Thursday, August 30, 2018

What are we learning?

For a brief overview, the kids are learning math, phonics, handwriting, reading, science, English, Bible, memory verses, poetry, classical music, and famous works of art.

If we get more detailed, than things the kids are learning are things like...
Being able to say and write their first and last name
Phone number with area code
Knowing that a letter can be a vowel or consonant
Knowing that the vowels are A E I O U and sometimes Y
Knowing that letters has two forms and can be upper case or lower case
Knowing all their letters and their sounds (they all know this already)
Working on rhyming
Being able to memorize and recite 1-3 bible verses per week
Knowing how many days are in a week and name them in order
Knowing how many months are in a year and being able to name them in order
Counting to 100 by 1s
Counting to 100 by 5s
Counting to 100 by 10s
Counting to 20 by 2s
Recognize numbers to 100
Being able to identify quantity by base ten, dots, tally marks, numbers, or pictures.
Identify famous works of art and music. So far we have learned about Michelangelo and the Creation of Adam. We have learned about Renoir and A Girl with A Watering Can. We have learned about Paulus Potter and The Bull. We have learned about Bach and Jesu Joy of Man's Desiring, Beethoven and Für Elise, and Bizet and Les Toreadors. 
We have learned about fruits, vegetables, bugs, insects and what the difference is between a bug and an insect.
We have learned geography with both our books we read and looking up where all the famous artists and musicians are from. We have a map and a globe and we use both to locate where places are. The kids are also learning (most of them already know them) their continents and where on a map and a globe they are and the oceans.
We have started writing or drawing in nature journals about things the kids are discovering and either they are writing down what they have observed or I am asking questions and writing down their answers. 
We are learning about the food we eat and what makes them healthy or why some foods are not good for our bodies. We are learning about what vitamins they provide and what those vitamins do to help our bodies. 
Learning about our five sense 
Learning about our community helpers, throughout the year we will be making trips to places such as the fire station, police station, etc

For physical exercise the kids are in the Special Olympics which includes Youth Sports and Gymnastics, and private swim lessons as well. Towards the end of the year the kids will be starting soccer. During the day we take walks around the neighborhood, go to parks, or just  play in the backyard. The kids spend at least 1-2 hours playing outdoors.

Some things outside the curriculum that we are working on with certain children who get some certain things added in and tailored to their needs are ...
Understanding positional words
Understanding proper use of pronouns 
Understanding negatives (which one is NOT an apple - because of verbal processing some of our kids hear apple and would point to the apple rather than picking up on the word NOT)
Being able to communicate with a sentence rather than in a single word
Being able to describe what they see in a picture with more than  one word
Being able to make a sentence describing what that they see/feel/hear/taste.
Working hard on handwriting skills
Learning to take turns and stay on task when playing a board game (Super Why, Perfection, and Candyland are some favorites atm)

One thing that works for us is to have educational playtime for kids who need 1:1 and then have them take turns getting the 1:1. We have six kids with special needs. Two need hand-over-hand to help with writing and cutting at times.  Then we have one other kid can not read anything at all, a different kid that has ADHD and is constantly losing focus, and yet still another one who reads a bit but has almost zero reading comprehension. 
What I tend to do is do all our group work together and first thing (flag,bible verses, calendar, etc) and then we start on handwriting. That way I can get the 4 who can do it on their own started on something while I help the two who need 1:1 with hand over hand for handwriting/cutting. 
 You can see here how our son is working on stringing and lacing objects which will help his fine motor skills. Our other son in the background has gotten distracted and is watching everyone else instead of focusing on his task at hand so I am always having to watch and remind him to get back to his work
 At the same time my daughter is working on her handwriting using a slant board. The slant board can be helpful to those who have weak fine motor skills.
All the while, our other little girl is working on an alphabet puzzle while I help one of our older girls with her work and our other teenager is working independently on work she is able to complete without help.
Sometimes, if one of our kids is getting too distracted, I find time in the day where I can pull them aside and do some 1:1 work outside of our regular classtime. To help make this fun for them, I typically will offer something like a little snack afterwards or a sticker to make up for taking up their playtime and them working so hard. If it is memory work, sometimes we work on that while one of the kids is helping me cook dinner or things like that. 
We have some kids who have more trouble than others just sitting and doing work. We are currently keeping a 100s chart and each day we do schoolwork the kids can put a sticker on their 100s chart.  (it is made up of 10 ten frames to make counting it and keeping track that much easier)
The kids get so excited about picking a sticker and putting it on their chart. 
Each child has their own binder where their work is put in at the end of the day. They also have a checklist at the start of the book that tells what all they have learned. Each time they learn something we can check it off. 
For our kids who have a hard time being still, we do a LOT of playing. We turn learning into fun. 
Take for instance the months of the year. We will do the Macarena and get silly with it. Sometimes we go normal speed, other times we say it super fast, other times in a funny voice. Anything we can do to make learning fun. We will go outside and write with chalk on our deck things we are learning about during class time such as drawing a giant S on the ground and have the kids walk on it since some of the kids are trying to learn how to write an S. Our counting how many times they have jumped on the trampoline or counting backwards and then pretending we are rockets and running around - pretending we are blasting off-  when we get to 0. 
We make sure we do physical activity before we start schoolwork, take 15-20 min break after about an hour or two, take a 30-45 min break for lunch, bathroom, and some outside time, get back to work, do some art, music, story, take a 30 min play break, get back to work and then finish up and the kids go back to playing outside or playing inside depending on the weather.  The kids are not on phones, IPads, or computers during the school day even when having breaks. They are expected to get their energy out and play. 
For our son with ADHD he has such a hard time staying still and focused that all those breaks (Which we never needed for any of our other kids) he is doing better with sitting and focusing since he can get his wiggles out before we even start schooltime, and then he has several times that he can get his wiggles out during the school day.  

