Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Frugal Organization

A month or two ago I bought cereal at Albertson's for cheap. I couldn't stand to put all these similar sized boxes in the recycling. I was sure I could make something with them... and I did. I made this weekly organization system. I took the boxes apart and flipped the plain side to the outside, then taped them back together. Wa la - a place to organize the upcoming weeks worth of papers. There's a box for each day.

Here it is filled up with the goodies for the first week of school.

I have to admit, I don't love that the sheets of paper don't lie flat in the boxes. But, I can't justify buying something else, when this will work - at least for a little while.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

StArt - Ten Gallon Bart

I love Ten Gallon Bart. It's an exciting read with lots of fun characters & text. Instead of hand drawn illustrations, the book shows the story by creating the scenery & characters with collage. Again, I love it - as much for the fun pictures as for the story. So for this StARt the kids created their own scenes using a collage technique.

I layed out a variety of things for the kids to use in their collages.

Mr. T said he made a cow fish, a purple fish & a polka dot fish.

Mr. T also made a penguin. He sprinkled salt on streams of glue for a snowy effect.

Capt. N made a guy sledding, using his favorite color orange. He made snowflakes in the sky by rolling up balls of foil. He also used salt for the snow.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

The Big Day is Coming

I have to admit I'm getting nervous. This is very typical me. Ideas sound so good on paper & before the fact. But now I'm second guessing myself - which is also very typical me. Am I making too big of a deal about him being a slow reader & how much it will affect the rest of his schooling? Deep down I know the answer is no. But why, then, is it not the norm? Why do I feel like I'm doing something so off the wall & crazy? Why do I feel like others think I'm just babying him & not letting him experience real life? Well, why does real life have to be so damn hard? If he's struggling why isn't it ok for me to help him in the way I feel is best? I don't expect this to be the right path for all kids but I do feel like it's the best choice for mine next year. My situation makes it possible for me to homeschool my son. I'm already a stay at home mom. I have 3 kids who would all have different school schedules next year, so it was going to be crazy anyway. Now it will just be a different type of crazy. And besides all my other reasons, I actually like the idea of homeschooling. I admit I didn't know much about it, but now that I'm learning more I see many benefits. I'm excited & nervous & happy & scared about the upcoming year.

On another note, Capt. N had his first of 3 vision tests today. I don't know if he has trouble tracking with his eyes or not. But, he does have some of the typical symptoms so I'm looking into it. This first test was a typical eye exam & the results were mostly good. He is a bit farsighted, but within the normal limits for his age. The one problem she saw was that his eyes did skip a little bit as he followed her do-hickey. She said it was mild, but definitely worth looking into. So we scheduled the next two appointments.


I love playing Monopoly. But I don't get a chance to play it often. I asked Capt. N to play it with me the other day. I discovered it's a fantastic learning game. He practiced his math skills without the boredom of doing another worksheet. He figured out his own strategy. There's even a bit of reading involved. And the best part is that he loooved it & wants to play it again.

Capt. N had a perfect strategy for Monopoly. Who knows, maybe he's destined to be a business man. He beat me fair & square. I didn't even cut him any slack. He had a very lucky first game. By the third time around the board he had landed on & purchased both Boardwalk & Park Place. He quickly built houses & hotels. The game ended shortly after that.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Literacy Academy Results

Our school district offers a free 4 week summer reading program to students that qualify. It's for kids that are close, but not quite, at their reading level. Two or three kids get picked from each 1st & 2nd grade classroom. Capt. N was fortunate enough to be picked. I was glad he would be getting a little extra help in the summer. I was also hoping I would learn a little more about how he learns best or if this teacher noticed any problems we should address. I talked with his teacher about once a week & last night was parent's night. Today is his last day of class.

The results
The good:
• Capt. N loved the class. His teacher was nice. He met new kids. There was one boy from his 2nd grade class also in his reading class. And, his favorite thing was that at parents night he got a Nike wall ball.
• It kept him reading in a fun way.

The bad:
• His reading problem is with fluency. Even this teacher couldn't pinpoint any other problem except fluency. But, his fluency didn't improve at all throughout the entire 4 weeks. As a matter of fact, his words per minute even went down by one.
• I didn't learn any new ways to help him. But, I did learn that the school's way of teaching obviously doesn't work for him.

I eavesdropped a bit at parents night & heard 3 other kids dibels scores. All 3 kids improved. I'm glad I heard that so I know that the class worked for some kids. Since I had asked the first week of school, I knew Capt N's dibels score was 67 at the start of the program. I admit, my heart sank a tiny bit when his teacher told me his score at the end of the 4 week program was 66. Right then & there I was silently so happy that I've decided to homeschool him next year. This districts way of teaching to read is just not working for Capt. N. And, although, that is already what I was thinking I was hoping this class would be some kind of magic reading potion. But, now I'm frustrated. Not frustrated at anybody or anything. Just frustrated that I can't figure out how to help him. I keep getting the same answer - just have him read... and read some more. Well, he just spent 4 hours a day reading & he didn't improve one bit. That may work for many kids, but it's not working for mine.

