30 May 2009

Kindergarten Curriculum in Review

Phonics: Explode the Code 1 and 2 (****)
This will be difficult for me to review. My daughter knew her letters and sounds at the beginning of the school year and was just on the cusp of reading. Soon she was reading and she took off like a shot. I still wanted her to have a systematic knowledge of phonics, even though she is now reading quite well. Late in the year, after much groaning from my daughter, I decided to take the curriculum into my hands and cut back on the number of worksheets per lesson. This may seem obvious, but this small change has made a big difference. We'll continue with Explode the Code at an "accelerated" pace as along as it's appropriate.

Printing: Free online printables from Learning Page (*****)
Free. Gotta love it. Did the job. Enough said. The other option I considered was Handwriting Without Tears, but the letters look odd. Is it just me?

Writing: Writing Strands 1(*), Writing Experiences for Young Learners(****).
Writing Strands was not very curriculum-y. It is a very small book with ideas that I would consider to be geared more towards pre-school age. We did not use it very much.
Writing Experiences for Young Learners was a better fit for us, although we didn't use it exclusively or completely. We did a lot of writing inspired by the theme unit we were studying. She wrote a story pretending she was a migrating bird while studying birds, and a color poem inspired by The Legend of the Indian Paintbrush during our Native American unit. Gracie also loved making mini-books like our transportation ABC book.

Math: Saxon Math K (****)
So far so good. At first I wanted there to be more worksheets and paper to make it feel more like math, but in retrospect it was very appropriate for kindergarten. (And there's plenty of worksheets in Saxon Math 1to make up for it!) I really didn't like the scriptedness of it, but I didnt feel obligated to do it. We also didn't do all the meetings as laid out in the teacher's guide. I made the curriculum work for me, rather than being tied down to following the lessons exactly. Some of the lessons seemed a bit easy, and I considered staring with Math 1 in the middle of the school year, but since both the K and 1 curricula are very calendar based, I decided to just take it easy and slow down. We'll start Math 1 in the fall.

Science: Science for Kids Series: Animals and Weather.(****)
I liked these, but I didn't use them a ton. They just never seemed to tie in very well with the unit studies we did. I did like them enough that I plan to order several of the ScienceWorks 1-3 books for our life science studies next year.

Art: Masterpiece of the Month (*****)
I loved this! It actually was my second choice, but I'm glad I used it. The lessons are easy and don't require a lot of specialty supplies or materials beyond paper, paint, and crayons. It's also inclusive from K through 6th grade, so you could potentially buy just one book to get you through all the elementary years. I did supplement with some free online resources and ideas as well.

Unit Studies: Teacher Created Resources Thematic Units (*****)
These are great! I used several of these throughout the year including Native Americans, Food and Nutrition, Gingerbread, My Country, and Tide Pools and Coral Reefs.

26 May 2009

The countdown begins!

It's not that I haven't enjoyed homeschooling this year, I have. Immensely. I'm just ready for a little break. The weather is heating up, making for very lazy afternoons which are not at all conducive to effective learning. Two more "regular" school days, a field trip and then a cleaning and sorting the "classroom" day. (Hey, if public schools can justify it, so can I!)

Four more days. Sigh.

25 May 2009

I'm such a sinner.

This is the second theme is a row that I forgot to include a Bible connection. Whoops! So what Bible story would be more fitting: John the Baptist (who ate locusts and honey) or the locust plague on Egypt just before the exodus? Or can you think of another insect Bible story?

23 May 2009

You know you homeschool when...

you go for a family hike on a Saturday and your kindergartener asks, "Is this a field trip?"
Have a great weekend, everyone!

21 May 2009

Native American Theme Unit Review

We made edible Sioux tepees,made an Ojibway dreamcatcher,explored a replica of a Cahuilla Native American house,and found a real historical grinding stone used by Serrano Native Americans.

It was a great theme for starting projects. Not so great for finishing them. Our clay was a bit too wet to form anything that didn't flop over, our recycled box totem pole just never quite got finished, and our paper bag "buffalo skin" is without any markings or symbols.

But we did learn a few things.

Especially not to plan too many crafts in one unit!

18 May 2009

Insects Theme Unit Plans

Last theme of the year!

Know the difference between spiders and insects
Name at least 5 insects
Explain an insects life cycle (complete metamorphosis)
Name a 3 ways bugs are beneficial

Monday: Introduction & Overview
Read Bugs Are Insects .
Read Bugs (Reading Rainbow Book).
Classify insects in different groups.
Make an Alphabug Book.*

Tuesday: Butterflies & Life Cycle
Read My, Oh My--A Butterfly!: All About Butterflies (Cat in the Hat's Learning Library).
Read Waiting for Wings.
Make Metamorphosis Model.*
Complete Butterfly Diary.*

Wednesday: Butterflies & Migration
Read Monarch Butterfly
Read Isabel's House of Butterflies (Sierra Club Books (Sierra))
Map monarch migration.
Learn symmetry by creating a Wing Design.*

Thursday: Insect Anatomy
Complete Insect Body Parts.*
Sort insects from non-insects by doing Insect Inspection.*
Discuss why spiders are not insects.
Amazing Insect Mouth activity from Incredible Insects (Ranger Rick's Naturescope).
Create an accurate insect (with head, thorax, abdomen, and 6 legs) with various materials.

