Sunday, May 25, 2014

Gentle Kindergarten - The first few weeks

Well, Kindergarten definitely didn't start off the way I'd planned. Between finding out we had to move at the end of the month and our family crisis, I'm amazed we did any school at all. But we did, and even though we missed a few weeks, and we're splitting up one week into two, things have been going really well.

I guess I should begin be explaining a few things. Yes, we are starting Kindergarten now and going through the summer. We're doing this for a few reasons.

1. While there is a bit more formal structure to our "school days," we try to live in a relaxed, unschooling fashion all the time. This means that we read every day, we have a map on our walls where we're always finding different countries and states that we talk about. We go outside, identify things in nature, do lots of art, and follow our children's questions wherever they lead us. This alone covers a lot of information if Rob and I are tuned in and willing to make the most of our time with the kids instead of just plopping in front of a screen. So really, we're always homeschooling, summer or no.

2. Summers here in Central CA are boiling hot! Unless you're in a pool you can't go outside between 10 and 5. It gets well into the high 90's and low 100's. The rest of the year is beautiful and we WANT to be outside. But not really during the summer. So might as well do school now when we're hanging out in the AC.

3. Rob's schedule gives him a four day weekend every month. If we do school through the summer, we can take fun vacation time in September and February when everything is less crowded. The more I do now, the more we can slow down and enjoy Christmas, last-minute vacations, or those weeks when life gets unexpectedly crazy.

So anyways, there's my thought process with starting school in the summer.

We're doing a really gentle Kindergarten. I'm not pushing reading at all. When Jane is a full six we'll focus on it more, but I'm a firm believer in more delayed academics instead of banging my head against the wall before a child is ready.

Instead of formal reading instruction, Jane does 20 minutes a day of a computer program called "Earobics." It was created for children with auditory processing disorders (which Jane has very mildly) but is now also used for kids who need help with reading. I think it's a great introduction to training a child's brain to listen to the breakdown of words in such a way that lays a great foundation for reading.

I'm basing the rest of our Kindergarten loosely off of the plans found here. I say loosely, because the fairy story isn't really my style, and I've added in my own things. Like this lesson plan, each week we focus on a letter. We use her book suggestions and go over the scripture story and piece of art she includes for each. Jane also handsews that weeks letter into a square of fabric to make into a quilt later.

We do circle time every day. During circle time we take a look at the work of art and talk about it. We listen to/read/retell the scripture story. We also recite our poem for the month. The poem I chose for the first four weeks is Longfellow's "Arrow and the Song," which the kids are really close to having memorized. We'll also sing any songs that seem fun. For B week we learned "America the Beautiful."

I print off and hang up the Vocab words for each letter from here. We're learning the signs for the words, and Jane is really picking up on that. She loves to "speak" sign language.

Other things we try to do every week.

Decorate a pot and plant a flower that begins with the week's letter.

Practice writing the letter with a couple worksheets.

Read lots of picture books, some with that week's letter in the title, others around the science theme for the week. We also read in our chapter book. Right now it's "The House at Pooh Corner," although we just finished the second "Magic Treehouse" book.

Read a story or poem from "The Children's Book of America" and either talk about it all week or sing/say it all week.

Measure the bean plants in our garden and write down how tall they are.

Draw/paint a picture similar to the one we're studying.

Tuesday "tea time." We eat a snack that begins with our letter, practice our manners, and play chess.

Do other little crafts of activities either suggested or that I come up with myself. Jane is in the process of tying a babydoll quilt (so hard but so good for her finger dexterity). We've tried to birdwatch by putting out seed, but I think word of our cat has got around because none have come by, so that was a bust.

Learn a new, easy recipe and have Jane add it to her cook book. She writes out the ingredient and decorates the page, then dictates to me the instructions.

Some ABCmouse time if desired.

We've really been shooting for 2 hours of outside playtime, which we were doing well with before we hit crisis-mode. Now it's patchy, but after the move we'll get back on track with that. It'll just have to be in early morning or late afternoon.

That's really it. It usually takes up maybe 1- 2 hours of our day. The rest of the day Jane can play, do all the art projects she wants, etc. Even without pushing reading, she's started sounding out and spelling easy CVC words. It's so fun to see her learn and enjoy learning. Can't wait to share more of our progress in a few weeks. I've included the video "evidence" of the signs she's learned so I can show this to my ES for the charter school we're working through.

**If you're wondering about math, I'm waiting until September to start with it. Real life and calendar time offers all we need right now. But in September I plan on purchasing "Right Start Math," through the charter school, and beginning more formal math instruction then. I'll also be adding in more formal Social Studies then, too, through a sort of co-op I have planned.**

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Top Ten Best Things About Camping in Grandma's Back Yard

10.  The entrance fee is very reasonable.

9. You can make last-minute reservations...even on Memorial Day Weekend.

8.  There's always lots of help setting up camp.

7.   The wildlife is very friendly.

6.  Nicest camping bathroom ever.

5.  Great amenities.

4. You can still order pizza.

3.  Nice, soft terrain.

2.   The only rain you REALLY worry about are the sprinklers.

1.  You don't have to miss the Giant's game.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Signs for C Week

Candy Cane

Preschool/Kindergarten Music Appreciation: D is for Decrescendo

Sing Your Gathering Song

Introduce the New Word: The new words for today are Decrescendo and Crescendo. These words have to do with the volume, or dynamics, of a piece of music. 

Crescendo - Gradually get louder
Decrescendo - Gradually get softer

Here are the flash cards.

Activity: Make "rolling thunder." Sit on hard tile, or put a book or other hard object in front of the children (this works best with a few kids and adults.) Have everyone start slapping the floor with their palms, not in unison, just quickly. Shout "Crescendo!" and have everyone get louder and louder. Once you hit the peak, immediately yell "Decrescendo!" and have everyone get softer and softer. Do this over and over to create the illusion of rolling thunder.

