Week 1

Aug. 8th, 2014 10:59 am
entirelysonja: (Default)
It's the end of week 1 of school, and I think it's gone very well!

The kids seem to be enjoying the Book Shark 3 curriculum, though they wish there were more map activities. I've had to invent a few. :) I've set aside an hour every morning to do the read-alouds, map, and timeline activities, which seems to be enough time so far.

We've been spending 3 hours each morning on schoolwork, which has been enough time for:

  • All of the read-alouds
  • The Language Arts grade 2 and 3 activities -- just the stuff from Book Shark, we are not using any of the supplementary handwriting, spelling, or vocabulary resources.
  • Math -- the kids are using Singapore Math 2A and 4A, with the Challenging Word Problems books, but I am not assigning every page in the workbooks/CWP books. This year, I'm assigning what seems useful after going through the textbook with them. They also use an iPod application for fact drills.
  • Latin -- Erika is meeting with me twice a week for a short Latin lesson from the Minimus iBooks edition.
  • Memory work -- both kids use Anki for memory work on the iPod.
  • Piano practice -- I assign piano practice three times a week, but they decide for themselves how long/what to practice.
  • German -- Karl is doing a page a day in the Einstern's Schwester German curriculum. This is one of the places where he's getting handwriting practice, along with German reading and writing. Once he finishes it (he's in book 5 of 6), he'll move on to cursive handwriting.
  • Reading -- for the most part, the kids have been able to get their assigned Book Shark reading done during this time, though occasionally it has spilled over into other times.

I'll be interested to see whether they're able to fit their homework for German School into this time once that starts in September; they may have to work on that after lunch once or twice a week.

We don't try to fit Science or Art into our morning "school time"; instead they do activities in those areas in the afternoon, on the weekend, and on field trips. We're trying out Groovy Lab in a Box as a science resource this year, and yesterday they had fun building a water wheel. They're not big fans of formal science curricula intended for elementary students, and I honestly can't blame them.

I was really impressed by several things this week:

  • Karl didn't complain about the amount of reading he was expected to do, and started working his way through the first Harry Potter book on his own time. It's very slow going for him, but I'm impressed by his perseverance.
  • Erika recognized on her own that if 3 is not a factor of a number, 6 also cannot be a factor of that number. I was not trying to teach her this -- we were just working on finding all the factors of a number.
  • Karl did a great job of learning his spelling words; it's the first time he's had spelling words.

I've also started using Homeschool Tracker to generate daily assignment sheets for them. In previous years, we have used weekly assignment sheets, but for various reasons I decided to go with daily assignment sheets this year. That's been going very well -- they each get a checklist each morning indicating their assignments, along with their chores and other details about the day. I like that Homeschool Tracker allows me to put in plenty of detail about each assignment, so I can do things like indicate that a particular assignment is to be done over several days.

Next week they'll be in Circus Camp all week, so we won't be getting to Week 2 of school until the week after next.
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Today was the first day of school for the 2014-2015 year. We're starting a lot earlier than we usually do, because we're planning to go out of town for a couple of weeks in September, and because we will most likely take a longish vacation starting in early May. I don't want to have to come back from vacation and try to get everyone back into a school frame of mind for another few weeks!

We're making major changes this year. We won't be spending nearly as much time, if at all, at co-op activities, and we'll be using a new academic approach at home. I was excited that a secular curriculum, Bookshark, based on Sonlight has been released, and purchased their "grade 3" package to use with both kids for history and literature -- it's the first year of a two-year study of US History. I also bought their readers and language arts curricula for both kids -- second grade intermediate for Karl, and third grade advanced for Erika. Although Erika is in fourth grade, I chose the third grade language arts and readers for her because it's all closely connected to the history. Plus, the age range for this level is 8-11, and she'll be turning 10 during the year, so I'm sure it'll be fine.

The first day went well! I think the kids enjoyed the books I read out loud, and I know they enjoyed the timeline and map work. Karl didn't balk at the amount of reading -- I was worried about it, particularly since I'm trying out having him read both the second grade (very easy, but connected to the LA) and second grade intermediate readers.

