Monday, August 31, 2015

Preschool: Chicka Chicka Boom Boom

Since Eleanor is starting Preschool at her demand request (oh help me!) I figured we'd do a fun alphabet theme for her first week of school.

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We just recently rowed The ABC Bunny though so I had to choose something different.  Chicka Chicka Boom Boom has always been one of my favorite alphabet books, and is always a preschool favorite in our house, so it made sense to choose it for a fun back-to-school theme!

Of course we did a coloring page one day.

Eleanor loves stickers, so using this Chicka Chicka Boom Boom Recording Sheet from Pre-K Pages was a HUGE hit!  We discussed letters, letter sounds, and colors.  It was great for fine motor skills as she pulled the stickers off and she had a blast matching them up.  She did really well.

She was watching the Chicka Chicka Boom Boom video when Izzy joined her for awhile!

She always laughs at the "Oh no!" part where the letters all fall to the ground.

She wanted to glue one day when Emory was gluing for his reading, so I improvised.  I quickly cut out the coconuts and let her glue them down onto her folder.  We also went ahead and glued down the Letter Shapes inside.  Both are from the Chicka Chicka Boom Boom Tot Book from 1+1+1=1 which has several other items, but I only used the two.  We also counted the coconuts!

She also played with letter stamps!  Her facial expressions crack me up!

As you can see, Izzy is her little study buddy.

I found this really cute Crayola alphabet puzzle at Target.  It's a capital/lower case match-up, and I gave her a few sets, mixed up, at a time to work on.  The reverse has numbers too, but we didn't really focus on those.

Favorite Alphabet Books

The ABC Bunny by Wanda Gag

Alphabears: An ABC Book by Kathleen Hague

The Sweet and Sour Animal Bookk by Langston Hughes

Curious George's ABCs illustrations by H.A. Ray

Dr. Seuss's ABC by Dr. Seuss

A B C Look At Me Roberta Grobel Intrater

ABCers by Carole Lexa Schaefer

Other Preschool

Doc McStuffins Dress-Up is a favorite around here.

Shark puppets, Sofia play-dough, linking cubes, and then she had to borrow her brother's MUS blocks.

She found her brother's blocks again!  She really has a lot of fun exploring with them.

Emory got this collection of real insects for his birthday and it was a big hit with everyone!

We only sit down a few times a week for "preschool" and that's enough for her.  She's so young, but she's also very enthusiastic and agreeable.  I just try to keep everything fun and playful for her.

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Thursday, August 27, 2015

Weekly Wrap-Up: The First Week of School

We've officially started our 2015 school year.  We didn't have a big first day to-do this year.  The kids were aware the change from relaxed and casual summer schooling to regular schedule was coming soon.  I was planning to do a Fun First Day, but the day public schools started here, my 8 year old saw his new Math U see books and asked "Can I just start today?" Sure son.  Who am I to stand in the way of a kid and his math!?  Anyway, I'm hoping to share more weekly wrap-ups this year, because as much as I love going back and reading all those details, I really slacked last year.  I'm already a week behind this year . . . but hey, I'm trying!

3rd Grade
This year I'm hoping to encourage Elliott to become a little more independent in his work.  His morning work includes cursive, spelling and math.  Sometimes I add in some logic/critical thinking, or a puzzle or something from Super Teacher Worksheets (review coming soon) to break up the monotony.

He works through New American Cursive (we're continuing this series, because it was his preference out of the cursive programs we've tried) and that's something he can do independently; I just check the neatness/legibility of his work when he's finished.  He's also flying through the rest of All About Spelling now that we're back into the swing of things, but that is not something he can do independently due the nature of the program.

He worked through the first week of Math U See Gamma without issue.  I usually skim the lesson in the manual, but watch the DVD segment with him.  If I know he understands, he works through the worksheet on his own.  He actually loves to be "graded" so when he's done I literally check and grade his math.

He started Middlebury Interactive Languages, Spanish for 3rd-5th grade, and we're enjoying it again!  Look for a review coming soon!

