Barefoot in Suburbia

Homeschooling & Special Needs, Inspired by the Montessori Way

2nd Grade Week in Review August 15, 2011

Life Science: This week’s life science theme was the 5 senses.  The first lab, Jedi studied touch and sight, while trying to determine if you can train your senses to respond more quickly to a stimulus.  To do this, I held a ruler about an inch above his hand.  As I dropped it, we recorded the number of inches the ruler fell before Jedi caught it.  Now, this was a bit tough for him because autism keeps him from having the quickest reflexes and a high level of eye hand coordination.  But after about 10 trials, he was able to improve slightly, from allowing the ruler to fall 10 cm to allowing the ruler to fall only 6 cm.


For the second lab, I set up a station for touch, smell, sight, taste, and hear.  With the exception of sight, all of the stations were closed in a container that couldn’t be peaked at, while Jedi was blindfolded.  At each station, he had to try to guess the object using only the sense being isolated.  The point of the lab was for Jedi to determine which sense he trusted the most, and which one was most reliable…for him, sight won on both accords.

Jedi testing out his five senses to find out which one was most accurate.


Earth Science: This week in earth science, we learned about the water cycle (how the water that is on the earth today is the same water that has been on the earth since the dinosaurs, and how the water goes from ground to air to cloud and back to the ground).  We also learned about the states of water (solid–ice, liquid–water, and gas–vapor or humidity).  To do this, Jedi observed ice, room temperature water, and then the steam that rose from boiling water.  To create condensation, he then cooled the steam (by putting a cookie sheet of ice on top of the boiling pot of water, and then again by filling a glass with ice water).

Jedi learning about the water cycle and solid/liquid/gas/condensation/evaporation by using ice cubes, water, and the stove.


Math: In math, Jedi was learning how add numbers to equal multiples of 5.  He was supposed to add mentally, but he had a lot of difficulty with that.  Using the abacus, he was able to do it a little more easily, but still needs to practice some more on that concept.

Using the corner cards (cards with 1 number on each side). He had to put cards together so that any numbers that touched equaled 5, 10, or 15.


What it looked like after Jedi finished his pile of cards.


Handwriting: This week, I pulled out two books on journal prompts for Jedi.  Since he has so much trouble with handwriting and spelling, I want him to have short bursts of writing to practice with so that he at least can practice getting ideas on paper, without having to worry about making it “publishing quality”.  One book he works with daily and each day gives two choices for journaling–I have him pick whichever one sounds most interesting to him.  The other book has a short sketch that he can do on a particular fantasy/fiction topic, and then a space for him to write one or two sentences describing his sketch.

Working on his journal prompt about a funny dream.


Computer: On the heels of the handwriting blurb, his therapists and I have decided to have Brandon learn to type so that he can use a word processor for assignments where he needs to write more than a couple words.  With the word processor, he will be better able to recognize when a word is spelled wrong, and then he can choose from the correct spelling when the spellcheck gives him a choice between several words.  Jedi learned the first 8 keys of the keyboard this week, and really did quite well.  When he started, he was getting 3 (non-sensical) words a minute, and by the end of his 30 minute lesson, he was up to 12 (non-sensical) words per minute with near perfect accuracy.  We’re hoping to get him typing well enough to have typing assignments be written into his IEP in October (yes, he’s homeschooled, and has an IEP as part of the Ohio Autism Scholarship program…otherwise, he wouldn’t still need an IEP.  Just thought I’d clear that up in case anyone was confused!)

Working on his first typing lesson


Art: This week in art, Jedi continued his lessons on an object’s shape and form.  With a charcoal pencil, he sketched the contours of his toy snake, filling in accents using only straight lines.  He also worked on color blending.  Using red, yellow, and blue watercolor crayons, I had him draw whatever he wanted to…the only rules were he could only use those three crayons, and for every other color, he needed to create it through blending two or more of the three crayons he had.

Using watercolor crayons to work on color blending. He was only allowed to use red, blue, or yellow crayons for this.


Using charcoal pencils to sketch the contours of his snake.


History: In history, we worked on Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics and learned about the first writings from Ancient Sumer and Ancient Egypt.  He learned about papyrus (and then we were able to observe it’s relative, the nutsedge, in our own yard!).  He then learned to write and decode messages in hieroglyphics.

Creating a secret message using hieroglyphics


Geography: In Geography, we started on our 2 week unit on South Africa.  We learned about life in South Africa, including the form of government, main languages & religions, how to say ‘hello’ in one of the South African dialects, and what type of currency is common there.  We also started learning about the animals & musical instruments used in South Africa, and listened to a South African children’s nursery rhyme.


