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Kindergarten Plans

 NBTSbloghopI’ve been planning to share some of what we have planned for Lulu’s upcoming kindergarten year, and when I saw that the theme for the first week of Darcy’s month-long Blog Hop is curriculum, I decided to go ahead with it today.  I don’t have anything else to do.  😉 A few weekends ago, Steady Eddie and I spent all day on Saturday at his office with our binder and various books spread out on the conference table.  My goal was to have a rough idea of where we are headed, at least through Christmas, and I am pleased to say that I accomplished my goal (at least on paper). 

We plan to officially begin Lulu’s kindergarten year August 24.  My idea now is that we will be year-’round schoolers, but our summer school will be very light–two to three days a week at most.  I just couldn’t countenance the idea of starting something new in the middle of summer, despite the fact that the public schools start next week in our neck of the woods.  There are still almost two months of good swimming weather ahead of us here!  However, I think we’re all about ready to get into some sort of routine.  Now that we’re in the throes of remodeling and my floors are decorated with highly visible sawdust and sheetrock dust footprints, I think I will say that we’re starting kindergarten August 24, when the school room is set up, or just before I go crazy, which ever comes first.  🙂

And now, without further ado, the curriculum:

I’ve written already about what we’ve already done for reading up until now.  Because I get antsy if we’re not doing SOMETHING structured at all times, we have been using Jump Right into Reading as a review for the past few weeks.  I had hoped to finish it quickly, but because life is a little crazy right now, what with all the extra folks, the drilling, and the banging, we haven’t made much progress.   When we finish that (if not before), we will continue with The Ordinary Parent’s Guide to Teaching Reading.  I also have Explode the Code 1 and Explode the Code  2, which I plan to use alternatingly with OPGTR.  Of course, excepting the OPGTR, this is all untried, so this is all subject to revision.  Right now I’m hoping to be finished with ETC 1, through lesson 53 in OPGTR, and through lesson six in ETC 2 by Christmas.  Add into the mix that we will be reviewing Rocket Phonics for TOS Homeschool Crew, and it’s likely that I”ve overplanned.  We’ll see. 


I commissioned Steady Eddie with the job of choosing a math curriculum.  He took his job seriously.  🙂  After lurking on lots of math-related threads over at The Well Trained Mind K-8 forums and perusing several publishes’ websites, he settled on RightStart Math for kindergarten.  Math is the thing I feel the most distanced from–it has been a looooong time since I scraped by with a C in Calculus II as a college freshman.  I also think this might be the subject I’m (secretly) most excited about because I think Lulu is going to adore it.  I think RightStart will be a good fit for her.


After going back and forth about which model of handwriting we liked the best (I can see us now–bedazzled by the thought that we  hold our children’s entire educations in the palms of our hands and have a choice about e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g), we finally decided on Handwriting Without Tears because it seemed like the one that would appeal to Lulu the most.  Plus, I don’t think I’ve ever read anything bad about it. 

Science, History, Geography, Art,  Etc.

This will mostly be approached through little unit studies from Five in a Row: Volume 1.  We enjoyed the books we explored through Before Five in a Row this past year, so I thought we’d continue on in the same vein.  I also hope to undertake a consistent nature study (maybe once a week) by participating in The Outdoor Hour Nature Study Challenge over at Handbook of Nature Study blog.  This is all extra, though–I consider the reading, math, and handwriting our priorities.

As far as Bible and physical education go, I consider them a natural part of our day.  (I do need to be more deliberate about the physical activity part, though.)  We have devotions after breakfast, a Bible story or two at night, and I hope to pick back up our family memorization challenges soon. 

Of course, reading aloud will continue to be a cornerstone of our day, too.

Whew!  After getting this all typed out, it seems like a lot.  I’m really excited to begin this new venture, and my prayer that this year is a joy and delight for us all.  I know there will be some rough patches, but I want us all to look back at this official year with the feeling that we’re really glad we embarked on this journey as a family!


The Carrot Seed Go-Alongs and a Sweet Little Experiment

As I wrote earlier this week, we have thoroughly enjoyed The Carrot Seed by Ruth Krauss here at the House of Hope.  This is a picture book that is accessible across the ages due to its simplicity.  Although our schooling has definitely taken a backseat to swimming and splashing at the local splash pad over the past month, we have kept up our reading aloud, as well as a few other schoolish activities.  This is our last official Before Five in a Row selection before we begin kindergarten next month!

