Friday, September 21, 2012

Prehistoric People and the Fourth Bear

These are the books we've read (or flipped through and discussed) last week.

Baby Mammoth Mummy: Frozen in Time! - Somehow our library doesn't seem to have a lot of books about mammoths and woolly rhinos and other large prehistoric animals our prehistoric forefathers hunted. But this book was available and it was great. Sure, the story of a little mammoth drowning in a bog is a  bit sad, but the story about how she was found and studied was absolutely fascinating. We did not read the whole book, just bits and pieces. And we watched a YouTube video about how Lyuba was found. A couple of great things about a video - it showed the Nenets dwellings that looked just like prehistoric dwellings and M was surprised to hear people in the video speak Russian.

 What Do We Know About Prehistoric People - This is a great book. It is written in a Question and Answer format, so you don't have to read the whole book if you only want to know the answer to "Did prehistoric people go to the doctor?" or "What did prehistoric people do in their spare time?" Each chapter is very well illustrated and each illustration has a detailed explanation. So it's a great book to explore with little kids.

 DK Eyewitness Book: Early Humans - M mostly looks through pictures in this book and I copy some pages for M to cut and glue into his lapbook. We have not yet looked through the entire book. DK books are heavy on facts and are written for older children. So we just pick and choose.

It's Disgusting and We Ate It - this is such an enjoyable book that talks about all the weird and disgusting (to some) foods from different regions of the world and from different times in history. There are a few foods that we didn't think all that disgusting, such as seaweed and caviar. Then again, to some people a snack of a dried ocean vegetable and raw fish eggs might sound a bit strange. Sort of like deep fried scorpions and earthworm soup sound to us. Besides, we all might be eating mealworms in the not-so-distant future. Hey, at the BugFest folks were eating and liking mealworms already (crunchy, they said).

If You Decide to Go to the Moon - In our non-prehistoric and non-bug related books, we found this gem at the library. The story takes you on a trip to the Moon and tells you step by step what you will be doing and how you might be feeling throughout the journey. I don't know what it is about this book, but it really makes you feel how lifeless and empty the Moon is.

For M's nighttime story we've been re-reading the Жили-были кролики books for the upteenth time. But I don't mind at all. The stories are simple, but kind and the illustrations are so beautifully detailed! Turns out, there are two more books in the series and as soon as they are available on, I'll be ordering them.

Oh, yeah, and The Fourth Bear by Jasper Fforde was the book that I occupied myself with last week. Loved every line of it too!

Homeschool K/1 - Week 4

Things are a bit calmer this week and we are hitting our stride with this whole homeschooling thing. So yes, we had another good week of homeschooling almost devoid of frustrating experiences. The field trip of the week was BugFest (we actually went the Saturday before Week 4). Nope, we didn't eat any bugs, but we did watch people eat them and asked for their reviews (thumbs up for brownies with crunchy crickets and thumbs down for hotdogs with mushy worms). M didn't care for a taste of that and preferred a regular hotdog and an ice-cream.

This is what we did this week:


Геометрия для малышей (Geometry for the Little Ones) - we are continuing reading and working through this book. The more we read, the more I like it. M seems to be warming up to it as well. This week's theme was angles - what are they and how do we compare them. At first M's idea was that a larger angle of the two is the one with the longest sides. That's why, when I asked him to draw an angle larger than the one I drew, he drew a smaller one, but with longer sides. We cut the two out and superimposed them onto each other.

Geoboard - we played a bit with the geoboard this week. I asked M to make different-sized squares and rectangles that were not squares. He also made a couple of designs of his own with squares and triangles.

With all the geometry work we've been doing lately, M's noticing it everywhere - a very long and rather straight crack in the blacktop was a "straight line, but it's not really very straight". He explains that if he was to draw a line between two stars, he would get "a segment of a line". He points out "a circle inside a square" on the way to the playground (a manhole cover in a raised square of blacktop). He's been on this geometry finding quest for a few days now. I gotta remember to take a camera with us wherever we go and let him take pictures of his finds.

The Tower of Hanoi - I got a real Tower of Hanoi puzzle. It's very pretty and M was eager to play. He actually asked me if he could play with it. I simplified the problem by leaving only 3 circles on it. I had to remind M the rules a couple of times, but after a couple of minutes he did solve the puzzle! Although next time he tried it, he seemed to be a bit lost. He eventually solved it again, but got frustrated and didn't want to play it any more.

