Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Changes to our Calendar Bulletin Board

Like most everything in life, changes sometimes have to be made to ensure the timelessness of the invention. Such was the case with our calendar cork board built last year. I knew this day would come and was not afraid to change things a bit. I kept most of the board intact actually since my oldest is reluctant to change but wanted to adapt it a bit to add some elements; namely a section called "In the News" and another one called "This Day in History".

A Newer Version of our Calendar Board!

I had those ideas back when I first put the board together so I knew I'd have room when the time would  come for these additions but I still had to shift other pockets slightly. Both pockets were well received by the kids. Now, there isn't always "fresh news" or a post about "this day in history" but when the sections are filled, the kids are always excited. I try to have at least one pocket filled each day. 

In the News section, I simply print off...fresh news! Nothing that would not be age appropriate of course and nothing long but always something with a picture. I also try to pick news that I know will appeal my son and daughter. For example, last week, my son was excited to read about the big asteroid that passed close to Earth. He was also jumping with joy when he saw that yet another volcano erupted (sorry Papua-New Guinea!). 

This Day in History is also something fun to have. Every month, I pull up what happened years ago on that day and choose one for each day; one that once again, will be relevant to my youngsters and geared towards preschool/primary kids. Sometimes, I actually don't find anything they could relate to and don't put anything down for that day. So far, Adrian was most excited about the day in history when a race was conducted in between a horse and a steam locomotive! He could not believe the horse actually won! :) 

Above our board, I've also added, using tack, reward charts, a behavioral chart, the Pledge of Allegiance and the National Anthem of the United States. I find it important that as citizens, my children know the words to both (besides, if they were in a public American school, chances are, they'd recite at least the pledge daily). Each morning, we recite and sing. Sometimes, we watch a video of other kids/performers singing the anthem too. The behavioral chart idea actually came from another blog I'm now following : Fun in First. Although Jodi uses the chart for an entire first grade classroom, I thought I could use it for Adrian and Zahavah. To read more about how it works, head here. I started using these after Adrian showed resistance to his "extended" school days. It curbs most complains now and gets him to do his work neatly and at a regular pace. At the end of the month, I have a prize each child gets for having at least 15 stars on their chart. Of course, the charts do not include week-ends! ;)

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Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Our New and Improved Reading List

School officially started on August 25 for us and that is also when our new reading program was implemented. Don't get me wrong, we read plenty last year and the years before. In fact, I've been reading to both my children daily since the day they were born (that's right...I actually had some books in my hospital bag!) but August 25 marked the beginning of a new era in terms of book selection. In the past, I always picked books to match our weekly theme and based on the kids' interests. This year, it's different. My oldest being 6 years old (and in his first grade), I knew thematic units would not be a weekly occurrence but I also knew that I want to shift my focus during our storytime: I wanted to deepen his reading comprehension. What's more...his little 3 year old sister wouldn't mind. She'd still enjoy the stories and could very well participate in our discussions afterwards. So here is, without further introduction, the book list I created for one of our concept explored:  Key details (who, when, when, what, how, why, of the story) ! These were the books we read during the week of August 25.

A sample of what we read this week...

Great Books to look for key details:

Owl Moon by Jane Yolen
Elmer by David McKee
The Relatives Came by Cynthia Rylant
Click, Clack, Moo by Doreen Croning
Weslandia by Paul Fleischman
If you Were a Penguin by Florence Minor
The Librarian Who Measured the Earth by Kathryn Lasky
Fire! Fire! by Gail Gibbons
How Much, How Many, How Far, How Heavy, How Tall is 1000? by Helen Nolan
Hungry, Hungry, Sharks by Joana Cole

Of course, not every single book was a big hit but others were! I've even been asked to get some of these titles for our ever growing private collection. When picking books, I try to make a conscious effort to include both poetry and prose, fiction and non-fiction, short books and long books. I also try to pick multicultural titles here and there. 

This list does not include what Adrian reads on his own either. The books above are only the ones we read aloud. Later, I'll post about our guided reading sessions and our leveled reading list.

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Saturday, September 13, 2014

1st Grade Home School Subjects & Curriculum

First grade! Never in my wildest dreams had I thought I would homeschool my kids during grade school. I somehow always thought I'd be back to work and that the kids would attend public school. BUT, this is not what happened. Being that we live in Germany, attending local school means one should probably be quite fluent in German and while my son did attend German Kindergarten two years, I still felt uncomfortable sending him with the big German-speaking kids. I also knew that one day, we'd be back on American soil and that he'd need to read, write and count in English. Unfortunately, the "English" school is quite far. Neither me nor my husband felt like doing the driving everyday, especially with a 3 year old in the back...And so began our homeschooling journey. I researched tons and made lot of decisions, mostly based on our "home state" of New York. New York requires me to instruct my first grader in at least 12 subjects over 180 days (aka 36 weeks, 5 hours a day). Because we live abroad though, I do not have to follow their requirements but will still abide by them simply because they are stringent and my liking overall! Besides I do intend to send my kids back into the public domain once we are back "home". :) Below is the "course of study" I designed:

Adrian during his technology class:
loves learning to code with Hour of Code!

Course of Study & Materials - First Grade

Singapore Math - Primary Math 1A + 1B (U.S. Ed.)
Miquon Orange + Red Books
Life of Fred - Apples + Butterflies
Splash Math (App)

Apologia - Young Explorer Series (Zoology 1,2,3 + Botany)
KHT Montessori - Botany, Physical Science, Astronomy, Geology, Ecology albums

U.S. History (including citizenship and patriotism) & Geography*
Abeka - My America & My World
The Story of the World: Volume 1
KHT Montessori  - History Album
A child's Geography - Explore his Earth
KHT Montessori - Geography Album

English/Language Arts/Phonics, Handwriting/Spelling/Reading*
Abeka - Language 1
Abeka - Letters & Sounds 1 (phonics)
All About Spelling - Level 1
A Reason for Handwriting - A

Fun with Composers - Volume 1
Piano Lessons

Visual Arts*
Discovering Great Artists
Draw, Write Now Series

Physical Education*
Family Fitness Fun - Fitness for Homeschool Curriculum 1
Swimming Lessons
Ice Skating Lessons

Health Education (including alcohol and drug abuse)*
Abeka - Health, Safety and Manners

Our Heavenly Father - 1

Critical Thinking
Critical Thinking Company - Mind Benders 1 + 2
Lollipop Lagic K-2 Book 1
OLSAT Practice Tests - K/G1

Kodable (Coding App) + Hour of Code (Coding prog.)
Toontastic (Animation app)

Tatou le Matou - 1

*Required Subject in NY State

That above list was designed over the course of a summer. All the materials are here and being used at this time, BUT...I already do not like some of these materials. *sigh* It all sounded good on paper (and oh boy! did I read reviews!) but once my son started working with some, it quickly because evident that it wouldn't work out. For example, while I love the idea behind the series "Life of Fred", it doesn't do much for my six years old. He'd rather be doing actual math problems than read how "Fred" uses math in his daily life through these chapter books (I WILL keep the series for when he's older I think and starts asking; "why does math matter?"). In the end, it's a live and learn situation! :)

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Wednesday, September 10, 2014


A little while ago, I put a notice on Sorting Sprinkles' Facebook page in regards to my long break from the blog. I thought it might be nice to also put a notice here, in case I did not reach everybody:

Sometime during the late Spring, I started making inquiries about 1st grade for my son Adrian. Being that we live abroad, I knew the choices for schooling would be somewhat "limited". In the end, we decided to go the homeschooling route. Of course, it is much more time consuming than the local school option but at the same time, we all thought it was the best decision. Adrian has since started first grade at home and things are slowly starting to adjust themselves. I am hoping to be able to start planning some educational and thematic activities for my little one very soon. When this happens, I'll do my very best to share these with you. For now, I only wanted to drop by with a quick "hello" and some news! In case anyone is curious as to what Adrian is doing this year, I'll post about it shortly. Thanks for your continued support!

-Sorting Sprinkles' founder & editor

Monday, July 28, 2014

Dr. Getzwell's Doctor's Office Pretend Play

It has been a very long time since my last post, don't you guys think? I'm sorry I've been keeping you all waiting. Summer is always busy with little trips here and there and lots of friends and family coming by to visit us so I'm always a bit slower at posting during the season but today, I'm taking the time to post about our last pretend play station. In anticipation for a doctor's visit, I put together a Doctor's Office pretend play station. The weather was nice and warm so everything was set up outside to the delight of my little ones. Here's how we set up the play:

Our Doctor's Office was complete with patient forms, Prescription Pad,
Notepad and of course, lollipops for the brave kids who receive vaccines! :)

Daddy provided a white shirt for our local doctor as well as
a respirator mask!

In the examination room, one could find swabs, cotton balls, bandages,
tongue depressors, syringes (really just colorful pens shaped like syringes),
gloves and the physical exam forms.

Checking out a patient's blood pressure with the REAL
monitor. A thrill!

Zahavah getting Adrian to perform an  eye exam

Table filled with everything the doctor might need, including samples!

Doctor's Office for consulting (See Toddler Approved for Office sign!)

Dr. Getzwell had many patients that day but still found time to do the
administrative work!

Notepad and various X-Rays in file folders
(can't remember where I printed these from but if you search
for "foot x-ray and such, you'll find plenty!). 

