Friday, January 27, 2012

It's About More Than Just Pencil and Paper

So I expect to change my mind when the kids get older, but for us right now, homeschooling is about more than just pencil and paper.  It's more than academic seat work, checking skills off a list, or unit studies.  For my almost-5-next-week and 3 year old, homeschooling is about:

Weekly trips to the library.  
Instilling a love of books and reading at an early age.  Making the library a fun, safe, comfortable place of discovery and joy.  Sophie and Xander both have favorite series of books (Xander's is a set of nonfiction easy readers about different vehicles, Sophie's are Fancy Nancy, Madeline, Kevin Henkes' books, and now recently, Angelina Ballerina).  They know where the books are in the library and run to them every time.  I have to limit how many books we take home (as many as will fill my tote).  The library is one of the few places where you can be as excessive as you like.  I always feel rich when I leave with a bag full of books.

The learning lifestyle.
When we go to the grocery store, Sophie reads the can labels.  Now that she's learning about  money, we go over the weekly sale fliers together.  We have a billion discussions every day about:  why the man outside of WalMart is asking for donations for Marines.  Why we have to obey the speed limit.  What is the speed limit?  What is a star?  What is the sun?  What is the moon?  Why is that person using a white cane?  Why do women marry mean men?  We stop and examine the rocks, the insects, the clouds over the mountain.  We count stairs.  We find the letter, 'S' in signs as we drive by.  In short, learning is always on our minds.  It is a natural part of the day.

Getting together with friends.
We have play dates every week, where the kids can run, play, imagine, and explore with their friends. Sometimes they fight.  Sometimes somebody throws sand.  Sometimes somebody doesn't want to be friends anymore.  These are all things we talk about, redirect or discipline as they happen.  I'm able to take these little playground trials and turn them into learning experiences.  It helps that the other moms have the same discipline styles and goals as I do, and we all trust each other with our children.  Sometimes we learn a little.  Last week we made butter.  The week before that, painted with pudding.  This summer we're planning a trip to the local courthouse.

Being together. 
I feel so blessed to spend time with my kids.  To be intimately aware of the details of their day, and able to interject or stand back as the occasion requires.  Catching those moments when I really see my daughter and think, "Oh my God, you're beautiful."

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Counting Coins - Lesson 5, Counting the Change Game {Pennies and Nickles}

This game can be played with any coins, but we're limiting it to only pennies and nickels, since that's what we've learned so far.  Fun, versatile, and the child won't know she's learning!  It provides great, hands-on practice at counting out change.

Lesson:  Counting the Change Game, Pennies and Nickels

Objective:  Child will use pennies and nickels to create specific change, up to 10 cents.

Materials:  Coin manipulatives or real coins.  Dice.  Construction paper.  Crayons / writing utensils.

1.  Review the pocket chart showing coin values you have been building in the last few lessons.  Review that a penny is one cent, a nickel is five cents, and five pennies equal one nickel.

2.  On a sheet of construction paper, create a table with three columns.  Label the first column, 'Penny', the second column, 'Nickel', and leave the third column blank.  I found a cool idea on Pintrest to place a die in a small, lidded, Tupperware-style container (I used a mason jar, because that's what I had handy).  This way you don't have dice flying across the room every time you toss them.  Pretty cool, huh?

2.  Toss the die.  I used a die with numbers written on it, instead of dots, to make the game simpler.  Write the number that comes up in the third column of your chart.  In this case, we got the number 10, so I wrote, '10 cents'.

3.  Instruct the child to create, '10 cents', on the chart.  She will probably use pennies first, because that is what is most concrete and familiar.  Make sure she places all the pennies in the 'Penny' column of  the chart.

4.  Draw a line underneath the pennies, and ask, "Can you think of another way to show '10 cents'?  How about using nickels?"  Write, '10 cents' again in the third column.  Guide the child in placing two nickels in the 'nickel' column.  Count to make sure that it equals 10 cents.

5.  Draw a line underneath the nickels, and ask, "Can you think of another way to show, '10 cents'?  How about using pennies and nickels?"  Guide the child in placing the nickel first in the nickel column, then counting out 5 pennies.  Note the questioning look on Sophie's face.  This will be difficult at first.  Be sure to provide lots of support.  It will get easier as the child gets more practice.

6.  Roll the die again, and repeat the process.  If you need to, add on a second (or third!) sheet of construction paper to continue your chart.  I wrote each new money value in a different color, to help distinguish visually.

Counting Coins - Lesson 4, How Much Is A Nickle?

