Third Grade: Week Five Wrap-Up

I can’t believe we’ve already completed five weeks of school! This school year is really flying by, (at least for now).

This week, I want to focus on the importance of hands-on activities.

I’ll be upfront, and say that this is the primary reason we switched away from Sonlight–hands-on activities are not an important part of their program, and they’re up-front about that (it is my understanding that they’ve changed that a bit this year, so it’s still worth looking into). I thought I was OK with it at first–I figured I could just add in my own activities. And then I discovered how much work finding and planning all the activities is. So, while I did have plenty of activities for special units, and special days, it really wasn’t a weekly thing for us. You just can’t do it all!

My Father’s World, on the other hand, offers plenty of opportunities for hands-on learning, not only in the history part of their programs, but Bible and science as well. I shared last week the teepees and wigwams Turkey and Bunny made while we were learning about Native Americans. Now, I realize that a lot of people think crafts like this are just busy work, and have no real value in education, but I completely disagree. For example, making the wigwams not only helped Turkey and Bunny visualize what an actual wigwam looks like, it also gave them an idea, on a much smaller scale, of just how difficult it would be to put together a real wigwam.

This week, when doing one of our read-alouds in American Pioneers and Patriots, we read about an oiled paper window in a house. This concept was, naturally, foreign to Turkey and Bunny…windows are glass and nothing else to them. So, we talked about why they would have had paper windows at all, (mainly, a lack of glass), and what the benefit of oiling the paper would be. After our discussion, we took two sheets of paper, and coated one of them in vegetable oil. We then held our two samples up to one of our glass windows, so that we might observe how they are different. It was easy to see that the oiled window let in much more light than the plain paper.

Then the real fun began. We took our regular paper, and put it under the kitchen faucet. It didn’t take long to see that paper and water don’t mix, and only the slightest touch created a huge rip in the “window.” We then repeated the experiment with the oiled paper, and even after it was left under the water for a good length of time, we really had to work to puncture the “window.” This led to a good discussion about the properties of oil and water, and how they interact, (or don’t), and really demonstrated to them why this was the chosen type of window for the Pilgrims. Simply reading about it would not have provided this kind of understanding for them.

The same is true with science. This is one area where Sonlight does offer plenty of hands-on activities and experiments, and even though we’re no longer using that curriculum, I still think that it does a great job of really getting students involved in science. (The DVDs are also a bonus, especially in cases where the experiment doesn’t quite work, usually due to teacher error!)

Beautiful Feet also does a good job in this department, both in the experiments they suggest, and in the books that are part of the curriculum, as there are many hands-on activities in the course of daily readings. For example, this week, as we’re wrapping up our study of Archimedes, we learned about centers of gravity/equilibrium. We then tried balancing different items on our fingertips, as suggested in Archimedes and the Door of Science, ranging from simple pencils and spoons to toys. Turkey and Bunny had a great time predicting where the item needed to be held to balance, (and Turkey, in his future engineer way, was usually right), and then carrying out the experiment.

As you can see, there are many different ways to incorporate hands-on activities, for a wide range of subjects. Sure, sometimes these activities are just for fun, but more often, they’re activities that *are* fun, but are really implemented for the benefits they provide in the learning process.

Third Grade: Week One Wrap-Up

I’m hoping to write more consistently about our homeschool experiences this year, by way of a weekly wrap-up. Instead of giving a summary of everything we’ve done in a given week, though, I’m going to share curriculum I particularly like using, or a good story from the week, or a field trip we’ve had…that sort of thing.

Now that we’ve finished our first week of third grade, I have a better feel for some of the new materials we’re using this year. So far, I’m very impressed with the curriculum I purchased from Beautiful Feet Books.

I really love the History of Science. The whole approach to this program is great. Turkey and Bunny are reading, (and from a pretty wide selection of books, too!), and discussing, drawing, mapping, doing copywork, and creating a timeline. It’s such a great variety of activities that it doesn’t feel boring like some other programs tend to. Turkey and Bunny, (and, I confess, their teacher), have really enjoyed learning about Archimedes and his world this week–we’re looking forward to learn more about ancient Greek scientists next week!

The History of the Horse is very similar in layout. Readings from a wide variety of sources, drawing, (we have a whole book dedicated to learning how to draw horses), copywork, etc. I know it’s kind of a strange topic to study in school, but I thought it would be a fun elective. It’s an interesting combination of history, zoology, and literature. Even Ladybug, who is way too young for the notebooking activities, is enjoying following along in the books, (especially the Handbook of Horses, which has lots of great photos), because she loves horses.