I like the language arts program so far; I think it's at the right level for my kids. The second grade is really going to challenge Karl, but I don't think it will be so hard as to be a problem, and he needs to be challenged after spending the last two years focused on learning to read and basic handwriting. The third grade has a fair bit of review for Erika, but I'm also OK with that -- she will benefit from spending more time on these concepts.

We're using Singapore Math US edition for math, and I spent today zipping through the first parts of 2A and 4A with the kids, identifying a few areas they need to work on and opting not to assign any written work for the rest. I want them to have enough time to work on math enrichment activities, which will never happen if they are bogged down doing every problem on every page of the workbooks.

We wrapped up the school day with some drawing with Mark Kistler's draw3d web site, which the kids had a great time with.

I'm looking forward to tomorrow!
entirelysonja: (Default)
I completely neglected my homeschooling blog last year, but I suddenly find I have something to say.

Things are going remarkably well this year so far.

Last year, I split the kids up so they were working in two different rooms, because when they tried working together in the same room, neither of them could work effectively.

This year, I'm continuing to have them split up in two rooms, but I've set up a schedule whereby each child has me with them for half an hour, rather than me shuttling back and forth "as needed". I provide them each with a checklist of everything they're supposed to do for the entire week, and they're supposed to move on to something else if they discover that they need me during the time when I'm with their sibling. Amazingly, for the most part they're actually succeeding in figuring out how to structure their work so that they don't need me when it's not their turn. Plus they're taking responsibility for getting all of their work done during the course of the week, something I've been working toward.

It's a big improvement over last year, when I was always saying things like, "I'd love to work with you on math, but your brother just asked me to work with him on reading." Of course I tried last year to get them to work with me at non-conflicting times, but I didn't have much success.

I don't think this method would have worked last year, but I'm sure glad it's working this year!
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Karl was very excited about his first day of school; he'd mentioned many times that he couldn't wait to do formal schoolwork.

Today started off with the German tradition of a Schultüte, which is a cardboard cone filled with stuff for a kid's first-ever day of school. This is normally given at the beginning of first grade, but we've chosen to do it at the beginning of Kindergarten in our family. A picture of Erika giving Karl his Schultüte )

He then completed his first written schoolwork -- a few pages of Explode the Code 1, a page of Getty-Dubay Italic Handwriting B, and a couple of pages of Miquon Math's Orange Book.

Photos of Karl doing his schoolwork )

He seemed to enjoy it. The only part he really didn't like was needing to play on his own while I was coaching Erika through the work she couldn't manage to focus on. Sigh.

Once she finished, we went to the local homeschooling group's "Not-Back-To-School Picnic," where we saw lots of people we knew. Erika spent a lot of time reading (she's on the last Percy Jackson book), while Karl mostly ran around on the playground.
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The second week of first grade is more or less over; I thought it went well.

Highlights included our first day at the Greenbelt Co-op on Tuesday, where Erika took Yoga, Karl did alphabet stuff, we all played board games, and I taught the "Ancient History Activities" class. Erika loved Yoga and has incorporated the meditation practice into our morning circle time, which is fine with me since I'd been trying to teach the kids meditation. If she wants to be the driving force, I'm all for it! All of the kids seemed to enjoy the ancient history activities; I had the kids make "cave paintings" on a brown paper "cave wall" and make their own cuneiform tablets.

Erika enjoyed math much more this week, now that we've both realized that she wanted a workbook. I spent some time last weekend printing out about three months' worth of Math Mammoth pages and binding it with Circa discs. She's also doing arithmetic drills (she's not a fan), plus I give her a daily "math warmup" drawn from the MEP curriculum, which allows me to inject some side topics and puzzles.

She's doing really well with dictation in both English and German, and is choosing to do most of her writing in cursive. We're about a week and a half into Evan-Moor's Daily 6-Trait Writing, Grade 2, which she seems to like, and which is helping me teach her things I think she needs to know, so we're both happy there.

She's been doing a lot of reading, mostly of Magic Tree House and Ivy and Bean books, though she did also read You Wouldn't Want to Be an Egyptian Mummy this week. I need to make more of an effort to incorporate German reading, as she only did that once this week. I blame Labor Day.

