Thursday, February 23, 2012

Health Unit

Before we get into our health unit, I thought I'd share a pic of the adorable origami bunny finger puppets we made for art today. We found this great series of origami videos on happypuppytruffles's YouTube channel. Bunny Finger Puppets is the first in the series. I can see many happy hours ahead using these instructional videos. Even spatially-challenged Mommy was able to follow the simple instructions.

Health is another subject we are covering in a five week unit this year. I decided to focus our time looking at a few of the human body systems. I chose a few books to use as the backbone (pun intended!) of our study. We are covering the first six chapters of the old book (circa 1970) Blood and Guts by Linda Allison. This will take us through a voyage including our skin, bones and joints, teeth, muscles, heart and lungs. Some of the other books we will pull in to supplement are The Way We Work by David Macaulay (the art work in this book is unbelievable!), Anatomy Academy by Katie Collins, and the Usborne lift the flap book, See Inside Your Body.

I plan to continue where we left off in the Blood and Guts book when we return to health again next year . There are quite a few fun hands-on experiments in this book. Next week, when we learn about teeth, we will be soaking an old baby tooth in soda to show its corrosive effects on the enamel of our teeth. We also currently have a chicken leg bone soaking in a jar of vinegar waiting for it to be decalcified. There's always something interesting sitting around in our kitchen. If you ever come to visit, just remember, it's always a good idea to ASK before eating anything you find in the refrigerator.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

This is a Rant

Sometimes I just want to scream, "Why can't you just do your work and stop all the whining!" and sometimes I do.

JT doesn't enjoy doing math. He did at one point. I remember when he liked math. I remember when I'd send math problems along with him to school so he'd have something to do when the rest of the class was completing something he had already mastered. His Kindergarten teacher encouraged this and he always said he liked to do the work.

Sometime in the last three years, he has lost that love. In fact, he'd probably say math is his least favorite subject. Initially, I thought part of the problem was that he was bored. So we looked for 'fun' math. No good. Then I thought it might be the choice in curriculum, so we changed. Several times. No good. Then I found out that he didn't think it was 'fair' if he had to do work that he already thought he knew how to do. I understood that complaint. I hated it in school, too. So I would pick and choose a few problems in each lesson for him to do as proof that he understood a concept before I'd let him move on. This was not acceptable to him. I lowered the number of proof problems he had to do hoping it would be more 'fair' in his eyes. Instead, he would rush through the problems, making MANY mistakes, and then get angry when I asked him to correct his work. Now he just stares at the work until I start taking away privileges to produce results. This is NOT how I want him to learn math.

However, he loves to read ABOUT math. He read Flatland and thought it was fantastic. He recently read The Number Devil and talked about it for days. He loves to read the stories in the Life of Fred books, but don't expect to catch him working on the problems. I drop most formal math instruction for some time and deschool just in that subject? I'm sure if I provided books on the subject of math, he would devour them with relish. I don't want to drive him to hate all math. It happened to me. I was an excellent math student until I ran up against a class in 9th grade called Progressive Math. Geometry, Algebra II and a bit of Trig all in one year. I was never the same after that.

I think a step back may be in order for now; the same way we dealt with JT's problem with music instruction. Structured learning wasn't working. We stopped his piano lessons. We waited for what felt like an eternity for the spark to ignite on its own. Then one day, he was playing again because he wanted to play. I'm not sure if math can work the same way. I can't imagine suddenly feeling the urge to 'do math' the same way I might feel the urge to make music. But maybe that time will come. For now, I will pick up all the books I can related to math. I will encourage him to hang out on math websites. I will make sure he isn't forgetting what he already knows. Then, when he sees the need for the use of math on his own, he will be far more motivated to work because it will mean something to him.

Right now, it only means something to me and that might not be enough.