The great thing about homeschooling him next year is that we will have the freedom to work with his individual needs. If I decide he needs a tutor, we will work that into our school day; as opposed to him going to school all day, then going to a tutor & then doing homework. Education is high on my priority list. But, so is letting kids be kids. All work & no play seems like my happy kid would turn unhappy. If I push him too hard I fear he will resist learning to read. Right now we seem to have a happy medium. He loved going to the reading program. But, I didn't make him do a ton of reading the rest of the day. We left the house at 8am & got back at 2. I think that's enough time spent on reading - the rest of the day he gets to enjoy his summer vacation. The problem is that in that time he didn't learn to read any better. Why not?

His teacher did mention that he has a short attention span (which I already knew). And, that when he's working on something he's interested in, he can work quite quickly. She told us that when he made his own comic strip, he had so much fun with it & was the 2nd one done in class.

My choice to homeschool is mostly based on not wanting him to struggle all day at the public school. His reading isn't improving like a typical boy his age. I fear this will bring many other challenges, not just reading problems. Last year it meant having more homework than most of his class & missing out on fun projects. I won't watch that happen again. And since other subjects are reading based it means he will struggle in those subjects as well - even the subjects he enjoys. At home he can still excel in those subjects. I want him to feel like he can reach all of his dreams. If one subject is difficult, that's one thing. But, if all your subjects suffer because of it how is he going to find his self worth. At the moment he enjoys & thinks he's good at math and science. I want him to keep thinking that. If school makes learning a challenge for him, how is he going to have the confidence to chase his dreams.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Our School Room

We haven't officially started homeschooling yet, but this is what I've got set up for my soon to be 3rd grader. It's not ideal, but it will work.... I hope. This blue table & red board were his homework setup last year. It was in a nook area upstairs. Now that we are going to use it for homeschooling, I moved it into my already cramped craft room. Capt. N gets distracted very easily. So as convenient as it would be if he could sit at the dining room table, I don't think it will work for him on a daily basis. A separate room seems like it will work best. He can even shut the door if needed. This area is mostly for his morning work, though - journaling, writing, reading, spelling & math. In the afternoons we will be doing social studies, science, music, art, cooking, etc. I imagine we will be doing those things downstairs around the dining room table, on the kitchen counter or outside. His brother and sister can join us if they want.

Some of the schooling & crafting supplies.

I'm linking this post to the Not Back to School Blog Hop at Heart of the Matter.

Not Back to School Blog Hop

Sight Words

Near the end of the last school year I decided I needed to practice the sight words at home with Capt. N. His teacher gave me the sheets with words on it. I didn't think that would hold his interest at all, so I made these flash cards. I printed the words on cardstock, used a hole punch in the corner and placed them on a ring clip. I didn't want him knowing which level of sight words he was doing, so I came up with a color coding system. I have 8 different levels - red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple, silver & black. Red is the easiest, black the most difficult. I mentioned in my last post that occasionally I bribe/reward him. This is one of those times. I don't know if I really think bribing is the best way to go. But, he struggles & I want him to be glad his hard work paid off. Somehow I forgive myself for rewarding him by knowing I don't buy my kids crap toys or happy meals throughout the year. So, what kind of crap am I bribing him with? When he was working on the red cards, he got a variety of red things, after he passed all the orange cards he got orange things, etc. He passed red, orange & yellow quickly. Green took him a couple tries. He's on the blue cards now. These got a little tougher for him. They include words like railroad, saucer & mischief and are upper 3rd grade level. Which brings me to the question - if he can read slightly above his level sight words why can't he read them altogether in sentences with confidence & speed?

The orange flashcards

The orange rewards

Summer Reading Snakes

To keep reading fun this summer I made these Summer Reading Snakes. Here's Martha Stewart's version. All 5 snakes are different. The purple snake on the left is Princess K's and her goal is to learn the letters in her name. Next is Mr. T's snake. He's working on learning some sight words. Then there's Capt. N's snake for leveled readers. Next is the family snake. This is where we keep track of the books I read to all 3 kids. The final snake is Capt. N's chapter book snake. Throughout the summer we've been working on filling out these snakes. Each time somebody gets to a prize square, they get the prize written on that square. I am kind of cheating because most of the prizes are things we would be doing anyway - but they don't know that. Most prizes are not things, but things we do such as go out for ice cream, pick the game we will play as a family or pick an outing. On the family snake, towards the end I do have a space for purchasing a book of their choice. And on Capt. N's chapter book snake he already earned a book & when he finishes the snake he will earn a box of legos. He likes to read science books for fun, but doesn't have much desire to read anything else so I do bribe him occasionally.

