Kindergarten, COVID, and Cocktails

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Life as a Wampanoag

Posted by Josie on November 10, 2020 at 2:00 PM Comments comments (153)

We talked about Native Americans, pilgrims, and the first Thanksgiving... which can be a controversial topic!


Is it possible to teach littles about the first Thanksgiving while also teaching them about the betrayal the Native Americans felt when the English started taking over land that wasn’t theirs? Sure. Of course.


In short, what I choose to explain is that the English came to America incredibly unprepared. Fortunately, they were helped by Squanto, a Native American who had learned English after being kidnapped when he was younger. Squanto taught them how to fish and grow crops like corn and squash, among other survival skills. Thanks to Squanto and the Wampanoag tribe, the English learned how to survive the harsh New England winters.


Unfortunately, when the English arrived in America, they brought diseases that devastated the Native Americans. They also displaced the natives, which caused great tension and their ultimate falling out.


Do I continue on to the bloodshed part of the story? No.


Why? Because these two little ladies are 5 and almost 4, they have plenty of time to learn about the darker side of history later. For now, we will focus on how the English needed the Wampanoags, and how they had one celebratory event (which has turned into the Thanksgiving we all know today), but ultimately they didn’t stay friendly because the English continued to steal more and more land from the Native Americans. Added bonus, if you live in New England, this is a great lesson to teach them about local history! (And if you aren't from New England, this is a perfect opportunity to look into tribes more local to you. Always something for everyone!) 


After finishing our “Life as a Wampanoag” booklets, we tried some paper basket weaving while talking about how the Native Americans didn’t have places like Home Goods or Target to buy baskets so they could carry the food they harvested. You should have seen their disbelief! “No Target?!?! ��” ��


I hope everyone takes the time to teach their littles about the history of Thanksgiving, while also being careful not to romanticize it too much because history is only history when it’s true!


It's fine. I'm fine. Everything's Fine. (SEND. HELP.)

Posted by Josie on October 30, 2020 at 10:00 AM Comments comments (10)

This whole blog thing is very new to me, so forgive me for my crap ability to actually keep up with posts. I can barely keep up with laundry, never mind finding the time to sit down at the computer and write about the epic battles beautiful learning experiences I share with Madison on a day to day basis. Like seriously, rainbows and unicorns, people.


Okay, no, but for real. Are there any parents who home school their kids and DON’T find themselves thinking, “I swear on all that is holy, you will never live to smush Goldfish into your carseat ever again if you don’t lose the attitude and just do exactly what I’m telling you to do!”?Anyone? No? Just me? Okay. That’s fine.


Every Monday, I start strong. I have my plans, I have my printouts, I have my new interactive educational games ready to WOW Madison, I have boatloads of patience, and I have my dignity.


But every Friday, All. That. Changes. By Friday, I wonder what it would be like to train circus dogs, and whether or not I could even find any circuses looking to hire trainers.


My plans have been shot to you-know-what. My printouts are smeared with food stains (the ones that we actually got around to finishing, that is). My new interactive games? Eff the games. Every game starts like a Hallmark movie as my daughter sits down at the computer with a certain twinkle in her eye ready to demonstrate all her newfound knowledge, but they all end like a WWE match as soon as my two-year-old bruiser sees his sister doing something without him, and then instantly it becomes his immediate mission in life to make her regret the day she was born. It goes without saying, my boatload of patience sunk like the Titanic. And my dignity? Actually, my dignity forgot its hat when it left two days earlier on Wednesday. Matter of fact, if you see him, let him know I’m keeping the damn hat.


And next week, I’ll do it all over again because for now keeping her home is my safest option. Well, actually, HER safest option. Not sure about me. Pretty sure this is slowly killing me.

Celery Osmosis

Posted by Josie on September 23, 2020 at 6:00 PM Comments comments (6)

Madison and I started our celery osmosis experiment today! 

Safe to say, this kid loves science. First, we made a time-lapse video with one of our house plants that I had clearly neglected to water for quite some time... let's just pretend I did that purposefully. You know, in the name of science. Surely, it had nothing to do with the fact that I just simply didn't notice how thirsty it was getting until it was literally flopping over onto the floor... But anyway, we turned it into a learning experience.

