Wednesday, September 19, 2018

The Teacher's Lounge Giveaway

*this post contains affiliate links*

 I am excited to announce that I am now an ambassador for Playful Learning's The Teacher's Lounge.  We have been fans of Playful Learning for years.  Way before we even began this homeschool journey.  My oldest was in preschool when I came across Mariah Bruehl's book Playful Learning on a search for ways to foster learning in our home (this was way before IG).  We used many of the ideas in the book and watched as the blog grew to include online classes and explorations with beautiful printables.  When I heard about the Teacher's Lounge I signed up immediately to be a beta tester and set up a subscription the day they went live with the program.  I love it so much and I think you will too!

 One of the reasons I love Teacher's Lounge so much is that the printables are as beautiful as they are educational.  The graphics are so striking that your child will instantly be attracted and eager to dive into the explorations.  You can see in the pictures below how much Sean (shown at ages 4 & 5) enjoys the lessons.  I paired a beginning letter sound worksheet on ocean animals with a metal easel and magnetic letters to create one of his favorite activities.  How nice that all I need to do is print and use a piece of washi tape to set it up!  In the other pictures below Sean is working on math skills with a size comparison activity from the Outer Space set of lessons. He loves their many cut and paste pages!


 Another exceptional thing about The Teacher's Lounge is that my youngest is certainly not the only child to use these lessons.  I have found many instances where the lesson sets cover topics that my fourth and sixth grader are studying.  In the examples below we used many of the lessons in the Flowers unit for fifth grade botany.  We found the anatomy of a plant from TL to be the best version amongst the many resources we had for our botany block. We are looking forward to using lessons from TL Geology for one of our sixth grade science blocks.  It's great to be able to print and laminate a play dough mat for a preschooler and a superior science resource for an advanced grade school student at the same time!  

  Lately, we've stopped waiting for our lesson blocks to coincide with the Teacher's Lounge offerings - they're  just too good not to use right away!  Instead we've been using a lesson for our Science Friday afternoon and incorporating literacy into our days as well.  We recently used the awesome lesson on animals to explore what pupil shape and eye placement mean to predators and prey.  We checked a few of the suggested books out of the library and had a great time learning about animal eyes as a family.  My three boys, ages 5-11, were all engaged.  Sean was cutting, sorting, pasting and talking about the animals while his older brothers were busy categorizing the animals by taking cues from pupil shapes.  I love it when we can learn as a family and I don't need to scour the internet for hours to find something appropriate for everyone!

 The Teacher's Lounge offers lots of support for your development as a teacher.  The Professional Development pages offer lessons for you on how to teach and include printables for planning, observing and assessing.  The galleries are also a great resource to see pictures of the lessons in action.

 Just click any of the links on this page to sign up for The Teacher's Lounge. If you are interested in checking out the Teacher's Lounge, enrollment is open on Wednesday, September 26th and will close on October 24th.  Just click any of the links on this page to sign up for The Teacher's Lounge.  The Teacher's Lounge adds new topics twice a month and as a member you have access to all previous topics (there are dozens - each topic includes many lessons).  Topics range from Poetry and Writer's Notebook to Architecture, Mapping and Geology.  Here is one last example of some printouts from the Sea Life topic:

I will be offering one lucky reader a FREE ONE YEAR SUBSCRIPTION on Instagram next week when enrollment opens.  Be sure to visit @lyons_academy to enter the giveaway!

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Math through Literature

 Despite being an avid reader and history buff, I actually did not mind math until my Pre-Calculus class in high school.  That class about killed me.  Literally.  I crashed my car through the school parking lot getting to a 6 am tutoring session for extra help. Up until that point I loved seeing the pattern in numbers and really had fun with math.  Something about the absoluteness of mathematical rules, the utter lack of gray area, really appealed to me.

 I'm well aware that it can be tough to see the beauty in numbers when faced with intimidating pages of equations.  This is a collection of books that will really help you enjoy math. Seriously.