1st Grade
I've already made one change from my original plans.  I was going to try an eclectic approach to reading, but I changed my mind right at the very last possible second.  I decided to trust my gut instinct and break out Primary Arts of Language (PAL) again and give it a go with him.  I wasn't sure I wanted to take it on right now, but when all is said and done, I really think it's the best choice for him.  We're taking our time and just enjoying the process, and so far he seems to really like it!

After we reviewed Horizons 1st Grade Math, I gave him the choice to continue it or try MUS Alpha, since Elliott uses MUS.  He chose to stick with Horizons because of the colorful workbooks.  I believe his exact words, after looking over his brother's old MUS workbook was "I do NOT want black and white!"  I'm okay with that, and we'll see how it goes this year!

He had all kinds of impromptu nature studies lately too.  Nature Study is his "thing" and he wants to be a paleontologist or zoologist.  We stopped reading lessons one day to watch a turtle cross the yard.

For his birthday, he received some neat little nature tools, including this Bugwatch from his mawmaw.  We've trapped and released a few things so far.  I highly recommend this thing for your young nature lovers.  It's easy to use and all three of the big kids like it.  We're taking all of his cool nature tools that he got on our weekend trip to the state forest!

He also got a venus fly trap.  It was cause for much fascination and excitement!  I didn't realize they sold these all over the place, but he was THRILLED and loved watching it in action.

This girl.  I went shopping for school supplies and the boys needed new backpacks for co-op, so of course I bought her a small one.  "It's for ME!  I can't believe it!  I'm going to school!"  Every now and then she just sings "I'm going to school!" as she dances around the house.  Needless to say, she's excited about being called a preschooler.  She spends most of her day climbing on me, playing with Izzy, or torturing her little sister, but she's so full of spontaneous toddler cuteness that it's hard not to follow her lead.

We'd had a long day . . . but I love this picture of HER!

She also spends a few minutes each day doing some one-on-one Preschool with me, because you know, SH'ES FINALLY GOING TO SCHOOL!  Her first week was Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, but I'll share more about that in another post.

Family Subjects/Activities
We rowed Three Names for our family subjects this week.  We learned about the prairie, tornadoes and dogs!

At the end of the week I got a call from the in-laws that they were harvesting honey (this was their first year with bees) so over a couple days we enjoyed the process.  More to come, because we obviously started our row of The Bee Tree next!

We ended the week by driving out to an Italian Festival, and there were games and rides for the kids.  This was Elliott's favorite.  Emory's favorite was the giant inflatable tubes that you climb inside and run like a hamster wheel, while they float on water.  I don't have pictures of that though.

It was an awesome week, and I'm definitely looking forward to another fun year.

Weekly Wrap-Up

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Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Five in a Row: Three Names (Back to School and a new Puppy!)

Initially I chose to row Three Names as our first book of the "new" school year because it had a school-ish theme, but the timing worked well with the dog/pet theme too.

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Social Studies

Character - Teachable Attitude
Back to school is always a good time of year to have this discussion.

Relationships - Pets
We just got a new pup a couple weeks ago.  She's 10 months old and a sweet bundle of love!  She's adjusted fabulously to the family and she and the kids adore each other.  She's so easy-going and will be anyone's cuddle buddy.  Her name is Izzy.  Is she not the cutest little thing ever!?
     Go Along Book - Dogs by Seymour Simon

Geography - Prairies/Prairie Life and Prairie Animals
We talked about the location of prairies and read the definition of a grassland from Geography from A to Z.  I printed small maps of the North American prairie region that they could clip to their prairie drawings, but they weren't interested in doing a prairie drawing.  They liked going through our animal cards to determine which ones live in prairie regions and reading the interesting facts about them.

Emory drew a gray wolf (grasslands of Canada/Alaska) on his own.  Howling, I believe.

 So I got out Draw Write Now (Book 8) and they can glue their maps to these.  One chose the prairie dog.

The other chose an armadillo.

One day on the week following the row, an episode of Wild Kratts featured the prairie and prairie animals, so that was a lot of fun for Emory, who loves that show!

We didn't get to this online Build a Prairie activity, but it looks great for older rowers.

Geography - Story Disk
After much deliberation, Elliott chose some state boarders, since the prairies encompass so much of this area.

