Monday, April 25, 2016

Work Plans for the Week of April 25, 2016: Indiana, California, and the Thirteen Colonies

Despite the three-day school week and the lack of weekly work plans, last week was actually quite productive. We spent a couple of days in the woods, then got back in the game by catching up on the children's correspondence, working on some science projects--
The kids are attempting to crystallize epsom salts, borax, and alum, and are of COURSE making rock candy.
--completing Junior Ranger badges by mail, reading LOTS of books, working through Math Mammoth and cursive copywork, and delving deeply into a Girl Scout badge that's also secretly a cross-curricular unit study on biomes and the animals that inhabit them--
Here, they've made labels for six major biomes and are sorting animals by biome. We're using Usborne's 100 Animals to Spot at the Zoo, which is a deck that I highly recommend if your kids are studying biology or world geography.
--as well as doing all of our regular fun stuff, like hiking (we've scored a total of three morels on our various hikes last week, but also saw a rat snake digesting something nummy, a corn snake basking on a rock, and lots of frogs and fossils), baking epic baked goods--

She used three different shades of blue for these ocean cupcakes, and put a sour gummy shark on top of each.

--helping me in the garden, and, yes, reading LOTS of books.

This week, however, we're back to a full school week, albeit with one full-day field trip, so it's back to weekly work plans. For one thing, I think it's easier to structure our routine when I know by the week what we're doing each day, and for another, there are several long-term units that we're working on whose lesson plans really only work when I plan them out by the week. I've dropped our human anatomy unit for now, but we're still studying units on California, rocks and minerals, the Revolutionary War, and the 2016 elections! I've also put Project of the Week back on our schedule, even though our schedule is already pretty busy, because I think that overall, the kids enjoy working on something entirely of their own choosing for "school" each week, and because I'd like them to get used to the idea of choosing their own unit and method of study.

Books of the Week include primarily living history books on the Revolutionary War and pioneer times, but also a couple of living science books--we're into Liberal Arts AND STEM enrichment in this homeschool! The Open-Ended Play Material of the Week is the Lite Brite.

And here's the rest of our week!

MONDAY: Normally, we're up and eating breakfast while watching CNN Student News by this time, but Syd is still snoozing, the silly girl. Interestingly, she and Will are both finishing up their Math Mammoth units this week--she in long division, and Will in exponents and the order of operations in algebraic equations. Now that Syd has mastered long division, both of these units have been pretty easy-breezy--in fact, she liked one of the lessons so much that I am now officially on the lookout for other math worksheets done in the form of cross-number puzzles. Apparently that makes drilling computation legitimately FUN!

The kids are studying the spelling of the words in their latest Wordly Wise chapter this week, and today we'll also be finishing up our listen-through of Making Thirteen Colonies, while the kids create a 3D, interactive map that shows the major routes of the slave trade. It seems like a lot of our historical and geographic studies lately have brought forward our country's tragic history with slavery, and it's a bummer, but it is something that I want to always inform the kids' understanding of our history. For instance, we've been looking a bit at the exploration of California by the Europeans, and the missionaries, in particular, and so I've already told the children several times that when they're in California this summer with their grandparents, they should be carefully on the watch for signs that claim that a certain European "discovered" a place that Native Americans had known about for thousands of years, or that a certain European "built" a structure that was likely rather built by enslaved Native Americans, etc. While I didn't necessarily agree with the premise behind every essay in Lies Across America, it has absolutely improved my ability to think critically about historical markers.

We've got our regular gig at our local food pantry this afternoon, to which the kids are also bringing their Scouting for Food food drive donations in order to earn a Girl Scout patch. We've got another Girl Scout event this evening--a tour of an old-fashioned ice cream parlor, and then a make-your-own sundae bar! We can't wait!

Syd is still working through the secular version of New American Cursive 2, but a couple of weeks ago, Will FINISHED Teach Yourself Cursive! And Friends, I have news: her cursive handwriting is good!!! You might remember that I despair daily over Will's print handwriting, and frankly, I can't escape the idea that her Montessori preschool/kindergarten was to blame for not providing her enough direct instruction. They had handwriting work for her to model, but it seems that for the most part the children were left to recreate those models on their own. Will worked out her own way to write all of the letters, and it's an efficient, effective, readable way, but it's not lovely. I probably should have worked with her at home, but frankly, after three hours spent at school, the last thing that I thought about doing with my five-year-old at home was more school--she was too busy rolling around outside or making toy dinosaurs roar at each other.

Anyway, blame-throwing aside, it is very important to me that she at least develop good cursive handwriting, and hallelujah, it has happened! She's still reluctant to use cursive for her daily writing, and so I'm still requiring her to practice her cursive every day as schoolwork. Currently, she's enjoying A-Z Mystery Flags, completing one page a day. After that, I'll start her on some meatier copywork that I've created with StartWrite; using Story of Us, I turned quotes from famous colonial and Revolutionary War individuals into cursive copywork. 

For the first day of our Alcatraz unit, I've printed out the Alcatraz Junior Ranger book and am asking the children to complete what they can of it at home. Pro tip: if you do not have an entire day to lollygag around a national park while your kid completes her Junior Ranger book agonizingly slowly, but with such great pleasure that you simply cannot bear to step in and rush her, printing the book out ahead of time and doing this is exactly the way to go. Most activities will likely still need to be completed on site, sure, but do you really want to spend an hour sitting on a park bench while your kid completes a maze and a word scramble and colors in a picture? Seriously, me, neither!

