Thursday, January 29, 2009


In a recent edition of my local paper there was an article regarding the exploration of adding a "Gifted Academy" to a neighboring school district. Apparently this is currently all the rage, as my district is exploring something similar. But I digress. In the article, there is a quote by the superintendent of the district that has me more than a bit concerned for the students in the district, but you tell me if it is disconcerting or not. Here is the quote:

“(Gifted students) learn best in settings where they can explore and take their learning to new and higher levels.”

That is exactly how it appeared. I assume she said "they" instead of "gifted students" so the paper had to tweak it a bit, but even given that, I am concerned. Why? Because I think ALL students need these settings, not just those considered "gifted." All students need the time and space to explore. All students need to be able to take their learning to new and higher levels. All students deserve that kind of treatment. So what, the district will put the gifted into this kind of setting and leave the others behind? I suppose they can't afford this kind of education for all students. But it still pains me to think of the good that could come from all students being given this opportunity, all students being given the time and freedom to explore.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The Works

I continue to be impressed with the science projects we participate in at The Works. We attended the first homeschool day of the new year on Monday and made hour glasses. Well, seconds glasses, really, though Kutey's is close to a minute. The lessons that go along with the projects are super short, hitting the highlights and then sprinkling in more information as the project is completed. We covered the history of telling time before we made our hour glasses. Really, 5 minutes and she was done talking. But! Kiddo remembered almost everything she said when dh asked him about it later that day. And NONE of what she talked about was anything we covered previously. They know their audience, they know they have only a few minutes to make it work, and they hit it well. Kiddo must also be getting more comfortable there, because he was actually answering the questions she asked. It helped that there were only a few other kids in our group (have I mentioned how cold it has been around here? No one wants to go outside).

In addition to the great project, again, they have made some improvements to the exhibit area. The robots now have stand controls. They used to have remotes, and somehow they would get messed up and you couldn't control your own robot. Besides, they had so many buttons it was hard for younger folks (like Kiddo) to remember exactly which button did what. The stands are a vast improvement. They are clearly and simply labeled and much more intuitive. They also replaced the robot corrals. Previously they were made out of PVC pipe. They weren't very tall and every time something bumped into them, they fell apart. They also didn't seem to be much of a deterrent to kids. More often than not, there was a kid in the corral with the robot, which may or may not be a good thing. Of course, since they were often not responding to the controls....Anyway, they have replaced that with wood and Plexiglas, twice the height, and obviously much sturdier!

They also added another table to the marble track station (Kiddo was really excited about the extra space!) and added a new feature: Bee-Bots. If you haven't seen these, you should. Kiddo was very entertained, but even better than that, I was! IT is a programmable robot that follows the instructions you give it exactly. They have a maze you can set up differently and then tell the Bee-Bot how to do the maze. Tricky, and fun. A great early programming lesson.

It's nice to know that the membership I bought will continue to provide us with great science learning opportunities!

Preschool activity bag swap

This morning, the kiddlings and I drove (and drove and drove and drove) to the northern side of our metropolitan area for a "Preschool Activity Bag Swap." What's that? Good question. I put together 23 bags of one activity (in my case, it was "Bag o Buttons"--a button sorting activity). Each other person in th group did a different activity, making 23 of it. They are all different, ranging from things like "Let's Go Fishing" to "String It" to "Ring Toss" with plastic drinking bottles. Then we all get together and we each take home one of every bag. The instructions and ideas all come from Preschool Activities in a Bag, and someone in our local preschool group took charge in organizing (Thanks Bree!). I now have 22 different activities to do with Kutey (one person didn't show up with her bags, unfortunately). More importantly, she can do some of them herself, while I work with Kiddo.

The swap took place at an indoor park. If you haven't been paying attention to our weather (and, unless you live here, why would you), it has been cold here. We have had brief warm-ups (our January thaw was one day where I think we managed to hit the freezing mark, but I can't be certain), but in general it has been cold. I always hesitate to pay $5 per kid to go and spend time at a petri dish indoor play area, but since we were driving 45 minutes up there, I figured I might as well. It also allowed kiddo some time to play with one of his best homeschool friends, so we stayed and played. It was a great way to run off some energy, and kiddo was much more amused by it than our mall walk on Monday. I just hope we used enough soap and hand sanitizer!

Saturday, January 24, 2009


I am still trying to sort out what to do for reading with Kiddo. He reads everyday. I have a bunch of books from the library, a bunch I bought from Half-Price Books, and a bunch we just have, somehow. A little variety has helped a bit. He has options this way. He LOVES The Carrot Seed. Given the choice, he would read that one daily. I have been letting him, figuring repetition is good, in some ways. As he is memorizing parts of it, however, I have also been asking that he read another book along with it. That seems to be helping, and we are getting a bit of variety in our reading. Here Comes the Snow, Hop on Pop, and We Are Monsters have also had great popularity.

