Friday, October 21, 2011

Weekly Wrap-Up

Another pretty good week of school.  Vicki is really getting into “doing school”.


Vicki is continuing to do well with Get Ready for the Code.  I’m having her do one page – front and back – each day that she wants to do school.   We are up to page 28 and have covered the letters b, f and m.

We are doing a variety of math sheets that I printed from the Evan Moor Teacher’s Filebox.  This week we worked on understanding quantities from 1 to 3.  We also did Lesson 4, Activity 1 from MEP. 

We also played a game with our Unifix blocks from the book Developing Mathematics with Unifix.  I made a stack of 4 blocks, then Vicki would roll a die, make a stack with the number on the die and decide if the new stack was bigger or smaller than the original (4 block) stack.  She then filled in the our Unifix steps with cubes.


She also drew Mat Man for the first time.  It’s a little hard to see since she made the arms, legs and face in her favorite color – pink.




We are finally learning long vowel words.  George can already read a bunch of them but it’s exciting to finally be learning how to tell the difference.  We are up to Lesson 67 in Ordinary Parent’s Guide to Teaching Reading and started Book 3 of Explode the Code.

We are slightly more than half way through the First Grade Handwriting without Tears.  This is the subject that gives us the most struggle each day.  I try to do one 2-page lesson each day.  This week we had to spread each lesson out to two days.

We also moved up to the Second Grade Scholastic Reading Comprehension.  George really enjoys reading these short little passages and answering the questions.


Math Mammoth is continuing to go well.   We are working completely in 1B and doing a mix of Addition/Subtraction, Place Value, Clocks and Coins.  We should be moving on to 2A in some topics by the end this year.


We spent some time getting ready for Halloween this week.  We played a Halloween Bingo that I made up for the kids.  I wanted to challenge George a little with reading.   I set up a call sheet where each symbol was assigned a number and I rolled three dice to make a selection.  We used plastic spider rings as markers.


The kids also made some decorations using foam stickers.  Pumpkins with masks and hats left over from last year and aliens from a kit I picked up recently.


We took a nice Nature Walk out at Great Swamp this week – see here.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Nature Walk at Great Swamp

We had a beautiful Fall day today (along with a power outage for no discernible reason) so I decided to take the kids to check out another one of our County Parks.  This time we went to the Great Swamp Outdoor Education Center.

The Great Swamp was created approximately 15,000 years ago, when the melting waters of the Wisconsin Glacier poured into the natural basin known as the Passaic Valley. However, the Great Swamp is not entirely swampland but rather a mixture of marshes, meadows, dry woods and brush-covered swamps. It is the intermingling of these four habitats that gives the Great Swamp its unique character, allowing the swamp to support a wide variety of plant and animal life.

As visitors walk along trails and over boardwalks, they can observe plants varying in size from the tiny duckweed to the towering red oak. A multitude of colors emerge, from the yellow marsh marigold to the blue iris.

I used to go to the Great Swamp as a child with my father who has always been a very active bird watcher.  This was the first time I had been there in a very long time.

Our first stop was the bird blind overlooking the pond.   The bird blind was a wooden wall with various viewing points in it at various heights.  I brought along my binoculars and the kids had a great time learning how to use them and checking out some of the wildlife found around the pond.


The view through the bird blind.


After the bird blind we took a walk along one of the nature trails.  This particular trail has portions that consist of a boardwalk sitting 3 or 4 feet above marshlands and a portion of the pond.   When I was about Vicki’s age, I walked right off the edge of this boardwalk into the water, so I tried to make sure these guys paid attention and didn’t wander too far ahead.


At the portion of the trail in the woods, Georgie had the binoculars glued to his face most of the time.  We heard a lot of birds, including a woodpecker, but didn’t see many.  The kids were fairly noisy and we probably scared them away.


At the observation deck portion of the boardwalk, we spotted some painted turtles.  The kids loved getting a closer look at them with the binoculars.


Originally there were three turtles sitting on this piece of wood but two of them went into the water before I could get a picture.  Through the binoculars they looked like painted turtles but this guy looks like he could be a snapping turtle.


Near the end of the trail, we all of a sudden came across an interesting looking structure in the woods, with a ring of tree stump seats next to it.  The kids ran right up to check it out.


Turns out it was a replica of a wigwam.  From the trail guide - “the wigwam was the typical shelter built by the Lenni Lenape, the Native American tribe that historically lived in this part of New Jersey.”

The kids had fun checking out the wigwam.   Georgie wanted to try and start a fire in the pit by rubbing two sticks together and I told him to go for it.  He was shocked.  “You would let us play in there and start a fire ALL BY OURSELVES?!?!”    I did warn him that starting a fire with two sticks wasn’t that easy but if he succeeded to let me know since no, they couldn’t play near fire by themselves.




We checked out the Visitor’s Center while we were there.  They had a bunch of interactive informational games the kids played.  There were ones telling which animals were endangered or not endangered, identifying dinosaurs, identifying animals and birds of New Jersey, identifying scat and matching animals to their tracks.IMG_7001


There was also a classroom with more fun things to do.  George played with some building blocks that were trees, leaves and birds.   I actually found the set here.  He mostly enjoyed sorting the birds into groups for some game he was playing.


There was a perch set up to try and balance on like a bird.  George tried that out a few times and was able to squat down and pretend to sleep while still maintaining his balance.  For about 10 seconds.



Vicki’s favorite was a sandbox with animal footprint stamps to use to make images of tracks in the sand.  They had raccoons, opossum, mallard duck, Canada geese, deer and a variety of other animals commonly found in NJ.


There was also a small puppet theatre, posters about invasive species, tanks with Madagascar hissing cockroaches and giant millipedes.  (I can handle the cockroaches but millipedes give me the creeps.) 