Friday: Bees & Ladybugs & Beneficial Insects
Read Honey in a Hive (Let's-Read-and-Find-Out Science 2).
Read The Magic School Bus Inside a Beehive.
Read The Ladybug and Other Insects .
Do Pollen Play activity.*
Go on an insect hunt.

Monday: No School

Tuesday: Ants & Social Structure
Read Are You an Ant? .
Read Ant Cities .
Read Two Bad Ants.
Go on an ant hunt to fill an ant farm.
Discuss the different jobs ants have in an ant colony. Compare them to human communities.
Introduce scientific method by performing an experiment offering different types of food to ants and observing the results.

Wednesday: Mosquitoes & Pests
Read Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People's Ears: A West African Tale.

Thursday: Field trip to the Natural History Museum

Friday: Finish up, Clean up and Pack up
Celebration dinner!

*Activities from Lakeshore Insects Activity Tub.

Other resources:
Magic School Bus - Bugs, Bugs, BugsBugs Are Insects
Insect (DK Eyewitness Books)
I Didn't Know That Some Bugs Glow in the Dark
Insect Defense (DVD) by Ron Goor

12 May 2009

Stop Teaching Reading!

This is an amazing video that I found very enlightening. (That's probably just because of the teacher blood in me.) I did a project for my Master's degree on the effect of students using reading strategies to increase comprehension. My results showed that there was almost no correlation whatsoever. It is very gratifying to know that someone else found similar results and that I was doing something right!

It's funny, because as a public school teacher we used a new curriculum based on using reading strategies that was going to revolutionize our students' learning. Well, it didn't. And yes, we spent half of our school day with that curriculum and very little on science or social studies. In fact no one really cared how much time we spent on science or social studies at all. And as a result the students were not very motivated, not did their test scores soar.

It seems counterintuitive to spend less time on language arts to increase test scores in language arts. I can understand why teachers and schools would be wary, but it just might work.

Thank you to The More Child for originally posting the video.

09 May 2009

Book of the Week: National Worm Day

National Worm Day by James Stevenson is a quirky little book that is told in three chapters. There are definitely some unkind words said by some of the characters, but the main characters do finally learn how to be friendly and nice to each other. I'm pretty sure that this is the only book I have read that has a rhino with a tusk stuck in the ground, bully gophers, and a worm national anthem. Those things alone make this book a must-read! Unfortunately it seems to be out of print. I found it at my local library. Check yours for this funny little gem!

08 May 2009

Wish me luck!


Do you know Homeschool Share? I discovered it this year and love it! This is a great site that has great material for theme units and book studies that has been put together by other homeschool parents. With free resources this good, why would you pay money for them? I believe in it so much that I'm going to put my time (no money, sorry) where my mouth is and enter this contest. I've already been approved to do a unit on one of my favorite children's books ever. Any guesses? I guess I'd better get to work!

07 May 2009

Preschool Activity: Mini-writing center

One of the best tools I have added to my arsenal of independent preschool activities is this great little kit. One side is a dry erase board that is also magnetic. The other side is a chalkboard that opens up to hold a bag of chalk and an eraser (these were not included) and a bag of magnetic letters and numbers (which were included, minus the bag). No dry erase markers for her just yet, thank you very much! The best thing about this activity is that it feels very school-y, which makes my 3-year-old feel very "big" and thus loves it. At this point she spends most of her time matching the magnetic letters to the letters printed around the edges of the board. As she gets older she can advance to more complex skills like writing letters and making words.

Oh, and did I mention the best part? I found it at Big Lots for a price that I can't remember exactly, but I'm sure was less than $10. My frugal self rejoices!

Click here to see other independent activities for preschoolers.

Click here to see how I use these activities while homeschooling.

06 May 2009

Native American unit Bible lesson

Here is the Bible lesson for our theme that somehow flew away from my Native American theme schedule post before I published it.

We will read Jeremiah 18: 1-6. This is the story of Jeremiah receiving a message from God that compares Him to a potter and His people as the clay. It ties in with our pottery and adobe projects we're doing as we learn about the Pueblo tribe.

Isaiah 64:8 is our memory verse that we will also use for copy work.

05 May 2009

Artist Study: Jackson Pollock

We did our second artist study on Jackson Pollock. We displayed some of his art (Stenographic Figure, Untitled, White Light, and Blue Poles) on the classroom/office door to let it soak in (unbeknownst to them).
We read Jackson Pollock (Getting to Know the World's Greatest Artists) and Jackson Pollock (Great Artists)
to get to know a little bit more about his work and life. We didn't get to in-depth here, since he did not live a happy, G-rated life.

