Thursday, August 26, 2010

First week of school

This actually happened a couple weeks ago: Mary and I decided to turn some of her commemorative T-shirts into drawstring bags and pillow covers.

This week, Audrey wanted to try the sewing machine. She did a good job of keeping the fabric straight while she tried the various stitches the machine can do.

We built some crazy creatures with our Zometool kit. I bought a pack of lesson plans that have topics in math, engineering, science, and art. Pretty soon we'll try the bubble lesson plans and make cube-shaped bubbles!

We started our school on Monday. Audrey is doing school for the first time. Here's what they're studying:

Audrey (5 1/2)
Math (Right Start B) - we're skimming over and through the first several lessons. This was a hand-me-down from Mary.
Spelling (All About Spelling Level 1) - again, skimming and skipping. She already knows consonants and short vowels well
Reading - whatever beginning books we have around the house or get from the library. Last night we sorted out the "too easy" books from the "just right" and "too hard" ones.
Writing (Handwriting Without Tears) - we reviewed the capital letters, learned the numbers she didn't already know (4 and 8 are tricky). Today she copied our address and phone number (always good to know).
Other subjects: read-alouds, geography (basic map skills, continents and bodies of water, land and water forms), science (looking at interesting things with jeweler's loups or under the microscope), art (haven't done any lessons yet, but I have Artistic Pursuits from when Mary was little, and she draws a lot on her own)

Mary (10 1/2)
Latin (Latin Alive Level One) - she likes this a lot so far. She enjoyed Greek, but there wasn't a Greek program at the appropriate level. We started with Elementary Greek, but the readings, which made her eyes light up, only came every five chapters, and the rest was grammar charts. All scales and no music. We tried Athenaze, but it's meant for high school or college students, so the readings got too long too fast, and it didn't have all the nice hand-holding things, like recordings to show you how to pronounce the vocabulary words, that you get with courses aimed at younger students. And we had to adapt the grammar exercises to fit an 8-year-old's attention span, so she wasn't getting as much grammar practice as she needed. Latin Alive is aimed at middle school students, so the pace of instruction is very comfortable for Mary. I bought the DVDs, so she watches the lesson and follows along in her book. The written exercises are pretty short so far. The readings start with a few short sentences, ramp up to a couple short paragraphs, and by the end of the book she'll be reading close to a page in Latin. Each unit has a reading with questions in the style of the AP or National Latin Exam, so if she wants to take either exam when she's older, she'll be familiar with the format.

Math - I didn't buy a math curriculum this year. We are going to use a combination of Life of Fred, lesson plans from Zometool, Mythmatical Battles and other card games, books like "The Number Devil", and Singapore 5B, which we have left from last year. I did buy an interesting book called "Is Democracy Fair? The Mathematics of Voting and Apportionment" which we probably won't use until the 2012 election, assuming I can still find it then. The math in it looks a little advanced for her right now.

Writing - A lot of her academic writing skills (note-taking, writing paragraphs and essays) will be done through her history studies. She writes lots of fiction on her own, and I'm sure she'll want to do NaNoWriMo again this year. For mechanics, I have a book on homophones and some diagramming resources that we can pull out from time to time. Before NaNoWriMo starts, I'll need to remind her how to punctuate dialog.

History - Mary wanted to find out all about everybody who came to America, and when they came and why. Right now she's reading a great book called "Before Columbus" by Charles Mann. I found a good Smithsonian website on Viking settlements
and we'll get into some European history as we learn about the early colonists and the big wave that came through Ellis Island. She and Scott are going on a field trip to an archaeological dig site of an inland Spanish settlement.

Science: she's taking a physics class for homeschooled middle-schoolers through the university's Carolina Center for Educational Excellence.

Other stuff: piano, maybe some logic, Movies as Literature, reading good books, Girl Scout badges and her Bronze Award, and whatever else comes up.

The last unicorn

Last Sunday, we visited an unusual place nearby. The Last Unicorn is a cross between an antique store, outdoor sculpture garden, and junkyard. The owner has been collecting interesting wrought iron and stained glass for decades, and displays them in his five-acre wooded yard. There are cottages with walls made entirely of stained glass windows, themed areas such as Narnia Forest.

Audrey enjoyed going over the troll bridge. The owner enjoys putting together creative displays of his antiques, and combining pieces in interesting ways. Scott was impressed that he managed to get "The Last Unicorn" as his URL. He figured the Rankin-Bass movie would have scored

Monday, August 16, 2010

Beach vacation

For Scott's "company picnic" this year, we spent a week at a beach house. It was our first trip to one of the Carolina beaches, and we had a great time playing in the sand:

And surf:

Mary mastered boogie boarding:

We saw baby sea turtles make their way into the surf. This nest had 125 eggs. We watched them crawl down the turtle racetrack and into the ocean.

For a change of pace, we caught the ferry to Bald Head Island one afternoon. Old Baldy is the oldest lighthouse in North Carolina, dating from 1817. Yes, the light is off-center.

It's a bit tight at the top:

But there's a pretty view of the tidal creeks: