Monday, September 17, 2012

What I wish I knew 2 years ago

 I wish I could talk to my previous self when my oldest was 4 and 1/2.  Now the middle one is that age and starting Kindergarten.  In 3 years my third one will be in this same spot, so perhaps I should not only post what we are doing in school this year just for myself right now BUT for my future self for when the little one is 4 and 1/2.

Starting school each day--

We talk about what day it is and look at the calendar and add a number to the 100 chart.  There is also a little flip book to the left of the calendar that has different weather options so it can be changed to whatever the weather is each day. The jars hanging above are full of the girls collections from what they find or from the nature exchange at the zoo.

Basic plan is to read a Bible story or lesson then read from a fairy tale collection or fables book while the kids color.  These books will be swapped out for others of the same type.  We can read through our book shelf pretty efficiently with this easy system of daily reading and drawing (or play dough or whatever).  Pretty much the plan for all of last year and we got through a lot!  It's amazing how much the girls learn from a well crafted story.
    I borrowed this teachers guide from a friend of mine and I really like the Bible lessons and some of the things they do.  How they tie in the letter of the week with a part of nature and a Bible verse I think is quite memorable for the kids.  I have been using this rather then the Bible lesson book pictured above, but I will add things here and there if we need it.

A website with coloring pages like this one.  There are SO many great free printables out there!

Language arts program from Sonlight The Grade K is for my 4.5 year old and the first Grade is for my 6.5 year old.  Just a note, the binders didn't come with the teachers/activities guide and the 1 inch ones that I got JUST barely fit. 
This particular week of school (week number TWO) is going to be all about the alphabet.  I'm still reading through their language arts programs to get a handle on how to use it to teach them and in the mean time we'll be doing a bunch of alphabet activities to review.  I actually had all but two of these books!  The two on the far left I got from the library.  For so many years we've been collecting books and games and resources that I wanted to actually use what we have.
Extra stuff geared more towards the 6.5 year old.  I already had the "Take off""Scrabble Junior" "Rummikub" and chalk board puzzle map, but I just got the Musical instruments coloring book and CD from My Father's World and the book on the far bottom right "Drawing with Children" was also from their 1st Grade pack.  So far I am loving the book for me as well as for the future when I start using it with her!  She LOVES to draw and I'd like to draw better and practice more also.  I thought this would be a super fun extra thing we could do together.  The games and puzzles (we have many more than these!) are also just fun to do sometimes and teach some good skills without even trying.
An idea that I want to use for my kids Found here to learn how to spell site words.

Some of the Animal Antics books by Barbara DeRubertis.  LOVE these!  They are well written and interesting to read, but also creatively contain words that have the letter that is highlighted.  Like "Sammy Skunk's Super Sniffer" has many many words that contain the "s" sound.  At the end of each there's a little "fun facts" thing about the featured animal.  I'm going to use these to go along with the My Father's World that has a letter a week.  The first lesson starts with "S" and I'm thinking that if I just have a lot of books or activities that feature the letter of the week it will help to emphasize what they are learning that week.
A few extra things for my 4.5 year old.  She enjoyed the games and activities of both her older sister and younger sister, but these are probably closest to her age that I have.  After I pulled out the big foam letters this morning to take a picture of them both girls had fun making an alphabet road with them and I was glad to just hang back and let them work together.  "Where's the 'Q'?"  -- "I found it! I found it!"  They didn't know they were doing school.  ;]
You wouldn't have to use "Animal Antics" books to go with the letter a week theme.  Pulling out an Encyclopedia or looking up something on-line is great too.  If you are brilliant like me and come up with obtuse words that start with the letter you are talking about than it's a good idea to have some resources ready to go.  "B" says "buh" for... uh, Barracuda.   "Mom, what's a Barracuda?"  -- yeah, good time to look up a picture on the internet and have a little impromptu science lesson.
So, speaking of letters... A fun idea that I found HERE (through pinterest of course) is to make crafts of letters that look like an object or animal that starts with that letter.  My plan to do this is to look at the pictures and draw out the shapes for my kids to cut out themselves.  I'm NOT cutting all these out!  Seriously, they can do that part.  Just need some construction paper and a few other things.  I know they will love doing one of these a week to match their letter of the week.  Maybe I'll have one kid do a lower case and one an upper case?  We'll see.. they might insist on doing the exact same project.  Our house will soon be even more over-flooded with craft projects then it already is.  ;]  Oh, and HERE is another website with the same idea only different in case I don't want to do them just like the ones on the first website.
Summer ABC Book
Another idea to do I'd do it a little differently then them I think, I might take pictures with the girls of things that we have that would start with each letter or if they had something really specific in mind we might try to find a picture of it online as well.  I might add a few extra things of my own to their book of things I want them to learn how to spell and read.  I'd label each object like a "real" first alphabet type book.  Maybe this could be something the girls could make for their baby sister for Christmas or something.  How sweet would that be?  :}