We watched Jackson Pollock (Artists of the 20th Century) through Netflix. The last time watched one of these movies it was a little long and boring for Gracie, so we tweaked it a bit in a way that was much more effective. I muted the sound and we watched it at 4x normal. It eliminated all the narration, which was definitely not kindergarten level information, but we were able to see the art that was presented and talk about as it was shown on the screen at a more appropriate pace. This was so effective that Gracie was immediately inspired to go create her own art. She learned how Pollock numbered rather than titled much of his work, thus, I present #2:
We're choosing our artists from Masterpiece of the Month, but we tweaked the Pollock project a bit. We began by putting a piece of paper in a flat box with edges on all sides. We used marbles and began by dipping the marble into the paint then rolling the marble around on the paper in the box. After a while she tried putting blobs of paint on the paper and then let the marbles spread it around. Here's a similar project. Lots of fun, still pretty messy, but a more contained mess, thank you very much!

The final product...

04 May 2009

Native American Theme Unit Plans

Goals for the week:
Know that different tribes lived in different places and in different ways.
Name 3 Native American tribes.
Explain 3 skills/crafts Native Americans used.

Monday: Overview
Create a KWL chart
Read North American Indian (DK Eyewitness Books)
Look at map of tribal areas.
Introduce chart (similar to this) comparing different tribes.

Tuesday: Pueblo Tribe
Read Arrow to the Sun: A Pueblo Indian Tale
Write color poetry.*
Make coil pot.
Read When Clay Sings
Adobe art project.*
Add Pueblo info to chart.

Wednesday: Navajo Tribe
Watch video about Navajo weaving.
Find examples of Navajo weaving online.
Do weaving.*
Add Navajo info to chart.

Thursday: Commanche Tribe
Read The Legend of the Bluebonnet and Legend of the Indian Paintbrush.
Make a tepee model and tepee cupcakes.
Watch a buffalo hunt.
Make buffalo skin pictographs.*
Add Commanche info to chart.

Friday: Tlingit
Read Totem Pole
Make Totem pole.*
Add Tlingit info to chart.

Monday: Ojibway/Chippewa
Read Dreamcatcher.
Make dreamcatcher.*
Read Hiawatha.
Add Ojibway/Chippewa info to chart.

Tuesday: Pocahontas
Read DK Readers: The Story of Pocahontas (Level 2: Beginning to Read Alone).
Watch Pocahontas (10th Anniversary Edition).
Compare and contrast book and movie.

Wednesday: Native Americans Today
Read Totem Pole
Read Pueblo Storyteller

Thursday: Field trip to the Agua Caliente Cultural Museum.

Friday: Catch up/Clean-up

*activities from Native Americans Thematic Unit

Other possibilities include:
Read Rainbow Crow (Dragonfly Books) and some art inspired by it.
Looking at these great kid-created projects!
Learning about Sacagawea.
Lots of info and lesson plans on different tribes here.

02 May 2009

Book of the Week: The So-Much-Time-I-Don't-Know-What-To-Do Edition

Our regularly scheduled program will return next week because Greg took the girls camping, The baby is with the grandparents, and I have so much freedom that I haven't quite figured it all out yet!

Enjoy your Saturday!

01 May 2009

Earth Day Week in Review

Earth day was a great theme for us! Some highlights were taking care of our earth by cleaning up the trash at a local and sadly neglected park. Look at all the trash we found!

We also made some homemade paper. As an after thought Gracie added some petals on the wet paper, but they didn't really adhere. Next time we'll put petals into the wet pulp before we press it dry.

Gracie raided the recycle bin to repurpose a cardboard box into a beautiful treasure box!

We went to an earth day fair at the library where we saw a great puppet show. The most amazing thing about it was that all the puppets were made from repurposed or reused materials. There was a fish from an old sushi mat and simple little butterflies made from tiny pieces of plastic bag tied to the end of an old metal clothes hanger. So simple, but such a cool effect!

Our caterpillars arrived! They just began forming their cocoons yesterday. Very exciting to see the changes right before our eyes!
Our paper mache globe started out great, until little brother tried to throw it around like a ball. We've done some repair, but in our house, the earth IS flat...at least partially. I think that project is officially over.

We made blue and green earths with coffee filters and watercolors. Amaryllis is always proud to show off her work!

On an un-Earth Day note, Gracie was excited to finally get to play with the tangrams from our Saxon math manipulative kit.

We printed out some tangram puzzles that should keep Gracie busy for quite a while.

We finally finished our Jackson Pollock artist study. Read more about that here.
Gracie learned "to not use much electricity or there might be a fire. It's good to take care of the earth."

This probably seems like a lot for one week. Well, it wasn't. We spend 2 weeks on a theme, so this is a review of the last TWO weeks. I am NOT supermom. You can see plans for this theme here.