Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Fire Safety Week

It's National Fire Safety Week, so today I took my kindergartener on a field trip. We were able to get permission to join the younger students at a local Christian school for their fire safety assembly. Firefighters from several area fire departments came with their equipment for the kids to explore after first putting on a short program indoors. My daughter was particularly excited to go, because her best friend attends kindergarten at this school.

First, one of the fire fighters explained some fire safety rules and then talked about the special clothing fire fighters wear while two guys put on their gear to demonstrate.

 Here he is describing the protective fabric lining in the coats the fire fighters wear, emphasizing that their clothing is not fire PROOF, only fire resistant.

 Now the guys are putting on their coats...

All set!
Next the features of the fire hat were explained, including how fire fighters recognize who each other are as well as which fire company they work with based on the color of the hat and the number on the front.
Explaining the air mask the fire fighters wear.
Putting on the air mask.
The children were urged to NOT run away and hide from a fire fighter. They were shown what a fire fighter in full gear looks like so they won't seem so scary. They also got to hear how a fire fighter, wearing full gear, sounds something like Darth Vader.
The air tanks they wear give them about 30 minutes of air. Lights start flashing and a siren goes off to let them know when they have only 3 minutes of air left.
It was also explained that a siren goes off on a fire fighter's gear if he doesn't move for at least 45 seconds. This way, if he is hurt or trapped, other fire fighters can quickly find him. They let one of the sirens go off and it was LOUD!
The fire fighters demonstrated how one should CRAWL not walk when there is a fire. Children were encouraged to crawl to a fire fighter if they needed to get to one, NOT to walk. Also, if for some reason they couldn't yell for help, to grab hold of his clothing or a tool he's holding as he goes by in order to catch his attention so he'll find them. They were told that in a fire, it is DARK. The smoke will be heavy and often BLACK so the fire fighter may not be able to see them, so they must yell or do something to get his attention.
The children got ready to play a game of "Stop, Drop, and Roll" as a reminder of what to do if their clothing catches on fire.
Here's my daughter having a go at it.
Now she's picking the next child to have a turn.

This woman from a local insurance agency was there to explain to the children how very important it was to NEVER go back inside their house when there is a fire to try to get something left behind.

Then it was time for the BEST part of the morning: exploring all the fire trucks parked outside.

Listening to the fire fighter explain about the fire truck.
Showing the children some of the rescue gear.
Sometimes fire fighters need a rescue boat!
The fun part is getting to climb into the fire truck!
They are BIG!
Showing the fire hoses.
Here this fire fighter is showing the children the "Jaws of Life" and other tools used to rescue people who are trapped in vehicles after an accident.
Here, the children are told how this truck can hold 1000 gallons of water and dump it into a portable "lake" (basically an inflatable pool) that other trucks can use as a water source when there isn't a fire hydrant available. These trucks can dump their water, then go get more and return to add more to the supply. This is important when they are fighting brush fires and also fires at homes in rural areas that might not have a nearby water source.
Showing off the axes they might need to use to break through a roof or a wall to get to where the fire is.
He called this "The world's biggest squirt gun". It can shoot water about a block away.
The kids got to try on a fire fighter's pants & boots.
Wearing a real fire hat!

Here's my little peanut standing in front of the HUGE fire truck wheel. She had a grand time today and learned so much about fire safety. We'll be continuing our fire safety emphasis at home the rest of the week, and of course talking about it other times as well. Later this week, there will be free fire truck rides at the mall, so we're planning to go to that as well. She can hardly wait!

