Thursday, September 17, 2015

Interactive Journal, Interactive Fun

Trying to take a fresh approach to school this year, one that Chase seems to enjoy.  We'll be trying to work more in his journals opposed to strictly worksheets.  Last year, it was such a struggle to get him to do his written assignments, I didn't have the energy to do the journaling.  Preparing them can be a lot of work.

Today, we worked on two journals, Math and Science.  For Math, I made a small project, Groups of Two and Groups of Three.  I drew everything to fit in the notebooks and he colored, grouped and then labeled them and glued each into the book.  Finally, I had him write an equation to represent how many groups of twos and threes there were to reinforce the multiplication concepts.

I plan to be making some TpT material out of this.  Maybe offer the pumpkins and baseballs as clipart.  I find the clipart on there to be lacking and want to flood the site with my own art.  Of course, many of my materials have sadly been lost to our external hard drive crash, which we have not yet been able to recover.  I may have to rescan some things if I managed to keep them.  Some I just used the 'hard copy' for Chase's journals last year.  Or it's been misplaced in my mess of art supplies.  I need shelves.  And drawers!  A roll cart!

For Science, we made a quick cover for the notebook, which he decorated.  I wrote in his vocabulary words: Entomologist, Arthropods, Invertebrate, Exoskeleton, and Antennae.  I'm planning a unit on insects!  He wrote in the meanings and drew a picture of an ant enlarged with a magnifying glass.  This is his field journal, so we might need to take it outside to do some investigating.  Chase is terrible at identifying bugs.  He hates them.  But any time he sees one, he shouts, "Bug!" without telling us if it's a spider or a fly or a moth, etc...

So, we've gotten internet on my art desk computer.  Yay!  So now I can upload directly from creation.  And once we upgrade a bit, then perhaps, live art sessions.  We need an adapter to switch out the current motherboard with another we have stashed in the closet.  Which will have a better power supply and perhaps even on board audio.  This computer cannot even run headphones.

Well, I need to get back to creating new TpT materials.


Chase loves to have me take 'candids' like in Big Nate.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Minecraft School Pictures

I bought a green poster board and set up some awesome school pics this year.  Chase made his background as a screenshot of the house he built in Minecraft and I went to work on the rest of it.  There is a whole set and I'll be sharing them here, but I couldn't wait to post them.  So here is the first.

And here is the before and after shots.  I followed a cool tutorial for Photoshop, as my trial and error methods weren't quite efficient enough.  This one was super clean and has some rather nifty shortcuts I didn't know.  How to Mask Hair in Photoshop by Noyse Works on YouTube.  For the before/after image, I actually checked out another tutorial by Phlearn, How to Create a .gif and Upload it to Instagram.  I don't use Instagram, but this did have another trick I'd never tried before, "Apply Image" to add all the image layers to a new layer.  I had always copied all layers, then merged them.  This was way easier.  I had hoped the tutorial would have transitions suggestions, well, I made my own/  I made 5 layers with varying levels of opacity between each step.  Not perfect, but hey, animation isn't quite my thing.

Once I've gotten the entire set done (not all the pictures, just a few poses), then I'll take picture orders for all the grandparents :D  I think this turned out way better than the year I gave him a Cyclops superhero makeover, though that was pretty cool.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

"I Think I'm Starting to Like School"

Music to a homeschooling Mom's ears!  We've started a little unit on The Great Pyramids and the 7 Ancient Wonders of the World.  And Chase loved it.  I made a quickie 'Breakfast Board', where I looked up some facts about the Pyramids from DK Publishing's Eyewitness: Wonders of the World that we borrowed from the library on Tuesday.  Must say that I recommend this book, great information, colorful pictures and great to use for learning to use a reference.  It's not a huge book, so it is something he can easily look up the Index or in the Table of Contents to find the subject he wants.

After we read through it together, I had him get out his Social Studies journal where I'd added a title for the page.  I told him we were going to do doodle notes this year.  (Check out books like The Sketchnote Handbook that encourage you to turn intentional doodles into note taking)  I directed what he should draw and had him add in facts about it, then told him to go back and color the borders and fill in areas with different colors.  While he filled them in, I repeated what was written on the note so he was thinking about it.  He loved it!  (pictures shall be forthcoming)  The concept is that as you concentrate on illustrating the topic, you are programming the information into your brain further than just writing down the lines your teacher says.  The notes I had him make beside it with arrows and circling important bit, I let him write in his own words.

So, back to the term 'Breakfast Board'.  I found it via a post by Secular Homeschool on Pinterest, though the blog it shared is faith-based, it's a very good idea.  Basically, they use a poster board to fold pamphlet style and have the kids read over breakfast to review their day's assignments and to read factoids or do activities.  Since kids already like to read the cereal box so much, they will read whatever you sit in front of them at the breakfast table, great time to get some school preparedness in.

I've decided I'll be making it a bit more practical than a huge poster board.  I have several cereal boxes that I store cut up by my art table.  The ones I've not cut are perfect for this project.  I carefully open the box at the seams and trim off all the flaps.  So, now I have 4 sides, by flattening it so the two sides fold over the others like an envelope flap, I've made a pamphlet fold.  There are a few ways I can prepare my board, paper it, gesso it, cover it in decorative tape, etc...  I used a black vinyl cut off my bf has had for years from some factory that had excess vinyl rolls or something.  It's like a giant sticker.  But the best part is it actually works kind of like a dry erase board.  I have some neon markers just for this purpose.

I didn't do a very neat job of vinyling my board, it has bubbles and wrinkles and I was too lazy to try to peel it and redo.  But, I have more boxes, so if it is totally rekt, I can just make a new one!  On the back side, I had a protective sleeve that came in an order as a product sample from some school supply company.  It is a hard protective sleeve and the dry erase markers wipe right off.  So, in that, I slipped a daily page, which I write the date, our schedule and our spelling words for the week.  I'm thinking of adding pockets to the inside so I can have removable inserts that he can fill out and later add to his interactive journals.

I could make permanent attachments on the board, but I'd like to have interchangeable parts, so I can swap out the info on the board.  Having it entirely dry erase makes it more likely to get all smeared up.  One option I am thinking would be to use double sided tape or re-positional glue to add adornments.  Maybe laminating the pieces and velcroing them.  Anyways, I can make several boards and any that I just glued together, I can add new layers over.

I've considered possibly buying some metal spray paint and using my Freezer Frames as mini dry erase pockets.  They work great on a cookie sheet, but a cookie sheet doesn't stand up very well.  But I can slip in a new activity sheet or school subject for him to learn and use dry erase markers over it.  However, that may be spending too much money on these breakfast boards.  For now, I think I'll tack on some card stock pockets and slap on some print outs.  And of course, I'll be sharing whatever units I create to go with it!

BookIT Enrollment

We've been participating in BookIT every year.  It is available for homeschoolers and enrollment is open now!  I get the newsletter, Bound Together to stay up to date on the goings ons there.  Chase's two favorite things, books and pizza!  We didn't enter the contest last year, they had a $30K scholarship for their 30th anniversary.  We made the goals, but I didn't get a sticker for his passport each time.  Oh well.  This year there is another contest, "Crazy Little Thing Called Reading" giveaway.  Hopefully, we'll get all our stickers and sent off in time.  They're offering a 100 book library plus a Kindle Voyager eReader to participants.  We have a Nook, but it would be awesome for Chase to have his own eReader just for his selections.

We plan to donate some books to our local library.  We won a lot of books he wasn't interested in from a comic book contest last year and this would be something useful to the community.  We thought of trying to sell them, but it is a bit of a hassle to try to do.

BookIT! has great teacher resources including a reading app.  Chase really enjoyed it last year, though we didn't log all of his hours.  He reads so much!  It is hard to remember to run the app.  But that's okay, you can add more to their totals from the teacher dashboard.

Chase's current top picks for reading:  Every Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Minecraft novels, Big Nate series, Full Metal Alchemist manga, and he still loves Stick Dog.

He's getting better at picking out selections from the library.  But I'll make sure to grab a chapter book if his selections aren't as heavy reading.  This week I chose The Misadventures of Edgar & Allan Poe, Book One: The Tell-Tale Start, hopefully, this book will introduce him a little to one of my favorite classic authors as well as bring in some modern humor and enjoyment.  I have yet to read it, but this will be part of our plan for the week.  I saw a brilliant Chapter Book Review pin.  You make a matchbook fold for your folder or interactive journal for each chapter and summarize the story and draw a picture for each chapter.  I will have to give this a go and post up pictures when we're done.

