Thursday, August 30, 2007

Look What I Got!

Fiction and non-fiction for Thatcher's Independent Reading Time - one book of each type daily.

Books for Art and Music Appreciation - this month we are learning about Rembrandt and Bach, the men and their great works.

Books for History - most for Thatcher but a few for me, too!

Baby Einstein Videos to watch on the Spanish setting!

Wondering why I am posting pictures of my library booty? Because this is my first time in three years of homeschooling I have used the library to any significant degree! I have tons of books from my teaching days and a sweet friend who gives us lots of books from her publishing company, too. In the past I have gotten by with these books we already owned and simply purchased other titles I wanted. That will no longer suffice. Thatcher is reading too much, too fast and our budget is too tight! So tonight I packed up and headed off to the library...alone.

Check out this math equation: three busy boys plus one mom with a list of 50 books to find does not equal a productive library trip. My new goal is to go to the library by myself every four to six weeks exclusively for school books. Then take the boys twice a month just for exposure and to choose "fun" books on their own. One of my favorite memories of elementary school was going to the library and choosing new books each week. I want my boys to have that opportunity, too!

Our library is not huge and honestly doesn't have all that great of a selection. Most of the history books I wanted they either didn't have or only had one copy which was already checked out. A friend of ours works at the library and in the past has asked for suggestions of books to order. Maybe I will get the recommended book lists from Story of the World, Volume 2 to put a bug in her ear. Brilliant, if I do say so myself. Lol!

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Week 3 Report

This will be short and sweet since Week 3 actually ended almost two weeks ago! A trip to Dallas and the fact that we are almost through Week 4 means I cannot remember much - even after looking over Thatcher's papers. You know what? It sure is a good thing I am doing these reports! Not only can I keep grandparents and friends in the know, I myself can remember what we did week to week. :)

Spanish - I want to start here because it was such a huge hit! Earlier this summer I had been eying some fun Spanish materials but couldn't justify the cost. Just before school started I found the entire section of Spanish learning games on clearance half-off at Target. This week we started using Learning Resources Spanish Color Bean Bags and the color song from the Twin Sister Spanish CD. Thatcher has known his Spanish colors for awhile now but he needed a quick review. I also wanted to start with something non-threatening that he could breeze through and say, "Spanish is Easy!"
Here's an example of the bean bags. They also make shape and number bean bags as well; I got those 50% off too! We have made up 50 different games to play using these bags and the boys and I have had a ball. Our favorites so far...after they correctly give the answer to a question (i.e., What's blue in Spanish?) they get to "shoot" the beanbag into a big bowl to score! I don't even keep track of the points, and they still think it's a hoot. They also adore using the bags to play leapfrog but they can't leap until they correctly state the color they are jumping over (the color name is only printed on one side so we turn them over for this activity).

We played Candy Land in Spanish, as well. It was a great start to what I hope will be a great year in Spanish.

Math - is rolling along as well. Thatcher is still struggling to learn to count by 4's. He just can't seem to grasp it. We are doing a quick review each day and leaving it at that. My hunch is that if I just leave it alone for a few weeks, he'll be ready next time I try! Flash cards are going very well and he is breezing through all his lessons. I should mention that Horizons is still all review
at this point. Hopefully he will continue to do well when new concepts are introduced.

