Thursday, September 8, 2011

Sierra is listening too

A few weeks ago we did day one of the Download N Go, Goofy Geckos. Well stuff and things happened so we didn't get to day two until this morning. When we study a Download N Go Sierra is allowed to join in as much as she likes. Today I gave her some paper to cut, glue and a coloring page of Geckos. While I am working with Zoey I tell her the next question is, "What do geckos use to clean their eyes?" We were getting ready to watch the video link to answer our question when Sierra pipes up, "Dey use der tongue to keen der eyes.(They use their tongue to clean their eyes)" She is pointing to her tongue and eyes the whole time. She remembered this from the day one study. It was briefly mentioned in something I read.  She really amazes me.

Tuesday I was working with Zoey on math. I told her to color the same toys the same color on her worksheet. Sierra wanted a worksheet too so I drew nine shapes on a piece of paper, three squares, three circles, three diamonds. I gave it to her and said, "you can color this however you like." She colored each shape that matched the same color. And circled same shapes in same color. Now Zoey's work was small as it was only one problem on a sheet of problems and Zoey used two shades of yellow for different objects (you could barely see the difference) it looked nothing like what I gave Sierra. I was so surprised. What a hoot this kid is.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

The Caterpillar

Zoey memorized her first poem from First Language Lessons is record time. I can't wait to see how she does with the next one.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Back to School - part 2

I didn't intend to break this up but I got so long winded about the new history program I ran out of time to keep going. So here is some more about our new curriculum.

Elemental Science - Introduction to Science
This program I also purchased digitally so I have the same benefits that I do with Adventures in America. I can print for Sierra and only print what I need. It can be scheduled two or five days a week. I do two so we can do it the days we don't do history. So far it is working out well. We will see how it goes once our schedule gets crazy again with gymnastics and other programs. I think I need another me and a few more days in the week. Anyways, the program covers six areas of science, spending six weeks with each area. The areas covered are chemistry, physics, geology, meteorology, botany, and zoology. The program consists of simple experiments, easy enough for Sierra to join in, coloring pages, book suggestions, and nature study.

Peeling the crayons took quite a while.
Last week we learned about liquids and solids. We melted ice in our hands as we began our discussion then we melted crayons in the oven. I now have a muffin tin that is dedicated to art. We played the solids, liquids, and gases game where we pretend to be molecules. Every time someone calls out solid, liquid or gas we have to either hold onto each other tightly (solids), loosely (liquids), or just bounce around the room (gas). This was fun and it really helped Zoey to remember the difference.  We are also keeping a notebook for science.  A suggested book to go along with this curriculum is Usborne Internet-linked Encyclopedia. We read selected pages from this about solids and liquids. It is short and just the right amount of information for young children. The science experiments are mostly from More Mudpies to Magnets. I was already familiar with this book so I knew it would work for us.

Coloring with our once again solid crayons.
For nature study we went on a nature walk to see if we could find pine trees. We found many pine trees. Some of them even had sap oozing from the bark. When we got back home the girls could draw what ever they wanted in their nature journals. Zoey drew me pushing Sierra in the jogging stroller and her pushing Bitty Baby in a stroller. It was so cute. Sierra drew something....???  If you would like to see more about this science program just go here.

Math Mammoth
We have a new math program too! We will still be using Mathematics Enhancement Program that we used last year but only once or twice a week. So far Zoey is flying through Math Mammoth. It is another digital download program so I can use it for Sierra too when she is ready in a few years. Zoey has been begging me to give her math problems for quite a while now. When we are in the car or just have a quiet moment she starts asking for the math game. I am surprised how well she does. The only thing that messes her up is 8 and 9. She calls them the wrong name sometimes.  More about Math Mammoth here.

First Language Lessons
I knew I wanted to use this program I just didn't know when I wanted to start it. I ended up ordering it because I needed a slightly bigger Amazon order to get free shipping. I am glad I did. I started it with Zoey the first week of school and figured I would see if she was ready for it or not. Part of the program includes memorization of grammar rules and poems. The program is a start in learning about English grammar. It is done only three days a week. The first day was very simple but kind of boring so Zoey was not that crazy about it. The second day we read a poem and I explained that she was going to memorize it.  After I read it she wanted to read it too. Great! I guess I failed to tell her that she had weeks to memorize it because when we got the book out again on Friday she read the poem once and then repeated it back to me from memory! She made one small mistake. Since then she says the poem a few times everyday and gets the biggest kick out of it. I will try to get it on video so that I can share it with you. I was so surprised that she learned it that quick. Children's ability to remember things can be almost scary. She can't remember to turn off her bedroom light though? Learn more about First Language Lessons here. Oh and now she asks to do this almost everyday.

