Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Preliminary Progress Report

READING: Our literature based program this year has involved reading to Colwyn a variety of genres, including fiction, non-fiction, and poetry. In addition to the two dozen or so picture books we check out from the library every other week, we have read Pippi on Board by Astrid Lindgren, The Five Lost Aunts of Harriet Bean by Alexander McCall Smith, Welcome to the Bed and Biscuit by Joan Carris, the first two books in the Harry Potter series by J K Rowling, and Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame. Besides these family read-alouds, Colwyn has also mastered phonics, reads consistently at a second grade level, and will read a variety of early readers on his own.

WRITING: Colwyn can easily form all lower case and capital letters. He writes notes and signs spontaneously, and also writes thank you notes and birthday cards frequently. Colwyn also enjoys typing stories on the computer, which he then prints and illustrates.

MATHEMATICS: This year, Colwyn completed the Singapore Earlybird 2A and 2B workbooks. Topics covered include reading and writing numerals and number words through 20, recognizing sets in relation to less than, more than, or equal, ordering by height/length, estimating weight and balancing scales, comparing capacity by emptying and filling, understanding tens and ones, fractions (one half and one quarter, and relationship to the whole), addition and subtraction of one digit numbers, basic reading of time, sequencing days of the week, counting by fives and tens, recognizing coins and dollars, and totaling money amounts. His math workbooks were greatly reinforced by real life applications including cooking, shopping, board games, and using our family calendar.

HISTORY/SOCIAL STUDIES: We began working our way through the Usborne Internet-Linked Encyclopedia of World History this year and progressed through the sections on early humans. Through various fiction and non-fiction books checked out from the library, Colwyn also learned about life in ancient Egypt. He also watched a PBS documentary about archaeologists recreating an Egyptian sea-going barge. Field trips to places like Hammond Castle, King Richard's Faire supplemented our history studies. For social studies, we toured the Salem Post Office, the Beverly Fire Station, and the Danvers Police Station. We also caroled at local nursing home.

SCIENCE: Through the Usborne Internet-Linked Encyclopedia of World History, as well as through monthly science club meetings with our homeschool group, we covered topics such as the formation and composition of the Earth, plate tectonics, the start of life, early life forms through the prehistoric mega fauna, and evolution (supplemented by How Whales Walked Into the Sea by Faith McNulty). We also hosted science club meetings that involved engineering challenges, human anatomy, and optical illusions. Colwyn has been especially interested in human evolution, so in addition to our reading in the Usborne Encyclopedia, we also watched several PBS, BBC, and National Geographic documentaries on prehistoric humans in addition to finding additional books at the library and interactive websites. Besides this more formal science education, Colwyn enjoys observing nature (specifically living creatures we find in our neighborhood) and has participated in monthly Earth Scouts meetings that focus on the interdependency of life and our role in protecting the environment.

THE ARTS: Colwyn enjoys creating artwork using a variety of materials, including crayons, markers, colored pencils, water colors, and tempera paints. He also likes to be creative with clay, Play-Dough, and recycleable materials like boxes, plastic containers, and so on. He has made gifts for friends and family, puts on puppet shows, and likes a wide variety of music.

PHYSICAL EDUCATION: Colwyn loves riding his bike, going for walks with his family, and exploring the hiking trails at the Ipswich River Wildlife Sanctuary. We attend weekly park days in warm weather where he plays boisteriously with other homeschoolers. In cold weather, we make frequent trips to Monkey Joe's and often coordinate private rentals of Strike One for our homeschool group.

HEALTH: Colwyn understands and practices good hygiene and personal safety. He has learned a great deal about good nutrition and has helped grow nutritious vegetables and fruits in our yard. Through my pregnancy this year and the birth of his baby brother, Colwyn has also learned about human reproduction.

