Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Reading List for My 7 Year Old

I didn't do a Literature List this year like I have in past years. I'm choosing not to assign literature, and The Kid is more inclined to choose her own books than read whatever I put in her library bin at this point. But that certainly doesn't mean we didn't read! We had a lot of reading with the Cultural Geography study, we continued to have family read aloud time every night (though we switched to mainly using audiobooks for this), and we listened to audiobooks in the car. So, at the end of the year instead of the beginning, here's the summary:

The entire Harry Potter series. Yes, the whole thing. It was immense and it took months. But The Kid is now fully obsessed with HP.

We read both Ramona Forever and Ramona's World this year, finishing up the entire Ramona series.

We also worked on finishing up a full tour of Roald Dahl's fiction this year, a project we started a few years back with The Minpins. I think The Witches is one of the scariest of Dahl's books, and we therefore left it to near the end. DD loved it, though - the visual language in this book is wonderful! And the little boy and his grandmother teaming up so well to work against the witches is fantastic.

I don't know how this one of Dahl's got left so late! It may be my favorite of the whole bunch. A brilliant little girl with horrendous parents, who eventually finds her way with the help of a lovely librarian and a supportive teacher. Plus, a little bit of magic, which always helps.

This was an amazing and imaginative story about a girl who was fed a bit too much moonlight as a baby, making her powerfully magical, and the witch, swamp monster, and Perfectly Tiny Dragon who raise her. It's a coming-of-age tale, written for middle grades but appropriate for younger readers who are ready for the themes typical of fantasy books, including grave danger and death. Winner of the 2017 Newbery Medal.

Middle grades book that is appropriate for younger readers who are okay exploring the theme of loss. Newbery Honor Book.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Cultural Geography: South-eastern Asia

Family Read Aloud:
  • Noodle Pie by Ruth Starkes – Andy is an Australian who is traveling with his father to meet his Vietnamese family for the first time. The culture shock and adjustment to their way of life is a major theme in the book, as well as many details of day-to-day Vietnamese life.

Free Reading Books:

  •  Pan de Sal Saves the Day – Pan de Sal is afraid for the kids to see the food she brings to lunch because it is different from theirs. Later, she saves the day by sharing her culture with others.
  • Project Seahorse by Pamela S. Turner – part of the Scientists in the Field series
  • Emi and the Rhino Scientist by Mary Kay Carlson – part of the Scientists in the Field series


  • Multicultural Cookbook for Students 73-74, 82-85, 92-97, 104-106, 110-114
  • Go out to a Vietnamese, Thai, or Laotian restaurant

Introduction to Southeast Asia
  • How People Live 232-233
  • Tooth on the Roof 17-18
  • One World, Many Religions 49-62
Indonesia and Malaysia     
  • How People Live 262-263
  • Librarian is a Camel 16-17
  • How People Live 258-259
  • Children Just Like Me 71
  • School Like Mine 72-73 
  • How People Live 260-261
  •  Hungry Planet 234-241 
  • Children Just Like Me 72-73
  • Material World 88-95
  • How People Live 256-257
  • Librarian is a Camel 28-29
  • Material World 80-87
 Thailand, continued
  •  Children Just Like Me 70
  • Women in the Material World 228-239

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Planning, Then Throwing It All Out

I’ve been deciding what we’ll do next year. Much of it isn’t difficult, as I’ve leaned more and more unschooly, which means I have to do a lot in the moment, but far less planning. Too bad, really, because planning is a strength of mine.

Except maybe not with this kid. 

She teaches herself. Which is awesome. Really. 

By that, I don’t just mean that she reads the book, answers the questions, and doesn’t need me. I mean she thinks about a concept, comes to logical conclusions, then thinks about that conclusion and thinks about logical conclusions, and so on.

Recently, she was thinking about fractions. Half of 4 is 2. That’s easy. Half of 7 is 3 ½. Also easy. This seems to mean that she can write any number as X/2 and then simplify. Is the same true of other unit factions? Yes. Is the same true of other non-unit fractions? Try out several problems and… yes. Cool, figured that out. How about division? I don’t know exactly how she made the leap here, but she did. Somehow, she knew how to divide fractions without ever having seen it or having been told it. 

