Friday, January 25, 2013

Am I Smart Enough?

Being more structured with our homeschooling has a lot of advantages. Here are the three biggest (in my opinion).

Each morning, Emma sits down at the kitchen table to get her school work done. 

Workbox 25Jan13- Monthly Story
Transcribing her monthly story

While she works on that, I manage to get the dishes washed and lots of food prep done. 

Food Prep during school (2)
Homemade Chicken Broth

We get some sort of physical activity every day. 

Workbox Day 2 22Jan13 (11)
A walk around the block

And I feel like I spend more quality time with Emma. 

Workbox 24Jan13- Mancala
Emma and Mama playing Mancala

I've noticed a few downsides as well. Most of them are minor (sometimes Emma is cranky in the morning and isn't super excited about 'school'), but there is one that I seem to be struggling with lately. 

Am I really smart enough to homeschool my child? 

Most days I am learning right along with Emma. Let's take grammar as an example. I think I have forgotten more of the rules than I remember. Lucky for me, Jared seems to have retained a lot of the grammar lessons he learned in school (and at home!).

Another great resource for learning grammar is the T.V. I LOVE The Electric Company on Aside from the fact that the show is full of awesome music (beatboxing anyone?), the entire show teaches about grammar, as well as moral principles, teamwork, and a list of other awesome things. My favorite episode is the one about the silent 'e.' 

"Silent 'e' is a ninja." Awesome. 

So, no, I may not be knowledgeable enough about grammar to teach her on my own, but thankfully she and I don't live in a bubble. 

How about math? I hated math for most of my life. I grew up thinking I was stupid at math, that I didn't have a math brain, that I couldn't do math. Notice I said MOST of my life. A few years ago I had a radical brain transplant and now I enjoy math. 

O.k., I did have a brain transplant, but I did change my way of thinking. It actually started with drawing. Well, no. It actually started with being a good mom. I had noticed that Emma was full of "I Can't!"s. Trying to figure out where that was coming from, I realized it was from me. 

E- "Mama, can you draw me a horse?"
M- "I can't draw horses."

That's just one example. So, I made a decision. I. CAN. DRAW. I can draw, maybe not at a stellar level, but the more I practice the better I get. 

If I can all of a sudden draw, why can't I all of a sudden do math? From that day forward, I made a conscience effort to do public math (without getting flustered and just guessing). I don't run screaming when presented with a math problem in my life, but I try to tackle in head on (mostly with my phone's calculator). Sometimes I get the correct answer on the first try, sometimes it takes a try or two to remember the correct way to figure out the price per ounce. 

I am still not even close to being a math genius, but I am happy with my progress. Besides, there are books and T.V. shows to help me there as well. One of our favorites is Cyberchase (also on Two other enormously helpful things when it comes to math is that 1. Jared is really good at math, and 2. Emma LOVES numbers. 

Now, if you are starting to think that Emma learns everything from T.V., I wouldn't argue too much. Does ALL of her education come from the T.V.? Of course not. Do we use the T.V as an educational tool? Absolutely. 

The T.V., if used correctly, can be a wonderful way to add a different dimension to Emma's learning. For example, this week I had her fill out a state geography sheet about California. When she finished that, she located California on the map. When that was done, we watched a movie from Netflix about California's Big Sur so that she could actually "see" some of California. 

Anyway, back to the original question. Am I smart enough to homeschool my child?

If we lived in a bubble, no. 

Thankfully we have the world as our classroom and it's chock full of inspiration, education, and guidance. All we have to do is want to learn and learning will happen. 

Snail Mail Letter Writing Ideas

Thanks to those people who sent me ideas for what Emma can put in her letters. Before I loose them or forget them, I am going to start a list here. Of course, this isn't a list just for Emma. Anyone who wishes to write a letter can use these ideas (me included)!

Neighborhood Exploration 28Jan13

Just because the list is started, doesn't mean you need to stop sending ideas. Keep 'em coming!

Things to write about in a snail mail letter:
1. Horse Lessons (or any other lessons)
2. Book I am currently reading to Emma
3. Book we are currently listening too
4. Book Emma is currently reading to me
5. Things we while walking around the block
6. Food Emma has helped cook
7. Latest creative creation
8. Favorite non-electronic game to play
9. Favorite electronic game to play
10. A short story that can be continued in future letters (make a photo copy so remember where the story ended!)
11. Write a poem
12. Talk about the weather

I think what I will do with these ideas is to put each idea onto it's own little piece of paper, then put all the ideas in a jar. When Emma is at a loss of what to write about, she can reach into the jar and grab an idea.

