Creating My Own Curriculum for U.S. History | Early Elementary

It became apparent to me that following the heels of the presidential election, and listening to stories of American History on Your Story Hour, my six year old was very interested in American History. I also remember reading that the early elementary years are a great time to delve into this topic, so I began looking for a great way to study U.S. History.

Of course, in typical style, nothing seemed to match what I was looking for perfectly, so this is how I came up with our curriculum for American History.

I’ve had a couple people ask, and so I’m happy to just share the link for the document I’m using to plan our curriculum here.  Just as a warning, it’s not finished, and I’m adding and updating as we go, so don’t be surprised if things change on it. I will let you know when it’s all done and share a PDF file that won’t change. 🙂 In the meantime, feel free to check this out if you think it will be helpful: U.S. History Lesson Plans.

I would love to hear from you! What are some of your favorite U.S. History resources for early elementary ages?

Here are all the links mentioned in the video:

Beautiful Feet Books:
The Early American History program fro Beautiful Feet books became my jumping off point and spine. Basically this program put everything into context for me, making the prospect of making my own curriculum doable and not ridiculously overwhelming.

A look inside Beautiful Feet Curriculum

The Mystery of History:
I really like the Mystery of History, and it’s likely to be the bones for most of our history over the next few years. In this case, I’m simply using the activities and some of the information as a supplement to what we are studying in American History.

Your Story Hour:
My son loves theses audio dramatizations, and he has learned so much about history though them. He would seriously listen to them for HOURS every day if I let him (let’s be real, sometimes I do.) How awesome is it that we can incorporate these great stories that he loves into our history?!?

Heroes of History for Young Readers:
I have loved the corresponding set of missionary stories for our family. The boys both love the books and we read them over and over again. I also love all of the additional activities and songs that go along with it. I can’t wait to incorporate some of these books into our history.

My Review of Heroes for Young Readers

Drive Thru History American History:
Although these are intended for a bit older kids, we have watched a few clips of these online. My littlest (3 years old) just LOVES all the cars, and my oldest (6) is such a visual learner and LOVES seeing all the places and things he has heard and read about. I can’t wait to dive into these!

Rainbow Resource:
There isn’t a whole lot to say about Rainbow Resource except that it is one of my favorite homeschool resources, and one of my first stops when I am looking for homeschooling ideas and curriculum.

Scholastic 3-D Interactive Maps:
This is such a fun mapping resource that really brings the geography of the times to life. While I will likely be doing most of the work of making the maps for the kids at this age, there is so much they can do with them, and when we go back and study these things in later years, they can have a turn making the maps themselves. I absolutely love the breadth of topics covered in this resource as well!

Hana’s channel, Pepper and Pine:
Hana’s channel and blog is another one of my all time favorite resources for finding homeschool materials and supplies. Her reviews are fantastic and I love seeing what she is doing with her kids. If you prefer blogs over YouTube videos, check out her blog here.

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Homeschool Organization | Relaxed Homeschooling

Boy howdy, it’s been a while since I’ve posted over here. As I was making a video for my YouTube channel though, I felt it was about time to dust off this blog and get it going. There are a tone of resources I mentioned in my video today, so I thought I would plant it here and share some links with you.

Basically today I’m talking about organization. I LOVE unschooling and the style of truly getting the most out of the things my kids enjoy, but I was finding it was really wearing me down. I was constantly on alert and in planning and prepping mode. Everything felt intense, and I found myself burning out fairly often. I realized something had to change.

As I looked around from curriculum to curriculum, I felt most were so intense and structured that I would struggle with finding the freedom to still follow my kid’s leads. I also realized that I needed something that was so simple and ready-to-go that I wasn’t in constant prep mode. Ideally it would just have the very basics and those would be grab-and-go, that way if I fell behind with planning, the thought of figuring out what we needed to do each day wouldn’t be overwhelming. Yet, it needed to be simple enough that we could easily grow and expand and follow our learning wherever it went.

This is the system I came up with, and so far it’s been working really well. 🙂

 

Here are some of the resources I talked about in the video. Feel free to let me know if I left anything out. (None of these are affiliate links.)

