Wednesday, October 31, 2012

A Peek At Our Morning

A side note: 
Well, no followers for this blog.  Ha!  The funny thing is that I have a ton of pageviews.  Very interesting...and not all that surprising.  :-)  Number one reason...Pinterest.   I've fallen for it too!  I very seldom follow blogs anymore.   Those that I am "following" I very seldom get to anymore.  I 'follow' the boards of the owner of the blogs I'd typically follow.  Second reason is that I'm not providing a bunch of free printables, but that's besides the point.  This blog is mainly way to keep track of what we try, what works, what doesn't, etc, and answer some questions that people connected to me have.  Some day I'd like to get more into the activity's a hobby I've enjoyed but right time!  So we'll use this blog as a "record" for now.

I'd like to share a bit my feelings, as of this moment, of "schooling at home" and a bit of our schedule as I know there are some that wonder how one earth I do what I'm doing.
A relatively small house + 6 kids ranging from 3 years old to 9 years old=necessity to be pretty structured and organized.  :-) 
We have a  more flexibility than a brick and mortar school but not as much flexibility of a true homeschooling family. 
I love the peace that I can get from the curriculum being provided for me and the support of many, very helpful, teachers. 

I love that the curriculum they provide tends to connect from one subject to the next...and that they touch on each subject in each grade so we can often converse about a topic and everyone knows at least a little of what we are talking about!

