Friday, February 27, 2015

Weekly Wrap-Up...Happy Seollal!

Wow...this week was really weird for us.  We were told that our area would have ice and snow, so all schools and government offices were closed. We got 0 inches of snow, but about an inch of rain!  Sigh.  It's the first time in a while that snow completely missed us all winter....and I know that my friends to the north would be happy to share a foot or two with us : ).  Oh, well. 

Anyway, because the weather wasn't as bad as we thought it would be, we DID make our second field trip!  We went to a celebration for Seollal, or Korean New Year and had a wonderful time - eventually. At first, Eli was having some difficulties with his attitude, but that disappeared when he realized that there was a ton of food to eat (including the traditional rice cake soup). We were taught about traditional songs (the Magpie) and traditional games. A short lesson on some Korean phrases was included, though our family was already familiar with phrases that the were taught. However, Eli enjoyed participating in that part and has been saying "안녕하세요" (annyonghaseyo, which means hello) and "감사합니다" ( kamsahamnida, which means thank you) a LOT this week. I think it was pretty exciting - and very valuable - for him to hear other kids speaking Korean, and not just adults. We were able to participate in sae bae, which is when children do a special bow for their parents, to show gratitude and to wish their parents well for the new year. In return, parents wish their children blessings and a happy new year and give them an envelope with a small amount money as a gift (Eli got $1).
Ready for some great Korean food!

This week in reading, Eli completed the Horizon's Fast Track A/B book.  Grandpa ordered it last year, when Eli first started showing an intense interest and readiness to learn to read. They've worked on it occasionally throughout the year, whenever Eli wanted to, and we are very proud of him for completing all of the lessons. Immediately after finishing the last story in Horizon's A/B, he picked up the next book (Horizons C/D) and completed the first lesson in it independently.  At home, we are still reading with Eli on a nightly basis, and this is working well. He gets to really practice his decoding skills in a format that he enjoys and - quite frankly - tends to remember better. He finished "One Fish, Two Fish" this week, and we've now begun "The Cat in the Hat."  I've begun to notice that multiple sentences per page seem to be less intimidating to him than they used to be, and he's getting better at staying focused. Though he definitely still prefers the one-sentence-per-page type books, I did see him put one back at the library because "it was too easy."  He's trying to read signs and t-shirts everywhere we go! His reading fluency has improved dramatically in the last few weeks, and it's been a lot of fun to witness.  His interest in books that he cannot yet manage is also still very high, and we are all enjoying the experience of reading to him - even if we have to read 3 or 4 books (or chapters, from longer books) each time. 

In math, we continued to follow Eli's interests. We've begun using Life of Fred again, and have introduced skip counting by 5s.  He hasn't gotten on the computer or iPad at all in a couple of days (which is how we often do math skills), though he did some online math problems earlier this week. One day, he got stuck on 8 + 4, and asked for help. Patrick and I both refused to give him the answer, and responded to him that if he wanted to play his math game, then he'd need to figure it out for himself. Please don't think us heartless...I'd actually shown him how to do it previously, and he'd forgotten.  I wasn't against teaching him again if he really needed it - but I am definitely a believer in allowing him to develop problem solving skills, and I knew this was WELL within his reach.  After he realized that neither Patrick nor I would just tell him the answer, he hemmed and hawed for a bit...then decided to work it out.  I was so proud of him for persevering through a problem he considered difficult - and even prouder when he continued to work on 4 or 5 more before getting tired and moving on to something else. He's generally very quick when adding 1 or 2 to a number, and has become really fast with sums of 10 or less. 

Science has been very low key this week. While we've not done any cool experiments lately (and I wanna!), we've been reading a lot about the planets and stars. Eli's also been doing a lot of Montessori puzzles on the parts of plants and animals, and we've been discussing vertebrates and invertebrates.  I love that there are so many amazing apps that recreate these beautiful Montessori puzzles!

In geography, we are studying Deleware for 50 States Friday!  Patrick and Eli are continuing to discuss landforms (island, peninsula, canyon, mountain), and we've begun singing "The Continent Song."

