Sunday, June 20, 2010

Bubbling Excitement

After joining his father and me at the huge homeschool swap and seeing armfuls of wonderful supplies make their way in our home, Aidyn has become increasingly excited to "do school." Yesterday we bought a wooden book holder from the thrift store, to keep the week's book and go-alongs. I've already loaded it with the Five in a Row manual and The Story about Ping. Upon seeing it, Aidyn lifted Ping and brought it to me, bright-eyed.

"Can we do school now and read Ping?" he asked.

A bolt of pride coursed through me, for I was delighted to hear him request school. I explained that "school" doesn't start for a while yet, but it's almost here!

Aidyn has also been sitting at his desk regularly, drawing on his white board and erasing. He's been picking up instructional drawing books and attempting to copy the steps to make a picture. With vigor, he finished his Kumon tracing book, so I filled out the Certificate of Achievement and hung it on the fridge.

I can see that he's ready. I notice a hunger for more, a curiosity, a wondering at the world.

Even I am scouring through the FIAR manual, creating ideas and field trips to go along with his books. I envision us leaving our house, Ping fresh in our minds, and driving to Chinatown in San Francisco and spending the day soaking up Chinese culture. I imagine us renting a cabin in the forest and rowing Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening by Robert Frost. Such freedom!

Both of us cannot wait!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

It's Been Ages...

...since I updated. For the past month, we have been busy planning out the kindergarten year. The days of regular posting must go to the wayside as our family busies with school, but I intend to post as often as I can about what we're up to and thoughts on homeschooling in general. Because of our new time demands, the purpose of the blog needs to change from a catch-all of activity reports to a casual musing on homeschooling.

After a couple years of curricula searching and debating over whether I need to write my own, I finally settled on a literature-rich curriculum that is flexible enough to make it our own. We have joined the Five in a Row community, and we've been collecting the books at markedly discounted rates (from free to a dollar!). The literature itself does not all need to be purchased, however, and we intend on borrowing heavily from the library. Along with the books, we have the option of adding supplemental books. For instance, when we row The Story About Ping, we can add in books on Chinese customs, clothing, the geography of China, etc. Additionally, I can whip up Chinese dishes, and we can take field trips to Chinatown or Chinese American museums. The structure, flexibility, and freedom this curriculum allows is the prefect fit for this family.

Along with FIAR, we are focusing on a year-long theme, the ocean, which we will explore in various ways all year. For example, we will:
  • read books, fiction and non-fiction, about the ocean
  • watch educational videos about the ocean
  • learn about plant life, animal life, and human use of the oceans
  • visit aquariums
  • visit the ocean during different seasons, times of day, and locations
  • go whale-watching
  • go on boat rides

We're also supplementing FIAR with:
  • math lessons (mainly using math manipulatives, toys, games, and practical application)
  • the Draw Write Now series
  • regular outdoor hikes
  • a hobby or sport of Aidyn's choosing
  • regular park days
  • regular family field trips
We're excited to begin the kindergarten year and look forward to the joy that FIAR will surely bring!

Friday, May 7, 2010

Social Playtime

Yesterday, Aidyn accompanied me to my writer's club meeting. Since Tabbitha has a painfully adorable and chipper little girl, Aidyn found himself an active playmate. The two chased each other, built up and smashed blocks, and shared a viewing of Cars. Good times!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

The Elves and The Shoemaker--Day One, Two, and Three

During this unit study, we have read two versions of The Elves and the Shoemaker, multiple times. After one such reading, Aidyn and I talked about elves and decided to craft one. I printed out a hat, pointy ears, and a collar. Aidyn drew a face on a white sheet of paper and proceeded to decorate the accessories with bright colors, stickers, and rhinestones. Afterward, he glued all the pieces where he saw fit, and we waited for it to dry. An hour later, Aidyn elected to hang it in the middle of the living room wall.

The next day, we read another version of the story, with only slight differences. We continued talking about the story, answering both of our questions. Later, Aidyn watched a cartoon version of the story that we have. This account was almost wholly different. But Aidyn enjoyed all the versions.

On another day, we read other story about shoes, in general. If the Shoe Fits was about the youngest born son who tired from receiving old hand-me-downs from his brothers. On his 9th birthday, he gets new loafers and is pleased to look so new and sharp. The problem occurs when an older bully confronts him for wearing loafers and trying to "look rich." So he decides to toss the shoes in the closet, forgetting them and growing all the while. It's not until a girl's birthday party does he remember his shiny shoes, but trying them on, finds they are too tight. Eventually he gifts them to an uncle who got a new job as a waiter.

We also read Red Dancing Shoes which exhibits a young girl who is given bright, shiny red shoes by her grandmother. The girl is inspired to dance just by wearing the new shoes. Her and her older sister run errands to show off the new shoes. Dancing, skipping, and running, she loves her red shoes until she slips and falls in a mud puddle. She thinks that having dirtied her shoes mean they have lost their dancing skills. However, an aunt helps her clean and polish them back to health, and thus her dancing is restored.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

The Elves and the Shoemaker Unit Study

For letter E, we are focusing on a specific story entitled The Elves and the Shoemaker. In preparation for Five in a Row, I wanted us to practice rowing with a singular story and various projects and lessons revolving around it.

Yesterday was our first read-through of The Elves and the Shoemaker. During that preliminary read, Aidyn asked all sorts of questions to familiarize himself with the story.

"Why do they have pointy ears?"
"Why do they climb in the window?"
"Why do they help him (the shoemaker)?"
"Why did they leave?"
"Why are they small?"

We discussed the answers to the above questions and more. We talked about the value of helping people and the unexpected rewards that sometimes goes with it. But the key is, that the elves did not expect a reward; they were helping just because there was need.

Today we will re-read the story or another version of the story and add a mini-lesson related to it.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

The Daring Letter D Among Other Things

Although this week is devoted to the daring letter D, we have mostly been enjoying spooky stories, as selected by Aidyn. He's at an age where the safe spook of a story thrills him, and hearing the creepy narrations (voiced both by David and I), bubbles him up with excitement.

As it turns out, we moved away from letter units and focused more on a singular subject from that letter. For instance, I made a vague connection with D by selecting books about the dark. All of the books chosen pertain to darkness though not all repeat the word enough to cement the phonetic sound of D. It doesn't bother me; I prefer this kind of learning. Our letter units might stay, and they might not. I may select a specific subject (or ask Aidyn to) that begins with that letter, but drilling the phonetics is not the priority.

This week, I have also selected our kindergarten curriculum that we'll be starting in August (if Aidyn were born just 29 days early, he'd be in public kindergarten this August). After much research, reading, comparing and contrasting, we have settled on Five In a Row (FIAR). Focusing on literature, it also introduces geography, ethics, values, science, history, and such. At the core of it is the joy of reading and the kindling of the warm connection that reading together provides. Since I've selected the curriculum, I have been hunting for the supplemental books for steals. I found a handful yesterday for about 75 cents each! My goal is to find the rest of the books (or make sure the library has them) by August.

