Friday, March 22, 2013

Happy (Belated) Birthday, Early Bird!

This week was Early Bird's 4th birthday. We celebrated in a much more....low effort way than I prefer to celebrate birthdays. I had looked up a bunch of new, cool things to do with balloons on Pinterest, but they didn't happen. Thankfully Early Bird didn't notice anything lacking, even though his presents weren't even wrapped. We went out to dinner the Saturday before, and I made our traditional birthday cupcakes (applesauce spice cake (from a box mix) with lightly sweetened whipping cream) for the actual day.

I really do cherish my sweet boy. It doesn't seem possible it's been FOUR years since we had our scare and encountered our second son two months before we were expecting him. I'm so glad we have him. I can't imagine our life without him. He has a wonderful attitude anticipating Squishy's arrival. He's even declared that HE will be the one to teach Squishy to read, and started the process by singing the ABC song to my belly.

Not much in the way of schooling has happened (I've spent almost a week and a half since my last posts in virtual bed rest.) So I thought I'd at least write some reviews on learning toys and other things that the boys have been using since Christmas. I think the Scribble and Write review was useful to some people, and I try to post only useful things on here (for the most part. I consider the Saturday Funnies to be useful for cheering.)

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Thoughts on First Grade Science

We had such an amazing fun time last summer working through Evan-Moor's Learning to Be a Scientist . The kids learned a lot, the repetition stuck the points with the kids, there wasn't too much set up or odd supplies required, and it worked for 1 kid or a large group of kids. Because of our wonderful experience with Learning to be a Scientist (which is out of print) I went ahead and purchased Evan-Moor's Learning about Animals and Learning about My Body to supplement our following of the science plan of the Well Trained Mind for first grade science. Sadly, these books were very unlike Learning to be a Scientist. These books were not nearly as adaptable for outside of a classroom size of participants or classroom materials that I guess public school teachers regularly have, but homeschoolers do not automatically purchase. Only about half of the activities were going to be doable by us. I did try, at the beginning, starting with Learning about Animals. But we quickly got bored with it, and I felt there was a lot missing, so we "supplemented" with the original plan, which was reading about an animal out of the Kingfisher First Human Body Encyclopedia and then doing a narration/further reading/self-thought of project or craft to accompany. We tied this sometimes to our history; for example when we were learning about ancient Egypt we read and learned about crocodiles and camels. But then we all got sick, the holidays came, and then I got pregnant and horribly sick, and now we're months behind.

Yesterday I took a mental step back and thought about what science learning my first grader should have. Not to compare him with other students, homeschooled or public schooled, but what I thought he should know at his age and intellectual development. And I thought about what he already knows, what he's learned since this summer, mostly by books, rabbit trail discussions, or tv. And he actually has learned quiet a bit about the world. WTM sets a guide for a four year cycle of science as well as history, with the first year being biology (animals, human body, plants.)

