Friday, August 26, 2011

32 + 1

Another thing that happened in August was my birthday. Yes, again, it was that time of the year :) Chris made me a cake with a thick layer of chocolate frosting. Yum!!! Being frugal-minded, I was firmly against buying new candles and went with whatever we had left over from other birthdays. That's how I ended up with the "32+1" candles instead of a proper "33".

Homeschooling Report - Month 1

I realize it's been forever and a day since I last posted anything. Well, there's been so much stuff going on lately that August was pretty much a blur.

We just finished our first month of homeschooling and, based on the experience, I already adjusted the plans for the second month. It's definitely a learning experience for both M and myself. Some worries I had prior to starting out never materialized. For example, I was afraid M would hate worksheets, but he doesn't. Some things that I thought he would be interested in, such as our geography lessons, he has no interest in.

Here's what we normally do:

Math Games - starting our days with math is working out really well. We usually play a simple, usually hand-drawn, game. For example, a game where we take turns rolling the dice and placing glass marbles on the sun rays.

Math Worksheets - last month M did 2-3 worksheets every other day. This month I will try daily worksheets and will concentrate more on logic and fine motor skills ones (i.e. mazes)

Math Lessons - we are using Al Abacus from The Right Start Math. It's a bit of a slow going right now. We usually go through the entire lesson one day and then review key parts the next day.

ABCs - right after math we usually do our reading lesson. The first part consists of reviewing a letter of a Russian alphabet. I'm using this really fun primer, "Учимся читать", and I like it so far. M seems to be ok with it although he's definitely not excited. He's doing a fabulous job figuring out first letters in words, but last letters are still very challenging. However, he blends sounds much better now.

ABC Games - these are simple games for reading and writing that I put together for him. For example, we played a "letter chain" game where I named (and wrote down) an object in the family room, M circled its last letter and then had to find another object in the room that started with the same letter.

Reading - boy, we've been reading A LOT lately. This is M's most favorite "lesson" by far. I was thinking we'd be reading fairy tales or short stories, but M chooses books for his story time and so far he chose to read "Девочка с Земли" [Girl from the Planet Earth], "Приключения Незнайки" [Adventures of Neznaika] and "Карлсон, который живет на крыше" [Karlsson-on-the-Roof]. These books are rated for elementary school-aged children, but M loves them.

Art, Science, Geography - I haven't been very successful at any of these. So next month we're trying something different. Instead of having these as separate activities, we will incorporate them into math and reading lessons.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Starting Homeschool - What Level Are We?

We've started our first week of more official homeschooling in August. I figured, 4.5 years old is just about the perfect age to start getting ready for an Ivy League school.

All kidding aside, I'm pretty relaxed about the whole academic performance thing. And no, I'm not trying to make a genius out of my child. What I'm trying to do is to get across an idea that learning can be a lot of fun and do it in a very informal way.

This semester I decided to concentrate on Russian language (reading), maths (counting, arithmetic, basic geometry), and geography. Along the way I'm hoping to work on M's fine motor skills and a few other things.

We're starting pretty early because in September we'll be in NY for a few weeks and I want to get some routines established before that. Also, we simply couldn't wait any longer and that goes for both of us, honestly. Seeing all my prep work, M'd been asking me if we could start school right away.

So I created a schedule back in July. But now after a week of actually doing it, I'm already making big changes to it. I expect that I'll keep adjusting it as we progress. For example, the first day we did all the activities back-to-back with just a few breaks. But later in the week I adopted a less overwhelming approach. Early in the morning we'd do the math and reading work (which would take about 20-30 minutes total). Then we'd spread all the rest of the fun stuff - science, sensory play, geography, some writing games - throughout the day. It seems to work better that way and doesn't even feel much like school, just like a really fun play.

I also made some changes to the activities themselves to adjust for M's current interests. For example, the last couple of days he was busy painting a wooden rocket. He spent quite a lot of time on it too, working mostly independently (even getting the paint of the top shelf and pouring it carefully into the paint cup). So I cancelled one of the art activities.

Math games we play had to be adjusted as well. But more about that a bit later. Also, our daily story time is taking much longer than I thought it would. That's because right about the time we started our lessons, M got really into this Russian sci-fi book for kids called "A Girl from Earth" [Девочка с Земли]. The book is really for 8-10 year olds and I'm not exactly sure how much of it he really understands. But he loves it!

So his vocabulary now includes such words as "индикатор" [indicator], "грузовой отсек" [cargo hold], "бандит" [bandit], "склисс" [skliss, an alien flying cow], "звездолёт" [starship], "кают-компания" [mess hall], "отражатель" [reflector] and many many more. He also is busy playing out some of the parts of the book (and a cartoon based on it), such as buying the indicator from a giant snail, fighting space pirates, loading the flying cow into a cargo hold of a spaceship, etc, etc.

Back to homeschooling through... This week we

  • played a bunch of math games
  • practiced basic math (subitizing to 4, addition, subtraction to 4, sorting, grouping)
  • reviewed letter "A" and found it in a lot of words
  • identified beginning sounds of words
  • read A LOT of the "Girl from Earth" book and "Dad, Mom, Grandma, 8 Children and a Truck" book
  • built short words with magnetic letters
  • made playdoh and played with it
  • did a couple of science experiments
  • did art - sun art, tennis ball toss art, and paint with marbles art projects and painted a rocket
  • learned what a map is
  • learned a whole lot about Thailand, including tasting some jackfruit (never again!)

And, for Friday field trip, we went to a planetarium!

Some people asked me if I'm teaching M at a preschool level or above. I honestly don't know. Some of it seems to be totally preschool stuff, like most of our art projects and most of letter-learning activities. Math is a bit more complicated since he is working on addition/subtraction. Besides, I don't have a very clear idea of what they teach in preschools here anyway since it kind of varies.

I'll post more on the math and reading later.