Yesterday evening, I also introduced Aidyn to a new math manipulative called a Geoboard. The concept is simple enough. One one side of the board are pegs in the shape of a square with several pegs on the inside; on the flip side, the pegs formed a circle with one peg in the center. The idea is to stretch rubber bands on the pegs. Aidyn soon learned that he can make a straight line with a rubber band. Then, he discovered that pulling the rubber band to a new peg created a triangle. Playing with the geoboard, Aidyn experimented with different shapes (some I didn't even know the names of!) and made "pizza slices" with the circle side. At this stage, my only motive is to familiarize him with geometric shapes and lay the foundation for mathematics. I hope that this hands-on approach will help him grow to like and understand mathematics.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Curious Letter C

Last week, we focused on C themed books. After several weeks of active homeschool days, C Week was a more low-key. Lounging in the late afternoons, we read books about crocodiles, cats, and creepy castles. Through Tomie DePaola's book, Bill and Pete Go Down the Nile, we not only met a crocodile but learned about Egyptians-their monuments, beliefs, and ancient rituals. In City Cat, Country Cat, we found that cats can lead double lives! Of particular interest to Aidyn was the book about creepy castles. Lately, he has been fascinated with "spooky" stories, a curiosity I believe to be a normal part of growing up in what may seem like a terrifying world for a little guy. Because of his request to hear more "spooky" stories, we'll be reading more chilling tales to satisfy his curiosity.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Brilliant Letter B

Themes: bats, balloons, bears, butterflies

Social Studies: read about what builders do

Music: Hector Berlioz

Songs: "B-I-N-G-O"

Foods: bananas, blueberries, blackberries, bread and butter

Foreign language: learn the ASL sign for letter B

Books: Stellaluna, The Big Balloon Race

Math: the concept of "before"

Blue pocket chart:
Upper- and Lowercase B, sight words such as big, bed, but, box, bear, picture of Big Ben

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

The Amazing Letter A

In an effort to teach phonics, whole words, and reading, I decided to take a slower, more enjoyable approach. This week we have focused on the letter A and have gathered topics starting with A. Through reading these books and being exposed to these sounds, he'll inevitably soak in the phonics. Here is what we have been doing since Monday and plan on continuing until next week.

Letter A

Reading topics:ants, alligators, albatrosses

Social Studies:
reading about astronauts, discussion about what astronauts do

reading stories about children who make art

"The Ants Go Marching," and "Alouette"

Foreign Language:
Learning the ASL sign for A

Practicing addition

applesauce, almond milk, alphabet soup, apple bars

The Apples in Stereo

Blue Pocket Chart:
sight words starting with A, pictures of the Alamo Mission and Angkor Wat, uppercase and lowercase A, picture of our friend Aurora

Field Trip:
perusal of pet store aquariums

Monday, April 5, 2010

Applying the Nuts and Bolts

I started out this week teaching Aidyn phonics on an audio program. Though Aidyn followed along, grasped most of what sounds were being said, he lacked enthusiasm and slumped in his chair like it was a dreaded chore. I didn't have fun either. Reaffirming my love for whole-word approach, it is admittedly difficult learning about the "nuts and bolts" when we have nothing to apply them to.

Instead of focusing on the nuts and bolts, I am going back to whole-word approach and will point out phonetic sounds as need be. To help him naturally learn phonics, we will continue to:

-read living books
-read road maps, signs, billboards, etc.
-watch The Letter People videos
-play with letters, physically and through verbal games, rhymes, etc.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Busy Break

With Mama home on Spring Break, Aidyn and I have been busy people. This week, we did our quarterly assessments (which Aidyn strangely loved). It had been a full three months since our beginning of the year assessment, so I reviewed the same "test" to mark his improvement. Within only three months of time, he has learned so much more. For example, in January, he could identify approximately 15 letters (whether they were uppercase or lowercase) and now he can identify 22+ with confidence. Additionally, three months ago, he was a little shaky with his shape recognition, but now he can correctly identify all the major shapes. Before he could rote count to 5 and now he counts to 12. Similarly, in rational counting he made it to 8 and now makes it to 12.

I also took into account his marked gains in self-confidence and ability as shown in our recent Disneyland trip where he confronted old fears and faced new challenges. These things would probably not be measured in say, public school's standardized tests, but to me they are just as valid at showing intellectual growth.

We also revisited our large curriculum goal list and happily checked off close to 50% of our original goals such as: keep a small pet (our geck0), watch the cycle of caterpillar-to-butterfly again, go hiking, etc.

In all, I know where he stands and where we're headed. He's thriving and I am proud!

During this week, we've also read stacks of books at Aidyn's enthusiastic requests. We've reread a favorite of his: The Ghost-Eye Tree as well as Alligators All Around, The Beasty Story, Go Away Montsers Lickety-Split, The Art Lesson, The Knight and the Dragon, Oh, The Places You'll Go, and Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What Do You Hear?

We've been crafty as well, making an assortment of fans using handprints, footprints, headprints (!), and the creation of animals using hand poses.

Today we plan on doing our annual egg-dyeing and Easter-themed storytime as we wait for the Easter Bunny to come our way!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Phonics and Chrysalises

Today after singing the alphabet and naming letters, I showed Aidyn the new phonics program that we'll be using. It's basically a CD that follows a booklet which introduces phonics. For me this is new territory as I learned to read using the whole word approach, but I figure that a blending of the two schools of thought wouldn't hurt. Aidyn has been "reading" simple, rhyming words by sight, so I know that he's naturally picking up reading skills; however, learning the nuts and bolts of reading will help him when he comes across a word he doesn't recognize. So, at the table, we followed the booklet, spouting letter sounds and accompanying words. We went through the whole alphabet, took a break, and repeated it a couple hours later. My plan is to do phonics work a couple times a day for the duration of the week and, of course, continue reading stories daily.

In other news, our caterpillars have begun hanging on the top of their cup and one or two have officially become chrysalises. That means that very soon we'll need to pick up some fresh flowers for our soon-to-be arriving butterflies!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Spring Egg Festival

Because we have been learning about life cycles (particularly by observing caterpillars) and the newness that Spring brings, the family make a trek to the Discovery Center Museum of Science and Natural History for their Spring Egg Festival. There was quite a show out, and the grounds had so many activities for us to do. First Aidyn climbed into the cockpit of a rocket ship and pretended to be an astronaut. Then we let him lead us through a maze of Egyptian hieroglyphics. Aidyn had a ball twisting and turning, finding dead ends, and finally breaking free at the end!

