Saturday, February 27, 2016

Week in Review: El Greco, Ode to Joy, and Ogden Nash

A teensy bit of what we did this week...

ART: This week at Classical Conversations, the children learned about El Greco and how the people in his paintings were very long. The children cut a drawing of a boy in horizontal strips, and glued the strips with space between to a piece of paper. Then they used tracing paper and traced the boy, making him long, like an El Greco person.

The next day, I brought home Mike Venezia's El Greco book from my school library, and we read about El Greco and how he his style was so different from other artists of his time.
POETRY: My daughter's new favorite song is Natalie Merchant's "Isabel," an Ogden Nash poem set to music. The song is from Natalie Merchant's album Leave Your Sleep, which is a collection of children's poetry set to music. In high school, I listened to a lot of Natalie Merchant, so in 2010, when I heard a sample of Leave Your Sleep on NPR, I immediately bought a copy. That was before I had a daughter to share it with. Now, at 4 years and (almost) 10 months old, my daughter is the perfect age to enjoy it. She thinks "Isabel" is hilarious. "How did she EAT a bear?!"

MUSIC (PIANO): This week's songs on the piano included Beethoven's "Ode to Joy," titled "Song of Joy" in Alfred's Prep Course. 

This week, my daughter surprised me by looking at the sheet music for "Song of Joy" and named all the notes. She read them because she wanted to, and she read them without even thinking. She doesn't have to think FACE or Every Good Boy Does Fine (which is how I still have to do figure out notes). I'm loving the Alfred Prep Course. It's slow, and steady, and working.
GEOGRAPHY: We finally replaced the batteries in the Leapfrog pen, and reviewed the CC geography using our Leapfrog world map.
READING: Our read alouds this week included a seven part story in My Book House called "Nutcracker and Sugardolly," and a Chinese folk tale called "The Girl Who Used Her Wits." Did I mention that she begs for My Book House?

This week, she's been reading me A CHAPTER A DAY of Magic Treehouse: Tigers at Twilight. Her idea.

MATH: With just a few pages to go in Mathematical Reasoning Level B (1st grade), I ordered Level C (2nd grade). She begged me to start Level C, so I told her I would let her :) do a page in C if she did a page in B first. 

Regrouping doesn't start until page 152 (which Mathematical Reasoning still calls "carrying" and "borrowing," concepts that make sense to children). Don't anyone bother sending me hate mail regarding the words carrying and borrowing, because I won't approve you. ;)

By the way, in public school, as per Common Core, adding with regrouping has been moved down from second grade to first.

I love that the Mathematical Reasoning books are NOT Common Core aligned! I look forward to buying Levels D through G.

DANCE: They're all just so cute.
MUSIC APPRECIATION: She and I got to go to a Saturday morning family concert at The Broad Stage. It was called "Musical Explorers," and it included Greek folk music, Yiddish klezmer music, and Americana three part harmony. And it was fun! There was call and response, and body percussion, and Greek dancing. They had everyone up clapping and stomping and singing along. :)

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Week in Review

Sunday was the L.A. Marathon, which ends less than a mile from our house, and cuts Santa Monica in half, creating a traffic nightmare. Daughter rode her bike down to the finish line.
For the past couple of years, she's been saying she wants to run a marathon, so maybe we'll do the Santa Monica Classic 5K in September. I'm not making any promises. ;)

Her painting, she said, is an orange dog behind a grassy hill...
"That," she said, pointing to the little orange splotch on the lower left side of the paper, "is its tail."

Our home(pre)school co-op took a field trip to a Waldorf-inspired play space called The Magic Forest. They played happily for 3 hours. Here she is with friend E.
There were the usual things like ballet, math, Spanish, piano, Church Mice, and My Book House read alouds. Daughter finished Buffalo Before Breakfast, her first chapter book! And Daddy took her seashell collecting...
Outside, it smells like jasmine...
Daddy took Daughter to Sweet Rose Creamery for a behind-the-scenes tour of how ice cream is made (note the hair net)...
...and then to the California Science Center to see an IMAX movie called "Journey to Space," see the space shuttle Endeavor, and ride the space shuttle simulator.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Week in Review: In Which We Make Sheep Cupcakes

This week...

The Cherubs started learning their song for Palm Sunday. After church, we went to a fancy stationery shop that I'd never been in called Paper Source, and I let my daughter pick out a valentine kit. She chose a superhero theme, with cards with different skin tones, different hair colors and styles, googly eyes, and gold glitter heart stickers.

