Thursday, May 31, 2012

Week 4 of First Grade

Okay, back on track!  Phew!

So, we're back in Mesopotamia, now learning about the first Sumerian dictator, Sargon, and how he united all the ancient Sumerian city-states into the first recorded military dictatorship,The Akkadian Empire.  Yeah, I didn't know any of that before I read it this week, either. ( I should probably have failed first grade, but I think my teacher passed me just because I never shut up and she was tired of the sound of my voice.)  For our history project this week, we made cylinder seals like the Sumerians used to sign their personal documents and business agreements.  I didn't know they had toilet paper back then, but the cardboard rolls probably made it pretty easy to make their seal.  I'm sure every 5 and 6 year old child had one.

 First Ancient effective communication tool.

Of course the Sumerians didn't have Crayola Washable Poster Paint or, probably, wax paper. 
Or bright pink casts for broken arms.

But the end result of our projects were pretty fun to see.  

I only got pictures of G-girl's before my camera battery died, but just picture this with race cars, stop signs and, for some reason, crosses, all done in beautiful blue paint and you'll have a good idea of what J-man's looked like..  

For those of you who need things a little more spelled out- we put foam stickers on empty toilet paper rolls, rolled them in paint spread onto wax paper, and then rolled that onto cardstock.  They're supposed to emulate the cylindrical seals made to "sign" the paperwork the Sumerians used.  But it was windy, so it more emulated, "Holy cow, catch it before it flies into the house and Dad yells at us for getting purple butterflies on the sliding glass door!"

I think our favorite subject this week, by far, was science.  I still haven't nailed down how I want our Animal Classification chart to look, but I will probably have something put together by the time the kids graduate high school.  Anywhoodle, we've moved on to the Phylum Arthopoda, Class Insecta.  Yep, insects.

After we got the bothersome reading and narration work out of the way (although I cannot recommend DK's First Animal Encyclopedia enough!) we got to start our nature journal-ing.  We've done a nature journal project before, but it was something I structured pretty carefully and the kids were just sort of along for the ride.  They just filled in the blanks of my templates.  Now we're moving to where they are looking for things, sitting down and sketching them, and labeling them.  So we took a walk through our favorite place, Bear Creek Lake Park, along Bear Creek, and found lots of insects to draw.  I tried to take pictures of the specimens as we went, to put as a supplement in their journal, so they can see how their drawings match up.  When we got home, we looked up on the Internet (aka Dad's brain) and tried to find the names of some of the insects we drew.
This one is Bob Boxelder Bug.

This one claims to be Patrice, but I remember her as being much bigger than this.  I think the South Beach plan must be working.  Good job, Patrice, if this is really you!  (Patrice is a grasshopper.)

We took another walk Thursday morning, because we like hanging out with our friends. There was a competition to see who could collect the most roly polies, even though those were annelids, which we studied last week.  I somehow managed to get them all left there at the park, none enjoyed a ride home in our car.

In the afternoon, we came home and made our own insects out of pipe cleaners.  First the kids picked an insect from our Wildlife Explorer books and then tried to make them by twisting colorful fuzzy sticks into shape.  I made an ant, G made a honeybee and J made a dragonfly.

After that, each of us created our own unique imaginary insects.  The only rules were they have to have the three main body parts of an insect- the head, the thorax and the abdomen- and six legs- other than that, it was a free for all.

But we forgot how devious insects can be, and while we were distracted, our insects got together and plotted some deviousness.

The honeybee is clearly the look-out here, while the dragonfly is his usual bossy self. 

What we discovered was a true testament to the cooperativeness and team-work seen in the insect world.

 The honey bee gathering some nectar.  Pretty harmless.

The dragonfly trying to prune our tree.  WHILE THE ANT TRIES TO GET INTO THE HOUSE.  DEVIOUSNESS!

After we called the exterminator, the rest of the week was spent continuing through math, spelling, reading, phonics and grammar as usual.  Our new read-aloud literature book is Wind in the Willows.  So far it's getting a "meh" rating.

