Friday, May 25, 2012

Weekly Wrap-Up: Starting Kindergarten

As most kids, many homeschoolers included, are winding down the school year, this week has been our first week of Kindergarten, aka formal lessons with a purpose.  I didn't want to just stop reading instruction right now because "school is supposed to be out", but I kept thinking it was weird to start the school year in the summer.  Then I remembered...we homeschool for a LOT of different reasons.  Being able to work at our own pace is one of them.  Elliott asks for school, and is able to focus on short lessons, and for many personal reasons, I felt like it would be better for us to work through the summer so we can afford to take some time off around and after the holidays.  It just made sense to start the year now...this will be the beginning of formal lessons, and I will be keeping the weeks short and stretching the "year" out a little longer.  With the summer weather upon us, we've just flip flopped our days around a little.  We go outside directly after breakfast now, and do our indoor activities inside in the afternoons while it's hot, and then evenings are open for going back outside!

I outlined some of the materials we will be trying for Kindergarten in the post Curriculum 2012.  We only did "school" for three days this week, but that doesn't include our other educational activities like read-alouds and nature study.

Bible and Poetry were read over lunch, and we did a little art.  The first lesson with stick-laying in Primer of Industry was a big hit.  We also read a history story from Stories of Great Americans for Little Americans that he was mildly interested in.

The boys have been fascinated with insects this week.  This was an indoor catch, outdoor release...

...and as I mentioned in N is for Nature Study, they're completely fascinated with ants right now.

We started the week by taking a Math Placement on K5 Learning.  We are currently doing a free trial; I will post a more comprehensive review when we are complete.  While it is not a true diagnostic test, and the website is very clear about this (the assessment is to place the child in skill appropriate lessons that are not too easy or too hard), I was surprised, but not surprised at the results, if that makes any sense.

Math Placement (Instruction)
 Number and Operations Low 1st
 Measurement Low 1st
 Geometry Low 1st

We just finished up a very informal Pre-K year and he has never had any preschool classes, math instruction or formal lessons of any kind, so I guess I was expecting K range.  At the same time, though, I can tell he seems to be more mathematically minded.  I have really struggled with what to do about his math curriculum for this reason.  I want to keep it light and informal (CM style) but he also gets bored when activities are too easy.  I originally purchased Singapore's Essential Math Kindergarten, A and B.  Level A is far too easy, so I shelved it.  Another homeschooling mother said that Essential Math seems to be a mixture of Singapore's other K program and their 1A program, and I keep reading that their "levels" are slightly more advanced than public school grades.  So after much deliberation (and knowing I want to slow things down December-February), I decided to go ahead and do Level B with him, since I already have it.  Some of it is "easy," but hopefully I can keep it interesting enough not to bore him.  Plus, I take comfort in the fact that it should get solidified this summer, and we can begin 1A later this fall.  From previews, it looks like the beginning of 1A will be a review again, which will make things easier at that time of the year.

Sight Words
Elliott suddenly decided he doesn't like reading; he says it is too hard.  I'm not sure it really is "hard" for him.  He does well and is making steady progress, but I think he is frustrated that it does not come as easily to him as numbers do.  It's the opposite for me, but I can understand that frustration.  So right now we're just doing reviews and keeping it simple to build his confidence back up.   We played on K5 a little, and worked on sight words this week (and a few words that he chose) with UpWords tiles.

I have a thing for buying games that are different and unique.  There's nothing wrong with Candy Land and Hi-Ho Cherry-O!  I just like to look for games that offer different educational incentives.  I sometimes go to the thrift store to look for nice copies of books that we might be able to add to our curriculum, and then find their games and puzzles.  I made a point to go the week following a community yard sale, and was not disappointed.  Many of the games I found are older, and I've never heard of them, but they offer something unique nonetheless.  This was one of the many I found that week.  It's called Leverage.  While the goal is to move your pieces strategically to tip your opponent's side down, I have not taught the boys how to play yet.

They had a lot of fun playing around with it.  Elliott understands the concept, so I think he will catch on to the strategy of it once he learns the rules, but for now I just let them play around with balancing and tipping it.  I like that the pieces are various sizes and weights, and will also work well in our balancing scale.

Other than nature study, our science is just a weekly reading from a living book.  I chose Seed-Babies because it seemed appropriate for the spring/summer season, and I think it will still allow relative hands-on exploration.

