Third Grade: Week Seventeen Wrap-Up

We’re still chugging along with our school work. Have I mentioned how much we’re loving Adventures in My Father’s World? Turkey and Bunny really look forward to the daily activities, way more than they did with Sonlight. I think they really need worksheets and activities to round out their school experience!

We’re working really hard on grammar right now. In addition to using Primary Language Lessons, as recommended by My Father’s World, I also bought a workbook–English Grade 3. This gives us an opportunity to really practice what we’re learning, and helps me make sure we’re not missing anything. I made some flashcards to go along with the lessons, particularly for the parts of speech. Ever since prepositions were introduced in Latin last year, Turkey and Bunny have had some kind of mental block as what they actually are. So we review that almost daily, and I think it’s just about drilled into their heads. We’ve just started working on subject/predicate, which is a big part of the back half of the book, and so far, that’s been going well.

In this week’s post, I want to focus a bit on supplementing. I know many homeschoolers, like myself, use a “boxed curriculum,” so that they have everything they need, and don’t need to worry about having gaps in their materials. But even with a boxed curriculum, supplementing, either to the subject, or the child’s particular interest, can be very beneficial.

This week, I’ve supplemented in two ways, (three, if you count adding some of my own selections to the My Father’s World book basket). First of all, I was able to use ideas from the children’s worship folder my children received in church last Sunday to supplement our religious instruction. This year, our daily religion usually consists of reading through at least one part of Luther’s Small Catechism, reading from the Treasury of Daily Prayer, (if not the Bible readings, at least the biographies for any commemorations/feasts/festivals that may be taking place), and reading through Concordia’s Complete Bible Handbook for Students, (with which Turkey and Bunny are completely fascinated!). So, no workbooks this year, and also not many crafts. So, when Turkey pointed out a project making a shield with the Word and Sacraments on it that was meant to be completed over several days, I figured it would be a great addition to our religion lessons for the week. It was fun to do, didn’t take too much time, and fit in nicely with the things we’re already doing.

Another thing I’ve been using to supplement this year, in light of the focus on the 50 states in Adventures in My Father’s World, is the Which Way USA club offered by Highlights magazine. Every six weeks or so, we receive two different state puzzle books, along with state maps. These books have all kinds of puzzles–word searches, crosswords, hidden pictures, math puzzles, etc. And in solving each puzzle, the child learns some interesting facts about whatever state the book is about, and completes part of the final puzzles in the book. Is this a necessary supplement? Of course not! It’s mostly for fun. But, I think the wide variety of puzzles are good for Turkey and Bunny’s brains, and helping them think in different ways, and they’re also learning weird facts while they’re having fun. I think this is one of the best “extras” I’ve bought for our homeschool, and the price is reasonable, especially given how much use we’re getting out of it. I’m thinking we may try Top Secret Adventures when we’re done with all 50 states!

There are lots of different ways to supplement your regular homeschool materials. It can be as simple as adding some different, extra books for quiet reading time, finding craft projects, going on extra field trips, or getting a subscription to something, whether a magazine or puzzle club. Supplementing doesn’t have to be expensive, either–there are plenty of free ideas available online. But, however you get it, extra enrichment is always a good thing, so look into adding something extra to your school, even if it’s something you only do one day a week!

Third Grade: Week Fourteen Wrap-Up

We’re finally back to our full, regular school schedule this week, which includes working through week 14 of Adventures in My Father’s World. We’re actually on week 18 of school, because of our special Thanksgiving and Christmas units, but it’s easier to keep track with the My Father’s World numbering, so I’ll keep using that. We will be celebrating our 100th day of school next week, though, (when you include Christmas School and field trip days)!

