Growing Every Day

Posts tagged ‘reading’

Top 5 Curriculum Choices

Yes, I am still in the mode of reflecting over the past school year.  Reflecting on the past, in order to move into the future.  In doing so, I asked myself the question…

What most helped learning happen this year?

There were some curriculum choices that were just fine and worked well, but I feel that we could have made a different choice without consequence.  The more I thought, the more I found specific choices that were a critical part of our school year.

The short of it…here are the 5 things (in no certain order) for which I am thankful that we found.  I am thankful both for the sake of my sanity and for the sake of my kids learning and success.

#1 – Easy Peasy Curriculum

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This is a free online curriculum found at www.allinonehomeschool.com.  And I must say, that it is a very full curriculum with a lot to offer.  To be honest, I was very leery at first because it is free!  Not the best mindset, but there you have it.  Having a small budget, and finally getting so tired of searching and searching for curriculum that I fell in love with but couldn’t afford, I turned to Easy Peasy.

There are so many subjects available, I didn’t want to get overwhelmed.  So I simply started Builder on the math course and to my surprise, he loved it.  It was a nice blend of computer game practice, video learning, and worksheet practice.  It had a great amount of review with a good balance of moving forward.  Builder is so natural with numbers that he found himself skipping days here-and-there, but the layout of this curriculum made it no big deal to do so.

Builder also used the Easy Peasy History curriculum to study World War II.  And though we didn’t cover the entire Modern History unit, using just the lessons for WWII worked perfectly for us.  This also allowed us to pull in some fun lessons from other places without feeling like we were out of line with the flow of learning.

I was also surprised when Princess saw the math that Builder was doing and requested to start using Easy Peasy as well.  She started in the Math – 1 level and has not looked back.  She has made more progress than I expected and loves to see that she is moving through each day.  It has given her a sense of accomplishment to see how many days she has completed.  We will definitely be continuing with this next year.

#2 – Art for Kids Hub

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In an attempt to bring in art to our school day, we started drawing an animal each day that went along with the abc’s…a-alligator, b-bat, c-cat, etc.  During this process, I would search each day to find a “How-to” step-by-step drawing guide for that day’s animal.  In doing this, we ran across the website www.artforkidshub.com.  We fell in love.

Rob, is a really fun guy who leads you step-by-step through how to draw your chosen picture.  His directions were so easy to follow that we could all join in.  He is very encouraging and the way he teaches clicked with us immediately.  In fact, because of his videos, art went from being a one day a week subject to every day, per my kids request!

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A side note – the more Builder participated in the art videos, the better his handwriting became!  He had always struggled with handwriting; I believe the art videos gave him the confidence and physical practice of the necessary motor skills to help his writing improve.  Great benefit to art!

#3 – Ready2Read

This curriculum was imperative for my daughter.  She does not like to make mistakes, and therefore very often won’t try something new.  Reading has been one of the places I have seen this happen.  Because she just wants to know it, she will not take the time to sound out the words, even though she is very capable of doing so.  When starting down the path of teaching her to read, the book Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons  was my natural place to start. This worked so well for Builder, but not so much for Princess.

Photo Jun 07, 5 30 39 PM

Then one day, I happened upon Ready2Read by The Moffatt Girls.  It was perfect.  There were so many hands-on reading activities that Princess was very drawn to it simply because she got to “color or play”.  A year later, she is well on her way to reading small sight word books.

In Level 1 of the Ready2Read curriculum, one of the main activities is to build a word garden scene using the word families that she was learning.  This was such a highlight for her because she was able to create a beautiful garden scene, and I think the fact that she had control over where to place the pieces in her garden satisfied her creative side.

Photo Apr 17, 11 12 30 AM

#4 – Mystery Science

This one is a family favorite.  The lessons are very well done, very thorough, and always interest my kids.  I tend to be frugal when it comes to curriculum, activities, and lessons.  Mystery Science is one of those choices that I will pay for each year.  It makes my life so easy when it comes to science.

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Doug, leads you through a story/lesson portion and then has an experiment to go along with what is being taught.  The activity prep leads you through everything you need to do beforehand, during, and after the lesson.  It just made my life easier!

