Sunday, August 4, 2013

Swimming Milestone: Climbing Out of Edge of Pool (Safety Skills) - Age 25 Months

Learning how to climb out of pool

Ever since Damien was a newborn, part of his home swim lessons has been hanging on the edge of the pool, and once he learned how to crawl, he has been practicing climbing out of the pool from the edge, with my help.

I have always given him as little help as possible so that he could learn to do it by himself one day.

Being able to get out of the pool - especially in the case of an accident where there is no one there to help you - is a vital safety skill and is part of the reason why I have always emphasized it in our lessons.

One or two weeks ago, Damien, at age 2 years 1 month old, finally climbed out of the pool on his own.

We were pretty excited!

Is learning how to climb out of the edge of the pool part of your swim lesson experience?

Thursday, July 25, 2013

High School & Plans for My Eight-Year-Old

High School: Plans for My Eight-Year-Old

This summer I have been mulling over our plans for the future, realizing that I am going to have to alter my original intentions when I began this homeschooling journey.

See, from the time I first decided I wanted to homeschool my oldest child, I always said that I did not want to homeschool him all the way through high school.

I wanted him to have an accredited diploma, and I also wanted him to be able to make use of the many free resources public high school offers: foreign language, science labs, sports and physical activities, interesting electives, and so on.

But then, somewhere along the line I kind of forgot how quickly he had been going and what that would mean for enrolling him in high school.

I don't know why it never hit me before, as we have been on this "accelerated education" path for quite some time now. I suppose I just never put the two and two together and connected the dots.

High School: Plans for My Eight-Year-Old

What dots? Well, Hunter is currently somewhere around three grade levels ahead (he started 5th grade halfway through the year he "normally" would have been in 2nd grade). And because of this, I only recently realized that by the time Hunter will be old enough to traditionally start middle school, he will have already completed the entire middle school curriculum.

Which also means that by the time he is old enough to start high school, he will be pretty much done with the entire high school curriculum, as well.


There are several ways I could move forward at this point:

1. Early enrollment. I could attempt to work with the schools to enroll him when he is academically ready for the work, but I am probably not going to take this path.

For one, I have my doubts on whether or not the schools would be accommodating. And two? He would be ready for middle school sometime this fall and the kid still plays with nerf guns and wears Ninjago underwear. He's eight. Interacting with older kids within society? Great. The not-very-supervised, full-of-kids-who-are-bored-out-of-their-mind jungle that is junior high? Not so much, at least not for an eight-year-old.

High School: Plans for My Eight-Year-Old

2. Keep on keepin' on. At the moment I have decided that we will, for now, plan to continue homeschooling for the next few years as we work towards early "graduation" (completion of K-12 curriculum).

The curriculum provider we use (Time4Learning) actually just expanded their offerings (as in, this happened within the last week!) and now have a high school curriculum available, including four years of English, Math, Science, and Social Studies. Hooray!

This was such a relief to hear of this news, as I have spent quite a bit of time plotting out where on earth to buy textbooks, online courses, or in-person classes to cover high school level material, and it was looking so overwhelming (and expensive). Such a huge load has been taken off my back and this now seems doable.

High School: Plans for My Eight-Year-Old

3. High school after high school. In all of this pondering I had this funny thought that even if by the time he is old enough to go to high school he has already completed the entire basic curriculum, that doesn't mean he can't still attend.

Many states and school districts allow homeschoolers to enroll in public school classes part time, taking only a few classes (such as art and choir) without taking the traditional full course load.

He could certainly, as a fourteen-year-old, simply take some free classes such as foreign languages, computer classes, physical education, woodworking, photography, all of those classes that the rest of the world would have to pay big bucks for if they wanted to, he can access for free, simply because of his age.

This is something that could also be possible to do for part of the day while he goes to community or online college for the remainder of the day, pursues his interests, or more.

Of course, I'm not exactly sure where we will be living at that point, or what kind of school district we will be working with, or even if that is something that he will want to do.

But I guess the nice thing about homeschooling, and specifically accelerated homeschooling (finishing early), is that it opens the door to all kinds of possibilities and choices, so he will actually have the freedom to choose how he wants to spend his adolescent years, from an array of nearly endless options.

Hunter is currently 8 years, 4 months old 

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Toddler Activities Week in Review 7.21.13

Week in Review 7.21.13
Playing with a 24-piece floor puzzle, which he still needs some help with, but gets it out by himself a lot and has gotten better at putting it together

Damien was 2 years, 1 month old this week

I didn't post a weekly summary last week, so this will be a summary of the past two weeks (at least the things that I got pictures of). We have used the same learning materials for both of those weeks, and I have decided to go ahead and start using a two-week schedule with Damien like I do with my 8-year-old.

