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Our 4th week (almost) done…

Last week we had a nice week. Our book of the week was “What Do You Do With A Tail Like This?”

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We learned all about the ways different animals adapted certain features and what they use them for. For instance, monkeys use their tails to hold onto branches like a hand. Archerfish can use their tongue to spit water into the air to shoot their prey like an arrow, and beavers use their tail to warn of danger. Elephants use their noses to spray water on themselves to keep cool. Amazing how different structures are adapted for each animal!

We played lots of games like pin the tail on the monkey, race car rally, and we did some nice arts and crafts too.

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The word of the week was “this” and Peanut had it memorized by sight within two days! The letter of the week was “T”, so we did a lot of practicing with it.

I did manage to assess his handwriting readiness again, and he still isn’t really ready to write yet. Instead of focusing on writing, I’m going to switch gears and have him do a lot more coloring and a bit more cutting.  Also, lots of Play Dough, sand play, anything to get his fingers moving. I’ll also be using the whiteboard more often for his handwriting practice, having him write huge letters.

One thing he can do now while we work on his fine motor skills is learn to read. I’m going to be introducing one easy reader a day now, and they will be using the words he knows as well as the words of the week. I’ve pulled some from This Reading Mama, Progressive Phonics, Reading A-Z  (I used a free 2 week trial, but won’t continue since it’s a $110 subscription fee per year, or raz plus which is $200 a year! Eeep! ) and a few other printable books I’ve stumbled across.

Just because he can’t write doesn’t mean he can’t learn to read and spell! We can use letter tiles for spelling, and when he’s ready to write, he’ll already know how to spell! Even if he only learns to type, I’m okay with it, as long as he can get his words on paper (or computer) eventually. Even if it takes him several more years. Until then, I’ll be his scribe, but also insist he at least try to write too. Effort is what counts.

I’m also beginning to use Alphabet Fun Pages which are fun and a little bit challenging, but not too much! Also, Reading the Alphabet  has some nice resources like word mazes etc to help reinforce our word of the week, and coloring pages as well as poke pages for the letter of the week! I have to admit, I really love This Reading Mama’s things. I’m becoming a fan!

I also stumbled across Discovery K-12 again after rejecting it two years ago. I may use part of their curriculum too, but only as a suppliment to what we do already. Unfortunately, Peanut works at a pre-k level for writing, K for reading, and K-1 for social studies, art, and science. The issue is that they don’t offer customization, so you have to pick one level and stay with it, or keep swapping your level out every day. They do say it will be customizable soon though.

So now it’s our week off, but we still have last Friday’s lessons to do this week sometime. Both Peanut and I have been a bit under the weather, so we’ll get to it by Sunday at the latest, gotta luv the flexibility of homeschooling!

Getting ready for homeschooling week #3!

It’s a rainy Sunday morning, Peanut just woke up, and he’s happily drinking some cocoa tea (aka hot chocolate), laying on the dog, and watching power rangers on his Fire tablet. 

I woke up about an hour and a half ago, did my usual morning routine of feeding the dog, tidying the living room and getting my first coffee of the day into me. Sunday mornings are my “getting organized for school” time. 

First I grab my planner, and depending on my mood, I either color it or glue stickers in it. Why? Because if I’m going to be looking at these two pages for 5 days, I want to be inspired, happy, and enjoy what I see! This week I crave flowers. The rain has turned the island into a lush green paradise, but I’m really missing my flower garden. I really need to get a garden going again, but that’s not in the plan for this week.

Now that my lesson plan book is pretty, time to decorate my Happy Planner! 

It’s a Classic Happy Planner. I use the “morning” boxes from Monday to Friday to take notes on how our homeschooling day went. The middle “afternoon” boxes are for my brain dump, and the ” evening ” boxes are to do meal planning, grocery lists, appointments, keep track of my water intake (one cannot live on coffee alone!),and any other notes.

Okay, so now the two planners are done. Time for another coffee while I get our weekly worksheets printed out. This week we’re working on the letter I and the numbers 7-9. The word of the week is “Little”. 

Now to grab all the stuff I need for the week. Moving Beyond the Page makes it easy. All I need is to grab Unit 3’s materials bag, and from the general supplies bag I get a paintbrush, play dough, some construction paper, and of course the book of the week, the word flashcards, and we’re good to go! I’ll take the paint out later in the week. 

