Thursday, September 27, 2007

Loving Lapbooks

We finished our first unit study from (the wonderful, amazing) Homeschool Share site. "Comet's Nine Lives" was the story that it centered around and we did a lap book on cats. We didn't include other things from the unit (hurricanes, islands, etc) in the actual lapbook- Grace preferred it to be mostly about cats- but she did enjoy the other activities. Lapbook photos below...

All in all we did about 20 activities that related to the book, which we read at least 12 times- each time with something new discovered. We used the free version of Homeschool Tracker and I found it really easy to follow our progress. After a few hours of customizing it and setting up the subjects, activities, resources etc it was a simple matter of entering each activity as an assignment, as well as adding in "assignments" after the fact when we would follow a "rabbit trail".

It took us just under 3 weeks- but of course we had more interruptions than usual- I expect that normally we'll spend 2 weeks or so on a unit. According to the cool report I generated in HST to give my ES (we are still reserving judgment on our charter school experience) over 14 days we spent 4.25 hours in Creative Arts, 6 hours in PE, 3.33 hours on Language Arts, 1.5 on math, 5 on science, and 2.75 on social studies. Plus of course all the "in the moment" life skills type learning that doesn't get tracked as easily- although now that I am getting used to using HST I might start throwing in those unschooling, "teachable moments" as assignments, after the fact like I did with the Unit Study "rabbit trails".

The next Unit Study one is set to be "The Art Lesson" although yesterday at the park day where we met with our ES we got some of the supplies we ordered with our Educational Funds and one of the items is a Butterfly Nursery- so she wants to do a Butterfly unit. I need to read the instructions and see if we can even do it in fall! It may be better to save until Spring. I ordered The Art Lesson through Paperback Swap (Swap Your Paperback Books - and it is on it's way to me, along with 2 others (A Rainbow of my Own and Mama, Do You Love Me?) for future unit studies.

Today we met with our new "girls club" at the park near our house. This was the group of girls we got together to start our own Daisy Girl Scout Troop (which we decided was too much paperwork, legalism and cookie sales)! So we are each going to take a turn doing something simple and fun for the girls- today I organized a simple craft, game and snack (the Pampered Chef Apple/Peeler/Corer/ Slicer was a big hit!) around an Apple theme (since yesterday was Johnny Appleseed's birthday). It was lots of fun and Grace really enjoyed playing with her new friends. She decided as soon as we got home to fill in the inside of the Apple Book that she had decorated a cover for at the park. Apple theme photos, click here...

Our cat lapbook...

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Comet's Nine Lives

We finished the Cat Lapbook! We did this in connection with our unit study on Comet's Nine Lives, and we are both very pleased with the result. I realized half way through that I needed to help her more than I expected. At first it felt like I was "doing her work for her" but then I noticed how much more interested she was when I was and I considered that I am showing her an example of how to lapbook in these first few units, not "keeping a record" of what she has done. It is something we will refer back to and read which reinforces and provides an "anchor" to all the many things we did with this delightful book.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

You Might be a Homeschooler

*You might be a Homeschooler*

*If your whole class and teacher kiss the principal goodbye as he goes
off to work
**.... **YOU might be a homeschooler. *

*If you and your teacher come to early morning class in your pajamas
**.... **YOU might be a homeschooler. *

*If school is recessed to bring in the groceries
**.... **YOU might be a homeschooler. *

*If cleaning the room, making the bed and preparing lunch is your
daily assignment in **Home Economics **class
.... **YOU might be a homeschooler. *

*If you have to relocate your chemistry lab each day so the family can
eat lunch
**.... **YOU might be a homeschooler. *

*If you have to walk twenty feet back and forth to school each day
**.... **YOU might be a homeschooler. *

*If going to the park counts for both a nature fieldtrip and P.E.
**.... **YOU might be a homeschooler. *

*If your wife asks for, and gets a copier instead of a diamond
tennis bracelet for your wedding anniversary
**.... **YOU might be a homeschooler. *

*If your kids think that reading history is best accomplished while
lying on the floor with their head resting on the side of their patient dog
**.... **YOU might be a homeschooler. *

*If the principal can give the teacher a pat on the behind and it's
not harassment
**.... **YOU might be a homeschooler. *

*If your neighbors think you are insane
**.... **YOU might be a homeschooler. *

*If you can listen to your child's favorite hilarious passage from
"Hank the Cow Dog" forty-seven times
**.... **YOU might be a homeschooler. *

*If your formal dining room now has a computer, copy machine and
many book shelves and there are educational posters and maps all over the
**.... **YOU might be a homeschooler. *

*If you have meal worms growing in a container... on purpose
**.... **YOU might be a homeschooler. *

*If talking out loud to yourself is a parent/teacher conference
**.... **YOU might be a homeschooler. *

*If you take off for a teacher in-service day because the principal
needs clean underwear
**.... **YOU might be a homeschooler. *

