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

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Nature Display

As part if our nature studies, Samantha has a nature collection full of all sorts of things, acorns, leaves, sticks, rocks, shells, and then some cool less common stuff like the egg shells from the baby chicks we are raising. Turtle shell. Bones. Beetles. Etc. 

The coolest part is that Hubby likes to get in on the fun too. Anytime he finds something cool he finds out more about it and brings it home for S. (My Dad does too. He has a tumble weed and lava rocks for her! We will research them both when he brings them to her.)

DH brought home the turtle shell last Fall while hunting one weekend. And most recently he found the Beetle and learned it is the body of a rare beetle in our area called -----. 

I really wanted a nice way to display all of her stuff so she could show it off and be proud of it.
I considered a Nature Table, Waldorf Method. But the cat would get into it. Then I considered a Curio or China Cabinet, but they are so pricey, even used. So we opted for shadow frames. Ended up being too pricey too! 

Until I realized that I have tons of unused Mason jars! Which are like shadow boxes, but cylinders. So I spent all morning filling the Mason jars with all sorts of stuff, making it look nice and decorative, since it is going up in the hallway. And also framed the flat stuff like leaves and feathers.
It is all ready to go on shelves. :) (Just have to get the shelves now.) 

Just a Few of The Jars
A Few of the Frames

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Samantha's Kindergarten Progress Report-Rough Draft

 Since we live in Georgia, one of the laws for homeschooling is that I have to write a yearly progress report and keep it on file for 3 years in case the school is to ever take us to court. Samantha's school year is 365 days a year because I believe learning takes place all the time. However, for paperwork purposes, Samantha's school year and grade promotion will run from June 1st to May 31st. (We were going to do September through August, because Samantha's birthday is in September and that is when all the activities begin, but the schools want their final attendance and other paperwork by the end of May. SO...Here it is: (This is the rough draft, but I have spent several hours on it. And I am so excited about how well it is turning out!)

Samantha Anne Mays Progress Report and Kindergarten

Curriculum Description: Samantha learns using a relaxed custom curriculum meant to teach her the basic concepts of each subject. She uses a range of things from books, games, and movies to real life and hands on experiences. Samantha choices her own units of study, generally science related, which is then extended to include all other core subjects as well as other areas such as Bible Study and Arts.

Unit Studies

Samantha has completed a variety of unit studies (of her choosing) this year. Her main focus has been on Butterflies, Space, and Weather.

*Butterflies: Samantha spent an extended period of time, in the months preceding and on into her Kindergarten year, learning about butterflies, specifically about the life cycle and behaviors of a butterfly, the different physical appearances and anatomy of the different species, their diet, habitat, and needs.

Activities: Butterfly Pavilion by Insect Lore, Butterfly Garden

Books-Some Examples Include: The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Are You a Butterfly?

Space: Samantha spent several months covering material on Space. She learned about each of the planets and their physical/chemical properties, as well as the moon phases, Earth’s movement as related to seasons and days/nights, constellations, and the lifecycle of stars.

Activities: The Magic School Bus: The Secrets of Space Kit: Space Mobile, Constellation Box, Space Poster with Stickers, Clay Light and Rotation Models, Smalll Telescope, etc. Large Telescope, Space Exploration Scavenger Hunt, Field Trip to the Planetarium in Lafayette, GA

Books-Some Examples Include: There’s No Place Like Space, God Made Outer Space, Every Planet Has a Place, Magic School Bus Lost In Space, Me and My Place in Space, Galaxies, Galaxies!, The Stars: A New Way to See Them, and The Magic School Bus Sees Stars, George’s Secret Key to the Universe

Weather: Samantha spent a few months learning about the weather. Samantha learned about the different types of weathers-sunny, cloudy, windy, rain, storms, tornadoes, hurricanes, typhoons, etc. and the areas of the world certain weather is most likely to take place and why. She learned how to read weather instruments and predict future weather based on forecasts, instruments, and cloud types. Samantha learned the scientific explanations for how and why each type of weather occurs.

Activities: Weather Journal-Recorded the Date/Time, Forecasted Weather/Temperature, Observations, Hypothesis, Actual Weather/Temperature, Cloud Type, Pressure, Inches of Rainfall-if any, Notes, Reading Weather Instruments-Thermometer/Rain Gauge/Barometer, Wind Vane, Creating Homemade Weather Instruments, Weather Experiments, Weather Computer Games/Apps, Weather Movies, Watching Daily Weather Forecast on weather.com, Weather Songs, Researching Pictures of Weather-i.e. Tornadoes

Books-Some Examples Include: Oh Say, Can You Say, What’s the Weather Today?, Magic School Bus Electric Storm, The Man Who Named the Clouds, Flash, Crash, Rumble, Roll, Magic School Bus Inside a Hurricane, Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening, Listen to the Rain, Hurricanes, Snow, Eye Witness Books


Samantha has used a variety of scientific tools to measure in standard and non-standard measurement, such as measuring spoons and cups, rulers, tape measure, scales, thermometer. She also uses a variety of tools for viewing such as a telescope, microscope, and magnifying glass to observe and record physical characteristics and changes in objects.