Reading - I am so pleased here. For anyone new to my blog, we have four parts to our reading program:
  1. Independent Reading Time - Thatcher takes a book of my choosing and after a short introduction, reads it in a different room. Then he comes and we talk about the book. These books are a little below his level b/c he is reading independently and struggles to maintain focus. I cannot say enough good things about this time. I give him a "goal" each day and send him away to "discover" the answer. When we make it a game - akin to a treasure hunt - he excitedly runs off ready to dive in, whereas if I simply give him a list of questions he has to answer for me, he'll mope off unwilling and grumpy. For example in Week 3 he read Arthur's Baby by Marc Brown. I asked him to go discover what changed Arthur's mind about Baby Kate. Ten minutes later he bursts through the door ready to tell me how Arthur found out that he could take great care of Kate - even better than DW!
  2. Read together time - We are reading (holding up a shield as I type this for all the mommies who'll be throwing tomatoes at me!) Magic Tree House books for this time. We already owned many of these books before I was challenged to consider (on the WTM boards) what is true "quality literature" for young minds. I know these are not, but they are the first chapter books he's been excited about reading so far. I plan on sticking with these a little longer to build confidence and then move to some different titles. What we are doing right now is each day I read one chapter to him and he reads a chapter to me. It's been so fun!
  3. Presentation Book - Thatcher really wanted to read the first ten pages of The Cat in the Hat to Daddy for his Presentation Book this week. We worked on it and got it ready but in the craziness of getting ready to leave town forgot to "present" it! Oops. Thatcher chose to stick with it this week and add ten more pages.
  4. Bedtime Read-a-loud - I love the Narnia books. I really, really do, and Thatcher does as well. We are already eagerly awaiting Prince Caspian, the second Narnia movie to be released next summer. We are currently working out way through The Silver Chair.
Bible - continues to go wonderfully and it's the first thing Thatcher begs to do every day! In addition to reading and discussing a chapter a day from Wisdom and the Millers, he's been working all summer to memorize the books of the Old Testament. He only has five to go, and he is so excited. He attends AWANA on Wednesday nights and an older friend of his encouraged us to start learning them early so he would be able to get ahead in his first grade book.

Grammar - First Language Lessons is going well. I started ten lessons back from where we left off so we are finishing up our review. I was worried he wouldn't remember much but have been pleasantly surprised at how quickly it's coming back. Our whiteboard is coming in really handy for these lessons. He is a visual learner and this book is very auditory. We are writing definitions and examples on the board intead of just orally discussing them and he does so much better than if I present the material with no visual clues.

That's all folks! Someone remind me what I was saying about short and sweet at the start of this post???!!!

Sunday, August 26, 2007

What I'd Like to Blog About...

I was sitting in our schoolroom getting ready for the week but thought about all the things I'd like to blog about in the coming days. Blogging has become increasingly harder each week as we fold in more subjects; it's taking me longer each evening to get ready for the following day. I am hoping that once we get on a roll things will be less time-consuming in the preparation department.

Here are some of the things I look forward to posting soon:
  • Our Week 3 Report - no pictures this time but at least get the nuts and bolts posted before I forget! :) BTW, take a look at how Lisa at Koinonia Academy posted her photos on her weekly report. I want to learn how to do this!
  • Grocery Plan for this semester. I have been working on a plan to simplify grocery shopping while still saving tons of money (I am a coupon queen...really and truly...I won't hardly purchase anything if it's not on sale and I have a coupon on top of that!). Last year I spent six hours each Saturday going to up to four stores to save the maximum amount of money. I am trying something different this semester.
  • My Spanish Plan - I have some great ideas about what we're going to do this year!
  • My Teacher Book - See my inspiration at Trivium Academy's site.
Hope everyone has a great week!

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Like the new photos?

I love learning about people and their stories. In case you are like me, I thought I would tell a little (I could, like most mamas, go on and on about my babies!) about each of the new photos on my header. If this is not your thing, feel free to skip this post.

The first photo is of Thatcher and me at a Houston Astros game. Some sweet person gave us their season tickets on a night they weren't going to be used so we took our two oldest just a few weeks ago. Dh and I are huge Astros fans (even though they stink this year!) so we had a ball sharing this experience with them.

I am so glad that Dh included this shot of Beckett. The only other photo of him anywhere on my blog is the one of him crying on the first day of school so I am glad to show his precious face when he is not sad! Baths are just about his favorite thing, too.

The third picture is an oldie but goodie. I believe it's over 6 months old and it's currently the photo on my desktop with the verse:

Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord,
the fruit of the womb a reward.

Psalm 127:3 (ESV)

The fourth photo is of my Haddon whose nickname is "Chocolate Eyes." Need I say more?

The next picture of Thatcher was taken this spring at my husband's family's land in the beautiful Texas Hill Country - Kerrville to be exact. As the boys grow older we desire for them to have precious memories of going out to the ranch and we plan to go frequently. No tv, computers or cellphone service but lots of dirt, bugs and snakes, places to explore and places to swim. This is one of the swimming spots called "Little Blue Hole."

The next shot is from that same trip to Kerrville. Beckett crashed after hiking all morning. Not sure why he was the one sleeping...I was the one carrying his extra 20 pounds around. Lol!