*If you can't make it through a movie without pointing out all the
historical anachronisms
**.... **YOU might be a homeschooler. *

*If you step on math manipulatives in your pre-dawn stumble to the
**.... **YOU might be a homeschooler. *

*If your closet contains more than three jumpers
**.... **YOU might be a homeschooler. *

*If when visiting a strange town you see a parking lot full of
mini-vans and station wagons and wonder if it's a homeschooling conference
**.... **YOU might be a homeschooler. *

*If you live in a one-house schoolroom
**.... **YOU might be a homeschooler. *

Monday, September 10, 2007

Starting Week 2 of "kindy"garden

My parents and hubby tease me because I call it "kindy"garden (and Grace still calls it KittenGarden) but whatever the name, we are loving it so far!

Last week's duck theme went well, we didn't stick to my "schedule" much, but we covered much of what I was prepared for and she learned a lot. Trying to categorize it into subjects is what I am trying to learn, now that we are officially enrolled in a charter school.

Last week we also made slime (three times- once unsuccessfully at the park day, so we scientifically approached this project, guessing at what needed to be changed, experimenting and then trying another idea- the last batch came out wonderful. She decided to make some for her friend since the park day version didn't work for her either) and she used it to shape letters and then to make me "food", (we played restaurant for as long as I could stand on Thursday, using "credit slips" to tally my bill and add her tip)

She also worked on the activity from her book club, although it still isn't finished! She told me it just has to be done before the next "level" (I think she got that from playing Monsters Inc on the Playstation, she is on level 2). I'm not sure we will stick with the book club, it is a bit... stiffer than our style. The energetic and incredibly organized woman who is running it has put a lot of time and effort into making it great, and the 30+ kids who are participating seem to have become like a class to her. She would make a terrific preschool teacher! But we do a lot of reading already and our style tends to be less "school" like, so I'm not sure. I'll let Grace decide after we have finished this first book, if we will continue on to the next...

She also learned to fingercrochet, and to be honest I was surprised. She wasn't really getting it at all when I showed her the basics on Monday. Then all the sudden on Thursday she asked me to show her how to start it again and she proceeded to make me a beautiful necklace, with matching bracelet and ring. She has already gone on to make collars for three of the kittens...

Friday we capped off the week with a visit to the duck pond with a homeschool buddy and we enjoyed lunch at Pat & Oscars as a special treat (sharing the breadsticks with the ducks afterward of course! See the very short photoshow here...

This week I have decided to try a "prepared" unit study from Homeschool Share after reading rave reviews on my homeschool group's message board about the FIAR unit studies style. Our book is Comet's Nine Lives, and we were able to pick it up at the library this morning and do 3 out of the 20 "lessons" today. I particularly like how it is broken up by subject- making it easy to track for the charter, but it is so thematic that I can also very easily guide her to the "lessons" with very little preparation and follow her interest and curiosity after reading the story in our morning "Circle Time". I've chosen related poems, songs, fingerplays and handcrafts for this fun morning ritual, which is our Waldorf inspired part of the day.

The puzzle we started for both the first and second week's themes is done already- we had help from my mom and dad when they stopped by Sunday and it just flew together!

Today I finally got our "order" together for using our Educational Funds from the charter, I submitted it to our ES. I wonder how long it will be until we get everything? I just hope it is in time to join the classes we want to this month- the Music Circle starts on Friday!

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

First Day of Kindergarten

I love homeschooling- or should I say "carschooling"!

Today we started our school year. Shawn had a meeting in Anaheim, so we all got up just before 6:00am and loaded the car with our books, binders and basket. After terrible traffic, while Grace looked through the books I had picked for our Duck theme, we finally got to the park near his office, and began our "morning lessons" with a nature walk. We looked for signs of fall, we gathered some huge leaves for our Nature Mantle and we saw ducks, a crane and a grey squirrel with the longest tail I have ever seen!

Next we chose a table under the shade, near the lake and after filling in our Nature Walk Tracker (weather, observations, funny happenings) we did "Circle Time"- funny since there are only 2 of us, but the activities are the same even if we aren''t in a circle. I read 2 poems, one called Good Morning and the other an Animal Poem, with movement. Next we sang 2 songs- If You're Happy and You Know It, and a duck counting song. This will stay the same for the next month- Grace will learn one each week. Next we waddled in a square (the shape of the day) and pointed out all the red things we could see (the color of the day). We finished Circle Time with a brief finger crocheting story and some verses to accompany the handcraft.

After rushing to pick daddy up, we discovered he was running late, so we read the 2 chapters in Frog & Toad are Friends for our book club while we waited in the car.

She loved the 3 Kitten folders I picked out for her so much, she decided to color a picture of her favorite.

At the next stop (another of Daddy's appointments) Grace decorated the cover of her new binder with stickers and we listened to the CD I got from the library (Frog & Toad Original Broadway Cast). I didn't tell her what it was and she was thrilled to make the connection between one of the songs and the story we just read.

