Thursday, August 30, 2012

There IS No 15

Day four of our new school year is coming to a close, and what a busy week it's been! The hardest part, to be perfectly honest, has been motivational - and I don't mean the children. Lesson planning is so much more difficult when you have to dig for each subject, rather than just flip to the next page of the book. A Pinterest-based education is therefore not for everyone. If you're not willing to put in the man hours...don't even consider it. (And with that said, I'm struggling to find time for it myself right now, with all of our "extracurriculars." But I'm nowhere close to throwing in the towel just yet.)

So, things we've done this week...

- We're sticking with our daily devotions - Keys for Kids* for Rachael and God & Me for Milly. However, I really need to find something more "meaty" for Rachael. We could finish up the Bible Study for All Ages curriculum that we started last year, I'm really not feeling it right now. (It's a great curriculum, but it's a little draining trying to do two levels at once.) So I'm on the lookout for a really great, and preferably free, Bible program to follow with the add to our daily devotions and A-Z memory verses. (This week: "As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord." Joshua 24:15 Both of the girls have got it down pat!)

- Rachael has done a little more in last year's English book, but we've added cursive handwriting (her printing still isn't great, but it's just time), played Grammar Bingo (awesome for jogging memory on parts of speech), and even spent a whopping $3.50 on a download called 150 10-Minute Writing Journal Prompts, which was money well spent since I certainly don't have 150 age-appropriate writing topic ideas at the moment.

- Milly and I have continued to practice reading this week. We have a set of letter tiles that we play with, rearranging them into different words, and she is doing SO well! She can read any three-letter word I throw her way, although sometimes she needs help remembering the sounds that e and i make. I've even thrown a few four-letter words her way (not those kinds of four-letter words) and she's sounded them out too. Phonics all the way for us, baby...none of this sight word business, not yet.

- Rachael will be catching up on last year's Math-U-See (multiplication) for the foreseeable future. We struggled with math like nothing else, because she just plain doesn't like it...and truth be told, I never cared much for it either. But it's a necessary evil and we're making it as painless as possible. She doesn't seem to mind multiplication as much as other things (and was amazed at the 9x finger trick), and is still enjoying geometry on Time4Learning*.

- We dug a K/1 math workbook out of the recesses of the homeschool cabinet that hadn't been touched, and Milly has been making quick work of it (20 pages in four days, with only a few pages to go!) She's a great little counter, except that she can NOT remember the number 15. She skips it every single time, and ignores me if I jump in with it while she's counting. I'm starting to wonder if maybe there is no 15, and I'M the delusional one... At any rate, we made this cute counting game out of a paper plate and clothespins (which we already had) to help her get a grasp on those tricky teen numbers. Instead of starting at 1, our plate has numbers 11 through 20. And I didn't cut off the edges to make it nice and flat, so once all the pins are on, it stands up "like a crab." Bonus! She's also played a few math games online from this site, but wasn't really a fan. We'll try them again another time, though...I'm hoping they'll be good solo work when I need to spend more time with Rachael.

- I really and truly stink at science. I'm more of a "sit down and talk at them" kind of homeschooler, and that doesn't really work for science. So Rachael still does science at Time4Learning*, and we've pulled a couple of easy experiments off Pinterest to get us started. First of all, we made rain...

...which, of course, meant a discussion about how hot air/cold air/moisture in the air work together to form rain. It didn't rain a LOT in our jar, but there was definitely water rolling down the sides - and it did rain quite a bit when we lifted the plate!

Today we did the old standard planting-a-lima-bean thing - but this time, we planted it in a CD case so we can see everything that happens. Not as easy as you would think, actually. But it's in there.

Who needs a shovel when you've got a spoon?
- Read rave reviews on Pinterest about Dance Mat Typing, so I started Rachael on it yesterday. The cartoon characters are cute, but she says their voices are super annoying. I say she might just have to deal with it. The first lesson taught her about the home row keys and had her practice typing with her fingers on them - just letters at first, then short words (a, as, add, all, ask, etc.) She wasn't as excited about typing as I thought she'd be, but brightened up a bit when I told her that she needed to learn to type if she was going to help me write this blog. And so, without further ado, some (completely UNedited) comments from Rachael - who actually made her font a much pinker pink than is available from Blogger.

