Monday, July 30, 2012

First Day of School!

Today marked my son's first day of Kindergarten.  Even though "sending" him off to Kindergarten meant we walked upstairs to our loft, it was still a bit of a sad day.  It's tough to imagine this day as me actually dropping him off at a school.  I feel so blessed that I am able to stay home with my boys and for this opportunity to do home education.

I decided to start school on July 30th because we will have visitors for several weeks this semester and will probably take a family vacation at some point.  Living in Vegas guarantees that we're never short of visitors, which is one of our favorite parts of living here.  I also wanted to get started with our routine before Classical Conversations begins, so I'm not so overwhelmed all at once.  

Here are some pics of our classroom space.
This area contains activities for my 3-yr old as well as extras if my 5-yr old finishes early.
We're using a card table to do our work.  I have big plans for dressing it up, but it's going to be a while before I can get to it.
I finished the table top, but still need to paint the legs.  I took maps, postcards, my old passport, etc. and glued them to the table.  I used ModPodge to make a clear coating over the top. It's not my best craftwork ever, but it works!  I left the map of the world, the US and Central America for the boys to use as reference when we're doing map work.
Our Classroom Expectations, calendar, weather graph, pocket charts, etc.
We have the flag up and say the Pledge of Allegiance every morning.  Our World Map is in Spanish.  Between the map and flag is piece of ribbon I hung with thumb tacks for a place to hang the boys' work.
Our classroom expectations: 1. We respect each other and our things. 2. We have a good attitude. 3. We do our best.

I have to admit, I was really nervous about our first day, but also very excited.  I felt like it went well, but already I wish there were more hours in the day.  That can only get worse when Classical begins, but hopefully by then we will have our schedule a bit more refined.  

Friday, July 27, 2012

BOOK IT! for Homeschoolers

How many of you remember participating in Book It as a kid?  I remember how much I looked forward to getting my very own personal pan pizza that I had earned all by myself!  I proudly wore my pin-on button displaying all the stars I had earned.

Homeschool families have the same opportunity as traditional schools to participate in the Book It program.  Signing up is super-easy and takes less than 3 minutes.  To sign up, click here and follow the instructions.  Students must be at least 5 years old to enroll.  However, the Book It site contains printables and activities for preschool and up.  Best of all, the website contains materials in English and Spanish!

"The more that you read, the more things you will know.  The more that you learn, the more places you'll go."
                                         --Dr. Seuss from I Can Read with My Eyes Shut!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The Importance of Being Bilingual/Multilingual

As I mentioned in one of my first posts, I believe the benefits of acquiring additional languages stretch well beyond simply being bilingual.  It is something I am passionate about, and the reason why I am dedicating so much time and energy to our little dual-immersion homeschool.  Here is my list of additional benefits:

Children who acquire a second language have a global mindview.  They realize that there is a much bigger world out there than what they can see around them.  They understand that God created a rainbow of people who speak a myriad of different languages.  When they learn a new language, they can connect with people of that language.  It builds bridges.

Children who acquire a second language are more well-rounded.  I believe being bilingual is as critical a component of being a well-rounded individual as sports, music, or art.

Research shows that children who acquire a second language have better problem-solving skills.

Children who acquire a second language will have better opportunities.  They will be more competitive in the job market, have better travel opportunities, and have more service opportunities.

Once a second language is learned, the door is opened to acquire more languages.  Additional languages can be learned easier since the brain already knows how to organize, store, and output foreign language.

If you're interested in how I became so passionate about bilingual/biculturism, here is my background:

I grew up in a little bitty town in the middle of Missouri, Pilot Grove, population 720.  We didn't do much traveling.  It was a huge deal when we went to the St. Louis Zoo my fourth-grade year.  While I didn't have any exposure to other languages/cultures, my Grandparents were able to travel all over Europe.  My Grandma showed me pictures and told me stories.  I didn't realize it at the time, but she planted the travel bug in me!

I took Spanish in high school and immediately fell in love.  As I learned the language bit by bit, I felt like I was slowly being let in on a secret.  I couldn't wait to travel somewhere and be able to share my secret with people who would understand.  My first semester of college I began looking into study abroad programs.  I ended up going to Costa Rica for a semester my junior year.  After that I was completely in love with Latin American culture.  As soon as I got back I began planning my next trip--Honduras to do mission work after I graduated college.

