Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Spanish Immersion

I probably should have written this post a couple of months ago, before details could start fading from my mind. This past February, The Kid and I took off for an adventure - four weeks in a foreign country, just the two of us.

We started out by flying into Guatemala City. We were met there by a driver who had been arranged in advance for the ride to San Pedro La Laguna on Lake Atitlan. The ride was supposed to take three hours but somehow ended up taking five and we arrived well after dark. Fortunately, The Kid was work out from a day of traveling and slept at least half the drive. We were brought to the homestay we would be living in for the following three weeks. We briefly met some of the members of the household, then went to sleep.

For three weeks, I walked to a Spanish language school for four hours in the morning. A few minutes before arriving at my school, I would drop off The Kid (who was 4 years old at the time) at a small local preschool. The preschool was Spanish immersion for The Kid simply by way of no one there speaking any other language. After school I would pick her up and we would do the walk up the ridiculously steep hill to the homestay.

After a couple days of preschool, The Kid was expressing a lot of frustration. She already knew the basics in Spanish, but the rapid speaking pace and not being able to switch to English was taking its toll. This was when I realized that the survival skills that came more naturally to me had to be explicitly explained to her. When she didn't know how to say something well in Spanish, she didn't even know where to start. If she wanted to play on the slide, but didn't know the word for slide, I taught her that she could point, refer to its color, and use me gusta (I like) or quiero (I want). To this day, The Kid swears she learned no Spanish at the preschool because there was no direct Spanish instruction. But by the end of the three weeks of homestay and preschool, she was regularly correcting me and supplying me with vocabulary.

There were a couple things I hadn't taken into consideration before going. The first one to become apparent was a difference in safety standards. The bathroom in the homestay was up a set of stairs - very steep, uneven, stone stairs with no railing. Those stairs made me nervous, but for The Kid they were simply impossible. We quickly came up with her being able to walk up them but needing to go down by sitting on them and scooting down on her butt - something she hadn't done since she was a year old at home. There are no sidewalks, no shoulder to the roads, and drivers are... unpredictable.



But worst of all for The Kid was the lack of parks - there was one teeny playground, but no green spaces. No where other than stone floors or the street to practice cartwheels. Technically, there was a "park" in front of the church, but the actual green spaces were all roped off to keep them pretty and people were only allowed on the stone paths. There were none of the child-friendly spaces that we are so accustomed to at home - no children's museum, no library, no public pools. Our afternoons consisted of taking a walk to get ice cream or go to a restaurant for an afternoon snack and maybe a bit of wifi. We could watch the boats on the lake, but the lake was not really safe for swimming. The area was very polluted in general and The Kid developed a cough she couldn't fully shake until we left San Pedro.

The homestay was fantastic. They were helpful, they all doted on The Kid, they patiently helped us along with our Spanish. Maria was a great cook. The Kid is an adventurous eater and found a lot of new foods to enjoy (and a few she didn't care for so much). Really, the people in general for fantastic. The teachers were very helpful. Random strangers on the street would stop to talk. The people made this trip fantastic.

For the next part of the trip, we took a shuttle van to the airport and flew to Flores. Flores is a really neat little town in the middle of a lake. It's a bit more touristy, and therefore somewhat less good for immersion because many people would just switch to English when they heard me struggling along in Spanish. But the lake was clean and easily swimmable, the weather was a bit warmer, there was a bit more to see and do... Unfortunately for us, The Kid took sick the last day in San Pedro and was pretty worn out, so we were limited. But we enjoyed what we could.

Then another shuttle van to Tikal. We stayed in a hotel just outside the ruins. The first day we took a guided tour and then the next two days we just paid our entrance fee and hiked around. Tikal is a fantastic Mayan ruin site situated in a tropical forest. Climbing one of the temples was a highlight of the entire trip for The Kid - you could see the entirety of the Gran Plaza from up there!

The Kid just reminded me: Though Lake Atitlan is high elevation with no malaria risk, Tikal was lowland tropical forest. There were definitely mosquitos! And the malaria risk meant she had to swallow malaria pills; this was the first she had ever had pills that needed swallowed. It was a bit of a trick to get them down at first.

