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.


  1. Has he tried to break open a rock to see what is inside? You can do a few things with that like learn that different rocks/minerals have different levels of hardness. Some break along planes while others don't and the reasons for that. Plus it's just cool to a young boy to smash a rock just to see what is the inside looks like.

    1. Nope, he hasn't. The crystals are too small for that. Plus it's his "collection" and he's very careful with it. I'd like to get him a few geodes next though. And we can try just smashing regular rocks from the yard :)

  2. Sounds much more fun than my kindergarten experience:) well aside from being infatuated with the girls of course.

    1. Want to move here and repeat your K year? :) Wait, there's a movie like this already and it's terrible.

  3. Sounds like a great start of the year. We also have tons of MSB books that daughter likes to read on her own. I really like how you introduced a Venn diagram - so very clever!

    1. Thanks, but I can't take the credit for it. A friend recommended a really awesome book by the Russian author called Малыши и математика - I take lots of ideas from there.