Finally I get our math ready for the week. This week Peanut will be introduced to the calendar. We’ll also be measuring using cubes, and doing some patterning.

The best part, I have the week planned, organized, and ready to go in under 10 minutes. I actually spent more time decorating my planners! 

I have to admit, I love this curriculum! Last week was a week off for us, and we actually missed doing school. I could easily do 3 or 4 units a month, but we’d be done our homeschooling year by mid March next year! Not a great idea since we’d have 3.5 months before our next school year starts! So slow and steady wins out for us!

(It’s raining) dogs and cats…

We made it through our second week of homeschool, and our soundtrack was the pouring rain outside. It’s rainy season here, but you would think that means the air would be a bit cooler. Nope! Once the rain stops and the sun comes out, it’s still as hot and humid as ever.

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This week our focus was on friendship, similarities, differences, and description. We read the book Hondo & Fabian, a sweet book that Peanut really enjoyed.  The word of the week was “he”, and the letter was “H”.

Language Arts revolved around asking and answering questions about key details in the story, comparing and contrasting the adventures Hondo and Fabial had, both together and apart, and even had Peanut retell the story in his own words, using the pictures as a guide.

Science had Peanut observing and describing similarities and differences in the appearance and behavior of plants and animals. He also learned different ways objects and organisms move including falling to the ground, straight, zigzag, round and round, back and forth, fast and slow.

For art, Peanut painted a wonderful picture all about friendship. It’s a bit abstract, but I love it! He and his friends are playing power rangers. He’s red, and his friends are blue, yellow and green.

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For Phys Ed, he acted out what Hondo and Fabian were doing on each page. He jumped and zig zagged in waves, ran back and forth around the house, went around in circles fishing, etc. and had a great time!

MBTP math again dealt with identifying whether the number of objects in one group is greater than, less than, or equal to the number of objects in another group, and when counting objects, say the number while pairing each object with one and only one number card, and each number card with one and only one object.

For McRuffy math, Peanut worked on writing the numbers 0-10, and was introduced to the number line. He learned more shapes, including hexagon and rhombus. We played games to reinforce what he’s learning, and we both had a great time!

One thing I’ve noticed and am beginning to wonder about is Peanut’s writing ability. He does pretty well with tracing the letters and numbers, but when he does them freehand it’s almost like he doesn’t see the lines. To me, this is sending up a red flag that maybe he might have dysgraphia. I’ll be keeping a close eye on this, and doing a bit more research into it.

This coming week is our first week off, so we may take out the past two books and read them just for fun this week. I’m hoping to get a few things done around the house like some sewing, tidying up the bedroom, and getting a head start on some Christmas gifts I want to make.

I hope your week was as exciting and fun as ours was! Till next time, may your mornings be filled with coffee, and your nights filled with chocolate!

Our first week of Moving Beyond the Page level 4-5 (kindergarten) and McRuffy Color Math Kindergarten

 

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I have to admit, I really love these two curricula! I know, it’s only the first week, but instead of feeling like “oh, gosh, I guess we better get our school day done”, I’m now thinking that I can’t wait to get into our school day, it’s so addictive, so fun and educational. I’m actually enjoying teaching Peanut! In fact, some mornings this week I actually was tempted to wake up Peanut early just so I could start our day! I didn’t though, because I really do cherish the couple of hours I get when he’s asleep. Plus I need my coffeee to kick in before taking on the world! Still, I noticed that this was a real nice change from last year!

So what makes these curricula stand out from the crowd? Wow, where to start! I think what I appreciate most is how both McRuffy and Moving Beyond the Page are organized by each day. I love that they aren’t overly scripted, but gives me enough information that I can teach with ease. Also, each list exactly what I will need each day.

Moving beyond the Page even goes a step further than other curricula – the 4-5 level includes a materials kit, and inside this huge box is almost everything we need for each and every lesson! Oh, and it’s not just all tossed into the box, each of the 30 units have all the needed items for that specific unit bagged up, labeled with the unit number, and ready to go. There is also a few “general materials” bags that contain things you will use over and over for several units – things like paint brushes, paint, play dough, etc. I absolutely love how it’s so grab n go! Also, the quality of the materials is definitely first rate! I haven’t reached the unit on dinosaurs yet, but I hear that this is the only unit that gives families issues since the cardstock dinosaur skeleton is too delicate. I’m thinking about looking for a balsa wood puzzle/model instead, but if I can’t find one, I may try to reinforce the cardstock with cardboard from cereal boxes or boxes we get at the grocery.