After Tikal, we returned to Flores for one night and caught an early shuttle to Belize City - five hours in a van with the oddest border crossing setup I've ever seen. In Belize City, we met up with The Husband in the airport, took a short hop over to Ambergris Caye, and enjoyed a week of fun and sun.

I love travel - getting to stay in a place long enough to get to know it. This trip was successful enough that we're planning to do a similar one next year.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

BFSU: Time and Maps Unit

Resources: Magic School Bus episodes, just for fun

Lesson 1: BFSU D-2: Day and Night and the Earth’s Rotation
Lesson 2: BFSU D-3: Read and Draw Maps, part 1
Lesson 3: BFSU D-3: Read and Draw Maps, part 2
Lesson 4: Magic School Bus Sees Stars
Lesson 5: BFSU D-3A: North, South, East, and West, part 1
Lesson 6: BFSU D-3A: North, South, East, and West, part 2
Lesson 7: Magic School Bus Gets Lost in Space
Lesson 8: BFSU D-5: Time and the Earth’s Turning, part 1
Lesson 9: BFSU D-5: Time and the Earth’s Turning, part 2
Lesson 10: BFSU D-6 Seasonal Changes and the Earth’s Orbit
Lesson 11: parent-drawn "treasure map" of house or yard marking the location of a small hidden prize to be found by reading the map

This post is part of my series on using BFSU as a science unit study.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Homeschooling Budget

This question comes up with a lot of new homeschoolers: How much does it cost to homeschool? I'll start by admitting that I find the question confusing. I mean, I understand all the words, but the answer is dependent on so many factors. The easiest was to answer this would be to research curriculum and other resources, choose what you would want, and then add up the total.

But I've decided to list out my budgeting here, just as one example. These are projections for first grade; I've used my resource list from last week to help show costs.

Language Arts - $711
$150 Michael Clay Thompson Island Level - Teacher Manuals only, plus Mud trilogy
$40   BraveWriter Jot It Down
$0     BraveWriter-style Poetry Teas - we'd be eating the food and drinking the drinks anyway
$0     Participate in NaNoWriMo
$13   Suppose the Wolf Were An Octopus
$500 Literature List - maybe a bit more, maybe a bit less
$0     New American Cursive handwriting - bought for kindergarten
$0     StartWrite software - bought with previous year's budget
$8     Rummy Roots - bought used

Math - $242
$170 RightStart Math (Level C and part of D)
$0     Time-Life I Love Math series - bought with previous year's budget
$0      Penrose the Mathematical Cat - bought with previous year's budget
$12    Singapore Challenging Word Problems 1 (and maybe 2)
$0      Highlights MathMania magazines - bought with previous year's budget
$40    Sir Cumference books - we already have a few, this will buy the remainder
$20    Zaccaro Primary Grade Challenge Math
$0      Variety of living math books from the library

Science - $610
$0     Building Foundations of Scientific Understanding - multi-year curric, purchased last year
$0     Lego Education Basic Structures - bought with previous year's budget
$0     Lego Education Early Simple Machines - bought with previous year's budget
$0     Snap Circuits - bought with previous year's budget
$0     Zometool - bought with previous year's budget
$0     The Private Eye - bought with previous year's budget
$30   Happy Scientist videos
$0     Carson Zorb Microscope - bought with previous year's budget
$20   Caterpillar-to-Butterfly Kit
$35   Thames and Kosmos Crystal Kit
$25   Rock On! Geology Game
$125 ASK Rocks and Minerals Kit
$125 ASK Seeds Kit

$0     Kids Discover magazines - bought with previous year's budget
$0     Click magazine - gift subscription from relative

$0     Magic School Bus episodes - part of Netflix subscription, priced below
$0     Blood and Guts by Linda Allison - already on our shelves
$250 Memberships to local children's science museum and zoo

History - $300
$200 Mom-constructed Ancient History - approximate cost for non-library books and project materials
$100 Netflix subscription - used for multiple classes, just listing it her, we would not have this if not for homeschooling

Spanish - $175
$0     Salsa Spanish
$125 Scholastic Spanish books
$0     DuoLingo
$0     Spanish-language shows on YouTube
$0     Spanish music by Jose-Luis Orozco - already own this
$50   I have Spanish for Children and may or may not decide to use it - bought used
Tentative plans for an immersion trip to Honduras in February/March 2016 - we have a separate travel budget for this

