Unschooling: Living Without School; Living Free Range-Freedom to Learn What One Wants When One Wants

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Living Books and Next Study

I am really getting the hang of this whole unschoolish/child-led-unit study approach...A mixture of the styles that I have read about. The more I read and talk to veteran homeschoolers, the more I learn-obviously. And the more I hear the same stuff over and over, it becomes ingrained in me, and I decide to try it out, whatever it is. And today that is...living books.

I attended a seminar last Summer about living books. It talked all about books to read with different topics and finding books and how to "use" them properly. I believe Sam is getting old enough to start trying some living books, so we just picked out our first living book from our local library. It is called George's Secret Key To The Universe. It is by Stephen and Lucy Hawking. We are on Chapter Six our of Thirty something, just now really getting into the story. It is about 300 pages, with large print and some illustrations here and there. Samantha can NOT get enough of it! We just started it yesterday. We read several chapter on the couch and last night before bed. The only reason we stopped is because we had to leave the house or like last night, she had to go to bed. The book is a fun, fictional story, but involves a lot of good facts. They have already mentioned Galileo and talked about a science experiment, which we did after we finished that chapter. (The one where you rub a balloon on your head and hold it near a stream of water and it moves it.) And I looked further into the book and there are several real life photos of space! How exciting! We can't wait to get to those and study them. :)

So, to finish up our unit, we will have a few activities to do today with the moon, finish our book, and take Sam to the planetarium this Sunday afternoon.

Our next unit is weather! We had a bad storm yesterday, and while watching it from the window, Samantha asked if she could learn about weather next. Of course I told her yes. It will tie perfectly into our space unit, as we talk about the atmosphere and move on. And then it will tie into our Spring unit as the weather changes! I have started finding some experiments to do for weather that Jessie is very excited about. He is really into that sort of stuff. I Love anytime he can get involved in her learning!

Saturday, January 26, 2013


I am beaming with delight! Sam FINALLY broke ANOTHER barrier to reading!

Teaching her to read has been a long process. Since we started when she was 2, and I only teach her when she shows interest in learning in the next step, it is taking awhile, which is fine by me. We have time. I remember when she was 2, right before she turned 3, I was so proud of her for learning all of her letter sounds and BEGINNING to put the sounds together. With my help, she could sound out CAT. Not bad for a two year old. (Her area of interest is reading, so she excels at it. The interests that she does not exactly excel at is math, so definitely not to say Samantha is a child genius or anything.)

After that, there was not much more about reading that her little brain could handle, so we continued to read to her and occassionally review 3 letter words with her, CAT RAT BAT...She continued to play Starfall and other reading games.

And when she was about 3-1/2, she started getting better at sound out words on her own. She was very proud of herself, and so were Jessie and I. Around that time she also started asking what things around her said, like the STOP sign or Turn Left On Green Arrow Only. Mostly signs. Sometimes boxes, like cereal or something, environmental print. She has some of them memoriized because of their label, like Juicy Juice.

As she turned 4, those 3 letter words were "e-z-p-z" for her, as she puts it. You wrote cat on the board, she knew what it was. You wrote dog, she knew. She was just doing what we all do, pretty much memorizing the words. And even the ones she didn't know, it took her a second to sound out.

We still read to her. We still played games...I allowed her to "read" to me at night-whatever she made up out of the picture sin the book. And we really started focusing on writing words, even words that were not real. (I once read a book by John Holt, either How Children Learn or How Children Fail. I can't remember which one it was. He mentions that as a child writes a word...."rotoput" for example, and they ask what it says, we are not to say, "That is not a word." Unless we want to stifle the way that our children think. It is, in fact, a word. It is just not a word that we might have a definition to. So you sound it out, just as you teach them to do, and you tell them what it says. So that is what we do.) And I have found it encouraging for Samantha. A lot more encouraging than saying, "Sweetie, that is not a word." That is DIScouraging for her. So we continued that, and sometimes, in the car, or even at home she would say stuff like, "How do you spell Mercury?" And while I know the chances are that she won't remember how to spell Mercury after I tell her one time, it keeps her mind working. It keeps her fresh in that letters make words, and words me something. She kept showing signs of wanting to read, but I didn't know how else to help her break that barrier, but to encourage her.