Then we went across the way and walked through this impressive Cacti Garden with rocky trails and gigantic cacti, some of which looked like tentacled undersea creatures. We then stopped to play at a bubble-blowing station. We then spied a Children's Garden, so we explored that. A caretaker of the garden invited Aidyn to stand on a colorful slab of cement that said "MAR" for March. She then asked him to point his hands straight up in the air. Looking closely, we saw the the tip of his shadow kissed another colorful slab of cement that said "12," which is what time it was. We explained to Aidyn that he was standing on a sun clock and he was the hands! Afterward, we played hopscotch, read about vermicomposting, and marveled at the beautiful flowers and animal-shaped hedges.

Then it was time for the egg hunt. Aidyn got a simple white basket with his name on it, we waited in line, and then off we went searching the grounds for hidden eggs. Scores of children participated, so I was proud when Aidyn walked away with a full bag. We planted ourselves in the shade and cracked open his prizes until we heard our stomachs growling.

After lunch, Aidyn poked his head through cut-out boards of dinosaur scenes. He pretended he was an apatosaurus and then a baby triceratops. The beautiful sound of beating drums alerted us to the Aztec Dancers, so we gathered with a crowd to watch. Several dancers, decorated in long, exotic feathers and some in animal-headpieces, shook their wrists and heels which were wrapped with clinking shells. Outside their dancing circle, two others banged on the drums and incense filled the air. It was quite a sight!

Aidyn then said he wanted to "do crafts," so we walked to the Arts and Crafts table and were surprised at what we found...Large arachnids and scorpions, meal-worms, and roaches waited in little clear boxes. The lady behind the counter invited us to hold a tarantula. When I asked Aidyn if he'd like to hold one, he carefully shook his head. To help him see that it was okay, I held my hand out as the lady placed a surprisingly colorful and hairy spider that took up the whole of my palm. I have never held a tarantula before, and it was quite a sensation. I held some other spiders as the lady gave us a mini-lesson on them, and Aidyn listened intently. We also checked out a turquoise-colored scorpion, pet large meal-worms, and spied a dozen roaches. We saw cases of other insect specimens, most of which were brilliant, natural colors like teal and silvery yellow. We touched old turtle shells of massive sizes, played with plastic representations of tadpoles and frogs through various stages of change, and toured a little are called Walden Pond. (I loved the reference to Emerson's pond that much inspired Thoreau!)

At Walden Pond, we were allowed to grab small nets and attempt to catch tadpoles, which proved much more difficult than it seemed. The whole family had a go, but we all came out empty-netted.

On the whole, this was an amazing outdoor smorgasbord of fun and exploration. For me, it epitomized the beginning of Spring and set the tone for the rest of the season.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Stories Galore

As if it were planned this week, Aidyn and I read a plethora of books together. After an exhausting day of work and school, I looked forward to our regular storytime on the couch. We read wonderful classics, most of which were favorites that I grew up with, such as The Story Ferdinand by Munro Leaf which echoes the theme of self-contentment. We also read a favorite story of ours called Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskey. The Story About Ping by Marjorie Flack encouraged the moral that it is better to face the music than run away. Another favorite reread we enjoyed was The Best Nest P.D. Eastman.

Yesterday, after I refreshed our books at the library, Aidyn and I sat down and read two Mercer Mayer books: There Are Monsters Everywhere and There's an Alligator Under My Bed. Aidyn adored them both. We then shared the cute and colorful Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? Afterward Lyle, Lyle Crocodile ended up becoming a vocabulary lesson and in-depth conversation about the plot line (which is always encouraged!) We finished off the story session with another P.D. Eastman classic, Big Dog, Little Dog.

We've also filled our home and car with Tchaikovsky The Nutcracker and Sleeping Beauty, and Aidyn especially likes The Nutcracker. Today we plan on traveling to a hands-on science discovery museum for a Spring Egg Festival.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Effie Yeaw Nature Center and Homeschool Hike

Yesterday, as a birthday present to a dear friend, Aidyn, my friend and her two children, and I traveled to the Effie Yeaw Nature Center in Carmichael. It was a delight to find this place teeming with educational opportunities. Inside the actual center, animals in various stages of rehabilitation are housed and the kids peeked in at them with excitement. Further inside the center, a touch-and-feel museum about California Indians and indigenous animals invited the kids to explore. Once we went outside, we followed a scenic nature trail with springtime blooms, flitting butterflies, and roaming families of deer. Stopped on a bench for lunch, we spied the brave family of deer meandering near us, picking leaves off trees and crossing the fields. While Aidyn was munching, I asked him questions about the area and jotted his observations down in our journal. Later, we followed the two boys as they ran down the thin paths. Happening on a pond, we explored the area and tested the boundaries of the muddy shoreline. The nature trail, on the whole, was beautiful and rich with nature reserves fit to study and simply observe. Although we stayed just a short while, comparatively, there was so much to soak in. I'm definitely making a mental note to revisit this wonderful place!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Grab Bag

Yesterday afternoon, Aidyn and I played a game of Grab Bag. This is a game in which I hide a certain three-dimensional shape in a pillowcase and invite Aidyn to put his hand in and use his sense of touch to guess the shape. For example, I secretly hid a wooden circle in the pillowcase and asked Aidyn to guess what shape it was. Other times, I hid wooden letters and let him guess what they were. He was able to correctly identify all the shapes which included a circle, a rectangle, a triangle, a ball, and the letters A, X, U, and O. The idea of a game like this is to learn the physical shapes of things without relying on sight to tell you what it is. For us, it's fun brain food.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Homeschool Hike--Caswell and the Stanislaus River Part Two

Around noon, Aidyn, his grandma, our dog Niki, and I went hiking at Caswell Memorial State Park. It was the first time there for grandma and Niki, so Aidyn had fun giving her the grand tour and pointing out the tree scents and natural sights. We walked down to the beach area for a view of the Stanislaus River. Since Aidyn was a pro at spending time in this spot, I asked him to tell us something about the location. He narrated that the river is green, very cold, and the current goes "that way," as he made swift motions to the right.

We dunked our fingers and hands in the icy cold water and walked on the beach before Aidyn asked if he could put his feet in the water. I thought that was a wonderful idea. I stripped Aidyn of his shoes and socks and followed suit myself. It is amazing how much more you absorb and learn by going barefoot in a place you've never been barefoot. We proceeded to squish our toes with mud, sink our heels in the sand, and rinsed off briskly in the river water. Aidyn loved it. He practically rolled in the mud and emerged from the beach as a mini-mud man, but it was all in the name of education!

