Friday, February 26, 2010

Week 18, day 5

Friday: Geography. Since we'd introduced a new hymn, catechism question, and memory verse yesterday, we started by reviewing those. We updated the calendar and I had P do her math 5-a-day. Then, we moved on to geography - this week, Germany. We located Germany on the Markable Map, while E documented his ocean-going adventures with his imaginary Friend Lion. They roamed from Antarctica, via Hawaii and Australia, up the Red Sea, they dug the Suez Canal (he didn't know that was what it was called, but he could see the need for it), cruised through the Mediterranean, and ended up in the Arctic. While he's describing his voyages, I try to keep up with him by identifying the places they touch at, but it can be tough to speak as fast as he moves. Eventually, we put away the map and looked at the atlas page for Germany (Friend Lion took E on an adventure up the Rhine to Bavaria). We read a library book, Mercedes and the Chocolate Pilot, about the Berlin airlift in 1948 when the Soviets blocked all the land routes to West Berlin and the Allies flew in supplies, including candy for the children. We also read "The Musicians of Bremen" in Stories from Around the World. We then looked at pictures in a library book about Germany. P and E each made a book, though E got distracted as usual and his picture of a car turned into an experimental colour-combining page. P wrote "Germany" on the cover, drew the flag herself, coloured in the map I drew for her, and drew a car, a castle, a cuckoo clock, 2 sausages, and the Bremen musicians from the story (donkey, dog, cat, and rooster), labeling all of them.

After lunch, I took the kids to HMNS. We looked at the skeletons of the dinosaurs, mastodon, and giant ground sloth (apparently, part of a giant ground sloth skeleton was found right around where we live, which I thought was cool). We explored the chemistry section, which was designed for bigger kids but I explained a few things to them (while changing and nursing the baby - fun times). We headed upstairs to the gems and minerals, which are absolutely stunning. P and E both enjoyed looking at them. There is also a display of taxidermied African animals, arranged in exciting positions that you would never on your luckiest safari see in real life. Down in the basement is an exhibit, mostly defunct, on the Earth's surface, but there was a fluid flow demo with a large sphere filled with oily liquid (a bit like pearly liquid hand soap) that spun into turbulence when you turned the sphere, with more turbulence at the equator than the poles. There was also a bathymetric globe, with the elevations of everywhere on Earth with the oceans stripped off. We also visited the museum store, because I thought it was the most likely place to find magnets for the kids to play with, and I found a book entitled Bubbles, Rainbows, and Worms: Science Experiments for Preschool Children. It'll be nice to have a science experiment book I won't have to return to the library or worry about becoming overdue.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Week 18, days 3 and 4

Wednesday: Math. Yes, we did school on Wednesday, even though I got home much later than I expected to. Using math as an incentive for me was a good idea!After updating our calendar and having P read her reader and do her 5-a-day, I explained the concept of numerator and denominator using shapes drawn on the board. I drew a rectangle, divided it into 8 pieces, and coloured in 3 of them, and then wrote "3/8" and explained what the 3 and the 8 meant. I did another example with 1/3, and then P picked up the chalk, drew a rectangle, divided it into 12 pieces, coloured in 4 of them, and wrote "4/12". We'll work on reducing fractions later on; for now I was excited at how quickly and easily she grasped the concept. That done, we headed downstairs (where my father-in-law was in the middle of a science experiment of his own - he's looking at silicate contents of water samples taken from the same place at different temperatures to determine how much more carbon might be sequestered through erosion and plate tectonics as the global temperature increases - he thinks it might end up being a negative feedback mechanism that will make global warming much less bad than everyone says). I like that real science is happening around my kids. Anyway, I hauled out the 1-cup, 1/2-cup, 1/3-cup, 1/4-cup and 1/8-cup measures, a deep baking tray, and a bag of rice. We played at predicting how many of each of the measures it would take to fill the 1-cup measure, and the kids grasped the pattern instantly. By then, it was time for P's ballet lesson, so the experimentation came to an end. While P was at ballet, I tied B to myself and raided the library, coming home with 10 books. The selection included a book about bees (to reinforce Tuesday's Titmouse Club lesson), and a counting/adding book called "Splash!".

