All Girls School


Advent Calendar
December 3, 2008, 9:16 am
Filed under: baby, Bubba, christmas, craft, math, mimi, reading, science, spelling, writing

I usually buy a small cheapie advent calendar for each of the girls every year. I have wanted something more permanent, but most of the nice ones that you can buy won’t hold a treat for three kids at once. Most of the ideas I saw for making one had the same problem or they just didn’t look like they would hold up to many years of use. Until I saw this idea. It looked perfect as it was completely customizable and could be made whatever size I needed. So Bubba and I set to creating them with some $1 wrapping paper that we found at Target. They turned out great and it has been a great motivator for the girls to get up and ready in the mornings.

I used a tiny kitchen curtain tension rod to hang them across the doorway off of the living room. They look really festive there and are easily accessibly to only dad or I. (Which is important because last year a certain two-year-old snuck into the advent calendars and wiped out a couple of weeks in one sitting.)

Mimi has become a reader lately. She brings home books to read to us. She sounds out every word that she finds and spells things to us incessantly. It’s so fun to watch her with this new skill. She has wanted to be able to read for a long time and has surprised us all with how quickly she has picked it up. She is the youngest in her class, so we expected it to be a slow process, but she keeps making these great bursts of progress. There are a lot of phonics games played in the car. She will instigate one by calling out, “Ok, give me a word that starts with the ‘ch’ sound,” and we all have to go around and around until we exhaust our vocabulary. Some of the family got to play a few rounds of this over Thanksgiving.

Bubba is currently studying the Ancient Aztecs, geology, writing a book report, Rosa Parks, regrouping and (x,y) coordinates in math, and is working on an embroidery project for her Secret Santa in Brownies. Between those subjects, reading, spelling and guitar, and all of the holiday baking and wrapping that we have planned, we have a full three weeks ahead of us.

Baby is… Baby. I think she has gotten sassier with the new haircut. She successfully wrote a couple of letter “A”s at preschool yesterday and was really proud of herself. She is gearing up for Christmas and is doing better at leaving the ornaments on the tree than she did last year. Within a week of putting it up last year, the tree was bare on the bottom third due to her little curious hands grabbing them every time she walked past.



Current Activities
September 4, 2008, 10:18 pm
Filed under: art, baby, Bubba, curriculum, guitar, history, math, music, phonics, preschool, reading, schedule, science, sewing, spelling, writing

Spelling – a list without a pretest. Bubba was struggling with the pretests last year as she’s such a perfectionist and there’s really no point in testing her on things that she hasn’t been taught yet. I almost feel like we should let our spelling instruction come naturally through our writing tasks. When I thought about that more, though, I really want the writing tasks to focus on content and structure and I don’t want to point out every misspelled word and distract from the actual writing. So, structured spelling lists it is. There are supplementing pages that are actually kind of fun and a little bit challenging, so she doesn’t HATE spelling this year. (four days per week)

Phonics – I detest this subject as I think it is super super boring. So does she. I think we’re going to nix phonics or at least skip to the few items in the book that would be instructional and useful to her. I’m going to have to look through our book a little more to weed out the busy work. (once per week, but maybe not at all.)

Science – We’re doing a unit on the human body with lots of activities thrown in. She’s also doing quite a bit of writing by logging our daily tasks and making little booklets and stuff. We’ve checked out a bunch of human body books from the library and she has been reading them with and to her little sisters and taking them in the car when we go pick up Mimi from school. The other day she was reading about the heart and we ended up having a great conversation about the relationship between the size of an animal and how quickly its heart beats. We’re planning on a trip down to the Science Museum to see the human body exhibit before it leaves next month. (twice a week)

Math – Right now we’re doing mostly review of addition and subtraction of multiple numbers. I’ve found lots of fun activities that incorporate these. I’m going to work with her on a sewing project to work on our measuring skills (and estimating skills, as I am a laaaaazy sewer). We’ve also done some cooking and we practice our fractions. I expect that the cooking will increase as the holiday season gets nearer and we’ll do a lot of practical math like doubling recipes and figuring out the metric system and equivalencies. She really wants to move on in math and get to multiplication and stuff, but I am feeling that we should ease back into the subject. (three times per week)

History – We tried to do an entire year of history over the summer, but burned out on it. We got about a third of the way through it before we shelved it until the school year. We are still in ancient history, but Bubba loves it. She really gets into most of the stories and we have some fun discussions after reading them. It is always amazing to me the details and names she remembers after reading. There are some that I have to go back and look up that she rattles off really quickly. This is one of our favorite subjects as we always learn something new and there is always some sort of fun project to go with it and reinforce the lesson. (twice a week)

Writing – Most of our writing is done within our other subjects as Bubba balks at having to sit down and write just for the sake of writing. One day per week we do do some sort of writing task. Lately we have been working on different brainstorming techniques. At first she was lazy and bored with it until she ended up coming up with a really fun and creative story based on some of her brainstorming. Every Friday is poetry day and we do something different. Last week we had a book from the library about rocks (her current passion) and it was a long poem about different types. We read it and then she chose her favorite type of rock from the poem and copied out that page in her best writing. We have a book of Roald Dahl poems for tomorrow that I’m very excited about.