Finally one more photo of the ranch. This picture is from the bluff, about a seven minute hike from the house. Here Thatcher is overlooking the Guadalupe River. Isn't is gorgeous?! The second Dh snapped this photo I grabbed Thatcher and pulled him way back from the edge. It is a terrifying drop!

Thanks to my sweet husband who choose all these photos and surprised me while I was away on my trip! I love you.

Home Sweet Home

I dread posting this because everyone was so encouraging of my reading Little Women on my trip. Unfortunately though, it didn't happen. I must say that I am not sure what I was thinking when I decided I would read in the first place. I went out of town by myself with all three boys and each night I was so exhausted that trying to read would have been fruitless. Case in point, in my reading of the introduction I fell asleep and couldn't remember hardly a word when I awoke.

Also, my dad ended up having to work (he had planned a week of vacation) after the man he left in charge of the office had a heart attack and ended up in ICU. That meant that evenings were the only times I had with him and I wouldn't trade our talk-time for anything - even Louisa May Alcott!

I have the book sitting on my bedside table ready to be enjoyed - hopefully sooner rather than later.

It was a wonderful trip, full of great family time as well as time with a childhood friend who will be moving from Dallas soon. It's good to get away and it's good to come back home.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

I'm Going to Read Fiction!

The boys and I are heading up to Dallas tomorrow to visit my family. My parents do not have a computer (Yes, you read that right. NO COMPUTER!!!) so you won't be hearing from me until after we get back on the 22nd. I feel a little like you might if you were preparing to go on a week long fast - no internet for a week...YIKES! I have become so accustomed to sitting at the computer every night searching message boards for great ideas/curriculum, blogging and checking in on all my cyber-friends' blogs.

What will I do with all this extra time? Glad you asked. Lol! I am taking Little Women with me. I have never read this classic - or many other classics for that matter. When I was in high school all my teachers chose to teach modern classics so I missed out on some of the great books, Little Women being one of them. I hope to have the entire book read by the time I return.

You know, as I think about it...the last time I can remember reading fiction is when I was placed on bedrest at 32 weeks of pregnancy with Haddon. That means I have not read fiction in just under three years. Oh my goodness! At that time, I read a David Baldacci novel still in manuscript form from a friend who works for Time Warner.

Hope everyone has a wonderful week and you have to catch me up on any good stuff I miss while I am gone!

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Weekly Report - Combined Week 1 and 2

I am a little late in posting this but I really wanted to start from the beginning so here we go... our first ever (Two Week) Weekly Report. If you like this idea of doing an online weekly report, look at these blogs for more inspiration and ideas: My 5 Wolf Cubs, Trivium Academy and My 3 Boybarians. Lastly before we get started I talked more about our first two weeks in a recent post if you want to read all the (gory) details!


The first week all we did was review flash cards. I prefer to make my own because it allows me to drill certain "math families" one at a time. Each set is color coded so that the days we mix sets they can be easily separated again. In week one we started with the +0/-0 and +1/-1 cards to build up confidence then added +2/-2 and +10, and finally doubles and near-doubles (ex: he knows 7+7=14 so in our near-double set it has 7+6= and 7+8= ) and lastly what we call subtraction doubles (ex. 10-5= with the thinking that he knows 5+5=10 so he should recognize 10-5= as the reverse of that)

For week two we added the +9 cards (again, since he knows the +10 cards he should realize that 9+6 is just like 10+6 but one less) and +3/-3. Here is a picture of a few sets of our super-simple (and super-cheap) flash cards!

Also in week 2 we started back with Horizons 2. Here are Thatcher's first four lessons:

We also reviewed skip counting by 2's, 3's, 5's and 10's - each all the way to 100. We introduced counting by 9's which he mastered almost instantly and we are still working on the 4's - they've been really tough on him for some reason. Overall, math gets an "A" for the first two weeks. Everything went so well and I was so proud of how hard Thatcher worked and how quickly things came back to him!


You can read all the components of our reading program in this recent post. I will say overall reading gets a "B" for the first two weeks. The changes I outlined in the aforementioned post are going beautifully but I cannot for the life of me get Thatcher to slow down and stop mumbling. He also is terrible about skipping over words or saying "almost" what it says on the page. I have tried twenty different things but nothing works for long and he's back to his old ways. This will be a huge goal for this year. When he skips/changes words he never alters the meaning but I still want him to read exactly what is on the page and he CAN do it. He just has to exercise self-control and slow down.