FIELD TRIPS: Various other field trips we have attended this year: canoeing on Ipswich River, wildlife tracking at Ipswich River Wildlife Sanctuary, blueberry picking at Russell Orchard, apple picking at Brooksby Farm, Mahi Cruise out of Salem Harbor, and multiple trips to both the New England Aquarium and Museum of Science.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Despite being very pregnant, exhausted all the time, and so sore, we've still been managing to do quite a lot as far as 'lessons' go. Colwyn has made a lot of progress in his math workbook.. he's gotten through counting by 5's and 10's (which he already knew, really), subtraction, and telling time. The time unit was simplified because it came before counting by 5's, so he mainly knows how to tell the hour and if it's half past. Lachlann picked that up as well, and even though our only analog clock in the whole house has Roman numerals, they can still tell what hour it is.

Colwyn's doing great at reading, getting more confidence and all. His main problem now is that he'll guess too quick, rather than actually paying attention to the words. We have to remind him now and then to focus on the words. Lachlann is great at sounding words out, if he knows what sounds each letter makes. He's spotty on letter sounds, so I'm going to try and dig up our old LeapFrog videos.. but still, if I just tell him what each letter says, he can sound words out pretty well. Not reading, but doing quite well for a 4 year old.

In my last post, I hinted that early humans might be a big topic for us, and boy, have they. Colwyn is just so fascinated that we've been spending a lot of time on it. We've done most of the links given in the Usborne Encyclopedia of World History, we've watched various documentaries I've found on NatGeo and PBS, and we've picked up supplemental books from the library (like the DK book on Early Humans). We had been planning to do a science day about it but I was sick then, so our last science day before the new baby comes will involve some caveman role playing. I've got a couple games all worked out, and Colwyn can't wait.

We finally got the deck washed off (the chickens have been free ranging all winter, and they spend a lot of time on our deck looking for handouts.. thus, lots of chicken poop on the deck) and refilled the bird feeders, so for the last couple of days, we've been IDing birds that visit our house. We've also had a few really warm days and we've been out as much as possible. We're due to have another stretch of good weather starting tomorrow, so we've got lots of park playdates planned.

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Wednesday, January 20, 2010

We've been watching some interesting shows on TV, which has led to fun discussions and games. The first was a show where a team of archaeologists tried to recreate an Egyptian sea-going barge. Colwyn and Lachlann were really into and asked lots of great questions. Later they played with blocks and created their own versions. That led us to try some engineering challenges for our science day this month. I love the website Think! Engineering. We tried building a few different bridges using the supply lists given, and we also tried the catapult (which we sucked at).

Another day, we watched Walking with Prehistoric Beasts, which we probably haven't seen in a year or more. Colwyn especially liked the parts with the hominids and Neanderthals, so I think we may skip the dinosaur section of the World History book so we can move onto human evolution. After all, they've been studying dinosaurs for years.

Lachlann surprised me a week or two ago by doing some simple addition and subtraction orally, in his play. A while later I asked him a few questions like, "Hey, I want to bake some cookies, and I need 6 eggs, but only have 3. How many more do I need?" and "I bought 2 donuts and Auntie bought 2 donuts, how many do we have altogether?" He was able to do them all pretty quickly, in his head. Like I said in my last post, he observes Colwyn's math lessons most of the time.. I just didn't realize he was getting that much out of it. It makes me feel better because the other day, my mom seemed surprised that he still wasn't writing his name. Right now, I have him cutting paper as his lesson--I'm trying to come up with fun fine motor activities for him so writing will hopefully come easier.

I checked some of the books Colwyn's been reading to determine his reading level. Turns out he can pretty easily read at the second grade level. He was quite pleased with himself when I told him that. It's normally something I'd keep to myself, but he tends to get down on himself for not reading perfectly like Mommy and Daddy do, so I thought he could use the boost.

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Friday, January 08, 2010


I love the holidays, really I do. But each year it's sort of a relief to be through with the craziness.

