Monday, August 26, 2013

2013 - 2014 First Day of School


Today I will start teaching a 4th grade wiggly boy and a Pre-K/Kindergarten Pink Power Ranger.

I'm not really sure what to call Rachel's grade level.  By most standards she is in pre-school or pre-k(pre-kindergarten) this year because she didn't turn 5 by the September cut off for Kindergarten. But who decides this magic cut-off date for what education level a child should be taught?  Rachel turns 5 in October and will be using a Kindergarten curriculum.  But I have to be careful that she doesn't get hung up on being a "kindergartener" because when I sign her up for our homeschool nature science class or swim lessons, she will be considered a preschooler simply because of her age.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

School Book Hunt and Curriculum Choices for 2013-2014

I just ran across this post that I had written in August but never published.  We were just about to start our school year. Sorry for publishing this so late!

The first day of school is upon us and it is time for our annual school book hunt.  Check out last year's book hunt HERE.  

The book hunt happens on the night before the first day of school.  We place the kid's new school books around the house and attach them all with yarn.  This year Nicholas has red yarn and Rachel has purple yarn.  The kids have to start working their way through rolling up the yarn to find each of their books.



The books may be out in the open or hidden like this one under a seat cushion but they are all attached to the yarn so they are easy to find.



The kids were anxiously waiting upstairs while Stuart and I placed the books and threaded the yarn all around the downstairs of the house.  They were just giddy to come down and start the hunt!



We had to find something for the kids to wind the yarn around as they collected it.  Somehow these plastic tiki glassses seem to be the solution.  But we'll have to come up with something better next year.



Stuart wrapped Nicholas' yarn and made things extra tricky for him!



He's got to unwrap all of that yarn if he's going to collect his new math book!



Rachel's hunt was a little easier but then again she is only in K5 and doesn't really have a lot of books yet.



The most fun part of the school book hunt is that there is always a little stash for them at the end of the yarn.  They could hardly wait to see what goodies were in store for them this year.



I usually make sure to have a mix of new school supplies as well as a few fun things and at least one piece of candy.  This year they both got a neat little tub to keep their school supplies in, some putty to stretch and play with while I read, ruler, scissors, timer, clay to create with, bookmark, solar powered flashlight, giant pipe cleaner to keep their hands busy while I'm talking, pencils, bouncing dice to use for math games, a cross on a prayer card, plus each of them got a few little items that were specifically chosen just for them.



Oh wait!  Nicholas is still wrapping his yarn up!  And now he's run into a problem...Stuart wrapped the yarn around things before it was attached to the tiki glass.  He ran it through this small opening in some wire shelves and now Nicholas can't get his cup through there to wind it up!  Ha!  Nicholas go so frustrated.  I was kind of funny.  He had to eventually just cut the yarn in order to keep going.



But in the end he finally found his goodies and enjoyed an impromptu grab and hug from Daddy.



My sweet boys!



So what curriculum was scattered throughout our school book hunt for this year?  Here is a brief run down on the curriculum we are using for each kiddo.

NICHOLAS

MATH - Math U See.  This is a very hands-on approach to learning math.  The kids learn with manipulative blocks so they can actually see how the numbers work together.  Stuart will be teaching math to Nicholas in the morning before he goes to work.

GRAMMAR - Rod and Staff Grade 4 English.  A basic grammar program that focuses heavily on parts of speech but also includes some composition.  I have selected a really great composition curriculum so we will just skip over this piece in Rod and Staff.

COMPOSITION - Institute for Excellence in Writing - Student Writing Intensive Level A.  I have been checking out the IEW website for a couple of years now and finally took the plunge this year.  They have wonderful programs for many subjects and are well known for making writing fun, especially for wiggly boys who would rather be outside building forts!

VOCABULARY - Wordly Wise, Book 4.  A simple workbook style program that involves a word list each week with daily exercises to review the words and meanings.  Nicholas has always done great with vocabulary and he breezes through these except for the days when the assignment involves writing!

