Monday, September 5, 2016

Welcome To Kindergarten...

It's hard to believe, but we officially have a kindergartner in this house! As you can see from the picture below, we also have a toddler that wants to be just like his big bro, ha...

(ignore that these are all junk cell phone pics -- I really need to start using my good camera again)

Sigh...What happened to my baby?! When did my baby Sam get big enough to be in KINDERGARTEN?! Time goes way too fast...

Just looking at this picture, it's clear to see that he was excited that day! He's so thrilled to tell people that he's NOW in kindergarten! Sam's also really looking forward to all the games and experiments that we have planned, not to mention all the fun trips we plan to go on! The legit desk work isn't as thrilling, but that'll come with time. Nevertheless, it's fun seeing how happy he is about starting school. 

As I write this, we're 2 1/2 weeks into the start of our first year officially homeschooling (and reporting to the state!). We're definitely still trying to find our groove. Due to such a crazy summer and then a delay from the vendor with receiving some of our curriculum, I have yet to really sit down and do long term lesson planning. I still want to set goals for where I want Sam to be down the road and what I expect for us to knock out each quarter, etc. Right now, it's been on a week-to-week basis, or even nightly on some things. We've been flooded with information about all sorts of awesome field trips coming up between our homeschool co-op, our charter school, and our other homeschool group -- I hope to be able to incorporate what we're going to experience hands-on through our field trips with our daily lessons. I suppose that's the beauty of homeschooling! I love the flexibility! Hopefully as things become more routine in the coming weeks, I can have a better idea on everything. I feel like at this point, we're testing the waters with a large variety of curriculum and seeing what works vs. what doesn't.

In fact, since I've been asked by several friends what we plan to use in regards to curriculum, I decided to give a brief overview. For fellow homeschoolers out there, what are you using for kinder?

 (Cute Sam wanted to get in the picture when he saw me lay everything out)


Here's our list so far...


If you're doing phonics and haven't checked Explode The Code out, I'd encourage you do to so. Sam loves it! He thinks the pages are funny and he's picking up on it very quickly. Within the first week, he was reading sentences. By the second week, he could read 2 books that I had grabbed from the library. I'm sold! Oh, and if you do decide to use this, I highly recommend the Teacher's Guide. It has great exercises to use when reinforcing what's being taught in each lesson.

Below is a video of Sam working on his words in Lesson 1 from the first book. I wish I had caught it on video, but right after I stopped recording, Sam proudly stated, "I'm a rock star!" Hahaha...


Here's Sam while finishing up Lesson 1 in Explode The Code -- spelling out the word with magnets, then writing it down while sounding it out...


And here's a sample of Sam's work from Lesson 1 in Book 1. Because I'm cheap and plan to reuse these books for Caleb (and possibly additional review for Sam), he uses a dry erase marker on top of a transparency film. It's a win-win, since Sam will find any excuse to use the dry erase markers, ha...




Due to the publisher coming out with a new edition and the vendor not having it on time, we just received All About Reading Level 1 in the mail a few days ago. I was finally able to set up the program and we did our first lesson Friday. So far, so good. I think this will be a great program for mastering phonics with a great foundation. I suppose once we're a month into it, I'll have a better opinion on it. (Perhaps after that, I'll come back and add a little more input at that time.) It does appear as though it's absolutely necessary that you get the full kit -- Teacher's Manual, Student Activity book, and readers. In fact, I'm finding out the hard way that the interactive kit might be a necessity, too. We don't have that and I'm not sure yet if I'm going to order it since we already have magnetic letters, but if you're buying the whole set, I'd recommend adding that to your order as well. It'll make things a lot easier!


I really feel like maybe Saxon K is more preschool-level than kinder. Maybe? Sam pretty much knows everything we're covering. In fact, it's so basic that we've been knocking 3 lessons out each day. He is having fun, though, and continually says how much he loves math with each topic we cover. After starting this, I found out there's a placement test online to see if your child needs this or can go straight into grade 1 math. Sam scored well enough to skip to grade 1 math, but I decided that we'll still knock out this book and just solidify what he knows -- especially since we already have it! I have a feeling I'll soon be ordering the grade 1 curriculum before the end of the year, though. So if any of you are reading this and thinking about using Saxon, keep that in mind. Also, a big selling point to me is that Saxon requires little to no preparation before each lesson -- I'm loving that!