This is an introductory lesson to the value of nickles, so your child probably won't fully grasp the concept of 'one nickle equals five pennies'.  Don't worry about that, you will have plenty of opportunities to practice making change later.  This just lays the groundwork.  Remember, we're going slow to give the child ample and varied opportunities to completely grasp the concept.  

Lesson :  How Much Is A Nickle?

Objective:  Child will understand that a nickle is worth 5 cents.

Materials:  'Hundred Penny Pie' sheet.  Printout of pennies and nickles.  Construction paper.  Glue.  Crayons.  Scissors.  Money pocket chart.

1.  Go to the pocket chart.  Review that one penny equals one cent.

2.  Put a card saying, '5 cents' on the next line of the chart.  Instruct child to count out five pennies to make five cents.

3.  Say, "There's another way you can make five cents."  Show a nickle.  Say, "A nickle is worth five cents." Put the nickle on the next line of the pocket chart, with the labels, 'nickle', and, '5 cents'.

4.  Pull out the Hundred Penny Pie sheet you made last lesson.

5.Say, "Now we're going to show how five pennies equals one nickle.  A penny is five cents.  A nickle is five cents.  They're both worth the same thing, five cents."  Have child color and cut out pennies and glue them onto the new Hundred Penny Pie (the one I used had each 5 cent portion cut apart).  Color and glue a nickle over each 5 cent pie piece.  Glue down on construction paper, and label.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Counting Coins - Lesson 3, How Much is a Penny?

Today's activity comes from 'Counting On Coins' by the AIMS Education Foundation.  One of the things I love about AIMS is that it builds slowly, and at the end children have a firm grasp of whatever concept is being taught.  The 'Hundred Penny Pie' activity in this lesson will be revisited and built upon for several weeks.

I've also pulled in a pocket chart that we will add to as we learn the value of each new coin.  My wonderful library has a kit of coin activities, including coin manipulatives and a pocket chart.  I may have to buy a pocket chart after this unit, because I've really liked using it!

Lesson:  How Much Is A Penny?

Purpose:  Child will identify a penny by name and value.

Materials:  'Hundred Penny Pie' worksheet and printout of pennies from 'Counting On Coins'.  Crayons.  Glue.  Scissors. Coins.  Pocket chart.  Paper.

1.  Show child a pile of coins.  Ask her to identify a penny.  Place the penny in the pocket chart.  Say, "You're right, this is a penny."  Write, 'penny', on a piece of paper and place next to the coin in the pocket chart.  Then say, "A penny is worth one cent.  We write, 'one cent' like this."  And write '1 c' on another piece of paper, and place in pocket chart. (Yes, it's not pretty.  But it does the job!  You could print the words out, but I didn't want to take the time.)

2.  Give child the printout of pennies, and instruct her to cut them out (she only needs 25 for this activity), and color them.  Then glue them on the 'Hundred Penny Pie' printout.

3.  Ask, "How much is a penny?"  When she answers, "One cent", reply, "That's right.  How much is this penny?  How about this one?  And this one?"  As you ask, point to each penny she has glued on her pie.  Then ask, "How many pennies do you have all together?"  When she counts up 25 pennies, ask, "How much are all of these pennies worth together?"  Answer:  25 cents.

4.  I know this activity seems simple, but it is necessary to establish the value of pennies, before you move on to nickles, dimes and quarters.  The end goal is for the child to understand the relationship between all the coins (one nickle is five pennies, one dime is 10 pennies, or 2 nickles, or one nickle and five pennies, etc), and this is an abstract concept that must be approached slowly.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Syllable Sort

I found this activity on my new favorite teacher blog, Mrs. T's First Grade Class.  She posts lots of great, and cheap, ideas, many of which can be adapted to the single-child homeschooling format.  Go check her out!  Beware, though, you may find yourself pinning every other post of hers.

It's important to do lots of practice identifying syllables, because in doing so you're helping your child hone her auditory processing skills.  Auditory processing is a key element to becoming a proficient reader.  AP practice includes things like rhyming (did you know all the Mother Goose nursery rhymes help build that section of your child's brain?!), identifying the beginning and ending sounds in words, syllables, differentiating between voiced and unvoiced consonants ('f' and 'v', 'd' and 't' - go ahead, say the sounds, your mouth makes the same shape, just one is voiced and the other isn't.  Cool, huh?)

Another plus to this activity is that the child creates a pictograph at the end.  Sophie immediately identified it as a pictograph when questioned, because we've been talking about them all week.  

Lesson:  Syllable Sort

Objective:  Child will identify syllables in words, and practice her auditory processing skills.

Materials:  Printout (found here).  Glue.  Scissors.

