Monday, May 31, 2010

Our exciting journey

We've been taking the same journey for a couple of years now. We started in a mole burrow, and ventured to a river bank, watched that mole learn to oar a boat, and make a new friend with a rat.
We've walked through the Wild Wood with Mole, and huddled in that hollowed out tree with him as the snow storm raged. As Rat ventured out to find his friend, and found the doormat to Badger's home, we mused at how Mole couldn't figure out that a doormat meant there must be a door close by. We followed a toad on all sorts of escapades. We shake our heads at his boasting, and laugh through his tantrums. That Toad, he sure is a character.
The term Washer Woman has been used so many times in this house, it is our own inside joke.

I don't know if I can express how fun it is for us to read "The Wind in the Willows." I started reading it to Sean when he was 5, having never read it myself. We've read it about six times now, and he never tires of it. Neither do I.
It has become our own little book club book.
We discuss Toad's inability to control himself and his need to have the best. Nothing holds his attention for very long, and Toad throws himself head first into things, then quickly is bored with that and on to the next. He is naughty, yet his friends forgive him and try so hard to help him.
Sean loves the end when they take back Toad Hall from the Stoats and Weasels.

Our copy of the book is an inexpensive hard cover edition. My mom bought it years ago at a sale, and it was on the shelf along with other classics like "Jungle Book," "Hunchback of Notre Dame," to name a few. (My mom loved books.) We've tried to read "Jungle Book," but he keeps going back to "The Wind in the Willows."
When I first started reading "The Wind in the Willows," to him, I remembered what a treat it was when my first grade teacher would read "Charlotte's Web" to us each day. Each day she read one chapter, and it has stuck with me all these years. I was transported to a different world, and I could have listened to her read all day.
I then read it on my own when I was about 6, and cried and cried when Charlotte died.
I was so attached to the characters, and loved the feeling of escaping into a story.
I still love a story, I see them everywhere.
My mom used to spend hours reading to me and the friends in my neighborhood. She would read as long as we were content to sit and listen.
There are all sorts of studies and reports on how important it is to read to children. The list of benefits is quite long, and I agree with all of it. But I think there should be a list of benefits for the parent.
So I'll attempt to put one together for you--though I've not yet received my grant to study this subject, so this isn't scientific ;o)
Benefits for Parents who Read to Their Child
1. You get to know your child better. Reading a book and exploring the characters together gives the parent a chance to get to know the child on a different level. By asking age-appropriate questions, parents can gain an understanding of their child's personality. What they find amusing, frustrating, or emotionally touching, and even morally wrong or right can give a parent insight into other subjects to explore. You can get a good gauge of whether your child is sharing your values, and even explore where they are getting their ideas of right and wrong.
2. You get some time to relax. If you read at bedtime, it gives you a chance to unwind and spend some relaxed time with your child. This is completely different from watching a TV program with a child. There is a different atmosphere and vibe when you're reading to a child.
3. You can relive some of your childhood. Whether it's a book your parents read to you, you read on your own, or have never read before, reading to  your child gives you an excuse to relive some of those wonderful childhood moments.

As I said, this isn't scientific, and these are the things that popped into my head as benefits. Feel free to leave a comment and add to this list.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Field Trips

We've taken a few field trips this year, and visited the zoo a few times. We are lucky to live so close to a zoo, and actually are within driving distance of another.
Here are some pics from our last trip with our friends Shane and Jacob-Joshua. (Thanks for the passes Shane!)
It was a beautiful day, and we long for another day like that one. It's been rainy.

This guy was great to come up close for pictures.

Not sure what these guys were doing. The boys were bored watching them, so we moved on.

This guy was a little more exciting.

We made time for lots of running and playing. I didn't get pics at the playground, but there are a couple of nice ones with climbing equipment and a slide.

He or she was napping, but at least we got to see the Polar Bear this time.

This little fox was sooo cute. I took a LOT of pictures of him/her.


See ya later. 

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Positive Identification

In my previous post I talked about our trip to the local farmers market, and how we brought home a critter that was inadvertently put on the grill during a cooking demonstration.

This is the little guy we brought home.