 The following books cover a wide range of audiences, so I'll do my best to suggest when they may be most helpful.

1 is One by Tasha Tudor
 Oh, we love this one so much, and it's not just the gorgeous illustrations.  "1 is one duckling swimming in a dish.  2 is two sisters making a wish."  It's hard to imagine a more lovely way to introduce a little one to their numbers. Bonus - this book goes up to 20.

Anno's Counting Book by Mitsumasa Anno
We are huge fans of Anno in our home and this book is perfect for the younger set.  The first page has  nothing on it - a barren winter landscape.  This is zero. Then we see one tree, one house, one bird, etc. As we move throughout the year each page has more sets to count.  That's what my son loved about it compared to other counting books.  Of course, I also love the simple, clean pictures that are the trademark style of Anno.

 I warned you of our love of Anno.  This one is so much fun.  The preface encourages you to gather some gems or pebbles in two colors to keep track of the ten little boys and girls that move from one house to the other.  The cutout windows make it even more fun!  Thoroughly engaging and imaginative.  And a great way for little mathematicians to learn the properties of ten.

Countablock by Christopher Franceshelli
 We like all of the books in this block book series (especially the Dinoblock), but this is the one I wish I had when my older boys were learning to count to 100.  It's fun and engaging.  The pictures are so modern and graphic compared to the ones above, which is a fun visual change, too.

One Hundred Angry Ants by Elinor J. Pinczes
100 hungry ants are traveling single file to a picnic when the littlest one notices that it's taking entirely too long to reach their destination.  He suggests two lines of 50, then 4 lines of 25 and so on.  This is a fun little tale to teach about grouping for the younger set.

Math-terpieces by Greg Tang
Greg Tang has a great series of books that help build math mastery by teaching a variety of math skills, like grouping, adding to an easier number in order to subtract, and finding patterns.  His books are great fun and we can always find a few at our library.

 This is another great series that is easy to come by at our library and suits a wide range of elementary students.  This particular volume is invaluable for gaining a concrete understanding of place value. When we started 5th grade geometry we revisited Sir Cumference and the first Round Table because it is such an easy way to remember the vocabulary of circles (Thank you, Lady Di of Ameter and Radius).  The Dragon of Pi was also wonderful for this age.  You can find a volume in this series to help make most any math concept come alive!

Demi is another household favorite around here and this one does not disappoint, in fact, it may be our very favorite of the list.  A greedy rajah has hoarded all of the rice while his subjects are starving. A clever girls outwits him by taking her reward as one grain of rice that doubles each day for thirty days.  The rajah quickly goes from laughing to scratching his head as the amount of rice she receives each day is carried out of the palace.  Here are a few pictures of Will figuring out how many grains she received by the end of the month.  He was smiling at her cleverness and his astonishment of how big the number grew!

This is great fun to keep track of the growing number, and will definitely require a pencil and paper as the number quickly grows.  This book teaches !, or factorials.  1 island has 2 countries which each have 3 mountains which each have 4 walled kingdoms.... We used this book last year once my third grader learned his multiplication tables and it was great fun for us all. The fifth grader got in on the action as well.  I won't list any more Anno math books, but we also love Anno's Magic Seeds, which, of course, grow exponentially.

String, Straight-Edge, & Shadow by Julia E. Diggins
  We came across this book last year while my son was studying Ancient Egypt as a block in Waldorf Grade 5.  This book does indeed explain how the rope stretchers of Ancient Egypt found a way to make perfect right triangles but it starts with even more fundamental geometry.  The first two chapters beautifully describe the patterns and numbers found in nature and man's special sensitivity to recognizing them.  Diggins tells wonderful stories in this book, such as how she guesses that early man figured out how to draw a perfect circle by watching a beast of burden tied to a stake walk around and wear a path into the ground.  This is a book we definitely have on hand for older elementary grades to go with Ancient Mesopotamian, Egyptian and Greek studies, and even beyond,  but I think the early chapters are a beautiful read aloud for younger elementary age children. 


