Saturday, November 10, 2012

The handwriting lesson he actually enjoyed

Beeper has been showing a lot of interest in writing lately. I wanted to mostly let him develop this interest on his own, but he was starting his letters and numbers all over the place, so I decided to try again teaching the correct way to write them.

Rather than suffer a second time through what didn't work before, I decided to approach things the way I learned in my calligraphy classes. I introduced Beeper to letter families.

I started him out with the letter "c." I had him trace the soft letter first, then write it in his cornmeal tray several times. It was an easy letter from him to draw, so he was pretty happy with himself.

Then I got out the "a" and showed him how an "a" starts out as a "c". He liked that too and traced, then drew "a" over and over. I got out a few more letters, all that are begun by drawing a "c."
He caught on well and was so happy with himself for how his letters were turning out. He was especially proud of his first attempt at "g" and had me photograph it for him.
Since his interest was still strong, I got out his wipe board with the lines on it and showed him how each letter that he had worked on fit in the lines. "I want to try too!" he said. I put one on each line so that he could make a row of each letter.
You can see he was fooling around a little, especially on the first row. Recently I taught him about serifs, so he was trying to add serifs to a few of his c's. He was really into this, though, and he finished up the whole thing without complaint.

The lesson did deteriorate when I tried to teach him about connecting the letters. He thought it was cool when I did it, but he had trouble doing it himself and quickly got frustrated.

The plan from here will be to tackle the "r" letters next (r, n, m, b, p). That should give him a general idea of where letters start, which should make it easy to learn the rest.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

geography and maps

I recently began the Montessori primary geography sequence with the boys. This is something I can do with all three of them together and still teach each boy on the level he is at. The truth is, I couldn't not do it with all of them. Once the land forms come out, everyone wants to participate.

I started getting out the land forms forms for Super Fish and Baloo a month or two ago to keep them happy while Beeper was doing school. We started with the island and lake, and every few days I would bring out a new pair and give the names. I tried to use the names as often as possible, and Super Fish has caught on pretty well to most of them. Beeper has learned them this time as well too. "Penninsula" has proved the biggest challenge to memory, and "isthmus" is a favorite (both to say and to play with).

Of course, Baloo just likes playing in the water and with the little cars and boats.

After a while I got out the three-part cards I made to go with the land forms. Super Fish likes matching, so I thought he would like matching the cards to the land forms, but he hasn't shown an interest yet. Beeper did did match words to pictures once and checked his work, but he wasn't real big on the activity.

I then introduced our land and water globe, then our continents globe. I used the small versions from my spoonflower shop. Super Fish likes picking up one of the globes, finding Panama and informing anyone who will listen, "Look! It's an isthumus!" He also likes looking at the pink continent, because pink is his favorite color.

This week we had a lesson on maps. The little boys lost interest early on, but I think Beeper enjoyed it. We started by making a map of the kitchen. We measured things and drew them onto a piece of graph paper. Then we talked about scale. I got out a map of our town and we talked about how the scale compared to our map of the kitchen. We found where our house is and traced the routes to a few places we go often. Then I got out our road atlas and looked up Nevada, and we compared the scale of that to the other two maps. We also talked about counties, because Beeper had asked about them on our last road trip when we passed a county line sign.

At some point in all this, Beeper began to lose interest, because he was distracted bu the graph paper. He had started doodling on it and was quite interested in the patterns he could make, so I left him to that.

Later I picked up where we had left off and showed him the mapquest app on my tablet. He had fun tracing routes along the roads and using the buttons to find gas, grocery stores, etc. Hopefully we'll get a chance to play on google earth sometime this week.

Next I plan to do a presentation (similar to this presentation from The Moveable Alphabet) to transition from the globes to the puzzle maps. It involves talking about not being able to see the whole globe at once, then cutting a clay globe in half and smashing the halves flat. Should be fun.