This list will be on-going. If anyone has any more suggestions, I would love to hear them!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Need Help- Letter Writing Ideas

I have a small problem (many actually but we'll stick with the post title one). Emma writes two letters each week to different friends or family (some weeks she actually writes 2 or 3 extra letters cause she actually has some pen pals!).

Thur 17Jan13 (3)
Emma writing to her pen pal Willow. 
(Willow's mom is awesomely crafty. I have been following her blog of a long time now, that's how we "met" Willow.) 

Anyway, Emma tends to struggle with these letters for two reasons. 1.) She isn't a huge fan of writing. 2.) She never knows what to write about. (Oh, and I forgot there is a 3.) Hardly anyone writes back)

I would like to make her a list (or chart, or jar, etc.) of things she can include in her letters, but seeing as I am a bit rusty on my letter writing skills, I need some help.

If you are getting a letter from Emma, what would you like her to write about?

You can e-mail me your ideas or just post a comment. Either way, I will probably write another post (which I will try to update regularly) with any suggestions that come my way.

Thanks for your help!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Our Modified Workbox System

We started using our workboxes this week. Remember, I mentioned them last week?

I know you just want the out of focus awesome photos, but I am going to bore you with my interpretation of the workbox system. I believe the original idea was that each day, each child has a set number of school-related tasks, let's say 12 (though this number varies a lot). The night before, the parent or teacher puts each task in a separate box (tray, drawer, file folder, etc). The next day, the child knows that she is to do all of the tasks, most often in a specific order. Some will require adult assistance, but most will be independent. With this system, the child is more independent as a whole, knows exactly what is required of her, and can get to work with little guidance.

There is no why I want to spend EVERY night filling boxes. I prefer the once a week approach that a lot of people adopt. Also, I don't have room for 60 individual containers, so we have one box per day. This will work for us because for the most part, I don't really care what order the work gets done in. Throwing everything into one box leaves the sequence of completion up to Emma. I believe setting the workboxes up this way will teach her the importance of balance.

The way it works in our home is that sometime during the weekend, I fill out a workbox chart which looks like this
Weekly example
(you should be able to click this so get a larger image)

Jared and I feel that math, reading, writing, and physical exercise should be done every day. I wanted an easy way to check that these 4 activities are on each day so I color coded them. If each day has red, yellow, blue, and pink, I know the "basics" are covered.

While every day has the four subjects mentioned above, each day will have 2 "main" subjects, each getting 3 tasks. If you look at Monday, you can see that math and art are the main subjects. There are three math tasks (in red) and 3 art tasks (in purple). The rest of the everyday tasks are filled in, then I fill in the rest of the slots with brain breaks, or other fun things.

As you can see by looking at the other days, not every slot gets a task. Yet.

Once I had all the tasks plugged in, it was time to fill the boxes. Well, after we made the boxes. I'm way to cheap to spend money on something that may not last very long, so Jared and I cut up some moving boxes (I had to hold onto a few!) and made our own workbox boxes. Did I take pictures? Of course not.

Once the boxes were made, I was off gathering goodies. I want each box to have it's own special pen, pencil and clicky eraser (think mechanical pencil, but just the eraser part-Emma loves them). I don't think they all have this yet, but after a trip to Staples, they will.

Here is what our school bookcase looks like with the workboxes.

Sorry for the blurry picture! Eventually we will make the workboxes pretty, but for now is function over form. 

Workboxes (5)
Each workbox gets a copy of the chart. As Emma gets tasks accomplished, she crosses them off. Once everything is done, she flips over the chart where I have printed "Done!" Gives a fun sense of accomplishment, I think. I plan to make some fun and funky "Done!" cards this week. 

As for what's inside each workbox, here are Monday and Tuesday's workboxes. 

Workbox Day 1 21Jan13 (5)
Monday (math and art) Workbox Contents: 
Math- Skip Counting by 3's, Make 3, Addition Squares. Art- Leonardo's palette, Da Vinci's body box ("The Inventions of Leonardo Da Vinci", painters tape), Paper Horse (Box A- there wasn't room to fit all the supplies needed for this project in the Monday workbox). Writing- Lowercase practice. Reading- "Marley: Farm Dog," "How Do You Make a Giraffe Laugh?" P.E.- Dance Party activity card. Fun- 30 Minutes of ABC Mouse activity card, Rush Hour.