Here is a picture of the books Thatcher read independently in week 2 after we started "Independent Reading Time". Included in this picture is his reading log where he writes the date, title and author of each book. The last column says "One interesting thing..." and I fill this in for him as he dictates to me.

Explode the Code is going beautifully again, so phonics gets an "A". This is our third year to use ETC and it's a little like an old friend. Thatcher is familiar with the format and can do most of the work independently. He has learned so much from this series.


Bible gets an "A+" because I wouldn't change a thing! We started with Wisdom and the Millers and it's been great. It seems like almost every lesson is right where we are. Perfect example is last Sunday at church Thatch made some really poor decisions because he was following a buddy of his who can be a little naughty at times. The next day the story in Wisdom... was based on Proverbs 13:20 "Anyone who walks with the wise grows wise. But a companion of foolish people suffers harm." (NIrV) While I wouldn't say this little boy was a fool, he was behaving foolishly this day and Thatcher was all too happy to join him. Hearing this story really struck a cord with Thatcher and opened up a great opportunity for us to talk more. You know how you can say the same thing 100 times but a new person can sometimes walk in and say the same thing and...BOOM they get it. Mr. Miller has that effect on Thatch and I am so glad he does!

Here's a picture of our whiteboard after the first few days. We've been writing the Proverb from each lesson on our board so we can continue talking about it throughout the day and beyond.


I decided to add "tying shoes" to his list of school tasks for week one and it didn't go over well. We may just switch to Velcro shoes and call it quits until he's 15! He is just not interested and each time he tries it's like he's all thumbs. Like most things he's behind in, I've learned that it will come in its own time and there's no need to stress or rush!

In week one Thatcher memorized our family rules and that went great. Here is a sample of his first every copywork writing our rules. He is doing so well with his writing. Go, Thatch!

One last thing I included in week one was coloring and cutting practice. Last year he could never get a grip on scissors that felt comfortable and allowed him to cut anything at all. Coloring was another struggle. Leave it alone for a few months and see what happens...

Oh, I should mention, Thatcher's work is on the left. Each day Haddon would color his own picture, cut it and hang it up all by himself so he could be just like "Ya-Ya." (He can now say Thatcher but he still chooses to call him by this nickname and I love it!) It's his artwork that graces the right board.

Ok, I will not be nearly this long-winded in the future but this first one was covering two whole weeks right???

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Weekly Lesson Plan Form

Okay, now I am really rolling. In addition to my Master Schedule, I also created a Weekly Lesson Plan form. I should say I borrowed a Weekly Lesson Plan form from my favorite of all blogs, Trivium Academy. I looked at several other forms on other blogs and websites but this one fit our needs best - at least for now!

I am going to fill out this form each Sunday night, print it out and put it in my Teacher Notebook. It's simple black, white and gray because we don't have a color printer. When I made my "Year at a Glance" I had to have a friend print it out for me so all the colors would show.

I am very hopeful about this week and am realizing that much of my frustration in the past two weeks was due to my unpreparedness - unknowingly unprepared but unprepared nonetheless! Now I have a schedule and a detailed lesson plan. Monday, here we come! Hope everyone has a wonderful week.

God-View Glasses

I loved this idea a friend of mine did with her children on their first day of school: they made "God-view Glasses!" She explained that she and their daddy's desire was to train them to see life from a biblical world view - to examine all things through the lenses of Scripture.

How fun! One of the things I always talk with Thatcher about is that I desire for him to see people as God sees them, creatures designed in His image to reflect His glory, and to treat them accordingly. I think we'll be making our own "God-view Glasses" soon!

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Master Schedule

I did it! Despite my fears, I made a master schedule. As mentioned in the last post, I really hesitated doing this because of my tendency to want to follow it to the letter. But I am determined to use this schedule as a tool and not allow it to become a noose. (Thanks for that wording and insight, Trivium!) Lots will change in this schedule I am sure, but at least it is somewhere to start.

5:00am - Crazy wake up time, I know. Honestly, it's the only way I can see fitting running back into my life again. This summer I have been so entrenched in research and planning for first grade I have put running on the back burner. I need to make it a priority again. I love to run; I need to run. All those happy hormones (aka. endorphins) are truly addictive. Plus I just signed up to run the Houston Marathon on January 18th.

