Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Grade 5/6, Fall Term, Week 2, Day 2

Acadmics:  Assigned Reading, Literature, California History, Grammar, Science, Spelling, Free Reading, US History

I am wiped out today, and my house is littered with books: books we own, books we are borrowing, school books, etc.  There are 9 books on the coffee table at present, and I have no energy to put them all where they belong.  I call this homeschool decorating, as there is little doubt that this is a home where education is happening.

We didn't manage our art lesson today as it turns out that I didn't have a bottle of black tempera paint up in the art cabinet.  Indeed, all I had was watercolor paints and those aren't going to adhere to aluminum foil.  We'll have to finish the art lesson later this week.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Grade 5/6, Fall Term, Week 2, Day 1

Academics: Assigned Reading, Literature, Grammar, Math, Spelling, Free Reading, History, Health

We are falling into rhythm very easily this school year.  It is still difficult for me to get myself up at 7 a.m. each morning, but not as difficult as it was two weeks ago.  Papa is getting up with me, which means I can make the bed while he takes a shower.  Then we wake the boys and eat breakfast together.  I'm not even as grumpy as I was at first (mornings have never been my best time of the day).

So, if you didn't deduce it from last week's blog posts, we were away for a long weekend.  We did abbreviated lesson work Thursday morning and headed to the coast; Papa and I actually left the boys with their grandparents and had an anniversary weekend away.  I am so thankful for grandparents who think that parents getting away is a great idea and who are more than willing to spend a weekend doing education activities with the boys.  Not only did they visit the coast and ocean, go on a long nature hike, and tour Mission San Juan Capistrano, they also went to Medieval Times for a dinner jousting show and they took a private tour of the local landfill.  That is the equivalent of five field trips right there!

There was still time left over for reading, singing, cooking, swimming, and more.  Clearly my in-laws are super grandparents!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Grade 5/6, Fall Term, Week 1, Day 5

Academics Today: Free Reading, California History, Spelling, Science

Since we are studying California History more in-depth this year we decided to take a field trip to Mission San Juan Capistrano today and also to explore some the other adobe buildings in SJC.  Mission history can be hard to teach now that we know how the native people were exploited and abused, often being forced to convert to Christianity just to provide food for their families, but it is a story worth telling and worth hearing because truth brings understanding.

Last year was technically J-Baby's 4th grade and year and that is when mission history is taught in the California public schools, but I knew that he was still too sensitive to explore it fully, so we waited.  This is our first mission field trip of the year but we hope to explore most of the missions in Southern California.  Who knows, maybe this year they will construct a model of a mission, just as I did in the 4th grade and the 4th grade students in California still do today.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Grade 5/6, Fall Term, Week 1, Day 4

Academics Today:  Assigned Reading, Literature, California History, Grammar, Spelling, Free Reading

We went light on the academics today so we could do a field trip and explore ocean and coastal habitats.   It has been so hot, and since Grandma and Grandpa live at the beach we thought we could escape the heat and do some hands-on learning.  We went on a hike, swam at the beach, and played in the sand.  We also practiced singing folk songs and playing instruments.

It does feel a bit odd to not be teaching in the block format of Waldorf and Enki this year, but our math program (Life of Fred) is meant to be used daily and Papa was already reading history with the boys daily, plus J-Baby requested that we do science more often, and so I have abandoned the block format of teaching as well as using long cultural blocks throughout the year.  We will be reading one work of literature each month and will bring in some of the culture of each book, but it won't be interdisciplinary.  This month we are reading The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate so we'll explore southern culture via songs, games, and food.  We've also decided to tack on going through the Little House books again so we'll be exploring pioneer culture ~ we even have a friend who is going to demonstrate making bullets for us!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Grade 5/6, Fall Term, Week 1, Day 3

Academic Work Today: Assigned Reading, Literature, Grammar, Math, Music, Science, Spelling, Free Reading, U.S. History

We had a smooth, successful morning, which reinforces my observation that J-Baby responds best to academic work in the morning.

Just how are we managing to get so much done in the mornings?  We're waking up early, which is new for us and somewhat unusual among the homeschoolers that we know.  I don't really love getting up early but I do love how I feel when I have accomplished so much by noon, and I enjoy my afternoon quiet time more when I don't have any major tasks pulling at me.

