Friday, September 28, 2012

Weekly Wrap-up

This week we took another step toward full days of school.  We did all our Language Arts and Math each day and next week we will add in our content subjects.

Vicki had a little bit of a light week since she had a cold the past few days.  She is continuing to enjoy using the large puzzle pieces to work on phonics.  We now have a full selection of short /a/ words for her to work on.  In order to get a puzzle piece, she needs to tell me what the word says.  Then she would bounce along the pieces already down to the next space, put the new piece in, and do a little dance.  When we finished, we pulled the words off the puzzles since next week we will be starting short /e/ words.


She also did the second of her word family flowers. She read each word before she added it to her flower.


We used the AAS whiteboard to go over some sentences….


and finished up with sentences on a large easel pad.  Some of the sentences are from OPGTR and some are ones I just made up using the words she knows.  My original intention was for her to read the words in red, while I would read the words in blue since they weren’t ones that I’ve introduced yet.  She’s getting better at recognizing “the” and surprisingly, she also knew “on”, “with”, and “and”.


She worked on a few pages in ETC, finished Lesson 1 and started Lesson 2.

For math, she did some Preschool Probability (from Confessions of a Homeschooler) and did some counting activities.


   She did a few pages in her HWT this week and practiced some writing on the chalkboard.


I bought some small mechanical pencils for her to use since she seemed to have trouble with full size pencils but really wanted to use something besides crayons.  She ended up using up the entire lead in at least 3 of them since they broke so easily.  I may just take some of our regular pencils and break them in half instead.

She spent a bunch of time playing with clear gems on a piece of felt.  My intention is to have her use them to build sight words but for now she just likes making designs.



Georgie had a good week with slightly less than the usual amount of whining.

I printed out some reading comprehension from Evan Moor Teacher’s File Box to use instead of the Spectrum Grade 2 Reading workbook that seemed to be too easy for him.  I printed four lessons - “The Dog Ate My Homework”, “The Messiest Room in Town”, “The Koala” and “Alligators and Crocodiles”.  They were all listed under 3rd Grade although two had Lexile levels of 510 and 530 (late 2nd, early 3rd grade level) and the other two were Lexile levels 700 and 710 (early 4th grade).   He did really well with these although definitely had to think a little harder than he did with his workbook.  He thought “The Dog Ate My Homework” and “The Messiest Room in Town” were really funny and enjoyed reading them.  

There were a few new vocabulary words in each one that were new to him (restriction, marsupial), as well as exercises dealing with antonyms, contractions, and synonyms. 

Only in the “Alligator and Crocodiles” did he need to look back at the sample to get answers.  This may partially be due to the whining he did while reading it the first time.


He had a new Mad Libs book to do this week.  His old book was Mad Libs Jr. so it gave him a list of possible words.  The new book only tells him the part of speech.   He did one of the puzzles and then, since the book had a Ninja theme…..


he actually requested his journal to write a story about a ninja.    I am thrilled with how excited he is about her journal.  I have some writing prompts prepared for him to use but right now I’m just glad he is voluntarily (even eagerly!) writing and drawing.  Even if I give him prompts, I fully expect him to put his own personal spin on them.


He added some Pokemon stickers he received for doing his reading to his journal as well.


We finished AAS2 – Step 1 this week.  He remembered all the rules that were for review this week and, for the first time, I had him do the dictation sentences at the end of the lesson.  He had no problem remembering the sentences long enough to write them but kept wanting to put his own spin on them, like switching “red backpack” to “blue backpack” or writing “no trucks” in a sign.  Since the point was to remember the rules for when to use ck versus k, I let him get away with it. IMG_0916

Math Mammoth is continuing to go well.  We worked on place value to 1000’s this week and, like all the place value we’ve done so far, complete understanding came right away.

He thought the fractions page was “too easy” but then proceeded to do it all wrong.  Once he was willing to listen to an explanation, he had no trouble with it.   He had to color one section of each circle that was divided into 2, 3, 4, 5 or 6 sections and decide which fractions were larger.  He colored the one section red, “YAH, red for success” and then decided he needed to color all the other sections blue “blue, sad, poor blue, they weren’t chosen”.

I didn’t give him any of his Addition/Subtraction riddles this week but he did 4 of his Algebra Readiness Made Easy pages without any trouble.

Since Georgie’s writing is always done in all uppercase unless it’s actually in his HWT book, I decided to go ahead and start the 2nd grade “Printing Power” book with him.  It offers a lot of review of lowercase letters and hopefully cursive will help with proper formation and using the proper case since it’s hard to write all caps in cursive.

Also this week, we had a field trip with 4-H Cloverbuds to a local petting farm.


Next week we will start Spanish, Art, Music and Literature, and hopefully finish up our Rocks & Minerals study.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Curious Cloverbuds – Barnyard Field Trip

For the field trip portion of our Farm Animal unit with Cloverbuds, we took a trip to a local barnyard.   It was an amazing day for it – beautiful blue skies, not too hot, nice breezes – and the kids had a ton of fun.
Despite the place being literally around the corner from my house, this was the first time I had been there with the kids.

