Category Archives: Social Studies

Random Ruminations

Ruminations on Reading: Reading is going well. Henry is able to sound out the words in his workbook every day with very few hang-ups. He is always excited to read a story or a book and get a sticker on his progress chart. And he’s always willing to pull his workbook out whenever I ask him if he’s ready for reading. Okay, those were more observations than ruminations. But they set the stage for the ruminations.

I wonder when Henry will start seeing the words he knows how to read in picture books not part of Hooked on Phonics. I wonder when that light will click on for him and he’ll start transferring his skills outside his comfort zone. He’s only been reading, really, for two weeks. I’m not trying to rush this. I just wonder.

I also realized with a start this week that Henry becoming an independent reader means that my days of snuggling on the couch with him, logging hours of reading together, are numbered. Sad thought.

Ruminations on RightStart: We introduced the abacus to the boys this week. They both liked being able to represent quantities in a way other than their fingers or their tally sticks. I asked them to show me “4” on their abacus. Henry selected the right amount and pushed them to the left as a unit. It was exactly the way the textbook wanted him to and I didn’t even say anything to him about it. Yay, #1! Then, I asked him how he knew it was four. He said, pointing to the lone blue bead at the right, “Because there’s only one blue bead left!” That was literally a textbook answer. Yay, #2! I think I did an inner Toyota jump because he’s getting it. So exciting.

This math curriculum is geared for two lessons a week. Sometimes I wonder if I ought to do one more day a week since they both seem to like it so much. But sometimes I think I should just hold back a little and keep from overwhelming them. Fine balance.

Ruminations on Art: Not our best week. I didn’t do a very good job of explaining the scope or what I expected of them. Oh well. It’s okay.

We did Fanny Joly’s “Mr. Fine, Porcupine” (Storybook Art, page 31). The boys think the story is hilarious and it’s one of the most requested reads from this round of library books.

The idea was to finger paint a simple large line drawing of choice (think a drawing of a sheep or a house) before using craft sticks to scratch away paint to create a textured look. Instead, both Sam and Henry opted to recreate a page from the story. Sam did a darn good job of creating Mr. Fine, Porcupine, and Henry chose a page with a town on it. Here’re the finished products:

Please meet Mr. Fine, Porcupine.

This is the town Mr. Fine rides his bike through, a la Henry

So…the ruminations in my head that are art-related are mostly happy thoughts at finding such a great resource to gently guide our creativity. I love that my boys are creating. It’s fun to see them be more excited over a blank piece of paper and a box of markers than a coloring book. It’s fun to see what’s in their little heads—especially the level of detail! I love learning new techniques and love that we’re being exposed to more than just line drawing or painting with watercolors.

Ruminations on Science: My biggest concern in this area is that I need to practice with different settings on my camera. I need to learn how to take better pictures. I know what I want different compositions to look like in my head; I just haven’t figured out how to make them happen. Not even school-related. For the boys, anyway. Just realizing that if I’m going to document our journey, I’d like to figure out how to capture better shots than blurry stills or flash-washed close-ups.

But our science experiment this week was tops. We tackled “Shine Your Pennies” (Mudpies to Magnets, page 99). I was messing around with the camera more this day, so my explanation of our experiment will be peppered with pictures.

The set-up was pretty basic: four bowls, varied combinations of salt, vinegar, and water.

(Yay! I figured out the macro setting!) 3 of the 4 bowls required 5 mL of salt. Thank heaven for medicine cups. I had no idea how I was going to measure 5 mL!

Our first bowl had vinegar only; our second, salt only; our third, salt and vinegar; and our fourth, salt and water.

We placed one dirty penny in each bowl and made observations after five, ten, and fifteen minutes. The most pronounced changes were observable at the five minute mark.

The penny in the vinegar didn’t get shiny but it put off a lot of bubble chains from the penny to the surface of the vinegar.

Hmm…nothing’s happening…

Ooo! Can you see it getting shiny?

The boys thought this one was cool. Maybe a teensie bit more than the shiny one.

After we recorded our observations and the boys made their notations in their science journals, I let them go crazy trying to shine the rest of their pennies. It made for a fun project.

Ruminations on Spanish and Social Studies: I’m kind of bored, not going to lie. I’m pretty sure we’ll be through both the yellow and red levels of Spanish by Christmas. Then what? Who knows.

I think if I cared more about our approach to Social Studies this year, then I could make it more fun with menu plans and supplemental library books. Maybe when I find my groove again in the menu planning arena. Hmm. Something to think about.


Ups and Downs

Week Two of our homeschooling adventure started out kind of bumpy but we had a slam-bam-thank-you-ma’am finish!

Phonics (Henry): We kept plugging away at the flashcards. I struggled all week with the dilemma of starting him on reading without being 100% confident with all 26 beginning letter sounds vs. making sure he could nail them. He just didn’t seem to be “getting it” and I didn’t want him to be frustrated.

I finally pulled the yellow workbook out of the box, along with some accompanying books, and explained to Henry that once he knew all of the sounds the letters make, we could start doing some of these different things. I think having a vision helped. He immediately began making up little games to help him through the flashcards (trying to beat the lady by saying the sound first) and within two more days, was nailing all but two letters. From there, it was easy to drill him on those two throughout the day as he played or while we were driving.

By Friday (July 30th), he was ready for the first story in the workbook. We spent double the time we normally take for phonics because he wanted to get to the story so badly.

The excitement that accompanies the success of reading something independently is immeasurable. Henry was over-the-moon excited and wanted to read to anybody who was willing to listen. Lucky for him, Daddy came home from work early this day, so he was able to read to Dad. He also was lucky enough to see Grammy and Grampa, so they were also an attentive audience for a labored rendition of “Fat Cat, Fat Rat.”

What an accomplishment! We are on our way.

Math: July 29th was one of my happiest days this year. It was the day the UPS man rang my doorbell and dropped a package on my doorstep that had our RightStart Math curriculum in it. Oh, my laws. It was seriously like Christmas for me. The kids and I tore into the box and started playing with all of the manipulatives. The girls loved the abacuses (abacai?) and would daintily move the beads from one end to the other, chanting, “One, doo, one, doo.” I could hardly wait for everyone to get into bed so I could curl up on the couch and read the teacher’s manual. Giddy would describe it. I kept ooing and aahhing over the way math concepts are presented and figuring out how it all fits into the big picture. I loved how each lesson is brief and extremely well organized and easy to teach from. I loved wondering why we were doing certain things (i.e., teaching the poem “One, Two, Buckle my Shoe”) and then discovering the reason a few lessons down the road (ultimately teaches kids to count by twos). I was fascinated by all of the introductions to geometry. This is just a way cool program. I was 13 lessons into it before Joe peeled my fingers off the manual and pointed me in the direction of the bedroom to get ready for bed.

Needless to say, we had our first math lesson the next day.

Both Sam and Henry did a great job. It was a pretty basic lesson but they were able to do everything I asked them to. It will be interesting to watch the two boys as we go along. Henry will have to overcome the crutch of counting where Sam won’t, but he’ll also have a year’s cognitive maturity advantage.

Really excited for math. Really.

Social Studies: We read about Mohammed (Egypt) (Children Just Like Me, pg. 36) this week. Still no reaction, good or bad. The boys were eager to cuddle up to me and read, so maybe I’ll take that as a good sign.

Spanish: Sam only wanted to do one lesson this week and Henry three, so I let them run with it. It wasn’t really a big deal since they were learning how to count from 1 to 10 in Spanish. Samuel struggled with the number recognition, and then having to translate that number into Spanish was a little much for him. Another reason why I think RightStart will be a good fit for him. He doesn’t need to worry about number recognition right now.

Art: This week we read Leo Lionni’s Fish is Fish (Storybook Art, pg. 53) and our art project was one that mimicked the illustrator’s style. The book is done with crayon rubbings on various textures for the background, with the drawings cut out and placed on the background.

The boys decided they wanted to make a space scene, so we spread various textures on the kitchen table (crumpled tinfoil laid flat, cardstock with holes cut out of it, cardboard, sandpaper, etc.) and used different blues, purples, and blacks to create outer space. Then they went to work drawing pictures on construction paper. We traced a bowl so we could make a planet. Henry made a space man with a jet pack and a rocket ship. Sam made (and cut out himself) an asteroid. Once they were done drawing and cutting, they pasted their scene together. Henry grabbed the hole punch and added a border of “stars” as a finishing touch. They were quite pleased with their efforts.

Here’s some detail on Henry’s space man (with jet pack):

The thing I think I really love about Storybook Art is that we can do these projects every year and every time the things we create will be different. That could especially be fun to compare year over year as the kids get older and more competent in different areas.

Science: We explored the world of bubbles this week (Mudpies to Magnets, “I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles,” pg. 96). This was more an observation project than one to walk through the scientific process with.

I filled plastic cups about an inch with bubble solution and stuck a straw in each one. And then we spent the next 20 minutes blowing. Blowing hard, blowing soft, blowing fast, blowing slow, moving our straws…it was a very enjoyable discovery process. We observed how bubbles pick up colors based on how much light was in the room. We had fun experimenting with lots of bubbles (think bubble trail on the table) and big, big bubbles. It was a definite hit and one I may use with Sam’s preschool group this year.

Again, I loved watching how the boys interpreted their experience with their drawings:

Love Henry’s bubble chain with flecks of color in each one.

And I love Sam’s variety of bubble colors and sizes.

Overall, another successful week. We are really having a blast!


The Beginning that Wasn’t

Henry started Kindergarten this week without any fanfare, fuss, or hype. We just sat down at the kitchen table and started doing it. And it was awesome.

