Friday, August 30, 2013

Second Grade: Weeks Two and Three

I don't know what happened, but this year feels dramatically different than last year. Not that he protested and sobbed his eyes out last year, but there was a certain resistance at times. This year, he is plugged in 100%, super comfortable, taking the time to think ideas through instead of just asking for the right answer, and seems much more confident.

I don't know if it's because this is our second year (despite hs'ing through preschool), the new math curriculum, or what.


We are continuing our work with Saxon, and he continues to love it. I find it a little repetitive, but the constant review is helping him master math facts. Each morning, we check the weather and fill in a weather graph.

We look at a birthday graph and ask each other questions about it, count forwards and backwards on the numbers chart, practice telling time, announce the day of the week and the month and write the date, practice doubles facts, and play with pattern shapes.

He breezes through the lesson and often lingers at the table during break and plays with pattern blocks or dominoes.


Aidyn's plowing through Sadlier Phonics and was able to handle the assigned pages on days I was at school and he worked independently. I've also noticed that he's picked up many sight words (about, could, opposite, what, your, etc.) that we haven't formally learned. Although his reading is getting better, he still prefers to read his easy-peasy phonics books rather than library books. But he's the sort of guy that wants to feel mastery over the subject and will purposefully do things that are easy for him.

We're still satisfying my ever-loving grammar soul working on grammar and have learned more about punctuation, capitalization rules, suffixes, and sentence-combining.

He still writes like Dr. Aidyn, but we're working on his handwriting still.

And of course, we played Nerf Gun Target Practice  to help him review some vocabulary words.

This 'n' That:

  • We're putting higher expectations on his reading speed. Our goal is 50 wpm on each page (with the end of 2nd grade goal of 55wpm). He's done page 1 and 2, repeating each twice, but yesterday just before the 3rd round of reading, he declared, "I can't make 50." We talked a bit about thinking positively, saying that you can do something and then doing your best. On the 3rd round, he read 51 wpm.
  • His oral vocabulary and the cadence with which he speaks surprises me sometimes. In conversations, he used the words "amount," "filthy," "nomads," and "worry-wort" among others.


We are still reading from The Usbourne First Encyclopedia of Our World and have learned about the composition of the moon (which we didn't get much into because the second half of the year will focus on astronomy), day and night cycles, and total eclipses.


We're enjoying Story of the World and learning about nomads becoming the first farmers. Yesterday, we attempted to build two shadufs, as illustrated in our book. A shaduf is an early irrigation farming tool used to bring water from the canals to the land above it. It seemed like such a simple machine that we could certainly build a replica. It was most certainly a learn-as-you-go experience.

(excuse the clothing; he was ninja that day)

Stabilizing it was a challenge. Next time we're using play dough!

We attached another pole to the frame with pipe cleaners and attached a bottle cap to the end of the pole.

I put out two bowls (one with water and the other with flour) to simulate both the water source and the land. I told him that he could not touch the water with his hands, but once he delivered the bucket to land, he could empty it, the goal being to irrigate the land.

It worked! I never had a shaduf of a doubt.

In other history fun, we've been reading the mammoth novel The Red Pyramid by Rick Riordan. 

Although it's a beast to read, the story is pretty epic. There's all kinds of crazy things going on--treasure-hunting, magic, transformations, crazy guys in trench coats, hieroglyphics, Osiris appearing (and disappearing), crazy guys turning into serpents, etc., and we're not even halfway through it!

We haven't reached the Egyptian section of SOTW just yet, but it's around the corner! Aidyn also watched "Kids Animated History with Pipo: Ancient Egypt" for free on Hulu. (link will take you to Hulu)

Memory work:

Last week, we worked on memorizing the order of the planets, and Aidyn had 'em down on day 2. Nevertheless, we practiced every day, drew pictures of their position to the sun, and did copywork of the planet names. On that Friday, he "performed" it for everyone.

This week, we have worked on counting from 1-10 in Latin. I'm trying to throw in some Latin words and phrases here and there because the plan is to teach Latin as a foreign language in 3rd grade. Recently Aidyn has been requesting to learn French, but I told him that learning Latin will make learning French (and Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, and Sicilian, among many others) a million times easier.