Also, just reading several books a day is great!  I've got these organized with stickers on the bottom part of the spine.  Library books are top left, then Red stars for school type books, then orange for Bible story books, then gold stars for the kids story books, then green stickers for story book collections and books on tape, then bottom left is blue stars for the baby's picture books that she loves, then far right on the bottom is purple stickers for the baby's school type books (book of opposites or counting book or "first words" type books.. anything that is more about learning than story.)  If you use stickers as I did be sure to put tape over the stickers to make sure they stay on.  I love this plan because my kids can pretty easily put the books back where they need to go after they or the baby has pulled them down and spread them over the whole floor.  I took this picture right before I put stickers on and organized all the new books we've gotten in the last several months.  Most of them were for the littlest one (1.5 year old) who wants books almost all the time!

I wanted to print a picture of all the resources that I've collected having to do with Alphabet learning.  Just looking at it all gives me ideas on how I can use the stuff... I could have them trace around the alphabet puzzle pieces to work on how to spell their last name or a specific word.  The magnet board with the coconut tree and letters was from a pinterest idea and HERE is another that I liked that used pipecleaners to make the coconut tree.
Web site for this image I thought this was a great idea!  Just another way to practice letters and spelling.  I want to do something like this with the girls last name so they can practice seeing their last name fully spelled out.  I bet it could even be used to help kids memorize their address or phone number or whatever you wanted to teach them.  Just keep rotating all the activities around into different things to learn.  Works great!

The Alphabet Book for the Cuisenaire Rods from My Father's World is fabulous.  Work not only with the letters and sounds and what starts with that sound you can use it for math and counting and so on.  It's fabulous and not very expensive (You can re-use it with each kid!) I wish I had of gotten this for my oldest when she was this age.

Bunch of Math resources that I have.  Again, it's good for me to just look at these in one place because I tend to forget what we have when it's all put away.  The Patternables are especially wonderful.  My oldest is enjoying these too.
The Patternables and shape cards in use.  It's so fun for her to use that she doesn't even know she's learning stuff.  She also can just be creative with them and make pictures like she did in the picture above.  (The white board that the shapes are on works great for the magnetized shapes.)  This is a good project for her to work on while I'm reading chapter books or some other thing where she might have trouble sitting still.  I think they listen better when their hands are busy.. at least my oldest does!  And there's an old apple half eaten on the table.. yep.

All three girls have enjoyed these pegs and numbers.  Even if it's just to play with it works as a learning tool part of the time and a "baby entertainment while the Mommy is doing school with the older ones" the other part of the time.

I think I blogged about making this container and poof ball game last year.  Well, we are still using it!  Not only can it be used for the "baby while I'm busy with school" thing, but it's great for just a fun game of colors and counting.  Note, for the baby play -I just dump out a bunch on the floor and set up the can so she can push the poofs in or spread them around the house.  Sure some get lost, but they are pretty cheap to buy and add more to if you need it.

Sequencing the colors my oldest had left.

I made up a rule on the spot that said if you had only one of a color that you rolled then you could add how ever many other poof balls of ANY color to make the right amount.  So, the game moved more quickly and they didn't know they were practicing their adding.  What do you add to 1 to make 4?  Then just walk them through it... "One plus three makes? (they count the poofs to make sure it's right) FOUR!  That's right.  Push the poofies into the container!"

Speaking of poof balls.  They can be used as a sensory play time for the toddler while the older two are busy doing school.  I've been trying to do as much school as I can while the baby is awake, but once we get more into our math and language arts I might just do the reading and Bible lesson and perhaps the craft or coloring time in the morning and save the math and language arts for when the baby is asleep.
We are doing Singapore math that I found out about through Sonlight.  My oldest is doing just the second book now because the first K one would have been too easy, but I don't want to push her too much and jump her into 1st grade quite yet.  Her personality is such that she probably COULD do the 1st grade right now, but she gets so overwhelmed because she so wants to do things right the FIRST time that I think giving her some more repetition will be good.  (She was like this even as a baby and wouldn't copy me when I'd say a word.. ever.. I think she was just afraid of being wrong or she just wanted to make sure she knew for sure what to do.  When she was older though she'd catch right up, and she's always been really diligent about finishing things and has been advanced with her fine motor skills and so on.) 
Before I start Renna in the first kindergarten math book (pictured above) I'm going to have her go through these "Developing the early learner" This is the first volume but there are 3 more.  If this first one goes well and she's liking it and learning then I'll get the other three for her to finish too.  It looked fun and really useful.  Again, I wish I'd known about how great these are so I could have done these with Lily when she was 4 and 1/2 instead of starting "Sing Spell Read Write with her at that age!  With SSRW the first book worked pretty well but the second was just way too frustrating.  Definitely not our style for me to teach or for her to learn.  The one pictured above develops the skills needed for school NOT the usual "preschool" type book (that is frankly too hard for them and not helpful usually!)  I think that this is a good place to start when they seem ready for school but you don't want to burn them out with trying to learn how to read when they aren't truly ready or doing math problems when they are not even 5.   Everyone told me to "not worry" because Lily would learn how to read eventually.. which I totally understood (I didn't like reading till I was older either) my problem was always WHAT do I DO with her at this point?  With the second it's so much easier because not only have I already been through some of this trial and error on the poor first born, but she can just listen in to whatever I'm teaching her older sister and absorb it all like a sponge.  Like how I didn't really teach her to spell her name and she started trying to do it on her own.  I think I only guided her a couple times.  She also knows all her letter sounds and names and I didn't teach her as closely as I did with my oldest (she just listened and soaked it in!)
So, here's the skinny on the school time where we are now.  I've got several segments of school that we do.  I do NOT have a certain time of day.  Our wake up time isn't perfectly set to the clock or breakfast or lunch either.  There's a snack time somewhere between 3 or 4-ish.  The segments of school are as follows in no particular order;  Baby story time which is just however many stories the 1 and 1/2 year old wants to read, Kids story time, which is generally the story time on the couch, not to be confused with the Story time with fewer pictures in the book while they do coloring or crafts the sorts of books I read to them at that time are the Bible lesson stories or the fairy tales or Aesop's fables or chapter books with few or no pictures.  Then there is Language Arts times two kids, and Math or early development books times two.  I'll do the Language arts or math at the same general time, but just have one kid do a game or puzzle or related activity that they can do on their own so that I can do the workbook with them.  When they are older and can read on their own better then I won't have to be involved during the whole precess with Math and so on, but it's a good idea now to stay focused.  So, what is that?  FIVE segments?  Not bad right?  Not too overwhelming put in this way right?  
 I should point out that we don't do ALL the things pictured here every day!  Seriously.. what?  No, there's not enough hours in the day.  Okay, so maybe the baby could go through that much stuff in one day, but she only plays with something for 10 minutes and that doesn't really count.  My day is filled with messes being pulled out and messes being put away. It's constant unless it's interrupted by a book in the hands of a little one, and it's always a good idea to stop and read said book.  If the girls are excited about reading a library book should I insist we follow "the plan" for the week?  No, it all ebs and flows and that's what works for us.  A lot of this journey is just finding out what works for us and striving for the full potential of the season we are in right now.  My ideas might be just right for you or (more likely)  you'll need to modify them or just pull out an idea here and there from what I have pictured.  Remember, the goal isn't to cram our kids brains full of facts.. it's to inspire them to WANT to learn!  Hopefully we can do this in such a way that we will be able to enjoy the process too!  :]

PS:  In case you actually read all the way down to this point perhaps you might want to follow me on Pinterest  where I've pinned many other homeschool ideas and crafts and kids activities and toddler activities and so on.  I will be checking back to my own pins in the next few months again and again to utilize those ideas!  :]