Samantha has conducted numerous experiments using the Scientific Method. She knows the meaning for words such as “hypothesis” and “conclusion.” Experiments include those observing change such as those of the life cycle or watching food change from a liquid to solid, and experiments demonstrating basic scientific properties and laws, such as the basic “cup and water” pressure experiment.

Activities: Samantha’s main focus this year has been on Life Science. Most of her learning is through hands on activities. Samantha has cared for a variety of animals including a cat, ladybugs, and three small chickens. She has observed the life cycles of each, most of them from inside the egg on into the adult stage. Samantha cares daily for her cat by feeding, watering, and playing with it. She observes the cat’s behaviors and has learned about cats as kittens, cats in heat, and the general behaviors of an adult cat. She has witnessed the life cycle of a ladybug using Ladybug Land by Insect Lore. And she has also seen baby chickens hatch and be cared for by their mothers for several weeks. Samantha helped care for three five-week-old baby chicks without a mom. She has observed the basic behaviors around the mother hen and away from the mother hen. She has seen them search for food, drink, dust bathe, nest, and socialize with one another.

As part of Samantha’s Life Science focus, she participates in frequent nature studies, which include activities such as natural walks where she collects sticks, leaves, rocks, dead insects, bones, or any other interesting nature related object for her nature collection. She also asks questions and makes observations about her changing surroundings and sounds she hears to record in her natural journal after her walk. Her nature journal includes these sorts of observations along with a picture (photograph or drawing) of something interesting she may have seen, such as squirrels jumping from tree to tree in the back yard or a snake swimming down the creek.


Samantha started the year knowing her letter sounds and starting to read three letter words. Samantha is beginning to read three and four letter words with ease now and is working on mastering words with special rules such as words that contain “Ch,” “Sh,” “Ar,” “Er,” and words with a silent e at the end.

Samantha has read a variety of texts including Fiction stories-Science Fiction, Historical Fiction, Fairy Tales, and Picture Story Books. Examples of Non-Fiction are Poetry and Informational books about animals, Space, Weather, Gymnastics, and States/Countries

Activities: Samantha takes weekly trips to the Library. Each visit she checks out 20+ books, some related to her unit studies and others not. Some she reads individually and others are read to her in a variety of environments such as the Library, home, outside, and in the store or car.

Every morning Samantha has a word or several words written on the marker board for her to read. Every night Samantha writes her own words and sentences on her marker board to describe pictures she has drawn or lists she is making. She also plays on starfall.com on a regular basis to enhance her reading skills.


Samantha began the school year knowing only how to rote count. She has mastered true counting to 30 and counting to 100 by 1s with minimal assistance. She has started working with basic single digit addition and subtraction sentences, sometimes with the assistance of manipulatives and others by memorization or counting mentally.

Samantha began working with money this year by learning the names of each coin and bill. She has assisted with counting money with a money counter and sorting it while she volunteers at the Women’s Enrichment Center.

Samantha has touched on several other basic math concepts. Samantha has a basic knowledge of all basic 2 dimensional shapes and several 3 dimensional shapes. She has a basic understanding of patterns. And understands the concept of more or less. She has also started working with charts and grids.

Activities: Samantha learns math through playing board games such as Smath and BINGO, computer games such as starfall.com and powermylearning.com.

She also completes daily math work on her marker board, along with her daily spelling/reading.

Samantha enjoys using manipulatives-counting bears and Cuisenaire rods, Geo Boards, and Tangrams.

Everyday activities such as grocery shopping are used as educational opportunities. Samantha compares prices, weighs fruits and vegetables, and uses a calculator to add up the total.

Samantha also learns advanced math concepts through her unit studies. For example, learning the distance between the sun and planets and what a light year is.

Social Studies:

Samantha’s main focus in Social Studies this year has been on Community. The object of Samantha’s “lessons” are for her to see the community functioning as a whole, whether it is working together to help someone without, learning the basic functions of government buildings, people working in the community, or economics in the community.

