Wednesday, December 29, 2010

History Fair

I need to catch up a little. Over ten years ago, I started a history fair for our homeschool group. It's pretty much just like a science fair, though in our case there is no competition to have the best project. Everyone gets an award and a comment sheet. Community members volunteer as 'judges' to visit each project, ask questions, listen to the students and make comments for the students. I also allow the students to present any 'drama' such as a skit, speech, or demo. Some years, I have invited special guests w/ a history passion, such as a local re-enactor.
I wanted to start a History Fair, because hands on projects are usually the best way to 'internalize' history and geography, but the motivation for mom to handle the mess is not always high enough for 'just at home.' By providing a place to showcase work, we encourage both the students and the moms who help, to present history in a more formal, public way. Most students make a tri-fold display board. Many make 3-D models, arts/crafts- paper mache, clay items, kits from craft stores and my all time favorite: food from the period/culture. Some students wear costumes too. It is a lot of fun for not that much work. Our History fair is in the fall, after Halloween and before Thanksgiving. This year, our younger co-op students did projects on the early middle ages and our older co-op students did Alexander the Great. They picked these topics because that was what we were covering this fall. But some students pick projects that they are especially interested. We usually have about 30 students from the area- and the variety of topics is always exciting. I always believe in double duty. If you have to write a paper for History and a speech for Speech class and attend the history fair; why not write 1 speech on your history topic and present it at the fair w/ some pictures/art? Voila, 3 subjects with 1 effort. I thought I had great pictures of their projects, but alas, I can't find them. The younger students made pockets for spoon puppets and flaps/doors over their information on their display board- sort of a huge lapbook. The older students had the 'speech', maps and a hand drawn time line as some of their items. And with the help of my friend and fellow mom, they made a paper mache dragon head. By doing group projects the moms can help out where they are more gifted. While one mom did paper mache, the other helped make Greek dolmas. [stuffed grape leaves]
If there is not already a history fair in your area, you might just want to start one!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Simple Lapbook for studying

So, my younger 2 students have started Latin this fall. [Prima Latina] An 11 year old friend is teaching it to them and she asked them to make vocabulary cards in order to study their Latin. Unfortunately, they have not been keeping up, they can't keep their cards contained, and they just don't use them. Also, when they are filling in the assignments, they groan about having to look back in the book for the answers or for a vocabulary word. So, I decided they needed a simple lapbook as a vocabulary reference/study guide. The Latin words are in alphabetical order and under the Latin words are the English translations. This way, they can easily and quickly look up a word or study all of their words in one place. Because it's a folder size, it fits neatly with the rest of their homework. If you think I do this kind of thing all the time; don't. I simply go in spurts. I had a few ideas in my head and since they were simple, I managed to get them done. A recent thing I 'discovered' was that I could use one of those window decorating markers to make a 'to do' list right on my bathroom mirror! Currently, I have about 4 crafty items listed on my mirror: this and the glitter name are crossed off. . . 2 more to go.

Cordell's is blue on the outside, 'manilla' on the inside. His sister's is all pink.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Pre-school Tracing

My internet friend and SWR trainer, Britta McColl recommended making your child a glitter or puffy paint name that they could practice tracing with their finger. I believe it is to be big so as to provide large motor movements, not usual print size. This is a pre-writing skill, because while tracing has it's usefulness, we do not want to rely on tracing too much using a pencil. For now, this is a great way to familiarize my daughter with her name, practice large motor movements for writing readiness, and get her excited about learning. We also teach cursive first, since it is actually easier for young children and is historically the style of choice for first timers. So here she is proudly displaying her name:

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Lefties Are Cool

Every once in a while on our SWR yahoo list, someone will post asking for help in teaching handwriting to a lefty. I know these are well meaning mothers and teachers that take their calling very seriously, but it breaks my heart to think of the 'stigma' lefties still face in the 21st century.

