Oh Good.

In CategoryNavel Gazing

Finally someone has come along to tell me how much soda I should drink at the movies. If there’s one thing I’m tired of, it’s making all these decisions. It’s exhausting wondering if what I make for lunch is acceptable. They’ve already solved the salt problem, now Mayor Bloomberg turns his laser focus onto Large Beverages.

If only they could find a way to make us all eat Kale.

I’ll tell you one thing, if they starts messing around with chocolate, I’m moving to Canada.

Oooh! Or opening a sugary, salty, chocolate-y den of iniquity! Like a speakeasy. With those hidden compartments to hide all the good European chocolate and Pringles. “What? no, no Mr. Government Man, we don’t have any sweets here… would you like a lawn-clipping smoothie?”

And then I’ll tear around in one of those mobster-looking cars with the squinty windows. But my tommy-gun will shoot chocolate chips and tiny salt packets.

And I’ll have a good reason to wear a trench coat.

Dudes. Seriously.

In CategoryAdventure

Random Monday

In CategoryRandom Monday

Snow. May 23, 2012.

• One of the things about traveling that is very trying for yours truly is the bathroom situation. Specifically, taking my 5 year old daughter into a public bathroom. For one thing, public bathrooms are revolting. For another, she has Performance Anxiety, and has a very hard time going in a big room with other strangers doing the same thing.

Which is completely understandable when you think about it…

Apparently it helps if I sing the Pee-Pee song to her. So if you are ever in a public bathroom and you hear some poor woman in a neighboring stall singing “pee-pee-pee-pee-pee-pee-pee” to the tune of the Alphabet song, have pity – it’s me.

• The other day I uttered the words, “Oh, there better not be a pterodactyl in my kitchen!”

Snow. May 25, 2012.

• Every morning my husband slobs sugar all over the counter when he is making his coffee. So when I come make my coffee, I set my cup down in a sticky, crunchy mess. And then I get annoyed and spend 3 minutes chiseling sugar off the counter.

Every morning.

It makes me feel kind of stabby, truthfully.

• Here is another excellent article by Peter Gray at Psychology Today – Doing More Time in School: A Cruel Non-Solution to Our Educational Problems. Apparently there is an initiative in the Boston Public Schools to increase the school day from 6 1/2 hours to NINE AND A HALF HOURS a day.

NINE AND A HALF HOURS. Is that insanity or what?

A snippet:

“Why are we so unimaginative in our thinking about our children’s needs and how to solve them? We try to solve every problem through the school system, and that system always fails. It fails primarily because children don’t like school. People don’t thrive and learn well in settings that make them unhappy. This point is so obvious, yet is almost completely ignored by educational policy makers.”

Snow. May 26, 2012.

• Happy Memorial Day, y’all!

Kindergarten Discussion

In CategoryHome Schooling

Baby bison. Is there anything cuter?

So the other day my new Internet Buddy, Felicia, emailed me with some questions.

I love questions, y’all. For one thing, I like to boss people. It’s kind of my thing. For another, it gives me something to talk about besides the tribulations of taking my daughter into public bathrooms.

I thought about answering these questions via email, but I know my other imaginary friends have more experience than I, and a lot of good advice to offer. So feel free to chime in and throw out thoughts of your own.

But only if you agree with me.

Just kidding.

For those of you who do not homeschool or have kindergarteners, there will be Nature Pictures to help alleviate the boredom.

Pronghorn, also known as Antelope. Cute Cute Cute!

Felicia asks:
For the K age I was really thinking just math and reading in terms of formal lessons, and let everything else be interest-driven. So for reading I was thinking of just doing a spelling program and reading books on our own, but do you think a formal reading program might be worth it too? Perhaps the all about reading would dovetail nicely with the all about spelling… (We do a lot of reading on our own anyway so the program would be in addition to that, not instead of.)

I think that sounds great. In all honesty, I don’t know about the value of a formal reading program, since you have already done so much already with 100 Easy Lessons. My personal feelings and observations are that my kids retain more when I school them less, which is completely counter-intuitive and hard to adjust to. If I was going to flat out suggest a Learn-to-Read regimen it would be to work through Explode the Code books 1-4, then start All About Spelling Level 1. Get as many decodable readers as you can and leave them all over the place. They can be a little hard to find, but we have several sets of BOB books, the All About Spelling Readers, and Now I’m Reading. I also noticed on Amazon that Usborne has several phonics-based readers.

Big Grizzly. I know, Mel – tooo close! Toooooo cloooooose!

