Monday, September 30, 2013

Year 0, Quarter 1, Week 2

Here are some highlights of last week in homeschooling.

Bible: SA did a spontaneous narration of what we've been learning in Leading Little Ones to God.
If we sin and come back to God and say, "God, I did bad things and I did wrong things," and you say, "God, please forgive me," He will forgive us.

Poetry Tea Time: This was only going to be a weekly thing, but it's turned out to be a daily treat. We've been reading a lot from Robert Louis Stevenson's A Child's Garden of Verses, and also a collection called Read Aloud Rhymes for the Very Young. I'd say this is one of our favourite parts of the day, and the boys won't let me miss it.

Math: We love math at our house! I'm planning to post about how we use Miquon Math and Family Math sometime next month. For now, though, I'll share two of the games we've played in the last week.

Dollar Digits: Materials: pennies, dimes, a pair of dice, pencil and paper. Make 10's and a 1's columns on the paper. Take turns throwing the dice. Take the same number of pennies, and write the number down in the 1's column. Every time you have 10 pennies, trade them in for a dime and write the new number in the columns on your paper. The first person to reach 50 cents wins.

Make My Number: Using Cuisenaire rods and a hundreds chart, SA and I took turns choosing any number up to 100 for the other to make using the rods. I had him choose the numbers first while I chose the rods so he'd know how the game went. Of course he began with a big one, 97. Over the course of the game I chose small numbers and big numbers, and he never had any problem. He'd count by 10's using the orange rods till he got to the right number, then chose the appropriate length for the 1's. This was not a challenging activity for him, but I chose to do it because I wanted to make sure that he not only knew the numbers up to 100, but understood the value of the numbers. He did.

Reading: I decided to try some Charlotte Mason style reading instruction. We used the book Chicka Chicka A B C. It's a fun rhyme with good rhythm. We did some exercises to help him recognize the words at sight. Then we did word building (phonics) on the alternate days using words from the poem. (For example, it had the words "meet" and "tree", so we learned the sound ee makes and made some more words by joining different consonants to the suffix -eet.) This was very enjoyable for him, and I will continue in this style of instruction. More on that in another post.

Writing: I am not doing any printing lessons or copywork yet. Up until two weeks ago, SA did not enjoy colouring or using a pencil. I didn't push it. This summer he was showing some signs of readiness (writing his own name, trying to copy words we'd write on a paper for him). Three weeks ago, I bought new pencil crayons, crayons, and markers. Of course, JJ was all over them, and SA caught some of the excitement. I started having a free "pencil crayons and paper" time every morning, where they could do whatever they wanted. Within days, SA was asking me how to spell words and printing them very large on the paper (I love my oversized paper pad!). Within two weeks, he was holding the pencils correctly, and the size of his letters and numbers went down by half. He has even started making and colouring pictures now. All this has just confirmed to me again that I don't need to push things that aren't coming naturally. When he's ready, he will learn quickly.

Nature Study: Our nature walk was at Mooney's Pond. It was an easy trail, and only about 20 minutes from our house. I think it will become a favourite destination for our nature walks. Here are some pictures.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Highlights from our Nature Walk

Yesterday we did our first weekly Outdoor Hour Challenge of the quarter. As part of the challenge, I read pages 1-8 in the Handbook of Nature Study. I learned quite a bit about what I need to do and be as a teacher in order to cultivate an interest in nature study in my children:

- I need to cultivate my own interest in nature. My love for it will influence theirs.

- I don't need to know everything, or even very much. Nature study can be a joint exploration with my children as we search after truth and beauty in the outdoors.

- My job is not to tell them all the facts. Rather, it is to gently lead them to observe things carefully for themselves.

- I should begin with their interests, not (necessarily) mine. If they want to find out about snakes and snails, I shouldn't be forcing them to find out all about the pretty wildflowers.

- I need to remember the object of nature study:

"...more than all, nature-study gives the child a sense of companionship with life out-of-doors and an abiding love of nature."