Adding/subtracting - it's a simple game in which I start by placing 4 popsicle sticks in front of M so he can see them. I then cover them and show M two more sticks. I tell him that I'm adding these two to the other 4 and ask how many are there now. He has to figure out the total without seeing the sticks. Whatever answer he gives, I do not correct him, but just show him the sticks and he checks himself. So I continue adding/removing 1-2 sticks at a time in this way. He is usually very good at this game, except when we get to 9 sticks. This is the number that he has a lot of problems with right now.

Yellow is the Sun - speaking of numbers, the RightStart Math curriculum that we use teaches a counting song "Yellow is the Sun". I did not do it because it's in English and M doesn't want me to mix English and Russian in the same lesson (something I totally support). But M was having a very hard time remembering that 7 is 5+2, 8 is 5+3, etc to 10. So I came up with my Russian version of the song. It starts with В мусорке бензин... (A garbage truck has gasoline...) As silly as it is, it's really helping.

Double Doodle Zoo - this is a game from the Moebius Noodles book I'm working on with Maria Drujkova of Natural Math.  The game is so simple to play. Just fold a piece of paper once (any which way you wish) and doodle on it so that at least some of the doodle is touching the fold. Then cut out the doodle and unfold it. Enjoy and explore the wonderful symmetry. In our experience, it's hard to stop at just one doodle. M always wants to make more. So on the next few, I ask him questions - what does he think the new shape will look like if I cut out a rectangle here, a triangle there, a half-circle here or if I punch out a circle, how many will I have once we unfold the doodle. Another really awesome thing that happens is that the game doesn't stop once the doodle is cut out. First, we created a collage with my doodles and came up with a little story about it. Then M wanted to decorate his own doodles and worked on that for a while concentrating on making the designs as symmetrical as possible. He ended up making an alien in a T-shirt and a sparkling palace for his imaginary Electroworld (a world that exists entirely on discarded printed circuit boards).

Combinations - M loves the idea of secret messages and codes. So this was an opportunity for him to break a code that disarms a stink bomb. To break the code, he had to figure out as many combinations as possible of 3 dots - magenta, yellow and green - without repeating any single combination and without putting more than one dot of each color into each combination. He was very careful and kept checking himself. We then went over his combinations and realized that if we only rotated a couple of them 180 degrees... But since the dots represented the buttons on a keypad, we couldn't rotate them. We (and the world) lucked out this time.


Read and find - we read a few more poems by Чуковский and found some more syllables for the syllable house. It's filling up pretty fast.

On the road to the alphabet - we continued with this workbook. The exercises are rather repetitive, but they do help M to hear sounds within words more clearly.

Story-telling - we practiced telling stories, first by sequencing pictures and describing what was going on in them. Then I told M a couple of stories and role-played them. Then he told me slightly different (lengthier and more involved) stories with the same characters.

We also played a few games that reinforce the reading skills by getting M to read syllables. One of the games was called "a magic plate". I divided a cardboard "plate" into 8 segments and wrote one preposition on each of the segments. The idea was to roll a dice and then come up with a sentence that would include a preposition on which the dice fell. I went first.

The dice fell on "к" and I came up with a sentence Я подойду к кастрюле. Then M rolled "над", thought about it for a second and said Мне тоже надо подойти к кастрюле. It was way funny! 

I tried a few more times, but each time he simply came up with a word that had the letter or the syllable in it and used that word in a sentence. So we dropped the game for now.


Lapbook - I would've never guessed, but turns out, M is totally into lapbooks. Just as long as we don't call it a lapbook. Instead, it's a book. We continued talking about prehistoric people. We read more books about them. We watched a few more videos, mostly about the Younger Dryas and about Lyuba the mammoth. And we looked at the bugs that prehistoric people might had eaten on the days when woolly mammoth was not on the menu.

And then M just wanted to make a book about all this. He asked to make copies of the different pages from all the different prehistory books we had. Then he spent quite a lot of time cutting the pictures out and gluing them into his book. He drew fire after watching this episode about Home erectus on History channel. We spoke about what a timeline is. He also read a few words such as "nomad", "hunter", "gatherer", "cave" and we discussed why they were important words for his book. M even wrote a couple of words! So it was a whole lot of work and it's not finished yet. More pages are to come.

I'm trying to get M to a) make a cover for his book and b) come up with a little story about a prehistoric boy's life. So far he's not too keen on either. He particularly objects to a cover since he says it's going to be a secret book and it should not look like a book when on a shelf. And he also says that his is more like a picture book or an encyclopedia, so no stories are needed.

And this was our week. How was yours?

Rude Elephant and Strength-less Cat

M loves telling stories, usually about robots, Star Wars, or space exploration (or all three blended together). He frequently gets carried away and does not use full sentences or gives any background information about the characters or the setting. So his stories tend to be rather difficult to understand. So we are trying to work on a more structured story-telling.

