fact, all my materials are bought
and I am actively collecting bottle caps and tp rolls :)

Well, if you know me at all -
I like to surround my kids with Math books and manipulatives. 
We actively work on positive attitudes and a math rich environment.
(thanks, Andrea, for that sage advice years ago!)

The idea is, that we spend a huge amount of time creating positive reading environment.
and that if we spent as much time and energy on creating a numerate environment -
we can dramatically change our children's biases and attitudes.
(and our own as well)

We didn't spend as much time on this as I wanted to last year,
in that it was our first year with Singapore.
So we are trying this again -
I really do love this for rounding out your Math knowledge.
And the kids love it!

While, I really do support the idea of numeracy and getting away from rote memorization -
there comes a time where you realize that your kids get it -
and then it is appropriate to tackle memorization work.
Plus, flashcards and wraps are a great tool to take on roadtrips and such.

We've always sprinkled in BBY into our routine -
but this year we are utilizing the mini-sheets in our Math Journals.
I have a big pile of these on all sorts of subjects
and really love the approach.

Speaking of Math, we are spending a little time on this.
It might be redundant after all we've taught the kids over the years -
but I loved FPU so much for ourselves,
I thought it was worth the risk with the kids.
If it turns out cheesy - I will let you know.


 I found this book for the year and am in LOVE!
I am a big experiment/hands on kind of parent and this book is the next level we needed!

Ignore the fact that a few of these pics won't rotate, sigh.
These are our favorite books -
we've used them for years and they keep on working for us.
(though a couple will be passed along soon, my kids are growing up fast)
I still cannot recommend Nature in a Nutshell for highly!
It is season based and requires no special equipment.
It is a great science-on-the-fly sort of book!

We still do lots and lots and lots of unit based science.
We are smack dab in the middle of birds at the moment.
The plan for the rest of the year goes as this -
anatomy (every other year for us),
landforms and climate,
STEM and engineering,
electricity and component building,
the solar system,
marine biology
and a tinkerlab in the backyard!

Geography as always -
stack the states/countries and this book...
keeping it simple this year!

okay, we actually stopped using Draw-Write-Now two years ago
(though, I recommend it HIGHLY for early writers!)
but we love the quality of the notebooks for science journaling
and writing prompts.
We also have an array of journals for every subject -
science being an important one for us!
With science - go for the high quality paper that can stand up to glue and markers!

Art and Music

Well, Art is a bit of a constant around here -
as in, it seems that is all we do at times...
but I really did love our Art journaling last year
and will continue the pattern this year -
adding in Art Lab for kids
(I love and want every single one of these books!)
It has been a blast so far!

We will also throw in other curriculum supporting assignments into this journal -
such as sarcophagus designs for when we were studying ancient Egypt.

and last but not least -
We FINALLY tracked down a piano in our budget off of craigslist!
It only took four years -
but was worth it.

These books are four years old and bought for much younger kids -
but we'll race through these and see where we are headed next!
Nick is also spending time with the kids on guitar as well.

 Okay, as you must know if you are a fellow homeschooler -
this is just the beginning of the year
and tweaking - adding and subtracting - will happen throughout the year!

And as far as what the kids are doing out at school -
their twice weekly classes range from gardening to Art to Music and Drama!

Sorry to make you wait so long for this post -
but it takes FOREVER to do!

Have a great homeschool year!  And let me know if you have any questions!

you will see a lot of repeated materials -
Nick and I are big believers in investing in materials that can be used over and over again -
many of which will last us into junior high and high school.  
(don't be afraid - kids retain so much information than we ever give them credit for)
There are a few early reader and middle reader materials
that will be weeded out over the next year or two.