Do you have any advice about math and/or curriculum for it? I really have no idea what “learning style” my little guy is. I have an engineering degree so I know some higher-level math but I am not sure I know what the best way to teach the elementary stuff is, so I definitely want something that has a good teacher’s manual.

I have an engineering degree too! I may not be getting paid to use it, but it comes in handy for being able to answer all the questions a 7 year old boy can come up with.

Our personal Math program is to start with a Pre-K-ish sort of thing with Singapore Earlybird Kindergarten Math, Book A. Don’t bother with the teacher’s manuals or the additional activity books. You don’t need them. These books are geared toward a school setting, so sometimes there are group activities, but just ignore those. Singapore Math has lots of pretty pictures, and it’s a very gentle introduction to math.

You can continue on with Singapore Math as long as you like (although I’ve heard it diminishes in quality around 7th grade), but I found that Big got distracted by the pictures and colors, so after Book A (which just takes a couple of months) we switch to Math-U-See Primer. I love Math-U-See. I love the videos, I love the manipulatives, and I love the good, old-fashioned approach to math. You can judge where your baby is in his math abilities. With my kids – Big especially – Kindy was as much about learning to sit still and listen to directions as about the actual content.

Sandhill Crane. Amazing. We also saw a Great Blue Heron, but he was too far away for a picture. I don’t know why I like these birds so much….but they are just. so. cool. Maybe I’m jealous of the long legs?

What about handwriting? When do you try to introduce that?

Oy, the handwriting. Frankly, this has been the biggest struggle for me. I’ve tried EVERYTHING. A lot of people really love Handwriting Without Tears, so that’s an option. I didn’t, because I thought it was ridiculously expensive, and also the actual forming of the letters did not match his natural inclination. And it was not tear-less.

I finally found Getty-Dubay, which I like a lot. The letters are shaped more like he naturally writes them, and I find it to be an attractive font in general. I don’t know who goes through one workbook and then their kid has terrific handwriting and then they move on with their lives in blissful ignorance of a child who pitches a fit every day because his hand gets a cramp at the sight of the book, but it’s not me.

So rather than buying endless copies of the same workbook, I bought StartWrite and I make my own worksheets (using the italic font). We do one page a day, and I insist that he try his hardest. I don’t correct handwriting when we are doing other subjects, unless they are writing letters backwards or are deliberately being sloppy.

awwwww….! wook at the widdle baby black bear! So cute! That picture was taken from INSIDE the car, because he was just that close.

Finally, any good ideas for hands-on science stuff for kids? Someone in my local group highly recommended Apologia science but I haven’t even looked into it yet.

Some people love Apologia. You’ll have to see what you think. It probably wouldn’t work for me, because my kids have extremely varied interests and I can’t really see locking them down into some year-long bird study. But it’s supposed to be very thorough, and there are a lot of places online where you can download supplements and notebooking pages and extra activities. It’s a Christian program, and they incorporate a lot of Bible verses into it.

If your baby is really science-y, check out Real Science 4 Kids. It is TERRIFIC, and there are LOTS of hands-on activities. It’s real science – chemistry, physics, biology, etc; but right at their level. It’s pricey, but my general thought is to do one subject per year and make them last. Then we can spend the rest of the time doing interest-led stuff.

Big Bison – or as Little calls them, Buffy – on the side of the road.

Frankly, at age 5 or 6, I truly think that an interest-led approach in as many subjects as possible is the way to go. The chances that they will remember specifically what they learned in kindergarten or 1st grade science or geography or history seem slim to me, so I try to use this time to foster a true love of learning, rather than get too worked up that their interests aren’t aligning properly with the State Standards. Which I mostly had to learn the hard way, if I’m being honest.

Fostering interest-led learning is harder than it sounds, since you might have to be willing to drop everything and order a truckload of volcano books from Amazon, or stop cruising Pinterest and search for some dang geoduck printable, but it’s very rewarding.

Can’t get enough BEARS. Mama and two babies.

In my vast experience of homeschooling for THREE WHOLE YEARS, I have concluded that LESS IS MORE. Get your kids to read fluently and develop basic math skills and the rest is gravy. I know, it sounds ridiculous.

Plus, you ought to brace yourself that you may end up changing your approach several times before you land on the things that work. I’ve read that it can take up to three years to find your groove. So be prepared to experiment and cut yourself a lot of slack if some things don’t work and you have to ditch them.

Good luck! And feel free to email me again if you need more bossing help!

Little brand-new baby elkie. In our yard. Adorable.