It didn't take Sean very long to identify it using our Mac's Field Guide.
It's a Mossy Chiton.

We really enjoy that field guide because it's a single card laminated with really nice, detailed illustrations.
I'm not getting paid by Mac's Field Guide to say any of this, we really do like it.
I've decided to step back and look at what we're doing for homeschool and what is and isn't working, so we're taking a little break. I'm not going to ask him to "work" for a couple of weeks and see what happens.
At breakfast he did some math. He frequently asks me what does ___ plus___ equal, and I always have him work it on his own using whatever he needs to do so. I offer material suggestions while acting very interested in what the answer could be.
He read a book to me at lunch, and then we ran some errands before I had to take off to a meeting.  
After lunch he went outside and found these guys on a toy truck.
Charlotte was here!
Not trying to creep anyone out here, but it was an interesting find. Interesting too that they almost exactly match the yellow on the truck.
In case you can't tell, we do live among the fir trees and pastures, and frequently have visitors such as these at our house. Sean was concerned about them and went out to check on them several times before we left the house. He noticed they would huddle together, then if he touched the web they would scatter.
A couple of years ago he found a garter snake in the yard. He wanted one last year but never found any, and is already talking about finding one this summer.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

What we do in the 6-9 plane

Our school year has been one of ups and downs, twists and turns. The public system here doesn't dismiss for summer until June 18, I think. We don't follow that, and plan to just keep doing what we do year-round.
This is going to be a year-in-review type post with information on the materials I bought, downloaded, cut, colored or otherwise made; what we used and didn't use and why, and a very honest and revealing look at our homeschool journey. This is in no way a comprehensive day-to-day breakdown, and includes a fraction of the things Sean worked with and things we did together. It's an overview of sorts, and I probably have left out some of the materials, though to me it looks like a ton of stuff.
The list of things I bought or made with a mark beside to indicate * we used this or ^ we didn't use it:
folders*(one for his completed written type work, tons for me)
Notebooks* (for me)
Colored pencils * (gone through probably at least 3 packs of them now)
tracing paper*
watercolor paper*
watercolor paints* (a birthday gift)
Wood geometric solids (not Montessori, but from Learning Resources) *
Simple sentence tabletop pocket chart ^
Stamp game *
Newcomb curriculum^
Timeline of man *
Box of beads *
Lisa Nolan Curriculum * to some extent, abandoned after about first month or so
small wooden number cards 1-9000 * (Adena)
teen boards * (only for the first couple of months)
Time box (puzzle and clock stamp for learning clock time)^ Learned to tell time just before it arrived.
moteaco albums downloaded * to some extent
Control continent maps * (Adena)
maps of the world (downloaded onto cardstock)*
grammar symbols (wood)* (Adena)
cursive sandpaper letters (lower case)*
Solar System floor puzzle* (Borders Books)
movable alphabet (downloaded onto cardstock)^ 
beginning sounds cards*
Homeschool folder on my desktop-I used some of this, but I collect this stuff for later also
All angles sort
Capitalization command cards
Comma activity
Continents nomenclature
decimal fraction board
crafts projects folder
fraction charts
fraction division tickets
geography 6-9
geometry stick box contents
Homeschool RCW 
India nomenclature cards
Mr. Q Life Science
making simple sentences
Math 1 album
Math 2 album
Medgar Evars bio
MLK Day poem
moon phases
Oceania map
Oceans booklet
Oceans control chart
Oceans nomenclature
parts of leaf
parts of sailboat
passage to abstraction document
phases of moon chart
plant cell booklet upper el
plant cell structure upper el
poetry basket poems
presentation of 6-9 program
punctuation command cards
resources for new homeschoolers
science scope and sequence
sightword list
skip counting
South American animals
spelling cards
spiders lesson
Teacher Book Bag Animal Classification Kit
Three period lesson
Timeline humans
timeline of scripts
triangle sort
unit division board
verb advanced
volcano booklet
Whitney Young bio
Work cycle
World biomes
writing paper Canada elem
written question game
zoology animal stories
ABC shoebox science songs
art resources and web sites
daily workplan
elementary student spelling
great musical lessons
higher order thinking chart
interdisciplinary conference
Laws Made map
shoebox science lima bean trials
upper elementary needs 2
upper elementary needs
weekly schedule
cursive tracing letters