Thursday: Bible and Music. In CBS today, the kids learned about the parable of the Good Samaritan, and their craft was to make "first-aid kits" (Chinese take-out boxes filled with Band-aids and other such items). Before we started school for the day, P hauled out her violin and asked me to play along with her, which I did. (She plays open strings at random, and I try to pick something in a key that will work fairly well with most of the open strings). Once she'd put her violin away, I introduced the next catechism question and a memory verse: Proverbs 3:5-6. We then did our calendar, and I had P do the last copywork that we didn't get to on Monday. While she was doing her 5-a-day, I worked on folding laundry (our dryer gave up the ghost, so laundry has been accumulating until the new one arrived this morning while I was at CBS - getting caught up on laundry was a top priority). As a result, I wasn't around to give instant feedback, so she made a couple of mistakes. She didn't take kindly to being corrected when I got back, though I repeatedly told her that mistakes are an opportunity to learn better and everyone makes mistakes. Once that was over, we read two Bible stories: Jesus clearing the temple, and the Good Samaritan. Then, we acted out the story of the Good Samaritan: P was the Samaritan, I was the priest and the Levite, a doll was the wounded man by the side of the road, and E was the audience (he refused to be in the play). After that, we headed downstairs and worked on learning the hymn "Holy, Holy, Holy". P practiced putting her thumb on C and the other fingers on D-G, and I called out finger numbers for her to play for a very short time (she got bored quickly). One of the library books I acquired yesterday was about insects, and the kids badgered me to take them on an insect-finding walk, which we did after B had awakened from his nap and nursed for a rather long time. On the walk we didn't find an astonishing number of insects, partly because it's still February and partly because the kids kept running on ahead. However, we did lift a few rotting logs and notice a couple of critters before they had a chance to scurry away, and P stepped quickly enough into an anthill that they didn't get a chance to bite her but we did get a chance to look at them.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Week 18, days 1 and 2

So far, this new schedule is working well, particularly in terms of my not feeling stressed out.
Monday: Language Arts. I started the day singing the Doxology (since I didn't introduce a new memory verse or catechism question last week and I'm waiting 'til Thursday to introduce this week's). P did her math 5-a-day and, when she was almost done, I did this week's SSGMR activity with E. It involved talking about "families" - for example, "mitten, glove, sock, boot" being in the "clothing family". E was supposed to figure out which of 3 items didn't belong in the same category. He struggled with this. But then, I struggled with some of them, too, because I think too creatively (or, at least, that's the excuse I came up with). I think if the activity were to find the odd one out of 4 items where the other 3 matched, it would be much easier.

We did almost the entire week's worth of Sonlight Language Arts. The only thing we didn't get to was the second copywork sentence. P did the first copywork (traced, focusing on neatness, and copied, focusing on neatness again), read the reader, did the "vowel worksheets" (it was a review week, instead of introducing a new letter), and wrote a thank-you note. We discussed it and I wrote it down for her from dictation, and then she "copied" it. She struggled to keep her place while copying, so I ended up spelling each word for her instead, but she did a beautiful job (though still with occasional b/d reversal). Mom and Dad, you'll enjoy her handiwork. I decided after she'd worked that hard on writing the thank-you note, it would be too much to ask her to do the second sentence of the copywork as well. We may do it another day, or we may not. We'll see.

Tuesday: Science. We went to Titmouse Club this morning, and the topic was bees. P was fascinated by the pictures of the bees' life cycle - they start out as eggs the size of a grain of rice, turn into larvae that look like little worms, then become pupae (like caterpillars, they metamorphosize) and then small bees. Once they're big enough, they leave their hexagonal holes and get to work. E was interested to learn that bees' antennae help them smell, touch, and taste. Since Ari's brother keeps bees, we've explained to them the honey-making process, so that wasn't new to them, but they certainly enjoyed tasting honey at Titmouse Club.