First, I told M a story about a rude little Dinosaur that teased his friends, the calf Andryusha and the pig Yulia and called them names. I also used his toys to role-play the story. I then gave M the same toys and asked him to either repeat the story back to me or to come up with his own:

Невежливый слон
Однажды Андрюша, Юля и динозавр пошли искать сокровища. И вдруг им повстречалось большое животное. Это был слон. Он всегда грубо обращался со всеми зверями. И он сказал: "Привет, Юля-грязнуля! Привет, Андрюша-длинные уши! Привет, Динозавр-пинозавр!" Динозавр ам, и укусил слона. И слон прыгнул, засвистел. Это был сигнал. Динозавр сказал: "Кто там?" А слон сказал: "Ктотам-потам!" А Динозавр устал от этих дурацких шуток и упал.

Rude elephant
Once Andryusha the calf, Yulia the pig and a Dinosaur went to search for treasure. And all of a sudden they met a large animal. It was an elephant. He was always rude to all animals. And he said: "Hello, Yulia-the slop head! Hello, Andryusha the long ears! Hello, Dinosaur-Pinosaur!" Dinosaur hum and bit the elephant. And the elephant jumped and started whistling. It was a signal. Dinosaur said: "Who's there?" and the elephant said: "Whosthere-poosthere!" And Dinosaur got tired of these silly jokes and fell down.

The second story was told in much the same way, only the characters were different - a cat and a dog and they were building a see-saw in M's story (in my original story they were just carrying a board for a new house).

Бессильная кошка и собака
Шли-шли кошка и собачка. И тут они захотели соорудить прыгательные качели. Они взяли доску и бревнышко. Они положили бревнышко на землю и поверх доску положили. Качели были готовы. Собачка мирно стояла на качелях и тут кошка прыгнула на другой конец и бабах, собачка взлетела в воздух. Собачка сказала: "Давай соорудим какой-то домик." Собака и кошка попробовали поднять доску, но не смогли. Собака сказала: "У меня лапы устали" и кошка мяукнула. И они позвали теленка, динозавра и свинью, чтобы помочь им. Они помогли. А кошка стояла и говорила, куда класть доску. 
A strength-less cat and a dog
A cat and a dog were walking. And then they wanted to make a jumping swing (a see-saw). They got a board and a log. They put a log on the ground and put a board on top. The see-saw was ready.The dog stood on the see-saw peacefully and then the cat jumped on the other end and boom, the dog flew up in the air. The dog said "Let's construct a house of some sort". The dog and the cat tried to lift a board, but couldn't. The dog said "My paws are tired" and the cat meowed. And they called the calf, the pig and the Dinosaur to help them. They helped. And the cat stood there and told them where to put the board.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Homeschool K/1 - Week 3

Another week has gone by and let me tell you, it's been the craziest week this far. I honestly need a break from this much fun! The house is a mess since we spent minimal amount of time here, mostly just enough time to make a mess and leave, on our way to some exciting activity. And that was in addition to our regular schedule of physical, occupational and speech therapies.

It's been a great homeschooling week, this one. Not too many frustrating moments even though sometimes I felt a bit rushed. But at the same time, I started seeing M's progress in a few areas where he seemed "stuck" before, especially in arithmetic.

So this is what we did this week:


We continue reading Геометрия для малышей (Geometry for the Little Ones). However, we haven't made as much progress as I hoped. I think it's mostly because M is not used to me reading books on a computer screen (and this one I could only get as rather poor quality scanned images of each page). We talked some more about line segments, parallel and perpendicular lines, and practiced using a compass to compare lengths of line segments.

Greedy Triangle - we read this book before a couple of times. But this time I brought out a mirror book and we role-played the story. I was the greedy triangle and M was the magician. M really enjoyed the game.

Now he's looking for shapes and lines, segments and rays everywhere. He also asked me to draw a quadrilateral for him and then spent quite a while making it "more mathematical" with lots of straight lines. He then gave me a little tour of his "mathematical quadrilateral", explaining about segments, parallel lines, lines that cross, short and long segments, etc, etc.

The Tower of Hanoi - I made my own with some Mega Blocks and explained the rules to M. But let me tell you, Mega Blocks aren't really good for this game. M kept trying to place blocks next to each other on top of the larger blocks. So I've ordered a normal Tower puzzle and we'll try it again soon.

Repeating activities - we've repeated some of the activities we've done in the previous 2 weeks. But I made them a bit more challenging. For example, here are the sorting cards. The idea is that M is given 4 cards and he has to sort them into 2 groups. Then he has to explain why he sorted them just so. Also, as you can see, there is more than one way to sort each set. So M has to find another way to sort. He was very good at this and also at Venn diagram.