  • Life cycle of plants: check. We did covered that when we tried to grow beans. And while we didn't make it though the entire cycle, it was explained enough that Builder Boy can tell you all about it. Not only that, but he understands the process as it works on farms. He knows where our food comes from (and it's not just from the store!) and understands the effect seasons and weather have on growing.
  • There are different parts of a plant: check. We covered that in different types of books, including What Your Kindergartener Needs to Know, Apple Fractions, Why Do Leaves Change Color? (Let's-Read-and-Find-Out Science, Stage 2) , and others. There is also a Sid the Science Kid episode on just leaves and the things they do, from providing food for the plants through photosynthesis to being food for animals and people.
  • There are different types of plants: check. Real life experience and discussions have covered this. 
  • Plants' role in ecosystems: no check. This is something I'd like to look up, maybe find a book at a local library (once I find it in our new town!) Builder Boy has watched the Sid the Science Kid episode on water systems many times and is fascinated by it, so I think this is something he'd be very interested in.
  • Is there anything else I'm missing? Otherwise, I'd say we kind of unschooled Plant Science successfully for this year. When the weather is right we'll try planting some things again. I still want to get and read Green Thumbs: A Kid's Activity Guide to Indoor and Outdoor Gardening , but other than finding a book on ecosystems and that, I think we're good.
Human Body: 
  • Life cycle of humans: um, I'm pregnant. I think this is PERFECT timing. Not only has he learned that it takes 9 months, but he's haveing to experience those 9 months of waiting (well, 7 months of it. We didn't tell them right away in case something sad happened.)  We haven't gotten into how the baby got there (I don't think that's necessary at this point. We've read the book God Gave Us You several times, so he probably thinks it's immaculate conception at this point, but that's okay for right now. He's only 6, and anything he knows or learns, he shares. To his little brother, to complete strangers in Sunday School, wherever.) We've shown Builder Boy the videos of how babies grow and develop in the womb found on pregnancy sites and each week we give him the update of how big Squishy is now. He knows that babies have to grow and learn things, he knows that he's growing, he knows that the adults he knows were once kids, and he has several older relatives that visit so he's seen all the stages of aging. We've talked about death and what we believe happens when people die.
  • Body functions and systems: no check. He knows some basics, like why we eat and what happens to it. I really like Inside Your Outside: All About the Human Body (Cat in the Hat's Learning Library) and we've read it a bunch of times. So he knows the very basics, but I would like to go more into it. It may come down to reading the Kingfisher First Human Body Encyclopedia and doing a narration for each topic and leaving it at that. 
  • Nutrition (which seems to be a big focus for public schools): check. Not just because of Sid the Science Kid (which, for the most part, I cannot recommend enough) and the PBS Kids games, but though life and other things like books that I can't think of right now. BOTH of the kids can sort foods into the food groups, and understand what main thing we get from each group and how it helps our bodies. I have been blessed with mainly healthy eaters (they would eat raw veggies and fruit all day if I let them) and we've been intentional about not having a lot of candy and sugary foods. (Remember Halloween?)
  • So, I'd say the Human Body is half done, and some reading and narration from Human Body Encyclopedia is enough for now. Which is something I can do from the easy chair that I spend most of my day in. It won't be as memorable or fun or in-depth as I had planned at the beginning of the year, but it will do.
  • Life cycles of animals: check. Builder Boy knows that animals are born, grow, change, and die. He knows some are born and some hatch from eggs. he knows about metamorphosis (butterflies and frogs) and about kids/cubs/kittens/etc. and adults. He knows that some animals eat other animals for food.
  • Different types of animals: half check? Builder Boy know that there are lots of different kinds of animals. He could probably name different types on his own, but I think a systematic review is called for. I will use Learning about Animals as a reading topic guide, and maybe do some of the coloring sheets (once Principal Daddy gets the scanner found, un-packed, and plugged in and working.)
  • Habitats and animals' role in ecosystems: no check. I'm hopping the book I find on ecosystems will cover both plants and animals. Builder Boy knows about different habitats, and that different types of animals live in different habitats, but that is only basically covered. I'd love to go more into it with him.
  • He does know about domestic animals and how people use them for resources. He also knows about hunting and fishing (he LOVES Deadliest Catch and Dirty Jobs) and farming. We haven't gone much into conservation. Of these three topics this is perhaps his weakest area, although he does know a lot of things that don't quite fit in these categories (like pig farming and alpaca breeding.) As soon as I can find the boxes with the science materials in them we will start reading and talking every day. 

Maybe this looks like I'm bragging, or trying to justify myself in this area. Clearly, if you're not puking your guts out (or something else disabling) there is more that could be taught, in more creative ways. But I think I need to give myself permission to be okay that I didn't follow The Plan. That stuff happened and I had to adapt and my kid is not going to suffer because I didn't cover absolutely everything. And, we will be covering Biology two more times though the next cycles. And it's LIFE. He's going to learn about it as we live and experience it. And he's only 6. I'm just going to keep repeating that to myself...