Evan-Moor Daily Phonicshttp://www.evan-moor.com/p/18756/Dail…
Evan-Moor Daily Geography: http://www.evan-moor.com/p/824/Daily-…
I love Evan-Moor daily workbooks. They have turned out to work really well for our family on many occasions. I also like their theme pockets books and generally find these to be great resources.

Math Lessons for a Living Educationhttp://www.rainbowresource.com/produc…
I did a full review on this math curriculum. You can check it out here.

Betty Lukins Felts: http://www.bettylukens.com/collection…
I cannot say enough good things about this felt set. I had to save my pennies for a long time for this purchase, but it was TOTALLY worth it! My kids love it. Especially my three-year old. We share our story for the week and then I leave those felts out for him to play with. Sometimes he asks for a few more to add to his collection (he always wants to have Jesus), and he has loads of fun making up and retelling many stories.  I did a full review on this felt set here. (They have recently released a few more overlays too!)

Church Quarterlyhttp://www.gracelink.net
I’m going to be honest. I’m not really crazy about our Church’s quarterly. I am was really struggling with finding a Bible curriculum I liked in general. I even thought of making one going through the Bible chronologically with customs and hands on projects and all sorts of things, but then I realized how much time that would take, and I just can’t do it right now. (Maybe in the future though. I still think it would be awesome to make).

I finally decided that since we go to church every week my boys would really appreciate having connected with the story all week, so I went with it. I’m doing a TON of adapting, and mostly just using the same main Bible passage, and going from there. Some weeks we are doing the same memory verse, other weeks we are doing a different one, but we are always digging deeper. 🙂

Amanda Bennet China Studyhttp://unitstudy.com/specials/expedit…
Amanda Bennet has all kinds of great unit studies. They are very much based on a Charlotte Mason methodology, and are intended to be completed independently. There are so many things I don’t use in these unit studies, but they are a HUGE time saver when it comes to recreating my own. If nothing else, they give me a great framework, and that goes a LONG way!

Missionary Stories and Resources: http://www.ywampublishing.com/c-71-he…
The main resources I’m referring to here are the Heroes for Young Readers series from YWAM publishing. Can I just say LOVE?!?! I don’t think I’ve ever found a resource I’ve been so excited about. My boys absolutely love them too. The stories are so well written and engaging, and the CDs take things the extra mile. I did a few review here.

We also use the Little Lights missionary stories whenever there is one that corresponds (which is often). These books are more appealing to Timothy (3) because they are shorter. They also help him understand what’s going on better. Here is the link to my review on these.

Magic School Bus Secrets of Space Kit:http://www.theyoungscientistsclub.com…
Samuel LOVES these kits! I LOVE these kits. They are so fantastic because pretty much everything you need is already included in the kit. You don’t have to run out and buy new materials. The experiments are perfect for a six year old, and I love how they encourage the scientific process. Each activity encourages the child to make a hypothesis. AND, these are great even if your child has never seen the Magic school bus and has no clue what it is. If on the other hand your child loves the magic school bus, there is always at least one episode you can watch along with the kit.

Beautiful Feet Early American Literature Unit: http://bfbooks.com/Early-American-His…
I have looked at this program before. I don’t remember when or why I didn’t go with it at the time, but for now, it’s perfect. I am also very interested in their science literature pack as I have a little scientist in my home. Who knows, I may use even more of their programs over the years. I guess we will find out. In the meantime I’m just excited to get this in the mail and give it a go!

How about you? How do you keep your homeschool organized? Do you like more structure or do you prefer to go with the flow? I’d love to hear in the comments below!

Miquon Math | A First Glance

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My son loves math. He loves to figure things out and is always doing mathematical analysis. He doesn’t even realize it. Oh yeah, he’s five. He isn’t doing algebra, but I’m shocked when I realize he is using skills like multiplication in everyday life. However, hand him a math worksheet – blank stare. You can see a weight just plop on his shoulders.