Madison did the actual watering, and I took that time as an opportunity to explain how we always water the ground around the plant, not the plant itself, because water needs to get down to the roots in order for osmosis to take place. The water will then travel from the roots all the way to the top of the plant. Madison surely didn't believe me:

Madison: Mom. The DIRT doesn't need water. The plant DOES. I'll water the leaves.

Me: The water needs to reach the roots, and once it does osmosis will start. The roots will absorb the water and then it'll travel up and bring this guy back to life!

Madison: We don't even know if he HAS roots!

Me: Every plant has roots. If it didn't have roots it would fall right over. The roots are like the plant's feet and legs, it helps hold the rest of the plant up.

Madison: Fine. But if it doesn't work, we'll do it my way AND you'll owe me a Starburst.  

Fortunately for me, it worked. After a couple hours, the water had brought our plant back to life. Standing tall and proud! Madison reluctantly agreed that the plant must have roots, but I gave her a Starburst nonetheless.

Check out the celery osmosis page to see the time-lapse video. Such a great way to help a child actually SEE how the plant changes as it absorbs the water. 

After reviving our house plant, we discussed the scientific method and how scientists ask questions and perform experiments to answer those questions. Knowing we would be doing the celery osmosis experiment, I asked her what she thought might happen if a plant absorbed colored water. Would we be able to see the water as it travelled through the plant? After much deliberation, she had decided NO WAY. Impossible. She kept going back to our houseplant and saying she could only see the outside of the stems and leaves so there was no real way of seeing the water INSIDE. That's when I brought out the celery. Translucent skin that you can practically see through! Now she was hooked. Maybe we WOULD be able to see the water after all?? We discussed again, and then decided we should just do an experiment to test it out. 

Before setting everything up, we came up with the question: "What will happen if we put celery in cups of colored water?" Then I wrote the question on a white board while she copied it in her packet, which is available in PDF on the celery osmosis page. Any time we have an opportunity to practice writing, we do it. Madison isn't the sit down and memorize kind of kid. She's much more likely to retain information if she gets elbow deep in it. So that's what we do. At this point, we are practicing capital letters, punctuation, and spacing. Spacing has been the trickiest part for her because she doesn't understand separation between words, all she sees are letters. We're introducing the concept of words simply by using spaces. After each word she writes, she puts her fingertip down to give herself an adequate space before writing the next word. This is helping remind her that words are made up of groups of letters, and sentences are made up of groups of words. Baby steps! 

After writing down our question, we talked about predictions. When introducing new words, I make a point to use lots of synonyms to help expand her vocabulary and improve her comprehension by introducing her a wider assortment of words. After coming up with a prediction and writing it down together, we got started with the actual experiment. Her favorite part by far was putting the food coloring in the water. We made sure to put a lot in each cup of water to get a nice, dark result. If it's too light, it may not provide the "wow" factor we're looking for. If some is good, more is better, right? (Well, not always, but you get the idea!) Add that food coloring! And plenty of it! 

Here's some pictures from Day 1 of our experiment: 

Recalling Details & Order of Events

Posted by Josie on September 22, 2020 at 10:25 AM Comments comments (4)

Even if we accomplish nothing else during the day, I always make sure we read together and complete a reading journal.

For this first week, we will read one story cover to cover each day and then write one-two sentences summarizing the story.

Two of our favorites series are the Elephant and Piggie series by Mo Williams and the “Little People, Big Dreams” series. The Elephant and Piggie books are great for practicing phonics and sight words, and the “Little People, Big Dreams” books are great for introducing historical figures and their stories along with an easy-to-identify moral.


After reading each story, I ask a series of questions:

  • Who is the main character?
  • Are there any other characters? Who are they and what is their role in the story?
  • When the story begins, what is the main character trying to do? (Provide additional leading questions as needed: Was the main character trying to solve a problem? What was the problem? Was the main character trying to complete a task? What was the task?)
  • What issues does the main character run into during the story?
  • Is there a point in the story when it seems like the main character’s problem is finally going to get fixed? What is that point?
  • How does the story end? In relation to what the main character was trying to do, was the main character successful? How so/why not?


The purpose here is to get them thinking about parts of a story. By discussing the answers to these questions, they practice recalling information and organizing information.

To add a visual aspect to this, you can create a sequencing activity by giving your child 5-10 pictures depicting events in the story and then asking them to line up the pictures in the correct order. Start with fewer pictures, and gradually make it more challenging by adding more pictures, requiring them to recall and organize even more detailed information.