Next week our history will take us to a study of the ancient Jewish people and our science will keep us in Arthropoda, Insecta with the study of butterflies and moths.  I hope our butterfly kit shows up by then!

Daily School Schedule- First Grade- Summer 2012

Lately a lot of people have been asking me what our daily schedule is like. It might be because they want to know why I'm on Facebook at 1:08pm but I'm going to give people the benefit of the doubt. I'm sure they're really just wondering how we break up our day and get all of our curricula topics to align.


Here it is. This is also my first time trying to embed an Excel spreadsheet onto this blog. I'm such a newbie.

I guess I should point out the individual reading instruction and personal reading time are not on here because we don't do those at regular times.  I teach each child individually a new reading concept for 15-30 minutes each day, and each of them has to read to me for 30 minutes a day.  This usually happens during lunch or in the afternoon.  And, of course, we all read together at least 30 minutes a night before bed time.

Edit: I guess people want to know which curricula we are using.  Although I have that in another post, I'll add it briefly here:
Phonics- Explode the Code
Spelling- All About Spelling
Writing- Writing With Ease
Grammar- First Language Lessons
Math- Singapore Math
History- Story of the World and Tapestry of Grace
Science- Easy Classical Science
Reading- Ordinary Parent's Guide to Teaching Reading

Most of these are classically based, and created by the authors of The Well-Trained Mind.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Week 3.5 of First Grade

I have just one picture that sums up what was supposed to be our fourth week of first grade:

No, my arm is not that dainty.  Or that broken.

My wonderful Gabrielle decided that she wanted to go to Urgent Care this week.  After all, it's been almost two years since we last went, as we seem to have the majority of our anaphylactic, Armageddon-inducing food allergy issues under control.  So as I walked out of the living room to get read to take a shower, she climbed up the banisters on the second floor and decided to walk down the hand rail.  I came around the corner just as she fell.  Ironically, she screamed less from her broken bones than she does when I comb her hair.  Anyhow, we went to Urgent Care, where I felt incredibly paranoid about bringing in a child with broken bones.  I let her answer all of the "how did it happen" questions, and was relieved she didn't announce to everyone that I was napping, like her brother is wont to do.  (Take a nap once and the kid never lets you live it down.  Take a nap often, like I want to, and, well, I guess maybe I earned my reputation.)  Once she was settled playing, and the doc was filling out our release/parole papers, I asked him when the adrenaline would subside.  And I immediately burst into tears.  Guess we know where she gets it.  To put the cherry on top- she didn't want to leave Urgent Care, as she was having too much fun.

The trip to the pediatric ortho the next day to set and cast the bones was a roller coaster.  She went from the happiest, singingest, flirting-with-the-X-Ray-techiest girl to, well, a psycho, in about three seconds flat.  It was like she has a Scream Switch that got set to Ear-Splitting Hysterics (Spinal Tap's Eleven) and then the switch was broken off and stuck there.  Poor thing is terrified of shots, so once that word was uttered, it was all over but the crying.  Literally.

Did I mention we also had the stomach flu?

I will not post a picture of that because, well, that's gross.  Here's the old, tried-and-true pancake bunny, my go-to filler picture.

Needless to say, we decided to take it easy school-wise this week.  We kept up with basic phonics and math for a few days, then sat around staring at each other through our PTSD fog.  Then Rob came home Friday and all is back to being right with the world.

We'll pick up in Science and History where we left off, making next week our new Week 4 of First Grade. If I can get out of bed come Monday morning...

Monday, May 21, 2012

Week 3- SOTW and TOG Reading List

First Grade

We're using both Tapestry of Grace and Story of the World this year, so I thought I'd keep a log of the books we read, as well as the sections/weeks we've coordinated between the two spines.  Both kids are in first grade.  I have an Excel spreadsheet in progress but I'll wait to post that until we're further along.

*I liked the way that SOTW laid out the first few weeks in chronological order, so I used that as my main "map."  I pulled literature recommendations from TOG in the weeks that I felt corresponded to the topic SOTW covered.  There are lots of over-laps in the first few weeks.  We frequently read a few of these books out of order, and/or repeated them if we enjoyed them.

** We combined weeks 1 and 2 of SOTW, as we had covered them before.

Week 3: (May 14 - May 20, 2012)
Coordinated Weeks: SOTW week 4, TOG weeks 2-3

  • SOTW chapter 3
  • Kingfisher History Encyclopedia, “Ancient Egypt” pages 10-11
  • Usborne Internet-Linked Encyclopedia of the Ancient World, “Early Egypt” and “The Old Kingdom”, pages 51-54
  • Illustrated Book of Myths, by Neil Philip
  • You Wouldn’t Want to Be a Pyramid Builder, by Jacqueline Morley
  • Tutankhamen’s Gift, by Robert Sabuda
  • Mummies and Pyramids, Magic Tree House, by Will Osborne and Mary Pope Osborne
  • The Curse of Kin Tut’s Mummy, by Kathleen Weidner Zoehfeld
  • Mummies & Pyramids, Usborne Internet Linked, by Sam Taplin
  • Why, Why, Why Were the Pyramids Built? By Mason Crest Publishers
  • Bible Stories: pre-view Patriarchs, Life in Egypt- The Children’s Illustrated Bible, pages 28-31, 66-67 (discuss that these topics are out of order per our history timeline)

Books in Red are books I consider Historical Texts, and the books in Blue I consider Literature.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Week 3 of First Grade

This week in "Real Life" was pretty kooky, so it was nice that our school life was pretty un-eventful.  

We continued our study of the Old Kingdom of Egypt and on Monday the kids made Egyptian throwing sticks.  I posted about them earlier this week, but as a reminder, here is a picture of the finished product:
Really, how could you forget such amazing works of art?

We continued to read a lot about mummies and pyramids this week, and I had a pretty average project planned for Wednesday, making pyramids.  But the kids beat me to it.  They spent their play time in their rooms wrapping up some toys in tape, calling them mummies, and then making various sarcophaguses out of boxes they found and decorated.  I decided that we could skip the pyramid project, as they're clearly retaining something from this study.

ChacoKitten and I both especially liked Mickey Mummy in his Nerf Gun Ammo Box Sarcophagus 

Although it was a little sad to learn that all of the Cars characters had passed on:
The horridness of Cars 2 was probably just too much for them all.

We started to dig into (punny) the different animal kingdom phyla this week with a look at Annelids.  This involved digging in our yard for earth worms or wood lice (aka rollie pollies.)  You can guess which science day they liked the most, the one I had a hard time ending.

Of course we were in costume for this because *something something underground animals in level something something* about some Mario game on the Wii.  Whatever.

We started the classification chart, but I still haven't decided exactly how this is going to look as a finished project.  So, for now, we taped some things to the dining room wall.  Because we're classy.  I think I'll try to get some string and clips so that we can have a hanging, more mobile-like chart, where they can take down individual cards to study or have to re-arrange for practice.  I figure I'll let the kids help me decorate the labels and make them fancy.  We're probably not out of rainy weekend days yet.

I'm sure I saw something like this on an HGTV contest show and I'm SURE the designer who did this won a million dollars.  It's pretty trendy right now.

And we, of course, spent as much time enjoying the gorgeous weather.  We took a couple of spelling tests outside with sidewalk chalk.
Right after this picture was taken, a neighbor's dog tried to pee on Josiah's work.  Because it's never a dull moment around here.

Other things we worked on:
We are plugging away at math, and we are enjoying Singapore 1.  The kids could probably stand a little more challenge from their math, but I'm really focusing on building reading and writing fluency right now.  Plus it makes them feel like geniuses.
We finished Peter Pan, and all the literature narrations that came with it.  We'll decide this weekend what to read next, but I'm leaning toward a Little House book.  If Josiah can stand it.
Both kids are progressing nicely in their reading, and gaining more confidence.  They've adapted quickly to the new 30 minutes of independent reading time we strive for- and the difference has been huge.