We all had lunch on the patio of Chapporosa Grill, one of our favorite OC lunch spots, we had their "signature" Strawberry Salad, a Mediterranean Veggie Pita, and Cantaloupe. It was all delicious and Grace colored a first day of Kindergarten self-portrait on the white butcher paper covering our table.

Our last stop was my Drs office. Since we were an hour early we sat in the car under a shady tree, Daddy made calls for work and I read The Ugly Duckling to her. She then watched the DVD I got from the library, called The History of the Ugly Duckling.

At my Drs appointment she got to watch as the Sonographer showed us her new baby... sister- all the fingers, toes, and little tiny nose! It was amazing and the baby wasn't in the least bit shy so we are fairly certain she is a SHE.

Grace has enjoyed hanging out in the homeschool room in the evenings lately, so she dictated to me what she remembered from our Circle Time for her Circle Journal, and we we finished up our Main Lesson Block, reading Lifecycles of Ducks, and talking about what we learned and any examples we had seen at the lake that morning. Did you know their webbed feet have no feeling?

Next we read the story she narrated to me the night before called "The Invisiballs" (more to come on that one!) and for her Practice Time, she wrote her favorite words (that she knows how to spell) up on the whiteboard. We finished by her dictating "In Her Own Words- What I Learned Today" page.

Finally she spent about 20 minutes playing with the create an Ice Skating Show game on, changing the moves and music. She has been very into what feelings music evokes. The other day we heard the Pink Panther theme on a jazz musical station I was listening to and she said "I don't like this song, it sounds sneaky." Right on target! With her Barbie Skate Show last night she told me her favorite song was the slow sad one because it sounded like she was alone and her love had left, and the ice skating moves looked like that too.

She thinks she wants to ice skate instead of gymnastics this year, and tap and tumble. We'll have to wait until we get access to the educational funds with Sky Mountain. We meet with our ES today.

All in all I think it was a fantastic first day. I love the flexibility and rhythm of our new style -Waldorf flavored, Theme Unit, Unschooling. Today she asked if we could do the Nature Walk and Circle Time tonight after park day. She does seem to have a little "brain burst" after dinner, it's nice to be able to accommodate her! Our basic 4 components (Nature Walk, Circle Time, Practice Time and Main Lesson Block) will stay the same, it's a matter of interest and events that guide us to the opportunities to draw her into them and reinforce what we learn throughout the day. It is also very nice to have a basic plan over a theme, with reading selections, media, art projects, songs, and activities to bring in.

She doesn't really know there are 4 components I am trying to cover- I am doing it as organically as possible, with none of the "Now it's time to" phrases. If I start doing something with interest and enthusiasm- truly for myself and in the moment, of course she wants to join in- she always does when I am doing something for myself! And we have a lot more fun. This style and attitude has been developing all summer, and now that I have a loose structure and preparation I feel more able to do it casually.

Happy Homeschooling!

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Grace's first (non-family) sleepover!

Although her cousins have spent the night several times, this is the first time we have had a friend sleepover. Ava is one of the first friends Grace made when we moved to Temecula. Ava is about 10 months older than her, but they have always been into the same kind of playing- anything pretend or dramatic.

Their evening was filled with theatrical performances and scene setting ("this is my house, and yours is the living room- let's pretend my mom died and we are friends, but you are a dog and I am a cat")- and they utilized almost every little nook & cranny of the house (especially the hall closet, which houses Grace's "fort"). I found many little examples of their creativity, using the new block set we got at a garage sale, markers, stamps to make "tickets" to their show, and Ava shared her youtube channel with us- inspiring Grace to want to start one of her own.

We ordered Pizza Hut, Shawn made home-made rootbeer, they all made homemade ice cream, and I helped them make lots of lovely, scented soaps in the shape of fall leaves, flowers, shells and starfish. Then they enjoyed rootbeer float "soup". They started to watch different DVDs several times, but didn't finish any of them! They were off and playing before the "conflict" even came on screen (I overheard Ava ask Grace if she knew what the conflict part of a movie was, and Grace said it's the part where something happens- I didn't know she knew that!)

I read to them from Starbright Meditations for Children while Shawn moved the spare TV into Grace's room and they fell asleep watching Cinderella 3. They were zonked by midnight, and I was out by 12:30. Shawn stayed up and made a batch of beer in case there was middle of the night waking, but there wasn't.

They were up at 8:45 or so and enjoyed Fruit Loops, more ice cream, and leftover pizza for breakfast (it reminded me of my days in the dorm!) and now they are gathering kittens for some pretend game where they sell stuff and the kittens are their customers.

Click here to see the Photoshow.


Shawn last finished Da Vinci's Last Supper in Nov! No time for puzzles this fall- can't wait until we are in our own place again!!
Are you a puzzler? Want to trade?