When we read The Carrot Seed , I knew just the book to pair with it.  We read The Giant Carrot by Jan Peck some time ago, and the first reading was just as good as the tenth.  This charming and funny picture book is an adaptation of a Russian folktale entitled “The Turnip.”  This version is peopled with rustic characters very appropriately described as tall Papa Joe, wide Mama Bess, strong Brother Abel, and sweet Little Isabelle.  Through the combined effort of Papa Joe’s composting, Mama Bess’ weeding, Brother Abel’s watering, but mostly Little Isabelle’s singing, they grow a gigantic carrot which will not come out of the ground until sweet Little Isabelle lends her strength (and her voice) to her very able-bodied family’s efforts.  This is all told with humor, repetition, and dialect which my girls just loved.  Barry Root‘s illustrations are really a grand addition to this delightful tale–the spread of the carrot forcefully coming out of the ground always dissolves my girls into hysterical giggles.  This story is the perfect companion to The Carrot Seed.

Another great go-along for The Carrot Seed is the Caldecott honor book Tops & Bottoms by Janet Stevens.  This book purportedly picks up where “The Tortoise and the Hare” leaves off, only this time, the wily hare snookers a lazy bear.  The hare figures out a way to get the food he and his family needs:  he will trick the bear into giving it to them!  I don’t want to ruin the surprise if you’re unfamiliar with this story (or if you can’t figure it out from the title 😉 ), but it’s a good one!  It also has the distinction of being a picture book that opens vertically rather than horizontally, so it really gets the kids’ attention. 

 Of course, I couldn’t bear to read a book about root vegetables and pass up an opportunity to do a little science experiment.  It helped that we already had a sweet potato sprouting in the cabinet!  😉  (Hey–books are my thing, not home organization, as evidenced not only by the potato, but also the dirty window!)


sweet potato 1

I figured it was probably a little late to do the trusty potato-in-the-glass experiment, but at the very least, I thought it would illustrate phototropism for the girls. This is the potato in the glass on Thursday, July 2:


sweet potato 2

And here it is on Monday, July 6:
sweet potato 3


It looks like I was right! 

The most memorable part of this experiment for me was Louise’s question as we were preparing to submerge the potato in the water. She queried, “Will it be able to see in there?”  Although I’m really not sure that sweet potatoes have eyes like potatoes do, I got my chuckle of the day out of it, at least.  🙂

Author/Illustrator Spotlight::Ruth Krauss and Crockett Johnson

Summer has done a number on our schedule. I used to think we would school year ’round so that we could take breaks when we needed them and have a more go-with-the-flow existence than a traditional school calendar allows, and while I haven’t given up on that plan altogether, I am already seeing that what I envision and what actually transpires in this exciting experiment of home education are surely two different things. Summer time just offers too many opportunities for us to be tied down at home every day.

I picked up The Carrot Seed several weeks ago as what will be our last Before Five in a Row selection of Lulu’s preschool.  We will probably pick up the ones that we haven’t done as a part of Louise’s preschool this year and possibly revisit some old favorites, but I’m calling it done for this year with this book.  We will begin with volume one of Five in a Row as a supplemental (read fun) part of Lulu’s kindergarten when we convene school in six weeks or so.  (Why I make the distinction between Lulu’s and Louise’s preschool when there are only eighteen short months between their ages, I don’t know.  It keeps me sane in this thinking about their schooling, I guess.)

With right at 100 words, The Carrot Seed by Ruth Krauss captures the anticipation and faith involved in growing carrots and believing in dreams.  The little boy’s detractors are his family members, no less, but he continues steadfast in his belief that the little seed he deposited in the earth will grow, and he is rewarded with a wheel barrow sized harvest of one giant carrot.  My girls love this simple little book.  They love the chorus of “it won’t come up” repeated by the little boy’s mother, father, and brother.  They love the triumphant ending in which the little boy wheels away his impossibly large carrot.  The simple illustrations by Crockett Johnson are limited in color to mustard yellows and browns, with an occasional punch of red, orange, or green.   We have enjoyed several other books that are thematically related to this book, so be sure to come back on Wednesday when I highlight those titles!