Programs we are keeping:
Ordinary Parent's Guide to Teaching Reading  - We are keeping this because Zoey is reading at age 5. If it is working this well we will keep on going. The book is supposed to take her through 4th grade so we have a while to finish it. Some days the lessons go fast and other days it is a struggle. I try to break up lessons that are long and we do the optional follow up as a separate lesson.
Download n Go - We will continue to do these unit studies when the interest is there. We did the Summer unit study this summer (duh). I will add pictures of us making ice cream for this study at the end of this novel that I am writing. We started Goofy Geckos this week. We usually do these in bits and pieces so they take us a while to go through them. They just came out with one called Football Frenzy. Sounds good to me!
Five in a Row - Better known to my loyal blog readers (aka my family) as the book of the week. At the end of the school year with did four books in a row that Zoey was only so-so about. I thought maybe we had come to the end of using this curriculum. Zoey and I had a heart to heart conversation about it. She wants to do the book of the week. She said she has fun doing the activities and I know she is learning AND remembering so much but she does not like it when I read the book over and over and over again. Part of the program is to read the book five days in a row to reinforce what was learned previously. However, something I have read many times from experienced home school parents is to make the curriculum work for don't work for it. So I decided we would continue with Five in a Row our own style. We will read the book at least once and more if Zoey wants to. Apparently she has an excellent memory so maybe I don't need to read it over and over again. The other very nice thing about this curriculum is Sierra can join in too. Also, I can decide which activities to do since multiple suggestions are given for each topic. My next hurdle with this program was getting volumes 2 and 3. To buy them new it would of cost around $90 with shipping. Volume 1 was easy to find used last year since it is more frequently purchased. Not so with vol 2 and 3. I decided to search one more time and found both of them used on Amazon! Yes! I am very happy. So when we finish Goofy Gecko's we will choose our next book of the week. I can't wait! I really enjoy this curriculum so much.

Last but not least Handwriting Without Tears  and Explode the Code round out our curriculum. Anybody still here? Don't know why I wanted to give so many details other than I am so excited and so far so are both of the girls.

Making ice cream this summer.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Back to School - part 1

Hi everybody. Last week was our first week back to school. Everything went quite well. The only slight problem we had was there didn't seem to be quite enough school for Zoey. I learned from last year and knew that I should not over plan and keep the stress level to a minimum. I guess I went a little too light for Zoey. Not really a big surprise for the high-needs kid Zoey is.

This year we have some additions to our curriculum that are working quite well so far. We also have kept most of what we used last year. Here is a description of one of our new studies...

Adventures in America
This new program from Elemental History is a 36 week study of early America and the 50 states. It is set up to be done in three days with two days for history and one day for geography. What made me decide to purchase a separate history program was Zoey's growing interest in early America this summer. We started listening to The Little House on the Prairie series on CD in the car this summer. The whole family is hooked. Zoey pretends to be Laura or Ma and gets Sierra to play along also. With Zoey's quest for knowledge in this area I decided to go for it. It is a well laid out program. There is a hands on activity each week, two short stories to read, chapter book and picture book suggestions, coloring pages, dictation, and copy work. The copy work and dictation are optional. As an added bonus I was able to buy the program in digital version so I am able to print copies of coloring pages and other things for Sierra also. Since Sierra wants to do everything Zoey does this is a huge benefit. The only downside is I have the cost of paper and printer ink.

For our first week with Adventures in America we began by learning more about Native Americans. Before we even started this week Zoey was immersed in the books about Native Americans that I checked out at the library. The first Chapter book we are reading is Pocahontas and the Strangers by Clyde Bulla. We are supposed to read one chapter a day, five days a week. We read three chapters on Monday! The hands-on activity for the week was making Wampum beads. The girls really liked using the clay. We made beads and they quickly started making other objects. Zoey made Pocahontas and a coil pot. Sierra made a ????.

Zoey putting a hole in the Wampum bead.
Sierra's own creation and a pinch pot I helped her with.

Painting Pocahontas after a few days drying time.

Our state for the week is Delaware, the first state. The state study is simple which is just right for Zoey. We read a paragraph about the state written by a child from the book, Smart About Fifty States. Next is the coloring page. We put a star on the state where the capital is. Delaware's capital is Dover. Then we answer a few simple questions about the state, color it (Zoey added detail to hers, lol) and find the state on the US map. I also checked out a book from the library about Delaware. I think I was more interested in the book than Zoey but she did love everything else we did with Delaware. Oh, and we also added the state flag for Delaware in the corner of the page. I finally found state flag stickers online. Local school supply stores just didn't carry that sort of thing.

All of the papers that are completed with this program are kept in their notebooks, which each of them are very proud of. This also gives us a great chance to review. With the stories, coloring, and crafts this curriculum was a hit the first week of school. Hopefully it will continue this way. If you would like to see more of this program just click here.

Tomorrow...Introduction to Science.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Final Four

Let the May Madness of homeschooling begin! We took the month of April off so that I could auxiliary pioneer. I have to say we all had much more fun than I expected. We kept up with phonics and math but everything else was put on hold. We had four book left to do for the school year and just enough time to get them in.

We started off with the book Very Last First Time by Jan Andrews. This is an interesting fictional story based on real people. The Inuit people who live near Ungava Bay in northern Canada collect mussels in an unusual way. The ice freezes over in the winter but the tide still comes and goes. When the tide is out they cut a hole in the ice and go down, walk on the ocean floor and collect mussels. The story is based on a girl, Ava, who goes under the ice and collects the mussels by herself for the first time. We started off the week doing the usual stuff, finding Canada and Ungava Bay on our map and putting the story disk on it. We learned a bit about the Inuit culture and ocean life all week by reading books from the library. We also learned new vocabulary words, discussed ordinal numbers, explored the detail in the pictures of the book, discussed warm and cool colors, and more. One afternoon I set up a pretend setting so Zoey could go under the ice and get mussels.
Here she is dressed warmly with her sled and tools.
Zoey collects the mussels (shells) and puts them in her mussel pan (cake pan).
It was hard to get a good picture of her under the ice. You can see more when I upload and share May's pictures.

