Saturday, August 13, 2011

Week 2

It has been another good week here at Seven Pillars Academy. Read on and find out what we learned and did!

One thing I wanted to mention at the beginning was the addition of this clip chart that I read about on some first-grade teacher blogs. I thought I would try it out during our school and was amazed at how well it worked! We do have some temper tantrums based in frustration and perfectionism, as well as some disrespect directed at Mom/teacher, and I was interested to see if this strategy, developed for a large class, might also work with only two students. It has pretty well nipped our problems in the bud, as well as improved our whole school day!
I used two plastic clips that I already have and personalized them with ribbon to distinguish whose clip was whose (Emily Anne's is pink and has white daisies, while Will's has a soccer-ball design). Every day, they both begin in the middle of the chart with the green Ready to Learn section. Diligent work, good attitudes, encouraging or helping others, etc. moves their clip up a section, while disrespect, less than diligent work, complaining, tantrums, etc., moves them down a section. I don't say anything to redirect behavior, I simply unobtrusively go to the chart and clip up or down. It is simply amazing to see how the kids can redirect themselves without my nagging or lecturing them. Those students whose clips are in Outstanding by the end of the day get a treat from the Smartie Pants jar, which right now is filled with Jolly Ranchers and Twizzlers. To keep their interest, I think I'm going to happen to vary the treats. I've thought of a certificate for Pajama Day and will have to come up with some other creative ideas. Feel free to share if you have any!

We reviewed our anchor memory verse, James 3:17. Everyone has it pretty well memorized now. We also studied Psalm 1 this week. I read it aloud three times on Monday and again on Tuesday, when the children drew a picture illustrating part of the Psalm. Here is Will's picture.
The tree on the left illustrates a person who does not love God and His law, while the picture at right demonstrates someone who does. I loved how he contrasted them! Notice the fruit and the streams of water.

Emily Anne's tree is also fruitful and near streams of water. We had a little lesson on the spelling of psalm! We continued reviewing James 3:17 throughout the week and worked on memorizing parts of Psalm 1.

This week Emily Anne and Will flew through handwriting/copywork. Will was working on Os and As, while Emily Anne was practicing her cursive on Psalm 1 throughout the week. In Spelling/Phonics Emily Anne worked on words with oo, silent consonants l and gh, and ways to make the o sound (au, aw, o, ou, al). Will is still whizzing through his Phonics. In addition to our Phonics lessons, he read Jan Can, Pat's Cats, and Pop Does the Bop (which he thought was hilarious). He also surprised his daddy by reading Go, Dog, Go in its entirety one night at bedtime! Go, Will Go!
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Emily Anne reviewed pronouns and verbs in First Language Lessons this week. It is great how much she has retained from last year! While I work on these short lessons with her, Will usually listens to books on CD. This week he listened to Skippyjon Jones and the Big Bones (too funny), Flat Stanley, and Stanley in Space.
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We also began memorizing our first poem this week, "The Land of Nod" by Robert Louis Stevenson.

Emily Anne's writing this week consisted of narration and dictation from selections from Mr. Revere and I by Robert Lawson. I was planning on using this book again when we get to the History chapters on the American Revolution, so I am glad she got a little introduction to it here. I heard her telling an unsolicited narration of her selections to Will one afternoon, so she must have enjoyed it. 

On Friday we finished our first literature read-aloud, The Stories of Don Quixote by James Baldwin. I was really surprised how much they enjoyed this book, found it funny, and would allude to it throughout the two weeks in which we read it. I feel awesome getting a version of a classic under our belts! I think it is awesome that they will understand the allusion of tilting at windmills now.
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Math improved dramatically this week for Emily Anne with the implementation of the clip chart. She did a complete 180-degree turnaround in her attitude toward math, especially the 100-problem fact sheets. She now looks at them as an opportunity to be clipped up on the chart. Consequently, her time and accuracy have improved! Math this week for her reviewed adding numbers, even and odd numbers, and adding with regrouping. Will is also flying through his math. On Monday we created a bar graph of the extended family's trucks, cars, and bicycles.
We also continued reviewing counting and numbers, ordinal numbers, and left and right. Here is Will sorting and creating number towers with snap-on blocks.
Will also had his first assessment in math on Thursday. He scored 100!