English & Spelling: In spelling, Jedi finished up learning about the short vowel sounds, and also started learning about ‘consonant teams’ (two consonants that are together and form a sound, such as ch, sh, and th).  In English, we learned about nouns & verbs, as well as putting the events of a story in order.

Working on his English workbook


2nd Grade Week in Review July 22, 2011

Yes, I realize it’s not yet the end of the week, but Fridays are usually light days for school–mainly just wrap-ups.  Since tomorrow will be another day of business and travel, I thought I’d get this post done early…then Montessori Monday & Toddler Tuesday can be written ahead of time and posted on the right day.


This week we decided to start using a 12 box workbox system for Jedi. He seems to love the organization, and he loves being able to see exactly what he has to do and how many things he has left to do. Each box has a number and a subject--when he's done with each box, he moves the number card over to that chart that's hanging from the wall. The boxes alternate between subjects that are more difficult or not as fun for Jedi with things he really enjoys or quick fun assignments.


Science:  In Life Science this week, Jedi learned about the circulatory & the respiratory system.  The first lab involved him using corn syrup, red hots, white beans, & lentils to represent the parts of blood (corn syrup was plasma, red hots were red blood cells, white beans were white blood cells, and lentils were platelets).  He was able to see that blood is not smooth red liquid and instead is composed of many parts.

For the second lab, we took a long cardboard tube to represent a giant’s trachea.  Then we drew pictures of a nose for the top of the trachea, lungs and heart for the bottom of the trachea, and a foot  below the organs to represent the body using energy.  Jedi then started at the nose and carried red pieces (oxygenated blood) of paper to the lungs, to the heart, and then to the foot.  At the foot, he exchanged the oxygenated blood for carbon dioxide (since the exercising giant used up the oxygen), carried it back to the lungs, heart, and out the nose, exchanging it for another red piece.  Jedi *loved* this full body lab!

Filling out the hypotheses sheet for his life science lab.


Mixing his "blood"


Jedi's model of human blood.



The giant's respiratory system.


In Chemistry, Jedi learned that everything was made of atoms and that atoms were very small.  To illustrate this, we filled a balloon with water, one with cinnamon, one with lemon extract, and one with peppermint extract.  Jedi smelled each balloon and found out that cinnamon, lemon, and peppermint all have atoms small enough to fit through the holes of the balloon and were able to be smelled.

Jedi making his hypotheses before his chemistry lab.


The girls smelling the balloons.

Music: Jedi learned about Haydn & his “Surprise Symphony”.  Jedi really enjoyed listening to the symphony and trying to relax during it (if you haven’t heard it, go listen to it!  Haydn attempted to remedy the fact that people were sleeping during his slower movements!).  Jedi also continued his piano lessons.

Practicing one of his new songs.

Geography: This week, we learned about our neighbors to the north, Canada.  During this study, Jedi watched a 30 minute video of Inuit life in Northern Canada–he was very interested in the fact that the Inuit family built igloos in the video!

Watching the video


History: Jedi continued to learn about Ancient Mesopotamia.  He worked on his History Pocket and did several other hands on activities this week…making a Mesopotamian house out of Legos & writing a comic strip about the early life of Sargon.

Working on his History Pocket. Here, he is making a small ship going down the Euphrates River.


Trying to copy the Mesopotamian Floor Plan


The finished house!


Writing his comic strip. I had him choose one thing in his history chapter to draw, and he drew the abandonment and adoption of Sargon.


Spelling: Jedi worked on learning to alphabetize letters.  He already knew how to do it, but it takes almost 10 minutes to order the entire alphabet.  He continued to practice doing it more quickly.  He also learned to differentiate between consonants and vowels.  Finally, we worked on him writing the letter after I dictated the sound of that letter (so the reverse of what we’ve been working on).

Alphabetizing his letter tiles.


English: This week, Jedi learned about homophones and synonyms.

Math:  We worked on naming place values from the abacus, 100-bead tiles, & 1000 bead cubes.

Naming place values out to the 1000s place.


Art: This week, Jedi used soft pastels to create a work that he later matted for display.  He also used watercolor crayons to paint an experience that he had.

Using soft pastels


US History: Continuing his learning on the Statue of Liberty, Jedi designed and then created a clay sculpture of the Statue of Liberty…next week when the clay is dry, he’ll paint it.

Working on his sculpture.

His finished sculpture.


Health: This week, Jedi worked on finding various ways to resolve conflict.  He used his puppet that he sewed to act out various conflicts and brainstorm ways to work through the conflict without violences.


2nd grade week in review July 18, 2011

I’m a couple days behind with this post–it was a very busy weekend, and time got away from me.  So, here’s Jedi’s week in review:

Art: This week, Jedi learned about painting live subjects and painting still life.  He did one with oil pastels and 1 with watercolor crayons.  For his live subject, he painted a picture of General Grievous in the movie Star Wars.  For his still life, he colored a picture of his breakfast.

Using oil pastels


His finished life picture--a scene of General Grievous from Star Wars


Health: Last week in Health, Jedi learned that families can help meet the needs of the members of the family.  He learned ways each member of the family helps him, and ways he can help each member of the family with needs.

Spelling: Jedi mastered the remaining single letter sounds this week.

Math: Jedi started solving basic math problems.  He was supposed to be doing it without the abacus, but he was having a difficult time with that and we allowed him to use it.  It seems like he has a very difficult time doing basic math facts in his head but was fine using the abacus.

Using the abacus to solve math problems.


Geography: We discussed ancient Mesopotamia and early forms of writing.  As a project, Jedi made cuneiform writing out of clay.  He realized that it was a lot harder to do than it looked…and a lot more time consuming than writing with the english letters.

Using clay to write in cuneiform.


Working on his history pocket of Ancient Mesopotamia.


Geography: We began our unit on Canada last week.  We talked about Niagara Falls, and also discussed how Canadians can speak both English and French, and that the language is determined by the area of Canada.

US History: Jedi continued to learn more about the Statue of Liberty.  We researched some simple facts about the statue, and Jedi began to design the clay replica of the statue that he wants to make.


2nd Grade Week in Review July 3, 2011

This week was incredibly busy, in terms of both homeschooling and family life.  Not only did Jedi complete a full week’s worth of schooling, we also had Vacation Bible School, and the 2 field trips I just posted about.  We wanted to make sure we got everything done this past week as we are taking this coming week off of homeschooling.

Geography: In Geography, we ended our study on China and began our unit on Russia.  Because we are not doing homeschool next week, we did both week’s lessons in one week.  Jedi studied how to say hello in Russian, where Russia is on a map, the fact that Russia covers 11 time zones, and it takes a week to get from one side to the other.  We also discussed the various climates of Russia, and animals that reside there.  We did a brief overview of what Communism was and how Russia moved away from Communism in 1991.  Finally, we listened to various pieces by Tchaikovsky.

Our language card for Russia

The Russia culture shelf

Jedi wearing a scarf from Russia

Adding the Russian Flag to his (not real) passport

Earth Science: In Earth Science, we continued our discussion on temperature changes.  Jedi measured the temperature of various locations (in the shade, in the sun, between the palms of his hands, on the kitchen counter, in a bowl of room temperature water, and in a bowl of ice water).  He discussed how each temperature made his body feel.

Measuring the temperature in the sun

Measuring the temperature of water

Life Science: The first lesson we did in Life Science this week was on the skeletal system.  Jedi made a paper model of the human skeleton, and labelled the major bones.  The second Life Science lesson was on the muscular system and how a muscle shortens to make the skeleton move.  He created a model of a muscle out of paper, string, and a metal fastener.

Putting together his paper skeleton

Labeling the bones

Jedi and his muscle. And Monkey & her tongue.

Chemistry: In Chemistry, Jedi learned how physical tests on the properties of substances differs from chemical tests.  And while baby powder, baking powder, and powdered sugar all look different, by performing chemical tests using water, vinegar, oil, and food coloring, it is easy to tell the three substances apart.

Jedi making his hypotheses before the chemical tests on baking powder, baby powder, and powdered sugar.

History: In History, we continued our discussion on the fertile crescent and the first farmers.  We focused on the area around the Tigris and Euphrates River, and the city of Jericho.

English: In English, Jedi worked more on contractions, as well as adding suffixes to words.  He’s really starting to get this concept!  We also worked on more of the single letter sounds this week.  There are still about 4 that he’s not getting–primarily those with 3 or 4 different sounds.  But, he’s well on his way to moving to double letters.

Math: In Math, we continued to work with the abacus and abacus tiles to discuss tens, hundreds, and thousands place values.  We also used 5 of the broad stairs to discuss various configurations you can use to show biggest to smallest with rectangles.

Jedi stacking the rectangles from the broad stairs.

Health: In Health, we extended our unit on feelings to now include being able to read the feelings of other people and develop empathy.  This is an area Jedi has a lot of trouble in, so we spent a good bit of time using dramatic play to discover how people can tell others about their feelings without using verbal words.