Toward the end of the year, Builder actually began to start the lesson videos on his own.  He knew that Doug would lead him through the lesson, tell him the materials he needed to gather, and then lead him through the experiments.  I would peek a day/couple days before to make sure we had on hand what was needed, and then Builder was able to work it himself.  I love the movement toward autonimous learning!

#5 – Chloe and the Nurb

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Princess wants to be a doctor.  She is so interested in how the body works from the inside to the outside, top to bottom (pun intended!).  One of the science lessons on the Easy Peasy curriculum, led us to a Chloe and the Nurb video.  She watched one and was hooked.  And can I tell you, we have all learned so much!  These videos are so fun and informative.  They can be found on YouTube and they are a part of KidsHealth.org.  I found the easiest way to find the videos was to go to YouTube and simply search for Chloe and the Nurb, (though they can be found on the KidsHealth.org link).

Princess will watch these videos over and over and over.  And then, over again.  You know what?  I am so good with that, because randomly throughout the day she will explain to me something that she has learned.  One of us will do something, and she will let us know how that worked, what our body did to make that happen.  So cool.

We will continue to watch these, over and over and over…and over.  You get the the point.

So there you have it.  My top 5, from this year, that I am so thankful we found.  I am excited to see what next year’s top 5 will be!

And You? ~ What are some of your top picks from this past school year?

 

 

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Social Studies – Session 2

In anticipation for our home schooling adventure, I was the most concerned about social studies and science.  These were my least favorite subjects when I was in school and so I feel my background is pretty weak in these areas.  In preparation for this year, I did a lot of praying…A LOT!  And, this is why I had to chuckle when the Lord told me to focus my attention on science/social studies and that math/language arts would take care of themselves.

Well, wouldn’t you know it.  The Lord was right!

Though I still feel a little uncomfortable and stretchy in the science department, social studies has come along really well.  In our first six week session, we did a unit on US Symbols.  We covered the US flag, bald eagle, Liberty Bell, Mount Rushmore, and the Statue of Liberty.  It was a lot of fun, Mason and 3-year old Madison picked up more than I realized and they are ready to find and visit US landmarks.

Love it!

Our most recent social studies unit covered community helpers.  I knew I could use the mass of wealth on the web to pull together many activities for several different community jobs/helpers.  However, I was running out of steam!  A lot was going on in life, and I just needed to find something already made for me.  So the search began.  I’m telling you, there is so much out there!  Thankfully, after not much searching I found a great unit put together by Travis Hutchins for sale on his teacherspayteachers.com store.

community helper pic

Click Here to preview or purchase

I am extremely picky about what units/curriculum I pay for, and I highly recommend this Community Helpers unit.  It is very thorough, with just the right amount of information about 10 different community helpers.  Each community helper comes with good information, a great song, and wonderful cross-curricula activities.

For an example of the cross-curricula activities, when studying the veterinarian we sorted animals into three classifications – pet, zoo, farm.  This is a great science classifying activity and the kids loved it.

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Classifying Animals

While learning about the librarian, the activity to go along with it is to make a reading tree.  A leaf is added to the tree each time Mason reads a book to me, his little sister, his dad, grandparents, etc.  You notice that our tree’s leaves have started turning colors for fall, Mason’s idea.

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Our Reading Tree

There are mazes and learning sheets to fill out for each helper.  A large teacher book can be printed, as well as a smaller student book that can be colored and used to follow along.  A page poster of each helper with a teacher page that can be printed on the back is also included.  Again, this unit is very thorough and completely worth it.

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Teacher Posters

Then, as if that wasn’t enough, I found a great freebie over at Mama’s Learning Corner on building your own town!  So, I went out and purchased a cheap white shower curtain from the dollar store and Masonville was born.  Every time we studied a community helper, identified the building where that person would work, then he would color it and place it in his town.  This was a great motivator.  There were mornings that he spent an hour or more working on his town.