We've been reading about ancient history during circle time, and took a field trip to the National Geographic museum today to see Etruscan artifacts. Erika enjoyed the exhibit, though I think she and I would both have enjoyed it more if Karl had not been there, as he was very bored and I spent most of my time managing his behavior. picture of Erika taken after field trip; photography was prohibited in the exhibit )

Tomorrow is the first day of Saturday classes at the German School. Erika is extremely excited; she has been packing her backpack and making sure the outfit she wants to wear is ready for the last 24 hours.
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We start school this coming Monday, and I am super excited! I think I have a decent schedule put together that will give Karl something to do if he wants it. We're also going to be doing some activities in the morning, and I want to still do some formal school on those days, so we'll see how that works out. I've also prepared a secondary school area for Karl to do his "schoolwork" across the hall from where Erika works. I have plenty of things he can do mostly independently if he wants to -- cutting activities, play-doh, mazes, etc.

Here's my draft schedule for the fall:

8:30 - 8:50 - Circle time, during which we will sing some German songs, have a 10-minute read-aloud, and a few minutes of meditation. I've started trying to teach the kids meditation, but I'm not sure we'll actually manage to carry this through the school year.

8:50-9:00 - Erika works on writing with me

9:00-9:30 - Erika works on math with me

9:30-10:00 - Break

10:00-10:30 - Erika works on German with me

10:30-11:00 - Karl works with me on reading or math if he wants, Erika reads silently.

11:00-11:15 - Erika does English copywork or dictation with me

11:15-11:30 - Erika does typing with "Typing Instructor for Kids" and Anki memory work

In the afternoon we'll do science activities, art, PE, etc.

Erika will also read at bedtime, including reading in German 3 days a week, and will have a piano lesson with John on Tuesday evenings.

I'll be interested to see how this works out -- and how much of it changes within the first few weeks of school!

On days when we have activities in the morning, I expect Erika and I will use a schedule more like:

8:30 - 9:00 - Math
9:00 - 9:15 - German

Sometime later in the day:

10 minutes - Writing
30 minutes - Reading
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Over lunch, we were discussing the number of days in each month, which led to a discussion of different methods of remembering which months had which number of days. Naturally, we wound up talking about the number of days in February, during which John pointed out that the leap years are divisible by four.

I pointed out that Erika doesn't yet know what "divisible" means, and launched into an explanation involving dividing up various numbers of cookies among the four members of our family. This led to the following hilarious exchange with Karl:

Karl: Wait, I have an idea! If we had that number of cookies you said...
Me: Ten?
Karl: Yeah, ten. We could each have two cookies, and then when Mama and Erika went to Karate, we [Karl and John] could eat the other two!

John then pointed out to him that we could also break the remaining two cookies in half so we could share. But I was very amused by Karl's idea; he clearly thought it was so clever!
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We've been studying some American history this summer, and capped it off with a trip to Philadelphia to see Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell, and Valley Forge. The kids weren't terribly impressed with Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell, but they loved Valley Forge. Especially the part where they got to run around between two cannons. They also enjoyed seeing the reconstructed cabins, and were struck by how close together the bunks were -- not a lot of head room there!

Some Photos )
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We were supposed to meet my parents at the Maryland Science Center today, but after they had to cancel, we decided to go anyway.

The kids had a great time. Karl especially loved the musical ball machine, though this one is different from the one I knew as a child at the Franklin Institute or the one at the Boston Museum of Science, in that it is kid-powered. Also, instead of using pool balls, it uses smaller balls, a couple of which are much heavier than the others and wind up going down a completely different path in the machine. I thought it was very well done, and Karl loved it.

Erika especially liked the pneumatic tubes in the children's section (kind of like a children's museum inside a science museum). You could write messages on pieces of paper, stick them in the capsules, and shoot them across the room through the tube.

A couple of pictures )

We will definitely be going back!
entirelysonja: (Default)
Karl (4.5 years old): That man did something he shouldn't be doing! He put something in his mouth that makes people sick!

The man was smoking. We then talked about not making people feel bad by talking about them.
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This was our first week back from winter break, and I thought it went very well. Erika didn't have any trouble getting back into the swing of "doing school," though she did seem to have forgotten everything she'd learned about place value.