Our next book was Papa Piccolo by Carol Talley. This story took us to Venice, Italy. The story is about a tom cat who is adopted by two kittens. It is a very cute story with lots of action too. The canal streets really caught Zoey's attention. We looked at many pictures in books of Venice and Zoey really liked the book, Olivia goes to Venice this week. I think we read it more often than we did the book of the week. Some of the things we learned about and discussed this week were: the shape of Italy, gondola boats, Marco Polo, architecture, creating the illusion of speed in drawings, peripheral vision, types and breeds of cats, and fatherhood.

After Papa Piccolo we moved on to Another Celebrated Dancing Bear by Gladys Sheffrin-Falk. For this story we visited Russia. Here is Amazon's description of the book, A "heavy-footed brown bear whose heart is soft as butter," Boris is unhappily employed at the animal hospital. When he sees an ornate poster announcing that his friend Max, "the celebrated dancing bear," is about to tour St.Petersburg, his discontent overwhelms him and he can't control his tears, even as he bravely struggles to congratulate Boris. But Boris, too, is soft-hearted, and he sets about teaching Max to dance. Scheffrin-Falk's first picture book gracefully confronts jealousy, self-doubt (Max "felt a little foolish. Dancing lessons at his age!"), the value of persistence and the power of friendship. Garrison's etchings, framed like snapshots and hand-colored to highlight certain objects (a sash, a jacket, a flower) against sepia-like backgrounds, infuse the volume with the feel of an antique scrapbook. This old-world flavor further enhances the nostalgic imperial Russian setting, replete with samovars, graduated Russian peasant dolls (here shaped like bears) and distant spires.

Zoey didn't seem to care too much for this book but she did like the activities we did. We acted out different dramatic words. Can you believe Zoey liked that? We discussed occupations, etchings, boiling and freezing point and  characterization. To help learn time I drew a large clock outside and had Zoey show me where the short hand would point if it was a certain time. She did this for me but she really just wanted to play baseball. Later when it rained she told me happily that my drawing was going to be washed away. She sure does make it clear when she doesn't like something. At least I got a picture of it.
Mean mommy tries to make learning fun.

Our last book of the year was Night of the Moonjellies by Mark Shasha.  Here is a review of the book:

 On his way to help grandmother and relatives at a seaside hot dog stand, seven-year-old Mark stops on the beach to pick up a small jellylike substance that he places in a bag of seawater. A moonlight ride with Gram on a fishing boat takes them out on the ocean where thousands of moonjellies shimmer, and the boy slips his treasure back among them. Based on a childhood experience in New England, Shasha's narrative is full of small details that illuminate the story but don't impede it. His rich pastels combined with the text create a strong sense of place and time--the warmth of family relationships, the quiet companionship of the boy and his grandmother, the cheerful hard work and hustle-bustle of the concession stand, and the magic of the glowing sea. His use of light, shadows, and darkness in the luminous full-color double-page spreads invite readers right into the story. Unfortunately, neither the text nor the jacket notes identify exactly what a moonjelly is. Despite this omission, it's a strong debut. --Marge Loch-Wouters, Menasha Public Library, WI
Sorry I am trying to get this done fast so it is easier to cut and paste than to come up with my own reviews.  Things discussed and learned this week were: New England, responsibility, contrast in artwork, italics, pastels (art), money, moon jellyfish and more. This was our second to last week of school and our enthusiasm was getting low so we just kept everything brief and moved on. There are many fun things we can do if we do this book again in a few years.

Our very last week was review and surprise trip on the very last day of school, June 10.  Both Mat and I took the girls to the new children's museum, Discovery Place Kids. It is for kids ages 2 to 7 and set up like different occupations and areas of play. I have tons of pictures of it that I will load to Shutterfly and share as soon as I can. Until then here are some pictures of our last day of gymnastics. We really miss this and can't wait for it to start again.

We had a great year for our first year of homeschool. Other than all the adventures we had with books Zoey learned her letters, letter sound and is starting to read. She finally got 13, 14, 15. The other numbers 1 to 20 were no problem. She can spell some words and is enjoying her new handwriting program. She likes to add small numbers and asks to play the adding game when we are riding in the car. We also have started listening to different stories while riding in the car. Charlotte's Web, Peter Pan, and Little House series. Mid-summer update on Little House series. Zoey begs for it every time we get in the car and can't wait for the next one once we complete one. Next we will be listening to The Long Winter so we are almost done. I have focused on Zoey mostly because she is the one "in school" but Sierra is right there with us learning so much. The other day I asked her where China was and she found it right away. She also loves to count things and now is drawing people, trees, and flowers.