After Titmouse Club, we updated our calendar (cold today! they're even tentatively predicting a tiny amount of white stuff tonight) and P read her reader. We then went to the kitchen to make coconut milk. The kids had seen coconuts for sale when we went grocery shopping a few days ago, so I agreed to buy one. We drilled a hole in the coconut with a corkscrew, and the kids helped pour the coconut water into a bowl. They watched in amusement as I dropped the coconut on the stone floor several times to crack it in half, and then we scraped out the flesh. Some of it was moldy, unfortunately (does anyone know how to pick a coconut that won't be moldy?), so I used a vegetable peeler to get rid of the mold on the bits that were salvageable, and we whirled the good bits, the coconut water, and 2 more cups of hot water in the blender. Then we strained the resulting slurry through a dishcloth, and the result was coconut milk in a jug and shredded coconut in the dishcloth. I used the shredded coconut in making muesli, and I'm still deciding what we'll use the coconut milk for. Curry comes to mind, as does coconut rice, but if I can come up with a simple dessert that the kids can help with, that'll be more popular with them. After lunch, P did her 5-a-day math review, but after that I was tired, and asked the kids to play in their room while I took a nap with the baby. It's great that they can be asked to play quietly for an hour and they actually do it!

Now I've made P's 5-a-days for the rest of the week, and planned tomorrow's math lesson (fractions - first, exploring with measuring cups, then discussing the concepts of numerator and denominator). Bedtime!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Week 17, day 5

Over the past few days, I've been mulling over our school schedule, how much I try to get done in a day, and how many of my great ideas I don't have time for. (I didn't have time even before the baby was born, and now...). In a few places (blogs, books), I've run across the idea of doing just one main subject per day, along with minimal necessary review (reading, math), and it rather appeals to me. We tend to take a long time over each subject each day, and if I limit the number of subjects that we try to cover, I think we'll be able to cover as much material without it eating up as much time. So my current plan is to at least try the following.

DAILY:Current memory verse and catechism review, calendar update, reader, math 5-a-day, and E's "school" (reading a book or doing a SSGMR activity). Then proceed to the daily subject. In the afternoon, encourage P to practice what she's learned in piano so far (which takes literally 2 minutes at this point).

MONDAY: Language Arts. Introduce the letter for the week, have P do all the copywork (this is the part I'm least sure will work, so I'll be flexible), the creative expression assignment, and introduce the reader.

TUESDAY: Science. We go to Titmouse Club on Tuesdays anyway, so this will fit in nicely. I'll try to get library books on the topic covered by Titmouse Club, and failing that on anything else I think the kids will be interested in. We can find plenty of science experiment books at the library, and the kids will go wild.

WEDNESDAY: Math. Wednesdays are the days I'm most tempted to give up and not do school at all, and since I LOOOOOVE (insert huge heart here) math with a passion, this will make me super-eager not to be lazy. We can play math games, bake together after P's ballet lesson (hooray for kitchen math), and do formal lessons sometimes too.

THURSDAY: Bible, Music. Since we're already in Bible Study in the mornings, we can discuss what the kids learned in Bible Study. They'll be thrilled to read more than one Bible story in a row, since they often beg for me to read "just one more". We can spend more time discussing stories and perhaps acting them out or illustrating them, and we'll introduce the new catechism question and memory verse. Then we can go down to the piano room and play rhythm games, etc and I can teach P the next installment of her piano lesson. I may even get around to implementing the idea I had at the beginning of the academic year of learning a hymn each month.

FRIDAY: Geography. We can read about the country of the week, and P will have time to spend making a little book about it. If I'm super organized, we can even find a recipe for food from that country and make it.

So today, I tried out the idea with it being "Geography Day". I decided that P was reading this week's reader well enough that we didn't need to review it, so we updated our calendar, she did her math 5-a-day, and we went straight on to geography. We read (well, looked at and discussed pictures in) a book about Norway, and leafed through a weekly pictorial calendar of Norway. P then made a book, featuring a flag, a map, a Sami person (from Lapland), a reindeer, a person skiing, a glacier, and another thing I've currently forgotten. Although I hadn't chosen a recipe in time, I plan to make Norwegian heart waffles with the kids for breakfast tomorrow morning.

