Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Homeschool Learning: Lots of Science!

With each passing day, I receive confirmation in one form or another that I made the right decision to homeschool my seven year old son.  We have only been at this for less than two months.  At the beginning, it was all about my son who was struggling socially and emotionally in school.  He needed rescued if there was ever any hope for him to overcome his Selective Mutism and before his tiny, fragile spirit was broken.  His learning was not suffering.  In fact, he was doing quite well- reading above grade level, excelling in spelling, holding his own with writing, and he discovered that he loved math. But day by day, the happy, talkative, carefree, spirited boy I knew at home was disappearing before my eyes.  In his place was a child who was anxiety-ridden, who had tantrums, meltdowns, and who begged me to bring him home.  And so I did.

Actually it was not that simple. It was not an impulsive decision I made overnight.  I have actually been praying, thinking, talking, and researching about homeschooling for over a year.  As a teacher, of course academics were at the forefront of my mind.  My child has learned so much and I wanted to keep him on track.  But whose track?  I quickly learned that homeschool does not resemble learning in a brick and mortar school.  I learned that my child needed time to decompose... needed lots of time to talk about his learning...and I learned that he is naturally wired to express his interests and guide his own learning.

Although our environment looks much different than a traditional classroom, I apply much of the same learning and pedagogical principles as I did when in the classroom.  Learning is student-centered, interest-based, content is integrated, and I strive to find learning activities that are engaging, motivating, and that require depth of thought.

The last four weeks have seen us exploring various topics such as arctic animals, the Olympics, and the scientific method, just to name a few.  Like those of you in the classroom, I integrate as much as possible to get the most "bang for my buck" and to keep the learning as authentic as possible.  On most days, I am integrating science and/or social studies with language arts and math.

And now... well, now, this homeschool thing is about me as well as him.  This experience the last two months has grown me as a mother and as a teacher.  But that is a story for another day!

Here's a little peek into some of our explorations...

After learning about polar bears, we read about penguins.  I used a fantastic digital book from Scholastic's Storia. We used the word bank page in the photo as we read to compare and contrast information. I would love to give credit to the author, but the page does not have the author's name.  Please let me know if you know who the author is!

Valentine's Day found us experimenting with solids and liquids.  We used Primary Paradise's Valentine's Day Candy Experiment

Next, we moved on to our rocks and mineral study.  I am using Earth's Riches  by Edwin Johns ( a Wright Group leveled reader that is just perfect for my son!)  Last week found us trying another experiment to grow salt crystals.

My son mixed salt into warm water, being sure to follow the directions...

After three days, we had some amazing results!

For Christmas, both my boys received geode exploration kits.  We used the geodes to touch and explore and to bring our science vocabulary words- rock, mineral, crystal- to life.  You can see the kit listed on Amazon here

I created a simple flip flap organizer for his science notebook so he could record his observations and notes from his reading.  For this one, he wrote the definition for each word under the flap.

For this one, he records examples for each word under the flap.

Thank you to Graphics from the Pond, My Cute Graphics, and KG Fonts for sharing their amazing talents!

You can download both of these interactive organizers from Google Drive by clicking here.

Finally, we are using my March Writing Prompts for fun and varied topics related to March.


Just like in the classroom, life is not all rainbows and lollipops. We are getting to the point where we have an equal amount of good and bad days.  And just like all my students over the last twenty-five years, this special little boy is teaching me so very much!

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Saturday, March 1, 2014

Saturday Night Teacher Feature!

Being a teacher can be so difficult.  Aside from just day to day teaching, we have to attend meetings, talk with parents, fill out paper work, find and create materials, grade papers, plan, plan, plan, etc. etc. etc!  Often times it seems that we cannot do enough.

Today, several of my teacher friends are taking some time out to recognize how hard every teacher works.  We have had the amazing opportunity to get to know each other, share ideas, and learn from each other.   Today is our day to "feature" other teachers and recognize their amazing work!

The teacher that I am honored to feature today is Jessica from~


 Jessica and I met through our collaborative blog, Adventures in Literacy Land.  Like me, Jessica is a mother to three boys, has her Masters degree in reading and literacy, and she has found first grade to be irresistible!  Although Jessica has taught grades two and five over her seven year teaching career, she says that first grade is where her heart is!   Jessica states,

"I love to teach kids to read.  I love watching them grow from nonreaders into fluent readers... an experience that you get everyday in first grade."

It is no surprise to learn that Jessica's natural instinct, even as a child, was to teach others.  She always knew she wanted to be a teacher.  Jessica resides in Virginia with her husband and children.  When she is not teaching, blogging, or creating, she enjoys spending time with her boys, going to the movies, shopping, and reading.

 Keep reading to discover Hanging Out in First's
 " Top 3 Greatest Hits!"

Ever have those days when you feel like you are spinning your wheels, spinning plates in the air, and have a cloud of discouragement hanging over your head?  Of course you do!  We are teachers and it comes with the territory.  Jessica's blog post titled "In Need of Some Inspiration" is a must read for those days when you feel like all your efforts are in vain.  Here is the opening paragraph from her blog post:

 I am in need of some inspiration!
The last couple of weeks before winter break were tough and I definitely needed the break, but it was too short!  Don't get me wrong, I was ready to get off of my lazy backside and back into my classroom.  I just wasn't quite ready for the stress of it all!  Some days I just sit and wonder if anything I am doing is right and if I am making any difference at all.  Do you have those days?  Please tell me I am not the only one!

I found Jessica's post to not only be inspirational, but she also shares a book, The End of Molasses Classes by Ron Clark that is now on my Amazon wish list!


Jessica shares:

I originally read The End of Molasses Classes at the beginning of the school year.  It was the perfect way to kick off a new school year (especially after having a difficult class).  I was so inspired and motivated to be the best teacher possible!  I felt like Ron was personally talking to me (and calling me out on all the things that I slack on!).  Then it faded....there was testing, paperwork, data analysis, child studies, IEPs, behavior problems, environmental situations for my students, school politics, not to mention TEACHING!  So now I am reading it again and it is so worth it!  I recommend it to all of you!  Ron Clark is such an amazing teacher, devoting every ounce of his life to his students.

Click here to read the entire blog post!

Jessica's Chunky Monkey Flip Flaps  series is a fun and interactive way to teach the "chunking" strategy to little readers.  This premiere product that I am highlighting is for short "o" and includes a whopping 124 pages for just $6!!   You can check out the complete listing by clicking the picture below.

Chunky Monkey Flip Flaps - Short O Word Families

Phoneme Segmenting - Nature

Finally, check out this FREEBIE from Jessica's store.  It's a segmenting pack with a nature theme- perfect for spring!  It includes sixteen pages and is actually a sample of one of her  phoneme segmentation series and includes three different kinesthetic activities and a fluency check!  Just click on the picture above to download your freebie!

I hope that you enjoyed getting to know the teacher-author behind Hanging out in First.  Click the button below to visit her blog for more fun teaching ideas.  When you are finished, visit the other blogs in the linky below to meet more bloggers and teacher-creators.

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