Having my plans in two-week blocks gives a little more room for error, as it always seems to happen that there are at least one or more days where something comes up and we are away from the house, or just get caught up in some project, or some other thing that distracts us from having are "usual" daily routine.

And then I get stressed and feel behind, which is of course never fun, so planning in two week increments leaves more room for error, as even if when there are a couple of days where not much gets done, it doesn't make or break the entire learning plan. You can see the schedule I use here.

Week in Review 7.21.13
Snuggled up learning constellations

Our digital flash card playlist of the past two weeks included:
He also regularly asked to watch some other addition videos, as well as the history timeline song, and occasionally the Scientific Twinkle Twinkle Little Star song.

Week in Review 7.21.13

Watching part of his math playlist while doing a puzzle.

Week in Review 7.21.13

Damien is still very interested in coloring. He loves to "scribble" elaborately with lots of different colors in specific places on the page. It's definitely not mindless lines and he takes it very seriously! He asks to color multiple times a day and will often sit for quite long periods (30+ minutes).

We had to start using colored pencils or crayons only because, well, this:

Week in Review 7.21.13

There have been other times where he has colored himself a little bit, but it was usually just a few marks on his arm or something.

One day he was sitting in his chair coloring, and there were some bags on the table so I couldn't really see him from where I was sitting. When he was done and asked to get up, I found this. Took a while to get off, to say the least. He certainly was thorough!

Week in Review 7.21.13

Impromptu color sorting with this Playful Patterns toy.

Week in Review 7.21.13

His most recent favorite thing to do on my phone is... play on my calendar?

He loves to open it up and click on all the numbers while naming them. I am pretty sure he knows all of them up to 30, although I pretty much never "test" him so I'm never really sure of everything he knows. He just spontaneously shows me his knowledge from time to time.

Week in Review 7.21.13

Another random math thing he has been doing is playing with rulers and some clamps from my toolbox.

He calls the clamps "measure mice" for some reason (in this Leap Frog video that is on Netflix they use "measure mice" to measure things, teaching nonstandard measurement units). He takes the clamps and points to different numbers. He actually used the centimeters portion of the ruler to count backwards from 30 one day.

Make Your Own Smooth Stones Natural Play Set (for vocabulary development, math, sensory, & imaginative play)

He played with this smooth stone natural play set a few times, mostly just as free play.

Week in Review 7.21.13

We have worked on back floating a handful of times, which he sometimes is just fine with and sometimes protests still. He has gotten better now that I have been singing "The Wheels on the Bus" while we practice and doing silly motions.

Week in Review 7.21.13

We swam quite a few times, and while we were at a pool one day he actually climbed out of the edge of the pool by himself (deep end), without a ladder. I am so thrilled he is able to do this now, as it is such an important safety skill.

Week in Review 7.21.13

Walking on the balance beam. We did balance activities a few times, but haven't been very consistent with incorporating these daily.

Some playtime pictures:

Week in Review 7.21.13

Throwing rocks in the lake. He loves doing this way too much.

Week in Review 7.21.13

Playing with miscellaneous puzzles. He does so many puzzles every day, it is another one of his favorites!

Week in Review 7.21.13

Enjoying the sun at a family member's backyard.

Plans for the next two weeks:
Art: Paintings by Vincent Van Gogh, Set 2
Biology: Birds of North America, set 1 (ducks)
General Science: Constellations, set 2
Meteoroid, Meteor, Meteorite
Geography: Countries of Europe (locations)
History: Presidents of the USA
Human Anatomy: Bones of the Foot
Mathematics: Telling Time, Part 1 - Hours

That will be our flash card play list at least. The rest will probably be spontaneous, we are going to be really busy!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Smooth Stones Natural Play Set (for Math, Vocabulary Development, Sensory, and More)

Make Your Own Smooth Stones Natural Play Set (for vocabulary development, math, sensory, & imaginative play)

A few months ago we were visiting Lake Michigan and, while relaxing in the sand at the water's edge, I couldn't help being fascinated with all of the rocks. Their variety of size, color, shape.

 My mind, of course, couldn't stop wondering what educational purpose I could use them for (it's a curse).