I was really excited to get back to all of our regular curricula, especially Adventures in My Father’s World. I can’t say I’ve ever felt that way before. I like the special units we do so much, especially the holiday ones, that it can be kind of a drag to get back to the same old, same old. But with the fun worksheets, (we still haven’t run into the state sheet burnout that I’ve heard has plagued so many other families), and the hands-on activities My Father’s World offers us, (we did a fun experiment with popcorn and milk this week that was a huge hit), we’re still having fun learning like we do with our specialized units, but it’s less work for me than putting together Christmas School was. Talk about the best of both worlds!

I’m guessing that this is a sign that My Father’s World is a good fit for our family, because we’re all enjoying it so much. Ladybug is even interested, begging for her own set of state sheets…but she’ll just have to wait a few years for those, (and then I can have the same conversation with Chickadee!). I’m a little sad that we won’t be using My Father’s World next year, (personal reasons), but I know we’ll all be excited about returning to it for our fifth grade studies, when we begin the four-year history cycle again!

Third Grade: Week Thirteen Wrap-Up

This week, we got to enjoy one of my favorite features of Adventures in My Father’s World–a week-long Thanksgiving unit.

This is something that I’ve done every year, anyway. But it was nice to have everything planned out for me for a change. Some of the books were new to us, (somehow we had never read The Thanksgiving Story, even though we have enjoyed the sister book, The Fourth of July Story), and we also used some old favorites (all of the Kate Waters books about colonial children). Some of the crafts were new, (somehow, we had managed to never make woven construction paper placemats before!), some we had done before, (hand and footprint turkeys are a yearly must around here), and some we had done before and skipped doing this time, (we didn’t feel like making paper grocery bag Indian vests again).

There were even dedicated science lessons for this week. There were estimating and measuring assignments, and I added the book From Seed to Pumpkin, particularly for Ladybug’s benefit, so we could see the life cycle of the pumpkin. There was even a fun experiment for discovering the density of a pumpkin, as well as growing your own plant using the pumpkin seeds from the previous estimating and measuring experiments.

I love that this was incorporated right into our school year. The unit is designed to be done whenever necessary in your school year, (although it is labeled as week 13, and is arranged in that spot in the teacher guide), whether you start earlier in the year, and so need to delay the Thanksgiving study, or if you start later, and need to do it even closer to the beginning. The flexibility of this program is another big must!

I wish that My Father’s World could find a way to add a similar Christmas unit to one of their programs. I’m thinking that their global curriculum, Exploring Countries and Cultures, would be the perfect opportunity to learn about Christmas around the world, (and would offer a nice counter-option to Winter Promise’s Children Around the World program, which does have such a unit). While I also create a Christmas unit every year, it would be fun to look at it with fresh eyes, and get some new ideas that I might otherwise overlook, or never think of at all!

Third Grade: Week Twelve Wrap-Up

This week, we got to start on one of the most unique aspects of Adventures in My Father’s World–the state study.

The states are studied in order of admittance to the union. While we did four states this week, the number of states learned about at any given time varies. The pattern is the same for each of the fifty states. We start by looking for the state on the U.S. map, and then color in the state on a smaller version of the map. We identify the state bird and flower, and color them in on the state sheet. After that, it’s time to label the state capital, and find and write down the postal abbreviation for the state. There is also a sticker sheet of the state flags, and after the correct sticker is found it’s added to the state sheet. We also look at the state’s nickname and motto.

After we’re done with the front side of the sheet, we look over the information on the back. There is both state trivia and history on the back. Of course, we learn the date of statehood, as well as other things, like notable residents, how the state was originally chartered, important exports, and other interesting items of history. We also get a chance to look at things such as the state tree, bug, and fish, where applicable.

Each state also comes with a flashcard with pictures of the bird and flower. Although these don’t have a lot of practical purpose, other than letting us know what color the birds and flowers are supposed to be, they’re a huge hit with the children. Even though they don’t need to memorize the information on the cards, they love collecting them and looking through them.

