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Sunday, July 15, 2012

Preparing our Curriculum

Now that my health seems to be back on track and seeing as I have a whole week before my new job starts, I've spent the past few days looking over preschool/kindergarten materials for Carolyn.  Looking at her skills, she's really already at a kindergarten level, so I want to take her skills further.  I don't want to buy a curriculum for a few reasons.  One major reason is that I don't to spend the money.  But another huge one is that I want to fit everything to Carolyn's learning style and desires.  She's a naturally curious kid, so I use that as a jumping off point.  I believe I've figure out my plan of attack for this next school year.

First, there are the set activities that Carolyn will be participating in.  Despite being asked to join team for gymnastics, we're 95% sure she won't be doing that.  Just don't want her to burn out on something she loves at only 4.  So Mondays will be gymnastics, the intro to beginner level for 1 hour.  Wednesdays will be story hour where they will use some Spanish.  And most likely Thursday, at least for fall, will be soccer.  After fall we will see about ice skating lessons and/or swimming lessons to take the place of soccer.  We'll see how she's doing and what she wants to do.  She's been asking a lot about dance, so if I can find her a program without a recital that starts after soccer is over, we'll consider it. 

That leaves us with Tuesday/Friday as our "free" days.  In the fall I am hoping to spend lots of time at parks.  Hopefully the weather can cooperate and we'll get out to a different park each day.  If we're feeling rundown or the weather is yucky, we'll hang around the house, go for a ramble in the neighborhood, or even work on a lesson.  I also want to get out to the children's museums and other community places geared towards the kids.  I need to start compiling a list, so if you're reading this and know of some, let me know.  So far on our list:
Round Lake Children's Museum
Treehouse in Lake Zurich
Monkey Joe's in Lake Zurich
Kohl Children's Museum
DuPage Children's Museum
Brookfield Zoo
Cosley Zoo (Wheaton)
Crystal Lake Nature Center
Lake County Nature Preserve
Moraine Hills Park

I also am hoping to pick places for us to visit once a month as a family on Saturdays.  In the fall I'd like to do apple picking again like we did last year.  But we may use some of the ideas above for weekend activities as well.  I'm a planner and I want to be sure we're engaging the kids as much as possible and not getting caught up in every day life such that we're not taking time to enjoy things.  On the other hand, I also intend to stay more on top of housework this year, although I suspect that will be fairly easy once I spend less time at the computer.

After all of that, I want to spend some time doing mini-lessons with Carolyn.  These I suspect will take 30 minutes or less and we will fit them in as time allows.  We may use mornings before heading off to activities, depending on wake up times and breakfast.  Or when Carolyn wakes from her nap we may begin to utilize that time more effectively, leaving me to work a little more in the evenings.  This is her last full year at home and I want to take advantage of it.  For math I'm going to work through the CSMP curriculum, although somewhat picking and choosing lessons.  I like the idea of a spiral math curriculum and how hands-on it is.  I will work to create number lines to post, likely in the basement, once our house if off the market.  I also found a good website that gives science ideas.  We are going to start with exploring the body and five sense.  This seems to make the most sense since both kids love playing with the doctor kit and are interested in how their bodies work.  After that we will move on to living things, since that's part of the K curriculum.  For writing/reading I find a cool idea that kind of puts that and art all together.  It's centered around nursery rhymes and the alphabet.  Carolyn is already very strong in letter recognition, but needs to work on rhyming, so this is perfect for her.  Each nursery rhyme is matched with a letter and an art project.  So we will also be doing more art this year, which I'm sure she'll love.  And the final thing for reading is little books that each introduce sight words for her.  In each book she'll need to cut out a sentence to paste with a picture and then write down the sentence.  I suspect we might just do the cut and paste at first and then go back for the writing later in the year.  But she'll enjoy making the books and we can begin to work on her reading.  I also want to do some social science things.  This is a bit trickier for her age group, as there isn't much out there.  But I've put together a list of topics we can explore.  I'm going to start with community helpers, although she already knows most of them, then start to expand outwards looking at our county, our state, our region, and then the other regions of the country.  I'm sure we'll talk about the election as is approaches as well.  I haven't decided how we'll choose what lesson to do each day.  Since I have 5 different "areas" to work on, I might put each one in a jar along with a computer day (she LOVES starfall) and have her pick one out until the jar is empty.  I think that'll be best for the first few weeks and then we can see where her interests are.

We also bought her a "journal" that has a blank area on the top 1/3 of the page, with lines below.  Right now she's pretty much just coloring in it.  But I'm hoping as the year goes on we can use it as more of a journal and she can draw a picture and then write some words or dictate to me what she'd like to say.  For now she's drawing and then telling her "story" to use.  It's super cute and I love how she's showing her understanding of books in this way.

I'm really looking forward to getting started with all of this, but we will wait until Jon heads back to work.  For now I continue to prepare everything and we enjoy our time as a family.  I continue to worry about Carolyn being bored in school when she starts, but I want to help her to advance this next year as well.  It's amazing to watch how both kids are so interested in learning and books.  And I love that tv/videos/computers are such a minimal part of our life.  I know that will likely change as the kids get older, but it's awesome for now. 

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