My time abroad has offered me some of the best experiences of my life.  They were also some of the most eye-opening experiences of my life, and they forever changed me.  I hope to offer my children some of the same eye-opening experiences, but at a much younger age.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Why CC (Classical Conversations)?

My explanation for why we chose CC also covers why I decided on the classical model.

For those of you who prefer the abbreviated version:

I like that it is based on the history of the world and how God's Glory is evident throughout history.

I like that it empowers students to take charge of their own learning and see the reward in working hard for their education.

I like that my son will have to present in front of his peers every week.

I like that my son will receive instruction from someone besides me once a week.  It gives us all a break and him a chance to interact with peers.

For those of you who prefer the longer version:

My journey to joining CC began with me building an argument against it.  I knew a little bit about the program from a couple of friends who were involved.--It's a lot of memorization and by the time kids get to high school they will be able to defend an argument.  Now, as a former 1st grade teacher--where I spent every day trying to make learning fun and engaging--rote memorization was completely contrary to all my teacher training.  Plus I didn't like the fact that reading and math were merely sidenotes, not the bulk of the curriculum (so I thought).

Once I made the decision to homeschool, I began asking more about CC.  I highly respected the moms I knew that were involved and valued their opinions, but I just couldn't understand the attraction of CC.  Then a friend of my mother-in-law, who leads a CC group, invited us over for a bar-b-cue to discuss CC.  I knew I would have to have my facts straight before then so I could tell her exactly why CC was not a good fit for our homeschool.

Reason #1:  Latin

I thought the idea of learning Latin seemed like a ridiculous waste of time.  I looked into why Latin?  There is a full write-up on CC website here (p. 29 of the catalog), but below is my condensed list.

Students who study Latin...

--Do better on standardized tests, including college entrance exams.

--Have an easier time learning any Latin-based language (Spanish, Italian, French, Portuguese).

--Learn discipline, precision and to focus on details.

--Have an advantage if they go into a medical or legal profession.

Finally, nearly all US Presidents studied Latin.  You get the idea, studying Latin doesn't seem so bad after all, especially since we can devote as much or as little time to that portion of our school day as we want.  It will probably be on the low end for us, as we will focus on Spanish, but I feel like a little exposure is a good thing.

Reason #2: Rote Memorization

As I mentioned earlier, I'm not a fan of rote memorization, well that's putting it lightly.  It seems pointless to fill a curious child's mind with meaningless facts without building on or exploring the information.  However, after looking into the reasoning behind all the memorization, it began to make sense, even sound beneficial.  The theory behind it is the basis for Classical Education, the trivium.  The trivium consists of the three stages of learning: grammar, logic, and rhetoric.  The grammar stage usually lasts until fifth grade and is the time period when a child's mind can absorb an enormous amount of facts.  The logic stage spans the middle school years and is when children are able to sort through all the information they have accumulated.  The rhetoric stage covers the high school years when students begin effectively communicating what they have learned.

Anyone who has been around children can attest to the fact that their brains are little sponges.  I can still remember geography facts I learned as a kid.  In 1492 Columbus sailed the ocean blue...  Classical Education aims to fill the student's brain with as much information as possible, history facts, math facts, science facts, etc.  After the facts (pegs) are stuck in a child's brain, you can then expound upon that information (hang it onto the pegs).  It is similar to learning a new word.  At first you memorize the word and meaning.  After you learn it, you suddenly begin hearing and seeing the word all around you.  You begin to develop a feel for the word and its exact connotation.

If you're like me, the picture you have in your head of Classical Education is of a very serious teacher with a collar buttoned up to her chin, drilling a row of neatly sitting students.  But implementing a classical model and the memorization portion does not equal dry, serious education.  There are ways to make memorization fun with songs, dance, and whatever projects your imagination (or Google search) can dream up to drive in the memory pegs.