Transitive property - I gave M some word problems that used transitive property ("if a > b and b>c then a>c). It went something like this: "A pot is larger than a tea kettle. And a tea kettle is larger than a cup. What is larger, a pot or a cup?" I gave him some simple ones like this to solve and some harder ones, not based in daily experiences. Each time I asked him to explain his answer. He did use the "because I experienced it before" argument once or twice (particularly, with the pot-kettle-cup problem), but mostly replied with "well, you said so yourself earlier - a was bigger/taller/faster/etc than the others". BTW, I take lots and lots of ideas from the wonderful Russian book Малыши и математика (The Little Ones and Mathematics).

RightStart Math - we are making progress with this curriculum. I really like it because it doesn't require M to write anything or trace numbers or color or do any such thing. Instead, he uses tally sticks, abacus, and his fingers to show numbers from 1 to 10. I also like how the program discourages counting and instead emphasizes number composition. M is still a bit shaky with 5+3 and 5+4, but he's getting much better. When I show him 7 fingers or put 10 tally sticks on the table, he no longer counts them one by one. Instead, he subitizes the 2 groups (say, 5 fingers on one hand and 2 on the other) and recalls that 5+2 is 7. Very cool. Me like it.

Memory game - this is the first time in a couple of years that M played a Memory game. I can't say that he liked it a lot since he had to match cards with numbers on them, except the numbers were shown as fingers on two hands. So he had to keep in mind quite a few things. But he did well enough and did not dislike the experience. So we'll play it some more.

Russian Language

Speech therapy - HUGE progress this week! Whether it was our daily 3-minute practice or me keeping my fingers crossed that did it, but M now rolls his "Р" sound (ok, that's R for all my non-Russian speaking friends). Russian R is notoriously difficult to master. M is nowhere near mastery, but he's moving in the right direction. Me very happy! He is very happy too since both me and his therapist are smiling these huge silly smiles every time we hear him roll it; he's got not one, but two prizes at the end of his session; and he got to eat pizza for breakfast, lunch and dinner for one day!

Word lists - we finished another 2-sided page of words. I'm going to lay off of them for a little bit because he gets bored, yet he is not ready to read phrases.

On the road to alphabet - we did just 4 lessons this week. Now, why would I continue working on the alphabet with him if he already reads words? Well, there are a couple of letters he is a bit shaky with; the ones that aren't used very often. Also, this workbook has great exercises for recognizing different sounds within words and that's something M needs more practice with.

Read and find - ok, that's what I'm going to call this activity from now on, but that's not very descriptive. So, here's how to play it. First, I choose a story (something simple that he's heard before and with lots of characters in it). Then, I write the first letters of characters names (or first letters of magical objects or landmarks) on mini sticky notes. As I read M a story, I pause when a character is first mentioned and wait for M to find the corresponding sticky note (out of 10 or so). I stick it to the page of the book. At the end of the game we put the sticky notes into our syllable house.

Syllable house - that's something I added to our daily routine. Basically, it's a grid of sticky notes. Rows are for vowels; columns are for consonants. The cells are for syllables made up of these vowels and consonants. So M has to first read each syllable and then find its room (cell). I help him since there are no grid lines (I really should add those). I found that using sticky notes really cuts down on prep time (as opposed to drawing the whole thing on paper and then cutting out the syllable cards). He can't wait to fill the entire syllable house since he gets a prize at the end.


We are continuing with pre-history. SOTW only gives a very brief overview, so I'm relying on a combination of library books and my own memories (ok, I'm not THAT old, but I did participate in an archeological club when I was 10 or 11 and even presented a paper on Paleolithic hunter-gatherers). Oh, YouTube also helps a bit.

I found a few good short videos from "I, Caveman" show on Discovery's Curiosity channel. We watched them together and then talked a bit about what we saw. I was impressed that he remembered not just the word "nomad", but the meaning of it. He mentioned it after watching one of the episodes and then I overheard him explaining it to one of his toys.

We also looked through the Early Humans book. M commented on how the dwellings made of sticks and hides look warm and cozy and asked if we could build one in the yard. He then asked if we could possibly dig a small cave in the yard. Maybe when we're in NY, I'll take him on a hike to a small cave (really, just a rocky overhang), so he can play caveman for a bit.


We haven't done much about rocks this week. In fact, the only thing was M's drawing explaining how volcanic rocks form.

Instead, M was once again playing with his garbage trucks. But I'm counting our tour of a landfill as science. He did learn even more about recycling, played a landfill bingo, and then explained all about leachate to his speech therapist.

