Sunday, January 26, 2014

Week in Review: Oak Meadow Kindergarten ~ Week 3

Though today was a holiday, I still had our homeschool day planned out.  However, we decided to stay an extra day out of town and I had started to feel under the weather before we headed home.  So even though sister was ready to head up stairs and hit the books, mama convinced her that reading our story of the week together on the couch was as much as I could muster.  

We started working with our letter of the week today, forming it with our bodies,

and drawing it in the shape of a cat, who was featured in our (Beatrix Potter) story this week.

We spotted C's first thing this morning, on sister's pajamas! 

In addition to our daily verses, songs, and calendar, we started adding in some 'Brain Gym' to our circle time (seen above).  I attended a course on its theory and basic exercises last weekend, and sister hooked into it right away.  We use 4 movements for centering and focus every day and add in additional movements in other areas where we might need additional support (ie organization, calming).  

Today was baking day- this time, we used dough to create C shaped crescent rolls.  This time, we were much happier with the finished product, and the process was a hit as usual.

We enjoyed adding some drumming into our music time- when prompted, sister quickly came up with an idea of what and how to use something from around the house.

Brother, on the other hand, was a tough sell.

Things/I felt a but rushed today, given we were leaving that evening to stay with my parents before spending the rest of weekend on the mountain.  We had circle time and reviewed our math concept of 1 from last week, but from there, it was a frenzy of packing and preparing for a few days away.  I decided to put off a craft and science project for next week, when to my relief, we will be going over letters A B and C, so the projects will still tie in.  

I admittedly felt like I lost my groove this week with days "off" at the beginning and end of the week.  But I think therein was an important reminder that each and every moment- no matter when or where- presents its own unique opportunities for learning.  Case in point:


Science, math, & poetry in motion.  

Who could ask for anything more?  

Friday, January 17, 2014

Week in Review: Oak Meadow Kindergarten ~ Week 2

We started the week off with a circle time using new verses and songs for the week.  Our regular opening and closing verse our now posted on the wall in our school area although sister can already recite them from heart.

Our letter of the week is B.  One of our new songs incorporated a butterfly and I prompted sister to try and draw a butterfly using the letter B.  She created what she referred to as a butterfly family:

We also read our story for the week, Goldilocks and the Three Bears, which had an alternate ending to most of the versions we've read.  Sister identified the changes to the storyline when I asked her what was different and said she preferred the happy ending where Goldi and the bears became friends (me, too!). 

Sister had a doctor's appointment mid-day, so brother went to stay with his grandparents and the two of us had the opportunity to get into some crafting that would normally be difficult with his eager hands nearby.

The curriculum suggested making butterflies out of tissue paper and old-fashioned clothes pins- since we had standard clothespins lying around, I decided to just go with those.  We also had a plethora of tissue paper from the weekend's birthday festivities, so we had the option to create a variety of colored and patterned butterflies. 

When I laid the folded tissue papers on top of each other, sister had the idea to cut all of them at once-

Success!  I loved witnessing her satisfaction as she watched her creations come to life.

We happen to use clothespins for our hanging art display in the kitchen, so the butterflies have found a good home. 

We also tried melting some crayons between wax paper to fashion butterfly wings.  The directions on this one were a little vague, so I'm not sure that they turned out as intended but sister was quite happy with them. 

I'd envisioned putting them all over the windows, but she wanted to keep them together, again as a "family", and I was happy to let her take her own direction with this, even if  though this hasn't always been my inclination.

This was one of our longer crafting sessions and when I asked sister midway if she wanted to keep going or not, I was happy to hear her say "I want to do more because this is fun!".  Homeschool win.

We got out our new watercolor supplies out today to paint with the color yellow, emulating the sun which happened to be shining on this wintry day!  Sister labeled the initial elements of her drawing as the sun and a sunflower, and as she added detail, described it as "sweatiness coming down from the sun!". 

It wasn't long before brother swooped in for a take over of my painting which I happily obliged to. 

We headed outside later to try walking and running the shape of B and very much enjoyed the opportunity that this dry (!) and sunny day gave us for a much loved warmer weather activity.

Today, we reviewed what happened in the Goldilocks story we'd read.  We looked at the curriculum's example of how to turn a B into a bear, and sister made her best attempt, though she declared it looked more like a beaver and I'd have to agree.  Hey- it works!