We studied Chapter Two of The Story of the World this week: Protestant Rebellions. We learned how William the Silent helped his country of the Netherlands fight back against the persecution of the Catholic Philip II of Spain. To get an idea of what the Netherlands were like, we read Katje, the Windmill Cat.
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It was based on a true story of a cat and baby who survived a flood when a dike broke. The kids really enjoyed this story.
The second section of Protestant Rebellions dealt with Mary, Queen of Scots. Emily Anne read part of a biography of Mary by Emily Hahn.
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We also did a craft project from The Story of the World and made our own tartans, which the kids loved! We cut up an old flat sheet and got sponge brushes in 1", 3", and 4", as well as fabric paint with three different colors for each child. They then created a pattern with the thin, thicker, and thickest brushes. Here they are painting their vertical lines.

Here are the tartans with the patterns completed, both vertically and horizontally.

The kids loved wearing their finished tartans. We learned that Scotsman would use their "belted plaids" for everything, even wrapping up in them as blankets to sleep.

We also instituted two components of memory work to History this week. On Mondays when we do map work of the current chapter, we will also be filling in blank US maps with the states and, eventually, the capitals. This week we just filled in the states we knew by memory and then used maps to fill in the rest. Here is Emily Anne with her completed US map.

The other memory work we began is memorizing the US presidents and the years of their terms. We started at the beginning with George Washington (1789-1797). We'll add a new president in order each week.

We continued studying about energy this week in Physics, using the worksheets on CD from God's Design for the Physical World. We completed an Energy Conversion Chart where an object was listed and we filled in the initial energy type and the final energy type. For example, the initial energy type for a stove is electrical, and the final energy type is heat. I adapted this activity for Will by asking him the types orally and writing down the answers for him.

We also drew energy chains for a coal-powered power plant and for riding a bicycle. Here are Emily Anne's energy chains:

There was also a quiz for this information, but I thought it was too difficult (the books is ranged for abilities from 3rd to 8th grade), so we completed it as we talked about each question. I think we all (me included!) learned a lot about energy this week.

Now, I have to find the energy to plan, organize, and make copies for Week 3 at Seven Pillars Academy!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Week 1

This post is the first of what I hope will be weekly recaps of what happens in Seven Pillars Academy. Overall, our first week was great! I will organize this summary by subjects.

This week in Bible, we practiced memorizing our anchor verse for our homeschool: James 3:17.

We said it aloud three times each day, and by Wednesday Emily Anne had it memorized. Will was able to say it by himself on Friday, and was reciting it in the kitchen on Friday afternoon. We are trying to allow these qualities of wisdom to guide our interactions in school, and there were several instances during the week when I was able to compliment the kids on being peace-loving, considerate, or submissive.

Emily Anne worked on her cursive handwriting by copying James 3:17. Will worked in his Handwriting book. By the end of the week, I had moved him along a few lessons because the book started out with practicing various strokes. He had already done handwriting in 4K, so we skipped ahead to the lessons with letters and words. He was happier with that.
Language Arts this week was mostly oral although it did incorporate a small bit of workbook activity. It focused mainly on forming the plurals of words and also reviewed the definition of a noun. I really like First Language Lessons because of its emphasis on auditory learning, which is definitely where EA's strengths lie. While Emily Anne is doing Language Arts, Will would work on some typical kindergarten workbook pages to underscore his Phonics and Math.

Emily Anne worked on narration and dictation in Writing with Ease. The selections this week were from Grimm's fairy tales, and a difference this year is that she reads the selections aloud herself. I like this, as it gives her practice in fluency. During Emily Anne's writing time, Will is listening to Easy Readers on CD and following along in his book. This week he listened to Little Bear Finds a Friend (twice), Biscuit Finds a Friend (He didn't like this one as well because it didn't have page-turning cues), Danny and the Dinosaur Go to Camp, and A Bargain for Frances.

The beginning of the week focused on Nutrition, and the kids colored in the Food Pyramid and learned about food groups, as well as kept a fruit and vegetable diary through the week. By mid-week, I had gotten Emily Anne's syllabus for her co-op Physics course, and we began to study Energy. When I read them the chapter on Energy in the textbook, both Emily Anne and Will said that they had learned about potential and kinetic energy from Fetch with Ruff Ruffman, one of their favorite shows on PBS! On Friday Emily Anne read Will a picture book on Energy from the library, and they watched a very brief clip on potential and kinetic energy from Bill Nye, the Science Guy that I found on Youtube.