I picked up A Very Special House at the library without realizing it is also by Ruth Krauss.  When I first began reading it to my girls, I thought to myself that this is the sort of old, nonsensical story that doesn’t translate well to modern readers.  We kept on reading, though, and my girls, especially 3 1/2 year old Louise, LOVED it.  (Of course, since then, she has informed me that she did NOT like this book.  Hmph.  Kids!)  The illustrations in this quirky little book phrases are by Maurice Sendak and won the distinction of  a Caldecott Honor in 1954.

All of this brings me to what is possibly my favorite picture book of all time:  Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson.  I’m pairing Ruth Krauss (author) and Crockett Johnson (author and illustrator) together because they were married!  I kid you not.  It’s amazing what you learn when you just do a little research, huh?  I just love that I started highlighting a Before Five in a Row book and ended up writing about the genius that is Harold. If you experienced Harold and the Purple Crayon yet for yourself, you need to!  The concept behind this book is amazing:  a little boy named Harold creates his own world with his trusty purple crayon, all the while illustrating a clever story that is chock-full of word play.  In a household where the second theings the girls do every morning is make something with paper, yarn, and glue (the first thing is the rallying cry of “Read a book!”), Harold and the Purple Crayon reminds me of the importance of creativity and imagination in children (and adults!).  Our copy of Harold and the Purple Crayon is in a wonderful anthology of picture books that we own.   I’m excited that Harold and the Purple Crayon is included in volume two of Five in a Row, which we should be ready for at least by next school year.  I even found this little animated adaptation of this book that stays very close to the original.  Harold and the Purple Crayon was published in 1955, and it illustrates the fact that simple, good art and childish imagination never go out of style. 

I Am an Artist and Go-Alongs

i am an artistLast week we read I Am An Artist by Pat Lowery Collins, which is one of the Before Five in a Row selections.  The girls and I enjoyed this book, as it is is about one of our favorite experiential topics–nature.  In this gentle picture book, each page begins with the title phrase, “I am an artist when,” and goes on to express the many ways one can be an artist by merely observing colors, textures, and characteristics of objects in nature.  Robin Brickman‘s illustrations are beautiful drawings that complement the gentle tone of the story very well.

I really meant for us to do a lapbook for I Am An Artist, but life has gotten extremely busy as it often does in the early summer, with outdoor activities, family commitments, and a bad case (for me) of “I don’t wannas,” so we merely enjoyed the book (several times), did a few of the recommended activities from BFIAR, and as always, added our own little twist by finding some go-along titles.  Here are the winners:

look book

Tana Hoban’s Look Book is the perfect go-along, with its die-cut pages as overlays of things found in nature.  Can you identify a moth’s wing by only looking at a close-up section?  What about an ostrich’s neck?  The photography in this book really encourages close examination of highly textured, different objects, so it fits the I Am an Artist theme very well.

is it rough

Really, though, you just can’t go wrong with Tana Hoban. Is It Rough? Is It Smooth? Is It Shiny? focuses even more on texture.   It is not a “touch and feel” book, so the children must rely on sight alone to determine texture.  This could lead to interesting discussions about what different textures look like.  Others of Hoban’s books would make good go-alongs to I Am an Artist, as well.

it looked like spilt milk
It Looked Like Spilt Milk by Charles G. Shaw is a neat book to encourage children to see things a little differently.  (I’m sure that there’s some education-ese that I’m not using here that I could if I only knew it.)  The premise behind the book is that things are not always what they appear; in fact, all of the Rorschach-looking images are actually clouds.  This isn’t revealed until the end of the book, so you have opportunities to guess the true identity of the objects.  It’s a simple, fun, duo-tone book.  (Hat-tip to Heather @ Blog, She Wrote for mentioning this book on her I Am an Artist post.)

counting on the woods
Counting on the Woods by George Ella Lyon makes a great go-along for I Am an Artist because it encourages a close examination of nature photographs, all taken by Ann W. Olson in eastern Kentucky.  This is a counting book written in (bonus!) rhyming couplets.  Each photograph is identified with the common name of the plant or animal pictured.  The girls and I had some interesting discussions about mourning doves, animal tracks, star chickweed, and Sycamore trees, among other things, while reading this book.

butterfly alphabet

I saved my favorite for last!    The Butterfly Alphabet by Kjell B. Sandved, creator of the butterfly alphabet poster, is a beautiful book based on the poster.  Each two page spread features (bonus! bonus!) a rhyming couplet based on a letter of the alphabet and, on the facing page, a photograph of a butterfly’s or moth’s wing on which the letter appears.  Each insect is also identified by its common name within the book and its scientific name in an appendix.  The supplementary material in the back of the book is thorough and interesting.  I love this:

Do you know what a butterfly is?  It is a caterpillar in a wedding gown!

