Thursday, December 31, 2009

Practice Makes Progress---With Letters!

I'm so proud of my little guy. He has gotten comfortable with our "letter time" and actually climbs into his seat enthusiastically. Today we began with the alphabet song. Then I went through the letters, asking Aidyn what each one was. The other day we focused only on lowercase letters, so today was uppercase letters. He only missed six!

He had been experiencing difficulty with letter M, so before we started, I had printed out an M worksheet with mountains in the background to help him remember the shape of M. The worksheet was turned over next to his markers and crayons until the letter work was complete. After finishing, I flipped over the page, and he happily colored away. While he brought color to the letter M and the mountains, I played around with some alphabet cards. Seeing me arrange them, Aidyn excitedly asked if those were next. So we went through the whole deck. I placed three cards in front of him: an uppercase letter, a lowercase letter, and a word that started with the same letter. I would ask him what each letter was, and he only missed two! When Grandma came to watch, he would point and say, "That's uppercase M and lowercase m." Then we would sound out the word, "M-m-monkey!" On the back awaited a picture of a monkey, and we had fun making guessing about what kind of pictures would appear on the back ("Will it be a silly monkey or a mean monkey?"). Today was one of those days that we accomplished much while having fun.

I've also been pulling together my resources for next year's curriculum. I have a wonderful book that I will be using called Adventures in Nature that contains weekly themes involving the outdoor world. Those fun and engaging activities will be an addendum to our plans.

We also are debating about taking a small, quick trip to Disneyland for the 2010 unOfficial Homeschool Day on February 26th.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Nuts, Bolts, and Yahtzee

Helping his dad with the building of a standing punching bag, Aidyn, per Dad's instructions, attached washers to the structure. According to Dad, Aidyn got a hands-on lesson about tools, their names, placements, and how to attach them. Dad reported that Aidyn basically built the stand himself and he only tightened the bolts securely. Afterward, the duo practiced their karate skills and both came in the house bragging about their roughed up knuckles. Aidyn got his own Spider-Man punching bag for Christmas and dragged it out with his daddy's so they could practice together. What an adorable sight!

In the evening, the family relaxed with a game of Yahtzee. I had never played the game and neither had Aidyn, so Dad and the printed game rules helped us learn. We all played two games, Daddy winning one and Aidyn winning one. Fun times. : )

Year-End Synopsis

This first preschool-home school year has been rewarding for Aidyn and our family. He has developed new skills and learned many things both through our curriculum and organic living. I, myself, learned how to plan out lessons for him and how to revise them to meet Aidyn’s learning level. I experimented with unit studies, delight-led learning, outdoor activities, field trips, games, and stories among other things. Our family participated in Aidyn’s learning adventures as well, even going off to far away field trip locales. We’ll always remember this first year.

Last February, we started in space. We shot right into the universe with books, videos, and pictures of our galaxy, the planets, the sun, and the moon. We still have the planet decals on our kitchen window and talk about them often. I still fondly recall the Mars cake that we made that deliciously drove home the fact that Mars is red. Aidyn stills remembers! We also visited the Discovery Museum in Sacramento and had a great conversation with a guide on UV rays. We still have our beaded UV Ray detector that alerts us if the rays are too strong, attached to our stroller. Since February, Aidyn has often asked to learn about space again, and we’re excited to revisit the subject in 2010.

Last March, we dove into the ocean, figuratively. We learned about ocean life, sharks, whales, dolphins, and fish. Specifically, he found an interest in learning about the body parts of sharks. Later in that month, Aidyn discovered that shells come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. As a hands-on experience, the family took an extended field trip to Morro Bay because the beach is said to be one of the most generous with shell-findings. As we walked along the beach, we found that to be true. Aidyn watched the waves, dug in the sand, poked at seaweed, collected shells, and braved the cold ocean water. We also visited the Morro Bay Aquarium and looked at sea creatures up close. Eating at a waterfront restaurant, we spied sea otters swimming in the bay right near us. Grandma insists we go back to Morro Bay very soon! That same month, Aidyn watched the process of caterpillars becoming butterflies. He observed tiny caterpillars grow fat with food, hang themselves and curl into a cocoon, and be reborn as butterflies. Once our butterflies were ready, we delivered them to the gorgeous Daffodil Hill, a place in Volcano, Ca, that blooms with hundreds of thousands of daffodils, and released them. March was certainly a month of real-life observation and learning.

April was our first month of full-on, delight-led learning. Because of Aidyn’s interest in monkeys, we learned about them for a while. He donned a monkey suit, we read books about monkeys, and enjoyed “monkey sticks!” During our bike rides, we went on letter hunts and talked about community activities and happenings. Because of Aidyn’s love for animals, we toured a local animal shelter and later learned about reptiles. April allowed us to go in any direction and spend time on subjects he enjoyed.