The Doctor's Office was quite a popular station. Both kids enjoyed it. Both played patient and both played the doctor's role as well. They loved the non-latex gloves and the fact that I allowed the use od real bandages and blood pressure machine. Sadly, although they were very attractive, the forms didn't get much attention. They just preferred to be hands-on that day I guess...

Throughout the summer, we also enjoyed other stations. I've linked them all up to the main post so if you want to get some ideas as to how we set up a car wash or grooming salon, click here! We will hopefully have time to set up the remaining stations before summer ends!

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Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Post Office Pretend Play

The post office is a place we rarely "visit" but somehow the children still know this is where we ship and pick up our packages and as such...the post office is an awesome place. For this station, I thought we'd do more than simply pick up packages and drop them off though. I wanted the children to wrap and "address" their packages, affix postage and cancel their "stamps", etc. I also wanted to offer "extra" activities that correlated with the post office: a philatelic society where the children could learn about stamps, handle a few and start a collection. Needless to say, they quite liked that club and are quite happy to have their own little collection of stamps...

Post Office Register; a nice week means we
get to play pretend outside!

Various post office forms, packaging tape, magazines to mail, etc.

A few small empty boxes, air packs and bubble wrap. The children
chose to wrap some zoo animals that day.

Post Office register area, complete with scale, "stamps" (christmas
stickers shaped like stamps!) for sale and canceling stamp.

Canceling stamps is fun! Some got cancelled
many times! :)

A freshly cancelled letter!

Philatelic Society: Brought this out after the kids had been playing
a while; provided was a magnifier, some stamps ripped from old letters
and two small dish with water...

Soaking stamps so they can be peeled off their envelopes.
Sadly, more and more stamps are stickers and can't quite be peeled.

For our Philatelic Society, I purchased (as a treat!) two stamp kits:
a dinosaur one for my son and an insect one for my daughter.
They examined their stamp and learned how to mount them!

Wrapping objects has long been an activity the kids enjoy. They sometimes borrow gift bags and silk paper to make pretend presents just so they can open them, so of course, the post office packaging section was busy for a while. Stamping the stamps was also a big winner (who doesn't like stamps?) but not nearly as much as the Philatelic Society. They loved opening their little kits and looking at their new stamps. Mounting them with the hinges was rather difficult so we didn't do a lot of that but discussing where the stamps came from, what was featured on each, trying to sort them by collection...that was good enough for them! 

P.S. If you intend on replicating this activity outside, may I suggest an absolutely calm-non windy day? ;)

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Monday, June 16, 2014

Super Propre Car Wash Pretend Play

Who is getting hot summery temps? I must say last week was a super hot, sunny and "sadly" non-breezy week for us in Germany. We hit the pool but also needed more to keep us cool. The kids suggested popsicles and gelato but I thought better...something more lasting and less calorific: a car wash! Oh the fun we had! Mind you if you plan on trying this at home, make sure that like me, the kids (and possibly yourself) are in bathing suits. They will get wet and that is a big part of the fun and refreshment of a hot "summer" day. Our pretend play was indeed a bit less pretend this week as the kids really got to wash cars but well, I didn't go so far as to let them wash our real vehicles...

car wash pretend play
Welcome to the Super Propre Car Wash! Sponges, cloths, squeegee,
bucket of soapy water, hose, "window cleaner", duster, you name it!

Car wash supplies. Nothing fancy. Thought about putting some
empty wax containers and wheel sprays and such but thought
we'd stick to stuff we could actually use on that hot day.

The hose was the most beloved item at the
car wash. Everyone wanted it all...the...time
(p.s. our lawn was SO thankful for this activity!)

Little Z chose to dust her car first. She washed her car many,
many times that afternoon...

What's more fun than a big bucket filled with
soapy bubbles? So sensorial.
Made ours blue and warm! :)

Dusting, cleaning, scrubbing, rinsing...the kids had a blast!

The car wash was the pretend play station my son most related to. I had mentioned that we'd do this one as soon as the temperatures would get into the 30s (Celsius) and there was no pushing this one further by one day. He was looking forward to it and participated longer than he usually does in our pretend play sessions (he is very anchored in reality and doesn't do the pretend thingy...). My little girl, well, she is asking everyday to host a car wash despite the fact that the temperatures have dropped by OVER 10 degrees now. :) She washed and detailed her car for over 1hour that day! That's right! Simply loved it. But then again, she loves to play pretend. Loved the grooming salon, liked the shoe store and library set up as well and will probably enjoy whatever we'll do next! To see our pretend play station line up for the summer, check out my previous post here.

P.S. Let the kids be the kids today...if you put the hose out for use, let them handle it by themselves after a short lesson on how it works and how to use it. They will be so proud of themselves and it's good for their fine motor skills to work that trigger. You may, on the other hand, make it clear that the hose is for rinsing the play cars only before the final hand-out...You'd be surprised at how creative kids can be when it comes to watering down the "stuff" around them...:)

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