Workbox Day 2 22Jan13 (7)
Tuesday (writing and science) Workbox Contents: 
Writing- Letter To: activity card (I plan on making her a letter writing kit with cool stationary, colored pens, funky envelopes, and other goodies), Lowercase Practice,  First Grade Scholar pg. 8. Science- Microscope Activity Card (looking at salt and sugar), Stalagmite experiment, Planet Earth: Caves DVD (not pictured). Math- Transition Math pgs 26, 29, 30, 32-35, 43 (most of these pages were just fixing one or two mistakes). Reading- Marley and the Runaway Pumpkin. P.E.- Walk around the block activity card. Fun- Movie Project (though this also counts as art), Cooking Horse Treats (from scratch!).

Anyway, that's my interpretation of the workboxes and now here is how we did them on Monday and Tuesday.

It kinda seems like a lot, and at first, Emma felt like we were doing school ALL. DAY. LONG.

Were we? No. Both Monday and Tuesday her school work was done by lunch time, with the exception of one task*. Course we slept late both Monday and Tuesday, so we had a little less time to get the work done, causing us to have to do the missed activities after lunch. On Monday it was the paper horses (oh darn, hang out in the craft room listening to audio books and painting!), and today it was the her "Movie Project" (which is a topic for a different post). Basically it entailed her watching "Brave." Again, a very tough task.

*Knowing this is always a possibility, I'll save the "most fun" activity for last because I know there is a good chance these tasks will either take longer then anticipated, or it will evolve into something else entirely.*

Here is what Monday looked like.

Workbox Day 1 21Jan13 (3)
Emma working her way through her work box. 
She jumped right in with reading (while I ate breakfast), finishing both books before doing anything else. We talked later about mixing up the order- doing something not so fun, then something fun, etc. 

Workbox Day 1 21Jan13 (6)
Rush Hour 
We call these types of things "brain breaks." It also works as a waiting activity if she needs me for something and I am busy. 

Workbox Day 1 21Jan13 (7)
Addition Squares- She loves these! 

Workbox Day 1 21Jan13 (8) Workbox Day 1 21Jan13 (10)
Make 3- 
Emma wasn't so nuts about this one, till I gave her some nuts to help her figure out the answers! 
(I was cracking nuts to make some grain-free granola and some grain-free granola balls)

Workbox Day 1 21Jan13 (13)
Dance Party
We plugged 3 songs into our media player and danced around the kitchen for about 10 minutes (me while mixing and taking photos!)

Workbox Day 1 21Jan13 (18) Workbox Day 1 21Jan13 (23)
Da Vinci's "Man in a Box"

Workbox Day 1 21Jan13 (24)
Power Lunch!
Egg salad scooped up with red peppers and carrots

Workbox Day 1 21Jan13 (26) Workbox Day 1 21Jan13
Last Activity- Paper Horse (actually made from watercolor paper)
This one ended up being a work-in-progress kinda thing. Unfortunately paint doesn't dry on demand. 

And now for Tuesday.

Workbox Day 2 22Jan13 (5)
Checking out salt and sugar close up. 
(We are borrowing the microscope and I didn't have any slides, so we tried using ziplock baggies, but they didn't work so well. then I got the idea of using the glass from a picture frame. So much better!)

Workbox Day 2 22Jan13 (6)
Recording her observations

Workbox Day 2 22Jan13 (9)
Making some horse treats from scratch. 

I apparently didn't do a stellar job taking photos today (though as long as this post is, it's probably a good thing). My excuse is I was busing finishing up the grain-free granola and whipping up another batch of grain-free granola balls (at Jared's request). 

Well, that's our week so far. I feel like this approach will work well for the foreseeable future, though don't be surprised to find that we've made a few adjustments here and there.  

Happy Learning!

Friday, January 18, 2013

What We Learned 14-18 Jan 2013

This week has gone a bit smoother (no impromptu ski trips), but we still have a lot to learn. Being structured and scheduled is tough. It takes a lot of planning on my part, and a lot of discipline on everyone's part to actually get everything done.

I am so glad we are starting with a small amount of work. Otherwise we would have thrown in the towel last week.

So, this is how our week looked.

Monday: The Plan
Math- Workbook, Science- Rock Candy, Reading- Fancy Nancy and the Mean Girl (to read throughout the week).

I think we may have started with a bit of Yoga, but I can't remember for sure. Emma thinks we did some yoga as well, but it could be we are thinking of last week. Oh well.

Math: Emma did about 11 pages in her math workbook. The workbook is way to easy for her, but I thought it might be a good place to start so she gets in the habit of doing a workbook. Plus, it builds her confidence in math and reading as she is able to read most of the instructions herself.

