Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Preschool Curriculum

Below is our new curriculum that I have been working on. Although our first preschool-homeschool year centered around unit studies, we will be moving away from that and will instead do the activities listed below. Our preschool-homeschool plan is not limited to these ideas but they will be the base for much of our purposed learning until we commit to a more structured curriculum when Aidyn turns six.

Preschool Curriculum

Music and Melodies
Samplings of music of various forms to be played randomly during activity time, mealtimes, reading time, and general quiet time as a way to expose ourselves to a wide range of music. Musical and melodic selections include famous composers (chronologically through time, initially), nursery rhymes and preschool songs, family-friendly musicals such as The Sound of Music, multicultural music, instrumentals, among others. Opportunities to witness musical acts like child-friendly plays and theatrical productions are also included.

Story Sharing
Regular storytelling activities as a conversation. Asking the child to tell or retell a story in their own words. May begin with parent starting, “Once upon a time, there was a boy and he…” and allow child to continue. May spring up from everyday life (“See that dog over there? Where do you think he’s going and what will he do when he gets there?”) Stories also told by parents in an imaginary realm or as an original recap of an actual event.

Science Experiments
Age-friendly explorations of the world around us. May take place with ordinary household objects at the kitchen table, may take place in backyard or outdoors. Using The Backyard Scientist as an occasional guide, conduct fun and exploratory experiments that get the brain turning.

Everyday Problem Solving
Realistic and hypothetical problem solving. Giving child a scenario and asking how they would solve the issue at hand. Socratically leading child to their own solutions as a way of practicing analysis skills.

Multicultural Meetings
Regular exposure to various cultural events, activities, cuisine, and explorations including, but not limited to, participating in cultural celebrations, trying new cuisine and restaurants, exploring cultural epicenters, reading about other cultures, visiting cultural museums.

Occupational Observations
Learning about all kinds of different jobs in the world. Reading about various occupations and doing preliminary job-shadowing/job-visiting to learn about the choices in the workforce.

My World Living Books
Reading whole, living books on subjects close to child’s interests, experiences, and tastes as a way to identify with literary characters, voice personal concerns through a safe outlet, and to encourage a love of literature. Subjects will include themes related to individual child. For instance, if child is a boy who loves to draw, read Harold and the Purple Crayon. If child has had trouble listening to parents, read The Poky Little Puppy. If child adores trains, read The Little Engine that Could. This idea does not exclude other books to be enjoyed, but the focus is on books already within the circle of interest; “required” books come later.

Arts and Crafts
A plethora of arts and crafts including, but not limited to, drawing, coloring, painting (with brushes, fingers, hands, found objects), gluing, cutting, tracing, rubbings, clay play, nature journaling, etc. Visits to child-friendly art museums included.

Other activities include: handwriting practice using Kumon supplies, foreign language introduction, learning the alphabet song and counting, baking and cooking experiences, and introduction to self-defense, martial art, or chosen sport.

Below are all field trip related activities:

Homeschool Hikes
Regular hikes along paths/trails in varying types of nature and seasons as a means of reconnecting with nature, learning from what the world has to offer as that second, and getting back to basics.

Discovery Destinations
The choice or draw of a particular direction with no preset destination in mind. For example, a family member may either choose a direction at random, or we could roll a four-sided die to choose for us. Once we head in that direction, depending on the amount of time we have, we may continue to roll or randomly choose until we stumble upon something interesting to stop for. This could be as simple as an unusual rock structure on the side of the highway, an antique store, a major state park in a county we rarely travel to, or (time willing) a complete weekend getaway to a place we've never set foot on.

Community Connections
Opportunities to connect with various parts of the community: tours of community service buildings (fire houses, police stations, hospitals, post offices, animal shelters, courthouses, etc.--all by appointment, of course), colleges, volunteer work, community-run museums and activities.

Museum Meanderings
Regular trips to museums far and wide and not particularly connected with current unit study (though, of course, they could be) as a means of learning new things and contributing to an organization's effort to keep memories, relics, art, ideas, and learning opportunities alive.

Factory Fun Trips
Trips to see, hear, smell, touch, and taste how things of all sorts are made.

Roadside Rarities
Exploration of unusual oddities along the roadside. This is an opportunity to see some of the strange things that are built with incredible passion, such as shoe trees, quirky restaurants in the shape of unordinary things (flotsam art or concrete dinosaurs, anyone?). The purpose is not only to have fun and embrace our own eccentricities, but to remember to not get bogged down in taking ourselves too seriously!

Animal Encounters
Real, hands-on opportunities to interact with animals. This is not your average zoo trip! Rather, it's a way of meeting and greeting these animals up close with a skilled zookeeper or animal handler that is ready to answer tons of questions.

