Thursday, September 25, 2014

Down by the Seashore - Part 1

Well, although beach season is pretty much over for us (yes...Germany does have beaches and yes, it's already nippy!), I couldn't help but have a beach-themed week for my little one. She, like most children (and adults possibly) loves the beach and anything connecting to it. It took me a while to organize this week's activities but that's mostly because I needed to smoothen things out for my first grader first. In terms of ideas, it was flowing quite easily. 

Nature Center: Down by the Seashore. For hands on exploration and scientific exploration
Our first Nature Center for the year got it: beach treasures! I tried to provide a variety of items for exploring and touching but as we are far from the beach and not big into trinkets, we did not have that much in our center...On hand, I had an array of seashells. Some bought in stores, some provided by Adrian's own personal collection (he loves collecting shells at the beach!). I also had the big "centerpiece" seashell, a souvenir from the Bahamas. I added some real beach sand as well to remind the kids that beach sand is really just rocks that were eroded. This sand really showed that (thank you to the beautiful Florida panhandle beaches for their donation). I also added a vase from Tenerife to show that not all beach sand is beige. My vase included grey/black sand from the volcanic beach of the island. Beach glass, sand dollars and natural sponges were also in the center for exploration. Even my oldest took interest in the center and wanted to know more. "Was beach glass real glass?", "How did it get so smooth?", "Where did it come from?", "What are the holes under the sand dollars?", "It was alive?", "Where can I get my own huge seashell, mama?", Sponges grow?", "but I went to Cyprus too and didn't see any!"

Storytelling with pictures - a day at the beach
A great and easy language activity can easily be prepared with pictures printed at home or shown onto a computer monitor. For this activity, I picked a few pictures of Zahavah at the beach and asked her to tell me about the picture (the other ones were put aside for other days). When she got stalled, I'd ask her questions to prompt for more information. Where was it? (can you believe she remembers? "Israel!", "Sardinia!") What are you doing? Was the water cold? Did you collect seashells? She got quite talkative and loved the opportunity to share about her day at the beach and...requesting another one! :) 

Sensorial: Perfect water temperature for a swim!
As a first thermal activity, I thought we'd do a twist on those metal thermal bottles by using little cups filled with water. I prepared 3 different cups and doubled them. As such Zahavah had 2 very cold cups, 2 very warm cups (not scalding hot of course!) and 2 cups at body temperature. She had to feel the water in each cup with her finger and decide which matched which and finally had to tell me which she'd rather swim in. Can you guess which that was?

Color tablets...hmm swimsuits!
Felt swimsuit anyone? I couldn't resists putting a little twist on the color tablets! As this was our first introduction to the tablets this year, I prepared the little swimsuits in only the 3 first colors: red, blue and yellow. Needless to say, it was an easy match and the 3 period lesson lasted about just as long as 3 seconds! :)

Language: The sandpaper letters make their introduction!
Well it's about that time when a child should learn the letter sounds, right? Zahavah will be turning 4 this winter and so I'm starting to introduce the sandpaper letters. At this age, my son already knew the names and sounds of the letters but Z is not exactly interested in letters. I'll be trying to change that this year. The first letters introduced in a Montessori setting are the ones above so I'll be working on these with Zahavah until she masters them. Her big brother was so happy to see these again!

A play dough beach!
Play dough is, needless to say, a staple in most preschool aged kids' environment. I'm afraid our playdoh has been used so much that it is now either dry or of funky coloring due to color mixing so I did what I do every so often: made a batch of homemade play dough. I didn't dye it so it looked somewhat like sand and was used to...replicate a beach this of course! I put tiny accessories in a basket and Z loved decorating her "sand" to turn it into a nice beach. She even invited her Disney princesses to come relax on the beach and added more seashells for them to collect! This activity came out every day...several times a day! Thanks to Counting Coconuts for inspiring this one!

Play dough prints/fossils
Not nearly as popular as the play dough beach was the play dough prints and fossils center... I liked it. Very pretty but it did not fascinate my daughter one bit. :(

Language: Circle inset...becomes a beach ball!
Zahavah is not a pro at handling the metal insets (in our case...the plastic insets) but she loves them. Her favorite thing to do with them is to pretend they are puzzles. This week though, I showed her how a new way to use them. We practiced the single outline of the circle. I showed her how I transformed my circle into a beach ball and she was sold. Couldn't resist making her own beach ball using the inset...neither could my 6 year old actually! :) We also discussed the shape she created and went about looking for more circles in the house.

Smooth & Rough Board : beach sand or not?
I thought this week would be perfect to introduce the rough and smooth board...after all, it is sand on the board! Zahavah felt the rough sandpaper and the smooth balsam wood with her fingers and declared it felt like sand on the top. She didn't like the texture as much as she liked the bottom of course. We discussed the difference between smooth and rough and went about the house finding rough and smooth items to reinforce the concept. Z loves to move so I try to give her opportunities to leave her rug.

And that is partly how our first school week got started...For more beach-themed activities presented during our first school week, stay tuned! :)

* * *

Never Miss the Latest Post:
Follow Sorting Sprinkles on Facebook or
Sign Up for Post Delivery Directly to Your Inbox!

* * *

This post is currently linked up to these great blogs and websites:

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! ;)

* * *

Never Miss the Latest Post:
Follow Sorting Sprinkles on Facebook or
Sign Up for Post Delivery Directly to Your Inbox!

* * *

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.

* * *

Never Miss the Latest Post:
Follow Sorting Sprinkles on Facebook or
Sign Up for Post Delivery Directly to Your Inbox!

* * *

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

A few of our books used this year:
most of them were purchased from Rainbow Resource Center
(got to love free shipping and how much stuff they have in stock!)

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 became 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! :)

* * *

Never Miss the Latest Post:
Follow Sorting Sprinkles on Facebook or
Sign Up for Post Delivery Directly to Your Inbox!

* * *

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