Monday, June 6, 2016

Summer Homeschool Schedule

This time of year, the internet abounds with bloggers posting about the summer plans.  Heck, we even made our own Summer Bucket List!  However, since I'm a full time mommy and full time teacher, school year evenings usually consist of making and cleaning up from dinner, lots of grading, errands and chores.  Xander didn't learn a thing in preschool (well actually, he learned some incorrect "science," but that's another story), so instead of winding down for the summer, we are excited to start up his summer school!

Balancing Choices
 The biggest challenge for me was to find a list of school activities that was manageable.  I tend to get a bit overzealous and bite off more than either of us can chew, so the goal was to do something that we could do most days this summer.  I decided on 4 things that needed to be done daily, with an option of 2+ additional things to be rotated.  I made these check-off sheets and laminated them, so that he can keep track of what he has done.  We'll keep a tally on the one for the weekly list, to make sure we are rotating.

 Daily Work
  • Christian Light Publications Math - Level 2 (~10 min)
    • Since these are simple, self paced workbooks, I'm hoping we'll start them together this summer, and he can take them to kindergarten with him, since kindergarten math will be too easy
  • Read Primary Math 1A/1B with Mommy (~10 min)
    • We're going to read through these together to get more of the problem solving math skills
  • 30 min Non-Fiction Reading of Xander's choice
    • We have oodles of books that he loves to peruse.  Everything from books about specific animals to How Things Work books.
  • 30 min Any Reading of Xander's choice 
    • To be honest, Xander would have probably done this and the nonfiction reading on his own anyway.
  • Pick at least 2 other learning activities listed below (most take 5-20 min)

2-3 Times per Week
He gets to pick which ones of these he wants to do when, but I'll have him cross them off the list, so that he gets some variety during the week.
Earning Money
Last summer I wrote about "Hiring" My 4 Year Old.  I still want to teach him about earning and saving money, but I don't want to pay him for helping out around the house.  I feel like that is just being a helpful member of the family.  Therefore, I pay him for his school work.  We had been on a sticker system for my school year, but now that we're on summer and more work is expected, I needed to change the system.  He's going to get a dollar a day for every day that he completes all 6 activities.  He can also earn a bonus dollar if he completes at least 25 learning activities on the weekly work page.  However, I don't want him doing more than 5 of any one category to count (otherwise he'd do nothing but iPad games, learning videos and keyboarding).  

I hung his lists next to his desk (on the side of my desk)
Our IKEA bins have been re-purposed yet again to hold his worksheets/workbooks.

Friday, June 3, 2016

Summer Bucket List

Finally!  School is out, the freedom of summer is here!  Since last summer was spent fixing up the new house, I decided that I want to squeeze every ounce of fun time with Xander I can out of this summer.  So what did I do?  Made a list of course!

Xander actually helped me quite a bit.  We had fun brainstorming what types of things would be special enough to go onto our bucket list, and what things were more everyday type things.  We also made sure to leave space to add new things we think of.

Some of the Summer Bucket List
Picnic in the park
Learn to ride a bike
Go to the zoo
Decorate T-Shirts
Go on a hike
Go bowling
Go on a picture walk (giving him an old digital camera)
Pajama day
Fix ALL the Legos
Decorate cupcakes
Sprinkler party
Go to Chicago to visit friends
Splash Park
Make Ice Cream
Movie and popcorn night

I'd love to hear what is on your list so that we can add to ours!

Friday, April 8, 2016

Games for Brains: Flash Point

Flash Point
Playing Time: ~45 Minutes.
Players: 1-6
This game is definitely not marketed for children, nor would I buy it just for the kids.  It is one of the first cooperative board games I got.  My dad, brother and I played often, especially around holiday breaks.  The idea is that you're all firemen trying to save victims from a burning building.  You have to put out fires, prevent explosions and save the people, before too many of the die or the building falls down around you.  While it is slightly complicated at first, it was easy enough once we got going.  I also liked that the rules included quite a few variations to make it simpler or more difficult, including two different playing boards.  When Xander was about 4-4.5 he started joining in the play.  Since everyone playing either wins or loses together, it encourages cooperative play and strategy, which was perfect for bringing him in.  I'm a little bit selective about which character I give him, since some of them have complicated rules, but he's pretty good at knowing what he/should do on his turn.  It is a great way for him to be included in something we would want to be doing when we get together anyway.  I think this is a great introductory game as a bridge to the world of grown up games.  We've played with some non gaming friends (including a 10 & a 12 year old) and they seemed to pick it up just fine. There's really no reading required for this game (other than reading the rules).

Brain Value:
While it doesn't explicitly focus on any academic skills, I see a lot of logic development.  Since we plan strategy cooperatively, he can hear the adults' thought process and pick up our reasoning.  He's started being able to plan ahead a little bit and figuring out which is the best use of resources and number of moves.  These are skills he can carry over into other games and even other types of tasks.