THREE PART CARDS (all either downloaded or given to us)
Solar System *
Parts of the earth*
Land Forms *
Water Forms *
Artists *
Geometry - line, solid, point, plane *
triangle, pentagon, hexagon, etc. *
Types of triangles *
Pumpkin life cycle* (first month or two)
Calendar* (used for first three months or so)
compound words ^
verb tense exercise (from Montessori for Everyone)^haven't used it yet
A trip across Canada ^ Haven't used it yet, maybe next year. It isn't Montessori, I got it from another blogger.
postcards from around the world and the U.S. (we will continue to use these for years)*
Farm (Fisher Price barn and animals w/ some other animals and parts of other farms)*
Mac's Field Guide to Northwest Coastal Invertebrates * (got this free at a livable fair last year)
Continent cards, includes people, music, food, animals* (only used these a little bit, wasn't interested) bought one set from ebay, downloaded the others.
Music from the library to go along with continent studies*
We play lots of games in the car, usually rhyming games, grammar games (can you give me a noun that rhymes with the word....) Sometimes math games, multiplying, adding and subtracting.
I have many folders filled with printouts for me to reference, including the state standards for our state and some homeschooling articles.
Michael Olaff's Introduction to the Elementary Class Years
Moteaco History 6-9
Moteaco Math
Moteaco Language
Moteaco geometry
Moteaco biology plant
moteaco biology animal

We did science experiments to go along with the 5 great lessons on liquid and solid.
We tested how long it would take a plastic object to sink in water, oil and syrup.
We made a volcano with baking soda
We've searched for snakes and grasshoppers in the yard, done some bird watching and have had a number of "pet" spiders. 
Cakes, cookies, brownies and breakfast, we did a lot of cooking
He now pulls his sheets off each Monday and knows how to start the washing machine and the dryer.
We've had lots of opportunities to play outside and at the park, took trips to the zoo and over to friends' homes, and spent time in the cherry tree in the back yard.
We visited the Reptile Zoo, the Children's Museum and the zoo and made many visits to our local beach.
We also saw the play, "Peter Pan" in Seattle at the Children's Theatre and saw the Puget Sound Revels at Christmas.
The Nitty Gritty of Homeschool
I use a lot of combinations of real life experiences with moteaco albums and just following my child to know what he has already mastered and what the next step is. We don't follow any curriculum in particular, and I know that doesn't help very much, especially when you're looking for a curriculum to follow and need advice from someone who's been there. 

I was completely lost at first because I felt like I was one of the few out here doing elementary Montessori at home. There isn't anyone in our community following Montessori at all, so we are the odd ones in our homeschool group. I wanted a curriculum that would tell me exactly what to do and then what to do after that was finished, something to guide me through. I realized I didn't need it. With the Elizabeth Hainstock book on the elementary years I was able to move through it, and the most helpful thing has been my son. He knows what he knows and what he doesn't, and he knows what he's ready to work with and what he isn't.

For me the challenge is math, because I'm not good at math. I'm already starting to have a semi panic about the higher level math, but maybe I'll actually learn math along with my child and "get it" this time around. 

At the beginning of this year we started with the five great lessons and worked our way through them for about the first two months or so. It helped us focus and get our footing. Unfortunately, I work from home and can't always do "school," every day. I feel guilty a LOT. I sometimes wonder if I should just send him to school because in my head I think school is supposed to be an all-day thing.

But when I start to get serious about that plan, I read an email or hear some comment in passing that illustrates the ridiculousness of the public system. And my heart knows that learning is continuous, and he demonstrates that he is learning and doing fine. It's really just my insecurities boiling up to the surface.

I am a natural worrier, so I worry that emotionally I'm not doing him the greatest good. I spend a lot of time working, and we do school hit and miss. There isn't a lot of routine, except that every day he gets up, does his make-the-bed, get-clothes-on, eat-breakfast routine and when he begins to work he tells me what the date is. We talk a little bit about the month and what is happening in our lives in relation to the date. That's about it, then he's free to choose a work.  A lot of days I suggest two choices he could choose, and usually he chooses something totally different.

