Saturday, May 25, 2013

Memorial Day sewing

The kids have been bugging me about making some more clothes for Jack, the American Boy.   Particularly, they thought he needed pjs, shorts and shirts, and underwear.  I set out to make all 3 this weekend, and only got as far as shorts and a shirt, and undies.  I was going to do pajama pants and a red t-shirt with an appliqué to match the pants, but underestimated the amount of red t-shirt fabric I had and didn't have enough left to cut out the sleeves.  I made a muscle shirt instead, and painted it patriotically to go with my kids 4th of July shirts.  I'll do a different colored t-shirt for the pajama pants at some point in the future.  I made some gray shorts with patch pockets.  They came out super cute.  The shorts pattern was this one, lengthened about 3/4" (and I'd lengthen them even a bit more next time) and I winged it with the pockets after reading through a tutorial for pockets on (full-sized) little boy's shorts.

Then the undies.  Oy.  I'd so rather buy underwear for tiny dolls than make them. Small fiddly things with elastic make my head hurt.  But as there is really not much market for 18" boy doll clothes, I got to  figure out underwear on my own.  I started with this pattern, which says it fits 11" waisted dolls (ballpark for AG).  I cut and sewed one pair straight from the pattern and found that they fit around beautifully, but were FAR too short in the rise.  That little bum was not covered!  I did a second pair, adding about 3/4" to the top all the way around.  Better.  I put 1" elastic to make up the rest of the rise, which was still a bit lacking.  I'd like to do another pair, add even more height particularly in the rear, and instead use a 3/4" wide elastic, which would look less disproportionate.  My kids are pleased though, so that's what matters.  

And yes, poor Jack had to suffer the indignity of standing outside in his skivvies.  

Monday, May 20, 2013

summer plans

I spent the morning working on our summer schedule and plans.  I had a bunch of thoughts floating around in my head about what I wanted to do this summer, which ways I wanted the summer to be a continuation of our normal routines, and which ways I wanted it to be different.  I finally sorted all those thoughts out on paper, and I'm excited!  I think we'll really enjoy the next few months!

Link to my schedule in Google Docs in case it's too hard to read here:

As you can see, our schedule is pretty loose.  No times are listed for anything, just suggestions of what activities to do on the different days.  David is off every other Friday, so the Friday plans are for those when he's at work.  When he's off, it counts as "weekend".

I wanted to take a break from our core homeschool curriculum, Five in a Row, mostly so that I could have a break in planning.  I want to continue with reading (phonics), handwriting, and math, because all of my kids are in a place where they are making major strides in those subjects and taking significant time off could cause big set-backs.  I wanted to hit each of the 3Rs at least 3x a week.  I decided to plan for 2 subjects a day, rotating.  Our school time should be doable in 30-60 minutes total, which should make it easy to fit in on any day, even when we have something else planned later in the morning.

Our MOPs group will have play dates at the park every Thursday in June and July.  Those are on the schedule.  I want to make a weekly trip to the library to check out books on some theme that interests the kids.  We haven't made a "library theme list" yet, but we will.  I think next weeks's theme will be bugs and bug collections.  Hazel has been asking a lot about that.

Other than that, I wanted us to have a weekly craft day, where we could do a craft on the theme of our library books, or not, whatever.  And I wanted us to have "fun days"--days where we chose something from our Summer Fun list to do.  We brainstormed a Summer Fun list at lunch today.  I thought they'd have more ideas, but it took a lot of suggestion.  Most of the list is outings (like the aquarium and eating snoballs), but some are backyard (sprinklers, gardening).  Some we'll do more than once, I'm sure.  Others will be added over the course of the summer as ideas strike.

Our music class is over after tomorrow, until the fall.  We're going to add swim school on Tuesdays in place of music.  So we'll have that two afternoons a week.  We're adding a family game night, which will be new for us.  Hopefully that's fun.  And it just occurred to me that I didn't include speech therapy for Jono on Wednesday afternoons.  I guess I should make sure we're continuing that through the summer!

But that's the plan! If you're local, I'm sure I'll be posting a lot of "We're going to ____, come with us!" on Facebook on our Summer Fun list days.  So, please do!