So what did our first school week look like? Well, we read the book A is For Musk Ox every morning. It’s really funny, and we found lots of different things to do each day with it. First day we just read it cover to cover. Second day we introduced the sight word “you”, so I had Peanut look for that word on each page. Third day we tried to find the pictures of the things the musk ox covered up (ie. C is for clown musk ox – we looked for the clown on the page). The fourth day we concentrated on the sounds the letters of the alphabet made, and paid attention to how the musk ox described himself. The fifth day, Peanut told me in his words what was going on in each page.

For Social Studies and Science we studied musk oxen. We learned where they live, what they eat, their preditors, and even watched some videos of wolves hunting them, two males fighting, and even watched an episode of Wild Kratts about musk oxen! Did you know that they are the largest member of the goat family? Even I learned something new!

For Language arts we are learning the alphabet song, we learned the sight word “you”, and we practiced making the letter “a”. Since Peanut has fine motor issues, we have always had problems with writing. Moving Beyond the Page has helped us already. They have 2 handwriting options. Option 1 is a worksheet where the first few letters are traced, then the last few letters are done without any guidelines. Option 2 is for kids that can’t write yet. This option always helps to exercise the fine motor muscles, and still had Peanut learning the letter! For the uppercase A, Peanut placed tiny apple stickers on a die cut letter A.

The lowercase “a” had Peanut putting glue over 4 large letter “a’s”  then cutting some yarn and gluing it down to form the letter “a”.   After he did option 2, I had him try to do option 1, and he did pretty well!

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Then we learned the sound that “a” makes, and cut and glued the proper picture under the letter. Messy but fun!

On day 5 of this unit, we did a reading workshop – Peanut spent about 5 minutes with the book “A is For Musk Ox” and just enjoyed it on his own. Then we did a writing workshop. He began his student journal by drawing a picture of a musk ox, and then “wrote” about it himself. On the second page, he made a drawing of a dragon, some knights, and a castle, all under a nice yellow sun. He then dictated his story to me and I wrote it down for him.

Mathematics is included in Moving Beyond the Page, but it’s pretty basic. We practiced counting to 20, and wrote the numbers 1,2, and 3. Like Language Arts, this has 2 options, so first we took some shaving cream and put it in a tray, and Peanut wrote the numbers with his fingers in the shaving cream, messy but effective! Next I had him write them on the worksheet.

McRuffy Math is definitely worth the money! This week Peanut counted to 10, learned grouping (ie. take 4 counters and make 2 groups of 2 with them, setting up the groundwork for addition). He is learning to slow down and carefully count the items in front of him, but he also is learning to recognize what a group of 1, 2, 3, and 4 items look like without counting them. He reviewed his basic 2D shapes (square, triangle, etc) and actually learned some basic 3D shapes (cylinder, cube, cone, sphere). We did some work on patterning too, and also biggest, smallest, middle sized. Then he put all the numbers from 1-10 in order, and also learned to count backwards from 10-1! Each day also saw him tracing the numbers in the workbook, and even doing this brought on laughter. McRuffy Math is such a great fit for us!

For Art and Phys Ed we go back to Moving Beyond the Page. Peanut did at least one art project per day, either drawing or making a collage, and even though it was fun, it also reinforced those fine motor skills! A win-win!!! For gym, he acted like a musk oxen. He loved stamping his hooves and charging at a pillow, giving it a good head butt!

So our first week was fun, full of games, laughter, videos, too much glue (I need to get some glue sticks, the liquid ‘elmer’s glue’ is just way too messy for me – Peanut loves it though!) and tons of learning for both Peanut and me!

Would I recommend Moving Beyond the Page 4-5 for a Kindergarten aged child? No way! I would INSIST on it!!!! I truly wish I would have stumbled across it last year, but then I don’t think Peanut would have been ready for it then. The right curriculum at the right time makes a world of difference.

So now it’s Saturday, and I’m already anxiously and eagerly waiting for Monday and our 2nd unit to begin!

Our senior kindergarten begins!

Captain’s log

Stardate 07072017…

We have begun our new mission, a 1 year voyage to explore, find new and interesting things, to boldly go and learn!

