28 September 2010

Hi-Tech Sight Words

...if PowerPoint can be considered "hi-tech".

Isaac likes to play on the computer. I want to drill him on his sight words. Tiffany had the brilliant idea to combine the two. Result:

Just the three of us: Isaac, me, and my bald spot.

More to come. Our count stands at 30 down out of 315 (but we've only presented him with 50 so far over two days).

27 September 2010

Weekend Update

This past weekend was a bit busier than usual for us - on top of Tiffany working *all day* Saturday. From 5 AM to after midnight (with an hour or so break around dinner), it was just me and the kids for the day. Being the weekend, we didn't do school per se, but we did have lots of experiential learning and socializing.

Bowling - Isaac is in a bowling league this year. It's a drop-in thing, and he's actually missed the last couple weeks, but it's all fairly laid back. This Saturday, he joined in the second game with three others about his age. They bowl with 6-pound balls and with the bumpers up, but he's getting the hang of the general mechanics of the game. I even got him to start putting his fingers into the holes. Now to get him to actually roll the ball down the lane instead of dropping it - we had to go retrieve his stalled ball from the middle of the lane 3 or 4 times.
Note that the ball is airborne - not standard technique.
You try bowling with a ball that is more than one-quarter your body weight!

The Caboose - After our bowling excursion, we went out for a walk. I'm glad I actually had shoes on and locked the door, because our "around the complex" walk turned into a walk to the Depot Museum and the static display caboose. Sorry no photos - I didn't think to take the camera on a "quick" walk - but I'm sure we'll be back.
The museum is just around the corner from us, but it's only open for a few hours Saturday afternoons. That doesn't stop the kids from climbing around the caboose when it's closed, of course, but today we got to go inside and see the beds, stove, desk and typewriter, etc.

Downtown - Of course, since we were already out and about, I figured we'd walk downtown to check out the Harvest of the Arts/Oktoberfest shindig. The kids weren't too much interested in all of the artist booths - they were busy with their own art:
They did perk up when we got to the Kinderplatz area - an inflatable obstacle course, sidewalk chalk, sensory tables with spaghetti noodles and play dough, a petting zoo (my kids have never met a llama/deer/chicken/bunny/goat/donkey they didn't like), and pony rides. FREE pony rides.
As I expected, Tiffany was a bit jealous that she didn't get to participate in their first horseback ride!

On the way out, what else better to eat during Oktoberfest than... pizza. They don't like it at all, do they?

Apple Picking - We were planning on going to the orchard on Saturday, but after our impromptu walk downtown, I figured we had had enough for one day. Sunday after church all four of us went out to our local orchard to pick apples - one bushel, plus however many we managed to gorge upon. I don't eat many apples out of season anymore, so my first trip to the orchard each autumn turns into my own personal applefest. I even thought twice about buying cider because I'd eaten so many apples out in the trees, but fortunately cooler heads prevailed and we now have the remnants of a gallon sitting the fridge.
I'm sure Tiffany will post more photos over at her blog, but here are a couple to set the mood.
There she goes, enjoying that American agriculture again. Nothing says fall in Michigan quite like eating an apple whilst riding a giant pumpkin.
Now, we need to get cracking on converting that bushel of fresh apples into sauce, butter, pie, and crisp!

24 September 2010

But Don't We Walk By Faith?

My current project is setting up a pre-test for Isaac with the Dolch sight words. One of our curriculum goals for this year (I'll get them all up here eventually!) is for Isaac to master all 315 of the sight words.

I'm planning to quiz him on batches of flash cards - no more than 25 per day - to get a baseline. From there we'll figure out how to work with him to learn the rest.

Check out our Dolch Sight Words page to track our progress!

How have you worked with your kids to learn sight words?

20 September 2010

I Didn't Think You Were in the Library That Long

Monday, and time for our weekly walk to the library. Thankfully it was chilly today, so no mosquitoes in the woods between here and there.

After picking up our requisite train books, and grabbing Rookie Readers about New Jersey, Georgia, and Connecticut, we headed to check out with the librarian. I forget exactly what she said, but we started talking about all the state books. I trotted out my trained monkey asked Isaac to tell her what the capitals of Delaware and Pennsylvania are, and threw in my latest favorite my-four-year-old-knows-this fact about the source of maple syrup.

She was duly impressed, and when I mentioned we were homeschooling, she offered her observation that the homeschoolers that come in to the library are much more willing to engage in conversation with adults, a trait that she wished her children had picked up. Take that, "what about socialization" nay-sayers!

Needless to say, Isaac tends to make quite an impression wherever he goes.

Tomorrow: first day of co-op!

16 September 2010

Daily Record - 16 September

Today, in addition to his typical free play, Isaac showed off his great imagination. I was awoken by him asking me to play with his wooden trains (he only has plastic ones, unfortunately) and he was pretending to carry them around in a box about four times larger than he is. So funny to see him pantomiming hauling around a huge box!

We later had a discussion about keystones - what they are, how they function in an arch. His question was why Pennsylvania is called the Keystone State. We found pictures from our trip to the Delaware Children's Museum back in July - he played with big foam arch blocks then. We showed him a map of the 13 colonies, with Pennsylvania in the middle, and told him how people called it the Keystone State because of how it held the young nation together. He doesn't at all understand the concept of "past" yet, but the question was answered.

Isaac also drew and lettered a card to a friend of ours from church. It includes a rainbow on the outside, and a picture of a checkers game. He enjoys writing cards to people and it certainly reveals his empathic nature.

In the afternoon, we watched a geography DVD from the library on the Northeast US. Isaac now can tell you that maple syrup comes from trees. "Which kind of trees, Isaac?" "Maple syrup trees!" He also drew both Delaware and Pennsylvania (with Harrisburg indicated) on his drawing board.