History - One Room Schoolhouses & Culture value of Education
We compared one-room schoolhouses to the structure of traditional schools today, and compared them to homeschools.  We also talked about how Great-Grandfather traveled to school, and how children around the world still do not have cars or school buses.  Then we watched part of the documentary "On the Way to School" to show how people around the world value education and go to great lengths just to get to school.

The lesson in the manual referenced ordinal numbers, so I had both of the boys do a quick ordinal numbers worksheet.  Emory followed coloring instructions.  He's not much for coloring.  Elliott matched ordinal numbers to their written word, but that was easy for him, so he also did the perspective in measurement activity.

Language Arts
Book Titles
One of the boys immediately asked "Why is it called Three Names?" so that was the perfect segue into the lesson on titles.  Their alternative title suggestions:
Four Names
The Dog that had Four Names
The Dog that Liked to go to School

They also caught onto the hyperbole examples as they were written.  Emory asked "Did it really take a hundred years?" so that lesson was discussed naturally as well.  Of course, my kids just called it lying, so we talked about exaggeration as a point of storytelling, verses actual lying.

I explained how a simile uses like/as to make two different things seem similar.  Elliott understands similes, so while we did this Simile - Not Simile cut/paste activity, I had Elliott read them to Emory as I helped Emory fill his paper out.  Emory finally made the connection that if "it's not true" it's a simile.  If it's true statement, it's not a simile.  It was an exposure lesson for him, and I know we'll come around to similes again.

We briefly talked about fraternal twins, but that was easy as Daddy is a fraternal twin.

Wind and Tornadoes
We discussed the lesson on wind and made a tornado in a jar, but it was hard to get pictures of that in action.
     Go-along book:  Feel the Wind by Arthur Dorros

I chose to focus on two lessons from the manual--vanishing point and lines.  It happened to line up with the lesson in ARTistic Pursuits for the week, which discussed parallel and perpendicular lines, etc., so I tied them together.  The boys drew roads with a vanishing point.  It started as a sunny day, but can you see the swirling wind forming a tornado in the rain storm on the right?  I think he added black flecks to his road to make it look like an old worn road, and fence posts along the sides.  (Then they did the ARTistic Pursuit drawing assignment, their interpretation involving Minecraft.)

My kids aren't much for drawing when it isn't their idea, which is usually why we only do the FIAR art lessons conversationally.

Additional Books
Henry And Mudge Take The Big Test by Cynthia Rylant
These readers are about a boy and his dog, and Rylant is a FIAR author so you know her books are good.  This particular title fits in with the "school" theme as well.

Tornado by Besty Byers
This is a great book about a boy and his dog, and it takes place during a Tornado, so that theme ties in well too.

Up Next:  The Bee Tree!

©2011-2015 Mom’s Heart.  All rights reserved.  All text, photographs, artwork, and other content may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form without the written consent of the author.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

FIAR: Follow the Drinking Gourd

When we were reviewing With Lee in Virginia the boys were upset at the scenes that depicted abusive slave owners.  It was only a couple of scenes at the beginning, but it was enough to horrify them.  We have the book Follow the Drinking Gourd by Jeanette Winters, so I thought it might be a good time to row it and discuss abolitionists and the Underground Railroad, to show "another side" of that part of history.  It was a mostly conversational row as we've been very relaxed this summer, but it kept us moving forward through July.

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Language Arts
Analogies, Compound Words
The analogies lesson on the Underground Railroad was covered from the manual.  We also did the compound words lesson (review for Elliott, but he liked "teaching" it to Emory) and I asked the boys to choose a word from the list and draw a picture.

Social Studies
Civil War, Underground Railroad, Geography, Compasses
Because the book was set in the south, we discussed how the United States was roughly divided into "northern" and "southern" states, and how some were slave states and some were free states.  I showed them a color-coded map (I pulled this map from under section 7-4) to show them how the US was divided, and how far slaves had to travel to reach Canada.  We also looked at Virginia and West Virginia, and discussed how WV became a state during the Civil War.  We watched a video about Harriet Tubman and discussed the Underground Railroad.  We discussed directions and I let the boys play around with a compass.  The compass was enjoyed for a long time after the row, and it goes in our nature bag now.