The curriculum suggested we write an alternate ending for the circle time song we are singing about a butterfly and a beech nut tree, so sister put a spin on it through drawing and I dictated the story for her:

Later in the morning, we came together to review the songs we'd learned from the Wee Sing CD last week and went over the lyrics to two more.  Sister used a scarf to dance along with some of the songs which I regrettably did not capture on film.  I also found the original Wee Sing booklet (printed the year after I was born!) which has a finger play for each song or rhyme, some of which were new to me, too (hard to come by when you've taught preschool for a number of years).  We listened to the CD through lunch and up until nap time as I've found it makes a nice descent from upbeat and active into more quiet and peaceful songs. 

For our first morning of math this week, we had a discussion about the number 1.  I gave some examples of objects that are 1 whole with many parts (our bodies, trees) and sister excitedly looked at the book shelf and related this concept to books (with many pages!) and bookshelves (with many books!). 

As I plan to elaborate on more some time, sister has already mastered all of the content in the Kindergarten curriculum which made it tempting to bypass it.  But I feel convicted about the choice to be where we are having already seen her gain a deeper and more meaningful understanding of previously learned concepts in addition to all the creating and exploring she is doing on a daily basis. 

Here is the picture sister drew to symbolize 1 and the object that the story we read used to demonstrate a whole with many parts: the sun.

For science time, we took a look at the seeds we planted and drew/recorded some observations.  You'll notice sister using the block crayons to do some shading on the pictures of the seeds and above with her 1.  I'm please to see her using these (as recommended by Oak Meadow) with more enthusiasm since she was initially hesitant to let go of the control that finer tip writing utensils allow for (wonder where she gets that from...).



We'd spotted a sprout in the oranges as you can see in the above photo and drawing, but Daddy later confirmed that is was a weed from the garden and not one the product of one of our seeds.  This led to a good question and answer session between he and sister about the time it takes for plants to grow (since Mommy was fooled, too and this is definitely not her area of expertise!).

Note:  For all other content areas we are starting at the beginning of the curriculum year, but for science we skipped ahead to the corresponding season: winter.

Earlier in the week, I decided to try and promote a little more routine within our mornings.  I let sister know that before we could start school each day, she would need to get dressed, make her bed, and tidy (much preferred to the ill received "clean") her room.  Though met with some resistance initially, I was pleasantly surprised when this morning, she informed me she was going to get started before I even had a chance to prompt her!  My other goal has been to start circle time no later than 9, which we met maybe 3/5 days this week.  The special education teacher in me is going for a set criteria of 4/5 opportunities!

Onto math: to expand on the concept of number 1, sister drew a picture to represent her idea and I again dictated alongside.

We also got out a stash of popsicle sticks that, much to sister's dismay, I had been hoarding for a couple of weeks now.  First, we counted out 31 sticks since this is the maximum amount of days we can have in a month.  Then, we used the sticks to count by 5, bundling 3 groups of 5 and adding two solo sticks to show the 17 days we've had this month so far.  We counted ahead to see when the next time we could bundle our sticks would be (Monday!).  I regrettably cannot remember where I found this idea online, but it's out there somewhere.

We later used modeling clay to play around with letter B and number 1.  Sister created a tree from her number 1, and made a B structure dedicated to her mama B.

As you can see, sister has also gotten into the act of documenting her work.  I made and met a goal of only using our nice, new camera for photo taking this week, and hope to learn more and improve with time. 

Our final task of the week (and the most daunting for mama: going outside and doing science?!) was to build a terrarium out of a glass jar.  We went outside to uncover some shade loving plants that we could transplant, and it didn't take long before we'd found a tree next to our pond that had just the right bit of moss and soil.  We nestled it into our jar, watered it, covered it with plastic and a rubber band and positioned it in the kitchen windowsill. 

It turns out that taking a brisk walk in the fresh air didn't feel half bad either.

"Today was good, today was fun, tomorrow is another one." -Dr. Seuss

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Week in Review: Oak Meadow Kindergarten ~ Week 1

See prior post, "Our First Day of Homeschool"

Having read our first Beatrix Potter tale the evening before, sister reviewed what happened in the story by looking at the pictures and highlighting pieces she remembered.

Our next task was to incorporate the letter A into a gate which was featured in the story and contains the long a sound.  Sister whipped this out and was ready to move on, so I suggested she also choose a picture from the story to recreate.  Here's what she came up with:

I'd planned on baking bread today but had yet to make it to the store for the ingredients we were missing, so I had sister look over the recipe with me and make a list of what we needed.

A little extra love never hurt anyone, right?