Art - $20
$20    Art Tango Kindergarten level - curriculum free, we owned most of the supplies alrady
$0      Usborne Big Drawing Book - already own this

Music - $806 plus an instrument
$6     Music Theory Made Easy
$0     Finish Story of the Orchestra - already own it
$800+ "Meet the Instruments" lessons followed by instrument lessons in her choice of instrument - this is the cost of the lessons, plus the cost of whatever instrument she chooses
We might choose to add SQUILT

Typing - $10
$10    Keyboarding Without Tears

Physical Education - $800
$200   Gymnastics Lessons
$300   Dance Lessons
$300   Various sports seasons

GRAND TOTAL: $3674

Actually, that's not as bad as I thought. Still less than half the cost of the private school we might otherwise enroll her in, and if she went there she wouldn't have the time for gymnastics, dance, instrument lessons, and travel. And definitely helped by the fact that we spent about the same last year, front-loading costs of things like fun science toys.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

First Grade Curriculum and Resources

Last week, I posted our kindergarten wrap-up. We school year round (or at least take our breaks differently than the norm), so this is the first week of first grade! As seems to happen, I have more resources than I know how to fit in. It looks like a crazy amount, in part because we set our "school days" to be under 2 hours per day and then fill our lives with much educational enrichment.

Language Arts (5 days per week for 30-45 minutes)
Michael Clay Thompson Island Level - our planned path through this
BraveWriter Jot It Down
BraveWriter-style Poetry Teas
Participate in NaNoWriMo
Suppose the Wolf Were An Octopus
Literature List
New American Cursive handwriting (continue book 1, then move to copywork in cursive)
StartWrite software for additional handwriting practice, copywork
Rummy Roots

Math (3 days per week are RightStart, 2 days are other items from this list, 20-30 minutes per day)
RightStart Math (Level C and part of D)
Time-Life I Love Math series
Penrose the Mathematical Cat
Singapore Challenging Word Problems 1 (and maybe 2)
Highlights MathMania magazines
Sir Cumference books
Zaccaro Primary Grade Challenge Math
Variety of living math books from the library

Science (1 day per week of BFSU, the rest gets pulled out fairly regularly)
Building Foundations of Scientific Understanding - details on our path
Lego Education Basic Structures
Lego Education Early Simple Machines
Snap Circuits
Zometool
The Private Eye
Happy Scientist videos
Carson Zorb Microscope
Caterpillar-to-Butterfly Kit
Thames and Kosmos Crystal Kit
Rock On! Geology Game
ASK Rocks and Minerals Kit
ASK Seeds Kit (might save this for 2nd grade)
Kids Discover magazines
Click magazine  (might switch to Ask partway through year. Or not.)
Magic School Bus episodes
Blood and Guts by Linda Allison
Memberships to local children's science museum and zoo

History (1 day per week scheduled, the rest as desired)
Mom-constructed Ancient History

Spanish (5 days per week for 20 minutes)
Salsa Spanish
Scholastic Spanish books
DuoLingo
Spanish-language shows on YouTube
Spanish music by Jose-Luis Orozco
I have Spanish for Children and may or may not decide to use it
Tentative plans for an immersion trip to Honduras in February/March 2016

Art (1 day per week for 15 minutes)
Art Tango Kindergarten level
Usborne Big Drawing Book
The Private Eye (also listed under science)

Music (1 day per week for 20 minutes, daily instrument practice once she chooses an instrument)
Music Theory Made Easy (finish book 1, move onto 2)
Finish Story of the Orchestra
"Meet the Instruments" lessons followed by instrument lessons in her choice of instrument
We might choose to add SQUILT

Typing (1 day per week for 10 minutes required, more as desired)
Keyboarding Without Tears

We are taking the summer off from most lessons. Starting in the fall, she will have instrument lessons, seasonal sports, and up to two other lessons of her choice (I'd guess dance/gymnastics).

