Thursday, July 31, 2008

Oh I love summer, or, the leftover queen returns

Some nights we cook several different dishes, more than we really need for one meal. Then we eat easy leftover meals for a couple of days.

That's what happened tonight, because Mr. Fixit and Ponytails volunteered to barbecue some chicken wings after I already had some things ready to cook. Not one to pass up this opportunity, I figured we'd just have a little more variety at dinner and a few more leftovers and quick lunches.

This is what we had:
Swiss Chard Ratatouille with whole-wheat rotini
Sweet potatoes baked in the toaster oven
Bread-machine bread
Barbecued chicken wings (plain but served with bottled sauces)
Chocolate frozen yogurt (homemade)

Swiss Chard Ratatouille

Our garden is loving the frequent rains this month; we have had a lot of chard already and the zucchini are doing better than they usually do here. I made this up tonight to take advantage of what we had on hand, but you can improvise.

Pick one bunch of chard from the garden; chop the stems separately from the leaves. Heat about 2 tbsp. olive oil (or less if you want) in a large skillet, preferably with a good high lid. Our set of pots and pans has an extra-high lid that's supposed to work with the Dutch oven but also fits the frying pan, so if I'm doing greens that take up a lot of room, I use that.

Sprinkle the hot oil with salt, and saute the chard stems and 1 8-oz package sliced mushrooms (or any other kind of mushrooms). Garlic as well if you have it, but we were out and I didn't feel like using powdered; onion if you want (I didn't). Add vegetables that don't take too long to cook: the chard leaves, some chickpeas, 1 chopped tomato, some canned garlic-herb pasta sauce (tomato-onion would be good too), 1 chopped zucchini (chopped not too thin unless you just like it mushy). Cook, covered, 15-20 minutes, stirring once or twice, until the chard is soft, tomato is cooked, and chickpeas are heated through. It will be slightly liquid from the tomato, but shouldn't need any thickening. Serve over pasta. Mop up the sauce with bread.

Chocolate Frozen Yogurt

You're not going to believe this one.

Combine small amount leftover fudge icing (warmed in the microwave and slightly thinned with water) with plain yogurt. Freeze until solid.

Books read in July

Looking for Anne, by Irene Gammel (also here)
I bought this with some gift money and found it fascinating, if occasionally disturbing. It's about how the book Anne of Green Gables came to be, and gives some wonderful insights into how L.M. Montgomery worked as a writer, as well as her personal life.

After that I was so interested that I went to the library and read
After Green Gables: L.M. Montgomery's Letters to Ephraim Weber, 1916-1941, edited by Hildi Froese Tiessen and Paul Gerard Tiessen.

And after that I had to re-read Anne of Green Gables, because it had been too long since I read the real book and some of what I remembered about it had gotten mixed up with the 1985 film.

I also read:
A Slipping-Down Life, by Anne Tyler (one of her old books I had never read, but not high on my list of favourites)

The Stone Angel, by Margaret Laurence, because Mr. Fixit and I just saw the new film of this with Ellen Burstyn, and because I hadn't read it since high school and couldn't remember where the film departed from the book. Warning about some adult material in this: Margaret Laurence was a Canadian novelist whose books were always threatening to get banned out of high school literature courses.

I read part of The Book of Sorrows, by Walter Wangerin Jr., a sequel to The Book of the Dun Cow--I liked this but had to return it to the library.

And Plutarch's "Life of Alcibiades".

With Crayons:
Smith of Wootton Major, by J.R.R. Tolkien
Five Children and It, by E. Nesbit

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Crayons' Grade Two: Literature and Teatime Reading

Do most schools count Literature as a Grade Two subject? Most elementary schools would probably lump it under Language or Reading. But what do you get to read in Reading? Oh--I know. Not readers, these days--more likely books from the Classroom Library. (How many school lesson plans have you seen that encourage children to write their own books and put them in the Classroom Library?)

Anyway, I wouldn't count on what's there as being literature, or even it being as good as the Scholastic box-of-books we used to have as our Classroom Library.

Okay, end of snarky classroom rant.

We're mainly going with Ambleside Online's Year Two selections, with a couple of changes. I'm doing a heretical thing by not including Shakespeare stories at all this year. Crayons has been listening to them with Ponytails for at least a couple of years now, and we both need a break. Nathaniel Hawthorne's A Wonder Book and Tanglewood Tales (they're companion books, we have them both in one volume) are suggested as extra reading for this year; we're going to read them instead of Shakespeare, leaving out a couple of the stories that will be covered in Year Three (The Heroes).

After two go-throughs with it, I've decided I've really had enough of Eugene Field's lollipop trees and dinky birds. Besides, a couple of Maxfield Parrish's almost-nude illustrations (don't say I didn't warn you) create too many giggles among the Squirrelings, and I'm not crazy about them either. So no Eugene Field this year. I was going to go just with the Come Hither anthology, but then I figured out that we could keep Christina Rossetti (the printout available on Ambleside Online) and Walter de la Mare's own poems for teatime reading, and work a few of James Whitcomb Riley's poems into the fall (his poems always make me think of the end of October). So lots of poems this year after all.

Pilgrim's Progress runs through the year, and then the longer books for each term are:

Term 1-- Understood Betsy; St. George and the Dragon (we forgot to read it last year); Hiawatha’s Childhood (picture book with stanzas from Longfellow’s poem)
Term 2-- Wind in the Willows
Term 3-- The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood, by Howard Pyle (just the chapters listed for AO Year Two)

Along with the poems, I'm planning on keeping a couple of special books to read through the year at teatime: The Old Nurse’s Stocking Basket and Italian Peepshow, both by Eleanor Farjeon; and The Door in the Wall, by Marguerite De Angeli.

And that's why we homeschool.