Ohio History: This week, we discussed that goods in Ohio used to be moved from place to place using rivers and canals, prior to the invention of semi trucks.  We also talked about some of Ohio’s first products…including Wendy’s.  Of course, most of what we talked about, our kids couldn’t try due to allergies, but at least they had seen commercials so they knew what I was talking about. LOL!

Art: The first lesson in art this week involved Jedi using watercolor crayons to produce a piece of art using a photograph as inspiration.  Jedi used a photograph of a solar eclipse from a science text as his inspiration.  The second art lesson was using oil pastels to draw something that he’s witnessed in nature.

Drawing his solar eclipse.

Outside drawing the play area and surrounding trees.


2nd Grade Week in Review June 25, 2011

Here is what Jedi worked on this past week.

Life Science: This week in life science, Jedi learned about cells.  We talked about the difference between animal and plant cells, as well as learned the various parts of a cell.  He looked at various animal and plant cells under a microscope.  He also made models of animal cells and plant cells out of jello…the animal cell was jello in a round pan with a strawberry nucleus.  The plant cell was jello in a square dish with a strawberry nucleus and green grape chloroplasts.

Observing the outside of an egg

Observing the inside of an egg, and learning the parts of an egg (shell, white, yolk, blastodisc, chalaza)

Looking at plant & animal cells under the microscope

Mixing the jello

Cutting the grapes and strawberries for his science project

The final product!

Fully labeled

Earth Science: In earth science, he learned about weather changes.  Some of the weather changes Jedi learned about were humidity, storms, and temperature changes.  It seems really fitting that this week, we saw temperatures near 90, into the low 60’s, with plenty of storms and humidity!

Math: In math, Jedi did a lot of work with math equations that equal 10.  He learned to create these equations three ways: using an abacus, playing cards, and a math balance.  We also used a deck of cards from 1-9, 4 of each card, to play an adaptation of “Go Fish” where a match was considered to be two cards that add up 10.

Geography: We finished our unit on China this week.  Jedi learned about the various animals in China.  We also played with tangrams, made a Chinese fan, and made a meal of Chinese food (& ate with chopsticks!)

Playing tangrams

Working on his Animals of China report

Chinese food lunch!

World History: In World History, we discussed the first modern man, and the development of villages of people.  We talked about early houses and caves.  Jedi made a “cave painting” out of brown paper and paint.  He also learned about the fertile crescent and mapped out the fertile crescent, the surrounding seas, and the city of Jericho.

Making his cave painting

Ohio History: In Ohio History, Jedi learned about the ice age when Ohio was covered by ice.  He learned about the mastodons that used to live in Ohio, as well as the difference between a mastodon and a mammoth.  This coming week, we are going to take a field trip to see the mastodon skeleton that is on display in Columbus.

Writing: For his journaling this week, Jedi had to write a persuasive paper arguing why he should get a cell phone (he really wants one, but we won’t allow him to have one yet).  Then we worked together to edit it for spelling and punctuation.

Art: In art, he used a pencil to draw a real life scene, including details.  He chose to draw his fire bellied toads.  He also used watercolor crayons to draw an experience he had, and in particular, he needed to focus on the feelings and emotions during the experience.  He chose to draw a scene in the library where a  young child saw a spider and was scared.

Making a sketch of his frogs

Music: We continued our work with Bach this week.  I went on YouTube and found a bunch of adaptations of Bach’s music.  All three kids had ribbons and playsilks and moved to the music according to how the music made them feel.

PE: Jedi did 3 hours of Tang Soo Do this week

Health: In health, we read social stories about taking showers and washing hair.  We also worked on acting out various emotions.

Sewing his puppet that we use during health to act out various scenarios

English: In English, we discussed how to make contractions, as well as how to add the suffix ‘ing’.

Spelling: We decided to add a new spelling curriculum in order to help Jedi overcome his difficulties in this area.  We began All About Spelling.  This week, we went through all of the letter sounds in the alphabet to see which one he was able to make the pure sound for.  Jedi had already mastered most of them, which I expected, but we did find 10 or so that he had difficulty with.  This week, we will begin reviewing the ones he needs more help with.