The Boy Who Loved Math by Deborah Heiligman
 I listed this as a bonus because it doesn't really fit the same category as the other books.  It doesn't teach a practical math strategy or encourage you to work out a problem.  It does provide a very engaging and inspiring story about an amazing mathematician!  We went through a period when my middle son was about 4-5 years old where he requested this book constantly.  It's definitely worth a read for older elementary kids too.

  These are our ten favorites, so far!  I'm sure there are many more that we should be using.  I'd love it if you share your families' favorites in the comments.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Artist Study: Henri Matisse

  We took a long break since our last Artist Study on Vincent Van Gogh, but we got back on track with our goal of covering 3-4 artists this school year.  Henri Matisse has been a favorite of mine since I was a little girl.  I can vividly recall seeing his masterpiece, One Thousand and One Nights, on a visit to the Carnegie Museum in Pittsburgh.  I was eager to share my love for his vibrant paintings and bold collages with the boys.

  We began our study much like the last one, but without the helpful Simply Charlotte Mason portfolio of pictures, because there is not one available for Matisse.  Luckily, there are so many great resources appropriate for children.  One of my favorite is the Usborne Book of Famous Paintings (disclaimer, that link is to my Usborne store, I finally became a rep after buying so many amazing homeschool books).  You can see the book below; it is open to the page about Matisse's Harmony in Red.  It has been a lifesaver for starting discussions about what to notice in paintings.  Here we discussed the painting within the painting and how no one really know if it is a picture or a window because of the frame.

  We set up our own still life with a table, a chair and lots of fruit.  I encouraged the boys to add in some patterns in the style of Matisse rather than painting our plain gray walls.  They also inserted a window/picture just like Matisse after a quick demo in which I illustrated the geometry Matisse used to make the three dimensional frame (two nesting rectangles with 45* lines at each corner). 

  We also used the Matisse from the Taschen collection as a reference book to view the vast illustrations of his work.  Other than that we used picture books, and, boy, are there some fantastic ones out there on Matisse!  The Iridescence of Birds by Patricia MacLaughlin was instantly deemed worthy of purchasing for our home library.  

  Another favorite picture book was Drawing with Scissors by Keesia Johnson and Jane O'Connor.  This delightful book is told from the point of view of Keesia; she selected him to do school project on and the information about his life and art is relayed in a very engaging style.  

  We also read Colorful Dreamer by Marjorie Blain Parker and Henri's Scissors by Jeanette Winters.  These both enhanced our study and were enjoyed by all.

  I had every intention of ending our unit with a cutout collage project and we just ran out of steam.  Our unit lasted about a month of twice weekly reading or painting, and everyone was ready to move on before we tackled it.  Will requested Leonardo da Vinci for our next artist, so we will have a combo artist/scientist study next!

Waldorf Grade 5: Ancient Cultures Block

  Our second block of the fifth grade school year was Ancient Cultures, which combined language arts, history, social studies and geography.  As an aside, anytime we are not in a math block we always start our day with some math practice on the board, so that those skills do not get forgotten.

  Our first area of focus was India and it covered two weeks. As usual, we began by mapping India and studying the indigenous plants and animals.

 We learned the origin story Manu and the Flood.  We found references to Atlantis and compared it to Noah's ark.  For any of the myths or history stories, we follow a two day schedule of learning.  On the first day I tell the story, usually with a chalk drawing I have prepared, and Jack will make a main lesson page drawing.  On the following day he will retell the story, in his own words, while we work on language mechanics.  Some days he just writes, but if it is a complicated story I may help him make an outline first to make sure we don't leave out any crucial information.  

 We found a beautiful version of the Ramayana in the book A Year Full of Stories.  We really enjoyed learning about the faith of India through the Bhagavad-Gita and comparing it to our own values.


