Friday, July 31, 2009

Marine Biology, oh, I mean vacation

As I have previously mentioned, my philosophy on teaching science is that it needs to be 98% experiential. Sure, some reading and writing are necessary. However, I am fully convinced that reading and writing supplement experiential learning in the area of science. I use personal experience as both a teacher and a learner to support this philosophy. I have discovered that very little can compete with the joy of watching your own children learn.

We had an amazing experience last week while on vacation. We got to watch a nest of sea turtles hatch and venture into the Atlantic ocean. There was no need for me to prompt my children to learn. They were bombarding me with questions, gasping in awe and planning their futures as scientists. I was able to answer some of their questions on the spot. The majority of their questions required a bit of research.

I suspect that they will retain what they have learned about Loggerhead Sea Turtles for many years. I wish that I could take my children on a world tour, allowing them to take in the amazing variety of plants and animals that call Earth home. Since that is out of the question, my husband and I try to maximize the opportunities that are presented to us.

Here is a link to an article written by Dr. Albert Mohler that addresses the issue of exposing children to God's creation. I was encouraged by this article when it was originally published in 2005. I love it when scholars confirm what I simply feel in my gut as a mother.

For those of you interested in the turtles here is a video of the nest that we saw hatch being relocated. Hopefully the video of the babies parading to the ocean will be up soon. You could check back here or on 'Coastal Digital' page on You-Tube.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Summer Science class (of course they don't know that)

We have been hanging out in our neighborhood garden recently. Gardening with children is so fun. They are amazed that the seeds that they planted in May have actually produced something edible. This is a picture of Paige collecting sugar snap peas. She ate most of them before we got back to the house. Oh well, I guess that is the point.

McKenzie, Lauren, and Zach collecting more peas. I have to remind the kids that we are sharing this garden. We can't pick everything.
We also found a monarch caterpillar. We agreed with the three other families that are working on the garden to keep any milkweed that came up. It doesn't make for a very tidy garden, but we are hoping to attract monarchs. I am hoping that the kids will get to observe the full life cycle. This picture is Lauren finding the caterpillar.

Friday, July 3, 2009

It is all here!

Our last package of school books arrived today. I am so glad to have everything in my possession. This box included our Map Aids CD-ROM and the lap book kits for the first ten weeks of school. We will start our school year the first Monday in August. I have a few weeks to finalize lesson plans and confirm field trips. I am looking forward to a new school year. (If you don't know what Map Aids or lap book kits are click on the TOG box on the right.)

Wednesday, July 1, 2009


Spelling was actually the hardest subject for me to plan this summer. The result of using Saxon phonics for the past two years has been that M's spelling level does not fit neatly into a given grade level. She has been exposed to all spelling rules, but has not mastered all of them. Assigning words a grade level seems somewhat arbitrary anyway. She loves to write and needs to be able to spell the words that are stored in her mind. Sometimes those words are "on grade level" and sometimes they aren't.

So, I read and reread and reread the Rainbow Resources Catalog. If you don't have a copy, the web-site is helpful too. However, I continue to find the catalog an invaluable resource. After reading the spelling section of the catalog every night for a week I was still unsure about which spelling program would be the best fit for M. As a last ditch effort I call Rainbow Resources. If you think that the catalog is helpful, you should talk to them on the phone. Every time I have called Rainbow Resources I have gotten excellent help.

The customer service rep helped me rule out several workbooks that I had been considering. After twenty minutes of spelling talk I ordered the first two books in the sequential spelling program.

Sequential spelling is quite different from any other spelling program. If you fall into the "spelling is visual" camp you would love this program. The words are grouped based on patterns. So, in, sin, begin, and begins would all be on the same list. Grade level is not a consideration in this program. It is an interesting concept. I think that I would have benefited from this program in middle school. But, that was also the program's weakness. It would be great for an older student who is struggling with spelling. A student who has been exposed to spelling rules year after year and still can't spell correctly. At that point a different method is clearly needed, and sequential spelling would be a reasonable option.

My students are young. They have not been exposed to the rules of spelling for several years. I knew that I would have to keep looking when I read the foot note for the word pinned.

"there is no need at this time to encumber your students' minds with rules about doubling consonants"

So, how will they spell topped and mopped correctly? I might use the sequential spelling list as a way to break up the school year, as challenge lists, or for mock spelling bees. However, I know that my girls still need exposure to the rules of spelling.

I have finally bought Spelling Power. (This link is by far the best price that I could find) I did not want to use this program. The author has a 45 minute video about how to use the program. The manual is huge. I know that Scott will not find it easy to just pick up and review words with the girls. I am not sure that M will think that the review methods are as great as the author claims. So, why would I pick this program? Several reasons . . . .
  1. Students "test in", which means that my grade level dilemma will be solved
  2. the program is designed to be completed in 15 minutes a day and those 15 minutes are broken down into three 5 minute segments
  3. it is a 3rd-12th grade program; IF we like it I will not have to search for a new spelling program next year

The irony of this time consuming search is that Spelling Power is recommened by Tapestry of Grace. Sometimes we just have to arrive at something on our own.