10.17.2010

Weekly Wrap-Up # 19: The One with Birds' Nests, Brigaderiros, and an Unexpected Break

I'm a day late in posting this because I had to take some time last night to write instead about a very encouraging experience I had earlier in the week, a story (which you can find here) that I hope you'll take the time to read, especially if you happen to be a home educator. But now onto the highlights of recent activities around here:

TEACHERS' TOTS
N. and Anna worked on the letter and sound for N this week while also learning about nests (and birds) and the idea that "God takes good care of me." It was easy to find many cute books about birds so we really enjoyed our read-aloud times. But I daresay the highlight of the week was savoring the chocolate-peanut butter birds' nests (complete with Jelly Belly "eggs") we made for snack one day.

I'm very happy - though not surprised - with how well both girls are doing with grasping and remembering the letter sounds. Granted, we've only done five sounds so far, but they both know them all instantly when asked. And now this coming week, we'll start to put that knowledge to work in terms of letter blends; I'm excited to see how that goes and to share the girls' first experiences actually reading some words!

They're also doing well with their beginning handwriting, for which I'm using Handwriting without Tears rather than the method suggested by our core curriculum. We do that separately from phonics, using a letter order that is more developmentally appropriate for writing. So far, they can write L, F, and E and - as with the sounds - are doing a great job remembering how to form them.

Similarly, they've made tremendous progress over the past several weeks in their abilities to cut - such an important pre-writing skill! - and in counting. Last spring and when they first came back this fall, they could count up to about 14 without help. But as we did our 100 Chart one day about two weeks ago, I noticed that they didn't stumble on 15 as they used to - and this week they managed all the way up to 33 without much direction from me. And with random number identification, they are absolutely solid on 1 through 10 and are beginning to get the hang of the teens.

I did add in a new element to our "studies" this week: a daily Bible reading from the Family-Time Bible by Kenneth N. Taylor. Our core curriculum does include the weekly key, Bible-based truths, and we're supposed to read related Bible passages and discuss those truths in depth. However, because Anna and N. are only four, those concepts are sometimes a bit above their heads. We still talk about them and relate them to our weekly theme, but I thought it important to give the girls a biblical overview, too. And Taylor's book, which I read through at least twice with Rachel and Abigail, is by far my favorite story Bible for preschoolers so it's been a joy.



HOME LEARNING
This week, we "flew to Brazil," landing in Rio to the sound of samba music! And then we took some time each day to read about the physical geography - especially the rainforest - and the interesting cultural mix among the people. The girls were particularly intrigued by pictures of the diversity of rainforest wildlife and by Iguassu Falls in southern Brazil. They also liked reading about the Yanomamo Indians and beginning to learn the names and locations of the South American countries, an exercise that gained added meaning as we watched the amazing rescue of the Chilean miners together. But - as with the little girls' lessons - this week's highlight had to be our chance to sample Brazilian food, in this case an incredibly yummy fudge called Brigaderiros.

On Monday, Abigail finished and happily shared her latest book project, a diorama she made to represent an adventure tale set in Alaska, Silver by Gloria Whelan.

Our other highlight of the week was the extension of a tradition we started last year: taking a day off bookwork on someone's birthday. When I made up this year's academic calendar, I immediately blocked out the girls' birthdays in May - but not mine, which was this past Friday. And I really did plan to proceed as usual - I had all the workboxes filled and activities ready to go - but then all four girls got very involved early in the morning with practicing for a "Swan Lake" dance recital they wanted to perform in the afternoon. They were so focused that I hated to interrupt, and then I remembered the tradition and decided it could extend beyond the students to the teacher! So they all danced their little hearts out all morning while I enjoyed having to keep fewer balls juggling at one time - a nice birthday gift if there ever was one...and one I've been encouraged by fellow home-educating moms to continue in the future. One blessing - among so many - of home education!

I also got an unexpected birthday present from - of all places - the Green Bay Area Public Schools, a story I shared here and which I encourage you to read if you haven't already.

And, lastly, I ended up using some of my "free time" on Friday to make some decisions regarding a few "tweaks" to our home learning curriculum. I've been pondering the need for the modifications for a few weeks now and appreciated the time on Friday to move beyond thinking to action. I'm very excited about the direction God led me with it...but that's a topic for a later time, one worthy of its very own post. So, if you're intrigued, you'll just have to check back here over the next few days for the "reveal!"

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