Friday, October 28, 2005

1st Grade Activities: Week 8

1. Drama: Lego town, robots, animals.
2. Religion: pray; Bible readings for the day.
3. Reading: Read signs; match words/pictures (game).
4. Read Aloud: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe; observation: "Time runs faster in the wardrobe."
5. Music: sing made-up songs; clapping songs.
6. Phonics: ie and y endings on words.
7. Recitation: tell Knock-knock jokes.
8. Science: observe snail.
9. Math: roman numberals: V, VI, VII, etc.
10. P.E.: ballet.

1. Drama: Lego town, robots, creatures.
2. Art: Play-doh blueberries and blueberry tart; color Halloween picture.
3. Religion: pray Sign of the Cross, Our Father.
4. Reading: charter school binder.
5. Science: use coins to represent the Big Dipper; talk about rescue animals.
6. Math: count pages in binder; more counting, to 100.
7. Music: sing made-up songs.
8. Phonics: knead vs. need, both ea and ee have long e sound, knead has silent k.
9. Math: take measurements (with measuring tape) to plan construction of armor out of cardboard.
10. Computer: send email to Dad ordering the cardboard; type alphabet; use of cut and paste, select text and change font.
11. Read Aloud: from the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.
12. Spanish: watch Professor Parrot Speaks Spanish: Learn Spanish with songs, dances, games and puppets, Sound Beginnings video.
13: P.E.: soccer.

1. Art: make cardboard TV, remote control, commercial; draw snails, scenery, buttons. Make cardboard doll, decorate.
2. Math: write numbers 1-10 on controller.
3. Writing: write words: Stop, play, FF, rewind, pause.
4. Drama: act out commercials and shows on TV (with face in the box); viewer selects station on controller.
5. Reading: child's picture dictionary.
6. Religion: prayer, Mass attendance, read short lives of saints.
7. P.E.: park time.
8. Geography: watch video all about California.

1. Art: photography: people, toys; draw an "onionhead" and his dog on the computer.
2. Reading: words in children's dictionary; signs, words on packages; first half of Green Eggs and Ham.
3. Music: sing made-up song about honey bear (a plastic bear container that holds honey); attend choir rehearsal.
4. Poetry: write a poem about the onionhead.
5. Phonics: ea and ee sounds; oo as in soon, oo as in book.
6. Math: type numbers 1-10.
7. Computer: type each row on keyboard, lots of drawing and keyboarding.
8. Science/Technology: watch How a Car Is Built video; Firefighter George and Today's Might Trains video.

1. Religion: prayer; Bible readings for the day; Mass attendance.
2. Phonics: beginning letter sounds.
3. Music: sing made-up songs.
4. Art: make a book, draw pictures: Emma the Dog; draw lions; make a twist-tie lion; make Halloween decorations.
5. Read Aloud: finish the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe; identify some words.
6. Reading: Reader Rabbit, Books 36-38.
7. Science: observe ants; peruse books about pets.
8. Drama: build Lincoln log fort/scene.
9. History: prehistoric cave paintings of bulls, deer, horses in the cave of Lascaux (visual tour -- internet site).
10. Computer: compose emails; select text, change fonts, type.

1. P.E.: soccer.
2. Reading: signs and product labels.
3. Read Aloud: D'Aulaire's Book of Greek Myths.
4. Science: Bill Nye Science video; Dog video.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

1st Grade Activities: Week 7

1. Science/Technology: I Dig Dirt; Extreme Machines (videos).
2. Educational Games: Elmo's Keyboard-O-Rama: review/keyboard alphabet. Sesame Street game: sort animals by size, color, type.
3. Art: make a cardboard lion.
4. P.E.: swim.
5. Science: birdwatching -- hawk, seagull, sparrows. Rescue bugs: lady bugs and several others from the pool. Observe squirrels.

1. Homeschool meeting.
2. Library time.
3. Science: observe fish in aquarium. Draw fish. Look up names of some of the fish in library books. Check out books on fish, cats, rabbits.
4. P.E.: run and play, soccer practice.
5. Read Aloud: Martha Calling, Susan Meddaugh.
6. Reading: read some words in read-aloud book; read highway signs.
7. Religion: pray Sign of the Cross, Our Father.

1. Practical Life: organize place for craft supplies.
2. Drama: with doll and horse.
3. Science: tell me about a fish that walks on land and an eel that was sometimes mistaken for a mermaid (and how). From a video: Shamu and You: Exploring the World of Fish.
4. Math: group fruit snacks by color and count.
5. Phonics (as it comes up in context): ow sound as in wow; ee sound in eek; er sound in her; oy and oi.
6. Art: modeling with wax.
7. Religion: pray Sign of the Cross, Our Father.
8. Spanish: story time at library.
9. P.E.: park.

