Saturday, May 08, 2010

A Homeschooling Review

We've been doing approximately a letter a week since Lily turned four in January. The A's above were pictures from quite a while back because she just got to "O"!!! I've had a few little incentives along the way for her. Back and Christmas time I bought this horse (since it was so cheap then) and she got the horse for after she got to the letter "H"... we work on the sounds the letters make and what words start with that sound and also the shape. Recognition and drawing. She can match the letters much easier than she can write them herself, but writing them helps her to really look at the shapes and thus helps her recognize them. Better penmanship will come later when she's older. :]
For some of the "trouble" letters I make up little things to help her remember them. For instance B's are pretty easy because to make a lower case be you just take of the top bump right? Well, D's often throw kids off with the lower case ones... SO I said something like this, "The capital D is the DADDY D and the lower case D is the little dude D and they like to talk together." Putting the smiles on them helps her see that they are supposed to face each other. She loves to turn the letters she makes into pictures and I encourage her as much with that as possible. When she started with her A's she had fun making it into a house and drawing doors for the different floors.

After doing this sort of thing with all her letters. Working on the sounds they make and the shapes and some penmanship we finally got to the "O" that she'd been looking forward to for a while and here is the puzzle! Lily absolutely loves putting puzzles together. She's great at spacial relations and seems to be a auditory and kinetic learner. She follows instructions quite well (even when she was just two years old I could give her instructions for getting something for me and she could follow them.)
I love having the incentive for her to work harder as something that is yet again teaching her or instilling a love of learning. This ocean puzzle has a picture with all the names of the different fish so we can talk about them as we put the puzzle together.

Now to my two year olds "school" she's at the age where she's learning shapes and color names and so forth and in general just learning how to talk. I got the girls this "HiHo Cherry-O" game at Christmas time and Lily doesn't like it that well because it's all luck and no strategy (she's like me in that way I guess!) but Renna just loves to put the fruit on the trees and then into the barrels! Perhaps you are wondering what good that does? But of course, the creative parent can use a time like this to work on counting or colors or just fine motor skills for a two year old. Plus, it's such a special thing for them to get to enjoy the tiny pieces that they normally don't get to touch.While Lily does some more advanced school Renna gets to play with playdough. The picture above is special play dough scissors and is a really great tool to help her learn how to use scissors in general and again.. fine motor skills.
I got this Mighty Mind activity that helps children combine shapes (if I bought this again I'd choose the magnetic Mighty Mind set! Just a heads up if any of you want to look into it and buy one as well.) When Lily and I got it in the mail she kept thanking me over and over and said how much she loved school and so on. This is what homeschooling is to me. Instilling a love of learning and teaching without it feeling "teachy" and doing things as a family! Building the shapes becomes progressively harder and she really enjoyed doing this. It goes right along with the sorts of things she naturally loves to do, hands on, building, puzzles.. all that stuff.

Here's Renna again working on the playdough. The pictures are somewhat out of order, but this is often what school feels like when I'm bouncing from one to the other as they do their projects.

Another part of Renna's "school" is using these Mix and Match Teddy's she and I can talk about what the bears are wearing and the colors and the expressions along with matching them or pretending that they are talking. The teddy's pictures bellow are Renna's favorite. She calls them "Dye's" I think she's trying to say "guys" but for some reason she just adores these little grumpy bears and always searches for them among all the other bears.

The Teddy game and the Mighty Mind were from "Sonlight" homeschooling that uses "real" books rather than work books. I went to their site and got the list of books and bought almost all of them used or cheaper on Amazon. It's been like Christmas each day when we get a bunch of packages of books and school stuff in the mail! Each day we read a few new stories as well and that's such a great time for both girls because they love to be read to and it's great for me because I love to read to them! It's nice to have a few different "project" type things to rotate for them to do for their school and also some new stories to mix in with the old favorites that I have memorized from four years straight of reading.

So far I really like the Sonlight curriculum the best. Especially at this age, but as they get older I want to combine a few other things into the basic stuff of Sonlight. Here's a few other homeschool curriculum's that I really liked and that some friends recommended and used -- "My Father's World" had a great kindergarten curriculum, but I wasn't as impressed with the first grade. I loved some of the project ideas that they had... getting an ant farm or raising butterflies, I also thought these little rods that go with the Alphabet book would be neat teaching tool (also from "My Father's World")

The other school (Camrose Classical Academy) I was really impressed with combines a classical education with a strong literature base of "real" books and especially the reading program that they used was quite impressive. I have to be careful how I teach my eldest daughter because she's never been one to do something if you push too hard. If anyone who she doesn't know tries to do a "quiz" with her (you know how that goes, "what color is this?" and asking them all these teachy questions about everything.) I can ask her questions like that and know what she's learning and what she knows, but I also know HER and when the best times are to ask those questions. Even when she was just over a year old I'd hear her say a word and I'd try to get her to say it again. She's just not one to perform. Anyway, if I choose a reading program that is too pushy or something it wouldn't work for her. This one seemed fun yet advanced at the same time. I'll be getting the program later and just stick with teaching her her letters right now and reading a lot. It's not like she's going to "get behind" at this point while we do more things that work with Renna.

This last picture is Renna asleep. I opened her door so that she could wake up from her nap and then went back to exercising on the Wii step and she comes toddling out all sleepy like and lays down. Well, a few minutes later when I look back at her she'd fallen asleep again! Right on the floor. So so sweet. I let her sleep there until she woke up on her own because I figured she needed it. I am having so much fun teaching the girls and experiencing special moments with them. I might not stay with "Sonlight" through highschool... by then we might want to do a private school or go to a more classical style of homeschooling, but for now I'm really enjoying it and as I get more into it I'll probably be relying more on the library so that I don't have to buy ALL the books (I actually did skip two things that they recommended because I'm not into nursery rhymes and lame songs... no.. I got a few GREAT cd's that I loved as a kid and still do.)
Here's a picture of all the "school" books we are getting. Don't bother getting the "20th century children's book treasury" they ruin the essence of the picture books and it's better to get the originals used or from the library or something. The "HarperCollins of Treasury classics" is fabulous however and I'd buy for people as a gift. The "Flip Flap Body Book" is one of Lily's favorites and is a great "science" type book for this age. She keeps bringing it to me and wanting to do school. Speaking of which. We just got another four or so books in the mail and Lily wants to do more school! I've got to go read "Horten Hatches the Egg" .. LOVE IT! :]