Apalachicola National Estuarine Research Reserve

One of the benefits of currently living on the Forgotten Coast here in Florida is enjoying all the natural beauty around us.

This weekend we took a family field trip to nearby Apalachicola National Estuarine Research Reserve. Located near East Point, FL just before you drive over the Apalachicola Bay to St. George Island, this Reserve has an incredible Nature Walk, an Overlook for observing the Bay, and a wonderful Nature Center with lots of specimens, exhibits as well as aquariums.

ANERR
Welcome to the Apalachicola National Estuarine Research Reserve (ANERR)!
anerr_1
The littles exploring the Nature Trail.
anerr_2
Purple Martin houses near the Bay Overlook.
anerr_3
The kids loved looking across the Apalachicola Bay at St. George Island.
anerr_4
After thoroughly exploring the Nature Walk and the Bay Overlook, we headed up to the Nature Center.
anerr_6
The boys were amazed at the size of this whale backbone that was found.
anerr_7
This wonderful interactive map showed the various boundaries for nearby parks and reserves and sensitive areas.
anerr_8
Aquarium residents Horseshoe Crab and Atlantic Stingray. We loved watching them interact!
diamondback terrapin
Aquarium resident Diamondback Terrapin.
water collection
ANERR collects rain water and it’s quite the show! There are two pipes for observing water moving from the roof to cisterns below the building, where it is used for flushing toilets and other non-potable uses.
activity guide
My book worm already working on the Activity Guide she got from the gift shop.

Save

Save

Save

Save

Curriculum 2016/2017 – Fifth Grade and Kindergarten

We have officially started our new school year around here – lots of new books on the shelves, and new binders are set up and ready to go! Kyri is now working on Fifth grade, and Ender is Kindergarten.

We have started using a few new programs, so look for some detailed reviews on those soon. But this is a good overview of our resources for the year.

Fifth Grade

Math

Singapore Math 3B/4A/4B – We decided to change direction in Math and work on Mastery of concepts rather than the Spiral approach used by Saxon. Kyri has responded well to the change in pace and approach and we will continue with Singapore through the remainder of summer and into the new school year.

Additional Resources:

Usborne Dictionary of Math (3 book series) – not a curriculum but a great resource. Colorful and engaging, these are fun to read and glean knowledge. Click here to check them out.

Family Math (series) – this is a wonderful resource, with games and activities that teach and reinforce math concepts. the series is being used over a range of ages, down to preschool.

Mathmania – this is a subscription magazine through Highlights. Two issues each month arrive, full of math-based puzzles and activities.

Language Arts

Vocabulary from Classical Roots – Grade 4 and Grade 5 This series presents new words that are grouped according to Greek or Latin roots. Covers root words, spelling, meaning and usage.

Writing and Rhetoric: Book 1 Fables and Writing and Rhetoric: Book 2: Narration 1 We are working on writing skills through reading good examples and modeling.

Well-Ordered Language 1A and  Well-ordered language 1B This is an depth study of grammar skills. Each chapter focuses on one part of speech and has extensive practice. Sentence analysis, a precursor to sentence diagramming, is introduced.

Junior Great Books Series 5 – We will be reading short stories and working through the Interactive Activity book for reading comprehension and in-depth analysis.

History

Beautiful Feet – Ancient History this is a literature based curriculum, with Streams of Civilization as the spine, and including a large selection of books, through the Ancient Roman Empire. Each lesson includes several reading selections and discussions.

Beautiful Feet History of the Horse – This study goes through the physical characteristics of horses, specifics of the various breeds, as well as cultural significance of the horse.

Science

Beautiful Feet History of Science – this is a lesson guide that goes through major scientific discoveries and inventions, starting from ancient times up through modern times. This is literature based, with in depth reading on the discoveries as well as the people involved. The two spines (along with various living books) are:

The Picture History of Great Inventors

DK’s The Way Science Works

Experiments are included in the lesson plans and will be extended as interests, time and resources allow.

Building Foundations of Scientific Understanding  – This isn’t our spine this year, but Volume I  and Volume II are excellent resources for planning lessons as well as having a flow chart of topics in an intuitive order to be studied. I will be using this as a reference and support.

Additional Resources:

Carson-Dellosa Just the Facts: These provide excellent supplemental exercises to enhance and expand lessons.

Earth and Space Science (4-6 grades)

Life Science (4-6 grade)

Physical Science (4-6 grade)

This is a great series that provides in-depth activities and puzzles. I will be pulling from all three volumes to go along with our BFSU lessons.

Real Science 4 Kids – We are using the Elementary level books (Biology, Earth Science, and Chemistry) as supplemental reading this year. These are written for children to be able to read independently, so they serve as a gentle introduction for many of the topics we are covering this year.

