Monday, March 29, 2010

Last Day At Gymboree

The kids had their official last day of Gymboree last week, and it was a really special day. They were not really sad to leave, though they have been there for over 9 months, and still love Gymboree. Since Little Bean was getting a lot older than the other children, it seemed that it was best to pull him out, and since it's a drop off class, it made sense to pull them out together (otherwise I'd have to have Little Bean along with me on my errands while Miss O played at Gymboree).

Daddy came on their last day to take pictures and see them "graduate". The teachers made paper graduation caps and sang the graduation song for them. One teacher, who really seemed to bond with them both over the last 9 months sent a note home for each of them telling them how much she enjoyed having them and how much she would miss them. She also gave me a note complimenting me on my parenting (how nice!) and saying she'd be thrilled to babysit them any time I need it. I trust her with them, which for me is saying a lot, so I am kind of excited that we have someone willing to watch them when my mom isn't available.

Here are some pics from their last day:

Miss O got a little shy when all eyes were on them for the graduation song!

Something Wrong With Blogger?

I haven't been on the computer in a few days, and I'm noticing that pictures (including mine) on blogger blogs are not showing up. Does anyone know what's going on with this??

Monday, March 22, 2010

Curriculum for 2010-2011

Wow, it's so weird to think Little Bean is moving on into 1st grade work soon! He is still such a little guy in so many ways, it's hard for me to believe that he is almost done with all his Kindergarten curriculum and is moving on to the next level. But, it's happening! He is turning 5 in a few weeks, and if I were to send him to public school, he could start Kinder there this September (Kinder is not mandatory in CA though). So he is a little over a year ahead of where the kids his age are right now. Most of our curriculum for this year is quickly coming to a close, so I spent some time the other day ordering all the curriculum I will use for him next year.

Here is what I chose:

We are going a little more Charlotte Mason style this year, which I am excited about!

Reading/Phonics: We will stick with Explode the Code Book 2 (which he is half way through now), and Book 3, and continue with Ordinary Parent's Guide to Teaching Reading

Spelling: We are sticking with All About Spelling and so we will do Level 2 for first grade. I said in the past that I was not loving this program, but it has gotten more interesting since we have finally passed the basics, and frankly, it makes sense and it works, so we are sticking with it.

Handwriting: We will continue Handwriting Without Tears. He finished the Kinder book a while back, and has started the first grade book already. After that, we will hold off on cursive, which I believe is the next book, and instead will use copy work (probably poems or Bible verses or famous quotes from his history program) for handwriting practice.

Math: Right Start Level B, the next level in the curriculum we are currently using. I don't foresee us changing from this program until they have nothing left to offer him--I love it!

Science: We are making a switching from McRuffy Science to Winter Promise The World Around Me, which also incorporates nature study

History: Winter Promise Hideaways in History. I'm SO excited about this curriculum, which uses all four Story of the World books in one year (we may either stretch it out through 2nd grade, or repeat the whole thing for both 1st and 2nd, which would mean Miss O would catch it in her Kinder year). I've started some of the read alouds with Little Bean, and he always begs for more. We will be doing notebooking and will be making our own hideaways with this curriculum .

Bible: We are using a book called Hands-On Bible Exploration (part of the Winter Promise curriculum) as well as one called The Memory Bible, where the kids will have a chance to memorize 52 verses next year.

Art: Getting to Know the World's Greatest Artists--we will do one artist per term (4 per year) using these books. So far I have chosen Paul Klee and Picasso. I have an art curriculum book left over from my student teaching days that I will incorporate as well.

Miss O will continue with her preschool stuff--lots of coloring, cutting (which she is a total pro at now, btw), pasting, stringing, etc. She has not mastered number recognition yet (though I admit I haven't worked too hard at teaching her that), so that will continue to be a goal. She has mastered all her letter sounds and some names. The names aren't important to me though, since you don't need them for reading. She is plugging along in 100 Lessons, so we will continue that as long as she shows interest. There have been a few days where she has said she doesn't want a reading lesson, but for the most part she is enjoying them still.

As for handwriting, she knows ALL the stroke orders for the upper case letters, so once she finishes the Kumon Uppercase we are on now, I have to decide whether she is ready to try the Handwriting Without Tears Kinder book, or if she needs more practice tracing. I have to decide soon here, because she only has a few pages left in the Kumon workbook! Other than that, Miss O will continue to join us when she feels like it for the other subjects. She already does that very often, almost always for science and sometimes for math. I suspect history and art will catch her interest next year, and I plan to regularly include her in our Bible study as well.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Fire Truck Extension Activity

Remember my TOS review on the firefighting unit? We ended our unit study on fire fighters by making this fun hideaway--a fire truck for the kids to play in! For our history curriculum next year, we are using a Winter Promise curriculum called Hideaways in History. As part of the curriculum, we were sent this book, which has all kinds of ideas on different hideaways to make with and for your children. This is a GREAT and fun resource whether you use Winter Promise or not, and can be purchased through Amazon.