Being part of the My Father’s World curriculum, the state study also has corresponding book basket books. These can range from simple picture books about or set in a particular state, to full-length fiction or non-fiction works about residents of the state. This is one area, in particular, where I’ve learned of many books with which I hadn’t been familiar previously.

I know that a lot of people get bored with these sheets, and the seemingly endless state information, and perhaps by the end of the year, I will, as well. But right now, I’m only impressed. There’s no pressure to memorize the state information, but it comes naturally, anyway, just because of the activities provided. And it’s fun to learn interesting trivia about different places around the country. In my opinion, this is one of the biggest advantages of this program!

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 Four Wrap-Up

I’m a day late in posting this, because I wanted to include today’s field trip, which was the conclusion to this week’s history lessons.

We’ve spent this week, (and part of last), learning about Native Americans with Adventures in My Father’s World. It’s been a very fun and informative week, and included some great read-alouds, interesting book basket choices, fun crafts, and the aforementioned field trip. I’m really loving My Father’s World, because not only are there great books as part of the curriculum, they’ve also planned out the crafts for me, which I’m not too good at on my own. It’s easy to just add in field trips where applicable, and really run with the program!

First, our read-aloud books. One of them was new to us–Squanto, Friend of the Pilgrims. I think I read this book as a child–it has certainly been around forever! I had a difficult time with the beginning of the book, because it seemed to contradict everything I’ve learned about Squanto. As it turns out, it appears, at least according to this biography, that Squanto traveled to Europe once before he was kidnapped, and that’s the part of the story that confused me. We did get into his kidnapping late this week though, so I felt a little better about the quality of the book we’re reading.

Our second read-aloud was not new to us–North American Indians. I’ve used this book the last two years, for Thanksgiving School. It’s a great overview in the differences between the different groups of Indians in this country, divided by geography. It can’t go too in-depth with any one group, but it really gives a feel for the way different tribes lived, from the homes they lived in to the food they ate.

Our book basket books were also old Thanksgiving School selections, but it was the first time Turkey and Bunny read them on their own, so they were able to glean different information from them this time around. The overwhelming favorite was Native Homes, which shows, as the title suggests, the different dwellings of different Indian tribes. They really enjoyed comparing different homes, (a lot of them are very similar to wigwams), and each had a favorite home style.

They also read If You Lived With the Iroquois. I’m a big fan of this series–we have several titles. It’s written in a Q&A format, and answers all of the down-to-earth questions children have about what it would be like to be a member of this particular nation. It covers everything from how they would bathe, to religious beliefs, to medicine, to holidays and festivals. As an adult, I always learn something from these titles!

The final book basket choice for the week was Squanto and the Miracle of Thanksgiving. Turkey and Bunny actually read this last week, too, as that’s when we started our Squanto read-aloud, but I wanted to make sure they were really familiar with the story. This book gives a good, short summary of the native’s life, with an admittedly strongly Christian slant.

Turkey and Bunny had two crafts this week as well. First, they made construction paper wigwams. This is actually more difficult than it sounds, because of the amount of glue involved. I really think they gained an appreciation for how difficult actually putting together a real wigwam would have been!

They also made a paper teepee. We’ve done this project before, but this time, they really enjoyed decorating their miniature homes. They had a much better understanding of how Indians actually would have decorated their teepees, and included things like pictures of buffalo and other animals.

Finally, we had a field trip to Cahokia Mounds, the largest old Indian settlement north of Mexico. We walked through the Interpretive Center, which has a great display that depicts every aspect of the Mississippian Indians lived, from food preparation to children playing, and everything else you can think of. They were also having a special event, with demonstrations of many different activities, including Atlatl throwing, story telling, and hoop dancing. It was a great day to visit–we all learned a lot!

Pictures don’t really give an adequate idea of just how tall Monk’s Mound is, so you’ll have to take my word for it–it’s enormous! Being afraid of heights, it was a bit of a challenge for me to climb it, especially once I realized just how high up I was! But the view is amazing–you can see the St. Louis skyline, and all of the surrounding area.