Just before dinner, he spontaneously sat down with a Blue's Clues placemat and began to work on shapes and patterns. He verbally completed the two pattern matching exercises - both shape and color - but then made up his own version of the exercise when he had the marker. Sometimes he surprises us with what he's picked up here and there.

Tomorrow, I think we'll work on his memory verse for the week (Genesis 1:1), read through our state books again, and I want to sort through the workbooks we have to see what he's ready for. I think we're both - slowly - getting a clue about home education.

Introducing Journal of the States - Delaware

Over the weekend, we purchased a couple of composition books that are set up with story pages (blank top half for drawing, guide-lined bottom half for practicing handwriting).

One of these is going to be (well, has become) Isaac's Journal of the States. Our hope is that for each state he learns, he completes a page in the journal. At a minimum we'd like him to draw the state, draw a couple things associated with the state, write its name, and include whatever else he wants to describe. (Overall, our state curriculum goals also include identifying the name and location of the capital, and naming two "state facts": state bird, state flower, state insect, state tree, etc.)

I started it with him today. Delaware was our state last week, so he drew the state, added a dot for Dover, wrote "Delaware" 1.5 times (after getting hung up on the first W), then drew another figure. I was looking at it upside down, so it wasn't readily apparent. "What is it, Isaac?"

"It's the United States. Here's Delaware. It's kind of hard to see."

15 September 2010


And now, for something completely different, a guest post from my wife. She regularly photoblogs over at Adventures of the Acuff Family.

Next Tuesday morning, we embark on a new adventure, one that we have been anticipating for a few years and are excited to see come to fruition.  Isaac will begin attending a homeschool co-op in Ann Arbor. It has hundreds of kids from birth to high school and a wide variety of classes available.

Explorers Homeschool Co-Op meets at a local Lutheran church with tons of classroom space, a gym, and cozy little hospitality room that the moms (and dads) get to hang out in during their "off" hour.  "Off hour"?  That would be the hour you are NOT helping out in a classroom or teaching a class or helping in the nursery or cleaning up rooms or playing tour guide to the nearest restroom.  

Each mom (and a few dads) is given two jobs. One is in a classroom. This can be teaching, co-teaching, or being an assistant.  The other is a general task, like setting up at the beginning of the day or running the vacuum at the end of it.  Some parents are lucky enough to teach or co-teach two classes and therefore, escape the menial tasks the rest of us get to do!

Isaac will be in the "lower elementary", which encompasses K4/5  and 1st/2nd grades.  His classes this semester are Storybook Stew and Storybook Forest.  Since Isaac LOVES to read, this should be a fantastic morning for him!  In Storybook Stew, they read a story and prepare a simple meal or fancy snack that has something to do with the book they read.  In Storybook Forest, they get to read about various topics and do activities that are associated with it.

My primary job will be to assist in the Art class for the K4/5 group.  This could be fun....I think I'll make myself an apron between now and then!  My secondary job will be to clean up, which would be fine, except that Isaac will have to be with me while I do it and he HATES the vacuum cleaner.  We'll see how this one pans out!  Zeb and I will take turns throughout the 12 week semester, depending on the stability of Esther's health.  Zeb is capable of most everything I am, but there a few things that still only mommy can do!

We are looking forward to exploring our new homeschooling world, making new friends, and seeing how Isaac continues to blossom into an amazing little man as he interacts with peers his age and others around him.

I hope you'll keep coming back to see what our little guy and littlest gal are up to during the week and all that they are learning as we go...

13 September 2010

Library Day

So, clearly, it's easier to set up a blog than to maintain it. Oh well.

Isaac and I just got back from a walk to the library. Some helpful (friendly, courteous, kind, ...) Eagle Scout cut a new path through the woods behind the library to the park near our house. It's much more interesting to walk through nature and along the old railroad tracks than along the residential sidewalks. Now we just need to remember the mosquito repellent!

We took a bunch of books back and got a bunch of new ones, mainly on trains (natch) and Pennsylvania, which is our next state about which to learn. I also grabbed a book on woodchucks (groundhogs) in honor of Punxsutawney Phil, a geography DVD, and Isaac added a Signing Time DVD and two other books that caught his eye.

My administrative home education goals for this week include hammering out our educational philosophy and typing up the curriculum guides that Tiffany and I worked on during our drive home from Tennessee over Labor Day weekend. I know I want to take it easy with the formal curriculum plans this year, but I still think we should have some broad goals to work toward. I also need to sort out a rough schedule for our weeks, so we don't get to Saturday and wonder why nothing got done.

Sorry for the lack of updates. We had a great learning day at the fair last week - lots of baby and adult animals to discover. Tiffany and I picked up a bunch of workbooks and flashcards at Target yesterday for 70 cents each - check out your local Target's dollar section if you get a chance.

Time to cook dinner and read - Tiffany and Isaac have already started in on one of the steam engine books!

01 September 2010

Learning for Today

Both kids at home and just me - and I was so sleepy! With both at home, there's no good downtime during the day. And here I am up late on the blog. Oh well...


Isaac is nigh-on obsessed with his Magna Doodle drawing board - it's nearly an extension of his hand at this point. And when he's not drawing trains, he can turn out some impressive stuff for his age:

The United States. Note Lake Michigan.

He just sat down this afternoon and wrote this out. I didn't have the heart to tell him that we won't get to Alaska for another year. At least I caught it on camera before he erased it (he's got a quick trigger finger!).

He doesn't like math, and he'll tell you as much. In a bout of wishful thinking, we have a few basic math workbooks lying around. This morning he picked up a first grade workbook and, with some coaching from me, turned out the following:

Note his 6 on the left hand page, my subsequent demonstration 6 under the equals sign, and his next 6 on the right hand page. And of course, we had to put stickers at the top of both pages.