I have been exploring curricula, also, as I mentioned. I have requested Explode the Code through inter-library loan as a way to see if it works before I invest in it. Not that the workbooks are expensive, by any means. I just don't want to buy it only to find out Kiddo doesn't like it and we ditch it almost as fast as we started it. I also didn't know what level to start him with, and since the placement test would cost the same as buying 2 different levels, I decided this was the best option. I wish I could find Spell to Write and Read that way, too, but thus far, no luck. I think I will also request Five In a Row through inter-library loan. I'd like to take a look at it as well.

I found a free math curriculum that we are currently using. I printed it off and put it in a little construction paper covered book, and Kiddo has been enjoying working through the pages. It is out of the UK, so some of the words in the instructions are different (I had to explain what a lorry was), but so far it seems like a decent way to get some math concepts in while I sort through the other options!

I also found a new web resource I like, . Tons of free resources for everything, along with give aways. I'll be adding it to the sidebar.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Art Class

Last fall, a new art school opened in our area. They offered a once a month homeschool art explore class. Kiddo LOVED it. Unfortunately the school did not survive. Fortunately the woman who was the program director has started her own school, in the same building, and will be teaching the homeschool art explore classes. The new school is called Brushworks School of Art. Today was supposed to be the first class. Unfortunately, as is apt to happen in Minnesota, we had a snow storm. It has been snowing literally all day. I shoveled the driveway at about one, and there is at least as much snow on it now as I already shoveled, 3 or so inches. We ventured out, we made it to art class, but Kiddo would have been the only student. She was willing to instruct just him, but since it is one of the times he gets to socialize with other homeschooled kids, I felt it would be best to wait and have him come to the rescheduled class with the other kids. And yes, she is rescheduling the class. She is a great person, and very easy to work with. I have high hopes for her school, and for Kiddo's continued participation in the classes. I have already signed him up through May.

Monday, January 5, 2009

A review

When we "started" homeschooling in August/September, I had very little idea what I was doing. Really, I just hoped I wasn't messing up. But we have sort of found a groove. We do reading daily, we do math about that often. We have been fortunate to live in an area where there are lots of homeschoolers and a good network to advertise and organize opportunities. We have also been fortunate to have found a group of people in our area with similar aged children, so Kiddo has a group of friends who also are homeschooled, so he doesn't ever feel alone. That and he has never been to school in his memory (he did preschool for a while before Kutey was born, but he doesn't remember it at all), so he has nothing to feel he is missing out on! And we have fun. Kitchen science and baking experiments are among his favorites. Along with art projects.

He reads fairly well. I have mentioned before that we are using Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons. I gave it glowing reviews when we first started. We made it to about lesson 89. I still hope to finish out the last lessons, but getting Kiddo to sit down and do a reading lesson from the book got harder and harder. It wasn't that he couldn't do it, he can read the lessons, no problem, he just got tired of them. Therefore, we have started branching out and using early reader books for our lessons. Not all early reader books are created equal! There are some of them that claim to be for emergent readers, but the vocabulary and use of irregular words make them nearly impossible for Kiddo to read without a great deal of assistance and a whole lot of patience on his end. I want him to build success in reading, not frustration. So I have been trying to pick his books very carefully.

My other frustration with 100 lessons is that there are rules they simply did not teach. I taught Kiddo the "tow vowels go walking, the first one does the talking" rule, because once we started reading in regular books (before we even took a break from the lesson book) Kiddo struggled when the letters weren't written in the books orthography. It may be a useful way to get children used to the silent e and the two vowels together rules, but taught without the rules simply changing the orthography does not mean the child will generalize. At least mine did not. He needed to know the why. I still like the book for teaching reading. And it does work, it just needs to be augmented with a few extras.

I am looking into buying Spell to Write and Read. I have read excellent things about it on Homeschool Share, and if nothing else, I figure it will help me know the rules I am teaching rather than trying to sort them out on my own, which is where I have currently been operating.

For Math we have just been working on adding and subtracting, counting up to 100, number recognition, etc. We haven't used a set curriculum for this, though I have looked at a couple of them, including Math Mammoth, Miquon, and McRuffy. Apparently if it is a math curriculum, for me it needs to start with M. I haven't ordered one, in part because I am not sure what level I want to order, and in part because I am afraid to spend the money on something that doesn't work for Kiddo. We are doing well right now without a full curriculum, so I am going to just let it sit for a bit longer and see what happens.

In all, however, I am happy with where we are. He reads well enough at this point that he can start reading in the topics we are studying, so we can start studying topics with a bit more dedication. I am currently looking forward to our winter themed studies for the month of January. We'll be studying Snowflake Bentley (using this book and ideas from here) and then doing a unit on Jan Brett's The Mitten. We have to finish up our unit on reindeer using Jan Brett's The Wild Christmas Reindeer, first, however.

Now, if I could just figure out how to get more hours in a day....