Thursday, February 9, 2012


As homeschoolers in PA, we are required to teach specific subjects every year. The list includes English, arithmetic, science, geography, history of United States and Pennsylvania, civics, safety education, health, physical education, music and art. Some of these subjects are covered daily in our classroom. English, math, science and history are consistently covered throughout the school year. Physical education, art, music and geography make an appearance about once per week, sometimes more often. I am covering the remaining subjects; health, safety education and civics, in smaller units. Health and civics each get five weeks of study, safety education was a three day fire safety day-camp in late summer, plus a few activities the rest of the year.

Last year I struggled to put together an organized study of civics for the boys. I had it on our calendar as a once a week item, but always seemed to push it aside to finish other things. So this year I decided I had to get serious and PLAN something in order to really pull it off. I decided we would spend three days a week for five weeks on topics related to citizenship and government. Here is what I ended up throwing together.

~Week One
Discuss what rules and laws are and how they affect both our nation and all organizations
Activity: imagine you are the leader of a country and must write up your own laws, create
five laws for your citizens.
How can people change laws if they are unfair? Read about Martin Luther King, Jr. and the
civil rights movement. Discuss non-violent protests and how they can change laws.
History of the Star Spangled Banner. Read The Star Spangled Banner in Translation

~Week Two
Read about the establishment of the US government and the Constitution. Watch BrainPOP
videos on the branches of government and Bill of Rights. Do activity sheets for each.
Begin reading The Voice of the People
Review vocabulary related to these subjects; amendment, allegiance, independence.

~Week Three
Activity sheets (from old Calvert material) on citizenship, leadership and authority.
JT only, choose one leader we read about and write a paragraph about him or her.
Read fact book on presidents.

~Week Four
Discuss civic duties.
Make a list of the ways we can help our community.
Discuss American symbols; flag, bald eagle, seal, etc.
Discuss American foods and their true origins.

~Week Five
Learn about national landmarks.
Choose one landmark to research further.
Review the roles of each branch of government.
Use online activities such as iCivics and quizzes on Sheppard Software websites.
Watch School House Rock videos related to government.

It has been a fun unit for us. Fifteen days isn't really enough time to cover the full scope of civics, but knowing that we will touch on a little every year, I assume we will eventually have a good grasp on the subject. This morning a member of the Gifted Homeschoolers' Forum posted this video her daughter had made about the Constitution for a class on government.

When the boys were watching it, JT said, "I like how she used the harmonies. Maybe she did that to show how the Constitution helps us live in harmony with one another."

I thought that was a nice final note for our study on citizenship.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

For the Love of Reading

Reading has always been one of my favorite pastimes. When I was a kid, I rarely went anywhere without a book. As a teen, I'd spend hour after hour in my room reading. My daughter, now in her 20s, followed closely in my footsteps. She was reading a healthy dose of sci-fi and fantasy novels while riding the bus to school. When JT came along, he was an early reader with a voracious appetite for more books than I could supply.

Then came EM. We read to all of our children, pretty much from of my favorite pictures is my husband with a newborn EM on his lap reading Dr. Seuss's ABC book. But when the time came for reading on his own, EM was reluctant. In past posts I have discussed both his auditory processing problem and his intermittent exotropia and how those two issues may have contributed to his avoidance of reading. While he has made progress in the years since both diagnoses, he has never preferred reading over any other activity.

Then a couple months ago, we chose Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone as our new bedtime read aloud book. My husband reads a chapter from a book to both boys during their snack time. He read aloud to our daughter until she was into her teens and will continue the tradition as long as the boys continue to listen. When we finished the first book in the series, EM decided he would try to read the next book on his own. He picked up a copy of The Chamber of Secrets at the library and finished it in less than 10 days!

Earlier this week, he was working on the grammar assignment pictured above. When he came to the question "Which book do you plan to read next?" he had an answer. I don't think EM had ever PLANNED what book he would like to read next before he discovered Harry Potter. Now, only two days after our trip to the library, EM is nearly 100 pages into The Prisoner of Azkaban. I don't know if this reading splurge will last beyond the final Harry Potter book, but for now I'm encouraged by the excitement EM is showing. When he finished reading The Chamber of Secrets on Monday night, he said to me, "What perfect timing. Tomorrow is library day so I can get a copy of the next book right away!"

And that was music to my ears.