While other people watched the Super Bowl (I didn't even know which teams were playing), we baked cupcakes and assembled valentines.
The cupcakes were for the following afternoon - for our home(pre)school co-op craft/snack.
At Classical Conversations, one of the things they did was learn about Michelangelo painting the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. Then, they painted their own "ceilings."
It was my turn to teach home(pre)school co-op. Our theme this month is fairy tales and fables and their morals, so I did The Boy Who Cried Wolf. I read a version of the story in which the boy does not get eaten (as important as I think that particular ending is), and I made picture/word cards of the following: boy, wolf, villagers, and hill. Each time I came to one of those words in the story, the children were shown its picture card and got to call out the word. With the word "wolf," I would say, "Louder! The villagers can't hear you." And the children would giggle and yell louder. It was a hit. After the story, we talked briefly about why the villagers didn't come help the boy at the end, and I introduced the phrase, "Honesty is the best policy."

The web's craft ideas for The Boy Who Cried Wolf are lacking. I was dis-pinterested in making cotton ball sheep and paper bag wolf puppets, so I decided that we would craft our snack.

We decorated cupcakes to look like sheep. No, they were not made with rice flour or fair-trade chocolate or homemade probiotic marshmallows.

If you google "sheep cupcakes," you'll find lots of variations of a cupcake that looks like Shaun the Sheep.

Here is how ours turned out:
Oh my word, please ignore those fingernails. I thought about cropping them out, but there they are, sandy and painty.
We used chocolate cupcakes, canned white frosting, mini marshmallows (each painstakingly applied with a toothpick for fine motor skills practice), little York peppermint patties, edible eyes, a tube of white decorating gel, and chocolate chips.

I bought the gel thinking we would use it to make nostrils, but it is really hard to make nostrils on a peppermint patty.

Friend S skipped the gel and gave her sheep a marshmallow nose:
Piano was practiced...
She's working on 3/4 time signature.

I've been thinking this week about how I'm glad we started piano before formal schooling, and how I'm also glad that I instituted the "10 minutes a day fingers on the keys" rule. 

I started her on piano last year, and taught her a little here and there. I thought I should follow her lead, only teaching when she was interested; we would schedule regular lessons when she turned 6 and started Year 1. But then I read Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, in which Amy Chua satirizes her parenting style, and I realized that making my four year old practice piano for a piddly 10 minutes a day wasn't going to make me an awful mother. On the contrary, I was habit training. So I instituted the "10 minute" rule. I showed my four year old in print the recommendation that four year olds practice 10 minutes daily, and she went with it. Some days she whined that she was tired, but I required fingers on the keys or I would pause the timer.

A month later, she sits down at the piano all throughout the day, playing "We Three Kings of Orient Are," or songs from her technic book, or the song of the week. Just when I was regretting having purchased all of the Alfred Prep Course level A books, she started wanting to play songs from all of them, marking her favorites with Post-Its. I love her Post-Its. 

While she plays, she sings. I love that she's learning how to use her voice as an instrument, in addition to learning to use her piano. 

And I love how excited she gets when she figures out a measure that was causing her frustration. So excited.

The other night, she gave Grandpa a concert. (That's him on the screen.)
We played a new math game called "I See 10!" Players take turns flipping over numbers, and the first player to see 10 (9+1, or 8+2, or 4+4+1+1, etc.) calls out, "I see 10!" and gets to collect those numbers. If you flip over a shark, you lose your numbers. The player with the most numbers at the end wins. She thinks this game is super fun, and she's learning addition facts with automaticity.
Daddy and Daughter enjoyed a day at the beach.
Big sister came over for an evening of pizza and board games.
This year's ballet recital dance will be to Meghan Trainor's "Better When I'm Dancin'" from The Peanuts Movie. We did not see the movie, but the music video is pretty cute. It's nearly impossible to watch it without wanting to dance. Here is the link:
Read alouds included three chapters from More Milly Molly Mandy and Hans Christian Andersen's "Thumbelisa" from My Bookhouse. (I'm also reading aloud The Secret Garden at work. It's such a good read aloud, even if I sound like a pirate when I try to do a Yorkshire accent.)

Daughter is almost finished reading me The Magic Treehouse: Buffalo Before Breakfast as my bedtime story. She'll complete it next week. :)

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Misheard Lyrics

Tonight, my daughter asked me if I could play "Get Bunny Love." I thought maybe this was a song she had made up, but then she started singing - to the tune of The Beatles' "Can't Buy Me Love" - "GET BUNNY LO-OVE, LO-OVE, GET BUNNY LO-OVE..."