I'm also counting him watching a couple of episodes of the Russian cartoon Пин Код (Pin Code) as science activity because not only did he watch the cartoon, but he recounted the story to me and drew a picture of an atom (below), showing the nucleus and electrons orbiting it.

Oh, and we did have Lego League with the theme of Super Seniors. The kids explored what it might feel like to get older and also what things were like 40, 50 and 60 years ago. M's group then attempted to build a bank branch out of Legos.

Another Lego thing that M built this week completely on his own was a chocolate factory. He listened to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory CD and loved the story. And then he built his little factory with lots and lots of buttons for "controlling mechanisms". Sweet!

Friday, September 14, 2012

My Very Socialized Homeschooler

One of the main objections I hear from folks about homeschooling is lack of social interactions with peers. This comes mostly from people who know very little about homeschooling and are not tuned into a local HS community. I am of the opinion that M is getting plenty of socialization, sometimes too much of it.

For example, here's how this week went, in terms of all the socializing:

Monday morning we had a much-anticipated tour of a landfill. Yes, I know, we've been there already. But this is one tour M seems to want to go on over and over (ok, another one he wouldn't mind doing again and again would be anything NASA related). Sure, we don't go to a landfill every week, but we frequently go on field trips and outings with our homeschooling friends. I'd say, we go a couple of times a month.

Tuesday we started the new session of the Junior First Lego League. It's super exciting for a couple of reasons. One is M loves being there, building with Legos, playing with his friends and, of course, having a snack. Second, he got his first ever grant! It came from and covered not only all the program fees, but also some nice bricks, gears, and a motor. Awesome, I say! That's 3-4 hrs of socializing, being engaged in cooperative play, problem solving, etc.

Wednesday is our usual get-together with a group of Russian kids. There's usually a short lesson - math, logic, Russian language, and an art activity. Then kids have a snack and go play. And moms have some tea. The kids have been meeting and playing together for over a year now, almost every week. They speak Russian between themselves (so far).

Thursday is our Russian reading night. It's with the same group of kids, but at a different time and the format is different too. There are some language-building activities and a short story time. But then kids have a snack and play together while moms have tea. Both Wednesday and Thursday get-togethers are organized and hosted by some absolutely amazing Russian moms who seem to have boundless reserves of energy, enthusiasm, teaching ideas and patience.

Friday is our homeschool park day. We didn't do it in the summer because it was just too hot. But now that the weather is a bit cooler, we are going to return to the park day. M gets to play with his American homeschooling friends.

In addition to all this, we usually have 2-3 small playdates each week, including weekends. That makes for a very full schedule. Now, we are very lucky to live in an area with so many homeschoolers and such an active HS community. Then again, M has plenty of non-HS friends too.

I realize that the pictures I put on this blog do not reflect any of this. Sometimes it's because I'm not there to take a picture (I'm either chatting with other moms, drinking tea or doing both at the same time; yep, I'm THAT talented). Other times I just don't feel it'd be right to put pictures of other kids on the blog for privacy reasons. But I also know we're not at all different from many other HS families in our area. With all the co-ops, playdates, clubs, park days, and such, kids here seem to get plenty of social opportunities.

Ok, I'm going to get off my soap box now.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Homeschool K/1 - Week 2

Wow, it's only been 2 weeks! On the other hand, wow, it's been 2 weeks already! Not having any experience with the American public school system (except for my approximately 2 weeks in American high school 15 years ago), I am constantly worried whether M is learning enough "stuff". Which is probably very silly of me since I do understand that quality trumps quantity. Still, every day last week we completed our lessons in just under an hour. But M's little friends who started K this year go to school from 9:15am to 3:45pm! What am I missing?!

So this week, since M seemed to be doing just fine with the amount of work last week, I made some changes to our schedule. To begin with, I decided to do math and reading every day instead of alternating days. So Monday and Wednesday we did a lot of math and some reading. Then Tuesday and Thursday we did a lot of reading and some math. On Friday we did a bit of math and a bit of reading, but I'm keeping Fridays open for field trips, get-togethers, and family time.

Another thing I changed was I added 1-2 occupational and physical therapy games daily to M's schedule. That's even on the days when he has therapy sessions.

So, here's what we did during our second week of homeschool:


Candy button math - we started the week with some candy math. First, we watched this How to Eat Candy Buttons Like a Recreational Mathemusician video by Vi Hart. I already had the candy button strips prepared. I reminded M a bit about Moebius strip and he started eating. After a few buttons he asked if I'd help him. So I suggested cutting the strip into two parts, so I'd have one and he'd have one. Obviously, we couldn't cut down the middle (we'd had to cut through buttons). Which led to very interesting and beautiful result. I'm not gonna spoil it for you and it's not in the video either. Just do it. It's fun.

