Thursday, June 30, 2016

Second Grade Literature List

This has been the most difficult book list for me to put together. I had two big problems. The first is that there are way too many good books! The second is that while The Kid is capable of reading anything in front of her, she still has a strong preference for a high pictures-to-text ratio. Her pleasure reading currently consists of really good picture books and meh chapter books. Her picture books have more complex stories, cover some history, and have amazing language. Her preferred chapter books, well, don't. After some thought and a lot of hours in the library, I decided that this year would focus on a big stack of the best picture books I can find, with a few chapter books thrown in near the end of the year.

Poetry to add to our shelves for Poetry Teas
Child's Book of Poems by Gyo Fujikawa
Several selections from the Poetry for Young People series

Picture Books
Life Doesn't Frighten Me by Maya Angelou (poetry)
The Sorcerer's Apprentice by Mary Jane Begin
Kid Blink Beats the World by Don Brown
Odd Boy Out: Young Albert Einstein by Don Brown
Behind the Mask by Yangsook Choi
Midsummer Night's Dream adapted by Bruce Coville
Fairy Tales by e.e. cummings
Bat Boy and His Violin by Gavin Curtis
My Brother Martin: A Sister Remembers by Christine King Farris
How My Parents Learned to Eat by Ina R. Friedman
Storyteller's Candle by Lucia Gonzalez
Meet Danitra Brown by Nikki Grimes (poetry)
Sami and the Time of the Troubles by Florence Parry Heide
Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore by William Joyce
Island of the Skog by Steven Kellogg
Harvesting Hope: The Story of Cesar Chavez by Kathleen Krull
The Librarian Who Measured the Earth by Kathryn Lasky
Erandi's Braids by Antonio Hernandez Madrigal
Escape of Oney Judge by Emily Arnold McCully
Mirandy and Brother Wind by Patricia C. McKissack
Precious and the Boo Hag by Patricia C. McKissack
The Rag Coat by Lauren Mills
Baseball Saved Us by Ken Mochizuki
Passage to Freedom: the Sugihara Story by Ken Mochizuki
My Rows and Piles of Coins by Tololwa M. Mollel
Raising Dragons by Jerdine Nolen
Capyboppy by Bill Peet
Eli by Bill Peet
The Bee Tree by Patricia Polacco
Mrs. Katz and Tush by Patricia Polacco
Belle, the Last Mule at Gee's Bend by Calvin Alexander Ramsey and Bettye Stroud
The Apple-Pip Princess by Jane Ray
And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell
Testing the Ice by Sharon Robinson
Little Melba and Her Big Trombone by Katheryn Russell-Brown
Sukey and the Mermaid by Robert D. San Souci
Talking Eggs by Robert D. San Souci
Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales by Jon Scieszka
Johnny on the Spot by Edward Sorel
The Old Man and His Door by Gary Soto
Black Ships Before Troy by Rosemary Sutcliff
Hana Hashimoto, Sixth Violin by Chieri Uegaki
Suki's Kimono by Chieri Uegaki
Garden of Abdul Gasazi by Chris Van Allsburg
Jumanji by Chris Van Allsburg
Freedom on the Menu by Carole Boston Weatherford
Stories for Children by Oscar Wilde
Freedom Summer by Deborah Wiles
Follow the Drinking Gourd by Jeanette Winter
Watcher: Jane Goodall's Life With Chimps by Jeanette Winter

Longer Books with Few/No Pictures
Molly's Pilgrim by Barbara Cohen
26 Fairmount Avenue by Tomie de Paola
Stone Fox by John R. Gardiner
Pearl Verses the World by Sally Murphy (poetry)
Tales From the Odyssey by Mary Pope Osborne
Encyclopedia Brown, Boy Detective by Donal J. Sobel