I have been looking for a math program to help him continue to develop his love for numbers without crushing his enthusiasm. I found a program a few years back called Math on the Level. It shows ways to incorporate math into everyday life. This appeals to me greatly because I truly feel like math is a tool to help us understand the world around us. While overall, I am so excited about this program and I do hope to save up and implement it at some point, it just didn’t seem right for now, and I need to really have time to save up for such a large purchase.

Then, I found Miquon Math Labs. Here is a little video that shares more about it far better than I could:

I feel like this program is really perfect for where we are at. And the price fits our budget nicely. 🙂 Needless to say, I ordered book one. Here is a peek inside and my first reactions when I finally got the books in hand:


When I first received the package, I felt a bit overwhelmed at where to start and what to do. I e-mailed support at Rainbow Resource (where I purchased the program) and they recommended I start with the Annotations guide – simply read through the first section on counting to get a feel for how everything works.  Super great suggestion.

I love how there are so many ways to use the Lab sheets and that between all of the guides there are games, every-day applications, and so many ideas for ways to be using math with children.

Samuel has had a lot of fun just playing with the Cuisinaire Rods. And I feel like this math will be so fun for him. We aren’t into it very far, but I feel like it’s only part of the math puzzle for him. It’s a very important piece, but it dawned on me that he either likes to learn 100% on his own, with his own ideas and experimentation or he likes to learn through stories. If I can find a way to bridge the gap and add stories to math while he plays and explores- this kid will be in heaven. I have a few ideas, so stay tuned, and I’m eager to share what we end up doing. 🙂

Real Science 4 Kids | Curriculum Review

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I mentioned Real Science-4-Kids in one of my recent blog posts, but I failed to realize that I haven’t shared much with you about it. I couldn’t believe it! So now, I’m sharing with you one of my favorite science resources hands down.

Real Science-4-Kids was written by Rebecca Keller (Ph.D in molecular biology)  in an effort to set a solid scientific foundation in an easy to understand way for her kids. She noticed that often the very basics of science, chemistry and physics, aren’t taught at all until high school. By that point, there is so much new language that it becomes confusing and burdensome for students. Dr. Keller believes that it’s best to begin understanding physics and chemistry as the basis for science (biology, astronomy, and geology) at the very beginning.

We started with the chemistry book in our home when Samuel was about four and even then, he understood it. The illustrations and simple explanations even had me understanding more of chemistry than I think I ever have. As a visual learner, Samuel finds the catchy comic book-like drawings both amusing and key aids to help him grasp the concepts.
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Each section in the book is really short. This is perfect for those tiny attention spans, and it also prevents the danger of being overwhelmed with too much information at a time.

One of my favorite things about Real Science-4-Kids is that the accompanying science experiments are actual science experiments. They aren’t activities the kids are doing to prove a scientific point, rather the student is expected to make a hypothesis, test it out and really engage in the actual scientific method. Here is a video of one of the science experiments in action:

Since the time I purchased our books, the leveling has changed a bit, and they have restructured things a bit, but there is still the same great content in all of these fabulous books. There are also tons of supplemental materials I haven’t explored yet.

There are two main tracks when you are ordering Real Science-4-Kids. The first is the Focus On series. In this track, each subject is taken one at a time and can be taught over the course of a semester or a year. While you can teach the subjects in any order, it is recommended that you do Chemistry first, followed by Biology, Physics, Geology, and finally Astronomy.

The Building Blocks series is a leveled series that is intended to last over the course of a year. It will have concepts from all of the branches of science and will provide more content than the Focus On series.

All in all we have really loved this series and I highly recommend it either as a staple or a supplament for the young scientist in your home! If you’re interested in a peek inside, check out my video below.

 

Science in the Beginning | Elementary Science Curriculum Review

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In general I have been happy with Real Science for Kids, as our primary science curriculum. Both the kids and I really enjoy the books and we have learned a lot about what are typically considered hard and difficult science concepts. I look forward to continuing to use the books through the years and they will have a special space on our bookshelf. However, I feel like something is missing.  Real Science for kids seems like a great supplement, or great for small units, but not a whole package.