The connection between this lovely book and I Am an Artist is obvious–there is art everywhere in nature, and one only has to observe it to be an artist himself.  I can’t recommend The Butterfly Alphabet enough!

Of course, reading about nature and looking at nature photographs and illustrations can’t compare to the real thing,  so we betook ourselves to our backyard, spread a quilt under the shade tree, and enjoyed learning time one breezy, pleasant day last week.   The girls were delighted to discover the star inside an apple (as suggested by BFIAR):

I am an artist apple

We reclined on the quilt and looked up through the leaves of the maple tree while we read I Am an Artist.  We also worked on a lesson from The Ordinary Parents’ Guide to Teaching Reading and played a home-made phonics match game until the wind threatened to scatter our cards.

i am an artists school outsdieWe’ve been at this learning time thing for a year, more or less, now.  I think this day was my favorite yet!

I am an artist book outside

Angus Lost Go-Alongs and Lapbook

9780374403843As I’ve mentioned before, I’m really trying to make these Before Five In a Row selections into more of the unit studies they are meant to be as per this curriculum.  I have mixed feelings about it, really, because believe it or not, the girls sometimes get tired of reading the selections for several days in a row.  Too, I often feel that the activity suggestions in BFIAR are a little lightweight for us; they seem more appropriate for Louise’s age (3 1/2) and under instead of Lulu’s (a newly minted 5).  Thus, I decided with Angus Lost to explore the world of lapbooking.

Angus Lost is a sweet and simple story (my thoughts here) with plenty of material for expansion.  I used BFIAR to come up with subject material to explore to make this more of a unit study.  We focused on dairy cows and the process of getting milk from the pasture to the refrigerator and caves (how’s that for an unexpected pairing of topics?) since Angus hides in a cave and follows the milk man back home.  Using our library’s online catalog, I located all the books on these two topics that would be remotely accessible to my girls.  For our foray into the world of dairy farming, we usedMilk MakersThe Milk Makers by Gail Gibbons

milking machinesMilking Machines by Hal Rogers (Farm Machines at Work series)

from milk to ice cream

From Milk to Ice Cream by Stacy Taus-Bolstad (Start to Finish series)

The only one of these I think is a must-read is Gail Gibbons’ The Milk Makers.  I consider Gail Gibbons to be the queen of juvenile non-fiction, and although I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned her here on my blog, we frequently enjoy her books as read-aloud selections.  Gibbons’ illustrations are bright and colorful, and she includes labels and diagrams that are accessible even to preschoolers.    The Milk Makers begins with identification of the breeds of cows that are used for milk production, continues on through how cows produce milk, then details how the milk gets from the cow to the dairy, and finally, how the milk gets from the dairy to the home refrigerator. Although the other two books are good and useful, I’m certain that there are other titles that would work well. The Milk Makers would actually be enough, though, to stand alone.

The other topic we explored from Angus Lost is caves.  Since Angus spends the night in a cave before returning home, the BFIAR unit includes a cave activity (which we tried to carry out but much was lost in the execution), and our library has some simple juvenile nonfiction books about caves, we explored them a little.  (A pun–get it?)  The books we used are

explore in a caveExplore in a Cave by Dana Meachen Rau (Adventurers series)

caves by larry dane brimnerCaves by Larry Dane Brimner (True Book series)

These two books served both ends of the spectrum.  The first one, Explore in a Cave by Dana Meachen Rau is very simple and age-appropriate for preschoolers.  It details what a person needs to explore in a cave (hard hat, jacket, flashlight) and what one might encounter in a cave (dripping water, bats, a stream, and stone walls).  Each page contains no more than two sentences.  Larry Dane Brimner‘s Caves, on the other hands, is more appropriate for older children (maybe fourth grade and up), but it contains some very interesting pictures of geologic features in caves, etc.  Both were useful for us in our cave “exploration.”