And last night, as we were cleaning up her room, she looked at me and said, "Mom, where did Nana get me this stuffed animal?" As tired as I was, I phrased my reply like this, and I am glad I did. I said, "Samantha, I really don't know. It was probably the thrift store or something." She said, "Are you sure?" "Yah. Pretty sure." "Are you sure she didn't get it from...Y-Y-Y-O-U-YOO H-H..two o's say oo,oo Hoo. Are you sure she didn't get it from Yoo Hoo?" SHE DID IT! I looked at the tag on her stuffed animal, and sure enough, it said Yoo Hoo. She made a connection. In her mind, that tag said where Nana must have bought it from. I couldn't not quit screaming and jumping up and down. I called Jessie at work and I said, "SHE IT READING! LIKE READING! REAL READING! She can figure out words she has never seen before! Words that don't make conventional sounds!" He shared my excitement. He was shocked. I could hear him telling his friends at work!  I didn't see her making it this far anytime soon. Because-reading is hard. I don't even know how I learned, with all the rules and everything...It is just a lot.

Not to say Samantha is this all knowing, amazing reader now. She is not, but she just took a HUGE leap in reading! I put some words on the board for her. Words like Cast and Bird and Scoot. All kinds of words. One by one, she read them. Shortly after that, Jessie got home, and he wrote the word PUMP on the board for her. For some reason she could not figure it out, so we left it alone. I didn't want to push her. I thought maybe she didn't want to read in front of Jessie. Then we wrote the word "Poop" on the board. She read that and laughed and laughed and laughed.

That night I had her read a book with me. I asked first, and she said, "OH YES! I want to read it! I will read the whole thing!" We read "Dimity Duck." I read the words that were just too much to explain like "Dimity." She read the rest. There were some words that I had to tell her the rules too, but then she would get it. She got to the word, "That." I said T and H say "th." Can you sound it out now, and she did, in no time, she said, "Well, that is "th" and that is "at," so th-at, that." And then there were other words she breezed through, like duck and pond and swim. The ones that didn't have a rule. Ironically enough, we came across the word "Pump." Again, she had a problem with it. I don't know what it was about the word, the p at the begining and the end maybe? I just patiently waited and listened. I did not intervene because she did not ask for help. It too her about a minute or minute and a half, but she finally got it. She was overjoyed! It took awhile to read that book, but it was SO worth it. I can't wait for the day she picks up a book and reads the whole thing by herself!

After we read the book, I was trying to encourage Samantha by telling her how pretty soon she would be reading big books like I read, big thick books with tons of words. She was so excited! And she said that she wants to try living books again. So I checked out the book, "George's Secret Key to the Universe" from the library. It is being shipped to our library by the interloan library system. It is a short chapter book, but it is big to her, and full of a rich vocabulary and lots of information about space. I have heard good reviews. I can't wait to read it!

I also found some new activities for her solar system unit and TONS of cool, new books to check out that are about more than just the planets. They are consellations, the moon, asteroids, meteors, some of them are just about one planet-in depth. Some of them even glow int he dark! I can't wait to get the email that they are available for us to pick up at the library. Woot!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

New Homeschool Laws and Future Lesson Plans

I was going over some of the homeschool laws for Georgia. I noticed that, thanks to a new bill, we are not required to register with the Board of Education, but now the Department of Education. And instead of sending monthly attendance reports, they are yearly along with the annual progress report.

I found new contact information and decided to ask them about registering Samantha this year, and they told me not to register her until 2015, now matter what grade she will be starting in this year. So she will be almost 7 years old when we are required to register her. She will be starting 3rd grade that  year, and since we homeschool year-round, she will definitely meet the required hours and such. We won't be doing anything wrong, just less paper work for us until then. :)

We have lots of fun stuff coming up. We are continuing to work on the space unit, but we are running out of things to learn...well, there is lots to learn about space, but some of it would be a bit over her head at this point. She liked watching the Documentary on Black Holes, but it is definitely nothing we could expand on. So Sam is thinking she wants to learn more about butterflies, flowers, and even ladybugs this Spring. We are going to do a Spring themed unit study, about life cycles and different insects and such that we see more during warm weather. We are going to plant a real butterfly garden this year with lots of butterfly bushes. We will research what types of flowers we need (Research and Planning Skills), shop for the flowers (Math and Planning), plant the flowers (Life Science), care for the flowers (More Life Science), and study them (Again-Life Science). We will see the life cycles and behaviors of butterflies-maybe humming birds, and if we add in some of the right plants, maybe some ladybugs too. We may talk a little about how different plants grow better in different climates and parts of the world-Georgraphy. And of course somewhere in there Samantha will draw in her Nature Journal and/or write a little bit about what she has seen. (Art and Writing/English) And as usual, lots of Reading, Reading, Reading about anything and everything Butterfly, Ladybug, Flowers-Springtime related. Ah. I just can't wait.