  Make Your Own Smooth Stones Natural Play Set (for vocabulary development, math, sensory, & imaginative play)

I ended up collecting a wide variety of black ones (once dry, they ended up being dark grey) to make a natural playset with. Their size varies, with some being as big as a golf ball to some being as small as an apple seed. I didn't count them, but my guess is there are about 80 rocks in total. Here are some of my ideas for utilizing this collection:

 Classifying & Sorting. They can be classified and sorted into piles or groups based on size, shape, or other unique characteristics.
• Ordering some or all of them from biggest to smallest, longest to shortest, heaviest to lightest, etc.
• Using ordinal words (first, second, third / next, last).
• Vocabulary development with size words, such as big, large, medium, small, tiny, and so on (there is a quite a substantial variety in size so it opens up the door to using words other than simply "big" and "little").
• Counting and Arithmetic. They can be used to count or do addition and subtraction with.
• Comparison. Discussing mathematical and other differeneces, such as "There are ten more medium rocks than there are large rocks", or "There are fewer triangular shaped rocks than there are oval shaped rocks".
• Shapes & Describing Features. Lots of vocabulary development opportunities for describing the uneven and unique shapes of the individual rocks (curved or pointed sides, number of surfaces, shapes of different areas, and so on), and how they differ or are similar to each other.
• Sensory. The smooth stones are a wonderful sensory play experience, whether it's rubbing the smooth texture of a large rock in your palm, or running your fingers through the pile of tiny rocks. The sounds they make when rubbed, bumped, or banged together is an additional sensory experience.
• Building & Design Making Material. The rocks can be stacked or piled together to make structures, or can be arranged on a flat surface to create designs.
• Imaginative Play. The open-ended nature of the rock set can be wonderful for your little child's imagination. The rocks can be a prop for other toys (such as using them with blocks or animal toys) or they can be their own toy and be transformed into whatever your child's imagination wants them to be.

Make Your Own Smooth Stones Natural Play Set (for vocabulary development, math, sensory, & imaginative play)

Damien (age 2 years 1 month old) was quite fascinated with the rocks when I introduced them, first just mostly exploring them (listening to the sound of the smallest rocks shaking in a container, feeling and moving and stacking the others) and then making up stories and dialogs with them (talking about how one was his "friend" and calling them animal names and so on).

This is definitely a toy I plan on keeping up high and only getting out under supervision in a designated place, as I don't want to start finding random rocks scattered throughout the house.

Do you have any natural, open-ended play sets that you have created for your child? Would love to hear about them.

Damien is currently 2 years, 1 month old (25 months)

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Damien Putting Together Puzzle (Video) 25 Months

Just for fun... A demonstration of Damien (currently age 25 months) putting together a simple 12-piece jigsaw puzzle.

He has only been doing jigsaw puzzles for a little over a month (you can see how I taught him here) and has caught on pretty quickly.

How to Teach Your Little Toddler to Do Jigsaw Puzzles (ages 1-2 years)

The kid loves puzzles and does this particular puzzle multiple times a day. He will complete the puzzle quite quickly, flip it over, do it again, and just keep repeating the whole sequence over and over again.

 I should probably have more available to him than I currently do. I am going to begin getting out some of the "bigger kid" puzzles I have (24+ pieces) and I am sure he will love them.

  Damien is currently 2 years, 1 month old (25 months)

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Toddler Activities: Week in Review 7.7.13 (2 years 1 month old)

Toddler Activities Week in Review (7.7.13) How Damien plays with play dough: tearing it apart into little pieces

Damien was 2 years, 1 month old this week (25 months)

A few people commented how many activities we got done last week and what a great week it was and, yes, it was a pretty productive week in terms of toddler activities.

But not every week is like that.

Not saying that it is difficult to do those activities. When I am thinking about it (and have the materials already made and planned) it is a seamless, nearly effortless part of our routine.

But some weeks life just gets ahead of me, and the planned learning activities don't happen so much.

This was one of those weeks.

Toddler Activities Week in Review (7.7.13)

The beginning of this week we had relatives visiting from out of town and were entertaining them and going places with them.

And the end of this week was filled with lots of Independence Day celebrations, outings, and parties.

Toddler Activities Week in Review (7.7.13)

We really could have done a lot more, in the way of specific learning materials, but I just didn't ever get around to planning which things to do and so it didn't happen.

Here are a few pictures I got of some of the things that did happen (all of them unplanned):

Toddler Activities Week in Review (7.7.13)

Damien did quite a bit of coloring this week. He is extremely particular about having every color available and will keep asking for a color if one of the hues is missing. The above picture he intensely worked on for about an hour!

