Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Farm Animals Unit Study

APPLICABLE DISNEYLAND SPOTS: Big Thunder Ranch Petting Zoo - One of my daughter's favorite spots at Disneyland is the petting zoo.  Children can pet and interact with goats and sheep.  Each animal has a name tag with a Disney themed name.  I like to point them out to M and have her read them back to me.  Occasionally they will have a cow or horse at the petting zoo as well.

WEEK 1 - Sheep
WEEK 2 - Pigs
WEEK 3 - Cows
WEEK 4 - Ducks
WEEK 5 - Spiders

CHAPTER BOOK: Charlotte’s Web

- Lena’s Sleep Sheep
- The Sheep Shenanigans
- There’s A Pig In My Class
- Olympig!
- Peppa Pig
- Click Clack Moo
- Are You A Cow?
- Cock A Doodle Oops
- Duck To The Rescue
- Duck Duck Moose
- Itsy Bitsy Spider and Itsy Bitsy Beetle
- Little Miss Muffet Counts to Ten
- Doug Unplugs On the Farm
Muddy Pig

- Toilet Roll Sheep 
Dangling Spider Web

- Play with toy barn and plastic animals
- Dress up like farm animals
- Perfect your animal sounds.

DISCUSSION: Barnyard animals; What do they eat?; What sounds do they make?

- Make milkshakes – Discuss where milk comes from
- Make scrambled eggs - Discuss eggs and where they come from.

FIELD TRIP: Visit a local farm.

- Lambert The Sheepish Lion
- Boundin’ Pixar Short Film
- The Three Little Pigs
- Charlotte’s Web
- Babe
- Ferdinand the Bull
- Home On The Range
- Big Top Pee Wee
- ON NETFLIX: Owd Bob, Charlotte's Web (live action), Rock-A-Doodle

Monday, August 18, 2014

An Entire Year of Preschool/Kindergarten Curriculum

     I can't believe I did it! I had no clue where to start in making up a year of curriculum.  I honestly thought I would be choosing random themes weekly to prep and explore with my daughter. She will be 5 early next year, so I was researching preschool/kindergarten curriculums for inspiration.  I was so overwhelmed at first, but today I was inspired to go for it and make up a schedule for the whole year.
     I thought I would be scrambling with all the ideas in my head for a starting off point, but I was inspired by a question that popped into mind.  What does she want to learn?  So I had Marley sit down right next to me in front of the computer.  I asked her what she wanted to learn about.  She started listing off so many things, that I couldn't keep up.  We brainstormed together ideas for themes and concepts.  The list got very long within 5 minutes (examples: insects, the stars, mummies, flowers, etc).  Who would have thought a 4 year old could be interested in so much?  She made the task so much easier.

A breakdown of how I created my curriculum:

1) I opened up an excel spreadsheet using a calendar template and designated when I wanted to start our school year and end it for summer.

2) My daughter and I brainstormed together what she wanted to learn about and compiled a list of themes.

3) I selected season appropriate themes from the list and placed them in the corresponding months. This took some time and a lot of switching around.  Basically the themes would just help us determine what books to check out from the library and what types of art projects we would be doing each week.

4) I still plan to use Easy Peasy All In One Curriculum, since she enjoyed using it last year.  So I just attached a letter of the week to each weekly theme.  Sometimes the themes worked out perfectly with the letter of the week.  The letter of the week will also go hand in hand with our Disneyland trips and be incorporated with my Disney Schooling curriculum ideas.

5) I decided on a daily schedule that would remain simple and unchanged from week to week. For example, Mondays Wednesdays and Fridays I would like her to use her preschool workbook to practice writing and do some educational computer games (we love Starfall.com).  And Tuesdays and Thursdays, I would like her to do an art/craft project or go on a nature/outdoor exploration.  Every weekday, she will review at least one letter and do a brief scripture study. The 2nd Saturday of each month is designated Daddy-led science lesson, when my husband will prepare and conduct a science experiment for our girls. And I decided to schedule an educational family field trip at least once a month.  It sounds like a lot, but I am keeping in mind that we won't adhere strictly to the schedule.  It is just a guide to help us with ideas for educationally stimulating activities.