I love that my kids now love history!  We are learning so much in history! 
I love the fact that the children are learning so much from each other and that we have a bit of flexibility in how long we spend on one topic vs. another topic.  If a child is struggling in an area, we can take a break from it.  Maybe they just aren't ready to take on that concept...we just go back to it at a later date.
I love that the children do not have to wait for the rest of the class if they have mastered a topic. 
I love that children are more than welcome to sit in on another child's lesson(time permitting)!  History, Art, Social Studies, Science is often the subjects they like to sit in on.
I love that throughout the day I hear about "what I learned" vs. "I don't know" when I asked about it while they were in attendance at a brick and mortar school.  Also, because I'm directly in the center of their education, we can apply the material immediately in every day circumstances.
I love that we only have to do the basic practice sheets if that's all we need and not have a bunch of repeated/unmeaningful/time filler pages to do. 
I love that I can change a worksheet into a hands-on activity and not have to have the actual worksheet because I'm right there with them seeing if they understand or not. 
I love that each of the grades get a good background of history... their science is much more hands-on and for the first time they have a formal art program! 
I love that 2 of my students, and eventually all of them, have the option of learning Spanish at a young age (when they SHOULD be learning a language). 
I love that the children are excited about their learning and they connect it with whatever they are doing.  This is a first!
I love how much I'm growing as a mom and teacher.  I'm still learning patience. After working with kids for approx. 15 years, I'm still learning patience.  It is not a natural thing for me...definitely learned.  So as I'm learning patience, the kids are learning to be patient with me also. :-)
On the downside are the typical "homeschooling" cons.  At this time the pros definitely outweigh the cons.  We chose this program for the basic education it provides, individualization, accountability, etc...not because of gym, music, and the social aspect of school. 
We understand that gym and music is a lovely chance for many a student...and may be their only chance of participation of that type of thing.  However, when a family understands the benefits of gym/music, but still choose homeschooling or schooling at home, they can make adjustments in their child's overall education as needed.  Place their children in music lessons, sports, join a gym etc.  One can also teach the basics of music...but more importantly teach music appreciation.  One can also teach the basics of physical education and health and more importantly show by example the importance of healthy eating and taking care of one's body.  Let's be honest here...what do you remember from gym...or music for that matter?  All stuff that we can do at home.  Yes, it's nice to have a large indoor space in which we can play group games and etc...but it's not necessary...years ago in a one room school house, they surely didn't have organized gym/health and music.  It was incorporated in the day and plenty of time was spent outdoors...either at school or at home...chores or play.  Who was healthier?  We would have to admit that generations before us were much more healthy.  So as long as we are doing our part in fulfilling the basics of those electives...all will be well.  :-)
So, to the schedule...
We've explored with many different ways of doing our schooling...we'll continue exploring as the children grow and develop.  At this point, my oldest, 4th grade usually does his work that can be done independently in his bedroom. This keeps distractions down to the minimal...and truthfully, he wants to do what every one else is doing and so though I would like for him to do that...that would mean that I'd be having school after school every day just to get his own work done! (And most days we already do!-we're almost caught up and so his daily work load will start to lessen.)  The other children are in the kitchen with me...doing the 'around the table' approach.  Is it working?  You bet!  I thought there would be quite a bit of distraction for each other but there really isn't that much.  The benefit...they talk amongst each other (conversational skills that aren't often taking place in brick and mortar) and they are learning patience!  I really do only have 2 sets of ears, 2 sets of hands, 2 sets of eyes.   :-)  So yes, they do learn patience and they learn independence because more often than not if they reread what they are questioning...they will figure it out on their own...while they are waiting for me...or even better, they help each other! 
 My job isn't over when school is over...just like a typical teacher.  But, my planning is a little different than a typical teacher.  :-)  After school is out I'm correcting papers, answer input, and reading and preparing lessons, prepping "extra" activities,  and the biggest job is to coordinate who does what when.   
This is our general schedule, subject to change.
8:00-8:30   Group Lesson 
8:30-9:00  3 year old:  tray work
                  1st grader: PhonicsWorks (the activities that require me)
                  2nd graders:  online portion of math-by the time they are done I'm usually done with
                                       1st graders and can implement math learning and provide help as needed.
                  3rd and 4th graders:  independent work (typically spelling/literature/language arts)
9:00-10:00  3 year old:  tray work 
                  1st grader: "independent work" (not always completely independent but doesn't require
                                    me to sit right next to him.)  Sight words, spelling words, penmanship, reading,
                                    and math-as soon as I am available to assist.
                  2nd graders:  vocabulary (online), spelling, HWT's (printing review, beginning cursive)
                  3rd/4th graders:  continuing in what they are working on in language arts/literature, also
                                     writing, finish art lesson, cursive, etc.  I'm available for them at this time if
                                     they need assistance.  Typically they need assistance in math and writing.
10:00-10:30  Snack/"recess" 
                    About 2x's a week we do organized games to teach basic physical education components.
10:30-11:15  3 year old:  educational DVD, free play, and/or Great-Grandma play :-) 
                      1st grader:  art project, language arts (after I'm completed with 2nd graders), finish up 
                                         or "extra" activities, slip in science or art. 
                      2nd graders:  Literature (with me, as soon as we come in from outside), writing skills,
                                          and finish up or 'extra' activities. 
                      3rd and 4th:  math and writing, science/history/social studies
11:15-11:40   Free play and finish up activities.  If someone is needing extra help or had a hard time
                      staying focused...we use this time to "catch up".  I also slip an extra science, history, or
                      art with the kiddos every once in awhile...but I find that they need to know they have
                      this "free time".
11:40-12:00  A very basic bible lesson.  We do a memory verse, learn songs, and read a story
                     throughout the week.  At the moment, our actual formal music lessons have been put on
                     the back burner.  As you can see, our morning is pretty full.  So, at this time, I have my
                     own children enrolled in lessons and do encourage the other families to do the same and
                     in the meantime, I slip in a bit of "music" during this time.  But more importantly...we
                     are working on music appreciation at this time.  Off and on during the morning we listen
                     to various types of music and discuss it informally.
*  1st grader does science, history, and formal art lesson (usually minus the project...he usually does it the next day during the morning) in the afternoons that he is here.
*  Group lessons vary.  We typically have done History2 since all the children haven't had the opportunity to learn  K12's history curriculum.  All of it is new!  So we are building a's awesome!  We also slip in Social Studies at this time.  So far they are on the same general topic guideline...just go into the material a little deeper the older they are.   On Tuesdays, most of our class connects are on this day so we usually do Draw.Write.Now on this day so that they can get started into their work right at 8:30A.  This week we did an Art1 lesson together because I knew it would be interesting and fun for all.  They loved it!  We learned about Wassily Kandisky... and we created art along with fast and slow instrumental/classical music.  In all art lessons, all students have the opportunity to use the materials that are out for a specific lesson...even if it isn't their lesson.  They love this!
*  Class connects.  These are once a week running from 30-60 minutes.  This is a time for them to meet with their teacher and classmates, work on some concept that the children may be having difficulty with.  There are also, extra class connects for students who need more assistance in reading, writing, and math.                      
*  We do monthly conferences with learning coach (me), assigned teacher, and student.
*  One struggle I have is slipping in science/history (both require me completely) for 3rd grade.  We have slipped it in rather well in our morning with 2nd grade and 4th grade does his in the afternoons with me.  So we're working on finding out how we can slip that in. 
*  One afternoon a week I have the children into the afternoon.  One child has a class connect in the afternoon...we had been doing group art then but I don't want the child missing out on that so we are working on independent work for 2nd graders and I'm focusing on doing a history and science lesson for 3rd grader on this afternoon.  We still need to slip in another history and science lesson during the week though.  :-)
Another concern I had and I know others had was just how much of the time are the children sitting in front of the computer since this is a "visual" academy we are enrolled in.  Surprisingly, not much!
Left:  note the phone...E. is taking his DIBELS test with his assigned teacher.
Right:  C. is doing a math lesson at the computer.  They often start with an intro lesson and then move to the table for hands-on practice.

