Friday, June 29, 2012

Uranus & Neptune: the last of the gaseous planets

This lesson, from Exploring Creation with Astronomy by Jeannie Fulbright, was pretty short, but I found it quite interesting, mostly because of the history involved. I love history, and I found the story surrounding the discovery of Uranus by Sir William Herschel and his sister, Caroline, in 1781 to be the best part of the lesson. In the spirit of discovery, the kids "created" their own planet using a styrofoam ball and paint. Miss Bear loved painting. She was sad when her planet was finished. Soon, these will hang in their bedroom.

Skipper's, Critter's, Miss Bear's

We also did the book's experiments, creating clouds, using hot water, ice, and a lit match. This was a simple experiment, but Skipper was really excited to do it.

Hands-On with Saturn

The boys and I have finished with our Astronomy study, using Exploring Creation with Astronomy by Jeannie Fulbright, but I am a handful of lessons behind in posting! Don't be surprised to see a rash of space-related posts pop up!

For Saturn, I pretty much ran out of steam. We read the lesson in the book, worked on Skipper's lapbook and Critter's notebook, and wrapped up with some simple hands-on activities.

First, the kids created a flip book all about Saturn's rings. I think Critter liked this the most, and it is something I can add to their books.

We also headed online to learn about the Cassini Solstice Mission, which was sent recently to study Saturn and its moons. The site has beautiful pictures, as well as a bunch of information about the mission, the spacecraft, and more. I thought it was neat.

To finish up, we attempted to make rockets using a soda bottle and lemon juice. With my husband's help, we used 20 oz pop bottle, but the reaction was much too quick and the resulting "rocket" was a bit disappointing. My husband thinks we need to use a larger bottle so he wants to redo the experiment - and isn't that what experimentation is all about?

One last idea I pondered, but did not do was to create a 3D model of Saturn.

That's all for now, until I come back with the last of the gaseous planets.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Our School Year in Review

Oh, boy, do I have so many school-related posts to get up here! I have been so, so, so busy with the move, that I have very little energy to focus on the blog-o-sphere. But I sure do want to post our homeschool year in review before it is time to start another year! This post is mostly for me, but it may help fellow homeschoolers out there.

First off, for pre-k for Critter... My plans changed greatly over the year, especially post-baby. I started off over-planning, which is very typical of me, even after trimming down my plans originally. I was using material from Catholic Heritage Curricula, alphabet activities from Confessions of a Homeschooler, and various other pieces and parts. In the end, what worked for us?


Most of this was just our everyday kind of thing - prayer, going to Mass, feast day celebrations, etc. I do have a little kids daily devotional which I love - the Blessings Every Day book pictured, and I also have the kids start a prayer journal at some point (once they can cut/glue). I simply give them an empty book and a picture of a prayer they are learning to put in it. Once memorized, they can glue in another to work on. For instance, the very first prayer is the Sign of the Cross so I print off an image of that, along with the prayer title and words of the prayer. The child then glues it into the book, and learns it, and then goes to another prayer. My boys liked taking their prayer books to bed to read before bed, but that was when we allowed them to have a bedside light - but not more as they would not sleep! Still, they both really like this journal, simple as it is.

The 3 R's

Outside of our faith, with little ones, I focus on the 3 R's (reading, 'riting, and 'rithmetic) in a very casual way. The biggest hit with Critter was using Handwriting Without Tears (pre-k), Hooked on Phonics (pre-k), (we have a subscription to More Starfall and it is worth it!), and the Jane Belk Moncure letter books. He also had fun creating letter crafts using foam pieces and googly eyes, but we have half the alphabet to catch up on. This was my fault, not his, in carrying out the craft idea through the year. Finally, he did participate in the Patriotic Alphabet Parade through a local co-op, which was a lot of fun. Throughout, he did various letter activities, mostly related to the United States of America.

