Friday, January 28, 2011

Week Lesson Plans: Holidays

When planning lessons, I try my best to avoid "tourist curriculum", which is based on the idea that when we plan lessons around one single holiday in a culture, it gives the child a false sense of the true rich culture that the holiday is part of. (sorry for the ending of that sentence). Instead we attempt to learn about different cultures and traditions by reading, study and investigating throughout the year, which brings me to Ground Hog Day, Brigid's Day, and the Chinese New Year.

Last year we focused on different cultures and religions, so I feel like we have some basis to discuss the following topics but we will tread lightly, as I don't want the children to get the wrong impression. Ideally, I would have loved to take the girls to NYC to experience the New Year or have found a local family willing to share what the day means to them but time has really gotten away from me lately.

Ground Hog Day- We will read
Superstitions, lucky charms, folk lore

Brigid's Day

Chinese New Year-
We have several resources, mostly books. I am looking for a dvd/movie-
You can sign up as homeschooler with PBS teachers and get activity packs.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Week 4 Lesson Plans, The Animal Investigation Continues

We strive to follow their lead, to find balance, to go with the flow and this week it has taken us back to Week 3.

We are continuing to investigate animals. And rather than prepare lessons we will not get to, I will do reverse planning, which is where you write down what you did. I really like this approach, but it takes a lot of trust on the part of the parent. I have to trust that the children will learn and grow as they should and that their plan is as valid as my plan.

To that end, the girls wanted to learn more about bears, so today we read Bears.

We also worked on math. Division for Bella and Base Ten for Gillian.
Using the hands on approach, Bella used chips to create a visual representation of 2/4, 6, 8, 10, 3, 5. She also learned about remainders.
Gillian after working for the last six months, she "got it" and was able to turn numbers in groups of tens/ones.
While the math was a planned thing, based on a lesson in a book, we also built off of the original plan by creating our own worksheets.

We read Words are Not for Hurting, as part of our social/emotional/spiritual component. We discussed how once our words leave our mouth, they are hard to take back. Yes, you can say your sorry, apologize and be sincere in your remorse but it doesn't change the fact that you hurt someone.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Lesson Plans That Don't Go As Planned

Well, would you believe we haven't discussed the Coyote question from before? We did however, cook with friends, make new friends and enjoy time together with friends. Sometimes, this is how life goes when you homeschool, you just have to go with the flow.

We plan, we discuss, we research and we adjust our plans as needed. My Grandmother gave me a bag odd odds and ends, so we may use them in our creating and art this month, or we may save them for a special project. (We do cover math and reading everyday.) I love that we can take advantage of what the day offer us and make plans on the fly. I also love that we can fully involved ourselves in our learning and follow an idea until we are ready to move on to another subject.

Does this sound like your life?

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

UU Homeschooling

For two weeks now, I have been trying to write a positive article about being a homeschooler who also is a Unitarian Universalist and raising her children in this faith, and I am just struggling.

Oh sure, I can name so many benefits to raising our children as UU. I can also make a long list of the benefits of homeschooling but combining them into a coherent paragraph is a daunting task.

I often feel very alone. Not just as a homeschooler, but as a UU homeschooler. While we consider our reasons for homeschooling to be secular (or at least, not linked to religion), they are most assuredly based on beliefs, and values. You can type in Christian Homeschooling and get a thousand results from google for curriculum, type in UU curriculum and you come up with just a few links, notes, and articles.

Does this discourage me? Yes and No. I imagine it would be hard to put together a homeschooling UU curriculum due to the very large number of resources you can use as a UU. My book selection is nearly endless, I can choose from a large variety of religions and writers- in fact, it is almost limitless. Still, there is something unifying about having a shared curriculum. A few of my friends would ask, "oh are you using xyz curriculum?" My general reply is, "no, we are pretty eclectic, we use a variety of resources." Which is true and accurate, but it would be nice to be able to discuss curriculum, and share ideas about what does and doesn't work. It would be nice to say, "oh yes, we love XYZ, you should try it."

Still, knowing there are others who are UU and homeschool, gives me hope, and lets me know I am not alone.

I did find some support groups though-

And an article

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Dr. Martin Luther King

I apologize, I mean't to post about what we are doing to remember Dr. King's work but time got away from me- so here it is. (Maybe it will be helpful for planning for next year?)

If you haven't visited Teaching Tolerance, please do. They have many great resources you can sign up for for free. Here is an article on Jim Crow Today.

