Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Mat Man!

We started Handwriting Without Tears today. We did 8-10 of the lessons over the summer, but we are now "officially" starting at the beginning and working our way through the book. (Well, we are skipping a few things at the beginning... she knows her shapes)

We started with mat man! :)

Today we worked on the letters L & F. HWT has a cool approach - using different materials to reinforce how to create each letter. There is a card with the letter on it, and the child traces with her finger. Then she picks out the appropriate wooden pieces to make the letter on the card (or on the blue mat). (see below) Then, you can use Play-doh and/or a cool Etch-a-Sketch thingy that we do not have, and then they write it with chalk. We also did the worksheets from the student workbook, so Bug could write it in crayon. So within the lesson, she made the letter with wood, traced with her finger, wrote it in chalk, and then wrote it in crayon. We haven't yet done the Play-doh thing, but I plan on doing that soon!

That was this morning. This afternoon, I used different "L" and "F" worksheets from the Kindergarten workbook we have. The worksheets were "find the items that start with this letter" and I also threw in some "find the items that rhyme" and "match the word with the item" (picture of a cat and the word "cat", for example) for fun. Then I printed out some lined paper and had her write "L" a bunch of times and "F" and also her name in uppercase letters.

We did some crafts this morning, and right now she is doing puzzles. Oh and we also went to gymnastics class. So I think we covered most of the subjects today! :) I need to throw in a game of Frog Pond Fractions to get the math in there...

Friday, September 24, 2010

Week 2

Well another week of homeschooling is done, and we both are still having a great time. Unfortunately, though, combining two lessons a day did not work. We both were still really bored. Bug looked like she was about to fall asleep during half of our lessons this week. So, today and yesterday we backed away from the curriculum and went back to what we were doing before: playing games and doing activity sheets. Bug really loves to do activity worksheets - matching, same/different exercises, finding hidden objects, color by number, connect-the-dots, etc. I printed out some Kindergarten activities, higher level than we have done before with reading and "end of the word" or "middle of the word" sounds (not just starting letter sounds), and drawing time on clocks with the "big hand and little hand". She had a BLAST. We also broke out Frog Pond Fractions and started playing that. I could see the difference in her -- she was energized and enjoying learning. (And to be honest, *I* was having more fun too! Our schooltime was becoming a snoozefest.)

Calvert is wonderful, but the Pre-K level is really just quite boring for both of us. I am going to read through the lesson plan book over the weekend and highlight the games and activities and stories that I think we would enjoy. I will go through my Handwriting Without Tears material and prepare some of those activities. And I will scour the Mailbox "Teacher's Helper" magazines my mother-in-law got for us and the Mailbox magazines we get, and look online, and print out tons of activity pages. That is what we are going to do next week, and see how it goes - if we can get a better flow going, with more energy and excitement. We will do more puzzles and read books. We will play with Play-Doh and do fun arts and crafts. And we will sing and dance and tinker around on the piano.

I wanted to try using a boxed curriculum to save time, and I did a lot of research and chose Calvert. I don't regret that decision, because it really is well crafted, and would be great for a 3 year old (or maybe even 2). The idea of everything being laid out for me is fabulous. It takes a LOT of time to pull all the above activities together. I was spending 3 hours each Sunday putting stuff together last spring, and that was just prepping for about an hour-a-day's worth of activities - a letter of the week with various activities, and a couple Bible stories/crafts thrown in. But I have learned a lot about where to look and what types of activities work best for us. So I'm hopeful I can get the process more streamlined. It was interesting to see how the curriculum worked -- it actually mirrored what we had been doing (reading/math prep, stories, talking about seasons/colors, etc.) but it was at a much lower level academically. They do have some neat game ideas and I'm sure there will be many things we can use. (Trying to not kick myself over the $300 spent!) And now, I can give fancier names to the things we do. For example, playing Candyland is "math readiness", as is a conversation about how many more M&Ms Bug is trying to finagle out of me. :) "But mom, can't I please have 5? That would only be 2 more!! I promise that's all. That's it."

This week I have also started thinking about what type of homeschooling I would want to do long-term. Would I want to do what I was trying with the curriculum, re-creating a classroom environment at home, with a set schedule every day of what subjects we must cover and how long we should spend on each? Or would I want to use the curriculum/guidelines/standards as a base point to jump off of and do our own thing? Could I leave behind my Type A Organizational self and venture into a more laid-back method of learning? Could I somehow reconcile those two parts of me (I'm such a Libra!) and come up with our own educational style hybrid? That's what I'm pondering right now. More on that later. :)

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Ready to Learn!

This is a cute picture from last week, on our second day of school. Bug lines up her stuffed animals every morning before we start school. She is big into imagination lately with them -- three of them come with us everywhere we go, and she puts their seat belts on in the car. For awhile, she was pulling tiny chairs up to the kitchen table and setting places for them as well. This week, her dolls have been taking turns in the swing, Bumbo seat, and Jumparoo. It's neat to see her act nurturing to her animals/dolls, imitating the things I do with her baby sister. :)

My favorite part of this picture is Domo at the end. :)

Tuesday, September 21, 2010


All ready for the first day of fall tomorrow! :)

I am saving the other leaves to do a sorting/matching game with the Bug in the morning. I love this time of year!! So many fun crafts and things to do.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Week 1

So we just finished up week 1 of homeschooling. Overall it was fantastic!! My mind is starting to wrap around this whole concept and it's feeling pretty natural.