If all goes as planned we will start our new school year on August 8. It is so hot out right now it is better to get started and take breaks when the weather is nice in October and April. Thanks for reading all year. Maybe our first week update will come sooner rather than later. Hmmmmmm, maybe not?

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Spring Surprises (sorta late, huh?)

I know, I know, I know, I promised this back two months ago and where have I been? I have no idea. I was probably in the kitchen loading or unloading the dishwasher. Anyway, I am here now. As I start this I wonder when I will finish. Today is Thursday, July 14. What day will it be when I finish? I can't even finish this paragraph without having to turn the sink on for a peach covered girl. Oh well. I will make my best attempt. For those of you who read our adventures you don't seem to mind my scattered thoughts and ramblings or you at least skip over them.

Back to Spring Surprises. Zoey just took the book for Spring Surprises that I printed out to use for our studies. She loves to go back and review stuff. Some things she remembers some things she forgets.

So here is what it was all about...
Spring Surprises
Now that the weather's warming, are your kids out exploring?
How many ways can you combine your child's enthusiasm for learning and exciting activities with all the delights of springtime? Begin counting with this adventure!
Day 1: What Is Spring?
Day 2: Science Secrets of Spring
Day 3: People and Places of Spring
Day 4: Time for Tips and Treasures of Spring
Day 5: Goodies and Surprises of Spring

We started off with Day 1- imagine that - watching some online videos of spring and seasons. I liked the one that showed the four seasons of an oak tree in fifteen seconds. Zoey then drew a picture of what she thinks of when she thinks about spring. She drew people, leaves, flowers, the sun, rain, a castle (ok?), some seeds and the word change. She then wrote out Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter. Summer and Winter were written perfectly backwards. I love when kids do this. As adults most of us find this extremely difficult but children can do it with ease. So then we talked about why we have spring, and how the earth revolves around the sun and the angle of the earth axis. I still don't know if she really understands all of this. I write down her answers to questions like What outdoor activities take place in spring and what changes do you see happening. We attempt to write a spring acrostic. This does not go well. Last but not least we go on our spring nature walk and then write about it. Zoey prefers to draw pictures at this point rather than write. This is what I would expect from a five-year-old child though.

Taking pictures on our nature walk

Day 2 - Science Secrets of Spring. This day is all about seeds and plants growing. The time lapse videos of seeds sprouting and of plants growing are very amusing to us all. There are also instructions on how to force forsythia to bloom indoors but in Charlotte it is already blooming everywhere so there is no need to do that. More things discussed this day are clothes you wear in the spring and what time sunrise and sunset happen each day for our nature walk. Zoey rode her bike and then drew a picture of her riding her bike and me pushing Sierra in the jogging stroller. It is very cute.

Getting ready to plant some seeds

Day 3 - People and Places of Spring.  (Now I have to get Sierra up from her nap. I bet nothing will get done on this until tonight or tomorrow. Did I mention I love the draft mode on Blogger? I do.) Sierra is not ready to wake up so I will leave her alone for now. She wakes up like me. It can be scary. But she still takes naps and for that I am so ever thankful. Now back to day three. We learned about rainbows, Noah's ark, George Washington Carver and his inventions. He invented peanut butter. Did you know that? Zoey loved all of the Noah's ark and rainbow activities but not so much the George Washington Carver. I was not surprised. Since these unit studies are aimed at the K-4th grade range I know there is going to be stuff that goes over her head or that she is just not interested in. We talked about being an inventor. When asked what she would like to invent Zoey said, "Shoes that teach you how to dance." Then she drew a picture of a dancer. On today's nature walk we looked for and found bird nests in trees.

Noah sacrificing an animal to Jehovah after they came out of the ark.

Zoey's drawing of Noah's ark.
Day 4 - Time for Tips and Treasures of Spring. We start today with videos of birds feeding their babies and baby robins from eggs to first flight. Zoey and Sierra loved, loved, loved this. We watched them over and over and over. And once again when Daddy got home to show him. We decided that the baby birds were cute and ugly at the same time. We continue the day learning about birds and different types of nests. We have a robin nest in our tree at this point of our study so this was especially interesting. Next we learned about the life cycle of a frog. Zoey already knew all about this so it was a review to her but she still loved it. After that was parts of a tree and why a tree has roots. Our nature walk was last. Zoey's favorite part of the walk was, "going really fast on my bicycle." This makes me miss spring. I am looking forward to the cooler weather we are expecting this weekend.

Day 5 - Goodies and Gadgets of Spring. Videos of baby ducks start the day off followed by a discussion of fruits. We were supposed to make something from one of the strawberry recipes - oops! Next we learned about baseball and spring training. We found the states on the map where spring training happens. I shared with Zoey my experience with spring training and all of the traffic that it brought. We also learned about Claude Monet and looked at some of his artwork online. (Just went in and checked on Sierra again. She is sitting up. When she saw me she said, "GO!" I left. Now she just came around the corner and said, "The sun is up." At night I tell her to stay in bed quietly until I come and get her and that I will come and get her when the sun comes up. I started this in the winter when she was crying for me at 5:30 or 6:00 am. Now she just sleeps until 7:30 or later. I love her so much. Back to Monet. Zoey attempted to do her own copy of a Monet. She did quite well, my little artist. However she was not interested in doing the lapbooking activity, "Facts about Claude Monet." Today the nature walk either didn't happen or we didn't write anything about it.

