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.



Bones and Field Trip
October 23, 2008, 8:30 pm
Filed under: Bubba, field trip, mimi, science, writing

Bubba and I delved deep into the science of human bones recently. We read the information in our curriculum and then found a couple of sites that gave more detail about certain bones and had us guess where on the body one can find them. On another site we found the actual names of many of the bones and added two of them (femur and cranium) to our spelling list as bonus words for the week. We have a couple of human anatomy books that have sections on bones that we looked at, but the information beyond what had been discussed in the curriculum was beyond our level, so we didn’t look at those for long.

Mimi had her first field trip and got to ride the school bus for the first time. (A life long dream come true for her.) The other best part for her was that Dad got to go on the field trip with her class. When we told her that he would be going and riding the bus, too, she immediately asked him if he would sit next to her on the bus. He assured her that he would. They had a great time visiting a local vet, the fire department (her teacher’s husband was one of the firefighters), the police station and a local grocery store. For lunch they usually go to the park, but since it was wet and muddy, they went back to the school to eat their sack lunches and play on their asphalt playground.

Here’s Mimi trying out a firefighter’s bed.

Here she is practicing the skills she learned at the grocery store.

And here she is practicing some of her newfound letter writing skills with a Sharpie on the bathroom wall. It’s directly across from the toilet and beneath the towel rack, so bathroom users have something to read if they’d like and we can also cover it by hanging a towel on the rack. She’s so thoughtful that way.



Quick update
October 2, 2008, 9:42 pm
Filed under: art, Bubba, curriculum, games, history, math, reading, science, writing

We’ve been studying the respiratory system. I’m a little disappointed because the curriculum that we’re using for science is a little too superficial for Bubba’s level. I find myself quickly scrounging for supplementary items online or in our book and DVD collection to feel that she’s getting something out of the lessons.

Our printer is broken, so we’ve been doing a lot of online math games. Bubba told me that she felt weak on her analog time-telling skills. We found a few games that dealt with that and within thirty minutes or so she was getting all of the questions correct. She needed a refresher from last year and I had no idea. I guess we have mostly digital clocks in the house because I felt like her time-telling was great. I’m glad she was able to tell me that she felt weak in an area and we were able to work on it together. She also requested that we play more games with math, so we’ve been playing cards and Yahtzee lately.

In history we’re hitting Ancient Greece. This is one of my favorite periods in history, especially coming from an art history background, so there are lots of tangents to hit. We’re gearing up to read a bunch of the Greek Myths, but I’m having a hard time putting our regular reading book aside. We’ve been reading The Mysterious Benedict Society. It has been a lot of fun for us as we guess the solutions to the different puzzles. Some of them are over Bubba’s head, but so far she has either been able to figure them out or understand them after we find the answer(s). We’re only about a fourth of the way in, though, and any of the negative reviews state that this is where it starts slowing down. I already see what they say about it needing some editing as there are a lot of passages that are unnecessary and some feel redundant, but the story has been intriguing and fun. We’ll see where it goes from here.

We’ve been doing a little handwriting because she has this block about the number 4 and the number 9. She always makes them backwards. It’s like she knows that she always writes them the wrong way so she overthinks them when she writes them and they are consistently wrong. I have to remind her to use clear and legible handwriting whenever we have written assignments. She hates taking the time to make her letters correctly. I wouldn’t mind if she used a quicker and more comfortable style of writing, but she really never mastered correct writing in the first place. You have to know the rules in order to break them. For our more structured writing lessons we’ve been discussing how to research a topic. We’ve been over the Dewey Decimal System at the library and I’ve been working with her on how to find things on the internet. We’ve also discussed the importance of making sure your sources are legitimate and that she never decides to just go Googling without her dad or I there with her.

In art we are working on shape. Bubba finished the line section two weeks ago. I like the curriculum that we draw from because there are a couple of projects that deal with the technical aspects of the element followed by a couple of really creative projects that incorporate the same element. We have a new project every Monday and then she has the week to complete it. This way she’s been able to take her time and not rush through any of them and the results are much more finished-looking pieces than when we tried to complete them all in one day.



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.)



Ancient Writings
April 29, 2008, 10:16 am
Filed under: art, baby, Bubba, history, photography, writing

We learned about ancient hieroglyphics and cuneiform today. Bubba practiced the latter on a clay tablet that she made. The top one is hers and spells her name. The bottom one is Baby’s.

She is heading out to the Botanical Gardens today with some family and is taking her camera with her. I can’t wait to see some of her photographs. She is finishing up her series on texture and we skipped ahead to color for the next series because it wouldn’t be any fun to take all black and white photos at a botanical garden.

Yesterday’s art project involved markers, crayons and linoleum.

And then today that same floor looks like this…

Tearing up linoleum now ranks as high on my list as tearing down wallpaper. It will be so worth it when we get the new floors in, though. For now, we have a mandated shoes on policy in the house.



Spring Fever
April 23, 2008, 4:17 pm
Filed under: baby, Bubba, garden, history, pen pal, reading, writing

We’re having a difficult time concentrating on anything but being outside lately. Spring is so lovely and we have lots of things to keep us busy in the backyard. We have planted everything except the pumpkins, as we’re planning on using them for jack-o-lanterns. The blueberry bushes are looking great and I can hardly wait for the first fruits to appear. One of the strawberry bushes didn’t survive, so I pulled it and stuck in some green onions. Since the baby destroyed the jalapeno starts, we planted extra green beans in their spot. Bubba had fun helping with the planting and watering. We’ve had our first garden watering turned sprinkler spray down of the year. The kids loved it and were soaked. It was warm enough that day that they dried out fairly quickly. I made a little corner area for the girls. I put down a bunch of concrete pavers and surrounded them by planting a wall of sunflowers. I put a bunch of wildflower seeds around it, too, so they have some lower “pretty” ones until the sunflowers grow tall enough to make the corner private.

We’ve been working on our summer history book, but have taken a bit of a break from everything else. We wound up most things, but I’m going to start back in with some subtraction work soon. We’re still reading every day, although she’ fighting me a bit on the silent reading. She prefers to read out loud to her sisters. I don’t mind that at all, I actively encourage it. But, when she tries to count these insanely easy readers as her reading for the day, I have to draw the line. For summer writing, I think we’ll stick to her pen pal letters and some small dictations from the history text.



Procrastinating
February 19, 2008, 10:19 pm
Filed under: Bubba, mimi, writing

The Reading Rainbow book needs to be submitted soon. She came up with the story very quickly, but took her time on the illustrations. It’s now crunch time, so she spent a lot of the day coloring in the black outlines that she had drawn previously. It’s been a good lesson in personal responsibility and keeping one’s end of a commitment. Over the last month, whenever we finished with our work for the day, I would remind her that she still had those pictures to finish. This was always met with a head nod and a non committal murmur. Today, when faced with the fact that I am sending the book in on Thursday and that none of the pages were colored in, she decided that it was too much work and that she wasn’t going to finish. I had a talk with her about accountability and keeping up with a commitment. She fought me hard about it, but I stood my ground and eventually, she stopped with all of the fighting and just started doing it. She finished about half of them today and will likely finish the rest tomorrow. I’m really proud of her for following through on this after the big drama she pulled trying to get out of it. Plus, I think she would eventually regret not finishing it because she has really been looking forward to the whole entry process.

The whole incident also led to an impromptu coloring session where Bubba began teaching Mimi about primary colors.

After all of the discord that’s been filling the house lately, I felt the best thing for the afternoon would be the park.