Hi  it’s Rachael here, So far school has been (mostly) really fun .Especially today I’ve been  writing a  book ,(for my friend  Ayden ) .I got an A+ on a math test;-).I finished a 111 page book in 30-40 minutes , and had a fun science project (even if it didn’t work  L)

Ok I have to go write a (maybe) award winning book   Jsee you later                                                                   

Have a good time pinning -Rachael

* Previously mentioned Pinterest activity - see links page.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Back to school!

Today was our first day of school! It began, as our first days of school always do, with a first day sign to color (and a brand new box of crayons) at each girl's seat at the kitchen table.

I started printing the signs for the first day of school back when Rachael started kindergarten, and have continued to make them each year since. I just like my pictures, you know? Besides, the girls never mind coloring. I didn't realize until Sunday evening, though, that they actually look forward to their signs. Milly asked me first if they would have signs to color the next morning, and when I told her that she would, she whispered "yessssss." Rachael was excited about fresh, new crayons - like her mommy, she loves the new crayon smell. It really is the little things, isn't it?  :)

My plan was to try a new recipe for breakfast - from Pinterest, of course. However, helpful daddy unintentionally ruined that. He gets home from work around the time we roll out of bed in the mornings, and I was a little slow to make my appearance this morning. When I emerged from the bedroom, I smelled...cinnamon rolls. Which isn't a bad thing, since cinnamon rolls, cut into smaller chunks, are an ingredient in the breakfast I had planned to make. But I quickly noted that the bowl, pan, cinnamon, and vanilla were still sitting, untouched, on the kitchen counter. Gene had come home and, discovering cinnamon rolls in the refrigerator, assumed that they must be the "special breakfast" I had mentioned. He really was trying to be helpful, and I appreciate it...but I was a little disappointed. On the bright side, we'll just have two special breakfasts this week.

So the girls colored their signs (Milly finished much more quickly - not because she's careless or messy, but because Rachael decorated each letter with elaborate designs), we ate, and it was time to get started.

We always begin with a devotion. I'm using a great little-kid devotion book that we already had for Milly (God & Me), but I found great devotions for older kids on Pinterest for Rachael. The website is called Keys for Kids and, although I pinned that particular image myself, I wasn't the first to add it to Pinterest. I just couldn't resist repinning with a better picture. Today's devotion was a great reminder about forgiveness, especially given the multitude of things that we're forgiven for. Best of all - these devotions are free and delivered to my inbox every morning!

In addition to the devotion, we started using the Character Crew lessons, which I'd been meaning to do for quite some time and finally have time for. We talked about being respectful - especially as it applies to your own family - and will hang on to that trait this week before moving on to the next one. We've had a few sass issues lately that I'm hoping this little project will help rectify!

Next came science, at the girls' requests. I kept it super simple for the first day, and attempted to recreate the really neat "walking water" pin. The paper towel is supposed to conduct the water from the higher glass (with blue-tinted water) into the lower glass. Didn't work so well for us. To begin with, the water moved soooooo slowly - but it gave the girls something to keep checking on through the morning. Then, the water only made it about halfway across. It actually moved along better once we moved the top glass down to the same height as the second glass, but ALL of the water still didn't cross over. So the girls learned that experiments don't always go the way they should!

We did English/reading while we waited for the water to mosy into the second glass. We didn't quite finish Rachael's Learning Language Arts Through Literature book last year, so we'll wrap it up first. She started a unit on newspapers this morning, and was researching early newspaper writers in this picture. In her pajamas, of course, because that's how we roll around here.

Then we made a reading log to help us keep up with the books she reads this year and their genres. Her nose is constantly in a book, but I thought it would be neat for her to see a) just how many she reads and b) what kinds of books she reads. Assuming that the genre chart will be a little lopsided, I'll challenge her later on even it out a bit.

Milly really, really wants to read, and she's doing a great job. She can sound out lots of three-letter words already - but she has a tendency to guess at the word rather than paying attention to the letters. Once we get past that, she'll be reading in no time.  :)  We're using Happy Phonics, which is a play-based phonics curriculum. Afterward, she played word-building games on Starfall, which I already knew about, but people pin all the time too!

Later, she asked to trace letters, so I remembered this pin that I had just added - customizable handwriting worksheets. Typed in the alphabet, printed, and she was a happy girl. My little lefty is surprisingly meticulous about her handwriting.

Lunch time! Rachael made her own, and I could hardly argue.