If it's still fire safety week, check your area for activities for kids. Many places are offering free activities for children to learn about this important subject. And whether you are reading this while it's still fire safety week or it's past, it is never too late to discuss fire safety with your kids. It's important enough to repeat many times. And don't forget your older kids! They need to get reminders as well. Plus, they are often using things that younger kids don't that might require additional fire safety knowledge. Check out my Pinterest for a bunch of great ideas I've found to teach fire safety to both younger and older children.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Reading Aloud With My Middle Schooler

A key element of Sonlight Curriculum is the inclusion of "Read-Alouds" as a foundational part of the program up through Core H (typically a middle-school level program). Even when students can read well on their own, books are included for the parent and the child to enjoy together. As described in an article on Sonlight's website, the function of Read-Alouds are:

  1. To introduce your children to great literature that is beyond their personal reading capacity.
  2. To develop within your children a life-long love of reading. (Even though they may not be able to read a good book on their own, when you read great literature to them, it creates a thirst to read. They begin to think, "I love books! One day I'm going to read books like this!")
  3. To expand your children's vocabulary.
  4. To build listening skills--including the ability to visualize the meaning of spoken words.
  5. To develop an "ear" for good oral reading.
  6. To develop oral reading skills. (Having heard quality oral reading done by you, your children will imitate you. And,
  7. To give you and your children a context for sharing mutually significant times together.

I love how the books Sonlight selects for Read-Alouds are so much more than great stories--how they spur us to deeper thought and discussion on topics that we might not otherwise think to bring up with our children. Sometimes the stories are just SO good that we've finished them way ahead of schedule. A legendary example is the time my oldest daughter and I stayed up past 2am to finish the book The Westing Game because it was just THAT good. We couldn't possibly wait to spread the book over several nights' readings. So we kept on reading, kept on saying "just one more chapter" until the only thing that made sense was to finish the book!

The last couple weeks, I've been reading the book, Out of Many Waters to my 12 year old. It's a powerful story, a historical fiction novel that recounts the true story of  Congregation Shearith Israel, the oldest Jewish congregation in the US, founded in 1654. It focuses on a fictional character, Isobel, who was kidnapped from her Jewish parents in Portugal when she was very small, then taken to Brazil where she was forced to be practically a slave while being indoctrinated in Christianity. She and her older sister, Maria, escape and board separate ships bound for The Netherlands. A sequel to this book, One Foot Ashore, recounts the story of what happens to her sister. I've got this on order from Paperback Swap and we're going to add it in before moving on to our next scheduled Read-Aloud for the core. We've got to find out what happened to Maria!

Though a quick and easy read on the surface, the story of Isobel gives the opportunity for some discussion for us a followers of Christ, as to just exactly what nature evangelism should take when working with children, not to mention the whole idea of "forced conversion". My husband and I have worked in Children's Ministry a lot over the years, and so this is an issue we have certainly wrestled with. It's heartbreaking to see the fruit of tearing children from their families in the interest of "evangelism". I discussed these issues a little with my daughter, and talked about how important it is for us to put our primary focus not on pulling children away from their parents, but rather seeking to reach whole families with the Gospel message.

We finished the book today (a day early!), and one of the scenes in the final chapters described the Jewish holiday of Rosh Hoshana, or New Year. One of the customs described is the dipping of apples in honey. Reading this in the book reminded me of this fun folk song I discovered last year and played for my daughter today sung by The Fountainheads, a Jewish music and dance group. I'll close for this entry with the music video of  "Dip Your Apple".

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Daily, Weekly and Monthly Routines

While we don't typically follow a specific routine each day, there are a handful of things I've set up for us to do in our homeschool on a routine basis, whether it be daily, weekly, or monthly.

First, to start off the school day, my 7th grader has decided she likes in best when we start off with watching the news. For her Current Events  studies, we record and watch CNN Student News. Here is the episode we watched today, for example:

If we weren't able to get it on our television, we'd be able to get it just as easily online. While there are some teacher resources available from the website, I don't generally use these. Rather, we watch with the remote handy so that, should I wish to add information to a story being described in a segment, we can pause the program to do so. Sometimes I'll add some background information, explain a word, or give our own perspective or experience about something in the program. So while the broadcast technically only lasts for 10 minutes, it isn't unusual for our viewing of it to take up to a half hour.

My kindergartener doesn't generally listen in to the entire broadcast, but she'll sometimes watch portions of it...and almost always comes around for the last segment, called "Before We Go". It's usually a fun story, often about an animal or some crazy event someplace in the world, culminating in the host using some VERY bad puns. If my 12 year old has control of the remote, she fast forwards through the puns as they drive her nuts!