Reason #3: Not reading and/or math based (so I thought)

Although Classical Conversations does not provide reading/phonics instruction, reading is the foundation for Classical Education.  It is the avenue by which you understand the history, science, literature, etc.  Parents enrolled in CC have the freedom to choose whichever reading or math program works best for their child.  There is also a slight bit of math and grammar as part of the memory work.  Even though math and reading instruction are not a part of the CC curriculum, I've never met a homeschooler who only used one curriculum that covered all subjects.  I'm really not even sure there is such a thing!  If you find one, and it's good, please let me know!!

After thinking about it, I realized that having history as the base is logical, especially from a Godly point of view.  It makes sense to start at the beginning with God's creation and work through time exploring all the wonder, beauty, and even mistakes of humankind.  It is our nature to put events in chronological order, so why not study history in sequence rather than random chunks, as is often the case in public schools?

I soon discovered that all my arguments against CC were based on misconceptions.  I had already decided that the classical model was a great fit for us.  The hard work, discipline, and focus on reading as the primary means to gain information were very appealing to me.  CC combined all that with a religious foundation and peer interaction, which is eventually what sold me.  However, I am viewing this year as a trial year.  If we get into it, and it just isn't working, we'll explore other options.  It's great to have options!

Monday, July 16, 2012

The Plan

Once I had committed to doing some sort of immersion homeschool, I began the gargantuan task of choosing a method/curriculum, developing a schedule, etc.  Sorting through all the options for curriculum and information on methods is really quite overwhelming.  There are so many choices!  I found it all very exciting, though, especially because I love any excuse to put off cleaning my house.  For this post I won't go into detail as to why I chose a particular method or curricula, but will give my reasoning for each in separate posts.

I chose to enroll my son (age 5) in a Classical Conversations (CC) group, which will begin meeting in September.  Classical has geography and history at its foundation and provides memory work along with art and science projects.  It is one day a week where my son can receive instruction from an adult who isn't me (which benefits both of us!).  As its name implies, it follows the Classical Method, which is the approach I will be using.

I am going to attempt to have my son learn the memory work in English and Spanish. My thought is, "If he can memorize sentences, places, science facts, etc. in English, then he can also memorize them in Spanish." Plus, it would benefit me to learn more academic terms in Spanish. Most academic terms are very similar in Spanish and English, so hopefully it won't be too much of a stretch. I may be crazy, and it may not work, but we are going to give it try. I plan to allow my 3-year-old to participate in as much of the studying as he likes. If he gets bored with it, I will have puzzles and activities for him to do while I work with my older son.

In addition to CC, we will be using two math programs: Singapore Math in English and MEP (Mathematics Enhancement Programme) in Spanish. My plan is to alternate weeks in Spanish and English. My 3-year-old will do math along with us (at his level) for as long as his attention span will allow.

Since my son is only Kinder-age this year, we will devote the bulk of our time to developing Spanish vocabulary, grammar, reading, and speaking. Part of the instruction will come from, a Mexican online homeschool. The other part will come from lessons and activities that I put together myself, consisting of a vocabulary theme, books, reading/writing and hands-on (art, science, music, fieldtrips) activities. Yes, it is very time-consuming to develop my own activities, but I just couldn't find a boxed curriculum that suited me. My younger son will participate fully in the Spanish activities, and is also enrolled in Educazion.

For my Kindergartner, I am going to be somewhat lax on English grammar this year. We will learn the grammar from CC and set aside plenty of time dedicated to reading, all kinds of reading. I'm comfortable with dedicating most of our time to Spanish language arts because my son already has a strong foundation in English. For the 3-yr-old we will spend a large amount of time on English phonics and reading. Once he becomes proficient in English, we will move on to reading in Spanish.

As far as religion, we will tie that in with our Spanish lessons, and CC also has a religious basis.

So, that is the grand plan. I will made updates as we modify it.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Target Dollar Section Deals

I love it when Target puts out their school items in the dollar section.  We went the other day and came home with the following great finds.

The boys and I were both super-excited about the Spanish Bingo.  We played it as soon as we got home.  We used pennies instead of the card-board pieces to cover our spaces.  It's a great way to practice simple, beginning vocab.

We are doing Classical Conversations this year, and towards the end of the year my son will have to learn all of the Presidents.  So, I couldn't pass up a President's book for buck!

The dollar section had a good selection of children's classics.  We picked up Tom Sawyer, Huckleberry Finn, and Dr. Doolittle.  They also had Black Beauty, Peter Pan, and Alice in Wonderland.

