Music To My Ears

I don’t really play the piano, but I’m hoping that by having one available (as well as other musical instruments), my kids will be comfortable with them and interested in them. I think that both books and music should be readily available.

They ignore the piano for a while, and then suddenly discover it again as a new toy. E’s great discovery is that she can now climb onto the piano bench all by herself. Such freedom! And with great freedom comes great responsibility – to teach your dolly to play the piano as well.

I’m not sure at what age we’ll start formal musical lessons or with which instrument. Any suggestions or experience with that one?

Curriculum picks: 2012-2013

“What curriculum are you using?” That’s ALWAYS the question, right?

Most of us cringe a little because we know that there is nothing magical about curriculum. Any specific product will work for some and it really WON’T work for some. Some will love it, some will hate it. You can educate your child wonderfully with absolutely no curriculum. You can spend a ton of money, or get the same results while spending very little money.

And yet, we ask. I know I do! There are so many choices out there! Assuming you are a mom who is going to use some purchased curriculum, it can be pretty daunting. It’s intimidating to go out into the ocean-depths of curriculum choices, pick something to try, and hope you love it! So we ask… it’s fun to find someone who is trying the same curriculum you are, and see how they are liking it (or not). It’s fun to find someone who is using a curriculum that you’ve read about and are interested in, but have yet to get personal feedback about it. And, it’s fun to find someone who has a good recommendation about something that might meet a need, and they are using a product you’ve never heard of.

I’ve been to two homeschool conventions here in Washington, and while they were very useful, I’ve realized what a tiny percentage of companies are represented at the vendors hall.  Oh, it looks massive and it’s massively intimidating. Yet, there are SO many other choices out there that can’t be at every convention out there. And so, we ask… “What curriculum are you using?”

That being said, here is what we’re using this year:

2012-2013  Preschool (3 days/week)

Calendar time:

Bible: One of the reasons I am drawn to homeschooling is because you can incorporate a Biblical worldview and character training into everything, fully blended into the entire day. I’ve found that my kids ask faith-related questions all day. I love that I can answer their question whenever it comes up, regardless of what subject we’re studying. That being said, there is still a benefit in setting aside specific time to learn what the Bible actually says. To help do that, we attend a Bible Study Fellowship (BSF) class in our area.

Phonics: All About Reading, Pre-Reading

Math: Math-U-See, Primer level

Reading: We read stories from the Jesus Storybook Bible, poetry, and lots and lots of early readers.

Art (1x per week): Radom fun things I come up with to do as a special art project.

Science (1x per week): Projects (1-2 per week) from Janice VanCleave’s Big Book of Play and Find Out Science Projects

Geography (1x per week): Making up my own plan using maps on the wall, the books Where Do I Live, Me On The Map, Children Around the World, and National Geographic Kids Beginner’s World Atlas. We’ll be making our own maps of our rooms, house, town, state, country, etc., and learning about a few other areas of the world.

We’re anticipating using a Classical Education model as the kids get older, although I’m not sure if we should start the trivium in Kindergarten or 1st Grade. I LOVE the look of Tapestry of Grace, although I’ve never seen the materials in person or talked to someone who uses it. But, the current plan is that ToG will be the backbone of our schooling in years to come.

*Full Disclosure* – I have affiliate codes embedded within many of the above links. If you buy something after clicking on one of my links, it does help me out a bit. But, all of my reviews and opinions are 100% mine and truthful and I don’t endorse anything I don’t love.

The artist

Yesterday, C was drawing with her grandma and I pulled up a little thing online that showed how to draw a tree (the trunk is all made up of a bunch of the letter ‘y’. Hubs and I left for our date, and I was so impressed when I came home and saw her picture. She did such a great job! I loved that she put owls on her tree. She was so proud of herself this morning… so fun!

I think I’m going to add in some “how to draw” activities on our art days this year.

Tree Art

Can I Teach Science?

Day two was intimidating to me because it was our first science day. Now, I know I’m only doing preschool, and any moms of older kids might be groaning at me, but I feel like the word “science” gets uttered with mystical terror in homeschool circles. It’s always one of the big questions, like… “But what about science? How am I going to teach (gasp!) science?” I’ve read so many blog posts and articles wherein science is one of the subjects saved for Dad to do, or one of the reasons a family joins a co-op. Granted, things get much more complicated once a student is doing serious lab work. However, the overall effect of these article is that we mamas can’t teach science at home. It doesn’t help that if these moms had an education like mine…science classes were horrible: boring and confusing. Science was the one subject I was bad at (although, thanks to the miracles of the public education system, I still got As in Chemistry thanks to doing my homework and attending class… even after failing many tests).

I was intimidated going in, even for preschool science. But, I’m here to attest that our second day of school was FUN, especially science.

We’re using the book Janice VanCleave’s Big Book of Play and Find Out Science Projects. I like that the book isn’t just a bunch of random activities. The projects are organized by: Physical Science, Nature, Bugs, and The Human Body. There are seven subtopics under each main category (such as Predators and Prey, Body Temperature, Animal Movement, etc.), with two projects per category. All of the projects are questions kids might ask. So, under Nature / Body Temperature, the two questions are 1) I wonder… why do dogs pant? 2) I wonder… How do animals stay warm in the winter? Each project seems pretty easy to prepare for and pull off for the mom.

My friend joins us on Wednesdays, along with her 18 month old. It’s a nice bit of social time for us, a chance for her to get out of their house (and not be at a rainy park), and an opportunity for her to see what homeschooling really looks like. As little S gets bigger, she will be able to join in some of the activities as she wants to.

The morning started great! I try to have an activity all planned and set out for the kids to work on independently while I clean up the kitchen after breakfast, put laundry in, and make a latte. I also figure it will make them more agreeable to paying attention to me later if they already go to do something really cool. Today, they played with baking soda, vinegar, and food coloring.

I set out some special toddler activities for E to do while C and I did her schoolwork. Of course, that’s what C wanted to do too. She still loves all those manipulative activities! Today they were supposed to use big tweezers to put pom-poms in a muffin tin.

We did all our standard things (phonics, reading, math, etc.) and then it was time for… (ba ba ba bum…) SCIENCE! We’re starting in our science book with Physical Science, and the first sub-category is Air.The two questions today are 1) I wonder… Is there a way to catch the air? And, 2) I wonder… What holds up a parachute? We started with the parachute, and talked about how the air slows things down by capturing the air. I bought a couple monkey keychains to use, and the kids loved it. Our play room (aka “school room”) has a high ceiling with a loft above that looks down. I went up there to send our parachutes sailing, and we compared it to how fast the monkeys fell with no parachute.

E LOOOOOVED her little monkey. Maybe because she IS a little monkey.

Then we captured air. First, we captured it in a cup… by putting a napkin in a cup and submerging it in water. C was pretty shocked that the napkin stayed dry. Then, we captured air in a ziplock bag and played with squishing it. Funny enough, they had so much fun playing with their bag of air. They played with them for a couple days and we heard funny things through the house, like, “Hey! Give me back my air!”

At the end of the day, I smiled a big smile and patted myself on the back, for I can indeed teach science!

*Full Disclosure* – I have affiliate codes embedded within many of the above links. If you buy something after clicking on one of my links, it does help me out a bit. But, all of my reviews and opinions are 100% mine and truthful and I don’t endorse anything I don’t love.

1st Day of Preschool

Today was the first day of preschool at our house.

C was excited, although she was a bit unsure of what we’d be doing… or what it really meant exactly. We had a preschool group at our house last year that had six kids in total and we did “preschool.” But, she was only 3 last fall, so our preschool was very much a “learn by playing” group… we basically learned the Pledge of Allegiance and did a bunch of alphabet-centric crafts. This year, she’s four and I actually want her to learn some academics. Of course, it’s hopefully still fun and includes a lot of playing, but I’m taking it a bit more seriously.

Anyway, all she knew was that our friends weren’t coming, so she wasn’t sure what else would be different. She wanted to still do our calendar and talk about the weather, and to say the Pledge of Allegiance. She wanted to make sure we’d read books and do “activities” (aka – crafts). Check! We will definitely do all those things… plus some phonics, early math, science projects, and geography.

Of course, E is in and around, so it was her first day of “school” too.

They had a great time! There were a few moments of frustration when I wanted her to finish something diligently and she wanted to just skip around move on to the next thing. She’s not used to having to finish a task. We got that figured out (because two seconds later she was done anyway), and was proud of the thing she had been working on. The rest of it was great.

They got to start with an art activity (dot painters) while I cleaned up the kitchen and got ready to start. (They took off all the lids and lined up the paints like this, not me.)

We had our “calendar time” (we talk about the calendar, alphabet, observe the weather, chart the weather, talk about a character trait of the week, and learn a Bible verse), phonics (I’m using All About Reading, for those who are curious), Math (using the Math-U-See, Primer level), then we had a snack and a break (during which she played with E’s manipulative activity), Reading (during which I read a big stack of books to them), Art time (we colored pictures to send off to be transferred to melamine plates). I had tangrams set out for their independent play time at the end while I make lunch, but they wanted to go ride bikes instead.  On Wednesdays and Fridays we’re going to rotate between Art, Science, and Geography. I’m especially excited for Science… I think the projects we’re going to do look like a lot of fun.

I think C’s favorite part was math and playing with the manipulative blocks that our curriculum uses. I think E’s favorite part was playing with the “Ziggy the zebra” puppet that the phonics curriculum uses. She LOVED that thing. I think I’m going to have to keep Ziggy hidden away or he will be gone for good.

All in all, it was a successful morning…I think we all had a lot of fun!