It's difficult to find ways to combine children who are 7 years apart! But one thing I decided to start doing this year was to read a devotional to both girls before they each separate to do their own school work.

 I discovered this book Jesus Calling: 365 Devotions for Kids over the summer.

and while I do like it, I find its way of speaking in the first person awkward and potentially confusing for my 5 year old (though I think it would be fine for my 12 year old to hear that way), so I edit it as I'm reading it.

That's pretty much it as far as routines go for my oldest. The rest of the day she does her schoolwork in whatever order she chooses.

For my 5 year old, here are some things we do each day, in no particular order. One thing we are doing is keeping track of the number of days in school so that, when we hit 100 days, we can do something special. Each day she adds a straw to our Place Value Pocket Chart and then changes the number card to reflect the total number of straws. In the photo below, you can see that we've bundled together ten straws with a rubber band, and they go in the middle pocket labeled "tens". She's about to add a straw to the "ones" pocket and then will change the 0 card to a 1. Over time, I hope that this activity will help her begin to visualize the concept of place value in our number system.

I also have her add a star each day onto our hundred chart.

My kindergartner has a new Bible Memory verse each week, each in alphabetical order. Here she is last week, going over our verse for the letter "C". Sonlight provides a CD with the Bible passage set to music. The card she's holding, I got from a fellow Sonlighter at her blog, Delighting in Today. I wouldn't have had the tech-savvy to create something so awesome!

We're also repeating an activity she enjoyed last year, a weekly "Godly Character Trait". I found this wonderful set of cards at Sarah's Sweeties that I printed out, laminated and then put magnets on the back. Each week last year, I'd go over one of these and she'd put it on the refrigerator. She enjoyed it so much, that I decided it wouldn't hurt to review them this year, but I decided to add a new spin on them, based on a book I've had for years called, A Hive of Busy Bees.

Years ago, my 4th grade teacher at a Christian School I attended read this book to the class, and I remembered fondly how much we all loved to listen to it. So when my oldest was only a toddler and I saw it on a table for sale at a homeschooling book fair, I snapped it up, full of nostalgia. The author talks about various "bees" through stories, each one basically teaching a different godly trait. I realized that most of these were included in the godly character trait cards I had, so I thought I'd combine reading the book with these traits. And to add a fun element to it, I did some googling and found images of a beehive and a cute bee. I printed one beehive and enough bees for all the traits in the book and cards combined and wrote the "name" of each bee on its front, then laminated them all. Where possible, I'm scheduling them to line up with the memory verse. So last week, with the verse being about obedience, our character trait was obedience and we had "Bee Obedience" to put up on our beehive. 

Here you can see what  my kindergartner calls her "Weather Girl". Here's my pin on Pinterest where I explain how to find the free printable I used for this (I did add a few extra pieces on my own by searching Google images). Depending on our local weather outside, she has fun dressing the girl accordingly and providing her with whatever accessories go with the outfit. As you can see, the day I took this photo, it was raining.

We also are using Sonlight's Create-A-Calendar, which features a different country each month. For September, that country is Brazil. So first we have filled out a worksheet describing a girl from Brazil, as featured in the book, Children Just Like Me. I scanned the photo of the girl and cut out just her head and shoulders to glue onto the page, then as we read the book together, I had her fill out each line. Click HERE for a pin where you can see the board I created to go with this worksheet.

Finally, each month my daughter learn a song from Geography Songs that features the region of the world our Country of the Month is located in. So this month, she's is learning the names and locations of the countries of South America. She is also learning the names and locations of the continents and the oceans, and after doing the song for 3 week, is now able to point to each one on a map as she sings the song. Just a note for anyone who plans to reuse an old copy of Geography Songs...it would be worth your while to update your CD if at all possible. World Geography has changed, even in the last few years.

A few years ago, I updated from the cassette I used with my 2 oldest children to the CD to use with my younger daughter. I discovered then that several of the songs had changed dramatically and we had to learn new lyrics. The most dramatic example is Africa.