Each kid was given a bucket of carrot slices to feed the animals, which included goats, sheeps, pigs, rabbits, chickens, peacocks, what I think was Scotch Highland Cattle, and alpacas (which weren’t interested in the carrots)….


there was an overhead walk-way for the goats and sheep to move between pens….

IMG_0779 - Copy

little tractors to ride….

IMG_0810 - Copy (2)

a big sandbox they spent a LOT of time playing in….

IMG_0823 - Copy 

a fun tractor ride that thankfully for Georgie and I didn’t include hay (allergies)….

IMG_0842  IMG_0855

a playhouse with everything necessary to play house…

IMG_0869 IMG_0881 - Copy IMG_0882 - Copy IMG_0883

and water pumps with chutes perfect for racing rubber duckies (and making mud).

IMG_0886 IMG_0890 IMG_0892 IMG_0897 - Copy

We ended up spending over 3 hours there playing  with all the fun stuff, enjoying the fresh air, and Georgie didn’t complain at all (well, almost not at all).

IMG_0808 IMG_0835 IMG_0894IMG_0895IMG_0896

Friday, September 21, 2012

Back to School!

Although we’ve been dabbling with a day here and there, this week was our first real week back.   We still didn’t have a full week due to various circumstances but I think overall it was a very good week.   Of course, now that we’ve really started, I decided to change a few things (again!).

Homeschooling in a small space has lots of challenges and, once again, I’ve rearranged things in the hopes of finding the most efficient set-up.  I’ve moved our school back into the kitchen for the most part, since I like having a dedicated space and not having to move the computers out of our way.  It is also easier for me to keep an eye on both of them.  But, there are things just work better in the living room since that’s where our timeline will hang, where I have bulletin boards and posters, where there’s more space for projects, and where the computers and television live. 

My plan is to start our day in the living room – Georgie will do his 30 minutes of reading curled up in a chair or on his bed while Vicki and I work on a white board doing some phonics.  

Georgie and I will then do his All About Spelling (since the board is too big for the kitchen space) while Vicki plays independently.  

We will all move into the kitchen for the rest of our core subjects.  Georgie will do his independent work while Vicki and I work together.  Vicki can then do some independent activities or go into the living room to play school games on her computer (Jumpstart, Math Blaster and Animal Jam from Nat Geo Kids are the current favorites) while I work with Georgie.

We will take a break and come back into the kitchen to do our daily activity (Literature on Monday, Journaling on Wednesday, Art on Thursday and Music on Friday). 

After lunch (during which I hope to read aloud) the kids will go in their rooms for quiet time while I work-out and eat my lunch.

The rest of our work will be done in the living room because they either involve projects, using my computer or the television to watch videos, or playing games.  We will do Spanish every day, History or Science each day, Geography on Wednesday and Thursday the weeks we do History, and Social Studies on Fridays.  Tuesdays are light because we have 4-H twice a month.

Now for what we’ve actually accomplished:

Vicki is doing well with phonics and reading.  She finally seems to have a good grasp of blending and is starting to not sound out short /a/ words one sound at a time.   I am using Ordinary Parents Guide to Reading on a white board with letter tiles to introduce words.  We play games using large foam puzzle pieces with words attached to help practice the words.  She just started Explode the Code 1 as additional practice.  She did the consonant pre-test and did through page 7 of lesson 1.  I am letting her determine how many pages she wants to do each session and, just like I did with Georgie, I don’t make her do the pages where she has to write out the entire word.

As she finishes up a word family, she puts together a flower, reading each word before she puts the petal on.  The leaves are whatever sight words we are working on.  She is still struggling some with these since she wants to sound them out.  “I” isn’t a problem but “the” is giving her trouble.


Vicki is finally getting better with handwriting.  She usually would drop her pencil or crayon, claim she’s too tired, do a couple lines then “Oops, I can’t DO IT!”.  But this week she traced her name three times and did a few pages in Handwriting without Tears without any “oops”.

For math this week, she played with the Cuisenaire Rods and did MEP1, Lesson 9.  She didn’t want to do any structured activities with the rods yet, just stack them into little towers but she does seem to understand the difference between < > and = now.

IMG_0705 IMG_0717

I did let her play around on the AAS board a little this week and started testing her with the phonogram cards used in Level 1, Step 1.  She knows all the single phonograms, both sounds of c, both sounds of g and the first sounds of all the vowels.  She put all the letters back into their places and then made some words by sounding out the letters.


She was probably so cooperative this week because I told her she could use Play-doh when she finished.  I’m going to have to watch her closely because she knows what drawer I’m keeping the play-doh in AND she evidently now has the hand strength to open those little cans by herself.   She spent about an hour making cakes and cookies for me to pretend nibble on.

Georgie was a little more cooperative than he has been in the past.  I bought composition notebooks for both kids to do some free writing/journaling.  Georgie’s has a strip of Mario Brothers duct tape on the cover and Vicki has Hello Kitty.  I also am planning to let them decorate them with some stickers eventually.