Learn the New Song: There are two choices for the song this week. The first is Danny Boy. This beautiful Irish tune (Londonderry Air) is often thought to be a father singing to his son going of to war in the Irish Diaspora. Listen to it here.

Oh, Danny Boy, the pipes, the pipes are calling
From glen to glen, and down the mountain side,
The summer's gone, and all the roses falling,
It's you, it's you must go and I must bide.
But come ye back when summer's in the meadow,
Or when the valley's hushed and white with snow,
And I'll be here in sunshine or in shadow,
Oh, Danny Boy, oh Danny Boy, I love you so!
But when ye come, and all the flowers are dying,
If I am dead, as dead I well may be,
Ye'll come and find the place where I am lying,
And kneel and say an Ave there for me;
And I shall hear, though soft you tread above me,
And all my grave will warmer, sweeter be,
For you will bend and tell me that you love me,
And I shall sleep in peace until you come to me!

The other option is "Drunken Sailor." This song was sung by members of the royal navy while doing their chores. Verses were added until the work was through. Early is pronounced, "ear-lie." Listen to it here.
What will we do with a drunken sailor?
What will we do with a drunken sailor?
What will we do with a drunken sailor?
Early in the morning

Way hay and up she rises
Way hay and up she rises
Way hay and up she rises
Early in the morning

Shave his belly with a rusty razor
Shave his belly with a rusty razor
Shave his belly with a rusty razor
Early in the morning

Way hay and up she rises
Way hay and up she rises
Way hay and up she rises
Early in the morning

Put him in the brig untill he's sober
Put him in the brig untill he's sober
Put him in the brig untill he's sober
Early in the morning

Way hay and up she rises
Way hay and up she rises
Way hay and up she rises
Early in the morning

Sing the song through a couple times, being sure to incorporate crescendos and decrescendos!

Introduce the Composer: Claude Debussy was a french composer and one of the most prominent figures of Impressionist music. Probably his most famous piece is "Clair de Lune," which is french for moonlight. 

Have the children listen to this beautiful song, it is only five minutes. Tell them it is about moonlight. When do we see the moon? Have them act out the sort of things we do or the sort of animals awake when the moon is shining.

Sing Requests

*Note* I'm sorry I'm so late getting this one up. This month has been hard and crazy. 

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Thoughts from the last week

Grieving as a family is hard. Everyone is on their own timetable in the process. Someone has hit anger, others are at numbness and exhaustion, some depression. Sometimes you really get lucky and everyone hits anger together (not great). Some people want to separate, others always someone around. Some want to "do something" and others want to melt into the couch. You all want talk about it, you don't want to talk about it. One wants the visitors to leave, one wants them to keep coming.

Grieving without family is harder. Nobody else understands the way they do. They understand the jokes, the memories, they're okay talk about it over and over. You're all crazy together, and sad together, and hopeful together.

People are wonderful. They want to help. We have had more evidence of this in the last ten days than I've ever seen. I can't tell you how touching it was to see a line of cars pull up outside my mother-in-law's house and so many people unload with lawn mowers, rakes, shovels, mulch, etc.

People are callous. Most people when they found out were willing to bend over backwards to accommodate us. But our landlords decided to visit us the day of the graveside unannounced, inform us that they are hiking the rent and have a friend willing to pay and want to know if we'll renew the contract at the new rent. Our request for 48 hours to consider was flatly denied, even with our circumstances.

Our life the last ten days has been a roller coaster. We bought into the practice, Rob's dad died, we felt the love of so many, we found out we have to move at the end of the month, Rob's birthday, Mother's Day, family, friends, love, and heartache.

So much of life in such a short amount of time.

We're exhausted. Emotionally. Physically. Spiritually. I just want to shut off my mind and have time stop.

We're energized. Life is short, and it's precious. It's too short for anger and grudges. For time wasted doing stupid stuff on the internet of watching TV shows you don't really care about. We're reminded of what matters and what doesn't

Because time doesn't stop. Life does go on. Everything is different now and yet the world is still the same.

Signs for B Week


Saturday, May 3, 2014

Eternal Beginnings

Death doesn't wait. It doesn't wait for you to have the laundry folded, or the kids well-rested. It doesn't wait for you to say good-bye. It doesn't wait for all the weddings or until the grandkids are grown.

It comes anyway.

People descend upon death like...something. My writing mind can't think of at the moment. But regardless of what of the metaphor is, they come. Dropping everything and coming right away. They bring food to feed an army and rags and brooms. Because what else can they do when there's nothing you can do.

And in that moment, even when nobody thinks they'll ever eat again, is the first gentle reminder that life goes on.

They each come and hug you and ask "Are you okay?"

As my brother-in-law said yesterday, "No. I am not okay." We are NOT OKAY.

But as my mother-in-law later said, "But we will be."

I woke up at 5:30 this morning with a phrase from Elder Uchtdorf running through my head.

 How grateful I am to my Heavenly Father that in His plan there are no true endings, only everlasting beginnings.

That gratitude, even through all the sorrow ran throughout the evening yesterday. How grateful we are for the priesthood blessings, for the unexpectedness of moving out here and unknowingly getting one last year to really spend time with Steve, the blessing that Mike is not on his mission yet, but Steve got to know that his papers were in.

We are grateful for the knowledge that families are eternal. But that doesn't make it hurt any less. It doesn't end the shock.

But, somehow, through it all there has been peace. The cousins all played wonderfully together. A beautiful reminder of the legacy of a great man.

Please pray for us. Please pray for my sweet husband and his family.

We are not okay.

But we will be.