Well, this year I couldn't seem to locate my CD, so I went ahead and ordered a replacement (you can order JUST the CD from Sonlight). I discovered it's been updated AGAIN. So far what I've noticed is that The Continents & Oceans song now includes the Southern Ocean. The oceans portion now says,

Indian, Arctic, and the Atlantic, and the Pacific, and the Southern...
These are the oceans
Around the world.

The SOUTHERN Ocean??!! I certainly wasn't taught it in school...but then, I was in elementary school in the Dark Ages of the 1970s.

Actually, it wasn't "created" until the year 2000, evidently. It's northern border is generally considered to be at 60 degrees south latitude.

Why the need for a new Southern Ocean? According to Commodore John Leech of the IHO, "A great deal of oceanographic research in recent years has been concerned with ocean circulations, first because of El Nino, and then because of a wider interest in global warming...(this research has) identified that one of the main drivers of ocean systems is the 'Southern Circulation,' which sets the Southern Ocean apart as a separate eco-system. As a result the term Southern Ocean has been used to define that huge body of water which lies south of the northern limit. Thinking of this body of water as various parts of the Atlantic, Indian and Pacific Oceans makes no scientific sense. New national boundaries arise for geographical, cultural or ethnic reasons. Why not a new ocean, if there is sufficient cause?"

That's a perfect example of one of the things I love about homeschooling: how *I* keep learning new things!

Oh, one other thing I'm doing on a monthly basis is featuring a particular animal. This, we get from our subscription of Your Big Back Yard magazine. 

In each month's issue, there is a 2-page spread in the middle that features an animal on a pull-out poster. We hang that up on our "bulletin board door" and see what we can learn about the animal throughout the month. This month's animal is a lynx...and today we learned that the Bobcat is actually a type of lynx!

So, there you are...a rundown on the main routines I'm trying to keep up with. What sort of daily, weekly, or monthly routines do you have?

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Highlights from our first week of school

So we're nearly finished our 3rd week of school, so I thought I'd better get on the ball and start posting!  Here are some highlights from our first week.

I was mostly organized for the start of the new year.  I have two small bookshelves designated for the girls' school books, each on one side of a door that runs between our living room and kitchen. You'll see more of the door later, as due to a lack of wall space, it serves as somewhat of a bulletin board.

I have my 7th grader's books for the year all on this shelf:

And my  kindergartener has her books for the year on this shelf:


On top of this bookshelf you can see some of my Goodwill finds: a Talking Clever Clock and an old (now discontinued) Junior Explorer Talking Globe from Leapfrog that I paid only $1 each for! I also needed a CD player and found the one you see--with a manufacturing date of 1994 (!) on it--for just a few dollars as well as a set of sound-proof headphones to use with it for only a quarter.

The shelf below was also a Goodwill find. For years I wanted a shelf like this and a couple years ago I found this one for about $3...they retail new for over $100, so I was really excited to find it, needless to say. While in the past, I kept picture books on it, starting this year I'm using it to keep our current week's books for both girls at an easy-to-grab spot. So in this photo you can see books from both Sonlight Cores H and K.

I took First Day of School photos of each of the girls holding signs showing their grade. I found these on Pinterest.

Here are my girls, under the apple tree in our back yard....

Here's my youngest sitting at her desk, all ready to start her first day of Kindergarten! Her desk is the same one all her older siblings once used--salvaged from a Christian school near where we once lived in Massachusetts. They were getting rid of a bunch of old desks and chairs and I was able to get it for free.

One thing we did for fun to launch the new school year was to go to McDonald's for lunch.  Because we can. *grin* That's half the fun of homeschooling--doing things like this in the middle of the day, since we're not restricted to a "normal" school schedule.

Eating out is something we rarely do, especially Fast Food. If we do stop for fast food, it's because we're traveling. So this was a big deal. my youngest got a coupon for a free meal from the summer reading club at our library and of course she was eager to put it to use! I forgot to take my camera INTO McDonald's--accidentally left it in the car--so only got this photo of her as we were getting ready to leave. She's holding her milk jug that came with her meal.