Open Road Roams
Regular trips to some of California's (and other states as well) most beautiful natural resources. These may not always be the most well-known destinations, but will include often missed gems of the state.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Busy and Artistic

Busy week! A couple of days ago, Aidyn and I had a science experiment day! We filled a large, glass vase with water and created a little vortex by stirring the water rapidly. Aidyn observed the action in the vase as I stirred. Then we played with adding colors to the water. He added red dye and watched it whirl in the water. Dropping blue in, he watched as the water turned purple. We tried several color mixtures and talked about the colors changing. Afterward we played a game of "Sink or Float." Going around the house with a basket, we plucked an assortment of objects and brought them back "to the lab." We individually plunked an object in the water after guessing if it would float or sink. Aidyn had a ball guessing the outcome and watching the result. When the game was through, I showed Aidyn the old "turn toothpicks into a star" parlor trick that I learned when I was little. Then I showed him how to do it himself. After all that guided play, I left him at the table with new objects, free reign over the food coloring, and a spoon and let him play with these new discoveries without assitance or guidance by me. He had a time! He dunked all sorts of objects into his personally-made vat of black water. : )

Also throughout this week, we have been listening to Bach. A couple nights this week, Aidyn also heard pieces of "Paradise Lost" as I was listening to the poem for my own class. It's also been an artistic week as Aidyn had been finger painting, coloring, and making shapes out of moon sand.

Yesterday evening, the family went out for a viewing of Where the Wild Things Are. I am so delighted that Aidyn is getting better and better at movie theatre ettiquette. He knows the importance of whispering, remaining in your seat, focusing his attention, and respecting other patrons. An hour plus movie is still a bit long for him and he gets wiggly but not to the point of effecting anyone's movie-watching experience. Whew!

I am also still working on the new curriculum. I will post it as soon as it is as close to finished as possible. Additionally, I will possibly create a new addendum blog that strictly focuses on our curriculum and activities rather than our personal log.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Community Connection and Museum Meandering

Yesterday, Aidyn, his grandma, and I went on a road trip to Gold Country, specifically Sonora. We enjoyed escaping the valley, driving over the rolling hills, and spying thousands of pine trees. After taking a brief drive through the heart of Sonora, we located the Tuolumne County Museum. Our tour was led by a knowledgeable resident who explained the history of the area, the wagon caravans that first traveled here, the old jail cell and wanted posters, the rocks laden with gold, and early civilizations of the area. We soaked in all that information as well as asked the museum staff about their particular knowledge of the area. Discussing cost of living, the closeness with nature, the beauty of the land, the richness of the history, we heard some really interesting things! One lady even told us about how at her house, deer have snooped up to her back porch and that she's even spotted wild turkies and foxes near her yard.

The area couldn't have been more beautiful. Sonora seems like it was delicately placed between rolling hills and mini-mountains thick with evergreen trees. The buildings and homes seem fixed between the natural elements: a babbling creek that passes through downtown and deciduous trees with raining leaves of red, orange, yellow, and gold. The antique buildings in town echo a forgotten way of life, and the townspeople smile as they pass by. We visited a store called The Candy Vault, and was it ever! It was filled with every sort of candy one could dream about and even some vintage candy that my mom had not seen in decades. While we browsed the aisles with wet palates, music from the film Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory filtered down to us. After scoring some sweet delicacies, we explored a nearby educational shop. Oh! If only I were a millionaire. Aidyn couldn't be torn away from this adorable, child-sized, grocery display where he pretended to sell me bananas, tomatoes, and apples. Later we ate in a 50's style hot dog diner and listened to oldies. Driving away made us wistful, but we have more places to explore!

Also during this week, we have been listening to our second composer, Johann Sebastian Bach, and reading books about California. I have also been continuing my work on next year's curriculum and fine tuning it.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Stargazing--Night Three and Storytime

Tonight Aidyn and his attentive father listened as I read two books entitled Wait Till the Moon is Full by Margaret Wise Brown and Into This Night We Are Rising by Jonathan London. Each curled up on Aidyn's bed, they listened to the sweet little story about a baby raccoon who is so excited to see the moon, but his mother encourages him to be patient until the moon is full. Veiled in the story was a wonderful lesson on the phases of the moon and the effected brightness in the sky depending on the moon's appearance. Brown usually writes such beautiful tales, and this one is no exception. Into This Night We Are Rising took us along with some children up to the skies, into the clouds, and back down to the earth. It was a poetic, imaginative jaunt to the skies by what every child dreams of doing: flying. Aidyn was awe-struck by the children making beds out of the clouds and bringing along their animal-friends. Lately, Aidyn has been very into holding his stuffed animals, naming them, and pretending they are his babies. He'll even have adorable conversations with them when he believes no one is looking.

After storytime, Daddy, Aidyn, and I went out to stargaze. First we went to the backyard and immediately found Jupiter. Wondering where the moon was, we slipped through to the front yard, but, alas, could not find the moon that was so large just last night.