Zoey pitching for Sierra. Can you see the ball in mid air?

Funny Stuff
Throughout the week there were various lapbook activities. Some we did, some we skipped. However, we never put the lapbook together. I guess we will work on that soon if Zoey is interested. She enjoyed making the pieces we just need to glue them in a file folder and it will be done.

The funniest thing happened on the last day. Mat had bought one of the cheap plastic baseball and bat sets from Wal-mart. Zoey had been asking for one for a long time and we thought with our studies this week and the nice weather it would be a great time to get it. Also, as mentioned earlier, we had been learning about birds, nests and eggs. We watched a robin make a birds nest in our back yard a few weeks before we started the unit study. I checked on it a few times and never saw anything. I figured they had given up on that nest. I guessed that the girls came outside one day and with all the noise they make the bird left and never came back. Back to the baseball set. I surprised Zoey with it at the end of the school day and we went right outside to try it out. Zoey missed the first few. Can't really blame her. I blame the pitcher, me. The first time she hit the ball it went between the trees. The second time she hit the ball it went straight to the top of the tree with the nest in it. For a second I thought it was going to be stuck at the top but it started falling down through the tree. It fell, bouncing all the way, through the tree and landed right on top of the bird's nest. At that same instant we heard a loud, SQUAWK, and see a robin fly frantically away from the nest. The ball fell to the ground. Zoey and I stood there shocked for a second and then we went to investigate. Sure enough there were four blue robin's eggs. They really are beautiful. The nest was low enough that I could easily lift Zoey up to see it. We moved our game to the front yard so hopefully the robin would come back to the nest.  Well they did. Both mom and dad robin tended to the eggs and eventually the babies. We were able to check on the nest every few days and see the progression of the babies. It was great! Except the part where the parents dive bombed us to keep us away from the nest. Actually even that was funny when it wasn't me.

The beutiful Robin's eggs.

Here you can see momma bird with one of the babies poking its head out.

The next Friday after the whole baseball and bird incident I was sharing the story with our friend Tristen who go to gymnastics with us. After this anytime Zoey got an adult who would listen to her she would tell them the whole story and if you think it is long when I tell it you should hear her. I just laugh every time I hear her tell it. She even uses the sound effects that I used.

Now, I don't know how you could plan a better unit study than to have a robin make a nest in your yard the same week you are learning about them but one thing I know for sure, we all learned so much and best of all - we had a fantastic time. In the weeks following this we also discovered a wren's nest in a planter near our back sliding glass door. We were able to watch the wrens come and go as they brought food to their little ones. We even got to see three of them leave the nest. There also was another robin that made a nest in the tree in our front yard down low so we could watch it. Unfortunately is was also low enough for a cat or something to get to the nest when the babies were a few weeks old. We learned from this too. I think was more upset than the girls.

In the white bowl on its side in the planter is where Wrens made their nest.

Next week we will be doing the Summer unit study and while I am sure it will be fun. I doubt it will come close to the discoveries we had while learning all about Spring.

We painted with some pretty spring colors.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Grandfathers's Journey

Now to catch up on that last book of the week that we did way back in March. This week's choice was Grandfather's Journey by Allen Say. Zoey and I both really enjoyed this book. It is a story about a Japanese man who comes to America in the early 1900's and falls in love with the country but misses his home country. Throughout his life he goes back and forth between the countries. The story is written with few words but tells an immense story.

We started as usual with the story disks. We put one in Japan and one in California. We talked about how the main character liked and disliked different things about each place he visited. Then we tried to talk about our likes and dislikes of different places but let's just say that was a short conversation. We reviewed different things about Japanese culture. We had learned about these when our book of the week was A Pair of Red Clogs. I always say I never know what will stick with Zoey. Well, one of the new Japanese culture things we looked at this week was fans with Japanese artwork. Since then Zoey notices them everywhere. Funny how that works.

For language arts we discussed poetic prose, imagery, and similis. I don't know if she understood much of it or not. For art we discussed the formal style of each of the pictures in the book almost as if they were photos. Then we discussed the reflections and shadows used in the artwork. We used a flashlight to see how things can be light on one side and dark on the other. I tried showing Zoey how to draw shadows and she just wasn't getting it. No big deal but she wanted to understand what I was trying to tell her. All of a sudden she says, "Oh, I get it now!" It was so funny. The next day we worked with watercolor pencils. These are awesome! Zoey and I both loved working with the.

There were so many art lessons with this book I didn't want to miss any so we also explored origami. I ended up doing all of the folding but it was cool. The next week when Zoey went to the Monday afternoon library class for school-aged children they made origami! Perfect timing.

For applied math we counted how many days in a week, weeks in a month, and months in a year. We also counted some things in the book. I have science scheduled on Friday and because of Gymnastics we keep missing it or catching it in the following weeks. We looked at books with beautiful pictures of American landscapes and also learned a bit more about birds.  Little did I know we were about to learn about birds up close and personal. To be continued with my summary of the Spring Download N Go. Hopefully coming soon.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Too busy to type...