6:00 am - I have decided to try waking Thatch at 6:00 each day to start school - a full hour before his brothers get up. Thatcher is like me, an early bird, and the second his eyes pop open he is ready to go. When I mentioned this to him, he loved the idea of having mommy to himself for an entire hour before the little ones were up!

7:00 am - Our "Morning Routine" includes the basics: make beds, get dressed, brush teeth, eat breakfast and clean up. I am also so excited about our "Family Huddle." In September we will start working through Leading Little Ones to God with dh each morning. We'll also include a morning circle time where we pray for each other and our day.

8:00 am - Math is Thatcher's favorite subject, and because we have to do some subjects while the little ones are awake, I chose math for this block. He has the best chance of staying focused - even with brothers all around! I will need to be creative getting the younger ones involved in something when we do flash cards and other math memory work.

9:00 am - This is when I will choose reading material for Thatcher to work through on his own. He will read for 20-30 minutes and we will record all finished books in a simple reading log (date, title of book, author, favorite thing about this book).

10:00 am - Once Beckett goes down for his am nap, we'll have a little more freedom - even if it only lasts 90 minutes! We'll work on our presentation book for the week as well as read a section of whichever chapter book we are working on at the time. We will use the remainder of this block to catch up on any work not completed earlier that morning, for outside playtime (once the weather cools down) and for me to make lunch.

12:00 - Lunch

1:00 - I am still waiting for Homeschool Buyers Co-op to announce the deal they have been working on with United Streaming so we can start foreign language. On non-United Streaming days we will review and learn more through songs, games and videos.

2:00 - I need to blog about roomtime; it's a great thing! My boys play independently in their rooms for 30-40 minutes each day. They look forward to it and even ask for it some days! During this time I will still have the baby but I will try to get as much picking up and cleaning accomplished as I am able - and still have a little fun time for just the two of us!

2:30 - Once the little ones are asleep, we will conclude our school day with history or science.

4:00 & 5:00 Dinner preparation and eating

6:00 - "Family Time" is nothing official or even planned out - just time to hang out, rest and be silly together.

7:00 - During this block, one thing I want to try is to complete Thacher's read-a-loud. Previously, I read to him from 8:00-8:30. The new goal is that all evening chores are done - run dishwasher, fill coffeepot, floor swept and mopped, cabinets wiped down and read-a-loud completed - before we put the boys down at 8:00. That will give me one hour to spend time with dh, plan, or just read a great book before I go to sleep.

8:00 - Bedtime, glorious bedtime!

9:00 - I wish I was one of those people who didn't require much sleep. Unfortunately, I am a person who requires a lot of sleep - eight hours will do but nine is optimal. It is imperative I am in bed at 9:00 if I am to get up at 5:00 to run.

*** Other notes -
  • I deliberately blocked more time than Thatcher will need for many subjects. I have learned that, for now, he works better in 30 minute spurts with lots of physical activity and play in between. As soon as work is completed and gone over with Mommy, he will be able to play for the remainder of that time slot.
  • I "prepare" dinner all day long. Anytime I have five to ten minutes I head to the kitchen to chop veggies, prepare sides that can be reheated, set out all ingredients I will need for the main dish, make a sauce and so on. That way when it comes time to actually cook dinner I can usually have everything on the table in less than 30 minutes.
  • I may switch the 8:00 and 9:00 blocks so he doesn't have so much reading all crammed together. We'll see how it works.
  • For now, I do all my house cleaning and laundry on Fridays. Once the little ones get a little older and more independent, my plan is to change this. I would love to do one load of laundry a day but right now it just isn't happening. I don't know if I will ever change cleaning my entire house at once though - I just love having everything clean, even if it only lasts ten minutes!
  • I just caught a mistake on the schedule: for the 2:30 block it should say M, T - history and W, Th - science.
Okay, Monday we'll put all this into play and see how it works. Yipee!