The above books reflect some of the stories and ideas we will incorporate. (I will update with notes about the books after we have read them.)

As an aside, we discuss civil rigts, social justice, peace, acceptance and difference as part of our normal, everyday discussions. While we will set aside tomorrow as a special day, it is more like how we celebrate birthdays- we recognize today as an important celebration, but we love and cherish you everyday but our simple and big gestures.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Week 3 Lesson Plans Bears, Wolves, Coyotes, Deer

Lesson Plans

We are moving onto the science of snow and an animal unit study. We do our best to make learning as natural as possible, and as relevant to our local community as possible. Local animals of interest-Bears, Wolves, Coyotes, Deer.
The girls are convinced we have wolves in our county, so we will explore this idea and see where it leads us.

Bears, Wolves, Coyotes, Deer

Question- Do wolves live in Chautauqua County? In NY? If so, where and why? If not, why?

Additional Questions- Similarities between wolves and domestic dogs or compare and contrast.

Wolves: IMAX

We also subscribe to PBS Teacers: They sent me this link about White Wolf/White Falcon.

Additonal Resources
Mamamal Fact Sheet: MuskOx

We subscribe to Netflix for most of our documentaries and movies.

Spirit Bear: The Simon Jackson Story
"Based on a true story, this inspirational drama follows the passionate battle of Vancouver teenager Simon Jackson (Mark Rendall) to save an endangered bear. After being attacked in the woods, Jackson is rescued by a white Kermode bear -- a rare species known as the Spirit Bear. Learning of the Kermode's endangered status, the shy teen comes out of his shell and wages a political campaign to save them from extinction." From the Netflix description

Brother Bear
"In Disney's animated adventure, the son (Joaquin Phoenix) of an Indian chief killed by a bear vows vengeance but is transformed by spirits into the very thing he sought to slay. Seeing the world through a bear's eyes, the young man learns valuable lessons about the cycle of life" From the Netflix Description

We will watch Brother Bear and discuss the major theme(s) of the movie, the characters and how they relate to our own UU beliefs. We also discuss what our UU beliefs mean, using the list below and the following document. If your church does not have this pamphlet, I highly recommend picking it up and posting it in your homeschool area.
My 7 Principles
1. Each person is important.
2. Be kind in all you do.
3. We're free to learn together.
4. We search for what is true.
5. All people need a voice.
6. Build a fair and peaceful world.
7. We care for Earth's lifeboat.


Lesson Plan Ideas

Issues that can be discussed when learning about animals:
Extinction- What does it mean when there are no living species left? Is it the natural order of the world? What will happen once they are gone?
Why do animals become extinct? Can it be avoided?

Endangered Species- What does endangered species mean? Once an animal is placed on the endangered species list, can it be removed? Why are some animals endangered? What issues effect an animals growth and ability to reproduce?

**Questions can be adapted to the age of the child. Most of my lesson plans are geared for my 9 and 6 yr old. My 9 yr old is also more science oriented, so she tends to focus on the science section, while my 6 yr old tends to look at it from a compassion/concern approach.

UU Values and Beliefs this Lesson Plan Reflects
* The inherent worth and dignity of every person;
* Justice, equity and compassion in human relations;
* Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregation;
* A free and responsible search for truth and meaning;
* The right of conscience and the use of democratic process within our congregations and in society at large;
* The goal of world community with peace, liberty and justice for all;
* Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.

Week 2 of Snow, Birds and Spelling Tests

This week we wrapped up our official birding lessons, with plans to continue watching our feeders and noting any birds. Sadly, our only real observation was of crows. Don't get me wrong, Crows are great, but we had hoped to see other birds as well. I know it takes time for the birds to know that we will feed them, so having found our binoculars, we will continue our look-out for them.

We also had a fair amount of snow this week, which for us, mean't extra viewing of documentaries. We began by watching Art City, which was a behind the scenes look at current artists. I had to skip one of the artists due to content, while I don't censor everything the girls watch, I do avoid certain language or content that isn't age appropriate. Still it was interesting, Bella was concerned about an artist creating a picture, then destroying it. She couldn't understand why you would want to destroy your art.

A new science kit arrived in the mail, which saved us from getting too much cabin fever, and we began our investigation of Triops. The girls are quite excited about this and are looking forward to them hatching. Bella said, "we have ancient history in our kitchen."

