Zoo day!

Today is Target free admission to the Sacramento Zoo. I like going places with free admission. It makes it worth while to go for the couple of hours my kids will spend there.

In honor of free admission day, I decided today would be about the zoo.

First, I got on the Sacramento Zoo website early this morning. They have a kids section with a listing of animals. I like mammals, and so does Nicholas, so mammals are where I concentrated my efforts. (Click here for the Sacramento Zoo’s mammal page)

You can click on each animal and get a fact sheet about them. So, having explored this for a while I decided that is what we would do for lesson time this morning.

Nicholas loved clicking around on the website. We don’t get on the internet often and let him just click around, so this was fun. He got to choose animals and had to search for them based on their pictures. Then we spelled the name of the animal (tiger or lion) as we looked at the name on the page. We read the information and he thought it was great. He quickly learned that the fact sheets had a pattern of how they were set up and would point to areas of the fact sheet and say, ‘Here’s what it eats. Read it to me please.”

National Geographic Kids also has great information on these animals (click here for a link to their tiger page). We strolled around there for a while too. We also played some of their games. The “Anagram Farm” was a fun game that had Nicholas trying to spell things. They also have videos of the animals, which was fun to watch with him.

Then, I made a list of the animals that he wants to see. He had to help me spell the names of the animals, but we made our list. Now we are off to the zoo with him and his list. I hope this is going to be fun for everyone!

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Color and letter of the day: B and Blue!

We are starting to do a color and letter of the day plan. I let him pick the letter and I pick the color.

We do (always) a few activities:

1. Write the letter in upper and lower case.

2. Write the color in the color (in this case, write “blue” in a blue marker).

3. Use stamps to make words that start with the letter.

Today we also added a “B” scavenger hunt.

Letter B scavenger hunt:

I made up a list of items we have around the house that start with the letter B and put them on  a sheet of paper. The list was both words and pictures (thank you ClipArt, because I am not an artist). Then I put a basket down and gave him the list. His job is to collect the items and put them in the basket, then cross them off the list. He did a great job!

Scavenger hunt list:

Book

Blanket

Banana

Bread

Broom

Ball

Which is which?

Then I made index cards with each word on it. His job was to match the word to the index card. He did a decent job, but we spent about 45 minutes doing it, sounding out words and figuring out which order letters went in for the words. But eventually it was done.

We celebrated with … Brownies!!!

Blue hunt:

We also did a  blue hunt. I pulled out the blue Post-Its (I love Post-Its) and ran around the house sticking them on all things blue. Then we ran around the house and picked them up later and counted how many things we found that were blue by counting the Post-Its.

It really was a fun morning.

Making a schedule.

Everyone needs a schedule. We all have one. If our schedule is simply when we go to bed and when we wake up, we still have a schedule. Kids do better with a schedule, and so do adults.

Now, by schedule, I don’t mean a serious plan. “From 1pm to 1:15pm we break for a snack of apples and cheese,” can be a type of schedule, but that requires serious planning. That type of schedule is also strict.

For us, a schedule is a list of activities we are accomplishing that day and the general time period when we are going to accomplish them (morning, after lunch, after dinner, after Abby (the little sister) goes to bed). We have certain tasks we have to accomplish everyday, and Nicholas gets to help schedule them. This teaches him a few things:

1. That everyday we have things to do.

2. How to plan his day.

3. General time frames.

This also give him some control over his day, which tends to make the day eaiser.

Our morning starts with breakfast and schedule planning. I take a blank sheet of paper and write our four time frames in four boxes (fold the paper in half, then in half again to get the boxes). Then we put our activities in the boxes. He gets to choose a chore (today he wants to sweep and dust, and do it after lunch). He gets to choose when he wants to do math (in the morning), art (after Abby goes to sleep), and a special activity. He wants to play with his small Legos today (we keep them away generally so that Abby doesn’t eat them). He chose to do this after lunch, when Abby is napping. Then we put in some other things. We have playgroup this morning, the gym after lunch, and a walk to do (after dinner).

Then we put the schedule out on the counter and cross things off as we do them. It gives Nicholas some control and organization. It also helps me organize our day a little bit.

If parents know best….

There is an article that I found about “parents knowing best” about the things their children need in education. I saw that this article was part of the Top-Ed website and found it funny. Top-Ed is about thoughts on public education, so when I fist saw this title I thought it was a mistake. Sure enough it is a mistake. (See the article here).

Instead of going the full measure and saying that parents know best so homeschooling should be an options parents consider, the article only mentions the current attacks on charter schools. I understand that not all parents can homeschool. Single parent families need public schools (or private schools). But when saying, “parents know best about choices for their children in education,” it only seems fair to mention homeschooling and private schools. Those are two options the article doesn’t even discuss.

If you truly think that parents know best, then parents should be the teachers. The primary teachers; not the homework overseers or teachers of last resort. Parents should be the ones directing education.

There are choices for people who need to have their kids in school or who cannot stay home. There are many online charters. You can find a friend to leave the kids with during the day and let the kids do the online charter. Some online charters (like the South Sutter Charter School that serves the Sacramento area) are for homeschooling families. But they still stick to age/grade distinctions and do the publicly required tests (many homeschooling families don’t like these). And some online charters, like K-12 and Visions, are public schools, but done at home.

What do you think? Do you as a parent know best? I know my children better than anyone, and I know that I can serve their needs better than a school.

Learning on a long car drive.

First of all, let me say that all car drives in our house are learning drives. Sometimes learning is really simple: we listen to songs. Sometimes we get more complex; We clap to the beat, spell words we see, find letters, count things….We simply spend time talking in the car too. We talk about clouds, why the sun comes up, why a car goes, what the difference between a man and a machine is (I’m sticking with my explanation – God made people and people make machines).

And then there are the longer car drives – I’m thinking anything over an hour. Ever since the move to the booster seat, Nicholas doesn’t sleep in the car, so I have to plan activities.

Sometimes the activities are simple – I give him his Leapster or Tag reading system. But sometimes I am for more interaction.

For more interaction I plan ahead – I draw a map of where we are going with easily recognizable landmarks or signs. If you don’t know the route you are travelling on, turn on Google Maps (on the satellite image), zoom in, and follow your route. You can see signs and interesting landmarks. The map doesn’t need to be that accurate. I tend to draw a curvy line and put landmarks on the curves. Then, I draw a list of things I marked on the map. So he has his map and a crayon, and I have the list.

Then we start the drive. Every so often, or as we are approaching a landmark, we look outside and talk about how close we are to the end. Questions like, “Are we more or less than half-way there?,” and “How far have we gone?,” are great questions to ask. They teach children to recognize fractions as part of a line, learn where a half-way point is, and recognize more than and less than questions. We cross off landmarks on the map until we get to the end.

This helps keep him occupied. It gives him something to look forward to and something to help him keep track of the time. It gives me a required amount of talking with him so he doesn’t zone out to his Leapster. It also makes sure he doesn’t get carried away with asking me “Why” all the time – especially if he has asked why and then wants to know the why of the explanation.

It also starts to teach him about maps and landmarks. I imagine as he gets older I will invest in a set of maps and laminate them so we can do the same thing. Laminating them will allow us to use dry erase markers (or Crayola’s new dry erase crayons) to cross things off and then use the maps again after wiping them off.

This takes some planning, but it is fun to watch his face as we get closer and  closer to the destination.

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