Thursday, August 9, 2007

The Trial Period Has Expired

These first two weeks were meant to be a "trial period" to see how this was all going to work - one ADHD six-year-old, nine subjects (math, language, reading, phonics/spelling, Bible, history, science, art/music appreciation, Spanish), one very busy two year old, an increasingly demanding one year old, one mommy who so badly wants to be able to schedule her day down to the letter...anyone else see trouble written on the wall? At the end of this two weeks and I am not sure where to go from here. I don't even know what this post will end up like. I am hoping that typing it out will give me some clarity!

Here's what I feel good about after the first two weeks:
  • Thatcher has enjoyed being back in a routine. He never argues or fusses when I announce it's time to start school, and honestly he never has! I know the day may come but am thankful it's not here yet. That's not to say that I don't at times get a little attitude during some of our lessons but it's not a feeling that pervades the day.
  • Horizons is a hit again this year. Thatcher loves math and still says it's his favorite subject. Even without reviewing flash cards all summer it just took a few days of review to be back where we left off at the end of the year.
  • Teaching our Family Rules to Thatcher has been a great thing. He memorized all ten rules last week and we used them as our first copywork this week. It's not as if we did not have rules in our home before but having them "officially" written out has been so helpful...not only for a little boy who sees the world in black and white but especially for his mommy who can tend to make a big deal out of every little thing. Now I try to focus on these ten things and let other things slide a little more.
  • We are enjoying Wisdom and the Millers tremendously. I have recommended these books to so many people - homeschoolers and non-homeschoolers alike. It's so wonderful to have literary role models for our children. Thatcher has really connected with the Miller children and talks about Peter (the oldest of the Miller children) as if he were a friend. It has dove-tailed beautifully with our discussion of family rules as well.
  • Writing our daily assignments on the white board has been great too. Thatch is very visual and seeing him progress his way down the list is very gratifying for him. On the other hand, it's a little stressful for me when I don't feel like it's all getting done!
Things to think about:
  • Beckett is extremely intolerant of my leaving him - period - for me to use the restroom, answer the phone, or especially to help Thatcher. Granted he has been sick most of these first two weeks but it is something that was happening with increasing frequency prior to his illnesses. We are trying to do as much school as possible during his two naps but Thatcher is pretty wiped out by the afternoon one. I need to be certain we are getting everything except history or science done before this time.
  • Haddon adores being a part of Thatcher's school. He wants to be in the room as much as possible and just beams the entire time. It's a hard thing though because Thatch is so easily distracted and little brother just adds one more thing he has to tune out. Is is fair to Thatcher to have one more distraction? Is it fair to Haddon to be excluded because brother can't concentrate? Don't know what the right answer is here - just thinking "out loud."
  • We are struggling to get everything done and we haven't even added history, science, Spanish, language and art/music appreciation. Yikes! Thatcher truly needs me beside him all day long to stay on task. No matter how motivated he is, how easy, interesting, or hard the subject matter is - once I walk away he is off-task almost instantly. Timers sometimes work but more often he fixates on them and watches the time tick away. I am considering waking him up at 6:00 am each morning which would give us an hour to work before his brothers wake up. This would make Thatcher's require an earlier bedtime but it may be worth the trade-off??? It is so frustrating to have a little guy whose brain is so incredibly capable - beyond his years in many subjects - yet who is too often unable to reach his potential because of that very same brain!
  • To help with the "distraction factor" I am starting a ticket-reward system next week. Thatcher will earn tickets for completing assignments in a given amount of time and will have tickets taken away for getting off-task. The tickets can be spent at our school store once a week - or he can save up for bigger prizes. Some of the things I already have purchased for our school store - glo-sticks, Schleich dinosaurs, a yo-yo, Star Wars Legos I found on clearance, matchbox cars, small gum and candies, coupons for: a McDonald's ice cream with mommy or daddy/ game-time with mommy or daddy/stay up and watch a video after brothers go to sleep/extra computer or Leapster time/mommy to read an extra chapter during read-a-loud time and so on. I will buy some larger prizes to provide an incentive for him to work toward something bigger, too.
  • I have hesitated making a daily schedule because of my fear I would get obsessive about it. I am now thinking that making this type of a schedule is a must; we simply have too much to accomplish in a day for me to keep it all in my head! I just have to remember that I am the "master" and it is "slave" (sorry for the non-pc descriptions) to our needs/wants/desires - not the other way around.
Well, I still am not sure where I am going from here but once again, it helps just to get it all out. Anyone out there have any suggestions or ideas?