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

School Time

A quick picture update on what we are doing.

Playing Super Why to work on reinforcing letter sounds, rhyming words, and reading.
Matching Pictures to the correct Vowel sound
 Sandpaper Letters
 So proud of his A
Tracing numbers
Veronika sometimes uses a slant board to help with her work
 Working hard
I wrote a S on the white board and had our youngest three trace it
 We went outside and practiced writing the letter S with chalk
 Making an S
Writing her alphabet
Writing numbers
 Working on writing numbers and then putting the correct number of apples on the tree
Working on building objects with shapes

 Tracing the S
 Alphabet Puzzle
We have moved our bible study/story time to the end of the day. Daddy has the honor of reading the stories and the kids love it!

Letter S is one of those tricky letters so we did a letter S walk

 The kids take turns holding the flag as we say the Pledge in the morning
 For kids who have trouble with their motor control this is HUGE!!! I wrote the top one and they wrote their name below!! So proud of them!!

Friday, August 17, 2018

First Week Back to School

Our Daily Schedule:
One of the first things we do every day is get out the kids wiggles. Sometimes this happens in our yard, sometimes it happens at a park. The purpose is to get all those wiggles out so they can sit and focus during our learning time. I don't want them worn out, but I do want to get out as many wiggles as we can. 

 Sensory Play is huge for our kids. They really need that sensory input and they just have a better day when their sensory meter has been fueled.
 A friend of ours had these hoops and told us about them. We LOVE them. They are perfect for teaching jumping with one foot then two feet, much like hop scotch but with a bright visual and can be played in the grass.
 All the kids love this ladder ball game. The first time we played it was at Grandma's house and the kids loved it so much we knew we needed one. Now we have something the kids really enjoy playing with but also is great for teaching throwing, aim, and taking turns.
If it is a super hot day the kids love to swing with the sprinkler going!

Once everyone has their wiggles out we go back inside to get a drink, head to the bathroom, and then sit down and get started with our school time.
We start our day with our morning prayer and the Pledge of Allegiance.
Once we have had our opening we follow up with the calendar and then work on our memory work such as bible verses and little facts, such as "How many letters are in the alphabet?" "What are the vowels?" and other such things. Each child is given a chance to recite one of the bible verses we have been working on. They are expected to stand nicely and not fidget while saying their verses. We have times where they can be silly and wiggle but when we are doing the Pledge or saying Bible verses that is not the time.

 Once we finish with our recitations we move into our daily work. Now we are using a program called Simply Classical by Memorial Press and we are LOVING it!! One thing I have added to our day that is not part of the Memorial Press program is our morning worksheets that I got from Teachers Pay Teachers. They are really easy and yet for some of our kids who need that extra fine motor work it is a worksheet they can do own their own and feel successful with it. 
One of our daughters is doing a more advanced Daily Worksheet but the rest are working at the same level. For some of them it is very easy but it helps get their fingers ready because it involves coloring, for others they need to work on coloring things correctly, and for some it is just really great fine motor work. 

 We also work on name writing daily for some of our kids. Fine motor is such a struggle for some of our kids they need all the practice they can get.

 I threw in for one of our first days, this draw yourself worksheet. I can hardly wait until the end of the school year when I will have them do it again and I can see how much they have grown over the year.

 I found this little bus pattern for names online and I love it! It is so cute! I wrote the letters of their name on it and then laminated it so it can be used again and again. Great practice for putting the letters of their name in order.