Earlier in the day, Aidyn also did some outdoor explorations with his dad and told me all about it. Apparently the two went "rock hunting" until they found a huge rock "this big," Aidyn reported with his hands illustrating its girth. He told me, in great detail, about the ants that crawled atop it in search of food. He also picked some dandelions for his grandma and placed them in a recycled yogurt cup.

Stargazing--Night Two

Last night, Aidyn, his grandma, and I went out to stargaze. We set out chairs, donned our pajamas, and brought along a pair of binoculars and made ourselves comfortable. Instantly, we spied Jupiter glowing ever so brightly and waited until several stars appeared before our eyes. We spent a good hour talking in the night, sharing the binoculars, and commenting on the night sky. Aidyn asked several wonderful questions like, "Why is Jupiter not red? Why is it white? Where's Mars? Where are the other planets?" Later, we went around to the front yard for a better view of the huge full moon. With our binoculars, we observed the intricacies of the moon. This was actually Aidyn's first time using a pair of binoculars and he handled them like a pro. Luckily, Aidyn was able to express his curiousity and wonder about the night sky. Stargazing is something I would like to continue less as a unit activity and more as a constant hobby.

Before our stargazing adventure, Aidyn and I did a project while listening to Vivaldi. I painted each of Aidyn's palms black, and he planted them on a piece of paper. He was amazed to see just how big his hands were. We even went so far as to do his feet (which were even larger!). Afterward, he couldn't walk or touch a thing for fear of getting everything black so we hosed him off in the sink. I titled his pieces of art, dated them, and marked down his current age.

Earlier in the day, Aidyn and his daddy spent time at Outdoor World, talked about animals, and then they played for a couple hours at a nearby park. We all had a very sweet day!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Stargazing--Night One

Last night Aidyn and David went stargazing in both our backyard and front yard. According to David, they both watched the night sky and made simple observations about what they saw. They talked about the moon, its shape, and the idea of it seeming to "follow" them. They also pointed out twinkling stars. I was indoors madly reading The Duchess of Malfi in order to finish it on time, so I missed out on the stargazing. However, I talked with an "astronomically" knowledgable coworker today about stargazing, and she provided excellent tips! Tonight we will all go out and spend some time observing the night sky.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Library Walks and Talks

This afternoon's weather was too beautiful to drive to the library, so Aidyn and I strolled there on foot. While meandering through the neighborhoods, we noted the different autumnal colors of the trees and how some trees retained their green color. We listened to leaves crunching under our feet and smelled the scent of aromatic fruit trees. While walking, Aidyn brought up his upcoming birthday, how he'd like a Star Wars-themed party, his thoughts on Halloween and trick-or-treating, and ideas on game plans for Disneyland this December. When we arrived at the library, Aidyn immediately began playing in the children's section while I gathered new books. Once I finished collecting our reads, I sat down at one of the children's tables and surveyed the books in a nearby basket while Aidyn, holding two puppets, relaxed on the rug.

I watched him play at the playground for awhile before we started back home. Aidyn talked on and on about Disneyland. He told me what he plans on doing once we get there. He said that we'd all eat breakfast in the morning first and then we would walk to Disneyland. As we'd get closer, we would see the giant rides peeking from over the trees. When we get through the lines, he remarked, we'll go under the big train tunnel and see the houses (shops on Main Street). I reminded him that, when we go this time, a 50-foot Christmas tree with loads of twinkling lights and ribbons will stand at the center of Main Street. His excitement was palpable as then he began listing all the rides he wants to go on: "yellow submarine" (Nemo's Submarine Voyage) and all the fish and "Nemos" he sees under water, Peter Pan's ship, the teacups ("remember when Gilbert came on with us and we spun fast?" he recalled), Winnie the Pooh train, doom buggies, and many more. I told him that we would feast on yummy Christmas cookies made especially for this time of year, Mickey Mouse-shaped ice cream bars, mint juleps, egg nog, candy canes, and cinammon churros! Aidyn and I had such a sweet time mind-escaping to a nearing holiday vacation.

Once we got settled at home, we watched an episode of Between the Lions that focused on the short u sound. Thus the show was full of "bugs, hugs, and fun." When I sang one of the short u bug songs and asked Aidyn to join in, he sang the words, "hum bug" which, remarkably, do contain the sound I was looking for!

We also played some Vivaldi and had quiet time before Aidyn requested a viewing of Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle, a Beatrix Potter story. He's now watching that while Vivaldi continues to play in the background.

I intend to sample approximately thirty-four famous composers chronologically beginning with Vivaldi and other 17th century composers. My intent is simply to taste the sounds without emphasizing too much on who the artist is (unless Aidyn asks), and to purely enjoy the music. Later in our homeschooling venture, I will have Aidyn do composer/artist studies, so I wanted to lay some foundation-recognition now.