SPELLING - All About Spelling.  A fun spelling program that teaches basic rules for why words are spelled the way they are.  Nicholas has enjoyed it because it uses magnetic tiles that he moves around to spell the words.  

HISTORY and SCIENCE - Konos Unit Study.  This is a fabulous hands-on unit study that really teaches more than just history and science but those are the two areas I really use it for.  This program is great because I can use it with Nicholas and Rachel at the same time but Nicholas just does more of the activities and goes more indepth because of his level.

LATIN - Prima Latina by Memoria Press.  We do occasional Latin lessons simply for the purpose of understanding the roots of words in the English language.

ART - Art Class by See the Light.  This will be our first year to use See the Light products but I think it will be fun.  Art Class is a wonderful Christian based art class on DVD that teaches simple skills for all ages.  Nicholas and Rachel watch these DVDs together with me.

BIBLE STUDY - Community Bible Study.  This is a weekly Bible Study group for moms that also has a program for homeschool students up through seniors in high school.  Students in 1st grade and up study the same chapters of the Bible that the moms do each week.  Although our homework is different, I love that Nicholas and I are reading the same parts of the Bible and can discuss them together as we work on our study at home.  This will be our second year participating in this and we are really looking forward to it because this year we are studying the book of John.

P.E. - Archery at Cinnamon Creek Ranch, Swim lessons at Aqua Kids, weekly playdates with other homeschool friends.

Music - Piano Adventures.  I would like to teach both of the kids how to play the piano and this is a program that is highly recommended by other homeschoolers.  But we may only have time to work on this occasionally.

RACHEL

MATH - Math K5 by Bob Jones.  I've used Bob Jones curriculum from the beginning so I'm very familiar with their math programs.  This will be a colorful and fun math program that uses lots of manipulative things that drive me crazy preparing but will be well worth it for the fun Rachel will have learning with it.

PHONICS - Beginnings K5 by Bob Jones.  This program will focus on phonics and early reading skills but also covers other basic knowledge like community helpers, science, history, music and art all woven throughout the lessons.  We will also be using their reading comprehension program although I'm really more interested in the following program for that.

READING COMPREHENSION - Before Five In a Row This is a fun book that has wonderful activities to do along with classic books that I will read to Rachel.  She could start with the regular Five in a Row book but she loves so many of the books covered in the Before Five in a Row book that I want to do these with her first.

HISTORY and SCIENCE - Konos Unit Study.  This is a fabulous hands-on unit study that really teaches more than just history and science but those are the two areas I really use it for.  This program is great because I can use it with Nicholas and Rachel at the same time but Nicholas just does more of the activities and goes more indepth because of his level.

ART - Art Class by See the Light.  This will be our first year to use See the Light products but I think it will be fun.  Art Class is a wonderful Christian based art class on DVD that teaches simple skills for all ages.  Nicholas and Rachel watch these DVDs together with me.

BIBLE STUDY - Community Bible Study.  This is a weekly Bible Study group for moms that also has a program for homeschool students up through seniors in high school.  Students in 1st grade and up study the same chapters of the Bible that the moms do each week.  Although our homework is different, I love that Nicholas and I are reading the same parts of the Bible and can discuss them together as we work on our study at home.  This will be our second year participating in this and we are really looking forward to it because this year we are studying the book of John.

P.E. - Archery at Cinnamon Creek Ranch, Swim lessons at Aqua Kids, Ballet and Tap at Turning Pointe Dance Studio, weekly playdates with other homeschool friends.

Music - Piano Adventures.  I would like to teach both of the kids how to play the piano and this is a program that is highly recommended by other homeschoolers.  But we may only have time to work on this occasionally.

So how will I manage all of this?  This will be my first year to really teach Rachel a full curriculum so I will need to work on being able to switch gears between a 4th grader and a Pre-K/Kindergartener.  

Many of these programs are not intended to be worked on every day so we will only do some of these subjects one or two days a week. 

Nicholas is at a level where he can listen to my teaching but not need me to look over his shoulder as he works on his assignments.  This means he can do some of his work during the day independently which will free up my time to spend with Rachel.