I admit that I get frustrated because he seems to need a lot of direction. It isn't something I expected when we embarked on this journey. I thought if I had a beautiful shelf filled with interesting and pretty materials he would choose one, work on it for an hour or so, methodically replace it on the shelf and choose another.

If you have a child that works like that on his/her own with no one else in the room consider yourself more than blessed. I constantly have to check to be sure he is actually working. Most days he isn't. Yet he is learning and he's smart and loves to learn new things. 

He loves to get books from the library and compare things in each book, the way the information is presented, and whether the information is helpful to him. He admitted yesterday that he likes to look for information on the Internet, but it is sometimes not correct. He gave an example of the banded sea crate, and online it was called the banded snake.

Most of what we do is research. He chooses a subject and we go to the library. Yesterday we went to the beach and found many types of shells. Then we went to the library to find books to identify shells and we will spend this week identifying those. We'll also use our Mac's Field Guide for that research.

Today we went to our local farmers market and watched a chef doing a cooking demonstration. The chef was putting oysters on the grill, and in the process of cooking them he found some other small sea creature attached to one of the oysters. Sean helped him do a little bit of cooking and we brought the critter home to see if we can identify it through one of those books we got at the library about sea creatures, or the Mac's guide.

The Stuff
We have colored pencils (came in handy when he was not in the mood to write anything and I would say, "What's your favorite color of the day? That's the color you can choose to write with today.") 
Some of the materials I purchased were not used very much, but I was glad to have them. Things like the teens board gave me a solid indication of where he was in his understanding and we were able to use it for a while and then move on.

I bought the box of beads, and he used those for a good while, then tapered off on the math. He recently picked it back up again, but I can see he is ready for abstract. He doesn't really want to use the beads now (thank goodness I got them at a great price and didn't put a lot of time or money into making them.) He is loving the stamp game right now, but I have to quickly figure out how to use it beyond addition because he's not going to hang out with that for much longer. 

(He wants to try to do math in his head instead of using the materials. We are on our way to another level with math. I have to bone up on it quickly. That is one of the challenges with homeschooling. This child is so interested in everything that I have a difficult time keeping up with him. We use our library regularly and he LOVES it. His favorite thing is books. )

We have the control maps from Adena, because I figured those would serve just fine and if he wanted to we could make cutouts of each continent and country to match to those. It saved a bundle, and they have served the purpose. We have flags for each country that I downloaded online.

I recently purchased the cursive sandpaper letters- lower case. We just started on those, so it's slow. He likes to practice cursive with the Jan Brett cursive printouts. They have a dotted line to follow the formation of the letter and he enjoys them because we have quite a few of the Jan Brett books. I don't think I'll buy the uppercase sandpaper letters, and maybe we'll just use a sand tray to practice the upper case based on the Jan Brett prinouts.

I just bought some things from a school that is closing. They are things I couldn't afford this year, but wanted to have for the shelf. Geometry cabinet, trinomial cube, and a few other things. He moves so fast I might have just wasted my money. If so, I'll post them for sale.

This is a lot of what we do. For some this is way too lax and unstructured. Right now it is the only thing that works for us.
We will continue through the summer, and he is signed up for several educational summer camps. We'll have several breaks for vacations, etc.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Here's what we've been doing lately.
We took some pictures of an inchworm that hopped a ride on my shirt while I was working in the yard.
We took a road trip on Mother's Day to a reptile zoo.

The Alligator Snapping Turtle.

A very cute tortoise.

Another one.

Emerald Tree Boa, I think.

The very friendly and mischievous albino corn snake. It eventually slithered into Sean's sleeve and wouldn't come out. When we would finally get it's upper body out, it would try to get into his pants pocket.
We also took a trip to our local zoo recently with another homeschool family. We've been to the library stocking up on his latest interest--ships. Last week we worked quite a bit with the stamp game, and he has been doing great with his new watch. He's always done things in his own time (no pun intended there) and the whole clock concept finally clicked. He likes looking at his watch to tell me what time it is. He works on cursive letters and we've made it to D so far. 
Today we signed up for some great summer camps at his old Montessori school and we both are excited about that.