After wading, mud-squishing, rock-collecting, and scenery-gaping, the four of us hiked a bit farther down some trails and explored the park. The outing refreshed us all, and we returned home spent but renewed.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Starry Night with Daddy

Due to time constraints, David took over the usual activities today. We were set to observe Van Gogh's "Starry Night," so the boys tackled that one together. According to David, he asked Aidyn to have a look at the painting for a few minutes. He then asked some questions about the piece. For instance, he asked Aidyn what he noticed in the painting, what was happening in the painting, what certain things were, and what his favorite color was. I heard that Aidyn commented that the people in the town must be sleeping because it was night. I was so happy to hear Aidyn make a connection to the painting and what the people inside of it were thinking or doing. From the sound of it, their first art observation together went rather well.

They also worked on letters and the alphabet song, and David commented that Aidyn did a good job and had fun learning, even asking his daddy to continue after it was over.

It's a relief to know that when I am unavailable, David can pick up the pace.

Homeschool Mornings

Yesterday, Aidyn and I had a lovely homeschool morning. Because we have been talking about St. Patrick's Day coming up, I broke out our decorations and let him have at them. He tried on the shamrock antennae and Irish hat and ran around the house. We even did our tablework decorated for St. Patrick's Day.

Aidyn did a quick run-through of the alphabet song, we talked about some letters, and then we did our artist study for the first time. I checked out a children's art book that focuses on Vincent Van Gogh. Yesterday morning, I selected a page for us to look at, which happened to be his "Pear Tree in Blossom" painting. Armed with his sketchpad, I asked him to look at the picture and tell me his thoughts. Every observation I wrote down. He said many interesting things and made careful observations. For example, he said that the pear tree had no leaves on it, only flowers, so it must be springtime in the picture. This is an exercise that I would like to make a habit. Eventually I would like him to even sketch the painting himself on his sketchpad and write his own observations. But this is a good way for him to become familiar with later exercises.

After we finished the art observation, Aidyn and I played with his tangram pieces which is an assortment of right triangles of differing sizes, squares, and parallelograms (we have more than the usual 7 pieces). I am using this particular set as an introduction to mathematics, geometry, and tangible puzzles. It is an excellent way for him to learn his shapes and how to manipulate these shapes to make pictures or other shapes. When we played with them, there were no set rules; we simply messed around with them. He ended up joining two triangles to make a square, and upon flipping it around, he said that he made a diamond and a kite. We made pictures with the pieces also. For example, I made a rocket ship and Aidyn made two houses with roofs. We pretended that my rocket ship was sailing over his houses. I am hoping that this kind of math play encourages Aidyn to like math more than tolerate it.

We have also been filling our home with Johannes Brahms. He is actually on an assortment CD, so we've also revisited Mozart and Bach. Listening to classical music these last months has brought a certain calmness and tranquility to our home, and I love that Aidyn is getting samplings of some of the finest composers. Later when we do more in-depth studies of them, he'll already be familiar with their music.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Poignant Books and Computer Games

Aidyn and I have been very sick this week. Although it has been difficult to fit activities in, we've tried our best. The other night, Aidyn and I took in a slew of heartwarming books. I had actually gone to the library without a pre-decided theme or list of books, and searched for some of my childhood favorites. I uncovered The Little House, Ten Apples Up on Top, Kellogg's version of Jack and the Beanstalk, I'll Teach my Dog 100 Words, and Go, Dog. Go!

Aidyn and I, sniffly-nosed, read these books together and talked about them. He had such poignant questions and observations about The Little House, a story about a strong, pink house built in the countryside who witnessed the rapid revolution of industry, motor cars, subways, tenement buildings, smoke, and unhappiness.

After reading Jack and the Beanstalk, I asked Aidyn, "so who do you think the 'bad' guy in the story was?"

Immediately (as most folks do), he replied, "The ogre. He was mean."

We then talked about other characters and their actions. I mentioned that Jack stole things from the ogre and took more than he needed. I asked him now, "who is the 'bad' guy?"

He had to think about this for a while. He recognizes that Jack did bad things, but he is set on the ogre being the 'bad' guy. He's much too young to explain this to (the negative connotations of the ogre's words, the heavy phonetic sounds, etc.), but one day we will revisit it and have quite a debate!

This week, we have also worked on Aidyn's computer skills. Through, we played several games that required the use of the mouse and arrow keys. After some practice, Aidyn became pretty adept at the task required. He even learned how to click on an image and drag it to a desired spot.

We fortunately stumbled on and played many matching games. When he completed the medium stage, he was awarded a Silverstein picture, which we promptly printed out.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

YouTube Edu.

Despite us both being ill, Aidyn and I have been able to sneak in some learning time. Today we learned it YouTube style! Because we've been talking about the soon-to-be arriving season of spring, we watched several videos showing animals hatching from eggs. We viewed baby ducks, chicks, caterpillars, and even lizards being born. We also watched videos of the caterpillar-to-butterfly process to remind Aidyn about what we did last year.

In the next few days, I will be ordering caterpillars to raise and watch as they form chrysalises and emerge as butterflies. This simple yet sweet project has become a tradition in our household, and I see it as a signal of spring!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Storytime with Colds

For the last few days, Aidyn and I have been slammed by a cold. We're coughing, moaning, and generally feeling icky. However, the downtime has afforded us the opportunity to read books together.

Yesterday we cuddled on the couch and flew through a stack of wonderful books. We read Bunny Party by Rosemary Wells (Aidyn adores the Max and Ruby stories). Afterward we read The Story of Babar, a tale of an elephant who becomes king. Then we read and laughed to Kipper (Aidyn also adores this character). We finished off the reading session with Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McClosky. Aidyn and I both love his story, Blueberries for Sal, so I figured we couldn't go wrong with Ducklings. All were adorable stories shared in an adorable way. : )

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Homeschool Hike--Caswell and the Stanislaus River

Early this afternoon, Aidyn and I took a quick trip to Caswell Memorial State Park to enjoy the sun with a nature hike. Armed with a new sketchpad and colored pencils, we explored the area. We stopped to listen to birds, watched squirrels skit around the tree branches, and inhaled the fresh foresty aroma.

After taking a new trail, we discovered a small beach where we plucked sticks from the ground and tossed them in the river. We talked about currents as we watched the sticks sail down the river. We sunk our fingers in the sand and dipped our hands in the icy water. Planting ourselves on the sand-hill, we doodled in our nature journal. I wrote down the cute observations Aidyn was making and he drew his representation of our view of the Stanislaus River. We also ran our hands down the bumpy trunks of trees and talked about bark, branches, and how trees start out as little seeds.

I'm definitely happy to welcome back warm, comfortable weather!

Forgot to Mention!

Supporting my wacky viewpoint that Disneyland can, in fact, be educational, the Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln show brought the famous president to life in ways a textbook or myself could never do. Fittingly on Homeschool Day at the park, Aidyn, his grandma, and I browsed through the Disney Gallery and theater where the Lincoln show had finally been restored. We looked at old models, maps, and pictures of the Disneyland park from its inception in 1955 to the present. We even watched a video about the history of Disneyland and learned new things along the way.

Inside the room just outside the theater, we marveled at a grand model of the Capitol, busts of Abe Lincoln, and poignant portraits of events of his presidency and the weight of war. During the show, we gasped at how lifelike Mr. Lincoln appeared and felt like we had just sat in on one of his greatest speeches. According to the pre-show, Disney had exhaustively researched Lincoln, his mannerisms, and his idiosyncrasies. It was amazing.

Although Aidyn knows who Abraham Lincoln is, I understand that he didn't get the full effect of the show, but (fingers crossed) one day he will.

Just outside the theater, after watching the show, we strolled along the hallways. Each wall was dedicated to a certain ideal (Perseverance, Imagination, Courage, etc) and portraits of famous representatives hung on the walls. Walking through, I pointed out familiar faces to Aidyn and explained why they were hung there.

Needless to say, it was quite a neat little experience!

Math, Letters, and the Hope for Good Weather

Despite this being a crazy-busy, post-Disneyland week, we were surprisingly able to get some things done! During the morning, Aidyn and I played with his math manipulatives, practiced counting, adding, subtracting, and grouping by color. We also played with pretend money. Counting pennies, we worked on simple addition and subtraction. After explaining how a dime stands in place for ten pennies, we counted in tens, which was new for Aidyn. Once we counted to 100, I would hand him a pretend dollar. He suggested that he "buy" stuff, so he ran to his room to choose "merchandise" to put up for sale. He decided that he wanted to buy a truck for five dollars, so we counted out dimes in tens until reaching 100, five times. I'm so glad that he loves playing with math manipulatives and is using the pieces and information practically before he sees abstract addition problems.

We also have been working on his letters. Using our blue pocket chart with alphabet cards displayed on it, we sing the alphabet and point to each letter as we go. Then I have him playfully identify random letters. He usually gets 23/26 correct, and the other three he answers after hearing clues like the phonetic sound or what word starts with that letter, for example.

If the weather decides to get less miserable and wet, I would like to take Aidyn on a small hike to observe the trees, new buds, and saplings.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Branches, Bark and Buds

Week of March 1st

Adventures in Nature Theme: Branches, Bark and Buds

Leaps in Confidence

After a much-needed vacation at Disneyland, we're ready to get back to our schedule! Although we were technically having an "Anything Can Happen!" Week, Aidyn made much personal progress while at Disneyland. Finally reaching the required height, Aidyn was able to ride Star Tours with the family. I'll never forget the measurement process with the Cast Member when Aidyn got the big OK. He absolutely loved the ride. During our 3-day stay, we rode Star Tours about six times!

Then, to my great surprise, Aidyn felt compelled to ride Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, a highly turbulent roller coaster. It was remarkable to see how brave he could be. He even confronted his two old fears: riding Pirates of the Caribbean and watching a Bug's Life Show (both, he said, he wouldn't do again). I feel wonderful because this exemplifies his growing confidence in himself and his abilities and his trust in his parents. This whole thing, much like many aspects of raising a child, was a process. From a tender age, we exposed him to rides (as tame as merry-go-rounds and quarter-rides at the grocery store) while he built his self-confidence and trust. I'm thrilled that we can have fun as a family, and I'm mighty proud of Aidyn.

Sometimes the best lessons don't spring from textbooks but from gradual processes of life experiences. This may not seem like a huge deal, but for me it translates into a sense of confidence and trust that he can apply to anything that stands in his way. These experiences fall under my two main goals for my son: getting an education and having a damn good time. Other than that, not much else matters. : )

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Purchasing Power!

This week, Aidyn and I have been playing with an assortment of math manipulatives. Before we actually put serious meaning to them, I wanted him to have a chance playing with them. His favorite has become the pretend money, both paper and coin. Following his lead, this week we are learning about money, in its most basic sense.

On Monday, while on an outing to the snow with friends, we stopped at Andy's Mountain Deli and Grill. After eating, Aidyn requested a lollipop, and I consented because I thought it would be a good opportunity to let Aidyn "pay" for it himself. I gave him a dollar and basic instructions on how to interact with the cashier. He plopped his lollipop on the counter, handed the dollar bill to the lady as she said, "Twenty-five cents!" When she returned his change, Aidyn grabbed his newly purchased lollipop. The first thing he said once he bought it was, "I'm going to tell Grandma that I bought a lollipop!"

That evening, when we returned home, we played with the lot of math manipulatives but spent the most time playing with the money. I gathered items for me to "sell" to Aidyn while he had all the pretend money. I would then ask him what he wanted to buy. Once he picked something, I told him the cost.

I changed up the prices on several items so he could practice different ways of paying. Even when he ran out of dollar bills, I showed him how to make a dollar using his pretend dimes. In my eyes, we didn't focus too much on the seriousness of understanding money. Instead we played. Through this playful interaction, he picked up monetary vocabulary and etiquette for purchasing goods. I would like to take him on a field trip to a store and have us pay extra attention to price tags. I may give him an amount to spend and let him figure out what he can and cannot afford by reading price tags.

Introducing Money

Week of February 14th:

Theme: Money, money, money, money, MONEY!

Music: Frederic Chopin (again)

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Social Fun and Penguin Launching

Yesterday Aidyn had an absolute ball with cousins. By the time I returned home from work, I found them laughing, squealing, and playing in his room, toys everywhere. He loves playing with other kids and often gets wrapped up in a world of carefree play. When the trio calmed down, I brought out our leopard gecko and let Aidyn tell his cousins about his new pet. I answered the older cousin's questions about geckos and allowed them all to pet and hold her. We talked about how she's nocturnal, what she eats, how she behaves, and her personality and temperament.

Later the three amigos played with these penguin-catapult toys. After trying to assemble the toy, they eventually began launching penguins in the air with great hilarity. I asked Aidyn why would these penguins need a catapult in the first place. He looked quizzically at the toy and said, "because penguins can't fly and these ones want to." Ah, out of the mouths of babes. : )

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Lovin' the Arts and Crafts

Yesterday Aidyn and I collaboratively made a love tree in honor of the approaching holiday. From an old gardening magazine, I cut out the trunk and branches of a tree. Aidyn helped glue it on a piece of construction paper. He then used crayons to color cut-out heart shapes as I freed pictures of flowers and garden creatures from the magazine. He glued on the hearts and flowers at the top of the tree to simulate leaves. Then, when all was complete, we talked about all the things he loves. First he named off the important people in his life, and I wrote their names on the hearts. He then spouted off his favorite things: favorite cartoon, color, number, food, activity, Disneyland ride, etc. In the end, we had a gorgeous tree of love. He couldn't wait to hang it on the wall, so I let him pick a spot and helped him attach it.