After that, I may also do some kind of activity that links everything together and shows the boys home inside town inside county inside state inside country inside continent one the world. Maybe even throw in the solar system. Maybe Beeper and I could make a book together.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Scouting as a curriculum

Beeper started Cub Scouts this year as a Tiger Cub. Our family has been involved in Scouting for a while because of church callings, and it is fun finally having a scout in the family, especially since I feel like I know what I'm doing as a scout parent.

It also provides us with a whole resource of school ideas. The Tiger book itself is a little light in that respect (being designed as an easy introduction to Scouting for both boys and their parents) but it does have a lot of good field trip ideas. What we are finding we really enjoy is the Academics and Sports program - a.k.a. belt loops and pins - the Cub Scout version of merit badges. There are a wide variety of subjects to pick from, so most anything a boy shows interest in can be found.

In fact, the schedule I mentioned in the last post was partly inspired by a belt loop. Beeper recently saved up to buy himself a Nintendo DS. That was one reason I was thinking about a more scheduled day - I didn't want him to end up just playing video games all the time. Then I remembered that one requirement for the video games belt loop is to work with a parent to make yourself a schedule which includes chores, homework and video game time, and do your best to stick with that schedule. That was when I realized that a schedule with Beeper's input would probably be more successful anyway, so we worked together on that.

He has also done more work on his rock collection (including writing labels for all the rocks), made a poster about Sweden, learned about the solar system, and researched how the brown pelican became endangered and the measures that were taken to protect it, which resulted in it recently being removed from the endangered species list - all for belt loops.

(I know what you're thinking. "There's an award for playing video games?" That is what I first thought when I heard they were adding a video games belt loop. It is actually pretty good, though. It uses something that interests the boys to teach responsibility, critical thinking and finances. It is the belt loop Beeper is the most proud of, and he is now working hard on the pin.)

A new excuse

When talking to other moms about homeschooling, they often feel they need to give excuses about why they don't or couldn't homeschool. I am sure other homeschoolers experience the same thing. Common excuses are: not organized enough, worried about being able to give a well-rounded eduacation, and worried about getting along with their children all day.

Recently, though, I heard an excuse I had not heard before. One mom told me, "I worry we would be too tempted to play every day and have fun instead of doing school." In my mind, I thought 'perfect candidate for homeschooling' and was tempted to say, "That's what works for us." Instead I tried to explain how taking advantage of learning opportunities in every day life is a more efficient and fun way to learn than sitting down to "do school" every day. I probably didn't explain as well as I should have, though.

Although, I did decide recently that we did need a little more structure to our day, once again. This time Beeper helped me work out a schedule (well, something in between routine and schedule) which includes a short school time every day. The only thing I require for school time is that we do a reading lesson every day (from "Learning to Read Using the Book of Mormon"), which usually takes 15 or 20 minutes (and has been working out very well). Then he gets to choose how to use the rest of school time. This week he's been choosing drawing lessons most days (we are currently in the still life section of "Drawing With Children" by Mona Brookes).

We also have read-a-loud time every day after lunch, which I think is a favorite time for both of us. When we started this new schedule a few weeks ago, I gave Beeper a few different options for books. He picked Harry Potter and has been loving it so much, we are already most of the way through the second book. (He has seen the movies, but he has declared that he likes the books better, "because you get to use your imagination.")

I think maybe this is one reason I have a difficult time talking to other moms about homeschooling. Ours is always changing and evolving. Maybe I am worried people will think we're just being wishy-washy and not really schooling.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Back in Session