1. Phonics: alphabetical order, spell out some words; ing sound, oo as in cook.
2. Science/Nature: snails; "Leaves are good for squirrels to burrow in." (observation at the park).
3. Religion: pray; read Scripture for the day.
4. Read Aloud: Young Cam Jansen and the Ice Skate Mystery, David A. Adler; What Game Shall We Play?, Pat Hutchins; Buster, the Very Shy Dog; Minnie and Moo and the Thanksgiving Tree.
5. Reading: The Blue Number Counting Book; Marcos Counts (Spanish/English), Tomie dePaola.
6. P.E.: park.

1. Religion: pray; children's songs.
2. Science: marble races.
3. Drama: toy drama; basket of eggs for sale -- hidden goodies inside.
4. Music: listen to/sing children's songs.
5. Art: draw all kinds of dogs and label.
6. Read Aloud: The Iron Giant, Ted Hughes; Brundibar; The Ice Skate Mystery.
7. Reading: One Little Lamb, Elaine Greenstein.
8. P.E.: soccer.
9. Math: oral equations; secret code where numbers equal letters to code messages.

1. P.E.: soccer.
2. Art: watch video how to draw: Oodles of Doodles, Mike Artell.
3. Geography: local streets, directions; review names of city, state, country.
4. Memorize address, telephone number.

Saturday, October 08, 2005


I told my six-year-old daughter the other day that she could do anything she wanted for school except watch videos.

I find that all her little activities seem to be educational in some way or other. Of course she loves me to read books to her, especially if they are stories (which she has been asking for lately); but she is interested in all subjects, anything from dirt, space or bananas, to Japanese culture and traditions. She also has been enjoying learning to read and reading to me. And she likes math.

The other day she asked for her first recorder lesson. I had bought her a recorder and child's book last Christmas and just told her to treat it as an instrument rather than as a toy, and when she plays it, make it sound beautiful.

She also surprised me when, after reading the gospel of the day to her, she asked for more. I had not printed all the readings for the day, and hadn't saved the file, so I asked her if she would like me to read the rest of the chapter from the Bible and she said yes. So we did.

Yesterday we went to an open house at our local 4-H farm, and she wants to join the club -- do crafts, pet the chickens and the goats, hang out at the farm.

What I do is document all these activities so I can show them to our educational representative at the charter school we are signing up with. Happily, they take everyone from unschoolers to classical.

Your Young Child Doesn't Feel Like Doing School Today?

Try putting on a classical music CD or folk music, or children's songs to listen to while he is playing. Write down the details: "Listened to Beethoven Piano Sonatas" or whatever is appropriate. (Painless learning). You could look up a short bio. for kids on the internet, print a photo and attach, put together in a binder for Music.

Write him a one-line (or one word) note. Leave out paper and pen so he can write one back. Don't correct the spelling on the notes. Just enjoy the process of communicating this way.

Read enjoyable stories to him. Point out occasional words in the story that he knows how to read, or can sound out, and have him read them as you go along, without slowing down the story too much.

Let him photograph the toys he is playing with.

Fold a few sheets of paper in half and staple to make a small blank book. Ask him to tell you a story about his toys. Write it down. Illustrate it together, if you like. Read it together. Read it again. Perhaps you could add a photo later when convenient.

Another alternative is to put on a play with the toys. A cardboard box or 3-panel display board makes a good puppet theater. The child can decorate it with crayons, pens, paints.

Come up with math activities involving food or treats. Introduce, review, or practice math concepts with crackers, raisins, nuts, fruit, breakfast cereal. Yum, yum, subtraction is fun.

And, of course, drawing, painting, tracing and various craft projects capture children's interest and teach lots of needed concepts and skills, including pre-writing skills.

A Favorite Literacy Activity

I thought I'd share one of the Montessori-inspired reading activities my first-grader has enjoyed. I cut up card stock and wrote one short action word per card such as: jump, skip, hop, smile, run, dance, etc. Then I folded each in half and put them in a wide-mouth jar on the shelf. We take the jar out, she selects one card and attempts to read it and then do what the card says. She loves it!

Another version would be to write a short sentence, such as "Find a dish" or other instruction to do something. Later, you could come up with even more complicated sentences, adding other parts of speech such as adjectives.

Early readers can find reading individual short words and sentences less intimidating than trying to read a page with several sentences or a whole workbook page.