Taking it Beyond the Game:
First of all, the game pieces are little fire fighers, so Xander usually has the extras to play with while we're playing the game.  He also likes to use the game to come up with his own imaginative games.  I believe when this picture was taken there were a couple of sibling firefighters with super powers that had to save the people.

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Friday, April 1, 2016

Games for Brains: Sushi Go

Playing Time: ~15 Minutes
Players: 2-5

This game plays a little differently than all of our other card games.  Each player gets a hand of so many cards, looks at them all and selects one to keep.  Then everyone passes the hand of cards to the next player.  The cards keep rotating until they're all gone.  Each card has different types of sushi on them, and each type of sushi scares differently.  Some just give you points, some give you increasing numbers of points depending on how many you have, some you only score points on if you have more than everyone else.  Overall, I think it is a cute game that goes pretty quickly.  It's also nice for a variety of players.  That being said, I probably wouldn't play it with just adults.

Brain Value:
This game definitely has some memory and strategic thinking.  For example, the shashimi only score points if you have three of them.  Since you've seen all/both of the hands, you may realize that there are only two left, so it wouldn't make sense to take one (unless you see that the opponent has one and you want to block them from getting the points).  You have figure out what you're likely to get in upcoming hands and decide what would be most advantageous.  For added brain value, I make Xander figure his own score for each round (I add the totals for all three rounds to get the final).  He's getting pretty good at adding them in his head.

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Friday, March 25, 2016

Games for Brains: Machi Koro

Playing Time: ~30 Minutes
Players: 2-4
This is a game that combines card collecting with dice rolling.  The idea that you're mayor of a city and you want to add cool new attractions to your city.  You do it by making money off of different types of public works projects you "build."  It is kind of nice because you can make or lose money on other players turns, so you have something to do regardless of whose turn it is.  Being able to read the cards is definitely helpful, but a non reader could probably still be able to figure it out with a little help.

Brain Value:
This game involves some strategy, such as figuring out how much to diversify your cards and when you should buy new cards and when you should develop attractions.  There's also a little bit of probably/math involved.  He has to know that no one is going to roll a 9, if we're still at the stage of the game where we only roll one die.  Also, it is less likely that someone will roll a really low number if they're using both dice.

Expansion Pack Note:
We had liked this game so much, that a friend of ours got us the Millionaire's Row expansion pack.  While having a bigger variety of cards was nice, it got to be a little much for Xander, especially when we played by the rules that came with it.  We ended up doing a combination of the original rules and the expansion pack rules to make it more fun for everyone.  However, we definitely don't play as much as we did when we only had the original game, mostly because the games end up taking a lot longer.

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Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Starting Piano

Today I did our first official piano lesson with Xander!  Yes, I know, I'm a little behind, but better late than never, right?  Now of course, I'd set him up with some background since he was little.  Your Baby Can Discover went through some notes and timing, although I doubt he remembers them.  He also loves Trebellina and Suzie's Piano Primer.  Recently he's been playing Piano Maestro on the iPad and has really wanted to learn to play.  What better time than when he's seriously interested?

While I considered doing formal lessons, it just isn't in the budget at the moment, so I will start teaching him myself.  I decided to start with John Thompson's Easiest Piano Course Part 1.  It starts incredibly basically, but I'm hoping it will provide a good foundation.  We might just go through the first book quickly.  I have a couple of Teaching Little Fingers to Play books ready to go for when he's ready!  Tonight we went through the first several pages, and he didn't want to stop.  I figure that's a good sign.

I'm interested to learn what other parents have done to teach their children piano.  Are there apps, movies or books you recommend?

Monday, March 21, 2016

Graduating AAS Level 1!

A while back, I posted about how we adapted All About Spelling for a Toddler.  We didn't do all of the writing, because he wasn't ready and he hated it.  We also only did a couple of lessons a week.  Since that time we slowly started in some writing, although usually only a couple of phrases, not all of the words.  I'm excited to say we are now done with Level 1!  He was so incredibly proud of himself.  I think he called his grandma, grandpa, uncle and former babysitter to tell them he had finished.  

I wouldn't say he's at 100% mastery of every word.  The double "S" at the ends of words are still a little problematic, but he has mastered enough that it would be silly not to move on!
On to Level 2!
I have ordered and sorted All About Spelling Level 2.  (Kind of a bittersweet moment for me, I must admit.  My baby is getting so big, so fast!).  This time through I do plan on using the red dictation cards, since they should be easy enough for him to write.  We'll still have him write some, but not all of the phrases and sentences.  He likes the spelling and hate writing, so I don't want that dislike to transfer over to spelling.  We'll still only probably do 2-3 lessons a week, but I'll keep you updated!

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