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Wrap Up: Another Celebrated Dancing Bear

Another Celebrated Dancing Bear is a unit from Five in a Row, volume 1.  It was one of my absolute favorites!  This book was among some that my sister-in-law bought for my kids for Christmas (I asked for some FIAR titles that neither of our library systems had).  I had planned to row a different book this week, but forgot to get it at the library, and was facing Sunday afternoon planning time with no book. I grabbed this one off the shelf and planned it instead, and I'm SO glad we did!  

On our first day, we read a nonfiction book from the library about bears and tried our hand at drawing one.  I think they turned out really well!  Top row is mine and Charlie's, bottom row is Hazel's and Jono's.  Jono chose to color his bear black with a tan nose and ears like his build-a-bear Albert instead of brown like the bears in our story.  I loved that!  We used these instructions, and I only had to help with the heart-shaped noses for a couple of them.  The rest of the shapes were simple enough for them to do by themselves.  

The second day we spent on geography and the country and culture of Russia.  We found Moscow, St Petersburg, and Minsk on our map (the three cities mentioned in our story).  We read a library book about Russia, and looked some pictures of Russian architecture. We talked about things that were special from Russia like Tchaicovsky's ballets and matryoshka dolls.  We watched The Nutcracker (thank you, Netflix!), watched some Russian dancing on YouTube, and they chose from a coloring activity--either some printed stacking dolls or a coloring sheet of St Basil's Cathedral in Moscow. 

mine left, Charlie's right, Hazel's are still in progress.
 Our third day we spent at the zoo, with a specific aim to see both kinds of bears that are in our zoo's collection.  Our zoo has Sun bears from southeast Asia, and the north american black bear, who live down here in Louisiana! As usual, the bears looked bored and sleepy.  

Our fourth day was a language arts activity on writing descriptive sentences.  In the book, the two bears are described, "Boris was a heavy-footed brown bear whose heart was soft as butter.  Max--short for Maximovich--was taller than Boris and always seemed quite elegant."  I had the children pick a bear's description and use the same form to describe someone in our family.  I wrote out their sentences and they used them for handwriting practice over the next couple of days.  Their descriptions are hilarious! 

The boys did their handwriting as tracing work.  Hazel did hers as copywork.  She's more confident in the fine motor department. ;)
Our fifth day was an applied math lesson on telling time to the hour.  In the story, Max tells Boris that  his dancing lessons will be "Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.  Seven o'clock to eight."  We got down the Judy clock and learned to read time to the hour.  We did a lot of practice, with everyone turning the clock to different hours and quizzing one another.  Afterwards, I gave them an optional time-telling worksheet from Kumon's Easy Telling Time.  Two-thirds of them chose to continue their time lesson with some pencil and paper work from the workbook.  Hazel showed additional interest and got an overview of telling time to any multiple of 5 around the clock.  She caught on quickly with only :05 tripping her up.  

Our last day we had a tea party like Max and Boris.  The bears in the story had tea with bread and strawberry preserves.  We had the same, except most of us opted for apple juice in our fancy tea cups instead of tea. Daddy baked us a big loaf of gluten free bread before he left for his business trip especially for the occasion. They were so thrilled to wake up to tea party for breakfast, to use the china teacups and plates, and to invite a "teddy bear" to our party.  Teddy bear in quotes because they came back with 2 cats and a fox.  
digging in
Hazel provided her tea set for the stuffed animals' use.  Kitty got serious about his tea.
Awesome first-thing-in-the-morning hair!
Napkin rings turn us into monsters.
and pirates.
Fox needed a refill.
We enjoyed several go-along books during this row.  They asked me to read The Littlest Matryoshka twice in the same day.  BIG hit.  I loved Renchenka's Eggs. You can never go wrong with Patricia Polacco.  Berlioz the Bear was also super cute.  We love Jan Brett, and this book had a bumblebee sting scene reminiscent of The Story of Ferdinand which the kids though was fun.  Our favorite of the nonfiction books we checked out about Russia was R is for Russia.

 Delightful story, delightful row.  Thanks for reading!

Sunday, May 05, 2013

Wrap Up: Mirette on the High Wire

Sometime in the middle of last week, we finished a row on Mirette on the High Wire from Five in a Row, volume two.  Such a wonderful story on courage and determination!  We loved it!

For each of our FIAR subjects, we did the following:

Social Studies/Geography: We reviewed Paris and France.  We had read two other books with FIAR that took us to Paris and France (Madeline and How to Make an Apple Pie and See the World), so the location was familiar.  We made French flags out of construction paper, and then spent some time watching circus and high wire walking acts on youtube.