With that said, I like that it covers the days of the week/months of the year and with every lesson, you go over the daily calendar. There are times when I think Sam has a total grasp on all of that, then there are times when he acts totally clueless, so I'm glad we're doing that each day. I mean, I was already doing that -- we have a large calendar on the wall with all of the same information -- but it's nice that the dialogue is laid out as part of the daily math lessons and that it's interactive as he's required to color in each day, etc.

Oh and I wouldn't say the Meeting Book is absolutely necessary. Mine came with my packet, but I don't know that I would've ordered it on its own.

Here's an example of what we're working on with Saxon K. Sam thinks it's rather amusing. I often hear him make little comments like, "I like when we do math!" Who wouldn't when you get to play with your pattern blocks and dinosaurs?!




If your child has a love for geography, I highly recommend Cantering the Country. It covers everything -- geography, science, history, language arts, and character building. However, unlike Saxon, CTC does require a LOT of preparation. It has a basic overview of each state, then it goes on for a couple pages listing tons of ideas for each subject -- mainly with books linked to science, history, language arts, etc. that you can reserve at the library. Included with the curriculum is a cd that has printables that you can use as well. So far, I have found it to be very helpful. If I remember to do it ahead of time, it's nice since I can just order all the recommended books online that I'd like to incorporate in our lessons and then just pick them up at the library. So far, we've covered Alabama and Alaska and Sam has really been enjoying it. CTC is a really good starting point. So if you want it all laid out, this isn't for you. However, if you want the flexibility of choosing how you want to approach it, it gives you lots of options. This book is meant for grades 1-6, although the website that I ordered it from said K-6, and that's how I even found it. I was looking for Kindergarten Geography and this is what popped up. You can really go at whatever pace you'd like. I've read some people take a few years to get through the book, others rush right through in a year. We're currently covering a state a week with a short lesson everyday -- either a coloring page, a video, book, or craft. Sam is really loving it!

Here's an example from our week of learning about Alabama. You can see the first page about Alabama in CTC along with all the books I ordered from the library that were listed in the different categories within CTC (science, history, language arts, charter building, etc.). Sam already loves getting the reference books about each state (he finds them more intriguing than I do!), so this was an easy task. Considering that Sam is in LOVE with all things astronomy, he really enjoyed learning about Robert Goddard -- the man behind the world's first liquid-fueled rocket. After reading all about Alabama and finding out that they have a Space Camp, he totally wants to go. Ha!


We covered Alaska on our second week, but we didn't end up grabbing as many books for this state since we already own several. However, here's the set that I got from the CTC recommended list. It's not pictured, but I also followed the recommendation to watch the 1990s cartoon, Balto. Sam really enjoyed that! He continually asked questions throughout the movie about things he had learned in the books we had read before watching the film, which I love! It reassures me that he's soaking up all this knowledge!


To add to the books recommended for our Cantering the Country lessons, we start each week out with finding the state on the globe...


We've also been playing these awesome National Geographic Kids videos about each state and Sam loves them! By the end of the week, Sam had a firm grasp on the state flag, bird, flower, etc...


We also do a different activity every day to go along with that particular state. Here's Sam with his drawing of the Alaskan flag after learning the story behind it...


And sort of related, cute little Caleb is constantly wanting to join in on sharing his work, too...

(I put a coloring page in a cheap IKEA frame and he uses dry erase crayons so it's endless entertainment.)


For those familiar with Abeka, it is a Christian-based curriculum. Even though we're homeschooling through a charter, I also wanted to add in a few Christian things here and there. I grabbed God's World K (Abeka Science) off one of the used curriculum sites over the summer since I've always liked Abeka in the past. (I grew up using parts of it at the private Christian school I attended.) I must say, it's incredibly basic. I didn't bother buying the teacher's guide, so I'm not sure what Abeka's guide is for this book. Honestly, had I been able to flip through it before I bought it, I'm not sure I would have done so. This is a big reason why I ended up ordering the Apologia books. However, since we have it, I plan to just read it and talk about it slowly throughout the year. I figure I could add this into our reading list when we cover various topics. Sam enjoys just sitting down and reading a chapter out of this at a time, so that's a plus!