I am a lefty. And I found WRTR and SWR through the back door of precise handwriting- a friend had this book on 'clockface' print and cursive and it was a REAL aha moment for me. What a concept! It literally changed my life and the course of my homeschooling. What a divine hand leading me to SWR. I am so thankful.

I think that poor lefties get a bad rap. They are not inherently messier or more difficult handwriting learners than righties. It's simply they've been taught wrong or not at all. I can still remember the 3rd grade teacher passing by my desk during the start of 'cursive,' looking down at my left handed writing she derisively commented something like 'ugh, I can't teach a lefty.' Imagine my little 8yo self having to deal with that attitude! And how powerful those words that I still remember them decades later. On the one hand, I was raised very secure, so I felt it more her problem than mine, but on the other, I immaturely thought that refusing to learn cursive would 'get her back.' Of course, it affected me way more than her and probably only confirmed her bias.

Teaching a lefty is the same as a righty, only mirror image. Sit across from a lefty to model writing and to give directions- so it's easier for a righty teacher to see that her lefty student is modeling her example. And please never give the child the impression that they are somehow 'deficient,' more difficult with writing or doomed to messiness. For the best handwriting in all writers, I'd recommend:

Cursive First; first
Proper pencil grip
Continual practice through-out k-12: don't drop this subject!

Out of my 6 writers [I also have a 2yo] my Cursive First taught Lefty [9yo] has the best handwriting over all the non-CF righties AND his fellow CF-taught righty sister (7yo) And my lefty artist mother also has gorgeous handwriting! If only SHE had taught me to write! Amazingly, my handwriting has significantly improved with CF.

I have a dream that one day lefties will no longer have a stigma associated with their handwriting!
To see my mom's art click on this
Click on this to learn more about the importance of proper handwriting instruction

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

SWR progress

On a really good note, my younger 2 students are making real progress in SWR. It took us a few weeks to get back to 40 words a week, but we did it this week!! yay. Also, we are well under 20 minutes for 20 words as long as the toddler doesn't interrupt too badly, so that's great news too. That means we have time for enrichments or just to keep up with reference pages, lol. I am finally learning how to 'add in' the enrichment during the dictation or quizzing time. For instance, today we briefly discussed prepositions since many of today's words fell in that category. I also looked up the term palindrome during 'class.' I noticed that the spelling word 'noon' was one, but couldn't remember the name. A word that is spelled the same forward and backward. So, I googled it on my iphone as the kids wrote it in their logs- then I was able to read the blurb I found on it. very cool. In addition to getting faster, they are getting better at remembering the words. Usually, the quiz is practically another dictation with the number of hints required and the Friday tests had been hovering in the 50% range. Lately, though, I have noticed that they are doing much better on both quizzing and testing; getting between 70-90% on recent tests. I'm looking forward to this week's test to see if the trend continues.

Oh where oh where has my school day gone?

Well, I've been delaying another post, waiting to actually 'do something' to post about. As it seems it will never happen, I'd better post anyway. Ocean City was great. Two weeks was perfect. We had perfect weather for 12 days and then it rained the last 2! We ended up listening to HP 6 AND 7. [ Yay, Library across the street from our Hotel!! How cool was that?] And didn't do any reading. Probably because I bragged about it in advance. That'll teach me.

I thought I'd be really ready to jump right in and be so organized, but it's taking me forever to get into a groove. We are doing a little bit every day, just not much more than that or what I had planned. I think we are improving this week though, so hope springs eternal. It's a short week as we are taking Friday off to socialize with some good friends. Then I'm sure we'll do an extra good 'push' before the holidays get here and we have another break.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

