Sunday, November 14, 2010

Field Trips are Fun!

With winter in upstate NY making itself ready I have been scrambling for field trips knowing that our travel will be somewhat limited very soon. The great thing about homeschooling has been the freedom for us all to explore local resources and always having a tangible example for our lesson. We have learned in the first couple of months that the outside world is our classroom. Sophia has been able to draw circular conclusions and has knowledge about interconnectedness beyond her years.

During the last week of October we explored the orgins of Halloween and found that it originated with the Celts. I felt that this was the perfect opportunity to speak about our ancestors from these isles and we found an awesome craft called a Parshall which has roots in Pagan Christianity in Ireland. We took a field trip to a local pioneer cemetery with graves dating from as far back as 1812. We did some gravestone rubbings of the Willows and Urns and further discussed our ancestors. This lead to questions about were our ancestors were buried thus furthering this exploration. This whole lesson naturally lead into Dia de los Muertos! We went to the Library and found books on the subject and made and decorated skulls out of FEMO and baked them. We then made a little fall alter with our collected leaves, squash, parshalls and skulls for our ancestors.

The next week we discussed farms and tied in our previous lessons with discussing the professions of her ancestors. We then began to talk about the different types of local farms and and tied this in with our nutrition unit. We then visited a local dairy farm on Friday and had a great time! Last week we had so much fun with family who flew in from Denver and went on another field trip to Albany to the New York Museum. This enabled a lesson about New York State and tied in prior agriculture and Iroquois lessons. We even counted farms on our way down I88!

Next week we will begin our Thanksgiving unit and I have found through Scholastic a really great interactive unit about Plymouth and the Wampanoag tribe. Discussing life and even a live podcast on the 16th. Should be interesting! I'll keep you all posted!!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Success With Themes!

I have now been teaching, and learning for 5 weeks with my kids! I can't believe how fast things are happening but am so grateful I get to see how everything unfolds. I can't imagine missing all of these light bulb moments that truly make me feel blessed daily. The weekly themes have been very successful and each week the next theme reveals itself with ease. Sophia has been able to make global connections that are beyond her years in age, and often makes her momma scratch her head and research to find "the" answers. Each week I use a general theme and then we continue things from the following lessons that were of interest. I rely heavily on literature, reading each morning a story having to do with our day. Our public library has really great programs for kids which includes Story Time Kits dealing with many topics we have been covering. Usually they have three of four books, a video or DVD, and felt board activities. It really is an amazing resource and cuts down on my preparation time considerably!!

Just to give you an idea:

Week 1: Diversity and Multiculturalism- focus on Africa/ India
Week 2: Native Americans- focus on the Americas
Week 3: Autumn- Seasons changing, weather changes- focus on harvesting, and apples
Week 4: Natural Cycles- Life Cycle- focus on the life cycle of the Butterfly
Week 5: Foods- Health and Nutrition- focus on the food pyramid and exercise

I have felt such a sense of success when by Friday of each week the kids have turned the theme into some form of play. They are making a nutritious felt pizza as we speak! Sophia made vegetable garden markers last night for fun for our garden next year, and when we were discussing the Native Americans they played for hours on the front porch foraging, hunting, and "making fires" to cook their meat over. For these guys their work turned into play and I feel that they have internalized the lessons.

We have had the great fortune to have one of my husband's former English teachers coming over every Monday to read to the kids and she has started a journal with Sophia and always has a big bag overflowing with books. The kids look so forward to it!
This week we also had our first session at the local gym. I had set up a time and invited a bunch of moms, some homeschoolers and some just with young kids still at home. It ended up being quite a success we kicked balls and jumped ropes, crawled through tunnels and made new friends. We have also picked up Sophia's violin and start lessons next week. We also found out last night that one of the girls in her dance class is also a homeschool and they had hit it off before we even made the connection. I feel so blessed to be able to do this and I feel like the universe is just beginning to open up these amazing possibilities to us. My hope is it will continue always!!!

Monday, September 20, 2010

"The Absorbent Mind"

Our first week has officially ended and we are right into the next. Sophia's enthusiasm is contagious and both Liam and I have caught it! To my surprise we have covered a vast array of topics thanks to the whim of Sophia's brain and a basic outline thought out by yours truly. I was so nervous and excited on Sunday night that I barely slept and woke up at an ungodly hour. Guess who was already awake- Sophia! She was so excited she wanted to begin right away her appetite has been insatiable since.

I was trying to think of a tangible example that I could use to describe my teaching technique and this is what I came up with: A Skeleton- I would provide the spinal column and the kids would guide the bone building process. Ribs to shoulders to arms and head, hips to legs to ankles and feet. You can see how this progresses and could keep doing so. I have been keeping a daily journal to document what we work on because every moment is fleeting. We have covered so much just the first week I could never write everything but we have decided on weekly themes.
Due to the strange looks of disapproval and the silence that comes over people when Sophia tells them excitedly that, "Yes I am in Kindergarten. My mom is Homeschooling me!" I picked diversity and differences for our first week.

Our Day:
We created the ritual of yoga, then morning circle time with a welcome song. We change the day and weather on our wall calendar and then Sophia records in her science journal the weather condition. I then read a book, or poem having to do with our theme. We then go on our daily adventure which really leads us wherever Sophia takes us. I like to think of these as little rabbit trails. Just in the first week we learned about the life cycle of butterflies, why girls and women in India wear Bindis, and how to count to 100, just to mention a few.

It is in these fragile moments that I feel a caring and intelligent adult is created. I truly feel that the difference between good and evil comes down to the ability to accept adversity thus growing from each experience. If you don't learn this early on you will become stunted and place barriers on yourself mentally and physically. My hope is to give my kids a chance to grow, purely.

Sophia is a brilliant young mind questioning and wondering about everything thus
creating the same effect on Liam. The "absorbent mind" is the most accurate description and I love Montessori for coining it!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

A is for Acclimation

The idea of "the first day" is both exciting and a bit dauting...we are to be completely responsible for educating these young minds! I began with large ideas and plans and have narrowed things first into months and weeks, and now into days and even hours. I am also ready for the possiblilty that my plans all go up in smoke begining the first day. I do feel prepared however, and for me that is a good thing!

I began with these concepts: Kindergarten
(some are not totally age appropriate but for Sophia they will be)

*Language- History of Writing and the Alphabet, Story Concepts (who,what,where,why), Spelling and word play, Pronunciation (phonics)

*Math- Developing # concepts, Geometric shapes, measurement (cooking, water collection, thermometer), time telling, money counting

*Science- Weather, Seasons, basic astronomy, silence and sound in nature, ecosystems and diversity (basic)

*Social Studies- Address and phone #,community exploration,state and country, geography and diversity of culture

*Health- Nutrition, basic cleanliness, basic anatomy

*Fitness- Large motor skills, yoga, gym class (at the local civic center), swimming, soccer, dance, Boxing (w/ Toby), Hiking

*Art- Art book study, arts and crafts of all kinds (daily), art in nature, color work, pattern play

*Music- violin lessons, daily listening and singing, dance class

My next step is monthly themes, weekly excercises and daily activities! I have the first week completed anyway! Our classroom is finished and our school supplies are bought we will begin this Monday the 13th! Excited and nervous, Sophia and Liam can hardly wait we have already dug into many topics listed above but I can't possibly make them wait! This may turn into a all year adventure which is really no different than the last 5 years...

Monday, August 23, 2010

Book List- Kindergarten

Through collection, acquisition, and exploration I have stumbled upon some great materials to piece together a curriculum for the first year. I knew from the get go that I wanted to use Montessori in some way because I studied her in undergrad and had great expectations for AMI teacher training (maybe later in life). I had written my thesis at Hartwick as an expose about Social Stratification in the education system starting in Preschool and compared a Head Start program with a private Montessori school. Now full circle I have found a way for my children to grow up with the Montessori premise primarily because I am home with them. While digging through my old materials I found an amazing resource that was my jumping off point and from there I have just been lucky! Here are the titles and authors of what I have found:

Over all Curriculum-

Montessori Play and Learn: A Parents Guide to Purposeful Play from Two to Six by, Lesley Britton

*Project Wild: K-12 Curriculum and Activity Guide and Project Wild: Aquatic

Project Learning Tree: Environmental Education Activity Guide

Language and Reading-

Reading Aids Through the Grades by, David Russell and Etta Karp

Let's Play a Game The Ginn Basic Readers- Ginn and Company

The Really Useful Literacy Book- Scond Edition by, Tony Martin, Chira Lovat, and Glynis Purnell

I have also been exploring a wonderful Curriculum from a group called Oak Meadow- and think I may buy it for First Grade! Check out

* while looking at Project Wild I found a curriculum called Growing Up Wild which is the early ed counterpart to the former. I found out that trainings can and are provided in pretty much every state in the county! I have set one up in our area and have invited other Homeschooling parents, Head Start teachers, and daycare providers. It is free and they provide materials! Look on their website if you are interested:

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Homeschooling for Mummies

This blog will record the trial and error on my path to Homeschooling. My eldest daughter will be turning 5 this September and would be old enough to enter Kindergarten at our public school. We went through the whole process enrolled her, got the required immunizations, intellegence screening etc. When I recieved the test scores in the mail I just sat with them for a long time, "what did they mean?" I tried to look up the testing used and found nothing. This sent me on an adventure. The world of homeschooling began to open up to us and we to it. It became not a question of can we do this but when can we start! Calling the school and pulling her from their roster was the most freeing thing I have done in a long, long time.
This is a little known, and I find misunderstood world. Shrouded with ideas of weird, unsocialized kids and religious fundementalism. My family and I are here to prove that all wrong. Although we have just begun I feel the momentum building and oportunities taking hold that would never happen in traditional schooling. We are not teaching our children at home to keep them from the world, rather to open the world up to them...
Please join us!