Nature Study

Handbook of Nature Study – an extensive resource for implementing nature study time. Incorporates nature notebooking and various nature guides, including as a main resource:

Nature of Handbook Study by Anna Botsford Comstock . This is a must have for a personal library. It is packed full of information about the nuts and bolts of nature study, details on pretty much anything you could want to find during nature study, as well as lessons to carry out during nature study.

Geography

Beautiful Feet – Teaching Geography Through Literature This is a literature based lesson plan. Four spines are read, and detailed discussion and mapwork are used to develop key geography concepts throughout the year.

Bible

AWANA – Kyri is going into her second year of TnT (Truth in Training) this Fall, and is very excited!

Bible Road Trip – This has been a great study this past year. We typically do the daily reading and discussion in the morning during our Kidschool. This year I would like to put a little more emphasis on Notebooking for each week’s reading.

Additional Resources:

How to Study Your Bible – For Kids by Kay Arthur

What the Bible is All About: Bible Handbook for Kids

Reproducible Maps, Charts, Timelines and Illustrations

Health and Wellness

The Care and Keeping of You 2: For Older Girls (book and journal) an excellent resource for learning about body issues, changing bodies, peer pressure, emotions, etc. We have used The Care and Keeping of You 1 extensively and love the series.

Vintage Remedies for Tweens (continuing) – covers a variety of topics from food, natural health

Raising Vegetarian Children  more of a guide for me, but we will be pulling recipes and discussing healthy habits.

Hebrew

For writing practice and mastering the Alef Bet we are using a couple of different resources:

Sarah and David (Read Hebrew Now)

Hebrew for Christians

Torah Tots

For reading and speaking we are using:

Mango Biblical Hebrew

Latin

Song School Latin – this is a wonderful resource aimed at a younger audience. It teaches vocabular and simple sentences. It also teaches about the many words that are Latin derivatives. We are using the workbook, DVD, CD and flash cards.

Character Development

This may go along with Health and Wellness, but I will list separately for organization.

Beautiful Feet Teaching Character Through Literature – this includes a wonderful reading list appropriate for both Primary and Intermediate Readers, as well as Study Guide lessons geared toward Primary and Intermediate Reading Selections.

Laying Down The Rails – this is a compilation of Charlotte Mason’s writings, organized to cover wellness topics (such as Cleanliness) as well as Character topics such as courtesy. There is a book for parents/educators along with a student book that includes discussion topics.

4-H Kyri has participated in our county 4H program since the beginning of 2016. She is active in the Horsemasters Club as well as the Green Thumbs Gardening Club. This year she will continue. In addition, she is working independently on 4H projects, including Cooking 101 and Entomology.

Kindergarten

While more formal education is taking place, a lot of focus this year is still on free play, exploring, read alouds, interactive games.

Math

Singapore Early Bird Kindergarten. A gentle and colorful approach to early math concepts. Counting, sorting, weigh and capacity, etc. are covered.

Starfall – we are a Starfall family. we have subscribed for years. Starfall has continued to add activities to their online lineup, and their Teacher’s Lounge has also expanded. Starfall Math reinforces counting, place value, geometry, addition and subtraction, weight and capacity.

Language Arts

In general, lots and lots of reading together is our focus for the year. But we are tackling some specifics.

Starfall – For language arts we are using Starfall to reinforce letter recognition, phonics and CVC words. There are also rhymes and songs, and talking books to enjoy. From the Teacher’s lounge, I am printing handwriting pages that cover upper- and lower-case letters as well as simple words.

Science

We are not using a formal curriculum for Science. We are pulling activities from a variety of sources, including:

More Mudpies to Magnets – simple experiments for preschool and kindergarten ages to explore basic science concepts

Evan Moor Learning About Animals – reproducibles for teaching about animals.

Handbook of Nature Study – while Ender won’t be expected to keep formal notebooking pages, he will participate in nature outings and will be encouraged to record observations in his own binder.

Bible

AWANA – Ender is officially a Spark this year! He will be working on memoring key biblical concepts and verses throughout the year.

Save

Progress

Sometimes it feels like I still haven’t gotten started yet – some days are more productive than others. Because I am still slowly setting up our new house and trying to establish some sort of housework routine as a new SAHM, we still don’t have a rigid schedule. Some days we spend a fair amount of time doing worksheets and practicing writing, and Kyri spends plenty of time doing Starfall online. Other days, errands and housework consume the day and I end up feeling unproductive as far as school goes.

I am trying to keep it in perspective though. I knew starting out (at 8 ½ months pregnant!) that the summer would really be a time of transition, in more ways than one. Settling into our new home and establishing a household routine (cooking, cleaning, shopping, etc), slowing getting into a homeschooling routine (baby steps, right?) and now settling into life with a new baby – life has definitely been hectic the last several weeks!