Some thoughts so far:

A definite item for the "pro" column: FLEXIBILITY!! Bug had a stomach virus this week and while she was sick, one day she wanted to still do school and one day she was really not doing so hot so we didn't do the lesson that day. So, we could do school in our PJs or just skip it and there was no one to care about germs (or the fact that we had bedhead and were in pajamas!) or to report an absence to. No muss, no fuss. Also, today we got started with our lesson and she was having a rough time, so we stopped and she took a nap. Then we finished later when she was in a better mood. You can't do that in a school environment!

I have decided to combine lessons and do 2 at a time. As I mentioned in my last post, the concepts are really quite simple and Bug knows most of them already. This way, I should be done with the Pre-K by January and maybe we'll go ahead and get the Kindergarten curriculum at that point. Or we can do a review or play around with something else, who knows. But she was getting a little bored, and adding more activities/concepts into each day has spiced things up for us. I have been playing around with how to combine lessons in the past few days and I think I have a system worked out. We actually combined about 4 of them today. I know we didn't have to "catch up", but Bug was really feeling like doing school so we just kept going (she wanted to do even more than that, but I finally said "No, school is done for today!" :) ). I think we spent about 3 hours total on it all today.

Normally, in each day's lesson plan there is any combo of the following: opening discussion, story, reading readiness activity, number readiness activity, "Thing to Do" (usually a craft-type activity), Music, Craft, and Game/Play. These aren't all on there every day, but normally I would just follow along that lesson plan and that's the schedule for the day. I've been adding things here and there, but just mainly sticking to that day's plan.

So - when combining lessons, this is how I plan to schedule the day:

Opening (go over theme if there is one, have our usual opening routine -- find a way to combine the two discussions into one)
Story #1
Number Readiness
Story #2
Reading Readiness
Things to Do

I'm sure this will be tweaked as we continue easing our way into this and I'm more comfortable with the flow, but for now that's where we are at.

I really enjoyed watching her little mind work this week. We have been doing worksheets and learning exercises for awhile now, but it's not been this focused. Getting to sit there and work with her on different concepts and hear her insightful questions and witness the creativity that she is capable of -- it has been a treat. I'm learning more about her (and myself) through all of this, and that brings such joy to my day.

We played with clay, painted, colored, and cut/pasted various shapes. We read many classic stories and she re-enacted several of them (putting that dramatic flair to good use!). We talked about over/under/on, open/closed, in/out, red and yellow and how they combine to make orange (which led to Bug using all sorts of different colored paint to see what colors she could make), and sang some songs and nursery rhymes. We also had several stuffed animals join our school. Bug lines them up against the wall and they listen to the story, and even helped re-enact the Little Red Hen. :)

That's my summary of Week 1. Looking forward to seeing what adventures next week brings. :)

One thing I would like to incorporate in our daily opening discussions -- if anyone has a suggestion, please share -- are morning devotions. I have "10 Minute Time-Outs for You and Your Kids" but it's more for older children. I am looking for something with more basic concepts we can discuss each day; for example, just talking about God's love and what that means - God loves us even when we make mistakes, etc.

Monday, September 13, 2010

First Day of School

We had a GREAT time this morning on our first day of school. The curriculum is really fun and easy to use.

We are keeping it basic this week, just sticking to the curriculum so we can get into the rhythm of how our days will go. Every day begins with an opening "circle" time. This is when we do the calendar and talk about the weather and season, and I just let Bug talk about whatever she is thinking/feeling at the moment. Then today's lesson had a story and we talked about "in and out" (had a bunch of things for her to put in and out of baskets, and there was a worksheet). Then we took a brief break where we made a fruit salad snack, and ate together and chatted. Then we did some coloring and played a game.

It only took us an hour to get through today's lesson, because Bug already knows what in and out mean - no time was needed to explain the concepts. Tomorrow we talk about "red" and that's nothing new either. I wavered between getting Pre-K or K, but since she's not 5 until June, I went with Pre-K. As I have said in previous posts, the main way kids this age learn and experience life is through play anyway, so play we will! :) She enjoyed everything we did - hearing a story and playing and doing art is all fun, even if the concepts aren't new. Also, next week I am adding in Handwriting Without Tears (we have done bits and pieces of it over the past year and she LOVES it), and soon after that I will add in music (we got the Discoveries in Music Enrichment package from Calvert, and I will also be teaching Bug piano lessons). By the end of this month, we should be doing 2 - 2.5 hours most days.

It was a lot of fun today and we are both excited to do it again tomorrow! :)

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Geography Class

Here is how we have been learning so far - through fun! :) Because of this wonderful Melissa & Doug puzzle, the Bug knows a good chunk of the 50 states. Her favorites are Wyoming and Kentucky, because they have pictures of horses on them in this particular puzzle.

My goal is to continue using fun and games in our learning process as much as possible. It's amazing what children learn just through play time!

Our Learning Space

Pictures of the space where we learn and play:

Morning "Circle" Area
where we talk about what day it is, the weather, the month, the season,
and where we will do our morning storytime:

Learning Area:
Books are sorted by type (animals, learning to read, God, science, people/feelings, fairytales/classics, etc.)
Bins hold play-doh, learning games, and other fun activities
There are a couple shelves for puzzles and learning games/manipulatives
Other baskets have activity workbooks and coloring/sticker books
Hutch holds craft materials

"My" Shelves:
Top 2 shelves have old Mailbox issues and activity/teaching books & materials my MIL gave me; bottom 2 shelves have the Calvert curriculum and Handwriting without Tears materials
The science and math activities boxes are in there as well, also some misc. craft supplies that didn't fit in the hutch

And the play area -- playing is one of the most important (if not THE most important) components of learning as a child!

I love being organized. :)