One of our handwriting worksheets from Memorial Press. 
 This week we are working on letter M and the sound it makes so we did this fun page with monsters on it and made a M with paint dobbers.
 Simply Classical Memorial Press worksheets, one works on handwriting while the other works on phonics.

 After we have practiced our handwriting and phonics we take a play break/potty break etc. Sometimes this is us going out for a walk around the neighborhood, sometimes we play inside with toys, sometimes it is the kids playing outside in the yard. However, the kids are NOT using electronics during this time. Nor are they allowed to watch tv Monday- Friday. * we have made an allowance that they are able to watch tv after dinner Friday night. I have found several educational videos on YouTube and I make a playlist with things that fit the theme of what we have done that week and the kids can watch that while we are cycling kids through baths and teach brushing. On Saturday and Sunday, the kids are allowed to watch kid movies. We do not allow our kids to watch super hero shows or any show that is rated more than PG. Most of the shows our kids watch are rated G but we do allow a few PG shows. *
Depending on how long it has taken to get our work done up to this point we may have a little snack or I may start making lunch depending on how long we have spent on morning work. 
It is during our lunchtime that I do our Bible story reading. I take out the book and will read the stories we are working on for that day to the kids.  I love the Bible story book we got with our curriculum because the pictures are realistic and do not look like cartoons. They also have little things to talk about after each story is read, sometimes there are suggestions for art projects, and a little prayer to say after the story is read.
After snack or lunch we take another 15 -20 mins to let our tummies settle, and to give our brains a chance to work on digesting our food, and go back to the bathroom before resuming our work.
Then we get into our math. Later in the year when math gets harder and writing gets easier we will switch the two around, but for now we are keeping it this way. 

 For our kids who struggle with fine motor, I will often use a yellow high lighter marker to write and let them trace over it.
 This is one of the math worksheets where we worked on shapes. They were told what color to make the circles and the squares and then had to make sure to color them the correct color.

Once we finish with math, we take a learning movement break. 
This is a time where the kids will do things like play with playdough and make the letter of the week, or we will bounce a ball and say how many fruits or veggies we can name, or how many words we can think of that start with a certain letter. We might get down on the floor and do a puzzle or walk 40 steps and talk about the number 40 and how it rained for 40 days and 40 nights. 

Once we are finished with our movement break (which is usually a 5-10 min break)  we jump back into things by reading books!
This week we talked a lot about fruits and vegetables. We read The Vegetables we Eat by Gail Gibbons, Apples by Gail Gibbons, Apples Apples Apples by Nancy Elizabeth Wallace, and
How to Make an Apple Pie and See the World by Marjorie Priceman.
]We made so many fun projects this week such as making an apple tree

 and  apple stamping

And we made our own little passport books to go along with the book How to Make an Apple Pie and See the World. We looked up the places on a map and marked where the little girl in the story traveled to. We filled our little passport books with country "tickets", a flag for that country, and a picture of what item the little girl got on her journey to that country.   

 It was great for working on scissor skills for some of our younger kids and for our older daughter I had her read the book on her own before we read it together, and put her passport together by following along in the book. This is a skill she really needs to work on because while her reading is good her reading comprehension is not as good. This was a wonderful project to help with her reading comprehension.

We also read What is Purple from the book Hailstones and Halibut Bones by Mary O'Neill and then colored a little "purple" worksheet.

We also learn things such as famous artists and paintings along with classical music. Earlier in the week learned about Michelangelo and learned about his painting The Creation of Adam. We also listened to Jesu Joy of Man's Desiring by Bach. We listened to the music sung as a solo and also as a choir. We talked about which way we liked it the best and why, how it made us feel, and what the tempo was. I also tend to put the classical music we have learned about and studied on towards the end of the school day while we are working on our art projects. It is so exciting when they start to recognize music that they have heard before or a piece of art they have learned about. 

All science and nature and history is at the end of the day and at this level is very much part of our book studies. So for part of our science this week we learned about the stages of an apple. From a seed to the fruit and the kids used little cards to put them in the correct order. We learned about different vegetables and what vitamins we get from them.

We are currently enjoying the slow pace of just having school work. Once mid September starts we will be very busy. Our younger four will be in the Young Athletes with Special Olympics while our older girls do Gymnastics with Special Olympics. One of our kids will have swimming lessons and also be in American Heritage Girls, and our four younger kids have choir with our church. We will also be getting back to having OT and PT which we had taken a break from for the last month so we can get things done around the house. Yes, for now we are enjoying the slow pace because we know soon enough it will be going at full speed. But we are excited for all of the amazing opportunities our kids have and are able to enjoy through Special Olympics.