Language Arts: We discussed that Emily Arnold McCully had won the Caldecott Medal for the most outstanding picture book in the year that Mirette was published.  We talked about what made outstanding picture books, and then pulled from our shelves all the other books we had that were Caldecott winners or honor books.  We have a lot!  We took some time to read through and enjoy some of those books.

Applied Math: We went to the library and checked out this wonderful book, also about a high wire walker.

The Man Who Walked Between the Towers is about a French high wire walker who illegally strung a wire between the twin towers of the World Trade Center in the 1970s and walked back and forth between them.  There is a documentary on Netflix about him, as well, if you're interested, but it's not entirely appropriate for children.  I enjoyed it!  Our math lesson was about the shortest distance between two points being a straight line.  I drew a picture of the two sky scrapers on a sheet of paper (VERY rough sketch) and asked the kids if one of them worked on the top floor of one building and other worked on the top floor of the other building, what you would have to do to go visit one another.  We drew lines going down the elevator, across the street, and up the elevator on the other side.  Then we drew a line across from one building to the other, the way the wire-walker did it.  MUCH shorter!  Fun way to demonstrate that mathematical concept, I thought, and entirely my husband's idea.  Go Dad!

Science: We talked about our senses, and read a library book about how our body uses our brains, our ears, and our muscles to help us keep our balance.  I set up a little cinder block and 2x4 balance beam and we tried walking forward, backward, sideways, stepping over some bean bags as we walked the length, walking with a bean bag on our heads, etc.  The kids were MUCH better at this than I was.  Their balance is actually quite remarkable!

We enjoyed several go-along books this week about the circus.  There are also a few sequels about Mirette by the same author.  Our library had Mirette and Bellini Cross Niagara Falls, so we read that one as well.  

We are only rowing one more book this year before we take a summer break from Five in a Row! We plan to continue with some school stuff through the summer, especially phonics/reading, but this mama would like a planning break, so FIAR will be shelved until sometime in August or September.  I'll post one more wrap up of our unit on Another Celebrated Dancing Bear when we finish it, and then you can probably expect the blog to be pretty quiet for a few months.  Thanks for following along!

Saturday, May 04, 2013

How I plan Five in a Row

When I settled on using Five in a Row for our PK/K core curriculum this past school year, I did some reading on various blogs and the FIAR forum to see how others plan their "rows".  I'm certainly not doing anything groundbreaking or new with my planning, but I thought I'd go ahead and post about it, in case it might help someone else.

When we decided to use FIAR, I bought the first 3 volumes.  Volumes 1-3 are all aimed at 4-8 year olds, and the units in them are stand-alone, so they can be done in any order.  In other words, there's no reason to do volume 1 one year and volume 2 the next, or to do the books in each volume in the order they're listed in the table of contents.  I started by checking out every book scheduled in vol. 1-3 that was available in the two library systems I have access to.  I holed up in my room and read them all over the course of several weeks.  This was a fantastic way to start and I highly recommend it!  It gave me an idea of where we were going, and let me get a feel for what books were included.  I was really surprised to see how much variety in subject matter the books had.  Some were light and fun, very accessible to young 4 and 5 year olds (like my children were at the beginning of this school year) and some were heavy and serious, with themes that I wasn't sure we would be ready for any time soon.  

I printed a copy of this wonderful list that another FIAR homeschool blogger put together, and made copious notes in the margins about what books I thought we might want to hit the first year, which might need to be saved for when we're older. I noted which weren't available in my library system, but that I wanted to buy or try to source elsewhere.  I made notes about potential field trips that came to mind as I read the books, or holidays or planned travel coming up that I knew could be tied into a unit study.  After all of that, I sketched out which books I wanted to cover in our first year, and made a weekly planning sheet.  

Several days before we start a new "row", I make sure I have the book (some we own, some we check out of the library).  The first thing I do is quickly read through the book, and then I read through the lessons suggested in the manual.  We stick to the manual for about 90% of our FIAR activities.  I use my planning sheet to jot down the activities that stand out for each subject from the manual.  If I had an idea for a field trip or something else I already knew I wanted to add, I jot that down, too.  Sometimes, at that point, my planning sheet looks full, fleshed out, and ready to go.  Sometimes I decide to browse a couple of blogs to see what other mamas have included in their study of a particular book.  I usually browse the archives of the FIAR forum, which is especially useful for go-along book suggestions.  Last, I hit the library. 

I head to the library on my own and grab some books to read that are related to our FIAR title.  For example, this morning when I went for go-along books for Another Celebrated Dancing Bear,  I pulled books from the children's nonfiction section on bears and Russia.  From the story books, I got a couple of titles suggested on the FIAR forum archives that were also set in Russia.  I'm excited about one of those, in particular, because it's by an author whose other books we love, and this is a new title for us! We discover so many wonderful books besides the specific FIAR titles this way.  

When it comes down to day-to-day planning, I plug in our FIAR subjects in to my weekly planner.  We generally spend a little longer than 5 days on a row.  Usually we spend 6-7 school days on a unit.  Every day, we read the book, often over breakfast while I have a captive audience.  Then our subjects go something like this:

Day 1: Social Studies/Geography--We identify the settling of the story and place the story disk* on the map. Sometimes we color the flag of the country the book is set in ( has great free printables for this).  If the book is set in a non-English speaking country, sometimes we learn a few words of their language.  In our read-aloud time slot before rest time in the afternoon on social studies days, we will often look at some of the library books about the country the book is set in.  

Day 2: Language Arts--This is a day that often gets punted for us, honestly.  The LA options in the manual are often vocabulary, which we cover organically as we read the book, "What does that mean, Mama?"  If there's not much else I want to do in Language Arts, I'll take this day as a field trip or combine and do language arts + something else.  

Day 3: Art--This is one of my favorite parts of FIAR.  We love so many of the things we've done in art.  Architecture, drawing, drama, dance, you name it.  All good stuff for the middle of the week.

Day 4: Math--Five in a Row includes applied math activities.  They often include counting, measuring, telling time, etc.  

Day 5: Science--We often spend two days on science.  This is where our rows end up stretching to 6-7 days!  Many of the books have too many wonderful science activities listed in the manual to choose just one!   So we don't!  Also, when a book is about an animal, I always want to spend a day learning about that animal (habitat, life cycle, etc) and animal study is not always listed as a science choice in the manual.  So I make it one.  We have this situation this week with Another Celebrated Dancing Bear.  It's an animal fantasy story, not about real bears in the wild, but where the characters just happen to be bears.  The suggested science topic in the manual is on the boiling and freezing points of water, which is relevant to the story, but I also wanted to read through a few library books on bears.  We'll do both.  No reason not to. 

The go-along books that I check out of the library are read before rest time in the afternoon, not during "school time".  They're not mandatory, and some weeks they get ignored.  Many times, though, we find some real jewels among them, and we sometimes find a story we love as much or more than the actual FIAR book.   

I thought I'd also take a minute to point out what we don't do.  Many times when you read about families using FIAR, they are doing lots of lapbooking or notebooking.  Most of the FIAR blogs out there are using a variety of free resources to make elaborate lapbooks to document their rows.  We do not do this.  My boys are almost 5 and almost 6.  They think coloring, cutting, pasting, and writing are things to be avoided at all costs.  They would run screaming if I suggested making a lapbook for our FIAR studies.  It would completely ruin the experience for us.  (Maybe not for my daughter--she might like it!)  I don't think that the authors of the FIAR envisioned the lapbooking that now seems to be so central to many families' application of FIAR. I think they intended the rows to be done "conversationally", mostly from the manual, simply, without a lot of planning or a big paper trail.  I don't think there's anything wrong with lapbooking your way through FIAR, if that appeals to you and your children, but I did want to point out that Five in a Row is wonderfully rich and rewarding for us, without it.  

The only things we add to Five in a Row to make a complete curriculum for PK and K are the 3Rs.  We use separate curricula to teach phonics (reading), handwriting, and math.  It's easy to think of the 3Rs as the main part of school and FIAR as "everything else" but really, FIAR is the meat of our curriculum.  We learn so much with it and we love it so much!!  We've had a wonderful first year with it, and we look forward to year two!

*story disks are illustrated circles about the size of a quarter that are made to be placed on a map.  They are found in the back of each volume of FIAR, to be colored, cut out, and (if you're like me) laminated.  Our map is covered in little story disks.