Friday, October 11, 2013

Summer Learning- the real scoop

Summer learning always begins with lots of great books.
We didn't advance three grades over the summer as I had hoped.  In fact, I think we may have lost some academic ground.  Now that we're in full swing in the new school year I find myself reminiscing about our past summer.  I had big plans, but instead this summer came to be termed "The Summer of Her Boyhood."  Someday I'll write more about that- the idea that there's a special, fleeting time in a girl's life where she is free to just be herself, to be wild and untamed and romp and play to her heart's content.  Grace Girl turned 7 and Baby Rain turned 3 this summer. It was a fantastic, wild romp of a good time.

So, here are a few things the girls learned from our big wild summer:
  • Grace Girl and Baby Rain invested in long-term projects and enjoyed the outcome of hard work.
Playing in the Sunflower House

  •  Sure, she can't spell worth a darn, but check out those waterfall-fairy charming skills!
Hiking at Horsetail Falls in the Columbia Gorge
  •  Maybe Grace Girl's measuring skills are rusty, but she understands "scale" in a whole new way!
Making friends with the Sea Lions at the Oregon Zoo
  • Baby Rain explored the language of math through music and rhythm.
Exploring music, costume and art

  •  We missed some reading lessons, but Grace Girl's learning to communicate in new ways.
  • Found a snake at a wilderness lake on her first backpacking trip

    •  We backed out of gymnastics and didn't do sport camps this summer, but we stayed in shape the old-fashioned way- hiking, running, climbing...what a view!
    • Wilderness wildflower meadow romping near 3 Fingered Jack

      •  Grace Girl learned about physics, gravity and force!
      • Oregon Coast wave jumping
      • Baby Rain deepened relationships with the people that matter most.
        • Beach walking with Daddy
          •  They may be a little wild and untamed- ok, maybe more than a little- and I'm so glad.  May they never forget the wildness of their own souls.
          Wild summer days- camping on the Little Santiam River 
          My prayer for our new year is that each adventure would bring learning, and each cause to learn would be a glorious, swashbuckling, fabulous adventure.  Yes.  I said swashbuckling.  Because it's a great word.  Go ahead.  Say it out loud.  I dare you.

          May the road always rise to meet you...

          Friday, June 14, 2013

          Summer learning begins... with Spelling!

          There will be lots of tree-climbing, too!
          Now that our Grace-girl has officially completed first grade and we've taken a few weeks off, I'm busy planning for our summer work (don't tell her it's work) and even thinking ahead to fall.  Our main shortfall this year was that we didn't focus much on spelling, though we did make major strides in reading and grammar, which will ultimately help with spelling.  This summer instead of working on "writing" we are going to have some spelling fun!  She'll also get some printing practice in there without realizing it, just to keep us going before cursive starts in the fall.

          During the school year we run a fairly classical school, but in the summer I prefer a more organic, Charlotte Mason approach.  We do a lot of gardening, bike riding, hiking and natural observances of the world around us.  We do still accomplish some formal education in the midst of that as I absolutely hate the idea of having to re-teach something we've already learned!  If you add it all up it looks like a lot of school time, but most of this is organic learning time for our whole family.  I imagine we will actually sit down for "school" less than 2 hours a week.

          • Bible Study- The girls and I read a Bible story every morning, discuss, and pray together.  We also work on a new memory work passage every month or so (45 minutes/week).  When Matt is home he joins us or leads us.  Prayer and worship time are also regular moments in our day.
          • Grammar- One lesson per week from our First Language Lessons book, plus review of the first grade memory work (20 minutes/week) so we don't forget!
          • Spelling- One or two lessons per week which will mostly be a review of first grade (20 minutes/week).  See below.  I might just find a cheap summer supplement book to work through to have an end point in sight.  I think this will be a good school activity to take camping.
          • Reading- Our wonderful library's summer reading program will serve as an inspiration and motivation for summer reading (90 minutes/week).   We will also be attending a few of the summer reading program activities (there are many) and regular weekly (or bi-montly) Storytime for Baby Rain.  Our library reading fuels our decisions for other subjects of study and can sometimes lead us to a unit study tangent.
          • Math- we'll be starting Singapore Math in the fall, so we are mostly reviewing and solidifying skills over the summer with a focus on problem solving, critical thinking, measurement and integrating science.  We'll do some flash card work but we also like to include lots of fun games as part of our math time (90 minutes/week).  Some of our favorite math-oriented games are Monopoly, Rummikub and Catan games (Catan Kids, Settlers of Catan and Starship Catan).
          • Science- One weekly nature study using our Anna Comstock (Handbook of Nature Study) and library books (45 minutes). Includes writing practice, drawing and observation in her nature journal.
          • Classical Conversations- It's important to not completely forget everything we learned last year, so we will review cycle 1 memory work during the summer (about 60 minutes/week of mostly auditory practice in the car) but we'll wait to start cycle 2 until we get to September.
          • Art/Music- These occur naturally at our house as we lead worship at church and work with several instruments.  June is a motivated student of drawing and will no doubt fill her time easily with art projects and fun craft projects as the motivation and occasion arrives.  

          In my quest for more spelling practice, I looked for some free online resources and I've listed some interesting-looking ones below.  Do you have others you like to use and want to share?

          Zaner-Bloser- nice printable worksheets to practice writing words.

          TLS- lots of different worksheets on many topics, among which are spelling.  Fun!