After circle time, we headed downstairs to get our bread dough prepared.  Sister and brother had fun mixing and rolling the dough, but probably most enjoyed noshing on it.  Sister tried making a few different letters from her name, and she and I both made our own versions of the letter of the week:

True to form, I think I got something mixed up between the ingredients and/or bake time, so the bread cooked quickly and was a bit on the well done side, but it made the perfect accompaniment to our tomato soup at lunch time. 

While the bread was baking, we bundled up for some outside time.  I was admittedly hesitant, with the colder than normal temperatures and looming rain clouds.  But we I braved the conditions and sensing their contentment reminded me of how valued and worthwhile this time is. 

Sister walked and ran in the shape of an A,

and we found sticks to form a letter A.

We also collected fallen items to add to our seasonal table:

which in our case is really a seasonal box:

which in reality is a plastic container I plan to keep on a bookshelf in our upstairs school area.  I don't think our under 2years-old population of one would let us get away with anything that we couldn't keep contained when not in use. 

We also made paper snowflakes- a skill I'd long forgotten- thankfully my mother-in-law who happens to be a former Kindergarten teacher came to the rescue later in the week.  Added to the mix was cotton balls and leftover gems from our "treasure chest" (see Thursday, below).

To round things out, we enjoyed some music making, reciting songs we already know and attempting to learn some new ones from our Wee Sing CD and accompanying song book.

I accepted my first subbing gig at the beginning of the week, so the kids got to have grandparent time while I was away for the morning.  We've been attending a weekly library time aimed at brother's toddler age group, so they headed that way after aforementioned snowflake crafting under expert guidance. 

I asked if they could look for a book or two about seeds and growing things...

....the ex-Kindergarten teaching mother-in-law to the rescue, yet again.

I told sister we'd be planting seeds at the end of the week, so she started saving seeds she found in her fruit, eventually deciding she needed a seed box to contain them (sensible).

The last two days of the week are also supposed to be our math days, so today we spent time arranging our treasure box which is an idea I found on "Arithmetic Village".  I already had the miniature chest, so after $4 spent at the dollar store on gems and satchels, we were set. 

We filled 10 satchels with 10 gems each to help us in counting by 10s to 100, which sister has also been practicing on our wooden abacus ($10 at IKEA- I am all about finding and sharing good deals, if you haven't noticed). 

Since we'd been away all morning, we had another evening time circle which I'd been willing to forgo but sister insisted on. 

Note to self: don't forget to have circle before bed or you could be up for a mid-night session of candle lighting and finger-plays.

For our last circle time of the week, sister proudly recited one of the songs we'd been learning all by herself.  She loved acting out one of our other weekly verses and the closing verse each day through movement.

Since today was another math day, we put together a calendar that we can use to aid in number recognition, sequencing, identifying patterns, etc. 

I purchased a large piece of poster board at the dollar store and had some left over glittery foam pages from another project, so this project came in at under $3.  We didn't have a measuring stick to help create the lines, so we decided that a belt would be long enough to do the trick.  Sister wrote out the name of the month on a piece of paper that we taped on so we can switch it  out month to month.  For the days of the week, we wrote each day in crayon using the matching Waldorf color.  We added each of the days that have passed so far this month, and sister created and attached a heart to her birth-day as a reminder of the special occasion.

Nothing fancy and far from perfect, but it was fun, easy, and inexpensive (kind of our three major requirements around here).

After reading a few of our books about seeds from the library, we gathered up some soil from our sleeping outdoor garden beds to plant both the orange seeds sister had been collecting and the avocado seed that the curriculum suggested for this activity.  However, the proposed activity was not even close to what we actually did, which told mama that she needs to consult said curriculum and not just her chicken scratch notes before diving in next time.  Maybe I should have taken a cue from sister's apparent skepticism as I snapped this pre-planting photo:

At any rate, each of our seed types is in a soil filled plastic cup sitting in our kitchen window sill and we're looking forward to keeping tabs on what comes up (or doesn't) over the coming weeks.

In another twist of coincidence, or fate, sister had long ago decided she wanted to have a dirt cake for her birthday this year.  Our evening hours were spent measuring, mixing, and worming our final project for the week before the following day's celebration.

Life is sweet.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Our First Day of Homeschool

Our first day of homeschool was all planned out by yours truly, after months of forming ideas and weeks spent putting them to paper. 

Before I'd really turned my homeschool brain on, I had set up a play date at our house with a friend from sister's old preschool class who she adores and hadn't seen in a couple of months.  I thought about cancelling so we could follow the day's plan to a tee, but decided that this experience would be just as meaningful as anything I had conceived.