I’ve hunted and searched. I have explored high and low, near and far to find the perfect science curriculum for our family. There are lots of good programs out there.  I like how one uses a lot of great books, how another has plenty of  hands-on science experiments. I like how that one has a great Christian base, and this one is grounded is solid science. Nothing seemed to have all the pieces I wanted and I was about ready to give up until I found Science in the Beginning by Dr. Jay Wile.

I think I’m in love!

What I love:

This is the first in a series of science texts written for elementary students. The text goes through science chronologically, starting with creation, and exploring science as we track through history of great scientific discoveries, thoughts, and ideas.  I particularly LOVE this format for my history-loving little boy. It’s also great to keep in step with our chronological history curriculum. I really like being able to teach science and math in the context of real life, keeping it practical. This format makes that really easy to do.

There is a science activity with every single lesson. This makes my heart happy. Some people don’t like all the prep, but I find the activities super easy, and not much of a big deal. There are also lists of every single supply you will need in the front of the book, which is super helpful for planning ahead. I find these activities give us a way to see science in action and keep our hands busy while we talk about the lessons.

This is a Creation-based curriculum, but it doesn’t have weak science. That’s been one of my biggest struggles. With many of the curriculums out there I feel I’ve had to pick between grounded scientific ideas, principles, and reasoning or a Biblical worldview. It has been frustrating to say the least. With this curriculum I get both. I don’t have to chose! It’s wonderful!

Sometimes science can be dull, dry, and boring. While, this still has a bit of a text-book feel to it, it is very user friendly and easy to follow and understand. I love that Dr. Wile actually talks to us through the text as that makes it feel more alive.

I like unit studies . . . a lot! I love being able to take ideas that the kids are excited about and expand on them. This curriculum is very adaptable. We started in on day three instead of day one as it goes perfectly with our gardening unit. It’s been going great. We also did a mini unit study on rocks when we hit that section in the text book. I love using the book as a springboard for all sorts of scientific discoveries.

The last thing I want to mention about this curriculum is that it’s family friendly. Dr. Wile believes in doing science together as a family. All of the lessons are written to do together with multiple ages.  There are leveled questions and assignments at the end of each lesson for independent work.

What I Would Change

For the most part I really love this curriculum. There is really only one thing I would change, and it’s not actually a change, just an addition. I would add a resource section. I think this is so important for almost any curriculum. If we are studying about color and prisms, and my kids want to know more, I would love to have a list of books and resources right there at my fingertips to get me started. I think a lot of this might stem from my love of unit studies, but as a homeschooling parent, I would much rather spend my time “doing learning” with my boys than tracking down tools and resources.

Overall, I really LOVE this curriculum. We are having so much fun with it and I see all four texts from this series in our future with many, many hours of science fun.

Have you tried Science in the Beginning? What did you think of it?

To see the book inside, check out my video review.

Summer Homeschool Unit Studies Resources

Dinosaurs, Garden Critters and More

Did you see my last post about planning my summer homeschool block? Well, here is a bit more information about what we are doing, along with some of the additional tools and resources we are using.

Mystery of History

For History, I’m highly adapting The Mystery of History. I lined up the number of lessons we would need to do with our science lessons to stay on track for the two timelines to work together. For this block, we will work on 7 lessons in Mystery of History Vol 1 and 12 lessons in our science. I usually read these lessons ahead and then use felts or just tell the stories to the kids. I find the actual text is a bit too textbook for them, but we still love using it as a spine. We also sometimes combine or skip lessons depending on what’s appropriate for the boys.

When I plan little unit studies, my goal is to plan enough to get my kids really interested, but not to plan so much that we can’t dig in deep and follow their own questions and curiosities as we study.

Lesson 1: Creation – make a creation mobile with the days of creation

Lesson 2: Adam and Eve and the garden of Eden – talk about what the garden of Eden might have looked like. Use play doh to make new animals and name them.

Lesson 3: Jubal and Tubal-Cain – Read Genesis 4:21-22 and talk about how God made people with creative and thinking brains. God must be even more amazing. Watch two YouTube videos about how to make things with iron: here and here. Make musical instruments and make music with some of the instruments we have.