And we wrapped up our week by having an old fashioned spelling bee, though a relaxed form as I gave the girls several chances to spell the word before giving it to their sister. This went over well, and was rather fun.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Raising a Child UU and Homeschooling

I have several wonderful friends who are staunch supporters of public school and while not critical of our choice to homeschool, they are concerned that because we choose to school our children at home, that we aren't involved in helping to change public schools for all children.

As a UU I understand their concern, but I think they misunderstand our reasons and how entrenched our current education system is in staying IN the system.

I am not anti-public school, I am pro-child.
I am not anti-change, I am tired of fighting a battle I am unlikely to win.
I am not anti-public school, I am for democracy.

Now, before someone gets mad at me for assuming schools are anti-child, I know there are great schools that put the child's emotional and social needs in front academics. I know that some people value academics, and rigorous curriculum/testing. I know there are teachers who teach use the democratic process in their classroom. I am aware of the current push down academics, Race to the Top nonsense and the stress that so many teachers, administers and parents are feeling in this current economy and antiquated system of education. I understand the need for standards and how poverty affects schools, children and families. No, really, I get it.

In fact, it is because I "get it" that I have chosen to not place my children in school. Schools are under pressure from the government, parents, teachers, administrators and general population- they are expected to be everyone to everything.

When my eldest was less than a year old, I was asked during a work review where I saw myself in five years- I answered, "well, if No Child Left Behind is still in place, homeschooling." I was partially serious, and partially kidding- little did I know I WOULD homeschool my children.

Since that statement I have worked within the field of education and have been actively involved in creating policies, lobbying for more sensible testing (to no testing), improvements in school lunches etc- so yes, I want better schools for all children- while I have felt that schooling my children at home is what is best for them. So never fear, I am a supporter of schools, education, and learning.

If there is one thing I know about being UU, it is that for every one person who wants choice A, there are 2 that want choice B and 5 that want an "all of the above" option. I believe raising my children as UUers allows us to build among and beyond ourselves a caring and compassionate community of life long learners who make the best choice for their family, while working for change for the whole community.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

January Lesson Plans: Photography


Integrating our Bird unit with a study of Photography. We will use our understanding of photography to photograph birds in nature.

Framing the Picture

We made simple frames using construction paper, a ruler and scissors. We folded our paper horizontally, drew lines to make an outlined box, like this |_|. We then cut around the lines to create our frame.

Have the children look around at interesting objects in your house. Use the frame to "frame" the picture. Hold the frame closer to your eye for a zoomed in, or hold it farther away for a zoomed out approach. Then have the children use a digital camera to replicate their frame picture.

Black and White Photography
Taking Pictures

Using Hands on Standards activity # ,the 6 yr old added and subtracted numbers.
Using Hands on Standards activity # the 8 yr old multiplied two digit numbers.

Montessori Readers
I purchased these books and the kids really enjoyed them.

Unitarian Universalist Beliefs this lesson relates to:
.Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.

Monday, January 3, 2011

January Lesson Plans, Birds

During the month of January we will study the Birds of New York and how winter effects their lives.

For each lesson plan, I will note our current resources, and how we connect our beliefs with our learning.
(It should be noted that we also follow a loosely Montessorian approach, we also tend to follow a child led approach, which means, that the children decide what we will study).We first find out what the children want to learn about birds and then we collect resources to support their learning.

Bird Unit

What do we know about birds?

What do we want to learn about birds?

From there we decided to study several categories:
How and why birds fly
What birds use to build nests and how they build their nests

What birds eat (does it change based on the season)
How do we determine the type of bird

Observe birds- in our own backyard, at a friends and at a local sanctuary
Note the number of birds, type, sex
Take pictures birds- learn how to take "good" pictures and about photography in general.

To learn about photography we will use or subscribtion to BrainPopJr (There are portions that are free)
Under the Arts and Technology section choose Taking Photos and watch a clip about photography.

The following websites are free and have lots of helpful information:
George Eastmann, Kodak

Backyard Birds (Peterson Field Guides® for Young Naturalists) Backyard Birds (Peterson Field Guides® for Young Naturalists)
Karen Stray Nolting, et al

Bird (DK Eyewitness Books) by David Burnie

UU Values and Beliefs this lesson reflects:

* A free and responsible search for truth and meaning;

* Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.

Whenever we use a resource we try to search for truth and meaning.

We do our best to respect the natural world and our place in it by acting as visitors on this planet earth. We do our best to tread lightly.