We have been so busy lately with school and life in general I have been too busy to type anything here. My last update was about Katy and the Big Snow. After than we started a unit study about Winter from the company Download N Go.  Even though we tried multiple times to get through this we only made it through day three.
Winter Wonders
Day 1: What is Winter?
Day 2: Science Secrets of Winter
Day 3: People and Places of Winter
The nice thing about unit studies is they are for multiple ages. Whatever we missed this time we will get the next time we study it. I think because we did so much winter themed books Zoey was just done with the subject by the time we started this. We had fun with the days we did do. Sierra loves joining in on these too since there are interesting videos clips to watch. Most are only a few minutes, which are just the right length. 
Next we moved on to the book, Stopping by Woods on a Snow Evening by Robert Frost. This was more of a study in poetry and artwork than winter. We learned about Alliteration, the repetitive consonant sound in the lines of poetry. We worked on memorizing parts of the poem too. This week was very relaxed as every activity was only discussion based.
Ready for something new our next book of the week was Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel by Virginia Burton. I didn't think Zoey was going to like this book very much but I was very wrong. She loved hearing the story over and over again and dove into the activities each day with gusto. Zoey decided to put the story disk on North Carolina since we keep seeing large construction equipment here. They are widening the road near the library so we see road construction equipment all the time. We liked finding old things in the book and discusses Mike Mulligan's flexibility on day one. On day two we learned about how you can come up with a variety of characters for a story you are writing, learned vocabulary words, discussed what a literary classic is and discussed personification again. This time we personified our van by giving it a name, Graycilla the Wondervan.  For Art we drew simple trees like in the book and experimented with different ways to show motion in a drawing. On Thursday we got out the geoboards. We first made a square, four corners neat and square, just like the basement Mike Mulligan and his steam shovel, Maryann, dug. We made more shapes and designs after that just to see what we could come up with.  Our science experiment on Friday did not go so well. We made a simple pinwheel, attached it to a pencil eraser with a pin and held it over a pan of boiling water. The steam rising was supposed to make it spin. Nope! At least we tried. Zoey didn't seem to care and I didn't think she really even remembered it after a few minutes. However, last week when we were in Target she saw a pinwheel. She said, "Hey Mommy, remember that thing we made and it didn't work!" I could only laugh. Children really do remember everything. We also had discussions about creative thinking and road engineering so the day wasn't a total bust.  All week long we read books about large equipment and now a month later Zoey still doesn't want to take those books back to the library.  This week was a huge success!

The Glorious Flight: Across the Channel with Louis Bleriot July 25, 1909 by Alice Provensen took us off into our next adventure.  This book is based on Luis Bleriot's flight across the English Channel. It has added hummor and wonderful illustrations that made it a hit with Zoey and Sierra. The story disk went right over the english channel. We had to move Madeline and How to Make an Apple Pie and See the World's story disks a bit to fit it in which gave us a great chance to review what we learned about those books and France and England. Many things were discussed throughout the week, family relationships, making reparations, italics, ordinal numbers and so on. We also learned about Onomatopoeia (words that create the sound as you say them, for example, boom.) Zoey really liked saying this word and completely understood what it ment. One day when I couldn't remember how to pronounce it, she did!  By the middle of the week we were enjoying some beautiful weather so we took school outside which gave us the perfect place to do the art activity, perspective and viewpoint. We drew an apple upclose and far away, from the bottom and the top. We looked at examples in the book of different perspectives and Zoey got it! I loved it when I took the apple to the other end of the yard and she drew it so tiny. We did our reading and math outside too. It was a great day.

The last day of the week Mat and I flew to Dallas so we finished up things the following week. I am always amazed how simple things like making paper airplanes can thrill young children. The girls played with thier paper airplanes all week (the second week) and we read all of the go-allong books about airplanes and avation history that we got from the library. One day Zoey and Sierra were playing with the planes outside. Zoey set up her buckets in a row. She told me they were the White Cliffs of Dover.

A large bowl was the English Channel and she flattened out a grass spot and called that the city.

She then made multiple attempts to fly Blairot XI (what Zoey named her paper airplane) over the English Channel. Finally she had a success, just like in the book!

She did this all on her own. I thought it was awsome but maybe I am biased. You can see the white bowl she used as the English Channel in the foreground of this photo. LOL Things really can be simple for kids with imagination.

Aside from the book of the week we continued with phonics, math and other various stuff. Zoey is learning to read more and more every day and it is freaking me out just a little bit. Well I have one more book of the week to catch up on and now we are doing a unit study of Spring with the same company, Download n Go but reviews of those will have to wait as dinner must be started. Thanks for enjoying our journey with us! I can't believe you read the whole thing! Please note, I typed this very fast with multiple distractions and spell check is not working.


A few days ago Zoey had some ice in her drink. It was starting to melt and she was looking at it and told Mat and I she was doing an activity. She was waiting for the ice to melt and then she was drinking it. We both laughed (after she left the room.) I guess simple things really are the best huh?

