Monday, January 08, 2007

Paper and scissors rock

I started a post about some new things I wanted to use this term, things we already had that I wanted to start using or make better use of. A hands-on math book, a set of notecards, an explorer biography, a craft book. And I said there were other things on the list--not books.

I wanted to finish the post, and tried to name those other things that I was going to use to zip up our winter homeschool. The list went something like this: Tape. String. Paper. Bible. Markers.

Not exactly earth-shattering!

But it struck me that sometimes we're looking for poprocks in our school shopping bags, and overlooking things that are less explosive but just as useful.

For instance, we have an ancient history timeline in the kitchen. It's been there all this school year, and it's been looked at (it's agreed that Cleopatra is beautiful and that Nero and Socrates are ugly). But the print on the events is pretty small and I thought the fourth-grader needed a boost in making sense of what's on it. So this term we are going to add construction paper tags, not right on the timeline but above and below it, attached with string. (Tape to hold the strings on the back of the tags, and stick-tack to hold the other ends to the timeline.) And not one but two colours: one colour tags for Bible events (we're reviewing David and Solomon and then going through some of the kings of Judah), and another for the stories from Hillyer's A Child's History of the World (we're moving through the Assyrians, the Babylonians and the Persians and will be getting to the Persian Wars and the golden age of Greece). When the two colours cross over, so much the better!

We have two books of French stories--actually very short English stories that were translated into French. They are useful for teaching vocabulary and a bit of grammar. We've acted out the stories with toys, printed out sentences from them, and made up our own version of worksheets to go with them--usually drawing things from the story or illustrating new sentences we've made up with the story vocabulary. This term we'll probably only get through three stories, two short and one a bit longer, but that's all right. The first one is about a snowbear (not a polar bear, a bear made of snow) and has lots of body-parts vocabulary (She rolled a head. She put on a nose, etc.). So I'm going to dig out the felt board (homemade a long time ago) and make some construction-paper snowbear pieces to help tell the story. (Construction paper works as well as felt does, and it's much easier to cut.) Then on other days I'll ask Ponytails (and maybe Crayons too) to draw her own snowbear and label the parts in French. (Maybe Crayons will do it in English.) One day we'll practice some French phonics from the story (the difference between vit, petit and vite, petite). We'll play Simon dit (Simon says) to help with body parts, and sing the French version of Head and Shoulders, Knees and Toes. And that's it--no CD-Roms in this program, but it seems to work.

I'm going to have Ponytails (the fourth grader) make a Stick Book of Area, Perimeter and Circumference (topics from Janice van Cleave's Math for Every Kid). I'm not sure if Stick Books appear online anywhere; I got the instructions from The Ultimate Lap Book Handbook by Tammy Duby and Cyndy Regeling. Better than stapled books, better than Duotangs: all you need are pages made from cardstock (we have some already from the dollar store), a hole punch, a rubber band, and a popsicle stick. The book is held together by a rubber band threaded through two holes punched in the pages, and that's held down by a popsicle stick. Revolutionary!

Paper. String. Imagination. You can't lose.

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