COOL SUMMER CURRICULUM IDEA: FREE UNIT STUDY based on the Cars Film.


We homeschool throughout the summer.  It’s the time I use to experiment with ideas I have during the fall and spring sessions.  One of those ideas included a Cars Movie Unit Study.  I created this study last year and fumbled through it with the boys that summer.  My then 3 year old was and IS still obsessed with Lighning Mc Queen and the band of characters connected to the fictional town of Radiator Springs.  I admit I too love the movie and have watched it probably 1,000 times between both boys.  Although the 7 year old has out grown Lightning to some degree, we all embrace the joy it brings to the youngest of the house.  At any given time, you will catch us quoting lines from the movie to fit circumstances. It connects us in that annoying yet personal insider family way.

If you’re unfamiliar with the Cars film, check out the plot here.

“If I was you I’d quit yapping and start working”. – Doc

I watched how my kids quoted lines from the movie, retold and performed full scenes while playing, made connections to real life .  Light bulb moment = Unit Study.  There are so many rich moments in this movie.  It is full of opportunity for teaching from Math to Geography to Reading/ Writing to Character study.  I have compiled a PDF list of fun activities and resources to launch into a unit study of 11 subjects.

Think of the list as a buffet where you pick and choose what meets your child’s appetite.  It is a work in progress as I will add to the study over time (Ex. Worksheets) (make sure you check back for updates) but wanted to make it available to you creative mamas & papas looking for a relaxed, cool way to keep learning alive during the summer for your 3-8 year olds.  You are able to adjust the ideas to meet your child’s age and level of interest.  We were very laid back and more project focused with an emphasis on play. We worked on a subject 2x a week. Your child may be more of a reader, history buff or arts and craftsy.  Whatever their bent, It’s all in the study with enough ideas to fill an entire summer.

Let me know your thoughts and how your kids liked learning through CARS in a creative way.

Below I have included a link to the Free Download plus pictures of a couple of the activities we enjoyed:

  • HOMEMADE RACE TRACK
  • MODEL AND REENACTMENT OF LIGHTNING AND “THE TRAIN SCENE”. 
  • A LEGO MODEL OF RADIATOR SPRINGS
  • HOT WHEEL CROSS COUNTRY ROAD TRIP USING ROUTE 66 ON A MAP
  • SURPRISE VISIT TO CARS LAND IN CALIFORNIA ADVENTURE!!

CARS MOVIE FREE UNIT STUDY DOWNLOAD







What are your plans to keep learning alive this summer?

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Keep Calm, It’s First Grade: My First Attempt at a 1st Grade Curriculum

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What if this year I allowed my 6 year old son to  choose his own curriculum?  What would it look like? Well I asked him and this is what he said.

α  I would like to learn how to draw.

β  How to do cool moves on my bike.

γ  Learn to swim and go swimming.

δ  Build stuff with my tools like a little barn or using things around the house to build my    brother a toy car for his birthday.

ε  Do science experiments that will explode.

ζ  Visit the science center more often.

Now what if I incorporated reading, writing and arithmetic into his 6 year old interests?  It’s an idea experiment I am willing to try, I am looking forward to trying, I am actually excited and thrilled about trying—next year.

You see it didn’t occur to me to think of his interests when planning his 1st grade curriculum.  I thought only of what I must do based upon my own upbringing and experience in traditional school.  I forgot I was now a homeschooler and that I had options; crazy, cool, creative options to teach, explore, discover, wonder and learn with my sons.  I forgot that I didn’t have to follow the boiler plate grade-level workbooks my gracious mother in law sent to (help).  I forgot I am not trapped by standardized tests and common core.  I forgot I live in  America where making a living doing what you love is not only possible but proven.  I want to teach my children they can do what they love and make a living from it; They were born with gifts and talents that are meant to be their contribution to perhaps solving some world problem, however large or small instead of set aside as extra curricular, elective or 2nd fiddle to a “box education”.  I want to provide environments where they grow in their confidence, dismiss the status quo, and acknowledge and encourage others. Beginning with their interests in mind just may be the launch this mission needs.

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It didn’t occur to me to consider my son’s opinion.

Why would I?  I am the parent/ educator here.  It’s my husband and I job to adequately prepare and guide our sons. They’re kids-blank palates waiting for paint- which is rendered through the experiences and exposure we allow, in part, as parents. By nature, I am not that parent that allows my child to dictate his day and much more his education.  That’s hard for me to do which is why I called this interest-led  idea an experiment. By no means,  is it a new idea.  Many in the homeschool world use this approach for their schooling.  However, it’s an alternative approach I am definitely game to try especially after doing “school” my semi-formal way for 1st grade.   Below you will find a short description of what I planned for 1st grade.  