Related Posts:
Crayons' Grade Two: Bible
Crayons' Grade Two: Social Studies
Crayons' Grade Two: Science and Nature
Crayons' Grade Two: French
Crayons' Grade Two: Math
Crayons' Grade Two: Language Arts
As Little As Possible
Grade Two: The Very Last First Time?

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Crayons' Grade Two: French (and frugal felt-board tips)

I posted a detailed look at the book we're using here. Because Aux Yeux des Enfants is so seasonally-oriented (pumpkins in October, Christmas trees in December, baby animals in spring), it was hard to get into it last year after we got off track for awhile. However, that's one thing that made it perfect for this year's special days and seasons focus.

On my to-do list: make some new felt-board dolls for the family in the story, because the ones I used with Ponytails got worn out or thrown out. We have a package of felt-board backing paper (paper with flocked ribs on the back) that was given to us by a Sunday School teacher and that has come in handy many times. But if you ever need to make felt-board shapes and don't have any felt or sandpaper, try construction paper--it clings very well too, especially if your felt board isn't sitting absolutely vertical. (I read that interfacing works too.)

Our felt board--I've probably said this somewhere before--is a big piece of felt pinned over the top of an old TV tray. (The safety pins are across the back, as if we had wrapped it for a present.) The felt tends to get grimy and pilled after awhile, which means you buy more felt you unpin the felt and turn it upside down until that side is finished too. THEN you go buy more felt. One piece (both sides) usually lasts us a couple of years. Here's another idea: sticky-backed felt.

Related Posts:
Crayons' Grade Two: Bible

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Crayons' Grade Two: Social Studies

My own second-grade Social Studies, in the experimental '70's, was called Environmental Studies, a word none of us had ever heard and which, I don't think, was ever fully explained. It took us forever to copy that off the blackboard and on to the covers of the new notebooks we were handed. I don't remember a lot about it, either, except for a trip to the sugar bush and some kind of a neighbourhood field trip where we walked around the block and pointed out various kids' apartment buildings. I think the baby chicks we hatched and any other science we did may have been lumped in there as well. For sure, though, it didn't include history.

Can second-graders do more than go to the sugar bush? Would we have "gotten" history in the second grade? No, not in the same way ten-to-twelve-year-olds do, or in the same way teenagers or adults do. Most seven-year-olds don't totally get maps, or dates. They don't get abstract ideas, cause and effect, or political things. But they do like stories, characters, heroes, villains. They do remember what happened and who did what, if not always why. It's the same in geography...I remember The Apprentice's map of the Mississippi, that started somewhere in Alaska. But she had the right idea at least.

So we read the stories of kings and heroes, the brave and good, and the otherwise. Some of the stories may be what Josephine Tey calls Tonypandy; some may be disputed or offer currently unpopular viewpoints. Did King Alfred burn the biscuits?--probably not. Does it matter? Are we teaching untruths or trivialities? Would it make more sense just to wait until they're older and more discriminating?

No, because we are teaching more than facts and dates. We are teaching "norms and nobility," to quote David V. Hicks. "How to live," to quote Charlotte Mason. We are giving them heroes--feet of clay though they may have--to "people" their imaginations. And we are building a foundation for later history teaching--again to quote CM, an understanding that we are not the only people, and our time is not the only time; that people long ago may have known less about technology, may have had attitudes about churches and kings that we don't share, but that they weren't any less intelligent or less human.

Does it matter that we don't start right at the beginning of time, or that some of the history we do is out of sequence? (Bible stories are history too, but we don't confine them to an "ancient history" year! And then there are biographies that come up out of chronological order, and dates connected with artists and writers and the Guinness Book of World Records...) No, not at this age; all "long ago" tends to be a bit hazy anyway when you're still figuring out the difference between a hundred and a thousand; it's after that that children can start making better sense of timelines and other more sequential tools.

Sense of space and place is also a bit vague still at this age, as I remember well myself from when we once drove through Washington, Ontario (a tiny little place) and I asked my father when we'd left Canada. My Squirrelings have also shown confusion (as do some Jeopardy contestants) over the concept of living in Canada, living in British Columbia, and living in Vancouver, for example. How can you live in all those places at once? But we have to begin somewhere--so we start picking out the Great Lakes (especially Lake Huron, a familiar place), Hudson Bay, the oceans. This year's work will include the Rocky Mountains, the Far North, and why it took Marco Polo so long to get from Venice to China.

And as I mentioned before, we are going to put extra emphasis this year on holidays, feast days, and special times of year; I'm including those things with social studies too. I picked up Festivals, Family and Food at a thrift shop and plan to use some parts of it; there are some parts of the book that are more...Waldorfish?...than I really want to encourage...the festivals are Christian, but some of the ways of celebrating them don't add much to our faith (e.g. the rituals of corn dollies (the fertility ones, not the Thanksgiving-decoration ones) at harvest time). Also the recipes are all British ingredients and measurements--good ideas but too hard for us to use here. But I do like some of the songs and activities, and the overall idea of following the seasons.

Related Posts:
Crayons' Grade Two: Outline
Crayons' Grade Two: Bible
Crayons' Grade Two: Science and Nature
Crayons' Grade Two: French
Crayons' Grade Two: Math
Crayons' Grade Two: Language Arts
Crayons' Grade Two: Literature & Teatime Reading
As Little As Possible
Grade Two: The Very Last First Time?

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Making yogurt--again

I've been pretty happy with the yogurt I've been making this year. I like the way it usually turns out, I think the heating-pad method works well, and I like not having to depend on store yogurt.

However, there have been a couple of things that bug me about the way I've been doing it--one is cleaning the pint canning jars afterwards. When you use this method of heating, cooling and incubating right in the jars, they do get a bit hard to clean. Besides, most of our jars now are full of jam. Mr. Fixit has remembered all the tricks his grandma taught him and so far we have two different kinds of jam in the cold room, with the promise of peach as well when they come into season.

I had loaned out my Tightwad Gazette Volume 3--the one with the yogurt instructions in it--and when it came back recently I thought I'd look back at that article and see if there was any way I could improve on my two-little-jars method.

So today I did it the TG way--heated up a quart of milk plus milk powder in the pot, and tried one idea of my own: I incubated it in a covered serving bowl that came with our dinnerware (with the cover on, in case that wasn't clear). I checked it just before posting this and it's already done--looks like it worked great. And the pot wasn't hard to clean either. I think I've solved both my messy-jar and lack-of-jars problems at the same time. (And it's a bit less dangerous than lifting those jars of hot milk.)

One interesting note, if you find this much technical stuff interesting: you have to let the milk heat to 180 or 185 degrees, then cool it to 115 degrees before stirring in yogurt and incubating it. Usually I lift the jars of hot milk out of the pot of water and let them cool for awhile on a towel--and usually it does take awhile. This time I poured all the milk into the bowl instead. (I had poured boiling water over the bowl first, just to make sure it was really clean.) I don't know if it was the bowl, or the fact that I left the whisk sitting in the milk as well (some kind of heat exchange?), but that had to be the fastest-cooling milk I've ever seen. Usually we're talking half an hour anyway; this batch was down to 115 degrees within 15 minutes.

Just give me a white coat, I feel like a lab scientist.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Crayons' Grade Two: Science and Nature

The title of the post is somewhat misleading, since most of what we're going to do this year is more "nature" than "science." It's what we have, it's what we can handle, and besides that we're pretty much loaded with social-studies stuff and other subjects. Anything else we do...say one of Daddy's blinking-light projects...will be a bonus.

Part A each week will be a chapter from Among the Forest People and Among the Night People, both online at The Baldwin Project. Crayons and I read Among the Pond People last year and wanted to continue; we really liked these stories. They're a combination of fable and nature study; they usually have some point to make about human nature, parenting, disobedience or patience, but they also have good factual material about crayfish and so on. They're easier to read than Mrs. Gatty's Parables from Nature, and I think they're more entertaining and more accessible for young children.
"I tell you what let's do," said another Nymph. "Let's all go together to the shallow water where he suns himself, and let's all stand close to each other, and then, when he comes along, let's stick out our lips at him!"

"Both lips?" asked the larvæ.

"Well, our lower lips anyway," answered the Nymph. "Our upper lips are so small they don't matter."

"We'll do it," exclaimed all the Dragon-Fly children, and they started together to walk on the pond-bottom to the shallow water. They thought it would scare the Snapping Turtle dreadfully.--"The Dragon-Fly Children and the Snapping Turtle," in Among the Pond People, by Clara Dillingham Pierson
Part B each week will be a variety of things, some hands-on and some not, some corresponding to the Part A readings, some not. One book we picked up (at the supermarket, for a dollar), is Nightprowlers, by Jerry Emory. Overall it's a bit "green" for my taste, but I like the approach of looking at what goes on outside at dusk, during the night, and at dawn--something that our kids don't often get to experience for themselves.

The other ongoing book is Through the Year, by George Willard Frasier, Helen Dolman, and Kathryne Van Noy. It's old (1937), it's dated, and the cowboy stories are hokey. It's written in school-reader style.
"This morning I saw a rabbit," said Nancy. "It made tracks. It was looking for something to eat."
"Will we see woodchuck tracks?" she asked.
"No," said Miss Adams. "The woodchuck does not go out in the snow. It does not look for food. It sleeps in its hole all winter."
Why use it, then?

It covers some of the interesting things a primary class might do throughout a school year--take a fall walk, watch cocoons and tadpoles, feed winter birds, hatch chicks; and gives us the option of trying those things as well. It gives us a book that Crayons can easily read for herself. It also ties into our seasonal theme for this school year. I wouldn't use it as our only book for the year, but combined with some newer books it makes a useful "spine."

Besides, I like Miss Adams' cool 1937 coat with the giant fur collar.

Other books? David Webster's Exploring Nature Around the Year: Winter. (Lots of hands-on experiments. I also like Cheryl Archer's Snow Watch, very similar.) We like the Linnea books and enjoyed reading her Windowsill Garden book awhile back--the girls always wanted to do more from that, so we'll get it out from the library or try to get a copy of our own.

And we have all the other resources of Natural Science Through the Seasons, the Handbook of Nature Study (with all Barb's challenges on the HNS blog), library books about the seasons and animals, other things from our own shelf--but the planned part this year has to be fairly minimal or I know we won't even get that much done. There are also the cross-curriculum connections with science, especially things that will come up in geography.

We are not nature nuts here, in spite of being squirrels. But even a little can be very enjoyable.

Related Posts:
Crayons' Grade Two: Social Studies
Crayons' Grade Two: Bible

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Crayons' Grade Two: Math

Previous math posts:

Math with Lore (2007)
The Second First Year of Miquon Math (2007)
The Primary Math Cupboard (2007)
Math Stuff (2006)
Cookin' with Math (why they're not Cuisinart Rods) (2006)
Lots of Math Posts

How do you plan a year of Miquon Math when the Lab Sheet Annotations (teacher's manual) is so vague about what you do when?

This is how I planned second-year Miquon both several years ago for Ponytails and then again recently for Crayons. I figured on her getting through the Blue and Green books this year (third and fourth books of six), so I looked at the whole scope and sequence (page 9 in the Annotations) and divided up the topics for those two books among the thirty-six weeks in the school year. When you look at the workbooks, some topics get a lot more worksheet space and/or more emphasis than others--so I give those more school weeks.