Family Read Alouds
Mr. Popper's Penguins by Richard and Florence Atwater
Freckle Juice by Judy Blume
The Chocolate Touch by Patrick Skene Catling
Ramona and Her Mother by Beverly Cleary
Ramona Quimby, Age 8 by Beverly Cleary
Household Stories by the Brothers Grimm translated by Lucy Crane
Courage of Sarah Noble by Alice Dagliesh
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl
Danny, the Champion of the World by Roald Dahl
The Cabin Faced West by Jean Fritz
Igraine the Brave by Cornelia Funke
Wonder Book for Boys and Girls by Nathaniel Hawthorne
Just So Stories by Rudyard Kipling
Blue Fairy Book by Andrew Lang
Gooney Bird Green by Lois Lowry
Sarah, Plain and Tall by Patricia MacLachlan
The Princess and Curdie by George McDonald
The Princess and the Goblin by George McDonald
Five Children and It by E. Nesbit
The Borrowers by Mary Norton
The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery (there is a phenomenal pop-up version of this!)
The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkein

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

BFSU: Physics Unit

Prerequisites: Energy Unit and Time and Maps Unit

Resources: Magic School Bus episodes

Lesson 1: BFSU C-5: Inertia, part 1
Lesson 2: BFSU C-5: Inertia, part 2
Lesson 3: Magic School Bus Revving Up
Lesson 4: BFSU C-6 Friction, part 1
Lesson 5: BFSU C-6 Friction, part 2
Lesson 6: BFSU C-6 Friction, part 3
Lesson 7: BFSU C-6 Friction, part 4
Lesson 8: Magic School Bus Plays Ball
Lesson 9: BFSU D-7: Gravity II: Rate of Fall. Weightlessness in Space. Distinction Between Weight and Mass, part 1
Lesson 10: BFSU D-7: Gravity II: Rate of Fall. Weightlessness in Space. Distinction Between Weight and Mass, part 2
Lesson 11: BFSU D-7: Gravity II: Rate of Fall. Weightlessness in Space. Distinction Between Weight and Mass, part 3
Lesson 12: BFSU C-7: Push Pushes Back
Lesson 13: Magic School Bus Gets a Bright Idea

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

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

First Grade Wrap Up

It's about that time to review what went well and not over the last year.

First, the good:
  • Science. Wow, the level and amount of science! We finished the first volume of Building Foundations of Scientific Understanding. As we moved into more child-led studies, there hasn't been a session go by without The Kid choosing a science topic. While we haven't left BFSU behind, we've added a lot of other resources - Ellen McHenry has especially been a hit.
  • Handwriting. Finally, after much struggle, The Kid has legible handwriting. Not awesome, but legible. I'm calling it good for now. At the end of last year, I wrote, "But we're still nowhere near being able to do copywork and dictation to start first grade." It took us the whole #@%& year, but she can now do copywork. And I might even attempt dictation in the near future.
  • Changes to our school subjects. I wrote in this post about our six-week blocks of four subjects at a time. The Kid feels that she has real power in her school choices now. I have gained clarity about my educational priorities for her. It's been good.
The not so good:
  • Math. This is really coming back around, but we went into full math meltdown last winter. Over the last five months, we have done no formal/required math. Slowly, slowly, the love of math has been creeping back and our math break is looking a lot mathier.  But I suspect we'll have a balancing act on our hands as we incorporate more math into our days again.
  • Executive Functioning. This wasn't even a term I knew until the last couple years, but oh boy, do I know it now. It includes a pile of abilities that The Kid struggles mightily with and make me want to pull my hair out. We've been focused on the basics of emotional regulation for months now, and are just barely starting to edge into more focus on time management and focus. This category is going to be a major part of goals for second grade.
I hope the next year has some great things in store for us!

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Fairy Tale Project: Cinderella

Yay! We finally got back to our fairy tale project!

And, wow, there really are a lot of versions of Cinderella!

Some of the versions can get extremely dark - did you know that Grimm's version include the stepsisters cutting off parts of their feet to try to fit the shoe? And then getting their eyes pecked out by birds as retribution for their treatment of Cinderella? Yikes.

The Kid doesn't like her stories to be that dark, so we went a different direction: Cinderella stories from around the world. I had no idea how much the stories varied. Here's what we read:

Cinderella by Loek Koopmans (based on the Charles Perrault version)
The Golden Sandal by Rebecca Hickox
The Rough-Face Girl by Rafe Martin
The Korean Cinderella by Shirley Climo
The Egyptian Cinderella by Shirley Climo
The Irish Cinderlad by Shirley Climo
Cinderlily by David Ellwand (doesn't really fit in with the round-the-world theme, but pretty and whimsical)

We could have gone on and on. The versions above were chosen because they were readily on my library's shelves the day we went.