As far as counting, he has trouble remembering to start with "unus" and still pronounces "novem" and "decem" like the months, but we're working on it. He can perform it if practice is fresh but cannot after some time, so we are going to continue with this piece for next week.

In Other Thoughts:

I don't know about Aidyn, but I'm getting tired of the 3Rs from the books. I feel like a fun unit study would be good right about now. I've been brainstorming ideas for an Ancient Egypt unit study, complete with pyramid buidlin', Egyptian mythology readin', and documentaries galore. Check back soon to see what we do!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Vocabulary Word Target Practice with Nerf Guns

So we've had our sights on vocabulary words, so to speak. Let me explain.

Over the past six months, my little guy has become obsessed with Nerf Guns. He has a stash of about seven (maybe one of which we have bought him and many that he has traded for or bought himself with his allowance). He and his friends play with Nerf Guns practically every day and talk their crazy Nerf lingo that I barely understand.

I know some people get all uppity about toy guns. We've had people criticize us for it before (despite Aidyn being a super sweet guy who doesn't use Nerf Guns to hurt people or animals or even to pretend to do so). So, if you are of the opinion that "toy guns are evil," you might want to hit the little X in the corner of your screen so that I don't accidentally sway you with a different opinion.

Let me clarify that we don't hand Aidyn toy guns and say, "Have at it, kid!"

We don't do that with anything. There is an ongoing conversation about his interests, things he's exposed to in life, on television, with friends, with family members, with society, with his emotions, etc. because we want to help him establish his own moral compass rather than helicoptering all over him and dictating his interests.

If you're on the fence about it, check out this PBS article about boys and guns.

As I dismount my little soapbox, let me show you this game we made up to combine the Love O' Nerf and Reading. I set up several word cards on the closet doors (any flat surface would do).

Right in the middle of doing school, I very seriously told Aidyn that now I needed him to "pick out [his] best Nerf Gun and make sure it's loaded." He was like one of those cartoons characters that leaves a cloud of dust when they take off fast.

First, he read the words posted in front of him. Some were in the middle, some down low, and some super high. I used a stopwatch to time his target practice, announced a word, and he scrambled to find and shoot it as quickly as possible.

The first round, he scored:

  • 5 words per minute
  • 5 words per minute
  • 7 words per minute
Then I added more vocabulary cards and he got:

  • 4 words per minute
  • 5 words per minute
  • 4 words per minute
The next day I added even more cards, but his scores remained about the same.

I foresee that we will play this game for the rest of our lives  the school year. It has just occurred to me that a game like this could get him suspended from public school, even if he only used a hand gesture to simulate a gun...Reason #324 to homeschool!

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Second Grade: Week One

We had an amazing first week of second grade, and, quite to my surprise, the transition back to school was not fraught with screams of agony and despair easy and smooth.

Our "first" day of school was spent spelunking at the Moaning Caverns. Because we can't spelunk ourselves crazy every day, the rest of the week was spent tackling the 3 Rs with a splash of history, science, and copywork.


We began Saxon Math, and already Aidyn is enjoying math again. During first grade, we used a colorful, busy textbook with poor connections between chapters, so we switched this year, much to our mutual excitement. There may be a colorful-math-textbook-burning party later.

We start out the morning with calendar work, daily temperatures, a review of the hundreds chart and birthday graph before the day's lesson. After the lesson, we do one page of math in the morning and the corresponding back page later in the day (and if we completely forget, first thing the next morning, I swear).


Aidyn has progressed to Sadlier Phonics C, and this week was spent reviewing beginning and ending sounds, autumnal words, and getting back in the habit of writing.

We also started grammar, which excites the very essence of my grammar-loving soul, with Easy Grammar. During some days, we rock out to "Schoolhouse Rock" videos and brainstorm examples of parts of speech.

If you squint at the verb brainstorm (which Aidyn supplied ALL the verbs for), you can see "fart." Oh, boys.

