Thursday, September 22, 2011

World History, US History, Geography Week

This week is Social Studies Week!

Our curriculum started out with just world history, using Story of The World by Susan Wise Bauer. It starts out in the neanderthal time and progresses through present time in 4 different books that are to be used 4 different years, then repeated again the next 4 going into more and more detail. We used the first book in second grade. By third grade I really felt like we needed to add some US History so we added Abeka US History 3rd grade and Daily Geography Practice from Evan-Moor Educational Publishers. We also switched from just SOTW to History Odyssey as our outline which uses SOTW in it. We continued on that route in 4th grade, moving up the the 3rd Story of the World Book and 4th grade Abeka US History. This year we are finishing up the 3rd Story of the World book skipping the parts we already covered in US History as they are joining each other. We will continue our year with History Odyssey and the 4th SOTW book.

I have learned SO much about world history that was never taught in schools when I went or is probably still not taught (at least it wasn't when my now 19 year old son was in public and parochial school). It is great now when we go places and Nico can answer questions and share in discussions with adults about history. (Maybe now I can play Trivia Pursuit and get some answers right ;-)

We have had the best opportunities to learn about US History in our vacations over the past years. Last year we took a 3 week vacation up to the east coast in our RV. We stopped in Hershey, PA, Gettysburgh, PA, Washington DC, and Boston, MA. We didn't spend the whole time delving into studying the history but took tours and had a lot of fun learning while actually seeing where things are.

This year (and the next 4), mark the 150th anniversary of the Civil War. In our own home state of MO, there are several Civil War battle sites. This weekend I took a night off work, drove 3 hours to Lexington, MO and spent the whole weekend with the boys learning about the Battle of the Hemp, September 18, 19, 20, 1861 that happened right there. We were able to watch the re-enactment on Sunday which they both really enjoyed.

Luca had fun visiting with the doctor and telling him he had a tummy ache. Here he is waiting for the doctor to find some medicine for him. (candy) After our tour Luca came back and told the doctor he felt better.

I took Nico on an evening tour of the Anderson House, which is the house that is located near the battlefield that was used as a hospital for both sides. It is also the house where the hemp bales came from. The evening tour had actors portraying the darker side of the Civil War, as in the wounded.

Nico has always enjoyed history. Living history is my favorite. There are usually WWII battle reenactments at Jefferson Barracks so we will probably hit that too. I can't wait to take them both to Williamsburg, VA for a family vacation. I had so much fun when I brought Brian.

Besides studying world history and US history this way, we also have a separate Geography curriculum. We are using Winter Promise, Geography through Literature. We are really enjoying it. It consists of reading 4 books by Holling C Holling. As we read them we mark the trail on the maps. The curriculum also has research topics and assignments to expand on each story. An example: We are reading "Paddle to the Sea". It is about a boy who carved an canoe and put an Indian doll in it. He set it in the frozen water of Lake Nipigan near his home. As the ice melts the canoe takes off. The book follows the journey of the canoe as he travels along. At one spot he goes through an iron ore plant. The assignment is to research iron ore, finding out where it comes from, what it is used for, etc. I then require Nico to write a paragraph or two about what he found.
In this way we are not only studying geography, we are reading, researching, and writing.

There is so much to be learned not only about our country and state, but the world in general. It is so important for these kids to really understand our world and why things happened the way they did.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

My Little Scientists

I thought I would post some specific things on our subjects for the next few weeks and add some pictures of the boys in action.

This week Luca found a Jr. Science Kit I had bought for him, but stuck up in the loft until later in the year. He was so excited to find it. He brought it down the stairs filled with joy saying, "Open it, please". The kit has all the goodies; goggles, tweezers, flask, beaker, pipette, magnifying glass, etc all in large sizes for little hands to maneuver. We happened to have some water in the school house so I filled the beaker with water and for about 45 minutes he played pouring the water through a funnel into a flask, then back into the beaker. Later in the week we added colors to the test tubes and he mixed colors.

Our first quarter of science for Nico is chemistry. This is our second time doing chemistry. We are using Real Science - 4 - Kids. I like them because they have the student book, lab book, and this year they have quizzes, midterms and lapbooking materials which are great for studying. This means less work for me! They graduate in steps of difficulty. The labs are similar year to year, but add an additional element of science to it. This week we continued talking about atoms, molecules, and bonds. For lab Nico got to make molecules and identify them. The fun part was they were made out of marshmallows so when we were done the kids got to eat them for snack. Luca even made molecules.
I love teaching Nico science. Being a chemist and majoring in Biology and Forensic Science I enjoy that he has such an interest in it. It was so beautiful we were doing our lessons outside on our school house porch.

Luca couldn't wait to eat his molecule.

 I also dug out the element kit I had bought for Brian that had the correct electron sites on them. I wish I had kept the one from my chemistry class in college.