(That was all a lot of information for them, especially the five year old, but I think it's good exposure, and the next time we come around, it will be familiar and they will absorb even more.)

Elliott picked a southern state for our story disk.

Abraham Lincoln
This was a rabbit trail for us, because Emory wanted to study him.  We read the books Abe Lincoln Goes to Washington and Abe Lincoln Remembers.  The first one was extremely detailed.  Too many dates and battle details for an elementary read-aloud, especially to cram into one reading session.  The illustrations were interesting, but it's better suited for upper elementary or even middle school.  The second book was much more appropriate in content and length for our needs.


Measure of Time
We used the lesson in the manual, and then the book All about Time helped us expand on the topic.  They really liked the overlay pages that helped show the lapse of time.

Fine Arts
Art:  Cut-Away View; Music - Songs as a Teaching Method
We discussed this art lesson from the manual naturally as we were reading the book.  Of course we listened to the Follow the Drinking Gourd song one day.

Stars, Constellations
We talked about constellations and specifically about The Big Dipper.   We made constellations with the geoboard.  They also watched an episode about stars from The Magic School Bus.  We have a telescope, but my mind just isn't there when it finally gets dark.  Or in other words, I kept forgetting.  Maybe we'll get it out this fall and enjoy it when it gets dark before exhaustion sets in.

There was actually a lot more I wanted to do with this book, but the kids weren't particularly interested in this row.  It's heavy subject matter, and I probably should have waited a little longer for this book.  It was good exposure though, and that's still important.  We took a FIAR break for several weeks at the end of July and early August, and have actually started our "new" school year, so you'll be seeing that post soon enough!

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Monday, August 17, 2015

Horizons 1st Grade Math {Schoolhouse Crew Review}

When I was doing my homeschool planning for this year, I knew I needed a math program for my 1st grader, who would officially be added to our homeschool class.  I had actually given the boys placement tests for the Horizons math programs from Alpha Omega Publishing back in the spring, so I was happy to learn we would be reviewing the Horizons 1st Grade Math Set.

Horizons 1st Grade Math Review

Horizons is a very popular curriculum that uses teacher-led, fast-paced lessons and colorful workbooks.  They teach through the spiral format.  For anyone unfamiliar with the concept of spiral learning, it means the material is presented in a way that doesn't expect mastery before moving on.  Concepts are introduced, and multiple concepts are continually practiced and reviewed.  The concepts come up over and over, so that eventually the student sees it enough over a period of time in different ways to finally master it.  I've always taught a mastery based program for math (only one topic is presented until it is completely understood and mastered) so I was definitely intrigued to see how I would do with teaching something so different.  My little test subject is a go-with-the-flow kind of guy who has never used a formal math curriculum, so I was also interested to see how he would respond.

The Teacher's Guide
The Teacher's Guide is a large, phone book size manual with 578 pages.  It's very detailed, but has a simple layout.  The first section is the Introduction, which includes an overview of the program, a readiness evaluation, remedial exercises for students who might need them, a section on preparing the lesson, and of course a scope and sequence.  There's also a chart with a list of manipulatives and their corresponding lessons, as well as some other helpful charts.  Section Two includes the actual lessons, Section Three is the answer key to the lessons, Section Four includes the additional worksheets, and Section Five is the worksheet answer key.

Horizons 1st Grade Math Review

The Lessons
There are 160 lessons, which allows for the traditional 180 day school year to have unexpected interruptions, extra days on lessons, or fun activities interspersed throughout the year.  The manual suggests spending about 30 minutes per lesson.  Tests are included in the student books but are not written into the lessons or time suggestion; answers are provided in the answer key though.