Finally, I love the selection of activity books.  I let my kids each choose one, and we ended up with Space and Dinosaurs.  I use these as time-fillers for appointments, travel, etc.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

My Trial Run (Lesson Plans for Butterfly Life Cycle and Days of the Week in Spanish)

I thought it might be prudent to do a trial run to get an idea of how much time I would need for planning, how much time the lessons took, and how my kids did with the lessons. This turned out to be highly beneficial as I learned so much in those few weeks.  For example, I realized I was over-planning.  I spent two weeks planning for one week of school.  My experience as a first grade teacher had me trained to plan lessons based on a classroom full of kids at a wide range of skill levels.  At some point I had an "aha" moment and realized, "Wait a minute, I only have to plan for two kids at their exact skill level and learning styles."  Seems like common sense, but I had to change my mindset.

Other things I learned were specific to my kids: attention spans, likes, work pace, etc. I also figured out which activities I would do with both children and which ones would be for the 5-yr-old only.

Below are some of the lessons/activities we worked on.  They were mainly focused on Spanish vocab.  We will be adding all subjects when we "officially" begin school at the end of the summer.

Butterfly Life Cycle/El ciclo de vida de la mariposa

We began by reading the book, "Butterfly/Mariposa by Susan Canizares.  It is one in a series of beginner science books from Scholastic.  

After reading the book we talked about relevant vocabulary: mariposa, oruga, huevo, crisálida.

Next we made each step in the life cycle out of different materials.  

--Butterfly:  The boys each painted a coffee filter however they wanted.  Then we used a pipe cleaner to tie the middle of the coffee filter and make the antenna.

--Egg: I cut green felt into the shape of a leaf, and used circle glitter stickers for the eggs.

--Catterpillar: I cut an egg carton into fourths, and the boys decorated them with markers.  We stuck in pipe cleaners for legs and glued on googley eyes.

--Chrysalis: I found some stretchy, brown fabric in my sewing stash.  We rolled up pieces to look like a cocoon.

I had my 5-yr-old write the names of each cycle, and I made stickers for my 3-yr-old to place in the correct cycle.

Here is the finished product:

The Very Hungry Caterpillar/La oruga muy hambrienta

In keeping with the butterfly theme, we read the book, "The Very Hungry Caterpillar" by Eric Carle in Spanish.  My kids know the story by heart, so they had no trouble following the story in Spanish.  

I used this printout, which I printed, from DLTK Growing Together to review the food vocabulary from the book.

Next I had the boys take turns matching the food the caterpillar ate with the day of the week in which he ate it.  We did this on the pocket chart.

Finally, I made a chart with the days of the week.  I had the boys draw in their own own food for each day of the week.  They liked this because they got to choose what they wanted their own very hungry caterpillar to eat.

Cookie's Week/La semana de Cookie

The next day we read La Semana de Cookie by Cindy Ward and Tomie dePaola.

The first couple of times we read the book, I read in Spanish and asked the kids to guess what the words meant by looking at the pictures.  After that I read it only in Spanish.  I found clipart from Cookie's Week here.  We played memory match with the days of the week and Cookie's activities.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Skippyjon Jones at Kohl's!

My kids and I were so excited when we walked into Kohl's last week and saw that the current theme for Kohl's Cares for Kids is Skippyjon Jones.  Kohl's Cares for Kids is--as the name implies--a Kohl's Charity where 100% of net profits go to various Kids' programs.

If you're not familiar with the Skippyjon Jones book series by Judy Schachner, they are fast-moving, tongue-twisting, super-silly stories about an energetic, adventurous Siamese Kitten who pretends he's a Chihuahua.  And since Skippyjon's imaginary friends (Los Chimichangos) are a band of rogue Chihuahuas, there are plenty of Spanish words and phrases sprinkled throughout each story.

Both my 5-yr-old and 3-yr-old love the Skippyjon books.  They delight in seeing what kind of trouble Skippyjon will get himself into, and I often hear them quoting lines from the book.

There are five different titles available from Kohl's in collectible, hardback editions for only $5.  They also have Skippyjon plush toys for $5.