This week also started our Co-Op. Every year we do a different topic or theme. In the the very beginning it was whoever was hosting picked what they wanted to teach. We then went for two years studying the states. Each week a hostess presented a state giving facts and information in whatever way they wanted to present it. This was fun for the kids because they got to do different things each week depending on the mom or dad that was teaching. Last year we flipped to doing science every week. We have two groups of the kids, the Pre-K and the older elementary kids. They each had the same topics but worked on their level. We had a hostess for each group. This year we are geared toward games and cooperative play based on educational games. We are doing a different subject each month. This month is Science. I had so much fun the first week seeing the different games everyone had.
Luca and Miranda are playing a game with Avi  helping them.

Nico is being introduced to a time travel game. It is so great to see the dads participate.

This is the Pre-K, K group. Luca and his harem I call it.
Nico also found a baby mouse that he really wanted to try to save. He called me at work to tell me about it, but I did not know it was going to be so small. The little thing had no hair yet. I knew it wouldn't survive, but let him try it. He fed it with an eye dropper and listened to it squeak. He has such a big heart.


Science is my favorite subject by far. It is so fun to learn when you can see what is happening. There is also so much to do with science it is never ending. I love that both boys have such an interest in it.

Friday, September 2, 2011

One Week Down and Tools

We have our first week under our belt. We had 4 good days and 1 bad day. However, we got into the groove of things quickly. I get up at 7:30am, which is early for me. I am not a morning person and neither are my kids, but if we want to be done by noon or 1pm, this is what we have to do. I get the boys up and have breakfast by 8am. Luca rings the school bell at 8:30am. (this is his favorite part). Luca usually hollers, "Nico, let's go!"  Nico likes to eat fast so he has time to play before class starts and is usually out running around the yard.
I am just going to share a few pictures of our week.

Here is Nico listening to a chapter from Story of the World. This is our World History curriculum. We are in the 3rd year using it. I am working on getting Nico to be more independent. Yes, he can read it himself, but he is an auditory learner and does better by someone else reading it. This year I bought the CD that goes with the book. Instead of me reading it to him, he listens to another person. He follows along in the book. This only happens when the subject material is new and had more depth to it. The downside is I have to go back and read it again, or read his notes, to understand what he read so we can have a discussion on it. That is part of my homework in the evenings :-) It is best if I can grasp everything from his notes. That means he understood what was read.

Today Luca brought his R/C truck to class. Nico showed him how to build a wall and run the truck into it. It became quite the game for them. Luca would stack blocks on the back of the truck and drive them to Nico. They experimented with how thick they could make the wall for the truck and how far the blocks would scatter. Educational and fun!

 Luca's theme for this week and next week is farm life. I found this game, Old MacDonald Had A Farm, up in the closet. I think I bought it for Nico when he was little. Luca had a blast with it. He loves to sing (where Nico hated to sing). Honestly, it did get to be quite annoying and had to be put away when Nico moved onto math and needed to concentrate.

Besides all our learning I thought I would share some of the items I am using to try to organize ourselves. Nico is a pretty good organizer so teaching him the tools I am using is working out great.
 This isn't organizing, but one of my FAVORITE tools....the laminator. I bought this one on ebay for only $20.00. It is Scotch brand and the best I have ever had and trust me I have had a few :-)
 This is our wall organizer for the paperwork. It is organized by subject. Each evening I run through my lesson plan and see what worksheets are needed the next day. I put them in the correct subject pocket. When the subject is started he can look at the board (pictured below) that has each subject listed for the day and the assignment written next to it. Several subjects he can start on  his own so  he looks at the assignment board and can go right to the red file to grab what he wants to work on. He gets to pick the order of the day. Usually he goes from fastest to the one that will take the longest. He also starts with what he can do himself which allows me to work with Luca.

Also in the hanging red file is a place for completed work and a place for work that needs to be filed. At the end of the week, Nico has to file his papers in the correct binder. This is new this year for him. In the years past I put the papers away. I am trying to hone his organizational skills as he will need them when he goes off to college. Today we realized we need to create a simple book to write down assignments that are long term and have a 'due date'. We only do some subjects twice a week so he has an extended time to write a story (such as the Greek Myth). He has to remember to get it finished in time. Again, this is a training tool for college and life in general....knowing there is a timeline and getting things done in a timely manner.

 These binders hold all the completed work that is filed at the end of the week.

This is my new spiffy organizer I bought from Staples. It holds all kinds of goodies and spins around. (only $29.99). 

It is all coming together nicely. Each year I learn more and create a better learning environment for us all. I do take in any suggestions they make to organize their things in a manner that is simple for them. I love Nico's desk this year because he can keep all his books right with him. It is up to him to be able to locate them and be ready to go. Next week is more of the same, with a park day thrown in....unless the kids have a bad week, which I doubt, because park day is VERY important to them.