Bible Study

Here is the Bible link where I pick up the day's readings and print them out for my first grader. On Sunday we read them in the car on the way to Mass. It helps her to listen and be more attentive at Mass when she has heard the readings once already. It also gives her an opportunity to ask questions and discuss them without interrupting during Mass.

On weekdays I print and read only the Gospel to her (keeping the lesson short). Then I punch it and put in in a binder. The type is large, so she will eventually be able to read a lot of it herself, find familiar words, keep notes:

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Our First Grade Learning Plan

LANGUAGE ARTS: Primary goal -- learning to read. Study phonics, grammar. Practice reading. Parents read aloud above reading level. Work on handwriting skills.

MATH: Cover areas and skills recommended by the State standards. Use oral, manipulative, and written approaches. Weights and measures. Telling time. Calendar. Money.

SCIENCE: Study based on child's interests. Observation of nature: living and non-living things. Seasons, weather. Oceans, mountains, space exploration. Animals. Library books, field trips, experiments, internet research.

SOCIAL STUDIES: Based on child's interests. Family and community. Various jobs. Cultural diversity and history. Our town, state, country, world. Government.

HISTORY: Based on child's interests. Local and State history. U.S. history. History as it comes up in music, art, science, and other subjects. Library books, museums, internet. Develop a time line, history binder, or computer database which we can review, adding to it as we study various people and events.

FOREIGN LANGUAGE: Exposure to Spanish and Latin. Spanish story time at the library. Read simple bilingual Spanish / English books. Work on some vocabulary for each. Spanish language A/V materials for review or further study.

ART: Crafts of all sorts, drawing, sculpting, fine art study. Books, prints, museums, internet, classes.

MUSIC: Listen to music of various styles, periods, and cultures. Listen to children's songs, sing. Make up songs. Introduction to musical instruments: Melody harp, keyboard, recorder. Some basics of musical notation.

RELIGION: Prayer, Bible study, lives of the saints, catechism. Study Judaism and other religions. Church attendance.

P.E.: Soccer, swimming, ballet, park time, dancing, T-Ball, tennis.

GEOGRAPHY: Interest-based. Map work, globe and atlas. Incorporate with other subjects. Library books about various places of interest. Learn while traveling. Local geography.

CREATIVE WRITING: Stories, poems, booklets, dramas.

"Look, Ma, no textbooks!" ;)

[I'm sure we will eventually get some, but for now we are beginning our third textbook- and curriculum-free year.]

First week of First Grade Activities

I thought I'd share what we did for the first week of 1st Grade after having posted the "School in a Box" ideas.

We did academic and elective-type subjects for approx. 3 hrs. per day. Free play time and meals were interspersed. Sports approx. 1 hr./day. The only rule about subject matter was no videos.

Each day we covered more subjects than I would have planned if I had done lesson plans. I felt it was a lot, maybe too much, but my daughter didn't seem to mind. She wanted to do these activities together. And she suddenly is very interested in learning to read. (The summer reading program at the library helped spark her interest.)

When she needed a suggestion for the next activity , she chose one from the cards in the box. Otherwise she came up with many of the activities herself.

Child-led: she chose the activity (usually un-prompted), and pretty much did it herself.

1. Spelling: Moveable alphabet work (parent-suggested).
2. Read Aloud: The Son of Tarzan, Hand Rhymes (child-suggested).
3. Phonics: letter sounds, blends, alphabetize (parent-led).
4. Math: games, clock (child-led).
5. Sewing: draw pattern for a doll dress, cut out front, pin, cut out felt fabric (child-led).
6. Art: drawing, computer sketch (child-led).
7. P.E.: swimming.

1. Science/Nature: study snails (real ones -- child-led).
2. Reading: Reader Rabbit Books 1-8 (child-led).
3. Grammar: sentence "strips" (one word per card); verb -- action words activity (parent-led).
4. Read Aloud: Play Rhymes, The Son of Tarzan (child-suggested).
5. History: read about North American explorers (parent-led).
6. Phonics: Word Bird Makes Words with Hen (short e sound, 3-letter words); discuss "oo" as in book vs. "oo" as in boo (parent-led).
7. Music: listen to/sing children's songs (child-led).
8. Crafts: Play-Doh (child-led).
9. P.E.: soccer.

1. Calendar: months of the year, birthdays, time between birthdays, current month, saints' feastdays, Christmas (child-suggested).
2. Catechism: read a brief bio. of St. Norbert, founding of monasteries (child-suggested).
3. Community: Hurrican Katrina, New Orleans refugees in Superdome -- read news -- discussion (child-suggested).
4. Science/Nature: behavior of polar bears -- National Geographic photos (parent-suggested).
5. Read Aloud: My House/Mi Casa, First Day of School, A Birthday Surprise (parent-led).
6. Spanish: read from bilingual books, Spanish story time at library.
7. Reading: some of the words in read aloud; several phonics concepts covered in context (parent-suggested).
8. P.E.: park time.