And she was correct.

We already use Beast Academy, which is the most difficult curriculum I can find for elementary. And then we hit five chapters in a row with material she had already self-taught. Half a year’s worth of material! I tried to just have her do the starred/challenging questions. She did them. Half a chapter in half an hour, and she thought they were boring and not challenging. 

While figuring out how to move on, I’m readjusting my plans. 

Giftedness doesn’t mean more. It doesn’t mean faster. It doesn’t mean… well, a lot of things. It means different. And I’m finding that even parents of other gifted kids aren’t always the most helpful in navigating these waters.

Onwards, upwards, outwards, and beyond, and all plans be damned!

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

In Defense of "Too Much Curricula"

I see it all the time - people asking "here's my plan, is it too much?" And, inevitable, many of the answers are a resounding yes. I often disagree, as I think it's the attitude toward schoolwork and education that needs evaluated, not the pile of curricula.

Anyone who has read my yearly resource posts will know that we have a lot of educational materials around here. They fill shelves. Several of them. And they aren't all on the school shelves - they're on my daughter's own bookshelves, they're on the game shelves, they're on the toy shelves...

And that's great for us! We love variety. When I say that I am going to do two language arts programs plus a pile of supplements, a science program plus multiple science units plus xyz else in science, I don't mean that we're using each one of those things every day! Or every week. Or even every month. As a general rule, I don't care when (or, sometimes, if) we finish whatever our "curriculum" is. Sometimes a resource will stay on the shelf for a year or two and then it suddenly fits perfectly with what we want to accomplish. Sometimes we're bored and burnt out (hello, winter!) and want to do something different. Sometimes I see others complaining about how they're dragging through lessons in order to get to the next break, and I'm reaching for something we haven't used in a while and pulling it off the shelf to rejuvenate us.

I love having these options!

This isn't even all the math we're using this year!

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

7 Year Old Resources (Second Grade, Take Two!)

It's halfway through the year and I never did post this year's annual school resources post. As I posted earlier, I have no idea what grade to call her, but officially this will be second grade with an independent public charter school. This is the grand list of everything I plan to pull off the shelf at some time this year.

Language Arts
  • Michael Clay Thompson Town level - we completed much of this level last year, but not the writing assignments or the poetry book. We'll go back through this year, filling in what we left out previously.
  • Brave Writer - we always use bits and pieces of the lifestyle (especially poetry teas!). I also have Partnership Writing and a few Arrows in waiting.
  • NaNoWriMo - The Kid is already excited and planning to write a sequel to a book she wrote two years ago. We'll spend most of October on the workbook before she does the writing in November.
  • Editor in Chief grades 3-4 - The Kid is working through this workbook to clean up a few odds and ends that we may have missed along the way.
  • Homemade copywork plus calligraphy/creative lettering books - her handwriting has really been catching up this year. By the end of the year, we may be able to start transitioning to less copywork and into some dictation.
  • Vocabulary Cartoons - these are fun! I had the spine cut off so that I can hang up one word per day, and they really do seem to stick in her head. This is a great option between levels of Caesar's English.
  • Burning Cargo - this is a game-ified typing program that has really worked to improve her fluency.
  • Beast Academy - our core. Just starting 4th grade, but will also do the 2nd grade books as they come out.
  • Zaccaro's Primary Grade Challenge Math - The Kid has done bits and pieces of this book, which I expect to complete this year.
  • Math Kangaroo - DD has decided she would like to compete in Math Kangaroo next spring. To that end, we'll practice using some old tests and a prep book from Borac.
  • Hands on Equations
  • Math Projects - I found this nifty book on Amazon and it should work to add some more hands-on ideas into our math time
  • Kumon 4th grade math workbooks - these have been useful for practicing algorithms after The Kid learns the theory from Beast Academy.
  • Math-y books - I Hate Mathematics!, Math for Smarty Pants, Murderous Maths, Sir Cumference
Science will be fully interest-based.
  • Athens's Academy Marine Mammals class - eight week class in fall
  • Athena's Academy Cryptozoology class - eight week class in spring
Social Studies
Foreign Language
  • Hoemschool Spanish Academy once per week to keep up skills
  • Galore Park's So You Really Want to Learn French, book 1 - The Husband is using this as a spine for the first year of introductory French. He's a fluent French speaker, so he gets to teach this in the evenings and weekends, whenever it fits.
The Kid has had her usual mishmash of extras, including Hoffman Piano Academy, tennis, swimming, ceramics, circus arts, gymnastics, and indoor skydiving. She's changing things up more often than usual, preferring to do just a session at a time then switching off. She's taking art, music, Lego, and a math games class at the charter school.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Cultural Geography: Oceania

