It has been awhile since I’ve posted a true “McGaugh Academy” update. We are not in a big unit right now, although I am gearing up for a “monster and imagination” unit soon. (I was going to do a space unit, but I decided to anchor myself to literature instead—always the planning method that works best for me in big units. We’ll be using “Where the Wild Things Are” as our main text—one that I can differentiate easily for both kiddos—along with supplemental works). Katie and I have been working hard most days while Eric naps in the afternoon, and we’ve been making progress in her literacy, her ability to tell time, and her counting of money and addition.

The drawback to saving most of our work for Eric’s nap time is that she and I are both more tired ourselves by then, and Eric misses out on some of the more formal “school time” (although we do learning play and reading together in the mornings). I want to return to the structure we were using for all of the autumn, with most schooling in the morning and differentiated lessons. It takes more work, but it is worth it. I can only hope that it will get easier and easier as Eric grows older and can do more activities on his own, just as Katie can now.

I am also reminded that it serves everyone better when I lay out and prep everything the night before. I’ve been winging it a bit lately—and that works—but it is not as efficient. So last night I hauled myself out of bed at 9:44 (I had been lying there thinking about leaving the prep until the morning), and laid everything out including the “opening activity” at their table places. For us, it makes a difference. It takes the guess work out of getting started for the day.  It means I’m accountable, too: it means, for example, that I don’t have a thought about putting on the DVR’d American Idol from the night before and postponing our start time. Accountability is a good thing for me, a great virtue for all three of us. The kiddos know they can work on their opening activity while I prep breakfast.

Today, Katie and Eric colored houses with lines on which to write our home address. I had written Eric’s in for him; Katie traced hers (that way I don’t have to stand right there and spell our street for her while I am prepping breakfast). Katie cut out her house all on her own; I helped Eric with his. We also cut the door to be a flap, so that when we pasted it down (both kiddos worked on that), we could paste a picture of themselves underneath the door that really opens…

Each kiddo has a journal. When Katie lifts up her flap, she sees herself in her house. She told me she was coloring “stained glass windows” today. Eric is inside of his house. For the purposes of this blog, I blocked out the place where they wrote our address, but it is on the roof of each house. This is a fun way to review their address with them.

Each of them took a turn misting the classroom terrarium with water:

They both worked on a separate journal entry:

Eric and I looked through magazines and cut out “red” objects. I helped with the scissors, but he is starting to understand what they do. He liked pasting the pictures down.

And Katie and I worked on a poem/imagery journal entry. I used “Fog” by Carl Sandburg:

The fog comes/on little cat feet./ It sits looking/over harbour and city/on silent haunches/and then moves on. 

There is not too much rhyme nor reason to my picking this poem (I don’t like that—there are better ways to plan, and I am hard on myself when our studies lack thematic cohesion), other than we’re in a middle of a light, light, light and quick series about weather fairies. We’re so heavy and meaty with our literature much of the time, and we found these books at the paperback shack the other day. She loves this particular fairy series (there are different sets: Rainbow Fairies, Weather Fairies, and Jewel Fairies). We all like lighter books sometimes, and I figure I am promoting the joy of reading. I can read them to her in two sittings, and there are seven of them. We’re on the 5th one in this series: the Mist Fairy.

We talked about what we knew about cats beforehand, and we defined “haunches.” We talked about watching the cat who comes to visit our yard, and how it darts so quietly away when it sees us. Then we read the poem and talked about it three or four times. Then we brainstormed how to illustrate the poem and the poem’s imagery. She decided to draw and city and a harbor (she knew that that was from other books) and to surround it by fog. We looked for a cat in a magazine and found the perfect grey one. It is not visible in the picture I have up here, but she drew just a hint of the sun (her idea) which, she said, showed that the fog/cat creeps away at the end. That was cool… I took that as a sign that she “got” this activity. After she drew her “skyscrapers” and harbor and surrounded it with grey, we glued down the cat. Then we wrote lines from the poem (I read it again) on places in the picture that matched the imagery—according to Katie). We also wrote some of her own interpretations around the scene: “mist” and “a quiet scene” (she used the word “silent” as evidence for this—we talked about the importance of  textual evidence), and “slowly wanders away” and “pitter-patter.”

This would be a GREAT poem to use in a weather unit; alas, I was not that organized with it. But I am on top of the poetry selection process for our “monster and imagination” unit!

We also love morning RECESS!

(And yes, my kiddos were in their jammies until shortly before lunchtime today, I admit. This is not always the case, but I was concerned with keeping our momentum going this morning).

The kiddos hopped on their trikes and Eric chased Katie (their idea). I helped to push him a little and we would “rev the engine” together…vroom!! I love how you can tell that Katie is leaning in and pedaling full force here.

Get her, Eric! Who can spot the hiding Katie?

Finally, he decided he would be faster on foot. He hopped off his trike and ran full steam ahead and caught her! Observe his look of glee!

We also had some preschool playtime with our Melissa and Doug sandwich making kit (all wooden pieces with velcro to build sandwiches and cut them apart) this morning. Eric loves practicing his cutting, and Katie pretended to be serving us food from In-N-Out. Katie also initiated about 40 minutes worth of intent work on her Kumon time-telling workbook. She LOVES it. I don’t even have to prod her along. This is a new book that I found to supplement our use of our clock manipulative. I don’t prefer to use worksheets alone, but this is great reinforcement. We have had great success with Kumon materials. At the start of Eric’s nap, we also finished one of her fairy books and started another one.

I love teaching our children. It is hard work, but so rewarding, too. I am excited for them to go to bed tonight, only because I can’t wait to sit down and plan our “monster and imagination” unit some more. Lesson planning is unrestrained nerdy time!