I introduced silent reading this week. Up to this point, I've only had her read out loud, and she has not done much personal reading. For silent reading, we're spending 15 minutes each reading our own books. I'm letting her pick whatever she wants for silent reading, and encouraged her to pick something she thought was easier than what we usually read out loud. She picked "If I Ran the Zoo" by Dr. Seuss, which I think is actually pretty hard. The first day, she asked me for help or confirmation on a lot of words, but she's been asking less as the week progressed. I view this as positive, in that I think she's developing more confidence in her ability to figure it out for herself.

Karl asked for reading lessons this week, and since Funnix is available for free this month, I downloaded it and gave it a shot with him. I have no intention of teaching him to read at this age unless he continues to request reading lessons, but I'm happy to meet those requests when he makes them. Erika thought Funnix looked like so much fun that she wanted to try it, too. I gave her the placement test, and was not surprised that she placed into it at the highest level, lesson 57 of Funnix 2. I think she will probably find Funnix boring, but I am willing to let her do it if she wants to.

Erika worked a bit on learning her lines for the production of The Tempest she has a role in. I was amused when she called Karl an "insolent noisemaker" at one point during the week. She also finished reading "Bobcats," read a book called "Jack and the Box" at the library, and started reading "Amelia Bedelia Helps Out" to John before bed.


When Erika did page 34 of the Math Mammoth Place Value 1 book this week, I realized she'd forgotten a bunch of stuff about place value. She suggested going back and doing some of the earlier pages again (what a great idea!), so she went back and did page 21 this week also. She also continued with the Subtraction 1 book, where she did pages 32, 33, and 34.

We also tried some interesting little 3-D block puzzles from McRuffy, which were challenging, and got back to doing drills on the iPod. Her times were slow at the beginning of the week, but got almost back to her top speeds by the end of the week.

Social Studies

I read out loud to Erika this week from the book, "What Your Kindergartner Needs to Know." I thought it was a good idea for her to have some grasp of American history at the most basic level, and living here in the DC area, even the most basic understanding can be expanded on as naturally as breathing.

We also began our study of China. It was my turn to facilitate the Kindergarten co-op this week, so I showed pictures of China, read "The Empty Pot" and the relevant section from "Children Just Like Me," looked at maps and at the globe, and did Tangram puzzles for a hands-on activity. Erika also started watching a series called "Wild China" that's available on Netflix streaming.


Erika went to a nature center program about the value of dead trees this week. She particularly enjoyed making a woodpecker craft, and later in the week drew a picture that featured a dead tree with a woodpecker on it. Picture )

Saturday was very heavy on Astronomy; she went to a planetarium show in the afternoon, and in the evening the Earth Scouts had their stargazing field trip, which had been postponed from December. I set up my telescope, and everyone enjoyed looking at the moon, Jupiter, the Andromeda Galaxy, and the Orion Nebula.

Today we went to the National Building Museum for the "Flying in the Great Hall" session -- a couple of times a year, a local model airplane club flies electric and rubber band powered airplanes in the huge hall there. The kids had a great time watching the planes and learning a little bit about how they fly. At home, we flew a remote controlled "flying saucer" I happened to have kicking around.

Oh, and she finally finished watching the "Plants" episode of the Life series.


Erika did a number of drawings this week, but I feel like this was a weak point this week.

I've started putting a postcard of a well-known artwork on our school table; I plan to change it out every week or two. Right now it's a self-portrait by Van Gogh.


This week, Erika had a piano lesson and listened to the first Classics for Kids episode on Scott Joplin.

She also had an abortive recorder lesson -- just when she got the first note right, I startled her and she banged her mouth with the recorder. Oh, well. I don't think it will put her off of trying again.

Physical Education

Despite the cold weather, we went to the playground several times this week. We also went swimming once, and Erika had her first Karate lesson.

She liked Karate, and is looking forward to doing it again next week.


Nothing special here this week, though Erika did get back to her memory work in Anki. Some of that was safety-related information this week, like phone numbers, while other parts applied to Social Studies or Science.


Erika did her usual work in Einsterns Schwester this week; she's only a few pages away from completing workbook 3 of the 6-workbook first grade series.

I also read out loud to her from "Conni geht auf Klassenfahrt," and she went to her Saturday School class.
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We were going to go swimming this afternoon. And maybe to a playground.