 1st grader:  average of 5-10 minutes for math, 15 minutes for Study Island, class connects-1-2x's a week.  I do allow use of technology to help him practice math and sight words but really, it doesn't add to much.  Science, history, social studies, art are all "online" but I implement them so they are not sitting in front of the screen.  Yesterday and today...he didn't use the computer at all.  :-)
2nd graders:  5-10 minutes for vocabulary, 10-15 minutes for math, 15-20 min. for Study Island, 15-20 minutes for Spanish and 30 minutes once a week for class connect.  Of all my students, they are probably on the computer the most.  But really, 1 hour out of 6 hours isn't bad at all.  :-)  Between the movies they watched in school (educational or unmeaningful/uneducational) last year in 1st grade, computer games they played at school during and outside of computer lab, and whatever DVD/TV/video games they were getting at home after school......well, I'll take the 1:6 ratio.  :-)
3rd grader:  20-30 minutes for math, 15-20 for Study Island, 15-20 min. with an online reading program- again, about an hour for 5-6 hours (the 2nd and 3rd grader do about one hour of "homework" after they leave me.)
4th Grader:  30 minutes for math, 15-20 for Study Island...a bit more if he does science, art, social studies, history independently but that doesn't happen much.
So the concern about spending all day in front of the's gone.  :-P

 Here are "my kiddos" 'em!


Monday, October 29, 2012

Government Notebooking Page

Spent quite a bit of time trying browsing what was available online in regards to a simple government notebooking page.  Since I really didn't find something that fit us perfectly, I decided to create a very simple page for the kiddos.
What I needed:
*  Simple enough for 1st-2nd graders to understand but touch on the information that 3rd-4th graders would be learning.
* Fit on an 8.5x11 piece of it would fit nicely in our Social Studies/History Binder.
* Have enough for them to complete to make it "their own" but also allow us to finish within our 30-45 minutes we have.  It's definitely preferable if they can complete it in the one session instead of having to finish it at another time.  :-)
I wanted to include:
*  the word Government
*  the three different levels of government- local, state, federal
*  the three branches found in each level of government- legislative, executive, judicial
*  service examples for each of the levels of government
This is what we came up with....These pictures are the 2-second grader's pages.