Later, Aidyn colored a "Happy Valentine's Day" Sprout coloring page. Finding a remaining cut-out heart, he brought it to his grandma's room and taped it lovingly to her TV set.

When I returned home from work, Aidyn pulled out his fingerpaints, so I set up an area at the table for him. He sploshed his fingers full of paint and made, what he eventually called, a dragon. As soon as it dried, we hung it on the wall. Yesterday was certainly an artistic day!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

February Weekend Roundup

Because of our out-of-the-average schedule we had last week, we did not do any preplanned activities. But anyone who has children knows that they learn and soak up things even when there is no plan in place!

As such, the family had some wonderful experiences this week. Aidyn became familiar with a community fixture: a car lot. He was along for the ride as we scoped cars, test-drove the one we were serious about, haggled prices, checked the engine in the garage, and successfully drove it home. I'm sure that I cannot pinpoint all the things he learned by experiencing that, but I'm glad that we took him.

Since then, he's climbed all over our new vehicle--a stark contrast to our old one, and has rode around in it. He loves it!

This week, I also noticed more "who the heck taught you that" words and phrases, and they are a delight to hear. My favorites include "decompose" when he showed me a banana gone bad and "California Adventures" when he talked about going to the 'other side of Disneyland.'

In other news, our first public homeschool event is right around the corner and we've been busy preparing. We will be attending the Annual unOfficial Homeschool Day at Disneyland for about three days. What I'm most excited about is the group photo in front of Sleeping Beauty's Castle and Aidyn's face as he surveys similarly-clad (tie-dye is the agreed on style) homeschoolers. I'm looking forward to little conversations in line for Pinocchio or while sipping a Mint Julep in New Orleans Square about the concept of homeschooling. He probably has no idea when we play with our letters or build geometric towers, practice counting, or take hikes that we're homeschooling, but I hope he eventually see that learning has no boundaries. It is not bound within the walls of home or some building or even by our city limits!

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Watching the Big Change

I love when Aidyn takes the initiative to learn on his own. Last night Aidyn asked to watch one of his Geo Kids videos. We have a set of adorable kid-friendly National Geographic videos, and Aidyn selected the Metamorphosis video. In his bed together, we watched the antics of animals and talked about the big change. He remembers when we watched the caterpillar to butterfly cycle last year, but he also relearned that other animals go through changes as well. I love hearing him identify animals that I assumed he didn't know the names of such as sea otters and mosquitoes. I also love how inquisitive he is and his flood of why questions.

Even when we do not formally plan subjects out, education can't help but leak in!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Anything Can Happen Week

This fourth week of homeschool is officially an "off week," but I decided to tweak it with the theme of 'Anything Can Happen!" If we get the itch to tour some random cookie factory, we will. If we elect to spend the day fingerpainting, baking bread, reading comics, or watching Sesame Street, we will. On library day, I'll ask Aidyn to pick out whichever books/videos/cds he wants. Basically, we will not have any structured or preplanned activities but will follow the whim of learning and playing. After all our accomplishments and activities this month, this is sure to be a welcomed break!

Indoor Gardens Synopsis

Of course, the most exciting objective this week was adopting our new family member, Sabor the Leopard Gecko. Our family has been peeking in her terrarium every day and coaxing her to lick our hands and fingers. We're learning how to care for her, feed her, interact with her, and give her her space when she needs it. This experience has also helped us talk about desert plants and climate--a welcomed subject in the midst of a wet winter storm! Additionally, our family has been reading informational books on geckos and has learned much in terms of their expected behavior, temperament, and needs.

This was also my first week back to school/work, so we're adjusting to the newly hectic schedule. I anticipate that much of the 'structured learning' will take place in the morning hours with games and extra fun activities for the late afternoons/evenings and weekends.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Reptile Observation

This week spent learning about our leopard gecko through reading and observation has been so fun! In the mornings, Aidyn's first thought is to check on "baby gecko." We peek into her terrarium and usually find her cuddled in her hollow log. The knowledge of her being nocturnal was fully realized this week as we often caught her napping and not doing much else. There have been late nights and early mornings when the glow of her purple nightlight exposed her nightly habits. She then ventures out of her safe spot and roams through her tiny desert. We once spied her right on top of her log looking like the queen of her world!

We also learned more about her eating habits. Initially we provided her with a scoop of mealworms but noticed that she barely touched them. Worried that she wasn't getting enough to eat, we revisited Petsmart for a professional opinion. The clerk filled us in on her usual diet, and a book from the library explained that pet store lizards may not recognize a certain food item as a meal if they didn't have it frequently enough. The case with the mealworms was that she only had them only occasionally. What she was used to was crickets. Yes. Live crickets! Live crickets dusted with calcium powder, I might add. Doesn't that sound fancy? So we picked up a carton of small, live crickets. Since adding two to her tank, she's gobbled up one already.

I'm sure we could have read all these things in a textbook and probably watched them on a documentary but something about experiencing this beautiful creature teaches us so much more. Some things that we've learned I cannot even put into words, but it runs the gamut from learning about lizards' idiosyncrasies to taking responsibility for caring for a pet. The root of that logic is why I adore homeschool; I want us to touch, see, feel, experience these things instead of only reading about it in a cold textbook. I'm sure we won't be able to do it all, but the things we do learn about with multi-module methods will surely stand out.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Leopard Gecko

The majority of yesterday was spent in learning how to create an indoor desert garden/terrarium and adopting a new family member: a leopard gecko.

I researched how to construct a desert garden and created a simple illustration to show Aidyn. We first went to library to check out lizard/desert books, and then we went to our local Petsmart to meet some live specimens. We shopped around for basic needs while I explained the function of each to Aidyn. When we finally returned home, Aidyn and I made a living desert. He helped place tiny pebbles on the bottom of the tank. Next we scattered natural moss over the pebbles. We then added cactus-specific soil. Carefully, we placed two succulent plants, that Aidyn had chosen earlier, in opposite corners of the terrarium. To create multiple hiding spots for our soon-to-be adopted lizard, we situated a hollow piece of a tree limb, rocks, and moss throughout our desert environment. While placing the lamp on the tank, I talked with Aidyn about a reptile's need for external heat as they cannot regulate it within themselves as we mammals can. Daddy, at one time being an avid lizard owner himself, checked out our progress and further talked about the characteristics and needs of lizards. Once we had everything squared away, we returned to the pet shop and chose our new family member. We selected the quiet, easy-going leopard gecko and wrangled up a name for her. We decided on Sabor, the leopard from Tarzan and an Edgar Rice Burroughs-created word.