Follow Gillian's board Homeschool ChasingGrades on Pinterest.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Bonus Sale on TpT

One day only!  Bonus Sale for August 19th, 2015.  Sitewide sale, perfect time to get extra curriculum readied.

My store will be 20% off all items.  Visit Gillian Ivy Chasing Grades on TpT.

As I create new assignments for Chase, I plan to upload more products to my store.  I hadn't updated in quite a while, just enjoyed my summer vacation...  But didn't really prepare.  I decided to start school next Monday instead of tomorrow like his original school's schedule is.  I'll need to adjust the calendar to reflect these changes, as that makes the end of the school year three days longer.

I saw wonderful tip, for the first two weeks of school, go over daily routines and procedures.  Perhaps this will help cement them in myself.  Kevin will be splitting some of the lesson plans with me, unlike last year, which was all me.  I got completely burned out.

Patience.  Breathe deep and relax.  Think I'll need a mantra.

We've ordered our books.  Trying DK Publishing's 3rd Grade workbooks.  They appear to have great ratings on Amazon.  I'm eager to check them out.  Perhaps I'll write a review once we've received them.  They'll possibly arrive on Monday.  Got my fingers crossed.  I've added the new workbooks as well as some of my wishlist items to my Chasing Grades Amazon Associate Store.  Support my homeschool by purchasing your workbooks and more through our school store.

I do have a duplicate workbook, BrainQuest Grade 2, from last year that was given to me.  I think I'll hold a giveaway for this.  Don't know how much it would cost to ship it.  I'll have to inquire at the Post Office.  I've set up a Rafflecopter thing for this.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Third Grade Approaches

I have been absolutely terrible at updating this blog.  I guess I've had a fairly unproductive 2nd Grade year with creating anything for my TeachersPayTeachers account, which is part of the purpose of this blog.  Besides talking about the struggles we're having with homeschool and some of our wins.

Last year was a mix of highs and lows.  The year started out great, but then I made the mistake of enrolling in an online college program to study comic books and graphic novels as literature and art.  It was an exceptional class, which I really enjoyed and even wrote a little mini-comic from it.  However, because of my lack of attentiveness for those 6 weeks of studying, Chase regressed into an uncooperative state and the rest of the year was a battle.  He would spend 1-2 hours on a single assignment, refusing to write a single word.  Sitting there, doing nothing, no matter how much I asked him to or offered rewards and punishments.

I could sit right beside him telling him what to write for each word, but it was an endless struggle.  These assignments would take him less than 5 minutes if he were actually just doing them.  School dragged on as a daily chore of frustration and anger.  School became like a punishment.  Only towards the end of the year did we seem to be getting through to him that he must do the work and stop causing our stress levels to peak.  Perhaps the goal of summer was his beacon.

He doesn't want to go to Public school, and he honestly is not ready.  The aides assigned to us at NISEC have done absolutely nothing.  They haven't even returned my e-mail.  They were supposed to schedule an interview with an IEP school, where Chase could attend partial days with peers who were also struggling with adapting to school.  In a class with only a handful of students instead of more than 20.  And a teacher who is trained to help students with special needs.

I'm fairly certain that Chase is Asperger's.  I've looked at the signs and he seems to exhibit all of them.  I've addressed this with NISEC, but they haven't referred us to anyone to get him examined.  We don't really know what to do to help him.  Other than be cheery every day, grin and bear it and really pour my entire life and free time into teaching.

I feel selfish and uninspired.  I can't draw.  I can't create.  I'm constantly stressed and public school would be worse.  We had such anxiety every day during the first 2 months of Kindergarten where he was sent home constantly.

So, I must ready myself within the next few days.  I've filled in the school calendar and school begins on Wednesday by Tri-Creek Elementary's schedule.  We've been using theirs.  Of course, we don't have to.  But it is easy to track if I'm following theirs.  In case I skip marking the attendance record.  Last year, I used Class Dojo's records, but it is really inadequate.  I've sent them a suggestion to improve that which they replied it would be something they would work on as a new feature.  I like them and do intend to use them again.

I'll be using Sokikom, Scootpad and Class Dojo again this year as my main online school apps.  I've enjoyed each of them and they all have excellent content.  I may use Glogster again as well.

Ah, righ tnow, I should be getting our school station prepared, rather than bloggin here about it....