Our first week has come to an end, but my promising young ensign has truly shown a lot of exuberance and determination.

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We spotted an interesting creature in a book we read, A Is For Musk Ox, and Ensign Peanut studied it in detail. I’m impressed by the facts that he was able to provide us with in the Social Studies lab – his knowledge of the Musk Oxen is quite astounding. He was able to inform me of their habitat (snowy tundra in   places like Canada’s North and in Greenland), their diet (mainly grass and plants), that they live in groups called a herd, they have hooves and horns, they charge as fast as a car, and that wolves are their predators.

In the Language Arts bay, he learned to print the capital and lowercase letter a, what sounds it makes, and also learned the vocabulary word “herd”.

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He also learned the sight word “you”. Also, he has almost completely memorized the alphabet song! He concluded his week of LA by using two pages in his journal. The first page has an illustration of a baby musk ox, and he wrote about it in his own “handwriting” . On the second page, he drew a picture of a dragon, a castle, and knights. He dictated his story to me, and I dutifully wrote it down, word for word (see photo below). This journal will definitely show his progress as he gets further along in his studies.

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He also spent time in the Mathematics department. He has successfully learned how to count to 14 without help, and recognized the numbers 0-20 with ease. He knows the basic 2D shapes, and has also learned what a cylinder, cone, and cube are. Sphere shapes are a bit trickier, he prefers to call them a ball! He also is learning to write the numbers from 0-10, and has been doing very well as you can see:

The arts lab seems to be a favorite for him. This week Ensign Peanut made several drawings of musk oxen, and even did a mixed media piece using crayons, glue, cotton balls, and yarn.

To help unwind, he also visited the gym, and had fun imitating a musk ox. He stomped his feet, let out a snort, then came crashing into a pillow head first just like a pair of musk oxen do.

We Now have two days of rest and relaxation, then on to our next adventure!

Captain out.

This year we’re trying a different math curriculum!

If you have been following my homeschooling “adventures”, you know we’ve had a problem finding the right fit for math. We’ve tried Math U see, Math Mammoth, MCP math, and McGraw Hill’s Math. None were on his level. They all start well, but soon the concepts became too difficult. For instance, Math U See introduces the numbers 0-9, but just as my Peanut was grasping them, they jump to 20-99. Then next lesson has them doing hundreds! Ummm, NOT HAPPENING!!! Maybe when he’s older we may pull it out again, but not now. Math Mammoth is a very solid math program, but unfortunately in my enthusiasm, we jumped in without me reading the fine print. For grade 1 it states :

You can start 1st grade once the child can write and recognize numbers, count to 20 (preferably to 30 or beyond), has mastered basic concepts of equivalence, more, and less; and has a basic idea of addition.

Sometimes kindergarten-age children start with MM 1-A and there’s one topic there that can become a frustration point if the child is not ready for it. It’s the topic of “missing items” or missing numbers in addition problems, such as 2 + ___ = 5, or even simpler: 2 + ___ = 3. The idea is to ask the child, “2 and how many more makes 3?” Objects can also be used.

This particular lesson, “Missing Items,” is fairly early in 1-A. If this lesson presents problems for your child, then he/she is not ready for 1st grade math. In that case, you could get one of the recommended kindergarten workbooks for the child and wait a month or a few months before trying again.

So of course it didn’t work for us! Peanut could recognize numbers, but couldn’t count to 20. He still can’t. And because of that, he became pretty frustrated.

We ended up using Mathematical Reasoning Beginning 2. It was gentle, spiral, and very colorful without being overwhelming. The only thing I didn’t like about it was that it never explained why he was doing something. Still, he enjoyed it, so that’s a win in my book!

So this year, I did tons of research, and even this quiz to see what math program would be the best fit. My quiz results came back as:

Secular:

Score for Beast Academy: 10
Score for Math Mammoth: 3
Score for Mathematical Reasoning: 8
Score for McRuffy: 13
Score for Miquon: 8
Score for RightStart: 13
Score for Saxon: 6
Score for Shiller: 10
Score for Singapore: 3

Christian:

Score for Abeka: -10
Score for Bob Jones: 8
Score for Christian Light Education: -2
Score for Horizons: 13
Score for Life of Fred: 3
Score for Lifepac: -3
Score for Math U See: 0
Score for Rod and Staff: -5
Score for Switched on Schoolhouse: -3

I was not surprised by the score for Math Mammoth or Math U See. Maybe in the future, when Peanut is a bit more ready, he can handle them, but not now! Mathematical Reasoning scored a decent “8”, but then I saw McRuffy and Right Start (and Horizons but it’s too “christian” based for us at this point) all scored a whopping “13”!