What is bigger, a part or a whole - these were some questions I asked him, like "Are there more birds on Earth or ducks?" and "Are there more people or men?" M gave me correct answers on all, but had a bit of a hard time explaining the why of it. BTW, he even had no problem answering "Are there more quadrilaterals or rectangles out there? Are there more rectangles or squares out there?".

Magic squares - these are 3x3 squares with some stickers in some of the cells. Other cells are empty. The object of the puzzle is to figure out which stickers/pictures need to go into empty cells. We played this game twice this week, each time with 3 squares. The first time M had a bit of a problem figuring out that only 3 kinds of shapes or colors were allowed in a square. But once that hurdle was overcome, he breezed through the puzzles.

Divide quadrilaterals - another puzzle with the objective of figuring out how to draw one line across a quadrilateral in such a way that it would divide it into 2 triangles; 2 quadrilaterals; a quad and a triangle; and a pentagon and a triangle. M didn't solve all the puzzles here, but came up with an unexpected solution when he drew a zig-zagging line instead of a straight one. Another interesting moment was when in one of the puzzles he kept drawing lines across smaller and smaller shapes observing (with delight) and predicting the outcomes.

Zingo 1-2-3 - he's getting better at it. He seems to have less trouble identifying arrangements of 6,8, and 9 objects without counting. We are playing the green side of the cards for now (quantity recognition).

Patterns - I made up some simple patterns for him - ABBABBA and ABCABC - and had him predict what was going to be the next element in the pattern (I love colorful borders I picked up from a dollar store). No problem at all here and I think I'm going to move on to some more complicated and longer patterns next week.

Geometry - We started reading an old Russian book called Геометрия для малышей (Geometry for the Little Ones). As we read, we try different activities suggested in the story. Some of the terms and concepts we learned and reviewed this week were a straight line, a point, each line contains infinitely many points, line can be divided into infinite number of segments, segments two end points, a ray has one end point, vertical lines, horizontal lines, point of intersection of two lines, what's a plumb line and how it's used, how to draw a straight line through a point, through two points.

Quantities of 7 and 8 - last year, when I tried RightStart Math with M, that's where we stumbled and just couldn't move any further. For some reason he just wouldn't accept that 7 is 5+2 and 8 is 5+3 and had to count over and over again. So this week we spent some time practicing with all the different manipulatives, with abacus and fingers, to learn 7 and 8. I'm keeping my fingers crossed...

Ordering by length - M finally got to use the set of Cuisinaire rods I got him a few months ago. I gave him 10 rods and asked to arrange from shortest to longest. He seemed to be absolutely fascinated by the process, but was done with it very quickly. So he asked if he could do it again, but from longest to shortest this time. Sure! Once that was done, he did another longest to shortest, this time placing the rods horizontally. Finally, he arranged them end-to-end in a line, again from longest to shortest.
(Somehow he figured how to take his own pictures with my camera. So here is his self-portrait with his two favorite transformers)
Russian Language

Speech Therapy - we continue doing 2-3 minutes daily of speech therapy exercises. Our логопед assures us that M is showing good progress. I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

On the Road to Alphabet - this is the name of a Russian work book I use with M to review letters and letter sounds. We don't do every exercise, but we try to do at least 2-3 for each sound. Most are centered around listening to me pronouncing a word and figuring out whether a given sound is in this word and if yes, where is it - at the beginning, in the middle or at the end of the word. Sometimes they have little puzzles and M seems to enjoy them. I do wish we had a more exciting book though.

Reading lists - every day M reads a list of 16-20 Russian words I write for him. I have to remind him to read syllables, not individual letters. Reading this week feels like one step forward, two steps back.

Memorization - I am trying to get M to memorize and recite back some simple rhymes. This week's rhyme is just 6 lines and is actually pretty funny. He doesn't like this work. So what I thought would take us a day to learn is taking 3 days already.

Summary - this is another new activity I'm trying (and something suggested by our American speech therapist). I read M a very short story (just one paragraph). He then tries to re-tell me the story and as he does so I'm writing it down. I then read him the original story and his summary. It's time consuming  and M doesn't like it. But I think even after just a couple of times it's working. He is doing a bit better speaking in full sentences.

Fishing game - we have Russian magnetic letters, so I set up a simple fishing game. Since he already knows all the letters, the challenge was to create words out of his "catch". It was pretty difficult, so I helped, but he had to figure out the missing letters and fish for them.

Building letters with Legos - I set out a few magnetic letters in front of M and asked him to build the same letters out of Lego blocks. He really liked it and asked if we could build a whole entire word. So I scrambled the letters of a very simple word нет and asked him to put them in the proper order and then build the word out of Legos. He loved this game! I'm going to try some more. Looks like we need more simple Lego bricks and another plate.
(This is M's "Friendly Allien" picture. M explains: "It has a big smile, bit eyes, tiny hands and feet and an antenna")
Fine and Gross Motor Skills

Cutting with scissors - we did it as a math game called Special Snowflake. This is another game from the book I'm working on with a wonderful friend and mathematician, Maria Droujkova. You can actually see a snapshot of what the game pages in the book will look like here.

Mystery bag - this is a simple game of reaching into a bag with some small objects in it and figuring out by touch what it is.

Unscribbler - we play it on our chalkboard wall. So I draw a squiggly scribble on it with a yellow chalk first. Then M has to go over it with a red chalk without lifting his hand off the surface.

Lacing - I picked up some lacing cards at a dollar store a couple of weeks ago. M did his first lacing card last week and the second one this week. I'm happy to say that this week's work was a whole lot more accurate and was done faster! Way to go!

Tracing - I draw patterns of lines and dots on a sheet of paper with a marker. Then I turn the paper over and M traces the pattern with a marker or a pencil.

Marbles - ok, the way it's played is we sit on the floor across from each other. M has a plastic cup. I roll a small marble toward him and he has to catch it by covering it with a cup. We also tried kneeling on both knees, then on one knee.

Lazy baseball - M lays down on his back on a mat. I hold a light ball on a string above him. I tell him to swat the ball with either right hand or left hand and specify the place on the ball (side, front, bottom). It sounds simple, but it can be challenging to coordinate the movements to hit the ball just right.

We are continuing with the Story of the World book. This week we only read one part of the chapter about early people. I expected the story to start in Paleolithic Era, but instead it was set a mere 7 thousand years ago.

Some of the words and ideas M learned - nomads, Stone Age, prehistoric people, a tribe (племя in Russian which he immediately connected with племянник), hunter-gatherer life style.

We also talked some more about what archaeologists do and read Archaeologists Dig for Clues.

We went to a friend with an idea of looking at their rock collection and exploring some of the properties of rocks (hardness, density, etc). Instead, the kids, M and my friend's son, had a playdate and didn't seem to be interested in rocks even a little bit.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Homeschoolers Fall Kickoff

That's what we did this Friday. So we did a bit of school, but then went to a park for a mega playdate with about 100 other kids.

M had a blast riding on a merry-go-round for at least an hour non-stop and building with Legos for another hour. And in between he was running around with his buddies.
And I just did what moms do - talked to other homeschooling moms.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Homeschool K/1 - Week 1

Our new homeschool year has started. M's been practically begging me to start "school" ever since the beginning of August. But I decided to wait 'til the official beginning of the school year in our county. The reason is simple - most of M's friends are not homeschoolers and are going to K this Fall. So the opportunities for playdates during the school year are going to be few and far in between. Synching our school calendars seems to increase our chances.

Here's what we did this week in our home school:


When I asked M what it was he wanted to study this year, the first thing he said was "fun math". So I'm trying to keep it as interesting as possible for him. Some of the games we played this week:

Which object out of 4 is not like the others? Why? - It's important to ask the why question since M has no problem identifying an object, but stumbles explaining why he chose it. Also, as you can see, at least a couple of options are possible in each group based on different attributes (in this example above, the choice can be either R2D2 or Captain Cody).

Introducing Venn Diagram - I put two circles in front of M several inches apart from each other. I explained that I would give him some objects to sort. All the red objects would go into the red circle. All the bears would have to go into the blue circle. I also threw in some non-red non-bear objects to make sure he understands that they don't belong to either of the circles. No problem. Then I gave him a red bear. First, he put it in the red circle. Then, when I point out that it was not just red, but also a bear, he moved it to the blue circle. I countered that even though it was a bear, it was also red. After thinking for a couple of seconds, M moved the circles together so they overlapped and placed the bear appropriately. The rest was very easy. It was interesting to see how proud M was of figuring out the solution.

Mirror Legos - this is a symmetry game that we played before. I divided the Lego plate into two parts with a stud and explained that it was the line of symmetry. I then would build on one side and M had to build symmetrically on the other side. This was an easy game to him, so I switched roles and let him build and I mirrored (making mistakes, of course, and letting him correct me, something he really enjoyed).

Zingo 1-2-3 - it's a new game for us and I really like it so far. M loves the original Zingo, but this one is hard for him, especially for any quantities larger than 6. But it's really good practice too, so we will keep going.