The first day I introduced them, they were excited but not really interested in guidance.  Vicki did some scribbles on a few pages in different colors.  Georgie wrote “I HATE SCHOOL” and “I love Minecraft” on the first couple of pages.  

The next time I pulled out their books went much better…sort of.    Both kids were working quietly and attentively, giving me lots of hope for our future schooling.


Vicki drew a few lines and had me write “Scientific Fairy Research” and tried to copy it.  Evidently it’s from a movie they’ve watched recently.  She was holding the pencil correctly and not complaining so I let her go with it.

I asked Georgie to draw an alien, a Pokemon or a monster and tell about bringing him home.   Instead he ran to get his Pokemon books and drew Elgyum.  He did also write some information about Elgyum.IMG_0725

I ended up pulling out his new How to Draw Pokemon book and he went on to draw Pikachu…


Marrill and Gastly. 


He still doesn’t like going for realism (can you talk about realism when discussing little Japanese monsters?) in his colors but this was probably the longest he ever spent voluntarily using a writing utensil of any kind, so I certainly wasn’t going to discourage him.

We worked a little bit on Beast Academy 3A.  Georgie still has a little trouble with the angle mazes but he can easily tell you if an angle is obtuse, right or acute.  I gave him an index card to check for right angles when we first started doing these.

He’s been having no trouble with his Algebra Readiness Made Easy logic puzzles but he is struggling with his Addition/Subtraction riddles.  I may give him a break from those since it seems to just be the number of problems on the page that’s bothering him.

We are continuing along in Math Mammoth doing a mix of topics from 2A, 2B, 3A and 3B.  I’m not even completely sure which book the pages come out of at this point.  He is doing addition with carrying, subtraction with borrowing, making change, time lapsed, fractions, place value to 1000's, and multiplication as an array. 

Even though he spent a lot of time complaining about math, it clearly is very easy for him once he starts doing it.   Because I don’t have him do a lot of the writing if it’s unnecessary, he is solving a lot of the problems in his head.  I’ll go over the problem with him, he’ll say “the answer is like…. 37” and figure out the answer while he is saying “the answer is like..”.  Word problems especially are very easy for him. 

For the money questions, he invented a machine.   The questions were written “92c + _____ c = $1”.  His answer was “put 92c in the machine with 8c and you get a dollar out”.  I guess whatever works for him to cooperate on doing it.

Place value also seems to come very easily to Georgie so to help him with the terminology since the concept seems to be understood, I made up a place value chart.  We will quickly work through these pages in MM just to be sure he does fully understand.  A link to the chart on Google Docs can be found on the Games and Files page of the blog.


I think I’m going to jump him ahead a little bit in math so he has to work a little harder but give him fewer pages each day so hopefully he’ll complain less.

Georgie told me that whenever he is playing on Minecraft Multiplayer, if he spells something wrong, the people he is playing with will correct him so he is learning spelling while playing and shouldn’t need to do more.  As happy as I am that he is learning while playing, and especially that he mostly plays with older kids and one adult (my cousin), we still pulled out Level 2 of All About Spelling to finally get started with it.   A lot of Step 1 is review of the key concepts from Level 1 – vowels and consonants, vowel sounds, when to use c or k, when to double f, l or s.  He didn’t have any trouble with these beginning lessons and enjoyed playing with the tiles again.  He tried to spell diamond on his own and couldn’t quite do it.


One other area I’m thinking about advancing him in is reading comprehension.  He’s doing a Grade 2 Spectrum workbook where he reads a passage and answers questions.   He reads the passages very quickly and answers the questions without referring back to it.  I have a subscription to the Evan Moor Teacher’s File Box, so I’m going to print out a few reading comprehension exercises at a higher level and see how he does with them.  If he struggles, we can go back to the Spectrum workbook.

We got some exercise and did some nature study while enjoying some lovely Fall weather.   We spent a few days at the park and Vicki insisted on wearing her sun hat….


we took a run out to our mailboxes and looked for signs of Fall….


we studied some fungus on a tree (it appears to be a Turkey Tail Fungus)….


we saw lots of Queen Anne’s Lace including in our backyard.


While trying to get a closer picture of the Queen Anne’s Lace, I discovered Milkweed in our backyard!  There’s been some for a long-time down by the pool along the river but this is the first time I’ve seen it in our yard.  Since it’s a favorite place for the Painted Lady butterflies to lay their eggs, hopefully we’ll be able to find caterpillars in the Spring.


One of our local indoor play places had a free homeschoolers day this week.   The kids had a great time running around with other homeschoolers, playing video games and air hockey, and picking out prizes before we left.

IMG_0754 IMG_0757 IMG_0759 IMG_0761 

Last but not least, I took some back to school pictures from the top of our new play set.  Vicki was eager to have her picture taken but Georgie was feeling less than cooperative.

IMG_0738  IMG_0740 IMG_0743


Next week we will be continuing with our Rock & Mineral study, we will be visiting a farm with 4-H Cloverbuds, we will be starting Spanish, Social Studies, Art and Music.  (I hope.  Keep your fingers crossed.)