Toddler Activities Week in Review (7.7.13)

At an earlier stage in his picture, he pointed to the purple squiggles and said, "That's /a/! (said the short a sound)"

He also did quite a bit of coloring with his crayons, and did some coloring on my walls (whoops).

Toddler Activities Week in Review (7.7.13)

Another impromptu art/sensory experience was "painting" with cherries. I was cutting up some cherries on a paper plate for him to eat and noticed how beautiful the designs from the juice were. So I gave him a piece of paper and let him have at it.

Toddler Activities Week in Review (7.7.13)

He really enjoyed this. It was neat to watch the different colors the cherries made and talk about the changes.

It started out a bright pink but turned purple as it dried, even greyish in some areas where he had been "painting" heavily. The juice on the paper plate stayed pink (and orange!), though, so I'm guessing it varies based on the paper you use.

Of course, he was painting and eating at the same time. No waste here!

Toddler Activities Week in Review (7.7.13)

Another day I was cutting up some cheese for him and he said, "Look it's a farm!"

I had no idea what he was talking about, until I finally saw the logo on the cheese of a barn, fence, and some cows. I thought it was interesting how he said "farm" and not "cow" or even "barn". I guess he gets the concept.

Toddler Activities Week in Review (7.7.13)

Playing with Mega Blocks (his big brother made part of that structure in the picture, and Damien was tearing pieces down and adding more). I was pretty busy and didn't get many pictures of him playing this week, but he also did a lot of trains, books, his alphabet magnet matching game, and others.

Toddler Activities Week in Review (7.7.13)

One day as we were headed out the door to go to a sporting event, Damien spotted this puzzle in his closet and got all excited. So we took it with him and he played with it on the bleachers.

Toddler Activities Week in Review (7.7.13)

When we were at Lowes one day he saw this display and became so excited. He kept asking for different letters and numbers.

Toddler Activities Week in Review (7.7.13)

He watched his flash card play list a few times, but not the usual 2-3 times per day as we were gone so much. It was slightly changed from last week and included:

He also regularly asked to watch "soccer ball" (plus 1's) and watched Hunter's timeline song a couple times.

Toddler Activities Week in Review (7.7.13)

He spent a long time rearranging these (empty, clean) tubes that were going to be used to launch off fireworks later in the evening. I love watching him get so into things like this and wonder what's going on in his head.

Toddler Activities Week in Review (7.7.13)

He spent a long time playing with this ball game at a party. 

Toddler Activities Week in Review (7.7.13)

Playing in a kiddie pool. We found a baby toad near this pool and he learned the difference between frogs and toads.

Toddler Activities Week in Review (7.7.13)

During the several different fireworks displays we got to see, his reaction was either quiet and reserved (see above picture), occasionally startled and scared at a loud or unexpected one (but only for a minute), or naming off all the colors of the different fireworks that were going off.

Here are next week's plans:

Toddler Activity Plans for Next Week (7.7.13)
Toddler Activity Plans for Next Week (7.7.13)

Thanks for reading

(I'm linking this post up to Tot School & The Preschool Corner)

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Toddler Activities: Week in Review 6.29.13 (2 years, 0 months)

Toddler "School": Week in Review 6.23.13
Scribbling with both hands at the same time is his newest thing

Damien was 2 years, 0 months old this week

Quote of the week, after he stole an entire red bell pepper off of my friend's counter:

"Oh, don't worry about it. He can have it if he needs it."
To which he interjects, "I need it!" (and ate the whole thing)

Here is our week in photos!

Toddler "School": Week in Review 6.23.13
Watching his flash card playlist during breakfast. This baby loves his flash cards!

Damien's flash card playlist included:

The playlist is 8 minutes long as he usually asks to watch it during breakfast, lunch, or snack, and sometimes before bed (good old delaying bedtime technique, no?)

He often asks to watch or listen to big brother's timeline song, too.

Toddler "School": Week in Review 6.23.13
Presidents again, again please!

He was absolutely obsessed with presidents this week. He asked to watch the presidents video dozens of times, and begged me to teach him all of the names on his president placemat. Even though I only wanted to teach him the first row, he kept pestering me for the names of all the other ones, too.

Toddler Week in Review (2 years, 0 months) 6.29.13
When I first showed him the bones of the skull he wasn't very interested, but then he changed his mind and started asking for them over and over

His other encyclopedic knowledge for the week:

The Beatitudes (KJV, first verse only: I would say a few words at a time a couple of times a day and he would repeat it
Music by Chopin (during nap time, I would say, "This is music by Chopin" and the CD would play while he slept
The bones of the skull 
Counting to 40 on a number line 
Counting to 100 on abacus (did a couple of times the whole week)

We did the bones of the skull cards (it takes a few seconds to look at them all) during story time while we read board books.