Making geometric figures with drinking straws - I first saw the idea on Malke's Map Is Not the Territory blog. It's so easy. Just need some drinking straws and pipe cleaners to serve as connectors. Building was fun, but then a game emerged - we'd connect several straws in a zig-zag line and count the angles. We then would connect the first straw to the last and look at the resulting shape. Again, we'd count the angles (note that there will always be 1 more angle once the straws are connected). But the most fun came from bending the shape this way and that to see what other shapes were hidden inside. For example, a heptagon had a triangle and a quadrilateral hidden in it while a hexagon had two triangles, etc.

Live Mirror Game - some more symmetry, straight from Moebius Noodles. We played it before, but it's such a fun game that you just don't grow tired of it.

Reviewed the quantity of 6 - this was very easy for M and he had no problem showing it on an abacus and explaining that it's 5 + 1.

Russian Language

Speech Therapy exercises - we start each lesson with some exercises our wonderful Russian speech therapist showed us. M has already mastered the л and л' sounds (the hard and soft "l") and is now working on a much more challenging р and р' (the impossible Russian "r").

Letter yoga - we reviewed Russian vowels with some "spelling yoga" poses. This was fun for M and let me include some physical therapy activities into the schedule. Some letters were easier than others (А, О, У), some were very challenging.

Букварик (the ABC book) - we are re-reading the old ABC book, this time much faster and without stopping to do exercises. This is just a review, to make sure that he remembers all the letters (after a long summer break).

Grammar exercises - we have some Russian workbooks and I pick and choose from those. Instead of writing, I ask M to sort words (tokens I give him) into piles based on what letter he hears in them or clap his hands every time he hears a particular sound.

Reading lists - I've decided to ask M to read short (10-12 words) lists every lesson. Our first lists are very simple, CVC words. M had no problems with them. So I'm ready to move to harder ones.

Hands-on letters - this week we're working with vowels. M knows them well, but there are 2 that he is still shaky with - Е (he keeps saying it's an [ee], instead of [ye]) and Э (which for some reason he confuses with Ж or with Ы). So I made sure that he had extra practice building these letters out of beads and tracing them with pushpins on a cork board.

Fun Reading - this is just non-school related Russian books I read to M. This week we've picked up Буратино (Russian riff on the Pinnoccio story) and are continuing with Маленький подарок Антона. I decided that I need to put more emphasis on asking M to retell me the story in his own words. He listens a lot, but hardly ever talks about the story line or the characters. So far it's an uphill battle, but it's getting a bit better. Will stick with it since the results (conversation fluency) are almost instantaneous and he seems to pay more attention to the story.

Fine Motor 

Along with M's occupational therapist we figured out that the best way to prepare M for some fine motor work is to give him something heavy to do, like a wheelbarrow race (he gets to walk on his hands while I hold his legs), pushing something heavy, trying a plank pose (with my help), or writing/drawing on vertical surfaces.

Right after that I gave him some quick fine motor tasks - lacing, mazes, pushing pins into cork board.  It seemed to work well, so that's what I'm going to continue doing.


Yep, I decided to start history with him. I really don't like the traditional approach of starting with American history. So I was happy to finally get the Story of the World Part I book (thank you, Mouse Grows Mouse Learns and The Work of Childhood, for writing about your experience with SOTW).

We are moving very slowly with this curriculum. The first week we talked about what history is and what do historians and archaeologists do. We read a few books (note: SOTW recommended additional reading is sooo hard to get through the library - too few copies and too many requests) and watched The Magic School Bus Shows and Tells episode. At first M was not particularly excited, but MSB definitely helped change his attitude. Now he talks about learning more about archaeology and even going on a dig.

Funny aside: I mentioned to him that I always liked archaeology and wanted to be an archaeologist. Maybe I can still do it, said I. M's response: "No, you can't be an archaeologist! You have to have big muscles to do all the digging."


I didn't know what to do for Science, but felt like we should do something 'cause M keeps asking to do experiments. Since I have a ton of Magic School Bus books and videos, I decided to do a MSB-based program, at least in September. Arbitrarily, I decided to start with rocks and minerals. I found a Crystal Mining kit and a Quartz Mining kit on sale a couple of weeks ago and M's been itching to open them ever since.

So this week we started with the Crystal Mining. Got all the crystals out and learned their names. Then went to the Natural History museum for an afternoon to explore their rock collection. Lucky for us, our Natural History museum has a wonderful discovery room where M could get hands-on with various rocks and see some volcanic rocks he hasn't seen before.

I'm already making some changes and additions to the next week's lessons. And I have to be a bit more prepared for Science - I have a problem remembering all the names of rocks and minerals and the related terminology in Russian.