Thursday, May 21, 2015

First Grade Literature List

Poetry to add to our shelves and use during poetry tea times:

Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening by Robert Frost, illustrated by Susan Jeffers
Child's Book of Poems by Gyo Fujikawa
Paul Revere's Ride by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
My Parents Think I'm Sleeping by Jack Prelutsky
New Kid on the Block by Jack Prelutsky
Pizza the Size of the Sun by Jack Prelutsky
Something Big Has Been Here by Jack Prelutsky
Light in the Attic by Shel Silverstein

Books to read aloud, enjoy together, and discuss during school reading time:

Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People's Ears by Verna Aardema
How the Leopard Got His Claws by Chinua Achebe
Ugly Duckling by Hans Christian Anderson
Emperor's New Clothes by Hans Christian Anderson
The Sorcerer's Apprentice by Mary Jane Begin

Snow White by the Brothers Grimm, illustrated by Charles Santore

Story of Babar by Jean de Brunhoff


Day's Work by Eve Bunting
Pop's Bridge by Eve Bunting

SOS File by Betsy Byars, Betsy Duffey, and Laurie Myers
Story of Ruby Bridges by Robert Coles
Sleeping Beauty by Mahlon F. Craft


Strega Nona's Magic Lessons by Tomie de Paola
Big Anthony and the Magic Ring by Tomie de Paola
Jamie O'Rourke and the Big Potato by Tomie de Paola
Jamie O'Rourke and the Pooka by Tomie de Paola
Legend of Old Befana by Tomie de Paola
Legend of the Poinsettia by Tomie de Paola
Legend of the Bluebonnet by Tomie de Paola
Room on the Broom by Julia Donaldson

Stone Fox by John R. Gardiner

The Wolf Who Cried Boy by Bob Hartman
Saint George and the Dragon by Margaret Hodges
Little Red Riding Hood by Trina Schart Hyman
Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson


Jack and the Beanstalk by Steven Kellogg
Johnny Appleseed by Steven Kellogg


The Stray by Dick King-Smith

The Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf
Hansel and Gretel by Rika Lesser, illustrated by Paul O. Zelinsky
Henry's Freedom Box by Ellen Levine
Micawber by John Lithgow

King and the Seed by Eric Maddern
Erandi's Braids by Antonio Hernandez Madrigal

The Princess and Curdie by George McDonald
Six Men by David McKee

Pied Piper of Hamelin by Michael Morpurgo
Tikki Tikki Tembo by Arlene Mosel
Three Questions by Jon J. Muth
Complete Book of Dragons by E. Nesbit
Raising Dragons by Jerdine Nolen
If You Give a Mouse a Cookie by Laura Numeroff
Cinderella by Charles Perrault
Puss in Boots by Charles Perrault


Aunt Minnie McGranahan by Mary Skillings Prigger
Apple-Pip Princess by Jane Ray

The True Story of the Three Little Pigs by Jon Scieszka
The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales by Jon Scieszka
Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
Brave Irene by William Steig
Sylvester and the Magic Pebble by William Steig
Many Moons by James Thurber
Jumanji by Chris Van Allsburg
Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst
Biggest Bear by Lynd Ward
Silver Pony by Lynd Ward
The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams
Watcher: Jane Goodall's Life With Chimps by Jeanette Winter
Owl Moon by Jane Yolen
Rumpelstiltskin by Paul O. Zelinsky
Rapunzel by Paul O. Zelinsky

Books for family read aloud time:

Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie
Tumtum and Nutmeg: The Rose Cottage Tales by Emily Bearn
Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
Ralph S. Mouse by Beverly Cleary (we read the first two in the series last year)
Ramona and Her Father by Beverly Cleary
Ramona the Brave by Beverly Cleary
Henry and Ribsy by Beverly Cleary
Robin Hood retold by Paul Cresswick
The Magic Finger by Roald Dahl
The Giraffe, the Pelly, and Me by Roald Dahl
The Enormous Crocodile by Roald Dahl
Fantastic Mr. Fox by Roald Dahl
The Twits by Roald Dahl
The Tale of Desperaux by Kate DiCamillo
The Littles by John Peterson
Aesop's Fables by Jerry Pinkney
Encyclopedia Mythologica: Fairies and Magical Creatures by Matthew Reinhart and Robert Sabuda
Dragons and Knights by Robert Sabuda
The Little Mermaid by Robert Sabuda
Cricket in Times Square by George Selden
Chocolate Fever by Robert K. Smith
All-of-a-Kind Family by Sydney Taylor

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Kindergarten Wrap Up

We are finishing up kindergarten this week and it's time for some reflections on what has worked well for us and what hasn't.

