"I am against religion because it teaches us to be satisfied with not understanding the world." -Richard Dawkins

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

These Pants Were Lame!

Until we un-lamed them!
White acrylic paint, a stamp carved out of some foam. Done!

Monday, January 21, 2013

What the Curriculum Looks Like

Everyone (and I mean everyone) knows that I have been fretting over homeschooling for an age. The first steps were easy. Send in the LOI. Send in the IHIP. Don't send kid back to school after Christmas break. That was the simple part. But then...?

I had, seriously, no idea what to do as far as curriculum was concerned. As I've stated before, we have a lot of learning materials in this house. I mean, a lot. A lot. But I had no idea how I was going to splice them together and create something workable, or how I was going to supplement what I didn't have. Frankly, at this juncture, I'm not sure why I was so panicky, but I realize not every mom who launches into this is going to have all this amazing stuff on hand simply because she always knew she'd want to have it on hand. (That's my excuse. If I saw it, and I knew in my lizard brain that I'd need it, I'd get it.) I have always had this undercurrent of you will homeschool that I have never quite ignored, no matter what. This has always been the plan. And I have never been more thankful for that subconscious knowledge!

So I thought I'd put together a list of our materials for Moms who need a clue. I know I needed a clue, so I'm hoping this will help someone.

The most important part of all of this is that I keep record (in a day planner) of everything she does, every day. This helps me keep track of where she is, what she's done, and what we have left to work on. I have a checklist I've made of what needs to be covered this grade, which I pieced together using the New York State core curriculum standards, as well as resources such as What Your First Grader Needs to Know.

First Grade 

We work through these at her pace, which is pretty fast. Usually 4-6 pages a day with auxiliary instruction where required on the whiteboard or scrap paper.

We read every day, that's the most important part. She reads, and I read. Sometimes my reading is followed by listening comprehension questions if I feel like she needs to sharpen her focus, other times I just let her listen for listening's sake. We have a home library of roughly 700 books, so it's not hard to just pick something up and roll.

I made flash cards that we add to every time we learn something new from the books. She loves them. Just like with Math, we go through these books at her own pace.

All of this is constantly supplemented with hands-on experiments, all the time.

Social Studies
I found this one the hardest to find a kickoff point from. I wound up going with the NY core, which has mostly self/community and map/geography as the 1st grade standards.

Art is all about discovery this year, I have no set curriculum for it and that's fine. Every week we're working with a different medium, sometimes it's more arts-based (watercolors, colored pencil, etc.) and sometimes it's more craft based (knitting, sewing, multi-media, etc.) As we move into world cultures I will create projects to complement where in the world we're learning about.

For the first two weeks we had classical music on all the time (I keep the Nook plugged in at our work table, helps if I need to Wikipedia something really quickly, and also I have Pandora on pretty much all the time.) Once we start moving into the world cultures I'll be making stations of cultural music to complement where in the world it is we're learning about.

Phys Ed
  • Weekly Gymnastics classes.
  • Yoga indoors when too cold outside. (Shanti Generation Yoga Skills for Youth Peacemakers on Netflix.)
  • Outside for at least a half an hour when cold, much much more when warm.
  • Free dancing (typically combined with Music-time.)
  • We have a park with a playground in walking distance, for the warm months.

Following the state core in sporadic units (not daily.) For adults all of these things should be teachable without a curriculum as they are mostly common sense, hehe. Topics include fire safety and prevention, bicycle and roadway safety, nutrition, cooking, basic hygiene, and health care. 

Home Ec
It feels silly to even quite include this at her age, but I find I include her more in chores now that she's home. I have stuff I need to get done, and she's home to help, so she does. She puts her own laundry away, helps me fold cleaning rags and things and put them in their homes. She washes some dishes, tidies up around the house and takes responsibility for her bedroom. She also feeds the cats daily and gives them fresh water. In addition to chores, she helps with cooking and I have been teaching her basic knife skills, to complement this. She makes grocery lists and crosses off items when we're in the store. In the winter she helps with shoveling and salting, in the warm months helps with gardening.

  • Gymnastics.
  • Girl Scouts.

End of Year Testing

So that's that, and I hope it helps some frantic someone out there who has no idea what to do with themselves!

Just keep telling yourself; I've got this.

Caution: Homeschooling in Progress

Homeschooling is awesome. My mind is blown over how awesome it is. In science spent the first two weeks exploring molecules, heat and cold, and the water cycle- and how they all link into one another. From rock candy to rain in a jar, oil and water to observing evaporation. So much fun to be had in the kitchen, you guys.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

A Snow Day

Wintry Sunset

Don't you just want to paint your house all those colors?

That Magnet Board I Wanted

I am super sorry about the lighting in these photos, my house is dark.

So I needed a really easy, visual way to keep track of what subjects we've done every day, and what's left to do, so that Ro could have full control over what she wants to work on- like the Montessori approach. Giving kids freedom within boundaries. I knew I wanted to do a magnet board because I love the magnetic chore boards my friend made for her three girls, but we have exactly no cash right now, so I couldn't buy anything.

I spent about three days brainstorming off and on, and this evening finally grabbed an old circular tin tray from the pantry which I never use, and prepared to get my craft on.

  • An old tray made from magnetic metal. A cookie sheet, the bottom of a spring form pan, anything will do! (Check a thrift shop for something el-cheapo.)
  • Scrapbooking paper in many colors/designs. Anything you like!
  • Mod Podge, or really, just a glue stick would do.
  • A glue stick.
  • Scissors.
  • Magnet sheets, or business card backing magnets.
  • Old business cards (or card stock) to stiffen if necessary.
  • A Sharpie.
  • Foam mounting tape.
  • Washi tape. 


 Clean the surface of your tray, whichever side you plan to glue your paper to- you could also paint it instead, don't let me stop you! Throw down a thin layer of Mod Podge, then smooth the paper on. Trim edges when dry, then add another coat of Mod Podge on top to seal it up if you like how that looks.

This is when I used the washi tape at the top to designate a "to do" side and a "done" side.

Peel the backing off to expose the adhesive on your magnetic sheet/card backs. Barring adhesive, just use a glue stick. Put an old business card or card stock down if you feel your magnet will need more stiffness, then glue the scrapbook paper of your choosing overtop of it. Smooth it all down very firmly.

Use scissors to cut the magnets to the shape of your choosing, then use the Sharpie to label them.

Once Mod Podge is dry, attach foam mounting tape to the underside of the tray, or use whichever other means of mounting you'd like. I won't presume to tell you what's best for your walls!

Hang your magnet board right near your work space so you can easily move your magnets when work is complete- then put your magnets on it, and succeed!

Or something!

The Awkward New Gymnast

Friday, January 18, 2013

Better Than Expected

The first of the year was a massive shift in reality for us. So many things had happened in December, and they escalated into the decision being made to finally- (finally-) take on homeschooling. Oh, was I ever terrified. Somewhere between sending the paperwork in to the superintendent and not having the kiddo's stuff from her desk at school back yet, I had a minor panic attack. I can't be sure why, but I did. But the letter of acceptance came back fine, she and her dad went to get her stuff out of her desk at school. Everything ironed out and on the first, we began lessons. I know they tell you to unschool for a month, to kind of let the kids find their own groove again, but Ro was so adamant about homeschooling, ready to roll, eager to freakin' go go go go! So I decided that she could have that week and a half off, between when they let out for Christmas, and New Year's, and then we'd launch into lessons from there.

Talk about freaking out, I didn't have anything established, even though we are laden with learning materials in this house. Our home library is an impressive home library. It took me the better part of five days, and a trip to Barnes & Noble, before I had my ducks in a row, but I did it. We're fifteen days in now, and I can't even begin to tell you what a load off this has been.

I love that the frantic hustle is gone- no waking up at 6:30am, get dressed! bus stop! Where is your other SHOE? No need to holler and threaten Ro into bed at seven every night, no need to have homework done, and where is your folder, and what is this permission slip, I didn't see this, and what do you mean tomorrow's the book fair, oh, Daddy's going to have to run to the ATM ... No, instead we have nice evenings together. Have a little ice cream if you'd like, let's watch Treasure Planet on the sofa together, let's not worry that it'll be 10:00pm when it's over. We'll just start a little later tomorrow, that's all.

It's so much easier for us all to sleep in a little, wake up, have breakfast together, and ease into lessons once we're all dressed and our eyes are peeled all the way open, (hello coffee, my old friend. I've come to talk with you again.)

I am magnificently lucky to be good friends with four homeschooling Moms on Livejournal, totaling fifteen children. Witnessing their journeys from day one has perhaps been one of the greatest resources available to a person. Now, I'm honored to be among them, and to add my wisdom to the pot.

Overall, I have, perhaps, only one thing to say about this whole thing: