Friday, June 6, 2014

Weekly Homeschool Wrap-Up 6/6

Good Friday to you. I'm not entirely sure anyone will read this due to the beautiful weather and end-of-year busyness, but I feel like writing about school and booky stuff anyway. Many of you are out of school this week, but we are in no such celebratory mood. Routine will move along as usual up through August, then a couple weeks off before we start the new year.

First Grade News:

All my four children are unique learners and one thing about Mary, age 7, is that her lessons have to be short, short, short. Her attention span isn't where I'd like it to be. I've learned so much this year in just accepting that in love. I haven't ridiculed her or chatised her, although inside I've often been irritated at the slow pace and the necessary breaks.

This year, then, I've climbed a personal mountain of sorts, in my ability as a teacher.

It helped that Mary is not mouthy or disrespectful. When she is done mentally she fidgets and takes longer to finish the simplest tasks. She asks how much longer she has to sit, or asks when she can go outside, but she doesn't argue.

She is reading fairly well now, but she still needs me nearby to help her keep abreast of all the complicated phonics combinations that are part of first-grade reading material. So many vowel digraphs, r-controlled words, and other complicated nonsense stuff. I have to admit, even though I taught it for nine years before having children, that first grade is not altogether a fun year. I used to think it was magical--the best grade ever--but now that I've taught every grade up through sixth, I think first grade is a pain. Now isn't that strange? I guess I like all the wonderful, rich content that comes later.

As a young learner I think she reminds me somewhat of Peter, in that the skills come slow--the parts themselves, but it's clear that the big picture isn't a problem. She is bright enough and can discuss ideas and draw conclusions and remember much about science and social studies, but seeing patterns in the numbers to 100, and recognizing patterns when she's reading, just don't come naturally.

Peter, now 12, didn't read well enough for me to walk away for good (meaning, no help at all), until he was eight years old. His issue wasn't remembering vowel digraph combinations so much as remembering sight words. By nine and a half he was an amazing reader, so I'm not at all worried about his little sister.

In science Mary is learning about plants and flowers and eggs and chicks. It is a group effort, with Daddy and Peter helping me teach science at times (Sonlight Science). While the Sonlight program is labeled as a K program, the written work would be very hard for a kindergarten child. It is perfect for Mary, and she loves the subject matter and all the books involved. Sonlight designs everything to appeal and work with a range of ages.

Mary continues in Explode the Code, and in Susan Wise Bauer's Writing With Ease Level 1. I thought about starting her in Sequential Spelling Level 1, but it's still a bit hard so we'll wait until the fall.

I haven't done a homeschooling post in several weeks but I've been saving up some favorite trade books to share. I'll share five this week and more next week. They're all wonderful, but in the interest of time, I'll just feature them and not comment, since dinner prep calls.

I'll write next week about what the boys are doing for school.

None of these book links are affiliate links; this is a personal blog only.

Camille and the Sunflowers A story about Vincent van Gogh by Laurence Anholt

School Library Journal Synopsis: Grade 2-4-In this story that has roots in historical fact, Camille and his postman father meet a stranger who comes to their town with no money and no friends. They give him furniture and friendship, and he paints a picture of each member of their family. The boy visits the man and takes him sunflowers, but the townspeople drive Vincent away because he's too odd and he doesn't have what they consider a real job. This sad tale can stand alone, and, while it omits important details, its tone matches that of other accounts of Van Gogh's short life. Unfortunately, the CIP information, the names and locations of the Roulin family paintings, and a biographical note about Van Gogh are printed inside the book covers under the jacket flaps. The sketchy pen-and-watercolor illustrations are punctuated with seven fine art reproductions, including a little known "Portrait of Camille Roulin" and the famous "Vase with 14 Sunflowers." The Roulins and the yellow house in which the artist stayed when he was in Arles, France, are seen in context in Bruce Bernard's Van Gogh (Dorling Kindersley, 1993). The two books complement one another and provide a greater understanding of this gifted, troubled man.

The Magical Garden of Claude Monet by Laurence Anholt

School Library Journal Synopsis: Grade 1-4-An engaging introduction to Monet's later work, featuring his gardens at Giverny. Based on a visit to the artist by a girl who turns out to be the daughter of Impressionist Berthe Morisot and a niece of Edouard Manet, The Magical Garden effortlessly combines artistic fancy with biographical fact. The simple story of a city child's day in the country is brought to life through clear text and vibrant gouache illustrations that blend seamlessly to provide an ideal introduction to Monet's temperament, work habits, and aesthetic. Anholt pulls off a deft illustrative trick, using his own fluid style to capture the flavor of many of Monet's most frequently reproduced works. Several illustrations are successful combinations of photo reproductions of Monet's paintings overlaid with Anholt's drawings of the artist and Julie. Particularly impressive is the foldout spread that depicts Monet, Julie, and her dog gliding across the lake in a small boat. The figures are incorporated into Monet's masterpiece Waterlilies: Morning. Perfect for children not old enough to enjoy the detail and comparatively intricate plot of Christina Bjork's Linnea in Monet's Garden (R & S, 1987), this volume also includes a page of biographical information about Monet.

Hot Dog! Eleanor Roosevelt Throws a Picnic by Leslie Kimmelman (NEW IN 2014)

Publisher Synopsis: In June of 1939, the United States played host to two very special guests. British monarchs King George VI and Queen Elizabeth were coming to America. As it was the first visit ever by reigning British royalty, it was a chance for America to build a stronger relationship with the British, especially in those challenging times. On the domestic side, many people didn't have jobs, housing, or food. Internationally, Adolf Hitler, Germany's leader, was threatening the countries around him and war loomed on the horizon. But First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt saw the visit as an opportunity for America to set aside its cares for a while and extend a warm welcome and hand of friendship to the royal guests. As part of the festivities, Eleanor hosts an all-American picnic that includes hot dogs, a menu item that shocks some people.

Thomas Jefferson A Day at Monticello by Elizabeth V. Chew (NEW IN 2014)

Publisher Synopsis: In this fascinating story, readers spend a day with Thomas Jefferson as he and his grandson visit the vast plantation of Monticello. Readers learn about Jefferson; the gadgets and household items that he reinterpreted and the plow he invented; the famous house; the surrounding farms with their gardens, fields, factories, and mills; the workshops of the enslaved people on Mulberry Row; and much, much more.
The book is illustrated with archival as well as newly commissioned illustrations and includes a timeline, bibliography, and index.

Praise for Thomas Jefferson A Day at Monticello
"The illustrations include excellent photos of sites, artifacts, and documents as well as paintings that extend the text. The lightly fictionalized, engaging narrative, which includes many conversations, is bolstered by sidebars offering additional information..."
"After finishing this beautifully illustrated book, also stocked with abundant photographs of artifacts housed at Monticello, readers will be left more curious than ever about the life and accomplishments of Thomas Jefferson."
--School Library Journal

Plant a Pocket of Prairie by Phyllis Root (NEW IN 2014)

Publisher Synopsis: Author Phyllis Root and illustrator Betsy Bowen last explored the vast, boggy peatlands of northern Minnesota in their book Big Belching Bog. Now, in Plant a Pocket of Prairie, Root and Bowen take young readers on a trip to another of Minnesota’s important ecosystems: the prairie.
Once covering almost 40 percent of the United States, native prairie is today one of the most endangered ecosystems in the world. Plant a Pocket of Prairie teaches children how changes in one part of the system affect every other part: when prairie plants are destroyed, the animals who eat those plants and live on or around them are harmed as well. Root shows what happens when we work to restore the prairies, encouraging readers to “plant a pocket of prairie” in their own backyards.

By growing native prairie plants, children can help re-create food and habitat for the many birds, butterflies, and other animals that depend on them. “Plant cup plants,” Root suggests. “A thirsty chickadee might come to drink from a tiny leaf pool. Plant goldenrod. A Great Plains toad might flick its tongue at goldenrod soldier beetles.” An easy explanation of the history of the prairie, its endangered status, and how to go about growing prairie plants follows, as well as brief descriptions of all the plants and animals mentioned in the story.

With Betsy Bowen’s beautiful, airy illustrations capturing the feel of an open prairie and all its inhabitants, readers of all ages will be inspired to start planting seeds and watching for the many fascinating animals their plants attract. What a marvelous transformation could take place if we all planted a pocket of prairie.

 Have a wonderful week!

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