I read aloud Uncle Remus Initiates the Little Boy from The Complete Tales of Uncle Remus but Elliott didn't seem interested.  I can recall hearing the stories in school and visiting the Wren's Nest (home of Joel Chandler Harris) on a field trip to hear storytellers, and perhaps that will be a future field trip when they're more familiar with the stories.  I think I'm going to repeat the story with a Librivox recording a day or two later, and see how he responds to someone else reading the story.  I don't think he liked my attempt at the dialect.  ;-)

We've read a few short pictures books this week, but for the most part we've been reading one story each night from Thornton Burgess Bedtime Stories.  Each story is an excerpt from his original books, but both of the boys enjoy it, and one or both of them ask for it every night.

We started the free Salsa Spanish episodes, and both boys have enjoyed these.  So far we've only watched the first two a couple times, but the repetition is good for them.  Even Emory is picking things up; I head him saying "Hasta Luego" during play the other day!

Tot School Tag Along
For the most part, Emory wasn't interested beyond literature, Spanish, Mother Goose and outdoor play, and that is FINE with me.  However, he did want to play with the counting bears.  There were good guys, bad guys and "Hold on buddy, I'm coming to help you" scenarios going on!

N is for Nature Study

I am the last person that should be talking about Nature Study.  I have no background, and I would have never considered it as a fundamental part of a child's education until I learned about Charlotte Mason.  There is so much for me to learn about the philosophy of a Charlotte Mason education, but one of the first things I knew I could implement immediately was outdoor time and informal nature study.

Charlotte Mason believed children should be outside daily, for hours if possible, and not just for the health benefits.  Being outdoors allows the child first-hand experience with nature, and is the basis for science during the earliest years.  While I cannot readily identify every bird, flower or insect for the boys, I can expose them to the beauty and wonder of nature, and at this age, that is my goal; not to teach them everything about nature, but to let them discover it.

"They must be let alone, left to themselves a great deal, to take in what they can of the beauty of earth and heavens."  
-- Charlotte Mason

Right now I mostly leave the children to do as they please outside.  I am there for supervision, to offer ideas when they are "bored" and to answer their questions to the best of my ability.  Sometimes we talk about evaporation and the water cycle as we watch our favorite splash puddle dry up.  Some days we watch frogs or tadpoles.  Other days they observe ants working busily.

All of these are interesting and exciting experiences for young children, so why deprive them of their natural curiosity?  I'm writing this as part of the blogging through the alphabet series, but I am also writing to remind myself that it's just fine to drop everything and spend the afternoon outdoors playing and discovering.  The laundry will still be there, but these moments with two little boys are precious, and I don't want to miss a second of it.


Friday, May 18, 2012

Curriculum 2012

NOTE:  This original list was almost doable, until I got pregnant and suffered severed morning sickness, we moved, I had to travel for appointments and then the baby was born.  We reduced our Kindergarten year to the basics

Singapore Math:  Kindergarten Essentials Book B, followed by Math U See Alpha
Language Arts:  Primary Arts of Language, Handwriting Without Tears
Literature:  various books 
Art:  Artistic Pursuits
Nature Study

Tag-along with brother in poetry, literature, nature study and occasional art
puzzles, learning toys
living math as age appropriate

Elliott - Kindergarten - Year 0.5
I know this looks ambitious.  It is almost overwhelming for me to see it in writing, but I have to remember that a Charlotte Mason education is both rich and rigorous.  It looks like a lot of subjects, but again, I remind myself that we are not doing every subject every day, nor will we be using all of the supplies at one time.  Anyway, this is my attempt at a Year 0.5 for our Kindergarten year.  I will update as necessary.

Fall Semester:  Art, Science, Latin and Five in a Row

What Your Kindergartner Needs to Know by E.D. Hirsch, Jr.

Singapore Math
Life of Fred by Stanley Schmidt
Family Math for Young Children and Family Math by Jean Kerr Stenmark
Living Math  Fantastic resource for math readers and games!