Small green post-it flaps...
top of the post-it note:
L is for laws, E is for Enforce, J is for judge.
under the post-it flap:
Legislative, Executive, Judicial

Feel free to download it here, if it's something that you could use.
I have clipart corresponding with where we live on it, but also have one page with the local picture not there so that you could insert your own (if you live in MI), and also a page that does not include local, state or national, in case you aren't from MI.   On our national, I am using clipart that has our state highlighted.  It would be relatively easy for you to have your own local, state, and national clipart for the children to glue on...or they could draw it. :-)
Tip for those who may not be familiar with notebooking/foldables.  The local, state, federal is a flap.  I left space on the page for you to fold and then trim so that you have the flap...then glue it onto the main notebooking page.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Cup Stacking!

From sight word practice ....
to just plain fun!  :-)

Remember all the things you can reinforce with cup stacking...just write it on the bottom of the cup.  They can stack the ones they get correct.  The incorrect ones go back to the bottom of the stack of cups to try again. 

Here are some of the things that we've been working on that we could incorporate cup stacking with, if we desired.
*  alphabet/number recognition
* sight words/spelling words (read, then spell before stacking)
* math facts (+,-,x, /)
* noun vs. verb
* action/being verbs
* days of the week-months of the year words
* vocabulary words
* expanded form of large numbers
* reading large numbers
* greater than/less than
* and so much more!

When they were with a!  Lots of cooperation needed! 
So fun to observe! :-)

Saturday, October 20, 2012


The children find out real quick that these big numbers they are working with take a long time to count...if counting by 1s.  So, early this year we started L., 1st grader, with skip counting.  10s/5s...and even 2s after a bit is pretty easy for him to count by.  Definitely makes large sets of items easier to count but one thing we are struggling with is this idea of organizing into sets of 2 and what do you do with the odd one out?  1st grader is finding it hard to skip, skip, skip, and then step.  :-P  2, 4, 6, 8, 10, 12...13. 
Here's are some activities that seem to be helping and I'm open to any other suggestions!
Number Lines
(If you are looking for visually appealing and free number lines check SparkleBox!  They have quite a selection.) 
As usual, I'm having difficulty with my camera and our my pictures are definitely not awesome.  But it does give you an idea of what we were doing and a glimpse at one of several of the cute number lines that are available at SparkleBox

I gave L. a selection of odd numbers on slips of paper. We used one of SparkleBox's 0-30 number lines. He put his right finger on the number he was counting to, then his left finger skipped along with his counting until he got to the number prior and then he took a step. This was a pretty small number line to work with but it seemed to help with the concept.
We then moved to a larger number line.  This allowed him to skip/jump by twos and then take a step...with a marker, thus an additional visual and tactile approach. 
I included the one on the left because I love it.  :-)  A. is so intrigued with the different ways I put together to practice concepts.  :-)  Teacher in making?  I'm not sure.  He doesn't have a whole lot of patience...but then again, I don't either.  It was a learned behavior for me and I need to work on it constantly.
Another activity that has been helping, again visual, is to give him a set of objects that can be organized into sets of 2's, pairing colors up.  One day we we used links....
Another day we used counting bears...
 Another day we used circle blocks that came with our MVCA supplies...
These are visuals to show that there is an odd one out.  We're getting there but again, if anyone has any fresh ideas, I like to change about what we are doing so it's more interesting!

Side note:  I believe in doing something for short periods of time-every day vs. sitting down and working long periods of time on a how I do this is to have 3 "problems" to work on each day...less than a minute of practice.  It really does make a difference!  This next week we'll actually be moving on to multicolored sets to count vs. just two colors in a pattern.  This will reinforce organizing his set first in order to count it correctly.  We'll also move from skip counting by 2s and having an odd one out to counting by 5s and having a couple odd ones out :-).  Progress!