1. Assisted Reading: Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel; Rain, Rain, come Again (child-suggested).
2. Math: Addition and subtraction -- oral and manipulative (parent-led).
3. Geography: study weather map (newspaper) -- Bay Area and United States -- locate our town, locate New Orleans, several other cities (parent-led).
4. Handwriting: Practice uppercase and lowercase: Ss, Zz, Rr, from workbook pages (parent-led).
5. Phonics: discuss vowels and consonants, short vowel sounds; work with CVC word/picture cards (parent-led).
6. Reading: Reader Rabbit, Book 9 (child-led).
7. Art: draw/color on computer (child-led).
8. Computer: online games: following directions; putting sentence fragments together to make a sentence (child-suggested).
9. Recess: Friend comes over to play in the afternoon.

1. Math: counting out quantities 1-10 (beans), match to numeral cards; addition 10+1 to 20+9; calendar review (parent-led).
2. Writing: note/email to friend (child-led).
3. Art: draw bears; Play-Doh: make baseball players, bases, and bat and ball (child-led).
4. Religion: pray for hurrican Katrina victims (parent-led).
5. Music: sing children's songs (child-led).
6. Poetry: read aloud Mother Goose Rhymes: pick one to memorize (child-suggested).
7. Creative writing: wrote four very short stories about toy bears (parent-suggested).
8. Spelling: sound out and spell several words.
9. Phonics: computer games: CVC words; match first letter sounds (child-led).
10. P.E.: swim.

School in a Box

Our homeschooling has grown closer to unschooling over the past two years since taking my daughter out of preschool. This partly has to do with the personalities involved, partly to do with budget, partly to do with the vast number of resources available to us (libraries, programs, field trips, homeschool groups, and cultural opportunities in a large metropolitan area). So homeschooling has not resembled school much at all.

Hence my daughter's comments when I told her school begins next week (she didn't know what I meant):

"I don't want to go to school!"

"We're doing homeschooling."

"I don't want to do homeschooling."
"I don't want to do school at all."

So I told her I have something for her. Then I whipped out my version of "school in a box" ;) . A box of index cards containing 5 brightly colored sets of "subjects". (We are beginning 1st Grade.)

First we read all the cards. Each has a large handwritten subject written on it (in u/l) with Sharpie markers in Montessori style: blue for consonants, red for vowels. Most of the cards have suggested activities to choose from listed on the back (ruled) side.

Then I had her go through and pick one card from each color group. I told her that is what we are going to do for school. She thought this was a fun concept and was quite enthusiastic about it. (We just happened to have these brightly colored cards at hand, but I think they were a big part of the appeal.)

The groups and subjects were not in any particular order. And when I asked her what her favorite subject was after going through them, she told me it was Math.

We will put finished work in binders divided by subject. The index card system is flexible, so it will be easy to add or subtract subjects/activities.



(We will pick 2 from this group.)

Learn chants/responses from Mass
Use Mass programs to learn a few words
Review the spelling/pronunciation compared to English

Review quantities
Simple addition
Geometric shapes -- review, draw

Review from materials (books), short session

Practice one or two letters properly formed [our 1st yr. for formal handwriting]

Read poems
Pick one to memorize
Copy it in notebook

Read aloud
Teach prayers
Discuss theology
Lives of the Saints
Pope, Bishops, Priests, Brothers, Sisters, Missionaries, Lay people

Use of dictionary

Vowel sounds
Vowel blends
Consonant blends
Identify number of syllables in a word (oral)

Grammar: [I had to explain what this one meant]
Parts of Speech
Complete sentence

Assisted reading (of anything)

Read from children's or adult Bible
Pick a verse to memorize
Write it in notebook


Read Aloud [ruled back blank for now -- for listing books to choose from]
Read Aloud
Read Aloud


Listen to music
Learn/sing songs
Musical notation
Play instrument

Fine Art:




Maps (including local -- to house, to neighborhood)
Map puzzles
Map work -- relatives, friends, famous people, stories, Bible stories
Flag and Map sticker books

Our city
Our state
United States

Read aloud
Work on History notebook (with timeline)
Talk about lengths of time
American History
History of our state
Bible history

Science Nature:
Study snails
Nature walk/observe, draw, write

Creative Writing:
Write a story, song, poem, book


Sort Toys
Water Plants
Make Bed
Clear Desk
Call, Write, or Email:
Grandmas and Grandpas
Thank you notes/calls