After just focusing on Right Start and McRuffy, I decided that they both would be a great fit. The deciding factor came down to cost. Right Start Level A first edition came in at $157.50.  Right Start Level A second edition – which is what I wanted to use, after all, the 1st edition is now over 20 years old and needed an update! – cost $88.50, but there’s a catch! Unlike the first edition, you have to buy the manipulatives  for ALL levels in one shot for a whopping $205.50! This makes Right Start 2nd edition a bit too pricey for my tastes!

So now I focused on McRuffy Color Math for Kindergarten. Oh, I loved what I saw! It’s full of games, fun, and each lesson is loosely scripted. Nothing is overwhelming for either the teacher or the student. It is extremely hands on, and should only take 10 to 15 minutes a day to do, maybe more if we’re having fun with the games!

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The components in the Kindergarten curriculum are the Teacher’s Manual, Student Workbook, Resource Pack, all for $75.95, and a separate Manipulative Kit for $15.95, but I chose the math manipulative super kit since it was only $35.00.

We start our brand new homeschool year today, so I’ll probably be writing about how everything went. I’m so excited, I feel like a little kid on Christmas eve! I hope Peanut has a great year this year. Till next time… Take care and don’t forget to laugh today!

 

How do we schedule our homeschool year?

We’ve chosen to homeschool all year round. We do this for so many reasons, but the main ones are:

  • to eliminate the need for 6 weeks of review thanks to a 2 month vacation in the summer
  • to prepare Peanut for real life! When we get a job/career, we don’t just work September – June
  • homeschooling all year gives us much more flexibility when we need a day or a week off
  • there is no burn-out since we take more frequent breaks. We don’t have to slog it out from September to December before we get a holiday

When I figure out our schedule, I start by printing out a yearly calendar that runs from July to June the next year. I then grab my highlighters and start blocking off all our set in stone days off – every Saturday and Sunday.

Next, I decide how many weeks holiday we want for Christmas. This year we’re going for three weeks off, so December 18 – January 5 is blocked off. Birthdays too. Those are holidays.

Now I’m left with 245 days to schedule in 150 days of school.

Since we value a slower lifestyle, I decide to take every Friday (except one!) off. This now leaves us with 198 days.

Since each MBTP unit this year is 5 days long, we can do 4 units per “chunk” before taking a break. So now I mark off every 6th week as our “holiday” week. This now gives us 174 days to work with, but then school would end mid May. So now the tweaking comes in. I need to add about 4 weeks of holidays. I choose one more week in September and one more week in March to take off, and add a week block at the end of the year for our assessment. The assessment is only for our own interest, it isn’t necessary, but I like to know how much Peanut has accomplished.

So now I have a schedule that runs all year, lots of time off, but lots of learning too. No burnout. This is our tentative schedule, the shaded boxes are the days we take off. It still may need a tweak here and there, but it allows for any illness, emergencies, or even snow days!

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Now I go ahead and do our monthly plans and print them out. I love the planner from One Stop Teacher Shop and I’m so glad I bought it! I would also be using the included weekly planner, but since MBTP already has laid out my days, I don’t feel the need to spend a few hours cutting and pasting into it.

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For our day to day schedule, I don’t actually plan it out. Moving Beyond the Page already has a plan laid out for each and every day. I don’t see any reason to copy and paste it into a planner. Instead, I use a blank planner and take notes about our day. I write what we did, how we liked it, what worked and what didn’t, and any other things I want to remember. For this I use the floral planner from Confessions of a Homeschooler. It’s so beautiful, has 8 subject boxes, and is perpetual. The only drawback is that the weekly layout only goes from Monday to Friday.

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So this is how I decide on our schedule. And being the obsessive person I am, I also banged out a second schedule that runs 5 days a week and has more scheduled time off, but to me it seems a bit too much time off for us. Who knows, I may end up using it instead of our 4 day week plan if things get too hard. Last year we took the last week of each month off, so we may need the added flexibility a 5 day schedule gives us…

Time for my second coffee… Hope your day is filled with sunshine!