We've been fairly unschooly for the last few months. Actually, I think Beeper and I were both on burn-out mode, so we were just really casual in our studies for a while. I wanted to post about some of the things we did (mostly we studied bugs), but we have been having a lot of computer and camera problems at our house. Now we are feeling renewed and are ready to get back to work on more formal learning. Because computer and camera problems persist, I probably won't be posting regularly for a while (I am typing this on my Kindle Fire, which is tedious and makes images and links very difficult), but I wanted to update you on our plans for the coming year: We will be using the same idea as the Four Year Plan, but at this point I have customized it to us, and we won't be using their book this year. Instead, for history we plan to follow volume 2 in Story of the World (We left off our studies at the Middle Ages anyway, so it works out well). For religion, we'll be in the New Testament. I think we'll probably use the New Testament Stories book and DVD, combined with the new Life of Christ videos from lds.org. We've started formal art lessons, because Beeper asked for them. We have been using "Drawing With Children" by Mona Brookes, and we are really enjoying it. I will have to scan some of Beeper's drawings when I can. We could already see changes in all his drawings after only a few lessons. He also likes going to the museum in town and drawing the animals and wagons there. We have started formal reading lessons too. When we were in Utah a couple of weeks ago, we picked up the first two (out of three) volumes of a curriculum called "Learning to Read Using the Book of Mormon" from the bargain table at Seagull (because it was really cheap, and I thought - why not?) It turns out Beepers really likes it and is already improving (mostly in confidence, but his fluency is also improving, because he's willing to practice. These claim to combine phonics and whole word reading, but the phonics portion focuses on word patterns and doesn't teach individual sounds, so if you wanted to use it, you'd want to teach sounds first yourself. In other words, it was perfect for where we were at. It has offered just the right amount of review for Beeper, and we like that we can choose exactly how much to do each day. Lessons only take a few minutes. Plus, I think Beeper likes the idea that he is reading the Book of Mormon, which adds extra incentive for him. At the rate we have been moving so far, it will take us about a year to finish the first volume, and it looks like Beepers will be reading a large number of high frequency words by then. We are not too worried about how long it takes Beeper to learn to read at this point, because we know that when he gets there, he will be a reader. He day-dreams about when he will be able to read things like the Borrowers or Leven Thumps by himself. We will continue to study science how ever the boys' interests take us and throw in the occassional Montessori-inspired activity for the little boys. I am excited about how things are going aroud here and feel we are on track with what is right for us.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Creative Problem Solving

I don't remember how it came up, but something in some conversation the other day related to having six six's. On a whim, I told Beeper, "If you can figure out what six times six is, I'll give you a prize." I know - Bad Mama for using external motivation - but I was really curious about what he'd do.

I was amazed at his solution. At first he tried it with his fingers, flipping six of his fingers up and down while counting at the same time, but that proved too tricky to keep track of.

I suggested he use something besides his fingers, wondering whether he would get out some of the bead material.

Instead, after a few minutes looking around in the library, he came out with six crayons and said he had an idea. He took his fork and put it in the middle of an open area of the table, then laid all the crayons on the left side. Then he moved the crayons to the right side of the fork, one at a time, while counting them. He continued to count as he moved them all back again to the left side. He repeated the process - over and back - three times and was able to give me his answer.

Not bad!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

When in Rome

I'm still trying to catch up from all the time I was without my computer. I am afraid my note-taking has diminished as well. Here's what can remember of our Rome studies.

Archways: This is what I remember most about Rome from all of those Art History courses. The Romans invented the arch, revolutionizing what could be done in architecture. Firebirdluver made a set of five large blocks that can be fit together into an archway. I showed the boys how to build the arch and what the keystone is. They love building it, then pulling the keystone out.

Our reading, unsurprisingly, consisted of select chapters in SOTW Vol, 1 and Magic Tree House: Vacation Under The Volcano. I blogged a little about how our reading about Roman emperors coincided with our learning about kings Saul and David in the Old Testament, which turned into a great civics lesson.

Masters of Time: This was another DVD firebirdluver picked up cheap somewhere and now we wish more episodes were available. Beeper watched it over and over, and one of the episodes happened to be about Mt. Vesuvius erupting. (The other one is Paul Revere.)

One thing I think would have been fun, but Beeper wasn't ready for it this time around, would have been to play this card game, which teaches about some of the Latin and Greek roots that are common in our words today.

Apparently what Beeper got out of our lessons on Ancient Greece and Rome is that there were those "people in the old times who gave us a lot of things, like roads and stuff." I would say that's sufficient comprehension for a kindergartner. Wouldn't you?

Oh, and he's a big fan of Triumphal Arches. I hope we get to see one some day.