Each lesson in the Teacher's Manual is set up the same and includes:
  • Concepts - First grade has 17 major concepts and this shows what is covered in the current lesson
  • Objectives - list of measurable criteria to assess student performance
  • Teaching Tips - Optional ideas that correspond to the activities or will help students who need additional practice
  • Materials, Supplies, and Equipment - A list of additional items needed (or suggested) to help carry out the lesson, such as a hundreds chart, flash cards, crayons, number line, etc
  • Activities - This is the bulk of the lesson, and it includes step by step instructions for teaching the lessons.  It is not scripted, but it is thorough and complete.  Whenever a student page corresponds to the activity, it is written in bold.  There seem to typically be between 5 to 8 activities, but sometimes it just just using a number chart or drilling with flashcards, and do not have a corresponding activity in the workbook.  
  • Worksheets - If there is a corresponding worksheet, it is listed here for optional practice
Horizons 1st Grade Math Review

Student Workbooks
The student portion consists of two workbooks, which makes the size very manageable for smaller hands.  There are 180 pages in the first book, and 188 in the second.  Each lesson is one page, front and back.  The pages are colorful and fun.  There are only a few exercises on each page early in the book so far, and it's fairly simple and clean looking, even with the variety of pictures and colors.  Since this is a spiral program, there are a few different types of exercises presented, some are current material and some is review.  I like that the exercises call for a variety of tasks--not just writing.  Sometimes students are drawing, crossing things out, circling objects, matching and doing other things besides just writing numbers.  I appreciate this, because I have a young student who can do the work, but tires quickly of writing.  I think the variety on the pages helps keep it interesting and makes it look less overwhelming.  The tests are included every tenth lesson.  They are included in the lessons, and can be added to it, or done on separate days, and there is a grading rubric right on the test.

Horizons 1st Grade Math Review

How Did We Use It
What I like to do is read through several lessons over the weekend, so I know what will be coming up in case I don't get a chance to review each morning.  Before I sit down with my first grader, I ideally like to review his lessons, just so they're fresh in my mind when I teach.  When I skim the math lesson, I grab any materials indicated in the Teacher's Guide, and then sit down with Emory.  It's not scripted, but having the key points in mind already is helpful, then I don't have to spend as much time with my head in the guide during the lesson.  Here I was demonstrating big and little with household items.  (Another reason I like to look through the lessons ahead of time is so that I can get the materials I will need and put them in our basket for the week.)

Horizons 1st Grade Math Review

For the purpose of the review, we were asked to use the program about three times a week.  For the summer, that's been a good pace, but we will pick up the pace to up to 5 days a week for our now, and back to 4 when co-op starts.  The website's description of fast-paced is accurate, and I find that sometimes my son gets overwhelmed with the amount of material presented in one lesson.  It really is a lot of material in one day, and I find splitting the lesson in half helpful on those days.  I've also found that we go a lot faster if I have him answer the questions orally and I write the answers.  Not always, but I think allowing him a break occasionally to let his mind focus on the math and not on the fine motor tasks at hand helps relax him.

Horizons 1st Grade Math Review

What Do We Think?
You absolutely need the Teacher's Guide to get the most out of this program.  The student books give minimal instructions, but you can't really teach from them.  The Guide has suggestions for making the program multi-sensory, when to review certain concepts, and how to present the lesson in a tangible and concrete way.  It also provides additional worksheets for review and reinforcement.  The workbooks alone are not a curriculum.  The Teacher's Guide is the heart of the program.

Emory likes the workbooks for the most part, but I know he feels like the lessons are too long.  I'm still not sure how I feel about presenting several mini-lessons within a lesson.  I feel a little scattered when I do his math with him, because we're constantly changing gears.  I also feel guilty moving on when I'm not 100% sure he grasps a concept, but I guess that's because I've only taught a mastery program before now.  I have to constantly remind myself this program is different from what I'm used to, and he's not expected to master everything before moving on.  I'm having a hard time trusting this process, but we aren't far enough into the program to really know how the spiral approach will truly work for him, so I don't feel like it's fair to discount it yet.

I really do think it's a strong program for the right family, but I just have decided if it's right for us.  We are going to continue to use it for now, at Emory's request, so I'm interested to see how it will work for us in the long term!

Find Out More
The Crew was blessed to review a huge variety of subjects for Preschool through 2nd grade from Alpha Omega Publications, so be sure to check out the rest of the crew reviews and follow on social media.

Horizons 1st Grade Math Review

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©2011-2015 Mom’s Heart.  All rights reserved.  All text, photographs, artwork, and other content may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form without the written consent of the author.