StArt - Jack & the Beanstalk

One of the focal points on our summer art wall is the large beanstalk we made from crepe paper as part of our art project for Jack & the Beanstalk. The rest of the project was fairly simple. The kids colored pictures of the giant, Jack, the harp and the beans. Princess K glued cotton balls to a paper cloud.

StArt - Little White Owl

We love this story. The book is cute, the illustrations are beautiful & the story has a great message. I was stumped on an owl craft, so I googled it. I found this fun idea at Diary of a First Grade Teacher.

Here's how we made ours. I used a pencil to trace a couple different birds from the book, then outlined the birds with a black fine tip sharpie. Next, I photocopied them so each of my kids could decorate at least 3 birds. They used watercolors to paint the birds. Since the watercolors made the outline of the bird bleed a little, I quickly outlined them again. Of course, we left one owl white as the little white owl. We added a construction paper branch to our summer art wall, then taped the owls to the branch. I cut out "be whoooo you are" on my cricut machine. As I added the letters to the wall, the kids & I had a quick discussion about what it means.

StArt - Shape of Me

Ever since I can remember we've been doing art based on stories I've read to the kids. Now that I've entered the blogging world I've realized there's an actual name for this type of activity. A Story + Art = StArt! I'm so happy I stumbled across the mom who started this craze. Each Thursday she hosts a linky on StArts. How exciting!

Here's a StArt we did a couple weeks ago. To be honest this wasn't my favorite Dr. Seuss book, but the craft we did along with it was fantastic. I think we will be finding excuses to make many more silhouettes.

These were the boy's first silhouette projects. I found the idea at That Artist Woman. They turned out great, but they used watercolors so the colors weren't too bright. Mr. T even took his creative liberty and added a lake.

For the rest of the silhouettes we used slightly watered down kids poster paint. This produced nice, vivid colors. They used the black foamy craft brushes as their paint brush.

The hardest part about this project was getting the kids to work quickly, so they could blend the colors together while the paint was still slightly wet.

Mr. T told me he would like a fence in his picture. I'm thinking, "How in the world am I going to cut out a fence?" Then he told me he wanted to paint it and he dipped the bottom of the foam brush in the paint and just dabbed it on the paper, then dabbed again & again to make the pickets. This was one of those times where my kids actually taught me something. I'm so proud of him, but I feel a bit like a dummy.

Three of Mr. T's pics. For the dinosaur pictures, they added kosher salt to the wet paint to soak up a bit of the paint, leaving a star type shape on the paper. Those were so fun the kids did that to nearly every other sunset masterpiece. On one, Mr. T added star stickers. Apparently he preferred the salt, though, because he didn't make anymore with the stickers.

The Silhouette Gallery
I just love how these turned out & how creative the kids were. I cut out the shapes for them, but they told me what they wanted me to cut out. Each pic came from their creative minds, I just helped it all come together.

My Favorite Things:
• Capt. N wanting to try an underwater scene
• Mr. T asking for a photographer to place on his mountain. He & I both love to take photos of wildlife.

Some Things we Learned:
• The poster paint works better than watercolor paint.
• Cutting out the landscape, such as mountains, rocks, etc looks more uniform with the other silhouettes, but painting the landscape was more fun.

Princess K made her own masterpieces with the paint & salt.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

2011 - 2012 Curriculum

This is all so new to me. I haven't even officially taught one day of homeschooling yet, but I have done a ton of planning. I think I have the majority of the curriculum figured out. I'm glad to have stumbled across the Not Back to School Blog Hop to read about what other families are doing. I'm sure I will be referring back to many of those bloggers often. I also figured I might as well join in on the fun.

Not Back to School Blog Hop

I have 3 kids, but will only be homeschooling my 3rd grade son. He loves math & science, but struggles with his reading fluency. Here's what I hope we get through in this school year.

Saxon Math, grade 3

Sylvan Super Reading Success, 3rd grade
Harcourt Language Arts, 3rd grade
Caught 'ya: Grammar with a Giggle  - we will start this after Christmas break

Read a novel for 30 minutes - daily
Scholastic Using Picture Books to Teach Comprehension Strategy - 1x/week
Develop Reading Fluency Using Poetry - 1x/week
Raz Kids - computer based program to aid in reading fluency - 3x/week
Evan Moor How to Report on Books

A few of the books he will read this year.

Handwriting without Tears, Cursive

I read this was good for kids that are left handed, & since my guy is a lefty I went with this. We will start this after Christmas break.

The US Constitution and You
How the Government Works
US Government & Presidents
I only have books for the government unit, but have a ton of other things planned.

Again, no structured curriculum. But, we have a ton of science books to work with.

Harcourt Language Arts, 3rd grade - to learn the specifics about paragraphs, etc.
(Almost) Daily Journal
I have a variety of writing assignments planned mostly based on themes we are using in other subjects

Art - variety, 2x/week
Music - variety, 2x/week
PE - taekwondo & baseball in the spring, 2x/week
Keyboarding - Read, Write & Type or Dance Mat Typing, 3x/week
Cooking - 1x/month

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