Everyone I know raves about Handwriting Without Tears - Letters and Numbers for Me! I have a mixed opinion. I do think it is great and I like the terminology it uses to teach the kids -- like the "frog jump," etc. However, Sam isn't much into it. He ends up being incredibly sloppy when working with this and I think it's just a lack of motivation. When I pulled out our Paw Patrol handwriting worksheets that I made last year, he was much more enthusiastic and wrote with much better penmanship. I still plan to use HWT 2 days a week, but I also plan to add in other handwriting practice sheets as well and mix things up.



Not pictured above are the three Apologia textbooks that I ordered -- Astronomy, Human Anatomy and Physiology, and Who Is God? They're Christian and are set up to where you can use them for any grade between K-6. For kinder, I don't plan on doing a strict lesson plan for the entire book(s), but I'd like to hit different topics that may relate to what he's learning about in his co-op class or if something specific strikes his interest. I got a good deal on them, so I grabbed them up and figured I could pull them out when necessary for now. So far, I've only skimmed through them, but I'm really excited about them! I've heard great reviews from friends and I know that Sam will be all over the Astronomy one! In fact, we may just use that as part of his daily read aloud time -- he's a total space junkie. Who needs a colorful short story from the children's section at the library when you have a reference book about Makemake (a dwarf planet that Sam could tell you all about)!?!? On more than one occasion, Sam has requested that we check out the big bulky reference books about satellites, planets and other astronomy topics from the library, so this is right up his alley!

For those using this curriculum, I did not bother buying the journals that works with these textbooks. I talked to a few friends who have used them and they told me it's not necessary and that it works just as well to have them use a basic notebook in replacement. So, I plan to have Sam do just that...



On top of everything listed above, we also incorporate the Bible everyday. After our morning prayer and say the Pledge of Allegiance, we cover a weekly Bible story and memory verse. So far, we've learned about Baby Moses and Jonah. I use a variety of books, videos, and coloring pages or crafts to go along with each story throughout the week. Since I want Sam to work on his pencil grip a little more than just a quick handwriting book, I also created a handwriting sheet for his memory verse. Feel free to click the image below to download it if you're interested in using it for your kids! (The link should send you to the pdf file.) I have Sam write out his verse and say it every day. By the end of the week, he has had it memorized. It warms my heart hearing him say it aloud!

Below was our first memory verse...


Matthew 19:14 was our first memory verse of the year for no other reason than the fact that it's the first one to come to mind when I was setting up our first week of lessons. In the future, I might use the verse they use each week in his Sunday school class at church -- I'm not sure yet. I've also thought about doing a verse each week from the "Hide 'em in Your Heart" series by Steve Green  For anyone that grew up listening to Steve Green, you might be familiar with it. These songs are great at helping you memorize Bible verses. In fact, the Matthew 19:14 song immediately popped up in my head the second I thought about covering it with Sam and I haven't listened to this song in probably 25 years, ha! While Sam practiced writing his verse each morning, I played the song (thank you, YouTube!) and we sang along. Below is a video of Sam practicing his verse halfway through the week...


Art

For art/crafts, I've kind of let the library take charge of that for now. Since we already attend several activities at our local library each week, I've held off at home. Plus, on the few occasions I planned to break out the paint and let him go to town, things get crazy with Caleb and we end up putting it off until "tomorrow" -- tomorrow unfortunately never seems to come with these well laid out plans, ha! I intend to get Sam in a legit art class at a local studio, so until that is able to get set up, this will do. Yay for charter funds! I also ordered the Draw Write Now series, but we haven't even had a chance to touch that yet, but I hope to this week. It looks super fun!

Speaking of those activities at the library, here's Sam creating his ninja after learning about them during their weekly Little Artist night at the library...