          Grade Spelling- this is a fun interactive site for spelling practice.  Not a pressure-cooker, just fun activities and age appropriate spelling word lists.

          Enjoy your summer!  Enjoy learning!  And don't forget to do both at the same time!

          Sunday, May 5, 2013

          Mommy Don't Go! How to Say Goodbye...

          It's always hard to say goodbye to Mommy.  When I began going to the gym in the evenings last fall we ran into some separation anxiety with our little Baby Rain.  I recently began to work outside the home (just a few nights a week) which meant my absence was felt not just during bedtime, but also during dinner and the hour beyond.

          While Grace-girl, almost 7, is now old enough to understand reason (she still misses her Mama, sometimes, and has always been a fairly sensitive child), Baby Rain is not quite 3 and still has strong feelings about the subject!  So this mama did what any good mama would do.  I requested a bunch of books from the local library.  Your library has them too!  Search under "separation anxiety" or ask your children's librarian for suggestions.  Most books in this category are geared towards the first day of school, but I've found that these are equally helpful for little ones as they don't really know the difference between "school" and "playing at someone's house."  Books about loss are also good for this category (Think: Knuffle Bunny and Have You Seen Duck?, a current favorite at our house).

          Some Favorite Books at Our House:

          The first two are not specifically related to "school" but rather are simply how little ones cope with missing Mommy.  For the record, there are GREAT books about kiddos missing Daddy or other caregivers.  These just really hit home for my kids and me since I'm their primary caregiver.  

          • Owl Babies has been in my arsenal for awhile.  This book was a favorite with both girls at the toddler stage.  It really helps them grasp the idea that Mommy always comes back.  We do have to learn to wait and be patient and maybe even worry a little, but every kid who's read this book can repeat Bill's special line, "I want my Mommy!"  Some of the illustrations are dark (owls are nocturnal, afterall), but never scary.  My favorite picture is the one at the end when the baby owls dance around on their branch.  Pure elation!  Mama has returned!

          • Piglet and Mama was/is another fave for both my girls.  In this case, Mama appears to be lost, but in the end she was looking for piglet the whole time.  In this sweet story, Piglet meets several other animals around the farm who offer her an activity to share with their own little ones, but each time it simply says, "But Piglet wanted her Mama."  For some reason I always inextricably insert a "No thank you" before piglet asserts her desire for Mommy.  No need to be rude, after all!  The playful illustrations add a lightness to the story rather than a scary element for the sensitive crowd.  The simplicity is winsome and not tiring at all.
          • Llama Llama Misses Mama is a sweet story I found in my recent search for books about this topic.  I do love that sweet, passionate little llama.  Who doesn't?  The illustrations in this book are so exquisite that you can almost taste the tears running down little Llama's face when, finally, "it was all too much for little Llama" and he breaks down crying at the snack table at his new preschool.  All is well in the end, of course, when his new friends gather round him and the teacher reminds him that his mama will come back at the end of the day.  The scene of their reunion is a mess of tossed crayons and joyful exuberance.  Love it.  And in the end Llama Llama decides he loves Mama AND school.  

          These last two I like because they give you an action point- they remind you that you can DO something about missing Mommy.  These are better for kids who are a bit older (stories are longer), perhaps more school-age, but still apply to little ones as well.

          • The Kissing Hand is a classic book about little raccoon who is heading off to his first day of school.  Of course, Raccoon school is at night!  Again, the illustrations are beautiful and the story poignant.  Mama gives little Raccoon a special kiss that will remind him of her throughout his night at school.  This is a sweet story that also allows reciprocation for little Raccoon to give Mama a special kiss of her own so she won't miss him too much, either.  And off he scampers to school.
          • The Kiss Box is about a mother who has to go away for awhile and how she soothes the concerns of her little bear.  Finally the little bear decides to make a box to store the kisses in that she will send when she is away.  This is a strategy that has worked in my family, too.  Only I like to cut out tiny paper hearts and fill the kiss boxes with both real kisses and the paper reminders.
          Now that you know how to help your little one cope with separation- how do you deal with it?  Come visit me at my other blog for help with that one!

          Thursday, January 24, 2013

          Gems, Jammies and Gingerbread: Science at home

          For Christmas my Grace-Girl received a Gem dig kit.  You know the one. She was SO excited that I had to hide it until the appropriate time to do the project (aka NOT at my sister's house).  As soon as we got home she was aching to try out her little hammer and chisel.  Safety goggles on, pajamas still in place, we ventured into the world of gems and rocks.  We read about the types of rock, identified the gems (to the best of our amateur ability) and discussed methodology of extraction.

          She surprised even me with her fastidiousness.  This project took a long time and she worked carefully; uncovering each small gem or rock from its dusty home.  When it was all done I sent her outside to dispose of the mess.  Then, in a whirlwind of genius, I sent the gingerbread house out with her.  Somehow I knew the only thing that would justify not eating the thing would be smashing it to bits.  And I was right.

          That careful scientist went a little wild when she was able to become fully destructive.  This is a great way to get energy out of your homebound kids (see the snow?  see the snow on the trampoline?).  Unfortunately, and I wouldn't recommend this, she smashed it right on the back patio next to the back door.  I think I'll be finding red hots and fondant next spring when all the snow melts.  In the meantime the birds are having a sugar-induced heyday (yes, yes, we cleaned it up as best as we could, people.  The birds were not actually harmed).

          There you go.  Fun with science.  And gingerbread.  And pajamas.  It's homeschooling in a nutshell.