Thursday, September 4, 2014

The First Three Weeks of Third Grade: What We've Been Up to

Knocking on wood, but these first three weeks of third grade have been amazing. We both transitioned into our new routine pretty effortlessly. Our first day of third grade went well; the Minecraft shultute, pancakes and gifts were a huge hit.


We start every morning with math. This is our second year using Saxon Math, and while it aggravates some homeschooling mamas, I love it and Aidyn digs it. It can feel a little repetitive (to me), but it allows Aidyn to continually practice the foundations of math until he masters them. The confidence allows him to approach new topics pretty easily.

What I disliked about another math program we used (and the ones I remember in grade school) is the learn-it-and-ditch-it method where the student learns something in one chapter and then abandons it for a wholly new topic. With Saxon, he continuously practices the basics and spirals upward to more challenging tasks.

{Spelling Power}

We approached spelling very informally the last couple years while I allowed Aidyn to build confidence at fluid written expression. But the time has finally come for a more formalized approach to spelling. But saying that, Spelling Power has been super-fun (for both Aidyn and I). He actually gets excited about spelling.

We start out retesting any words that he previously missed. Then, I introduce a new spelling rule and group of words for 5 minutes. We move on to practicing any missed words. For each word he:

  • reads the word on the chalkboard
  • looks at the parts of the word as I show him (either by syllable, pattern, etc.)
  • says the letters of word
  • closes his eyes and spells the word (he loves this part)
  • traces the word (on the board or in a tray of rice or salt), and finally,
  • respells the word.

This process generally takes 5 minutes. Then he writes each word in a sentence before we move on to an activity. Every day I switch up the activity for practicing his misspelled words.

Some ways he's practiced his spelling:

  • finger painting the words
  • stamping cookie cutter letters in clay

  • "invisible" writing (writing in white crayon and painting over with watercolors)

  • using the words in silly sentences and drawing an picture to illustrate it
  • using phonics tiles

  • "Roll the dice" game ("Roll a one and write your word in red marker; Roll a two and paint your word in blue paint; Roll a three and write your word in green chalk" etc.)
  • tracing his hand with spelling words
  • spelling his words with paint (and chalk, markers, crayons)

During the first week, we went through the writing process (from prewriting, first draft, revising, second draft, proofreading to final, published work). The topic was "a field trip you've been on," and Aidyn chose our hike up Mt. Diablo.

The second week we worked on the grammar of complete sentences and what constitutes an independent clause. I'll admit that I'm not entirely happy with the English book we are using. It feels too much like a school text, talking about writing and grammar instead of to the student as a writer

I've been stalking the Brave Writer website for a while now, developing a gigantic homeschool infatuation with the program. Until I can afford to shell out for it, I'm implementing some of the free lifestyle habits suggested by the creator (we do some of those already, but I'd love to count it as school). For example, one Wednesday, Aidyn and I snuggled up for an afternoon movie, Honey, I Shrunk the Kids.

I made my own version of Nick's oatmeal creme pie cookies, and we flushed those down with milk and talked throughout the movie.

I plan to continue our Wednesday Afternoon Movie time (though I might instead purchase yummy snacks to make it easier). It's a good chance for us to snuggle and have a dialogue together about whatever it is we're watching. Next week, we're also going to try Poetry Teatime on Tuesday.


To go along with Story of the World, we've been reading a child-friendly version of Virgil's The Aeneid called In Search of a Homeland: The Story of the Aeneid by Penelope Lively.

Aidyn enjoyed hearing about Aeneas's crazy journey to Italy and his encounters with harpies, a cyclops, and ghosts of the underworld. Some of the language was a bit out of reach, so he practiced his reading comprehension skills. I regularly asked questions and suggested he tell me what happened in his own words. 

We also used this book as a jumping off point for dictations, copywork, and written narrations.

When we finished the book, we watched a crudely animated but entertaining cartoon of The Aeneid.

He's also continued his work with SRA Reading Mastery.