Next week- our history will take us back to Mesopotamia, and the first dictator, Sargon.  And in science we'll start studying insects.  Yippee...

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

So I Took a Shower Today...

(This post will be completely SFW-Safe For Work.  Unless you work at HGTV...)

Everyone keeps encouraging me that I don't have to get up before my kids to shower, or wait for them to go to bed.  That they're old enough to spend 15 minutes by themselves without hurting themselves.  Today they proved this theory right- they accomplished great feats during my shower this morning, without hurting themselves, and I got a re-decorated kitchen out of it:

I love how, with the tiger in the bowl, they mix whimsical with the tranquility of the sleeping Hello Kitties.

I even took the time to put on my make-up.

They call this piece "Ducks Sailing Into Time-Out"

If anyone is at all curious, they accomplished what's in the first picture by putting a step stool ONTO the kitchen counter, then climbing around ON TOP of the refrigerator.  The second picture, of the ducks in a basket that sits rather precariously over the sink... I didn't ask.  I don't want to know.

So, technically, my kids have shown that they actually can be trusted not to hurt themselves in ten minutes.  But I'm going to go ahead and say I'm not sure their physical safety is my main concern.  Guess I'm just a selfish mom like that.  And- the next time I'm out and about and I'm, perhaps, a little stinky, just remember this picture.  And if I'm NOT stinky, if I'm all clean and shiny- call the fire department to my house STAT.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Things We Can Throw

Making History and Science interesting for little ones can be challenging.  Especially when your beautiful offspring go beyond the description of "wiggly" into the realm of "Help, I think I've given birth to a visitor from the Other Dimension of Perpetual Motion!  And he brought his sister!"  At five and six, my kids are simply not going to be able to sit through "The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire."  (And I think only one of their parents could.  I'll let you guess which one...)  So studying these subjects becomes a balancing act between trying to teach them something and trying to capture their interest-quickly.  Because I've usually got about 5 minutes to keep their attention before someone starts poking a pencil in someone's ear.

These may look like typical sunglasses, but they're really protective safety goggles.  Because you never already know who may come after you with pink paint on a brush. 

I have had to learn to make peace with the fact that sometimes the project we do may be, technically, not that educational.  Sure, I'd like every science experiment to be the first step toward their PhD dissertation or their drawings of monuments be done to scale using high level geometry and algebra.  But more often than not, their projects are more educational in the "How to Not Get Glue Stuck in My Nose, Because I Picked My Boogers While Making Macaroni Art 101" or "Advanced How Far Can I Spread Paint Around the House Before Mom Packs It Up and Declares It's Quiet Time."
We've never actually made macaroni art, but if we do, I hope my kids make this.  And then they could sell it for $600 on Etsy.  (

This week we return to study Egypt, as we're getting started to put our historical timeline together.  A recommended project- making Egyptian throwing sticks.  Apparently, these were toys used by Egyptian children, painted to look like serpents, used in throwing games.  I guess this would be useful for children who will grow to hunt and fight with spears.  My kids will use them to bang on the walls and torment the cats.  Like they use every other craft they make.

It's okay, they find their ways to get their revenge.  (Not pictured- poop.  IN MY DRYER.)

Basically, all this build up is going to be disappointing when you see what we made.  We painted wooded spoons to look like snakes:

It's okay, you can relax.  Despite the what the authentic colors and patterns may make you think, these are not actual snakes.

Look how happy we are when we're done painting!

"We smiled for the first fifty-six pictures, now all you get from us in barely-contained rage."

And, the most important part- they can be thrown.

Look at that form!  We're ready to go kill some boar!

Or not.

Duck!  A wooden spoon painted to look like a psychedelic snake from the River Styx is coming right at your face!  That kid in the Where's My Water Shirt means to kill us all!

I have no idea if this throwing stick thing has any historical accuracy.  I also don't know that I think this would be the most valuable fact for my kids to remember about Ancient Egypt.  But they had fun and got to practice some painting.  They got some fresh air and got to throw things.  Overall, I give this project a rating of "Successful: They Had Fun."