6) I went online and researched all my local field trip options.  I placed one field trip destination in each month, obviously trying to relate to the monthly or weekly theme.  This also took some time.  And I was pleasantly surprised to find that most educational field trip options around me are quite inexpensive.

7) I then chose one chapter book per month that correlated to the monthly theme. And I added that to the schedule as part of our bedtime reading routine.

     Once I had everything down and organized, I summarized it for Marley and I can't even express how excited she was about the themes and field trips I had planned.  I explained to her that she would not be going to a school like some of her friends, but that we were going to do school at home as a family and we would be learning all these cool things together.  Her gigantic bright smile made my heart full.  She responded by saying, "We are going to have so much fun!"

And here it is; our curriculum schedule for this year:

(Read: Charlotte's Web) [Field Trip: a local farm] {Science experiment: Color Changing Milk}

  • Week 1 - Sheep - Letter A
  • Week 2 - Pigs - Letter B
  • Week 3 - Cows - Letter C
  • Week 4 - Ducks - Letter D
  • Week 5 - Spiders - Letter E

(Read: The Witches) [Field Trip: a pumpkin patch] {Science experiment: Make slime}

  • Week 1 - Spiders - Letter E
  • Week 2 - Bats - Letter F
  • Week 3 - Skeletons - Letter G
  • Week 4 - Sleepy Hollow - Letter H
  • Week 5 - Pumpkins - Letter I
(Read: Little House In The Big Woods) [Field Trip: an art gallery] {Science experiment: Churn butter}
  • Week 1 - Ancient Egypt - Letter J
  • Week 2 - Pioneers - Letter K
  • Week 3 - Famous Artists - Letter L
  • Week 4 - Medieval Times - Letter M
(Read: The Hundred Dresses) [Field Trip: Christmas tree lot] {Science experiment: Cloud in a jar}
  • Week 1 - Seasons/Weather - Letter N
  • Week 2 - Astronomy - Letter O
  • Week 3 - Happy Holidays - Letter P
  • Week 4 - Nativity - Letter Q
  • Week 5 - Service - Letter R
(Read American Girl books) [Field Trip: a historical home museum] {Science experiment: Bubbles}
  • Week 1 - Service - Letter R
  • Week 2 - AG Kirsten - Letter Review
  • Week 3 - Family Members - Letter Review
  • Week 4 - AG Samantha - Letter S
  • Week 5 - Family Tree - Letter T
(Read: Fantastic Mr. Fox) [Field Trip: children's play place] {Science experiment: Run Away Pepper}
  • Week 1 - See & Touch - Letter U
  • Week 2 - Emotions - Valentines Day - Letter V
  • Week 3 - Hear & Smell - Letter W
  • Week 4 - Taste - Letter X
(Read: Mouse & Mole: Fine Feathered Friends) [Field Trip: a nature center] {Science experiment: Raising Raisins}
  • Week 1 - Ladybugs - Letter Y
  • Week 2 - Butterflies - Letter Z
  • Week 3 - Birds - Letter Review
  • Week 4 - Ants - Letter Review
  • Week 5 - Bees - Letter Review
(Read: A Treasury of Children's Literature) [Field Trip: a nursery or garden center] {Science experiment: Sun Painting}
  • Week 1 - Bees - Letter Review
  • Week 2 - Flowers
  • Week 3 - Plants
  • Week 4 - Gardening
  • Week 5 - Photosynthesis
(Continue: A Treasury of Children's Literature) [Field Trip: visit nearest body of water] {Science experiment: Mini Ocean
  • Week 1 - Photosynthesis
  • Week 2 - Ponds & Swamps
  • Week 3 - Ocean Life
  • Week 4 - Rivers & Streams
  • Week 5 - Prehistoric Water Life 
(Read: Dinosaurs Before Dark) [Field Trip: a natural history museum] {Science experiment: make a volcano}
  • Week 1 - Dinosaurs
  • Week 2 - Fossils
SUMMER! What should we learn this summer?

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Testimony Meeting-Homeschool Analogy

     Only LDS readers will understand this analogy.  But I felt inspired to write about it since so many homeschoolers I connect with are LDS.  And so many of those homeschoolers have the same questions of whether their reasons to homeschool are enough to carry them through it.