 Since the boys are in the school room together, they often hear parts of their brother's main lessons. Will was halfway paying attention to the story of Rama and Sita when he heard mention of the Monkey King, Hanuman.  I guess the idea of a Monkey King proved irresistible to Will and he immediately had to drop his own project and get his vision on paper! This is one of my favorite things about homeschooling: that we have the space for this kind of work.

 Our third week of study focused on Buddha.  Again, we compared our own values and faith with The Eightfold Path and the Noble Truths.

  For our final week of study, we spent the first day mapping Persia.

  The following day we covered Zarathustra.  Again, this was a great opportunity to compare and contrast all of these world religions with our own.  How wonderful to see so many core values in common.  

  Later in the week we looked at Xerxes and the wars with Greece.  Jack is excited to get to the Ancient Greece block (thanks, Percy Jackson!), so he was eager to hear mention of Sparta.  We may have taken more of a Greek focus than was intended, but it's nice to have the student so eager!

Waldorf Grade 5: Geography Mini Units

  The first block for Waldorf Essentials Fifth grade combines mapping, geography and history.  We started with a review of US Geography, learning which states were in each of the four regions and remembering capitals.  This took us through the first week of school, studying a new region each day. For each region Jack made a main lesson page that listed each of the states and their capitals.  We worked with some map puzzles and even played the Stack the States app on the iPhone (the horror! So very un-Waldorf!  Yet, so very effective in this instance!).

   We studied Africa for the next week, mapping the continent and reading about the flora and fauna.  

 If you have ever used Waldorf Essentials before, you will know that the curriculum can often be a suggestion about what to focus on for the daily lesson.  Personally, I love having this framework and tailoring the lessons to fit the child.  It does mean you will need some extra resources, many are suggested by Melisa (especially in the grade overview audio recordings on her site).  The extra resources we use are normally wikipedia pages printed out, examples of main lessons found on pinterest and library books.  We have managed to build a pretty good home library over the years and I was able to pull several books to help with these units.  Here are the bulk of them:

 The Monkey and the Fiddle was our choice for the folk tale. Jack did a great job on his first summary of the year and took great care with his border and drawing.  We try to follow a two day Waldorf approach to Main Lessons,  listening to the story on the first day and then modeling or drawing from it.  On the second day, after the story has had time to digest, we write a summary.  We usually discuss it first, to make sure that we remember the important characters and events.  I will put proper names on the board to help with spelling, but Jack writes it himself.  When he is finished, we read through it together to catch spelling or grammatical errors.  I'm a big fan of focusing on a few items at a time, as I gleaned from Julie at Brave Writer.  For example, we may discuss the following: run-on sentences, proper nouns start with a capital letter, and sentences end with a punctuation mark. I'll have Jack look for those items on his own and try to limit any critiques to those specific areas.

  To wrap up the Africa block, Jack cooked an African feast for us, using this Moroccan Chickpea Stew recipe

  Our next mini block was Atlantis.  This definitely seems like an odd choice, but it is typical in the Waldorf fifth grade curriculum.  We talked about the legends, specifically Plato's writings about it, and where it may have been located. We also looked at maps drawn from Plato's description and made a clay model.  Like the other areas of study, we also looked at animals and plants.

  Our next stop on the mini world tour was Australia.  Aboriginal folk tales combined with exotic plants and animals mad this a really enjoyable unit to study. I am so glad we found out about the book Topsy-Turvy World: How Australian Animals Puzzled Early Explorers by Kristy Murray from some Australian homeschoolers on IG.  Reading about the European explorers' first impressions of animals such as the platypus and wombat was highly entertaining.  He chose to write about the kangaroo from the fifteen species highlighted in this book.

  Our geography block really set the stage for a fun school year.  We got a little busy and didn't plan a meal for Australia, which was a shame.  It certainly adds a lot to the unit and Jack is so proud to take charge of a family dinner.  Jack's map making skills improved greatly this month, as did his world geography knowledge.