I am trying to get more physical education in the children's curriculum. This week we focused on sprinting, which consisted of my timing them while they ran from the walk to the wall of the backyard. They loved this and asked to do it every day.

I am so glad that I decided to use Saxon Math 1 with Will instead of Saxon K. He is certainly up to the lessons and declares them to be "Easy!" after each lesson.
Emily Anne's Saxon 5/4 is also going well, although by Thursday she was dawdling excessively over her Math Facts Drill. I bribed her on Friday with the promise of a Math-Facts-Free day on Monday if she did a good job on her addition drill, improved her time, and did it with a good attitude. It worked! I do like how 5/4 emphasizes math vocabulary in the worksheets.
Emily Anne asked to bring Britney to school and created a desk for her on the steps. Will then created a G. I. Joe school. Do you see the pencil in Duke's hand? There is obviously not a dress code for G. I. Joe school. Both made math worksheets for their doll/action figures.

Emily Anne is in Lessons 26 & 27 in Spelling Workout C. Her tips this week dealt with vowel pairs that make a long-vowel sound and the different sounds of oo. She can do Spelling on her own, so Will and I usually use this time for Phonics. He has blown us all away with his reading this week!
We knew that he was reading more, but it was only with structured reading practice time that I have seen how much he knows. We began with Lesson 27 in The Ordinary Parents Guide to Reading with short-vowel words. We go through the brief lesson and then usually follow up with his spelling the lesson words on a small whiteboard with magnetic letters, which he usually enjoys. He asks to read the Bob books, and he read all twelve of Set 1 by Thursday of this week! I am going to have to get the other sets much quicker than I thought. I really like Bob books because they follow along with the phonics lessons in OPGTR. He also read another phonics reader on Friday that I happened to have, as well as a book that Emily Anne wrote for him.

History was a blast this week! On Monday I read through the information on "The Holy Roman Empire" while the kids colored the picture of Charles V. Tuesday's information was on "The Riches of Spain," and they colored a picture of a conquistador, which was right up Will's alley. On Wednesday they did map work, which consisted of coloring in the countries that Charles V ruled, the countries that Frederick and Philip II ruled, and the route from Spain to South America. 

To explain the idea of the $500 billion dollars in gold and silver that conquistadores took from South America, they did a measurement activity on Thursday. They found things around the house that were 1 mm (grains of salt), 16 cm (a toy tank), 4' 2" (Emily Anne-approximately), and 8'5" (approximate measurement from floor to ceiling) and then filled in a key to see the distance covered if you had 500 billion of that object. This activity made the abstract concept of 500 billion more concrete for them. 

On Friday, we made Spanish doubloons by tracing circles on cardboard and covering them in gold foil wrapping paper. They then used pencils to trace designs on them. The designs on the "coins" didn't show up in the picture, but they were varied--horses, roses, WWII soldiers, Civil War Soldiers. I guess they didn't think to put Philip II on them!

 Then then played the game outlined in the Story of the World activity guide: "Steal the Spanish Treasure." It was a combination of checkers and Battleship, and the kids really liked it. They played it twice so that each child had the opportunity of being the Pirate, and then they played again that afternoon.

Here Will the pirate has just stolen the gold off of one of Emily Anne's consquistador's ships!
As I have been writing this post this morning, Joel has played a game with each of the kids, and they are playing each other now!

This week I was reading aloud Stories from Don Quixote by James Baldwin. Emily Anne and Will have loved hearing how silly Don Quixote has been! We should finish it next week.

First Day of School!

We had an awesome first day of school at Seven Pillars Academy! Here are Emily Anne and Will with their schultutes for their first day. You can read more about the schultutes here.
 Just so you know, Seven Pillars Academy doesn't have a uniform requirement! They just wanted something special for the first day of school, and right now, these outfits seemed cool to them!