Reading – Every day I read a chapter of The Wizard of Oz outloud to her. When we’re finished with the book we’re going to watch the movie and compare and contrast it to the book. I think we’ll do it orally or I’ll have her write down the main points and present it to Dad or something. I’ve been thinking about all of the different books we could read and then watch the movie to compare and the options are huge. I think it will give her a better idea of how much better the books typically are, too, and promote more reading. She also reads for half an hour to herself or to her sisters outloud.

Music – She practices her guitar every day except for lesson days. She was given two new songs to practice at her last lesson. We were also informed of her first recital coming up in October. I can’t wait to watch her play in front of everyone.

Art – At the beginning of every week we start a new art project. She then has the entire week to work on it and refine it in order to have a very thoughtfully and thoroughly finished piece. The first few projects in each unit are more technical, exploring each element (line, texture, etc.). Then there are a few really creative projects that incorporate the techniques previously studied.

(On a side note, Baby started preschool today, but I haven’t had time to get the photos off of the camera yet. I’ll write about it when I have them on the computer. Suffice it to say that she had a blast and it sounds like the day went really well.)



Starting Off Well
August 27, 2008, 11:49 am
Filed under: art, Bubba, games, guitar, library, schedule, spelling

Apparently we are a people that enjoy a good schedule. One that is flexible enough to maneuver around impromptu park times but that is consistent enough that we know what’s coming and that we’ll be finished in time to pick up Mimi from school. Last year we didn’t follow any real schedule. Actually, scratch that, we started off the year with an insanely detailed schedule. That didn’t last very long at all and caused major burnout. Then we went to the opposite extreme with only a rough guideline of what we wanted to accomplish throughout the year and some materials to use throughout. That was ok, but felt a little slapped together at times. This year, we have certain things that are done on certain days so that I can be sure we’re going to accomplish at least our minimum goals. Having to get everyone up, dressed, fed and out the door to get Mimi to school in the mornings is a great help in getting us ready to start the school day early. Plus, at that time of the day Baby is happy to play and read and color while we work. Bubba is a bit more focused during the mornings and hasn’t already been distracted by another project that she wants to do instead. We have our afternoons free to do whatever we want.

Yesterday Grandma P came over to drop off Mimi’s birthday present. When she asked Bubba what she had done in school that day, Bubba replied, “We mostly played on the computer and read a little.” It was true. What slipped between the lines in that statement is that Tuesdays are a light academic day since I’ll be helping at the preschool on those days. We did play on the computer doing Language Arts and Spelling games. She completed a spelling worksheet focusing on this week’s words. Reading a “little” consisted of me reading a chapter of The Wizard of Oz outload and Bubba finishing a Junie B. Jones book followed by a trip to the library to pick up an inter-library loan Spiderwick book, which she promptly read three chapters of. She also read aloud a human body book to the younger kids. She failed to mention that she had asked me to find her a math worksheet with adding and subtracting to do just for fun. Later, she and her friend played school with the younger kids where she read more books to them and tried to teach them some basic math. She has a week-long art project every week that she spent a little time on, too. Bubba also practiced her guitar for about half an hour. (I’m not trying to imply with this paragraph that Grandma P looked in any way disapproving about Bubba’s answer, I just found it funny how her quick off-the-cuff response negated a big meaty chunk of the actual learning that took place that day.)

I also want to note for posterity that while the title states that we are starting off well, Bubba has also spent the last half hour walking around with a cape on backwards so that she can pull the hood over her face to refrain from looking at me or speaking to me because she’s so angry with me. It’s all about balance, right? Up next: How Do I Teach Personal Accountability For One’s Actions? (otherwise known as, Sometimes It’s Not EVERYONE Else’s Fault.)



The Return
January 8, 2008, 10:38 pm
Filed under: Bubba, logic, math, spelling

This being the longest break we’ve had in schooling so far, I was unsure what to expect when we started up again yesterday. Bubba seemed eager to get to work, so we just dove in. After evaluating some of her spelling in the letters she’s been writing, I decided that we would bust out the spelling book that we abandoned when we decided to forgo worksheets for a while. She spells very phonetically and just needs more structured spelling practice. I noticed over the break that the fractions work we had been doing was sinking in because she would describe things in terms of fractions naturally in conversation. She also started intuitively adding fractions in her head a few times. I was excited to see her taking those next steps just by thinking logically about what would happen if you needed 1/2 of a 1/2 C. of flour.

One of her favorite things to do are these Mind Benders.
(here’s a very basic example)

I used to do these in my SPARK class when I was in elementary school and I always loved them. So, when I found this series of books, I had to get the first one to see if she shared my love for them. She does. Do these types of activities have a specific name other than mind benders? That is a rather generic term that can apply to so many different activities and I’d like to find more of these for her. She is blowing through the book and I need to order the next one for her. What really amazed me is that she had been struggling the week before the break with some of them because they were getting a little harder. It appears that having those weeks off allowed these harder logic puzzles to stew in her mind and congeal in a way that makes sense to her because she was ripping through them.

We have a new big writing project, but it’s late so I’ll write about it next time.