Our Focus Lesson/Project today was introducing the boys to their Story of Science: Aristotle Leads the Way Quest Guides and creating a science time line for our family/learning room.  Happily the time line started to draw J-Baby into what we are doing, as yesterday he expressed his disappointment that our science book isn't full of one experiment after the other.  We made the time line out of old dot matrix continuous feed printer paper (Grandma gave us a big box when she broke up housekeeping) and will add our events using small sticky notes.

I also took a quote from our book and made a poster from it, and we talked about what it means and how we might say the same thing today:

Yes, it's Waldorfy, but it doesn't really have a pink background ~ that was the lighting.  And I cut off the picture, lol.  I should have pulled out the real camera and not used a camera phone, but hey, it's better than nothing.

Both boys misspelled yellow on their spelling tests, despite our having had color name flip books in this house for years.  Go figure.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Grade 5/6, Fall Term, Week 1, Day 2

Academic Work Today: Assigned Reading, Literature, California History, Science, Spelling, Art, Free Reading, U.S. History.

I wasn't thinking ahead when I made the syllabus for our fall term and had us begin this week.  Today was the last day of our summer movies series, so I had to shift some of our lesson work to the afternoon.  I find that this doesn't work well for J-Baby, who generally wants to do his own thing in the afternoon.  We had more friction than I wanted, but muddled through.  Last year we didn't buy tickets for the final movie of the series to avoid this situation.

Our focus lesson/project today was completing a lesson out of the book Discovering Great Artists.  We read about Giotto and looked at several of his paintings on the iPad (it's a handy little homeschool tool ~ I'll give it its own post someday).  Our project was to finely crush chalk with round stones and mix them with egg yolk (beaten with water) to create egg tempera, which is the kind of paint Giotto used.  Then we painted pictures and J-Baby also painted a rock.  It was an easy project and I had all the materials on hand, although I must say I cringed just a little at sacrificing two egg yolks from our wonderful locally and humanely-produced eggs.  I did save the whites and will toss them into a scrambled egg breakfast Thursday.

Another lesson learned?  Put the paintings where the dogs can't get to them: the Brat Dog thought my egg tempera painting was a tasty snack.

Monday, August 23, 2010

And So It Begins ~ Grade 5/6, Fall Term, Week 1, Day 1

Academic Work Today: Assigned Reading, Literature, Grammar, Math, Health, Spelling, Free Reading, U.S. History

We had a wonderful first day of lessons!  This is our morning rhythm:

Awaken early and eat breakfast
Hygiene and chores
Assigned reading
Daily Grammar
Guided lesson work
Focus lesson or project
Computer lessons

We eat breakfast together as a family; this is our gathering circle after the separation of sleep.  In general this is a meal that I prepare and serve, although there are times that it is as simple as homemade granola and milk.  Today we had toast and fruit.

We begin our "school" day with assigned reading because it allows me an extra 45 minutes to devote to homekeeping chores such as vacuuming and laundry.  I find this very important as living in a clean and tidy home is nourishing to us.  If I had younger children I would begin the day with a more structured activity such as a formal circle time or nature adventure walk and would shift the homekeeping chores later in the day.  Indeed, we'll resume talking nature walks in the morning once it cools down around here, perhaps in October (we hope!)

Today the boys read the first two chapters in The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate and also read the first two chapters in Life of Fred: Fractions.  The math reading takes very little time but I can see that we need another copy of The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate and have put one on reserve at the library.

Daily Grammar is an online resource that can be done completely free of charge, or you can order a hard copy or e-book copy.  I ordered the e-book and printed out our pages for the week.  Oddly, the answers for each lesson are right there at the bottom of the page, so I covered those with sticky notes.  Our plan is to spend 5 - 10 minutes on grammar daily.  Today the boys enjoyed it so much that we did lessons 1 - 3.

Our guided lesson time (which includes the above-mentioned grammar work) is the period of the morning that I spend working with the boys on their basic academics such as math and science.  Today we did the problems for Life of Fred: Fractions chapters 1 and 2.  We're still using grid paper lesson books from Paper Scissors Stone, which is good since we found ourselves reviewing long multiplication.  The grids really helps students keep their numbers in tidy columns.

Each day we will also have what I am referring to as a "Focus Project" or "Focus Lesson".  This could be weekly lessons such as health, music, or art, or it could be a project based on one of our academic subjects such as science or literature.  Today we began our study of human development and sexuality using It's Perfectly Normal: Changing Bodies, Growing Up, Sex, and Sexual Health.  We could go through the book fairly quickly but my goal is to open a dialog about these topics and create an environment of honest communication about puberty and sexuality, free from embarrassment or shame.