Our nature walk was at White's Pond, which is only about three minutes by car from our house. It was a gorgeous day - probably about 20 degrees and sunny. The dragonflies were out, and we had a moment of drama when a huge one landed on JJ's arm. It even stopped long enough for me to take a picture, despite all the excited shouting that was going on. It's a challenge these days to take a steady picture with MM kicking and waving on my back, but you may be able to see that its wingspan was almost as wide as the length of JJ's forearm.

We walked to the pond and looked at the water for a while. SA asked about the water striders, and I was able to identify them for him. A startled frog jumped into the water right in front of us and swam quickly away. Then we took a short walk in the woods. The boys' attention was caught by the many, many varieties and sizes of mushrooms, some no bigger than a pinhead, and some larger than my hand.

When we came back home, SA asked me to write in our nature journal (a notebook with space on the top for pictures and on the bottom for writing.). I told him I would write if he would tell me what to write. Here's what he dictated: "We saw mushrooms on our nature walk. There were paths on our nature walk. We saw teeny-weeny mushrooms and huge mushrooms."

I took the time to look up mushrooms in the Handbook of Nature Study today. He looked over my shoulder and asked about the names of the parts of the mushroom written there. I told him. Maybe next time we see a mushroom, we can pick one and do a spore print. I didn't have much luck identifying the mushrooms, though there are guides online. It seems that there are such a terrific number of varieties out there that it's incredibly difficult to narrow it down. I know now that the yellow mushrooms are chanterelles. I was very curious about the large brown ones. Their caps seemed to have a bit of a greasy shine. I couldn't find them online.

I also looked up dragonflies for him in the Handbook, and it was neat to hear him spontaneously telling his Papa later that dragonflies eat insects and mosquitos.

I tried to interest them in leaf-rubbing, but while they were interested in watching me do it, they didn't care to try it out themselves. Some other day...

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Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Did she thoughted we didn't have any?

Yesterday the mail lady came to the door with a delivery.

JJ: Who was that?
Me: The mail lady.
SA: What did she bring?
Me: This box of speakers for Papa.
SA: (With a note of puzzlement) Did she thoughted we don't have speakers at our house?
Me: No, Papa ordered them, and she just delivers them.

Why was this funny? Because Stephen has at least five, maybe more, sets of speakers in this house. (Yes, he's a pack rat, *sigh*. It's OK, I still love him. ;) The new speakers were for his new car, I think (hope!). It was just SA's quiet sense of bewilderment that had me close to why in the world would the mail lady think of delivering speakers to our house?

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Resources for Nature Study in the Maritimes

Last week I ordered some field guides for our Nature Study from Formac Lorimer, a Halifax publisher. I was very happy with their service, as I received the books two days after I ordered. The books were the Formac Pocketguides Nature and Prince Edward Island Birds. Both books are by wildlife artist Jeffrey C. Domm from Nova Scotia.

The Formac Pocketguide Nature is "a visual guide to mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, insects, wildflowers, mushrooms and trees" of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island. It is very slim, with only 125 pages. I must admit that I had my doubts about how useful it could possibly be, with so much to cover and so few pages. I have already found it helpful, though. It has illustrations and facts about the most common species in each category. I field-tested it on a nature walk today and was happy to be able to identify the Marsh Marigold (growing in the cracks of a rope floating in the water at the Harvey Moore Wildlife Centre near Montague, PEI). We also saw several Common Ravens as we were driving along today (I never knew the difference between ravens and crows before.). I also learned that the yellow, dandelion-like flower that grows so abundantly here is called Yellow Goatsbeard, and the "spider dragonfly" (SA's descriptive term) we found in the house today is actually a Crane Fly.
On the downside, the species this book doesn't have are as numerous as the ones it does. We didn't find out what the bright yellow mushrooms are that were growing everywhere in the woods where we were walking. We found out about bunchberries and blue bead lilies from the interpretive signs along the way, not from this guide, though the bunchberries, at least, are extremely common in every wooded area around here that I've seen. He left dandelions out of the wildflowers section, presumeably because everyone knows what they are and he needed room for other common flowers. But the insect section was filled with things like mosquitos, houseflies, ladybugs, bumblebees and daddy longlegs. He could probably have left out the mosquito, at least, and included some more interesting common bugs (Maybe the potato beetle? They're pretty common around here.) I would also have liked to see the caterpillar stage of the butterflies and moths he chose to include.
Still, I'm happy I got this field guide. It's handy to take along on our walks, and I do like being able to look things up immediately rather than waiting to look things up online when I get home. The full-colour illustrations are beautiful, too.

