Classroom Update

Classroom Update

Hello out there!  I know, it’s been awhile. But we’ve been so busy. And it’s all been good. Well, mostly all. And mostly good. 

The highlights of our weeks have been in reading. DJ is progressing so well with his reading. I am so amazed and really enjoying it as well. 


Each day I prepare a lesson from Ordinary Parents Guide to Teaching Reading. This usually involves a list of words that follow a particular pattern. In the photo above, the lesson was on words that end with lk, lb or lp. I find clip art online to print for DJ to match written words to. Here you see milk, help, silk, gulp, sulk, hulk, bulb & kelp. These lists usually require vocabulary lessons before the reading lesson. On this day, DJ did not know the word sulk or kelp. 


This is what DJ looks like when he’s reading a word, sprawled out on the floor holding a written word above his head. I struggle to get him to at least occasionally sit upright. I cannot imagine him sitting at a desk!


After matching the list of words, the lesson will have a little story that I type in cursive a find a clip art pictures that sort of matches. Each story builds on the lessons from the days before so they are gradually getting more complex and also more interesting. 

Today DJ found this gem that I bought last fall at a consignment sale for $4. It is a printed set of puzzle pairs with a picture on one side and a word on the other along with the upper & lower case of the first letter in the word. There are 26 pairs, one for each letter. 

I had held off having him work with this because, although you could just match the first sound to the picture, I wanted him to be ready to take the challenge of reading the words in full. This aligns well with the Montessori use of 3 part card which are a picture, a matching word and a third piece with both picture and word as an accuracy check. The idea behind 3 part cards is to use pictures the child already knows the vocabulary for such as kangaroo, lion and queen so that they are focused on how those known words look when written. 
There has been an ongoing debate over teaching reading – to use only phonics and sounding out words or to use only a whole word method with lots of sight word memorization. Of course, as with most things, a middle ground is most often the best approach. So with all the phonics work we do, this puzzle activity is one example of encouraging DJ to recognize words in context rather than sounding them out syllable by syllable. 


Although we’ve been doing a lot of reading work, DJ is still plugging away at math. He *almost* has his addition facts memorized, although I’m not sure he realizes it. He needs to do work with larger numbers (up to 9+9=18) but anything with a solution below 10 he’s got down. 

The other night, he was so engaged with addition, I found him at bedtime typing equations into his little calculator to check the results. The next day, he informs me he doesn’t need to do anymore math because the calculator can do it for him. I smiled and said once he had it memorized he would be faster than a calculator. Later that day, he tried again with, “but I know that 2+5=7 because I checked it on the calculator last night so I don’t need to do math work anymore.”  I laughed and told him he’d just proved my point because he’ll never have to take the time to type 2+5 into a calculator again because his brain already knows it. 

As he is finishing up his addition facts, he has begun to work on his subtraction facts. Although he intuitively knows that 7-5=X is the same as 5+X=7, he still has to work through the process of saving those memories into his brain. But I can see them coming much more quickly than addition. 


In the meantime, he’s also continuing to work with the Complete Bead Material. In this photo he has selected the Long Chain of Four and labeled it from 4 to 64. Then he read the labels to skip count by 4’s – 4, 8, 12, 16, 20, etc. This, of course, is a beginning step in memorizing multiplication math facts. The little squares you see above each 4th set of 4 beads represents the point where that section of chain would fold into a square and then entire chain would fold into a cube, so DJ has placed a cube at the end. 


Is that enough?  No! Of course not!  DJ has also been participating in a mini-co-op class called Rad Science. It’s only 3 sessions long but it’s so much fun!  The first class they studied magnetism and made their own little electro-magnets. In the photo above, the topic was micro-organisms so they are putting yeast into warm water with sugar and then choosing a variable to see what would happen. Examples of the variable options were – carbonated soda, dish soap, salt or brown sugar. DJ chose brown sugar and learned he made his little yeast *very* happy!


They put a balloon over the top to capture carbon dioxide from the yeast. Although the balloon is only starting to fill in this photo, by the time we made it home from the class, it was very full. The paper plate DJ is holding is his drawing of a cell with a cell membrane, nucleus, etc. As you can probably guess from his drawing, that part of the class was just a bit over his head.!


And then there is Building Foundations of Scientific Understanding. I’ve been taking this work very slowly, trying to do once chapter each month. So where is my blog post on last month’s work?  Well, to be honest, it’s in the trash bin. The topic was Gravity and as excited as I was for it, it fell dead flat for DJ. I had barely started the lesson when he essentially said “yeah, yeah, things fall down…you can stop now.”  I tried reading the books I got from the library on the topic and he stopped me and said “Can we take these back to the library and not get anymore books?”  Wha??  

So, you can imagine my uncertainty when we began the next chapter on Night vs Day and Time Zones. But I had nothing to fear. DJ dove right in and ate up the whole lesson. We started with a lantern and globe in a darkened room, spinning the globe to the east and and watching the light from the lantern make day and night and I began to introduce the concept of time zones. 


We then read the books I found at the library on the subject. The book Day and Night was appropriate level for DJ but I was very disappointed how it kept making the point that Day began with the sun rising and night with the sun setting. The whole point of this chapter in BFSU was to stress that it is the *earth* that moves, not the sun. So I didn’t need a book to contradict me so boldly. 

The book on Copernicus will be great in a few years, but it was above DJ’s level and he asked me to stop not even halfway through. The book on the moon was suggested by BFSU in anticipation of questions arising about it in this chapter, so it was interesting but not really on point. 

The gem of this book collection was Time Zones. Being a new concept to DJ, this was the part of the lesson DJ really needed guidance on and this book was just the right level to educate him. I even learned something new!  Did you know before trains, each town would have an official “town clock” and visitors would use that clock to adjust their watches to “lockdown time”?


After completing the lesson and reading the books, I had DJ complete his “science journal”. I was (and am!) so impressed by the detail in his drawing of the earth showing part In daytime and part in nighttime. As usual, I wrote the text but they are DJ’s words. This time though I printed the “title” with dashed lines and had DJ write over them.  


Finally, DJ completed his science journal on time zones. Although his time zone lines don’t meet at the poles, I was very happy to see he remembered from the book that the straight time zone lines shift around countries and islands. By the way – did you notice how DJ *insisted* that I label the top pole as the South Pole and the bottom as the the Notth Pole?  I love the unbiased innocence of children!


Whew! Are we done? Oh, wait!  DJ is still taking swim lessons as part of s homeschool program at the local Y and he’s still taking piano lessons. Next month he’ll start an 8-week session at a new homeschool co-op that will include Wedo Robotics. And soon after that summer will be here!!

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