Eli also got to go see a movie with his grandparents and attend gymnastics this week. He absolutely  loved the movie (and popcorn, and ice cream, and - most of all - the time with his grandparents). He is still enjoying the gymnastics class, and it's amazing to see how much he's learned in just a few weeks of starting.  I still have a post planned to show what he's up to there...but time definitely got away from me this week!  I just realized exactly how short this post is on here's a flashback picture of Eli's first Seollal with us, three years ago.

Eli's first Seollal at home

Weekly Wrap-Up

Friday, February 20, 2015

Weekly Wrap-Up...Snakes, Owls, Etc

Our week started off with a field trip to see a lot of these:

We had plenty of kitchen time...this time mixing up our favorite peanut butter cookies!

While at the snake presentation, we had the opportunity to pick up an owl pellet.  Apparently, real owl pellets are helpful to the ecosystem, so we had to settle for a fake one (Eli does not know it was fake).

While reading the instructions, we found out that owls swallow their prey whole, then regurgitate the feathers, bones, indigestible parts into a pellet.  So do hawks, eagles, and many other predatory birds. To me, owl pellets sounded a little bit like a cat with a hairball, but this topic is already icky enough, so I'll stop there.  Eli's pellet was supposed to contain the skeleton (or plastic replica skeleton) of a vole.

It even came with this (supposedly) handy bone sorting chart:

Interestingly enough, the "pellet replica" looks like someone's dryer lint mixed with feathers and plastic bones.  Patrick and I could not figure out why there might be feathers in a pellet containing a vole "skeleton".

Our mini-scientist begins to dissect the pellet with tweezers
Note the gloves...the package reassured me that this was, indeed, a replica...but I wasn't taking chances. My internal "ick" factor couldn't handle watching unless he was wearing them!

Appa helping with the dissection process
Our "guaranteed vole" ended up being bird...!
My question did the fake owl eat a fake bird instead of a fake vole...??  Still, Eli really, really enjoyed the activity and learned a lot about owls and skeletons.

Because of the cold this week, we really didn't make it outside much for playtime.  The only time we saw Ms. E this week was to hand out birthday invitations....I seriously can't believe it's coming so soon!  We did, however, have a lot of iPad time...

I don't generally encourage TV/electronics, but lately, it's been leading to interesting things Eli reading entire books on his own. He finished "Are You My Mother?" and is now halfway through reading "One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish." He is still excitedly reading 1-2 pages a night, and has now begun to sit and listen to chapter books (both on CD and read aloud chapter-by-chapter). I am currently reading him a chapter of "Sideways Stories from Wayside School" by Louis Sachar aloud each night, and we just finished listening to "Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing" by Judy Blume on CD.

I've also moved on from our rather sad (and short!) subscription to EPGY (now Redbird).  We gone back to using Montessori materials and apps for math, allowing Eli to progress at his own rate. This week, he progressed to doing this:

He's just beginning to really understand the idea of place value, and the last problem was an extension of the work he'd been doing. He got really, really excited when he realized that units and tens can be added separately...and he asked for a problem with "really big numbers". Obviously, answering one question like this doesn't show mastery...but it is definitely a demonstration of progress.

We even managed to work on art most days this week. This week, we were looking at how to make a landscape painting. I brought home 4 beautiful landscape paintings when Patrick and I were in Korea a few years ago, and thought it was a nice tie-in to some of our Korea studies this month.  After watching some videos and looking at some fun websites, we gave it a try. We learned several techniques, and experimented quite a bit with mixing colors and layering colors. This is Eli's finished landscape:

We were supposed to go on a second field trip to a celebration of Lunar New Year, but because of the weather, we won't be able to go :(.  However, we did make sure to fit in some gymnastics this week. Thankfully, the gymnastics building was very warm....because it was below 20 degrees outside!  Because of the cold (and because of a concurrent school vacation) most of the kids didn't come to practice, so Eli got a ton of one-on-one instruction. I have a lot of cute pics/videos from his lesson, since I pretty much had an unobstructed view!  I'm saving most of them for an upcoming post, but really wanted to share a couple.
Jumping on the trampoline

Bear-crawling on the parallel bars's 50 States Friday....time to study Connecticut!