Rock Candy, Day 1
Rock Candy- Day 1

Emma did all the measuring and mixing for this. She followed the directions correctly, but for some reason it didn't work out like I had envisioned. There are no crystals forming on the stick (as of day 3). We will try again at a different time. 

Reading Fancy Nancy and the Mean Girl
(There is a video here if you want to listen)

So, these books that I keep picking out, thinking they will last the month, or the week, don't. After Emma whipped through the book last week (that I thought would last the month), I picked up a different book thinking it would at least last the week. 

Not so much. She finished it in one sitting. Yeah for her! More work for me (not that I am really complaining, I LOVE listening to her confident reading). 

We were both in the mood to snuggle on the big cozy chair, so we got some more school work done.

Time-Line and Lipizzaners (2)
Adding stickers to our time-line. This is Leonardo da Vinci

After learning about Lipizzaners for the past 2 weeks, as well as some other interesting events that happened during the time frame of the book, I thought rereading Maestoso Petra would be fun.

Time-Line and Lipizzaners (3)
Rereading Maestoso Petra while drawing a Lipizzaner

Time-Line and Lipizzaners (6)
Using our Austria Travel Guide to look up places mentioned in Maestoso Petra.
(I am pointing at the location of the Spanish Riding School)

As if we hadn't done enough, Monday's are the homeschool meet-up at the base gym. After lunch, we headed to base. Emma had a great time playing with some new friends. 

Making Friends (3)
This picture is horrible, but this way I don't have to worry about blurring out anyone's faces :0)

That was a busy Monday! 

Tuesday: The Plan
Writing- Letters to friends/family, Art- Read about da Vinci's inventions; sketch an invention of our own, Music- Read more about Mozart, listen to CD's

I felt kinda crappy on Tuesday, but we did manage to get the letters done. The art and music didn't happen though, so we will probably move it to Thursday.

Wednesday: The Plan
Math- Workbook, Reading- Continue with Fancy Nancy and the Mean Girl

We had an inter-library loan book that was due, so after doing a little Zumba

Booty Circles- Emma's favorite

we ate breakfast then hopped on the bus for the post office (to mail out the letters) and library.

Going to the Library (3)
Waiting for the bus is always fun for Emma

Going to the Library (5)
As is riding the bus

Going to the Library
Petting "Nibbles" the dinosaur on the way to the post office.

Yes, I forgot to take pictures while at the library. We were too busy looking at books. 

Once home, Emma read me a book (Dino School: Meet Teddy Rex) while I made lunch. After eating, 

Lunch (2)
Turkey lettuce wraps and veggies in homemade ranch

we got to work. 

Landforms and Bodies fo Water (3)
Adding a few more touches to the Lippizaner Horse Geography Sheet

Landforms and Bodies fo Water
Learning about land forms and bodies of water 

After that we were both pretty much done. I read her "The Bernstein Bears Lend a Helping Hand," then it was off to do our own things (Emma listening to audio books and playing with horses, me on the computer).

Thursday: The Plan
History- Talk about WWII & work with timeline, Geography- Learn about landforms

We started our day with more Zumba. The moves are starting to get harder now, so it's a bit frustrating for her, but she did a good job and stuck with it today. I think tomorrow will be yoga.

Thur 17Jan13 (2)

History: We sort of did this last week, so we skipped it today. Geography: We did this yesterday. Oops!

Thur 17Jan13 (3)
Emma got two letters over the weekend from new pen pals, so she wrote letters back to them today.

We pulled out Emma's portfolio to add some finished work to it and discovered some undone worksheets that Emma wanted to work on.

Thur 17Jan13
Secret messages and word families

Color Theory (2)
Color Theory Worksheet

Emma's Photos- School Bookcase
Emma Taking Photos- School Shelf

Friday: The Plan
Math- Workbook, Writing- Continue with monthly story, Reading- Finish up Fancy Nancy and the Mean Girl

We got up early to take Da into work so that we could have the car today. Why did we need the car today?

Horse Lessons- 18Jan13 (2)
Horse Lessons!!!

We also did some schoolwork this morning. A few math sheets, work in her composition book (transcribing her monthly story), and she read a mini book. All while I did dishes. 

I knew we needed to run to the library after horse lessons, so we went through our HUGE stash of library books to take back the ones we were done with. We somehow missed one, so we sat down to read it. 

Math Curse
Math Curse by Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith

This book is awesome! We decided to keep it for a few more days so that we can finish it. 