Unfortunately, when we picked Karl up from school, his teachers told me that he seemed like he was coming down with something. They thought he felt a little warm, he didn't eat much, and he spent the last half hour of school lying on a sofa, which is totally unlike him.

So we didn't go swimming. Or to the park.

Instead, Erika spent the afternoon engaged in a wide variety of other learning activities, including:

  • 12 rounds of Rat-a-tat Cat, in which she adds up her own score at the end of each round. I add up the total score at the end, though.
  • A number of pages from a random Kindergarten workbook; at Erika's request, I removed the unused pages that might be of interest to her when we were recycling the rest of the workbook yesterday. This was all really easy stuff for her, but she did read all the directions herself, and one of the exercises involved reading bar graphs and writing down the answers, which is something we haven't done (but she clearly understood from watching Sid the Science Kid or something).
  • Reading a Clifford story out loud to Karl. He wasn't feeling well enough to listen to her read Nate the Great.
  • Watching the rest of Life: Insects.
  • Making observations in our ongoing science experiment on mold, and writing down the results.

Now she's using BrainPOP Jr. on the computer. She seems to be learning about allergies.

All of this is in addition to the full day of school we did this morning while Karl was in preschool!

Karl spent the afternoon lying around on the couch, lying around in his bed, and napping. Poor guy.

Lego WeDo

Jul. 27th, 2010 11:39 pm
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Today I bought a new netbook, initially for the purpose of running the Lego WeDo software -- our Mac laptop is too old, and my netbook runs Linux. Of course I could have installed Windows on my netbook, but given the cost of the license, it seemed to make more sense to buy another netbook.

It's an Eee PC 1005HAB, and it runs the Lego WeDo software just fine -- except that when I tried to install the Activity Pack, I got an error saying that it couldn't be installed because msvcr71.dll was not found. Luckily, we were able to use the main part of the software without installing the Activity Pack, and I later resolved the problem by copying the msvcr71.dll file out of the Lego WeDo directory into the C:\WINDOWS directory. Since Windows is not an operating system I'm terribly familiar with, I'm glad I was able to resolve the problem without tearing my hair out.

Anyway, Erika had fun building the lion -- I handed her the pieces as she needed them, but she was able to put it together by following the instructions. She also dragged all the program components into the right places, though I told her what to do. She did understand what they did, and why they were needed, so I'm sure she'll be able to write her own programs in a fairly short time. Karl woke up from his nap while we were working on it, which then led to contention between the kids about who would get to push the keys to make the lion sit up and roar or lie back down and snore. Ah, well.

Picture of the kids with the WeDo )

I'm looking forward to continuing to work with the WeDo set together with Erika, though she's quite attached to the lion, so it may take a while before we move on to another model!
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A few days ago, Karl started asking me which letters start particular words. It's kind of an interesting thing for him to be asking, because he doesn't actually know his alphabet. Perhaps this is his way of learning it.

This morning in the car, he started asking Erika. He probably asked her 20 words before she got sick of the game, and the only two she got wrong were "arm" (she thought it started with R) and "tree," which for some reason she thought started with H -- I think this one may just have been a lapse of attention on her part. She did get the starting letters for ambulance and truck right.

Anyway, I thought it was fun to listen to the conversation between them.

In other reading news, Erika read me a book yesterday! Admittedly, it was a super-easy beginning reader book, but it was a whole book she'd never seen before. Whee!
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I think it bodes well for the notion of homeschooling in the future that I really enjoyed having Erika home from school for the last two weeks, and I'm sort of sad that she's back at school now.

It was especially nice to get to see her in the morning, when she's awake. I was amazed at the amount of time she was interested in spending drawing, which inspired me to reorganize our supply of paper for easier access by children. She also spent an astonishing amount of time on the readingeggs.com web site, which was interesting for me. I sat with her almost all of the time, and learned a lot about what she finds easy and what she finds hard when dealing with the written word.

This experience also tells me that Karl is getting much easier to deal with now that he's a little older. Yes, he still throws things, climbs on people, and is a general nuisance sometimes. But it's definitely improving. I even managed to take both kids to the zoo a week and a half ago without getting frustrated and annoyed.


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August 2014

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