The kids were able to help out quite a bit, painting and cutting out different decorations for their fire truck. But mainly, they really enjoyed playing with it!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Field Guide Help

Even though we live in a fairly urban area, we have quite a few nature reserves and different places to go hiking and explore nature. Between my recent reading of Charlotte Mason and the absolutely beautiful spring weather we've been having, I've gained a new interest in nature study. I'd love for the kids to be able to learn of some of the names of different small animals, insects, plants, trees and flowers that we see on these nature walks.

But I must confess, I really have no knowledge of these things, so I am looking for a quality field guide or two to help us along. I would love something small enough to go with us, with high quality photos of real things (versus only drawings or illustrations). I'm looking for a guide that's easy to use and it'd be great if it covered more than one thing (for example, if it covered both trees and flowers in the same book).

I'd love ANY suggestions you may have!

Friday, March 12, 2010

What I'm Reading--free!

Charlotte Mason was a British educator who had some pretty amazing ideas about home education/how children learn. I am a follower of a few blogging moms who follow Charlotte Mason ideas in their homeschools, and have become interested in learning more about her thoughts on education. SO, I'm reading this. It's Ms. Mason's complete works translated into modern English for those of us who have a hard time wading through the older victorian style of writing she used. And best of all, her works are in the public domain, so it's free!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

TOS Review--When I Grow Up, I Wanna Be A Firefighter

The Old Schoolhouse sent me an e-book from their WannaBe series called When I Grow Up I Want to Be a Firefighter for review. Little Bean, my Kindergartner, isn't especially interested in firefighters, but he has a natural curiosity about many things, so I knew he'd be excited about trying out some of the activities from this e-book.

This e-book could work as a stand-alone unit study on fire fighting, especially in the case of an older student. It covers many different topics such as the history of fire fighting, how to become a firefighter, pay scales for firefighters, and the workings of a fire truck. You could easily print out the e-book, organize it in a folder, and let the child work through the unit independently. The study is not broken up into sections or days, so you would have to do some lesson planning for that aspect, but nothing too strenuous.

Because Little Bean is only in Kinder, I chose to use the unit as a spine, adding to it both fiction and non-fiction books from the library and lapbooking materials that I printed and made myself. I simply read through the e-book and decided what I felt were the key points I really wanted him to remember from this unit. From there, I made lapbooking materials, which we filled out as we worked our way through the e-book and the library books. The e-book itself comes with many great activities and worksheets for his age group, as well as a few sections that I chose to skip over because they were a bit over Little Bean's head.

Some of the things I really liked about this e-book are:

--the suggested games and activities. Toward the end of the book, there are several suggested games (we played stop, drop, and roll dancing, and made an obstacle course through the house which Little Bean needed to run through in order to save the baby from the burning building!). These activities really made the unit study fun for him, and brought to life some of the concepts he learned from the readings. The book even suggests party ideas and foods to go along with the theme! In addition, there are other activities like crossword puzzles and word searches included that would be great for the older student. This unit can really be as interesting and interactive as you choose because it comes with so many suggestions and activities to try.

--the e-book includes printable copywork, vocabulary, creative writing, and handwriting pages for the student to complete. It's always easier when I don't have to think of good sentences for copywork myself. This way, the copywork, vocabulary and creative writing integrated perfectly with what he was learning in the readings.

--there are suggested books and other resources listed in the book meant to supplement the material provided. Anyone could easily go to the library and search for books on fire fighting, but with a list of suggested books in hand, it made it that much easier to choose books that I knew would compliment our theme.

It would have been great if this unit was a little more structured, covering a topic a day or at least giving some general guidelines as to how long a unit like this one should last. I do not like lesson planning, gathering supplemental materials and having to organize them all myself, though I know some would certainly appreciate the freedom of not having the unit already structured for them!

Also, while the target age group for this unit is listed as ages 4 to 10, there were quite a few sections that I had to completely skip (the section on how the pay scale for a firefighter varies by region, for instance). For some of the sections, there was just no way to bring the material down to Little Bean's level of understanding, and it frustrated me that we were removing so much of the material for this reason.

If you are interested in purchasing this or other units like it (they have many available) you'll be pleased to know that each unit study is only $8.95! You can also purchase a 10 pack for $89.50, which includes topics such as When I Grow Up I Want to Be A: Veterinarian, Police Officer, Doctor, Missionary, and more. You can view samples of these units here (scroll down).

All in all, with the addition of quality literature from the library, and the interactive nature of the lapbooking, I'd say that these units are adaptable for a Kindergartner, and certainly Little Bean benefited from and enjoyed this unit study.

Lapbooking Resource

We've been just starting to get into lapbooking here, and are loving it. Little Bean loves the hands-on aspect, and I actually enjoy cutting out and folding all those mini-books. I know, total nerdy thing to enjoy, but what can I say? Seeing all those perfect little folded books makes me happy! :)

Since I am a lapbooking newbie, I'm not brave enough to make my own templates (plus I'm just lazy). So, I go to this site for all my mini-book needs. It's free, and you just print what mini-books you want and fold away! I'm sure this site is no rare find, but for me it's been great, so I had to share! Enjoy!
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