TUESDAY: Although the last lesson's tamale pie was acceptable, I am genuinely excited about this week's Your Kids: Cooking lesson: quiche! Learning how to make pie crust is a skill they'll be happy to have for their entire lives, and we have so many eggs that I am pretty darn excited every time we're able to get through a dozen of them in a single meal. 

I have time set aside for an Indiana history lesson on this day, but frankly, I don't yet know what I'm going to do there. I'll give a lecture that briefly covers the history of Indiana from prehistory through the Civil War, for sure, but I like to include a hands-on component to every lesson, ideally, and right now, I have no ideas. You might think that we're studying state history here because that's what fourth graders do in their schools, but I don't give a flip about state standards. Instead, we're studying state history, albeit briefly, because 2016 is Indiana's Bicentennial! On Wednesday, the kids and I will take a day trip down to Indiana's first state capital in Corydon for a day of hands-on activities for homeschoolers--we'll visit with some actors playing conductors in the Underground Railroad, learn about pioneer farming, tour the capitol building, make some crafts, and hopefully my two children will be able to raise their hands high to answer any questions asked about Indiana history.

We've got our homeschool group's playgroup on this day, as well as a children's cooking class at our food pantry--word on the street is that one of the children's friends will be leading this day's class on the topic of wild edibles. Dandelion greens for dinner!

WEDNESDAY: FIELD TRIP!!! We always have an audiobook in the car, and currently, it's Forge. I'm hoping that we can finish Forge on this trip, however, because I REALLY want to get started on Al Capone Does My Shirts while we're still in this week's Alcatraz unit. The kids' grandparents Skyped them last night and told them that they'd already gotten tickets for their Alcatraz tour this summer!

THURSDAY: Before we pick back up with our Earth science textbook, I want to spend one more lesson talking about crystal structure. We have several Petri dishes of crystals that we started growing last week that we can examine, and I'll be printing out these paper models for the kids to construct. The textbook that we're using is for upper middle school, but I've found that it works for us as long as I'm careful to also talk through the topics and add in lots more hands-on activities. After this extra enrichment on crystals, we'll be ready to pick back up with the textbook next week.

I should probably be doing the same for the NaNoWriMo Young Writer's Workbook, but honestly, the only reason that I chose that particular writing curriculum is that I need *something* that's grab-and-go for a change. The kids would probably enjoy it more if I put more effort into making sure that they did, but they're carrying on, regardless, and if necessary I can remember that our next writing curriculum needs to be more teacher-engaged. Sigh...

The kids' Math Mammoth is also meant to be grab-and-go, but even when the kids are happily zooming through a particular unit, as they are right now, I simply will not shake my deep conviction that math should be hands-on. It should be sensorial. It should be something whose processes you understand, not simply something whose rules of calculation you follow. Last week, when Will began exponents, I showed her how cool square and cubed numbers are (they MAKE squares and cubes!), and so on this day, the kids will be working with some square number models that Matt created for me in Adobe InDesign. It's going to be really, really awesome.

FRIDAY: It took a lot longer for the kids to administer their poll than I thought that it would, but finally, this Friday they should be ready to compile and evaluate the results. I think that they're going to discover some really interesting things about how polls work and what they are--and are NOT--able to tell us.

Our Alcatraz unit is less involved than some of our other California units, as I mostly just want the children to know its history so that they get more out of their trip. To that end, I'll be having them read an informative article on the history of Alcatraz, written for their age range, and then answer some reading comprehension questions from the article. It will be good practice in reading non-fiction in order to learn specific facts, something that most people do multiple times a day. At some point this week, Matt, who's our resident history buff, is also going to give us all a lecture on the history of Alcatraz; his lectures are always a big hit, and always inspire the kids to ask great questions and participate in some really great discussions.

I feel a little guilty about focusing so much on Syd's Girl Scout badges lately, as she already has earned more badges than Will, but the fact is that Syd's Junior Animal Habitats badge is an excellent cross-curricular unit study on biomes, animal biology, and the environment, and it's worth spending the time on. Last week, the kids watched several BrainPop videos about biomes and then did an animal sort, and on this day I plan to have them focus on one single biome each, researching it and creating an informative brochure on it. Perhaps we'll get it printed when they're done!

SATURDAY/SUNDAY: Lots of ballet! A student-choreographed modern dance recital at our local university, one that has proven year after year to be VERY weird! I've dropped art as a weekly lesson, because Matt has taken up the task of giving the kids an art lesson every weekend, so there's that. I'm also attempting to create some kind of LARP Alcatraz game, perhaps something with Matt and I as guards and the children as prisoners who have to escape, and hijinks ensue, and that will hopefully happen this weekend.

Stay tuned!


Tina said...

I really want to come hang out at your house for a week. You guys do fun stuff!

While it's not really a "teaching" site, the Art Hub for Kids youtube page has some great drawing videos that are super easy to follow. The guy who runs the channel always does the drawings with one of his kids. I believe he even has some minecraft stuff.

Right now our "structured" schooling consists of Teaching Textbooks math, piano, and horse lessons. It's about all we can handle while trying to get the house and the yard how we want them.

julie said...

Do you like Teaching Textbooks pretty well? I know a few people online who use it, but nobody in person, which means that I can't actually get my hands on them to look at!

Tina said...

Emma does really enjoy the lessons. I had read that it's a little "behind" what the actual grade level should be learning, but I didn't really care about that. We can mail you the first disc if you wanted to try it out. We have the Math 4 Set. We haven't done much with the workbook that came with it, so we can send that as well if you are interested. That is, if we can find the workbook.