This is after another activity at the library. Poor Caleb is obsessed with those Lightening McQueen rain boots -- too bad we're in a drought!



Extras

I also ordered a ton of experiment kits (Magic School Bus Space and Chemistry kits, other space-themed kits, magnet experiment kit, etc.), educational games like this and this, and have other little workbooks to mix things up. Target seriously rocks when it comes to fun educational workbooks in the One Spot section! We grabbed up various workbooks on phonics and math, but even more fun are the themed ones based on space, science experiments, the 50 states, the presidents, etc. I also have Leapfrog workbooks that Sam loves. I like to mix those in on occasion to spice things up and give him a little variety.

Here's Sam working on Somebody Board Game -- a game I bought with charter funds. For several days after playing this game, he would ask me for more information about things like the trachea and what it does -- I love his thirst for knowledge!


Speaking of games, I never can seem to leave Lakeshore without buying something. The second we got home after their Saturday free craft activity, Sam immediately wanted to break out Scrabble Jr. and play it. Fun times!
  

*****

I realize now that I failed at making that a brief overview -- looks more like a novel! If you're still reading, I'm impressed! 

I think I mentioned a few times about a charter while going through our chosen curriculum. For those familiar with the homeschooling options in CA, we decided to go through a charter school this year. You get the freedom to homeschool how you want with whatever curriculum you choose and get funds to pay for it! (Assuming it's secular -- Christian curriculum can be used, but is out of pocket.) The funds also cover a large variety of enrichment classes/activities as long as you do a couple little things required by the state since it's still considered a public school. We're required to meet with a certified teacher once a month to show Sam's progress, provide samples of his work, show proof of attendance, and take standardized tests once you hit 3rd grade. Aside from the standardized tests, I'm actually totally fine with all of that as it helps keep families accountable. As far as the standardized tests go, we'll cross that bridge when we get there. After all, we don't have to worry about that until 3rd grade. Ultimately, the large allowance of funds completely pulled me in. I mean, really...Who can turn down the amazing funds they offer for curriculum and extra-curricular activities?! Sam will have such amazing opportunities that he wouldn't even get if he went to our local brick and mortar public school! He's especially excited about the upcoming ice skating and rock climbing lessons, ha! So far, we're really happy with our experiences with our chosen charter.

Since we are using the charter option, we have to follow the guidelines given by the state (which are the same as what the local public school follows). The state of California says that in kindergarten, Sam is required to have Math and Language Arts 5 days a week and Science/Social Studies 2-3 days a week. However, because Sam loves science and geography so much, we're doing everything 5 days a week -- just not in an intense fashion. In fact, I was thinking about cutting it down to just a couple days a week like the standard requirements, but when I asked Sam, he disagreed and said he wants to do it everyday. Sure thing, kid. If you're enjoying it, we'll stick to it!

Hopefully I'll get a chance to get back on here more often and post more updates of how things are going. I've been pretty absent over the last year (or two) and will hopefully some day catch up on a few things that never got blogged. In fact, we just honored Jacob's 13th birthday -- perhaps that'll be on the agenda later this week to get on here and talk about it. In the meantime, here's my insanely long take on our homeschooling adventure so far...

I'm really looking forward to the week ahead! It looks like it will be a great one! Two of Sam's classes start, we have a field trip to the LA County Fair with our charter and we'll end the week with Sam's favorite...our homeschool park date -- a time when about 30 kids come together and go crazy at the park for 3+ hours. Fun times ahead!

Before I go, I'll leave you with this. I found it amusing -- perhaps it'll bring back memories of when you were a kid and needed that hard-earned break, ha. Over the weekend, James was driving Sam somewhere and while on the freeway, Sam saw a billboard and asked what it said.  Knowing that Sam's learning CVC words right now, he figured he could probably sound it out. So, he asked Sam if he could do so. Before James could even finish his question, Sam jumped in and said, "Not on my day off! I get Saturday and Sunday off from school -- I'm not doing any school today!!!" Hahahaha. Can't get one past that kid, ha!

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