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Fun Idea for a Hot (Rainy, Snowy...) Day!

Today was the sixth day of Daddy being out of town. We couldn't go outside because Thatcher's asthma has flared up - not to mention the horrible heat, humidity and man-eating mosquitoes that could carry Beckett away if they had a mind to!

Then Thatcher remembered something I did for him two years ago when dh was out of town. (Thatcher is blessed with his Daddy's intelligence and memory! I can hardly remember what happened yesterday, much less two years ago!) "Mommy will you make me a tape road?"

So we happily set about making a tape road in the middle of our kitchen floor.

It's nothing fancy (as if you couldn't tell by looking at it. Lol!)...just some painters tape, fifteen minutes and a tiny bit of imagination; my boys played here for hours this afternoon! I don't remember what sparked this idea, only that I was researching fun ideas for our preschool year. This worked for the letter "R" for "Road." If you can't tell, there's a gas station and a parking lot, too! How fun would it be to make a railway line or an airport? I'll have to keep that in mind for another rainy day.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Thoughts on Reading After Week 1

On Tuesday of this week - and only the second day of school - I had an "Ah-ha!" moment: "I need to rethink my reading plan." This epiphany occurred while Thatcher was reading aloud to me and I was encouraging (aka. fussing at) him to stop mumbling. It's a conversation we had most days last year. I was hoping it had gone the way of Kindergarten but here we were, first week of school and already having "the talk". The one where he nudges me away and says, " I know mamma!" but he still doesn't do it.

Here is our current reading program:
  • Thatcher's read aloud time - usually 30 minutes but often not in one sitting
    • Purpose - for me to observe his reading, see how he is decoding words so I can support him ("Ok, let's look at that word. Are there any small words you see in that big word. Do you see any "chunks" you recognize?), answer any questions that arise, help him connect the dots to be certain he is comprehending and also to focus on oral reading skills - reading clearly and with expression and pace. I see this aspect as somewhat of a precursor to an oral speaking class! :)
  • History and science read-a-louds
    • Purpose - further knowledge in these content areas and bring them to life!
  • Bedtime read-a-louds -
    • Purpose - expose him to great literature with more complex themes, plots, characters and vocabulary than he is yet able to read on his own/many of these books he will read independently in a few years, too
  • Bedtime independent reading - usually 30 to 45 min after we read to him
    • Purpose - the pure joy of books: no restrictions or guidelines - just time to unwind at the end of the day and relax
Here's what I realized - during that initial read-a-loud time I am expecting too much. It is hard to work on elocution when you are still decoding! That time needs to simply be for him to read aloud and me support him.

I still want to work on oral reading skills though; I think it's important, even at his age. We're going to approach it differently though. Starting next week his read-a-loud time will just be us reading, discussing and enjoying books together. We will add a new part to our reading program that will look like this:
  • Presentation Book - each week we'll have one book he will re-read every day
    • Purpose - work on elocution: expression, pace, volume, and all the other things that make our reading interesting to an audience/then on Thursday he will "present" (i.e. read) the book to Daddy at the same time he shows him his weekly folder.
I am very excited about this. Thatcher loves an audience, especially when it's Dad; I think this will motivate him to work hard. I have learned that the McGuffey Readers are designed to be used this way, too. We will start with our own books for now, although I am intrigued and want to learn more about these readers.

One other part I want to add to our reading program:
  • Independent Reading - 30 minutes
    • Right now the only independent reading Thatcher does is at bedtime. He is in his room alone and we allow him to choose any reading material he would like - most often it's the Bible, a comic book or some sort of an activity book. I want Thatcher to have a reading time where I have a little more control over what he is reading and, although I may not be right next to him, I will be close enough to observe and help if he needs it. I also want him to fill in simple Reading Log where he will fill in the title of the book, author, and one fact about the book (I may write this for him.) We had a Reading Log last year but I filled it out each day. At the end of the year he was so thrilled and very proud to look at the list of books he had read.
I'll let you know how it works; we'll start next week!

Friday, August 3, 2007

Our First Grade Schoolroom

I have waited to show our schoolroom because it is still a work in progress. Today I decided that it most likely will always be a work in progress so why not show where we are right now? It will be fun to look back each year and see what changes.

