Not our First Week EVER, of course. Just our First Week for this school year.
We don't have any First Day of School Traditions. I feel like a heel admitting that. I do try to do a special dinner on the evening of our first day of school, this year it was homemade pizza, but no super cool breakfast or first day of school parties that we do every year.
But this year, we lucked out. Our good friends were having a double birthday party for the two boys of the family in the afternoon our our first day of school. So, on our first day, we did school from 8 am to 11am and had a happy, productive morning. Then, at 11am, we made some cards for the birthday boys, ate an early lunch, went shopping for two presents, and was at the party at 1 pm. The kids spent the afternoon outside with good friends tossing water balloons, going down slip n slides, playing in a sprinkler, tossing corn hole bags, eating iced watermelon, breaking a pinata, and having cake and ice cream. Best Back to School Activity EVER. (The only downside, in the rush to get card made, lunch eaten, and out the door in time to get presents and get to the party, I didn't think to grab my camera. This is sad, because some outdoor pictures by the lovely beds of flowers that bordered the back lawn at the birthday locations would have made terrific First Day of School photos.)
What I do have pictures of is our art project for the week.
This year, we're doing a "badge/ribbon" earning system for school work. Here, you can read about all the kinds of "badges" the kids can win if you want to know more about this project. For the badges themselves, I'm going to grab small clip art images, make some pages in MS Publisher with the little image and the badge title, and print the page onto iron-on transfer paper. Then I'll cut out the images with their labels and iron them on to wide white satin ribbon. Behold, quick and easy 'awards' for school projects. I, of course, don't have any pictures of any finished ribbon badges, cause they aren't anywhere near finished. That's tomorrow's project.
But, as part of this whole concept, I picked up cheap 17x23 cork bulletin boards for each child. This week they painted the bulletin boards as their art project for the week.
Toa went with an abstract using analogous colors. He is going to sort his badges by type, lining them up in rows and pinning them to his bulletin board.
But the biggest news from the first week, is that I am really, really pleased with our curriculum and textbook choices.
My biggest worry was in my purchase for Toa of Boy of the Language Arts Island Series by Michael Clay Thompson and Royal Fireworks Press. But so far, we love the books. We dug into Grammar Island this week, spending a few minutes on the couch each day reading about what parts of speech are and about nouns and pronouns. Sounds dry, doesn't it? SURPRISINGLY NOT. Thompson did a phenomenal job making this very pleasant to read and to look at and easy to understand.
Our reading introduced the difference between subject and object pronouns. I knew this was the only concept that wasn't going to stick in Toa's mind from just the reading alone. Thompson gently suggested memorizing the lists. That sounded like drudgery. Instead, I invited Toa outside to play a game. In preparation, I made fifteen small tiles out of cardstock, printing one pronoun on each tile. (You and it were on each list twice, so they wound up with four tiles between them.) Before we went outside, I shuffled the tiles and let Toa sort them with the book open to the page with the lists of subject and object pronouns. He placed the subject pronouns in a pile at the top the book and the object pronouns in a pile at the bottom of the book. Then he sorted them again with the book closed, and remembered them all correctly. Then we went outside.
I asked Toa to draw three large circles on the driveway. Then I labeled the circles, subject, object, and either. I drew a nearby line for Toa to stand behind. The game was, Toa pulled a pronoun tile from my hand. He stood on the line and tried to throw a rock into the appropriate circle. If the rock landed in the correct circle, it stayed there and would count as a point for Toa. If it bounced out of the circle, it counted as a point for me. If he threw it, or it landed, in an incorrect circle, I knocked it and another rock outside the circle to be two points for me.
Toa loved the game. We played it three times, at his request. If later on, we ever need to review subject/object pronouns, it will be super simple to do again.
Another huge curriculum win was our science curriculum from Exploration Education. You know its a huge win, when a child is CHEERING when it is time to do science.
This week, Toa's lesson was "What is Science". He will be studying a unit on Forces, Machines, Motion and Energy. The first step of that unit is to build a small car, (all materials and instructions are included in the curriculum kit.) Toa is rightfully proud and pleased with his car.
Sweetling is beginning a unit on Electricity and Magnetism (I think, Sweetling is doing her science curriculum independently.) She has the Advanced Intermediate curriculum level from Education Exploration. So her car building was different and more involved.
We are doing a home-brewed history curriculum this year, another nail-biter decision for me. But, after the first week, I can breathe a sigh of relief for that one too. We're planning on focusing most of our studies on the events of the 20th century. But, I felt like we needed at least a couple of weeks of some further background.
Every year on the Fourth of July we read and discuss the Declaration of Independence together. From just general conversation through the years, I felt like Toa had at least a basic understanding of colonial America and the American Revolution. And, during our three week road trip out west this spring, we hit a lot of Oregon Trail and Westward Expansion type museums, so I felt like that period of American History had also been reasonably covered. (Sweetling had already spent an entire year studying American History from exploration/colonialism to 1856, so it was primarily Toa I was concerned about patching in any gaps.)
After some discussion with the kids, we decided NOT to do an in-depth study of the Civil War or Reconstruction. The Jedi is not in favor of this decision, and since he is almost always right, I'm sure I'll regret this decision later. I'm so sure of it, that I'm considering searching for a four week unit study on the Civil War and Reconstruction. Anyone have one they can recommend?
For now, we are watching America, the Story of US, specifically the episodes on Division and Civil War to quickly patch in this important chapter of our history.
We're also spending time daily reading from the abundance of library books crammed on our shelf.
Finally, we completed a lesson on how to create historic timelines. I'm planning on writing a separate post for a history link up about the steps for making your own timeline. But for now, it was a great introduction to the process, and a technique I'm hoping to use throughout the year. I let each child pick their own topic. Toa picked the year some of the States we drove through on our trip West had joined the Union. (That's a terribly constructed sentence. I have a gold star sticker for anyone who can fix it.)
In ultimate irony, the weather outside has been absolutely beautiful this week. Normally, we start school in late summer when the weather is too hot and crappy to have any fun outside. Since we are stuck inside all day, we just get busy with school. Then we take a fall break when the weather's better. Well, all summer, the outdoor temperatures have been hovering around "stupid hot". It's just been unbearable. We should have started school in July, but I wasn't ready. Finally, everything is in place and we start school, and the thermometer drops nearly twenty degrees outside and we are blessed with a beautiful, beautiful week. And we're doing school.
In response, we scrapped our afternoon of history on Thursday and headed to the park instead. Sweetling took inline skates, her mp3 player, and earbuds and just skated away.
After Mommy was happy with some camera shots, Toa and I headed to the playground while Sweetling skated the path around the edge of the playground area. Toa found a boy from church to play with, and I sat and read the first chapter of Writing the Breakout Novel, part of Sweetling's language arts choices for the year. I took a little notebook with me and jotted down some ideas for my own writing projects.
Our week wrapped up with some cooking projects on Friday afternoon. Sweetling made whole wheat bread completely by hand and she made sweet carrot jam to go with it. The wheat bread needed a total of 4 to 4 and a half hours to complete. She made the carrot jam during its first rise of its hour and a half. The jam needed to be cooked and stirred for an hour. She stood at the stove reading a book and stirring her jam.
Toa made some more of the delicious mango-avocado salsa which we had tried earlier in the summer. This time, we used the food processor to finely dice our pepper, onion, and mango. He also helped make twice-baked potatoes for dinner. Grilled chicken breasts completed our meal, and what a hearty one it was!
Perfect first week of school!
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