I really wish I could try out some of Beautiful Feet’s general history programs. From what I understand, however, they teach a Providential view of American history, and I won’t be teaching that in our school. I am hoping to use their History of Classical Music program in a few years, though, which I’ve heard is just as good, if not better, than the two we’re using this year!

The First Day of Third Grade

Today Turkey and Bunny went “back to school.”

For today, anyway, the school room is organized, books are on the shelves where they belong, the table is free of clutter–a week from now, it’ll probably be a completely different story, but today it looks good!

Turkey and Bunny are very excited about the things they’ll be learning this year, especially American History and writing in cursive. Here’s a brief rundown of our daily schedule:

In addition to all of that, we also have elective Fridays, where we’ll be learning about musical instruments, (we’ll be going through Those Amazing Musical Instruments, plus a coloring book), and composers, (we’re still using the Classical Kids Collection volumes one and two CDs), as well as horses, with Beautiful Feet’s History of the Horse. Plus we’ll use Fridays for playing educational games, such as Reading Roadway USA and the Scrambled States of America, and even the occasional Lego building activity, like the Lego White House from the Architecture series.

It’s going to be another great year–I’m so excited to get started!

So Many Books, So Little Time

In revising my long-terms goals for homeschooling, I’ve come to a terrible conclusion: there’s just not enough time to teach all of the things I want the children to learn!

Take science, for example. For the last few years, we’ve done Sonlight science, and I’ve been pretty happy with it. It’s time for a change, though, so for our upcoming third grade year, we’ll be doing Beautiful Feet’s History of Science program. But I also want to use some of My Father’s World’s science in the future (not third grade, thankfully–it’s a repeat of what we did this year, so we’re able to fit in the BF program), and I want to use at least some of the Apologia science that isn’t already scheduled in MFW. But, there are more years worth of science programs that I want to use than I have years left of elementary school to get through. Scary.

Foreign language is another example. Will we have time to study all of the languages I’d like to fit in? Besides Memoria Press’s Latin, I’d like us to get at least a basic grasp of French and German (probably with Rosetta Stone). And then I think maybe we should study Spanish, too. And the children have some ideas of languages they might like to add, including Greek and Italian (I have no idea why). Obviously, we can’t do it all. But how do I maximize our time so that we can learn as much as possible?

Thankfully, the history cycle is pretty straightforward. Every four years, we study the same thing, so I don’t have to worry about us missing any major points in history. I can’t guarantee that we’ll get through all of the extra books I’m hoping to read, however!

Math and language arts are really the only two subjects I don’t have to worry about, because it’s not like you can even try to do two programs at once, and once you find something that works, it doesn’t make any sense to jump around. So that’s a relief right there.

The rest of it, though…well, I’m starting to feel more like a “real” teacher struggling with this dilemma, anyway!

While I’m At It

As long as I’ve been pondering curriculum, I’ve been looking at another set of lessons, (this time unit studies), from another new company, one that I’ve heard of but never actually looked at before–Beautiful Feet (BF).

In the interest of full disclosure, because of their particular viewpoints in regards to history, (especially American history), I wouldn’t use them for our history core for a full year. They appear to teach history from a Providential viewpoint (which is something I had never even heard of before this month), and I definitely don’t want to teach that.

That being said, when researching classical music studies, their name kept coming up, and so I checked out their “History of Music” pack. It looks awesome! We’ll be getting almost all of the CDs it uses from MFW over the course of a few years, anyway, and I already have one of the books, so it won’t even be that big of an investment to pick up the study guide and additional books. My children have a natural love of classical music (which I definitely did *not* have at their age), and an ear for composers, and I really want to encourage that. This program looks like it will be great for us in a few years, to really delve into classical music, composers, and musical instruments.

While browsing the BF website, I also found a unit study on the “History of the Horse.” I know it sounds really random, and it definitely wasn’t something I was looking for, but I also think this would be another really cool elective. There are many classic books included in the pack that I’ve either read or heard of (most of them written by Marguerite Henry, of course!), and a few of them are books I was hoping to read with the children soon. There is also a great deal of science in this program (learning the biology of the horse, for example), as well as art, (learning to draw horses).  If we use it as an electives program on Fridays, it will last us a good three years, which is a great return on a rather small investment.

Both of these programs are heavy on notebooking, which I think will be great practice for Turkey and Bunny, and also makes for a nice portfolio at the end of the year, or years, as the case may be. I was hoping to find something more structured than even MFW for classical music, and BF definitely fits the bill, and has gotten great reviews on top of it. I never would have gone looking for a study on horses, but I do love finding unique things to study, and Bunny is always asking to learn about animals, anyway (too bad there’s no bunny unit!), so I think this will be a great addition to our school!