Our schoolroom is actually our formal dining room. That means we don't have a closet, but we do have an enormous window that lets in a ton of natural light. We lose almost an entire wall, but it's a good trade in my opinion. Here's the view of our schoolroom right as you walk in our house.

The paint color is new this year. It is the first time I have put a color on a wall and thought, "Oh, that's not what I was thinking!" It has slowly grown on me though, mainly because it feels very calm and peaceful.

I have three sets of shelves, although they were designed for toys - which explains why half of my books must be laid on their side to fit. They were hijacked out of our playroom when we decided to homeschool. A huge goal for next year is to get two tall bookcases that will hold much more.

The top of this case holds all Thatcher's notebooks for each subject, as well as my teacher notebooks. They are too tall to fit on a shelf. The first shelf has all of our history and science materials. The bottom holds our language and phonics as well as our music and art appreciation materials. Peek underneath the case and you'll see where I have stashed all the catalogs I ordered from just about every company who produces anything in the realm of Classical Education and lots of Charlotte Mason materials, as well. These make for great bedtime reading! How homeschool-mommyish does that sound? Lol!

All the baskets, bins and drawers on this bookcase hold our office/school/art supply materials. The middle shelf is Haddon's special shelf of toys, books and goodies he can only play with during school time. This has been a big hit so far. I am switching out the toys weekly and occasionally plan to hide a lollipop or piece of gum on there, too; he'll be ecstatic. The bottom shelf holds our tiny (but hopefully growing) collection of Spanish materials. Everything currently on the shelf I found on clearance at Target a few weeks ago! Gotta love that.

I love these maps. I saw them on another blog and ordered them the next day. My knowledge of the world is truly pathetic so I find myself "studying" these maps a little each day. Now I just need to get a globe so Thatcher won't think the world is flat!

After only a week of school, I am already so glad dh and I splurged to buy the dry erase board for this year. Here is a picture before our lessons on Thursday (note to self: take photos of things that will reflect the flash from an angle and not straight on!). I put our daily to-do list in the right corner, and Thatcher crosses each item off as we complete it. This has been another huge hit. I knew he wasn't ready for a formal "assignment sheet" but felt we somehow needed to begin helping him organize his day. He loves visually seeing how much we need to do and the satisfaction of crossing those items off is a huge motivator as well. On the left are the Bible verses covered in the first few chapters of Wisdom and the Millers, which we are loving by the way! We have used this board for most of our lessons every day this week and when we are not using it, Haddon is happily scribbling away.

Last year I wanted a huge cork board to use to display Thatcher's work and anything else that struck my fancy. I couldn't find one large enough that fit in my budget so here was my solution...

Put two boards together that I got for $5 each at Wal-Mart. Not exactly the same effect but close enough for the money I saved! This year the left board will have our calendar, Awana's memory verse for the week and other tidbits, and the board on the right will display our "Artist and Composer of the Month".

Here is one last thing I am so proud of (and when you see it you're going to laugh at my goofiness, but I'm okay with that!). I loved the idea of keeping all our memory work on one huge flip chart; that way we could have it all together in one place without me having to rewrite it on the dry-erase board every time we wanted to review something. This is what I really wanted to buy: a chart stand that is expandable both in width and height! We could use it to display maps as our collection grows, as well as easel pads.

Not going to happen this year, so I needed to decide what to do in the meantime. I could write all our memory work on poster boards, hole punch them, connect them with rings and simply flip back and forth. I liked this idea because you could easily switch the order around and otherwise manipulate them. I ultimately decided against it because I would have to draw lines on every single board. I couldn't stand it if every word weren't perfectly straight. (Have I mentioned before I'm a little freaky that way?) After doing the math I realized that I could buy pre-lined easel pads for the same money as using the poster boards (assuming I would buy them at a dollar store at a price of three for a dollar) and they were delivered to my front door the next day - no shipping charges either since I added on a few other things I needed before school started. But where and how to hang them without my handy little chart stand? Here's what I came up with...

Pretty inventive isn't it? An easel we already owned, a little scotch tape to reinforce the hole, some string from a craft project last year and...tah-dah...I just saved $33. Although I still want the cool expandable chart stand for next year!

Well, I hope you enjoyed the tour of Smooth Stones Academy's first grade classroom! If you have yours posted somewhere in cyber-land please leave a link. I'd love to see it.