No fancy spreadsheet programs here--just a sheet of lined paper. Week 1: Odd and Even. (We could spend more time on that but I know Crayons is pretty solid on Odd/Even.) Week 2: Addition. Week 3: Addition. Week 4: Addition. Week 5: Subtraction. And so on. I make sure that the oddball topics at the ends of the books don't get too squished in at the end of the year (sometimes I redistribute those throughout the year), and I try to make room both for review and for preview.


In the years I've used Miquon, I've noticed that, if you're doing the worksheets pretty much in sequence, you can come up quickly against a sheet that would be much more valuable if your student had a few no-worksheet opportunities to practice that topic before trying it on paper. One quick example: at one point there are some skip-counting dot-to-dot pages. Now obviously those aren't going to be enough for anybody to learn skip counting, and I don't think they were meant to be. It makes more sense to tuck "counting by fours" into several previous lessons, and then--aha! Today you get to count by fours on this puzzle!

And that's why I like to plan Miquon Math ahead for the year, instead of just opening the book. It also helps give a bit more variety to each week's lessons. We can preview a bit on geometric shapes and skip counting, work on the week's addition or subtraction, and review what we did from a couple of weeks ago--repeat a game or activity, or do a worksheet that was skipped over.

I'm not looking at using a lot of supplements for math this year, outside of our normal cache of manipulatives. We'll probably work quite a bit with a hundred chart--I find that's very helpful for learning subtraction and also for "Smart Math." "Smart Math" is using your head about arithmetic and not getting caught up in dumb mistakes kids make when they've been misled or over-taught by some of our teacherish ways to do things. The classic one is being given 100 - 99 on paper and trying to cancel out the zeros because that's what you've been shown how to do when you subtract. "Smart Math" says "100 - 99? I don't care what it looks like, you can't fool me, the answer's 1."

When it comes to putting more detail into the year's math plans--knowing what card games and so on I'm going to use for addition or subtraction--sometimes I plan a lot ahead of time, sometimes it's a night-before flip through the Annotations. This year I got lucky: I found somebody's plans for the first few weeks of the Blue Book. Mine. I forgot I had sent these to the Miquon-Key Yahoo list back when Ponytails was at this level--and there they were in the archives, saving me most of the planning work for this term.

And here they are, with a few edits. The original post only covered weeks 1-6, so I've added somewhat briefer notes for weeks 7-12. I hope maybe this will help somebody get their year started.


I put together some rough plans for my second-grader's first six weeks of math this coming school year, starting with the Blue Book. I know they are somewhat sketchy, but I thought seeing them might help someone else who's at around the same place. They're slanted toward the things I know my daughter still needs to work on, rather
than trying to include every concept that possibly be covered using those Miquon pages. To me, that's a great thing about this program--it is very flexible and you can spend more or less time preparing for, doing, and reviewing a given activity, depending on how fast and how well they "get it" (or not) the first time through. We may not get to everything every week, but I find having the extra suggestions in place helps me plan a variety of activities as well as prepare for upcoming lessons. For instance, E46 includes one problem where it's necessary to read amounts of money such as $3.25; I will make sure she knows how to do that before asking her to do the problem. (In some cases though...I think Mrs. Rasmussen [Lore Rasmussen, author of Miquon Math] might say this's probably okay just to let THEM ask YOU when they need to know. Mom, what's this mean with the funny S and the line through it? Okay, here's how you read money. Right?)

I find I'm drawing a lot on Ruth Beechick's little booklet and her hundred-chart suggestions in planning how I'm going to teach some of these concepts. I think the Lab Sheet Annotations tends to use a number line more on the actual worksheets, but they do suggest using a hundred-chart as well. We have a large poster-size one, and
another one we made with cardboard number disks attached with sticky-back Velcro. You can also find small reproducible ones on many math websites.

Anyway, here are my notes. FGD means the First Grade Diary. The other page references are to the Lab Sheet Annotations. I've avoided including games and so on that we might include outside of the Miquon materials, other than games with cards and dice; I'll probably pencil some of those in after I take a look through what we've got on hand here. The word problems are made up as we go along.

Miquon Blue Book, Weeks 1-6

Week 1
Odd and Even sheets
Play games on p. 38: Make 10, Odd or Even
Review sequence of numbers: take some cards, put them in order from
smallest to largest; play War
Telling time–review with flash cards; see game in FGD p. 171
Which would you rather have? FGD p. 171
FGD p. 186, Making true statements (introduce signs for not greater
than, not less than)
Review skip counting
Guess what number I'm thinking of (FGD p. 200)
Word problems

Week 2
Complete Odd and Even sheets
Chalkboard work related to C26, as suggested in the LSA: adding
strings of single digits, recombining them to make adding easier;
this is also fun to do with piles of Cheerios or raisins, maybe with

See explanation for C28, sequence given (practice some of these
ideas before doing the sheet next week):
1. Find "other names" for numbers such as 5 (make patterns with rods)
2. Oral questions such as "in the problem 15 + 8 = what, what do I
need to add to 15 to make the next 10?" This is not an easy concept;
try doing with money, with a number line. An idea: build 15 with
rods; then add eight white rods, and see how many are left after you
take enough to turn the 15 into 20.
3. Oral practice suggested on p. 49: If I want to add 7 + 5, what
name for 5 would help me most? (Expand to 27 + 5, 77 + 5 if they
don't see the point of doing this to add something "easy" like 7+5.)

Review writing 2-digit numbers, breaking them down into 10s and units
(what's a unit?). Use popsicle sticks, with some bundled into groups
of 10. Use dimes and pennies.

Play the games on p. 38.
Word problems

Week 3

Do addition sheets C26-C-30
C26: Adding strings of single digits
C27: Using doubles to make equivalent trains
C28: is tricky: finding missing addends for 10, then using them to
add things like 7 + 4
C30: tens and units

Practice grid problems such as C32 but with smaller numbers. Maybe
roll dice or draw cards to choose tne numbers.