     For me the decision to homeschool was exactly like bearing your testimony at the pulpit.

     1) You sit down in the pews with everyone else, not thinking about going up to the pulpit.  You think you will sit calmly and listen to others' testimonies and find one or two things you can relate to.
   ... I think it's pretty rare to start out life knowing you will homeschool your children.  Most of us start out hearing about others homeschooling and find it sounds interesting.

     2) You start to feel something telling you to bear your testimony.  You don't know exactly where the feeling came from or what prompted it. You start to feel like maybe you should go up.  At the first acknowledgement of that feeling, you panic!
   ... I can say for certain, when I first seriously started contemplating homeschool, I was a wreck.  It abolished my view of typical (common) life. The idea of sending my precious kids off to school with adorable little backpacks to meet their teacher and make friends...why in the world would I walk away from that perfectly good plan?
 ... Hey, it was a perfectly good plan to just sit and listen to other people bear testimonies. ;)

     3) The feeling is a very personal thing.  You think no one else can possibly understand the struggle you go through when feeling it. But somehow, others are feeling it too in their own way.  Others are prompted to get up and bear their testimony for completely different reasons than yourself.  You battle with yourself.  Self doubt: "Why would anyone care to hear my testimony?" Self criticism: "My testimony isn't as interesting as theirs is." Justification: "I'm just not the type of person to do that." Procrastination: "I really don't want to get up. Maybe next time."
... When thinking about homeschooling, it is so easy to find reasons to not move forward or to say it won't work.  Everyone has differing circumstances.

     4) The prompting to stand up grows and grows and becomes this burning desire inside you, causing your heart to race.  The feeling becomes undeniable and you soon find yourself walking up that aisle, with your nerves going crazy.  You're thinking "What in the world am I going to do or say once I get up there?"
... I am still experiencing this phase of homeschooling.  The more I research homeschool plans, the more my desire grows and the more it becomes an undeniable aspiration.  But in the grand scheme, I really have no idea what I will do.  I just have lots of great ideas and I have faith that things will work out for the best as long as I follow my instincts/the spirit.  And trust me, even with great ideas and resources at my finger tips, the concept of homeschooling always makes me nervous.

     5) Once you find yourself at the pulpit staring out into the faces of the congregation, you think "What have I done?! Can I just go back and sit down?"
... Starting to homeschool is probably one of the most terrifying things for a parent.  The "What have I done?" feeling is bound to be experienced once in a while or many times in a while. Haha. 

     6) You find yourself grateful for the common greetings that were repeated by peers: "Hello brothers and sisters. For those of you who don't know me..." and such.  The laid out, socially acceptable beginning is a comfort and helps you break the silence and get yourself started.
... Even though you know your child may learn differently than others, it is so comforting to hear from other homeschoolers and take suggestions and find laid out curriculums that give you ideas and get the ball rolling. Why re-invent the wheel, right? ;)

     7) You are there, in the moment. Bearing your testimony.  Spewing out thoughts, feelings, and experiences.  Sometimes you have fun. You may get a smile or a laugh. And you might even say something that inspires someone in the congregation (the ultimate reward).  Sometimes it feels awkward and uncomfortable.  Maybe no one is listening and babies are screaming.  Or maybe people are falling asleep and you don't think anyone cares.  The experience varies.
... As homeschoolers, we know that not every day is a success. Not every day feels like a victory.  Sometimes it is an unplanned disaster and nothing gets accomplished. But there are some days that work out well and you feel you have shared something valuable and memorable with your child. Those days are priceless.

     8) IT'S OVER! Yay! You have completed your testimony and you are walking back to your seat with relief that you survived it. But do you remember what you said? You may be thinking "That sounded like a horrible jumbled mess of nonsense." "No one will understand what I had to say." "I'm not good at bearing my testimony."
... Yes. I'm sure we experience a lot of days like this in homeschooling.  The lesson was a mess.  Nothing made sense.  They didn't absorb the information.  I'm not a good homeschooler. But a least you survived the day. (Take note: Experienced, credentialed teachers also experience many days like this.)
     9) Feel proud!  Something prompted you to get up there and bear your testimony at the pulpit, despite all the fears and reasons not to do so. And even better, feel good that you are following the promptings of your Heavenly Father.
... It may seem uncomfortable and unplanned and disastrous, but you had the courage to move forward. And He is always there to guide and comfort you in your decisions. 