Weekly Wrap-Up

Thursday, February 19, 2015

A Slither-y Field Trip

Science in our house is always interest-based and child-led.  At Eli's age and stage of development, I believe it's more important to follow his interests in the natural world than to have him complete a set curriculum or standards.  Lately, his interests are very eclectic, and it's become harder to answer and follow up on ALL of his questions (especially since I think I'm asked 100 questions an hour...!).  We've recently begun having him write down some topics he's interested in, and have just started teaching him to find books at the library that follow these topics. Can I get a "yay!" for research skills?!  Last week, he found a book on snakes that he loved. Seriously...what IS it with boys and creepy-crawlies?  At the same time, we were fortunate enough to get information on a snake presentation at a nearby state park, so we went.  Eli had a marvelous time...and we all learned a lot.  I cannot repeat nearly enough times what a wonderful job the park ranger did with his presentation. 

The park ranger taught us about corn snakes
Asking about the venomous fangs in the jar

Volunteering to "help" the ranger

Finding our that some snakes are heavy

This is what was hiding in the pillow case (it's a huge boa constrictor!)
Getting to pet the boa constrictor

Through the presentation, we got to see, learn about, and touch more than a dozen other types of snakes (all non-venomous of course!). Eli even took some pictures of his own : ).

This week's book that Eli picked from the library is on tarantulas...but I think I'm really, really, happy that no one near us offers a class about spiders : )!

Friday, February 13, 2015

Weekly Wrap-Up...Reading, Cooking, and Cleaning

So, this week started with Eli screaming "Look, look, look..l - o -o-k". This is what he was referring to:

He loves it when he's able to make a word he seems like it is happening more often. It's really funny, because he can read a lot of words, but usually cannot spell them on his own.  Earlier today, he had an attempt at a sentence: "Eli is a appl" (Eli is an apple). We're reading "Sideways Stories From Wayside School" at night before bed...and in the first chapter, the teacher tries to turn the kids into apples...then gets turned into an apple herself.  Now Eli thinks he would like to be an apple.  I'm just thinking that it's a nice change from Eli wanting to (quite literally) turn into a turtle.

With Eli's reading practice, we've decided to hold off on introducing new phonics rules for a while and to simply have him continue to practice reading from some of his books. Last week, when he read "Green Eggs and Ham" aloud to us, we decided to reward him with book tokens for his storybook app. He got really excited, and asked to read to us more, so that he can earn more tokens! So, this week, Eli is reading "Are You My Mother?" by PD Eastman.  He chose this book, and is reading 1 or 2 pages a night.  Tonight, he actually got on a roll and read 4 pages! He's actually almost done, and is really excited about it.  We've told him that when he finishes reading it to us, that we will given him a book token for his favorite storybook app on the iPad. I've meant to record him reading, but have not yet done so. Ms. E gave us some simple A Beka readers for him to practice with, too: Tip and Gus.  Tip was a very easy task for him, but Gus took a bit longer.  I think Patrick and I ended up having him read it 3 or 4 times to practice.

We also visited the big library on Tuesday afternoon. Eli picked out two books to read together, and one book to listen to on CD.  We've not started these yet, though. After our library visit, I decided that - for Eli anyway - I really prefer our town's smaller library (we have 2 libraries...a large one and a small one).  There aren't as many books in the small library, but that makes it easier for Eli to find and see books he's interested in.  The books are also organized a lot better, and I think (overall) it's tended to more thoughtfully...not to mention that it's physically closer to us!

In other news this week, Eli is now being asked to memorize Bible verses at church!  We've been practicing his verse this week, saying it in the morning and before bed.  Eli is very excited to have it down!