Oral math questions similar to those listed for Week 4

Word problems?–time, money, measurement

Week 4

Practice writing 3-digit numbers
Practice writing money $3.25
Oral subtraction problems such as 205-200, 380-300, 380-80
Oral addition and subtraction "bridging" questions such as 46+7, 46-7
(Ruth Beechick calls it "bridging" when you are adding or subtracting
something and have to jump to the next line of the 100-chart to find
the answer.)
Oral addition, strings of single digit numbers
Practice adding 10s, 20s and 30s to things (100-chart)
Oral subtraction such as 52-51, 99-99, 30-20, 31-21 (100-chart,
number line)
Oral practice related to making change, see D16–when jumping 10s and
units, first jump the 10s, then the units. Practice with money.

Do addition sheets C31-34
C31 is a grid game, a bit tricky to figure out at first. (You are
making an addition chart.)
C32 and 33, adding numbers in grids
C34, another addition table

Week 5

Do subtraction sheets D13-16
Grid problems on D13
D14–simple subtracting
D16–practice subtracting any number from 100. This is DIFFICULT
unless you jump the 10s first, then the units (see p. 72)–like making

Word problems

Introduce 10 more/10 less activity (p. 98) (jumping by 10s)
Practice writing 3-digit numbers, especially ones with 0's in them

Try game based on E44&45, p. 99
Use playing cards–choose three, make up as many sentences as you can
about the three numbers chosen; can use greater than/less than,
equals/does not equal signs

Practice adding multiples of 10–example, 40+70, 60+40
Count by 20s
Practice adding & subtracting 9's instead of 10s; also 11's

Add any activities previewing week 7

Week 6

Do Addition/Subtraction pages E42-49

Adding 10s, 100s and their inverses (counting forwards and backwards
by 10s, starting at any number, up to any 3-digit number)

E46 is a "diagnostic page" including 2-digit addition and subtraction
and a money problem

Do word problems
Add any activities previewing weeks 7 and 8 (Looking ahead: geometric shapes, parts of a dollar)

Week 7

Multiplication--see the preliminary activities on page 117. Doubling, halving. Worksheets F24-F30. Looking ahead: geometric shapes.

Week 8

Multiplication (activity, The Pattern Book, that creates two booklets of math tables)
--Practice with velcro hundreds chart
Follow instructions for the booklets on page 120
Looking ahead: parts of a dollar

Week 9

Multiplication: continue booklets; follow instructions on page 122.
Worksheets F 41 and 42-- filling out a complete multiplication table; what are prime numbers?

Begin G sheets if there is time, since there are a lot for next week.
Also work on telling time.

Week 10
Addition, subtraction and multiplication together
Worksheets G13-G20 (this is a lot; they may not all get completed)
Distributive law--suggest rod examples. (This is fairly difficult.)
Practice telling time.
Looking ahead: geometric shapes, review basic division ideas from last year.

Week 11
Fractions--review what halves, thirds and quarters are. If this is going well, extend to 5ths through 8ths (sheet H25). Look at H-27 through H-29 along with concrete examples.
Looking ahead: parts of a dollar, review division.

Week 12
H 30, parts of a dollar
H 31, measuring cups
H 32-H-42--varied problems, too many for one week--do at least up to H 36, and save the rest for review or for next term.

Related Posts:
Crayons' Grade Two: Social Studies

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Crayons' Grade Two: Language Arts

True to Squirreling form, Crayons learned to read to herself quite young. She's a strong enough reader now to handle stories from Lang's Coloured Fairy Books. One of her favourites is "The Princess on the Glass Hill," in The Blue Fairy Book. (Available online at The Baldwin Project.)
He stole away to the door, which was ajar, to see what was there, and a horse was standing eating. It was so big, and fat, and fine a horse that Cinderlad had never seen one like it before, and a saddle and bridle lay upon it, and a complete suit of armour for a knight, and everything was of copper, and so bright that it shone again. "Ha, ha! it is thou who eatest up our hay then," thought the boy; "but I will stop that." So he made haste, and took out his steel for striking fire, and threw it over the horse, and then it had no power to stir from the spot, and became so tame that the boy could do what he
liked with it. So he mounted it and rode away to a place which no one knew of but himself, and there he tied it up.

So she doesn't exactly need readers; sometimes it's hard to get her to stop reading.

But--again, not surprisingly--she's not a natural speller; she can read and understand great big words but still hesitates putting even simple words down on paper herself without asking how something's spelled. She's also just average for her age (or slightly behind) in printing skills.

This is nothing new around here--in fact, that's one of the reasons we got started homeschooling. The Apprentice was much the same (although she never had many spelling issues). Reading, yes! Writing, no.

Language Arts, or English, or whatever you want to call it, is bigger than grammar and mechanics anyway, though that's often what you think of first, especially if you're old enough (like me) to have had very dreadful Language Arts textbooks throughout elementary school. (This was one of ours.) As has been said many times--you want them to be able to read, write, speak, listen, and otherwise use the English language successfully; and if they're reading and you're reading to them and having them narrate orally, you've already covered three of those areas. Mechanics, while important, is just one small piece of language.

But it still needs to be learned; and even young Squirrelings sometimes need to go back over some of the phonics areas they've skipped madly over. (It does help with spelling.)

There are a couple of different approaches we've taken with this over the years. When The Apprentice was small, I often used old children's magazines and had her circle or cross out things: all the words on a page that started with "th"; all the question marks; all the names of animals, and so on. You can do this with even older children, having them look for adverbs or other grammar items.

One thing we've done is to use copywork lessons in Ruth Beechick-style, usually over a short period of time and with one book, story, or group of poems. One year I took several paragraphs from Bambi and made up language lessons, following Dr. Beechick's models in You CAN Teach Your Child Successfully. Last year I used sentences from Snowshoe Thompson to do the same thing. You can do the same thing informally, too, rather than putting lessons together ahead of time: point out spelling or grammar points in a child's regular copywork.