In the short amount of time that we've had her thus far, observing her has been quite interesting. Through this sort of peeking in through the glass and careful petting and holding, Aidyn is absorbing things a book could never teach him--the experience of watching a live animal, of caring for a pet, of sampling how certain animals behave. We look forward to daily observations and learning more about the personality of Sabor and the behavior of geckos in general.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Indoor Gardens

Week of January 18th:

Theme: Pets
Adventures in Nature theme: Growing Indoor Gardens
Music: Jacob Ludwig Felix Mendelssohn

Our main objective this week is to construct an indoor desert garden. We are economically searching for an aquarium and materials to make a desert scene including pebbles, charcoal, desert-type soil, and cacti. We aim to read both fiction and nonfiction books about the desert and its inhabitants, namely reptiles. There is a possibility that we adopt a leopard gecko or similar reptile to observe in our desert garden. This week is sure to be exciting and scientific!

We're also going to be working on number recognition, counting, and simple math problems, listening to a new composer, and adjusting to a new schedule as I am soon due back to work and school.

Winter/Birds Synopsis

Hands down, our favorite activity this week was making pine cone bird feeders and hanging them in our yard. It has been a treat to spy out our windows and catch hungry birds nibbling away on the pine cones. The experience also afforded us the opportunity to talk about what certain animals do in the winter, where they obtain their food, what they do for shelter, and how they respond to the weather.

In related homeschool news, Aidyn continues work on his number recognition and counting. He does rather well and is able to identify every number from 1-10 with the exception of 5 for some reason. Next week, we will continue working on numbers and counting.

The house has been filled with Schubert and his highly moving, melodic pieces. I feel that, out of all the composers we have listened to, his music contains the most passion. The experience of sampling various composers has certainly added some tranquility to our home.

We're also experiencing the death of a furry family member. This is Aidyn's first time dealing with the subject of death up close. Our very old cat is dying, peacefully and quietly. In seeing him respond less and less, we're all discussing the inevitability of death. Not to my surprise, Aidyn is handling it well. He shows curiosity but understands what is happening in simple terms. Although heartbreaking, it is a learning experience, and I intend to allow Aidyn to ask any question about the topic of death and answer him as best as I can.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Feeding the Winter Birds

Yesterday Aidyn and I worked on his numbers. With his new number cards and the pocket chart, he spouted off numbers he knew, met numbers he didn't, and worked on counting up to twenty. Afterward we played a number counting game using a separate set of cards.

When we wrapped up number work, we talked about birds. Specifically, we talked about what birds do in the winter and the limited supply of food in the area. He then flipped over his "surprise page" and found a robin to color. After coloring, he hole punched the paper and put it in his binder. He is getting much more adept at using the hole punch and opening and closing his three-ring binder.

Later in the day, we shopped for wild bird seed and brought it home. We found several pine cones in our front yard perfect for feeders. First we mixed peanut butter and shortening in a bowl. In a separate bowl, we mixed the bird seed, oatmeal, bread crumbs, and corn meal. After slathering each pine cone with the PB&S mixture, we dunked and tossed them in the seeds until well-coated. We left them overnight to sit and dry, so this morning we hung them in various places around our yard. We filled one of our conventional bird feeders with the remainder of the seed mix and now patiently await some bird-watching.

Through these activities, we've been able to have good conversations about birds, wintertime, and what some animals do in the winter weather.

Sunday, January 10, 2010


Week of January 11th:

Theme: Winter
Adventures in Nature theme: Birds in Winter
Music: Franz Peter Schubert

This week we plan on reading winter-related books and doing winter activities. We also aim to make homemade bird-feeders (from found pine cones, peanut butter, and wild bird seed). Hanging our bird feeders in a visible area, we plan on doing some simple bird watching. We'll talk about what certain birds do in the winter as well as other animals and living things. Schubert will be our classical composer for the week, having finished our sampling of Beethoven.

ABC's and 123's Synopsis

This was a wonderful first week of homeschool for 2010. Daily, we sang the ABC song while using his blue pocket chart for reference and we worked on letter recognition. At his best, he correctly identified 22 letters. And now, with the letters he does know, he can identify whether they are uppercase or lowercase. Mixed in with our letter work, Aidyn learned the sounds of several letters and can also name things that begin with certain letters. Next week, as an addendum to our curriculum, we will work further on phonics and word recognition using the pocket chart.

With counting, he has improved his skills by being able to count higher than when we began. We also played counting games with real-life scenarios. Yesterday at the table, I asked Aidyn how many of us were eating. He counted and answered, "Four." When asked how many there would be if Daddy left the room, Aidyn answered, "Three." When I proposed that Daddy would return with a new person and asked how many of us would be here altogether, he answered "Five." Although that seems rather simple, it is an improvement for Aidyn. We played all sorts of games such as that, and we plan to continue throughout the year.

In our Adventures in Nature unit, Getting to Know Snow, Aidyn and I read snow-related books. The family even visited Pinecrest and played in the snow. It was Aidyn's first time actually touching and rolling around in the snow, and it was an experience I'm sure he won't forget soon.

Friday, January 8, 2010

20 Free (or relatively cheap!) Activities to Do with Toddlers/Preschoolers

1. Go stargazing. Just look up in awe. Bonus: bring binoculars.
2. Go for a walk and talk about anything.
3. Count fingers and toes.
4. Bake cookies together. Bonus: make them alphabet-shaped and allow them to "accidently" identify letters.
5. Dance to music and allow the speed and rhythm of the music to dictate your movements.
6. Make scribble monsters. Scribble with a crayon or marker on a piece of paper. Add arms and legs. Bonus: add googly eyes.
7. Play with Play-Doh or molding clay.
8. Build towers, castles, and other such structures with blocks.
9. Share a story in their bed.
10. Read poetry aloud whether or not they’re paying attention.
11. Add water to dirt outside and play in the mud. Bonus: make mud pies.
12. Learn with YouTube. Watch anything (reasonably) requested such as mini-cartoons, videos of tornadoes, the ocean, space, etc. See where it takes you.
13. Pull up Microsoft Word and allow them to peck on the keyboard.
14. Before reading a story, hold the book upside down and wait for them to correct you. Read the wrong way and allow them to teach you how to read a book.
15. Fingerpaint. Dry. Hang in random place (not on the fridge!).
16. Do leaf-rubbings. Put a leaf underneath a sheet of paper and rub a crayon or chalk over it to reveal the outlines of the leaf.
17. Tour a hardware store and talk about items you come across and their uses.
18. Give them a disposable camera and allow them to take pictures of whatever strikes their fancy.
19. Play with change: pennies, nickels, dimes, and quarters. Talk about them, sort them, stack them. Wash hands afterward.
20. Host a food coloring experiment. Add drops of color to water in a see-through container and stir to make an impressive cyclone. Combine colors and see what happens!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