At the tail end of April through May, Aidyn explored his next unit theme: the rainforest. Each week, we focused on different rainforests around the world with the accompaniment of books, videos, and rainforest picture cut-outs. He learned about exciting “new” animals and the lush forest they live in. It was also during this month that Aidyn watched his first movie in the theater: Disney’s Earth. We’re still patiently waiting to see the next installment, Oceans. We also did a side-activity at the library where we listened to local firefighters. Aidyn watched as an ordinary person was transformed into a fully outfitted firefighter, breathing mask and all. He also had the chance to climb in the driver’s seat of the fire engine. As a cap-off to the this month, Aidyn, his grandma, and I went to Disneyland. We visited the Fire House, specifically, and enjoyed all the others amusements, of course. We also purposefully took him to the Rainforest CafĂ© so he could dine among the atmosphere he spent a month learning about! May was another exciting time in our preschool-home school year.

June and July were warm, summer months spent learning about Africa, bugs, and sports. Aidyn made some neat African animal crafts, read some books about safaris, animals, and the Swahili language. It was also during these months that we found Sesame Street’s African Alphabet song and now regard it as a favorite. We also participated in a reading program at our library and Aidyn received prizes for reading.

In August and September, Aidyn and I revisited delight-led learning. We allowed the world to teach us. We read whatever books seemed fun at the time, such as The True Story of the Three Little Pigs and Snow Happy to be Here. In September, we went to the Lodi Grape Festival and Aidyn rode a horse, spurring a new interest in horses. We read horse-related stories and watched movies about horses. We also began welcoming the fall season by making autumnal goodies and talking about Halloween and Thanksgiving and the changing colors of leaves.

In October, we closed our horse-study by visiting Del ‘Osso Farms where Aidyn rode a pony. We also combined two units: Trains and the Redwood Forest. We visited Jamestown and rode a real steam locomotive. We also took him to the Redwood Forest and went on a guided tour through the towering trees. On a local trail, we walked among almond trees. This month was full of train and tree books, and Aidyn became interested in tracing. Using our Kumon book, he learned how to trace fun shapes through silly pictures. With Halloween approaching, we read several “scary” books about ghosts, and Aidyn discovered one of his now-favorite books: The Ghost-Eye Tree. We ended the month reading A.A. Milne books and watching old Winnie the Pooh movies.

November and December were more times of delight-led learning. We began stargazing regularly (with the help of a fellow tutor) and Aidyn learned how to use binoculars to look closely at the night sky. We also began exploring gold country and took in a trip to Sonora. We also started listening to famous composers chronologically. We sampled the musical styling of Vivaldi, Handel, Bach, Mozart, and Haydn, finding that the compositions were beautiful and relaxing. We intend to continue our samplings of famous composers through next year. In December, we took in several Christmas and winter themed stories and talked about Christmas and the season for giving. Even though Aidyn didn’t have money to buy presents, he helped us pick out presents for our loved ones. We also spent an entire day riffling through his toy collection. Each toy prompted the question from me, “Should we give this to another kid for Christmas or do you want to keep it?” He respectfully donated about three hefty bags of toys to charity, and it turned out to be an excellent opportunity to discuss giving. Also, in the last month of the year, Aidyn became very interested in his ABC train puzzle and began putting it together alone and with me. Later in the month, I purchased a blue pocket chart, alphabet and word cards, and we started practicing letter recognition. He usually only misses 7 to 8 letters, but can completely recite the alphabet song. We also spent the season making Christmas goodies and sharing them with family.

2009 taught us all so much about the world of learning. I was taught by Aidyn that much can be absorbed through simply living and the introduction of fascinating subjects. He grew so much, developmentally and educationally. Reviewing the past year, I think my favorite times were the months devoted to a broad subject and the weeks within the month devoted to more specific units. Particularly, I enjoyed taking Aidyn to hands-on locations that corresponded to his learning. We’re so fortunate to have taken as many field trips as we have this year. That sort of adventurous exploration is what I want to continue doing throughout Aidyn’s education. We have some exciting plans for next year, and we simply cannot wait to learn some more!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

More Letter Practice

Although it was Christmas Eve, Aidyn and I worked on his letters after breakfast. First, I randomly pointed to each letter and marked down ones that he did not know. Today's total was eight. He took turns whispering the answers and yelling the answers. Then, as I did yesterday, I flipped over the letters he got right, leaving only his problem letters. We reviewed them, and then played a card game with them, each picking a card, naming it, and checking to see if our chosen letters made words. His combination made an actual word, so he "won." We reviewed the problem letters once more before I flipped the rest back around. We sang the ABC song twice. First, per Aidyn's request, I sang it, pointing to each letter. Then Aidyn sang it as I pointed to the letters. I'm pleased that he can now recite the entire alphabet song and recognize at least 18 letters by sight!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