Family Read Aloud:
  • Violet Mackerel’s Brilliant Plot by Anna Branford – Violet is a 7 year old Ramona Quimby-esque character growing up with her family in modern-day Australia. If this catches interest, there are more books in the series. (for younger kids)
  • Does My Head Look Big In This? By Randa Abdel-Fattah – A Muslim teenager in Australia makes the decision to wear the hijab full time. Includes typical teen themes of friendships and crushes, as well as being a minority religion. (for older kids)
Free Reading Books:
  • The Quest for the Tree Kangaroo: An Expedition to the Cloud Forest of New Guinea by Sy Montgomery – This is part of the Scientists in the Field Series, about a biologist who is studying rare tree kangaroos in Papua New Guinea.
  • Dolphins of Shark Bay by Pamela S. Turner – part of the Scientists in the Field series
  • Elizabeth, Queen of the Seas by Lynne Cox – The story of an elephant seal who lived in a river in Christchurch, New Zealand, and the townspeople who enjoyed watching her.
  • Possum Magic by Mem Fox – A possum, magically invisible, becomes visible again only after eating Australian foods.
  •  Multicultural Cookbook for Students 115-125, choose recipes as desired

1.       Introduction to Oceania
How People Live 266-269
Throw Your Tooth on the Roof 21

2.       New Zealand
How People Live 292-297
Children Just Like Me 76
School Like Mine 78

3.       Australia
How People Live 270-277
Children Just Like Me 74-75

4.      Australia (continued)
      Hungry Planet 22-29 (the first time we used this book, so we spent extra time with it, understanding how it is set up and comparing the food to what we are familiar with)

5.       Australia (continued)
      School Like Mine 76-77
My Librarian is a Camel 6-7
Hungry Planet 30-35

6.       Polynesia/Samoa
How People Live 290-291
Material World 170-175

7.       Melanesia and Micronesia
How People Live 278-289
My Librarian is a Camel 24-25

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Cultural Geography

We are undertaking a Cultural Geography class this year. The result is shaping up to be a literature-based and food-based mashup of different levels for an asynchronous learner. I am sharing this here in case it is helpful to anyone.

What this is not: It is not a physical geography course. We check in with our map, but that's it. It is not a history course. We are reading about and discussing the world as it is now and has been within the past 20 years.

This course has adjusted along the way, and my own eyes have been opened quite a bit, most notably by the sheer lack of resources. I started out with the ideals that we would only use materials published within the last 20 years, we would focus on writers who live in the areas we were studying, and we would focus on the everyday lives instead of special celebrations or outlier populations. This proved impossible for many areas, and even for our spines. I did let go of some of these ideals, though they still drove my preferences, and accepted that we would make do with what we found and continue to educate ourselves about the world throughout all the years to come.

Come along with us, share resources where you can, use whatever may work for you and ignore the rest!

For no particular reason, we decided to start with Oceania and roughly work our way west around the world from there. In subdividing the world, I considered many options and eventually decided to use the U.N. geoscheme.

**Our primary books used throughout the year**

We started off by reading pages 4-13 in How People Live, which gives an overview. The following units could be done in any order:
South-east Asia
Southern Asia
Eastern and Central Asia

Western Asia and Northern Africa
Eastern Africa
Southern Africa
Central and Western Africa
Eastern Europe
Southern Europe
Western Europe
North America
Central America
South America