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Masonville

All in all, we had a great time with this unit.  We studied two to three helpers a week, and took approximately four weeks total to complete.  Field trips to police stations, fire stations, libraries, etc can easily be worked into this unit as well.  We did not do that this year, but I’m sure we will in years to come.

Freezing Fun

Thanksgiving was a wonderful time of family and fun.  We took a break from “formal” activities and focused more on preparing to be with family.

A few days before Thanksgiving, we had a bout of cold weather.  Since seasons are a hot topic with us right now, I thought it would be fun to add to our weather knowledge.  So, we did a science experiment.

Icicles

One morning I checked the outside temperature and it read 31 degrees Fahrenheit.  Mason loves to check the temperature outside so he knew this was on the cold side.  I then asked the baiting question…

Do you know what happens to water below 32 degrees Fahrenheit?

This, as planned, sparked his curiosity.  I put roughly an inch of water in a plastic bowl and set it outside on our porch.  I told Mason that water turns to ice when the temperature is below 32 degrees Fahrenheit.  (In hindsight I would have let him discover this on his own rather than telling him.)  His eyes grew wide and a huge smile crossed his face.  He wanted me to put the bowl where he could see it and keep an eye on it.  After two hours I brought the bowl inside and the top had frozen, but there was still liquid underneath.  He thought that was neat.  We put it outside for another hour and brought it in to observe it once again.  This time all of the water was frozen.

This brought on more curiosities, and he asked if he could take it out.  He spent a good deal of time feeling it, turning it over, and yes, even licking it!  We talked about why it was beginning to melt since we brought it inside and he was touching it.  He decided he wanted to wrap it in some towels to see what would happen.  Once we did, it took a longer time to melt since it was now insulated.

All in all, this was a great teachable science moment

– both for seasonal changes and for a liquid turning to a solid.  I had such fun watching him observe and experiment and investigate.  He was soaking up knowledge and I was soaking in the moment.  (of course I was so into this, I didn’t even think to take pictures)

Here are a few activities we did over the last two weeks…

Week-in-Review

Handwriting:

Assess Writing Uppercase Letters

  • I was curious to know where Mason was in free writing his uppercase letters A-Z.  I knew he was improving on tracing dashed letters, but I wanted to know if he could produce them correctly without the aid of tracing.  To assess this, I had him write the letters on a chalkboard as I named them.  I was looking for if he knew how to form the letters as opposed to neatness, so the chalkboard and large chalk did just fine for us.  > He did great. =)

Reading:

Sight Word Sundaes

  • This is a cute printable that gives another fun way to practice sight words.  This week, Madison (2 yrs) would build the sundae and Mason would read the words as we put the pieces away.

Word Sundae pic

(click here for Sight Word Sundae download)

Geography:

Identify Oklahoma

  • I found a very nice printable map of the United States at mrprintables.com (click here).  I had been looking for a map that I could print on cardstock to keep around as a reference, and/or cut apart as a puzzle – though we haven’t gotten to that stage yet.
  • I wanted to assess if Mason could recognize the state of Oklahoma (our home state).  He did and was also able to identify two other states.  A+ for that assessment!

map image

Science:

Season Recognition

  • We did the water experiment as described above.
  • We also found an activity that consisted of 12 pictures representing all four seasons and Mason had to sort the pictures into the correct season.  (I would give recognition of where I found this activity, but I cannot remember where I found it!)

Season sorting

Icicle image courtesy of Suat Eman / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Moving On

This week was much better for us.  

I started the week with a freshly organized desk and some work prepared for the week.  I thought out those things I would like Mason to accomplish and had them ready Sunday evening.  This worked out well for me, so I may begin to try Sunday evenings as my planning time.

As a part of math this week, we worked on identifying and naming 3-dimensional objects.  I found a good set of printable 3-D flashcards at mrprintables.com.  I introduced these cards a few weeks back.  This week Mason took each card and went around the house to find objects to match the shape.

3d hunt copy

We fudged a little on the pyramid item (pizza slice).  It turned out really difficult to find a true pyramid!