Dynamic Phonics Learning Book by Brian Davis
Various early readers/primers

Language Arts
Oral Narration will assess comprehension and help develop speaking skills
Zaner-Bloser Handwriting

The Complete Tales of Uncle Remus by Joel Chandler Harris
Treasury of Stories from Around the World compiled by Linda Jennings
Various living books

Something Big Has Been Here by Jack Prelutsky
The Random House Book of Poetry for Children compiled by Jack Prelutsky

Although we will use living books to explore different topics (which I'll try to post about as we cover them), Nature Study will still be our primary focus.  I'll discuss it later, as it is a family activity.  We also have a few science magazines we enjoy.
Big Backyard by National Wildlife Federation
National Geographic Kids by National Geographic

Stories Of Great Americans For Little Americans by Edward Eggleston
Little Hands Celebrate America! by Jill Frankel Hauser
Living Books to cover holidays, culture, geography, etc

Artistic Expression
Storybook Artist Curriculum by Jill @ EHM (art based around children's literature)
Artist to Artist by Eric Carle (the spine of Jill's free curriculum)
Sketching and Drawing for Children by Genevieve Vaughn-Jackson
Various art supplies are available upon request

The museum also offers free weekly children's art classes.  I have recently found out that one hour is art, but the second hour is led by instructors from the local performing arts center, so I am intrigued to at least try this out.

Art Appreciation
Come Look with Me: Enjoying Art with Children by Gladys S. Blizzard
Linnea in Monet's Garden by Cristina Bjrok

At this age we are only working on exposure, not mastery.
Kids Learn Spanish Twin Sisters Productions
Salsa by Georgia Public Broadcasting
My Very Own Big Spanish Dictionary/ Mi gran diccionario de espanol
Teach Them Spanish! Grade K by Winnie Waltzer-Hackett (the lessons include several read-aloud books)

The Curious Boy's Book of Adventure by Sam Martin
Kid's Workshop at Home Depot (We haven't tried these yet, but I believe he will like them; the Lowe's program would be an alternative option)

Emory - Preschool - Year 0
We certainly will not be doing lessons at 3 years old, but he does enjoy tagging along during many of big brother's activities.  We will be following the guidelines in Ambleside Year 0 by keeping it light and very informal, but  he will have a few special "school" books that are his own.

Art, TDB and Pre-K

The Preschool Calendar by Sherrill B. Flora
My Book Set of 4 (Shapes, Words, Numbers, Colors) Southwestern Company
These are NOT workbooks.  They are just colorful books that explore various topics with questions for parents to ask, or activities to suggest like "Can you trace the curved line with your finger?"

The Real Mother Goose illustrated by Blanche Fisher Wright (free online)
A Classic Treasury of Nursery Songs & Rhymes with CD, illustrated by Tracey Moroney

I Spy Colors in Art by Lucy Micklethwait
I Spy Shapes in Art by Lucy Micklethwait
Various art supplies are available upon request

Richard Scarry's What Do People Do All Day?

He also has shoe box totes with various manipulatives and learning toys to explore.

Family Activities

Egermeier's Bible Story Book by Elsie E. Egermeier
Character/Habit Training
The Children's Book of Virtues edited by William J. Bennett
A Child's Book of Character Building by Ron and Rebekah Coriell
God's Wisdom for Little Boys by Jim and Elizabeth George
A Little Boy After God's Own Heart by Jim and Elizabeth George

Bernstein Favorites: Children's Classics
Not sure what will follow, but we also listen to various genres, just using Pandora.

Primer of Industry by Austin Craig
This is not a typical reading primer.  It was published in the early 1900s and is a very hands-on approach to teaching language and early math skills.  This is right up our alley.  I included it under Handicrafts because it works up to activities like sewing and weaving.  I happened to come across a temporary free download, but it is also free on Google Books here.

Nature Study
This is a major part of a Charlotte Mason education, because it helps children develop their observation skills and a sense of the world where they belong.  However, it is also undoubtedly my weakest area.  In What is Preschool Science? I discussed how we approached Nature Study over the last year, and we will probably do it much the same way this year, although I will try to make it more intentional.

Physical Education
I don't have a "plan" for PE, but the boys spend a great deal of time outside running, jumping on the trampoline, taking nature walks and playing with basic equipment like kickballs and jump ropes.  We are also looking into organized sports again for this fall.

My goal is to expose the children to great literature and these are my go-to lists when I need suggestions.  Obviously each family will need to use their discretion for what is right for their own family.
Ambleside Online Year 0
The Advisory Favorites have more suggestions for this age group.
Simply Charlotte Mason Early Years Read-Alouds
Five in a Row Book List
Sonlight Read Alouds
Twaddle Free Literature by Grade Level
100 Picture Books Everyone Should Know
Librivox  This is not an actual list, but is a great resource for free audio versions of books in the public domain.  I use it more for short stories, fairy tales, folk tales and poetry, because shorter works are good for long car rides.