The discussions we had from this were quite interesting. I've always thought the tale a little ridiculous with the they-danced-for-a-few-hours-and-then-the-prince-was-utterly-obsessed-and-they-decided-to-marry-from-this-one-interaction bit. But The Golden Sandal is set in a time and place that includes arranged marriages, so the two never even meet until they are betrothed! The Kid didn't know anything about this custom, and we talked about how marriage is treated in different cultures and during different times.

After reading them all, we talked about what made a Cinderella story a "Cinderella story". Many of the versions were big departures from the story known in the U.S. The common threads we found were that the "Cinderella" character had to be badly treated by at least some family members, there had to be a very desirable male, there had to be a "test" of some sort (like fitting the glass slipper), and there was always some element of magic/supernatural. All the rest of what we know as a Cinderella story is quite negotiable in other versions.

The Kid wrote her own version, with the only "rule" being that she had to follow the things we had outlined as being non-negotiable for Cinderella stories. And since she is learning to type, she was determined to write it herself, so this is the first Fairy Tale Project that I haven't taken dictation for! She is so proud of the story that she wrote all on her own!

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

What a "Math Break" Looks Like At My House

The Kid says she hates math. This is heartbreaking. I love math. She used to love math.

So we're on an extended math break. We haven't done formal math since December and I don't know when we'll add it back in. Not having math class hasn't stopped us from having lots of math, though. In fact, I'm starting to suspect that we have more math in our day now than we did when we had math class!

Dragonbox Numbers: An iPad app that works like animated Cuisenaire rods. C rods might be the one and only manipulative we never used. The skills for this app are appropriate for preschool to maybe 1st grade, but The Kid is loving using it.

Slice Fractions: Another iPad app. If Dragonbox and Cut the Rope had a baby, this might be it. No previous exposure to fractions is needed, and it is truly a game not just math in disguise :)

Sir Cumference: a series of books with lots of math puns and that requires some math to solve an issue for the characters. They're lots of fun!

Penrose the Mathematical Cat: Oh, how I love Penrose. This book gives a very brief introduction to lots of math topics, most of which are not covered in any standard elementary math program. Honestly, I think this book may be best if the parent enjoys math and can go deeper into the topics as desired.

Math Adventures series and other books by Wendy Clemson: We stumbled across these at the library and The Kid has checked out most the series now and reads them for fun.

Beast Academy guides: Though The Kid isn't ready to try tackling the Beast workbooks again, she does love reading the guides. The math beasts are fun, relatable, and also sometimes struggle with their math.

Murderous Maths: A very British series of math(s) books. These are more dense than the other books on this list, but the authors seem to find joy in making the story around math fun. The concepts presented are often well beyond what The Kid can actually do, but she likes to let ideas percolate in her brain.

Bedtime Math: We renamed this series Mealtime Math in our house, and cover a couple pages at lunch or dinner. This series of math books has a simple setup: a silly bit of information, followed by 3-4 math questions of increasing difficulty. It's brilliant. They're so very silly, and are all in word problem format.

Toothpick puzzles: There are some of these in the first Beast Academy workbook, there is one in every issue of Highlights MathMania, and if you have no idea what I'm talking about you can find some here.

Sleeping Queens: a fun game that includes the need to add up combinations of 5, 10, 15, and 20, plus you use single digit numbers to form equations.