Of course, on the side, we will be doing plenty of Nature Studies as we walk trails and camp or go to the beach. When we take vacation this summer, I also plan to finds lots of educational sites to visit. I know I have said it before, but I will say it again...Spring can't come soon enough!!!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Glow Water

*There are pictures of Samantha in the bath tub on here, but you can't see anything inappropriate.*

Glow water...IS AWESOME!!! I found out how to make it off this site. It was super cheap to do, and easy set up and clean up! All I had to buy was a black light, which is $10.00 at WalMart and can be used for SO many other ideas-I got lots of other ideas off this ladies blog! And a pack of highlighters. It was $1.00 for two of them at Dollar General. (After doing this, I recommended getting two packs, so you can have four highlighters. That way you can fill the bath up more and it will glow more. But it works with one pack.) I had to use a knife to cut open the highlighters, which took quite a bit of cutting, but I got it. I didn't realize the highlighter fluid was in bags in the highlighter. (Sometimes it is a felt strip, and you have to run it under water.) But with the bags, all we had to do was squeeze them into the water. (I also put a few drops in shaving cream, mixed it up, and voila! We had glowing shaving cream.) Anyway, it is a simple as that, put the fluid in the water or shaving cream. 

We had TONS of fun! Samantha splashed and played and she was in awe over how the highlighter could do that to the water. We wrote words in the shaving cream and played math games. And we put some of her glow in the dark stars and planets and moon in there, and we played pretend. We threw asteroids at the moon and talked about how the asteroid made craters on the moon.

It was a little hard for me to completely relax because I could see spots of glow on the walls where I accidentally flunk the highlighter ink. I was restraining myself from clean up! But all I had to do was use a towel and wipe everything down, and put up the light. That was pretty much it. Nothing stained. Super easy! This is by far ONE of my favorite activities we have done, right after raising butterflies, which I apparently never posted about, so I just posted about it, and our recent space exploration.


This is what the water actually looked like. 

She was stoked!
"Washing Up" With Shaving Cream
She was being silly and putting shaving cream on her toys.
Shaving Cream Beard
Sorry for the chest shot. We had a blast!

Butterfly Garden

How did I not post about our big butterfly activity! We raised butterflies last Spring! We bought the Insect Lore Butterfly Garden to put in Sam's Easter basket that year. All we had to do was order the eggs. When they came in the mail, unfortunately, they already hatched, which is understandable since it doesn't take long for them to hatch.

They started out so little! Then they grew and they shed their skin several times, which was pretty neat to see the little fuzzy balls everywhere in the cup, along with the frass-waste. They made this cool silk stuff and they ate a TON! Then, one day, they went and hung upside down. They slowly, very slowly, formed their chrysalis. We were even able to watch them as they did it! And we got to see the shaking that it did when it was scared. We transferred them to the pavilion for them to hatch there. We watched the chrysalis darken until they broke free and sat still to let their wings expand, and the red juices that they secreted. We finally released them a few days after they became butterflies, and never saw them again. Bitter sweet. I have bought her several kits since then, like Lady Bug Land and the Ant Hill. I am waiting until she shows interest and one or the other, but I am sure they will be just as fun!

Today's Learning Library

Today was awesome! Wednesday-Library Day, as usual. But Samantha does not want to go to storytime anymore. Too many people and she can't hear. (She doesn't remember that SHE used to young like the other kids that talked, and she talked through storytime too back then!) Anyway, I have not posted any recent pictures or given updates about Sam in the library, so here it is.

She is familiar with all the librarians, and she loves to talk with them when we come in now. She knows where most of the books are that she reads on a regular basis. She also recognizes a lot of the books we have already checked out, and if she remembers liking them, she will get them again. And she really loves when she finds out we have books on hold for her. (I try to reserve books that relate to Samantha's current interest and have them shipped between the interloan library system, so she knows it will always be something good.)

But this week, she learned something new. Every week we get on the computer to look up a book on whatever it is she picks. The first few weeks she started with sitting in the seat with me. Then she wanted to sit in the seat by herself. Then she wanted to type the words. NOW she types the word, sounding out as much as she can and asking me for the rest. (For things I know she does not know the rules for, like "cess" in princess.") And, I have shown her what she needs to write down so that she can look for the book, so she does that-ALL BY HERSELF. I don't even read it off to her. She looks and writes the title, the author, the section it is in, and, if it is in the Junior section, she writes the number. GO SAM!!!

Today we checked almost 30 books today! And we have gone through about 1/3 of them! She just eats up those books. We read until we fell asleep this afternoon! Wednesdays are one of my favorite days...Hm. I think I say that about every day. :)

Choosing Her own Books 
Awesome Book-She has checked it out several times.  