My two graduates--a daughter, 22, and a son, 18--joined us so it was me and all four kids. I had the older kids share some of their memories of kindergarten--they were all homeschooled, by the way (though my son went to a public VoTech high school before graduating earlier this year).

It was a fun time of them sharing memories...and my oldest sharing memories of doing K with a baby brother around...then the two oldest sharing and laughing over memories of doing K with daughter #2...and finally all three of the oldest sharing about doing school when the youngest was born.  Definitely a homeschool back-to-school memory time VERY different from brick & mortar school kids!   I remember when I first started my homeschool journey in 1994, feeling a bit wistful of the back-to-school memories I had that my daughter wouldn't  have. And it's such a joy now to look back at the different memories they all have--and that they are SHARED memories.

I noticed at McDonald's that my youngest didn't seem to have much of an appetite...and that proved to be an issue all week. She did fine with normal school activities the first day, but by that evening, I noticed she was mildly feverish. The rest of the week, she battled a mild fever off and on and did a lot of extra sleeping. She hasn't taken regular naps in ages, but all that week, she would stop periodically to lay down to "rest" and several times fell asleep--a few times for a couple hours.

Yet in the midst of all this, she was so excited about starting kindergarten, that she was determined to get up to do a few things. She started in on her Handwriting Without Tears and Explode the Code (she's doing book 4 currently) each day as well as her reading.  Plus I  read aloud to her the Boxcar Children and her history.

Since she's an advanced reader, I have her doing Sonlight's Grade 2 readers, but even with that I'm mixing it up a bit. I decided to have the Beginner's Bible reading be her own personal Bible reading rather than "reading class". Also, there are several of the readers that she's already read this past summer, so I scheduled those earlier in the year and have looked for some fun activities to go with them. I'm also having her read the science on her own.

For her first reader, she enjoyed Owl at Home. I have a little activity book that was designed for it that I found at Goodwill ages ago, and she's doing those activities that go with it. I also added a special craft to go with "Tear Water Tea" (a favorite story in our family for years--going back to Daddy reading it to our oldest when she was this age). Here's the pin where I describe the craft and you can click on the pin to go where I found the template: http://pinterest.com...75879668584697.

Her list was the following (exactly how she spelled everything):

  • Sad dolls!
  • Mulisu (Melissa, her baby doll) getting lost!
  • Unicorn maet! (unicorns are her favorite animal)
  • Lions eating zebras!
  • Falling down!
By Friday, she was a bit better, but still wanting to rest. She did some more Explode the Code and then I gave her an activity that I came up with based on one described in a book I think someone in the Sonlight forums recommended to me a couple years ago called Work Jobs. I picked three coloring pictures about Brazil, since that is our "Country of the Month" based on the Create-a-Calendar. I printed two copies of each picture and cut out 3 small portions from one for her to place on the other. It's a "part-to-whole" activity. She had to be able to look at the small portion and figure out what part of the bigger picture it matched. She wasn't feeling up to coloring the pictures afterward, but did want to read.

Here she is doing that activity:

For science, she read all of Tadpoles and Frogs, much of which she did laying down on the couch. She was  eager to do this activity I found on Pinterest.

For my 12yo, we sat down together to go over all the the subjects I have planned for her so she could decide her schedule. She knows what she likes to get done first and I want to honor that as much as possible while working around needing to teach her younger sister for K. Thankfully, there IS a lot my older daughter can do on her own or with minimal help from me: math and science for example.

With the youngest getting sick the first week, I'm really glad I'd already planned to start out light. I've found over the years that going from 0-60 at the beginning of the school year is just too much, so we don't do every school subject the first week. It's easier to start out light the first week while we get back in the habit of "doing school" and what we skipped over the first week can easily be picked up (and if necessary, doubled up) the following week. Things like math don't need to be doubled up, since that's not on the Sonlight schedule. The first week, we did all the reading and read-alouds, but other subjects just added one new one each day and didn't really go "whole hog" until this week. Takes a LOT of stress off that first week of school!