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Growing Things That Aren't My Kids

I do not have a Green Thumb.  I have the opposite of that, whatever it is called.  Brown Big Toe?  Yet my kids LOVE flowers and plants and every Spring they beg to plant flowers.

One of the things Rob and I love the most about the home we live in is the low-maintenance yard.  You know what doesn't come with low-maintenance yards?  Garden space.  Truthfully, I'm okay with that.  I am A-OK with planting things once a year in some pots, watching them struggle through the summer, then saying good-bye to them in the Fall.  It works for me.

Anywhoodle, to appease, I mean, meet the educational needs of my kids, I agreed to get a germinating box and some seeds so we could start growing our own flowers and vegetables.  I let them pick out the seeds we would use.  They chose Johnny Jump Ups, Violas, Zucchini and Green Beans.  

Here my children show off our high-end gardening tools, also known as butter knives.

After just a few weeks of diligent watering and attentive care, here is what we've grown:

Aren't these the most impressive zucchini you've ever seen?

Yeah, I'm totally lying.  I just bought these potted plants the same day I bought the seeds (yesterday) and was planning to spend the day re-potting them in our hanging baskets for the front porch.  But it's a little overcast and cold today so we decided to wait.  

It's probably for the best, as I'm sure as soon as I try to re-pot these flowers, they will suffer a long, agonizing descent into death.  I'm not able to give my kids the year-long garden and flowers they want, but they certainly get a great education into the Life Cycle of Plants.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Week 2 of First Grade

On to Mesopotamia!

Yeah, I'll admit it.  I'm pretty ignorant about ancient history.  Guess I get to learn right along with the kids.  

Our study has moved on to the first writing.  We started Monday learning about Sumeria and their picture writings, called cuneiform.  (Yes, I have to look up how to spell it every time.)  Last week at the museum I had picked up a stamp set of Egyptian hieroglyphs (which, for some reason, I know how to spell.)  So Monday afternoon they spent some time writing out "sentences" using the stamps.  I'm thinking it ended up being more of a spelling project than a history project, but I guess that's the beauty of classical education- all subjects just compliment and boost the others.

As of this moment, no one has "stamped" anyone else.  Yet.

Wednesday we continued, and actually did the last month of, the project we started at the beginning of last year- our Year-Long Nature Walk.  This is a walk we started doing with lots of friends and so, to be honest, the journal doesn't always get done.  To put it in perspective, here's a picture from a previous walk (my camera isn't working this week):

Yes, that's Josiah in the middle of the back row making goofy faces.  Shocking, I know.

Let's just say that picking specimens to draw and notebooking about our trip when we get home- those things haven't been happening like they should.  But the social time and exercise are important, too, and I'm glad we have such great friends.  We'll probably start up our new journal one day next week, with a different route, and maybe a few fewer friends.

We did take a little walk on our own on Thursday to work on the beginning of our Animal Classification project.  We made two lists, one of the Living Things we found and the other of the Non-Living Things we found.

No indication of the slug-fest that was happening right before this picture...

I need to figure out how we're going to do the animal classification thing.  Maybe Rob will come home with a big chart hanging on the dining room wall.  He'll be so thrilled.

In honor of the loss of Maurice Sendak this week, we have been reading and re-reading some of his books.  Chicken Soup With Rice is the decided favorite, but we also enjoy Higglety Pigglety, Where the Wild Things Are and The Note on Rosie's Door.  We're a bit undecided about Outside Over There.  Sometimes it's easy to get caught up in the educational books and forget to read some silly books just for fun.

We're almost done with Peter Pan, which has been the source for most of our Literature exercises this week.  We also had our first spelling test through the curriculum, All About Spelling.  Shockingly, Josiah declared that he LOVES spelling, spelling tests are his favorite things, and he wants to do more.  Go figure.

Next week- more on Egypt before we move onto Sumeria.

(I've decided to keep a separate post each week for the books we've read.  That way, anyone looking for TOG/SOTW coordination lists won't have to wade through the rest of our posts.)