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!

Box Day 2011

It’s one of my favorite times of year…when we start organizing all of our new school supplies! Today, Turkey and Bunny got out all of the books we’ll be using in third grade.

It’s quite the mountain of books. They have read some of them, but many are new, and they’re excited to get started. Just a few more weeks, and we’ll be diving into early American history!

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!

The Focus of Education

In all of my curriculum research, I’ve come to a greater understanding of the way different curriculum providers choose to focus their curriculum, philosophically.

For example, there’s classical education done The Well Trained Mind way. More than anything else, the focus of studies for this philosophy is history. Yes, the classical method is important here, as far as the different stages of learning, and using appropriate activities and materials for each stage, but at the center you find the four-year history cycle, and emphasis on being familiar with the whys and wherefores of what has happened in the past.

Then there’s education, Sonlight-style. The focus of this program is great literature. It’s not really classical, although it does get into the four-year cycle eventually, in a Sonlight kind of way. But there are tons of great books in this program, both to be read aloud, and for the children to read to themselves. I don’t think any other program “requires” the reading of so much great literature by their students.

There are other philosophies that lean toward classical, but in different ways. My Father’s World, for example, is classical-ish, but focuses on the Bible. However, it also ties in elements of unit studies and Charlotte Mason philosophy. So, you get the best of many worlds, here–great Bible instruction within the four-year history cycle, and lots of fun hands on activities, nature walks, and a gentle introduction into Language Arts.

There are also companies who focus solely on the Charlotte Mason method, such as Winterpromise. Again, lots of nature studies, family discussion, and hands-on activities. Notebooking is also an important part of this program, but the four-year history cycle really is not. As a matter of fact, they go so far as to say that the four-year cycle may repeat too much, which is a very different philosophy.

Heart of Dakota is another Charlotte Mason style curriculum, but with a heavier emphasis on religious education. Like My Father’s World, it is intended to be used by students of different ages, at least for the history, science, and religion segments–math and language arts, of course, need to be supplemented according to each student’s ability, and there are extension packages available to make the program more challenging for older students.

The Latin Centered Curriculum is another classical method, and, much like The Well Trained Mind, it is a book of suggestions for materials, and not a curriculum company. As its title suggests, The Latin Centered Curriculum places the focus on the study of Latin, even eventually studying great works in their original language. In a way, this is almost a grammar and language arts focused program. I have found that nothing teaches my children English grammar better than learning Latin, and I’m assuming the same would hold true with a Latin-focused program.

Different countries, (or continents, as the case may be), around the world also have different educational focuses. In Europe, for example, it could be argued that the focus is on foreign languages. Students start learning a foreign language in grade school, and continue learning it throughout their schooling–there is no simply being done with it, as we usually see after two (or sometimes four) years of foreign language here in America. They also continue adding additional foreign languages every few years, so that a European student might be fluent in three or four languages by the time he or she is done with school.

In Asia, the primary course of study is definitely math (and, more recently, science). Math programs have sprung up in the U.S., attempting to mimic this style of learning. Mental math is very important in Asian math programs, more so than the spiral method which is so common here. And there’s no doubt, looking at the test scores, that it’s working–Asian students routinely score very highly in math and the sciences.

Of course, these are all generalizations, but it’s interesting to me to see what different people like to emphasize in education. Sometimes it’s cultural, sometimes it’s religious, sometimes it’s a philosophy. But everyone has a reason for teaching the way they do, and for centering their studies around whatever subject they choose.

As for us, I try to balance our subjects, but I definitely have my favorites, as well. I love learning through literature, particularly historical literature, so the four-year history cycle is very appealing to me. I also have a strong desire to study and learn as much Latin as possible, both for my children and myself. I guess you could call us eclectic. The most important thing, though, is finding what works for your children, and taking full advantage of all the opportunities for learning that you can!