{Afternoon Basket}

At the end of every day, Aidyn chooses a book to read on his own from his book basket. I've been filling it with easy readers, scary stories, chapter books, and non-fiction books.


We're continuing our journey through Story of the World, Volume 1: Ancient Times.

We've read and learned about:

  • the middle kingdom of Egypt and how Egypt invaded Nubia
  • the Hyksos invading Egypt
  • the new kingdom of Egypt, Thutmose and the woman pharoah, Hatshepsut
  • Amenhotep and King Tut (and consequently, polytheism and monotheism)
  • the story of baby Moses
  • the Israelites leaving Egypt/ the Exodus
  • the Phoenicians (and their renown for making purple cloth and blown glass)
  • the founding of Carthage
  • the return of Assyria and Ashurbanipal
  • the Library of Ninevah
We also re-watched Joseph: The King of Dreams and The Prince of Egypt  and this wonderful They Might Be Giants video:

I love SOTW because it presents history as a story. Despite the Christian stories and myths, it also includes African folktales, and Greek/Roman myths. When I was in public school, I remember history (or social studies, rather) being so centered on the self (first by focusing on our place in the home, neighborhood and society and later how we relate/compare to other historical figures). SOTW simply presents history as a chronological story full of wars, notable people, cultural beliefs, and major events.


We dove into Song School Latin Book 1, listened to songs in Latin, learned new vocabulary words, and played matching games with the flashcards before watching the DVD at the end of each week.

On the first day, we introduce ourselves to the new words through songs and the student book. Aidyn will then match the new vocabulary words to their meanings. On the second day, we review the songs, the book, the words, and Aidyn draws pictures to illustrate the words. He also does one page of activities in the student book. On the third day, we review, play memory with the flashcards, and Aidyn does a second page of activities in the student book. On the fourth day, we finish off the chapter by reviewing the songs and watching that specific chapter on the DVD.

So far, Aidyn loves Latin, and I've overheard him teaching his friends outside how to say "hello" and "goodbye" in Latin. Sometimes when he leaves the room, he'll tell us, "Vale!"

{Science: Chemistry}

We're using Adventures with Atoms and Molecules as our chemistry spine. During the first week, I introduced Aidyn to simple terms (like atoms, molecules, electrons, neutrons, protons) and their definitions, which he wrote in his chemistry notebook. Our first experiment was to find out if molecules move. 

He added a drop of food coloring to a glass of water to watch how it moved through the water.

(He eventually mixed in other colors; he couldn't help himself). He wrote and drew his findings in his notebook, and we watched a Bill Nye the Science Guy episode on atoms and molecules.

We also watched The Magic School Bus Meets Molly Cule.

During the second week, we experimented to find out if some molecules were small enough to pass through solids. We added a drop or two of vanilla extract inside a balloon and inflated it. I asked him if we would be able to smell the vanillin molecules through the balloon. He guessed no because the outside of the balloon was solid, but he was surprised to find he could smell the vanilla.

I nearly saw the light bulb go off in his head when he said that that must be why balloons slowly deflate, that air molecules must pass through the balloon molecules over time.

{Other Fun Stuff}

Aidyn has been spending the afternoons and evenings outside playing with a gaggle of neighborhood friends. Despite being homeschooled, he's had the pleasure (insert sarcasm) of dealing with kids with bullying tendencies. We talk him through it, but encourage him to handle it on his own. So far, he's learned how to avoid certain kids when they behave inappropriately and how to stand up for himself.

Aidyn also started his recorder class with a small group of other children. At home, he's obnoxiously been playing his recorder at high decibels (which, I assume, means he's liking it pretty well).

We also took a field trip to World of Wonders Science Museum in Lodi where he touched, poked, prodded, climbed on, and messed with a gazillion science exhibits.

{Coming Up}

Next week we are taking a break from classical education and using Five in Row. We'll be reading Mrs. Katz and Tush and learning about Jewish culture, cats, World War II, and immigration among other things! It should be a fun week.

In the coming weeks, more classes are starting up, but Aidyn is most looking forward to his Lego Robotics class!

Thank you for reading! 


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