Friday, September 07, 2012

Preping for school

 Our art wall is mostly all cleaned up now.  The girls are doing their best to fill it up as fast as possible again!  It works so great!  Especially with painted pictures (so they will dry) and when it gets too full we pull them all down and I ask the girls about each one if they want to keep it in their scrapbooks (three ring binders with page protectors) or hang them up in their room or throw them out.
 I got my wardrobe re-organized again.  Now it's ONLY art stuff (almost) so that is an improvement.. plus more labeling.  I can tell the hubby exactly where things go now.  This is a helpful thing.  :}
 Above our school area I made this little collections display!  Works good because I can untie the jars anytime for the girls to open and look at.  We are collecting some for the nature exchange at the library and some are to keep in their own collection.
 This is just fun, but has nothing to do with school (well.. okay, maybe the baby's school?) The rainbow magnet people on our dishwasher make me happy.  The 4 year old likes to turn them upside down and put their feet together so that they are sleeping like bats.  Cracks me up!
 Iced coffee.. it's good anytime.  :}
 This has grown since this picture was taken, but it's the general idea.  I'm still waiting for a bit more school stuff that will be coming.  I've gotten everything from "My Father's World" and a couple extra things, but the stuff from Sonlight is still on it's way.  Getting excited!  We totally need a little fish tank or something for our school room though.  :}
 The Hubby has started "Daddy hour" with the girls when he gets home from work.  They are loving it and I'm feeling so much less pressure.  It's been really great!  Here he's having a tiny tea party with the baby.
 When the girls Grammy was here last weekend she took the older two to the craft store and got them some projects to do.  They got to decorate these fun masks!  They also got some clay which Renna is holding up.

 Gracie's "project" was some sparkly pink poof balls.  We called them "happy thoughts".. don't you have happy thoughts when you see a pink sparkly poofy ball?
 The four year old is due to have a baby.. or a pillow.  ;]  Oh, wait.. it turned out to be a tiiiiny rhinoceros.
 We painted the craft table with a rainbow!  It's all set to go and you can kind of see the dish drainer that I turned into a wooden puzzle rack just behind the open wardrobe door.
 Today the girls got some school things from "My Father's World" The numbers thing that Lily (6) is playing with has been enjoyed by ALL of them (6, 4, and 1) so that is really neat.  The Cuisenaire Rods and book to go with it are VERY good.  Combines learning math concepts and the alphabet in a very tactile way.
This is when the baby woke up and got to test out the new school stuff.  She was putting the puzzle together and doing it all with the best of them!  We will probably be using these pegs to "measure" stuff as well in the coming weeks.

I've been reading to the younger two for as long as they want each day (which is pretty long!) already and the girls have their art time and listening to music or a story on CD while they work on a project.  But next Monday we'll start more of the "real" stuff for their school.  I'm so impressed with how much the girls know already.  Renna can write her name and I have hardly worked with her on that.  Lily I think will take off with Math once we start into that some more too.  What homeschooling has allowed us to focus on has been much more important than ABC's... They can think logically, put puzzles together with little guidance, and figure things out on their own.  My own experience being homeschooled was similar in that I learned how to learn.  I learned how to teach myself things.  My girls are creative and color their pictures with rainbows and pretend and imagine when they play.  They are learning to fold towels and scramble eggs and mop the floor and finish what they start.  It's a beautiful thing.  When I think too hard about what I need to be doing and teaching them I can feel pretty overwhelmed and start freaking out, but it's going to be okay.  Really.  And if you are new to homeschooling and are reading this, know that it's going to be great!  Just like I keep that excited voice going as if I'm reading a picture book to the baby for the first time even though it's about the 40th time that week (no joke) I've got to approach the girls school in the same way-- they will love it if they see me loving it too.  I think we tend to get the most frustrated when things don't go according to the plan, but the great thing about schooling at home is that the plan can change and fit with what we need even from day to day.  They are young enough now that I'm just planning on working through the book shelf of stuff I've got.  Some days we'll read more or do more pages in math and some days we'll do less.  I'm all for feeling out the atmosphere of the day and time.  It's a fine balance and we will make the most of the time we have.  I'm going to lean more towards a 4 day a week schedule as well so that the 5th day can be an outing day with less homework.  There is so much out there that just deciding what to get can feel crazy.  You can spend a lot or you can do some extra work and do it all for free!  I've "Pinned" quite a few ideas onto pinterest in the "Homeschool" file and then re-pinned everything that I'd pinned there (for the last half a year!) to different files so I could find things easier.  Just got to use what I've pinned and collected! 

I'm afraid that making an actual lesson plan (outside of my head) isn't something I'm great at.  I was thinking that rather then plan way in advance what I should do each day I'll just keep a log of what I HAVE done at the end of the day.  That way I'll know if we are missing something and then when the baby is older I can reference it.

 Playing with Legos = Brilliant
 Bubble time on the balcony.

I so often feel extremely inadequate in the organizing department and with a family of five and homeschooling and so on it can seem like too much for my artistic brain, but God's strength is made perfect in our weaknesses so I know it will be alright.