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Space Exploration

We have done so many space activities! It has been an amazing learning experience. I am going to post about some of the activities we have already done and then later I will have more to add. 

We started out with a few simple activities, mostly books. Here are the ones we have read so far-that I can remember: There's No Place Like Space God Made Outer Space Every Planet Has A Place The Magic School Bus Gets Lost In Space. Then we did some coloring sheets and Samantha has painted some pictures of space in her free time. She played some online space games. And I let her watch tons of space video clips and solar system songs (Our Favorite) and episodes of the Magic School Bus that had to do with space.

As time went on, I saw her interest in space was growing and it was going to be a long term thing, so I ordered The Magic School Bus: The Secrets of Space Experiment Kit. It has definitely been worth the money and we have not even done all the activities included in it. It came with a book of experiments and everything we would need to do each one, except a battery for the small flash light. We have made a planet mobile, a telescope, a constellation box, and done some smaller things like looking at constellation cards. We also bought her a small children's telescope awhile back, which I posted about here.

Today we did a big activity. Samantha asked to go on a treasure hunt. Well...I thought about it, and I thought, "Why not a SPACE treasure hunt?!" She couldn't wait! I stayed up all night trying to find ideas on the Internet and fill in the holes where I couldn't find any ideas.

To start out our hunt, we decorated a box to be our space ship. We looked at Samantha's globe and pinpointed where we were on Earth. I gave Samantha a map I drew, and we had a paper with a clue to our first planet on it. (On the back was the answer and some facts about each one.) Instead of reading the facts off to her, we acted each one out. If it said something like, "Pluto's surface is made of ice," I would say, "It sure is COLD and slippery here! Must because of all this ice on the ground!" Etc. Sometimes we used the telescope to see things like the 31 moons on Saturn! and several other things. Samantha was able to figure each of the clues on the front of the card. I put things like, "This planet has 7 rings." or "This is the 3rd gas giant from the sun." She used a combination of her knowledge, her map, and her space poster on the back of her bedroom door. We also ran into some shootings stars, a smiley face constellation, and we had to cross over the asteroid belt a few times too! She found her treasure on the planet Mars, which was the bathroom. :) I hid it in the bath tub. Inside the box was a place mat with the solar system on it, planet stickers, one of those velvet posters to color, moon dough, and pop rocks which we called "moon rocks." It has been over and hour and she is still talking about it and playing with her moon dough on her space place mat. I definitely think that was a good idea, something fun we can do during the days with cold weather. (Although, it is pretty outside today.) I think we will continue to do things like that for other topics. (By the way, all that only cost me $5.00 and that was because I bought the prizes for the chest. Everything else was stuff around the house.)

We have so much more planned to do for this topic! Tomorrow night we are going to do GLOW WATER. We are also going to do GLOW SHAVING CREAM! I bought the highlighters and black light today. I am stoked!

We are still hoping to get to go to the newly built planetarium in our area, once they call us back with show times. They have shows specifically meant for preschoolers, and we would love to take her to one. That is something Jessie could get into with her. 

And then a few other small activities, like a sticker space poster and some flash light experiments. Some more space books. Here are a few we have on reserve at the library: Me and My Place In Space Galaxies, Galaxies! The Stars: A New Way To See Them and The Magic School Bus Sees Stars

Samantha has picked up so much so quick, and she truly understands what she is learning! I have learned a lot too! It started out with her being familiar with what planets and stars were. Then she was able to name a few planets and a few facts about them. Now she knows all their planets in their order from the sun. She can tell you a lot about each planet. She understands things like why Pluto is so cold. (Yes, we taught her about Pluto. We told her it was considered a planet, and now it is not.) She can tell you why the moon has craters, and what the asteroid belt is, what it is made of, and what it divides! She knows what the difference between the inner and outer planets is. She understands they are all different. Some have atmospheres, some don't. Some have several moons. Others have one. She just...gets it. It is in her play, and that is when I know it has become a part of her. She told me the other day that she is the sun and the cat is a planet orbiting around her. (She was standing still and the cat was walking in circles around her.) This unit has been a blast! I can't wait to see what we do next!

Clue Cards-Front
Clue Cards-Back

Each room was a planet.

Samantha's Map

Asteroid Belt
Shooting Stars

Planet Earth

Watching "Magic School Bus Sees Stars" Together

Samantha's Rocket Ship

So Excited For Blast Off!!!
Searching For Planet Jupiter
Playing With Moon Dough

Treasure Chest