Ah!  Love first grade! Young enough to enjoy the early childhood teaching techniques but old enough to begin taking responsibility for their own learning.  There is such a growth in 1st and academically!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Piet Mondrian

As mentioned before, art is usually a favorite around here.  Many times we do a lesson as a matter whose assigned lesson it is.  But on occasion, L.-1st grade, does one separately from the others and how I handle that is to go through a lesson with him 1:1 and when he has time in his schedule in which falls under "independent work" we get the materials out for him to do the project.  Working out well, except for the fact that usually a couple of the children really want to do his project.  :-)  So, I always plan on more than him doing the actual project and when the others have free time they are more than welcome to explore with the materials.  Also, as a side note, I almost always allow for them to explore on their own with the materials with no set guidelines after their assigned lesson is done.  It's so neat to see what they do on their own!
Piet Mondrian
This picture was taken in 1899

Here is some of his work...
We learned that he first did representational work...cubism...
Then in later years he did some abstract work using mainly primary colors-white/black and worked in a grid shape.
This one above is  called Broadway Boogie Woogie...Mondrian's painting in reaction to New York.
The grid based art work is what the 1st grader was to respond to.  We used white cardstock, black cardstock strips, and primary colored markers.
He wanted to do this project again but with his own colors. I suggested he use paint this time and he readily agreed.  :-P
So, two of the other students wished to do this project also...and as mentioned, I do not require them to do the assigned lesson but just to explore with the materials they had available.
2nd grader's work  :-)  This was the work of a child who balked at any sort of "art" but definitely showing his creative side here!
4th grader's work- very precise :-)
Ah, art!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Warm and Cool Colors

One challenge with Schooling at Home with 3 of the kiddos not being yours and thus being on a time schedule, is how do we fit in all the subjects that require 1:1 instruction for most of the lesson?  Well, we're figuring it out...slowly but surely.  :-)
One way we have success is that we have a group lesson each morning and one afternoon a week.  Typically it's art, history, or social studies.  The really nice thing is that the kiddos get to touch on a lot that they might not get a chance to if they were just doing what was assigned to them!
Art is a favorite, of course.  It's one of several aspects that I like about this program vs. our local public school.  The children start "art" in elementary instead of middle school and high school.  Another aspect is that after the basics of art have been taught/reviewed, they begin to correlate their art project with what they are learning in History!  I've seen a BIG difference with my own 2nd grade kiddo who did NOT like 'art' (mainly because language arts had the word 'art' in it! tee hee).  Between our art lessons and our Draw.Write.Now, he's really starting to take a liking to drawing and art in general.  So neat to see!  The mother of the 1st grader has also mentioned that her child's attitude toward creating art has changed also.  :-) 
 This was actually an afternoon group the kitchen table...but on a side note, we did try our less mess group lessons in the living room in a more relaxed state but it wasn't working out for us so almost all our group sessions take place around the table. :-) 
Here we were "introducing" the color wheel.  Why I say "introducing" is because it was an introduction lesson for 3 grade art but anyone that has been with me during preschool years (which all of these kiddos have) has already been "introduced" to the color wheel. 
I first gave them a cardstock copy of the color wheel.  I can not share the color wheel document since it's copyrighted, I'm sure, but there are many options on the's one.
We actually talked about the primary colors and secondary colors first and traced around the triangles first with crayon and wrote them down on a simple can download the chart here.  It was very handy to have a cup full of crayons with the colors they needed right at their space and to also have a crayon sharpener handy.  :-P  Then we moved onto intermediate and complementary colors.  As you can see, cool and warm colors had not been completed.  We actually broke this activity up into 2 sessions.  The chart will be cut and glued to the back of their color wheel.  The children then used red, blue, and yellow to paint their color wheel.  Actually, that was the initial decision but time was flying and the younger ones were having a difficult time mixing the colors to get 'true' colors (or at least relatively 'true' colors) so we did bring out some additional secondary paints to mix for intermediate colors.  A., the 4th grader was the only one that didn't "cheat" a little bit! 
The second session we focused on cool and warm colors.  We noticed that we can pretty much split the color wheel in half and see the warm colors on one side and the cool colors on the other side.  Children chose a shape and created a collage with either cool or warm colors.
Left to right and top to bottom...
9 yrs, 8 yrs, 7 yrs, 7 yrs, 6 yrs, 3 yrs 
Simple and fun!