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Katy and the Big Snow

Way back over a month ago our book of the week was Katy and the Big Snow by Virginia Lee Burton. We still had snow around from the previous week so snow was fresh in our minds. The story is about a snow plow that saves a little town after a blizzard. I really liked the story but I was worried Zoey was not going to like it. It was one of the books I ordered at the beginning of the year and when she saw it she told me she didn't like it at all and put it back in the pile. Thankfully when I pulled this book out Monday morning she was so excited. I think the highlight of the week was the snow plow video I checked out from the library. Both Zoey and Sierra loved watching the snow plows and different snow moving machines on this short DVD. It was made for children and filmed in Canada where they have plenty of snow.

One of the first activities I had planned was to create the city Geopolis from the book with our blocks, cars, train track and people.  I thought this would be Zoey's favorite activity of the week. She didn't even want to do it. I was so surprised! I sat there trying to convince her and then realized how useless that was. We moved on to our discussion of the different responsibilities of different people in a town, like firefighters, police officers, doctors and more. We talked for quite a while about this and Zoey had so much to talk about. We also talked about the responsibilities of each of us around the house.  The next day we had vocabulary words from the book then we discussed how personification is used in the book. Our activity was to take wiggly eyes and put them on different things around the house to make them more human like. The girls loved this and laughed and laughed.

Here is Sierra personifying the front door. I thought the funniest one Zoey's. She personified the light switches in her room. There are three together. The end ones looked like eyes and the middle one looked like a nose. It made us all laugh.

For art we talked about all of the detail in the pictures of the book. So much is going on in each one. There is one picture where a house is on fire and the fire department is putting it out. Zoey had so many questions about that page. What happened to the people in the house? How did they get out? Why was the house on fire? And more and more questions. It just goes to show you never know what will spark a child's interest.

For applied math grouped manipulatives by fives until we had 55. Katy had a 55 horse power engine and we had already talked about what that was. Zoey likes counting by 5's so this was fun too.

We didn't have enough horses so we used all of our farm animals. Little things like this really seem to be helping her get a better grasp of numbers in her head. This makes me think of something that happened last week. I recently bought a book called Games for Math by Peggy Kaye. It has so many suggestions for simple math things to do with your kids. I needed to keep Zoey busy for a minute so I asked her to go count all the doors at her end of the house. She lit up and ran to go count. After a minute or two she came back and said, "19!" I said, "Wow, I didn't know there were that many doors down there." She told me she counted drawers too because they are kind of like doors to her. How could I disagree. The point was to get her to count and to keep her busy for a minute. Success! I look forward to using more of the ideas from this book.

For science we briefly discussed weather patterns. We made a weather chart in December so she did not want to make another one. No big deal. I am glad this week turned out so well after Zoey's initial reaction to the book back in August. Sierra was right there for most of it too. As she gets older she is joining in on so many more things.

Both this book and the book we used the week before this, The Snowy Day, brought up discussions about street signs. It went great and we did so many things inside but Zoey never wanted to talk about it when we were driving around. That was last month. Earlier this week we were reading one of the street signs books that we still had checked out from the library. On our next car trip Zoey had me read and explain every street sign on our drive. Some she already knew and read those to me. It is funny to me how, much later, things children have learned can all of a sudden pop up and make sense to them.

I am glad that I am blogging about all of this because it really makes me realise how much fun we are having and that we are all learning new things. Thanks for reading.

Saturday, February 12, 2011


Zoey is starting to read some three-letter words! I really didn't expect her to get it (reading) until sometime next year but we kept plugging away at our phonics. She has been reading little words for a few weeks now but yesterday she read her first sentence all by herself! She was so excited. The sentence was, "Pet the cat." She wanted me to read it first, this is what we usually do, but I told her I knew she could do it. Once she did that I added another word to it, "Pet the wet cat." We both agreed we would not want to pet a wet cat, lol. She likes so write and asks me to spell words all the time but now when she asks me she already has the first letter or two sounded out herself. I must admit I am having a great time teaching her to read among other things. It is not easy and sometimes downright frustrating but to see her reading is so wonderful.

Meanwhile, Sierra is counting everything, finding "o's" everywhere  (her favorite letter) and just learned to cut with scissors. In no time at all she went from barely holding the scissors to cutting correctly.  She is wanting to cut so much and in such tiny pieces that I started giving her papers that need to be shredded. It saves me some time. I have even got her cutting over the trash can. She also talks all the time now. She is quite the chatterbox. It wasn't that long ago I was worried about her not talking.

I hope to have more week reviews soon. Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Snowy Day

Today while showing my parents some pictures of the girls I realized that I never did a review of our last two weeks. So here we go. Two weeks ago we did The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats. This book was taken from the Before Five in a Row that is for children ages 2 to 4 so I knew Sierra would be able to join. She loved every bit of it! Zoey did too. As if on cue, Monday morning we woke up to a snow covered world. We went out into our snow covered world and played and sledded and had fun until we were too cold to do anymore then we came home and had hot chocolate for the kids, tea for the grown ups.