Unfortunately, we did miss his gymnastics practice this week - but for something special. Eli's grandparents took him to the circus!  He had a marvelous time, and I am hoping to post some of their pictures soon!

In math this week, we went back to Montessori methods.  Eli did a mixture of working on addition tables (mostly adding 1s and adding 2s), reviewing the concept of subtraction, working on the first half of the hundred board, and skip counting.  He LOVES skip counting, though he really has to work hard on figuring out the number patterns. We also used his Kumon work book for color by number and dot-to-dot puzzles.  Wednesday night, I noticed that he seems to be adding 1s very well, and now seems very solid with this concept.  His 2s have been a bit more challenging....though it was hysterically funny to see him realize that he doesn't have enough fingers to figure out 9+2....!  I have just started showing him how to "count up" 2 numbers, just like he "counted up" for adding 1.  We will continue to work on the addition tables for 2s this coming week, until he begins to memorize them (as he's nearly done for the ones).  Because of the combination of materials that he's currently using, he's beginning to see the relationship between the way a number is written (place value) and the number of "tens" and "units" that it has.

Sadly, we did accomplished very little in Social Studies this week.  We are supposed to be studying Korea this month, too...but it hasn't happened like it should.  And to top it off, I completely forgot to have him do our "50 States Friday" activity on Colorado...I will have to remedy this tomorrow!  Sadly, other than reviewing some Snap Circuit configurations and watching MythBusters, we've also neglected science this week.

We DID however, do a little bit of sticker art.  I've been sending Eli's homework to his daycare/preschool with him in the morning for him to do while I am at work, and he needed a new homework folder. We used his favorite TMNT stickers to write his name and used one of each of the turtles to decorate each corner.

We also completed a project that we started at our local home improvement store...a heart box!  Eli does an amazing job, and is usually able to complete 90% of the work himself...including interpreting the directions : ).  Please excuse my messy garage floor!!

Finally, we did a lot of kitchen time this week. Eli still truly loves to be in the kitchen.  One night, we made veggie fried rice and Eli helped do some prep work. FYI: he is very closely supervised when using these tools, though I don't usually have to interfere with what he's doing.

Cutting some green onions with child-sized kitchen scissors

Slicing zucchini with a Montessori tool
Eli also loves playing in the sink his version of washing dishes.  I think he finds it relaxing. He really gets quiet, concentrating on what he's doing...and always asks for more dishes to wash!  To date, I've only given him plastic dishes/tools, or unbreakable pots/pans.  Still - he loves it - and this week, I introduced him to the sprayer.

About to spray himself....!

Enjoying himself immensely...and entirely focused on his task

We're hoping to get one or two field trips (and a lot of art, science, and geography) in next week...but that wraps it up for now!

Weekly Wrap-Up

Friday, February 6, 2015

Weekly Wrap-Up

Whew! This week was a whirlwind of activity. We started out with a birthday last Saturday - Eli's best friend just turned 4!

They had a great time playing together!!
This is also the week that we both tried and ended a subscription to EPGY (now RedBird) K-7 math. Eli completed the EPGY Kindergarten math in just a few days, and for the most part, enjoyed the experience. While we were originally planning on using the subscription for a total of 3 months, that is not going to happen. Unfortunately, the company is in the middle of a huge transition, and I was really disappointed when we "upgraded" his account...only to completely lose all of his progress.  Unfortunately, the company also removed the parents' ability to adjust the level of the program, too. Sticking with the program meant that he might have had to go all the way back through the Kindergarten material...and I know that he would NOT have been happy about it.  So far, we spoken with them a few times, trying to get his account worked out, but I think - especially since we weren't going to use it long term - that it was better to go ahead and cancel his subscription.  Very thankfully, they had a two week money-back guarantee...though I was a little concerned when I was told that it could take as long as 3 weeks to get the money back!  In the interest of complete honesty...and in hindsight...I'm not sure that any super-structured program like that would last long in our house. I definitely am a big believer in the Montessori methods...and I absolutely felt out of my comfort zone with my tiny child on the computer, for 20 minutes a day, working on a tightly sequenced math program.