ABC's, Calendar, and Beethoven

This morning, following our 'brain shake,' Aidyn and I worked on his letters. We recited the alphabet and he did the usual naming of the letters. Today he correctly identified 22 letters! Afterward, I pulled down the X and showed him how one would draw an X. I asked him to practice on a blank sheet of paper. Once he had it down, I showed him our new calendar explaining the name of our current month, the year, and all the boxes representing the days. I also talked about how we are on day 7 of the month and asked him to count the days gone by. Then I allowed him to draw big X's on those days. I imagine his X's will be near-perfect by December. ; )

After hanging the calendar back up, he colored a picture of two boys having a snowball fight near a snowman and two children on a sled. When finished, we hole-punched the sheet and placed it in his binder. He showed initiative to learn how to hole-punch by himself, so I brought him blank paper and left him alone with the project. After some trial and error, he learned how to do it sufficiently enough. Then I pulled out an animal tracks worksheet. On it were pictures of a raccoon, a chipmunk, a deer, a rabbit, and a wolf alongside jumbled animal tracks. We talked about who would belong to what track based on size, shape, and whether or not the animal had claws. What fun! We matched all the animals to their tracks, and then Aidyn hole-punched it and added it to his binder.

When table time was over, we listened and danced to Beethoven. We interpreted some of the music and moved accordingly. "This sounds like people tiptoeing in the snow," I suggested, and we tiptoed around the living room. When the music got boisterous, Aidyn said, "This is chasing music. Run!" After running around, twirling, and dancing, Aidyn said it was time to put on 'lunch music.' So I put on slower tunes and made grilled cheese sandwiches for the family. Excellent homeschool morning if I don't say so myself!

Field Trip to the Snow/ Discovery Destination

Yesterday Aidyn, his grandma, and I ventured to the snow in Pinecrest. All bundled up in layers and Aidyn in his snowsuit, we traveled for approximately two hours east until evidence of snow lay on the side of the highway. After finding a secluded campground in the Stanislaus Forest, we exited the car and proceeded to play in the snow. We touched it, clomped in it, and held it in our hands. Aidyn and I made a tiny snowperson before our fingers froze off. We had a ball throwing snowballs at Grandma (playfully). The sound of a snowball thwumping against someone is the funniest sound ever! Aidyn ran and danced in the snow, rolled in it, and even made snow angels. Our fun in the snow had us all dreaming of renting a cabin there for an entire weekend.

After we warmed our bodies up with the hot chocolate I brought, we decided it was time to grab something to eat. We drove through the quaint town of Mi-Wuk Village and eyed a little place called Andy's Mountain Grill and Deli. Upon walking to the door, we were asked by a regular if we had ever eaten there before. "Best place on the mountain," he assured us. Immediately we noticed that they served 'Chaka Burgers' and promptly ordered some. Best burger ever.

Once we were ready to go home, Grandma suggested we go through Twain Harte, a town she had heard was beautiful and we had seen signs for. We took the turn-off and drove into Twain Harte, and it was, indeed, a beautiful, green, little town, like a hidden place of magic. Scenes like that continuously inspires us to live in Gold Country!

All in all, I am fortunate that Aidyn explored snow in such a hands-on way.

Earlier this week, we had took in some snow-related books that may have inspired Aidyn to do as much as he did in the snow. First we read a classic by Jack Ezra Keats entitled The Snowy Day. We then read White Snow, Blue Feather by Julie Downing, a sweet story about a young boy's exploration in the snow. Next Aidyn "read" The Snowman to me. Famously known as the story without words, The Snowman is a story of pictures, and Aidyn told me what was going on in each little picture, and it sounded like a sweet story in his personal interpretation. We also wove in our ABC's with Zooflakes ABC which is an alphabet book with pictures of zoo animals as snowflakes. We had fun identifying each animal, and Aidyn announced that the iguana was his favorite!

We have also been counting things as we come across them to practice number skills. Aidyn can successfully count items up to twelve and, if assisted, can go even further. So far it has been a fulfilling week!

Monday, January 4, 2010

ABC's and 123's--Day 1

Today went remarkably well. In the morning after our "brain shake" (apple juice, frozen blueberries, banana, and ground flax seeds mixed in a blender), Aidyn and I worked on his letters. He correctly identified 21, and we reviewed the ones he missed with silly songs. Afterward he colored an alphabet worksheet that he said looked like "alphabet noodles." When he finished, he helped me hole-punch and place his work in his binder. Then it was time for counting games. I brought out our set of eight popsicle molds and asked him to count them. Then I proceeded to pretend to take away one, and ask him to count again. Using math language, Aidyn and I practiced counting, adding, and subtracting. Then we counted blocks. We would first count the entire lot of blocks, then classify them. I would ask him, "Okay, how many red cylinders are there? How many green cubes? How many colored blocks? How many triangles?" So not only did we work on counting, but we used mathematical language and geometric figures to bring it to life.

Later in the day, we took a trip to the library and stocked up on snow-related books. We're all set to go to the snow on Wednesday. We plan on taking thermoses of hot chocolate and edible snowperson pieces (a carrot for the nose, for example), so that once he melts, woodland animals can munch on the remains. We're looking forward to the little getaway.

ABC's and 123's

Week of January 4th:

Theme: ABC's and 123's
Adventures in Nature Theme: Getting to Know Snow
Music: Beethoven

This week we will be reviewing the alphabet and number system through instruction, games, and activities. Our Adventure in Nature is 'Getting to Know Snow,' so we will be taking a trip to the snow to explore it, touch it, build a snowperson, and watch for 'snowprints' of different animals. Our books will include stories about the snow along with some ABC's and counting books. Our sixth composer in line, Beethoven, will continue our sampling of famous composers this week.


This weekend was spent mostly in doing fun assessments with Aidyn and continuing his letter work. I found some helpful assessment worksheets for preschoolers and used them to guide our activities which included asking him to count by rote, count objects, identify letters, sounds of letters, colors, and shapes. He did well in most areas, and I also have a better idea about where he is lacking. I compiled these updated abilities and challenges along with a worksheet on goals for the 2010 year and placed them in a binder. I have also been compiling my resources for our plans this year.

Aidyn has consistently been working on letter identification. Today he correctly identified 22 letters! Before we even "did our letters," Aidyn played teacher and plucked letter cards out from the pocket chart. He told me and his grandma their names and many times told us their sounds. For some special letters, he would even say what words began with such letters. For instance, he picked up letter Z and said, "Here's Z, Grandma. It says, 'Zzzzz,' like 'Zzzurg' and zzzoo." His improvement is apparent and, more importantly, he is showing an eagerness and curiousity to learn that I love seeing.