This year I'm committing the heresy of covering the same mechanics via workbooks. I have both the grade 1 and grade 2 levels of Gifted and Talented: Reading, Writing and Math. They're very similar and can actually be used together--if you can do the grade 1 pages on synonyms, you can probably do the grade 2 pages. And that's what I'm planning for Crayons. Reasons for doing this instead of making up my own? 1. I already have the books. 2. She's already reading so much that doing a workbook page is something different for her. 3. Like instant potato flakes, they're convenient, and, perversely, some children seem to like them better than the real thing.

Crayons will still be doing some regular copywork, along with printing practice in the Canadian Handwriting workbooks. Probably one or the other each day.

And for spelling...I think we're going to fish out a few Magnetic Poetry words each week, stick them on the fridge, and use them as a spelling list. (I read through the simplest lists in Kathryn Stout's Natural Speller, and many of them are the same as the magnetic words we have.) Of course you could just write a list on paper, but it's a novelty, and it's harder to lose or avoid seeing the list when it's right there while you pour your juice.

Related Posts:
Crayons' Grade Two: Social Studies

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

As Little As Possible

I said in a previous post that this year's homeschooling needed to cost as little as possible.

Is it ever really possible to calculate the cost of a year's curriculum? Maybe, if everything comes in one box-plus-shipping-and-tax, and that's all you're going to use because you live in Papua New Guinea.

Or if all you do for school are those little booklets. When the pages are done, school's out for the day.

But if your lines between "school" and "not school" are less firmly drawn, the calculations get a bit messier. The Apprentice said the same thing recently--that she wasn't always sure which books we were reading "for school."

And when you have a lot of what you need already on the shelf, it's even more confusing. If you bought the book ten years ago and don't have a clue what you paid for it at a yard sale, does that make it free? Or if you paid $20 a year ago and then didn't use it for last year's school, do you figure that into this year's total?

Can you amortize something over all your kids? (I know somebody with eleven kids who has, as far as I know, used the same Saxon Math books for all of them.)

But, well, okay. To get technical about this year's price tag, I'm counting anything that I order after the end of the previous school year; and anything consumable that was bought previously and not used.

This is what I'm looking at ordering (Canadian prices, remember):

$20 for a Judy Rogers CD; not the sort of thing you find in the public library. We could get along fine without it, but it will give us some new Scripture-based songs. I think of it as a long-term investment.
$8.50 printing book. Again, we could get along without it, but it does make life easier, especially when you have a left-handed kid who still prefers printing in capital letters.
$9.00 for three Canada Is For Kids colouring books. Not strictly necessary, but at $3 a book they seem like a pretty good deal and fun too.
$20 for Pioneer Thanksgiving and Pioneer Christmas. The only reason I'd buy these instead of borrowing them from the library is that everybody else is going to want them at exactly the same time--right? And they're easy to resell. (For Americans: Barbara Greenwood's Pioneer Thanksgiving is one of the only interesting books around about Canadian Thanksgiving--plus it has fun activities to do too. That and Pioneer Christmas are both followup books to her very popular Pioneer Story, which I think is called Pioneer Sampler in the U.S. Clear now?)
$20 estimated for school and craft supplies.

Already bought but not used:
2 Miquon workbooks, $9 each = $18
2 Gifted and Talented workbooks, probably $2.50 each = $5 (bought at a discount store)
David Thompson activity book, $12
Nightprowlers, $1 (found at the supermarket)
Bible culture book, about $5 (bought from a remainder place)

What does that come out to? About $120, if you don't count everything we already have and the things we can borrow from the library.

Still kind of an ouch, no?

Or maybe it doesn't really come out to that much, when you figure that's for a whole year's work. After all, private school tuition here is several thousand dollars.

And I guess I could rethink the printing book...and just take my chances on Pioneer Thanksgiving at the library...

Could definitely do it cheaper, but there's also the thought of "Money Well Spent."

Let me think that one over.

Crayons' Grade Two Outline (updated)

School Year 2008-2009
Grade Two

Teacher’s Resources
How is My Second Grader Doing in School?—Jacobson & Raymer (language and math activities)
Teaching Children, by Diane Lopez
3-R’s booklets, by Ruth Beechick

Term 1: 1 Samuel 1-20, Matthew 1-14, selected Psalms (also planning to buy Judy Rogers’ CD of Psalms set to music, Never Be Shaken)
Term 2: 1 Sam 21-31, 2 Sam 1-12, Matthew 15-28
Term 3: 2 Sam 13-24, 1 Kings 1 & 2; Mr. Pipes and the British Hymn Makers

(Other Bible memory work is listed under Memory Work)

Each term: lessons (1x/wk) from People of the Bible: Life and Customs.
2nd and 3rd terms: Luther’s Small Catechism, section on the Lord’s Prayer

Hymns, both our own favourites and new ones from Mr. Pipes
Folk songs: sources include Canada Is For Kids series of three CDs (borrowed from library); our own books of children’s songs and folk songs; songs from Festivals, Family and Food
(Planning to purchase colouring books to accompany the CDs)

Language Arts:
Specific grade 2 skills, taught as needed, using our own books and supplements (word puzzles, a couple of Gifted and Talented workbooks, magnetic words, Scrabble letters, children's dictionary)

Skills include:
Oral communication, including narration, telephone/manners (using Uncommon Courtesy for Kids)
Listening skills (demonstrated by oral or other responses)
Capitalization, some punctuation, plurals, complete sentences, contractions, prefixes/suffixes, alphabetizing to the second letter (using Gifted and Talented workbooks, Word Puzzles Gr 2/3 workbook, other activities)
Copywork, simple dictation (spelling words with specific patterns as well as calendar words and holiday words) (We found some basic Gr 1 and 2 word lists in Kathryn Stout’s Natural Speller)
Printing practice, using Canadian Handwriting workbooks
Memory work (see list for each term)
Reading silently and out loud, and being read to (see booklists)
Writing, mostly informal, e.g. short letters
Following written directions--cooking, crafts
Library skills (short unit at the end of the year)