After much toiling, researching and soul searching,  I arrived at a 1st grade curriculum based on what I deemed as important for my son to learn. Hopefully you are inspired by it in the development of your own curriculum.  It’s just I felt like I was planning college courses, hence the title, “Keep calm, it’s just 1st grade”.  Just like all parents, I want the best for both my sons and homeschooling makes room for that in so many crazy, cool, creative ways.   Education can be customized. On the other hand, it can also become very consuming.

Would you like one choice to make or 1,000,000,000 choices to make?  Welcome to my brain.

There are non-negotiables in life like wearing a seat belt, maintaining good hygiene (depending on who you are), telling the truth (okay, depending on who you are, too). I agree that in education there are non-negotiables as well, such as reading, writing and math but how we arrive at those non-negotiables, I am learning,  are up for experimentation.  Outside of reading, writing and math, education is quite subjective. Since I am committed to carrying out these basics, I give myself permission to allow the subjective to actually come from the subject, himself…next year.

 

As you browse my 1st Grade Fall and Spring curriculum know this:  My son took to some parts and not so much to others.  Our schedule was flexible and not everything was tackled consistently, exactly as described nor perfectly.  Some of this list became more of a wish list. (Regardless, I believe in always writing down my plans whether I follow it to a T or not because things written live to see another day.) Tweet that.

Interestingly, our real challenge has been with the non-negotiables.

The more I think about it, it seems a natural strategy to use he and his 4 year old brother’s interests in these early stages as a stealth way to master the basics.  

We shall see— next year!

 

 

as of this year…

MY FIRST GRADE CURRICULUM

BIBLE STUDY:  I create my own lesson plans around the book of Genesis and Exodus. It’s a daily study that includes games, reading, writing, video, narration and suspense.

READING:  Early Learner Readers from the library are read daily, aloud with me -*after we completed Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons which he started in kindergarten.

MATH: Life of Fred: Elementary Series plus living math books from the local library with a focus on the history of counting, numbers, money, etc.

BLACK HISTORY:  Read elementary age biographies of African American explorers, inventors and scientists weekly.

GEOGRAPHY: Explore the continent of Africa with a focus on North Africa and it’s countries through digital puzzles, art, video and hands-on map games.

DEVOTIONAL: I created an interactive devotional which involves physical activity, art exercises and journaling to introduce the design and purpose of God’s masterpiece—the human body.

SCIENCE:  A store bought science kit (which was given to me by a neighbor) with everything you need to conduct @20 experiments.

PIANO:  Weekly lessons.

CODING:  Hour of Code program plus various other apps such as Hopscotch, A.L.E.X. done weekly.

FILMMAKING:  Plan, shoot and edit his own movies using the iPhone and iPad. Involves storyboarding, voice over, sound and visual effects and filmmaking vernacular.

ENTREPRENEURIAL WORKSHOP:  Learn about kids who have started their own businesses via internet news.  Create entrepreneurial opportunities of our own. Every time he shows an interest in something, say, “Somebody came up with that idea” and proceed to research that person and thing.

COMMUNITY:  Connected to the entrepreneurial workshops, the goal is to expose him to the behind the scenes by touring local businesses in addition to other community places like firehouse, postoffice, police station, college campus,etc.

If you are interested in more information about any of the subjects above, let me know in comments and I will gladly create a post describing a more detailed account of our experience with each.

Also, I am working on making the bible study and devotional curriculums accessible to those who may be interested.  For a short time, all I would want in return is your feedback.

-altesa

 

 

 

5 Reasons Why I AM Digging This Homeschool Life and 5 Reasons Why I am NOT. (Part 2)

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This is my mid year assessment of homeschooling my 5 and 3-year-old sons, the first year.  If you stumbled upon this post without reading Part One, 5 Reasons Why I AM Digging this Homeschool Life.  Check it out here.

A 27 hour road trip, regardless of how much you prepare, will have it’s good and bad and even ugly moments.  Stretches of one road can have an amazing view while another stretch along that same road becomes isolated and uninteresting. Well, this is the stretch of homeschooling that turns a beautiful scenic road trip with a friend into a pain in the butt.

5 REASONS WHY HOMESCHOOLING IS  A TEST OF ENDURANCE.

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1.  THE FREEDOM: What freedom?!