After lunch, Rachael did a science lesson (reading charts, graphs, and tables) and a few math lessons (geometry) on Time4Learning, which we adore. She also took advantage of her daily reading time to hide in her room with a book for a while. She finished whatever it was that she was reading and started on Bridge to Terabithia for a second time...instead of The Westing Game, which I LOVE and checked out of the library for her to read. *sniff*

Milly napped with Daddy while Rachael and I did more math - two lessons (and tests) in the Math-U-See book that we also didn't finish last year. As much as the child hated learning to add and subtract, she's really enjoying multiplying and finding area. Needless to say, that makes math time MUCH more pleasant!

With dinner time fast approaching, it finally occurred to me that the girls should get dressed and head outside for their first day of school pictures. By the time we did them, the lighting was please excuse the shadows and squinty eyes. (I think they're pretty cute regardless.)

While I got ready for an evening meeting and Gene cooked dinner, Rachael read to her sister on the couch - something that I had meant to do myself, but hey, it's good for Rachael to have practice reading aloud too. Win-win-win for us three girls! (Milly made sure I got to read two books to her at bedtime to make up for it.)

I didn't get around to math with Milly today, or history with Rachael, but the first day of a new school year is always laid back. We'll get there. And we're off to a great start.  :)

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Pinterest Academy: or, The Year of Pinning Dangerously

I have a Pinterest problem. No, really. We're talking 120 boards with 4,779 pins...mostly unique, although I do have a tendency to repin things that I've forgotten I already pinned sometimes. (I hear it happens a lot to us addicts.)

And they're pretty well organized, if I do say so myself. Sometimes I'll find myself with a board that has just too many pins and feel compelled to sort it out into separate boards so I can find things more easily. That's how I started out with one board called Home Sweet Homeschool, and ended up with separate homeschooling boards for Bible, geography, health, math, reading, and science. Plus the original homeschooling board, of course, which you know I can further break down into even more subjects.

It was while I was repinning awesome homeschooling ideas late last night that it occurred to me - Pinterest can be either a blessing or a curse for a homeschooling mama. It can be a blessing in that you can find ideas for teaching very nearly anything...but then, it can be hugely frustrating in that there are so many wonderful ideas, and just not enough time to do even a very small fraction of them.

In fact, one would very nearly have to pull her entire homeschool curriculum from Pinterest in order to make good use of aaaaaaall those wonderful pins.

...her entire homeschool curriculum...

...from Pinterest.
It was a crazy idea. Curriculum = books, and lesson plans, and grades. Worksheets. We do Latin, for Pete's sake. And I've already mailed a letter to the county school superintendent informing him of the books that we'll be using for school this year.

Of course, I always include the following escape clause in that letter: "I value highly the freedom to make changes when a program of study or textbook is not proving effective, and will not hesitate to do so should the need arise."

So, even though he "approved my request" *snort* to homeschool this year, he was warned that I could change it up if I felt like it. I'm not sure he would be amused if I told him that I was thinking of a Pinterest-based curriculum. But it sure beats the things she would learn from other sites, like Facebook.

In fact, given everything that I currently have pinned (and the plethora of amazing ideas still waiting to be discovered), I dare say that my girls would have a very well-rounded education if I did rely primarily on Pinterest for subject matter this year. And do you know what else they would have? FUN. Something that's sometimes altogether too lacking in even a home school environment.

It would mean more work for me. I'd have to dig through aaaaaall those pins and plan ahead...times two, since Milly is starting kindergarten this fall. (Not that kindergarten is particularly curriculum-intensive anyway.) There would be crafty stuff involved, which would mean materials to be gathered and time taken to make whatever-it-is we were making.

Gene is a fan of the idea because to him, it would mean less money spent on books...but I'm sure money would be spent on other materials instead. Probably still on books, just not textbooks.

What it would really come down to, in the end, is me. It would work if I did my job. But then, couldn't the same be said about any one of our years of homeschooling?

Stipulations would have to exist. Some existing materials would have to be used. End-of-year test scores would still be submitted. But no new curriculum would have to be purchased. 
All I would need is Pinterest and a little time to plan.

And wouldn't we have so much fun?

Wouldn't this be a school year that Rachael would remember - if not for the sheer novelty of it all, but for all the unique activities?

Wouldn't this be a very cool first ("real") year of school of Milly?

Isn't it cool to explore uncharted territory?

And really...WHAT harm could it do?

So. School starts on Monday. I am unofficially dubbing this school year: PINTEREST ACADEMY.

I am going to do my best to blog it, because I know a few people that would kick me if I didn't. Are you ready? Here we go...