Of course, I had to check out this picture book when it came up under a search for caves on the library catalog:

castles, caves, and honeycombsCastles, Caves, and Honeycombs by Linda Ashman

Castles, Caves, and Honeycombs by Linda Ashman is a sweet story about animal habitats.  Lauren Stringer’s bright illustrations are very simple and complement the text.  This would be a great book to use as a “spine” to research the various places animals live.

In addition to reading all of these books, we also created our first lapbook.  I  borrowed most of my ideas from the Angus Lost page at Homeschool Share.  I also found this sample lapbook extremely helpful. Our lapbook is very simple (almost to the point of my not wanting to post it), but maybe it will inspire or help someone.  🙂  I googled dog breed coloring pages and found the image to use on the cover.  Angus is actually like the dog in the back.

Angus lost lapbook both

Inside our lapbooks we put a “What color is Angus?” mini-book, milk process layer book, and tab book in which the girls illustrated things one might find in a cave.  All of these resources are found at Homeschool Share.  (Lulu obviously has pilgrims on the brain.  If you click on the picture, you’ll see that she included “pilgrims” in her Cave Book as one of the things found in a cave.  I’m not sure where this originated, but we have read a book about the first Thanksgiving at least half a dozen times since then.)

ANgus lost lapbook inside

The “What Angus Saw” game is my own creation.  🙂  I googled coloring book images of the things Angus encountered in the story, glued the images to cardstock,  and used a library pocket template to create a pocket to hold the cards.  This is a sequencing activity; the girls are supposed to put these cards in the order in which Angus met them in the story.  Of course, Lulu wrote the names of the things on the cards as I dictated.

Angus lost sequencing

We had fun making this lapbook.  The girls created some of these minibooks while I prepared breakfast on different mornings.  This worked well for us because they were fresh and interested in doing it (mostly) and it kept them occupied during a usually stressful part of the morning.  Lulu especially loved making the minibooks–she has a heretofore undocumented on my blog affinity for little pieces of paper.  In fact, she has asked me repeatedly for some of these books (the “What color is Angus?” book in particular) for her to put in her purse.  🙂

All things considered, though, I’m not really sure if I feel like lapbooking is a good fit for us right now.  It honestly requires a lot of planning that I just haven’t gotten a handle on yet.  I also don’t like the idea of having multiple file folders to store.  I think notebooking might be more useful in our home.  Also, we’re planning to follow a (neo?) classical education model a la The Well-Trained Mind.  I thought we’d continue on with the Before Five in a Row selections now and begin with Five in a Row when Lulu officially begins kindergarten as a fun activity to incorporate some art, etc., into our weeks.  Of course, we’ll keep on reading all our read-alouds, so this is really just an extension of that.

If you’ve made it this far in this epic post, congratulations!  I did want to close with a proud grandparent story, though, if nothing more than to prove to myself that my girls most definitely are learning through all the things we do each week.  On Memorial Day, we were at my parents’ house, and the girls, their cousins, and my dad were looking at his cows (one of them had just calved in the day or two prior to this, and a new calf is always reason for excitement).  Lulu informed my dad that the cows were chewing their cuds, that they swallow the grass before they chew it “thoroughly,” and that they bring it back up to chew it again since they didn’t chew it “thoroughly” at first.  Oh, she also pointed out that cows have four stomachs.  🙂  My dad, of course, was amused and delighted.  He told Lulu that she would be smarter than he is soon if she didn’t watch out, to which she replied something to the effect of, “I think I’m already smarter than you are, Papaw.”