Activities: Samantha stays involved in the community during her daily life by taking trips to the Post Office, Bank, local Fruit Stands, farms, and playgrounds. Everywhere she goes, she is getting to know the people around her and what they do. Samantha is familiar with most of their names and has learned a little here and there about things like how the Post Office works and how to plant certain vegetables or which ones are currently in season.

Samantha has a working knowledge of Community Helpers and what they do. She knows what a fireman does and has taken a trip to the fire station where she viewed a fire safety video, went inside a fire truck, and saw a fireman in his suit. She also knows what police officers, postmen, and other helpers do for our community.

This year Samantha graduated a group called Parents as Teachers, which was a big part of the community. She got to know several other community families and went out as a group to do activities such as Holiday Parties, Story Time, and trips to the local pool, Fire Department, or local events.  

Samantha also attends church weekly and takes part in volunteer projects. (Refer to Bible Study).

Samantha has also acquired knowledge about different family structures and how they work by being around other family members and friends’ families. Samantha knows what parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins are. Samantha spends several hours a week visiting family members and learning from them. For example, one of her grandmothers is teaching her how to crochet, while her grandfather teachers her about different states.

Community Service: Samantha serves in her community by volunteering at the Women’s Enrichment Center in Dalton, GA. Samantha does a range of things, from helping to sort donations, counting change, or speaking out for the Unborn during WEC engagements.


Samantha began learning about the different states and countries and their locations. Samantha is aware that states are located in different places around the US. She is also aware of the existence of other continents and bodies of water, climates, and geographical differences.

Activities: Samantha spends a lot of time studying and identifying places and features on maps and globes. Samantha’s interest is usually sparked by post cards that she receives in the mail periodically from her Grandfather, who travels. She likes to research the locations of the postcard, and the animal, plant, or geographical landmark on the post card using books at the library or Internet sites.

Basic Concepts: Samantha began learning several basic everyday life concepts including the days of the week, months of the year, and dates-including some national holidays. She can tell time by the hour on an analog clock and can tell time by the hour and minute on a digital clock.

Physical Education: Samantha stays active during the day by playing outside-doing flips, running, playing games with friends, playing on the playground, or simply taking a nature walk.

Samantha also participated in dance this year for two semesters. She was in a preschool Ballet/Jazz combination class at Ginger Brown Academy in Ringgold, GA. Her class met once a week for 30 minutes where they danced to funny songs, learned basic dance moves and techniques, as well as prepared for their numerous Winter and Summer performances.

Music: Samantha is surrounded by a variety of different music in her everyday life including Gospel, Classical, Rock, Pop, Country, and traditional music from other countries.

She also has several small instruments to experiment with on a regular basis including the drums, recorder, tambourine, maracas, and the triangle. Samantha also participates in the Children’s Band in Children’s Church, whether it is playing the drums or dancing and singing on stage.

Art: Samantha has used a variety of tools for art including scissors, glue, pens, pencils, markers, crayons, colored pencils, pastels, paints and brushes, regular paper, sketch papers, and craft materials such as glitter, pom poms, popsicle sticks, and stickers.

Samantha regularly does arts and crafts ranging from free time and holiday crafts to helping with a house project such as painting or refinishing a piece of furniture.

Samantha knows the basic concepts of colors such as primary and secondary colors, warm and cool colors, and how to mix colors to make other colors.

Samantha also has a basic knowledge of lines, horizontal and vertical, straight and diagonal, and how they go together to make basic and organic shapes. 

Samantha can draw people, which she generally labels as family members or friends, familiar places, such as home or the beach, and animals, which are usually labeled as pets.

Technology: Samantha works with a wide range of technology. She is proficient in  the basics of using a computer and track pad or mouse, iPod/iPad, and television/remote control. She is also proficient in using more basic household technology such as the oven or a garage door opener.

Home Economics: Samantha is able to do a variety of housework with little or no assistance. She understands the basic concepts of cooking/baking from scratch, simple cleaning, and household errands. Samantha has ample knowledge about the health benefits of eating organic foods and cooking from scratch. She is also familiar with the process of making household cleaners. Samantha goes grocery shopping on a regular basis and knows to look at the labels and ingredients and what to look for.  (Although, she generally needs assistance when reading.) She has been taught the benefit of buying from local farmers and is encouraged to do so. Samantha is also learning ways to be more economical with her money.

Bible Study: Samantha has a basic knowledge of the Bible and some of the stories in it. She knows who her creator is and what he sent his Son to do for us. Samantha engaged in several activities, especially this past Christmas and Easter pertaining to the Birth and Death/Resurrection of Jesus Christ, including a live Nativity Scene, an Advent Chain with the Story of Jesus’s Birth through daily Bible verses, Resurrection Eggs, attending church and participating in Sunday School lessons, and watching Bible based shows and playing Bible based apps such as Veggie Tales.