More Letter Work

After gulping down some freshly-squeezed orange juice, Aidyn worked on his letters with the help of his blue pocket chart and his Mama. First I randomly pointed to letters, and he guessed them. Each letter that stumped him was written on a piece of paper to revisit later. Then we cycled through the alphabet song twice, pointing to each letter as we sung. Still in a playing mood, Aidyn watched as I flipped over the letters he knew, only exposing the seven letters he didn't know. I named each letter twice and asked him to repeat after me, then we played a game.

"I will point to a letter and you must say as fast as you can to get a point," I said.

My Crayola marker, or makeshift pointer, dashed to a letter and Aidyn would spout out the name. Some he struggled with, particularly "M" and "N." Then we moved on to a different game.

"When I point to a letter, say its name as LOUD as you can!" I said.

After I pointed to a letter, he would shout its name at the top of his lungs.

"Ah, you can say it louder than that," I teased, to which he responded with an even louder burst.

When our game was over, Aidyn had "scored" ten points, and he was a proud boy.

After that game, Aidyn surprisingly asked to make some words. I asked him which words he would like to make.

"Cat," he said. So letter sound by letter sound, we constructed the word 'cat.' Then he asked to do "hat" like Cat in the Hat. So I asked him what makes the "Hh, Hh sound like someone is h-h-hot!" We had fun rearranging letters, spelling, and reading whole words.

Afterward, I made an alphabet chart on Microsoft Word to help me keep track of his progress. After he learns all his letters thoroughly, we'll move onto phonics.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Letter Work

Yesterday while at the table, Aidyn ate Spaghetti-Os for the very first time. They were of the alphabet-noodle variety, so Aidyn accidentally went on a letter hunt in his bowl. Afterward, I worked with him on his letters with our blue pocket chart. I randomly pointed to letters, and he identified them. He asked to sing the alphabet song, so we did as we followed the letters. Also, lately has been interested in spelling two words: his name and 'elephant.' Of course, he needs help but when I tell him we need a p, for example, he points right to it. We have been enjoying our blue pocket chart thus far, and it is becoming an integral part of our learning.

Later in the afternoon, we watched several alphabet videos including many Letter People videos. I have fond memories of watching those episodes in my kindergarten class, and I'm pleased Aidyn gets enjoyment out of them. A particular one that stands out is Miss A. To help with the A's phonetic sound, Miss A sings about how she always goes, "Aaaaa-choo!" We also watched two of our favorite ABC song videos: Sesame Street's African Alphabet Song and Sesame Street's Fairy Alphabet.

In the evening, we took Aidyn to see Santa Claus. Being his third time seeing St. Nick, he handled it amazingly well. He waved at him, smiled with him, and talked to him. It's a relief to know that I no longer have to worry about timidity with Santa Claus. After we did a little Christmas shopping, the family drove to the infamous local house that goes absolutely CRAZY with lights and decorations. We drove by extra slowly and absorbed the Christmas cheer. At night, we had a good friend stop by, we exchanged gifts and caught up.

Additionally, I have been putting together a new arranged curriculum for Aidyn to use next year along with our other planned activities. It's sure to be a fun year in 2010!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Gingerbread Boy

Yesterday Aidyn and I made a giant Gingerbread Boy from scratch. He donned his imaginary chef's hat and helped me add ingredients to the bowl, mix them up, and taste the dough afterward. When our dough was finished, Aidyn and I kneaded it until it was ready for baking. Then the two of us spread the aromatic dough in a boy-shaped cake pan. Baking the Gingerbread Boy filled the home with such a warm, sugary smell that I wish we could have bottled! Once our creation was finished, we pulled him out and decorated him. After making the frosting, I spread some for his eyes, smiling grin, arm and leg sleeves, and buttons. Aidyn delicately placed gumdrops for his eyes, nose, buttons, and sleeve decorations. He was quite a handsome Gingerbread Boy when we were finished. And tasty! I'm glad that Aidyn is becoming more dextrous with baking: he's cracking eggs better, stirring better, and exhibiting more patience for our goods to be done. Most of all, I am proud that he is excited to work with me on kitchen projects.

We have also been listening to Franz Joseph Haydn this week, our fourth composer. Aidyn has definitely adapted to the music and enjoys hearing it. His favorite so far, according to him, is Bach.