Well, that was our week! It went well. I think we may get the hang of this eventually. 'Course by then we will probably be on something totally different. I am thinking of doing a modified version of workboxes. You can sort of see our super simple set up on our school shelf. The top row is a stack of stuff for each day (M-F). 

Anyway, I will probably keep up with the weekly recaps as it helps me remember what we have done (and forces me to remember to take more pictures). Hope someone finds them helpful!

Oh, I almost forgot! We found a movie that fit in nicely with our Lipizzaner theme for the month.

Miracle of the White Stallions
Miracle of the White Stallions

This movie, by Disney, was originally released in 1963. It tells the story of the Spanish Riding School's escape from Vienna at the end of WWII. A long movie (about 2 hours) and slow in parts, Emma really enjoyed it. It expanded her knowledge of WWII a tiny bit (she has now heard of Hitler and Nazis) while also giving her a glimpse of what it was like for the Lipizzaner stallions during the war. 

Now I'm done!

Friday, January 11, 2013

What We Learned 7-11 Jan 2013

Well, this being our first week of structured homeschooling, I figure it might be a good idea to recap the week for future reference.

Here is what our schedule for the week looked like on paper.

Science: Read about crystals; make borax snowflakes
Math: Worksheets- addition, subtraction, place values
Reading: Start reading "Paddywack" by Stephanie Spinner

Writing: Letters to family/friends (don't want to spoil the surprise)       
Art: Read about Leonardo da Vinci; recreate the Mona Lisa
Music: Read about Mozart; listen to Mozart CD while recreating the Mona Lisa

Math: Worksheets- Addition, subtraction, place values
Geography: Read about Austria; trace the route that Maestoso Petra traveled during WWII
Reading: Continue with "Paddywack"

History: Discuss and create a timeline
P.E- Yoga DVD, dance party, family fun zone.

Math: Worksheets- addition, subtraction, place values
Writing: Begin monthly story (Emma will write/illustrate a story throughout the month based on the people, places, and things we learn about all month long)
Reading: "Paddywack"

And here is what our week looked like in pictures:

Monday- no pictures, but we started our day with 10 minutes of yoga, then we manage to get the math and reading done, as well as a ton of cleaning.  Science got pushed to Tuesday due to all the cleaning and the need to get ready for our weekly meetup with the base homeschool group at the base gym. Emma and I typically get there between 1:00 and 2:00 as Jared brings us in after his lunch. Most of the homeschoolers don't show up until 3:30 or so. Gives Emma lots of time to have the place to herself. This Monday was extra special because a girl Emma met the first weekend we arrived here was able to come play as well (we have been trying to set up a play date, but the holiday's made that difficult).

Science- Borax Snowflakes
Borax Snowflakes- Day 1
Read from: "Growing Crystals" and "Rocks and Minerals"

Art- Leonardo Da Vinci's Mona Lisa (3)
Emma's recreation of the Mona Lisa
Read: "Leonardo da Vinci" by Barbara Witteman and "Mozart Finds a Melody" by Stephanie Costanza

Art- Leonardo Da Vinci's Mona Lisa
Our Mona Lisa recreations, created while listening to Mozart's Symphony No. 40.

How we did our Mona Lisa recreations- Printed out image to recreate. Roughly traced the image using tracing paper. Cut some watercolor paper to printer size (8.5 x 11). Copied tracing onto watercolor paper using the printer. Paint! 

Emma really loved this. I reminded her before hand that we were not shooting for perfection, and I think that helped her a lot. She enjoyed making her own colors for her Mona Lisa. 


Ski Trip 9Jan13 (4)

We ended up taking a family field trip instead of our regularly scheduled school work. Hey, what's the point of homeschooling if you can't answer the door when opportunity knocks?

Thursday- Uh, we are just going to call this a recovery day. Emma and I made a trip to the grocery store to stock up a bit as we are going to be getting anywhere from 2-18 inches of snow in the next few days. We spent the rest of the day crafting and listening to Harry Potter. 

Friday- We played catch-up all day. Thankfully our days were not overly scheduled to begin with.

11Jan13- Learning
Started the day with some yoga 

11Jan13- Learning (2)
Filling out the the rest of the Horse Geography sheet

11Jan13- Learning (2)
Reading Paddywack 
(she actually finished it today)

11Jan13- Learning (9)
Our Borax Snowflakes 
(after an extra day in the saturated solution)

Well, it wasn't the smoothest week, but we had a great time, got some learning accomplished, and even kept the house reasonably clean. 

We'll take it.