ETA: Wah hoo! I posted two days in a row! Stay tuned for TOMORROW'S cool offer from Zaner-Bloser!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

History Confessions and a Decision

Confession #1: I threw away our unfinished mummy chicken when we moved. :(

I was sooooooo excited when I first learned about the mummy chicken (probably almost 2 years before we actually did it.) I started with enthusiasm, and, I thought, a realistic understanding that I would be the one doing this, and Builder Boy would be mainly a spectator, until it came time for wrapping. But somewhere around the 4th changing of the salts I ran out of my pre-made bags and I also hit a depression swing and it sat on my counter being ignored for much longer than it was suppose to be. Builder Boy forgot about it too, so I guess he's not truly missing out. And in truth, I think the Horrible Histories Mummy Song taught him the same stuff. It makes me sad, and a feel like a bit of a failure, that we didn't finish it, or get to wrap it, or decorate the sarcophagus I had prepared.

Confession #2: My last history post is from October because that's the last time we did Story of the World.

This kids got sick for over a week. Then I got sick. Then the kids got sick again. Then December rolled around. Then I got pregnant and almost immediately started puking non-stop. Not much got done. That's not to say that no history got done. On Wednesdays Builder Boy spent the mornings with Apa (his paternal grandfather) and they worked through I Love America, studying early American history based around the holidays of each month. We also watched a lot of Horrible History episodes on youtube (before they were taken down.) I made a playlist of the songs the kids liked (and that didn't have anything too crazy violent) and the kids memorized them. We can sing the entire list of Kings and Queens of England since William I all on our own.

When I realized that this pregnancy is going to be light on school until walking across the room is no longer a challenge I had to decide what to do about Story of the World. I LOVE SOTW. I love the idea behind it, I love doing history systematically, I love the plan of going through the whole of history three times through, each time at a deeper level. Not being able to do all of the fun activities that we had been doing I had to decide between two courses of action: continue reading SOTW and just having Builder Boy do the maps and coloring sheets with no extras, no dress-up, no hands-on, no activities (which many parents do with no detriment to their children's education.) Or I could wait until I am well enough to do it "all," which means schooling though the summer (which we were planning on doing some anyway) and not freaking out about the schedule (have I mentioned that I like schedules?!)  I thought about it a lot, and in the end decided to go the second route. I want to do all the fun stuff, and that's what the boys are going to remember. So when we start doing it again, I will start blogging about it again. In the meantime, I'm going to be thinking about what it is kids this age should actually know in a learning-about-the-world context, and see what I can do about that from a chair and a laptop (and a tv.) I have some thoughts about science that I'm going to try to type about tomorrow. (Assuming I can stand to sit at the computer without losing my lunch and the internet and computer work with me.)

I also have something really cool from Zaner-Bloser that I'm going to try to share on FRIDAY!

Saturday, March 2, 2013

I haven't been posting because...

I'm pregnant! 15 weeks today, due August 24th. This is why I haven't been blogging. I've been too sick to sit at the computer and type, let alone do anything worth blogging about! Also, we just this week moved to a different state. Sooo, I want to try to start blogging again, we'll have to see. Yesterday I spent most of in bed, and half the day before that. I went from 160 lbs at the beginning of December to 142.5 lbs at the beginning of February. For those of you who pray, please pray for me. I've posted about Early Bird's early delivery, but I don't think I've shared that Builder Boy was also an emergency c-section because I developed HELLPs (a rare and dangerous form of pre-eclampsia.) This baby will have to be a scheduled c-section, and I'm considering while they're in there having them tie my tubes. I can't have another pregnancy like this where I'm so sick that it's a struggle to take care of myself and the kids, let alone do school, cook dinner, or take care of the house. Principal Daddy has been AMAZING, and Builder Boy has been too. He makes breakfast for himself and his brother every morning (microwaved oatmeal) while I'm still struggling to get out of bed. <3

Oh, and the baby's nickname is Squishy.  :)
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