So Colwyn is starting on subtraction in his Singapore Earlybird 2B workbook. He's done great with addition and seemed to get subtraction immediately. It reinforces my feeling that the practical, hands-on, incidental math we do daily really helps. I almost feel like the workbook is just a way of checking to see what he already knows. When he pipes up with, "Mom, you gave me seven pieces of chicken, I ate five and just have two left, can I be all done?" - do we really need a workbook? But it is nice to not have to draw up my own worksheets so he can learn the symbols, I'll admit to that. Lachlann is working on learning how to write numbers. His recognition is great, but his pencil (well, dry erase marker in our case) grip is horrible, and it makes him not enjoy writing. We've been playing with plates of flour or sugar and drawing numbers (shapes, letters, etc) with our fingers. I'd love to let him do that with shaving cream, but Doug doesn't use any.. maybe I'll have to grab some at Target. Lach observes most of Colwyn's math 'lessons' so I'd be surprised if he didn't breeze through subsequent lessons.

Colwyn's reading is coming along really well. It's wonderful to see how proud he is of himself when he reads through an Elephant and Piggiebook. The only time he really experiences difficulty is when his own impatience or irritation gets in his way.. then even an easy word can seem hard. That's when we usually take a break and come back to it later. For book club, we just finished The Five Lost Aunts of Harriet Bean. That was a big hit with Colwyn. Last month was Welcome to the Bed and Biscuit, which was very sweet. We ended up missing the actual book club meeting that month, though, as the kids were sick.

Our other work has been haphazard, at best. We're slowly working through the Early Life section of The Usborne Internet-Linked Encyclopedia of World History, which has included working on learning the names of the continents and oceans. We've explored some of the neat websites on arthropods, and Colwyn liked making the connection at the Museum of Science when we saw fossils of arthropods. The kids got a calendar for 2010, so we talk about that daily. In the process, I've learned that, yes, Colwyn is firm on the days of the week, and yes, he knows his cardinal numbers pretty well. The months are new to him, but no biggie. He likes knowing what day it is, and we draw little symbols or write easy words on days we have stuff planned, so he'll tell me, "Mom, we have two more days until Lego Club!"

What else? We've worked on our Secret Agent social studies sporadically. Our Earth Scouts meeting last month dealt with the water cycle (briefly) and habitats. The kids all created terrariums, which was much more fun than I expected. The mess was exactly what I expected. Thankfully all the moms are great about helping pick up. We also did caroling at a local nursing home, which was a great experience. I was surprised at how Colwyn was really into memorizing the words to the songs, he did really well. The kids were a big hit with the elderly residents as well as the staff. For science day last month, we created a diorama of a dinosaur habitat, as well as Play Dough dinosaurs. The diorama included a volcano, which we set off with baking soda and vinegar. The kids loved that part, and with some foresight on my part, it wasn't very messy at all.

We've got a bunch of stuff coming up this month, it should be exciting. Hopefully I'll get better at keeping track.

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Monday, November 09, 2009

Scope and Sequence

Excerpted from the World Book site, Kindergarten Curriculum. Bolded items are things we have not yet covered. Colwyn is solid on everything left un-bolded.

* Meanings of holidays, traditions, and customs
* Understanding and appreciating other cultures
* Individual's role in family, home, school, and community
* Relationship of the individual to the group
* Work and jobs
* Safety rules and symbols
* Basic human needs
* Self-respect and self-awareness
* Awareness of others
* Location of home and school
* Diagram of home and school


* Observation of everyday, familiar things
* Common animals and plants
* Interrelationships of animals and plants
* Classification of living things
* Farm animals
* Care of pets
* Like and unlike plants
* Indoor plants
* The sun: our principal source of energy
* Weather and seasons
* Temperature
* Light
* Colors
* Senses
* Earth, moon, stars, planets
* Simple measurement
* Beginning experimentation