Begin Miquon Math Blue level (see their scope and sequence)
Typical grade 2 skills including number awareness, skip counting, understanding of place value, addition & subtraction, fraction concepts, money, time, measurement, problem solving, greater than/less than, multiplication & division concepts
Games, rod activities, hundreds chart, real-life math situations, commercial & homemade board games
Math Munchers CD-Rom (good for geometric shapes)

History and Geography

Eh? to Zed--A Canadian ABeCeDarium
Choose one letter each week and find out more about the Canadian words on that page

Term 1: An Island Story chapters 22-32, Child's History of the World chp 45, 47-51 (original edition)
David Thompson activity book (and online supplements)--covers his life and explorations of the NorthWest; we learn something about the fur trade, mapmaking, and the Rocky Mountains. (I am still looking for some appropriate biographical material to go with this.)

Term 2: AIS 33-50, CHOW 52-54; Stories for Canada's Birthday by Audrey McKim; Kids' Book of the Far North (and library books about the Arctic) [Note: I had planned to buy this book and work right through it, but on second look I decided to borrow it from the library and use it only as a resource to get us started on a study of the Arctic; we will use more books from the library as well as the Internet and our own books.]

Term 3: AIS 51-61; CHOW 55-58; Stories for Canada's Birthday; Bagley's Marco Polo (To Far Cathay)

If we have time, we will also read the D’Aulaire biographies of Abraham Lincoln and Christopher Columbus; possibly also Diane Stanley’s Joan of Arc.

A Pioneer Thanksgiving
A Pioneer Christmas (both by Barbara Greenwood; read during the appropriate seasons)
Festivals, Family and Food, by Diana Carey and Judy Large
Brother Sun, Sister Moon (biography of St. Francis)—read during Lent
Christmas books

Science and Nature
Handbook of Nature Study (including the HNS blog), and Natural Science Through the Seasons (Partridge)—as teacher resources only.

Books to read together include:
Through the Year (Frasier et al), a simply-written science reader that is referenced in Partridge's book
Among the Forest People (Pierson)
Among the Night People (Pierson)
Linnea’s Almanac
Linnea’s Windowsill Garden (if available)
Exploring Nature Around the Year: Winter

A Wonder Book and Tanglewood Tales, by Nathaniel Hawthorne (Greek myths); Pilgrim's Progress; poems from Come Hither, an anthology edited by Walter de la Mare

Term 1-- Understood Betsy; selected poems by James Whitcomb Riley; St. George and the Dragon; Hiawatha’s Childhood (picture book with stanzas from Longfellow’s poem)
Term 2-- Wind in the Willows
Term 3-- Robin Hood


This is something new we will be trying; planned readings include The Old Nurse’s Stocking Basket and Italian Peepshow, both by Eleanor Farjeon; The Door in the Wall, by Marguerite De Angeli; and poems of Walter de la Mare and Christina Rossetti.

Extra Reading (Bedtime stories, independent reading)

Andersen’s fairy tales
Five Children and It
Farmer Boy, The Long Winter (Laura Ingalls Wilder)
Series books: Miss Bianca, Paddington, Oz books, All-of-a-Kind Family
The Story of Dr. Dolittle
holiday books
Along Came a Dog
Mr. Popper’s Penguins
Abel’s Island
The Year at Maple Hill Farm
The Tough Winter (Robert Lawson; sequel to Rabbit Hill)
The Courage of Sarah Noble
The Buffalo and the Bell (Myra Scovel; story about India)
Owls in the Family
and other books from the library

Composers: Mark O’Connor, Igor Stravinsky; Franz Liszt; Antonin Dvořák (some of our own records and CD’s; some borrowed from the library)
Artists: Paul Kane, Cornelius Krieghoff, William Kurelek (the “3 K’s” of Canadian art); short unit on pop art; Caspar David Friedrich; six weeks on Giotto, and six weeks on Vincent Van Gogh (one of Crayons’ favourites)
(We will use picture books and other material on these composers and artists, e.g. Stravinsky by Mike Venezia; Katie and the Sunflowers; The Yellow House (about Van Gogh); The Glorious Impossible (about Giotto); A Boy Named Giotto; Kurelek’s books Prairie Boy’s Summer, Prairie Boy’s Winter, Lumberjack, and A Northern Nativity)

Drawing and painting activities

Musical instruments--maybe start some keyboard lessons

Crafts--Jumbo Book of Crafts; possible sewing club with some friends; make Christmas decorations; cooking, helping at home

Phys-ed type activities

Aux Yeux des Enfants (short scripts based mainly on family life and seasonal topics; we use this with homemade felt-board cutouts)

(Bible work from Teaching Children (Lopez))
TERM 1: Ps. 23, Matt. 2:1-12, poems,
TERM 2: Ps. 117, Matt. 6: 9-13, poems
TERM 3: Ps. 121, Matt. 28:1-10, poems

Related Posts:
Crayons' Grade Two: Bible
Crayons' Grade Two: Social Studies
Crayons' Grade Two: Math
Crayons' Grade Two: Language Arts
As Little As Possible
Grade Two: The Very Last First Time?

Hamburger Soup

Last night Mama Squirrel put some fridge leftovers together and somehow duplicated Mr. Fixit's mother's hamburger soup.

Search me.

Anyway, here's what I did. The recipe is descriptive, not prescriptive: don't go cooking one potato to copy this.