Lesson 4: Noah’s Ark – Play animal concentration or other animal games.

Lesson 5: Ice Age – UNIT STUDY

Lesson 6: Dinosaurs – UNIT STUDY

To see a review of some of these products and what we did with them, check out this video: https://youtu.be/qvgAj-RKfcU

Lesson 7: The Sumerians – Make a cuneiform tablet, and read various books from the library – look at some ziggurat pictures

Science in the Beginning

We are working out of the Science in the Beginning book, which I love. We are mostly doing the units just as they are listed, but we will spend more time on the lessons the boys are really interested in. We will be doing day 3 of creation (it matches with the garden unit study the boys really want to do).

Gardening Unit Study

This is something the boys really want to do. They are not only interested in the process of growing plants, but also about all the critters in the garden. I’m using the book Wildlife Gardening as my guide and will be pulling ideas and activities from there as we go along. Basically, I have come up with several lesson ideas. We don’t have to do them all and I will let the boys pick what we do each time we finish with one lesson. I will use the library as a great source and really follow the boy’s leads on this one.

Lesson 1 – What a plant needs to grow

Lesson 2 – Pick what you want to grow in your garden

Lesson 3 – Prep the beds and plant our seeds/plants

Lesson 4 – Talk about bugs and garden critters

Lesson 5 – Start a compost pile – decide what kind we want to do

Lesson 6 – Make a butterfly house (maybe order caterpillars and watch them grow into butterflies). Pull out all our butterfly books.

Lesson 7 – Learn about Bees

Lesson 8 – Learn about Ladybugs – make a ladybug sanctuary from Wildlife Gardening.

Lesson 9 – Learn about spiders and make a spiderweb catcher from Wildlife Gardening.

Lesson 10 – Learn about frogs and toads and make a toad home from Wildlife Gardening.

Lesson 11 – Learn about worms and find some.

Lesson 12 – Learn about birds and make a bird feeder and a bird bath.

Lesson 13 – Learn about animal tracks and animals at night.

So, that’s pretty much it for now. The boys have already been enjoying some of these lessons. They are also very excited about some of the ones that are coming up too. If you want to see some of the tools and resources we are using up close, check out the video below. I’d love to hear about any unit studies or activities you have planned for the summer!

*I am an Usborne Books & More Independent Consultant and make a commission on books purchased from these links.

{Giveaway Closed} Bible for Our Little Learners

When it comes to homeschool, it’s easy to think of Bible or devotional time as just another subject or something else to cross off our to-do list.  Yet, teaching our children about the Bible and who Jesus is is so much more.

Check out my  blog post over at SDA Homeschool Families to find out ways to teach Bible to your preschool, kindergarten or early elementary child. Then, watch the video below to see the felt set we use in our family. If it’s something that you could use with your kids, enter the giveaway over on my YouTube channel.

 

Float By Daniel Miyares | Review and Extension Activities

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There is nothing better than a book that inspires a child to do more; to explore further, to create, to do.  Float by Daniel Miyares is a perfect example of a book that gives children new ideas and vision each time they open its cover. A wordless book, the storyline is quite clear through the playful illustrations and each “reading” is a bit different.  Children can open their minds and explore the fun of a paper boat through the eyes of . . . well, they can chose the little boy’s name. . . as he takes his boat out on a rainy day.  The boy chases his paper sea craft as it is whisked into a drain  pipe and flattened by the river.  He returns home, saddened by his loss.  After some comfort and a hot drink from his father, the sun begins to shine.  The boy is cheered as he heads outside, this time, with his new paper airplane.

I love the included directions for creating your own paper boat and paper airplanes.  They are plain and obvious and are that extra little step that takes this book from passive entertainment to inspirational play. After you have enjoyed building your paper vessels, you may enjoy some of these other activities, all inspired by Float.

Sink or Float

This very simple, classic activity is fun for children over and over again.  Gather several materials and a big bucket, bowl or container filled with water. Let your children guess what will happen when they put the items in the water.  Were they right? Did they sink, or float? What kinds of things sank?
A video about what makes things float
An article that talks about the same thing
Take this experiment to the next level by adding salt. What happens when you add a little bit of salt to your water? What if you add a lot?  You can add different amounts of salt to different cups or bowls and see what happens.