All in all, it was a fun and educational day out in the fresh air.  And we have another place to add to my list of where we need to go more often.  This park does regularly education programs – for homeschoolers, for preschoolers, for school breaks – that we will need to start checking out.


Saturday, October 8, 2011

Weekly Wrap-Up

We had a great week of school this week.  Both kids were (mostly) cooperative and accomplished almost everything I had planned for the week.


Vicki has loved our Unifix cubes for a long time.  She loves playing with them together with our balance scale.  Not to do any actual measuring, of course.  She fills the buckets of the scale with cubes then places it behind a chair to “cook” and brings George and I snacks as we work.   Great pretend play and it keeps her busy for a really long time, so win-win.

She did use the Unifix cubes to do some patterns this week.


We worked on a few more math worksheets from Evan Moor Teacher File Box.  This week we did Big/Small and Sets of 1,2 or 3.  The Sets worksheet she had to color the set of 1 green, the set of 2 blue and the set of 3 orange.  She did one of her neatest (and most thorough) jobs yet coloring the one frog green. 


She did 6 pages from Get Ready for the Code this week.  We’re still working on the letters b and f but she is getting much more cooperative about following the actual directions.   She’s been walking around talking about letters sounds for the past couple of weeks.  “Mommy, mommy starts with mmmmm, M.  Zappa starts with /z/ /z/, Z.”    Things definitely seem to be clicking for her more these days.

We built Mat Man this week in our Handwriting Without Tears program.  (I forgot to cut hands out of paper so we used small curves for hands).  Vicki had a lot of fun doing this and thought he looked like a monkey so called him Monkey Man.IMG_6959

She had so much fun with it that later on (after asking for a pair of scissors) she made a girl wearing a dress.


George also was very interested in Mat Man (maybe he remembers a little from when he did this program in Early Intervention) and after he finished his work, I let him use the pieces.  He didn’t want to do boring old Mat Man.  Instead he made a bull….


a camel (with a tiny Unifix cube person riding one hump)….


a snake….


and a hippo with a boo-boo on his knee.


I’ve been having George do independent work while I work with Vicki first each day.  She seems to do much better keeping herself amused later if I give her some one-on-one time before trying to concentrate on George.   She did some work with her wipe-off books and cards while I was working with George this week and evidently we were being too loud since she yelled at us “Quiet guys, I’m working here!”.



HANDWRITING:  We start each day with handwriting since this is the hardest for him.   We completed 8 pages from Handwriting without Tears this week.  A couple days took extra long since he had to draw in pictures where they were missing.  Other than the side trips, he’s doing very well with handwriting.


PHONICS/READING:  We are up to Lesson 63 in OPGTR.  He still hasn’t had any problem reading any of the lessons but he rushes through these as quickly as possible. 

He did about 20 pages of Explode the Code this week (4-6 pages a day).  He  finds the sentences very silly and giggles at the pictures.  So far he’s had very little trouble with any of this and we are almost done with Book 2. 

We are in completely different places with OPGTR and ETC but the combination seems to be working very well for George so I’m going to continue with both. 

MATH:  George is continuing to love Math Mammoth.  I did cut down his daily work from 3 pages to 2 pages.    Money is definitely his favorite topic (especially when he can use real coins) but nothing has been particularly hard for him.  He loves the puzzles that come up every few pages.


GRAMMAR/WRITING:  We are continuing with the Scholastic GUM program for now.  Once we finish the 1st grade book, I may switch to some Spectrum 2nd Grade workbooks that I picked up at a used bookstore last weekend.   I was able to get 3 books for $1 each – Reading, Writing and Language Arts

He really enjoys the Reading Comprehension pages from the Scholastic 1st Grade Basic Skills:  Reading Comprehension and Reading Skills book I picked up at one of the dollar sales.  He often flips ahead in his binder to do those first.    We only have a few more of these pages left so, at the most recent sale, I bought the 2nd Grade Basic Skills book so we can continue.

SPELLING:  We continued on in All About Spelling this week.  I allocated the entire week for Step 16 – learning the different sounds of C and deciding whether to use C or K for the /k/ sound.  This ended up coming much easier to George than I thought it would, so we moved on to Step 17 which was spelling words beginning with the /k/ sound.  

He remembered the two sounds of C without a problem.   As I explained that C made the /s/ sound before the letters e, i or y (which means in those situations, you would use k for the /k/ sound) he decided to set up “battle stations” where K had e, i and y on “her” side and C had a, o and u on “his” side.


As I would give him a word to spell, they would go to battle.  To make sure he understood that it wouldn’t always be a vowel after the c, we had words like craft, crop, clam and crab.  He had no trouble spelling any of the words on the list but, I did think the list was light on K words so I added a few to really check his understanding (king, key, kite, kelp, kin, keg, kilt, kind, kiss).  We will move on to Step 18 next week and I just realized there are only 6 more lessons to go in Level One.   We will continue on with Level Two since I think this is a great program and it really reinforces the phonics rules (which I think he may be rushing through somewhat in ETC and OPGTR). 

We didn’t get to any of our Prehistory study this week but the kids did play outside with some dinosaurs.


We had beautiful Fall weather and after seeing an idea on Pinterest, I set up a balance beam for the kids.  I used a bungee cord to attached a wood board to two plastic crates.  The kids decorated it with sidewalk chalk and played a variety of games using it.




Simple, easy and fun.

Next week I hope to continue this new productivity in our core subjects and continue on with our Prehistory/Dinosaur study.  I want to finish Prehistory in the next couple of weeks and either return to our Continents study (which we may need to start over since it’s been so long) or do unit studies using Magic Tree House and Magic School Bus chapter books.