I had originally wanted to wait until my math curriculum arrived to ‘officially’ start school, wanted to take a First Day of School photo, wanted to make it more of a big deal overall. But the moment was right, and I had promised Henry while we were on vacation that I would teach him how to read when we got home. So we dove in.

Thinking about it, it just felt right. I’ve been anticipating this phase of life since before Henry was even born. Since I knew I wanted to be an integral part of my children’s education, we’ve just kind of always been homeschooling. So it turned out that fanfare wasn’t really needed.

We’re using Hooked on Phonics as our Phonics and Reading curriculum; will be usingRightStart Math once I get around to ordering it; Mudpies to Magnets (Williams, Rockwell, Sherwood) for Science;Storybook Art (Kohl, Potter) for Art; Children Just Like Me (Kindersley) for Social Studies; and Hooked on Spanishfor Spanish. Phonics will be 4x/week; Math, 2x (more if the boys request it); and science, art, social studies, and Spanish 1x each/week. I’m also shooting for 30 minutes of reading with the kids each day as a minimum. We generally hover around 50. I also want to start some daily memorization work but haven’t added that yet. I’m thinking the Articles of Faith will be a good place to start.

We use the girls’ nap time for school time. That gives us between an hour and a half and two hours to work on things that need a little quiet and concentration. So far it’s working out well. Neither Henry nor Samuel has complained about the cut in their play time…so far.

Since Samuel is around and interested, he’s participating in the once a week subjects. Both he and Henry will work on math together in tandem this year. And of course the daily story time applies to all. But Henry is the only one working through the phonics and reading course.

Phew. There’s the background.

Our first week of school had a golden glow around it. We had so much fun!

Henry began his foray into reading by working through a stack of phonics flashcards so he could master the sounds each letter makes. He worked on flashcards for four days. I wasn’t sure about the whole flashcard thing in general, but in my heart knew it would be the fastest way to get him reading. I guess he liked it okay, because the one day I tried to work with him on vowel sounds, he said, “Mom, I just want to do my cards with the lady” (on the HOP CD). We spent one day doing an upper-lowercase matching game in addition to the flashcards.

Hooked on Spanish is one of the boys’ favorites and I think it’s because it’s a CD-ROM program, requiring use of the computer. Yes, my boys are 5 and nearly 4 and neither have had any hands-on experience with using a computer until now. They have enjoyed learning to use the touch pad mouse and learning to navigate around their program. They had so much fun they requested two days of Spanish this week.

For science, we did an experiment I had read about on a blog somewhere. We created four different sizes of ice cubes using a medicine dropper (4 mL, 3 mL, 2 mL, and 1 mL) and then color coded the ice cubes before freezing them (4 = green, 3 = blue, 2 = red, 1 = yellow). We wanted to see how long it would take the ice cubes to melt on the sidewalk. Henry hypothesized that the yellow ones would melt before the green ones because they were smaller. He was right. 🙂

I had the boys draw in their science journals about the experiment. I loved how they both chose to use the colors we had picked for the ice cubes, and how they used different sizes to depict the ice cubes melting. They haven’t shown any real interest in drawing and I haven’t really guided them at all in that area, so to see them expressing their thoughts and observations with markers was exciting to me.

For social studies, we read about Esta from Tanzania (Children Just Like Me, pages 42-43). I don’t think it had any real impact on them, although they were able to pick out Africa on a global map.

Art was my favorite this week. May I recommend—HIGHLY—Storybook Art? It is a must have for any household with small children. This book highlights 100 different children’s picture books and then creates a corresponding art project for each book. The idea is that you read a book from the list with your child (what’s not to love about that?) and then you do an art project either based on the idea of the book or based on the technique the illustrator used to create it. We picked up a few titles this summer at Half Price Books knowing we would be doing these projects; the rest I think we’ll check out from the library.

This week’s book was Elmer, by David McKee. It’s a darling little story about an elephant who’s just a little bit different. He’s patchwork in a field of grays. Literally. One day he decides to be different so he finds a way to cover his patchwork and turn himself gray like the other elephants. He plays a trick on them and they think it’s so funny that they declare that day to be Elmer’s Day and celebrate it once a year by turning themselves patchwork while Elmer turns himself gray and then they have a parade.

I cut out a bunch of elephants and divided them into patches with a Sharpie. To make our patchwork elephants, we experimented with the different outcomes household objects produce when dipped or rolled in paint. Legos were a clear hit while pinecones were not. The potato masher yielded some cool results while string did not. Samuel decided to finger paint his third elephant and finger painted the entire elephant the same color. I like to think he was making his own Elmer. Once the elephants dried, I cut them out and pasted them on a long sheet of paper so we had our own patchwork elephant parade.

That sums up our first week. I don’t know that I’ll go into this much detail with subsequent weeks but I had a lot to process as I got going.