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I can remember after having my second child and becoming a “stay at home”, sneaking away to a quiet empty bedroom just to hold onto a thought.  I remember thinking how unnatural it is to never have a moment to yourself. Well, welcome to homeschool. Non stop action and noise.  Once my son’s heads hit their beds, I tell them Mommy  is  off duty.  I will be available for cups of water and long-winded questions about birthdays in the morning.  Although they are amused by this declaration,  it’s my feeble attempt to carve out time to myself.

2.  FLEXIBILITY is necessary whether you want to be flexible or not.

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It’s home-school. My home now has a dual function and the lines are easily blurred.  Things do not always go according to well prepared, thought out, brilliant plans.  Besides being kids, they are MY kids.  Instead of a teacher, they see their mommy which means I get tested in ways a stranger may not.  They see their toys, their kitchen, their food.  And yes, all of those things are tools for everyday learning. Yet, distractions abound.  Because of the home dynamic, I have to make room for adjustments to take place moment by moment, lesson by lesson.  Let’s not mention the younger sibling, in my case, the preschooler, who subvert all lesson plans longer than 5 minutes.

3.  THE COMMUNITY of opinions, ideas and advice can be overwhelming.

I love to read other homeschooler’s experiences but I have had to narrow my daily or weekly intake to 2 to 3 bloggers that fit into my homeschool model.  I branch out to the others when I need to research something in particular. It’s easier on my brain that way.

4.  PERSONAL GROWTH: Education is in the eye of the beholder.

The word “school” has become a reason to “hem and haw” even from the comfort of one’s pajamas in one’s home.   I made the error of associating “school” with sitting down and being still to a child who can barely sit still in his sleep.  He is turned off by the “school” part as a result.  I set out to inspire a love for learning and may have done the opposite in my first 6 months. UGH!

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A friend asked my son during a park visit, what part of school he liked most.  My 5 year old’s response was a stunner.  He said, “The part when it’s over”.  Incredulous!  Yes I took it personal.  That’s the downside.  There is no one else to blame.  It’s all me. I am his teacher.  I am solely responsible for how he views school.  I wonder often how to engage my sons creatively while still personally trying to break free from the traditional school structure I’ve grown up with.

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I have yet to crack the code on what will make their home education more exciting and inciting.  I also grapple with the idea that every part of school will be fun and games.  Part of a full education is understanding some things are tedious but must be done.  Right?  Although I want my son to wake up each morning excited to practice piano and to take on reading lesson in the ways that I present it, I know I have some work to do in this area. My approach, experience, educational goals, my son’s personality and the circumstances surrounding his discontent is always under evaluation.

5.  SPIRITUAL GROWTH:   A battle zone.

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The burden of raising children can be daunting by itself.  Then to take on homeschooling too, in a land where traditional school is often hailed by the majority as the best and only option, is doubly intimidating. Yet, here I am.  Self doubt and all.  Fears come a’ knocking quite a bit trying to poke holes in my confidence.  Am I doing enough?

In spite of the onslaught of attack on me and my children and husband, I have to labor to rest in a God that I believe equipped my husband and I to pour into our son’s lives, teach and train them up in spite of our shortcomings.  They will be just fine– better than fine. Like most promising investment options, we will just have to wait until they mature before we can see the fruitful return God promises. In the meantime, I will trust.

I imagine most of this list is first year problems.  First year or twenty-first year, what has been a constant test of endurance on your homeschool journey?

Thanks for reading. Be sure to read Part one.  5 Reasons Why I am Digging this Homeschool Life.

Taking Flight on Paper Airplanes

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We all know a paper airplane can only fly but so far, except in the hands of a 5-year-old.

Daily reading lessons with my five-year old son is so much more bearable (for him) when he has his newly made paper airplane in hand.  He plans flights all over the world when a nearby dresser top is not enough.  He takes flight to places like New Zealand, Africa, and Asia, making emergency stops in the middle of the Atlantic and Indian Oceans.  This is the method we use to break the monotony of our 30 minute reading lessons. Short breaks are necessary particularly for a child who prefers moving around, telling imaginative stories and pretending to pilot a jet airliner over repeating short vowel sounds.

The symbolism of the paper airplane is not lost on me.   I see how excited he is when the airplane leaves his hands and into the air for .2 seconds before either gliding or doing a nosedive into a nearby bed.   I see his passion for explaining to me about rocket boosters and engines.  I see it and it connects me to my imagination and passion.   As I teach him to read,  I imagine with excitement the day he will take flights to faraway places through books.  As his mom, I imagine the many times I will, by God’s grace, get to release him from my hands to  glide over the deep waters of life or nosedive into them.  Like a paper airplane in the hands of a 5-year-old, he may look like an average kindergartener boy to the naked eye but in my heart and mind he is already that pilot, secret agent, engineer and world traveler.