We ARE finally starting to settle in a bit, however. Everything is now unpacked and rooms are set up. Some cleaning still needs to be done, and we are finding things in our new home that need touching up and repairing. That’s the way of home ownership, though, right? I’ve set up the baby’s room as my temporary sewing room (he’s in with us for the early months) but so far haven’t found time to tackle any sewing projects. I don’t have my personal workspace as organized as I would like, but it’s functional. I’m still trying to get my “perfect” system put together for keeping up with schoolwork, appointments, and our finances. So far, I am keeping up with things, but I have to stay on top of stacks of paper (my weakness). Even the outside is coming along – planter boxes built (though the late start is not boding well for my transplants), composter set up, front garden bed planted. I will say this – I had no idea that I would have less free time as a SAHM – I am always busy!

microscope

For our homeschooling, I am working to get involved in our local community, and to explore all the city has to offer. Immediately after arriving, we joined our local homeschooling group, and we have weekly park days for the kids to play and the parents to interact and socialize. I am getting to know some of the moms, and Kyri is starting to socialize a bit and seems to really enjoy the experience. She went from spending all day and all week with a group of 16 or more kids, and being quite the social butterfly, to being a homebody with mom. The homeschool group has fewer kids in her age range, but she is adjusting. I think there are a few things that are causing her to be a bit shy. First, she sees these children once a week so it’s a little slower progress, and she has been in a classroom setting for a while. Second, in a classroom setting, you have a teacher essentially steering you into interactions with the other children, and in our current setting, the interactions are really child-led. Kyri has really settled into a routine with one child, who is the same age, and she does look forward to Park Days, so that makes me happy. We are also going to be involved in a homeschool co-op starting this fall, to teach Science and Social Studies, and most likely a second co-op to cover Music and Art. Many of the kids from the homeschool group will also be in the co-op, so Kyri will be interacting with the same group of kids several days during the week. Things are still going a little slow as we adjust to having a baby in the house, but I am so impressed with the progress Kyri is making. She’s my little reader! She has really grasped the Phonics lessons from Starfall, and can read many words now. She loves when we read together, and its really a high point of each day.

I’m really looking forward to all that homeschooling has to offer. As we get started with some of the local offerings and some of the curriculum, I’ll post in more detail.

Curriculum Review: Starfall online

As we ease into a homeschool routine for our preschooler daughter, we are really trying to focus on basic math and counting skills, and basic phonics and reading skills. I came across Starfall a couple of months ago after hearing about them on the Secular Homeschool website. While they have a packaged curriculum, one which is adaptable for either classroom or homeschool use, they also have a web portion that is really great.

We opted to purchase a year’s subscription to Starfall.com. This gives us full access to all of the web content, which includes a very nice collection of flash-driven activities. Word generators introduce simple three-letter words, “books” are read-along by clicking on individual words or having the entire sentence read aloud. There is also active content within books, which makes it even more exciting for the child. A wonderful collection of animated songs, and nursery rhymes introduce various subjects, like time, money, months and days of the year, body parts, etc. We love the emphasis on phonics – in just two months of using Starfall, our four-year-old has really made significant progress in learning to sound out words, and I often hear her imitating the starfall website in making the sounds that each letter makes. The content is enjoyable for her, and so it doesn’t seem like “school work” and she is really benefiting from the material and its approach.

One thing I love about the Starfall online membership is the Teacher Lounge. Here I am able to generate worksheets for our daughter to practice writing her letters, words, and numbers. I can also generate word finds and letter search worksheets. While there are defaults that follow the “weekly” schedule of the Starfall curriculum, it also allows for custom input. Included in the Teacher Lounge are additional resources, such as a Blank Writing Page, perfect for early writers, as well as Vocabulary list generators, Word and Number Card generators, and a large collection of the Starfall Books available for on-screen reading. Finally, the Starfall Kindergarten Curriculum guide is available, broken into “weeks.”

As we transition from a more formal preschool to educating at home, we are taking a relaxed approach out of necessity this summer. While we will be incorporating more structured material in the fall as we move into Kingergarten, Starfall is providing a nice foundation for our daughter to get more comfortable with reading and early math. The material available with Starfall ranges from early readers in preschool to new readers in Kindergarten (and beyond), and the Math content ranges from early counting, addition and subtraction, and goes into simple multiplication and division. There is a whole series of songs for learning the multiplication tables which our daughter loves, even if it is a little advanced for her!

Overall, we have been extremely pleased with the Starfall content. Our daughter loves to do Starfall and really seems to be getting a lot out of it. We have even bought three Starfall apps for my Iphone, which she absolutely loves. I think the reasonable price ($35 for home membership) makes this an excellent investment, even if not homeschooling.