Our flops - or really, items I wasted money on... CHC pre-k number and letter books (too repetitive since he liked Handwriting without Tears more). Printing and laminating a lot of items from Confessions of a Homeschooler. I can blame spring fever/pregnancy on this one, but yikes, all that work! That definitely taught me yet again that I overplan and need to have a loose plan in place, not set in stone! However, we did use some of the activities for the letters if they looked like fun. He did enjoy the letter hunt pages (a silly story and he had to circle the appropriate letter he was studying).

Next year, Critter heads into Kindergarten, and is really looking forward to putting the puzzle together and learning how to read!


Up next, Skipper, who finished off first grade this past year. All I have to say is, wow, the change from last fall to the end of spring... amazing. I definitely changed up his curriculum quite a bit through the year. After having such a great kindergarten year using Catholic Heritage Curricula, I really wanted to like their first grade one, but it was not to be. And here's why...


The little readers from CHC are fun to do, and my son enjoyed them. However, I felt they went too fast from phonics to "those weird English words," so I supplemented with Hooked on Phonics, at the kindergarten level, to help my son gain fluency and confidence. I would throw in a CHC reader from time to time or a library book that I felt he could read the majority of words. By April, Skipper was finished with Hooked on Phonics, first grade, and at his assessment, was reading at a 4th or 5th grade level! Now, that does not mean he likes to curl up with a good book, but he can read when he wants to. Another great little reader find that my son thinks is hilarious is the Now I'm Reading books, which are cute, though the binder the books come in is very flimsy and will not stand up to multiple children. Still, I plan on purchasing more of these to add as Critter learns to read as he found them fun to flip through as well.

This is one of the subjects that Skipper struggles with. The first half of the year he used the CHC book for first grade. When it appeared he had continued trouble using the lines correctly, I tried a variety of different paper types and had him do copywork, but what eventually worked the best was going back to Handwriting without Tears, first grade. His assessor said that would have been her recommendation had we not already done the switch.


CHC's spelling book was not the best format for Skipper so I will be playing around with that this coming year. The book itself was fine with little activities to do for a short spelling list, but it did not stick with Skipper. Grammar was kind of a hit and miss thing as it came up. Mad Libs were fun for some grammar work.


CHC uses Modern Curriculum Press, which worked just fine for kindergarten. But Skipper really struggled with math this year. I am sure it is not 100% the book's fault. I had to bring in a ton of hands-on supplementation, my husband, and just breaking from math now and then throughout the year. He made slow progression but he is still at first grade level math. The book itself is simple for the teacher to follow, it has a lot of practice, and the pages are simple (not colorful or overfull, which is helpful for us). I did find he enjoyed the word problems the best, but *freaked* out a little when he had to do a page of problems. He felt a little overwhelmed.


CHC's was boring - For us, for first grade... It would have been fun at the pre-k or kindergarten level, but my son (and I) had studied the weather, plants, etc. a lot prior to this year. We switched to Apologia's Exploring Creation with Astronomy and loved it. We read the textbook (very kid friendly), library books, created a lapbook, and did hands-on activities. This is definitely a keeper and we're sticking with the program, though I'm nixing lapbooks until they can better help with the cutting and putting together!


I did not plan too much for this, since I was due to have a baby mid-year and it was Skipper's first grade year. Instead, he participated in a U.S. state study co-op, which he loved and had a fun time with. We created a scrapbook at home, which was a lesson in itself (for me, on what not to do!).


Again, like Critter, he participated in the everyday life of practicing our Catholic faith. We also started going over his catechism using the New Saint Joseph First Communion Catechism and we did lessons out of the Faith and Life series for first grade.

Skipper is definitely looking forward to second grade, and is most excited to study history, science, and to start karate. But more on the upcoming year shortly, especially since our little summer "break" is nearly over!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

How old are you?

This many?

No wait, this many!

My little girl turned 3 yesterday and had a blast! 
Happy birthday, Miss Bear!