Also some of these programs can be used with multi-level teaching so I can teach both kids at the same time.

It's going to be a great year!

Saturday, August 17, 2013

And a Squirrel was Born

We love live theater, especially all of the wonderful children's productions at various theaters in the area. One of our favorites is the Actors Conservatory Theatre (ACT) in Lewisville. They always have great productions that kids are familiar with but what I love most is that the cast is usually all kids. What a great way for my kids to see that children can be on stage too and that the theater isn't just for adults.

Today was an exciting opportunity for Nicholas as he participated in his first theater audition ever. At home he is always acting out stories that he makes up so we are excited to see if he gets interested in being in the theater. The show he auditioned for is Willy Wonka, Jr. based on the classic novel, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl. We checked out the ACT's website and found the list of characters they would be casting for and saw that there were several that had major lines but there were also some ensembles that would mostly just sing and dance and then there were some squirrel roles that had no lines. There was certainly something for everyone at all skill levels. But we would like him to have at least one line or a song for his first show.

Unfortunately, none of us have ever done an audition like this before and we really didn't know what to expect. We knew that he would have to perform a monologue and song but we thought they would just tell him what to do. Bu just in case they didn't, we tried to have him practice a few things on his own. He got nervous under pressure and said he couldn't think of anything to perform. What! Who is this child? So we had him practice a few easy things like singing "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star" and reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. We did a crash course with him on how to put emotion in his words and using his hands and body to convey the feeling behind the words. He did great in practice and we were hopeful that he would get one of the ensemble roles.

We made it to the theater, registered, and found a seat in the Green Room to wait for his call. They called the children upstairs to the stage in groups of five. Nicholas was relieved that there would only be 4 other kids watching him audition instead of everyone that was waiting downstairs. He was so nervous when he got called on stage! He recited the Pledge of Allegiance and then bolted off the stage!



When Nicholas was done, Stuart leaned over to me and whispered, "And a Squirrel was born." Hee hee. Yep, he might get a role that has no lines. But that's ok too. He will have a wonderful experience and learn a lot about the theater with just this one show regardless of what role he gets. He is really excited about auditioning for Narnia in January so we look at this as just a trial run to get some experience for that audition.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Courageous Kids Summer Camp at Sci-Tech Discovery Center

I've spent a lot of time at this little garden maze.  It is located outside of Sci-Tech Discovery Center in Frisco.  I first brought Nicholas here many years ago and he loved to just walk along the maze over and over again.  Now that he has older, he is still drawn to it and Rachel loves it now too.  


The kids have been at Sci-Tech this week for a camp called Courageous Kids which is teaching them about super heroes and the science related to their gadgets and powers such as learning the principles of flight.  The kids are having a great time and I'm enjoying a few hours to myself to get caught up on school planning.


On this day, Rachel's class talked about spider man.  They learned lots of interesting facts about real spiders and she made this cute craft where a spider comes popping out of the ground to surprise you!


But my favorite craft of hers has to be the super hero doll she made out of a clothespin.  The super hero is ME and the note that the teacher helped her complete is just so sweet! 

STEM Education: Learning about Robots at the Irving Library


I happened to stumble upon a cool program for kids at the Irving Library.  They have a series of events called Here, There, and Everywhere to get kids interested in STEM - science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Today's program was all about robotics.  The Irving Police Department brought two of their high tech robots.


Here is a video showing how fine tuned the robot's arm and grip are:


The kids were impressed and wanted to use the controller to move the robot's around themselves.


It would be nice to have one of these at home to help pick up and maybe even vacuum for me!


While Nicholas played some games with the older kids, Rachel and I sat down and worked on a Robot puppet craft that was set out for the kids.


It just involved a paper bag, some pre-cut shapes, a glue stick and pipe cleaner.


Rachel did a great job putting her robot puppet together. She punched holes in the top and thread the pipe cleaner in to be an antennae.

She had so much fun making him that she used Nicholas craft supplies to make a second robot puppet so her first one could have a friend.