Up next in lapbooking/notebooking at the House of Hope:  the importance of humility.  🙂

Friday’s Vintage Find::Angus Lost by Marjorie Flack

9780374403843I can’t take credit for finding this particular vintage find.  Marjorie Flack‘s Angus Lost is a Before Five in a Row selection, and since we’ve been working our way through that curriculum in preparation for Lulu’s kindergarten next year, it was next on our list. This little jewel of a book is worthy of the distinction of a Friday’s Vintage Find in its own right, though.  Marjorie Flack herself scarcely needs introducing; she is the author/illustrator who created such works as The Story about Ping, The Country Bunny and the Little Gold Shoes, and Ask Mr. Bear, as well as other Angus books. Angus Lost is the story of Angus, a feisty little Scotty dog who longs for excitement outside his yard.  He gets it, too, when he escapes from his fence.  He meets several four-legged animals which give him more adventure than he bargained for, including a run-in with a “four-legged” automobile.  Angus learns his lesson, though, and in the end he finally makes it back to the security of his home.  What makes this book even more special are the illustrations.  Marjorie Flack’s illustrations are a mixture of black & white and color.  The illustrations in this book remind me of watching an old colorized movie–the colors are a little bit “off,” but in a nostalgic way.  For example, Lulu and Louise completed a lapbook for Angus Lost (more on this next week), and when they completed an activity in which they had to identify and color Angus the appropriate color (black), they both wanted to color him blue because of the colors in the book.  Flack also used silhouettes in a couple of the night time illustrations.  First copyrighted in 1932, this book features both automobiles and horse and carriages as modes of transportation, so it provides a little mini history lesson, as well.  Animal loving children would especially love this old-fashioned book.

Friday’s Vintage Find::Play with Me by Marie Hall Ets AND a Field Trip!

We have been slowly working our way through Before Five in a Row, doing the suggested activities as I see fit.  However, when I attended a homeschooling conference a few weeks ago, I found volume one of Five in a Row and four or five of the suggested picture books at the used book sale, so I decided to re-double my efforts at making a more deliberate attempt at “rowing” the books we have yet to do from Before Five in a Row in anticipation of making Five in a Row part of our day during Lulu’s kindergarten.  (For more explanation about the concept of Five in a Row and what it means to “row” the books, check out the Five in a Row website and message boards.)

imageDB.cgiPlay with Me, one of the Before Five in a Row selections, is the charming story of a little girl who goes out into a meadow to find a playmate.  However, each one of her attempts at coaxing the animals she finds there to play with her is met with rejection when the animals scurry away from her.  The little girl finally just sits quietly by the pond, and lo and behold, the animals return!  One of the last illustrations in the book is a sweet one of a fawn licking the little girls’ cheek.  First published in 1955, Play with Me is a Caldecott Honor book.  It is a quiet, contemplative, deliberate book that gets better and better with each reading.

After we read this book a few times, I knew it was time to take this experience outside the pages of the book!  My parents have a little less than 100 acres of property, including pasture land and a pond!  I was excited about the prospect of recreating some of what happened in the book for my own little girls.

Someone really needs to remind me not to anticipate all these little educational experiences too much–they rarely ever go as planned.  🙂  Lulu absolutely refused to go up into the pasture because the cows (who were then in an entirely different part of the pasture) might decide to go up to the pond.  She elected to stay at the house with my mom and watch the new kittens through the window instead (actually, I think she finally did come outside and hold them).

pondLouise, however, was game, so she, my dad, and I traveled up to the pond in his pickup truck.  We had high hopes of seeing the snapping turtle that resides in the pond, but he was too shy to show himself.  We did see quite a few insects of different varieties (mainly dragonflies), but we had no sort of experience at all like the little girl in the book.  We didn’t even see a frog, but we did hear lots of them.  Maybe we just weren’t quiet enough.

After walking around the pond and observing the wet-weather spring that feeds the pond, circumventing fire ant hills (Louise is extremely leery of them because she has had an unfortunate run-in with fire ants earlier this spring), observing a thorn tree (which I had never seen before), and wondering whether my grandparents had planted the rosebush that grows beside the pond (the property was theirs, and granny’s family’s before that), we climbed back in the truck to ride a little further and survey the pasture.  On the backside of the pasture, daddy asked me if I wanted to go down to the creek.  The creek figures heavily into my memories of summers with my grandparents, so I readily agreed.

It turns out that the path to the creek was just too overgrown to traverse with a three year old, so we only walked as far as the fence would allow.  However, Louise had a fabulous time collecting treasures like hickory nuts, acorns, and rocks, and I had fun trying out the macro setting on my camera:





Although it wasn’t exactly the experience I had in mind, there is something inherently worthwhile about just being in nature .  Sometimes you’ve just got to let it be.  The pure joy Louise exhibited was worth it, to be sure!

Louise running