Language Arts

* Phonics
* Choral reading
* Listening to literature, music, poetry
* Nursery rhymes, fairy tales, fables
* Social listening
* Constructing visual images while listening
* Oral communication skills
* Role play
* Following and giving directions
* Paraphrasing and summarizing
* Organizing ideas
* Experience stories
* Relating events and experiences using complete sentences
* Listening for correct speech habits and word usage
* Beginning writing process
* Manuscript handwriting

Health and Safety

* Personal hygiene
* Good eating habits
* Good grooming
* Care of teeth
* Major body parts
* Physical fitness
* Safety to and from school


* Simple counting to 20
* One-to-one relationship
* Concepts of more, less than, same
* Sequence of events
* Correspondence of quantities
* Ordinal-cardinal relationship
* Number-numeral relationship
* Recognition of basic sets
* Meaning of addition and subtraction
* Introduction to number line
* Estimation
* Elementary geometry (shapes)
* Calendar and clock
* Denominations of money
* Basic problem-solving strategies
* Basic chart and graph concepts

So, two and a half months into the 'school year' and Colwyn's doing quite well. Not to mention that we've covered quite a lot that's not even on this list. Just out of curiosity, here's the first grade curriculum:

* Holidays, traditions, and customs
* Our American Heritage
* Different cultures at different times
* Family, school, neighborhood, community
* Farm and zoo
* Neighborhood helpers
* Jobs and careers
* Social skills and responsibilities
* Basic geography terms
* Making and reading a simple neighborhood map


* Grouping and classification
* Living and nonliving things
* Animals
* Pets
* Farm animals
* Zoo and circus animals
* Woodland animals
* Common birds
* Plant and animal habitats
* Seeds, bulbs, plants, flowers
* Weather and seasons
* Day and night
* Solids, liquids, gases
* Air and water
* Magnets
* Fire and temperature
* Sun, moon, stars, planets
* Simple machines
* Beginning experimentation
* Scientific method and scientific inquiry

Language Arts

* Reading
- Phonetic analysis
- Structural analysis
- Establishing sight vocabulary
* Reading informally: names, labels, signs
* Simple pantomimes and dramatic play
* Creating stories and poems
* Telling favorite stories
* Organizing ideas and impressions
* Enunciation and pronunciation
* Presenting information orally, in sequence and with clarity
* Book reports and critiques
* Discussion skills: taking part in group discussion
* Beginning dictionary skills: alphabetizing
* Beginning spelling
* Beginning grammar: nouns, verbs, adjectives
* Introduction to punctuation and capitalization
* Manuscript handwriting
* Handling books
* Using table of contents
* Development of a class newspaper

Health and Safety

* Personal hygiene
* Dental health
* Good eating habits
* Exercise and rest
* Diseases
* Common cold
* Dressing for weather and activity
* Safety rules to and from school


* Counting and writing to 100
* Counting by 2's to 40
* Simple number patterns
* Beginning ordinal numbers
* Using 10 as a basic unit
* Simple properties of zero
* Simple properties of sets
* Beginning addition and subtraction facts
* Number-line use
* Place value and numeration
* Concepts of quantity and size
* Concepts of equality and inequality
* Concepts of ordinal and cardinal numbers
* Using 1/2 and 1/4 appropriately
* Estimation
* Geometric patterns and figures
* Basic customary and metric measurement
* Recognizing time: clock and calendar
* Value of penny, nickel, dime, quarter
* Solving simple word problems
* Basic probability and chance
* Basic chart and graph concepts

Not bad, I think.


Sunday, November 08, 2009

Month(!) in Review

Yikes, I really dropped the ball on posting. October was a very busy month for us, so I'll blame it on that. We've done all our usual work - Colwyn has about 8 pages left in his Singapore 2A workbook, so that'll get done this week, then we can start on the second half of his kindergarten math. He's pretty much done with Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons
, so we're moving on to using easy readers for his reading lessons (which we try to do for at least 10-20 minutes a day, in addition to our regular read-alouds).