As far as math goes, we will be going back to the Montessori scope/sequence for 3-6 year old math. We will also continue using math/number puzzles as often as possible...Eli loves dot-to-dot puzzles, and did several of them this week. They are great for number sequencing, and Kumon has some great dot-to-dot/color by number books (with up to 150 dots!) that teach numbers/sequencing in a very fun way.  

In reading, we have also done a LOT of reading aloud this week. We went to our library and Eli and I both picked out several books to enjoy:

We read each of them several times and are getting ready to return them. One that is not pictured is the "Scrambled States of the USA".  We got it as a book with a read-aloud CD. Eli LOVES books on CD, and has listened to this one more than a dozen times. He is also obsessed with a story book app that I got for the iPad, and listens to the same stories again and again.

For reading "work", we've been reviewing short vowels to help Eli improve his reading fluency. Eli read through a short Abeka reader that he got from his morning teacher. Eli's become really, really interested in rhyming words and is now pointing out as many rhymes as he can throughout the day. This afternoon, he chose to work on a spelling app that we have. I peeked over his shoulder while he was working...just in time to see him spell 3 words: hamburger, ostrich, and mittens.  Granted, the app is corrects him when he makes mistakes (and he made a couple)...but when did he learn this?!?!

I ended up having to visit a school supply store midweek to get some supplies for my students. Eli spent time going from item to item, oohing and ahhing over every item that was remotely related to science or geography.  He found several electronics, robots, and experiments that caught his fancy. He really loved a solar system model that we came across (this *might* become a birthday present!). He even managed to find a game based on the "Scrambled States of the USA" and got really excited about it, since he enjoys the book so much. 

This week has also been a weird week of slightly, almost warm weather and FREEZING cold we've also had a combination of outside bike riding and inside 'creative' playing.  See example below:

I'm not sure why he needed his tools and motorcycle to play with his sand tray....but I went with it. Sadly, even though I have several ideas for really cool art projects, we've not gotten to a single one this week.  I mean...we DID color with crayons...but I'm hoping to plan next week a little better.

Finally, for 50 States Friday, we were supposed to be looking at/working on California...and though we did spend a few minutes on it, Eli mostly wanted to find some of his favorites (New York, Georgia, Kentucky, North Carolina). We did talk about Florida as a peninsula...I'm hoping to teach him more about the peninsula and island landforms next week.

Weekly Wrap-Up

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Math Class

Eli started the EPGY K-7 math class this week.  We decided to go ahead and start him off in the Kindergarten modules so that he could learn how to use the course interface and to make sure that he didn't have any learning gaps in Kindergarten math.  He did have a few struggles when he first started with listening to the questions, but quickly figured out how to work with the program. He LOVED the questions that required the use of a keyboard (he said he felt "grown up"). He loves the problems that contain concepts he knows, but that still make him think. Pattern and calendar questions were (by FAR) his favorites.  We actually spent a lot of time using the program in the last few days, and though I will be having Eli slow down soon, I'm proud of the progress he's made.

We have gotten into a routine of using EPGY for 10 minutes in the morning (and again in the afternoon) while Patrick and I are getting ready.  This is working REALLY well. For the last three days, it seems to have helped Eli to arrive at school with a calmer, more focused attitude.  Now that I have this in writing, of course, it will probably change...!  I haven't decided yet whether I like the program or not...I am going to reserve judgment until I see how it presents new concepts for the 1st grade material.  I can say that I do not think we are going to use the class again after this quarter; it's an interesting program, but it really doesn't fit my psuedo-Montessori style.

This morning, Eli finished the Kindergarten modules. He's now about to start the 1st grade modules, and we are going to decrease the amount of time he spends on EPGY. His next big learning goal in math is to learn how to add numbers that have a sum greater than 10.  I used bold for "his" because it's something that he wants to do and has asked us to demanded that we cried until we promised to teach him. Yikes!