For example, let’s say we read Goldilocks and the Three Bears, and then I make three cards for the sequencing activity. Using just three cards, my goal is to teach the three basic parts of any story: beginning, middle, and end:

  1. Goldilocks sneaks into the bears’ house.
  2. Goldilocks eats Baby Bear’s porridge.
  3. The bears come home and Goldilocks runs away.

After that, I add in additional cards:

  1. The bears decide to go for a walk while they wait for their breakfast to cool down.
  2. Goldilocks sneaks into the bears’ house.
  3. Goldilocks eats Baby Bear’s porridge.
  4. Goldilocks breaks Baby Bear’s chair.
  5. Goldilocks falls asleep in Baby Bear’s bed.
  6. The bears come home and Goldilocks runs away.

In the second example, I’ve provided more details. This gives them the opportunity to practice recalling the order of events. Which event happened first? Which event happened second? And so on. Depending on the story, you’re able to add as many or as few plot events as your child can confidently handle. My advice is to start simple and gradually add on as to not overwhelm your child, as well as to give them an opportunity to build confidence along the way.


Here Goes Nothing...

Posted by Josie on September 21, 2020 at 10:30 AM Comments comments (5)

Welcome to Kingergarten, COVID, and Cocktails! I created this site for me and my daughter to keep track of assignments and to create a virtual space where she could practice skills in technology while also learning traditional subject matter. My daughter, Madison, is a chatty, imaginative, and fiery five-year-old. She was briefly enrolled in fully remote kindergarten, but we quickly learned that it wasn't the right setting for her. She followed along and all that just fine, but she didn't enjoy it. She would try to speak to her teacher, but with 20+ five-year-olds it's incredbily difficult for a teacher to really truly give one student his or her attention. Our days were governed entirely by when we had to be on Zoom and when we were supposed to be doing independent assignments off of Zoom. There was little to no sense of community. There was no real connection. Her teacher was absolutely wonderful, especially given the difficult position she was put in to teach kindergarten remotely, but nonetheless I knew it wasn't right for us. With a background in secondary education, I discussed the option with my daughter and ultimately we made the executive decision to forge a path of our own.

I graduated from the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth in 2006 with a Bachelor’s in English Literature and Criticism, and I began teaching straight out of college. By 2012, I had also earned a Masters in Secondary Education and Teaching from UMass Dartmouth. I taught high school English for almost ten years, but after having my first child I took a two-year maternity leave and ultimately decided I wasn’t going to return to teaching.


For nearly ten years, I taught some of the most wonderful students who weren’t always given the most wonderful opportunities to grow. Whether it be due to circumstances at home, learning disabilities, or enablers both in and out of the classroom, many of my students had learned they needn’t be an active part of their education.


The majority of the students with whom I worked during my teaching career entered my classroom as static learners, happily stuck in their ways. They were used to collecting information, putting it in a pile, and then routinely adding to that pile. They had stacks and stacks of facts. They struggled, however, to apply what they had learned and to make connections to create new pathways for discovery. Through their willingness to accept the challenges I presented in the classroom, the majority of my students left my classroom as dynamic learners. They took risks and made themselves vulnerable by putting newly acquired skills to practice. Every student came with different strengths and weaknesses, and it was my responsibility to recognize these strengths and weaknesses and prepare lessons accordingly. Likewise, I am just starting this initial stage of discovery with my own five-year-old as we navigate the home-school experience for the first time.


So, why am I telling you all of this? It’s simple. I need you to understand the method to my madness. The lessons, worksheets, and activities on this site are designed with cooperative learning in mind. Learning doesn’t take place on a white board or in a workbook, rather it takes place through shared experiences and guided exploration. I will provide resources, but the resources do not teach themselves. I will also demonstrate how to incorporate critical thinking skills in learning-specific environments as well as in day-to-day happenings. You will have the ability to modify lessons as you see fit to best reach your child because -and I cannot stress this enough- every child is different. Different learning styles. Different interests. Different social skills. Different. Different. Different. And that’s what makes them all so wonderful in their own right.


If at any point in time you’re struggling with how to reach your child or with how to make ideas “stick,” please send me a message and I’d be happy to chat with you about alternative techniques and strategies to promote individual success for your child. I hope you will find resources here that benefit you and your child, and I hope you will share your experiences with us, too!