Zeus on the Loose: another fun game that includes adding a single digit number to a 2-digit number, plus occasional subtracting and rounding

And the math book section at the library is at call number 510. Lots of math books are thinly veiled instructional texts or workbooks. Don't get me wrong, those are likely still more fun for many kids than traditional math, but they're not nearly the same as a well crafted book that happens to include math! Have fun and choose wisely.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Some Travel Practicalities and Planning Tips

Any time I mention our travels, I get asked how I found and arranged everything. i wish I had some amazing travel secrets, but I don't. The Kid and I have done two huge trips now - Guatemala in 2015 and Honduras in 2016. I found everything through simple google searches. Language schools are scattered throughout Central America, and most will arrange homestays. Here are a few tips:

1. Make sure your paperwork is in order. Many countries require that your passport not expire for at least six months after you enter. If only one parent is traveling, you may need a notarized form from the other parent stating that you have their permission so as not to be suspected of kidnapping your own child. (Though I have to say, no country has ever asked to see this paperwork, even when it's required. It's a little disconcerting.) If the country you are entering requires a vaccination record, you'll need to have that as well.

2. Medications. Some people travel with half a pharmacy in their bag. I only bring prescriptions, ibuprofen, children's Tylenol, and an anti-diarrhea medicine. Don't forget to check with your local doctor's offices beforehand about any recommended travel vaccines or anti-malarial medication.

3. Money. ATM cards are easiest in most parts of the world, but there are some where ATMs aren't as common or aren't as safe. You'll need to tell your bank that you're traveling, as otherwise many prevent foreign transactions as a fraud prevention measure. Traveler's checks have fallen by the wayside and aren't widely accepted in my experience. Some countries will only accept U.S. cash if it is perfect condition (not even the tiniest tear or ink mark on the bill).

For the trip to Honduras, I remembered to bring my bank card and a credit card. I remembered to make sure my bank knew I was traveling so my card would work in Honduras. I remembered to make sure the ATMs locally were safe to use (some parts of Honduras are well known to have skimmers on machines). And yet, I still forget to see what type of cards were accepted. The ATM did not accept my MasterCard. This means I could make charges at most tourist places, but I couldn't get cash. Damn it. Almost everywhere operates on a cash basis there except for the pricey tourist places. Even some of those are cash only. Fortunately, my husband was still in the U.S. and Western Union works. It barely even costs more than ATM fees, though the lines are definitely longer.

4. Pack lightly. Very, very lightly. Especially if you intend to move around from place to place, you want to be able to carry all your bags in one load.

5. Research before you go. There are so many travel sites online. Trip Advisor is a great one for hotels, restaurants, and activities. 123teachme is a well known site listing Spanish immersion schools, but it is worth noting that schools pay for inclusion so it is nowhere near comprehensive. Guatemala365 is specific to Guatemala, but with the same caveat about not being comprehensive.

As for what to research... It can get overwhelming. So, here's another list:

1. Where to go in general. What countries sound interesting to you? Do you want a small town or a city? A beach? Mountains? Forest? Are there activities that are important to you? What is your budget and can you manage in your areas of choice? These can be very specific to your family - we learned by experience that a place with no open spaces for playing was not a good choice for us, even though the area gets fantastic reviews from others. Now we know to ask about public green spaces!

2. Which language school? Some areas have a lot of choices, some just a few. Find all the reviews you can. Most areas copy the basics from each other - if the standard in that city is for classes to be 1-on-1, all the schools will do it that way. If the standard is to have group classes, all the schools will do it that way. Homestays are not common in touristy areas, but they are commonly available elsewhere. Prices are pretty standardized in some areas and quite variable in others.

Once you narrow it down, email each of your top schools to ask any specific questions. Our questions always include whether homestays include more than one student (more students means hearing more English), whether we can be sure of being placed in a homestay with other children present, and how the level of instruction is determined.

3. What else is there to do? You don't want to spend all your travel time finding ways to keep occupied. Besides, you may have very limited internet. Have a decent idea of other activities in the area and going rates. But don't try to fill up every minute of your time in advance. You'll get ideas from locals and other travelers once you arrive.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Honduras: Week 5

Roatan! How beautiful, and sunny, and beachy! Never mind the fact that I got burnt each day despite putting on SPF 70 every hour and buying a long-sleeved rash guard! It was gorgeous and I never wanted to leave.

There were hermit crab races for charity:

There were fire dancers:

There was this beach only a block from our hotel:

The Kid went parasailing:

She played with monkeys:

We saw so many starfish!


We took an all-day boat tour and had lunch on a private island:

And then... we returned home. I miss paradise.