The Sacred Sprouts Schoolhouse

Archive for February, 2010

Exchange Students

Every once in a while, we get some new students who show up for school.   Take this day, for example.  Kit has been to our school a few times before.  Her favorite times are reading and read-alouds.  On this particular day though, she brought her friend Kirsten to class with her.

They really petitioned hard for the opportunity to play a game.  They thought Quirkle would be a fun logic game to add to the school day.

They were over-ruled though, and the human students chose, instead, to put together a 300-piece puzzle of the solar system.

Never a dull moment here at the Sacred Sprouts Schoolhouse.   I, for one, am just glad that for the most part, our exchange students understand English and behave appropriately when in attendance.

posted by Erika in Just For Fun and have Comments Off on Exchange Students

Sighing Over Science

When we first decided to home school last year, I asked the kids what they would both like to study for Science.  The answer was unanimous- they both wanted to learn more about the stars and planets- and then Abigail added that she also wanted to do experiments.   After looking at several programs and ideas, we settled on doing Apologia’s Astronomy for our Science, and I had ideas to add little projects and things along the way.

First of all, I like Apologia’s approach to Science.  I loved the fact that our Astronomy text was presented in a “God created everything” way.   I think that the information contained in the course was top-notch and current as well.  At the  end of the course the kids got to decide for themselves whether they thought Pluto was a planet or not.  (They were split on that, by the way.)  We spent time exploring each planet, comets, asteroids, space travel, and stars among many other things.  Information-wise, we learned a lot.  But project wise, not so much.  Many of the projects suggested for the course were either not do-able for one reason or another, or they were simply…well, boring.  When we studied moons, the suggested project was to drop different size rocks and marbles into a bowl of flour to study how craters are made.  Interesting? Maybe- but that’s  stretch.  One of the activities suggested that you take apart magnifying glasses to make a homemade telescope.  Well, by the time you lay out the expense of the magnifying glasses, you could have just bought an inexpensive telescope that works better.  Overall though, I am not regretful of our time spent with Astronomy- but I am regretful that we ended up not really getting out hands dirty with science so far.  We’re finished with the Astronomy, and I found myself trying to decide what we should do for the second half of our school year.

My first thought was that I could utilize the library to put together a few unit studies.  Maybe we’d do electricity- maybe biology, and maybe a little bit of animal science of some kind.  I checked out a handful of books and set to work looking them over to see what I could come up with.   I flipped through the books, but I was really unsure how to proceed.

So then I spent time online going through different websites and reading science resources to find something that I thought I could do with my two.  I spent a lot of time reading reviews and looking at programs, and I am happy to say that during my quest I did find a program that we will be using for next year’s Science.  Real Science 4 Kids is exactly the type of program I was looking for.  It comes in several levels as well- so I plan to pick up the full intermediate program for Abigail and then picking up the elementary program for Zander.  With any luck I can do some of their science things together.   On their website you can actually look through the entire texts online- and they look fun and informational- and there are plenty of activities to give a nice hands-on approach to chemistry, biology and physics.  The only downside is that they are pretty pricey, and so while part of me wanted to pick it up to start working on this year, it will wait until next year.

Which brings us back to this year, and this new semester.   Part of my troubles was that as I was reading the books I’d picked up at the library, they were written from a worldly point of view.  Honestly, this never bothered me before, but I think we got spoiled with Apologia this last semester.   So in the end I went back to Apologia and looked through what else they had to offer for elementary kids.  I decided that some Zoology would be fun- and as spring is just around the corner, spending days at the zoo studying animals would be a fantastic use of our time.  I settled on Zoology 1: The Flying Creatures of the Fifth Day.  So next week, the kids and I will dive in and begin learning about birds, bats, insects, and any other creature that flies.  The text is promising.  The activities seem to me to be much better than the astronomy ones- and the kids both seemed excited when they saw the new book.  After spending so much time in space, I think taking to wing will be an exciting new adventure for Science class.

posted by Erika in Curriculum Choices and have Comments Off on Sighing Over Science

Serious Academics

I’ve talked a lot about the benefits that homeschooling has been for our family.  I can’t talk enough about how our relationships have changed completely and we are so much closer and open with each other.  Socially the benefits seem to be better to me- Abigail and Zander are so quick to try and make new friends when thrust into a new situation.  They’re not so shy, and are eager to make sure that everyone is included in a game or conversation.  But it truly is academically where my children are amazing me and soaring way beyond what I thought possible.