We've been working a lot on science/history. We covered (the basics of) the formation of the Earth, composition of the Earth, plate tectonics, the start of life, early life, and evolution. Most of that was through the The Usborne Internet-Linked Encyclopedia of World History
. We used some websites for the composition of the Earth. Plate tectonics was covered in the Usborne book as well as through some Science Day hands-on activities with our homeschool group. To complement the Usborne book on evolution, we also read How Whales Walked into the Sea by Faith McNulty.

For Earth Scouts, we read When The Root Children Wake Up
by Audrey Wood. Then we brainstormed some ideas on how to take care of the Earth and used those to play "Mother Earth, May I?" It's pretty much just like "Mother, May I?" except the kids say, "Mother Earth, may I compost our kitchen scraps?" and then the kid playing Mother Earth tells them how many steps to take. They seemed to enjoy it, I think. We were supposed to go on a walk to look for creatures outside, but it was rainy, so I assigned that as homework. The week before, we had done a Recycled Art Day (which Dani planned and hosted), so the kids who participated in that got a Recycling Badge.

For book club, we read The Wind in the Willows
by Kenneth Grahame. We only read the first three chapters or so, but Colwyn (surprisingly) really liked it. I think a lot of it went over his head (due to the language), but it was so enjoyable to read aloud. Both boys participated really well during the book club activities and enjoyed playing outside with the other kids afterwards.

We also went on a field trip to the Aquarium, which was quite a lot of fun. The boys spent a lot of time exploring with Alex and Mila, which was nice. We toured the Beverly Fire Department last Tuesday and will do an encore tour of the Danvers Fire Department this Tuesday. That obviously led to many discussions on fire safety, but I think the boys were most excited about climbing in the fire truck.

Our homeschool group's Halloween Party was a big success, as well. We rented a room at Endicott Park and the kids played that "Guess the Body Part" game with cold spaghetti, a peeled tomato, hot dogs, lunch meat, etc. One of the dads entertained the kids with some acoustic guitar music, which was super nice of him. They played Red Rover and Duck, Duck, Goose - both big hits.

So, all in all, a pretty busy month. We also had various park days, playdates, and who-knows-what-else going on. I'm going to make a concerted effort to stay on top of the journaling, since it's a pain the butt to try to remember what happened over the course of a whole month. :)

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Monday, October 05, 2009

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, by Colwyn Raum

Voldemort killed Harry Potter's mommy and daddy. And then Hagrid came and got Harry Potter and then brought him to Dumbledore. And then Dumbledore brought Harry Potter to the Dursleys'. And then Hagrid came and Harry got what he needed to go to Hogwarts. The Dursleys brought him to the train station. And then the train took Harry Potter to Hogwarts. And then Harry Potter practiced flying his broomstick and got to play Quidditch. Malfoy is a student and he is very mean to Harry. Harry gets in trouble sometimes. Like when Harry and Hermione were going to give the dragon to Charlie's friends and before that, Hagrid said, "Mommy misses you!" because Hagrid thinks that he is the dragon's mommy. And then Hagrid told Harry Potter and Ron and Hermione how to get past Fluffy. And then they got past Fluffy and they had to play chess and in order to win the queen had to knock out Ron. So Ron got knocked out. And then Hermione drank the biggest bottle that let her go back into the purple flames and Harry Potter drank the littlest bottle to go in the black fire. And he ran into the black fire. And then Harry Potter saw someone that wasn't Voldemort and wasn't Snape. It was Quirrel. And he was trying to take the Stone to give it to Voldemort. But then Harry Potter looked in the mirror and he got the Sorcerer's Stone. Harry got knocked out when Voldemort tried to have Quirrel kill him. Then Dumbledore came and rescued Harry and brought him to the hospital that almost looked like a candy shop. His friends gave him the candy. Dumbledore told Harry that now the Stone is destroyed. Dumbledore told Harry that his mom saved him and that she loved him. And then they got a lot of points back at the feast and that meant that Gryffindor won the House Cup.