     10) MAYBE you didn't get up and bear your testimony.  Maybe you decided not to do it.  That's okay! Don't feel guilty.  You assessed your feelings and your circumstances and you made a decision for yourself.
... Homeschooling does not work out for everyone who wants to do it.  Through trial and error, we either find our niche or we go a different path.  There is no need to feel bad or defensive about choosing another way for yourself and your family.  The Lord supports us in these decisions by encouraging thoughtful prayer, knowledge, and free agency.

“Whosoever shall put their trust in God shall be supported in their trials, and their troubles, and their afflictions, and shall be lifted up at the last day.” - Alma 36:3

Thank you for listening to my thoughts.  I hope that each of us can be courageous and inspired to follow the spirit to make decisions that will eternally bless us and our families.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Starting A Daily Checklist

     CONFESSION: I am addicted to watching tv. Not watching cable or basic television, but I am addicted to having the tv on throughout the day and re-watching movies and shows that I own.  I have been that way my whole life.  My mother was trying to learn English when I was a small child and the fastest way she learned was by watching movies and television shows.  So that's pretty much all we did.  I liked to read at a young age but I rarely remember the tv being off.  So now when I'm at home I automatically think about what I want to watch.  Sad isn't it?  I really don't think it harmed my intellect; in fact I think I gained so much knowledge from becoming an entertainment enthusiast.  However, it caused me to acquire this awful habit.  4 years ago, shortly after the birth of my first daughter, I decided I wanted to change.  I have struggled for years trying to figure out a way to kick the tv habit.  I still struggle. But getting out of the house has been the best way to keep my eyes off the tv.
     Recently I was reading through a Facebook homeschoolers group to get some ideas to on how to limit electronics.  I don't remember who mentioned it, but one mom said she does not allow any tv time until her kids have completed their school assignments and chores for the day.  I figured something like that might work for me...

     I also realized that it would help my family start off a more productive day.  I made up a simple morning checklist for my daughters (4 years old and almost 2).

     One might ask why I placed clean house before eat breakfast.  Well, my girls have a tendency to make a huge mess in their room at night.  Makes me wonder if they sleep at all. ;) I was so tired of seeing the mess in the morning and battling them to clean it up, so now my rule is: No one eats breakfast until their room is clean and they are dressed and ready for the day. Same rule applies to my husband and me.  The first time I told my husband, "Nope. No breakfast until you have helped me make the bed." Haha! His reaction was great.  He said "Huh?" and then he realized it was a new family routine.  He smiled and joined in.
     We have been doing this for 3 weeks now and it has changed our lives! We all start out more productive, knowing what is expected of us in the morning.  And Marley (my 4 year old) just loves checking off those boxes once things are complete.  She thrives on routines, checklists, and incentives.    

     And the BEST part, I haven't even thought about turning on the tv until the morning routine has been completed! I'm making progress!!

     It worked out so well, that I made up a bedtime routine checklist as well.  Again, great results! Once in a while the girls just play and are not motivated to do the routine (especially bedtime), but we explain to them it is as simple as "If & Then." IF you don't do this, THEN you don't get that.  My husband has enforced that if M refuses to do any of her bedtime expectations without complaining, she will lose the privilege of song and story before bed.  So far, it has been effective.

     Side note: At Dylan's age (22 months) I would have never thought to expect her to follow a written out routine, but since Marley is participating, Dylan has been following her example so nicely.  She quickly sits with Marley to listen to her song and story and folds her arms for a prayer and she even tries to mumble her own prayer sometimes.  It is so precious! The benefits of having an older sibling are becoming apparent.   

Victory.  A shout out to the mom who shared her method of limiting tv. Whoever you are, thank you.  

I whole heartedly believe that regardless of where you are in life, if you continue to makes efforts to improve yourself (even little things), you are doing a fabulous job! Keep a positive attitude and press forward.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Disney School: Beginning our educational journey at the Magic Kingdom.

