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!