1.  Spend some time practicing finding the syllables in words.  As you will see from the video below, this was difficult for Sophie.  We spent a lot of time 'playing' with words.  A great way to do this with a beginner is to have them put their hand under their chin and slowly say the word.  Count the number of times your chin drops. That's how many syllables are in the word.  Also, you can 'clap' out the syllables.

2.  Instruct child to cut out the pictures in the printout.  Have her identify each one, find the number of syllables for it, and glue it in the corresponding column.

3.  The completed product.  I let Sophie identify the pictures, and didn't correct her when she 'incorrectly' identified the picture, as long as it made sense.  After all, if a wolf looks like a coyote to a desert child, who am I to argue?

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Counting Coins - Integrating Literature

Whenever I'm planning a unit, I always take a trip to my local library (hi, Ami!) to see what gems I can find among the shelves.  I try to find a good selection of both fiction and nonfiction picture books.  These I use to both build my lessons, and enrich / support the lessons I already have in mind.  For the coins unit I found some great selections:


26 Letters and 99 Cents, by Tana Hoban.

I cannot express how much I love this author.  All of her books have minimal (usually no) text, and bright, visually interesting photographs taken from a child's perspective.  If you haven't discovered her yet, I highly recommend you go camp out in the 'H' section of the picture books next time you're at your local library and see what you can find.  This particular book, when you flip it one way, brightly displays coins alongside colorful numbers showing their value.  For example, on '10', it shows 10 pennies, 2 nickles and 1 dime.  A great read-on-your-own-and-discover book.  As a bonus, when you flip the book the other way it shows the alphabet.  Xander's already requested this side to be read to him (he really reads it to me), three times.

This book is part of a series of concept books, all of them worth checking out.  Sorting Money uses bright pictures of real kids sorting money into different like types.  The money is sorted by rough and smooth edges, by color, and also by value.  It would be a great resource to read along with the 'Sorting Coins' lesson I did a few days ago.

McMillan is another author in the style of Hoban, but he uses text and his pictures usually include children.  Jelly Beans for Sale introduces the premise that one jellybean is worth one penny (1 cent).  It features bright pictures of kids eating jellybeans, and shows how much in coins the jellybeans cost.

I thought it note worthy to add that I haven't introduced this book to Sophie yet.  She was playing tea party on the other side of the living room while I write this, and upon looking up, saw this book open beside me.  She immediately said, "Mommy, what's THAT book?", and came over to investigate.  Talk about kid friendly!  

This book has a LOT of text, but I don't intend on reading it verbatim to Sophie.  The book tells how money has been used through history and across cultures, and has lots of great illustrations.  I plan on using it for its pictures, to integrate a little Social Studies into the unit.

All of the fiction I chose were picture books about saving money.  Since we're doing this unit in conjunction with starting Sophie on an allowance, I wanted to use some picture books as springboards in discussing the ideological value of money.  I'm also pulling in a cross cultural element with these books.

This is a sweet story about a little girl and her single mom who overcome the obstacles of poverty in the big city and an apartment fire (with the help of their neighborhood), and save coins in a jar to buy a coveted, rose splattered chair.

Brother and Sister Bear treat Ma and Pa like an ATM, demanding money for video games and sweets.  Pa finally puts his foot down, and Brother and Sister turn to creative ways to earn money together, learning the value of money, saving, and hard work along the way.

Set at the end of WWII, Anna needs a new coat but her mother can't afford it.  Together they use possessions to barter for materials, eventually ending in a beautiful, new coat.

All kids identify with Alexander, a kid who sees the world from his own, egocentric viewpoint. In this installment, Alexander receives a dollar from his grandparents, and intends to save it to buy a walkie talkie.  Instead, he give in to temptation throughout the week and spends his money on other things.  

Monday, January 9, 2012

Counting Coins, Lesson 2 - Graphing Coins

There's something about money.  Kids love playing with it.  So it wasn't hard to get Sophie to do this next activity.  She already knows the names of all the coins, and has done many sorting activities like the type I did with Xander in Lesson 1.  I wanted to take the opportunity to introduce the concept of graphing while we had something fun (coins) to work with.  

A note on graphing.  While I was teaching in Texas, I had an opportunity to attend a week long workshop on the AIMS method.  Let me tell you. It was the BEST, and most useful, workshop I ever attended.  I walked away from it with tons of resources (a box full of manipulatives, several books, and a zillion ideas).  AIMS stands for 'Activities for Integrating Math and Science'.  The program is built around teaching math and science holistically, integrating it into the wider classroom curriculum.  Instead of teaching a 'graph unit', as most math curricula do, AIMS encourages fitting in graphing exercises with other content, which makes the activity concrete for the child and connected to real learning.  

Note that the following activity can be done with ANYTHING:  a leaf or rock collection, heights of students in the classroom, eye color, snack preferences, types of fruit on the counter... 

Lesson:  Graphing Coins

Purpose:  Child will create a pictograph and a bar graph representing a selected number of coins.

Materials:  A pile of assorted coins (make sure you have a selection of pennies, nickles, dimes and quarters, and half dollars if you wish).  Two pieces of construction paper.  Markers or other writing implements.

1.  Give the child a pile of coins.  Across the bottom of a piece of construction paper, write, 'P, N, D, Q'.  (or write out the entire coin name.  I was lazy).  Instruct the child to sort the coins in lines corresponding with the correct label.

2.  When the child has sorted all her coins, explain that she just made a special kind of graph called a 'pictograph'.  Ask her what word she hears in 'pictograph' (picture).  Tell her we call it a 'pictograph' because it is a graph of pictures of things.  In this case, coins.  Tell her we will now make another kind of graph called a 'bar graph'.  Draw out a simple grid on the second sheet of construction paper, with the same labels at the bottom as your pictograph (make sure the grid has enough spaces for your number of coins), and set it beside the pictograph.  Ask the child, "How many quarters do you have?"

3.  Guide her in counting the number of quarters, and coloring in the corresponding number of bars on the bar graph.  Repeat the process for the dimes, nickles and pennies (and half dollars, if you're doing them.  We didn't because let's face it, who uses half dollars?  If she were in second grade or older, I'd probably use them, but I'm trying to keep it concrete to her world right now.)

4.  When child has completed the bar graph, compare the two graphs.  Point out that both graphs show the same information (number of coins), but display it in different ways (pictures vs. bars).

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Counting Coins, Lesson 1 - Sorting Coins

We're starting Sophie on an allowance when she turns 5 next month.  I thought it would be good to start teaching her the value of money - both literally and ideologically.  So for homeschool the next few weeks we'll be focusing on coins.  Sophie already knows all the coins and their names, so this lesson is actually with Xander, who I'm trying to include as much as his attention span allows.  Of course he's not ready to learn the coin's names, but he is right at the perfect age to start sorting activities (if I was a good mommy I would have already been doing this with him - but, like many second born, he has been sadly left to his own devices educationally.  I was doing sorting activities with Sophie when she was a year!).  Kids love this activity because they're human and love to play with money.  Who doesn't??

Lesson:  Sorting Coins

Objective:  Student will identify the similarities and differences between pennies, nickles, dimes and quarters, and will sort them into like groups.

Materials:  An assortment of coins (pennies, nickles, dimes and quarters).  1 piece construction paper.  Marker.

1.  On the construction paper, draw four large circles.

2.  Instruct child to observe the coins, and place one in one of the circles.  Ask:  "Can you find another one like that one?" and when he does, guide him to put that coin with the first.

3.  Continue the process, until all the coins are sorted.  Try to keep from telling the child where to put the coins, but instead, ask leading questions to help him think out the problem.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Painting With Pudding

This is an activity I've been wanting to try for a few years now.  But the idea of all that pudding and food coloring was just too daunting!  So when a friend called to invite us over for a crafty play date, I thought it was the perfect time to try making pudding paint.  I loved the way it turned out, especially for some of the more tactile kids (Xander!).  It's a great way to teach colors, color combinations (what do yellow and blue make?), and writing (practice forming letters and numbers in the pudding).

Lesson:  Painting with Pudding

Objective:  Child will creatively investigate how colors mix together.

Materials:  Vanilla instant pudding.  Food coloring.  Plastic drop cloth.

1.  Mix up the pudding according to package directions, and pour into individual serving bowls.  Here I accidentally bought the kind of pudding you have to cook, so that added an extra step.  If you buy the instant kind, just blend with milk, and pour directly into the bowls.

2.  Add drops of food coloring, and mix.  The colors will be a bit muddy, since the pudding already has a yellowish tint to it.

3.  Repeat, until you have colored all your bowls.  With older kids, you might want to let them do the food coloring, to experiment with shades and tints.

4.  Spread the plastic drop cloth over your table and lay out the pudding bowls.  Make sure everybody has on clothing that you don't mind getting stained!  (or, in Xander's case, non-clothing.  Don't worry, he had pants on.)

5.  Let the fun begin!

Don't forget to taste the pudding!

Messy little man.

What's this foreign stuff??

And clean up is a cinch!