We didn't end up starting the book of the week until Tuesday, but it sure did help to have all of Monday's memories with us as we started this adventure. Since this was a Before Five in a Row title the activities are much simpler and shorter. We discussed how Peter realizes that he is not old enough to play with the big boys in the snowball fight and how he handles that. Every time we read the book after that Sierra would say, "Not old enough" when we got to the page of the snowball fight. We discussed sharing memories. I told Zoey about the time it snowed in Florida when I was a girl. I remembered all I wanted was to see snow then one day my mom woke me up and had me look out the window. It was snowing! It was also very early in the morning. I remember being excited to see the snow but not being to happy about being woken up. Sounds like me now. I told her how my sisters and I scraped up all the snow we could from the car to make a very small snowman. I asked her if she could remember any snow story she wanted to tell me. She said, "No." Sometimes I get so much out of her and then other times, nothing. Oh well on to the next day.

Zoey reading the book to Sierra.

Zoey and Sierra loved art day. We had tissue paper cut into shapes, water color paints, and colored glue. They were the quietest they have ever been while working on their pictures. Sierra was very specific about wanting only circles. Zoey cut some of her own tissue paper and made a picture of a girl with a hat for her first picture. For her second picture she put layer upon layer upon layer upon layer of tissue paper and colored glue. She was really enjoying mixing the colored glue.

Also Sierra had to have her hair in braids like Zoey. I can't believe I was able to braid it.

We also looked at the stoplight in the book and used this as a jumping point to talk about street signs. We read a few books from the library about signs and Zoey wanted to make her own.

It says, "Caution, Watch for Children." She put it in the hall and when I walked down the hallway she would jump out and say, "Watch for children!" What a nut she is.

We also talked about different types of clothing and weather. By the end of the week the snow was almost gone. We got our new snow boots on and headed out. Sierra went down to our neighbor's tree-covered yard where there was more snow. She was walking around in it saying, "Tracks, tracks Mommy!" I asked her if she was making tracks in the snow like Peter in the book and she gave me a  big smile and said yes. I had planned on talking about making tracks in the snow but I forgot. Thanks to Sierra we still go it all done. She walked around and around for the longest time making tracks.

Both of the girls worked on making lapbooks for this story.  A lapbook is a file folder folded to open like a shutter in the front with different things glued inside. For Sierra this was her first lapbook. She was SO happy to use glue stick and "do school" like Zoey. She is so proud of it. She showed it to my mom and dad with big smiles on her face.

Last but not least we learned a new snow song this week. I used to sing this one all the time when I taught. It is sung to I'm a little teapot....

I'm a little snowman, short and fat
Here are my buttons, here is my hat
When the sun comes out I can't play
I just simply melt away.

By the way there is still snow piled up in places here or there. Crazy.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Who Owns the Sun?

The last week of school in December before I flew away to Florida we studied the book Who Owns the Sun by Stacy Chbosky. I was not sure if Zoey would be ready for the topic of this book or not. It is about slavery. This book was written by a 14-year-old girl, Stacy Chbosky. It is a simple book but very well written. I decided to go ahead with this story for the book of the week since the history lesson in it is very valuable and one that will continue to be built on throughout Zoey's schooling.

The week started off with the obvious discussion of slavery. I kept it as simple as I could and answered any questions Zoey had. She didn't have too many but she agreed that it was wrong. I found so many picture books at the library to go along with this theme that we are still reading some of them now, almost a month later. We also discussed family relationships, how we show people we care about them. Then we placed our story disk in south eastern US.

We learned new vocabulary words on the second day and learned about the question mark. Zoey now uses it from time to time when writing the words for the people in her drawings. Our last discussion for this day was poetic prose. I think it went over her head, it kind of did mine. lol

The next day was art. We looked at the pictures in the book and noted how the illustrator used watercolors. She used bright light and shadows to help with the emotion of the story. This led to a discussion of shadows and using them in our artwork. Now Zoey is noticing shadows everywhere! We painted with watercolors. Sierra joined in on the fun with this and both girls painted many, many pictures. Sierra always surprises me. She is very particular about her artwork. She doesn't just pile stuff on until the page is full. I have examples of this for my review of The Snow Day, which will be next.

For applied math we counted the stars on one page and the pickets in a fence on another. Zoey can count very well from 1 to 12 and 16 to 40 but 13, 14, and 15 are not always all there. Sierra can count to 12 and I haven't even been trying to teach her numbers.

The last day was science and we never got to this because I got busy packing. I am sure we will pick it up again at another time.

Now this has nothing to do with our school work but when we were at the library the girls got to decorate a gingerbread house together. Isn't it cute?

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

New curriculum

I decided tonight on a new curriculum. Every day the girls will watch the previous night's episode of Jeopardy over and over again until they have all of the questions (answers) memorized. Done. LOL I wish it were that easy. That wouldn't be any fun anyway. I couldn't decide if I wanted to start back to school this week or not so I set up a lesson plan for the week. Well it is Tuesday night and we have been so busy with other stuff that nothing has happened. I guess we will start back next week. We worked on school right up until the day before I flew to Florida so I guess this is just our second week off for winter break before we start a bunch of weeks with a winter and snowy theme. When I get a chance I will share what we did the last week before our break. Our book was Who Owns the Sun and we are still reading all of the great books to go along with it that I checked out from the library.  Zoey never ceases to amaze me at all the books she will listen to me read to her. That is a very good thing. And it seems Sierra is now memorizing the books I read to her. Off to bed with me, night all!