During the last month, it seems we’ve finally turned a corner with reading for the kids.  It’s no longer just something they have to do for school- it’s finally something that they really and truly enjoy.  Almost overnight, Abigail has turned into a voracious reader- spending a few hours in the afternoon curled up with a book just because she is enjoying the story.  Zander has discovered that he really can read a chapter book, and I think his little mind is really form the possibilities that opens up for him.  At the same time, I’m not pushing that at all, because I don’t want him to miss the thousands of wonderful picture books available to him.  There is something absolutely priceless about being in the other room, hearing Zander laughing uncontrollably, only to come around the corner and see him hugging a book to his stomach.  I am so thankful that I am the one who gets to witness these moments.

Math wise, I am astounded at how quickly math concepts are being absorbed.  Not just in passing, to be revisited later on after its forgotten, but completely absorbed and mastered.  Zander amazes me every day by just zipping through his work.  I try to work part of his problems with him, but most often, he gives me this look that says he knows what he’s doing, so then I let him tell me what he’s doing.  Of course, he’s right every single time.  Flashcard time is fun time for him, and while there are still a few he gets tripped up on, it doesn’t take more than a few seconds for him to figure out his mistakes.   He told me this morning that he can’t wait to learn how to multiply and divide! I have about 20 pages in his textbook before we hit the first multiplication for him, and I’m really thinking about stopping him just before that and doing some extra math skills with measuring and more addition and subtraction- then letting him go back to the multiplication.  I just want those basic math facts mastered before we move on to a completely different concept.  Plus, he is still in kindergarten- which I have to remind myself all the time.  His math time is complete gravy now- it’s all things that he is eager to learn.  One of these days I may have him take a proficiency test just to see how he’s doing…

Abigail’s math is going equally as well.  While she didn’t particularly enjoy how much time we spent at the beginning of the year doing addition and subtraction, it totally paid off.  She is now confident in her basic facts and is really enjoying multiplication and division problems.  She doesn’t guess at her answers- she figures them out correctly and seldom has even one wrong on her daily assignments.  The biggest thing I have noticed with her is that she is completely able to learn math by herself.  This is huge, in my mind.  Now, don’t get me wrong that I’m not teaching her math, I am, but there are some days where I spend a little more time with Zander, and so while she is waiting for me, she spends time reading her book and figuring the problems out herself.  By the time I get to her, she proudly shows me her mastery, I congratulate her and she continues with her math.   She no longer uses her fingers or a number line in any of her calculations and is becoming so confident in her abilities.  The other day we baked cookies together, and when I told her we were doubling the recipe, she deftly multiplied all the fractions and told me exactly how much of everything we needed.

We had a bit of fun with our first semester Science too.  We had done Apologia’s Astronomy course, and it really grabbed Abigail’s attention.  I can’t tell you how many times, on our way home late at night, Abigail spent time gazing out the window identifying constellations or telling what the moon looked like. Our only regret with the astronomy is that there really weren’t many experiments that interested us.  At the same time though, our exploration of all things space has led to other areas of exploration by them.  I can completely see how “unschooling” appeals to others because there is always something new to explore and discover, and it wouldn’t take much to take every bunny trail that comes up.

Both kids have become fascinated with electricity.  One night Abigail came downstairs very worried because she saw flashes of light in her blankets.  LOL! Andy spent some time telling her about static electricity, and she went back to bed in giggles, and I have no doubt she spent some time exploring her new findings.  One of the things we’ll be doing in the months to come will be a little unit on electricity.   Up next though, beginning this week, will be a several week study on food and nutrition.  This will take care of our Science and our Health requirement- and I think it’s long overdue.  Both kids, it seems as of late, have asked me about healthy foods and what’s good for them to eat, so we’re going to go that route and look at the food pyramid and what we should be eating versus what we are eating.  I hope it opens a few eyes about making better choices.

I guess overall, as I look at our progress for the year, and I look at what is to come the second half of our school year, I no longer have concerns about my childrens learning.  They are learning and growing in leaps and bounds.  Their memory skills are vastly improved, their reading comprehension is fantastic, and their listening skills are incredibly better than they used to be.   I expect our second half of the school year will go as smoothly as the first, and each and every day, we wake up with great expectations for the school day ahead.

posted by Erika in Random Thoughts and have Comments Off on Serious Academics