Special Field Trips: Apple Festival and Apple Picking in Ellijay, GA ...........

Conclusion/Main Goals: Samantha will be continuing on to her 1st grade year this June and continuing on through next May. Some of the goals for this coming up year are focusing still on more life science, including unit studies on the Human Body and other basic scientific topics such as Electricity, along with any other studies of choice. For Reading, Samantha will continue to build on the skills she already has. By the end of the year, the goals for Samantha is to be able to read a simple children’s story with ease. Samantha will continue to work on basic addition and subtraction throughout the year. The goal is for Samantha to master single digit addition/subtraction and be at least at an intermediate level with two and three digit addition/subtraction by the end of the year. Samantha will continue to learn about the different states, continents, countries, and bodies of water and become familiar with the locations of each one. She will also learn more of the geographical characteristics and domestic plants and animals. Her main focus this year will be on the United States.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Update on Chickens and Summer Learning

I feel like I have written about this before, but I cannot find the post. I recently got a few "School Supplies" online for Sam. For starters, I got a large pack of Expo makers. Sam and Jessie like all the different colors because they can be more creative. It also helps to color code when we do math problems. She is a visual learner. I also got her an inflatable globe. (Mostly for the free shipping, but also because she has shown a big interest in Geography lately.)

The last thing I got her was the big thing. It is a game called Smath. It is like Scrabble, but with Math. I wanted to get her math board game that would grow with her, but I thought she might be a little young for it right now since it is 6+. I went ahead and ordered it, and am pleased to say she LOVES it! It goes all the way from simple addition and subtraction, to multiplication and division, or longer sentences such as 5+(2x1)-6= (Or even longer sentences if you want.) Right now she needs a little assistance because she can't just look at her numbers and see a math problem, but she will get there. Until then, she really likes picking out the numbers as we go over a problem together, and finding a place to put it.

On another note, our chickens are getting HUGE-fast! We recently were able to find out the sex of each one. We have two Hens and one Rooster. Works PERFECT! Now we won't have any territory issues, except maybe with the Dad who still wonders around our property.

I am able to let them out to wonder all day now. They know to come back by bed time. And they know bed time! No kidding. Around 8:30/9:00 o'clock every night, they walk/fly up the back porch stairs and chirp and peck on the door until I come and put them in their pen. One night we came back after 9:00 o'clock and we found them hidden in a little hole behind their pen chirping away.

They are by far the best pets for us. They let us hold and pet them, but they also don't need a whole lot of attention because they have each other. They are easy to take care of since they do their business outside and they feed themselves (grass, bugs, etc.) All we HAVE to do is water them and make sure they are in their pen at night. Plus, it is a good educational experience for Sam and we get free range eggs!

This Summer we plan to keep on keeping on. We have been working daily on our Math. Every morning I have a math problem and word written on Sam's board, and she solves the problem and reads the word. Today was 3+1= _ and Mood (She wanted another word, so I also gave her Cope, Boat, and Tag.) She read all the words. She has been learning about the "Rules," using the songs on starfall.com to remember them, so she just says the rhyme, which I sometimes underline the letters to remind her, and then she says the word.

We also are continuing to go over the date and such. But on top of that, we have been doing fun Summer activities. We just went camping and to the beach. Sam learned so much through her play. We saw a huge turtle, experimented with water, experimented with sand, built castles, fished, etc. We have put our formal unit studies on hold for now because there is so much to be learned in the prettier months without unit studies, between board games and writing math problems and words on the marker board outside in the driveway (Most days we spread a blanket out in the driveway and brings tons of games and writing materials in the driveway and stay outside all day.), reading under the trees in the yard, playing with the chickens, working in the garden, finding worms in the dirt, watching birds build their nests-taking in the abundance of life around us...I'd say we have other things to focus on. And if there is something that truly takes Sam's interest, like Gymnastics has lately, then we will find time for it, just in a less formal way. Luckily we can do gymnastics outside. Sam has checked out several books from the library about Gymnastics. She practices for at least an hour a day. And when we go outside she makes sure to try out her cartwheels, hand stands, and rolls.

And in just two months, we will be signing Sam up with all her new groups and preparing her for a new way of doing things. But enough about that, because I will go on all day.

Expo Markers



Playing Smath

Chickens: So tiny when we brought them in.

Chickens On The Stairs

The Rooster likes to play with the Chicks sometimes-and peck at them.

Funny Face