A new year begun

A new school year has begun. Mostly with a whimper and not a bang, but still it's a start. The first week was cut short because we attended a CFC Conference. This was planned in advance. I thought a short week would be a good start and I had hoped to be ready for the conference in advance. Alas, as usual, less was done in advance than I had hoped, but as a friend said, 'more was done than would have been.' The conference was great and I hope it will have lasting positive effects on the kids. The second week was a wash as everyone took turns w/ a stomach bug. I sure hope that is getting it out of the way and not a foreshadowing of things to come. The third week limped by as my ds13 couldn't get his schedule together, which interrupted the schedule for the rest of us. I struggled with patience and tenacity; mostly loosing the struggle. I just don't have the energy to deal w/ teenagers! I don't know how I am going to survive this one and then the next 4. Maybe I'll be able to send them to their older siblings' houses! For the duration. . . The fourth week is on hold, because I insisted we get to go to the beach this September. It has been several years, with high schoolers attending tutorials and paying for college, which prevented us from this tradition. This year, finally we don't have those things in the way and we could go in the best month to be here. September is when all the other kids are back in school, yet the weather and water are usually still quite warm. We have had great weather these first 3 days with more expected. We are listening to Harry Potter on CD with plans to read Swallows and Amazons as one cannot spend every waking hour in the sand. Hopefully, after this diversion, which I hope turns out to be more pleasant than not [you know, 4 kids and all] once home, I hope we can get into a good groove and smooth through all my extensive planning. [wink]

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

School Space

So, last post I hinted that I spent most of last week getting the physical space ready. We haven't always had a room dedicated to homeschool and even once we did, that didn't mean we usually did 'school' in it. But with the amount of resources I've collected, I just need a room for the stuff- having space to work in is nice too. After awhile, one gets tired of finding books and papers all over the house, or the opposite, not being able to find certain books or papers all over the house. So this year, I plan to have all the current homeschoolers work in the basement school room on most days. [I am sure the fireplace will call us at some point, but that's a later post] Here's the basement space:

The "library" holds the HF, biography, and leisure reading, also includes hot wheels tracks and fisher price people:

The closet sports multi-drawer office, school, science and craft supplies. Another door hides games, puzzles and electronic gaming accessories. [ie the Rock Band stuff]
Looking the other direction you can see the dress-up/sewing corner and our huge dry erase board. I removed the huge 8 ft table for a much smaller one, using the logic that smaller must hold less stacks than bigger.
View of room from the library. All the books in the 'school' area are curriculum related resources. You would not believe the amount of stuff I had to through out or donate to get this place looking like this. I had a lot of friends to help. Letting go is not my strong suit, but I do have great friends!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Lesson Planning

I meant to get all my lesson planning done last week, but I had a lot of rearranging/organizing to do in our school space first, so here I am still trying to plan. I realized that in my 'younger years' planning didn't seem so complicated. I wondered if it really was less complicated or if I just don't remember as clearly. I certainly wasn't trying to use any fancy programs on the computer back then and my oldest were all young- no high schoolers, so in some ways simpler, but in other ways still the same. I guess my point is, that it's always a good idea- and an effort- to make plans, even if your children are young. The plans are for you- the teacher-parent- so you don't have to do all of your thinking 'on the spot' during the year. I have a difficult time making daily plans, so I concentrate on a weekly plan first. I do want to eventually get down to a daily plan for my oldest, so he can be more independent, but I resist it so much. Maybe this year I will be successful!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Trisms and SWR Q&A

I have just a couple of specific curriculum I'd like to answer questions about: Trisms and SWR. Use the question and answer gadget at the bottom of my page to ask questions and any related posts will appear in the categories list to the right. Start with the first Q&A in each category to view links first before posting. Thanks!

Welcome To Home is the Magic ingredient!

Studying the 2009 Homeschool Progress Report only confirmed what I already knew. If you look at the results, regardless of income, location, parent education OR Curriculum Style Used, Homeschoolers tested well. Why? What is the 'secret ingredient?' Home. Or more accurately, mom and dad. The one-on-one tutoring, which has always been the preferred method for true learners can not be beat. Add in the love and care of a parent and you would have to TRY on Purpose to muff it up. Your style is all your own and will work for your family.

This blog is for encouraging and uplifting you in your daily struggle that will reap great long term benefits.