After collecting all the different objects, Mason then went on to build a “sculpture”.  This was great because after completing his creation, he told me about it by identifying the names of each of the elements.  For example, instead of saying here is the paint bottle, he said – here is the cylinder, cube, etc.  This was a very fun way to practice naming 3-dimensional objects.  It was also challenging to find items from around the house.  I had fun helping with this.

Week-in-Review

Math:

3-Dimensional Shape Naming & Identifying

  • This is the activity described above.  Review 3-D flashcards and then find objects in the house that are those 3-D shapes.
  • Add some fun by then taking the 3-D items and make a “sculpture” from them.  Then name each item in the sculpture using the 3-D shape name.

Handwriting:

Fall Tracing

  • Page 11 & 18, in the All About Fall pack from servingjoyfully.com, are two cute trace and color sheets.  Madison enjoyed the sheets as well!

Fall Tracing copy

Calendar Tracing

  • The preschool calendar notebook pages from RoyalBaloo.com are a great set of printables.  We are not good at tracing the date each day.  Mason tends to enjoy doing them more than one at a time.  He went back to them this week, finishing the numbers for all of September and most of October.

August calendar

(September, October, and November are currently available here.)

Reading:

Story Sequencing

  • Using a set of Blue’s Clues story sequencing cards, four cards are given and must be placed in correct story sequence by looking at the scene on the card.  This is helpful not only to see if a child can recognize a storytelling sequence, but also to see if left to right reading is occurring.

sequencing

CVC Jump

  • For this activity, letters are written in chalk on the driveway.  I chose letters that pertained to three or four word families we had been working on, as well as letters for Mason’s name and a few other sight words.
  • Then I give a word and Mason jumps on the letters to spell that word.  After a while, Mason likes to choose the words and spell them.

CVC jump

Sight Word Sundaes

  • This is a cute printable that gives another fun way to practice sight words.  Normally, Mason would build his own Sight Word Sundae and say the words as we take it apart.  Lately Mason hasn’t wanted to build a sundae, but if I build one he will read the words from mine.  Works for me!

Word Sundae pic

(click here for Sight Word Sundae download)

Under Construction


under construction

Warning: Under Construction

As I sit to write this post, life is swirling around me.  After all, life happens doesn’t it.  I have many pictures in my head of what things should look like and how they should all shake out.  Then, at the end of the day or week, I look back and it’s just not what I thought it would be.  Sometimes this is fine, after awhile I start to wonder…is there something I need to change?

In regards to the past two weeks, I look back and reflect on activities I have done with Mason and wonder…have I done enough?  I don’t want to cheat him.  I don’t want to overwork him.  I don’t want to get caught up in the striving of planning four lessons a day, making sure to cover all standards for the week, etc.  I came from there, I don’t want to go back.

I have wondered this past week, if I should begin to get a lesson planner and go to setting plans down for the week.  After all, I am familiar with this, maybe it would work?  Then, I think to myself…Mason is four.  I’m really not ready to push the whole, let’s do a pre-scheduled school week structure.

Life is swirling.

I do have a feeling that there will come a day when I am more planned out in a process and procedure for learning.  I know the Lord will lead us into that which is right for us.  However, right now, I just don’t know what that looks like.  I don’t want to neglect, and I don’t want to push.  I want to foster Mason’s natural love for learning and foster new experiences.  There are times I am overwhelmed and wonder just what have I gotten myself into!  I know this is the path for us, and the path I desire to take.  I must also say that at times, I feel completely ill equipped for the journey that is ahead.  Yet I know, all is not lost and we are doing ok.  I think.

Week-in-Review

Handwriting:

Fall Tracing Sheet

all about fall image

Numbers

  • I noticed this week that Mason was having some trouble writing numbers, which he had been doing well with.  So, we used a writing workbook from the store that has pages to trace and write numbers.

Reading: 

Fall Word Search

  • Again we used the All About Fall pack mentioned above.  We used page 15, which is a fall word search.  I wasn’t exactly sure how he would do with this, since it was a little more involved than other word searches we have done.  He did great, and we were able to talk about each word and how it pertained to Autumn.  Score!