This year we will be using the computer for spelling lessons and testing and also for French lessons.  I paid for a premium account at Spelling City; as a program it reminds me a lot of Phonetic Zoo except it removes the physical writing of words (spelling test answers are typed in) and it keeps records for me so I can see where the boys are excelling and where they need help.  For example, I know that today they both got 100% on their pretests and should be tested on the next list.  I can also see what games they played to help them learn their spelling words.  If they do miss words on a test I can see exactly what words they missed and whether or not they passed them on a retest.

Our goal is to spend about 3 hours homeschooling in the mornings, focusing on our state-required subjects: English/Language Arts, Mathematics, Science, Social Studies/History, Health, Fine Arts, and Physical Education.  I wondered what exactly the state/school district would consider a "full time private day school" and I figured if the tutoring option requires 3 hours then that is what we would aim for.  This leaves our afternoons free for park day gatherings, free play, and other enrichments activities such as listening to audiobooks, going on field trips, etc.  U.S. History is done in the evenings with Papa.

When the boys were younger this would have been spread out more over the day, with perhaps only 90 minutes of "school" in the morning, and practice work and projects done after quiet time in the afternoon.

After eating lunch together as a family the boys and I headed over to the park for our annual Not Back to School Celebration with our homeschool friends.  It was 105°F (!) out there but supposedly only felt like 98°F.  Whatever, it was hot!  The moms sat in the shade and tried not to move while the kids created a fantastic tree limb fort.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Gearing Up For Grade 5/6

It's planning time here at the Living Oak Academy.  This year we aren't going to use any Waldorf or Enki resources (although we will still use some of their methods!) so I've been doing research, gathering materials, and making an outline for the year.  I'll be honest ~ I love the planning!  I love homeschooling and teaching and in a perfect world I'd probably open a small private school in my home.

This past year I learned a lot about my boys and myself.  T-Guy thrives on schedules, likes for me to plan what he is learning, and loves the output portion of learning.  J-Baby needs rhythm but fights against it, likes to follow his own interests, and wants nothing to do with output.  So this year the challenge is to find a middle ground where both of their needs are being met and I'm not going insane!

Things we have planned:

Literature:  Our plan is to read one Newberry Medal or Honor book each month/block, beginning with The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate (which we did not manage to read over the summer, it having been abandoned for science fiction).  As always, I'll read this first book of the year to them (or we will listen on audio).  My hope is to be able to have some friends read the same books as us this year and have a book club for the children.

Language Arts:  We'll be using Daily Grammar and Spelling City (a computer website) and we will continue with expository and creative writing.

History/Social Studies: We've had a great time with A History of US so there is no need to change that.  This year our goal is to complete books 4 and 5.  If we finish those early we'll spend some time with Oh, California.  I'll also be looking for field trips and A/V materials to support our learning, and the boys are planning to listen to The Story of the World Volumes 1, 2, and 3 again.

Science:  We've loved A History of US so much that we are going to use Joy Hakim's The Story of Science: Aristotle Leads the Way as our science spine this year.  Add to that plenty of hands-on science led by Papa, science and nature-based field trips, numerous science books from the library, online science resources, and of course science videos such as Nature and NOVA.

Mathematics:  We will review and expand our knowledge of fractions with Life of Fred: Fractions and then we will study Life of Fred: Decimals and Percents.  The plan is to complete both of these in preparation for pre-algebra 1&2 next year.

Foreign Language:  We will be studying French in preparation for a trip to Belgium and France next year.  We can use a free online language program for French through the library, but we might choose to purchase the Rosetta Stone French language program.

Health:  In addition to the natural learning of health principles through family living we plan to tackle the subject of puberty using It's Perfectly Normal: Changing Bodies, Growing Up, Sex, and Sexual Health.

Visual and Performing Arts:  I had thought we might use the Draw Write Now series since we already own books 1 - 8, but then I remembered how very long it took us to do even one lesson last year.  Instead I've borrowed Discovering Great Artists from the library and we're going to give it a try.  If we like the projects I'll purchase a copy.

Physical Education:  The boys will receive continuing instruction in mountain biking, baseball, basketball, yoga, and general physical fitness.