Jedi decided that he wanted to go in the garden and taste every herb too

29 hours complete out of 900 required hours


Jedi's first week of homeschooling June 18, 2011

I decided that while Jedi’s homeschooling isn’t so interesting to look at visually, I was still going to keep a blog record of what we did.  This might become helpful at the end of the year when I have to pull together a portfolio for his yearly evaluation for the school district (and it also might be helpful when I have to work with the district to create his IEP for the year).  I will throw in a few pictures for good measure though. 😉

Life Science

We learned about the difference between living & nonliving, as well as the characteristics all living things share.  Jedi also did a plot study, where he went out to study a 4’x4′ square of land.  Jedi decided to study an area of land with a recently planted evergreen tree in it, just thinking it was a tree and a small bit of grass.  However, following a little trail of fluff in the tree, he discovered a hidden empty bird’s nest!  The coolest part about the bird’s nest?  The bird who made it recycled some bubble wrap, string, landscaping fabric, and other odd pieces of trash it somehow got ahold of.  Very very creative!

Observing a tree inside of the plot

The nest he found hidden in the tree.

The odd materials on the underside of the nest.


In Chemistry, Jedi learned that everything is made of chemicals.  He then looked at the ingredient list on a bag of marshmellows and a bottle of dish detergent and listed the chemicals in each that he had heard of before, and those he had not.  Finally, he named chemicals that were usually safe, some that are dangerous, and some that we use on a daily basis.


Math was one of the two subjects Jedi really seemed to struggle with after leaving his Montessori school.  At the end of kindergarten, he was one of the top of his class in math.  However, at the end of 1st grade, his standardized testing done as part of his autism treatments showed that he never progressed at all in math, nor spelling…he was testing at almost the same  level a year later.  So, we are really trying to figure out what might help him here.  We started Rightstart Math, which uses the Asian way of counting (10, 10-1, 10-2, etc. (10, 11, 12), 2-10, 2-10-1, 2-10-2 (20, 21, 22).  He seemed to catch on to that way of counting.  We also discussed parallel lines, recognizing how many are in small groups of objects (1-10) without having to count, and using an abacus.


In Geography, we started a 2 week study of China.  Jedi, along with the girls, learned how to say hello & goodbye in Chinese, listened to children’s music in Mandarin, and colored the Chinese flag.  Jedi created math problems using Chinese symbols.  Finally, he created a replica of the Great Wall using mini foam building blocks.

Starting his project.

He worked for 3 straight hours, refusing to take a break! The finished Great Wall

Another view of his project

Coloring the flags

Studying what life in China is like for children.

World History

This week was just an intro week, where Jedi learned about the study of ancient history, and in particular the study of archaeology.  He learned how historians can figure out about ancient civilizations even though ways of recording history were not readily available.

Working on his History Pocket for this week

Ohio History

This week, he learned about the Ohio flag, and how it is differs from other state flags in the fact that it’s not a rectangle or square!


This week, Jedi journaled about what he’d do if he woke up and found out that he was president of the United States.  Because spelling is very difficult, we also worked a bit on editing his work.

Working hard on his journaling.



We decided to use McRuffy Press for Phonics, Reading, Language, and Spelling.  Jedi learned about prefixes, suffixes, and contractions.  He really seemed to like contractions, as well as finding the root word of words that had prefixes & suffixes.  He did seem to have a very hard time with the spelling aspect though, and we’re currently trying to do a bit more research into the most appropriate way to help him with spelling.  He was taught to spell phonetically, which would be great, except he had auditory processing & speech issues.  So, his spelling is exactly how he hears it, which sometimes is quite a ways away from the actual spelling.  While Jedi’s reading level is over the 3rd grade level, his spelling is at the early 1st grade level, which is quite frustrating for him.  Hopefully we figure something out in the next couple weeks that can help him.


This, by far, was one of Jedi’s favorite subjects.  The first day, he had to sketch something that happened the day before using a graphite pencil & sketch pad.  The second art day, he created a work using watercolor crayons.  He was supposed to remember an event that he felt joyful at, and then use his imagination to find a way to color that scene so that it portrayed his excitement without words.

Using the watercolor crayons.


Day 1 of music each week involves listening to and learning about a famous composer.  This week, it was Bach.  Jedi learned about Bach’s life, and listened to Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring.

Day 2 of music each week involves learning some beginner piano.  This week, he learned the proper hand positioning, where middle C was on the piano, and learned a simple exercise using all of the black keys of the piano.

Working on his playing exercise.


Jedi’s health curriculum is twofold.  First, we use a social stories book for children with autism on personal hygiene.  Second, we use Horizon’s health curriculum.  This week, we learned about how each person is unique, and begun work on feelings.  Because feelings, and especially recognizing the feelings of oneself and others, can be difficult for a child with autism, we are taking an extra lesson to work on this.


Not bad for the first week!  It was a lot of work, but Jedi was so willing to do it (honeymoon period!).  He was anxious to get to work each day, and for the most part, it was difficult to get him to quit.  We certainly are going to take advantage of this honeymoon period willingness! 😉