1 lb. extra-lean ground beef
splash of olive oil for flavour
salt, pepper
lots of sliced celery (or part onions)
3 fat, ripe tomatoes
1 cup leftover pasta sauce and half a can tomato paste (plus maybe a cupful of water, or two cupfuls--depends on whether you want it to be more like stew or more like soup)
1 cooked potato and about a cupful of cooked yellow beans
1 cupful frozen peas (add at the end)

In a large pot (I used a Dutch oven), brown the ground beef; drain if necessary but I didn't because there was almost no fat left in the pan. Add a little oil if necessary and add in the celery; cook until softened a bit. Add salt and pepper whenever you want. Add in tomato ingredients plus as much water as seems right, plus cut-up leftover vegetables. Mama Squirrel left the beans in nice long bean-sized pieces.

Bring it all to a boil, turn down and let simmer for about an hour. (Low enough so it doesn't burn, but just enough to bubble a bit.) Add the peas right at the end.

This doesn't have much seasoning in it (other than the salt, pepper, and what's in the pasta sauce) and you might think it's too bland; feel free to doctor it as you like.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Grade Two: The Very Last First Time?

I posted almost a month ago about fall homeschool plans for Crayons. (This list has changed since I wrote it, though. The updated version is here.

(I also mentioned that plans for Ponytails' schooling were somewhat tentative, and they still are. Although we have homeschooled for a dozen years and consider it a lifestyle as much as a school choice, we still need to think through what's best for each child; sometimes that means a classroom setting. As a courtesy to Ponytails, I'd appreciate not making that a topic of discussion, at least until the plans for the fall are a little firmer. I did want to mention it, though, because it affects what I'm planning for Crayons.)

I've never planned a year quite like this before. Unless we have one of those late-arriving gifts from heaven someday (never say never), Crayons will always be our last-to-use-this child, the one who wears the dresses and reads the books on their third go-round.

It makes a difference when you're paging through a catalogue--you can't justify the cost of something new divided by three in the same way, when you know it will probably be used only by one (although you can always resell things).

But it also makes a difference when you're thinking over a third run through very-familiar Year Two material. This is the year to tweak things--to remember what worked well and what didn't; to gather up and use the pieces that there never seemed to be time for. Year Two has always been one of my favourite years to teach--what's not to like about castles, Pilgrim's Progress, and The Wind in the Willows?--but for Crayons I've decided to handle it somewhat differently. Reasons...possibly having her here alone to school, so feeling free to modify things just for her...knowing her love of books and strong creative side...wanting to challenge her, but also to simplify things for my own sanity and because she's still seven years old. She likes Winnie-the-Pooh as much as she liked reading Lord of the Rings with The Apprentice during the last leg of a long car trip.

So the year is planned out in detail, down to the week. (I don't plan tighter than that: stuff happens, snow falls, people get sick.) It's not just a compulsive need to be super-organized; there are reasons for it. One of the strong threads this year is time: calendars, seasons in nature and art, national holidays, the Christian year, telling time, times of day (one of our books, Nightprowlers, has sections about what you see and hear at dusk, during the night, at dawn) makes sense to organize this school year around each season, month, special day.

When I look at the year's work, there's also a sense of timelessness, or working across time: from King David through Robin Hood, from John Bunyan through Igor Stravinsky. Not everything is in a box of "medieval world": the connections are there to be freely made as we go along. (And all of that makes me think again about time going by so fast, the homeschool years being so short...)

The second reason for detailed planning is wanting to divide the year into 12-week terms plus exams weeks, plus holidays; and the third reason is simply that we also have to manage other peoples' schedules. Those in school get certain days and weeks off, and if we're going to have feet in both tracks, it's easier to plan by the school calendar.

Oh yes--and the whole year has to cost as little as possible. I won't go into all the reasons for that, but chalk it up to the economic times we're living in. Besides the fact that we generally enjoy being frugal.

All that's not as hard as it sounds. I just went through the books and other things I wanted to do, and listed everything in 36 weekly segments. 36 weeks of Bible stories. 36 weeks of Miquon Math topics. 36 weeks of "Social Studies," for want of a better word--a mixture of British history, Canadian geography, and readings and activities relating to holidays. And so on. I typed them into a Word table format (I've never figured out spreadsheets), trimmed down and adjusted the things that wouldn't work, and printed out my "master schedule," one week to a page. I also printed out the individual subjects and put them in these folders (I found the whole set, unopened, at a yard sale).

One of the other major themes this year is journeying, discovering...maybe not so different from last year's thread of exploration. I have a personal sense of this as well, looking ahead to a year that will be different because each child is different. The Apprentice's school journey was different from Ponytails', and hers is different from Crayons'. And there is our personal journey, pilgrimage, as well--spiritual, intellectual--new ground to cover. New things for our family. Greater challenges. It has been a year of change so far in many ways, not all good...but part of the journey anyway.

I'm planning to post separately (as I get time) about some of the different subjects for this year--I'll add links here as they get done.

Related posts:
Crayons' Grade Two: Science and Nature
Crayons' Grade Two: Social Studies
Crayons' Grade Two: Math
Crayons' Grade Two: Language Arts
As Little As Possible
Crayons' Grade Two Outline (updated July 2008)

Up in the Treehouse

Stuff we've been doing:

Rescuing a baby robin that crashed out of his nest (unfortunately Ponytails' kind ministrations didn't pull him through)

Bringing more pink pebbles home from Lake Huron (a day off that started out rainy but turned beautifully sunny by the end)

Rearranging what beds go where (so that The Apprentice can get something that fits a tall teenager a bit better)

Making strawberry jam

Planning for fall school (posts to follow)

Eating Mr. Fixit's barbecue meals (how many people do you know who would make rouladen on the barbecue?)

Watching the bunny who lives under our shed (and who now seems to have another little one there along with him)

Eating a lot of Popsicles. (It's been hot.)

Watching our zucchini get ready to pop out.