This 'n' that:

  • We are also still practicing Victory Drills, aiming for a reading speed of 55 wpm.

  • We've started a handwriting program to help him with his doctor-like penmanship as well.

  • He's done some easy independent reading with an I-Spy book and one of his phonics books. I'm trying to lean more heavily on library books than his phonics books this year.


We are reading from The Usborne First Encyclopedia of Our World, which focuses on earth science.
So far, we have read, broadly, about the planet Earth and our solar system.


We are using Story of the World: Volume 1 and have read the first sections: What is History? and What is Archaeology?

We've also read from Virginia Burton's In the Beginning: Creations Stories from around the World and had an interesting conversation about Christian myths.

Memory Work:

This year we have begun memory work to sharpen his memorization and recall skills and eventually introduce him to Latin phrases. We started off easy with a famous quotation:

"Birds of a feather flock together."

We talked about its meaning, rehearsed it over and over, and he wrote it out on note paper. On Friday, he "performed" it for his dad, grandma, and me, but totally forgot what it meant until we coached him to the right answer.

Our plan is to practice memorization with more quotations, science data, historical data, Latin phrases, and other tidbits.

Monday, August 12, 2013

First Day of Second Grade: Spelunking at the Moaning Caverns

Although we officially start today, we wanted to begin the school year with a field trip that included David. Yesterday, the whole family drove down to Vallecito, Ca. to go spelunking in the Moaning Caverns. We will be studying earth science for the first 18 weeks so a cavern tour was very fitting.

Highway signs have dotted our region for decades, but this was a first-time experience for all of us. We didn't really know what to expect but were willing to venture below the earth anyway.

Aidyn in the gift shop

Aidyn and me

The entrance to the Moaning Cavern sits inside the gift shop where narrow, steep stairs descend between craggy rocks. Soon enough, spelunkers reach a iron spiral staircase that reaches 165 feet into the cavern.

Aidyn, bravely descending the stairs

Aidyn and David, with Grandma trailing behind

My courageous boy

Aidyn and I, down the spiral staircase

Aidyn, me, and Grandma

Once we reached the bottom, it was astounding how far below the surface we were. There were interesting rock formations with funny names (like the Chocolate Waterfalls).

David snapped this picture while I was in awe of the depth

This is what I saw

Safe and sound at the bottom

This is the bottom of the cavern entrance where our tour guide explained that prehistoric people reached the bottom in only 7 seconds... (bones on display in a glass case by the gift shop)

Barely noticeable, this pool of water creates a moaning echo each time a drop of water falls in it

Aidyn is excited to return for zip-lining, which was closed while we were there. When he's 12, he wants to try rappelling into the cavern, but that looked terrifying from our side! 

All in all, not a bad first day of school although atypical. : )

Saturday, August 10, 2013

What Our Second Grade Homeschool Schedule Looks Like (while I'm an super full-time student!)

During the whole of Aidyn's first grade year, I was largely at home with only a side part-time job. This year, however, I am finishing up my BA degree (and taking 5 classes!) and working part-time. This is what our second grade schedule (for the first half anyway) will look like, given the extra demands.

Times are arbitrary. We start and stop depending on the situation.


Memory work throughout the day
Math worksheets (independently)
Sadlier Phonics (ind.)
Read a book and write 2 sentences about it (ind.)
Handwriting (ind.)
Typing lessons (ind.)
Science documentary

Free for rest of the day
Extracurricular classes-Character class and Lego classes
Outdoor play with friends



Memory work throughout the day
Saxon Math lessons together
Sadlier Phonics and Grammar together
(Thursday mornings) Creative writing class and art class
Reading/Language Exercises together
Victory Drills
Solitary reading time
History (SOTW) read-aloud and activity
Science- read aloud and narration
Read-aloud chapter book and oral narration

Saxon page Side B
Music class
Outdoor play with friends



Memory work/Presentation
Saxon Math together
Sadlier Phonics and Grammar
Victory Drills
Solitary reading time
Finish anything not completed during the week

Late morning/afternoon-
Saxon Side B


Field trips
Outdoor play with friends