Sister and friend had a grand time going to "the beach", parading around the house while playing a variety of instruments, and sharing a snack with their baby brothers.  I can't necessarily quantify what we were learning here, but the quality was clear. 

When I sat down to lunch with the kids, sister and I talked about whether or not she still wanted to attend an afternoon preschool program two days a week as she'd done the past couple of months.  It's the classroom supported by our local education service district (and my former employer) which serves preschool age children with special needs where sister had acted as a 'model peer'.  When her dad and I discussed it, we decided we would wait and make a game time decision, ultimately leaving it up to sister.  She wavered back and forth a bit as we ate our tuna mac n cheese, but ultimately declared that she wanted to go.  If she's willing, I am, too, because I believe early childhood education gets a lot of things right.  More on that another time.

After scurrying to get ready and driving the few minutes there and back, brother went down for a nap and I set to work reviewing this week's plan and penciling in some of the adaptations we'd already made or would need to make based on our recent change in plans.  I took the time to outline next week's schedule and am hope to continue fitting this in a week or so in advance so I have plenty of time to gather any items around the house or at the store.

From there, we were off to a rehearsal we had just been made aware of the day before.  Our local theatre company held auditions over the weekend for their annual winter children's show which sister had hoped to try out for until we found out they were seeking kids over age 8 and she is not quite 5.  However, the musical director and I did a show together earlier this year so she knew of sister's passion to get her turn on stage and when not enough "big kids" tried out, she extended an invitation for sister to play the part of "Mouse #3".  As luck (or fate) would have it, the show is "The Adventures of Beatrix Potter" which includes sister's scene in "The Tailor of Gloucester".  Our homeschool curriculum relies heavily on Potter's stories, and we have already gotten to hear one of the stories we've read come to life through the actor's voices.  During the read through, Sister shined when repeating her lines with an extra splash of enthusiasm. 

By the time we got home and got some dinner in us, we could have easily called it a day.  But I still wanted to try out circle time and introduce the kids to the routine of it.  Since Daddy was home, he got to participate, too and signed on as the event's photographer.

As you can glimpse in the photo, I wrote out the opening and closing verses along with this week's tongue twister and songs/verses, figuring it's a good opportunity for connecting spoken word to writing.

When we finished, sister burst into tears and exclaimed "I don't want circle to end!".  I take this as a good sign that this will be a preferred activity in the days and weeks to come.

Considering we did near nothing the way I'd planned it but still managed to have a more fulfilling day than I could have imagined, I think maybe- just maybe- we're getting this whole homeschool thing right.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Home is Where the Learning Is

Amidst holiday celebrations and the mental and physical recovery time required in their aftermath, I've set my mind to readying our home for the home-schooling journey we will begin in the new year.

I know there are different camps when it comes to whether or not to create a space dedicated to learning at home. 

My personality type along with big sister's relies heavily on routine and predictability (my need stems from my school teacher background, hers from being her mother's daughter) which led me to conclude that we would all benefit from having a defined area where our home learning could take place. 

We have a two story home, with the second story having been converted from an attic into what is now host to our master bedroom, walk in closet, and storage space. 

Within our bedroom, we have a minimal office area nestled in one of the corners.  Setting the kids up nearby seemed to be a sensible option so I could be prepared to support their endeavors and possibly tackle some of my own projects at the same time.

As you can probably see, I am a fan of keeping things simple.

 I was lucky enough to have this table and chairs handed down to me when I left my last teaching gig.  My sister gifted me with this poster from artist Nikki McClure when I first started teaching and it has been in my classroom/office ever since.  It seemed fitting to use it here where encouragement will continue to be my daily calling.

I hope to accomplish much of our curriculum based activities here and have our "teacher" and "student" lesson books ready along with some of the materials I anticipate using regularly. 

I don't intend to limit our learning to one location.  Some of our more involved (read: messy) projects will take place in the kitchen for ease of clean up.  Our evening reading has always occurred either in the living room or kid's bedrooms.  And as prescribed by Oak Meadow, we hope to spend time each day out of doors, even in our less than balmy pacific northwest weather conditions. 

I've also set up an inviting space to offer little brother an alternate area for play based learning-

-though odds are, whatever big sis is engaged in will draw in little bro, too. 
What I have appreciated most about our home learning experience so far is how it brings us together, no matter where we are or what we're doing.  

I can't wait to see what we will teach each other in the year to come. 

Happy new beginnings!