Additionally this afternoon, I bought Aidyn a blue pocket chart (finally!) and some alphabet, word, and picture cards. The uppercase and lowercase letters were all jumbled, and, surprisingly, Aidyn asked if he could help me fix them. I laid all the lowercase letters on the table and pulled one capital letter at a time. "Will you find the uppercase G?" I'd ask. He looked through the sea of letters and produced lowercase g. He matched the whole alphabet and was only stumped by a handful of letters; for the most part, he can identify most of the letters. After I hung our letters on the chart, Aidyn pointed to several letters, unprovoked, and said their sound. Pointing at V, he said, "That one says Vvvvvvv," and then pointing at S, "That one says, "Ssssss," like a snake. "There's Z for Zorro and Zurg," he noted. His favorite phonic game is when I ask, "what does U say?" and dramatically pretend to punch his tummy. Equally dramatic, he groans, "Uuuuh."

I am excited about this new phase in Aidyn's learning. He's become such a verbose motor-mouth. He asks so many wonderful questions, makes great observations and deductions, and has a pretty wide vocabulary range, surprisingly me daily with certain words he knows. "Jerry is exercising for he can have big muscles," he said today. Yesterday he informed me, "I can be a (sic) archer and shoots my bow and arrow on a hill." "Can we build a tobaggan for me for I can go doooown the hill in the snow?" he asked, while I had no clue what a tobaggan was. I thought he was just making up words. When I asked him what a "tobaggan" was, he answered, "a sled that you can get in and go 'weeeee' down the hill real fast."

I've made plans for next year's curriculum, still keeping it fun and explorative, and I cannot wait to see what journeys we go on!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Itching to Write

Yesterday while I was wrapping presents, Aidyn requested that he be my gift-wrapping helper by writing the names on the receivers on the packages. I told him that he still needed to learn how to write his letters but he was more than welcome to doodle alongside me. I gave him a strip of paper, some white paint, and a paintbrush. He proceeded to tell me that he can write his letters, at least some of them. Announcing that he would write the letter "i", he swept his paintbrush down and narrated that now he just needed a little dot on top. Thus he made a marvelous lower case "i." Impressed, I told him to continue the good work. He ended up writing (with a sloppy paintbrush, no less) O's and I's of all shapes and sizes and a willingness to do more. Because I was busy wrapping presents, I couldn't instruct him fully at that point, but I got the message loud and clear: he's ready for handwriting. Got it.

This week we will go through one of his preschool workbooks and play around with the letter-tracing worksheets and see how he likes that. : )

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

ABC Train

Through play time with our Melissa and Doug Alphabet Train Puzzle, Aidyn has been mastering his ABC's, letter recognition, phonics, and puzzling skills. We have been playing everyday and Aidyn can put together the puzzle up to letter G on his own. When I join in, we sing the alphabet to discover which letter comes next. He used to rely on the pictures on each piece to help him find the letter, but we are gradually moving toward looking for letters first. When we find the correct letter, we look at it, compare it to other letters, and say its sound. If a letter is particularly difficult to find, I spout out all sorts of words that begin with that letter. If I had to wager how many letters he can correctly identify, I would say 20/26 as he still confuses some letters for others. This is a huge improvement from where he was before, and he has learned this solely on playing this game! He can sing the alphabet song in its entirety but gets a bit scrambled at the ever-difficult L-M-N-O-P section.

Seeing him taking strides of improvement makes me proud beyond words, and I love that he's learning many things about letters through this game instead of only memorizing the song.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009


It's been a while since I updated!

For the past couple weeks, we have been playing it by ear. Aidyn and I have been baking, playing, reading, taking library trips, and welcoming the Christmas season. The other day we made snowflakes out of tissue paper which lead to Aidyn creating snow by clipping and ripping tissue paper. He created a large mound of "snow" and played with our sledding snowmen knickknacks through it.

Because of his recent game, I picked up some snow-related books and a Christmas themed story. Today we made a batch of chocolate sugar cookie dough which we intend on making into alphabet cookies so that he can "accidentally" review his letters.

In other events, we finished listening to Handel and have recently moved on to Mozart. Hearing music from 17th century composers has been a surprisingly peaceful and educational event. I cannot wait for us to listen to more! While his grandma was watching a civil war documentary, Aidyn announced that he liked the music (I filed a thought to listen to 1860's music in the back of my mind). I can see that he's developing an ear for music which delights me beyond words.

We also had my friend, Hannah, visit us last weekend and Aidyn took to her immediately. She posed some good questions to him, and I loved hearing their conversation. Aidyn explained the life cycle of a butterfly to her (and showed her with our poster) and told her about how we released them at Daffodil Hill. They spoke of superheroes, snowmen, Christmas decorations, and the happenings of Horton Hears a Who.