Check out these books for more ideas on science experiments with water:
Science With Water
The Usborne Book of Science Activities Vol. 1

Origami

Origami is the art of folding paper.  You can fold paper airplanes and boats and even more! It’s also a great way to build fine motor skills and to practice following directions!  Best of all, it’s free.  You can even use scrap paper. 🙂

Click here for some easy origami projects once you’ve masters the airplane and boat. You can step it up with some fancy origami paper. Or even special paper just for paper airplanes and rocket ships.

Writing Stories

There are so many story telling opportunities with wordless books. They are especially fantastic for pre-readers. You can adjust the activities based on your child’s age. To start off, you can mostly tell the story, but ask your child questions as you “read together”.  You can ask questions like, “Is the boy happy or sad? How can you tell?”  or “What do you think will happen next?” Asking these questions will help build valuable reasoning, observation and comprehension skills.

If your child is ready to tell the story all by herself, let her.  You can let her write her story on post it notes, that way you can read it word-for-word every time.  Don’t worry about getting spelling or punctuation perfect. If she gets tired of writing, you can even write some for her.

Continue the story.  You can have your child write a story of the little boy’s adventures with is airplane.  If you have an artistic child, let him draw the pictures too.

If you find your child really likes writing stories, make some basic blank books by folding and stapling a small stack of papers (maybe 3-5 sheets).  You can have several of these blank books around for any time your child becomes inspired to write a book. Another idea is to give her a writer’s notebook.  You can chose a composition book based on your child’s age and fine motor abilities, but make sure it’s always available. Remember wordless stories count too!

If your child likes to have prompts, you can try some from this website. You could also use these fun story cubes and make a game of it.  These are especially good for children who have a hard time writing. You might even consider a book that explores more aspects of story writing like My First Story Writing Book or Write your Own Story Book for big brother or sister.

Other Books, Resources and Ideas

Don’t let your explorations stop with just the ideas I’ve shared with you! You can learn even more about things like the history of origami, boats and boat building, the water cycle, aviation history, author studies, and more!

Would you like more ideas on any of the topics listed above? Do you have more ideas or resources to add?  Please share in the comments below! I’m always adding and updating as I discover new ideas and resources!

Check out this video to take a peek inside the book:

 

Disclaimer: I am a consultant for Usborne Books & More and receive commission on any sales made through links to my online Usborne Books & More store. I do not receive compensation or commission for any other links.

Why I Ditched Math | Gentle Math Strategies for Young Learners

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I recently shared about the gentle reading strategies we use in our homeschool, but I have been researching and studying about math learning as well.  Over the past few years I have been captivated with the idea of children learning through play. As I have watched all the things a child picks up with no formal instruction, only an enriching environment, I have been amazed.

What started me on this line of thinking in mathematics was an article from Psychology Today arguing that we should stop teaching math to our youngest learners.  This concept seemed crazy to me, but the more I read about the experiment in which teachers replaced formal math instruction with open discussion and communication, the more I was captivated.  In the long run, these students did at least as well in mathematics, usually better than children who had formal training during those early years.

When we think about math we think of number sentences and drills, but for a young child, this is totally abstracted from the idea of figuring out how they need to divide the stones they found so that everyone has an equal amount. The numbers on the page are simply symbols they need to manipulate, and it’s difficult to make the correlation to real-world problems.  In this way, math loses it’s meaning.

Legislators and educators have tried to combat this by creating the “new math” we see in the common core. While I applaud the goals here, I still think that working solely with numbers, especially for young children, only causes confusion and frustration.  Not only that, but it fails to give children the opportunity to figure it out on their own. By observing and making mathematical connections that aren’t fed to them, children develop a mathematical base that can’t be developed any other way.  It’s kind of like explaining to a nine-month-old how to walk.  Babies don’t have the language understanding to comprehend the complexities of walking. Even if they did, trying to grasp the idea of muscle movement and joint manipulation would simply cause frustration and make walking seem intimidating and impossible. It’s only by experimenting with standing and taking steps, falling and trying again that a baby learns to walk.  Over time, they can learn how to better strengthen their muscles and maybe even become a marathon runner. The same is true for math education.