I found the new schedule more relaxing. I think moving the math review, particularly, to the beginning of the morning helped P do it more quickly because she was less tired. While P was working on the last bit of her 5-a-day (which she can do independently), I redid the SSGMR activity for the week with E. It was a version of "Kim's Game", where I showed him 4 items and then removed 1, and he had to tell me what I'd removed. He did significantly better this time than the first time we tried it, guessing the item instantly 3 of the 4 times we played. He made his own book, too, while P was making her Norway book, though E's didn't have a consistent theme.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Week 17, day 4

We didn't do school yesterday, because the kids went to the zoo with their grandmother and got back later than usual, just as the baby needed to nurse for a good half hour, by which time the kids were involved in another activity that looked like it was more worthwhile than 45 minutes of stressed-out school would be.

Bible (Catechism, Bible story, memory verse): We finished our review of the catechism questions and memory verses learned so far, and read about the Transfiguration.

Calendar (Update day of week and date of month, record weather and temperature): I let the kids play on the swings once we'd observed the weather, and used that time to nurse the baby, so this segment of school took longer than usual. When the kids got inside, I read them a chapter of "Pippi Longstocking" - this was one of my favourite books as a kid.

Handwriting: P wrote 2 days ago's sentence from dictation. She did pretty well - she really has a good grasp of basic phonics.

Language Arts: P read her reader fluently. There was a "story sequencing" activity, where she needed to put an out-of-order story into the correct order. She totally aced this. At the beginning of the year, she struggled and whined, but now she had no problem at all. It's so neat to see her learning!

E's "school": This didn't happen today, as he wandered off in boredom while I was doing P's language arts and he seemed to be happily occupied in play downstairs when I was going to do his activity with him. Play is important for learning, too, especially for a 3-year-old. (ALMOST FOUR, as he'll emphatically remind anyone who mentions his age). He did announce at lunch, "A quintillion bytes is an exobyte!". I think Ari told him this a few days ago, and he remembered it perfectly.

Math (5-a-day, other activities): P informed me yesterday that her favourite part of school is math, and she loves doing her 5-a-days. I guess I succeeded in revamping how I was setting them up. She has really gotten the hang of putting together and counting coins - I asked her to make 42 cents using as few coins as possible, and she grabbed, in order, a quarter, a dime, a nickel, and 2 pennies. It's really satisfying to see how much she's learned.

Geography and/or science: We didn't do this today; I plan on spending much of tomorrow looking at our library book and pictorial calendar of Norway and having P make a book about it.

Other: I showed P how to put her right hand with thumb on C and remaining fingers on the adjacent keys so that she can play C, D, E, F, G. She did this really well. I didn't try to offer E the opportunity, because he was busy playing elsewhere and I don't want to push it and make him lose interest. After dinner, B would NOT go to sleep (and he was clearly exhausted), so I put him in the mei tai (baby carrier) and played Brahms' Rhapsody in G Minor - it totally conked him out. He didn't mind the mistakes induced by my hands hitting him en route to the correct key. Unfortunately, once I transferred him to his crib, he only slept another 10 minutes or so. Bah.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Week 17, day 3

Bible: We continued reviewing catechism questions and memory verses, and read the story of Jesus blessing the children and telling his disciples that they needed to become like children to enter the kingdom of heaven.

Calendar: It was slightly warmer today, and sunny. The kids were inclined to argue with me when I told them that 12:30 was pm, not am, but I think we got the reason straightened out.

Handwriting: P traced a sentence of copywork well after I complained about her performance on the first two letters.

Language Arts: P was to draw a box around 2 words that rhymed on her copywork, and she chose 2 words that didn't rhyme but did end with the same letter (that, pot). When I told her they didn't rhyme, she was upset. I explained that the vowel sound had to match as well as the final consonant, and she insisted that she'd never be able to remember that. I gave her a few examples to practice with, and she got all of them right, so I think she didn't feel as hopeless about her chances of remembering after that. She finds getting anything wrong upsetting, though I try to be gentle and encouraging when she does - I think she's just a sensitive child.

E's "school": I selected 4 random objects (a piggy bank, a small toy clock, a chalkboard eraser, and some Legos), showed them to E, and then removed one while he closed his eyes. He was hardly ever able to guess which item I'd removed, only after numerous iterations and with lots of help. We'll stick with this activity for the rest of the week, I think, to give him practice.