Toddler "School": Week in Review 6.23.13
Planet obsessed

He was quite obsessed with planets this week. In addition to regularly asking to read his planets book, he did this puzzle (can't find the link online - sorry!) over and over and over again.

Toddler "School": Week in Review 6.23.13
Sudden interest in this board book

At this point he knows a bunch of states by shape and location. We occasionally point out states during meal and snack time. Although I didn't plan on using it, he has been getting out his state lift-a-flap book (from Target dollar section) a lot and naming (or asking me to name) all of the states.

Toddler Week in Review (2 years, 0 months) 6.29.13
Reading a homemade planet book

This week in reading we did:

The planets book (learning planet names, ordinal numbers
Color couplets (we used this to work on reading color word sight words
Pronouns (only did these for a few days, then he wasn't interested anymore)

We didn't get to the family verb book or the Spanish colors yet this week, but we'll probably do those next week.

We didn't do much in phonics this week, except the occasional self-initiated letter play, such as naming letter sounds with the foam letters in the bathtub (he does this on his own) and spelling out nonsense words with his alphabet puzzle (one day he was making a bunch of different words starting with HO, such as HOP, HOT, and lots of nonsense words likes HOF, HOS, and would ask we each time he spelled one, "How 'bout dis one, Mommy?")

Toddler "School": Week in Review 6.23.13
Spirals and swirls

For writing this week we intended to do shape copying, mazes, and journaling. I actually couldn't find our maze book so we didn't do that this week, and for some reason journaling fell by the wayside.

We did get to shape copying, where I drew a shape and asked him if he could draw it too, but he mostly just drew spirals when he attempted to copy the shapes I made. He really did seem to be trying to make the shape, but would kind of just keep going with it (hence the spiral rather than just a circle or other closed shape). Then he started to just make a bunch of swirls and spirals, so I rolled with it and let him do his thing! He loves scribbling.

He did name all of the shapes I drew and asked me to draw certain shapes (he asked for a triangle and a parallelogram).

Toddler "School": Week in Review 6.23.13
Back floating practice in the tub

One thing we have been doing to help with his swimming is to practice certain things in the bathtub. In this case, just back floating (or, at least, getting comfortable being on his back in water). All week he still wasn't a fan, but on Friday night (the third night this week we practiced) he finally was able to relax and actually said, "I like it!" and started singing the Scientific Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star with me (our "back floating" song).

Toddler "School": Week in Review 6.23.13
Cross pattern crawling: good for the brain!

He has had a lot of fun with his active balance activities (somersaults, log rolls, and balance beam walking) and cross-pattern crawling exercise (through the tunnel). His big brother (age 8) loves to do these activities with him!

He can't quite do the balance beam without help yet. We did just get it out for the first time this week, and I think he will be able to do it soon, he just has to slow down, as he tries to go to fast and ends up with one foot on the ground. I'm also thinking about raising it (it is just a sanded, painted 2x4 laying on the ground) so the concept of walking only on the board, not on the floor, will be more apparent.

Of course, he spends 95% of his waking hours in free play! Here are some playing pictures this week:

Toddler "School": Week in Review 6.23.13

Unexpected sensory "play" with blueberries.

Toddler "School": Week in Review 6.23.13

Last week I posted about how to teach your little toddler (ages 1-2) how to do jigsaw puzzles, well he obsessively repeats this one Mickey Mouse 12-piece puzzle, and doesn't need my help anymore! The techniques really do work. He chooses to play with this puzzle at least twice a day.

Toddler Week in Review (2 years, 0 months) 6.29.13

He gets out his shape matching game regularly (printable coming soon).

Toddler "School": Week in Review 6.23.13

Banging on pegs.

Toddler "School": Week in Review 6.23.13

Wrestling time with Daddy and brother.

Toddler "School": Week in Review 6.23.13

Snuggling on Mommy's lap while she makes my books.

Toddler "School": Week in Review 6.23.13

And of course, trains! This baby loves, loves, loves his trains.

Here is the link to last week's activity plans. We got to most of it, including water play, which I didn't take pictures of. Still writing up my activities for next week (about half of the materials will probably be repeats from this week, with some new ones added).

Damien is currently 24 months old

This post is linked up to Tot School, For the Kids Friday, Preschool Corner, Montessori Monday, & Show & Share Saturday!