So, what are we to do? I am a big proponent of play-based learning (much more on that later as I have a stack of books on the topic I’m currently working my way through). I believe it applies to math as well. Rather than loading our children with worksheets and drills, it’s best to focus on conversation and reasoining. Let me know if you are interested, and I’m happy to share with you lots activities and ways to provide a mathematically engaging environment for your child through play – mostly open-ended, natural play.

This is a little video of how I am “doing” math with my five-year-old.  He loves finding ways to use math and gets excited about solving problems.  We haven’t done any number drills, but I’m often shocked to see how well he solves real world problems (even algebraic ones). I frequently ask him to tell me how he reached his conclusion, and he is able to articulate it to me.  Keep in mind, I love my child and while every mother believes their child is a genius, based on my observations of children between the ages of 5-8, I really don’t think he has any special math abilities. When I have put a traditional math worksheet in front of him, his reaction is much the same as students that would be classified as struggling with math.

How about your kids? How do you notice them using math every day? What are some of your favorite games or activities that involve math? I would love to hear about it!

For more information on delayed mathematics, check out this article series by Denise Gaskins. (Her whole website is actually really neat, and I look forward to exploring it more as I JUST found it while researching for this blog post.)

Gentle Reading Strategies for Early Readers

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I have a five year old who really wants to learn to read.  He has approached me before, but simply hasn’t been ready. His vision wasn’t developed enough to identify symbols (letters) or words.  He struggled to distinguish beginning sounds from ending sounds.  He approached me again recently and something was different.  He was reading sight words . . . and remembering them! While sight words were a go, phonics and blending were still a struggle, and the idea of sitting through long lessons trying to help him absorb concepts he wasn’t ready for simply was not an option in my book. (For more info, check out my post on why I ditched the alphabet.)

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After a day of panic, lots of prayer, and some thought, I finally came up with a plan that has been working beautifully.  It is stress-free, very gentle, and most importantly, my son sets the pace.  We do have to work on it every day so he doesn’t lose the progress he has made, but I’ve been so excited to even see his phonemic awareness soar.  Everyday he amazes me at how much faster he is picking things up.  It is so fun to watch him be so excited about his progress.  I think sometimes he even shocks himself. 🙂

Samuel set his goal all by himself.  He wanted to read my big Dick and Jane book. All of it. Before we started, I wrote a master list of the new words introduced in each story. As we read through to book, I look ahead and write any new words on post-it-notes and hang them on the wall. We play games with these words randomly throughout the day.  I might say to Samuel, “bring me ‘jump'” and he will run to the wall and bring me the word jump.  Then I will have him put it back and read it.  Sometimes as we pass by I will stop and ask him what words we are working on and he will look at the wall and read them to me. It’s all about exposure.  Then, when he comes across the words for the first time as he’s reading, he often gets excited because it’s a word he recognizes. Once he learns a particular word well, we move it off the wall and into his word book.  Then, we can play games with those words later.

Of course, phonics is still a struggle. I don’t want to ignore phonemic awareness completely. Phonics skills are very important when it comes to decoding and reading. To keep it slow and less intimidating, we work on one letter at a time.  I hang the letter by the words we are working on and we practice it just like we do the words.  As we go past the wall I might say, “What sound does that letter make?” and he’ll tell me.  When he has mastered a letter enough to point it out in our reading, I add a new letter on top of the one he just learned.  From time-to-time we will grab a stack of learned letter sounds and review and play games with them.

For a more detailed look at how this process works, check out my video:

And that’s basically it. This is working really well for us. If it becomes too much for Samuel, or not enough, we will adapt our methods as needed. But for now, this is perfect for our needs and we are all having so much fun!

What about you? Have you worked to adapt educational goals and strategies based on your child’s personal development? I would love to hear about it!