Math: On P's 5-a-day, I had her measure 2 identical lines, one in inches and the other in cm, and I showed her that 2 inches is almost exactly 5 cm. She seemed to grasp this pretty well. She's gotten good at using quarters with other coins to make, for example, 38 cents. At lunch she spontaneously told me, "You can make 60 cents using 4 coins - 2 quarters and 2 nickels."

Geography and/or Science: We made it to Titmouse Club today - hooray! (Doing any activity that involves riding in the car with the baby always feels like a major accomplishment). The theme was critters that live in the soil. They discussed ants, beetles, millipedes, moles, and particularly earthworms. The kids learned that earthworms eat dead leaves, their poop is good for soil, and they are both boys and girls (hermaphrodites - though they didn't burden the preschoolers with that vocabulary). Each child was given a pie dish full of soil from the compost bin to poke through, and a magnifying glass to investigate the findings, and both P and E found red worms (the composting kind) in their soil. They were also permitted to hold a millipede.

Other: I wanted E to practice finding C on the piano, and he informed me that he was too tired (right after bouncing and leaping down the stairs). I refused to accept this as an excuse, but gave him the option of saying, "I'm not too tired, I just don't want to." This I accepted. I invited him to play "Simon Says" with P and me, and he told me again that he was too tired. Again, I refused to accept this as an excuse, but I permitted him to tell me he didn't want to, and after a few rounds he'd changed his mind. He didn't change his mind on finding C, though, and I didn't push it. I'll just move on with P, and if E decides to show an interest, I'll work with him again. (P happily and easily played all the Cs on the piano).

Monday, February 15, 2010

Week 17 resumed (day 2)

I started today with very few expectations of what we'd get through, but B is still at the "paperweight stage" - when you put him down somewhere, he stays there - which makes it easier to work with P and E than it will be once he's mobile. I was pleasantly surprised at how much we got done today.

Bible (Catechism, Bible story, memory verse): We reviewed the first 12 catechism questions and the most recent 4 memory verses, and read the story of Jesus calming the storm. B sat happily on my lap during this time.

Calendar (Update day of week and date of month, record weather and temperature): The weather was quite chilly today (low 40s Fahrenheit), but the kids described it as "cool" rather than "cold" because the sun was out (which it wasn't a few days ago). It's interesting to see how the degree of sunlight affects one's perception of the temperature. B took a nap at this time, so I didn't take him out in the cold.

Handwriting: P wrote the words she'd traced last time we did school as a dictation exercise. I reminded her about how to make "d" and "b", and she still mixed them up. It'll come, I know. She recognizes them better than she used to, it's mainly forming them when she's writing that she struggles with.

Language Arts: Today's activity involved choosing a character from a story and describing what it would be like to be that character. P chose Cinderella and did a fairly good job of putting herself into Cinderella's shoes, but needed a lot of help putting together a coherent description. That's okay - she'll get better with practice. Her reading demonstrates this - she read the reader for the week with very little trouble.

E's "school": We read a large number of poems from a book called "Read-Aloud Rhymes for the Very Young". The SSGMR activity for several weeks ago (which I decided to do today) involved giving E instructions using various prepositions - crawling under the table, walking around a stuffed animal, standing between 2 pieces of furniture. He rather enjoyed this, and P asked me to do the same for her, which I did. Then P offered to hold B (who was awake by this stage) and gave me similar instructions, but I became nervous about how she was holding him and curtailed the activity.

Math (5-a-day, other activities): P did her 5-a-day smoothly and quickly, having forgotten less than I would have thought during the almost 3-week break. She needed a few reminders, which I gave her.

Geography and/or science: After lunch, we went for a walk by the bayou. B fussed but didn't cry for much of the walk, which made me more eager than P and E to get home. It may be that he was mildly uncomfortable in the baby carrier. P and E both pulled pieces of fungus off a fallen tree, and E discovered that his piece floated. P found a long palm branch, and it stayed with us (at least in part) during the entire walk. At the end, what was left of the palm branch was turned into a "hot rod" which the children rode on as fast as they could run (this week's reader features a hot rod being stopped by a cop).

Other: I reviewed finding C on the piano with both P and E. E struggled a lot, so I'll keep reviewing it with him. I may move on with P, but haven't decided yet.