     DID YOU KNOW that the Matterhorn bobsled ride is based on the Matterhorn peak in the Pennine Alps between Switzerland and Italy?      

     DID YOU KNOW that Walt Disney was fascinated with Abraham Lincoln, which is why he decided to open "Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln" where audio-animatronics allows you to view Mr. Lincoln telling the tale of generations past and sharing his inspiring view of the future?
Matterhorn in Pennine Alps on left

     DID YOU KNOW that throughout Tomorrowland there are various edible plants like: lettuce, kale, artichokes, grapes, corn, beans, etc? The reason for this is Walt Disney envisioned a future where space and resources would be limited, therefore making most areas for growing our own produce.
     Disneyland is packed with interesting facts and educational directives. Our family adores Disneyland, so I think it's a perfect place to enjoy family fun and to stimulate learning and educational projects.  I am beginning to put together my Disneyland Curriculum for this Fall and I am getting super excited about it. My mind races with ideas and I get overwhelmed with all the projects and assignments we can do at Disneyland.

     Since my daughter is of preschool age, we have been focusing on letters and phonics.  So I want to start with posting my Disneyland Alphabet. By using the following alphabet, I plan to review at least a few letters and sounds each time we visit Disneyland.  I also created this simple chart that could be used as an alphabet checklist. I figured we could use it as a scavenger hunt list, or make goals to cover certain letters for the day.

     I also plan to focus on mastering her counting skills.  Counting is easy to apply anywhere you go, but remembering to do it isn't always easy.  Getting in the habit is the hard part. ;)
...And please comment if you can think of more words or things that can be spotted at Disneyland for the letters that seem to have stumped me (O, Q, V, X, Y, and Z). Thanks!


A – Alice, “All aboard!”, Ariel, Autopia, Aladdin, Astro Blasters

B – Belle, Balloons, Brer Patch, Bug’s Land, Blue Bayou, Big Thunder

C – Cars Land, Castle, Chesire Cat, Columbia ship, Canoes, Chip

D – Dumbo, Dinosaurs, Davy Jones, Donald Duck, Dapper Dans, Dale

E – Elephant, Eeyore, Exit signs (updated: Captain EO, Evil Queen, Enchanted, Elsa, Ears[Mickey or Dumbo, etc])

F – Fantasyland, Frozen, Fantasy Faire, Fireworks, Fastpass, Flick

G – Genie, Golden Horseshoe, Goofy, Grizzly River Run

H - Haunted Mansion, Horses, Hollywood Tower of Terror

I – Ice Cream, Information desk, Ice Crystals, Incredibles, Innoventions

J – Jungle Cruise, Jazz music, Jessie, Jasmine, Jafar, Jack Skellington

K – King Triton, King Arthur’s Carousel, Kodak picture spot

L -  Leaves, Lion, Lilo, Lamppost, Lightning McQueen

M - Magic Shop, Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Main St., Monsters Inc, Matterhorn Bobsleds

N – Natives, Neverland (updated: Nemo, New Orleans Square, Nightmare Before Christmas, 

O – Owl, Old Flybait, Ocean, Olaf, Oranges

P – Pirates, Peter Pan, Potato Head, Photopass card, Pumbaa, Prince/Princess

Q – Queen of Hearts, Lightning McQueen (updated: French Quarter, Quasimodo)

R – Rivers of America, Roo, Rex, Roger Rabbit, Roller Coaster

S – Steamboat, Snake, Storybook Land, Snow White, Small World, Space Mountain

T – Train, Tinkerbell, Tarzan’s Treehouse, Three Caballeros, Tiki Room, Tigger

U – Ursula, Under the Sea, Underground (updated: Umbrellas, Up, Monsters University

V – Villain, AdVentureland (updated: Flo's V8 Cafe)

W – Walt Disney, World of Color, Woody, Winnie the Pooh, Wendy, Waterfall

X – PiXar, eXhausted, PiXie Hollow

Y – Yetti, DisneY

Z – Zip A Dee Doo Dah, Zurg, Zero (updated: Golden Zephyr, Zazu)