The Good:
  1. Grammar: I finally decided to ignore the age recommendations and we used Grammar Island from Michael Clay Thompson. The Kid loved this! She learned quickly and has so much more fun with Mad Libs now that we don't have to review each part of speech for each and every blank! She liked it so much I went ahead and bought the rest of Island Level and we'll be using that as our main Language Arts program for first grade.
  2. Spanish Immersion: We spent four weeks in Guatemala. Three of those weeks were in a host home while I attended Spanish language classes and The Kid attended a local Spanish-only preschool. I'm pretty sure we each learned more Spanish during that time than we had in all our previous studies put together. We're already planning our next immersion trip!
  3. Unit studies for science: It was hard for me to wrap my head around the flowcharts in BFSU until I finally realized that I could break it all up into units. The Kid would especially list all the science kits and hands-on we've done as the "good part" of science.
  4. Our prehistory year: The Kid has never been really into dinosaurs, which were covered extensively this year. After this, though, she chose a dino-themed week of summer camp to attend - she is that excited about the topic! I learned that The Kid can tell me all sorts of things she has learned from the books and documentaries, while barely even remembering that we did any activities. Go figure. I've started some book-and-documentary-focused Ancient history with her since.
The Bad:
  1. All the rest of Spanish: This year alone, we've tried and discarded Risas y Sonrisas (a total disaster), DuoLingo (moved too fast), Song School Spanish (too basic - we finished it but she didn't learn much), and The Fun Spanish (no real practice and not very fun). Is a progressive foreign language course that starts at kindy and goes up through mastery really too much to ask?
  2. Spelling: Too tedious for her age and/or level of patience. We'll revisit in the future if we need it.
  3. Handwriting: sigh. I know The Kid is a young student. Her handwriting is probably now on par for her age, whereas her fine motor skills were delayed to start the year. But we're still nowhere near being able to do copywork and dictation to start first grade.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Access to Art

I just looked and found I have only one post regarding art on my blog. How can this be? Art is so constant around here it is like breathing! Oh, wait, that's why I don't have any posts on it - my posts tend to be about things I plan, not things that just happen. So this is the first post in what I plan to be two or three posts on integrating art into your child's experience.

I'll start with access to art and the setup of The Kid's art space. Any desk will do, though I certainly prefer child-height desks. Ours is from the Elfa line at Ikea. Because it is height-adjustable, it can grow with her.



The majority of her art materials are easily within reach. Below the desk is a paper organizer that holds construction paper, copy paper, writing paper, and some coloring books. On top of the paper organizer is play dough and play dough cutters/rollers, a small potholder weaving loom, stapler, tape dispenser, hole puncher, crayons, glitter glue, and pens. Over to the side are larger painting papers and a pitcher of chenille sticks. On top of the desk is a pencil sharpener, large crayon caddy, and the "parts cabinet". On top of the parts cabinet are stencils and a drawing book.



The parts cabinet is a wonderful idea that I snagged from somewhere. (I've seen it several places, no idea where first!) You can pick these up in any hardware store. In our small drawers are a wide variety of stickers, special crayons, pom poms, googly eyes, sequins, and other bits. The larger drawers contain glue, markers, big foam stickers, chalks, fabric scraps. The variety is what is so wonderful about these. There is no need to fill the drawers up to the brim, just put enough out to catch attention.

Which brings me to conservation of materials. The Kid has completely free access to this desk and the things on it. If I want to limit something, I simply don't put it all out. Yes, she asks for more when she runs out and I tell her I'll get around to it later and she has plenty of other options for now. I refill when I get around to it, rarely immediately, rarely even on the same day. I believe it encourages exploration of other materials to wait just a bit to refill a drawer.

As for what is NOT on the desk: paints, glitter, ink pads for stamps, and charcoals. I withhold these items to save my sanity. I will get out the stamps, paints, or charcoals by request; I simply want to know when they are being used so I can supervise/run interference regarding the cleanup. And a very special note on glitter - if she wants to add sparkle, she has glitter glue, glitter markers, and sequins. While I know parents who allow free use of glitter, loose glitter is for outdoor projects only in my household. I used it once inside in the last house I lived in and I was still finding it during our move-out cleaning!