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Week in Review

The week...
...started with Classical Conversations. My daughter chose to present her Usborne soldier sticker dressing book, which was a big hit.
They also looked at some of Albrecht Durer's artwork, and - inspired by Durer - carved styrofoam stamps and used them to make prints.

The above flower print was a father-daughter effort. My husband drew the flower, and my daughter carved it. :)
A teacher cleaned out her cabinets and left some old 2nd grade math workbooks in the teacher's lounge for the taking. They're pre-Common Core, which means they make sense, and are no longer useful. So I brought one home for my daughter, and she completed a bunch of pages for fun on her own (fractions, symmetry, graphing, solid shapes).
Our home(pre)school co-op's theme this month is fairy tales & fables and their morals. The lesson was about The Frog Prince, and keeping one's word. They also played dress up and made finger puppets.
My daughter is now 3% fluent in Spanish (Duolingo).
I wanted to give away her BOB books because she's reading well, but she asked me not to. Part of me feels like they're just taking up valuable space in our very small apartment, and the other part of me understands that she enjoys having them because they represent something she's mastered. I know. I know. Young readers need books that are too easy, books that are just right, and books that are too hard to read independently but are just right to hear read aloud. I know this, so, for now, the BOB books are staying.
Her ballet class has begun learning their recital routine. It involves standard ballet moves with French names, as well as one move they call "the silly dance" which - the way my daughter does it - looks like the jitterbug. :)

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Matryoshka Doll Art Project

I'll start by showing you one of my 4th grader's finished matryoshka doll art projects.
I can't take credit for coming up with this lesson. The amazing art teacher at my school did it with my students. It took four 1-hour classes.

One of the things I love about the way Ms. G. teaches art is that she starts each new project by assembling a collection of pictures of the project's subject.

Here is her Matryoshka Doll picture collection:
Ms. G. always creates a warm up sheet for each art project. She chooses about 8 details that students will need to be able to draw, and she draws each detail using lines and circles and dots. She leaves an empty square next to each detail so that students can "warm up."

For matryoshka dolls, each student needed to be able to draw eyes, a nose, a mouth, a hairline, hands, etc.

Here is the warm up sheet she created:
If students are drawing a picture that has foliage, Ms. G. will give them different leaves. If they're making tigers, she will give them, among other details, close-up tiger eyes and tiger noses. She can anticipate what children will have a difficult time with ("How do you draw the..?") and she includes those challenging details in the warm up sheet.
Another thing I love is that she gives students two or three different examples of how they can draw something. She gives them choices, but not so many that they are overwhelmed.

Next, Ms. G. showed students how to make the shape of the matryoshka doll, and gave them the option of doing one doll, or multiple overlapping dolls.

(When beginning a drawing, it helps a child to imagine their subject on their paper, like a projector projecting an image on a screen. By doing this, a child is better able to fill their paper without drawing too big and winding up with part of the subject not fitting, or drawing too small and ending up with lots of white space. Beginning by asking the child to project their subject is easier for a child to understand than saying, "First, plan your picture.")
After students had gotten started, Ms. G. gave them black and white images of symbols they could use to decorate their matryoshka dolls.
One thing I'm very strict about is "studio time" vs. "gallery time." When students are supposed to be working, I call it "studio time." I tell them to imagine that they're each in a little room all alone. No talking. No asking, "Is this good?" (If a child asks that, it's because they know they didn't do their best, and they're looking to you to tell them it's "good enough" - which I don't do. A frustrated child does not ask you if their work is good; they tell you it's not.) During "studio time," there is no showing your neighbor. Your neighbor is in his own studio, and is focusing on his own work.

"Gallery time" is when they are finished with their work, happy that they accomplished something that - at first - seemed daunting. They persevered, they problem-solved, they observed closely. They can look at their classmates' work and say honestly that the work is good.

For the matryoshka project, students started with pencils and erasers, and then used markers (Sharpies) to outline and fill in. (This is a Monart technique for drawing with children.)
When they were finished, they used a mixture of glue and water, and paintbrushes, to apply small squares of colored tissue paper in the negative space.
Here are 4 steps you can borrow from Ms. G. to put together your own elementary art project:

STEP 1: Assemble a collection of pictures of your subject.

STEP 2: Ask yourself, what are the most challenging details here? Limit yourself to 3 or 4. Search for black line images of those details (or draw them yourself). Find 2 or 3 different black line images of each. Put them together as a warm-up sheet.

STEP 3: Have your child project their subject onto their paper, and begin.

STEP 4: Give your child "studio time" - with additional (simple) details as needed.