For those of you who live near larger cities, Theatreworks USA is featuring a Skippyjon Jones play as part of their 2012-2013 season.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

My Grand List of Language Learning/Curriculum Resources

Resources for Learning Spanish

Language -- Website with vocabulary practice and quizzes.  I like this website because you can hear the words pronounced by a native speaker.

123 Teach Me -- This website is packed full of language activities, so many that it's almost overwhelming.  There are games, songs, videos, listening activities, flashcards, and more.

Childtopia -- Children's stories in Spanish with comprehension questions.

Salsa TV -- 15 minute videos aimed at teaching kids basic Spanish.  I highly recommend this site!  My kids love watching Salsa TV.  The episodes are short enough to keep them engaged, and even though they don't always understand all the words, they can still follow the story.

Spanish Newsbites -- Read or listen to news articles in Spanish at various levels.  You can even download the articles to your iPod.

Reading is Fundamental -- I haven't explored this site much, but it appears to have many activities for developing literacy in children.

Tumble Books -- Animated children's books read aloud.  This site requires a paid subscription, but your public library may have a subscription.  They also offer a free trial.

Paco el Chato -- Books, lessons, and activities in Spanish for the Primary grades.

Spanish Proficiency Exercised -- A website from the University of Texas Austin with Spanish listening exercises.  The exercises are organized into 6 levels from beginner to Superior.

RhinoSpike -- Free website where users can request scripts to be read in any language.  

Lecciones -- Website with various elementary Spanish activities.  This site is somewhat confusing to muddle through, but has some good activities.

1st Grade Spanish Dual Immersion -- Powerpoint presentations in Spanish from a dual-immersion 1st grade.

OYE -- Listening activities, quizzes, and games for Spanish themes from Beginner to Advanced.

Discovery Kids Español -- Website full of activities, games, stories, and videos in Spanish covering a variety of Science, Early Learning, Art, etc.

Story Place en Español--Stories, Games, Videos on various themes such as animals, colors, music, pets.  There is an option for preescolar (preschool) age or infantil (elementary) age children.

Curriculum Resources for Bilingual Homeschooling -- Spanish Online Homeschool based out of Mexico.  I have both my kids enrolled.  Here is a link to my review of the school from the Mommy Maestra website.

Primera Escuela -- Many different lesson plans and activities, including Bible lessons.

Rod and Staff -- They offer a homeschool Spanish boxed curriculum.

Kid's Sunday School -- Has Bible lesson plans, activities, games, and songs.  Some of the activities are accessible without a subscription, but most require it.  The subscription is $39/ year.

MEP -- Free 1st-6th Math Curriculum in English or Spanish.  I highly recommend this site!

Scholastic -- Offers teaching materials and children's books at very affordable prices.  They have a great selection of Spanish/bilingual books.  Homeschool families are eligible to place orders.

Scholastic Classroom Magazines -- Wonderful Pre K/K magazine, Let's Find Out.  Click here to read my full commentary about this awesome resource.

Free Spanish Printables -- Worksheets and printables on a variety of themes.

Calvary Curriculum in Spanish -- Excellent Bible Curriculum in Spanish.

Mexican Basic Education Reform -- Website with downloadable/printable textbooks in Spanish for grades pre-K thru 6.

Math Mammoth (Matemticas Mamut) -- Concept-based workbooks available grades 1-6 at a very reasonable price.  Can be grouped together for a complete curriculum or used as supplements.

Yabisí by Santillana -- K-6 Curriculum for native Spanish speakers.  Features Language Arts, Science, Math, and Social Studies.

Lemonhass Homeschool Curriculum in Spanish -- New homeschool curriculum created in Mexico.  Currently they offer Pre-K through 1st grade.

National Geographic Publishing -- Books and curriculum in Spanish.  

Other Sites I find useful

The Well-Trained Mind Bilingual Education Forum -- There is a wealth of information on this forum from homeschoolers attempting to integrate additional languages into their studies. 

The Well-Trained Mind For Sale and Swap Forum -- A great place to find used curriculum/books.

Mommy Maestra -- Blog with tons of information/resources on bilingual homeschooling.

Multilingual Living -- Founded by an immersion homeschooler, a great resource and encouraging site.