Science:

Season Characteristics – Fall Trees

  • Page 8, in the All About Fall pack, is a tree color-by-number sheet.  I was doing this more as an arts-and-crafts type project, but while coloring we ended up talking about two types of trees – those that lose their leaves and evergreens that  stay green through the winter.  A wonderful blend of art and science!

Image courtesy of Feelart / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Comfort Zone

A trend is developing in our lessons.  

I find it easy and natural to quickly prepare math and language arts lessons, two areas in which I feel comfortable and confident.  I have seen this trend developing for a few weeks now, but didn’t give it much thought.  Armed with this observation, I am going to challenge myself to bring in a few more science and social studies based activities (areas I do not gravitate to naturally).

The coming of Fall is lending me a helping hand in this area.  One of our kindergarten standards in science is to describe characteristics of the four seasons.  So, we have already done a lot of talking about the Fall – change of weather, leaves changing color, leaves falling, wearing jackets, etc.  I downloaded a cute Fall pack from www.servingjoyfully.com.  It is a great resource of really cute activities.

all about fall image

In printing out and using this Fall pack, I made note that many of the activities were review for Mason (4 yrs).  However, more pages than I expected would interest Madison (2 yrs).  This is a great shift for all of us, I simply need to expand my searching in regards to lessons for Mason, and begin making a more conscious effort to think of activities on Madison’s level.

Week-in-Review

Math:  

Basic Facts Addition Practice – Addition Blackout

  • Write the numbers 2-12 on a piece of paper.  Roll two dice and add the numbers showing.  Cover up or mark off the number on your sheet that matches the sum rolled.  The first person to cover or mark off all the answers wins.

Basic Facts Addition Practice – Addition Bingo

  • We used the portion of the game that focuses on addition facts 1s – 5s.  The answers are on the BINGO cards, and the question cards have simple addition questions such as 1 + 4.

bingo copy

Reading: 

Sight Word Practice

  • Mason used the PowerPoint for Dolch sight words, Kindergarten List 1.  More details about the list and download option, here.

(K)List1 image

  • We then made a sight word “parking lot” to match the words on this new list.  Below is an example parking lot picture, but not the one that actually matches the (K)List 1 words.  Click here for more details on the “parking lot”.

Sight Word parking

Science:

Season Characteristics – Fall Trees

  • I went on a search for cut-and-paste activities, and this Fall Leaves download came across my path.  It is so simple and perfect.  As the kiddos are cutting and glueing, it gives a great opportunity to discuss fall characteristics such as leaves changing and falling, weather growing colder and more rainy, etc.  Not to mention, I absolutely loved seeing the artwork side of things, and how differently their pictures turned out.

MandM fall trees

Don’t Blink

Don’t Blink

Yep, I blinked and all of a sudden it was Sunday!  As I look back, it is hard to remember what happened throughout the week – with myself as well as our learning activities.  At the beginning of the week, I found myself in a dangerous postition…I had no more lesson recording sheets.  It was on my mind to print some…and then, I got distracted!  I am not at all worried about it, simply humored by how fast a week can pass.

In light of this, I want to simply share some new resources I have recently completed:

1)  Dolch Sight Word PowerPoint – Kindergarten List 1 – using the lists found at spellingcity.com, I created a PowerPoint presentation including 13 sight words, a sentence with each word, and a review slide at the end.  These are a compliment to the pre-k set that I made last month.

  • The words in (K)List 1 are:  they, under, now, ate, four, soon, saw, all, please, will, into, good, brown

(K)List1 image

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2)  Dolch Sight Word Tracing Sheets – Kindergarten List 1 – dashed words to match the (K)List 1 words above.  This document is a little plain at the moment.  Working to update it soon.

(K)List 1 tracing image

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3)  ABC tot Tracing – Many times, Madison wants to work on the same thing as her big brother, sight words included.  I created this document so that a toddler can trace inside the letters A-Z.

ABC tot tracing image

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I have an ABC tot PowerPoint but it is a little too rough to upload at the moment.  Look for it to come soon.  Also, look for a download and/or printables tab coming soon.

Blessings to you as you venture on this week.

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