The Formac Pocket Guide Prince Edward Island Birds has illustrations and facts about 130 inland and shore birds. I am thrilled with everything about this guide, including the map with 22 of PEI's best birding locations and what you are most likely to see at each one. I'm really looking forward to using this guide in our nature studies. It has one 2-step bird finder in the back to help you find things quickly based on the size of the bird.

As these have been my first field guide purchases, I haven't been able to compare their features with other guides. I really like how they're specific to my area, though. Formac Lorimer also has guides for New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Ontario birds. I'm hoping to buy their guide to Canada's Atlantic Seashore, and their Wildflowers of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island in time for next summer's nature walks.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

My Weekly Homeschool Checklist

This is the checklist that I created to keep track of our first quarter of homeschooling kindergarten. I've saved it so I can tweak it as needed.

Weekly Homeschool Checklist (Kindergarten)

Each lesson on the daily checklist portion of the page is intended to be short (10-15 minutes). I've included a little space to take notes in case there are things I'd like to remember about that week in homeschooling. All the items in the weekly checklist at the bottom of the page are ones that we do together as a family, no matter what age.

I will revisit this after our quarter is complete so I can tell you how it went!

What are your plans for the school year? Please share! I love learning from what other people do.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Our Very First Poetry Teatime

I first read about "Poetry Teatimes" on the Brave Writer website. It looked like so much fun that I decided to add it to our weekly schedule beginning this fall.

Today was a miserable day. It rained and rained, JJ was ridiculously cranky, and SA seemed determined to push all his buttons. I hadn't planned on starting our school year until the official beginning of Autumn, but something needed to be done. I put some water on to boil, and got out a tablecloth and a cute little teapot. I had no baking done, so I broke apart a Kit Kat bar, unwrapped some whole wheat soda crackers, cut some Mozzarella cheese and arranged them all on a pretty china plate. Then I went hunting for a poetry book. I couldn't find my Child's Garden of Verses or even Mother Goose. All I had was Classic Poetry, an illustrated collection put together by Michael Rosen. The poems weren't exactly suitable for a 5- and 3-year-old, but I thought at least they'd enjoy the rhythm and the illustrations, if they didn't understand them.
We sat down at the table. I poured the Rooibos Vanilla tea into our little teacups, and added milk and sugar. We passed the snacks. (I'm going to have to teach JJ some manners...he made sure he had his full share and more the first time the plate was passed.) The boys chose their poems based on the illustrations. SA chose "The Sun Has Long Been Set" by Wordsworth. JJ chose "The Tyger" ("Tyger! Tyger! Burning bright In the forests of the night...") by William Blake. As I expected, they didn't understand much of either poem, but SA surprised me by noticing that the last verse of "The Tyger" was the same as the first. ("Did you start over, Mama?")

By this time their tea was cool enough for them to drink, and they were enjoying it immensely. I was flipping through the book to see if there was anything more suited to little boys, when SA stopped me. "Look Mama!" he exclaimed. "It says A God Play!" It was R.L. Stevenson's "A Good Play", an excellent choice for little boys. We read it. By this time JJ was done with his tea and wanted more crackers. I let him get himself some more, and SA picked one last poem: "Paul Revere's Ride." Surprisingly, he listened intently to all six pages of the poem. I don't know how much he understood, but I think he enjoyed the galloping rhythm of it. It may also have helped that it had some references to clocks, which he loves, and some small, detailed illustrations.

This was a great experience for all of us, and we are planning to do it every week. I hope to find some simpler poetry for them to enjoy, though I don't regret reading the more difficult poetry this week. It made me think again how younger children often have the advantage of hearing more difficult vocabulary because of their older sibling(s), while our oldest children rarely hear things that are beyond their level. I think it was probably good for SA to hear something he didn't completely understand.