Here they are digging into the goodies inside. It was so nice to actually be able to surprise them with something. 
 Once the excitement of the schultutes was over, we moved on to school. We practiced memorizing James 3:17, and Will had first pick of school subjects since it was his first day. He chose History, and the kids colored a picture of Charles V while I read to them about the Holy Roman Empire. We moved through subjects steadily, with no complaints--oh, that every day was like this one!

The workboxes worked very well, and Will surprised me by how well he stayed on task with his subjects! Here he is working on handwriting. He doesn't look too happy there, but it was just a weird photo.
 Here he is in the reading corner listening to a book on CD while I was helping Emily Anne with Language Arts. The book was Little Bear Finds a Friend, and he loved it! When he was finished, he asked if he could listen to it again tomorrow.
 Here is Emily Anne working on her narration for Writing.
All in all, it was a great day, and we were eager for the next day of school. We were blessed with a great start to the new homeschool year!

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Curricula Fair!

I am excited about this year of homeschooling and feel pretty settled about our choices. 

 We will be delving into The Story of the World, Vol. 3: Late Renaissance and Early Modern Times
 History is Emily Anne's favorite subject, and we have loved Susan Wise Bauer's The Story of the World. Will will be officially joining us this year on our journey of history. Both kids are really excited about making their own tartan in Chapter 2!

 Susan Wise Bauer will also be making an appearance in Seven Pillars Academy through Writing with Ease, Level 3. We have really enjoyed the thorough but gentle approach of writing in this curriculum. She is narrating well (although we often have to prune details) and is doing dictation well. Last year, IEW was offered in co-op, and we did it along with Writing with Ease, Level 2 at home. Emily Anne really did not enjoy IEW, and she enjoys writing and goes through reams of paper writing unassigned stories every day. I did not want her to get a bad attitude about writing this year and think that since she is strong in the humanities that she will pick up on organization well without IEW (which I do think is a strong program for those children whose talents are in areas other than writing). A bonus feature of the Writing with Ease books are the selections that Susan chooses for narration; they have piqued Emily Anne's curiosity and led us to books we might not have read on our own. I am excited to hear that Susan's writing program for logic-age children will be available soon!

 After reading through The Child's Story Bible by Catherine Vos for two years, we did topic studies last year, using For Instruction in Righteousness by Pam Forster. This year I felt led to do a study of Psalms and Proverbs and will be studying a different psalm or proverb each week. Emily Anne's cursive copywork will come from these psalms and proverbs. I made my own with a free cursive font.

 Emily Anne will be starting Saxon Math 5/4 this year. The format is different from the earlier Saxon volumes, and I had a little trepidation about this change. I have sat down with it, though, and have seen that it is not really different in practice that how we were doing Saxon 3. It helps to know that I can always fall back on the Dive teaching videos if this humanities mama needs help!

 Emily Anne is working through the rest of Spelling Workout C and D this year. She was not too enthused about the alien grasshopper on the cover of C! I have to say that at first, I was not very impressed with Spelling Workout A & B, but now that I've reread The Well-Trained Mind and have been writing the Spelling Tips in our Spelling section of the Language Arts notebook, it is going much better.

 Emily Anne will be taking Prima Latina through our co-op this year. Joel took Latin in high school, but I've never had the opportunity to learn it. I am exicted to learn along with Emily Anne!

 Science will also be taken through co-op. I am so thankful that I do not have to teach science! I would not enjoy setting up those experiments! This physics class will be using God's Design for the Physical World.

 Grammar will be learned through First Language Lessons, Level 3, another offering by Peace Hill Press. We will be starting diagramming this year, and I know how nerdy this sounds, but I can't wait!

 Will is starting off math with Saxon Math 1. He is so excited to start math and says it is his favorite subject.

 Phonics will be accomplished with Jessie Wise's Ordinary Parent's Guide to Teaching Reading and Bob Books. OPGTR worked so well for Emily Anne, and I am eager to start reading with Will!

I've decided to use Zaner-Bloser Kindergarten for Will's handwriting. I had tried various things with Emily Anne before hitting upon Zaner-Bloser with her cursive learning last year, and it seemed to work best with us.

Emily Anne and Will will also be taking Art at co-op; it will be Emily Anne's third year and Will's first. Emily Anne will be taking her second year of piano lessons, as well.

We are looking forward to a wonderful year!

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