Wednesday, December 23, 2015

2 Years Already!?!

I cannot believe it was 2 years ago this week, that we pulled Monkey out of school. I was both scared and excited to start! Looking back, I think I was TOO eager to start, we started right after coming back from our Christmas vacation trip, when I think we should have taken a few more weeks off to 'de-school' before jumping in.  Anyway, hindsight is 20/20, and while it did take a while to get into a groove, I think we have finally found that groove! Adding Bunny to the mix only slightly stirred the pot, but overall, we have gotten in a good routine that seems to be working.

After 2 years, I think we've finally settled into a routine that feels comfortable.

Each week, I pencil in what they'll do for the week. Sometimes I don't know what we'll cover on which day until the night before, so I don't fill it in until after we've completed the day. For History or Science, I have a list of readings, activities, videos, links that we plan to do over a whole unit, which might last 1-2 months, so we just go down the list and try to plan how much to cover each week.

I write up what they need to do for the day on a white-board (sometimes separating the independent vs. work I do with them), and they erase it as they go:

And generally, this is how our day goes: 
  • Morning Bible lesson/devotional together at the breakfast table
  • Science/History - read aloud and any activities together (We are alternating Science/History every couple of weeks)
  • The rest of the morning is spent doing what is on their white-board, which usually covers math, geography, Chinese, and/or language arts. If I need to spend time individually with one of them for any subject, I do it one-on-one, but mostly this is when I do my work for my job.
  • Lunch - While they eat, I will often read aloud some light geography or history when our focus is science, or we will watch a Chinese kids' video over lunch, or practice some Chinese words. 
  • After lunch, they finish up any other individual work that needs to be done, and can read, play, whatever until whatever afternoon activity we have (sometimes shopping errands, or extracurricular activities or playdates). They get screen time if they've finished their work, read something, done something creative, and played outside (or inside if weather is bad). 
It's not quite a schedule and every day there's flexibility for them to choose in which order to do things. When we have co-op or field trips or other activities, we just push things back or skip the 'schedule' for the day. 

So as I enter my third year, these are some of the areas I want to work on:
  • Adding more formal Chinese teaching, maybe introducing more reading/writing, since we've mainly focused on listening and speaking.
  • Getting them to pick up more life skills/chores, such as cooking or cleaning. 
  • Give them some practice with studying and taking tests, since we have not done any testing (we will do our first standardized test this spring).
  • Doing more discussion about their reading. We don't have any reading plan or curriculum right now, so we need to work on understanding more complex literary elements.  
We're in a happy place right now so I don't want to rock the boat too much, but hopefully I'll add these in slowly as we continue. 

Friday, December 4, 2015

Christmas Unit Plans

Next week, I'm so excited that we are planning a week of reading Christmas-related stories. Although we have not done "Santa Claus" at all for Christmas, they know who he is. I wanted to introduce them to some other familiar classic stories related to Christmas, so next week we will read a couple of picture books to introduce them to:
  • The Legend of St. Nicholas
  • The Nutcracker
  • A Christmas Carol 
  • "The Night Before Christmas" poem
We are planning to write our own rendition of "The Night Before Christmas" and maybe watching a version of A Christmas Carol. We are also planning to see a performance by the Russian Ballet of the Nutcracker at the end of the week. This will be their first exposure to a ballet performance. I'm curious what their response will be!  Anyway, I figure all of this can be considered Language Arts (Reading, Poetry) and Music/Arts (Nutcracker Ballet). If I can get them to DO some ballet, perhaps we'll throw in Phys Ed in here. :) 

Weekly Wrapup: Human Anatomy Skeletal System

Taking a break from US History, we've started in on our Human Anatomy unit. We are using Apologia's Exploring Creation with Human Anatomy and so far, I love it! It gives a lot of in-depth detail, with lots of hands on ideas. We are also reading from Sassafras Adventures: Anatomy, because the kids like the adventure story of the Sassafras twins.  The teaching aspect though, is really too high level and rushed, so we use it as an overview/introduction to the system we are studying.  They cover each of the systems in the human body in 2 chapters, with one of the characters usually being an 'expert' that shares information about the various body parts, but I feel like the way it's done, it's all blurted out in a really dense paragraph of scientific detail, thrown in the midst of the adventure story. It's not slowly interspersed, and I think when it's too condensed the kids don't really absorb any of it. So for scheduling purposes, we are going in the order of the Sassafras book chapters so that we can read the story in the correct order, and then skipping around in the Apologia book to use the chapter which corresponds with the system being studied. We are planning about 2 weeks per system.

We started off with the skeletal system, covering joints, cartilage,  bone structure, formation of new bones, names of various bones of the body. Some of the hands-on projects we did were:
  •  a beaded spine craft on a pipe cleaner with sequins in between, different colors represent the cervical, thoracic, and lumbar vertabrae 

  •  looking at a shin bone from a piece of meat to see the compact bone vs the soft inside
  •  looking at the bones of a rotisserie chicken
  •  looked at paper skeleton that we just happened to have access to because my husband made on back in high school

  • soaking a chicken bone in vinegar to see what happens when the calcium is removed by reacting with the vinegar (the bone becomes soft)
Many of the ideas I'm using for our Anatomy plans came from a Konos user who has posted her lessons on her Free Unit-Study webpage. This is a great resource that we're going to use throughout our unit. 
We also tied in our Chinese lessons, learning the words for various body parts, as well as the word for bone.  Unfortunately, my Chinese vocabulary doesn't extend to words like "osteoblasts" or "cartilage" or "mandible"! 

While we are taking a break from History, I am still reading aloud from George Washington's World, which gives us a brief look at what was going on in the world during various parts of George Washington's lifetime. We are not studying world history in depth right now, but this will give a bit of backdrop to the events of American History that we had recently studied, so later on, when we do world history they will have some familiarity with it.

This post is linked up with Weird, Unsocialized Weekly-Wrapup.